The Actress and the Sorrow Bird (Fall Formal Idea Remix)

By Metaphorest

Remix of my original Fall Formal script idea suggested by Sparra.

A play in progress. AN ACTOR sits at a chair towards the back of the stage, reading a book by Poe.

AN ACTRESS in costume takes the stage. She performs a poem to the audience ‘The Sorrow Bird’

If you should hear a mournful song
A tune that makes your skin feel wrong
The melancholy wail you heard
Most likely was the Sorrow Bird

Though to all else the room is still
It spins round you with hollow trill
And burns inside your brain and ears
The sum of all unspoken fears

The Sorrow Bird it rare is seen
Its feathers black, its face serene
It stares right through you to your soul
With empty eyes of coldest coal

It empties you of all your breath
And turns your living into death
For if the Sorrow Bird should show
So comes the hour to slip below

With the spotlight on her, she is unable to see out into the audience – just sunspots and silhouettes.

When she’s finished her monologue, she half turns to the actor onstage with her, without looking at him, says her line. He doesn’t react. She says her line again. Still no answer, she turns to look at him.

He is slumped, motionless, his head on his lap.

She steps back, shocked, then moves towards him. She touches him on the shoulder, shakes him. No response. She bends down to try to see his face – she lifts it up and sees that his eyes are open, but unreactive.

She calls out ‘Help’. No answer. No sound at all in fact. Just a dead, eerie quiet.

She turns to the audience. They too are all slumped, heads down in their seats. A mass of unmoving bodies.

A movement at the back of the theatre catches her eye. There, half in shadow, a black bird watches.

The actress frowns, turns pale, perturbed. Slowly she approaches an audience member – taps him on the shoulder.

No response. She feels his pulse. Frowns again.

She says to herself. ‘Are they asleep?’

She shouts out ‘Wake Up’. It echoes round the hall. But there is no response.

The house lights come up, startling her.

She peers towards the technician’s booth. ‘Hello?’ she cries.

No answer. She goes backstage to the booth. There’s nobody there – the lighting set up is on an automatic timer.

She runs back on stage and sees that this time; the audience are all standing, facing the opposite direction, as is the other actor onstage.

Together, they begin to chant the Sorrow Bird poem, whispering at first...

She steps back, terrified as the voices grow louder and more discordant. The black bird sits perched on the edge of the stage, still watching her.

She slumps back onto the stage, sits against the backdrop with her eyes tightly shut, hands over her ears as the chant builds to a crescendo.

Finally, the mass monologue ends.

Silence.

Then the sound of clapping.

She opens her eyes, looks out to see the audience, now apparently back to normal giving her a standing ovation.

The actor appears from behind her, takes her hand and bows with her to the tremendous applause. She looks faint, troubled. Another man, the DIRECTOR emerges from backstage, takes her hand.

She smiles, looks relieved, bows graciously as the applause continues. Just about holding it together. Suddenly, she slips, goes limp in the arms of the actor and director. She falls to the floor. Blood seeping from her mouth. The room goes quiet.

But for the sound of flapping wings.

Cut to black.


Extra Notes:

instead of having a bird animated into the scene in post (or having an actual bird in the theatre hehe) we could see the screen behind the actress turn to static - then the image of the bird appears ominously behind her, watching her. Always fun to mix gothic/horror elements with technology, as Asian horror always does so well.

Issaness suggested we introduce our lead in an extra scene - I think that's a good idea. Her contribution is in the results.

No recording devices should be seen but while the actress faces the audience, the actor (and others) behind her could film, and while she faces the opposite way, the audience could film her. Just thinking of logistics.

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The Actress and the Sorrow Bird (Fall Formal Idea Remix)

Created: Sep 20, 2010

Tags: sorrow bird, script, horror, fall formal, theatre, poe

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