Scuola del Teatro Stabile Acting, 2003, MFA
Columbia University PHD in playwright, 2013, PHD
ARGIA CECILIA COPPOLA
514 Hamilton Hall Phone: +1 646 5782265
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University of Turin, Foreign Language Department, 2007-2013
Columbia University, Italian Department
MFA, 2011 (Ph.D Candidate)
MA in D.A.M.S., 2010
BA in D.A.M.S., 2009
School of Santa Cristina, Gubbio. Director: Luca Ronconi
Playwright’s Course. Summer 2011
MA in Poetry and Performance. Italian Studies. Summer 2009
Cambridge University. Language Centre. British Council
English Academy Test, IELTS (7.5). Summer 2008
University of Turin, D.A.M.S.,
Internship of Ancient Theatre. Director: Gabriele Vacis, From the Text to the Stage, 2004-2005
School of Arts “Teatro Stabile of Turin”
BA in Acting, 1999-2001
Seconday School of Humanities, C.Balbo, Turin, 1994-1998
Classical A Levels
Oedipus’s Myth Between Seneca, Sofocle and Ted Hughes, University of Turin, D.A.M.S., 2011
Heroine my Heroine, Score for a Tragic Chorus, Piedmont Region in partenrship with Places
For Contemporary Dance, 2010
The Blue-Rose, Libret for Two Dancers, Teatro Stabile of Turin, Festival Prospettiva press, 2009.
The Mistery of the Father, Poems, Award L’Autore, Firenze Libri, Florence, 2004.
Theatrical Reviews on Turindamsreview, D.A.M.S., 2009-2012 (ISSN 2039-277X)
From Notebooks for a Thesis: Antigone, The Detached City, 11/12/2007
Ronconi Saves Suor Angelica of Puccini, 03/31/2008
The Cat and The Fox, their “J’accuse”, 03/28/2008
London, 23Th May, 2008, 05/28/2008
“Pensavo Fosse Amore Invece Era un Calesse…” Don Juan, El burlador de Sevilla di Tirso da Molina, playwright and director Emilio Hernandez, Naples, 06/28/2008
A Textura to their sons. Antropological Path into Sardinian Tradition of the Bisso.
Sardinia. S.Antioco, 07/12/2008
Cristina Di Belgioioso, a Forgotten Heroine, 09/10/2009
Cristina Princess of Belgioioso, Play in 5 Squares, 10/09/2009
Cavour Finally at Rome, The Exibit of Regione Piemonte, 01/20/2010
“Signorina Julie” of W. Malosti, 03/08/2011
The Woman that Sings, director: Denis Villeneuve, Screenplay from Incendi of Wajdi Mouawad, 05/12/2011
The Theatre of Goliarda Sapienza: The Ribellion of the Brothers, The Fall of the Father, 07/07/2011
The White Horses of Rosmersholm, Evocation from The World of the Dead, 11/06/2011
Le Operette Morali of Giacomo Leopardi, direction: Mario Martone, Teatro Stabile of Turin, Cavallerizza Reale, Teatro Gobetti (2011-2012), 07/10/2012
Italian Talents, the Last Passion of New York, La Notizia (www.giornale.it), entratainment section, Rome, 05/28/2013
The Ribellion of the Brothers, a play by Goliarda Sapienza from «Quel Sogno d’Essere»of Goliarda Sapienza, Aracne editrice, Roma, 2012. ISBN 978-88-548-4630-2.
Le Jeu de la Princesse, Histoire et Dramaturgie dans le Personnage de Cristina di Belgioioso.
L'Histoire Derrière le Rideau. Ecritures Scéniques du Risorgimento. Françoise Decroisette (dir.), Rennes, Press universitaires de Rennes, 2013.
Da Risposarsi e Risorgimenti (selezione silloge) in Italian Poetry Review VI, Paolo Valesio, Columbia University, SEF, Firenze, 2013. ISSN 1557-5012.
The Mother of Political Body: the Atrocious Absence.Path into matrilinear images of Aeschylus Oresteia, Columbia University press, New York, 2013.
12th June 2007 Corriere di Chieri. Feuilleton in Five Parts. writed by Argia Coppola.
16th May 2009 La Stampa-Giorno e notte- Metti una sera il teatro in salotto, come usava in Inghilterra nell'800. Commedie in due atti con spuntino nell'intervallo.
22th Febbrary 2011 Il Risorgimento passa a Castellamonte Al Giacosa in scena, la vita amorosa di Cavour - Mauro Saroglia - La giovinezza amorosa di Cavour da Il Contato del Canavese
9th September 2011 La Stampa - Giorno e Notte - OGR: Quel carteggio d'amore fra Nina e il Conte Cavour Alessandra Comazzi
3th November 2011 La Stampa Anteprima - La Belle Joyeuse - Teatro Stabile - Alessandra Comazzi
24th November 2011 La Stampa - Giorno e notte - Ouija, Seduta Spiritica - Fondazione Giorgio Amendola.
20th Dicember 2011 La Stampa Cronaca di Torino - Cavour, gli anni ruggenti dello Statuto Albertino a Roma Capitale,evento spettacolo in Consiglio Comunale in omaggio allo statista in Sala Rossa - Maurizio Lupo.
10th Jannuary 2012 La Stampa - Giorno e notte - Boston Marriage - Franca Cassine - Teatro Stabile
13th Jannuary 2012 La Stampa - Giorno e notte - Intrighi e amori tra donne - Osvaldo Guerrieri.
SHOWS (as actress)
Productions of Marcido Marcidoris e Famosa Mimosa and Teatro Stabile of Turin, setting design of Daniela Dal Cin, direction of Marco Isidori. Adaptations from classical plays.
1999 Happy Days in Marcido’s Field, by « Happy Days» of Samuel Beckett.
2000 Una canzone d’amore, by «Prometheus Bound » of Aeschylus.
2001 Una Giostra : L’Agamennone, by « Agamennon » of Aeschylus.
2002 The Wonderfull World of Suzie Whong, play of Marco Isidori.
2003 Vortice del Macbeth, by the Tragedy Macbeth of W. Shakespeare
2004 Oedipus of Sofocle, translated by Salvatore Quasimodo, director : Roberto Guicciardini, coreographes : Michele Abbondanza, Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico, Siracusa.
2005-2006 Glamour Express, contemporary creation of Barbara Altissimo, productions : Liberamenteunico, Fondazione Teatro Stabile of Turin, Teatro d’Europa. Cavallerizza Reale.
