The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (A Fanfiction Screenplay Part 3)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

Act Two: Perceptions

Scene One – A Map

Interior – Cruise ship corridor, main control deck, lounge

Two cruise ship personnel in uniform come out of a door.  Both of the crew members are shorter. Tony and Steve are waiting for them in the hall.  Steve and Tony make quick work of knocking out their opponents. They drag the unconscious bodies back into the room from which they came. Tony and Steve then exit the same room now wearing the personnel uniforms. Tony’s uniform fits perfectly, but Steve’s pants are way too small for him. There’s a good 4 inches of leg showing between his socks and pants   He walks with an odd gate.

Tony: You alright, Captain?

Steve (tugging near his crotch): Yeah. I’ll be fine…in a minute.

Tony: That’s what you get for being tall and handsome.

Steve: I don’t understand. Clothes always fit in the movies.

Tony: Just hide behind me if someone comes. No one wants to see that.

Steve:  Shut up!  I’m sick of…

Steve grabs Tony by the throat and shoves him against the wall.

Steve:  Shut your damn mouth now.  If you mess up this mission…Let’s just say I don’t care what punishments Fury can come up with, but if this virus escapes…If you’re the one that screws it up, I will deal with you myself.

He releases Tony who shrugs him away.  Steve and Tony reach a locked door labeled “Control Room.”  There’s a card scanner to the side of the door. Tony searches his pockets and pulls out the personnel’s identity card. Looks at it.

Tony: Thank you…Wallis Becker.

He slides the card in the reader. A green light flashes on and Steve opens the door a crack.

Steve: There’s just one guy in there.

Tony: I’ll go in. Hopefully he won’t notice that I’m not Wallis. You wait out here and keep watch, Skinny Britches. Crow if someone’s coming.

Steve: Crow?

Tony puts on the crew members hat and walks inside. The door closes and Steve looks back and forth down the corridor.

Inside, Tony nods at the man at the control panel who looks up at his entrance.

Tony: How’s it goin’?

The man turns back to his work and Tony starts rifling through different things. He opens different cupboards and drawers.

Tony: Hey, do you know where I could find a…

Three large men walk in from another adjoining room.

Man: You’re not Wallis.

Tony: A map!

Tony yanks open one last compartment which is filled with blueprints. He grabs all of them.

In the hallway, Steve hears a number of bangs and shouts. He looks concerned, but doesn’t try to open the door. Tony emerges from the room into the corridor where Steve is standing. His hat is missing, his hair is mussed, and he has blood on his face. He still clutches the blueprints under one arm.

Tony: Crow!

The two men start running through the ship. The ship’s crew pursues them. They keep running. They knock things over as they go to trip up their followers. One of them goes down. Tony tears open a door which blocks the hallway behind them. The personnel run straight into it and one of them is knocked out. Tony and Steve rush into the ship’s bar and lounge which is full of people. They hide in the crowd and try to catch their breaths.

Steve: I think we got ‘em. Did you still have the maps?

Tony (whacking Steve with the blueprints): Yeah.

Steve: Let’s try to blend in.

Steve picks up an empty glass from a table just for appearances. Tony does the same. They move through the lounge. Nodding and smiling at the people they encounter. By the bar, they knock into Violet who is wearing a little black dress now. She looks at the cut on Tony’s head and then Steve’s too short pants.

Violet: Whoa.

Steve: They shrunk in the wash, ma’am.

Tony: Don’t mind him. He’s had one too many.

Violet: That’s okay. Laundry can be tricky. I turned all my clothes pink once. You never know. You might start a new fashion trend. You gentleman like some new drinks?

She grins at Steve.

Steve: No. Thank you, miss. We would love to, but we have other duties that we should get back to.

Tony: I might take you up on that later though. Tomorrow? Same time, same place?

Steve pulls Tony away toward the door when something stops them.

Scene Two – Fight

Interior – Lounge

Sly is at the bar getting a drink. Loki approaches him from behind and rips him away from his stool.

Loki: Who are you and why are you watching me?

Sly: I don’t know what you mean. I don’t know you. Security!

Flashback:  Sly and his wife are having lunch at a restaurant in New York City.  They are sitting at a table outside with a green umbrella over them.  They lean in close to each other, laughing and talking.  Sly feeds her a bit of his lunch from a fork.  The next moment, people around them are screaming.    Strange alien beast fly over their heads shooting at people as they scatter.  Sly grabs his wife’s hand and pulls her toward the restaurant.  A crushed car comes rolling at them from off-screen.  The car hits Sly’s wife and she is pinned underneath it.  She’s still alive.  He cries out to her and goes towards her.  Above them Loki and Thor are fighting at the top of Stark Tower.  The giant “K” gets blasted off of the building and falls.  The “K” lands between Sly and his wife, wreckage blocking his way to her.  Sly has to watch his wife die from a distance.  Another hover craft zooms over him.  On it is not an alien, but Loki.The-Avengers-Climax-Loki-the-avengers-34726348-1920-1080

Back on the cruise ship Loki punches Sly.  Sly falls to the ground and Loki pulls him back up again. Loki squeezes his throat. People around him yelp.

Loki: Do that again and I will make you wish you’d never seen this ship.  My brother’s friends will find you conveniently unconscious on the floor.

Sly:  And they would just let you go in the process?  How fast can you run?  How strong are you against Captain American and Ironman?  How clever do you need to be without your magic powers?

Loki presses in closer to Sly.

Loki:  What do you know?  How do you know I don’t want to be caught?

Sly:  You don’t.  I took your powers.  You don’t want to be caught until you get them back.  Not now.  You’ll wait until the right time.  And you won’t kill me until you know how to get them back.  Here they come.  So what now, Loki?

From across the lounge: Steve and Tony watch the two men’s encounter.

Steve: Is that…?

Tony: I think it is.

Steve: Loki.

Tony lunges forward at Sly and Loki.  Hearing his name, Loki looks over at Steve, loosening his hold on Sly. Sly twists out of Loki’s grasps.

Steve:  Tony!

Steve tries to stop his friend from attacking, but is too late.  Tony hits Loki with the empty glass he’s carrying.  Sly steps back, rubbing his throat.

Sly:  This man attacked me for no reason!  He should be locked up and taken off the ship!

Loki, Steve, and Tony continue to fight.

Violet:  Wait!  Stop!  Security is on the way.  Argh, men.  Stop hurting each other!

Violet throws her drink into the middle of the group.  Glass shatters onto all three of them.  Loki breaks free from the group and escapes through the crowd.  Security guards arrive and put handcuffs on Steve and Tony.

Scene Three – Speculations

Interior – Bruce’s cabin

Thor watches as Bruce conducts an experiment at a table that involves a Bunsen burner, beakers, a stop watch, and data sheets on a laptop.

Thor:  Is any of your memory coming back?

Bruce:  Do I remember that if something ticks me off I’ll turn into what Tony refers to as “a big, green rage monster”?  I still don’t remember how we got here on this ship though.  You?

Thor:  I come from a different planet.

Thor looks over Bruce’s shoulder.

Bruce:  Yes.  And shouldn’t you be planning sieges to unite your realms or something?

Thor:  Sorry.

Thor steps back.

Thor:  I do not blame you for misjudging me.  My people are great warriors, yes.  But we also value knowledge.  My father gave up his own eye for it.  I respect your profession.  Jane –

Bruce:  I appreciate your interest, but let’s just stop right there.  If you must know, I’ve taken the information from the files we were given on the zombie virus and I’m trying to figure some things out about how the virus might have been developed.  Now, I need to concentrate.

Bruce drips a liquid into the beaker with a pipette.

Tony and Steve enter Bruce’s cabin. They have lost the uniforms they’d been wearing.  Tony flops the blueprints out onto the table covering Bruce’s own papers.  Bruce flinches, squeezing all the liquid from the pipette into the beaker all at once.  He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath to try to calm himself.

Tony: We got plans of the ship.

Bruce: I see that.

Steve: What’re you working on, Dr. Frankenstein?

Tony: Hey, don’t talk to him like that.

Steve: Why shouldn’t I? You would do it.

Bruce: Ok, guys. Let’s just sit and talk.

Steve: No. I want to know why it’s okay for him to be an asshole to everyone, but as soon as anyone else tries to give him shit, he’s all righteous.

Tony: I can’t help that I’m such an awesome badass. But you shouldn’t take out your jealous rage on the doc here.

Bruce: Stop. Just stop it. You don’t want to make me angry.

Steve sits down and the others follow suit.

Bruce: What happened? What’s this really about?

Steve: We got the blueprints, but were pursued. We ended up at the lounge and lost our tail. Then Mr. Badass thinks it’s a good idea to start a fight. Security kicked us out of the bar. The guards have been given our id’s and photos in case we ever decide to go back there again.

Bruce: You got banished?

He looks at Tony.

Bruce: From the ship’s bar?

Steve: And now, thanks to Tony, our targets have access to a part of the ship we don’t. An extra advantage for the enemy. Plus our identities have gotten out to the ship’s security. They’ll be on to us for the rest of this trip.

Tony (to Bruce): If you saw what I’d seen, you would’ve done the same thing. It wasn’t just a fight, anyhow. It was Loki.

There’s silence while the men in the room look at Thor.

Bruce: What’d you mean? Loki’s floating around somewhere in the back alleys of the cosmos making connections with alien crime lords and who knows what else. But he certainly isn’t going on a family vacation cruise liner.

Thor: Where is he now? 

Steve: It was him. You don’t mistake someone’s identity when you’ve seen them do what Loki’s done. He was with some other guy too. They both got away.

Thor: Who was this other man?

Tony: We don’t know.  He said that Loki just attacked him for no reason.  They didn’t look like they were friends.

Steve: Loki doesn’t have friends.

Bruce: So the real question is: Is the enemy of Loki our friend? Is this mystery guy Zhivkov’s friend? Or the thief we’re looking for?

Steve: You think Loki and Zhivkov are connected? Maybe Loki is the thief?

Thor:  No matter if Loki and Zhivkov are allies, this man Loki attacked is important.  The man lied to you.  Loki does not attack for no reason.  If we find out who the man is, we will be able to find out why my brother is on this ship.

Steve: I think that it’s safe to say that an enemy of Loki is, unless we have evidence otherwise, our friend. We need to divide the ship into sections so we can split up and do a search for Zhivkov and our new mystery man.

Steve spreads out the blueprints.

Steve:  Thor, you take the ballroom/dining room and this surrounding area.  Bruce, you can have the lower decks in the bow area and the smaller auditorium here.  Tony, gets the stern lower decks…excluding the lounge.  I’ll take the upper decks and outdoor areas.

He looks around for confirmations or challenges.

Scene Four – Karaoke

Interior – Ship’s lounge – Three days before virus outbreak

Violet is on a stage singing karaoke. She has picked the song I’m the Only One by Melissa Etheridge. She is a little out of tune, but the passion for the song is there.

Violet (singing): Please baby can’t you see, I’m trying to explain. I’ve been here before and I’m locking the door and I’m not going back again. Her eyes and arms and skin won’t make it go away. You’ll wake up tomorrow and wrestle the sorrow that holds you down today.

View expands to include the bar where Tony is sitting in a disguise. He is wearing a fedora and sunglasses. He takes a drink and glances over towards Violet.

Violet (singing): But I’m the only one who’ll walk across the fire for you.

She points randomly at no one into the crowd of drunken listeners and dancers. A man hoots thinking that he’s been specifically chosen. Loki is there, eyeing Tony.   He glances behind himself when Violet points, and raises an eyebrow.

Violet (singing): I’m the only one who’ll drown in my desire for you. It’s only fear that makes you run, the demons that you’re hiding from, when all your promises are gone. I’m the only one.

She finishes the song. Tony takes another drink. She joins him at the bar.

Tony: Nice Singing.

Violet: Thanks. Do I know you?

Tony: Maybe.

Violet: You were here the other night in uniform. I saw what happened. You’re lucky you didn’t get your nose busted up or something. I always wondered what that would be like. What would I look like with a broken nose?

She turns towards him, waiting for an answer.

Tony: Like yourself. I don’t think I am who you think I am.

Violet: Yes you are. You wanted to have a drink with me tonight, so let’s have a drink. Same time, same place, remember?

Tony looks at the bar tender who is busy at the other end of the bar.

Tony: Don’t say anything.  I’m here against orders, but somebody has to do the dirty work.  And what you said…drinks.  Maybe you can help. I’m looking for this guy. Have you seen him?

He slides a picture of Zhivkov across the counter to her.

Violet: Ooo. Are you a detective? FBI? Undercover.

Tony: Yeah. You could say that.

Violet: I haven’t seen him, but I’ll keep an eye out. He’s got nice hair. What should I do if I see him?

Tony: Call me.

He gives her his calling card. She reads it, flips it over and reads the back.

Violet: Stark Industries. Ironman. Okay. Let’s drink. My dad always said I was good at making friends, but he never wanted to be mine. So, Ironman, let’s be friends. To fathers.

Tony: To fathers.

They clink their glasses together. There’s a time-lapse in which they are drinking and the two of them appear somewhat drunker. Violet isn’t as drunk as Tony. She’s been conserving her drinks.

Tony: How are you still sober?

Violet: Practice. Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we sing a song together and while we’re at it, we can both search the crowd for your guy?

Tony: I don’t think that’s the best idea for me. I’m a wanted man.

Violet: Oh, come on.  You seem like such a confident man.  Or maybe that’s the problem?…  Besides, what are they gonna do if someone recognizes you? Clap you in handcuffs and make you walk the plank? You disobey orders, but you won’t sing a little song?  You’re scared.

Tony (jokingly): No. I’m not scared. I just want people to like me. And they wouldn’t like me if I got up and sang at them. The ‘O captain, my captain’ guy I was with the other night would really not like that. I don’t want anyone to know who I am, right now. That’s all. And karaoke is…kinda girly.

Violet: It’s not girly at all.

Tony: You’re a girl. A damn pretty one.

Violet: You’re just saying that.  Who cares if they like you or not? You say you’re not afraid, but here you are hiding your identity behind a costume. If people shoot you down, you have all the more reason to stand up strong for who you really are.

Silence then drunken ramblings.

Tony: You’re not the only one with daddy issues. If this boat had a daddy, it would have issues. You know, I remember something now. Drink is helpful. (To his whiskey) Thank you. I came here on a time machine from the future. Fury said I couldn’t have my suit. It’s not right, SHIELD. I don’t like it. I just want to make it right. So many things my daddy did. How can I make it right, if I don’t have my superhero suit?

Violet: You’re from the future. What’s it like? Wait. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know what kind of alien takes over the world. Surprises are better. Ironman. That’s you’re superhero name. (She looks at Tony’s card again.) If your dad did so many bad things, how are you going to put it right if no one knows who you are? If you operate under an alias, does it matter if you put things right? An apology doesn’t mean anything, if people don’t know who it comes from.

Tony: They do know who I am. See the card. Both names.

Violet: And yet there’s this.

