Category: Micro Opera

When Falling…Dive | A VideOpera

My silence over the last few months is an indication of how intensively I’ve been working on developing my librettist muscle. It’s been a mind-blowingly productive and creative time; I’m just getting started!

Currently I am working with composer, Peter Michael von der Nahmer on a VideOpera (it’s exactly what it sounds like, an opera created for video) about a woman and her tortured relationship with Twitter.

We are producing this ourselves and are about to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise some money so we can cover the cost of production and pay our artists. If you want to learn more about this cool little project and would like to be added to our mailing list, use the link below to take you to our sign-up page. This will add you to our list so we can share campaign launch information and updates with you.


This is an inspiring project and many people are starting to get as excited about it as we are. Join the movement and follow the link below to join our mailing list!

Sign up and, please, share this with your friends and family.

WhenFallingDiveTitleCard5

Thank you! MMN & PMvdN 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/when-falling-dive-a-videopera-video-opera/coming_soon

 

Ten Minute Tragedy: A Soccer Opera

Assignment #6 – Write a scene with 2 people in a room. Happening offstage––outside of the room––is a major moment in history.

Setting – Dressing room of team Peru at Estadio National in Lima, Peru May 24, 1964

  • Baritone: Hector Chumpitaz (aka: El Capitan de America) – Legendary Peruvian footballer in the prime of his career having just joined the national team
  • Tenor: Angel Eduardo Pazos – Uruguayan referee & alcoholic who’s been dry for two years

Set up/opening orchestration: Peru is hosting Argentina in an important soccer match, one that Peru is watching to win with great anticipation. In the last two minutes of play referee, Angel Pazos, disallows a Peruvian goal that would have equalized the game. The ref’s actions cause two Peru fans to invade the pitch in an attempt to harm the ref. Police intercept and begin violently beating the pitch invaders, setting dogs on them in front of 53,000 rabid fans causing further reaction from the crowd. Leading in to this scene, police have just release fifteen canisters of tear gas into the seething body of predominantly Peruvian soccer fans. Terrifying panic ensues in the stadium.

Lima 3
El Capitan de America, Hector Chumpitaz, watches as police take down a fan who has invaded the pitch – BBC News Archives
Hillsboro 2
Crush point at Hillsboro stadium  www.news.com.au

Archival images of the Lima event as well as other national soccer stadium tragedies are splashed all around the theatre, audio of panicked crowds intermingle with the orchestration. The audience should be feeling the pressure of panic all around them. The orchestration quiets slowly as the sound of cleated boots walking heavily down an empty hallway in the sports complex rises over the panicked sounds. We hear a door being opened and the lights come up on the team dressing room. Hector stands in the doorway, holding onto the handle in an attempt to steady himself.

Hector
The police
the police
though they didn’t let their dogs loose*
they did let them tear his clothes off*
tear his clothes off
tear his flesh off just a bit
and the other one
the other one
beaten by many men with batons

Lima 1
Peru Police drag the pitch-invador away in front of 53,000 people in Lima – BBCNewsArchive

blood on the pitch
blood on the bitch who bit his arm
tore his favorite jersey clean off his body

The people
the people were disturbed*
by the way in which they took the Pitch Invaders away*
dragging them like cadavers
in front of fifty three thousand people

This is why the crowd began to get very upset*

Audio rises over Hector’s voice of a new level of terror and panic echoing off the walls of the stadium. Hector is sitting now at his locker having taken off his shirt. He studies the dramatic red stripe that cuts across the chest of his new Peru kit. Angel enters holding a cup of water.

Angel
How about that?! Eh?
How about that?!

Those Pitch Invaders nearly got me
Did you see that
they nearly crushed me for that call?
What a bunch of crazy dicks
short on knowledge
never went to college
drunk on any cheap swill they can find

I don’t mind
it’s all part of the game
glad the police came down hard
to keep the yard from brimming over

Angel walks over to a radio on the wall and turns it on – music of 1964 Peru floats out over the air. As he turns on the radio his hand hits a hip-flask full of whisky that someone had stashed for later. He takes the bottle down and looks at it sitting there in his hand.

