Stills from A Cakewalk (2020)

GARAGE Presents: A Cakewalk

"Night comes & the Meek inherit the Earth."

by Miranda Haymon, Audley Puglisi, and Thuan Tran; photos by Ashley Pena
|
Nov 6 2020, 1:45pm

Stills from A Cakewalk (2020)

For GARAGE Issue 19, we asked playwright Jeremy O. Harris to assemble graduates from the country’s leading theatre programs—after COVID-19 cancelled their senior showcases—to put on a play. Using Gucci’s Fall 2020 collection as a jumping-off point, they wrote, directed, and starred in a production that captured their current state of mind. Now presenting: A Cakewalk.

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GREGORY GEORGES
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ADRIENNE WELLS
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From left to right: ILIA ISORELÝS PAULINO, JARVIS D. MATTHEWS, PAOLA ALEXANDRA SOTO
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SEKAI ABENÌ
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From left to right: BIANCA CRUDO, JASMINE MICHELLE SMITH, TRENT WILLIAM
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ZOE MANN, BRANDON E. BURTON
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JACOB DANIEL SMITH

PLAYERS
ONE, Black
TWO, Black
THREE, Black
FOUR, Black
FIVE, Black
SIX, white

i.

A Processional, a Parade, a Funeral, a Carnival, a Ball, a Ritual

The Players enter in a line 
The Players enter with rhythm and with a slow hum
The Players form a circle and begin to dress

ONE, at the end of the line, who is the last to enter, goes into the center 
& speaks to us

ONE
You
Watcher
Watching
Watched 
Watching Us
All the World’s a Stage
& all the N*ggas are Her Players
The Watcher doesn’t see
The Watcher doesn’t know 
The Watcher is watched
The Looked look back 
From behind the Veil 
The Looked look back

You 
Watcher
Walk 
& your Shadow stalks with soft steps
Waiting for the right time to strike
When the Sun retreats
When Night takes the Earth
Shadows run wild 
With no Master to tug at their leash
Night comes 
& the Meek inherit the Earth

Whoever is the first to be dressed becomes TWO
TWO jumps into the center of the circle, replaces ONE, and dances

The Other Players clap and shout around TWO

TWO leaps into the air, death drops, and stays there
TWO doesn’t wake up

The Others exit, slowly, still clapping, still shouting

THREE stays behind and picks up the lifeless body 
THREE becomes a Puppeteer and TWO becomes a Puppet
The Puppeteer molds the puppet into a ballet dancer,
straightening the spine
lowering the shoulders 
correcting the posture

PUPPETEER
“Where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.”

PUPPET
“You taught me language…”

PUPPETEER 
“Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way.”

PUPPET
“You taught me language, and my profit on’t is I know how to curse.”

PUPPETEER
“Into that heaven of freedom, My Father, let my country awake.”

PUPPET
“I know how to curse.”

THREE spins TWO around 
FOUR enters
FOUR speaks

FOUR
The Man
The Master 
The Maker is dead
The Man 
The Master
The Maker is dead
& Everybody is the Color of the Earth
Like Saint-Domingue after Toussaint & Dessalines 
The Man
The Master
The Maker
Left his tools 
Left his house
Left his empty bed
He left his tongue 
Am I to stick the muscle in my mouth?
Or choke?

PUPPET
“I know how to curse.”

FOUR 
Or choke?

PUPPET 
“I know how to curse.”

FOUR
Or choke?

FOUR exits
Both Puppet and Puppeteer wave

FIVE enters
FIVE is wearing a long gown 
TWO, the puppet, bends to kiss the hand 
FIVE curtsies
TWO and THREE exit

FIVE snaps and summons SIX, a servant 
SIX ties FIVE’s corset

It’s reminiscent of Mammy and Scarlett O’Hara

With each pull of string, FIVE releases a sharp breath
It’s unclear whether FIVE is in pain or ecstasy

With the last pull of string,

FIVE falls to their knees
FIVE collapses their face into their palms 
SIX stands over FIVE with a smile

ONE enters 
ONE stands across from SIX
ONE and SIX mirror each other
ONE and SIX begin to circle each other 
ONE and SIX mimic each other 
ONE and SIX make faces
ONE and SIX stick out their tongues 
It’s flirtatious
It’s fun
It’s play
It’s clownish 
ONE and SIX whisper under their breath
ONE and SIX whisper behind wide smiles

