Chapter II.

28 Jul

Frelo found two empty apartments near the Popular Theater for his new associates. The baaser and Yie moved into the larger and Joa took the adjacent flat.

The four acts of the play named “Caldaria” jelled into a structure with astonishing speed. A flood of excitement seized all involved in the project. There was no retreating now. This play was meant to incite and activate all who saw it. Incendiary drama was their goal. It was meant to ignite the emotions of those who would see and hear it. This was to be theater with a highly political purpose behind it.

But the enemy from the high peaks above was not absent from the narrow streets of Rocumbol. Red Hats mounted on equines, in squad formation, tramped along, frightening the belowers out of their way. Yie saw them in one twilight period, hiding himself in a shop entrance so as not to be noticed by the Brothers riding by on their animals. He only felt relief when they were gone.

Later, at the theater, he told Frelo what he had seen. The director made a wry, ironic face of dissatisfaction.

“What can we do? They cannot be stopped if they wish to enter our city. Those devils often come to take this or that from our stores and shops. Who dares to call it by its true name of shameless stealing? That is what, in reality, these riders commit. But they go home to their eeries unpunished. It would be a disaster to try to arrest them. We have to suffer whatever the Red Hats choose to do among us. There is no remedy against it.”

The two went on to the stage scenario of the drama in process of creation. “I want the best possible scenery and lighting,” said Frelo with emotion. “Nothing is to be omitted that can aid in presenting a realistic picture of the mountain environment. Everything must be genuine and accurate. Although gas lighting has certain negative features, they can be overcome with optical instrumentalities. I have the best theatrical lighting expert in all of Tegumen traveling here to work with us. His name is Cacque, the photist. Have you ever heard of him?”

“No,” confessed Yie, his voice mild and conciliating.

“He should be in Rocumbol soon. I believe that Cacque can add a lot to the vivacity of the production. He is a superb master of his craft of stage lighting. No one else has comparable skills to his.”

The baaser succeeded in his attempts to become acquainted with the most enlightened leaders of the city. In all the guild organizations of Rocumbol, he discovered young malcontents dissatisfied with the passive, timid attitude of their superiors toward the long-established system of hierarchy on Tegumen.

“Why do we allow those demonic Red Hats to walk all over us?” asked one dissident over alegar in a smoke-filled tavern.

“It is our own fault, nobody but ours,” he concluded in wrath.

When asked if he had brought any answers with him from Caldaria, the newly arrived baaser gave no immediate or specific reply.

“We must be watchful and awake,” he frequently told new friends. “No one can say when our salvation will arrive, though it must.”

Cacque was a huge figure, heavy in weight with enormous, muscular arms and legs. Curly auburn hair enclosed a circular face with dull gray, galenic eyes. For all his size, he moved himself about with surprising speed and dexterity.

There was something impressive and attractive about him.

Both his mother and father had been actors of a roaming troop of players. Throughout Tegumen, the child had traveled with parents, becoming familiar from the inside with the arts and crafts of the temporary theaters. Nothing surprised this expert in drama presentation. He possessed familiarity with every aspect of the profession he had inherited.

It was in his teen years that the young Cacque decided to train himself in the scenery and illumination of plays. It was not a result of his lack of the gift for acting. He had the inner character of both parents, yet was without the necessary ambition to be a center of stage attention. In an odd way, his interest in the minutia of theater technology drew him away from the ordinary dreams of stage stardom and prominence. Few could compare to Cacque in detailed knowledge of how to present plays. His artistic skills had to do with the physical surroundings of the actors and their roles.

The huge young man came directly to the Popular Theater as soon as he arrived in Rocumbol. He found Frelo, an intimate friend for years, in his office at the theater. The two men, laughing with joy, embraced as they greeted each other. Memories of past dramatic successes arose in both of their minds. They felt deep. powerful nostalgia.

When they were seated, the director began describing the new play that he planned to put on the stage that he managed.

“It is a story of oppression and resistance. A terrible conflict is fought for control of the mines and forges of Caldaria. That will be the title of the play: “Caldaria”. It will have a profound meaning for every belower who witnesses it. The theme has power to touch and melt many hearts. My purpose is to try to ignite a sense of the possibilities ahead for the people around us, despite the bitter experiences of loss and defeat they have gone through.”

