PLAY #343: PARIS IN PARENTHESES (DEC 3 2015)

Paris, COP 21, 2015.

An enormous tent with a large foam logo (#COP21) and several bins overflowing with rubbish.

Scenes take place in any order, indeed, some could be simultaneous.

[ i. ]

OCEANIA (a mermaid from the Pacific ocean) enters.

OCEANIA speaks between a large pair of foam brackets.

 

OCEANIA

everything important is in parentheses

the easier to be stricken from an accord

at a later debate

loss and damage

are only really present

when it’s the text of an accord that’s being damaged

when it’s provisions for poor countries that are being lost.

we can’t even squeeze 1.5 degrees into a bracket

such a small number

point five of a degree

1.5 rather than 2

yet if we don’t pledge to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming

whole islands

will be bracketed.

 

OCEANIA drops brackets, exits.

 

 

[ ii.  ]

PIGEON enters with a pair of large foam brackets.

PIGEON shits on the brackets.

PIGEON exits.

 

[ iii.  ]

 

OCEANIA poses on top of a large foam logo: #COP 21.

OCEANIA imagines a large crew of photographers: many poses.

PIGEON walks by, nonchalant.

 

[ iv.  ] 

PIGEON enters.

 

PIGEON

we’re messengers, us birds

used to interpreting the divine for dummies

auspicious work

and so here we are

in the gaps of this conference

seeking to inaugurate this accord

even if nobody listens to the augurs anymore

because we’re squawking it in so many ways

we’re canaries in the coalmines

we’ve got oil spilled in our feathers

and if that wasn’t enough

we’re getting lost in every direction

not just climate that’s changing

but time

who knows when we’re supposed to be where we’re supposed to be

and so we’re squawking

that fossil fuels are killing us

that climate change is killing us

some of us

enough of us

that we don’t want to gamble on who’ll be flying high in four degrees

but I’ve missed the translation button here

because nobody seems to get my message.

 

[v.]

OCEANIA and PIGEON sit in the corner of the tent, eating food from a bin.

 

PIGEON

Love the cheeseburgers.

 

OCEANIA

I don’t know how they do it.

 

PIGEON

And the crepes with some jambon.

 

OCEANIA

Have lines snaking for hours for plates stacked with meat.

 

PIGEON

Some sausage!

 

OCEANIA

And then have people

complaining

that there’s not enough for everybody

that it’s terrible to have to wait for food

and I want to think that it’s all part of the plan

but I don’t know if I can give that much credit.

 

[vi.] 

OCEANIA and PIDGEON sit beside each other in a corner of the tent.

 

OCEANIA

have you ever go to the point

where you’re not sure

if the tears you’re about to cry

are because you’re so sad

or because everything is so fucked up

that it’s almost funny?

 

 

PIGEON

the crying of pigeons is under-reported

if it doesn’t happen on a camera here

I’m not sure that it happens.

 

[vii.]

OCEANIA pulls some climate ribbons off a tree.

 

OCEANIA

Write down what you what:

you hope to never lose from climate change

but

what do you write

when climate change isn’t pitched in the future

when it’s already happening

yesterday?

 

OCEANIA puts the ribbons in her hair, leaves.

 

[viii.]

 

PIGEON holds a sign: ‘I am looking for: Birds.’

PIGEON waits.

PIGEON discards the sign, leaves.

 

[ix.]

 

OCEANIA and PIGEON drink in the corner.

 

PIGEON

They say she’ll come.

 

OCEANIA

Not sure I’d bet on it.

 

PIGEON

And I think she must.

 

OCEANIA

Why would she?

 

PIGEON

The oldest bird. More dinosaur than bird, they say.

 

OCEANIA

Crocodiles have it right: keep your head under water most of the time.

 

PIGEON

She’ll know how to survive.

 

OCEANIA

No way to be disappointed then.

 

PIGEON

Because birds have survived whatever happens.

 

OCEANIA

No islands to fall in love with only to have them leave.

 

PIGEON

No matter to us what humans need from us.

 

OCEANIA

No islanders to eye up only to have them shipped away.

