Avian Marginalia
John Steven Paul

A liturgical drama performed by student and alumni members of Soul Purpose at the Inauguration of President Mark Alan Heckler as President of Valparaiso University, 17 October 2008.

Written and directed by John Steven Paul, (1951–2009). Professor of Theatre, Valparaiso University; Program Director, Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts.

Cast: Dan Cobbler (Class of 2005), Emily Weller (2009), William Milhans (2011), Sarah Beckerman (2010), Jay Michelson (2009), Briana Hallman (2009).


I  Inauguration

Dan What’s all this?
Emily This is the inauguration.
Sarah So what is an inauguration?
William All this.
Sarah But what does the word mean?
Jay Haven’t got a clue.
Dan (points at Jay as if introducing him.)  Clueless!
William Must mean, something like, first.
Dan The first time President Heckler makes a speech to the faculty and students.
Sarah But it’s not… the first.  That was at the Opening Convocation. So what does inauguration mean?
Emily Let’s take the word apart.
Dan OK, we’re in here for a start.
Jay Where?
Emily The Chapel of the Resurrection.
William Dedicated in 1959.
Sarah [points to William as if introducing him]  The historian.
Dan And, –ation makes a verb into a noun, I remember that from Latin.
William  Another Cicero!
Sarah But what about augur?
Emily I used that in a crossword puzzle yesterday. Augurs, actually.
Sarah What was the clue?
Emily Bodes.
Jay What does bodes mean?
William Later.... sing now.

The assembly sings “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.”


II  Augury

Jay  In-
Emily -augur-
Dan -ation.
Sarah Augur?
Emily Augury.
Briana Augurer.
Jay You mean arguer?
Emily No, augurer.
Dan It’s augur, actually, and here’s the definition from the Oxford English Dictionary.  “A religious official among the Romans, whose duty it was to predict future events and advise upon the course of public business in accordance with omens derived from the flight, singing, and feeding of birds…”
Emily Flight.
William Singing.
Jay Feeding.
Sarah Of birds!
Briana I’m like that.
Jay A bird lover?
Briana A Prophet.
William According to Aeschylus, the circling of twin eagles over Mycenae  inaugurated the Trojan War.
Sarah I remember in high school we read Julius Caesar and he met a soothsayer on the way to the Senate.
William Turned out to be Caesar’s last day, right?
Sarah  The soothsayer warned him not to go out in the Ides of March.
Jay How’d he know?
Briana Augury.  Signs from birds.
Dan So an in-AUGUR-ation is for the birds then?
Jay What’d I tell ya?
Sarah  From the birds, Dr. Dictionary. 

“To inaugurate is to take omens from the flight of birds, to consecrate or install after taking such omens and auguries.”
William  Like when Noah sent a bird out to find dry land.  A raven, I think.
Briana And the bird came back wet!
Sarah But then Noah sent out a dove.
Emily And the dove came back with an olive branch in its beak.
Jay And then Noah knew it was everybody out.  Finally. Time to start up the world again.
Dan I wonder what the birds would tell  us today.
Jay So, Briana…, You’re a prophet! What will happen next?
Briana More singing.
William [he sees it] And the entrance of a cross.

University choirs sing an arrangement of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” as the procession begins.


III  Procession

Dan In-
Emily -augur-
William -ation.
Briana  Augur.
Sarah  to take omens from the flight of birds,
Emily  Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
Dan Nice.  Yours?
Emily Emily Dickinson’s.
Sarah Here come the professors. 
Jay Their scarves make them look like birds.
William Walking birds.

The faculty process into the Chapel for the inauguration of Valparaiso University's eighteenth president.

