Summer 2021

Perseids — Andra Laine Hunter

Reading by EcoTheatre Lab

Characters: 2 Actors who identify as female
(Please consider diversity in casting!)
Lorelei
Jacklin
They can be any age from 16 to 60, but they should be fairly close in age to each other.

Setting:
The play takes place on the beach, in August any time in the 2000s, during the Perseid Meteor Shower.
No set is required.
If the performance space supports having the actors lie on their backs, looking up at the sky, that would work. It also works to put them in chairs to look up at the sky. Or to stand. Whatever works for the production—it’s flexible.
If more set is desired, a screen onto which video of the Perseid Meteor Shower can be projected would work.
Lighting should suggest dusk moving into darkness.
A sound cue of gentle ocean waves throughout is desirable.

Synopsis:
The forces of attraction burn bright as Lorelei and Jacklin watch the sky for signs of love.

Performance Inquiries: andralainehunterplaywright@gmail.com

 


 

At rise, LORELEI and JACKLIN are on the beach. It’s dusky dark and gets darker as the play progresses. LORELEI stares at the sky for a while, expectantly. JACKLIN gazes at LORELEI.

JACKLIN

So, Lorelei I…

LORELEI

Hmmm?

JACKLIN

Um…
(changing the subject)
When will it happen?

LORELEI

Technically, it’s already happening; it just has to get dark enough for us to see it.

JACKLIN

And why does it happen? The same time every year? That doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t it just happen all the time? Is it magic? It’s magic, isn’t it?

LORELEI

Not magic. There’s this comet, the Swift-Tuttle, and it’s—

JACKLIN

Swift-Tuttle. That sounds very British.
(British dialect)
Good evening, Mr. Swift-Tuttle, might I bring you a crumpet?
Could I show you to the loo?
Perhaps you’d like a biscuit—by which I mean a cookie, of course, to go with your tea?

LORELEI

They were both American.

JACKLIN

Who?

LORELEI

Swift and Tuttle. They both discovered it, the comet, but not together. Just at the same time, I think, so it got both their names, to be fair.

JACKLIN

That’s kind of disappointing.

LORELEI

Sorry.

JACKLIN

I wanted it to be a British thing.

LORELEI

Well, there’s no astronomy police around, so just pretend I didn’t say anything.

JACKLIN

I’ll try. But that part’s kind of ruined now.

LORELEI

Oh.
Sorry.
I don’t want it to be ruined.

JACKLIN

I’ll live. It’s okay.
Lorelei, it’s totally okay. I’m messing with you. Okay?

LORELEI

Okay.

JACKLIN

So…why do you know all this? About Swift-Tuttle?

LORELEI

I look things up? I mean, you know, at one point in time, if you wanted to know something your parents didn’t know, you had to like go to the library and find a book, or pull out an encyclopedia or something. It was work to find things out, back then. You had to earn knowledge, like boy scout badges. But now? You can carry around access to pretty much the sum-total of human knowledge, right in your back pocket. It fits in the palm of your hand. It’s criminal, now, not to look something up that you want to know. That’s what I think.

JACKLIN

Principles of the pursuit of knowledge.

LORELEI

Principles are good. Are you still in pursuit?

JACKLIN

Of knowledge?

LORELEI

I mean, do you still want to know about the meteor shower? I was going to tell you why it happens.

JACKLIN

Oh, yeah. We still haven’t seen anything.

LORELEI

Well, it’s really not that dark yet.

JACKLIN

Tell me the knowledge, then, while we wait for it to get dark.

LORELEI

Okay. So, there’s this comet, Swift-Tuttle, and it goes along on its—

JACKLIN

Can you tell it in a British accent?

LORELEI

Jacklin, wait. Seriously?

JACKLIN
(overlapping with LORELEI)

Please?
Please, please, please with a shooting star on top?!

LORELEI

Um, I’ll try? But just for you. I can’t believe I’m…
(British dialect.)
So of course there’s the comet Swift-Tuttle, and it goes along its orbit, spewing debris about behind it. And this time every year, mid-July to mid-August, we are, the Earth is, passing through its orbit—We’re passing through the comet’s orbit. So, we’re right in its debris trail—it spits off little chunks of itself as it goes, and the debris hits us, (losing the dialect) the atmosphere, at like I can’t remember—really, really fast speeds—

JACKLIN

Fahst. Fahst speeds. It’s totally better with the accent.

LORELEI

Fahst speeds, sorry, and the chunks of the comet burn up in our atmosphere, luckily, instead of hitting the lahnd, land? lahnd?

JACKLIN

Lahnd? Land? Now neither sounds right. I don’t know.

LORELEI

Anyway, (British dialect) the debris burning through the atmosphere makes: shooting stars.

JACKLIN

Really?

LORELEI
(normal dialect)

Yeah. That’s it. That’s why it happens.

JACKLIN

Not magic?

LORELEI

No. Well, I mean, not in the sense that it’s wizards fighting each other with wands, or baby dragons practicing breathing fire, or anything like that.
But it’s still kind of magical. To me.

JACKLIN

Yeah. It totally is. If it will ever happen.
Wait, they’re getting brighter. Am I crazy, or are the stars getting brighter?

LORELEI

It’s getting darker, so yeah, the stars are getting brighter.

JACKLIN
(scooting a little closer)

Where should I look?

LORELEI

Well, they call it the Perseids because it appears as if the meteorites originate from the constellation Perseus.

JACKLIN

But I’m guessing they don’t really originate from there?

LORELEI

No, not really. The stars in the constellation are super, super, like super far away. The comet’s orbit trail is much closer. But it—I think they say the shooting stars “radiate” from Perseus.

