Awed Behavior

Awed Behavior is a 1993 Ensemble opera theater production inspired by the lives and works of Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Drawing from Mary Shelley's masterpiece Frankenstein, AWED BEHAVIOR, transforms the early 19th century European locale into a free-ranging modern landscape of arctic ice flows, deserts and a seascape in a hurricane. AWED BEHAVIOR features two lovers. a poet and a novelist reminiscent of the Shelleys, as they explore their individual creative processes as well as personal interactions that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. In their struggles with intimacy and the loss of individuality, each character envisions fantasies and nightmares of the other, blurring the fact and fiction of they mythic relations into monster of their own creation, AWED BEHAVIOR is written and directed by Rinde Eckert, with music composed by artistic director Paul Dresher, and features singer/actors Amanda Moody and Spence Stephens Jr., Phil Aaberg on keyboard, set and lighting design by Alexander Nichols, and costumes designer by Sandra Woodall.

1993 Production Credits

Written and Directed by

Music Composed by

Set and Lighting Design by

Produced by
ROBIN KIRCK and The Paul Dresher Ensemble

Costume Design by

Performed by

GENE REFFKIN - Percussion
PAUL HANSON - Woodwinds
PAUL DRESHER - guitar, electronics

MELISSA WEAVER : Production Director
WENDY ROGERS: Choreographic Consultant
JUSTIN HERSH: Technical Director
DAVID MC CULLOUGH : Assistant Technical Director
DELPHI: Technical Services and Design Consultant

The production traveled with four musicians, two singers, a sound designer and three technicians. It premiered in San Francisco in March 1993 and toured to Iowa City, Champagne-Urbana, Chicago, Burlington Vermont, Boston, Dartmouth College and UCLA in Los Angeles.

Author’s Program Note

They go from the end of winter to the beginning

And all the while the sea is right beside them

He says: nature stutters…I mean…all this practicing at form …repeating the same gestures over and over...the same patterns over and over...even the apparent chaos of cracking ice, say…I mean...laws are at work...physical repeating the same movements...for rhythm...practicing...just to get the body right...millions of years of practice...just to perfect the body....much less the mind...and then there's love is a completely new development

She says: I like to establish the parameters before I start the actual writing. I proceed from a notion or order of literature (say romance)

I will then narrow the scope of my investigation in order to develop a concept. I usually put this in the form of a "what if" question. For instance: What if a man's conceptual faculties become too sophisticated and outstrip his expressive capacities. I mean…in his mind he can imagine skating but there is no word in his language for ice. This , of course, is a crude example.

They meet at the masquerade ball

They dance

They leave together

Island paradise,

world without shadows or perversity,

world of pure sex and aromatic flowers,

hands bearing only pleasure,

doors opening to admit only welcome guests,

and every wind an aerial prosperity,

all tempests but an illusion

Their sleep is less than perfect

She feels its time to write her novel

Story line: In their unsettled sleep they make strange dreams of each other. He is pictured growing monstrous. She is poised under the moon.

She imagines him: Mouth like a tear in a gray sail,

arms thick as anchor chains....

but the mind is noble, supple...God....but the mind

He imagines her: picture her graceful, maternal, amusing, and shy

picture her full of surprise

see her with the sun in her eyes

swatting flies over blue-berrypies

or telling jokes

or telling lies

Jane has a nightmare

Arlyss has a burning question:

if I could find the right the Buddha ...but I got the soul of a's genetic...this desire to have…to use your have to build, and destroy

The distance widens between them

They drift apart

He says: "We are like two people in a small boat; one of us is looking at the moon, one of us is looking at the reflection of the moon."

She says: "I see you growing paler by the minute, while I'm getting rosier with age. Clearly, we can't go on like this and we can't go back."

He goes off sailing

She buries herself in her work.

She finishes the book

The moon rises on the new year

the first snow falls


Opera/New Music Theater