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32-xx-xx Casting the Pageant "Shining Waters Flowing to the Sea"


Vic is full of oats and informs Rush that he is going to be in a pageant at Mrs. Driscoll's house.  Mrs. Driscoll is rich and is in high society.  The pageant  is called, "Shining Waters Flowing to the Sea."  Vic's part is to be the 'Voice of the Congo.'

Vic must call and cancel an appointment with the junk man, who was scheduled to come over and remove some rubbish.

Sade comes home and wants Vic to meet Elton Wheeney, a man who will be teaching chemistry at the high school.  Wheeney, who is the brother of Mis' Call, needs a place to stay for a while and Sade wants to board him as a roomer at the Gook house.

Vic wants no part of a roomer, saying several times that they are always 'under foot.'

Vic brags to Sade about being invited to be in the play at the Driscoll home.  Then Mrs. Driscoll calls and wants to talk to Rush.  He too has been invited to be in the play; his part will be as 'The Mississippi and it's Tributaries.'

Vic's ego takes another turn when Elton Wheeney calls and says he can't come over and meet Vic for he too has been invited to be a part of the pageant.  His part is to be the 'Breath of the Euphrates.'

But it gets even worse for Vic's ego as before Vic can call the junk man, the junk man calls him and backs out of his appointment; he too is in the pageant.  His part will be the 'Moonlight on the Ganges.'

This meant something special writer Paul Ford (his website, his Twitter.) The Manual has given me permission to reprint this wonderfully written piece:
An old radio show about nothing gained widespread popularity during WWII. Today it offers some relief from the dissonance between everyday life and a broader, broken world.
I’ve been listening to this old radio show called Vic and Sade. It’s a hard show to explain. It ran for fourteen years, 1932–1944. It ran on weekdays in the middle of the soap operas. It was fifteen minutes long. And it had seven million listeners. It was a big part of America and very influential. The people it influenced went on to be influential themselves. Yet not many of the recordings survive. It’s mostly a memory, a footnote.

The show is focused on only a few characters: Vic, an accountant; Sade, a housewife; and their adopted son, Rush. There were other characters later, a wacky uncle and so forth. The man who played Rush went off to fight in WWII, so they replaced him for a while. Every single episode was written by a man named Paul Rhymer.

Nothing happens. Not Seinfeld nothing, but nothing nothing. Someone wants to buy a hat. Or they sit on a porch. No jokes. The characters are only half-listening to each other. They repeat themselves. It’s a signature of the show that the characters repeat themselves.

During the whole run, America is basically in hell. In 1941, British commanders are raiding Bordeaux. The USAF is intercepting Luftwaffe patrols off Algeria. There is a tank battle at night for El Alamein. And on Vic and Sade they get a letter from Aunt Bess or talk about cherry phosphates. All this ephemeral stuff. It’s almost designed to disappear, and most of the recordings are gone, along with a few scripts, like this one:
RUSH: What’s Mrs Driscoll want ya for?
VIC: I have nothing to conceal; I’ll tell ya.
RUSH: [Chuckles] She stuck on ya?
VIC: She didn’t say. However, I’ll disclose what I know of the matter. Mrs Driscoll is putting on a pageant an’ your pop has been asked to take one of the principal parts in it.
RUSH: You’re gonna be in a play, huh?
VIC: Right. Tonight promptly at seven I appear at the Driscoll mansion for the first rehearsal.
RUSH: Whatcha gonna be in the play?
VIC: The Voice of the Congo.
RUSH: [Chuckles] What?
VIC: There’s nothing humorous about this, Ralph.
RUSH: The Congo is a river.
VIC: Mrs Driscoll is aware of that.
RUSH: She’s gonna give a play about a river, huh?
VIC: A play about many rivers. It’s called Shining Waters Flowing to the Sea. The idea is that the whole world is a network of streams. Somewhere all these streams join one another. That kinda makes us all cousins, see?
VIC: Well, it does. Reflect.
RUSH: Huh?
VIC: Think about it. Ya know the Mackinaw River, don’tcha?
RUSH: Sure.
VIC: Well, the Mackinaw flows into the Illinois; the Illinois flows into the Mississippi; the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico; the Gulf of Mexico also receives the turbid waters of the Snake, the Rio Grande, an’ the White. All these flow into the Pacific Ocean an’ join, through devious routes, the Nile, the Niger, the Amazon, an’ the Elbe. Follow me?
VIC: It matters little. Nevertheless, by means of all these shining ribbons of water, every man on earth is joined by strong bonds to every other man on earth.
What was that? Commentary on world affairs? Small-town satire? Exploration of the meaning of family? All of the above?

Most of what the show does is comment on how people communicate: how they listen or don’t, the way they might nap for a few minutes and rejoin the conversation, the triumph of the neighborhood over the global in terms of news. (Do Nazis want to spy on Canada? Well, the Mayor wants to join Vic’s lodge.) And the characters are self-aware—for example, Vic is the “Exalted Big Dipper of the Drowsy Venus Chapter of the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way,” a position of supposed great importance. He’s also fully aware that his club, the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way, overcharges for everything to the point of scamminess—yet he remains an absolutely loyal member. The characters know their own faults and the faults of each other, and that makes easy jokes impossible; they can see it coming.

Since I started listening to these shows, on no particular schedule—often I pop them up on my phone and fall asleep to them—I’ve noticed how many of my own conversations are like those on the show. The world is going on, parachutes dropping from the sky, and I’m talking with my wife about the trash can, or about whether I should put up new curtains. It’s not that the big world isn’t there. But the dramas of my life are over the smallest things, the things I do control. The color of the paint, the disposition of the children, the condition of the cats. I try to keep up. I do keep up. I read the paper.

When I moved to New York City, I became, suddenly, quite depressed about the world, and I told my father about my condition. “That’s easy,” he said. “You started reading the Times.” Meaning that the world was now at my doorstep, in all of its weird, baffling anger. And I still see it.
As the smaller ways of getting the news have folded, and the larger ones have engorged themselves, I keep feeling more pressure to care, to become engaged or—change that first “g” to an “r”—enraged, about things over which I have absolutely no power. It’s not wrong to be aware of them, to think of ways that you might contribute or alter the flow of human effort. As a writer I have the privilege of getting a small group of people to think about B when otherwise they might have thought of A. None of it means that I stop flowing to the sea, but perhaps one of the hardest lessons of life is that I am a river, not the ocean.
By all accounts, this episode was from 1932, meaning this was one of the first of Paul Rhymer's scripts that have the formula as we know it today.

The script's humor, mainly focusing on Vic's ego getting slowly crushed, was a favorite go-to for Rhymer.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Paul Ford's essay, I think the best way to describe Vic&Sade is that it is like eavesdropping on the conversations of a real family. People who can make amusing remarks, but just not every other line. It was not a sitcom played for laughs to a studio audience. I'm not sure it is accurate to say that it was a show about nothing, since each episode was about a situation, but was only 13 minutes instead of the standard program length of almost 30 minutes.