Playing the Games of Life on a Chessboard
Originally written as a poem (“Upon Peace”) in 1965, as a protest about the ways of the world, I adapted it into a play in 1978, using my son (Derek) as the protagonist. He is the Pawn piece.
Act I: War!
I was walking through an open field in Angus in 1965 and came across an abandoned Chevy truck. It was the start of an idea. Because Chevrolet is part of General Motors, I thought that the truck could be a military man. The name comes from Hogan’s Heroes: Colonel Klink. I changed one letter and now he’s Colonel Klunk. On the chessboard, he represents the Knight. The miscommunication between Klunk and Derek is symbolic of what happens between countries that eventually leads to war.
Act II: Cops and Robbers
Jean Claude Scolder is a Blue Jay who lives and works the streets in Montreal. He is French, naturally, and he is full of criticism about the local and national police forces. Originally, I had intended that he be called J.C. (implying Jesus Christ), but then I realized that it’ll be a ‘cold day in Hell’ before I should do that. That’s how Scolder got his name. It fits.
Sgt. W.W. Watson was named for Whipper Billy Watson, the Canadian wrestler from the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. The bulldog image came to my mind while writing the poem. His bark being worse than his bite is the message that I wanted to share. But being an Anglophile in Quebec would make all his actions completely suspect to the French citizens.
The two characters represent the Rooks.
Act III: I Spy
Not being able to see the forest for the trees seemed appropriate somehow with these two characters. They represent the Bishops, because they never move onto the same space, following either black tiles or white, diagonally.
L.M.N. Tree (Elm, for short) is an old guy who never wanted children. May Paul (Maple) is a elderly woman who has always longed for at least one child. They argue constantly. Remember, I wrote this play when I was only 28, now I’m living the reality of a senior lifestyle. My ear for dialog must have eavesdropped on my present marriage. This never ceases to amaze me. My maternal grandmother’s name was May, but I didn’t know that then. (I gave my daughter, Rosanna, the same middle name.)
Act IV: Riddles
Questra C is the Queen. As a feline creature, she poses an enigma for Derek. Who is she? Who is he? Does life have any meaning? Like the last guardian at the gates of the afterlife, Questra makes sure that Derek has all the answers to life. In my consciousness, Questra is a guardian angel. No matter what Derek wants to understand, she shows him that he already knows, from within himself. She may also have been someone he knew in a prior life.
Act V: King of the Castle
Rev. Regent Roxy is the King, who is about to be checkmated. As you can imagine, this character is based on an individual (unnamed) who moved in with my father, Ruskin, after Mom moved west to Saskatchewan in 1969.
Ultimately, Roxy’s job is to remind Derek that family is important, which he does by passing my poem along to my son. (And in case the symbolism is a bit too obscure, Derek is my stand-in. My father used to write poetry, too, and his father was a minister…)
My thinking is multilayered. I chose the idea of Derek living a dream for one day to symbolize the journey that we each must navigate to achieve our goals in life. Derek always says ‘pardon me’ to these characters when he first meets them and at the end of each encounter he says ‘thank you’. That’s my way of suggesting that we be polite to everyone we meet, and to be especially grateful for the life’s lessons they provide. Derek is now almost 50 years of age. I think he has learned his lessons well.
And, hopefully, so have I. Bless.