Revisionist History premiered April 30, 1998, at the Adams House Pool Theatre, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, as part of the ARTS First Theatre Festival. This production was directed by the author and ran five performances. The original cast consisted of Pippa Brashear as Gaby, Janel Moore as Rachel, Michelle Capasso as Sue, and Maya Bourdeau as the professor.
THE TIME: The present.
THE PLACE: A dormitory room; a large single. The back wall is covered with three gigantic windows overlooking the streets of an average college town. A bed with its head resting against the SR wall cuts the room into upstage and downstage halves. Upstage of the bed, on the floor, is a half-completed art project, a collage of sorts. On the SL wall, opposite the bed, is a bookcase and bureau. The bookcase is being used more as a de facto display case, with picture books open to various pages, knick knacks, and jewelry scattered over the shelves. These item s are not neatly ordered. The walls are covered with charcoal drawings of disturbing faces, athletic female bodies (dancers, rowers, runners, etc.), and the occasional landscape. Interspersed with these are a few photographs of GABY’s family members. A CD player rests downstage right, on the floor, near enough to the bed so that it can be operated without rising. A phone sits in a similar position on the floor next to the other side of the bed.
The only entrance to the room is from the audience. However, actors should be able to enter undetected during blackouts.
GABY: A young woman in her second try at a freshman year of college. She is an athlete, running track and rowing crew. She is tall and slim, and she’s always dressed in layers of mismatched, worn out athletic clothes. Around her neck she always wears a funky modern crucifix-necklace. While she could easily pass as white, occasionally she chooses to drop subtle hints that her father is black. She has specific sets of actions and emotions that she uses, depending on with whom she is interacting. How she acts when she is alone is the mystery left to the actor.
RACHEL: One of GABY’s best friends at college. She is also a first year student. RACHEL is short, sarcastic, and occasionally sexy. She comes from a relatively rural area, but is anxious to become a city native. When she gets stressed or upset, she occasionally purges in the dorm bathroom.
SUE: GABY’s best friend on the crew team, also a freshman. SUE is a tall, muscular, self-assured young woman. Although SUE has a very masculine build, her gorgeous hair and winning smile remind her friends that she is a cuddly amazon. She is romantically involved in a very serious, long distance relationship with Deanna, a high school senior from her hometown.
THE PROFESSOR: THE PROFESSOR exists in her own time and space, in a tidy office, or perhaps a lecture hall, somewhere in the theatre – on the stage, in one of the boxes, the exact location is not important as long as it does not impose upon GABY’s space. She is a professor of History. She is also an occasional observer to the action of the other characters. Her watching is at times clinical, at times voyeuristic, and at times paranoid.
(GABY is moving around the dorm-room area as THE PROFESSOR enters and takes her place at the lecture podium. We hear the faint whir of a CD player finding a track. Religious choral music fills the room.)
PROFESSOR: Good evening. Today we’re going to talk about ritualization — the transformation of a process or event into a ritual. An ordered, repeated, pre-scripted affair.
(Some more movement. A match is struck, and we see the outline of GABY, a tall, slim woman with a mass of curls extending from her head. As THE PROFESSOR continues, GABY lights several candles along the windowsill – none of the candles match each other. SHE lights the tallest candle first, lighting each successive candle with the first.)
PROFESSOR: We see this “ritualization” happening everywhere. And I’m not only referring to the recent popular return to religion. We see ritualization in sports. In theaters. In the way we treat our eating habits, our health care, our visits to our grandparents, and our visits to our analysts. But ritualization may also refer to the forcing of ritual behavior onto a process. To shoehorn whatever it is you’re doing into a set of repeated forms. When is this ritualization simply the institutionalization of repeated aspects of our lives, and when is it an uneasy fit? And why do we do it?
(GABY returns this candle to its spot and takes up some incense sticks. SHE holds the sticks apart, one in each hand, slowly bringing them together through the flames, holding them in the middle flame until they catch. Once they catch, SHE slowly brings them towards her mouth to blow them out slowly. SHE makes large circles of smoke in the air. In one fluid motion, SHE sits down cross legged, as if to meditate. Much of HER body is blocked by the bed. SHE places the incense in holders on the ground in front of the windows and collapses forward, disappearing behind the bed.
SHE reappears with a diary in hand. SHE leafs through, considering the pages, until SHE finds one SHE doesn’t like. GABY tears out the page and holds it over the candle, letting it catch fire.
We hear footsteps and GABY drops the paper, hurtles over her bed, turns on the light, and grabs a pull-over. Realizing SHE may have caused a fire, SHE runs back to the paper to stamp it out…
As RACHEL enters, GABY has just finished blowing out the candles.)
RACHEL: Ugh. What’s that smell in here?