The two old friends stared at each other for a time.

“Three refugees from the invasion of Caldaria are here in Rocumbol, assisting me with their stories. In fact, they are providing narratives of the incidents that occurred and writing authentic dialogue for the play. I imagine that you want to meet them as soon as you can.” He rose to his feet. “Let me take you to the apartments they occupy. It is only a short walk there.”

Cacque, curious to see the strangers, stood up. “Yes, let me meet and talk to these fugitives from the Red Hats.”

Five persons congregated about the table in the dining room of the apartment shared by Yie and the baaser. After making introductions for the benefit of Cacque, Frelo gave a synopsis of the projected production he planned to present to the public at the Popular Theater.

“The central theme, of course, is the conflict with the highlanders. Their oppressive domination over our existence should be evident to each and every member of the audience. The Red Hats block all attempts to restore our mines and forges on Caldaria. Failing to intimidate the metallic craftsmen, they finally invade and destroy the workshops in the last act of the play. Can you make all of that graphically alive with scenic design and lighting, Cacque?”

The latter pondered for a couple of seconds before giving his opinion in a slow, reflective tone of voice.

“Yes, there are elements of the narrative that can capture the attention and emotions of the most stolid of viewers. For instance, the use of fire as a weapon by the invading Red Hats. There is room for spectacular lighting effects with that factor. I can foresee the placement of parabolic reflectors at various stage positions so that gas flame can be multiplied many times over in the separate scenic locations. The catastrophe in the last act should excite and horrify everyone in the theater with its accuracy and realism. I am certain that a dynamic cyclorama can be built that reaches a height of impression and influence. All my creative experience will be focused on making the scenes as truthful and emotionally powerful as possible. I promise that to all of you, as both an artist and a belower. Nothing less than the best will I try to create for this special project.”

The eyes of the four others centered upon him.

“Our play depends on its ability to seize hold of the minds viewing it,” quietly said the director, Frelo. “This drama will be our spark, aimed at producing a conflagration inside many minds. We must rise to the opportunity of the occasion, all of us. You speak of a cyclorama, Cacque. We have in Rocumbol never applied such an advanced method on any stage. But I have heard and read of it. Could you explain it for all of us?”

The scene designer smiled. “Of course. It is a device to create the illusion of spatial depth on stage. I have built a number of them at various theaters in the cities of Tegumen. What it consists of is a large cylinder of canvas cloth laced onto two semicircular iron pipes, above and below. It is illuminated from overhead and below by gas burners with parabolic reflectors about them and chromatic prisms over the flames. These prisms are very accurately and delicately calibrated to break down and recombine the gas light. Red, blue, and green are refined, then compounded and combined again. The intensity of each light can be controlled by switches so as to produce desired effects on the cloth of the cyclorama. As a result of all this, the color of the whole scene can be changed through the entire range of the spectrum. There is no limit to the variety of chromatic combinations attainable. The effects can be astounding. The audience will be fascinated by what they see on the stage.

“What I plan to construct is a cyclorama that produces the impression of the largest, most intense fire imaginable. My aim will be to terrify the audience into believing it is present at a great fire on Caldaria.”

Yie immediately asked a question.

“Is there any problem of safety involved in that method?”

“I will take all steps necessary to maintain absolute control through the valve gauges. There has never been an accident in my experience with the cyclorama projections. I promise to stay vigilant at all times.”

The baaser made an inquiry. “You mentioned the use of prisms. Are they large ones?”

Cacque turned to him and spoke in a low murmur.

“For several years I have worked with glass-makers at various sites to make prisms that are small and have very little weight to them. Through trial and error, we have developed better, more useful ones. Some I have ordered to be sent here to Rocumbol. But other models will have to be produced in this city. Is that feasible?”

“I believe so,” answered Frelo. “We have skilled glass-blowers among us. I think that they can meet your needs, Cacique. There should be no problems in supplying the prisms. You shall have what you need to produce such a spectacle.”

After more discussion of the scenic needs, the group of five left for a nearby inn to have a late meal together.

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