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Dramatic Texts >> Bianca Bagatourian >> The Perils of Politeness Live On

The Perils Of Politeness Live On

By Bianca Bagatourian


Time: Today

Place: Here

Characters:

Hagop Baronian- Himself (An author from the 19th Century)

Father

Girl (Arousiag)

Barry- An odar (A Foreigner)

Melkon Agha/Barry

Barber/Father

Margos Agha/Father

Kamig Agha/Hagop

Gabriel Agha/Father

Hamparsoom Agha/Hagop

Apimelik Agha/Barry

Act 1

Scene 1

We see the shadow of a match striking and a candle being lit.

HAGOP

There is a tyrant that strides amongst us and is the mortal enemy of many things. It is a force that can torture, inflict pain, hours of misery, and bring horrifying nightmares. It is a force that is omni-present in all the living rooms of towns, in kitchens and dining rooms, it even has the gall to enter the bedrooms of strangers and climb in between the sheets. Those who rebel against it are denounced as coarse and uncivilized. Have you figured out who this almighty ruler is yet? It is not the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker or even the mayor that governs his town. No! Let me illuminate for you this silent force to whom houses of worship are built throughout this land. I offer to you the scourge of mankind: I am speaking of a power which we must learn to outwit. The power of Politeness.

Lights dim. Spotlight on GIRL as she addresses the audience.

GIRL

I had this dream that I was living in Oonga Boonga land. Nobody knew me there and I knew nobody.
I was not my father’s daughter there. I walked the streets with such pleasure, such freedom, with no binding ropes.
I thought what I liked and I said what I liked and nobody told me otherwise...The sun was shining in Oonga Boonga
and I knew I had arrived in a place that I had looked for my whole life long.

Lights up. Girl remains in darkness.

FATHER

Dotter!

GIRL

I want to go to Oonga Boonga.

FATHER

Vat? Vere? Dotter? Bring more vine for de guests. Clear de dishes. De nuts and fruits, choreg...Vere are day? Vere are you?

GIRL

Here, father. I am here.

Girl begins cleaning up after the meal.

HAGOP

It comes in all shapes and sizes and condemns us to slavery without breaking any laws. It has no limits. Akh! Tradition.

FATHER

You mean you don’t like tradition?

GIRL

Tradition? Is that what makes us feel so bound and gagged? Is that what keeps us from feeling happy within ourselves?

FATHER

Vat are you talking about, dotter?

HAGOP

Ay.Tradition is one thing. But destructive tendencies and pretensions are another, my good sir.

FATHER

Vat? Hagop, You too?

GIRL

It is like this invisible, undescribable cloud -

HAGOP

Give it time, my dear girl. I’m still waiting for things to change.

FATHER

I don’t understand vat you are all talking about! Vat should change?

GIRL

Father. Listen to the great Hagop Baronian. After all the stories he's told, he knows a thing or two about this.

HAGOP

I think people must change and things will take care of themselves.

FATHER

Are you say dere is no need for politeness? How vill dat be? Dotter, more vater. I am getting hot.

GIRL

Right away, father. How was the meal?

FATHER

Humph!

HAGOP

Barry. You’re an “odar,” foreigner, as we say. Tell me what you think of our Armenian politeness?

BARRY

I’m not sure tonight is the best time-

FATHER

Vy you ask him? Vat he know? He only know my dotter von veek. How he know vat good old Armenian custom iz?

BARRY

Actually sir, I’ve known your daughter for over a year now.

FATHER

DOTTER! Vater! Vater! You said von veek. Now BERRY say von year. I feel confused...and more hot. Vater! Now! Now!

GIRL

Calm down, father. Here’s your water. His name is Barry, not Berry, and I met him at work one year ago.

FATHER

Vy you don’t tell me about B…B…B...berry?

GIRL

I’m telling you now. It’s Barry. B--a--r--r--y.

FATHER

Strawberry! Heh, heh, heh. Vat work you do... berry ...berry...

BARRY

I’m a photographer.

FATHER

…blueberry?

BARRY

What?

FATHER

Vat?

BARRY

I take pictures.

FATHER

You no lawyer?

BARRY

No.

FATHER

Or doctor?

BARRY

No.

FATHER

You make money?

BARRY

Heh. Some.

FATHER

Some?

GIRL

He’s an artist, father.

FATHER

Arteest? Vat vill ART pay for? Bread? Cheese? Insurance? Vat can an arteest do?

GIRL

Save your soul.

FATHER

Berry vil not save my soul. Number one, starving child needs loaf of bread, not soul.

GIRL

Yes, father.

FATHER

That’s a good girl.

GIRL

Yes, father.

FATHER

Such a good girl, no? My dotter-

GIRL

But, there is something I want to say.

FATHER

Of course. Say it later, dotter.

