HUMANITY’S CHILD
 

“EXTRA-ORDINARY HERO”

 

by John McDonnell Tierney
 

INTRODUCTION and OVERVIEW

 

 

EXTRAORDINARY HERO is a new work for the theater by composer/playwright John McDonnell Tierney based on the works of philosopher Joseph Campbell. This new work might be better described as a “drama with songs” as opposed to a “musical” in the traditional sense. The term “Musical” or “Broadway Musical” carries with it a set of expectations: that the work contains engaging characters that sing and dance to appealing songs, and, that all of this should be entertaining. Well, we do think audiences will find our characters: Joseph (The Mentor); Sara (The Hero); Vox (The Herald); Bria, Aleeza, Dusty and Quest (The Allies), not only engaging but familiar because the “characters” emerge from deep within the human experience; they are, in fact, archetypes as described by Joseph Campbell. And, we immodestly suggest that the twelve original songs, based on contemporary styles and familiar forms, in our “Drama with Songs” are indeed appealing. And, if we do say so ourselves, we think audiences will be greatly entertained, engrossed, amused, occasionally terrified (“The Boogieman is real!”), but never bored. So, when we depart a tad from the traditional, we hope you will allow us some liberties.

 

EXTRAORDINARY HEROS: In common conceptions, “heroes” are anything but “ordinary,” that is defined as “normal, and commonplace.” Heroes are willing to rush into a burning building, jump into a raging river, or engage a terrorist wielding an AR-15 assault weapon to save a stranger thus, we submit, all heroes are “extra-ordinary.” Heroic action in the ordinary world is not commonplace, or normal, or ordinary...most people would not do these things when actually faced with dangerous situations.

 

But not all dangerous situations take place in the outer world; in fact, our minds are constant battlegrounds as we deal with the barrage of emotions the “real world” inflicts on us daily. And so, we ask our audiences to consider a different kind of hero, an otherwise “ordinary person” when terrorized by her deepest fears, anxieties, dreads and distresses, finds the courage to face them with the help of Joseph, The Mentor; Vox, The Herald and The Allies. All human beings, at one point or another, experience fear, anxiety, and dread, along with a cocktail of other distressing emotions. Many folks do not deal with these emotions in a healthy manner, often denying or suppressing them because they are just too painful to bear. It takes a lot of courage to face our inner demons, our personal Boogieman. It takes strength, bravery, resilience to endure the dangers of our inner world while still trying to make sense of the outer world.  In other words, it takes a “personal hero.”

 

 

THE MUSIC: Our score is heavily influenced by contemporary musical styles (pop, rock, country, etc.) while the orchestrations are expansive in the manner of “The Hollywood Soundstage Orchestra.” Each of the twelve songs in the show feature rememberable tunes, expressive lyrics and familiar forms while still surprising listeners with unexpected novelties.

 

THE SETTING: EXTRAORDINARY HERO is set in a very unusual setting.  Unlike most plays and musicals that are set in a specific place, “real” (In the Heights) or “fictional” (The Land of Oz), our drama is set in the dreams of the principle character, Sara. And, unlike most plays and musicals that are set in a specific time (Hamilton, The Sound of Music); ours is set at any time: yesterday, today or tomorrow.

 

THE STRUCTURE
TWELVE STAGES; TWELVE SCENES; TWELVE SONGS
 

The Hero’s Journey, aka “The Monomyth,” is a common story structure shared by cultures worldwide, in which a character ventures into dangerous territory to retrieve something they need. Facing conflict and adversity, the hero ultimately triumphs before returning home, transformed. “The Hero’s Journey” as described by Philosopher Joseph Campbell in 1949 involves three stages or acts:

  • The Departure Act: the Hero leaves the Ordinary World.
  • The Initiation Act: the Hero ventures into unknown territory (the " Special World ") and is birthed into a true champion through various trials and challenges.
  • The Return Act: the Hero returns in triumph.

This story structure has been adapted and expanded upon by numerous playwrights and appears in numerous plays and films. In our adaptation, our Hero, Sara, moves through the twelve stages of Campbell’s hero’s journey. Each stage is a “scene” with a dedicated song...thus: Twelve Stages, Twelve Scenes; Twelve Songs.

