L’APPEL DU VIDE

A play by McKenna James
Copyright © Mckenna Boeckner 2017

L’APPEL DU VIDE

CHARACTERS

GABI                          Female, 15 years old, shy/kept to herself, unable to fit in with the rest of her community, and unconventionally beautiful. She has purple hair and wears red glasses and white graduation gown attire.

ALISON                     Female, 15 years old, Gabi’s best friend, intelligent, self-confident, energetic, talkative, and conventionally beautiful. She has brown hair in an eloquent, detailed braid and wears white graduation gown attire as well.

JASON                       Male, 15 years old, Gabi and Alison’s friend, upset, angry, confused, fragile, thin, tall. He has hair of any colour that hangs in his face and wears white graduation gown attire as well.

CONDUCTOR           30+ years old, powerful, self-confident, and has a commanding presence. Gender of this character does not matter, but must be male or female due to the polar-opposite rules of the world the play takes place in. He or she has undyed hair and is wearing decorative, lavish clothing (suit-and-tie or eloquent dress).

 

TIME                          The beginning of the year, 2046

SETTING                   A supply closet, or a room that would be at the back of a theatre.

SYNOPSIS

Right now, Gabi Wells knows three things: (1) she likes girls, (2) she also likes guys, and (3) in ten minutes, she will have to announce her sexual-orientation to a community of people who only accept the polar opposites of gay and straight. In the panic of the moment, Gabi makes an uncomfortable decision.

L’APPEL DU VIDE

If possible, House Lights turn on, and remain on until conclusion; Stage Lights remain dark at the moment. CONDUCTOR, from his seat in the audience, begins to clap. Allow audience members to follow. CONDUCTOR stands up from their seat in the audience.

CONDUCT.:  We will be taking a short intermission before the fifteenth years command the stage with their announcements. We appreciate your supportive attendance. The ceremonies will resume in 10 minutes.

(Pause. CONDUCTOR leaves audience. Then, stage lights go up on empty stage. Possibly a few boxes, chairs, or benches are positioned haphazardly. The setting is a supply closet, or a room that would be at the back of a theatre. JASON, wearing white graduation gown attire, walks onto center stage to address the audience.)

JASON:           I am Jason Steels, and I’m—I am…

 (JASON’s confidence drains. He walks away, as if he is tired, and sits down on stage left. He pulls off his tie and throws it to the stage floor. Then he picks it up and fiddles with the stitching. Meanwhile, GABI walks onto the stage after him in similar, unisex attire. She stops at center stage to address the audience.)

GABI:             I am Gabi Wells, and I’m—well (forlorn, she looks to Jason)—well, anyway.

(GABI heads in the opposite direction and sits on stage right, looking over the audience, as if looking for something. ALISON, in the same attire, enters center stage with crazy confidence and addresses the audience.)

AL:                  I am Alison Hammerfield, and I am gay.

(ALISON bows, and then looks around the stage.)

There you be, Gabs. Was just looking all over for you.

GABI:             Sorry Als, I just needed a—to get some uncrowded air before we go on stage.

AL:                 I like what you did with your hair, by the way. It’s sick. I could totally see you dying old grey hair that colour some day.

GABI:             Um, thanks, Al. I like your—your braid is nice.

AL:                 Like it? Honestly I wasn’t sure how people would take to it, but you, like, are the third person to complement it, so, mission successful! Anyways, come on, we gotta get back stage, our time is almost on. Excited?

GABI:             (Obviously worried.) You run ahead, I’ll be—

AL:                 Gabi, what’s wrong?

GABI:             Nothing—I—I’ll catch up in a few.

AL:                 Seconds? Minutes? Days? Know what, doesn’t matter, I don’t mind staying with you till you’re ready. (Sits down beside GABI, swings her legs, looks out into the audience for a few seconds.) Hey Gab, uh, don’t you think that best friends should tell each other everything? Even, like, dirty little secrets?

GABI:             Do you want—is there something on your chest?
AL:                 No no. I mean, not besides nipples and this gown. But no, I was just asking.

GABI:             Okay, yeah—maybe not everything, though. Like, some things—some stuff I do I don’t want to tell you—just—just because.

AL:                 Just because? I care about everything you have to say, you silly goose. You know that.

GABI:             I care about what you say too, Alison, but I—I’m just saying I understand if you don’t tell me things, pure and simple.

AL:                 You know your aunt, Franki?

GABI:             Yeah. Cranky Franki.

AL:                 Oh stop! Well, she kind of, like, helped me figure out my announcement for today.

