We had a fabulous time on Sunday, getting together with some actors and dramaturgs to read the script out loud for the first time and hear feedback. Thank you Rebecca Longworth, Justin Liszancki, Brian Trybom and Kirsten Broadbear for your lending us your time and talents for the afternoon!
Below, you'll find the first five pages of Satellites. This is from our 12th draft of the script, and may or may not bear any resemblance to what we'll see onstage at the FURY Factory in June...
IO: Fresh faced, innocent - Well at least people think she is, though she is the kind that when your father sees her, he gives a low whistle and says, “Whhooo, boy that girl is trouble.” Beautiful. Simple. Smart. At the same time a firecracker and a still-waters-run-deep kind of gal. Jupiter seduced her as a cloud.
JACK: A lost man. Who has been trying to find his way. Was a child in the 60’s, always wanted to be an astronaut, is now a father. A husband. And, he doesn’t quite know how to reconcile it all. His mother is disapproving of his life. He hasn’t seen his father in years.
GANYMEDE: Looks like he could be comfortable in a mortuary, or in a store that sells grand pianos. The butler. The man of the house. Plump or too thin or somewhere in the middle. Well spoken. Not a man’s man. Not a ladies’ man. Or maybe he is both. A mix of Philip Seymour Hoffman and David Bowie and Chet Baker. When he was just a boy, Jupiter swooped him up with eagle’s talons.
EUROPA: Icy. Prim. Proper. Thinks she has a thick skin, but everyone knows that she is deeply hurt. Has her ways. Not someone to mess with. She may be a bit crazy. Eastern European. Or German. Or South American. Or from the East Hamptons. Or a mother of German decent living somewhere in the Midwest. Somewhere with money. Or not. Has been seen wearing all black with a string of pearls. Has been called high-strung. Though she thinks of herself as practical. Has a special bond with Ganymede.
LEDA: Beautiful, in an earthier way. Regal, in that 1970’s-barefoot-sundress kind of way. She may know how to skin a rabbit. She may have a pocket-knife. She may also do needlepoint and can vegetables. She also may have read every book that ever existed. She has manners. No one really knows her. Or at least they don’t know if they really know her, because there is always something they don’t know about her.
A Note on Projecting the Past. When Jack goes back to his childhood, he should not use any voice indicating he is a child. It is as though Jack, as his adult present self, has stumbled into the reality of a memory, discovering and understanding that long-ago moment for the first time. These memories are so strong that they pull the other characters in, bending them to a new orbit and shaping them into new people for a time. Afterwards, it is hard for everyone to tell what is real, what is remembered, and what, exactly, just happened.
SCENE ONE: THROUGH THE CEILING
Darkness. Sound of wind. A beating heart.
Whirring of a record player going round and round at the end of a record.
This scene can be done in voice over. Or with all the characters on stage. Perhaps they start in the audience.
It becomes a sort of ballet. A ballet of everyday life.
IO: We are part of a vast solar system. We revolve around one bright, burning star in the center. It is one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy. No one knows how many galaxies the universe holds. No one knows how to find the center we all revolve around. Maybe there is no center. And the vastness grows every day.
PROJECTION: As Io speaks, pictures of the solar system zoom out into pictures of the Milky Way, which zoom out into a spinning, infinite universe. We are flying, catapulting through the wonders of space.
Stage lights slowly reveal Jack, lying face down on the floor.
IO: We are specks, flashes of time in a 14-billion-year-old universe. Tiny beings on a scale too large to comprehend. So we look in. We become the stars. Our world – our perception of our world – revolves around us alone. We find order where there is none. We create some semblance of understanding. Of happiness. We try.
PROJECTION: The vastness of space zooms back into the Milky Way, zooms past Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, past Jupiter and its moons, past Mars, past Earth and back around to hone in on a continent, a country, a man on a bridge over a river, in the wind. Suddenly, the camera topples and plunges underwater. All we see is water, bubbles, rocks. The light filtering through the floating dirt. The water is not calm.
JACK (VO): This is Cooper. I have lost navigation. Over.
Io spins around the room. She looks at one love letter – her favorite. She scratches at its edge, but it does not peel away. She smoothes it back down and exits. Ganymede enters, fixes a drink. As he brings it to his lips, Europa intercepts it and kisses Ganymede on the cheek, then exits. He blows her a kiss after she is gone, then drags a finger over the piano keys as he exits. Leda comes in and cleans up the cocktail mess. Two letters drifts down from the sky, or blow across the stage from the wings. Leda pastes one to the wall. The other she reads aloud, longingly as she exits. Variations of this over and over. This is their life.
LEDA: Love letters. Hidden under the bed. Lost behind the kitchen cabinets. This house was built one by one of letters of longing. It is a house of want. Of wanting what you can’t have. Of words that are larger, longer, more lasting than life. Of wanting so hard that you begin to revolve around the idea of something bigger. Something you will never be. Something made of gas and thoughts and dust and dreams and letters and prayers and hard work.
JACK (VO): Repeat, this is Cooper.
JACK: I have lost navigation. Over.
LEDA: It is the place where all the hard work that turns into nothing goes. (And builds a house, so that’s something.) The house holds all the things once loved, now lost. Once treasured, now thrown away.
IO: Sometimes the wanting is enough. The wanting starts to become the thing you wanted. Only when you go to touch it – because it looks like it is right there – you can’t quite reach.
JACK (VO): I don’t know what happened. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know the time. I would send a distress signal, but I don’t have a way to do that. I’m just… drifting.
JACK: I’m fucked. Over.
LEDA: That person you wanted to be may be a figment of your imagination, fed by a few TV shows and a book you read once in the third grade. Unattainable. It’s never enough.
