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The Gloranthan Theatre


Ian Cooper

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Some comments in The Little Suns thread got me thinking: what is the Gloranthan experience of drama?

This is a little interesting because of how Gloranthan's experience their religion, compared to our own. On Holy Days they fly to the God's World and experience the god's mythic exploits. Rituals are often magical, this world heroquests, not simply teaching the stories of the gods. Even storytelling in Glorantha can be used as a form of divination as the muse of poetry takes over the teller's tale. Given that our drama seems to have evolved out of the telling of the myths of the gods, through acting them out, would the sacred nature of such telling alter Gloranthan drama. Would you retell the story of the Sword and Helm War in a play, to make a poetic point? Or would this be sacred, and not touched in that way.

And what of comedic traditions in drama?

We know there are poets, puppeteers, and potters. But what of actors?

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IMG, drama (that is, the acting out of events which are not true for entertainment) is an invention of the Lunar Empire, and one of the secrets of the goddess.

In part this is a practical restriction for other cultures. After all, acting out the deeds of gods and heroes can bring about a connection to the Otherside and the invocation of great powers. Who knows what would happen if you started invoking stories which never happened?

To the Lunars, however, being and non-being are two sides of the All. Possibilities, what might have happened but what never did, are all just as valid for performance as what actually did.

And in this way, it is another example of the Lunar power of Glamour.

 

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I think its touched on in the Garhound contest. there is Defintley a strong history of performance and storytelling.

I think this the moves over into acting naturally, but maybe not with religious stories being the driver as they are so more accurately depicted in worship.

 

Edited by Jon Hunter
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1 hour ago, Tindalos said:

drama (that is, the acting out of events which are not true for entertainment) is an invention of the Lunar Empire, and one of the secrets of the goddess

I think it is a much broader tradition and provides popular entertainment in many cities and is one of the forms provided by Donandar and the Puppeteer Troupe.  There's certainly indication of its presence in Esrolia and Nochet with the drama of Arkilia the Sad Lady.

Such popular entertainment would have a lot less focus on mythic events though (given their religious significance) and more on heroic tales or famous/infamous rulers (e.g. in the Empire it might be the Tragedy of Jannisor or stories of Parg Ilisi, in Esrolia the stories of the Adjustment Wars or the False Imarjarin).

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The flip response is that any sufficiently advanced form of Puppetry is indistinguishable from acting so there's a practical point at which initiates of one illusion performance cult can get reciprocal support from people who follow other forms. As such comedy generally rolls into local Trickster, with even "scripted" comic dramas usually just an open collection of routines that work. Many of these routines are actually Trickster "spells." 

Deeper down I think the difference between putting on a show or telling a story, on the one hand, and exploring the mythic realm really boils down to the depth of your intent and the quality of your performance. Sometimes a ritual fizzles and we're just going through the motions; Santa Claus doesn't come down the chimney. And I think in a lot of people's Glorantha "small talk" is just secular chatter, with no "magic points" (or whatever) expended and no supernatural link implied just because we tell the story. Of course magical stories are generally ringed with taboos anyway, but relatively sophisticated individuals in the Third Age probably have a reasonable repertoire of profane or at worst para-religious stories to tell. (A lot of this body of knowledge probably relates back to vestigial animistic traditions and other "dead gods," but that's esoteric.)

So it works a lot like the difference between having what we moderns would consider a "dream" (no oracular content, no divine connection, no divination points expended) and a Gloranthan receiving a vision. There's always a chance that casual talk will cross over, which is probably where a lot of the taboos come in. On the other hand many illusion cults naturally fuzz that line anyway, which is why a lot of people don't trust or like the circus when it comes to town. 

Arguably the line in itself is how the whole complex of illusion / "short worlds" / dream magic / impermanence / glamour operates within high Gloranthan magic, but the puppeteers decline to elaborate further. Some are, some aren't.

Much was lost when Slontos went down.

Edited by scott-martin
l'esprit de l'escalier
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19 hours ago, scott-martin said:

The flip response is that any sufficiently advanced form of Puppetry is indistinguishable from acting so there's a practical point at which initiates of one illusion performance cult can get reciprocal support from people who follow other forms. As such comedy generally rolls into local Trickster, with even "scripted" comic dramas usually just an open collection of routines that work. Many of these routines are actually Trickster "spells." 

Deeper down I think the difference between putting on a show or telling a story, on the one hand, and exploring the mythic realm really boils down to the depth of your intent and the quality of your performance. Sometimes a ritual fizzles and we're just going through the motions; Santa Claus doesn't come down the chimney. And I think in a lot of people's Glorantha "small talk" is just secular chatter, with no "magic points" (or whatever) expended and no supernatural link implied just because we tell the story. Of course magical stories are generally ringed with taboos anyway, but relatively sophisticated individuals in the Third Age probably have a reasonable repertoire of profane or at worst para-religious stories to tell. (A lot of this body of knowledge probably relates back to vestigial animistic traditions and other "dead gods," but that's esoteric.)