GIRL

No! Now. That child needs the loaf of bread but he needs art for his spirit...to see the possibilities...to imagine. And those of us with artistic gifts must give them to save souls who can then make loaves of bread.

FATHER

Dotter-

GIRL

This story in the bible talked about how a women anointed Jesus with an expensive ointment and the others said “What are you doing? You could sell that for a lot of money and feed a hundred hungry people but you are wasting it.” And Jesus said, “What she has done is a beautiful thing.” To use the gifts that God gives you is a kind of worship. A singer may not be giving bread to the poor, but she is healing the soul of many so they can have the strength to make bread for the poor.

FATHER

So you give the hungry child a pretty picture and say “Here?”

GIRL

You must give him both.

FATHER

Good. Go do de dishes now.

GIRL

NO!

FATHER

Relax, Vat did I say? You should not get so hot, dotter.

GIRL

I am going to go make some coffee now.

FATHER

ARMENIAN coffee! How many times-

GIRL

Yes, father.

Barry and Girl exit.

HAGOP

Gevork Agha, once I gave away a perfect pair of boots in exchange for some stylish shoes with all their accompanying torments and corns. And while politeness may have nothing against corns, I am sure it is the mortal enemy of a good solid pair of boots.

FATHER

But Hagop, vit no politeness, ve are lost! I vork hard all my life to come home to vat? Get your own coffee? Cook your own dinner? I vake up every day for forty years at five o’ clock in morning and break my back to keep house. Ven I come home, I demand politeness. Sometimes, in de mornings, I tink, “Vat vould happen if I stay in bed some longer, if I don’t go to office, if I just rest a bit more.” Den I tink “No, Gevork. Dat vould not be polite. Not polite for your vife or polite for your dotter. So I go.” And ven I come home, I demand politeness too.

HAGOP

Ay, Gevork Agha. It’s a double-edged sword. But can you imagine for a moment a world with no politeness at all? What would happen if there were no more false niceties? If people just came out and said what they thought all the time. And if someone occasionally was polite, you’d know that it was for real. That it was coming from the bottom of their heart. Wouldn’t that be something else, Gevork Agha?

FATHER

A mess. You need traditions. Rules. Vays.

Barry and Girl enter carrying fruit.

HAGOP

Come on, son. Don’t mind Gevork Agha. Tell me what you really think of our Armenian manners.

BARRY

Well... I’m in no position to pass judgment on a whole culture, especially here and especially on one as old as yours, but it seems to me that there are a lot of unusual things that don’t make a lot of sense.

FATHER

Dis boy does not at all understand de meaning ov politeness! How he speak like dis in front of me? Very impolite boy. Dis iz your friend?

GIRL

Father-

FATHER counting the syllables on his hand…

FATHER

Berry...Be-rry Rasp-berry…

FATHER

Lin-gon-bee-rry. Four! That’s four syllables, right?

HAGOP

Ay ay ay. It is still the same. This reminds me of a fine story about a friend of mine from a long time ago who couldn’t speak his mind also. This one I must have told over a thousand times and yet, there is always the need for it to be heard again. I don’t tire of retelling, for even in that, there is something to be gained.  but here it is again, told especially for you.  Arousiag dear, come here, don’t fret. We will wait together. Come sit down next to Uncle Hagop and listen to this funny story.

For telling a story well, is an art in itself. Not everyone can tell a story to it’s best advantage, elaborate ont her right detaisl, add the correct pauses and know when to stop.


Scene 2-

We see the shadow of a tall candle projected on the back wall. Flicker, flicker. A flash of hand gestures as he begins:

HAGOP

The place was Constantinople, now Istanbul, also called Bolis. The time was somewhere around 1880. Melkon Agha decides to go to the barbershop one day and this is what happened when he couldn’t speak his mind.

We hear the horn of a steamer in the distance.

Father and Barry play the following roles. Father wears the customary Fez hat as he enters the barbershop.

MELKON AGHA/BARRY

Parev. Parev. Inchbessek? Can you give me a quick shave today, and maybe a haircut, too?

BARBER/FATHER

Why not? Why not? Sit. Sit.                                                                                                                                                               

Melkon Agha settles into the barber chair.

MELKON AGHA

I beg you to use a sharp razor because my beard is very tough otherwise you will be sorry and so will I.

BARBER

Don’t worry the slightest bit.

He puts a white apron on him and lathers him up.

MELKON  AGHA

I don’t want the beard cut to the roots either. Just go over it lightly and let it go at that.

The barber performs the preliminary rituals.

BARBER

Relax. Leave everything to me. There are barbers and there are barbers, no?

MELKON  AGHA

If you say so.

BARBER

Lean back now and rest your head here.

MELKON  AGHA

Very well.

