What I call “a long attention span” is really my unparalleled ability to postpone. The irony is that I write extensively about the thing that I resist actually writing. So when Jerry Lewis hosts the telethon to help stamp out procrastination, I’ll be the poster child they wheel on stage. When you give, give generously.
“The word Noh means skill, craft, or … talent particularly in the field of performing arts.”
There are two parallel histories of theatre in Agincourt. One is the fairly orthodox 19th century tradition of vaudeville or live music hall performance that began at Harney’s Orpheum and shifted to The Auditorium when that older opera house burned. Both plays and musical drama (i.e. operas and operettas) were staged at the College, while independent community theatre emerged at some point. The Auditorium itself morphed from theatre to movie house and back to legitimate theatre. [I wonder if Howard will get around to writing about this.] Theatre’s other track—unorthodox, even peculiar, I suppose—begins in the 1920s with the introduction of drama therapy by Agincourt’s resident alienist Dr Reinhold Kölb at Walden, his private sanitarium.
Kölb had come to Iowa in the mid-1920s to escape the rise of Facism in his native Austria. In Vienna he knew and admired the work of his contemporary therapist Jacob Levy Moreno, inventor of drama therapy and counterpoint to Freud in that psychologically volatile decade. Moreno transplanted his method to New York City where it was continued by his wife into the 1960s. Kölb’s contribution in his smaller, more conservative adopted community was a melding of drama therapy—the writing and performance of plays by patients as an integral part of their healing—with both puppetry and Japanese Noh. Yeah, like I know anything about either of those.
In their more highly evolved forms and only when his “actors” were comfortable with public performance, Walden’s plays were enacted in The Commons in a plywood and corrugated metal puppet theatre built especially for them. One of the last performances—in the mid-1940s near the end of the war—was witnessed by the young Seamus Tierney. It must have been a transformative encounter for the twelve-year-old Tierney, a powerful memory that lingered into his own theatrical career: in the late 1950s Tierney founded the Prairie Players as Agincourt’s first successful community theatre and one of his earliest productions, “The Cave of the Heart,” was inspired by both Martha Graham and Kölb, who may have even collaborated in the production. It is Tierney’s play that I hope to reconstruct.