The latest version of the script

Folks, we’ve had a hell of a time trying to nail down the narrator’s speeches.  Even still, I’m not sure this is working, but at least through rehearsals we’re learning what’s not working… that’s a step forward at least.  (By the way — we’re rehearsing.  We’re about halfway through the rough blocking of it, and so far so good.  Although the show doesn’t actually open until March 1st, we’re doing a workshop of the show at the Banff Centre, who are being kind enough to lend us the use of their theatre for a couple weeks so we can try out the lights and video and proper sound, all of which we don’t have in our own shop.)

Here it is, anyway.  If anybody’s got any better ideas, now would be a really good moment to tell us.

Or: wait a few days, and we’ll probably have a new one.  Things are changing every day. God help us all.

ACT ONE: Inside the Cave

1. PROLOGUE

 

[The stage is dark.  We hear wind whistling, and dripping water.  We wait for awhile, and then hear a distant drum booming, approaching; soon we can make out a kind of moaning song and the occasional mournful groan of some tusk trumpet being played.  Three shaggy characters enter, wearing furs and ornamented with peculiar artifacts: fetishes made of bone and twigs.   They are burdened by an enormous & crusty old mastodon tusk – one carries the end, while another blows through it, producing the afore-mentioned mournful groans.  The third bears a flickering torch that provides a dim light, by which we can make out their sloped brows and heavy shoulders.  They go about their business as the narrator speaks: they light a big fire in the middle of the stage, with great ceremony, for in their minds they are enacting the birth of the universe; they shuffle about, saying preparatory prayers to their heathen gods.]

 

THE NARRATOR:

It’s many thousands of years ago.  The ice age has driven our primitive ancestors into caves, where they huddle for warmth and companionship.  Outside the cave, an eternal winter howls, and unspeakable monsters lurk with grotesquely enlarged fangs.  The tribe has gathered around a sputtering fire, and the air is thick with smoke and body odour.  The people in this dank grotto are the only people in the entire world, as far as they know.

 

Somewhere in their grapefruit-sized brains there dimly glimmers a growing suspicion: that something has gone horribly wrong.  Deep in their bones they dimly remember the old days, when life was easy; they remember living in trees, eating plump fruits under the warm sun, and having more hair.  Now they are stranded in a cruel world, and they’re far, far from home.

 

The tribal elders have called their slope-browed brethren together to quiet their fears.  They’ll tell them a story, to make them feel better; to explain their suffering, and give them hope for the future.  It’s the story of the birth of a new kind of human.  It’s the story of how to find their way home again.

 

 These are our ancestors.  Welcome to the Age of Ignorance.

 

[They enact the creation of a prehistoric Adam: one of them begins to moan like he’s having labour pains.  The others scamper over in concern and excitement.  The one giving birth holds two goat bladders to his chest to look like leathery breasts.  Another holds antlers behind his head so that he looks like a deranged deer-human mother creature: Big Mama.  The labour pains grow frantic – as Big Mama groans, the rest of the tribe echoes (that is, over the sound system), and the third puppeteer extrudes a puppet from between Big Mama’s legs.]

[The puppet lies on the ground.  They dance in joy, and one of the puppeteers picks it up and holds it to one of Big Mama’s teats so it can suckle.  They coo at the baby in delight.]

VIDEO: cave wall, embers flying up

MUSIC: Grunt Grunt; NIKOLAI – Merry Wives of Windsor

 


2. THE ETERNAL ELUSIVENESS OF HAPPINESS

 

THE NARRATOR:

So many thousands of years later, how far have we come?  We have caged those fearsome beasts that used to haunt our dreams.  We have forced our own unruly natures into submission.  But have we found our way to Paradise? Are we happy? 

 

Most people would tell you that happiness is the point of life; it’s the reason we do anything at all.  And yet, most people experience only occasional whiffs of contentment, and a surprising number of us are altogether miserable; in fact, by the time this show is over, fourteen people will have jumped off of bridges in North America alone, and twice that number in Finland, where they don’t even have that many bridges.  Why is happiness for the human animal so elusive?