The operation begins. The barber draws close and there is almost immediate blood-letting.

MELKON  AGHA

Hey! Be careful. You just cut me!

BARBER

That was because of a little scar you have right there. You must have been shaved by a butcher last time.

MELKON  AGHA

Ayyyyyyyyyyyy! You did it again.

BARBER

A hair was growing crooked right here. Your regular barber must be something else!

MELKON  AGHA

And what about my chin? Is there a scar there, too?

BARBER

No, but it is an odd dimple, I must say. That’s what caused it. Don’t worry. I’ll clean it all up in a minute.

MELKON  AGHA

Hurry up for God’s sake. My face is burning.

BARBER

Here. Let me wash your face with some perfumed. That will take care of everything.

MELKON  AGHA

I don’t want any of that! Just finish the shave without cutting me any more.

BARBER

But it won’t do without the lotion.

MELKON  AGHA

For God’s sake. Is it my face, or isn’t it?

BARBER

Yes, yes. The face is yours no doubt, but every shop has its pride. And there is still hair on your face here
and there and there that has to be shaved. This will reflect badly on our honor. So please, just put your head
back and don’t worry about a thing.

MELKON  AGHA:

My dear man, are you determined to torture me? You are standing over my head like an executioner.

BARBER

You are upset, so I will say nothing more. I only beg you to be patient a little bit longer and let me finish my work.

The Barber pacifies him who meekly gives in with his teeth gritted. Suddenly, he leaps from the chair.

MELKON  AGHA

Enough. That’s enough. My face is soaked in blood. Oof! Oof!

BARBER

Melkon Agha, come, the bleeding has stopped. There are only four spots with a bit of blood-

MELKON  AGHA

Do it then and finish. I am done for anyway.

BARBER

You were really right when you said your beard was a little tough.

MELKON  AGHA

I tried to tell you.

 The Barber keeps pressing rice flour on the cuts, but blood continues to flow.

MELKON  AGHA

Akh! I have lost a pint of blood!

BARBER

This will fix it.

Barber grabs a bottle of fluid and every time he brushes Melkon’s face, he screams in pain and jumps from the chair.

BARBER

There. Threre. All finished. You can breathe easily now.

MELKON  AGHA

Thank you and thank God.

BARBER

Now...for your hair.

MELKON  AGHA

No. No. No.No. No..Let my hair be. Am I not master of my own head?

 Melkon Agha rips off his white apron, flicks a coin to the Barber and is off like a flash.

BARBER

I have never in all my life seen such an obstinate man!

Lights shift to a dreamy blue shade. Barber continues sweeping and cleaning up the mess and washing as Melkon Agha/Barry sings his song to the barber, dancing wildly around him. The barber is oblivious.

SONG #1 “What Do I Really Think?”

(The first line is done in a shout)

MELKON AGHA (/BARRY)

That’s what I’m really thinking

As I sit here quietly sinking

Suffering in your barber chair,

Who gives a shit about the hair

But how good I’d feel if I made you bleed

Cut you up at lightning speed.

CHORUS:

What do I really think?

drop by drop...

What do I really think?

drip, drip, drip...

What do I really think?

Take a guess...

What do I really think?

Clean up the mess!

As I gaze into the mirror

You’re looking queerer and queerer

Let me take that razor blade

And cut your veins into a braid

Let me give you a haircut

You will forget not

And cut you open in places

Where they will find no traces

CHORUS:

What do I really think?

drop by drop!

What do I really think?

drip, drip, drip!

What do I really think?

Take a guess...

What do I really think?

Clean up the mess!

Go on, sweep it all under,

I don’t want to steal your thunder.

But how good will my hair cut really look,

As you hang upside down from that hook.

Don’t close your eyes, not for a minute,

You might not like what you find in it.

A jutting comb, a brush, a bristle,

All I want is a piece of your gristle

(At the end of every song, there will be a little one minute routine consisting of curtseying, bowing, and hat- tipping. This cycles through a few times.)

 

Scene 3-

Lights dim and come up again. All actors are around the dinner-table. Girl is peeling apples and oranges and passing them around.

GIRL

Apple?

HAGOP

Gevork Agha, Wouldn’t it be the same story if you went to the barber today?

FATHER

Cheh.

GIRL

So, time doesn’t change anything.

BARRY

Perhaps it’s a little better now. But people don’t change.

GIRL

Who makes the rules anyway? Of course when a person imposes on you, it is rude. But maybe it’s also just inconsiderate, and is that the same thing as being rude? Orange?

HAGOP

It’s a slippery slope! Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is rude and what isn’t.

GIRL

So being selfish, inconsiderate, self-centered…all these things, fall under the umbrella of rudemess?.

BARRY

Well yes, not only that but different things have different meanings in different places, too.

GIRL

Cucumbers?

