Author : Fredy Perlman
TAPED NARRATOR: Strangers became friends, formerly hostile enemies became allies tied by bonds of common projects, formerly warring tribes were drawn together in a federation of kinsmen, brothers and sisters. If the initial suspicion and hostility still survived, it was only a diminishing residue.
(An easel and a crib are placed near the typesetting machine)
(BEN, MATTIE with ROSE ANNE in her arms, enter from right, sit)
MATTIE: Your kish was wonderful, Ben. Dan sometimes succeeds with a pie, but whenever I try making something with a crust it somehow never comes out right. Were you always a good cook?
BEN: (rolls joint; smoking continues during the scene) Before I came here I knew how to cook instant coffee, and that was all.
MATTIE: You’re kidding! No, you look like you mean it. Come to think of it, I could say the same thing about myself. I never realized how deeply other people affected what one does. Before, I couldn’t find the time to read even newspaper headlines in between running after Lisa, feeding her and changing her. When I was pregnant with Rose Anne I thought things would get twice as bad, and they would have if we hadn’t met you people. Suddenly I’ve got the time to read and to do some typesetting and Olympia is even pushing me to learn to paint —
(SHARON enters from left)
SHARON: Did I miss everything? Those bastards kept us overtime.
MATTIE: You almost missed Ben’s delicious kish but I think there’s a slice left.
SHARON: Good, I’m starving. (runs out right)
MATTIE: I’d never have agreed to have Rose Anne at home if I hadn’t thought Olympia and Toni would consider me a spoil sport —
(PHILIP enters from right. MATTIE hands him joint & he smokes)
MATTIE: Wasn’t that meal something?
PHILIP: It was good.
BEN: I liked the melted peanut butter dish you made the other day. Where did you get the recipe?
PHILIP: Cook book.
BEN: Where are the kids?
PHILIP: Toni took them to a farm to look at pigs.
(DAN, OLYMPIA enter from right; OLYMPIA takes ROSE ANNE)
DAN: You sure go through a lot of pans when you cook, Ben.
BEN: I guess my teacher neglected that part of my education.
MATTIE: You’ll learn when you have to clean after yourself —
OLYMPIA: How’s my little Rose Anne, the first full-fledged communard?
MATTIE: Thanks to you! Although by rights I should be considered the first; I came alive thanks to this place several months before she did. (Places Rose Anne in the crib)
OLYMPIA: We haven’t yet reached the point of giving out certificates. Philip, why don’t you bring your surprise?
PHILIP: Donna isn’t here.
OLYMPIA: Neither is Toni but who knows when either of them will turn up. Besides, didn’t Donna say she might work overtime today, and then eat out with Steve and Barry?
PHILIP: All right. (Exits right)
OLYMPIA: Oh, did we tell you Steve connected our electricity to the same GM office that pays our phone bills?
DAN: That’s far out! Do you suppose he’d be willing to do the same thing four our apartment?
OLYMPIA: Ask him. Barry worked with Steve on that. Maybe Barry should do it. He’s been picking things up at lightning speed.
MATTIE: How could Barry ever find the time, with all the garage work he’s been doing? Dan, isn’t it time you brought the booklets from the car?
OLYMPIA: No, no, wait until Philip comes back.
DAN: Maybe I’ll talk to Barry about our electricity.
(PHILIP and SHARON enter from right, carrying trays with colorful, fat candles)
SHARON: How can you find it again after that?
PHILIP: The wax always stays separate.
SHARON: I’d think you’d get soup. Can I watch you sometime?
PHILIP: Sure, that’s how Olympia learned.
SHARON: Where should I set this?
OLYMPIA: Here, Sharon, I’ll take it. I’m glad you’re so interested, I had thought you weren’t into the things we do around here.
SHARON: You mean because I had a date that night when you —
OLYMPIA: Oh, no, of course not, Sharon. I’m sure Philip will be glad to show you everything he showed me. Well, go on everybody, take your choice. There’s a candle here for everyone in the commune; the bitty one is for Rose Anne.
