Friday, March 04, 2011

Play - Art Therapy

[Leigh: girl suffering from schizophrenia
Jared: partially amnesiac boy who hates musicals
Flynn: effeminate boy who likes to think he is the star of every play he creates in his head]

A stale room reeking of air freshener. A ring of chairs in the middle of the room. LEIGH, JARED and FLYNN are the only ones who have arrived.
Jared Just so we’re clear, I’m not here because I’m crazy, okay?
Flynn Oh, but we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. You wouldn’t have come here if you weren’t.
Leigh Alice in Wonderland.
Flynn (beams) Spot on, girl.
Jared (mutters) Great. Therapy session with Disney fanatics. This must be a first.
Flynn First off, Alice in Wonderland is not a Disney original. Disney adapted the story from Lewis Carroll. You get me, sugar? Secondly, (leans closer) what’s a treat like you doing in therapy, anyway?
Jared (backing away) I’m here under court orders. Not that this is any of your business. Now, let me introduce you to my friend, Personal Space. You can’t see her, but she’s right here (pushes FLYNN away from him).
Flynn Oh, don’t be shy. We’re all in the same boat here.
Jared (with reluctant interest) You’re here under court orders too?
Flynn Well, no. But I’m here for (drops voice to a whisper) research.
Jared (frowning) Research?
Flynn For my next character, see? I’m playing a hapless young pianist who loses his memory after a car accident, the poor soul, and is trying to sift through the discordant symphony in his mind to retrieve his identity. Although, if you ask me, I’d say he’s being a little melodramatic. Losing your memory isn’t that horrible. It’s like how an actor becomes a blank slate every time he is cast in a new role.
Jared (snaps) You think losing your memory isn’t that horrible?
Flynn Well, who needs them? We should all cleanse ourselves of unpleasant memories once in a while.
Jared What about the happy ones, if any?
Flynn Then you make more of them.
Jared But what is the point if you’re going to lose them later?
Flynn Exactly why you keep making new ones! You see my point now, sugar? Took you a little long, but that’s okay. You look so cute when you’re confused. (Giggles)
JARED decides he has had enough of FLYNN and turns to LEIGH, who is staring out the window behind her. Sunlight makes her auburn hair glow a vibrant red.
Jared What are you here for, then?
Leigh (not turning around) Look how the sunlight illuminates each speck of dust. Look how each speck dances. They all look the same to us, don’t they?
Jared Um. I guess…?
Leigh Sameness is the same to those who are different, but only the same difference will be different to those who are the same.
Jared (mutters) Nutjobs. I’m stuck here with a bunch of nutjobs. Delightful.
Flynn (tugs on JARED’s t-shirt) She’s boring, leave her be. I, though, I could make a song about you. What’s your name?
Jared Names give other people power over you.
Flynn (tearing up) That’s lovely. Who told you that? Well, I’ll call you the Trojan Warrior, then.
Jared What? No!
Flynn What’s wrong with that? Listen to this, it’s impromptu. I’m rather good at making up songs impromptu. Oh, look how the mighty Trojan Warrior walks / With his tail up high and brandishing his sword. / With his pretty hair and his brawny chest / Oh, have you ever witnessed such a lovely fest!
Jared Will you stop singing!
Flynn Sure. Whatever you say, Trojan Warrior.
Jared (agitated) I am not Trojan Warrior! Stop calling me that. The name’s Jared, okay?
Flynn (grins) Jared it is, then. We could’ve spared ourselves all that if you’d just given me your name.
He prepares to launch into a new song about JARED when the therapist walks in. JARED looks relieved, FLYNN annoyed, while LEIGH continues staring out the window.
Dr York Ah. I see we’re all starting to get acquainted. Don’t let me interrupt –
Jared Please do.
Flynn Oh, he’s shy. (Reaches over for his hair) The sweet thing.
JARED flinches and backs away.
Dr York (gaze flicks between JARED and FLYNN) Right, well then. I’m glad you came, Jared. I was a little worried you wouldn’t, given your condition. And as for you, Flynn, I see you’ve extended your … affectionate welcome to your peer. And … (trails off as he looks at LEIGH) Leigh? Are you here with us? (He gets no response.)
Jared (through clenched teeth) Let’s just get this over with.
Dr York (consults his list) Certainly. We just have to wait for one more friend to arrive before we proceed.
Jared You mean there’s one more crazy person joining this suck-fest? Is the world over-run with nutjobs these days?
Drew Melodrama becomes you, Jared.
DREW enters the room and takes a seat next to DR YORK.
Jared (in surprise) What are you doing here?
Drew I’m here as his assistant. An intern.
