A Play in Three Acts
by Jesús Castillo, Jillian Roberts,
Sarah Rothberg, and Kelsa Trom
‘Lectric Collective, 2010
List of monads:
Performer: The #3 U2 cover band in Missouri
Voice 1: A Swedish equestrian iPhone app
Voice 2: A professional
List of incarnations:
Knives (I and II)
Mittens (I and II)
Pepper Grinder (Jr. and Sr.)
Vase of Flowers
Setting: WEartspace kitchen. On the counter are the following objects: A vase of flowers, two knives, a spoon, a microwave, a candle, a light fixture, a loaf of bread in a bag with an avocado, two pepper grinders (one small, one large), a tub of cream cheese, and a picture frame. There is also a cutting board on which there are ingredients chopped into satisfying little piles: cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion and sprouts. A pyramid of sandwiches hides coquettishly in the cabinet. The pyramid is lacking the topmost sandwich. The stage is fully lit.
The Peformer walks up to the counter, removes her mittens and puts them on the stove, along with her cellphone, keys, and wallet.
Voice 1: (to be read with extreme breadogg hastiness) Take two pieces of bread from the plastic bread bag in which you brought your bread with you, along with a very small avocado that came with four other small avocados, out of the bread bag. Pick up the knife. Insert the knife into the avocado at the avocado’s smallest point, and begin to slice it lengthwise. Hope that the slice will connect with itself when it comes time, so that you are able to wind the avocado with your hands such that it separates into two halves. Put down the knife. Put your hands on the avocado. The half in your left hand should be turned clockwise, the half in your right should be turned counterclockwise. With your hands, pull apart the avocado. Put the pitless side down, and hold the pitted side in your left hand, and the knife in your right. Attempt to strike the pit with the knife, such that the blade is securely lodged into it. If this is successful, turn the knife forty-five degrees to the right, and remove the pit.
Voice 1: If this is not successful, repeat up to two times before giving up and pulling it out with your right thumb and forefinger while swearing silently. After you have removed the pit by whatever means, slice each half of the avocado’s innards lengthwise four or five times. Find a spoon and hold it. Scoop the slices out with the spoon. Arrange the slices on one slice of bread. The avocado slices will look like “C”s and backwards “C”s, nestling together like lovers or a group of scared people who are not necessarily related to each other at all. Attempt to smash them with the spoon. If they are ripe they will smash. If not quite, they may not, and do give up before it’s too late; excessive attempts at smashing may result in smashed bread. Douse the avocado heavily with salt and pepper. There should be enough pepper to fully coat the avocado. There should be enough pepper that you may feel inclined to sneeze. If you must, do so.
Pause, pepper is ground like crazy. The performer may sneeze.
Voice 2: Open the container of cream cheese, breathe deeply. Remembering the first fight you ever started, exhale. And how that fight ended, think about that, the weight in your fingertips. Pick up the knife, hesitate and rub your right foot along your left calf. Again, slower. You know what to do now, you’ve expressed this to your family in writing saying “Ne me quitte pas” and so many discrete gestures. In geographical climaxes. Some spreadable experience on your fingertips.
Voice 2: Now you must decide whether to spread the cream cheese with your fingertips or your knife. Both of them are ready, efficacious, really just muscle memory. What your muscles remember today filters our entire kinetic experience, its most remote particles. You recall a pickle, a mustard spoon, pastrami, melted white cheese squares. The authority you bring to this situation overwhelms you. The insides of your cheeks trick you into feeling things, kalamata paste, green apples, raw cashews, mackerel. This could be enough, cream cheese now covering your fingers and creasing in the lines of your palms; instead you decide to add some diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, sprouts. Most of what composes vegetables is water: decisive, taut little particles. Express some quiet gratitude, already.
The Performer’s cellphone starts to ring. She picks it up.
The Performer: Hello? I’m busy. I’m making a sandwich. How is that not busy? I once made a tuna sandwich and it took me an hour. No. Look. (The caller’s speaker phone is turned on, echoing The Performer’s words) You start with celery and you chop it so tiny you wonder why you’re putting it in at all. But that’s dumb. Spice is to flavor as celery is to texture. Celery can be any flavor, it adds only texture. Celery is an impressionable child that absorbs whatever you say to heart. You were once celery too. When you were celery, you thought that anything that wasn’t celery was something completely different from you. You thought that adults were a different species. (Music Cue: Michael Nyman’s “Miserere” [insrumental version] fades in) Then you became an adult and now celery is a different species.
The Performer hangs up the phone and resumes making the sandwich.
Voice 2: I wish I could remember just one banal detail about this place. Something really small, like the surface of a piece of toast. If I could engrave it in my mind, it would be easy to draw it on a piece of notebook paper perfectly for a friend whenever the both of us are waiting for the bus or for the train and we’re content with killing the time in small ways.
