Woman in the Moon / by Jeni Whittaker
GRAN - late 80s, half Native American
HER GRAND-DAUGHTER, LISA - 23 years old
HER GRAND-DAUGHTER, SASHA - 27 years old
ELLIE, LISA'S FRIEND
AMY, a cousin, Annie's daughter - 20 years old
AUNT GERDA - divorced. In her 40s.
AUNT MAGS- the oldest sister, in her late 40s, married to Frank
AUNT ANNIE - early 40s, married to Ernie
The play lasts roughly 35- 45 minutes [dependent on the length of the physical theatre section.]
Though mainly naturalistic in style, there is a physical theatre section half way through which involves all the characters, who enact the legend of Lone Bird - the Woman in the Moon.
The play would make a good examination script. All characters are well-developed and give opportunity for the use of Stanislavski's System as well as the contrast in playing styles offered by the physical theatre section.
Set at Lisa's engagement party, the play airs a variety of views about marriage and relationships.The different paths and choices one makes in life are brought into focus. Further brief notes of clarification:
Simon, Gran's husband was killed in the Second World War. This makes the time in which the play is set the late 70's or early to mid 80's.
Gran's mother was native American and the story of Lone Bird is a traditional tale of the Chippewa tribe, who lived near the Great Lakes in North America.
The country in which the family live now is not particularly important. In my mind, it is one of the Scandinavian countries - somewhere where the winters are long and arrive early. But it could equally well be Canada or another part of North America from the homelands of the Chippewa.
Sasha and Lisa's parents, Peter and Rhoda, having been killed in an accident, Gran has brought them up. Rhoda was Gran's daughter.
Mags, Gerda and Annie are sisters to Lisa and Sasha's dead father, Peter.
Sample Pages from the script
ANNIE looking at her watch
Oh, Heavens! [Calling] Lisa - quick, child, go and get changed. Everyone's due in half-an-hour.
Right-o. Ellie - come with me?
Too right, sweetie. Chance for a good girlie chat. [They leave the stage together. Amy stands looking wistfully after them.]
Well, that's probably a good thing. We might get something done now. Come on, all of you. Heave to. Sasha? You going to lend a hand or just sit there looking pokerfaced all evening? [Sasha gets to her feet.] Goodness, dear, aren't you going to change?
I don't wear dresses. These are my smartest trousers. No one will be looking at me anyway.
Well they won't if you persist in disappearing into the background as you always do.
ANNIE who is walking by with a couple of chairs and overhears
Leave her alone, Mags. Give me a hand with these chairs. [To Gran. Talking to her as if she were a child.] Sorry, dear. Mind if we put these chairs in a group with you? So that people can sit and talk together. You'd like to be part of things, wouldn't you?
She's not old and she's certainly not stupid. Having a disease like Parkinson's doesn't make her an imbecile.
But I can't move around much. It's alright, darling - no need to protect me. Now help me up, I'll get out of your way.
No need. You stay just where you are. We'll work around you. Gran subsides, having half risen, gripping the sides of her chair.
SASHA quietly to Gran
So much fuss over an engagement party.
AMY who overhears
Well, it's a good excuse, isn't it? Any excuse for a party. Wish I could see what Lisa will be wearing. She always looks stunning.
She'll be down soon.
Yes. Well... [Pulling herself together.] I love family get-togethers. Chance to catch up. Find out what you're all doing.
What are you doing now, Amy?
I'm at college. Doing a beautician's course.
SASHA genuinely surprised
Really? I didn't have you down for that kind of career.
What did you have me down for?
Oh... I don't know ... something to do with animals, I suppose. Didn't you always have loads of pets?
Yes. I did want to be a vet. But you have to be clever to do that. I'm not like you and Lisa.
We're not clever.
Yes, you are. Lisa landing a top job in the City and you - a writer.
I'm never going to make a living there - not with poetry, anyway. Most of the time I just work at that new Italian place. Sometimes I think I'll be waiting tables till I die.
Bet you make it big. Like Lisa. Oh, she's so lucky. Going to the City. Getting away from this place.
I love this place.
Amy, hurry up, please. We could do with your help. And yours too, Sasha, if you would.
