By Guillermo Baldo
Translated by LuisDa Molina Rueda
Volume 9, Issue 1 (Spring 2022)
La niña que fue Cyrano (The Girl Who Was Cyrano) was the last show I watched in Córdoba, Argentina, during my research trip in 2019. That day, my seat was surrounded by children for the first time, and I could not help but tear up at the end of the play. My first thought was, why is Disney not telling this story?
Valentina travels back to her childhood to tell us about a girl who is a girl and sometimes a boy. She is sad because her best friend Mateo just moved out of town. Luckily for her, a new girl called Roxi moves in soon after. Valentina and Roxi become inseparable. They both become so close that Valentina begins to write letters to Roxi under a boy’s pen name. The exchange of letters grows as Valentina is faced with emotions she can’t quite understand: she likes wearing her brother’s clothes and she is in love with her best friend Roxi. Inspired by Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, Guillermo Baldo reworks the classic into an LGBTQIA+ love story for children and adults alike.
The play, by Argentine playwright Guillermo Baldo, told the story that every LGBTQIA+ kid would have loved to see growing up. The message behind the piece went straight where it should go. Children have the ability and the right to experience all the complexities of life, including gender and sexuality. My inner child was healing in a theatrical world that validated his right to feel different. I was so moved by the play that I stayed behind after the show to meet the original cast, Chili Peralta and Luisina Lipchak. Guillermo Baldo was not there, but they provided me his contact and I eventually asked him if I could translate the play. The rest is history.
My drive to translate this play lies at the core of Baldo’s personal motivation to write it. We both crave to heal with stories that expose children to desire outside of the heteronormative. He researched taboo topics in children’s theater and realized there was still a long way to go for children to be seen as rightful citizens who are ready to experience complexity. When adults vet topics from children, claiming “children are not ready yet” (Ferran Casas 39), they are simply manifesting their own unreadiness to cope with them. While some Argentine plays for teenage audiences such as Tengo una muñeca en el ropero by María Inés Falconi dealt with LGTQIA+ topics, he noticed there was a lack of such plays for even younger audiences. The Girl Who Was Cyrano is a very special piece of theater because it challenges the notion that theater for children is different from theater for adults. Literature for children is the place where some of the most revealing and challenging struggles are fought (Montes 17). Baldo’s story is simply giving children access to their full human complexity. Though this play may have the “for children” label, I believe that Baldo did not quite write a piece for children. He wrote a play for all audiences that has the power to heal the heterosexist wound in adults and prevent it on children.
Baldo’s work “for children” is both thematically and stylistically complex. While the play incorporates some traditional children’s theater elements such as repetition, it also offers a rich world of images and compelling poetry in a theater genre that is usually dictated to be oversimplified (Goldberg 122). As I translated the play, he cautioned me to beware of the stereotypes and limitations that are often associated with theater for children: “Careful with folks’ biases on children’s theater. I also fell into that trap for a while. No, you need to simplify this. No, that’s too much text. At the end of the day, it is important to give in to our writer’s intuition. Everything else will just come into place naturally.” Though I tried to give in to my writer’s intuition, I ran into several challenges as a translator.
First, I had to draw a line between my translation and the world created in the original production. Early versions of my translation included the song Roxi sings in the Argentine staging. Guillermo Baldo chose Esta noche no tengo miedo (I am not afraid tonight) by trans singer Susy Shock. The song is part of her queer lullabies album, Canciones de Cuna para Niñxs Diversxs. Though the emancipatory power of the song was important to me and I wanted it to be in the English version, the song was not an actual part of the original dramatic text. It was a directorial choice. In short, I had to somewhat unlearn the original production.
The second challenge I ran into had to do with the frequent use of ellipses throughout the text. I had a reading with English-speaking actors and they suggested that I get rid of the ellipses. They read them as pauses and they found them jarring. As soon as this happened, I asked Baldo why he decided to incorporate such a large amount of ellipses. His answer was fascinating to me. The ellipsis was not meant to be a pause or a search for a word, but rather a hole for actors to explore in their performance. While a comma dictates a pause, an ellipsis is polyvalent and can be acted in several different ways. He researched oral narration and learned that “we are what we can narrate about ourselves.” Oral narrations about ourselves have holes. Ellipses helped him inscribe that “broken orality” to the text. Since the play speaks about the rebuilding and movability of identity, I found these holes to be a fascinating poetic layer. The literary sensibility of his choice encouraged me to keep the ellipses in my translation.
