By Adrianne Wortzel
Hereford World Map: Medieval World Maps and their Context, edited by P. D. A. Harvey (British Library, 2006)
Introduction: Sayonara Diorama was a multiple-site, electronic-media performance production, written and produced by the author, featuring a repertory company of robots and human actors. It also included remote participating performers via the Internet from Finland, Great Britain, Germany, and several locations in the United States, creating a performance that all but spanned the globe.
The seminal story of Sayonara Diorama was a fictive story of the Beagle sequel. Thirty years after the first voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin and Captain Fitzroy set out to sea again on another exploratory voyage. While at sea, they share their intense and opposed positions on organized religion. The resonance of their theological simmer rolls over into a quarrel which triggers a tremendous storm.
Simultaneously, on a yet uncharted island in the same open sea, Fate is forcing its way through a fissure in the earth’s core up to the underbelly of a volcano. Appalled at the lateness of the hour for a visit, the volcano blows its stack. Expelled from the volcano’s throat , Fate rises up from the earth and couches itself like a recalcitrant Buddha on the crest of spewing lava. The crest in turn collides with the fierce gusts of the altercation between Darwin and Fitzroy. Sailors struggle to steer clear of the resulting vortex; but in the end Fate has the upper hand. The Beagle is shipwrecked and all hands disappear.
Captain Fitzroy is dispatched to a well-known island on the charts called Heaven. Darwin is washed ashore on an uncharted island. Indigenous to the island are three manifestations of the monstrous races: Mr Blemye, the man with his face in his chest, Mr Panotti, a man with enormous ears which he wraps around himself for shelter, and Mr Sciapod, whose body ends in one long leg and foot which he can extend over his head as protection from the elements. Also present is Pandora, Leonardo da Vinci as a curious tourist, and the voice of the Questress (the narrator). Marooned, Darwin begins to study the island’s life forms in terms of their evolutionary adaptations. The island’s cast of characters in turn begins to study him in the same light. What ensues is a discussion on who has the best evolutionary adaptations.