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 #342: KNOCK KNOCK, THE DEAD ARE CALLING (DEC.2.2015)

Paris Climate Conference, 2015.

KHADIJA (40s; Iraqi; female) sits at a registration desk.

JAMES (30s; Chinese; male) enters.

 

They are both ghosts, though very corporeal ones.

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

JAMES

This is the-

 

KHADIJA

Knock Knock. That’s your line.

 

JAMES

Is this the right place for the Coalition of the Dead?

 

KHADIJA

Lines are important here. They must be followed.

 

JAMES

There’s so many tents and people and-

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

Pause.

 

JAMES

Knock Knock.

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

JAMES

James.

 

KHADIJA

James who?

 

JAMES

Zhang, James.

 

KHADIJA

Good.

 

KHADIJA searches through a pile of lanyards.

 

JAMES

Or Ju-long. It might be that.

 

KHADIJA searches.

 

KHADIJA

Here.

 

KHADIJA hands JAMES a lanyard.

 

JAMES

Thanks.

 

KHADIJA

Make sure to wear it.

 

JAMES

I didn’t think there would be so much bureaucracy.

 

KHADIJA

It’s the United Nations.

 

JAMES

Yes, but even in the Division of the Dead. I don’t know why we have to be searched.

 

KHADIJA

Lining up is good for the soul. It brings a sense of calm and purpose.

 

JAMES

But we seem to be lining up to join other lines.

 

KHADIJA

Did you have somewhere else to be?

 

JAMES

No. Actually, I was looking for somebody here. A friend of mine, Isaiah-

 

KHADIJA

This isn’t a networking site.

 

JAMES

I know but I thought you could look.

 

KHADIJA

Not my job.

 

JAMES

But isn’t that what you just did for me?

 

KHADIJA

This is different. I have to be ready for delegates.

 

JAMES

But nobody else is here right now and-

 

KHADIJA

There are procedures to be followed: nothing is swift around here.

 

JAMES

I know. He’s on the map too. Of climate casualties. He was a soldier in Iraq and-

 

KHADIJA

We all have stories. There’s a special line for telling yours. And another line for telling somebody elses. Neither of those lines ends here.

 

JAMES

No. I’m also looking for my boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend, I suppose – Delicious Drag-On, she’s performing in the Climate Generations tent I think-

 

KHADIJA

That is another list altogether. We cannot concern ourselves too much with the living.

 

JAMES

Isn’t that why we’re here?

 

KHADIJA

I cannot speak for all the Coalition of the Dead. We all have our stories. We are all on the map for reasons we may not wish. We have all not been heard.

 

JAMES

But now we will be.

 

KHADIJA

That is the idea.

 

JAMES

But even with all of us, crammed together, shouting, do you think they’ll feel it? People are so good at forgetting. My Dad runs a coal company! They extract in Southern Mongolia. Nasty stuff – there must be several herders here who’ve been killed trying to protect their lands from the diggers, you probably have their names there, but no…

 

KHADIJA

No.

 

JAMES

Father never listened to what I said, no matter how many times I told him what I thought of what he was doing, so why should strangers?

 

KHADIJA

This is not the time for storytelling. I too have shouted at skies that have not heard me. I have opened my mouth in prayer only to make it the wider for bombs to drop in. I have live ones pulsing outside this tent that I long to search for too. There are girls whose cheeks I long to pinch again. There is a table I long to sit and wonder across one more time. There are roads I ache to walk along.

(beat.)

But this is not the time for that. This is the time when we, the dead, knock at the door between worlds with such force that nobody can fail to listen.

 

Pause.

 

JAMES

No. I will line up. Get in line.

 

KHADIJA

That’s the line of action, yes.

 

JAMES

Thank you…

 

KHADIJA

Khadija.

 

JAMES

Thank you, Khadija.

 

KHADIJA nods.

JAMES exits.

KHADIJA waits.

A long time – wind, tumbleweeds, a circus of delegates, a parade of business cards, a hundred bouncing reusable cups – but KHADIJA remains focused and resolute until…

 

KHADIJA

Who’s there?

 

PLAY #341: THE END OF THE BEGINNING (DEC 1 2015)

Paris, December 2015.

SWAN and HOOPOE perch on top of the roof of the Climate Conference tent.

 

SWAN

They’re all here.

 

HOOPOE

Strutting.

 

SWAN

Pouting.

 

HOOPOE

Posing.

 

SWAN

Words that soar to the sky.

 

HOOPOE

Once the figures don’t get caught in nets.

