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A to Z – Performers, Players and Playwrights (and Philosophers)

22 April, 2018

One of the ways that news travels across the Sea of Stars is with various types of performers, from lone minstrels to theater companies, Commedia dell’arte type troupes to wandering philosophers.

Minstrel, bards and even groups of musicians travel from place to place bringing news and good cheer with them.  Most can be sure of getting at least a free meal and space in the common room of whatever inn they visit for a few hours of entertainment work.  Music is widespread across the lands with many interesting instruments and styles emerging since the Sundering.  Dragons seem to be inordinately fond of choral music and many large cities, and wealthy nobles, retain choirs to please visiting dragons.

Theater is mostly confined to large cities and courts throughout the world, though some groups tour smaller cities in the off season.  The Empress sponsors between three and seven Imperial theater troupes at any time, sending them on goodwill tours through out the Empire.  Theater troupes often stick to classical plays which have been approved and made safe by age, it is only under dragons who ignore or appreciate the theater that troupes are willing to try new and experimental works.

Something for everyoneThe Commedia dell’arte type troupes travel widely, though mostly from city to city, taking their mix of set pieces and improvisational performances to a wide audience.  The open framework of their performances allows for easy adoption of local stories and news into their acts making each performance unique though with common themes.  One of the stock characters in the Sea of Stars is the masked and robed astrologer who give cryptic and often quite ludicrous advice to those seeking his aid

Philosophy as a performance art and intellectual competition, there is a great interest in philosophy in the Sea of Stars perhaps as a result of the loss of the gods and much of the traditional religious understanding of the world.  Traveling philosophers, many from Borusa the City of Scholars, travel a circuit of the cities and larger towns debating each other, local scholars and members of the public.  The dragons by and large tolerate such as long as the philosophers are not actively seditious, some even seem to enjoy the cut and thrust of academic debate.

Notes: While there have not been a lot of bards played in the Sea of Stars we did have a brief musically themed campaign.  And I find the idea of philosophy as performance art, or intellectual sport, highly amusing.  “Come, pit yourself against Ronalf the Learned, never beaten in debate, for a purse of 200 silver coins!”  Also, the idea of using a commedia dell’arte troupe as a framework for an adventuring party has great appeal to me.

Art Commedia dell’arte Troupe on a Wagon in a Town Square, by Jan Miel, 1640, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

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