Edward Willett

Threads

Threads is a 15-minute fantasy play written for Globe Theatre’s annual On the Line “freefall through new work,” and given a professional staged reading in February of 2001. Arthur and Jennifer Trenholm think the local legend of the Weaver in the Mediterranean country they’re visiting is just a myth…until a mysterious Guide show them how to find her.

Threads

LATE AFTERNOON. TREE-DAPPLED SUNLIGHT, CHIRPING BIRDS. DISTANT, PLAINTIVE MUSIC, PLAYED ON A LYRE, WAXES AND WANES LIKE THE SOUND OF WINDCHIMES, FADING IMPERCEPTIBLY AWAY AS THE SCENE PROGRESSES.

AS THE LIGHTS COME UP, THE GUIDE STANDS IN SHADOW UPSTAGE. THE WEAVER SITS MOTIONLESS AT CENTRE, MANY-COLORED TAPESTRIES AND RUGS SURROUNDING HER.

JENNIFER ENTERS AND STOPS, ENTRANCED.

ARTHUR (Offstage and out of breath)

This had better be worth it, Jennifer.

JENNIFER APPROACHES THE WEAVER REVERENTLY. SHE MOVES AROUND THE WEAVER, TOUCHING THE WEAVER’S KNEE, CARESSING HER ARM, RUNNING A HAND ALONG HER CHEEK.

ARTHUR ENTERS, STOPS.

ARTHUR

That’s it? That’s your famous tourist attraction? For chrissake, Jennifer, it’s just a statue of an old woman!

JENNIFER

But it’s so beautiful, Arthur…

ARTHUR

Jeez, Jennifer, I only let you drag me up here because I thought maybe the company could invest in a souvenir stand or something, make some money. But nobody’s crazy enough to climb three hundred and seventy-four steps in this heat just to see an old statue! Except you.

JENNIFER

I thought you’d like it. You used to love art, even mine… when I still did any. You even modeled, before…

HER VOICE TRAILS OFF. SHE TOUCHES THE STATUE AGAIN.

ARTHUR

I had time for a lot of nonsense, in college.

JENNIFER

It wasn’t nonsense. Not to me. You were…different.

ARTHUR

So were you. You’re not the girl I married.

JENNIFER DOESN’T LOOK AT HIM. SHE TOUCHES THE STATUE’S CHEEK AGAIN.

JENNIFER (after a moment)

Why’d you bring me on this trip, Arthur? You’ve never taken me on any of your other business trips.

ARTHUR

It was the old man’s idea. The founder. He’s old-fashioned. Likes to think everyone is one big happy family. “Take your wife along,” he said. “She’ll love it.”

JENNIFER

So you didn’t really want me here?

ARTHUR SIGHS.

ARTHUR

You’re making too much of it, Jennifer. Drop it. You’re here, that’s it, let’s make the best of it. (Pause.) You might as well tell me about this stupid statue while I catch my breath.

JENNIFER PULLS OUT A GUIDEBOOK.

JENNIFER

It’s all right here. “The legend of The Weaver is central to local folklore. The Weaver, a woman sentenced to death on a false charge of adultery…”

ARTHUR

Oh, sure, I’ll just bet it was false.

JENNIFER

“…cried out to the Goddess for mercy. The Goddess heard The Weaver’s plea and saved her, granting her eternal life and making her the Goddess’s handmaiden. Gifted with ‘godsight’…

ARTHUR

Godsight? What’s that?

JENNIFER

It doesn’t say. It just says, “Gifted with ‘godsight,’ the Weaver has been given the task of helping other women in need. She sits always at an invisible loom, weaving the great tapestry of time in which each person’s life is a thread. Yet, each person’s life is also a separate tapestry, woven of the threads of the people and events that shape–

ARTHUR

Are you saying our lives are only sew-sew?

HE LAUGHS AT HIS OWN PUN. JENNIFER PRESSES ON.

JENNIFER

“–that shape our destinies. According to legend, The Weaver knows when a woman needs her, and calls that person to her. However, no woman can find The Weaver on her own–”

ARTHUR

Funny, you found her easily enough.

JENNIFER

“–instead, she must be led to the Weaver by a mystical Guide. The Weaver then shows the woman the tapestry of her life, and, by altering the tapestry, changes the woman’s life for the better.”

ARTHUR (after a moment)

That’s it?

