#31plays31day Y7 31. End Up Here

Photo by Masaaki Komori

A Play by Paul Hagen

 

Soft light from a window illuminates the silhouette of the NIGHT-OWL, who is lying in a bed with the EARLY-RISER in his arms.

 

NIGHT-OWL

I still remember our first date like it was yesterday:

The chair where you sat next to me, the very shameless way

I swilled martinis as I was so often, then, inclined,

And put my hand on your leg, and you said I didn’t mind.

The first to say “I love you,” that, I’m pretty sure, was you.

But it was kind of soon and I did not know what to do.

So I just kissed you harder, and I firmly hoped you would

Forget I didn’t answer if the sex was really good.

And finally I said it after you had been away,

Abroad to see a cousin’s wedding. You came home that day

We ordered something spicy from that little noodle place,

The chilis and your lips left kisses burned into my face.

The day that we moved in, I was so tired and so glad

It seemed I had a future with you like I’d never had.

And yet that change of life came with its own share of surprises:

‘Cause I liked to stay up all night and you preferred sunrises.

So each of us would wait and let the other get his sleep.

We didn’t keep the same hours; the company: we’d keep.

And soon I started hinting: it was time for the next step

And when that didn’t happen, well, I drank and then I wept,

Gesticulating with a meatball sub how I was feeling.

And that is how we ended up with red sauce on the ceiling.

A few more years and on my birthday, you got on one knee,

And told me you were still in love and asked to marry me.

A few years after that and we wed by a carousel.

And I cried and our mothers cried and it went pretty well.

And since then, we’ve made for ourselves so many memories

We’ve traveled round the world, we’ve crossed most of the seven seas,

Had nieces and had nephews that we’ve both been so proud of,

And on the way, we said goodbye to some people we love.

I don’t know what I’ll do without you now, I’m sure it’s clear.

Who ever thought the day we met that we would end up here?

 

A NURSE enters and flips a switch, flooding the stage with harsh, fluorescent lighting. It turns out that we are in a hospital room. The NIGHT-OWL has climbed into bed to cradle the EARLY RISER, who has died. The NURSE looks alarmed for a moment but the NIGHT-OWL shakes his head – indicating that it’s too late for anything to be done. The NURSE nods and quietly exits, leaving to NIGHT-OWL to weep and kiss his husband’s hair. He rocks and hums softly to himself as lights fade to black.

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#31plays31day Y7 30. That Could Be My Verb

Photo by Annie Spratt

A Play by Paul Hagen

 

A young woman enters her dorm room, struggling under the weight  of a pile of books. She stumbles over to her bed, drops the books, opens her laptop and begins to film a vlog entry.

 

ARIADNE

Hey, girls! Ariadne here with my latest update.:

I’ve decided that I’m sick of leaving it to fate

What will happen next to me when it comes to romance

So, ladies, I’m gonna make a change. This is my chance

To refocus my energy, to reinvent myself.

That’s why I went looking for these answers on a shelf

To find a new philosophy: it has to be superb,

It has to be from literature. It has to be… a verb.

 

ARIADNE picks a copy of “Of Mice and Men.”

 

ARIADNE

“Lennying” could be my verb – be trusting, simple, kind.

Not distracted by my thoughts cuz: nothing’s on my mind.

Only want to hold the things I love with every breath.

But, I guess, that also means that I’d love them to death.

 

ARIADNE picks a copy of “The Great Gatsby.”

 

ARIADNE

“Gatsbying” could be my verb. I’d throw the posh soirees,

But while they rage, all by myself, out at the sea I’d gaze

And think about how much I want to shag my best friend’s cousin.

But I don’t want to be the one the guy with the gun does in.

 

ARIADNE picks a copy of “Hamlet.”

 

ARIADNE

“Opheliaing” could be my verb – sing like a lovelorn lass,

Love someone in a rotten mood and hope that it will pass,

Support him even when he makes decisions like a fool

Except I’m pretty sure she ends up face down in a pool

 

ARIADNE picks a copy of “Pygmalion.”

