PLAY #345: ONE POINT FIVE TO SURVIVE (DEC.5.2015)

A large greenhouse.

A large foam ‘UNFCCC’ logo inside.

 

[i]

 

OCEANIA (mermaid from the Pacific Ocean) enters with a sign: ‘’Rio 1992.’

 

OCEANIA twirls around the stage.

Happy, loud music.

NICK (20s; white American; male) starts to fill the greenhouse with trees.

 

OCEANIA

I swim

in streams of possibilities

this new world we create

swirls with hope.

crisp blank pages

await the twirls of proud pens

happy to intervene

before the energy rushes away.

 

[ii]

 

NICK starts to take out some trees to make way for large reams of paper, with UNFCCC text on them.

OCEANIA enters with a sign: ‘Berlin, 1995.’

NICK continues to add paper.

 

NICK – around 17 or so at this point – hands OCEANIA a card.

 

OCEANIA

You’re in the Model UN?

 

NICK

And now the real one!

 

OCEANIA

You’re part of the Youth Groups.

 

NICK

You got it.

(beat.)

Will you sign it? I’ve never met a mermaid before.

 

OCEANIA

Sure.

 

NICK hands OCEANIA a pen.

 

NICK

I love swimming. And boating. And surfing.

 

OCEANIA

I bet.

 

OCEANIA hands NICK back the card.

NICK pulls out another card.

 

NICK

I’ll sign one for you too. Maybe one day it’ll be worth something!

 

OCEANIA

When you’re the President?

 

NICK

I think Environment Secretary would be fine. I really want to make a difference, you know? And I mean there’s so many people and places to save!

 

OCEANIA

You’re excited to play Superman?

 

NICK

Batman, I’d say. Way cooler.

(beat.)

Have you seen any of the negotiation sessions?

 

OCEANIA

No.

 

NICK

I sat in one of the overflow rooms. I’m trying to learn another three languages – I have six so far, but if you want to do well here, I think a dozen is the best bet.

 

OCEANIA

How many languages can you say ‘goodbye’ in?

 

NICK

That’s easy. Probably even two dozen-

 

But OCEANIA is gone.

NICK shrugs, fetches more paper.

 

[iii]

 

NICK is still adding paper.

OCEANIA flips her sign: ‘Kyoto, 1997.’

NICK sees OCEANIA, tries to avoid her.

 

OCEANIA

what’s wrong?

 

NICK

It’s not going to pass.

Not in the States.

It’s all…

 

NICK throws a ream of paper into the air, exits.

 

[iv]

 

OCEANIA holds up a sign: ‘Bonn, 1999.’

NICK takes out the remaining trees, continues to bring in paper.

 

OCEANIA

I am running out of words

as they lap around me

how many times can I say

that islands will disappear

that the ocean will sting in its bitterness

that my scales will peel

my lungs burst

while people chase a millennium bug

not looking at the end

that eyes them from the other side.

 

NICK exits the greenhouse, looks in from the outside.

 

[v]

 

OCEANIA holds up a sign: ‘Montreal, 2005.’

NICK sits by the side of the greenhouse, looking in.

 

NICK

my little brother’s here now

Zac

he took it hard

I think

me leaving the way I did

even

if I think he could see the sense of it

death by Kyoto Protocol

or lack thereof

is a tough thing to take.

so

here he is

stretching away from my shadow

he won’t let go of hope

clinging to it with his teeth

he is

the stubborn fucker.

 

[vi]

 

OCEANIA holds up a sign: ‘Copenhagen, 2009.

OCEANIA moves around the greenhouse, protesting.

NICK sits outside the greenhouse.

 

OCEANIA

two degrees is suicide.

that can’t be the only thing we agree to here.

the obliteration of everything around me.

 

NICK

Hopenhagen!

I thought he’d do something

my little bro

Obama

anybody

but every sliver of possibility we have

we waste.

 

OCEANIA

two degrees is suicide

we have not agreed to anything

in the spaces on the edges of the margin

we fight.

 

[vii.]

 

OCEANIA holds up a sign: ‘Lima, 2014.’

 

OCEANIA starts to swim in all the paper with various agreements written on it.

OCEANIA throws the paper in the air, splashes around vigorously.

NICK watches from outside.

 

[viii.]

 

OCEANIA holds up a sign: ‘Paris, 2015.’

 

NICK sits down by the side of the greenhouse, looking in.

OCEANIA starts to re-arrange all the bits of paper, until it spells out a large ‘1.5.’

As she does this, OCEANIA chants:

 

OCEANIA

One point five to survive

we are not drowning

we are fighting

One point five to survive

we are not stuck in brackets

we are fighting back from the edges of the page

One point five to survive

One point five to survive…

 

 

PLAY #344: LOSS AND DAMAGE, A PLAY IN PIECES (DEC.4.2015)

Paris, COP 21, 2015.

Scenes can happen in different order.

 

[i]

 

An enormous greenhouse with a foam ‘#GOCOP21’ sign inside.

LEILANI (18; Samoan; female) is inside.

