Monday, August 27, 2012

Introducing Phineas Rubeus Ashmole


Phineas is a remarkable fellow, an aristocratic eccentric who is a proficient alchemist.  He embodies the spirit of adventure, exploration, and spiritual/physical enlightenment through science/progress/occultism so often found within the Steampunk genre and subculture.  

Throughout the majority of the play, Phineas remains inside his own home within his comfort zone.  But the clockwork of fate is a tricky matter, and circumstances come into play that compel Phineas to embrace the totality of his mission, and seek to heal not just his clients and beloved George Sorenson, but the world itself.   

Phineas is portrayed by Terra Mysterium co-founder, company member, and assistant director Keith Green.  Below is Keith’s creation of Phineas’ background information, providing the readers with several juicy tidbits of information about this fascinating gentleman.

"The Alembic" opens this Friday as an official selection of Chicago Fringe Fest.  All performances will be presented at Dream Theatre, 556 West 18th Street, Chicago, IL 60616

Friday, August 31st at 7pm
Saturday, September 1st at 1pm
Sunday, September 2nd at
Monday, September 3rd at
Friday, September 7th at 10pm
Saturday, September 8th at 7pm
Sunday, September 9th at

Admission: $15 ($5 for the mandatory Fringe Fest Button, $10 for admission to our show)

Full name:  Phineas Rubeus Ashmole
Occupation/class: Alchemist; upper middle-class
Social class:  upper middle-class

Favorite color: gold; it is the symbol of purity
Least favorite, why? dull puce; it is the color of vomit and ill health.
Favorite music? Waltzes (Strauss, von Suppe), Gilbert and Sullivan, and Neo-Romantic opera (Wagner, Verdi)
Least favorite music, why? Peasant music of central and Eastern Europe (too crass and vulgar sounding)
Food: Healthy greens and grains.
Literature: Blake, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Keats, the scions of the English language.
Expressions: “It is our faith in something greater than ourselves that distinguishes us from the lesser beings that crawl upon this Earth.”
Expletives (curse): Damn!
Favorite mode of transport: walking or carriage
Hobbies: opera, fine theater, gardening
How do they spend a rainy day? Reading and smoking his pipe

Favorite clothing, why:  fashionable dress of the 1880s; bright colored waistcoats.
Least favorite, why: garish, modish garb that speaks of the lower middle-class
Jewelry or other accessories:  pocket watch
Drives what type of vehicle or animal:  is driven by others in a carriage.
Where does he live:  London, Knightsbridge, 1800s townhouse
Where does he want to live: Knightsbridge
Spending habits, why: moderate – not overly frugal (enjoys a night at the opera or theater, fine dining, and fine clothes), but not a spendthrift either; very wealthy so the aforementioned expenditures are not a burden.
What do they do too much of, why: absorbed in his work; striving to make lead into gold
Most prized possession, why: alchemy lab – it is where the magick happens.
People he secretly admire, why: John Dee, Paracelsus, Sir Isaac Newton, Cornelius Agrippa, and William Robert Woodman.  These were the greatest alchemists and metaphysicians in history as far as Phineas is concerned.  Woodman was a famous Rosicrucian and horticulturalist.
Person he is most influenced by, why:  John Dee.  Dee strove ever toward achieving the dream of Astraea; he came the closest in Phineas’ mind to actually achieving a sort of divine apotheosis.
Most important person in his life before story starts, why:  Sorenson.  He is in love with him; Sorenson is also the lead that he desires to transform into gold.
How does he spend the week just before the story starts: Busy at work in the alchemy lab obsessing over not turning lead into gold.  When he’s not working at alchemy he is researching everything he can on it.

Living situation:  Raised in an upper middle class home in Southhampton.
Type of childhood: first son, expected to take over the family business.  There was a fair amount of pressure on him for this until it became clear that he had no aptitude for it.
First Memory:  his mother singing to him while rocking him to sleep in the nursery.
Most important childhood event that still affects him/her:  Having in essence driven his sister Annoria mad with one of his alchemical concoctions.  She was always unstable and he tried to help balance her; it didn’t work, and actually backfired.  At age 13 (when he was around 16), she drank one of his potions at his behest and shortly thereafter went stock-raving mad and died.  He blames himself.  In truth, she was likely headed this way anyway and at most he sped up the process; not everyone can be transformed.
Why? It destroyed someone he loved, someone he was trying to help; he feels incredibly guilty and the largest part of his quest to help humanity is motivated by this guilt.  He is seeking atonement.  This is tied up with his desire to transform Sorenson.  He is replaying this facet of his relationship with his sister (the attempt to transform someone who really is beyond his help) and he is bound and determined to “get it right” this time.
Education:  Cambridge University
Religion: Mystical Christian (Rosicrucian); Kabbalistically speaking – Jesus resides at Tiphareth, but there are 5 sephiroth higher than that, and the Great Goddess, the germinatrix of the world resides at Binah, further up the Tree of Life.  Jesus is an entrypoint, but there is so much more beyond him.
Finances:  A large fortune, partly through inheritance and partly by his own skills.