Once I managed the ellipses, I was also challenged by some of the Hispanic cultural elements that had no direct equivalence in the English-speaking world. The plaza, for instance,is a very important locale for Valentina, with no direct translation. A plaza is not a square nor what we understand to be a plaza in the United States. Rather, a plaza is a confluence of streets that serves as a marketplace or playground. Since the locale has a big role in Valentina’s memories, I decided to keep the word plaza in Valentina’s translated world.
The last and most important challenge in this translation journey had to do with my ability to engage in directorial interpretation. My process involved working with actors to film a semi-staged translation lab. The goal was to receive feedback from audiences and see what their thoughts were on the translation. The questions asked were on point. Why did I not keep the line “Valentía, Valentina” in Spanish or the concept of merienda? Why could I not honor the Hispanic heritage of the play by keeping a few words in Spanish? After all, there is a large population of bilingual Latinx speakers in the United States. While I agreed directors should beware of whitewashing, particularly in a US context, I thought it was not my place to engage in such directorial choices as a translator. Since casting is a whole other beast, my text is simply meant to be a bridge translation for a monolingual audience, to be adapted by directors at will.
Despite my translation challenges, I am beyond thrilled this playscript is now ready to reach theater-makers and audiences in the United States. Baldo’s work was an exercise of faith that there would be schools in Argentina that would want to take in his play. It was an exercise of faith that, if schools did not take it in, the play could still be produced extensively in the Argentine independent theater circuit. The fact that the play is reaching other countries today is heartening. Nikolina Židek’s translation into Croatian opened in Zagreb and Rijeka last fall, directed by Guillermo Baldo. As of today, someone is translating the play into French and another English translation by Sebastián Gutiérrez is on its way. The girl who was Cyrano has only begun her journey outside of Argentina. I hope this transforming piece of theater reaches the hearts of thousands in the United States and becomes a point of reference for LGBTQIA+ representation in children’s theater internationally.
Casas, Ferrán. “Infancia y Representaciones Sociales.” Política y Sociedad, vol. 43, June 2006.
Goldberg, Moses. Children’s Theatre; a Philosophy and a Method. Prentice-Hall, 1974.
Montes, Graciela. El Corral De La Infancia. Secretaría de Educación Pública, 2002.
*Special thanks to Guillermo Baldo, Baltasar Fra-Molinero, Sofie Brown, Olivia Dimond, Patrick Reilly, Johnny Esposito, Shelby Armor, Miguel Pacheco, Stine Carroll, Lila Patinkin, Sukanya Shukla, Alison Greene, Katie Abramowitz, Perla Figuereo, Michael Reidy, Kati Vecsey, and Justin Moriarty for your material and moral support throughout this process.
Guillermo Baldo (Córdoba, Argentina) – Director, playwright, actor, and teacher. Artistic Director of La Mucca Teatro (Argentina). He holds a BA in Theater from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (UNC, Argentina) and has directed for well-known theaters such as the Croatian National Theater in Rijeka (Croatia), the Provincial Theater of Córdoba (Argentina), and Poco Loco Theater Company in Zagreb (Croatia). In 2015, he was awarded the “Cuarto centenario” scholarship to study theater at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico). In 2019 and 2021, he was awarded Best Direction, Best Play, Best Playscript, and Best Play for Children at the Provincial Theater Awards in Córdoba, Argentina. In 2017, he was named “outstanding young man” by the Argentine Ministry of Culture. That same year, he was awarded Best Playwriting for Young Audiences for La niña que fue Cyrano at the National Theater Institute in Argentina (INT). His plays have been published by the Argentine National Theater Institute (INT), the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (UNC) and the Centro Latinoamericano de Creación e Investigación Teatral (CELCIT). He has largely researched taboo topics in theater for young audiences, with a particular focus on themes of gender and sexuality. His stage productions reach children, youth and adult audiences alike. As a director, he has worked in La madrugada en que los perros conocen a dios (2021), He nacido para verte sonreir (2021), La niña que fue Cyrano (2019), Nunca nadie murió de amor excepto alguien alguna vez (2018), Sensación Cuarteto (2017), Cerdas. La cuarta casita (2016), Mi propio jardín de flores rojas (2014), and Santo Ortega (2011). He has participated in several festivals, nationally and internationally, and continues to make theater.