 

[A modern child stands before us.  Enter his father – an enormous pair of legs, since he’s being seen from the kid’s eye-level.  Behind them is projected the zoo they’re visiting.  The kid is amazed by the animals in the projection, and he’s making up gibberish names for them excitedly and full of awe.  He names one, and then tugs his father’s pant leg to share the wonder.  Dad is busy, and we hear him mumble vaguely and distractedly in response.  The kid becomes anxious for attention from Dad, and tugs harder, showing him more extravagantly the wonders around them.  Finally he gives up, and tries crying.  Dad grunts, annoyed.]

[Perhaps we see the clown with his balloons go by in the projection.  Dad wanders off, leaving the kid for a moment; the kid stops crying, wondering what’s happening; when Dad returns he redoubles his wailing.  Dad’s enormous hand offers the kid a Happy Face Balloon on a string (in fact, it’s on a wire, so we can make the balloon look like it’s full of helium even though it’s not).]

[The kid takes the balloon, and Dad goes back to ignoring him.  The kid plays with the balloon a bit, kind of pleased, but also a bit nonplussed by being bought off.  He notes that it floats, and looks up into the sky.  He lets the balloon go, and watches in wonder as it floats away.]

[But then he realizes that his balloon is gone.  The kid begins to cry again.]

 

 

MUSIC: Polyphon Donauwalze 0:58 (too short – could be repeated)

 

VIDEO: the zoo.


3. FIGHT OR FLIGHT

[The puppeteers bring forth ugly little bat puppets made from soot-blackened leather and teeth tied to branches, and make them flap about like it’s a Disney movie; Adam is delighted, and he coos at them.  Then he realizes that he’s hungry, and tries to catch the bats to eat them.]

THE NARRATOR:

We modern humans have got everything we could possibly need.  Life in the caves is not nearly so pleasant.  Even food can be hard to come by.  Our hero is very hungry.  But he can’t seem to catch those bats – they can fly, and he’s stuck there on the ground.  Perhaps a sightless cave-grub will make a tasty meal?

[Adam discovers a sightless cave-grub inching along one of the prongs, and tries to sneak up on it; it squirts him with some revolting bug-juice.]

THE NARRATOR:

It doesn’t look like it.  What about those sabre-toothed cave-rats? 

[Enter two sabre-toothed cave-rats, which are puppets made of the skins of real sabre-toothed rats worn as slippers.  Adam chases them but they are too fast; he chases them around the fire but they escape, even though he doesn’t realize it, and he keeps running around the fire until they squeak at him mockingly.]

 

[He can’t catch anything at all.]

 

THE NARRATOR:

No luck.  Poor fellow!

 

 [Adam whines mournfully.  Enter Eve, another puppet, snuffling and grubbing about.]

THE NARRATOR:

But he’s not alone!  A shapely female has appeared.  That ought to brighten his day! 

 

[They see each other, and are initially suspicious.  Soon, though, they approach each other.  They share in a touching scene of first love.]

 

THE NARRATOR:

(whispering)

Uh oh… what’s this?  Another problem.  It looks like an old alpha male.  And he doesn’t look like he wants to be friends… with another male, at least. 

 

[Big booming drumbeats and howling interrupt them.  They panic, and scamper to hide.  Enter King Gog, the alpha male of the tribe; he is huge and primitive, closer to ape than Adam and Eve; the puppet looks like a big boulder strapped to the puppeteer’s belly. He is dragging the half-eaten carcass of a sightless cave-fish.]

 [King Gog pounds his chest and bellows, for he has brought dinner for Eve.  He hurls the carcass to the ground, and plucks a bit of something nasty from the fish’s skull, and shoves it towards Eve to eat.  She gobbles at it on the floor.]