2007 Forever, contemporary creation of Barbara Altissimo, productions : Liberamenteunico, Fondazione Teatro Stabile of Turin, Teatro d’Europa. Fonderie Limone.
2008 Oedipus’s room, project of Fonosfera, translation and music from Oedipus by Seneca adapted by Ted Hughes, production British Council, Birmingham.
2009 Focus Giappone, La cerimonia del té con il maestro Hajime Tagasugi, production festival internazionale M.I.T.O., MAO, Museo d’Arte Orientale di Torino, Teatro Franco Parenti, Milan.
2010 Heroine my Heroine, contemporary creation of Barbara Altissimo, playwright : Argia Coppola, productions : Liberamenteunico, Spazi per la Danza Contemporanea, Regione Piemonte.
2011 Cavour, Gli Anni Ruggenti, director : Roberto Tarasco, starring Giorgio dell’Arti, Presidenza del Comune di Torino, Sala Rossa del Comune di Torino.
2011 La Giovinezza Amorosa di Cavour, playwright Roberto Alonge, production Il Contato del Canavese, Teatro Giacosa di Ivrea.
2011-2012 Ouija, seduta spiritica dal carteggio amoroso del conte Camillo Benso di Cavour e Anna Schiaffino Giustininai, productions : Comune di Torino, Comitato Italia 150°, Associazione Il Cane di Pavlov, OGR Grandi Riparazioni, sala Duomo.
2012 Boston Marriage, of David Mamet, productions : Teatro Stabile of Turin, Piemonte Felix, Associazione Il Cane di Pavlov, project architectonic writing by american playwrights.
PLAYS AND ADAPTATIONS
2009 The Blue-Rose Libret for Two Dancers, productions : Festival Prospettiva, Teatro Stabile of Turin, Fonderie Limone. (pubblished by Liberamenteunico)
2010 Heroine my Heroine, Libret for a Tragic Chorus, productions : Spazi per la Danza Contemporanea, Regione Piemonte, Libramenteunico.
2011 Rosso Caffeina, contemporary cabaret, adaptation by poems collection Mistero Partenopeo, productions : Kulturscio’K, Sistema Teatro Torino, Progetto Rigenerazione, Teatro a Corte, Fondazione Teatro Piemonte Europa.
2011 Le Jeu of Princess, Life of Cristina di Belgioioso in seven days, mise en espace, production Istitut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), Paris (L’Histoire derriere le rideau, Ecriturea scénique du Risorgimento.
2011-2012 Ouija, sceance, dal carteggio amoroso del conte Camillo Benso di Cavour e Anna Schiaffino Giustiniani, play and libret, Progetto Creazioni Risorgimentali, Comune di Torino, Comitato 150°, OGR Officine Grandi Riparazioni, sala Duomo.
2013 The Blond Actress, adaptation by Blonde of Joyce Carol Oates, with the support of Columbia University (PHD fellow), School of Arts, Fondazione Crt and University of Turin.
2000 Mention for Best Supporting Actress on Patalogo (Ubu Press) for The Wonderfull World of Suzie Whong
2004 Award winner The Author, Florence Books, with the poems collection The Mistery of The Father (pubblished)
2005 Finalist Award Paracelso for playwright (Cultural centre La Chiocciola of Palermo) with the work Pinoli, Pistacchi, mandorle.
2007 Finalist Award Calvino for Literature, with the feuilleton Creatures, novel in Five Parts.
My 13 Teaching Rules as Playwright
I. Write when you have something to say. Otherwise, look into yourself and write what you see and feel. In this way, you will always find something to write about.
II. Do not write about yourself but put yourself in everything you write.
The character is a friend, a very close one, a companion, a lover. The best friend, the best companion, the best lover. Listen to what he/she has to tell to you, day by day. Trust him/her.
The character begins with a voice, in the early hours of the morning and in the last hours of the evening. During that time, you will find the truest voice of the character. Listen to that voice as if it were music, then immediately write the words of the voice that you hear.
III. These words are called “The secret of the character.” Keep them in a safe and warm place close to you. This is the true life of the character: his/her desire to be with and talk to someone else; his/her insanity; his/her need to exist on the stage. Should you lose his/her voice, you’ will be able to reclaim the character in these words, always.
IV. After a voice, the character has a thought. A thought about itself, about the world, about others. Do not confuse your thoughts with those of the character. Thoughts are not judgments. They live in the head, in the intellect. Try to locate the character’s thoughts in your own mind.
V. After a thought, the character has a feeling. Quite often, this feeling is expressed as a desire or a wish. These emotions live between the heart and the sex. From these feelings will stem the most vulnerable part of your relationship with the character. He/she will try, in this part of the work, to hide his/her feelings from you. It’s a losing game; you will see how often the character is able to “play” better than you. At this point, do not force yourself to write anything. Pay attention to what the character is truly saying.
VI. This is also the moment when you, probably, should understand if your character is male or female.
VII. After a feeling, the character has an objective, a desire to reach something. The character plans an action to grab his/her goal, an action that is planned as a remarkable play with other characters. While in the action, you will forget the beginning voice and tone of the character. Your exclusive and entire focus will be on the action. He/she now has a body that asks for something in order to obtain something else. Choose the right place and the right time where that can happen.
VIII. So, the character is a mix between:
-what he/she thinks
-what he/she feels
-what he/she wants
-what he/she does to reach his/her objective.
You, only you, can decide how these four factors play together in your drama. Don’t forget the voice, “The secret of the character.” Hidden in the words of your character, you will always find that music, as a river murmuring under the skin.
IX. The skin of your character is your soul, just as your skin is your
X. Once you have these simple rules, wait before writing. Look outside the place where you are, look at Nature and collect visions, thoughts, feelings and actions from it all.
XI. Write to change the reality in some way, cut a wound into the reality and open a
Serendipitous vision into that reality.
(Abstract from the play, 20 pages)
The Blond Actress
(from Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates)
by Argia Coppola
I would love if the physics joined the metaphysics
one day…so that I won’t be just flesh, just body, just blood”
Joanna J. The Street
© Argia Coppola 2013. All rights reserved.
THE BLOND ACTRESS
GLADYS MORTENSEN, mother to the Blonde Actress
THE PLAYWRITER DADDY, husband of the Blonde Actress
Note: This is a play about Marilyn Monroe's fictional life.
There is an Italian version and an English version inspired by the novel Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. All characters are my original dramatic creations inspired by the literary characters in the novel.
(3rd August 1962)
THE SHARPSHOOTER(right side of the proscenium, Cal Tech T-shirt, earphones on, beats time, a caliber 22 pistol in his hand)
And there came Death.
