Music

A Two Act Play

Pandoras Box

Pandora’s Box Written by JD Chandler with Music by Shirley Obitz

Pandora’s Box

Act One: Portland, 1945.

Scene one: Port of Portland.

            Fern, Jack, and the Workers dressed as 1940s war workers are on stage when the curtain comes up.  They are dancing their work, in a monotonous rhythmic movement – the Work Dance. Fern, Jack, and the Workers sing in chorus. The WPA band is onstage and they accompany the chorus with a swing rhythm.

[Song – We’ve Got a War to Win]

Chorus: Work. Work. Work. Work. (Repeat a few times.)

            If everybody does their part

            We can win this awful war.

            With our hands and minds and heart

            We can win this no-good war.

            Work. Work. Work. Work. (Repeat)

 [chorus]Jack: (singing) Can we do it?

            Chorus: Yes, we can!

            Jack: (singing) We can do it.

            Chorus: We’ve got a war to win.

            Jack: (singing) Listen, cats,

                        Back in ’41 we got attacked

                        But now we’re in the groove.

                        Laid Hitler out on his back

                        And now our boys are on the move.

                        We can’t quit now

                        We’ve got a war to win.

[Chorus]

            Fern: (singing) The boys have been gone for far too long

                        And we’ve been on our own.

                        We need just one more verse for the song

                        And they’ll come marching home.

                        We can’t quit now

                        We’ve got a war to win.

[Chorus]

Chorus: Work. Work. Work. Work.

            If everybody does their part

            We can win this awful war.

            With our hands and minds and heart.

            We can win this no-good war.

            Work. Work. Work. Work.

            The song ends when the shift change whistle blows.  All of the workers line up at the punch clock.  Fern and Jack remain mutually attracted in the Orbit dance.  They don’t overtly pay attention to each other, but all through the punch out process and crowd dance, they dance in orbit with each other.  Their bodies remain aware of each other at all times and this is expressed in their dance.  The Workers do a walking Crowd dance that Fern and Jack use as the background for their dance.  As the crowd dance continues the lights dim except for a spotlight that picks out Fern.  She sings as she continues the Crowd dance and the Orbit dance with Jack.

             [song – Why Am I Alone?]

            Fern: (singing) Wake up in the mornin’

                                    Curlers in my hair.

                                    Look around the bedroom,

                                    But ain’t nobody there.

[Chorus]  Oh I’m alone. Oh, I’m alone.

            Moanin’, cryin’

            Why am I alone?

            Achin’, sighin’

            Why am I alone?

            Oh, I’m alone. Oh, I’m alone.

                        Workin’ all day, then

                        Bring the supper home

                        Lay down at night time

                        And I’m still alone.

[Chorus]

                        Layin’, cryin’ in my

                        Empty bed.

                        Wish I could hear him

                        And listen to what he said.

[Chorus]

            Fern finishes her song and goes back into the crowd dance.  The lights come up a little and then fade back down except for a spot that picks out Jack.  Jack steps out of the crowd as a blues guitar begins to play his song. Jack pulls a harmonica out of his overalls and plays to punctuate his singing.

            [song – If I Could Have That Woman]

            Jack: (singing) Look at that woman

                                    The finest one I’ve ever saw.

                                    Look at that woman

                                    The finest one I ever saw.

                                    If I could have that woman

                                    You know I would never be sad at all.

                                    [harmonica]

                                    Anything a man could want, lord

                                    You know she’s got it all.

                                    Lord, anything a man could want,

                                    Oh, you know she’s got it all.

                                    If I could have that woman

                                    Our life together would be a ball.

                                    [harmonica]

                                    You know she’s got good lovin’

                                    You can tell it when she looks at you.

                                    You know she’s got good lovin’

                                    You can tell it when she looks at you.

                                    If I could have that woman

                                    You know she would never see me blue.

                                    [harmonica]

         Black out.

Scene two: Fern’s house. The next morning.

            Fern and The Girls (Girl 1 and Girl 2) dance a Morning Dance eating breakfast and getting ready to go to work and school.  Their dance conveys an easy teamwork that they have developed by cooperating together, very much like the war workers in the plant, but with a more family feeling.

