The Eight Stages of Drama
A Play in Ten Scenes
by Alfred de Grazia
Copyright © 2001 by Alfred de Grazia
Time: morning about ten o-clock, April 1 of the year 2 of the Dissolution of the Soviet Union. Place: The New Criterion Theatre, Broadway, New York City.
Scene One: High-pitched Uncertainty
A famed though only vaguely known Russian new-mode Creator-Director, named Shloko Fokedov, is expected, as the play opens to an elaborate setting of functional furnishings, rugs of fibre, mats everywhere. It could be the Board Room of a Scandinavian Company; on the other hand it could be the latest in California high school class rooms. At right of stage is a giant photo of a schoolroom extended by mirros and posters to show a class of thirty kids; it shows furnishings of the same type as on stage and described above. Walls with electrified sculptures and friezes, expressionist in style, kitchen (or lab) slick and sleek, all fully automated, as shown by the fact that the stage designer is fiddling with all the machine connections, and the stage designer is pushing things around, and the lighting man is flashing with lamps and targets from all sides. The actors (everyone available of cast of perhaps eleven plus one synthesizer musician) are wearing bright green coveralls. There is a synthesizer emulating a small symphonic orchestra playing a Telemann concerto for trumpet softly and automatically. (Note: A musician- synthesizer player is hired and set up on stage. He extemporizes music following the director's gestures and coded signals.) With every new scene, a 'boy,' who turns out to be a pupil in scene 8, on each occasion of a new scene, slides the scene name and number onto an easel standing alongside the blackboard.
Producer is standing with his hands in his pocket looking out at the empty theater.
Actors are in pairs and trios muttering unintelligibly, and then, more loudly and clearly, call questions and answers from one to another cluster:
Actor 1:Who knows him?
Actor 2: Anybody seen his plays?
Actor 3: Why was Calloway fired?
Producer: I hear you, I hear you. So, yes, I know Shloko Fokedov. I fired Calloway, who was a time-waster and big spender. I hired Shloko Fokedov, yes, Shloko Fokedov, to be Director. The script has been read for the last time by Ole Oop, who certainly has the prestige to give me advice. He had terrific ideas for performing it, beginning first in Chicago.
Of course you wouldn't know Shloko except by his reputation as ultra-avantgarde; he was kicked out of his concentration gulag or was it stalag, the notorious number 96, or was it 69?, last October -- they ran out of cabbage -- and walked to Novosibersk. He was in for killing two actors, a political crime, nor a personal crime, according to the High Tribunal of the State. They needed the cabbage for really hardened criminals at the gulag, so turned out the others to fend for themselves.
He is demanding, he is a real disciplinarian. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Criterion Company, may I introduce Shloko Fokedov!
Lo, the Director Shloko Fokedov appears, in a mask which he always wears. Its bristly thcick black hair stands on end, starting a short distance above bristly black eyebrows, baggy eyes, large flop-ears. He is short, heavy, with a big voice, big smile. Everyone turns to him.
My cher colleagues. I please to get down to tacks. I have funny name, so I use old Russian name. Just call me "Boss." Now the play's the thing.
Actor 1: You mean "Seldom in the Morning." I hope.
Shloko: No, no, I throw that away. Here is the kind of play I like: "The Death of Leo Tolstoi."
Now in this play we have Count Leo Tolstoi, great writer of Russia, runs from nagging wife to railroad station in country, where he begins to die. He shuts the door against her pleading, and he says this is the first time in fifty years that I get the last word, because this is my last word, and so he dies. But wife has press conference with the many journalists come to see him die. She tells them how lovey-dovey they were together. Play ends with famous words of journalist, "What a crock of shit."
The big question of all world theater have to be answered by every great play:
These are EIGHT STAGES OF DRAMA.
If one is missing, play less good, if two missing worse, any more missing, there is little hope for better play. If all eight stages are dealed with very good, then play is great, maybe the greatest, since I know no such play.
But please take notice, ladies and gentlemen, a great play can come from hiding all the elements so that the audience is baffled but intrigued. It makes big secret. Audience then asks, what is why? and who is who? and what is done? and to whom is it obviously done? and when? and where in the world? and what magic does the deed? and has anything happened at all? And then they clap like crazy. looking at each other like surprised chickens.
You see? All is reversed and we find great drama from knowing nothing and just wondering, wondering.