[Adam creeps up to try to have a bite, but Gog swats him away.  Gog is pleased with himself, and feeling amorous; he grabs Eve by her ample body hair, and begins to drag her off; Adam shrieks and waves his arms to try to stop him, but Gog roars a terrible roar (assisted by the sound system), and Adam is cowed.]

THE NARRATOR:

He’s not going to argue with that!  His instincts serve him well – he knows when to fight, and when to flee.

[Exit Gog, dragging Eve, who reaches out to Adam as they go.  Adam is too scared to reach back.]

[He shuffles mournfully to centre-stage, and then spots the cave-grub again; he goes to try to befriend it, but it squirts him again.]

 

VIDEO: cave wall

 

 


4. MOTHER NATURE’S MISTAKE

 

THE NARRATOR:

Fleeing when there’s trouble is a good evolutionary strategy – it keeps our species alive and reproducing.  But feeling miserable doesn’t seem like a very good evolutionary strategy.  How could it be good for our species if some of us are so miserable we want to die?  Shouldn’t that gene have been erased long ago?  Mother Nature seems to have made a mistake!

 

[The projector shows a downtown skyline.  A puppeteer brings out a building with a window with a ledge – we’re high up.  Another puppeteer brings out a big industrial fan, which sits on the floor below the ledge.  Two pigeons bobble on the roof.]

[A man can be seen behind the window; he opens the window, and looks out.  He has tear-stained cheeks.  He produces some papers (accounting or something) and tears them up and throws them out the window (they scatter in the fan’s wind, out into the audience).]

  [He steps out onto the ledge; wind makes him sway dangerously. The man looks down off the ledge; traffic noise from below.  He’s not totally sure he wants to jump; after awhile of working himself up, he almost does it, but changes his mind at the last minute, and starts to climb back through the window; but then depression overwhelms him again, and back to the ledge he goes.  He stares down at the traffic, and weeps, and gets ready to jump again, takes a deep breath, changes his mind, thinks about going back in, changes his mind, ponders his misery, steps to the edge, takes a deep breath, when the Happy Face Balloon from before floats by.  He brightens, wiping away his tears, and reaches for the balloon; he manages to catch it, and floats up into the sky – the building rolls back where it came from, and now the video screen shows clouds.]

[The man looks around him, and then realizes he is held up only by the meagre flotation provided by the balloon.  He falls, with the fan making his tie flap and the balloon, still clutched in his hand, bobble around.]

 

[Lights out.]

 

THE NARRATOR:

But what if Mother Nature hasn’t made a mistake?  What if being miserable is precisely what makes our species successful? (ahead of the game?)

 

 

MUSIC: Pescatori de Perli 3:52

 

VIDEO: downtown skyline, clouds, scrolling past as the guy falls


5. THE INVENTION OF IMAGINATION

[It’s night in the cave.  The fire is embers.  Adam is asleep stage right.  He snores quietly.]

[Enter Eve, sneaking from the depths of the cave, where Gog had dragged her.  She peers back to make sure he’s asleep, and we hear him snoring.  She sniffs her way in the dark, looking for Adam; she finds him, and prods him gently (and then more vigorously) to wake him up.  He wakes up, and stands, frightened – he’s worried about Gog.  He goes to see if he’s coming (we hear snoring), and then crosses to stage left to be as far away from Eve as possible.  He gestures for her to leave, and then goes back to sleep, covering his eyes with his hair.]

[Eve goes to him and prods him again; this time he gets snippy about it, shooing her away.]

 

[Eve goes to stare out at the world from the edge of the stage.  She sings a weird little plaintive song.]

 

[The wind grows more fierce.  A wild gust blows in through the cave mouth.  The fire surges and then goes out.]

