“A Wedding Party”
Michele came back to New York with me, and a few months later we decided to get married. Al invited me to do another play at The Changing Scene before the wedding. I began writing “A Wedding Party” in my cabin in the Berkshires and finished it beside a beaver pond in the Rockies. I had been reading Rumi and Idries Shah and the play is marked with sufi influence. Happily, many of the actors from “Peas” and “Double Solitaire” appeared in this play as well.
This is the most complex and ambitious play of the trilogy. No reviews survive.
Rehearsing “A Wedding Party”: from left, Rita Williams, Bill Dohme, Dennis Stull, Michael Smith, Nancy Mangus, Jane Larew, Michele Hawley, and John Simcox
“A Wedding Party” was first presented at The Changing Scene, Denver, on June 6, 1974, under the author’s direction with the following cast:
The set and lighting were by Charles Vanderpool. The music was composed by Alfred Brooks and performed by Peanut Gonzales, Evalyn Kermiet, and Karen Kermiet. Stage manager was Becky Hill, with light control by Paul Caouette.
A second production was directed by John Albano at Theater for the New City in New York in 1980.
“A WEDDING PARTY”
play in 23 scenes
Cast of Characters:
JACK (FATHER) — a mellow fool
SARAH (MOTHER) — a pilgrim on the path of knowledge
VIOLET (NEIGHBOR) — a wood nymph
JIMMY — a liberated workman
LOUISE (DAUGHTER) — her own woman; Diana
FRANK (VISITOR) — a hesitant intellectual
SADIE (GRANDMOTHER) a common-sensical kidder
DRUNK/PREACHER/CHESTER a visionary
On the unfinished set: Michele Hawley, my back, Nancy Mangus, Dennis Stull, Jane Larew, Bill Dohme, musicians up in the trees
A forest of beautiful pine trees, their boughs waving in the bright air overhead, the ground beneath them unevenly sloping away, carpeted with grasses and pine needles and wild flowers. The trees are cunningly arranged to let the audience see in among them. Upstage a ways, a picnic table. JACK is sitting at the table musing. Midsummer. Bright afternoon sunlight is streaming through. Birds are twittering and might be seen flittering through. Cicadas. Insects buzzing. Up among the trees a few MUSICIANS are playing quietly.
VIOLET is occasionally glimpsed dancing among the trees in a simply white tunic like a wood nymph.
JACK (in a break in the music): A wedding party. (Music. EVERYONE enters at once from behind the trees and immediately disappears. SARAH emerges from among them carrying a large picnic basket, which she sets down on the table sighing.) This woman is my wife, the mother of the bride. And the daughter of the bride. And the bride’s best friend’s mother. And the bride. A bride. It’s not so confusing. We almost got married in ‘44 but there wasn’t time.
SARAH: You didn’t want to.
JACK: We told everyone we were going to but then we didn’t. Then the kids came along and one thing and another. We were in the flow. What can I say? An example, a conversation. A few things spoken on purpose, for Being, others fluttering through the air like leaves, or as if we were leaves, fluttering, or as if we were people, awake. (Snaps his finger.) And so we are.
JACK: Yes, my dear.
SARAH: Help me.
JACK: What do you have to do?
SARAH: Are you hungry?
JACK: No, not at all.
SARAH: Why do we have to eat?
JACK: Are you?
SARAH: I hunger for another kind of food than food. Food is a gross substitute.
JACK: I agree with you. I am thirsty.
SARAH: Here’s a cup. You can drink the water from the spring. I don’t need help.
(He goes off through the trees. VIOLET dances through. JIMMY goes through in white coveralls with a tire. LOUISE goes through reading a diary. FRANK comes in.)
FRANK: Have you seen Louise—I mean Violet?
SARAH: She’s here somewhere.
FRANK: Hello, Mother.
SARAH: Hello, Frank. I’m glad to see you.
FRANK: It’s a beautiful day.
SARAH: Are you excited? How do you feel?
FRANK: Is that right?
SARAH: You should call me Mary, or Sarah. Sarah.
FRANK: I’ve never heard anyone else call you Sarah.
SARAH: I know a lot of different people. I know people you don’t even imagine I know.
FRANK: Whom do you mean?
SARAH: They all call me Sarah.
FRANK: I know a few myself. Mountain people who never go down to the city. When they want to go somewhere they go higher up in the mountains and talk to eagles.
SARAH: Are you going back to the cabin?
FRANK: No. I lost the cabin. I mean I gave it to somebody. I want a house in a town.
SARAH: I want to travel around. I’ve had houses.
FRANK: I’ve been living in apartments surrounded by strangers.
SARAH: We’re giving up the house and going on the road. We could give you the house. Have you seen Violet?
FRANK: No. I want to.
LOUISE (entering): Listen to this. (Reading, she sits at the table.) Surprise after surprise at the power of the karma that brings us all together again and again, years between, thousands of miles and smiles.
FRANK: What are you talking about?
LOUISE (still reading): I drove up to the mountains today to visit Violet and Frank. There was snow on the ground and the road was muddy so I parked at the top of the hill and walked down. I didn’t see any cars but smoke was coming out of the chimney. Frank came out of the cabin and started to unzip his fly before he saw me. He was really happy to see me. The cabin is neat, Meher Baba on the wall, a good little fire burning in the stove. No sign of Violet. (SARAH goes out. LOUISE looks up.) Where’s Violet?
FRANK: She… uh… went to the store.
LOUISE: Are you all right?
LOUISE: Oh, nothing… The cabin looks beautiful
FRANK: Have you seen… I mean…
LOUISE: Are you… ?
FRANK: ... ideally spaced out. Don’t expect rationality.
LOUISE: How long have you been alone?
FRANK: Oh, I don’t know, a week, a month.
LOUISE: Well, you look fine.
FRANK: Come here.
LOUISE: What do you mean? No, not now. I don’t know.
FRANK: Is there someone here with you?
LOUISE: My mother. She’s gone for a walk. She likes to go for long walks by herself in the woods. She won’t be back for hours.
FRANK: What do you want?
LOUISE: Nothing. I’m fine. My it’s beautiful here. And so quiet, if only we’d stop talking.
FRANK: You sound just like Louise.
LOUISE: I am Louise.
FRANK: I mean Violet. Louise? Is that you? Where am I?
LOUISE: Why are you acting this way?
FRANK: What do you mean? I’m not going to get paranoid.