KHADIJA (40s; Iraqi; female; a ghost) is outside.

 

KHADIJA presses her hand against the glass.

LEILANI moves over, puts her hand against the glass over the same spot.

They stay in this position for a while.

 

[ii]

 

The greenhouse is empty.

KHADIJA is outside.

KHADIJA presses her face against the glass.

 

KHADIJA

Hello?

Hello?

Can anybody hear me?

Hello?

 

[iii]

 

LEILANI enters the tent and sets up a crate table.

She puts up a sign: ‘LOST AND FOUND.’

She puts a loudspeaker on the table, with a recording.

She turns it on.

 

LOUDSPEAKER

as with any UNFCCC event

there must be bureaucracy

forms to fill out

say if you have lost

a glove

or a scarf

perhaps your ticket to reclaim your coat

perhaps your reusable conference cup

or an island

or a tree

or a town

or a culture

you can describe the items you have lost

and fill out a form

and there will be a plan

to replace your glove

or cup

or island

and there will be strings attached

so that you find your new item responsibly

with some benefit to others

because it must be carelessness

all these lost things

you must be to blame.

 

LEILANI throws away the loudspeaker.

 

LEILANI

we [will not] [will] be lost

we [do not] [do] accept this

we will not be the lost generation

we will be compensated

for loss and damage

without strings.

 

[iv]

 

KHADIJA leans against the side of the glasshouse.

 

KHADIJA

Hello?

the Delegation of the Dead have come to speak

we may be invisible

but we will be heard

it is important

to consider history here

this is not a problem of the future

even as we shift to an agreement

where all countries agree to emissions cuts

we must not forget

who got us here.

we have the wisdom of the dead

we have the tiredness of the dead

we have the anger of the dead

we will not be forgotten.

 

KHADIJA stands, gets a can of paint.

KHADIJA starts to write the names of Iraqi victims of oil wars across the greenhouse in paint.

Painting, painting, painting.

 

[v]

 

KHADIJA paces outside the greenhouse.

KHADIHA picks up a can of paint and flings it through one of the panes.

The pane smashes.

 

[vi]

 

LEILANI stands inside the greenhouse by a broken window.

She carefully picks up the pieces of glass and puts them on a crate.

She starts to make a sculpture, glueing the glass to the side of the crate.

 

[vii]

 

KHADIJA is outside the greenhouse; LEILANI is inside.

 

KHADIJA

hello?

 

LEILANI

hello?

 

KHADIJA

sometimes I feel

 

LEILANI

so alone

 

KHADIJA

and overwhelmed

until

 

LEILANI

I remember

 

KHADIJA

everybody here alongside me

 

LEILANI

even if I can’t see them

if alphabets

 

KHADIJA

and continents

 

LEILANI

gape between us

 

KHADIJA

still

 

LEILANI

here they are

 

KHADIJA

calling.

 

[viii]

 

LEILANI starts to paint shards of glass on a crate.

 

LEILANI

I am making

a map of lost things

jagged edges

that pierce brackets

and spaces that smother over things

because some things

refuse to be drowned

we

refuse to drown

we fight.

 

LEILANI holds up the crate above her head and marches around the perimeter of the greenhouse.

 

[ix]

 

KHADIJA sits outside the greenhouse.

LEILANI is inside.

KHADIJA makes bomb sound effects.

LEILANI ducks.

For a while, they do this until KHADIJA starts to laugh, then to cry.

 

[x]

 

LOUDSPEAKER is on top of the greenhouse.

LEILANI is inside.

The top panes have been smashed open.

Hoses pour water, oil, and trash inside the greenhouse, filling it up.

LOUDSPEAKER moves from side to side, joyous.

Hoses stop.

 

LEILANI looks around.

 

LOUDSPEAKER

we will be happy to arrange a loan

to cover unfortunate damages that you have accrued.

 

LEILANI

But it’s your fault!

All this was you!

 

LOUDSPEAKER

it is difficult to trace a line between cause and damages

consider it our generosity

that we will provide loans for development

that ensure you will be better equipped

for future unfortunate events.

 

LEILANI

no more!

you must stop!

no more!

 

LEILANI shouts as the hoses start again, relentless, but not loud enough to silence LEILANI.

 

[xi]

 

KHADIJA and LEILANI sit beside each other, the glass of the greenhouse between them.

 

KHADIJA

my daughter was of an age to you.

 

LEILANI

is she here?

 

KHADIJA

I haven’t found her

though I’ve pushed my nails

into every corner.

 

Pause.

 

LEILANI

what was her name?

 

KHADIJA

Leila.

 

Pause.

 

LEILANI

A nice name.

 

KHADIJA

I don’t know.

I wish I had made her up a new name

one like a bulletproof vest

the name of one who can never die

invulnerable to bombs

free of the indignities

of a world where

that at the bottom of a barrel

carries more value than any ‘Leila.’

I wish she had a name beyond letters.

 

 

LEILANI

You should have called her ‘oil.’

 

KHADIJA

Ha.

Yes.

My next.

