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Peer Work

Home  >  Peer Work
The Blue Deepens: The aftermath of acting in Eugene Ionesco's absurdist play, 'Rhinoceros'
By Clara Noomah
Genre: Non-fiction Level: Junior 7-9
Year: 2005 Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

Daisy: (to Berenger, who turns his back on her. He looks at himself closely in the mirror.) It is no longer possible for us to live together.

(As Berenger continues to examine himself in the mirror she goes quietly to the door, saying:)

He isn't very nice, really, he isn't very nice. (She goes out, and is seen slowly descending the stairs.)

I blink in the darkness of the stage right exit, the cool blackness such a contrast from the glaring stage lights.

Daisy has submitted to the powers of fascism. Daisy is a rhinoceros.

Suddenly, I feel very tired.

Berenger starts his monologue and I am reminded that there is still work to do. I go backstage as quickly and quietly as I can in high heels to tell my fellow cast members that it was time to get in place. There they all are, on the old three-person couch. Six on the cushions, Jazz and Sierra on the arms and Gus stretched out on the back. A huge, many-faced actor beast. They grin at me.

"Oh! A rhinoceros!" whispers Ben.

"Well of all things!" says Oshi.

I grin, too, and quote back, "Just clichés! You're talking rubbish, utter rubbish!" I sit down on the arm of the couch next to Sierra and start to tighten the pins in my hair, saying, "No, actually I believe it is stated in the hypothesis that you are all rhinoceros and it's about time to start acting like it. Get your signs and get behind your flat."

"Ah, in the hypothesis," murmurs Sam.

Everyone wriggles off of their spots on the couch and takes a rhinoceros head sign out of the pile in the corner. Sam hands me mine and tells me my hair looks good enough for the final bow. I thank him and tip-toe down the corridor to stage right.

My job is to randomly trumpet like a rhinoceros and stick the rhinoceros sign around the corner of the flat. From where I stand I can watch Berenger fight his way through fascism, conformity, Nazism, the demands of society, or Rhinoceroism, as we've summed it all up. He is shouting by now. His face is red as he paces madly around the room. I give a little rhinoceros laugh.

Berenger: Now I'll never become a rhinoceros, never, never! I've gone past changing. I want to, I really do, but I can't, I just can't. I can't stand the sight of me. I'm too ashamed! (He turns his back on the mirror.) I'm so ugly! People who try to hang onto their individuality always come to a bad end! (He suddenly snaps out of it.) Oh well, too bad! I'll take on the whole of them! I'll put up a fight against the lot of them, the whole lot of them! I'm the last man left, and I'm staying that way until the end. I'm not capitulating!

As Berenger screams the last line I know that everyone behind the flats is copying him, a defiant fist in the air, mouthing the words. I do it, too. The stage goes black and Berenger/Nathan hurries to the stage right exit. I give him a thumbs up. The audience bursts into a deafening round of applause. The lights come up and we all come onstage for the bow.

After the third encore, the crowd stops clapping and begins to leave. Backstage everyone dances and hugs and congratulates each other. Then, realizing that we still look like 1940s French people wearing makeup, we all race upstairs to change.

There is no privacy, the single dressing room consisting of a small, partially walled room with no doors. I slip some jeans on underneath my skirt, there's no time to take off my nylon pantyhose. Pants feel strange after wearing office girl skirts for so long, but my feet rejoice at being out of high heels. I trade in my frilly blouse for a sweatshirt. Taking off makeup seems like scrubbing away Daisy. I look at my pile of costumes, the person I have been for the past month is lying there in that heap. Feeling a bit lost, I gather everything up and head downstairs.

I am met by a horde of techies, parents and other theatre people spread around Pier One Theatre to strike the set. It takes two hours to clear the stage, pick up backstage and in the makeup loft. I spend my time sorting costumes and vacuuming up the mess that has been made over the past two weeks.

At around 11 p.m. the theatre is finally cleaned up, every last popcorn kernel swept up except for the pile that is always left for the mice.

I look back at it as we all troop across the street to the beach for the traditional late-night bonfire. It is such a sad feeling to know that I won't go in that dear little theatre as an actor for at least another year. But right now there is a party, so I shove my sadness into the back of my mind and enjoy this last evening as part of a close-knit ensemble.

