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s Oett VOL. IX

NO. I

OCTOBER, 1916

ver
GROTESQUES*

A Decoration in Black and White

To the memory of a clear night with stars in it: Santa Barbara, June twenty-second, nineteen-fifteen.

HE reader is seated in the theatre of his imag% ination. After an Overture, delicate and not without irony, the curtain between the reader and the play is drawn upward. BeMA-r £3.5 fore him is placed a decoration in black and white, a flat conventionalized design of tall white trees upon a black background. This background is framed and occupies somewhat more than half the width of the stage. To his left, the white disc of the moon is drawn, in a clear space of black sky. Opposite, on the branch of one of the trees, is a black owl, faintly outlined. Beneath the trees, the zigzag convention by which the idea “brook” is visualized. A single lotus rises from this, left; and near by are the white representations of rocks. About three feet forward from this background, extending from its edge to either side of the stage, is a frame of dark gauze, behind which droop the Grotesques, inanimate, awaiting the need of them. They have white faces lined with black, and their arms and hands are white. Close against the background in the center stands Capulchard, master of the decoration, a sardonic figure, with long tense fingers. He is the designer. And because the basis of decoration is pantomime, he weaves but the minimum of words through these episodes, developing them rather by curious groupings broken in outline by the mergence of white and black against the black and white of the background.

*Copyright, 1915, by Cloyd Head. Right of representation reserved.

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Capulchard. [After a pause, turning towards the Audience.] This is a forest—that is a Grotesque. You will find the forest somewhere in your thought. Its trees are graphic like an arabesque; The pale moon shines—I touch it with my hand. I dip the water from the brook beneath, And fling it high among the leaves like dew. The effect is there, although the fact is not; So shall all things here seem—illusory. Who cares—who knows what brook is in his mind or in

yours?

Grotesques

It's the quintessence only that endures.
The moon, that clear quintessence—see—is split
To myriad moons by the brook, each moon like it!
The moons are washed away—but there's the moon.
Thus with design: I draw you these Grotesques,
For your amusement spur them into—life?—
Sign for thing signified, the hieroglyph.
Give o'er philosophy to Beldame Owl:
She thinks not; but you think the thoughts she should.
How wise a counsellor!—if she does not hoot
And break the illusion.

The Owl. [Softly..] Hoot!

Capulchard. The idol speaks;
And thence the abode of wisdom is transferred.
Its seat is now, I dare say, in the moon
Till sunrise. . . . Open the picture-book.
The first design—a song: these be the words.

[Capulchard makes a sign towards the Woman who, inert, is behind the screen on the left. She lifts her head and sings as if without consciousness.]

Woman. [Singing at left.]
With body enwrapped in a mantle light,
Softly a-down the shadowy night,
Lo, the moon 'neath overlaced branches white—

[The song pauses for a moment while he takes the Crone from behind the screen on the right, gives her a staff, and places her within the edge of the decoration, whereof she at once becomes a part.]

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