Her Open Eyes

Image from rehearsed reading of Her Open Eyes at the Omnibus Theatre in London; Photo Credit: Terry Cripps, 2019

Her Open Eyes
By Raquel Diana
Translated by Sophie Stevens

Volume 8, Number 2, Fall 2020

“Once I thought I was in love | and I was dying. | Another time I thought I was dying | and I was just in love.” Raquel Diana quoted these words (in the original Spanish) from Los ojos abiertos de ella [Her Open Eyes] (2000) in our meeting in Montevideo in 2013. Diana’s work often explores the intersections between love and death in creative and unexpected ways, and this is one of the things that I find fascinating about her plays. Diana has an ability to write about people, particularly women, facing huge challenges or decisions. She places them in extremely difficult situations, often where their life is at risk, but she achieves this without ever erasing a sense of their humanity. The themes of love and death connect us as people and they enable us as an audience to recognize aspects of ourselves in the characters on stage. Diana is a brilliant storyteller; she creates dynamic dramatic narratives and some of her plays have involved creating stage versions of the work of other Uruguayan authors. She also portrays characters who share their stories with us and invite us in.

When we had this conversation, I was working on another play by Diana, Bailando sola cada noche [Dancing Alone Every Night] which I have translated into English, and I have written about the translation process in The Mercurian. Los ojos abiertos de ella shares key themes with Bailando sola cada noche: both plays portray a woman in an in-between space. In the former, the protagonist, Her, is in hospital, balancing between life and death. Through a series of encounters with the male character, Him, she must decide whether to return to her life. In the latter, the protagonist, Joyce, experiences a kind of afterlife as she waits for her corpse to be discovered. Despite the links between the two plays, which made the dramatic space created by Diana seem familiar, translating Los ojos abiertos de ella seemed like a daunting prospect (and one that I wasn’t sure I wanted to undertake). This was particularly because the play is set out on the page almost like poetry and I felt that attention to form was essential in creating this world on stage.

But Los ojos abiertos de ella was a play that I kept encountering during my ongoing research into Uruguayan theatre. It has been performed throughout Latin America and there are details of some performances at the end of the script. There have been more since, including a production in Spanish by Teatro de la Luna in Washington DC in 2018. In 2016 Los ojos abiertos de ella was selected as part of a celebration of the national playwright at the Teatro Solís in Montevideo and performed by the Comedia Nacional. This caught my attention because it was one of two plays by women included in the programme of ten plays by Uruguayan playwrights; the other was La duda en gira by Jimena Márquez. This motivated me to return to the play, analyze it in closer detail, and identify the key messages that it communicated to the audience. These messages are about women’s resilience, agency and solidarity. I decided to translate the play because I think it makes an important and relevant contribution to contemporary discussions about women’s experience and struggles for equality. As the protagonist moves between the series of encounters in the play, the shifts in behavior, negotiations, power struggles and decisions that she has to confront provoke her (and us, as the audience) to reflect on how her encounter with death might have an impact upon her life.

A constant awareness of these broader questions that the play asks us to consider underpinned my translation process and I returned to these ideas frequently when making decisions about the language in English. I hope that, in this way, the play feels contemporary and like it speaks about and into current debates whilst still capturing the sense of the in-between life and death space. One of the ways in which Diana constructs this space is by depicting it as theatrical. The opening lines tell us: “There is a stage. | A woman enters. | The woman walks.” These descriptions emphasize her situation: the woman is part of the world but she is also above it, looking down on it.  At other moments in the play, the protagonist finds herself on a very high platform: on one occasion she’s addressing a crowd of women, on another she’s confronted by a trapeze and she has to decide whether she will take the risk to reach out and grab it. She also performs as a diva who sings a version of a song by The Who, whilst the male character shifts between acting as a dance partner, police officer and a variety show host. The idea of a space between life and death as a stage is enticing; it also reminds us that it’s an imagined space, constructed to capture the way in which the protagonist performs her decision-making process.

