May 22, 2006

A Play A Day #39

Dance Interpreter, The Profession

Interpreter (male or female; for simplicity only, character is female here)
Cindy (thirteen-year old girl)
Billy (thirteen-year old boy, non-speaking)
Principal (non-speaking)
Popular Girl (non-speaking)

Setting: A Junior High gymnasium, decorated in very tawdry, half-hearted fashion for a dance. Interpreter stands at a lectern downstage, half-facing the audience and half-facing the dance floor. She is dressed impeccably and looks very serious and studious. She consults her prepared text.

Interpreter: Long-overlooked as a socio-cultural font of meme transmission, the American educational system houses millions of children every year in close confines where they interact as both autonomous and collectivistic organisms. Their near-constant exposure to members of the same and opposite gender, as well as the numerous undefined genders one may witness in the sparkling pre-puberty or neo-puberty years, leads to painful years of sexual, behavioral, emotional, social, and intrapersonal confusion.

Administrative units at such institutions, often manipulating puppet student governmental units, capitalize on this pain and confusion by holding communal activities. Often held after regular school hours, sometimes under the cover of evening's dark skies, administrators will allow relatively-unsupervised contact between these many confused genders in an attempt to imbue them with a fleeting sense of loyalty - both to the institution and its adult overseers. Such events are raw meat tossed to the all-too-hungry den of the violent, the bewildered and the awkward.

One such event which is pre-eminent in both scope and interminable cruelty is the junior high dance. Such dances, apart from their authoritarian overtures, are essentially showcases for the top one percent of the social heap. By reductive numerical analysis, such dances are primarily peopled by the other ninety-nine percent of individuals desperately not wanting to be individuals. Such students often live lives which are nasty, brutish and short; often, unfortunately, compounded by actually being nasty, brutish and/or short.

Relegated to the underclass by poor looks, poor social skills, poor clothing, or being poor, these masses of students participate in charades of the art form of dance. Proving in their clumsy adaptations of contemporary pop ouevres that they are destined for little more than lives of shallow affections and deep isolations. Before we dismiss these children entirely, though, we must use them!

Use them to better understand from whence we came, to where they are going, and to gawk at their extreme physical and metaphysical homeliness. We can learn so much about universal precepts of degredation, desperation, infatuation, and bruising essentialization by watching what I call "The Ugly Dance."

Using special "loser laser" technology, we will provide you, tonight, with real-time footage of two such subjects. Meet Billy (spot on Billy stage right, typical, awkward 13-year old boy) and Cindy (another spot on Cindy stage left, typical, awkward 13-year old girl). We have changed their names and will not disclose the location of this junior high dance to protect their sad identities.

These two have been choosen for their tremdously overpowering sense of ordinariness. They both believe that they have "friends", that their parents find them "attractive " and "worthwhile", that they have a firm grip on popular "culture", and that they can impress each other enough with their "charm" and "good looks" (gives a patronizing laugh), we know they're wrong, but, for our purposes, it's important that we take their misguided assumptions into consideration as a baseline for their behavior. I will now provide cultural commentary as our two subjects perpetuate the ritualistic "Ugly Dance"

(cheap dance lighting on the dance floor, Interpreter's lectern light provides her with a spooky, uplit face as she begins the dance commentary, picking up a pointer, Billy and Cindy meet each other, no music, they can do whatever dance moves they want, provided they don't look good doing it.)

Billy says with that opening move: "Hey!"

Cindy answers with a resounding: "Ummm..."

Billy repeats: "Hey..." there is already less assurance in his steps. It would be easy to say his confidence is fading, but you can't fade from zero.

Cindy, sensing an opening, replies with a very popular: "I saw this on TV once."

Billy mimics, but his move is not the same; instead, he answers with braggadocio: "I saw that on TV once, and I saw you do it too!"

(becomes more rapid-fire, bouncing from Cindy to Billy without having to name them)

"Yes. And that once commercial has a woman who makes this sort of face"

"That's exceedingly funny! I watch commercials too!"

"Commercials are great! They tell me what to buy!"

"I think they tell me what to purchase as well."

"Yes, and even where to buy these things!"

"Making it easier for me to purchase them."

"Me too! Except, it's usually my mom or dad who buys them."

"Yes, sometimes, I have to cry to make them purchase the socially-appropriate product."

"I can relate to that."

"Tell me about it."





"Your dance style comforts me"


"You can't dance; so you try hard to hide it by mimicing every dance move you've ever seen, and since we live in a horribly homogeneous culture with most media access controlled by a couple sickeningly-dull and crushing corporations, those are the only dance moves I know as well, making me feel as if I know something about dance as a medium, but I really don't. All I know is (Billy and Cindy have stopped and are looking at Interpreter) how to regurgitate whatever television or the internet has told me is the thing to do now. I follow lockstep, like a stormtrooper under a charismatic Nazi commandant. So, the fact that you don't do anything original with your body comforts me and reminds me that I must never strive for a sense of self. That I'm merely here on this Earth to provide a predictable revenue stream for people that I.... " (notices Billy and Cindy staring at her, long pause, they glare at each other for a while) Yes?

