A PLAY IN ONE ACT.
BY LINA DE GUEVARA (KALLFU) SCENE I – THE RITUAL.
STAGE IN DARKNESS.
LIGHT FADES IN.
THERE’S A COIL OF RED ROPE IN THE CENTER OF THE STAGE.
RICH, WARM LIGHT, LIKE A SUMMER DAY IN A TROPICAL COUNTRY.
SOUND OF VOICES, LAUGHTER, DRUMMING, FIREWORKS.
TWO YOUNG MEN AND TWO YOUNG WOMEN, DRESSED IN WHITE, WITH BARE FEET, RUN IN A CIRCLE LAUGHING, LOOKING AT EACH OTHER. THEY MEET AND RUN APART UNTIL ONE COUPLE IS FORMED.
THEY STAND IN THE CENTER OF THE STAGE, HOLDING HANDS. THEY START TO CIRCLE AROUND EACH OTHER. THE OTHER TWO LOOK APPROVINGLY, CELEBRATING. THE COUPLE IN THE CENTER SAY WORDS IN SPANISH TO EACH OTHER. THE TWO IN THE OUTSIDE REPEAT THEM IN ENGLISH AS AN ECHO.
Luna – Amor – Casa – Montaña – Maíz – Hijos – Sol - Arbol – Semilla - Lágrimas – Noche – Sexo – Caricias - Frutos – Fuego – Familia – Agua.
Moon – Love – house – Mountain – Maize – Children – Sun - Tree – Seed – Tears – Night - -Sex - -Caresses – Fruits – Fire – Family – Water
THE DRUMMING INCREASES IN VOLUME
THE TWO ON THE OUTSIDE TAKE THE ROPE AND STRETCH IT OVER THE HEAD OF THE COUPLE IN THE CENTER.
THEY RUN AROUND THEM BINDING THEM TOGETHER, AND THEN THEY EXIT.
THE COUPLE START DANCING A VERY SENSUAL RHYTHM, A DANCE OF LOVEMAKING, THEY UNTANGLE THEMSELVES FROM THE ROPE, DANCE WITH IT. AS THEY EXIT THEY PUT THE ROPE AROUND THEMSELVES AGAIN.
LIGHT CHANGES TO A COLDER HUE.
SCENE 2- ARRIVAL
COLD BLUEISH LIGHT.
A TANGO IS HEARD.
A COUPLE DRESSED IN BLACK, ENTER DANCING. THE MOOD IS SERIOUS, INTENSE. AFTER A WHILE ANOTHER COUPLE ENTERS. THE MUSIC STARTS TO CHANGE, TO DISTORT, STOPS AND STARTS AGAIN. THE DANCERS ARE ASTOUNDED, THEY STAGGER, TRY TO CONTINUE DANCING BUT THEY FALL ON THE FLOOR. THEY KEEP TRYING TO GO ON. THE MUSIC IS MIXED WITH THE SOUND OF A PLANE DESCENDING, THEN LANDING. SOUNDS OF AN AIRPORT. THE COUPLES SEPARATE, LOOK AROUND IN CONFUSION, START PUTTING ON JACKETS, SWEATERS, PICKING UP LUGGAGE. THE TANGO MUSIC COMPLETELY FADES OUT. ONLY THE SOUNDS OF THE AIRPORT REMAIN.
AN IMMIGRATION OFFICER COMES OUT, WITH A TABLE AND A CHAIR.
THE COUPLES LINE IN FRONT OF HIM, PRESENT THEIR PASSPORTS AND LINE UP AGAIN, COMBINING IN DIFFERENT COUPLES. THE OFFICER NAMES THE COUNTRY THEY COME FROM AND TELLS THEM THEIR STATUS:
IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Chile: Landed immigrant! El Salvador: Refugee claimant! Argentina: Landed Immigrant! Guatemala: O.M.
OFFICER: Oppressed minority. Chile: Special assisted program. Honduras: Refugee claimant. Venezuela: investors!
MECHE: This airport is divine! So clean! So modern! Not like in our country. (JUAN ENTERS) Juan mira, que aeropuerto mas divino, tiene los últimos adelantos.
A MAN PASSES BY, SWEEPING THE FLOOR AND WHISTLING A LATIN RHYTHM.
MAN: Ustedes hablan español?
MECHE: Si, que tal? Usted es latinoamericano también?
MAN: Si, soy colombiano.
MECHE: Que coincidencia, nosotros también. We just arrived. Everything is so wonderfully clean here.
MAN: You think is clean?
MECHE: Oh yes!
MAN: Yes. We clean. Welcome to Canada. (EXITS SWEEPING THE FLOOR)
MECHE: What did he mean?
IMMIG. OFFICER: May I see your passports, please? Colombia: landed immigrants. Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina…I better brush up on my Spanish…
ACTOR ENTERS AND STARTS SETTING UP FOR THE NEXT SCENE.
IMMIG. OFFICER: Hey Jack…Habla usted español? Esta es la mesa. Donde está el Hotel?
ACTOR LAUGHS. IMMIGRATION OFFICER EXITS.
SCENE 3- JORGE AND MARIA
ACTOR MOVES TO THE FRONT OF THE STAGE.
ACTOR: Jorge and Maria is a couple from El Salvador. He was a university student leader who was forced to leave his country. They came here in August. A church organization sponsored them and helped them find a fairly nice apartment in a quiet part of Vancouver…
TO JORGE AND MARIA WHO APPEAR AT THE DOOR.
Hello, hello…So you didn’t have any problem finding this address? I’m glad. I am Mr. Johnson and the church has asked me to show you the apartment we found for you.
JORGE: Oh, Thank you.
MR JOHNSON: So this is the living room, and here is the kitchen. A nice fridge. The stove, you know how to work it? The oven is here, everything seems to be in perfect working order, let me see…(HE FIDDLES AROUND)
JORGE: Can you please speak slowly? We don’t understand so much.
MR JOHNSON: Oh, yes, of course, silly of me (WITH RAISED VOICE0 This is the stove, all is electric. And look, you were lucky; you’ve got a microwave. This will cook your meals in a jiffy. Let me show you the heating system. It can get very cold here in Canada. Come here, my dear. What is your name?
