🎭'Maundy Lindros' and 'Ember Libitina' in Easter

Annie Starke to star in Easter as Maundy Lindros and Ember Libitina A deep dramatic work is almost for naught if it doesn't have a proper epsilon. Annie Starke is cast in Easter™ to play the dual role of Maundy - the mastermind behind all of this chaos that's been going on in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during this turbulent election cycle - and Ember, a treacherous prosecutor.

When I wrote the first incarnations of Maundy, the character was actually an obese male; I had a stereotypical Mediterranean mob boss / crime overlord in the mold of Vito Corleone (or Wilson Fisk). That idea was discarded because I think the world needs to move away from over-subjugating certain persons, and because we've already seen that done many times over. ... and because this storyline didn't have a place to fit such a gangster's history; a requisite for understanding what makes someone like that tick.

I then rewrote Maundy as a cultish elder, but again, too stereotypical; almost borderline tinfoil hat stuff. The easy fix was to just change the gender. Women and their motives (especially in the company of men) tend to be much more difficult to follow on screen/stage when all the audience is given is a few minutes with them. Men are simple to gauge; we have a small menu. Women, on the otherhand are usually (not always) in supportive roles (in the company of men), meaning that there is a lot more on their plate that they're actually dealing with when it comes to keeping waters calm. Maundy's that person. She's not a monster like Stu. Nor does she nibble on an oppressive spice like most would-be miscreants. Instead, she's had plenty of time to seduce and manipulate those she needed to to get where she wants to be. Those can be the toughest people to read because you're inadvertently part of their plans. This character needed to be larger in scope than everyone around her; so slick that we feel she may be the embodiment of the 👿Devil herself.

"I'm a competitor. Winning adds value to Life. Losing is a choice, and a poor one. You deserve what you let happen to you." - Maundy

Annie Starke to star in Easter as Maundy What was demanded was an instant declaration of character. When we meet Maundy in Die, Detective!™, we immediately know who sets the tone. A Norfolk-born+raised aristocrat instilled with a sense of noblesse oblige (although you wouldn't at first guess this from her affection for cowgirl boots👢), she runs things without titles. Blind (born with optic nerve hypoplasia) - yet visionary - and mute, she's deignly mastered the secret to being in two (2) places at once - by having your DNA all over the place (and holograms). We're not afraid of her, we just would rather not deal with her if we don't have to.

Annie Starke to star in Easter as MaundyPossessing a genius IQ🧠, she has applied it masterfully to naval🛳⚓ architecture. Her enterprise (to which she was a legatee), Lindros FlyerCast & Irons, Ltd., was instrumental in building and bringing the first fleet of slave ships to Rhode Island's wharves*, and today controls the regional (Philadelphia-Newport News/Chesapeake) seaport for all maritime freight. By proxy, her company is also the de facto operator of the Philadelphia Water Authority, largest developer of The Shipyard, holder of the Philadelphia Gas Company, mutual owner of SPEC (Southeastern Pennsylvania Electric Company), and financier of the Thanks Endowment. She doesn't know it yet, but her heavy investment in Securitas AB is about to look more prudent (and dangerous at the same time), thanks to the hiring of Pinkerton consultant Gunyo Gruber. Like with any control freak, she's grounded in materialism, because to them, possessions are tangible realism. That's what's scary about her; she's bureaucratic, not political.I made that up, there's no real historical significance. Wink😉 to the Swedish surname.
/// +For reference, Maundy's full name is Maundy Lindros. The name comes from 'Maundy Thursday', retaining Easter nomenclature. -- Trivia: "Maun-" is derived from Old Norse; akin to Olde English "gemynd", meaning 'think' or 'intellect'. -- She has no siblings, never married, and is childless. We can conjecture that because her traditional parents may have been somewhat disappointed by having a physically disabled/handicapped kid, they decided to not bring any more children into this cruel world, and instead, dedicated all of their resources to her development, which may explain her heightened senses, genius, and work ethic. Her zodiac sign is Pisces♓.

+The first ban on slavery anywhere in the American (New England) colonies was passed on May 18, 1652 in the territory of what is now Rhode Island. Since this is fiction, anyway, we may assume, for good measure, that the Lindros family - perhaps upon Quaker conversion after its Virginia settlement - may have had something to do with the passing of that code.

