Our story follows the plight of an entitled judge and some disparate friends who find themselves caught up in an expanding web of trouble after a political duel the judge enables 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 journalist whose mundane pen waxes suddenly Machiavellian the moment he is selected to be the mouthpiece of the burgeoning Vigilance Committee.
And there is his nemesis, the above-mentioned Judge, Ned McGowan, a self-assured bon vivant in his mid-fifties, swooned by many a woman for his skillful poetry and bespoke attire–whose celebrity in many ways is the idol of Nobcraft's ambition–yet who becomes the target of Nobcraft's jealous ire for his scandalous role in helping to organize the political shooting of the celebrated newspaper editor, which has sparked the entire revolt.
What results from all this, of course, is the overthrow of the government by 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 love for secret Masonic tradition and 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 assisted, and consequently, the Committee's first casualty.
With her husband's execution directly following their marriage, both, part of a midnight spectacle staged to come off 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 disguised as a Poor Clare.
A Spanish firebrand with an indomitable spirit and fearless temper, Dominica is already evading the bishop's orders to completely abandon the closed Mission and move on to her retirement convent. But she is adamant; before she dies, she must restore the neglected Mission's 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 across the state focused on the character assassination of the wayward judge. Utilizing the country's newfound literacy with 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 publicly amassing unchallenged support for the Committee's insatiable ambition; by this point, to cancel upcoming July 4th celebrations to instead announce plans to secede California from the Union under the Committee's ubiquitous All-Seeing Eye.
What Nobcraft fails to disclose, of course, is his own secret plan to deceive the old nun out of the mission's troublesome Spanish land grant titles known as the Pueblo Papers. These old surveys, hidden at the mission, are the only proof of ownership for the mission's surviving neophytes, and Nobcraft, along with a select group of Committee executives, have decided to develop the mission's fields into a lucrative horseracing park. Having these papers will ensure a windfall capture while preventing any future claims, especially from the almighty Catholic Church.
Ned, meanwhile, underground and on the lam, assumes different identities as he tries to print the truth about the Committee's myriad crimes while being relentlessly hunted by its goon squads and shameless opportunists through the hills and haciendas of Spanish California (think, this is"Zorro" territory).
The frenzied pursuit for Ned reaches critical mass by the end of Part II, when, during a popular Minstrel Play in Santa Barbara arranged by Nobcraft to rally support for the judge's ultimate capture, the entire town erupts into a feeding frenzy, rioting and nearly burning itself to the ground on rumors that the legendary "demon worth $15,000" is actually within its grasp.
Losing everything he owns in the frantic chase that ensues, it is only through the miraculous intervention of a notorious Elvis-like, anti-American "bandito" (from Ireland, no less) that the broken, disconsolate Ned can escape disguised as a Franciscan Friar. Escorted through crazed mobs to the mountains overlooking the smoking city, Ned begins his desperate 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