 

 

[xii]

 

KHADIJA sits on the roof of the greenhouse.

One of the top panes is smashed.

Through this, strings run down, attached to LOUDSPEAKER, which KHADIJA moves around like a marionette.

LEILANI watches inside the greenhouse, laughing.

 

LOUDSPEAKER

this is most unpleasant

 

KHADIJA

strings

I will show you what strings feel like.

 

LOUDSPEAKER

stop!

 

But KHADIJA continues.

 

[xiii]

 

KHADIJA and LEILANI sit beside each other, the wall of the greenhouse between them.

 

KHADIJA

there was a woman in my village

who could only speak in brackets

she must have swallowed them

once

and so they came up

painfully through a tube in her chest

and tumbled down onto stones

broken.

(beat.)

when she died

we had forgotten her name

so we just wrote

[       ]

 

[xiv]

 

LEILANI holds the LOUDSPEAKER and whispers into its open mouth.

 

LEILANI

what I would like to lose:

debt

and doubt

and measuring out life by inches

and the shadows of strings

stretched across a beach

and the coat of colonialism

that cosies around

and the days and days

spent staring at clocks

while talk spins round

in rooms that look like airports

I will not mind

losing the UNFCCC

and you

I would like to lose

you.

 

[xv]

 

KHADIJA and LEILANI sit side by side, the glass of the greenhouse between them.

 

LEILANI

because we have lost all time.

 

KHADIJA

what?

 

LEILANI

we have lost time.

 

KHADIJA

what?

 

LEILANI

time has been damaged.

 

KHADIJA

how?

 

LEILANI

there was a time

when birds told us things

when to grow

or sow

it was all written out

in the pathways of the birds

and now

they flap about confused

seasons are all sloppy

we do not know what time it is

because we have lost all time

 

KHADIJA

what?

 

LEILANI

we have lost time

 

KHADIJA

how?

 

LEILANI

there was a time…

 

And so it continues until time can be found for stopping.

 

[xvi]

 

KHADIJA presses her hand against the glass.

LEILANI moves over, puts her hand against the glass over the same spot.

They stay in this position for a while.

PLAY #334: TWINE AROUND KNIVES (NOV 24)

Berlin, 2015.

A table in a café: TARIQ (30s; Syrian; male) and SARASWATI (30s; Bengali; female) sit.

Around the edges of the café, sand and rubble, unremarked upon.

A book is on the table: ‘Imaginary Maps’ by Mahasweta Devi.

 

TARIQ

So why does the pterodactyl come?

 

SARASWATI

What do you think?

 

TARIQ

You really are a literature professor.

 

SARASWATI

We don’t have to talk about the story.

 

TARIQ

No. A distraction is good.

(beat.)

I guess the pterodactyl comes to…what’s the place name again?

 

SARASWATI

Pirtha.

 

TARIQ

Right: ‘Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha.’ Maybe he came to Pirtha because it begins with the same letter?

 

SARASWATI

Or she.

 

TARIQ

Right. Or it. Who knows with a pterodactyl.

(beat.)

I was never good at reading stories. Sayid always said I had no imagination: I can follow a recipe but can’t break free from one. Which was easy for him to say, because he could never make anything.

 

SARASWATI

You liked the story enough to finish it.

 

TARIQ

Yeah. It was good. A bit weird. But good to have a distraction. You usually teach this back in London?

 

SARASWATI

Sometimes. It’s part of a syllabus I have on Environmental Literature.

 

TARIQ

Right. I guess that’s part of why the pterodactyl comes – to warn about the dying earth.

 

SARASWATI

That’s one potential reading.

 

TARIQ

But the bird’s not really much of a messenger – nobody gets it really, except for that kid, who can’t speak, so it seems like the pterodactyl doesn’t really come to the cave to say anything, the bird or dinosaur or whatever it is just wants to die.

 

SARASWATI

Yes. It makes a difference if we read the story from Puran’s perspective or the pterodactyls.

 

TARIQ

Is it possible to tell a story from a pterodactyl’s perspective?

 

SARASWATI

What do you think?

 

TARIQ

I don’t know. Food, I can tell you about. This bit of bread: badly made. See, you can peel apart this pastry and it tells you all sorts of things about how long it was let rise or put in the oven or whether it was folded enough times. Stories, I don’t know…that’s your territory.

 

SARASWATI

Maybe. But one of the beauties of this story is that nobody really knows what the pterodactyl’s story is. It’s left open to the imagination.

 

TARIQ

You ever seen one?

 

SARASWATI

A pterodactyl?

 

TARIQ

Yeah.

 

SARASWATI

No. I mean, there’s a skeleton in the Natural History Museum but it’s not really the same thing-

 

TARIQ

What about back in…where is it, Pirtha?

 

SARASWATI

That’s in Madhya Pradesh. My family is further west. Though most of them are in the U.K. now.

 

TARIQ

What made you come here?

 

SARASWATI

I don’t know. I’m on leave for the year. I have some friends here. I wanted to…

 

TARIQ

Do something?

 

SARASWATI

I suppose.

