CHEKHOV’S LAW

by Mary Volmer

A performance poem for three actors. 1, 2, and 3 stand in a row, each holding behind her back a small scroll filled with names of people killed by gun violence. Very little movement except in their faces and voices, and in the eventual unfurling of the scrolls. The stage is bare. Red tinged lighting or background with yellow accents to suggest police tape. Experiment with the way the lines overlap and with cadence. Experiment with stage directions. Change the set.

(1)  The gun 
(3)  in act one
(1,2) The gun in act one
(3) The gun in act one
(1,2) must go off.

(1) The shock?
(3, 2) Our surprise.
(2) The crowd gasps aloud 
(3 overlaps line above) Hear the crowd
(1) gasp aloud
(1,2,3 crescendo) when the gun in act one
(2) each word a whispered beat) Goes. Off.

(1)Then the dead too soon
(2,3 overlap) Watch the
(1) too soon dead
(1,2,3 speak in a round, last word heard: “saints,”is a hiss) become newsreel saints:
(1 stoic, newsreader face) perfect mothers,
(2 newsreader face) loving fathers;
(1 newsreader face) such promise the sons and daughters
(3 joins the line above after “promise,”) My son! (gasp) My daughter!
(2 Lets scroll fall without comment on the stage; names spill out.)
(2) And the killer?
(3) The killer, crazy, yes. (Lets the scroll fall)

(1 quiet, subdued, puzzledStill, we never expect (Lets scroll fall)
(2 overlap expect) still never
(1,2,3) we never expect
(3) on this stage
(1,3) we set
(2) that the gun in act one will go off.

(Gunshot on “off,” stage lights out, actors cast their scrolls into the audience. If there is a projector, the names scroll down a lit screen).

About the Author

Mary Volmer is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust (Soho Press, 2010) and Reliance, Illinois (Soho Press, 2016). She has been awarded the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook, and she teaches at Saint Mary’s College (CA). www.maryvolmer.com


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