by Nina Heart
I wrote a play about suicide; read, listen, think and enjoy!
Listen to the album while reading the play.
Nina/Lady G: Short, curvy, white woman; brunette as Nina, blonde as Lady G.
The Angel/Elias: Biracial, gay man, who appears to be black. (It would be helpful if the actor is also a visual artist.)
Stewart/Lisa: Pale, thin, white person with short, dark hair as Stewart, and long, dark hair as Lisa.
The Reverend/Erik: Tall, gay, white man with glasses, red hair in Scene 1, black hair in Scene 2, and bald with a mustache and goatee in Scene 3.
Scene 1: Stewart
Nina, dressed in all black, is seated in the middle pew of three church pews Stage Right, at Washington National Cathedral, reading the program for Stewart Stevenson Lupton’s Memorial Service. The Angel sits in a pew behind her. The Angel does everything Nina does. Nina never sees The Angel. A podium, a chair, and a Christian cross are set Down-stage Left. “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring” by Johann Sebastian Bach plays. A very pale, dead Stewart walks on Stage Left and stands in a spotlight at the podium. He recites his last poem, “Gasoline Alley,” as the music plays.
“We are radiant beings filled with frequencies of light.” -back of crystal healing kit box…Here in the sentient dark of an alley, amongst the brunet synthesis of shade and flora beats a heavy and damaged heart. The years I clung to the narrows, putting the leaves in the dewey decimal system. O cloaked love! I came out of the loop a half eaten man. It’s hard to tell where people are in the dark so I rub up against the boundaries: The cryptic puddles, the tinted glass, air the color of body temperature. The crooked poles and their sodium skirts. The family plot inevitable…Two turtledoves coo inside the constellations as taxis whisper by on carpeted streets below. Look! The tilt of my head trines with the Arian moon as the oil stains on the asphalt turn to gaseous explosions in the deep pockets of blackest space; the chomped glass the starry matter of the outer fields. When I think of mankind, this odyssey we’re all on, the abandoned child caught in a vacuum of time under the whole cold glittering nebulae, I want to hug the ground. What becomes of the treasure when the sword reigns high above? The man has been writing all week, trying to get the night’s light on the white of the page, to unpack with words the way his mind feels at midnight, it’s frequencies of creation and loss. But abandonment stays in the picture, so that there is no star under the hood of the h, or inside the cup of the u. Just the bone-warm glow of the page’s transparency.”
The spotlight on Stewart goes out and Stewart exits Stage Left as The Reverend enters through the center aisle of the audience carrying burning incense to stand at the podium. Nina and The Angel stand.
Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with Stewart’s family and friends in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Nina and The Angel sit. “Ave Maria” by Franz Peter Schubert plays while The Reverend speaks.
Dave Leon, Founder and Director of Painted Brain in Los Angeles, California, has these words to share: “Stewart Lupton was a prototypical poet laureate. He wore corduroy smoking jackets with leather elbow pads and spoke in the slow, low, non-southern drawl of the deep thinker that he was. Stewart brought gravitas and his extensive knowledge of the poetry canon to our (Painted Brain crew.) He would call his group to order, talk about the history and context of his poet of the week, T.S. Eliot, Rainer Maria Rilke, Walt Whitman, W.S. Merwin, Elizabeth Bishop and others, and then read to us in his sonorous basso voice. We were enraptured, riding along on his every syllable, reflecting on the impact and sometimes writing our own responses to the work. Painted Brain’s community learned this week that Stewart, the incredible man, and poet, an active contributor to the community, passed away over the Memorial Day weekend. Stewart had not been involved in our activities at Painted Brain for the past several months as he was dealing with worsening personal issues related to his mental health. Prior to this, Stewart ran a weekly poetry group at Painted Brain for more than a year every Monday afternoon. It was one of our best-attended activities. His profundity and depth allowed us all to escape our day-to-day existence and join in the love and appreciation of the artists he brought to our attention. Our hearts and minds reach out in support of Stewart’s family and friends, and we celebrate his legacy at Painted Brain with every poetry reading we do. We already miss him dearly.” Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Stewart. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.