MATTIE: (taking one): My, they’re gorgeous. Who could blame Sharon for wanting to learn to make them? I’d like to learn myself.
PHILIP: I wasn’t exactly intending to start a school.
OLYMPIA: Hmm. That’s an idea.
DAN: They’re so colorful. These are out of sight, Philip.
PHILIP: Olympia made them.
MATTIE: You mean she didn’t just watch you?
OLYMPIA: I watched Philip shape two, then I melted those down and started again on my own.
PHILIP: She’s a fast learner.
OLYMPIA: Get the books now, Dan.
(DAN exits left)
MATTIE: Unfortunately everyone knows what the next surprise is.
SHARON: I don’t.
OLYMPIA: No one’s actually seen the finished product. (DAN returns with carton) Let’s see how they came out.
(DAN passes out brochures)
BEN: It looks far out.
SHARON (reads): “Metamorphoses, Illyria Street Commune.” What is this?
OLYMPIA: The first genuine commune production, created by communards at every single stage.
SHARON: Aren’t these Philip’s vases?
OLYMPIA: Those are printed reproductions of photographs of Philip’s objects.
PHILIP: It’s a record of a finite portion of the infinite metamorphoses of an initial given quantity of raw matter.
SHARON: I see — I think.
DAN: Olympia photographed Philip’s objects before he melted them down again to make other objects with a different combination of the same materials and with other processes. At least that’s how I understand it.
OLYMPIA: Ben wrote poems for some of the objects and edited Philip’s technical texts explaining some of the processes. Dan typeset all the textual material, and we printed it at the cooperative print shop run by Steve’s friends.
DAN: Olympia and Barry did the printing.
SHARON: Barry worked on this? He never told me anything.
BEN: Maybe he wanted one person to be surprised.
(DONNA, STEVE, BARRY enter from left)
DONNA: I’m sorry we’re so late.
OLYMPIA: You’re just in time for the biggest surprise.
DONNA: Barry’s been telling me about it. (examining brochure) It’s unbelievable. I never expected anything like this to happen when I advertised rooms three years ago. Did you, Philip?
PHILIP: It’s very well reproduced considering it’s only in two dimensions. Do you see this grayish outline? It’s the shadow cast by this elevation located at the opposite extremity.
OLYMPIA: I was sure you’d be pleased, Philip.
MATTIE: I should hope so! It’s beautiful.
BARRY: Hey, Sharon, what’s happening?
SHARON: Nothing at all, Barry. You don’t even live here and you know more of what’s going on than I do. Why didn’t you tell me about this book?
BARRY: Busy, Sharon, Busy.
OLYMPIA: Isn’t it your turn now, Mattie?
MATTIE: Mine’s going to seem so plain compared to what you all did.
DAN: It’s the valleys that make the peaks.
MATTIE: Oh, Dan, it’s the first one I actually finished.
DAN: Did I say valleys were bad?
MATTIE (turns easel around; it contains a reproduction of the crib standing next to it): Well, there it is. I’m not sure it’s worth sharing.
OLYMPIA: You finished it!
MATTIE: I rushed to get it done by the time the brochure was printed.
OLYMPIA: Your technique has really improved.
PHILIP: It’s obvious why you picked that subject.
OLYMPIA: It’s nearly a perfect reproduction, Mattie.
(BEN has been distributing sheets to all, and people are reading them)
BEN: I’ve been saving a little surprise of my own.
OLYMPIA: Oh? What is it?
BARRY: Hey, it’s poetry.
SHARON: Who’s the cool lady?
DAN: Do you know the Italian word for lady?
PHILIP: It’s also clear from “her sumptuous rooms, plant-cluttered window, precious garden” —
BEN: “ — conspiratorial smile.”
DONNA: I’m going to kiss you, Ben.
BEN: That’s what I hoped you’d do when I wrote it. (DONNA kisses him)
DONNA: I’m going to cry.
SHARON: I’ve been saving something too — for the commune.
BEN: Good for you, Sharon.
(Sharon exits right)
DONNA: They’re no longer mine to give, the rooms, the window, the garden. And they were all I had to give.
