Ora Canonica

Ora Canonica

by Laurel Marena


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456761769
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 04/28/2011
Pages: 72
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.15(d)

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ora canonica

a two-act play
By Laurel Marena


Copyright © 2011 Laurel Marena
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4567-6176-9

Chapter One

ora canonica

SCENARIO: A sparsely furnished room. The back wall is dark. Two doors are vaguely evident. One door gives entrance to the stage whereby the actors make their entrance. The second door is that by which six of the actors (one by one) will make their departure. In the room are perhaps three tables side-by-side to give the appearance of a table with off-set side wings (centre stage) about 3' wide x 8 feet long. The length of these abutting tables should be sufficiently long as to accommodate 7 persons - the seven actors in the play. (See stage plan). Seven normal armless chairs, and a somewhat 'grander' leather upholstered chair are untidily clustered around behind the table. The actors are known only by their role. (The sequence given here is as they enter into the action.)

Mechanic (already on stage) Scribe Musician (blind) Magistrate Bishop Warrior Courtesan

As the scene opens, Mechanic stands at the long table (see Stage Plan). He stands throughout the play, unless otherwise directed. Finally, when his work is finished, he will depart the scene, as directed. He is working on several broken candlestick pieces that lie on the table in front of him. Also in front of him are six candle stubs, of disparate lengths. Curiously, an un-lit hurricane-type lantern sits at the front of his part of the table. A candleholder with a small lighted stub of candle sits in front of him. The room is not brightly lit; there are no windows. As the play proceeds Mechanic repairs, lights, and distributes the candlesticks, and a measured illumination gradually spreads.

Scribe enters before long with a large canvas bag on a strap over his shoulder. He pauses briefly beside Mechanic to see what he is doing, and proceeds towards his own place at the table (See Stage Plan). His bag is obviously moderately weighty, and he exhales loudly as he dusts off part of the long table, and lays the bag down in front of him. We become privy to the fact that it contains his writing impedimenta, and he removes a large writing pad from the bag, and several pencils. He pulls up a chair closer to the table and sits down.

Mechanic looks up and, noticing how dark it is at Scribe's end of the table, he carries across a candlestick with a piece of lighted candle, and places it in front of Scribe. No words have passed between them, and Scribe ignores the gesture. Mechanic returns to his place and continues his work.

Presently, a young blind woman with a cane enters. She is wearing a shapeless calf-length white peasant-type dress. She carries only a syrinx with a flowing purple ribbon attached. She taps her way to the end of table nearest the door. She sits on one of the chairs (See Stage Plan), hooks her cane over the table beside her, and gently lays down her syrinx on the table in front of her. She hears the irregular tinkering sounds of Mechanic, and turns her head slowly as if to catch the direction of the sounds. She proceeds to make herself comfortable on the chair, and lifts up her syrinx and softly begins to play several bars of music. Both Scribe (who is staring up into the ceiling) and Mechanic (who is tinkering with the candlesticks) stop to listen to Musician. The music ceases, and Musician slowly lowers her instrument into her lap, but still holding it in her fingers, as if prepared to continue.

Mechanic: Sweet sound there, but why do you stop?

Scribe: A pleasant tune, indeed, but not a memorable one, is my thought. (To Musician): Is that all there is to it?

(Musician turns her head towards the sound of Scribe's voice, but she does not pick up her syrinx)

Mechanic: Don't stop. Play on. Release some music into the world, indeed into this dusty old room. We need more harmony around us today. Play on, Musician. Here! (On the table in front of Musician he places a lighted piece candle in a candleholder.) Here's a candle for you!

Scribe: I play too, Mechanic, but not with a musical instrument. I play with words. I amuse and provoke with words. I can bait you, old man, simply by selecting the right word to irritate you. I can elicit the very best and the very worst responses in people just with a few well-chosen words. I enjoy my diversions. (Pauses to jot something on his writing pad). Now, take Musician, old man: She's blind so she scarcely needs a candle to play her music now, does she?

Mechanic: (Without looking up): People light candles for all sorts of reasons.