Jared The irony is dancing right in front of you. (Gestures to somewhere on DREW’s right) Right there. See it?
Drew I forgot how precious your humour can be.
Dr York Now, boys. Drew’s stint here is history, but a person’s history can influence his future. I’d say Drew’s doing well now, wouldn’t you, Jared?
Jared (rolls eyes) Spare me the chipper attitude. We’ve got Happy here for that already. (Gestures to FLYNN)
Flynn I’m acknowledged! (Claps hands) It’s nice to hear you referring to me in such a positive light, Warrior.
JARED shoots him a venomous look.
Flynn My, look who’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Dr York Right. Let’s get started. Why don’t we share something about ourselves and talk about how we’re feeling today? Leigh, ladies first.
Leigh (turns around and stares at the floor)
Dr York Maybe we’re all feeling a little shy now. Don’t worry, take your time. Here, we don’t judge, we only listen and share.
LEIGH is still hesitant.
Flynn Oh, come on, sister. (Wraps an arm around LEIGH) We’re all family here. No secrets, no betrayal, only love, no fear! I’m Flynn. In my free time, I like horse-riding, reading plays, singing and rehearsing for my performances. Also, I adore the colour of your hair, and I think it’s time for me to get a haircut. I’m growing tired of this shaggy look. So 2010, don’t you think?
Dr York Excellent! Now, Flynn has offered us a good start. Now, why don’t you give it a try, Jared?
Jared (glaring at DR YORK) Why don’t I just walk out right now, Dr York? You told me this is a legitimate form of therapy. How is sitting around in a circle talking about sharing and big love a legitimate form of therapy? I didn’t sign up for this.
Flynn You’re grumpy. Here, let me give you a song: Once there was a man called Grumpy / Who didn’t like his therapist. / He stomped around with his brows knitted close / And let everyone eat his fist.
Drew (smirks) What do you know, the guy’s a poet!
Flynn (bows) Thank you. One must learn to be spontaneous if he wants to make it big on stage. Come on, everyone! Try it with me. You can be male-lead quality like me if you practice hard enough!
Leigh There once lived a lovely princess / In the darkest wood up on the hill. / She danced to the full moon and the beastly sea, / And grew roses on her windowsill. / But she battered the air with her lovelorn sighs / And stained the warm earth with her blood. / She wanted to be free of the pretty monsters / that, in her dreams, come out to play. / Her castle was a steely prison with bones for bars; / She could not tear away. / So under the swollen moon on her eighteenth birthday / She lay quietly in wait. / And beneath the eye of the star-strewn heavens / She threw herself off the cliff, towards the sea’s embrace.
A beat of silence. DR YORK scribbles something in his notebook.
Jared Wow. That is one messed up chick.
DR YORK sends him a look.
Jared I mean, a mentally distressed girl. Whatever.
Dr York Thank you, Leigh. Did you compose that yourself?
Leigh My mother used to sing that to me and my sister when we were young.
Jared No wonder you ended up here.
Dr York (sternly) Jared, your turn now.
Jared Look, I’m not going to break out in song, so don’t hold your breath. (To LEIGH and FLYNN) Basically, I’m here because Dr York thinks I’m doing well enough to attend group therapy sessions as opposed to one-to-ones. But well enough compared to what, I’m not too sure, seeing as how I remember shit about what happened before….
DR YORK and DREW share a dark look.
Flynn So you’re an amnesiac? How come you remember how to talk, then? Or form a sentence?
Jared I’m a partial amnesiac, not a moron.
Flynn Well, you don’t even know why you’re here. At least I have a purpose here. A good actor does his homework. This therapy session is for me to get an insight on how crazy people behave.
Jared (bristling) You just said we’d all have to be mad to be here! That includes you.
Dr York (loudly over the squabble) I have a stack of cards here (waves cards) and I want all of you to throw out the first thing that comes to mind when you see it –
Jared The Rorschach test? Please. Haven’t you already worked that crap on me?
Drew Obsolete methods, Yorkie. As an intern and an ex-patient of yours, I’d expect more from you.
Dr York I’m not finished yet. Your medium of response has to be the one with which you best express yourself. Jared, you’re an artist, so I’d like to see you draw. Flynn, you –
Flynn I can sing. (Breaks into a rendition of Mariah Carey’s Without You) I can’t liiiive / If living is without youuuu –
Jared (covers ears) Holy crap, make him stop!
Dr York (sighs) As long as it’s an original work, Flynn. And Leigh, you can write. There is no time limit for this, so take as long as you wish, as long as I get to enjoy your masterpiece at the end of this session. Now, with each card I flash at random intervals, you can choose to string your work into story or compound it to your first creation.
