Plays by S. A. Shipley 
 
 

       Serenade (text sample)
 


 

ACT 1 Scene 1

The Set: The town square, a fountain, the front of the church.

At rise: Enter NEGRETE, carrying his mariachi sombrero. He will be the lotteria caller. He does not wear it unless he is Mariachi. He pulls the lotteria cards from his hat.


 

NEGRETE
Everybody have the lotteria card? It’s on the back of your program. You can share a card. Cross out the pictures when they are on your card. When you have three across in any direction, call out Loteria!! and you get a prize. Ready? Bueno! We begin. (holds up a card, with the face turned away from the audience)
We have a leader, and he knows the way
Don Pedro Infante is with us today.
Don Pedro.
(shows face of the card. Puts card in his pocket.)
 
Enter Pedro Infante through the audience. He nods to NEGRETE. He sings (or speaks) directly to the audience.
 
Pedro Infante
El Noche de Los Angelitos brings
Each fam’ly to the grave of those we miss.
We light their candles and each family sings,
Rememb’ring when they lived and of the bliss
Of having our sweet children in our arms,
Of sharing, one more time, the toys and games.
Laughing with them and joyous in the chance,
To say aloud again, their given names.
For this we bring the sugared skeletons,
And decorate the graves with bright balloons.
Make golden marigolds from gelatin.
And promise we’ll all be together soon.
All in Cuautla gather at the bell -
Come listen to the stories parents tell.
 

Exit Pedro Infante shouldering his instrument. He passes
CITALLI and OCTAVIO as they walk toward the church. They pause to look at the stars as they speak.
NEGRETE steps forward, holds up the Lotteria cards. Puts them in his hat, closes his eyes and pulls one out.
 

NEGRETE

2 And when the work is done, at the last gasp
Who is the one, who will protect your ass?
(holds up the card) Friend. Mark your card.
 

Lights down on him and up on CITALLI and OCTAVIO as they enter through the audience.
 

CITALLI

In love with the norteamericano?
You don’t need a love charm to make her love you.
She’ll either find she loves you, or does not.
When we gather in the cemetery
And call our ancestors to share our lives
Speak to her then, and see what she answers.
If she loves you, you’ll see it in her eyes.
 

OCTAVIO

I don’t know how to look into her eyes.
You look for me, and tell me what you see.
 

CITALLI

You must be brave, and tell her of your love.
She’ll go back to states and never know
Your heart cries out to spend your life with her.
 

OCTAVIO

Padre Tanayo says all answers lie
Between the covers of the sacred text.
 

CITALLI

Learning the Bible’s mystery’s too slow.
 

OCTAVIO

To criticize the Bible. That’s a sin.
 

CITALLI

To speak verdad, the "Truth" is not a sin.
But fasts and spells -
 

OCTAVIO

To study witchcraft, certainly’s a sin!
 

CITALLI

"Arouse the fire within, now that’s a sin
Worth sinning," said the shaman, Mantero.
 

OCTAVIO

And could he do the things he said he could?
Put out a fire with spells?
 

CITALLI

This he could not.
 

OCTAVIO

- or see a hundred miles?
 

CITALLI

Or create a spirit, or raise the dead.
Or make himself invisible to me.
 

OCTAVIO

No love charms and no charms to raise dead?
From such a trip, what progress did you make?
 

CITALLI

I learned that Navarit’s far away.
And I found that stories grow with distance.
The magic of peyote opens eyes
The mirror with two sides sees in my soul.
While fasting, I recite the sacred words.
 

OCTAVIO

Words are more powerful than peyote!
And God forbid, you blurt one of those spells.
You never know what might happen to us.
It's dangerous to even know the words!
 

CITALLI

Listen, I found a number: thirty six.
I'm on that number every minute now.
Now everything comes, all to thirty six.
My name and JICARA 's name both come…
 

OCTAVIO

You’re to become a priest, why should you care
How many numbers’ JICARA ’s name?
 

Citalli

I know I’m here to be to ordained a priest.
With many promises and vows to take.
I must be certain I can keep them all.
 