Mr. JOHNSON; Oh, Maria, very nice…(SINGS) I just met a girl named Maria…. You know that song? So here’s the thermostat. The TV is over there…and, oh, your phone is all hooked up and ready to go.
JORGE: Thank you very much.
MR> JOHNSON: The bedroom is this way.
MARIA (A JORGE): Esto va a costar una millonada…
JORGE: Ah, Mr. Johnson, how much is the rent here? We don’t have much money….
Mr. JOHNSON: Well, you will receive 850 dollars in settlement assistance, and this is a controlled rent apartment. The church can give you an allowance if you need blankets, kitchen utensils, things like that. And also you will receive 700 hundred dollars from the Government to buy clothes.
JORGE: Really? What kind of clothes?
MR.J: Anything you need. Better buy something for the cold weather. I bet you’re not used to the cold, are you? Oh, and this Saturday the church has organized a picnic in Capilano Park. You can bring the children. Do you have children?
MARIA: Yes, I have Robertico.
JORGE: Yes, a little boy, six years….
MR. J: Where is he?
JORGE: At the Settlement House with a friend.
MR.J. Very good, very good. He will like the park. We have rides for the children and a barbecue. Uno fiesta bonito…
MARIA: Pregúntale cuanto hay que pagar.
JORGE: And how much do we have to pay?
Mr. J: Oh, nothing. It’s free. It’s been organized by the church to welcome all newcomers. And every Saturday we have a mass with a Spanish-speaking padre. Padre Rodriguez, he’s very nice, you will like him…So on Saturday, we come back before seven from the picnic and you can go to the mass. Oh, here are some flyers with phone numbers. This is the Padre’s number, the Welcome House, my phone…Well, that’s all. I hope you enjoy your apartment. Good-bye.
JORGE: Good-bye. Thank you very much.
Maria: Oye, esto es un sueño. Nunca me imaginé que iba a vivir en un departamento así…
JORGE: Mira, todo alfombrado…Wall-to-wall carpet…
MARIA: Con T.V. y refrigerador…Tenemos que tomarle fotos a todo y mandarlas para allá, para que vean.
JORGE: Siéntate aquí un ratito. Este sofá es tan mullido. (MARIA SE SIENTA A SU LADO) Parece mentira, eh? Todo resuelto en tan poco tiempo.
MARIA: Que tranquilidad.
ACTOR COMES BACK. HE STANDS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE STAGE TO COMMENT ON WHAT THE COUPLE ARE SAYING. THEY DON’T ACKNOWLEDGE HIS PRESENCE.
ACTOR; After the hectic activity of the last days in their homeland, they could enjoy a moment of peace. They felt that all their problems had been solved.
JORGE; Lo mejor es que aquí nadie nos va a venir a sacar a medianoche.
ACTOR; And the best thing, Jorge said, is that the military are not going to come in the middle of the night to drag me away.
MARIA: Yo he pasado todos estos años sintiendo como si una mano de fierro me apretara la cabeza! (PAUSA) Oye, what did he say about 700 dollars?
JORGE; Que nos van a dar 700 dollars to buy clothes.
MARIA: Y cuánto es eso en colones?
JORGE: 4 500 colones! Four thousand five hundred colones!
MARIA: Que increíble! Yo que allá me vestía con los trapos viejos que me daba la Carmela como gran cosa! 700 dollars… Por fin voy a poder vestir a Robertico como Dios manda!
ACTOR: Back home I had to wear the old rags my cousin gave me as a big favour, she said. I can dress my son with nice clothes for a change. But Jorge had a different idea…
JORGE: Oye, mira…Yo creo que deberíamos gastar la mitad de ese dinero en ropa, y mandarle la otra mitad a tu familia.
ACTOR: He felt that 700 dollars was a big sum of money to spend on clothes, when the family back home was so needy. “The money should be half for us and half for your family” he said, “Remember your sister has to have an operation”…
MARIA: A mi familia, ni un centavo. Después de como me trataron? Olvídate. Que se pudran!
ACTOR: Maria’s reaction seemed extremely hard. Let them rot! she said.
MARIA: (TO AUDIENCE) The only thing they’ll get from me is a picture of this apartment and of Robertico dressed in his new clothes. That will show them! They said he was an embarrassment for the family!
JORGE: Oye, no seas tan vengativa. Aquí tenemos que hacer borrón y cuenta nueva. Ellos no tienen la culpa de ser como son…
MARIA: No me vengas con tu socialismo…
ACTOR: Jorge thought that society was to blame for the family’s bad behaviour and that now they should forgive and forget. But Maria’s anger had deep roots. When she was eighteen she got pregnant and had a little boy. The father didn’t want to take any responsibility for the child, and she was left with no resources. This is what happened when she went to her uncle’s house for help with her three-year-old little boy. (TO MARIA) A qué vienes para acá?
MARIA: Tío, quería pedirle que me dejara estar aquí por unos días. Tuve una pelea con la Rosa y no me quiere tener más en su casa.(TO THE AUDIENCE) Ever since I had the baby I had been going from one relative to another. They were so abusive I always ended up fighting and I had to move on. I was running out of places to stay.
ACTOR: She wanted to stay with us. She was pretty and I liked her but my wife had never forgiven her for having a child without being married.
ACTRESS: Ahora vienes a mendigar con tu crio. Tantas veces te advertí que ibas a terminar mal. (TO AUDIENCE) I couldn’t stand that girl. Always giving herself airs, when she was nothing but a whore… (A MARIA) Que van a pensar los vecinos? Tu crees que me gusta que digan que mi sobrina es una puta?
MARIA: Es que no tengo donde ir. Y con el nene…
ACTOR: Para que se metió en diabluras sin estar casada, pues mijita. We don’t have money to feed two more people, I said.
ACTRESS: Yo estaría de acuerdo en que te quedaras con la condición de que ayudes en la casa. You can stay as long as you’re willing to help with the housework, I said. It was my chance to get a well-deserved rest!
MARIA: Bueno, tia, yo le ayudo. (TO AUDIENCE) I knew they were going to exploit me. But I had no choice.
ACTOR: Jorge was a distant relative of Maria. He was an idealistic young man and hated to see the way she was being treated by her family.
JORGE: María, no te dejes explotar. Dile a tus tíos que te paguen algo siquiera por todo el trabajo que estás haciendo.
