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Snout

About SNOUT (2008)

I tend to find “one person shows” somewhat deadly. The deadliness is not rooted in the banality or the narcissism that have characterized many (but not all) such spectacles. What I have always objected to most is how inert and unexplored the theatricality often is. For me, as for many people who work in theater, the stage is really a big deal – a sacred space – and it’s really not good to just plunk something down in that space and simply uncap it. I have always thought that most one-person shows would be vastly improved by simply placing on stage a second person, a listener. Suddenly, there’s tension, a sense of danger and also allure. The question, what will happen?, begins to animate the moments as they pass. By the end of the 1990s, which was the decade of the one-person show, I had developed a kind of dogma about this topic, which is why I instantly said yes when the actor Paul Mackley asked me, in 2007, to work with him on Wallace Shawn’s full-length monologue, The Fever.

Paul had performed The Fever in the 1990s and wanted to revisit the piece and then take it to the Prague International Fringe Festival. We worked on the piece fairly intensely for a couple of months, performed it a few times in Los Angeles, and off he went. From the first time I heard it through the last performance I found The Fever a completely remarkable dramatic text, totally free of any of the issues or problems identified above. Shawn was able to provide for the tension and to respect the energies of that open space by the sophisticated engagement across that magic and semi-permeable barrier between the stage space and the space we in the audience inhabit. After this experience, I found myself wanting to explore this divide more directly by equating it with the divide that separates the land of the living from the land of the dead, and my ten minute piece Snout is the result. The remarkable actor Barry Del Sherman was kind enough to perform the piece for DP Jeff Atherton and I, and this video is what came of the collaboration.
Guy Zimmerman

(Lights up on Morgan, 40s, on stage alone.)

I woke up running through a forest
I woke up driving through the night
I woke up buried in an endless city earning the rent
I woke up on a mountain my head in the stars
A forest carpeted with pine needles, cool air…

(Pause)

There’s nothing I like more than sitting in a nice restaurant
Listening to another patron talk business on their cell phone.
About re-branding a law firm, say.
So that it’s better able to maximize profit in the age of globalization, say.
Or streamlining tech aspects of marketing.
You’re only as good as your story, after all.
Or how you could start a pro bono section at your law firm.
Crippled girl in a sun dress gets in a car wreck?
Talk about your heart strings…

(Pause)

Once you kill
You must kill again
It’s like nicotine
Crime takes you over
And leads to other crimes
Bigger crimes
You become a slave to your criminal acts
You come to long for an end
To the crime you have become
Every criminal craves his own downfall
It’s true what they say
All true
Every criminal wants to be free
It’s why I’m here now
It’s why we’re talking

(Pause)

We moved often when I was a child
For a spell we lived in a working class area of Upstate New York
Near Poughkeepsie, a region of endless, crumbling shale
Shale cliffs blocking every vista
Shale underfoot rattling with every step
And maybe because of my long hair I was instantly set upon
By the other boys in my 5th grade class particularly Kevin Brady
Who daily gathered four or five friends to heave chunks of shale at me
As I walked home
And I never complained to my parents or to the teachers
And within weeks
Kevin had to work a little harder to make me the butt of his jokes
Or to get the older kids to throw those chunks of shale
And before long I could tell Kevin
Was now growing afraid of me and I was now the one
Making jokes at his expense – how scrawny
How rat-like, Kevin, with those pointed teeth
And one day at recess Kevin ran from me
And I kicked his heel so that he fell to the ground
And I jumped onto him and
Pinning his arms, drove my fist into his face
I knew I could hurt him badly…
But I lost heart
The whole thing made me sick
I let Kevin up, he slinked away
And from then on avoided me
Something had died in him and the sight of me
Filled him with shame, with revulsion

(Pause)

