from PAPER HOUSE

by

ALICIA PARTNOY and JUDITH A. WEISS


Originally developed in a collective production for Windsor Theatre, January-February, 1998, Sackville, N.B., Canada, with students of Mount Allison University, from a one-act play © 1987 by Alicia Partnoy. First U.S reading directed by Eva Leiva Partnoy at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, 2010.


SETTING

Stage far left, a cell in the Villa Devoto Prison, Buenos Aires. The cell should be approximately 9 x 9.

Stage far right, a punishment cell at the same prison, about one third the size of the other cell.
 
The “Dreams Area,” closer to the audience, center right stage. The Paper House will be built in this area


House music: “The King’s Chambers.”  Text as follows:  

MESSENGER & PRISONERS SING (OFF) :
    Inside the song that sings me
    The sandclock clamors after dying days
    The child’s old knowledge is stilled.
    The years are spokesmen for the king’s chambers
    The centaurs are stoned by sculptors.
    The myths are all dead in pools
    That we together carve
    As mirrors for our breath
    Echoing the coming winter.
    
Prologue

JOKER.     Ah yes, I’m among you, just as you see me, just a humble usher.  My metamorphosis was not easy. I mean, back then, I could be called upon to be a guard, a cop, an officer, some said a torturer and an extortionist. . . . Today, I happen to be here, an usher, a contortionist (smiles effusively) making you feel at home in this nice little theatre.  Fifteen years ago I was a policeman in an average city in Argentina, doing the job of an average policeman. I was o.k. at my job, until the pressure grew, to do more, to go . . . beyond the call of duty, as they say.  But that became duty.  And I was duty-bound.  At first I didn’t enjoy it much, but then I got a charge out of it . . . and then it became routine, and I resented the work load . . . . I was just an instrument to keep their fairy tale from unfolding.  I was a . . . player in the Big Game:  The hunt for communists and terrorists.  I can’t say I did too badly.  The ones you’ll see here got away, survived, but for every one of them that did, five hundred others didn’t.  The official count is ten thousand, but I’ll go along with those who say it was much higher.  Those are only the ones that could be proven.
        . . .  (House lights off. Stage lights on. JOKER changes into Guard’s uniform).    
                      . . . . . . . .

Scene 11

The Prisoners’ cell.  ROSA walks up and down, slowly, as if counting her steps.  LILI sits on the floor and BETTY is sitting on the bed behind her, rubbing LILI’s neck.  LISA is cutting or filing her nails.  The Guard opens the door.
GUARD.    (To LILI) Don’t sit on the floor.  (She hands her two letters.  Lili stands up, takes the letters and gives one of them to Lisa.)
LISA.    (excited) Granma!
Betty gives the second letter to Rosa.
ROSA.    At last!
Rosa sighs, pulls the letter out of the envelope and reads aloud.  Betty and Lili listen attentively.  Lisa looks up from her own letter when Rosa reads the line about her feet.  
ROSA.        Dear daughter: I received your sweet letter just the day before my birthday.  I wished you were with me.  Father teases me.  He says I should start taking some years off.  I’m not worried about my  age: when people see me with little María Victoria they think I’m her mother, and she makes me feel very young.  Your daughter calls me Mom and calls you Mommy—her little mom, she says, I hope you don’t mind.  The other day she asked whether you had feet, because she can only see you sitting in that visiting booth and the lower part of your body doesn’t show through the partition.  At first I laughed, but then I worried a little.  I have to go now, it’s time to cook dinner.  I’ll talk to you in the next letter.  Be strong.  We all miss you.  Love, Mom.
LILI.        (Worried)  We’ve got to do something.
BETTY.     There must be a way of talking to her about your body, your feet…
ROSA.        I know what I’ll do.  Next visit, I’ll put my feet on top of the table.
LISA.        You’ll get punished, plus … all your bones will ache… I wonder
         how many of our children think that we don’t have feet.

                      . . . . . . . .

Scene 13

Enter JOKER as SCIENTIST in lab coat and death mask.  He rolls in the lectern, carrying an Amnesty International report and a pile of papers.  He stands just right of Dream Space, and reads aloud.
JOKER.    The Ministry wishes to present its response to the foreign campaigns of slander against the legitimate defence carried out by our government against anarchy and subversion. We summarize first the accusations.  The methods of torture allegedly include: beating, direct cranial trauma, electrical torture, and sleep deprivation up to three days.  There have also been unsubstantiated reports of solitary confinement up to two weeks.
(Here, Prisoners join in, in a canon: ROSA, LILI, BETTY,  and LISA take turns
repeating together the words that appear capitalized.)
GROUP 1: ROSA, LILI, BETTY:
starvation and dehydration/STARVATION; sexual exploitation and sexual assault of children/RAPE; direct genital trauma/TRAUMA; threats to family and friends/THREATS; enforced witnessing or overhearing torture and sexual assault of spouses and children/WITNESSING; threats of execution and disappearance of children/MOCK EXECUTION;
GROUP 2: LILI, BETTY, LISA:
pharmacological torture/DRUGS; tooth torture (dentist’s drill)/DENTIST’S
DRILL; suspension by feet or hands/SUSPENSION; water torture, including the “submarine”/SUBMARINE; near suffocation in plastic bags/SUFFOCATION/often filled with noxious substances/POISON; bright light torture/BRIGHT-LIGHT-TORTURE.
At this point, Prisoners cease to respond.  Begin again at “ANXIETY.”
JOKER.     Most, if not all, witnesses, proved to be unreliable due to mental disturbances such as  
GROUP 3:  BETTY, LISA, ROSA:
anxiety/ANXIETY; phobia/PHOBIA; depression/DEPRESSION; irritability/IRRITABILITY; introversion/INTROVERSION; psychosomatic change; lethargy/LETHARGY; fatigue/FATIGUE ;
(Joker becomes less forceful, gradually leaves the performance area.  Prisoners recite the following alone.  At this point they have stood up and moved forward . . . . Meanwhile, Joker will return at “visual disturbance” & he will juggle, etc., to distract audience.)
GROUP 4: LILI LEADS RECITATION; BETTY, LISA, ROSA:
Memory and concentration loss/MEMORY LOSS; headaches/HEADACHES; sleep disturbance/DISTURBANCE; sexual dysfunction/DYSFUNCTION; im-paired hearing/DEAF; pain in the joints/PAIN; impaired gait/LAME;  
(At this point Joker returns with his “act.”  He is forced out definitively at “severed spinal cord.”)
GROUP 5: BETTY LEADS RECITATION; LISA, LILI, ROSA.
visual disturbances/BLIND; cardiopulmonary symptoms/HEART; abdominal pain/PAIN; kidney dysfunction/KIDNEYS; paralysis resulting from severed spinal cord/SEVERED SPINAL CORD.
JOKER  (as he exits).      They’re not really normal, you know.  








































                           

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