LISA SCHLESINGER

December 25, 2010

“Welcome to the Theatre of Things Are Not What They Seem. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief, please allow us the pleasure of disrupting the narrative. This is the story of Galileo Galilei. Or not. The telescope. Or not. Turn it around and look through it the wrong way.  Or not. Please consider your perspective. But don’t forget what year this is, which lens you look through, whose trial this is, and who rules. The playwright calls this the Visitation. Because we are. Just visiting. And now we are off.”– Ghost of Leonardo, Visitation 1

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Celestial Bodies

A Tragicomedy in Three Acts

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The body is a device to calculate

The astronomy of the spirit.

MMMMMMRumi

MMMMMMMMMMThe Fragile Vial

 

And calculate the stars: model heaven how wield

The mighty frame; how built; unbuild, contrive

To save appearances; how gird the sphere

With centric and eccentric scribbled o’er

Cycle, epicycle, orb in orb.

MMMMMMMMilton

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmParadise Lost viii 79-84

 

“It has often been maintained that Galileo became the father of modern science by replacing the speculative, deductive method with the empirical, experimental method. I believe, however, that this interpretation would not stand close scrutiny. There is no empirical method with speculative concepts and systems; and there is no speculative thinking whose concepts do not reveal on closer investigation, the empirical material from which they stem.”

Albert Einstein on Galileo in his introduction to Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems

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Characters

Marina Gamba – Galileo’s student and mistress

Galileo Galilei

The Ghost of Leonardo  da Vinci –

Cat   – Catalina de Erauso– a runaway nun, now a man

Celeste  – a mad girl, Galileo and Marina’s daughter

Guilia  – Galileo’s mother,

Johannes Kepler – a genius, wears tiny reading glasses.

Andreas Gamba – Marina’s father

Cosimo de Medici – a young man of nobility, a punk

Cristina de Medici – his mother, the Duchess, 36 years old, 20 feet tall.  All dress.

Pope Urban VIII – friend of the Medici’s, a toilet paper roll

Giovanni Bartoluzzi  – a lens maker, 40’s.

Meat and Fish Man- works with blood and guts, knows the market

Commedia dell’Arte/Galileo characters:

MMMMMMSalviati – a wise man

MMMMMMSagredo – a sensible man

MMMMMMSimplicio – a fool

TIME:  mmnAct I 1598

MMMMMMAct II 1600 – 1609

MMMMMMAct III 1613/1633

The Theatre of Things are Not What They Seem 1633.

PLACE: Padua and Florence, Italy

Notes on production:

/ Denotes speedily overlapping lines

Production should be lean, stylized Italian carnevale.

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Prologue

(Darkness. Marina, 19, holds an unlit candle.)

MARINA

It was a new star: A Sungrazer. But what to call it? Nothing exists with out a name. Star of Saturn? It blazed across the – what? Sky?  Without warning.  Dirty snowball. Flying angel. Blazing across the- what?- the wide red

(She takes a tinderbox out of her dress pocket, opens it: a Gregorian chant.  She closes it.  The music stops. Down falls CELESTE, a nun on strings.)

CELESTE

sky?

MARINA

The red orb of my mother’s belly from the inside. I was her little earth.

CELESTE

You’re not in the history books.

MARINA

/But I wanted to be.

CELESTE

/ I am in the history books.

MARINA

You are a good girl, Celeste. I am volatile. My mother was a tunnel.  I had to get out.

CELESTE

It was the middle of the night.

MARINA

She swept all night making a nest of phosphorescent dust. Hair, stardust, flea shit.

She crouched down like she could read the future in the dirt. Then her water broke.

CELESTE

You were too early-

MARINA

I pressed, I scorched then I tore through. She bit the broom handle to keep quiet.

CELESTE

It hurts to change the world.

MARINA

I wanted to be a Star. Fixed in the sky.

CELESTE

But you are not! You’re a traveler! Always moving.

MARINA

(excited) on a circular path- slightly outside the orbit of Venus.  Zero point Eighteen AU from the sun, well inside the orbit of Mercury. Traveling a million miles per hour at the sun’s surface, 230 Earth radii above the earths surface.  But no one saw me. (beat) It.

CELESTE

Someone saw it. It’s just not what he was looking for.

MARINA

I wanted to see it. I wanted to prove it!

 

CELESTE

Why was your mother mourning?

MARINA

Women cry when they have babies and no husbands. Don’t you know?

CELESTE

(disgusted) I don’t know anything about it.  (beat)  It was a bad omen. A Harlot Star!

MARINA

Harlot Star!

CELESTE

Don’t worry.  You’ll come around again.

MARINA

Comet Star.  Stella comata!.

CELESTE

Next time you’ll dress nice- primordial material of the heavens-  not in ashes and rags.  Here.   Let me.

(Marina hands Celeste the tinder box. And Celeste lights Marina’s candle.

A knife falls from Celeste’s clothes. Marina picks it up, looks at it closely, gives it back.)

MARINA

Do I know you?

CELESTE

/Not yet.

(Lights out except for the flame.)

GALLILEO (in the dark)

 

/Not yet.

Lights up as if by an opening door, on Galileo in an Interrogation room.)

Not yet, I said.

End Prologue

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ACT I

SCENE  1  – 1598 Via Borgo dei Vignali

(Marina holds candle up to read a sign.)

MARINA

Universite de Padua.   Galileo Galilei, Mathematician. (Accidentally blows out the flame.) Shit.

(She takes out a tinderbox, opens it. No Gregorian Chant. Tries to strike the flint. Looks like she might puke. Looks up for a nun on strings. None. A lamp in a second story window is lit.)

GALILEO

You again? Every night.  Rats. Indigents. Star gazers. Where are you from?  The Informoso Nazionale? (beat) What do you want from me?

MARINA

Excuse me, sir, I want

GALILEO

A story? Make something up. You make it all up anyway. You’re not worth the paper you’re printed on.

