Le Cabaret de Camille
a solo revue in two acts
by Conrad Bishop
based on improvisations by Camilla Schade
Camilla, a woman aged 28–40, who plays 24 characters within herself.
A stage. Stage right, a dressing table with oval mirror frame; frame is empty so that character sitting at table looks through frame to audience. Chair at table. At right, a clothes rack with several scarves, a stool near it. Several other chairs. Up center, to the right, a folding screen. Feeling: warm, intimate, solitary.
The piece requires an actress adept in mime and physical clowning. At the same time, it’s a character study, and the actress’s personality is central. The piece is written in a direct narrative style, and physical action must emerge from the narrative without appearing rehearsed.
© 1981 Conrad Bishop. All rights reserved.
For production information, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail
Open stage. Upstage, to right, a folding screen. At left, stool in front of a clothes tree with several scarves. At right, dressing table with a large oval mirror frame. The mirror frame is empty, so a person at the table looks through the mirror to the audience.
House and stage lights out. Lights up slowly on CAMILLA sitting at dressing table. She looks into imaginary mirror, examines face. As she speaks, she touches up makeup, arranges face and hair, picks at a pimple, looks at framed face. To herself:
This is Camilla’s cabaret. I’m Camilla. Le Cabaret de Camille. It sounds more expensive in French.
I’m alone. Right, I’m alone. I’ll defocus my eyeballs to feel alone.
Because when I’m alone, then I’m the star, and the supporting cast, and the crew, and the band, and the chorus, and the critic. There’s always a critic. Checking my little act.
You’re in grade school, you start to make up your act. You don’t want to fake it, but you want to dress up the truth, make it fun. If you smile a lot, is that a more vivid you? Stick out your tongue, cross your eyes, pull in your stomach: You are highly entertaining without your stomach.
So she works out her act, and then she looks for an audience. But the tickets are so expensive, it costs so much to get close to her. So she becomes her own audience. She applauds, she laughs, she cries, and she can’t even afford to see herself.
But these characters are creeping out of your hair, you wonder where they came from. Something you ate, or they slipped through a crack in your dreams where the alarm clock hit, or those monsters peering down in your crib and branding themselves in your eyes.
Some days the show’s a hit. Some days you just lay there. But sometimes it all comes together. Everything: skin tone, hair luster, pectoral firmness. And you move into that high rent district on the Sunny Side of the Street. . .
Le Cabaret de Camille!
She rises, crosses center, creating her world.
This’ll be big. Really big. Cast of thousands, and they’re my supporting cast. I’m the star. The fanfare, I swoop into center stage, this dazzling production number: acrobats, tapdancers, elephants, jazz—
And then the music changes. Lights fade. I come down close, I sit down, and I’m just me. The Real Me. Cause deep down, way down there deep down, really way down, If I take off the peel. . .
Peels off her face.
Crack the shell. . .
Cracks skull, unhinges it.
Unzip. . .
Unzips down middle: down forehead, over nose, lips, chin, front. Opens imaginary outer layer, asks the self inside herself:
Who is it? Who’s in there?
I got you covered.
Holds finger to head as gun.
I know you’re in there.
Whoever you are, come out with your hands . . .folded on your desk!
With hands folded she moves into center: an awkward teenager. Lights change.
My name’s Camilla and I’m, uh, sixteen
And this is the real me.
Well sure I’ll get older and maybe I’ll change,
Like maybe I’ll get a wig.
Get a nose job,
Slam it in the door.
Or maybe I’ll get my bust enlarged.
Maybe it’s too big, make it smaller.
No, maybe one big, one little—
I’ll never change.
Cause there’s the neat kids and the jocks and the freaks and the creeps.
Deep down, I’ll always be a creep.
But you’ll see.
Cause don’t get smart with me.
Cause you’ll see.
Cause deep down,
Underneath it all, buster,
I’m really . . .really . . .really. . .
Transformation: gesture evolves into new character. She tears off imaginary mask, revealing true self: Undercover Cop.
Fooled you, right?
See, we dress up like that, get in with the right crowd, the neat kids, cause they’re the pushers.
Look at that: (shows ID) NARK.
(shows) DINER’S CLUB.
You gotta use knuckles to build a better world.
Narks Need Nukes.
Oh sure, there’s a contract out on me, I know it,
But I get a percentage.
Cause baby, you hear me knocking at your door, I’m coming in.
Cause deep down,
You’d never know it,
I’m really. . .
Transforms, reveals true self: Quiz Show Contestant.
THE NEXT CONTESTANT!
Isn’t that funny it took me two years to get on this show, see you always choose the silly ones and I’m silly but I really need a Kelvinator home appliance and it’s hard to stay silly when you really need a Kelvinator home appliance so I fooled you, huh, I flash all my badges and I fooled you, huh, cause I got in the door and now I get a prize!
A blender a masher a microwave oven a home entertainment center to make us happy and fly to Hawaii and then we’ll be happy I’ll jump up and down and shriek and squeal cause that’s the Real Me Hawaiian guitars and they’re tossing us flowers and I’ll set down my Samsonite luggage I’ll open up and take out. . .
Underneath it all. . .
Take out. . .
Finds weapon, transforms, machine-gunning audience: Terrorist.
MY ARSENAL OF TERROR!
My Bresler-Haagen 10:40 automatic attack bazooka, for the oppressed peoples of the Third World, and the Fourth World, and Disney World.
Strike off the shackles of home appliances!
Liberate the home entertainment centers!
Smash the doors of the oppressors and redistribute the oppression!
