The Die is Cast - cover

Title: The Die is Cast: Alea Jacta Est.
Author: Gilbert McInnis
Publisher: Samizdat
108 pages
ISBN: 2-9807774-0-4
Dimensions: 14 X 20cm

Gib McInnis - author - playright

Gilbert McInnis teaches Drama and Literature and has written four plays, poems, a short story and one novel.

The Die is Cast.

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Excerpt from the Preface

The Die is Cast is a dramatization of the physical violence or ‘assassination’ of 13 Montreal female Polytechnique students in 1989 by Mark Lepine. Besides exploring the physical violence in the play, I also investigate some reasons for the psychological violence that motivated that physical violence. Psychological violence is noticeable between my main character and his inner demons or the ‘spirit’ of left-wing feminism. This feminism, and its push for affirmative action policies in government, created a force powerful enough to ‘agonize’ him so that he would murder the female students.

From this political environment my plot developed. After extensive research that consisted of reading every article I could find on Lepine, I transformed this raw information to create a dynamic and youthful principle character. He is a young man who is faced with traditional problems in the area of love, sex, success and power. He is an explosive person and at times a monster. This is revealed by the conflict in the play in differing ways. However, this young man’s dilemma begins when he realizes he is no longer living in a world dominated by males and therefore he is frustrated because he cannot solve his problems in traditional ways. Moreover, he attempts to purge his frustration through a violent act, but what ensues, ironically, is a ‘memorialization’ of this violent act, similar to the ‘white ribbon’ event that is repeated every year on the anniversary date of the Montreal students’ deaths. Thus, a violent act or ‘sacrifice’ is ritualized and my play explores how a myth of male violence ensues from ‘his story’.

In Violence and the Sacred, René Girard claims that violence may resemble ‘sacrifice.’ If we agree with Girard’s belief, than both the killing of the young students and Lepine’s suicide are sacrificial in nature. But, Girard clarifies that ‘If sacrifice resembles criminal violence, we may say that there is…hardly any form of violence that cannot be described in terms of sacrifice’ (Girard 1). It is for this reason that the climax of The Die is Cast ends with a sacrifice and a white ribbon ceremony. Interestingly, my ‘ritual’ ceremony was based on that historical event in Montreal in December of 1989. Perhaps, I could arrange my scenario as such because, as Girard argues, criminal violence is sacrificial in nature.

In writing my play, I set out to deconstruct, or at least separate, a cultural event from its mythic content, and my first step toward this was to examine the ritual so that I could understand the myth behind that ritual. My drama in itself is a ‘ritualizing’ of a political conflict between males and females. However, my ritual grew from those reasons for having a white ribbon memorial, a ceremony that was to bring about ‘cultural conformity,’ and to convince everyone that males are more violent than females. However, as René Girard says, ‘Ritualized conflict is the greatest secret of cultural conformity. Participation in our political conflicts generates the illusion of an outside that is really inside, and this illusion is the hardest one to dissipate precisely because it is ritualized’ (Golson 147), and that ‘the covert appropriation by sacrifice of certain properties of violence — particularly the ability of violence to move from one object to another—is hidden from sight by the awesome machinery of ritual’ (Girard 19). My play explores how a myth of an ‘outside’ male ‘physical’ violence is really a ‘mask’ that hides an ‘inside’ psychological violence. Ironically, the white ribbon ritual in itself creates psychological violence, because it forces on the public an explanation that declares males more violent than females. Hence, in the white ribbon celebration (because that’s what it is), psychological violence moves ‘from one object to another’ when the above assumption is accepted as truth by the general public, and Mark Lepine was proof of that assumption!

Like many myths and rituals (if not all of them) a scapegoat is vital to its continuation, and scapegoats are usually marginalized people and sometimes ‘monsters.’ Out of the ‘spirit of our times’ surfaced the idea of creating a ‘marginalized’ monster to blame our current economic ‘plagues.’ The ‘monster’ I portray in the play is based on a young man who was the son of an Arabic immigrant. As far as I know, he spoke, Arabic, French, English, and perhaps read Latin. His father was a Moslem, and his mother, a French Canadian Catholic who converted to the Protestant ‘Evangelic’ church after her divorce. As one can imagine, growing up in a ‘purlaine’ French Canadian culture, such individuals would be marginalized. In fact, once Lepine committed his ‘monstrous’ deed, one can only imagine that his family was marginalized further by everyone’s ‘agony.’ It is true that Lepine had committed a monstrous act, but does it prove that he is a monster? If anything, he is their ‘chosen’ scapegoat, because as Girard says, ‘The scapegoat is vilified for having introduced the original contagion of violence into the community, and this violence is labeled ‘bad’ or ‘impure’ violence…and is shunted outside the group with the death [suicide?] or expulsion of the scapegoat’ (Golson 37). It was my attempt to deconstruct that image to understand the ‘spirit’ behind it, perhaps even to smash it and recreate a more balanced one. Essentially, it was my desire to make him human again. I did not do this to demean the pain of those who suffered by his ‘burden,’ but to deconstruct the whole dehumanizing force behind the ‘image’ of the white ribbon campaign.

