and because i'm proud of myself for finishing it.
the backstory: i'm taking theatre history part one this semester. the semester is, of course, almost over. i have this floating assignment gig where i have to write two dialogues with some historical information in them. its like an essay only requiring more wit and less structure -- and i know that sounds easy, but i actually enjoy having the structure of an 8 page essay to help me out now and again. anyway, the dialogues are due "sometime before the end of the semester," so naturally EVERYONE in the class has been putting it off until now. and i, slack-ass that i am, finally managed to write one.
We Don’t Know:
Or, The Comedy of Education
by Nicol Cabe
A Greek-style amphitheatre. The skene is painted to represent a dorm room, but the stage is bare. A drum-beat as the CHORAGOS enters, stage right, and walks in a semi-circle around the front of the stage.
CHORAGOS: Today the pressure has set in.
Today the chill is in the air.
No more can we, distended stomachs
Full of tasty holiday cheer,
Put off another paper due
And tell ourselves, as oft before,
“We’ll do it after Thanksgiving break.”
Whilst gorging on left-overs, we must
Type furiously as the November wind
And look up tidbits from history
To insert cleverly into the assignment.
We must be quick, we must be clear,
We must be witty yet argue a point,
And that is the crux of all our pain.
(Enter STUDIOS from stage right. Deep in thought, he walks center stage and addresses the audience. CHORAGOS stands to the side, stage left.)
STUDIOS: O! Woe to me for procrastinating!
I knew I should have written these
Last month before everything else was due.
Did not the professor, with an oracle’s insight,
Insist we should not put them off?
And now I have five long papers to write
For the other four classes I am taking
So that I can graduate on time.
O! Hellfire wracks at my brain!
I cannot think of a clever title,
And I have searched all over the internet
For historical information on
This ancient text, and found next to
CHORAGOS: The poor lost lamb, it cries for help,
But all its cries are now in vain.
STUDIOS: Your insults are not helping me
Come up with a clever idea
For this assignment.
CHORAGOS: I do not know what help I’ll be
For I remember as much as you
From that class.
STUDIOS: Did you take notes?
CHORAGOS: I did, in fact.
STUDIOS: Perhaps we could compare our notes
And piece the assignment together
Slowly, word by word and page by page.
CHORAGOS: He might count off points.
STUDIOS: I think not.
At least, if we do two different papers,
We can use any sources we want,
Including each other.
CHORAGOS: Then open your notebook, my friend,
And maybe find those pages you printed off
From that Sparknotes website you found.
We can use all the help we can get.
STUDIOS: I fly faster than the hawk
Descending upon its helpless prey.
The thought of finishing this paper
In a timely manner compels me so.
(STUDIOS runs off stage right. Crescendo in the drumbeat as CHORAGOS walks the semi-circle around the stage again.)
CHORAGOS: Completing the assignment soon?
Completing the assignment today?
I feared ‘twould take us the whole
Weekend, without a minute’s respite.
But now I hope that I was wrong,
And with some help, we can create
A paper the professor will enjoy
And think a witty repartee. O!
The mere thought of free time,
A jubilant feeling we have not felt
In ages it seems, with the weight
Of due-dates hanging over us, the weight
Of critiques and papers and play openings,
All that is past. We will pass the class!
(STUDIOS returns, stage right, arms loaded with papers.)
STUDIOS: I brought every page I could find,
Every book and internet article,
Anything that sounded relevant
To the assignment.
Surely with all of these resources
We can not only complete the paper
But make a good grade on it too.
STUDIOS: Two heads are better than one.
(STUDIOS hands a book to CHORAGOS, who begins walking the semi-circle around the stage again. STUDIOS walks in a semi-circle as well, but in the opposite direction. They are deeply involved in their reading as the drumbeat crescendos again. Suddenly, the drums are silent, and STUDIOS looks up from his book.)
STUDIOS: This article I have, about Sophocles,
That I printed off a website I found,
Proclaims the man to be religious,
And that was the source of all his writing.
CHORAGOS: How can that be?
STUDIOS: It kind of makes sense.
Take his play, Oedipus Tyrannos, for example.