This brings me back to the poetry of the piece which communicates the other worldliness of the play. In my translation I paid particular attention to rhythm, sounds, and repetitions across the play and I often prioritized these aspects of the language when making choices about the translation into English. I also hoped that this would enable readers and actors to identify the significance of the poetic, but without it dominating their interpretation or performance. I had opportunities to explore these qualities of the play and to refine my translation at readings with students in seminars and at the Out of the Wings monthly table read. In the table read, I cast multiple actors as a way to try to identify the transitions between the encounters in the play and to experiment with how poetry creates multi-vocality in the piece. The multi-vocal quality was an aspect of the play that we explored in the 2-day rehearsal process with actors as part of the Out of the Wings Festival of play readings. I was inspired to find that the form was not limiting but opened up possibilities for playfulness and to explore the humor of the piece. At the end of the play, there is a sense that the protagonist is back on earth: her eyes become windows, she sees people surrounding her, smiling, and she smiles back. This play is also about smiling; ultimately it tells the story of one woman’s ability to laugh in the face of death.

Performed as a rehearsed reading at Omnibus Theatre, London on 1 August 2019 as part of the Out of the Wings Festival. Actors: Jilly Bond (Her) and Richard Glaves (Him). Music by Haylin Cai. Directed by Fran Olivares. The author was present and took part in a post-show dialogue.

Dr. Sophie Stevens is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her research project investigates the work of Latin American women dramatists in order to explore links between activism, performance, digital networking and translation. She is a member of the Out of the Wings Theatre Collective and has presented English translations at the Out of the Wings Festival, New Spanish Playwriting Festival (Cervantes Theatre) and CASA Latin American Theatre Festival (Southwark Playhouse). She is the author of Uruguayan Theatre in Translation: Theory and Practice which will be published by Legenda in 2021.

Raquel Diana is an actor, dramatist, theatre director and philosophy teacher. She was a member of the Teatro Galpón company in Montevideo for twenty years and has also worked with other theatre groups and companies on over sixty productions. She has received more than forty awards and is a six-time winner of Uruguay’s National Prize for Literature. She has also received the Premio Onetti de la Intendencia de Montevideo (Prize awarded by Montevideo’s local government), Premio Florencio de la Crítica Teatral (Theatre Critics’ Award) and twice received the Premio obra de títeres para público adulto (Award for Puppet Theatre for Adults). She has also been the recipient of competitive grants from La Asociación General de Autores Del Uruguay (AGADU) (Uruguayan Author’s Association) and The Ministry of Education and Culture in Uruguay. Her plays have been performed throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States of America and have been translated into English, French, Italian and Portuguese.

Her Open Eyes

by Raquel Diana

translated by Sophie Stevens

I dedicate this play to all those people who would not allow me to die

Characters

Him

Her

Her     There is a stage.

A woman enters.

The woman walks.

Beneath her feet is a rope and a cityscape.

If only she could lift her eyes a little, she would see the sea.

But she can’t.

She’s scared of walking on the rope.

Music plays.

This music stops the woman from falling.

It sounds so distant, it’s impossible to tell where it’s coming from.

But it holds her there.

At the end of the rope there are people

looking at her

silent people.

They are waiting.

Waiting.

Why?

The woman opens her arms and, extremely moved, says: thank you.

She doesn’t know why she’s grateful.

She’s not an actress.

But she’s here

on a stage

with open arms

saying

thank you.

HIM appears.

Him    Aren’t you scared of falling? Please, hold my arm.

Her     Are you talking to me?

Him    Yes. Aren’t you scared?

Her     No.

Him    Don’t you want to hold my arm?

Her     Yes, I am scared.

Him    Why don’t you hold my arm?

Her     I can walk alone.

Silence.

They walk slowly with her holding onto his arm.

Him    You can trust me.

Her     Yes, I know. But you are so… so… so dashing.

Him    (laughing) Please! You don’t know what you’re talking about.

Her     It’s a bit old-fashioned to say dashing but it seems right for you.

Him    Probably because it’s old-fashioned.

Her     You’re so dashing it makes me nervous. Strange isn’t it? With all this going on, me getting nervous because you’re so…so…

Him    Beautiful?

Her     You’re different. What do you do?

Him    I look after you.

Her     I don’t mean right now. I mean, in life.

Him    You’re also very beautiful. Shall we sit?

A public bench, like the kind found in a public square. They sit down.

Her     It’s amazing everything you can see from up here… I used to play in that square when I was little. Nowadays, there aren’t many squares with gravel, apart from that one. I’d pick all the little stones out of my knees and just stare at the marks they left, worrying, like it was the worst thing in the world.