MARIA: Estás loco? Si abro la boca me echan de la casa y ya no tengo otro lugar donde ir.
ACTOR: He wanted her to get paid for all the work she was doing. But she was afraid of being thrown out into the streets.
ACTRESS: Maria, te dije que fueras a tender la ropa antes de empezar el almuerzo. Y dile a Robertico que no se meta en mis cajones. (TO AUDIENCE) Maria’s little brat was a handful. I had to have a saint’s patience with him. And she was a sullen, lazy, ungrateful girl. She never worked hard enough to earn her keep! And the brat’s!
ACTOR: Oye Marujita, te estás poniendo cada día mas rica. Leave your door open
MARIA: That was the last straw! When I told Jorge that the old man wanted to push me into bed he got really mad.
JORGE; Lo major será que nos casemos.
ACTOR: Jorge wasn’t really in love, but he wanted to live by his principles and the only solution he could see was to marry her, adopt her child and in that way, give her some protection. At the beginning, they managed to make some kind of life for themselves. But then it turned out to be not much of a marriage. He was persecuted for his political activities, they had to struggle very hard to survive, they almost never got a chance to talk or be together. Then the political situation got really bad. They had to get out in a hurry…
MARIA: Don’t come to me with your socialism! Forget about my family! They are no good! Aquí voy a tener la oportunidad de ganar plata y vivir tranquila por primera vez en mi vida. Una mujer que conocí en la Welcome house me dijo que limpiando casas se pueden ganar diez dólares la hora.
ACTOR: She thought that living in Canada was going to give her the opportunity to make money and have security for the first time in her life. She was a hard worker. She could clean houses and make ten dollars an hour. It was a fortune!
JORGE: Si, pero… First we have to study English…
ACTOR: But Jorge valued education, he wanted her to study…
MARIA: A estudiar anda tu si quieres. I want money! Security! Lo que a mi me interesa es ganar plata. Déjame en paz!
(JORGE REALIZES IT’S WISER TO END THE DISCUSSION. HE GOES TOWARDS THE PHONE)
JORGE: Hello, could I talk to John Fraser? Fraser…Oh, yes… This is Jorge Ramirez. I have some papers for you from the Human Rights Commission (MARIA STARTS MAKING SIGNS TO JORGE) It’s about the situation in Central America. Yes, I can go for an interview. (MARIA SIGNS NO) Yes, I’m here with my wife. Yes, we can both go.
. (MARIA SIGNS NO) This Monday, ten o’clock. See you. Good-bye. (MARIA IS ANGRY)
MARIA: Ya te estás metiendo en política otra vez. Tu mismo acabas de decir que aquí va a ser borrón y cuenta nueva.
JORGE: Estas cosas son importantes. Tenemos misiones que cumplir.
MARIA (TO AUDIENCE) He wants to get involved in politics again! We ‘ve almost died of hunger because he thinks he’s Jesus Christ! No y no. Suficiente.
JORGE: Pero María, ahora que nosotros estamos bien no nos podemos olvidar de lo nuestro.
ACTOR: Now that everything is going well for us we cannot forget our people. Our “compañeros”…he said.
MARIA: Pensá menos en los compañeros y más en nosotros. Tu crees que a los gringos les va a gustar que te metas en cuestiones de comunismo …?
JORGE: Si esto no tiene nada que ver con comunismo…
MARIA: Por tu culpa capaz que nos echen de aquí también!
ACTOR: She was terrified that if he got involved in “communism”, as she called it, the “gringos” were going to deport them…
JORGE: Déjame explicarte… Let me explain to you…
MARIA: No me expliques nada. You think you know everything. You don’t listen to me!
MARIA: Si, terminé.
THEY SIT ON THE SOFA WITH THEIR BACKS TO EACH OTHER.
ACTOR: Here in Canada, after all their practical problems disappeared, they started to discover that they really had very little in common.
JORGE , MARIA AND ACTOR EXIT.
STAGE MANAGER CHANGES THE SET.
S.M.: The woman coming in a moment is called Meche. She and her husband Juan came to Canada from Colombia, full of hopes and energy.
SCENE 4. MECHE AND JUAN
MECHE ENTERS IN A HURRY. SHE CARRIES A BIG HANDBAG, A PAIR OF BOOTS AND A TABLECLOTH. SPREADS THE TABLECLOTH ON THE TABLE, RUNS AROUND FIXING THINGS, THEN SHE SITS DOWN AND PUTS ON THE BOOTS.
JUAN ENTERS FOLDING HIS UMBRELLA.
MECHE: Ay Juancho, you know I have to be on time.
JUAN: I know, I know, I’m home, I had to do the shopping. Si no hago las compras a la pasada nos quedamos sin comida. (SHE RUNS OUT) Las llaves…The keys… (SHE COMES BACK) Where are the children?
MECHE: Normita is on the second floor with Teddy, Pedro está donde los MC Cloud y Quique…I don’t know where he is. You’ll have to talk to him. He’s becoming really insolent. He doesn’t want to speak Spanish anymore. My God, the time, I’m going to be late and we have a staff meeting. (RUNS OUT. RUNS BACK IN) Un besito…(RUNS OUT)
JUAN: Hay algo de comer?
MECHE: (RUNS BACK) Mamá microwave will solve your problems.
JUAN: Mamá microwave… (GOES AND PRESSES BUTTONS. STARTS SETTING THE TABLE) Yo y mi microwave… My microwave and I. La gran pareja romántica del momento. My love affair with the microwave. (WHILE HE’S TALKING HE’S SETTING THE TABLE AND EATING HIS FOOD) A lo que hemos llegado! I don’t know where this is going to end. We are not a family anymore. Never in my life have I eaten alone. Never. Ever. When I was a child we had this long dinner table with everybody. Mother, father, brothers, sisters, uncles, grandparents, friends…I never had to eat by myself… And when we got married it wasn’t so bad either… Romantic candlelight dinners, the children asleep, the two of us, alone.
MECHE APPEARS, DRESSED IN PINK, HER HAIR LOOSE, BARE FEET. JUAN HOLDS THE CHAIR OUT FOR HER, SHE SITS DOWN, LIGHTS CANDLES, THEY HOLD HANDS.