She reaches up to take Tony’s hat off. He grabs the hat and secures it against his head.

Violet: So what. You started a fight in here. You’re human even if you don’t want to be. You can’t change anything – people can’t like you for who you are – if you’re hiding. But see here, we’re friends. I like you anyway. Costume on or costume off.

She takes his fedora and this time he lets her. She stands up and tosses it over the crowd. A young man catches it and puts it on his head. Violet takes Tony’s sunglasses and sticks them on top of her own head.

Violet:   Now, come on. What song do you want to sing?

Tony: Ladies choice.

Cut to: Tony and Violet on stage together with microphones singing Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash.

Tony: It’s always tease, tease, tease. You’re happy when I’m on my knees. One day is fine, and next is black. So if you want me off your back, come on and let me know. Should I stay or should I go?

He sings more tentatively as he is busy skimming the crowd. He keeps singing as the camera focuses in on Sly who was spying on them for Fury. Sly is worming his way closer to Loki, but Tony doesn’t spot Loki.

Tony (whispers): I think I know that guy. SHIELD. (To Violet) This is girly. Why’d we pick this song?

Violet (to Tony): You didn’t want to pick it.

Violet: Should I stay or should I go, now? Should I stay or should I go, now? If I go there will be trouble. And if I stay there will be double. So come on and let me know.

Loki is scowling at Violet and Tony as they dance together while they sing. Violet is wearing his sunglasses now and they face each other on stage.

Tony and Violet: Split!

Scene Five – Let’s Dance

Interior – The ship’s huge ballroom – Two days before virus outbreak

There is live music and the place is full of people dancing. Violet dances enthusiastically by herself at the edge of the crowd. People clear a space for her so that she stands alone. Thor makes his way through the dancers, looking at each person to see if they are Zhivkov or Sly. He is not even pretending to dance or blend in as he moves past Violet. He examines her from a distance and she sees him staring at her.

Violet: Hey! Would you like to dance with me?

He puts up a hand to decline and then changes his mind. He goes over to her and begins swaying back and forth. Thor tries to copy the moves of another guy nearby. He looks at the guy instead of at Violet.

Violet (laughs): You’re good!

He looks at her questioningly.

Violet: I mean it!

Thor: In my…country we dance only at certain festivities. Weddings and rituals for our ancestors. But our dances are much different from yours. They are a bit more…orderly.

Violet: Oh, where are you from? No, let me guess. Finland? Netherlands? Australia? Greenland? Germany? Antarctica?

He shakes his head after each question as they continue to dance.

Thor: No, no. It is a place far away that I do not think you would know. Have you by any chance seen these men?

He shows her a picture of Zhivkov and one of Sly. She points at Sly.

Violet: He was at the bar while I singing karaoke. But he wasn’t doing anything. Just hanging around. You must know the hiding man.  I mean Ironman.

Thor: He is my friend. My name is Thor.  The man in this picture, Sly, works for the same …company – I think is the word – that I work for.  But he was not asked to come on this mission with us.  We believe he is a double agent.  If he speaks to you, you should not believe what he says.

Violet: I’ll watch out for him.  You know I had dinner the other night with a man who was also named after a Norse god.

Thor:  Loki.  He ate dinner with you?

Violet:  How did you know who I was talking about?

Thor:  He is my brother, but the last time I saw him, he was imprisoned in our dungeons.

Violet steps away from him.

Violet: Your family keeps your brother in their own personal jail?

Thor: It is not what you think. His cell is as finely furnished as any chamber on this ship. Loki is immeasurably evil and feels no remorse for any of his actions. He is cruel, treacherous, and holds childish grudges.

Violet: Perhaps because you lock him in his bedroom as if he were a naughty child you are ashamed of.

Thor: You do not know him as I do. He is in the dungeon not only to keep him from causing trouble, but also because I wish to protect him from himself and from the world.

Violet: First of all, no, I don’t know him well. He’s different, cold and distant, yes, but I tend to judge people by my own experiences. Not by what the world wants me to think of them. Secondly, how does what you just said make you any less sadistic than your brother? You’re like an evil stepmother and it doesn’t suit you.

Thor: That is the problem.  I do not want to be his mother.

Violet: Then treat Loki like an equal and not like a princess locked in a tower. You say you love him, but here you are on vacation with him – in the same space as this boat – and yet he is completely alone and you are off running around with your other friends. You say he is cruel and hateful and yet you take no responsibility for your own actions towards him.  No wonder he hates women, when you treat him like one and act like it’s your righteous privilege.  Do you ever think about what it would be like to be outcast by your own family?

Thor: He deserves what he has gotten. He turned on us.

Violet: I don’t doubt that. But it still doesn’t mean that it’s right to pretend like nothing’s happened when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. You could tell him you’re sorry for what’s happened, even if you can’t change it.

Thor: He would not listen.

Violet: Not to you maybe. I’m an outside party, and perhaps you need mediator.

Thor: Why would you do that?

Violet: I know what it’s like to have family conflict. I judge fairly. I have emotions beyond happy and macho. And I do what I want.

Thor nods.

Thor: I must leave you now.

Exit Thor. Violet goes back to dancing and jumping around on her own. She whoops when the band finishes the song they’re playing, clapping her hands above her head.  Loki watches his brother walk away.  The song Believe by Mumford & Sons plays.

Say something, say something,

Something like you love me

Less you wanna move away

From the noise of this place.

Enter Loki. Violet sees him and he approaches her.  He nods once at her.

Violet: Hello. You have a striking face, you know. It stands out in a crowd. I mean that in a good way.

Loki: I can’t believe you enjoy this.

He gestures to the crowd.

Violet: Why wouldn’t I?  It’s freedom.  Anonymity.  I can be whoever I want to be in a dancing crowd and nobody cares because we’re all people having fun.  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else?  Here’s your chance.

He looks at his hands which have been drained of their magical powers to disguise him.

Loki: No. Be one of these idiots?

Violet: I will take your initial disbelief that I would be here as a compliment, since it means you don’t include me with “these idiots.” Thank you, Loki. You’re very kind.

He snorts and looks around.

Loki: They don’t think, they just do whatever they’ve been told to do.

Violet: And of course there’s never been a time in your life when you’ve wanted not to think.  To just do something, strangle someone or laugh out loud.  Absolutely not. You could have never wanted that freedom before either.

Loki: You mock me. My brother has made you his friend and turned you against me.

Violet: Your brother…is an acquaintance of mine who I think has good intentions towards you. They’ve just been put into practice in unfortunate ways. He seems like he can be quick to anger, and yet there is an innocent charm to him that perhaps makes him more dangerous to women like me.

Loki: He’s nothing but a stupid, human-loving oaf.

Violet: Maybe. But like I told him, I tend to use my own experiences when judging people instead of thinking whatever I’ve been told to think.

They stand in silence.

Violet: I believe Thor would like to get along with you, but I don’t think he’s done a very good job at showing it. Perhaps he doesn’t know how to treat you. Perhaps he needs your help. I’d like to help you.

Loki: Then you’re wasting your time. Thor has made his choice. I’ve made mine.

Violet: I’m getting tired of this crap. Let’s dance.

Loki: No.

Violet: Okay.

She disappears into the mass of dancers.  For once more in his life, Loki is left alone.

Scene Six – Attention Seeker

Interior – Ballroom

Loki tears through the crowd, ripping men from their dance partners.  He punches one man in the face and his date screams.  People start looking at him and paying attention to what he’s doing.  He drags the yelling woman out of his way by her hair.  Then he knees another man in crotch before kicking him to the floor.  He knocks another woman’s legs out from underneath her.  She shrieks.  He realizes a good portion of the room is now looking at him.  His lips part in a satisfied smile as he glances around at the fear in the room around him, wondering if Violet is watching.  Hoping that she is looking and is terrified by him.

He doesn’t see Sly come up from behind him.  Sly injects something into the back of Loki’s neck.  Loki drops to the ground unconscious.

Sly:  Security.  I’m security.  Everyone stay calm.  Is everyone okay? 

No one responds.  The disheveled and bleeding crowd stares back at him like he must be joking.

Sly:  This man will be taken into secure confinement and released to authorities when we make the next port.

He drags Loki from the room.

Scene Seven – Prisoner

Interior – Storeroom

Sly pulls Loki into a storeroom and ties him up with a cord.  There’s a cargo container inside.  Sly opens the lid of the container and shoves Loki inside.  The container is small enough that Loki is stuck in the fetal position with his knees pressed against his chest.

Sly:  That injection should knock you out until tomorrow.  Then I’ll pay your little girlfriend a visit.

Scene Eight – Brain Magic

Interior – Magic show in small auditorium – One day before virus outbreak

The magician produces a wind blowing throughout the room.  A small sailboat is carried through the air on the breeze, returning a woman’s gold earrings to her which she never knew were missing.  She removes them from the boat with a gasp.

Violet:  You’ve got to be kidding me.

She walks around trying to get back to her seat with a new long island ice tea in her hand.  The liquid splashes out onto Bruce Banner’s sleeve.  He brushes at the wet spot with a napkin.

Bruce:  You’re tellin’ me.

Violet:  I’m sorry.  I feel like I’ve been running into people ever since I got on this boat.  Must have balance issues…Sea legs.

Bruce:  Why don’t you sit here?

Violet:  Oh, thank you.

She takes the empty seat at his table.  He doesn’t clap as the magician bows and the crowd cheers.

Violet:  I take it you don’t like magic?

Bruce:  It’s kind of against my beliefs.  If you have any scrap of logic in your brain, you can figure how the tricks are done.  It’s not magic to me.  It’s a puzzle. 

He looks around the room.

Violet:  And you’re looking for someone.  Are you friends with Thor and Ironman?  What’s your name?  The Puzzler?

Bruce:  I like it, but no.  You can call me Bruce.

The magician appears to be walking on the ceiling.

Violet:  Do you think he feels like he’s in The Poseidon Adventure?  What if he’s the right way and we’re wrong?

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, film (1979)

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, film (1979)

Bruce: Yup.  Magic is all about perspective.  Are you looking in the right direction at the right time?  Everything is about perspective really.  Ever heard the phrase, “It’s all in your head”?

Violet: Do you think I’ve lived in a barrel my whole life?

Bruce:  Sorry.  You never know.

Violet:  Are you suggesting that if you could change your mind, you could convince yourself that magic was real?

Bruce:  Why would I want to do that?

Violet:  Could I change my self-identity like the white lady who told everyone she was African-American and then believed it was true?  What about other abstract things like love, hate, or anger?  Could you can convince yourself that you love someone?

Bruce:  You could, but it would be difficult and possibly take years for the feeling or lack of the feeling to be genuine.  You would have to have a very strong will.  Theoretically, if you tried hard enough you could control all your emotions with your head.

Violet:  That seems like magic to me.  Also, if you still haven’t found this guy, don’t you think you’ve been looking in all the wrong places?  If I wanted to hide on a cruise ship, I wouldn’t go to a magic show or a bar.  I would stay in my room as much as I could. 

Bruce:  But then we wouldn’t be able to do all these fun things on our vacation.  You can’t be vigilant all the time.

 Scene Nine – Intruder

Interior – Corridor, Violet’s cabin

Sly picks the lock on the door to Violet’s cabin.  He goes inside.  The door slides open and Sly’s form is outlined by the lights outside the room.  Inside is darkness.  He moves further into the room.  There’s a bed where Violet is fast asleep.  He watches her for a minute to see how soundly she sleeps.

Sly (aside):  The zombie virus is within my grasp.  I just have to waiting for the right time.  At the last minute, I’ll switch out the machine’s cartridge containing the virus with a harmless one.  Then I will steal the real cartridge and bring it back to SHIELD.

He approaches Violet as she sleeps.  He starts to reach out to brush her hair off her forehead, but then stops.  Instead he kneels down at the head of the bed so that their faces are level.  He scoots her nightstand away from the wall, revealing an electrical outlet where Violet’s phone is charging up.  He takes out a screwdriver and removes the outlet cover.

Sly (to Violet)I’ve seen you with Loki.  Are you helping him?  But you were also with Tony, Bruce, and Steve. Could you possibly be another double agent?

He rises and then does run his hand down the side of her face.

Sly (aside): Not while I’m around.  There’s only room for one villain in this story.  If she’s not a double agent, then she’s Loki’s friend.  Loki killed my wife in New York, anyone who calls herself his friend deserves to die.

He takes a small device from his coat and acts like he showing it to the sleeping Violet.

Sly (to Violet):  See this?  It contains just enough of the virus to infect a single person.  I’ve chosen you to be the first host.  It’s an honor!  I’ll just leave it for you when you unplug your phone in the morning.  Then you will go around infecting all of your new little Avenger friends.  But Loki is mine, of course. 

He snatches the device away.

Sly (aside): Fury can have the virus if he wants it, but not until it’s done its work here.

He turns back to install the device into Violet’s outlet.  Sly leaves as quietly as he came.  When Violet’s door clicks shut, she jumps out of bed and tip-toes to the hallway.  She peers down the corridor and glimpses Sly turning the corner.  She follows Sly to the storage room where Loki is being kept.

Thank you to Marvel, Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, and all the other writers, directors, and creative minds/hands involved in producing such a large number of enjoyable films.  And of course the actors: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hiddleston, and Chris Hemsworth.

“Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends”: Shakespeare’s Power To Create Equality

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The Past Catches Me

While going through my possessions and trying to decide what to take to grad school, I came across a pile of old ticket stubs and playbills. These priceless pieces of paper contain my memories from a short period of four weeks in 2009 when I was lucky enough to be studying theater in London. When I was there, everything seemed like a blur to me; taking classes, completing assignments all over the city, and going to one show after another. I lived it one moment at a time. If I understood the magnitude of my experiences then like I do now, I would have been overwhelmed.

Discoveries After Reflections

The playbills represent only one snapshot from my life, but what I realize now is that those four weeks – the productions that I saw – will always represent my piece of the London theater community. It is a piece of documented history that will always be my own. And yet it also belongs to so many other people – the other audience members, the actors, the theater spaces, the lines of dialogue, the costume designers, the set builders, and the city of London itself. I am part of their history and they are part of mine.

One of the things that I have truly come to love about theater and more specifically, Shakespeare, is that they are a powerful force for creating equality within a community. As I and many others have probably said before, Shakespeare’s plays endure because they are filled with universal human experiences. He tells stories that are beautiful in a sense that they are about what most everyone understands to be love, hurt, friendship, family, loss, vulnerability, and the joys to be had in simply living. Under the right conditions, an African woman who is a mother, and a white, male American CEO could go to see Romeo and Juliet.  They come from two very different places. However, the woman is moved because she’s a mother and the man is moved because Juliet might remind him of his wife.  For the span of 2-3 hours, the distances or breaches between both their life experiences don’t matter anymore because they are just two human beings enjoying Shakespeare. They might not have interpreted the story in the same way, but now they are equals in one respect: they have shared the experience of being moved by the same play.  Shakespeare emphasizes the fact that as humans we all have things in common and it is those universal emotions that can create equality.  Relational gaps or breaches made between us by differences in privilege, race, gender, and sexuality might be filled when suddenly we are moved at the same time by the same story.