 

PIGEON

She’ll come, I’d say.

 

OCEANIA

Mermaids may have the looks, but I’d become a crocodile anyday.

 

PIGEON

For sure. She’ll be here.

 

[x.]

OCEANIA empties out a bag of business cards.

PIGEON eats the business cards.

OCEANIA finds a large pamphlet.

 

OCEANIA

‘Strategies for monetizing risk?’

 

PIGEON

Not sure even I can stomach that.

 

OCEANIA

It’s about the ways in which climate change can actually be very profitable. Blue bonds. The carbon market. Excitement.

 

OCEANIA starts to rip the pamphlet up into very small pieces.

PIGEON eats them.

 

[xi.]

A large foam logo: #COP21.

OCEANIA and PIGEON squeeze into the space in the ‘O’ and cuddle together.

They look out, as if confronted by photographers, refuse to smile.

 

[xii.]

A large foam logo: #COP21.

OCEANIA starts to stack the letters, making a sculpture, which she slowly fills with debris and other trash, until it starts to look like a reef.

OCEANIA lies down in it, happy.

PIGEON enters, goes to the top, settles.

[xiii.]

 

 

PIGEON and OCEANIA sit in the corner of the tent.

 

PIGEON

If princesses can kiss frogs, can mermaids kiss pigeons?

 

OCEANIA

you want to turn into a prince?

 

PIGEON

isn’t adaptation the answer?

and when I’m a prince

I’ll make up my own charities

and tell people what they can do with my money

which is make more of it for me

because I’ll have a high house and a nice smile

and I’ll order vats of food

just to watch them rot.

 

Pause.

 

OCEANIA

I don’t want to kiss anybody

I have a vision of myself

arms spread out and hair spangled

on the surface of a quiet sea

a gentle ray of sun or two

happy.

 

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PLAY #328: WINTER WONDER (NOV 17)

New York, 2012.

An apartment complex in Red Hook: a dark corridor.

WEI (30s; Chinese; male) knocks at a door.

No answer.

He knocks again, is about to do so a third time when VIOLET (70s; African-American-female) opens the door.

 

VIOLET

I heard you the first time, I just have old legs.

 

WEI looks at a list.

 

WEI

My apologies, Mrs…

 

VIOLET

Barker. I’ll forgive you once this is still hot.

 

WEI

Yes. A bit snow-covered, but still warm.

 

WEI hands the meal to VIOLET.

 

VIOLET

They got you doing this on your own?

 

WEI

Not many volunteers showed up today.

 

VIOLET

Can’t say I blame them. Who’d think there’d be a blizzard after a hurricane?

 

WEI

Yeah, it’s mad. Especially with the power still out here. How many days is it now?

 

VIOLET

Ten. And I’m not holding my breath: it’ll be another ten before NYCHA does anything.

 

WEI

It’s got to be harder with the snow.

 

VIOLET

Not snowing for most of the days of the year and still they manage to do nothing.

 

WEI

Yeah.

 

VIOLET

You nearly finished your rounds?

 

WEI

You’re the last customer. These people didn’t answer.

 

VIOLET

Show me that list. 12C, she’s gone to her daughters…4F, he’s probably in the corridor of the 8th floor, did you go there?

 

WEI

Eh…I can’t remember.

 

VIOLET

They’ve put all their candles together in the corridor and they’ve got dominos and cards and such set up. I just wish these legs were up for the stairs, it’s nice.

 

WEI

I don’t think I saw that. I can bring it down on the way out.

 

VIOLET

You make sure to eat yourself too.

 

WEI

Yeah. I feel like I’m burning off the calories between all these different buildings. And I keep getting lost, which is funny, because I make maps.

 

VIOLET

Like the globe?

 

WEI

No. Art-projects really. I’m mapping the effects of climate change.

 

VIOLET

Sea coming on up into basements?

 

WEI

Not really. More the impact on people. Deaths, specifically. I’m making a map of loss, of all the people who’ve been killed by climate change, which is hard to track really, as it’s difficult to say to what degree climate change is responsible, so mostly I’m focusing on fossil fuel related disasters or extreme weather.

