I PAINT WHAT I SEE
(A Play for Youths)

by Carlos Morton on May 5, 2008 - 1 comment


CAST:

Actor #1 — Diego Rivera as a 13 year old youth.

Actor #2 — Frida Kahlo as a 10 year old, but wiser.

Actor #3 — Antonia the Curandera (Medicine Woman).

Actor #4 — Doña Popoff (High tone, giving off airs).

Actor #5 — General Gargajo(Spit, phlegm), also Policía.

TIME AND PLACE: A distant time in a mythical place.

Note: Spanish words are in bold face.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED FOR THE AUTHOR, CARLOS MORTON/THEATER DEPARTMENT/UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA/SANTA BARBARA, CA. 93106 (805) 893-8303. E-MAIL: CMORTON@THEATERDANCE.UCSB.EDU

(THE SCENE IS AN OPEN FIELD. DIEGO AND FRIDA ARE TRYING TO TRAP A SMALL SNAKE IN THE GRASS.)

FRIDA

There it is! Get it!

DIEGO

Don’t let it get away!

FRIDA

It’s going the other way!

DIEGO

I got it! (STEPPING ON IT WITH HIS BOOT.) It’s underneath my boot!

FRIDA

Careful, not too hard! You’ll kill it!

DIEGO

(REACHING DOWN TO PICK IT UP.) Here it is. Look, its emerald green.

FRIDA

What shall we do with it? (ENTER ANTONIA PUSHING A CART LIKE THE KIND USED BY VENDORS IN MEXICO.)

DIEGO

Let’s cut it open, I want to see what it looks like inside.

FRIDA

Oh yuck . . .que asco.

ANTONIA

What are you doing, muchachos malcriados!

DIEGO

(HIDING THE SNAKE BEHIND HIS BACK.) Nada!

FRIDA

Antonia, we caught a green snake. Diego has it behind his back!

DIEGO

(TO FRIDA.) Chismosa!

ANTONIO

Leave that vibora alone and let it go on its way.

FRIDA

But it’s belongs to us, we caught it.

ANTONIA

What do you mean “it belongs” to you? Dámela!

DIEGO

Why, it’s just a dumb old snake.

ANTONIA

No it isn’t. (TAKING IT AWAY.) You could learn a thing or two from this serpiente. This isn’t an ordinary snake. Esta vibora habla!

FRIDA
A talking snake!

ANTONIA

Snakes are sacred.

DIEGO

Come on, Antonia, you’re pulling our hair!

ANTONIA

No les estoy tomando el pelo. I’ll show you. Close your eyes and concentrate real hard. (DIEGO & FRIDA CLOSE THEIR EYES. SOUNDS OF FLUTES AND DRUMS ARE HEARD.) This vibora is the daughter of Nuestra Madre, Coatlicue, she of the skirted snakes.

FRIDA

Skirted snakes!

ANTONIA

Coatlicue! Talk to us!

MYSTERIOUS VOICE (OFF)

(MORE FLUTES AND DRUMS.) I hear you, les oigo. Do you want me to teach these foolish kids a lesson?

DIEGO

Oh, no, no we’re sorry!

FRIDA

Excuse us, we meant no harm!

ANTONIA

Yes you did! You wanted to cut it open! Teach them a lesson, Coatlicue! (DIEGO AND FRIDA HIDE IN FEAR.)

VOICE (OFF)

If you let my hijo go I will give you the power to “freeze” time.

DIEGO

How can you “freeze” time?

ANTONIA

(PULLING OUT A POUCH.) With this special powder.

DIEGO

Show us how it’s done!

ANTONIA

This is very special powder made from the bones of our snake ancestors. But only the pure of heart can use the magic of La Vibora.

FRIDA

I didn’t know snakes had such power!

ANTONIA

Oh, but they do! You think snakes are evil, but they’re not. They eat rats and other pests. They also have the power of regeneration!

FRIDA

I know, by shedding its old skin and growing a new one.

ANTONIA

Exactly! If you are pure of heart, Coatlicue will give you that power!

FRIDA

(TAKING THE SNAKE AND LETTING IT GO.) Very well then, pardon me, little snake, se me metió el Diablo. Diego talked me into it!

DIEGO

I did not!