BEN: There’s still the smile; that’ll always be yours to give.
DONNA: You’re sweet.
STEVE: I think it’s really nice for a person to be able to make this kind of gift to another.
OLYMPIA: I think the poem is as corny as the conversation. But I certainly am surprised. “The Cool Lady”! Ben, I thought you and your newspaper preached the liberation from wage labor.
BEN: I thought so too.
OLYMPIA: Donna, how long have you worked in your office?
DONNA: I guess it’s going on five years. But I don’t understand what that —
OLYMPIA: Have you ever thought of quitting?
DONNA: I can’t imagine what I’d do with myself. The company organizes my time better than I ever could. Why do you —
OLYMPIA: I was asking Ben about his paper.
BEN: That’s not very cool, Olympia.
(TONI, GROVER, ALEC, LEON & LISA enter from left, all high)
LEON: Mattie, can Lisa spend the night here?
LISA: Can I, mommy?
MATTIE: Actually, I think it’s time for us to leave.
TONI: You two can’t leave. I brought you something.
MATTIE: Oh all right, Lisa. But don’t be too rowdy.
(LEON, LISA & ALEC exit right)
TONI: I’m sorry I missed it all. Grover and his friends insisted that we all try samples of everything. Oh, is this the brochure? It looks great! Mattie, you finished the crib!
MATTIE: And you probably want to know why.
TONI: If you could paint something imaginary with as much realism it would really be out of sight.
DAN: Olympia gave each of us a candle.
(SHARON returns, sets a second easel on stage, sits down near it)
DONNA: And Ben wrote me a poem. Could one ever give anything nicer?
TONI: I bet I could. That’s why I dragged Grover in. I wanted to give him.
PHILIP: Give him what?
TONI: Don’t play dense, Philip. Doesn’t anyone get it? I’m giving him. I’ve kept him to myself all these years through no fault of my own, and now I’m sharing him —
GROVER (auctioneering): ...going twice, going three times, sold; the left arm goes to the lady in the back row. Now the head; do I hear a nickel...?
TONI: Stop clowning, Grover. Why is this so obscure? It’s gift giving day, so I’m giving Grover. I mean, he’s the gift — I’m giving him to — to everyone — to the commune —
PHILIP — But why? Or what for? What does it do? Sing? Lay eggs?
TONI: I’ve never in my life —
BEN: You’re keeping something from us, Toni. Are you asking us to reintroduce cannibalism?
TONI: I’ll be damned if I’m not on the verge of tears. I’ve been raving to Grover about the only bunch of genuine radicals in the world, the only ones who didn’t treat a person as some kind of thing, and all you want to know is what the thing is for and how it tastes! I’m not reintroducing cannibalism! You are cannibals.
BEN: Worse, Toni. Ten thousand years of progress worse —
TONI: Grover is my best outside friend and my resource person and it’s thanks to him that I always have free pot and —
PHILIP: Say, what kind of farm did you take the kids to?
GROVER: We’ve been to a cabbage farm. That’s what it says on the sign. Head cabbage. And that’s all you see growing when you drive up to it either way. But that cabbage is for the pigs. The cabbage for the heads is Michoacan and Acapulco gold and Colombian —
PHILIP: Are those the brands of marijuana you had Alec sample?
GROVER: Man, that’s the only kind of farm I’d ever want to get close to —
BEN: Why haven’t you brought him around before, Toni?
GROVER: That, my man, was executed at my request. Why would you want to weld a U-haul to your car when you were pulling it all right with a hitch and chain?
BEN: I don’t get it.
GROVER: Look, my man, the connection, to be on the safe side —
BEN: Why did you want to be on the safe side?
GROVER: Now we’re getting to the historical nitty gritty, as my business associates call it. The fact is, it’s not just the pot that’s being watched nowadays. Anyone that even looks like someone from a commune has five investigators assigned to him at every airport in the country. Remember the French revolution of 1968? Well me and this other dude ran M-38’s across the border and our companeros on the loyalist side shot the bodies of priests full of holes and burned Noter Dame to the ground. Now if the pigs ever added two plus two together, they’d get the connection. Dig?