Go forth in the name of Christ.
Thanks be to God.
Nina and The Angel stand. “Morning Has Broken” with words by English author Eleanor Farjeon and set to a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune known as “Bunessan” plays. All Sing.
“Morning has broken like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird. Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them, springing, fresh from the Word! Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven, like the first dew fall on the first grass. Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden, sprung in completeness where his feet pass. Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning born of the one light Eden saw play! Praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s recreation, of the new day!”
Blackout. Cast Exits.
Scene 2: Nina
The stage is set exactly the same as in Scene I, except now we are in All Souls Church Unitarian, so there is a flaming chalice set Down-stage Left, instead of a Christian cross. Both Nina and Elias get to the front row pew at the same time. Elias is dressed business professional, in a bright pink and white striped button-down shirt and complementary gray suit. A dead Stewart sits in a pew behind them, unseen.
Uh, oh, you’re gonna steal my seat!
Aww, I don’t really come here often enough to say something like that…
No, no, it’s okay! We can sit together!
Okay, well, I usually like to sit on the end. That way, if I ever need to, I can always run out, I guess…
I’m kind of like a cat that way; I get comfortable in a certain spot, and then that’s where I always like to be.
Elias sits in the middle of the pew and Nina at the end.
I just had to come here today…well, not only did I receive a personal email from The Reverend inviting me to attend, I mean, I’m sure he sent that email to everyone…just look how packed this place is, but anyway, I figured if The Reverend was going to ALL that trouble just to invite me to come hear his sermon today, something MUST be up…also, I attended an Episcopalian memorial service yesterday, and I found it was really difficult to try to sing along to a big organ like that; it was at the Washington National Cathedral, so…I mean it’s much easier to find the pitches you’re supposed to sing when someone is just playing a piano like they do here. It seemed like everyone there, they were singing like little mice, all uptight, you know? …and then I realized it was because it’s so hard for people to find their pitches with a big organ like that. And you know what else? There wasn’t even a reception afterwards either! It’s nice to be HERE, where people actually EAT. I mean, I didn’t eat anything before that service, of course, because I was SO upset, but I was hoping afterwards there would be some kind of food! I was like, no wonder y’all people are so skinny!
Nina and Elias laugh.
Yeah, actually, I was a member of the Episcopal Church prior to coming here, and…
And…they’re really uptight, right?
(Smiling,) Yeah. Now that you mention it, I did get me some coffee and a croissant here this morning already…
See? ME TOO! That’s right; we EAT here! And I need to be in a church where I can hear people singing when they singing, and people can hear the notes they supposed to be singing when they do…
At the Chime Nina and Elias stand. “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller plays. The Reverend enters from the Center Aisle of the Audience and walks to stand at the podium. The music plays softly in the background.
Come, let us worship together. (Sighing,) This morning we have a number of joys and concerns, my friends. (Long pause.) First of all, let us congratulate John and Cynthia Strickland on welcoming their first child, Melinda Donna Strickland, on Tuesday, July 17th.
All clap and cheer.
Next, let us congratulate Gabriel Tomas Menendez on his acceptance into seminary school this coming fall. We’re all very proud of you, Gabriel!
All clap and cheer.
Now…I am very sorry to share with you friends, Jessica Foster, daughter of Adam Rothberg, and Tamika Edwards, died last Friday at the age of 32. Adam and Tamika wanted me to share with you Jessica struggled for many years with both mental illness and addiction, so this goodbye was unfortunately, a long time coming….Now, finally, (choking up,) George Grant died suddenly on Wednesday.
Nina breaks down in tears. Elias hands her a tissue.
Let us all keep George’s husband, Erik, in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time, and please visit the joys and concerns table in Pierce Hall after the service, to sign cards expressing your support and condolences.
Nina Exits Stage Right because she is crying so hard.
“Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade Plays and All sing, first in Spanish, then in English. Nina returns still shaking, with a tear-stained face to sing in English.
