The Original of Jaques

Slide1

 

                                            IN THE DARK, sounds of birds in a forest. LIGHTS UP on

                                                two men in hempen homespun garb, Elizabethan c.1590.

                                                WILL, armed with a bow, is moving stealthily into a clearing.

                                                JACK follows, feet sore but eyes alert, stalking a place to rest.

                                                WILL speaks in a hushed undertone as he takes up position

                                                to await his quarry.

 

WILL:

This green’s a place where we can find a deer.

I’ve often come upon them gathered here.

They come to take a drink from yonder brook.

Thirst drives them, they’ve no choice. Last year I took

A great six-pointed stag with just one shot.

He never knew what hit him, poor old sot.

 

                                                A pause as WILL looks for deer. JACK heaves a sigh.

                                               

My Lord of Melancholy sighs, Alack!

You’re keeping awfully quiet, aren’t you, Jack?

What, do you lack for words my silent friend?

 

JACK:

Ah, Will! You talk enough for twenty men.

 

WILL:

I’d play to thousands, if they would but listen!

But the stage is yours, now: Speak, Tragedian!

Recite your text. This rustic comic’s done.

Pray impart unto your audience of one.

 

JACK: (plainly)

I’ve no heart for shooting any buck.

 

WILL:

You lack the heart to shoot a hart? But there’s no lack

Of game here. Why should good men go hungry

Amidst plentitude? God’s blood, it makes me angry

To think our children don’t have food to eat

When there’s enough to feed our families meat

For weeks, from foraging (or poaching, call it)

A single summer’s eve in Charlecote,

With old Sir Thomas Lucy never the wiser.

He sends too few to catch us, the old miser.

An’ if they did, could they begrudge us food

When deer are so abundant in this wood?

 

JACK:

They work for he who swears they’ll pay the price

Who poach upon his lands. You cast the dice,

Yet you’re not gaming with your life alone

But that of your wife and child.

 

WILL:

Ah! Your poor children.

I’m sorry, Jack. How thoughtless I have been.

You’ve had to worry more about them, since—

 

                                                JACK shifts. WILL stops. JACK blinks, fighting back tears.

 

JACK:

It’s not your words alone that make me wince.

I’ll not deny, life’s not been worth a damn

For Ham and Judith, since their mother died.

Poor Judith took it hard enough, but Ham

Has ever been the quiet one who’ll hide

His private grief.

 

WILL:

Just like his father.

 

JACK:

I’m sorry, Will. I don’t mean to be a bother.

But what would they do if ought befell me?

 

WILL:

I would take them, then. If that consoles thee.

 

JACK:

You are a good, true friend, Will Shagbeard.

 

                                                WILL doffs his cap. His hair is thinning, and with the growth

                                                on his lip and chin, we recognize the future poet-dramatist.

 

WILL:

Or ‘Lag-Beard,’ Stratford has it now, I’ve heard.

 

JACK: (chuckling)

No, since Anne Hathaway, it’s shag has stuck.

 

WILL:

Ironic. She the first girl I ever—

 

–Was that a crack of twigs? The birds stop singing. Both men look, but see no deer. After a moment, the birds resume, as do the men,

 

JACK:

Does it not disturb you that her fawns shall starve

If we do take their doe?

 

WILL:

We’ll take a buck.

 

JACK:

Will.

 

WILL:

A nice round haunch for you to carve.

Perhaps a pair of them, with any luck.

 

JACK:

Will.

 

WILL:

The lot of us will feast on venison.

 

JACK:

Will you let me speak? I’ll tell you, I—

It bodes no good, to kill a denizon

Of Charlecote—

 

WILL:

Oh poo! I don’t see why.

You fear Sir Thomas Lucy? For a lark,

I’d nail satiric verses to the gate

Of Charlecote itself. This deer park

Is too large for Lucy’s men to wait

Upon the ample herd of horned lords

Who gather here. What, so he is a friend

Of Walsingham, and all of that. Towards

Such ‘gentlemen’—

 

JACK:

But Will, we do offend,

We do usurp, as much as Thomas Lucy,

Lord Walsingham and all the rest. You speak

Of deer as ‘horned lords.’ Why then, you see

That Nature is its own domain. Why seek

To trespass here? Let’s leave the wood unto

The deer.

 

WILL:

Hm… You speak as if there were

Domains of animals and men, but you

Are making false division. Men rule where’er

Our footprints do appear. That is the way

The Good Lord has arranged our mortal sphere,

With all his creatures, great and small, the prey

To one above them.

 

JACK:

So I fear.

 

WILL:

Predating likewise on the weaker kind

With Man atop a Chain of Being, just

As falcons rule o’er pigeons, wolves oe’r hind

As God himself is set to rule oe’er us.

 

JACK:

You read oe’r much in a great man’s library,

And think thereby to keep pace with the wolves.

A great man you may be one day, but nary

A bloke in Stratford prefers hawks to doves.

 

WILL:

The metaphor’s astray. It’s not as if

I’ve no respect for animals. I swear,

When father’s trade forced me to put the knife

To some poor kid so some rich gent could wear

A better grade of gloves, it grieved my soul.

I used to make a little funeral speech.

 

JACK:

“An ass is good as deaf when bells do toll,”

My grandam always said.

 

WILL:

Mine, too! To teach

Some lesson, though I’m sure I don’t know what.

Though I respect the natural world, I just don’t think

That animals are sensible, that’s all.

 

 

JACK:

No more than men are.

 

                                                There’s a distinct crack of twigs. The birds have stopped again,

                                                but the men, deep in the dialogue, do not heed it. They resume.

 

JACK:

Once, long ago, when I still thought like you,
I chanced to come to rest under an oak

Whose ancient roots drank deep upon the bank

Of this same stream where we do tarry now.

A stag burst forth from underneath the brush

Upon the other bank, an arrow in his breast.

Great sighs he heaved, and though he saw me there,

He lay down on the ground to catch his breath.

Before his armed pursuers could catch up

With him, and bring him to that final sigh

We make on earth, that men call expiration.

So close was I that I could see the tears

He wept. Nay, do not laugh. Tears such as you

Or I would weep were we to find ourselves

Alone, an arrow in our breast, no help

In sight.

 

WILL:

               You made a moral of this, did you?

 

JACK:

A thousand metaphors. The needless stream

Of tears that we call life, it did not need

This augmentation. Leave it to itself.

It will become a Thames of tragedies,

Enough to fill a folio, full up.

This one poor deer, was a testament

To all that sorrow. And there I stood,

The only witness to this testament,
No friends else to stand venireman

To this injustice.

 

                                                Another beat of silence. There are no birds. They’ll not come back.

 

WILL:

My friend, you suck the joy out of a hunt

The way a varmint robs a bird’s nest.

JACK:

Compact of jars, I cannot sing the tune

That you would hear. I fear I am a motley fool

Whose leaden entertainment falls on ears

That would hear better japes to make them laugh

Than jibes to make them op’ their minds and think.

What are you laughing at?

 

WILL:

I smiled perhaps.

I cannot help it. Oh, the image oddly suits:

My Lord of Melancholy as a Jackanapes.

 

JACK:

At best, most men are merely fortune’s fools,
We stumble on, we mouth with sound and fury,

We stumble off the stage again.

 

WILL:

A fool?

Nay, I’d sooner play the lover’s role.

 

                                                WILL turns his back, hugs himself, and makes kissing sounds.

JACK:

The lunatic, mad poet, better suits you.

 

                                                WILL turns around, facing JACK, and regards his friend.

 

WILL:

And you, an honest courtier, sage councilor.

If I should e’er turn poet, I would pen

Just such a featured role for you, my friend.

 

JACK:

Will you be heading back to London, then,

To try your hand at acting once again?

 

WILL:

It’s hard to get your foot in at the door.

London’s mobbed with actors. I did no more

Than hold the patron’s horses at the gate.

 

 

JACK:

Perhaps your destiny is poet, Will.

You even prate in blank verse.

 

WILL:

Not until

A provident God sees fit to make it so.

 

VOICE: (off)

I found the poachers! Over here! What ho!

                                                WILL and JACK look offstage, toward to source of VOICES OFF.

 

JACK:

The Providence of God has spoken, man.

And us here on the bottom of that Chain

You spoke of.

 

VOICE: (off)

What ho, I say! Come quick!

 

                        WILL moves about, fending off panic. JACK remains calm.

 

WILL:

In Lucy livery! They bear pikes.

 

JACK:

Sir Thomas Lucy’s men. One’s got a crossbow.

A couple of recusants, Heaven knows

What they’ll do when they catch us.

 

WILL:

That’s nonsense!

Make for the gate, or else we’ll hop the fence.

 

JACK:

It’s too late, Will.

 

WILL:

It’s not. Make for the gate.

 

VOICE: (off)

Will you come on?

 

WILL:

Why do you hesitate?

JACK:

If I stay here, they’ll stop to take me in.

I’ll take my meals in Lucy’s dungeon.

By all deserts, I’ll not ‘scape being flogged.

But you, you’ll get off clean.

 

VOICE: (off)

                                                Hey, bring the dogs~

 

WILL:

No! You and I, we’ll meet up at that tavern.

You know it well, just down the road in Malvern.

I’ll stand you for a cup or two of sack.

We’ll have a laugh, we two. We’ll toast our luck.

The sign’s the Prancing Stag. You know the one.

 

JACK:

You run. I’ll hold them off for you. I’m done.

 

WILL:

Don’t be a fool!

 

VOICE: (off)

     I’ve got one in my sights!

 

JACK:

You’d better run. They’ve got me dead to rights.

 

                                                We hear the twang of a bow, the whistle of a missile

                                                and the sickening thunk of an arrow as it catches JACK.

                                                He turns, and we see it square between his shoulder blades,

                                                a mortal wound.

 

WILL:

Oh God, Jack! No!

 

VOICE: (off)

     I got one! I got one!

 

JACK:

Don’t be a fool, Will. Run, man, run!

Don’t stop till you get to London –or beyond.

Send money for my children. Go! Begone!

 

VOICE (off)

My bow is broken. Hurry! The other will escape!

 

JACK:

Go, Will, go. Don’t be a Jackanapes.

 

WILL:

No.

 

JACK:

Remember me. Report my cause aright.

Adjust the facts to suit your story. As You Like.

Or What You Will. God bless you, Will, my lad.

You know, young poet, you’re not half-bad.

An’ you should ever write of me, say this:

A poet of a sort your friend Jack was. Jack… is.

 

                                                This last comes out garbled, with the blood rising in his gorge,

                                                sounding more like “Jaques.” It is the last word he speaks.

                                                WILL cradles him a moment, then lets him gently but quickly

                                                 so the ground, then stands. He hesitates only a moment longer.

 

VOICE: (off)

He’s getting away! He’s getting away!

 

 

WILL:

I’ll live to put this right somehow. Someday.

 

                                                WILL exits, leaving the body. We hear the bayings of hounds.

 

 

                                                END OF PLAY.

WIN: a play for radio

Win vertical

 

Win

a play

for radio

 

by

Tim West

 

 

 

 

Win

 

a play

for radio

 

SCENE 1. Parker Pottery, small, struggling studio/shop for the ceramic arts.

Time is just before noon, any day of the week.

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING)

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

(SFX of DOOR CLOSING)

 

ELLEN: (away from mike) Good morning!

 

MRS. KRUGER: So you say.

 

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING)

 

ELLEN: Can I help you?

 

MRS. KRUGER: Restroom for the boy.

 

WINSLOW: I gotta go now.