I have found that one of Shakespeare’s plays in particular represents the idea that shared experiences can bind people together despite their differences.  The play is Henry V.  Henry has the challenge of uniting the men of England to a single cause which is winning back English lands from the French.  He must bring his men together and yet he also faces the questions: How can England be one united country when I am a privileged king standing above everyone else?  How can I be a leader amongst my men instead of a leader over them?  Henry V solves the problem as Shakespeare’s plays have done, by showing his followers that they have things in common.  First of all, that they are all human.  Second of all, that their shared experience of feeling passionate for their cause has made them all equal to the king.  Before battle Henry states, “For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother (Shakespeare, Henry V 4.3.61-2).”  Despite the differences and breaches between us we are the same in the sense that we are all human and we all bleed.  Shakespeare creates complete equality amongst every man through the the fact that the history of England rests in all their hands.

I think the King is but a man, as I am. The violet smells to him as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to me; all his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man […] Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are (Shakespeare, Henry V, 4.1.102-10).

A Perfect Theater Community

Perhaps the best example of how an (ideally) accessible theater community can create equality among people would be my own experiences in London. (Plus, there is a tiny bit of me that wants to brag.)  This is what I did.  I went to performances in the theater district.  I saw Judi Dench in Madame De Sade at the Donmar Warehouse – the same place where Jude Law would perform in Hamlet a day after I left, where Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Hiddleston performed Othello the year before, and where five years into the future Mark Gatiss and Tom Hiddleston would perform in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.  I saw Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in a play called Waiting for Godot and James McAvoy in Three Days of Rain.  I went to the madly popular productions of Wicked and Les Miserables.  I saw Romeo and Juliet performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. I also went to tiny community theaters on the outskirts of London where actors (possibly driven by nothing but their own passions) performed in upper levels of cafes and spaces small enough to seat less than 100 people.  The cafe had bragging rights to the fact that some of the above mentioned celebrities had eaten their food and attended their performances.  I went to shows at the National Theater on the Thames where War Horse (to become a blockbuster film 3 years later that would feature Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston) was performed.  I spent multiple evenings listening to free musical concerts in the lobby of the same theater.

In addition, there are some things that I found out (I admit to being somewhat of a stalker) that relate to my experiences.  I have talked about the documentary Muse of Fire in previous posts.  It is a film  about the universal nature of Shakespeare.  I have come to conclude that the documentary was being made at or around the same time that I spent in London.  The movie features interviews with Jude Law about his experiences in Hamlet – the production that I would miss seeing by a day or two.  In an interview, Alan Rickman talks about how wonderful the same production of Romeo and Juliet that I had seen was for him.  In other interviews not related to Muse of Fire, Tom Hiddleston has talked about seeing War Horse at the National Theater, possibly within the same time and within the same space where I experienced London theater and those fantastic free concerts in the lobby.

The point of telling you all this is to show that the London theater community is varied, concentrated within a geographic area, and incredibly accessible to everyone involved within it.  I am not a wealthy person.  I’m from small-town Indiana – farm country – and yet I was able to go to the same theaters, to the same shows to which Alan Rickman and Tom Hiddleston were going to.  Indeed, the fact that the musical performances were free (though not of the same quality of Les Miserables) meant that anyone off the street could come in and enjoy entertainment in the same space in which the rich and famous have.  At the same time, celebrity actors I was seeing on stage were going to small theater performances that would be the common fare in my tiny hometown.  It seems like a long shot even still, but in terms of the theater community, could I not say that during my four weeks in London, I was an equal to Alan Rickman, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Tom Hiddleston, Pattrick Stewart, and James McAvoy?  We have the shared human experiences of enjoying Romeo & Juliet, of sharing the same stories within the same spaces.  Are we not all humans feeling the same emotions together?  Has theater and Shakespeare been a force that has closed the breaches in gender, nationality, and social classes between us?

And its not just about me now because there were also tons of school children watching Romeo & Juliet at The Globe.  There were old people and young people.  People from different countries who knew different languages.  Now they are also all equals under the understanding that they have all experienced universal human emotions through the same Shakespearean play.

I wonder now if a community like this one exists anywhere else in the world.  Could it exist in the United States?  London seems to be a unique situation and still not completely an ideal one.  In order for a theater community to work perfectly in order to create equality, it would have to be even more accessible to everyone both financially and intellectually.  And it would have to be highly promoted to everyone.  The random person on the street would have to want to see Shakespeare just as much Kenneth Branagh would want to.

In Today’s World

In June 2015, nine African Americans died after being shot by a white male during a Bible study inside of their own church in Charleston, South Carolina.  This tragedy has led the U.S. to a current struggle over the question of whether or not the Confederate Flag should be removed from certain government facilities.  To many people the flag is a representation of racial segregation and slavery.  To many others it is a symbol of historical and cultural identity that should be valued in honor of the men who died during the Civil War.

In Shakespeare’s play Henry V, King Henry V’s goal was to bring his countrymen together as one united force.  The king had to make himself an equal to any man who stood beneath him in order to gain victory for his entire country.  His is a mission of true patriotism.  The king declared that every single one of his men where equals in all ways because they had the universal experience of fighting for their country.

The Hollow Crown: Henry V film, 2012.  Henry V by William Shakespeare (4.3.61-2)

The Hollow Crown: Henry V film, 2012. Henry V by William Shakespeare (4.3.61-2)

During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s goal was to bring his countrymen together as a single united nation.

Henry V achieved this goal through valuing universal human experiences.

Today we are still divided by different perspectives of which no one wants to let go.  It is difficult to make progress in resolving a conflict when everyone is pushed apart by their differences and refuses to see commonalities between themselves and others.

Different races, cultures, religions, and perspectives all exist together in the United States.  That is one thing that makes living here so wonderful.  I can write what I want to on a blog and people have the right to disagree with what I say.  Everyone has equal right to be different.  But sometimes it is also beneficial to remember that we are all the same in other ways – we all live in the same country, have families and friends here, know what it is to love and hate each other.  It is these human similarities which the freedom and equality in our country sought to honor.  Our shared experiences should not be forgotten because they are what have allowed us beautiful differences.

I would hope that in the end, we can say that we are all humans.  No matter what we look like, what we believe in, and where we come from, we still all feel the same emotions and have the same organs.  Because if it is true, think about how important it would be to our world.  What could we gain from Shakespeare and theater in a world where countrymen kill each other over skin color and argue about the symbolism of a flag?

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (A Fanfiction Screenplay Part 2)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

Act One: Meetings

Scene One – Opening Credits

Exterior – Decks of a cruise ship

Opening credits play and we get a collage of scenes across the ship. The cruise is a tiny version of the world with every sort of person, hierarchy, and relationship present. We see the workers in the kitchens, a family with children splashing in the pool, a school group running around, a seniors group doing yoga, bi-racial couples, same-sex couples, politicians, and celebrities. There is the sound of laughter, conversation, and chaos.

Scene Two – New Cargo

Interior – Basement deck of ship/cargo hold

Men move around and secure items in the cargo hold using forklifts and their own arms. There are two security guards present who are double checking the manifest and using devices to scan bar codes on some of the containers that have been brought on board. A man named Sly, dressed in a black suit with sunglasses approaches the guards with an entourage of similarly dressed individuals behind him. They are escorting a large, unlabeled container.

Guard: May I help you, sir?

Sly: The doctor has arrived.

The guard appears to be confused.

Guard: Where’s your manifest key code? I don’t see any doctor on my list.

Sly: That’s too bad.  Boys.

Sly gestures to two men standing behind him. The men come forward and each of them raises a sizable gun. They shoot the two guards full of bullets. The rest of the entourage lift similar weapons and proceed to fire at and kill the other men who had been working in the cargo hold when they entered. Bullets and sparks light up the dark space.

Scene Three – Interruptions

Exterior – Upper deck of ship

A woman named Violet, around thirty years old, sits in the sun on a white lounge chair. She is moderately attractive and could care less.  Her feet are propped up in front of her and crossed at the ankles.  She holds a paperback novel just below her face. Her light-brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail and her dark blue one-piece bathing suit catches a glint of the sunshine in its material. There are other empty lounge chairs on either side of her. She’s reading, but easily distracted by the people who walk in front of her. She looks up from the pages often.

A group of three teenage girls passes her by. Unlike Violet, they have nice tans, are skinny, and are wearing neon-colored bikini suits.  They are running away from an insect, swatting at it and squealing.

A few paces behind the girls, follows a man, Loki, walking right next to the deck railing. He is wearing a lightweight, collared shirt with the first two buttons undone and grey chinos.  Also reading a book, he is engrossed in the words before him, he shows no interest in any of the people surrounding him. His black hair hangs just brushing his shoulders and hiding part of his face.  Unconscious of his actions, he dampens one finger in his mouth, using it turn the page.

More tourists pass him as he is strolling along. He is concentrating on reading and less focused on his movements.  He makes a creeping progress forward  A couple with arms around each others waists walk past.  The woman of the couple laughs at a shared, secret joke. Everyone gives Loki a wide berth as if, for some reason, they do not want to get too close to him.

Violet glances at him as he continues to approach the place where she sits.  The bikini-wearing teenagers return having lost their insect somewhere.  They look at Loki as they move around him.  The girls begin to arrange themselves on the empty lounges beside Violet. They giggle and talk loud enough for anyone in the area to hear. One of the girls browses her phone searching for something on the Internet.

Teen One: …What a freak. Did you see that guy back there? His hair is gross!

Teen Two: I know. Who does that?

Teen Three: Hey, have you guys seen this new One Direction video?

Teen Two: Gasps*

Teen One: What…? Shrieks* upon looking at the phone.

Violet rolls out of her lounge and rolls her eyes.  She turns her back to the teenage girls.

Cut to: Loki continues walking in the same direction, but his back is now facing the camera in this shot. Violet is hurrying towards him and towards the camera. Her head is down and she doesn’t see him. She moves straight into him. He is pushed back against the deck railing and Violet stumbles. Loki’s book falls to the floor of the deck and Violet fumbles to pick it up while she is still carrying her own book.

Violet: Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you okay? Here. Sorry.

Loki has backed away from her and stands as still as a statue.  Violet picks up the books and hands one back to Loki.

Loki takes the book from her without looking at it.  He is too busy giving Violet a cold glare.  Seeing his reaction, Violet runs away in the direction she’d been heading. Loki’s own walking pace is now uncomfortable and his strides uneven. His free hand clenches and un-clenches. He doesn’t try to read anymore.

Scene Four – Boredom

Interior – Loki’s Cabin

Loki lies on his back on his bed. His book is resting flat on his chest. He picks it up to begin reading again. He stares at the cover in confusion.

LokiReading

Cut to: Book Cover. Pride & Prejudice With Zombies with a woman’s rotting face on the cover.

Loki sits up straight in the bed. The book falls to his lap and he reaches his hands out as if to blast something with magic. Nothing happens. He examines his hands for a moment before dropping them in front of him.

Loki: I hate Odin!

He flops back down on the bed.

Cut to: Close up of book in Violet’s hands as she runs away from Loki on the upper deck. The title reads: Poetic Norse Eddas.

Return to Loki’s Cabin: Loki picks up the zombie book once again and flips through the pages.

Loki: What is this horrifying drivel? Should I be stuck on this boat with nothing to read but this?

He drops the book once more as the camera slides across his room, through the wall and into the adjacent cabin.

Scene Five – Hearts

Iron-Man-Playing-Cards

Interior – Tony Stark’s Cabin

Thor, Bruce, Steve, and Tony sit around a square table, one of them seated on each side. Tony shuffles a deck of playing cards. Led Zeppelin plays in the background from an iPod and speakers on a counter nearby. They are all dressed as civilians.

Loki (Muffled shout from the other room): I hate Odin!

Thor: Did you hear something?

Thor tilts his head, trying to listen through the music.

Bruce: Hear what?

Thor: Sounded like someone yelling…a familiar voice.

Steve: I didn’t hear anything.

Bruce: Tell me again why we have to play hearts.

Steve: Because none of us besides Stark have any money to gamble away.

Tony: We could play strip poker? Let’s play strip poker.

Steve: None of us want to see you naked.

Tony: Who said I’d be the one who was naked?

During this conversation Thor has gotten up from his seat and is listening at the wall that borders on Loki’s room.

Tony: Hey, are you playing or not, blondie?

Thor returns to his seat.

Thor: What does one do with these?

Thor holds his cards backwards and forwards in a jumble in front of him.

Steve: You hold them like this.

Steve begins to explain the rules of the game to Thor in the background as the others talk.

Tony (turning to Bruce): You ever get the feeling that things aren’t quite right around here?

Bruce: Since we got on this boat, there have been times when I feel like my brain’s been scrambled.

Tony: Like you’ve forgotten your toothbrush but then you realize it’s much more than that?

Bruce: Yeah.  We just showed up at the port with a mission to accomplish. I don’t even know how exactly we got here. I don’t remember driving and we were just all here, like we fell out of the sky or something.

Tony (lost in thought): Strange. And why doesn’t he know how to play cards?

Tony and Bruce look pointedly at Thor.

Scene Six – The Machine

Interior – Basement Deck of Cruise Ship

A number of men work in the dark bowels of the ship.  The dead bodies of the ship’s original crew have been taken away and the workers are replaced by Sly’s entourage dressed in dead crew’s uniforms.  One of the men is Dr. Zhivkov. He is large, wealthy, and his hair is prematurely going grey.  Sly has now replaced his sunglasses with spectacles.  He tinkers with a large piece of metal machinery with wires and tubes sticking out of it.  A liquid bubbles in a tank to the side of the machine.  Sly’s entourage are helping him around the room – carrying things and putting small things together. More men are just standing around.

Zhivkov: Will the machine be ready for the experiment?

Sly: I just need to make a few power adjustments. The machine the way it is now won’t give off enough voltage to carry the virus throughout the ship. With my readers, I detected an extra power source on the ship. I’ve created an input collection booster that will drain the energy from the source without interfering with the ship’s systems.

Zhivkov: Good. How soon will we have power?

Sly: It will take a few days to charge up. Not until after we make the second port. The power source I’ve found is strong. It’s the only way I can maximize the output of the virus, but the energy comes in spurts so it will take longer to charge the machine.

Zhivkov takes a gun out of his jacket and shoots three of the men that are just standing. He puts the gun away. Everyone stops work to look at the dead men.

Zhivkov: Excellent, Sly. (To the other men) Everyday Sly is still working on this machine another one of you will die. It seems you aren’t busy enough anyhow. No one stops working until all the people on this boat are infected. Am I clear?

The men who stopped working redouble their efforts. Zhivkov exits with some men in black suits following him.

Scene Seven – Call to Arms

Interior – A conference room at SHIELD headquarters, day before the cruise

Nick Fury is stands in an empty conference room. There are four empty chairs at a table. Each chair has a file in front of it. Fury looks at his watch.

