Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Elizabeth Wray | FORECAST: A Parable

A Parable

by Elizabeth Wray

Forecast was first presented at the Intersection Theatre in November 1982, with the following cast:

Woman ….. Priscilla Cohen
Man ….. Ellery Edwards

Director: Elizabeth Wray

Place & Time Peru, 2050

Characters POTATO FARMER – small, thin, dark woman, around 30.
ASTRONAUT – tall, athletic, blond man, around 35.

1. Prolog
2. Work
3. Remembering/Imagining
4. Watching. Sleeping
5. Storytelling
6. Building a Fire
7. Nesting
8. Not Knowing
9. Nightsoil
10. Changing Weather


Woman plants potatoes. She hears something, puts her ear to the ground. Man enters. Woman is on guard.

MAN: I'm from the United States. My capsule crashed. . . Do you speak English? My capsule crashed [makes sound of crash] over there. I'm hungry.[Indicates hunger] Food. . potatoes....
He reaches toward potatoes on the ground. She groans and knocks him down, pulling a knife on him. He retreats, scrambling out of the way. They watch each other carefully. Neither moves. He points to the sky.

Rain [Makes sound and gestures of approaching thunder storm]. . .Storm.

He looks at the sky and remains looking, transfixed. Finally she returns to her planting, cautiously. She stops working, looks to the sky, looks at the man. She throws him a potato, which he starts to devour.

WOMAN: Hey! [Man looks up] When is the rain? [He looks at her amazed that she speaks his language.]


WOMAN: Forecast. C'mon. Forecast, goddamnit.
MAN: I'm waiting for my french fries.
WOMAN: I can't plant until I know the forecast.
MAN: Country style french fries. And leave the skins on.
WOMAN: There's not much food left.
No response. She throws him a potato.
MAN: Double order.
She throws him another potato.
MAN: Temporary deterioration. Strong breezes ahead.
WOMAN: Yeah? Hmmmmmmm. Maybe I should wait.
MAN: Large branches in motion. Whistling in telegraph wires.
WOMAN: There aren't any branches.
MAN: It spices up the forecast.
WOMAN: There aren't any branches because there aren't any trees. Face it.

She returns to planting.

MAN: Umbrellas used with difficulty.
WOMAN: Umbrellas! Ha!
MAN: Umbrellas!!!!!
WOMAN: Ha!!!!!
MAN: [undertone] Umbrellas.


She squats with a stick, drawing a map in the dirt.

MAN: Got things all figured out?

She groans at him.

MAN: You know what color my eyes are?
WOMAN: Doesn't matter.
MAN: It matters.
WOMAN: Not to me.
MAN: Yeah, I bet you think you got things all figured out.

She continues figuring in the dirt. He cracks a stick. She puts her ear to the ground. He throws sticks down in front of her.

MAN: Doesn't do any good to try to figure things out. Things change.
WOMAN: Very deep. [Pause] You'd think somebody who spent most of his life in outer space would have more to say.
MAN: I know where we're going.
WOMAN: You do not.
MAN: Yes, I do. I've imagined it many times.
She beats sticks together.
MAN: What color are my eyes?
WOMAN: I don't know.
MAN: Imagine.


They both keep watch. She watches low to the ground. He looks to the horizon. She thinks she hears something, puts her ear to the ground. He puts his ear to the ground. False alarm. He yawns. He falls asleep. She watches. He wakes up screaming.

MAN: Opening. . .black hole. . .fire ....
WOMAN: Wake up. Wake up. You're dreaming. Wake up.
MAN: Can't breathe. . .watch out. . .ship's opening up....
WOMAN: Stop it! You're dreaming. Look at the ground. It's all right. Look at it.
MAN: No.
WOMAN: Look at it!
MAN: No!
WOMAN: You were dreaming about before.
MAN: We had to abandon ship.
WOMAN: Now you're here. All right? The ground is underneath you. It's not going anywhere.
MAN: I'm scared.
WOMAN: Go back to sleep. I'll keep watch.
MAN: You won't go to sleep?
MAN: Promise?
WOMAN: I promise.

She watches. He sleeps. He wakes up. She sleeps. He watches. She wakes up screaming.

WOMAN: Falling! Fire bombs! Falling!
MAN: It's OK. It stopped.
WOMAN: Make them stop falling.

He pushes upward with his arms.

MAN: Only stars up there. See for yourself.
WOMAN: I was dreaming about before.
MAN: There haven't been any bombs for a long time. I wish you'd look at the stars. Looks like a picture postcard. Nightsky over moonlit bay. If you looked at it, you wouldn't be scared any more.
WOMAN: I'm going to try to sleep.
MAN: Red sky at night. Farmer's delight.
WOMAN: It's not really red, is it?
MAN: See for yourself.
WOMAN: It couldn't be red.
MAN: You'll never know.
WOMAN: You won't go to sleep?
MAN: Don't worry.