Hurtling along the Boulevard.
There came Death flying
as in a children’s cartoon.
There came Death unerring.
Death not to be dissuaded.
Death furiously pedaling.
Death carrying a package marked
SPECIAL DELIVERY: HANDLE WITH CARE.
Death so swift!
Death laughing Screw you, buddy! And you too…toot…toot.
There came Death undeterred by the smoggy
spent air of the City of Angels.
By the warm radioactive air of a southern region
where Death had been born.
There came Death so-matter-of-fact.
There came Death hunched over the handlebars.
Death nerved-up, braindazzled
by sunshine flashing like
scimitars on windshields, chrome.
Death chewing gum.
Hollywood Messenger Service. Death
his special packages.
There came Death into Brentwood, unexpected!
Brentwood in August. Brentwood
and the touching futility of its tended ‘grounds’
Death pedaled briskly. And routinely.
Alta Vista, Campo, Jacumba, Brideman,
Los Olivos. To 12305 Fifth Helena Drive.
A dead-end street.
12305 FIFTH HELENA DRIVE
BRENTWOOD CITY OF ANGELS
USA Earth! Earth!
(Irregular heartbeat. The Sharpshooter beats time with his hands)
Now Death pedals more slowly. Death
squints at streets numbers.
Death rings the doorbell. Death
his sweaty forehead.
rings the doorbell a second time
pressing hard on the button. And
this time, the door is opened.
(irregular heartbeat ceases.)
THE BLOND ACTRESS (left side of the proscenium) From Death’s hand I accepted the gift. I knew what it was. Who it was from. Yes…I saw Death. I’d dreamt of Death the night before. I was not afraid. Seeing the name and address I laughed and signed without hesitation.
From the darkness emerges the face of a woman sitting in the centre of the stage. Her legs are wide apart. We only see a shock of fire-red hair and her hands in black net gloves resting on her knees.
VOICE OFF You have a beautiful baby, Mrs. Mortensen, don’t you want to hold your beautiful baby? It’s a girl baby, it’s time to nurse.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (in proscenium, addressing the audience) When I was born, on June 1, 1926, in the charity ward of the Los Angeles County Hospital, my mother turned her face to the wall.
GLADYS MORTENSEN (pressing her hands on her knees, face sunk in her chest )
Because I love my daughter and want to spare her grief.
Because I am poisoned. And my child is poisoned.
Because the city of sand is collapsing in flames.
Because the smell of burning saturates the air.
Because by the calendar those born under the sign of Gemini must now “act decisively” and “display courage in determining their lives”.
Because I’m past that time of the month, and the blood in me has ceased to flow. And I’ll no longer be a woman desired by any man.
Because for thirteen years I’ve worked in the film lab at The Studio and for thirteen years I’ve given all my heart to The Studio helping to make possible their great films which thanks to the great stars of the American screen have transformed the very soul of America, and now I’ve realized that I’ve let them drain away my youth and my soul is deathly sick.
Because my blood is poisoned, chemical poison sleeping through the gloves and even into the bones of my hands.
And my eyes, my vision is wavering.
My eyes ache even in sleep.
(at the top of her voice)
Because it will be a season of hell and shame. We’ll all be fired.
Because never again will I sell my soul for mere animal survival.
Because I must cleanse myself and my child.
Because I’ve been deceived.
Because the very father of the child has wished it not to be born. Because he said he doubts it is his.
Because he gave me money, scattered it on the bed.
Because the sum of these bills was but $225, the sum of our love.
Because he told me he’s never loved me … that I had misunderstood.
Because he told me not to call him again, to stop bothering him.
Because I’ve been deceived.
Because before the pregnancy he loved me, and after he didn’t. Because without it he would have married me. I’m certain.
Because my child was born three weeks before expected, that it must be a Gemini like me. And so cursed as me.
Because no one will ever love a child so cursed.
Because my child will be my own secret self, exposed.
Because my child will be a freak of deformity, in disguise as a pretty little curly-haired girl.
Because I’ve been deceived.
Because the brush fires in the hills are a clear summons and a sign. Because…
Am I really the mother? Sometimes I don’t believe I am.
THE BLONDE ACTRESS At the Studio, there was the world-you-see-with-your-eyes and the world-through-the-camera. The one was nothing, the other was everything. In time, Mother learned to perceive me through the mirror. Even to smile at me… Not eye-to eye! Never. In the mirror it’s like a camera eye, you can almost love it. So I learned mirror-looking… As soon as I was big enough to see. The image seemed purer to me. I never experienced my face and body from the inside, where there was a perpetual numbness, like sleep. Only through the mirror was there sharpness and clarity.
GLADYS MORTENSEN (laughing) Hell, this kid isn’t half bad-looking, is she? Guess I’ll keep her.
Darkness. Gladys Mortensen, with her back turned to the audience, in the centre.
GLADYS MORTENSEN (lighting up a cigarette, in excitement) Norma Jeane, wake up! Hurry!
THE SHARPSHOOTER (right side of the proscenium, with his 22 caliber rifle in the holster) Fire season. August 1934. In the night
the smell of smoke, of ash! Highland Avenue in Hollywood,
where mother and daughter are living together at last,
a choking smell,
(rubs the rifle on his neck and forehead) a smell that stings the eyes…. windblown eyes.
The smell of Gladys’ s perpetual cigarettes,
the scorch burns in the linoleum, in the flower-patterned carpet
(rubs the rifle on his thigh)
In the double bed with the brass headboard
Shared by mother and daughter,
the scorch smell of bedclothes the child recognizes
in her sleep…a smoldering Chesterfield
falling from Gladys’ hand.
GLADYS MORTENSEN (her cigarette falls, her hand dangling from the wrist) God damn! What next! I wasn’t even asleep! My mind is too restless. In my brain it’s a bright day. What seemed to happen was, my fingers suddenly went numb. It’s been happening lately. The damage may have already been done… It’s as every philosopher has taught, you don’t go until your number’s up, and when your number’s up (snaps her fingers and laughs),You go!
THE SHARPSHOOTER (holds the rifle tight and starts twiddling it with his fingers) But the fires are real! Fires…fires (his eyes light up) are raging
In South California, brush fires.
The Santa Ana wind has been raging raging
for twenty days and twenty nights, I hear its voice here
it’s bearing grit, sand and ash. It started from
the Mojave Desert, gentle at first as a caress, then
protracted, more intense, bearing heat. Then came
the first firestorms erupting in the canyons
from the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains pushing west toward the Pacific.
