(Come be a subject in our experimental theatre)

An experiment


Jason Lamport

Copyright © 2003
by Jason Lamport

(206) 570-3116

Yes, the “entitled” malapropism in the COMP 101 section is deliberate, as is “gratuitously” in the preshow. I know that it is a bit odd to give stage directions from the actor’s POV (“upstage right”, etc.) but I have my reasons. In scenes where the action is obviously split between stage left sections and stage right sections, stage right should be lit cool white or blue, while stage left should be lit rose or amber. Scenes that use the entire stage should be lit neutral white.

Cast of Stooges

(Except where indicated, all characters can be played by either men or women. In the text, I have therefore used “he/she”, “him/her”, etc. in dialogue and stage directions. Naturally, these should be replaced with the appropriately-gendered single pronouns or phrases once the parts are cast. Except where otherwise indicated, actors can be cast in different roles for each scene.)

Butoh Dancer 1: A dancer trained in Butoh, constumed in standard Butoh fashion: a white loin-cloth, white body paint, wildly unkempt hair, etc.

Dr. Huin-Zha’ing: An extra-terrestrial scientist from the planet Trafalmadore. ZHA’ING should look and sound exactly like a typical human scientist. (Ideally, HE/SHE would be cast from the faculty of a science department of a university, rather than being a trained actor.) Is marginally present in all scenes, and thus must not be double-cast.

NEA Researcher: A prudish, beaurocratic sociologist. Should not be double-cast.

Dancer2: Female. Stage presence should be very sweet, innocent, and childlike.

Dancer1,Dancer3,Dancer4: Dancers.

Choreographer: A dance choreographer. Author recommends double- or triple-casting with the Teacher and/or the Professor, but may be double-cast with any character except Dancers1-4.

Salesperson: A salesperson at a theatrical supply store. Author suggests having this part played by the production’s technical director. Should not be double-cast.

Teacher: A dance teacher. Author recommends casting an actual dance teacher, and double- or triple-casting with Choreographer and/or Professor.

Professor: A dance professor teaching a dance composition course. Author recommends double- or triple-casting with Choreographer and/or Teacher.

Dance Students (4+): At least four dancers. Author suggests double- or triple-casting with Artschool Students and/or Dancers1-4.

Female Artschool Student: A pretentious but innocent young goth: very pale, with shocking red lipstick, dressed stylishly in a gothic black dress.

Male Artschool Students (2): A pair of male poi dancers. Stage personas go from hippy to campishly faggy to frat-boyish.

Female Dancers (2): A pair of campy female jazz/hip-hoppish “booty-dancers”.

Ballet Dancer: A ballet dance student.

Patient: An injured dancer. Author recommends double-casting with Dancer2.

Doctors (2): Young, upbeat, and enthusiastic medical specialists. Author recommends double-casting with Male Artschool Students.


A small black-box theatre.


The not-too-distant present.



: We are in a small, “artsy” black-box theatre space. The house staff seem nice enough, though they are all wearing white t-shirts with the word “sober” printed on the front, and are all consuming “energy drinks” (some are drinking two or three at once), which all seems slightly to blur the line between performers and non-performers. Before entering the theatre space, audience members have been asked to sign an “informed consent” form, similar to those used in any psychological experiment, and are given a pencil or pen. The programs include many numbered but otherwise blank pages. The words “Welcome to EdgePlay” are projected on a white screen high upstage center. Similar screens are hanging midstage left and midstage right. There is a white bed with rumpled bedding downstage right. The stage floor itself is white, with a thin, dashed line of blue spike tape running clearly down the center. Downstage, splitting center, are the words “REALITY” and “FANTASY”, spelled out with the same blue spike tape, and apparently intended to label the two halves of the stage. DR. HUIN-ZHA’ING sits with the AUDIENCE in the front row, off to audience right. HE/SHE appears to be the videographer for this performance, being equipt with video camera, tripod, etc.

: House lights are still up. Enter BUTOH DANCER. HE/SHE is in full Butoh character, with all of HIS/HER movements and facial expressions grotesquely unhuman.

Hello, and welcome to tonight’s performance of Edge Play. Before we begin, I would like to introduce two very special guests this evening. First, we are honored to have with us tonight a distinguished scientist, an anthropologist from the planet Trafalmadore. For those of you not familiar with these recent visitors to our planet, allow me to give, by way of introduction, a little background on these fascinating, um, creatures. Trafalmadoreans are a highly advanced alien race that have been studying us for many centuries, but have only recently made their presence known to us. Our guest this evening is Dr. Huin-Zha’ing of the Trafalmadorean Institute for the Study of Indiginous Races and Cultures. Before I introduce him/her to you in person, I should warn you: the Trafalmadoreans are very different from us, and if you’ve never met one before, their appearance can be quite... shocking. Please try not to let Dr. Huin-Zha’ing’s inhuman appearance and bizarre manners of speach frighten or disturb you. Although they look very strange to us, the Trafalmadoreans are a peaceful and benevolent race, and we have much to learn from them. So, without further ado, allow me to present Dr. Huin-Zha’ing.

