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Exquisite CorpseExquisite Corpse
Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Stage & Screen
A Man of His Times
by Marc Ellis

Author's Links

"What shall I love if not an enigma?"
     -Georgio De Chirico

1. Sunny Side Up In The Morning (radio jingle)
(© 1995 Marc Ellis)
A Man of His Times theme download
(© 1995 Marc Ellis)
3. Accordion Music for an Execution download
(© 1995 Peter Streit)

All music performed & composed by Pont Mirabeau.
Vocals by Marc Ellis, Amy Ellis, Ashley Ellis & Anthony Ellis.


The passenger area inside a train station, inspired by de Chirico's painting, "The Melancholy of Departure." Benches, chairs, a skewed, grimy portrait of a man in a dark suit from the early 20th century hangs on wall. Booth w/ticket window, pay telephone. A sign somewhere downstage reads: "Points West".


Chuck Shankara, (Traveler/Journalist/Narrator)
The Pollster (Max Le Compte)
Lady without a Face
Radio Talkshow Host
The Character Who is not the Advance Man (N.A.M.)
Mr. Footnote
Small Child
Card Players
Wedding guests
Young Female Travelers

Act I: Scene 1

(Lights out on stage.
"A Man of His Times"
theme plays. Theme ends. Lights come on, Lady without Face is only person in station. She is a young woman with a beige silk cloth hiding her face.)

(Enters. Speaks to audience.)
My name's Chuck. Chuck Shankara.

I'm a journalist and I'm on my way to an execution.
(Pauses as he surveys audience)
And who are you?
(Pauses, as if to wait for reply. Then he raises his voice.)
Who are you?
(Waits a beat.)
Never mind. It always sounds like gibberish.
(Looks at clock.)

Even in here, time passes.
But it's unreliable.
There's a flaw in the design.
I wrote an article about it once.
But no one was interested.
I notice things like that.
I've trained myself to be observant,
to always be on the look-out for clues.
I write them all down. I take very careful notes.
(Holds up small notepad.)

(Rises, exits)
I met her...on the train.
I found her charming,
superficially pleasant and yet...
there was something mysterious,
something that made me want to see her again,
So I invited her to the execution.
(Sound of train arriving.)

Train arriving will be available for boarding
as soon as all passengers have disembarked.

Our helpful hint for today is to think happy thoughts,
but always cover your ass.
From the staff & management of this little point of transit
in which you currently find yourself, we wish you a safe trip and bon voyage.

(Passengers disembark. They are all dressed as if they were standard business travelers, except each one is wearing the black hood of an executioner. They linger around Chuck, doing the normal things that business travelers do, opening newspapers, waiting in line at the ticket window, or at the payphone searching their purses or pockets for change, oblivious to Chuck's presence.)

Cutthroats, thieves, smugglers.
And that's the best of their lot.
I wrote an article about it once.
But no one was interested.
Why would they be?
We're all up to our necks in the same conspiracy.
If you'll excuse me now, I have a connection to make. (exits.)

Act I: Scene 2:

(Sound Cue #2). Same train station. Sign now reads "New Orleans." Chuck is asleep, sitting on a chair or bench with a newspaper over his chest. One female traveler, preferably a teenager, is gesturing to another to rush over and look at him.)

Come here Stacy! Quick!
There is something very suspicious about this fellow.
I don't like the looks of him.

He's sleeping.
So what?

Maybe he's sleeping.
Maybe not.
But I don't like the looks of him all the same.
He's got some skeletons in his closet - this one.
(Leans in to get a closer look)
I don't think he's breathing, Stacy.
Maybe he's dead. Do you think?
This is sooo exciting.

I don't know. I can't tell if he's breathing.
But now that you mention it, I think you're right.
If he's not dead, he's definitely hiding something.
Here, let me check his pulse.
(Starts to put finger near carotid artery)

No. You'll leave a fingerprint.
And he may have some disease.
Maybe that's what he's hiding,
he's got some awful disease,
if he's not already dead, I mean.

(Awakens violently, in a jolt...as if he was having a nightmare...)

(Startled - quickly moves away from him.)

Come on, let's go Stacy.
We've wasted enough time on him.
(Walk away from him, looking back, somewhat disgusted and inconvenienced)

(Picks up newspaper, stands, looks around room, trying to figure out where he is. Then he speaks in a confused, groggy voice)

It's muggy. I must be...somewhere in the South.
(Notices sign.)
Ah, New Orleans. I remember.
On the way in, I watched it rise from the swamps.


I crossed the lake at night.

I remember the train bumped and slithered like a Chinese dragon.
And I saw a billboard somewhere.
It threw light on the water.
And it was as if a white silk veil
had been laid upon the black face of the lake.
But it was just a reflection.
Words are reflections.
(Gestures to newspaper)
They say the Executioner is in failing health.
He is dying.
The Republic is at risk!
On the day he passes, horror will stalk the highways.
A slit will open and the sky will bleed.
(Reads to audience from headline...)
"Citizens, fearing the future,
demand concentration camps
from their elected officials. "
(Tosses newspaper to floor...)
Unreal ! (Looks around station.)
The last time I was in New Orleans, the office buildings downtown
were being used to house the criminally insane.