So it works a lot like the difference between having what we moderns would consider a "dream" (no oracular content, no divine connection, no divination points expended) and a Gloranthan receiving a vision. There's always a chance that casual talk will cross over, which is probably where a lot of the taboos come in. On the other hand many illusion cults naturally fuzz that line anyway, which is why a lot of people don't trust or like the circus when it comes to town. 

Arguably the line in itself is how the whole complex of illusion / "short worlds" / dream magic / impermanence / glamour operates within high Gloranthan magic, but the puppeteers decline to elaborate further. Some are, some aren't.

Much was lost when Slontos went down.

The Puppeteer Troupe performs stories that both entertain and hint at higher/deeper meaning. They are at turns scandalous, insulting, disrespectful, contrived, and ludicrous - but also hint at deep themes or mysteries without directly revealing them. They are patronized by farmers who want low humor, nobles who want high language, and mystics who want hints into the cosmic mysteries.

And they greatly predate the Lunars.

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4 hours ago, Jeff said:

performs stories that both entertain and hint at higher/deeper meaning.

I think that's one of the hinges of Gloranthan secular consciousness right there. While every aspect of the lozenge can be interpreted as the expression of mythic reality, in practice most of our Gloranthas are built out of a lot of busted gear and farting around, with the occasional interruption from somewhere sublime. Your cult identity mediates how your heroquests go. One thing that makes illusion dangerous is how a performance strips observers from that communal framework and addresses them one-to-one as "individuals" with the authority to interpret the experience on their own, sacred or profane. You get to choose which world you inhabit. Like any non-strictly-supervised initiation, this has produced plenty of historical freakouts as the audience grabs unexpected bits of "narrative" that would otherwise be impossible to even think in the normal ritual context. Perfectly good princesses break role to join the circus, etc.

Illusion, in other words, is where a sense of "self" emerges from the community. We see things differently: when I see the rain-dirty valley and you see Brigadoon, two truths prevail in the world. As our experiences diverge, we become distinct individuals and the archaic Gloranthan ritual consciousness evolves into something else like everything falling apart at the end of a golden age. This is one thing that makes the rune so useful to the lunars, who in various phases are interested in self-building as a path to personal liberation and incidentally weakening the bonds that hold creation together. As our interiority deepens, something like illumination looms.

Now you can also use illusion to achieve harmony, which is how cult-sponsored Donandar performances work. You reenact a myth that everybody knows, bonding the audience in a relatively cheap shared experience of other lives and exemplary lessons. When you roll high enough, you open doors that for all practical purposes are as good as magic. When you don't, hopefully at least you put on a good show. 

As far as I can tell, most independent illusion cults in central Genertela have concentrated in or around Glamour and the lunar complex. It's where the money is. I hope it makes the Dara Happans nervous. Because I love Rinliddi I wouldn't be surprised if the forms invented in the empire have a delirious strain of bird symbolism, running through them: Aristophanes, Attar, Peter Brook, Peter Greenaway. Masques and mummery: the play of the newborn goddess and the beasts, the play of the young elementals. It also plays well in the sticks.

Speaking of money, another rune that works along similar lines to build secular consciousness is what we call Communication. Money is what we exchange for goods and services. It has no memory outside the psychopompous Issaries Mysteries. The most traditional cultures dislike working with it for very good reasons. Within the bounds of the neutral Marketplace taboos loosen, spirits of reprisal go silent and cult secrets come together in otherwise unimaginable configurations. "Spells" are traded, small talk is made and we come out changed and mutually enriched. Once you start making a little cash, the actors show up. Clearly the Jrustelites (who, as we recall, were cursed as well with the discovery of "fiction") were the gift that kept on giving.
 

Edited by scott-martin
clarity
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On Earth, Drama is a product of ancient Greece, and it didn't have much impact on the East.  You don't get theatrical plays occurring in the Middle East, India, China, Japan, or Africa.  You get musical theater, like opera, noh, kabuki, epic poetry, and various forms of puppet shows, but you don't get theater, with the actors speaking in prose and where the plot is the central feature of the performance.

Drama was a peculiarly Greek phenomenon.  According to Aristotle (who is well known to be wrong about everything, be warned) the origin of Drama comes from the Dithyrambs of Dionysus; wild poems describing mythic tales of that deity.  These in turn led to masked actors playing the roles of mythic heroes and villains, accompanied by a chorus that acts as a narrator but evolving into a statement of the opinion the audience should hold, and featuring the intervention of the Gods to resolve problems as the Deus Ex Machina, until that becomes seen as trite, as in the Theban plays of Sophocles, which notably don't feature the Gods intervening to halt the tragedy.  Plays are used to teach and inform the polity of Athens about the wisdom (right action in trying situations), or why certain laws should exist through exploring moral questions, or satirizing actions that are seen as foolish, or propagandizing the people for a coming war.  Ultimately when Athens loses its power in the world, becoming a minor city in Alexander's empire then getting gobbled up by Rome, the form of Athenian drama becomes far more prosaic, and devotes itself to stories of family politics.In Glorantha, notably, there is no Theater God listed on the God's Wall or elsewhere.  It has been argued academically that theater is an intrinsically democratic/republican form of entertainment, and though this may seem like hyperbole, there is a point to be made.