 

[Weird moonlight fills the cave.  Eve sees her shadow on the rock.  She sees the connection between her movements and the movements of her shadow-self; she tries waving her hands and jumping up and down.  Then, the shadow of a bat – Eve looks around for the real bat, and we see it flapping by.  And then: the shadow of a Monster.  Eve looks around, terrified – but there’s no monster.  The Shadow Monster speaks weirdly, and conjures the shadow of a stark and leafless tree; an apple (which is red, not shadow) grows on a branch.  The Monster offers the apple to Eve’s shadow, who plucks it.  She eats it, and suddenly green leaves grow on the tree; the sun comes out in a blue sky, and the shadow of Adam enters and takes a bite as well.  The shadows kiss.]

[The shadows dissolve into the shape of the Monster, beckoning. It disappears.]

 

[Eve is flabbergasted.  She’s just been the first human in the world to imagine something.  She scampers over to the wall where the shadows were, and touches it, longing.]

[She goes to tug at the snoring Adam.  He wakes.]

THE NARRATOR:

Over the course of many millennia, we grew a new chunk of brain that animals don’t really have so much of.  It’s called the prefrontal lobe, and it’s the part of the brain that imagines things.  At first, it was not as well integrated into the rest of the brain, and even still it can become disconnected.  When it’s not so well connected, your own thoughts seem like they’re coming from somebody else that you can’t see, which is why our ancestors believed there were spirits in their midst.  Now, we are accustomed to imagining things, but early humans were overwhelmed by the power of it.  A vision would appear inside their head, and somehow dimly they could perceive something existing in some way that did not exist in concrete form before them, something that had never existed before: a possibility.  And the invention of possibility changed absolutely everything.

 

[She sings weirdly to him, but he doesn’t understand a damn thing.  She draws on the cave wall – this is accomplished by projecting the drawing as she draws it.  She scribbles out a rough circle, and then a stick body.  It’s her.  Then she draws one of Adam, and draws their hands holding; then she draws eyes and happy mouths on them.]

[Adam doesn’t understand.]

[Now she draws the tree with the apple.  When Adam sees the apple, he scampers over to try to eat it, but he’s surprised when he runs into the wall.  She scampers over to the front of the stage, and beckons to him.  She wants to leave with him to go find her Paradise.]

[But from the depths of the cave we hear Gog awake.  He roars!]

 

VIDEO: animated segment #1: shadow Eden, Eve drawing

 

MUSIC: a bit of Liszt: Totentanz

 


6. A PERFECT WORLD

 

THE NARRATOR:

With the invention of possibility, humanity is freed from the bonds of reality.  The world is not how it is, anymore; the world can change, to be different, to be better.  The prefrontal lobe enables the entirety of human civilization.  A round rock can become a wheel; a tree can become a house; a law can be written, and a map can be drawn of Heaven.  In our minds, everything is perfect.

 

[A city curb.  A car drives in and parks – it’s one of those little cars you give to kids to paddle around in, with a puppet driving it.  A guy’s driving it; it’s got thumping music playing on the stereo.  He drives in, and parks, turns off his car (the stereo cuts out) and gets out.  He pauses to activate the car alarm with his keychain, so it goes bloop-bloop.]

[Next, another car; driven by a lady wearing a Bluetooth receiver on her ear; she’s prattling away as she parks, gets out of the car, walks away, boo-bloop.]

[The two cars are parked so that there’s almost, but not quite, enough room for a car to parallel park in between them.]

[Enter a guy dressed as a clown in a jalopy.  His car is full of the happy-face balloons he sells at the Zoo.]

[He sees the parking spot, turns on his blinker, and tries to get into it.  It’s almost impossible.  He backs in, doesn’t quite make it, pulls back out, tries again, fails, tries again, fails, as his ability to contain his frustration mounts.  Somebody somewhere behind him starts to honk.  Finally he bumps into one of the other cars, and the car alarm goes off, and even so is still parked shittily.  He freaks right out, getting tangled in his balloons.  He’s banging his head against the steering wheel when suddenly the guy who fell from the ledge lands on the clown’s car (from a drop-box in the grid).  He’s still holding the balloon… he lets it go, and it floats away.]