This is the non-negotiable Real Me,
And I demand publication of my demands for the release of the Real Me,
Six o’clock news, all the major newspapers, front page, my name in the papers, deep down, front page, cause I’m really. . .
Juggles imaginary hand grenades. Explosion. She sweeps away smoke, begins typing.
AN ACE REPORTER.
With a scoop, a hard-hitting expose,
The first time the international terrorist conspiracy has been penetrated with a Kelvinator home appliance.
Gotta tell my story, front page center, before they silence me with a Pulitzer Prize.
I’ll yell CHIEF!
STOP THE PRESSES. . .
STOP THE PRESSES. . .
THE PRESSES. . .
Transforms, writhing in torment: Psycho.
PRESSES IT PRESSES DOWN INTO MY BRAIN THE VOICES THE CLAWS DEEP DOWN THE PAIN BUT I FOOL THEM HA HA I PUT ON THE FUNNY FACE HA HA I WALK OUT THE DOOR PAST THE NURSES MACHINES THEY HOOK TO YOUR HEAD THEY TURN THE SWITCH DEEP DOWN THE REAL ME I SCREAM NO I SCREAM NO AND THE SPIDERS THE SPIDERS CRAWL OUT MY FACE LET ME OUT MY FACE LET ME OUT!
Transforms writhing into high fashion modeling: Hollywood Star.
Because it’s Shocking what an Actress has to Endure, Darling,
To penetrate the Soul of a Paranoid Schizophrenic disguised as a Newswoman disguised as a Terrorist.
I have to Be her, don’t you see, I have to plunge Deep Down, and suffer the Pain, and lose the Real Me,
And then I’m so tired I can barely drag myself into the Jacuzzi.
And I do sometimes wish I could be Myself,
Among the Common People,
The Simple People,
The ordinary, plain, salt-of-the-earth. . .
Transforms: Bag Lady.
They call me that, sure.
Fooled ya, hah?
You like that one? I can do others.
I make money in the parks.
I can do Barbra Streisand. . .
Makes a face.
Ronald Reagan. . .
Makes a face, exactly the same.
Makes a face, exactly the same.
It’s tough for artistes, I tell ya.
Dogs crap on your shoe.
You got a match? I just need a match.
Cause if I got a match, maybe somebody’ll see it and give me a cigarette.
Oh yeh, scum, they call me that. They slam the door.
See, they typecast you.
They think I’m a character, so that hurts my career.
I can do Robert Redford.
Makes a face, exactly the same.
Cause deep down,
Way down there deep down,
Really way down
In my gut
There’s this. . .
Drops mask: Teenager.
Uh Camilla. . .
(transforms: Detective) Camilla!
(transforms: Contestant) Camilla!
(transforms: Terrorist) Camilla!
(transforms: Reporter) Camilla!
(transforms: Paranoid) Camilla!
(transforms: Actress) Camilla!
(transforms: Baglady) Camilla!
Transforms: very old lady.
That’s the Real Me.
Fade up on CAMILLA returning to dressing table, looks in mirror. Thinks. Picks up checkbook.
Wait. It takes more than the Real Me. It takes hard cash. Who’s the backer, the bankroller, the moneybags? Financial support. How does great art survive?
I know. I could sell out. I could get rich. Green stamps.
File a lawsuit! If I have reached the state of adulthood, I cannot have failed in some way to have been victimized, swindled, contaminated, polluted, misappropriated, violated, poisoned, whiplashed, disfigured, or permanently impaired. It’s my ace in the hole.
I just need something to fall back on. Hard.
During speech, she has put on eyeglasses, changed shoes. Moves into center.
CAMILLA sits in chair, center, facing front. Speaks to imaginary person.
I would like to apply for a loan.
I would like to establish credit.
I don’t have any credit.
See, I have credit cards, but I don’t have any debts, and I think what I need are some good solid debts.
Right, there’s my application.
I’m employed, I’m a good employee, I am late sometimes, I’m chronically late, and I get tired in the afternoon, but I get a good buzz from coffee, but I’m not on drugs, I barely take aspirin, and I do like hot pastrami but I don’t overindulge.
And I am . . .WASP.
Course you don’t discriminate, I know, but I am, uh, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. . .
My family wasn’t Protestant, really, we just complained a lot.
But I really need this loan.
I need to establish credit.
I need desperately to get into debt.
Sure I feel grateful to people, and I feel very very guilty sometimes, but that’s not really debt.
I need DEBT.
How much do I need?
Ok. I guess about thirty years.
Thirty years. I need thirty years.
See, if I can get through the next thirty years, then I can get a pension, or a nervous disease, or Social Security, I haven’t been socially secure since kindergarten, I was very popular in kindergarten. I’m off the track.
See, I don’t need money, I have a job, and I walk to work, and I don’t eat lunch.
But there’s never enough TIME.
My watch is so small, it goes around so fast, it’s got this tiny little circle to run around, so I know Borrowed Time, that’s just an expression, but there must be some kind of special deal.
That’s what I need.
Silence. More personal:
See, I had my doubts, like in high school, that I wanted to make this long-term commitment.
The idea of thirty, forty years, my God.
And last year was tough, cause I watched the news a lot.
But I decided what the hell, I’m here, I’m alive, and I need about thirty more years.
That gives me, say, five years to decide about career or family, and there’s still plenty time for the kids to grow up.
If I have kids.
If I get this loan.
Because I’m running out of reserves.
I’ve saved up. I’ve saved a lot of time. I cut down on doing dishes. I break a lot of dishes.
But I’m getting tight on time. Free time, forget it. Nobody gives you the time of day.
It’s getting worse.