JACK: I wanted to be an astronaut.
GANYMEDE: It’s never enough because, it turns out, it wasn’t fame or glory or adventure you wanted. All these years you just wanted a hug from your father. You arrive at the end of the road you have built out in front of you, to find you will never get it. What a waste. What a lot of work for something so simple. So impossible. He never knew how much you ached for that stupid hug. You couldn’t admit it to each other, because you both would have to acknowledge that you are made up of the same dust and DNA. That his blood runs through your veins. How distasteful. Can you blame him? But you don’t think of this. You just know you have to make something of yourself. Something more than what you are. Something different from him.
JACK: I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave you. Jesus, Ellen – I’m s…. It all happened so quickly. And it was exciting. There was so much to explore. I am just a man who knows a little bit about a lot of things. I don’t know how to go deeper than that.
EUROPA: What would it feel like, to walk on the moon? It would change everything. Make everything better, or at least different. Wouldn’t it? You can’t walk on the moon and wonder why you wife never kisses you like she means it. Kisses you like the lovers in the movies your parents used to watch. Kisses you like music. Like what love songs are made of.
JACK: She always thought there was something more. But there was just me. Stuck, but moving. Orbiting. I didn’t want to change. I don’t know how to change. All I know is how to keep going. Please, let it stop. I want to stop.
EUROPA: You didn’t know. Astronauts don’t spend their days conquering space, discovering unknown worlds. They fill out paperwork. They sit at desks. All that work, all those dreams…and you could have gotten a job at the DMV. In the movies, astronauts have forbidden knowledge of what it feels like to be weightless. The gravity of having a mission to accomplish. They die gloriously in fiery crashes. They get lost in space and can’t come home. Tragic. But not as tragic as living every day earth-bound, daydreaming of the great adventure just beyond your grasp. What a life: man sits in office and does research. He eats sandwiches for lunch. He goes home. His child paws at him with sticky fingers. His wife wears frumpy panties. He wishes they were lacy.
GANYMEDE: Sound familiar?
IO: Dreams are better left as dreams. They are never what you think they’ll be.
LEDA: There is always laundry to be done.
The ballet on stage slows down until the moons are all onstage together. Slowing down so that they become four people nearly frozen in time.
PROJECTION: Time-lapse camera of a storm coming and going. A dandelion losing its fluff. New York’s bustling metropolis, cars and people the size of ants, starting and stopping at traffic lights. Through this final voice-over, the projections go faster and faster, zoomed way in on the pain and hope and complexities of life. A child’s smile. An empty hospital bed. A wedding. An abandoned cardboard box in the rain. A high school prom in a gym. Pimples and deformities. Graduation. A crying baby in a high chair. A man climbing Mt. Everest. A girl learning to ride a bike. A ferris wheel. A swan, a bull, an eagle, a cloud. A bed with rumpled sheets. An egg. A field. A sandy, craggy island. A glass of wine spills and shatters.
IO: If you looked at all that wanting from a distance, all the wanting and striving and longing… up close it’s chaos, painfully disordered. But from far away... Billions of little lives orbiting around the hope of something bigger. Something brighter. Something with gravity. Gravity, the grand order. We go around and around. Wanting and hoping and waiting. Around and around and around. From far away, the tiny lonely bodies become a cluster. The clusters become a mass. And the great mass orbits around a star, which is one of hundreds of billions. Around we go. If only we could see it all. It must be beautiful.
With the shattering of the glass. Jack sits bolt upright, gasping.
The lights give us an interior. White, stark, but somehow dim, and cold. Leda, Io, Europa and Ganymede’s heads snap to Jack on the floor. They do not approach. He struggles to catch his breath. He has fallen through their ceiling.
IO: Is it… Him?
LEDA: I don’t think so, darling.
EUROPA: Of course not. This one is so…
GANYMEDE: Well, it’s been a long time.
LEDA: Do you suppose it’s a new… you know. [She does not want to say “mistress.”]
EUROPA: Just what we need.
GANYMEDE: And here, all this time, I’d been thinking He was dead.
EUROPA: Or we were dead to Him.
LEDA: (Short, urgent) Enough.
Io has crept forward to examine the intruder.
IO: I think he’s still in there.
Jack looks at her, seeing the house and its inhabitants for the first time. He shuts his eyes tight, breathing deeply.
JACK: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
IO: BLAST OFF!
Jack is propelled onto his feet by Io’s shout. He falls into Europa’s arms. Lights shift.
Home. Or a place that used to be home. A dream of home.
EUROPA: (singing) Hush little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if that mockingbird don’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring. So hush little baby, don’t you cry, ‘cause Daddy loves you and so do I --
EUROPA: What’s the matter, my sweet?
JACK: I had a bad dream.
EUROPA: I know, honey, but you’re all right now. You’re here with me.
The moment begins to break. Europa is not his mother anymore.
JACK: What do you mean, “here?” Who are you?
IO: Who are you?
JACK: Jack. Cooper.
IO: (Looking for his name in the letters on the walls.) Jack Jack Jack Jack Jack Jack Jack Jack—
EUROPA: Have you seen Him?
JACK: Sorry, who?
EUROPA: So he hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting Him. How did you get here?
JACK: I was on a bridge. I fell.
IO: He jumped.
JACK: Jumped? (Remembering) No…no, I didn’t jump!
IO: You jumped.
JACK: I fell.
IO: You jumped, Jack. You broke our ceiling. You’re bleeding on our floor.
Jack puts his hand to the back of his head. When he pulls it away, there is blood on his fingers. Io smiles.
IO: Now we have company.(She returns to the letters on the wall.) Cooper Cooper Cooper. Jack Cooper.
JACK: I fell.
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