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Chiori Miyagawa
POETICS
 
Red Again after Sophocles’ Antigone

Red Again

 

Characters

 

Antigone ………………………………………………………………a woman

Harold …………………………………………………………………Antigone’s lover

Irene ……………………………………………………………………Antigone’s sister

 

Time

all times converging into one instant

 

Place

the underworld and the world of the living

 

________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Antigone and Harold find themselves in beautiful blue lights.  There are piles of books around and nothing else.  A portion of downstage remains dark.

 

Antigone
(Disoriented) Harold.  Where are we?

Harold
The underworld, I assume.

Antigone
The underworld.  Then you followed me here.

Harold
It was my destiny.

Antigone
We didn’t say good bye, did we?

Harold
I would not have expected anything so sentimental from you, Antigone.

Antigone
You could have lived.

Harold
I didn’t.

Antigone
I’m sorry.

Harold
For what?

Antigone
For bringing tragedy into your life. 

Harold
I don’t mind tragedy.

Antigone
I had to do what I did. Something colossal went wrong and it was changing the composition of human decency. 
Harold
I know.

Antionge
The rich grew greedier and greedier with suspicion and destruction and the poor stood mute.  The earth was mutilated, animals tortured and discarded, rivers poisoned.    People began to disappear.  I had to bury my brother’s body.  I couldn’t just let him disappear. He was my last brother.

Harold
Antigone.  I don’t mind tragedy.  You did the right thing.

Antigone
It was the right thing to do.  I had to be courageous.

Harold
You were courageous. 

Antigone
The end was dark and cold.  A long time passed, or no time at all.  Time stopped.  I was afraid of death.

Harold
Didn’t you know that I would follow you?

Antigone
I was afraid to die.

Harold
Now I’m here with you.

Antigone
Yes.  I’m no longer afraid. 
                                                                                                Pause.

Antigone
I did not expect the underworld to be so serene.  I thought I would see my doomed family.

Harold
This may be Bardo.  A transition place.

Antigone
It’s rather beautiful.

 

Harold
It reminds me of the ocean.  The air smells salty too.
                                                                                                Pause.

Antigone
What would you have preferred to this?

Harold
Nothing.  I prefer you to everything.  But if you weren’t so enraged all the time about the injustices of the world, I would’ve been happy just meditating.

Antigone
You can’t change the world by meditating.

Harold
You’re wrong.

Antigone
How?

Harold
It’s too complex to explain right now.

Antigone
I think we have a lot of time.

Harold
The point is, I knew the fire in you was irreconcilable.  You were born with that fire.  I didn’t try to change you.

Antigone
I tried to change you, didn’t I?  But I couldn’t find a revolution that I could sign us both up for. 

Harold
So you left me.

Antigone
Because the society had gone intolerably wrong and you were still meditating.  Not burying my brother, the un-patriot, would have meant that I consented to surrendering my rights to perform rituals and honor my ancestors.  What would we have lost next? 
Freedom of speech and thought?  The right not to reproduce?  The right to eat meat or not to eat meat?  Freedom to go roller skating?

Harold
Antigone, you did the right thing. 

Antigone
Yes, I did.

Harold
After you were executed,

Antigone
I wasn’t.  I hanged myself.

Harold
After you hanged yourself...I tried to kill the King.  I failed. 

                                                                                                Pause.

Antigone
Thank you for following me.  I was desperately lonely.

Harold
We were engaged.  I’m keeping my promise.

                                                                                                Pause.

Antigone
What now?

Harold
We wait.

                                                                        From the dark side of the stage, a blood                                                                                  curdling scream is heard.   A stark light                                                                                  comes up on Irene, facing the audience.
                                                                        Irene is in the world of the living.  Harold                                                                              and Antigone freeze.

 

Irene
I’m reporting a double suicide.  My sister Antigone hanged herself, and her boyfriend Harold found her body and then stabbed himself.  My name is Irene. I live in Manhattan.  Please hurry.  We are being evacuated. All people of Japanese descent received notice to relocate in forty-eight hours.  I’m packing my life into two suitcases that I can carry.  I can’t carry two dead bodies.  I can’t carry my sister.  I can’t carry her.  I have to carry linen and silver and our family curse.  Antigone is dead. Forever.  I can’t carry any more. I’m being sent far far away from home.  Somewhere called Treblinka.  Do you know where it is?  I think it’s in Bosnia.  Or Cambodia.  Please. I need help.  I’m reporting a broken heart, broken bodies, broken humanity.

                                                                                    Irene freezes.
                                                                                    In the blue light, Antigone shivers.