(first light turns on)
In twenty-six hours I see hundreds of them erupt
in the San Fernando Valley
in the Simi Valley, twenty, twenty-six
searing-hot winds blowing at one hundred and six miles an hour,
walls of flame twenty-six feet high leaping across
the coastal highway and limping like rapacious living creatures.
Fields of fire, canyons of fire, fireballs
c o m e t s (second light turns on) Sparks!
Malicious seeds from Thousand Oaks to Malibu,
from Pacific Palisades to Topanga.
(third and fourth light turn on)
Stampeding cattle run ablaze like torches
until they drop. Tree, tree, tree,
hundred-year-old elms burst into fire and
consume everything around them in six seconds.
Water-soaked roofs catch fire, buildings
implode in the flames…bombs! (fifth light)
Fires continue to rage out of control.
Are people screaming!? Strange high-pitched cries,
like birds’ or coyotes’.
(the scene is completely illuminated. Pause).
A sinister light reverberates
behind the Sunset Strip.
Have I witnessed a perpetual solar eclipse?
The end of the world, promised by the Apocalypse.
Gladys in the centre with a laced nightgown and a kimono. She is visibly excited, shaken, boisterous.
GLADYS And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God. But it’s God who has blasphemed us.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (in proscenium, addressing the audience) How does fire begin? Is there a single spark that’s the first spark, the first-ever spark, out of nowhere? Not from a lighter but out of nowhere? And why?
GLADYS Fire is from the sun. The sun is fire. That’s what God is – fire. Put your faith in Him and you’ll be burnt to a cinder. Put your hand out to touch Him, your hand will be burnt to a cinder. (sighs, excited) You see, Norma Jeane, the fact is man wasn’t meant to live in this part of the world. It was a mistake to settle here. Do you want to know what your father calls this city? (sunddenly soft) He calls it, The City of Sand. The City of Angels is built on sand and it is sand. It’s a desert. Mankind isn’t meant to live in such a place. So we’re being punished. For our pride and our stupidity. Earthquakes, hurricanes, fires and the air smothering us. Some of us were born here, and some of us will die here. (almost breathless) It’s a pact we’ve made with the devil.
THE SHARPSHOOTER (looks at her and puts his rifle back in the holster)
Gladys…Gladys out of breath. Gladys
wriggling out of herself like a salamander,
speaks rapidly and then …calm, too calm.
Gladys is driving on a darkened Coldwater Canyon Drive.
Why is it dark? Is it 1.35 AM?
Above Sunset Boulevard
is the first of the six days of fire. But Gladys
is heading, where?
(to her who doesn’t see or listen to him)
Why towards the fire and the stinging suffocating smoke,
into the hills?
GLADYS It’s a pact we’ve made with the devil. Even those of us who don’t believe in the devil. (Pause) Are you listening to me, Norma Jeane?
THE BLOND ACTRESS (speaking in a child’s voice) Y-yes…, Mother, I forgot my doll! What if the house burns down?
GLADYS (grimacing, stamping a foot on the ground) That doll! You’d be fortunate if it did burn! It’s a morbid attachment.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (in an adult’s voice, remembering) Why were we going uphill, why into the Hills, why on this night of fires?
GLADYS God damn! Why didn’t I wear my dark glasses?!
THE BLOND ACTRESS (in a child’s voice) VB 3-2993, Grandma Della’s number … who I cannot call…My father! If I had his number, no matter where he is, I would call him. Saying, Mother needs you now, please come! Help us!
GLADYS God damn! Mulholland Drive…fire barricade! But it’s high there we have to go, Norma Jeane, see, high into the Hollywood Hills, in those prestigious hills…Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Los Feliz…there are the private residences of film stars…I’ll slow down at the gates…and you will see…if you see your father (winking) you know, he could be a guest at a party…maybe a dinner party … in one of those mansions.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (remembering) Instead of church, my mother would take me on Sunday excursions to see the private residences of the stars … and one day I would have seen my dad in a suit… But now it was the middle of the night and the air was thick with smoke and you couldn’t see the residences of the stars.
The Sharpshooter turns and points an electric torch at Gladys. He’s wearing a police officer hat.
THE SHARPSHOOTER (rude) Hey, where the hell do you think you’re going?
GLADYS (seductive) I live on Laurel Canyon Drive … my residence is there. I have a right to drive home, now!
THE SHARPSHOOTER Where exactly do you live?
GLADYS (furious) That’s my business!
THE SHARPSHOOTER (shining the flashlight into her face) Who is…what is in the car with you, on the back seat?
GLADYS (laughing) Well, surely not Shirley Temple!
Pause. The Sharpshooter sinuously follows the light along the only partly dressed body of Gladys, a woman with a strong erotic appeal.
GLADYS (coquettish, coughing) I’ve been invited! To a residence at the very top of Laurel Canyon Drive… the owner has a fireproof mansion. My daughter and I will be safe there, if you let us pass. I can’t say this man’s name, officer, but it’s a name you all know. He’s in the film industry. This little girl is his daughter. This is a city of sand, and nothing will long endure but we’re going, anyway.
THE SHARPSHOOTER I’m sorry, you’ll have to turn back … we’ve been evacuating the area. (Calm) Calm down, ma’am, and put your little girl to bed. Go back home to your husband. It’s late.
GLADYS (correcting him) There’s no husband. And don’t you condescend to me, officer. Don’t you tell me what to do.
THE SHARPSHOOTER Driver’s license and registration, please.
GLADYS I left the registration at home. You see, there’s a fire emergency!
THE SHARPSHOOTER (reading the address) Highland Avenue is in a safe part of the city, you’re lucky and you should return home immediately.
GLADYS (smiling seductively and loosening her hair) Actually, officer, I want to see the Hell up close. A preview. Can you understand it?
THE SHARPSHOOTER (harsh) You must turn back, that is an order! Or I’ll have to place you under arrest.
GLADYS (bursting into laughter) Arrested! And for what, because I go around at night? I’m sorry, officer (like a mischievous child) Please don’t arrest me. (clutching his arm, murmuring) I wish you could shoot me.
THE SHARPSHOOTER (hissing) Lady, go home. You’re drunk or doped up and I don’t have time for it tonight. You’re saying things to get you seriously in trouble. Please, go back home.
The Sharpshooter frees himself from Gladys’s grip.
GLADYS (playfully) Even if you shot me, officer, if I tried to run that barricade, for instance you wouldn’t shoot my daughter. She’d be left an orphan. She is an orphan. But I don’t want her to know it even if I loved her... I mean, if I don’t love her. We all know it’s nobody’s fault, being born.
