Untethered, Stories Come Like Charms

Untethered Opening Reception 10.12.2017

In one of those odd opportunities that happen to playwrights on occasion, I was commissioned to write a short play as part of a museum exhibit at Florida Gulf Coast University. Artists Barbara Balzer and Linda Hall are the artists and according to the museum’s website –

“The works of Barbara Balzer and Linda Hall playfully draw on art history and mythology using ceramics and soft sculpture. Their fantastical and sometimes humorous works are being shown together for the first time, providing two distinct viewpoints that revisit age-old stories…”

I wrote a play called “Lord of the Forest” and it was directed by Greg Longenhagen. According to Greg, the most frequently asked questions following the performance were “Was this story really about something else?” and “Who was the bear supposed to be?”

The play follows in its entirety. Let me know if you figure out who the bear is supposed to be. More information on the exhibit can be found here – https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/event/untethered-stories-come-like-charms-barbara-balzer-and-linda-hall/60183

LORD OF THE FOREST

A play by David Lee White

CHARACTERS

The Narrator   any gender

Berton             A human (male)

Ava                 A human (female)

The Docent     A bear (male)

The Deer         A deer (female)

2 Birds            Birds (any gender)

Many crickets  Crickets (any gender)

Setting: The only house in the middle of the forest

(AVA and BERTON are in their house. Their house is located in the middle of the woods. It is the only house. AVA and BERTON sit in chairs, staring at the fire. It is quiet outside. The NARRATOR steps forward and speaks.)

NARRATOR

“Lord of the Forest” – something resembling a play, written by someone you’re unfamiliar with. Our play takes place in the forest, which might be a metaphor for something else entirely. There is a house in the middle of this forest. It is the only house. The house might also be a metaphor. Or it might not be. Inside the house are two people – Ava and Berton. They are married to one another. They have been married at least three years. The house belongs to them and the more I think about it, the more I think the house is probably not a metaphor. It’s probably a literal house. It is night. It is quiet. There is a full moon outside. At the moment, Ava and Berton are staring at the fire. This is what they do every evening. They stare at the fire.

BERTON

Good fire, tonight.

AVA

It’s the same fire as last night.

BERTON

Something wrong with last night’s fire?

AVA

No. I was just pointing out that last night’s fire was the same.

BERTON

Fire is interesting. I don’t necessarily love it or hate it. I’m kind of on the fence about the fire. But I do find it entertaining.

AVA

I’m starting to hate the fire. It’s always the same.

BERTON

Maybe you just haven’t really looked hard enough at the fire. It warms things up. It makes things brighter. The fire is good.

AVA

I thought you were on the fence about the fire.

BERTON

Tonight I’m pro-fire.

AVA

Where do you go during the day?

BERTON

We really gonna do this right now?

AVA

Where do you go every day when you leave our home?

BERTON

I go to the forest.

AVA

And do what?

BERTON

Forest things.

AVA

What are forest things?

BERTON

I walk around the forest. I keep a lookout. I get wood for my amazing fire.

AVA

What are you on the lookout for?

BERTON

You don’t need to worry about that.

AVA

Are you keeping a lookout for the Docent?

BERTON

Don’t be silly. The Docent has a whole forest to deal with. He doesn’t care about us. Don’t worry about the Docent.

AVA

I’d like to go to the forest.

BERTON

No. I would worry.

AVA

About the Docent?

BERTON

Just watch the fire!

NARRATOR

From outside, we hear cricket noises, made by actors, but representing actual crickets.

(We hear crickets)

AVA

What’s that noise?

BERTON

Oh my God.

AVA

Are those crickets? We haven’t heard crickets in ages.

BERTON

They’re just crickets. They don’t mean anything. We’re going to be fine.

AVA

Why are you so freaked out by the crickets?

NARRATOR

Suddenly, there is pounding on the door of the house. It sounds like this. “Pound, pound, pound!”

BERTON

There is nobody at the door! You don’t have to be scared!

AVA

Berton, who is at the door?

