(ALL THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS ARE REPRINTED
WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE PLAYWRIGHTS)
What impresses me about these beginning playwrights (none of them had ever written a play before) is their ability to get their plays up and running in the opening pages of their plays.
What follows are the opening scenes of the developing student plays. These plays will be developed further and produced at Peking University in the spring semester of 2008—a first for PKU.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“On the Lantern Festival”
A play in one act
with glass walls to view the city though
just before the building closes down
Young, smart, cute, fed up with his present life;
White-collar, elegant, boring job, monstrous boyfriend, sometimes forgetful.
Life is boring. Everyday. Same thing. Just standing in this damned elevator. Up and down, up and down—even today—I still have to work on the day of The Lantern Festival!
(He looks at the clock)
7.5 seconds to six. The happiest moment in my life! When the building shuts down—and I’m out of here!
(He gets ready to close down the elevator.
Don’t shut the door!
(The boy looks at the girl. Smiles to himself,
and then steps back into the elevator.
The elevator ascends)
I appreciate this. I have to get back to my office before—
—100th Floor. Right?
. . .right.
(Silence. The girl stands, serious and nervous, facing the door, without a single glance around, lost in her thoughts; while the boy stands behind her, also lost in his thoughts. Then—)
Dinner. With me. On this glorious Lantern Festival. Will you join me? Tonight?
I’m sorry. My head is muddy now. What did you say?
I didn’t know my articulation sucked so badly.
(To the Lady: Spelling)
O, dinner. O, my god! I’m going to be late for dinner. He’ll go out of his mind again…O…The damned magazine. The damned job. I’m sorry, but what did you say just now?
No big deal. Forget it.
No, no. Say it.
Ok. I want you to join me for dinner tonight.
I don’t know you. Do I know you? I may know you. I’m sorry, but I’m forgetful.
Your memory is okay. You don’t know me. But I know you! I’m always in this elevator. I’ve opened the door for you nearly 365 times. For special people I—
Wait a minute—are you. . .some kind of Detective?
I wish. That would be an interesting life. No – I count door openings – again, for special people — as a —well—sort of, hobby. Yes, it’s my private hobby.
Your hobby either makes me sad or gives me the creeps.
Repeating: Charming elevator boy to charming young lady—Will you join me for dinner?
Look! I appreciate the –I guess—kind offer, but you’re a little bit too kind. Being kind is good—being too kind is bad. Or can be.
It’s only a dinner. A simple dinner.
Thank you, but I already have an appointment. Thank you again.
Oh. Okay. Got it.
Why do you want to have dinner with me?
I…I…I have no idea.
Hold it! I get it! You’re hitting on me!
Why observe me then? And for such a long time?
I observe everyone.
Your hobby, right? Is inviting strangers to dinner another private hobby of yours?
Er.. I am afraid it’s not…
Then why, why do you want to invite me to dinner?
. . .Say it.
I am. . .I’m. . .—just a little bit lonely. On this sweet Lantern Festival. And I like you…in some sweet vague, vague way…I suppose.
Sweet “vague way?” I have no idea what that—O, the 100th floor!. Thank god. Wait for me, will you? It shouldn’t take more than a minute to find—
Of course. My pleasure.
(The door doesn’t open. The lady pushes the door hard)
The door is stuck.
(The boy pushes the door hard, while the girl pushes all the buttons on the electrical board.)
It doesn’t work! Nothing’s working!
Damn! We’re stuck here!
(The boy takes out his mobile phone and dials quickly and calmly)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A play in one act by
The Forbidden City
Milo: a doctor.
Saga: a teenage boy who has heart trouble.
The Phantom of the Chief Eunuch
The Phantom of Lady Gem.
Hikaru: Saga’s mother.
Saga! What’s wrong with you? They’ve locked the gate!
Milo, I told you not to follow me. I am going to stay here tonight.
Stay? Here? In the Forbidden City? Locked in?
Milo, have you ever read a Japanese novel called—?
—This isn’t the time to talk about literature, Saga! It is already nine p.m. Tomorrow you are to have a major, major operation—
I am not going back to the hospital tonight! What if I should die there?
