Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)
TITLE: Alone In The Spotlight
By Jan Ackerson
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The actress—we will call her Alone—waits in the wings until the precise moment when the audience commences a restless stirring. Then she walks into the spotlight, carrying a large wooden block. It is almost too heavy for her to bear.
She drops the block at the edge of the light, then turns to face the audience. From her pocket she produces a pot of stage makeup, and she applies to one cheek a large, glistening tear. After closing the little makeup pot, Alone walks offstage—there is a long pause—then she returns with another large block.
This block is placed heavily beside the first. Many times Alone leaves and returns, and it becomes apparent that she is building a four-sided wall which will soon entirely enclose her.
Now and then other actors enter, also carrying heavy blocks; these they add to Alone’s structure. When the wall finally surrounds her at left, right and behind, she stands inside, facing the audience with wide eyes. The others complete the wall, which is nearly five feet tall. Alone’s forehead and nose are just visible above the blocks.
The wall-builders leave the stage.
After several seconds, the audience begins to squirm—was that all? Is it over? Alone jumps up once, twice, three times. It seems that she is feebly attempting a hopeless effort to escape. A few moments more, and her hands can be seen scrabbling at the top of the wall. She attempts to dislodge a block, to no avail.
Silence…silence. Alone is still.
An actor enters; his name is Preacher. There is a large and ornate cross dangling at his neck, and he carries a hefty Bible. Alone turns her head to watch as he approaches, then passes, her wall. He strolls by her and steps out of the light, becoming invisible for a short time.
Alone strains to see him over the wall, then faces front again. With one white-tipped finger, she paints another tear.
A pause, and Preacher re-enters the light. Curiously, he tests the side of the wall with his shoulder; it is sturdy. He straightens up and sees that Alone is watching him.
Preacher strides offstage and returns with a wooden box. Setting his box directly in front of the wall, he takes out a pot of red greasepaint and gives himself a large, clownish smile. Then he steps onto the box, facing the audience, and holds his Bible aloft in one hand.
Soundlessly, he begins to preach, with large and exaggerated gestures. His back is always, always to Alone.
Occasionally the audience can see Alone craning her head for a better look at Preacher, who continues to grandly gesticulate.
After several minutes of impressive pantomime, Preacher closes his Bible with a satisfied snap and turns to Alone. With a gracious, sweeping gesture, he indicates that he is leaving—would she like to follow? Alone tests her wall—still strong—and sadly shakes her head. Preacher shrugs and walks out of the light.
A silent minute passes.
A second actress approaches, carrying a canvas bag on which is painted a crimson heart. This is what we shall call her, then—Heart. She slows as she nears the wall, and she walks all around it, her fingertips dragging on its surface. When she has circled the entire wall, she stops and waggles her fingers at Alone.
Alone looks all around—did she wave at me? A few fingers appear above the wall, a bashful greeting.
Heart sits on the box left behind by Preacher, and from inside her bag she produces a soft white cloth. Now standing on the box, she reaches into Alone’s wall and wipes away her painted tears. With a smile and a light touch on Alone’s cheek, Heart shares with her a simple meal drawn from the canvas bag: bread and fruit, a bottle of water.
Finally, Heart reaches into her bag and brings up a mallet, and then another. She looks to Alone for a go-ahead; receiving a nod, she knocks the topmost block from one side of the wall. A few more swings, a few more toppled blocks, and Heart gives the second mallet to Alone.
Together they demolish the wall.
As they walk away, Heart removes her zippered sweater and drapes it on No-Longer-Alone’s shoulders. The audience can now see, on the back of Heart’s shirt, the outline of a Dove.
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