Written by Fred Patten, and published on the LASFS Rex Rotary, May 12, 1966. Intended for Apa L, Eighty-Second Distribution, LASFS Meeting no. 1500, May 12, 1966. Address: 1825 Greenfield Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90025. Phone: GRanite 3-6321.
|San Diego in July!||Cleveland in September!||Salamander Press #173.|
There was a small theatre party this last Friday, consisting of the Trimbles, the Coxes, Al Lewis, Len Bailes, Len Moffatt, June Konigsberg, Tom Gilbert, & myself, at the premiere performance of the Los Angeles Savoy-Artes' production of "Princess Ida". A good time was had by all.
The performance was quite enjoyable, though once again (as with their production of "Utopia, Ltd.") it was obvious that the Savoy-Artes are not yet the professional equals of the Lamplighters up in Berkeley. There were such noticeable flaws and flubbed lines, a line spoken too soon (cutting off an encore of one of the best numbers), too-tight tights on the male lead (making it impossible for him to bow smoothly), stepped-on skirts in the chorus, and a general chronological confusion in costuming, with court dress ranging from the 15th to 18th centuries -- King Gama looked like Louis XIth, while his daughter, Princess Ida, looked like Marie Antoinette. But these flaws were not too serious, and on the whole, the performance was very competent, especially considering that this was a first-night performance by an amateur company, and the first time they've ever attempted this particular operetta. As I said, we all enjoyed ourselves very much -- possibly even more because there were the abovementioned flaws which we were able to compare and discuss at great length between acts and at coffee after the show.
Possibly greater flaws are contained in the operetta itself; I consider "Princess Ida" to be the weakest of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas that I've seen so far. (To be specific: "H.M.S. Pinafore", "Patience", "Ruddigore", "The Gondoliers", "Utopia, Ltd.", "The Mikado" (cut versions on television and the 1939 movie), and now "Princess Ida".) Len Bailes says that G&S fans generally feel that "Ida"'s success or failure depends almost solely on the performance of King Gama. After seeing this production, I agree. There are only three characters with really distinctive personalities: King Gama, King Hildebrand, and Princess Ida. The others are all stereotypes: college-age youth (Hilarion and his two companions, and the girl students of Castle Adamant); the headmistress or sorority house mother (Lady Blanche); and the parade-ground soldier (Gama's three sons): none emerge as distinct personalities. Incidentally, for those of you not familiar with the plot, "Princess Ida" is about the adventures of young Prince Hilarion and his two companions, who disguise themselves as girls and sneak into an all-girl university, so that Hilarion can win the hand of Princess Ida -- they had been betrothed as infants, but she grew up a militant Feminist and refuses to carry out the marriage contract -- and thus avert war between King Hildebrand and King Gama, the two royal fathers.
Gama is a crusty old groutch, never happy unless he's got something to complain about, and he can really ham up his role. Hildebrand is both dignified and powerful; he comes out as the strongest character in the operetta, though because of the nature of his role, he's unable to do much toward successfully establishing the mood of the operetta, which is supposed to be a comic one. Ida is a militant Amazon, and is much too haughty for the audience to sympathize with (though this may be due to the way the role was interpreted by this actress). This does leave the burden of the play's success on Gama's shoulders, and, since he's only on stage a comparatively brief time in the First and Third Acts, the operetta just marks time for most of its length without him -- I even dozed off a couple of times during the opening of the Second Act. One actor can't successfully support a production of this sort, especially when he's not even one of the lead characters.
I did enjoy "Princess Ida", and I'd like to see a more professional production of it sometime. But while there are a couple of G&S operettas that I'll go to see over and over again -- "Ruddigore" is still my favorite -- I don't think that "Princess Ida" will ever be one of them.
-- BEING COMMENTS ON LAST WEEK'S DISTRIBUTION
Ruth Berman -- Okay, I'm keeping a note of your orders, and I'll include them with the next general order of books I request from England. As I said earlier, this probably won't be for a month or so yet, since I just sent off an order for over $40.00 worth of books, and I want to clear that first before I send for any more. ## As in your case, I haven't really read enough of Dunsany's works to claim a favorite -- most of what I've read have been his short stories and plays, in fact -- and Tales of Three Hemispheres isn't one of them. I do remember The Blessing of Pan (though I'd forgotten it was by Dunsany; I had a vague recollection that it was by Machen, or possibly Blackwood -- Back-to-Nature boys, the three of them), and I was also surprised by the conclusion; it's so seldom that the Elder Religions win out over Christianity, especially when your protagonist is a devout Cleric. I think the ending was supposed to be a happy one, though as I recall, it was too introspective to really be sure -- but the point seemed to be that the characters had all adjusted to the religion that best suited their personal spiritual needs. I think I'd better go back and reread that book before I start any long explanations or synopses of what it was all about; it's been so long since I last read it that I've really practically forgotten all about it. ## Well, as you can see from my comments of last week, there's sure going to be a difference between the "Nebula" and "Hugo" Awards in at least one category, if I have anything to say about it, because I think that Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktock Man", which won the "Nebula"'s Best Short Story Award, is a sloppy piece of writing, to say the least. I finally voted for "Day of the Great Shout", by Philip José Farmer.
