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Reconstructions of "The King in Yellow" playscript

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BoxCrayonTales

After doing an physically exhausting amount of research, I have confirmed the existence of no less than eight different reconstructions of this play (and derivatives thereof).

 

My findings are as follows:

  • Graywyvern, "The King in Yellow: A Jacobean Noh Play" [complete, surrealist take]
  • James Blish, "More Light"  [scenes 1 and 2 of Act 1 mistakenly labelled Act 1 and 2, Naotalba misspelled Noatalba, Scene 2 segues directly into supposed events of Act 2 before cutting off]
    • King_in_amber, "Carcosa (or the Queen and the Stranger) A Fantasy in Two Acts by Talbot Estus" [Edited from the Blish play with a new ending and names changed to more closely match the Ryng play]
      • Avarris, "Carcosa or, the Queen and the Stranger" [Edited from the original Carcosa, Act 1 divided into three scenes, Act 1 Scene 3 varies depending on the viewer]
    • Lin Carter, "The King in Yellow: A Tragedy in Verse" [Rewrite of part of the Blish play in poetic verse]
  • John Tynes, "In the Court of the Yellow King" [complete, original story, included as a digital extra with The Unspeakable Oath #23]
  • Onyx Path, "The Red Sign" and "Darkening Sky" [Ex Libris Necro (based on the Necronomicon and the Naturan Demanto/Naturom Demonto/Necronomicon Ex Mortes from "Evil Dead") and The Enthronement of the Yellow Emperor (based on The King in Yellow) are presented as books that PCs can interact with; the former would correctly be titled Ex Libris Mortis or simply Libris Mortis (lit. "From the Books of Death"), which coincidentally is the name of a Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook]
  • Paul Bastienne (Pierre Comtois and Gregory Montejo), "The King in Yellow: An unproduced drama for the stage" [printed in Cthulhu Codex #3 and Crypt of Cthulhu #88]
  • Raymond Lefebvre, "The King In Yellow: A Spectral Tragedy" [based on "The Repairer of Reputations"]
  • Roger Johnson, "In Memoriam" [partial synopsis and fragments only, quotes both the Blish and Ryng plays, adds new characters Cordelia and Corydon]
  • SCP Foundation, "The Hanged King's Tragedy" [synopsis and fragments only]
  • Simon Bucher-Jones, "Le Roi en Jaune" [complete, surrealist take]
  • Thom Ryng, "The King in Yellow" [complete, 2 acts of 1 scenes each, based on original synopsis by Kevin Ross]
  • Thomas Tafero, "The Tattered King" [complete, post-modernist take, youtube video]

I have been unable to locate a copy of the Bastienne play, so if anyone has a copy feel free to share details.

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yronimoswhateley

Great list!  I wish I could help you out with the missing play, but I really didn't realize most of those existed.

 

Since the reconstructions are basically fan fiction, something tells me that Sturgeon's Law can be applied to these, at least as well as to anything else;  did you find any of these reconstructions particularly good, or particularly faithful to the spirit and tone of Chambers' stories (not necessarily sanity-shattering, though that might be interesting too, but rather a successful representation of something Chambers might have written?)

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WinstonP

When I was digging around for more text to flavor some KiY material I was working on I found a version of it on an erotic fan-fiction site.  I think they used the Ryng version, but I didn't do a textual analysis.  How complete do you want to be?

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GBV

"In the Court of the Yellow King" by Jaycy Linz was reprinted in Cyaegha #13 (the second of two King in Yellow Specials): http://www.freewebs.com/batglynn/cyaegha.htm

 

The "Bastienne" KiY is a "non-fiction" article about reclusive US Author Charles Vaughan and his final unfinished play and comes complete with a newspaper article (about his death), a foreword, a bibliography, a fragment of the play and an afterword. A second "Charles Vaughan" play "The Pallid Masque" appears in Fungi #13 with a long explanatory afterword. A third play is rumoured but so far hasn't come to light!
 