I'm coming. Hey, Amy - don't put yourself down. Perhaps you can offer to do Lisa's face and hair for the wedding - what do you think?
That would be - oh, perfect. Coming, Mum.
You handled her well. Poor Amy. She's always wanted Lisa's attention and never got it. I don't think Lisa even notices her.
Three years younger. As children that's a lot. But she's a nice kid, Amy. GRAN She's family. All of them here. With all that means: jealousies, resentments, affection too. The ties that bind.
Is that a bad thing?
No. It is its strength. It is the tribe. The women here - they're not so different from my mother's people. Look around.
And like hens, their squawks re-establish their pecking order. It is part of how things are.
And that's good?
It is how it has always been. Order. Things in their place.
So why do I feel so out of place?
Aah! You too have your part; you just haven't found what it is yet. Now go and help the others. Go and bond.
I'll try - but no promises. Bonding hasn't really been my thing so far.
Sasha gets up and starts to arrange plates on the trestle. Gran watches her.
MAGS swarming in and stopping her
Not like that, Sasha. We've decided to let everyone help themselves. Leave the plates in a pile, as they were.
SASHA rolls her eyes at Gran, who smiles encouragingly back
It's easier, you see, since there are vegetarians and goodness knows what amongst the guests. Better to just put everything out and let people do for themselves. Now... how about you go out in the garden and pick some of those sweetpeas. Little pots of those would look lovely.
Okay Aunt Mags.
Who knows, perhaps it'll be you next year, eh?
I very much doubt it.
You'd be a pretty girl if you only smiled more, you know. [To Gram.] Wouldn't she?
SASHA Thank you Aunt Mags.
Now go on with you. Pick nice big bunches, won't you! [To Gran, but as usual without waiting for am answer.] Oh, wouldn't Peter be proud of them both? Don't you think so? And your beautiful Rhoda too.
Mags bustles off on her mission. Sasha waits a moment, breathing deeply and them exits to the garden. For a moment there is quiet and Gran is left alone on the stage. When she talks about the past, her manner and voice is that of a young woman.
Simon came into the kitchen, quietly, looking around him in case Father should return. Turned out he'd been watching the backdoor for ages, waiting for me to be left alone. So he must have heard how it was for me - heard the shouting, the whop of the slender stick kept by the cupboard, me snivelling. I remember how ashamed I felt when he came in. I had snot running down my face, mingled with my hot tears. The red wheals of the cane flamed on my arm. The sleeve of my blouse, too short: this many a long month, would not cover them, though I tried pulling them down. But he came over to me, so quiet, so tender, and laid his hand on mine as it grappled with the sleeve. Then he lifted my sodden face and kissed me - not demanding anything, just quietly. And I felt safe.
Sasha moves over to the trestle at the side and starts to arrange the flowers amongst a number of small vases. The lights dim, to exclude the edges of the stage, except for a spot on Gran, though it should be clear that she is not in the same space as the others. Into the front central area come Lisa, Ellie and the relatives. They are pushing and jostling, trying to establish poses for the camera. Plenty of noise. Under cover of the noise, clear the trestle table and other furniture away, except for a few chairs left near the sides. The group face the front, the imaginary Uncle Ernie being somewhere in the audience. Mags steps out to scan the group.
No, no - we can't see you properly. [She pulls at one who is shorter than the others.] That's better. Now all look at Lisa and smile. All right, Ernie? [There is a flash.] Ernie, you old fool, you missed me out. Wait till I'm back in position. [She joins the group.] Now. ... Ernie, NOW! [And she flips her smile at Lisa full on.]
Uncle Ernie ... With Ellie, okay? Just me and my bestest friend in all the world.
The Relatives obediently step aside. A girly pose. Flash.
Now my sister. My sister. [Looking around] Sasha!
ALL looking about
Sasha runs in from out of the house.
What? What is it?
Photo, silly. That's all.
You know I hate my photo being taken.
ELLIE & LISA
Oh, Saa -sha!
Stop being so confrontational. This is special to me. Like you are, you silly thing.
Sasha steps into line with Lisa. All others move out of camera shot. The contrast between Lisa - bright face, smile, perky stance - and Sasha - awkward, trying to look happy but not really succeeding, should be very apparent. Flash. All freeze.