GABY: Sandalwood. It’s my favorite kind of incense. I’ve decided that I want to create a characteristic smell for me. So when you smell my clothes or come into my room, all your senses know it’s my place, they all register “Gaby”.
RACHEL (opening a window): Well, there’s certainly no mistaking it smells like something in here. God, this room has no ventilation. Nice candles. When did you get them?
GABY: Thanks… I’ve had them for a while, I just don’t usually keep them out. You know, fire code. So, what’s up?
RACHEL: Oh, nothing. I’m writing a paper and need a break, so I figured I’d see what you were up to.
PROFESSOR: Many common actions can take on the form of ritual. The way we get ourselves ready in the morning. The way we brush our teeth, make our breakfast, exercise…
GABY: Just… um… relaxing. I had another erg test this morning.
RACHEL: How did you do?
GABY: My best time yet. I even beat Melissa.
RACHEL: The team captain? Gold medal girl?
GABY: Yeah, Mrs. Olympian herself.
RACHEL: Damn, Gaby, does this mean we’ll see you rowing on TV in the next Olympics?
PROFESSOR: Conversations can also take on the tone of ritual.
GABY: Who knows? I’d like it, but I know better than to set my hopes that high.
RACHEL: What do you mean? You’re the best rower here.
GABY: Come on, stop it. I may have the muscle, but I’m still building the skill.
PROFESSOR: We all do it. You know, like the phone call in which we run through the same questions and answers with our friends that we exchanged the last time we spoke to them and that we will exchange with the next call we make.
RACHEL: Whatever. Anyway, I need a study break, and I’m out of Milk Duds. Want to go over to Store 24 with me to grab some?
GABY: I’ll go with you, but I’m on a diet, so I won’t buy anything.
PROFESSOR: Any deviation from the pre-ordained script is generally considered as a shattering of the ritual aspect.
RACHEL: Diet? Where do you plan on losing this weight from?
GABY: What do you mean? Look at me!
PROFESSOR: Often, though, such deviation simply directs the participants towards a different, yet similarly prescripted routine.
RACHEL: I am looking at you. I don’t see any fat! Listen, it’s bad enough that I hang my head over the toilet after every meal – we don’t need you starting it too.
GABY: But I need to stay lightweight for crew.
RACHEL: That’s bullshit. You’re fine where you are. I mean, if you lose any more weight you’re going to disqualify yourself for being too light – plus, you could fuck up your period.
GABY: I missed it this month.
GABY: I’m not all that regular anyway, I’m sure it’s nothing. But this is the longest –
RACHEL: You’re not pr-
GABY: Oh, no. No way. I mean, I haven’t…
RACHEL: Good. Do you want to go to Health Services and see a doctor?
GABY: I’ve already made an appointment.
GABY: What? Oh… um… Next Monday.
GABY: I have to try to get out of work.
RACHEL: That shouldn’t be a problem. You put in so much time at that stupid coffee shop as it is.
GABY: Well, I do what I have to do.
PROFESSOR: So, why all this talk about ritual in a history lecture? Well, it’s pretty clear that ritual exists in the small things we do every day. But what’s really interesting is that recent studies in history and anthropology have made it clear that ritual exists on the historical timeline as well. Historical events of every scale, from major demonstrations down to the most insignificant exchanges between political figures are acted with precise reliance on the script left by previous generations.
RACHEL: Any word on the financial aid situation?
GABY: Not yet. They said I should get an answer about last year by the end of the week.
RACHEL: Well, good luck. I’m gonna run out for those Milk Duds. Want anything?
GABY: No thanks, I’m broke.
RACHEL: On me.
GABY: No, really.
RACHEL: Come on, what do you want?
GABY: Um… Maybe a diet Snapple?
RACHEL: It’s yours. See ya.
(RACHEL exits. GABY picks up the phone and dials.)
GABY: Hi, it’s Gaby; can I speak to Tom? Yeah. — Hey, Tom, it’s Gaby. I can’t make it into the store on Monday. Big race. Yeah, against BU. Great. Thanks. Thanks a lot. No, really, it means a lot. I can make it up on Tuesday – no? No, really, I need the hours. Okay? Wonderful, thanks so much. Great. Bye.
(GABY hangs up.)
PROFESSOR: Ritual theory has found its niche in the school of thought known as revisionism. Before we can discuss ritual theory at play in history, let’s back up and look at the motivations behind revisionism.
(GABY retrieves her diary and begins to write:)
GABY: “I don’t know why, but I’m not very good at writing things as they happen. I’m much more comfortable thinking back on what already happened and writing down my memories. It’s been a long time since I’ve covered any new material. I don’t know, I guess I’d rather go over the really interesting stuff than write about my boring life now.
