Les vainqueurs n'ont rien à nous apprendre quand les vaincus laissent des savoirs méconnus.
Des vainqueurs, nous savons tout, sauf ce qu'ils cachent – leurs bassesses, leurs crimes, leurs mensonges, ces inévitables vilenies qui ont accompagné leurs conquêtes. En dehors de ces médiocrités que leurs légendes dissimulent. Ils ne lèguent que l’éternité du pouvoir, la force de l’ambition, les ruses de la domination. Leur enseignement est de fascination pour la puissance, cette volonté d’un seul qui réussit à s’imposer à tous. S’il n‘est pas négligeable, ne serait-ce que pour sa force de conviction ou comme exemple de détermination, il n’en est pas moins pauvre : rien de bien nouveau depuis les conquérants d‘Hèrodote, les dieux de Sophocle, les rois de Shakespeare ou le prince de Machiavel. La preuve en est que nous sommes d'ordinaire plus interpellés par leurs faiblesses ou leurs chutes, ces moments où les vainqueurs doutent et trébuchent, souffrent et s‘interrogent, retombent enfin à hauteur d'humanité à notre hauteur.
L'histoire d’en bas que racontent les vaincus est à cette hauteur, justement celle de nos vies humaines où l‘extraordinaire peut être ordinaire, où la bonté n'a pas besoin de gloire pas plus que la beauté n'y réclame de grandeur. C’est une histoire le plus souvent oubliée ou effacés, méprisée ou déformée : ses traces sont infimes, fragiles, voire incertaines. Elle ne s'inscrit pas en monuments de pierre ni en décorations clinquantes, en mines grandioses ou en palais somptueux. Non, elle n’est le plus souvent qu'un souffle éphémère, une vie en pointillé, une œuvre à peine ébauchée. Un dessin inachevé, des desseins interrompus. Une promesse en jachère.
Quand les vainqueurs ne nous proposent que de les imiter, s'inscrivant dans une histoire antiquaire qui n'est que répétition et piétinement, les vaincus nous laissent des possibles à inventer. Suivre leurs pas, c'est partir à la chasse au trésor. Il y a des énigmes à déchiffrer, des secrets à éventer, des impasses à éviter, des mystères à découvrir… En somme, une terre d‘aventure à l’inverse des territoires des vainqueurs qui se visitent en touristes, avec guides et conférenciers, chemins balisés et parcours autorisés. Lieux mille fois arpentés, comme un air de déjà vu quand, en revanche, ta surprise et l’étonnement sont au détour des sentiers de traverse où se nichent les vaincus d’une histoire écrite par les vainqueurs.
Ils ne sont donc vaincus qu’en apparence, et parce que nous le voulons bien. La paradoxale victoire des vaincus, c'est précisément cette liberté qu’ils nous lèguent : une histoire ouverte, sans fin ni finalité, à faire et à inventer. Une histoire incertaine et imprévisible, avertie de son incertitude créatrice. Et la défaite des vainqueurs, c'est de ne rien savoir de tout cela, à force de croire à l’éternité de leurs conquêtes et à l’immuabilité de leurs privilèges.
Everyone in Water by the Spoonful is, in one way or another, haunted. Elliot battles PTSD and addiction embodied in the ghost of the first person he killed in Iraq. Odessa fights to keep her addiction and the guilt from her daughter’s death at bay. Yaz and Orangutan struggle with the ghosts of selves left behind in different neighborhoods and countries. Chutes&Ladders’ ghost is his addiction and the loss of his family, while John wrestles with the possibilities of what may come if he does not get clean. Throughout the play, these ghosts do everything they can to prevent our heroes from achieving what they all desire: love, peace, and deep connection across the yawning chasm that is human loneliness. Some of them succeed. Some succumb. Some require rescuing. But the play’s conclusion offers a thesis that is courageous in its optimism: even our most malicious ghosts are conquerable provided we do not face them alone.
One of the most distinctive elements of Hudes’ play is the emotive, uniquely musical quality to her dialogue. Each play in The Elliot Trilogy is based around a specific style of music. That style of music informs the structure of the play and, in many ways, the language and content. Water by the Spoonful was inspired by the structure and dissonance of free jazz as played by John Coltrane. Free jazz often sounds like noise, but the structure is very clear: songs begin with the melody (or the “head”), followed by the verse, and then the band takes turn soloing and abstracting on the melody before returning to the head. When we hear the head again, we hear it with greater complexity. Water by the Spoonful mimics this structure. Hudes introduces us to Elliot and Yaz first and Odessa and the chatroom second, before she begins to overlap scenes and settings, creating both visual and auditory dissonance. Music will feature heavily in my work with the actors. I plan to both expose them to improvisational jazz both as listeners and as performers. I will need actors who are at least musically literate and ideally play an instrument or sing so that we can experiment with “singing” the play as well as learning how to improvise musically. We will investigate how this manifests both in language and physicality.