I remember sitting there in school, marking time, passing time, keeping time, wasting time, doing time, spending time, beating time, killing time.
I heard somebody say they’d ran out of time, I thought they meant like “ran out of the room”:
Ran out of Time. . .
Followed the exit signs and wound up. . .
Standing. . .
In the alley. . .
In your underwear.
I’ve got collateral.
I’ve got a bank account.
I’ve got experience: I was a dependent on my parents’ income tax returns, I’m in the phone book, I was just last year a statistic in a national survey.
And I have spent years and years learning to be a successful child, and I’ve just about got it right.
So I just need a loan.
Thirty years, it’s a drop in the bucket.
I don’t have a bucket.
But I really do feel. . .
I don’t know if I oughta say this here. . .
I really do feel . . .that the world . . .owes me a living.
I don’t mean fancy living, or high living.
Just some living.
Oh for heaven’s sake. . .
It’s funny, I came in here, I was kinda nervous, and I forgot to say please.
I always say please, whenever I beg.
S’il vous plait?
Now look here.
Let me tell you something.
I am an adult.
Sure, I feel younger than everybody, like about ten years old, so does everybody.
You sit there, and you wear your Adult Suit, and you’ve got a little lapel pin that says ADULT, but deep down, deep down you know that you can’t control your frisbee.
I put on my Adult Suit, and I come in with a business proposition, and I am a free individual, and nothing’s free, and I just want to owe you something so I’m not free anymore. . .
Thirty years. . .
Maximum security. . .
Time to consider. Time to think. Just . . .time.
So you’ll let me know in about . . .two or three years?
And I’ll make it through to the end of the week.
Because your forms, have you noticed?
There’s sweat stains on your forms.
And they smell sweaty, like my uncle.
Ok so. . .
First I’ll set my watch back a couple of hours, give me a running start into the week.
Could I have my application?
Takes imaginary form. Folds it into paper airplane.
See, time flies.
It’s really a bird.
Wants to be free.
Sails airplane. Blackout.
CAMILLA is behind screen. Lights fade up. A piece of clothing is hung over screen.
I keep changing clothes. It’s the story of my life.
In high school they said pick a hat and wear it.
You keep changing, you’ll never get to be Official Authorized Personnel.
She appears in false nose. Solemnly walks to mirror, sits, thinks.
“Have you heard about this extraordinary woman?”
“I think they call her . . .Camilla!”
Reacts. Recovers. Removes false nose.
When I was twelve I sent away for this comic book ad: How to make big money as a ventriloquist.
I didn’t care about the money, I just wanted to learn not to move my lips when I talked to myself in the mirror.
I wanted somebody to talk to Camilla,
While Camilla sits there and looks and thinks,
Gropes for something to say.
I am composed of ninety-eight percent water,
But I’m salty, so I float on top.
I have hit an impasse. My ratings are going down. Call the writers. Writers! Boys, we are stuck. I want you to bust out those dictionaries and come up with some purple prose that captures my true identity.
Picks up book.
Gimme that! Whatta we got?
Thumbs through dictionary.
Cherimoya. That’s a fruit. The tang of the cherimoya.
Chanterelles. Chrism. Chrissssssssmmmmmmmmmmm. . .
Poetry. Fantasy. The Tang of the Cherimoya.
Sure, that’s the cabaret!
People don’t go to the theatre to see anger and violence and murder and rape, unless it’s for a good cause.
I’ll share my world of fantasy, my vial of illusion, my chalice of magic: I’ll do the dishes.
Sure. That’s how I do it.
I sink into my dreams.
She drifts across stage. At imaginary sink, indicated by chairs, she starts scrubbing. Squeezes sponge. Repeats. Water runs down her elbow. Wipes off. Squeezes. Lights change. Gradually, with great power and sensuality, she becomes Marlene Dietrich stereotype.
Cannot help it.
I hold their hearts in the palm of my hand.
I squeeze them like sponges.
((O women have muscles too.))
They cry out to me, I love you, I love you,
And every night on the stage of the Biltmore
They offer me their hearts
To squeeze out like sponges.
Can’t help it. . .
Can’t help being. . .
Into musical comedy.
. . .Wonderful
Can’t help being proud
Can’t help being beautiful
Can’t help singing loud
Can’t help being terrific
Can’t help being marvelous
Can’t help doing the best that I can
Can’t help being a Woman.
Change of tone: lyrical.
Can’t help being talented
Can’t help shooting for the stars
Can’t help digging higher mathematics
Can’t help playing Spanish guitars.
Can’t help being a woman
Can’t help starting meteor showers
Can’t help taking a shower
Can’t help scrubbing the bathtub
Can’t help being a woman
Can’t help mopping linoleum
Can’t help screwing . . .the lightbulbs!
Can’t help. . .
Fantasy dissolves. Realizes she’s in kitchen. To sink.
So I didn’t get the part. So what’s new?
Fill up the dishwasher.
Give you time to think
And. . .
Struggling with latch.
Call the repairman.
Struggle. Lights change. Immersion in fantasy. Looks around: terror.
They’ve all gone.
The backup system’s failed.
It’s reaching Critical Mass.
Flurry of working dials, buttons, controls.
They’re all gone, and I’m alone.
The youngest member of the research team, and the only woman, who has tried for months to warn of critical dangers in the backup system.
And now I’m alone
Caught in magnetic field, she is propelled, in slow motion, into a chair. Straps herself in, as if piloting aircraft.
Fire the hydroturbines.
Equalize the retros.
Batten the hatches.
((Oh women have brains too.))
We’re approaching Meltdown.
The air is alive with positrons.