JUAN: Mijita, empiece desde hoy mismo a practicar el Inglés. You have to start practising English from to day. We are leaving for Canada!
MECHE: Ya, déjate de juegos, en serio?
JUAN: Yes, yes. It’s true. It is possible. Look, I went to the Consulado and I picked up these Folletos. Edmonton! I think this is the best place to go. Look at this!
MECHE: Oh, how pretty!
JUAN: Ah, te entusiasmaste, ves? (KISSES HER) Isn’t it beautiful? Look at the skyscrapers. Look at this indoor pool. This is the richest city in Canada. They have petróleo, oil. Look at this river. With parks on both sides, very civilized. In winter they say the river is all frozen.
MECHE: And the children can go skating in the river. Imagine! They are going to love the snow!
JUAN: So what do you say? We can sell the cottage, keep this house and rent it and then we will have enough money to start. They say there are lots of jobs for architects there.
MECHE; Do you think there are jobs for dentists too?
JUAN: Sure, los gringos eat a lot of candy. They all have bad teeth.
MECHE: OK. I want to work too, you know. I don’t want to turn into a vegetable. What about the children?
JUAN: It’s going to be great for them. They’ll learn another language. Two languages because in Canada they also speak French. Look here. These are the schools, see? They have computer programs since kindergarten, poco menos.
MECHE: It’s going to be like a dream.
JUAN: Like a dream…Like a nightmare. First we went to Edmonton. We arrived in June and everything looked O.K. I even found a job, selling computer manuals. It wasn’t very good, but it was a start. The money we had didn’t last very long though. The price of a small cottage in South America doesn’t go very far in Alberta. We spent everything in our first car, furniture, renting a decent apartment…And then the winter started…We thought we were going to die, all of us…Meche went out on a winter night wearing a pair of thin, high heels shoes. She thought they would have to amputate her feet. The children cried every day when they had to go to school…I crashed the car in a blizzard… We escaped to Vancouver… So here we don’t freeze but I haven’t been able to find a decent job, Meche works nights in a hospital and she goes out when I come in, the children are becoming difficult, they don’t want to speak Spanish, they feel embarrassed by our accents… What are we doing here?
STAGEMANAGER: Cheer up man. Things always look tough in the beginning.
THEY TAKE OUT THE CHAIRS.
S.M. Sometimes though, the stress of being in a new country, a new language, a new job, leads to wanting to have a new partner too.
SCENE 5. TANGO OF THE EXCHANGE OF PARTNERS.
TANGO MUSIC; PANSERA “EL AFRICANO”
ONE COUPLE ENTERS DANCING. THEY ARE CONCENTRATED ON EACH OTHER. ANOTHER COUPLE ENTERS. SUDDENLY THEY DISCOVER THE OTHERS, THEY TOUCH, STARTLED, THEY GO BACK TO THEIR FORMER PARTNERS, THEN THEY KEEP CHANGING IN DIFFERENT COMBINATIONS, THEY BECOME MORE EXCITED, THEY SIGH AND GROPE, THEY START A COMPETITION OF COMPLICATED AND PASSIONATE STEPS. ONE COUPLE WINS. THE OTHER COUPLE SEPARATES AND EXITS. THE WINNING COUPLE EXITS TRIUMPHANTLY.
MUSIC CHANGES (PIAZOLLA: FRACANAPA)
SCENE 6. CARMEN AND ENRIQUE.
COLD LIGHT. ACTOR AND ACTRESS COME FORWARD. STAGE MANAGER PLACES CHAIRS AND TABLE IN THE BACKGROUND
ACTRESS: This is the story of Carmen and Enrique.
ACTORS MOVE TO BOTH SIDES OF THE STAGE AND BECOME CHILDREN. THESE CHILDREN WITNESS THE NEXT SCENE.
MUSIC FADES OUT SLOWLY.
ENRIQUE IS AT HOME PREPARING DINNER, HE WEARS A WOMAN’S APRON, HE SETS THE TABLE AND YELLS AT THE CHILDREN IN THE OTHER ROOM.
ENRIQUE; Kids, be quiet! Why don’t you go and watch T.V. and leave me in peace!
HE LOOKS AT HIS WATCH, LOOKS THROUGH THE WINDOW. HE’S IMPATIENT AND NERVOUS. CARMEN ENTERS, CARRYING SAFEWAY BAGS. SHE SETS THEM ON THE KITCHEN TABLE. HE DOESN’T HELP HER AND GLARES AT HER.
CARMEN: Hi, honey.
ENRIQUE: Why are you so late? Your job finishes at four and it is five thirty.
CARMEN: I just stopped to do the shopping.
ENRIQUE: Don’t give me that! It only takes you half an hour to do the shopping. You should have been here at five. You had plenty of time.
CARMEN: I took awhile at Safeway because I bumped into Teresa. You made dinner? Thank you, honey.
ENRIQUE: And what did you have to talk to Teresa about? I’m talking to you! I don’t want you wasting your time gossiping. That Teresa is a busybody.
CARMEN: I only talked to her for a little while. I’m so hungry. Let’s eat. The dinner looks delicious.
ENRIQUE: Don’t change the subject! If you only spoke to her for a little while, how come you took so long? You have to come home directly from work. Is that clear? The shopping can be done later.
CARMEN: All right. Don’t get upset, it’s not such a big deal. I don’t want to fight in front of the children. Why don’t we just sit down. You set the table so nicely, you’re getting to be the perfect homemaker.
ENRIQUE: Stop mocking me! From now on you’re going to cook dinner. I’m sick and tired of doing woman’s work in this god dam country (HE THROWS THE APRON ON THE FLOOR)
CARMEN: Coming to Canada wasn’t my idea.
ENRIQUE: Yeah, but you sure like it here. Don’t you think I haven’t noticed how much you like those gringos?
CARMEN: Are you crazy? Where did you get that from?
ENRIQUE: The other day, when I went to pick you up at work, I saw you talking to a gringo.
CARMEN: If they talk to me , I have to answer.
ENRIQUE: You’re going to become a slut, just like all the Canadian women…
CARMEN: Come on, dear, please don’t get upset. Let’s sit down instead. I’m starving!
ENRIQUE: O.K. Prepare your own dinner then if you’re so damn hungry!
