I know it sounds presumptuous to begin a series with the implication that the author already deserves to be thanked, but believe me, you will agree, and secondly, due to Swap, my understanding of the nature of space and time have been warped beyond recognition. I’ve spent a fair amount of time around general relativity, but nothing has challenged my notions of what constitutes causality, narrative, culturally acceptable word-choice, set design, and perception of the flow of time more than this play. What is this monolithic triumph of art, you ask? A script I found in the trash.
The year was 2010, the place was the backyard of my friend Jerry, who was holding a going-away party. A few people had recently moved out of the apartment building, and there was a pile of furniture and discarded apartment things that had been left behind. While waiting for our grilled meats we opened a box, and were suddenly transfixed by the light of a thousand suns, a fanfare of angels pouring forth from within, and this script. On first glance, several things were apparent— firstly, that most of it was written in an intensely, um, “urban” linguistic style—and always phonetically. Secondly, that one of the main characters was a Panda. Thirdly, that most of the stage directions made no sense or were totally impossible.
The story itself involves a group of Chinese-American teenagers, who talk like rappers, traveling back in time to ancient China, coming back, some kind of epic fight scene featuring events that are not possible to depict in real life, and a Panda, who behaves like a person but never speaks. To be honest, I’ve read it at least twice but I really have no idea what happens or who anyone is. Sort of like Inception, but with more pandas.
As a send-off to my friend, we actually performed the final scene from the play for him, to his bewilderment, and this past New Year’s we got to talking about it, and actually ended up table-reading the entire thing. It was an excellent way to ring in the new year.
I still have no idea who Kevin Chang is, and since that’s a really common name, I probably never will. It says “ACA Play 2006” and “1/30/2006” on the top, and ACA stands for “Asian Cultural Association” which is a student group at RISD. But since it features stuff like swearing getting bleeped out, a fight where “hit point counters appear” like a video game, and characters passing through a mirror…I honestly don’t know whether this was ever intended to be performed as a play.
With no further ado, Scene 1: Lon and the Old Man
by Kevin Chang
Scene 1 – Lon and the old man
Scene: Under the dark blue sky, the alley is casted by dim post lights just like the other districts of the town. At the side of the alley sits a young Chinese teenager, Lon. His two gangsta buddies, Ping and Pong, are sitting on each of their own box chair and having fun chatting with each other. Lon’s distance between the two is somehow awkward.
Lon: Damn! I’m out… Ey Ping.
Lon: You got some stocks? Luck out. I’m out of shells.
Pong: Sorry dawg, I’m out too.
Lon: Miss me wit all dat. We’re in college, boys! Who else ain’t smokin’?!
Pong: Lon. Straight up I ain’t got any deal with my peeps anymore. I beat fo tha yolk everyday. Why don’t you go look for a new dealer on your own?
Ping: Yeah… go look for a new dealer on your own!
Lon: Aight, aight. It’s all cool in tha hood. I got friends yo know that? Benjamins follow me everywhere I go. I’ll get a new bill collecta in no time, you see.
Ping: Dat’s tight!
Pong: You ain’t need to mention that. You know you sumthin’? I wouldn’t talk like that if I had done nuthin’.
Ping: Dat’s true, too.
Lon: Nuthin’? Don’t call me nuthin’ until you hear this bomb.
(throws a tape to Pong)
Pong: You made a new tape again? You neva give up don’t ya…(puts the tape into the tape recorder and starts listening to it on one earphone and Ping listens on the other earphone)
Ping and Pong starts shaking their bodies in rhythm
Pong: Yo! This is the same (beep) we heard from last week! Don’t tra da trick me. Only idiots won’t notice this.
Ping: Eyyyy Loooon! I’m hearing sumthin’ different from ya now!
Lon: Ya heard dat? Trust me Pong. It’s the people out there that ain’t listenin’ I got skills, I got talents. I ain’t like those scrubs out there.
Pong: Yea? You never write music nor do anythin’, just rambling out some words and (beep).
Lon: I’m the proof yo. Genius ain’t need to be measured bro. Look how much Ping’s being hooked to it.
Ping: (falls asleep with his earphone still on) Zzzzzz…..
Pong: (shakes his head and looks at his watch) Aaa…! It’s almost time for the show! We gotta bounce! Yo Ping! (louder) Ping!
Ping: (wakes up and takes off his earphone) Yea… what?
Pong: You freakin’ fool! The live’s almost startin’! It ain’t time to sleep! (shows him his watch)
Ping: Right… the live (pause) …the live? (looks at the watch) When did it became this late?!