 

MRS. KRUGER: You have a public restroom, I suppose.

 

ELLEN: State law requires it if you serve food and beverage.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Well, where is it?

 

ELLEN: In the back. To the right.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Go on, then.

 

WINSLOW: What?

 

MRS. KRUGER: Use the poddy.

 

WINSLOW: Where is it?

 

MRS. KRUGER: Well? Where is it?

 

ELLEN: Back and to the right. It’s marked.

 

MRS. KRUGER: The boy can’t read.

 

ELLEN: Oh. Come on, then. I’ll show you.

 

WINSLOW: Okay.

 

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS TRAVELLING)

 

ELLEN: What’s your name?

 

WINSLOW: Winslow.

 

ELLEN: Winslow. What a nice name.

 

WINSLOW: You’re a nice lady. You can call me Win.

 

ELLEN: Restroom’s in here, Win.

 

WINSLOW: Thank you.

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING and CLOSING)

(SFX of FOOTSEPS APPROACHING)

 

MRS. KRUGER: He might need me. He manages the toilet alright but doesn’t always manage to button up after. He’s… you know. Not quite right in the head.

 

ELLEN: Oh. I didn’t notice. He just seemed a little shy.

 

MRS. KRUGER: “Shy!” He’s got autism!

 

ELLEN: Oh, I…

 

MRS. KRUGER: I think it’s autism, anyway. What do doctors know. Something odd about that boy, anyway. Very odd.

 

ELLEN: That must be difficult. Are you— Do you—

 

MRS. KRUGER: Well? Spit it out.

 

(ELLEN laughs nervously)

 

ELLEN:Would you care for a cup of coffee? On the house?

 

MRS. KRUGER: Coffee? You serve coffee?

 

ELLEN: We’re trying light food and beverage. To increase the foot traffic.

 

MRS. KRUGER: On the house? Yeah, alright. I’ll take a cup.

 

ELLEN: Coming right up.

 

(SFX of LIQUID POURING)

 

ELLEN: Please, have a seat.

 

(SFX of CHAIR DRAGGED ON FLOOR)

 

MRS. KRUGER: I thought this was a pottery shop.

 

ELLEN: It is. We make and sell ceramics. People rent space. Mostly evenings.

 

(SFX of CUP RATTLING IN SAUCER)

 

MRS. KRUGER: Yeah, I see your little flyer here.

 

(SFX of PAPER RUSTLING)

 

MRS. KRUGER: “Let art put magic in your life.” Magic. Right. They do this at night?

 

ELLEN: You know. People work during the day. My husband thought maybe coffee and muffins would bring in more people, daytimes.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Oh, I get it. It’s a marketing gimmick. “Feed your soul.” More like ‘Buy my stuff. My art!’

 

(MRS. KRUGER scoffs)

 

(SFX of PAPER RUSTLING)

(SFX of CUP SET ON TABLETOP)

 

ELLEN: Here you are. How do you take it?

 

MRS. KRUGER: Cream, no sugar. Unless you have Sucra— Oh, powdered creamer? Never mind.

 

ELLEN: Sorry, that’s the best we can do until we get a refrigerator. My husband’s out now, looking at a used one he found in the—

 

(SFX of CUP CLANKING ROUGHLY ON TABLE)

(SFX of CHAIR PUSHED BACK ABRUPTLY)

 

MRS. KRUGER: Winslow, you done in there?

 

(SFX OF FOOTSTEPS TRAVELLING)

(SFX of POUNDING ON DOOR)

 

MRS. KRUGER: Winslow! I said, Are you done in there?

 

(SFX of TOILET FLUSHING, muffled)

(SFX of DOOR OPENING)

 

WINSLOW: Yes.

 

MRS. KRUGER: “Yes, ma’am.” Wash your hands.

 

(SFX of FAUCET, then RUNNING WATER)

 

MRS. KRUGER: Close the door!

 

(SFX of DOOR CLOSING)

(CUT SFX of WATER RUNNING)

 

MRS. KRUGER: You have to tell him everything.

 

ELLEN: It must be very difficult, being the mother of a special needs child.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Oh, he’s not mine. I mean, I’m not his mother. I’m in foster care.

 

ELLEN: I see.

 

MRS. KRUGER: County pays pretty well for it, if you got room for kids. I got room.

 

ELLEN: How nice for you.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Basement, converted garage. I get paid for referrals. I got a application.

 

(SFX of PAPER RUSTLING)

 

MRS. KRUGER: Winslow, though. He’ll likely go back to County. Don’t think he’ll get adopted. “Special needs.” Pain in the—

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING)

 

MRS. KRUGER: Buttons! Do up your buttons, Winslow.

 

WINSLOW: I did… I did my buttons.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Then tuck in your shirt-tail! We gotta get a move on. I’ve got a meeting with a man from the County. He’s on my case. What time is it?

 

ELLEN: Almost noon.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Noon! Oh, great. The appointment’s for 12:30, and getting this one from one place to another—

 

ELLEN: You know… uh, we’ve got… a class, yes …a special class for kids starting at…at twelve o’clock. If you’d like to leave Winslow here, he’s welcome to join us.

 

MRS. KRUGER: “Special class,” huh? Oh, I get it. Free coffee, then you try to sell me on pottery classes for a retard.

 

ELLEN: He’s standing right he— um… No. No, there’s charge. We offer free classes. Yes, as part of our… uh, educational outreach program.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Free classes?

 

ELLEN: It’s called… er… POTTERY! Yes. Personal… Opportunity To Teach… and Educate… and Recreate… er, Youths.

 

MRS. KRUGER: That’s the name?

 

ELLEN: We’re still working on it. It’s very new.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Well, I don’t care what you call it if it’s free and it gets Winslow here off my hands for an afternoon. These County people can be difficult to deal with, if you get some do-gooder that’s into a lot of rules and regulations.

 

ELLEN: How long do you need?

 

MRS. KRUGER: They said set aside two hours, but I was going to hit a couple other places downtown. Could I come back, say, four –four-thirty?

 

ELLEN: Sure.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Maybe closer to five.

 

ELLEN: Take as long as you need.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Winslow, this nice lady’s going to take care of you for the afternoon. You be good and don’t give her any trouble. You hear?

 

WINSLOW: Yes, Mrs. Kruger.

 

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS TRAVELLING, DOUBLE-TIME)

 

ELLEN: Well, Mrs. Kruger, I’m so glad to have met you. Don’t worry about the time. I’ll take care of Winslow until you get back.

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING)

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

 

MRS. KRUGER: Well, that’s great, Miss…?

 

ELLEN: Parker. Ellen Parker. Parker Pottery. It’s right there on the sign.

 

MRS. KRUGER: Sign?

 

ELLEN: The sign outside. Just above the doorway

 

(SFX of THREE QUICK STEPS)

 

ELLEN: See you at five. Bye-bye!

 

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

(SFX of DOOR CLOSING)

 

MRS. KRUGER: (muffled, unintelligible) !

 

(SFX of MUFFLED FOOTEPS RECEDING)

 

(ELLEN sighs heavily)

 

ELLEN: Unreal!

 

(SFX OF THREE SLOW FOOTSTEPS)

 

So… Win. Would you like a muffin?

 

END OF SCENE 1.

 

(MUSIC)

 

SCENE 2. Parker Pottery, later that afternoon

 

(MUSIC FADES)

 

(SFX of A POTTER’S WHEEL: A slight scraping, with two or three tones,

repeated to suggest circular motion. CONINUOUS UNDER DIALOGUE)

 

WINSLOW: What makes the potty wheel turn?

 

ELLEN: “Pottery wheel.” There’s a pedal down here, like the one you have on a bicycle.

 

WINSLOW: Some kids don’t have a bicycle. I’m too small reach the pedals

 

ELLEN: Well, I’ll do this one for you, just for now, until you’re big enough. We could use the electric wheel.

 

WINSLOW: Eclectric?

 

(SFX of POTTERY WHEEL SLOWS and STOPS)

 

ELLEN: Electric. You know, with a motor, like a machine.

 

(SFX of CHAIR PUSHED BACK)

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS RECEDING)

 

ELLEN: (away from mike) This one here

 

(SFX of A SWITCH)

(SFX of ELECTRIC MOTOR)

(SFX of POTTER’S WHEEL, as before)

 

WINSLOW: Wow.

 

(SFX of SWITCH)

(SFX of ELECTRIC MOTOR DIES OUT)

(SFX of POTTER’S WHEEL DIES OUT)

 

ELLEN: When you’re ready. But you start out with this one.

 

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING)

 

WINSLOW: I do?

 

(SFX of CHAIR DRAWN UP)

 

ELLEN: Everybody does. When they’re learning. I did, when I was about your age. My grandmother taught me. She was really good. Famous, in fact. As famous as you get, playing with clay. Lookey here.

 

(SFX of A POTTER’S WHEEL, as before, CONINUOUS UNDER DIALOGUE.

 

See? You spin the wheel, the wheel turns the clay. Then you shape it with your hands.

 

(SFX of HANDS SQUISHING INTO WET CLAY)

 

WINSLOW: Is that how you made all those?

 

ELLEN: Hmm?

 

(SFX of POTTERY WHEEL SLOWS and STOPS)

 

WINSLOW: Those up there. On the shelf. Did you make them?

 

ELLEN: Oh, I made some of them. Tom made some. That’s my husband. Some are from…

 

WINSLOW: Who?

 

ELLEN: You know, other people.

 

WINSLOW: Can you teach me how to do something like that?

 

ELLEN: Like those? Sure, I can teach you. Are you ready to try?

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

 

WINSLOW: Oh no. Is it five already?

 

ELLEN: No, it’s only— It’s okay, Winslow. That’s my husband. That’s Tom.

 

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

(SFX of DOOR CLOSING)

 

TOM: Hi, honey!

 

(SFX of CHAIR PUSHED BACK)

 

ELLEN: Tom! Ah-ah-ah: Clay on my hands!

 

TOM: I’m wearing overalls.

 

(ELLEN laughs)

 

(SFX of AFFECIONATE KISS)

 

TOM: Well, what have we here? Or should I say, who?

 

ELLEN: Tom, this is Winslow. Winslow, this is Mr. Parker.

 

WINSLOW: Hello.

 

TOM: Well, Winslow. It’s always a pleasure to meet a fellow student of the ceramic arts.

 

WINSLOW: You’re a student?

 

TOM: Well, we’re all learning, aren’t we? Let me tell you, I learned a thing or too about refrigerators today.

 

ELLEN: Did you get one?

 

TOM: In the pick-up.

 

ELLEN: Oh, honey!

 

TOM: Hey! Clay hands!

 

ELLEN: C’mere!

 

(SFX of LONGER, MORE AFFECTIONATE KISS)

 

TOM: Aw, it’s only a mini-fridge.

 

(SFX of A VERY QUICK AFFECTIONATE KISS)

 

(TOM laughs)

 

TOM: But that’ll do for now. We’ll look at it later. After Winslow’s gone home.

 

ELLEN: Well, Winslow is here with us all afternoon.

 

TOM: Oh?

 

ELLEN: Yes. His foster mother dropped him off. She had a meeting with the County.

 

TOM: The County?

 

ELLEN: Yes. I… eh, escue-rayed im-hay.

 

TOM: Hm?

 

ELLEN: Ig-pay atin-lay. Inslow-way’s oster-fay other-may is-yay a-ya eal-ray itch-b—

 

WINSLOW: Pig Latin! I-yay eak-spay it-yay –eal-ray ood-gay! She said,Rescued from Mrs. Kruger.” She’s a foster mother. For kids who don’t have a real mother anymore.