VOICE (OFF)

Apology accepted! Vayan con Dios! (THE VOICE FADES AS THEY WATCH THE SNAKE SLITHER AWAY IN THE GRASS ACCOMPANIED TO THE STRAINS OF FLUTES AND DRUMS.)

DIEGO

(TAKING OUT HIS SKETCHBOOK AND PENCIL.) You know, I only wanted to draw a picture of it!

ANTONIA

Well, I’ve got to open up my puesto de limonada. So, try and stay out of trouble, won’t you?

FRIDA

Yes, Antonia, don’t worry, we’ll stay out of trouble. See, I told you not to bother that snake. (DIEGO AND FRIDA EXIT, ARGUING. ANTONIA STARTS TO SET UP HER LEMONADE STAND, HUMMING CONTENTEDLY. ENTER A POLICE MAN.)

ANTONIA

Buenos días, would you like some lemonade?

POLICIA

Do you have a permit?

ANTONIA

A permit? Since when? I’ve been selling limonada here for years.

POLICIA

Her Excellency, Doña Popoff, has issued a decree ordering all street vendors to pay a fee of two hundred pesos a week.

ANTONIA

Two hundred pesos per week? Señor, it takes me an entire day to make that much. I can’t pay it.

POLICIA

If you can’t pay the appropriate, eh, fee, you’re going to have to leave.

ANTONIA

Is that it? You want a mordida? A bribe?

POLICIA

Well, a donation to the Home for Wayward Policías would be nice. (THEY ARGUE SILENTLY AS DIEGO AND FRIDA ENTER.)

DIEGO

Look, Antonia set up her lemonade stand. Let’s get some lemonade?

FRIDA

Are you buying?

DIEGO

I bought last time, it’s your turn.

FRIDA

Is not!

DIEGO

Is so!

FRIDA

Antonia, dos aguas, por favor.

ANTONIA

(POURING TWO LEMONADES.) Coming right up, two lemonades. Here you go. Cincuenta centavos, por favor. (FRIDA ENDS UP PAYING.)

POLICIA

You’re going to have to move on, Señora. Come on, pack up and move!

DIEGO

What’s the matter, what did she do?

POLICIA

Muchacho, don’t interfere!

FRIDA

You leave her alone!

POLICIA

This is none of your concern.

ANTONIA

(STRUGGLING WITH THE POLICIA.) No, I won’t go! I have my rights! How will I feed my familia?

POLICIA

I don’t know, that’s not my problem!

FRIDA

It’s not fair!

POLICIA

Life isn’t fair. Go talk to Doña Popoff about it. I’m just following orders. (PUSHING HER.)

FRIDA

Stop it!

POLICIA

(PUSHING FRIDA.) You keep out of this, esquincla!

DIEGO

(SPRINKLING POWDER ON THE POLICIA.) Leave her alone! (FLUTES AND DRUMS PLAY.) What do you think you’re doing! (THE POLICIA STOPS DEAD IN HIS TRACKS.)

POLICIA

(AS THOUGH IN A TRANCE.) They make me do it! I have to pay my boss and he pays Doña Popoff.

DIEGO

(TO FRIDA.) See, this is the way the corrupt system works! (WHISTLES ARE BLOWN OFF STAGE.)

ANTONIA

Muchachos, here comes reinforcements! We better run!

DIEGO

You shouldn’t have to be pushed around by the policía!

ANTONIA

(MOTIONING FOR THEM COME WITH HER.) Help me put this away. Quick, before they arrest us. (THEY HELP HER DISMANTLE THE WARES AND PACK THEM AWAY.)

DIEGO

I’m going to paint this some day.

ANTONIA

Apúrense, they’ll break your fingers!

DIEGO

I will record your heroic struggle! (DIEGO TAKES OUT A BRUSH.)

FRIDA

Don’t you understand, Tonto, we got to get out of here! (FRIDA DRAGS DIEGO AWAY AS THE WHISTLES GET LOUDER AND LOUDER. THE POLICEMAN REMAINS FROZEN IN TIME.)

(MEANWHILE ON ANOTHER PART OF THE STAGE, DONA POPOFF IS PRIMPING AND GROOMING HERSELF IN FRONT OF A MIRROR.)