 

Harold
Are you cold?

Antigone
What are we waiting for?

Harold
An opportunity for reincarnation.  .

Antigone
I don’t want to go back.  Leaving was an immense effort.  Leaving my little sister was as excruciating as the thought of continuing to live without dignity.  After Polynices’ death, I could not reconcile the two planes of my existence – my critical stance of the kingdom and my love for you and Irene.  I didn’t think personal love was enough when I no longer trusted humanity. 

Harold
It was enough for me.  The world didn’t have to be larger than the people I loved.  Until you were taken away from me.  Then the world became painfully enormous. 

 

Antigone
Why do you want to go back? 

Harold
We didn’t get to finish our story.

Antigone
Will you touch my face?
                                                                                                He does.

Antigone
I like it when you touch my face.
                                                                                                Antigone and Harold freeze.
                                                                                                Lights up on Irene again.

 

 

 

Irene
Yes, you might have called my brother dark-skinned; though not really dark, but definitely not creamy white. That did not make him a terrorist.  He didn’t have any weapons.  All he had was a wallet which transformed into a shape of a gun in the presence of police officers.  But I’m not calling about Polynices.  Children are being murdered everywhere by fictitious weapons of mass destruction and economic sanctions and post war deprivations and words like “axis of evil.”  I’m calling on August 5th, 8:15 a.m.. The mushroom cloud from Hiroshima is choking Manhattan.  It’s April 22, and the mustard gas released at the eastern front of France is choking Manhattan. It’s September 11th, 8:46 a.m. I’m reporting a broken city. Antigone and Harold are both dead. 

                                                                                               
                                                                                    Irene freezes again.
                                                                                    Antigone reads one of the books                                                                                             from the pile.

 

Antigone
Harold, look at this book.  I know the woman in the story.  I went to school with her.  She  married a doctor and had a life of suburban luxury, but one day, she woke up screaming.  She walked right out the door of her big white house screaming, through the garden full of roses and geraniums, and became an artist.  It’s all in here.

 

Harold
What was her name?

Antigone
Kate.

Harold
You’ve never talked about her before.

Antigone
I lost touch with her after school.  I often wondered what became of her.

 

Harold
What does the book say?

                                                                                    Antigone flips the book to the end.

Antigone
The book is not finished.  There are blank pages at the end.  Kate lives in Germany.  She hears about my death in the news and remembers me.  Remembers that I was not so wild with rage back then.  She is sad for me.
Harold
Look Antigone.  Here is your book.

Antigone
Mine?

Harold
Here are some things you said to the King that got you in trouble.

“I do not think your edict has such force that you, one man, can override the great, written, unshakable traditions.”

“Your moralizing repels me; every word you say is a greedy lie.  The public’s lips are locked in fear of the ruthless power that can randomly accuse anyone of being a traitor for any reason.”

Antigone
I spoke the truth.

Harold
You sure did.  I mean, I was proud of you.  Here is the fight you and Irene had.

                                                                                                As Harold continues to read,                                                                                                   we see the past reenacted by                                                                                                    Antigone and Irene, breaking                                                                                                 the invisible wall between                                                                                                       them.

Antigone
How can you bare to leave our brother disgraced?

Irene
They are watching us every minute.  Our phone is tapped, our e-mails are scrutinized, our activities are photographed.

 

Antigone
You didn’t answer my question.

Irene
Have we not had enough tragedy in our family?   Have we not been persecuted enough?  Please, let’s hold onto what is left of us.

Antigone
You will always know your own compromise.  You will have to live with that knowledge for the rest of your life.
Irene
Yes.  I’ll live to regret it.  But you won’t, because you’ll be dead.

Antigone
I won’t submit to an unreasonable authority.  There are certain things that are true about being human, no matter who rules us.  We have the right to bury our own brother.

Irene
We have the right to live.  Some things are bigger than you.  There is a time to wait and a time to act.  You must be patient.

Antigone
Waiting and keeping silent only degrades one’s soul.  You are a coward.

Irene
Lack of survival instinct is insanity.  You are a madwoman.

Antigone
I will bury him myself.

Irene
No, Antigone.  Live.  Live with me.

Antigone
You are no longer my blood.

                                                                                    End of memory.  Harold stops                                                                                                reading.

Harold
You are severe.

Antigone
Poor Irene.  She is left alone with everyone’s grief.   Let’s not excavate tragedy anymore.

 

                                                                                    Harold hands Antigone her book and                                                                                     picks up his own and opens it.

Harold
Here are things I said about you: Softness, intelligence, poetry, stubbornness. 