I used to love leaning against the statues.

Just a hug and we’d recognize each other instantly… those statues and me…

Him    You’re so beautiful. Your smile is captivating.

Her     This all seems so serious… Don’t look at me like that.

Him    Doesn’t it help?

Her     What?

Him    The way I’m looking at you, like I adore you.

Her     Once upon a time I would have given my life for a man to look at me that way

for five minutes.

Now I’m not so sure.

I find it sort of irritating.

Both of them look ahead.

Silence.

Then the sound of the sea.

Her     In this city we spend our lives forsaking the sea.

And it’s always there, every single day.

That’s the wall I was resting on just last week.

I went to look.

To look far into the distance.

These days all I can see is a wall.

But I know that just a few streets away the sea and its horizon are there.

It’s there, isn’t it?

Him    The sea?

Her     Yes.

Him    The sea isn’t really over there. But it’s lovely that you imagine it could be.

Her     You’re right.

Him    Dreaming is good for you.

Her     I’m not crazy.

There’s a brown river with pathetic little waves and we call it the sea.

It’s always there, close by.

To make us believe we could get away if we wanted to.

Do you see that rock?

My Dad used to take me there to go fishing with tackle made from an old tin.

We never caught anything.

You never see anyone catching anything from the promenade.

There are days when it feels like the whole country is at the river’s edge, waiting, with their fishing rods and their dreams.

The passers-by stop to look when someone’s line is taught but when they pull it in, nothing, just the weight, dancing around, useless at the end of the line.

Winter and summer come around again.

They say the fish went out to sea.

Things were always easier before.

To imagine it’s the sea, you have to fix your eyes on the horizon and look at the water out of the corner of your eye.

It makes it look blue… where is it?

Him    Don’t get anxious.

Her     It was there! My favourite bit of the promenade.

Him    You can’t see it anymore.

Her     The sea, the river…

She cries, he hugs her.

Her     Don’t touch me! I don’t know you… And don’t look at me like that!

Him    Like what?

Her     Why don’t you just leave? I’d like to be alone.

Him    I have to look after you, take care of you.

Her     Take care of me? What gives you the right do that?

I didn’t ask you to come here.

I didn’t ask you to look after me.

Him    Darling, darling…

Her     Don’t speak to me like that!

Him    Fine then.

Shout.

Slap.

My patience is endless.

And there’s nothing more magnificent than an angry woman.

Her legs toned by fire, her womb throbbing, powerful, as if she might suddenly give birth to thousands of creatures that will attack her enemy. Her breasts pointed like a bull’s horns, her mouth open releasing a howl that’s greater than her own body, her eyes wide, burning, blind. I like it. Go on. Go mad.

She screams.

He rushes towards her as if he’s about to embrace her.

She stops screaming.

HIM disappears.

Her     Silence.

The silence is a tablecloth the size of the world

and the woman gathers it up by the corners

folding it

until it’s nothing more than a handkerchief on her lap.

The woman presses the silence against her chest

and thinks.

She thinks about her life.

A simple life

or a complicated one

or an ordinary one

any life.

Now she thinks that an ordinary life is still something.

She also thinks about all the times she hated her own life

and now it’s there

in the palm of her hand

tiny

precious.

The woman kisses her tiny life in the palm of her hand

she wraps it up in the handkerchief of silence to keep it safe

and calm.

A dance hall.

The buzz of voices, laughter.

Him    Come on, I’ve been waiting for you. I’m always waiting for you.

Her     (above the noise) For me?

Him    I’ve been waiting for this moment since the beginning of time.

Her     Don’t be stupid. You aren’t going to win me over with old romantic lines like that.

Him    It’s the absolute truth.

Her     Why? Why have you been waiting for me?

Him    There’s no rhyme or reason.

Her     I want you to explain why.

Him    There’s nothing to explain.

Her     None of this makes any sense to me.

Him    But why does it matter?

Explanations offer comfort for a bit.

Then they fade away

disappear

and you have to go out in search of others.

It must be exhausting work.

Her     So how do you cope?

Him    I’m here and all I can think about is when you’ll kiss me.

Her     Never.

Him    You see? Never is a totally ridiculous word. What does never mean?

