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Welcome to My Hell, an Apache Dance

Welcome to My Hell by Richard Morell (Frostwolf T’Firerose)

The action takes place on a bare stage.  At rise,
NORROWS comes in, sees the audience, grabs a
chair, turns it around, and sits so he leans over
the chair and speaks to the audience as if telling
a ribald joke.

NORROWS

OK, this again.  Hi again.  OK, I’m back for more, so crucify me.  Let me just say this:  Inside my heart are many rooms.  It is a mansion with stories just waiting to emerge.  Yet quite a few of those rooms have been locked and I seem to not have the keys.  Misplaced or taken away from me?  I can’t be sure.  Sheesh–how Irina from Three Sisters of me.  Oh, how I long to find out what is in these rooms of this heart mansion.  But I get sidetracked.  I’ve gotten off my path when I have sought to be famous for the contents of those rooms I’ve already ransacked and rearranged. This mansion doesn’t work like that.  It’s not mine to seek after fame.  Guh.  And the fragile stories inside the rooms would rather not be exposed to such traumas.  I can’t say as I blame them.  So they have removed the keys from my greedy access where I can’t seem to locate them.  Alas, I carry a notebook around with me, and I wonder aloud whether I just do it out of habit, whether I should just give it up for good.  Say to the world, “I am no longer a writer!”  There is nothing more troublesome and frustrating than to show up to the blank lined pages in my 5-subject notebook, and shrug my shoulders at it.  “What really do I have to say? Nothing!”  Well, that’s a lie, but the ideas still aren’t coming.  The characters and their stories stay out of reach.  And I feel.

Hollow.

(He sighs 3 times, each time wishing to say
something, getting frutrated and then letting
out the sighing breath.)

I swear if I could do something else rather than write, I would.  But unfortunately for me, I can’t see anything else for me but this damn cross to bear.  Though I wouldn’t mind being a sex worker, a priest of the naked and the kinky.  Oh, Dionysus make it so!  You know, we really AREN’T meant for clothes.  Well, OK.  Maybe the majority of Americans ARE meant for clothes given our propensity for Big Macs, Doritos, Bud and Twinkies.  (The cake, not the kind of gay men that I like.)  But most real folks ought to be able to walk around letting their appendages get all the much-needed air to their delighted content.

Like that will ever happen.

So anyway, here I am again, showing up to the page, kind of scared actually.  Either that I’ll just stare at it yet again. Or worse, that some precious idea will stick out its little finger and I’ll pounce on it and try to pull out the little bugger and thereby bollix the entire operation.  All in an effort to pursue that twisty path of “Oh, wouldn’t this be great on Broadway!”  Ha.  Might as well say, “I need a good piece of dinner theater, maybe this will make me some bucks.”

You know, I frequently tell myself the reason I’m not writing is because the nature of reality is changing at such a rapid rate, and maybe we’re becoming generally post-literate.  And really, given this notion does it make sense for anyone who wants to be famous to seek it through playwriting?  Puh-leez!  It’s like the joke about the Polish actress who goes to Hollywood to sleep her way to the top.  So what does she do?

Sleeps with the Screenwriter.

Damn, I hate this, I think I’m whining.  Am I whining?  I’m whining aren’t I?  If I ahve to ask, I probably am.  But.  I’m just frustrated.  Here I am, sitting at this piece of paper, and I’m making you all up.  We may be here at ZuZu’s Cafe on the last Saturday night in January, but I’ve conjured you all here to give witness to this mini Gethsemane.  As I write these words, I “see” an audience to say them to. 

I yearn to tell my story, its just … I’m not sure it’s all that interesting.  How many frustrated writers do you know?  Hm, Norrows, let me see.  Oh, maybe ALL of them?  It is such a challenge to be honest.  You know, I do that, get close to a real feeling, then get nervous, zing off into some intellectualization.  I am SO tempted to bring out one of my obsessions right now, but.  No.

I need.  To sit here.  And feel.  Even if it.

Kills me.

Goddammit.

Even if it kills the moment.

Oh, and for the record, it probably goes without saying that I don’t trust you.  I trust audiences least of all.  Well, almost.  I actually trust play reading committees least of all.  But that’s a whole other coffin to open up and stake the varmints inside of.

Let me–this is good, this is drama–let me get passive-aggressive for just a minute.  You know, John Guare, who wrote Six Degrees of Separation, that guy?  His dream is to make an audience laugh so hard, that someone keels over dead.  You shouldn’t trust me either, see.  It’s too bad, really.  We have this sad adversarial–one might say “sadversarial” relationship.  The self-torturing writer who aches to communicate something momentous, something that will blow your minds.  And here you are, waiting for me to produce the thing that will blow your minds, communicate something momentous.  You’re asking “Who is this man, and what does he have to offer?  What can he teach me?  Oh, teacher, teacher, teach me, I want to be taught.”

You want to be spanked, let’s be honest!

Oh, and you want to identify with the characters I might put onstage, that is if I can ever find one as I raid that mansion of my heart for your raping and pillaging eyes and ears.  I mean, aren’t we all imperialists of a sort?  Or if I was Tracy Letts or David Mamet, then you would want to feel smug that you have it better than the characters there enacted.  But I show up with pockets empty of characters and daring you to identify with

get ready for it

the writer

Daring you not to stretch your arms and sigh.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’m watching someone bomb right in front of my eyes.”  Not that I’m telling you what to think.  I mean, you’re currently figments of my imagination–I have no idea what would happen if real, live people should hear these words. 