            [Song –  Sing A Song]

            Fern: (singing) You get up in the mornin’

                                    It’s the same old thing

                                    Gotta work just like a sheepdog

                                    But it can help you if you sing.

            Girls: (singing) Sing a song about tomorrow

                                    Sing a song about today

                                    You can beg or steal or borrow

                                    Just as long as you pay.

            Fern & The Girls: (singing) Sing a song of something better

                                                            You can believe it if you try

                                                            But life is like the weather

                                                            As it passes you right by.

            The Morning Dance ends with The Girls dancing off to school while Fern locks the door and dances to the Port.

Scene three: Port of Portland.

            Fern, Jack and the Workers are doing their Work Dance from scene one.

Chorus; Work. Work. Work. Work. (Repeat).

            The lunch whistle blows and all of the workers gather their lunches and find places to eat.  Fern gets her lunch box and takes her place at a picnic table that has appeared at center stage.  She hums Why Am I Alone and does a solitary Lunch Dance.  Jack enters and the orchestra picks up If I Could Have That Woman.

            Fern and Jack dance an awkward Duet Dance of attraction and repulsion while singing a duet, but each with a different song.  He sings Why Am I Alone while she sings If I Could Have That Woman.  At some point they might switch songs.

            The dance ends when Jack kisses Fern.  She recoils from the kiss and slaps his face.

            Fern: I’m a married woman.

            The lights fade down to a spot on Fern.  She dances a dreamy dance of confusion using a medley of Why Am I Alone/If I Could Have That Woman in a dreamy and strange arrangement.  She dances in a daze through work and home and right up to getting into bed.

            When Fern is dressed in her nightclothes and in her bed she sings.

            [song – I’m a Married Woman]

            Fern: (singing) I took a vow

                        To always love him

                        Through the good times

                        And the bad.

                        I swore an oath

                        To always be here

                        Whether happy times or sad.

            [chorus] I’m a married woman

                        Built to last or so it seems.

                        I’m a married woman

                        I hold him fast within my dreams.

                        I am just a woman

                        Tempted by

                        Some other flesh

                        Longing for the kiss

                        Of others

                        Oh, so hot and fresh.

            [chorus]

                        It’s been so painful

                        And so lonely

                        Ever since we’ve been apart.

                        Oh, how I wish he

                        Would come back

                        And let me feel his beating heart.

Fade to black.

Scene four: Port of Portland.

            Fern, Jack and the Workers are doing their work dance.

Chorus: Work. Work. Work. Work. (Repeat)

            The Lunch whistle blows and the workers head off for lunch.  Fern gets her lunch and takes her place at the picnic table just as in the previous scene, only now she is very nervous and she is humming I’m a Married Woman. 

            Jack enters contritely. 

            Jack: Fern, I’m sorry.

            Fern: Don’t mention it.

            Jack: I don’t know what came over me.

            Fern: Please, don’t mention it.

            Jack: But, Fern…

            Fern: (pleading) Please, don’t mention it.

[song – I’m Not Playin’ Games.]

            Jack: (singing) Please listen, baby

                                    I’m not playin’ games

                                    Not tryin’ to scare you

                                    Or to give you shame.

                                    I know that you’re not free

                                    That your heart’s in chains.

                                    I want you near me,

                                    Please let me explain.

[chorus] My heart won’t let me lie

            Listen, baby, and you’ll know it’s true.

            If I can’t have you for my own

            I wanna be friends with you.         

            As Jack sings Fern warms to him and they begin a chaste Friendship Dance.

Radio announcer:  “President Truman has just announced that an atomic bomb has been dropped on the Japanese industrial city of Hiroshima.  The bomb was dropped sixteen hours ago and the announcement was delayed to ascertain the results of the explosion.”

            There is a stunned silence at the announcement but then all of the workers, including Fern and Jack get up in celebration and sing in chorus.  The WPA band marches on stage and joins them.

[song – We Dropped The Bomb On Hiroshima]

Chorus: We dropped the bomb on Hiro-shima

            We dropped the bomb

            We dropped the bomb.

            Who dropped the bomb on Hiro-shima?