She really is untouchable. Throughout most of the opera, we rarely get to see her in the flesh; she uses holograms exclusively. A diabolical recluse who seldom docks for anyone, Maundy (in the vicinity of her bodyguard/captain, Lef'fut) resides on a cruising oceanliner🛥, the Isambard, that often floats somewhere nearby in the Atlantic Ocean, probably in a bay off the coast of New Jersey. -- Heck, I wrote her and I can't even pinpoint her location.🤷‍♂️ -- This is to give a sense of how little she thinks of both the limelight and people on land, and the baggage each brings. Allergic to stress (her philosophy for living a long life), she takes great precautions to ensure her well-being.

Philly's skyline is my favorite.🤭

On the business side, she runs Lindros using encrypted holograms with keyboard input. The corporate office occupies the top floor (penthouse) of Two Liberty Place, and is managed by her assistant, Lambsimon. It also operates mineral mining camps in Silver Bow County, Montana.

Lindros is the largest importer of phosphate from Morocco in the Americas. A subplot is that Philadelphia's Islamic☪ demographic (spearheaded by her North African Muslim community) wants her company to pay retribution for unfair trade practices between the two countries, and a sizable number of Moroccan mobsters have sprouted inside the City and around the Delaware Valley for this very purpose. To protect her wharf from local mob threats, she employs the Camden-based kingpin, Theo.

When the world's richest man, Mr. Alphabet (Canaan Tusk), comes to town seeking a second headquarters for his firm, Nile LLC, part of the requirements for its new base are that those utility companies being privately held by Lindros be returned to the public sphere. That's billions of dollars in annual income for her potentially at-risk. Couple that with the fact that Mr. Alphabet's business is also in shipping by default, and has selected Philadelphia because of its location and proximity to overseas handlers, things aren't boding well for our heiress. As a precaution, she initiates the 'Ark Project' [NOAH]. Since 1978 when she strong-willed the then-city council to turn over the utilities into her private hands, she's made a vast fortune, acquired extraordinary influence, and become a menace to the jurisdiction, especially the District Attorney's office. Now things are coming full circle for her, but, she is composed, insightful, and vastly as resourceful in her own right. We'll see how this plays out.

Additionally, geopolitics has taken center stage, and Maundy's company has been tasked with handling very peculiar seafaring requests from the United States government. Namely, legislation is floating around on Capitol Hill that would call for - if passed - the annexation of Liberia as a territory (the country was formerly an American colony in the nineteenth century). This is being done under the guise of re-establishing hegemonic dominance on the African continent to counter growing influence/threat from China and India. But, with all of the current racial strife in the country, we can't be too certain of the motive considering that Lindros has been contracted to build a fleet of vessels that transport 'human cargo at-scale'.

The four-fold arc of the opera begins with its first chord, N. The other three (3) chords, in order, are O, A, and H. Her being in shipbuilding invites you to assume that the remainder of the work has something to do with that element of religiosity. By ChordN (the start of Holy Week), her mettle is tested, and we'll see just what she is all about.

Basically, the whole story centers around her (focusing on her point-of-view), as told from interactions with our eponym. To some degree - and on a very high-level, the entire piece purveys the rivalry between Maundy and her adversary, Ember Libitina (essentially leaving Pascha's angle relegated to being a major dramatic prop). For the better part of forty-plus years, these two power brokers have formulated an ongoing mutual disdain for each other; engaging in a soft war of money versus clout. It has taken an outsider and an incredible event to align their singular objectives. The tricky part about this character is that she brings no intentional antagony to the narrative; (other than her younger self's direct involvement with Pascha's reformation, ie. Joseph becoming John) she is not the sworn enemy of our protagonist/antagonist. Yet, the ebb+flow of her executive decisions pretty much entangles everyone in her web🕸.

"The only thing a person can genuinely make is a decision." - Maundy

Good and bad are points of view, and Maundy embodies that idiom. When writing her, I found myself cheering for her at parts because she's the rare individual with a grand plan and the determination to execute on that plan. She doesn't shy from her sentiment that Pascha went and started some shit💩 and now she's got to finish it. A lot of people dream of something and want it to happen - their hubris even leaves them with the expectation of it happening, and then there are the very few that actually make it happen. In that regard, I liken her to Dick Cheney. Maundy made bold bets in her youth that paid dividends; she trusts her instinct and is usually always right (to paraphrase Donald Trump: successful people tend to only listen to themselves). She's a boss.

Actress Dianne Wiest will play Ember in the opera, Easter.
Image series of Annie Starke courtesy ©COVETEUR

In the storyline, Ember Libitina is a hold-over from the Frank Rizzo era in Philadelphia; a direct characterization of District Attorney Lynn Abraham (after whom she was modeled). Now in her eighth decade of life, she sees this special election in which she is running as the culmination of all of her works and possibly her last chance at holding office. It's a credible longshot, but being the Mayor of Philadelphia would cap the efforts of a distinguished legal career and satisfy her public ambition. Ember seeks to re-assert the 'natural order of things' throughout and around the town. Her campaign is based on adjectives such as reform, gentrification, safety, and progress. She is definitely "in it to win it".

