Wednesday, March 01, 2006

deconstruction

Characters: Professor, male, age 80.
Student, female, age 22.

Scene : The office of a very old professor. On the left there is a desk piled with papers and folders, behind is a bookcase overgrown with books and more papers. Center stage, slightly to the right, there is a chalkboard and, placed on the chalk tray, there is some chalk for later use. The scene opens with the professor in a brown or gray suit going through articles in his briefcase-strange statues that look like idols, a rubiks cube, an abacus, other various items, a slinky.
(knock at the door)
Prof: Yes? come in.
Entering stage right is a girl, with about 15 books in her arms. Her dress is simple and modest, gray. Her hair is pulled back. Let her wear tennis shoes.
Student: Professor?
Prof: Yes? He puts the slinky down. It falls causing all great amount of noise.
[beat]
St (reluctantly): I've been...reading. A book falls.
P: Oh dear. Shakes his head and paces, staring at the ground. I'm sorry to hear that. Reading's no good. you'll get all kinds of thoughts and ideas. It'll confuse you.
Another book falls from her pile.
St: Yes, Professor. that's it exactly. I've been reading and it's made me think.
P: You've done the right thing to come to me . Still pacing. We can't have you all confused. that's why we have professors. if we could trust everyone to think on their own and not get confused, we wouldn't need professors, now would we?
St: No sir...[beat] That makes so much sense. I feel less confused already.
The professor circles his desk.
P: Now, let's answer your question. Let me tell you how to think.
St: My question...my question... oh yes. I was reading a book... [beat] What is the meaning of Little Miss Muffet?
P: Oh. Hmm. This is a hard one. He walks to the chalkboard. Let's find out what it says by knowing what it does not say. Student nods. The professor picks up a piece of chalk and writes "Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey." He pauses before he adds the rest. "Along came a spider and sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away." Let's start with the first bit.
St: Little Miss Muffet?
P: Exactly. Now to understand Little Miss Muffet, we need to understand what she is not. Can you tell me what she is not? What is the opposite of Little Miss?
St: Um... Another book falls.
P: Yes?
St: Erm...
P: Let me help you. Can you think of something that has no traits whatsoever in common with Muffet? A...pen for example?
St: That's right. Little Miss Muffet is definately different than a pen. A book falls.
P: Her exact opposite, I would say.
St: Why, yes.
P: So the first line is not saying "Caligraphy pens." Right?
St: Right.
P: Ok. We've got a good start at knowing the real meaning of this poem. He crosses out the first line. What's next?
St: Sat on her tuffet.
P: Good! Although we discourage it, you are becoming a very good reader. Be careful of that. So Muffet is on her tuffet. What is she not doing? The Student gives a blank stare. I see this is going to take some time. What would happen to her if she sat on her tuffet in a pool?
St: Well, she'd sink.
P: Correct. So we obviously know that she is not in the pool. Therefore the poem is not saying "Caligraphy pens in a swimming pool."
St: You're right!
P: Of course I'm right. Now a few more lines. He marks off what they've done so far.
St: Eating her curds and whey.
P: This is trickier. What if she didn't sink to the bottom?
St: I don't know.
P: Well, her curds and whey would make her fat and she would sink. Right?
St: Of course!
P: So?
St: So...she's obviously not floating.
P: Bravo! Magnifique! He claps his hands together and states slowly: Caligraphy pens in a swimming pool float on the surface.
St: Yes! They do! In the excitement, she drops the rest of her books on the ground.
P: See?! Is it coming clear?
St: I do see! Can I try the next one?
P: Go ahead. It's "along came a spider."
St: Well, you can't eat spiders, but you can eat popsicles, so the opposite of spider is popsicle.
P: Good. Good. You're doing wonderfully.
St: The the next line does not say, "But when a popsicle falls."
P: Amazing! You are a fine student. Try "And sat down beside her."
St: Sat down beside her...well, sitting down is a verb, and a newspaper is a noun, and I don't think people eat curds and whey at Central Park, so...
P: Yes? Yes? The professor is excited, egging the student on.
St: The next line must clearly not mean "On a newspaper in Central Park."
P: We're almost done. Soon it will be all clear to us!
St: Ok! She is almost jumping up and down. And frightened Miss Muffet away. So I was thinking Professor...
P: Didn't I warn you about thinking?
St: Well, yes, but I was thinking. It might actually be brilliant. I was thinking...that the opposite of Miss Muffet is not only a pen, but also a clock.
P: I don't know if you can do that. Things can't have two opposites, you know. That's why they're opposites.
The student bites the end of a pencil.
St: Well, girls don't stop. Clocks do, though. So in that way, maybe they are opposites.
P: That sounds good.
St: So therefore, the last line is "All clocks stop."
P: What do we have then?
St (carefully): Caligraphy pens in a swimming pool float on the surface, but when a popsicle falls on a newspaper in Central Park, all clocks stop.
P: Excellant! We've found the meaning...or the anti-meaning. You could say. We've come up with everything that Little Miss Muffet was not saying.
St: Yes. We have.
P: But then, what was Little Miss Muffet saying?
Student pauses in thought.
St: Little Miss Muffet is saying that...(with a suddent burst of excitement) to NOT drop caligraphy pens in a swimming pools or popscicles on newpapers!
P: Exactly!
St: It makes sense! It makes sense!
P: Congratulations.
St: Oh Thank you. I never would have known without you.
P: That is why I'm hear, my dear.
The student runs out stage right with a few more shouts of excitement. When she is gone, the professor waits a few seconds and then picks up her books and places them on the bookcase behind his desk. He turns around to the audience, but stares into his briefcase again and picks up the slinky.
P: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great...
Curtain closes abruptly.

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