LuisDa Molina Rueda (Huertas Bajas de Cabra, Córdoba, Spain) – Theater-maker, storyteller, and ga(y)zer. He began his theater journey under actress Snježana Martinović at the United World College in Mostar and holds a BA in Theater & Latin American Studies from Bates College. LuisDa has been a UWC Spain Scholar at the United World College in Mostar (2014-2016) and a Davis Scholar at Bates College (2016-2021). In 2019, he directed Lauren’s Call by Paloma Pedrero and was awarded a Phillips Student Fellowship to research LGBTQIA+ theater in Argentina for three months. That same year, he studied at the Trinity/LaMama Performing Arts Program in New York City and worked as a Dramaturgy Intern at Tectonic Theater Project. In 2020, he began developing Proyecto Machos, a documentary theater project about a gay crime of passion near his hometown in Spain. In 2021, he received a Drake Bradley Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for his research and translation work on La niña que fue Cyrano by Guillermo Baldo. Find out what he is up to at luisdamolinarueda.myportfolio.com or luisdamolinarueda.com
THE GIRL WHO WAS CYRANO
Written by Guillermo Baldo
Translated by LuisDa Molina Rueda
Different-sized cardboard boxes piled up. Valentina walks around them. She takes some boxes and leaves others. It is moving day. All moving days look alike.
Valentina is moving and she doesn’t know where to start.
The boxes are now little houses.
Valentina, who is not a kid anymore, looks at the little neighborhood and recognizes the voice singing.
Valentina realizes it is Roxi, and the two of them smile at each other.
VALENTINA: There are places from my childhood that I always carry with me. I close my eyes and I see them. They remind me where I come from, and they show me who I am. My name is Valentina, and these are the streets I grew up on. Every once in a while, I visit them… I walk them… I look at them from afar… up close… and it doesn’t matter how long… or how much things change… some things, the ones that really matter, never change… they stay the same way we remember them. We might not even realize it… but they stay with us forever… time may pass… and years may go by… and things may be left behind… and places may change… and though no one else may see them… these streets will always live within me.
That one over there (lights come on inside one of the little houses)is the house where I used to live… with my dad, my mom, and my two brothers.
That house there (lights come on inside another little house) is where Doña Máxima used to live… She was an old lady who was always lonely, and she never, ever, ever left her house. At school, they said that she was half… half a witch… I don’t know… I don’t think so… I think she was just sad… and lonely.
There, that house there, that is the house where my best friend Mateo used to live. (Lights come on inside Mateo’s little house.) We spent every afternoon together. I had no other friends; Mateo was my only one. The only one I cared about. He used to wear a cap all the time, a blue baseball cap. It was always the same cap, and he would never take it off. Every afternoon, we would have an afternoon snackat his house or my house (lights come on inside Valentina’s little family house) or we would skip snack time altogether and spend all afternoon playing outside in the streets (lights come on in all the little streets), on the sidewalk, at the plaza (lights come on at the little plaza), at school (lights come on in a little school), on the soccer field, at the sports center, in the whole neighborhood (lights come on in the entire little neighborhood) …Time stopped when I played with Mateo… The entire neighborhood lit up and days blended together.
One afternoon, Mateo rang the doorbell… Bike in hand, I opened the door ready to go on one of our afternoon adventures… Mateo was pale, his hands were shaking, and he was looking down… his eyes were full… full of tears… I had never seen Mateo cry. What do you do when someone cries?… What do you do when Mateo cries?… I left the bike leaning against the wall… “What’s wrong, Mateo?” Without looking up… he said… “We’re moving…” Mateo’s dad got a new job… far… so far away that there’d be no more bike rides (lights go out all over the little streets) … no more afternoons playing outside at the plaza (lights go out at the little plaza) … or the sidewalk (the lights go out inside four of the little houses) … no more afternoon snacks at my house (lights go out inside Valentina’s little house) or Mateo’s (lights go out inside Mateo’s little house)… no more anything… Mateo was leaving… and I was never going to see him again.