Everywhere you stepped in the French Quarter
You were surrounded by razor wire.
And the population consisted mainly of prisoners, awaiting execution.
Still, in its own odd way, New Orleans was a charming town.
I wonder how much it has changed.
Has it become part of America, finally?
Just another American town?
I think that one day, the United States will have only two categories of
Prisoners and guards. And the roles will be subject to change, every election day.

(Light Cue. Chuck and stage dissolve into blackness.)

Act I: Scene 3:

(Sound Cue #3: Same station. The sign reads: "Hattiesburg." Chuck is seated hunched forward, jotting in his notepad. Mr. Footnote is seated away from him. Chuck stops writing and speaks to audience.)

I know the Executioner. I know him well.
I wrote an article about him once. But no one was interested.
(Shift to inauguration scene, in another part of station. The stage lights darken. A man of distinguished posture is standing with his right hand on the Bible, wearing a dark suit and a black executioner's hood.... Beside him stands a corpse in judicial garb, with stiff right arm raised. The Pollster, Max Le Compte, is reciting the oath of office.)

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the duties of my office.
(Stage lights return to Chuck.)

I knew him before that, back when he was a mere framer of questions,
a surveyor of the topography of the public mind,
a pollster...lurking around shopping malls with a clipboard,
pouncing on unsuspecting shoppers.
Little did they know, they were falling into the abyss of evil.
(Says word with measured contempt in his voice.)
But he knew.
He always knew.

The power to frame a question is the power to design the cosmos.
A prisoner cannot be executed, or a war started,
unless the question has been framed in such a way to require it.
The power to frame a question is the power to destroy God.
I knew it.
I wrote an article about it once.
But my editors weren't interested.
They were more interested in him.

He was a man of action.
That's what they like.

(Lights dim. Mr. Footnote rises, approaches audience and begins
his little speech.)

Hello! I'm Mr. Footnote.
And I'm here to speak for the playwright.
I'm his personal representative!
He was concerned that some of you might be wondering
what on earth he could have meant by having a corpse
officiate an inauguration ceremony?
So he asked me to read you the following prepared statement:
(Fishes around in coat pocket for a wrinkled-up sheet of paper, then pulls it out, clears his throat and begins reading in an absurdly formal voice.)

The playwright does not feel he is being excessively macabre
or unpatriotic in having a corpse represent the Chief Justice of the
United States Supreme Court.

In fact, the playwright feels he is being rather charitable, if not flattering.
And he will go so far as to suggest that should any president in the future see fit to pack the Court in the manner of some of his predecessors, he or she should consider packing it with corpses.

The advantages would be numerous: Corpses would never be too demanding of their law clerks, nor would they ever require that their offices be redecorated at government expense.
In fact, they wouldn't even need offices!
You could just set 'em up in their chairs right there in the courtroom and leave them!
Of course, you'd have to dust 'em off once in a while, maybe wipe their faces once a week with a damp cloth to prevent dust & mildew. But that's all you'd ever need to do!
Also, you wouldn't have any trouble getting them confirmed by the Senate,
because a corpse could never say anything to which a Senator could take offense.

Not only that, most of those senators are pretty close to the bone yard
themselves. So I think they would be very respectful and deferential to a
End of statement.
(Mr. Footnote crumples paper up, replaces it in his pocket...bows slightly and exits in a hurry.)

Act I: Scene 4:

(Same station. Sign reads "Meridian." Chuck sits alone on the stage, surrounded by blackness. Spotlight illuminates him writing in his notebook. He looks up and speaks to audience.)

I don't often enjoy the company of other people.
They tire me.
But sometimes, I feel the need to converse, to talk to someone,
even though I'm always left more mystified and lonely after the conversation than I was before.

So I try to maintain a sense of detachment.
I try to interview people, rather than talk to them.
And they reveal everything to me, their phobias,
their dreams, their secrets. I'm astonished at how open they are.
Perhaps they tell all in the hope that my readers will sympathize with them.
But my readers sympathize with no one.
I remember once, I spoke to an old man who had fertilized his blueberry bushes with dreams.

All his life, he had believed in the old saying,
"Follow your dreams - wherever they lead."

Well, the old man's dreams led him to disgrace and ruin.
His absurd schemes cost him his wife, his family, everything.
So one day, he wised up.
He fled from his dreams, and went as far away as he could,
until he found a little piece of land, where there were blueberry bushes.
Wild blueberries, planted by God.

But he was afraid. He was afraid that one day, his dreams would rise up
again and tempt him. So being something of a religious man, he called on
the devil.