MARINA

/to know Something:

GALILEO

I have students here.  Nobles. No paparazzi allowed.

MARINA

Is there such a thing as a moving

GALILEO

Do you hear me?

MARINA

/Star? Sir?

GALILEO

Get away from my house.

(He takes off his boot and throws it at her. She ducks. He throws the second one at her.

And it’s professor, not sir.  Now scram.

(He throws the lantern out the window. The flame shoots high in arc to the floor and goes out. It smashes. She puts on the boots and runs off.)

End Scene 1

Visitation 1

Enter the Ghost of Leonardo.. He is fabulous and otherworldly and speaks like a foreigner because he has been dead for over half a century. He is followed by CELESTE and CAT – Catalina de Erauso-  two nuns). Celeste is still suspended and Cat pulls her like a curtain. Cat is a contemporary of Marina Gamba’s but born in Spain. They are meeting in the middle.  Time and space bust.

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Ladies and Gentlemen, Empiricists and Imperialists. And the rest of you subjects of the-  Wait.– what empire is this? You don’t look familiar. Let me introduce myself. Io, Leonardo.   Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, Leonardo da Vinci.  Leonardo Leonardo da Vinci.  Scientist. Artist. But of course you have heard of me? Sculptor of sculptures. Painter of paintings. Teller of tales and Prophesies. Truth and lies.

CELESTE

Excuse me? I don’t belong in this scene.

CAT

(to Celeste) That’s what you always say!

CELESTE

Ghost!

GHOST OF LEONARDO

It’s true. I’ve been dead for half a century.

CELESTE

Demon! Holy Mother of God- I am trying to write a passion play. (She prays under her breath) This is not my play.

GHOST OF LEONARDO

No this is my play. Well, vision. Only it’s not done yet. And I died and it’s very hard to finish Things that way.  I could not seem to finish things the other way, either. Can you stay still? It’s difficult. To finish. No?

(He adjusts Cat’s position. As he speaks, Cat tries to pose like a well-known  figure in a painting. Celeste struggles. )

Welcome to the Theatre of Things Are Not What They Seem. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief, please allow us the pleasure of disrupting the narrative. This is the story of Galileo Galilei. Or not. The telescope. Or not. Turn it around and look through it the wrong way.  Or not. Please consider your perspective. But don’t forget what year this is, which lens you look through, whose trial this is, and who rules. The playwright calls this the Visitation. Because we are. Just visiting. And now we are off.

The Ghost of Leonardo makes a contemporary gesture.

He and Cat exit, gleefully. Celeste

Is left hanging.

End Visitation

SCENE 2  Andreas’  House

(Marina struggles with the tinderbox. No flame. Andreas sits at a tiny table, waiting to be served.)

ANDREAS

You put two things that belong together, together. Two things that know what to do together and they do it.  I’m not doing it for you so don’t ask. I’ll eat olives. I won’t eat. When I look at you- I see

MARINA

/A Subordinate

ANDREAS

/ a naughty

MARINA

/seditious, sidereal.

ANDREAS

/girl who – Stop the excuses with the fancy names –

MARINA

/An Insurgent

(She grabs her father’s knife. Starts to cut her arm. He grabs it from her.)

ANDREAS

/(Don’t do that! (beat) Mr Bartoluzzi

MARINA

/Papa,

ANDREAS

/will be here any minute

MARINA

/maybe, what you perceive as rebelliousness is /

ANDREAS

/Speak plain. (beat) Mr. Bartoluzzi wants a wife.  Who can prepare zucchini. Do wifely things.  If he sees you can’t do these wifely things, he might think you can’t do other wifely things. (beat)  You’re getting old, Marina.

MARINA

/I’m nineteen. I cook.

ANDREAS

It’s true.  (longing, hungry) Your tortellini. Your risotto.  (beat) What’s for supper?

MARINA

(beat) Calamari. (She hands him the tinder box and he lights it.) Grazie.

ANDREAS

People will think you’re a witch.

MARINA

I smell good.  Not like a witch.

ANDREAS

A nun, maybe. (beat) A whore!

MARINA

/Papa! I am not!

ANDREAS

/Why don’t you pray for God’s help?

MARINA

/I’m a virgin.

ANDREAS

/You better

MARINA

/I do pray

ANDREAS

/be.  Of course.  You are. You do.  (beat) You better. (beat) If you aren’t. And you do.  You will receive his forgiveness.

MARINA

You don’t believe in god.

ANDREAS

What has god got for me, a hell full of iron ore. A couple of bum eyes and an ax. I can barely pay a dowry. (beat)  That’s where you were last night?  Fishing for calamari?

MARINA

The sea is full of stars. But how do they get in there? Give me those clothes. (He undresses)

ANDREAS

Look, I know you’re not a floozy. But I’m a working man. That makes you the daughter of a working man.

MARINA

He’s a lens maker. He’s old.  (She smells the cloths) Oh my. (She circles him.)

ANDREAS

We’re lucky he’ll even consider at you, but you’re a robust girl. And when people want children they’ll forget certain things until your pregnant at which time- (you’ll have his children)

MARINA

I don’t want children. /To figure out the orbit,

ANDREAS

– I can’t put up with your problems – stop that, I’m dizzy –

MARINA

one must observe the comet from two different positions in

(She notes on her arm.  The letter G.)

ANDREAS

/ any longer!

MARINA

/ order to determine its proximity to the moon

ANDREAS

/ Basta! (Beat. She does not speak over him.) Jesus doesn’t want you to carve his name in your arm.

MARINA

It’s not his name!

(He pulls her sleeve down over the letter, puts down the knife, sits on it.)

MARINA

Hey! Those are my notes!

ANDREAS

Where did you learn all those words?

MARINA

I read.

ANDREAS

Who taught you to read?

MARINA

I taught myself.

ANDREAS

You’re a

MARINA

/ a mass of dust and gas.  (She burps extravagantly)

ANDREAS

Trouble maker.  Don’t put words in my mouth.

