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Conferences

Sue Dawe Taught Lee Speth Real Estate

by Berni Phillips

Mythcon XXIX, the C. S. Lewis Centenary Celebration, came early this year, allowing us visitors from the non-mosquito regions of the country to enjoy the Midwest in what surely must have been the height of mosquito season. As it was also the height of firefly/lightning bug season, it seemed a fair trade off. What’s a little blood lost compared with the joy of seeing these other creatures which must surely have wandered in from a British fantasy?

Wednesday night’s reception featured very tiny dancers from the World Academy of Irish Dance. No, not hobbits or elves, but children, some of them quite young. They were adorable, particularly the younger ones, prancing about in their Celtic charm. After watching them, one could snuggle up with a bedtime story told by Mary and Conrad Stolzenbach, or attend the party hosted by our own somewhat taller elves, the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship.

Opening Ceremonies were interrupted by none other than Queen Jadis, demanding to know what was going on and why she was not consulted. Chair Diana Glyer managed to smooth the irritable queen’s ruffled feathers, although Dr. Glyer swore she heard someone behind her mutter, “Dem fine woman!”

Thursday was Lewis Carroll day, commemorating the hundred year anniversary of his death, and to mark this, there was a subset of programming concerning his works. I was able to participate in this, performing some of Carroll’s familiar poems set to music by Liza Lehmann. This was quite an adventure. I had faxed the music to Alene Campbell a month or so prior to the conference, but we had never met in person and had no chance to work on the music together until the day before we were to perform. And I threw in one more song on that day. We had great fun working together. The most challenging part turned out to be finding a position for the piano that was in the right general area on stage with enough light that she could see and where the overhead vent did not blow the music off. By the end of the second rehearsal, we were ready to go in to business as piano movers. The evening performance was great fun, and if any of you thought you heard any mistakes — we MEANT to do that!

Probably the highlight of the conference was Anthony Lawton’s one-man show of Lewis’s The Great Divorce. He was very faithful to the text, cutting out chunks just to fit within our time strictures. I think all of us were pleased to find what a wonderful actor he is. This was worth the time and money spent getting to Wheaton, even if nothing else had been scheduled.

Mythcon regulars suffering from insomnia are probably aware of bizarre antics which sometimes occur late at night. They may have heard the word “golfimbul” bandied about. To me, one of the most shocking events of this Mythcon was not the scheduling of golfimbul, but the scheduling of the second session at 6 p.m. This was very unsettling. We were trying to figure out what that bright yellow thing overhead was. Oh, yeah, the sun. We’ve never seen that during golfimbul before. Still wondering what golfimbul is? Let’s just say it involves a doll’s head, athletic ability (or display of a lack of) and Gary Hunnewell.

The masquerade started 40 minutes late but was well worth waiting for. Sylvia Hunnewell had done a terrific thing, working with the kids on costumes representing their favorite Narnian characters. Claire Lenander was so cute as Reepicheep! And Ryan Evans had cleverly devised a centaur costume. Without a doubt, though, the best masquerade entry was Diana Glyer as The Silver Chair. Silver Chair, get it? She’s the conference chair, it’s a book by Lewis — that’s right. She festooned herself with silver garlands and clutched a similarly covered lawn chair. Following the masquerade, Gary Hunnewell asked some of us golfimbul losers to come up and, with kazoos, serenade the winners as they came forward to collect their medals. A special award was given to Emily Rauscher as a Linguist in Training. (The traditional insult in golfimbul is “you throw like a linguist.”) She was SO embarrassed, hiding her face up on stage, but I noticed that she wore it the rest of the night and at the banquet.

Sizzling Egrets (Lynn Maudlin and Ellie Farrell) reviewed the current crop of Lewis films: “The Return of the Devil’s Advocate,” based on The Screwtape Letters, “The Wreck of the Dawn Treader,” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, and my personal favorite, Ed Wood’s “Malacandra Attacks!”

Some times the daytime programming is as amusing as the evening. Following the interview with “Rosie O’Donnell” (Laura Simmons) and “Joy Davidman” (Edith Crowe), it was suggested that next year we hold the trial of Joy Davidman. Accused of being a collaborator with Lewis on Till We Have Faces, she will be put on trial and we will have Joy in the dock. I suggested we call it “A Brief Observed.” On the Dead Inklings, panel, Mike Glyer got off the best line when, in his role as Warnie Lewis, he was asked, “What was the most amazing thing you found in heaven?” and he promptly responded, “Charles Williams.”

The seriousness of the banquet is traditionally offset by the silliness of the food sculpture. With the return of Sue Dawe, accoutered as Fairy Hardcastle, to the environs of Mythcon, we had our Food Sculpture Foundress to prepare a lovely scenic panorama of Perelandra, complete with floating islands and a Green Lady, Ransom, and Unman. Our table offered up “A Question of Time/Thyme,” “Halve His Carcass,” and “A Beef Observed.”

Instead of hosting a book discussion, Khazad-dûm opted to launch the First Annual Book Toss. Prompted by our endless discussions of how we would love to toss certain books against the wall, we decided to turn our dreams into reality at the conference. Books tossed included a sample doorstop from Robert Jordan’s never-ending epic, A. N. Wilson’s biography of Lewis (“This thud’s for you!” declared Mary Stolzenbach), two of the three books in Lewis’s space trilogy, a novel by Sheri Tepper, and the Brust and Bull collaboration, Freedom & Necessity. Thud.

The Not Ready for Mythcon Players this year presented “Jose Chung’s ‘From Deep Heaven’,” Scully and Mulder investigating the N.I.C.E. Eric Rauscher was a suitably unintelligible Merlin. Arden Smith made a divine Fisher King. And the Head was played by the golfimbul head. To quote “Scully,” “Let the English set up their own X-Files!”

Later that night, the ever enterprising Sue Dawe and her sardonic sidekick, Lee Speth, painstakingly taped together I-don’t-know-how-many paper napkins to form a large banner. With an artistically lettered SOLD emblazoned upon it, they draped it the next morning over the sign for Wheaton College. And this is how Sue Dawe taught Lee Speth real estate.

Reprinted from the September 1998 issue (35:9) of Mythprint.