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365 Days/365 Plays: Glossary

Glossary of Terms in the Play:

1860: [December 27: 2 Examples from the Interconnectedness of All Things]

The election of 1860 was the most important in American history. It was perhaps even more important for blacks than for whites. The central issue of the campaign was the future of slavery in the federal territories and the nature of the Union itself. The outcome set the stage for secession, civil war, and, most important, an end to slavery. Source: Oxford African American Studies Center

Antaeus: [July 12: Antaeus]

The giant Antaeus was the ruler of Libya and was slain by Herakles on his way to the Garden of Hesperides to perform the twelfth of his Labors. Antaeus was the son of the god Poseidon and Mother Earth (Gaia or Ge) and was invincible as long as he could maintain contact with his mother—that is, with earth. Herakles killed him by holding him up off the ground and literally squeezing him to death. Source: Oxford Companion to World Mythology

Someone who needs to return home or ‘touch base’ in order to feel revitalized; someone who is very strong or good at fighting. Source: Oxford Dictionary of Reference and Allusion

Arjuna: [November 13: Start Here]

In the Bhagavad Gītā, Arjuna  is the commander of the righteous Pāndavas against the devious Kauravasan army. As the battle was about to commence, Arjuna realized that he would fight and kill his relatives and his former teachers for the sake of the kingdom. He sat down in his chariot and refused to start the battle.Krishna, in the role of the trusted charioteer to his friend, Arjuna, appeals without success to Arjuna's pride and sense of honor as a soldier.  As Arjuna still hesitated, Krishna overwhelmed him with a display of his divine glory and authority, as the god Vishnu in human form. Source: Scharfe, Hartmut E. "Bhagavad Gītā." Encyclopedia of India. Ed. Stanley Wolpert. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 140-141.

Bach Cello Suite #1: [July 17: The Plane on the Runway at 6 A.M.]

The first movement of six suites for unaccompanied cello composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, a master of counterpoint and polyphony. Source: Arts and Humanities Through the Eras

Bloody Mary: [January 3: 2 Marys]

 a cocktail made with vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and salt; The term Bloody Mary presumably comes, with reference to the drink's colour, from the nickname of Queen Mary I of England (1516–58), an enthusiastic executor of her Protestant opponents. Source: An A-Z of Food and Drink

Constant: [The Three Constants]

A component of a relationship between variables that does not change its value. Source: Dictionary of Physics

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

refers to the policy, begun in 1993, regarding lesbians and gay men in the U.S. military. Service personnel may be discharged for homosexual conduct but not simply for being gay. Therefore, military commanders do not ask military personnel about their sexual orientations or begin an investigation except upon the receipt of "credible information" of homosexual conduct. If a person acknowledges his or her homosexuality publicly, military commanders presume that he or she intends to engage in homosexual conduct. The policy was a compromise between President Bill Clinton, who sought to repeal the military's ban on gay personnel, and the opponents of that repeal in Congress and among the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Source: Dictionary of American History.

Ear Trumpet: [November 26: Mrs. Keckley & Mrs. Lincoln]

a trumpet-shaped device formerly used as a hearing aid Source: Oxford Dictionary of English

Griot: [December 27: 2 Examples from the Interconnectedness of All Things]

Griots are more than storytellers and praise-singers who appear at weddings, naming ceremonies, and other events, or internationally known musicians who contribute to the growing phenomenon of World Music. Griots operate at the center of society, linking ruler and subject, past and future, while serving many roles: genealogist, historian, adviser, spokesperson, diplomat, mediator, interpreter, translator, musician, composer, teacher, exhorter, warrior, witness, and participant in a wide range of ceremonies from naming to initiation, courtship, marriage, installations of chiefs, and funerals (Hale, 1998). Some of these functions are gender-specific, whereas others are carried out by both men and women.

Griots and griottes rely on a heightened form of psychological awareness that appears clearly at the point of contact between rulers and subjects. They may interpret the wishes of chiefs, kings, queens, and presidents, as well as convey to their patrons the concerns or views of their subjects.

But the most fascinating impact of the griot and griotte on the evolution of thought appears in the narration of history. If history constitutes a rethinking of the significance of events and the people involved in them, then griots and griottes are the producers of this kind of thought in the societies in which they live. In long poetic narratives called epics in the Western world and history in West Africa, griots and griottes reinterpret the past to listeners in the present. Typically, men narrate and the women contribute songs to these events, although it is not unheard of for a woman to narrate an epic. They redescribe events in a fluid, situationally specific synthesis of past and present values. The episodes that are included and the emphasis given to each depend on both the event and the audience. Source: Oxford African American Studies Center

Groundhog Day: [February 2: Groundhog]

February 2, when the groundhog is said to come out of its hole at the end of hibernation. If the animal sees its shadow—i.e., if the weather is sunny—it is said to portend six weeks more of winter weather; a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way. Source: New Oxford American Dictionary

 Jaywalking: [December 12: Jaywalking]

The ‘jay’ in the word is the same as the bird, which has been used colloquially to mean ‘silly person’. Source: Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins

Krishna: [November 13: Start Here]