I am your doctor. I will do everything to—
But you told my mother it is a hopeless—
Not hopeless…difficult. I never said “hopeless.”
Have you ever fallen in love with buildings?
The novel—the Japanese novel I asked you about: It’s
about a young monk who not only has a clubfoot, but also stammers when he speaks. He falls in love with the temple in which he lives. Have you heard about this novel?
No, and this is not the time to—
—That is exactly why my mother did not marry you. You doctors never read anything but your textbooks. This is how the novel ends—
Forget that damned novel! Let’s just go back to the hospital. It is illegal to stay here after the opening hours. They have dogs in the Forbidden City — attack those who stay behind.
He burnt the temple down.
Burnt the temple down? The monk? Why?
Because he could not bear to know the truth.
That the temple is so perfect, and he is not.
The Japanese are all crazy.
I love this palace. Did my mother ever tell you that?
Wait a minute—are you trying to say that—
Tonight, I’ll burn the Forbidden City down.
You’re out of your mind!
I have loved this place ever since I saw her—
This palace! I saw her from a picture book when I was five years old. I wanted to see what she was like on rainy days, on snowy days—and even at night, after they let loose the dogs. But I was not allowed to come here in the evening. Not once; in my entire 16 years. Now, I am finally here.
Here! It hurts, even thinking about parting with her. So I am burning her. And myself.
But it—“she,” as you call it— is not yours! You do not really love her; you are only. . . jealous, perhaps—of her permanence! You are afraid you will die tomorrow. But there is still hope—
What do you know about me!? What if I want to die? What is the good of leaving such beauty to people who can’t feel it? Do you know how terrible it is to see indifferent tourists walking around? I am to protect it! We will always be together in this fire!
(Strikes a match)
Stop it! You crazy boy!
(THUNDER. RAIN. A DOWNPOUR)
Rain! Thank goodness! You see? God does not want you to do this. It does not rain very often in Beijing, so—
Rain. No. No. . .
Saga! Saga, wake up!
(Barks heard off stage.
Milo rushes to the side of the stage,
where the barks are coming from.
Milo looks off; his back to Saga)
Here come the guards!
(Two Phantoms appear and they carry Saga off stage)
His back still turned to Saga)
And the dogs! But they’re not near yet. There’s still time to get away, if we—
(Milo turns to face Saga)
Saga! Saga! Oh my god! He’s wandered off! I can’t deal with this alone! I must get help! Saga! Saga! Find a place
to hide! I’ll be back! I promise! With help!
(He runs off)
(Lights quickly up.
Phantom Of The Chief Eunich
standing over Saga)
Who are you?
PHANTOM OF THE CHIEF EUNICH
The Chief Eunich. I was the chief Eunich. . . .
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A play in one act
By Wang Tianhang
Jack the Kidnapper, middle aged man
Lisa the girl being kidnapped, 18 years old
Tom, Lisa’s father
(In the dark, a girl’s scream
that is quickly muffled.
(A shabby room,
a girl with her hands tied back,
moans and writhes on a scruffy bed.
Kidnapper smokes, paces.)
(To the girl, impatiently, and panicking)
Shut up! Nobody can hear you! We’re hundreds of miles away from town. No one—not one fucked-up person in this fucked-up world—none of them knows about this place—and even if they did, they wouldn’t care. Nobody cares about me, but me! So just save it!
(Jack tries to calm himself)
Look, Lisa. I’m gonna take that stuff out of your mouth.
And you will be nice and quiet, OK? Your scream before
just made my head explode! You promise me, will you be quiet?
(The girl stays still, frightened)
(The girl nods hard)
(Kidnapper pulls out the tatters out of the girl’s mouth)
Lisa, I know it’s unfair… But your dad! He gave me no choice! My wife! My child! They are all gone! And my house, my…everything! He did that! Your father! He fired me—for NO REASON! I AM NOT A THIEF! I didn’t steal that goddamn medical device! I don’t even know what it is! They found it in my car—Heaven knows how—and I was swept out like a dog! I tried to explain…nobody listened to me! Now what do I do, huh? Divorced, bankrupt, a watchman with criminal record! HE RUINED MY LIFE!