 

ARIADNE

“Higginsing” could be my verb, I’ll get myself a project:

Make him over deftly while I treat him like an object.

Bet on how well I can turn him out with my best friend,

But I guess he’d also sort of hate me by the end.

 

ARIADNE picks a copy of “The Phanom of the Opera.”

 

ARIADNE

“Phantoming” could be my verb – sweep someone off their feet:

Drop a chandelier if that’s what it takes to complete

A plan to steal and keep my heart’s desire by my side,

Who’ll love somebody else but kiss me once before I’ve died.

 

ARIADNE picks a copy of “Pride and Prejudice.”

 

ARIADNE

“Benneting” could be my verb, find someone who annoys,

Gleefully ignore him while I fool with other boys.

Finally, we’ll change our minds before it gets too late.

But that seems like it could be an inconvenient wait.

 

ARIADNE picks a copy of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

 

(Last)

“Earnesting” could be my verb, set my heart on a lover,

Even if it means keeping the truth about me under cover,

Weave a web of lies that accidentally comes true,

Learn that lying’s worth it when it all works out for you.

 

ARIADNE embraces “The Importance of Being Earnest,” having chosen it as her new life’s philosophy. ARIADNE’s ROOMMATE, surprises her by sitting up in bed, where she has been surreptitiously listening the entire time.

 

ROOMMATE

You’re a terrible person.

 

ARIADNE looks chagrined as her ROOMMATE glares at her and lights fade to black.

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#31plays31days Y7 29. The Smoker

Photo by Jaroslav Devia

A Play by Paul Hagen

 

Lights up on a dive bar, late at night. ACE and AUDRA are making eyes at each other across the bar with all the subtlety of a high school production of “Grease.” ACE takes out a cigarette and lights it. AUDRA sidles over and takes it out of his mouth. Lights rise on a corner table where THE SMOKER sits alone, nursing a beer. He sings.

 

THE SMOKER

It’s been fifteen years since I last smoked a cigarette

Since I bought a pack? Well even longer still.

Sometimes, in a bar, someone would ask me

If I ever think of going back, I’d say, “I never will.”

 

ACE puts out the cigarette and begins to dance with AUDRA.

 

THE SMOKER

But sometimes when the hours went too slowly.

Sometimes when the problems came to fast.

Sometimes when I dreamed about the future.

Sometimes when I thought about the past.

I wished I could smoke again.

I wished I could slam packs on the back half of my palm.

I wished I could light ‘em up.

I wished I could pull and feel I was inhaling calm.

I wished I could put it out like nothing

Sure as hell that there would always be another one

That’s half the fun.

It’s been fifteen years since I got breathing easier.

Since my cough let up and let me run a mile.

Sometimes, in a bar, someone would ask me.

If I ever cheated on the sly. I’d say, “It’s been a while.”

 

AUDRA and ACE stop dancing and return to their drinks, lighting a fresh cigarette.

 

THE SMOKER

But sometimes when I had to do some thinking

Or I had to stop thinking for a time.

Sometimes when I had a little extra cash to buy a pack

And sometimes when I didn’t have a dime.

I wished I could smoke again.

I wished I could ash into a little bowl of glass.

I wished I could light ‘em up.

I missed the smell of smoke and beer and fresh cut grass.

I’d bum to strangers like it’s nothing

Knowing that I had a carton back at home to spare

So I was glad to share.

 

AUDRA and ACE finish their cigarette and kiss, she leads him from the bar with boozy confidence.

 

THE SMOKER

It’s been fifteen years since Doc told me I had to quit.

And since I took his orders and took pride.

Sometimes, in a bar, someone will miss me

Since it’s been at least eleven years, I’d say… since I died.

 

THE SMOKER vanishes in a cloud of smoke, as the lights fade – leaving only the neon of the beer signs shining until these suddenly flicker and blackout.