FATHER

Astvats! Vodka! I only vant Vodka.

BARRY

If you burp after a meal in Japan, it’s a symbol of respect-

FATHER

You burrrp here, you get hit very hard.

GIRL

See what I mean? Who decides?

FATHER

Very hard......listen, GOOSE-berry!

HAGOP

In Greek, etiquette is “pro-to-ko-llon,” like protocol. The word has grown plural in multi-ethnic societies. So now you can to refer to “an etiquette” realizing that this may not be universal.

BARRY

There is a universality of politeness that is based on English speaking cultures, isn’t there?

GIRL

I think politeness is having kind feelings toward others.

FATHER

Yes. Kindly bring me de vodka, dotter.

HAGOP

That’s a big problem. In these English speaking cultures, the idea of the self being the center of all is normal. But in older cultures like China and Greece and ours, the group aspect is the more important one.

FATHER

Den listen to dis simple ting. It iz impolite to come to somebody’s house and talk so much to dis group of people. End of story.

GIRL

Oh, father!

HAGOP

Gevork Agha. Let the poor boy speak his mind.

FATHER

Vat I say? Dis iz rude?

HAGOP

It’s all about relationships. Between people, between, cultures, between countries. I mean, is it polite to go and invade another country? Drop bombs, kill mothers and children? Is our capitalist culture polite today?

GIRL

Or is it polite that they turn off your heat in the middle of winter because you haven’t paid the bill or that they don’t let you into a hospital when you have an emergency without any insurance or that there are hungry homeless people in the streets? So many things here seem so rude.

HAGOP

Yes, a lot of things are hidden behind the veil of politeness here. Beneath all the orderliness of some Western societies, there is this substructure of domination and exploitation at work.

BARRY

Like the British Empire-

GIRL

What about the British Empire?

BARRY

On the surface, the British are the epitomy of politeness but the British Empire was ruthless.

HAGOP

The English gentleman was one of the greatest creations of Western civilization.

BARRY

Yes…England created the gentleman.

HAGOP

Gentlemen British officials who would win over leaders and then work through them, rather than trying to order people about directly. Good manners went a long way there.

BARRY

You can have your country and your flag but you will remain docile.

HAGOP

Exessive politeness to cover up for underlying rudeness.

BARRY

A rude action cloaked in polite language.

GIRL

Hidden behind a veil of politeness-

FATHER counting on his fingers…

FATHER

Dat’s it! Dat’s it! MULBERRY! Dat iz vat vee had een my garden. Beautiful trees...Aah, so many…Tventy five, tventy siz, thirty…

HAGOP

But you know, Arousiag, Eastern or more ancient societies used politeness in other damaging ways too. Like ‘saving face” Now that was one practice I abhorred.

BARRY

What’s that?

HAGOP

“Saving face” actually comes from the Chinese. It’s about looking good in front of others, maintaing the self-image of the speaker.

GIRL

Boy, do I know about that!

HAGOP

And a face-threatening act generally requires some verbal repair-

GIRL

So, we are a bit like the Chinese.

HAGOP

Like the Chinese and the Persians, we Armenians are very invested in saving face.

BARRY

You must be exhausted.

HAGOP

It’s a matter of degrees. Sometimes it’s very time-consuming, sometimes a clever word can save you five hours. But clever words are not always at the tip of one’s tongue as was the case with poor Kamig Agha...Let me tell you a story that took place on one of the main streets of Pera, in front of a tavern... A typical conversation…  It went like this…

 

Scene 4-

Lights dim on dinner table. Father and Hagop play the following roles of Margos and Kamig Agha.

MARGOS AGHA/FATHER

Ah! Just the man I wanted to see. Kamig Agha. Let’s have dinner together this evening.

KAMIG AGHA/HAGOP

Thank you, Margos Agha, but I can’t join you tonight. I’ve been invited to dine elsewhere.

MARGOS AGHA

Nonsense. I beg of you.

KAMIG AGHA

It’s really impossible.

Margos Agha links arms with Kamig Agha and continues...

MARGOS AGHA

Don’t refuse me.

KAMIG AGHA

Don’t insist.

MARGOS AGHA

Don’t say no.

KAMIG AGHA

Don’t embarass me.

MARGOS AGHA

We will have such an enjoyable evening together. Imagine-

KAMIG AGHA

I’m sure of that, but-

MARGOS AGHA

But, what? Let’s go.

KAMIG AGHA

No. Really.

MARGOS AGHA

Yes. Really.

KAMIG AGHA

Oh, Margos Agha. How can I refuse when you insist so much?

MARGOS AGHA

Wonderful. Wonderful. I’m very thankful to you.

KAMIG AGHA

Don’t mention it.

MARGOS AGHA

But I am.

KAMIG AGHA

I’m thankful, too.