After passing out pencil and paper to LEIGH and JARED, DR YORK flashes the first card of a monarch butterfly.
Flynn (starts to sing Miley Cyrus’s Butterfly Fly Away) Butterflyyy, butterflyyy, butterfly fly away…
Jared (snaps) He said original work, idiot. (To Dr York) And I can’t focus with him wailing in my ear.
Flynn You don’t play very nice with others, do you?
Jared I don’t play with others, period.
Flynn (pulls a sympathetic face) Did losing your memory make you this way, my pet? (Sings to the tune of Van Morrison’s Brown-Eyed Girl) Do you see him go / He treads down the hallway / He walks real slow / Trying to find his way / Try to find his way home hey, hey / Like a lost alley cat / Without milk or cuddles he / cries for some love he is / My amnesiac boy / You my amnesiac boy.
Drew (looks impressed) He’s good. Did you come up with that spontaneously?
Flynn (beaming) Now there’s someone who can appreciate talent when he sees it. What’s your name again? Dylan?
Drew Um…
Dr York Maybe you’d like to pen down the song before you, um, display your vocals to us, Flynn. Now, for the second card.
He flashes a second card of a flame in the dark. LEIGH drops her pencil when she sees that. Everyone stares at her as she begins to tremble visibly.
Flynn (channels Blue Oyster Cult, oblivious to LEIGH) Fire of unknown origin / Took my baby away –
Dr York Leigh? Are you okay?
Flynn I think she’s going into anaphylactic shock.
Jared Do you even know what anaphylactic shock is?
Flynn Do you?
Dr York Children. Please. Leigh? Is there anything you wish to share?
Leigh (in agitation) You know something, don’t you? You know something. And you’re not telling me.
Jared I think you may need to sedate her, Dr York.
Flynn Ah, just another day in the nuthouse. (Leans back to watch the show)
Jared Are you being a dick to compensate for your lack of it?
Dr York Leigh, if this is too stressful for you, we’ll move on to the third card. If you find it difficult to voice your distress, you can express that in your writing. The idea is to keep your fingers moving in time with your thoughts. Let your words mirror everything that is running through your mind.
Flynn (starts to sing – again) Something’s getting in the way, / Something’s just about to break. / I will try to find my place / In the di-a-ry of Jane.
Jared (glares at him) Inappropriate and inaccurate. Her name isn’t even Jane.
Dr York (sharply) The second card, everyone.
He hands FLYNN a pencil and paper, and they get back to work. FLYNN hums under his breath while JARED works with a finger in his ear. DREW and DR YORK share a private conversation.
Drew I still can’t believe he clean forgot all that’s happened.
Dr York I told you before, it’s his brain’s instinctual reaction to the trauma. It’s not uncommon. But he’s showing good progress. Amnesia aside, I’d say he’s actually behaving like a normal teenage boy.
Drew And when – if – he remembers?
Dr York Then we shall deal with that accordingly. (Addresses the group) Ready for the last card? (Flashes the last card, one of a blood-stained carpet, and watches each of them closely for their immediate reaction)
JARED stiffens noticeably.
Dr York Problem, Jared?
Jared (collects himself) Shock tactic, Dr York? I appreciate the effort, but (shakes his head) nothing, nada.
Dr York But why do you think you might have a reaction to this particular picture?
Jared You’re the therapist. Give me some answers. (Turns to DREW) And I bet you know something too. I’ve known for a long time you two are keeping something from me.
Flynn Are you going to turn psychotic like her too (jabs finger in LEIGH’s direction. LEIGH does not notice)? I didn’t know you had a knack for drama.
Jared Shut up, choir boy. (Turns back to DR YORK and DREW) Look, I’m tired of guessing and second-guessing about my past.
Dr York If you can’t remember, it means your mind isn’t ready quite ready for you to handle the memory yet. I’ve said before that you have to come to terms with it on your own, at your own time; I can only prod you along.
Flynn (sniggering) Prod.
Jared So my past involves a blood-stained carpet? That sure is a whole lot to go on.
Dr York It will come to you. When you are ready. Be patient.
Flynn Does anyone want to hear my songs, or not? I have to go for a casting in (checks watch) fifteen minutes.
Jared (takes a peek) Your watch doesn’t even work!
Flynn Doesn’t it? I must have forgotten the jam.
Leigh Alice in Wonderland.
Flynn Right again, sister. (Winks)
Jared (to DR YORK) Seriously? You think I belong here with these people?
Dr York Be patient. You just need some time to get used to all this. (Smiles.)

