John Milton’s epic ‘Paradise Lost’ presented and recorded as dramatic reading
Death is one element of life people question beyond all else. There is always judgement on whether the time was right or should the person that died should have been someone else.
Ultimately, people come to a question of who is to blame.
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On April 5, The Milton Ensemble performed a dramatic reading of the book “Paradise Lost, Book XI, Adam’s Vision” by author John Milton in the broadcast studio of the Media Arts Center.
The ensemble was divided into eight characters, two of whom are not found in the text; The Arguer performed by Sidney Hall Jr., Milton by Robert Steele, Narrator by B. Eugene McCarthy, Adam by Dan Lewis, God and Son of God by Linda Warren, Eve by Brandi Macdonald, and Archangel Michael by Rodger Martin.
The New Hampshire’s Humanities Council was a sponsor for the reading.
Diane Kearns Duncan is a member of the council and said, “I like to see how the projects we fund are organized and how the audience enjoys them.”
The production was performed on camera so it could be recorded and aired the following morning on KSC TV and to be recorded for the group.
The production opened with live music performed by Michael Wakefield, which consisted of an essential orchestra puppeteer through a keyboard and various devices.
Wakefield said, “It’s like walking on a tightrope, but it’s always like that, it’s like being the sound effect guy on the radio.”
He went on to say, “I have cues that I have written in and I have the script that I’m following so that I know which goes to where.”
The Arguer opened with a passage from the script which described the events transpired in the previous history of Milton’s epic.
The story follows Adam and Eve as the Cherubim (fire sword wielding warrior angels in the Christian religion) led by Archangel Michael casting them out of the Garden of Eden (the birthplace of humanity in the Christian religion).
While being cast out, Michael consults Adam on why they have been driven out and what future generations of his children will go through as punishment for eating from the Tree of Knowledge (the one thing the couple could not do while in the garden).
Adam witnesses his son, Cain, killing his brother, Abel, in jealousy over his sacrifice to God.
He witnesses his children in bliss, but sees how bliss can turn to chaos with the added element of human emotions.
Finally, he witnesses the flood in which a vast majority of human life drowns in God’s wrath.
At the end of his vision Adam asks Michael about the justification of people being killed because of the one sin he and Eve committed against their creator.
Michael counsels Adam with a way of life in moderation in order for redemption of the human race. He also tells Adam about God’s future covenant with mankind to not be destroyed by water after the great flood.
After the ending lines by the Arguer, the students behind the studio class ended the recording and the audience heralded the performers for their work.
Audience member Carolyn Corcoran said, “I enjoyed it very much. I think certain parts of the text are very funny and others are historically interesting. I thought the interpretation of God, Adam, and the angel Michael were excellent.”
Warren commented on her performance as God and the Son of God saying, “It’s a lot of fun, I have played God through several of these books. I have had a chance to take apart God’s character. God’s a little bit of a hard guy to deal with but the Son of God is a very nice person so he makes up for God’s hard edges.”
Lewis said, “I played Adam in just about every book he appears in, and it’s always kind of interesting. In this one I’m having a story read to me so much of the time I’m listening and reacting in that way.”
Though he never appears in the book, the character Milton often talked in between the lines about comparisons to other books which inspired his epic.
Another character that does not appear is the Arguer.
Hall said, “The original ‘Paradise Lost’ didn’t have what’s called the argument at the beginning, and then the second edition the publisher wanted some help for the reader to know what that book of ‘Paradise Lost’ was all about.”
He went on to say, “So Milton put all his arguments in the beginning of each book and it basically tells you what is going to happen in the book. It’s like a synopsis of the book to come.”
The Milton Ensemble is currently directed by Martin and has been performing their dramatic readings of Milton’s epic for 12 years.
McCarthy said the production is “completely changing every time. Every book is so different; it’s all new to me because it’s a dramatized performance.”
Ryan Loredo can be contacted at