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yronimoswhateley

It's just a bit off-topic, but might still be of interest:

 

It was performed about 20 years after "The King in Yellow" was published and it's unlikely that anyone involved was inspired in any way by Chambers' story, but there was a sort of real-life "King in Yellow", in the form of Stravinsky's ballet "Rite of Spring (1913)":

  • "The Rite of Spring" was performed in 1913 (within Lovecraft's lifetime), at just a few years before the events described in Chambers' stories in "The King in Yellow (1895)" would take place; I believe the fictional play might even be written at roughly the same time.
  • "The Rite of Spring" portrays a human sacrifice to some unnamable pagan fertility goddess, in which the victim dances herself to death.
  • Surreal set design and bizarre costumes created by artist Nicholas Roerich -  mystic, theosophist, utopian eccentric admired by H.P. Lovecraft.
    • Roerich, incidentally, also led a couple of bizarre scientific/spiritual/archaeological/"Western Bhuddist" missionary expeditions into Asia, exploring Siberia, Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet (no word on the Plateau of Leng, though).  Roerich was chased from Tibet by soldiers for vaguely-described reasons.
    • Roerich, one of Lovecraft's favorite artists, died a few years after Lovecraft, and Lovecraft did actually visit Roerich's apartment/museum in New York more than once - it's unclear to me, though, whether the two eccentric artists actually met each other.  See this fan description of the two artists for some Lovecraft quotes on Roerich: (link)
  • Dance choreography was created by schizophrenic, controversial dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.
    • Nijinsky's subsequent breakdown left him confined in an asylum for most of the rest of his life sitting and staring silently, and left us with bizarre, paranoid, delusive diaries that have to this day never been published in their entirity, and which were filled with drawings of eyes and a confusing narrative in which the narration of insane, raving gods, alien voices and Nijinsky himself are blurred and uncertain.
  • Music and story written by eccentric, controversial Avant-Garde composer, Igor Stravinsky, who collected the dream-team of weirdos who collaborated on the project and intended this work to "send [civilized society] all to hell!"
  • Upon the ballet's opening, chaos erupted:  between the surreal imagery, the bizarre dissonant music, and the unnatural, mechanical, jerking movements of the dancers, the audience was driven to riot.  From Wikipedia:
    • Music historian Richard Taruskin asserts, "it was not Stravinsky’s music that did the shocking. It was the ugly earthbound lurching and stomping devised by Vaslav Nijinsky."
    • Some eyewitnesses and commentators said that the disturbances in the audience began during the Introduction, and grew into a crescendo when the curtain rose on the stamping dancers in "Augurs of Spring".
    • An assistant to Nijinsky recalled later that it was soon impossible to hear the music on the stage.
    • The demonstrations... grew into "a terrific uproar" which, along with the on-stage noises, drowned out the voice of Nijinsky who was shouting the step numbers to the dancers.
    • The journalist and photographer Carl Van Vechten recorded that the person behind him got carried away with excitement, and "began to beat rhythmically on top of my head", though Van Vechten failed to notice this at first, his own emotion being so great.
    • Conductor Pierre Monteux believed that the real trouble began when the two factions in the audience (apparently conservative aristocratic types expecting a traditional ballet, and "Bohemian" artist types who would normally praise anything new) began attacking each other, but their mutual anger was soon diverted towards the orchestra: "Everything available was tossed in our direction, but we continued to play on" (Montreux).
    • Around forty of the worst offenders were ejected laughing and screaming into the streets—possibly with the intervention of the police, although this is uncorroborated. Even through all the disturbances the performance continued without interruption.
    • After the worst offenders were ejected, the second act of the ballet was reportedly watched in comparative silence, who were by now receptive enough to give curtain calls for the performers.  There were five further, relatively peaceful performances to mostly negative reviews, before the Ballet closed.
  • "Rite of Spring" was, after that, never again performed in the lifetimes of its creators, and Nijinsky's shocking and horrific original choreography was lost, until....
    • The choreography was largely reconstructed by the Joffrey Ballet, and performed again in the 1980s, with Tchaikovsky's original music and Roerich's original set designs and costumes - apparently with no rioting involved.  You can view it for yourself here on Youtube:  (link)

 

And, after viewing the "Rite of Spring" reconstruction, it's kind of hard to imagine that it shocked anyone... it might have been somewhat ahead of its time and definitely still looks a bit weird even today, but to my modern eyes doesn't look so outlandish as to have generated the outrage of its opening performance.