They say life began in the seas
Below the level of water where it lay on the earth
In the gullies of the earth
The irregular places, the depths
Where the water gathered
There life began and remained for many, many years
The earth careening around the sun
Tumbling around the sun as it spun
On its axis like a top for many a year
Before the very first snout breached the surface of the oceans
The very first snout of the very first creature
Raised up above the surface
And pretty soon there were frogs, leopards, automobiles
Am I right?
And birds and last of all us
But what I want to focus on is that moment
The moment of the snout
Because it’s my impression that every moment
This one even and this one too
Is a moment of the snout
A moment on the edge of transformation
Irreversible transformation
The crossing of boundaries and no return possible
Allow me to explain
I was 13 and my sister had this friend
And I never thought too much about this friend of my sister
Except I noticed she liked to come over and wrestle me
And one weekend she came camping with us
With the family and she worked out a reason why
She had to sleep in a tent of her own
A reason why
My older sister had to sleep in a different tent
And she invited me to come visit in the night
Asked me to teach her the rules of poker
I kid you not
She was maybe two years older than me and my sister
I don’t believe
Has ever forgiven me for accepting that invitation
But how in the world could I say no?
So I’m there in the tent
And I’m holding my cards but neither of us
Are thinking about our cards
And with an infinite slowness we move toward each other
Our faces…

(Pause)

In that case the sea was desire
And me arching briefly above it
A dolphin or perhaps a sardine
In flight from the jaws of a barracuda
The barracuda of sex

(Pause)

The dead have problems being understood,
Don’t you agree?

(Pause)

A few of you might remember my name from the news reports
One of those atrocities that crop up now and then
In Africa for example
Many die
Genocide, some would say and all because of certain events
I set in motion
An airplane explodes in mid-air
Struck by missiles that come from who knows where
The demon of tribal animosity unleashed
Many die hacked to pieces in the street
I killed them
Sure sure why not say that
By providing the missiles and the training
I murdered them in cold blood
Why not take that view
It’s not a view, it’s a statement of fact
I was a soldier in the secret army
Of the United States of America
Or you could say instead
That they became dead
Because of their own stubbornness
They all want to come to this country
They all want a visa
Travel papers
Letters of introduction
You could say it had very little to do with me really
They had a choice and they made their choice
Which was to oppose American interest, American will
You could say I have no feelings of regret
About crossing that boundary
Into the land of evil beings so to speak
You could say it was no big deal to me
We are responsible all of us
For so much
Few among us
Are able to shoulder what we must shoulder

(Pause)

Dostoyevsky was an epileptic as well as a gambler
Listen, he would say
I would give ten years of my life, he would say
For the thirty seconds that precede my seizures
He would say, the mysteries of time
And the celestial order are revealed to me then
He would say
Fyodor, long dead these many years
Lost in the brilliance
What is belief?
An idea together with an emotion together with…energy
Don’t bother me, Fyodor, I said
With your beliefs, I said
My hat is off to you, I said
My hat is in my hands, I said
This was around Christmas outside Tucson
The forest had burned
The mountain had burned never to return
I was falling down through the rocks
In any event I arrived at a place where
The old prospectors used to mine gold from the rivers
With their mules, maybe a few cans
Of fruit in syrup, some hard tack
This friend of mine had recently been raped
On Elizabeth Street three local guys at knife point
She played bass in a band and she was a painter
Or maybe a photographer
This was long ago, she was afraid to be alone
And her mind was invaded by a kind of granular knowledge
That kept her company, she said
While touring Europe…
I thought none of it mattered
These stories, these things that happened to me
They were all random, without meaning, I thought
I didn’t feel implicated at that time
My daughter had not been born either
So I had nothing to lose

(Pause)

The Tibetans speak of the Bardo
The liminal zone between life and death
Where the spirit of the newly dead wander
Awaiting the calamity of rebirth

(Pause)

I’ve got an assignment for you so bear with me.

(Pause)

The surface of my mind flowed like angry, molten glass
Back in those days and I never noticed it
I would smile
Kiss my wife as I threw my keys
Into the basket by the front door
I would make a funny comment as I crossed into the den
To say hello to my daughter in her place
Before the television set
And I would tease her maybe, try to get a rise
As if my heart was not burning in my chest
I never noticed but for years destruction followed me
Through the world and many died because of
My anger and I woke up
I was falling as I said
Across a rocky plain with meadows and this was
Wyoming if you’ve ever been there
And the truck driver pulled off onto this side road
Leading off through the desert and I must have been 16 or 17
In around there and he just
Takes a left on a dirt road, this big gleaming tanker
And I’m thinking what the fuck
And I’m thinking of the Buck knife in my back pack
But lo
Up ahead a fuel depot and he pulls in and parks
And he looks at me and cracks a smile
Knowing how freaked out I was and this was twenty years
Before I finally died.

