Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Of Puppets and People," or "From the Mouths of Idiots"

The players:

—Stacey. Stacey is a Chicana student in a school for troubled teens. Played with a thick accent and affable curiosity.
—Me. Dorky but outgoing staff member at the school.

In this scene, I have to explain why I have been absent from work for the past month and a half.

Stacey: Why haven't you been at work in so long?

Me: I was in a play!

Stacey: You were playing?

Me: No, I was in a play.

Stacey: [dubiously] Ohhhh.

Me: Do you know what that is? A play?

Stacey: [blank look]

Me: [trying a new approach] Como un drama.

Stacey: [realization dawning] Oh you mean like with puppets! Only with like, people.

I love dumb people. I wish I could just make this stuff up. I'm going to try. Like with puppets, but with like, people. It's hard to figure out exactly what it is about that conversation that resonates with me, that says, "this thing right here, it's very funny."

I want to go up to a grocery store attendant with a bottle of laxatives and say, in my best dumb voice. "Um, excuse me, sir. I have a question about this. It says do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding. And I'm wondering, does that mean if you're PRODUCING breastmilk, or if you're the one DRINKING it, 'cause we could have a problem." If you can say that with a world-weary expression of chagrin, I think it could be comedic gold. So this week, for my first entry in my new blog for a couple of theater classes I'm taking this semester, I want to start out with some really dumb lines I'd like to work in. My first example with Stacey was a real conversation, but these ones here are all me:

Angrily: "Okay, there's a word for what you're being! You're being a logical phallus!"


Exasperatedly: "Honestly, it's like people don't even think! I saw a bottle of children's Tylenol the other day with a CHILD PROOF CAP on it! How the hell are the kids supposed to get their medicine out! Am I the last intelligent person on the planet!?"


Southern: "You could buy this one here. This one here's pink because it supports breast cancer. I mean! It supports the fight AGAINST women with breast cancer."

and finally:

A man: "she has a few personality flaws, but as a whole she's very nice."
A woman, angry, stands up and is about to storm out of the room when she turns around and seethes: "Oh, I understand how you are! Is that all a woman is to you, is just a HOLE!?"
[slams door]

So my point here is that I derive pleasure from hearing someone say something when they themselves don't seem to think it's funny or understand why it would be. I like comedy that almost goes over your head. And does go over someone else's head.

What I like best about dumb people is that they often unwittingly cut to some greater truth. When Stacey says that a play is like with puppets, but like with people, I take pause. Because it's so true. As the writer of the play, the people are MY puppets. I can make them as dumb or foolish as I want. I can make them brilliant, but everyone knows they're just puppets, and I'm the one pulling the strings, telling them what to say and do.

Maybe this semester I will write a play about puppets, during which the puppets begin to experience a certain ennui, and decide to cut the strings. And as the puppets are going through this awakening, the actors themselves start to stray from the script, finding their own voices, until everything has devolved into a postmodernist chaotic ball of energy, with the actors gathered around a campfire of their burning wooden costumes, singing Kumbaya, or not, if they don't want to.

No comments:

Post a Comment