So, we tell you clearly all pretty soon, but you have to know my philosophy of aesthetic.
Announces peremptorily, The rehearsal will begin!
Actor 1: But we have no script.
Shloko: Of course, that is not the play, foolish man. I give only example.
Now please notice: We cannot tell why until we know the results.
We cannot tell who until we know what must be done?
And what must be done is determined by the traits of those upon whom it is done.
And when it is done cannot be known until we know all of these -- when will they come together if they are to have the effects.
And how is dependent upon the results obtained.
So we ask what are results. We must then begin with the effects:
1. Could be to save world or kill a fly.
2. How were effects produced?
3. When did it happen?
4. Effects on whom?
5. Effects by what means?
6. Who done it is now to be known?
7. But maybe we never know why.
(He may become increasingly unintelligible and the actors are one by one looking bewildered at each other.)
Reviewing the evidence thus far, we see the following causes: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, but all these are uninteresting except one or two. So now choose the big why, number 8. And now let us recite the 8 stages in the form of the 8 answers and we say, as follows.
"B did C to D on E at F by G and caused H because of A."
Everyone looks at each other, stupefied.
Scene Two: Strip for Action.
Shloko (yells): More later. All strip! They drop their clothes, standing naked.
(With satisfaction) Just like Gulag. (To the Producer who is dropping his pants) - No, no, not you, just actors because they have no shame, I joke, ha, ha.
That is because the play is fin de siecle, world-famous happening. The Who is Jack the Ripper. He kills whom, many whores, brutal man, Scotland Yard cannot catch. Then the wave of crime stops. Why? Nobody knows. Sherlock Holmes of Scotland Yard knows. It is the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne of Great Britain. He traveled around the world for Good Will and like most men got syphilis. This make him very angry. Also he has paresis of brain, very crazy, must kill all whores. Sherlock Holmes knows, but tells King of England and won't tell anybody else. So they kidnap the Prince and put him a dungeon where he dies from eating English food.
The casting director is putting up pieces of costume against one actor after another.
Shloko: And now Fokedov tells Who?
You, can you be who -- he picks her at random? Who knows? Can't tell you can you be whom, cannot tell either could be other not so??? and is there one who or can she do it alone. Can whom be the only victim of respondent?? No telling yet.
Now its what: who does what cannot tell without motive, which is why.
When? Don't know.
So we begin with the actors, too many....Too many Actors.
We only need three for Tolstoi, Leo, wife, stationmaster, all rest are virtual actors. Also, three for Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, the King of England, and virtuals.
You: who are you?
Actor 1: I don't know. You have to tell me. At this point I feel virtual.
Shloko: At this point you are virtual.
You, who are you?
Actor 2: I do heavies, that's me, grrr (he growls).
I am scared but you are supernumerary.
I am frank. I want only six actors (he sweeps his arm over the nearest six, seemingly randomly) - you, you, you, you, you, you -- all the rest of you please go aside and watch and act like an audience. That way you'll learn that not only the actors have a tough job. Then pick up your pay for the day, so goodbye.
Actors pick up clothes and move to side of stage where they dress, while the six also dress.
Scene three: "Schlacht, stunken stuff."
What we do now? We get rid of the furnishings.
Play a strain of modern synthesized music suitable to accompany the casting out noisily of all except bare furnishings.
Scene four: Music, lights, every scene
Every time there is a pause, a new scene of the play or maybe not, we must have music and light composition, son et lumiere. Now, we have a new scene. You will see. Have the lights manager do a little composition of the lights as he turns them down, around and off, play music, so it becomes a sound and light show. Confusion of lights and sounds but interesting.
You see? How lovely!
Scene five: Short Plays are Better.
Why Play so long? Useless. I throw away three of four acts of the first play "Seldom in the Morning." Then so obvious how bad all is, I throw away the rest.
How we make short? Get rid of two out of three acts. Second act never good anyway. Why third then -- to sell drinks in the lobby. People need food? So eat before, eat after, or go to sleep, but never in play or else.. Karmolinsky, son of great general before gulag, he teach me everything he learn from Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Shlocko and the playwright decide.
So you see the eight stages of drama need only average of five minutes each. Forty minutes in all. No matter how hundreds of ways you mix them. The perfect -almost perfect - play makes for forty minutes.
I present you now with a better play. My actors deserve the best! Here it is now listen: You will be happy with it. It is called: "Young Louis Armstrong."
