The Walls are Running Blood

The first production by The Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company (circa 1967-8)

The Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company, which lasted for about three years from about 1967 to 1969, or a bit later (my dates are fuzzy), based in North Berkeley, California, at the height of the 60s Cultural Revolution, was mystical-yearning, sacred theater, done in a highly expressionistic folk style, based on the Zen meditation and Tibetan Buddhist teaching that I was then practicing, but a personalized Buddhism with love of God as its central tenet (and though at the pre-Islamic writing of these plays I occasionally refer to “the gods,” I was always a lyrical and surreal Monotheist, even as a Buddhist).

Over the period of two+ years we performed two elaborate “operas,” The Walls are Running Blood, and Bliss Apocalypse. There was a third play written, Sun Rose, completing the trilogy, a vast vision with multiple cycles and an epic finale, but the neighbors in North Berkeley were done with two summers of honking longhorns and clashing cymbals and incessant and impassioned chanting, and forced us to leave. Our time was also up at Williams College, a magical tract of land hidden away behind trees in a posh North Berkeley neighborhood not far from the amphitheater where we performed), where I lived in a large studio for our rehearsals. We moved to land lent to us (an abandoned Lumber Mill) near Palo Alto, and a few months later, not really intended as a commune, living “on the land,” the Floating Lotus disbanded.

The plays we performed were an expression of our resistance to the ongoing Vietnam War, articulated in as spiritual and all-engulfing way as possible. At each performance, that were almost always at an outdoor amphitheater in the North Berkeley hills, at night, by Coleman lantern footlights and torchlights set in a crescent at the circumference, under the stars, we were attempting to transform all dark and evil energy in the world into peaceful and positive ongoing creative energy, an immodest ambition to be sure, and as much as it was a rebellious outcry against violence and the war, it also offered a remedy: we began and ended each performance with a group meditation, harmonious at the beginning — before the plays began, and after the highly cathartic and climactic performances of the opera we always invited the entire audience to join in a meditation, which they invariably did, sometimes for a half hour in total silence, at the end.

(with a deep bow of thanks to Herbert Jeschke for turning an old tape into a CD, Will Swoffard Cameron, for his lengthy research and treasure-hunt for FL items, bart de paepe, and Belgian artist and producer of sloow tapes, for separating the existing recording of a performance into mp3 segments, used here.)

No-one is named. The characters are direct manifested energy archetypes and appear in the air about them as if taken shape in the air.

CHORUS: six males and females in parachute-cloth white free-flapping robes.
DEMON OF WAR: hair wild, red and gold-faced, a necklace of skulls hanging around his neck as Tibetan apparition.
SAINT-HERO: not conceived as such, but as a force born out of the chorus’ fear and determination to fight the demon.
MAN OF FIRE / WOMAN OF WATER: alchemically representing fire and water, man in red flame-licks, woman in blue and silver water-streams.
SHAMAN: whose robe is weighted with coins, beads, hanging objects, who wears a leather and bone headdress, long stringy black hair, a person burst from the depths, eyes wild with knowledge.
ORCHESTRA: composed of Tibetan long-horns, Chinese oboes, Indonesian gongs and other percussion instruments (hanging from a giant saw horse), various sizes and types of drums, a harmonium, a toy piano, shakuhachi, silver flutes, zithers, violins, saranghi, a cello, erhu, sho, various rattles and bells, etc. 
An exotic mix.
(Note: In fact the opera is one continuous ever-evolving scene, but is here broken up for easier reading and navigating, and to coincide with the MP3 clips. The recording was made outside in the Hinkel Park Amphitheater in Berkeley, around 1968, on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The fidelity is not good, but you can follow along most of it with the text. There are some text omissions in the audio clips.)


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