JENNIFER NODS.

What a load of superstitious crap. Come on, Jennifer, we’re out of here.

JENNIFER

Oh, Arthur, just a few more minutes!

ARTHUR

No! I’m hot, tired and sweaty. We’re going to go find a nice cool restaurant with lots of nice cold beer. And then we’re going back to the hotel. I’ve got to be up at five tomorrow for that trip to the mine.

THE GUIDE STEPS FORWARD.

GUIDE

I would be happy to guide you to a fine local restaurant.

ARTHUR

Where the hell did you come from?

GUIDE

I have been here all along.

ARTHUR

Spying on us?

GUIDE

I am a guide. Tourists often come to this spot. It is my custom to greet them and offer my services.

ARTHUR

I can find a restaurant on my own!

GUIDE

Perhaps. But he streets here can be…confusing. Tourists often walk for hours, only to end up where they started.

JENNIFER

We found our way up here all right.

GUIDE

In daylight. But it will soon be night.

ARTHUR

So?

GUIDE (to JENNIFER)

Some people claim the streets move in the night, curving in new directions, creating new dead-ends.

JENNIFER

Really?

ARTHUR

It’s just a stupid legend, Jennifer. Like this Weaver thing.

GUIDE (still looking at JENNIFER)

Exactly like it.

LOOKS AWAY FROM JENNIFER, TOUCHES THE WEAVER.

Though there is a grain of truth in “this Weaver thing.” Our city is renowned for its tapestries. To us, they are common, but I am told they fetch high prices abroad. I know a woman who…

ARTHUR IS SUDDENLY INTERESTED, BUT THE GUIDE STOPS AND LAUGHS.

I am sorry. Here I am boring you with stories of tapestries when you are interested in dinner.

STEPS FORWARD, POINTS.

If you look down there you can just see the sign of a very fine restaurant, serving both local and American-style cuisine. Go through the plaza and past the–

ARTHUR

Tell me more about these tapestries. Just how much would they fetch in, say…New York?

GUIDE

Several hundred dollars, I believe.

JENNIFER

Arthur, what are you–?

ARTHUR

Shut up, Jennifer.

JENNIFER TURNS AWAY ANGRILY. THE GUIDE WATCHES HER CLOSELY.

ARTHUR

You say you know a woman who makes them, Mr…?

GUIDE

My name would be difficult for you to pronounce. Call me Guide.

ARTHUR

Fine…Guide. I’m Arthur Trenholm. This is my wife, Jennifer.

HE STICKS OUT HIS HAND; THE GUIDE IGNORES IT, BOWING TO JENNIFER INSTEAD. JENNIFER BOWS BACK. ARTHUR IS PLAINLY IRRITATED.

JENNIFER

Pleased to–

ARTHUR

So, do you or don’t you know someone who makes these tapestries?

AGAIN, THE GUIDE LOOKS AT JENNIFER, NOT ARTHUR, AS HE REPLIES.

GUIDE

Yes, I know a master–or perhaps I should say, “mistress”–English is so confusing–of the craft.

ARTHUR

Can you take me to her?

GUIDE

You are a dealer in such things?

ARTHUR

No, I’m a partner in an investment firm–which means I know a good deal when I hear one.

GUIDE (to JENNIFER)

And you are an artist.

JENNIFER

I used to–

ARTHUR

Will you take us to this woman or not?

GUIDE (to JENNIFER)

Would you, too, like to meet the weaver?

ARTHUR, FURIOUS AT BEING TALKED AROUND, GLARES AT JENNIFER.

ARTHUR

Yes, she does.

JENNIFER’S GAZE IS FIXED ON THE GUIDE.

JENNIFER

I’d like that very much.

GUIDE

Then I will guide you. I warn you, it is a long journey. It will be night before we arrive.

JENNIFER

I don’t mind.

THE GUIDE NODS AND FINALLY LOOKS AT ARTHUR AGAIN.

GUIDE

If you will follow me–

ARTHUR

Wait a second. How much?

GUIDE

I don’t understand.

ARTHUR

Sure you don’t. How much to take us to this woman?

GUIDE

There is no charge.

ARTHUR

You get a cut of sales, is that it?

GUIDE

This weaver does not sell her tapestries. She gives them away. She is weaving one for each of you even now.

JENNIFER

She knows we’re coming?