DONA

Espejo, espejo on the wall?
Who’s the most mandona of all?

Who’s got the plebe in the palm of their hand?
Who runs the borlote in all the land?

Soy yo, it’s me, La Doña Popoff!
Y si no les gusta, pues, just buzz off! (BEAT)

Espera, what’s this, something amiss?
I sense a presence most disturbing.
Que es lo que esta so unnerving?

GENERAL

(ENTERING, HIS MEDALS CLANKING, AND HIS SWORD DRAGGING ON THE GROUND.) Doña Popoff!

DONA

Generalísimo Gargajo!

GENERAL

(CLEARING HIS THROAT, AS IF TO SPIT. THIS HAPPENS EVERYTIME SOMEONE UTTERS HIS NAME.) Your Horridness! (KISSING HER HAND. SHE REACTS WITH SOME DIGUST TO THIS.) I’m afraid I have some bad news.

DONA

What? Bad news in my happy Kingdom!

GENERAL

The street venders are up in arms. They are organizing against your decree to pay the two hundred peso fee. One of those sissy artist types painted a mural on a public wall depicting the so called struggle of the workers. Should I send the troops in?

DONA

Don’t get carried away, Gargajo. (HE CLEARS HIS THROAT.) Learn how to “kill” people with kindness! Tell me, who’s responsible for this?

GENERAL

A young boy named Diego Rivera. I suspect him of having “unnatural leanings.” I’m going to arrest him and have him shot.

DONA

And make a martyr out of him? No!

GENERAL

Well then, I’ll have him “disappeared!”

DONA

Gargajo! There are other ways to get things done without brute force.

GENERAL

But force is my middle name!

DONA

You’re such a brute! (BEAT.) Tell him I want to see him. I have a proposition he can’t refuse.

GENERAL

(SNAPPING TO ATTENTION.) Yes, your Slyness! (HE EXITS.)

DONA

(PICKING UP HER CRISTAL BALL. HER OWN DEMONIC MUSIC PLAYS. ) Now then, who is this boy genius? (LOOKING DEEPLY.) Oh, there he is, hard at work, painting his mural. (DIEGO APPEARS ON A SCAFFOLD, BRUSH IN HAND, PAINTING. HE YAWNS AND LAYS HIS HEAD DOWN TO REST.) Oh, he must be tired! What better time to ensnare him. How sweet! (SHE GOES INTO DIEGO’S “SPACE” AND ENTERS HIS SUBCONSCIOUS.) Diego . . . Dieguito!

DIEGO

(ANSWERING HER, HALF ASLEEP.) Who is it?

DONA

It’s me, the Muse!

DIEGO

(REPULSED.) Oh, Muse! How fea you are!

DONA

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A genius of your talent deserves to be recognized. But don’t waste your time painting silly things. Why not paint pleasant things, happy things?

DIEGO

Alas, the world is not a happy place.

DONA

You can make it better . . . with your art! (DIEGO STOPS AND THINKS ABOUT IT.) Let me help you. You can study with me, at the Academy of Cosmodemonic Art. I’ll get you commissions, introduce you to all the right people . . . (HER DEMONIC MUSIC WEAVES ITS SPELL ON HIM.) What do you think?

DIEGO

Sounds tempting.

DONA

Then come to my mansion this afternoon. We’ll start at once. I want you to paint a portrait of me.

DIEGO

(AS THOUGH IN A TRANCE.) I don’t do portraits . . . I do murals.

DONA

Only peasants paint walls, Diego. (FILLING HIS HEAD WITH THOUGHTS.) You are destined to be a great artist!

DIEGO

The greatest artist the world has ever known?

DONA

Believe it! (DIEGO EXITS IN A TRANCE. SHE WAITS UNTIL HE’S GONE.) NOT!

I see it now, he’s pure of soul
The way through that, inject a dart
Full of venom in his heart!

Study with me, the forbidden tree
Instill him with my spirit, which is pride
That’s the way I’ll damn his hide!

(SHE YELLS OUT TO THE WINGS.) Gargajo!

GENERAL

(ENTERING.) You called, your Spitefulness?

DONA

Tonight, under the cover of darkness . . . I want you to whitewash the offending mural.