HE EMPTIES THE POT IN THE SINK.
THE PHONE RINGS.
AFTER A PAUSE, ENRIQUE ANSWERS IT.
ENRIQUE: Hello! How are you, señora Rosa? We’re all right, thank you. The kids are fine. Learning English. I still haven’t found a job, but I’m looking. Yes. It’s very difficult, but I don’t loose hope. Anyway, here’s Carmen. (HANDING THE PHONE TO CARMEN) It’s that crazy old bag. Keep it short, and don’t you dare invite her here.
CARMEN: Hello, señora Rosa. How are you? That would be good. Sure, it’s a good idea. It’s just that I’m so busy. I’ll call you later and let you know. Good-bye. (TO ENRIQUE)
She says she’s organizing a group of Latin American women and that they are having a meeting at her house tomorrow night.
ENRIQUE: Another bloody hen party!
CARMEN: I’d like to go. We can speak Spanish and chat a little.
ENRIQUE: The only thing you like to do is hang around the streets, wiggling your ass at the gringos.
CARMEN: There’s only going to be women there.
ENRIQUE: Yeah, a bunch of women talking bullshit. That señora Rosa is a schemer and you’re so stupid that you listen to her.
CARMEN: I could go for a little while.
ENRIQUE: You’re not going and that’s that. Anyway, you have to stay here and take care of the kids. Where’s your purse? Eh?
CARMEN: It’s over there. Where are you going?
ENRIQUE: None of your business.
CARMEN: You’re going drinking again? I’m saving that money for the television payments.
ENRIQUE: Don’t raise your voice at me.
CARMEN: If you spend that money I won’t have enough for the payments.
ENRIQUE: I’m running out of patience.
CARMEN: I break my back working and you drink away all the money I earn…
ENRIQUE: Just shut up. (THEY FIGHT FOR THE MONEY) Give me that (HE TWISTS HER ARM)
CARMEN: You’re breaking my arm. (SHE’S ON THE FLOOR CRYING. HE LET’S GO OF HER ARM)
ENRIQUE: You were asking for it. Come on, it’s not that bad. I barely touched you. Don’t exaggerate. Put your arm under cold water. (SHE GOES TOP THE SINK AND TURNS THE TAP) I’ll be home early. Maybe I’ll bring some ice cream so we can eat with the kids. See you later. EXITS.
PAUSE. CARMEN GOES TO THE PHONE. DIALS WITH DIFFICULTY.
CARMEN; Hello, señora Rosa. He hit me again. Can I come over to your house? With the children. Yes, immediately.
MUSIC (PIAZOLLA: FRACANAPA)
ACTOR AND ACTRESS WALK SLOWLY TO THE CENTRE OF THE STAGE. THEY. WALK INTO THE HOUSE. LOOK AROUND, EMBRACE AS IF CONSOLING EACH OTHER AND EXIT.
STAGE MANAGER CHANGES THE SET.
SCENE 7- A ROMANCE.
THERE’S A CHAIR STAGE LEFT.
THROUGHOUT THE SCENE VERY ROMANTIC MUSIC IS PLAYING. FIRST ‘AMARRADITOS’ AND THEN “QUIEREME MUCHO”.
ACTRESS ENTERS, WITH FLOWERS IN HER HAIR AMD A PINK SCARF AROUND HER WAIST.
ACTRESS; I met my husband at a dance. I was very young and I adored dancing. He was good looking, and the best dancer in the whole room. I saw him dancing with another woman. (COUPLE DANCES IN), and I thought: “That’s the man for me”. Later, when he came and asked me to dance, I was thrilled, and I felt very shy.
WOMAN EXITS. ACTOR ASKS ACTRESS TO DANCE. SHE PUTS A WHITE HANDKERCHIEF IN HER HAND. HE LEADS HER TO THE CENTRE OF THE ROOM. THEY DANCE.
He tried to hold me very tight, and I would move away. He tried again. I moved away. Finally I gave up, and just let him hold me. I thought he was so romantic. I thought I had found Prince Charming! We got married.
MUSIC FADES OUT.
And you know what? Dancing was the only thing he did right! He drank, run around with other women, beat me up. And in bed? Here, they talk about rape in marriage, but there, nobody talks about those things. It was the surprise you got on the wedding night.
I wanted to leave him, but my family didn’t want to hear anything about separation, It was a sin! I would be little better than a whore! It was my duty to be a good wife! Sixteen years I had to endure! Sixteen years of martyrdom. I turned into nothing.
We had to emigrate, because he was involved in politics. He was a revolutionary, fighting for the good of the masses. Ha! Some revolutionary!
We came to Canada some years ago.
So you ask me, what was the best moment in my relationship with my husband, after immigrating?
The best moment was when finally, I could divorce him.
Now I dance on my own!
SHE DANCES TRIUMPHANTLY, THEN EXITS.
SCENE 8-‘CUECA SOLA’
MUSIC; CUECA DE LOS POETAS.
ACTOR AND ACTRESS ARE DANCING THE CUECA. BOTH WITH WHITE HANDKERCHIEFS. ACTRESS DRESSED IN WHITE BLOUSE, BLACK SKIRT, HE WEARS A SHORT COLORFUL PONCHO. THE MOOD IS JOYFUL AND LOVING.
THE MUSIC IS INTERRUPTED SUDDENLY.
HE MOVES SLOWLY AWAY AS SHE LOOKS AT HIM. HE EXITS. SHE ADVANCES TO THE FRONT OF THE STAGE.
ACTRESS: On Sunday, September 8, 1978, the military came to our house and they took away my husband. I never saw him again.
He became a “desaparecido”, a disappeared one.
He was a good husband, a good father. He liked to make funny drawings for the children.
He wanted life to be fair for everybody.
I came to Canada with my two little boys, under protection of the United Nations.
So you ask me, in what way immigration has affected my relationship with my husband?
I never had a chance to find out.
MUSIC STARTS. SHE DANCES THE “CUECA SOLA”.
MUSIC FADES OUT.
SHW BOWS TO THE AUDIENCE AND LEAVES.
THERE’S A MOMENT OF SILENCE.
MUSIC: A DRAMATIC PIAZZOLA TANGO CHANGES SLOWLY INTO A PEREZ PRADO MAMBO.
