Our story follows the plight of an entitled judge and some disparate friends who are caught in an expanding web of trouble after a political duel the judge helps enable sparks an explosive civil uprising that quickly coalesces into a highly organized, secret-society Vigilance Committee whose thousands of inculcated members overthrow the government in a meticulously executed, surprise bloodless coup.
The central action primarily revolves around two men, each from a different end of the political spectrum, who never meet until Part III yet have a tremendous impact on each other and the events in the story:
First, there is the pedantic, entertainingly evil, Hubert Nobcraft (think Snape), a repressed, fidgeting bookseller and aspiring writer whose mundane pen waxes Machiavellian the moment he is selected to be the powerful secretary of the Vigilance Committee.
And there is his nemesis, the above-mentioned Judge, Ned McGowan, a self-assured bon vivant in his mid-fifties renowned for his skillful poetry and bespoke attire, whose celebrity in many ways is the idol of Nobcraft's ambition, who becomes the target of Nobcraft's jealous ire for the scandalous role he played helping to organize the political shooting that sparked the entire revolt.
What results from all this, of course, is an Orwellian dictatorship the likes of which will not be seen again until 20th Century Soviet Russia. There are dog soldiers, twenty-four-hour street patrols with cadence chants, unlawful search and seizure, and a colluding press that persecutes and censors any who disagree–all directed by a narcissistic tycoon whose roots in secret Masonic tradition and passion for grand opera permeate everything the Committee does.
Then there are the women, acquaintances of Ned's, with the naiveté and faith to draw sympathy, provoke chaos–and move mountains.
When we first meet the young, hopelessly emotional, Arabella Bryan, she is a displaced diva whose passion for opera is surpassed only by her desperation for marriage, which gets her into trouble because the man she marries—finally—turns out to be the political assassin Ned helped, and consequently, the Committee's first casualty.
With her husband's execution directly following their marriage as part of a midnight spectacle staged like the conclusion of a Verdi opera (end Part I), the banished Arabella is covertly whisked by Ned to the crumbling Mission Dolores (Part II) where his old confidante, its sole resident, Sister Maria Dominica, apprehensively agrees to take Arabella in and disguise her as a Poor Clare.
A Spanish firebrand with an indomitable spirit and fearless temper, Dominica is already evading the Bishop's orders to completely close the Mission and move to her retirement convent. But she is adamant; before she dies she must restore the neglected chapel to the glory of its heyday, when her father was governor of Alta California–and she was in charge!
All throughout, Nobcraft unleashes an ever-intensifying propaganda campaign of character assasination statewide about the wayward judge. Utilizing the country's newfound literacy and the popular press, he successfully transforms Ned into a monster of biblical proportions, forcing him underground (with a $15,000 bounty on his head) while publically amassing unchallenged support for the Committee's latest plan: to cancel upcoming July 4th celebrations and instead announce the popular motion to secede California from the Union under the Committee's auspicious All-Seeing Eye.
What Nobcraft fails to include, of course, is his own secret plan to deceive the old nun out of the mission's Spanish Land Grant Titles known as the Pueblo Papers, hidden at the mission, so that he and a select few Committee executives can develop the valuable land into a lucrative horseracing park after secession. This will ensure a windfall capture and avoid any future problems with the all-powerful Catholic Church.
Ned, meanwhile, underground and on the lam, assumes numerous identities as he tries to expose Committee leaders as the criminals they truly are while being relentlessly hunted by Committee goon squads and shameless opportunists throughout the hills and haciendas of Spanish California (this is "Zorro" territory).
The pursuit for Ned, however, proves overwhelming by the end of Part II when, during a Minstrel Play in Santa Barbara, arranged by Nobcraft to rally support for the Ned's capture and execution, the entire town erupts into a feeding frenzy, nearly burning itself to the ground on rumors that the demon worth $15,000 is actually within their grasp.
Losing everything he owns in the frantic chase that follows, it is only through the miraculous help of a notorious Elvis-like, anti-American "bandito" (from Ireland, no less) that the broken, broke and humbled Ned is secretly disguised as a Franciscan Friar and escorted straight through the frenzied mobs to the outskirts of the city where he begins his trek back to the Mission Dolores via El Camino Real — alone, on a donkey, a penniless friar.
Suffice it to say, in Part III, all the central characters, young and old, friend and foe, each in disguise for ulterior motives, unwittingly descend on the Mission on a bright, sunny afternoon in an unexpected coincidence where culture, race, religion and music conspire to create something greater than the sum of the parts–let us just say an epiphany of sorts–one that changes hearts and, fortunately for California, the intentions of a reluctant general and the course of history.___________
NOTE: Industry professionals are welcome to request a PDF or hard copy of the script via email here. A list of characters in order of their appearance can be downloaded here.Go Back