Actually, in the various mansions of my heart, I’m stuck outside of a major hallway, and it’s being blocked by this blob of a character.  It’s Godzilla, Aliens, and Jason-Freddy Krueger-Michael Meyers all rolled into one, and its name is THE AUDIENCE.  It looms large in my mind.  The ultimate satan.  In the Hebraic sense of the word.  Sa-tan, emphasis on the second syllable, means “adversary.”  That’s all.  The Prosecuting Satan in a courtroom goes up against the defending Satan.  And both are being evaluated by the impartial Satan-Judge.  Or maybe Satan-Judge is partial to one Satan or the other.  Whatever.  We become Satan when we divide people into good guys and bad guys.  Like right now.  Which came first, the Audience Satan or the Writer Satan?  I tend to think of us both hatching from an egg together, like Castor and Pollux.  So really, the Satans on our side are the “good guys” in the white hats, and the others … well, they’re the bad Satans.  Satans have both white hats and black hats.  And in the courtroom as on the stage these days, it all just comes down to performance and persuasion, of the one evil over the other.  Though history is written by the more vicious thugs.  We are all King Claudius in this Denmark kingdom of vampires. 

And here we are.  You and I both sa-tan to one another.  Chasing each other in an endless game of that insipid wonderful “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”  Can’t you see I only want the best for you? 

Sucker!

OK, I take that back.  We’re both pharisees, but we’re both Jesus too.  I am another yourself.  I do the same thing, I’m a scary audience member with an evil laugh.  I’m not just the president of the Hair Club for Audiences, I’m also the CEO.

Isn’t this just uncomfortable!  I’m saying I’m you?  Ew!!!  I’m sure the feeling is mutual.  Karen Walker is Grace Adler?  Will is Jack?  Scary scary scary.  Thought it’s just as awful from your point of view.  That means… oh my God, you’re me!!  You’re all frustrated writers too. 

Oh, let’s start a program.  FWA, Frustrated Writers Anonymous.  We admitted we were powerless over blank pages and our lives had become unmanageable.

Hey, this is only 5 bucks.  Get what you pay for right?

(NORROWS takes some time and really takes in
individuals in the audience.  To one audience member:)

Each one of you.  Is precious.

(To another:)

Each one of you is a child of the universe.

(To another:)

The divine child in me recognizes the divine child in you.  Collectively, you all become this sea, and this chasm between the stage and the gallery gets wider.  I’d much rather this be like the beach, where you wash up here and take some of what’s up here with you.

Take some of me with you.  Though you’re really just taking another aspect of yourself.

This is hard! I have a responsibility to you, but I’m afraid of you.  I quake in my boots.  You don’t know how it can hurt to be here, on this side of things.  In spite of the bombs, the failures, I keep coming back for me.   Oh, Hekate, goddess of the crossroads, please guide me through these lost causes.  This is a perilous journey I take to be a writer.  It’s been years since I’ve sent things out–just can’t take the rejection.

Beat me whip me, boo at my work.  Call me “Margaret.”  Make me buy Citigroup stock!

 All I’ve wanted to do is please you on some level.  Yes, I hold you to higher standards than your average Wendy Wasserstein.  Oh wait!  That’s redundant!

It’s not like I can do a focus group, you know.  That’s not going to get the mansion to open any of its rooms to me.  Maybe honesty will.  How daring is that?  To really get honest, not attack you, not to berate myself, but just say, hey, I write, and I feel vulnerable.

I hate to disagree with Christopher Durang, but he said that “good therapy makes bad theater.”  98% of the time, that probably is true.  Maybe even now.  I have to have the courage to bore you.  Shrug shoulders, smile wanly.  There’s a 2% though that does work and in spite of the bias they do exist, like Adrienne Kennedy’s The Dramatic Circle.  Is it a surprise that most of you haven’t heard of that one?  I hope some of you remember, if for no other reason than her name is pronounced “Add-ree-enne” instead of like the Talia Shire character in Rocky.  No Adrian!  Add-ree-enne!

And to tell you about this bias is to try and make fish aware of water.  Still I’ve got to try, just as I have to try and speak about the collapses all around us being good things, though scary.  Moments of surrender and all.  Jump and the net will appear. 

Hopefully.

There’s no such thing as a good guy or a bad guy.  Even World War II was just one kind of satan versus on another.  We jsut can’t see it because we need our own satans ourselves.  It’s been a way to structure our reality.  News flash, it doesn’t work folks.  This is our best thinking?  Hey look where it’s getting us.  The Allied Satans needed to have an Axis of Satans, and so one was created over time and effort, and then there was a big ol’ conflagration, and the Allied Satans won, and got to write the history books, and sure, they could spotlight the bad stuff the Axis Satans did, but we elide our own, and intimidate anyone who challenges it.  Because we Allied Satans need to cheer out loud rah-rah that  we vanquished the Axis Satans!  Then we celebrate for a while, then we look to satanize someone else.  Like Arab Satans or Feminist Satans or Gay and Lesbian Satans maybe even Satan Francis of Assisi.  But you know what?  Here ya go.

(He goes and sits in the audience.)

I’m a part of you now.  Hi, I’m your neighbor, the daringly bad playwright?  Nice to meet you.  Just goes to show, you never know if they’re John Guare of John Gacy, right?  Oh my God!  Are you Ted Bundy!?  Let me get back on stage. 

(He goes back onstage.)

Well.  Now that I’ve showcased my neuroses, what more is there to do?  Gotta sew this up.

(Ponders possible endings, then:)

Or not.  Goodnight Gracie.  Gacy.  As the case may be.

END OF PLAY

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