Kiosk Man, a one-act comedy without words
A One Act Comedy Without Words
A "Freeware" play, for'no-cost use by anynon-profit theatre' by contacting the author, , (Costume Designer, Tara MaginnisTheatre UAF
.) Kiosk Man is aOne-Act Pantomime comedy. All rights reserved by the author. Originally written forpantomime street performance for Theatre Terra Mobile, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1994.Produced in a radically different, improvisational form with T.M. and Perpetual MotionTheatre of London in St. Petersburg, and the Waterman Center for the Arts, London, andsubsequently toured in the U.K. 1995. Copyright, Tara Maginnis, 1994.
The Scene is a Bus Stop in a newly capitalistcountry.
Synopsis: Evolution. The man begins as a grey, frightenedcreature, timid and unsure of his own self worth, and his worth to others. He is afraid tojoin the mass of humanity at the bus stop, and instead keeps his eyes on the debris at hisfeet. He becomes so taken with the objects of debris that he collects them like treasures.The next day, still ashamed, he takes a dirty vegetable crate and lays out his objects forsale. The objects are surreal mechanical objects that don't work: broken light bulbs,rusting bits of metal, old keys with no lock. Suddenly he is the center of attention ofthe people waiting for the bus. He likes this, so the next day he brings two crates with asmall home made sign and more objects. Some even work. More crowd reaction. Each new dayhe adds more crates, more surreal junk, brighter clothing, imported goods, advertising,until finally his clothes themselves mutate into a kiosk...pockets of junk, advertisement,etc. Finally the crowd becomes so frenzied for his goods that they attack and strip him ofhis kiosk costume. They knock down the crates and take away armfuls of goods, leaving theman standing naked in a heap of crates and packages and advertising trash. At first theman is crushed, and he looks for his goods amidst the rubble, then he notices his hand,his arm, his body, himself and becomes fascinated with himself as an "object".He realizes that he is the most interesting object of all. He admires himself for himself.
General Themes: Capitalism, Materialism, Individualism. The ideathat just as all men, no matter how noble are future food for worms, all material thingsthat we now covet, pay for, and value are future garbage. That one man's garbage, isanother man's valued object. That material goods are not evil, but they aren't a realbasis for a self image either. That the ability to see goodness and usefulness in anobject or person that isn't valued by others is a rare, positive virtue with practicalvalue. That for many here in Russia, the present obsession with materialism, is only astage in a continuing attempt to develop individual identity and self worth.
1: LIGHTS UP. A blank stage, with bitsof refuse thrown on the ground. DOWN SR is a clump of people standing as if waiting at abus stop early in the morning.
Enter SL, MAN in grey, carrying a bag. He seems shy. He approaches thegroup. One of the group stares at him oddly. This frightens the man and he backs off, UPSL. The MAN in grey obviously thinks little of himself.
The MAN, fearful that he is not being accepted by the group, but tryingto look unconcerned, pretends to be interested in the garbage strewn everywhere at hisfeet. After spotting a particularly weird looking broken mechanical thing, he reaches topick it up. After looking about to make sure no one is watching him, and he puts it in hisbag.
He then becomes genuinely interested in the garbage; he finds severalthings and puts them in his bag. They are all odd looking mechanical objects that clearlydon't work.
NOISE OF BUS ARRIVING. All exit SR as if to catch the bus, includingMAN. BLACKOUT, NOISE OF BUS DEPARTING.
Scene 2: LIGHTS UP. Stage as before, garbage as before, peoplewaiting for bus SR as before.
The MAN in grey arrives SL carrying an old wooden crate. He places it SLand puts the objects he found the day before on the crate as if to sell them. They havebeen cleaned. He squats timidly behind the crate, waiting to see what will happen.
One by one each of the people in the group come over to inspect theobjects. Each appears to think hard about buying one. They ask the MAN questions about theobjects. He visibly shows more and more pride each time he is the object of theirattention and questions. He is about to sell one of the objects to one of the group whenagain there is a BUS NOISE and the group exits for the bus SR.
The MAN tries to gather his objects and crate to get on the bus, but hemisses the bus instead. BUS NOISE. Instead of being upset, he looks for new objects in therefuse at the stop. He is happily looking for junk as the lights go to BLACKOUT.
Scene 3: LIGHTS UP. Stage, garbage and group as before. The groupis slightly restless, as though they miss the entertainment of the MAN and his objects.The person who was about to buy something when the bus came looks periodically at SL as ifexpecting the MAN in grey to suddenly appear.
He does, but he is no longer in grey. Instead the MAN enters SL wearinga baseball cap and a brightly colored T-shirt with an American advertising slogan on it.The slogan expresses an absurd optimism for that hour of the morning. He carries twocrates this time, and places the old objects and his new found objects on them. He haspainted the objects bright colors with shiny paint and has a crude home made sign ofpaper.