SCENE 9 - THE NIGHTMARE.-
LIGHTING IS UNREAL AS IN A NIGHTMARE. THEY FADE IN SLOWLY ON MECHE AND JUAN DANCING SENSUOUSLY. JUAN WEARS PYJAMAS, MECHE A VERY ELABORATE AND SEXY DANCE OUTFIT.
SUDDENLY THE MAMBO IS INTERRUPTED BY HARD ROCK MUSIC.
NORMITA (15 YEARS OLD), ENTERS DRESSED WITH TIGHTS, SNEAKERS, A BRIGHTLY COLORED JACKET, DARK GLASSES. SHE’S CHEWING GUM AND CARRYING A PACK. MECHE SEPARATES FROM JUAN AND STANDS IN THE BACKGROUND. JUAN FACES NORMITA ANGRILY POINTING AT HIS WATCH. HIS WORDS CANNOT BE HEARD BECAUSE OF THE LOUD MUSIC.
NORMITA; But Dad, how come my brother, who’s younger than I, can come home as late as he wants?
MUSIC STARTS AGAIN AS JUAN SPEAKS.
NORMITA; I was in the Gym, with my friends, Dad.
MUSIC STARTS AS JUAN SPEAKS AND STOPS WHEN NORMITA SPEAKS
NORMITA; I was lifting weights. You know, levantando pesas. (MIMES THE ACTION)
MUSIC STARTS AS JUAN SPEAKS HE POINTS AT NORMITA’S CLOTHES
NORMITA; I don’t look like a clown. Besides, I bought this jacket with my money from my job.
SHE TAKES THE JACKET OFF.
MUSIC STARTS AGAIN, JUAN GRABS THE JACKET, SNIFFS AT IT, LOOKS ACCUSINGLY AT NORMITA, SEARCHES INTO THE POCKETS AND FINDS A CONDOM. GESTURES IN DESPAIR.
NORMITA; But, Dad. It’s just a condom.
MECHE ADVANCES TOWARDS NORMITA, SMILING.
MECHE; Yeah, Juancho, it’s just a condom.
SHE KISSES NORMITA LOVINGLY AND THEY EXIT LAUGHING HISTERICALLY..
GROANS ARE HEARD IN THE DARK
MECHE; Juancho, Juancho.
JUAN: Ha! Hmmm?
MECHE; Wake up Juancho! You’re having a nightmare.
JUAN: Oh. Tuve una pesadilla horrible, horrible.
MECHE: I told you not to eat so much and so heavy.
JUAN: No es la comida. Es que estoy muy preocupado.
MECHE: Love, don’t worry so much, everything is going to be fine. (KISSES HIM) There, now go back to sleep.
IN THE DARK WE HEAR THE SOUND OF HAMMERING.
SCENE 10- THE CONSTRUCTION SITE.
SOUNDS OF MACHINERY. BUILDING ACTIVITY.
BILL AND JORGE, WEARING HARD HATS AND SAFETY BOOTS, ARE WORKING.
BILL; Like, I’m doing this carpentry job down at 10th and Pine on the sixth floor of this new building, eh? And there’s this guy, looks like a foreigner, having a bit of trouble.
ENTERS THE FOREMAN, ALSO WITH HARD HAT AND BOOTS.
FOREMAN; Now, what’s this?
JORGE: Mister, I don’t finish…its sixth floor…
BILL: He doesn’t seem to speak English very well and the foreman is giving him hell.
FOREMAN: Listen Giorgio or Jorge, whatever your name is. I told you those forms had to come down. Didn’t I?
JORGE: Mister: it’s too dangerous. It’s sixth floor…I fall.
FOREMAN: Bullshit! Are you a man or a wimp?
JORGE: Can you help me?
FOREMAN: Help you? When I came to this country, nobody helped me. I came with nothing. I started with nothing. I had to break my butt to make a living.
BILL: Hey, Nick! Go easy on the guy!
FOREMAN: Mind your own business. You do your job. I’ll do mine. Listen Giorgio, you wanna get paid, you do what I tell you. When I get back I want to see those forms down.
BILL: You want some help?
JORGE TRIES TO PULL THE FORMS DOWN. HE SLIPS AND ALMOST FALLS.
BILL; Here buddy, I’ll help you. I’ll hold your arm..
HE HOLDS JORGE’S ARM. HE PULLS THE FORMS. THEY COME CLATTERING DOWN. JORGE SITS ON THE FLOOR, HE’S SCARED AND SHAKEN.
BILL; Don’t mind that guy. He’s a jerk. Wanna go for a brew after work?
BILL: A beer. Uno cerveza.
JORGE: Oh…O.K. That will be good.
SCENE 11. THE PUB.
WHILE BILL AND JORGE TALK, THE WAITRESS IS SETTING A TABLE AND TWO CHAIRS IN ANOTHER PART OF THE STAGE.
THE MUSIC STARTS AS BILL AND JORGE WALK TOWARDS THE PUB.
BILL; Hi beautiful! Bring us a couple of cervezas…
BILL: You gotta start talking Spanish pronto. Cerveza means beer.
WAITRESS: Really? You guys from Spain?
BILL: Not me.
JORGE: I am from Latin America.
WAITRESS; My parents are Italian.
WAITRESS: So what kinda beer?
BILL: A couple of Kokanees. O.K. (WAITRESS EXITS) So where you from, Giorgio?
JORGE: Jorge. I’m from El Salvador.
WAITRESS COMES BACK WITH THE BEERS
WAITRESS; There you are. Due birre.
WAITRESS; You have to learn Italian. Two beers.
THEY PAY. WAITRESS EXITS
BILL: So here’s to you finding a better job pretty soon. Don’t worry, you’ll get one.
JORGE: Thank you.
BILL: So where did you say you were from?
JORGE: El Salvador.
BILL: Oh, I have been to Mexico a couple of times. It’s pretty nice down there. They’ve got good cerveza.
JORGE: Yes, Mexico is pretty. El Salvador is very different.
BILL: Yeah, you hear a lot about killings down there. It’s pretty confusing.
JORGE: No, the situation in El Salvador is very clear. It is fourteen very powerful and rich families with the army against the rest of the people.
BILL: That’s too bad. We’re lucky here in North America, where we have democracy.