Scribe: Old fool. Music is just music; words are different. Laws are formulated with words. History is recorded with words. Treaties are acknowledged with words, old man, not with music.

Mechanic: Treaties are broken by words, mostly.

Scribe: Actions.

Mechanic: Actions?

Scribe: Yes, actions. Treaties are broken by actions...and sometimes by misunderstandings.

Mechanic: Ah yes, misunderstandings. One tiny little misunderstood word can break a treaty. The entire spirit of a treaty can be lost by misunderstanding one tiny little word. Nothing's as it seems, is it?

Scribe: People communicate with words. Words! "The pen is mightier than the sword". Remember that, old man. What I write is important enough to be read by many questers of knowledge. I never go anywhere without my writing things, (holds up a dog-eared pad) my vade mecum. With one simple little pencil, I can write words of any length, in any language. I can print, I can scrawl, I can underline. No cannon can do battle as powerfully as my tiny little pen here; and that ... that ... whatever that thing is she's playing there is not nearly as imposing as the words I write.

Mechanic: Not nearly as dangerous either, I'd say.

Scribe: (Grandly) Can you imagine a world without words, Mechanic; a world without a Longfellow, a Byron, a Montaigne? No, Mechanic; words give birth to dialogue; they give power and meaning to debate and discussion. Words can be translated into other languages and can be enjoyed by people all over the world.

Mechanic: Too much debate. Too much discussion, methinks. Dialogue, Scribe, relies on two people one of whom is listening. Listening, Scribe. Imagine, if you will, Socrates or Shakespeare without an audience - no one listening wouldn't they look right fools! Jesus too, needed an audience, and I don't think He was reading from a piece of parchment either. (After a pause): They put words to music sometimes, don't they? Makes the words sound better, I suppose.

Scribe: Fool. One man creates a melody then another man enhances it with the appropriate words which he alone creates.

Mechanic: I believe in music - the music of nature, let's say - must have been created in the same instant as nature itself - way before we came on the scene and imposed discordant propaganda on the musical idiom. The purest sounds: Wind, waves, rain ... maybe even the planets themselves, have their own special sounds. What if, Scribe, what if musical harmony is a but a response to creation?

Scribe: Then tell me, old man, who cares? After all, if there is no-one there to hear and to write about this "pure" music, what purpose does it have?

Mechanic: Ah, I see. You're assuming it was created for us. Maybe, just maybe, Scribe, nature's not relying on us to validate its existence. (Slight pause): Perhaps nature couldn't give a damn about our feeble, peremptory attempts to contain her handiwork within word boundaries. As you said, words can be written in any language, but the music won't change to accommodate that. (Pause. He nods at Musician): I hear her music and I enjoy it. Simple!

Scribe: No dialogue, no communication, Mechanic. Why, we would not be having this conversation now, if we had not been tutored in "words." (Raises his voice): It's all a matter of words, don't you see?

Mechanic: I hear you. I hear your loud words.

Scribe: You're obviously not a learned man. Writing is a commitment, you know: to document, precisely, many very important things. Alas, however, the journals I keep are not for the likes of you.

Mechanic: I, too, keep records, mental records - memories - that I imagine would challenge your ability to do them justice, Scribe.

Scribe: Oh, you fool. You tinker around and fix broken-down trash and you presume to offer me a worthy challenge. I can't imagine why I'm even bothering to have this discussion with you. Your class never wants to read or to learn. It's a waste of time. Go back to your chores, Mechanic, and leave me in peace to contemplate more important matters. (Mechanic has never stopped his tinkering.)

Scribe goes back to gazing at the ceiling, whilst Mechanic continues his labours. Musician picks up her syrinx and starts to play her melody, as before. Before long, a portly man in a black robe and a neat wig enters; he carries a huge gavel in one hand. (Obviously Magistrate) He comes to a halt a few paces inside the door, and coughs lightly, as if calling attention to his arrival. Regally pulling his robes about himself, and affecting a magisterial posture, he walks toward his place at the table. (See Stage Plan) He pauses briefly to look across at Mechanic, who has not acknowledged Magistrate's arrival. Magistrate glances across at Scribe (who, likewise, has not acknowledged his arrival. He notices the two nearby chairs; he scorns the 'ordinary' chair and chooses the 'grand' chair for himself. He sits and settles his robes around him and flicks his white neck flap as he sits down. He blows dust from the table in front of him and lays down his hand with the gavel onto the table.