 

 

 

MUSIC: Thump-Thump; Carmen Miranda – Tico-tico no Fubá 2:37

 

VIDEO: maybe images of apes roaring and pounding their chests
7. ESCAPE FROM THE REAL WORLD

 

[Enter Gog, roaring.  They scramble to hide, covering their genitals with the old leaves and twigs that are strewn about the cave-floor.]

[Gog is enraged, and attacks Adam.  He picks him up and hurls him about.  The puppeteers are shrieking like monkeys.  It’s an epic battle, but Adam is severely outmatched.  Gog is gigantic and fierce, and it’s evident that Adam is about to get killed.]

THE NARRATOR:

It looks like the prefrontal lobe has gotten our heroes into trouble.  It’s one thing to imagine a perfect world; it’s another to get there.  The real world isn’t as easy to change as we might like.

 

[Eve jumps out and pushes Gog into the fire.  The flames leap up, and he screams as he is burned – this we accomplish by having Gog stand against the projection screen, with flames projected onto him.  The whole stage is filled smoke; the other tribe members run around shrieking as the flames on the screen grow more ferocious, and Gog making more and more pitiful shrieks.]

[Meanwhile, Adam and Eve escape the cave – by clambering over the prongs of the set, probably.]

[The flames burn down, and we see Gog’s charred remains projected (the puppet itself has snuck offstage).  They crumble.]

MUSIC: Liszt: Totentanz

 

VIDEO: flames consuming the cave, Gog’s charred remains
8. THE INSATIABLE BRAIN

 

THE NARRATOR:

The way the brain works is simple.  It excretes a neurochemical reward when we’re doing what we’re designed to do.  That chemical is what we call happiness.  An animal gets that reward for things like eating, or humping another animal.  But what are we designed to do?  We’re designed to imagine something better.  But we don’t get the neurochemical cookie for just imagining it; our prefrontal lobe promises us a cookie for actually achieving it.  Until then, you’re going to be miserable.

 

And the truth is, your prefrontal lobe has been lying to you about how happy you’d be.  Your brain is built to be insatiable.  That’s our evolutionary advantage: constant dissatisfaction.

 

[A balloon factory: a machine, a table, a conveyor belt, leading to a box with a big happy face on it.  A forlorn woman in coveralls stands behind the table.  The machine rumbles and smokes and pushes out an inflated balloon.  The woman gets it and stamps on a happy face, then deflates it, puts it on the conveyor belt, cranks the conveyor belt, which deposits the deflated balloon into the waiting box.  Another balloon, stamp, deflate, crank, drop; and then another.  She’s not fast enough, though, so the balloons start to pop out before she’s done, and the machine is getting faster, too.  Balloons are firing at her as she frantically stamps and deflates, and balloons start to pile up and float off into the audience and cause chaos.]

[The projector shows a video of the same scene – an identical woman doing the identical task.  The image multiplies and multiplies like that trick with two mirrors until there are millions of identical women and puppeteers doing the same task (that is, we’ve filmed the scene beforehand).  Finally a buzzer sounds, indicating the end of the shift.  The image dissolves.  The woman stops working, and sighs.  She exits, just as an identical puppet enters from the other side of the stage.  The buzzer goes again, and a balloon extrudes from the machine.  Fade to darkness.]

MUSIC: De Heikrekels – Lieve meid heb je vanavond tijd 3:06

Or

Orkest zonder naam – Als na regen de zon schijnt 3:05

VIDEO: millions of balloon factory workers

END OF ACT ONE

(except there’s no intermission)

 


ACT TWO: Outside the Cave

 

9. THE DECEPTION OF THE IMAGINATION

[The world outside the cave: snow blows and cold winds howl.]