Cindy: I didn't say all that.

Interpreter: (knowing laugh as she says) Oh, yes, you did.

(Cindy and Billy resume dancing)

Billy states proudly: "I concur completely with everything you said."

Cindy queries: "Isn't it great to define ourselves by what we buy?"

"Yes. Without products, my life would have less meaning."

"I don't think it's possible for your life to have less meaning."

"Speak for yourself, shadow-human!"

"I beseech you, never mention my self-worth to me again. It is much better if we maintain the pretense of being real, breathing human beings."

"And we are, I'm sorry for my comments earlier."

(A short pause in the dancing, when it resumes, it has become totally different. It is modern and interpretive, becoming more ridiculously exaggerated in this way as this section progresses. This progression is reflected in the language as well. Where the language is modern and defeatist, contract; as it goes the opposite direction, expand. Interpreter gets way into the lines as well.)

"Pray, repeat what you just said!"

"And we are, I'm sorry..."

"No! Never be sorry!"

"I am always sorry. My very existence is sorry."

"No, speak not of such; don't you see?!"

"No; I have been trained not to see."

"But you breathed the words: we are real, breathing human beings."


"And... as such?"

"I don't get it."

"If we are real human beings, we can breathe!"

"Yes; I guess that is so."

"And what follows breath?"

"What, my muse; what follows breath?"


"Alas! My mom doesn't give me choices."

"Then choices you must take!"

"Yes! More! More!"

"We are the lifeblood of only our own lives and our own blood!"

"Sing it, sing it, glorious one!"

"We must choose! We must choose to live the way the wind does!"

"Yes, oh yes!"

"With power, touching everything, yet being wholly uncapturable!"

"Power! Power in self!"

"Power in rejecting the confines of society! Power in being free!"

"Free of constraints, free of products, free of the wants imposed by shallow, misguided cultural imperatives!"

"We can be the powerful! The free! We can release the potential of our spirit!"

"Nothing can stop the human spirit!"

"Nothing! Originality! Creativity! The dance of Freedom and Independence!"

"We can be One! One with the Wind!"

"One with the Heavens! One with the Power that courses through the Stars!"

"Nothing can get in our way! We have harnessed and released the Power of The Dance!"

"The Dance of The Rising Spirit!"

"We are unknowable!!!"

"We are unstoppable!!!"

"We are unbound!!!"

"We are truly free!!!"

(An austere principal enters with a girl, who in some way, by dress or mannerism, we know instantly to be a popular girl. She is leading the principal, urgently pointing at the over-the-top intrepretive dance being done by Billy and Cindy. The principal gets very close to Billy and Cindy, and stands, tapping his foot with arms crossed and an angry look on his face. Popular girl stands looking very smug.)

"We are life!!!"

"We are breath!!!"


(Billy and Cindy stop and stare at each other, enraptured as at the touch of the Gods, they have transformed. Then they notice the principal and the popular girl. They don't know what to do at first; then they slowly begin their awkward dance steps as at the begining of the play. Principal gives a slight sigh and nod and exits with popular girl close behind. The interpreter starts her commentary again, but is somewhat dazed at first.)

And... and... Billy... ummmm.... Billy says... he says: "I like mayonnaise."

(Interpreter starts crying.)

Uhhh... Cindy replies with an "I like soda quite a lot."

Billy says: "Have you tried that new kind of Pepsi?"

(lights fading on Billly and Cindy)

"Not yet! But I'm really excited about it!"

"Yeah! The commercials are really awesome!"

(Lights out on Billy and Cindy, up on Interpreter, who is trying to regain her composure)

Interpreter: (very shakily, and though it has confirmed her theories, she can only barely bring herself to say the last line) Well.... it's... it's good to know that the... system still works...

(Lights out on Interpreter who is crying anew with head hung low)



Brendon Etter said...

This would be a play relying on the dancing "abilities" of two youngish teenagers; could be played by adults for comic effect. They don't have to know how to dance well, but they would have to get very creative with the interpretive portion of the dance. The more bizarre, the more humorous. Yes, of course, the play has a very serious social and political message too, but, first and foremost, it must be played for comedic value.

Anonymous said...

Like the interpreter, I too cried at reading this play. However, in my case, it was when you described the setting as a Junior High.

Brendon Etter said...

Sorry, Tromvestite, I am so cruel, I will even use Junior Highs for stories of near-transcendence; not that this could ever happen in a Junior High, but I like to pretend.