Dan Those “scarves” are called “hoods.”
William Each color for a different major.
Dan They’re called “disciplines.”
Jay [Points to him as if to introduce him] The Expert!
Emily Look, there’s a cardinal.
Dan A purple finch.
Sarah  A goldfinch.
William   A mourning dove.
Briana An oriole.
Jay Lots and lots of red-winged blackbirds.
Emily All those black gowns.
Dan Lots of doctorates!
Sarah Why so many blue birds?
Sarah Lots of Doctors of Philosophy.
William An egret.
Jay A woodpecker.
Emily  A hoopoe.
Dan A flamingo.
Sarah A swallow.
Briana A hawk.
William An owl.
Emily So much wisdom.
Jay A parrot.
Dan  So many colors.
William A robin.
Emily So much hope.
Sarah A peacock.
Briana  So much plumage.
Emily Soaring birds.
Sarah These birds will help us soar.
Dan These birds augur well.
William Good signs. For soaring. Indeed.

The procession continues.


IV  Witnesses

Dan In-
Sarah -augur-
William -ation.
Briana Augur.
Jay Augurs.
Emily Augury.
Briana A good day for soaring say the signs.
Sarah Soaring? Where?
Emily To the clouds.
William To the cloud.  The great cloud of witnesses.
Jay Hey wait! I’m not ready for that yet.
Sarah I’m glad to be here. As a witness. 
William Under that cloud.  In this place.
Dan Under these witnesses. 
Emily And with these witnesses;  these bird witnesses.
William And there are others.  Hundreds.
Briana Thousands.  Not just here.  Outside.  Along the “live stream.”
Emily And, in the cloud, the great cloud of witnesses.
Jay Who’s up there?
Dan Saints…
Sarah …and angels,
William  …and presidents.
Emily Their names are…
William Francis D. Carley and Charles N. Sims
Jay Erastus Herman Staley and B. Wilson Smith
Sarah Thomas Bond Wood and Aaron Gurney
Briana Henry Baker Brown and Oliver Perry Kinsey
Emily Henry Kinsey Brown and Daniel Russell Hodgdon
Dan  John Edward Roessler and Milo Jesse Bowman
Jay …and Horace Martin Evans.
William Then came the Lutherans:
Sarah William Henry Theodore Dau
Briana Albert Frederick Ottomar Germann
Emily John C. Baur
Dan  John C. Baur, Albert Frank Scribner, Frederick William Kroencke, and Henry Herman Kumnick.
Jay All at once?
Emily A flock!
William Oscar Carl Kreinheder
Dan Walter George Friedrich
Jay Otto Paul Kretzmann
Sarah Albert G. Huegli
William And soaring still:
Briana Robert V. Schnabel
Emily and Alan F. Harre
William and the eighteenth president of Valparaiso University: Mark Alan Heckler.
Jay And that’s what this inauguration is all about, right?
All Right!

The Inaugural Ceremony continues.


V  Birds in the Windows

Following the ceremony:

As the Psalm says “the days of our life are seventy years,
Sarah Or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
Even then their span is only toil and trouble;
They are soon gone and we fly away.”
Briana We fly away.
Jay And stay.
Dan We soar away.
Jay But stay… like that little flock of birds, in the window, soaring away from God’s hands.
Dan Where is it?
Sarah Where are they?
Jay In the windows.
Briana Birds in the windows.
William There! Way above that rooster crowing on the steeple top.  See it?
Jay There.
Sarah And at the very top a dove like Noah’s dove.
Dan With an olive branch in its mouth.
Emily For peace...
Sarah And the promise of home.
William In the center there’s a phoenix, a symbol of the resurrected Christ.
Briana Over on the right there’s an owl.
Jay Way up on the right.  It’s—
Emily It’s another dove.
Sarah Where?
Jay Way up on the right.  See? It’s—
Emily It’s the Dove of the Holy Spirit.
Sarah           How do you know?
Dan See the Pentecost flames ­surrounding it?
Emily Windows full of birds.
Sarah Why?
Briana They’re signs of things to come.
Dan They augur well?
Jay They’re soaring.
Emily We’re soaring.
Dan They augur well.
Briana    And they’ll be here, in those windows, when we’re home!


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