So…what do you want?
Money! Just the fucking money! Call your goddamn father now!
You think the money will get your life back, everything you’ve lost?
I… I don’t know, and I don’t care! He’s gotta pay for what he’s done!
Indeed! But not this way. Kidnapping will only make everything worse. You don’t want to add an extra felony to the trouble you’re in, do you? Trust me, it’s not that simple. Turn on the TV.
It is that simple and—!
Just turn on the TV and see what’s going on!
(Jack, confused, turns on the TV.
The news reports five million dollars
in missing medical devices.
Jack is wanted as a suspect.
He is astonished and abruptly turns off the TV.)
What the fuck is this all about! What missing medical devices? I did nothing! At all! Who did this?
It’s. . .
my dad. . .He’s behind all this. He set you up!
What. . .? Yor. . .dad? But—
NOW your life is REALLY fucked up. Listen, if you want to get out of this—this huge conspiracy—you must cooperate with me. I’ve got solid proof enough to send him to jail—and get you out of this.
Wait a minute…I don’t understand…I mean he’s your dad!
Dad? A dad who killed my mom? A dad who sent my boyfriend to jail? AND—my uncle Frank! My dad took all his money away! You are right! My dad DOES deserve to die!
(spotlight on Lisa. To audience)
They all said it was an accident. But I know it was not! Mom was murdered! I saw everything! He entered the room, set the fire…It was burning up… I rushed in—I screamed, I shook her, but she never woke up… And the smoke, the heavy dark smoke! I was suffocated…When I woke up again, I saw dad sobbing. He told me mom’s dead. He played it so real, everybody was blindfolded—but me! I know why he did this, because mom found what he was doing. He wanted her to shut up. And my boyfriend works for him. He also found out something about my father which cost half of his life in jail.
Back to Jack)
Now, either we bring him down—and you will wash yourself out of this mud—Or you hold me as a hostage and get your money, but you’ll never get rid of the cops!
But—how? How can I wash myself clean?
We’ve been collecting evidence of his crimes for many years! And TONIGHT! Tonight’s the night that he pays back everything! I will meet Uncle Frank at 7 p.m. handing over every proof we got to the police! You’ve got to let me go! And WE WILL wash you out of this! It’s only half an hour left!
(After a pause)
I’ll go with you.
(Lisa glances around the room.
Nods). . .
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A Play By
The Old Lady (Secretary)
Pluto, Lord of the Underworld
An old lady is reading
a thick mythology book.
“Orpheus, son of Apollo, is gifted, and learns to play his Lute so well, from his father, that his sweet song and magical music moves the entire world around him. His wife Eurydice—whom he loves very much— is forever by his side. Eurydice—who loves him, as much as he loves her—perhaps, even more than he loves her. . .wants to be by his side. . .always.
“Then Eurydice is bitten by a snake. She dies from the snakebite. She is taken—as all mortals must be taken— to the Underworld.
“Orpheus is inconsolable. Sick with sorrow. He journeys straight down to the underworld to try to get his Eurydice back. Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, is charmed by the intoxicating music of Orpheus and agrees to give Eurydice back—on condition — that Orpheus promises not to look back before she sets foot on solid earth.
“Eurydice—her eyes filled with grateful tears, and once again safe in her beloved’s arms — is so happy to return with her beloved, that she pulls herself from his arms, and follows him, joyously, out of the Underworld and back to their beautiful life together. Yes. With great happiness, Eurydice follows her husband.
“Then Orpheus sees the black clouds and dense mists begin to clear up, and as they continue their journey back, he is seized with such ardent curiosity that he begins to wonder whether his loving wife is really following him. He must know. He turns round.
“The pale white shape of his beloved, that Orpheus knows so well, dissolves itself into an obscure shadow . . .and Eurydice vanishes instantly.”
(Closes the book)
Ah. This is what is written. This is what they say. This is what is believed. But is it the truth? . . .It was long, long ago, thousands of years perhaps, before I retired. I was Lord Pluto’s Chief Secretary. I knew the truth. I was there
. . . .