 

VIOLET

Like our friend Sandy?

 

WEI

Exactly. Which is also difficult to fully relate to climate change, except that increased sea level rise certainly exacerbated the problem.

 

VIOLET

You don’t need to tell me.

 

WEI

And there’s a correlation between race and class and ability to flee an impending disaster, so that part fits some of what I’m looking at, the intersection between climate change and existing inequality, which I have to find a better way of saying, so that people give me money.

 

VIOLET

I hope you weren’t knocking on this door hoping to find another casualty for your map?

 

WEI

No, no.

 

VIOLET

I’m not going anywhere yet.

 

WEI

No.

 

VIOLET

No matter what Sandy say. I told Irene what I thought of her last year. Sandy isn’t messing around, but she’s not going to stop us.

(beat.)

You want some of this food?

 

WEI

Oh, no, I couldn’t.

 

VIOLET

Come on, you can take a bite. And 4F’ll be alright. Good for him to lose some weight. Anyway, you took too long: it’s gone lukewarm and I don’t want to eat it all.

 

WEI

You could save some for later. I’m not sure if there’ll be another run for dinner in this weather.

 

VIOLET

Ah, I have those ready meals the Red Cross dropped off. If I can figure out how to open the packets.

 

WEI

There’s some here too. They dropped off a bunch in a van. Said they couldn’t help distribute them.

 

VIOLET

Sounds right.

 

VIOLET sits down on a chair in the corridor, gestures for WEI to do the same.

WEI sits.

 

VIOLET

You promise you’re not going to put me on your map?

 

WEI

I swear.

 

VIOLET starts to eat.

 

WEI

How is it?

 

VIOLET

Can’t complain. Better than those Ready Meal things anyway.

 

WEI

You’ve put some candles out on this corridor too.

 

VIOLET

Ah yeah. We look out for each other. Not much to do with the TV out, either.

 

WEI

Probably good for your brain.

 

VIOLET

I don’t know. The things some of these folk say, you’d be better off watching whatever daft things on.

 

WEI

There’ll be a TV movie of Sandy soon.

 

VIOLET

No doubt. Big business. Lots o’ screaming.

 

WEI

I hope they show the good stuff too. The best in people.

 

VIOLET

Ah, that’s there whether or not it ends up on a box. That can’t be taken away.

 

WEI

I guess not.

 

Pause.

 

WEI

So what do you do here? You have cards?

 

VIOLET

Sometimes. Mostly folks just talk. Share stories.

 

WEI

Oh.

 

VIOLET

So…

 

WEI

So.

 

WEI and VIOLET start to share stories, as the candle starts to fade, as snow starts to build up outside.

 

PLAY #218: YOU’D LOSE COUNT, SO YOU WOULD (JULY 22)

Mayo, Ireland.

A wall with many shells sticking out, mosaic style.

FIONNUALA, an artist, adds another shell to the wall.

AODH and FIACHRA drink pints and watch.

 

FIACHRA

Another.

 

AODH

Indeed.

 

FIACHRA

Every day it is?

 

AODH

That’s it.

 

FIONNUALA

Until Shell head off back to the sea.

 

FIACHRA

So how many days has it been?

 

AODH

You’d lose count.

 

FIACHRA

What is it, art or a protest?

 

AODH

Something.

 

FIONNUALA

It’s making the invisible visible. Gas is hard to picture, whether it’s funneled through pipes or heading up to the clouds.

 

FIACHRA

You can see Shell in Erris well enough though: the workers, the machines, the pieces of pipe.

 

FIONNUALA

Well. This is different.

 

AODH

It is.

 

Pause.

 

FIACHRA

You think you’d lose steam.

 

AODH

You would.

 

FIACHRA

But she doesn’t.

 

FIONNUALA

I don’t.

 

FIONNUALA exits.

AODH and FIACHRA look at the shell wall, drink.

PLAY #190: HOW’S YOUR HEAD? (JUNE 18)

Scotland.

Two lovers in bed – JACK and DOUG.