JORGE: That’s what the people in El Salvador want. Democracy.
BILL: So what side were you on?
JORGE: I was a student. I was on the side of my people.
BILL: And why did you come here?
JORGE: I was in jail…
LIGHTS CHANGE SUDDENLY.
PUB MUSIC STOPS.
BILL PUTS A BLINDFOLD ON JORGE.
TAKES HIM BY THE NECK AND SHAKES HIM.
SOLDIER; Hablá, mierda!
AN INTERROGATOR ENTERS. HE IS WELL DRESSED AND SPEAKS QUIETLY.
INTERROGATOR; A ver, que pasa? Que tanto escándalo?
SOLDIER: No quiere contestar ni firmar, mi capitán.
INTERROGATOR (TO THE AUDIENCE) These guys think they can defy us. Poor bastards. What they don’t understand is that we are specialists. Highly trained. I have studied psychology, medicine, sociology. I know more about terrorism than they can ever hope to learn…I studied for four years in the School of the Americas in Panama. Then I graduated in South Carolina.
So we’re well prepared to deal with these subversives.
GOES TO JORGE AND TAKES THE BLINDFOLD FROM HIS EYES. PUSHES HIM TOWARDS A WINDOW AND HOLDS HIM THERE THREATENING TO THROW HIM OUT.
Mírame a los ojos. Tu vas a firmar. You are going to do everything I say and then you are going to get out of here and never come back. Y si alguna vez te veo en la calle, ahí mismo te arranco la cabeza. Está claro?
BILL IS BACK IN HIS SEAT.
BILL; In jail? What did you do? You look like a nice guy.
JORGE: You don’t need to do anything. If you’re young, if you’re a student, you’re suspicious.
BILL: That’s amazing, man. You must be happy to be here.
JORGE: No. I think my duty was to stay and fight.
BILL: Come on! You’re better off here. Here you only have to fight with the foreman, eh? Shall we ask Beautiful to bring us two more birres?
JORGE: No, thanks, I go home now. My wife is waiting.
SCENE 12.- JORGE AND MARIA; DRAWING NEAR.
AS JORGE AND BILL ARE TALKING IN THE PUB MARIA AND BETTY ENTER IN ANOTHER PART OF THE STAGE
MUSIC FADES OUT.
MARIA; To-morrow you go to Mrs. Anderson and I’ll go to Mrs. Pitman. Mrs. Anderson doesn’t like you to use Ajax, you have to use special soap she has.
BETTY: Where’s the soap?
MARIA: In a box under the sink. And don’t forget to clean under her night table, because she always moves it to check.
BETTY: She’s a real pain, poor thing
MARIA: I know.
BETTY: The other day she was walking behind me, like a shadow, with white gloves, checking for dust.
MARIA: Well, she’s 82.
BETTY: I guess when you get to be so old to be picky is your only entertainment.
MARIA: She pays good. Always on time. (LOOKS AT HER WATCH) Oh, Jorge should be here by now. We’re going to a Latin American fiesta.
BETTY: Really? Good for you. You deserve it. You are always working.
MARIA: I bought the tickets two weeks ago. I sent Robertico to his friend’s house and he will stay until to-morrow.
BETTY: Great! So you and Jorge will have a honeymoon.
MARIA: It’s his birthday tomorrow. We have never celebrated it. Do you think he’s going to think well about me?
BETTY: Of course.
MARIA: I never know how to talk to him…
BETTY: It will be all right…
JORGE ENTERS. HE GREETS BETTY.
MARIA; Ay que bueno que llegaste! Estás justo a tiempo para bañarte y nos vamos.
JORGE: Qué? Where are we going?
MARIA: He’s forgotten already! Hoy es el concierto de los salvadoreños en el East Cultural Centre, no te acuerdas? We can just make it.
JORGE: Mira, I really don’t feel like going anywhere.
MARIA: Pero cómo es eso? I told you two weeks ago that I had bought the tickets!
BETTY: Well, I better be going. Bye Maria, see you. Bye, Jorge.
JORGE: Bye. (PAUSE) Maria, I’m very tired. To day was a bad day!
JORGE SITS DOWN, DESPONDENTLY. MARIA LOOKS AT HIM. DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. SHE MOVES A LITTLE CLOSER TO HIM.
JORGE; Yo había jurado que nunca mas iba a tener miedo.
MUSIC STARTS. (LEO BROUWER)
MARIA LOOKS AT JORGE. MAYBE THEY WILL BECOME CLOSER TO UNDERSTANDING EACH OTHER.
LIGHTS FADE SLOWLY TO BLACK.
SCENE 13.- MECHE AND JUAN: DRAWING APART.
MECHE COMES IN, SITS DOWN IN THE CENTER OF THE STAGE. PICKS UP THE PHONE AND DIALS. SHE’S MAKING A LONG DISTANCE CALL. SPEAKS IN SPANISH.
JUAN: One day, I came home and found my wife talking on the phone. I was tired, discouraged. In my country I had been an architect, I’d been creative, respected. Here, the only job I had been able to find was in the laundry room of a hospital, dirty, repetitive, stupid work, surrounded by foul-mouthed working mates. This is not what I expected to do in Canada.
Anyway, back to my wife. She didn’t notice I had come in. I could hear she was talking, long distance.
MECHE: Mamita, y como está la abuelita? Que le parecieron las fotos que le mandé? Dele un besito de mi parte. Digale a la Teresa que si no me escribe luego…
JUAN: I got really mad, because our phone bills were huge.
MECHE: Deme de nuevo la receta de las empanadas, porque se me perdió la que me mandó…
JUAN: She was asking for a meat-pie recipe, for God’s sake! I was about to tell her to stop blabbering when she started to talk about me.
MECHE: Juan está muy mal de ánimo. Se queja por todo. Que los gringos son fríos, que no tienen cultura…
JUAN: She told her mother how unhappy I was in Canada.
MECHE: Ay, aburre oirlo!