 

SWAN

Australia will honor Kyoto to 2020.

 

HOOPOE

Big.

 

SWAN

While still developing coal. Russia’s got all those forests to use as part of her pledge.

 

HOOPOE

Huge.

 

SWAN

This is it, they say.

 

HOOPOE

Last shout of the Small Island States.

 

SWAN

One last push to get us below 1.5 degrees.

HOOPOE

Petitions signed with nice signatures.

 

SWAN

A beginning. According to China.

 

HOOPOE

After twenty one years of talks:

 

SWAN

A beginning.

 

Pause.

 

SWAN

Do you think she’ll come?

 

HOOPOE

The oldest bird?

 

SWAN

Yeah.

 

HOOPOE

They’re all here. The big-wigs. Why wouldn’t she be?

 

Pause.

 

SWAN

Do you worry that travel feels like an accomplishment? That just bringing ourselves all this way makes us feel that we’ve achieved something?

 

HOOPOE

I worry that agreeing anything feels like an accomplishment. I worry about us left out of the tent.

 

Pause.

 

SWAN

But she’ll come in and sort things out.

 

HOOPOE

She’ll swoop from the sky and get everything under control.

 

SWAN

That would be nice.

 

HOOPOE

Yes.

 

The birds wait.

 

PLAY #340: QUIET PLEASE, YOU’RE MAKING RATHER A FUSS (NOV 30)

London, November 29th 2015.

PIGEON sits on top of a statue of QUEEN VICTORIA.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

What is all this fuss?

 

PIGEON

Climate Protest. Huge. Biggest ever, they say.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

So loud.

 

PIGEON

You prefer it when large gatherings are restricted to jubilees?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I’d prefer it if everybody stayed put.

 

PIGEON

Your wish is the police’s command: climate protestors in Paris are under house arrest. State of Emergency, they say. As if the world warming is something to be thought about later.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

It would be quite pleasant to be at home in this weather. No time to be rocking the boat.

 

PIGEON

Not everybody has a palace to lounge in.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Well, those who do should use it at least. Not sure why that Charles is always running about interfering.

 

PIGEON

He’s speaking in Paris, you know?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Oh, I hear it all. When I tried so hard to remove the royals of any obligations other than stiff smiles and firm handshakes. It is no sort of legacy, at all.

 

PIGEON

I think the sun’s long set on that empire of yours. Though it’s doing a good job of laying waste to all those pesky colonies that severed ties with your kingdom: sun’s not a bad weapon to have in your arsenal.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I fail to understand why people lay contemporary woes at my feet.

 

PIGEON

History’s what’s at stake here: the climate reparations that the rich will pay for their plundering of the poor. Everybody’s all chat about the future – looking out for the grandkids – but the real issue is the past.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

What interest have you in any of this?

 

PIGEON

I’m on the lowest rung here: rat with wings. I take your scraps but you think I’m to blame for rising CO2 emissions? I’m cleaning up your messes. But birds will be just as screwed as the climate changes, not like we have any court to appeal to.

Course I root for the underdogs: why else would I spend so much energy shitting on statues?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Had I my army at my command, you’d usurp every pheasant for a place on my dinner table.

 

PIGEON

You know the story about the King of the Birds?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I don’t care for fables.

 

PIGEON

There’s a big competition. All the birds in the world strut their feathers and flap their wings. And it looks like the eagle is the clear winner. Until a robin pipes up, from the eagle’s head, saying that this tiny little thing that survives surely has to be superior.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I see your point: may you enjoy your last few moments atop my crown until the water rises a sufficient depth to drown you.

 

PIGEON

Not my meaning. Anyway, I’m no monarchist.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

That would explain your gifts.

 

PIGEON

You’re the one stuck. I don’t want to just be an observer. Want to believe in change. I’m off to Paris.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Bon voyage. I hope you’ll find some statues to shit on there.

 

PIGEON is already in the air, leaving QUEEN VICTORIA alone, and suddenly, she realizes, rather lonely.

 

 

PLAY #321: AND AFTER PARIS…(NOV 9)

Bonn, November 2015.

A hotel room.

ANJALI is on her phone, dressed.

ZAC is getting dressed.

 

ANJALI

I hate this new heart.

 

ZAC

And all this time I had you for a romantic.

 

ANJALI

It might as well be skull-shaped: it’s the beginning of the end for Twitter.

 

ZAC

I don’t see how it’s so different from a star.

 

ANJALI

That’s because you’re American: you are benumbed to the tyranny of the heart.