 

THE NARRATOR:

Our heroes have escaped the cave.  But it’s no Paradise.  What have they done?  Where’s the warm sun and trees and delicious fruit?  

 

[Our heroes are cold and desperately hungry.  Eve is disappointed to discover that there are no fruits handily hanging as was promised by the vision.  Adam manfully waves his arms around, roaring a little like Gog, and makes a display of his intention to find something and kill it – of course, his experience of such things is limited to cave rats (which he actually never managed to catch), so he is preparing to confront a little creature.]

[Rumbling from without – Adam readying himself.  Enter a Mastodon, which is enormous, not tiny (this is slightly funny, maybe – probably not).  It lumbers onto the stage.  Adam is terrified.  Eve encourages him to feel heroic, and sends him forth with his stick.  He goes attack the Mastodon, but it’s hopeless.]

 

[The Mastodon trumpets and charges; it chases Adam out of view.  We now see a smaller version of both puppets, chasing along a rib-hilltop, and then maybe even smaller versions chasing along a more distant hilltop that leads to a cliff (nope, just one set of smaller Adam & Mastodon).  The Mastodon bowls Adam over but then can’t stop itself from plummeting over the cliff to its doom.]

[If we can figure this out: the Mastodon is still alive, groaning; Adam pushes a big rock off the cliff to kill it finally.]

 

[Cross-fade to Eve, full-size, waiting anxiously.  Enter Adam, full size, dragging a huge haunch, heroically.  Eve is delighted and impressed.  They are about to feast – but they hear a horrible howl.]

[Enter four Dire Wolves (which are jawbones held upside-down to look like snouts, draped in fur to make their bodies), who growl and threaten and surround them; they must escape, and leave their hunk of meat.]

 

VIDEO: snow
10. SILENCING THE PREFRONTAL LOBE

 

THE NARRATOR:

Some people say that it’s possible to train your mind to silence the prefrontal lobe.  Through practice, you can empty your mind of its meddlesome prattle, and float up into the great cosmic contentment.  You’ll have to take their word for it, though, because you’re probably too busy to meditate constantly for twenty years. 

There are some drugs that work faster, but only for a short time.  You could also poke around in your brain with a pointy stick; that works for some people.  But reality has a way of intruding when you’re not paying attention.

 

 

[The balloon’s POV, projected; maybe from within the balloon, so we see its smiley face.  Earth, receding.  The balloon spins, and now sees outer space; in the distance we can see other balloons floating away into the heavens.  Now it sees the moon.  The moon gets closer and closer.]

  [Meanwhile, the puppeteers have set up the surface of the moon.  We see an ecstatic Moonling, worshipping the appearance of the balloon.  He experiences enlightenment, just as an enormous Space Monster eats his head.]

  [Back to video: and now the moon recedes, for the balloon is falling back to Earth as it deflates.]

 

MUSIC: Mass in G. 5. Benedictus 4:12

 

VIDEO: animated segment #2 the balloon’s trip to the moon
11. THE MONSTER

THE NARRATOR:

There’s a wasp that makes zombie cockroaches.  It burrows its way inside the head of the cockroach, and commandeers its simple neurons, so it can make it go the direction the wasp wants.  The wasp wants to get the cockroach home, so the wasp babies have something to eat when they hatch inside it.  That’s really scary, but it’s kind of what the prefrontal lobe has done to us.  We used to be simple beasts, minding our own business, and now something heartless is using us to feed itself, and to reproduce.  And we’ll do anything for our prefrontal lobe… even die. 

 

[Night-time.  They huddle for warmth.  Their bellies rumble. Our heroes are miserable – and then the howl again.]

[Adam is angry that they left.  He sees visions of Gog moving in the fog (projector), and believes they are haunted by Gog’s ghost.  He barks and grumbles at Eve, and they begin to smack each other and growl – when suddenly they discover that she is pregnant.  Of course they don’t understand why this happens, but they recognize that something miraculous is occurring.]