As I learned, the people who came to see the play already knew, or at least had a vague ‘image’ of, who Lepine was and what he had done at the Polytechnique. Hence, the mythmaking process had already taken hold of them and for some of them the ‘myth’ formulated in their minds a clear-cut image of a ‘monster,’ and this of course is due in large part to left-wing feminist sympathizers in the mass media. For my part, I made it clear in the program that my character, Hamel, was based on Mark Lepine (his Arabic name was Gamel). However, before I gave them their ‘monster,’ I wanted them to experience my ‘human’ first. I showed them a young student, full of ambition, willing to work hard, intelligent, and at times, absurd too. He had a desire for sex, a desire to be successful, and most of all a desire to be accepted. In fact, Hamel’s ‘flaw’ was his obsession with being accepted, not only by the opposite sex, but also by an institution that represented success for him, the university. But, his acceptance to university represented more than success for his career: it represented his acceptance into society’s most prestigious institutions, and therefore, if he was rejected, society (and more importantly the opposite sex in that society) must therefore reject him as only a ‘marginal’ person. Hence, his ‘will’ to be accepted embodied a more particular ‘will’ to be united with the opposite sex, and the university was the means to that end. But, once he is rejected (ironically), he uses his ‘end,’ i.e., the females, to revenge himself against his ‘means,’ i.e., the university, in an ‘orgasm of violence’. That is why I believe he commits a violent act against females on a university campus.

For the purpose of comic ‘relief’, I decided to add a sex scene. However, my intention was also to parody contemporary theatre’s reliance on Hollywood tactics to amuse clients. Explicit sex scenes have become part of the formula in drama, and perhaps this is done so to ‘yank’ more males into the theatre. But my ‘explicit’ sexual scene involves two flies, and two young men take part in voyeurism when they stare at the two flies ‘making out.’ Like Hollywood, the theatre to an extent has forced humans to ‘make out’ in a scene that resembles a ‘human zoo.’ Spectators glance through the ‘bars’ of the Hollywood screen to stare at what appears to be an animalistic exchange between two individuals trapped and prodded so that the spectators may experience what is transpiring before their eyes. For my part, I wanted to ‘reduce’ this ‘formula’ to its logical end in hopes of warning the audience where this type of entertainment will end up. My fly scenario ‘climaxes’ in an ‘orgasm of violence’.

Turning to the technical side of the composition, the play is syllogistically constructed. My play’s structure ‘begins’ with a premise and is established with certain antecedents, then it moves forward (refuting that premise) until it reaches a ‘middle’ or minor premise of the drama, then, lastly, these two previous premises bring about an end. I learned this technique while reading the works of W.T. Price, who was the founder of America’s first playwriting school, and I modernized his ideas so they would be more applicable to my contemporary audience. From Price, I learned that a story can be structured ‘logically’ (Price believe algebraically too), so that the story can express ‘reasonably’ on its own. In essence, it allows the audience to participate more freely in the story process, not just on an emotional level, but on an intellectual one too. I wanted to engage these contemporary minds in a thinking process rather than reduce their experience (and my drama) to a ‘visual-feeling-ritual.’ With my approach to structure, I did not need to hold up a sign at the end of the play to declare, ‘You may go home now.’ I did not have to turn the house lights on, nor ‘plant’ someone in the audience to start them clapping, because my structure moves the story to its end by itself. I did this to re-establish an order desperately needed in contemporary dramatic storytelling, an aspect that many post-modernists have taken great pains to destroy.

However, I do not reject all aspects of post-modernist techniques because I enjoy using many of them. In fact, I only became conscious of them recently, and I must say that while I was writing the play I knew very little about them. First, my play is a meta-narrative of that historical event in Montreal on December 6, 1989. Also, other factual events are ‘contextualized’ within my play. For instance, according to an interview I heard, the mother of Lepine did convert to Evangelical Christianity during this period — exactly when she converted, I am not sure. But this ‘experience’ is included in the play. Also, shortly after the government’s affirmative action policy passed consent, there was a professor at another Montreal university who did ‘assassinate’ three of his female coworkers, as reported by my TV anchorwoman. Moreover, a newspaper did publish a short article the day after the massacre about threats to newborn boys, and one of my characters reads part of this article in the play. The scenario between my main character and a female newspaper journalist actually did take place. In fact, Lepine’s final letter to her is stated in full (with errors too) near the end of the play, and signed exactly as he had signed it, Alea Jacta Est; hence, the title of my play..

Works Cited

Girard, René. Violence and the Sacred. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977.

Golsan, Richard J. Rene Girard and Myth. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993.

Innes, Christopher. Introduction. Avant Garde Theatre. By Innes.
New York : Routledge, 1993.

Price, W.T. The Analysis of Play Construction and Dramatic Principle. New York: W.T Price Publisher, 1908

    Gib McInnis has completed a degree in Political Science, a M.A. in English literature, and is in the process of completing his PhD. at Laval University (Québec City). He has taught drama, theater, film and English literature for the past five years at both College and University in the province of Québec for Laval University and Chicoutimi University. He has written five full length plays (amongst which Human Geography), and has directed and produced four of them for the English community in the Québec region. Moreover, in the summer of 2003, he completed his first book of poetry, Life Along the River. Gib now resides in Port Williams, Nova Scotia, with his wife and four children.

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