Priscilla McAlistair

06 Nov

I still have some issues with the show to clear up. Some tempos issues in the 3rd Act (resolved i believe) and something about the 4th Act which i’ve had a hard time putting my finger on, but which i feel i’ve identified.

I like the 4th Act. A lot. It’s well designed, i think well executed, but something has been bugging me.

The 1st Act works well because the character of Annabelle give it its depth. In Act 2 the same plays out with Edgar. The 3rd Act is a bit different. It’s broader, and Byron shares the focus more. To be honest, we simply don’;t have too much time to get that deep into him due to teh Act covering a couple things at the same time. I’m not worried about that.

So we come to Priscilla in the 4th Act. And the trouble is that she doesn’t have a significant character presence. She’s the centerpiece of the Act (although Jasper finally has more of role and of course there’s an additional subplot involving a young police recruit) and yet she is absolutely unintriguing. She’s nice. Maybe a little shy of the outside world. I believe that is all that really comes across from listening to the Act. That will not do.

So let’s explore her a bit more. The songs are written and i’m happy with the music, so there’s only so much i really want to change it (although it’s not out of the question. I’ll do anything if i believe it will improve the piece). But i have some room to maneuver in the lyrics. i could easily toss away entire patches of lyrics to incorporate stuff that conveys her character idiosyncrasies.

Tomorrow i will write up a new Character Background. I’m going to just brainstorm today and give myself some stuff to think about this evening when i try to focus on fleshing out Priscilla. (note, i am  concerned at the moment with her more neurotic qualities)

What do we know about her?

– she lives in an oppressive police state.

– her father was taken away when she was young by the Authorities and never returned.

– her mother, Charlotte, kept Priscilla home more and more and grew increasingly more nervous and paranoid. Eventually Charlotte had a complete breakdown and was also taken away.

– Priscilla shuts herself up in the Manor and never leaves

– For years her only friend is the dead Doll Jasper. If Jasper would ever be discovered Priscilla would be executed on the spot and Jasper destroyed.

Sooooo….. therefore…… hmmmm…..:

– Priscilla is agoraphobic to some degree (fear of going outside)

– Priscilla is a wistful woman-child.

– from taking care of her mother, who was falling apart, she has grown accustomed to a nervous, flighty energy which can border on manic or unhinged but which Priscilla considers normal.

– Priscilla is too girl like for her age.

– Her hanging out with a dead person filled Doll from age 11 to… let’s say she’s now between 18 and 23…  has caused her to live in an almost Alice In Wonderland like gilded cage of perpetual childhood. (note to self… use a play on the Wonderland thing to connect her with her great grandmother’s Numberland thing) It is not psychologically healthy and she knows it. She feels trapped and yet cannot conceive of any other way of life. She is doomed to an endless ghostlike existence, blithely haunting the empty halls of the family manor with only Jasper her Doll. This causes her despair. Going outside causes her even more despair.

– she is sexually… repressed out the wazoo. She has NO sexual experience other than self pleasure.

– thus… her built up romantic and sexual urges scream for her to find some kind of mate, SOMEone to, you know… at least rut with. The girl’s desperate to get laid. But she is terrified to leave the house. Outside world = Bad. She loves the house. She hates the house. She wants to experience sexuality. She has no options.

– Annabelle was more starved for romance and love. Priscilla is honestly, more starved for sex. This because Annabelle had a passionate outlet, her science, and no companion. Priscilla has no such passionate outlet, but she DOES though have companionship and love for and from Jasper the Doll, so it’s basically sex she’s especially missing.

– She barely remembers her father. She sees him as Hero like, an ideal man who lives only dreams, books, fantasies. She equates actual flesh and blood men with the brutal Police outside. Therefore real life men are inherently threatening. Yet she wants a romantic and sexual link so badly it vies with the threat of danger and harm she feels an actual man from outside would inevitably pose. This is a key struggle for her.


Okay let’s stop there.

I shall mull over this little stream of consciousness writing assignment and see if it congeals in my head into a focused character i can insert more of into the 4th Act.


Posted by on November 6, 2011 in Uncategorized



4 responses to “Priscilla McAlistair

  1. Cherries Jubilee

    November 6, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    I think, Paul, that it is interesting and ironic that she fades into a ghost-like figure and Jasper seems more alive than she is.Perhaps the key is to bring all her personality on strongly at the front end and gradually have her fade into the back round, while making Jasper more and more the center of things.

    Since Pricilla has already determined that going outside and finding a man is completely out of the question, you might consider looking at what she has to love, rather than what she doesn’t have. It seems to me that Pricilla’s problem isn’t really sex, it’s love. Much like Annabelle, she loves Jasper and in his way, Jasper loves her – like a daughter. Jasper never really loved Annabelle, but this girl is different. Jasper wants to die, but he wants her to live. Maybe he tries to give her what she wants?

    I know you don’t want to change things radically, but think about how she will feel when she realizes that Jasper can’t love her the way she really wants to be loved. He can’t love her physically, or can he? Could the final outcome really be a kind of warped Romeo and Juliet thing in her mind, sans the one night of bliss? The thinking might go something like this. I love you. You want to die. I want sex from you. You can’t give i, or you can and you won’t. I can prove my love if I die with you, and then I will have you forever…then at least I will have something.

    I vaguely remember seeing a film maybe thirty years ago where a sentient machine has sex with a woman. If I remember correctly, he provides some wonderful visions for her instead
    of an orgasm. The machine’s idea was to transfer its consciousness to the body of a baby.