Kamig Agha tries to unlink his arm but Margos Agha holds on tight and continues...

MARGOS AGHA

In here. I hear this is a good place for a quick drink.

KAMIG AGHA

As long as it’s quick.

MARGOS AGHA

Shall we have a ohghi?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

How about trying a waterpipe?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

Rum?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

You must be a cognac drinker.

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

What is your drink then?

KAMIG AGHA

Nothing. Didn’t you know? I’ve stopped drinking. It’s been a few years now.

MARGOS AGHA

YOU DON’T DRINK?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

You’re not joking?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

You’re telling me the truth?

KAMIG AGHA

Why should I lie?

MARGOS AGHA

I can’t believe it!

KAMIG AGHA

I just don’t drink.

MARGOS AGHA

You must be joking with me.

KAMIG AGHA

Why should I joke?

MARGOS AGHA

You mean you won’t have ohghi with me now?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

Or a beer?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

Rum?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

Cognac?

KAMIG AGHA

No.

MARGOS AGHA

What is there left for you to live for? I’m sure you’re only pretending.

KAMIG AGHA

There is no pretense, Margos Agha. I don’t drink.

MARGOS AGHA

Such a shame! Can such a thing really be? Unheard of. My friend, you’re going to make people laugh at you.

KAMIG AGHA

So, I don’t have the habit anymore. What’s wrong with that?

MARGOS AGHA

Are you a woman or what? How can anyone not drink ohghi? Are you a monk? Don’t you know what’s good for you? I beg you, Kamig Agha, let’s stop this nonsense.

KAMIG AGHA

What nonsense?

MARGOS AGHA

Just one glass, I beg you…

KAMIG AGHA

Just one glass?

MARGOS AGHA

Only one. I promise. For me!

Marghos Agha grabs a bottle of ohghi.

KAMIG AGHA

Oh, alright then. Just one glass. For you.

MARGOS AGHA

Thank you. That’s better. We have to go along with the times. Here they will laugh at anyone who doesn’t drink.

KAMIG AGHA

Very well.

MARGOS AGHA

Long life.

KAMIG AGHA

May it be sweet.

MARGOS AGHA

As sweet as this. To your lovely wife.

KAMIG AGHA

And to yours.

MARGOS AGHA

When will she be over it?

KAMIG AGHA

Over it? Oh, that. In a month, if God wills.

MARGOS AGHA

It looks like a boy. Tell her not to sit too much, to walk, walk, walk, walk, walk.

KAMIG AGHA

Thank you. Thank you.

MARGOS AGHA

And to your children.

He pours some more.

KAMIG AGHA

And to yours.

MARGOS AGHA

Your grandchildren. Let me pour you a tiny little bit more for them.

KAMIG AGHA

Very little.

MARGOS AGHA

You remember when I told you I bought fish last night? Well, I took it home and broiled it in a sauce prepared with salt and lemon and herbs for a good two hours but it had no taste at all! Nothing!

KAMIG AGHA

How surprising.

MARGOS AGHA

Really. Come over some day and prepare it with your own hands. I beg you. You will see what I mean. That fishmonger sells tasteless fish. Don’t’ you think so, Margos Agha? More?

KAMIG AGHA

Very well, thank-you. I will come over…No, no, no more ohghi-

Too late. Margos Agha has already poured some more.

MARGOS AGHA

So, Kamig Agha, you haven’t told me anything about yourself yet. I am going to scold you soon.

KAMIG AGHA

Well, my store-

MARGOS AGHA

You know, I haven’t forgotten the splendid time we had the other week at Apo Agha’s house. The beer was wonderful. The food, sublime. I must have drunk twenty glasses. And what about those potatoes? We must do it again next week at Toros Agha’s. But let’s prepare the mezzeh ahead of time, ay? And no outsiders!

KAMIG AGHA

No outsiders.

MARGOS AGHA

You were saying something.

KAMIG AGHA

Yes. About my work-

MARGOS AGHA

Oh. Thank God we ran into each other, Kamig Agha! What would we have done otherwise. Had another lonesome night on this earth.
This is what friends are for…To drink with and be jolly with.

He smacks him on the back hard.

KAMIG AGHA

UGH! Yes, Margos Agha, you are very right. But we should think of going home, Margos Agha. It’s getting late.

MARGOS AGHA

Nonsense. It’s early yet.

KAMIG AGHA

It will be twelve o’ clock soon.

MARGOS AGHA

The guest is the host’s lamb, didn’t you know?

KAMIG AGHA

I know-

MARGOS AGHA

I haven’t finished my quota yet. It will be exactly two bottles after this one.

KAMIG AGHA

Oh, Margos Agha.

Margos Agha gets another bottle, opens it and begins pouring.

KAMIG AGHA

How much longer must we stay?