I feel things going all . . .greasy.
And I know in a blinding flash
That I, a woman, will die.
But out of it all, the darkest hours,
A mist will rise, to water the flowers.
My course is clear.
Mimes, in chair.
I open the airlock.
I crawl down the reactor shaft.
Deeper, deeper, until at last
I fling myself onto the core!
My pounds melt away!
As I dampen
The Nuclear Sins of the World!
Contorted into position lying sidewise over seat, dying upside down. Long pause, motionless. Slow realization, front.
Recovers, picks herself up, moves slowly back to sink. Scrubs.
No, that’s ok.
Nobody likes a martyr.
Whoever heard of a martyr with an automatic dishwasher?
I’ll scrub the casserole.
Scour the skillet.
Scrape the skin off my knuckles. . .
Washes imaginary dish, places it in rack. Washes another. Lights change. She grabs object, scrubs it. Grabs enormous object, scrubs it top to bottom, shoves it away. Caught in fantasy.
I’m in the Peace Corps.
Scrubs something, shoves.
They’ve shipped me to Darkest Africa.
Scrubs something, shoves.
I spend every day in the jungle heat. . .
Scrubs something, shoves.
In a light green polyester pantsuit.
And I long to be part of the jungle, the primitive beat, but I can’t because I’m just a
Scrubs another, boots him.
But one night I see fires in the distance.
And I’m drawn like a moth to those fires.
And all around the fires are the
And the fires in the jungle the flashing eyes
and the jungle rhythms
UH UH UH UH
OOGA BUGGA OOGA BUGGA
And I’m drawn into the circle
In my light green polyester pantsuit.
And the smoke and the fires and the jungle rhythms
And I smell the smell of the smoke of the bonga root
And I take a whiff. . .
And I take another whiff. . .
UH UH UH UH
OOGA BUGGA OOGA BUGGA
And I whiff the bonga root
And it’s electricity waterfalls whirlpools
And I’m lost . . .in the dancing . . .of clouds. . .
Ethereal motion, swimming through smoke. Blows smoke rings, adorns herself with them. Rhythm intensifies.
And the clouds drift away
Revealing me dancing
((Oh women have bosoms too.))
And the jungle rhythms
UH UH UH UH
and the drums. . .
She drums on the chairs, on pots, on body, on head. Sudden focus.
And I saw the native chief
In my light green polyester pantsuit
And I was a
WHITE NATIVE WOMAN
Caught up in the jungle beat
And the natives dancing round, chief native dancing round, and the lepers, the lepers leaping to the jungle beat—
And then there’s other people!
White people brown people red people yellow people all people:
Rich poor young old fat skinny men women Democrats Republicans communists socialists feminists atheists masochists dentists—
Everybody dancing round in the jungle beat
And they see me
All the people of the world see me and I’m a
WHITE NATIVE WOMAN
In the jungle beat
OOGA BUGGA OOGA BUGGA
And their eyes light up like a million fires. . .
Leading a dancing procession.
And we’re dancing in a chain
We’re dancing outa the jungle
We’re dancing across the deserts
We’re dancing cross the Middle East, Iran and the Ayatollah’s dancing, he’s dancing OOGA BUGGA OOGA BUGGA
We’re dancing through Moscow and Poland and the Berlin Wall, we’re dancing over the wall
And Paris and London, Prince Charles is dancing, OOGA BUGGA OOGA BUGGA
All the people of the world and the
WHITE NATIVE WOMAN
And New York, we pick up all the addicts and the muggers, we’re dancing down the subway
And up to the White House and there’s the President
In my light green polyester pantsuit
He’s dancing OOGA BUGGA OOGA BUGGA
And we’re spreading joy
It’s all joy
Everything new, fresh, clean
We’re in love
The spirit of love
AND THE FIRE
AND THE JOY
AND THE FRESH SWEET SMELL OF THE SPRING
AND THE FIRE. . .
Begins to realize. Sees reality.
And the pots. . .
And pans. . .
And casseroles. . .
And garbage. . .
Ooga. . .
Bugga. . .
Long silence. Disgust. She returns to sink, reacts to garbage. Sighs. Then slowly, her finger begins tapping the rhythm of the dance—gently, then forcefully. Freeze. She smiles in her secret vision. Blackout.
She returns to dressing table. Lights. She brushes hair, speaks through mirror to audience.
Lest we wallow in unrelieved entertainment, we have inserted an intermission.
This intermission is a modern classic.
It has been described by critics as a mixture of lively wit, rib-tickling insight, and bawdy fun,
A mordantly raucous intermission in the true sense of the term,
Human and deeply moving.
Please live up to it.
Lights up at table. CAMILLA sits looking into mirror.
This is Camilla.
Ladies and gentlemen: Camilla.
Mesdames et messieurs . . .je vous presente . . .Camille!
It’s all in the introduction.
Words trip the heart’s tumblers and open the vaulted chasm—
Mr. and Mrs. Leonard, you have a one hundred fifteen and a half pound bouncing baby girl.
I gotta work this out.
She goes behind screen.
She appears, speaking to audience as an hysterically smiling young woman.
Ah. . .thank you all for. . .Can everybody see me?
Well we have something really special for the rest of the evening, and then we can all go home and go to bed.
The performers are. . .
Consulting a card.
It’s one person.
Well, it’s only one person, so we have just one person tonight, and I don’t know what she does but she charges money for it.
And she’s going to do something, I don’t know how long it takes, so if you get kind of tired everybody knows where the ladies’ room is?
Is she here? (Spots her in wings.) Oh there she is!