Lon: Ey you guyz need some ride? My beemer says holla atcha ya! Let’s go for the ride to the live baby!
Pong: We gotta run Ping! We’re outta time!
Ping: Wait… wait for me bro!
Ping drops the tape recorder onto the floor. Ping and Pong leaves the stage. Lon lets out a big sigh. Meanwhile, an old man with ragged-clothes emerges from the dark.
Old Man: Aiya! A tape recorder! (picks up the tape recorder from the ground) Well, well… it seems to be still in good condition… ey? (to the tape recorder) Did you just talked to me? Oh you want to come to my place and be one of my collections? Sure, sure! You should be one of old grandpa’s old relic collections. Eeeheeheehee.
Lon: (notices the old man) Ey grandpa. Scram outta here. This ain’t a place for ya.
Old Man: (to the tape recorder) Eeeheeheehee…
Lon: YO! Let go of dat thin’ your holdin’. That ain’t garbage for ya to take home.
Old Man: Hmmmmmm?
Lon: Yo yo! I’m talkin’ to ya! Let go of my tape recorder. Yo yo!
Old Man: Hmmm?! Do you listen to Yo Yo Ma as well? Aaaa… Yes, I love the melody of his music. I really love the Vivaldi’s Cello album. Which one’s your favorite?
Lon: (interrupting) Look, just let go of it will ya?
Old Man: Hmmm? Oh no no. I am not as young as you might think. I turned 100 this year… yes. (pause) Isn’t it obvious?
Lon: Yo you better break yoself for wat ya getting yaself into old man.
Old Man: Ayo! Pardon me for being slow to catch it! You sound Chinese! You’re a Chinese, yes?
Lon: I’m the thug yo! This is where I hang out with my brothas and it ain’t no place for an old man like you to come from nowhere (pause) and steal my audition tape in front of my freakin’…
Old Man: Oh? So this is your audition tape?
Lon: Now DROP IT!
Old Man: Ok. (drops the tape recorder onto the floor)
Lon: Why you….
Lon pounces onto Old Man. As they struggle, the old man suddenly lets out a big cry. After a moment, a big footstep’s sound echoes. A panda appears in front of the two.
Lon: What the (beep).
Panda: Separates Lon and Old Man and pushes Lon off away from Old Man.
Old Man: Oh my dear Panda… You the best… Guuchi guuchi guu…
Panda: Puts out his paws.
Old Man: Oh yes, oh yes. A toy per job. It’s a promise. (hands him the tape recorder)
Panda: Gazes at the tape recorder for a moment but throws it onto the ground.
Old Man: Yes, yes, I know it might look like junk… but you’re a panda… I thought pandas love human junks.
Lon: (simultaneously) It ain’t no junk!
Panda: Sigh… (picks the tape recorder up, then walks away)
Lon: Hold up you… you… whatever you are! I ain’t letting this slip out! (runs out of the stage)
Old Man: (stands up) Ai… young man these days are rough aren’t they…
Old Man starts dusting out all the dust off from his clothes. Then he wears a pair of sunglass and starts smoking. Ping and Pong come back to the stage looking for Lon.
Pong: Lon! Lon! Damn he’s gone!
Ping: How did ya missed ya clock bro?
Pong: How should I knew that my watch has been busted for years! Where in the world is Lon?
Ping: Slow ya roll dawg. It’s not like it’s our first time leaving him behind.
Pong: I act like dat to him because that boy ain’t just a “friend” to me. I’m talkin’ ‘bout partners in crime. It’s just dat… I can’t just let him act like a punk foreva. Ya fools won’t understand.
Old Man: Ey, young men. Can you guys keep it down? I rather like this neighborhood to be quiet.
Pong: Huh? Who da (beep) do ya think ya… (gasps in fear) …sure why not… sir…
Old Man smiles and walks away.
Ping: Bro. What’s wrong yo? You know dat guy?
Pong: Ey don’t ask me ‘bout it. But I’ll just tell ya one thin’ Ping. Rumor says, in dis town there’s dis old papa who’s da major G and everyone treats him like he’s their popdukes. If ya see him eva! Never mess with him ya hear me?
Ping: (nods) Aight bro. Whatever you say.
Black Out. Scene ends.
So we have been introduced to some of the main characters, some of the inexplicable stage notes, and yet…nothing has really happened. Things start out strong with the direction that “Lon’s distance between the two is somehow awkward.” Not sure how you stage an “awkward” amount of distance. Nor how you beep out words of people who are actually speaking out loud. But I do know that you don’t (beep) with that panda.
Coming soon, Scene 2: Lon and the Girl in the Mirror