Selections from “Proposed Placards”



Chinese Letter Machine

Stage lights fade in.

At center stage is a player in an apron, calmly listening to headphones, sitting behind a desk on which a large book rests. Hung on the wall behind them is a large screen, now blank.

Stage right: a nondescript wall with an inert light near the ceiling and a slot & basket at chest level.

Stage left: another wall with another slot, a closed filing cabinet toward the rear, and a bin just beside.

Thirteen seconds pass.

The light comes on. A paper falls through the slot into the basket.

The player notes the light and casually rises, moving stage right to the basket. They reflect on the paper. The pictogram “li” appears on the screen.

The player moves back to the desk and opens the book, leafing through several pages until they find the right page. The player then moves stage left to the filing cabinet, opens a shelf, rifles through, picks out a paper, puts it through the slot, drops the first paper in the bin and sits back down.

Fourteen seconds pass before the light flashes on again. The pictogram “xing (hsing)” appears on screen. The player repeats the process.

Nine seconds pass. The light flashes on. The pictogram “jin (chin)” appears. They repeat the process.

Eight seconds pass. The light flashes on. They move to the basket. The pictogram “ϕ” appears.

The player is immediately, visibly confused. They remove their headphones and flip the paper in a panic. They look up, stare blankly into the audience and shoot to the book. They tear through the pages cover to cover and come up exasperated.

The light pulses.

The player stares at the light for a moment, then moves with trepidation to the filing cabinet. They peer into every shelf, searching through each individual paper.

They emerge with nothing.

The player sighs deeply, closes their eyes and plucks a paper at random. They throw it into the slot.

A beat. The player cautiously opens their eyes, wincing. Three seconds pass.

Sirens. The stage drowns in red light. The screen breaks into static. The player cowers, expecting something to drop from above.

The player rushes back to the book and frantically rifles through its pages. This only ends when they accidentally knock the book to the floor in their panic.

The player darts back and forth across the room. The sirens escalate.

After this panic the player sprints over to the cabinet. They rip papers from the drawers and stuff them by the bunch into the slot.

The onslaught continues.

The player is paralyzed and hyperventilating. They scan the room for any solution.

They land on the book.

The player runs over, grabs the book, dashes back to the slot and shoves the book awkwardly through.

The stage goes dark and deadly silent. It remains like this for ten seconds.

The stage lights flicker back on. The player has not moved. They cautiously scan the stage for errors or damage.

As it becomes apparent that nothing is wrong the player relaxes. They shuffle back to the desk and quickly sit. They tap out a nervous rhythm with their fingers. Fourteen seconds pass.

The light flashes on. The player falls out of their chair. A paper falls through the slot into the basket. The player’s head rises just above the desk, looks to the space where the book was, back to the slot.

Fade to black.


(in the style of ACT WITHOUT WORDS)


A small stage. In the middle-far center stands a plain door, a few feet of wall on either side.

Enter RUNNER, casually, from stage left. They move past the installation without interest.

As the Runner passes the stage right wall the door clicks open. The Runner turns back, taking a few steps before stopping entirely. They regard the door curiously.

Now the Runner approaches, hand outstretched. They are just at the point of pushing the door open—

The door clicks shut. The Runner tries the knob and finds it locked.

The Runner stands at the door, slowly regarding the top and bottom of the frame. After a little of this the Runner detaches from the installation and resumes their path.

As they pass the stage right wall the door opens. Now alert, the Runner whirls around, pauses, and takes cautious, cat-like steps back to the door, which closes once again. The Runner tries the knob — locked.

The Runner reflects, then knocks. No answer. They alternate working the knob and knocking, all to no avail. They trail off to stage left, keeping tight focus on the door.

As they pass the stage left wall the door opens. The Runner darts back and reaches for the door just as it shuts.

The exasperated Runner pivots back around, rolls their eyes, raises their fists in indignation—

They bolt to the door and furiously jerk at the knob. They plant their foot in the door and tug harder now. The door does not budge.

The Runner falls back exhausted, panting. They glare at the door, then, still panting, glance behind them, into the audience. To the door, audience, door, audience, door, audience.

The Runner collects themselves, dusts off their jacket, turns to the audience and, standing stock straight, marches off the stage.

As they leave the door opens. Its clicking jolts the Runner, but they continue undeterred. They exit. Twelve seconds pass.

The Runner sprints at and hits the now-closed door with a SMACK, falling to the ground. Heavy breathing.

Wincing, the Runner gets to their feet and regards the left and right walls. They rub their chin and approach the stage left wall.