Are you ok, Hector?

Hector
The police
the police

Hector
How about that?! Eh?
How about that?!

The music stops abruptly and a reporter gives the breaking news about the riot at the stadium.

Newscaster
Ladies and gentlemen, this is breaking news about a riot that has broken out at Estadio National. Police are trying to contain the unruly mob with tear gas. Please avoid the area around Estadio National for the foreseeable future. Repeat, a riot has broken out at Estadio National. Please avoid the area.

Gun fire outside on the pitch is heard from the dressing room – men are screaming. Angel goes to put the bottle back where he found it but the disturbance scares him and he decides to keep hold of the bottle for now.

Hector
The world is broken
there is nothing to be spoken for
There is something terribly wrong here
which I am not able to fix

Angel

Lima 2
Police rushing the pitch-invaders  BBCNewsArchive

What’s going on, Eh?
Gun fire on the pitch?!
Son-of-a-bitch I have to get home
to see that my daughter is safe
She loves this game as much as I
though I forbid her from attending
this is no

place for good girls to be banging about

Hector
Don’t go out there!

Angel
Hector, that’s touching
I’ll be safe now
everyone has already forgotten about my call
that got them on their feet in a squall

Hector
Don’t you listen?!
Can you not hear the sound of people dying out there?
Our people
Our Peruvian people

I dread to see the sights that await us
when we emerge from this cave of cowards

Angel
Cave of cowards?! Speak for yourself El Capitan de America

Hector
Where is everyone then? Who else is in here but us, Angel?!

Angel
They all must have found a way out, somehow.

Hector
Maybe they are all dead
Maybe I should kill myself

Angel
Don’t be such a Shakespearian actor
There are other factors at work here
and I’m sure no one is dead!

Newscaster
Breaking News: there is a report coming in from Estadio National of thirty, no, no, excuse me fifty, fifty people dead at Estadio National! This is a horrible…wait, wait, another report…a hundred…an estimated one hundred people have been crushed to death in a stampede at Estadio National. This is terrible ladies and gentlemen, terrible

Hector
Ahhh, this is too much
There is nothing to do
no story I can tell to make the people laugh
no soccer ball to kick to make the people cheer and be happy about the day again
There is nothing I can do
There is nothing I can do
Mama, I am so sorry
There is nothing I can do to fix this

Angel
When I was three I wanted to be a footballer
I wanted to spend my life on the pitch
honing my foot work
practicing my kicks
Football was my life, my love, my path out of misery
My papa would be proud of me
if I was to be a footballer

Never was I good enough
Close but not quite good enough
so I took the only path that was by me
to be a referee – still I would stay close to the game
but it is not the same
Not the same in any way at all

Never am I happier then when I’m on the pitch
except, perhaps, for when I used to be able to drink a fifth
but that joy was fleeting

As the ball is in play and you chip it across the sky to land in the hands of the keeper
my heart wants to burst with love
The beauty of the rhythm of the game of my life keeps me alive and well and sober

My one regret is when the ball lands in the net
I see the glee on the striker’s face
perceive the pain of the keepers miss
and yet I am not part of that moment
I must endure while the world stops
to celebrate or lament the goal
I am not a part of it – I am separate – other – hated
or worse, ignored completely

A loud crash comes from outside

Hector
I am leaving the game, Angel.

Angel
El Capitan? No, no, you cannot do this

Hector
This I can do!

Angel
This you must not do! Peru, Peru needs you now more than ever

Hector
Football is dead to me just like those hundred people lying dead in our stadium

Newscaster
Breaking News: ladies and gentlemen, it grieves me mightily to tell you that Peruvian police have confirmed three hundred fifty eight deaths by internal hemorrhaging or asphyxiation in a terrible tragedy at Estadio National in Lima. There is rioting in the streets outside the stadium still – I beg of you to steer clear of Estadio National until order has been restored.