"Satan," he said,
"If you'll take my dreams and use them to fertilize these blueberry bushes,
then if there is such a thing as a soul, and if I've one to offer, you can have it when I die."
The devil took the deal.
First, he inhaled and sucked all the old man's dreams out of him.
Then he poured them into a teacup, and sprinkled a few drops on the soil
around each blueberry bush.
And fear vanished. Temptation fled.
And even though his life's dreams had been bitter for him.
They made good fertilizer.
For the sweetness of those blueberries became legend.
People would come for miles to pick them.
When the day finally came for the devil to collect,
he went to the old man's cabin...and found nothing.
The greatest of all con artists, Satan himself, had been set up.
For if the old man ever had a soul, it vanished with his dreams,
and left only the sweet taste of wild blueberries behind.
(Steps toward audience.)
The Executioner does not dream.
But he falls prey to visions...
(The stage lights again go dark on Chuck...Another part of the stage is illuminated. The Pollster, wearing a black hood and white lab coat is standing with a female assistant who also wears a lab coat and may or may not be wearing an executioner's hood... A woman is strapped into a chair. She is terrified and has no idea what will happen to her next. There is a small table nearby.)

(Like a doctor might speak to a nurse)
Well now, what have we here?

Lab Assistant
Consumer questionnaire sir...
(Hands Pollster a clipboard and exits.)

(Takes clipboard, glances over it and then places it down on table...Pollster approaches Woman.
Then he places his fingers around her throat and begins to strangle her.)
Now then, you must confess!
When shopping for household items, which brand name products can you really depend on?


(The woman is gasping, making strangling noises.)
You must confess!
Which brand name products have really earned your trust?

Confess! Confess!
(Falls limp. Has she died or merely passed out?)

(Dryly, as he picks up clipboard and pencils in something on the paper.)
Well I guess I'll just mark you down as having "No opinions."

(A woman emerges from the darkness, dressed in rags, with wild hair and a grey, abused face, clutching a baby which appears to be dead.)

(Enters. He is a doughboy soldier in a World War I uniform, with an awful complexion and a
trench coat. He holds a rifle with a bayonet. Other apparitions follow.)


Hail executioner!

We return to greet you. Turn and face those whom you have destroyed!

You exist at the pleasure of my will...
And I will that you do not exist! Be gone!
(Pollster yields no ground as the soldier with the rifle walks ominously toward him.)

(Places his huge hand across Pollster's face and pushes him slowly to the floor. Or for those directors who prefer more violence, clubs him in the face with the rifle butt.)

(Collapses to the floor...)

(Walks over to girl, slings rifle over shoulder, removes her straps.)

Your time has passed, executioner. Your victims are set free.
(The soldier then picks up the girl and carries her away into the darkness. The other apparitions follow with their heads down.
Lights out on this scene and lights on for Chuck.)

(Enters. Speaks to audience)
Who is he?
Who are you?
Who am I?
He has many names and is as old as time.
He stands on a mountain of dead.
Beside the throne of the "greater good"
and above the stench of the prison camps.


Act II: Scene 1:

(Same R.R. station. "Sunny Side Up in the Morning" theme plays. The sign reads "Birmingham."
Chuck is seated at a table with a cheery-looking lady named Miss Angie.
She wears headphones. There is the mixing console of a radio station in front of them.
Chuck is the guest on a morning talk radio show.)

Well Hello again Birmingham! And put your sunny side up!
Because Miss Angie has returned, once again,
bringing you the Sunny Side Up in the Morning Radio Club.
And today our topic is:
"What is it for you that makes life really worth living?"
And we have a very special guest this morning,
Mr. Chuck Shankara,
(She should pronounce it "Shang-care-uh")
the noted journalist and writer,
the author of many, many, interesting stories and articles.
(Giggles and nudges Chuck with her elbow...)
Although I'm ashamed to confess Chuck,
that I haven't read any of them yet.
So why don't we just go straight to the phones?
We have Fred in Hoover.
Hi Fred! What is it for you that makes life really worth living?

Hi Angie. Hi Chuck. Say, I haven't read any of your stuff either.
I'm calling about your topic today.

Oh good! Go ahead, Fred.

Well, I guess what makes life worth living for me Angie, is bass fishin'.
I just love it. Most of the time, when I'm fishin' for smallmouth, I like to take along that 35 lb. spider wire and a maybe a rattlin' bootleg.
Although sometimes, If I get in the shallers, I might pull out a chartreuse sparkle beetle or maybe a little buzzzzz bait.

Of course, if that don't work, I can always pull out old reliable,
Miss Angie. You know...that good ol' purple worm!
Now I've had a lot of luck with my ol' purple worm, 'cause it has that little yeller stripe on the tail. You know what I'm talkin' about Angie. But I've seen 'em with the stripe on the head, and the bass won't even go near 'em.
You see, it's a little-known fact Miss Angie,
but the smallmouth bass has the most refined aesthetic sense
of any of the fresh water game fish.
I'll bet you didn't know that, did you Miss Angie?

