Marina DeLow, right, as ‘Nature,’ approaches Alison Diesel, as ‘The Formel,’ during the dress rehearsal of the Blacktip Island Community Players’ underwater interpretive dance, The Parliament of Foules, Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Steve Dunleavy)
The Blacktip Island Community Players will celebrate Geoffrey Chaucer’s birthday Saturday and Sunday with an underwater interpretive dance, in three movements, based on Chaucer’s The Parliament of Foules. The performances will raise funds for a new Blacktip Island Public Library.
“In Chaucer’s day, ‘foule’ could mean either ‘bird’ or ‘fool,’” BICP artistic director Doris Blenny said. “We thought that was quite appropriate for Blacktip. And for our dancer-divers.
“The idea is this new twist on one of Chaucer’s lesser-known works would be perfect to raise money for a new library,” Blenny said. “Sadly, the demise of the old library left a hole in the heart of our community. Two books weren’t returned and the other was destroyed in the kitchen fire.”
Cast members hope the combination of subject and venue will resonate with the audience.
“Parliament is one of Chaucer’s early dream poems, so the surreal imagery, described in Middle English, leaves it open to many interpretations,” said diver-dancer Gauge Hoase. “Plus, we’re doing it on Canterbury Reef, on the island’s northern tip, so with the currents up there, you never know what’s going to happen.”
The cast was chosen from among BICP’s most experienced divers, including:
- Finn Kiick as Geoffrey/The Narrator
- Marina DeLow as Nature
- Lee Helm as Osprey 1
- Hugh Calloway as Osprey 2
- Alison Diesel as The Formel
- Gage Hoase as Scippio Africanus the Elder
- Antonio Fletcher, James Conlee and Dermott Bottoms as Other Foules
Locals civic groups protested certain aspects of the performance.
“Art’s fine, and we all like to watch, but this should be a family-friendly show,” the Reverend Pierre Grunt said. “We could overlook a figurative ‘nether ye’ and ‘scalded towte,’ but we drew the line at the Narrator jumping out of bed ‘al nakkèd.’
“Doris saw the wisdom of that, and last minute changed Gage’s costume to a neutral-toned dive skin,” Grunt said. “Plus, a straw poll showed no one wanted to see Gage in the buff. Especially while drinking.”
No on-site viewing will be permitted due to safety concerns given the area’s strong currents. Instead, performances will be transmitted live to all island bars.
“You get blown off the wall, next stop is Tiperon in 70, 80 miles,” Marina DeLow said. “And if you miss that, hellooo, Cuba. The chase boats had enough of a time collecting divers during rehearsals.”
Organizers say remote viewing will encourage audience participation.
“There’ll be round-table discussions at all the bars afterwards, and a final session at the Heritage House where delegates from all the bars can present their opinions to, hopefully, achieve some sort of island-wide consensus,” Blenny said.
Cast members brushed off criticism that Chaucer’s exact date of birth has never been determined.
“He wrote a lot about April, so this could be his birthday. That’s all that matters,” Finn Kiick said. “At least we know Chaucer was real. Not like that sock puppet Shakespeare.”