                                                                                    Antigone looks in her book. 

Antigone
Here are things I said about you: Light, humor, beauty, talks too much.
Harold
I stopped talking so much since I met you because you talk constantly.

Antigone
Here are some other things:  Tendency toward behavior commonly considered manly.

Harold
Chivalrous.

Antigone
Tendency to claim that you know everything.

Harold
I know more than you do.  Tendency toward occasional hysteria.

Antigone
Tendency toward occasional political incorrectness.  Like telling a woman she has hysteria.

Harold
Tendency to point out everything that is ever so slightly wrong.

Antigone
Will you touch my face?
                                                                                    He does.

Antigone
I like it when you touch my face.
                                                                                    Antigone and Harold freeze.

 

Irene
Yes, I’ve called a few times before.  My family was dysfunctional.  Yes, Oedipus, who gouged his own eyes out for his crimes of unnatural sex and patricide, was my father.  Jocasta, who hanged herself, was both his wife and his mother. And my mother.  My two brothers Eteocles and Polynices, born of incest, died at each other’s hand.  Yes, I called the ambulance service each time.  I’m still entitled to police assistance.  I’m an American citizen. 

Antigone and Harold each left a note.  What do you mean that you know the contents already?  I have them here.  The notes are addressed to me.  These were the last private and intimate words of the last two people who cared about me.  How did you get them?  They weren’t even mailed.  They were left on my bedside table.

 

Irene (continued)
You are not sending any help, are you?  I’m on my own with two corpses.  You are busy because it’s nearly dawn on April 30th, and the last Marines in Saigon are lifting off.  It’s January 17th, 2:38 am, and the air strike over Baghdad has begun…

                                                                                    Irene breaks from addressing the                                                                                            audience. 

Irene
(Distraught) Antigone, Antigone, my sister,
                                                                                    Antigone hears Irene for the first                                                                                            time.

Antigone
Irene?
                                                                                    Irene does not hear Antigone.

Irene
You shouldn’t have chosen death.  There are things to live for.  There is always something to live for.  Even here in Rwanda during the civil war, no, I mean during Ethnic Cleansing.  No, that’s not right either.  Afghanistan?  No. Even here in occupied Manchuria. What?  What do I have to live for?  Oh, Antigone, I am so alone.  So completely alone.  So unnaturally alone.

Antigone
Irene, Irene.  Can you hear me?  I want to tell you about the books I found in the underworld.  Each person has a book, and as one lives life, her story gets recorded in the book.  I looked in your book.  You have many blank pages still.  Your story continues.

Irene
You were right.  The damage done to human decency, democracy, and rational thinking is too great.  There is no turning back.  We live in lies and racial profiling and threats disguised as freedom speeches, and no one will help me bury your paleness and Harold’s bloody red.  The city is under high security alert, the color Red.  Red City.  Red in my house.  Red human history.

Antigone
No, Irene.  These books.  I found the books of human effort.  There are more books here.  Completely blank ones for new lives.  

Irene
They read yours and Harold’s notes.  So now I have nothing.  Nothing is mine.  They own my memories.

                                                                                    During Antigone’s next speech,                                                                                              lights fade on Irene.
Antigone
I know right now it feels like all violent acts and atrocities in human history are converging and happening in one instant.  I know it feels like that instant is a loop and it plays and plays and never stops.  Red, again and again.  But there is white in these books.  Irene, please hear me.

Harold
Antigone, Irene will survive.  You always thought you were the stronger one, but in the end, the strongest lives.  She lives.

Antigone
I wrote in my note to her that I had no choice but to leave her; I had to be brave.

Harold
I wrote to her that I was following you because otherwise you’d be afraid.

Antigone
Tendency to divulge unnecessary information.

Harold
Tendency toward bravado.  Gets us killed every time.
                                                                                                Pause

 

Harold
I found two blank books.  One cover says “former Harold” and the other says “former Antigone.”  We are going back.

Antigone
Going back to Red again. 

Harold
We have work to do.

Antigone
Will we find each other?

Harold
It’s our destiny.

Antigone
You should look for me fighting in a revolution.

Harold
Look for me meditating in a monastery.

Antigone
Did you really try to kill the King?

Harold
It was a pathetic attempt.  But I spat at him at least.

Antigone
We won’t remember each other, will we?

Harold
Not initially.  But before the end of our story, we will love each other again.  

Antigone
Yes, and I’m no longer afraid.

Harold
I follow you.

                                                                                    They look into each other’s eyes.
And then look to the audience.  Lights become intensely white. Black.
                                                                                   

 

End of Play


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