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#31plays31days Y7 28. Beware of Pugs Wearing Scarves

Photo by Matthew Henry

A Play by Paul Hagen

 

The SCOUTMASTER is telling a story to a campfire circle of CUB SCOUTS.

 

SCOUTMASTER

One night in woods much like these

Buck and Ed, best scout buddies,

Were wandering in hope of finding camp.

They’d dawdled while out hiking

And by this point were not liking

The feel of being stuck in dark and damp.

Long before, of things to talk on

They’d run out, but had to walk on

Couldn’t really navigate by stars.

Stumbling on some gnarled roots

Jumping at an owl’s hoots,

Mistaking lightning bugs for passing cars.

When in their way ahead appeared

The kind of shadow they’d long feared

The kind of nightmare that haunted their dreams.

The size of a crouched animal

But also somehow like wool,

The boys could only just contain their screams.

Buck he fumbled for his flashlight

Hoping against hope the light might

Scare whatever monster blocked their path.

But what would show up in their beam

Was not so much what they’d foreseen.

Instead, in fact, it almost made them laugh:

A pug – dog! – so sweet of face,

Sitting just so in its place,

As though he had been waiting placidly,

And wrapped around him like a veil

So that they couldn’t see his tail

There was a scarf, plainly from Burberry.

“Well, well, well, it’s Buck and Ed,”

That is what the pug then said

The boys were shocked that it called them by names!

And what’s more, it soon occurred.

How had it spoke – well – any word?

Pugs should not be talking all the same.

“Of course I talk,” the Pug went on,

“I can’t explain. Too much time’s gone.

And I’ve a message that I must impart.

Another pug wanders this wood

And it’s not up to any good,

He’d gladly bite your throat and eat your heart.

When he comes ,you may be near him

But not see him and not hear him

You’ll know him by his scarf – he wears Hermes.

He will promise you great riches

But then leave you dead in ditches

Do not trust in him – not a word he says.

Swiftly I must try escaping,

Hoping I won’t drop my draping,

If this gets dirty I will lose my mind

What with us in mortal peril,

My heart’s beating like a squirrel,

And good dry cleaners are so hard to find.”

The Pug, he vanished, like a breeze.

Left Buck and Ed with shaky knees.

Their teeth were chattering like wind-up toys.

Somehow they felt a presence nearing

Without seeing, without hearing,

But slowly, surely creeping toward our boys.

“I won’t hurt you,” a voice said,

In a way that meant, “You’re dead!”

They heard the spit as it dripped from its jaws.

Ed was hit! Buck dropped his light!

But he saw one final sight:

It was the Hermes logo – and its claws!!!

 

The SCOUTMASTER  snaps and a Pug wearing a scarf comes bounding out of the tent. The CUB SCOUTS scream and freak out, scattering in every direction. The Pug stands at the feet of the SCOUTMASTER looking very pleased with itself. The SCOUTMASTER gives it a treat and they calmly continue to watch the CUB SCOUTS freak out as lights fade to black

 

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#31plays31days Y7 27. Every Day the News Gets Worse

 

Photo by Elijah O’Donell

A Play by Paul Hagen

 

Lights up on the PROVOCATEUR, who sits at his breakfast table reading a newspaper, which is opened to conceal his face. His gaze drifts up to take in the audience, as though he’s just noticed them there. He regards them steadily and lowers her newspaper, and then he is suddenly stormed by PAPARAZZI, photographing him and shouting to get his attention.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets worse.

Now shouting’s how we must converse

From stars, demand a photograph,

The selfie ate the autograph.

What kind of deity could send this

White House set for “The Apprentice”?

Each day’s a: new show, don’t rehearse!

Every day the news gets worse.

 

The PAPPARAZZI exit, replaced by immigrants-rights ACTIVISTS.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets worse.

The people gather, won’t disperse.

We mete out punishments severe

To those who dared to travel here

We separate them from their kids,

Which we lock up in cage-like cribs.

Familiar chorus, brand new verse:

Every day the news gets worse.