JUAN:…that she was tired of my complaining…
MECHE: Está trabajando en la lavandería del mismo hospital en que trabajo yo, y la verdad es que gana una miseria… A mi no me importa. Es por un tiempo, mientras se afirma con el inglés y revalida su título… Pero el pobre está bien deslavado…
JUAN: She even told her that I made half the amount that she made, and that I didn’t have patience to wait until I learned English so that I could revalidate my degree. She said that because I worked in a laundry, I was all washed out. (MECHE LAUGHS) She laughed, made it sound like a joke…I felt completely betrayed, humiliated, let down. I couldn’t believe that was my wife on the phone. You ask me what has been the worst moment in my life as an immigrant? That was it, for sure.
When she finished talking, we had a blazing row.
No le he dicho que no hable larga distancia? Como cree que vamos a pagar esa cuenta? I reproached her for talking so long.
MECHE: Ay, mijito, si yo no hablo con mi familia me vuelvo loca…
JUAN:… Y dile a tu familia que se dejen de llamar collect. I accused her family of always calling collect.
MECHE: Esa llamada no era collect! Por lo demás, desde que llegamos acá solo han llamado tres veces. Y tu llamas a tus amigos cuando te da la gana y hablas por horas!
JUAN: She reproached me for making long distance calls to my friends. En vez de hablar tanto deberías hacer la comida.
MECHE: Oye, que bicho te ha picado? Yo trabajo igual que tú, llego cansada igual que tú.
MECHE & JUAN: We yelled and screamed at each other, until she left in a fury.
JUAN: We fought over silly things. I even told her she should have dinner ready for me instead of talking on the phone. I never say things like that. I mean, she works as hard as I do. The truth is I never mentioned what was truly bothering me. She had made me look like a failure in front of her family…and in front of myself.
STAGE MANAGER ENTERS TO TAKE OUT THE CHAIRS.
STAGE MANAGER: You know, Canada is a funny country. We bring here doctors, architects, engineers, artists, from all over the world, a wealth of knowledge, and then we give them work doing the laundry…I guess it builds character…
SCENE 15- To STAY OR TO LEAVE.
TANGO MUSIC: PIAZOLLA: “LIBERTANGO”
THE ACTORS WALK AROUND, MEET, CONVERGE, SEPARATE AND MOVE AROUND. THEY SEEM DISORIENTED AND CONFUSED.
FROM TIME TO TIME A COUPLE MEET AND THERE’S DIALOGUE.
ACT.1: I like this country, but I want to go back.
ACTR.2: But we have to stay.
ACT.3: If I stay here for ten or twenty years, I lose everything, I won’t know who I am anymore.
ACTR.4: But think of your children’s future. You want them to go back to poverty?
ACT.1: This country is not for me. There’s no life, no surprises.
ACT.3: There’s no military, no curfew…
ACTR.3: Te acuerdas de los mangos caribe?
ACTR.4: I don’ t want the children to loose our values, our language.
ACT.3: Que podemos hacer!
THE FOUR TOGETHER: I am guilty. I abandoned my homeland.
ACTR.3: I don’t know if my husband is depressed, or if he has found a blonde.
ACTR. 4: What you have to do is get yourself a nice gringo…
ACT.1 Good afternoon. I would like to job to apply for… the offer job…store supervisor. Good afternoon I would…
ACT.3: I just bought myself a brand new car. To think that in my country, I was a nobody.
ACTR.4: Here, you’re a nobody with a brand new car.
ACTR.2: Jorge, sabes que? I’m pregnant,.
ACT.1: Oh…A Canadian baby!
ACTR.2 They accepted my project!
ACT.3: I’ve got my diploma
ACTR.2: I can’t stand it here anymore. It’s too cold, too lonely, too sad.
ACTR.4: You know what I can’t stand? To hear you complain all the time.
ACT.3: I’m fed up with the gringos.
ACT.1: Always complaining! If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go back?
ACT.3: Back there? After what they did to me? What you don’t understand is that I hate my country.
THE FOUR TOGETHER: I’m guilty. I abandoned my homeland.
ACTR.4: Canada is the place where I learnt that I do have choices.
ACT.3: I’ve lost the privilege of living in a warm climate.
ACT.3: Mira lo que encontré en el Safeway! Chilean grapes!
ACTR.4: You don’t understand English.
ACT.1: I do. If they speak slowly, I understand perfectly well.
MUSIC STARTS FADING.
ACTR.2: Juancho, love, you’ve been very quiet lately. Is there something wrong?
ACT.3: (PAUSE) Meche, You don’t know what’s wrong?
ACTR.2: No. I don’t. Tell me. Did I do something wrong?
ACT.3: I heard you talking to your mother on the phone the other day. You really hurt me when you told your family I was a failure. (PAUSE)
ACTR.2: I didn’t mean it that way. I love you. You know I do. PAUSE.
ACT.3: I love you too. THEY EMBRACE.
ACT.3: We have made a decision. We are going to stay here in Canada. This is going to be our new homeland. What about you?
ACT.1: No, I want to go back.
ACTR.4: I don’t know. I think I’m going to stray for a while.
ACTR.2: We will become Canadian citizens. But maybe we shouldn’t.
ACT.1: I’m staying.
ACT.3: I’m leaving.
THEY MOVE AROUND SAYING: “I’M STAYING” “I’M LEAVING”
MUSIC STARTS: “WALTZ OF TWO LOVES”
SCENE 16: WALTZ OF TWO LOVES/VALS DE DOS AMORES.
ACTR. 2 DANCES WITH ACTOR 1. ACTR.4 LOOKS ON. ACT.1 APPEARS AND BECKONS TO ACTR.2. AFTER A STRUGGLE SHE GOES WITH HIM BUT KEEPS LOOKING BACK TO ACTOR 1. AT ONE POINT SHE GOES BACK TO DANCE WITH HIM AND THEN LEAVES HIMN AGAIN. SHE STANDS BETWEEN THE TWO, INDECISIVE.
ACTR.4; That is the immigrant’s dance. It is like having two lovers. It makes you feel guilty. You want to love just one, and forget the other, but it’s impossible!
ACTORS WALK AROUND IN CONFUSION;
MUSIC: “AQUI HACE FALTA UN TANGO” (ALBERTO CASTILLO)
ACTORS DANCE THE TANGO.
ACT.3: We are PUENTE Theatre. Puente means bridge and we want to build a bridge between here and there. Cross the bridge and we can tango together.
THE ACTORS INVITE THE AUDIENCE ON STAGE TO DANCE. TANGO