(ZHA’ING rises to join BUTOH DANCER. ZHA’ING looks, moves, and speaks in all ways exactly like a typical human scientist)

(addressing audience)
Hello, my name is Huin-Zha’ing, from the Hing-zar-lamma-pinda-trafalmadoreezee, or the “Trafalmadorean Institute for the Study of Indiginous Races and Cultures”, as my gracious hosts have succinctly translated it. First, I would like to reiterate what (says BUTOH DANCER’s real, off-stage name) has said about my physical appearance and manner of speach. I understand that you human beings often find our physical appearance quite alarming, and can be very “put off” by our mode of speach. I sincerely hope that you will not find my presence here tonight overly disturbing. We Trafalmadoreans want nothing more than friendship between our two races, and we are here tonight simply to learn about you and your culture, particularly those aspects of your culture that fall under the rubric of “art”: dance, music, painting, and so on. We Trafalmadoreans do not have any such things on our planet, nor have we encountered anything like them among any of the other allegedly intelligent species that we’ve encountered in the galaxy. As far as we know, “art” is a uniquely human phenomenon, one which, quite frankly, we find very puzzling. Many of you humans -- artists, scientists, and lay-persons alike -- have tried to explain these behaviours to us, but to be perfectly honest, we still don’t have any real understanding of what “art” is. I think I can speak for all Trafalmadoreans when I express our deep gratitude to the producers and performers of Edge Play for allowing my colleagues and I to observe and study this production. It is our hope that our observations and studies will foster mutual understanding and communication between our two races. Thank you.

Thank you, Dr. Zha’ing.
(ZHA’ING exits. As soon as ZHA’ING is off, BUTOH DANCER immediately drops all strangeness and goes into “everyday” character)
Our second distinguished visitor this evening is also an arts researcher, though one from a little closer to home. Please everyone, a warm welcome for Dr. _______.
(use NEA RESEARCHER actor’s real name)

(enter NEA RESEARCHER. BUTOH DANCER claps. we want AUDIENCE to clap too.)

Thank you.

Dr. ______ is from the research division of the National Endowment for the Arts, and is conducting what should prove to be a fascinating study, and we are pleased to offer this performance as an experimental subject for this ground-breaking work. Dr. ______, perhaps you would like to tell us a little bit more about your research.

(Reading from notecards. NEA RESEARCHER is clearly not accustomed to public speaking and fumbles over her words: her “slips” must seem genuine, not comedic or pointed. As NEA RESEARCHER reads, BUTOH DANCER slips back into his/her bizarre “butoh” character, but drops this character whenever NEA RESEARCHER is looking in BUTOH DANCER’s direction.)
Thank you, yes. As you are probably aware, we at the National Endowment for the Arts have recently been charged by Congress to provide guidelines suggesting which art is culturally valuable and appropriate, and which art is to be considered, might be considered obscene, vulgar, lewd, pornographic, seditious, inappropriate, demoralizing, addictive, recalcitrant, preemptive, dangerous, or bad, and therefore, would therefore be ineligible for Federal subsidy. To further this effort we are conducting surveys and studies into so-called community standards. We want to find out whether communities have standards, which communities have any standards, and whether those standards, what those standards are. The theatre workers of this play have gratuitously offered to allow us to conduct our survey during the performance. You should all have received with your program a questionaire like this one
(Holds up a program)
along with a number two pencil.
(Holds up a pencil)
Did anyone not receive a questionaire or a number two pencil?
(Waits for AUDIENCE members to raise their hands. Any AUDIENCE members who raise their hands should be provided with any missing materials by one or more USHERS.)
Now, at various times during tonight’s performance, a question will appear on the screen overhead, along with a number. When this happens, please turn to that section of your questionaire, and answer the question in the space provided. You can answer in any way that you like, for example, with words, or by drawing pictures, or you can leave that section blank if you like. For example, right now a question will appear overhead.
(looks up at high center projection screen, until the text “1. Who was President of the United States during the most recent Gulf War?” appear.)
Then you might answer this question by writing the answer.
(projection changes to a picture of section 1 of the program, with “George Bush” handwritten in.)
or by drawing a picture.
(projection changes to another picture of section 1 of the program, but with a cartoon caricature of George Bush drawn in.)
I hope that’s clear to everyone. Is that clear to everyone?

I think we all understand, Dr. ______. So if we’ll all take our seats, we can begin.
(NEA RESEARCHER takes a seat in the audience)
Thank you, Dr. ______. And now,
(goes gradually back into the bizarre butoh mannerisms with which HE/SHE began)
without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy this evening’s performance of Edge Play.

(BUTOH DANCER exits slowly as the lights fade to black.)