Apart The Other or Dia & Ali Meet But Don’t Quite Connect

Happy Street in Somewhere Wonderful, America

Everything is shiny and bright – the sounds are perky and optimistic – the images are iconic, glamorous and captivating all along Happy Street

A woman in her 30’s, Dia, enters – well dressed with a slight flair for the dramatic. The year is 1994. Dia is at the peak of her awesomeness walking down Happy Street on a faire spring day in Somewhere Wonderful, America.

 

Dia – short for Diane or dialysis (also Greek for apart, through, across) Soprano

Ali – short for Alison or alien (also Greek for other) Mezzo Soprano

Choir of The Underserved – Mixed Choir of Women, Men & Children

 

DIA

This must be success

All of this for me

The silver sidewalk

The singing salted Pretzel man

The perfect way my pumps pound as I go purposefully ahead

Life is easy

Life’s so good

The sun on my back

The bounce in my step

No worries but to make my appointment on time

I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine

Isn’t everything divine?

 

CHOIR OF THE UNDERSERVED

Work and haul and push and pray

We strive to make it day by day

Under a growing cloud of doubt

We hold our tongue we do not shout

 

Working poor – the underserved

We are not proud we are not heard

 

Work so hard can’t catch a break

They tell us “All we do is take”

They try to rule us all with fear

And kill off all that we hold dear

 

Working poor – the underserved

We are not proud we are not heard

Working hard the under-seen

Won’t be long before we scream

 

A large woman emerges from the choir and approaches Dia

 

ALI

Excuse me – Can I ask you a question

 

DIA

(Flippantly as she walks past Ali) No you cannot

 

Ali stands momentarily rebuffed and then joins the Choir of the Underserved again

 

The timbre changes on Happy Street in Somewhere Wonderful, America. The year morphs into 2001 and the polish comes off the dazzling façade. The sounds are slightly flat, the images are tinged with cautious notes, the sky (a 911 blue) looks somewhat sinister, the light that once warmed Dia’s back is somehow colder.

 

DIA (pushing a stroller)

Let me see where I can go

So I can look like I’m in the know

It’s hard to keep up the game

With so much pressure to have a name in the world

My grandmother – my grandmother

She was an elegant lady of her day

The Greatest Generation

Social register – Women’s rights

Fantastic hats with feathers in them

She’s the one I emulate

The lady I want to be

It’s harder than I thought it was

I don’t understand, really

 

ALI

Excuse me, can I ask you a question?

 

DIA
I don’t have time – I’m late

I’m late, for a thing, ya know

Excuse me

 

Ali watches Dia bustle past her and turn the corner. She addresses the audience directly

 

ALI*

She’s thinking “There must be something wrong here”

Like I’m a problem that needs fixing

Lazy freeloader – welfare mom

That’s all she sees when she walks past me on Happy Street

 

Broke but not broken

Broke but not broken

The system’s not made for us

The rich folk always making a fuss

Broke but not broken

Broke but not broken

See me for who I really am

I come from a good family of people

People who love me

 

CHOIR OF THE UNDERSERVED*

Self reliant

Something gets broke we fix it

Self reliant

Somebody falls gather them up in a bundle of life

Until they can breathe on their own again

Self reliant

The system’s not made for us

The system’s not made for us

The system’s not made for us!

 

We walk for the lame

We drive for the carless

We wait for the brother whose still in jail

 

We sing for the bird that’s lost its song

We spring for the winter that lasts too long

We cling to each other in times of fear

And pray to a God who never seems near

But we keep praying – ‘cause – ya never know when

That God might just show up and make everything work again

Self reliant

The system’s not made for us

 

The timbre changes on Happy Street in Somewhere Wonderful, America once again. The year morphs into 2016 and the façade is removed exposing the rawness of the performance space. The sounds are sharp, the images are stark, the sky is flat and white. Ali sits on a box next to a tree growing out of the sidewalk. Dia walks by holding her hand to her jaw. She is sporting a hat with a big flower on the side, which contrasts sharply with the dark mood she appears to be in

 

ALI

Excuse me. Can I axe you a question?!

 

DIA

You always try and stop me at the worst times!

I cannot talk to you right now

 

ALI

But you don’t even know what my question is

 

DIA

I…look…I’m sorry. I have a terrible…

 

Aside to the audience: I’m not telling her my problems

My tooth hurts, yes, but I don’t have to explain myself to her

 

We all have places to be you know

We all have things to do

 

Aside to the audience: I really need to get to the dentist, excuse me

 

Audio of a dentist’s drill incorporates with the music of Ali’s She Don’t Even Know aria

 

ALI

She don’t even know my question

She so damn busy all the time

Bound up in her little world of lattes and opera

She don’t see who I really am

She won’t see who I really am

I am a woman who makes hats for a living

I am a woman whose daughter is pregnant with twins

I am a woman with a son stationed in Iraq

Who the fuck is she?!

 

Dia walks out moaning slightly and holding an ice bag to her cheek

 

DIA

I wonder what her question was

Such a bitch I was I know

But my aching tooth, oh my aching tooth

I’ll stop and talk with her now

I don’t know why I’ve been so cold

Although she has been very bold and tried to ask me several times about…something

I don’t know what

It always felt wrong

She did not belong in my world

My perfect little world – so stupid

I could not see for all the glitter that was in front of me

Perhaps I can start with an apology

 

Dia notices that Ali is no longer sitting where she was. Dia looks around but Ali is not there.

 

DIA

She is gone

I am an idiot

 

CHOIR OF THE UNDERSERVED

Ali – the other

Dia – apart from it all

______________________________________________________________

[librettist’s note] I actually have no idea how to end this at the moment…

*Thank you to Mia Birdsong for the inspiration and some of her words taken from her TEDTalk “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True” May 2015

 

©Marianna Mott Newirth 2016

One thought on “Apart The Other or Dia & Ali Meet But Don’t Quite Connect

  1. I enjoyed the TED talk, I write to people to ask advice a lot because my family isn’t from the art world, my maternal grandparents both had single mothers and my parents both left school at 16, the trick is not to ask one person but to draw up the courage to ask lots and discover more and don’t give up. I share on my blog so that other children like me can see that the opera and classical world isn’t all like the stereotypes, I have musician friends that survive from day to day but they have passion and find a way to continue even when doors are shut in our faces.

    I hope you end it on a message of hope 😊, a choir of hope rather than despair.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s