LOUISE: Good. Neither am I.
FRANK: Well, that’s settled.
LOUISE: Be still a minute.
(Birds, music. FRANK sighs, sits across from LOUISE. Long pause. JACK and SARAH return.)
FRANK: Thank you.
LOUISE: It wasn’t true about my mother. I was afraid of you. I’m afraid of crazy people.
FRANK: I wasn’t crazy. Being alone isn’t being crazy. It just takes time to get into it, and it takes time to come back.
LOUISE: I know what it’s like to be lonely.
FRANK: I like you. I’m very attracted to you. But that’s not what I mean.
LOUISE (reading): Then Violet came rattling down the hill in her truck. Frank went outside to meet her. I stayed inside and did some meditation and humming. (Pause.) They didn’t come back for a long time. (Pause.) It was fantastic to be alone in the cabin. (Long pause.)
JACK: What did she say?
LOUISE: I’m never coming down again.
SARAH: She’s here somewhere.
LOUISE (to FRANK): Is there someone here with you?
MOTHER: She wanted to be alone.
FRANK: Women don’t want to be alone. Do they?
JACK: Well, I’m glad it has a happy end. I like a positive picture of the universe.
SARAH: Whom are we talking about?
JACK: Frank and Violet.
SADIE (off among the trees): Louise? Louise?
MOTHER (calling): We’re over here, Mother. Wait there. I’ll come to you. (She goes off into the trees. From another way SADIE enters on the arm of JIMMY.)
SADIE: There you are! My goodness! It’s a good thing I don’t have to go to the wee-wee. It’s fine for you boys but I’m a girl, or I used to be. Now I’m a lady. Hee hee.
LOUISE: Sadie, hush.
SADIE (sits): Thank you, Petey.
JACK: That’s Jimmy, Mother.
SADIE: Petey Jimmy.
SADIE (after a pause): What’s happening?
JACK: Tell us a story, Mother.
SARAH (entering): There you are! My goodness! It’s a good thing I don’t have to go to the wee-wee. It’s fine for you boys—
SADIE (to LOUISE): ... your mother’s wedding party. We had a quartet of singers singing madrigals. It was lovely. (LOUISE stalks off into the woods.) It was a day much like today. We were standing in the courtyard of a California mission or something under an enormous ancient fig, the sound of a fountain cooling off our ears. Nobody was there except me and the padre and the singers. I didn’t know what was going on. Nobody ever tells me anything. You think because I’m old I can read everybody’s mind. And I can. Ah, but what I read there! What am I to make of it? (To FRANK) You ask yourself. But you need someone to talk to! (FRANK abruptly leaves. SADIE sings a little of “Scarlet Ribbons.”)
JACK: Ah the sentimental old songs.
SARAH: Are you serious?
JACK: They make me feel safe and relaxed.
SARAH: Once in a great while is often enough for me.
JACK: Don’t be a snob about it.
SARAH: I am. I can’t help it. I’m into quality. I’m an up-front elitist. Why pretend? I’m interested in high aspirations, not the same old routines. I like cooking and cleaning house O.K., I have to live somewhere, and I like the schmoozling and conversational pit-a-pat. But there has to be something else. And there is.
JIMMY: I can’t believe you’re saying this. Can you tell me what it is?
SARAH: The face behind the mask of flesh.
JIMMY: Ugh. It sounds so grisly. Ugh. I’m such a squeamish person.
JACK: I love you.
SARAH: I’m frightened. I frightened myself.
SADIE: Don’t worry. Be happy.
SARAH: I am. I’m happy too.
JACK: I love you because you’re so complicated.
SARAH: I love you because you’re so simple.
JACK: Yes, yes, I have my ways. I know it. I’m an easy creature of routine, I’m settled into myself, and I’m content. I’m free this way. Anything at all can happen at any moment. I’m ready. But nothing ever does happen. Things happen to other people, but most of them are disasters.
SARAH: What are you talking about?
JACK: I am exfoliating.
SARAH: Well stop it. It’s embarrassing.
JACK: Who cares? What a day! I haven’t been up in the mountains in I don’t know how long. It’s another world. It might be another planet. An island in a sea of concrete, metal, and banality. We might as well be from New Jersey ourselves.
SARAH: But we’re not.
JACK: No, of course not.
SARAH: That’s what I mean.
SADIE: You kids were made for each other. I remember you two carrying on all one summer on my side porch. You used to act real crazy but I didn’t mind. I was already living in the past.
SARAH: You were older then.
(VIOLET comes running up to JIMMY and faces him.)
JIMMY: We’re not supposed to see each other! We’re not both supposed to be here! I can’t believe this is happening! (Shielding his eyes) I didn’t see you! You’re not here! I’m not here! (Runs out, tripping.)
SARAH: Frank, wait!
JACK: That was Jimmy, Mother.
SARAH: Since when do you call me Mother?
VIOLET (to SARAH, breathlessly): What a glorious day! What’s the matter with him? Oh I’m completely out of breath. I’m not accustomed to the altitude. I will be by the end of the afternoon. If you ever get accustomed to it. And you do. What am I talking about?
SARAH: I understand. It’s natural to feel that way. It isn’t every day a girl gets married.
VIOLET: I wish I was getting married.
SADIE: You too?
VIOLET: No I don’t.
SARAH: Well it’s too late for indecision now. We’re all here and you have to go through with it.
VIOLET: Why are you talking to me this way? I’m not the one getting married.
JACK: You’re not?
VIOLET: Maybe we should just call the whole thing off.
SARAH (starting to cry): That’s not funny.
VIOLET: Well don’t cry. Good heavens, what’s the matter with everyone? Must be the altitude. (Dances out.)
(Music. It’s getting a little less bright. The DRUNK comes stumbling in through the trees. He seems to have stumbled into the wrong play. He’s clutching his stomach as if he’s been stabbed. At first the others try to ignore him. Then JACK breaks and goes to him.)
JACK (sotto voce): What’s the matter with you?
DRUNK: I was stabbed.
JACK: Are you bleeding? Let me see there. Here, lift up your arm. I’ve got you.
DRUNK (breaking free and waving his arms): Ha ha! April fool! (Falls.)
SADIE: Get off the stage.
JIMMY (entering): What’s going on?
SADIE: Get him off!
SARAH: Sadie, you calm down.
JACK: Did you hurt yourself?