JACK is an artist.

At the head of the bed, an ivory bust of Adam Smith.

 

JACK and DOUG are kissing, JACK catching glimpses at the bust of Smith.

DOUG breaks away.

 

DOUG

You’re doing it again.

 

JACK

I’m not.

 

DOUG

Why are you blushing then?

 

JACK

It’s my complexion.

 

Little pause.

 

DOUG

Why can’t we put that in your studio?

 

JACK

Not with the rain. And it’s him.

 

DOUG

It’s on the fifth floor. It’s not going to get flooded.

 

JACK

You know how that building leaks. The exhibit is in a month. He’ll be gone soon.

 

DOUG

Can’t we put it under the bed or something?

 

JACK

Him.

(beat.)

You’re jealous?

 

DOUG

Freaks me out. Him watching us.

 

JACK

If he made the invisible hand why can’t he be an invisible head?

 

DOUG

I’m fine with him watching us invisibly. It’s sharing a bedroom with Adam Smith where I draw the line.

 

JACK

Ah, he’s lovely really when you get to know him.

 

DOUG

Just like capitalism!

 

JACK

Exactly. Good for a cuddle once you get down to it. And you know, he’s a more complex figure than Wealth of Nations makes out. If you read The Theory of Moral Sentiments you’ll-

 

DOUG

Fall asleep?

 

JACK

See that he really believes in moral regulation, that he’d probably be appalled by the system he patted along towards us.

 

DOUG

And how do you think he’d feel about your art project?

 

JACK

I’m sure he’d be thrilled. He could be the Marilyn Monroe of the 21st century.

 

DOUG

Not sure he needs your help, Mr. War-hole.

 

JACK

I’m only duplicating the original artwork. I’m sure he would have been happy with Watt’s likeness.

 

DOUG

Are you so sure that he’ll appreciate you shoving your cock around in it?

 

JACK

That’s not what the piece will be.

 

DOUG

You’re right. It’s art. I should say something else. Member? Penis?

 

JACK

I wish you’d take it seriously.

 

DOUG

I take it very seriously when you put your cock in another guy’s mouth.

 

JACK

Even when he’s been dead for 200 years?

 

DOUG

Especially when he’s been dead for 200 years.

 

JACK stands up, goes over to the head of Adam Smith.

 

JACK

I’m not sure it’ll work anyway.

 

DOUG

Too vulgar?

 

JACK

Not the right symbolism exactly. It would be better if it were the other way around.

 

DOUG

Not sure that’s going to work with that sculpture. You might need to work with David instead. I’d be happy to model…

 

JACK

Watt made the bust of Smith, which makes sense, because he was the one who was into machines. He was an artist really, Watt, all sorts of inventions that he played with. And Smith was very good to him when he was an apprentice in his 20s.

 

DOUG

I’ll bet. Older unmarried man tutors hot young engine.

 

JACK

Not like that. Smith was his supportive mentor. They were respectable family men.

 

DOUG

Always the ones you don’t suspect.

 

JACK

He didn’t make the bust of Smith until much later, 1809.

 

DOUG

Dirty old men.

 

JACK

When Smith was long dead.

 

DOUG

Are you going to have to put on old man make-up to be Watt?

 

JACK

The original isn’t dirty at all-

 

DOUG

I’m falling asleep-

 

JACK

It’s just another one of Watt’s tinkerings, a tribute, one man to another. But it’s the perfect-

 

DOUG

Head?

 

JACK

Symbol. The father of the industrial revolution, the man who invented the steam engine, glorifying the father of capitalism. In a form of art that’s all about reproduction. At first I thought I should just make a conveyor belt with lots of these, heads of Adam Smith going round and round…

 

DOUG

Not sure I could stomach more than one of them in here.

 

JACK

I’m not doing that.

 

DOUG

Because you remembered it wouldn’t really be conceptual art if you weren’t naked. Because conceptual art doesn’t leave many concepts up to the imagination when it comes down to it. Or when it comes to it…

 

JACK

I thought it would be the best symbol of the grossness of it all: the father of capitalism sucking off the father of the industrial revolution. Except…

 

DOUG

It should be the other way around?