The Runner scans the wall, then softly taps one of the low bricks with their foot. It falls back behind the wall. The Runner stands stunned, then drops to their hands & knees. As they hit the floor the brick is replaced.

The Runner tries to push the brick back in, unsuccessfully. They rise and kick at the brick again, again unsuccessfully.

The door opens. The Runner eagerly reaches for the knob. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door opens. The Runner reaches. The door closes. The Runner pulls back. The door remains closed. The Runner reaches. The door remains closed. The Runner pulls back, realizes the bit, steps away, collapses to the floor.

The door remains closed.

The Runner blindly rotates toward the audience, pleading with defeated eyes to darkness. This occurs for seven seconds.

The door opens.

The Runner whips back, still seated, and tenses up at the sight of the open door. Eleven seconds pass.

Fade to black.



A forest, dawn.

The dog, christened Penn at her birth, approaches the expansive tree inviting her into the clearing. This is new for her. Lately her gait has been pained, her sprints less and less frequent as her muscles licked with electric shocks. Moments ago, even — Penn remains confused as to where that time went — she lay immobile on her bed, surrounded by her family, and they were smiling through, through— Penn doesn’t have the language.

But now. Now Penn is limber, more fluid than she ever was. Her brown fur moves freely in the crisp morning wind, feels alive under the newborn sun. Still she creeps cautiously through the wood. She must suppress her lupine instinct to simply bolt into the green, surrender to her animal esprit pour la vie for the first time in years — now she must remain vigilant.

As Penn draws closer to the tree this becomes less and less necessary. She recognizes this forest in every nature trail she ever visited, every suburban backyard playdate, every vast Elysian field she coursed through in dreams; each smell is not an individual tulip or public bush but the commixing of each ecstasy Penn has ever taken in, from the first confusions of all creation to the faint surprises of old age. This tree, this clearing, this forest — it is all at once the old and the new, the familiar and the extraordinary.

Piece by piece Penn releases her fear.  With an excited trot she comes finally to the tree radiating with life and the eternal. She still lacks the language, but if Penn had it she may call herself something not exactly happy (for what is the opposite to a dog?) but beyond it, where everything is still and beautiful and open.

Penn smells the tree — how new it is, just like her — curls about it once, and slips into the deepest sleep she has ever known.


PRACTICAL ADVICE, or, Thoughts For The Common Man Culled From Prophesies Of The Stars

Woe to he who ponders the wisdom of the spheres, thinking himself an adept interpreter! We find our learnèd cosmos handed to us by trembling palms and a further unsteadied mind! How are we to know ourselves, then?

Lament not, for mine keen eye notes the extraneous and superfluous in the stuttering astrologies bombarding the delicate humors and, upon conference, have reduced them to their essentials. Here listed, then, are the true cosmologies, the heart-songs of the spheres above! Rejoyce.








More to come, if the heavens allow.

To Work, Comrades


A crane begins to remove the first of many panels from the Berlin Wall. An excited crowd, waving flags & banners, pulses with the hope of reunification.

The foreman, beaming, stands at a distance when a haggard, frantic professor rushes up to him and desperately clutches his shoulder.

You have to put a stop to this, NOW!

What’re you talking about? The German people have waited decades for this moment!

You don’t understand… the Wall wasn’t built to keep us out

He removes his glasses for dramatic effect.

…it was built to keep them in.

The foreman’s face contorts into terrified realization. He turns urgently to stop the crane–

It is too late. The panel lifts to reveal an expressionless Vladimir Lenin standing just behind. The crowd falls to a hush; banners fall to the cement underfoot; flags die mid-wave. Lenin and the crowd stare at one another. We hold here.

With deliberation Lenin extends his right arm, stopping once he reaches a slight upward angle.

He points.

At that instant Bolshevik troops by the thousands pour out of the gap, flooding West Berlin with overwhelming force. “The Battle On the Ice” booms over the fleeing crowd. Tank battalions crush the remaining panels under their treads.

The Revolution has begun.

The Bolsheviks march through the West with ease. Their assault is overlayed with various newspaper headlines:




The grave of Leon Trotsky. All is quiet; townsfolk make their way around.

Suddenly a head pushes through the dirt — Trotsky. “Battle” swells once again as his torso raises. His full body surfaces, but it is revealed that Trotsky is standing on a tank, also rising from the grave. Other tanks push their way to the surface, and the battalion moves out.

Trotsky’s forces sweep through North and South America. More headlines:


We move to China, where Lenin has replaced the flag with the near-identical Soviet one. He smiles.

Country after country falls. Lenin and Trotsky shake hands in front of the White House, unscathed tank battalions on either side.

The Revolution has begun.