DRUNK (rolling in the grass): The Lord! The Lord! The Lord!
JIMMY (clapping and stomping): Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
SADIE: I quit. (Gets up to go.)
SARAH: Sadie, stop it.
JACK: Here, sit up.
SADIE (screaming): Out! Get out! Get out! (Beats the DRUNK with her handbag.)
JIMMY (restraining her): Wait! You’re hurting him.
SADIE: Let me go. We rehearsed this this afternoon.
DRUNK (sober): Shut up and hit me. I don’t care if it hurts. It has to be real to look real. (Cowering) Go on.
SADIE: I can’t. It’s too ridiculous.
JIMMY: Oh come on! (Takes her arms from behind and makes her beat on DRUNK.)
SADIE: Let me go!
SARAH: What is this?
JACK: Why don’t you all go.
(They all go, leaving JACK and SARAH alone with the music and birds.)
JACK: This is my favorite time of day.
SARAH: You always say that.
JACK: Don’t turn on any lights. I want to see night fall.
SARAH: There aren’t any lights.
JACK: I’m glad to know that. I love this time, being here with you. I love being alive so much I could die.
SARAH: I’m a little nervous.
JACK: It’ll all work out.
SARAH: Well, I don’t have to know what everybody else is doing.
JACK: I don’t understand what they’re feeling about each other. What does anybody mean by love, except the sweetness of this moment? How beautiful it is to see you dance in the sunlight. But they don’t seem to notice, as if something else might be happening and it might be better.
SARAH: Do you ever feel that way about me?
JACK: Yes. Of course. I feel every way a man can feel about a woman about you. It’s been a long time. I don’t know if a woman goes through all that.
SARAH: No, I always knew what I wanted.
JACK: You wanted me.
SARAH: Yes. And you wanted…
JACK: This. This is exactly what I wanted to do. Never a wrong turn.
SADIE (off): Louise? Louise?
LOUISE (off): Jimmy— I’m—
JIMMY (off): I know it. Have you seen Violet?
SARAH: I’m coming, Mother. (Goes out.)
LOUISE (off): She might be down by the lake.
JIMMY(off): Oh, is there a lake?
JACK: Alone at last.
(LOUISE comes in.)
JACK: Yes, my dear. (She puts her hand on his sleeve.) Are you happy?
LOUISE: I think I’m turning into you.
JACK: I thought you were turning into your mother.
LOUISE: No, I’m not smart like that. And she has you.
JACK: I thought you would marry Jimmy.
LOUISE: I can’t marry him, he’s my brother. You know what I mean. We’re exactly alike.
JACK: You sound so sad.
LOUISE: It is sad. I remember when I found out I couldn’t have you.
JACK: You do have me.
LOUISE: But you’re giving me away. You must not need me anymore. (He takes her hands and they whirl.) I don’t like feeling so crazy.
JACK: Where’s Frank?
LOUISE: I don’t want to see him. I don’t ever want to see him again.
JACK: Faster. Can it really be so bad?
LOUISE: I don’t know, I don’t know!
JACK (leaping in the air): Too late! Too late!
LOUISE: Faster. (Laughing) Faster!
JACK: Let’s get married. I’ll get a divorce.
LOUISE: Do you mean it? (She throws him to the ground giggling hysterically.)
JACK: Wait a minute! (They roll off into the bushes. Sound of thrashing and giggling dies away. Bees, birds, buzz.)
Scene 11 (ballet)
(VIOLET comes running in like a breathless ballerina. She is surprised to find herself alone. She is alarmed. Where is everyone? She is lost in the forest! She runs about. She realizes it’s only a park. She sits down to wait. Music. The light is more blue. Her feet begin to move. She begins to dance. She is an innocent young girl in the forest. She dances with the shadows and flowers and trees and bees. She grows younger. JIMMY appears from behind a tree and plays with her. He vanishes. He reappears as a sex fiend who pursues her wildly about, then vanishes. She goes back to playing. He reappears preoccupied and depressed. She tries to get his attention but can’t. He vanishes. She goes on playing. He reappears on his own lyrical trip, and they dance beautifully together. They create the atmosphere of a church. The DRUNK staggers in and becomes the minister. They kneel and he performs a ceremony. The WHOLE CAST bursts upon the scene laughing and toasting and throwing rice and kissing and as abruptly they all vanish, leaving VIOLET alone with LOUISE.)
LOUISE: I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I’m furious that you’re letting me go away. I thought you were my best friend. You don’t care who gets married to whom, do you? As long as everyone gets married to someone. It’s the only way out. You’re going to need it when you’re sixty. I mean go on, go ahead and—
VIOLET: Not me. No thanks. I used to know a woman up in Boulder Canyon who made love potions. You know, the first person he sees when he wakes up he falls in love with forever. So you wake him up.
VIOLET: No thanks. People in love with me I do not need.
LOUISE: Jimmy is in love with you.
VIOLET: That’s different.
LOUISE: I taught him everything he knows.
VIOLET: That’s a strange thought.
LOUISE: Yes it is. (Pause.) What does he say about me? (No answer. Long pause.)
VIOLET: Frank is freaking out.
LOUISE: I can’t help it. He wanted to do it. He’s driven himself completely crazy thinking about changing his mind.
VIOLET: It’s too late now.
LOUISE: You’d think so. Did he ask you to marry him first?
LOUISE: I thought so. And you refused?
LOUISE: Why did you refuse?
VIOLET: I didn’t want to marry him. Genetic selection—it’s very deep.
LOUISE: Is there something the matter with him?
VIOLET: No, he’s fine. We’re all fine.
LOUISE: Then what?
VIOLET: It wasn’t what was happening. See? Anyway you were in New York with Jimmy. Why are you bringing all this up? Is something the matter?
LOUISE: I don’t know.
VIOLET: Let me see your ring.
LOUISE: I don’t have it. I gave it back to him so he could give it back to me.
VIOLET: You’re crazy. Well, we have to love our old friends. We can’t get away from each other.
(JIMMY and FRANK come strolling in together.)
LOUISE: That’s not a very positive attitude.
VIOLET: Sure it is.
JIMMY: Television is the heroin of the people.
FRANK (incredulous): Are those people the people?
JIMMY: Are you?
JIMMY: But you don’t really think so.
JIMMY: You think you’re special, different, smarter—
JIMMY: But your life is a mess.
FRANK: It’s the times we live in.
JIMMY: You’re going through your life asleep.