Let me have a snap of you to keep, Simon said. Then you will be always with me. I haven't one, I answered. What, no snap? Not one? None, I said. I don't exist. [Pause.] My mother's people believed that the camera eats your soul; the picture is yourself forever captive. But I don't believe that. The picture makes you real. Without a picture, at least one, who would ever know I had been alive? No one had cared enough to make me real. Simon looked at me then, saying nothing except with his eyes.
The group unfreeze and form themselves up into one of the relatives on their own, one of Lisa with them, Lisa on her own - and so on. Sasha observes for a little, then melts away The rhythm becomes more frantic as the group form and reform, mirroring Lisa's growing unease. Finally, Lisa breaks away.
Oh, where are they? What can have happened? Why are they so late?
Don't worry, I'm sure there's some explanation.
Flight delay or something. You did say they were coming by air?
Of course, Greg could have got cold feet....
She sees Lisa's expression which instantly changes to alarm.
No, no. Joke, Lisa. Joke. How could you think such a thing, even for a moment? You know that he adores you.
But I don't know, I don't! What if he has changed his mind?
GERDA wading in
Then he'd have let you know. He wouldn't have let it get so far. Annie & Mags pull her out.
GERDA to them
Like I'd know, really! I mean, Fred let it get as far as marrying me - and he had had doubts for months - so he said later. But you have to say these things, don't you? - To comfort.
The others agree.
People are talking and whispering in little groups. There is a feeling of alarm.
LISA sunk to the floor, abject
Look at them. They all think he's not coming - that there's something wrong.
Ellie and Amy gather around, comforting.
Perhaps we should start the food anyway. Pity to let it all go to waste.
Leave it a little longer. There's time yet.
It's just that those sandwiches are getting hard round the edges - Go back in there and look. You can see them.
...Curling. And flies all over the meats. [Making a decision.] Lisa, we're going back inside. We'll cover up the food for now to stop it spoiling.
Perhaps you should eat it.
No, no, dear. He'll come soon, I'm sure. We're just going to make sure the flies don't get a feast!
GERDA meaning to be bright and comforting
That would be a shame, wouldn't it? After all the work we've all put in.
Yes, yes. Do what you must. We'll come and help.
Don't worry. We can manage. The uncles will help.
The three aunts begin to move off, talking to each other as they go.
The uncles are getting hungry.
That's men for you! Always thinking of their stomachs!
Or their you-know-whats!
ANNIE & MAGS
Poor Lisa! Do you think he isn't corning?
Now, Annie, we're not even going to think like that.
And they've gone. As they were speaking the above, Amy and Ellie have fetched a chair for Lisa and sat her down in it. They cluster round her, voices soothing. Lisa's face has gone still. Freeze.
I remember the waiting. The letters had stopped. No news is good news, people said, but I knew. And then the sound of that boy's bicycle and the cheery ring of his bell. Oh, the brightness of that silver tinkle so that now and forever the feeling of grief is not heralded by a drum, but by that lightest of chimes. The bicycle turned into our gate. The boy dismounted, propped it against the wall of the house. I watched from the window. The boy, thinking himself unobserved, smoothed his face, deadened his eyes. He pulled his cuffs up, the better to rap on the door. He carried the envelope in his hand.
It's only an hour, Lisa. really, there's no panic yet.
I've just got this very bad feeling.
Of course, you have. That's understandable.
It's crazy, isn't it? Why are we women always so insecure? Dave only has to be a minute late for a date and I just know he's not coming! Then he saunters round the corner -'Why are you late?' I bellow. 'Am I?' he says.
Even my Dad's like that. No idea of time at all. And he never seems to understand why we're making such a fuss. It irritates the hell out of Mum. Lisa - Greg will probably walk in the door in a minute and not even realise he's late!
He'll just look at you and say, 'Wow! Don't you look gorgeous!... Why the glum face?' Wouldn't you just know that's just what'll happen! I'd kill him if he were mine.
I wouldn't. I'd forgive him straightaway, if only he'd just walk in.
Your relations are hysterical, Lisa.
