Summary and Two Excerpts from my
"Latter-Day View of the 'Sixties" Play
The Great Woodstock Reunion
Like Montana Dreaming, this play has also not yet received a full production. But I am still reluctant to write it off as a completely lost cause for two reasons: first, as a play it comes close to portraying what the 'Sixties were like at their core, a theme I have explored both in my "Sixtes Book" and the instructions to actors for Montana Dreaming; and second, beause it is a play about actors, an essentially theatrical work written as a tribute to many 'Sixties theatre groups, the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Living Theater being only two among them.
Five Characters: Three Male, Two Female
One Set, Two Acts
A work of great intrinsic theatricality, this full-length comedy focuses on the life and times of a 'Sixties radical theatre troupe as seen by five of their members, who gather twenty-five years after its dispersal in a barn in Woodstock, where all their sets, costumes, and props are stored. The former leader of the group has come from California in the hope of rekindling the company in some form. Drawing on their powers as improvisors, the five performers relive the productions, conflicts, and love affairs of their past and take stock of the present. Many different scenes, moods, and dramatic styles are invoked, including plays-within-plays reminiscent of Brecht, Jarry, Commedia dell' Arte, and Odets interspersed with reenactments of important stages in the troupe's development. Sustained stage movement, numerous onstage costume changes, and unexpected use of simple stage props are mingled in a piece full of sudden climaxes and equally sudden reversals. The characters include a militant feminist, an environmental activist, the troupe's lead soubrette turned craftswoman, the group's charismatic leader, and the company clown, along with the many other characters they play as the work unfolds.
This bittersweet comedy attempting to sum up an era is partly autobiographical in that the author has drawn on his own experience as principal founder of a 'Sixties artists' group using guerilla theatre techniques and equally on his first-hand observation of radical arts and theatre groups in several countries. A highly theatrical piece centered not only on the theatre but on its interpenetration with politics, human emotions, and various other "realities."
Cast of Characters:
MIKE: A nervous, preoccupied brain-worker, handsome enough beneath his plain-rimmed glasses, which he frequently adjusts to gain a better view of things. He enjoys analyzing and understanding complex processes and has great faith in his ability to do so.
SKIP: A bit stocky, quite physically centered, willing and able--in marked contrast to Mike--to make his points with his body alone. But for all his physical poise, there is something untouched and asexual about him. A compulsive performer who is truly happy only when he is acting.
LEAH:Also on the nervous side, but her edginess usually goes unnoticed because of her supple figure and a sheer animal beauty that marks her. This is something she is quite conscious of and can turn on and off virtually at will.
MARGO: A handsome large-figured woman with forceful movements and a commanding voice--we nonetheless sense that she is in less than perfect control of herself and may also be a trifle high-strung, at least on this occasion
GARY: Gary noticeably raises the energy level of any room he enters. He is a few years older than the others, tall and imposing, six feet or over, with a barrel chest and a dark beard. His gestures are large like Margo's but more powerful and deliberate. There is little wasted energy in the man, and his mere presence is almost a form of hypnosis. His voice is sonorous with a suggestive echoing quality, as though it never really stops after he has spoken. He and Margo are of comparable build, and we can easily see him playing Zeus to Margo's Hera but just as easily being enticed by Leah's Aphrodite.
All of the characters appear to be between forty-five and fifty years old, but they carry their age well.
SCENE: A barn near Woodstock, New York.
TIME: The Present.
[The "telly box," mentioned in both the following scenes is a simple stage prop, a box or console-like device of cardboard with a screen-size hole on one side to represent a TV set. An actor "turns it on" merely by putting it over his head so that his face is seen in the "screen" area.]
Excerpt from Act I:
SKIP: (to Mike) Here's a sugar cube. Take it.
LEAH: Don't do it, Mike.
MIKE: Yes, I will. This is all nonsense anyway, this mystique about acid.
SKIP: (to Leah) It's safe. I'm having two.
(he swallows them)
GARY: Okay, our next exercise is about violence. We can't just talk about violence. We can't show it on the stage unless we know what it's really about. You want to fight me over who runs this company, Mike, this is how we do it. Take off your shirt and fight me like a man.
(Skip produces a pair of styrofoam paddles from his clown-cart. Gary takes one and hands the other to Mike. they both take off their shirts)
MIKE: Do we really have to?
(reluctantly picking up a paddle)
SKIP: (From the Telly Box, which he has just turned on)
And now a word from our announcer. Here we are at Pacific World Street Players, moving on from 1966 into 1967, the longest acid trip in history.