FRANK: We’re blinded by all the electric lights. We can’t tell day from night. There is no night until we turn the power off and then we close our eyes and sleep. It’s true. Then we are alive. Then our own voies, drowned in the constant clamor of the day, cry out to us all in a babble, all a babble, but it’s all in a babble.
FRANK: —here we all are.
JIMMY: I’d like something to drink.
VIOLET: Why is everybody so nervous? We’re supposed to be having fun.
FRANK: This is fun.
LOUISE: What shall we do?
JIMMY: There isn’t much time.
VIOLET: It doesn’t take very long.
JIMMY: Where is everyone?
LOUISE: Let’s drink wine and play cards.
VIOLET: Really, Louise!
FRANK: All right.
LOUISE: Well why not?
JIMMY: SHHH!!!! (Music. Birds.)
VIOLET (to FRANK): Do you have a phone or are you traveling around?
FRANK: I’m traveling around.
VIOLET: Are you a transvestite?
FRANK: You can always leave a message for me at Rita’s. Tell her a few details of your life.
VIOLET: Get out your sexual frustrations.
VIOLET: H. E. L. P.!... Oh I’ve got these blisters on my feet… I feel so good. Breaking up is a hard thing to do, but it isn’t. I figured out why I’ve been with him for five years and why I can’t stay with him another minute.
FRANK: You should stick to your routines, keep your mind occupied.
VIOLET (to LOUISE): Frank is particularly dangerous because he appears to be compassionate and gentle and spontaneous, and he is, for a computer.
LOUISE: What do you mean a computer?
VIOLET: If you get caught up in thinking about the steps you can’t do it.
LOUISE: That could mean anything.
FRANK: What are we doing to that cat?
LOUISE: He’ll be all right.
JIMMY: You’re in a good mood.
LOUISE: It’s something else I’m going through. It has nothing to do with the weddings.
FRANK: Don’t be preoccupied.
LOUISE: I’m all ready to relax. Enlightenment is just around the corner.
FRANK: It’s like being in your parents’ house. Where are they, anyway? And where’s the preacher? What am I supposed to do next?
JIMMY: I will entertain you, divert you, distract you. What is this, a time vacuum I’m filling? A slot? We don’t have to do anything.
FRANK: I have to have constant input or I can’t go on living. Art and philosophy, and I’m not sure about art anymore.
LOUISE: Yes, and a view of Pike’s Peak.
JIMMY: What do you want, then, a retrospective runthrough of all our lives?
FRANK: Backwards from now.
JIMMY: Everything is twice as interesting as usual but I can hardly stand up. I can’t understand it. I’ve hardly had anything to smoke.
FRANK: Yes, why aren’t we turning on?
LOUISE: Dope is so embarrassing.
VIOLET: Here comes the preacher now.
FRANK (to LOUISE. Ritardando): Was that supposed to be a joke?
FRANK: You don’t have to pretend we can’t communicate.
LOUISE: I’m sorry, I was thinking about something else.
LOUISE: The sting of the bumblebee. The route of the freeway. The red leaves of the blazing bush. My mind keeps up a constant clatter.
FRANK: What do you like to do best?
LOUISE: Meditate. (Music expands into its drone.)
(PREACHER comes in. He moves and speaks more slowly, deliberately.)
PREACHER: What are those big black and white birds called?
PREACHER: They fly so slowly and so low. They cry from the lilac bush. What are they trying to tell us?
JIMMY: They’re not talking to us, they’re talking to each other, or themselves, just like us. You’re not talking to them.
PREACHER: Nor you to me.
JIMMY: What do you hear?
PREACHER: I understand you. I actually do.
JIMMY: I’m not ready for understanding. I need information. Just give me your main ideas.
PREACHER: You must be the lucky man.
FRANK: You too?
VIOLET: Why is there all this confusion? (Pause.)
JIMMY: Why is there all this confusion?
FRANK: Sit down, Father.
PREACHER: Get your hands off me!
FRANK: I need to talk to you.
PREACHER: Let bygones be bygones.
JIMMY: Well that’s nowhere. That’s plain garbage.
PREACHER: I was only—
FRANK: Sit down, Father.
PREACHER: You don’t need to call me Father, brother. All of us are pilgrims on the way.
JIMMY: Where are we going?
PREACHER: Wherever. Where are we now? We have to start from where we are. It’s useless to pretend you don’t know.
JIMMY: All right.
VIOLET: He didn’t answer your question.
FRANK (taking PREACHER aside): Father, let me ask your advice.
PREACHER: Do it.
FRANK: Oh… All right. That’s what I thought.
PREACHER: You’re just impatient.
FRANK: I am. I’m a terribly impatient person.
PREACHER: I’m not going to preach a sermon until the rest of the people get here. One sermon per wedding party. I’m joking.
JIMMY: I’d like to know how we talk to each other. We could have tape recorders in the trees, and they’d publish what we say in Time. Then we might see something.
PREACHER: What are you trying to see?
JIMMY: Uh… we have no objective, only a way.
PREACHER: Then our conversation is worthless.
JIMMY: Back and forth.
PREACHER: In and out.
JIMMY: In… (Inhales.)
PREACHER: ... out. In, out. In, out. (Etc. He counts and JIMMY breathes with him slowing from allegro to adagio. When he gets JIMMY slowed down he stops counting.) He may not be continually in a state of selfless awareness, but at least he acts spontaneously, he acts according to the Dharma. (He leaves. JIMMY continues the breathing.)
FRANK: Listen to this before it falls off. (Reads from label on hem of his sweater, which he’s been studying.) Cool wash by hand, pure soap solution. (Looks up at LOUISE.) That’s Woolite. (Reads.) Rinse thoroughly in cool water. Squeeze out by hand or spin. Do not wring. Dry away from direct heat and sunlight. Press with cool iron using damp cloth—wool setting. There, it fell off. Oh, I’m filthy dirty.
LOUISE: I like you clean or dirty, sweet or smelly.
FRANK (to JIMMY): Where did you come from?
JIMMY (startled): I’m not here yet. (Leaves, tripping. Flashback)
VIOLET (to FRANK): Put your arm around me. (He does. She shivers up against him. Sound of door opening and closing. LOUISE stops humming.) I’m never coming down again.
LOUISE: I know. I’ve been feeling it. I don’t know why I ever go to the city.
