The curtains rise! Theatre opening in Magincia

Genn Wintord

UP: Pacific

    In Interview with Ben Kahns, Manager of the Great Horns Tavern

    It was with great excitement that I returned to Magincia with instructions to interview the well known chef and barkeep, Ben Kahns. Word had come through the grapevine that his plan for the tavern renovations were to put a theatre upon the 2nd floor!

    The theatre was nearing completion when I arrived mid-morning, I could see numerous workmen on the roof, chipping stone to complete the roof, under the direction of a handsome muscled workman in a floppy hat, to shield his head and eyes from the hot tropical sun. Nearby I could also see Miss Christina Tyler, the famed architect contracted by Ben to draw up the plans for the renovations, studying the plans and directing the workmen in a clipped direct manner.

    Inside Ben was also at work, polishing the glasses and bar counter, straightening a bench or stool, or waving his cleaning rag in the air in a haphazard faction to try and clear the sawdust out of the air, with little success. His slight frown disappeared into a dazzling smile when he saw me, and he quickly relaxed for the interview.

    “So... I suppose the first question is, why a theatre?” I started, my quill sharpened and the inkwell full and ready.

The new Galleus Theatre in Magincia

    “Ah, well, the idea came to me during the initial drafts of the renovations. They were marvelous designs, one and all, but something was always missing... In addition, Miss Tyler was quite insistent that I keep my ideas “to the ground” in her own words... My first design had three floors, which she had to shoot down!” Ben replied, laughing a bit. “Apparently the ground here wouldn’t be able to support the weight, that the whole thing could sink into the ground in a matter of years. And also, she felt the air would be quite stifling in such a large structure.”



    “Also” he added. “As I went through design after design, it became apparent to me that all I was doing was trying to build a second tavern on top of the old one. All I would be doing would be replacing the old tavern, nothing new at all. And I’m busy enough as is, I don’t need a second tavern to worry about!”

    “So then inspiration hit me...” he continued, spreading his hands out in an expansive manner. “A theatre! Dedicated to the arts, supplying entertainment to the tavern patrons, and bringing a touch of culture to the island. What better idea could there be?”

    “Do you have any background in the theatre?” I inquired.

    “Ah, well...” Ben stammered, blushing a bit. “I did spend a year or so with the NuJel’m Theatre Troupe, after my apprenticeship to Gaehn the Alchemist had ended. It was mostly backstage work, the loose end jobs, but I worked up to a few minor parts, some even with lines. I even was even on stage during the second act of Robere when we were in Britain on tour.”

    I smiled, putting him at ease, he seemed a bit sensitive. “Speaking of which, I heard that Lord British visited not so long ago...” I broached, changing the subject.

    “Aye, that he did!” Ben exclaimed, looking relieved and happy. “It was quite a thrill, I can tell you. At first I thought it was one of my customers playing a game on me, dressing up like the King... I was quite... shocked, to say the least once I discovered the truth!”

    “You know the King is quite a fan of theatre... do you expect him to visit?” I continued.

    “Well, that would be a quite an honor, if it happened, but I know our Lord’s schedule is quite full. I would be honored, though, if he did, or even the Lord Blackthorn. Perhaps even Chuckles or Heckles will choose to stop in!” Ben spoke with a casual smile, arms crossed, yet his eyes suggesting he would believe it when it happened.

    “So have you hired any permanent people yet for the theatre?” I queried, pausing briefly to clean the nib on my quill, before dipping it once more.

    “Only one, so far, I’ve yet to expand my advertisements out everywhere that they can be seen. Although I suppose this interview counts...” he grinned. “I needed a Theatre Cryer, to tell people what plays were being performed, when, and so forth. So I hired Kliftin out there.” Ben pointed outside, where a young man sat on the rood his back against the iron fence surrounding the stairs leading to the second floor. He was handsome, but his brooding disgruntled expression left much to be desired.

    “Kliftin’s an actor from Britain. Ill fortune lead him to the streets of Magincia without coin to get home.” Ben explained. “Magincian labor laws are quite strict... vagrants must gain employment or be deported to NuJel’m...” his voice ran low... “I offered him a way to earn the money he needs to return to Britain. He’s not exactly happy with the job, but at least it keeps him out of the slums of the Sultan.”

    I nodded, reading much in what Ben did not say.

    “And other personnel? Will you be seeking outside talent?” I quickly said to ease the tension.

    “Aye, yes, I seek any and all of creative and artistic temperament to work or contribute. I think that a haven for such has not existed up to now, and I see it as my duty to create one, as such. I don’t expect it overnight, of course, but everything has a place, and has its needs.” Ben explained, relaxing again. “It will take time and effort, but I think it can happen.”

    “Do you think such a venture will be profitable, though? Economically sound?” I asked, quickly sharpening my nib with a small knife.

    “Oh yes, Lord Hobart would never have given me the authorization otherwise!” Ben exclaimed, nodding his head and smiling. Lord Hobart, for those readers who are not aware, is the actual owner of the tavern itself, a powerful and influential Lord in Magincia who sits upon the Nine, the Parliament of Magincia. “He... er, his servant who speaks for him that is, expressed the highest confidence in me. I think he himself may have even nodded.”

    I frowned, deciding not to bring up Magincian social protocol. “So you do plan to charge for admission, then?”

    “Oh, of course, I couldn’t ask anyone to work for free! There will be twenty-one seats total that have optimal viewing area, those will go for about one hundred to two hundred and fifty gold crowns, thereabouts, depending upon the popularity of the play. There is more space than that, of course, and I would sell lesser seating on the outskirts for cheaper prices, if someone truly wishes to see it.” Ben detailed. “This is all conjecture, of course.” He added.

    “Have you decided what the first play will be?” I asked, slightly eager despite myself.

    “Ah, no that has not been decided yet. I have a few writers working on scripts, though I have yet to read any. I want to make sure the first play is an appropriate and entertaining piece, and not too complex. No need to fill the cooking pot to the brim, as it were.” He explained, grinning.

    “When will the Grand Opening of the Theatre be, then? At the conclusion of construction?” I continued.

    “Oh no, I don’t want to rush things. You know, too many tend to take a great thing and rush it to completion, leading to mistakes and problems later. I don’t want the first audience or two to feel cheated.” He explained. I nodded, a prudent decision indeed!

    “Have you decided what to call it yet?” I queried, my final question for the evening.

    Ben smiled. “Aye, I think I shall call it the Galleus. After my father.” His smile changed, his face suddenly somber. “I think he would have been proud of it.”

    “But, it’s not necessarily the name.” He quickly added, his smile returning, the sadness vanishing. “If someone brought me something that just could not be better suited, I will of course change my mind. So that challenge remains.” He finished, smiling again.

    I returned the smile, carefully laying my final parchment out to dry. Standing up, I gave my thanks and best wishes to the handsome bartender for his time.

    “It was my pleasure, I assure you!” Ben exclaimed, smiling. “And I promise you a good seat at the Grand Opening!”

    All I can say is, I hope the wait is not too long, and to see everyone there!


From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Friday, March 12th 1999