GENERAL

Yes, my Queen. I might add that he has a helper, a certain Frida.
I also suspect her of engaging in strange and unnatural acts.

DONA

What sort of acts?

GENERAL

She does not shave her legs or her armpits.

DONA

Well, you’d better keep an eye on her. If she causes any trouble, send her into the Doña Popoff School for Wayward Girls. (THE GENERAL SALUTES AND CLICKS HIS HEELS. THEY BOTH EXIT.)

DIEGO

(ENTERING WITH FRIDA WHO IS READING A LEGAL SIZED DOCUMENT.) What’s wrong with accepting a commission from Doña Popoff?

FRIDA

But you signed away the rights to your work! She owns the mural!

DIEGO

She’s going to give me a scholarship to study art in Europe.

FRIDA

And the idea of painting her portrait gives me ASCO!

DIEGO

She’s going to pay me 1000 pesos!

FRIDA

(SARCASTICALLY.) Well, that says it all, doesn’t it!

DIEGO

That’s easy for you to say, your parents give you spending money. Mis padres no tenían dinero. You were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

FRIDA

It was a wooden spoon.

DIEGO

So, why are you jealous, of my success? You should be congratulating me!

FRIDA

Diego, what’s go into to you? You’ve changed.

DIEGO

I finally realized that I’m worth a great deal! I should get paid for my work!

FRIDA

All right. Do what you want. You asked my advice and I gave it to you. Hasta luego. (SHE GOES OFF TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STAGE LEAVING DIEGO STANDING THERE ALONE. SHE STARTS TO SING.)

I hope I didn’t make him mad.

DIEGO

(SINGING.) I hope I didn’t make her sad.

FRIDA

Maybe he’s right, maybe I’m wrong.

DIEGO

Of my beliefs, I must be strong.

FRIDA

I sense him slipping away from me.

DIEGO

I must move on, I must be free.

FRIDA

His heart was pure, but now it’s soiled.

DIEGO

Now my plans, no one will foil! (THEY BOTH EXIT.)

DONA

(ENTERING WITH THE GENERAL.) Now then, do you see how I spin my web? Watch and learn.

GENERAL

People are painting subversive things on all the walls of the city. There is riot and disorder in the streets!

DONA

Not to worry, Gargajo, not to worry. (ENTER DIEGO.) Ah, here comes our little artist. Hide! (GENERAL HIDES.) Dieguito. (HOLDING OUT HER HAND SO HE CAN KISS IT. HE DOES SO RATHER GRUDGINGLY.)

DIEGO

(SPITTING TO THE SIDE AFTER KISSING HER HAND.) Doña Popoff, I am at your service.

DONA

Now then, before we get to my portrait. I want to show you
the kinds of things I’d like painted . . . for which you’ll be handsomely paid. (DIEGO BOWS.) I want happy things, folkloric things, showing the people laughing and singing.

DIEGO

Folkloric things! You mean, like for the turistas?

DONA

Yes, scenes that show the fiesta life of ole México. Here, I’ll show. (DONA AND GENERAL GARGAJO COMENCE TO SING AND DANCE AN EXAGGERATED VERSION OF THE MEXICAN HAT DANCE.)

DONA/GENERAL (LA CUCARACHA)

We’re alegre and so gay
Bailando the night away
Here there is no misery
Happy people all are we

Quaint folkloric campesinos
Zapateando with our primos
Eating nothing but frijoles
And we suffer no dolores

DIEGO

Pero mira, they are poor
Earth and straw for a floor
Nor a techo for their head
Things to eat, or a bed

DONA

Dales sap, dales sweets
Dales songs y dales treats
Tell them they are fine
Muy alegres all the time

DIEGO

Eso es falso, this is bad
No es bueno, it is sad
I won’t lend my name
To this stupid little game!

DONA

Yes you will, my little boy!

DIEGO

No sere tu little toy! (THE SONGS ENDS. DIEGO STARTS TO LEAVE.)

DONA

(HOLDING ON TO HIM.) Where do you think you’re going?

DIEGO

Frida was right, we don’t see eye to eye.

DONA

Oh yes we do. Tell me what YOU want to paint!

DIEGO

Things that have to do with our heritage, like our Pre-Columbian past.

DONA

You mean those old ruins back there?