 

TARIQ

Saving the world with stories?

 

SARASWATI

Not quite. The truth is that I didn’t have a plan coming here. I wasn’t sure how I could plug in, or if I could. Teaching was in my comfort zone.

 

TARIQ

Am I your best student?

 

SARASWATI

Maybe if you teach me about breaking bread.

 

TARIQ

Find me an oven.

 

SARASWATI

Right. The place you’re at is still okay.

 

TARIQ

Yes. Nice people. Can’t complain.

 

SARASWATI

I still can’t believe how horrible the reaction is back home. Or rather, I can believe it, but still…

TARIQ stands.

 

TARIQ

This is a place I can imagine a dinosaur swooping around.

 

SARASWATI

Not many tall buildings for it to hide behind.

 

TARIQ

Lots of forgotten places though, don’t you get that feeling? I went to the exhibit about the war – where the Wall is – and they have these pictures of Berlin now and then and you should see some of the streets, more rubble than road, it’s not hard to imagine some broken dinosaur nursing its wings under the stones…

 

TARIQ pulls out a cigarette, lights up.

 

TARIQ

You mind?

 

SARASWATI

No. It’s allowed here, you know.

 

TARIQ

Right. You want one.

 

SARASWATI

No. Yes. Yes, please.

 

TARIQ hands SARASWATI a cigarette, lights it for her.

TARIQ looks towards the rubble at the edge of the stage.

 

TARIQ

Sayid would have liked this story. He was always going on about creatures, he was the one with the imagination. Used to go on about uniquorrrns, kept saying they were beside us all the time.

 

SARASWATI

Unicorns?

 

TARIQ

Uniquorrrns – some mad stuff he was about, like if the things were really kicked off the boat in the beginning they must have adapted to survived, he said, probably had all sorts of incredible powers. Invisible, he said they must be invisible to survive all those years without people eating them or turning their horns into money. And they were also a thousand colours, according the Sayid, he wasn’t really one for consistency, which was what made him such a horrible baker, but why couldn’t something be invisible and lots of colours, he’d say. Dogs can make sounds that we can’t even hear, who’s to say that they’re not beautiful?

(beat.)

Sorry, I’m getting off topic. I’m probably your worst student.

 

SARASWATI

You’ve actually read the story, that puts you in the top ten percent at least.

(beat.)

You can talk about him if you want.

(beat.)

Or not. Whatever you want.

 

Pause.

 

TARIQ

Any of the stories you teach have happy endings?

 

SARASWATI

Occasionally. Teaching about Literature and the Environment isn’t always the cheeriest topic.

 

TARIQ

No. Do you talk about climate change?

 

SARASWATI

I just taught a course about literature and climate change last year.

 

TARIQ

Happy endings?

 

SARASWATI

Some.

 

TARIQ

There’s this artist that’s tracking all the people who’ve died because of climate change – it’s some giant map with lots of dots and stories, I think. Or maybe it’s lots of maps.

 

SARASWATI

I don’t know it.

 

TARIQ

I thought of it when I was reading the story – I guess because of the title of the whole book. Because he imagines it as an imaginary map too, like a map of the world where the stories of people matter.

 

SARASWATI

It sounds like an impossible project.

 

TARIQ

Exactly. And I thought that there’s no room for pterodactyls on this map – I mean, they’re long gone. Or uniquorrrns. Or Sayid. Which, I don’t know if he’d qualify. Because, you can argue that climate change is a contributing factor to the crisis back home – huge drought leads to food shortage leads to unrest. Not to mention oil and all of its history. Or the levels of seas that capsize boats. But I don’t know if it helps. To think of him as a dot. Another refugee killed. Another climate casualty. It doesn’t bring him back.

(beat.)

It should have been me. He was the one who had hope. Who believed in the beauty of the world, even when you couldn’t see it, he said it was there, invisible.

(beat.)

I don’t see it. I just see knives everywhere. Hacking everything. And around them, we build things, ideas, stories, civilization, bits of twine that can’t hold back the knives.

(beat.)

I’m sorry. I’m not a very good student…

 

SARASWATI

I’m on leave because my partner died last year. I couldn’t focus. Could barely feed the cats. So I came here.

(beat.)

I have heard about the map. She’s on it. She was with a group of activists in the Arctic protesting against drilling. Their boat capsized. Nothing nefarious. It was a guerilla group, one that shouldn’t have gone, not after all the Arctic 30 Stuff. They knew the risks.

(beat.)

It was a controversial addition to the map: hard to pin climate change down as a villain when it shifts shape so much. The map itself is controversial, provoked a heated debate in class. That was before…

(beat.)

I’m not a very good teacher…

 

Pause.

TARIQ and SARASWATI finish their cigarettes, stub them out.

They sit down.

SARASWATI takes the book, about to put it into her bag.

 

TARIQ

Let’s talk about the story.

 

SARASWATI

I don’t know if-

 

TARIQ

I want to. In case some pterodactyl emerges out of the rubble. It would be good to be able to recognise it.