 

PRINCIPLE CHARACTERS

SARA, The Hero
We experience “the hero’s journey” through Sara’s eyes.
She is driven by universal needs: to find love, security, justice.
The audience can relate to Sara’s idiosyncrasies, quirks, vices and deepest fears,
while wanting to emulate her admirable qualities.

 

VOX, The Herald

Vox is “The voice in Sara’s head,” that intuitive “Herald” who warns of things
to come, issuing challenges and announcing the coming of significant change.
Vox, The Herald, “resides” within Sara in the form of
dreams and visions that push her to change her life..

 

 

JOSEPH, The Mentor
Joseph provides motivation, insights and training to help Sara overcome her doubts and fears and prepare for “the hero’s journey”. He has traveled the road before and can provide needed guidance when Sara is reluctant to face the unknown.
If Sara proves her commitment, Joseph will reward her with a magical gift
(a piece of advice, or a key) that will help her on the Journey ahead.

 

THE BOOGIE MAN*, The Antagonist
The Boogieman is an inner demon lurking within Sara that must be accepted or purged. His presence surfaces doubts and questions in Sara’s mind and
 represents her darkest desires, rejected qualities, and greatest fears and phobias.

(*The Boogie Man is played by Vox or one of The Allies)

 

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS

THE ALLIES
Four engaging and endearing characters who take on several lead vocal responsibilities, as well as participating in the developing plot playing multiple internal characters. They have been given names from several world cultures that reflect the persona they bring to the stage. They are:

 

BRIA (from the Gaelic Language meaning "Power, Strength, and Vigor”)

ALEZZA (from the Hebrew Language meaning “Joyful”)

DUSTY  (from the Norse Language meaning "Tough like the Stone of Thor”)
QUEST  (from the Latin Language meaning “Long Search”)

 

EXTRA-ORDINARY HERO
A PLAY WITH MUSIC & SONGS
by John McDonnell Tierney

Based on
“The Hero’s Journey Story Structure”
and other works by
Joseph Campbell

SYNOPSIS

ACT I: DEPARTURE

 

Scene No. 1: The Ordinary World
Song No. 1: Can Anyone Hear Me?

Our story begins with “our hero,” Sara, as she is before our story begins; an “ordinary” person in the “ordinary” world. We first encounter Sara not in her “real world,” out, in her “dreams,” and indeed the dream world is to be the setting for our play. This is Sara’s safe place from which she is loath to venture. Nevertheless, she feels that universal need for to find love, security, and justice in her world while at the same time feeling free to live her life as she desires. She is feeling very alone, a voice “crying in the wilderness,” as she asks, in the first song of our play, “Can Anyone Hear Me?” Much to Sara’s surprise, there is a response to her cry! “I can hear you!” It is Vox, The Herald. She is “the voice in Sara’s head,” who, along with a quartet of “dream companions,” will be the characters in Sara’s dream and adventures. Soon after meeting her dream companions, Sara hears a fanfare in the horns; it is the call to adventure!

Scene No. 2: The Call to Adventure
Song No. 2: Freedom

Sara’s adventure begins when she receives the call to action, responding to real threats to her safety, family, way of life and the peace of the community in which she lives, disrupting the comfort of Sara's Ordinary World and presenting the challenge of a lifetime, to overcome her fears and personal demons, to heroically rise from the ashes of defeat, to become more fully human able to experience the joys, the sorrows, and the fullness of life.

 

Scene No. 3: Refusal of the Call
Song No. 3: Who Will Be?

Sara considers answering the call to adventure but she has second thoughts and even deep personal doubts as to whether or not she is up to the challenge. The problems she faces seem too much to handle and the comfort of home far more attractive than the perilous road ahead. She is deeply concerned about being alone on her perilous inner journey as she expresses in Song No. 2, I need a teacher to guide me!”

Scene No. 4: Meeting The Mentor
Song No. 4: Trust Me

At this crucial turning point where Sara desperately needs guidance, she meets Joseph, a mentor figure who helps her build self-confidence, gain insight into the dilemma she faces, offers wise advice and even practical training all of which serves to dispel Sara’s doubts and fears and gives her the strength and courage to begin her quest. Sara is, at first, doubtful but Joseph, in Song No. 4, persuades her, “Trust me, you can trust me.”