THE SHARPSHOOTER (compliant) Lady, you’re right. Now go home, OK?
The Sharpshooter lowers the flashlight. A violent squeal of clutch, a car leaving briskly.
GLADYS (collapsed to the ground) … At the foot of Laurel Canyon Drive… there was a detour, then a second detour … then one more … is this Sunset Boulevard? Where am I …no, maybe I got it wrong … which way should I turn to Highland Avenue?! (almost in tears) I’m thirty-four years old … no man will ever again look at me with longing … I’ve given my youth to the Studio, to H o l l y w o o d … there is the blame! (looking from left to right to left) Oh God, which way is home?
A slide show.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (sitting with her legs crossed, with pigtails and girl socks, she names the actors in a child’s voice as soon as they appear) Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Charles Boyer, Fredrich March, Lew Ayres, Clarke Ga a ble…my d-da…D-Dark Prince, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Constance Bennet, Joan Blondell, Claudette Colbert, Gloria Swanson… The F-Fair Princess!
GLADYS MORTENSEN (moving forward in her nightgown) Wherever you are, I’m there. Even before you get to the place where you are going I’m already there, waiting. (Pause) I am in your thoughts, Norma Jeane. Always.
You can go walk on your own to the Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, after school. These “movie days”. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t trust anyone. You’ll be safe at Grauman’s Egyptian. Just sit near the back, on the aisle. Look straight forward at the screen. Complain to the usher if a male bothers you. And don’t talk to males you don’t know. When you return home after the double feature, at dusk, walk quickly as if you know where you’re going, near the curb and under the streetlights, where you can feel the light above you. Under the light, with light’s favor, always! Don’t make eye contact with males you meet and don’t accept rides from anyone, especially males. Ever.
Wherever you are, I’m there. Waiting for you.
A room. In the centre, a mirror headboard bed. On the right side of the bed there is a bathtub with feet; on the left side, a little white Steinway spinette piano. The Blond Actress, with pigtails and childish attitude, presses the keys while lying on her knees. The sound of running water filling the bathtub can be heard.
GLADYS MORTENSEN(in bed, suddenly shouting) Didn’t you hear that note was wrong? Don’t you hear the difference between a sharp and a flat? Are you tone-deaf? Or just deaf?
The Blond Actress is attempting the notes of Beethoven’s “Für Elise”.
GLADYS Norma Jeane, I have plans for you. For us. (takes some pills from the bedside table and swallows them). This is why I want you to take piano lessons. Do you like the lessons, do you like the discipline?
The Blond Actress continues pressing the same keys, petrified.
GLADYS You must not stammer the keys. It’s unfortunate enough you stammer words. You don’t like rules, not even those of music, do you? You’re all instinct, that’s what you are ...like an animal..
The Blond Actress continues, as if she hadn’t heard her mother.
GLADYS God damn! Norma Jeane. This piano… it belonged to Fredric March, didn’t it, right? Fredric March (humming) I Love you Truly. We’ve seen it three times this week, remember? I made you miss school to see it!
The Blond Actress manages to scramble together some notes.
GLADYS (to herself) Because it will be a season of hell and shame …We’ll all be fired.
Because I quit my job at the Studios. Because I must cleanse myself and my child.
Because I’ve been deceived. (trying to stand up) And now….time for Baby’s baaath!!!
The Blond Actress remains on her knees, frozen. Gladys jumps out of bed. Confused noises, like a fight to force the child to enter the bathtub. The child cries for help.
The Blond Actress starts playing nimbly the first part of Beethoven’s Für Elise. Pause.
THE SHARPSHOOTER (to the audience)
It had already happened.
Happened once before
when Gladys wanted to lift Norma Jeane
and lower the kicking and thrashing
child into the steaming water.
Norma Jeane whimpered
Norma Jeane didn’t dare to scream, but the water was
so hot, hot, burning hot, scalding hot
and rushing, rushing from the faucet Gladys
had forgotten to shut off as she had forgotten
to shut the hot water faucet off
as she had forgotten to check
the temperature of the water. Norma Jeane
tried to climb back out of the tub, that time
but Gladys pushed her back. That time already.
And it didn’t matter that Norma Jeane was crying
because the water was too hot, too hot, too hot …
The Blond Actress resumes the same initial piece of “Für Elise” and plays it twice.
Then she stands up.
THE BLONDE ACTRESS No! I am different from you. This time it’s no. I’m strong. I have a will contrary to yours and I won’t be set into the scalding-cleansing hot water a second time. (Long pause) It would not be the Dark Prince who came for my mother. Didn’t see her carried away. Arms in sleeves tied behind bear her back. All the rest of my life, the horror that one day strangers would also come for me to carry me away naked and raving and a spectacle of pity.
A room in a psychiatric hospital.
Gladys Mortensen, fire-red hair, black net gloves, puts on a hat veil and a black coat as if she were about to go out. She’s wearing a tight girl dress on a gown.
GLADYS MORTENSEN (humming) Che sera…sera…whatever…will be…will be…(doesn’t remember, moves around looking for something) because, because because…I’ve been deceived… because I am poisoned and so is my child…(to the mirror) because the city of sand, as my love used to call it, is collapsing in flames…because she’s always my child, because my child was born three weeks before expected…to be a Gemini, like me. And so cursed as me…(doesn’t remember) because I wanted to be an actress and instead I’ve let The Studio drain away my youth, editing and cutting the film (looks at her hands) because…no-one will ever love a cursed child… because my blood is poisoned and my soul…sick…why…where is my child…she is my secret…and what day is today? (stops for a while and then smiles) This is my home!…Highland Avenue…today...(comes back to the bathtub) Norma Jeane is coming…why today? Today…because I’ve been fired because I’ve been taken or I took her or I’ve been taken in? (gets confused, laughs) Because I’ve been deceived. Why? (stops and looks at the audience) Why? …you say? You’re…staring at me, huh? (smiles, then serious) No close-ups. Unless I’m prepared. (goes to the dresser, opens and closes the first drawer, then goes back to the audience) I’ve got a daughter that’s a knockout, you know? Guess I’ll keep her! And she’s coming here, today…she’s coming to live here. High-land Avenue(in a loud voice) HOLLYWOOD!!!(stops, moves forward, moves backwards). But won’t you ask me any questions about me … my life … who I am, what I do, Where I come from … where I’m going … where am I going?(sits on the floor) Which way is home?