PROFESSOR: Revisionist historians seek to compensate for the traditionally white-Christian-heterosexual-male-imperialist view of history by examining historical moments and phenomena from previously neglected viewpoints. Ethnic minorities. Women. Queers. The losers — um, that is, historically speaking. Shit, that didn’t come out right. But you know what I mean. Those who were underrepresented in the traditional understanding of history.
GABY: “I guess sometime I’ll have to write down everything that happened last year, leaving school and living on my own. But this year has been a new beginning; a second chance. Why should I spend my time writing about my failure when I have another shot at doing it right?”
PROFESSOR: Let’s face it, Livy didn’t give a shit as to how the Carthaginians felt when the Romans kicked their asses in the Punic Wars. Wait, I’m going about this the wrong way.
GABY: Okay. What to write now? I guess if this is another start, it’s always good to start at the beginning.
PROFESSOR: Let’s get a definition down so we can work from there.
GABY: “When I closed that car door, I closed a chapter of my life.” Ugh, how cliché… Let’s try ummm… “I started running and running and never looked back -”
GABY: No, that’s terrible. You know, the hard thing about writing “reality” is you never know where to begin. Or where to end. Or what to change.
PROFESSOR: Advocacy of the rethinking of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine, especially a revision of historical events and movements.
GABY: “Of course, it wasn’t really my choice to close the door; mom sort of pushed me out. But it happened, and I ran and ran all the way to my pastor’s house, but he wasn’t home. His wife was, which might have been better. Mary was a little softer than her husband Joe, who was all into fire and brimstone. Of course, so was I at the time. But Mary and Pastor Joe couldn’t save me from my home, and the pieces began to flake off.
PROFESSOR: While generally accepted as a valid, alternative perspective, the revisionist movement is still highly controversial in many circles.
GABY: “When they failed me too, I started walking. Nowhere in particular, just down the highway. I don’t know what I was thinking, I tried to bring my entire life with me, but it was too much. The bible was the first thing I dropped. I stopped on the side of the road, my thumb extended begging for a ride, staring at the discarded book for a good hour. That
book which had been my life, my comfort, my guiding light couldn’t help me now. It couldn’t carry me away, couldn’t protect me from the blows or kisses of my family, couldn’t keep my mind on the pure thoughts I so wanted to think.
PROFESSOR: Some scholars criticize revisionism as being too “touchy-feely…”
GABY: “So I left the bible there. Eventually a big rig stopped and picked me up -”
PROFESSOR: …while others simply dismiss these alternative points of view as irrelevant, or simply incorrect.
(GABY is interrupted by the ring of the phone.)
GABY: Damn it.
(SHE finds the phone and picks up the receiver.)
GABY: Hello? Oh, Dad. Hi. What’s up? No, everything’s fine, the phone just surprised me. Yeah, so where are you now? What? Boston? (Shit.) What? I said great. Do I get to see you this time around? No? (Good.) Oh, that sucks. Yeah, I know, you don’t get to stay anywhere long. Where are you off to next? Ohio, really? Oh, to live the exciting life of a cargo pilot… No, I’m not making fun of you. Really, I was just kidding. Dad? But — I know this pays for my educ- I’m sorry. I said I’M SORRY. Yeah. Okay. Bye.
(SHE hangs up the phone and returns to her diary. SHE reads over what she was just writing, when there’s a knock at the door. SHE quickly closes the book and shoves it under her huge pile of pillows.)
GABY: Come in!
(RACHEL returns with Snapple, Milk Duds, etc.)
RACHEL: Hey, just me with your Snapple.
RACHEL: Did I miss anything?
GABY: My dad called. He’s in town.
RACHEL: Oh. Is that good?
GABY: Not really, but it doesn’t really matter. He’s not coming to see me.
RACHEL: He’s not? That’s fucker. What’s he doing in town?
GABY: On business, I guess. He’s a pilot. He’s only here for a few hours.
RACHEL: Oh. Do you see him much?
GABY: No, he’s always flying somewhere or other. Listen, can we talk about something other than my father?
RACHEL: Sure, sorry. Is it a touchy subject?
GABY: You could say that.
GABY: No, it’s okay. We just… don’t get along well.
RACHEL: Gotcha. We don’t have to talk about it.
GABY: Thanks. Sometimes I still get nightmares about him, especially when I’m home.
RACHEL: Didn’t we just say we weren’t going to talk about him? I’m kidding, you just keep talking until you’re done.
GABY: I’m fine, really.
RACHEL: You sure? Okay. I’ve got to get back to my homework. I’ll see you later.
(SUE ANDERSON enters and sits on the bed.)
SUE: Hey, babe, ready for supper?