Lord Krishna (Krsna), the “Dark One,” is the eighth and most important avatar of the god Vishnu or Hari. The mythology of Krishna is among the richest in Hinduism. There are various versions of each part of the man-god's history, as recorded, for instance, in the Mahabharata— particularly in the section called the Bhagavadgita—in the Harivamsha, and in the Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas. At times, as, for instance, in the running narrative of the Mahabharata, Krishna seems to be more the ideal warrior king than an avatar, but at other times, as when he miraculously saves the Pandava wife Draupadi from shame during the famous attempt on the part of the Kauravas to disrobe her, and as when he lectures the hero Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita, he is very much the god, the container within himself of the whole universe. Derived from various sources, the story of Krishna conforms to the basic elements of the Heroic monomyth. Source: Oxford Companion to World Mythology

Mason-Dixon Line: [December 27: 2 Examples from the Interconnectedness of All Things]

The Mason-Dixon Line initially established the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, resolving a lengthy dispute between the Penn and Calvert families, proprietors of the respective colonies. In 1784 it was extended to settle the Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia) boundary. In the Antebellum Era the Mason-Dixon Line marked the division between the northern free-soil and southern slave states. With the 1820 Missouri Compromise, Congress applied the term to a line extending from the Pennsylvania border, down the Ohio River to its Mississippi River outlet. Since the Ohio River flowed in a southwesterly direction, Congress established the line at 36°30′ west of the Mississippi. The Mason-Dixon Line, thereby, divided the nation geographically over the slave issue. It later became embedded in popular usage as a convenient shorthand for demarcating the northern boundary of the South. Source: Oxford Companion to United States History.

Marcel Proust: [September 18: Proust's Cookie

(1871–1922) French novelist of modernism; Suzan-Lori Parks' work is often characterized as post-modernism.

Oedipus: [February 9: The Origional Motherfucker]

In Greek mythology, the son of Jocasta and of Laius, king of Thebes. Left to die on a mountain by Laius, who had been told by an oracle that he would be killed by his own son, the infant Oedipus was saved by a shepherd. Returning eventually to Thebes, Oedipus solved the riddle of the sphinx, but unwittingly killed his father and married Jocasta; their children were Antigone, Ismene, Polynices, and Eteocles. On discovering what he had done he put out his own eyes in a fit of madness, while Jocasta hanged herself.

Oedipus complex in Freudian theory, the complex of emotions aroused in a young child, typically around the age of four, by an unconscious sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and wish to exclude the parent of the same sex. (The term was originally applied to boys, the equivalent in girls being called the Electra complex.) Source: Oxford Dictionary of Phrase & Fable

Our American Cousin [November 26: Mrs. Keckley & Mrs. Lincoln]

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Ford's Theatre during a performance of the comedy Our American Cousin. Source: American History Through Literature: 1820-1870.

 Pallet: [September 12: Make me a Pallet]

Those who could not afford a bed would sleep on a pallet. Mama Yancey, a blues singer, recorded a song call "Make me a Pallet on Your Floor." It is considered an early blues song.  Source: Oxford Music Online                                   


In Greek mythology, the wife of Odysseus, who was beset by suitors when her husband did not return after the fall of Troy. She put them off by saying that she would marry only when she had finished the piece of weaving (Penelope's web) on which she was engaged, and every night unravelled the work she had done during the day. Source: Oxford Dictionary of Phrase & Fable

Proust's Cookie: [September 18: Proust's Cookie

The hidden role of smell in flavour is no better demonstrated than in Proust's iconic tale of the madeleine. Proust's hero Marcel is despondent, and is given tea and a cookie to cheer him up. At the first ‘taste’ of the tea‐soaked madeleine, Marcel is immediately (according to the myth) transported back to scenes of his childhood in Combray, thus demonstrating the power of smell in evoking ‘pure’ memories. Source: Oxford Companion to Consciousness

The Reader: [Dec 1 Rumour Mill]

Any individual decoder or interpreter of a message or text. Source: Dictionary of Media and Communication

Remembrances of Things Past:  [September 18: Proust's Cookie

Title of Proust' novel sequence of 1913–27. The novel's plot is circular: the narrator Marcel tells the story of his own life, which culminates in his discovering his artistic vocation, which leads him to write about his life in the very book the reader has just been reading. The dominant tone of the work is one of despair at the apparent irrecoverability of past experience and regret at the vanity of all human endeavour seen in the perspective of the destructive power of time. Source: Oxford Companion to English Literature

Space Shuttle Challenger: [February 5: Hail and Farewell]

Refers to the accident in which the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded barely a minute after liftoff and killed all seven people on board. This incident is cited as an example of what can happen when members of an organization fail to blow the whistle on what they recognize as a potential problem.

The Space Shuttle Challenger flew nine successful missions prior to the incident in 1986. This mission was unique in that, on this flight, Challenger was scheduled to carry the first teacher to fly in space, Christa McAuliffe. The mission was also unusual in that, from the start, it was plagued by anomalies. Although liftoff was originally set for January 22, weather delays and equipment servicing issues delayed liftoff until January 28.

A subsequent investigation identified the cause of the disaster—the failure of an O-ring seal. It was determined that the O-ring was not designed properly. Regardless, had the shuttle lifted off on January 22 as originally planned, it is likely that the launch would have been successful. It was the abnormally low temperature on January 28 coupled with the design defect that caused the disaster to occur. Source: Encyclopedia of Business Ethics & Society

St. Valentine’s Day: [February 14: Revolver Lover]

This day marks the 1929 shooting of seven members of the rival ‘Bugsy’ Moran's gang by some of Al Capone's men disguised as policemen. Source: Oxford Dictionary of English