The Patria Design Project


Jerrard and Diana Smith

Home The Prologue: Princess of the Stars Patria 4: The Black Theatre of Hermes Trismegistos Patria 8: The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix
  Patria 1: Wolfman (originally The Characteristics Man) Patria 5: The Crown of Ariadne Patria 9: The Enchanted Forest
  Patria 2: Requiems for the Party Girl Patria 6: RA Patria 10 : The Spirit Garden
  Patria 3: The Greatest Show Patria 7: Asterion Patria Epilogue: And Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon


As an introduction for those not familiar with Patria, the following descriptions of the individual works are intended to give the reader an overview. Eventually, by following the indicated links, threads that lead to related aspects of each topic may be followed at will. Much of this text (shown in italics) is taken directly from Schafer's excellent book Patria and the Theatre of Confluence. (Published by Arcana Editions, Indian River, Ontario, Canada K0L 2B0) A revised version, Patria: The Complete Cycle was recently published by Coach house Books.

"My idea was that two principal characters, a man and a woman, would engage in a search for one another through a labyrinth of different cultures and social twistings almost as if they represented the split halves of the same being...They might return with various guises and different names but the quest for unity and the homeland they were seeking would always be the same."


The Princess of the Stars: The Prologue

"Without man the world was born and without him it will end"

the presenter The setting is a small, remote lake just before dawn. Singers and musicians have been positioned around the lake's perimeter. The audience arrives in darkness and is led to a cleared space at the water's edge. A haunting aria floats across the water as a dim light is seen approaching from the far side of the lake. Mingling with the sounds of awakening birds and other wildlife, and the murmuring of the forest, we hear a chant and as the light draws nearer we begin to discern a figure, in a canoe, dressed as a creature of the woods. This is the Presenter, who is our interpreter.

He relates a legend of the Princess of the Stars who, listening from the heavens, hears the cry of Wolf and falls to Earth. How Wolf, frightened, wounds her. How she is captured by the 3-Horned Enemy and taken to the bottom of the lake. With the help of the Dawn Birds, Wolf begins his search for the Princess, a search that will take the two through many lives and places. The Wolf, the Three-Horned Enemy and the Sun are represented by giant puppet structures built onto large canoes. The Dawn Birds are winged dancers, also in canoes.

The Princess of the Stars was originally presented on a small lake outside Toronto in 1981 by New Music Concerts, then remounted in 1985 for the Banff School of Fine Arts summer festival on a remote lake in Banff National Park. Over 5000 people made the pre-dawn trek to see the Banff spectacle during the three mornings it was presented. Patria Music/Theatre Projects (the organization that is set up to produce the Patria works) remounted Princess of the Stars in September,1997 in the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve.

[Banff 1985 - bp nichol as the Presenter. Photo by Jerrard]

Patria 1: Wolfman (originally The Characteristics Man)

"Right from the beginning it was weird"

The character of Wolf appears now as an alienated immigrant (D.P.) arriving in a new country understanding neither the language nor the social customs. The story unfolds in a series of tragic/comic episodes as D.P., unable to adapt, disintegrates to the point of mental collapse and suicide. The characters and situations are absurd and unsettling, reflecting the protagonist's feelings of alienation. This work and the companion piece, Patria 2: Requiems for the Party Girl, were presented in relatively conventional environments and circumstances which somehow gave rise to situations that were absurd and unsettling for us.

Co-Produced in 1987 by the Canadian Opera Company and The Shaw Festival.

[Toronto 1987 - D.P. Costume drawing by Diana Smith]

Patria 2: Requiems for the Party Girl

"Ariadne...from time to time we practice witchcraft"

The companion piece to Wolfman, Requiems for the Party Girl chronicles the journey of the Princess of the Stars in her earthly form of Ariadne through a modern world of alienation and madness. In this chapter, Ariadne is presented as a mental patient intent on suicide, with her sense of alienation being reinforced by a pre-recorded tape comprised of the lines of the text echoed in a variety of languages. The orchestra is part of the action and as such were costumed as the inmates of the asylum.

"In Patria 2, we encounter the aberrational time of dreams or of the mental patient's mind; at times it stands still like dough in a bowl; at other times everything erupts and history is made in milliseconds. I wanted to create a work like a dream, no up or down, before or after, beginning or end, but only flow, musical flow, the flow of noises, of voices, near, distant, unintelligible."