NARRATOR

His body heavy with resignation, Berton goes to the door and opens it. The Docent enters. He has the head of a bear.

DOCENT

Berton! My friend! How’s it hanging?

NARRATOR

The actress playing Ava has a look of consternation on her face, expressing both confusion and concern.

AVA

(with look of consternation)

Is that…are you the Docent?

 

DOCENT

Guilty as charged, pretty lady! Berton, who’s this delicious looking dish? Mind if I sit down? Nice fire!

BERTON

This is my wife, Ava.

NARRATOR

The Docent sits down in a chair. He sits down in an irritating way – as if he somehow owns the chair.

DOCENT

Ava! Come over here and sit on the Docent’s lap! Aren’t I amazing? I have the head of a bear!

AVA

I’m not sitting on your lap.

DOCENT

Then fry me up a rabbit or something, for Christ’s sake! I’m the Docent! I have a flipping appetite!

BERTON

Listen, I’m sorry I just disappeared after you became Lord of the Forest. I can explain.

AVA

Berton, do you know the Docent?

BERTON

Know me? Lady, this guy made me Lord of the Forest!

AVA

What?

DOCENT

I mean, kinda. A lot of people made me Lord of the Forest. People, bears, foxes, you name it.

BERTON

I’m sorry I never told you, honey. But before we were married, I worked for the Docent.

AVA

You worked for him? You worked for the creature that is systematically destroying the entire forest?

DOCENT

Hey! Don’t believe everything you hear! You’ve been listening to the birds, haven’t you? Berton, do not let your wife listen to the birds!

AVA

How could you do this?

BERTON

He made a lot of sense at the time. He said all the things that I was thinking. But then when I saw what he was doing the forest, I didn’t want anything to do with him.

AVA

So you moved us to this house in the middle of nowhere.

BERTON

Yes.

AVA

And when you go out every day –

BERTON

I’m protecting you. Making sure the Docent doesn’t come after us because I deserted him.

AVA

Pfff. Nice work.

DOCENT

Hello! I can hear you! I’m sitting right here! I have bear ears!

BERTON

(to the DOCENT)

I’m sorry I disappeared. But I’ve changed. I’m married to Ava, now. Please leave us alone!

DOCENT

Ha! Too late, Berton! Lord of the Forest, here! I’m famished! Bring me some meat!

BERTON

(to AVA)

Look, maybe we should just bring him some meat. He falls asleep after he feeds. Then he’ll wake up and leave.

AVA

How do you know?

BERTON

If we flatter him, he won’t hurt us.

AVA

Fine. Okay, Mr. Docent.

NARRATOR

Ava begins collecting fruits and vegetables from around the house – bananas, berries, tomatoes, etc.

AVA

We have fruit, we have vegetables –

DOCENT

Quit talking about it and just bring it! I’ve got a flippin’ appetite!

NARRATOR

With a certain amount of reticence, Ava delivers the fruits and vegetables to the Docent, who devours them noisily.

DOCENT

Rawr! Num, num, num…BURP!

BERTON

Did you enjoy them?

DOCENT

What the flip is this nonsense? I’m still hungry! Bring me meat!

AVA

That was the best food in the house. We don’t have any meat.

DOCENT

(glaring at AVA)

Au contraire, mon female. I’m looking at the best meat in the house.

AVA

Berton? What’s he doing?

BERTON

Mr. Docent? Sir?

DOCENT

You look like a full meal to me, chicky-chickerson. Come over here and jump inside my big bear tummy!

AVA

Berton?

DOCENT

Come on, lady. Don’t leave the Lord of the Forest hanging!

NARRATOR

The Docent begins chasing Ava around the house with the intention of eating her. Perhaps there is a table that they run around several times, like in a Moliere play or an episode of “Will and Grace.”

AVA

Get away from me!

DOCENT

Come here!

(The crickets begin chirping again. They stop running and listen.)

DOCENT

What’s that?

BERTON

Those are your crickets.

DOCENT

They don’t sound like my crickets. They sound different.

NARRATOR

Suddenly, surprisingly, and with no forewarning from a narrator, a deer enters.)