Why, no. I didn't know that Fred.

Well thank you, Fred. Now we go to Darlene. How ya doin', Darlene?

Well Angie, I get so depressed. But I guess it's my kids what keeps me
goin'. Even though deep down I know they're rotten little brats. But the idea of leaving them alone in the world is just unbearable to me Angie.
But most of the time, I gotta confess, I can hardly stand to look at 'em.
They are so ugly, Angie. They take after their dad.
And stupid? Angie he is so stupid!
All he ever talks about is fishin' lures!

Well thank you, Darlene for sharing that.
Now we have Clyde driving in from Mountain Brook.
How's the ride Clyde? And tell us what is it that you just love about being

I guess it's the idea of Hell (He should pronounce it "Hayul")
Miss Angie. You know, the thought that whatever comes next,
might be a lot worse than what I've already got.
I keep having this dream about Hell Miss Angie.
I'm at a cocktail party. It's a nice reception room and there's plenty of free
Good stuff too Angie! And we're all nibbling on those salt-free crackers. You know, that you rub that pasty foreign cheese all over?
But guess what, Angie? Everybody there's naked.
They're all sleek and beautiful and they're all naked.
Except for me. And I'm wearing this really stupid-looking clown costume.
It's got big floppy red shoes, with baggy pants and long, droopy
I don't know where I got it either Angie. It's like I woke up one morning, Angie, and I was wearing this ridiculous outfit.
And I couldn't get out of it either! There aren't any buttons or zippers.
And it's like I'm stuck wearing it for life, Miss Angie!
And what makes it worse, is that everyone of those sleek,
naked people is a lawyer, Miss Angie!
And that's how they all talk to me. You know how lawyers talk, Miss Angie,
they never say anything. They're so doggoned careful not to commit
themselves to one side or another, Miss Angie!
Well these lawyers are all standing butt naked in front of me,
and they're being intentionally vague in their language!
Using those Latin words I don't understand Miss Angie.
"Inter Alia" and "Et Sequitir." I don't know why they're naked
and I don't know what they want Miss Angie. They won't tell me!
Hell, I'm afraid one of them is going to hand me a bill!

(Growing uncomfortable with references to naked people)
Now Fred. You know we don't allow any nudity on our radio show.
But let's ask our guest.
Chuck, do you think lawyers talk funny?

Well actually, I'd like to hear more about this party.
Where was it Fred?

That's Clyde, Chuck. Fred went fishin'.

Oh. Sorry.

I don't know where it was. It was a real fancy place though. It was one of
those trendy and upscale places. And it was full of naked lawyers.

You ever see a naked lawyer, Miss Angie? It's scary!

(Disgusted with the direction the conversation is taking.)
Well I think we've heard just about enough from this caller.

No Miss Angie. Don't cut me off! There's more to it than that...I got more to

(Hangs up on Clyde)

Well, why don't we hear from our guest now.
Chuck, you've listened to our callers today.
Is there something for you that makes life really worth living.

Well, Miss Angie, I'd have to say respiration.

I beg your pardon?

You know Miss Angie, this tendency we all have of sucking air into our
(Inhales slowly, deeply and then exhales)

And then we blow it all out again, almost as soon as we've sucked it in.
You ever stop and notice that, Miss Angie?
Seems like a lot of wasted effort, doesn't it?
But that's what it's really all about, respiration.
At least, that's how I see it, Miss Angie.

Well thank you for sharing that, Chuck.
But right now, I'm afraid we have to break
for a word from our sponsor.

ACT II: Scene 2:

(Sound Cue 2 Act 2 Followed by sound of clock ticking. The Pollster, sans black hood, is lying prostrate in a hospital bed facing the audience. There is a styrofoam head atop his bed table on which the hood has been placed. Mr. Footnote sits at bedside w/ black armband as if in mourning. Two nurses in uniform enter and lean over the bed.)

Well, I think we've wasted enough time on him.
Is he dead yet?

I don't know. Does he have a pulse?

(Checks pulse)
No, not yet.

(Awakens with a jolt. Shivers. Coughs an awful, hacking deathbed cough.
Then spits into hospital dish. Surveys the audience for a moment.)
My name is Max Le Compte. I am the Pollster.
(Surveys the audience)
Who are you?


Who in the Hell are you?

Oh, I'm sorry. I don't think we've met.
I'm here to speak for the playwright.
(Hands him a business card.)

Get out of here before tell my security men to tear your legs off.
(Begins coughing. Mr. Footnote exits)

Now then...where was I?
I...am an old man.
But once the fact of my existence carried with it certain consequences.
(Closes eyes, starts to drift out of consciousness...
He whispers hoarsely...struggling with his shirt collar.)

Turn down the damned heat! The furnace, the furnace.

