Interview with Barry Morgan, Writer/Director of the Arcana webseries – Part 2
â€œI’ll try not to mention Buffy more than ten times in this interview,â€ Morgan says with a guilty smile, â€œbut that’s one of the best examples of a reluctant hero, and, I have to say, my favorite television show of all time.â€ [Buffy] is constantly struggling with her calling as a Slayer, and it adds a real level of palpable drama to the story.â€
In Joss Whedon’s â€˜Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’, the heroine is called upon to attend high school, have a normal family life, and, of course, hunt down and assassinate the undead forces of evil. Whedon referred to his creation as, â€œReal life, just a bit wonkier,â€ a quote
that Morgan keeps next to his computer and in the forefront of his brain.
Through Arcana, Barry hopes to, â€œImpinge upon the world as we know it ever so slightly. Fantasy without being too fantastical. Understanding myth as part of our regular life. A hero in the everyday world. That was always the thought for the overarching story structure.â€
This brings us to our next inspiration for Arcana. If Joss Whedon is a modern master of mythology, one can hardly separate the ideas of the Hero Myth from the man who spelled it out for all of us.
â€œ[Joseph] Campbell called it the monomyth. The one myth that seems inherent to all cultures throughout written, and more importantly, oral history,â€ Barry says. â€œThe Hero Myth is embedded in our . . . â€ He pauses, searching for the next word, â€œIt depends on how you want to look at it. Jung called it the collective unconscious. Some scientists believe that we genetically inherit memories. In animals we call it instinct. But there is still so much reluctance, from both the scientific and religious communities, to say that humans have, you know, some inherent thing that is passed down to us.â€
All these questions, concepts, and gaps in history began to coalesce in Barry’s mind in December of 2009. And then, â€œsomething happened.â€ He developed a central structure to build these ideas around.
â€œThe name Arcana comes from the major Arcana of the tarot deck. As a kid, I was fascinated by ancient monuments and by different forms of divination. Prophecy and divination are a reoccurring theme in most of our old works. Whether it’s the Bible or the Jewish Kabala or ancient Hindu texts. There is a sort of mysticism in our modern religions that gets overlooked.â€
For Arcana, the tarot deck became the vehicle used by otherworldly and powerful characters â€“ Phoenix – to interact with our world, known in this series as First Side.
â€œEvery episode in the web series revolves around a certain tarot card that the main character gets,â€ Barry smiles mysteriously, â€œdelivered to him.â€
Against his will, the hero, known as Stairs, is sucked into a supernatural scheme of sorts. Barry goes on to explain the basic structure of the Arcana webseries, â€œ[Stairs] must progress through the tarot deck, learning about himself and the mysteries of humankind. The tarot deck itself is easily equitable to the hero myth. Arcana, on one level, is personified through the character Stairs as he goes through this hero myth, if you will.â€
So who is Stairs? â€œStairs is the embodiment of the massive schism that is going on collectively around the globe right now.â€
On a deep and metaphorical level, the name itself represents â€œthe notion of ascension and an increased level of [human] consciousness. There was a point in time where the vast majority of humans forgot that we were involved in a grand mythic story. The story of life. I, ideally, want to help us reconnect to that story.â€
Barry describes our current situation as, â€œa schism between the ancient world and the modern world. In our modern world, I don’t think we see myth and story as being alive. One thing I wanted to do was reconcile these two worlds because everything is moving so fast. And we, as human beings, are freaking out. A sort of global schizophrenia is happening. We are learning so much so quickly, and yet I truly believe that we yearn for our ancient past.â€
Barry has taken these ideas, distilled them within himself, and examined them as a way to reconcile our ancient past and our modern ideologies. He goes on to briefly touch on the vast backstory that took place long before the events we see in the webseries.
â€œAround 5,000 years ago, coinciding with dawn of civilization, there was this structure set up, which I call the Gambit. Periodically, human beings are thrust into a living mythological experience and their success or failure has dire consequences on a profound level. When the story picks up, there has been a gap since the last Gambit and the current Gambit, a gap of about 500 years. This brings me to the point about reconciliation of our ancient and modern mindsets. This character, Stairs, is thrust into the Gambit with the â€˜Old and the New’ smashing together like atoms in a super particle collider.â€
For reasons seeded deep in the collective unconscious, our hero reluctantly takes on the Gambit and the otherworldly forces at work behind the scenes. â€œHumans used to understand the story of the Hero myth as something alive and breathing â€“ something we experienced. But now, with the modern mindset, it’s just not that way. So that was the idea behind Stairs. Let’s take all of this and squish it together in this character and run with it.â€
The process of creating Arcana, and Stairs himself, has helped Barry better understand what he personally believes. â€œPart of my belief is that we are all moving toward the same goal, which is just learning as much about yourself as possible in your time on this planet. The one connection I would make between myself and Stairs?â€ he pauses and considers. â€œKnowing that you have an intuitive level about yourself and having the experience of not listening to that intuitive level, then seeing the consequences that come out of that, both good and bad. Every good hero has a little bit of everyone inside of them. Stairs is a lot of me, but a lot of everyone else.â€
Barry’s story cuts deeply into the veins of humanity. The struggles we all face, the pitfalls and consequences that challenge us at one point or another. But it also looks at humanity as a community. An interrelated interconnected species living in this world. Are we waiting for something to happen to us or is it time for us to make some hard choices?
â€œWhether it was God’s intervention or whether it was sort of a natural evolutionary development, whether it’s our sciences or our religions, there’s one thing in common. We look to a point in history and say, â€˜then something happened’. Then something happened to change human history.â€