by Theresa Madaus
Images Remembered Like A Dream
(which is to say, nothing is quite clear and I make up the bits I can't remember, with many question marks)
I remember: a figure standing over, hanging down, (the posture of exhaustion, the posture of anticipatory stretching), head on railing, face obscured by blond wig. Slowly dripping down the wall to the point where head is by feet and underwear - really pink double pink tights - are peeking out the bottom of the white dress. Heels, lipstick, a little blazer, she stands up. We are treated to a pleasantly faked "welcome ladies and gentlemen" smile. A number of facial expressions talk to us. Welcome welcome welcome. Eyebrow.
The wig comes off, but the lipstick is reapplied. Gone is the blazer. Goodbye heels, goodbye top layer of tights. A box of objects appears. Concentration as she arranges and rearranges the objects on top of the shelf where the desk lamp sits: a photo, a candle, two beer cans, an ashtray, a cigarette (half-smoked?), a mug, a bottle of liquor. The liquor is poured into the mug, the cigarette claims some interaction. Is there lipstick on the mug? On the cigarette? Did she drink or smoke either? Here the lipstick is reapplied? (In this character there is a conflict, a contradiction? Something in it belongs to the blond wig, something to the framed photo. Is there really a divide? It's the same person.)
From the back of the space, she jumps - the kind of jump you use in gym class during track for the triple jump, or the long jump. Facing the sides of the room, she leaps forward, and with every jump, a word: I. Want. To. Live. (I want to cry. The effort of the jumps is the effort of the words is the effort of living is something that resonates in something in me.)
She brought a duck out from the back room earlier, or maybe out of the box/crate of objects, and she put it in the alcove, the nook in the wall right up front by the audience. Blazer over her face, she lifts to duck to the foreground, the tape recorder reeling a narrative which the duck bobbles its talking head. "I used to live in Florida…"
We hear about the asshole nephew, the woman who gardened, the junk shop where he'd be now if a compassionate daughter/cousin grand-daughter hadn't rescued him, sentiment trumping asshole nephew. The little apartment without a stove, where you go when your mind is not deemed functional anymore. The little apartment with no stove where the woman who gardened now must live. (At what moment did I realize that the voice on the tape recorder was that of the duck, and not that of Emily Johnson? I don't know. It was a while. A surprising while. But that moment, that "Oh!" was a delightful one. I had listened, I had cared, but now I cared with focus. This duck is telling me his life story and I'd better listen.)
The duck ends up on the blazer in the middle of the floor. Emily is now carrying dirt with one hand from the hanging wall to the duck. (A garden, a shrine.) Objects from the desk-lamp-shelf migrate to the garden to surround the duck. (A shrine.) The tape recorder is still playing, clutched in Emily's other hand?
But first, before any of this happens, (because it happened across an empty floor, so it must have been first?) she comes from the back of the room again. A phrase: hopping, the leg circling around (I know this phrase: "This dance is for you") and more. We have a series of movements relentlessly coming towards us, again and again, as the sentence is relentlessly repeated like a singsong nursery rhyme: I don't want to live in the U.S.A. I don't want to live in the U.S.A.
The objects in the shrine disappear back into the crate. The duck must disappear too. Maybe it did come before the relentless sentence. I'm missing a phrase. The repetition of 15 movements (more or less): inverted elbows, wiggles, then classic-emily-moves: sweeping legs, a lunge?, some strange and beautiful autonomy of the lower half of the body.
The items are back in the crate. Is the wig back on the head? The heels return, it must be. The CD player that has been resting under the nook, playing music at various intervals, is picked up and disappears with Emily, into the audience and out onto the street.