Gather Around the Campfire!

Empiricus: Okay kids. Who would like Grandpa Empiricus to tell you a scary story?

Kids (in unison): Me!

E: Then gather around the fire. This one is particularly scary. No one’s gonna wet their pants, right?

K (still in unison): No!

E: Promise?

K: Yes!

E: Okay. This one comes from the Tales of Kosman. It’s called

Review: ‘Tyrant’ illustrates power as prison

You haven’t wet your pants yet, right?

K: No!

E: Good. Get a little closer.


“Once upon a time, Little Red Riding-Kosman was walking through the dark and mysterious forest of Saint Francis on his way to his grandmother’s house to take her to the market. Being from the city, and being that it was a long walk, he kept himself in good spirits by singing a song. It went something like this:

Political power is very serious business, urban survival somewhat less so.

He sang this over and over to his heart’s delight, when suddenly, he came across an enchanted building called the Project Artaud Theatre. He had been to his Grandmother’s house many times, but never before did he encounter this strange theatre. It seemed to have just magically appeared. He could hear that inside there was music—odd sounds like none ever before heard. Being a lover of music, this piqued his interest. But remembering that his Grandmother expected him soon, he decided only to take a quick look inside.

The entrance was guarded by a tall, skinny man with acne, who would let him pass for a small price—two apples and one diet soda, which he eagerly handed over. But the tall, skinny man wouldn’t let Little Red Riding-Kosman inside without accepting two gifts in return. First, the guardian of the theatre handed him, with all seriousness, a thin, rectangular object, covered in numbers. The second, a collection of larger and thinner rectangles. He thought it was best not to offend the guardian, so he accepted them both. Grateful, Little Red Riding-Kosman looked them over well. The first gift was incomprehensible. The second seemed to be a booklet, full of advertisements. Yet, some of the words were unfamiliar. No doubt some magic spells to be cast if in danger.

Dismissing the possible peril of what lurked inside, Little Red Riding-Kosman eagerly ventured inside. The music was much louder than before. He noticed a few people roaming around, mostly with white hair and wrinkled scowls, but few others. They seemed to be searching for something, perhaps the music. So he concluded that he, too, should continue on. With a sharp poking sensation, he noticed someone trying to get his attention.

When Little Red Riding-Kosman turned around, there was a short, fat girl with acne, dressed in the same clothes as the entrance guard, tapping his shoulder. ‘Seet?’ she said. Not understanding her request, he shrugged. ‘Seet?’ she repeated. Not knowing what to do, Little Red Riding-Kosman showed her both of the gifts he had received from the tall, skinny guard. To his astonishment, she immediately took the small rectangle covered in numbers. Why? he thought to himself. After a few moments, the short, fat girl whisked him by the hand and lead him through a large door, which opened to an even larger room with a plethora of chairs facing towards a stage from where the music was coming.

Many of the same wrinkled faces he had seen earlier were already in chairs, looking at the music. But when the short, fat girl brought him in, all of them simultaneously turned their heads towards Little Red Riding-Kosman, as if interrupted. And as quickly as they had turned around, they turned back towards the music.

For what seemed to be more than 70 minutes, he sat there watching and listening to the music, which was

a dark meditation—sometimes, riveting, sometimes merely diffuse—on power and paranoia.

When it ended, he was startled. ‘How could I have been kept here so long! I need to get to Grandma’s!’ He sprinted out of the theatre with an urgent ferociousness that seemed to scare some of the people with white hair. He even knocked over the theatre guard by accident. Once back in the dark Saint Francis forest, he realized he had only an half-hour to get to Grandma’s, otherwise she’d go to the market without him.

So he ran and ran and ran, downhill and uphill, through the curviest roads in all the kingdom. When he finally arrived, he was relieved to find Grandma waiting for him. He made it there on time!

She was only mildly irritated. ‘What took you so long Little Red Riding-Kosman?’

‘I went to a concert.’

‘A concert?’

‘Yes. A mysterious theatre appeared in the dark forest and there was music playing. I couldn’t help myself.’

‘That’s hard to believe. Anyway. Let’s go to the market.’

On their way, Little Red Riding-Kosman described the magical experience in great detail. He described the entrance guardian's gifts and the fat girl's taps and the people with wrinkled scowls. Then he described the music.

‘The headliner was "The Tyrant," Dresher's one-act solo chamber opera about an unnamed despot imprisoned by the very throne that gives him his authority.

"The Tyrant," [...] takes its literary inspiration from the works of Italo Calvino and its format from Peter Maxwell Davies' landmark "Eight Songs for a Mad King." Like Davies' George III, the main character spends most of his time in a large cage, dividing his time among reveries, frenzied outbursts and occasional interactions with the six-member instrumental ensemble.

Jim Lewis' libretto includes moments of mordant wit and compelling tenderness, but neither he nor director Melissa Weaver quite manage to give the piece a clear dramatic shape. Instead, it meanders from one segment to the next as through driven by the whims of the tyrant's unhinged mental processes.

That leaves it up to Dresher and Duykers to keep things in focus.’

‘I suppose it does, Little Red Riding-Kosman,’ Grandma said, with very big eyes.

‘Drescher’s score moves assuredly from ominous paroxysms of anguish”


Kids (interrupting): What are ominous paroxysms of anguish?

Empiricus: Uh... They’re a bad feeling that you’ll get violent suffering.

K: ?

E: Got it? Where was I? Oh.


“I suppose it does, Little Red Riding-Kosman,’ Grandma said, with very big eyes.

‘Drescher’s score moves assuredly from ominous paroxysms of anguish—there are several passages in which silence alternates with brusque skittering to produce a haunting depiction of the tyrant’s paranoia”


Kids: How does brusk skittering and silence show the tyrant’s paranoya?

Empiricus: Do you want me to finish the story, or not?

K: Yes.

E: Okay then. So... “ominous paroxysms of anguish to...


“to shapely, lyrical set pieces.”


Kids: What are lyrical set pieces?

Empiricus: You’ve got the internets at home, right? Why don’t you just Wiki-dictionary it, then?

K: ...

E: Moving on.

K: How does assuredly going from ominous paroxysms to lyrical set pieces keep things in focus?

E: Just listen to the rest of the story!


“And Duykers, a performer of considerable vocal and theatrical virtuosity, drove each point home definitively."


Kids: How does a score move?

Empiricus: For the last time, it goes like this: the libretto meanders, so the performer has to have virtuosity in order to drive home the two points—ominous paroxysms of anguish and lyrical set pieces—which are found in the assuredly moving score (ostensibly the music therein), composed by Paul Drescher. Got it?

K: Why isn’t urban survival serious business?

E: It was just the song Little Red Riding-Kosman was singing. I give up. The story ends like this: Little Red Riding-Kosman’s grandmother isn’t really his grandmother at all, but an egg who falls off a wall, breaks and can’t be put together again. Little Red Riding-Kosman goes back to the magical theatre and is devoured by Detritus, the mythical pack of wolves that has internet access.

Now go to bed! No s'mores!


Joshua Kosman said...

To quote one of my favorite writers:

I...You...Wait, what???

Empiricus said...

He/she is also one of my favorite writers.