 

ELLEN: You would not believe it. This woman was unreal, Tom. I put in a call while Winslow had some instant cocoa and a muffin. The County said they’d be sending someone before five. Apparently, I’m not the first who called them.

 

TOM: Sounds like you two have had an interesting day.

 

WINSLOW: Mrs. Parker showed me how she makes pottery.

 

(SFX of CHAIR DRAWN UP)

 

TOM: She’s good, isn’t she.

 

WINSLOW: Yep. She’s good. You’re a student, too?

 

TOM: Well, yes. Yes, I am. Good with my hands, but I’d never made so much as a pinch-pot before I met Ellen. And I still have trouble with those. That one up there is the first thing I ever turned on a wheel.

 

WINSLOW: That one there?

 

TOM: Hm? Oh, no. The kind of lumpy thing next to that one.

 

WINSLOW: Did you make that one?

 

ELLEN: Me? Oh, no. I’m not nearly that… that good.

 

TOM: That, Winslow, was made by Ellen’s grandmother, who was a famous artist. That piece should be in a museum.

 

ELLEN: Not for a million dollars. That was the last thing she turned. I watched her make it. When I was about your age, Winslow. She was the one who taught me.

 

WINSLOW: It’s different from the others.

 

ELLEN: It doesn’t have a glaze. After you finish turning something on the wheel, you fire it. Then you glaze it. Only this one never got a glaze. It’s fired, but… but unfinished.

 

WINSLOW: She’s beautiful. Isn’t she.

 

(ELLEN laughs nervously)

 

ELLEN: It is beautiful. Tom, would you…?

 

TOM: Get ‘er down from there? Sure.

 

(SFX of CHAIR DRAGGED ACROSS FLOOR)

 

(TOM grunts with effort)

 

TOM: (away from mike) She doesn’t belong up here with this journeyman work, anyway.

 

(TOM grunts with effort)

 

TOM: (back into mike) This should be in our front window. It’s a museum piece!

 

ELLEN: It’s… it’s unfinished. It doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me.

 

WINSLOW: I like it. It’s special. It sings.

 

(ELLEN laughs nervously)

 

ELLEN: It… it sings?

 

(SFX of FOOTSEPS RECEDING)

 

TOM: (away from mike) On the electric wheel. That’d be a great window display.

 

(SFX of HOLLOW URN SET ON METAL)

 

ELLEN: Careful.

 

(SFX of FOOTSEPS APPROACHING)

 

TOM: (back into mike) Yeah, I see what you mean, Winslow. That’s a good way of putting it. If a pot could talk, the stories that one would tell.

 

WINSLOW: Sing. It sings the story.

 

(TOM laughs)

 

TOM: What an imaginative little boy!

 

ELLEN: He’s— He’s, uh…

 

WINSLOW: Odd. Mrs. Kruger says I’m odd. She doesn’t understand.

 

ELLEN: No. No, Winslow, she doesn’t. Tom, could I talk to you?

 

TOM: Sure, hon. What’s up?

 

ELLEN: Let’s… let’s step outside for a moment.

 

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS RECEDING)

 

ELLEN: (away from mike) We’ll be right back, Win.

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING.

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

 

ELLEN: (away from mike) Why don’t you show Tom how fast you learned to makea pinch-pot. You know, like I showed you before.

 

WINSLOW: Okay.

 

ELLEN: We’ll be right outside. Tom?

 

TOM: Right behind you.

 

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

(SFX of DOOR CLOSING)

 

(Pause)

( SFX of CHAIR PUSHED BACK)

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS, TRAVELLING)

 

WINSLOW: (whispering, into mike) You’re beautiful.

 

(SFX of HOLLOW URN ON METAL)

 

WINSLOW: (whispering, into mike) But I don’t think she’s heard you sing.

 

(SFX of HOLLOW URN ON METAL)

(SFX of A SWITCH)

(SFX of ELECTRIC MOTOR)

(SFX of POTTER’s WHEEL)

(SFX of SANDPAPER ON SANDPAPER)

 

(GRANDMOTHER, humming a tune)

 

GRANDMOTHER: Why, hello child. I’ve been waiting for you.

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING)

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

 

ELLEN: Winslow! What are you doing!?

 

(ALL SFX OUT)

                                   

END OF SCENE 2.

 

ANNOUNCER: We’ll rejoin our story in just a moment, but first this brief word from our sponsor.

 

(SFX of CUP SET DOWN HEAVILY IN SAUCER)

 

MAN: Blech!

 

WOMAN: What’s wrong?

 

MAN: Nothing, honey.

 

WOMAN: It’s my coffee, isn’t it.

 

MAN: What?

 

WOMAN: Admit it.

 

MAN: No! I mean, Your coffee’s good. –I mean, your coffee’s great! –I mean… your coffee is the best! I, I, I love your coffee! I want to marry your coffee! I just I couldn’t be happier with… with your coffee.

 

WOMAN: Then what?

 

MAN: It’s… It’s this sweetener. What is this? Equalose? Succraline? Tevia?

 

WOMAN: That’s a character from Fiddler.

 

MAN: Well, I don’t know!

 

(SFX of KITCHEN CABINET CREAKING OPEN)

 

MAN: I like sugar.

 

(SFX of 4-6 BOXES TUMBLING ON COUNTERTOP)

 

MAN: Just plain sugar.

 

(SFX of 6-10 BOXES TUMBING ON COUNTERTOP)

 

MAN: Don’t we have any sugar?

 

WOMAN: We’re trying to cut down. Put that stuff back!

 

MAN: Couldn’t we use honey?

 

(SFX of SQUEEZE BOTTLE SPURTING VISCOUS LIQUID)

 

WOMAN: It’s not really any healthier, chemically speaking. Clean that up!

 

MAN: Chemicals.

 

(SFX of CUP RATTLING IN SAUCER)

 

MAN: That’s what this stuff tastes like. It just spoils the taste of… of your swell coffee.

 

WOMAN: Here, try this.

 

(SFX of LIQUID POURING)

(SFX of CUP RATTLING IN SAUCER)

(MAN slurps liquid)

 

MAN: Hey, that’s not bad. I mean… What is it?

 

WOMAN: It’s coffee, Bob. Just… black… coffee.

 

MAN: Really? Then, no lie: Your coffee’s alright!

 

(MAN laughs heartily)

(WOMAN laughs heartily)

 

MAN: Hey, do we got any creamer?

 

(SFX of CUP RATTLING IN SAUCER)

(SFX of LIQUID SPLATTERING)

 

ANNOUNCER: Cremoron.

 

(SFX of CUP SHATTERING)

 

ANNOUNCER: The tasteless non-dairy creamer.

 

(SFX of SQUEEZE BOTTLE SPURTING VISCOUS LIQUID)

 

WOMAN: (away from mike) You clean that up!

 

ANNOUNCER: It’s nothing to complain about.

 

(HARP PLINK)

 

ANNOUNCER: And now, back to our story. Ellen Parker and her husband Tom have encountered a little boy named Winslow, a ward of the County whose putative guardian, Mrs. Kruger, has parked him in Parker Pottery for the day.

 

SCENE 3. Parker Pottery, moments later.

 

(SFX OF ELECTRIC MOTOR)

(SFX of POTTER’S WHEEL)

 

ANNOUNCER: Winslow has taken an interest in one particular piece of pottery.

 

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

(SFX of DOOR CLOSING)

 

ELLEN: Winslow, you mustn’t touch that. That belonged to my grandmother.

 

(SFX of FOOTSTEPS TRAVELLING)

(SFX of SWITCH

(SFX of ELECTRIC MOTOR SLOWS and STOPS)

(SFX of POTTER’s WHEEL SLOWS and STOPS)

 

WINSLOW: Okay.

 

ELLEN: It’s very special to me.

 

WINSLOW: I know.

 

(SFX of DOOR OPENING)

(SFX of SHOPBELL)

(SFX of DOOR CLOSING)

 

TOM: (away from mike) Ellen? What’s wrong.

 

ELLEN: It’s alright. Win was just taking a look at my grandmother’s…  at grandmother’s—

 

WINSLOW: I wasn’t looking, I was listening.

 

(SFX of FOOTSEPS APPROACHING SLOWLY)

 

TOM: Well, listen, sport: This urn is very special to Ellen. You might have broken it.

 

WINSLOW: I’m sorry. I just wanted to hear her sing.

 

TOM: Hear who sing?

 

(SFX of THREE FOOTSTEPS, SHORT AND SLOW)

 

ELLEN: It’s alright, Win. Hear who sing?

 

WINSLOW: Can I show you?

 

TOM: Winslow…

 

ELLEN: No, it’s alright, Tom. Okay, Win. You can show me. Show me what?

 

WINSLOW: I heard it on the radio. Mrs. Kruger doesn’t let kids watch TV. But I have a radio. A little one, I found in a drawer. Sometimes I listen to it.

 

ELLEN: When Mrs. Kruger goes out?

 

WINSLOW: She goes out a lot. One day, I heard them talking about it. On the radio. About how pots can sing.

 

TOM: Winslow, your imagination’s very strong, but I don’t think—

 

ELLEN: No. I heard that. It stuck in my mind. They found that ancient pottery picked up the sound of an ancient workshop. A stylus in clay on the turntable just like the stylus in vinyl on a recording disc.

 

(TOM scoffs)

 

TOM: That’s a hoax. Gotta be.

 

WINSLOW: No, you have to believe.

 

ELLEN: It’s okay, Win. Show me.

 

(SFX of HOLLOW URN SHIFTING ON METAL)

(SFX of A SWITCH)

(SFX of ELECTRIC MOTOR)

SFX of POTTER’S WHEEL)

 

TOM: See, Winslow? Nothing.

 

WINSLOW: You have to use your hands.

 

ELLEN: //You have to use your hands.// It’s what my grandmother always said.   It’s why she liked ceramics. You have to use your hands. Go ahead, Win. It’s okay. Touch it. Use your hands.

 

(SFX of SANDPAPER ON SANDPAPER, CONTINUOUS UNDER DIALOGUE)

 

(GRANDMOTHER humming a tune)

 

GRANDMOTHER: Why, hello child. I’ve been waiting for you.

 

ELLEN: That’s my grandmother’s voice.

 

TOM: I can’t—

 

ELLEN: Shh!

 

YOUNG ELLEN: Hi, Grandma.

 

TOM: What is it?

 

ELLEN: Oh, my!

 

TOM: What.

 

ELLEN: That’s me!

 

GRANDMOTHER: Come sit by me here.

 

(SFX of CHAIR DRAWN UP)

 

ELLEN: I had to be, what, six?

 

TOM: When was this?

 

ELLEN: Just before she died.

 

TOM: Oh.

 

YOUNG ELLEN: How you doing, Grandma?

 

GRANDMOTHER: Oh, I’m tired, child. You know, the medicine makes me weak. But I wanted to see you. I need your help.

 

YOUNG ELLEN: Like this?

 

GRANDMOTHER: Oh, just like I taught you. Use your hands. Don’t be afraid. Just roll up your sleeves and use the two hands God gave you.

 

YOUNG ELLEN: Aw, I’m no good.

 

GANDMOTHER: Don’t say that, dear. I need your help in another way. This work, it needs to be finished.

 

YOUNG ELLEN: Finished?

 

GRANDMOTHER: You know. When the things we make are fired. And then sometimes, there’s a glaze. You know, when we paint them and bake them in the oven.

 

YOUNG ELLEN: Yeah.