MARINA

I walk from street sign to street sign. The words lead me.  The letters are musical notes. The more you say them, the more melodious they are. (She Sings) Universite de Padua.   Via Borgo dei Vignali.  Gallilaeus Galilaei , mathematician.

ANDREAS

When do you read these signs?

MARINA

At night.

ANDREAS

How do you read in the dark?

MARINA

I use candlelight.

ANDREAS

And who lights the candle?

MARINA

I steal them from the church.

ANDREAS

Marina!

MARINA

God wants me to read.

ANDREAS

People pay for those!

MARINA

God doesn’t want me to light the candles. God wants me to read by them.

ANDREAS

How much is a dowry for a crazy girl? It must be diecimila…molto molto. I’ll need a lifetime to pay you off. Cover your arm! Any one who wants to can strike a flint. Christ.

MARINA

It’s a sign, from God, that I can’t light it.  (beat) Supper’s ready.

(Andreas takes the knife out from under his ass, stabs a piece of food and eats it off the blade. A knock on the door. Andrea checks Marina.)

ANDREA

What are you wearing on your feet?

(She looks down at her boots.)

MARINA

God sent them to me.

ANDREA

Che macello! Marina!

(The knocking continues.)

End Scene 2

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Scene 3     Fuck this Robe

(Galileo alone. Damp and cold.The middle of the night as in Prologue.)

GALILEO

I have tremendous ideas in my head.  Then, in the news, I hear of other people’s ideas coming to fruition.  Their success. Their Fame. Their dinner parties.

KEPLER

We must be wary of envying our colleagues.

GALILEO

I don’t envy shit. I just need more money. My mother needs money.  My sister needs money.  And I need more time and now…

KEPLER

We must envy the future. For what it knows. So we can reveal it. It’s never been easy.  Not even for Leonardo.

GALILEO

Fuck Leonardo.

GHOST OF LEONARDO

(Off stage) HEY!

(A beat. Did they hear that?)

KEPLER

He had more foresight than anyone and more awareness of his foresight– therefore, more frustration with his shortcomings, thus his extreme sensitivity to light, to depth of field, to limits of perception.  You have the University, no? They support you, no?

GALILEO

I’m too hard on myself. I need a drink. I need a good (pipa)

KEPLER

Excuse me?

GALILEO

A young girl’s luscious mouth, ragazzo.

KEPLER

A?  (he sneezes).

GALILEO

The nature of creation: A little mind, a little body. Look, Kepler, knowledge is just fashion lilke everything else. Period.

KEPLER

That’s a very cynical and rigid viewpoint, my friend.

GALILEO

You want to see rigid look under the table…  and don’t start on your chariots to the moon. I’m a realist.  If I make an instrument of navigation it is to move the military from here to there. If I make a compass it is to set the direction for the importation of spices- that would be capital– from foreign worlds. And if I have a hard-on I want someone to slake it. You may have noticed – if you were awake at the time- the instrument I erected not only determines military destinations but calculates income as well. And it’s mine.  It has my name on it.  Forever.

KEPLER

The moon follows wherever and however the earth MOVES.

GALILEO

Kepler- you’re line is: Galileo Galilei, you’re more ingenious than Tycho Brahe.

KEPLER

I said…the earth… Moves. /Never mind. I would suggest you look up

GALILEO

More ingenius than me even.

KEPLER

/At the heavens, instead of down

GALILEO

Though everyone knows you are well endowed. In the mind, that is. (Waiting)

KEPLER

/at your crotch.  (beat) (sneezes several times in a row.)

GALILEO

God bless you.

KEPLER

(Kepler  sneezes) Thank you. Tycho Brahe’s…

GALILEO

Tycho, that psycho. Don’t tell me! My stomach aches just hearing about it.

KEPLER

The Star Catalogue depicts the planetary orbits in unparalleled precision.

GALILEO

I should have become a military advisor.

KEPLER

/Tycho is

/Or a doctor. They pay so much to cut people up. Or sew them up.  And save them.  Or kill them. Or both! But vision! What do they pay for vision?

KEPLER

/Tycho has

GALILEO

/Of course he has, the bastard, he has loads of time and money.

KEPLER

He had time and money.

GALILEO

/And the NIGHT! As if the world conspired to make him the finest astronomer ever in the bloody history of the bloody World. The King of Denmark funds him for Christ’s sake! He has a whole island and the best available equipment. In DENMARK, for Christ’s sake.  Where it’s dark all day! The little fuck.

KEPLER

/Tycho is in exile. In Prague.

GALILEO

/Poor lackey. Took his little notations with him I hope.

KEPLER

Frankly, Galileo Galilei, you have time enough to roam and drink and find women.

GALILEO

No Kepler. That’s not time.  That’s untime. A man needs to unwind after a long day’s work. In fact. Fuck these robes eh, Kepler? There’s nothing like a uniform to hold a man down. The university is a farce. Do we want to teach? No! We want to go on sabbatical and do our research. But instead we put on these little costumes, stand on podiums and recite lines of drama to high paying audiences.  Besides, a man is not allowed into the brothel wearing this robe.  So that man must go home by himself and what? Is not all that fabric a hindrance to his handiwork – Impeding the motion when he must do the deed himself? Raspare! (He takes off his robe. His torn slippers are apparent.) I am ready for the whorehouse…

KEPLER

What are you wearing on your feet?

GALILEO

Take off your damn robe. (Kepler won’t take it off.) Let’s place a bet.  (Lifts his glass to Kepler) Whoever can get a woman tonight with one scudi wins.

KEPLER

That’s not a bet.

GALILEO

I’ll meet you at dawn for the results.

KEPLER

I leave at dawn.

GALILEO

Then bon voyage to you and bon appétit for me.  (Drinks)

KEPLER

Tycho and I

GALILEO

You and Tycho?