GABY: I’m not feeling so well today. I don’t think I’m going to get dinner…
SUE: Shit, what’s wrong?
GABY: No more than usual — I’m just feeling a little weak.
SUE: Then there’s no reason you shouldn’t come eat.
GABY: Go away.
GABY: I’m sorry. I just want to be by myself now. I’m not feeling very social.
SUE: You can’t let it take over your mind.
PROFESSOR: Of course, the problem is that you can’t make blanket statements about the legitimacy of a whole school of thought.
SUE: Control it, master it, make it your slave. And eat your fucking dinner.
GABY: Cut me a little slack here. You don’t know what it’s like. Why should I eat today, or any day? Prolong the inevitable? Keep myself “healthy” so I can gain a day, a week, a year?
SUE: Gabs, whoa, listen to yourself. You’re not that sick. Yes, the disease is serious, but it’s not going to cut you off mid-sentence. And the more you fight it, subject it to your will, the more chance you have to conquer it.
GABY: I guess so.
SUE: That’s better. So, what’s good in your life.
GABY: I’m going in for a new treatment on Monday.
SUE: That’s more like it. What kind of treatment?
GABY: It’s an intravenous form of AZT, supposed to be more concentrated.
SUE: I haven’t heard about it. How did you get into that program?
GABY: My specialist arranged it. He likes me, so he pulled some strings.
SUE: Sounds good. How’s the count?
GABY: Low, but steady.
SUE: Good. So get your ass out of bed and come to supper with me.
GABY: Okay. Fine.
(GABY starts putting on her shoes, etc.)
SUE: So, what else is going on?
GABY: Not so much; you already heard about my erg time at practice this morning.
SUE: Did you really beat Melissa’s time?
GABY: Who did you hear it from?
GABY: My time, who told you?
SUE: I don’t know… Maybe Andrea, maybe Melissa…
GABY: Was she pissed?
GABY: Was Melissa pissed that I beat her time?
SUE: I don’t know. I don’t think so. Why should she be?
GABY: Come on, she’s Miss Olympian and some freshman beat her time?
SUE: Yeah, I guess I’d be a little upset if I were in her shoes. Whatever. What else is going on?
GABY: Besides crew and the coffee shop, I don’t have so much time. What about you? Heard from Deanna?
SUE: Every day. God, she’s great.
GABY: What’s new with her?
SUE: Not too much. She sent back her acceptance to McGill, so she’s set for the rest of this year. She invited me over for Christmas break, but I’m not sure how that will work.
GABY: Why? Don’t your parents know? Or do hers not…?
SUE: No, it’s nothing like that. The opposite, actually; as much as I love Deanna, I’m not sure I want to sacrifice the time with my parents.
GABY: I just can’t imagine feeling that way about my family.
SUE: Why? You love your brothers — you talk to Matt something like twice a week.
GABY: Yeah, but my mom and dad are always at each other’s throats. My house is a war zone with them always fighting, splitting up, getting back together… That’s why I went to Rachel’s for Thanksgiving; I just can’t stand being home.
SUE: That sucks.
GABY: Tell me about it. Holidays are the worst. Neither side of the family likes the other. Most of my relatives are still pissed that my parents even got married. At the wedding they were all saying “what about the children,” but you know what? They’re the ones who give me and my brothers the most shit. We’re too dark for my mom’s side, too whitewashed for
SUE: Shit. At least you’ve got each other.
GABY: Right, as if our own baggage isn’t enough to deal with, we’ve got to help each other out as well.
SUE: That’s not a healthy attitude.
GABY: I’m not a healthy person.
GABY (giggling and playfully slapping SUE with a pillow): Joke!
SUE (fighting back with a bigger pillow): Oh, shut up!
GABY (fighting back by tickling): No way!
(The two girls roll around on the bed in a moment of bonding that wavers between the playful and the erotic. After a short bit, they both sit up, breathing heavily from the adrenaline rush.)
SUE: Weak my ass. Let’s go get dinner.
PROFESSOR: Traditionally, history has always been deeply rooted in time and place. Now this may sound obvious, since, after all, what is history but the record of what happened at a specific time in a specific place. However revisionist history seeks to transcend time, to delve into the issues that drive history. We move away from the linear timeline of literature and into the concepts that drive our study.
(THEY leave, shutting off the light as they go. Blackout.)
(RACHEL is reading at GABY’s desk. There’s a knock at the door, to which SHE barely reacts.)
RACHEL: Yeah, come in.
(SUE enters. SHE is surprised to see RACHEL rather than GABY.)
SUE: Oh, hey… Where’s Gaby?
RACHEL: She’s not here. At work or something.
SUE: Do you know when she’ll be back?