 

JACK

Maybe. I’m not sure about it anymore. Not even sure if it will work.

 

DOUG

What do you mean, work?

 

JACK

I thought it needed an update. I mean there’s stuff we can do now that wasn’t at all possible in 1809.

 

DOUG

Like?

 

JACK flicks a switch on the head of Adam Smith. It starts to move, lips opening, tilting back and forth.

 

DOUG

Don’t even-

 

JACK

I’m not-

 

DOUG

Is that safe?

 

JACK switches the head off.

 

JACK

Of course.

 

DOUG

I don’t think I want to sleep with that thing in here anymore.

 

JACK

It’s just until the rain stops.

 

DOUG

It’s not stopping anytime soon.

 

DOUG starts to get dressed.

 

JACK

You’re not going out in that?

 

DOUG

I’ve got an umbrella.

 

JACK

Wait. I can’t take him back right now.

 

DOUG

You’re sure they’ll give you the grant for this?

 

JACK

Of course. Climate change isn’t just about ice-caps. If you want to trace it properly, you have to start the story with the industrial revolution. No better to place to begin than the inventor of the steam pump.

 

DOUG

That’s not what I’m talking about.

 

JACK

They can’t take it back now.

 

DOUG

I guess not.

 

JACK

You sure you don’t want to stay?

 

DOUG finishes getting dressed.

 

DOUG

This is too weird.

 

JACK

It’s…

 

DOUG

Art?

 

JACK

Life. This is the starkest expression I can think of it. But we’re at it all time-

 

DOUG

Letting capitalism give us a blow-job?

 

JACK

Or the other way around.

 

Pause.

 

DOUG

How many times have you practiced?

 

JACK

What?

 

DOUG

Seems like the machine’s trained pretty well.

 

JACK

You are jealous.

 

DOUG

I wish I was feeling something as simple as jealousy.

 

JACK

How many times have you kissed guys on stage for a play?

 

DOUG

That’s different.

 

JACK

Not really. Just your art-

 

DOUG

I’m not a porn star.

 

JACK

I’m making a statement.

 

DOUG

Consider it read.

 

JACK

Don’t leave. Not like this. Not when it’s still pissing out.

 

DOUG

Will you take that thing out of here?

 

JACK

Him. He identifies as he.

 

Pause.

 

DOUG

I thought not.

 

DOUG leaves.

JACK sits on the bed.

Waits.

JACK stands, looks at head of Adam Smith, fingers the rim of his boxers.

Blackout.

PLAY #189: STILL LIFE (JUNE 17)

JANE, an artist in her twenties, in front of canvas.

Canvas is covered with green lines, vines, plants, leaves…

JANE paints furiously, greens going this way and that.

 

NICOLE, JANE’s sister, early 30s, enters, stands to the side, holding two cups of tea.

NICOLE waits for JANE to turn.

This takes a moment.

 

JANE

Oh!

 

NICOLE

Brought you some tea.

 

JANE

Thanks.

 

NICOLE

More?

 

JANE

Yes. Sort of in the system.

 

NICOLE

A series?

 

JANE

An ecosystem.

 

JANE comes over, takes tea.

They sit on the floor.

 

NICOLE

Like Monet’s Water Lilies?

 

JANE

Yes. No. Yes.

(beat.)

Yes, it’s the same thing, in the midst of enormous social change and incredible devastation, artist turns away, looks at nature. Except climate change isn’t like World War One. Looking at nature isn’t a way of turning away. Who knows if there will be water lilies left at the end of all this?

 

NICOLE

There will.

 

JANE

How can you be so sure?

 

NICOLE

There’ll be plants at least. Something finds a way to grow. Except when you’re responsible for it.

 

JANE

I’ve said I’m sorry for the basil plant.

 

NICOLE

It’s okay. I’m just not leaving you any of my children.

 

JANE

Please don’t.

(beat.)

You’re so sure you’ll have children?

 

NICOLE

They’ll be better company than basil.

 

JANE

And better company than me.