Voice 1: It’s easier to wait when it’s raining. When the rain dries on the window of the kitchen, it cakes the dust that settles there and moves it into the shape of droplets. How do I know this? I’ve written it down. Also I can’t stress how important it is that there be enough pepper. (Music Cue: “Miserere” fades out) I just can’t.
The Performer finishes making the sandwich.
The Performer: (slower, sexier, to the audience) A slice of sliced bread is not quite square, shaped more like a chef’s hat than anything else.
The Performer opens the cabinet and places the sandwich on the top of the sandwich pyramid, allowing the sandwich as object to triumph over the sandwich function. The Performer leaves the the table. The stage lights are reduced.
The objects remain on the table. The room remains dark. The objects are illuminated as their corresponding lines are read.
Light Fixture: There are many sources of light. The most common light sources are thermal: a body at a given temperature emits a characteristic spectrum of black-body radiation. Examples
include sunlight, incandescent light bulbs, and glowing solid particles in flames. The peak of the blackbody spectrum is in the infrared for relatively cool objects like human beings.
Knife 1 (blunt) : (dully) My purpose is unknown to me.
Knife 2 (sharp): (curtly) Yes but we celebrate your neutrality in the matter.
Knife 1: Did you invent the masonry of us? After all, we’ve fought some wild battles against the earth, grew closer to the milk at its core.
Knife 2: If our making taught us anything, it’s this: anything that could become a string figure is one. Parallel materials creep in on us. Are reflected in us. A reciprocal vision of the woods, I have seen its methods, they bore you gently.
Knife 1: So you’re saying I’m hardly meant to be alive.
Mittens: (together, to the knives) Hello! Hello over there! I don’t believe we’ll ever meet!
Hat: Can’t you keep it down over there?
Pepper Grinder Sr: A system of sharp steel parts is held inside. Archaic. But outside, what form. Simple, wooden, almost obvious buildings. Our job is just one and it’s hard to imagine anything outside of this. Can you guess how old I am? Did you know I was stolen? Yeah. I was stolen from a bar. There, I could feel the city passing by every time the double doors opened. The city felt loud and blurry, fast and full of nighttime air and bright light. I knew it only in gusts of wind. Couples came through and ordered wine and they’d get bread and butter whether they wanted it or not. Old couples, young couples. Families never sat at the bar. Groups of friends, yes. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, in this house. I like her though. She doesn’t talk much. Once in a while, when no one is home and the whole house is quiet, she’ll say
Pepper Grinder Jr: What if we were windmills, Senior? What if we were like this, but on top of big hills, the sky above us and parts of us always spinning?
Microwave: Oh, it’s so cozy to hear your histories; if walls could talk they wouldn’t know each thing at all. People often know the moment they came in contact with each thing in their homes, but to think: each thing has a history even before that! I’ve been to Japan you know, have you?
Cell Phone: Many cell phones certainly have.
Mitten 1: Oh, who cares where you’ve been when we’re all here now!
Hat: I’ve only ever been in space. The space compacting between your little fibers and mine, little head fibers. I know a poem about it:
A sculpture of its own accord grows fat
Or some case of dropsy steeply meets him
Disease must know its own rare world, its cave
Perfects the swelling of his bones, ca gratte!
Cell Phone: (with pomp) I have something to say--
Hat: (louder, ignoring the cell phone) I’ll mold you pharmaceuticals, my love
To keep your itching lodged away in space
Come mold with me, let’s make some world tonight
And in the wind, dispose the shape thereof.
Microwave:(dopily) That just warms my heart--
Cell Phone: I created the casual cyborg. The proof is too clear to justify the making of fantastical claims on the soul because the simple will suffice: isn’t there already a “feeling when you get a new one”? Isn’t the sight of the broken one like the just-cut lock of hair, instantly estranged with disembodiment? Don’t you know it better than you know your own toes? Don’t you miss it when it’s missing? The fact is straight: if “the world is what we perceive” I have widened your world to the world. I have a self and it’s your self.
Mittens 1: Ha! the Cell Phone. Talking about the world in relation to the human body.
Cell Phone: (interrupting) YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU DIRTY MITS.
Mitten 1: That’s the cell phone for you. More like... cell fimportant! Okay, that may have been too much but really--
Mitten 2: (To be read over Mitten 1’s line. Cue at: “More like...”): Clothing inhibits perception, it’s true, but don’t I contain the body, too? I mean, the self. It’s true that if you leave a mitten on a table in the library, it will be hours before anyone else sits at that table. Enough about it now, though. An object, a true one, is selfless.
Mitten 1: Clothing specifically, I think. Have you ever seen someone in borrowed clothes?
Mitten 2: Sure. It’s odd. In a way it’s like how it’s weird to hear the voice of one person from the mouth of another. Does the hat think that, too?
Mitten 1: The hat thinks whatever it is that comes to it’s head.
