A one act play in three scenes.
This play is based on Nietzsche’s “Madman” within his “Gay Science.”
My apologies to Nietzsche and my thanks to Walter Kaufmann, translator, “The Portable Nietzsche”, Viking Press, 1954.
A three-sided set, triangular in shape, which rests on casters
This allows it to be turned to the next scene with ease.
A one room apartment with a kitchen table and one chair, a small end table or two, a fake window looking to a scene of trees and hills in the distance (with a few outside electric wires interfering with the beauty of nature), and two doors; one leading to the outside of the room and the other giving just enough of a view to reveal a toilet and sink thereby depicting a bathroom.
The center court of a shopping mall with a few storefronts on either side.
The interior of a simple church; three or four pews and a pulpit.
NOTE ON ELIMINATION OF SET
This play may be executed without a set (for example in a classroom). In that instance the main character must communicate the context to ensure the audience perceives where each scene is taking place.
An Older Man
This actor has graying hair, he is a tad rumpled, quite well educated and very opinionated.
He is the lone player in scene one.
He is the main player in scene two and three.
Actors broken into two groups
These two groups supportscene two.
The first is a group of six teenagers (four boys/two girls) dressed in Gothic style.
The second group is made up of six shoppers; one lady and five men of various ages.
The second group, the mall shoppers (sans Goths), will be used as church-goers in scene three.
Location: A run down one room apartment littered with books; on the kitchen table, on the floor, on the window sill, on top of the toilet (which can just be seen by the audience when the door is half way open.
Disheveled older man, gray hair, somewhat out of physical shape, but dressed in an expensive dark wrinkled suit, white shirt and tie.
Main character paces, thinking deeply, around the apartment like a caged animal (not speaking) for an embarrassing long period of time. His gaze is mostly at the floor. Unlit cigarette held between his thumb and index finger with far end pointing outward. Cigarette is alternately moved from his mouth to his hand to his mouth; ad infinitum.
He searches for a specific book. Upon finding it he searches the index in the back of it and then searches for a referenced page. He reads (mumbling to himself) for a short period of time, then draws deeply on his cigarette, exhales slowly, and slams the book shut. He places the book carefully where he found it then proceeds with his pacing for a short period of time, then repeats the searching for and reading of a passage in the book. Pace, search, read, slam shut, draw on the cigarette; repeat five or six times using a different book each time.
Main character speaks: (painfully berating everyone and no one)
“What have we done? What have we done? I must warn those at the shopping mall! But it is way too early. Not even daylight yet. I must wait until daylight. What am I to do until then?”
Actor crushes his cigarette, finds another book, and sits, busying himself by reading. Every so often he peers towards the window as if looking for daylight.
“Not yet, not yet” he repeats to himself. He then returns to his book and cigarette.
This waiting goes on for some period of time. Eventually he seems to see daybreak. He checks his watch and continues reading. This goes on for some period of time. He finally rises from his chair and goes to the window. Shielding his eyes from the apparent bright sun, he speaks.
“The time has arrived. I must speak to them now. Damn coffee!”
Muttering to himself he walks into the bathroom and closes the door. There is the flushing of toilet and the washing of hands. Walking out he dries his hands on his expensive suit.
“Where is that flashlight? Damn it! I know it was here last week.”
Man spends some time searching for his flashlight. Once he finds it he tests it by turning it on and off several times.
“Excellent, Excellent. And now my hat. Where is that damn hat?”
More searching. Finding the hat he places it on his head, walks towards the exit from his apartment and opens the door.
“Crap! Crapolla. Damn!”
He closes the door, returns to the interior of the apartment and reaches up on the coat hook, removes his coat from it and puts it on. He returns to the door and opens it, puts one foot out into the hallway and stops. He checks his pockets (chest pockets first, then pants pockets) and rediscovers the flashlight in one of them. He proceeds to check the working condition of the flashlight three or four more times.
“Good. Good. I think I am now prepared.”
The man closes the door behind himself and stridently (head high, shoulders back) walks down an imaginary hallway. [If performed in a one room atmosphere he walks out the door and disappears for some time; thereby leaving the audience looking at each other, wondering what may be occurring.]
Otherwise the one room apartment set is swiveled 120 degrees to expose the second side of the three-sided set. This side depicts the interior center court of a shopping mall, with shop fronts on either side.
Location: The main character walks around the (or an imaginary) shopping mall and walks around greeting the proprietors who are just opening up their individual vertical sliding grates that protect their stores.
“Good morning Sam. Good Morning Linda. Morning Mimmi. Busy day today I would expect. Holiday. (pause) High school kids will be off from school and flocking in here by the millions.”
(Under his breath)
“Damn capitalists. They wait on the consuming freaks, that’s all they are good for.”
The man looks around and selects a bench to sit on. After swiping it with his hat several times, as if cleaning something off, he finally sits down. He surveys the center court and sees several high school Gothics milling around. He searches for his flashlight and locates it. Turning it on he walks around the bench shining it underneath and to the sides; as if searching for something.
“Damn freaks. Paint their eyes black. Chains all over their cloths and bodies. Infected piercings in their eyebrows and god knows where else.”
Once he is sure he has the Goth’s attention he walks over to a storefront window and shines the light inside. He presses closer as if looking for something. Apparently not finding what he is seeking he moves on to the next storefront and shines his light in. Once again, he presses his forehead to the glass and his eyes search for something.
One of the gothic boys shouts to the man.
“What are you looking for – – -old man?”
The old man spins around and glares at the boy. He speaks to him condescendingly
“Old man? Old Man? Why you wouldn’t even know what to look for.”
The boy responds.
“Sorry Dude! Well what are you looking for?”
“I am looking for God. I seek God. Where is God?”
The Gothics laugh derisively. The boy speaks.