 

GRANDMOTHER: I was always good at glazes. That’s what I’m known for.

 

YOUNG ELLEN: You’re famous.

 

GRANDMOTHER: Yes. The famous ceramicist! Recognized, yes. Acknowledged, anyway. But none of that matters now. My work’s not finished, but… we run out of time. We all run out of time. So I need you to finish it for me.

 

YOUNG ELLEN:Are you going to die, Grandma?

GRANDMOTHER: Oh child, we’re all going to die. But before we do, we have to give something to someone else. We have to do that. With all the success I’ve had, I don’t know that I’ve done that. My work isn’t finished. Ellen, I may need you to do that for me. Will you do that for me?

 

ELLEN: Okay.

 

GRANDMOTHER: Promise me?

 

ELLEN: I promise.

 

(A PAUSE, with only SFX CONTINUOUS from before)

 

(GRANDMOTHER humming a tune)

 

GRANDMOTHER: Why, hello child. I’ve been waiting for you… child, I’ve been waiting for you… I’ve been waiting for you… Waiting for you… Waiting for you…

 

(SFX of SWITCH)

(SFX of ELECTRIC MOTOR SLOWS and STOPS)

(SFX of POTTER’s WHEEL SLOWS and STOPS)

 

WINSLOW: That’s it. That’s her song.

 

ELLEN: It’s beautiful. She was… beautiful

 

TOM: I don’t know what to say.

 

(SFX of A TELEPHONE RING, DISTANT)

 

ELLEN: I don’t know what to say, either.

 

(SFX of 2nd TELEPHONE RING, DISTANT)

 

WINSLOW: Phone call.

 

TOM: I’ll get that.

 

(SFX of FOOTSEPS, RECEDING)

(SFX of 3rd TELEPHONE RING)

(SFX of PHONE PICK-UP)

 

TOM: (away from mike) Hello? Uh… Yes, but… She can’t come to the phone right now. This is Mr. Parker. I see. Uh-huh. Oh.

 

ELLEN: (whispering, into mike) Winslow. Who sent you?

 

WINSLOW: (whispering, into mike) Sent me?

 

ELLEN: (whispering, into mike) Did… Did my grandmother send you?

 

WINSLOW: (whispering, into mike) Nobody sent me, Ellen. Something inside you called. Keeps calling… keeps calling.

 

ELLEN: What are you doing?

 

WINSLOW: You know.

 

(SFX of URN SLIDING on METAL)

 

ELLEN: Win, don’t touch that. Winslow, DON’T!

 

(SFX of POTTERY SHATTERING)

 

TOM: (away from mike) Sorry, I have to go.

 

(SFX of PHONE HANGING UP)

( SFX of FOOTSTEPS, DOUBLE TIME)

 

TOM: Ellen, honey, are you…? Oh, no! Your grandmother’s urn. What happened?

 

ELLEN: It’s broken. It’s broken.

 

TOM: Yeah, I can see that. Honey, what– Where’s Winslow?

 

ELLEN: He’s… He’s gone.

 

TOM: Well, it’s the oddest thing. That was the County, calling back. They checked on Mrs… is it Kruger? The woman you called about. Turns out she had, like, six kids under foster care, crammed into her basement, her garage…. She’s at County lock-up now. But they have no record of her housing any boy named Winslow. No record of any Winslow in their system at all.

 

ELLEN: (whispering, away from mike) There is no ‘Win.’

 

(ELLEN laughs heartily)

 

( SFX of PAPER RUSTLING)

 

TOM: Ellen, honey? Did you hear me?

 

(SFX of PENCIL ON PAPER, UNDER DIALOGUE)

 

TOM: Honey, what are you doing?

 

ELLEN: Designing a new flyer.

 

TOM: “Free classes for kids.” Free classes?

 

ELLEN: Our educational outreach program.

 

TOM: “P-O-T-T-E-R-Y. Personal… “

 

ELLEN: Opportunity…

 

TOM: “To… Educate…”

 

ELLEN: …and Re… Create… Youth.

 

(SFX of PENCIL ON PAPER, FLORISH, then OUT)

 

TOM: That’s the name?

 

ELLEN: I’m still working on it. It’s very new.

 

(MUSIC)

 

END OF PLAY.

Two in the Bush

Slide1

 

I should be very foolish to release the bird I have in my hand to pursue another.   Aesop, “The Nightengale and the Hawk”

 

CHARACTERS:                

NAN, a nature writer, early 30s-late 50s            

ROB, a nature photographer, the same age                     

 

                   LIGHTS UP. ROB and NAN are birders in                         

                   field gear, looking through binoculars.

 

NAN:

Do you see it?

 

ROB:

Not yet.

 

NAN:

You see the large boulder in the middle distance, next to the waterfall?

 

ROB:

Of course.

 

NAN:

And the tree next to it.

 

ROB:

Yes. Is it in the tree?

 

NAN:

No. Behind it. Sight right off the top of it. You’ll see it in the tree line beyond.

 

                   ROB puts down his binoculars.

 

ROB:

I don’t see it. Anywhere. Your sure it’s an eagle? It’s not just a large hawk.

 

                   NAN puts down her binoculars.

 

NAN:

It’s not a hawk, Rob.

 

                   ROB raises his binoculars again.

 

ROB:

I don’t see it.

 

NAN:

Where’s your camera?

 

ROB:

I can’t shoot what I don’t see.

 

NAN:

Not with your camera in its case.

 

                    NAN grabs at the nearby canvas bag.

 

ROB:

Hey!

 

                   ROB puts down his binoculars.

 

NAN:

You’ll miss it. It’ll fly away.

 

ROB:

(loudly) It’s my camera, Nan!

 

NAN:

(quietly) Shh. You’ll spook the eagle.

 

ROB:

If it’s an eagle. I doubt it.

 

                    ROB removes his camera from the bag

                    and fits a telephoto lens to it.

                    NAN looks through her binoculars.

 

NAN:

I don’t see it now.

 

                   ROB sights through the camera, then                           

                   lowers it.

 

ROB:

You can’t photograph what you don’t see.

 

NAN:

It was an eagle.

 

ROB:

Whatever it was.

 

NAN:

It was an eagle.

 

ROB:

Okay.

 

NAN:

It’s gone now.

 

ROB:

I didn’t see it fly away.

 

NAN:

I don’t see it.

 

ROB:

It can’t be gone, Nan.

 

NAN:

I don’t see it.

 

ROB:

It’ll reappear.

 

NAN:

No, it’s gone.

 

                        NAN puts down her binoculars.

 

ROB:

You have to be patient.

 

NAN:

Don’t talk to me about— I did this years before I met you.

 

ROB:

Then you know. It hasn’t disappeared. We just have to wait.

 

NAN:

I’ve got three major magazines interested in this article.

 

 

ROB:

I know.

 

NAN:

But we need pictures.

 

ROB:

And we’ll get them.

 

                        NAN sighs, finds a water bottle and                          

                       drinks. ROB sights through the camera.

 

NAN:

You want some water?

 

ROB:

Naw. Thank you, though.

 

NAN:

You need to hydrate.

 

ROB:

Don’t want to miss the eagle.

 

NAN:

It’s gone, Rob. It’s okay.

 

ROB:

Naw. I’m good.

 

                        NAN takes a drink from the bottle.

 

NAN:

I’m sorry I got—

 

ROB:

It’s okay.

 

NAN:

You don’t have to—

 

ROB:

Shh. Something’s moving.

 

     As NAN raises her binoculars, ROB                                 

                       quickly lowers his camera to drink.

 

NAN:

I don’t see it.

 

ROB:

Over the boulder now.

 

NAN:

I don’t see it.

 

                        ROB sights through his camera.

 

ROB:

Maybe it was the wind.

 

                        NAN lowers her binoculars.

 

NAN:

You’re humoring me.

 

ROB:

I am. But only half the time.

 

NAN:

Half the time?

 

ROB:

More, really. I was humoring you.

 

                        NAN raises, lowers her binoculars.

 

NAN:

You think I don’t know a hawk from an eagle?

 

ROB:

I don’t know how good a look you got of it.

 

NAN:

It was an eagle.

 

ROB:

I believe you.

                        NAN raises her binoculars.

 

NAN:

Three articles I pitched. Me. All you have to do is get us

the pictures.

 

ROB:

You can’t sh—

 

                        NAN holds up a preemptive hand.

 

NAN:

Don’t.

 

ROB:

 

NAN:

Honestly, Rob, would it have hurt you to have your camera out?

 

ROB:

I usually do. But—

 

                   NAN lowers her binoculars, looks at ROB.

 

NAN:

 

ROB:

 

NAN:

That wasn’t my fault.

 

ROB:

I didn’t say anything.

 

NAN:

You thought it.

 

ROB:

I shouldn’t have put the camera where you’d, you know, kick it.

 

NAN:

I didn’t kick it, Rob. I nudged it with my foot. And it… fell.

 

ROB:

Right. That’s all I was thinking. I didn’t want to put my camera where— You know. That might happen again.

 

                        ROB sights through his camera.

 

NAN:

That woman you worked with in Australia. What was her name?

 

ROB:

The Sheila, you mean? Her name was Katherine.

 

NAN:

Was she better than me?

 

                        ROB perhaps reacts subtly, but doesn’t

                        lower the camera.

 

ROB:

Not sure what you mean.

 

NAN:

She was like this big-time Aussie nature writer or something.

 

ROB:

She’d published a couple of nature books, that’s all.

 

NAN:

And there was that woman in Denver. What was her name? With the calendars and the website.

 

ROB:

What about her?

 

NAN:

Are you ever sorry you married me?

 

                        ROB holds his gaze through the lens.

 

ROB:

Some birds mate for life. Some mate seasonally. There’s advantages to both strategies.

 

NAN:

I mean, sorry you married me.

 

                   ROB holds his camera in place, looks at NAN.

 

ROB:

You ever seen a bower bird?

 

NAN:

Not in the wild. I asked you a que—

 

ROB:

The male bower bird goes to absurd lengths to decorate his bower. He’ll drag in leaves, flowers, berries, feathers, shells, pebbles, even coins, broken glass, scraps of fabric, brightly colored candies, shiny pop-tops from beer cans, whatever he can find to decorate the bower and make it attractive for the mate.

 

NAN:

Yeah, I know—

 

ROB:

Then he does a little song and dance to call in prospective mates.

 

NAN:

Rob…

 

ROB:

Then the female bower bird flies in and remakes it. Tears apart his work, and redecorates.

 

NAN:

I know this. So?

 

ROB:

So, it used to bother me that the poor bird worked so hard to please a mate, and then had her come in and re-do all his work. Until I realized that he wasn’t just trying to impress a mate.

He was trying to find one to work with him, who’d work with those materials, who’d see what he was doing and make it better.

 

                   They look at each other for a long moment.

 

NAN:

Bower bird, huh.

 

ROB:

I did a photo-spread on them. This was years ago. Before we were married. The article was terrible. That woman I was working didn’t have your knack for writing.

 

 

NAN:

No?

 

ROB:

 

                   ROB returns to sighting through his camera.

 

Great in the bush, though.

 

                   NAN laughs at this, despite herself.

 

 

NAN:

 

We hear the click and whirr of his camera.

                   NAN raises her binoculars, tracking.

 

Oh my god. Did you get that?

 

ROB:

Both of them. In flight. Above the tree line. You said you wanted a nesting pair.

 

NAN:

A pair of eagles. And you got pictures of them.

 

                        NAN kisses ROB. Then she puts away

                        her water bottle, rises as if to go.

