The lights come up. The sun is going down into Lake Michigan. There is a brief flash of green as the sun disappears behind the water. A moment later, the stars are visible. Two tall people enter from the left and stand looking out over the water. A man dressed in all black carries a bench onto the stage and sets it down behind the lookers. When he leaves, the lookers sit down. They are still looking out over the water. One of the people puts her arm around the other. Live music is suddenly heard from the orchestra pit. First is the sound of a mandolin, slow and plucked. A violin wanders quietly into the song followed closely by soft percussion. Soon, he sun begins to rise at their backs. At a particularly suspenseful moment in the song a banjo bursts into high-energy picking accompanied by a building snare roll. Without warning, the music cuts out with the lights. Silence.

The lights come up. Jelicho, Tennessee 1964. Unseen Narrator: It is 1964. An epidemic has been ravaging Jelicho for three months. June, July, and August. It is September first. Over half the population has been killed. Every survivor has lost a family member, a friend. The rain has stopped and the crops are dying. Two eleven-year-old girls live, hiding, alone in an abandoned silo. They live among the boll weevils. Their names are Veta and Penelope. Blackout. Lights up on Veta and Penelope at the town dump. Penelope sifts through the trash. Her back is to the audience, but sometimes they can see that she is crying. Veta is riding a bike around a pile of filth. She is wearing a walkman, and sings aloud every now and then. Snow begins to fall. It falls until the entire stage is covered in white. Veta falls over on her bike and is buried. Penelope climbs the trashpile to the top, prolonging her icy fate. Everything is snow. Blackout. Slow fade of piano music, ice music, and white light. The stage is empty except for the bodies of Veta and Penelope, on their stomachs, soaking wet. Veta comes to, and stands up. Penelope wakes and stands. The music goes away. Sound of a waterfall. Veta: What time is it? Penelope: 8:00. Veta: Wednesday. Penelope: Wednesday morning. They exit.

A snowman tap-dances in the middle of a frozen lake. Very tall pine trees surround the lake. The sky is the same color as the lake. Wind. He is a very skilled tap dancer. He is in the midst of a particularly difficult routine. He furiously approaches the climax. Snow is flying off of his body. It is graceful yet unbelievably erratic. Inevitably, the snowman falls through the ice, into the lake, and melts. His hat rises to the top, jumping out of the water for a little moment.

Charging ahead are the hippos, the birds. With the wind at their tails they all head south. They are the exactness of travel. Still, on the ground sit a hundred alert beetles, waiting. They are the silence of the courage. The clouds, like Pangea, begin as one then split into seven. They are the many-fold nature of conflict, as divergence. The hippos and the birds change into the winds and currents, the beetles become stars, and the clouds become the continents. That is what it is.

Title: “Life is Unbearable.” Lights up. A man and a woman sit in chairs, facing each other. The woman is young and plain, wearing all green. The man is short and ugly, with curly hair and a beard. One says to the other “I love you” but the other is silent. Then the other says “I love you” and one is silent. And before too long they’re dancing together without music. They are dancing to the sounds of the uncomfortable crowd shifting in squeaky chairs. Blackout. Singing. Lights up on the cockpit of a helicopter. The helicopter’s blades begin to rotate. They spin faster and faster until the helicopter begins to lift smoothly off the ground. The pilot speaks into the handset: “I love you, come on.” The helicopter raises off the stage and out of the theater.

Note in the program: Fakes, everyone is fakes. If everyone wasn’t fakes, we’d learn to be fakes because we are born fakes. If a fake isn’t a fake and a fake isn’t born a fake then how could we not be fakes? The fact is, we are fakes, and we are born fakes, and a fake is a fake.

Lights up. A flock of birds heads south for the winter. Every little while all the birds, hundreds of birds, take to the trees to feed and rest. When one of the birds dies from organ failure, the other birds must fly in a wholly different malleable formation. Each formation is of mathematical strictness, algorythmical choreography. Another birds dies, the formation changes, and the birds take to the trees. Blackout.

In very low, blue light two African tortoises discuss their affairs. 1: I have this terrible disposition for hoarding. 2: I hear that. I’ve been saving my stems since first winter light. 1: I’m beginning to think my tunnel isn’t deep enough. I have this weird feeling of being exposed on my backside. 2. You’re crazy. Your hole is plenty deep. 1: Maybe. 2: Have you eaten this year’s radishes yet? 1: Not yet. 2: They’re surprising. Crunchy and virtually tasteless. 1: You mean the ones on the creek, over by your house? 2: Yeah. 1: I’ll try them next time I come over. 1: Great. Pause. 2: Well, I’ve got some yardwork to take care of. 1: Alright. I think I’ll go bask in the moonlight for a while, then. 2: See you. 1: Okay, bye. Tortoise One exits to the right, Tortoise Two exits to the left. Blackout.

