Insider(Outsider)

 

plant, plants, transplant

 

 

This piece should be read with multiple voices before an audience.  The audience should contain at least two people, excluding the readers.

 

This performance is composed of three parts that are to be read simultaneously. Part A: plant will start the reading using comfortable and even intonation throughout the piece. Part A should be read while facing the audience. Part B: plants and Part C:  transplant start at different times during the piece and have different instructions. All voices should only stop when they have finished reading.

 

Performed on 3/9/12 with G.K.K and K.G.

 

 

   plant.

 

When is a person a plant?

When is a person a plant?

An incantation.  A kind of magic. 

 

During magic shows, there is an atmosphere of complicity between the performer and the audience.  Unless you are a small child, it is assumed that magic, in the traditional sense of rabbits sprouting from hats and pick a card any card is this your card, depends on sleights of hand and—tricks, of course. Tricks of the trade.  A magician never tells his secrets and we don’t want to know them—even if we ask--- not knowing how he does it is what keeps us in our seats.  We ask to be tricked.

 

If one of the audience members is invited on stage, it is meant to suggest that real magic is about to unfold, to imply that the magician’s skill is practiced enough to withstand the scrutiny of a stranger.  But then there is also the chance that the magician has buried something among us. Something separate from the rest of us.  There is the chance there is a plant in the audience. 

 

We narrow our eyes.

 

A plant that is a person. A person-plant: to be plucked by the gardener, to be offered up to the rest of us.  Such a person is usually viewed with the suspicion that the audience may have otherwise relaxed. Why should the plant warrant such enmity from the rest of the audience?

None of us believe in magic. 

We expected to be tricked.

But a plant in the audience is more like a weed, one that, when noticed, ruins the desired experience- an audience of unity unblemished,

a dandelion in a sea of daffodils. 

 

It invades our space. 

This plant

that looks like a person

sits like a person

was one of us just moments ago,

but isn’t any longer. 

 

The Zig Zag Girl,

Cutting a Woman in half,

So many tricks involving bodies being mutilated,

being broken

only to become whole again.

It is easy to think that part of the magic trick lies in the idea of our bodies’ persistence. 

Often, audience members are called to ensure the state of the body.  They feel the space between bisected halves.  They touch the dismembered hand that waves the handkerchief. 

But the plant is just as often the body to be dismembered.  It will perform in the tricks that require the most physical commitment. 

And each time the body re-attaches, each time the body reappears, the magician’s secrets are sealed inside it. 

For the plant won’t tell us anything.  The plant, itself, a secret.

 

How many times, do you think, has the plant been cut in half?

How many scars across the body to map the dissection

Not that we are worried about the plant.

Not as we would be

(secretly)

for any other audience member

whose identity wasn’t cultivated

as an instrument.

 

When is a person a plant?

When does a body become separate,

like a different species?

An alien body that must be

Expelled,

that lives

outside

of us, forever

unknown.

When is a person a plant?

An incantation.  A kind of magic.

 

 

   plants.

 

Part B: plants should be performed while the reader sitting in the audience.  The reader should start plants(Part B: after the words “there is a plant in the audience” are heard from Part A. Volume is at the reader’s discretion.

 

Kudzu envelops everything it touches. 

 

They say that kudzu is the vine that Ate the South.

It Ate the South like the longest snake in the entire world.  It fed on the tallest trees, on houses filled with tired residents, on vehicles left carelessly in its path.  Quaint pastoral scenes were made unrecognizable, buried under massive blankets of green.  Floods of green.  They say kudzu moved like General Sherman through the South, destroying everything as it went. 

 

It grows so quickly that you’d swear that time speeds and overtakes itself wherever it flourishes. Mile-a-Day Vine.  Foot-a-Night Vine.  Grand, southern estates are covered with green tendrils as if abandoned to nature for centuries, although it has only been a few years since the kudzu arrived.

The molasses crawl of Southern time is quickly overtaken by kudzu’s lightning growth.

