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Talk Opera

This article was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in April of 2002, and reprinted in the March 2014 issue.

The recently popular performance art form of Talk Opera is an adaptation of the Aslan dramatic form, Trokh afera (this form henceforth), which is considered by Aslan to be the “highest” (and is certainly the most popular) form of performance art. In Trokh afera (usually translated as “Bardic Evocation”; literally, “belly-mind”), the performers are not restricted to a stage, as in most other performance art, but are expected to circulate through the audience as appropriate, and interact directly with members of the audience, getting the audience’s views on the story line, which usually involves a dilemma that the main characters must resolve. This can, and not infrequently does, result in an ongoing dialogue between the performers and several particularly articulate members of the audience; the resolution, as often as not, is determined by audience consensus.

In the typical Aslan performance, dilemmas of honor are usually the focus of the story; a character must find a solution to the dilemma that will satisfy the honor of all parties to the dilemma. The human interpretation of the art form is more likely to center around ethical, philosophical, romantic, or political dilemmas.

In its “pure”, Aslan form, Trokh afera is performed without props, and costumes are minimalist—enough to evoke the role being portrayed, but no more than that, to avoid distracting the audience from the process and story. Most human adaptations use more elaborate costumes (as appropriate to the role), and props and setting elements are not unusual, though minimal by normal standards.

Several “classic” human dramas have been adapted to Trokh afera, including the Terran Romeo and Juliette and Hamlet, the Vilani Dilaama Gushilamuu Libamira, and the Sylean Sekhnara Artiroka. In general, these adaptations have been well received.

Several non-Aslan dramatic forms have influenced adaptation of Trokh afera, including “Theater in the Round”, Arcturan “Incorporative Dance”, and Vargr “Aleatoric Performance”. The resulting art form has been characterised by human reviewers as “more dynamic” and “more intense” than the Aslan form; Aslan reviewers claim that it exhibits a “less than full understanding” of the nuances of “pure” Trokh afera, but acknowledge the need to relate to non-Aslan “in ways that they better understand.”

Reaction to these adaptations among Aslan in the Regency (including assimilated Aslan) has been mixed. A marked preference for “pure” Trokh afera among Aslan has been noted, but attendance by Aslan at adapted performances is significantly higher than at performances in more traditional human styles. Also noteworthy is the fact that adaptations of Trokh afera are in general better attended by Aslan than are many performances in Aslan styles other than Trokh afera.