Today, Norma Jeane is coming. Why? Why? (Long silence, Gladys waits)Because the father of my child didn’t want her to be born…he said he didn’t know if she was his…did he give me money? To make me disappear… Because the brush fires in the hills are a clear summons, a sign, because without the pregnancy, he would have married me. (Silence) I’m certain.
(whispering) But perhaps Norma Jeane…is here (smiles)
A wind-like sound enters the room. Gladys takes a book entitled “The Little Treasury of American Verse” and
“Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me;
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
What’s that about, Norma Jeane?
(the sound of wind blends with that of water. Pause.)
One day…then you will know. And now. Time for Baby’s baaath!
The wind is the voice of the dead. Wanting always to get in.
Inside us. On earth there is a shortage of bodies. Yes, indeed, a shortage of bodies, let me tell you.
All those poor dead souls wanting to push in.
(She suddenly cries, it’s an ancient cry) Time for Baby’s baaath, Norma Jeane! Yes, I know it’s hot. It has to be hot, there’s so much dirt. Outside … and inside us.
A Children’s Home.
A room with a bunk bed on one side, above the bed in three quarter view a window, in the middle of the proscenium a kneeling-stool.
The Blond Actress, now a teenager (pigtails and short socks),is beside the kneeling-stool. She’s wearing a uniform, blouse and skirt. She keeps her legs closed tight. Takes a letter out of a book.
GLADYS’ VOICE OFF (the child holds the letter in her hand)
“Dear Norma Jeane, I can’t believe you’re not ashamed to say that’s who you are in the eyes of the World –
I’ve received your filthy letter and so long as I am alive and able to fight this insult I will never be allowed my Daughter to be adopted! How can she be adopted – she has her MOTHER who is living and will be well and strong enough soon to bring her home again.
Please do not insult me with these requests as they are hurtful and hateful to me. I have no need for your shitty God, for his blessing or his curse I thumb my nose! I hope I still have a nose to thumb, and a thumb! I will retain a Lawyer so you can be sure to keep what is mine until Death.
“Your loving mother” YOU KNOW WHO”
THE BLOND ACTRESS (with her legs closed tight)
I’m not an orphan, really. I have a m-mother. And I have a f-father too. My father lives in a big mansion in Beverly Hills. If I was pretty enough, my father will come and take me away. Y-yes. I wait for my dad and dream…flames, screams, a naked woman running, her eyes mad, open…those screams (she feels a pang in her stomach) There…over there…is Hollywood, where dad lives… how many miles from Highland Avenue? (whispering) From here there is a secret way to crawl out onto the roof , outside the third floor girls’ lavatory, after a steep staircase and an endless corridor … but only Fleece and I know it.
MALE VOICE OFF Look at the ass on that one, the little blonde! Nor-ma Jeane, that your name, honey? Hey, Nor-ma Jeane! What a sweet ass. Look at that sweet ass. Oh baby. Who’s she? (whistle) Jailbait.
Ashamed, she runs towards the bunk bed with her legs closed tight. She tries to climb up but a cramp prevents her from succeeding. Tries again and again but in the end leans exhausted against the bed. Opens her arms a little. Checks down there. Starts fiddling with her skirt.
THE BLOND ACTRESS God damn! (putting a hand to her mouth). Fleece, obnoxious Fleece, in a stairwell as boys thunder downward backs into a corner to stick her finger up inside her skirt and into her panties…She holds up her finger glistening red at the top and shows it to us…oh, disgusting! The others laugh, oh how they laugh! (closes her eyes as if she were about to faint). But I am not Fleece. I’m none of you! (Pause) “A curse in the blood” says always Fleece with a smirk “You can’t escape” Shame on you Fleece! Yes you can escape. There is a way! God is mind and the mind is all, mere matter doesn’t exist (unbuttons her blouse, looking at her breasts and touching them)This is not happening to me. No aspirin, no nurse…nothing whatsoever. Why is my nasty sick crazy mother allowed to ruin my life? Why is the law so stupid? But I pray, I am praying, goddamn I’m praying… this is not happening to me (she has put a hand up in her skirt) Perhaps it is happening to…
Looks for a mirror. Holds her legs tight. Walks again towards the kneeling-stool. Wiggles her hips. Seeks everybody’s attention. She’s got cramps. Smiles.
FLEECE’S VOICE OFF Norma Jeane? Hey. Are you crazy? Look…The c-u-r-s-e…
NORMA JEANE (disoriented) Shut up, Fleece! Leave me alone.
FLEECE’S VOICE OFF Norma Jeane, your cramps are real. Your period is real. The blood curse…
Norma Jeane blushing with shame rushes to the kneeling-stool. She kneels down and joins her hands in prayer.
FLEECE’S VOICE OFF Norma Jeane!
NORMA JEANE (stands up and takes a run-up) Don’t give in. Don’t leave them pity you. Don’t let them touch you. Hide, hide…don’t turn back.
VOICE OFF Norma Jeane! Wait!
NORMA JEANE Yes, in the closet…behind the bathroom door.
VOICE OFF (farther and farther) Norma Jeane! Norma Jeane!
NORMA JEANE (climbs up on her bed) Here…quick! Norma Jeane. Quick! Ah! The night sky, a pale-quarter moon, the fresh cool night air! (Pause). And there, miles away the RKO light flashing. Hollywood… One day. No, soon! Mind is the only Truth. God’s mind. God is love. Divine Love has always met and always will meet every human need. Don’t give in, Norma! (Pause) I’m strong and I’ll be even stronger. Because I can withstand any pain and fear. Until Divine Love flooding my heart. I don’t feel pain because I don’t want to feel it. I see the clouds…I’m climbing…the steps of a staircase leading up and up and up. Quick Norma! On top of the staircase there’s the Sun. The Sun is Fire, God is Fire, Gladys would say…Quick! I’m climbing. A misstep, a moment of doubt…climbing…you’re might smash to the ground limp, no no she died insane…it won’t happen to me, it is my will that it should not happen. I’m climbing. It doesn’t happen. I’m climbing Look at me! Love me, I already love you! From now on…I won’t be alone from now on You won’t be able to look anywhere except at me…now I’m climbing climbing climbing. Until Divine Love flooding my heart. I’m climbing (she’s opened the window. Pause) But which way is home?
Garden of a psychiatric hospital.