Valentina in the dark.
I saw the movers truck drive down the main street… the same street that we used to bike together. I felt an emptiness… a darkness… I didn’t know what I was supposed to do without Mateo.
Lights come on inside Mateo’s house.
Valentina approaches it and carefully lifts off the roof.
The light grows increasingly stronger. Valentina becomes entirely lit.
Valentina takes Mateo’s blue cap out of the little house.
Before leaving, he gave me his cap, the one he would never take off… and along with his cap, a promise, and along with his promise, a hug… And after a long, a very long hug, he was gone…. Waking up the next morning, the neighborhood didn’t feel the same for me.
She picks up her little house and holds it, hugging it to herself.
She then places the box over her head; her head is now her own house.
VALENTINA/MOTHER: Valentina Catalina Gonzales Astudillo. What are you doing in bed again, reading that book? Can’t you see how nice it is outside? All the boys and girls are playing outside… and you just stay here like a badly watered fern. Are you really going to spend every single day of this break locked up in your room? You are so pale I can see through your skin. Valentina, please! Be a girl, be happy. Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see… What problems can you possibly have, Valentina? You don’t know what problems are. Just go out, honey. Go out and play like all the other kids do. If I could only be your age again! Do you really, do you really, do you really not have everything you need in life to be happy? Valentina, Valentina, VALENTINA! Mateo is not coming back. And if Mateo was here, he would not like to see the badly watered fern you have become.
VALENTINA: Stop calling me a fern, mom.
VALENTINA/MOTHER: Then show me that you are not a fern… Show me that you are a daisy, an orchid, a hydrangea, a tulip… Go outside, make friends. The Camisaso girls, down the street, look how sweet they are. They are always out and about…French skipping and jumping rope. They sing songs that pim pam. They always wear those beautiful flowery dresses… so clean. Why can’t you just play with them and come back home with a clean dress? That would make me so happy, Valentina… So happy. So happy.
VALENTINA: Playing with them is boring. I don’t like jumping rope, I get tangled French skipping, those flowery dresses are horrible, and I’m not a plant. I’m ME! Valentina!
VALENTINA/MOTHER: I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU WEAR, BUT GO OUT! Go out and make me happy, Valentina!
She takes the little house off of her head and puts it back in its place.
VALENTINA: And my happiness? (Pause) I go out. I sit at the plaza. I watch how the Camisaso girls French skip in their flowery dresses, starched, and very well-ironed… They run and laugh… they look at me and they laugh… I just stand there… alone… without Mateo… feeling lonely… lonely… very lonely. Suddenly, Doña Máxima’s door opens… and Doña Máxima herself comes out of her solitary confinement. The Camisaso girls stop jumping and singing. The entire neighborhood grinds to a halt. The curtains inside the houses close. Dogs begin to bark and run in circles. Doña Máxima crosses the street… The Camisaso girls scream and run away terrified, the flowers in their little dresses wilt away as they run, bumping into each other, disappearing beyond the horizon. Doña Máxima comes towards me. I stand still, pale as paper.
Valentina picks up Doña Máxima’s little house.
She places the box over her head.
Her head is now Doña Máxima’s house.
VALENTINA/DOÑA MÁXIMA: Is this spot taken? Does it bother you if I sit down here? What? What? Yes, Máxima, sit… Okay… I’ll sit down. What brainless girls, the ones in those flowery dresses, right? I’m talking about Rubén Camisaso’s girls, what stupid girls… so dumb and boring. I haven’t seen you outside for a while. I KNOW I NEVER GO OUT EITHER! BUT WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT ME, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT YOU! YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAY IF YOU DON’T WANT TO. JUST GO! GO! GO! I’VE BEEN IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD AND IN THIS WORLD WAY LONGER THAN YOU HAVE BEEN! Oh… Oh… Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry… don’t leave… sorry. It’s been so long since I’ve talked to someone that I can barely remember how to do it. I don’t know what to say, what not to say, how to say it, the tone… sorry… I just saw you were out here, without your friend… and well… I know what it feels like to be alone… to see someone leave… I didn’t want to yell at you … but I don’t want to talk about myself… there are things I don’t want to remember … and if you want, we don’t have to talk about you either … if you want, we can just not talk.