She’s all dressed up, she’s probably kind of nervous, I know I would be, so let’s be nice to her, and. . .
Oh, and her name is. . .
What is it?
Listens. To audience:
CAMILLA becomes herself. Rushes to table, sits, looking into mirror.
No. That’s not right.
That’s your own insecurity flexing its biceps.
No, it’ll be. . .
Imagine a tall, proud creature, articulate, confident, striding into the wind, drinking life to the brim:
That’s what I need.
She goes behind the screen, enters, striding down center. Holds a rose, gestures with it. Overwhelming sincerity:
Here we are.
We have gathered together for a very real experience with a very special person.
We all know that life is a process: Who we are. And how we feel. About ourselves.
Camilla Leonard is a person, like us.
A woman. A searcher. A very real human being.
She comes from Massachusetts, that should tell us something.
She brings her barrelful of sensitivities, feelings, insights about our needs and absurdities and very real human beauty.
I know of no other fellow woman who so combines the joy of living, the energy of talent, and the very real heartache of life itself.
She is like a priestess of laughter, and I know this evening will brand itself into your heart as indelible, moving, and very, very. . .
She becomes CAMILLA, chucks rose, rushes to table. Examines face in mirror.
No. Imagine a short, sniveling creature, cringing through life.
No. Don’t define. Don’t preconceive.
Take what you get.
She disappears behind screen, enters as a busy elderly lady, jut-jawed, nearsighted, loud, fumbling cards.
I’m not the regular person. I just got a phone call. The regular person died.
I would like to introduce our program for tonight, when I find it.
Eggs, Crisco, bran flakes. . .No.
They just called me, and I don’t know about you, but when the phone rings I get gas.
Tonight we’re going to change the pace, and have an evening of Fun and Entertainment.
As you may know there’s been a slipping off in our success of getting anybody to come to these things, and it’s nice to look out there tonight and see all that blur. . .
So we thought we’d go out on a limb and have Fun and Entertainment.
Last month we had child abuse, and there were six people for child abuse.
I guess they were the ones that needed it.
But (reading) I would urge each and every one of us to undertake the strongest endeavor to go out.
Checks back of card.
That’s all it says.
So here is our special guest, and let’s bring her on with a big hand and show her we’re looking forward to this exciting evening of Fun and Entertainment but first let us pray.
Prepares to pray, peeking at card, held by folded hands, with difficulty.
Dear Lord, we ask Your blessing on those of us that made it.
And let us as we enjoy this evening keep ever mindful not to get carried away with it like they did at the talent show.
But let us approach this joyful evening of Fun and Entertainment in the spirit of Calvary.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and I ought to mention Mrs. Snavely who made the dessert.
Disappears. CAMILLA appears as self. Pauses at screen: change of tone. Comes forward to table. Stands in silence. Picks up scrapbook. Speaks as a mature New England woman.
Well, this is Warren, he’s our oldest, he’s thirty-one. . .
And Catherine, the youngest. . .
And this is Camilla, our oldest daughter, she’s an actress now, so she says. . .
And of course we love them all, even the weeks they don’t phone.
Sits abruptly. Looks into mirror. As herself:
What are you going to say?
What are you going to say?
Rises, moves across to stool, left, with scrapbook. Sits. Again in character.
Well I have three.
We didn’t plan on three, the first one just hopped aboard, some night in September.
Bill and I were married a year, we hardly knew each other, we’re married July 9th, 1949, and right away next June. . .
We named Warren after my grandfather.
Oh and you put so much love into that first child, want to be the best mother on the face of the earth. . .
And then Camilla.
And Catherine, Catherine was a real fighter, she was so intense, and I sided with her a lot, I’d been the youngest.
And here were these two big lugs, beat up on her and tease her, and I sided with her, but I just wanted to be the best mother—
Camilla was born smiling. Smiled her way out of the womb. All her baby pictures have that smile.
And Camilla was the talented one, she had so much potential, Catherine always tried to catch up, I would ache so for Catherine, and Camilla was always smiling.
But when she was somber, she was very somber.
And all of them, they all had such incredible talent and. . .
Of course you learn to bring your level of expectations down.
Oh we planned for Camilla.
We hoped for a daughter.
May 2nd, 1952, this smiling baby girl.
She wasn’t ready to come. She didn’t want to be born.
They had to induce labor, and I pushed and I pushed, and she came out backwards. Like a joke.
But Catherine was the intense one, she’d grab hold of things and wring’em to death, and Camilla just seemed to float through on her talent, or humor . . .smiles. . .
And so it was a dreadful shock, and we were at fault as parents, I know:
In high school she had a nervous breakdown.
And of course I knew something was wrong, I tried to talk, and I was always the first person to say go and get help—
And I felt so guilty.
I guess if she had anger at us, or if she was messing up her life, I didn’t want to hear it.
But I was looking for it.
I opened a letter.
And I wish I hadn’t done that and I wish I hadn’t learned some things, but you’re a mother, you have to know.
Sometimes you reach a point where you just have to know.
These are your absolute own flesh and blood, they come out coughing or smiling or bassackwards, they come out, you give’em names, and you just have to know.
And here were all these kids.
They had all this potential, do this and do that, they could climb mountains. . .
And they . . .didn’t.
They just didn’t.
But you learn to hope for the best.
The least unhappiness.
For your kids.
And Camilla’s an actress now, so she says.
And they’re all gone, and I get hungry in the middle of the night, I don’t sleep, and Bill has dreams. . .
I want to have one of those paper cups with a string through it,
You can talk up and down stairs.
Stands. Pretends to speak into toy phone.