Originally produced by Stratford Festival, Ontario in 1972. Remounted by Autumn Leaf Performance at the DuMaurier Theatre Centre in Toronto in 1993.

[Toronto 1993 - Shock Therapy Machine. Drawing by Jerrard]

Patria 3: The Greatest Show

"Step right up"

The Greatest Show provides a vehicle whereby the elements in Patria 1 & 2 are broken apart, pulverized, ready to be reconstructed in the next work, Patria 4. The setting for this deconstruction is a small town fair or carnival with one hundred acts. The Hero (Wolfie, D.P., Kafka) and Heroine (Ariadne) are brought on to the main stage, the Odditorium, at the beginning whereupon the Black and White Magicians make the Hero disappear and cut the Heroine into pieces.

For the balance of the performance the audience is free to wander the grounds at will, much like at a traditional fair. There are games and hucksters, strolling entertainers and booths of all sorts. There are tents with displays and three large tent theatres with small performances, tickets to which may only be obtained by winning a game or providing the correct answer to a question. The audience becomes aware that everything they encounter points to the eventual reunion of the Hero and Heroine.

Presented as a workshop production in 1987 and as a full production the following year by Patria Music/Theatre Projects and the Peterborough Festival of the Arts, in Peterborough, Ontario.

[Peterborough 1988 - Philip Drube as Wolfie. Photo and drawings by Jerrard]
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Patria 4: The Black Theatre of Hermes Trismegistos

"That which is above is like that which is below and that which is below is like that which is above" (from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistos)

The subject of this work is the Chymical marriage of the elements and the resulting creation of The Divine Child. The writings of the medieval alchemists provide a framework for a journey that has more to do with the attainment of spiritual perfection than the practical matters of science. Originally conceived for production in an abandoned mine, the search for suitable sites was a journey in itself. The initial production was performed in an abandoned winter circus building in the heart of Liège, Belgium - appropriately enough an ancient mining city. A subsequent production, this time entitled The Alchemical Theatre of Hermes Trismegistos was mounted in Toronto, Canada in the cavernous Main Hall of Union Station, after the last train. All performances began at midnight.

First produced by the Festival de Liège, Belgium in 1989 and remounted in 1992 by Autumn Leaf performance.

[Toronto 1992 - Theodore Gentry as Hermes. Photo by André Leduc]

Patria 5: The Crown of Ariadne

"There comes a time when everything must be told simply"

Intended for production on an ocean beach, this piece takes us to ancient Crete and the Palace of Minos. The setting would include a glittering metal palace incorporating an instrumentarium or giant sound sculpture. There would be a large open space for dance, as the piece is conceived as a dance/drama. And of course a labyrinth. It is the tale of Theseus and Ariadne, the labyrinth and the Minotaur, peopled with masked archetypes and set in a richly symbolic environment.

"The dancing floor could be raked up to the palace so that the open spaces of various depths and configurations beneath would also serve as resonators for the dancers' footsteps, or at any rate for objects forcefully struck on the surface, each area resonating differently according to the depth and size of the cavity beneath it... ...I have given the male chorus poles to strike on the floor with the intention of utilizing this feature, and various dancers could also have poles, for instance in the Dance of the Double Axe. For this idea to be truly effective the labyrinth would have to be constructed along 'musical' lines. Each chamber or tunnel would have its distinct Eigenton and the various zones of the stage above could be played almost like a giant marimba."

The only production to date has been a concert version with orchestra, chorus, actors and projected slides of conceptual drawings.

[Left: Elder with voice-altering mask and sound sculpture costume - Concept sketch by Diana Smith.
Right: Pasiphae and the Bull - Concept sketch by Jerrard]


Patria 6: RA

You are not permitted to look directly at Ra, but you may touch the sun with your face

Following the journey of the sun god of ancient Egypt from his death in the evening, through the underworld of night to be reborn in the morning, this all-night opera/theatre experience takes place in real time. The audience members become initiate priests of the god RA, to the extent that each one is given a robe, headdress and an amulet with one of the seventy-five names of the sun god. They are taught to recognize scents associated with the various gods they will encounter. They learn chants to help overcome the great serpent Apophis. The journey of RA is their journey and they too are reborn with the dawn.