FRANK: It’s the times we live in. You have to go somewhere. I’m afraid of the dark.
LOUISE: No you’re not.
FRANK: No I’m not.
VIOLET: I’m afraid of bears.
LOUISE: There aren’t any bears around here. Are there?
VIOLET: I don’t know.
FRANK: There aren’t any bears. Why don’t you believe me?
VIOLET: How would you know?
LOUISE: I wish there were. They wouldn’t attack me. Why should they? I love bears. I’d like this place much better if there were more bears and wolves and beavers and little lions and all the rest wandering around in here with us. I don’t like living on a sterilized planet.
FRANK: Well look at India.
LOUISE: What do you mean?
FRANK: The people are really thick there. Or Japan. You think this is tame. Or Europe. This is the last romantic remains.
LOUISE: It’s not that bad.
VIOLET: Does anybody want coffee?
FRANK: I don’t know. If you read magazines or watch tv or go out driving around it seems pretty bad. I think this is a time for not thinking about it that way but putting your energy into consciousness. The only thing that can save us is a very fast step in evolution, and the only level it can happen on is consciousness.
LOUISE: That sounds so mystical.
VIOLET: Would anyone like some coffee?
JIMMY (entering): No thanks. I’m off coffee.
LOUISE: Good heavens, what are you doing here??
JIMMY: I came with you. Don’t you remember???
LOUISE: Well wh-wh-wh-where have you been?
VIOLET: Relax, Louise, enjoy yourself.
LOUISE: Well you’re not exactly relaxed.
VIOLET: What do you know? How was New York?
FRANK: Oh dear, I’ve split my pants.
JIMMY: You got a good fire going.
LOUISE: Oh, sweetie, I’ll sew them up for you.
VIOLET: That’s my line.
VIOLET: Take them off, I’ll sew them up for you.
JIMMY (as FRANK takes his pants off and gives them to VIOLET, who takes them to the picnic table): I like watching people take their pants off.
LOUISE: So do I.
JIMMY: There’s something really sexy about it.
LOUISE: Maybe it’s the movements.
JIMMY: I don’t know.
FRANK (to JIMMY): How was New York? Did you do any acting? Man, it seems so unreal!
JIMMY: I don’t believe it.
FRANK: What can you believe?
JIMMY: Everybody’s so crazy, it’s _in_sane.
FRANK: At least it’s more out front.
JIMMY: It’s just another front. Same madness, another local color. It all feeds into us all together now. It’s pitiful. How was it here?
FRANK: O.K. You know you’re feeding off the other, the cities. It isn’t pure. Airplanes fly over. And look at the ground, it’s all been dug up. There’s no way to live off this land unless you want to sell it. But you can’t own land. So you’re always playing at it, it’s always a retreat.
JIMMY: That’s just the head trip.
FRANK: The body loves it. If find out I’m a forest animal. I love the trees. They fight for their lives without any ego hangups. They wait out the winters so nobly and then they send out energy into the air for us to breathe and turn back into their energy, it’s such a beautiful cycle! That’s what I miss in the city. But Denver isn’t bad. You can still sense the space it’s in. People need a place to come together. I can’t believe how many people there are, all trying to be individuals.
JIMMY: New York— Oh, what can I say?
FRANK: It would save energy to settle down. I can live anywhere. But where?
JIMMY: Why not here?
FRANK: Yes, this is fine. Violet isn’t… You seem depressed.
JIMMY: Well, it didn’t work. I just felt tight and speedy all the time, I was hard on Louise, all the work I did was fucked up, I don’t have any money, I don’t know what to do next. But my head’s all right.
FRANK: Yeah, we’re not sure what to do either.
FRANK: Oh, move back to town, split up, get into more meditation, you know.
JIMMY: I’ve been reading a lot of… philosophy for the first time, I’ve been touching some real ideas.
JIMMY: Ouspensky, Gurdjieff. Don Juan. Sufi stuff. Tibetan Buddhism.
FRANK: Chögyam Trungpa.
FRANK: He’s teaching this summer down in Boulder.
JIMMY: Yes, I’m going. I’m O.K., it’s my life that’s… uh…
FRANK: It’s the times we live in.
JIMMY: Yes of course, but all times are difficult, and you have to live sometime. That sounds very philosophical.
FRANK: I know what you mean. I feel I ought to be able to get what I… need in the… personal… sphere as well as all this beauty.
JIMMY: Yes, you can.
FRANK: Violet— Do you mean what I think you mean?
JIMMY: I think so.
(It is getting quite dark. LOUISE lights the stub of a candle on the table. VIOLET is sewing.)
LOUISE: How can you see to do that?
VIOLET: Your eyes get accustomed to it after a while. Candlelight is the best light there is, but you do your heavy visuals in the daytime.
LOUISE: Where have you been?
VIOLET: None of your business. How was New York?
LOUISE: The cabin is beautiful.
VIOLET: A little truck trip. Frank did all that.
LOUISE: I really like Frank.
VIOLET: I know it. He has good taste. And he’s smart. How are you and Jimmy getting along?—if you don’t mind my asking.
LOUISE: We get along fine. We’re just alike, there’s no problem.
VIOLET: Then what’s the problem?
LOUISE (after a pause): How’s your truck? Jimmy really likes your truck.
VIOLET: I really like Jimmy.
LOUISE: Why don’t we switch?
VIOLET: Are you serious?
LOUISE: You take Jimmy and I’ll take Frank.
VIOLET: All right. (She hands FRANK’s pants to LOUISE.)
LOUISE: Are you serious?
LOUISE: What a funny idea.
VIOLET: Good, that’s settled. We won’t say anything more about it.
SARAH: May we come in? (She and JACK wander in from behind trees.)
LOUISE: Mother! What are you doing here?!
JACK: We were out driving around and we saw your vehicle. Quite a coincidence.
VIOLET: Welcome to our humble home.
SADIE (off): Louise! Louise!
SARAH (Calling): We’re in here, Mother.
JACK: I’ll go. (Goes.)
LOUISE: Mother, you remember Frank Hanson.
SARAH: Of course I do. You’re the fellow that wanted to buy the truck.
SARAH: Did you get a truck?
FRANK: No, I walk. Anyway, Violet has a truck.
SARAH: Hello, Jimmy.
SADIE (entering on JACK’s arm): There you are! My goodness! (Everything is just barely visible.) It certainly is getting dark. I haven’t seen dark like this since I was a little girl.