To play great jazz, Louis plays for New Orleans saloon getting $1 per night and free ass, every night gets better both ways. Finally they catch on, they call for Louis and he replaces white band in Chicago nightclub.
Scene six: Put on the Masks. (Music and lights)
Give out the masks... He has come carrying a package of them .. made in my own gulag, Gulag 69, "I hate the human face. I see so many ugly, brutal, sneering, twisted, empty, silly, sweet, -- and pretty girls remind me of the other ones." He examines briefly and with fierce intensity each actor's features for five seconds, giving each time a snort of disgust, ending by saying "Nobody is who you look." So here in these masks will be your real character, plain, so the audience is trapped in you and you are trapped in the part. Now we really know who is who.
Scene seven: Mumble and shout. (Music and lights)
Mumble all except shout out the important lines. People forget all lines of play except a few of them. Thirty lines they understand are enough for any play. If people in orchestra seats cannot understand mumble, is good! If people in balcony do not understand big lines, is bad! Now we know Who says What!
Important corollary to Mumble and Shout is this: Problem of all plays is ending - if exciting, it is a fake; if not exciting, it is dull. Therefore, Shlocko's Frisco Finale. Director must do - his greatest moment. At any one of the last twenty lines, the stage shakes. And everybody rushes off stage, screaming: 'Earthquake! Earthquake!'"
Now here, make the stage seem to shake, and everybody rush off screaming, 'Earthquake, Earthquake!'.
Scene eight: Dress Rehearsal of "Early Suicide" (Music and lights)
Scene Eight Setting: Same as before but now serving as Schoolroom.
Nineteen characters (11 actors needed):
Freddy, suicidal pupil, early puberty as all other pupils
Mary, co-suicidal pupil
Angela (black pupil)
Three unnamed pupils (2 white and Asian).
Principal (white fortyish female)
Psychiatrist (thirtyish male)
School nurse (sixtyish female)
Two Immigration Police Inspectors
Large revolving blackboard stands to right oblique of stage. Teacher turns it around and on it, written high up, is "Today is May 1, 1999 at Palo Alto H. S. Teacher's name is Miss Geraldine McGillicuddy." Six pupils are seated at two rows of three desks obliquely front to rear left stage, while teacher faces the blackboard, her back to pupils. Several more rows are simulated, by photos, mirrors, poster drawings or such. Door is to right.
Teacher writes and speaks, "Ethel Hale, Gerald Washington, Grover Wilson, Jessica Addams, Edgar Hemmingway. Correct these famous American names and tell what each is best known for."
While Teacher's back is turned, Freddy and Mary, sitting second row and apart, signal each other with tight lips, pull out straight razors and cut their wrists. Bloody seeps out (of concealed compressed balloons).
Teacher turns, sees blood seeping on desk, screams "Oh, My God!"
First Boy: " Why God?" says scornfully the boy sitting between the bleeding pupils.
Second Boy: He didn't cause it? He didn't cause it?
First Boy: They did it. They did it on their own.
Teacher shouts angrily at him, "God is omnipotent; this is no time for blasphemy." The boys mutter and subside.
Teacher: Angela, please rush to call the nurse, and the principal.
Angela: I don't know where their offices are.
Teacher: Who does know?
All hands wag , but then we hear:
First Boy: It's on the first floor.
Second Boy: No it is not. It's in the basement.
First Girl: Go up two flights and all the way down.
Teacher: Oh, forget it, listen, Angela, go to the end of the hall and down to the basement. There's the nurse. Ask her to come, and ask her to call the principal. What's our room number here?"
"What's my name?"
Angela (bashfully): Miss Mcgehgehgeh..(everyone laughs).
Teacher: That's all right, just say, Miss Geraldine McGehgehgeh. They'll know who you mean.
Angela leaves swiftly.
Meanwhile the perpetrators of the suicide pact are bleeding more and slumping a bit in their seats.
Teacher: We need a tourniquet, that's what we need, a tourniquet, two tourniquets!
She looks around hopelessly. Then, seized by an idea, she kicks her shoes off, takes off her trousers, and pulls down her orange panty-hose. The class is stunned. Even the suiciders perk up a bit. She rips her panties in two and hastens over to Mary's desk. She applies the tourniquet at the elbow. She puts her trousers back on.