WOMAN: [frog] Ribit.
MAN: [whistles bobwhite] Bobwhite.
WOMAN: Ribit. Ribit. Ribit. [Etc.]
MAN: Bobwhite. Bobwhite. Bobwhite. [Etc.]
MAN: [crow] Caw. Caw. Caw. [Etc.]
WOMAN: [dog] Argh. Argh. Argh. [Etc.]
MAN: [small plane] Putta. Putta. Putta. Putta.
WOMAN: Putta? Putta? Putta? Putta?
MAN: Putta. Putta. Putta. Putta. [Larger plane] Vrrrrroooooom. Vrrrrrroooooooom. Vrrrrrrrrrroooooooooooooom.
WOMAN: Argh. Argh. Argh. [Etc.]
MAN: Vrrrrrooooooom. Whooooooosh. Vrrrrrooooooooom. Whooooooosh. [More threatening] Nyyyyyrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Nyyyyyrrrrrrrrrrr. Nyyyyyrrrrrrrrrrr.
WOMAN: Argh. Argh. Argh. [Wolf] Auwoooooh. Auwoooooh. Auwoooooh.
MAN: Nyyyyyrrrrrrrrrrr.
WOMAN: Auwoooooooh. Auwoooooooh.
MAN: Auwooooooh.
WOMAN: Auwooooooh. Auwooooooh. Auwooooooh.


The man looks out. The woman plants potatoes. She stops, looks at him.

WOMAN: Say something.

No response. She continues to stare. He continues to look out. She returns to her planting.

MAN: I was imagining all the ways to leave here.

He looks out. She continues planting. She gets a sack and spills it at the man's feet. It's full of dried, black potatoes.

WOMAN: Fuel.
MAN: These?
WOMAN: It's getting cold. We need a fire.
MAN: We can burn these potatoes?
WOMAN: That's why I dried them out.
MAN: They look like charcoal brickettes.
WOMAN: What's that?
MAN: What we used to barbecue hamburgers.
WOMAN: Hamburgers?
MAN: Cow. Ground up pieces of cow.
WOMAN: Yech!
MAN: They were good.
WOMAN: To me they look like ears. In the shed they looked like a big pile of ears. Cut off by the soldiers of men who didn't want to be overheard.
MAN: Yuck! I'm glad I didn't grow up in your country. It's made you too paranoid. That's no way to live your life. With your ear to the ground.
WOMAN: It's the way it is.
MAN: Well, the way it is is pretty boring.
WOMAN: What do you want?
MAN: I want to go home.
MAN: I don't know. I haven't figured it out yet. It would help if you could get behind the idea a little bit.
WOMAN: You're free to go.
MAN: What about you?
WOMAN: This is my home.
MAN: This! Home! Ha! That's a laugh! You don't remember much do you? This is no fucking home, lady! Homes were. . .
WOMAN: What?
MAN: Full. . .yeah, full. . .full of things.
WOMAN: What things?
MAN: Warm things. . .like. . .
WOMAN: We're building a fire, aren't we?
MAN: No! I mean like love.
MAN: You're blind, you know that? You refuse to let the world in. [Picks up two blackened potatoes] These are your eyes.
WOMAN: There's no room for love any more.
MAN: [picking up potato] This is your heart.
WOMAN: [grabs potato from him and bites into it] See! The toughest part of the body! The heart isn't the place where love grows.
MAN: Where is it then?
WOMAN: [throws potato back into fuel pile] Let's light the fire.

They light the fire. Silence. She reaches out her hand to him. He reaches out his hand to her. They clasp hands.

WOMAN: What color are my eyes?

Slowly they look into each others' eyes. Stare. Then slowly look away. Silence.

MAN: Say something.

No response. He looks at her. Silence. He returns to looking out.

WOMAN: I was thinking it's too late for children.


The man drags out a large, nest-like piece of his space capsule.

WOMAN: What the hell is that thing?
MAN: Part of my capsule. I found it out there, over that rise.
WOMAN: What's it for? MAN: Does it have to be for something.
WOMAN: We could use it.
MAN: It's my goddamn capsule. This is very special.
WOMAN: It would make a good potato hut.

He climbs in the capsule.

MAN: Get in. I want to show you something.
WOMAN: What?
MAN: Something special.

She gets in.

MAN: Now lie down.
WOMAN: I don't want to.
MAN: C'mon.

She lies down. So does he.

MAN: Well?
WOMAN: I don't like it.
MAN: Why?
WOMAN: Things could fall on you.
MAN: What things?
WOMAN: Bird shit.
MAN: Have you seen any birds lately? [Pause] Now look up at the sky. Are you looking?
WOMAN: I'm looking.
MAN: Now I'm going to teach you how to daydream.
WOMAN: Is that what you did in outer space?
MAN: No. That's what I did when I was a boy in my country.
WOMAN: A child's game.
MAN: More than that. All the dreams came true.
MAN: You start out imagining yourself leaving your body.
WOMAN: That's impossible. MAN: Just try imagining it. You just sort of float out of your body and go somewhere.
WOMAN: Where?
MAN: Just go. You'll find out where.

They begin rocking slowly, back and forth, in the capsule.

MAN: Floating. . .floating. . .
WOMAN: [following his lead] Floating. . .