SARAH: Mother, you remember Frank Hanson.
SADIE: Thank you, Petey.
JACK: I’m Jack, Mother.
SADIE: Where are your pants, young man?
SARAH: He’s the fellow that wanted to buy the truck.
LOUISE: Just a minute, I’m almost done.
SADIE: I wasn’t there.
JIMMY: Where were you?
SARAH: Oh, that’s right.
SADIE: I was in Jacksonville, Florida, meeting my present husband.
JACK: This is the young man who traveled to New York with Louise.
LOUISE (whispering to VIOLET): Mother’s mother.
SADIE: He had a little church in the old part of town until he passed out at the organ one night and set it on fire with his cigar butt. Burned the clothes clean off him but didn’t leave a mark on his skin. Nothing much left of the building. People around there were real sorry to see him go, but they were too poor to build him another church. (Pause.) He got a mobile home to live in but there just wasn’t enough room for services.
JIMMY: Why didn’t he do it outside? It’s always warm in Florida.
SARAH: It’s against his religion.
FRANK (incredulous): What?!
SADIE: Once it gets dark here he won’t know where he is.
JACK: Well, will it count? Why are we doing this?
VIOLET: You too? (Pause.) Who wants coffee?
JIMMY: Where is he?
SARAH: He wanted to be alone.
SADIE: That’s my line. Never mind.
LOUISE: And he’s going along with the plot?
FRANK: Darkness is magic. Close your eyes you can be anywhere. Sight is the where that keeps us here.
FRANK (incredulous): What?! (Pause.)
VIOLET: Would anyone like some coffee?
SADIE: Chester is almost completely blind. But he has visions.
JACK (to SARAH): You’re a vision.
SARAH: You’re a sight.
JIMMY (incredulous): Chester?!
JACK: What do you mean?
FRANK: Well, do you think he’s lost?
LOUISE: Or does he think he’s lost?
SARAH: He’s all right.
SADIE: Imagine if everyplace looked the same. (Pause.) Nothing. (Pause.)
VIOLET: I guess no one wants coffee.
(A wind blows the candle out. Darkness.)
FRANK: Oh no! Violet? Louise?
LOUISE: It’s all right, sweetheart. Here, I finished your pants.
FRANK: Violet? You sound just like Louise.
LOUISE: I am Louise.
FRANK: Where am I?
JIMMY: Imagine walking around in a forest.
JACK: Was that the wind?
FRANK: I’d be terrified.
JIMMY: Have you ever spent a night in the forest alone? I mean without a house?
SADIE: He still has day and night. But it’s all dark. (Pause.)
VIOLET: Tea? (Pause.)
JACK: Why are we having this morbid conversation?
JIMMY: There’s nothing morbid about it.
JACK: Oh, I guess not. (To SARAH) Why aren’t you talking?
SARAH: I thought I was.
FRANK: I’m afraid of the dark.
LOUISE: No you’re not.
FRANK: No I’m not.
VIOLET: I’m afraid of bears.
JIMMY: I’ll protect you.
LOUISE: I love bears.
VIOLET: No I’m not. But thanks.
FRANK: There aren’t any bears.
LOUISE: I wish there were.
JIMMY: There are bears. Why do you keep saying that?
VIOLET: I knew it!
FRANK (to VIOLET): Are you on something?
VIOLET: Would you like some coffee?
FRANK: No coffee!
VIOLET: What’s the matter?
FRANK: I’m going crazy.
LOUISE: No you’re not.
FRANK: No I’m not… Of course not… How ridiculous.
SADIE (after a pause): What’s happening?
JIMMY: We’re waiting for ‘Chester’.
VIOLET: I think I’ll make some coffee.
LOUISE: I’ll go.
CHESTER: I’m here.
FRANK: I’ll come with you.
VIOLET: Who else wants some?
SARAH: Wait, we’re about to start.
JIMMY: Maybe he’s lost.
JACK: Whom are we talking about?
CHESTER: I’m here! This is me!
LOUISE: Well come on then.
SARAH: Louise and Frank.
FRANK (off): We’re over here, Mother.
JIMMY: Wait there. I’ll come to you.
JACK (off): Mary?
CHESTER: Dearly beloved—
SARAH: Call me Sarah.
VIOLET (off): Call me a taxi.
LOUISE (off): Since when do you call me Mother? I’m not pregnant.
SADIE: Patrick and I were—
FRANK (off): Louise?
JIMMY (off): No, it’s me.
VIOLET (off): I’ve got you.
FRANK (off): Louise?
SADIE: Chester and I were married this morning in the Church of Our Lady of Late.
LOUISE (off): I’m right here.
SADIE: We couldn’t marry ourselves, though we’re both ordained. And we wanted a church wedding. It seems strange to some of you, I know, but we’re older, we like the older ways.
JACK (off): Sarah.
SARAH (off): I love you.
JIMMY (off): Bend over a little more.
SADIE: Some of the older ways, sad to say, were better. But we’ll pass on, and the outer skins of all things human will be changed.
JIMMY (off): Are you comfortable?
VIOLET (off): Oh yes.
CHESTER: We are gathered together— (Stops.)
SADIE: What’s the matter? (He snaps on a lighter.) I thought you were blind.
CHESTER: Let’s say I see just as well in the dark.
SADIE: Then why the light?
CHESTER: So people won’t bump into me.
SADIE: There’s nobody here. (FRANK and LOUISE emerge from the shadows.)
FRANK: We’re here.
LOUISE: Marry us.
CHESTER (raising the flame): ... to join this couple in holy matrimony. (Light out.)
SADIE: Repeat after me.
LOUISE: I do.
FRANK: I do.
CHESTER: Alone at last.
(Several hours later. Moonlight here and there, but mostly shadows. Thin music. Various people in sleeping bags are scattered about the stage asleep. One of the downstage trees is seen to be moving slowly up right. The picnic table and the log are slowly changing places. One of the upstage bushes moves downstage left, then crosses right. VIOLET occasionally dances through up among the trees. During this the lid of the picnic basket slowly opens and a thin curl of smoke rises out of it. JIMMY comes through with a tire. The lid slowly closes. When the bush again moves away upstage, SADIE and CHESTER are seen at the picnic table.)
SADIE: Did you sleep?
CHETER: Yes. I always sleep, but not very much. I like to stay awake as long as I possibly can. I always wake up early anyway.
