THE CARE-EAR OF CARE (a short tragedy in four acts)

21 December 2014

NOTE: this play requires one actor and three members of an ANTI-CHORUS. The ANTI-CHORUS voices all words or noises other than the one line specifically assigned to CARE.

LIGHTS UP

Act 1 – Aspirations (Health-Care)

ANTI-CHORUS: Act 1! Aspirations! Health-Care!

ANTI-CHORUS: Oh look, here comes Care.

ANTI-CHORUS: Who?

ANTI-CHORUS: Care. I said Care.

CARE, holding armfuls of stuffed animals (puppets) to the point of being nearly completely obscured, each stuffed animal with the word “CARE” on a card pinned to them. CARE also has the word “CARE” written on a card dangling from an earring, one pinned to the seat of its pants, and another pinned over its heart,

A joyful, riotous noise of “I care” and “I want to care” and “I want a career” and “I want money and status and fame” and “I want to care for others” jostles forth from the crowd as CARE advances.

Two members of the ANTI-CHORUS, one with a hoop, confronts CARE, blocking the way.

ANTI-CHORUS: Hush! Order! We can’t have this chaos.

The noise vanishes. The hoop is presented.

ANTI-CHORUS: Hey, Care. This way! (singing, from Pink Floyd) “We need to give you education.”

CARE crawls on hands and knees through the hoop toward an ANTI-CHORUS member dangling a diploma with a carrot on it.

A couple of stuffed animals fall to the floor by the wayside. The fallen, jostled by members of the ANTI-CHORUS, still pathetically cry out, “I care” and “I want a career”.

Act 2 – Standardization (Education)

ANTI-CHORUS: Act 2. Standardization! Education!

CARE stands again. The ANTI-CHORUS member with the diploma holds it high up.

ANTI-CHORUS: (singing, from Frozen) “So you want to be a doctor?”

CARE nods.

ANTI-CHORUS: Well, if you want a care-ear, then listen.

CARE turns the dangling ear-care sign toward The ANTI-CHORUS member, who pulls a knife from the sheath of the diploma–ideally a wakazashi blade, but we’ll take what we can get, right?–and holds it out to CARE.

ANTI-CHORUS: Make the grade. Make the cut.

ANTI-CHORUS: Isn’t that the kind of knife samurai use to disembowel themselves?

ANTI-CHORUS: Hush, you. Just hush.

To accept the blade, CARE must drop all of the stuffed animals; if only for the first time, we see the “CARE” card over its heart.

Again, riotous noise, this time less joyful, of “ayurvedic medicine” and “four hour intake interviews” and “house calls” and “Cuba’s medical school” and “care at the core of education” [and false statements from the education group] jostles forth from the stuffed animals as CARE takes the knife, and turns its back to the audience, showing the “CARE” sign on its rump.

CARE seems to hold the knife to its bowel, then stabs, doubling over in agony. The knife clatters to the ground–an ANTI-CHORUS member sweeps it up; the “CARE” card from over its heart flutters to the ground.

As CARE straightens up again, one ANTI-CHORUS member slips the knife back into the sheath of the diploma/carrot, another slaps a big sticker with “CRIPPLING DEBT” over the spot where the “CARE” heart had been. [slap on more stickers and slogans here too, if you can.]

The hoop is presented, higher this time. The ANTI-CHORUS hums “Pomp and Circumstances” badly. CARE sweeps up three of the stuffed animals in one arm, takes the diploma/carrot with the knife in it in the other, and crawls through the hoop.

A phone rings.

ANTI-CHORUS: (singing, Pink Floyd) “never had the nerve to make the final cut”

Act 3 – Performance. (Art)

ANTI-CHORUS: Act 3. Performance! Distribution! The ART of medicine.

ANTI-CHORUS: (singing, from Frozen) “So you want to be a doctor?” (not singing) Better learn to act like one.

