Vireo Episode Two - Mercury

Episode 2: Mercury

Libretto

A waking Vireo mistakes the doctor for a priest, and she is sent to a quiet room to recover. While there, she hears the Voice again, embodied in the figure of a witch about to be burned at the stake.

Featuring

Kronos Quartet, Matthias Bossi; The San Francisco Girls Chorus

 

MOTHER
Daughters don’t die. I don’t live in such a time. Daughters don’t die. I don’t live in this time. I don’t live in this time.

(The Doctor draws near.)

We found her this way in the woods this morning. What is it?

 

DOCTOR
Leave her lie.

(He tries to draw Mother away. Partial success.) Leave her lie.

 

MOTHER
Vireo is not going to die.

 

VIREO
I am blown through.

(Raphael bursts in. The Doctor holds him back from Vireo.)

 

RAPHAEL
In the name of God, tell us who has afflicted you!

(Then, overlapping with Mother and Vireo’s next lines.) By all that is, by all that is, by all that is...

 

DOCTOR
Leave her lie.

 

MOTHER
My daughter! She won’t die. Other daughters do.

 

VIREO
There was a rhythm.

 

RAPHAEL
Say who, say who, tell us –

 

VIREO
The fog came through the woods. Making it dark, and then pale. In between the two I heard... a voice.

(Through a steady series of small moves, the Doctor takes Mother’s place as the one steadying Vireo.)

 

DOCTOR
Whose voice?

(Overlaps Mother and Raphael’s next lines.)

 

MOTHER
My daughter.

 

RAPHAEL
Say who.

 

VIREO
The line between the fog and the not-fog was a hole.

 

DOCTOR
(Explaining to Raphael.)
Seduced.

 

VIREO
And I could go through the hole to see sad things, in a wonderful way.

 

RAPHAEL
Can you repeat what was said to you?

 

VIREO
I have nowhere to go.

 

RAPHAEL
Grace light up a strange new seeming Fraction factors math by dreaming

 

DOCTOR (To Mother.)
I set your daughter down as a case of possession.

 

MOTHER
What will you –

 

DOCTOR
She’ll be cloistered at the convent in pace.

(Explaining.)

In a room – a high place.

 

MOTHER
What will you –

 

DOCTOR
She’s a weather vane that moves to face witches, and will point them out to us.

(The Doctor and Raphael leave.)

 

MOTHER
It’s over.

 

VIREO
Where’d that come from?

(Invisibility.)

 

2. Mercury.

(Vireo looks out of a high window.)

 

VIREO
From my window I see a witch being set up for burning. Two candles lit in my room. Children throw trash at the bound woman.

(A woman stands on the ground. She isn’t literally bound – she can use her hands and move – but she is the woman at the stake. Her face is obscured, as the Voice’s was. A chorus of young women circles her, stooping to pick up rocks and trash to toss; percussive feet.)

 

CHORUS
Ha ha ha ha ha No no no
Silly witch Candle you Cast no light Stake stinger in Fire hand itch M-hm goodbye Candle you Cast no light

 

WITCH
Don’t suppose it could rain, now, could it? No. Too much to ask.

 

VIREO
So much the worse for you I can’t hear you

(Covering her ears.)

Ah!

 

CHORUS
No.

 

VIREO
I can’t hear you

 

CHORUS
No.

(And, repeating.)

 

VIREO
Through the window I see your face
In an aureole
An aureole of Moon-mercury Moon-mercury Poisoned.
I can’t hear you
I can’t hear you

 

WITCH
I lived through my house’s discipline I concentrated when
Calves were born
Turned and corn
Wouldn’t top out

(Flames start to rise. She loses mobility.)

My discipline was concise. And all drafts were at once.

 

VIREO
Moon mercury makes you mad as a hatter. You are not still.

 

WITCH
I am, or was.

 

CHORUS
No. No. No.
No. No. No.
No silly witch. Fire. Hand. Itch. Aha goodbye.

 

VIREO
I heard martyrdom was lovely. Be lovely.

 

WITCH
And your fits are lovely and not lovely.

 

VIREO
Am I having a fit now?

 

WITCH
It’s hard for me to say I’m dying
I’m dying

 

MOTHER (Off.)
They’re burning a witch! They’re burning a witch! They’re burning a witch!

 

VIREO
For a while with my two candles there was a perfect balance between the bound woman in the hateful world and the picture of my face. When the fire rises, my room goes away.

 

WITCH
You turn. Don’t turn –

 

VIREO
I slide down, my back up under the window, and firelight shines of every hard surface.

 

WITCH (Singing.)
The air is reading a book of fire And the air is taken away
The consumer, consumed
By the fire assumed, the Breath follows fire to silence

I do not submit, I do not prefer
I am horrified, in love
I gather without gaining and Am no less for dying

Page after page of flame
Language kills you sometimes
On every page my name
Book of fire
Flammable lines
Apnea of reading

I do not submit, I do not prefer
I am horrified, in love
I gather without gaining and
Am no less for dying

 

VIREO (Re: the Voice.)
Not again. But you see, this time I won’t sing along.

 

WITCH
I won’t sing along...

By the window you see
How in love I am,
How many places I can be, Redeemed by the plural your Youth and fear give me.

And now how literal to you A death is, the preference, Save the size of my Horrible love

In your heart
When the fire sinks to Gentian blue

 

VIREO
I see. Am I a witch now too?

(Knock knock.) Not again!

 

WITCH
In the end my bones drop to one another and knock with the sound of wooden balls.

(Invisibility.)

Vireo wakes onstage into the 16th-century world she left before, mistaking the Doctor for a Priest. He prescribes cloistering for his patient, and she hears rumors of witchcraft and evil while being escorted to her room by the Doctor’s new assistant, Raphael. She imagines her room to be a convent tower, and so it becomes one.

From her “convent tower” Vireo observes a Witch being brought to the stake for death, but when she speaks, Vireo recognizes the same “Voice” she heard in the woods before. The Voice sings about humanity and Vireo tries to understand the meaning behind her words. As their scene continues Vireo begins to doubt her beliefs, wondering if she too is a witch, or is at least responsible for some of the actions surrounding the witch. Finally the Witch burns, silencing the Voice, and once again Vireo falls into a fit.

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