SADIE: What time do you think it is?
CHESTER: It must be early morning. Sometimes I’m grouchy in the morning. You mustn’t pay any attention.
SADIE: Do you like being married?
CHESTER: Oh my yes. My first wife Maggie taught me all about that. I wasn’t married till I was nearly thirty. I had almost been seduced by the monkish path. I still wouldn’t sniff at the way of solitude and silence.
SADIE: You can do anything you want.
CHESTER: You mean that, don’t you?
SADIE: Yes. I love you.
CHESTER: You’re an unusually sympathetic woman. My second wife Grace didn’t understand anything. I had a big fine church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but the neighborhood was going to the dogs. Grace used to wear enormous flowered hats. She made the hats herself out of cattails and grew the flowers in our garden. She was a very pretty woman.
SADIE: You know what Iowa means in Egyptian? ‘Yes.’
CHESTER: No, I didn’t know that.
SADIE: You know what ‘No’ is? La.
CHESTER: Later we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and she just didn’t take to it.
SADIE: In Japanese Ohio means ‘Hello’. (Japanese accent.) ‘Ohio.’
CHESTER: Do you mind me telling you all this?
SADIE: Of course not.
CHESTER: I’ve loved them every one, and I dearly do love you. Love, my lovely bride, is not a feeling but an act. Love and I are blind, but we’re not helpless. The feeling comes along. There’s no more truth or falsity in feeling, though, than thought or movements of the limbs. Feeling is as cunning and mechanical, by turns, only we love our love and so seduce our sense away from seeing what we love. Woman. And the truth. This is the sermon.
SADIE: Go on.
CHESTER: We are alone. The others are asleep. The trees outside our eyes are only trees, if we are only you and I. The Veil of Light is more dangerous than the Veil of Darkness. I need to feel time’s thicknesses: I know the night by its viscosity. Feel the trees and us breathing each other’s substances and processes, slowly, steadily. These are the particles of love, these and the courage you have to break my make-believe, to wake me from my habit self, to save the moment from the Villainy of… the not-to-be-conjured on this first bright night of our wedding feast.
SADIE: I hope they’re listening.
CHESTER: They are asleep. We ourselves are dreaming what we hear—the birds beginning to wake up, the crickets beating their feet to the moon, frogs singing to their eggs.
SADIE: It’s a matter of looking at this summer’s aspen leaves.
CHESTER: You’re an unusually sympathetic woman.
SADIE: Well you didn’t marry a beginner.
CHESTER: I’m glad of that.
(JIMMY crosses with tire. VIOLET flits among the trees. They meet.)
VIOLET: What are you doing up?
JIMMY: What are you doing up? I’m fixing the truck. Do you still want to go?
VIOLET: I couldn’t sleep. I must be excited. Do you want some coffee?
JIMMY: Me too.
VIOLET: Of course I do. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to go on having fun.
JIMMY: Hallelujah. No, thanks, I’m off coffee.
VIOLET: Well I’m not.
JIMMY: That’s all right.
VIOLET: It’s funny, I feel as if we had gotten married.
JIMMY: How do you think it feels?
VIOLET: Just like this.
JIMMY: I believe in being married by the night, and we already are.
VIOLET: O.K. (Pause.) What else are you off?
JIMMY: Sugar, meat, bleached flour. Artificial anything. Tobacco. Electricity. It’s weird how it happens. It starts out as an idea. You sort of know what the idea is, but you don’t know if it’s true, you just like it. Sugar messes up the natural energy cycle. Meat makes you aggressive. White flour makes you pasty. Electricity makes brain static. Cigarette addiction is a disgusting profit program. Then when you practice for a while the truth takes root in you, the idea takes on substance. Coca-Cola starts tasting like the poison you know it is. Hot dogs start to make you sick. You see people in cars eating doughnuts and feel like a visitor from another planet.
VIOLET: Do you sometimes think you’re not really an earthling?
JIMMY: Yes, I’m convinced of it. I know I have interstellar DNA. Nothing else makes sense.
VIOLET: Not me. I came out of the ground. I came out of the trees. I may have made babies with the gods, but I never thought I was one of them.
JIMMY: I’m not just dropping in for the night. I don’t really think Daddy’s going to come get me in his spaceship. All that stuff is ancient history.
JIMMY: You know. Well, I better get back to the truck.
VIOLET: Give me a little kiss before you go.
(They embrace. They embrace. They lie down on the ground together. They roll off into the bushes, leaving the music still going and the tire.)
CHESTER: I don’t think they saw us.
SADIE: Wouldn’t a mattered if they did.
CHESTER: I guess not. It wouldn’t a mattered to me.
SADIE: The aspens’ blood is brown, you know, like ours.
CHESTER: I mean I wouldn’t a minded.
SADIE: Their skin isn’t really white, it’s green, but pale, pale and soft, like the ghost of a color holding up the leaves. The leaves push out in little bunches on the twigs, green like a veil of light against the deeper, patient color of the pines. Those are the days you hear the ravens cry, and ants come to wonder why you’re lying in the grass. Only the red ones bite. I followed a tiny smoke-blue butterfly into this summer, down through flowering strawberries and budding willow into the long soft grass beside the water, getting my feet wet by the time that wisp of color, the color of air, danced around me once in a circle and blew off across the stream. When I looked up the aspen leaves were flat, their color gone toward gray, whispering together in the silent silver air, and you were in my arms.
CHESTER: Thank you.
SADIE: Look up again and they look dandelion yellow, the color the sun would be if it weren’t white, and flying down the air and past us, like pairs of butterflies, to the grave.
(The sleeping bags begin to move. Only the feet ends show. Dawn light beginning.)
FRANK (off): Brrr. I’m cold.
LOUISE: We have to get sleeping bags that zip together. Really.
FRANK: I get claustrophobia.
LOUISE: No you don’t.
FRANK: No I don’t.
LOUISE: Anyway, we’ll get big ones.
SARAH: Are you awake?
(VIOLET & JIMMY come rolling in in a sleeping bag and squirm spasmodically during the following.)
VIOLET: I can’t seem to get comfortable.
JIMMY: Just bend over a little more.
LOUISE (offstage, reading): That night when we got into our sleeping bags nobody knew _what _ was going to happen. Jimmy and I were on the bed, zipped up in our bags not doing anything, waiting. Frank and Violet were on the floor.
JIMMY: This is fun.
