Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The play I wrote is titled For Our Next Trick, Cynicism, one of the thirty-odd pieces I have composed and performed in Too Much Light this year. The play is as follows:
For Our Next Trick, Cynicism
(c) 2008 Bilal Dardai
BILAL stands onstage with a deck of cards. He addresses the audience.
For our next trick, I am going to need a volunteer from the audience. (He calls up somebody who raises their hand. He speaks to them directly for the rest of the play.)
What’s your name? [NAME], please pick a card from this deck but don’t tell me what it is.
Now show this card to the audience, but don’t tell me what it is.
Now focus on your card.
I want you to assign that card a gender, but don’t tell me what it is.
Now give that card a name, but don’t tell me what it is.
Now tell the card you love it.
Now tell the card you’ll miss it…
…but that you know this is for the best…
…and you’re sure you’ll see it again someday.
Now place your card back in the deck.
(BILAL shuffles the deck and shows the audience member the top card.)
Is this your card?
(It won’t be.)
I know. Sad, huh?
(He walks away from the audience member.)
It’s important to understand that I have no skill with card tricks. I literally just have the audience member shove the card back in, shuffle it randomly, and show them the top card. John Pierson, who performed the play for awhile when I left the show, used to not shuffle it at all; he would just tap the top of the deck as if making the card move to the top. I forgot he did this. I prefer this method.
Especially since last night. I performed the play as part of a gig at Northwestern University and somehow, against overwhelming odds, managed to shuffle the deck and draw the correct card that the audience member had chosen.
“Seriously?” I asked him.
“Seriously?” I repeated, as we occasionally get volunteers who like to fuck with us, because they think it makes them look like anything other than an obnoxious tool.
“Seriously?” I repeated again, looking at the queen of hearts in my hand.
“Yes,” he affirmed.
The punchline killed by fate, I ended the play quickly and we moved on to the rest of what seemed to be a very well-received show.
Not to be overly academic about the work, but the essence of the play is about saying goodbye to somebody/something in which you place a degree of emotional involvement, only to never see them/it again.
So if the audience member sees the card return, the play isn’t about the cynicism of that outcome. The play suddenly became about the perplexing surprise that is fulfilled optimism.
I generally skew towards optimism, which is why my frustration often ends up writ large across the sky when that optimism is thwarted. I don’t think I could really live with myself if I instead chose to be cynical all the time.
Of course, sometimes what I call being realistic is really just cynicism in masque.
And sometimes, whatever it’s called and whatever it is, it’s completely justified by the end result.
But other times, you manage to draw the queen of hearts in front of a few hundred people, including the person who chose it in the first place. Sometimes it’s great to live, for even a few seconds, on the other side of averages; sometimes it is great to experience the glimmer of impossibility pour over you, all warmth and pure oxygen.
I’m going to try to remember that.