            We dropped the bomb

            We dropped the bomb.

            Nanking.  Shanghai.

            Pearl Harbor. Corregidor.

            Guadalcanal. Okinawa.

            Hiroshima!

[chorus]

Curtain.

Between acts one of the workers carries a wind-up record player onto the stage.  Winds it up and plays “The War is Over and I’m a Bum Again.”

Act Two: A few months later.

Scene one: Fern’s house.

            Fern and The Girls dance a Decorating Dance as they prepare the house for Wes’ return.  This dance is similar to the Morning Dance from Act One, but is clearly different.  It should display the teamwork that the three women have achieved.

            [song – Daddy’s Coming Home]

            Fern: (singing) We’ve got to get done.

            Girls: (singing) Daddy’s coming home.

            Fern: (singing) There’s so much to do.

            Girls: (singing) Daddy’s coming home.

            Fern: (singing) I want everything to be

                                    Just right.

            Together: (singing) Daddy’s coming.

            Fern: (singing) My hands start to shake

            Girls: (singing) Daddy’s coming home.

            Fern: (singing) I can’t catch my breath

            Girls: (singing) Daddy’s coming home

            Fern: (singing) I want everything to be

                                    Just right

            Together: (singing) Daddy’s coming home.

            As they finish their song Wes enters.  His effect on the dance of Fern and The Girls is evident immediately.  Their teamwork breaks down.  They become competing individuals, blooming as Wes turns his attention to them, wilting as he turns away.

            [song – Anything to See a Smile]

            Wes: (singing) It really really feels good

                                    To be home.

                                    But you know it feels strange

                                    To be here.

                                    I missed you all very much

                                    And it’s been a really long time I been gone.

                                    I just really don’t know how

                                    To get here.

            Fern & The Girls: [chorus]

                                    We love you Daddy

                                    We love you.

                                    Bring us back our happy home.

            Wes: (singing) I’d do anything

                                    To see a smile

                                    On your face.

                                    It’s been such a long

                                    Long while

                                    Since I’ve seen you.

                                    But even a smile

                                    Can’t erase

                                    All of the time

                                    Without you.

            Fern & the Girls: [chorus]

Fern: Time to get ready for bed girls.

Girl 2: But, Mom…

Girl 1: Couldn’t we just…

Wes: (sternly) You heard your Mother.

The Girls: Yes, Daddy.

            The Girls exit.

            Fern and Wes begin the Paranoia Duet Dance. This is a tango of repulsion and attraction that echoes the duet dance of Fern and Jack, but Fern is the pursuer.  They sing these lines in rhythm with their dance.

Fern: (singing) Wes, I missed you.

Wes: (singing) The girls look good.

Fern: (singing) They do don’t they?

Wes: (singing) I missed you.

Fern: (singing) How does the house look?

Wes: (singing) You look great.

Fern: (singing) You think so?

Wes: (singing) How come?

Fern: (singing) How come what honey?

Wes: (singing) How come you look so good?

Fern: (singing flattered) Oh, Wes…

Wes: (singing suspicious) I mean it how come you look so good?

[song – The Paranoia Duet]

Wes: (singing)Sunny skies

                        No sign of gray.

                        Look in your eyes

                        What can I say?

                        Gone to long

                        No fault of mine

                        You string along

                        I thought we were fine

Fern & Wes: (singing) I don’t know where you are

                                    Or what you’re doing.

                                    I don’t know who you are or

                                    Who you’re screwing.

Fern: (singing)Sunny skies

                        No sign of gray

                        Look in your eyes

                        What can I say?

                        You wonder if

                        While you been gone

            Some other heart

            Has come along.

Fern & Wes: (singing) I don’t know where you are

                                    Or what you’re doing.

                                    I don’t know who you are or

                                    Who you’re screwing.

                        Sunny skies

                        No sign of gray

                        Look in your eyes

                        What can I say?

            Fern & Wes: Sun’s in my eyes

                                    I’ll have to trust

                                    That you’ve been true

                                    I know I must, but

                                    I don’t know where you are

                                    Or what you’re doing.

                                    I don’t know who you are

                                    Or who you’re screwing.