 

I don’t think they were nesting, though.

 

ROB:

No?

 

NAN:

Not the right location. Maybe closer to the lake.

 

ROB:

Might be worth waiting to see.

 

NAN:

The sun’s going down, it’ll get cold soon.

 

 

ROB:

Right. If that is their nest, then they’ll be back.

 

                   NAN starts to say something, then sits.

 

What’ll we do while we’re waiting?

 

                   ROB takes a quick sighting through his

                   camera, then kisses NAN. After a moment,

                   NAN breaks the kiss to ask:

 

How long ago was that article on bower birds?

 

ROB:

Oh, this was years ago. I hardly remember the woman’s name.

 

NAN:

Katherine. What do you think about doing another article?

 

ROB:

On the bower bird? With you? Hmm. We’d have to do some trekking. Australia, New Guinea. Do you think you could sell it?

 

NAN:

“Sitting in the Catbird Seat: Two Bowerbirds Meet Their Match.” Something like that.

 

ROB:

Let’s look into it.

 

                   NAN sees something, raises her binoculars.

 

ROB:

(quietly) Is it them?

 

                   NAN nods excitedly.

 

NAN:

(quietly) Both of them.

 

                   ROB raises his camera and begins shooting.

                   We hear the screetch of an eagle, and

                   another one responding to its call.                         

 

END OF PLAY.

 

 

A True History of Prince Prospero: a variant text from the Isle of Caliban

Slide4

 

SCENE 1: IN THE BLACK, waves and seagulls. LIGHTS UP on a lone, stunted pine.

Enter GONZALO, dressed out of Holbein, laden with over-sized atlas, map and sextant.

He is followed by MATE, a roguish seaman bearing a pennant. Both wear black armbands.

GONZALO speaks Oxford English, MATE has a Latin lilt.

 

GONZALO:

What name is given to this island, mate?

These Southern Seas prove not to navigate

As easily as I have read upon the matter.

 

MATE:

Senor Vespucci never sailed these waters.

You’ll find maps here are difficult to follow,

Senor… Gonzago, is it?

 

GONZALO:

It’s Gonzalo.

 

MATE:

This “island,” sir, is not on any chart,

For it defies the navigator’s art

To steer a wandering bark unto these shores,

Or learn’d astronomer to find it by the stars.

No, you’ll not find this isle on any map.

Serendip-like, we find it by mishap.

 

GONZALO: (aside)

A nameless rock far from a nameless coast, eh?

It’s perfect for the purpose of my master.

 

MATE:

I did not say, sir, that the isle is nameless.

The ancients called this rock Old Setebos.

The mariner’s myth is that it disappears

In fogbanks, then magically reappears

At some other longitude and latitude.

 

GONZALO:

Enchanted, then?

 

MATE 2:

Bewitched’s a better word.

 

GONZALO:

A legend I recall, about a sea-witch—

Like Circe, or the Sirens… Sycorax?

 

MATE:

Exactly. Some say this her island is.

 

GONZALO:

Heraclitus, he called it Caliban, yes?

 

MATE:

And is Heraclitus a name that I should know?

 

GONZALO:

Poet. Third Century BC.

 

MATE:

I didn’t think so.

But Setebos or Sycorax, it’s all the same.

It’s just a rock, and a rock it will remain.

To give the rock a name? Here’s what I think:

I vote for Caliban. It sounds more Greek.

 

MATE plants the pennant. Offstage, a hautboy plays John Dowland’s “Flow My Tears.”

Enter PRINCE PROSPERO, wearing a black Doge’s cap and robes, in either arm

clutching his infant daughter, swaddled in white, and a silver urn, resting on a red pillow.

 

GONZALO:

My good Prince Prospero, I did as I was bid.

You said to find a place remote. I did.

This formal dirge and burial detail owing

Unto the Duchess Ariel notwithstanding,

I must protest that we delay our voyage

When swords are drawn and at an edge

Of readiness, to be brought down upon

Your brother the Usurper.

 

MATE: (with pennant)

“Free the homeland.”

 

GONZALO:

Your Grace well knows the customs maritime

Observable throughout recorded time

That serve in such a melancholy case.

When pressing matters make pressing need of haste,

Sagacious sailors do not make for port.

 

PROSPERO:

Just dump my Duchess’ ashes from the starboard poop,

And put us out to sea in a leaky cask?

 

GONZALO:

A caravel was all I dare to ask

When not an admiral I found but he

Was suspect in your brother’s mutiny.

 

PROSPERO:

Go! Private grief is not for public scrutiny.

My duchess is dead. I have no power.

I’ll never see the son she carried inside her.

Our infant daughter pines for her mother.

I have no power. Tell His Grace my brother

That I wish him well, and leave me here.

What awaits me, awaits me. What’s past is past.

 

 

 

GONZALO:

Is that a command, your Grace?

 

PROSPERO:

My last.

 

GONZALO bows, MATE kneels. Exuent. Manet PROSPERO, who kneels at the foot of the pine, laying both his burdens to either side. He weeps, beats the earth in frustration, and cries to Heaven.

 

Oh Angel, high or fallen, whatsoe’er

By this Rough Magic or by simple prayer

Can be so summoned, come and aid me now.

I’ve lost my love, my light. I do not know

If I possess the strength to raise our child

Alone, without her. I find I am beguiled

By grief, waylaid by woe. Even the will

Is wanting that would have me end it all.

Oh, gladly I’d change place to be entombed

Instead of he who died within his mother’s womb.

Or die he, if in dying he did not take

My dear beloved Ariel in his wake.

                       

                        LIGHTS SHIFT. The wind comes up. We hear the recorder playing Dowland’s

                        “Come again, sweet love.” The urn’s lid flies open, releasing a cloud of ash

                        which materializes into an exotic blue-skinned jinn in a masque by Inigo Jones.

                        This is the spirit we’ll call ARIEL.

 

ARIEL:

I am a jinn, a spirit bound in service

Unto thou, thou who has freed me, Magus.

 

PROSPERO:

What, Ariel?

 

ARIEL:

My history, false or true:

It has been a dozen long and languid years

Since I appeared. What is it that placed me here?

Old Sycorax, they used to call her,

The demons who paraded ‘round her fire,

For generation after generation.

A spell was cast that cleft this pine, encasing

My poor spirit there. Now Sycorax is fled.

 

PROSPERO:

But you are Ariel, my wife who’s dead.

 

ARIEL:

Before the time of Sycorax, I was a maid

Who never aged; at other times, the bawd

Of Setebos, this isle’s ancestral god,

Our father, our son, and our unholy lover.

A slave appears as their master sees them.

What to you, Magus, will I be or seem?

 

PROSPERO:

My Ariel, the wife I thought was gone.

 

ARIEL:

Pity. That will not make you free me soon.

And yet, one day, you’ll see me for who I am.

 

                                    ARIEL kisses PROSPERO. From the place where PROSPERO struck the earth,

                                    a figure sits up –the manifestation we call CALIBAN.

 

CALIBAN:

Oh many years of study it shall take

Before thou shouldst a proper human make.

 

ARIEL:

It lies not in our power, but in his sympathies.

 

CALIBAN:

Damnation ! Oh, we’ll be here centuries!

 

                                    CALIBAN falls back to earth, frustrated. PROSPERO rises appalled.

 

PROSPERO:

What thing is that?

 

CALIBAN:

Yo ho, what thing is this ?

A perfect poesy, all innocence!

 

CALIBAN sees the baby-bundle between him and PROSPERO. ARIEL retrieves it, staring at PROSPERO, shaking her head, and holding a finger to her pursed lips.

 

PROSPERO:

I’ll ask again, what thing are you?

 

CALIBAN:

Ha-HA!

I’m Caliban. Doest thou not know me, Da?

 

CALIBAN hugs PROSPERO, who freezes. ARIEL hugs the baby, who cries. BLACKOUT. END OF SCENE 1.

 

                                    SCENE 2. LIGHTS UP. INTERIOR OF A CAVE. ARIEL stands center, wearing

an apron and nursing the baby, quieter now. In her other hand, she holds a mirror, in which she admires herself. PROSPERO kneels at her feet, consulting a book and working with flash paper. After a poor effect, he checks his text; after a good one, he makes a note. ARIEL flashes reflected light from the mirror on him. 

 

ARIEL:

I could make fire for you easier.

 

 

PROSPERO:

Fire is a man’s work, though I thank you, wife.

 

ARIEL:

Her name was Ariel.

 

PROSPERO:

Yes, Ariel.

 

ARIEL:

What would the boy’s name be, had he seen life?

 

                                    CALIBAN enters, a good boy, eager to help, and deposits a bundle of logs.

CALIBAN:

Caliban! Look, mother, I found firewood.

What, haven’t got the fire started quite yet, Dad?

 

PROSPERO:

No, boy, I lack your mother’s patient skill.

Don’t you have something else to do?

(to ARIEL:) Your son’s a pill!

 

ARIEL:

Isn’t he your son too?

 

                        PROSPERO ignores them, busy with his spells. CALIBAN scowls, now a sullen teen.

 

CALIBAN:

There’s naught but meanness I can see in him.

 

ARIEL:

He’s lost his love. Love is what makes them human.

I know that it is hard to understand.

He loves you, but he thinks he lost you –Caliban!

 

                        CALIBAN exits, muttering to himself. PROSPERO continues with his spells, oblivious.

                        ARIEL flicks the cloth, and the infant disappears, the cloth now a prop for the following

                        —by turns a face-towel and shoulder wrap for MIRANDA, who enters as a petite girl

                        carrying a teddy bear larger than she is. With ARIEL’s help, she transforms before us

                         from toddler to teen.

 

Our children grow –What is she, two?— so quick!

She’s taking solid food, she’s walking, talking.

Before you know it, now she is six.

She’s off to school, she’s eight, she’s ten, a gawking

Adolescent. She’s twelve already. So quick.

To keep them at that age, now that’s a trick!

 

                        ARIEL spreads the cloth on the ground for a picnic. MIRANDA sits with the teddy bear.                                   

                        CALIBAN enters, bearing a tea-service. PROSPERO works with flash paper, oblivious.

 

 

ARIEL:

You really only need the one, you know.

The one spell. I await your bidding.

Where is Miranda?

 

PROSPERO:

Oh, I let her go

Collecting shells with Caliban.

 

ARIEL:

You’re kidding.

 

PROSPERO:

With scores of spells, I’ve got that rascal bound –

Enough to render even Caliban obedient.

 

ARIEL:

Ah! “Give him boundaries.” Haven’t you found

That’s less effective than it is expedient?

 

ARIEL watches as MIRANDA places a bandana on the teddy bear as bib.

                        CALIBAN puts a bandana on his own head and sits cross-legged on the cloth

                        as MIRANDA takes out flash cards, holding them up for CALIBAN.

 

CALIBAN:

“A.” “A” is for At One Ment.

 

MIRANDA:

It’s “Atonement.”

 

CALIBAN:

“Atonement.” What’s Atonement?

 

MIRANDA:

It says the moment

Of Grace that we derive from Worldy Acts.

 

CALIBAN:

Oh. Worldly acts, eh?

 

MIRANDA:

Yes. Of Grace.

 

CALIBAN:

That sucks.

“B.” “B” is for Beat It, Dude.

 

MIRANDA:

“Beatitude.”

 

CALIBAN:

beeby-beeby-beeby-beeb!— “Attitude.”

 

 

MIRANDA:

Cal! Be serious. “C.”

 

CALIBAN:

“C” is for Caliban!

