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Drama by Sissy Boyd
 
Reading by Author & Daughter
Recorded by Elizabeth Smith
 
'The Old Dancer' by X-8

'The Old Dancer'  2007 X-8
'The Old Dancer'
 
Then. The body.

 

SC.I

(MA, an old dancer, has been invited to dance in a show. she has called her daughter, DA, to come help her with the steps.)

Da
how was it?

Ma
I can’t remember.

Da
I’m sure you can if you try.

Ma
I can’t.

Da
I’m sure you can if you try. here, I’ll stand with you. try to think. where’s the audience? let’s say the audience is here. do you enter from the left, the right? which?

Ma
I think I’m sitting. the lights come up. did he say slowly? I think so. I can’t remember. yes, facing the audience.

Da
well, then, say you’re sitting. the lights come up. then what?

Ma
well, I can’t quite remember.

(Da brings a chair. she helps Ma to sit.)

Da
try to remember. you’re sitting facing the audience. the lights come up. he said they come up slowly? is everything slow? are you going to accomplish something particular? do you stand? maybe that’s what you do. stand. slowly stand and walk. stand, walk, exit.

(Da takes a few steps backward, slowly. Ma stands, wanders away from the chair, turns, returns to the chair.)

Da
or does he have in mind that you give the idea of a woman, say, remembering some past thing. would it be like the choreographer to ask you to remember something from before? could that be it?

Ma
before what? before now? maybe something like that. I used to run. like the wind. shall I remember that? the running. the dogwood.

(silence. Ma sits in the most formal way.)

Ma
where are we daughter?

Da
we live where we live.

Ma
is the row boat in the water?

Da
we don’t live by the water now.

Ma
and your pretty sister?

Da
I know Ma that you wish for things.

(pause.)

Ma
I went early.

Da
you went early to warm up?

Ma
bowing my head asking forgiveness.

(pause.)

Da
did he start the rehearsal with you?

Ma
yes.

Da
others came? other dancers?

Ma
please, forgive me, I said. I have suffered but I have no excuse. I have been arrogant. now I’m among you. will you help me?

(Ma stands.)

Ma
I didn’t beg them but I asked them. which foot do we place? and where? how many counts? would you show me that again?

(pause.)

Ma
I talked to them. they smiled and moved off into the dance. I was standing. I was forgetting it all. the dancers moved around me, folding into the dance.

Da
maybe that’s your reason. that you’ll remember.

Ma
I asked forgiveness. the choreographer. the polished floor. all their swirling hair. but I lost count.

Da
something beautiful, him allowing it.

 

SC.II

(later that evening.)

Ma
I don’t remember what.

(Ma sits)

Da
you’ll remember.

Ma
all this dancing. what a dark night.
and my brother dying.
no moon to soften us, Daughter.

Da
tomorrow you go to rehearsal, Ma.

Ma
where the words fall away by the many.

(pause.)

Ma
where are we Daughter?

Da
we live where we live.

Ma
is the rowboat in?

Da
we don’t live by the water.

Ma
and where’s your pretty sister?

Da
I know you wish for things, Ma.

(pause.)

Ma
my brother is dying. I’m the last living from my dark house. the parents, a brother, a sister. some balance you’d think. some conversation about this and that. no. only my father’s repertoire of patter songs.

(pause.)

Ma
I have rehearsal tomorrow. do I enter?

Da
the lights come up on you sitting. you stand. you turn. you exit.

Ma
do I enter again?

Da
yes. you return to the chair and sit.

Ma
then do I stand again?

Da
you stand. you bring your shoulders together under your chin.

Ma
pleading? I have been arrogant. and the dancers fold around. have I said something? do I ask them for forgiveness, each one?

Da
music please.

Ma
where are we? which part? he said begin again. where is that?

Da
maybe it’s what he wants. beautiful, really. a woman wandering and forgetting. an old woman, losing her way among the young. beautiful, if that’s what he’s doing. an old woman falls through. the dance is revealed.

 

SC.III

(Ma steps, attempting to dance. Da continues to walk backward.)

Ma
the dogwood bloomed before the summer came. I was sway-backed as a child. ill-made.

Da
try to leave all that now. he will want you to know the dance.

Ma
Stevie Santamaria under the dogwood. he said he was a shepherd.

Da
why think of that, Ma.

Ma
the black meadow. spilling everything. Stevie and I under the dogwood.

(Ma, as she wanders.)

Ma
then. when I was young. I walked through museum rooms, through whispering. when I saw a man. he was looking at a painting with such a field of eyes.

(pause. Da begins to turn away from Ma, moving backward still.)

Ma
Da, the body then.

Da
you and all that beauty, Ma.

 

SC.IV

(Ma sits. Ma stands, pressing her elbows softly into her waist. her hands drop and open out. we think water is falling through them. she speaks without inflection. maybe there is recorded sound, maybe there is whispering. Da echos some of Ma’s words as she begins her next speech.)

Ma
the body then,
not now, at the age I am.
I’m ill-made.
Da. then. the body.
percolating,
in the shallows.
where the smell is.
Da, of a night.
the balance Da,
in a way flying.

(overlapping voices and whispering.)

Da
I take my shoes off
at the edge of
any rainless place,
looking for a dreadful heat.
where the Atacama sprawls.
a pale flamingo.
pale in the desert.
forced to tell.

(Da continues backward. Ma tries to face her. still there is whispering combined with music.)

 

SC.V

(Da is far upstage.)

Ma
my mind is going.
there is flooding in the Hundred of Hoo,
that heel of land, and further in Wales.
don’t listen daughter.
I try to remember that I loved.
don’t listen daughter, go home.

(silence.)

Ma
I took each man to the ocean.
if he floundered I kept him.
I kept a man if he lost his way.

(silence.)

Ma
lose your place man,
and I will love you.
I looked for grief in his hands.
if he cried I kept him.

 

SC.VI

(pause. Ma is coming apart. she becomes more and more stone-like. Da listens from far back.)

Ma
I descend, I do.
I’ve waited the night to.

I remember I sat by a boy
who took a pen to draw
my hand, a strewn seed
in rain drawn down..

I woke with a boy at dawn.
he cupped my hands
and pressed them on his eyes.

I loved a man
long ago,
forever really,
since dawn.

 

SC.VII

(Da is far, far back.)

Da
you’ve dreamed enough.
your dance is gone.

Ma
do I begin again here?

Da
try to remember
such as the dance.

Ma
I was smooth,
I can’t remember.

Da
try.

Ma
I was a body then.

Da
try.

Ma
in a way flying.

Da
say to yourself try. to remember.

Ma
I look back.
I see dancers.

Da
but the dance is gone.

Ma
I say to myself
was that you once walked on a bare stage,
walked long across,
lit in green?
lifted your hand to your neck?
lifted your spine out of your legs
so high you turned and fell?
was it you took 30 counts?
rather, it was the whole night I fell.
a spiral so liquid,
more than a hundred counts.

I say to myself
was that you rolled down a snow hill?

 

SC.VIII

(Ma sits, in the music and whispering.)

Ma
What is it I’m to do? am I to stand? walk? exit?

(Ma stands. blackout.)

THE END

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last update: July 2, 2007