MARGOS AGHA

What is your hurry, friend? I don’t understand it. You act like I am torturing you. Sit. Talk. Enjoy yourself.

KAMIG AGHA

Yes, Margos Agha.

MARGOS AGHA

Animals go to bed at this hour. What would we do if we went home now? Ah, but perhaps you are hungry?

KAMIG AGHA

No. Not at all.

MARGOS AGHA

If you are hungry, we will go.

KAMIG AGHA

No. How can one eat at this hour?

MARGOS AGHA

Be honest with me, I beg you. I want you to have a good time...to enjoy yourself. That’s the whole idea. I want my guest to be content, so if you are hungry-

KAMIG AGHA

No! Not a bit. I told you.

MARGOS AGHA

All you have to do is say the word.

KAMIG AGHA

I couldn’t eat so early in the day.

MARGOS AGHA

I repeat, don’t hesitate for a moment. Tell me if you’re hungry.

KAMIG AGHA

I’m not hungry!

MARGOS AGHA

Then talk a little. Tell me what’s happening. You’re quiet as a mouse. Let’s have a little life. You want to dance a bit?

KAMIG AGHA

Sweet immortality.

MARGOS AGHA

Let me get you another drink.

KAMIG AGHA

No, no. My head is spinning.

MARGOS AGHA

Long life, then. May it be sweet. You were working on something. How did it come out?

KAMIG AGHA

Working on what?

MARGOS AGHA

Oh, it doesn’t matter. We are here to pass the time, aren’t we?

KAMIG AGHA

Yes, yes.

MARGOS AGHA

How do you spend your evenings? Your days? How do you occupy yourself in the morning? Say something.

Kamig Agha mutters an aside:

KAMIG AGHA

(Aside) I’m so hungry I’m going to faint.

MARGOS AGHA

What did you say? How about that work you were doing?

KAMIG AGHA

Melkon’s job?

MARGOS AGHA

That’s the one. (Aside) As if I really remember it.

KAMIG AGHA

What? Oh, yes. Melkon was completely at fault about that matter. (Aside) I should have been at the dinner table over two hours ago.

MARGOS AGHA

Is that a fact? I would never have believed it. I would have expected more of Melkon Agha. (Aside) Who is this Melkon?

KAMIG AGHA

He’s done some pretty awful things.

MARGOS AGHA

That’s too bad. Tell me about them. (Aside) At least this will make him talk.

KAMIG AGHA

Did you say something?

MARGOS AGHA

No. No. I’m all ears.

KAMIG AGHA

It’s a long story. (Aside) And I’m hungry as a wolf.

MARGOS AGHA

What if it is too long? (Aside) I have to get the poor man to open up a little, He looks so uneasy.

KAMIG AGHA

I can’t go into it now. (Aside) Not on this empty stomach.

MARGOS AGHA

Then long life to you!

KAMIG AGHA

May it be sweet, Margos Agha,. It is one o’ clock.

MARGOS AGHA

Well...Perhaps we should go now. (Aside) He is lousy company, anyway. (Loud) Only if you’re sure, though. Here. Let me take care of the bill. Better yet, you take care of it tonight and this way we will be sure to meet again tomorrow night when I will take care of. Splendid I will wait for you at dinnertime. Same place. But, my dear Kamig Agha, you must say a little more, make an effor tot be a bit more livery. I must go now. Excuse me...Don’t forget…tomorrow!

Marghos Agha leaves.

SONG #2 Rules and Rules

KAMIG AGHA (/HAGOP)

CHORUS:

There are rules and there are rules

and rules of the heart,

but mules will be mules

where do I start?

Please sir and thank you

after you if you please,

waiting in line too

and may God bless you if you sneeze.

CHORUS:

There are rules and there are rules

and rules of the heart,

but mules will be mules

where do I start?

A gentleman I am

and kind to the core,

I give what I can

but they just want more!

CHORUS:

There are rules and there are rules

but enough is enough,

some mules will be mules

I can’t take this any more of this stuff!

Not me.

Not me.

Not me.

(Curtseying, bowing, and hat-tipping cycle)

 

Scene 5

Back to the dinner table.

HAGOP

To be forced to drink on an empty stomach, all that vinegar, when you’ve given up drink. To miss your dinner. To keep you out late and to make you pay for it on top of it all. Why this torment? Just so they say Kamig Agha is civilized.

FATHER

Dere are tings dat must be endured.

HAGOP

And Margos Agha is not one of them. He pokes his finger in your chest for emphasis, steps on your toe or continually pulls you by the arm. And this form of persuasion is common amongst our people.

BARRY

An eloquence that depends on the abuse of the listener.

FATHER

You say something? I did not hear.