(Pluto’s gloomy palace.
PLUTO is on the throne. He is either listening
with his eyes closed, or he is sleeping)
(In a dull voice)
The 87th case is concluded. Bring in Case 88.
HAVE THE MISERABLE SINNER APPEAR BEFORE HIS DARKNESSS, PLUTO, LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD, FOR
HIS FINAL JUDGEMENT AND—WAIT! YOUR MAJESTY!
(Abruptly wakes up and bolts up straight)
—Who said I was sleeping?! Don’t you ever accuse his Imperial Darkness, Lord of the Underworld, Pluto, of sleeping, while he is judging a sinner’s sins! So my eyes were shut. That does not mean my ears were not open—…SECRETARY! Who is that man over there, skulking around?
That “skulker” was why I awakened the closing eyelids of
His Darkness, Lord Pluto. He just appeared. From nowhere.
And why is he so handsome? To mock my wrinkled ugliness? I wish everyone would understand that living in this dark, dark place for 87 thousand years has done something to my skin? —Don’t just stand there! Bring the handsome “skulker” to me.
(ORPHEUS is dragged to PLUTO and forced to kneel)
And now, Handsome Skulker—Who are you? And how did you get by my three-headed dog, Cerberus, at the gates? Why weren’t you chewed to bits? Oh! I know! Like that Psyche, you fed him a honey cake, right? And got by him! Damn! How does such word get around? —That my three-headed dog would back off when appeased by cake. What a huge scandal!
Well, you can tell that 3-headed old dog for me, that if this happens again, he’ll be a two-headed puppy. I’m furious.
(ORPHEUS plays his lute)
(While he plays)
I had no bread, nor honey, Lord PLUTO. I just played my lute, which calmed the fury of the beast. Then I told him my story; my sad, sad story. This brings tears to the eyes of all mortals—or immortals—as my story will bring tears to the eyes of my lord PLUTO.
How quickly my fury has faded. Who are you, young man?
I am Orpheus, son of Apollo, and the grandson of Zeus, your brother.
(He plays and sings again)
I am here because my heart is broken, and only you can help heal it. My wife was bitten to death by a snake. She was sent here yesterday. I love her so much that I can’t
live without her. Only the almighty and merciful Pluto can heal my broken heart.
I am touched by your beautiful voice and your beautiful melody—and your sad, sad story. Maybe you are right. To separate you, might make me too icy hearted. What’s her name?
Well. All right then. You may have her back. SECRETARY, announce for me that—
(Orpheus stops playing his Lute
The SECRETARY suddenly takes PLUTO aside.
Your Darkness! Don’t you remember? Eurydice is the girl who came yesterday. Your wife Persephone took Eurydice as a maid. They were friends when they were young.
You promised your wife Persephone to let her have the maid as long as she wishes. You promised your wife that.
Promised? Are you sure?
Yes. I was there.
Then I’d better discuss this with Persephone first.
(Sits back. Clears throat. To Orpheus)
—Yes. As I said. Perhaps you may have Eurydice back. I’ll look into this further.
But, Your Darkness—before you said—
Await my decision! Later!
—My Lute —perhaps if I played my—. . .
(The SECRETARY places her hands
over the Lute’s strings.
But, anyway, Pluto is gone). . .
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A Summer’s Tale in Winter
By Mao Yuanbo
In the wilderness
SCENE: IN THE WILDERNESS
(Near a site of the ruin of some ancient temple;
Late one winter afternoon; date, year not specific
Enter Allesnada, followed by Tinko,
at several paces a distance.