 

ACT II: DESCENT

Scene No. 5: Crossing the Threshold
Song No. 5: Crossing Over

Sara is now ready to act upon her call to adventure and truly begin her quest as she finally crosses the threshold between the known world and a special world full of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight as expressed in Song No. 5, “Crossing over to a new world; crossing over to the light.” With this action Sara commences her journey although still quite anxious about whatever it may have in store for her.

Scene No.6: Tests, Allies & Enemies
Song No. 6: The Boogieman’s Boogie

Now finally out of her comfort zone, Sara is confronted by The Boogieman and a chorus of bugaboos, beasts; specters, spooks; hobgoblins, gremlins, and assorted monsters who present Sara with an ever more difficult series of challenges that test her in a variety of ways.  She gains allies and meets enemies who will, each in their own way, help prepare her for a greater ordeal yet to come as expressed in Song No. 6: “Boogie down the road to perdition!” This is the stage where Sara’s skills and powers are tested and every obstacle that she faces helps us gain a deeper insight into her character

Scene No. 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave
Song No. 7: Carry On

The inmost cave represents many things in Sara’ experience, actual real-world situations of terrible danger and, more significantly, inner conflicts which up until now she has not had to face. As Sara approaches the cave, she may once again face some of the doubts and fears that first surfaced upon his call to adventure. She needs some time to reflect upon her journey and the treacherous road ahead in order to find the courage to continue. She feels the need to do something, but does not know what to do. Joseph responds in Song No. 6: “Carry on with the mission; carry on to the light.”

Scene No. 8: The Ordeal
Song No. 8: Danse Macabre (The Dance of Death)

This is Sara’s supreme ordeal; a deep inner crisis she must face in order to survive, and for the waking world in which she lives to continue to exist. And so, Sara must face her greatest fears, represented by most her terrifying foe, more terrible than all the bugaboos and beasts, specters and spooks, hobgoblins, gremlins, and monsters combined. Sara must draw upon all of her skills and her experiences gathered upon the path to the inmost cave in order to overcome her most difficult challenge, facing her inner-demons, her own personal Boogieman as expressed in Song No. 8: “Be afraid, the Boogieman is real!” It is here, through metaphoric  "death" that Sara can be reborn, experiencing a metaphorical resurrection granting greater power or insight necessary in order to fulfill her destiny or reach her journey's end. This is the climax of the story arch and where everything Sara holds dear is put on the line. If she fails, she will either die or life as she knows it will never be the same again.

Scene No. 9: The Reward
Song No. 9: I’m Alive

After defeating the Boogieman, surviving death and finally overcoming her greatest personal challenge, Sara is ultimately transformed into a new state, emerging from battle as a stronger person and with a reward: greater knowledge and insight that will facilitate her return to the Ordinary World as expressed in Song No. 9: “I’m alive!”

Scene No. 10: The Road Back
Song No. 10: Circles

This stage in the Sara's journey represents a reverse echo of the Call to Adventure in which she had to cross the first threshold. Now Sara must return home with her reward but this time the anticipation of danger is replaced with that of hopeful optimism as expressed in Song No. 10, “Circles, guiding me home again.”
But  Sara’s journey is not yet over.

Scene No. 11: Resurrection
Song No. 11: Like the Phoenix

This is the climax of our story in which Sara must have her final and most dangerous encounter with death, whom she thought she had defeated. The final battle represents something far greater than the Sara's own existence with its outcome having far-reaching consequences to her Ordinary World and the lives of those she left behind. This is he moment when Sara commits to the last stage of her journey and she must choose between her own personal objective and that of a “higher cause,” as expressed in Song No. 11: “I am all the children crying out for justice!”

Scene No. 12: The Return
Song No. 12: Participate Joyfully

This is the final stage of the Sara's journey in which she returns home to her Ordinary World a changed person. She has grown, learned many things, faced many terrible dangers and even death but now looks forward to the start of a new life. Her return brings fresh hope to those she left behind, a new perspective for everyone to consider as expressed in Song No. 12: “Participate joyfully if you want to live your life more happily!” Ultimately Sara will wake from this lucid dream and return to where she started but things will clearly never be the same again.

Structure  descriptions adapted from  this source.

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