 

SARASWATI

Okay. The story…

 

SARASWATI puts the book back down.

SARASWATI and TARIQ look at each other, neither wanting to be the first to start, neither wanting to leave….

PLAY #331: FLAGS ARE FANTASIES THAT BURN LIKE FIREWORKS (NOV 20)

New Orleans, 2015.

An abandoned house: garden full of weeds.

FAITH (60s; black; female) sits sewing in the garden.

EBONY (late 20s; black; female) enters, holding a box.

 

EBONY

Mama? Mama, are you here?

 

FAITH

I’m here, baby.

 

EBONY

I thought you’d be here.

 

FAITH

You should be wearing a coat.

 

EBONY

Don’t be worrying about me.

 

FAITH

It’s December.

 

EBONY

I just got back from New York, so this is nowhere near cold.

 

FAITH

As you wish. That’s how you always do.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

I was visiting Joshua.

 

FAITH

Oh.

 

EBONY

We had Thanksgiving together.

 

FAITH

That’s nice.

 

EBONY

He misses you too, you know.

 

FAITH

I’m sure.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

Are you cold?

 

FAITH

It’s a fine December day.

 

EBONY

No, wherever…

 

FAITH

These aren’t the kinds of questions I can be answering.

 

EBONY

No.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

I knew you’d come back here.

 

FAITH

Longest home I’ve ever had.

 

EBONY

I’ve been worried about coming back.

 

FAITH

No need to fear the place: no weeds going to bite you.

 

EBONY

No: I’m afraid that it won’t be like this. That it’ll be developed. Some clean shopping mall or some crumbling coffee shop and I’ll want to scream and say that’s where your porch was where you’d sit and sew and this was the garden where I did my first tumble and this was the roof that we all climbed up on and cried and prayed and held each other so tight that we might have squeezed out the life but I know that I’ll say none of these things and just nod my head and leave, so I can’t go back.

 

FAITH

Don’t be upsetting yourself: I hate to see you worked up.

 

EBONY

Sometimes I imagine that Josh will get his Delicious kit on and fly down here and scorch away all the change with her breath until everything is perfectly preserved, not a weed in sight, and we’re all together again.

 

FAITH

Too many comic books: I should never have let him read those comic books.

 

EBONY

She’s doing well: Delicious has lots of shows in the city. Some of them even have audiences! Joke.

 

FAITH

The two of you fooling around: I could never keep up. You’ll see one day, I’d think, when you both have young ones of your own running around your kitchens, but…

 

EBONY

You’re going to be like this, even now?

 

FAITH

Death doesn’t change a person’s character: hardens it, that’s all.

EBONY takes out a piece of white cloth from the box.

 

EBONY

There’s something I wanted to ask you about.

 

FAITH

You’ve never been shy of questions.

 

EBONY

You never told me about this.

 

FAITH

What would I be talking to you about tablecloths for?

 

EBONY

It’s shaped like a star.

 

FAITH

Not so useful, then.

 

EBONY

I never saw it in our house. Or in your place in Florida.

 

FAITH

What use would I be having for some dirty old piece of cloth that doesn’t even cover a table? That thing’d be better off in some trashcan.

 

EBONY

Or a museum.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

Why didn’t you tell me?

 

FAITH

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

 

EBONY

You kept it with the family documents: they were even wrapped inside it.

 

FAITH

Well, good to use something to keep things safe: no point minding it.

 

EBONY

I’ve been doing more research.

 

FAITH

You were always one for questions: it’s no wonder you don’t have kiddies of your own when your nose is always poking into books or business that you shouldn’t be minding.

 

EBONY

It’s the fifteenth star. From the Star-Spangled Banner. The missing one.

 

FAITH

You’re in fantasy land now.

 

EBONY

It’s been missing as long as the flags been on display in the Smithsonian, longer. People say that it was cut out for some famous person. Or blown off in the Battle of Baltimore.

 

FAITH

And you’re saying that it’s been sitting under my bed for all these years?

 

EBONY

Grace Wisher was the indentured servant who helped sew the flag. You had information about her wrapped up in this cloth.

 

FAITH

This is your evidence?

 

EBONY

How did you get this star?

 

FAITH

Maybe I traveled back to the 18whatevers and snatched it: that’s about as much sense as you’re making.

 

EBONY

Why didn’t you tell me about it?

 

FAITH

Why would I be talking about that thing?

 

EBONY

Because it’s huge – enormous – as big as an actual star in the sky! Something from the most famous flag in the country in our house, cut out not for some President but by the forgotten slave girl that sewed it.

 

FAITH

You don’t know any of that, baby.

 

EBONY

Because you never told me.

 

FAITH

I’ll tell you this: it’s what your feet stand on that matters, not what’s up in the sky. No point clutching some star to your chest. Not when men with guns will shoot you off a bridge. Not when you’re crammed into a Superdome like your life doesn’t mean nothing. Not when everything you own can be swept away, you too, no space for you anymore in the city that your feet always stood on. What use is a star in times like that?

 

EBONY

How did it survive Katrina? Did you have it then?

