Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More
ACT I- Mercy and The Dress of Eleanora Duse
Scene I: The author stands alone on a stage, one light. She looks out at the audience. Most sentences are spoken, but some declarative statements are sung.
AUTHOR: I am an artist. What am I going to make? For who? For what? What am I worth? Am I worth my market value? Am I worth what I can communicate? I am a woman. Am I worth to what I give birth? Am I worth how much I am loved? I am a human being. Am I worth what I do? Am I worth what I leave behind? Or am I worth just this. This moment- of being. These words have weight, you see, because I am delivering them. Written on a page, they are two-dimensional, they are scrap paper with scribbles. They are just another sentence in a sea of sentences. But then again, on a page, they are preserved. Here, they float- like bubbles. Maybe they’ll catch a light, and then reflect, but they pop and disappear. If I could, I would make each word into bubble, glitter, smoke- synapses firing, popping. Each sentence built upon a history of concepts, dreams a woven fabric that I could pull a sentence from my mouth and your mouth like a thread and unravel the entire universe, or fire it from a gun with an explosion that could start infinity again, anew. I can feel each word- light as air, and heavy as a rock in Virginia Woolf’s pocket- to hold me here, to weigh me down in this stream of now and now and now. I am here now. Until I am not. I do not understand. But still… I am. What do I make of it?
In the background, lights come up on a vintage boutique shop, HERSTORY BOUTIQUE, filled with brightly colored fabric, dresses. There is a birdcage with a fake parrot in it. A woman (PRICILLA) sits behind a counter, and another woman (LINDA) hangs things on hangers. Both are dressed too hip to be square.
AUTHOR: Well, I guess I start by making my day. This day. Here I am! I have things to do, but can I really do them wearing this? Jesus, I need new clothes. And shoes. And there’s this store-
The bell-chimes of a door ring as the AUTHOR enters the store. (The chimes sound like bells attached to a door, with a mechanized “We’re going to make it after all!” from The Mary Tyler Moore show that sound simultaneously. These ring every time someone enters or exits).
PRICILLA: May I help you?
AUTHOR: I’m just looking. (To the audience) I’ve wandered by this store so many times- I guess I just wandered in. (Looking at an item) I can’t afford anything in this store… my goodness. Herstory Boutique. Twenty thousand dollars for a dress!
LINDA: Oh, that’s not just any dress.
AUTHOR: No, I can see that, it’s gorgeous- I love it- but I just can’t imagine paying that much for a dress. I mean, really I can’t even imagine it.
LINDA: Well, now you can imagine it, because you can see it right in front of you. No imagination necessary. What I’m guessing you can’t imagine now is how a dress would be worth twenty thousand dollars. So let me explain. “Herstory is a Ladies Boutique, for the precious, and precocious.” Not just any woman would understand the meaning, the weight behind these objects. They are dreams manifest. They are here- these objects that have made their way as artifacts through time— here for women. Here for sale!
AUTHOR: Well, you shouldn’t assume things about my imagination. I can imagine a lot of things. You see, I’m an artist.
LINDA: Well then, this is definitely your store! Artists love this stuff! What kind of artist are you?
AUTHOR: Well, I’m an actor, a writer- a scholar- a singer- a poet-
PRICILLA: A welfare recipient and burden on the state?
AUTHOR: No. I do odd jobs: background, Starbucks, temping, here and there, what I can when I have to…
PRICILLA: Oh- well, good for you. Hope you make it.
AUTHOR: Oh, I’m totally going to make it! I can feel it!
PRICILLA: I’m sure you can. (Turning back to Linda as if the author isn’t there) So anyway, I told him to just take a cold shower and call me in the morning.
LINDA: (to author) She’s engaged, but she’s not having sex with him until she’s married. I don’t understand it. Do you?
PRICILLA: In today’s society, uh-uh. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
AUTHOR: (to the audience) I want to ask her if she realizes that she’s comparing herself to a cow. I want to say, even going with this analogy, with today’s society and mechanized udder-pulleys and huge milk-farms that milking a cow is not what it once was. Nobody just has a cow to get their milk. You go to the store and buy milk if you want milk, and if you want to milk cows, you have hundreds of cows and machines. I’ve seen these places. It’s not pretty… This analogy has got me really freaked out- especially because if I were a cow, I’ve been giving that milk out for free since the days my udders dropped- I mean, how would I charge someone for it—sure, I’ve heard about such things- am fascinated in fact, especially because I’m broker than a drunk punk on the junk- but still- milk? Free? Cow? I don’t understand-
LINDA: Do you understand?
AUTHOR: (to Pricilla) Oh sure, I understand. (To audience) I do understand. I have a very good imagination. This woman is thinking that somebody is going to buy her like a cow so he can milk her on a regular basis and that that is good thing- I understand. In fact, maybe I want the same exact thing- I would like, my owner would buy me this…whoa…$300 feather boa I would wear it around my neck like a bell… (The author puts the boa around her neck) and my owner would have perfect milking me hands, so that I would flow forth everything inside me for the sustenance of the world…
PRICILLA: Who are you talking to?
AUTHOR: (caught) What? Oh. I was just talking to… the fourth wall.
PRICILLA: Well, I guess that’s better than taking to the third wall- or the second wall- or this wall- with its yellow wallpaper slowly peeling – it drives me crazy…
LINDA: We’ll get it replaced- I mean, if it bothers you. I kind of like it… But I wouldn’t talk to it. The wall, or the wallpaper.
AUTHOR: Well, the fourth wall is different from that wall.
AUTHOR: Well- you can really focus- say things to it you wouldn’t normally get to say in just talking to people. It doesn’t talk back. It’s suspended in time and belief. It’s sort of like talking to yourself; expect it’s the opposite of talking to yourself.
Pricilla and Linda both look out at the audience- like a wall.
AUTHOR: Try it sometime.
LINDA: What do you do?
AUTHOR: Just look out- or walk out, wait for your light- say your lines… hope the wall doesn’t start rustling, yawning- looking back.
LINDA: Looking back?
AUTHOR: Oh, it doesn’t talk back, God willing, but sometimes it looks back… It can be very disconcerting. You have to really focus and not FREAK OUT.
Check back in our next edition of Eclectic Voices for Part 2…
Laura Lee Bahr is the author of the short stories Happy Hour and The Liar (available in the anthologies DEMONS, winner of the Bram Stoker award and PSYCHOS, edited by John Skipp and published by Black Dog & Leventhal). She is the award-winning screenwriter of the feature films Jesus Freak and the little Death. Her first novel, HAUNT, received the Wonderland Book Award.