(Skip, Leah, and Margo clear a space for the two men and stand around as spectators as Mike and Gary, holding their paddles, begin to circle each other)
MIKE: But I don't want to fight you. I have no desire to fight you.
(Gary hits Mike hard)
MIKE: Hey, that hurt! Why can't we just talk?
GARY: Sure, you want to fight me, Mike. You prove that with every word you say.
(Gary hits him again even harder)
MIKE: Now wait a minute, this is no joke.
(he gets hit again)
You're trying to hurt me!
GARY: Now you're catching on.
MIKE: You bastard! I'll fix you for that!
(lunges at Gary, who parries the blow)
GARY: Come on, Mike, you can do better than that!
MIKE: I sure as hell can! I'll wipe you out!
(Mike lunges again, misses, finally lands one weak blow)
GARY: Do you feel better now?
MIKE: Not half as good as I'm going to feel when I get through with you.
(Mike swings wildly again without connecting)
GARY: Think about what you're doing, Mike. Think about what your mind's doing.
MIKE: The only thing on my mind is beating the shit out of you, Gary.
GARY: Then you're missing the point.
(Gary hits Mike solidly)
GARY: This isn't just violence. It's the nature of the Buddha.
SKIP: Come on, Leah. Try one.
LEAH: Oh, alright.
(swallows a sugar cube)
MIKE: (lunging) Fuck the Buddha!
GARY: You're forgetting rule number three, Mike.
MIKE: (lunging again) Fuck your lousy rules!
GARY: Come on, what is it?
MARGO, LEAH, & SKIP: It's not real!
MIKE: See if this is real enough!
(manages to hit Gary)
GARY: It's real enough. But it still isn't really real. I'm telling you, Mike, get it straight. (hits Mike)
It's the only way to start thinking, to find out what's truly real.
MIKE: What are you trying to do, hypnotize me or just bore me to death.
GARY: Which do you prefer?
MIKE: This is real, goddamn it.
(lowers his weapon) My head feels funny.
SKIP: It ought to by now. It's 1967.
MIKE: I know, it's the acid. You gave it to me just so I'd lose. But it won't work.
(raises paddle, charges disjointedly, stops in mid-motion)
GARY: I'm over here.
MIKE: (finds the idea interesting)
Yes, you are, aren't you? But I'll get you anyway.
(turns around slowly)
What was in that cube...acid can't be like this...you must have doped it...
GARY: (coming up to Mike) How do you feel, Mike?
MIKE: I feel fine. I'm going to beat you too.
(Mike drops his paddle, Skip and Gary settle him down onto the stage and put a pillow under his head)
MIKE: (his voice grows dreamier and a bit mechanical)
But you must understand that even from a dialectic point of view, your position is nonetheless incorrect...
SKIP: Take it easy, Mike.
MIKE: ...all we have done was merely to channel violence, we have done nothing to eliminate it...
MARGO: It's okay, Mike.
MIKE: ...what we really need to do is to root it out of human nature altogether..and substitute more positive qualities ...a total transformation...
SKIP: That's right, Mike.
MIKE: You're not Gary. You're Skip. Where's Gary.
GARY: Here I am.
MIKE: What did I do with the paddle?
GARY: It's here. Just take it easy.
MIKE: I beat you, didn't I? But if I beat you, what am I doing on the floor?
SKIP: It's okay, Mike.
GARY: Everything's okay.
SKIP: Think I'll sit down too.
(Skip stretches out on the floor)
MIKE: (sitting bolt upright) My god...if this is acid...it's positively beautiful!
GARY: Okay, just lie down.
(Mike does so)
Everybody knows about it.
LEAH: You know, I think I'll lie down too.
(she does so)
GARY: Sure, take it easy. We have some business to handle.
MARGO: Gary, we've got a problem. What are we going to do about our three actors who got busted last week?
MIKE: (sitting up again)
Don't worry. Everything's okay.
MARGO: Don't worry, he says. They're still in jail.
SKIP: (to Mike) Just lie back down.
GARY: We can't bail them out. We didn't collect enough when we went out begging after the performance.
MIKE: It all fits together into one perfect whole, don't you see?
GARY: It'll take a few weeks to organize another benefit.
MARGO: We've got to do better than that, Gary. They need help.
GARY: There's nothing else we can do.
MARGO: But they're sitting in jail this minute. Can't you think of something?