A bench in proscenium.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (sitting on the bench, choosing some photos) This yes…this no…yes…no…here I look like Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz (laughs on her own)…here in a Back-to –School cold clothing…maybe I’ve sent her pictures that were too explicit. That’s why she hasn’t replied. Well, I don’t care. Why should I? (Pause) But I guess I do care. I’d better admit it (picks up some pictures) She’ll like these, she’ll be proud of me. At last! (Pause) Ten years. “Your mother is as nearly recovered as she will ever be” the doctor told me; “can I come to Norwalk, then?” Before, visits were not even allowed (Pause) Norwalk is a hospital, a psychiatric hospital. (quick look at a tortoiseshell mirror) So, are you feeling proud enough to see her? To enter Norwalk?
In the garden GLADYS MORTENSEN starts trudging, dragging her feet, wearing a faded green shift with a crooked hemline. She walks unrelentingly without approaching her daughter.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (going towards her to embrace her) M-mother? Oh, Mother! It’s Norma Jeane.
Gladys neither embrace her in return nor resists her. Norma Jeane cries, wrinkling her nose.
THE BLOND ACTRESS Are you crying too, mother? (Pause. Sits on the grass making Gladys, who wanted to walk, sit as well. Takes some presents out of her bag). M-mother? I’ve brought you some things… Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems …I thought you might read something to me, and this beautiful dove-gray knitted shawl delicate as cobwebs, do you like it mother? And then (takes out a tortoiseshell compact with a mirror inside) no, not this…better not, it might break…(Pause). Mother! It’s so nice here, isn’t it?
Silence. A sound of wind among the palm-leaves. Norma Jeane looks around as if that place, Norwalk’s garden, were familiar to her.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (quoting something her mother used to say) The spirits of the dead. Wanting to return.
Gladys takes the opportunity to detach herself from Norma Jeane and shuffles to the nearest bench.
THE BLOND ACTRESS Mother!
Gladys immediately collapses on the bench. She folds her arms over her narrow chest and hunches her shoulders as if she were cold, or spiteful. Norma reaches to her and draws the dove-gray shawl over her mother’s shoulders. And sits beside her.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (her voice lifted, childlike) Are you warmer, now, Mother? Oh, this shawl looks so pretty on you! (Silence. Norma Jeane keeps smiling and smiling). Would you like to come and visit me, M-mother? (Gladys grunts something) the doctor here says you can visit me anytime. You’re nearly recovered, he says. Y-you could stay with me overnight, or just for an afternoon. (Gladys grunts again) Oh, Mother, it’s been so l-long. I’m sorry.
Silence. Norma Jeane is about to join arms with her mother but then holds back.
THE BLOND ACTRESS Mother, I sent you my wedding pictures, remember? I guess…I guess I should tell you…I’m not married any longer. (holding out her trembling hand to her mother’s) My h-husband…we were so young…he decided he…he didn’t want…(holding back her tears) You c-can’t love a man who doesn’t love you, isn’t that right, M-Mother? Because if you love somebody truly it’s like your two souls are together, and God is in you both; but if he doesn’t love you…
THE BLOND ACTRESS Please, Mother, give me your blessing! You know, dad is still living in Hollywood, I suppose, and if you are discharged from the Hospital, it seems likely, and if you come and live with me and if my career takes off as my agent believes it will… if … (she stops, goes towards the spot where she has left her handbag, rummages in it and takes only the “nice” poses, prepared to be presented) For you, mother.
GLADYS (staring at them and pointing at herself) Huh!
THE BLOND ACTRESS It could be you at my age! It could be. (Pause) Oh, M-mother, has been so exciting this past year, so w-wonderful, l-like a fairytale. Sometimes I almost can’t believe it! I’m a model. I’m under contract at The Studio…where you used to work. I can make a living just being photographed. It’s the easiest work in the world!
(turns sideways, towards the audience). The truth is different, the truth is…a life of hard work, anxious work, work that keeps you awake at night worrying. On me always the eye of the other with his cruel power to laugh at you, jeer at you, reject you, fire you, send you back like a kicked dog into the oblivion from which you’ve only just emerged.
Gladys has been staring at a photo where Norma Jeane is seated cross-legged on the floor. Gladys frowns, orienting the photo toward the light.
THE BLOND ACTRESS You can keep it, if you want. There is c-copies. (Pause) M-mother?
THE BLOND ACTRESS (impulsively) My f-father was under contract to The Studio? You said? Around 1925, correct? I’ve been sneaking around there trying to find his picture in the old files, but…
GLADYS (with a suddenly furious expression) Where is my daughter? They said my daughter was coming today. I don’t know you. Who are you?
Norma Jeane drops some photos . She bends, frozen.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (face in her hands) I have no idea, M-mother.
Gladys stands up and starts walking again dragging her feet. Norma Jeane leaves the bench and walks away, slowly moving her hips, her hands almost imperceptibly trembling, wobbly in her high heels.
The Blond Actress is wearing a tight white dress and shoes that make her look far taller than she actually is. Followspot on her.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (remembering) “Like a silk purse down there…no hairs” Baby Norma Jeane wrapped up in a pink woolen blanket and passed among strangers coughing & choking in the smoky air how happy & young Mother was then, how hopeful men who put their arms around her waist praising her for the beautiful baby & Mother was beautiful too, but it’s not enough, well we don’t have the same last name & who would know that Gladys Mortensen is my mother? But I knew one day Mother would come and look for me, she vowed it (Pause). I was already forgetting Mr. Z when my cramps began, so unfair this should happen at such a time eight days early, & so oodles of codeine which is a strong analgesic painkiller. I don’t believe in pain but I was in terror of staining my white sharkskin skirt & then what would I do?
& there was also a searing pain in my anus I could not comprehend. Mr.Z was oh my height if I was not wearing these spike shoes he not fifty years old, is he? Which isn’t old for a man. Cmon let's drop the goo-goo routine you can’t be as dumb as you look. We’d left the aviary where he kept his birds with their star-like faces & were now in Mr.Z’s private apartment behind his office he’d switched off the aviary lights & the birdsongs abruptly ended as if all species were struck extinct. Mr Z pushed me toward a white fur rug saying Get down Blondie &only then it came to me Mr. Z is my father – is he? The secret heartbreak of Gladys Mortensen’s life yet the only happiness of her life. Mr Z was impatient, he was not a cruel man, I believe, but one accustomed to getting his way. I’d been stammering & now couldn’t speak at all. I was on my hands and knees on the soft fur rug Mr Z had shoved my satin skirt up to my waist & removed my panties. I don’t need to shut my eyes to go blind, you’d learn quickly in the Home when you’re blind time passes strangely, floating & dreamy in a way, yet in another way speeded up like the Time Traveler upon his machine, so I traveled... like in one of Mother’s old water-soaked books.