Magistrate: Very nice, very nice, Musician, but that will be all for now, thank you.

(Music ceases and Musician lays her syrinx in her lap, as before.)

Mechanic: Now, why did you do that? That was lovely music, and you ordered her to stop.

Magistrate: (Looking haughtily at Mechanic): Silence, Mechanic. Go on with your work and don't question our actions. (After a pause): We need some light here. (Mechanic obliges with a single piece of candle in a candlestick.) Is that the best you can do? One miserable broken bit of candle? We demand another. (Mechanic looks worriedly at his sparse supply of candles but places another one near Magistrate. The second candle refuses to light, (This is vital at the end) so Magistrate irritably brushes off any further attempt by Mechanic, and leaves the second candle unlit.) Out of my way!

Scribe: He's an uneducated man, Magistrate. Just an untutored oaf. Don't waste your time on him.

Magistrate: (Without looking at Scribe): When we wish you to speak, we shall ask you so to do. Go back to ... (flicks his hand disinterestedly as he glances at Scribe's writing pad) whatever it is you're doing, Scribe. For the moment, we demand silence of you all, whilst we deliberate.

Magistrate leans back in his chair and crosses his arms over his abundant girth, and looks into the middle distance in front of him. His intermittent facial gestures indicate a preoccupied state.

Scribe goes back to looking at the ceiling; Mechanic goes about his chores, and Musician holds her syrinx in her lap.

Before long, the door opens and Bishop enters. Musician begins to play her syrinx softly, as before, as Bishop enters. He wears his formal ecclesiastical garments, and a pectoral cross dangles from a chain around his neck. He halts briefly near Mechanic to watch his labours, then continues on to his chair. (See stage plan).

Bishop: Blessings upon you all. (He sits down and dusts off a space on the table before him. He takes a long string of beads from an inner pocket and lays them down, reverently, on the table in front of him.) Pray tell, who is in charge of this gathering?

Magistrate: (Obviously referring to himself, and making a grand show of flicking his neck flap): We humbly present ourselves, Bishop, as the anointed in charge. We seek your special blessing in our earnest quest for truth, and for the honourable dispensation of justice. (Looks across at Musician): Please girlie, desist.

(Musician lays her syrinx down on her lap again.)

Bishop: Thank you, Magistrate. I shall most certainly pray that truth and justice reveal themselves to you. I am appointed by the Church, which is the earthly advocate for higher arbitration, and, of course, for compassion in all our earthly endeavours. (Glances briefly at the others present): Bless you, one and all.

Mechanic: (Moves across to place a single piece of candle in a candleholder in front of Bishop). We all seek blessing in our own way, Bishop, as do we all give thanks. In our own special way, that is. (Pauses to look at Magistrate): Only Truth and Justice, Magistrate? Perhaps a moment's pause for Mercy?

Scribe: Oh, silence, Mechanic. Can't you see that Magistrate is deliberating, and Bishop is blessing. Some people are totally oblivious as to when to speak and when to shut up. Such ignorance.

Magistrate: If Truth and Justice are well-served, there need be no call for Mercy.

(Musician picks up her syrinx, and plays a few soft bars of music).

Bishop: The Church offers forgiveness to all, Scribe. even in their ignorance of protocol, so find it in your heart to forgive them too. Magistrate's decisions should urge us to be more clement in our judgments. Your journals, likewise should be inspirational, spurring us on to ever more lofty ideals. Each one of us has something to contribute and maybe something to repent. (Pauses as he fiddles absently with his beads). It's the purpose behind that contribution, however, that identifies the difference between an heroic and a self-serving act.


Excerpted from ora canonica by Laurel Marena Copyright © 2011 by Laurel Marena. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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