It is peaceful. They are dreaming. They repeat the word floating from time to time, as they continue to rock the capsule. They rock in wider and wider arcs until they are near the point of tipping over.

WOMAN: . . .floating. . .falling. . .falling. . .
MAN: . . .falling!!!!!

The capsule tips over, spilling them onto the ground. They lie in each other's arms. Silence.

WOMAN: Smell there.
MAN: Wet pine.
WOMAN: Smell there.
MAN: Trout. Smell there.
WOMAN: [singing] Ahhhhh ah ah ahhh Ahhhhh ah ah ahhh
MAN: What's that?
WOMAN: An old song.
WOMAN: Ahhhhh ah ah ahhh
Ahhhhh ah ah ahhh Silence.
MAN: [singing] Ahhhhh, ahhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
WOMAN: What's that?
MAN: A song from my grandfather's time. C'mon. I'll teach it to you.

They stand up.

MAN: Ahhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Shake it up baby

WOMAN: [following along] Shake it up baby.
MAN: Twist and shout
WOMAN: Twist and shout
MAN: C'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon baby
WOMAN: C'mon baby
MAN: C'mon and work it on out
WOMAN: Work it on out
MAN & WOMAN: Ahhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh


WOMAN: You say all your dreams came true?
MAN: Is that what I said?
WOMAN: Did the poor people's dreams come true?
MAN: I didn't know any poor people.
WOMAN: You didn't know?
MAN: I didn't know.
WOMAN: Did you know that your country arms the soldiers in my country?
MAN: No. I didn't know.
WOMAN: You didn't know?
MAN: I didn't know.

She grabs her knife and points it at him.

WOMAN: I should cut your heart out.
MAN: Why?
WOMAN: For not knowing. [She throws the knife into the ground. Silence.] When the soldiers come, you'll know.
MAN: When the soldiers come, I'm going home.
WOMAN: They'll kill you.
MAN: They couldn't. It would make a stink in my country.
WOMAN: They'll throw you in the potato shed. You'll rot there. Your country will never know.
MAN: I'll tell them who I am.
WOMAN: Who are you? You look like a potato farmer.
MAN: Will you come with me?
WOMAN: I should cut my own heart out.
MAN: You will come with me?


The man and woman squat near each other, relieving themselves.

MAN: It never worked in my country.
WOMAN: What?
MAN: Recycling. Nobody had time. [Slight pause] Too busy recycling soldiers, I guess. [Pause. Laughs. Stops. Keeps laughing.]
WOMAN: What?
MAN: Nothing. [Keeps laughing]
WOMAN: What?
MAN: I was just thinking my buddies should see me now. Doing my duty with my girl in the middle of nowhere.
WOMAN: What's so funny about that?
MAN: See, in my country men and women shit separately.
MAN: I don't know. It was just the custom.
WOMAN: Why? It ends up in the same potato bed.
MAN: We had some stupid customs.


Thunder. The woman looks at the sky. The man figures in the ground with a stick.

WOMAN: I think we'll have more rain this year.
MAN: Mmmmmmm.


WOMAN: When I was girl I believed the thunder was the voice of God.
MAN: I went to church every Sunday till I was 7. Then I read about the German massacres in my great grandfather's time. I never went to church again.
MAN: It felt like a part of my past I wanted to get away from.


MAN: Maybe that is the voice of God.
WOMAN: But you didn't get away from it.
MAN: I kept a scrapbook of all the wars, even the little ones. My Lai. El Salvador. I wanted to be aware. . .
WOMAN: No one gets away from the massacres.
MAN: I knew that my country was involved in some of them. But it was hard to know for sure. The wars never felt real to me.
WOMAN: How could they? You were 500 miles up in space.
MAN: Until I found myself here. [Digging in dirt] This dirt may be covering a mass grave. Thousands of your countrymen gunned down. Not so long ago. Rotting. Bulldozed over. [Pouring dirt in her hands] Little rotting baby brains oozing out. . . .
WOMAN: Stop.
MAN: We live on them. We eat their flesh.

She grabs his hand, stops his digging. They are on their knees in the dirt. Thunder. They look to the sky.


The man squats in the dirt pulling up potatoes. The woman watches the sky.

MAN: What else?
WOMAN: Gale wind. Donkeys hide. Chimney pots explode.
MAN: Chimney pots?
WOMAN: Chimney pots.
MAN: Explode!
WOMAN: Explode!
MAN: Ha!
WOMAN: Ha! [She goes to the capsule and sits in it; to the man:] Once upon a time there was an astronaut who was always looking up.
MAN: [looking at her] Once upon a time there was a potato farmer who was always looking down.

He pulls a carrot out of the ground. They are amazed. They devour the carrot, laughing.

© 1982 by Elizabeth Wray
CAUTION: All rights strictly reserved. Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Forecast is subject to a royalty and is protected under copyright laws of all countries covered by the International Copyright Convention. Permission in writing must be secured before any performance or reading is given. All inquiries should be addressed to the author, 464 Eureka Street, San Francisco, CA 94114.

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