by Ariel Mitchell, Dramaturg
Gone Missing is a non-traditional play. Instead of following a linear structure, where events build on top of each other to a climax, the play has what theater practitioners call a mosaic structure. Like a mosaic creates a picture out of miscellaneous fragments of glass and tile, the play is composed of bits and pieces of stories from lots of different characters. This allows the audience to explore a theme or see all sides of an issue. The problem with this is that sometimes, it is hard to find one story or character to hold on to.
The way the Civilians accommodated for this in Gone Missing was by creating a backbone, or a fictionalized reoccurring discussion between a radio host and her guest. This radio show is based on the NPR program, “Fresh Air,” hosted by Teri Gross, in which she interviews interesting people about various subjects. This sets up a perfect platform to discuss the thematic issues of loss and tie the somewhat unconnected script together.
Terry’s guest in Gone Missing is named Palinurus, after the helmsman/guide of Aneas’ ship in Virgil’s Aenid. In the Aenid, the gods tell Aneas that Palinurus is the only man who can get them from Troy safely. One night Palinurus falls asleep at the helm and falls into the ocean, paying the vain Neptune’s sacrificial price and ensuring safe passage to Italy. He fulfilled the prophesy, but probably not in the way he was expecting.
An interesting choice of character that plays deeply with the ideas outlined in Gone Missing about loss.
If you are interested in tuning in to hear the real Terry, “Fresh Air” is broadcast weekdays at 12:00 noon (Eastern Time) and can also be found online at http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/.