    Maybe this is just too close to incest to consider, but I thought i would throw some ideas at you. I just started brainstorming and writing after I read your post. I am, of course, very curious about how you will solve the problem.

    Happy writing!

  2. paulms

    November 6, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    Cherries, thank you so much for your comment. I’ve been dying to toss this around with someone. The issues are: 1. the plot has to play out the way it does. 2. She does not currently have either a really interesting personality NOR a significant psychological reason to do what she ends up doing. (making the call that brings that brings the police)

    The sexual aspect helps build her inner tension. All i had was love working before. She does it out of love, which is still true and very necessary to the overall themes, but sexualizing her a little bit more adds an interesting shade. It also explains that she calling in the outside world is part of her desperately craving it on a fundamental level despite having a phobia against it.

    Craving love wouldn’t be enough, because she has love, just not romantic.

    I’ve gone back and forth over what kind of love she has for Jasper. When i first came up with the overall plot, one aspect that i liked and which amused me was that every one of them (excepting teh 2nd generation) is in love with the same man. The same Doll. I didn’t at the time consider the incest aspect. it wasn’t until i was considering Act 3 that i suddenly realized the Doll would actually be related to the 3rd and 4th generations.

    In the actual Opera as it is, Byron’s love for Jasper is obvious but not sexualized. Clearly i shied away from sexualizing Priscilla’s relationship with Jasper. However, i find some of your points to be very interesting and her struggle over her relationship with Jasper IS missing in my considerations. Thank you.

  3. Katy

    November 7, 2011 at 4:18 am

    I wonder if it wouldn’t be interesting to have Priscilla develop severe abandonment issues? Two of the most important people in her life were literally “taken away” (her father by the police/political state and her mother by the mental ward). Perhaps it is too cliche, but that kind of social history might lend itself to agoraphobia as well, i.e. she doesn’t want to associate herself with outside people because she fears that building one more emotional connection with a real-live person will only end in that relationship being torn away from her. This could be evidenced from the fact that she hid Jasper from her mother for years (perhaps she thought/knew her mother would take him away, or destroy him?). Facing up to leaving the house to seek out romantic companionship is not only incredibly courageous for her, but would be her realization that the reward is worth the risk?

    I apologize if I don’t understand all the intricate details of the plot. I stumbled onto your music and blog just yesterday and have been listening to Act 1 all day–it’s truly marvelous!

  4. paulms

    November 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Katy, thank you also for your comments. Because i haven’t made clear what the plot in the later acts i realize this is bit of a one way dialogue.

    The larger problem is have is thus: in the 4th Act Priscilla must not only die, but must do so by committing a selfless act, basically giving her life so Jasper can die. The act of self sacrifice is key, because the entire opera is a story of a group of generations who, in making selfish acts of flawed love, make the world, the City of New Albion that is, a worse and worse place. By the 4th Act New Albion has lost it’s charm and wonder and is unrecognizable.

    The only thing that can break the cycle would be an actual selfess act of love. Not to mention one of the McAlistairs needs to finally do something for Jasper. So Priscilla needs to sacrifice herself so that Jasper can have finally have death. Only this breaks the cycle of descent.

    This basic theme of the opera is such that maybe or maybe not one would pick up on it upon listening or seeing it. But regardless of whether you’d put this together without me blatantly telling you, it’s there to be found.

    Thus, Priscilla must make the phone call that brings the police to her home, which will result in them destroying Jasper and executing her. However… she needs, at least in my mind, a better motivation than just… being kind. She is not Jesus, she is ideally an actual flesh and blood person with pathologies and personality quirks who can’t just do stuff because it’s convenient to me. (Okay, she can and will, but… it makes a better piece if her actions make better sense) Her making the call needs to resolve something for her. Selfless love for Jasper is already in there. It’s a given. It’s not enough.

    Her making the call needs to resolve some deeper conflict. Otherwise it’s all just too convenient, she’s too Jesuslike/ cartoonishly pure of heart. If i were to sacrifice myself for my little 3 year old, i would be committing a heroic act of selfless love, but that would not make me some paint by numbers saint. I was still who i was, with a particular personality, particular pathologies, particular talents and idiosyncrasies.

    My sacrifice for my son would have larger implications for stuff i’ve struggled with and would resolve certain issues. (for instance, i have this thing were i beat myself up and sometimes even blurt out a curse at myself when i recall some past way i slighted someone, event though the act is so far in the past or even insignificant that the other party would probably never remember. But i do this, i beat myself up over it. If you hear me suddenly curse in the shower or while doing dishes, this is why. It happens quickly and when i realize i’m doing it i stop myself. So, this… self imposed guilt sort of thing would have a particular resolution, or APPEAR to, if i were to do what Priscilla does.)

    The funny thing about all this, is that i only have a tiny bit of space in the 4th Act to work with. 90% of what i mull over will never make it into the opera. But if all this will make the character just a BIT more interesting, the Act just a BIT better, then it’s worth it. the truth is, in the 4th Act as it stands, Priscilla does not come across as interesting. The Act still works, but it could be improved if i can bump up Priscilla a bit.

    If you’re still reading this… my Gd you deserve a prize. Look, here is the 4th Act as it stands now:

    you can download the tracks at that link. Most tracks are of course me singing the parts to demonstrate what they are, so you have to figure out what is the Narrator, Jasper and Prisiclla. A couple are the actual London recording session tracks. If interested this is what i have, and am trying to figure out how to improve in the small bits of space i can interject something. I figure Priscilla Considers is where i could replace the existing lyrics with something more…. in line with what i’ve been talking about.

    Okay, i shut up now.


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