As part of this year?s Teaching International focus on the Celtic nations, professor of theatre arts Jay Breckenridge?s Theatre 208 class will present "Merlin in the Middle: Of the King Arthur Legend" at 7:30 p.m. April 25 to 27, in the Fitness and Cultural Center. The working script includes the appearance of a Druid Chorus to take the audience back in time to the sixth and seventh centuries, when the events of Arthur's and Merlin?s story "really" took place.
According to Breckenridge, ?There are very few historical ?facts? in the story of Arthur -- he was more a literary hero than an historical one. Nearly everything in the legend was made up centuries after his mention in Welsh poetry as possibly a battle hero of the Celts in their warfare with invading Saxons in Britain around 600 A.D. The most notable fabricators of the legend, later in the Middle Ages, are Geoffrey of Monmouth, Sir Thomas Malory (whose "Le Morte d?Arthur" is the most famous version) and Chrétien de Troyes. The campus play draws on many subsequent retellings, as well.?
In the Penn State Greater Allegheny version of the legend, the somewhat-more-historical Merlin presides over several conflicts in Arthur's household: Arthur is plotting strategy and trying to unite the Celtic clans for a great battle with the encroaching Saxons at Badon Hill; Guinevere wants Arthur to be declared high king first and is anxious for the arrival of the big Round Table, which is being sent as her dowry by her father; Morgan le Fay (Arthur's evil half-sister) is plotting magically and politically to undermine Arthur; Merlin's attentions to his apprentice wizard (the beautiful young Nimue) are not sitting well with Merlin's wife, Gwendolena; and the braggart soldier Lancelot is bribing Merlin's apprentice bard, Taliesin, to make up songs praising Lancelot's imaginary heroic exploits.
As they converse and contend, Merlin creates magical "flashbacks" to fill in more details, assisted by the Druid Chorus as ?flashback? characters.
The production is free and open to the public.