I figured I would begin Theater Monday chronologically, with my oldest memory. The first play I can remember that really left an impression on me was Zone, by Marcel Dubé. We studied the play in my second-to-last year of high school French class.
(Just a quick note to say that my French teacher that year was genuinely awesome. When he returned our first assignments of the year, he said to the class: “I was looking for the proper word to express my feelings towards these assignments. I asked myself What is worse then mediocrity? And then it came to me: pathetic.” I’m not sure I agree that pathetic is worse then mediocre, but I know that in later assignments, when he complimented my work, I felt special.)
Zone is a 1953 play in three acts about a gang of young adults (between 16 and 21 years old) who smuggle contraband cigarettes from the US into Canada. I don’t remember the exact details of the play (and damn it! I don’t own the book anymore and it’s out of print!) but both the second act and the ending stuck to my mind especially.
At the end of the first act, the gang is arrested (because the leader killed a border agent during his last run). During act two, they are interrogated by the police. The beginning of the act, I remember being hilarious, because of the way the teenagers would frustrate the policemen without meaning to. They all have peculiar nicknames – Tarzan, Passe-Partout (Master Key), Ciboulette (Chive), Moineau (Sparrow), Tit-Noir (Blackie) – and when the policemen ask for their names, they answer with the nicknames at first. It’s especially funny when it’s Moineau’s turn, because he’s so sweet and a little simpleminded, and no-one’s ever called him anything but Moineau, so the policemen cannot get an actual name out of him, nor much of anything else.
But act two takes a turn for the dramatic after Passe-Partout has his turn, and spills his guts to the police, betraying Tarzan, the leader, in the process. The police take a (second?) turn at Tarzan, and a much more brutal one. They use Ciboulette, the youngest, the only girl in the group, against him. They pretend that they are about to arrest her, and he confesses to keep her safe. As he’s dragged away, he yells at Ciboulette not to speak, to stay strong. It’s been clear up to that point that Ciboulette has feelings for Tarzan, and this scene is the first clue that Tarzan feels something back. The second clue came from act three, when Tarzan escapes from jail, reunites with the gang, is shot by the police and dies in Ciboulette’s arms. At least, that’s how I remember it. (I shipped those two before I knew what shipping was.)
I probably missed a lot of the important stuff about this play when I first read it, and it’s been years, and I really need to re-read it, and probably to see it as well because that it a completely different experience, but there was one important lesson learned here: give people a ship and they’ll remember you forever.