 

                        MIRANDA glares at CALIBAN. It does no good. He does a little dance.

 

Can-Can Caliban! Stole a kiss and away he ran! Can-Can Caliban!

 

MIRANDA:

Cal! You’re not playing right!

 

CALIBAN:

I’m sorry, Randy.

…Not speaking to us now? Oh that’s just dandy!

 

MIRANDA:

My name’s Miranda.

 

CALIBAN:

But you call me Cal!

What’s up with that, Ted? It’s just you and me, pal.

 

MIRANDA:

Don’t call him Ted! Don’t try to make me laugh!

You with your attitude, that stupid scarf!

An artless jackanapes, a tart-tongued knave,

The ape of fashion and a willful slave!

You’re nothing but a— You’re ridiculous!

 

                                    CALIBAN, hurt to the quick, takes this with dignity.

 

CALIBAN:

That doesn’t make you more. It only makes me less.

I’m not your slave, and you’re the one who’s willful.

 

                                    MIRANDA melts into CALIBAN’s awkward arms.

 

MIRANDA:

I’ve not shamed you. I’ve only shamed myself, Cal.

I’m sorry. Cal! I love you so. I do.

 

                                    MIRANDA kisses CALIBAN.

 

CALIBAN:

You hurt me with your words, but kiss me too?

Oh, so that is love. But it’s not sublime.

It’s painful. If that’s what Father feels, I pity him.

 

MIRANDA:

I’m sorry, Cal. I love you.

 

 

CALIBAN:

Do you, Half Sis?

 

MIRANDA:

Why do you call me that?

 

CALIBAN:

Because… of… THIS!

 

                        CALIBAN jumps on MIRANDA and tickles her. Frisky turns amorous. CAL stops.

 

MIRANDA:

It’s alright, Cal. It’s alright. You don’t have to stop.

 

ARIEL:

She’s what, fifteen now? Sixteen? All grown up.

 

CALIBAN:

But me, I can’t. I can’t. If I were human,

Why, I would fill this isle with Calibans.

 

                        Roused by the tussle, PROSPERO discovers the two kids.

 

PROSPERO:

Unhand my daughter, fiend!

 

MIRANDA:

But father, we—

 

PROSPERO:

Be silent, girl! I trusted you, but now I see

You’re not the son I lost! You’re nothing to me!

You’re worse than nothing! You’re—

 

CALIBAN:

I’m Caliban.

 

PROSPERO:

A monstrous fiend! A wretch! A thing! Inhuman!

 

CALIBAN:

You’d rather see her topped by some young gentleman?

 

PROSPERO:

A sharp-tongued monster! Well, monster, learn your place.

I’ll master you! I’ll scar your back and brand your face

To make you look the monster that you are.

 

                                    ARIEL steps forward, holding the mirror. It glints in the light.

 

ARIEL:

With all this smoke, great Magus, where is the mirror?

 

 

PROSPERO:

Mirror? Behold what thou has monstered forth.

 

ARIEL:

Behold what you have brought forth for yourself.

If he’s a monster, I’m a monster, too.

 

PROSPERO:

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

 

ARIEL:

You do.

 

A flash of lightening, no sound yet.

 

If you don’t see it yet, you really ought to know.

I told you when you came here, Prospero.

I’m not your wife, your Ariel.

 

PROSPERO:

Who are you, then?

 

ARIEL:

My name was sometime Sycorax.

 

PROSPERO:

And him?

 

CALIBAN:

Some call me Setebos. But you can call me Cal.

 

MIRANDA:

And I am your grown daughter, your Miranda.

 

                                    There is a distant roll of thunder.

 

ARIEL:

Fate intervenes. The time has come for candor.

A tempest is now rising, which will bring

The past come sailing back to you, to fling

Your enemies upon the rocky verge

You’ve built around yourself. Now Fate will urge

The issue of forgiveness, not just of others,

Of faithless councilors, usurping brothers,

The men who took your kingdom, stole your wealth,

But of that hatred in you –you, yourself.

 

                        Lightning flashes once, again. The mirror glints in PROSPERO’s eyes.

 

PROSPERO:

Myself?

 

 

 

ARIEL:

Your loss was grievous, and it made you hard.

A hermit in a cave, obsessed with an arcane art,

Without a thought to your poor daughter’s love

For strange new worlds that you’ve grown weary of.

 

MIRANDA: (putting her arm around CAL)

Made you deny the boy that you’d called son.

Made you reject a love that you’d once won.

 

CALIBAN: (putting his arm around ARIEL)

Made you neglect the woman you adored.

Made you abuse her, treat her like a chore.

 

ARIEL: (holding the mirror up to PROSPERO)

Made you do terrible things, while you decried

The monster in the glass you darkly scried.

 

Thunder, growing louder. The mirror glints in PROSPERO’s eyes.

 

PROSPERO:

I see a powerful magic raised against me.

But you’ve not reckoned with my potency.

 

Lightning, closer now. PROSPERO pushes ARIEL and CALIBAN.

 

Chant spells, make signs, do what you can.

Do your worst, I’ll stand it, as I am a man.

 

                                    Thunder, closer now. PROSPERO draws a whip from his belt.

 

MIRANDA:

Father!

 

ARIEL & CALIBAN:

No!

 

ARIEL hands the mirror to MIRANDA. She holds it toward the audience,

beyond which she has just sighted something. Thunder and lightning.

 

PROSPERO:

Think you that ought will stay me in my rage?

Bethink you, what can spare you from my whip?

 

ARIEL:

What turns an angry man into a sage?

 

MIRANDA:

A ship!

 

                                    THUNDER. LIGHTNING. RAIN.

BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.

One Last Thought

 [Originally written in August, 2013 for 31 Plays in 31 Days (all posted on this site) this play was adapted for The Lacuna Works LEXiCON Festival in Faversham, Kent (between London and Canterbury) and won first prize among six finalists at the event on March 16, 2014.]

One Last Thought

At LIGHTS UP, we discover PROFESSOR GEOFFREY dictating to  his amanuensis, TIMMS. GEOFFREY stands, like a lecturer at a university (which he is) at a table, set with a couple of convenient volumes of reference, a pitcher with a half-full glass of water, and a vase of flowers. TIMMS is taking dictation in a notebook, as fast as he can.

GEOFFREY: (dictating)
“…that afternoon when he had discovered the surprising import of a tea in Tottenham, for it was this chance encounter that occasioned the next phase of John Aubrey’s extraordinary academic career.”

TIMMS labors to catch up, and after a moment of scribbling, with GEOFFREY waiting patiently, he does so.

TIMMS:
“…extraordinary academic career.” Got it.

GEOFFREY:
Well, that finishes out the chapter. And that should do it for today, Timms. You’ll type that up and bring me the proofs this evening?

TIMMS:
Yes, Professor.

TIMMS rises to go. GEOFFREY forestalls him.

GEOFFREY:
Stay a moment, Timms.

TIMMS:
Certainly, Professor.

TIMMS sits back down.

GEOFFREY:
You’ll forgive me, Timms, but you seem… distracted this afternoon. Are you feeling quite right?

TIMMS:
Oh, quite alright, sir. I got a bit of exercise this morning, a walk in the gardens, and then got in a bit of gardening myself, in my own little…

GEOFFREY:
“Domain.” If I may.

TIMMS:
“Domain” is a word would do nicely, sir, for the thought I had in my head. That’s why you’re the professor.

GEOFFREY:
And may I enquire after Mrs. Timms?

TIMMS:
Oh, Mrs. Timms is grand, sir. A bit of the rheumatism, now and then, since the accident, but she committed herself to a walk in the garden this morning, and though I often enjoy the solitude I was certainly grateful for her company.

GEOFFREY:
She’s a tad young for rheumatism, if you don’t mind the observation.

TIMMS:
Oh, no sir. And yes, I don’t know if that’s the proper medical term for it. Aches and pains still, since the accident, you know, but I don’t have that from a doctor.

GEOFFREY:
I see.

TIMMS:
She’s taken up needlepoint. It helps with the rheumatism. She sews flowers, while I pot and plant ‘em.

GEOFFREY:
“When Adam delved / And Eve spun / Who then was / the gentleman?”

TIMMS:
I beg pardon, sir?

GEOFFREY:
An old aphorism. Horn-book wisdom from centuries past. Might make a good embroidery.

TIMMS:
Can you elucidate, sir? I lack your scholarship.

GEOFFREY:
An old style saying, for the needlepoint. It would parse out something like this: “When the first man was    a farmer, digging in the earth to feed his wife and sons, and the first woman was a domestic worker in her own cottage industry, plaiting fibers to make fabric with which to clothe the couple –which person, in that situation, occupied the exalted status of the upper class?”

TIMMS:
I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that, sir.

GEOFFREY:
It’s a rhetorical question, Timms. There’s really no answer to it. No one, really. That’s the point, isn’t it?

TIMMS:
I’m sure I don’t know, sir. May I go now, sir?

GEOFFREY:
Yes.

TIMMS starts to go, but GEOFFREY catches him
before TIMMS is well out of his seat.

One last thought. Take this down.

TIMMS:
Of course, sir.

GEOFFREY: (dictating)
Dash. “A phase of Aubrey’s career that would lead him to question the very foundations of his life’s work, an epoch marked by bitter disappointment and, perhaps because of it, to a renewed commitment that enlivened and enlightened Aubrey’s latter days and lent new meaning to his… his…

TIMMS:
You’ve already used “life,” sir.

GEOFFREY:
Yes, I know.

TIMMS: (reading it back)
Leading him to “…question the very foundations of his life’s work.”

GEOFFREY:
Yes, yes, I know.

TIMMS:
I’ve annoyed you, sir. I’m terribly sorry.

GEOFFREY:
No, Timms, it’s not you. I simply can’t think of a word. A man who has given his life to the life of words, and I can’t think of a simple synonym.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, I’m no scholar, sir, but… there’s really no synonym for life, is there.

GEOFFREY:
Well, of course there is, Timms!

TIMMS:
I’m sorry, sir. I spoke out of turn.

GEOFFREY:
No, no. I apologize.

TIMMS:
Oh, no sir. I’m sorry, I’m sure. There’s no two ways about it. Perhaps the thesaurus?

GEOFFREY consults the thesaurus. He thumbs through the index, muttering to himself, before he finds the entry and reads it.

GEOFFREY:
Life, life… Life of the party… Life of Riley… lifeless, life-giving, life’s blood… Ah! Life! Life: A being, affairs, biography… Existence 1.1

(looking at the first page of the book)

No help.

(back to the index, reading)

Lifetime. 110.5

(flipping to that page)

Existence.

(looking a tad embarrassed, but hiding it well)

Let’s try that one, shall we?

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY:
Would you read that back to me, Timms?

TIMMS:
Yes sir: “…enlightened and enlivened Aubrey’s latter days, and lent new meaning to his… existence.

GEOFFREY holds out his hand for the notebook
which TIMMS gives him. He stares at the page.

GEOFFREY:
That’s not quite the same, is it.

TIMMS:
No, sir.

GEOFFREY:
A bit flat, that is.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY tosses the thesaurus on the table in disgust.

GEOFFREY:
Roget, you’re damn useless.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, he was a Frenchman.

GEOFFREY stares at TIMMS for a moment, for this
unexpected temerity. Then he bursts out laughing,
quite enjoying the unexpected humor.

GEOFFREY:
Very good, Timms! Yes, a fine scholar, but not without his limitations.

TIMMS:
Perhaps, sir, if I may, the fault is not with Monsieur Roget, but with Mister Aubrey.