 

ZAC

Ouch, right in the aorta!

 

ANJALI

You can’t ‘heart’ an article about ice-melt.

 

ZAC

I’m sure somebody will innovate an emoji to deal with this crisis.

 

ANJALI

Or you can’t heart a link about climate refugees. Or bombs in Syria. It’s like an assault against anything remotely serious on Twitter. Clear off news, make way for cats on treadmills that people can heart until the internet vomits from all the love.

 

ZAC

You hearted Obama’s Keystone rejection.

 

ANJALI

It’s easy to like a win.

 

ZAC

What about poor Paul Ryan?

 

ANJALI

I’m not going to be drawn into an argument about Keystone.

 

ZAC

Because you know that it won’t make all that difference going into Paris.

 

ANJALI

Because you know that its symbolic impact is huge and I’ve told you, I’m not going to be pulled into this fight.

 

ZAC

You’d rather fight about Twitter?

 

ANJALI

I’m a pacifist, I’d rather not fight at all.

 

ZAC

Except that this makes it easier for you to ignore what’s happening.

 

ANJALI

What?

 

ZAC

It’s how we roll: pick a fight about something small, exhaust each other out. Makes leaving easier.

 

ANJALI

Did you get that from your therapist?

 

ZAC

Self-help books. They might reach Twitter some day.

 

ANJALI

I’ll be sure to heart them.

 

Pause.

 

ZAC

What are we doing?

 

Pause.

 

ANJALI

You want some of this?

 

ZAC

You saved me half a croissant?

 

ANJALI

I was hungry. And I know how long your showers are.

 

ZAC

As if I had no regard for the climate.

 

ANJALI

Exactly. So this will be good for your food consumption footprint. And your belly.

 

ZAC

That’s your distraction tool?

 

ANJALI

I’m sure I can find a CrossFit joke.

 

ZAC

Anjali…

 

ANJALI

I know. I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re doing either.

 

ANJALI walks to the window.

ZAC eats half a croissant.

 

ZAC

I hope these are better in Paris.

 

ANJALI

I think that’s one thing we can bet on.

 

ZAC

I can go out and get us some German doughy thing or something if you want.

 

ANJALI

No. I should order a cab soon.

 

ZAC

Right.

 

Pause.

 

ANJALI

This doesn’t have to mean anything different.

 

ZAC

No.

 

ANJALI

Just a collision of circumstances.

 

ZAC

A happy one?

 

ANJALI

Always.

 

ZAC

But not one you’d heart?

 

ANJALI looks out the window.

 

ANJALI

It’s weird being here without…

 

ZAC

All the conference paraphernalia?

 

ANJALI

Yeah.

 

ZAC

Well, Bonn’s got a lot going for it.

 

ANJALI

Anonymity?

 

ZAC

Familiarity.

 

ANJALI

It’s hard to think of coming back here. After…

 

ZAC

The smash success of Paris where everything is saved?

 

ANJALI

Exactly. I feel like this conference has been on the horizon for so long and now it’s only month away and…

 

ZAC

It can only disappoint?

 

ANJALI

Maybe. Or maybe I’m just starting to feel old. This is the part where you tell me I’m not old.

 

ZAC

You will never hear me tell you’re old. Even when we’re tweeting from Bonn in our seventies.

 

ANJALI

Don’t…

 

ZAC

Who knows what’ll happen after Paris. But at least there’ll be a map. Think about where things were five years ago.

 

But they don’t think about Copenhagen; they try never to think about Copenhagen.

ANJALI looks out the window.

 

ANJALI

You’re right.

 

ZAC

Could you repeat that? Maybe I can make a recording on my phone.

 

ANJALI

No use thinking too far ahead right now.

 

ZAC

You’re talking about Paris?

 

ANJALI

We don’t have to decide anything. Good to keep things open, no?

 

ZAC

Yeah. What do they say in France?

 

ANJALI

Not sure I want to know.

 

ZAC

On va voir.

 

ANJALI

Exactement.

(beat.)

I should get going.

 

ZAC

You sure you don’t want to hear the other French sentence I know first?

 

ANJALI is not sure, neither of them are, so they stay standing looking at each other, waiting for what will be to be.

PLAY #311: GHOSTS, WE WELCOME YOU (OCT 30)

Paris, 2015.

An enormous march to demand action from the U.N. on climate change.

 

PROTESTORS

our steps

would not be possible

without the strides of our ancestors

our voices could not cry for justice

without those who first shouted those syllables to the skies.

we march as those in present peril

facing future uncertainty

but bolstered with the power of the past.

ghosts:

we welcome you.

