CHARACTERS THE MAID, played by a male actor playing a 1930s’ actor playing a MAN over 40 of blue collar stock playing at being a maid.
THE PAINTER, played by a female actor playing a 1930s’ actress playing a WOMAN over 40 from old money playing at being a male house painter.
TIME One late fall afternoon, 1935.
Chicago. A Little Theatre set of a room in a Lake Shore Drive apartment.
The final poem is a distilled extrapolation from Alexander
Scriabin’s notes for his unrealized magnum opus Mysterium which was
to have been a week-long synaesthetic ritual in the Himalayan
foothills performed to dissolve the world in bliss.
(A largely empty room in a luxury high rise apartment extends into the SL wings. Interior double door ULC. Late afternoon light shines through windows OSL, reaching the SR wall. Canvas drop cloths cover the floor, a black lacquer piano and its bench. The fourth wall, also extending OSL, is a taut gauze.)
(The uniformed MAID sits at the piano watching the PAINTER, in professional whites and black tie, pour emulsion from a five gallon pail into a smaller can.)
PAINTER (indicates fourth wall)
’Case the rowdies get to hurling. Remember?
MAID The late lamented Dil one l Pickle Club, hobohemian hotbed off of Bughouse Square, Chicago, Illinois.
PAINTER Squeeze through Tooker Alley. Look for the green light over an orange door. Mind the garbage. Danger: Step High, Stoop Low, Leave Your Dignity Outside.
MAID Elevate your mind to a lower level of thinking.
(plays and sings Joe Hill’s The Tramp1 set to George Root’s Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!)
If you all will shut your trap
I will tell you ’bout a chap That was broke and up against it, too, for fair He was not the kind to shirk He was looking hard for work But he heard the same old story everywhere
MAID & PAINTER (play & sing)
Tramp, tramp, tramp, keep on a-tramping Nothing doing here for you If I catch you ’round again You will wear the ball and chain
Keep on tramping, that's the best thing you can do.
(While the PAINTER huddles up to an imagined hobo campfire, the MAID plays the chords to Hill’s There Is Power In A Union2 set to L.E. Jones’ There Is Power In The Blood, inspiring and accompanying the following.)
PAINTER Fellow idlers, in calling to order this convention that
shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism, we want to establish a leisure organization that will open wide its doors to every man—
PAINTER —that earns his, their living either by their brain or their muscle. Nature has placed in this earth all that is necessary to make men and women happy. There is just one thing we lack: the intelligence to enjoy possession of that which we have produced.
PAINTER & MAID (play & sing) There is pow’r, there is pow’r In a band of working folk When they stand hand in hand That’s a pow’r, that’s a pow’r That must rule in every land One Industrial Union Grand.
(The MAID stretches out fingers one by one then clenches them into a fist.)
MAID Happy fightin’ days! And shall we go a-sailing?
PAINTER But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
(The PAINTER continues prepping while the
MAID plays an elegiac It’s A Long Way To
Tipperary/Down To The Soupline.)3
PAINTER cont’d “With The One Big Union Or Union With The Big One?” That
was the debatable motion, wasn’t it?
MAID How half the Picklers howled!
PAINTER Smacked you with an egg, was it?
A palpable hit.
PAINTER You coped famously, as I recall, what with all that colored
MAID The Chromola. And those scribbly trill-ill-ills.
(ducks) “Refrain from clodhopping Starvation Army burdens no matter
how ingeniously subverted—
MAID —and perforate your auditory organs with the veritably de
PAINTER “Pick your adversaries well, for willy-nilly, bellicose
necessity will transpose you into them.”
MAID “Beware the brazen bourgeois, biggest born of earth; to
outwit it trip nimbly.”
PAINTER Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. Jack jump over the
Jack be nimble. Jack be spry.
MAID & PAINTER
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.
PAINTER The Cosmic Fessor. Gone. All gone.
(As THE MAID plays Nearer My God/Job4 To
Thee THE PAINTER climbs a stepladder.)
PAINTER cont’d But let’s not to mourn those taken from us, eh, whether by
consumption, wreck, blanket, bullet or booze; in lieu let us too maximize our re-returns on every flaming foot of blood-bought soil, b-babbling ever skyward, to be obliterating, look you, great grandfather sun whose darkling howls we—
(a shadow plunges down the SR wall)
What was that?
(THE PAINTER exits SL to the windows. Pause.
Returns and resumes painting.)
MAID A poor fella, bugged by fleas, picks one of ’em off, looks
at it and puts it back. His pal watchin’ says, “Why the
hell didn’t ya kill it?” And the fella says, “That wasn’t
the one that was bitin’ me.”
You’re a hard one.
I have my reasons.
(plays and sings Hill’s The White Slave5 to
L. Friedman’s Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland.)
Come with me now, my girly,
Don't sleep out in the cold Your face and tresses curly Will bring you fame and gold
Automobiles to ride in, diamonds and silks to wear
You'll be a star bright, down in the red light
You'll make your fortune there.
Oh, do dry up!
Aw shucks, toots, I was just hitting my stride.
And will the proprietors be at home this season?
MAID What do I care? Long as the bacon keeps a-coming.
PAINTER They keep us warm and dry and fed. Alive.
Boho lapdogs mooching on a slumming old deb and her blue-
collar sponger. I feels like a kept woman. I hate my life.
Take me to the Himalyas.
Ok. Take me there.
(THE PAINTER paints mountain peaks on the fourth wall while THE MAID plays the first of Scriabin’s Deux Poèmes Op. 71.)6
Show me where the temple goes.
(THE PAINTER completes the scene.)
Now the celebrants gather.
(While THE MAID plays the second of the Deux
Poèmes7 THE PAINTER dances.)
(Finished, THE MAID closes the lid, stands,
and bows to kiss the piano. THE PAINTER
stands in front of the double door.)
Once more Infinity
Plummets from light
Casting its image
In dark stone
(THE MAID takes a candle from inside the
bench, lights it, and lies curled up, thumb
in mouth. Meanwhile, THE PAINTER exits to
the back room from where we hear a
phonograph being cranked and the crackle of
a 78 rpm recording of Scriabin’s8 Vers La
Flamme. This will continue to its and the
play’s end. THE PAINTER returns, swinging a
MAID & PAINTER/MAN & WOMAN
Stifling, womb-chafed, Towards Death’s white sun We rush to drown In fiery ecstasy
(THE PAINTER/WOMAN exits SL. In concert the room disappears as the fourth wall gauze flickers images of fire and flame, The Russian Revolution, US labor strikes, WW1 trench warfare, swimming sperm, a suckling infant, Scriabin’s mother, star formation nebulae, etc., on toward the heart of the sun. The projections fade along with the locked groove at the recording’s end.)
- The Tramp - listen on YouTube.
- There is Power in a Union - listen on YouTube.
- Down to the Soup Line - listen on YouTube.
- Nearer My Job to Thee - listen on YouTube.
- The White Slave - listen on YouTube.
- Scriabin, Poème Op.71 No.1 - listen on YouTube.
- Scriabin, Poème Op. 71 No.2 - listen on YouTube.
- Scriabin, Verse la flamme - listen on YouTube.