 

FAITH

No point looking for miracles: it’s just a piece of old cloth is all.

 

EBONY

No! You’re just a figment-

 

FAITH

That’s what you’re calling me now?

 

EBONY

I can’t trust what you’re saying.

 

FAITH

Because I’m a ghost? A phantom? A, what was it, a figment? You say that like you have any idea what other people think even when blood runs through their veins.

 

EBONY

I know what I think. This is real.

 

FAITH

Think what you like: you always did as you wished. But I’m telling you, baby, there isn’t any star worth believing in.

 

EBONY

Then why hold onto it?

 

FAITH

Some things are too heavy to shed.

 

EBONY

I’m keeping it.

 

FAITH

As you wish, baby. As you wish.

 

FAITH continues to sew.

EBONY holds the star.

Sun starts to go down, FAITH, her sewing, the house and the garden all lost as the light leaves, until it’s just EBONY holding a star on an empty stage.

PLAY #330: VERY WELL, BUT CAN WE TALK ABOUT MY IMMANENT DEATH? (NOV 19)

New York, 2013.

An apartment in Red Hook.

VIOLET (70s; African American; female) sits in her apartment in Red Hook, a blanket over her.

Snow visible through the window outside.

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS enter.

A word about THE UNIQUORRRNS.

They are multiple.

They could be visible.

If they are visible, they are of many colors.

VIOLET certainly sees THE UNIQUORRRNS enter: in through the window, snow following, piling up on her carpet.

 

VIOLET

Ah. I’ve lost it. I thought the cold would kill me. Or mold. But no, my mind has finally gone. That’s how it will end.

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

we cannot believe in

endings

we leave endings be

our belief lies in

the gaps

between

 

VIOLET

Talking too? Maybe I took too many of the tablets – the last few days have been blurry.

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

we break

apart

the

lines

that carve timmmmmmme

+

s                         p                   a                 c                      e

 

VIOLET

Who are you?

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

we are the

left

out

out left

we are

the things kicked off the boat

the ones denied a pair

we are

the uniquorrrns.

we shit in the

gaps

between covenants.

 

VIOLET

Don’t tell me about covenants! Not supposed to happen again, that was the deal. Well, I don’t think Noah was much of a lawyer: look outside the window and it’s clear what’s coming.

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

in the

gaps

between

contracts     (we)     and     (survive)         codes

 

VIOLET

Don’t talk to me about contracts, either! Somebody’s supposed to fix the mold in this apartment, but no, not a peep from anyone. And the back rent! You know they charged us for November? When NYCHA couldn’t get their act together to get the elevator working or heat running through the pipes. Might as well be invisible as black, here.

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

danger lurks

in the

after

when

the water has drained

and the last camera has clicked

that is when neglect

curls

when wallpaper spots

when radiators die

when purses empty

when

the forgetting starts.

 

VIOLET

Could you talk some sense? Only visitors I’ve had for two days! I can’t get down to Ang, and she can’t get up here either, because the elevator’s gone in her building and they’ve no excuse for not fixing it now. You know I almost miss the storm? There was something nice about it: everybody’s doors open and candles in the corridors and all the time for stories in the world. And now I’m just some dot on that guy’s map.

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

no

we are greater than

dots

we are not

drops

we are not

foot-notes

we are not

sinking

we are not

the forgot.

 

VIOLET

I can see why Noah might have left behind: I wouldn’t say you would have got much work done on that ship. Talking round and round in circles when there’s tiger shit to scoop up and ropes to be pulled. I don’t know what you’re doing here: are you going to close that window or let me freeze to death?

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

we are not

slipping silently

into

the great deep.

 

VIOLET

Very well, but what about me?

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

you are not

the forgot.

neglect will not

creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep

 

VIOLET

But what are you going to do?

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

we shit in the

gaps

between

hero + saved

we skewer hierarchies

among the

left                                                                                      out

we are all

swimmers.

 

VIOLET stands, closes the window.

 

VIOLET

So what are you doing here?

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS

you bring

hope.

 

VIOLET

All I know is that you bring me a headache! I’m going to have to tackle the stairs to tell Ang all about this.

 

THE UNIQUORRRNS leave, in different directions.

VIOLET looks around the room, unsure if they are gone or still there, or what either outcome would mean.

VIOLET walks slowly to the door, exits.

 

PLAY #329: EMERALD CITY (NOV 18)

New York, 2015.

A small apartment, with a Christmas tree.

DELICIOUS DRAG-ON (mid 30s; African-American; drag queen) decorates the tree.

EBONY (late 20s; African-American; female) goes through a box of jewels.

 

DELICIOUS has an elaborate dragon costume but is half-way out of drag.

EBONY holds up a green necklace.

 

EBONY

How ‘bout this one?

 

DELICIOUS

Ugh. Tell me you’re not serious.

 

EBONY

It matches your costume.

 

DELICIOUS

I’m a dragon not some cheap Church lady.

 

EBONY

I thought you might like something of Mamas.

 

DELICIOUS

Well, she didn’t.