KEPLER

Yes. It’s not common knowledge. He is very ill.  He has entrusted me with his charts.

GALILEO

/You and Tycho?

KEPLER

We are studying a new star that is not a fixed entity but moving…

GALILEO

You and Tycho.

KEPLER

I named it Hairball. After my mother.  I first saw it in 1577. It moves on an elliptical path between the earth and the sun and…/I charted it…

GALILEO

/The comet theory is nonsense. I won’t even discuss it. But good luck with that. Frankly, I think Tycho is a spoiled brat. And you are a sentimental fool. And listen, Kepler, when my work is going so poorly, it’s really hard to discuss things like rainbows and fairies.

KEPLER

Pardon me?

GALILEO

You and Tycho Brahe Ad nauseam. Give me that book. (Grabs the star catalogue.)

KEPLER

By observing the parallax (sneezes) we will see that it crashes through all the crystalline spheres of Aristotle’s world. Which means Aristotles planetary orbits are not calculated correctly. Therefore if he was incorrect on that count, then he most likely incorrect on The OTHER most important element of the planetary system. That thing that peers over at us at all times,

GALILEO

The thing I think you are referring to?

KEPLER

fearlessly, and relentlessly.

GALILEO

The Pope?

KEPLER

No.

GALILEO

God?

KEPLER

No.  The sss.  (He sneezes.)

GALILEO

The sun, you idiot, it’s not blasphemy to say sun.

KEPLER

If the planets aren’t bound by these crystalline spheres, then the sun

GALILEO

You’re talking about the C word.

KEPLER

No. sneezes The crystalline orbs

GALILEO

(beat) You’re not going to say it. You’re going to make me say it.

KEPLER

(sneeze)  I don’t even know if we’re talking about the same thing anymore!

GALILEO

The C word.

KEPLER

Copernicus. (beat)  There. ( beat)  Are you satisfied?

GALILEO

(He lifts his glass) My point being…

KEPLER

Point?  You are nowhere near a point. You’re drooling.

GALILEO

A man sits in a cave somewhere and thinks. He has no proof. He hasn’t written his thought process down…

KEPLER

Copernicus wrote them down. Here’s a bet: I bet that Tycho and I

GALILEO

KEPLER

Can prove his theories with the orbit of the comet, before you can prove it, otherwise.

GALILEO

His writing is outlawed.

KEPLER

We could. Rewrite it in a creative way without saying his name.

GALILEO

Yes, we can if we want to burn at the stake.

KEPLER

We would not lecture it. We would simply dialogue.  And prove it with empirical proof.

GALILEO

You mean in the University we lecture geocentric Ptolemy. But we write a Dialogue about the (whispers) Copernican world system.  We create fictitious characters who,

(Salviati, Sagredo, Simplicio may use the bocci balls to illustrate.)

Hypothetically

SIMPLICIO

Espouse Aristotle’s

SALVIATI

bogus ideas.

GALILEO

In dialogue – letting some braggart debate the orbs.

KEPLER

It’s just an idea.

GALILEO

We’ll use a character like Simplicio to make Aristotle look like a fool! He could say things like

SIMPLICIO

Ex hac itaque necesse est diffidere nostris sensibus, ut penitus fallicibus vel stupidis/

GALILEO

/and

SALVIATI

We’ll have one respectable character who is VERY much like (Galileo)/

GALILEO

/Me

KEPLER

who espouses the Copernican system,

SAGREDO

And one who spurs him on to proving its validity,

GALILEO

/Like you!

KEPLER

Is this why you asked me here?

GALILEO

Did I ask you here?

(Both consider each other, confused, a moment.)

And then you can publish it for us.

KEPLER

I?

GALILEO

In Prague!  Yes! You are a Lutheran. No one cares what you think!  And you don’t have the cardinals and bishops glaring over your shoulder.  (beat)

KEPLER

We are just examining the hypotheses of those who have gone before us.

GALILEO

True. I can’t wait to get started. The first thing I’ll write is:

SALVIATI

Since Copernicus places the earth among the movable heavenly bodies, making it a globe like a planet, we will begin by arguing the impossibility of that hypothesis.

GALILEO

Start with an argument against our own beliefs. Right Kepler? Brilliant isn’t it? Because the reader will then find himself arguing against my argument.

SALVIATI

For this it is necessary to introduce two substances which differ essentially.

GALILEO

Thus he will argue in favor of the opposing view.

KEPLER

Very clever, Galileo Galilei.

GALILEO

Bet’s on. Let’s drink on it

SALVIATI

These are the celestial and the elemental, the former being invariant and eternal; the latter, temporary and destructible.

KEPLER

Temporary and destructible, that’s us, isn’t it? I think I am feeling the effects of …

GALILEO

/The wine? Yes, me too

KEPLER

/the terrifying prospect of nothingness.

GALILEO

/You’re melancholic?

KEPLER

/Maybe it’s the wine.

GALILEO

You know what wine is, my friend?

KEPLER

Sour grapes?

GALILEO

Water and light.

(Kepler is gone. Galileo knocks back the rest of the glass. It’s water. He’s surprised and extremely thirsty.  He is in the interrogation room, alone.  The robe is a prisoner’s not a lecturer’s.)

End Scene 3

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Scene 4 Via Borgo dei Vignali.

(Marina as in Scene 1. Now dressed in her father’s clothing. She accidentally blows her candle out.  Tries to relight it. Enter Galileo, fixing his trousers, robe over his arm.)

GALILEO

Trouble, young man? To make fire you must need fire. A spark is requisite. Then flint.

MARINA

Why are you lecturing me?

GALILEO

I am a lecturer.  See my robe.

MARINA

Maybe you stole it.

GALILEO

If I was going to steal I would steal something worth stealing.

MARINA

/Like what?

GALILEO

/Ideas.

MARINA

You lecture with stolen ideas?

GALILEO

No I use Sex, scandal and allegory.

MARINA

What do you lecture?