Optimist or pessimist? Why? Optimist – a true Lockeian, he believes that all people are inherently good.  All have the true spark of the divine in them.
Introvert or extrovert? Why?  He can move freely in society and loves talking with people, but he also loves to be shut up in his alchemical lab.  He desperately wants someone to be in the lab with him, someone who really gets his passion and wants to share it with him.
Drives and motives:  The transformation of humanity into something truly divine.  He has yet to find a partner to make him feel fulfilled and happy.  He has come to see Sorenson as the desired partner, but is aware that in his current state he cannot be that, thus his motivation to really access the means of transmuting the leaden soul into something golden.  He is hoping to “fix” Sorenson.
Talents: Can find the silver lining in any cloud; an amazing herbalist and chemist, he is not boasting when he tells Vera of all his accomplishments at the beginning of the play.
Extremely skilled at:  alchemy and social interaction with people of all stations, but esp. of people his station and above.  He is also an excellent dancer.
Extremely unskilled at:  risk assessment (e.g., Sorenson)
Good characteristics: Upbeat, optimistic, jovial, good sense of humour, kind, compassionate, loving in a very nurturing way, patient.
Character flaws: Sometimes blind to the flaws of others, fails to realize that, although everyone may have a divine spark, not all people can actually be transformed from lead.  Has real blind spots when it comes to the people closest to him whom he loves; he has a tendency to idealize people, to focus on their potential and what they might become rather than what they are.
Mannerisms: Often very fluid and punctilious in his movements.
Peculiarities:   an alchemist; a little bit of the nutty scientist here.  Odd behaviors (like warming tea on a bunson burner) do not strike him as in the least unusual.
Biggest regret: that he (in his mind) inadvertently killed his sister, Annoria, with his alchemy when he was in experimenting in his teenage years.
Minor regrets:  Hasn’t found someone to share his life with.
Biggest accomplishment:  Alchemist to the Queen, has received royal medals/honours for his work; saving the lives of people who have been near to death.
Minor accomplishments:  his tinctures and potions; published a largely harmless treatise on alchemy that has gotten rave reviews, but which cannot compare to the works of the masters.  He knows this and is a little embarrassed about it.

Is he a daredevil or cautious?  More cautious.
Does he act the same alone as when with someone?   Largely the same when alone or with others.  If he senses that others need him to be more gregarious (or withdrawn), he will respond to that and try to meet their needs.
Habits:  smokes a pipe when he’s relaxing, sings while he works
Drinks: wine, claret, occasional gin and tonic when it’s very warm.
How much: abstemiously – a glass of wine with dinner when he’s out or the odd drink on a hot day is all he goes in for.  To do more is unhealthy.
Greatest Strength:  his belief in people can empower them (focused optimism).
Greatest Weakness:  his belief in people can blind him to their flaws (naïve).
Soft spot:  redeemable (we hope!) outcasts; the underdog
Is his soft spot obvious: Not right away
How does he hide it: paternal aloofness
Biggest Vulnerability:  trusting too much
Zodiac Sign: Sun Sign:  Libra; Leo Rising, Pisces Moon.