So the above is the play that I received less-than-warm reviews for three weeks ago in playwriting class. You see, we were supposed to write a musical comedy. My first thought was, Right, well I'm screwed, seeing as how I'm completely not a musical person, much less a musical comedy. I don't know. There's just something that creeps me out about musicals/musical comedies, maybe because they just seem so detached from reality, like everyone in there lives in a parallel universe where people spontaneously burst into song and dance and are inherently chirpy all the time and have to translate their words into song. I don't watch Glee (I'm relieved to say I am an un-Gleek), and I gave Hairspray a miss. Save for The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady (because they're beautiful classics and everyone should watch them) and The Phantom of the Opera (because it's dark and romantic) and half of High School Musical (I decided to spare myself the rest of the torture), my encounter with musicals ends there. Suffice to say this isn't a genre over which I wet my pants with excitement.

It turns out that this play completely missed the essence of a musical. It hardly feels like one at all. Huzir said that the characters were just singing for the sake of it (no, he didn't put it that bluntly - that's just my interpretation), and the only song that seemed to contribute anything to the musical aspect of the play was Leigh's song (yes, it is an original piece, in case you were wondering). Were it not in that week's requirement to come up with a musical, this play might have worked. But factor in the requirements, I totally missed it.

And you know, after listening to what the others have come up with - some even brought their guitars and sang self-composed songs (thanks, Nick! lovely compositions, but talk about spoiling the market) - I understood that, unlike mine, theirs did convey the mood of musical comedies.

Oh well. I was beating myself up after that not because I failed to write a proper musical comedy, but because I was trying so hard to explain my play and failing to let the others feel about my play the way I do. Retrospectively, I can't help but cringe at my desperation. THAT was what was chewing at me for the rest of the day afterwards.

But, you know, as many writers say, real writers face their failures and work through them. Since writing's an act of constant experimentation, failures only attest to your persistence. If you've never written badly before, you've never really written anything because you're too safe. Besides, if you don't fail, this writing thing would be too easy, and then where's the fun in that?

So I shelved this episode in the back of my mind, took away what I could from it, and worked on the next assignment: a group play. Till next post!

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