Angel
Three hundred fifty eight – gone
because of one lousy call I made
My call – my call made this happen
My call for footboll, the game I love
has brought death and destruction
to the world
The worst stadium disaster in history
is because of me

Hector
We don’t know what would have happened*
If the police had removed the Pitch Invaders*
in a peaceful fashion*
But I guess we can’t think about that now*
We have to face what’s out there

Angel Eduardo Pazos, you made the call you made
that is your job
I watched Kilo Lobaton rise his foot*
to block the ball*
and saw it rebound into the goal*
it was a foul*
in my humble opinion
though my opinion does not matter

Angel
El Capitain de America your words are sweet and powerful
I am the one on the wrong side of history
You, you are the one who matters now
You must help to heal Peru
You leave the game you kill a whole nation
Do not do that to your country!
Do not do that to your country!
Do not do that to your country!
I beg you – for love of the game
do not leave us now, dear Hector

Angel weeps at Hector’s feet as Hector sets his jaw and rises to put his jersey back on. He walks out of the dressing room leaving Angel alone with the bottle of whisky. Once alone Angel opens the bottle and greedily, tragically chugs the liqueur down.

Hillsboro 1
Hillsborough Disaster memorial.File photo dated 15/04/89 of fans being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough, during their FA Cup semi-final football match against Nottingham Forest. David Giles/PA Wire URN:8694092 (Press Association via AP Images)

 

Black out

©Marianna Mott Newirth

*From an article by Piers Edwards BBC Sport May 23, 2014 “Lima 1964: The World’s Worst Stadium Disaster”

 

 

There Are No Words

A dark stage

A single spotlight comes up on an empty stage

A woman steps into the light

She reaches out her arms in front and spins around as though someone has just hit her

She falls to the floor

Music crashes in evoking an overbearing presence filled with malice. The woman sits in the center of the light protecting herself. The music subsides.

She is alone

Woman
Sometimes these things happen
and the end result is that we just remember who we are
more than ever before

A choir of men & women dressed in Quaker garb step into the light

Choir of Quakers
Men and women must seek the light
the great heresy is to await
In a kind of indifference
for the Light to come to us

Woman
There is so much that distracts us
from love and connections

Choir of Quakers
God is the Light, the  Truth that stirs within

Woman
Years of negativity and dislike
built brick upon brick upon brick
Such that we cannot see over to the other side of the other side

Choir of Quakers
Walk worthy unto that which ye are called
Practice abstinence from that which intoxicates
How increasingly incumbent is it upon you
to carry out your principles
so that you be not found in the background
of the great reformation that is taking place
in human society today

Woman (spoken)
Last night someone looked at me and said
“Oh honey, you’ve gained weight”
And when I mentioned that to someone else they said
“Well, you have, ya know”
I know that shouldn’t bother me but today it does

Choir of Quakers
Orthodoxy and bigotry shut men and women from the Light
Prune rote-creed and superstition from your mind
Let in the Light
The clear, stark, uncompromising Nantucket Light

Woman
I always struggle with my body
the discrepancy between what I see
and what others see
I think its time to assert myself
against comments like that

Quaker Choir
Let in the Light
The clear, stark, uncompromising Nantucket light
Where there is no room for prejudice to grow
Or oppression to flourish

Woman
Do not comment on someone’s body
shape or size
unless you are fucking asked about it

Quaker Choir
Woman is claiming for herself stronger and more profitable food
There is today a more extended recognition of her rights
her important duties
her responsibilities in life

Woman
Your opinion on my body is unwarranted
unnecessary
and I didn’t ask
so don’t comment

Quaker Choir
Launch forth, as men do, amid real, independent, stormy life

Woman
This is a cultural issue
that it’s been OK to objectify women’s bodies

Quaker Choir
It is interwoven throughout our country
and we may well acknowledge that we are all
All verily guilty concerning our sisters and our brothers

Woman
I think it shows a remarkable lack of tact
What the fuck is wrong with people?!