Attention passengers:

A spent life,
Molten skies,
Enigmas dance
Before our eyes,
And from the staff & management of this little point of transit in which you currently find yourself, we offer this happy thought for the day:
Think pleasant thoughts about yourself, and it will be easier to think
pleasant thoughts about others.
Don't be too hard on yourself. Pat yourself on the back now and then. Congratulate yourself for being here. That's quite an accomplishment,
and we are all very proud of you. From the Staff & Management of our little
Point of Transit, we wish you a safe trip and Bon Voyage.

(Angry...looking around...)
Who in the Hell was that?
(Grows tired)
Now my veins are as brittle as glass.
My enemies feed me gruel through a tube in my nose.
And the world watches and waits for this ancient vessel to finally crack.
and spill its rancid wine.
(Coughs. Spits on floor...surveys audience with some pity in his eyes...)
But what shall become of you? Whoever you are.
Nurse! Send in my advance man.

The Character Who is not the Advance Man (N.A.M.)
(Enters mysteriously, seductively, in a Mata Hari-style slit skirt...A vamp...)
Yes sir, Monsieur Le Compte?

You're not the advance man.

He's taking the day off.
He asked me to fill in for him.

(Too sick and old to sustain anger.)
Where's Chuck?

The Journalist? He's left Birmingham sir.
He should be somewhere between Charlotte and Richmond by now.

There's no time. Fly down to Richmond and bring him here.
Use my plane.

Monsieur Le Compte, he refuses to fly.
He thinks you'll shoot down the plane.

Then arrest him damn it!
Drag him back in chains if you have to.

My pleasure. (Bows, exits...)

(Closes eyes for a peaceful moment...Then lapses into coughing convulsion.
Nurse enters room...)

(Leisurely croons into microphone by bed)
Code Blue Room 812.
Code Blue room 812.
My vacation is long overdue.
My tour of duty is almost through.
Code Blue Room 812.

Act II: Scene 3:

(Sound Cue No. 3 Act 2 . Same station. Stage bathed in blackness. A priest stands erect in black garb, white collar, white sash, holding Bible. Lined up single file, kneeling before him are Chuck and three other people, each of the three wears the black hood of an executioner. Neither Chuck, who is third in line, nor the priest wears hoods. All kneel on one knee. One by one, they rise cautiously and approach the priest. They drop down to one knee again before him.)

Forgive me father for I have sinned...

(Makes the sign of the cross above his head, then confessor #1 moves on.)

Forgive me father for I have sinned...

(Again makes sign of the cross on his head...confessor #2 moves on.)

(Approaches then kneels like all the others.)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

(takes Bible, thumps Chuck on the head)
How dare you!
You've got some nerve!
What kind of place do you think this is, anyway?
Get out of here, before I call the police, you miserable loser!

(Rises. begins to exit)

God is speaking to me.
(As if he's having trouble hearing Him.)
What's that?
Ah...yes. Of course.
I'll tell him.

(Speaks to Chuck)
God says to go find your worst enemy in the world
And confess to him.
That'll serve you right.
But I'm not promising anything.

After you do, God might entertain the idea of forgiveness.
But don't count on it!

Father. I've always had trouble distinguishing friends from enemies. Did he give you any names?

No. If you can't find him, don't worry. He'll find you.

That's what I'm afraid of.

I've wasted enough time on you, creep. Get out of here before I call the cops.

(Bows. Makes sign of the cross. Exits)

(Wears executioner's hood like the others.)
Forgive me father for I have sinned.

(Makes sign of the cross...Stage lights darken on that part of the stage...)

(To audience)
Among my many sins,
is the murder of a firefly.
It died a prisoner in my hand.
(Cups fist...then slowly reveals palm...black out to other section of stage.
A woman knitting in a chair and a small boy running to catch fireflies.
Sapphire colored-Christmas lights strung in a bush are blinking...)

See Grandma! It doesn't even burn!

But when I opened my palm to show her, the light had gone out forever.

(An insane old man in khaki trousers enters, shouting.)
Climb out boys!
Every mother's darling!
Rats...have got you now!
They'll pick your bones!
Every mother's darling!

(Stops, gestures to floor at his feet...)

Pull off the overcoat -- that one!
There's a cold fog rolling in.
It's gonna cover us all.
Every mother's darling!

(Becomes frightened, runs over to his grandmother.
Chuck steps behind woman and boy, places hands on their shoulders.)

He came in every evening with the fireflies.
He wore khaki trousers and he was insane.

He lost his mind in the trenches. Don't pay him any mind.
He lost his mind in the trenches.

Fragile creatures...fireflies.

Act II: Scene 4:

(Same railway station...Sign reads Richmond...Chuck is seated, jotting down notes in his note pad. Mr. Footnote is seated across from him...trying to sneak a peek at what Chuck is writing.)

Let's see, "My name is Chuck...Chuck Shankara. I'm a journalist and I'm on my way to an execution.
(Dissatisfied...Scratches it out...)
No! That's not right.