GALILEO
Mathematics. Do you know much about it?

MARINA

Not in the abstract. In the concrete. As in you are greater than me because you wear the robes of the lecturer and I wear the trousers of a peasant.  Are those your mathematician’s robes?

GALILEO

I’m required to wear them in public at all times.

MARINA

And that’s why you drag them on the ground like old fishing nets?

GALILEO

You ask a lot of questions.

MARINA

I’m interested in answers. Let me try on that robe. Lecturing is just answering the questions, without the questions, right?

GALILEO

(Hands her the robe) How is it you speak well but can’t light a flame?

MARINA

(She puts on the robe) I know causally how a fire can be lit but can’t light one. There is a world of difference between what one knows and the experiential proof, so to speak.  (beat) It’s the iron.  (aside) It makes me puke. Is it the last smell in the world or the first?  You DO know what I mean?

GALILEO

The birth and death of a star.

MARINA

But does the star actually come into existence? Or is it simply unseeable from where we are standing?  Perhaps, The birth or death of a comet.

GALILEO

I don’t believe in comets. And neither should you.

MARINA

Tycho Brahe

GALILEO

He has nothing to teach you.

MARINA

Johannes Kepler

GALILEO

Sentimental mystic.

MARINA

Do you have a book?

GALILEO

It’s more like a pamphlet. But I’m working on one. In fact, I’m looking for a scribe. But we don’t teach peasants in university.

MARINA

I imagine it’s a delight.

GALILEO

Delight comes in other packages. The students are mostly wet bread.  Their ambition in life is leisure. (beat, looking at her closely) You are Familiar. Or strange. Have we met before?

MARINA

/No.

GALILEO

My name is Galileo Galilei.

MARINA

No.

GALILEO

Yes. Pleased to meet you. Your name?

MARINA

Uh. Giovanni…. Giovanni. Bartoluzzi.

GALILEO

How old are you, Giovanni Bartoluzzi?

MARINA

19, sir. The age of the sun.

GALILEO

/Sun?

MARINA

/In the, sir.

GALILEO

/Professor.  What do you know about the sun?

MARINA

Not much. As you can see I am a night owl. ( beat) I know where to find it!   Because unlike most things. It stays still. Or

GALILEO

/Did you say…?

MARINA

/It comes around in a still sort of way. Capricious and dazzling like a god.

GALILEO

Surely, you believe the earth stays still.

MARINA

I believe in the Heavenly father, the bloody son and work, Professor. My mother died when I was born. I do the chores she would have done. My father works in iron. After he goes to bed I sneak out. I walk. Peripatetically. Like Aristotle.

GALILEO

/Aristotle

MARINA

I read.

GALILEO

Who taught you to read?

MARINA

I learned in spite of myself, the heavenly father and my father too. Latin. Greek. The constellations.

GALILEO

Astrology? You can make money reading charts.

MARINA

If you were a wealthy man would you go to a black smith’s daught -eh- son for your star chart or would you call in a real scientist like Tycho Brahe?

GALILEO

Don’t say that name! (doubles over) Personally, I think about things that aren’t yet known to see things as they really are. Currently, I am intrigued with the force which brings things down. Of which you clearly have no experience yet?

MARINA

Pardon me?

GALILEO

A little science joke, ragazzo. (beat) You wouldn’t have the experience of being forced down against your will while trying to get it up? Never mind.

MARINA

Not unless all peasant life isn’t an experience of being forced down.

GALILEO

Can you write what you read, son?

MARINA

Yes.(Unsure) I can.

GALILEO

Latin. Greek. Star charts. Italian. Give me a little taste of what you know, Giovanni Bartoluzzi, here, take my robe. Lecture me.

MARINA

Uh. I can’t sir. (beat)  I don’t speak Latin.

GALILEO

Use Italian.  Look, son, I’m tired. I did the spry bitch three times. I need to lie down. Keep the robe. Prepare a lecture. Come by my house this afternoon.

MARINA

I. Can’t.

GALILEO

Evening then.

MARINA

Please. Take it. I can’t.

GALILEO

Bring it to me tonight. And boy, let me light that flame for you before I go.

MARINA

It’s practically morning.

(They look up. Daylight. Marina exits)

End Scene 4

M

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Visitation 2

(Knocking at Andreas’ door as in Scene 2. Andreas opens the door- Celeste. She averts her eyes.)

CELESTE

Good evening. (whispers) Grandfather.

ANDREAS

Good?  Ahoo! Frigging evening, sister.

CELESTE

Good what evening?

ANDREAS

Freezing.

CELESTE

Yes, it must be chilly in your skivvies. Your daughter is stealing candles from our alter. We’d like them back. If not, we’d like a payment of 60 scudi.

ANDREAS

Jesus Christ, how many candles has she stolen.

CELESTE

(whispers) Butt loads.

ANDREAS

For Christ’s sake- where am I going to get 60 scudi?

CELESTE

Christ’s candles are dear.

ANDREAS

For fuck’s sake.  She’ll be over to wash the floors before dawn.

CELESTE

Actually, we sisters clean the church. It costs nothing, just our health, but we don’t mind. The church wants money. I have strict instructions not to barter.  And it’s long past dawn it’s practically evening. Get up!

(She exits. Andreas wakes. In his underwear. )

End Visitation

M

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Scene 5

(Evening. Galileo’s house. Marina wears Galileo’s robe. It’s ridiculously big.)

GALILEO

And do not ever – EVER – stand on equal ground with your students.

MARINA

(Stepping up onto the ledge) One would like to say that orbits are not what they seem.

GALILEO

Be definitive. When one lectures, one will pretend that he knows far more than anyone.  Quote from the writings of others, but show, emphatically, that you’ve supplemented their ideas with your research.

MARINA

A planet approaching the sun, is seen to move more quickly,

GALILEO

Louder!

MARINA

(louder) accelerating as it approaches that source of light, and decelerating as it departs,

GALILEO

/Better.