The group at the bus stop trickles over to his crates pretty quickly,and after haggling over price all the objects are sold.
BUS NOISE. People run to the bus clutching their new objects. The MANstands in amazement with a fist full of cash. BUS NOISE. He appears happy, and thinkingbetter of himself. He goes off SL, looking for objects as he exits. BLACKOUT.
Scene 4: LIGHTS UP. The stage is curiously empty of garbage. Onlya small amount on SL remains. Enter MAN SL with broom, he has acquired a cool lookingpurple jacket and a 2-tone cloth cap like a prosperous businessman. He energeticallysweeps the stage clean of the last garbage and then exits again SL. He returns againalmost immediately, carrying new, clean crates, five in all, two on each arm and one onhis head. He sets them up, one as a seat and the other four as a display table. All thisis done very quickly with an air of importance and efficiency. Exit SL again, and enteralmost instantly with a colored cloth which he places over the crates.
People begin to come to the bus stop. They wander to where the MAN issetting up his booth, waiting to see what he brings. He lays out new objects, alsocolored, as well as some imported boxes of what-its, T-shirts, etc. People begin to pickat the objects before he is fully set up. Eventually, the booth is set up and the peoplebuy his objects and leave as before. BUS NOISES. They wave as they leave for the bus, andhe, basking in the attention, waves back as they go. BLACKOUT.
Scene 5: LIGHTS UP. SL is a stack of crates with a large brightsign on the front, behind the crates is a bright advertising umbrella, furled but standingupright. It is seemingly deserted.
One by one the group enters SL, walks past the closed "kiosk",and goes to the SR bus stop. They keep glancing at the sign and umbrella like an audiencewaiting for the curtain to rise.
When the last member of the group arrives and comes to his place at SR,the umbrella suddenly pops up and open, revealing the MAN inside. He is wearing redclothing with many pockets. The pockets are filled with his goods. From behind the crateshe pulls out more goods and puts them on top of the crates. some of the things make noise,or continue to move or jiggle after he pops them down. It is as though he were a magicianbringing these things to life out of nothing. He is very aware of his own theatricalityand his role as the center of attention.
The people at the bus stop are paralyzed with amazement at all thisspectacle for a few moments, standing open mouthed with shock. Then suddenly, in a body,they recover themselves and pounce upon the "kiosk" like hungry animals,actually throwing their money at the MAN in a passion of buying. BUS NOISE. Some notice,but all are too taken with the shopping frenzy to care and the BUS NOISE leaves withoutthem.
The MAN is somewhat overwhelmed, so he climbs up on top of the crates.One woman becomes so excited, she removes his shoe and gives his toes a "blowjob". The MAN makes noises like he is having an orgasm, and the group, similarlyelated with their purchases, begin to groan and sigh in unison with the man. As the stagefades to black, they are surrounding him and his things, fondling the objects like lovers,and shouting aloud with one great climactic howl at the BLACKOUT. At the blackout, theirhowling abruptly stops and is replaced by obnoxiously loud and lewd rock and roll music("I Can't Get No Satisfaction" perhaps?) that covers a fairly long scene change.
Scene 6: LIGHTS UP. UPSTAGE CENTER, a huge edifice of crates hasbeen built. It partly resembles a kiosk with goods and advertising everywhere, but it alsosuggests a golden throne room or the altar of a place of worship. The MAN, totallytransformed by clothing that is pasted together out of advertising, kiosk goods, andfashionable western clothing, is waiting on/in the "throne" at the center of the"kiosk". At his right hand is a large shiny blaster playing the aforementionedrock and roll. His left hand is lifted in an attitude of blessing borrowed from picturesof the saints and Marie Davi Cristos [a Ukrainian cult leader]. It is obvious that heintends to be worshipped today.
The people come as usual to the stop. They are highly confused by thisnew attitude however. They look to each other for guidance, wondering what to do. The MANreaches down to the blaster and pushes a button. Instantly, the rock and roll stops and isreplaced by church music of the most inspiring and lofty sound. As one body, the crowdfalls at once to it's knees. The man stretches his hand out in blessing.
The crowd members, hoping for a piece of the action, struggle forward ontheir knees. The MAN rewards them by laying his hands on their heads like a Baptistpreacher or a Mafia don. He gives them each an object from the kiosk, and demands alltheir money in return. They give it over, reluctantly, but afraid to resist. The people goDOWN SR to the bus stop, clutching their objects with a vague sense of disappointment.They begin to squabble with one another, and try to steal each other's objects.
