Friday, March 26, 2010

"Termination" an excerpt of "Missing Women"

I'm getting into the real cream of the crop now.  Four more - including this one - to go.

This short piece was one of two contributions I made to a collaborative effort called "Missing Women."

It was created for Theatre Under the Gun.  I think it was 2002.

For each of the previous years of TUtG at least one team had made a point of being a team comprised entirely of women.  So a group of us decided to make a point of being a group made up entirely of men.  I don't think anyone thought we were being (ahem) dicks about it.  It was a largely tongue in cheek "statement" and I think everyone (including us) pretty much expected us to do something that was equally tongue in cheek.

But as the two days of preparation came together, we found ourselves doing quite a sober piece called "Missing Women."  It featured one of us playing a drum riff over and over again while the rest of the actors in business suits walked back and forth in business suits our heads buried in newspapers.  The drums would stop.  One or more actors would break away from the marching line and do a scene while the others froze.

Each scene explored an aspect of how women could be missing from our lives:  Deceased mothers, ex-girlfriends, lost children and so on. 

This was while the crisis of missing women in the DTES was at it's worst.  But we never had a secene that directly reflected that situation.  Indeed, if you didn't count the title (which could be interpreted in a host of ways) we didn't plan to cite the situation at all - letting people make their own connections.  But then a really weird confluence of things happened.  Over the course of the two days of preparation significant developments unfolded in both the Vancouver missing women case and the decades old Green River killings.  Both were plastered across the front pages of every newspaper you could buy.  So through synchronicity we did have a somewhat subtle reference.  It was a happy accident.

People really expected us to be doing a light piece.  But it wasn't - and that made it all the more effective.

The first scene within the larger piece was the following monologue.  I don't recall where exactly, but somewhere within the first few sentences someone (you know who you are - I won't shame you here) laughed uproariously, clearly expecting us to be funny.  By the end of the monologue, it was clear to everyone that we had played a shell-game with their expectations.  When the review was posted we were one of two companies in the festival that was singled out as a highlight.

"I lost it," she said.
And that was it.  Just like that it was over.
"I'm sorry, I lost her."  So non-chalant.  She couldn't look me in the eye,  I knew.  I could tell she was lying.
From the moment I walked in the door I could tell something was wrong.
Something about the way she gingerly padded across the carpet and all too gently wrapped her arms around my neck... intimate, but not 'good that you're home' intimate.
"I lost our baby."  No sadness.  No shock.  Relief.
"Did you?  did you really?"  Cold.  Angry.  Confused.
She looked into my eyes.
But faced with the piercing, intuitive and absolutley precise leap, the lie could not hold.
"No, I..."  The sentence enjambs, waits and never ends - snarled up in shame.
She loved me.  I loved her.
And although we fought it, that moment was the end.
Long slow death.  Terminating that August - about the same time it would have all begun.
Could we have survived the abortion alone?  I don't know.  Coupled with the lie, we didn't stand a chance.  I wish we could have known before we started to hate each other in our own home.

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