 

EBONY

You know she was proud of you. In her way.

 

DELICIOUS

She’d be setting up all sorts of earthquakes with all the turning in her grave she’d be doing if Delicious goes out in her jewels. Maybe we can put some on the tree?

 

EBONY

No! And looking like a cheap Church lady didn’t bother you so much when you were twelve.

 

DELICIOUS

Cheap baubles were my only illumination in dark and difficult times!

 

EBONY

That and Sean Walker.

 

DELICIOUS

Mmmm, Sean Walker, now we are talking! I wonder where he’s at?

 

EBONY

No idea.

 

DELICIOUS

You think he went back?

 

EBONY

It’s possible.

 

DELICIOUS

Maybe he’s here! Sitting out on a fire-escape and dreaming of Delicious!

 

EBONY

He doesn’t seem like the type who has nightmares.

 

DELICIOUS

Ha.

 

EBONY puts the green necklace on.

 

EBONY

Maybe I’ll keep it?

 

DELICIOUS

That’s what you wanted all along, isn’t it? Shady bitch!

 

EBONY

Whatever you want is yours, you only have to ask.

 

DELICIOUS

I think we need to figure out the top of the tree.

 

EBONY

There’s some rubies and sapphires.

 

DELICIOUS

None of that shit is real.

 

EBONY

It is real pretty though.

 

DELICIOUS

So, the top…obviously I could find a fairy.

 

EBONY

And I think Mama would like you to have something.

 

DELICIOUS

But I think something that twinkles would be good.

 

EBONY

Actually I found something of Mamas that maybe we could use-

 

DELICIOUS

No! 2016 is going to be the year of new beginnings! Don’t want to usher it in with some dusty old deflated star.

 

EBONY

It’s not the one from our tree. It’s something else, actually, something I wanted to talk to you about-

 

DELICIOUS

Whew, all this work makes a girl thirsty, you want a cocktail?

 

EBONY

It’s only three.

 

DELICIOUS

You say that like you’re making some point.

 

EBONY

Make mine a double.

 

DELICIOUS

Done.

 

DELICIOUS exits just off-stage.

EBONY pulls out a tattered piece of white cloth from the box of jewels and examines it.

DELICIOUS returns with two drinks: EBONY pushes the cloth back into the box quickly.

 

EBONY

Mmmm. Glitter garnish, yum!

 

DELICIOUS

Can’t blame a dragon for shedding. I’m worn out after this morning.

 

EBONY

It’s good news. I’m glad Cuamo vetoed it.

 

DELICIOUS

Politicians can’t do the wrong thing all the time.

 

EBONY

To victory!

 

DELICIOUS

And the end of LNG at Port Ambrose!

 

They drink.

 

EBONY

That was one thing I didn’t really understand in your videos.

 

DELICIOUS

LNG is Liquefied Natural Gas-

 

EBONY

Yeah, I got that, thanks. But I didn’t understand why a dragon would be so excited about an explosion.

 

DELICIOUS

Dragons love fire. And eating roasted humans. Especially stupid ones. Course dragons would be about an LNG terminal rather than a windfarm.

 

EBONY

But in the videos you made before, the dragons were on the right side, fighting storms and inequality like superheroes.

 

DELICIOUS

Like fabulous super-heroines with kick-ass tails, you mean.

 

EBONY

With an ego like that, no wonder you think you can fly.

 

DELICIOUS

Well, a dragon’s allowed to change, isn’t she? And there’s this thing called satire. Actually, it’s part of this bigger thing called humor, maybe one day you’ll get it.

 

EBONY

I live in hope.

 

DELICIOUS

We all do.

 

DELICIOUS starts to unpeel part of her dragon costume.

 

DELICIOUS

Anyway, it’s hard to be part of a team of dragons fighting injustice when it’s just you.

 

EBONY

You could find other-

 

DELICIOUS

Dragons? You want to sign up?

 

EBONY

It’s not really my thing but…

 

DELICIOUS

There must be other Robins out there dying to slip into scales?

 

EBONY

You could try.

 

DELICIOUS

I like flying solo. Can flap my wings as wide as I want and nobody bothers me.

 

EBONY

I don’t like to think of you being lonely.

 

DELICIOUS

Did I say I was?

 

EBONY

No, but-

 

DELICIOUS

‘Cause if this is the reason you came you can take your ass back to Houston: Delicious doesn’t need no pity party Thanksgiving company. Plenty of fairies I can call if this turkey wants some basting.

 

EBONY

I wasn’t aware that’s what you had planned for us.

 

DELICIOUS

How can you always be so calm? Don’t you ever get mad?

 

EBONY

Years of putting up with you and Mama?

 

DELICIOUS

You’re a true Christian martyr.

 

EBONY

I’m out of alcohol.

 

DELICIOUS goes into the kitchen.

EBONY takes out the cloth – it is shaped like a large star.

DELCIOUS returns with the bottle and some limes.

 

DELICIOUS

Thought this would be quicker.

 

DELICIOUS pours into EBONY’s glass and pops a lime in.

 

EBONY

Careful!