I know you’re there.
You hear me?
I love you.
Closes scrapbook, walks upstage behind screen. Fade.
Lights up. She comes to table, restless, moves into center.
I’ve been introduced. Now I should have a song.
A musical treat.
Begins to sing “Over the Rainbow,” but lips move without sound. Tries to express it, finally stops.
I don’t get good reception.
Camilla, why do you talk to yourself?
Keep asking questions and bouncing back off the question marks.
Maybe I watch too much TV.
All the faces, they start to sink in, you can’t change the channel.
Maybe I spent too much time in the line at the post office.
She has reset chairs, disappeared behind screen.
She appears as MABEL, a woman in her fifties, in a black stocking cap, heavy gray coat. Laden with packages, she comes forward, stops, looks about. At last speaks front, as if to postal clerk. Rapid, implacable tempo.
Oh there you are.
Young man I waited for you.
How long you take on your lunch hour?
You know I waited, I even let somebody cut in front to that old baldheaded guy, cause I waited for you.
You shouldn’t do that, you eat too much food you’ll start growing extra parts, that happened to my sister, she grew extra parts.
Puts down packages, sorts through stack of envelopes.
Ok I got lots of things to mail here and I want to make sure they get there.
Cause I waited, cause last time I went over there, to that old baldheaded guy, he said I had to use a different kind of tape, for the regulations.
I woulda hit him with a rock if I had a rock.
I think his pants are too tight.
That’s what’s wrong with the government, and the lines, why don’t they cut out the lines at the post office? Why don’t they cut out the post office? That’s what Reagan wants to do, if they’d let him. My letters’d get there a whole lot faster without all the post office.
Ok now you see that one. I want you to put that to one side. Over there.
Now let’s see what I got.
Ok, this is a package, I wanta mail it so it gets there.
My sister in Seattle, it’s like a crockpot but it’s made out of aluminum so it’s not worth a shit, so I’m sending it to her.
She can’t cook, see.
Now I want to put a lot of insurance on this, cause you got a lotta colored working here and it’s nothing personal but I don’t want my crockpot fulla pigsfeet.
Ok now I want stamps for all these. . .
Reacts to voice behind her.
No. I’m here now.
You go over to that other window, I waited for this young man here, he’s the regular person I have to come to and he’s real slow, but you go over there, he has much more experience over there, cause he’s baldheaded.
Back to business.
You got that package? You keep it.
Ok, now these is to relatives, I gotta lot of relatives, I keep in touch.
Only I don’t want to send these first class, cause I didn’t write anything important in there, I want to send these about fourth or fifth class, cause my relatives they’re all sonsabitches, they see first class on there and they’ll get the big head.
Now this one, this one goes first class.
This is my aunt.
I think I have an aunt, I saw her in Ladies Home Journal, she’s some big shot, it said “Mabel McClafferty,” and that’s another Mabel McClafferty.
I’m one Mabel McClafferty and she’s another Mabel McClafferty, so she must be an aunt. So I wrote her a letter to let her know I exist, and I give her a piece of my mind, cause I want to make sure that she knows that a person like me exists.
Pause. Sudden sorting again.
Ok now let’s hurry it up.
Now this goes overseas.
This is full of confetti, I picked it up at a church wedding, and I’m sending that overseas, cause I don’t know if they have it over there, and they can throw it up and they won’t hate America so much.
Cause you see’em on the news, those sonsabitches, and you know they don’t pay no taxes. The Russians don’t, and the Arabs, they don’t pay taxes, they just keep on having babies.
And those Russians over there, those sonsabitches, sit over there soaking it up, free cup of coffee.
And we build all these weapons, military weapons, and we don’t use’em.
If we’d just use what we got and go over there and kill the damn Russians, then we don’t have to pay so much, and this line would move faster.
Straights coat, recovers.
I don’t pay taxes.
I fill out the form, I go down to the IRS, I talk to’em, and I don’t have to pay.
You got that package?
(behind her) Now you wait.
My name’s not Lady, it’s Mabel.
A person like me exists.
Ok now let’s put a little lick’em on these.
Cause these Porta Ricans come here, they got germs all over, they fiddle on the counter, I seen’em. You’re sniffling your nose, that’s germs, the food you eat, just junk, just junk. I’m gonna start wearing gloves, cause it’s the pornography.
It is. It leaks out the pores. Pornography.
They’re all getting sick round the nuclear plants, it’s the college kids run those things, and that’s where they learn it.
Pornography all over the place, I don’t even use the zipcode directory any more, you never know what you’re gonna find in there.
I got a sister in Seattle, she says it’s awful out there, they got a law that makes it ok to do anything. Whatever you want to do you can do.
And they did away with the Bible, cause the Bible says pornography is wrong, but the law says it’s legal, so the Bible is against the law.
I like to read the Bible. I read the clean parts.
That other stuff, the Philistines started that, they were like the Communists, kind of smarty-mouth, and I can’t stand that, so I’m all for the Jews.
I mean the ancient ones.
These new ones, I had one come in my apartment with a rotorooter, and it didn’t do no good, cause what does a Jew know about a rotorooter?
Course the government’s all Jews. There’s one on the city council, “Abe Goldstein,” he don’t say he’s a Jew but it’s a known fact.
But I voted for him, cause he’s crooked, so he’ll keep an eye on the others, cause it’s your own people do you dirt. That’s in the Bible, and you throw out the Bible you don’t know where you are, and I know where I am.
I’m here. I’m in line.
Leans against counter, defocussed.
Cause it’s one thing after the other.
My husband McClafferty, he was ok except for the drinking, but then he got the pornography, he got hit by a bus.
