from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
by Jane Wagner
Theater Arts 16: Acting for the Camera
October 10, 2002
Action: Waiting, greeting Lonnie, ordering drinks.
Obj: Establish celebratory mood, magnitude of change in my life.
Tactics: (unconscious) Bubble over with joy and excitement.
As if... I'm seeing the world with new eyes.
Wait until I tell you... you'll never believe it!
|Oh, Lonnie, you look drenched, but doesn't the rain feel good?
I've had the most extraordinary evening.
Waiter, two brandies.
Since I've seen you, so much has happened
I feel like a whole new person.
|Seated at table.
Rise to embrace and "air kiss" Lonnie.
Sit again, catch waiter's attention.
Action: Rambling, digging out what I thought was an article, but is the suicide note.
Obj: Start topic of conversation
Tactics: (unconscious) Drop bombshell of "suicide note."
As if... I'm trying to get Lonnie's attention, contrast joyous mood with thought of suicide.
|This evening, first this little boy played the violin--absolute genius!
Before i forget, here's that article I had Xeroxed for you--all about boredom, remember?
Oh, no, no, no, no. Sorry, that's not it. That's my suicide note.
|Pick up purse.
Distractedly sort though.
Remove note and hand to Lonnie, then take back.
Action: Handling note, trying to explain.
Obj: Contemplate reason note has changed my life.
Tactics: (unconscious) At a loss for words.
As if... I haven't figured it out yet.
|Well, not my suicide note...
It's one I've been keeping because,
well, I found it,
and I haven't been able to throw it away, because...
well, I don't know exactly, it's the strangest effect....
Where shall I start?
|Lean back [on last line -- transition].|
Action: Explain why I picked up the note.
Obj: Communicate an inner spiritual change.
Tactics: Support by mentioning outer physical change (menopause).
As if... I'm starting a new phase of my life, inside and out.
|When I was in L.A. I found this suicide note in the street where my
exercise class is. I don't know why I picked it up. You know, it's more my
nature to step over things.
But something compelled me...
|Put purse down. Lean forward in a confidential manner on "lately... I'm becoming."|
Action: Explain why I kept the note.
Obj: Distance my self from the note's author socially, yet tie to spiritually.
Tactics: Spoiled snobbery (close-mindedness) mixed with empathy.
|I had no idea who it belonged to. Anyone living
in that neighborhood had reason to
want to end it all. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. There should be
a service one could use in cases like this, but there isn't.
I was saddened by what she said in the note--
Obj: Explain how my determination to keep the note combined with my secrecy about it turned my life upside down.
Tactics: Emphasize the ludicrousness.
Look how ridiculous I make myself on Freddie's behalf!
|For a while, I kept it in my wallet. And then I grew concerned.
Well, supposing I got hit by a car, or, in that neighborhood, a beer
bottle, I go unconscious, the paramedics come, they discover the note,
they think it's mine and they give it to Freddie.
Well, it would seem very strange that I just happened to be carrying someone else's suicide note.
So I started keeping it at home.
The note would be discovered and be given great importance because it was with my important papers.
So I began moving it around the house.
Now I had the suicide note and the note telling
me where the suicide note was hidden.
Action: Finally get to reason I'm enthralled with the note and its author, how it's changed my thinking.
Obj: Again, contrast the irony of capacity for life with wanting to end it.
Tactics: Stream of consciousness
|Go ahead and say it: I am possessed. What is it
about this phantom person that is so compelling?
She seemed so fragile and yet courageous, too. Ironically, there is in this suicide note more feeling, more forgiveness, more capacity for life...
Whatever this person is, or was, she was not jaded. She was not bored. Her only real complaint was something she called "false hopes."
If she ever did commit suicide, it would be out of feeling too much--not too little.
Obj: Communicate amazement of how someone like this author could not be jaded.
And yet I am... or was.
Tactics: Stream of consciousness
|There's hardly a trace of bitterness or petty anything.
That's really something, don't you think?
I mean, in writing a suicide note, the real person must come out.
Obj: Communicate how surprising it is the author's misery wasn't caused by any horrible incidents.
And mine either!
|There was nothing dramatic--
no big tragedy,
no terminal illness--
it seems, just,
a lifetime of being...
Obj: Find right word for something I've done to other people all my life -- until now.
How do you like that -- I can have compassion too!
|dismissed...by everyone, apparently...