Friday, December 17, 2010

24. The script (a fragment). } A Black Masque

A few posts back I wrote about a script handed to me by an actress who’d been bloodied at an audition (?). After I finally read it (as I obliquely implied I had in post 21), I found myself troubled by it. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so had it not been for my encounter with it. That is to say, if I’d come across it in a book, it might have seemed weird and no more, but the deliberate (?) way it was given me, and where and when… it has haunted me. Regrettably, I haven’t the time to transcribe it all for you, and I’m pretty sure such a transcription is an infringement on the author’s copyright—who is the author? Can anyone tell me from reading the following? Anyway, what follows is a bit of the beginning. See what you make of it and if anyone knows who wrote it, please post a comment or email me and let me know.

Of MASQUES for ARISTOCRATS & the like. The first is
To be Personated during the Twelfth Night.

The persons of the play.

Uncle HOFFMANN, both himself and otherwise
POLO, Hoffmann’s nephew
BIRD, Hoffmann’s niece
OLIROOMIM, a demon

“First, for the scene, was drawn a Landscape”: a blank landscape, a blue screen. In front of the screen stands HOFFMANN who holds a box.

HOFF: …sends a package paid for with peculiar
postage. Needless to say it’s from away.
“My dear loves Polo and Bird forgive me
too much time has passed. Enclosed, the Black Mask.
Hang the angled mask, nail and copper wire,
hanged on your feature, face screwed in to it.

POLO is alone when he opens the package. He stares into it. Awkward and silent minutes pass, POLO crouched on the stage, staring into an open cardboard box. Gradually—so gradually as to be barely perceivable—a light within the box grows. Correspondent to the light in the box is an image projected onto the pale blue screen, at first blurry, then more clear, and more clear: it is a mask carved from obsidian.

At last, POLO moves. As he leans forward to reach into the box, BIRD enters stage right. (POLO and BIRD are dressed in the same black tights and black, form-fitting shirts, but there is nothing androgynous about either.) POLO mimes the removal of a mask, mimes putting it on his face. BIRD, lit up gaudy, is delighted and aroused.

There is no mask. The “mask” is an outline made by lights carefully projected onto POLO’s face. He leaps to his feet, the image of the mask projected on the blue screen disappears and a curtain, painted to look like the inside of a well-appointed city apartment drops behind POLO and BIRD.

BIRD: Oh Polo what a weird wonder our uncle
sent! Ha! So often is Hoffmann off, man!
It fits just right for tonight’s revelry!
POLO turns, faces BIRD.
POLO: (to audience) When do guests arrive for our holiday
masque? Are decorations hung? Light strands strung?

Lights woven into the curtain illuminate. A doorbell rings. PARTYGOERS enter stage right and left, all elaborately dressed and with masks—cheap plastic “Lone Ranger” masks, but in many colors and gold and silver. A soundtrack of glasses and wine corks and laughter, mixed with the susurus of the PARTYGOERS clothes. All dance waltzes around POLO and BIRD, though there is no music, only drums that keep the 3/4 time.

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