A PLAY OF THE SENSES

In STORYTELLING by Douglas J. Penick1 Comment

This play was written to be part of the elaborate Children’s Day Celebration at Karma Dzong Buddhist Center in Boulder, Colorado on December 7, 2005. It is designed to be easily performed with a minimum of rehearsal. There are readers who perform in various configurations, movers who enact the plot and musicians who improvise. It requires no set, just a dark room.  The first performance was directed with great skill and wit by Nina Rolle. The wonderful two-dimensional puppets were designed by Mary Sweet.

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ANNOUNCER

Listen, dear children, and you will all see        (tutti whisper: listen, listen, listen)
How the world around you now comes to be.

Whether from darkness or whether from light,
Who knows, or cares, or is sure to be right?

But this we can say with all certainty:
Living begins when our senses take flight.

Life is a dance of sight, sound, smell, taste and… touch
You guessed it; I’m sure you knew just as much

So we begin in the dark of the night
And see how the world is still filled with light.

(An actor holding lanterns and another holding two eyeballs. Lantern holder swings lantern towards audience; eyes look out also at audience. Lantern moves forward.)

Lantern:  

Ooooh. A room full of children.

(eyes jump back)

Eyes:

Eeek!

Lantern:  

Don’t be too scared to take a peek.
They’re all cleaned up; their clothes are chic.

(eyes looking at lantern)

Eyes:

Oooh.
Could I see them without you?

(lantern moving towards eyes)

Lantern:

Nope. But without you there’d be no hope
Of knowing all there is to see. So I need you.

Eyes:

Then evermore I’ll stick to you like glue.

Lantern:

I bathe all space in lights of every hue: (accelerando)
White of white and blue of blue, red of red, green,
Yellow, orange too, and ultramarine.
I glow, I flicker, I blaze, I radiate
But all would be nothing were you not my mate.

Eyes:

I see and thus I move in endless worlds of light.
Ever changing in the day and night.
There are hundreds of faces in this room
There are stars outside the window and the moon.
There are shadowed mountains capped with snow,
Forests, highways, houses, pine trees in a row.

Lantern:

And beyond that, there is the universe
Made for you to see, for better or worse.
Raging oceans, sunsets, towering clouds,

Marble palaces that make rich men proud
Glittering gem stones- all are fantastic
Even small booties made of red plastic.

GONG

(ear and bell enter )

Ears: (cowboy) (DUO)

Those two sure do like to boast.

Bell- (rings again )

But really, they are deaf as posts.

(rings)

Hear, oh ear can you hear this simple sound
Which passes through dark and light to surround
All beings left solo on the earth
To lift their hearts with fellowship and mirth?

Ears:

I hear, I hear,
Within an all-surrounding pool of sound
Trembling with ripples that meet no frontier,
The resonance of space, free and unbound.

Bell:

Ringing, echoing, singing, crying out
A prayer, a poem or a warning shout, (shout: watch it; ohoh; look out)
The far off and the nearby thus can meet
To ward off desolation and defeat.

Ear: (duo)

Now we can give to things and feelings names
And shape all space according to our aims
With prayers, dreams, and songs of poignant yearning
With big brainy thoughts that bring us learning.

(Walking, mumbling ear and bell move to left enter nose and atomizer;atomizer sprays, nose turns towards it)

Atomizer:

Now, at last, we reach a sense

Nose: (Brookly accent)

Not so airy-fairy, and a lot more dense.

Atomizer:

Though some may flutter in vast gleaming heights
And others cry in the dead of the night,

Nose:

If you want to find what’s true and up close
As everyone says: You follow your nose.   (*honk)

Atomizer:

What better way to attract or repel
Than by relying on your sense of smell.

Nose:

It smells sweet and good,  or else it just stinks,*
Smells like a rose (mmmmm) or an old stopped up sink,*
A cabbage*, a new car*, or a wet cat, (meeow)
Like a hot dog, a cake or scented soap (whistle),
But if it smells good or smells like a rat,
You’re disgusted * or else you tingle with hope (bells).