Do you like to read?… Yes? Do you? Oh… That’s wonderful… I don’t. I hate reading. I HATE BOOKS! THEY ARE BORING! THEY PUT ME TO SLEEP! THEY ARE LONG, HEAVY, UNREAL, AND THEY DON’T MAKE ANY SOUNDS! I HATE THEM! Oh! Sorry… sorry… sorry… I am doing it again. Máxima, behave, be nice, talk about something nice, she is scared, people don’t like talking to people who don’t like things. There is a book I like. That I really like. Very much. It is called… it is called … it is called … (Takes a book out) It is called CYRANO DE BERGERAC.
She opens the book, and a little paper Cyrano pops up.
Little characters, settings, and objects will come to life as the story unfolds.
VALENTINA/DOÑA MÁXIMA: To tell this story, we will have to travel to a distant place… No, further. Much further. Much, much, much further. Oh, no. That is way too far. There we go, yes, that is far enough. This is a story about loving and not being loved in return… The lover is Cyrano, an intelligent and sensitive poet. And the one he loves is Roxanne. Cyrano has a huge nose. Incredibly big. Bigger. Much bigger. Ridiculously big… oh… no… that’s too big… There we go, that is big enough. Cyrano suffers thinking that Roxanne will never notice him with that sweet potato growing between his eyes… A sweet potato is like a potato… but sweet, and it grows in the ground… Bah! Nah! But that is another story!… One day, he finds the courage to confess his love for her… but before he can say anything…
ROXANNE: Dearest Cyrano! What a pleasure to see you! I have something to tell you.
CYRANO: Beautiful Roxanne! What a coincidence! I have something to tell you too.
ROXANNE: But I need your help… I… I… I… Oh! I love someone.
CYRANO: Oh! Roxane! How wonderful! I never imagined it would happen this way…
ROXANNE:Oh, yes… he is a very nice boy, he is … beautiful!
CYRANO: Well… To each their own… Oh, Roxanne!… Don’t say another word! I also love someone. And her name is… her name is … her name is… is… is… Rrrrrr… Rrrrrrrrr… Rrrrrrrrrrr… Oh! I cannot say it. Why don’t you tell me first? It would help me take courage.
ROXANNE: The name of my beloved … who keeps me awake for hours on end… that gentleman of incomparable beauty… his name is… his name is… Christian de Neuvillette! (Silence) Who is the owner of your heart?
CYRANO (Pale): No… nobody… it doesn’t matter…
VALENTINA/DOÑA MÁXIMA: Cyrano, thinking that his love would never be returned, pretends to be Christian and writes love letters to Roxanne. Cyrano prefers to love her in that way … over not being able to love her at all… Roxanne, reading the wonderful letters that Cyrano writes, falls deeper in love with Christian every day… she doesn’t know it is all a lie… until one afternoon…
Valentina picks up her little house and places the box over her head.
Her head is her own house again.
VALENTINA/MOTHER: VALENTINA, LUNCH IS READY! VALENTINA! What are you still doing outside? A new family just moved into the neighborhood. They are really nice. And they have a daughter, your age, her name is Roxi… and she is nice… very nice… so nice. I invited them over for lunch … they are here now. Come on, Valentina, brush your hair, put on a dress and come play with her, Valentina. Be happy! Come on! Come on! Come on!
She takes her little house off of her head.
VALENTINA: My mom wouldn’t let me hear the end of the story. I don’t know what happened to Cyrano… I don’t know… But that doesn’t matter… what matters… what really matters … is what happened when I met my new neighbor …
ROXI: Hi, I’m Roxi…
VALENTINA: Hello… I’m Valentina.
ROXI: Do you want to play with me?
VALENTINA: What do you want to play?
ROXI: Do you want to play ball?
BOTH: We became best friends in no time.
ROXI: We liked the same things, we were in the same grade, we always completed each other’s sentences and…
BOTH: We used to laugh a lot, a whole lot!
VALENTINA: It’s not that I forgot about Mateo… it’s not that… But since Roxi moved into the neighborhood, I felt a little less sad every day …
One afternoon… and what happened that afternoon is very important… I was at home…
ROXI: It was raining hard that afternoon…
VALENTINA: No… that was not the afternoon it rained… that comes later.