GARY: Don't nag me, Margo. We'll hold the benefit in three weeks.
MARGO: I'll just have to tell them to sit tight until then.
MIKE: Don't tell them anything. Can't you see, it's positively beautiful that they're in jail.
LEAH: (sitting up and looking at Mike)
You're right, Mike...you know I never realized how beautiful it is before. It's absolutely perfect.
SKIP: Now you're beginning to see. It couldn't be more perfect.
GARY: Maybe we should just smuggle some acid into the jail.
SKIP: Jails don't matter. Money doesn't matter. Nothing matters except that everything matters. It's all going to be free anyway. Everything free.
MIKE: Free food, free clothing.
LEAH: Free houses, free theatre.
SKIP: Free acid, free sex!
MIKE: Free everything...
LEAH: Why shouldn't it be?
MARGO: Three of them this time.
GARY: They'll come down.
LEAH: Gary, I've never realized how beautiful you are before.
MIKE: He is beautiful. And Margo is beautiful too. You're all beautiful.
LEAH: Gary, I love you. I love your body too. You don't mind, do you, Mike?
No, why would I mind...?
(Skip gets up cautiously and goes to the Telly Box)
GARY: I'll tell you what, Leah. If you repeat that later, I'll take you up on it.
SKIP: (from Telly Box, after switching it "on")
I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's been some uncontrollable interference, due to increasing solar activity. Somehow we got caught in the past. We return you now to the present. There is nothing wrong with your receiver. Please do not adjust your set.
(the lights come up partially on the rest of the barn. Skip turns off the Telly Box)
MIKE: (getting up, resuming his own role)
Oh Christ, I don't believe this. We couldn't have been that innocent back then! It's not possible.
GARY: Get back into character, goddamn it.
LEAH: It is. We were that innocent.
MARGO: But it wasn't just that...
SKIP: No, not at all--it was joyous...
LEAH: It was more than joyous...
MARGO: It was ecstatic.
GARY: Hey, I said get back into character.
MIKE: I don't feel like it.
MARGO: He's right. It wasn't going anywhere.
MIKE: I agree--it was wonderful. It was even ecstatic. But listen, Gary, if you think you can trick us into going back to that life, you're crazy. If you've come here for all these props and costumes, you're welcome to them. But you can't take us with them.
GARY: Listen, Mike, all I'm trying to do is find out where our minds are, how we feel about all those years, how we feel about ourselves. I have no other motives.
MIKE: You know, somehow I don't believe that.
GARY: You're free to believe what you want to. Let's go back and do 1968. Everybody dress for the Harlequin...
Excerpt from Act II:
GARY: Okay, Skip, you do Irving later. Mike and Leah, go out in back and play the audience shills--we're going to do this play the way it should be.
MIKE: Do we have to?
GARY: Yes, you have to. Don't forget, the stage has three walls. But the hardest wall to cross is the fourth wall, the one between us and the audience. We've got to break down that fourth wall!
MIKE: (going downstage to the row of "seats" there or perhaps to the very back of the actual theatre)
If we break it down any further, the whole theatre will collapse.
SKIP: (from Telly Box) And now we present another Pacific World production, "Waiting for Shorty"* by Clinton Dubets, first performed by us in 1970.
(we hear crowd noises on tape: "We Want Bread! We Want Work!" etc. Mike and Leah pick it up from the back of the theatre.)
MIKE: We want bread!
LEAH: We want jobs!
MIKE: We want shoes on our feet!
LEAH: We want a roof over our heads!
MIKE: Get the capitalists! It's all their fault, this crumby depression!
LEAH: No more misery!
MIKE: No more Hoovervilles!
(optional stage technique: rear projection of scenes from the Depression: Hoovervilles, hunger marchers, men selling apples on street, etc.)
GARY: (onstage, wearing a navy blue suit)
Fellow Americans, we have heard your cries of misery. Everything you ask will be done!
MIKE: You're lying!
LEAH: What do you know about misery!?
MIKE: What do you know about poverty!?
LEAH: It's your sort that caused the Depression!
GARY: My fellow Americans, if only you will listen to me...
(we hear crowd booing on tape)
MARGO: (from the sidelines)
Let him speak!
LEAH: Oh, alright, let the ratfink speak.
GARY: My fellow Americans, if only you will hear me, I have very good news for you. I have a solution to all of your problems. The government has heard your cries and has answered.
MIKE: The hell they've answered!
MARGO: Let the man speak!