Is that your real name? Or is that just an affectation you've assumed to bamboozle all these people?(Gestures to audience...)

I beg your pardon?

Oh. I'm sorry. I don't think we've met.
(Hands him a business card)
I'm here to speak for the playwright...

(Reads over card thoughtfully)

He needs someone like you. He's got a lot to answer for.

Enough about him.
Let's talk about you!
You're a big phony!
You know that?

Well, thank you.

Oh...you always act like you're so cool. Such a big shot! Trying to bamboozle all these nice people who paid good money to see my boss's play. But you're really nothing but a con artist as far as I am concerned. My boss never should have hired you. I'll bet you don't even know who Shankara is do you?

Yeah. I know who he is.
Do you?

(Fishes in pocket...pulls out a 3"X5" card and reads)
Adi Shankara.
Philosopher of 7th century A.D. India.
That's anno domini to you mister!
...devised a system of philosophy based on distinguishing that
which is real...
(Gestures to himself)
...from that which is phony.
(Points accusing finger at Chuck. Then, very pleased w/himself, puts card back in pocket and struts a little...)

Very good...

Don't patronize me buddy! You've never even read one of his books have you?

You're right. But I heard his name mentioned once on an episode of
Star Trek. Now will you please go pester someone else? Unlike your boss, I actually earn my living as a writer! And I'm on the clock right now.

All right, maybe I will.
But don't forget, I have the ear of the playwright!
One word from me, and he'll write you out of this play!

(Puts on headphones to listen to his Walkman. )
No. He would never do that.

Oh, what makes you so sure?

Because without me, he's a nobody.

We'll see about that.


(Enters, approaches Chuck...a grim-faced thug in a menacing black uniform stands behind her in background. She greets him politely, deferentially, yet seductively...a cross between Mata Hari and a used car salesman...)

Chuck...remember me? We've met before.
I work for Monsieur Le Compte.

(Still listening to music through headphones...Just nods)

(Gestures for Chuck to remove headphones...)

(Annoyed...reluctantly complies)

(Grabs Chuck's hand from his lap and shakes it...)
It's good to see you Chuck...Mr. Le Compte was wondering if you
would fly back up with me...He's really anxious to see you...

I don't fly. Too many of his friends die in plane crashes.
(Starts to replace headphones)

(Gently prevents him...)
Chuck, let me give you a couple of pointers. And I hope you'll take
these in the spirit in which they're offered.
Flexibility Chuck...and a positive attitude...
Those are the keys.
They get you in the door.
And then, once you're inside.
You have room to network...
to connect with people Chuck...
to make valuable contacts.
And eventually Chuck,
doors are bound to open for you.
Doors that you thought were closed forever
are gonna swing wide open, wide open for you Chuck!

How many doors are we speaking of?

Great question Chuck! Now I could lie to you and say there's a whole universe of doors out there, opening and closing all the time. But I won't do that Chuck, because I respect you too much. There's really only one door.
(Leans in to confide...)
And do you know where it leads?

The Mausoleum?

Noooo! Don't get morbid on me now! To Self-fulfillment Chuck!
(Snaps fingers on word "fulfillment")
That's where it leads!
I'm gonna tell you a secret Chuck. And I want you to listen, because it's the most important thing you're ever gonna learn.
Eventually, no matter who we are or where we come from, we're all gonna get what we want from this life. We may have to wait a long time. But in the end Chuck, every one of us is gonna get what we have comin'.

And do you know what that is?


That's right Chuck! That's what we're really after! We don't want money or power or love... What we're really after is self-fulfillment! And that's what we're gonna get. But you have to be flexible Chuck. You have to make allowances sometimes, just to get your foot in the door...
(Touches Chuck seductively.)
Come in Chuck! You can't stay on the outside your whole life!

Now let me see if I've got this straight. There's this door right? And it's invisible.
(Gestures to space between them...)
And I'm standing on one side. And you're standing on the other.

That's right Chuck.

(Mimes opening the door...steps through to other side then stands beside
The Character Who is not the Advance Man and glares at her...)
O.K. I'm in.
Now you - get lost.

No! You're still outside Chuck! Don't ya' see? You're out in the cold Chuck! And it gets blue cold out where you're standin'...

All right then, how does somebody know which side of the door he's standing on?

Another great question Chuck! And the only answer I can give is: You just know. Take me for instance. I'm at my best when I'm out there. Connecting with people. Shaking their hands, sharing their problems...their dreams... Being part of something bigger than myself...That's when I know I'm in - Chuck. Of course, I'm like you. I get depressed sometimes, And I think that nobody's ever connected. I sometimes think that ever since the doctor snipped our cords Chuck, we've all been out there floatin'...on our own.
And Chuck, I know that you feel that way too sometimes. And standing here now...sharing this with you, makes me feel well... Like we're connected Chuck, right here, right now, just the two of us.
(Pause...in a feminine way, puts hand on Chuck's forearm...)