Because this play is so linguistically rich, it feels wrong to burden the audience with too much scenery. What’s more, the play bounces from location to location and much of the action takes place online. However, Hudes chose very specific places to locate her action. Like almost all of her plays, Water by the Spoonful takes place largely in Philadelphia, specifically the Swarthmore campus and the Puerto Rican neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Many of the locations Hudes uses in this play are bleak, gray spaces: the slums of North Philly, an IRS tax cubicle, cold, sterile Sapporo. However, we end in the verdant landscape of El Yunque National Park in Puerto Rico. Thus, the play requires a space that can be both specific and mutable. Philadelphia’s poorer neighborhoods are graced with thousands of murals, designed and executed by the people living in the community. They are glimmers of vibrant beauty in an otherwise depressed landscape. They offer hope and possibility, but also memorialize departed legends and offer an outlet to express collective pain. I want to incorporate both what those murals look like and what they represent in the design of this set, while still maintaining the spirit of the locations chosen by Hudes. The bulk of the set will be a white, animated floor that will display abstracted, mural-esque images that help suggest the varied locations. Color will be used sparingly and introduced slowly so that, when we arrive in El Yunque and the play’s emotional resolution, we feel the impact of the color and return to life.
The reasons for doing this play now are painfully clear. This play places the most vulnerable members of our society at the front and center of the narrative. Immigrants, refugees, veterans, people of color, the mentally ill, and the poor are all given equal time and visibility in the narrative. At a time when hate is rampant and the people depicted in this play are actively being threatened, it is critically important we tell their stories. It is hard to hate a group of people when you are presented with an opportunity to empathize with them. That is what this play does. I agree with Toni Morrison when she said:
All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something… My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.
Water by the Spoonful may not be laden with slogans and rallying cries, but its primary focus is on people and issues urgently important to modern audiences. It is for this reason that I want to produce this play as a touring production that can be taken across the country. It is not enough to continually perform for liberal audiences in cities and college towns. This play needs to be seen in rural Wisconsin as much as it does in North Philadelphia. This play offers an opportunity both for marginalized people to see themselves and their stories in action and for people stuck in homogenous communities to see past their front lawn.
I feel that I am uniquely equipped to tell this story. Reading this play felt like coming home. It felt like it spoke to the very heart of who I am and why I make theatre. I am the daughter of immigrants; the latest in a long line of refugees. I know, intimately, what it is to be followed by ghosts I cannot wish away. I grew up studying music at school and listening to my brother, a jazz guitarist, chew my ear off about the virtuosity of John Coltrane. I grew up in Baltimore, a city afflicted with many of the same problems as Philadelphia. More than anything, though, my work is rooted in empathy and emotion. This, coupled with a love of heightened, poetic language of all kinds. I feel my many years of performing and directing Shakespeare along with my music training will enable me to bring the vibrant, challenging writing of this play to life, both in the environment and the actors onstage.
can you imagine. Library au
Keith and hunk work in receiving, processing new shipments/donations and putting books back from the dropoff chute. Pidge is IT support for the library and keeps the servers secure and lightning fast and definitely doesn’t spy on people with her network. Shiro and lance are the receptionists bc Lance thought it would be a good way to meet some smokin bodies and shiro just really loves books okay. Coran owns the building and Allura manages it and takes down all the mouse traps Coran puts up because “they’ve never chewed anything or pooped on the books, Coran!"
And there are the usual library shenanigans including but not limited to
- a closet full of books. no context it’s just there and Coran wants it to stay.
- squirrels sneaking in through the dropoff chute when the weather gets colder
- hunk and keith hunting the squirrels bc they’re not always busy
- hunk wanting to be humane only and Keith slowly putting his knife away
- Keith this is a library why do you have a knife
- *squints into the horizon like a war veteran* squirrels
- pidge suggesting that the mice are helping the squirrels
- keith’s war against rodents begins and Allura scrambles to set up cozy hiding spots for them all just out of Keith’s reach
- and then he finds his pistachios MISSING and his pear has been nibbled upon and he mc freaking loses it
- shiro puts this sign up on the dropoff chute very quietly and kindly and he just kind of puffs up knowing that he’s done a Good Deed
- people start obeying the sign and Lance leaves the front doors open so he can hear it every single time it happens. He has a tally chart.