OCTAVIO

It’s always been ordained you’d be a priest.
 

Citalli

I wish my heart would follow where my head
Says I must go.
To marry Silva’s daughter is a dream
And, in my dreams, I’m happier than here.
 

OCTAVIO

You can want what you want, but you’re too poor
To marry with the rich Don Silva’s child.
My mother yaps of marriage all the time
And talks about how rich Don Silva is.
 

CITALLI

How can I be a priest when you say that
And all my blood comes boiling in my veins?
Before I take the vows to be a priest,
I must be certain she cannot be mine.
I’ll solve both of our problems with one move -
I’ll ask Silva for Jicara’s hand.
 

OCTAVIO

Are you loco? To ask would be to lose.
Now maybe, you could say "She’s hermosa".
Then Silva'd know you'd like to marry her.
His answer, which I think you know, is "No".
And when he doesn’t answer, which he won’t,
You’ll both save face, because you didn't ask.
Praying and fasting won’t change Silva's mind.
 

CITALLI

I don't just fast and pray. I’ve spells to say.
 

OCTAVIO

But if you study Bible, while you wait,
Perhaps it will help you accept your fate.
 

CITALLI

Accept my fate! Not until I am sure.
Bible? Laws? Sand and salt. Where’s water?
The ancient spells are all the lightning fire!
 

OCTAVIO

The Bible binds us to the things of earth -

CITALLI

This world is all illusion. I need more.
With all the ancient spells, I might have wings.
 

OCTAVIO

You'll go so high, you'll never cease to fall.
 

CITALLI

It would be worth it - to touch Paradise.
 

OCTAVIO

You’re not the first to wish for paradise.
"Four men reached Paradise: Padre Torres,
Alone was granted entry, left unharmed,"
What happened to the other four, who knows?
 

CITALLI

The other three must not have known the words.
The holy Mantero. He didn't fall.
 

OCTAVIO

How are you like the holy Mantero?
 

CITALLI

The way I’m going is the way he went.
 

OCTAVIO

For me, myself, I'm going into church.
 

They hurry into the church.
 

NEGRETE

The world turns into flowers where they walk
There is no bird song sweeter than their talk.
The ladies. (Shows card of ladies) Mark your card.
 

Enter GRANDMA NAKA, JICARA, SOLANDRA through the audience.
 

GRANDMA NAKA

The spirits of the Holy Church await.
You know, my memories are very old.
If we did not come here one time each year
Perhaps I would forget….
 

JICARA

Forget mi madre?
 

GRANDMA Naka

Your mother’s face is clear to me as dawn
And though your mama was a woman, grown
Still, this night of the children, I recall
Her blessed babyhood and infant smile.
And there are others, gone before your birth,
Whose names and faces whisper through the mists
Tonight the visit’s to my children all
Who did not grow, or died, or were stillborn.
We’ll light some candles and welcome them home,
To visit with us and to share some gifts.
 

SOLANDRA

It will be dark when we start back for home.
 

JICARA

It will be wild and wonderful. The owl
Will call out from every tree.
 

SOLANDRA

That scares me!
 

GRANDMA Naka

The dark is just the dark. Nothing to fear.
Now marriage, maybe that should make you scream.
 

JICARA

I know that Papa's out discussing terms,
But he won’t say with who, or who’s his choice.
 

SOLANDRA

Where I come from, we choose who we will wed.
 

JICARA

I think he’s too old fashioned in this way.
To choose my own is what I want to do.
 

GRANDMA NAKA

He’s my good son, He'll choose you a good man.
Let’s pray your papa’s is one you’d make.
And Solandra, your mother should match too.
 

JICARA

                               (to Solandra)
And you would choose Octavio, if you could.
 

SOLANDRA

I’d pack him up and take him home with me.
He’s muy guapa and has stolen my heart.
 

GRANDMA NAKA

You could stay here, and marry with the boy.
(to JICARA ) You’ll take whoever Silva finds for you.
A good boy, that's the only thing that counts.

   
 

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