 

So, it's not a literal "King in Yellow" reconstruction, but "The Rite of Spring" is probably the closest thing to a real "The King in Yellow" that our world has ever seen, and as a bonus it even has an indirect real-life Lovecraft connection 8)

 

One might almost imagine that the book "The King in Yellow" and its author R.W. Chambers were fictional inventions of Lovecraft for his mythos stories, inspired by the ballet, if the facts did not plainly indicate that the book was real and Chambers wrote it before Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Roerich, and Lovecraft made their own history, in a life-imitates-art kind of way....

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Ningauble
    • Roerich, one of Lovecraft's favorite artists, died a few years after Lovecraft, and Lovecraft did actually visit Roerich's apartment/museum in New York more than once - it's unclear to me, though, whether the two eccentric artists actually met each other.

 

They didn't.

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RobP

Scene: A Room by Craig Anthony, appears in Cthulhu's Heirs by Chaosium.

 

Interweaves sections of the play with the "real" world and has a killer last line...

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Wembley

It's just a bit off-topic, but might still be of interest:

 

It was performed about 20 years after "The King in Yellow" was published and it's unlikely that anyone involved was inspired in any way by Chambers' story, but there was a sort of real-life "King in Yellow", in the form of Stravinsky's ballet "Rite of Spring (1913)":

 

  • "The Rite of Spring" was performed in 1913 (within Lovecraft's lifetime), at just a few years before the events described in Chambers' stories in "The King in Yellow (1895)" would take place; I believe the fictional play might even be written at roughly the same time.
  • "The Rite of Spring" portrays a human sacrifice to some unnamable pagan fertility goddess, in which the victim dances herself to death.
  • Surreal set design and bizarre costumes created by artist Nicholas Roerich -  mystic, theosophist, utopian eccentric admired by H.P. Roerich's apartment/museum in New York more than once - it's unclear to me, though, whether the two eccentric artists actually met each other.  See this fan description of the two artists for some Lovecraft quotes on Roerich: (link)

[*]Dance choreography was created by schizophrenic, controversial dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

  • Nijinsky's subsequent breakdown left him confined in an asylum for most of the rest of his life sitting and staring silently, and left us with bizarre, paranoid, delusive diaries that have to this day never been published in their entirity, and which were filled with drawings of eyes and a confusing narrative in which the narration of insane, raving gods, alien voices and Nijinsky himself are blurred and uncertain.

[*]Music and story written by eccentric, controversial Avant-Garde composer, Igor Stravinsky, who collected the dream-team of weirdos who collaborated on the project ..

Great piece of work. Perhaps our reaction to KiY would be "so what was all the fuss about"?

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BoxCrayonTales

After doing an physically exhausting amount of research, I have confirmed the existence of no less than eight different reconstructions of this play (and derivatives thereof).

 

My findings are as follows:

  • Graywyvern, "The King in Yellow: A Jacobean Noh Play" [complete, surrealist take]
  • James Blish, "More Light"  [scenes 1 and 2 of Act 1 mistakenly labelled Act 1 and 2, Naotalba misspelled Noatalba, Scene 2 segues directly into supposed events of Act 2 before cutting off]
    • King_in_amber, "Carcosa (or the Queen and the Stranger) A Fantasy in Two Acts by Talbot Estus" [Edited from the Blish play with a new ending and names changed to more closely match the Ryng play]
      • Avarris, "Carcosa or, the Queen and the Stranger" [Edited from the original Carcosa, Act 1 divided into three scenes, Act 1 Scene 3 varies depending on the viewer]
    • Lin Carter, "The King in Yellow: A Tragedy in Verse" [Rewrite of part of the Blish play in poetic verse]
  • John Tynes, "In the Court of the Yellow King" [complete, original story, included as a digital extra with The Unspeakable Oath #23]
  • Onyx Path, "The Red Sign" and "Darkening Sky" [Ex Libris Necro (based on the Necronomicon and the Naturan Demanto/Naturom Demonto/Necronomicon Ex Mortes from "Evil Dead") and The Enthronement of the Yellow Emperor (based on The King in Yellow) are presented as books that PCs can interact with; the former would correctly be titled Ex Libris Mortis or simply Libris Mortis (lit. "From the Books of Death"), which coincidentally is the name of a Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook]
  • Paul Bastienne (Pierre Comtois and Gregory Montejo), "The King in Yellow: An unproduced drama for the stage" [printed in Cthulhu Codex #3 and Crypt of Cthulhu #88]
  • Raymond Lefebvre, "The King In Yellow: A Spectral Tragedy" [based on "The Repairer of Reputations"]
  • Roger Johnson, "In Memoriam" [partial synopsis and fragments only, quotes both the Blish and Ryng plays, adds new characters Cordelia and Corydon]
  • SCP Foundation, "The Hanged King's Tragedy" [synopsis and fragments only]
  • Simon Bucher-Jones, "Le Roi en Jaune" [complete, surrealist take]
  • Thom Ryng, "The King in Yellow" [complete, 2 acts of 1 scenes each, based on original synopsis by Kevin Ross]
  • Thomas Tafero, "The Tattered King" [complete, post-modernist take, youtube video]