The ANTI-CHORUS shoves CARE into a doctor’s white coat; CARE has to drop the stuffed animals to do this, and puts the diploma/carrot in a pocket.

Less riotous noise this time, still less joyful. [use Mark Fletcher’s false statements for interns, and art design group false statements].

The ANTI-CHORUS shoves a stuffed animal in CARE’S hand. CARE attempts to do an examination, but The ANTI-CHORUS keeps interrupting and turning CARE around and around, until its sick with dizziness.

ANTI-CHORUS: Do your thing, Super-hero.

ANTI-CHORUS: Show us your care.

ANTI-CHORUS: Make it an Oscar, Tony.

ANTI-CHORUS: Or a Tony, Oscar.

ANTI-CHORUS: Short and sweet though. 7.5 minutes.

ANTI-CHORUS: Make our hearts bleed.

ANTI-CHORUS: (terrified, stopping the other) No! That’d be malpractice. (to CARE) Just make us weep!

ANTI-CHORUS: And cover your ass while you do.

The ANTI-CHORUS squirts glycerine tears over CARE’S face and their own. Another snatches off the CARE card from CARE’S rump.

ANTI-CHORUS: What pathos! Such sincerity!

ANTI-CHORUS: Good game.

Doubled over, panting, dizzy, confused, CARE stands with its back to the audience. The ANTI-CHORUS slaps stickers on CARE’S ass: “Grade A certified” [a bumper sticker here would be cool too]

The ANTI-CHORUS lines up, arms locked, as CARE straightens up, staggering back and forth, dizzy.

ANTI-CHORUS: (waving a key) You can bypass the funding, preparations, actual performance, and packaging, but if you want to get your care to the people, you still have to get through us. We’re the gateway. (tauntingly) Red rover, red rover, send CARE right over.

Staggering, CARE lunges into the ANTI-CHORUS’ locked arm, only to be repelled. One, two, three times CARE tries, and the third time, the ANTI-CHORUS deliberately unlocks their arms.

CARE stumbles and falls into the space behind them, accidentally throwing aside the one stuffed animal it had still held in its hand.

Act 4. Incarceration. (Justice)

ANTI-CHORUS: Act 4! Incarceration. Justice! Security and control!

ANTI-CHORUS: Just. Us.

The ANTI-CHORUS solicitously help CARE get to its feet, while removing the white coat and the CARE earring.

ANTI-CHORUS: That’s the beauty of health-care education. You can always find work wherever you want. Like here. In prison. (to CARE) Didn’t see the hoop in that last act, did you?

ANTI-CHORUS: That’s the beauty of it, yeah?

ANTI-CHORUS: Don’t even know where to look.

Without the care-ear, CARE is deaf, still confused by the spinning. Solicitously, The ANTI-CHORUS help CARE back into the white coat, but reversed, a straitjacket. They tie CARE’S hands behind its back, put on a cape, and gently set it on the ground, along with the carrot, diploma, and unsheathed knife. CARE struggles but can’t do anything.

ANTI-CHORUS: Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.

ANTI-CHORUS: Normalization!

ANTI-CHORUS: First rule of medicine: do no harm, right?

ANTI-CHORUS: (referring to CARE, laughing like a familiar of torture chambers) Can’t do any harm like that now, eh?

CARE looks forlorn, confused, disoriented.

CARE: How’d I get here? This wasn’t–how’d this happen?

Shocked to hear CARE’S voice, the ANTI-CHORUS slaps duct tape over CARE’S mouth. On the duct tape are the words, “We Care.” CARE’S eyes go wide with horror, struggling.

ANTI-CHORUS: Lets go get a drink.

The ANTI-CHORUS exits, abandoning CARE, who struggles, voicelessly protesting.

BLACKOUT

SOMEONE gathers up all of the discarded stuffed animals, looking at the word “CARE” on each as if reading each one’s card:

SOMEONE: “What if care were honoured at the core of all systems?” [false statement for education] [false statement for art] [false statement for justice] [false statement for health-care].

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