Fern: I better tuck the girls in.

            She exits.  Wes is left alone on stage.  The lights dim down to just a spotlight on him as he walks to the front of the stage to sing.

            [song – A Hard Place in my Heart]

            Wes: (singing) I did my duty, that’s what I thought.

                                    I fought with tools and not with guns.

                                    All I wanted was to be home

                                    Now that I’m home I want to run.

[chorus] Home’s that place to go to

            When you don’t know where to start.

            But for me, now home is just

            A hard place in my heart.

                                    My wife’s a beauty and I love her

                                    In my photos and my dreams.

                                    But when I see her and she’s breathing.

                                    I just don’t know what it means.

[chorus]

                                    And my family, young and healthy

                                    Filled with promise and well-bred

                                    The love I feel for them, now just

                                    Strangles me with dread.

[chorus]

            While Wes sings at the front of the stage a spotlight comes up on another part of the stage and we see The Girls in their beds.  Fern pantomimes tucking them in and kissing them goodnight.  Wes pauses his singing and stands silent while the pantomime continues.

Fern: Good night girls.       

            Fern turns out the light, leaving The Girls illuminated by a small spot. The music of I’m Worried About Dad comes up.

Girl 2: (singing) Did you see it?

Girl 1: (singing) Did I see what?

Girl 2: (singing) That look that was in his eyes.

            Did you see it?

Girl 1: (singing) I don’t know, Sis.

Girl 2: (singing) I don’t think he’s who he used to be.

Spotlight goes out on The Girls and the music segues to A Hard Place in My Heart. Wes stands alone at the front of the dark stage.

            Wes: (singing) I did my duty that’s what I thought

                                    I fought with tools and not with guns.

                                    All I wanted was to be home

                                    Now that I’m home I want to run.

[chorus] Home’ s that place to go when

            You just don’t know where to start.

            But for me now home is

            Just a hard place in my heart.

Blackout.

Scene two: Port of Portland.

            Fern is eating her lunch at the picnic table doing her Lunch dance and humming I’m Worried About Dad.   Jack enters and the orchestra picks up If I Could Have That Woman.  Fern reacts in confusion and they do their Attraction/Repulsion Dance to a medley of: Why Am I Alone, I’m Worried About Dad, I’m a Married Woman, I’m Not Playin’ Games and If I Could Have That Woman. Fern exits in confusion.

            Jack reprises If I Could Have That Woman.  While he is singing Wes comes to the front of the stage and sings A Hard Place in My Heart.  The two sing a counterpoint duet of those songs.

Blackout.

Scene three: Fern’s House.

            Wes is building a bomb in the basement (Bomb Building Dance).  While he works he sings.

            [song –     Power in My Hands ]

            Wes: (singing) If you know how power grows

                                    From intention like a rose

                                    From a pile of compost

                                    Do you start to understand

                                    How to build power in my hands?

                                    From each little action springs

                                    A million choices, all kinds of things

                                    Like a puppet pulling strings

                                    Till I am ready to stand

                                    With power in my hands.

            Fern and The Girls are doing a Housework Dance, but their coordination and teamwork is thrown off by the presence of Wes singing in the basement.  Girl 1 dances to the cellar door and looks in.

            Girl 1: He’s wearing gloves.

            The Housework Dance continues.  Girl 2 Dances to the cellar door and looks in.

            Girl 2: He’s tinkering with wires.

            The Housework Dance continues.  Fern dances to the cellar door and looks in.

            Fern: What could he be doing?

            (To Wes) Honey, dinner’s almost ready.

            Wes: (singing) The world around us we create

                                    Like a chef designing a plate

                                    And now before it is too late

                                    I will undo the bands

                                    And hold power in my hands.

            Wes finishes his song and ostentatiously packs up and locks the trunk he has been working on.  He comes out of the basement and joins his family.

            Fern, Wes and The Girls dance the Family Quartet Dance.

            [song – False Face]

            Wes: (singing) I know this smile I’m wearing

                                    Doesn’t reveal what’s inside of me.

                                    I know this smile I’m wearing

                                    Can’t conceal the intensity

                                    Of all the closeness and resentment

                                    The horror and contentment

                                    Of our family.