I have been unable to locate a copy of the Bastienne play, so if anyone has a copy feel free to share details.

 

I added online sources to make these easier to find. Some of them are sadly unavailable even then.

EDIT: I did find a prezi presentation giving some production details on Tafero's play.

EDIT: The Talbot Estus play in concept appears to originate from a Chaosium sourcebook and was detailed by fans. More details at Unbound Publishing.

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Ningauble

There are two versions of the Carter text: In the first edition of The Hastur Cycle, Robert M. Price supplied original text in those places where Carter had simply intended to plug in the text from Chambers's stories. In the second edition, Carter's intention has been followed and his text uses the Chambers excerpts.

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Nick Storm

Excellent research. I would try to attach dates to all these - either the 'real' date or the fictional as described dates, approx et.

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TMS

"Cordelia's Song" by Vincent Starrett is supposed to be an excerpt from The King in Yellow.

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BoxCrayonTales

"Cordelia's Song" by Vincent Starrett is supposed to be an excerpt from The King in Yellow.

I believe this is also referenced by "In Memoriam."

 

The reconstructions seem to demonstrate a shared structure. The stranger arrives in Act 1 (rising action? banal?), the king in Act 2 (climax? madness reigns?), and... well, there's no act 3 in any of the reconstructions I've seen (falling action? reality destroyed?), but I would imagine it would be even more surreal and tormenting.

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GBV

Cyaegha #16 (subtitled "The King in Yellow Act III") includes a brief reference to a possible Third Act. Also included is a "non-fiction" article about the police investigation into the death of US playwright Charles Vaughan and a "review" of a new play called "The Queen in Yellow". 

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BoxCrayonTales

I seem to recall that some Carcosa/KiY/Hastur mythos stories reference the Red King* slumbering beneath Lake Hali. I think some stories conflate him with Mana-Yood-Sushai and Azathoth. This reddit comment offers the lovely quote: "What happens when the Red King wakes, and we all remember that we are but dreams? When all your lies of personhood are melted like tallow, what then shall you scream?"

 

*from Lewis Caroll's and Stephen King's work?, aka Crimson King, King In Red, Scarlet Sovereign, etc; possibly related to the Scarlet Empress, aka Red Woman, Whore of Babylon, etc from the Bible and the Red Death from Poe's work? The colorful figures are everywhere!

 

"In the Court of the Yellow King" by Jaycy Linz was reprinted in Cyaegha #13 (the second of two King in Yellow Specials): http://www.freewebs.com/batglynn/cyaegha.htm

 

The "Bastienne" KiY is a "non-fiction" article about reclusive US Author Charles Vaughan and his final unfinished play and comes complete with a newspaper article (about his death), a foreword, a bibliography, a fragment of the play and an afterword. A second "Charles Vaughan" play "The Pallid Masque" appears in Fungi #13 with a long explanatory afterword. A third play is rumoured but so far hasn't come to light!

 

These were reprinted in the Comtois anthology "Goat Mother and Others" available at certain e-retailers. "The Pallid Masque" offers a gnostic interpretation (similar to the tabletop game "Kult") where Carcosa is the truth of reality and our world is Plato's cave allegory. Reading the play forces one to accept the truth and subsequently appear insane to the unenlightened. The possible prequel "King in Yellow" muddles the water by having the inhabitants of Carcosa act fearful of truth, whatever that means in this context.

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GBSteve

I've got Thomas Ryng's copy that was performed. It includes hand written annotations, tickets and a programme.