The Blond Actress falls on her knees, on all fours, facing the audience. Looks at a distant spot. She smiles, ecstatic.
I would not remember Mr. Z afterward except the small & glassy eyes & his dentures smelling of garlic & the film of sweat on his scalp visible through the wiry hairs & the hurt of the Thing of hard rubber, I think greased and knobby at the end shoved first between the crack of my buttocks and then up inside me like a beak plunging in, in, in as far in as it will go (she looks away and sits on the side). I wouldn’t remember how long was required for Mr.Z to collapse, I was in terror the old man would have a heart attack or a stroke and I would be blamed …you hear of that all the time, cruel crude funny stories.
Long Pause. The Blond Actress stands up. The followspot moves to a leather armchair. The Blond Actress sits down.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (radiant) Later that day the start of my NEW LIFE My new life! My new life has begun! Today it began! It’s only now beginning, I’m twenty-one years old and I am… MARILYN MONROE The last name Monroe…how did we come up with it? (smiles) they wanted to call me Miller…Marilyn Miller…those two Hollywood folks, with their salamander tongues and their infant-like shiny scalps…so full of money and of… (makes a gesture with her hands) “your future depends on us, baby!”…it makes me…they kept on saying “we want the sound MMMMMMM…Marilyn Miller…Mona Miller…Moira Miller or Mignon Miller” and so I shouted…at the top of my voice “Listen, please… you’re talking about me, right? My grandmother’s last name was Monroe! Understood…heard?” and they snapped their fingers as if they’d only just thought of themself and said MARI-LYN MON-ROE! It’ll be your movie name and appear in the credits for Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! Now you’re a true starlet…no need for an audition…but how, I said…the shock and the joy overcame me…my first real movie…but I didn’t understand…still, down there, that wound, between my legs. Right now…a deep wound, between my legs. A deep nothingness from which blood flowed but at that point I was too happy to feel it and behind … there was … that incomprehensible searing pain... because of Mr.Z…but I’d already forgotten what had happened…yet A NUMBNESS in my whole body.
The Blond Actress is almost falling asleep. The followspot fades.
A room in a psychiatric hospital.
Two lights on the Blond Actress and Gladys Mortensen, sitting on two armchairs.
The Blond Actress is wearing dark glasses and a diaphanous scarf around her neck.
THE BLONDE ACTRESS How nice to see you again, M-mother!
Thick and somehow hostile silence of Gladys, hands lying in her lap, her gaze distant but yet alert.
The Blond Actress looks at her mother’s hands while talking.
THE BLOND ACTRESS You know, Mother, I’m still under contract at The Studios and I’ve been doing
serious work, a very demanding part … (browsing a magazine with a glamorous photographic service of Marilyn’s under her mother’s eyes) there’s been a feature in ‘Esquire’ on the new crop of Hollywood starlets
and this…That dress! See? The Studio provided it. I don’t own it, mother.
GLADYS (becoming more animated) You don’t own the dress you’re wearing? Is it clean?
A clean dress?
THE BLOND ACTRESS (awkward) This doesn’t look much like me, I know. It’s because Marilyn is photogenic, or at least that’s what they say.
GLADYS Huh…Does your father know?
THE BLOND ACTRESS My f-father? Know what?
GLADYS (her hands become tense) About this Marilyn?
THE BLOND ACTRESS (confused) Well, he wouldn’t know my professional name, I guess. How could he?
Gladys touches the glossy images of those Hollywood beauties with ambiguous satisfaction and maternal pride. Then clenches her fists.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (tries to touch her mother’s hand lightly but Gladys draws away) If you told me Father’s name, I could send him this magazine. Gosh, I could call him sometime. If he’s still living? If he’s still living in Hollywood? (stares at her) If you told me Father’s name. If…
GLADYS (letting the magazine fall, in a flat dead voice) It’s nobody’s fault being born, is it?
The Blond Actress impulsively stands up, goes around her armchair and stops near Gladys.
She takes off her diaphanous scarf and loops it around her mother’s neck, holding it in her hands.
THE BLOND ACTRESS How pretty you look today, Gladys!
GLADYS (always slightly out of tune, yet trying to answer in kind) Yes, Gladys is still attractive, you said it!
THE BLOND ACTRESS (ambiguous, starting to be out of tune too)
Isn’t it a relief to be out! Out of that awful place! We could just drive and drive, couldn’t we, Mother?
Just – drive! You’re my mother, it would be perfectly legal. Up the coast to San Francisco. To Portland,
Oregon. To- Alaska! (Pause. Then, almost talking to herself)
Or would you like to come and spend some days with me, uh? In my Hollywood apartment. Just us two, right, Mother?
Gladys grunts something and shrugs.
THE BLOND ACTRESS (in a flirtatious, slightly mocking tone) Mother, I think you need to get out more. There’s nothing wrong with you really. “nerves”, so what? We all “nerves”. Did you know that there’s
a full-time doctor at The Studio who’s hired just to prescribe nerve pills for actors? I refuse.
To me, pills are worse than nerves.
GLADYS Who is this Marilyn, can you explain it to me, miss?
THE BLOND ACTRESS (in a lower voice) Sometimes I think, Mother, that you don’t want to get well.
One of Gladys’s hands starts shaking, then her fingers stroke against one another, her body stiffens.
GLADYS MORTENSEN (lifting her mask face) Do we know each other, miss? You smell.
The Blond Actress laughs, embarrassed. She is about to stand up.
THE BLOND ACTRESS Mother, perhaps you can’t stand Marilyn’s bleached hair or perhaps
(touches her neck with her hand and sniffs her wrist) it’s my new perfume… is it too strong? It’s so expensive, mother.
Gladys shifts uneasily in her straight-back chair.
Gladys sucks in her bloodless lips.
Gladys shows her hands stroking one another as if they were chafed.
The Blond Actress looks at her, upset. Light fades on Gladys.
Only The Blond Actress remains in the light
THE BLOND ACTRESS That’s the puzzle I can’t comprehend, Mother, of all the puzzles. That some of us exist … and others, the most, don’t. I believe I am Marilyn, even if sometimes, at night, I wish I could sleep while Marilyn keeps on tormenting herself with such questions. What does it mean to be born? (Pause) After we die, will it be the same nothingness as it was before we were born? (Pause) Or a different kind of nothingness? Because there might be knowledge then. Memory. But what if memories, Mother, at one point become…unbearable, those images we wish we had the power to erase, what then, Mother?