We stay by the campfire only long enough to fill ourselves full of brownies, chips and root beer, then my friends and I walk, run and skip down the beach to the water. Even at this late hour the sun is just beginning to set. We find ourselves a nice flat sandbar and take off our shoes. I realize that I am still wearing my pantyhose underneath my jeans. Oh well, I doubt I am going to wear these things ever again. The Daisy in me protests, saying it is not a sensible thing to do and that I probably will wear them sometime. Clara overrides her, and off the shoes come. I step onto the sand and laugh as the wetness creeps between my toes.

For the next half hour or so we run barefoot, fight each other with sticks, make sand art and just goof off. After a while I just stand back and watch. Maybe I'm getting tired, or the post-show adrenaline is wearing off, or the fact that I won't see this family of mine for another year is finally sinking in.

I walk down to the water, taking my shoes with me so that no one will fill them with sand. I leave my shoes where the waves won't get them, roll up my pant as far as they'll go, and wade into the sea. It might be my weird Alaskan temperature gauge, but the water seems warm and pleasant tonight. I go as far as I can without getting my pants wet and then a look down in the water to watch my feet settle into the cool gray sand. Once my toes are settled in I look up to see the sun setting. Even though I've lived here all my life, the view never seems any less spectacular. The last fingers of the sun dance golden across the bay. Above, the sky is pastel pink, light yellow and the gentlest blue. Little purple clouds dot the sky; they are the same color as the snow-capped mountains on either side of this vista.

A thought that has been lurking in my mind for the past few hours takes advantage of my peacefulness. Who am I? I've been Daisy, a rhinoceros, a conformer. But now that those are gone, and left me feeling lost. I'm Clara, Clara Noomah, I tell myself. I draw my initials on the back of my hand with drops of seawater. But they don't seem quite right.

On an impulse I close my eyes. At this moment, the beauty of this place seems to add to my confusion. Or maybe I feel like I might cry.

It takes a couple of minutes for me to sink into my blindness. Slowly I feel my other senses sharpen and take charge. My ears pick apart the jumble of beach sounds. Loudest is the sound of my friends still fooling around on the beach. They are interrupted by the high-pitched squabble of a few seagulls as they fight over some fish scraps across the street. A car downshifts on the road as it passes. Underneath all that I hear the sound of a radio plays the blues up by a campfire. As I listen someone begins to whistle quietly along with the song.

A larger than normal swell rises up and touches my jeans. When I get home tonight I will smell my hair and clothes and remember this. The salty, smoky smell is the most wonderful scent in the world for me. I drag my fingers through the water and bring them to my lips. That bitter, salt-filled sea taste tingles on my tongue. I feel the steady, soothing lapping of the swells brushing my legs in passing. Every wave washes away another one of the layers that has gathered in the past month. Daisy, my theatre family, the theatre itself, the play Rhinoceros, leaving just me, Clara. This time the name, my name, sounds just right.

"Are you coming?" it's Oshi, she has come up right beside me and I hadn't noticed.
"We're all going back up to the campfire."

I nod my head, "I'll come, give me a moment."

I open my eyes slowly and sigh. The sun is still taking its own sweet time to sink behind the mountains. The yellows and pinks have faded away, the blue has deepened. It does not seem confusing anymore.

She wades out of the water and starts across the sandy beach. I stumble over my shoes as I follow. I scoop them up and run a few paces to reach Oshi. The smell of the sea fades a bit as we go up the beach; it is replaced with the smell of smoke and fire and over-toasted marshmallows.

I can hear my friends talking and laughing, see their silhouettes. Paul says something funny that I can't hear and everyone laughs even harder. I want to join in, tell some of my own stories, be with these incredible friends I have made this summer. They're just friends now; I'm no longer part of the actor beast. People move to make room for Oshi and me in the circle. Stepping into the light I can feel the warmth of the fire. Carefully, I sink down to my knees. The heat flows over my face, relaxing my muscles, making me smile.

 
About the Author: Clara Noomah, 14, lives in Fritz Creek and studies through the Connections home schooling program.
 

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