excerpt from The Present
by Leslie Scalapino
 
 

[The Present was performed in 1994 directed by Zack. The action is set in the midst of the bombing of Iraq in the Gulf War. The language of the play is entirely sections from the author's novel, Defoe, published by Green Integer, yet the gesture as a play, creating speaking figures where none existed before, is very different from the action of the novel. There is a woman, WPM, putting make-up on, seated in a side compartment throughout the play. Apparently she is the mind that dreams the play. All the characters could be being projected through her. The set in the center has the seats and shell of a car. There is also a sandbox.]

From Part 1: Scene 3
[Woman 1 and Man 1 remain immobile throughout while Woman 2 and Man 2 speak]
WPM [from her darkness at the side]: There was this red disc,

W2: a soft empty disc of a cloud hanging over the desert (pause)
           with cobalt or indigo lake in it
[Slides: real ../../images of desert with disc of cloud hanging above it and drawn image of a red disc]
W2 & M2 [as if they were both in the same location, with the other not there, and are contradicting each other]: where I was
W2: The huge rose soft disc and another small red disc reflected the rays of the setting sun which were not red in the rest of the sky since
[Slide: two red discs]
W2 & M2 [He points pencil at her, agreeing as if anticipating her point. His tone throughout is slightly deadpan, ironic]: there was nothing there.
W2: The huge rose disc hung there without moving.
WPM: Just in silence not coming out of the person.
           Their having to have any and one agree with them-and one struggling with that
W1: or one is not there,
M1: isn't there.
W2: wasn't there before,
M2: to push out the huge empty rose disc
W1: disc floating on the desert, with the cattle that come to the edge of
[Slide: cattle on desert by blue lake]
W1 & W2: One has to agree with them or is not there—
W1: which in society can not push out from themselves the red soft hanging disc.
M1: that is separate.
WPM: misery in having to be in agreement with them
W1: giving up being there
W2: though one can't do that. [Her tone is of playfully catching oneself in doing something. She's looking through field glasses.]
[Slide: cattle. Nothing ends and nothing begins in their speaking. They are always cutting each other off.]
W1: We don't care about not being there—
M1: who're like the cattle
[Slide: other cattle.]
WPM [from her side area]: so that one should really give up being that.
W1: Company of soldiers
M2 [speaks in deadpan tone as if figuring out]: so they are like cattle being away from home
W2 [explaining it to him, deadpan sarcasm as if he's dumb]: they're in the jungle see themselves as from a civilization
           and this other as not
M2 [grasps her meaning, with blank, nerdy expression. He frequently acts as if in communication with the audience]: Oh.
[Lights fade out, music]
Scene 4
[W1 & M1 sit in car, he has the steering wheel. Others are in dim light and very slow motion. WPM is immobile throughout. Stagehand lights fires that create gun powder puff and cloud of smoke.]
WPM [from her side area]: We were sitting in lawn chairs sprawled in the heat
M2: with the mountain in front
W2: and puffs of fires set on it
M2 [He gestures with hands, indicating direction. Also turns and draws on easel.]: in front of the firefighters. [pause]
           Who pursue them, crawling on the mountain.
W1: It is being incinerated, the puffs appearing in a zigzag on the side of the mountain.
[They make motions indicating what they are seeing.]
W1:There are flaming trees surrounding the maze of inlets on which these swans float.
M2: A streak is in the sky
W2: Thick forests of the red trees begin.
M2: Above which the sky appears cloud-patched.
W2: Swans are on grey water and air.
[Henna Man as the others speak appears and slowly crosses from down to upstage, so that we see his figure receding into the sunset. He should carry a portable tape-recorder that has the sounds of motorcycles, as well as a helmet. He has henna-colored hair standing up, white rice powder on his face, and wears a motorcycle jacket. Halfway through his cross he will stop to put out some white powder on the floor, kneeling with it as if engaging in a drug deal. When he walks off up stage, a hidden light source will make his head flicker at the extreme upstage. He strolls very slowly, with his back to the audience then, suggesting also a figure receding on the back of a motorcycle. He 'penetrates' the multiple realms of the expanse. After, other action on stage resumes normal pace, in contrast to Henna Man's cross.]
M1: She's looking for a choir boy with pale white skin and hennaed hair
WPM [from her side area]: choir boy because of Iago's tongue.
W1: He isn't really.
[M2 is drawing on an easel, standing by W2]
W2: Dimly had seen the stiff orange brush lacquered standing up on the
           white frame riding on the sheet.
           When there'd been a slash in the side
[M2 tears off a sheet of paper from the easel at the word "slash"]
W1: the orange halo rising above and film of white skin on the bike in the fume.
           It rides away flickering in the fume.
           The back of his head gradually flickering.
M1 [as M1 & W1 at once get down on their knees and bow]: bowing to that.
[Their delivery of these lines is fast and rising at the end of each sentence to the point when Henna Man slashes with switchblade:]
W1: The bike riding in heavy grass.
M1: The roar of it riding in the heavy hemp.
W1 & M1: Bike up dirt slope
M1: not entirely separate from it.
W1: In air whirring.
M1: She is not there or seeing it.
HM [Henna Man kneels and puts the powder out. Normal speed for these actions, with pauses of speaking his movement building up to the switchblade slash]:
           He's making a delivery
Puts out some powder on the table.
           As if his teeth are hollow or he's translucent.
           So that feeling animates him rather than him being able.
W2: The soft brush of red grass is around the inlet
HM: Being able isn't there.
W1: It's from the inside.
HM: And then with a switchblade he makes a cut in the man at the table. [His sudden slashing motion changes the tempo/atmosphere]
M2 [deadpan tone, after pause, comments]: That's flat then.
[As they say their lines, the begin to follow the passing trajectory of an arising invisible swan.]
W1: Swan flapping
M1: flying above
W2: hennaed field
W1; does not appear to move after passing it
M1: the swan.
W1: Its joy, which have been from itself—
W2: from this.
W1 [points to the center of her vision as she says "It"]: It can see itself there.
[All their glances follow that invisible moving point in the air. By speaking motions, they are articulating the inner motions of something outside themselves. That is the inherent motion itself of it, not usually spoken.]
[HM is seen flickering in flashing light at right back.]
WPM: I guess nothing's still but we get old. Loving something that is already fashionable-is separate from having bound feet and being carried.
           There is no use in doing so.
           Either.
           And so this isn't the market.
           When it's occurring it isn't.
[ Lights fade out, music. HM is seen, having walked off to upstage, flickering in light flashes with his back to audience for several more instants.]
Scene 5
[M1 & W1 make love on the car seat. They are fully clothed. M1 lying on W1 makes realistic, carnal simulation of sex. Stagehand softly hits sticks throughout.]
WPM: The halves are lying so that he comes up to it, and puts his member between them into it.
           Turning it in the halves.
           And pulls it out.
[They murmur, moving. He's lying on her, with her knees up.]
           And leaning over sticking the member again in between them. Up in them
           when the halves are released like gel. Pulling out.
           Then putting the member in again.
[Lights fade out.]