Never a dull moment with the terrible three, that's for sure! Sorry, Amy.
I don't mind. Mum's not too bad on her own, but with her sisters....
All that talk about sex! She has to be fifty if she's a day! Do you think we'll still want to have sex when we're fifty?
Not likely! [A shudder.] Uugh.
Makes you think, though, doesn't it?
Hey you - you've gone all quiet. What's up? You getting cold feet yourself now?
Not really. But I am beginning to realise what I'm letting myself in for. It's all a bit mind-boggling. Well, more than that - more ... awe-inspiring.
That's a big word.
It's a big idea. Marriage. A life partner.
Is it what you want, Lisa?
I think so. I don't want to be alone - to end up alone, like Gerda. I feel funny without someone else to share things with.
Come on, you girls. We're not at a funeral. Greg will wonder what's happened when he walks in.
Oh, Greg! Greg! [As Annie leaves again.] - You're right. I've just done the test .... Greg and Lisa! Sounds good! Sounds permanent!
In the end, we're all on our own. There are no guarantees. I thought I had a partner, someone to share with, but the war took him. Left me alone to bring up a child. And it wasn't easy. I couldn't turn to parents. I had left them back in the old place. And then ...[She closes her eyes briefly against the memory.] You rebuild your life. Each time you are blown down - you struggle up again. [Again, she closes her eyes. Rocks slightly.] How terrible it is to lose a child. The hurt of it is like a stone in the womb that never pushes into the light of day. A cold stone - heavy - but which rises occasionally when you least expect it, to block the lungs, to stop the breath in the throat. It is a physical thing - as real as giving birth but without that ... end. It is always there. But still you rebuild. Even with that burden, you push your face up - towards the light.
By now, the Aunts are all in, on the chairs, or standing near. Lisa is in the centre, with Amy and Ellie.
Oh, now it's good, now it's all right again. Come on, Greg. Where are you?
Yes, where are you Greg? We're all dying to meet you.
And any honky friends you might have.
Not today, I'm afraid. You'll have to come to visit us in the city to meet the honky friends. Oh, you will come, won't you?
'Course I will. Soon as I can.
Where's Sasha? Haven't seen her for awhile.
She'll be off on her ownsome somewhere. It's what she does.
She's a strange one, isn't she? I don't find her easy to talk to, like you, Lisa. At this point, Sasha enters, at speed, obviously excited.
Hey, everyone. They're here! The taxi's outside the door.
The group turn - various degrees of expectancy, excitement - and freeze. The lights fade. Then return on the area around Gran. Sasha is with her. She is crying and Gran is holding her hand.
SASHA as if in answer to a question previously asked
Oh, it was - it was a lovely parlay - for Lisa. It's only me - I don't know what's wrong with me nowadays. I can't seem to be happy.
I wish your parents could have been here for it. Your Dad. And my lovely Rhoda.. Once, when you came in with the sweetpeas, I thought I heard her voice.
SASHA touching her hand, with sympathy
Oh, Gran.... Well, Dad was well represented, anyway. All the sisters.
Yes. I found a family through Rhoda's marriage to your father. The first real family I've ever had.
You feel you belong! And you're so different from them. How can you feel you belong to those people?
Oh, they don't really accept me. They find me strange. But, for better or worse they are my tribe now. Now you, little one. What is the matter with you? Why cannot you take joy at your sister's happiness?
I'm selfish, aren't I?
Perhaps a little .... self-absorbed.
Yes, it's true. I'm selfish and no one really likes me very much and they're right. I don't deserve to be liked.... and it's not as if I haven't tried - to be more like Lisa, that is.
Sasha has now joined the group and becomes Lone Bird.
The tasks became harder and harder, until it was obvious to all that Lone Bird never intended to marry at all.
What is wrong with you, Lone Bird?
LISA AS WHITE CLOUD
What is wrong with you, Lone Bird? See how happy I am. I have a man. I have a child.
SASHA AS LONE BIRD
Those things don't interest me.
Every man must have a wife, every wife a man. If this were not so, the tribe would be finished and starving wolves would roam the empty plains.
I know this is so. Yet that is not what I want.
Our daughter is not a member of the tribe.