ARTHUR

Jennifer, it’s just marketing. She pretends she made a tapestry just for us, so we’re more likely to buy it…or make a donation, or however she plans to get money out of us. Right, Guide?

GUIDE

You seem to have it all figured out, Mr. Trenholm. Shall we go?

HE EXITS FIRST, PAST JENNIFER, WHO IS STARING AT THE STATUE OF THE WEAVER AGAIN. ARTHUR BRUSHES PAST JENNIFER AND EXITS. JENNIFER GOES BACK TO THE WEAVER AND TOUCHES HER FACE, UNSURE WHETHER IT HAS CHANGED POSITION OR NOT.

ARTHUR (offstage)

Jennifer! Hurry up!

JENNIFER EXITS.

THE LIGHT SHIFTS TO THE ORANGE GLOW OF SUNSET. THE MUSIC RETURNS, CLOSER THAN BEFORE, NO LONGER DRIFTING ON THE WIND BUT SOMEWHERE NEARBY.

THE WEAVER BENDS DOWN AND PICKS UP A TAPESTRY, THEN FREEZES AS THE GUIDE, ARTHUR AND JENNIFER ENTER. JENNIFER SEES THE STATUE AND RUNS TO IT AT ONCE, EXAMINING IT AS SHE DID THE FIRST ONE.

ARTHUR

That’s the third version of that stupid statue we’ve passed. Are you lost, Guide?

GUIDE

I cannot get lost in this city, Mr. Trenholm. I have lived here all my life. In fact, I have never left it.

ARTHUR

You’ve never been outside this…dump?

GUIDE

This is my home. I have no need to leave.

ARTHUR

I’d be out of here like a shot. Place this small sucks all the energy out of you. If I’d stayed in the hick town I was born in I’d be nothing but a loser, stuck in some dead-end factory job, swilling beer and playing old-timers hockey on weekends. But I knew better. Minute I was old enough, I headed for the bright lights. That’s where the action is.

GUIDE

Thus spake the moth circling the candle flame, to his brief but painful regret.

JENNIFER LAUGHS, BUT SUBSIDES AT A LOOK FROM ARTHUR AND GOES BACK TO EXAMINING THE STATUE.

GUIDE

Besides, this city is larger than it looks. That is why the streets wind and twist about so much. They have far to go.

ARTHUR

A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.

GUIDE

But our city is alive. Only dead things and things that have never been alive have straight edges. What does that say about your city? A large dead thing is still dead, and is not made more pleasant by virtue of being large. Rather the opposite.

ARTHUR

Toronto is very much alive. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

GUIDE

Then why are you here and not there?

ARTHUR

Following the money.

JENNIFER

When it comes to money, Guide, Arthur has a nose like a bloodhound.

ARTHUR

And proud of it.

GUIDE

Our city has many wonderful things, Mr. Trenholm, but money is not one of them.

ARTHUR

It will be, Guide. It will be.

HE LOOKS INTO THE DISTANCE.

Those hills are full of tin, zinc, mercury. My company is investing millions to get at ‘em. Your little city’s going to boom, Guide. In five years, you won’t recognize it.

GUIDE (to JENNIFER)

Mrs. Trenholm, your husband claims he can predict the future. Perhaps, like The Weaver, he has the gift of godsight.

JENNIFER

Well, when I knew him in college, he thought he was God’s gift to women…

ARTHUR

Jennifer!

JENNIFER (to GUIDE)

I read about “godsight” in the guidebook. What is it, exactly?

GUIDE

I do now know how or what you worship–

ARTHUR

I don’t.

THE GUIDE IGNORES HIM, TALKING ONLY TO JENNIFER.

GUIDE

–but it is our belief the Goddess who gave birth to the world now stands outside time and space, seeing it all, from its beginning to its end, as a unity, a whole.

JENNIFER

“With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” It’s in the Bible.

ARTHUR GIVES HER A SURPRISED LOOK.

GUIDE

By virtue of standing outside time, the Goddess sees every lucky coincidence, every misfortune, every result of every decision that has been made or will be made. That is godsight, the gift the Goddess, praised be Her name, gave to The Weaver.

JENNIFER

Fascinating.

ARTHUR

Fascinating bullshit.

JENNIFER

Arthur! I’m sorry, Guide…

GUIDE

It’s quite all right, Mrs. Trenholm.