“Maybe he went on a cruise to the Caribbean Islands! Or if he is as old as you maybe he went on a cruise to Alaska.”
Another boy speaks.
“Why? Did he hide in Macy’s overnight?”
A young Gothic girl speaks.
“Or is he lost like a child?”
A third boy speaks.
“Maybe he is afraid of us. We look awful – – – you know.”
A second girl speaks.
“Do you think he illegally crossed the border into Mexico?”
Once again, the whole group of Goths laugh derisively, hooting and hollering.
The man strides up to them and searches their faces, individually piercing them with his glaring eyes. He then speaks again, repeating his original question.
“Where is God? I’ll tell you where he is. Will you listen to an old man or just make believe you are listening? We have murdered him. All of us. You and I. The philosophers and the scientists. All of us together. We have killed him.”
Some of the Goths take a step backward as if the old man had insinuated that they were included in the accusation. One speaks.
“You’re not including us in this deed, – – – are you?”
The man responds.
“We all have blood on our hands. Yet – – – – it is impossible that humans could have done this. How could we have swallowed all the water on the earth? We have not yet blotted out the horizon with our pollution. We have not overpopulated the earth to make it spin off its axis. Is the sun getting farther away? Do our colleges plunge us into a false nothingness? Have we lost our bearings? Do we know up from down, right from left, backward from forward? Can you feel it – – – that cold breath – – – the vacuous space of nothingness? I feel cold. Maybe we really don’t know the difference between day and night? Our minds are drifting through this nothingness. Can you hear them? Can you hear the back-hoes digging a grave for God? If we humans rot then God must be rotting somewhere also. God is dead. Is he not?
The Goths all look at each other in silence. Some are in agreement as they nod their heads up and down. Others seek answers from their leader’s eyes. The man continues.
“We have killed Him, you and I. We are all murderers. We are the murderers of all murderers. Do any of you think we can live with this horrible deed? Who is to forgive us now that God is dead. Who will wipe the blood from our knives – – – and our words – – – and our thoughts? There is no longer water for us to wash it off ourselves. God is dead and we are to blame.”
The Goths all appear to be in agreement and they approve of his words among themselves. A crowd has gathered.
“But you Goths know all about festivals. I ask you now – – – what festival of atonement do you suggest? A sacred Fire? No – God is dead – – – there is no fire. How about games? Do we have time for computer games? Do we, any longer, have the intelligence for games? But wait! We have killed God. Maybe we are now Gods ourselves. Do you feel any different than last week? Maybe your children will be Gods also.”
The man, still in the same place among the Goths, speaks to the remainder of the crowd. He pauses for quite a long time. The Goths remain very silent and still. The man forcefully throws his flashlight on the tile floor; breaking it.
“I am too early with my pronouncements. Our time of Godlessness hasn’t arrived. This killing of God is a monumental thing. It has not yet happened – – – but we are up to the task.”
A middle-aged woman speaks from the crowd.
“How will this happen. Who will speak to us about this?”
The man shifts from one foot to another, thinking deeply before answering.
“Our ears will listen to future ideas. Only then will we be able to think our way into this great murder. The events of nature take time. The heights of the Taconic Mountains did not erode overnight. The depths of the Grand Canyon were not created overnight. Clouds take time to build. The solar eclipse has its own time. This great event of killing God will seek its own time. This great deed will not be complete – – – even when it is done. The result will not be in the books for a long time.”
An aged man speaks from the crowd.
“Will we be given a sign? What image of this profound occurrence will we see? Do we need to prepare for this event? Should we do penance? Are sacrifices required? Do we need icons to pray to?”
The main character continues.
“This deed is more distant from us than even the most distant star. Yet even the stars will be involved in this murder. All nature will be involved and changed for this deed to be done.”
The crowd breaks up and slowly drifts away, leaving the man standing alone off to the side of center court of the shopping mall.
The scenery is turned another 120 degrees to expose the third side of the set; a Christian church. The main character sits in a pew, deep in thought for some length of time. There is nothing occurring in the church except for a few other people sitting separate from each other.
The main character speaks loudly.
“Where is the music? We need a requiem for the occasion – – – or how about if we just have a prelude to a requiem? Does anyone have a CD or tape with Mozart’s ‘Lycromose?’ That’s a nice dark, cloudy, black song. We need a prelude to a requiem for the upcoming death of God.”
A lady turns towards him and glaringly scolds him as if he were a child.
“Sshshsh. People are praying. They need time for meditation.”
The main character continues speaking.
“We should prepare for closure. All the psychologists tell us we need closure when a death occurs. God is either dead or dying – – – I am not sure which. Does anyone know for sure? What will this building ever be good for, now or in the future? Maybe a computer center?”
The lady turns to the man at her side.
“George – – – GEORGE – – – GEORGE! Will you please do something?
George sits there smiling, but not saying or doing anything.
The main character speaks;
“I think George is contemplating a funeral also.”
The lady finally turns towards the pulpit and asks;
“Reverend, can you do something?”
The reverend looks to the back of the dark church, covering his eyes from the Easter sun shining through the windows. He finally speaks;
“Can I have the four ushers down here please?”
The ushers come down and lead the main character out of the church. The reverend, the lady and the ushers all commence to speak at once to the main character.
The reverend speaks;
“Have you no decency to speak of God like that in his own home?”
The lady speaks;
“How dare you interrupt our prayers?
1st Usher speaks;
“Did you have a chance to put your envelope in the basket?”
2nd Usher speaks;
“Let’s get this over with. I have a tee-off time at 11:00 AM.”
3rd Usher speaks;
“I can’t wait to tell this story at Fitzie’s Irish Pub.”
4th Usher speaks;
“I wish that I had not heard all of this.”
The main character interrupts the chatter with:
“What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”
End of play