Behind Cut Glass
A Louisiana Phantasmagoria in 26 Scenes
By Rosary Hartel O'Neill
CAST OF CHARACTERS
KITTEN LEGER, 36, China doll gorgeous, occasionally stutters when nervous
BEAU ELLIS, 38,her professor, athletic and intense
BUNKY, 14, her wild son, a writer and musician
RAVEN, 39, the porter, Black woman, flashy and tough, looks younger
Two or more actors play the folowing parts:
FEMALE CHAIR HEAD OF TULANE ENGLISH DEPT.
A WOMAN SNORING
A RAIN-SOAKED ATTENDANT
A FAT GIRL
VOICES OF VARIOUS ANCHORS AND ANNOUNCERS
A phantasmogoria* in exotic Louisiana.
August 2005, Louisiana, a sequence of real or imaginary places like that seen in a dream: an office, a rural train, and a depot in the swamps. Set is minimal and evocative; sounds and lights creating the optical illusions of place. Fraught weather gives the feeling that everything is a figment of the imagination; an illusion or apparition, each place simultaneously known and unknown, appalling,mystifying, and amusing.
Action takes place for the most part on a bare stage. Locations are defined by sound, lighting, and a few key props. There will be quick switches between
interior and exterior scenes. Lights down and lights up. The physical actions of the characters create this comedy of life gone awry inside a magic lantern.
ORIGIN early 19th cent. (originally the name of a London exhibition (1802) of optical illusions produced chiefly by magic lantern): probably from French fantasmagorie, from fantasme ‘phantasm’ + a fanciful suffix.
SCENE ONE: TULANE UNIVERSITY, OFFICE OF DR. BEAU ELLIS
(Two posters, one of Psyche in the dark woods lights gleaning all around her.Another of the Devil Scorned at the Gates of Heaven dominate the room. BEAU
ELLIS, 39 dressed in chinos slacks and a blue blazer shows pictures of Greece to ONE STUDENT and the DEPARTMENT CHAIR. They are holding class in his
office because his enrollments are so low.)
The romantic poets, Byron, Shelly, Keats, lighting bonfires on the beach. . . Surrounded by a wolf pack of friends. They came from love. They wanted to give back. Poetry is saying more and more about less and less. It’s a slow language. You have to enjoy each word... As John Keats wrote, “Great Spirits now are sojourning. To quote his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,”
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone–-
(The STUDENT applauds vigorously)
If you liked my class, tell your friends. We need five students enrolled for it to go, and for us to be assigned a classroom.
(A STUDENT darts to his desk, but the department CHAIR, a brittle woman,
comes over and gives BEAU his mail. The STUDENT exits.)
Must you sit in on all my classes?
You’re being reviewed for reappointment and have low enrollments.
How long will this go on?
As long as I the chair feel the students need some . . .protection.
Well if you would like to participate in the--
I’m not being evaluated. You are. In Germany, a chair can sit in on all classes––
What do you think I’d do?
Oversleep. Not prepare. Run off about your great American novel. The underbelly of any course in any expensive private institution is recruitment. Students want to know how they can make a living. That’s why I encouraged you to do courses in business writing,technical writing, remedial writing. But if you insist on doing something as ephemeral as poetry, you must discuss job opportunities: working at a nonprofit, a poetry magazine (if one still exists), real estate: visiting the haunts of dead poets. And please do not discuss your own writing--especially your great American yet unpublished novel. Here’s your schedule of classes--
Have you heard anything from the tenure committee?
Your student rosters--
About my rehire . . .What’s the deadline for notification?
Here’s the list of Department meetings.
How am I supposed to plan ahead, if I don’t know if I’m fired?
You did get a graduate assistant. All faculty got one. Yours is Kitten Leger. New Ph.D. Specializing in your Romantic Poets.
(CHAIR goes out bumping into KITTEN. Her son, BUNKY in ripped jeans and
a T-shirt that reads “Don’t Share,” patrols nearby.
(KITTEN bumbles in with raincoat, hat, umbrella, purse, note pads, computer case, backpack.)