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BERNARD J. TAYLOR

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The Lady of Shalott
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(recently published in Britain by Stagescripts (UK) Ltd.)

A play with recorded music inspired by the classic narrative poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson, about a woman who keeps the world at one remove until a former student - now a successful writer - declares his love for her.  It is accompanied by a soundtrack consisting of ten pieces of piano and symphonic music that are woven into the narrative.

Synopsis: Helen, a professor of literature long settled in a relationship with her former tutor, is visited by a former student, Elliott, who has achieved considerable success as an author.

There is immediate tension between Helen and Lloyd, the professor she lives with but has never married.  Lloyd senses that there is a strong attraction between Helen and Elliott and feels that the raw animal energy of Elliott could overwhelm and destroy Helen.

Elliott, meanwhile, sees Helen as someone who has been stifled, robbed of any passion and spontaneity, by the rigid regime imposed upon her by Lloyd, who has been the primary influence on her since she was his student.

It soon becomes evident that something happened between Helen and Elliott at a literary conference they had both attended without Lloyd some time earlier - something that left Helen highly unsettled, but which she is reluctant to discuss.

Then everything explodes into the open with unforeseen consequences.

The play features music taken mainly from two symphonic works, "Passion's Progress" and "The Millennium Suite".  There is also one song, "That One Special Night", written specially for the play.  The song does not require a trained singer, however.

What Others Have Said

"I finally read Shalott and I LOVE it, please lemme know whenever you want to get together and work! this sounds like an incredible project!" -  Joseph Travis Urick, Adjunct Professor, Theatre & Speech Communication,  Alamo Colleges, San Antonio, USA

Critique by Professor Hugh McCracken, former Professor of Literature at Youngstown University, USA:

I enjoyed it very much.  I liked the tight structure of its specificity and simultaneous universal application.  What couple has not, after all, had a third person (or more) with which to consider in the relationship?  And for what it’s worth, I like Helen’s conclusion in how to handle it. The dialogue crackled along with great energy.

In Scene 1 there is a longish discussion, but it pays off in the longer run, showing the relationship between the incumbent couple well.

In the second scene I was startled by the suddenness of Elliott’s “Does that reflect your view of my presence here?”  I presumed that much had gone on before among the three of them if he could be so direct so soon.  It also shows how direct he is in the first place.

Elliott is indeed reminiscent of Heathcliff (I thought so after the first reference and knew by the second one that the playwright means it so).  Elliott: “academics are slaves to redundant theories.”  Interesting half-truth,  but fits the purpose nicely (the purpose in part to show that organic, natural responses produce growth, as analytical, academic discipline does not. The latter denies love. No growth can occur for Helen with Lloyd. So you have the lover and the eunuch scenario (a bit stretched here but suits the binary claim).

‘Organic veracity” and ‘human condition’ carry a lot of weight here, but acceptable for the play.  I share a bit of Lloyd’s imagined opposition to the half-truth above, as academics aren’t truly slaves and redundancy of theory has its place.  But creative writing is quite different from critical writing and the two, as is suggested in this work, are at war with each other.  My point: no good/bad guys here, but perfectly workable to choose one over the other in the play: Extended nicely through the preference of the poetic Fitzgerald over the journalistic Hemingway.

Helen is at first determined to reject Elliot’s advances, but the fact that she has him in her home lends the audience its first indication that Helen loves Elliott.  Elliott wonders whether the lover will always lose out to the eunuch.  The play shows that there is never a “winner” in any absolute sense.  (There may be arrangements and allowances in living; the rest is fairy tale?)  Helen says that what keeps her and Lloyd together is a mutual love of literature (where the lover often wins), nature, food, and décor (arrangements).  Just as Elliot seems momentarily defeated by Helen, though, she succumbs.


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