DIEGO

Yes, so people can see what a marvelous civilization there was in México-Tenochitlan! Do you know the Mayas invented the concept of Zero?

DONA

But they were primitives!

DIEGO

You’re hopeless!

DONA

Oh, wait a minute, I see. We’ll clear out the jungle and reconstruct the pyramids!

DIEGO

Now you’re talking.

DONA

So more tourists will come to Mexico!

DIEGO

No, so the people will be proud of their heritage! I give up. There’s no dealing with you. (DIEGO THROWS HIS HANDS UP IN DESPAIR AND EXITS.)

DONA

Diego, you get back here this instant!

GENERAL

Don’t you think he walks rather effeminate-like? Prances to and fro?

DONA

Oh, shut up! Did you have the mural whitewashed?

GENERAL

Yes, Mandona. Although it did start a riot which we had to quell with tear gas and, eh, shock troops.

DONA

Things are getting out of hand. All because of that stubborn boy!

GENERAL

All the venders have organized, as well as the effete snobs, pansies and lefties.

DONA

This has got to stop!

GENERAL

Look! (PULLING OUT A LARGE CARICATURE OF HER.) A flagrant attack upon your person! These portraits of you are going up all over the city!

DONA

(SHRIEKING AS THOUGH SHE WERE STABBED IN THE HEART.) How dare they deface my exquisite beauty! This is war! Bring me my helmet! Bring me my sword and buckler! (HE DRESSES HER FOR BATTLE.) My chest protector! Gnash your teeth! Give no quarter!

GENERAL

I have an idea! (SHE TURNS TO HIM.) His girlfriend . . . (WHISPERING IN HER EAR. THEY EXIT.)

ANTONIA

(ENTERING WITH ANTONIA.) Frida is nowhere to be found. Something’s wrong.

DIEGO

Can you help me?

ANTONIA

(FLUTES AND DRUMS PLAY.) I will summon the Espíritu de Coatlicue.

DIEGO

Where is she?

ANTONIA

Ahhh, I see her. She is lying in a dungeon. A greasy little hombre in a funny suit is standing next to her.

DIEGO

It sounds like El Generalísimo Gargajo!

ANTONIA

He’s holding a knife!

DIEGO

They’re in Doña Popoff’s mansion. Come on, let’s go! (THEY EXIT.)

DONA

(THE GENERAL AND DONA ARE IN A DUNGEON OF THE KIND USED IN THE SPANISH INQUISITION. WIERD MUSIC PLAYS. FRIDA IS TIED TO THE WALL.) I going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!

FRIDA

You don’t scare me, vieja idiota!

DONA

I’ve got just the thing to “fix” you! (SHE PULLS OUT A LARGE VIAL OF GREASY WHITE CREAM.)

FRIDA

What is that vile looking stuff!

DONA

This “vial” of White Cream is going to alter your state of being!

FRIDA

What are you doing to me!

DONA

Changing your skin color! I always thought you were a shade too dark! (SMEARING ON GREASE ON FRIDA’S ARMS.) How would you like to be as white as the fleece on Mary’s lamb?

FRIDA

Stop it!

DONA

Presto change-o! (SMEARING GREASE ON FRIDA’S FACE.) You’re too rebellious for your own good. From now on you will be as meek as Mary’s lamb!

FRIDA

(FALLING IN A TRANCE.) Baaa! Baaaa!

DONA

Now you’re talking.

DIEGO

(ENTERING WITH A LARGE PAINT BRUSH, THAT HE WAVES LIKE A SWORD.) Unhand her you fiends!

DONA

Oh, it’s you. Gargajo! Have at him!

GENERAL

(DRAWING HIS SWORD.) With pleasure!

DIEGO

(PULLING OUT HIS MAGIC POWDER AND SPRIKLING IT ON GENERAL.) Take that! (SPRIKLING MORE POWDER.) And that! (MORE POWDER.) And that! That! That! (NOTHING HAPPENS.)

DONA

Hah! Ha! I knew it. He’s lost his power! The magic only works if you’re pure of heart. And Pride entered your aorta! (GENERAL SUBDUES DIEGO AND TIES HIM UP.) Diego, my prize pupil, we could have done great things, but you betrayed me!