GEOFFREY:
Eh? What do you mean?

TIMMS:
Well, sir… You’re attempting to delineate the life a man who encountered… frustrations, I suppose.  Or disappointments, as you said. And then went on to assimilate that… that lesson –that life gave him. Before he went to his Maker. Having learned what he’d been put on earth to do.

GEOFFREY:
Yes?

TIMMS:
So, sir, perhaps the gift was not in the realization, but in the travail that produced it. Life being not the result of living, but the engine of it. If you see what I mean.

GEOFFREY:
Yes.

TIMMS:
Mister Aubrey was –like you, sir— a brilliant scholar. But, perhaps, like all men, he came to question…

GEOFFERY:
Yes?

TIMMS:
Well, sir, forgive me, but –What’s the point?

GEOFFREY:
I beg your pardon.

TIMMS:
I’m speaking for myself here, sir. This morning, walking with the missus in the gardens, I felt so— so very small. I mean, I’m only a clerk to a man who’s a magnificent scholar, acknowledged by all as a brilliant man, the brilliant biographer of a brilliant man.

GEOFFREY: (blushing, false modesty)
Well…

TIMMS:
Himself a brilliant biographer of brilliant men. But when I expressed this thought to Mrs. Timms on our walk today, she said: Well, who’s he when he’s at home? She gets a bit querulous when she’s particularly ailing, but for all that, she has a point. I mean, you yourself are beholden to Mister Aubrey for your life’s work, its inspiration and even much of its substance, and Mister Aubrey before you, beholden to Bacon and Shakespeare and so forth, who also sat at the feet of another, and they at another’s, and so on, back to old Cain and Abel, and Adam himself.

GEOFFREY:
Well?

TIMMS:
So if I’m just a small period, a punctuation mark, in the book of another man’s life, so is he, and he before him –Mister Aubrey, I mean. And all before him, back to Adam, who was just a bit of a part in the book of the Almighty Himself.

GEOFFREY:
Get to the point, Timms.

TIMMS:
Well, sir, I’m no scholar, but I had a bit of learning at school, and I believe Mrs. Timms, in her plain way, expressed it. There’s a difference between life and existence, isn’t there. Life is growth, like flowers in the garden. And each phase of that growth requires the acknowledgement that we’re not there yet. That no thought is our last thought, really, until our final thought. Until the Great Gardener deems us worthy of a place at his table, perfectly formed.

GEOFFREY is speechless for a moment.

GEOFFREY:
Good God, Timms. You’re a poet.

TIMMS:
No sir. This was all Mrs. Timms on the subject. She has quite a lot of time to think on things, you see.

GEOFFREY hands the notebook back to TIMMS.

GEOFFREY:
Let’s hold off on transcribing that last chapter, Timms. I’d like some time to consider it.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir.

TIMMS rises to go. GEOFFREY forestalls him.

GEOFFREY:
One last thought.

TIMMS conceals a sigh as he drops gently back in his chair,
prepared for further dictation when he’d like to get home
to his garden and his missus.

TIMMS:
Yes, sir?

GEOFFREY:
Would you do me the honor of joining me for tea tomorrow? You and Mrs. Timms.

TIMMS:

Why, yes sir. Yes sir, we’d be delighted.

 

GEOFFREY:

If it doesn’t impose on Mrs. Timms too much.

 

TIMMS:

Oh no, sir. I’m sure she’d quite enjoy it.

 

GEOFFREY:

Well, then.

 

TIMMS:

Thank you, sir.

 

GEOFFREY:

No, no, Timms. Thank you. Until tomorrow?

 

TIMMS:

Yes sir. Good night, then.

 

GEOFFREY:

Yes. Good night.

 

TIMMS exits. GEOFFREY remains standing by the table. He starts to pick up a book, but his hand strays to the flowers.

TABLEAUX. LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Water on Stone

Water on Stone

 

IN THE BLACK, we hear water dripping in an echo chamber. Then we hear the sound of a man laboring and breathing.  The first light we see is a flashlight, upstage and down low.

 

 LIGHTS UP slowly as we discern it is on the helmet of DAVE VAN FLEET, dragging himself along the floor of a narrow passage and into a subterranean cavern.

As he stands, we see him more clearly: A man in his 50s,  fairly fit, equipped for caving, with a colored utility suit,  detachable tool belt,     coil of rope, grappling hooks, etc.

DAVE:

You alright?

 

CHRIS: (off)

Right behind you. Give me a minute.

 

DAVE:

If I can get through, you certainly can.

 

CHRIS: (off)

Give me a minute, Dad. This is tight!

 

 We see a second flashlight now as CHRIS VAN FLEET enters  in the same manner. He’s in early 20s, similarly equipped.  DAVE steps back as CHRIS looks out into the chamber, downstage.

 

CHRIS:

Whoa!

 

DAVE:

What’d I tell you?

 

CHRIS:

Shhh.

 

CHRIS steps downstage and snaps his fingers. We hear it reverberate as an echo. Then he claps his hands. Again, it echoes.

 

CHRIS:

Daaamn. How big is it?

 

DAVE:

We haven’t mapped it yet. The cartographic team is on their way from the Czech Republic.

 

CHRIS:

It must be immense!

 

DAVE:

Pretty darned impressive, huh?

 

CHRIS:

Look at those speleothems!

 

DAVE:

Yeah.

 

CHRIS: (pointing up)

Soda straws. Helictites.

 

DAVE: (pointing down)

Look down. Rimstone. Calcite rafts. Cave pearls.

 

CHRIS:

It’s got it all.

 

DAVE:

I told you.

 

CHRIS:

How big’s your team?

 

DAVE:

At any one time? Forty, fifty people. Well, you know how it goes. People fly in and fly out. The government puts limits on the number of visitors to the karst at any one time.

 

CHRIS:

You haven’t greased the right palms?

 

DAVE:

No, not graft. They’ve got rebels in the hills here. Not enough to mount an offensive, but they occasionally kidnap tourists for ransom. The government’s pretty serious about it. No tourism in the karst. Which is a good thing. But it was work getting permission to fly you in.

CHRIS:

So, I’m the only tourist here.

 

DAVE:

No, son. You’re part of the team.

 

Something lower down captures CHRIS’ attention.

 

CHRIS:

Look at that rimstone. Layers of it.

 

DAVE:

The hydrology people are all over this. We got several of those. Americans, from Indiana.

 

CHRIS:

I can imagine.

 

DAVE:

The biology is a little thin. Your mother was disappointed. Hardly any arthropods at all so far. Some pretty interesting chemotrophic bacteria. The chemists are having a field day!

 

CHRIS:

And you?

 

DAVE:

Yeah, son. I’m pretty happy. I think I may have stumbled onto something pretty special here.

 

CHRIS:

Look at those draperies.

 

DAVE:

We get some lights down here, you wouldn’t believe their colors. But I didn’t want to bring a whole team. Just you and me.

 

CHRIS:

It’s beautiful. Thank you.

 

A pause as CHRIS admires the cavern in silence, and DAVE looks at CHRIS.

 

DAVE:

How’s school?

 

 

CHRIS:

Oh, you know.

 

DAVE:

No, I don’t. I didn’t go to Harvard. Declared a major yet?

 

CHRIS:

I got to soon. Next year.

 

DAVE:

What are you thinking?

 

CHRIS:

I haven’t decided yet.

 

DAVE:

Archeology?

 

CHRIS:

I haven’t decided yet.

 

DAVE:

Maybe Physical Anthropology.

 

                                                            CHRIS says nothing, stares at the cave.

 

DAVE:

Well, you know, whatever you pick, that’s fine by me. As long as you’re happy.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

DAVE:

What’s wrong?

 

CHRIS:

Nothing, I just… Well, I don’t deal well with pressure.

 

DAVE:

Hey, nobody’s pressuring you. Whatever you decide.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

A pause. We hear a drip reverberate.

 

DAVE:

The draperies are so delicate. The calcium carbonite content has to be just so, balanced against the limestone in solution, and all at just the right inclination. Somewhere between twenty and sixty. The colors come from the amount of iron in it. It’s just beautiful, isn’t it?

 

A pause.

 

CHRIS:

What if I didn’t pick a science?

 

DAVE:

Well, son, everything’s a science. I hear you need statistical analysis to get an advanced degree in just about anything. Political Science, Sociology, History…

 

CHRIS:

What about Art.

 

DAVE:

Art?

 

CHRIS:

Or Art History.

 

DAVE:

Wow.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

DAVE:

Art History.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah.

 

A beat.

 

DAVE:

Why?

 

 

 

CHRIS:

I took a course in it. You said explore, I explored. I was telling my professor about all the places I’d visited, that you took me to when I little –Lascaux, and Altamira— and about the work you did at Arnhem. And… and I was more excited about that than I ever was about any metrics or statistical analysis.

 

DAVE:

Well, that’s science too. Parietal images.

 

CHRIS:

“Parietal images.” Nobody ever talks about it as art. These people, the men who made those images, they experienced the same wonder you do. They came down into these places, places few people or none had ever been, and left a mark to show they’d been there. It’s awesome. It’s… it’s what I want to do.

 

A pause. We hear the drip reverberate.

 

DAVE:

And you think I won’t understand that?

 

CHRIS says nothing, just nods.

 

DAVE:

You know how I got into caving?

 

CHRIS smiles, shakes his head.

 

DAVE:

I was taking a class in political science, and we were reading Plato. God awful boring stuff, the Greeks. But we read this one Dialogue, The Allegory of the Cave. All about how most of us go through life watching shadows on the wall, but the philosophers –the scientists, I thought— are the ones who see the forms behind the shapes, can look directly at the essence of reality.

 

Spring Break, a bunch of us drove down from Palo Alto to stay in a cabin in the foothills. There are caves all over the Sierras, of course. And I started going to them. At first, because I was curious, then because I was interested, then because I was obsessed. Like an artist.

 

CHRIS:

Like your father.

 

DAVE:

We’re not that different.

 

CHRIS:

You and your father?

 

DAVE:

You and me. Or, yeah, me and my dad. Music was everything to him.      What a pair we made. The artist and the scientist. But he understood,      you know?

Scientists flatter ourselves that we’re not looking at shadows, but right at the heart of reality. But a real scientist will tell you, it’s all projections.

We’re all part of a process, bigger than ourselves. It’s an accretion. Like water on stone. In terms of what makes you happy, science or art, it’s the same as anything else.

You delve. You see what’s down there. You pay attention ‘til you find something special.

 

A pause. We hear the drip reverberate.

 

CHRIS:

You missed your calling, Dad. You should have been a psychologist.

 

DAVE:

Naw. I’m right where I need to be. We both are.

 

The two men smile, put their arms around each other, look out at the cavern.  We hear the drip reverberate.

 

                                                            LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Arch de Triomphe

Day 30, Play 30: Arch de Triomphe

LIGHTS UP. JANE is up, watching The Daily Show.
Sounds, off, are TOM, fumbling with the key.

JANE:
Hi!

TOM:
I’m home!

JANE:
Yay!

TOM:
Thank god!

JANE:
I was beginning to worry.

TOM:
What a day!

JANE:
Quite a day, yes.

TOM:
Got the car working.

JANE:
The Volkswagon? How?

TOM:
Solenoid, not starter. $20 spare part compared $200 special order.    Worth a try, anyway.

JANE:
But—

TOM:
Bought a flashlight and monkey wrench at the auto parts store along    with a solenoid.

JANE:
For $20?

TOM:
Not counting the flashlight and monkey wrench.