She does not know her place in the world. [Aloud to the others gathered there.] We will no longer look for a brave to marry my daughter. Though you have all excelled, she will not marry.
Perhaps she will change in time. There are many here who would take Lone Bird for a wife.
We will give her time.
But as time went on, Lone Bird did not change. She went her quiet way on the fringes of the tribe, watching her parents grow older. When their strength began to fail, she gathered herbs for their health and cooked the food that was granted her by the tribe. One day she was out gathering herbs alone.
SASHA AS LONE BIRD
What will happen to me when my parents die? What then will be my place in the tribe? Nothing in nature lives alone - look there at the geese on the lake, swimming in pairs. Even the flowers group together in clusters. Why is it that I crave to be different? And yet I look at White Cloud and her many children and know that I don't regret my decision. I have no love in my heart for men. And my arms do not ache to hold a child.
Lone Bird sat on a rock by the lake, surrounded by the abundance of nature, until night fell. Then she looked at the moon as it floated in the sky above the fake.
SASHAAS LONE BIRD
How beautiful you are, silver Moon. If I had you to love, I would never be lonely again.
When Lone Bird did not return to their tent, her parents were worried. The masked Mother and Masked Father search.
MASKED MOTHER calling
Lone Bird! Lone Bird!
MASKED FATHER calling
Lone Bird! Where are you?
There was no reply. At last they came to the lake. Their worried gaze scanned the water until at last their eyes lifted and they looked up at the moon. [The two maskers come to the front and look up.]
Look! Look there! What do you see?
It looks like Lone Bird.
Yes. Lone Bird! Up there in the arms of the encircling moon.
As Gran speaks the maskers move off and change back to their previous characters.
Many many years have passed since the days of Lone Bird and her tribe is scattered now to the four winds. No wolves howl on the plain for the wolves too are scattered, but the flowers still bloom in brave clusters and twine their way up the poles of the deserted tepees.
SASHA slowly returning
Reaching up towards the light.
And the geese still swim on the lake
Or fly across the star-studded sky. Only Lone Bird remains, smiling down at what remains of her people, who still tell her story at their scattered hearths.
By now, Sasha is back in her earlier position, by Gran. Pause to allow the mood of the story to linger through a slow lighting change.
Thankyou, Gran. I needed to be reminded. I had almost forgotten that story.
There have always been people who are different from the rest. Perhaps you are one of them, perhaps not. Time will tell.
Time will tell.
There is great wisdom hidden in ancient tales.
Do you want to be the cold lonely moon?
I don't know, Gran. I don't want Lisa's life. And if I choose the moon, the tribe won't be scattered to the winds. There are far too many of them.
LISA entering, tired and happy
Oh, I've had far too much to drink and danced till I was ready to drop. I thought you must have gone to bed. Most people have left.
It was a good party. Have the neighbours all gone?
Yes. Even Rita from next door - and she never leaves while there's anything left to eat or drink. Greg's family are all tired from their journey so they've all gone too. They were worried that they han't clocked into the motel yet.
And Greg too?
He's gone up. I'll join him soon. You don't mind, Gran?
It doesn't make much difference whether you are together now or later when you're married. Not to me, it doesn't. If he is your man.
Good old Gran. Wish Greg's parents were as open-minded as you. And yes - he is my man. We're good together.
You will have many children.
And continue the tribe.
LISA she didn't hear
What was that?
Nothing. I'm glad you're happy, Lisa. Greg's a lovely bloke.
He's all right, isn't he?
You will have your ups and downs, but by and large you will be happy.
LISA to Sasha
Is she all right? She seems to be wandering again.
Simon and I were happy. I never wanted the moon.
It's all right. She is tired. I'll help her up to bed in a moment.
OK. [There is a crash off-stage.] Oh god, that's the Aunts. They're tidying up, though Gerda's half-cut and dropping everything. I'll tell them to leave it and go home. We'll do it ourselves in the morning.
Sorry, everyone. Did you hear that? Silly me.
Not to worry. Only one of the old bowls - nothing precious.
ANNIE close behind
Are you all still up? What a relief. I thought Gerda'd woken everyone up with the racket. We wanted you to come down to a nice clean house.