"Finding venues for Patria works is never easy and finding a site for RA was especially difficult, since the action was to be itinerant and called for twenty-five to thirty locales, both indoors and outdoors"

In taking a work out of the controlled environment of an equipped theatre, we always have to make compromises. The site must transform to meet the demands of the work and the work itself often goes through an adjustment to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the physical attributes of the site. RA more than any of the Patria works has been shaped by the nature of the locations in which it was performed. Each time we are fortunate enough to be able to mount a Patria spectacle, we get a little closer to achieving an ideal marriage of site and concept, one which can produce a profound transformation in both the audience and in the creative artists.

Produced by Comus Music Theatre in and around The Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, Canada in 1983 and in various locations in Leiden, Holland as part of the Holland Festival in 1985.

[RA - Ontario Science Centre, Toronto 1983, Donald Carr as RA - photo by Shin Sugino]
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Patria 7: Asterionmaze icon

What lies beyond is full of marvels an unrealities, a land of poets and fabulists, of doubts and uncertainties. Plutarch, Life of Theseus

Under construction [more]

Patria 8: The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix

The Palace of the Cinnabar PhoenixThe setting is the great T'ang dynasty of China (A.D. 618--907). While the presentation makes many historical references and includes many authentic Chinese elements, the story and the treatment are original.

The Cinnabar Phoenix is a mythical bird, sent by the gods to live in a palace on earth as a symbol of harmony and peace. The Warring States, however, fought to capture the Phoenix, but it vanished together with the palace to be replaced by a Lake of Dragons. Each year the emperor Wei Lu comes to the site to mourn the loss of the palace and the sacred bird. Alchemical experiments are performed with the hope of recovering the ancient era of harmony; but it is not until a Blue Man arrives from an unknown country with a gift that the chemistry works and the Palace and the Cinnabar Phoenix are restored.

The work is performed on and around a small lake with lifesize puppets and takes place at sunset and after dark on a summer evening. [more]


Patria 9: The Enchanted Forest

eath motherThe audience arrives at sunset at the edge of a forest to be met by a group of children, lamenting the loss of their companion Ariane, who has been carried away into the forest by Marsh Hawk. Earth Mother asks the Flower Spirits to assist the children in finding her. Their quest leads them (and the audience) deep into the darkening forest where they discover Murdeth the Wizard, who intends to use Ariane to lure Fenris the Wolf into a trap. Fenris protects the forest, but Murdeth wants to have it cut down and sold for lumber.

With the help of some fairy spirits the children manage to foil Murdeth's plan, but in the course of the action, Ariane is transformed into a Birch Tree. Earth Mother explains that their soul-mate must remain in the forest as a protection against trees being needlessly destroyed, and that with her branches she will also shelter the animals from danger.

In The Enchanted Forest children lead adults back through the strange and miraculous world of their own childhood.

[Earth Mother costume design Diana Smith]

Patria 10 : The Spirit Garden

springThe Spirit Garden celebrates the cycle of planting and harvesting - birth, maturing, death and rebirth. The work takes the form of the ritual planting of a real garden by the audience and consists of two parts: Spring and Harvest.

The garden is prepared by the Gardeners long before the date of the performance. When the audience arrives for the Spring section, they are divided into seed groups and are given their instructions on what they will be expected to do. The seed groups process into the garden where, after a final preparation of the soil, they will plant their seeds amid ritual dances and singing.

Throughout the summer the Gardeners attend the garden and harvest it in the fall. The Harvest section of the Spirit Garden takes place near or on Hallowe'en All Souls Night and consists of a ritual burning of the remains of the garden before passing it over to Winter, who arrives with his Four Winds to take possession of it until next spring. The audience then proceeds indoors and the Spirit Garden closes with a ritual banquet at which the produce of the garden is consumed.

[images from the 2001production at the St. Norbert Art Centre, Winnipeg

above: Spring, below: Harvest]


Patria Epilogue: And Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon

Performed annually in August at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve in Ontario, the Patria Epilogue unites many of the themes that have recurred throughout the cycle, culminating with the return of the Princess to the stars and Wolf being awarded the moon by Sun Father. The work, which takes the form of an elaborate ritual performance in wilderness forest, lasts for eight days. The same participants return each year to camp in eight clans at four campsites. The work is self-perpetuating and self-financed by the members, who pledge to return each year. Further information can be obtained from:
R. Murray Schafer
Indian River
Ontario K0L 2BO Canada


This site will be expanded as resources allow. We wish to thank the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for their generous support. We would appreciate any comments and will reply to your email.

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Last revision: May 2006[ ]