Episode Six - Boarding School

Episode 6: Boarding School

Libretto

Pernette is on trial due to Vireo’s accusation of witchcraft, but Vireo has trouble testifying.  Suddenly a new friend, Caroline, appears and pushes her to action. Vireo testifies, and Pernette is hanged.
 

Featuring 

Alarm Will Sound; Trinity Youth Chorus; PARTCH; PRISM Quartet
 

 

(Pernette’s inner journey: the walk up the scaffold; Vireo follows her, and the School Girls follow Vireo. Pernette in contemporary fact: In the courtroom on the witness stand. Raphael observes Vireo.)

 

LAWYER
You are under oath.

 

BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS

(To Vireo.)

What did you see you hear you say –

 

PERNETTE
The girl
Saw
Nothing
Saw me, yes
She saw
Me doing
Nothing

(To Vireo.)

I would save you in the waiting
On the other side of sound

 

VIREO
In the courtroom she was already walking waiting –

 

BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS
Walking, waiting, walk, wait, what

 

LAWYER
What did she – ?

 

PERNETTE
Vireo saw
Saw me
Working

 

VIREO
Nothing

 

BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS
Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr...

 

PERNETTE
She said as she said, as you say: When I stopped

Working

(Vireo and the Girls spin.)

 

BOARDING SCHOOL GIRLS, VIREO
Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr...

 

PERNETTE
When I set my labor down
Space for your enjambment
The law: climbing rhyme

 

PERNETTE + VIREO
A very great height

(Vireo faints. The Girls faint.)

 

PERNETTE

(To Vireo.)

Don’t you faint Constrain or page apart Heart be strict
About what you hear

 

VIREO

(Waking; to Pernette.)

Nothing.

 

LAWYER

(To Raphael.)

That’s a lot of fainting.
Get her back to her bed
In the boarding school,
Quiet as a fable read
She is always skipping ahead
Footnote
Disguised as chapter
Keep her separate from the others
(A page apart)

(Raphael crosses with Vireo; Vireo and the girls exit. Raphael stares up at a yellow window, across which Vireo’s shadow passes.)

 

VIREO

(Singing to herself.)

Ah!

(Raphael thinks, decides, and hurries to a payphone. The sounds of coins dropping, and of touch-tone dialing. He has never used this machine. He shouts into the empty air, with his fists at his side.)

 

RAPHAEL
Hello, is Vireo there? I, uh, she knows me.

(The ghostly simulacrum of the dead accursed Cow enters and answers. A fist holding a phone comes through its mouth.)

 

COW
She is starving to death
The teeth that haven’t fallen out
She breaks out
She wears false teeth
And she is not receiving

 

RAPHAEL
How can you be answering the phone if you’re a cow?

 

COW
I am singing
Cow, dead cow
My milk is time telephone, telephone
My milk is time telephone

(The Cow dances off. Pernette is back in the witness stand, but distracted. There is now an audience of Vireo’s peers from school. Pernette is looking up at the window.)

 

VIREO, PERNETTE
Ah! Ah!

(Raphael sings up to Vireo.)

 

RAPHAEL
Wishing won’t charm
The bird from the clock
But it’s been the hour of one
Too long
Too long

Now it’s a minute to two
One to two of us
I won’t ask where one
O’clock’s gone
Too long
Too long

Bird, do you love me?
Only time will tell

Don’t ring the hour, I’ll hear no gong or chime
Sing our love from your bower, it’s time, it’s time

Again one is ringing
Two begins with your singing
Girl, lend your song to my hurt.

Bird: escape
Alight – exhausted
Human throat bare
All open rictus
A flirt
A flirt
All open rictus
A flirt

(He calls the press.)

Thesis thesis application whereof thereby
Nolo nolo nolo laudanum
And I want all the world to know my love thereby

(The stage clears. A rope drops and Vireo climbs it.)

 

VIREO
Climbing the ladder of her hair.

(Vireo drops into her bed. A girl appears beside her. The girl resembles Vireo – a weaker twin.)