MARINA

/therefore one can calculate exactly where one planet is in relation to another- or to God

GALILEO

No G words in the lecture. God must be considered in the dedication. Otherwise, none of our business. Besides- it’s completely off the topic of your lecture.

MARINA

(weary) Orbits?

GALILEO

It’s your lecture!

MARINA

It’s just – I know what it’s about- but the thing doesn’t have a name.

GALILEO

Make one up. When you lecture. No questions. Leave no space for doubt.

MARINA

Therefore, regarding The Stella Comata of 1577, otherwise known as the harlot star, because it was taken as a sign of bad tidings,

GALILEO

Harlot Star! Bad tidings is not scientific terminology.

MARINA

Was visible on a circular path- slightly outside the orbit of Venus. Zero Point.Eighteen AU from the sun. 230 Earth radii above the earths surface, inside the orbit of Mercury. It traveled a million miles per hour at the sun’s surface, but as it increased its distance it appeared to diminish in speed- why are you looking at me?

GALILEO

I’m not.

MARINA

(Notices book) Tycho Brahe’s Star Catalogue?

GALILEO

I‘m reading it as a favor to a friend. Frankly, everything about that man gives me a stomachache.  Except I have heard now he is dead. Or almost dead.  And you know, my stomach feels much better.

MARINA

I would like to read that.

GALILEO

Mystical & vaporous.

MARINA

Excuse me?

GALILEO

My blurb. For the back of the book. Borrow it. Give it back when you are done. It’s rubbish but the printing is very valuable.  A glass of wine, Giovanni?

MARINA

No.  I’ve read Kepler’s Cosmic mystery.

GALILEO

Kepler’s a hurdy gurdy.

MARINA

But both Tycho and Kepler saw it.

GALILEO

Who cares?  Tycho’s world system is flawed. It’s ugly. God wouldn’t create a universe of bad aesthetics. Therefore old Tycho is wrong. Ask the pope.

MARINA

I saw it.

GALILEO

Look, my little friend.  You and I know the earth revolves around the sun.  But do you think I go about ranting it? Listen up. Half of science is knowledge.  Half is politics. Are you listening. That’s fifty-fifty. All of us must forget half of what we know so that we can get our funding. Write that down.

MARINA

I dream about it.

GALILEO

Dream is what children do.  It’s terrible when a poor boy loses his mother. It can not be fixed. You can share mine. She’s an insomniac yet she walks in her sleep. Don’t ask! It’s a paradox. The stella cometa is a star which means it is a fixed body but Tycho has documented it as a moving body which is impossible –

MARINA

A paradox.

GALILEO

If you can hold a paradox in your mind,

MARINA

I can. Your mother can.

GALILEO

Probably he had the tremors and it only looked like it was moving. Besides you weren’t even born yet

MARINA

About to be born!

GALILEO

An astronomical genius! Understood cosmology before he was born!

MARINA

Don’t you ever know things you don’t know how you know, you just know. It’s like I remember it.

GALILEO

Show me the proof. Not the dream.

MARINA

I can’t. Today. But I will.

GALILEO

“Knowing” is what occultists do. Witches and readers of coffee grounds, not mathematicians.

MARINA

Priests?  The Pope?

GALILEO

And those graced by God.

MARINA

Ordinary people aren’t graced by God?

GALILEO

Consider your life.  For evidence.

MARINA

Are you suggesting I believe in a God that doesn’t grace me? Or that I believe in science and philosophy because I am not graced?

GALILEO

Jesus Christ.  Do I have to fucking know everything? That’s enough questions for one day.

MARINA

Maybe god loves paradox. I have to go.

GALILEO

Nothing matters but proof. Proof takes time. Do you have time or do you have to go home to your papa?

MARINA

I have time.

GALILEO

Good. One can hypothesize until the stars fall from heaven. That is the only reason that Copernicus died on his deathbed and not burning and stinking while the villagers danced around the stake laughing like it was a pork roast. So until they prove it, Fuck Tycho and Kepler and the comets they rode in on.

MARINA

I intend to prove it. But now I have to go.

GALILEO

Wait. (At the window as if to an audience.)My dear, Imbeciles, students, and roaming cats! Welcome to the laboratory of the new world. Tonight, God, the heavenly judge, has asked me to present to you the laws of falling bodies.

OFF STAGE NEIGHBOR

Shut up, you imbecile.

GALILEO

Thank you, sir, for your encouragement. When a commoner calls a genius imbecile it proves his own idiocy. See what we are working with here, Giovanni? (To the neighbors) Ladies and gentlemen, Aristotle assures us that when two bodies fall from equal heights the heavier one will fall faster and land first.  But, I, Galileo Galilei, say balls of different sizes and weights will fall at exactly the same rate.  To demonstrate (to Marina) come up here.

(He squats on the window sill. She doesn’t.  She turns to avoid staring at his crotch. But he catches her chin. Note: LAZZI TERRITORY.)

MARINA

I’m not comfortable climbing up on the windowsill, professor.

GALILEO

No facial hair yet? Slow development, eh, boy? Fava beans. Peasant food. (Now he stands up and her face is in his crotch.)

Come on up.  (He gives her a hand up and she climbs up.)

Okay jump! (He pushes her) Just joking.  (shouting) Galileo Galilei, mathemetician and the peasant Giovanni Bartoluzzi-

MARINA

I

GALILEO

They’ll love that! A peasant on University Grounds! Ha.It’s great to break rules isn’t it my little friend?  To modify them. To fuck them entirely. (out the window)  To demonstrate my theory of falling bodies,

MARINA

Excuse me. I have to confess…

GALILEO

Yes?

MARINA

My name isn’t… Bartoluzzi. It’s Gamba. I’m sorry, I…

GALILEO

No wonder you’re so scrawny. Good neighbors, tonight, in order to disprove Aristotle’s theory of falling bodies, the two of us will jump from  this window.