I give him letters to mail and he never got to the post office, he got hit by a bus, and I had to pick up the pieces, and there’s a lot of people would like me out of the way, it’s a fact.
That’s what I got against all the foreigners, the blacks and the Jews, the Russians and all the college kids, see, you gotta watch’em, you gotta watch’em so close, and while you’re watching’em, your own people do you dirt.
Oh yeh, my cousin in Topeka, she wrote my sister “Well Mabel’s gumming up the works.” You’re damn right. If the works are gumming me, I’m gonna gum the works.
Gestures behind her. Then back to front, defocussed.
Cause it’s one thing after the other.
My neighbor down the hall, she tries to give me a cat. A damn cat. There’s too many animals in the world. My niece in Chattanooga, she’s got five cats and she’s divorced.
But I got my pension check, and I sit down, and I write a letter, and I come here, and I mail the damn letter.
I’m not gonna get shuffled on over out of the way.
All these people, with their little letters, and their little crockpots, and their damn cats, they can wait.
Cause I’m here. I’m in line.
Looks at clerk. Touches large package.
Now we’re ready.
Do that one.
You weigh that, we’re ready for that.
You see the address on there? You see where that goes?
That goes to the President.
I want that to go as fast as it can, come there in a real hurry, I even got the zipcode there, so it zips, I put some extra zipcodes there, so it zips right up to the President.
You never guess what it is. I’ll never tell. Oh he’ll enjoy it, he might give me a medal or send me to somebody’s wedding, I like weddings, I like the confetti.
It’s not a cat.
Oh you’re young. You don’t know how to get rid of me.
I tell you it’s not easy.
You don’t know what the world’s like.
I’ll tell you.
All the continents are shifting.
Everything’s moving, Seattle’s getting farther off, I even walk to the post office my feet are killing me.
The highways are stretching out thinner.
All the continents are shifting. Can’t find your way home.
They stand here in line, and they can’t bear to look at all the pot bellies and the squinty faces and the big fat behinds, they can’t stand it, so they stick their nose in the pornography and get hit by a bus.
Continents shuffling around like a deck of cards, and the black cards, they’re the coloreds, and the reds, they’re the Russians, you don’t know where you fit in, you just got a number, they call out your number, they don’t say Mabel McClafferty, they just say Next.
But you’re never Next.
You’re never Next.
Hand on box.
So this is the last. This goes to the President. Go right to the top. He gets this, it’s gonna make a difference, you’ll notice it in the weather.
And I didn’t put McClafferty on there, I put Jensen, my name’s Jensen, before I got married, my maiden name’s Jensen.
I forgot about that.
Everybody needs a teddy bear.
So you take care a that.
I gotta get back to my room, cause I left the faucet on.
Move on up here, don’t go to that old fart, this young man’s ok, he’s slow but that’s the germs.
And I’ll get back next week, you better be here, I got an appointment now, cause I exist, and next week I’ll still exist, if they don’t raise the rates, and the week after that, right here in line, it’s in the Bible, Mabel McClafferty, that’s a Biblical name, week after that, byebye. . .
She waves. Lights fade.
Lights up. CAMILLA reappears other side of screen.
One last chance.
I go on a long, long journey, and after that
She rearranges chairs into a square, backs facing, about four feet apart. Sits.
So I’m sitting at the Burger King.
Eating something large . . .and green . . .and slithery.
In the next booth there’s this woman with a little girl about six.
Both of’em, blonde hair, big ears, funny teeth.
They look so neat together.
I always thought if I had a daughter, this funny little thing that looks like you, and twists up her face, and runs out into traffic—
I’d be scared to death.
Looks across table. Starts pretending, talking to a child.
This is a Whopper.
A big Whopper.
You’ve got a Junior Whopper.
No. No you can’t have any more French fries.
We have to go shopping. We have to spend lots of money for junk.
No we can’t go to the carnival. We don’t have time.
Anyway, carnivals are tacky. You come back with trash and a bellyache. Just like shopping.
Throw away the garbage.
Save the ketchup pack. Prepare for Armageddon.
Sit in our bomb shelter and suck our ketchup pack.
Now go over and throw this stuff away.
Push the lid.
Caught in the fantasy.
Don’t stick your head in.
Get back, you’ll fall in!
Tries to blot out fantasy.
No, this is pretend. I don’t have a daughter.
Back into fantasy.
My God, she’s fallen in! Honey! It’s deep!
Climbing over the chair, suspended between two.
I’m coming. I’m stuck.
She falls in slow motion down chute. Sees falling hamburger, takes a bite, reacts. At last, she lands in trash. Looks into distance, front.
There she is. Honey!
The carnival. She’s going into the carnival.
Honey, no, we’re not going there.
There’s germs, we don’t have time for a major disease.
Runs forward, in slow motion.
Where is she?
All these people. . .Excuse me. . .Please. . .
Really, I don’t have a daughter. . .
Running through crowd.
Damn traffic. . .All the lights. . .Headlights. . .
There she is.
Her feet are glued down in cotton candy and gum. She pulls to free herself, gets hands stuck.
All over the ground. Sticky sweet.
She’s going into the Midway. No!
Honey, don’t listen to’em. Don’t believe a word they tell you.
You can’t win! Remember, you can’t win!
Rushes forward into Midway. Gesture of unsticking hands transforms into gestures of carnival barker: changes characters back and forth.