The hero, although a good man, could not
Escape his fate , although he desperately tried,
and his imposition of his free will was his sin.
CHORAGOS: You’ve got it wrong. Oedipus did not sin
By exercising his free will. The ancient Greeks,
Superstitious people though they were,
Felt that disrespect was more of a crime
Against nature, and murder was the ultimate
Disrespectful gesture against human life.
To murder one’s father was the most horrible
Sin of all sins; to marry one’s mother the
Second worst. I suppose that shows
How the Greeks felts about women, too.
STUDIOS: How do you know?
CHORAGOS: This article.
I guess that ranting and raving against
Fate, and trying to escape the will of the gods,
Would be a somewhat more taboo subject
For the ancient Greeks. Something Euripides
Was more likely to write about.
STUDIOS: This article also claims that Sophocles,
Although well-respected by many,
Began his career as both writer
And actor. I thought that they did not
Appreciate actors back in the day.
CHORAGOS: Yes, I thought most cultures were
Superstitious about the actors’ abilities
To assume a new personality. And it says
Right here in my notes that the Greeks
Called actors “hypocrites.” That does not
Seem like a compliment to me.
STUDIOS: It does not,
I know, but the word has taken on other
Connotations over the years.
CHORAGOS: I guess so.
But still, that probably means they did not
Appreciate actors the way that we do.
STUDIOS: I don’t think anyone likes actors.
CHORAGOS: You’re right.
Anyway, we should return to our task,
And not dwell on things we do not know.
STUDIOS: But so much of ancient Greek theatre and culture
Is speculative. We could write an entire paper
And title it “We Don’t Know.” However,
We probably should do some actual research.
Hey, we could start with the basics,
Like they only used male actors, and
Masks represented the different characters.
CHORAGOS: I know that was a necessary part
Of the ancient Greek theatre,
But I think everyone would end up
Writing about it at some point,
Because those are some of the few
Solid facts we have about Greek theatre.
Besides, how they used masks, and
What the masks looked like or were made of,
Is all still very speculative.
Is there anything in ancient Greek culture
That is not speculative?
CHORAGOS: We know for a fact
That they existed.
STUDIOS: That does not help me
Write a good paper.
CHORAGOS: You should not
Be so afraid to make inferences based
On the few facts that we have.
The professor knows that we do not have
A lot of information to work with.
STUDIOS: I suppose.
And yet, I cannot reconcile myself
To writing a paper based on We Don’t Know.
It seems so anti-academic.
CHORAGOS: Well then,
Perhaps you should choose a different topic.
We know much more about later authors,
Although a good deal of Shakespeare’s
And Moliere’s lives are fairly speculative
STUDIOS: Alack the day! I should have listened
To my parents. Perhaps the theatre major
Is not for me!
CHORAGOS: You’re giving up so soon?
STUDIOS: Is it too late for a medical withdrawal?
CHORAGOS: Hearten yourself, young student! It is not
As difficult as, for example, a
Major in atomic physics. And I’m sure
That a good deal of chemical engineering
Is just as speculative as theatre history.
STUDIOS: I suppose you’re right. And yet –
And yet I cannot bring myself to write
An entire research paper that involves
So little factual information. It makes no sense.
CHORAGOS: You do indeed sound like a scientist.
How ‘bout this: Instead of writing
An eight-page paper on how little we know
About the ancient Greek theatre and culture,
You save the topic for one of those
Dialogues the professor is making us write.
STUDIOS: O! My savior! My friend! My life line!
That is such a brilliant plan! I cannot
Imagine what I would do without your help.
How can I ever repay you?
CHORAGOS: I can think
Of nothing I would like more than a beer
Right about now.
STUDIOS: Consider it done, friend.
O! What would I do without you here
To act as my conscience and my guide?
CHORAGOS: Surely if you did not listen to my advice
This would all end in tragedy, rather
Than the happy tune we are singing now.
Come on, let’s get that drink.
STUDIOS: You’re on.
The drums play a happy beat as the two walk the semi-circle around the stage one more time and exit, stage left.
you don't have to read this if you don't want to, actually, that's why its lj cut. ^_^