ARTHUR

No, it’s not “quite all right,” it’s pitiful! It’s the 21st century, a whole new millennium, for God’s sake. How can you people still believe this superstitious mumbo-jumbo?

JENNIFER CAN’T STAND HIS RUDENESS. SHE TURNS HER BACK ON THEM, FACING THE STATUE. AS THEY SPEAK, SHE BECOMES ENTRANCED BY IT AGAIN, AGAIN TOUCHING ITS FACE, ARMS AND HANDS.

GUIDE

But it is not the beginning of the 21st century here, it is middle of the 47th, the century of the Fruitbat. Why should the changing of your calendar change our beliefs?

ARTHUR

Because those of us for whom this is a new millennium rule the world, pal. Your country will never be anything more than a backwater if you don’t get with the program.

GUIDE

A backwater is a place for quiet contemplation, the home of beautiful flowers and creatures that need solitude and silence. The world would be a poorer place without backwaters, Mr. Trenholm. Shall we proceed?

ARTHUR

No, I’d rather stand around here all night. Jennifer, quit gawking at that thing and come on!

ARTHUR EXITS. JENNIFER DOESN’T MOVE. THE GUIDE GOES TO HER, TOUCHES HER SHOULDER. SHE TURNS TO LOOK AT HIM, AND HE OFFERS HER HIS HAND. SHE TAKES IT A LITTLE TENTATIVELY, AND LETS HER LEAD HIM OUT.

THE SUN SETS AND IS REPLACED BY MOONLIGHT. SOMEWHERE A DOG BARKS. THE MUSIC IS LOUDER THAN EVER.

THE WEAVER COMES TO LIFE, WORKING AWAY ON AN INVISIBLE LOOM, THE RHYTHM OF HER FINGERS MATCHING THE SOUNDS OF THE MUSIC, AS THOUGH THE LOOM SHE WORKS IS ALSO A MAGICAL LYRE…

THE GUIDE AND ARTHUR ENTER, ARTHUR FIRST. JENNIFER ENTERS A MOMENT LATER, WALKING SLOWLY, HER ARMS WRAPPED AROUND HERSELF AS THOUGH SHE IS COLD. SHE STOPS JUST ON STAGE, STARING TOWARD THE WEAVER AS THOUGH IN SHOCK. THE GUIDE SPEAKS TO ARTHUR.

GUIDE

This is the Weaver’s house.

ARTHUR

This hovel? This is all a “mistress of the craft” can afford?

GUIDE

She does not work for money. (Pause.) Aren’t you going in?

ARTHUR

Of course I am. I didn’t walk five miles to stand in the street.

HE HESITATES.

Why is it so dark in there? How do I know you didn’t bring me all this way just go get me mugged?

GUIDE

If I were going to rob you, Mr. Trenholm, I would have done it on the hilltop.

JENNIFER STEPS FORWARD.

JENNIFER

Arthur…

ARTHUR

What?

JENNIFER

I don’t…there’s something strange…it’s so dark…

ARTHUR

It’s the century of the Fruitbat. They won’t have electricity until the century of the Cockroach. This is stupid. I’m going in.

HE APPROACHES THE WEAVER, PUSHING ASIDE AN INVISIBLE CURTAIN TO ENTER THE HOVEL. THE GUIDE LOOKS AT JENNIFER, UNSMILING. SHE BACKS AWAY, THEN RUNS OFF. THE GUIDE WATCHES HER GO.

ARTHUR

(To himself.) Who the hell weaves tapestries in the dark? (To the Weaver.) Evening, ma’am, my name is Arthur Trenholm and I–

HE STOPS SUDDENLY.

What is this? Guide!

THE GUIDE ENTERS THE HOVEL.

GUIDE

Is something wrong, Mr. Trenholm?

ARTHUR

What the hell do you think? You dragged me halfway across the city to see a crazy woman! There’s no loom! Who are you going to take me to next–Rumpelstiltskin?

GUIDE

You are not halfway across the city, Mr. Trenholm. You are very near the path you followed up the hill. And do not assume that because you cannot see a thing, it is not there.

ARTHUR

But we walked miles!

GUIDE

It is always a long journey to this place.

ARTHUR

I’m sick of your mystical bullshit! It’s all been a big joke, hasn’t it? A big laugh at the stupid tourist. Well, we’re going to own half this town in a few years, and I’m going to remember this! We’ll see who’s laughing then!