GABI:             She did not—are you serious Alison?

AL:                 You’re upset?

GABI:             It’s just—no—but she’s like—she must be thirty years old.

AL:                 So you are upset with me!

GABI:             No—of course not, Als. Surprised. Surprised and upset are different things. I’m only—You just surprised me, that’s all. I’m glad you were able to figure out your announcement. You’re gay for sure?

AL:                 You goof. I know we aren’t supposed to talk about this till after the announcements, but come on, you already knew. I already knew, too. I just had Franki make me know for sure for sure, you know.

GABI:             I’m glad—proud of you.

AL:                 You’re turn.

GABI:             I’m not fucking freaking Cranky Franki, Al.

AL:                 Of course I didn’t mean that, you little, purple haired lunatic. I meant your turn: you tell me a secret now.

GABI:             I don’t have—

AL:                 You haven’t told me why you’re out here, yet. I have a feeling it has to do with your announcement but I don’t know that for, like, for sure for sure.

GABI:             I told you I just needed a breather.

AL:                 And I told you I liked your purple hair, but, really, I was just fishing for compliments on my braid.

GABI:             You don’t like—you don’t think the purple fits?

AL:                 Oh, I do. I really do see you and me as old people, you dying your grey purple, me braiding and twisting mine really tight. Plus, anything fits better than these gowns. I mean, come on, no human is this big. But I was just more focused on my br—back on track. Listen, what you say will never hurt me as much as what you don’t say could. Why don’t you know that by now? After 15 years?

GABI:             Of course—I know that, Alison.

AL:                 Then why are you hiding something from me? (No answer.) Huh? (No answer. Pushes GABI playfully, but is a little too forceful and Gabi falls off the seat. GABI stays on the ground.) Oopsmygosh. You okay? (GABI nods.) My point still stands, whether or not you are, Gabi. I’m serious, you can tell me anything.

GABI:             Maybe this isn’t—it’s not about you, though. Maybe it’s only about me.

AL:                 Maybe it doesn’t have to be if you just open your goddamned red-lipsticked mouth and speak, you lunatic.

GABI:             Sometimes it’s just not that easy, you must know that.

AL:                 Of course I know; I just told you about Franki!

GABI:             That was easy for you.

AL:                 The thing is, you can’t actually see how fast another person’s heart is really beating.

GABI:             Then—next time—hold my hand and tell me—so I can feel it.

AL:                 (Stands up and holds out a hand to help GABI to her feet.) Or you can just trust me. (GABI nods.) Now, tell me.

GABI:             Alison, what if I—you—don’t—what if I don’t know what I’m going to do on stage?

AL:                 Okay. Well. All we have to do is walk in line and when we get to the microphone on center-stage, with the bright, hot lights staring down on you, you know, with all the Community, of course, too, the conductor will say (Clears throat, mocking the conductor) “Welcome to the Coming Out Ceremony! What is your announcement?” (Normal voice.) We just say “Hi, I am such and such, and…” “I am straight” or “I am gay,” for us it would be “I am gay”. And then we just walk on and let the other fifteenth-years have their say. It’s really as simple as that.

GABI:             What if it’s not as simple as that, though?

AL:                 It is. I don’t see what…oh…I know…Sometimes it’s hard to admit, Gabi, if that’s what you mean, especially since this is the first time we are supposed to talk about this stuff, yeah, like, on the freaking stage. If that’s what you actually mean, I understand. But you’re either one or the other.

GABI:             It’s still—hmm—do you know where I was last night?

AL:                 Well, no, I had other things on me—my mind last night, Gabs

GABI:             (Gabi sits on an empty bench or box.) I was sitting in the room—the one, the—what’s it called—the common room for the fifteenth years. I was doodling in my pad on the bigger couch and I was trying to rehearse for today.

And, I was so in my head that I didn’t notice Jason sag into the couch beside me. I don’t know how long he was there—he didn’t say anything—I know, unusual for him. I only realized he was there because he started fidgeting with the cushion I was sitting on and that got me—that annoyed me a little. I said, what the heck, Jason.

He looked angry.

I apologize for startling him, if that’s what he was upset about. He told me he wasn’t—that’s not what he was upset about—that he was not really upset, persae—that he was more stressed out.

I took him out to the Pizza Place on the Consumption Level of The Community Building. That usually—like—gets him back up and running. But no. He didn’t even—I had to give his whole half of the pizza to a quad of girls in one of the booths beside us.