JANE:
Still.

TOM:
I saved the 75 bucks for a tow.

JANE:
Mein Held! That’s German for “My hero!”

TOM collapses onto the bed.

JANE:
How was your mom’s surgery?

TOM:
Was that today?

JANE:
This morning, yes.

TOM:
Fine. She was fine when I left her at, what, eight? Visiting hours were over.

JANE:
Was she awake?

TOM:
In and out.

JANE:
But it went okay.

TOM:
Doctor Borelli said it couldn’t have gone better.

JANE:
Is she still talking about Dr. Borelli?

TOM:
Said he ate yellow jello at the foot of her bad last night. Around 2am,      she said.

JANE:
Jeez! What does her real doctor say?

TOM:
The appropriately named Doctor Hunt? Ironically, I still haven’t seen him. I’d think he was as much a phantom as Borelli if I hadn’t seen his name on her charts.

JANE:
Did you get a hold of her doctor? What’s his name, Dunn?

TOM:
No, I left a message with his service. I don’t think he gets ‘em.

JANE:
Anything else?

TOM:
Talked to Marv about the website. He seemed confident we could swing it for what we can afford.

JANE:
I meant about your ma.

TOM:
No. She looked good when I left her.

(beat)

JANE:
That’s good about the website.

TOM:
Yeah.

(beat)

You know, you get through a rough patch, with an over dose of stress, gnawing uncertainty and herculean effort, and your reward is… well, that you got through. There’s no ticker-tape parade.

JANE:
No.

TOM:
And sometimes I just feel like—

The telephone rings, interrupting him. TOM looks at his cell,
sighs, and looks at JANE. JANE backs gracefully out of the room to give TOM some privacy.

JANE:
I’ll be right back.

TOM:
Hi mom! …Yeah, they didn’t used to let patients have phones by their beds, that’s right. … So, you know where you’re at? … I didn’t mean anything by it , Mom, I just— He was. Did he have some more lemon jello? … No, I don’t think even doctors are allowed to smoke there. … No, not even after hours. … No, that’s right, you’d have smelled it, and it would’ve set off the alarms. … Well, because— I don’t know, Mom. It’s a way for immigrants to advance, I guess. Yeah, she’s— No, not Filipino, I think she’s
Sudanese or something. … Well, even if she were Filipino, she wouldn’t speak Chinese. … No, you’re probably right there. Listen, I gotta get off of here, I’m exhausted. … Yeah, in the morning. First thing.
Okay, good night. I love you too.

TOM hangs up, sighs, relaxes. The instant he does so,
the phone rings again. TOM answers.

TOM:
Yeah, whadja forget, Mom? … In Paris? … That’s called the Arc d’ Triumph. … Yeah, there was a famous photo or something, of the Nazis marching through it. … Okay, maybe it was the American army. … You were alive then, I wasn’t. … Well, that one was from the French Revolution, I think, but the Romans built them all over Europe. … Yeah, whenever they conquered a new province, they’d erect on the road to Rome. … Yeah, like your own National Geographic. … Sure, I’ll see you then.

TOM hangs up. JANE enters, ripping pieces of scrap paper
into small pieces, which she sprinkles over TOM head.
TOM smiles broadly as LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.

END OF PLAY.

Day 31, Play 31

Slide31

“31 Plays in 31 Days”: Day 31, Play 31:

STEWART is at the PC. LIZBETH enters.
She reads over his shoulder.

LIZBETH:
Last Day.

STEWART:
Last Day.

LIZBETH:
What’s this one about?

STEWART:
I’m not sure yet. I’m never sure.

LIZBETH:
Did you ever write the verse play you were talking about with a sword duel in it?

STEWART:
No.

LIZBETH:
Kids trap a zombie in the basement?

STEWART:
Nope.

LIZBETH:
“Piddles, the Cat Who Could Fly?”

STEWART:
I wasn’t going to call it that. That was the name of the sketch the two writers were working on.

LIZBETH:
Oh. That’s too bad. I liked that title.

STEWART:
Never wrote it.

LIZBETH:
“Steward for the King Beyond the Waters”?

STEWART:
No. I liked that tile.

LIZBETH:
Couldn’t you write it?

STEWART:
Maybe one of these days.

LIZBETH:
The Cox Airplane Incident?

STEWART:
Someday.

LIZBETH:
The two guys on the raft?

STEWART:
Perhaps.

LIZBETH:
Logan at the Airport.

STEWART:
I hope to.

LIZBETH:
The one about the Dudley Brothers.

STEWART:
The Duddings. Maybe

LIZBETH:
That’s more than a week’s worth, right there. You gonna shoot for another month?

STEWART:
Are you serious?

LIZBETH:
Are you?

BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.

The Rules of Scrabble

Slide29

Day 29 Play 29: The Rules of Scrabble

TED and DENISE are playing Scrabble. TED shifts tiles.

TED:
You didn’t shake the letters up enough.

DENISE:
You shook them.

TED:
I got the same letters as last time.

DENISE:
All the I’s?

TED:
None of your business.

DENISE:
I though ibid was a good play. The B on the triple letter.

TED:
That was last game. I don’t have I’s now.

TED places tiles.

Your turn.

DENISE:
What’s that?

TED:
Ibex. It’s a… African bird, or… or antelope or something.

DENISE:
Eight, nine, twelve: fourteen. And the B is doubled. Had to get rid of that X, eh?

TED:
I’ve been holding it a while.

DENISE stares at her tiles. TED stares at her.

TED:
How many tiles do you have?

DENISE:
I don’t know. Why?

TED:
You have eight.

DENISE:
So?

TED:
You’re supposed to have seven.

DENISE:
Why does it have space for eight?

TED:
How long have you been drawing eight tiles?

DENISE:
Why?

TED:
You won the last two games.

DENISE:
Would having an extra tile be an advantage?

TED:
It could be.

DENISE closes her eyes, selects a tile, and places it in the box,
face down.

TED:
What do you think you’re doing?

DENISE:
Putting back the extra tile.

TED:
But you saw what it was.

DENISE:
No I didn’t. I closed my eyes.

TED:
But you know which one it was when you look at your tiles. You see which one you put back.

DENISE:
So?

TED:
So, it’s not right. Now you know that that letter is out there. That I don’t have it.

DENISE:
What difference does that make?

TED:
It takes out the strategy! You might feel safe to play something because you know I don’t have a…

DENISE:
P, for example.

TED:
Don’t tell me!

DENISE:
Why not? Now we both know.

TED:
Now I know you don’t have a P.

DENISE:
So we’re even.

TED:
No, we’re not! You’re destroying the whole game!

DENISE:
Destroying? You’re over-reacting.

TED:
There are rules, Denise.

DENISE:
Oh, no! Here we go. The Rules of Scrabble.

TED:
There are Rules of Scrabble.

DENISE:
They’re—

TED:
They’re written in the box.

DENISE:
Where?

DENISE picks up the box to read the rules on the inside.

TED:
Don’t!

DENISE:
This is worse than when you play Trivial Pursuit.

TED:
Scrabble isn’t Trivial Pursuit! Scrabble is serious. Trivial Pursuit has no rules. That’s the problem. You have to make up your own.

DENISE:
This is why I hate game night.

TED:
Because you don’t like rules.

DENISE:
Because I don’t like your version of them.

DENISE picks up the box again.

TED:
You’re not going to—

DENISE:
I’m sick of this.

TED:
No.

DENISE:
I don’t want to play anymore.

DENISE upsets the box, letters falling on the board.
A beat. Will TED become angry?

TED:
You’re only allowed to do that in Monopoly.

DENISE:
Well played.

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.

Any Friend of Tookey

Slide28

Day 28, Play 28: Any Friend of Tookey…

Two men sit at a bar, facing the audience. They are
MATT GOTTSHALK and DOUG MALLARD, drinking
quietly and talking low.

MALLARD:
You the guy Tookey said?

GOTTSCHALK:
Yeah.

MALLARD:
Tookey said you need papers.

GOTTSCHALK:
Yeah, Took said you could hook me up.

MALLARD:
You tight with the Took?

GOTTSCHALK:
I must be. This is a solid.

(beat)

MALLARD:
Your name?

GOTTSCHALK:
Matt Gottschalk.

MALLARD:
No! I mean, in your name, or an assumed name?

GOTTSCHALK:
Assumed name.

MALLARD:
Okay. Any old name, or you got preferences?

GOTTSCHALK:
Specifically, Paul Gottschalk.

(beat)

MALLARD:
Relation?
GOTTSCHALK:
He’s my brother.

MALLARD:
Won’t he be needing his identity?

GOTTSCHALK:
He’s dead.

(beat)

MALLARD:
How’d that happen?

GOTTSCHALK:
In a way so as he won’t be needing his identity.

(beat)

MALLARD:
So: What? Standard DMV, his name, your picture? Social. You want credit cards?

GOTTSCHALK:
No, I’ll use his.

MALLARD:
But you need other gee gaws in your wallet. Spare business cards, maybe  a family picture. None of ‘em have to be functional, they’re just dressing, so to speak.

GOTTSCHALK:
Set dressing. Interesting. Yeah. Just so the document itself doesn’t come under question. I want a clear trail of him exiting the country.

MALLARD:
So you want the ID to get flagged for investigation later, but pass closer inspection now.

GOTTSCHALK:
You got it. Paper trail of his exit via Toronto. Maybe Montreal.

(beat)

MALLARD:
What really happened to him?

GOTTSCHALK:
Some bad debts and things. He shot himself.

MALLARD:
But you don’t want him to be dead.

GOTTSCHALK:
No.

MALLARD:
It won’t make trouble for the wife and kids?

GOTTSCHALK:
His? No he’s got nothing.

(beat)

MALLARD:
I can have this for you in two days.

GOTTSCHALK:
Tookie said if I paid extra, you could expedite. If an indictment is handed down before I get the ID, they’ll flag me at the border. Our friend said you might swing it, for a price.

MALLARD:
But you’re not my friend. And I want to know more about your brother.

GOTTSCHALK:
I didn’t have anything to do with it, if that’s what you mean. I mean, he suggested it. He looked at it the same way I did. We were both going to be ruined. One of us could make it look like we did it alone and hid it from the other one. Give the other guy an out.

MALLARD:
So he just elected to do that, did he?

GOTTSCHALK:
We flipped. He lost.

MALLARD:
Why didn’t he just leave the country for real?

GOTTSCHALK:
He didn’t steal enough to live abroad. Even alone.

MALLARD:
You take out an insurance policy or something?

GOTTSCHALK:
That would have been smart. Didn’t think of that.

MALLARD:
Next time, come to the professionals first. Paul Gottschalk, right?

GOTTSCHALK:
I got his information here.

GOTTSCHALK hands him a thick envelope.

MALLARD:
Two days, tops. We don’t get it in one, you pay the regular rate.

GOTTSCHALK:
How will I know?

MALLARD:
You come by in a few days and say you lost your ID. They look in the lost and found drawer. And there you are.

GOTTSCHALK:
Okay.

(beat)

MALLARD:
How’d he do it?

GOTTSCHALK:
Drove off into the desert somewhere. Took his Glock with him. They’ll never find him. If they don’t, it’ll be seven years before they declare him—

GOTTSCHALK chokes up.

MALLARD:
Dead.

GOTTSCHALK:
Yeah.

MALLARD downs his drink, rattles his ice.
sets his drink on the counter.

MALLARD:
Your brother didn’t lose that flip.

MALLARD exits. GOTTSCHALK stares out.

LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK. END OF PLAY.