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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"The Shadow"

Since Isaac isn't looking, I think I'll post the first (unedited, first draft) scene of the adaptation of "The Shadow" that he and I have been working on. As stated here and here, feel free to comment on the text... we're working on this play together and have decided to open up the process publicly.

Here is the first scene I posted, which, for now, comes chronologically second.

Again, a translation of the actual story is here.

Here, then, is the scene that will open the play...

(SKIRIBENT, a writer, sits in his book-strewn room. A large central window overlooks the street. It is in a city that looks vaguely European. This is the hot country. Fans are all over the room, but turn lazily, slowly and ineffectively. Odd paperweights keep the pages from flying all over the place. It is getting dark, and candles, strategically placed, adorn the room.

SKIRIBENT is accompanied by his Shadow, named SKYGGEN. SKYGGEN looks precisely like SKIRIBENT, except for his dark gray clothes.)

It’s hot. Makes you wish you could lie down in a bucket of ice water and just dream of a world without any sun at all.


It has been said that it won’t be some great cataclysm that will destroy this planet. It’s that the sun will balloon to a tremendous size and all its light will just make burnt little cinders of everything that ever was. History, art, music, human experience…all just lit up like a great series of firecrackers.


Oh well. What’s the difference, right? Because even if we’re going to die, we’re also going to live.


What are you looking at?

(He walks to SKYGGEN, who isn’t moving at all.)

I’m sorry, I thought, for a second, that you might actually say something. Can you imagine that? Spooked by my own shadow. What would my friends say back home?

(More to himself than to SKYGGEN:)

I’m sure they’d tell me to dunk my face in a barrel of ice.

(He laughs to himself.)

I must say, though, it’s nice that it’s gotten a little dark out there. Because you do love the candles don’t you? All day long, with the sun in this country, I have to try to keep in the shade, and so, lo and behold, you’re off like a thief in the day. Then hear we go, sure as you’re born, a couple of candles and I have someone to talk to besides all these books.


I do wonder what you get up to when you’re not around. But you know what, sometimes, when I go outside, I almost think I see you everywhere. Everyone here is burnt almost black by the sun. Fair skin turns tans, olive turns brown, brown looks like a walking rook. I think I’m even getting the smallest amount of color. Which I absolutely avoid. I don’t like the way it feels at all.


But that’s how it is here… everyone looks a little like a shadow, so whatever you’re off doing, I’m sure you blend in perfectly.


What are you looking at? Did I ask that already?


You can’t be looking at that music, can you? You can’t look at music, Skyggen. It is something that must be heard. If you had ears, you’d know that. You may not even hear me, for all I know. In fact, if I use my wits, I know you can’t. But I’ll go on talking to you, won’t I. That’s the way of things. I know some things, and find them preposterous. Then I act preposterously.


Over there… across the street, in that room with all those flowers. Who is playing that music? It is just as if some one was practicing a piece that he could not manage; it is always the same piece. He thinks, I suppose, that he will be able to manage it at last; but I do not think so, however long he may play it.

(He looks across at the balcony and is suddenly startled.)

Wait! Look! Did you see that?

(He falls back into his chair and calls SKYGGEN to him.)

Do you see her? My sweet Lord I have never…I didn’t expect it at all. She’s so…it is as if the light streams from her. Isn’t it? As if the flower are spraying light onto her. I didn’t think, under any circumstances, that a slender maiden could be found in this country of cobblers and cooks. Not at all. If she is the one who is tediously playing her music, I shall instantly, instantly forgive her.

(Turning to SKYGGEN.)

Would you like to be pushed up against the wall of her house, spread out on all those books?

(Looking back again.)

Now she… disappeared.


Well, perhaps she was a figment of my exhaustion.

(SKIRIBENT smiles.)

Now that, my friend, is how one becomes inspired to write poetry! Disappearing women made of light, softly framed by flowers, in the middle of a heat wave. What further inspiration is required? And doesn’t the music sound just a little more manageable now? A little more mastered by whomever fingers are strumming it?

(He moves to a few pieces of paper, and beckons SKYGGEN.)

Perfect. Come here so I can work. How can a man write without his darker half?

(He pulls out a pen and begins to work.)

Take a look at this… “A woman made of light, across the way, her balcony framed by flowers, disappeared from me tonight.” Now that is worth a bottle of red wine, I’d say.

(He turns to look at the window.)

Still, what else have I got?


Experience, beauty and a shadow. That is what it takes. So what do I lack? Oh, yes. Experience. What is it that I lack? I am lacking in so many ways, and not just because of some myth of original sin. I’m lazy and I dream and I have no…what is the word? Yes…I’m at a loss for words. Which is death for a writer, I promise you.


Sometimes I feel like all I can do is make up stories for children. Can you imagine that?


I sold one story…about a town in which all the children had their face applied with make up. Until one day, they ran out of ink and the babies had no faces at all. Until one brave girl decided that being faceless was better than having a face made of dye. They tore her apart, but she had her convictions.


You know that story, yes? Well, I sold that two years ago. And residuals are not what I’d hoped. I think it’s about quantity sometimes, but I can’t produce quantity. Because…well…I’m lazy. Aren’t I? And getting fat. I took a look at my picture from before we came to this place, and I was so thin and lovely. Now, look at my face. I thought that all this heat would sweat off my waistline, but it hasn’t worked out that way. In the least.


Why am I telling you this?

(He stands, crumpling the paper in his hand.)

I think I want you to do something for me. With me? No. For me.

(He places a candle behind him.)

I think we need you to go there…across to that balcony. To the flowers. I need to see what is there, and I think, if we’re honest, you’re the one who can get in there unannounced. Aren’t you?

(SKYGGEN smiles at him and nods.)


(He smoothes out the crumpled paper in his hand.)

Perhaps this won’t have been a pipe dream. I had a sense of… well…perhaps something good will come from all of this sun and all this flame.

(He moves a candle behind him and he faces the window.)

Are you ready?

(SKYGGEN nods and opens the window. He turns back with a wink.)

Enjoy it.

(SKYGGEN exits. SKIRIBENT waves and sits. He looks at his paper and back out the window.)

No shadow? For once in my life. It’s a lonely sort of weightless, isn’t it?

(He smiles.)

But weightless all the same.

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