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BoxCrayonTales

Great list!  I wish I could help you out with the missing play, but I really didn't realize most of those existed.

 

Since the reconstructions are basically fan fiction, something tells me that Sturgeon's Law can be applied to these, at least as well as to anything else;  did you find any of these reconstructions particularly good, or particularly faithful to the spirit and tone of Chambers' stories (not necessarily sanity-shattering, though that might be interesting too, but rather a successful representation of something Chambers might have written?)

 

The difficulty of judging the plays' quality is that there are no performances. This is a key difference from prose, which is what Chamber's wrote; he was never a playwright. Even the most mediocre scripts may shine under the right cast and crew.

 

So "The Yellow Site" lists a number of additions to the play by authors throughout the years. It is by no means exhaustive, I would think.

 

(For those who play tabletop games, someone's archived roleplaying campaign posits that Carcosa is a precursor to Amber from The Chronicles of Amber. Amber is a platonic realm which our Earth and many other worlds are supposedly shadows of; to posit that Amber had precursors results in Matryoshka doll-like recursive realities.)
 
There are effectively three complete reconstructions: the Blish play (and its three or so derivatives), the Ryng play and the Bucher-Jones play. I cannot acquire a copy of the Lefebvre play to evaluate, the Helsem play is incomprehensible, and the Tafero play left no survivors. (An oddity I noticed about the Ryng play is that it changes some details from the RPG synopsis, such as the mysterious stranger changing from a lone figure carried to Yhtill by winged demons to the representing member of a visiting brotherhood.)
 
Of the complete reconstructions, all are limited to two acts, whereas The King in Yellow anthology implies there are three. The prezi presentation, previously cited in relation to the Tafero play, claims that the titular play is "A 3 act play that ends with the character, Hastur (The King in Yellow) being unmasked, at which point all of reality is turned into a mummer's farce. The first act is supposed to be mediocre theatre, the second drives all who see it mad, and the third destroys reality."
 
Seeing just a few words of the second act is sufficient to doom the reader, so I presume quoting the text would be next to impossible. So what that implies, at least to me, is that all of the reconstructions are only depicting the first act or at least sanitizing the second and third acts to the point of being unrecognizable. The curse of the pallid mask, the cyclical history of Yhtill, the wedding of the King... all of these (mutually exclusive?) events are only a pale shadow of the second and third acts.
 
The first act is (intentionally?) banal and mediocre, yet innocent in comparison to the horrors to come. I am not sure if the reconstructions are supposed to give that impression and I don't want to be rude to the authors who worked so hard on them (even if they knew 'twas an impossible task from the start). Although something "so bad it's good" in the vein of the Rocky Horror Picture Show might meet the criteria.

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JeffErwin

Don't forget Christopher Marlowe's version - viz. "King of Shreds and Patches" in Strange Aeons. There are a few fragments quoted in the adventure.

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GBV

John Wick's CoC scenario Curse of the Yellow Sign II - Calling the King includes a number of excerpts from the play. The 3 scenarios that make up Curse were originally published as PDFs but were then revised and expanded and updated and published as single book via a successful Kickstarter campaign

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/johnwickpresents/curse-of-the-yellow-sign. If you follow the link to the Kickstarter page then you will find additional links there for downloading the original PDFs for free.

 

Curse of the Yellow Sign II - Calling the King also mentions an additional player aid available for download at John Wick's website - six different versions of the play (1 for each of the pre-generated characters). I couldn't find a copy of this PDF (anyone got a copy?) but I did find a (different?) version of it here:

 

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B8k5lj5mVs3lRnJBMjE0dHE2Uk0/edit?hl=en&forcehl=1

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BoxCrayonTales
On 01/09/2017 at 11:21, GBV said:

Curse of the Yellow Sign II - Calling the King also mentions an additional player aid available for download at John Wick's website - six different versions of the play (1 for each of the pre-generated characters). I couldn't find a copy of this PDF (anyone got a copy?) but I did find a (different?) version of it here...

 

It seems to originate from this blog post: http://apathyblogs.blogspot.com/2013/10/curse-of-yellow-sign-act-2-calling-king.html

 

According to the blogger, John Wick intended to produce six different versions but never did. So the blogger did it themselves.

 

Avarris' version of The Queen and the Stranger did something similar, but only for Act 1 Scene 3.

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