Then, I was walking him home through the GreenSpace. It was so strange because he still wasn’t saying anything. It was already dark, but not dark enough for the streetlights. Getting there. It felt dark enough to me. One light turned on just as we were walking right underneath and—we started laughing and then—when I looked down from looking up from the street lamp, Jason was finally looking in my eyes. His looked wet—I remember wondering how long they had been this wet—when, on our walk, he started to cry—why didn’t I know he was crying?

AL:                 What was he upset about?

GABI:             He hugged me—

AL:                 Was the pizza too cold?

GABI:             I liked the smell that the streetlight reflected off of his clothes. (With ALISON’s next line) He pulled away, and, um, kissed me like that.

AL:                 (start with “He pulled away…”) Or maybe he had a fight with one of his quad mates?—wait, what?

GABI:             When we got to—when we stopped in front of his apartment, he asked me—I went in with him.

AL:                 Back the truck up, Gabs. What did you just say?

GABI:             To his room.

AL:                 Kiss? Did you two kiss?

GABI:             And we kissed there too—I kissed him. And then I did more things too—he pulled my shirt over my head. And then we—you and Franki weren’t the only ones—you know.

(Pause.)

AL:                 Hold the fuck up. (Pause.) Gabi, Jason is gay. Like, the gayest.

GABI:             I know. I didn’t expect—

AL:                 And so are you Gabi!

GABI:             I didn’t expect—anything.

AL:                 Then…

GABI:             Why don’t you—you don’t believe me?

AL:                 I mean, I’m trying to. I. just. don’t see it.

GABI:             Alison? I— (Gets up and walks to Stage Left.)

AL:                 Gabi.

GABI:             I get it—No, I get it. What I don’t tell you hurts you more than what I do, but my feelings aren’t added into that fucking equation.

AL:                 (Stands up as well.) You’re gay not straight.

GABI:             Can’t someone be both?

AL:                 (Walks over to Gabi.) Maybe it was just, like, the stress. Everyone did crazy things last night, believe me.

GABI:             It wasn’t stress— (with ALISON’s next line) I’ve felt like this before.

AL:                 (With “I’ve felt like…”) You don’t know that. People don’t always know why they do things. You’re not straight, Gabi.

GABI:             How do you know what I am?

AL:                 (Kisses GABI.) Because we both used to like that. That’s your proof.

GABI:             Get—Well my other proof is over there. (Points at JASON on the other side of the stage.)

AL:                 Jason? Shit. I guess.

GABI:             I suppose I wouldn’t understand. But its here. And you’re upset with me.

AL:                 Surprised and upset are different things. You sure you liked it with him? (GABI nods.) And you sure you like girls? (GABI nods.) Shit. (GABI nods.) Gabi, I want to believe you. But I’m not sure everyone else will.

GABI:             That’s why I’m out here.

AL:                 That’s why you’re out here. (JASON exits.) I guess it’s almost time for the ceremony. I wonder what he’s going to pick.

GABI:             I wish I knew because I don’t—I have no idea.

AL:                 I love you, Gabi. I just want you to know that.

GABI:             Thanks.

AL:                 No, seriously, I really like you.

GABI:             Thanks, Alison.

AL:                 Like, even when I was with Franki, I was thinking of you.

GABI:             Oh, okay, a little—that’s kind of TMI.

AL:                 Why?

GABI:             It’s just—something I wouldn’t even say to a best friend—I guess.

AL:                 I told you I would tell you anything.

GABI:             And—I guess—I think I told you the same thing.

AL:                 Right.

GABI:             Then I guess I don’t have to hide from you that I like you too (CONDUCTOR enters the back of the theatre and proceeds to the front during the following lines.)

AL:                 Like?

GABI:             Like, I love you too, Als; like really—

AL:                 So, you are gay.

GABI:             No. I—like guys, Alison. I know I like girls, too. But above all else, I know I have always liked you, Al. When I think of dying old, grey hair purple, you’re the only one I see, sitting beside me braiding her loose hai—

CONDUCT.:  (Is at the front of the audience.) This is a message for all fifteenth years. Please proceed to backstage right in preparation for the Coming Out Ceremony. Don’t forget, we will support you and be proud of you either way you fall. Good confidence to all. (Sits down in their audience seat.)

AL:                 I guess we have to go.

GABI:             I guess so (ALISON tries to look into Gabi’s eyes.) Al, I’m okay—I mean—yes, I think—I know what I’m going to say.

AL:                 Oh?

GABI:             Al, hold my hand—

AL:                 Sure.

GABI:             —And never let go.

AL:                 Always.

(The Conductor begins clapping as the stage lights and house lights go out. Allow the audience to clap as well.)