(DEER barges into the house. The crickets stop.)

DEER

Hey! What’s happening in this neck of the woods?

AVA

Oh, thank the goddesses.

BERTON

A deer!

DOCENT

What the flip?

DEER

Is that the Docent? Well, well, well. I thought I smelled stale bear. What brings you here?

DOCENT

I’m the Lord of the Forest. I can go anywhere I want!

DEER

You trying to eat my friend over here?

BERTON

Friend? Ava, are you friends with a…with a deer???

AVA

Yes, Berton. I’ve been friends with deer for a long time.

DEER

I’m not like her token deer friend, either. She knows a lot of deer.

BERTON

Explain this, please.

AVA

I’m sorry, Berton. At some point I got tired of staying home staring at the fire while you went out goddess knows where. So I started going out too. One day I was wandering around the forest thinking about you and me and what had gone wrong with my life, when I saw a bright green glow coming from a clearing. It was fire. A green fire. I hadn’t seen green fire since I was a little girl. I thought I’d never see it again. There, in front of the green fire, was Deer and a lot of other animals that I hadn’t seen for years. They had all been in hiding from the Docent. But now they were out again.

DEER

It was time for us to come into the clearing.

AVA

I spent the days with them, only coming back in the evenings just before you got home. Eventually, the Deer told me who I really was.

BERTON

I don’t understand. Who are you?

AVA

I’m a bird, Berton.

NARRATOR

Enter two birds. Bird One and Bird Two. They carry a bird head over to Ava and place it on her head. They continue to flutter, as birds will do.

BERTON

You’re a…bird?

AVA

That’s right, Berton.

DOCENT

What the flip?

DEER

That’s right, gentleman. The birds are back. And this time, they’ve got deer with them.

BIRD 1

Chirp! You know what I mean?

BIRD 2

Tweet! And there’s more where that came from!

BERTON

This is insane. You’ve been lying to me!

AVA

You lied to me about working for the Docent!

BERTON

I knew you would never marry me if you knew about the Docent! I was trying to protect you!

DOCENT

You married a bird? Berton, I thought I knew you.

BERTON

I didn’t know she was a bird!

AVA

I didn’t even know I was a bird until the deer showed me.

DOCENT

Don’t any of you know your forest history? The birds and the deer destroyed this forest! It used to be a great forest! Nothing but bears as far as the eye could see! Then they came along! But you and me did it, Berton. We restored bears to their rightful place! You gonna let them take it all away from us again?

DEER

You got your history all wrong. But I don’t expect you’ll ever understand that.

DOCENT

We’re not gonna let this stand. Are we Berton?

BERTON

Well, I –

AVA

Berton. I’m still me even though I’m a bird.

DOCENT

You really want the forest to turn into a haven for birds and deer again? Come with me, Berton. All is forgiven. I need your help. I have to stay Lord of the Forest. This is war.

(The sound of the crickets begins again. They all react.)

DOCENT

You hear that? The crickets love me!

DEER

Better look again. Those are my crickets.

NARRATOR

The Docent opens the door and stares out. What he sees does not please him.

DOCENT

Flip.

AVA

I think it’s time for you to leave.

BERTON

Me too?

AVA

That’s up to you, Berton.

DOCENT

Berton. She didn’t even tell you she was a bird.

BERTON

I’m sorry, Ava. You should have been honest with me.

DOCENT

Atta boy, Berton. Now you go first. Push the crickets aside and I’ll walk behind you.

NARRATOR

Reluctantly, with a hint of sorrow for leaving Ava behind, Berton exits with the Docent. The sound of crickets stops. With a trace of melancholy crossing her weary face, Ava sits down. The deer sits down next to her with affection. This is a nice deer. The birds continue to flutter as birds do. It is an affectionate flutter, and does not distract from Ava’s melancholy.

AVA

The Docent will be back. What do we do now?

DEER

We watch the fire. Soon, it will die out. Then we will build a new one.

AVA

A green fire.

DEER

Yes. A green fire.

NARRATOR

The play ends.

 

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