Her     That I hate you. That I’m not going to kiss you, even if it’s the only thing left for me to do in this life.

Him    (he bursts out laughing) You are wonderful. Shall we dance?

Her     No. I’m confused. Besides, there’s no music. Just the noise of people, people, so many people…

A delightful music plays.

Him    Come on, relax, let yourself go.

Come on.

If you dance in time with everyone else, no-one will see you.

Dance with me.

Please.

They dance.

Her     I’ve been to thousands of dances

but I could never hear the music.

I could see the bodies

faces

expressions.

I moved

I knew how to keep time

even in silence.

Sometimes I’d start to hum softly

so I didn’t feel

so alone

amongst all the people twirling around.

Him    You have an amazing body.

Her     I used to.

Him    You still do.

Her     (as if she recognizes someone amongst the crowd of people dancing) Turn this way, please. There, perfect. Will you just dance on the spot. I don’t want him to see me like this.

Him    Like what?

Her     Old.

Him    He can’t see you. You’re with me.

Her     He’s looking this way. Turn some more. Like that… Can you see him? What’s he doing?

Him    You haven’t heard from him in fifteen years. Why did he have to come today?

Her     Twenty. Twenty years.

Him    Fifteen.

Her     How would you know?

Him    Dance with me. He’s just a man.

Her     I could have danced with him for eternity.

Him    You can only do that with me.

Her     I can’t hear the music with you either.

Him    But you’re hiding from him and you’re dancing with me.

Her     You’re jealous! You’re so charming… but don’t distract me… keep still… He’s just the same… (she hides her body behind HIM). And my hips and legs are getting bigger and bigger.

Him    A voluptuous woman.

Her     A fat woman.

Him    You’ve perked up. You’re even making jokes. What else?

Her     A saggy face, dull eyes and flabby skin…

Him    You’re so exciting.

Her     He looks at me in the same old way, holds me just the same, caresses me just the same after we’ve made love.

Him    He’s become fat, bald and mean.

Her     He still loves me. I’m sure of it. He’s grown tired of running around in circles and he’s come to find me. We’re meeting by chance at a dance (moving forwards to meet her love).

Hello… What a surprise … It’s the first time I’ve come here … No, I don’t want to ask you anything … There’s no need … I don’t have anything to say to you either… Right now, I can’t think of anything except your hands… I’ve been waiting for you, that’s all… If I close my eyes, you’ll put your arms around my waist and carry me away, at last. (she closes her eyes)

We’re light, beautiful, together, free.

(HIM takes the place of her imaginary lover, the music can no longer be heard. He kisses her face)

Why did you take so long?

(HER hums the tune from the beginning)

Your chest slopes

I let myself fall softly

I trust you

love

my love.

Him    Holding you now, I could crush you like a dry leaf, just by closing my hand.

But I prefer to kiss you.

For us to dance together for eternity.

Her     Thank you (they kiss).

Him    (pulling himself away and opening his eyes) No. Not like this. You have to choose me. It’s one thing to dream of love and death. But you have to love me, awake or asleep, unconditionally. (he disappears)

The stage is empty.

Her     The roar of a crowd.

The woman is on an extremely high platform.

As far as the horizon

women with their hair loose or tied back

covered by veils, scarves 

shawls or flower garlands.

What she is about to say will be broadcast live

to the whole universe

even to those towns where there is no television

or radio

or drinking water

or food.

I have come to share with you something that I learnt in a second.

I don’t know if it’s wisdom

but I thought it was worth

stopping this second right in the middle

so that there’s time to say this:

never

ever

close your eyes.

There’s a trap behind everything

even behind every dream.

It’s not about being alert

and spoiling the earth with suspicion.

It’s the opposite.

It’s about seeing where others don’t see.

Creating the best world we can imagine

not with the smoke of our thoughts

but with the mud beneath our feet.

Dreaming with our eyes wide open.

Many women have done it

since the dawn of time.

Mad women

they called them.

They are the women who smile for no apparent reason

or get sad

or suddenly burst into song.

Just like when we sleep, our soul always keeps one eye on our children,

we must always see.

See.

See.

Once I thought I was in love

and I was dying.

Another time I thought I was dying

and I was just in love.

I don’t know how things will turn out

but let them not come to pass in the weakness of sleep

nor in the midst of pleasure

or because of someone’s arrogance

or their deceitful seduction games.