Cut To: Tony in his Ironman suit is overseas in a desert. There is gunfire and explosions. A bomb is ticking down to zero. Ironman is attempting to disarm it. The timer gets down to one second. The next moment the count down stops, but Ironman vanishes in an explosion of blue light to reappear next to Nick Fury in the SHIELD conference room.

Cut To: Bruce Banner is in a science lab. He is wearing a lab coat and goggles. A research assistant watches him. He holds a beaker of golden liquid with a pair of tongs and prepares to tip it into another liquid.

Bruce: If my calculations are correct, this monkey urine will neutralize the vapors from the invisibility serum.

Bruce vanishes in the same way as Tony did earlier in a flash of blue light.

Assistant: Didn’t work.

Cut To: Thor in Asgard. He is using his hammer, Mjolnir, and fighting with Heimdall. There are alien creatures all around them. One of them spears Thor through the chest.

Computer voiceover: Simulation terminated.

The aliens vanish, but, in a flash of blue light, so does Thor. Heimdall growls.

Cut To: Steve Rogers in his apartment looking at old photographs and listening to jazz.

Steve: If I had to live it all again…

He vanishes with the blue light.

Cut To: SHIELD conference room. Nick Fury and Tony are joined by Bruce holding a beaker of monkey urine, Thor groaning on the floor, and Steve looking around.

Fury: Have a seat, boys.

Nick Fury gives them a briefing. Steve is now sitting with his hands folded in his lap. Tony has his metal feet resting on a tabletop. Bruce is examining some papers on the table in front of him, the monkey urine nearby. Thor stands behind him, looking over Bruce’s shoulder at the papers.

Fury: I’ve brought you here using the latest technology in transport. I wouldn’t have done it this way if this wasn’t a mission of top priority. Dr. Zhivkov is a potentially dangerous security risk that must be dealt with quietly and efficiently. (Zhivkov’s face appears as a hologram behind Fury) His team of researchers have been able to produce a weapon Stark Industries could only dream of. Upon contact, this weapon would shut down the emotional centers of the human brain, rendering everyone incapable of feeling. We’re calling it the Zombie Virus.

Humans need to feel anger, hate, love, and joy. No one will be able to function normally without emotion. According to the files from Zhivkov’s lab, test subjects who contract the virus become entirely violent and reckless. With no feelings of guilt, people either do whatever the hell they want or they simply become so withdrawn that they abandon other essential human needs like eating. Anyone infected dies within 24 hours. It started showing up last month in a number of cases in large cities around the world – London, Moscow, Hong Kong, Istanbul, New York.

Thor: How do we stop it?

Fury: That’s where things become difficult. Dr. Zhivkov himself died on a cruise three years ago, before all of you had that little party in New York with Loki. Someone on that cruise stole from Zhivkov vital information for recreating the virus. Zhivkov then took the identity of this thief to his grave.

Steve: Whoever stole the virus back then is using it now?

Fury: That’s what we believe. The easiest way to discover the virus’s origin now is to determine who stole the information on the cruise three years ago. But more than that, we need to stop the creation of the virus before it starts. There have already been about 30 worldwide cases of the virus so far, but who knows how far it will spread by the time we find where it’s coming from. We need to target it at its source before anyone had the chance to become infected.

Bruce: So you’re saying we need a time machine?

Steve: I might have been frozen for decades, but I still don’t understand how that’s possible.

Fury: As I said, there are risks. We’ll be sending you back in time by using alterations made on the Tesseract – a version of the same technology that helped bring you here. There will be side-effects such as memory loss. In addition, we don’t want this to make headlines. Since you will be operating in the past, anything you might do could change the outcome of events such as Loki’s bid on world domination. If The Avengers Initiative had been made public three years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to use the element of surprise against Loki.

Tony: Like Captain Hammer said, what are we supposed to do about that?

Fury: Once you reach the past, you will be forbidden from using any of your powers or talents. You’ll use your intelligent minds to find the thief and take him out. Then you will destroy the information on the virus that Zhivkov carries with him.

Bruce: Alright, say we get there and find this Zhivkov guy. How are we supposed to get back to the present?

Thor: Why would you want us to do this? I don’t understand. If we don’t have any of our abilities, why not just send normal mortals?

Fury: We’re sending you because even without your talents, you are still the best team there is. You’ve worked together before and been successful. That’s better than sending any random group of people.

Cut To: The group walks down a corridor inside SHIELD.

Bruce: (To Tony) I don’t get this memory loss deal. How’s he gonna keep me from changing? What if I forget to not be angry?

Scene Eight – Oldest Goes First

Interior. – Time Machine Room at SHIELD, day before the cruise

Fury and the four Avengers stand in front of a metal chamber. They have all changed into every-day civilian clothing. Each of them, except for Fury, has a suitcase with them.

Fury: You will all arrive at the port of call at approximately the same moment. All the information you need on Dr. Zhivkov is in the file I’ve copied for each of you. The Tesseract has been programmed to bring you back to the present at the moment of Dr.Zhivkov’s death. At that point you will have either succeeded or failed and your presence in the past will no longer be relevant.

Steve: So who goes first?

Bruce (looking at Steve): I’d say the oldest should go first.

Thor (putting his hand on Steve’s shoulder): You do have the most experience in time travel.

Steve: Come on guys. I’m pretty sure Thor’s been around longer than I have…He’s been to other universes…

Tony shrugs at him and so Steve sighs before stepping forward into the metal chamber with his suitcase. He is standing inside when we see a blue flash through a window and then he is gone.

Slide2

Cut to: A blue flash in a parking lot and the four men appear with their luggage.

Bruce: This is as normal as hell.

Tony: I don’t know what you’re talking about. Groups of unmarried men go on cruises together all the time.

Scene Nine – Back-Up Plan

Interior – Time Machine Room at SHIELD, day before the cruise

Fury stands in the same place in front of the time machine chamber. Sly is with him now.

Fury: Agent Sly. Glad you could join me. Your mission is to make good with Dr. Zhivkov. You will make sure that the Zombie Virus remains intact and you will bring it back to me. In order to prevent future wars, you will capture an individual on the ship who calls himself Loki.

Sly: What about The Avengers, sir?

Fury: Your mission is top priority. Anyone who gets in your way must be destroyed. The Avengers are merely a back-up plan. Do you understand?

Sly: Yes, sir.

Fury: I’m sending you back a week before the cruise leaves. You have that much time to convince Zhivkov to hire you. If you need to communicate in an emergency, send a message to this email address. It’s old, but still working.  Although you don’t know it yet, you’ve already told me Loki was on the ship.  

Sly takes the paper and sticks it in his pocket. He steps into to time machine and the door closes.

Scene Ten – Escaping

Interior – The ship’s dining hall.

Loki sits at a table by himself. He has no food with him or any other objects. He glares at each female who walks by, examining them. He looks at their hands to see what they are carrying with them.

A woman passes by him and makes an affronted face as he continues to stare after her.

There’s a scrapping noise as someone pulls out the chair behind him. The table rocks as Violet bumps it when she sits down. She has a plate full of slimy or overly crunchy food with her.

Violet: Mind if I join you?

She puts a napkin in her lap.

Violet: I’m sorry about running into you the other day. I really am. Then when I got back to my room I realized I had this.

She bends down to retrieve something and the Poetic Norse Eddas plunks down on the table in front of him. He looks at the book and then looks at Violet. He places a hand over the top of the book.

Violet: Don’t worry. I didn’t eat or anything while I was reading it. I did read a little of it. I hope you don’t mind. Norse mythology has always been really interesting to me. I saw the inscription inside. It’s always nice to get books from your mom. Frigga’s your mother?

Loki: I have to go.

Loki turns toward the door and sees his brother, Thor, along with Tony, Bruce, and Steve, waiting to be seated. The image of Loki becomes blurry as he tries to cast an illusion on his appearance, but can’t. His image clears and he looks the same. Thor turns in his direction and Loki retakes his seat abruptly once more. Loki turns so his back faces Thor.  He is now looking directly at Violet.

Loki (chuckling): Frigga is my mother.

Violet: I’m Violet by the way. Vi for short. Are you okay?  You looked sick for a minute. Drained. You don’t have to leave on my account.  Frigga is a really pretty name when you think about it. I bet she’s a beautiful woman. Just like Odin’s wife in the stories in your book, huh?

Loki: Yes. Just like the stories.

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Loki (quickly before Violet can go on): You don’t need to sit with me. I’m not very good company.

Loki watches Thor cross the room heading towards an empty table nearby. Loki looks back at the exit calculating the distance between it and himself. Thor sits down at a table some ways in front of them and to Loki’s right.  Loki moves his chair closer to Violet so that she helps block him from Thor’s view.

Now that Loki is beside her, as Violet speaks she places her hand on his arm before taking it away again.

Violet: I don’t mind. I’m all by myself here anyhow. I mean who goes on a cruise by themselves?…Well, I guess I do, but I saw you all alone too so…

Violet eats her food, realizing that if she doesn’t have anything in her mouth, she’ll just keep talking about nothing. Then she holds out a fried chicken leg.

Violet: Here. Take it. Aren’t you hungry?

Loki: No. Thank you.

Violet: Come on. It’s good.

Loki scowls at the thing in her hand.  Violet’s fingers are shiny with grease. He looks again at Thor talking to his friends before taking the chicken.  He tries to touch it as little as possible.

Violet: Haven’t you ever had fried chicken before?

Loki raises an eyebrow for a second as she laughs and then he frowns, placing the chicken back on the table.

Loki: Is that what this is?

Violet: Oh, don’t be that way. I’m sorry I laughed, okay. You don’t have to eat it.

Loki doesn’t eat it.

Violet (looks at him in earnest, wiping her hands on a napkin): I’m trying to figure you out. You’re very unhappy, but yet you’re on a cruise. I get the feeling you don’t want to be here with me, but something is keeping you from leaving.  You’re all shifty. You don’t like to talk, but you don’t want to be alone.

Loki: How could you possible know that?

Violet: I’m here alone because my family ditched me. This trip was supposed to be for my birthday. I planned it all out, ordered them all tickets. I should’ve known then – getting my own birthday present. But I thought we could spend lots of time together. I could go to an on-board magic show with my brother, sunbathing with my mom, shopping with my sisters. It’d be great family time, I thought. But when the time came…(different voices) Oh, is it your birthday already? I’m too busy – work, babysitting, illness. (normal voice) But I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. So here I am. All by myself. I always wanted to go on a cruise and I am going to enjoy it. Joke’s on them, right? Just because they don’t appreciate me, doesn’t mean I’m not going to do whatever the hell I want.

Loki is looking down at the table as she speaks and dodges away in order to avoid Violet’s great gesturing.

Cut to: Flashback of last scene in Thor film. Loki is dangling at the end of the bifrost. He looks Slide1up to see Thor and Odin above him.

Loki: I could have done it, father. I could have done it. For you. For all of us.

Odin: No, Loki.

Loki lets go of his staff. Dropping into the closing portal.  We see him come out the other side of the portal, dropping towards Midgard/Earth. He lands on the deck of the cruise ship. The night is dark and quiet, but there are faint sounds of a party going on elsewhere – music and laughter. Loki gets up. He is still wearing his Asgardian garb. His image shimmers as he tries to change his appearance once more. The shimmer vanishes and he’s still dressed the same.  He examines his hands.

Loki: Odin’s taken my powers?

Loki looks around and a single man comes out of the darkness. He’s well dressed in a shirt and grey chinos. The man is still buoyed up from the party – smiling. Loki flashes out an arm, trying to zap the man with magic and nothing happens.

Man: Hey, neat costume.

The man comes closer and Loki punches him in the face then shakes out his hand. The man touches his bloody nose and comes back at Loki, swinging fists. Loki grapples with him for a minute on the floor. The man is much larger than him and for a time, Loki is pinned beneath him. With a cut on his face, Loki grabs a nearby object and hits the man in the head with it. Loki gains the upper hand and gets the man flat on his back. He holds the man by the throat, strangling him.

Blackout.

Then we see Loki wearing the man’s white shirt and chinos.  Loki walks away from the dead body.

Back in the dining hall: Loki turns to smile coldly at Violet then glances back at Thor at the dinning table.

Loki:  Your family disrespected your gift.

Violet: That’s an interesting way of putting it. But yeah!

Scene Eleven – Spy

Interior – Ship’s dining hall.

The Avengers sit around a table, having dinner. We see Violet in the background and at times, glimpses of Loki with her.

Bruce: So we need to make a plan.

Steve: I say tomorrow we split the ship up into four sections and we each get to know our section. See what people are staying in that area – what they do, where they go. Get to know the boat backwards and forwards. Get to know our target. We need to locate him before we make the first port and he has a chance to get off the boat.

Thor: We’ll need a map of the vessel.

Tony: Okay. Where can we get one?

Bruce: They probably keep a copy stored away for emergencies somewhere in the main control deck.

Steve: We’ll need stealth and a persuasive story if we’re caught. Tonight Tony and I will sneak into the control deck and see what we can find.

The view pans out to include the table where Loki and Violet are sitting. The view then focuses on Sly who is standing in a corner outside of the dining hall listening to the Avengers with a device.

Tony (through Sly’s listening device): Who made him the leader?

Scene Twelve – Electric Transmission

Interior – Dining Room, Cruise ship corridor, and Zhivkov’s cabin

Sly starts walking from his corner. He moves through the ship’s corridors.

Sly Voiceover: What do we use everyday and never realize it? It’s around us all the time, but we don’t see it, such a part of our lives that without it many would not be able to cope. Electricity. Energy. It’s the perfect enemy. Take it away, and people would kill to get it back.

Lights come on in a dark corridor as Sly moves into it.

Sly Voiceover: But what if flipping a light switch could give you the measles? Plugging in a laptop or a phone? Bird Flu.

Sly continues down the hall, pulling out his phone and typing out what he had been saying in a message to Fury.

Sly Voiceover: Turning on the TV? Ebola. Airborne diseases spread quickly enough. What about electric borne illness? Once you flip the switch there’s no going back. You’re sick. There’s nothing you can do. After that, an infected individual can give the disease to whoever they contact. But the initial infection is inescapable, widespread, and untraceable. What if I told you the means of doing this were right here on this ship?

Sly comes to a door and knocks. A man in a black suit answers the door. The man steps back to allow Sly to enter. Sly goes in and turns the corner. Zhivkov is bench-pressing weights in his cabin. His own suit is replaced by a wife-beater and mesh athletic pants. Another man in a suit is acting as his spotter and standing behind him. As Sly comes in, the spotter helps Zhivkov return the weights to their stand. Zhivkov sits up.

Sly: The machine will be ready much sooner than I thought. You can activate it in three days.

Zhivkov nods and wipes his face with a towel.

Thank you to Marvel, Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, and all the other writers, directors, and creative minds/hands involved in producing such a large number of enjoyable films.  And of course the actors: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hiddleston, and Chris Hemsworth.