GUIDE

I assure you, Mr. Trenholm, I see nothing humorous here.

ARTHUR

Yeah? What do you call her?

HE SHOUTS IN THE WEAVER’S EAR.

Hey, lady, there’s nothing there!

SHE IGNORES HIM, KEEPS WORKING. HE REACHES OUT IN FRONT OF HER–SNATCHES BACK HIS HAND AND SUCKS ON A FINGER.

Ouch! Some damn thing bit me!

GUIDE

The spindle can be quite sharp, Mr. Trenholm.

ARTHUR

Spindle, my ass. Must have been a mosquito. You don’t have malaria around here, do you?

THE WEAVER STOPS WORKING. THE MUSIC STOPS. NOW WE CAN ONLY HEAR THE WIND. SHE PICKS UP A TAPESTRY, OFFERS IT TO ARTHUR.

ARTHUR

What’s this?

GUIDE

It is the tapestry I told you she has been weaving for you.

ARTHUR

Yeah, right. Well, maybe I can make a few bucks after all.

HE TAKES THE TAPESTRY, EXAMINES IT.

Figures. This is crap! I could do better with a couple of paperclips and a glue gun! Hell, look at this loose thread, it’s barely even attached–

HE YANKS OUT A THREAD, INVISIBLE TO US. A SINGLE NOTE OF MUSIC SOUNDS, LIKE BREAKING HARP STRING. ARTHUR TOSSES THE THREAT TO THE WEAVER, WHO PLUCKS IT OUT OF MID-AIR; THE NOTE SOUNDS AGAIN.

I’m not paying you a cent! (To the Guide.) Or you!

GUIDE

Neither of us has asked for money, Mr. Weaver.

ARTHUR

Good! Because you wouldn’t get any!

HE LOOKS AROUND.

I’m out of here. Where’s Jennifer?

HE PAUSES, PUZZLED.

Now why did I say that? Who the hell is Jennifer?

GUIDE

Your wife, perhaps?

ARTHUR

I don’t have a wife. Never been married. Wish I was. Maybe with a good wife I would have made something of my life, instead of being stuck in that lousy factory job. Maybe I could have afforded a vacation to Club Med instead of this godforsaken lump of middle-Eastern clay…thanks for nothing, Guide.

JENNIFER ENTERS. NO LONGER HUGGING HERSELF, SHE STRIDES TOWARD THE HOVEL. ARTHUR SWEEPS ASIDE THE INVISIBLE CURTAIN TO EXIT. THEY ALMOST COLLIDE. THEY LOOK AT EACH OTHER FOR A LONG MOMENT, AS THOUGH TRYING TO REMEMBER WHERE THEY’VE SEEN EACH OTHER BEFORE, BUT THE MOMENT PASSES; THEY ARE STRANGERS.

ARTHUR

Excuse me.

HE EXITS. JENNIFER LOOKS AFTER HIM.

GUIDE

Is something wrong?

JENNIFER

Hmmm?…No, I just thought…for a moment I thought I knew that man from somewhere. But I guess not.

SHE LOOKS AT THE WEAVER.

Is it ready yet?

GUIDE

There has been a delay. I’m afraid she will have to begin your tapestry all over again. It may take some time.

JENNIFER

That’s all right. I’ve got all the time in the world.

SHE SETTLES HERSELF CROSSLEGGED ON THE FLOOR, GAZING UP AT THE WEAVER. THE WEAVER HOLDS OUT THE INVISIBLE THREAD ARTHUR DISCARDED; AGAIN THE SINGLE NOTE OF MUSIC SOUNDS. JENNIFER LAUGHS AND CLAPS.

THEN, STARTING WITH THAT THREAD, THE WEAVER BEGINS TO WEAVE ONCE MORE. THE SINGLE NOTES SOUNDS SEVERAL TIMES, EVOLVING ONCE MORE INTO MUSIC THAT PLAYS IN TIME WITH THE WEAVER’S FLYING FINGERS…MUSIC NO LONGER SAD AND PLAINTIVE, BUT BOLDER, BRIGHTER, AND FULL OF PROMISE FOR BETTER THINGS TO COME.

SLOW FADE TO BLACKOUT

Copyright 2001 by Edward Willett