"Ultimately, strength prevails. -- There is no balance of power. Equality is just a stranger's myth." - Ember

In real life, Abraham is/was known as a deadly prosecutor who regularly sought the death penalty for those convicted. Even though on paper, she was a liberal democrat (having voted for Barack Obama), her stat sheet reads that her heart is actually rather conservative.

Frank Rizzo's tenure as both Chief of Police first and then mayor, was marked as being full of strife and animosity towards Philly's African-American demographic. It may be difficult to gauge his impact today considering the national political climate in aftermath of the Obama presidency and so forth, but he remains a towering figure that may have set a precendent on how to 'handle' crime and criminals in large American cities.

I actually couldn't tell this story without Ember. One, the incumbent mayor, Curran, needs a worthy challenger in the runoff election that's taking place, and two, in order to keep things from spiraling out-of-control, Maundy's overbearing authority has to be challenged by an adversary from the political sphere. It just does. This situation (the distribution of Mr. Alphabet's intra-city investment) lends itself perfectly to a winner-takes-all 'Battle for Philadelphia' that nobody can actually win. The ever-so-sharp Ember shows us that people's migrant behavior is recycled from patterns of economic health [ie. roughly every two (2) decades or every other generation, the wealthier class relocates back into the city for jobs/employment+transportation before saving their money and moving to the suburbs]. This is an important note and plot point, as we see that residential stagnation is a detriment and impossibility where there exists youth.

One civil mishap has led to another in recent outings (eg. police shootings → arson/riots, bombings, landscape defacing, etc.), and Libitina requests the personal protection of none other than Pascha himself to assist her in navigating this extremely intense social climate as she makes her campaign rounds. He obliges with reservation, suspecting there is more to this assignment than meets the eye.

"I've lived a long, normal life. Like you, I used to be overwhelmed with sadness when people died. Stay in law enforcement👩‍✈️👩🏾‍⚖️ long enough, and we all come to the same satisfying conclusion: criminals make it easy to see that not everyone wants or deserves to live." - Ember Libitina

Annie Starke to star in Easter as MaundyTo get this point across, a small sample of actors were considered, but Mrs. Starke made the cut based on her pedigree. The role was fleshed out with Robert Englund in mind, and then written for and offered to Glenn Close (her mother) first before a rethink. I wanted Glenn because of her reputation of portraying villainous women on-screen to great effect. I had hoped to get both mother and daughter in the production, with Annie playing the 1978 version of the character (there's roughly a reallife forty year age difference between the two). I also tabbed Dianne Wiest[b] for the part of Ember Libitina because I was so impressed with her work in Little Man Tate. I love how she (as Jane Grierson) switched it up in that, going from kind psychologist, to fierce and controlling headmaster in such a short frame. That's pretty much what happens here; given enough time and resources, we see that the true nature of the beast is to rule. Wiest also had mentioned* in past interviews that she wanted to assume more aggressive roles where she perhaps played a cruel woman, not unlike roles that went to Glenn Close. Now, we'll get the chance to see one actor impersonate two legends in three different perspectives.Exact quote: "I'd like to play a real cold, mean mass murderer. Some cruel, hard-bitten women, like the roles Glenn Close gets, just to show that I am capable of not being vulnerable and not being fragile on screen."
Easter is a long (~168 hours), challenging [mostly because in addition to this being largely ad-libbed improvisational theatre (being mute, Maundy has no speaking parts) from storyboards (that rationale is because the telepresence factor dictates mimicry of "real life", where goals may be planned but usually unscripted), the elements of timing+spacing are critical in polyplexity cinematography ..cf. openworld vcs, making it akin to a live show/one take/single shot] four-chord opera ludo, and the character [lead] of Maundy (coloratura) is featured throughout, so in order to carry the piece the actress would need to have plenty of stamina+ability. Annie Starke is one of the very few thespians I could think of that encompasses said range. She's versatile and adept. Having both lived with and worked alongside her accomplished mother, her distinction is welcomed, and as we attempt to record libretto-to-opera with fidelity, relying on her breadth of craftwork (film/television, stage/musical theatre, etc.) can only be a plus when it comes to helping everyone else on set deliver their best performance(s). It's a win-win.
Shout-out: Thanks also goes to the non-profit, #BringChangetoMind, which is aimed at supporting mental health and reducing the stigma of mental illness. -- Mental health is a big focal point in this opera.




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