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (A Fanfiction Screenplay Part 1)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

The Avengers: Caribbean Cruise Adventure (2015)

As I’ve been thinking more about fangirling and seeing how people have enjoyed reading my Wholock fanfiction, I decided to post more of the fanfiction I’ve written.  The following piece, as you can guess is Avengers fanfic.  For the four main Avengers, the story takes place between the first and second Avengers films.  For Loki, the story is happening directly after Thor #1.  There’s some time travel involved.  Plus all of the other things you love about cruises: magic shows, buffets, disguised evil villains, snorkeling, karaoke, alcohol, culture shock, dancing, family drama, hand-to-hand combat, memory loss, teenage girls, and fast spreading illnesses.

I have also added an extra heroine to the story named Violet.  She gets to help out the Avengers while they fight the bad guy.  Violet represents the effects of being a woman living among male “gods” and possesses some of her own super powers that the Avengers are lacking.  She is Loki’s foil, the similarities and differences in their characters helping to enhance each of them in turn.  She is to a degree his advocate and holds a type of control over his life due to her serving as a self-appointed go-between for Thor and Loki.

I have done a little research on writing screenplays, but I actually have no idea about making a film or script formatting, so bear with me if directions/terms are not correct.  It reads kind of like something between a novel and a play.  I’m also sorry to everyone who is a bigger Marvel geek than I am (You’re much cooler and I wish I were you.) if I make some sort of faux pas in regards to the original story line or comic books.  I’ve taken some fictional liberties that I hope you have fun reading!

Thank you to Marvel, Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, and all the other writers, directors, and creative minds/hands involved in producing such a large number of enjoyable films.  And of course the actors: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hiddleston, and Chris Hemsworth.

Women And Fiction: A Fangirl’s Promise

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Imagination is encouraged in children and I was lucky enough to be a little girl who had a good one.  Turning my backyard into a place where horses and cats could talk to each other and treasures could be found in flowers, became a way for me explore reality while opening my mind to greater possibilities.  When I was about ten years old, I found that I could put this imagination into a page of words.  Writing solidified and extended worlds for me, taking them from fantasy and making them more real.  I knew I was different then because the other kids told me I was weird to want to spend so much of my time writing stories.  Fiction writing is something that has always made me special and I cherish it for that reason.

But as I grew older, my imagination became a concern to me.  I read too many books about sad women who would go home by themselves and alone indulge in an Austen novel, passively wishing that the fantasy they read would become real.  Being a writer with a love of the imagination, I have feared that I will become one of these sad women who only have a fantasy to hold on to.  It becomes a worry when I spend more time with the characters I create then with my real friends.  I should have a job that doesn’t involve reckless creativity.  I need to pursue a professional career that will tie down my passion for words and things that are just “stories.”  For an adult woman, imagination is dangerous when we are supposed to excel towards being a man’s equal in fields like entrepreneurship, politics, sciences, and criminal justice.  I have grown to fear my ability to imagine just as much as I have grown to love it.

latestIn the past, it seems like women have always been criticized for being fanciful, for reading too many novels, and for having dreams in their heads.  Novels and fiction make women senseless.  They allow us too much indulgence into our emotions causing us to be unruly, rebellious; or worse, hysterical.  Women today are still captivated and obsessed with stories that we like – it is only a natural, human response that comes from having a brain.  We have become what are called “fans” with lists and lists of unreal things we shower with admiration.

However, with the advent of the Internet, our interests and passions have become more obvious because we have the ability to share them instantly with the world.  So the “fangirl” has been born – a woman who indulges in her imagination.  But if only that were the sole definition for “fangirl.”  She is not just someone who embraces the things that she likes.  Look at urbandictionary.com and you will see that, for having these feelings, a fangirl is less than human.  She is a “rabid breed of female.”  Which sounds kind of like a description of a dog to me.  She’s ugly and unattractive.  We are victims of an “epidemic” like we don’t choose for ourselves what moves us.  We are obsessed stalkers – emotionally unstable – who act like idiots.  And the whole of our interests are made up of objectifying men and making our favorite characters have sex with each other.  We are stuck in the belittlement of forever remaining a “girl” when there are plenty of us who are the age of respected adults.  This is how the world see us and this is the stereotype we have been assigned.

psychopathfangirl

Despite the negativity included in the fangirl stereotype, I believe that my own fear of my imagination, my fictions, my stories, and my fantasies is not unfounded.  If one becomes too consumed with fiction, we become detached from the real world that we explored as children, which I believe is harmful to women.  We become passive, hoping that our goals and dreams will come to us, instead of us reaching out to them.  We have unreal expectations for ourselves – waiting for a man who looks like Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice – when the man sitting next to you in class, at work, or at the cafe is more handsome due to the fact that you can actually receive love and equality from him in a relationship.  Being overwhelmed with fatasy allows us to stop thinking for ourselves.  We let the fiction start to tell us what is right and wrong about who we are instead of own heads and hearts.  There really is damage that can be done by having too active of an imagination and by spending too much time with fantasy.  An imbalance of fiction and reality exists and an imbalance is rarely good.  There is truth in every stereoptype, and this is what scares me.

As a woman who writes fiction, who writes fan fiction for fun, and who considers herself to be a fangirl, how do I find that balance?  How do I maintain a level of imagination that expands my world of reality without losing myself with the fangirl stereotype?  How do I know when escapism has taken over?

How do I be a fan and a fiction writer in a way that is responsible and respectful to my identity as a woman?

In order to answer that question and maintain that responsibility/respect for my identity, I have decided to make some promise to myself.  This promise will hopefully give me peace of mind on the matter and also help to fight the negative stereotypes/truths of being a fangirl.

1) I promise to use fiction as not only a way of escaping from reality, but as a way of reflecting on my own reality.

Fiction is based in reality even if that fiction belongs in the science fiction or fantasy genre.  When I write fiction or fan fiction, I promise to think about what I’m writing about.  I will look for the reality within the fiction.  I will apply it to my own life and ask myself why it is significant to me.  I will use my own mind and my own heart to determine why I care about the things I admire and the things I write about.  I will ask myself:  How does this story change or contribute to how I see my own experiences?  Can I apply what I have learned from it to my future life?

2)  I promise to be respectful and responsible toward the identities of the individuals I Loki-Fangirls-loki-thor-2011-27649223-900-1371choose to admire and use that admiration to create something new for myself.

I believe that part of being a fangirl who respects her own identity, is showing respect for what I choose to admire.  I promise to think about why I am a fan of someone or something.  Do I have reasons beyond superficial appearance for admiring celebrities?  If I do like someone just for their looks, what specific things do I like about them?  How does this physical admiration empower, contain, or define my own sexuality?

Another thing that personally concerns me about being a part of the fangirl stereotype are the actions/reactions fangirls supposedly exhibit when in contact with the person they admire – being a stalker or excessively emotional.  I will think about what is the correct way to express my admirations.  I will ask myself: Are my actions as a fan related to my own self-affirmation/importance or am I using the experience interacting with a celebrity to genuinely compliment them?  Is the interaction respectful or annoying and intrusive?  Is the interaction based on who they are, what they have done, or your possible common interests?  When is it the right time to go bat s**t crazy because I’ve just met him?!

I promise not to alter or portray the sexual identity of the person I admire.  How would I feel if someone took my body image and against my will, put that image into sexual situations that do not describe me?  What if someone I never met took an image of me and made that image having sexual relations with someone I’ve never wanted to have sex with?   It is an assault of an individual’s sexual identity.  It doesn’t matter to me if the celebrity sees it that way or not.  It doesn’t matter if it never hurts their feelings or if they never see it/think about it.  As a woman, I would personally like to have my own body image respected, so I promise never to be disrespectful to the body/sexual image of anyone else.

3)  I promise not to fear my passions, but to embrace them in order to see what new reality they will lead me towards.

It is never wrong to feel, no matter what the emotion is or to what it is connected.  Having fantasies, dreaming, and spending time with fiction is completely normal.  I promise to never stop imagining new things.  I promise never to turn my back on that child who wanted to explore the world.  I promise to never fear what I have freely chosen as a passion.  I promise that writing fiction will not keep me from real happiness or success.

Getting Ready For An MFA In Creative Writing: Next Steps and Advice

My Graduate Program Decision

After a lot of work narrowing down schools, filling out applications, and perfecting writing portfolios, I have made my final decision regarding which MFA in creative writing program I wanted to attend.  And…

I’ve chosen Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA.  They offer a unique program due to the fact that you can have a dual-genre focus in your studies.  This means you can choose to study a combination of two of these genres: poetry, prose, creative non-fiction, or children’s writing.  You can also choose to focus on either nature writing, travel writing, publishing, or teaching. The program can either be a full-residency or a low-residency.  My own focus will be on prose writing and publishing though I will still get a chance to take a course related to either nature writing or travel writing.  In addition, the program offers literature courses related to feminism and the environment.  Another thing that I liked about the program is that the teaching portion includes learning how to teach writing in alternative settings.  Grad students have the opportunity to teach creative writing at the county jail.  This seems to allow students to discover how writing can be used as a tool for transformation within a community rather than just an academic pursuit.

If this sounds interesting to you and you’d like to learn more, click here:

Chatham University MFA in Creative Writing

Chatham University - Shadyside Campus, Pittsburgh, PA

Chatham University – Shadyside Campus, Pittsburgh, PA

Chatham University started out as the Pennsylvania Female College in 1869.  However, the institution now has a little over 2,000 male and female students.  The university is currently home to the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship, the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics, and Chatham University’s Women’s Institute.  Not only that, but Chatham has an additional campus north of Pittsburgh called Eden Hall.  Eden Hall campus is the first of its kind in the fact that it is completely self-sustainable, emits zero carbon emissions, and produces more energy than it uses.  Students don’t just learn about environmental sustainability here, but they get to live it while they study.

If you’d like to learn more about the university and what else it has to offer, click here:

About Chatham University

What Next?

Until my classes start in August, I will be working out a number to things such as where I will live and getting a job for some extra money.  I am planning to live in an apartment on-campus.  I have to decide what items I want to bring with me from Indiana to Pennsylvania and figure out how I will be getting it there.  I think I will take my car with me.

Financially, I have obtained enough funds through applying for loans and saving money.  I will probably have to change banks when I get there as well.  I would like to have at least one job once I get there so I have enough cash for groceries, gas, entertainment and any other emergencies that come up.  Before I leave, I will need to work out a health insurance plan that is valid in the state of Pennsylvania since each student is required to have one.

On a personal level, I’m extremely excited to be embarking on this adventure!  I feel like I want to get involved in different things on-campus and in the community.  I want to take opportunities to do things that I’ve always wanted to do and have never had the chance.  One of my regrets since becoming so enthralled by Shakespeare, is that I have never been involved in a theatrical production.  I have read and studied the plays in every other way – as literature, historically, as great examples of playwriting techniques, and in terms of the art of theater in general.  The only thing I haven’t done is experienced the performance from the side of the stage.  I’m planning to either get involved with Chatham’s drama club or finding some outlet in the community which will allow me to learn about theatrical performance despite the fact that I have basically no previous experience.

For this blog, my next steps will be finishing up all the posts that I’ve started and never finished.  I’ll be much busier during school and won’t have as much time to post, so I will want to go off to school with all of my blogging enterprises completed.  In the next two months, you will be seeing more posts from me related to fan fiction, book reviews, Shakespeare, and reflections on my other writing projects.

Advice On Choosing a Program

I have found that there are so many factors that go into choosing a graduate school program.  Curriculum, finances, faculty, location, ratings, student population, culture, low-residency vs. full-residency, alumni, and more.  I am not an expert at choosing the perfect MFA program for you, but I will try and give advice based on my own experiences.  In my personal opinion, I feel like what’s most important is to first pick a program that speaks to your own passions.

What I found most helpful was figuring out what I most wanted for myself.  Perhaps ask yourself these questions in the beginning.  What subjects are you passionate about writing?  Is there a certain cause that you feel strongly about promoting through writing?  Or do you have important personal experiences that you would like to be able share with the world?  Maybe think about how you want to contribute to the world of writing and literature.  Look at what kinds of values the school in general seems to be promoting.  Is the school addressing issues in the wider world that are important to you?  Would attending courses there inspire your passions further?  What kind of future career best suits your interests?  Will the program allow you take these passions with you into a professional setting after completing your degree?  These are some ideas that you might consider first.

When you are doing research on the program, be able to look past the information that seems to be related to marketing the program to you – things like bragging about what successful writers have attended the program, awards the program has won, etc.  I found this type of information to be more annoying than helpful.  I personally avoided schools that didn’t give me much more information about their program except for things that seemed like advertising material.  This information will tell you nothing or very little about what you will actually learn while attending the school.

Instead, look for things like the structure of the program.  What genres do they offer? More than one genre focus?  Do they focus on giving the student professional experiences in teaching or publishing?  Are they more interested in teaching writing through studying literature or through workshops?  If you don’t know what you want to do in the future, does the program allow you flexibility to explore multiple areas like both teaching and publishing?  I have seen some friends go through an MFA program in hopes of being able to teach only to find out that they don’t like teaching at all.  However, they were left with no other professional experiences besides teaching from their graduate school creative writing program.  If you are unsure as to a career path, as I was, I found it helpful to keep my options as open as possible.

After I found a number of programs that seemed to suit my passions, interests, and my ability to enjoy spending time within the culture of the institute, then you might start looking at some of the smaller technical details of the program.  What kinds of financial aid do they offer?  Can you get a teaching assistantship or an internship?  How much is tuition?  What kinds of opportunities do they offer for living on-campus?

I found it also important to look at faculty at this point.  See who will be teaching you and what their personal interests are.  Will their interests help to fuel your own?  What do you think you can gain from knowing them as professors?  For example, if you are a woman interested in writing about women’s issues, you don’t want to go to a school that has a male dominated faculty.  You might want a gender balanced faculty instead.

Finally, you might want to consider the broader location of the school.  Will there be many opportunities for internships and related jobs in the surrounding area?  Does the city promote an art based culture that will support your writing interests and writing experiences outside of the classroom?

This seems like a lot to take in.  It was for me too.  But it actually gets easier to make decisions as you go along because you become more aware of what you want as you continue to compare different programs.  In my personal experience, it seemed to work well to apply to a broad selection of programs that promote your passions/interests (I chose 8 programs).  Then once I started getting accepted to them, I began comparing some of the smaller details for each program.

But most importantly when making a final decision, pick a program that feels right to you in your heart and in your gut.  If you are getting into graduate school, then you are probably smart enough to grow and gain positive learning experiences from any program you pick.  However, what was most challenging for me was having faith in that decision.  Don’t let the question of whether or not you picked the right one plague you.  You know what’s best for you.  When it gets down to the final line, follow your heart and trust in your heart because you are going to be the one who makes your graduate experience meaningful to you.

Ay Me! Romeo and Juliet in Education (Part 2 of 2)

Educational Experiences and Analysis

MuseofFireposter-2

Muse of Fire. Film, 2013.