HEY OVER THERE PLAY THE GAME HAVE SOME FUN AND YOU MAY BE OUR LUCKY WINNER—
No, not me, I never win, I never play the game—
OVER HERE HEY RUN OVER HERE ONE BALL IN THE MIDDLE EVERYONE TO PLAY EVERYONE TO WIN HEY RUN OVER HERE ONE BALL IN THE MIDDLE EVERYONE—
But not me, I was lousy at sports, they always chose me last—
OVER HERE NOW ONE OF YOU WIN ONE BALL IN THE MIDDLE ONE OF YOU WIN EVERYBODY TO PLAY EVERYBODY TO WIN—
She throws a ball. Explosion. She is stunned, then ecstatic.
I’ll take the dog.
No, the Smurf.
No, the elephant!
She wraps arms around enormous imaginary stuffed doll.
What do I do with this?
I don’t want to get tied down.
God, how do you get yourself out of this . . .relationship?
Lets it fall. Spots child.
There you are! I was so worried! Don’t you ever do that again!
Now I got you a present, so let’s go.
It’s heavy. . .
Hey, how’d you pick that up?
Watches it rise.
It’s a balloon! She’s floating away—
My God! Let go! No don’t let go! Call the Air Force!
She’s floating up to the Super Looper!
To ticket booth.
Excuse me, I have to go through here, because my daughter—
I don’t have a daughter, but she’s stuck up there and she’s going to die and she’s not even alive.
No I don’t want to go on the ride. Where does it go?
With hand, traces what she hears: curves, bends, loops.
There’s gotta be a shorter way.
Reverses chairs. Strapped into seat. Extreme turns, dives, ascents. Covers eyes, starts to scream. Freeze. Silence. Changed tone.
Is that the end of the ride?
Oh there you are. I was so worried. I was worried sick.
I. . .I am sick.
I need a bathroom.
Helpless, she is led by child.
Honey, see if you see a bathroom.
Take care of your mommy.
No, don’t pull on me.
Wait. I see it.
The exit. The Burger King. The light at the end of the sewer.
Starts to run in place.
Oh honey, come on, it’s gonna be so nice to get back to the—
No, not the freaks.
They don’t have freakshows now.
Gesture transforms into barker.
RIGHT THIS WAY LADIES AND GENTLEMEN YOU WILL SEE THE LAST AND LATEST, BEST AND GREATEST OF ALL THE WORLD’S WONDERS—
Don’t make me go in there—
FEARSOME FEMALE FORMS, PEERLESS PRODIGIES OF PHYSICAL PHENOMENA, SEE’EM YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE’EM, THE CONFIRMATION OF DARWIN’S THEORY—
I don’t belong here, I’m just looking for—
Forced down into chair, she speaks as freak: weak, without will.
HERE SHE IS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE SPINELESS WONDER SHE’S A REAL PIECE OF JELLY NO SHAPE NO JOINTS HELD TOGETHER BY SHEER WILL POWER JUST HUMAN SILLY PUTTY SEE IT BELIEVE IT—
Forced into chair, she speaks as monstrous fat lady.
HERE SHE IS THE HIPPO GIRL THE WORLD’S LARGEST AND BEST AMUSEMENT INSTITUTION SO BIG IT TAKES A BOXCAR TO LUG HER AND TWO MEN TO HUG HER ONE SPASM STARTS AN EARTHQUAKE RIGHT THIS WAY—
Forced into chair, she speaks as tiny, birdlike creature.
HERE SHE IS THE INDUSTRIOUS FLEA A PERFECT LITTLE LADY THE WEIGHT OF A CHICKEN NO ARMS OR LEGS SHE CAN’T DO A THING BUT THAT DOESN’T STOP HER SO COME AND WATCH HER WADDLE—
Forced into chair, she speaks as brooding anthropoid.
HERE SHE IS THE STINKER OF BORNEO THE LARGEST AND FIERCEST WOMAN CAPTURED BY CIVILIZED MAN WITH RARE ZOOLOGICAL FEATURES, SEE HER BELIEVE HER, KISS HER DISMISS HER, WED HER AND BED HER, RIGHT THIS WAY—
Into frenzy, throws chairs, rushes forward. Freeze.
I’m alone. I’m on exhibit.
I’ll do my own damned introduction then.
I’m one of a kind.
I scatter all over the place.
I’m a planned pregnancy.
And I’m still being born, I haven’t exhausted all the possibilities.
I could bill myself as the Labor Pain.
Or the Human Question Mark:
The question keeps changing, but the squiggle stays the same.
I am the original one-woman freakshow.
I’m part of the carnival.
I’ll play the games and go on the rides and chase my little fantasies through cotton candy and—
Mist, carnival lights, it’s beautiful under water.
The people, they’re not alone, they’re all rubbing elbows, funny hats, red shoes, big noses, and they glitter, glitter. . .
It’s raining love, the music, there’s a band playing in our hearts, our hearts are in tune, the marching band is waltzing, one two three, one two three, waltzing into the—
They’re turning out the lights.
We haven’t been on the other rides. We haven’t played all the games.
They flipped out the ferris wheel!
It can’t be closing time. I want to get scared again.
Hey, don’t sweep up the trash, it’s part of the carnival.
These workmen in orange overalls, big vacuum cleaners, where’d they come from?
Hey, don’t shut up the booths, I want to get gypped again.
I want to be part of the. . .
All the. . .
Lights are out.
Silence. She looks around, then down at imaginary child.
Button your coat.
Come on, it’s raining.
Takes child’s hand, starts to go. Pulled back.
We’ll come back tomorrow.
She reaches down to touch child’s hand. Touches her own. One hand turns around, offers to shake hands. She shakes hands. Turns upstage. Goes off hand in hand with herself. Lights fade.