Meanwhile, UPSTAGE CENTER, the MAN is in ecstasy. He bathes himself inthe pile of money provided by the crowd, and rubs it onto his body and face like anointment. He admires his handiwork of the kiosk and fondles and kisses the objects likethey are icons in a church. He looks so blissful, one should (with the church music risingto a crescendo/finale) expect him to be assumed bodily, like the virgin, into the heavensat any moment.
Instead, the crowd on SR has gone from fighting one another to forminginto a mob. As the church music ends, a new piece begins, full of drumming and percussion,reminiscent of a kind of jungle war dance. As the man, oblivious, sprawls in ecstasy onhis throne, the group, in exaggerated slow motion, prepares to pounce with violent intent.They do so in a mechanistic frenzy, first they wreck the kiosk, then loot it, and thenfinally they strip the MAN of his kiosk costume. The music rises to fever pitch as he isattacked, then cuts off suddenly into silence as he is left alone amidst the wreckage ofdebris and crates. BUS NOISE in the silence.
Slowly the man rises from the pile of debris. He is heartbroken. All hisnice stuff is gone. Desperately he looks through the mess hoping to find some of hisproperty. He unconsciously imitates himself in scene 1. He thinks he's found something,but it is only a broken whatsit as before. This is no longer good enough to satisfy him.He casts it aside in disappointment. Again he seems to find something, but it is only anempty box. He sits down and cries.
Then, while he is crying, he thinks he sees something at his feet. Heroots through the trash desperately, only to "catch" his left hand with hisright. He won't let go. Tug of war. His hands erupt in their struggle from the refuse toform an "O" over his head, the one hand grasping the other. He then realizesit's him. After momentary embarrassment at his error, he begins to examine his hands, hisarms, and his body. It occurs to him that this too, he himself, is a cool object. He movesand flexes, admiring himself until he is contented.
The MAN then restacks the crates methodically, creating a zigguratpedestal. He climbs it, ascending to the top, and then poses like a statue. BLACKOUT.
Music: Except where it is noted that there should be momentarysilence, the whole piece would best be set to music of some kind. The music shoulddetermine the rhythm of the actions, and the actions should, except where noted, beconducted silently. Obviously, the taste of the director and style of the productionshould determine the choice of music, but you might find it interesting to note that thepieces that most often popped in my head while writing this were bits of the Benny &Joon soundtrack, Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije, and pounding bouncy stuff by Philip Glass.These are not suggestions, so much as information. Obviously, the best of all possiblescenarios would be to have new music done for a production to suit.
Design:A few days after conceiving this piece I saw a 1927 design by A.T. Sashen for a waiter ina cafe in The Inspector General. The design typified the kind of look I envision for KioskMan. It is to be found on p.177 of a book titled Russian Shop Signs and the ArtisticAvant-garde (Leningrad: Aurora, 1991), this book's pictures are tremendously useful forgetting at the visual essence of the piece. For example in Scene 6, when the MAN isoperating a blaster, it is easier to have the sound actually be operated off stage by atechnician, and to have an exaggerated construct of a blaster made of cardboard, paint andwires, on stage. While this piece was inspired by the reality of seeing kiosks here inSt.Petersburg every day, it is, for those who haven't noticed, not exactly realistic instyle. Therefore the design might better render the objects which are such an importantpart of the piece, more in the abstract style of constructivists like Goncharova orMalevitch, than with any attention to realism.
The Group at the Bus Stop: Although I do not indicate individualpersonalities for the group of people at the bus stop, I do not intend them to be grey andfaceless, acting only as a body or herd. On the contrary, I see them rather like Noah'sArk, each colorful and different, very intimidating for the MAN in grey at first. Theyonly act as a body when indicated, and even then, when they do a similar action, the styleeach uses to do it should be different. This is something however, that again is bestworked out between actors and directors depending on the style of the production. However,I should say that unlike the MAN at the beginning, each person in the group should bristlewith intensity, individualism, and self confidence. This is why the man hopes to join thegroup.
The MAN: Need not be literally naked at the end. This is not"wimping out" as a director. Some audiences, most in fact, would be hopelesslydistracted by a naked man on stage at the end, and miss the point entirely. Only do thisif you are sure your audience it so used to naked bodies that they barely notice one. The"Statue" to be replicated at the end I leave to the director, since it is thelast image the audience sees, and it obviously has to sum up the point of the production,whether hopeful, ironic, or silly. The man is only a man because he is based on a person Iknow, gender is really irrelevant to the character.
If you want to perform Kiosk Man, email me at: Forpermission, all you have to do is to agree to send me a program of your production and anylocal reviews.
Photos and sketches by Tara Maginnis. Photos of KioskMan, production, are of Theatre Terramobile/Perpetual Motion Theatre production, 1995,funded in part by Aeroflot Airlines.