 

DELICIOUS

What you worried about that ratty old thing for?

 

EBONY

It’s special.

 

DELICIOUS

You sure it’s not you that’s special? Clinging onto some old tablecloth like all that dirt is Jesus’ face or something.

 

EBONY

Actually…

 

DELICIOUS

What?

 

EBONY

Nothing…

(beat.)

So you should be able to take it a bit easier now that the campaigns over.

 

DELICIOUS

No rest for a dragon in New York. There’s still the Spectra Pipeline. And I gotta do something for the Paris Summit, depending on how it all shakes out.

 

EBONY

Surely, even dragons need to sleep.

 

DELICIOUS

You saying I got wrinkles, bitch? You should look in one of those cheap mirrors in that box you brought: Delicious is doing fine.

 

EBONY

I’ve got a mirror I can throw at you, if you like.

 

DELICIOUS

Your bad luck, not mine.

 

EBONY

At least seven years of bad sex would mean some sex.

 

DELICIOUS

You’re not with…

 

EBONY

Paul? We broke up six months ago.

 

DELICIOUS

Good. I never liked him.

 

EBONY

Apart from when you were eyeing up his ass.

 

DELICIOUS

Gotta make sure my sis is making the right choices. Which: you can do better.

 

EBONY

Thanks.

 

DELICIOUS

You know there’s thing called the internet?

 

EBONY

I’ve heard.

 

DELICIOUS

I can hook you up with somebody on your phone if you want.

 

EBONY

You’re as bad as Mama.

 

DELICIOUS

What?

 

EBONY

Didn’t I tell you she set up a Tinder account?

 

DELICIOUS

You’re shitting me.

 

EBONY

They’re all the rage in Florida. She was the Beyonce of the old folks homes: everybody was after her.

 

DELICIOUS

You are joking.

 

EBONY

Yeah. Your face though: might have given you a few wrinkles.

 

DELICIOUS

Bitch!

 

EBONY

She wasn’t like you remember though.

 

DELICIOUS

I don’t really want to talk about it.

 

EBONY

She changed.

 

DELICIOUS

Good for her.

 

EBONY

She enjoyed your videos.

 

DELICIOUS

Now you are joking.

 

Pause.

 

EBONY

What about you?

 

DELICIOUS

What about me?

 

EBONY

You know.

 

DELICIOUS

I’m fine.

 

EBONY

It’s been-

 

DELICIOUS

There’s not a limit for how long a girl can grieve. I had somebody. And now he’s gone. And that’s how it is.

(beat.)

Anyway, a girl can’t be lonely in this city. There’s too much light.

 

EBONY

If you say so.

 

DELICIOUS

I do. And maybe I’m saving myself for Sean Walker.

 

EBONY

Ha. He did used to talk about coming up here. He had a cousin or something.

 

DELICIOUS

Don’t toy with a girl’s hopes.

 

EBONY

I’m not. Though I can’t see him ever leaving Louisiana. Or, I couldn’t. I never would have thought we’d all end up like this.

 

DELICIOUS

Well, talk to Katrina.

 

EBONY

Believe me, bitch has heard some words from me.

 

DELICIOUS

Get in line.

 

EBONY

You never did a video about that?

 

DELICIOUS

No.

 

EBONY

Seems like there’s a lot a dragon could fight back home.

 

DELICIOUS

Well, this dragon is focused on New York. Fresh start.

 

EBONY

Fresh problems to rage against?

 

DELICIOUS

You could slice it like that.

 

EBONY

I never thought you’d end up here. It’s so cold.

 

DELICIOUS

Not when I’m on fire.

 

EBONY

I never thought we’d all be so far apart.

 

DELICIOUS

And I loved it when we were kids. You remember that trip?

 

EBONY

I was too small. I think I was just scared.

 

DELICIOUS

You mixed up the Empire State building with the Emerald City because it was green that night – who knows who sponsored that, probably celebrating Kermit the Frog or something – but it was all shining, like everywhere, and I knew I’d be here one day.

 

EBONY

Yeah. I just remember feeling like I had a headache all day. Not too different to how the place makes me feel now.

 

DELICIOUS

Maybe you should drink more?

 

EBONY

Maybe.

 

EBONY pulls out the tablecloth.

 

EBONY

There’s something I wanted to talk to you about.

 

DELICIOUS

About home?

 

EBONY

Sort of.

 

DELICIOUS

Let’s not. Not yet. Let’s enjoy this day of victory. Look all the lights of the city are celebrating.

 

EBONY

I don’t think that has anything to do with Port Ambrose.

 

DELICIOUS

You can read it any way you want, that’s what I love about this place. You can look out the window and see the dirt and squalor and all the unfairness but if you twist your angle, it’s like every light is twinkling for you, like the sky itself is smiling, like everything is fabulous.

 

EBONY

That’s what you think?

 

DELICIOUS

What I say.

 

DELICIOUS turns on the lights on the Christmas tree, looks out the window.

EBONY stands beside her, holding the tablecloth.

Lights twinkle, fade.

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.