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Scene4 Magazine — Claudine Jones
Claudine Jones
Chainsaw Man
Scene4 Magazine-inView

december 2006

It doesn't really matter what your issues are, after a couple of days, precinct walking gets to be pretty damn boring.  Clipboard with your maps & house addresses, case the neighborhood, odd-side/even-side, knock on the doors, wait a tick or two—not home, leave DH (door hanger), trudge on up to the next one on the list.  Until I met Chainsaw Man.

After one of our performances of Britten's 'Noyes Fludde' a member of our audience was heard to comment that the orchestra was very good, but they played some wrong notes at the beginning.  Indeed, it appears that the simple hymn 'O Jesus, Think on Me' which the 'congregation' [read audience] sings at the top of the brief work is supported by a stubbornly wayward accompaniment: the musical equivalent of God's wrath preparing the way for the upheaval of the coming Flood.

Now I know that our instructions are meant to be guidelines & that no one back at HQ is babysitting us; that's why we're volunteers—they don't have enough paid workers to do this & they have to trust that we will do right.  Nothing to bring dishonor to the cause or the candidate.  We're adults & we have been briefed.  We have been advised that a lot is riding on our efforts.

When Noah and his sons & daughters launch into their busy-work building the Ark, the lyrics are full of references to materials, tools & activities, and the score is sharply punctuated with sounds of hammering.  At the Wife's entrance a lethargy sets in –'women be weak to undergo any great travail'—but the Gossips belie this with a chorus of mocking laughter.

It's probably never a good idea to confront a stranger; it can be a synonym for tackle after all. If your end is to inform, your temperature is set to 'cool'.   

Noah & the children cut through the laughter & re-establish their plodding efforts to beat God's deadline, slowing to take breaths, but rising in momentum until with gently resigned yet grand self-righteousness, they announce it's time to get on board. A rapid, nasty exchange between Noah & Wife, who refuses to get on the Ark, is interrupted by God, cymbals & timpani.

I had a set of pre-digested folk on my six page list; all either Supporters or Undecideds whatever their affiliation. Rather like my evenings of phone-banking.  Not the challenge of some sorry cold-caller braced for the ire of an interrupted dinner & the slammed phone.

Noah runs out of patience.  Trumpets announce the arrival of the Animals who arrive in orderly procession, again with a deliberate use of liturgical reference—'Kyrie Eleison'. From the lowest pitch to the tiny high squeaks of mice a cacaphony climaxing with an oompah march comes to an abrupt stop.  The Sons break into a solemn acappella chant of the Kyrie.

One of the ways we contribute to the world as theater artists is to put ourselves out in front—the old idea of a shaman telling a story to the assembled tribe in rapt attention—so I got no basic problem being spokesperson for a cause that I believe in. I love street theater; gimme a shot of pepper spray to go with that!  But I'm mellower, too.  I respect that the home should feel like safe territory to people & more than once I felt like I should honor those unanswered doorbells by just sending out my silent message accompanied by an apology for possibly disturbing their wa.

Recitatives follow in which the Wife is exhorted to come aboard before it is too late; these are full of comic effects suiting each character: sweetly supplicating violins, or thumping kettle drums. The Wife's increasing drunken fear & worry over her friends' fates, the advancing Storm driven by some inexorable swaying force becomes more and more urgent until Wife arrives on Ark—and releases the tension upon her husband with a resounding slap.

There's a qualitative difference between day and night, too.  I'm not sure which I preferred since both have associations, however day seems less likely to be encumbered with the hungry, cranky or overworked.  Plus, the kids are at school. Unless they're babies just woken by the door (oops), or the ubiquitous barking dogs.  It doesn't matter that we all live in the same country, it's still foreign territory to be in somebody else's neighborhood.  I knew that when I walked up his driveway & saw the chainsaw.

The wonderful storm scene is very specifically marked by sound effects of snapping sails, blowing wind, etc., until the 'chromatic passage' (as the cast fondly refers to our cue to sing the hymn) which signals the peril of being tossed upon high seas and singing at the same time.  The last verse is used as the moment to put all the frightened animals, as well as ourselves, down for a nap as Britten's clear conclusion of the storm slides snugly down around us.

I'm a longtime hippie, but I don't count myself as a joiner; that's why this was my first time out as a precinct walker.  I felt the call for this particular election.  This naivete overrode my instincts. Granted, the chainsaw was on the grass and it was daylight. Plus, I had a ' D Sup' on my precinct list next to this guy's name.

Lunatic tapping on ceramic mugs has a cheering effect on the cast even though we still must crouch down, waiting for the Raven to finish its crazed dance to a stumbling waltz.  A mournful refrain recalls the Storm, but Noah brushes it away, bringing out the Dove which does its own version of the lopsided waltz with a piping, hopeful lilt, and must chortle at its success in bringing back the Olive branch.

Scripts for this kind of thing always strike me as phony, so I ignore them on the phone as well as on the ground.  I don't need no stinkin' script.  I go up to my fellow man (or woman) and trust that the Truth will be enough.  I have to say that I admire someone who can rattle off a page of interesting verbiage about an issue or a prospective congressperson, but I feel better just having a sense that what my core values consist of is going to speak for itself.  This of course pretty much jives with the door hangers & the websites or I wouldn't be there..  And I have a pretty sticker with my candidate's name stuck on my chest.

Triumph is sensed, or is it just the stability that Noah wants back, with dry land under his feet...Britten opts for both.  Fanfares and Alleluias in high style, no wandering notes. Bells chime, the Rainbow appears, a slow hymn is begun and the 'congregation' is enjoined to sing again.  The lyrics wind their way in a quasi-humanist fashion from the moon, the sun and the earth, to the stars and the sky, ending with a round sung allargando complete with raucous trumpeting worthy of C.B. de Mille, but with Britten's by now established tweaking of the traditional and the voice of God bids us farewell in particularly technicolor fashion

'Hi, I'm Claudine. Could I speak to D___?'

'I'm D___. '

'Well, I've got you down here as a supporter; I'm out..'

'I'm not voting for him & I'll tell you why.  Let me tell you, I will NEVER vote for somebody to take MY guns away from me. I've got my 357 Magnum locked up inside, but if I hear some noise at night, I've got it handy.  NOBODY is going to take MY gun.  And I'll tell you, Bush may have made some mistakes but by God at least he's doing SOMETHING. The f***ing terrorists...'

Dying notes of the trumpets must be done with great care to sustain the grandeur; a difficult task, but a fine ending.

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About This Article

©2006 Claudine Jones
©2006 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades. With her co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs for local venues. As a filmmaker, she is doing the final cut of YOUR EAR IS IN YOUR NOSE, destined for release next year or whenever her long time technical task wizard Animator Sam Worf gets his head out of his latest render.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the



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Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Arts and Media

december 2006

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