The twilight of the academe and the exciting lives of the professors are depicted in this story, originally written for the theater. The tale follows the experiences of a department chair as he attempts to preserve his vision of the good life and his ideal of the ivory tower. However, the chair and his fellow full professors encounter an unseen, technologically empowered menace that threatens the survival of all that they hold dear.
The show begins as a narrator walks onto a dimly lit stage and emerges into the spotlight. Then he turns on a projector to display an ornate café with vintage wooden features and two stories of full bookshelves on the walls. The architecture is classic with dark accents, green paint shines through on the exposed walls between the art and the bookshelves, and the centerpiece, a tiny vintage whiskey bar style barista station, is nestled in one of the corners. Meanwhile, the following slides portray the cafe full of people reading newspapers and books as well as people writing in their leather-bound journals. Then a slide reveals the narrator siting in the other corner, putting the finishing touches on his dissertation with a portable typewriter. While watching himself, he talks a little bit about what he loved about graduate school and the ideal of the ivory tower. “Those were the good old days”, he muses.
The narrator: “The uninhibited pursuit of truth and beauty. Membership within a passionate community in which we do not always agree, but in which there is an etiquette with regard to debate… An order of rank and the constant striving for excellence, not just publications… [pause] [then he mutters to himself] publications, so many meaningless articles dripping with academic excess. [now more lucid, looking up again] Yea… those were the good old days, but everything changes, you know…“
He shows a slide of the café’s new location, a space across the street without the ornate historical feel, with plain walls, some clunky bookshelves, and art that attempts to evoke the feel of what the place used to be. He also shows the apartment complex they built where the old location had been.
The narrator: “Yea, everything changes, but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘progress’. Sure, I got tenure; I wrote a book, but it wasn’t ‘The Book’, you know. It was just a book, some book I had to write to survive. Not even I want to read it twenty years later. Hell, I didn’t want to write the damn thing. I got into this game to write something groundbreaking, mind shattering, eternal. I created some fancy toilet paper. [Pause.] I got to live in the tower of my dreams though, at least for a while. (Pause.) Yea… those were the good old days, but everything changes, you know…”
He shows another slide of the café’s new new location. The new location is rather sterile. There are no books, but there is still some stock art.
The narrator: “Yea, welcome to the nondescript anycafé.”
The projector is turned off suddenly and the voice of the narrator echoes in the darkness as the scene transitions.
The narrator: “I’m going to tell you a story, [pause] a story that will make your pen run dry, bring typewriters back from their dusty shelves, and ensure that the ivory tower continues to stand… [pause] resolute, a font of knowledge, a guiding light, and a sanctuary.”
Copyright: Thomas Christopher Elliott, 2021
This is a very nascent project, though I’m already done with all of the architecture of the plot. It’s a comedy with musical elements. It’s on the backburner though and I might actually write it for theater. I have been considering writing it as a novel when the time finally comes to write it. However, it’s all contingent on securing support for this and other developing projects. I actually started writing it in 2019; it’s been laying in wait for a while now, growing along with several other works within my handwritten Moleskines.