Dreamed 1996/5/16 by Chris Wayan

I'm in a foreign land, watching a cabaret musical staged by a traveling troupe. The plot and characters seem vague. At first I blame myself for not paying attention--an avant-garde production, a half-understood language, alien cultural assumptions... Or is the show just thin? Maybe it's like CATS, just a showcase for the singers and dancers? They're beautiful... no question about that.

A sailor dances. He's a Gene Kelly clone, wearing a baggy suit that gradually grows on him. He starts peeling it off to reveal another sailor in there with him, and another... a whole chorus climbs out of that suit! Then another bunch of dancers come out of the Wicked Witch of the West's robe as she's melting. Really impressive--not trap doors, the dancers are moving around the stage as their extra selves emerge.

The play's set in the future, after a big nuclear war. Many characters are mutants; four arms are common. I think it's just impressive make-up till the leading man starts gesturing with all four hands at once. The first pair express his conscious feelings, the second pair his unconscious. A girl around 12 or 13 plays his unconscious hands, by reaching around from behind him, shadowing him skillfully. Up till now I never once glimpsed her! Thin and alert enough to stay perfectly hidden behind his larger body. What an intimate dance--tight up against him, mirroring every move, arms around him, being him, yet never embracing him. Now as they break for intermission she comes out and smiles at us for a moment then runs offstage. By her name in the program, she's the director's daughter.

Her sister, fifteenish, plays a slave dancer treated by her rich owner and friends as a mere sex toy or exotic pet. She IS a very sexy dancer. She's nearly nude, which is illegal onstage in this culture, but they get away with it because she's made up as a mutant: she has a mare's tail and furry hindquarters, almost like a Greek faun, and two extra arms, latex ones fused to her shoulders, rather than played by her little sister. But her face and torso, from throat to crotch, are all naked, her own. I suspect her animal attributes distance her from most viewers, so they can't quite see her as a naked girl--but being a shapeshifting shaman myself, I'm MORE attracted to her because she's part animal.

Her character's supposed to entertain her owner's business clients. She has a wonderful dance solo, during which she bursts into song--turns her role as background entertainment, as titillation, into a declaration of her spirit, shining out through her art... and none of them notice. Not onstage--the businessmen idly glance at her gyrations, but she could be any stripper. And not offstage--the cabaret audience is drinking, dining, flirting, cutting deals... barely watching the dancing mare-girl in the lights.

You know, I bet she could strip off the latex, dance naked, yell obscenities... All that careful stepping around the law was useless. Unneeded. Because no one out there sees or hears or cares.

No one's listening at all.

Four-armed animal girl, red-haired, red-tailed, naked and glowing in three spotlights, sings her heart out--as the crowd talks, drinks, flirts, and  ignores her.


The show: I just read an Ursula Le Guin story, "Forgiveness Day." Solly, a young envoy from an interstellar culture to a world that still has slavery, finds their theater spectacular, though she's deaf to the subtext. Admires an actor, meets him backstage, has an affair with him. But she doesn't realize all acotrs are legally corporate slaves--does he have a CHOICE? Is pleasing her his JOB? He's in a slave-liberation group, but even if they win, can he get slavery out of his own head, be frank with her?

The music is beautiful: some of my new songs are good! I'm too critical of my ragged playing.

Extra dancers, extra arms: parts of me emerging from behind masks, roles?

The girl who plays spare arms expresses unconscious feelings... this reminds me of the Cambodian refugee girl I recently dreamed of. She was timid: scared that one wrong move while flirting or dating meant the Killing Fields. But here, she's emerging from hiding a bit more!

Her big sister the faun-dancer = me, the dreamer... and writer. Free to say what I like, what I really think. Free to bare my soul... since, after all, no one gives a damn.