I recently watched a documentary called Muse of Fire about two actors, Dan Poole and Giles Terera, who travel around the world attempting to define and debunk the myth that Shakespeare is terrifying and incomprehensible. The actors speak with all kinds of people about their first Shakespearean experiences and how that has influenced their opinion of the playwright. Many of these experiences documented in the film involved education and the difficulty of teaching Shakespeare to young people.

My own first experience with Shakespeare involved studying Romeo and Juliet in my first year of high school. We read the play out loud and each student was assigned a part. Before we began the teacher had us write down three of the characters that we wanted to be. I didn’t want to be Juliet. There was too much pressure in being Juliet. So I wrote down three of the minor male roles – Benvolio, Mercutio, and Tybalt. However, when the teacher announced our parts in front of the class, I had been given the role of Friar Laurence. I remember being horribly disappointed. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me now as an adult, but it had happened in high school. I felt like a bit of an outcast.  I knew I was given the part because none of the other kids had wanted it. There were about six Romeo’s in our class. Couldn’t the teacher have made one of those six guys the Friar and made me a second Benvolio? Was it because I was the shy, overweight girl that I had to play the part of the fat, old man? Did the teacher think I wouldn’t complain about it, that she could get away with it because I was the quiet kid? Was it because I was a girl that I couldn’t play the part of one of the young males? This was high school so everyone judged everyone else based on what part they had. “Oh, Johnny is Romeo! Oh, Romeo! Johnny is so hott…” And I was the girl playing the fat, old man that no one else wanted. But everyone would think that I wrote down Friar Laurence on my paper like I wanted to be him.

As you can guess, this experience didn’t ruin Shakespeare for me, but it did ruin Romeo and Juliet. During my following high school years I was able to study Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and MacBeth. I enjoyed all of them, but Romeo and Juliet remained a boring cliché. The story had been done so many times that I didn’t have any interest in it. I couldn’t feel for any of the characters because I knew what was going to happen. The end was always the same and overused to the point of being satirical. I was incapable of feeling pity or grief for the lovers. The only emotional attachment I had to the characters was based on the fact that I felt humiliated for being forced to play Friar Laurence (No offense to the Friar. He is arguable more important to the story than Benvolio, Mercutio, or Tybalt put together.). It wasn’t until much later that I had the fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Romeo and Juliet as a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Even then, I didn’t care about the play. I was going because it was at The Globe.  I will never forget that experience. When everyone thought Juliet was dead, they placed her body on a litter. Her family carried her through the audience to her tomb so that we all became a part of the funeral procession. I knew that she wasn’t dead, that she would wake up in few minutes. I cried anyway. Nothing of what I knew of the story before I came to that performance mattered anymore. It was like I had never read it, had never seen any of the movies, or heard any Romeo jokes. That was how powerful and captivating that experience was. On the other hand, if I had never had that, like almost all American high school students don’t, I would still be going through my life believing that Romeo and Juliet was an overused and boring.

Based on my own personal experiences, I believe that there were two main problems with learning Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet in the environment of a high school classroom: censorship and time constraints.

Today there is a lot of fear in education that teachers will say or do something that will upset a child’s parent. For example, the debate over whether or not it’s appropriate to teach evolution and creationism in schools has been huge within the last decade. It seems that there has also been an increased fear of sexual accusations made against teachers which can result in that teacher termination and/or arrest. Some of these cases are indeed serious problems, but a teacher’s fear of anything remotely related to sex or other taboo subjects can also create limitations for what a student learns in a classroom. Reading Romeo and Juliet as an adult, I realize that much of the meaning and content of the play was passed over. Bawdiness and sexual euphemisms are a huge part of Shakespeare and yet I had no idea of the true meaning of drawing a sword until I was well into college. In Romeo and Juliet there are whole scenes that are made up of jokes based sexual double-meanings. So that now as an adult, I feel like I only learned half of the content of the play in high school. None of the bawdiness was even mentioned. It makes me wonder about what my teachers expected us to get out of the play. Were they thinking, “Well, we can’t say anything about this scene or that scene, so the kids will just have struggle through that part on their own. I’m forbidden from teaching them the truth so we won’t teach it at all.” As a student, I feel lied to. I feel disrespected and insulted as an intelligent person. Did they think I was too stupid to handle the fact that Shakespeare wrote about sex? They could have at least told me that much without going into too many details. But I don’t think anyone said a word about it. What about the kid who was reading the part of Mercutio or the Nurse in front of other people? What if it were a real performance? Could we let that student read that part, perform that part, while keeping from them the truth of what they were saying in front of an audience? Would that be a good education?

I’m not just upset about missing out on a dirty joke. It’s so much more than that because Shakespeare’s bawdiness is also connected to a greater understanding of his work in general and also to the historical significance of the plays. Mercutio’s character is highly based on his sexual witticisms. Without that, his character is dull. We can’t understand him. Would we be able to understand the Nurse’s complex relationship with Juliet if we cannot understand the depth of the Nurse’s character? These holes create gray areas for a student, making Romeo and Juliet seem boring, unfeeling, and cliché when it is anything but that. We also miss some important historical background if we refuse to teach the bawdiness of Shakespeare. Shakespeare had a diverse audience. His plays were performed for the queen who probably would not be too pleased with talk of sex put right out in front of her. He had to hide his sexual content through wordplay and euphemisms. However, there were also everyday people listening who didn’t even know how to read and who (like most high school students) couldn’t give a half penny for iambic pentameter or all that “Phoebus’ lodging” type talk. They did understand how funny it was for the characters to talk about pricking each other. Without knowing this background, we lose part of the richness of what makes Shakespeare Shakespeare. And we lose something that could create a meaningful and powerful connection with lots of young students. Perhaps giving a proper explanation of the context and background for these bawdy jokes is also the key to teaching them in an appropriate manner in the classroom which is at the same time respectful to a student’s own intelligence and education.

In my opinion, the second problem with learning Shakespeare in a high school environment is that there is simply not enough time to teach it. I would estimate we covered the entirety of Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet in not much more than a few weeks. We had three classes a week – one thirty minutes and two ninety minutes. We learned a bit of history about Shakespeare himself, a bit of background on Romeo and Juliet, assigned roles, read the whole play in class, watched a movie (minus the scenes with Romeo and Juliet in a bed), and took a test. Most of the focus was on the most basic aspects of the content with very little information given on the language itself. It seems to me that teachers can’t teach everything. Therefore they have to choose and decide which parts of the vast information concerning Shakespeare, the story, and the characters are most important. Some things inevitably have to be left out. I would guess that a large part of what was taught was based on what the students would have to be able to answer on the test. I can imagine that this would put a lot of pressure on teachers. They have a classroom filled with thirty-some students all at different levels in a general English class. And somehow they have to make them all understand what is going on in a complicated story with unknown words and strange rhymes. With this in mind, I can understand why the bawdy double-meanings in the play had been skipped over. Though I would like to think that it was because of a lack of time rather than because of censorship.

As a lover of Shakespeare, I would be so much happier if all our young people were given the chance to see a live performance of a play or better yet create one of their own. I would like it if each student were given a chance to ask their teacher any questions that they may have about the part they have been asked to read, and their questions were answered honestly and completely. My own passion for Shakespeare has developed over the years, but is due little to my high school education. What if young people had the same understanding and passion for Shakespeare that I have gained over a period of ten years? What if that passion is instilled in them when they are sixteen years old, when they have greater opportunities to choose a future path? With that in mind, I think that the final question to ask is: How important can Shakespeare be in the wider scheme of things? Is it okay if we go through our lives never understanding his ideas? Does that outweigh the potential that Shakespeare has for influencing our own lives, binding us together through shared experiences, moving our hearts, and healing our hurts?

Muse of Fire Documentary

I would recommend the film, Muse of Fire to anyone who likes Shakespeare, is interested in teaching, or has even the tiniest amount of interest in either subject. The film features individuals from all different social classes, genders, nationalities, and religions. It was created in a way that if you are a person, you will be able to find some connection to it. The film was written, directed and produced by actors Dan Poole and Giles Terera. It also features interviews with Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Baz Luhrmann, Ralph Fiennes, James Earl Jones, Tom Hiddleston, Ewan McGregor, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, John Hurt, Mark Rylance, Rita Dove, Harold Bloom, John Leguizamo, Brian Cox and more.

Below is a video of Dan Poole and Gile Terera speaking about a sickness they call of “Shakespism” which prevents us from understanding Shakespeare. They are at a TEDx event (localized version of TED Talks) in Madrid.

Ay Me! Romeo and Juliet In Education (Part 1 of 2)

Romeo and Juliet 1968

Romeo and Juliet. Film, 1968

I’m back at reading Shakespeare after about a 2-3 year break. I got stuck on Henry VIII, so I decided to skip that one for now and go on to Romeo And Juliet – a good place to start up again because it was my first experience with Shakespeare during my first year in high school. Romeo and Juliet is probably the best known of the plays, so I will look at it a bit differently by examining it through the characters rather than the plot. Then, in part two of this post, I will reflect on my experiences learning the play in school and think about the challenges of teaching Shakespeare to young people.

Background

According to my text edited by David Bevington, Romeo And Juliet was written in the mid 1590’s, within the first decade of Shakespeare’s career. There are a number of sources for the origin of the story including the Latin comedy of Plautus which featured similar characters such as the commanding parents, multiple suitors (Paris and Romeo), and the nurse. Other aspects of the play such as the sleeping potion were common in Greek romance of the 1400’s (Bevington, 1005). Bevington explains that Italians Luigi da Porto and Matteo Bandello wrote novellas presenting the lovers’ characters in the early 1500’s. Bandello’s novella was translated into French. The French version became the source for an English poem by Arthur Brooke in 1562. This English poem was most likely Shakespeare’s main inspiration (Bevington, 1006).

Romeo and Juliet are special characters compared to what is usual in classic tragic theater. The play itself is seen as more of a comedy up to the point of Tybalt’s death. Unlike other tragic characters, Romeo and Juliet are extremely young, Juliet not yet 14 when the story begins, and they belong to the wealthy merchant class rather than to nobility (Bevington, 1005).

Along with Shakespeare’s other plays written around the same time – Midsummer Night’s Dream, Merchant of Venice, and Richard IIRomeo and Juliet contains various rhyme schemes. Bevington states that some of the speeches are even written in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet (1005). The Prologue of the story is a good example.

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;

Whose misadventure piteous overthrows

Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.

The fearful passage of their death-marked love,

And the continuance of their parents’ rage,

Which, but their children’s end, naught could remove,

Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;

The which if you with patient ears attend,

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend (1.0.1-14).

Most often readers and viewers of the play focus on the fact that it is a story of a great love ripped apart because of a meaningless argument between the lovers’ families. However, the play is also about the temporary nature of youth and youth’s passions – the brevity of young love within the endless stretch of time. According to Bevington, the real tragedy of the play then comes when old age and time fails to understand or realize the great passions of the youth it once had (1005). These passions include not only Romeo and Juliet’s fierce love, but also the violent hatred that arises between Tybalt, Romeo, and Mercutio (Bevington, 1007). In this story, love and hate go hand in hand with one another and are both strong emotions which are acted on in haste. Time and age are both important within the play. The great youth of the main characters is put in sharp contrast to the family feud that has continued through countless generations. The lovers themselves measure their relationship through the passage of time. How long will it be until they can see each other again? One minute to them can seem like twenty years when they are apart. Shakespeare uses the passing of celestial bodies as the main way of counting time. The sun comes up and Romeo must leave. How long again until the moon arrives and Romeo returns? The movement of the planets is something eternal while their passing marks merely a day for us. The feud has raged on for ages like the continuance of a planet’s orbit, while Romeo and Juliet are only the tiniest bit of it. And so is their love affair which begins and ends within the span of days because of an age-old conflict which, in the form of the old, adult characters, refuses to acknowledge their love.

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Romeo + Juliet. Film, 1996.

Characters

Verona – The setting itself can be seen as an innocent character in the midst of the family feud. The citizens of Verona are on neither side of the conflict between the Montagues and Capulets, but yet it’s residents must suffer the unrest and discontent of the long-standing grudge they aren’t involved in. They are the affected by-standers of the tragedy. There are three scenes set in public of Verona at beginning, middle, and end of the play.  Each of the three scenes is one of violence and how the citizens of Verona react to that violence (Bevington,1007).  The first scene introduces the families’ conflict.  The second one results in the death of Mercutio and Tybalt.  At the end of the play Romeo and Juliet’s deaths reveal their love affair and end the conflict.  At the end of the show, it turns out that the entire community has suffered from the conflict including the Prince, an unbiased and innocent party, whose kinsmen was the murdered Paris.

Capulet – Juliet’s Father. He adds to the ridiculousness of the family grudge. He still feels urged to fight Montague even though he is too old to do so. He calls for a long sword and his wife somewhat mockingly cries, “A crutch, a crutch! Why call you for a sword? (1.1.76)” Capulet represents the feud itself which has grown old and outlived its reasons for existence, but yet continues. He seems somewhat more sensible and open to peace than Montague in regards to the conflict.  He is a main player in forcing Juliet’s hand in marrying Paris.  HIs haste to marry Juliet to Paris reflects the lovers’ own haste for becoming man and wife; however, Capulet’s rushing Juliet to the altar is what causes her to feel trapped.  This haste and lack of choice (Marry Paris or we will kick you out on the street.) that her father gives her, leads Juliet to seek the Friar’s help in gaining her sleeping potion.  There is also the question of whether or not Capulet and his wife can be blamed for not understanding Juliet’s situation since she refuses to explain it to them.  Though is it her parent’s fault for not making her feel comfortable enough to explain her love for Romeo to them?

Capulet’s Wife – Juliet’s mother. She urges Juliet to marry Paris. She is also a great offender in keeping alive the enmity of the two houses. All she cares about is her own family and not necessarily the truth of a situation. When Tybalt is killed, she accuses Benvolio of lying about what happened in her nephew’s fight with Mercutio. Instead she makes her own story – that there seemed to have been twenty men fighting (perhaps against Tybalt?) and here he is dead. She makes up a story that suits her purposes (3.1.175-80).  She misunderstands the reason for Juliet’s grief after Tybalt’s death.  She believes Juliet is silly for crying so much, saying: “Some grief shows much of love, but much of grief shows still some want of wit (3.5.72-3).”  This misunderstanding and lack of sympathy eventually contributes to the lovers’ deaths.

Prince Escalus – Prince of Verona and relation to Paris. An outside moderator of the feud. An unbiased judge who doles out punishment to both families. However, these punishments are ineffective measures that do not solve the problems at the heart of the feud.