That's kind. Thankyou, but we'll manage.
Oh, there's nothing worse than party debris. We wanted to surprise you, but then Gerda...
That's right blame me, as usual. It's always my fault, poor old Gerda... deserted and unloved.
Nonsense, dear. We love you. Now time to go. You need your bed.
My lonely bed, while that mousey thing cuddles up to my Frank.
Fred, dear. Frank's my husband.
Gerda, you're very drunk. You don't know what you're saying.
You're right. I never do. Time for bed. Lisa - time for bed. That lovely man of yours will be waiting.
He'd better not be. They're not married yet. Lisa, you wouldn't - your Gran...
Both my sweetpeas, scrambling for life. So short...
Come on, girls. Let's go or the men will start to worry. I'll drive. Where's Amy?
Last seen talking to Ellie out in the garden.
I'll go and find her. [She exits. Gerda sinks into a chair.]
Don't you think your Gran .?
Lisa will go. Sasha will stay.
I'll look after her.
Sorry about Gerda. She always does this, poor thing. But we'll see her safe.
Don't mind me. You can all talk about me. I don't matter.
Don't be so silly.
Ruined by a man. You watch out, Lisa, this doesn't happen to you.
And you, Sasha. Take a lesson from me.
Thankyou, Aunt Gerda.
AMY entering with Ellie
'Bye everyone. Thanks for the party. Ellie and I have had a really good talk.
She told me I should set my sights higher - go for the moon.
It's good advice, even if I'm the last one to take it. Amy puts herself down too much.
Yeah, you're right. It's not an attractive quality. I'm never happy with who I am.
A common problem. Still, no harm in trying to make oneself better either. Anyway, all that sombre advice - it's the drink talking. I always get temporarily wise with alcohol. It doesn't last. Sadly.
Come on, girls. We're off. 'Bye, Lisa. Sasha. [Approaching Gran to give her a kiss.] Thankyou for your house and garden.
MAGS also approaching
They made the party really special. All those gorgeous flowers in your garden.
Nearly over now. The cold approaches.
GERDA supported by Amy
You're right. It's cold now.
It's late, that's all.
Can we give you a lift, Ellie?
Thanks. if you can squeeze me in. I've had rather a lot to drink. 'Bye, Lisa [A kiss.] 'Bye all.
There is now a flurry of goodbyes and 'Lovely party's etc.everyone starts to make a prove, including Gran who struggles up from her chair.
GRAN suddenly, pointing out front
Look! Look there! Sasha? Lisa? Look at the moon. It's full tonight. Bright. You can see her face in it.
Everyone turns and looks at the moon and freezes.
END OF PLAY
Sample Pages from Production Notes
INTRODUCTION: THEMES, THE PLAYS INTENTIONS
The starting-point for writing the play was an ancient native -American traditional legend The Woman in the Moon. This is the story of Lone Bird, who eschews marriage and the traditional ways of the tribe and who is taken up by the moon herself to live there. It has links with other tales, such as that of many of the nymphs of Greek and Roman legend, who were often dedicated to Artemis, goddess of the moon and of hunting and who, pursued by ardent would-be lovers prayed to Artemis for help and were turned into bushes, or flowers or waterfalls, rather than giving in to a man. There is not the same pressure on a woman nowadays to follow the normal path of marriage and children, but women who are different are still looked at askance.
The play, then becomes a look at the different paths chosen by two sisters: Lisa is on the verge of marriage, Sasha is our modern Lone Bird. In between, each of the other characters show different aspects of attitudes to marriage and relationships - with men. Ellie is Lisas friend, a modern young woman on the hunt for a man. Amy, Lisas younger cousin, with her admiration for Lisa, will obviously go along the same lines, if it is in her power. Mags and Annie, two of the aunts, have traditional marriages - Annie is softer, a more maternal woman. Mags is the one who wears the trousers, organising her household and husband with ferocity. Gerda is divorced and bitter with it - full of opinions about men and relationships and about the importance of sex. Amongst their voices is interwoven, in monologue form, the story of Gran - ill-treated by her father and married to a kind man eventually but then widowed by the war whilst pregnant with Sasha and Lisas mother. Then she loses this child, in a car accident, and ends up bringing up her two grand-children. Hardship has given Gran wisdom; she is equally happy with Lisas and Sashas choices in life and tries to give Sasha peace of mind about her own nature through the story of Lone Bird, a legend of her own people.