ROXI: Okay… so it didn’t rain much that afternoon…
VALENTINA: It’s not that it didn’t rain much… it just plain didn’t rain.
ROXI: Okay, so it didn’t rain at all that afternoon.
VALENTINA: If it didn’t rain, we don’t need to clarify that it didn’t, Roxi… Just let me get on with the story, these are my memories and I remember them very well… Some afternoons, when my mom was not at home and there was no one watching, I liked to put on my brother’s clothes… It was all boy’s clothing, it was more comfortable, and I liked it. I would also wear Mateo’s cap… it was my treasure. One of those afternoons, when I was home alone and dressed the way I liked to be dressed, Roxi came in… without knocking…
ROXI: Hello. Is Valentina here?
VALENTINA: Eh… No, she is not…
ROXI: And who are you?
VALENTINA: I am…
ROXI: Are you…? Are you her brother? Her cousin?
VALENTINA: Yeah… her cousin. I am her cousin. I am Valentina’s cousin.
ROXI: Roxi, nice to meet you …
VALENTINA: Christian, nice to meet you too…
ROXI: Okay, could you let her know that I’ll be playing outside?
VALENTINA: Yeah, I’ll let her know.
Valentina bursts out in laughter.
I ran to the plaza to find Roxi… But before I could say anything…
ROXI: Valentina!… Valentina!… Valentina!… I was looking for you …
VALENTINA: I was looking for you, too!
ROXI: I have something to tell you.
VALENTINA: I have something to…
ROXI: But I need your help… I… I…
VALENTINA: What is it, Roxi?
ROXI: I … I… I… I love someone.
They both laugh.
ROXI: Yes… I love the person I just met… at your house.
ROXI: But that person doesn’t know it… He doesn’t know yet… but he will know soon… He is… so beautiful…
VALENTINA: Wait, Roxi! What I really … (To herself) Let’s see… let’s see… lying is wrong… and… well… (To Roxi) What’s his name?… Eh… Roxi, I…
ROXI: The name of my beloved, who keeps me awake for hours on end… Who I have just met, but I feel like I have always known… his name is… his name is… his name is Christian, your cousin!… (Pause) What about you? What did you have to tell me?
VALENTINA (Pale): No… nothing… It doesn’t matter…
ROXI: I wrote him a letter; can you give it to him?
VALENTINA: Roxi… I… I… I can’t give him that letter.
ROXI: Why, Valentina? Why? Did he say something to you? He doesn’t like me, right? That’s it, right? He doesn’t like me, and you don’t know how to tell me. He doesn’t like me, and he laughed at my… my hair… my glasses… my name… He doesn’t like me, and life is horrible. He doesn’t like me, and he said that he had never seen such a disgusting girl, with such a common name, so boring and so lame… He doesn’t like me, and he’d rather step on shattered glass than be around me. He’d rather eat rotten lemons than talk to me again. Why did I think your cousin would notice me, Valentina? I’m so stupid… stupid… stupid… stupid… stupid…
VALENTINA: No… no… that’s not it… He said that… that… that… that you are very pretty … and that… that… that… yes, that… you are beautiful… and that… you have a beautiful name… and that … it was nice to meet you… and he told me to say hi… he waved like this. I couldn’t tell her the truth. I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. So, I agreed to give him the letter… (Clarifying) I agreed to give myself the letter… (Clarifying) I agreed to Roxi giving me the letter so that I could then give it to Christian, who is actually me… but Roxi couldn’t find out… she would never forgive me.
Valentina opens the letter.
ROXI: (Reading) “Hello Christian. We just met. I am Roxi. Your eyes remind me of all the things I like. It is like I have always known you… (Valentina continues reading to herself) Do you want to get some chocolate milk one day? XOXO. Roxi.”
VALENTINA: I don’t know what happened to me when I read Roxi’s letter… I didn’t see things the same way anymore… it was like one of those actual rainy afternoons… you look out the window…and the street, full of water, feels like this river running inside of you. That’s how I felt… completely flooded, little rivers racing through me.
That same afternoon, I wrote her a letter, I signed it as Christian, I gave it to her… and we went for a bike ride.
ROXI: We rode side by side; we lifted our feet off the pedals and the bikes zoomed downhill by themselves…
BOTH: As if we were flying.