BARRY

I said it’s a-

FATHER

I don’t hear, again. BERRY! My ears have left me…

HAGOP

Come, Gevork Agha. Let’s play a game of backgammon.

FATHER

Vait...Black-berry! Dat is von of my favorite variety…

HAGOP

People like that Margos Agha make me so angry. They get what they want with no consideration for others and they are looked upon as respectable members of the community. Do you know anyone like that, Gevork Agha?

FATHER

Vere’s the backgammon board?

Lights dim. Spotlight on GIRL as she addresses the audience.

GIRL

When I was twelve, I wanted to get away from it all. I packed my bags and things and went to my best friend’s house and thought I could stay there forever. The first day was heavenly. I thought it would be like that always. The second day I got homesick. So homesick in fact ,that I started throwing up and then they had to rush me to the doctor who said there was nothing wrong with me. I guess I really was home-sick.  But the funny thing was, it wasn’t the home that I missed but the people there, no matter how angry or abused or deprived I felt, it was still where I belonged.

Lights up. Father and Hagop continue to roll the dice.

FATHER

I vin. I vin.

HAGOP

Yes, Gevork Agha. You win. Let’s play again.

GIRL

Do you think it’s something we can only learn as children…Politeness?

HAGOP

Good breeding is the result of good sense, good nature, a touch of humor, and a little self-denial for the benefit of others.

FATHER

Double sixes. Again!

BARRY

But as adults we make a choice to be impolite.

GIRL

Women are more polite than men.

BARRY

That is such a stereotype. Aren’t we all equal?

GIRL

Yes, with different sensations and desires. I love when I meet a man with impeccable manners.

FATHER

Double fives!

BARRY

If it’s not too much trouble, please pass the cucumbers this way, my dear. Many thanks.

GIRL

That’s so pleasant coming from your lips.

BARRY

Why, thank you. Women are really good at this?

GIRL

What?

BARRY

Getting what they want by altering their behaviors.

GIRL

That’s not fair.

BARRY

But it’s true.

GIRL

If you could do it, you would too.

FATHER

Double fours!

HAGOP

Ultimately, is it not the goal you have in mind that drives your actions, whether polite or impolite?

GIRL

Sometimes I just can’t find the right word for what I’m trying to say in this language. As if the word just doesn’t exist.
Not only that, but as if the idea of the word itself doesn’t exist and then it all comes out wrong and sometimes even might
sound rude when I didn’t mean it to be so at all.

FATHER

In India, an ant is an ant. But in China, dere are many different ants. Ve are all different. Dat’s all

HAGOP

I think grace is what’s needed.

FATHER

Grrrrace? But Hagop. You yourself criticize all society. You can’t stand corruption… Hypocricy They are your enemy.
Your satires are full of vitriol about dis. You spare no von. Have you no empathy for your fellow man? Vere is the grace in dis?

HAGOP

That is precisely why I do what I do because I HAVE empathy for my fellow man. They need me.

FATHER

Me. I tell it like it iz. You may tell it in your stories, but I tell it in my life. Short and sweet.

GIRL

I just wish men weren’t afraid of deeper conversation.

BARRY

It makes a man weak to talk about his feelings all the time. We don’t like it. I keep telling you. It takes away our strength.
Just as some conversation is not right for women.

FATHER

I heard dat and I agree vit the Berry on dat. Some tings are for vomen and some tings are not! End of story.

GIRL

That’s awful.

FATHER

No it’s not. It’s for yor own good.

GIRL

Is that because I’m too pretty to worry my little head? Why? Decisions were always made for me. Why?
Why was I so ignored? Because I wasn’t born a boy.

FATHER

Ha! I vin again.

HAGOP

So. Now it’s Barry’s turn to play.

FATHER

Vat? I say I agree vit him does not mean I vil play vit him. No.

GIRL

Come father. He’s our guest.

FATHER

Odars can’t play backgammon.

GIRL

Barry plays well. I taught him.

FATHER

And I taught you.

HAGOP

Gevork Agha. Play a game so they don’t say you were rude to your guest.

FATHER

Very well. But I varn him to be careful. How about more coffee? Dessert? Nuts?

Barry switches seats and they begin to play.

GIRL

Sure, more coffee. When will we women come out from under this crippling paralyses of politeness?

HAGOP

Yes. It is ridiculous, especially for women. Come Arousiag, forget the coffee and listen to this story and tell me what you think. It was during the Christmas...Or maybe it was during the Easter feast days...when it’s customary to receive guests and it often happens that more than three guests come at a time---

 

Scene 6

Lights shift. All actors move forward and sit on the floor in a gathering. Girl appears with tray of sweets and is torn between the guests.

GIRL

I beg you. Have some sweets, please.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA/HAGOP

Take them to Apilemik Agha. He must be served first.

