As I promised in a blog post last week, “Nothing like a productive day job,” where I showed you one play I wrote for my Neo-Futurist class, here is the other play that was performed in my class performance. (Read more about all this is that previous post if you haven’t done so already.)
If you’re still unfamiliar with Neo-Futurism, one big thing they like to deal with is removing the wall that says the audience is watching and the ensemble is performing. In this second play I present to you now, titled “1984. 2010. Whenever.” I sought to use that idea as part of what ultimately is a deconstruction of the book 1984. Instead of taking the plot to deconstruct into a shorter telling, I chose to take one of the themes I take from that book (one of my favorites) and make it more experiential for the audience.
(Another thing Neo-Futurism likes to use is chance, and this was definitely featured in “Nothing like a productive day job,” as I flipped the cars unknowingly, but having it planned how I would react and go on depending on the situation.)
Without further ado, here you go! (Oh, one more note for those unfamiliar with Neo-Futurist TMLMTBGB plays: they start by someone saying “GO” and end with the word “CURTAIN.”
1984. 2010. Whenever.
©2010 by eric bjorlin
An audience volunteer is seated on a chair center stage, facing the rest of the audience.
Neo1 and Neo2 are up the side aisles in the theater, Neo1 house right, Neo2 house left. Neo3 stands to the right of the person seated. Neos 1-3 are wearing dark sunglasses. All other Neos are offstage.
Lines throughout are presented in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. The lines until the first blackout are directed at the person sitting in the chair.
Neo1: You cannot change the outcome of this play. You are but a pawn, and we are in control
Neo2: Sure, you can make some choices, but anything you might do is meaningless as far as we’re concerned.
Neo3: Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not true. I could stand up and return to my seat if I wanted to, and you can’t stop me.”
Neo1: While that is true, what is more true is that we leave that choice up to you,
Neo2: It doesn’t matter to us where you sit. If it mattered, you can be damn sure you’d be sitting exactly where we wanted you to sit.
Neo3: Maybe now you’re thinking about getting radical, trying to stop this play in its tracks.
Neo1: But how would you stop us? You can’t do it by yourself.
Neo2: Maybe there’s another radical like yourself, and the two of you decide to cover our mouths so we (can’t talk). (During this line, Neo4 comes and covers the mouth of Neo2, cutting her off so the final two or three words are muffled. Neo4 then makes a minimal motion implying the audience member is to cover the mouth of Neo3. Neo1 waits for this to happen.)
[If the selected volunteer fails to participate/cover a mouth (or has moved back to their seat), then:
Neo4: So you don’t want to stop us? It’s no matter, because even those you thought may have been with you might not be. (Neo4 puts on dark sunglasses. Then to Neo5’s line below.)]
Neo1: But that isn’t enough, so you recruit another person. (Hopefully an audience member is recruited to cover Neo1’s mouth. If not, Neo6 comes out and carries this out.)
(Once the mouths of Neo1/Neo2/Neo3 are all covered…)
Neo4: But then you discover that someone you thought was with you really isn’t. (Neo4 uncovers Neo1’s mouth and puts on dark sunglasses.)
Neo5 (Voiceover): And even if something drastic happens, we have more power than you can ever imagine. We control what you see (BLACKOUT) and what you don’t see.
Once the lights go down, Neos 1-4 get free and move down to the stage. They form a line across stage so the remaining lines are delivered in order stage right to stage left.
LIGHTS UP. The remainder of the lines are directed to the entire audience.
Neo4: If you do nothing, you act as our accomplice.
Neo2: Any attempt you make to alter the outcome of this play ultimately has no effect on what we’re trying to do.
Neo3: But why would you want to change anything? Aren’t we treating you well; providing you what you came for?
Neo1: You might even be enjoying this play and don’t really care that we control it.
Neo4: We hold all the cards.
Neo2: What we desire happens.
Neo3: What we say goes.
Neo1: Have we still not proven our point?
A beat. BLACKOUT. An extended silence and break. LIGHTS UP.
Notes: There is a chance that an audience member may yell curtain during the play, seeking to radically alter what’s going on. If this happens, the performers continue without notice, still in control.
If Neo1’s mouth is covered before her line requesting a third person, it is simply skipped.
Also, if some drastic uprising has taken place, Neo5 may continue to read lines until order is resumed, though this is not optimal and the performers should for the most part be able to control this.
Overall, any unexpected audience actions should be accepted calmly with things returned to as natural a state as possible.
Notes for my blog post that aren’t actually in the script:
When we performed “1984…” at the 20-in-40 show performance, the audience member actually didn’t cover anyone’s mouth, as we had anticipated, and so this is an edited version with that experience in mind.
Also, while the audience member did, in fact, yell “curtain” trying to end the play, that circumstance had already been accounted for, as the note mentioning that scenario possibility was already in the script.