RACHEL: Nope, no idea.
SUE: Well, I guess I’ll be going then. If you’re still here when she gets back, could you let her know I was by? My name’s Sue-
RACHEL: I know who you are. I mean, I’ve seen you around. I’m Rachel.
SUE: Yeah, I’ve seen you with Gaby. She’s always talking about you.
RACHEL: She does? Well, I guess that’s good. She’s told me a lot about you, too.
SUE: Thanks, I think. So, uh… If you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing here?
RACHEL: Just studying. Oh, you mean in Gaby’s room? She leaves the key over the door frame in case anyone needs to get in. I come here when my room’s too noisy.
SUE: Makes sense.
RACHEL: It works for me. I don’t know why she even bothers to lock the door; it’s not like everyone doesn’t know where she puts the key.
SUE: Typical. Well, I came by to see if she wanted to rent a movie with me. Tell her to give me a call?
RACHEL: Sure. What movie were you going to rent?
SUE: I don’t know. Hadn’t really thought of it, probably something older, maybe Steel Magnolias.
RACHEL: I’ve never seen that one, is it any good?
SUE: Really? Oh my god, we’ve got to get it. It’s one of my favorites. All those hard drinking southern women cutting hair and talking trash.
RACHEL: Eh, I don’t know, I’m not so into those “chick flicks”.
SUE: But this is the best of the bunch. What have you got to lose?
RACHEL: Hmm. Let’s see. I’ve got this paper to write, or I could watch the video. Oh, there’s a tough call. Are you sure I’m going to like this movie?
SUE: You’ll love it. Deanna made me watch it on our second date.
SUE: My girlfriend.
RACHEL: I didn’t know you have a girlfriend.
SUE: Sorry to disappoint.
RACHEL: Oh, no, I’m not. . . I mean. . .
SUE: Cool it, I’m kidding.
RACHEL: Oh. Sorry. Now that I’ve thoroughly embarrassed myself, I’m going to change the subject back to your girlfriend. So, like, why is it that I could probably recite what you and Gaby ate for breakfast for the last month but Gaby’s never mentioned that you have a girlfriend?
SUE: She’s not here; she’s still in high school back home.
RACHEL: I guess that makes sense. Of course, I don’t think Gaby talks about Mark that much, but that’s because they don’t particularly like each other.
SUE: Mark’s your boyfriend?
RACHEL: Yeah. For whatever that’s worth.
SUE: What do you mean?
RACHEL: Well, we have fun and all, but I’m lucky if he remembers to show up for a date, never mind bring me flowers.
SUE: Deanna’s the complete opposite. I mean, she’s in another part of the country, but she still manages to surprise me every day with something.
RACHEL: What do you mean?
SUE: Oh, it all sounds pretty dumb. You know, she always seems to call when I most need her, or she’ll send me letters or little presents.
RACHEL: That’s not dumb. It’s sweet.
SUE: Yeah, I guess so. I just hate it that she’s so far away.
RACHEL: I’m with you there. I had a boyfriend all through high school, but we broke up when I came here. He couldn’t deal with the distance.
SUE: Was that weird?
RACHEL: At first. I mean, we still talked every day, and we both had feelings for each other. It’s been much better since I got together with Mark.
SUE: I don’t think I could do that, though. Deanna’s just too special. And I guess I see her enough; we try to see each other on weekends at least once a month.
RACHEL: That’s cool. Is it working?
SUE: I think so. It just sucks so much to have to say goodbye at the end of the weekend.
RACHEL: No shit.
SUE: This past time was she did the cutest thing, though. She gave me a coffee mug so I’d have to think about her every morning before practice – like I don’t already.
RACHEL: That’s cute.
SUE: Yeah. And she also gave me a really pretty necklace that used to belong to her grandmother. She wanted me to take care of it because it was the only thing as special to her as I am.
RACHEL: I think I’m going to be sick.
SUE: Oh, come on. You’re just jealous.
RACHEL: Whatever. You think I don’t appreciate it when Mark generously offers to share a box of M&M’s with me at the movies?
SUE: Speaking of which…
RACHEL: Right, the video. Are you sure this isn’t another one of those “let’s sit around and bitch until someone dies and then we’ll sit around and cry” movies?
SUE: Different league. Entirely. I promise, this one’s good.
RACHEL: Okay, but can we pick up Scream in case it sucks?
SUE: Deal. There’s always room for Drew Barrymore.
RACHEL: Well, you’ll be sorely disappointed. She dies right at the beginning.
SUE: That sucks. So, which video store are we going to?
RACHEL: I don’t care. Wherever.
SUE: Your choice; I don’t have a card for any of them.
RACHEL: Oh. Well, what were you going to do if you found Gaby?