When it works, drama engages the audience with characters reacting and reacting in different ways to the challenges they face based on their personalities.  There is no guiding narrator.  You are invited to step outside yourself and listen and think about the ways different people see things, much like in an RPG perhaps?  This can be a very democratizing process and related directly, it is argued, to the power of Greek theater as a democratizing process.  There is evidence that theater comes before democracy and created a climate in which Athenian democracy could flourish.  On the other hand, Athenian democracy with its representatives effectively chosen by raffle is very alien to our preconceptions of what a democracy should look like.

It is for these reasons that I would suggest that Glorantha's theatrical tradiction would most likely have emerged in Ralios and specifically Handra in the first age and spread slowly from there.  There is nothing to support that in the lore, but we must find a cultural milieu where such an institution could emerge and flourish, and Handra best fits the bill if we are taking Athens as our model.

Edited by Darius West
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"The story became a legend, the legend became a myth."

It is not entirely unlikely that skalds telling stories, actors re-enacting this-world events, and poetic/musical performers might play a role in the building of heroes.

Kin dies, cattle dies, stories don't - and bards live to tell...

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On ‎24‎/‎02‎/‎2017 at 2:31 PM, Darius West said:

On Earth, Drama is a product of ancient Greece, and it didn't have much impact on the East.  You don't get theatrical plays occurring in the Middle East, India, China, Japan, or Africa.  You get musical theater, like opera, noh, kabuki, epic poetry, and various forms of puppet shows, but you don't get theater, with the actors speaking in prose and where the plot is the central feature of the performance.

Drama was a peculiarly Greek phenomenon.  According to Aristotle (who is well known to be wrong about everything, be warned) the origin of Drama comes from the Dithyrambs of Dionysus; wild poems describing mythic tales of that deity.  These in turn led to masked actors playing the roles of mythic heroes and villains, accompanied by a chorus that acts as a narrator but evolving into a statement of the opinion the audience should hold, and featuring the intervention of the Gods to resolve problems as the Deus Ex Machina, until that becomes seen as trite, as in the Theban plays of Sophocles, which notably don't feature the Gods intervening to halt the tragedy.  Plays are used to teach and inform the polity of Athens about the wisdom (right action in trying situations), or why certain laws should exist through exploring moral questions, or satirizing actions that are seen as foolish, or propagandizing the people for a coming war.  Ultimately when Athens loses its power in the world, becoming a minor city in Alexander's empire then getting gobbled up by Rome, the form of Athenian drama becomes far more prosaic, and devotes itself to stories of family politics.In Glorantha, notably, there is no Theater God listed on the God's Wall or elsewhere.  It has been argued academically that theater is an intrinsically democratic/republican form of entertainment, and though this may seem like hyperbole, there is a point to be made.

When it works, drama engages the audience with characters reacting and reacting in different ways to the challenges they face based on their personalities.  There is no guiding narrator.  You are invited to step outside yourself and listen and think about the ways different people see things, much like in an RPG perhaps?  This can be a very democratizing process and related directly, it is argued, to the power of Greek theater as a democratizing process.  There is evidence that theater comes before democracy and created a climate in which Athenian democracy could flourish.  On the other hand, Athenian democracy with its representatives effectively chosen by raffle is very alien to our preconceptions of what a democracy should look like.

 

It is for these reasons that I would suggest that Glorantha's theatrical tradiction would most likely have emerged in Ralios and specifically Handra in the first age and spread slowly from there.  There is nothing to support that in the lore, but we must find a cultural milieu where such an institution could emerge and flourish, and Handra best fits the bill if we are taking Athens as our model.

 

Actually, the Mahabhasya of Patanjali, a grammatical work dated to circa 140BCE, is generally accepted as indicating the origins of the dramas of India. These are not clearly editable until the 1st century CE. The 'Treatise on Theatre' is of uncertain date, 200CE at the latest. Unlike the Greek plays, women were accepted and respected performers.  The best known of the early plays 'The Little Clay Cart' by Sudraka dates to the 2nd century BCE, and has been described as 'rife with romance, sex, royal intrigue and comedy.. juicy plot... numerous twists and turns.'.

The Indian theatre had two distinct styles, realistic lokadharmi and formal natyadharmi.

Classical Greek drama was purely religious in setting (festivals of Dionysus - ignore sources at your peril) until the Hellenistic era, and appears always to have been classed as poetry, not prose. A maximum of three actors were on stage (no matter how many being represented - the advantage of masks), with a chorus of perhaps 12-15.

Also note that the lack of texts means that the assertion that a culture lacked theatre is merely an argument from silence. The earlier Greek plays were only performed once, so our access to them is a literary miracle.

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