MARINA

What?

GALILEO

The puny Venetian Peasant Giovanni Gamba, (He pats Marina’s body, startled she teeters, he catches her) who weighs so little he flies like a bird, and Io, the brawny Tuscan Galileo Galilei will jump from this second story window.

MARINA

What?

GALIEO

Will we fall together as we fall? Will we land together as we land?

( Galileo jolts hard then  catches her. He jumps off the ledge and now his face is in her crotch. Big big belly laugh.)

You’re gray as death, uccello! Do you mind if I call you that?

MARINA

I…

GALILEO

(beat. Serious) 1) Don’t ever ever think we aren’t on very dangerous ground here. 2) This hypothesis can not be proved this way. The height from my window to the ground would is not nearly enough distance to make up for the resistance of the wind.

MARINA

Is this how you lecture?

GALILEO

No, this is how I teach. Do you understand?

GUILIA

(entering) Who is this?

GALILEO

This, mother, is a street person I picked up.

GUILIA

I don’t recognize him. I knew he wasn’t the one I was expecting.

MARINA

Pleased to meet you. /(Is she sleeping?)

GALILEO

/My newest student.

GUILIA

/How rude! Does he pay you well?

MARINA

I ‘m

GUILIA

You only need one pupil: Cosimo De Medici.

MARINA

not suited.

GALILEO

I like how you laugh. How you think!

MARINA

I lied to you.

GALILEO

I know. Shows imagination.

GUILIA

In my time we called that lust and debauchery.

GALILEO

Look, Giovanni, the student teacher relationship is mutual. If the one is right for the other, the other is right for the one…

GUILIA

Listen to this! Romantic fuddle in the predawn disguised as inquiry!

GALILEO

You make me think better. You make me ask the right questions.

MARINA

I’m honored but my father needs me.

GUILIA

Cosimo de Medici is the only thing that should be on your mind. You listen to your mother.

MARINA

I can’t pay you.

GUILIA

You should be asleep so you can dream of him.

GALILEO

I can’t pay you. But I can keep you. I’m a stingy bastard but generous when the need arises.

GUILIA

Cosimo de Medici. Your world is named after him. Do you hear me?

MARINA

I need to ask my father.

GUILIA

CO SI MO DE ME DI CI.

GALILEO

Maybe  you don’t understand what an honor this is.

MARINA

O! I understand

GALILEO

Tell your father. Galileo Galilei wants you to study the stella cometa. Here, in his house.

MARINA

The comet?

GALILEO

In fact, I’ll tell him. What’s your father’s name, Gamba?

MARINA

Andreas

GALILEO

You hesitate?

MARINA

He’s fierce.

GALILEO

He won’t refuse me.

End Scene 6

M

M

M

 

Visitation 3  House of Andreas Gamba

(Andreas pacing in his underwear. Ghost walks through the door, Cat perches in the window.)

GHOST OF LEONARDO

O, Andreas?  Are you hallucinating yet?

ANDREAS

No. I can drink my weight in grappa.

CAT

Land ho!

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Oh Grappa! Can I have a little?  I miss it so much!

ANDREAS

Go ahead. Make yourself at home.

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Thank you.

ANDREAS

Even though you don’t belong here.

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Don’t stand.

CAT

You might fall down!

ANDREA

I wasn’t going to.

(Ghost of Leonardo pours himself a glass of grappa and sips it, luxuriously.)

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Cat, have a little sip. It could kill you or bring you back to life, depending on which side of the line you are on.

CAT

I am at sea, it’s a kind of limbo.

ANDREA

Who invited you?

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Actually, we invited you.

ANDREAS

No way. I was forced out through my mother’s cunt so that I could work my life away in this hellhole. This is my house.

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Earth is so very fine. Are you hallucinating yet?

CAT

I haven’t seen land for a long long time. I miss it so. (whistfully) The green grass, the sand upon the shore

ANDREAS

Yes! Get out of here. (He shakes his head.) What land are you talking about?  These are four stone walls. Did you steal my clothes?

CAT

No, I stole these from the grounds keeper.  Do they suit me?

ANDREAS

No.

CAT

Too bad! I see stars…

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Me too!

CAT

They are so twinkly and bright! And they’re moving! Are yours moving?

GHOST OF LEONARDO

No, sweet, I don’t think so…

ANDREA

Did you steal my daughter?

GHOST OF LEONARDO

Of course not! We don’t do such things,

CAT

Not true. We do but we didn’t this time. Still. We’d be pleased to make her acquaintance when she returns.

GHOST OF LEONARDO

(Marina sneaks in the house in her father’s clothing. It’s just before dawn. He pushes her down in his chair.)

CAT/GHOST OF LEONARDO

Uh oh. She’s in trouble!

CAT

Let’s beat it!

(Andrea ties Marina to the chair.  Cat and Leonardo escape.)

ANDREA

Right now.  I have nothing to say to you. But when I do. I want to make sure that I know where you are.

End Visitation 3

Scene 6

(Andreas’ house. Next night. Marina in the chair. A knock at the door.)

ANDREAS

Won’t leave me alone. Fucking bastards.

GALILEO

Good evening.    I am …(noticing Marina) Please don’t stand up

ANDREAS

I wasn’t going to. (beat)

GALILEO

(gesturing towards Marina) Isn’t that a little extreme?

ANDREAS

Do you know the extremity  of the crimes? A, hoo.

GALILEO

The crimes?

ANDREAS

Extortion. Vagrancy. Theft.  And other things we don’t know each other well enough to talk about.

GALILEO

My. He has given me the wrong impression.

ANDREAS

He? (laughs) A hoo.   Yes.  He has.

GALILEO

He is the one I have come to talk with you about.  Your son.

ANDREAS

My son?

GALILEO

Yes.

ANDREAS

Of course. My son!  A hoo.

GALILEO

Do you have others.

ANDREAS

A daughter.