Atomizer:

So what we desire and what we detest
Whether outside or at home in our nest
We follow the scent, and that’s how we know
To shout out: Oh yes, or cry out: Oh  no. (tutti)

Nose:

Smelling, it sure brings the world way up close (sniffing)
Nothing does that like the smell in your nose
When Your Nose abuts The Butt of a goat,  (slow)
The world’s not abstract and not so remote. *

Atomizer and Nose:

When you smell that aroma, you’ll have no doubt;
You’ll take the advice of your trusty snout. (duo)

PEEE EWWWW (tutti)

(Atomizer and Nose move to left; Mouth and Bowl of Fruit enter)

Mouth and Fruit:

Those are two senses we’re glad to follow:
They lead us to taste, bite, chew and swallow.
The taste and what’s tasted, there is no split:
Together we’re peachy; separate a pit.
The pleasures of our tastes, gross and refined
Are all mooshed up and all intertwined.

(They do the bunny hop, back and forth)

Yum Yum Yummy  goody good  good (short)
Yum Yum Yummy  goody good  good

Fruit:

I’m sweet, I’m sour, I’m tangy and I’m hot
I’m cold, I’m rich: Oh can I hit the spot,
But though I’m almost bursting with delight
If you’re not with me, things are just not right.

Mouth:

When we’re separate I feel so empty,
I want everything to fill or tempt me.
I’d taste and eat and swell like a balloon
And float to heaven on a harvest moon.

Fruit:

In being tasted, all my qualities take root:
Only on your wet tongue am I a fruit.

Mouth:

Oh, fuel of desire!

Fruit:

Oh, all consuming fire!

(again they do the bunny hop, back and forth)

Both:

Yum Yum Yummy  goody good  good
Yum Yum Yummy  goody good  good

(thus exit pushed by hand and then flower whoenter)

Hand:

Get a grip!

Flower:

Ah, finally saved from futile craving,
Spying, flying, lost and madly raving;
Thus like a bird who finds at last a perch,
I’ve found the object of my groundless search.

Hand:

Yes, here within the touch of my strong hand
Stability, warmth, happiness will stand
A chance of ending our unceasing change,
And make a world that none can disarrange.

Flower:

(coos and giggles with Hand)

Hand:

Stroking, or poking or squeezing as must
I’ll cling to you idly, or grasp with lust,
Or grip with anger so that time will cease
And every moment will bring an increase
Of worlds that will always belong to us:
That’s it, no questions; no fuss and no muss. (exit)

Announcer:

Now dear children, that was not very weird
The play of the senses need not be feared
As they come together in open space
To make up the world of the whole human race.

When they come together, each in its place
The senses all fit when your hand meets your face.

(Senses come together to  form a face, hand brings flower up to nose)

(Eyes nose, mouth, ears, come together to make a huge face looking at the audience.  As flower comes to nose, the chorus begins to chant an oncoming sneeze)

AH … AH … AH …
CHOOOOOOOO.

(At this sneeze, a performer hidden behind the nose activates a spray can of paper streamers or, if necessary, shaving cream, which shoots out at the audience.)

Now let’s praise the joys of sight, touch and smell;
Hearing and tasting will join in as well.

They swirl and dance taking infinite forms
As goddesses, starlight. and thunderstorms.
They rise on breezes; they descend on smoke
They live in moment and leap in a stroke.

So children, children if you would be wise
Let’s call the dralas from mountains and skies
And raise great delight in warrior cries.

KI KI SO SO
KI KI SO SO

About the Author
Douglas J. Penick

Douglas J. Penick

Douglas Penick utilizes historical research with a solid understanding of Chinese culture and Buddhism to make stories accessible, beautiful and enlightening. In his words, "I contribute to the mischief, longing, satisfaction, lust, sorrow and fascination which make our presence in this world a discovery of true love." The Website of Douglas. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author.

Feature image from SISYPHUS and photos of exhibition poster and exhibit of puppets all by STEFAN FICHERT and SUSANNE FORSTER, renowned for their performances and teaching throughout the EU and particularly in Germany and England as THE PUPPET PLAYERS..

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