SUE: Oh, she always rents when we get movies together — she’s got a Blockbuster card from the store in the center.
RACHEL: She does?
SUE: Yeah, why?
RACHEL: She always makes me rent. Said none of the stores would let her join because she doesn’t have a credit card.
SUE: You sure?
RACHEL: I think so. I mean, when we rented Pretty in Pink last Tuesday, she definitely said she couldn’t be the one to get the tape.
RACHEL: I don’t know. Maybe I’m confusing her with one of my roommates. Whatever. Let’s go.
(THEY leave. Blackout.)
PROFESSOR: Often, revisionist history brings important, new insights into events and personalities that shaped our world. Without revisionism, we would still consider Columbus a pristine hero, Nixon an unredeemable villain, and the USA the infallible protector of the world. You see, once you remove the lens of traditional history, many of our fundamental
assumptions break down.
(Lights come up to reveal GABY alone, in the early evening, writing in her diary.)
GABY: “It’s getting harder. I’ve never met anyone quite like Sue. She’s so aware of everything that goes on, so smart. Every time I think I’ve got her at the breaking point, she smiles, shrugs it off, and ends up on top. I thought I could maneuver my way between her and Deanna, but she took–”
(SHE is interrupted by the laughter of RACHEL and SUE, who are approaching GABY’s room together.)
(SHE stashes the diary and puts on a happy face as RACHEL and SUE enter.)
GABY: Hey guys. Where are you coming from so worked up?
SUE: We went to see the special anniversary showing of “My Fair Lady” downtown.
GABY: I love that movie!
RACHEL: We came by to see if you wanted to come, but you were out.
PROFESSOR: The new perspective revisionism affords us may be confusing at first. However, given close analysis over time, we nearly always garner new insights into our subject of study. And patterns begin to develop.
GABY: It’s one of my favorites.
SUE: Hey, sorry, kid.
RACHEL: Yeah, sorry. What’s wrong?
GABY: Nothing, it’s just…
GABY: I’m a little hurt.
GABY: I was working — you guys should have come by the shop to get me; I could have gotten off.
PROFESSOR: These patterns are symptomatic of the ritual nature of history, which I spoke about earlier in the course. Often, events throughout history resemble each other because the people shaping history consciously choose to echo similar events from the past.
RACHEL: Jesus, how were we supposed to know that? Listen, we didn’t mean to exclude you.
GABY: But you did it anyway.
RACHEL: Gaby, how were we supposed to know where you were? We’re not your baby-sitters —
GABY: No, just my friends. So I thought.
SUE: Oh, come off it Gaby. Look, we’re sorry. We didn’t come here for a guilt trip, we came to see if you’d be back for some more fun.
GABY: Well, I’m back…
SUE: …but she doesn’t feel like going out with us now, because she’d rather have us wallow in our guilt. It ain’t gonna work babe.
PROFESSOR: However, without strict adherence to the prescribed script, ritual begins to unravel. Any wavering from the expected order will strip the event of its ritual nature.
GABY: Yeah, okay, fine. You know me too well. Where to?
SUE: We don’t have any set plans yet.
RACHEL: How about grabbing dinner?
GABY: I already ate.
SUE: Okay, how about swinging by the gym for a quick workout.
GABY: Nah, I’m too tired; you guys can go on ahead without me.
SUE: Gaby, don’t be stupid. Where do you want to go?
PROFESSOR: Deprived of their ritual script, the shapers of history are suddenly left in a quandary — they have to think for themselves. This is a most critical moment, from the historian’s perspective.
GABY: Nowhere. Anywhere. I don’t care.
RACHEL: Why don’t we hang out here?
PROFESSOR: With an actual decision to make, history’s characters determine how their actions will be recorded and remembered. They can either break free of history and take humanity in new directions, lauded forever for their groundbreaking achievement, or they can fail and be exiled to the status of a footnote in a college history textbook.
GABY: Listen, I’m going to be serious for a second. Yes, I was pissed that you guys went out without me, but I really am tired and I really don’t feel like going out now. Please, just let me stay here alone, I’ve got some homework to do. You guys can go out together or separate or whatever, I don’t care, just let me be. No hard feelings, no guilt, just… please.
RACHEL: Okay. Sure. Sue?
SUE: Yeah, I guess I have work to do to.
RACHEL: Me too. Gabs, I’ll be in my room if you need anything.
GABY: Okay. Thanks for understanding. I’m sorry.
RACHEL: No problem.
SUE: I guess I’ll be going too.
GABY: No, wait.
PROFESSOR: I guess to some extent, everyone who enters the political arena hopes to make that groundbreaking decision; to change the world, or at least touch lives.
