Lights remain down as the speaker, between his mid-20s and his late 30-s, sits naked on a backless stool in a position replicating that of Rodins "Thinker" as closely as possible. If at all possible, the actor should spend some time before his performance studying as many different photographs taken from multiple vantage points - of the sculpture as he can find. Despite multiple references to his nudity, he should never present himself in a sexual manner. All of his references to the subject should be even, matter of fact, and emotionally rather than physically motivated. Under no circumstances should he ever touch or consciously attempt to cover his pubis.
Lights up slowly (to between 2/3 and 3/4 of their full intensity) on the speaker as he speaks his first line, maintaining as much stillness as possible.
"Le Penseur." They call me "The Thinker" for a reason.
The Thinker slowly begins to move during the following speeches, as though the words themselves, or at least the voices speaking them, grant him life.
VOICE ONE (MALE):
Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew
To die, to sleep no more - and by a sleep
To say we end the heartache and the thousand
Natural shocks that flesh is heir to. 'Tis a
Consummation devoutly to be wished. (William Shakespeare)
VOICE TWO (FEMALE):
I saw you sitting there upon a rock:
A smooth but rugged statue carved by the
Unforgiving hands of reality
And paralyzed by its unfulfilled dreams.
VOICE THREE (MALE):
To melt the unproportiond frame of nature.
Oh, they are thoughts that have transfixd the heart,
And often, in the strength of apprehension,
Make your cold passion stand upon your face,
Like drops of dew on a stiff cake of ice. (Ben Jonson)
The Thinker resumes speaking as though the preceding trio of voices never interrupted him, connecting the following speech back to his earlier comment regarding his name.
Ive been hearing voices inside of my head for what seems like forever. At first, they were just whispers, dissonant and strange, that kept coming back whenever I was alone. Theyve been louder lately, more insistent and somehow clearer. That was the first time I ever really listened to what they said. Hm. Thats funny. My back isnt sore. Its not even stiff. I dont know why, but after all this time, I thought it would be sore. Actually, I thought a lot of things. A lot of them were probably wrong. But I guess that doesnt matter now. (Looks to someone in the audience and responds, but without any discernable vocal change) Yes. I realize that Im naked, but do you really have to stare? Especially at that? Dont act innocent. I know where youre staring. Thats where people always try to look. Well, not everybody. Not always. Everybody but the children. The children are different. They dont see my nakedness. At least not at first. Most of the time, the little boys look at me and see themselves in twenty (or thirty, depending upon the age of the actor involved) years. Usually the little girls just see the sadness in my eyes. They dont look at my penis. Most of them dont even know that I have one. But I dont blame you for looking there. Down at the proof that Im a man. Whatever thats supposed to mean. It is kind of impressive, isnt it? Almost a sculpture all its own. Just like a calf or a breast or a finger. Maybe. Or maybe its just a little bit intimidating if youre a man and it makes you confront your own insecurity. Maybe. Actually, its one of my biggest (and, in some ways, my smallest) frustrations. That and my nakedness. But mostly that. It just hangs there, flaccid and brazen. I cant jack it. Its a joke. Im a joke. Dammit. Im just a joke. I dont know why, but people seem to think that I dont feel. They seem to think that I dont need to feel. As if some strange numbness were just another part of my composition. They didnt see me before. I used to be strong. But the wind and the rain have worn me down. They have eroded the seemingly impermeable exterior of my metallic resolve. They have exposed the pinprick pits and hairline faults of insecurity where the hardest mettle is the first to succumb. You know, Id like to know, just one time, what it feels like to touch my own penis. What it feels like to have an erection and run my hand along the shaft. I want to taste a womans lips and feel her tongue inside of my mouth. Have the sensations of flesh and blood. Somehow know that Im alive. Yes, I can be sexual. No, Ive never made love. No, Ive never been kissed. Yes, I have been in love. Sex and love are not synonymous to me. I know. You only see my body. Maybe it makes you laugh when you look at it. Maybe youre laughing right now. But He didnt just give me a body. He carved my soul: dark and heavy like a complex rock made of densely compressed shadows. Maybe you dont even believe it exists. But its there. You can be sure. Its not something I can prove. I dont know. I do know what I want. I want someone to love me who doesnt have to love me. Someone to know me who doesnt have to know me. Someone to need me who doesnt have to need me. I want someone to hold me naked for an hour and never think about sex. Somehow to experience the abject honesty of touch without any literal or conceptual barriers. To be able to talk to a woman who actually believes me when I tell her that I understand how she feels. To be able to tell her that I think shes beautiful without it making me sound like Im trying to score. My frustration wont let me. To be able to say "I love you" to another man without it making me gay. To be able to give him a hug and know that its not going to change anything. My frustration wont let me. I want to feel somebody grip my shoulder like a vice. Hear them tell me that I make a difference in their life. One gesture. One sentence. And maybe it would all make sense. Maybe. Or maybe it would just confuse me more. I dont know. I realize that Im naked. And Im exposed. And Im vulnerable. And, right now, Im scared out of my mind. And Im open. And Im aware. And, at last, Im alive. Im alive. I realize that Im naked. Naked and alive. Go ahead and stare.
Lights fade slowly to black."Thinkerspeak" IS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL AND MAY NOT BE DOWNLOADED, TRANSMITTED, PRINTED OR PERFORMED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR
"Thinkerspeak" debuted March 14, 2003, performed by John Shirley, Trent Westbrook, J.D. Ruelle, and Todd Ristau.
Performed at Best of No Shame on March 27th, 28th & 29th, 2003.
Performed at No Shame Iowa City on October 3, 2003 by John Shirley