Quaker Choir
Inquire for thyself and acknowledge the Light that resides within

Woman
I need not set aside a special time for worship
I worship always seeking the divine will
and practicing holy obedience
I appreciate the wise laws of nature
and the divine spark in man and in woman

Quaker Choir
Breath in – breath out
you can’t change people
Only your response to them

Woman
Because the Light is one in all
it binds us together
In the bonds of love
Free discussion is never to be feared
except by such as prefer darkness to light

The spotlight has expanded during this interlude and now floods the stage in brightness
The woman changed her clothing from the party girl out on the town look into simple Quaker garb. She now stands with the choir undistinguished from the rest

The end

_______________________________

Librettist’s note: This weeks Micro Opera is a curious mixture of words from a Lucretia Mott address and a dialogue I watched unfold on FaceBook. Somehow I found them to be related. This is raw, I didn’t take enough time but I had to post something because I played hooky last week. It was Passover, I was tired and full and buzzing from many glasses of wine. But this also points to my ongoing process of “turning over, and turning over” the words of my ancestor in the hopes of finding new meaning for our society today. There must be a connection. I continue to dig. I’m 20 minutes past my posting deadline. Time to get this sucker up there.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

MMN

The End – An Opera in One Beat

Special Thanks to Chris for writing this piece and making it widely available on Free Music Archive as well as YouTube

Scene: a cozy, darkened bedroom in the middle of the day. Sounds of the city float in through the opened window. A woman, Amy, lies in a hospice bed. Her husband, Sam, is bedside. It is the appointed hour of her death.

AMY

Are you there?

SAM

Yes I’m right here

AMY

Are you there?

SAM

Yes I’m right here

AMY

Where are we, Sam?

SAM

Home

AMY

One more hour, maybe

Take my hand

SAM

Yes

AMY

Don’t be frightened

I remember running in the park with you

You held my hand I wanted to let go

To run free

And you had to let me go

You are ever right here with me

Even in the tightest spots

Time to run

SAM

No

Are you there?

Are you, Amy

Please be there

Please be, Amy

AMY

Sam, let me go – now

Let me go

SAM

Amy

———————————

This libretto comes out of my studying theatrical beats this week, as in, moments that make up a play. I wanted to try making a one-beat opera. Lacking any sort of focus I went to my playlist and found Cylinder Six. It gave me a perfect structure to build this monumental moment between two people. I didn’t expect to end up in tears by the time I’d finished. Read the libretto, listen to Chris’ piece then put the two together. Tell me if any of it worked for you.

Thanks for reading!

© Marianna Mott Newirth

The Light Within: A Very Early Rough Draft of an Opera on the Life of Lucretia Mott

Main Characters

2016-03-01 12.01.03
Lucretia Mott at about the age of 70…give or take. You can still see the fire in her eyes if you look beyond the bonnet

Lucretia Mott: Soprano – A short, sprite of a woman of quick movements and vivacious manner. She is slender and petite with an air of dignified simplicity and a grace of conduct beyond her years. Two features rule Lucretia’s face; A benignant mouth which softens an otherwise dominant chin and lofty brow. She has beautiful, limpid-grey eyes widely set and full that seem to grow appealingly darker whenever she is moved by the excitement of sympathy or the animation of conversation. Beneath her lively exterior lies a nature as deep and sober as that of her beloved James; always she is tender with a high degree of practical spirituality.

Thomas Mott: Baritone – A tall, quiet, grave-looking man with sandy hair and kindly blue eyes who takes his time and always acts with great deliberation. James perceives everything in a serious way but is always tender with a high degree of practical spirituality.

Miller McKim: Bass Baritone – A young man with a deep sense of spirit. He has dark features and a flair for theological discourse. He is very much a match to Lucretia’s highly spirited convictions.