GALILEO

That she brings you joy.  (beat)

ANDREAS

HA! Ha, hoo.

GALILEO

(beat) He’s

ANDREAS

In trouble, / I know

GALILEO

/ On the contrary. Quite brilliant. I met him in the street and

ANDREAS

Ha. Where else? Roams.  Like a. Bitch.

GALILEO

He’s very capable of collecting…

ANDREAS

/Is that a kind of stealing?

GALILEO

And retaining.  Knowledge.  It’s quite remarkable.

ANDREAS

Really. Not just out there haranguing between other people’s legs.

GALILEO

Excuse me?

ANDREAS

The roamer.  Rogue good for nothing squanderer. Lot of good that’ll do. Knowledge. Can’t build a fire.

GALILEO

The nobility pay me to educate their youth. Loads. (Ha! We know, how young men get educated, don’t we?) (beat) In fact Cosimo de Medici is considering my tutelage.  I need a scribe. I can’t afford to pay someone but I can teach a great mind like your son’s.

ANDREAS

A great mind?

GALILEO

He reads Kepler.

ANDREAS

Who?

GALILEO

He’s able to chart the stars.

ANDREAS

(to Marina) You do this? A hoo. Can read a star chart. Can’t light a flame.  Did you know that? Can’t wash a man’s clothes, and return them to the man. Sono ne Pallone!  Can’t enter the church and leave without stealing something. Can’t…

GALILEO

Your son has an exquisite mind.

ANDREAS

Exquisite?

GALILEO

I know because we have like minds.  Your son and I.

ANDREAS

Pity you. ( beat) What’s that mean, Mar… (pauses) son.

MARINA

Exquisite?  Means of such beauty or delicacy as to arouse delight.

ANDREAS

Arouse?

MARINA

/Arouse means to

GALILEO

Do you know how much money Johannes Kepler makes charting the horoscopes of the nobility?

ANDREAS

I don’t believe in that shit.

GALILEO

Every single person in the Medici household in the last four hundred years has had his chart done. Even Leonardo. Sforza commissioned him based on his chart.

ANDREAS

Has she read your chart?

MARINA

(like a cough) Heh.

ANDREAS

What?

GALILEO

I don’t want the answers until I solve them myself.

ANDREAS

My child. Should stay true to God.

MARINA

You don’t believe in God.

ANDREAS

You do!

GALILEO

Draw his chart, Uccello

ANDREAS

(exasperated) Uccello?! Do you know what ucello means , Professor?

GALILEO

Bird?  (ANDREAS points to his crotch) O. A provincial thing.

ANDREAS

Ahoo! (to Marina) /Professor demands you draw the chart, Uccello (?!)

(Galileo gives Marina parchment and his quill for the first time. She pauses before taking them.)

GALILEO

Ask him questions. Anything you like.

ANDREAS

What did I do to deserve a child like you?

MARINA

That’s a question for God, not the stars.

ANDREAS

Tell me about my daughter.

MARINA

Your daughter,

ANDREAS

Where is that little “bird” now?

MARINA

brings you trouble.

ANDREAS

Tell me something I don’t know.  She’s a no good, lying …

MARINA

Reconsider. (beat) If she follows her desire her dowry shrinks to nothing. And the good news is your son.

ANDREAS

My son! A, Hoo.

MARINA

burns bright. And through him your name goes down in history.

ANDREAS

Who cares about history.

GALILEO

The future.

ANDREAS

(beat) Who gives a shit. ( beat) About the future.  But no dowry is something.  Some grappa, Professor? I make it myself. (he offers him his own glass)

GALILEO

Makes my brain snap.

ANDREAS

I agree to let him study with you. But I warn you. You take him as is. I send him with no money.  No change of clothes. You take him as is.

If he gets into trouble. Of any sort. He doesn’t come home. He’s your responsibility. Or he’s on his own.

GALILEO

Agreed. (raises his glass)

MARINA

You are giving me away? For good?

ANDREAS

Do you know what grappa is?

(ANDREAS cuts the rope.)

GALILEO

Sour grapes?

ANDREAS

Water and light.

(Long beat. ANDREAS scrutinizes Marina. He doesn’t know how the Professor can be so stupid.  Marina looks long at her father, kisses him.)

MARINA

Good bye. Papa.

ANDREAS

Here. A man needs a knife.

GALILEO

(exiting to Marina). What’s that you’re wearing on your feet?

End Scene 6

End ACT I

M

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Lisa Schlesinger’s work has been produced nationally and internationally.  Her plays include Wal-martyrs, Twenty-One Positions(with Naomi Wallace and Abed Fattah Abusrour), Same Egg, Manny and Chicken, Rock Ends Ahead, The Bones of Danny Winston, Bow Echo, and Leaner than Light. She is currently working on Harmonicus Mundi, about Johannes Kepler’s mother who was indicted for witchraft. The piece was commissioned by the Ensemble Studio Theatre with Portland Stage Company and funded by the Sloan Foundation, and a collaboration with Rivendell Theatre and is the second piece in the Celestial Bodies Trilogy. The first play, Celestial Bodies, featuring Marina Gamba, Galileo’s mistress; was supported by an NEA/TCG Playwrights Award.

She has received commissions from the Guthrie Theatre, the BBC, Upstart Crow Project, the International Writing Program, and fellowships from the NEA, CEC International, the Iowa Arts Council, among others. She is recipient of the NEA/TCG Playwrights Residency Award and winner of the BBC International Playwriting Competition.

Her work has been published in American Theatre Magazine, Performing Arts Journal, Theater Magazine, Best Monologues for Women by Women II, and other books and journals. Her essay On the Road to Palestine was included in the American Theatre Reader, the best writing of the last 25 years of American Theatre Magazine. She is a member of Theatre Without Borders, TCG, the Dramatists Guild, and currently serves on the Boards of CSPS Legion Arts and VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts.  She teaches playwriting and coordinates the Playwriting Program at Columbia College Chicago.

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