As they tour the neighborhood, Roxi sings, and Valentina rearranges the little cardboard houses to build a small shelter.
They both come inside the shelter.
ROXI: What about that house, who lives there?
VALENTINA: That’s where my friend Mateo used to live… I don’t know who lives there now.
ROXI: Okay, Valentina … Mateo… Do you… Do you like him.
ROXI: You don’t like him? Really?
VALENTINA: Ew, no… Disgusting, Roxi …
ROXI: Come on, you can tell me…
VALENTINA: I don’t know… what do I know… I never liked anyone… How do I know if I like someone?
ROXI: I don’t know… My mom says that when you like someone it’s like if there was something was racing inside of you. Your hands sweat, you laugh for no reason, and you feel like you want to spend the rest of your life riding a bike with that person.
VALENTINA: No, I don’t like Mateo … The next day Roxi gives me another letter … I mean, she gives it to Christian… This time it was a poem.
ROXI: “Where were you?” demands my exasperated mother.
And your cheeks, why I’ve never seen them that rosy color!
You’re late and why do you have that smile on your face?
You go out walking and now you’re off in space?
Chasing after butterflies, no doubt. “No, you’re lying,” I call out.
If only I could have said what you are because of you my love, I’ve found a star.
VALENTINA: How do I explain what happened next? I didn’t understand what was happening to me… but it was as if the letters wrote themselves.
ROXI: We kept on writing to each other. A lot. A lot, a lot, a whole lot of letters.
VALENTINA: I couldn’t tell her the truth… What if she got mad? What if she didn’t talk to me ever again?… She was my only friend …
ROXI: We wrote letters to each other for about three months… every single day.
Valentina picks up her little elementary school and places it over her head.
Her head is now a little school.
VALENTINA/TEACHER NORMA (A school bell rings): Tomorrow everyone needs to bring their signed parent notebooks. Marquitos, take your finger out of your nose. STOP RUNNING! And remind your parents to pay your fees, some of them haven’t paid yet… Go! Go! You can go now. Just stop running! Have a nice day. Not you, Valentina. You stay here. I want to talk to you. Marquitos, get your finger out of your nose, please, and shut the door when you leave! (Pause) Look, Valentina… You know that I love you very much…. you are a great student… the only one in this grade that actually knows how to read but I feel like something’s going on… your head was in the clouds all week… I don’t know where you were… or who you were with… but you were definitely not here with me, Teacher Norma. What do you have in there? What are those drawings? What is that?… Ah… I see… say no more. I got it… you like a boy here. Say no more… I am very intuitive. Teacher’s intuition. You like Oscarcito Ludueña … I knew you all girls like Oscarcito Ludueña from the first day of school. Very tight gel hairstyle, subtle freckles on the face, always riding his bike… with a different girl every time. Well, you should know Ludueña has serious behavior problems… his mother told me that he sleep-walks and pees in the hallway… you should know Oscarcito does that kind of thing…Is it him? Is it Oscarcito? Is it?… Okay! I guess not… Lucianito Femopase? Marquitos Matuso? Damiancito Contreras? Marianito Camisaso?Okay… say no more… I got it. You don’t want to talk, but let me tell you something, Valentina… and listen to me well… if you like someone… if you really like someone… letters are cute… the little drawings and the hearts are cute… but don’t be like me… if you really like someone… you have to go… take courage… and GO… tell them. This world is for the brave, Valentina… for the valiant. If you don’t tell them, that will just stay here inside of you… and you will become… the grumpy Math teacher you never wanted to be. Be valiant, Valentina, like your name. Be valiant.
VALENTINA: Be valiant… Be valiant… Roxi asked to see me in her last few letters… she asked to see Christian… she asked me for it in all letters… but in this last one she insisted… she insisted a lot… She insisted so much that one dark night, cloaked in darkness, and with a little bit of something that looked like bravery… I went to her house…
Valentina dressed as Christian.
VALENTINA (Looking at the first-floor balcony above. Trying to be quiet): Ptss… Ptsss… Roxi! Roxi!… Roxi! Down here! It’s me, Christian… Hello…
ROXI: Christian, I wasn’t expecting you! What a surprise! I’ll be right down!