Here, the woman pauses for the applause of the millions of women listening.

Then she lets the paused second run its course.

She has to choose.

HIM is sitting behind a desk, acting almost like a police officer.

Him    Have you made up your mind?

Her     Can I have a glass of water?

Him    Not yet.

Her     Why not yet? It’s such a simple request. I keep seeing a nurse go by. I ask her for water but she walks straight on, she’s not listening. Then I realise I’m not speaking. I was just thinking: please, nurse, I want some water to drink.

Him    And?

Her     I don’t think I have anything to make my mind up about.

Him    What do you mean? Just a moment ago you thought the exact opposite.

Her     This is totally crazy. It doesn’t make any sense, whichever way you look at it. It’s completely crazy to think we could end this madness right here and now and say we’ve shared something unique, extraordinary, even spiritual. And now, that’s it, and we each go our separate ways.

Him    I’m being very patient. I’m giving you more time than you deserve (she doesn’t answer). Fine, perhaps it’s best if I go. Things always turn out the way they ought to. Good night.

Her     No. Don’t go. Please.

Him    So?

Her     I don’t want to be alone.

Him    You have your thoughts, your strange way of talking to yourself, your internal monologues performed on the great stage inside your head.

Her     Don’t mess with my head.

Him    Why don’t you decide, once and for all.

Her     There are so many things to think about.

Him    Right now?

Her     Yes.

Him    (in an aggressive manner which intensifies with every question) You don’t have time and you can’t possibly remember every single thing.

Her     Yes, I can.

Him    Can you? Tell me, what’s the best thing you’ve ever done… (she is unsure and searches for how to answer but can’t ever do it) And the worst?… When were you bravest?… And when were you a coward?… What about a time when you hurt others, in any way, with a slap, a bullet, gossip, betrayal?… Answer! (the questioning becomes increasingly hostile) When were you caring? What was the limit of your kindness? What did you sacrifice?… How often were you selfish? Were you ever generous, really generous?… Answer!

Her     I can’t. You’re pressuring me.

Him    You don’t have time! You said that you had to think about all these things. Well, go on, do it.

Her     I don’t understand what’s happening.

Him    Do you think you’ve achieved things in your life?… Important things?… Do you still have things to do? Or can you say, that’s it, you’ve done enough?… Is there something you should have done?… Should you have been a certain way?… Could you do it?

Her     (whimpering) Please be quiet, my head hurts.

Him    Think!

Her     I can’t.

Him    Weigh it all up, assess it, try it, reckon, measure the positives and negatives, calculate, evaluate, decide, judge. Think!

Her     I can’t!

Him    What was the point of everything? What was all that effort for? Tell me. Tell me!

Her     I want some water.

Him    Water! That’s all you can think of: water. You make me mad. I don’t know why I’m helping you so much. At the end of the day, who cares about your life or your water!

Her     You do.

Him    (annoyed) Fine, in a way, I do care. That’s why I’m asking you to come with me.

Her     I’m surrounded by hands, eyes, smiles, prayers, throats with lumps in them. I’m sorry. They belong to people who love me. Each one in their own way. They love me.

Him    That’s not what we’re talking about. Please focus!

Her     I don’t know what you want from me! I don’t know what’s happening. And, whatever it is, it’s like it isn’t happening to me. It’s happening on stage and I’m in the audience.

Him    (containing his anger) Think, decide. Make no mistakes. It’s quick and easy, like the blink of an eye, the touch of a light breeze (he disappears).

The stage is empty.

Her      The nurses’ coming and going has stopped.

A hole has opened in the air

the woman peers through.

She sees a ravine

and gentle green water.

She gets in

unties her hair

breathes calmly

a little air

the last little bit

and she starts to close her eyes.

Her eyelids fall very slowly

so slowly that with each millimeter

she can feel that she is just

a breath away

from something very important

greater than her being.

She’s about to slide into the soft ravine

to sigh

to shut her eyes

when she realizes that she is going to die.

HIM appears, beaming, clapping.

A show in a café concierto or a circus.

Him    (like a host) Come and see! Come and see, ladies and gentlemen! For one night only, we present, the unique, extraordinary, irreplaceable. I won’t go as far as to say the magnificent or wonderful, none of that rubbish, because we all know it’s not true. The only thing we can be sure of is that there’s none like her. A one off, like every-one.