DAN: I’d thought not a single shot was fired in France in 68.
GROVER: That’s what everyone thought, but that was the most successful media blitz in history. The news was kept under such tight control that even the companeros themselves didn’t know that those large bricks they kept passing each other were actually crates loaded with machine guns —
TONI: The first thing you should all know about Grover is that he’s a terrific storyteller. But he’s got contacts all over this city who can make his stories come true. When I told him what Steve had done with our phone and electricity —
GROVER: I figured, why stop with the corporations, my man? The State’s the biggest corporation of them all and Agnew is up there in the vanguard, raising our consciousness about some of the possibilities.
BEN: Don’t you mean Nixon?
PHILIP: Didn’t you know, Ben? The vise-president was found guilty of defrauding the government of several thousand dollars. I thought you followed these things.
BEN: I do, but not up close.
GROVER: You know what’s even better than free phone and electricity? Listen to this. I know this lawyer who could rig up papers and they’d look like the cabbages on this farm, everything legal from the road but don’t invite your neighbors for lunch. I’m not talking about paying no tax on this building; I’m talking about negative tax, about getting huge checks from the government, refunds, like when you run your gas meter backwards with a vacuum cleaner —
DONNA: I think your friend is hilarious —
TONI: He’s hardly gotten started yet. Grover could help that typesetting co-op get off the ground.
DAN: Really? In what way?
GROVER: Without exaggerating I’d estimate that every radical in this town goes through me for one thing or another, and they’re the wordiest people you’d hope to find —
DAN: But how could we make contact?
GROVER: Easiest thing in the world, my man. Next time a dude starts telling me about his newest theory, I’ll just ask if I can borrow it so as to get an estimate. That way you can decide if it’s up your alley before taking it on. Dig? I could keep a whole room full of you at your machines round the clock —
MATTIE: Oh, wow, from rags to riches!
STEVE (near Sharon’s easel): It’s very moving. Did you do it?
SHARON: I intended it as my gift to the commune.
BEN: When did you bring this in, Sharon? I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s fantastic!
GROVER: I understand some of you are into the business of repairing the four-wheeled life preservers marketed by Ford and General Motors. Say, do you have something to soothe a parched throat, something a little stronger than beer?
BARRY: Come with me and pick out what you want, Grover. Yes, we’re into fixing cars —
(GROVER & BARRY exit right)
BEN: You can really paint.
SHARON (gesticulating wildly): It’s all of you who did it to me, doing all kinds of things you’ve never done before.
DAN: Have you honestly never painted before? This is so powerful it stands off the canvass —
SHARON: It’s not even canvass; when I started I didn’t know —
TONI: It’s so naively expressive, so perfectly unspoiled. Have you seen it, Philip? She had to quit school to express herself like that; if she’d stayed two more years they would have squeezed it out of her, boxed her imagination, conventionalized her perception —
PHILIP: It certainly is original. I think it’s good.
TONI: Admit that it’s good in spite of what she was taught in school.
PHILIP: Was Sharon educated on samples of five different brands of marijuana? —
TONI: You’re evading the issue, Philip!
OLYMPIA: I thought you wanted to be an actress, Sharon. How do you find time to develop your acting and also to paint?
SHARON: I don’t know, Olympia, but I know that every morning I wanted to go on until it was finished; I even got up before dawn —
OLYMPIA: Oh, Sharon, the paint is already cracking; any number of people could have showed you how to mix paint properly —
SHARON: You’re right, I didn’t have time to learn all that. Once I started I wanted to give all my time to it and my job became unbearable. I set my alarm for six hours after I reached bed, and I rushed up every morning —
TONI: Don’t get so excited, Sharon, you’ll knock something over!
OLYMPIA: Oh how could you, Sharon? This is a sheet of paper, stapled to a frame.
(BARRY enters from right)
BARRY: Hay Steve, come here a second. This dude Grover says he could get us cheap car parts — the garage would have it made.
STEVE: I could use a strong drink —
(STEVE & BARRY exit right)
SHARON: When I started I didn’t know there was a right way to do it.