June Konigsberg -- I guess I did say in effect that "Notary Sojac" was a question; what I meant, of course, was that the meaning of Notary Sojac (and "Nov shmoz ka pop") was a question asked by the American comic-strip-reading public for decades. And Holman won't clarify it. The Context may be Inescapable, but as one who's tried guessing at the meanings of foreign words, in language classes, from the Context in which they appear, it ain't no cut-'n-dried matter.
Chuck Crayne -- Welcome to Apa L. (Welcome, belatedly, to Sally, too, in case I don't get far enough along to comment on SISYPHUS.) ## There are doubtlessly many references to mundane literature (and other mundania) in science-fiction; besides the "Hound of Heaven" in To The Stars (and I suppose that reference can be traced ultimately back to the original Hound of Hell, Cerberus) , there are references both specific (as when a character in a Piper story refers to a telephone as "the Ameche box") and general, having become a part of normal language (a Scrooge, an Albatross around one's neck, etc.) de Camp delights in stuffing as many references to Gilbert & Sullivan, or to Lewis Carroll, as he can into his works. (And read John Myers Myers' Silverlock, recently out in a 75¢ Ace paperback edition, if you like picking references out of the stories you read.) As to how much literature, not written as Science-Fiction, would seem perfectly at home in our field, the answer is Quite a Lot. You can't really get a specific answer to that question until you determine what "our field" encompasses; assuming it stretches to its broadest limits, though, to include such science-fantasy as Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the field is broad, indeed! Silverlock itself is an example of a book that was never written under the intention, by the author, to turn out a science-fiction novel, which has nevertheless been wholeheartedly accepted into our ranks. There are all the political fantasies, ranging from Orwell's far-out (but possibly not far enough?) 1984, to all the fictionalized stories of election campaigns or international crises -- to name a few, Lederer & Burdick's Sarkhan, Pohl & Kornbluth's Presidential Year, Busch's The Gentlemen from California, the quartet that Drury is writing, starting with Advise and Consent, and umpteen others. There are the end-of-the-world novels to warn us of the dangers of modern warfare -- Shute's On the Beach, Frank's Alas, Babylon, Wylie's Triumph, etc. What about all the current mainstream novels dealing with the Space Program, and astronauts being marooned in orbit; or mythical airplanes or weapons that may or may not be Safe? (You could make out a good case for "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." being science-fiction.) And these are just some of the current works available; not covering so many themes of past years -- the romance set in a mythical European kingdom, for example -- or all of the fantasy poetry ever written. The list can be endless.
Tom Digby -- My dictionary says that Yes, a doodlebug is the same thing as an ant lion. Personally, I've always heard 'em called just ant lions; I had heard of the term "doodlebug", but never realized that it referred to a specific insect until you caused me to look it up just now. ## Soda Pop is a common term out here, as far as I know -- or just "pop", following the flavor; cherry pop, lemon pop, etc. Tumbler is a rare one to me; I'm accustomed to seeing it only in advertisements for drinking glasses. I've never used it in conversation. To me, a "tumbler" is automatically an acrobat, or part of the mechanism of a safe's lock.
Johnny Chambers -- Sorry to hear that you're such a sick dinosaur; I hope it won't prevent you from traveling down here once in a while, for WesterCons and suchlike. I'm not sure I could take a shot a week; I've got a bad case of Dermophobia, and the mere thought of vaccination makes me wince. Blood count tests are to be avoided like the plague. ## I look at a dragon -- all frills and wings and color and breathing flames -- and then I look at a dinosaur -- all big and bald and stupid-looking with a frond of swamp grass dribbling out of his mouth -- and I say, who is sexier than whom? (Roscoe, I wish I could draw that.)
Dave Van Arnam -- I hope you don't mind Jerry Jacks and I running a "Baltimore in '67" ad on the back of your page, but if you aren't gonna fill both sides of a sheet, you gotta expect things like that. ## Well, I druther read Heroic Fantasy than Gothick any day. I'll buy the former.
Jerry Jacks -- A welcome to you, also. ## Your haiku isn't all technically correct, though I like the ideas expressed in some of them. ## So far, most of what you've said has been too brief; you don't devote more than three or four lines to any one subject. Let's have a little more depth.
Bill Glass -- A very good story; I only regret it's too long to put all of it into The Best from APA L (and it won't excerpt readily). Possibly Terry Carr will reprint this at some time in the future, if he intends to continue his policy of reprinting the best fan fiction of the past.
Felice Rolfe -- The only marionette kids' show I ever saw with any regularity used to be "Cyclone Malone", a Western, broadcast live locally back around 1950, as I recall. Since 1963, when I graduated from the University and got a steady full-time daytime job, I haven't had an opportunity to watch any of the kids' cartoon or puppet shows. I do miss "The Mighty Hercules". (Okay, Len; with a-one and a-two...)