APIMELIK AGHA/BARRY

I beseech you. Don’t stand on such ceremony. The poor girl’s tired. Go and serve Hampartsoom Agha, my child.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

That won’t do at all. Heaven forbid! Who am I to be served before you? Go back to Gabriel Ahga, young lady.

GABRIEL AGHA/FATHER

How can that be? No, no, don’t waste your steps by coming here, my child.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Apilemik Agha should be the first to be served.

GABRIEL AGHA

What about our fourth guest, the teacher? He has a certificate from the educational council.
No, no. Never mind that, Hampartsoom Agha must be-

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Why me, merciful God? Everything should go according to custom...according to the rules. Give some to Apilemik Agha, my child. Apilemik Agha, by the grace of God, is worth 30,000 pounds if he is worth a penny. I couldn’t even qualify as one of his servants.

APIMELIK AGHA

That doesn’t make sense at all, Hampartsoom Agha. You are an honorable and respected man.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Honor is measured by money these days, is it not, Apemelik Agha?

APIMELIK AGHA

Yes, Effendi. Yes it is. Perhaps precedence should be given to Gabriel Agha who is, after all, a councilman.

GABRIEL AGHA

You have exhausted my daughter, Efenndi’s.

APIMELIK AGHA

He’s right.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

We should spare the poor thing.

GIRL

Please, not at all. I am not a bit tired. (Panting) Pleeeeease accept something.

At last Apilemik Agha condescends to accept the first portion. He takes a spoonful of sweets.

APILEMIK AGHA

If I must, I must. Best wishes for the holiday season to you.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Happy New Year, Giragos Agha, and to you, young lady.

GIRL

Thank you.

GABRIEL AGHA

And Merry Christmas.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Thank you-

APILEMIK AGHA

With God’s blessings and abundance.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

May you be graced with long life.

GABRIEL AGHA

Happy New Year, Merry Christmas and all God’s blessings on all of you and you my child.

GIRL

Thank you. Thank you.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

May the Lord grant you many years, many happy years among friends like you.

GABRIEL AGHA

May he keep you from misfortune.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Amen.

APILEMIK AGHA

May God protect you from all harm.

GABRIEL AGHA

Long life to you.

APILEMIK AGHA

God grant you fine son-in-laws and daughter in laws.

GABRIEL AGHA

Thank you.

APILEMIK AGHA

And many grandchildren.

GABRIEL AGHA

Thank you.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

May you never see sickness and pain.

GABRIEL AGHA

And reach a ripe old age.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

And you too, Gabriel Agha. May your portion be sweet.

GABRIEL AGHA

Thank-you, Hamparsoom Agha. If you touch dross, may it turn to gold.

APILEMIK AGHA

Amen.

Hampartsoon Agha is served at last. As he reaches for a helping, he accidentally flicks the edge of the tray
which slips from the Girl’s hand, spilling sweets and coffee all over him. The girls faints.

GABRIEL AGHA

Don’t be alarmed, child.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Oh. Oh. There’s nothing to be frightened about.

APILEMIK AGHA

Bring a hot towel.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Heat some wine. Quick!

APILEMIK AGHA

Bleed her from the arm!

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

That will ease her fear!

GABRIEL AGHA

Let’s give her some medicine!

APILEMIK AGHA

Put her in a hot bath!

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

Put her in a cold bath!

GABRIEL AGHA

She’s opening her eyes. Don’t be startled, my child.

HAMPARSOOM AGHA

It was all our fault.

GABRIEL AGHA

My poor girl.

APILEMIK AGHA

We are to blame.

HAMPARTSOOM AGHA

Never again.

GABRIEL AGHA

You will rest tomorrow.

APILEMIK AGHA

A week. We won’t set foot here for a week.

GIRL

No, no. Please. I’m only sorry...I’m only sorry that...that-

Girl gets up and runs off in shame. The Effendis begin picking up pieces from the floor and cleaning up. She quietly begins to sing:

SLOW SONG #3- The Rules of Etiquette

GIRL

I feel more inclined

to decline

the rules I don’t understand.

And  I see no harm

or alarm

in requesting explanations.

Putting in plain words

illuminations

clarifications

explications.

I dream of a day

in the far far away

where I am free with my will

to do as I feel.

For goodness sake

let me know.

what a poor girl like me

is to do but obey and please.

show me the way

out of this mess I’m in.

When will it end I pray

to see a bright and pleasurable day

where I can have my own say

to hell with the rest if I may.

I pray I pray

dismay

is my company

I pray I pray

one day

in my memory

I will see

my own reverie

I pray I pray

I pray.

If I may

I may,

I may.

 

End of Scene 7

 

 

© Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance, 2005. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of this text is permitted. Performance rights must be secured for any performance.


The Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
© Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance, 2012. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this text is permitted. Performance rights must be secured for any performance.