Blackout. Several photographers take to the stage with cameras. The cameras have lights mounted on them. They line up and face out, blinding the audience. Uncomfortable silence and stillness until the first audience-member complains, comments, or jokes to his neighbor, at which point the cameramen quickly shoot photographs, adjusting angles with each shot.

The lights come up. The sun is rising out of Lake Michigan. Deep orange rays burst through the windows of lakeside apartments, casting squares of color onto the western walls of living rooms, bedrooms, shower curtains, mirrors, and furniture. As the people of the city begin to wake up, they first notice the foreign boxes of orange to the west before looking east to see the sun pulling itself out of the water The light becomes brighter and brighter until the people are shielding their eyes and looking away. A low hum has become a raging din. Blackout.

They are digging at Siple Dome for 100,000 year-old ice. They will learn from the ice what the climate was like in West Antarctica last time the earth was as warm as it is now. The snow that falls here is slowly burying the South Pole station. Siple Dome is the hub for ice migration out of the continent. Ice streams are very easy to see from satellites and from the air. There are five all together around Siple Dome. They are mysterious areas, hundreds of miles long, and are responsible for 90% of ocean growth. Ice desert. Ice jockeys. Ice science.

Lights. Music. Veta tap-dances in the middle of a frozen lake. She is not a very skilled tapdancer, but she is cute enough. It begins to snow. It begins to snow harder. Veta keeps dancing, apparently determined to finish her routine. It snows and snows and snows. The accumulation at her feet slows her movement, throwing her off of the music, and causing her to skip awkwardly ahead to keep up. However, she is soon buried. Black.

A group of men and women sit in black against the wall, facing the wall, backs to the audience. There are no lights and they are all dressed in black. After a bit of silence, they begin to whisper amongst themselves. Some of them are making hand-gestures and some of them are stifling laughter. At some point one of them stands and speaks individually with all of the other people. Sometimes the people peer into the audience. They are making sure. They need to make sure that nobody knows. They are not usually visible to the audience. Eventually, when the audience becomes obviously visibly annoyed and bored, a spot light comes on upstage and a man or woman steps into it. She puts a hat on, completing a thrown-together outfit. She smiles and speaks: "We are not doing anything that you do not already know about."

Curtain. House lights. The emcee hops onto the stage with a microphone. He stands comfortably in his stiff tuxedo before the lush red curtain. Emcee: The next act would like to respectfully ask the audience to please remove their husbands. No, but seriously, this movement-based troupe hails all the way from Kyoto, Japan so let’s give them a hearty serving of good old American respect and attention.

Three people sit at a card table. They are leaning into each other. They are very concerned with their business. Another person is explaining the sequence of events to the others. He stands before a chalk board. Every now and then he adds arrows, exes, shapes, and words to an already complex diagram. He says to the others: "With the addition of hydrochloric acid to the silver iodide we have our solution. We'll take it to Chase Park and attach pockets of it to the helium balloons that Danny's going to be filling while you and me are rebuilding the engine block of Boss Kyle's Mustang. Okay? So that's phase two. In phase three we..." Sudden blackout.

One boy stands alone looking up into the branches of a tree. He walks off stage. One second later, he reenters with a tennis ball. He throws the ball into the tree. It bounces back down at him. Nothing else happens. He walks off the stage. One second later he reenters with an adult. The adult shakes the tree, stops, steps back, and looks up. Nothing happens. The adult picks up the tennis ball and throws it up into the tree. It bounces back to the ground. The child and the adult look up into the tree. Nothing else happens.

to be played simultaneously with

The space is divided in half. On one side sits an elderly couple. They swing slowly back and forth on a porch swing in Georgia. On the other side of the stage a young couple swim together in Puerto Vallarta. They splash each other and laugh. The elderly couple is quiet but happy. Blackout. Lights up. Now, on the elderly side, the couple is skiing. They laugh and poke at each other. The young couple sits quietly in front of a radio. They are quiet but happy. The radio is on. Nothing else.

Over the next several moments, a daytime fades into a nighttime. Until the light is blue and dark, one note holds. The note holds from a hurdy-gurdy. The note hums stammering, relentless. The note becomes louder and louder. The note holds, sometimes quietly, throughout the following few segments. The temperature is dropping. The temperature drops. It is cold. Wintertime. Solid cold. Air pushes heavy and loud through the holding note. Quiet. Quiet. A quiet low humming collides with an unforgiving drop in temperature. The stars are ice. The ice drops from the ceiling, once hung in a blackout as stars, breaking and spreading over the stage.