 

Georgia residents caution to lock all windows at night, in case the kudzu creeps up your trellis and into your room, like a night intruder, to smother you or your children.  Or maybe the fear is that it could invade bodies like it does space, might invade your body to the point of losing all recognition of yourself, becoming some kind of hybrid plant creature.  This isn’t a foreign concept. The Swamp Thing was once a man, after all, living in the Louisiana bayous of our imagination.[1] 

 

In Japan, the kudzu plant is considered holistic medicine.  Perhaps this is why the Japanese government brought it to the United States in 1876, where it flourished in a garden at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. It was celebrated for its beauty, its usefulness, its exoticism.  Samples were imported and grafted into gardens to give their owners an air of sophistication and worldliness. 

 

Those poor southern horticulturists,

the beauty of kudzu only misled them.  The plant’s rhizomatic growth would later take over their gardens completely, and then move into their neighbors’ gardens.   Entire towns, entire neighborhoods awash with these foreign, invasive species.

 

The plant that was once touted for its restorative properties by Franklin Roosevelt,[2] that was displayed proudly in gardens, that was boiled and eaten like collards, was declared a noxious weed in 1972. 

 

It is a journey whose ending is entirely the fault of the kudzu.

(Kudzu should have known its place, stayed within the strict boundaries we set for it.)

 

Katherine Hepburn says in The African Queen, “Nature is what we are put on this earth to rise above.”[3]  And so, nature crusaders strike out against the alien nuisance,

furiously tear out vines and slice the kudzu at its crown.  Thus dethroned, it is then burned to halt further infestation. 

Columns of smoke rising from Georgia… 

The ghost of Sherman, yet again.

 

 

   transplant.

 

Part C:  transplant is meant to be yelled outside the space of the audience, preferably through a door or wall but at least 10 feet away. If the reader is able to hear Part A: plant, the yelling should start after “a dandelion in a sea of daffodils” is spoken.  If the reader of Part C cannot hear what is being spoken, the reader should wait 60 seconds after the presumed start of the reading or at the reader’s discretion.

 

QUESTIONS FOR TRANSPLANT RECIPIENTS:

 

 

DO YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR BODY AS

YOUR OWN?

 

ARE YOU THE SAME PERSON THAT YOU WERE BEFORE?

 

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE DONOR LIVES

INSIDE YOU?

 

ARE THERE TIMES WHEN YOU THINK OF YOURSELF

AS ‘WE’?

 

ARE YOU AFRAID THAT RECEIVING A WOMAN’S DONOR ORGAN

WILL MAKE YOU EFFEMINATE?

 

DO YOU FEAR THAT THE NEW BODY PART

MAY NOT NEED YOU TO EXIST?

 

AT WHAT POINT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR BODY TO BE

A THING?

 

 

****

 

CLINT HALLAM CLINT HALLAM,

WHOSE HAND IS THAT?

IT ISN’T YOURS. 

IT WAS SALVAGED FROM THE WRECK

AND ATTACHED TO YOUR ARM. 

YOU WERE THE FIRST. 

WE THOUGHT YOU NEEDED IT.

HANDS DON’T GROW BACK

WHEN SEVERED. LIKE HAIR DOES. LIKE WEEDS DO.

DO YOU PREFER DISFIGUREMENT

AFTER ALL? 

OR IS DISFIGUREMENT

A SLIDING SCALE?

YOU THOUGHT YOU NEEDED IT.

BUT IT WASN’T YOUR OTHER HAND,

IT DIDN’T QUITE FIT. 

IT WAS LARGER, FOR ONE. 

A DIFFERENT COLOR.

LIKE A PIECE OF SKY THAT WAS MISSING

FROM ANOTHER PUZZLE,

CRAMMED IN TO SUBSTITUTE.

YOU KEPT IT HIDDEN.

YOU STOPPED TAKING THE MEDS.

ANTI-REJECTION?

YOU’D ALREADY DECIDED

WHAT TO DO (DÉJÀ VU?)

AND WE COMPLIED.

IT ISN’T YOURS.

WE CAN’T FORCE YOU TO KEEP

SOMETHING

 

 

 

SOME THING

 

YOU’RE NOT ATTACHED TO.[4]

 

 

 

[1] The Swamp Thing, Dir. Wes Craven, Embassy Pictures Corporation, 1982. 

[2] via the Soil Conservation Corps to help erosion control.

[3] Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The African Queen.  Dir. John Huston, United Artists, 1951.

[4] BBC News, “Surgeons sever transplant hand.”  February 3, 2001.