Quaker Elder – Mezzo Soprano or a Baritone

Quaker Choir

 

Librettist’s note: I have been working on this particular piece for about five months. It pre-dates the launch of the Mott Academy of Libretto Writing and was partially responsible for MAWL coming about in the first place.

This Micro Opera is based on the book Valiant Friend: The Life of Lucretia Mott written by Margaret Hope Bacon. I began writing The Light Within (TLW) when Philip Glass’ Etudes for Piano came into my world. I found a compelling (one could say obsessive) relationship between Bacon’s book and Glass’ music and set to find out where the two intersected. This is very much a work in progress and I have a long, long way to go before it clicks but I’ve come far enough that I think it’s time to share it with you.

To help you make any reasoned sense of this, get yourself a copy of Glass’ Piano Etudes and read on. For a taste of what I’m trying to do, listen to this…

…while you read the first scene of act 1. Hopefully you’ll get the idea. I’d love to hear from you if anything strikes a chord. Any composer out there interested in crafting a minimalist score with Quaker ideals send me a note. This will be a full blown opera one day!

ACT I

Scene 1

Place: A busy Quaker home in Philadelphia 1880. It is the last day of Lucretia Mott’s long and storied life. Based on the tempo from Glass Etude No. 1

Lucretia Mott sits napping in the family room near the fire, an extra blanket lovingly placed over her shoulders by her daughter Mary before she dons her bonnet to head out for a meeting. Several other men, women and children – all dressed in simple Quaker garb – bustle around the home as the morning light rises. Everyone is equally busy and equally happy in their appointed tasks. A number of people head out the door after Mary while others attend to laundry, or splitting wood out back. After a great burst of energetic activity (with the one still-spot being our beloved Lucretia contentedly napping) the room falls quiet. The silence arouses our matron who is happy to be finally alone with her own company. Lucretia holds some knitting in her hand and attempts to pick up the pearl stitch she was in the midst of when she dozed off but her hands are arthritic and she rests her work back in her lap intending to resume knitting in a little while.

The weather is churning outside from the NorEaster that passed through last night. The sun darts in and out at irregular intervals indicating the fast moving clouds overhead being pushed by gale-force winds that have lost their bite but not their shove. This creates a dramatic moving light in the room. At one moment Lucretia sits in darkness and then suddenly a brilliant light breaks in bringing clarity to the room. This creates a distinct Chiaroscuro which moves around Lucretia as she stirs with the dancing light. The music conveys a reflective quality as our antagonist finds the strength to sit up straight and be fully present to the room and the audience therein witnessing the production.

LUCRETIA MOTT

Welcome
Is thee is comfortable?
The storm abates, see how it pushes and pulls the light
The light, the light
Bright like a Nantucket morning
Clear as the wind whipping my skirts

“Spitfire” twas a name they had for me then
As a girl of ten

Spitfire, spitfire indeed
Too many names have I acquired this long life
Not all said lovingly, I assure thee

As a girl I knew what my faults were
I earnestly sought a passive state
I’d wait for truth to unfold from my soul of its own accord

God speaks directly to men and women
boys and girls
through an inward Light
that illuminates our conscience

By minding the Light Within
one learns where one’s duty lay
then it is just a matter of obedience

All the troubles of the world
all evils, including slavery
are not due to human depravity
but disobedience to manifest duty

First-Day silence deep and awesome
Therein I prayed to overcome my hasty rage
My Spitfire tendencies
But it’s not fair how human beings mistreat one another
Humanity shudders at our self-inflicted atrocities!

 

QUAKER CHOIR

God speaks directly to men and women
boys and girls
through an inward Light
that illuminates our conscience

Mind the Light Within
learn where thy duties lay
then it is just a matter of obedience

All the troubles of the world
all evils, including slavery
are not due to human depravity
but disobedience to manifest duty

 

LUCRETIA MOTT

So much injustice in the world
how to fight against it all
when one is so weak and small?