 

VIREO, GIRL
Ah! Ah!
Where did you come from?

 

GIRL
Where did I come from?

 

BOTH
Are you from the school? Why haven’t I seen you before?

(The next two lines simultaneous.)

 

VIREO
What’s your name?

 

GIRL
What’s my name?

 

VIREO
Can I call you Caroline?

 

CAROLINE
My name is Caroline.

(They shake hands.)

I hear voices.

 

VIREO
I do too. The other girls - they don’t know. I’m taken to a room, and a crowd looks at me. The girls are kept the next room over.

(Raphael enters and puts his eye to the keyhole.)

 

CAROLINE
Do they touch you, when they examine you?

 

VIREO
When they touch me the hearing stops.

 

CAROLINE
Raphael is listening at the door. He talks about us.

 

VIREO
To whom?

 

CAROLINE
To the press. He writes for newspapers. To help with tuition. He loves us. You testify tomorrow? In front of the secret court?

 

VIREO
Yes.

 

CAROLINE
Give him something. Name a witch.

 

VIREO
I can’t.

 

CAROLINE
Name Pernette.

 

VIREO
I said her name.

 

CAROLINE
More. More. Say she is a which.

 

VIREO
Why?

 

CAROLINE
She doesn’t have any money.

 

VIREO
I don’t want to tell you anymore, but I want you to understand this -

 

CAROLINE
I saw you. Climbing. Her hair. What did you hear? Are you a witch?

 

VIREO
No.

(A bell rings.)

 

CAROLINE
Then say it. Jump.

(Pernette appears at a height, hanged. Her long hair hangs down to the bed; Caroline jumps and hangs from it, swinging in time with the bells.)

Pernette is a witch! Pernette is a witch!

(Vireo jumps and joins her.)

 

VIREO
My conspirator. My resistor. My sister.

(Raphael stands up from the keyhole.)

 

RAPHAEL
As I saw it, they were kissing.

(Pernette’s eyes close and her head falls to one side. The Cow enters and sings with her.)

 

PERNETTE, COW
Hung from a very great height
Inverse metronome
I was in the world and of the world
I never said to hate it

(Flashes from gunpowder cameras.)

 

CROWD
Look, look, look
The eye is drawn as to a fallen dollar
It is right I am rich
There is no accidental money
Look we found a witch

Hanging, ringing
Exceptional day

(Then Vireo and Caroline drop. Pernette’s eyes open; she addresses Vireo, Caroline and the Crowd.)

 

PERNETTE
Why have you done this to me? What, I wonder, I truly wonder, are you doing? So woefully, so diligently together?

 

CROWD
(Under Pernette.)
Look, look

 

PERNETTE
Diligent, diffuse.
What do you do?
You play, all the way through
You play the gesture all the way through
Vireo, first
She re-
Hearsed

Vireo begins this episode in a 16th-century courtroom where she has been called to testify against Pernette as a witch. Time is starting to blur in her mind. Perhaps the trial is real, or perhaps the Doctor is simply attempting another means of investigation into her visions and hysteria. As the tension mounts, Vireo breaks down and the Doctor sends her back to boarding school with instructions to get some rest before returning to finish her testimony.

Unbeknownst to the Doctor, his assistant, Raphael, has developed a crush on Vireo. He follows her back to school and begins spying on Vireo and her friends. Calling from a payphone outside, Raphael calls Vireo to a window and finally reveals the full depth of his infatuation. He stands below the window singing of his undying love. Vireo ignores him and goes inside to lie down.

Suddenly, falling into Vireo’s bed from out of the sky, a dark-haired girl bounces off the mattress and into Vireo’s life. This is Caroline. She hears voices, she’s getting examined too, she knows all about Vireo, she likes to cause pain, and she wants to find and burn more witches. They immediately bond, and Caroline counsels Vireo to testify against Pernette.

After listening to Caroline, Vireo returns to the trial and condemns Pernette before returning to school.

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