 

PROTESTORS wait.

Energy passes through protestors like wind: the sense of the crowd doubling.

PROTESTORS start to march.

PLAY #305: BONN (OCT 24)

Bonn, 2015.

A bar.

ANJALI walks over with two drinks and an apple with a logo of the Paris Accord.

ZAC looks up from his phone.

 

ZAC

How did you get that?

 

ANJALI

Wouldn’t you like to know.

 

ZAC

Only delegates have those.

 

ANJALI

Todd won’t share his with you since he fired you?

 

ZAC

Since I quit. And I’m not going to let you rile me up. I’m not biting.

 

ANJALI

Good. This is for me.

 

ANJALI takes a bite out of the apple.

 

ANJALI

Cute. It shows confidence that they have time to brand their produce with the world to save.

 

ZAC

Now they’ve abandoned loss and damage they’ve probably got lots of time.

 

ANJALI

That’s my line.

 

ZAC

You can’t make pronouncements with your mouth full: it’s undignified.

 

ANJALI

I can, however, throw things.

 

ANJALI picks up one of the glasses, as a threat.

ZAC takes it from her.

 

ANJALI

Who says I got it for you?

 

ZAC

Want me to pass it along to South Africa? Mxakato-Diseko’s probably who you’re shipping now, no? Except for her ambivalence to Twitter.

 

ANJALI

She had a good performance.

 

ZAC

Did she give you the apple?

 

ANJALI

They have extras. In case any of the diplomats drops theirs. Or a photo opportunity is missed.

 

ZAC takes a bite from the apple.

 

ZAC

They’re good.

 

ANJALI

Yeah. You can’t even taste the disappointment.

 

ZAC

At least the food will be good in Paris.

 

ANJALI

Lucky us.

 

ZAC

Croissants. We’ll at least have croissants.

 

ANJALI

Like every hotel in Europe.

 

ZAC

The right kind. They’ll do things right in Paris.

 

ANJALI

You think this is a good sign?

 

ZAC

There’s a workable text.

 

ANJALI

Which has thrown out half of the ideas-

 

ZAC

You can’t work with an 80 page text-

 

ANJALI

The text is meaningless unless there are specific finance commitments-

 

ZAC

Which there are-

 

ANJALI

Which aren’t charity disguised as neoliberal loans-

 

ZAC

Which have to contain some guarantees to transition towards carbon neutrality-

 

ANJALI

And if all the principles of Rio are thrown out along with any mention of historical responsibility-

 

ZAC

Because this isn’t 1992 and this text is making a good compromise-

 

ANJALI

Then we might as well just throw the whole thing into a blender-

 

They stop.

Pause.

 

ZAC

Hard not to bite.

 

ANJALI

Yes.

 

ZAC

I think it’s far from perfect too.

 

ANJALI

A generous assessment.

 

ZAC

But isn’t that the name of this game?

 

ANJALI

I’m not sure what we’re playing now.

 

ANJALI takes a bite of the apple, passes it to ZAC.

ZAC takes a bite.

 

ANJALI

I’m getting too old for this.

 

ZAC

Pretty sure apples are inter-generational. Until your teeth rot. Which is why you should really consider moving to the States-

 

ANJALI

We’re getting too old for this.

 

ZAC

Shipping and aviation. We could argue about that. Or agree – it’s mad that they’ve left it out.

 

Pause.

 

ANJALI

You’re supposed to say you’re not old.

 

ZAC

Right. I’m just confused as to the rules here.

 

ANJALI

Well, nothing’s binding in Bonn, it’s just a place to-

 

ZAC

Experiment?

 

ANJALI

Sure.

 

Pause.

 

ZAC

Do you think they picked here for the HQ so nobody would ever cover what goes on?

 

ANJALI

It does have an appealing anonymity. Not like-

 

ZAC

Don’t.

 

They don’t talk about Copenhagen.

They never talk about Copenhagen.

ANJALI finishes the apple.

 

ZAC

What times your flight?

 

ANJALI

Ten. You?

 

ZAC

Not till the morning.

 

Pause.

 

ANJALI

So. I should get going.

 

ZAC

That’s not why you came over.

 

ANJALI

No.

 

ZAC

We’re in unchartered territory here.

 

ANJALI

I guess you’re never too old for that.

 

ZAC finishes his drink.

Pause.

 

ZAC

You’re sure about this?

 

ANJALI

No.

 

ANJALI smiles.

ANJALI and ZAC exit.