Theater for the New City
Crystal Field, Executive Director
presents

LONG TIME PASSING

Written and directed by Barbara Kahn

Long Time Passing was originally performed
March 9 – April 2, 2006

With: Evan Bass, Karla Bruning, Alexandra Gutierrez, Maria Hansen, Brian Morvant, Matthew Rappaport, Erin Leigh Schmoyer, Steph Van Vlack.

Music by Alicia Svigals
Set Design by Mark Marcante
Lighting Design by David Ullman
Costume Design by Carla Gant
Assistant director/stage manager Janice Dekoff
Production Consultant Andi Hogan

 


Inspiration for the play

“I have no enemy but war itself”

“Cities destroyed, families broken apart
  Books were burned, and works of Art.
People were killed for their faith and belief,
  The world slept under a blanket of grief.” *
*From a poem written by my father while stationed abroad during wartime.

My father survived pogroms in Europe and came to the United States, where he was eventually drafted into the military. While stationed overseas, he wrote many poems home to my mother (in his 5th language!). His personal feelings about war expressed in these poems, as well as our family history (far from unique in our troubled world) inspired me to write my new play, Long Time Passing. The play is a fable set in the ruins of Central Park during an endless war. There are no “sides” in the play and no politics, only the story of war’s devastation on all living things, both human and animal. And in keeping with the human (and animal) spirit, the play contains endless hope in this endless war. I am thrilled to be collaborating with puppet maker Harry Rainbow in creating the animals and composer Alicia Svigals on two songs for the play.

 


Excerpt One

In a long-neglected and ruined Central Park, with overgrown foliage and petrified rubbish, two female soldiers, Marcy and Serena, in combat dress, have encountered each other.

Marcy. I’m due to get leave in July. Maybe even in time for the Fourth.

Selena. In your three months, excuse me, almost a year, you ever had leave?

Marcy. No. Well, I almost did once, right after basic training, but when I was packing my bag, there was an air raid drill, and all leaves were cancelled.

Selena. I’ve been in the army more than ten years, and I’ve never had leave. Nobody ever gets leave.

Marcy. That’s not true.

Selena. Name one who did.

Marcy. There was one soldier, I remember. She went on leave, but she never returned. They said she was transferred to the island when her leave was up.

Selena. She probably deserted. They always say that about deserters.

Marcy. Why would they do that?

Selena. Morale. That’s why. Should be obvious. Use your head

Marcy. I didn’t think of that. What should we do now?

Selena. We?

Marcy. Well, we’re still soldiers, and there’s a war to fight.

Selena. There’s always a war to fight. There’s not a soul alive who remembers when there wasn’t. It’ll wait for us. No need to rush to catch up to it.

Excerpt Two

There is the sound of the whistles, as if signaling. A pigeon (Aunt Duffy), with its wing in a sling, appears behind a park bench, followed by Turk, a younger pigeon, and Scurry, a squirrel.

Turk. Tell me again how we used to fly.

Aunt Duffy. All the pigeons flew in those days. All the pigeons flew, but the finest were the passenger pigeons, our largest tribe...

Turk. (interrupting) They lived in the country, not like our city tribes.

Aunt Duffy. Go on, you finish it…You know the rest

Turk. I want you to tell it. Did you ever see them?

Aunt Duffy. Of course, not. They were gone long before my time, long before. But grandma was told by her grandmother who was told by her grandmother what I’m telling you. They must have been a sight to behold! Especially when they soared. There were so many of them that when they flew, they blocked the sun and turned the day into night.

Turk. That’s what I want to be, a passenger pigeon.

Aunt Duffy. Don’t talk nonsense. You can’t be something you weren’t born to be. Look at yourself. Look at me. What do you see? You see a plain bird, nice enough to look at but nothing special, not special. Passenger pigeons were beautiful—bright red breasts, scarlet eyes, long slender wings, and tail feathers of black and white. And they could soar! They could race the moon….

Scurry. Then the men came…

Turk. And all the joy left the sky.

Excerpt Three

Gwynevere. Alas, it has been my burden to have a thespian’s calling when all the theaters were closed long before my birth. My mother, seeing my despair, gave me this map that was among our family heirlooms. I started from here in search of a stage. It was a long journey. It took days, weeks, years to reach the park. Always I kept my eyes on the prize, the theater. Through trials and tribulations, my thoughts remained my one true love, the theatre. (points to place on the map) Here, at this place, I was arrested as a spy. They put me in front of a firing squad. My days on earth come to such an end and not even famous yet. If I had once set foot upon a real stage, I would not have minded death so very much. I refused the cloth they offered for my eyes. They asked if I had any last words. I took the opportunity to give my first and last performance -- the role of another maid who had been tied to a stake long, long ago. (puts her hands behind her back and recites)

“First, let me tell you whom you have condemn'd:
Not me begotten of a shepherd swain,
But issued from the progeny of kings;
Virtuous and holy; chosen from above,
By inspiration of celestial grace,
To work exceeding miracles on earth”

They held their fire as I continued.

”I never had to do with wicked spirits:
But you, that are polluted with your lusts,
Stain'd with the guiltless blood of innocents,
Corrupt and tainted with a thousand vices,
Because you want the grace that others have,
You judge it straight a thing impossible
To compass wonders but by help of devils.
No, misconceived! Joan of Arc hath been
A virgin from her tender infancy,
Chaste and immaculate in very thought;
Whose maiden blood, thus rigorously effused,
Will cry for vengeance at the gates of heaven.”

It took me three soliloquies and a sonnet to convince them I was not a spy, but an actor.

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