DIEGO

You whitewashed my mural!

DONA

I told you to paint portraits! Now I have a surprise for both of you. I’ve decided to revive the ancient rites of our Aztec past and turn the entire country into a theme park!

DIEGO

What for?

DONA

So I can bring in tourists by the busloads. It’s a source of much need foreign exchange.

DIEGO

You’re twisted, you’re sick!

DONA

I’m turning a profit! I’m also building a chain of Taco Bells on top of all the pyramids.

DIEGO

Que asco! Just wait! The people will rise up and crush you!

DONA

They will applaud me because I give them jobs . . . making tacos! Now then, are you ready to participate in the ultimate spectacle?

DIEGO

Which one . . .

DONA

A sacrifice to the Gods!

DIEGO

You’re mad!

DONA

The Sound and Lights show will bring in much need foreign exchange! The tourists will eat it up.

DIEGO

Eat what?

DONA

You! And her! We’ll serve them tamales de Frida, and tacos de Diego! (CACKLING UPROARIOUSLY. DONA’S DEMONIC MUSIC PLAYS.) Gargajo! Bring them over here to the sacrificial altar! Get me my obsidian blade! (GARGAJO DOES AS HE’S TOLD. JUST AS DONA POPOFF IS ABOUT TO SACRIFICE FRIDA FLUTES AND DRUMS PLAY. DONA GRABS HER HEAD IN PAIN.) What is that horrible music!

ANTONIA

(ENTERING.) Yo soy Coatlicue, Madre Indígena!

DONA

I feel cold and clammy.

ANTONIA

Sientes the spirit of our indigenous past.

DONA

(SCRATCHING HERSELF ALL OVER.) My skin is itching, it’s on fire!

ANTONIA

You are about to shed your skin!

DONA

(TAKING OFF HER CLOTHES.) Oh help, I’m on fire!

DIEGO

Look! Underneath her clothes!

DONA

(AS SHE REVEALS HERSELF WE SEE SHE IS MADE OF SNAKESKIN COVERED WITH FEATHERS.) Help! Gargajo! (GARGAJO GOES TO AID HER BUT DIEGO CUTS HIM OFF.)

GENERAL

Step aside, you pansy!

DIEGO

(ASSUMING A “CHOLO” STANCE.) Órale pues! No soy gay, but even if I was, I got rights like everybody else, homeboy! (HE GIVES OFF SOME “GANG” SIGNS.)

GENERAL

(TAKEN ABACK BY THE ATTITUDE.) Hey, well, I didn’t mean . . .

DIEGO

All people are alike no matter what their sexual preference. So, chale with your attitude o te doy en la madre, ese!

GENERAL

(OBVIOUSLY INTIMIDATED.) Oh, uh, excuse me, your Choloship!

FRIDA

(SNAPPING OUT OF HER STUPOR AND POINTING AT DONA POPOFF.) Look! She’s a feathered serpent!

DONA

I’ve been bewitched!

ANTONIA

This is who you really are!

DONA

What is this supposed to mean? Why has my flesh turned to snakeskin, my hair to feathers?

ANTONIA

The feathers are the wind, the snake is transformation.

DIEGO

If you scratch a Mexican underneath you’ll find a Indio! (FLUTES AND DRUMS PLAY. THE DONA SUBMITS TO THE INEVITABLE.)

DONA

Am I to live this way for the rest of my life?

DIEGO

Yes! And you will allow us to paint murals all over the city.

FRIDA

And you’ll supply us with the paint and the brushes!

DIEGO

And most important of all — we will paint what we see! (LA DONA BOWS HER HEARD IN SUBMISSION.)

SONG/FINALE

We’ll paint what we want
We’ll paint what we see
We’ll paint for you
We’ll paint for me!

1 comment so far ↓

  • 1 alicia ramos-Jordan // Oct 10, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Gracias Manuel por brindarnos el placer de leer… y felicitaciones a Morton que con sus historias sobre “la historia” nos hace entender el presente, la Malinche, Dreaming on a Sunday in the Alameda, Salt of the Earth, Johnny Tenorio…
    son imprescindibles para entender quienes somos y además nos hace reir, eso sí con una risa por lo menos, por lo menos inconformista.

Leave a Comment