GABY: I wanted to tell you something, but I wanted to tell you guys separately. Sort of. I’m not sure how — or if – I’m going to tell Rachel yet.
GABY: Remember that doctor’s appointment?
SUE: Yeah, the new treatment, how did it go?
GABY: It didn’t.
PROFESSOR: Most, though, can’t even break out of the pre-written script.
GABY: They wouldn’t let me have it.
SUE: Why? Was it an insurance thing? I’m sure we can find the money–
GABY: No, it wasn’t anything like that. It’s me.
SUE: What about you.
GABY: They said I’m too far gone. I’m too diseased or something.
SUE: Shit. No.
GABY: That’s what they said. I didn’t have enough time left on me to be worth the investment of the expensive experimental treatment.
PROFESSOR: And those that do are lucky to even become a footnote.
SUE: Fuck. Was this your regular doctor?
SUE: Good — we’re going to make you an appointment with him right now —
GABY: Done. His office is in the same building. I ran to him crying for advice, a second opinion, something…
SUE: And what did he say?
(GABY responds by slumping her head and crying.)
SUE: Oh, baby. Baby.
GABY: Two months. Maybe less.
SUE: Oh my god. It’s okay. I’m here…
GABY: I can’t do it.
GABY: No, I can’t do it. I can’t lose control.
SUE: Shhhh… It’s okay. Let it out…
GABY: No, you don’t get it. I can’t live like this.
GABY: I can’t. I can’t. I don’t want it to take me away.
SUE: There’s nothing you can do but fight it.
GABY: I can beat it at its own game.
GABY: I can get myself before it gets me.
(Lights come up on a park bench, mid-afternoon. RACHEL is reading when SUE jogs by.)
SUE: Hey, what’s up?
RACHEL: Not much, you?
SUE: Nothing, really. Have you seen Gaby today?
RACHEL: Nope. Is something wrong?
SUE: She was pretty down at practice this morning.
RACHEL: Yeah, she gets like that sometimes.
SUE: No. I think she had another doctor’s appointment yesterday.
RACHEL: Another one?
SUE: Oh; didn’t she tell you about the one last week?
RACHEL: No. Why, is it bad?
SUE: Um. They wanted her to come back once a week. Therapy or something.
RACHEL: Therapy? What kind of therapy?
SUE: I’m not sure.
SUE: They wouldn’t keep her for more than two hours, would they?
RACHEL: I guess not, unless something’s wrong.
SUE: Well, her appointment was at one.
RACHEL: Then she should be back from Health Services any time now.
SUE: Health Services?
RACHEL: Yeah, it’s only around the corner, it’s not a long walk–
SUE: I know where it is. It’s just… I mean, she should be at… Oh, never mind.
SUE: I don’t know if we should be talking about her when she’s not here.
RACHEL: What are you talking about?
SUE: It’s just that she told me she wasn’t sure when she was going to tell you about the last appointment, so I don’t know what I should say to you.
RACHEL: She probably just hasn’t seen me since. She’s never around any more, but when we do actually sit down to talk, she does tell me everything. I mean, I hope it’s everything, since I can’t imagine it could be much worse.
SUE: Well, yeah, although it looks like it’s headed in that direction.
RACHEL: What do you mean?
SUE: You know, what’s she going through now.
RACHEL: Which part? She’s going through so much.
SUE: Tell me about it. But I mean… You know.
RACHEL: Do you mean with her father? He was in town again last week, you know, and she spent the entire time dodging his phone calls. You know she had an unlisted number just to avoid him, although I don’t understand how she thought she could keep it from him since her mom has it and they’re still–
SUE: No, not her father.
RACHEL: Then what?
SUE: I’m talking about the doctor.
RACHEL: Yeah, I was yelling at her to make the damn appointment the other day, but she said she already had.
SUE: But then why do you think she’s at Health Services?
RACHEL: I just assumed, I guess. Why?
SUE: Well, you know, I just thought she went into town to see the specialist.
SUE: Well, you don’t leave this kind of stuff to those shitty campus doctors.
RACHEL: This kind of stuff? Don’t they deal with these problems all the time?
SUE: Shit, I don’t think so. I mean, I hope not.
RACHEL: You’re fooling yourself. Of course they do.
SUE: Rachel, um… What exactly do you think is wrong with Gaby?
RACHEL: Well, isn’t it obvious?
SUE: I thought so. Before now anyway.
RACHEL: The weight loss?
RACHEL: The exhaustion?
RACHEL: She’s lost interest in a lot of her activities?
RACHEL: Always taking pills, skipping meals.
RACHEL: She’s anorexic.
SUE: Um… no.
RACHEL: What do you mean “no”? She’s said it to me herself. How do you explain the diet pills?