- the chute opens one day without anyone shouting down it and Keith runs upstairs and looks around "did you see any squirrels ma'am"
- Lance is dying bc it was him.
- klance makeouts between the bookshelves
- the dudes from the computer repair shop next door coming in and asking if any of the webcams in the library had mysteriously turned on too
- pidge is a good liar bc obviously she was behind it.
- hunk and allura putting food for the squirrels on the roof in an attempt to keep them safe from Keith
- hunk and allura realizing that the squirrels are determined, suicidal little shits and so they just put food in the corner of the library or up on the highest bookshelves and hope that their tails will do the dusting for them
- shiro sighing at literally everything as he hand feeds the squirrels
- is he Snow White like how does he do that
- Keith’s Betrayed Face when he sees shiro schmoozing the squirrels
- *whispers* I thought you loved me
- shiro rolling his eyes so hard he goes and joins a bowling league
- the dudes from the computer repair shop coming back AGAIN and asking if show tunes had started playing in the library
- pidge must physically remove herself from their presence bc she’s trying very hard not to cackle like an overlord
- Keith brings in a CAT
- allura is horrified and literally clutches her chest
- Lance falls in love with the cat, feeds it treats and snacks and gives it lazy toys until it gets ULTRA FAT
- Keith comes to the conclusion that his bf sabotaged his cat plan on purpose and cuts off the nookie supply for a month
- worst month of everyone’s lives tbh
- hunk begs Keith to please just fuck Lance again
- a hanjo in the Scientology section at the very least please please please
- pidge and shiro end up stuck in the weird book closet somehow
- shiro COULD break down the door but that’s just a lot of work
- why break things when you could have a book fight
- they throw a couple hundred paperbacks at each other for 20 minutes
- pidge builds a throne of books and rules her domicile (400 books and shiro) with cunning and dignity
- until shiro slaps her in the face with a copy of pride and prejudice and the war begins anew
- the library has like three floors and everyone knows to stay out of the left wing of the third floor during lunch breaks bc Lance and Keith honestly don’t care if u see their butts they will not stop
- shiro or hunk lifting pidge onto their shoulders to put more food on the shelves for the squirrels
- the general populace of the town not being weirded out by any of the shenanigans in the library
- it’s just another beautiful day in mr Roger’s neighbourhood for them
- Keith runs by them with a knife in his teeth and a net in his hands? Totally normal
“J'ai connu un homme qui a donné vingt ans de sa vie à une étourdie, qui lui a tout sacrifié, ses amitiés, son travail, la décence même de sa vie, et qui reconnut un soir qu'il ne l'avait jamais aimée. Il s'ennuyait, voilà tout, il s’ennuyait comme la plupart des gens. Il s'était donc créé de toutes pièces une vie de complications et de drames. Il faut que quelque chose arrive, voilà l'explication de la plupart des engagements humains. Il faut que quelque chose arrive, même la servitude sans amour, même la guerre, ou la mort.”
Robbie can be so clumsy; I bet he’s one of those people who has leg bruises wherein he usually can’t even recall the instance in which he actually ran into something to get them, they just seem to appear on his body for no particular reason.
One day he wears a disguise with shorts and all the kids get distracted by a huge, fresh bruise on his shin, and when they keep asking him about it he ends up breaking character to say that he probably just got it from landing wrong after sliding down the chute to his lair.
Sportacus is horrified and starts designing safety nets to catch Robbie so he doesn’t keep hurting himself.
Then the first time he’s down in Robbie’s lair and can actually take his time to look around he sees so many sharp edges and safety hazards that he almost has a heart attack.
“I had a syringe put to my neck by a drug dealer in Dublin when I was about 16. I was buying hash in the wrong part of town — well, the right part of town for what I wanted, I suppose — and I hadn’t got my wits about me that day. I got jumped on, thrown into this f*cking rubbish chute with a big metal door, which immediately closed behind me and left just a crack of light coming through. And then a syringe was pressed to my throat, filled with what could have just been ketchup, but I wasn’t going to ask for the lab results. I’ll never forget that. That was very scary.”