VALENTINA: NO! NO!
ROXI: NO! FINE, I WON’T COME DOWN!
VALENTINA: I MEAN, YES! COME DOWN!
ROXI: Okay… I am coming…
VALENTINA: NO! Don’t, please. If you come down, I’ll leave.
VALENTINA: I am just a very shy girl. I mean, BOY. Plus… I have to go already… I just came because I wanted to see you… I wanted us to see each other… I came because my hands are sweating… and something is racing inside of me, and I don’t know what it is… and… and… and it feels like I’m going to vomit… but then I don’t, and I smile every time I think of you… because this world is for the valiant … and if I don’t… that will just stay here inside of me… and I don’t want to be like Teacher Norma…
ROXI: Wait, who?
VALENTINA: It doesn’t matter… Because when… when… when… when… I want to sing… I want to sing you a song… (Takes out a little guitar and sings a little song.)
VALENTINA: Roxi likes Christian … that’s me… But really, what is it that Roxi likes? What she thinks Christian is… or the letters that I write to her? Roxi… Roxi is like Roxanne… Cyrano’s Roxanne. The Christian I made up, the Christian who lives inside of me is like… Christian. And I… I… I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This lie turned me into a Cyrano. A little 8-year-old Cyrana. A Cyrana who prefers the shadows of a lie to being rejected. A Cyrana who has no idea how the true Cyrano story ends… but that… that was something … that she was about to find out…
One afternoon… it was raining outside…
ROXI: It actually rained that afternoon…
BOTH: It rained hard…
VALENTINA: That afternoon the streets were not little rivers… they were the seas… I like the rain… but… it was different that afternoon… I felt that something wasn’t right… I felt that the worst of the storm was yet to come… From my house I see Roxi go out into the street, running, into the seas of water the streets have become… she is coming, she is coming to my house… running… almost swimming …
BOTH: Soaking wet and red-eyed, red-eyed from crying.
VALENTINA: She tells me… almost unable to speak…
ROXI: We’re moving…
VALENTINA: Time stood still… she kept talking but I couldn’t hear… Why does everything I love have to move? The storm was no longer outside… it was inside of me…
ROXI: I brought you a letter. The last letter…
VALENTINA: I couldn’t let Roxi go… I couldn’t let Roxi go without telling her that I wrote each and every single one of those letters… and I couldn’t let her go without telling her that one lie pushed me to another lie and then to another lie and another and another… And that all the lies pushed me to one truth… I didn’t lie in any single one of those letters… She needs to know… I have to tell her… Be valiant, Valentina… but I can’t… I can’t… I can’t… I can’t… I see the movers truck parked in front of her house… I can’t… I can’t… The same truck that took Mateo away… I can’t… I can’t… Be valiant, Valentina. Be valiant, Valentina … Be valiant… What is she going to think? What is she going to tell me?… I can’t. I better let her go without making her think I’m a liar… I better let her go thinking Christian is real… It’s better if she doesn’t know… so she doesn’t hate me… it’s better if she doesn’t know… I’d rather have her love me as a friend than never have her love me again… I can’t tell her… I can’t (To Roxi) Roxi… I… I … the one writing letters… it was always me …
ROXI: I always knew.
VALENTINA: The afternoon Roxi left I saw the movers’ truck drive down the main street… the same truck that had taken Mateo away…
VALENTINA/DOÑA MÁXIMA: All by yourself at the plaza again? No! Don’t say that! No one was ever born to be alone. Sadness sometimes makes us think about things that are not true. You are not alone. What? How does the Cyrano story end? I don’t know… Yes, I know I told you it’s my favorite book! But I also told you that I don’t really like books. I don’t like books because they only have one ending. A single possible ending. And I don’t like to be told how things are going to end. I prefer to imagine and write my own endings. Me… and this is something that I never told anyone… I like endings that start a new story.
VALENTINA: I never saw Roxi again… nor Mateo… nor Doña Maxima… nor the Camisaso girls …We also moved out soon after… and I never came back to walk these streets, or to see these houses… But there are things that I always carry with me… time may pass… and years may go by… and things may be left behind… and places may change… and mover trucks may take us far… and though one else may see them… there are things that will always live within me.
Lights go out all over the little neighborhood.