I miss the sea, the ships, the salt spraying on my face
Nantucket’s stark and revealing light
The Light Within I seek so earnestly still
I miss my Thomas, my beloved Thomas

 

QUAKER CHOIR AND LUCRETIA MOTT

God speaks directly to women and men
girls and boys
through an inward Light
that illuminates our conscience

Mind the Light Within
Learn where thy duties lay
then it is just a matter of obedience

All the troubles of the world
all evils, including slavery
are not due to human depravity
but disobedience to manifest duty

 

LUCRETIA MOTT(spoken)

Thee is here to witness an accounting of my days

 

End of Scene 1

 

Intersticial:

QUAKER CHOIR
“unable to abide Thy purity till pure as Thou are pure.
Made such by Thee we then are free.
And liberty, like day, breaks on the soul
And by a flash from Heaven
Fires all the faculties with glorious joy.
Oh Thou my voice inspire
Who touch Isaish’s hallowed lips with fire.”

 

The scene transitions from the stormy set to the house first owned by Lucretia and Thomas five years into their marriage. Lucretia throws off her blankets of old age and stands before the audience a young woman in her prime. She reaches for her bonnet and ties it properly under her chin. 

 

Scene 2

Thomas enters carrying several bundles of cotton fabric

THOMAS MOTT

Lucretia dear – lend thy hand?

Lucretia goes to lend her new husband a hand, heartily hoisting a bolt of fabric over her shoulder. Thomas opens his mouth to protest

LUCRETIA MOTT

I hoisted heavier bolts of fabric before thee ever heard my name called out at Nine Partners school, Thomas Mott. I can manage.

THOMAS MOTT

Well I know thy strength, Lucretia. But there’s an additional…

Lucretia lets out a quick yelp as a small kitten pokes it’s furry head out of the bolt Lucretia is holding

THOMAS MOTT

…suprise inside that one. I could not entice it out of its hiding place so I settled to cary it home

LUCRETIA MOTT

What a delightful fright thee gave. It’s decided; we shall name thee “Boo.” Thy task is to keep the mice in order. Thomas, we must discuss the issue with cotton. A slave, a slave’s poor hands are bound up in the warp and weft of this cloth!

Sound of their child, crying, waking from his nap

LUCRETIA MOTT
My dear little Thomas is awake. We cannot continue we must divest from this wretched slave-reliant industry. Thee cannot abide much longer!

THOMAS MOTT
Go, attend to him. I shall finish stacking the bolts and Lucretia… thee is right but how to make a change that brings no harm to our family?

LUCRETIA MOTT
Thee will do what thee knows is right, Thomas, just as thee knew the right thing to do was to marry me

QUAKER CHOIR

Her life and his were destined to flow
As parallel banks of a meadow stream
Running towards the ocean of great human compassion
Making kin all bodies regardless of creed or color or custom

Scene transforms into a Quaker meeting house five year’s earlier with Lucretia and James sitting opposite one another on plain benches designated for the bride and groom. She in her simple grey Quaker dress, he in his simple black Quaker suit they are bidden to stand by one of the Elders who call them forth before the congregants. The music is formal and tight. Nerves abound but the couple show no outward emotion

 

Scene 3 – Wedding of Lucretia & Thomas based on Glass Etude No. 2

JAMES MOTT

I, James Mott, take thee, Lucretia Coffin, to be my wife, promising with divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband so long as we both shall live.

LUCRETIA MOTT

I Lucretia Coffin, take thee, James Mott, to be my husband, promising with divine assistance to be unto thee a true and loving wife so long as we both shall live

 

QUAKER ELDER

In a true marriage relation
The independence of husband and wife is equal
Their dependence mutual
Their obligations reciprocal

 

QUAKER CHOIR

Believe always in the soul of man
invisibly rapt – ever waiting
ever responding to universal truths

Light – Dark – Voice – Seed – Hunger – Thirst – Pilgrimage

Wait for truth to unfold from the soul of its own accord

 

QUAKER ELDER (addressing the couple directly)

Love all people
Act from the direction of the inner light
Submit to God within

 

LUCRETIA & THOMAS

Life’s purpose is to live it out together
Ever alongside one another
In grace, strength and simplicity

I lend unto thee my full heart

May we be brought unto a child-like state
so to receive all the mysteries belonging to thy kingdom

 

Crescendo as Lucretia and Thomas fall into one another’s arms in an impassioned kiss on their wedding night in the upstairs bedroom of Lucretia’s parent’s house where they will live their first year of marriage.