GARY: We understand that many of you are ill-fed, ill-clad, ill-housed. We understand that the Depression has wiped out your savings.
MIKE: What savings!?
GARY: We understand that you are living in misery and anguish. But help is on the way. A great man is now our leader, a man who understands your problems, a man who is going to help you: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
(optional projection: slides or films of Roosevelt in various attitudes, his family. etc.)
LEAH: Lies, nothing but lies!
MIKE: (loudly, from back of theatre)
Workers, farmers, people of America! Listen to me! Can you eat this man's words? Can you eat lies?
(chorus of "NO!" from tape recorder)
MIKE: Then I say to you, the hell with the Government! The hell with Franklin Delano Roosevelt! Is this the time to put your trust in those bastards?
(chorus of "NO!" from tape recorder)
LEAH: Not on your life!
MIKE: People of America, there is only one solution open to us: communism!
LEAH: Join the American Communist Party!
MIKE: Join the workers of the world!
LEAH: Down with the Government!
MIKE: Down with the capitalist system! Down with the bankers! Down with the cartels and monopolies!
LEAH: Up with Communism!
MIKE: Long live the communist workers of the world! Long live the communist party!
LEAH: All power to the Soviets!
MIKE: Forward with the people and the communist revolution!
LEAH: Washington is ours!
MIKE: Moscow is ours!
LEAH: The world is ours!
(Skip runs in as "Irving." He is followed by Margo. They are both dressed in working class greys and blacks.)
SKIP/IRVING: Hey what the hell are you guys doing playing theatre games!? Come on, they just offed a pig in the streets. It's time to get out and join the real struggle!
MARGO: The revolution is now!
GARY: Of course the revolution is now. That's why we're doing a play about it.
SKIP/IRVING: But it's happening, man! It's already started!
MARGO: They just shot four students at Kent State!
GARY: But this can't be the revolution. I haven't finished my work as a director.
MARGO: They killed seven black students in Mississippi.
SKIP/IRVING: Come on, there's fighting going on right now!
MARGO: We need your help!
GARY: Look, I don't want to join the fighting. I just want to put on a play.
SKIP/IRVING: We don't need plays! We need warm bodies! We need Molotov cocktails!
MARGO: Filthy imperialist!
SKIP/IRVING: Capitalist stooge!
GARY: Bullshit, Irving! Everybody change character. Everybody but you, Irving. I'm going to show you the real revolution. Let's do the Sublime Opening.
(the four actors gather in a formation as they had during The Cry and change places to the rhythm of their chant. Skip watches and listens on the side.)
ALL: Change the World!
MARGO: Open the World!
ALL: Unlock the World!
LEAH: Unbind the World!
ALL: Open Everything!
MIKE: Unlock Everything!
ALL: Unbind Everything!
GARY: Open Up Our Bodies!
ALL: Every Orifice Is Sacred!
MARGO: Let Every Orifice Shake and Dance!
ALL: Let Every Orifice Enjoy Every Substance!
GARY: Open Up Our Flesh!
ALL: Throw Away Our Clothing!
(they start to undress themselves to a rhythm midway between
expressionist music and a strip joint)
MIKE: Throw Away Our Passports!
ALL: Open All Our Borders!
LEAH: Let Us Travel Freely Like the Wind!
ALL: Open Up Our Minds!
MARGO: Loosen Our Preconceptions!
ALL: Loosen All Our Laws!
GARY: Open All Our Jails!
ALL: Let the Prisoners Wander Freely!
SKIP/IRVING: But this is disgusting! It's totally unacceptable!
GARY: There, you see. You communists are even more conservative than the conservatives!
SKIP/IRVING: This is nothing but anarchist nonsense! You counter-revolutionary! You decadent bourgeois lackey! You turncoat! You're nothing but a plaything of the...
(veers out of character)
Oh, hell, Gary, I can't play this guy Irving. He drives me up the wall. Where did we go wrong, Gary? Is this guy the reason? Did he do it?
(the lights come up slowly on the rest of the barn--the lighting pattern denoting the past has faded. they begin to dress for the next scene.)
*As with the Jarry piece, "Waiting for Shorty" is a distilled essence rather than a parody (though some may prefer to regard it as such). The author wrote all four of these "plays-within-the-play" without a glance at any original texts and considers them as independent works in their own right.
This playscript is Copyright © 1997
by Alexander Gross.This excerpt may be
reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. It may
not be performed or used for any
commercial (i.e.,money-making) purpose
without written permission from the author.
All Rights Reserved.
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