Benvolio – A Montague and Romeo’s friend. Though he is close to Romeo, Benvolio is a fair judge of events. He recounts the facts of the public fights between the houses without making accusations one way or the other.  He attempts to cheer up Romeo by getting him to think of women other than Rosaline. Mercutio accuses Benvolio of being a hypocrite. How can you be a part of this feud “and yet thou wilt tutor me [Mercutio] from quarreling! (3.1.29)”

Romeo – In act one, Romeo is the middle of a whiney lament for a woman named Rosaline. Rosaline is a chaste woman who refuses to “put out” for Romeo despite his advances. She won’t love him. This echoes Shakespeare’s carpe diem (seize the day) sonnets – which make admonishments for refusing to love while one is young and beautiful because youth won’t last forever. Romeo states that Rosaline’s “sparing makes huge waste / For beauty starved with her severity / Cuts beauty off from all posterity (1.1.218-20).” Her beauty is a waste because she will let it fade instead of passing it on through having a child – preferable with Romeo. We can also deduce that Romeo has possibly had more love interests by Juliet’s comment, “You kiss by th’ book (1.5.111).” Or, “Romeo, boy, you know what you’re doing.”

Romeo also starts to realize that he doesn’t know real love, or rather the truth of love. He once thought that love was wonderful and beautiful, but now because of Rosaline’s refusal he sees that the reality of love can also be painful and tormenting. Romeo throws out a list of opposites to prove this point and show how love and hate are linked. “Why, then, O brawling love, O loving hate, O anything of nothing first create, O heavy lightness, serious vanity, misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms, feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, still waking sleep, that is not what it is! This love feel I, that feel no love in this (1.1.176-182).” He does not know the meaning of true love because no one has ever given him true love. Therefore, he is inconstant in his love. He cherishes Rosaline one minute and Juliet the next. For all that he talks of love, he has no idea what undying and faithful love means. Knowing how to kiss by the book does not necessarily mean that the act is sincere, he’s just following the manual without the true emotions that should come with the procedure.

The famous balcony scene in act two becomes Romeo’s enlightenment in the nature of true and constant love. Juliet is his teacher.  Though she has much less experience in relationships than Romeo, her innocence gives her a purer understanding of the emotion as it exists separate from all the nonsense of wooing upon which Romeo relies. Juliet chastises Romeo for his inconstancy, telling him not to swear because promises may turn out to be false.  She states, “Oh, swear not by the moon, th’ inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb, lest that thy love prove likewise variable (2.2.109-11).” Romeo then becomes a representation of the moon and of the night. He is changeable and due to the fact that the lover’s relationship must be kept secret, he may only appear to Juliet in the night as the moon does. Juliet is then his “fair sun,” his guiding force, the illuminator of true love (2.2.4). His ultimate test comes when Juliet says, “If that thy bent of love be honorable, thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow (2.2.143-4).” He passes his test as they are married at the end of the act.

After he kills Tybalt, it is again haste that nearly brings about Romeo’s death.  Because he is young, he is unable to see past his immediate situation.  He is unable to see his long future before him.  This brings him to focus only on his current banishment and desire for death.  Only Friar Laurence is able to talk him out of killing himself in act three.  Haste then indirectly causes his death as he rushes off to Juliet’s tomb with the poison.  If he had waited a bit longer, perhaps he would have gotten the Friar’s letter.  It is interesting to note that both Romeo and Juliet had been threatening to kill themselves since act three of the play.  Sometimes it seems as if they had always planned on dying.  Or Shakespeare could have used this ironic talk of suicide in his plot as foreshadowing the lovers’ later deaths.

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West Side Story. Film, 1961.

Juliet – Related to the sun. She shares a bit of Romeo’s inconstancy, but is not nearly as changing as him. She at first seems indifferent to the idea of marriage put to her by her mother, but then immediately jumps towards marriage in her relationship with Romeo. I would account this inconstancy to her youth rather than something similar to Romeo’s ignorance of true love. Juliet is seen as mainly an object by the people around her – mainly her parents, saying that in marriage she will be as Paris’ fancy book cover where Paris is the pages inside (1.1.80-9). She is seen as being hid away and trapped within her room. She very rarely seems to go out of her conveniently balconied chamber. One of the times she does get to go out is her father’s party. She has just been told by her parents that she will most likely have to marry Paris, a man she knows nothing of and that she obviously does not choose for herself. In the freedom that her father’s party provides (everyone is masked and there is no difference between Capulets and Montagues), Romeo gives her attentions. And man is it fun! Juliet is freed for one night on the town and she’s going to make a bang out of it. No one has probably ever flirted with her before let alone wanted to kiss her! Why shouldn’t she enjoy herself? Taking Romeo’s love is something she can choose to do! Her heart is the one thing Mom and Dad can’t control. She makes the one free choice that she is allotted in her life and gives Romeo her heart and soul.

She later goes through a series of tortures. First she believes that Romeo is dead. Then that Romeo and Tybalt are both dead. Then that Romeo has killed Tybalt and Romeo is banished. Juliet is overcome by confusion. She keeps her faith in Romeo, believing that he is a good man. But then she can’t understand why Romeo would kill Tybalt. She must conclude that Tybalt tried to kill Romeo first. This is a comfort to her and she decides that she is upset because Romeo is banished.  While she is still grieving over the loss of Romeo, her parents trap her into a marriage with Paris.  This forces Juliet to be inconstant in her love and makes her feel as if she is being unfaithful toward Romeo who is her true husband.  Juliet has only one more person in her home that may help her – the Nurse.  The Nurse however, supports her parents wishes that she must marry Paris.  This leaves Juliet no other options but to take things into her own hands.  For her it is the lack of support and understanding from her family that leads her toward her death.

Mercutio – His name is related to the word “mercury.” Mercury is the planet closest to the sun which holds with Shakespeare’s use of celestial bodies in the play. The planet was named after the Greek/Roman god Hermes/Mercury. The god is related to delivering messages, communicating, traveling, and mercantilism. Mercutio is known for his wits and wordplay in communications, battling Romeo in a game of dirty jokes based on puns and euphemisms. There is hardly anything chaste nor dull that comes out of his mouth. Mercury is also an element which was once used as a treatment for syphilis, one of the STD’s most mentioned in Shakespeare as the French disease. This could also be related back to Mercutio’s dirty language. Mercutio seems to be the one youthful character who understands Romeo’s inconsistency in love for what it is. He calls Romeo out on his lament over Rosaline. Benvolio takes Romeo’s whining seriously and at face-value. When Romeo speaks romantically of dreams, Mercutio; however, tells Romeo how it is – that dreams are nothing but nonsense – that dreams are “more inconstant than the wind (1.4.100).” Mercutio’s name can come from “mercurial” or a person who is subject to unpredictable mood swings and inconstancy. Therefore Mercutio, unlike any of the other youthful characters is able see Romeo’s inconsistency in love and gives Romeo the most honest evaluation. He might even be classified as one of Shakespeare’s “wise fool” characters, seeming to have knowledge beyond his years, but he shows it through being a wit and joker. Only Juliet (the sun) is more enlightened about the true state of Romeo’s heart. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun.

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Romeo and Juliet. Film, 2013.

Tybalt – Where Romeo represents the youthful passion of love, Tybalt represents the youthful passion of violence and rage. He is the nephew of Capulet and Juliet’s cousin. His anger is somewhat exaggerated, nearing satirical as he will draw a weapon upon the smallest of provocation. He hears Romeo’s voice at the masked ball and is sent into a rage without even putting a face to his enemy. Capulet objects to his behavior, calling Tybalt a “goodman boy (1.5.78).” Being called a boy is belittling, but “goodman” is also an address used for any man beneath the rank of gentleman. Capulet allows Romeo and his friends to stay at the party. This insult given to Tybalt on Romeo’s behalf increases Tybalt’s rage and gives it a specific target – Romeo.

Montague – Romeo’s father. At Tybalt’s death he claims that Romeo should not be punished further because Romeo was doing the law’s job of doling out punishment for Tybalt murdering Mercutio. The Prince needs to do nothing more because at that point both sides are even. The problem here is that there is still no assurance that the killing will stop. The Prince explains this in the line, “Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill (3.1.196).” Leniency in this case will only lead to more killing later.  Montague suffers further with the death of Romeo and his wife at the end of the play.

Nurse – More of Juliet’s mother than her birth mother.  The Nurse’s own child died and so she was given the infant Juliet to nurse. It is unclear whether or not the nurse is sympathetic to Juliet’s relationship to Romeo or if she is as unable to understand the passionate love between the couple. In act two, scene five, she teases Juliet by withholding from her Romeo’s response to her marriage proposal. She could be ignorant as to how her behavior torments Juliet. Or she could be teasing Juliet on purpose. Nurse mentions in the previous scene that she upsets Juliet by telling her how good a man Paris is. Could she not be teasing Juliet the same way over Romeo?  The Nurse advises Juliet to marry Paris because the Nurse reasons that Romeo is not coming back.  Therefore how can Romeo be Juliet’s husband?  This leads Juliet to getting the Friar’s help in escaping her marriage to Paris.  It eventually leads to Juliet’s death.

Friar Laurence – A wise figure who acts in favor of the lovers.  He often advises Romeo to slow down and not be so hasty.  He wants Romeo to be thankful for what he has rather than lamenting his losses.  This advice however, is unsympathetic to Romeo’s passion. Though the Friar is a third-party helper and uninvolved in the larger family conflict, he still does not understand the couple’s young, passionate love. He chides Romeo for his changeability even though Romeo has decided to make a commitment of marriage. Laurence agrees to marry them not because he believes in their love, but because he hopes that their bond will help to end the conflict between the two houses.  In the same way, he provides Juliet with the sleeping potion not because he necessarily wants Romeo and Juliet to be together, but because he wants to prevent Juliet from killing herself in a hasty suicide.  The Friar’s plan to save the lovers would have worked if not for the accident that Friar John, who was carrying Laurence’s letter to Romeo, was detained from delivering the message because of an outbreak of plague.  Romeo, not receiving the knowledge that Juliet is just sleeping, runs off to her tomb with a cup of poison.  This accident follows Shakespeare’s comparison of short periods of time versus long periods of time.  An accident can happen in a mere second, while the effects of that accident can be deadly and permanent.

Paris – Romeo’s rival for Juliet’s hand and relation to Prince Escalus.  Juliet is his Rosaline.  Though Juliet rejects his love he is not a bad man.  He is concerned for her well-being after Tybalt’s death.  Up until the point of their marriage arrangement, Paris is very patient in his wooing and allows Juliet her own space.  He only agrees to the hasty marriage because Capulet claims that it will make Juliet happy once again.  We can also see Paris’ love for Juliet when he dies to defend her tomb from Romeo.

Source

Shakespeare, William.  “Romeo and Juliet.”  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. David Bevington.  6th ed.  New York: Pearson/Longman, 2009.  Print.

Philosophy in the Novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5)

Oryx and CrakeOryx and Crake is a fantastic dystopian novel with powerful characters and emotional truths.  The story of Jimmy and Crake presents us with a horrifying and thought-provoking look at the projected future of the natural world and our existence within that world if science, entertainment, and the economy continue on in their current courses.  Margaret Atwood does all of this while asking the philosophical questions: What is real and why does it matter?

“We understand more than we know.”

About the Book

Snowman lives at the top of a tree near the ocean wearing nothing but an old bed sheet, a baseball cap, and broken sunglasses.  His life consists of foraging for food and other equipment for survival while avoiding natural enemies.  The heat of the sun is so strong at its zenith that Snowman can do nothing but lay in the shade of his tree until the daily afternoon thunderstorms drag the heat away with them.  After a disease has destroyed all other natural, human life, genetically altered animals have become wild and more numerous.  Snowman does what he can to deflect the notice of the wolvogs (wolf/dogs).

He has only one duty, to keep an eye on The Children of Crake, a community of genetically modified humanoids.  Unlike the humans we know today, The Children of Crake are unable to conceive and understand a number of different things including death, rape, the need for clothing and need for art in their society.  They are a gentle and innocent people who have no understanding of the destruction which has taken place in the world around them and how it has impacted the life of their friend, Snowman.  They only know what Snowman teaches them; that Crake created them and that Oryx created the plants and animals.  Snowman tells The Children of Crake that he must leave for a few days in order to visit Crake.  He will really be making a 2-3 day journey to a nearby compound in order to collect more supplies and food.

While Snowman embarks on his mission, he relates to us his life leading up to his current circumstances.  Before the end of the human civilization, Snowman was known as Jimmy.  Jimmy grew up in a world made up of the compounds and the pleeblands.  The compounds are housing developments for the employees of large companies which are experimenting in the field of genetic science.  They house the richest and the healthiest people of society.  Imagine a futuristic version of the ideal domestic life of the 1950’s.  All the houses exactly the same and each one pristine.  The world inside the compounds is faultless and unvaried.  On the other hand, the pleeblands are natural chaos.  Nothing is uniform and the poorer classes struggle with illness, crime, drugs, and violence.  Jimmy always lives in the compounds due to the fact that his father works for OrganInc – a company which has created the large pig-like pigoons.  The pigoons act as carriers for human organs.  The wealthy can give OrganInc a sample of their DNA which is then used to create the body parts that the donor possibly might need for transplant in the future.  After facing an ethical dilemma, Jimmy’s mother quits her own job at OrganInc and eventually runs away taking Jimmy’s beloved pet rakunk (racoon/skunk) with her.

In high school, Jimmy meets his best friend who becomes known to him as Crake.  Crake is an anti-social genius who continually theorizes the problems of the human condition such as war and overpopulation, and how these problems can be solved (Note: The quotes you see in this post are sayings on a number of fridge magnets which Crake has collected.).  Jimmy and Crake live in a world that is fueled by a cycle of desensitization.  They spend their time watching shows on the Internet featuring live suicides, live executions, and child pornography.  Entertainment has become more and more graphic due to the fact that people become insensitive to seeing a certain image of sex or violence and are bored.  Therefore in order to continue to shock an audience, content must become more and more graphic (even the normal news reports are not entertaining enough so the news anchors are now reporting in the nude).  Jimmy and Crake are unaffected by everything they watch until they come across a porn video in which a small girl looks at them through the camera.  This girl will later become Oryx to them, but until they find and rescue her, her image remains in the hearts and minds of both the boys as they grow older together.  She is one of the few things that they both hold fast to as their lives take separate paths throughout their college careers.

To stay human is to break a limitation.

Jimmy and Crake both go on to graduate from universities.  After a number of events (you have to read the book to find out what), Jimmy gets a job working in advertising for a project that Crake is developing for one of the more prominent companies.  The project has two parts.  The first part consists of a pill which will increase libido, and at the same time prevent all sexually transmitted diseases.  However, the pill will also do one other thing that its users will not be aware of and that is that the pill will make anyone who uses it sterile.  In short, the population rate will be controlled by how the company controls the marketing of this product.  Crake hopes the pill will limit the strain on resources due to overpopulation.  Crake is also under the impression that sexual frustration is the cause for much violence and war in the world.  Increasing the libido of the general population, he believes will reduce crime.  In order to sell the product, Crake has found and hired a woman who may or may not be the girl from the porn video.  However, Oryx has been involved in the sex business and is able to travel within it in order to find sellers for the new pill.  The second part of the project is The Children of Crake – a version of the human which Crake has created.  The idea behind The Children of Crake is that they are human beings which are designed to create an ideal society around themselves.  Crake, I think in some ways wants to reverse the fact that society creates and forms people into the fact that, for The Children of Crake, the human being gets to create a new perfect society in which to live.