 

NICOLE

I didn’t say that.

 

JANE

I’m sorry that I’ve been so…engulfed in this.

 

NICOLE

You have a vision.

 

JANE

I have a commission. And I wish I’d said no. Because I don’t have a clue how to make art about climate change. I don’t have a clue how to make art that’s about anything.

 

NICOLE

Except for our mother.

 

JANE

Except for our mother.

 

NICOLE

You remember when we went to the Orangerie?

 

JANE

We were tiny.

 

NICOLE

That feeling when we stepped into the basement, all the lilies together, the feeling of something so small it was enormous-

 

JANE

I wanted to be outside.

 

NICOLE

I thought I’d faint.

 

JANE

I thought I’d fall asleep.

 

NICOLE

Well, I loved it.

 

JANE

True.

 

NICOLE

What’s wrong with art that’s about escape?

 

JANE

Nothing.

 

NICOLE

Would you rather he’d painted barbed wire?

 

JANE

No, but…flowers can cut just as much as barbed wire in the end.

 

JANE stands.

 

JANE

You’re right. There will be plants. Tall as skyscrapers. Like there was before us.

 

NICOLE

Pterodactyls flying around?

 

JANE

Before them too. Before there were things with eyes to look at them. Enormous flowers zagging every which way to the clouds. Trees poking the sun. It happened before. It can happen again.

 

NICOLE

No escape!

 

JANE

No.

 

JANE continues to paint.

NICOLE watches for a moment, collects the cups, leaves.

 

PLAY #188: DON’T LOOK NOW (JUNE 16)

An art gallery.

Some time in the future.

CURATOR sits at a desk, a painting wrapped up on top of the desk.

NEWS-BEARER enters.

 

CURATOR

That was the Louvre?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Yes.

 

CURATOR

More?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Yes.

 

Pause.

 

CURATOR

Not-

 

NEWS-BEARER

Yes.

 

CURATOR

Hard to…

 

NEWS-BEARER

Imagine?

 

CURATOR

Yes.

NEWS-BEARER

I saw it. A photo.

 

CURATOR

What’s there without her?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Mountains. Grey. Trees.

 

CURATOR

There’s still trees?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Yes.

 

Pause.

 

CURATOR

Think of all those street-sellers. All the ones where she’s smoking a cigar or something. You think all those multiple Mona Lisas have disappeared too?

 

NEWS-BEARER

You really think anybody is selling art on the street anymore?

 

CURATOR

I suppose not. You’ve heard from others?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Same story at the Met. No more Madonna or Madame X. No Socrates, no Jesus.

 

CURATOR

To be expected. Story across all the Churches. Empty planks of wood looking down at empty pews. What about the hippo?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Long gone. Animals were first to disappear, don’t you remember all those horses leaving oddly sitting men in mid-air.

 

CURATOR

I suppose they’ve gone too now.

 

NEWS-BEARER

Yes. It appears to be wholesale, from what I can tell.

 

CURATOR

Hard without the internet?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Indeed. Marilyn checked out of the Moma. Bearden’s Odysseus sailed off. Frida’s left a clump of leaves behind her. The museum of Contemporary Art in Melbourne is almost completely empty now, that was the first report, Destiny Deacon’s dolls gone overnight. They thought it was a theft at first. Until they saw the paintings.

 

CURATOR

Contemporary Art! Not even trees to fill in the void.

 

NEWS-BEARER

No.

 

CURATOR

Is there anywhere…

 

NEWS-BEARER

Not that I’ve heard. Word is Florence is deserted.

 

CURATOR

Still no…

 

NEWS-BEARER

Explanation? Only the-

 

CURATOR

Obvious. Why would humans stick around when there will be nobody to watch them?

 

NEWS-BEARER

That’s the story people are telling.

 

Pause.

NEWS-BEARER looks at the wrapped up painting on CURATOR’s desk.

 

NEWS-BEARER

You haven’t checked, have you?

 

CURATOR

There’s hope in not looking?

 

NEWS-BEARER

Is there?

 

CURATOR

I would say so. Yes.