Girl 1: (singing) I got an A at school today

Wes: (singing) Good girl.

Girl 2: (singing) Mom, I set the table

Fern: (singing) Good girl.

            I know this smile I’m wearing

            Is a creation of my vanity.

            I know this smile I’m wearing

            Can’t conceal the cold reality

            Of the love and the rejection

            The fear and the connection

            Of our family.

Wes: (singing) Please chew with your mouths closed, Girls.

Girls: (singing) Yes, Dad.

Fern: (singing) Drink your milk, girls.

Girls: (singing) Yes, Mom

We know these smiles we’re wearing

                        Don’t convey reality.

                        We know these smiles we’re wearing

                        Only hint at the insanity

                        Of the coldness and affection

                        The neglect and the attention

                        Of our family.

            Wes: Well, I’m off to Newport.

            Fern: But you just got home.

            Wes: Sorry, my brother needs me to help him finish his boat.

                        There’s just one thing before I go.

            [song – Don’t Go In The Basement]

            Wes: (singing) Don’t go in the basement,

                        You don’t know what you will find down there.

[chorus]          Don’t go in the basement

                        You don’t know what you’ll find down there.

                        For my peace of mind, please

                        Please, stay away from there.

                        I did demolition for the Army

                        And moved a lot of mud

                        Some of my souvenirs are toxic

                        And some of them just might explode.

[chorus]

                        I’ve got some private papers

                        And they’re locked up in the trunk

                        That’s down inside that basement

                        With all that deadly junk.   

[chorus]

                        I’ve been strange and distant

                        Not like myself at all

                        But my love for you is constant

                        Please listen to my call.

[chorus]

                        I know that you don’t like it

                        That I always seem to roam.

                        When I get back from Newport.

                        We’ll get back our happy home.

                        Just don’t go in the basement

                        You don’t know what you will find down there.

                        For my peace of mind, please,

                        Please, stay away from there.                  

            Wes exits.

            [song – I’m Worried About Dad]

            Girl 1: (singing) Did you see it?

            Girl 2: (singing) Did I see what?

                        That look that was in his eyes?

            Girl 1: (singing) Did you see it?

            Girl 2: (singing) I don’t know, Sis.

                        I don’t think he’s who he used to be.

            Fern: (singing) What’s he planning?

                        I’ve got to look.  I’ve got to get these girls out of here.

            Fern & The Girls: (singing as a round)

                        I’m worried about dad

                        He seems a little odd to me

                        There’s a look in his eyes

                        Like there never used to be.

                        He’s still my Dad (Fern sings man)

                        But now he’s kind of scaring me.

                        I’m worried about dad

                        He seems a little strange to me.

            The Girls exit.  Fern is left alone on stage. She dances a fluttery nervous version of the Housework dance to a medley of I’m Worried About Dad/Don’t Go In The Basement.

            [song – Don’t Go In The Basement (Fern’s verses)]

            Fern: (singing) If I go in the basement

                                    I don’t know what I will find

                                    But I just have to know

                                    What is on his mind.

            As she sings Fern builds her resolve and dances closer and closer to the basement.  Finally she goes in and unlocks the trunk.  She lifts the trunk lid and there is an explosion.

Black out.

Scene four: Finale.

            A spotlight comes up on the dark stage and Wes is there handcuffed.  He dances a soft shoe as he sings.

            [song – I Meant to Kill Him Not Her]

            Wes: (singing) I meant to kill him, not her

                        Your honor.

                        I must have got a bad break.

                        I’m not a mur-derer

                        Your honor.

                        A life’s one thing I can’t take.

                        I locked it up in the trunk

                        Your honor.

                        I told her not to look in there.

                        Stay out of the basement, I said.

                        Your honor.

                        That’s what I said, I swear.

                        She was the Ma of my kids

                        Your honor.

                        Why would I want to see her dead?

                        He is the one who should die,

                        Your honor.

                        He invaded my house and my bed.

            Wes finishes his dance on his knees, his handcuffed hands are held in a pleading position.

            Judge: (Offstage voice): Guilty.

            A gavel raps.

Curtain.