GO FIGURE (A POLITICAL PANTOMIME BY JRS)
The following play is actually without voice, a pantomime whose impact is wholly in the hands of the actors and actresses: their command of gesture, attention to detail and sense of timing. This play is, therefore, less an act of writing than a set of guidelines and directions made on behalf of a visualized performance. This certainly is not a subtle piece: it is more in the nature of "street theater" and "agitprop"; however, it does seek to expose the psychological roots of manipulability as it is used to fuel wars that are pet projects of the powerful, rather than enterprises of necessity for the national defense. Sometimes, a treatment that is absurd and blatant is what is needed to flush the obvious out of concealment. This may be especially true in 2008.
The Helper (of the Boss)
The Woman (Hired by the Boss)
The Turban Man
The Latin American Demagogue
[An additional stage-hand will also be required]
Minimal: Include: Appropriate attire. Table, chair, hammer, a whip, a pail of water, a whistle or horn, an envelope, pennies, a pre-made cord or ribbon to which a penny can be attached in the manner of a medal, a cross (crucifix) that is large enough for the audience to distinguish, a short cane, a wheelchair, a sofa or recliner chair, a pole or stick or some long implement (could also be a clothes hanger) for reaching under the chair, rings, wallets, dollar bills, a feather duster, and a big sign that says "Go Figure."
A worker sits at a table with a hammer; he is at work in a factory, beating down on imaginary products with the hammer. Two men in suits and ties watch him. One is his boss and the other is the bossí helper. The helper watches from a slight distance.
The worker is not doing his work fast enough. The boss comes over to him and points to the imaginary work he is doing, obviously scolding him. The worker begins to hammer with more rapidity. The boss has obviously asked him to increase the speed of his work.
After a while, the boss returns and complains again. The worker picks up the pace again.
When the boss comes back yet again to urge him to pick up the pace, the worker gestures and makes faces that indicate he canít go any faster. The boss picks up a whip, comes back behind the worker, and begins to whip him. The worker gets up, angry, and the boss points that he must continue working.
The worker sits down and begins to hammer faster. The boss goes back to whipping him. Again the worker gets up, protesting, the boss points towards "the door", obviously indicating that he can leave if he doesnít like it.
Disgruntled, the worker sits down again. The boss continues whipping him, and the worker is hammering as fast as he can.
The helper comes around, stands in front of the worker, and spits in his face, several times. The worker is stunned, and outraged, but is by now accustomed to the fact that he must keep on hammering at full speed, as he is also being whipped from behind any time he slows down or stops.
The helper goes and gets a bucket of water (the water may be real or imaginary), which he pours over the workerís head. The worker is furious and upset, but as the whipping continues, he must keep on working at full speed.
Finally, there is a whistle or horn signaling the end of the work day. The exhausted worker gets up. He goes over to the boss, who now takes an envelope in his hand. It is pay time.
The boss takes a penny out of the envelope, which he gives to the worker.
The worker looks at it, stunned, outraged. He seems to complain. The boss obviously tells him off, and again points to the door.
As the worker turns to leave, the boss kicks him in the rear.
The worker turns around to complain, but the boss and helper protest their innocence. After the workerís back is turned again, as he starts to leave, they kick him once again. He turns around, and again they protest their innocence. He leaves. They laugh and give each other a high-five.
Out on the street, the worker looks with hatred at his penny, then throws it away in disgust. It goes under a piece of furniture that is there, a sofa or substantial chair.
After a short time, the worker regrets what he has done. He canít afford to part with his penny. So he gets down on his hands and knees and tries to reach under the piece of furniture to retrieve his penny, but canít.
He gets up, and tries to push the piece of furniture. It wonít budge. He tries pulling it, and kicking it, and running and jumping into it to try to move it so he can get to the penny that is under it.
Finally, he finds a long pole or stick that is lying around (or a clothes hanger which he can open up and elongate), and uses it to retrieve the penny.
He stands up, looks at the penny, puts it in his pocket, and dusts himself off.
Infuriated by all he has gone through, he takes the penny out of his pocket and almost throws it away again, then restrains himself, and puts it back in his pocket.
Then, after a while, he checks his pocket to make sure itís still there.
He is ambling around, pacing back and forth, upset and disgusted, you can see his wrath and sense of impotence and rage.
A man with a turban appears walking down the street, just hanging out.
The boss and helper look at each other and size the newcomer up, in the manner of muggers casing a robbery victim. They circle the turban man as though they might attack him, and a couple of times lift up their fists as though to strike him, or try to get a hand into his pocket to pick his pocket, but each time the man looks up, and they have to dissimulate; they are afraid to attack him or rob him in a face-to-face way. (They could also open up a cord when they are behind him, as if to strangle him. But each time they come close to mugging him or stealing from him, he becomes alert or changes his position, so that they canít.)
Finally, the boss and helper withdraw from the turban man, consult, then look over at the enraged worker. They have an idea.
They see a lady pass by on the street, and give her a dollar, tell her some things, then send her on to the worker.
The woman puts on a big show, sobbing, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief, pulling her hair, and pointing repeatedly to the turban man as though he has done something awful to her.