The relationships between the three characters, Jimmy, Crake and Oryx, become at once more intimate and more strained as they work on the two projects together.  Tragedy strikes around the world with the outbreak of the rapidly transmuted disease, which leads, in ways he never suspected, to the end of Jimmy’s friendships forever.  All that is left of the only two people Jimmy ever cared about are The Children of Crake, whom he now has the responsibility to care for as he believes them to be the only other human-like creatures in the world besides himself.  But first Jimmy must survive his trip back into the ruined compound to find supplies.

no-brain-no-pain-T-ShirtsPhilosophical Questions

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers who focuses on philosophical content.  Oryx and Crake is no exception for Atwood in this regard.  The main question she asks readers is simple and yet thought-provoking because it can be answered in endless ways.  The question is: What is real?  Atwood examines this question through her characterizations of Crake, Jimmy, and Oryx.  Crake with his sharp, questioning mind and cynicism tends to the extreme that nothing in the world is real.  Oryx, on the other hand who has experienced hardships her entire life is more likely to believe that everything in the world is real.  Jimmy falls somewhere in between them and in many ways is on a continual journey towards truth or reality.  Atwood also examines what is real through aspects of the society she’s created in the novel.  The two most important of these aspects of society are housing and entertainment, which I will explain in more detail later.  But I think that attempting to answer the question of what is real, is only a part of what we can gain from Atwood’s novel.  The other part is a question which I have asked myself: Why does it matter?  Here is a look at the two questions and how Atwood presents them to readers.

1.  Housing – It seems as I start writing this, that in order to explain the question at all, I need to give a rather general definition of the terms “real” and “fake.”  Atwood seems to connect reality to anything that is natural or found in the natural world.  In turn, anything that is fake is created by man.  For example, a glacial lake versus using machines to dig a hole and fill it with waterThese definitions become important when trying to explain the two different areas where people in the novel live.

The characters in Atwood’s book are either born in the pleeblands or born in one of the compounds.  The compounds where Jimmy and Crake grow up are in a way fake in the sense that they are highly controlled.  There are strict rules about what can come in and what can come out of the compounds.  The corporations that the compounds are centered around have put into place security systems – mainly military-like systems – which help to create a uniform environment. In the compounds, everything seems to be a copy of something else.  Jimmy describes the furniture in his house for us. “The furniture in it was called reproduction.  Jimmy was quite old before he realized what this word meant – that for each reproduction item, there was supposed to be an original somewhere.  Or there had been once” (26).  This  description can be related to the process of cloning.  We start out with an animal that has been born naturally, and then we take its DNA and create something that is man-made.  This fakeness also allows us to create the exact same animal over and over again like the reproduced furniture.  The compounds are also described by Jimmy’s father as being a reproduction of how life used to be like before things became “serious.”  I took this to mean that the compounds are a copy of our world as it is today.  However, the fact that this world would seem real to us, the compounds are still fake because they are an ideal version of the world that we know.  The control and security over the compounds has reduced illness by limiting the movement of infection and infectious individuals from the pleeblands.  The security has also reduced crime and violence by having highly enforced rules.  The pleeblands are the opposite; an uncontrolled place filled with chaos.  The pleeblands are a bit like a wilderness uninhabited by any humans in which plants and animals live and grow wherever they please.  The pleeblands are also rampant with crime and death, but they are more natural in the sense that the people are free of being manipulated by the higher power of the companies which control the compounds.

This distinction between the compounds and the pleeblands matters because it shows us the pros and cons of what it would be like to live in each of these societies.  The compounds are a better place to live in several ways.  They are safe from violence and disease.  People can live there without having many worries.  There’s peace.  The corporations take good care of their employees and if you work for them, you will be paid well.  The problem with the compounds is that they are also similar to prisons.  Once inside, you must have special passes in order to leave again.  Jimmy sees the compounds as having negative effects on the person into which he had developed.  During much of Jimmy’s life, he pursued any type of pleasure he could find – sex, smoking, and alcohol.  His main fault as a human was that he lacked the ability to have an intimate relationship with anyone other than Crake.  Jimmy becomes a player – using up women like they are clothing he can discard.  Just as the compound security controlled and manipulated their residents, Jimmy manipulated women into showing him their vulnerabilities, while he gave them nothing back.  This behavior,  Jimmy later reflects, was because he wanted to remain ignorant, perhaps of his responsibilities or his own emotions.  Jimmy believes that he learned this behavior from the compounds.  He states, “there had been something willed about it though, his ignorance.  Or not willed, exactly: structured.  He’d grown up in walled spaces, and then he had become one.  He had shut things out” (184).  Whereas if he had grown up in the pleeblands, he might have been forced to examine his life and the emotions of those around him because in the pleeblands nothing is hidden – not even the worst faults of individuals or communities.  There is a price that must be paid in any case when moving from the real to the fake.  The fake takes away something that is essential in making us human – mistakes.  However,  in the compounds we no longer have to look at our own blemishes even if we still fear them.

In our current world, we are also faced with the problem of balancing individual freedom such as in the pleeblands with individual safety such as in the compounds.  I see this mainly in the debate over gun rights.  Individuals have a right to their person safety which is gained with either control and order or by a greater show of violence.  The first solution of control is beneficial, but at what point does that control become like a prison to us?  And the second solution of safety through fighting back, brought to its extreme, undermines the ideal of personal safety itself.  It seems that Atwood is perhaps showing us that finding some sort of middle ground is the solution to these types of debates.

There are two moons, the one you see, and the one you can’t.

2.  Entertainment – As teenagers, entertainment is the main part of Crake’s and Jimmy’s life.  They spend most of their time in Crake’s bedroom where there are two computers.  On these computers, they watch live entertainment.  Live entertainment itself is an interesting combination of the real and the fake.  It is real in the sense that what you are seeing and hearing is happening at that exact moment.  There is no manipulation in what you are seeing.  On live TV what’s done is done and you can’t go back and change it.  On the other hand, what you are watching is fake in the sense that you are not actually present when the action occurs.  There is a distance between yourself and what is happening on the screen in front of you. 

Atwood has made the fact that live TV is simultaneously real and fake problematic because of its graphic content.  Crake and Jimmy watch live videos of people committing suicide and also live videos of executions.  These videos are done similarly to what we would call “reality” TV.  There are aspects of the videos which Jimmy suspects have been added in order to create drama for viewers.  The suicides include readings of individual’s final letters and slide shows about their soon to be previous lives.  The executions often feature criminals who attempt to make an escape or who have particularly shocking last words for certain people.  These live shows have convoluted what is real by adding things that are fake.  The boys are watching things that are actually happening, and yet to them, these things have become fake.

This flip-flopping of real and fantasy is relevant and important to our current world because it creates a cycle in which our entertainment becomes increasingly graphic.  Our entertainment today involves gruesome crimes that you might find on Dateline or 48 Hours Mystery.  We also have exploitation of the strange and unknown like Little People, Big World and Breaking Amish.  Then there are the shows that create drama through sex and relationships like Wife Swap and The Bachelor.  At first we might see these shows as thrilling because they shock us and show us something new.  However, after watching them a number of times, they might lose their original thrill.  There are only so many times we can look at the live pictures of a bloody murder scene and dead body before they become just that – just some disembodied blood and just an empty shell.  Therefore, in order to be entertained – in order for the people making the shows to continue to make money – the content of said shows must increase in shock value.  Perhaps to the point at which – like Jimmy and Crake – we will be watching the actual death take place.  The problem is that these things that Jimmy and Crake see are real.  There are people dying and somehow, it no longer matters.  The reality of the boys world becomes fake, which allows them to ignore the facts.

The proper study of Mankind is Everything.

This matters in today’s world if we ever want to know the truth and if we want to allow ourselves to make informed decisions in our lives.  News is also included in the category of live TV.  What we see reported is real and yet unreal at the same time.  The other shows which I mentioned above, work to increase the shock value of entertainment through desensitizing the audience.  Unfortunately, this, I fear, is becoming the case with our news programs.  The news must not only be true, but it must also be entertaining in order to keep a hold of its viewers who are becoming more desensitized.  Drama is added into the facts to make things extreme – something is always this way, or never that way, it was the greatest day he could ever imagine, or it will never be forgot in the history of the entire town.  Are these things true?  No.  Not at all.  However, the story they are reporting did actually happen.  Though we can’t know how much of it is true when it is clouded by extreme language which leans more toward opinion than fact.  This has an impact on us as a society by preventing us from being informed and educated about our own communities.  The consequences are detrimental not just to individuals, but to all of us.  What will happen if Jimmy’s world suddenly realizes that thousands of people have died at the expense of an audience’s enjoyment?  The guilt and the lack of responsibility lies on the shoulders of every person whose community allowed these deaths to occur.  And it is also the fault of those who modified information which could have allowed the community to be educated about what it had been permitting.

Where God is, Man is not.

There are many other ways that Atwood explores the question of what is real.  You will have to read the book to discover the others.  There are two more books which accompany Oryx and CrakeThe Year of the Flood and Maddaddam.  They are both available to read at this time if you are interested in continuing with the story of Jimmy and those who knew him and Crake before the destruction of humans.

 Source

Atwood, Margaret.  Oryx and Crake.  New York: Anchor Books, 2004.  Print.

A Personal Reflection on Pusuing Graduate Studies in Creative Writing

Choosing to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing has been both an emotionally dizzying and somewhat chaotic experience.  There is no question that it has been a journey.   After graduating in 2011 with my BA in English, I decided not to apply to grad schools because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life and I was reluctant to make the mistake of spending money on more education that I didn’t need or want.  Honestly, I don’t really know now what I was thinking back then.  Upon receiving my college diploma, anything seemed possible to me.  My life seemed like it could go any direction.  The paths were wide, welcoming, and numerous.  I lived on a dream cloud kept afloat by my achievement of completing a college education. I would get some kind of professional-like job related to writing or books – at a library or an office or publisher.  I would start publishing more of my writing in magazines and other places.  At a time when jobs were in short supply and while living in rural Idaho and in rural Indiana?    It took me a year to find a job and that job ended up being at Target.  But there were still possibilities.  Target would just be a small job to make some money while I looked for something that paid better and related to my field of study.  I wouldn’t stay there long.

I worked at Target for a month and two years before I decided that things needed to change.  My job description at Target was fairly simple, but it was also safe.  Living with my parents, the job provided all the money that I needed.  I would tell myself that Target was okay.  I was just happy to have a job after spending so much time hoping and hoping for the perfect job and then not finding one at all.  At least I had a job.  Those possibilities I’d wanted earlier would come to me when it was time.  My aunt sent me a card with a quote by Gilda Radner on it: “Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.  Delicious ambiguity.”  This quote has given me comfort on many occasions.  It’s a very good quote.  However, the problem with ambiguity is that it’s ambiguous.  How long do you make the best of it?  The possibilities of life are wonderful, but in order to enjoy one, you have to make a decision.  You have to pick one and follow it, and not wait in a world of ambiguity. At Target I became too accustomed to living in that wonderful state of ignorance to what I was doing or not doing.  The possibilities were still there, I just didn’t care anymore.  I got bogged down in the comfort of working there and suddenly the idea of pursuing dreams became all the more frightening.  What would happen if I kept looking and looking for a better job and I wasn’t good enough to get one?  It was better to stay where I was.

It was a single moment of ridiculousness that inspired me to want to change my life.  You can laugh at me if you want, but it seems to me as I get older that most major changes in life are sparked by a small piece of ridiculousness.  One day I was at home before work watching a Youtube video of a celebrity that I admired.  This celebrity was being interviewed by the school where they got their post-grad training in theater.  They said that choosing to go to this particular school was an acknowledgement to themselves of what they wanted to devote their life to.  Up to that point, they hadn’t made that realization and they had been somewhat doubtful and indecisive about the whole situation.  They also expressed the fact that being successful at this school had better work for them because it was their dream and nothing else would have made them happy.  After that, I said, “Hey, perhaps the only thing that is keeping me from doing what I really want to do, is the fact that I have to decide to do it.”  And all my attitudes toward my current life changed.

Working in a creative field like acting or writing can be difficult because a successful career isn’t necessarily based on talent or hard work, but the fact that your talent and hard work is recognized.  You have to balance reality with the dream of becoming a financially successful writer or actor.  I want to shoot high and try to achieve whatever I can, yet I need to realize that writing might also just be something that I do at home after coming back from a full-time job.  But maybe, I thought, because this celebrity made success possible for themself coming from the same situation on deciding to go to school than I could maybe make myself successful as well.  I probably won’t be a celebrity, but I was able to see again a path that might lead me closer to doing what I wanted with my life.

I started out with a list of 80 possible graduate creative writing programs.  I narrowed that down to about 30, narrowed that down to about 15, and narrowed that down the 8 schools at which I’m applying.  Even at this reduced amount, the application process seems overwhelming.  I created a binder with a divided section for every school.  Then for each school, I’ve written down deadlines and made checklists for the individual requirements for admission.  Each school requires that you fill out an online application, send in transcripts, have 2-3 letters of recommendation, and a sample of writing that is about 20-25 pages long.  Some schools ask for a resumé, and also other essays on your background on writing.  Then there are the fellowships to apply for and financial aid.  All of this didn’t seem to bad to me, even though it is a lot.  The thing that is overwhelming is that every school is a little different.  For example, I just can’t ask my old writing professors to make 8 copies of the same letter of recommendation and mail one to each place.   For some schools you have to submit the letters electronically, some you can only send by mail, others only by email, and one had a form that both myself and my recommender have to fill out.  It is the same way with the essays and writing samples.  Each school has their own specific requirements for every aspect of the application process.  So, to help I’ve made spreadsheet for each requirement – letters of recommendation has its own spreadsheet, transcripts has its own spreadsheet, and writing sample has its own spreadsheet – with a column for the school and a column for what they are asking for.  I also made a more detailed checklist for every online application telling me exactly what information I need for each section of the application.  These organization methods have been helpful, but it seems like that’s all I’ve been able to get done.  The process seems like it is going slow without very many visible results.  However, I think it will go much faster after I have finished my first application.

So far I’ve figured out how to get my transcripts sent and have finished all the basic personal information on each application.  Today I’m emailing my old professors to ask them to recommend me.  This part has made me nervous due to the fact that it has been over three years since I’ve had classes with any of them.  Will they remember me?  Will they have time to do the recommendations for someone who is no longer their student?  It also helps to just get the doubts out of my head.  I’m sure it will all be okay.  Anyway, that’s how I stand on the school situation.  We’ll see how it goes.  And I send out my best thoughts for anyone else who might be going through the same process.  Just think that it will all be over soon and we will hear acceptance from our favorite schools.