“Fuente de Amor, ven hacia mi. Y al corazon, cantale tu compasion. Sopla al volar, sube en la mar, Hasta moldear la justicia de la vida. Arraigame, liberame, Fuente de Amor, ven a mi, ven a mi. Spirit of Life, come unto me. Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion. Blow in the wind, rise in the sea; Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice. Roots hold me close; wings set me free; Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.”
The Reverend silently gives his sermon while Nina and Elias speak.
Did…did you know George and Erik?
Oh. I don’t have Erik’s phone number or anything. I…I was friends with George, so I kind of kept things separate, you know? I just don’t know if maybe someone has Erik’s phone number, so I can call him to see how he’s doing…maybe I could bring him some food…
That’s a good idea; do that.
Now, I’m going to try to lead everyone in this hymn, “Keep On Moving Forward.” Please stand as you are able.
Nina and Elias stand and sing “Keep On Moving Forward,” by Pat Humphreys.
“Gonna keep on moving forward, keep on moving forward, keep on moving forward, never turning back, never turning back. Gonna keep on loving boldly, keep on loving boldly, keep on loving boldly, never turning back, never turning back. Gonna keep on singing loudly, keep on singing loudly, keep on singing loudly, never turning back, never turning back. Gonna reach across our borders, reach across our borders, reach across our borders, never turning back, never turning back. Gonna keep on moving forward, keep on moving forward, keep on moving forward, never turning back, never turning back.”
Let us keep moving forward, together, friends, with love, and intention.
The Reverend extinguishes flaming chalice and exits through audience. Cast Exits. Blackout. “No Tears Left to Cry” by Ariana Grande plays. Change church set to living room set, with old couch covered in sheet and throw, cluttered coffee table, antique armchair with pillows Down-stage Left, and easel with blank canvas Up-stage Center.
Scene 3: George
Erik is pacing around living room drunk, talking on his cellphone while The Angel is painting his Abstract/Impressionist self-portrait with primary colors, black, and white, when Nina knocks on their door.
Yeah. Yeah, I know. OK. OK…hold on a sec…there’s someone at the door…OK, I’ll talk to you soon. OK, Thanks. Bye.
Erik opens the door Stage Right to Nina holding two grocery bags. He tilts his head and rolls his eyes.
Hi! I brought food! Do you want some food?
Nina enters the kitchen Off Stage Left.
Oh, it looks like you already have food. OK.
She walks back to the living room and dumps the bags on the floor to give Erik a hug.
Hey. I’m SO sorry, sweetie.
Thank you SO MUCH for coming by.
Lisa opens the front door, pauses at the sight of Nina before closing the door and sitting down on the couch.
Hi, I’m Nina.
Nina, this is Lisa.
Nina puts the groceries away Off Stage Left.
(To Erik,) I wrote a song for George!
You wrote a song?
That’s kind of awesome…
Wow, that’s really nice of you…
I think we should make George’s memorial the GAYEST, most theatrical thing we can come up with.
Yeah, that’s probably what he would’ve wanted, anyway.
Nina enters, sits in chair, and kicks off her shoes. Erik reaches for his menthol cigarettes and a lighter.
I’m sorry if this bothers you…either of you, but I’ve just been chain-smoking ever since it happened…I can’t stop.
It’s okay; it doesn’t bother me. Actually, can I get one of those cigarettes from you? I’ll smoke one with you.
Erik lights two cigarettes at once and hands one to Nina.
How did you find out?
The Reverend announced it this morning during Joys and Concerns and I broke down crying in front of the whole church.
So, how do you know George…from church?
No, I attended an Actors’ Center Workshop he put on…monologue coaching, I think it was. Then he cast me in a Capital Fringe show he was directing, and we’ve been friends ever since. (Looking at Erik,) They even helped me move at one point. George invited me to come to church because he always remembered I grew up Unitarian Universalist. George is the whole reason I’ve been going to All Souls this whole time.