 

The ACTIVISTS are replaced by BLACK YOUTH.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets worse,

One day a bike, the next a hearse,

All afraid to call the cops,

Who lock them up for traffic stops.

The powerful pack prisons, see,

With those scared not to take a plea.

No dirtier word than “diverse.”

Every day the news gets worse.

 

The BLACK YOUTH are replaced by LGBTQ COUPLES.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets worse,

And love means love until it hurts

The feelings of a county clerk

Or cake bakers are asked to work

For couples who are the same sex

Which, they’re think, makes their Savior vexed.

The march toward justice is reversed.

Every day the news gets worse.

 

The LGBTQ COUPLES are replaced by JUDGES.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets worse,

And no one gets their just desserts.

See judges, meant to check the law,

Attacked by politicians, raw.

The entire system, they’ll condemn.

‘Cause someone disagreed with them.

Lifetime appointment – or a curse?

Every day the news gets worse.

 

The JUDGES are replaced by the Women’s Rights MOVEMENT.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets worse,

With guys in power up the skirts

Of women who don’t want them there

And no one seemed, for years, to care,

But cis white men, they will strike back

Put women’s rights under attack.

Best hide some Plan B in your purse.

Every day the news gets worse.

 

The MOVEMENT is replaced by lower-income WHITE FOLKS.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets worse

And no one plans to reimburse

The poor who vote conservative.

About their needs, their reps could give

Not one shit less. What do they win?

Some laws about what they call “sin”?

The voting process, it perverts..

Every day the news gets worse.

 

The WHITE FOLKS are replaced by RICH PEOPLE.

 

PROVOCATEUR

Every day the news gets better.

Lady Liberty, go get her!

Grab her by the pussy, sure!

Refund the rich and tax the poor!

Shred the social safety net!

Invest! Accrue! Earn! Get! Get! Get!

Every day’s a breast to nurse.

Every day the news gets worse.

 

Behind the RICH PEOPLE, all the other groups appear in the white light of justice. THE PROVOCATEUR’s newspaper bursts into flames as the RICH are attacked by everyone they screwed over. Blackout.

 

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#31plays31days Y7 26. The Extractor

Photo by Jez Timms

A Play by Paul Hagen

 

Lights up on the torture chamber. GEORG, a handsome, well-muscled young man wearing only a pair of briefs, is chained to a tilted platform, passed out. To the right of him is a large table covered by a sheet. THE EXTRACTOR enters in a black bowler hat, black suit, tie, overcoat, shoes and gloves. He approaches GEORG and produces smelling salts, which cause GEORG to wake suddenly when waved under his nose. GEORG evidences a moment of confusion, which is replaced by terror when he realizes where he is and who is with him. THE EXTRACTOR crosses to the table and removes the sheet with a flourish to reveal that the table contains a variety of implements of torture. THE EXTRACTOR speaks with a wicked German accent, running his hands carefully over every inch of GEORG’s quaking body.

 

EXTRACTOR

Ah, you’re awake – it’s time for us to play.

You’ve no idea what we’ll get to today.

To make your acquaintance, I am very pleased.

But first do you remember your ABCs?

A is for how Acid sizzles on skin.

B for Bruising about to begin.

C is for Cuts – deep and blossoming red.

D is for Digging around in your head.

E for Extracting your teeth, one by one.

F for Filleting your flesh ‘til I’m done.

G, I will Gouge out an eye unassisted.

H, I will Hammer your fingers ‘til twisted.

I, Irritants I’ll put on private places

J, Jam my fist in your personal spaces.

K, Kiss you in the most passionate way.

L, rip your Lips off as I pull away.

M, make you Moan with my lit cigar buts

N, how you’ll Notice me cracking your Nuts.

O, Open wounds I’ll most certainly cleave.

P, and your Pain I won’t try to relieve.

Q, Quiet – yes, you will have trouble staying.

R, when the Ribspreader your chest is splaying,

S, Spray the walls with what’s left of your juices.

T, for my Thumbs I’ll find intimate uses.