ONE and SIX
to kill a rooster 
you twist the neck
when you twist the neck
you break the bone
when you break the bone
you bring the blood
when you bring the blood
it gets on you
when it gets on you
it stains 
It grows more grotesque, tense, and violent 
The Other Players whisper in chorus

CHORUS
to kill a rooster 
you twist the neck
when you twist the neck
you break the bone
when you break the bone
you bring the blood
when you bring the blood
it gets on you
when it gets on you
it stains

It reaches a boiling point 
ONE and SIX are about to charge at each other
It’s interrupted by the sound of a voice singing

ONE and SIX scatter   
FIVE still sits with their face in their palms

FIVE
tangled roots
tight knots
split hairs
split ends
split tongue

TWO enters
TWO sings
TWO kneels behind FIVE 
TWO begins to twist, braid, and care for FIVE’s hair

FOUR enters  
FOUR is humming the same tune
FOUR kneels behind TWO and begins to twist, braid, and care for TWO’s hair

THREE enters
THREE hums
THREE kneels behind FOUR and begins to care for FOUR’s hair

TWO, THREE, FOUR, and FIVE hum 
FIVE exits

TWO exits

FOUR exits

THREE watches the Others go, one by one, like a Mother watching Children THREE had no one behind them to care for their hair
THREE stays behind

THREE speaks 
ONE and TWO enter 
ONE and TWO dance 
It begins very stiff, very old world, but slowly transforms. . .

THREE
You became scattered
You became stretched
You became a broken vase
You became shards of glass
You became nameless
You became Black
You became an exaggeration
You became a shadow 
You became a symbol
You became grateful 
You became a token
You became Queen’s English
You became fucked 
You became fucked up
You became mismatched 
You became mixed up
You became doubled
You became blood red
You became deep blues
You became
You became
You became
You became 
You became
You became
You became 
You became
You became

FOUR, FIVE, and SIX enter
All the players are present
Some dance 
Some shout
Some sing
It feels like Church
It feels like a Celebration 
It feels like an Exorcism
Something is being expelled

By the end of it, everyone is exhausted
By the end of it, everyone is out of their clothes

The Players exit in a line with a slow hum

ONE, at the end of the line, who is the last to exit, goes into the center 
& speaks to us

ONE
You
Watcher
Watching
Watched
The Sun chases the Moon
Light comes with the Day

ONE leans in with a secret

ONE
When I’m alone in my room
I close all the windows
Shut the blinds
Lock the door 
Turn off all the lights
& in that dark
I dance
With wide smile & swinging hips
I dance
I dance
& all you can see are the whites of my eyes

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Playwright AUDLEY PUGLISI
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Director MIRANDA HAYMON
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Directors MIRANDA HAYMON and THUAN TRAN, Playwright AUDLEY PUGLISI, Photographer ASHLEY PENA, Fashion Director GABRIELLA KAREFA-JOHNSON, Costumer STEPHANIE BAHNIUK, Actors SEKAI ABENÌ, BRANDON E. BURTON, BIANCA CRUDO, GREGORY GEORGES, ZOE MANN, JARVIS D. MATTHEWS, ILIA ISORELÝS PAULINO, JACOB DANIEL SMITH, JASMINE MICHELLE SMITH, PAOLA ALEXANDRA SOTO, ADRIENNE WELLS, TRENT WILLIAMS, Hair Stylist LATISHA CHONG, Makeup Artist RAISA FLOWERS, Assistant Fashion Editor JARED ELLNER, Photo Assistant CARLOS HERNANDEZ, Director of Photography JABARI CANADA, 1st AC GRAYSON KOHS, Sound Tech TYSON DAI, Film Editor KAT YI, Lighting Designer ZACK LOBEL, Lighting Consultant CHA SEE, Dramaturg AMAUTA M. FIRMINO, Producers MIRANDA HAYMON and ROSE BETH JOHNSON-BROWN at the Hodgepodge Group, Production Manager ZACHRY J. BAILEY, Pre-Production Assistant JARVIS D. MATTHEWS, Production WEI-LI WANG at Hudson Hill Production, Production Coordinator CJ SOMAVIA, Production Assistants MAX THEUMLER and ALEX POWELL, Location THE IRONDALE

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