Vireo Episode Four - Beginner

Episode 4: Beginner

Libretto

The doctor examines Vireo and makes her the subject for his study of female “hysteria.” He presses her for answers, in the form of the name of a witch. Vireo has a vision and names Pernette.
 

Featuring

Vijay Gupta, violin; Bridget Kibbey, harp; Joshua Roman, cello; Lance Suzuki, piccolo; The San Francisco Girls Chorus
 

 

MOTHER
The witches are massing against her.

 

DOCTOR
And we have a leader to find.

(He touches her. She reacts reflexively; a stabbing pain.)

 

VIREO
I heard a voice in the woods. Then I thought I heard another woman sound the same way. But I can’t say for sure. How could she repeat the sounds if I can’t? What gives her the right? You watch your step. This isn’t over.

 

MOTHER
What did you hear from me?

 

VIREO
You watch your step. This isn’t over.

(The Doctor touches Vireo again.)

 

VIREO
I – was – waiting in the woods to find it again. Out by where the unviable calves and the stillborn are buried, and where the priest stands arms out crying and laughing. I was out in the woods to hear that voice again... to hear that voice again.

(Raphael comes forward from the shadows and looks down on the girl.)

 

RAPHAEL
Professor.

 

MOTHER

(Correcting him.)

Monsignor.

 

RAPHAEL

(To Doctor.)

May I touch the subject?

 

DOCTOR
Yes.

 

MOTHER

(To Doctor.)

Who is he?

 

DOCTOR
Raphael.

 

RAPHAEL
Display your shoulder, please.

(She does. Moon-bright shoulder is the only source of light on stage for a moment. Raphael tries to touch Vireo’s shoulder with clinical detachment; but he’s the one who reacts as if stabbed with pain upon contact.)

In the night when I can’t sleep I put water through the coffee grounds again so I can try and have the same number of levels of thought I had when the day was cool hot coffee was meteor through the morning. I try to burn my thinking out. I try to have visions.

 

MOTHER
What is he doing here?

 

DOCTOR
He is writing his thesis on your daughter’s disorder.

 

MOTHER
I see. He won’t interfere?

 

RAPHAEL
No.

(The Mother begins to relax into a new understanding of the situation.)

 

MOTHER, DOCTOR, RAPHAEL
Vienna, 1893.

 

VIREO, FOREST WOMEN
1590. 1590.

 

DOCTOR
We put the stories her way to help her. We live later. This is Vienna, 1893.

 

MOTHER
Is that the case? Yes that’s the case of course.
When we yank time forward with such a jerk
I fear we run the risk of overshooting our mark.
How does this work?

 

RAPHAEL
Back to the case –

 

RAPHAEL, MOTHER
Of course.

 

RAPHAEL
The case at hand. Our resource.
Doctor?

 

VIREO
Hair and nails.

 

MOTHER
The case at hand.

 

RAPHAEL
It felt as if she were away for a minute.

(Vireo walks away; the three others treat her as if she were still lying on an examining table.)

 

VIREO
To where the primeval forest remains in northwest France in the 1590’s. Where I saw Pernette go. From?

(Pernette appears, washing her hands with well water. The Chorus is barely visible between trees at the edge of the clearing. Pernette doesn’t look at Vireo, although she speaks to her.)

 

PERNETTE
Waking long after second milking, long before first. Meteors are likely all the time, but this is the hour you see them.

 

VIREO
I see you standing in the yard by your quarters. Awake to spite your livestock. Standing among the cows and chickens –

 

PERNETTE
As they rest. I move.

 

VIREO
You’re a witch, yes? Pernette?

 

PERNETTE
Are there witches everywhere?

 

VIREO
You’re leaving your yard and I will find you.

 

VIREO, FOREST WOMEN
I’m falling through your yard, the yard full of energy.

 

PERNETTE
I know you’re there.

 

VIREO
Pernette, you’ve taken me past the town’s zone.

(Now Pernette faces her.)

 

PERNETTE/CHORUS
Hair and nail

Grow when you’re dead
Hand, head
Climb up the
Ladder of
My hair
Go a little further

I won’t laugh nor ever
Tell on you
Climb up the
Ladder of
My hair

(Vireo stumbles. She’s back at the examination. Pernette is at a remove.)

 

VIREO
It goes as far as this sometimes.

 

PERNETTE
Beginner.

 

MOTHER
This one fit is over.

 

VIREO
Please be – never mind.

 

RAPHAEL
Who is she talking to?

 

VIREO
No. Never mind.

 

DOCTOR
But you remember.

 

RAPHAEL
You can see it move through her body. The sweat, auditory hallucinations. Automatic speech. Random art.

 

DOCTOR

(Loudly, to Vireo.)

Is it the same voice?

 

VIREO
(Coming back to the Doctor’s world.) I don’t know.

 

DOCTOR
Identify it.

 

PERNETTE
Little bird, with the horn-heel grip on poor mouse, sing, sing, sing.

 

DOCTOR
It goes as far as this sometimes.

 

VIREO
She’s so easy with it.

 

MOTHER
Say who, and we will pay attention to you.

 

RAPHAEL
Say who, and we will pay attention. Who is spreading the plague?

 

MOTHER
Who is spreading the plague?

 

DOCTOR
Who is spreading the plague?

 

PERNETTE
Who is spreading the plague?

 

DOCTOR
Say who and we will pay attention to you.

 

RAPHAEL
Say who, say who, who is spreading the plague?

 

PERNETTE
The plague is spreading the plague.

 

VIREO
I scratch my head and mica comes down.

(Invisibility.)

 

4. Climbing the Ladder of Her Hair.

(An empty stage. Then a tower appears. Pernette shows her face in the window, and she lets down her hair – it reaches nearly to the ground. Vireo appears. She climbs the hair.)

 

VIREO
Climbing the ladder of her hair into her tower –

 

PERNETTE
And up in the tower you see –

 

VIREO
Through your eyes.
Well after the last milking

And well before the first

My parts that are not owned by life
Serve as grip and beauty

Talon, hair and height

 

PERNETTE
What’s my name?

(The Doctor and Raphael appear on one side of the stage - Mother appears on the other.)

 

DOCTOR
12:02 the afflicted girl names the widow Pernette as a witch.

 

PERNETTE
Do you name me as a witch?

 

VIREO
You hear voices.

 

PERNETTE
And you?

 

VIREO
And I would rather not.

 

RAPHAEL
Remarkable.

(Doctor, Mother, and Raphael gather and behave as if Vireo were on an examining table.)

 

DOCTOR
Hold her steady

 

RAPHAEL
One would think she were levitating.

 

DOCTOR
We are very near a cure.

 

MOTHER

(Looking out a window.)

Cows are still dying.

Vireo is examined by the Doctor and Raphael at their Vienna office. They explain to the worried Mother that in order to treat her they must humor her mystical fantasy world of 1590’s France, and perhaps even play parts in that world. It is clear that both the Doctor and Raphael have more than a passing interest in visions and witches.

Beginning the treatment, Vireo has a vision of Pernette, a local farm-woman, speaking and acting with the attributes of the Voice from the forest. Vireo struggles to reconcile these ideas, and begins to firm her suspicions that she herself is a witch and is responsible for the evil the witch is bringing to the community. The Doctor and Gabriel are able to exact the name “Pernette” from Vireo when she descends into a fit, and they hope this will become a point of departure in their treatment of her ‘hysteria’.

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