Her     (under a light, she sings and speaks like a diva)

Welcome.

Welcome to my show.

Everyone has their moment

their moment to be a star.

Today it’s mine.

See me.

feel me

touch me

heal me.

Today there are no costumes

Shells

or armour.

It’s my time to shine.

See me

feel me

touch me

heal me.

If I have a special light

if something of me might survive

that something is here.

See me

feel me

touch me

heal me.

We all have something to give

we all deserve a place in the show

today it’s my turn

tomorrow it’s yours.

See me

feel me

touch me

heal me.

Him    (like a presenter) Thank you, darling. Justice prevails: everyone gets their little moment of glory. Sooner or later.

HIM applauds. She waves and bows.

Him    Well done, darling, on with the show. Up next, ladies and gentlemen…

Her     I don’t want to go on.

Him    You’re already here. The audience is waiting.

Her     What audience?

Him    You see, you have to go on… (pointing to the stalls) for them.

Her     You’ve been tricking me from the start.

Him    The audience doesn’t care about that. On with the next act.

Her     (she decides to change tack; she acts like a clown) Sir, sir, can you help me?

Him    I’m just talking to the audience to introduce the next act…

Her     Exactly, that’s why I want your help.

Him    Don’t interrupt me. Up next…

Her     That’s it, that’s what it’s about. I need your help with the next act.

Him    Don’t interrupt me. As I was saying, coming up next is unparalleled comedy, humor and wit…

Her     It isn’t going to be possible.

Him    Why not?

Her     Because if I’m going to do the act, I need you to play a role.

Him    Me? I can do anything but act. I’ve never had to do it or needed to. I don’t need to perform anything. I can be anything I want. No. I’d feel stupid.

Her     Will you do it just this once, please? Come on, be nice, what have you got to lose?

Him    Fine. What do I have to do?

Her     You have to play death.

Him    (laughing) Oh right!

Her     But not just any old death. It has to be my death.

Him    That’s fine. And what’s death like?

Her     I think she’s a woman.

Him    No way. I’m not camping it up for the audience.

Her     Don’t be so judgmental and make an effort. I think death is a very ugly woman. Come on, make an ugly face. (HIM pulls faces) Pretty good, something along those lines. She’s also spindly, old and stooped over. (he tries to do it) Good. Can you stoop over a bit more… Perfect. Now try to speak like you’re out of breath, whispering, like it’s difficult… (he tries) Almost… It has to be a voice that leaves you cold, so that if she whispers in a man’s ear, he’ll die of a heart attack before he even has time to turn and look her in the face… (he tries). Excellent! We can begin. Relax… Death, my dear little death! How are you?

Him    (stepping out of his role) Are you really going to speak to me like that?

Her     No, no. Just to your character. I think I have the right to speak to my own death however I like. After all, she’s my death and no-one else’s. (he tries to object but she stops him) Don’t lose focus or you’ll get out of character… Let’s go again.

Death, my dear little death! How are you?

Him    (acting) I came for you.

Her     Me?… You want me to go with you?

Him    Yes.

Her     Where to, you horrible old bag?

Him    Don’t insult me.

Her     Why not, what difference does it make? (she spits on him) Piss off.

Him    (cleaning the spit away) This has to stop.

Her     If only it could.

Him    (stops acting, aggressive) Don’t forget who I am.

Her     (angry) And who do you think you are.

Silence.

It’s not clear who has won the game.

Him    (to the audience) Ladies and Gentlemen. The next act has a profoundly dramatic quality. Something amazing: beauty and strength, sorrow and courage, despair and hope… drum roll. I present to you: The Woman.

Her     The woman

standing on a small platform on the highest post in the circus

thinks

that this isn’t the first time she’s been here.

The trapeze comes towards her.

She just has to catch it

and let the momentum take her.

She knows she doesn’t have time to be indecisive.

She recognizes this feeling.

She thinks

of the times she didn’t catch it

that she let it go.

The person pushing the trapeze is out of sight.

It just comes and goes.

Comes and goes.

This time when it comes

she’s swinging on it, killing herself laughing, her bent legs shaking.

This time

she’s hanging on with one arm, graceful, wearing a glittering dress like the star of the circus.

