Mondo Teatro

A stage. Two actors rehearse a scene while their director watches. The actress is in greek dress and lays on a royal bed, while the actor is dressed as an African warrior and sits over her. They kiss, and she falls her head down on the bed.

ACTRESS. Son of Hannibal, release me to heaven, and smother this lily flower!

ACTOR. Sweet white light, kindle thy Promethean heat no more!

(The actor takes a pillow and pushes it down on the actress’ face. She pretends to choke to death and dies. The actors hold for a moment, then return to their normal states. The director looks at them for a while silently.)

DIRECTOR. …How is your work?

ACTOR. It felt fine. I thought I could’ve been a little gentler.

ACTRESS. I felt great. The death scene really is fun.

DIRECTOR. Fantastic. Now, let’s think about your characters. An African warlord, bred to be a military leader, in love with a milky white Greek woman. Can you think of any conflict there?

ACTOR. I wouldn’t be marrying one of my own?

DIRECTOR. Perfect, let’s go deeper. Why is that bad?

ACTOR. Because African women are jealous?

DIRECTOR. Maybe…what happens when you marry someone?

ACTOR. You have a child.

DIRECTOR. Exactly! And what type of child could you two make together?

ACTOR. A mixed race child.

DIRECTOR. Fantastic! And you are a son of Hannibal, you have a duty to keep that bloodline pure, right?

ACTRESS. But we never have a kid. He kills me before we can. 

DIRECTOR. Yes. And what type of killing?

ACTRESS. A mercy killing. She’s been poisoned by her evil brother.

DIRECTOR. Precisely. We need mercy to kill one another. It is the truest act of love. Why did you become an actress, my darling?

ACTRESS. I always liked to play. People say I have a face for acting.

ACTOR. It was something that always seemed to fall in my lap, no matter what I did.

DIRECTOR. Interesting. Let’s try it again, ok?

(The actors reset.)

ACTRESS. Son of Hannibal, release me to heaven, and smother this lily flower!

ACTOR. Sweet white light, kindle thy Promethean heat no more!

(The actor pushes the pillow down on the actress’ face. She pretends to struggle.)

DIRECTOR. More!

(He pushes harder. The actress’ arms flail. The actor quits smothering. The actress gasps for breath.)

DIRECTOR. Why’d you stop?

ACTOR. She wasn’t breathing.

DIRECTOR. You’re supposed to be smothering her! Now come on we can do this better.

ACTRESS. That was a little rough for me.

DIRECTOR. My dear, you are a poisoned greek princess asking your lover to end your life, it’s not a walk in the park.

ACTOR. I think we can find a way to do it safely. 

DIRECTOR. Of course. Safely. You said acting always fell in your lap, can you expand on that?

ACTOR. Well I mean it always followed me. People were always giving me parts. They all said they loved me.

DIRECTOR. Loved?

ACTOR. When you’re out there, in the moment, and you’re really riding it. You feel everyone’s love.

DIRECTOR. And you want that love?

ACTOR. Of course. 

DIRECTOR. Did no one give it to you at home?

ACTOR. I mean I don’t know if this is the best time to talk about it.

DIRECTOR. Why not? It’s all about you. Acting is a party that celebrates you.

ACTOR. I don’t want to talk about this!

DIRECTOR. Why?! Scared of your impulses? That’s the god of the text moving you.

ACTOR. Why are you doing this?

DIRECTOR. Because you need this and so do I. I don’t care where I get it as long as I get it.

ACTRESS. I don’t think it’s fair to-

DIRECTOR. QUIET.

(A silence moves over the rehearsal.)

ACTOR. My mother. She wasn’t the most comforting person. World weary.

DIRECTOR. Wasn’t?

ACTOR. She passed away. Killed herself with pills.

DIRECTOR. You found her body?

ACTOR. In bed. She looked very comfortable.

DIRECTOR. You don’t sound happy about that.

ACTOR. No, I think she cheated out. She was weak. She couldn’t handle true love.

ACTRESS. That’s so sad.

DIRECTOR. Yes it is. It’s tragic.

ACTOR. Are you happy now?

ACTRESS. You didn’t have to make him say that.

DIRECTOR. Are you happy? What do you feel?

ACTOR. I feel empty. Like I need some love.

DIRECTOR. I’ll get you some.

ACTRESS. Can we just work on the scene, please? I have a date tonight.

DIRECTOR. Of course, my darling, let’s get on with the work.

ACTRESS. You don’t need to call me darling, thank you very much.

DIRECTOR. Apologies. 

ACTOR. How are you going to give me love?

DIRECTOR. We’re gonna make some of our own.

ACTOR. Oh yeah? 

DIRECTOR. It’s all around you. On this stage, those seats. It’s all here waiting for you.

ACTOR. Please…

DIRECTOR. Theatre is love played out in real time. Documented before our very eyes. If it is not real, it will never be love. It’s up to you to make it.

ACTOR. …I see.

ACTRESS. Can we start? I don’t like to waste time.

DIRECTOR. Yes, absolutely, please get yourself ready. Son, come here. 

(The actor goes over to the director and leans in.)

DIRECTOR. I want you to really go at it now. And this time,make it hurt.

ACTOR. Won’t that be too much?

DIRECTOR. There is no “too” in our work. Do you understand what I’m saying?

ACTOR. Yes, sir. 

DIRECTOR. Fantastic. Alright, everybody set!

(The actor and actress reset to their starting positions. The actor looks to the director. The director looks back. They nod in understanding.)

DIRECTOR. When you’re ready.

ACTRESS. Son of Hannibal, release me to heaven, and smother this- 

(The actor picks up a pillow and smashes it onto the face of the actress.)

ACTRESS. -lily flower! Hey! What are you doing?

DIRECTOR. Beautiful.

(The actress pushes the pillow away from her face but the actor keeps pressing it down.)

ACTOR. Stop! Be quiet!

DIRECTOR. This is the truth.

ACTRESS. What’s the matter?!

ACTOR. I have to do this.

ACTRESS. No no no! You don’t!

ACTOR. Yes!

DIRECTOR. More!

ACTRESS. Kill me tomorrow!

DIRECTOR. Say your words!

ACTOR. Sweet white light–

ACTRESS. Stop it! Stop! Oh god he’s hurting me! OW! STOP!

DIRECTOR. MORE!

ACTOR. SWEET WHITE LIGHT!

ACTRESS. PLEASE NO!

ACTOR. KINDLE!

DIRECTOR. Faster, mom’s getting away.

ACTOR. KINDLE THY! 

ACTRESS. (muffled) NOOOO!!

DIRECTOR. Finish it, c’mon.

ACTOR. KINDLE THY PROMETHEAN HEAT!

(The actress kicks her legs up in the air. She punches the actor and claws at the pillow until it rips open. The actor keeps smothering.)

DIRECTOR. FINISH IT!

ACTOR. NO MORE!

(With a final push the actor suffocates the actress. Her legs stop kicking and her arms fall limp. She is dead. The actor throws the torn pillow away and collapses on the bed. He heaves deep breaths and wipes away tears. The director stands waiting. The actor gets up, ignores the dead actress, and waits for his notes.)

DIRECTOR. …So…how is your work?

— Roman D’Ambrosio is a playwright.

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