Mother: Elizabeth Ashmole
Relationship with her: Close in childhood; more distant as he grew older and after the incident in his teenage years, of which she is unaware.
Father: Darius Ashmole
Relationship with him: distant
Siblings, How many, relationship with each: Had a sister, Annoria, who went mad and died when she was 13; they were very close.  Brother, Frederick Albert, who inherits family business. They have an amicable relationship but are not close.  Phineas is relieved he was there to take over the business and his brother was relieved that Phineas, as the elder, was not interested in claiming what was technically rightfully his.
Children of siblings:   His brother has four children, 2 boys and 2 girls.
Other extended family: A still living Great Aunt Violet of whom he is fond, although her taste in décor is appalling in his opinion.  He visits her occasionally when she's up in London in her townhouse.
Close? Why or why not:  They visit once in a while when she is in London, and once in a great while, when he can get away, at her home in Essex.
Spouse or Partner:  None, but he has his hopes set on Sorenson.
Relationship with them:  Intimate (non-sexual at the moment) friends.
Friends and Colleagues:  Peers, but not close friends – members of the SRIA, Royal Society, and fellow alchemist/armchair Kabbalist/magicians around the realm.
Relationship with them:  Peers, but not close friends.  The type of people you are friendly with and correspond with, but are never too intimate with.
Generally speaking, how does he relate to other people: Always pleasant, gentlemanly, and polite; he occasionally loses his temper with Sorenson, although he's always very quick to make up with him.
Is he the Hero/Heroin of the story in their own mind: No, he is Merlin – Merlin is not the hero, Arthur is.  Sorenson has become his Arthur (also his Alcibiades though he does not realize it yet).
How does he view the Hero/Heroine:  Loves him deeply and wants to see him grow and transform into the truly beautiful and wonderful person he knows he is.

How are is Phineas perceived by strangers, what is their first impression of him: Gregarious and outgoing, charming, generally socially adept, but with occasional forays into eccentricity/geekiness (talking alchemy and mysticism when something triggers him).  Fortunately, his reputation as an alchemist of worth gives him some leeway in this area; most people expect him to be more crackers than he is.
What happens to change or confirm this perception: If he gets going on something metaphysical, people’s eyes may glaze over politely.
What do people like most about this him: He is good at intellectual discourse and polite conversation, which often puts people at ease; he endeavors not to be controversial about politics or religion.
What do they dislike most about him:  If he does get wound up on something metaphysical he might bore them.  Also people are aware that he is very intelligent and he does not downplay this, so it can make them uncomfortable, esp. if he begins to regard them with his deep-set eyes that seem to see into them.  He also tends to not be gossipy and so people at times feel constrained to be a bit politer around him than they would like (“Oh, it’s that stuffy alchemist with no sense of humor, best not talk about what the Marquess of Salisbury is up to or it’s sure to offend his sensibilities.”)

One word they would use to describe themselves: devoted – to his craft and to those he loves (Sorenson)
One paragraph of how he would describe himself: “I am a true seeker on the path to wisdom.  There is no loftier goal than the pursuit of holy wisdom and divine transformation.  My body, mind, and soul are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and true understanding.  It is my purpose in life to help humanity to transform its baser passions that we might become as one with the Source of all being.”
What does he consider his best physical characteristic and why: his aquiline nose, which gives him an almost regal mien.
The worst one? Why? His hands – though capable of doing his work, they remind him of his father’s rather clumsy appendages.
What four things would they most like to change about themselves:  His hands (wishes they were a little more delicate like his mother’s), his physique (wishes he were more muscular and/or dashing), his misdeed (as he sees it) in regards to his sister, a missed opportunity to have a love affair when he was younger (he missed the clues and didn’t realize the other young man’s interest until much later).
Why? He wants nothing of his father; he would like to be more physically attractive, he regrets accidentally sending his sister off the deep end, and he would have liked to have experienced a love affair when he was a young enough man to enjoy it in all its dramatic and uncomplicated beauty.
If these things were changed would he be the same person, why/why not: No, because these things are essential to who he is.  His whole life has largely been an attempt at atonement because of his sister.
Would changing of number 1 make them more happy? Why/why not:  More fulfilled perhaps in some ways, and less regretful, but not necessarily happy.
Most at ease when: he is in his alchemy lab.
Most ill at ease when: he cannot effect a peaceful solution for people.  He feels he should be able to transform it.
Priorities: Heal the world, make it a better place than when he found it.  Somewhere in there as an afterthought if he is honest with himself he would like to have a lover to relax and share his life with.
Philosophies: Hermeticism, pre-Fabian Socialism (leanings toward Saint-Simon), Rosicrucianism, Mysticism.
Past failure they would be embarrassed to admit: The debacle with his sister (which no one knows about), and certain games that were played with other boys in his adolescent years at school.
Why? The one is rooted in deep shame, the other in social propriety.
If granted one wish what would it be, why?  To bring his sister back.

Immediate:  Turn lead into gold.
Long term: Transform Sorenson and then go on to work to transform others in the world.
How do they plan to accomplish them: Not sure beyond the immediate.
How will others be effected by this:  If he succeeds, many people’s lives will be better.  Sorenson will be worthy of being a true partner and the two might find happiness together.

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