 

[Eve sings a plaintive little song that conjures projected images of the paradise she drew in the cave.  They draw strength, and press on in hopes of finding it.]

 

[The weather turns even worse – a puppeteer blows snow (cold ash from the fire) at them; they are growing weaker and weaker; they continue to sing their little song but slowly it runs out.  Finally they come to a desolate place.]

[Eve cannot continue.  She collapses in the snow.  Adam struggles to pull her along, grunting little bits of their song, but he too is exhausted.]

[And now from the shadows the Shadow Monster emerges, speaking weirdly like before in the cave.  It looms large above them, as shadow animations of paradise fading and dissolving play around it; the tree with the fruit of Eve’s dreams turns into a tree strewn with skulls.  We realize that the Monster has lured them out of the cave with the visions, so it can eat them.]

[Adam lunges at it with his pathetic little stick, attempting to block the Monster from seeing Eve, but it’s a hopeless case.  The Monster hisses and attacks, and Adam is caught in its jaws or claws or whatever; he drops the stick, but he keeps fighting desperately, calling to Eve to escape – but Eve circles behind it and spears it with the stick.  The Monster shrieks and thrashes and finally dies.]

 

[Adam is mangled beyond hope, though.  He is dying.  Eve cradles him.  Perhaps she tries to sing their little song, but Adam stops her.  He offers himself to be eaten, and then dies.]

[Eve forlornly eats him.]

VIDEO: Gog’s ghost in the fog, Animated Sequence #3 The Tree of Death, rain, blizzard
12. THE INVENTION OF HEAVEN

THE NARRATOR:

So we believe in a lie told by our own brains, that says that someday we’ll be happy.  But we never get to the end of the story, because we’re not meant to.  We’re designed to be dissatisfied, because that’s our greatest evolutionary advantage, the thing that made us conquer the world.  That means that life is, in some way, by definition, suffering – or having a brain is, anyway.  So we think up an even bigger  story, which says that when we finally die, having never truly ever been really happy, we’ll finally be in Paradise again.  So long as we’ve been good, anyway.  But that’s just another trick of our prefrontal lobe.  There’s no way home, not for us.

A cloudy day at the beach.  The balloon falls from the sky, shriveled, and lands limply in the sand.]

[An old man approaches, shuffling.  He’s wearing a nametag that says ‘if lost, call this number.’  He’s dressed in a housecoat and slippers, and his hair is askew.  He shuffles painfully slowly up to the balloon, and discovers it.  He bends over, creaking, and picks it up.  He looks at it, and for a moment an old photograph of him as a child, happy with a happy face balloon, flickers from the projector, and then is gone.  The old man painstakingly puts the balloon back on the sand, and then continues on his way.  He gets partly across the stage, when we hear from off somebody calling for him: Mr. Kowalchuk!  Mr. Kowalchuk!  He grunts and turns back around, to escape the nurse who’s looking for him.  Of course his escape is hopeless, since he’s so absurdly slow.  But he comes upon the balloon again, and discovers it as if for the first time.  He’s breathing hard, though, from his exertions, and as he picks it up, and the happy photograph flickers in his mind, he has a heart attack and dies.]

MUSIC: The Last Rose of Summer 2:53

 

VIDEO: happy Polaroid, grey sky, beach maybe
14. THE BIRTH OF HAPPINESS

 

THE NARRATOR:

If you don’t believe me, try to sit for a moment in complete acceptance of the perfection of the universe.  Nothing could possibly be better.  This is the best moment of your life.

 

You probably don’t think this is the best moment of your life.  Just a guess.  You’re still imagining a better world, one with more comfortable theatre seating, or bar service while you watch.  You’re wondering what’s on another channel.  But here’s the weirdest thing: this actually is the best moment of your life.  If only we didn’t have such big brains, we would be overthrown every moment with joy.  If only we were still ignorant — then this, right now, would be bliss. 

