Stage Directions

so, in my 31 plays 31 days quest, i had a wild hair to write an “Act Without Words” in tribute to Samuel Beckett. that wild hair apparently smoothed out, and i was prepared to pluck it from my mind-scalp.

however, my mind was changed when i visited the 31P/D website. the kind folks there offer daily writing prompts if you should need some inspiration. one of the prompts for August 22, was in fact to use “only stage directions (no dialog).” i figured this was a coincidence that i could not ignore (or perhaps that i could ignore but who the hell was i kidding, i’m 7 plays behind). and so i use my first 31Days31Plays prompt on day 23, for my 16th play. special thanks to Chas Belov who apparently heard the idea from Vonn Scott Bair. and here is my dialogueless play:

Oriented.
a very short play by james w. moore.
23 august 2012.
no. 16 of 31.

a person enters. dressed in a dark suit. dark pants. dark jacket. white shirt. dusty.
walks to center stage. stops.
looks north. pause.
looks south. pause.
a brief look north, before turning west. pause.
looks east. pause.
looks out at the audience. pause.
the person reaches into a pocket and pulls out a compass. finds north.
looks out. looks at compass. taps the compass twice. looks back out.
looks down at the compass, snaps it shut and puts it in pocket.
person relaxes noticeably, brushes hands on pants and exhales loudly. pause.
exhales loudly again. listens. begins to exhale again, but stops. looks around, breath held. pause.
exhales. nothing.
brushes hands on pants. pause.
from offstage left, a yapping dog.
NOTE: this is to be an electric, remote controlled, or battery operated dog. in no instance should this be a real live dog.
person looks towards the direction of the dog. beat. the dog walks in and towards the person. preferably, the dog takes a certain number of steps, stops and then barks. continuing this pattern until it is near the person, who steps in its path.
the dog attempts to walk against the person’s foot. the person watches.
the dog barks at the person’s feet. the person watches.
the dog attempts to walk against the person’s foot. the person watches.
the dog barks at the person’s feet. the person steps aside.
the dog continues on its way across the stage.
the dog exits stage right, the person watching after. pause.
the person looks in the direction of the dog. pause. reaches into pocket, pulls out compass. finds the direction the dog went. looking at the compass, the person smiles, knowingly. the person laughs a little, shutting the compass and returning it to the person’s pocket. beat. the person laughs a little more, perhaps a sigh at the end. beat. the person laughs a little more, longer this time than may be comfortable for the performer or the audience. the person regains control. looks out. a quieter chuckle. pause.
the person reaches into pocket and pulls out a tape measure. walks to extreme stage left. puts end of tape measure down. walks across stage. pause. looks back to stage left. person walks to center. looks down. beat. walks back to tape measure. retracts tape measure. pause.
the person walks to the front of the stage. beat. puts end of tape measure down. walks upstage. pause. looks back downstage. person walks to center. looks down. beat. walks back to tape measure. retracts tape measure. pause. walks back to center. considers. takes a step left. considers. takes a step right. beat. settles.
the person looks out towards the audience. waves with right hand, which stays at the top of the wave when finished. pause. person drops hand.
person waves with hand slightly higher. again hand stays still at the top of the wave. pause. person drops hand. brushes hands on pants.
from offstage left, the dog barks.
the person looks immediately to the stage left and stomps. the dog either stops barking immediately, or finishes its round of electronic barking.
the person reaches into other pocket and pulls out a bunch of grapes. the person eats all of the grapes. drops the stem on the ground. beat. reconsiders. picks up stem. puts it in pocket. exhales loudly.
two people enter from either side of the stage, wearing anything they like, so long as it is not a dark suit (dark pants, dark jacket, white shirt). they walk across the back of the stage, paying no mind to each other, or the person. the person looks back at them. stays looking back after they’ve exited.
person looks out at audience. beat.
person looks to the back. beat.
and out to audience. beat.
person falls to the ground. person looks up. person places hands on the ground, as though to push the person’s self up. the person does so. however, at the top of the push up, a realization crosses the person’s face. the person lowers. the realization is furthered. the person does an entire pushup. looks out. smiles.
the person does as many pushups as the performer portraying the person can. ends on the floor, face down, breathing heavily. person extends one arm out with a thumbs up gesture. beat.
person stands up.
person brushes hands on pants.
person exhales. beat.
person exhales again, but stops partway through.
looks around.
person exhales.
person walks to the very back of the stage. pause.
person walks to the very front of the stage, going slower as the person approaches the lip.
when the person reaches the edge, the person stops.
looks out.
inventing nothing and denying nothing, the person is overcome.
pause.
smiles.
pause.
reaches a hand up to wave, but doesn’t.
beat.

blackout.

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