Don't you feel it too? Even a little?


Chuck. Not even a teeny bit?

(Decides to humor her, in the hope that it might expedite the moment of her departure...)
All right. Maybe I do.

I like you a lot Chuck. I consider you a very dear and special friend. I hope you don't mind.

No. The pleasure's mine. (looks at watch)

(Moves forward and grabs Chuck by the scruff of his collar, lifting him off the floor roughly turns him around and they begin to exit...)

(Laughs as they exit..)
Now that's flexibility Chuck!

FINALÉ: Act II : Scene 5:

(Sound Cue 4 Act 2 )


Same train station, now serving as the Pollster's hospital room. The Pollster is obviously dead...He is splayed out across the bed, with the sheets in disarray. At the first performance of the piece in the DRAMARAMA III festival, wooden boxes on the floor, painted black, served both as benches in the station and the Pollster's hospital bed. Perhaps a sheet or pillowcase is tied around his neck, indicating that he has been strangled...His tongue might even be hanging out...

Three or four people in white hospital uniforms are huddled around the corpse... Bending down over the cadaver, they are obviously doing something that requires great concentration and intensity. To the audience, they appear to be picking things off of his chest or moving something around on it...But the audience cannot see exactly what it is they are doing...

What they are doing in fact, is playing cards...They do not pay attention to Chuck approaching, so absorbed are they in their card game...Chuck lingers a moment at the threshold of the room and clears his throat...A hitherto unseen person, whom we shall call "the Greeter" (it could be either a man or woman) w/o hood appears... This person appears to have a perpetual smile glued onto his or her face...It is the smile of a super-successful sales professional, or perhaps that of a religious fanatic...

Excuse me, Mr. Le Compte had asked to see me. I'm Chuck Shankara, the journalist. (hands his card to Greeter.)

Ah yes...Chuck. He sometimes spoke of you. But I'm afraid it's really impossible right now.

(Chuck moves his head, trying to get a glimpse of the Pollster. The Greeter is blocking his view...)
What do you mean impossible? Listen, I didn't ask to come here! I was brought here against my will! In fact, I was abducted by his goons! And now you're telling me "It's impossible"? Well, he asked to see me dammit! And I'm not leaving here until he does!

Chuck. Calm down. I think you're being a little unrealistic. You see, in a manner of speaking, he's dead.

(Greeter moves aside so that Chuck can view the corpse. The people huddled around the corpse rise...revealing to the audience that they have been playing a game of cards...They gesture hello to Chuck and continue with their card game. Perhaps tossing a card now and then onto the Pollster's corpse...)

(Startled, saddened)
(Reverts to Journalist...Pulls out notepad, begins writing...)
Tell me what happened. Just the facts, m'am.

It appears he was murdered Chuck.

You're kidding. I thought he had good security.

I'm afraid not Chuck.
It appears that someone sneaked right in here
and murdered him while he was asleep.

Do you have any suspects?

(Turns to ask card players...)
Friends! Are there any suspects?

(To the others)
None that I know of. Have you heard anything?

(Shake their heads...answer in the negative without looking up from their cards)

(To Greeter)
No. There don't appear to be any suspects.
(Triumphantly throws a card down on corpse)

(Puts away notepad...)
You know. I don't know why, but I sort of assumed he'd survive all of us.
The world's gonna' be a different place.

(Glances nonchalantly back at corpse...)
Yes Chuck. We'll never see his likes again.

(Getting impatient...but still polite...)
Chuck, could I get you anything while you're here?
You must've come a long way.
We have some vending machines down the hall.
Would you like a soft drink? Maybe something to snack on?

No thank you.
(Starts to walk away...Greeter stands like a ghost watching him...)
You know, now that you mention it, there is one thing.

What's that Chuck?

You don't know why he wanted to see me, do you?

Why no, I don't Chuck.
(to card players)
Do any of you fellas know why he wanted to see Chuck?

(Among themselves)
Do you know?
Beats me.

O.K. Well thanks. I mean, for all you've done.
I'm sure he'd be very grateful.

(Turns away to join card game)
Don't mention it Chuck. Have a nice trip back.
Best of luck - Chuck.

(Moves downstage...Speaks to audience. Lights darken on card players...)
So...the great affair is over.
He's with his victims now.
But, it's funny.
I don't feel like anything's been resolved.

There's just an unsettling ennui, and a sense of pity.
Not for him so much...but for the stars.

This world is a wobbly old man leaning on a stick;
( Sound Cue: "Accordion Music for an Execution w/ vocal" begins playing)

Aah...it's time for the execution...

(Black-out on Chuck's portion of stage
As the music begins to play, wedding guests begin to arrive.
They are all wearing the black executioner's hoods, except
for Mr. Footnote, who is to be the "Best Man".
The women wear formal dresses suitable for a wedding.
The men all wear dress suits or tuxedos.
The men come over to Chuck and congratulate him,
and pat him on the back or shake his hand.