 

 [And then, suddenly, with the new nourishment, Eve has a contraction.  And then another.  And another.]

[She scrambles to get into position, and (as the puppeteers grunt and shriek in support) she begins to give birth to a wrinkled thing… it begins to glow, and expand, and we slowly realize that it is a celestial happy-face balloon, glowing from within, looking like the moon.  It gets bigger and bigger and then absurdly big.  It’s released, and it floats off into the audience.]

 

[The tribe is content.  The Happy Face balloon floats up into the grid while hopeful music plays.]

MUSIC: Purcell Ode. 2 Welcome to all the pleasures 0:42 (too short – could be repeated)

The End.

About Judd Trout

Judd Palmer is one of the Old Trouts.

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5 Responses to The latest version of the script

  1. Judd Trout says:

    Damn it! You’re right. Let me ponder that and post properly in a bit.

  2. peglegscrown says:

    Simple question. Who is the narrator? What is the narrator’s relationship with the audience? With the story and the characters? If you know this clearly, the speeches will write themselves.

  3. Meliadice says:

    Going beyond the idea of a person walking around with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance, imagine that the ego is like a baby that won’t stop crying. And what is it crying? “I need, I need, I need.” And what does it need? Boiled to down to the essentials, it’s looking for SECURITY, APPROVAL and CONTROL. These of course are impossible demands. Even if one imagines, for one brief shining moment, that all of those things are in hand, or at least within reach, can the guard ever be let down? Of course not, because everyone else on the planet wants those same things.

    What I meant by “detachment,” or maybe non-attachment is a better word, was making a conscious effort to step outside the waking nightmare of expending all one’s energy trying to get what can’t be gotten because it doesn’t exist—except in people’s minds. The downside of all this is that if you succeed at all in doing that, other people will think you are deranged and/or dangerous. They tend to get very nervous when everyone isn’t buying into and contributing to the mass delusion.

    Of course, when you’re my age, no one really pays any attention to what you’re thinking and doing because you’re no longer a “player.” I can’t tell you how lovely it is to be dismissed as irrelevant, even gaga. The freedom it bestows often goes to my head.

  4. Judd Trout says:

    Thanks for the comment. I think we’re equating the big brain with the big ego in some way — or changing the formulation slightly, I guess. I think what we’re trying to postulate is that the brain is designed to be attached to a vision of “better,” “more,” and/or “different,” which is why it’s so very hard to silence that nagging voice in our heads (and achieve bliss). It’s working against the (very successful) evolutionary strategy of our species, which is (according to us, anyway) dissatisfaction. For certain, humility goes a long way towards freeing us from anxiety — humility before others, and before the cosmos. But somehow it seems to me that the problem goes deeper than that, into our hardwiring, which is deeper than we might actually be able to go.
    That said, I’m willing to try detaching from my ego. It won’t be easy. It’s bloated and deranged, my ego, and it has its purple tentacles wrapped tight around my poor shrivelled heart.

  5. Meliadice says:

    I have no suggestions, only an observation. I think you have, in one brief speech by the narrator, captured a powerful truth. Just yesterday, I heard a popular West Coast spiritual teacher say that awakening can be blocked simply by entertaining the thought that “what is” (i.e., reality) could be “better,” “more” and/or “different.” Here is the passage in the script to which I am referring:

    “You probably don’t think this is the best moment of your life. Just a guess. You’re still imagining a better world, one with more comfortable theatre seating, or bar service while you watch. You’re wondering what’s on another channel. But here’s the weirdest thing: this actually is the best moment of your life. If only we didn’t have such big brains, we would be overthrown every moment with joy. If only we were still ignorant — then this, right now, would be bliss.”

    The only thing with which I might disagree is the last sentence. I don’t think that “big brains” is the real problem. I personally have found that detaching oneself as much as possible from the insatiable demands of the big EGO produces profound contentment. That, to me at any rate, is happiness, even bliss.