Backstage Writers – Think Hope Do

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Postmodern Challenges – Defining Impact

You have to touch Gilles

You have to touch Gilles to talk to him. You put your hand on his arm, your mouth right up to his ear, and you stay there. Gilles needs you close. He knows your voice, your perfume, how your hand feels. He knows if you’re the big, rough, warm hand or the cool hand with long, thin fingers, the weightless hand that feels lost when he covers it with his own. Gilles knows where you fit in, and he’s happy to single you out in this world of voices, perfumes, and hands.

You learn what it means to be observant. Gilles tells you it’s time for dinner so you walk him to the dining room. Disaster. Someone has rearranged the tables. Gilles normally sits at a rectangular table in the far left corner by the window.  There is a round table there now. You guide Gilles to the nearest rectangular place. “No,” he protests, as he feels around. “Colette puts her napkin near the bread.” He picks up the basket and waves it in the air. A chunk of baguette flies into a soup bowl. “And I drink wine. There is no wine at this place.” He pats the place where the wine pitcher should be. You think you’re saved by the arrival of a staff member, but she turns out to be insensitive to Gilles’s spatial issues. If there are enough chairs, all is well. “Sit down, Gilles,” she says, and you cringe. You know Gilles will never sit down until he’s convinced. You have only to find Colette’s napkin and put it beside the bread basket. As soon as the staff member turns her back, you snag the first mass of cloth you find, but Gilles will not be fooled. “This is not Colette’s napkin. Where’s my table?” The staff member whirls around and yells, “Sit down!” As usual, she’s new. She doesn’t know that Gilles can’t hear her well-enough to obey, let alone take offense. Meanwhile, another resident arrives and wants the staff member to get Gilles out of her way. When the staff member ignores her, she shrieks. “I can’t get to my place!” The staff member has had enough. “C’est le bordel!” she grumbles as she charges out into the hall. You’re left alone to face the angry woman, Gilles, and the steady stream of other residents who arrive and expect you to remove the mysterious round table. “That doesn’t belong here!” they shout, one after the other.

Here’s where the contact comes in. Gilles is not an unreasonable person. All you have to do is explain what’s happening, directly into his ear. You know that Gilles will sit anywhere as long as you stay close enough so he can feel you. If he hears you, he’ll listen. In the end, he doesn’t care where he sits as long as he’s got company he can talk to, someone he’s looked forward to feeling, someone whose presence fills a void of confusion. You feel the same way. On entering Gilles’s space, you block out your own. You escape, and for a few minutes, you do nothing but connect. At some point, when you have to say goodbye, you wish everyone could be like Gilles, happy to do whatever, to go wherever, just so long as you’re with him, holding on.

Category: Seniors

Tagged: , ,

One Response

  1. Marie says:

    Yes, us elderly people do not like change. Someone sat in our seat at church last Sunday. I was very disoriented the whole service. I was too close to the preacher, not close to my friends, it was horrible. Don’t move us seniors.

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If you want to mess up someone’s life, steal his post-its

Nothing is set in stone – Changes as they happen on Center Stage

-I’m not sitting here, Fran!

-Oh Tod.

-Don’t start that, Fran.

-He did say, “Center Stage.”

-Why us?

-We’re props, Tod.

-Why’d he choose us, Fran? We’re not the only Americans. We weren’t first in line. Is it my weight? Is it your-

-He looked so pleased to put us here.

-And so we’re just going to sit here ‘cause “Monsieur” looked pleased? Are you nuts, Fran?

-Oh, Tod. You wanted something contemporary… You like being on stage.

-I can’t even talk to you.

-Don’t touch them!

-There’s got to be a back door. Don’t want to step over your “Monsieur”. Why’s he standing guard like that?

-Tod, you never touch the curtains in a theatre.

-Why the hell not? Let me guess, because theatre is like life? Is that it, Fran? You don’t turn your back on anybody, and you don’t touch his curtains? You’re pathetic, Fran!

-Sit down, Tod.

-I don’t like that tone, Fran.

-What tone?

-That sweet little voice of yours! I hate it when you get all nice. I know what you’re thinking.

-If you don’t want to-

-Stop whispering, Fran!

-If you don’t want to be part of the spectacle, sit down and try to act-

-Act how?

-Now is not the time.

-Come on, Fran, how should I act?

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