Synopsis: GENE, a stage actor works on her one-woman show during the quarantine in the hope that one day soon she will return to the stage.
At rise: Gene sits rigidly by a table with a lit candle, she focuses on the candle for a beat, raises her hand slowly and runs it over the flame.
(Dramatically) “Pain vs. pleasure! That is the jest. For I picked one, and the other one followed…” (deflates, put hand on face) WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!?? (flops to the side, shoulders quiver with emotion) How many times do I have to do this. I don’t believe in this anymore!!! Pain, pleasure, what do they matter! (blows out the candle, looks at the dissipating smoke) People’s never going to see this. The magic is gone. They will be too numb. What does theater matter if no one is there to teach the kids, or take care of the elderly? So many people have died. In Italy, my beautiful Italy. (A beat.) I can still smell the sea air, the baked goods, the wine, the people. I can see so many kind and content faces, old and young. And just like that, Covid came, and …. (breaths, looks away) What does this all mean?! Why do good people have to suffer like this? (covers face with both hands) I wish I could do something. But I’m here, just, chasing my dream, with Covid chasing me.
(Looks into the distance, recalling) “Do you know how we got here?” Our artistic director used to ask us, and I will never forget my answer, “because we are afraid, afraid of ourselves, afraid of losing ourselves, afraid of knowing ourselves, afraid of experiencing life, afraid of that, that, power that governs us. Our collective humanity.” Well, that’s what I would have said if he’d asked me, but what he said was, “money, money defines us, money builds us up, money tears us down, and we are paying for it.” Where is he now? Is he safe? We all got his meaning. The small local theater was struggling. No one came to see us, because no one could understand what his plays were about. So we lost the theater, and I haven’t been keeping in touch with the group, oh God, please be safe (say a little prayer).
I came to the US following my calling, it’s not about the money, never about the money. I wanted to learn, I wanted to teach. And I did learn, (nods) about the biz, and let me tell you, you would want to see my show, “Pain vs. Pleasure”, it has everything! There are layers of meanings, non-meanings, thoughtless tragedies, and I will be cordial, NO, I will be sexy and innocent, I will be wise and warm, if you get me just right, I will be cold and calculating.
I want it. (Hand reaches) the POWER! (Shakes head) the power to manipulate, the power to explain, the power to open those eyes and finally see. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? See? It’s not about the money! It’s never about money. (Wavers) But I need money now, how do I live if I don’t perform? Don’t they know we live to perform? Where are we if we are not on the stage? Where can I wash my pain and share my pleasure?
(Straightens back, composes self, calmly relits the candle) “Pain vs. pleasure! That is the jest. For I picked one, the other one followed. There can be no question as to what comes next, it’s not for me to decide, but for you to experience.” Yes. The show must go on because people need it to go on. We don’t do it to have money, or fame. We do it to save our souls, and yours, too. Actors are essential workers, because they are the stitches that hold the communities together. They are the ones that invite people in and share their stories. And they don’t have to be professional actors, they can be educators, lawyers, or the garbage person, as long as they care, as long as they are willing to share. (Signs, a beat) I’m privileged to be an actor, in this time, in this place, and I will gladly do my part. I will teach, I will perform, I will do whatever I need to do, go wherever I need to go. It is my show. (Blows out the candle).