(Cue Laugh Track)
Mitten 1: Thank you! Thank you everyone! And now, to the salt shaker!
Salt Shaker: Play clip of “Shake Your Booty” by KC & The Sunshine Band
Picture Frame: (dreamily) The event has already happened, everybody. It is only a crystal now. Imagine that, a cave of little crystals; all the songs in the world. Little glass droplets. Dogs were sent into space, what caves hold those events? After all, the dogs were already inside a sort of crystal. Sent from a diaphanous culture. Refractions of October and special feminine gazes into the sky. Crystals in life, if life can leave the planet, that could not stand the mounting pressure, the escape velocity of the delicate canines tumbling without endpoint into Unilateral Depth. What, exactly, is a dog?
Flower Vase: I play host to ephemeral clusters of pure contradictions that take delight in containing no one’s dream under so many lids.
Cell Phone: Hey, Vase, why don’t you make yourself useful for once and...“leave”?(laughter + laugh track) I suppose it’s expected but I’d like to have the last word on the matter. The council we’ve held here today is one of utmost importance. The facts are now straight: “The lighting directs my gaze and causes me to see the object, so that in a sense” the light “knows and sees the object” and “The symbolic function must always precede its object and does not encounter reality except when it precedes it into the imaginary” and “Our body is both an object among objects and that which sees and touches them.”
Picture Frame: Whatever you do is already obsolete, Cell Phone!
Flower Vase: I suppose I can relate. (sighs)
Picture Frame: The total artwork makes use of all forms and triumphs over all times. Vase, you are that crystal; we are the resonant images. Our function is the ultimate function! The work of tragic tinkerers and kings alike.
Microwave: Reminds me of a summer afternoon...
The following lines are to be spoken in round.
Cell phone: “I play host to ephemeral clusters of pure contradictions that take delight in containing no one’s dream under so many lids.”
Picture Frame: (cues in at “ephemeral”) I play host to ephemeral clusters of pure contradictions that take delight in containing no one’s dream under so many lids.
Flower Vase: (cues in at picture frame’s “ephemeral”) I play host to ephemeral clusters of pure contradictions that take delight in containing no one’s dream under so many lids. Sometimes the best way to move another is to stay in one place. The audacity of the elegant repose needn’t touch the ether to fashion it, but anyone can feel how lovely all the air around becomes. Sweetly. Watch me here. Can you find it in me if you keep looking? Everyone tries. Keep watching. Yes, that’s nice. Gently now.
The stage is fully lit. Herbie Handcock’s “Blow Up” plays.
All players execute the following actions: The Knives are taped together. The Mittens are suspended from the cabinet. The Light Fixture is overturned. The Picture Frame is replaced with a Mirror. The Salt Shaker is submerged in water in the Vase which is inside the hat. The Pepper Grinders are in the Microwave. The Loaf of Bread is covered in paint until the music cuts out.
(To be read at a crescendo from mezzo piano to fortissississimo. Two of the readers should read, alternating every two lines. They should be joined by a tall talented beautiful blonde named Kelsa with the voice of a bird an sing along with the melody over the spoken words).
Voice 1: The objects are attached to a wire affixed to a pulley system, that suspends them in the air. The knives have postulated an acrobatic competition with the mittens. But both parties are too busy arguing among themselves to jump. (cue “Miserere” at low volume from 2:39, with a singer singing aloud with the melody) There is interference when sounds outside the room take the form of things, some holographic, some draped in feathers. Everyone looks around, baffled, not sure if they are witnessing the beginning of a party or a cataclysm. Either way there is fear mixed with delight, and upon the realization that this mixture is a possibility, a general calm washes over the room. A wind machine is brought in by the avocados, who have momentarily unhinged themselves from their position on the wire. The avocado turns on the machine. The objects begin to sway rhythmically with the pulsing of the machine. The knife jumps into the palm of the mitten, who embraces it, then kisses it wildly. The flower vase spills its contents on the floor in what it feels is an act of complete abandon, complete freedom from function, but immediately after doing so it feels empty and screams, (stage lights are turned on) Oh God! (music continues)
Nearby the pepper grinders watch calmly.
(Singing resumes and cuts abruptly at the end of the vocal phrase, ending with a thunder-like rattle of an aluminium sheet. Then fade into Herbie Hancock’s “Blow Up.”)
Curtain Call (stage directions to be read aloud, except for the parts in parentheses, which are to be performed. The reading of these lines is not to be divided by characters in advance.)
The curtain is drawn.
The curtain is opened again.
Still suspended on the wire, each object is lit one at a time.
(An object is lit)
We applaud wildly for each object.
(Applauds wildly for each object )
(Each other object is lit in a spiraly fashion)
The curtain is drawn again.
The curtain is opened again.
All objects are lit all at once.
(All objects are lit at once).
We all applaud wildly again.