Photo by Omar Willey.
Photo by Omar Willey. Licensed CC-BY.

Characters: Stella, Sky, Vale, Man 

(A man-sized box. Stella, Sky, Vale frozen staring at it.)

VALE: Have we looked long enough?

SKY: Looks like a box.

STELLA: That’s because it is a box.

VALE: You mean a gift.

STELLA: I mean a box.

SKY: (kicks box) Yep, a box.

VALE: Let’s find out what’s inside.

STELLA: There’s nothing to find out. It’s nothing you can hold.

VALE: Nothing I can hold. (listens to box) Is this a riddle?

SKY: I hate riddles.

VALE: (climbing on box) What’s in the box?


VALE: I’m on the box.

SKY: You’re not supposed to be up there.

STELLA: Everyone knows what’s in the box – it’s not a secret.

(Vale smacks/feels/something with box.)

VALE: I think it’s … wet, sloshy almost … no no – it’s hard.

SKY: Hard?

STELLA: The box is definitely hard.

VALE: Mountain hard, and I’m a valley.

SKY: You can’t be a valley if you’re on a mountain.

VALE: (caressing box) Every valley requires a mountain …

STELLA: You welcome a mountain into your valley and you are no longer a valley.

VALE: (descending) Then what do you think it is?

STELLA: Nothing you can hold.

(Sky hugs box or pushes palms against it or something.)

SKY: It’s warm.

VALE: You mean hot.

SKY: I mean warm. Like the sun.

VALE: The sun is hot.

SKY: Not when we’re as far away from it as we are.

VALE: If the sun were in the box it’d be pretty hot.

SKY: Maybe it’s just a small piece of the sun.

VALE: Why’s it have to be the sun?

SKY: Because it’s cold and I hate wearing sweaters and hats and scarves and it’s the middle of the goddamn winter and it’s inexcusably dark in here. Because you can’t hold the sun and I’m the sky and I want to hold the sun. Tell me you don’t want the sun to be in that box.

STELLA: I don’t want a sun in a box. (Vale pounds on box.) Stop – you’ll wake it up.

SKY: Good. (pounds) Let the sun rise.

VALE: Let the mountain rise.

SKY AND VALE: So I can hold onto nothing you can hold.

STELLA: It’s something for, for contemplation – like a star, or or a black hole, or … the leading edge of the universe.

VALE: (taunting) Or like a painting of a verdant mountain valley?

SKY: Boxes aren’t for contemplation. They’re for opening.

VALE: Like a gift.

STELLA: A gift that’s not yours to hold.

VALE: The best kind.

STELLA: A gift that makes us distant objects to be wanted and nothing to hold –

VALE AND SKY: Nothing to hold?

STELLA: Even as we’re held on the tip of its thumb.

SKY: We’ll be held.

STELLA: I’m a star and a star is nothing to hold.

VALE: No, a star is to be contemplated. And to make you feel small and in need of holding.

SKY: So that you’ll let whatever’s in the box out.

(Sky and Vale pound on box. Stella joins. Thunderous.)

(The box walls fall back. Light pours out and then goes dark. A Man, not especially special looking. Hard light on women frozen in place.)

MAN: (to Vale) There is a place I want to go. I don’t know where it is. It’s green and a river roars – a clear river teeming with trout – and it’s ringed by sheer mountains. There’s a meadow, and in it you feel the wind…

(He runs his hand through Vale’s hair and she comes alive.)

VALE: And in the meadow is a woman –

MAN: The place is infested with bears – always just the right distance away –

VALE: You lie with her –

MAN: No one else is there –

VALE: You hold her –

MAN: You’ve come empty-handed –

VALE: You gaze at the sheer mountains.

MAN: You gaze at the blue sky. (to Sky) And you see yourself up there, in the sky flecked with clouds, dancing, dancing across the sky from east to west –

(She comes alive; they dance.)

SKY: And you dance all afternoon.

MAN: Until the sky turns red.

SKY: The clouds turn red.

MAN: And the sun is almost set.

SKY: You want to hold it.

MAN: You want to hold it. You want to be it. You want to consume it and be consumed by it.

SKY: And you are.

MAN: But you can’t. You can’t be a gift to it. It’s too damn hot and nothing to hold and then … it’s gone and the sky fades to black. (to Stella) And the first star appears. Unless it’s a planet, Mars or Venus – you can’t even tell the difference between a star and a planet. No – the twinkle – it’s a star. You reach to touch it, to hold it on the tip of your thumb …

(He grazes her cheek with his thumb and she comes alive.)

STELLA: And she’s held on the tip your thumb.

MAN: But the star is so far away – (He steps back. Stella follows in step but gets no closer.) So small and so much bigger than you –

STELLA: Nothing to hold.

MAN: So dim and so much brighter than you. And then– (all turning to audience) All the stars –

STELLA: All the stars –

SKY: All the stars –

VALE: All the stars –

MAN: And you are nothing to all those stars.

STELLA: They watch you.

SKY: The sky blankets you.

VALE: The valley floor holds you.

MAN: You wanted to not be trapped in your box. But you created a new box with you at its center, empty-handed, nothing between you and stars and sky and this unknown valley –

WOMEN: Nothing to hold.

MAN: You hold onto that nothing.

(End of play.)

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