The Native American background to the play is important. The story of Lone Bird stresses the importance of marriage and children for the continuance of a tribe beset by hardships: long winters, wolves, bears and the cruelty of nature. The choice Lone Bird makes against this background has far deeper implications then than now in our modern age where the tribe is very much on top of its world and not under threat. But even in those hard times, Lone Birds decision to be alone is treated with respect; how much more should Sashas decision, in a modern context, be tolerated. Sashas strangeness comes far more from her uneasiness with her own nature than from the feelings of others towards her. Gran tries to help her to come to terms with herself.
The style of the play is mainly naturalistic, with all of the characters given sufficient background and depth to repay a Stanislavskian approach. However, there are stylised features; the photograph section, for instance - the thoughts of Gran, in monologue form often, against the activity of the others and, particularly, the physical theatre section where the cast enact, masked, through dance, the story of Lone Bird.
GRAN - late 60s and half Native American. Grans mother was Chippewa.
She was a domestic servant to Grans white father, who raped her on a
regular basis and then punished her for leading him astray. Gran, the product
of this union, was also punished by her father, who never acknowledged her.
Eventually, Gran finds peace and happiness with Simon, who is gentle and understanding
with her. But Simon is killed in the war and Gran is left to bring up their
child on her own. She moves as far away from where she has always lived as
possible, to start afresh. Grans upbringing has given her strength and
wisdom. She brings up her own child, and then in time, her grand-children,
with balance and love. Without a feeling of her own roots, she works hard
at giving Sasha and Lisa a sense of belonging. Through doing this, she is
trying to give herself a sense of belonging too. But it is clear that she
is not entirely successful in this. She is still treated as an outsider; none
of the family [who are her son-in-laws relations] are close to her.
She remains a Lone Bird herself, to the end - though she is perfectly
happy with that. She seems to expect nothing more from life.
Gran should be played in two contrasting styles. In the modern period, when talking directly to others, she has Parkinsons, which makes her physically rather shaky,
but her voice should be firm. When she is reminiscing, she becomes as if her younger self, and voice and actions should make this clear.
LISA - aged 23, is engaged to be married to Greg. She has an unspecified City job, which has taken her away from her small-town roots. From Amys attitude to her, it is clear that job-wise Lisa is successful - a high-flyer. But she is a old-fashioned girl at heart. She sees herself with children and as a home-maker; one wonders if the job wont perhaps go when she becomes a mother. Though she seems confident and secure, when Greg looks as though he may not show up, she suffers a crisis of confidence which peels away that veneer. She clearly needs her man to make her feel secure in the world. Lisas character is usually bright and bubbly, and her voice and manner should reflect this.
SASHA - aged 27. Though older than Lisa, Sasha is far less secure in her own skin, mainly because of her inner torment over her sexuality. It is not clear whether she has explored that sexuality at all - I think not. She has suppressed her inclinations. A dreamer, Sasha writes poetry but is realistic enough to realise that she will probably never make a living out of writing. Her waitressing job is the easy option, just as her staying at home with Gran and not leaving her small-town roots is also the easy option. This is not laziness but rather an inability to make decisions about herself, because of her fear of allowing her true self to show.
To show her lack of ease with herself, Sasha needs to come over as clumsy and awkward - big gangly movements, sloped shoulders, ducked head. In fact, though older, she should come over as younger than Lisa, who knows who she is. Sasha is still very emotionally immature, though she is the one who is closer to Gran, probably because her need of Gran and the security she provides is very necessary to her still.
ELLIE - 23, a school-friend of Lisas. She is a supportive friend, confident with herself. There seems to be a stronger core than Lisa has- perhaps fiercer is more it; we should notice this when she says shell kill Greg if he breaks the relationship now. There is wisdom in Lisa; she gives good advice to Amy and is kind to the younger girl. A basically steady person, though she is also there to show the young single woman of today.