SUE: Diet pills?
RACHEL: Yeah, you must see them, the bigass white ones that she takes at every meal?
SUE: Those are — wait a second. You better sit down for this one.
SUE: Rachel, Gaby has AIDS.
(RACHEL is dumbfounded, but after a tense moment, she bursts out laughing. Now, SUE is the one who doesn’t know how to react.)
RACHEL: That again? Sue, that was last year.
RACHEL: I mean, she didn’t have AIDS last year, but she thought she did. Everyone thought she did. Why do you think she had to leave school?
SUE: She was sick. Her t-cell count was low, she couldn’t handle it.
RACHEL: What she couldn’t handle was the discrimination, the glares from her roommates, the stress of a falsely positive HIV test.
SUE: What are you talking about?
RACHEL: I swear, that’s what Gaby told me. She left school last year because she had a nervous breakdown after a false positive on an HIV test. Why do you think she doesn’t speak to anyone from last year anymore?
SUE: Because of exactly what you said – they couldn’t deal with her being sick, they didn’t want to have to care about her, worry about her, so they fucked her over. She couldn’t deal with it, she took time off, and now she’s giving it a second go.
RACHEL: No, I tell you she told me that it was a scare!
SUE: Then why is she always going to the doctor in Boston?
RACHEL: Boston? I thought Gaby hates the city.
SUE: Well, she certainly goes there enough.
RACHEL: Wait a second, I feel like I’m missing something.
SUE: Wait, there’s more. Let me show you something…
(SUE reaches into her backpack and produces a mug and GABY’s crucifix necklace.)
RACHEL: What are you doing with Gaby’s necklace — I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without it. And the cup looks like the ones from the place she works. Where did you get them?
SUE: She left them in my locker at the boathouse sometime during crew practice today.
RACHEL: I don’t get it.
(Lights fade to black.)
PROFESSOR: So how can we tell? How can we tell when someone does make that break from tradition into the unexpected, making history that’s really historical? That, my friends, is what we’re here for. It is the job of the ritualist historian to pinpoint when ritual is being followed, to determine which script is being followed and to discover the points of departure. Can different people each be participating in a different ritual? It all depends on which script the players are performing.
(As lights come up, it is night, and we see GABY talking on the phone.)
GABY: Hi. This message is for Melissa. It’s Gaby. Melissa, I just want you to know that when I met you, I decided that I had to be you. And if I couldn’t be you, I was going to break you. And I had to have Sue, and if I couldn’t have her, I would break her as well. I guess I’m not the achiever everyone thought I would be, so now I feel I have to leave. This is probably the last time you’ll hear from me, so… uh… Thanks. Yeah, thanks. Bye.
(SHE hangs up the phone, picks up a piece of paper from her diary and writes a note.)
GABY: I want to be reborn like the Phoenix and rise up from the ashes of this life into a purity of purpose with my creator, a unity of mission with my savior, a parity of being with the holy spirit. It all happened, it is all happening, it will all forever happen. I do not know why the chronology clashes, why the history doesn’t match the reality. But when I remember, I remember it all clearly. The things my father did to me, the year at St. George’s running track, the year of hitchhiking, stained with rape but salvaged with friendship. Being here with AIDS and not with AIDS and suddenly being in Chicago working and living away from everyone. Being here again, starting over, trying to rise but flailing my arms in my sad attempt to fly. I am sick, I am diseased. Is it AIDS? Sometimes. Is it all in my head? Sometimes. Always. Never. Why do I need to justify my life. It all happened, and who am I in their eyes that I need to justify? Who am I in their eyes? Who am I? Who? Can it be absolutely true and yet never have really happened?
PROFESSOR: Then again, often the ritualists, like the revisionists, are simply talking out of their asses.
(GABY folds the note and places it neatly on her pillow, goes over to her desk, and rummages through it until she finds a large container of Benadryl.)
PROFESSOR: Even so, each has an important case to make. In rereading and reinterpreting the events that have gone before us, we open ourselves to new insights into our lives, our past, and our future.
(GABY pops off the top and methodically swallows the pills, one by one. As the PROFESSOR continues, the lights on GABY’s section of the stage begin to fade.)
PROFESSOR: And in ritual, we find our commonalities and our points of departure; we see when we act alike and when we choose to shift gears. Does any of this answer any of the whys of the past? Not yet. Not yet. Can we ever expect to?
(THE PROFESSOR takes off her glasses as if her lecture is over. After a moment in which SHE seems to be watching her class leave, SHE opens her desk drawer, takes out a bottle of pills, looks around, swallows a few, and leaves, as the lights fade to black.)
Copyright © 1997, 1998 by David Levy Please direct performance inquiries to him.