(Pause)

A woman will come find you
She’s looking for you right now
It’s important you do the right thing
Her appearance will be difficult to bear
You won’t want to look at her
But try to remember these words
You might want to write them down because
The temptation is to forget and another
Temptation is to hear different words like you see my lips moving
And you hear sounds but you misconstrue
The sounds so if I say “a woman will find you”
You might hear me say “A man walks into a bar”
But there’s very little time so I have to be direct
Nowadays you see people with plastic bottles filled with Spring water
She might have one of those
It will all seem so innocuous
But her eyes will shine with a golden light
Or maybe a white or red or green light
Because we are entering the age of drought
And I went 14 times to the same Starbucks in one day
There will be no difference between you and the woman
Listen to what I am telling you!
About when the fluid hits your lower abdomen!
She will have a head like the head of a lion!
When you look at her now you will be transformed!
Do not be afraid!
Windshields in that day and age had been tinted!
To filter out the ultra violet rays of the sun!
And this time her eyes will be pure white in color and luminous!
When you look!
A man walks into a bar!
He says to the bartender!
Bar keep, he says!

(Pause)

Let’s stop
Let’s go back

(Pause)

You might think anything can happen up here
Where I am
Over here with me
But I can only say
What has been written
It’s different, yes
You think oh
I must be wrong about that guy
But secretly you also think
No, I’m not wrong at all
That is a face marked by crime
Disfigured by sin, you think to yourself.

(Pause)

I’m not an epileptic, don’t worry

(Pause)

Fuck the young, he said
He actually said that to me, Dostoyevski
How they look at you kinda guilty
Because the world we’re leaving them, well…
And I found myself turning around saying who
Am I gonna lust after now?

(Pause)

If I could find someone who believed me
I’d ask them to listen without judgement

(Pause)

Of course we forget
It’s well known how we are
We forget, we avert our eyes
It’s a puzzle and lately I’ve been thinking
That what we need to do before it’s too late
Is to become impossible
Like children dreaming about the end of the world
Children with fevers, eye dull and shiny as metal balls, skin flushed
And your heart cannot protect them
From a single thing and the world is remorseless
And wide and full of wolves, marauding tigers…
But love often fools us
Love of a child can blind us to evil

(Pause)

I promised to make sense to you
I promised not to mystify or confuse because that would be
Counterproductive
I promised my friend this
Who’s on his way right now to join us
Dostoyevski himself
To explain it all to you and to me

(Pause)

This always happens but I have learned
Not to fear disappointment

(Pause)

My daughter is still living
In Pittsburgh of all places
Pittsburg…

(Pause)

Allow me to leave you with a story
Sinai in the desert
The land comes to a point in the Red Sea
Wonderful diving, wonderful reefs, parades of brilliant fish
And the galaxies of coral
I spent time there as a young man
I was in training
The Israelis had just pulled back and the Egyptians
Had yet to return to that boundaryland
I was not guilty of anything yet
And we camped on the beach my girl and I
Who would later give birth to my daughter
We were camping near where
The Bedoin tied their camels in the evening
And it’s true what they say about camels and tents
How the scent of food will bring them around in the night
And how once that snout is under the flap of the tent
There’s nothing you can do but surrender
Your food whatever else you own
To the camel of the night
Standing huge against the sky blocking out the stars…

(He looks up. A beat. Blackout.)

THE END

Comments

  1. Yep. Badass.

  2. Sissy Boyd says:

    everything about this…oh my, the writing is sooo beautiful, Guy. oh my, Barry is phenomenal speaking it. oh my, Jeff is miraculous filming it. everything is one.

  3. Gray Palmer says:

    Thanks for publishing this kind of work.

  4. Sharon Yablon says:

    It’s really great Guy – not static at all, and beautiful writing. It is challenging to make a monologue visually interesting and you did!

  5. Shea Naer says:

    Kudos to you, Barry, and Jeff, for this lyrical, sensitive work.

  6. Eve Zimmerman says:

    I may be partial, but I think that is fantastic!

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