I have a friend, Josue; he’s the cutest little, gay boy ever, and he has this hip hop dance troupe, and I think it would be SO great, if Josue and his hip hop dance troupe could do something for George’s memorial…
What did you say his name was?
Yeah…you had me sold at the first sentence…
You know, the memorial service isn’t even for George; it’s really for us.
That’s right; it’s for us.
And just because George made the decision to do this…
What? What…did you just say?
George made the decision…
Oh. Oh, you don’t know, do you?
No. I don’t know anything about it.
Oh? Yeah, George took his own life.
I should probably tell you I just went to a memorial service yesterday for another friend we think also took his own life, so I’m kind of…uh, a little bit sick with all of this today.
Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s a lot for you to be dealing with.
Honestly, I’m not super happy about where I left things off with George…with either one of these friendships, actually. I’ve been…I’m feeling like I’m a bad friend. Stewart kept inviting me to visit him out in L.A., and I never bothered to go. I don’t know why. I guess, maybe I always thought it was just too expensive to go, or something? I was feeling estranged from George too. I didn’t know what was going on with him; he just stopped responding to my text messages.
Yeah, I’m sorry about that…
You’re not a bad friend. Your friendship wasn’t just the sum of the last few months of his life; it was much more than that. George invited me to come downstairs and visit him, but I don’t know why I didn’t come. I had something else I wanted to do instead. When a person is set on doing something like this, there is nothing anyone else can really do to stop them. Listen, I have to run. I’ll come back by later tonight, OK?
Lisa gives Erik a kiss on the cheek and Exits Stage Right.
How did it…how did it happen?
How did George kill himself?
He jumped out the window.
Nina looks at the large window Down-stage Left.
That window there?
Yeah. I’m not angry; I’m not angry anymore, but I AM mad, if that makes any sense. He made a choice. (Choking up,) He made a choice, and every day, I am making a choice to get up…and George is NEVER going to walk through that door…
You know, I wasn’t even Stewart’s girlfriend, and I wasn’t living with him when it happened, but even I…started…I started having suicidal ideations, like…oh, YEAH, SUICIDE! That’s a GREAT idea! But it’s not…
No, it’s not.
It’s really not. It’s kind of difficult to be very enthusiastic about living, when my best friends keep killing themselves, though…
Erik gets a text and looks down at his phone annoyed.
Look, I hate to be kicking you out, but…
What is it? Is someone coming over?
I just need to be alone; It’s family stuff. I’ve got a lot I’ve got to deal with now, but thank you so much for coming.
I totally get it. I’ve been through something similar when my boyfriend died. I mean, we weren’t married like you and George, and I know you and George were together for a very long time, but…I know what it’s like to lose someone close…and my dad tried to kill himself too, so…if you need anything, anything at all, please call me or email me, OK?
Yeah, well, I have your info…
Nina hugs Erik. Nina Exits Stage Right. Blackout.
Scene 4: Zombie Boy
Lady G stands Down-stage Center with a spotlight on her. Erik and The Angel remain in tableau in the background.
“The suicide of…Zombie Boy is beyond devastating. We have to work harder to change the culture, bring Mental Health to the forefront and erase the stigma that we can’t talk about it. If you are suffering, call a friend or family today. We must save each other…if you are suffering from Mental Health issue(s) …Reach out if you’re in pain, and if you know someone who is, reach out to them too.”
Blackout. Lady G Exits as “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga plays. Lights. Curtain Call. An audience talk-back with cast and crew is recommended to allow people time to share their experiences with suicidal ideations, suicide attempts, or losing friend(s) or family to suicide. In addition, suicide hotline phone numbers and other information pertaining to the prevention of suicide may be provided for anyone who should require assistance.
Nina Heart, Category: Artist, Albums: Broken Mirror Bad Luck, Singles: Just Now Ago, Vertigo, Tooth for a Tooth, Ashes Across the American Basin (feat. Don Zientara), Built to Last (feat. Don Zientara), Top Tracks: Arroyo (feat. Don Zientara), Just Now Ago, Tooth for a Tooth, Built to Last (feat.