VIOLET: I’m hot.
JIMMY: Sh. Lie still.
LOUISE (off): After not long at all they came and got on the bed with us. At first it felt funny, bumping around with all those bodies in bags. I’d never felt people like that before. Then we got out of them because it was hot in the cabin, Frank had built up a good wood fire before we went to bed, and in the morning everything was changed.
(JIMMY & VIOLET have squirmed across the stage and out.)
(A palm tree crosses the stage.)
SARAH (entering, stretching and yawning): What’s the name of that mountain shaped like a perfect pyramid?
SARAH: I dreamed about a mountain shaped like that. The whole great mountain was white with snow except it had a cap of gold.
JACK (entering, stretching and yawning): Good morning, good morning.
SARAH: Listen to this dream.
JACK: Yes, my dear.
SARAH: It’s about Arapaho.
JACK: Yes, I heard that. It had a cap of gold.
SARAH: Yes, and as I watched the sky grew dark and a humming floated in the air. The mountain kept shining as though it had a spotlight on it.
JIMMY (off): Yes. And then?
SARAH: Then the gold cap began to soften and bubble and started streaming upward in a kind of ray that waved and seemed to search for something in the sky. The darkness slowly gathered together into a kind of ball and then opened like a doughnut.
JIMMY (entering): I can’t believe you’re saying this!
SARAH: When the golden ray went into the dark doughnut the humming suddenly stopped. Nothing happened for a while—I just looked at it like a picture. Then I realized that the earth under my feet had begun to shrink, like a balloon with the air going out of it, but silent.
JACK: Far out.
JIMMY: What do you think it means?
SARAH: God only knows. It was a good dream.
LOUISE: Didn’t it frighten you?
SARAH: I was terrified.
JIMMY: It must mean something.
SARAH: Yes, it certainly sounds significant.
JIMMY: Are you sure you were asleep? You can see Arapaho from here, and it is covered with snow, and the moon was full last night. (The morning light is now quite bright.)
SARAH: Of course I was asleep. What do you think I am?
JIMMY: Oh I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t do that to people.
JACK: What are you talking about?
JIMMY: Excuse me. I’m not awake yet. (Leaves, tripping.)
JACK: This is another one of my favorite times of day.
SARAH: Are you about ready for some tea?
JACK: Time’ll come.
SARAH: I love you.
JACK: My cousin Violet used to get up every morning in time to see the sun rise. She was a remarkable woman. She said it tuned her in with the universe.
SARAH: It probably did.
JACK: Yes, she was remarkable.
SARAH: How do you mean?
JACK: It’s hard to say. She always seemed to know what she was doing. Reminded me of you quite a bit. I mean you remind me of her.
SARAH: But I’m not.
JACK: No, of course not. What were you doing to that boy?
SARAH: Nothing. I was just having some fun.
JACK: Are you attracted to him?
SARAH: Not especially. He’s very attractive. Basically I think practically all men are attractive, but I don’t want to go to bed with them. I’d like to have an affair with a boy about 14. It would be so sweet and sad, like Colette.
VIOLET (entering): Would anyone like some coffee?
JIMMY(off): Cut it out, Violet!!! (She leaves.)
JACK: That sounds nice.
(Full morning light by now. CHESTER falls off the bench. Following lines all on top of each other.)
SADIE: Now how did that happen?
FRANK (entering): Have you seen Violet—I mean Louise?
CHESTER (rolling on the ground): The vision! The vision!
SARAH: She’s here somewhere.
JIMMY (entering; to CHESTER, intensely): How do you do it?!
JACK (to JIMMY): How old are you?
JIMMY: Twenty-five. How old are you?
JACK: I never thought about it.
SADIE: She wanted to be alone.
FRANK: No, I wanted to be alone.
SARAH: She’s here somewhere.
(VIOLET comes running in like a breathless ballerina. She repeats the beginning of Scene 11, to the point where she sits on the log_—now bench—_amid the other people and action as if they weren’t there. Same music. Meanwhile:)
(CHESTER tackles JIMMY and brings him crashing to the ground, where they roll around. Meanwhile:)
JACK: I must be about… forty?... seven? (To SARAH) How old are we?
JIMMY: What are you doing!?
SARAH: I’m twenty-five.
CHESTER: Look! See! The vision!
SADIE: Stop it, Chester!
CHESTER (abruptly dropping this madness, reverts to the original DRUNK): Where am I?
FRANK (to VIOLET, dancing): Louise? You look just like Violet.
LOUISE (entering in a bizarre mask): She is Violet. (CHESTER staggers to his feet and stands reeling. JIMMY continues rolling on the floor, occasionally crying “Hallelujah!” or “The Lord!” and moaning vaguely. Meanwhile:) I’m Louise. Why is there all this confusion? (ALL briefly freeze.) I’ve always been confused—I mean Louise. It’s madness to expect me to be different.
FRANK: Oh thank you! What a relief!
LOUISE: I like you. I’m very attracted to you. But that’s not what I mean.
FRANK: I know what you mean.
SARAH (at the picnic basket): Jack?
JACK: Yes, my dear.
VIOLET (going to JIMMY, kneeling and taking him by the shoulder): Jimmy! Wake up!
SARAH: Help me.
JIMMY (abruptly drops the madness and sits up): Where am I?
SADIE: Chester is almost completely blind.
JACK: What do you have to do? (CHESTER stumbles out the way he first came in, shaking his head.)
VIOLET: I’m here. I’ve got you.
SARAH: Are you hungry?
LOUISE (to FRANK): Let’s go down to the lake.
JIMMY: Delirium is not the way. (Pulls VIOLET down on the ground with him.)
SADIE: Chester? Chester, wait. I’m coming with you. (She goes out after him.)
JACK: No, not at all.
FRANK: Oh, is there a lake? (He and LOUISE leave hand in hand.)
JACK: Are you?
VIOLET (to JIMMY, intimately): Let’s go in the other room.
SARAH: No, but I’m incredibly busy.
JACK: I love you.
SADIE (off among the trees): Louise? Louise? (JIMMY and VIOLET quietly leave, arms around each other.)
JACK: What can I say?
SARAH (calling): We’re over here, Mother. Wait there. I’ll come to you. (She goes out, taking the picnic basket.)
JACK (at picnic table): An example, a conversation. It’s not so confusing. A few things spoken on purpose, for Being, others—
Copyright© 1974. All rights reserved.