AMY - aged 20. A young cousin of Lisa and Sasha, she idolises Lisa, who is pretty and has made a success of her life - or so she feels. She has always been ignored by Lisa, having been too young to be noticed at previous family get-togethers, but this time, she makes an amusing remark and Lisa sees her. After this, Amy quickly blossoms as she visibly grows in confidence. After a chat with Ellie at the end, Amy is ready to set her sights higher than before. Perhaps she will try to be a vet after all.
AUNT GERDA. She is the middle one of the three sisters. Her marriage has failed but she still obsesses about it. She is by far the raunchiest of the three sisters and is not afraid to talk about sex or to give her opinions about marriage to the prospective bride, Lisa. Her out-spokenness becomes embarrassing towards the end when she is drunk. She is the sort of drunk who feels morose and full of self-pity. Really she is a pitiful character with the saving grace of being completely honest. Dont overdo the drunkenness - a slight slurring of her words is probably enough.
AUNT ANNIE. She is Amys mother and the youngest of the three sisters. Rather under Mags influence, she lacks Mags hard edge and bossiness, though she catches a bit of that organising side during the first half. There is warmth to Annie, though, and a softness which should show in her face and actions and less abrasive voice. She seems to have a happy marriage with her husband Ernie.
AUNT MAGS, The eldest and the bossiest of the sisters. She likes to organise and have everything running smoothly. Annie is the one she feels is closest to her; they share many of the same values and Mags approves of Annies organising ability, even if she doesnt think she organises her husband as efficiently as she might. Mags Frank is clearly hen-pecked. There is a hint, expertly glossed over, as families do, that Gerda might have had a fling with Frank. Certainly Gerda suggests that Mags does not like sex. She is very strait-laced, quick to show disapproval. Her voice should be definite, rather strident and movement also brusque and managing.
Setting needs to be simple, as we move from inside to outside and have a physical theatre section which needs accommodation. The script indicates where such furnishings as are needed are moved. Grans area - she is onstage throughout - needs to be separated from the rest. If you have an apron, this would answer the problem. Otherwise, just make sure that she is right near the front, to one side and is separated at times from the rest of the stage by lighting. Her position emphasises her isolation from the rest of the tribe.
The play can be done with just the furnishing requirements; a trestle table covered with a white cloth and a number of chairs. The chairs ought to be a mixture of styles, as if gathered up from various parts of the house. In addition, there is Grans chair - a good solid one with wooden arms.
Since, however, it is an engagement celebration and much of the play centres around marriage - or not - it would be nice if something of that were reflected in the setting. A still relatively simple way of presenting it would be to have a gauze curtain across the back of the stage that is not completely closed, showing a gap in the middle. Framed in the centre, against the back, would be a trellis with climbing sweet-peas, which are a constant image in the play. Garden centres do a lovely selection of silk flowers and I have seen sweet peas amongst them. Cheaper is to make them yourselves out of crepe paper. Behind the gauze could be set other flowers and plants, giving a variety of heights and plenty of colour. The white gauze has a wedding feel about it. The gauze could be pulled back for the part of the play that is set in the garden, and coloured at other times with light to give a more interesting background.
A nice touch, too, giving more reality to the rest of the house, would be to have the base of the stairs visible, carpeted, leading off into the wings. This would be angled to one side of the stage - the opposite side to the trestle table.
The lighting is important to define mood and different areas, but it is a relatively simple plot all the same. You will need:
All over bright light, as if for a sunny day, on the stage.
A spotlight on Grans chair. This could be a pinspot on her face and torso only.
Bright light on the forestage or very front of stage for the garden. The whole central and front area, except for the edges, needs to be lit. Quite a lot happens in it.
A nice touch would be to have someone with a flash camera creating the flashes on cue from the audience.
A smallish area around Grans chair - enough to allow Sasha some movement. Dimmish light here - evening.
The whole stage orangey-red, except for Grans chair area. Plus this colour also on the gauze. Optional cut-out gobo of the moon, displayed on gauze.
Front centre spotlight.
THE BEGINNING OF THE PLAY, PAGE 2 Allow the chatter from the cast to run for at least a minute before bringing the lights up to flood the whole stage with bright sunny light.