I want to get down, I’m tired.

She can’t rest

there’s always a trapeze

it comes and she has to act.

Sometimes a man would be on the trapeze when it came

and she would let it go.

Once I held on to an outstretched arm and a generous smile and…

Don’t let me fall, darling, my darling (she cries)

On the earth I had my children.

I forgot all about falling and vertigo

and my hand never trembled as I cared for them.

But now my soul trembles because I love them so much…

Now, they each have to face their own problems with flying and trapezes.

Where is God so I can beg him not to let them fall!

The woman stands before herself

lifts her head

dries her tears and prepares to start walking along a rope.

Drum roll.

Him    There is a stage

A woman enters.

The woman walks.

Beneath her feet is a rope and a cityscape.

If only she could lift her eyes a little, she would see the sea.

But she can’t.

She’s scared of walking on the rope.

Music plays.

This music stops the woman from falling.

It sounds so distant, it’s impossible to tell where it’s coming from.

But it holds her there.

Her     (she sings the same tune as at the beginning of the play)

Him    I could make you forget your song. After all, that’s what men do.

Her     No you couldn’t. It’s taken me my whole life to compose it. (her knees buckle slightly as if she had just been about to fall) I’m not going to go with you.

Him    You think it’s possible to make all the choices, that all it takes is a strong will and a bit of effort.

Her     And love. (she is getting weaker)

Him    Perhaps that’s what hurt you.

Her     Love?

Him    Believing that somehow you could solve everything.

Her     I’m tired. (she’s about to fall, she sings her song very faintly)

Him    (holding her, supporting her) My darling.

He gives her a long kiss. Then he lifts his head, looks at her and sings the song whilst she stays very still, as if she had died with her eyes open. Suddenly, she stretches out her arm to draw his head close to hers, she kisses him passionately and then pushes him away.

Her     I’m leaving.

Him    What?

Her     I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you here.

Him    You’ve made your choice.

Her     I’m not sure who gets to choose here.

Him    I’ll die of sorrow.

Her     No you won’t. You’re not going to die.

Him    Stay with me. (he holds her)

Her     (she frees herself, she strokes his face) I’m lucky to have found you now.

Him    Really? No-one’s ever said that to me before.

Her     Well, I had never met you before… Goodbye. It could have been lovely to be together… I’m surrounded by hands, eyes, smiles, prayers, throats with lumps in them. They belong to people who love me. Each in their own way. They love me.

Him    I’ll never stop loving you.

Her     I know.

He disappears.

Her     Nurses coming and going.

The woman has not closed her eyes.

She breathes softly.

She looks.

She looks as if she were tiny

and her head was her house

and her eyes were windows.

The people there are smiling.

A faint smile.

She smiles too.

The stage is so big.

At the end of the rope, there are people

people looking at her

silent people.

They are waiting.

Waiting.

She feels her body is insignificant

there in such a beautiful theatre.

Quickly she weaves herself a dress.

Every thread she needs has been given to her.

Some are made of love, others from suffering.

Every fold contains her light and her darkness.

She is stunning.

She walks delighted with her dress.

This courage isn’t hers

it’s from the people who’ve been waiting for her.

Her life is not insignificant

it’s an ordinary life

but that really is something.

She walks confident that she will be the most beautiful woman there.

She knows that if she looks over her shoulder

she will find Him there

always.

She’ll want to kiss him

sometimes

or spit at him and push him away.

It’s fine.

That’s the way it has to be.

The woman opens her arms and, extremely moved, says: thank you.

She doesn’t know why she’s grateful.

She’s not an actress.

But she’s here

on a stage

with open arms

saying

thank you.

END

This play received the first prize in the Literary Competition run by the Intendencia Municipal de Montevideo (Montevideo’s Municipal Government).

It was published in Issue 66 of the Mexican journal ‘Tramoya’ and by the Academia Nacional de Letras de Uruguay.

It was first performed in Lima, Peru in 2006, at Celcit in Buenos Aires in 2008 and in Mérida, Mexico in 2009.

[Translator’s addition: It was performed by the Comedia Nacional at the Teatro Solís in Montevideo in 2016]

One thought on “Her Open Eyes

  1. Pingback: Reflecting on the year, and looking ahead – Out of the Wings Festival

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