U, leave wounds Unwrapped so germs takes their toll

V, for the Vice I’ll affix to your skull.

W for Whatever I’ll destroy.

X, I’ll eXtend it, long as I enjoy.

Y for You cringing the way that I like

as I – Z – carve Zigzags with my final strike.

Or… I could extract what I need with just – fear.

Or maybe not… Maybe I’ll begin… here!

 

THE EXTRACTOR raises his hands above his head and slams them down toward GEORG’s body. As they are about to connect, lights blackout.

 

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#31plays31days Y7 25. The Refugee

 

Photo by Alex Iby

A Play by Paul Hagen

 

PEPPER, a bookish tween girl, climbing onto a stage stacked with books to resemble mountainous terrain; they rise to a precarious peak. In the distance, we see a fence ominously topped with barbed wire. PEPPER’s ascent is complicated by the fact that she is holding a bird cage with a tiny bird in it and cradling a large, open book on ornithology in her other arm.

 

PEPPER

Don’t worry, my sweet birdie. I am gonna get you high.

Where you can sing for Mr. Sun and fly with Mr. Sky,

Far from this stark and sad and sandy dungeon where we are,

I’ve never run away before and gotten out this far.

Away, there will be birds to meet of which you have not heard,

So here’s who to look out for – listen closely – every word.

 

PEPPER begins rummaging around the book for information as she climbs, creating many an occasion on which it seems she will lose her footing and tumble

 

PEPPER

You will know a goldfinch by its sunny, saffron feather.

And you may spot a bluebird in most any kind of weather.

Warbling through forests, find a black-capped chickadee.

And you may meet an albatross if you are near the sea

And gulls – since they like fishing – that’s where they are apt to be.

And near them stands the heron, with his head held high, proudly.

If you should meet a puffin, you’ll have gone toward the north pole.

Be careful how long you stay there because it gets quite cold.

Near mountains, you’ll see swifts and near a farm field, spot a crow.

And floating in a pond, a duck with babies in a row.

Over canyons, you may see some golden eagles soaring.

The flash of falcons swooping down on his prey – that won’t be boring!

Traveling for winter, you may come upon some geese

All flying in a V – so you’d have company at least.

Should you nest in a barn some night and hear a sudden “Who?”

Don’t be alarmed, it’s just an owl saying hello to you.

Pigeons could be anywhere but love a city street.

Though if you end up there it’s surely more than birds you’ll meet.

Listen for a warbler whistling, “Hey, there, lookin’ good.”

Listen for a pecker mining dinner from some wood..

Listen for the jeers of jays that forage on the floor.

Be careful if you meet a raven crying, “Nevermore.”

The nightingale may croon the most complex tune you have heard.

And more perplexing still – the buzzing of the hummingbird.

Who flits and sips, wings seeming to exceed the speed of light.

And be prepared. You may be scared by whip-poor-wills at night.

There are so many more birds, sweetie, I should tell you of:

The magpie and the oriole, the plover and the dove.

The blackbird and the loon, sandpiper and the pelican,

The sparrow and the swallow and the vulture and the wren.

I pray that you will meet them all and that you will make friends,

And have a nest of eggs to keep warm ‘til the season ends,

And when your babies peck their way out of each little shell

I hope you’ll tell them all of me, that I cared for you well,

Spoke to you with kindness and attended all your needs,

Scoured every surface in the hope that I’d find seeds,

A little treat to bring you that might brighten up your day,

I’ll miss having a friend like you. But now, enough! Away!

 

PEPPER, having ascended to the top of the highest stack of books, reaches into the cage and extends her hand, her bird sitting at the very tip of her fingers.

 

PEPPER

Now fly, my darling! Take my love to where you ought to be.

I promise that we’ll meet again one day when we’re both…

 

We hear the sound of a SOLDIER shouting something angry and unintelligible. A gunshot rings out, and PEPPER falls. For a moment, it seems the bird will fall as well, but it recovers and takes flight. Lights fade to black.

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