Mary is protesting but compliant, crying, "No, no, we want to die together. Freddy, help me." He remains where he is as if inseparable from his blood flow.
Teacher slaps her: You won't die in my classroom. Mary subsides.
The nurse bursts in, breathing hard, followed a moment later by the Principal, also breathless, and then by the Psychiatrist.
Teacher shouts: There he is nurse, see the blood? Get him!
(The nurse, bewildered, finally gingerly picks up the second leg of the orange panty hose, and and goes over and begins to apply it as a tourniquet to Freddy.)
Nurse: (Peering at his arm.) But this is only a small slash, it needs a small bandage, not a tourniquet. Addressing Freddie: You coward.
Mary cries across: Don't let them stop us, Freddy! But Freddy is surprisingly meek and submissive.
The Principal has been repeating: What's happening here? What in the world are these children up to? What kind of classroom discipline is this, Miss McGillicudy?
Teacher: I never ..
Principal: Never say never! And put on your shoes.
Teacher: But I was utterly taken by surprise. Weren't you, too, class?
Class choruses: No.
Angela (back now): They was always talking about getting even with the world.
Nurse: Come on now, you two, to my office, where you can lie down for a while. Can you walk? Or must I call the stretcher bearers and put you in the hospital?
Freddy and Mary look at each other and don't budge.
Psychiatrist: (reaching into his pouch and pulling out a wicked-looking needle) Perhaps they will be comforted by a shot of sedative.
Freddy and Mary: We can walk. ("if we can hold hands" adds Freddy, defiantly). They stand, stumble over to each other, and, arm in arm, and holding the arm of the nurse, exit from the room, the bleeding stopped.
Psychiatrist: Maybe it's you who need the sedative, Teacher?
Teacher: Oh, no, I'll be all right, I think.
Psychiatrist: Where did you get the tourniquets?
Teacher now does reel as if to faint. But the Psychiatrist catches her and sits her down on her chair.
Angela blurts out: Her panties. She tore up her own panties, and everybody could see what she owns.
The Principal sits down in surprise at Freddy's desk.
The Psychiatrist, now in his professional element, takes over the scene, addressing the class, but casting a glance or two at the teacher and principal, as if to say, this is for you to bear in mind also.
It is for me to say WHY and With What Results has who done what to whom, when, where, how, since we know now, now know, all of this.
Why introduces complexity on the instant level, and then jumps to the distant level. The cut wrists are anthropological and cosmic semiotics as well as an immediate gesture of love.
Now I ask you, class: Are Freddy and Mary in love?
Psychiatrist: Isn't love beautiful?
Psychiatrist: Are they having sex?
Psychiatrist: Shouldn't that make them happy?
Psychiatrist: Is Mary pregnant?
Psychiatrist: Is that their problem?
Psychiatrist: So the problem is: society won't let it happen?
Psychiatrist: So the problem is the society.
Psychiatrist: By society do you mean your teacher?
Psychiatrist: The Principal?
Psychiatrist: Er...thank you. Their parents?
Psychiatrist: Will it be bad if Mary has an abortion?
Various voices respond, disagreeing: Yes, no, maybe.
Psychiatrist: Will it be good if they got married?
Class: Yes, no, maybe.
Psychiatrist: Should Mary have her baby and take it to school with her?
Psychiatrist: I repeat, should Mary have her baby and take it to school with her?
Psychiatrist looks quizzically at the Principal and Teacher who are squirming in their chairs.
Principal: Doctor, don't you think....?
Psychiatrist, ignoring her and again addressing class: If both students are now suspended indefinitely, that will put the problem squarely in the hands of their parents. Do you think that their problem will then be intelligently handled?
Psychiatrist: Will their problem go on and on from now on?
Psychiatrist: Well, thank you for your advice. I happen to agree with you on all your responses. He exits.
Principal: I am turning the class back to you now, Miss McGillicuddy, proceed with the lesson. Good day. She exits.
Teacher: So, please go back to your notebook, and fill out your answers
to the questions asked, and afterwards I shall read you some passages from the autobiography of Jane Addams, that great woman and founder of the settlement house movement in America, who had, we can be sure, many experiences of the kind that we have had here today.
By then, the bell will be ringing for your next classes, thank God.
First boy: No religion in the classroom, Miss.
The bell rings.
Teacher: My gosh, there goes the bell now, the test will be given tomorrow.