Both ragged and haggard)
All these years all the way…from our home so far away…
(Murmuring to himself)
But what’s the purpose? .…what purpose? …for this journey?. . .Allie, Remind me again, will you?…
Our purpose for this…walk…
Oh…emm…’twas Christmas…they both died during Christmas…
(Slowly counting with his fingers)
one, two, three, four……but…
but which year was that, Allie?? …‘twas dismal…I remember……that year was dismal…with a smell of dead candles…
…It was long ago…
…can’t remember now……all these years are chewing away my brain, like worms…
…I feel . . .it’s been six years…old Dr. Kopf mentioned the Birds after papa and mama died…and we’ve been out ever since…
(somewhat lost in memories, mumbles)
…driven out……evil spirits in the house…they all said…
(Sees the temple)
Look, Allie…the temple is quite near now…
(Allie looks at the temple…The temple, not magnificent and in fact rather crude, seems of an ancient pagan religion used to be adopted by inhabitants of this marsh country. The foundation of the construction must have been eroded and sunken several feet further into the ground. There are carving of thorny plants on the walls and pillars, and there Is the carving of a huge albatross above the “archway”, which is quite shapeless now and more resembles the mouth of a cave. Curiously, all those plants have been carved in intaglio while the albatross is the only one in relief. What’s also strange about the bird is that it is carved in an up-side-down position, with its wings wide spread, making the whole work look like an inverted, protruding cross.)
It’s quite a small chapel, isn’t it?…It must be ancient…
Oh yes…look at those carvings!… What kind of vines are they?…There are so many of them!…on the wall, the pillar, Everywhere!… and How curious!…all in intaglio!
…they look like ivy leaves to me…But I don’t think they
have ivy in this marsh country…
…But look at them! It seems that all the vines spring out from that prominent Cross! You see that big cross high above there? So huge!…
…but quite badly done I think…all out of proportion…and inverted…
(Looks at the “Cross”)
…No…it doesn’t look like a Cross to me…
(Allie examines the Cross carefully
and suddenly gasps as if in surprise…ASIDE)
an Albatross!…Yes, it’s an Albatross!…it’s inverted, its legs are bound…but how strange to see an albatross here!
(Suddenly, heavy breathing is heard from the entrance of
the temple, the long low, hollow whispering of a word, in Papa’s voice…“A-l-l-I-I-e…”—audible to Allesnada and the audience)
Did you hear that, Tink?!
Hear what? I heard nothing…
…I heard Papa’s voice!…whispering to me!…calling me!and…
But that’s impossible, Allie! Maybe you misheard, Allie…you’re just too tired, you know—
(The sound of lonely horn interrupts…
It comes from afar, yet is distinct,
and instantly fills the vast,
empty silence of the marsh…
Allie and Tink stand still, listening in awe…)
It sounds so damp and cold…
…it’s so lonely…so…sad…and deep…as if from the depths of sadness and pain…
(The horn again)
(Looks to where the sound of the horn is hear)
Look, Allie! There!! People!! So many of them!!!
(About two hundred yards away on the darkening and misty marsh, in the direction into which Tinko points and Allie looks, there could be discerned now a long procession of people—some of them hold lamps in their hands, and many seem to be carrying something on their backs, for they walk in a difficult way ,with their backs bent at an uncomfortable angle. Also noticeable are two lean figures, exceptionally tall and clad head to feet in white. One of them walks in the front of the troop; the other walks at the very end of it, carrying a huge horn. They move along——slowly, and silent.)
Who are those people?…Where do they come from?… (Aside)
…I don’t know why, but looking at them saddens me…and their horns…sounds to me like heavy laments…
…I wonder where they are going?…
Perhaps they are criminals being transferred…?
…they look like outcast spirits…suffering sinners….
(It starts to drizzle)
(looks into the sky, upset)
Oh it’s raining again!…it’s always raining…raining…and raining again..!!
(A sudden flapping sound—so loud as if coming from a big bird right above Allie and Tinko’s head, which gives them a good start. The sound fades quickly as if the bird had just flit pass and disappeared. Allesnada look up…the stone bird is still there, with wings wide spread…)
…i think…I think we should stay in the temple for the night.
…I hope it’s still good enough for shelter…
SCENE TWO THE TEMPLE
Inside the temple. Night falls. All dark.
The sound of the rain outside…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A play in one act
By Ding Fei
(BLURB: Peter is a boy, six years old, who lives in a small village.
He is a shy boy, does not get on so well with his family. He has infantile autism. When he feels lonely, he meets the monster, which befriends him and gets Peter through the lonely times, and makes
him realize the importance of family—and disappears in the end. Many years later when the boy returns, he still finds the trace of this monster.)