 

End of Act 1 Scene 3

 

Act 2 Scene 1

 

In the Mott household ten years into their marriage tempo based on Glass Etude No. 3 Lucretia is orchestrating the household chores while also preaching at Quaker meeting

LUCRETIA MOTT

Sweep the floor – hang the wash – chop the meat and make the pies
tack the carpet – sew the shirt – weave the rug – darn the heel
Make the tea – set the table – prep the food – and stoke the fire
add a chair there’s a hungry woman lingering outside our door Mary

I see

I see Inner Light residing within each person

Scene swings to her standing and preaching at meeting

LUCRETIA MOTT

Launch thee forth, as men and women do, amid real, independent, stormy life

Heed the call from God

Be an instrument of the spirit

Good to be always zealously affected in a good thing

It’s a simple perception of duty
that brings thee to close examination of thy daily life and practice

Head not the voice that entices

The one that slumbers and forgets

Bring forth thy greatest possible self and be fully who thee is – man and woman, boy and girl, black and white, poor and rich

 

Scene swings back to her home

Sweep the floor – hang the wash – chop the meat and make the pies
tack the carpet – sew the shirt – weave the rug – darn the heel

Oh my stomach!! (Lucretia doubles over in pain and takes a seat. Her daughter, Mary, brings her a glass of milky water to drink)
Make the tea – set the table – prep the food – and stoke the fire

Perhaps I’ll sit a moment by the fire to knit (she falls asleep)

End of Act 2 Scene 1

 

Act 2 Scene 2 In a large assembly of abolitionists populated mostly by men with a smattering of women this scene is based on the tempo of Glass Etude No. 4. During the music-only intersticial Lucretia sits proud and straight during entire pantomimed proceedings. She “speaks” only occasionally but every time she does the entire assembly turns to listen to her. The assembly is dismissed and Miller McKim, who converses with Lucretia during the pantomimed session, steps forward in an aria

MILLER MCKIM

Who is that woman? So learned and self-possessed
So unlike all the women I have ever known
What hath God driven that she glows with such inner fire?
She, like the bright, clear light after a terrible storm
warm and compelling – harsh and direct
I feel rather that she looks directly at my heart and speaks truth
I cannot hide from her piercing gaze
No one has seen me as deeply, purely, completely
as this handsome Quaker woman from Philadelphia

 

LUCRETIA MOTT
Miller McKim, thy dark good looks
thy earnest, searching attitude
misguided, though it may be, thee is replete with potentiality
(aside) If only he would step away from the Presbyterian stronghold at seminary
Thy Light Within is strong indeed – my dear Miller – My poor, poor orphan boy – The darling subject of my pen
Dare I say he remindeth me of my little Thomas – The one who left my breast too early for his time – How I ache for my first son who would be the age that Miller McKim is today
Push this grief aside, Lucretia
Miller is a man who must make his day
And I will provide what guidance I can along the way

(Addressing Miller) Come to Philadelphia for the antislavery convention

 

Miller looks to Lucretia longingly. She returns his affectionate gaze and bustles off to another meeting with the abolitionist women. Thomas Mott notices the animated conversation between his wife and Mr McKim. He reacts not with rage but with a momentary wave of sadness.

 

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Rough draft, as I said. In the future I will post other scenes for TLW as I write them. It’s like creating a jigsaw puzzle from scratch except I’m making all the little pieces first and then figuring out a way to make them fit. I hope you got something out of reading this. Do let me know how it hits you. Have a productive week.

MMN

© Marianna Mott Newirth with preliminary permissions from FCG Quaker Books

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