The women congregate, awaiting the arrival of the bride.
Bride arrives. It is Lady Without aFace, from Act IScene 1.
She is in a wedding dress, with a white or beige cloth hiding
her face. The women come over to congratulate her and wish her well.
All of this action takes place during the first movement of the song,
"Accordion Music for an Execution." Roughly 60-90 seconds.
As the first movement ends, a male tenor steps downstage center to sing
the lyrics to the second movement to the audience.)


One man and his mate
Two hands joined by fate;
She will be his sweet wife;
Cut his throat with a knife
Then she will sing tra la la la la
And run off with a handsome gigolo.
One man and his wife;
That's a sentence for life;
They made vows at the start;
That 'till death would they part;
Then she'll sing, tra la la la la

(All except Chuck join in)

And run off with a handsome gigolo.

(When the male tenor finishes singing, the lady minister enters, sans hood, wheeled in on a slightly elevated platform looking down on assembly. The guests crowd around her...Chuck, Mr. Footnote (who is Chuck's Best Man) and the Lady without a Face, the bride, still wearing a beige shroud over her face, arrive at altar).

MINISTER (Begins ceremony)
Friends, we are gathered here to witness the holy mystery of matrimony,
given to us by God.

Even though we cannot know in this lifetime, why we have been exiled from the luminescence of Heaven, we can pray that in God's time, and his infinite wisdom and mercy, our exile will one day end, and we shall return to the glory and perfection that is our inheritance.

But while we are here, even if we cannot experience the perfect love that comes from holy union with the Divine, we can at least grope at each other for a brief time under the sheets.
(Glares accusingly at Chuck)
Of course for some - more brief than for others.

(Whispers to Chuck)
Honey? Why'd she say that?

(Whispers back...)
I don't know. I've never seen that woman before in my life!

And when this ceremony is over, this man and this woman shall leave with our prayers. We shall pray that they do not murder each other, as is the tendency today with so many modern marriages.

We will pray that instead, they will opt for binding arbitration.
(Reaches into robe pocket and pulls out a business card)
And by the way, I'm a licensed arbitrator in this state, and my fees are very
reasonable. Should you ever have need of my services, please feel free to call any time.

(A bit puzzled, takes card and places it in his pocket.)
Thank you.

And we will pray that over the years,
as the fires of his passion wane,

(Glares and points accusatory finger at Chuck)

That they will be replaced by a healthy sense of fear.
For God has truly blessed the marriage where the husband
has good reason to fear his wife.

(Beginning to have second thoughts about this whole arrangement)

And finally, we will pray they will always stay married and never part.
And they will both be buried together in the same cemetery plot,
sharing a common stone.
So even after they are both dead,
they will still be husband and wife.
And by so doing, they will be eligible to enjoy a substantial discount
when they make their pre-paid funeral arrangements.
(Takes out another business card from coat pocket...hands it to Chuck.)
By the way, I also sell pre-paid funeral plans.
And right now we're having a very special newly-wed sale;
and if we could, I'd like to go over my brochure with you right after the ceremony.

(Starts crying...bursts out loud...)
Ohhh. It's such a beautiful wedding!

(To Chuck)
Have you the silk hood?

I have.

Then you may place it on your beloved's lovely head.

(Carefully removes the beige shroud from his beloved bride's head,
revealing the face of The Character Who is Not the Advance Man.
Kisses her tenderly on the lips once, and then gently places the black
executioner's hood over her head.)

Have you the noose?

I have.

Then you may place it around his neck.

With this noose I thee wed...

(w/grim finality...The guillotine has fallen!)
I now pronounce you man and wife!
(Sound Cue: "A Man of His Times Theme")

Shall we dance?

(Lights Fade.)


(Same Wedding Scene up to the point where Minister asks "Have you the Noose?")

Have you the Noose?

(Turns to look at guests)

(Holds up rope.)
I've got it...Let's string the son of a bitch up!

(Grab Chuck, who struggles. They lead him to a slightly elevated platform
and prepare to hang him by the neck.)

(Removes her mask, revealing face of the Character who is not the Advance Man. Then she speaks in a friendly, seductive, flirtatious yet unmistakably cruel tone of voice.)
No...Not so fast...What's the hurry anyway?

(She walks over to Chuck, flirtatiously, tickles his chin with her index finger.)
He's kind of cute... I'll take him home...He'll make a sweet pet...

(For the first time, sees the true face of his bride-to-be...Shouts to Minister...)
No...look! I've changed my mind! Please...Just go ahead and string me up!
Get it over with...

(With grim finality in her voice...The guillotine has fallen...)
I now pronounce you man and wife!
(Theme music begins...Bride leads Chuck away by the noose...)

Chuckie...Come here Chuckie...Let's go home now...
(Wedding guests all coo and remark to each other on what a lovely couple they make. Lights fade).

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