(Peter’s house on a hill. It is dusk.
In the courtyard of the house,
some ducks are playing about.
Everything here has the characters of a village house.
A gharry comes and stops here.
Peter is helped down by his uncle.
In the courtyard there is a couple: A man with a kindly face,
a woman who seems to be crying,
and a little girl.
They look at the boy from the gharry.
The boy stares at them, strangely)
Peter! It’s you!
(The boy doesn’t know what to do. The little girl stares at her brother)
(They all enter the house, it is dark outside now.)
(Alone for a second,
outside the house.
To the audience)
Soon after my birth I was sent to my grandma’s to live. Until I reached the age of six. I am now six. It’s time for school, They’ve called me back. And, did you see?
—I have a sister, too.
(Follows his father, enters the house.)
(Supper time. At the table, four people sit
and have they meal in a dullish light. )
Peter sees his father sneaking a piece of meat to the little girl, stops, then quickly continues his supper.
The mother sees this and quickly sneaks one piece to Peter. The boy gazes his mother, goes on eating.)
(a hand comes form the shade above them. It is a blue, thick, hairy hand )
(From the shadow)
Give me a piece of meat! Give me a piece of meat!
(The girl is scared and hides into his mother’s arms.)
(Repeats, more loudly)
I want the meat. Give me on piece of meat!
(the father gets one piece and throws it to the hand.
The hand disappears and chewing can be heard.
The hand appears again.)
It is so delicious! I haven’t eaten such nice food for so long. And with such a nice family. Give me more!
No more meat! GET OUT!!
(Seems afraid, moves his hand to the mother)
You give me one piece of meat. Just on piece.
(The woman hugs her daughter, shakes her head strongly. The girl is frightened. Cries.
The Father stands, takes out a shoulder pole
from behind the door, thrusts it into the shadow.)
(A scream comes from the shadow, and a big blue thing jumps out of the darkness—quickly disappears.)
The girl stops crying, continues her supper.
But everyone has lost interest)
* * * * * * * * * *
(Peter sees the monster stand on the tree outside the window. It is wearing only big red underwear, smiles to the boy. Peter is shocked and when he looks again, it is gone.)
(to the audience)
It never comes out again, but I know that it exists. It is somewhere. In fact, I see it often, because it is always looking at me.
* * * * * * * * * * *
(Peter walks on road, followed by the monster. It begins to rain heavily with no foreshadowing. The boy hides under a tree, with the school bag above his head, looking at the heavy rain.)
The rain seems never to stop. The boy decides to run home through the rain. So he does. On the way he falls over the
When he comes to a little wooden bridge, before he can get over the river, he falls over, into the river’s flood
A hand comes to pull Peter out.
It is the hand of the Monster.
Peter recovers and runs home quickly.
On the way he meets his father, who has come out to fetch him with raincoat and umbrella. Peter throws away the raincoat that his father makes him wear; walks away in a hurry.
His father follows him, puts up the umbrella for him.)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
(On the side of the road Peter, with his school bag,
is seated, with the monster sitting beside him)
What is your name?
What is Sphinxasinxas?
Sphinxasinxas is the monster.
(They share bites of Peter’s buns)
* * * * * * * * * * *
(Peter creeps out the door, with a paper bag
in his hand. Sphinxasinxas comes to him again.)
(Passes The Monster the paper bag)
Do you like it?
(Sphinxasinxas takes meat from the bag,
puts the meat in its mouth, smiles)
Where have you been today?
Finding bird’s eggs. See?
(He holds up an egg.
Peter laughs heartily.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
(In Peter’s home)
(Very angry, holds a belt, walks around in the room)
Where have you been? Why don’t you always go to school?
(Mother stops the father from beating Peter.
The little girl is crying.)
(Runs out of the house, shouting)
You only love my sister, not me. You are not my parents.
(The parents are shocked.)
How dare you talk to us like that? —Your mother and father! I will teach you a major lesson today. I am your father!!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
at Peking University by the Beijing Institute Of World Theatre and Film—a first for Peking University—and for China.