Libretto and Music by Susan Stoderl
Real-Time Art Installation by Painter, Sarah Elizabeth Olson
Shaftesbury Abbey, 1199. The Scriptorium and the Chapel share a mutual
wall. A doorway between them allows for spying and intrigue.
The main characters have lived in close proximity, with little privacy,
for many long years. For some it is a gift, but for Sister Regina it is
a bitter trial. She ardently believes that it is herself who should have
been made Abbess, rather than Marie.
The position of Abbess is one of great power and is the only position to
allow its holder to travel outside the confining walls of the abbey. When Regina
was cast out as mistress of King Henry II, she was promised the position
as a parting gift. Instead, Henry named his half sister, Marie de France
to the position. Marie de France is a woman of many secrets. Not only is
she secretly a very famous woman poet, but is the heretical leader of a
mystical alliance. To add to her sins, according to Regina, she allows
an escaped Jew from the massacre of York to be their cook, as well as a
woman of Cathar descent to remain within the walls of the abbey.
Furthermore, she allows Sister Dympha, who is clearly mentally
disturbed, to remain as a practicing sister rather than being sent to an
Abbess Marie is aware that they will very soon have their seventh member
in Joan Plantagenet, who has arrived at the abbey seeking asylum from an
extremely cruel husband. As if Regina needed any other reason for her
discontent, Joan is the child of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine,
born during his affair with Regina.
It is essential that Joan wants to both accept the Veil of Forgetfulness
and be initiated before her death, or before Regina exposes
them all as heretics. Joan has arrived at the abbey in a very advanced
state of pregnancy and is in extreme ill health. The group will meet in the
Scriptorium that night to present their position to Joan. Regina
discovers the plan and calls for the soldiers of her good friend, the
Archbishop, to catch the heretics in action, thus paving the way for her
to become the next Abbess.
Abbess Marie knows that Regina will be spying on the group's
activities that evening, and in instructing Joan as the Seventh Keeper,
she will also be instructing Regina in a new way of being. Each member
tells their own personal story to Joan and about the legend of the Veil
of Forgetfulness. Regina begins to see that even though she has hated
and resented each one of them, they have all lived very difficult lives
and have something now she does not, peace and contentment. She comes
to realize how truly kind and good these women are and how she has so
gravely sinned against them. Regina frantically urges each of them to
leave before the soldiers arrive.
As Joan reaches to accept the Veil of Forgetfulness, she slowly sinks to
the floor, dead, but not before she has become the Seventh Keeper. The
black veils of the other six slip to the floor, and underneath are veils
of iridescent blue. Regina, overcome with emotion, kneels over
Joan's body, seeing a vision of what her life is to become. She
takes the Veil from Joan's hand and covers the dead body. Abbess
Marie takes the Veil off Joan and places it in Regina's hands, then
departs with the others, their mission completed. After an anxious
moment, Regina hides the Veil in her sleeves and kneels in prayer over
Joan. She is now the new First Keeper.
The Veil of Forgetfulness