The pupils hasten to depart, leaving the teacher alone on stage, declaiming.
Teacher: I am so glad it was my last class of the week.
Oh, to be or not to be a teacher.
We can take away from the kids all weapons except their penknives,
but the penis is a dangerous weapon and so are a jutting ass and bust.
The teeth that gnash hours every day for a lifetime
rival the trillion beats of the heart.
Let kids sit where they wish,
but they will war all against all for seats.
Suspend the children to give them the solitude to plot aggression.
All the worst for all of us.
Charge parents for medical costs,
which they cannot pay or will sue us for.
As Shakespeare said, life is a play!
See it here.
Games children play.
Idiots all telling tales.
Queen I of a hive of disorderly worker- bees.
Where is the perfect world of the classroom?
Or of anywhere?
Perhaps the egg that I carry,
The invisible cell that holds all that the Universe ever managed to put together.
The Universe of the Cell.
The Universe of Infinite Space Plasma.
The Universe of Homo Schizo -- the divided mind that freezes and swelters in its hard little cage.
But the door bursts open to admit Schloko, followed by every other member of the cast.
Schloko: Bravo, well done, nearly a perfect play, all questions answered. It needs only 19 big lines shout, where you can say everything - all other lines you can mumble. No more to learn.
The play is the dress rehearsal of life. It is fixed in time and space. It answers the eight questions of life in dramatic form eternal. Whereas life seems to be helplessly tumbling along, each life puts on thousands of different plays with hardly a hand-clap. Thousands of bungled plays each person has..
What is the aim, the goal the supreme Good of all life: to convert more and more lives and of life into dress rehearsals.
No need for the reiteration thereafter.
Once committed, the dress rehearsals go on automatically,
and life takes a form, beautiful, ever more recognizable,
dependable, responsible, controlling homo schizo within its series of patterns.
So the Rehearsal is ended. Rehearsal is the essence of the play. Performance of plays is needless, stupid, boring. I quit right now. I leave you. I go back to Russia.
Scene Nine: Good guys always lose (Music and lights)
Commotion. A shout: You bet you quit!
At this point, 2 uniformed agents of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service enter, push their way forward and seize him by the arm.
First Inspector: You are under arrest, Shlocko Fokedov, alias The Boss. It's back to Gulag 69, you undesirable alien! They apply manacles to his wrists.
Following behind the police inspectors is a man on stilts, wearing a long green gown, with a megaphone strung around his neck. It is the originally appointed Director, Dick Calloway.
Producer cries out: Welcome back, Dick Calloway, I never meant what I said.
The name Calloway is picked up by the people on stage and a cheer arises.
Shloko shouting: I am no undesirable alien. Killing bad communist actors no crime! It is sacrifice for the sake of democracy and freedom on the stage.
First Inspector: Oh, yes, but it's a crime in America. This is America : Land of the Free, the Brave, and a lot of Mediocrities, but you can't go around killing them. Not even if they're communists -- which is too bad. You can bet your bottom buck you're going back.
Shloko: "Bottom fuck?".. What means "bottom fuck"? I never bet my bottom. Who told on me?
Second Inspector: The Actors Guild, if you must know.
Shloko: I can tell to you why those communist shits snitched.
Second Inspector: Yes, you fired half the " Who's" in your play.
Shloko is exclaiming I not undesirable. I am U.S.A.political refugee repeatedly as thunderous applause is resumed, of claque and players and, hopefully, audience, whether for Shloko or Calloway is indeterminate. But Calloway is now in charge and all turn to him, while the police drag Shloko off, shouting: "Good guys always lose!"
Scene Ten: "Seldom in the Morning"
Calloway: Listen to me, you all! Let's get cutting now. It's no big deal. It's a story anybody can understand, no tricks. (Applause) We're back to: "Seldom in the Morning." (Applause) -- an assured piece of shit! (Applause)
A couple of rehearsals and we're off and running. It's a simple romance - you should have your parts -
boy meets girl,
they start up a kindergarten,
a phoney Russian psychiatrist reports them as child-molesters,
but he is exposed as a mad fraud, and
the full cast dances all together to an ancient song of our people.
Let's begin with the dance. It will help us to limber up.
(Music - introducing the actual melody -- and lights)
Everybody forms a circle, grasping hands, and dances around Calloway (still on stilts), singing "Ring Around the Rosey."
All except Calloway fall down.