JACKLIN

So…where do I look?

LORELEI

Sorry, at the constellation Perseus.

JACKLIN

You’re just going to have to like, point my head in the right direction.

LORELEI
(tenderly directing JACKLIN’s head, so they are closer together)

They’re gonna be coming from over there-ish. But they can radiate out in any direction, so really, just watch. And watch with soft focus, like, out of the corner of your eye, too.

JACKLIN

Who knew watching for shooting stars would be so complicated?

LORELEI

I didn’t mean to make it complicated.

JACKLIN

Complicated isn’t bad, Lorelei.

LORELEI

Oh.
Oh.
Do you think…complicated is good?

JACKLIN

Depends on the particular complication.
Is there a certain complication you have in mind? Lorelei?

LORELEI

Oh my god! Did you see that? It had a big, orange tail! It was enormous! It was so beautiful. Tell me you saw that.

JACKLIN
(overlapping with LORELEI’s previous line)

What?! No! I missed it? I missed the very first one?

LORELEI

Don’t worry. There’ll be more. Loads more.

JACKLIN

I’m so bummed.
I was looking at you, though.
So, that wasn’t too bad.

LORELEI
(delighted, but maybe trying not to show it so much)

Oh.
Really?

JACKLIN

Nerds are cool now. Didn’t you know?

LORELEI

You think I’m a nerd?

JACKLIN

I mean, yeah? But in a good way. In a great way.

LORELEI

Oh, totally. I totally think being called a nerd is a compliment.

JACKLIN

Principles of the pursuit of knowledge.

LORELEI

Do you think I’m ridiculous?

JACKLIN

No.
God, no.
I think you’re awesome.

LORELEI

Oh.
Thanks. You know, Jacklin…There can be principles of other things, too, you know.

JACKLIN

Like what?

LORELEI

Anything. Everything.

JACKLIN

Yeah, I know. Of course there are lots of principles.
But what were you thinking of?
Specifically? When you made that comment?

LORELEI

Um…I was thinking of…principles of attraction.

JACKLIN

Attraction?

LORELEI

Um, I was thinking of electrical attraction.

JACKLIN

Electrical attraction?
Oh.
Do tell.

LORELEI

Well, you know, in science—

JACKLIN

Oh, so this is science?

LORELEI

Of course. What were you thinking?

JACKLIN

Never mind me.

LORELEI

So if you get an object, like a balloon for example, all charged up—

JACKLIN

All charged up?

LORELEI

Are you going to let me talk?

JACKLIN

By all means.

LORELEI

So if you get a balloon all charged up, like by rubbing it on someone’s head, say—charged up with extra electrons—that’s the charge, the extra electrons—then all those unstable atoms, the ones that lost the electrons and the ones that gained them—they attract other atoms looking for stability. Because atoms need the right amount of electrons to be stable.

JACKLIN

Like hair? Like how balloons make your hair stand up?

LORELEI

Exactly. Or if you tear up little pieces of paper, they can rise up toward the balloon.
Or other balloons. You’ve been to birthday parties; you’ve seen it.

JACKLIN

Attraction, huh? That’s the first principle that came to your mind while we were hanging out. Under the beautiful stars. On the beach. Interesting. Some might say romantic, even.

LORELEI

I’m glad you find science romantic.

JACKLIN

I do. Oh, I do.

LORELEI

And, in fact, uh, the um…closer…the two objects get, the stronger the attraction is until—spark!—and then they’re stable.

JACKLIN

So, just to make sure I understand this…if one of us, say if you, just as a totally random example, had extra electrons, I might find myself, through no fault of my own, being pulled toward you, powerfully and inexplicably?

LORELEI

Well. Yes.
Except it wouldn’t be inexplicable, because the extra electrons would explain it.

JACKLIN

Right. The explanatory electrons.
Well. Listen, I’ve been meaning to tell you I’ve been diagnosed recently with a really bad case of electron shortage, and so, I find myself always moving toward people who…seem charged.

LORELEI

Oh.

JACKLIN

I can’t help it.

LORELEI

It’s totally out of your control?

JACKLIN

Totally.
JACKLIN has moved very close to LORELEI. They are about to kiss when—
Oh my god! Did you see that!
Wow, just wow, just wow, wow, wow!!
It was sparkly and long! It was so long, trailing all the way across the sky! I can’t believe it!

LORELEI

I missed that one.
But I was looking at you, so…that wasn’t too bad.

JACKLIN

Oh.
But was it good?

LORELEI

It was better than good.
It was complicated and scientific and charged.

JACKLIN

Lorelei, I…
You said the comet is leaving behind little pieces of itself in its trail, and they burn up in the atmosphere?

LORELEI

The burning pieces are the shooting stars.

JACKLIN

I think maybe I’m charged and you’re taking up my electrons—

LORELEI

Do tell.

JACKLIN

—like I’m leaving behind some little pieces of myself—I think they’re shooting off and burning up in the atmosphere of you.

LORELEI

I think I feel them.

JACKLIN

I needed to let go of some electrons and…
Let them find the atoms that needed them: spark!

LORELEI

My atoms?

JACKLIN

Yeah. Your atoms needed my electrons.

LORELEI

I think that makes a lot of sense.
In a really nerdy way.

JACKLIN

Hey!

LORELEI

Don’t worry. It’s cool to be a nerd. Plus, your electrons make me feel really stable, baby.
(Their heads snap up.)
Oh my god!

JACKLIN

Yes!

LORELEI

Did you see—

JACKLIN

Yes, I saw it!
It was beautiful.
It was like looking at you.

LORELEI
(overlapping with JACKLIN)

…like looking at you.

Lights fade to black.

End of play.

The author: John Carter

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