TONI: There isn’t.
SHARON: I just started the painting on the back of one of Barry’s travel posters, but after a point it started to curl so bad I almost gave up. The man who sold me the easel showed me how to mount canvass to a frame, but by then I loved what was here — I just stapled the poster to the frame. The paint cracked when the sheet flattened, but I liked that so well I was intending to start with another travel poster —
OLYMPIA: But part of the painting curves around the frame and continues on the back, and has staples going through it.
SHARON: I thought it was honest to let the painting tell how it became the way it was.
OLYMPIA: Toni, your friend sure is a bullshit artist. I don’t see why everyone’s so taken in.
PHILIP: He’s a blabbermouth. And probably dangerous. He admitted he was a dope dealer.
DAN: You have the impression he wont come through with the typesetting, Olympia?
TONI: Don’t worry about that. He’ll come through.
OLYMPIA: Even if he does, is that the kind of basis we want? What do you think, Ben?
BEN: He uses the word Business an awful lot: garage business, typesetting business —
DAN: Aw, Olympia, why are you winding Ben up on that track? I thought we’d resolved that, and it’s the first time I actually have a prospect of quitting that bank job —
(GROVER, STEVE, BARRY enter from right, BARRY with tea pot)
BARRY: I made tea for everybody that wants some.
GROVER (standing in front of Sharon’s painting): I picked up from Toni that you people were into some fancy shit, but I never expected anything like this. You’re Olympia, right?
OLYMPIA: Yes, but —
GROVER: You probably know this without my telling you, but there isn’t a painting can hold up a candle to this in any gallery in town. This is post-naive post-abstract expressionism post-everything.
BARRY: Tea, anyone?
OLYMPIA: I’ll have some.
SHARON: Me too, Barry.
(BARRY pours for each and sets SHARON’S cup on a surface between Sharon and her painting)
GROVER: The only painter I know who did anything like this is Kahlo, that Mexican woman who’ll outlive her husband Diego Rivera. She went right off the canvass and painted all over the frame and the easel and probably the wall, although they don’t bring the wall in on the traveling exhibits. But this has a different kind of power. Did you do this yourself? How did you get that cracked paint effect?
OLYMPIA: Actually it’s Sharon who painted it. She started with a large sheet of paper, a travel poster in fact. I’m sure she’d love to tell how she got the paint to crack.
SHARON (gesticulating): It’s because I didn’t know you couldn’t lay thick layers of oil paint on paper. It started to shrink and curl and whenever I tried to straighten it —
(SHARON’s arm flies wildly into her tea cup, sending cup and tea into her paper painting)
GROVER: Sorry I asked.
STEVE: Maybe it can be fixed.
TONI: Poor Sharon. Your arms. They’re so uncontrolled.
BARRY: They’re always like that when she’s excited.
GROVER: Now don’t cry, kid. You did one, you can do more. Now this one dude I know, his whole house burned down and he lost —
SHARON: I have an awful feeling that I did something wrong, but I don’t know what it is! (Runs out right)
GROVER: Well, I guess I did my harm for tonight. See you around. Thanks for inviting me, Toni.
BARRY: Can you wait a second, Grover? I thought of some more things I wanted to ask about the car parts. You coming, Steve? I’m counting on you for a ride.
(GROVER, BARRY, STEVE exit left)
DAN: Oh, shit, I thought of some things I wanted to ask him too. (DAN exits left)
MATTIE: I guess I’ll just leave Lisa up there.
TONI: Don’t worry, Mattie. She’s so high she won’t know where she slept.
(TONI exits right)
MATTIE: It’s really too bad about the accident.
OLYMPIA: Don’t lose sleep over it.
(MATTIE with ROSE ANNE exits left)
PHILIP: I melt mine down after I finish them.
OLYMPIA: Yes, I suppose it’s the same principle.
PHILIP: Too bad you didn’t take a photograph.
(OLYMPIA, PHILIP, BEN exit right)
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.
November 30, 2010 : Chapter 5 -- Publication.
October 11, 2021 : Chapter 5 -- Added.
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