Lights. A beautiful poor woman gives birth in the alley behind her shanty, next to an old refrigerator. The brick walls are gray and covered with fading graffiti. Wind. A rusty fire escape rattles and bangs against itself irregularly. Dented trash cans are overfilled with newspapers and banana peels. One of them is rattling. A skinny, crazed, dirty, black and white, mean-spirited, funny cat comes flying out of it, sending the lid hard against the brick, slamming down to the ground, and rolling on its side straight out into the audience. The cat screeches as it lands two left paws onto the birthing lady. The two make eye-contact for one long second before the skinny cat charges off down the center aisle. Puddles are mirrors along the place where the ground meets the wall. A geometric shape of light flowing in from the left, as if from the street beyond, slowly creeps toward the woman’s feet. When the light reaches her widening eyes, the baby is born. Blackout.

Ragtime clarinet, drumming. Trap-set. All in darkness.

Characterized by droughts and thick, grainy air, this land is just below the geographical center of the universe. Microscopic, a point of emptiness just above a marked spot near a fountain outside the town square is the gravitational beginning of everything for one solid second every four billion, five hundred and eighty-nine million, two hundred and thirty-two thousand, nine hundred and forty-five years. The center is that which everything else orbits. It is something to note that every piece of every thing is haplessly trapped for eternity in an exact motion. Nothing can escape its given path, that infinitely recurring identical path. It does not matter what you do, because we are all always doing the exact same thing no matter what.

A figure enters, along with the whole of existence, and takes a seat alongside an old lady on a park bench. One can perceive of the silent, furious, curving rush of all things as they rotate in unthinkingly massive circles around the microscopic center of the universe. There is no such thing as straight. The figure, not completely visible, braces itself for impact then leaps out of the inevitable rotation of all things and into the cold, thin silence. The old lady and the bench spin so quickly off of the stage that they may as well just disappear. The figure is surrounded by whiteness. It stands and breathes a deep breath. It exhales. Sound builds slowly in volume and density. When an iron current of cosmic gravity sweeps the figure away, out of the cold thin void, it takes with it the white. All light retreats solemnly until they are no longer visible.

Ladies and gentlemen, cabbies, assassins, burn-victims, paratroopers, dignitaries, and guests sit quietly (enough) alongside wives and husbands, clients, doctors, enemies, and nobodies. This is the dinner for the Miraculous Recovery of Understanding. A benefit. All the people are hapless. There are speakers and hosts and servers and there is dancing and effortless mingling. At midnight they laugh all at once and look up at each other. We’re All Miraculously Understanding!

Penelope visits her mother. She takes along with her a snowman. Penelope: Snowmen make fabulous confidants. They symbolize constancy and benevolence. Penelope’s mother serves dinner to her guests. Bess: Penny, dear. Who’s your friend here? Penelope, agitated: Mother. Snowman: Hello, Mrs. Penelope, why aren’t you the prettiest lady I’ve met in a week? Bess: Oh, stop! And call me Bess. Snowman: Alright, Bess, well my name is Darren. Bess: Pleased to meet you Darren. Snowman: My pleasure, madam. Penelope, agitated: Darren! Snowman: Penny, dear. Blackout.

The flock of birds heads north. They’ll be in Missouri for at least two days, sleeping, feeding, and flying. They will not be home for at least two weeks. Canada in summer is warm like winter in Mexico. If a bird separates, accidentally or not, from the given flow of its flock it is very likely that it will be left behind, left alone to live out its life in a strange, foreign region. The flock is not powerful enough to disobey the satisfying, inescapable rhythm of its natural choreography. The flock of birds must continue on toward home.

Three people sit at the card table, looking up at the chalkboard. One man stands before them, tapping various parts of the chalk board with a long, thin pointing stick. The audience cannot hear their voices and movements, as if they are looking in through the window. Sound of a laundromat: washers and dryers, a man folding his clothes, two women talking, the turning of magazine pages. The mannerisms of the players are big and exagerrated. The leader of the gang makes wild arm gestures as the table-sitters lean in, struggling to understand. Unseen Narrator: They are not saying that you have not already heard.

Brian Torrey Scott is most often an experimental theater artist. He has created work in Chicago for the Neo-Futurists, Lucky Pierre, and the Curious Theater Branch, and is currently an artist-in-residence at Chicago’s Links Hall. He has created ten performances since 2001. His writing has been published in Preling, Telophase, and in a book of audition monologues for student actors. He teaches composition, speech, avant-garde theater history, and Ridiculousness at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College and St. Augustine College.


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