The worker listens with empathy and attaches his fury to the cause of the woman who was wronged.
The helper comes over with a cross. He points to the turban man, then he throws the cross to the ground and stomps on it, pointing again to the turban man, apparently showing the worker what the turban man has done.
The woman falls to her knees and continues to lament.
In a tremendous rage, the worker charges the turban man and jumps him. A tremendous fight ensues, with the boss, the helper and the woman all watching as the worker and turban man wrestle, and punch each other in a fierce fight.
Finally, the turban man is unconscious on the ground. The worker gets up, battered, and limping, disoriented from the struggle.
While he is in a daze, the boss and helper go over to the unconscious turban man and rifle through his pockets. They come up with a wallet and count the money with delight. They also take two rings from his fingers. (They can have trouble getting off one of the rings, to further emphasize the way they covet his possessions.)
A stage-hand drags the turban man off stage, or out of the way, as it may be.
The helper starts to give a dollar to the worker who is still out of it, but the boss restrains him, and gives him a penny to give to the worker instead.
The helper attracts the workerís attention by tapping his shoulder, then, after thanking him, drops the penny into his hand.
Seeing the penny, the worker snaps out of his daze, he looks up upset.
The boss indicates "Wait a minute", takes the penny back, and attaches it to a cord or ribbon, then hangs it over the workerís neck in the manner of a medal.
The boss, the woman, and the helper all clap, and the worker smiles.
The boss points back towards the workplace. The worker starts to go, but can hardly walk. He turns around, and points to his leg.
The boss shrugs.
Again the worker seems upset, pointing to his leg.
The boss indicates that the helper should take care of the problem. The helper goes for a second and comes back with a cane, which he offers to the worker with a smile.
But the cane is very small. The worker must lean over in an absurd way to use it.
He looks over at the boss and helper, but they look back at him and indicate that he should go back to work.
He hobbles back to work in an exaggerated and absurd way, as he tries to use the short cane.
He sits down and begins to work again. The boss gets behind him again, and begins to whip him.
Stunned, the worker turns around and shows his medal.
The boss points that he should turn around and continue working. When he does, the whipping resumes.
Again, the worker protests, pointing to his medal.
The boss points for him to work again, and once more the whipping starts.
Now a man in a camouflage suit and boots appears, obviously some kind of Latin American populist or revolutionary type. He puts a soapbox down, stands on it, and begins to deliver some kind of oratory, it is clear, as he seems to speak, to look over an imaginary crowd, and to gesticulate dramatically with his arms. He takes out a wallet, and shows that it is empty, then turns his pockets inside out, then points incriminatingly at the boss and the helper. He mimics their whipping of the worker, his hammering, and their whipping. Again he shows the empty wallet. He is obviously giving a speech about their exploitation and greed.
The boss and helper seem concerned. Finally, they call the woman over again, give her another dollar, and whisper into her ear. She goes to wait outside the exit of the factory, preening herself as she waits for the worker to emerge.
The boss pushes a button, and the end-of-work whistle or horn sounds again.
This time, the boss gives the worker two pennies (he gives the worker one, and as the worker is about to leave, he taps him on the shoulder, and gives him one more). The workerís face brightens. They shake hands.
Outside the factory, the woman points to the man on the soapbox, and again goes through all of the hysteria she did the last time. She slaps herself, and points to the man, blaming him for having struck her; chokes herself, and does the same; then throws herself on her back on the floor and spread her legs, indicating that the man had jumped on top of her. She goes through the motions of scratching his eyes and trying to defend herself, as she reenacts the imaginary episode of the past.
The worker is furious, and urged on by the woman, the boss and the helper, starts to hobble towards the demagogue, then points to his leg, upset because he knows he does not have his full ability to fight.
The boss and helper come to him, bringing him a shiny new wheelchair. They help him get into it, then urge him on, against the demagogue.
The worker drives his wheel chair straight for the soapbox, hits into it, and causes the demagogue to fall to the ground. He then tries to run the demagogue over, and rolls in his wheelchair after him, chasing him around the stage, and then finally off the stage.
The boss and helper and woman all cheer him as he returns, triumphant.
From behind, the helper takes off the workerís penny medal as the others continue to distract him with praise.
The helper sneakily gives the medal to the boss behind his back, who then presents it to the worker as a new medal.
Again, the worker beams, as they cheer him.
The boss points once more to the factory. The worker turns in the wheel chair to go back to work, but the boss and helper obviously call to him (and gesture) "Wait."
They come up to him, and indicate that he should leave the wheelchair. It is too valuable to let him remain with it. They give him back his short cane, instead, and he hobbles back to work.
After he gets out of the wheelchair, the helper dusts it off as though the workerís very presence had contaminated it.
The worker sits down at the table and begins to hammer away.
The boss and helper look at each other, and shake hands. A job well done.
Then the boss, noting the worker isnít working at the breakneck speed he has designated for him, goes back to whipping the worker.
An Angel walks across the stage with a big sign that says "Go Figure." He or she stops and shakes his or her head, then departs.
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