MIRETTE a new musical
Book by Elizabeth Diggs Music by Harvey Schmidt Lyrics by Tom Jones
Based on the book MIRETTE ON THE HIGH WIRE by Emily Arnold McCully
CAST OF CHARACTERS
MADAME GATEAU the proprietor os a small hotel in Paris that caters to Music Hall “artistes” MIRETTE Madame’s daughter, ten years old BELLINI A dark, brooding man with a mysterious past MAX A Promoter of talent THE “ARTISTES” BOARDERS AT MME. GATEAU’S HOTEL MME. ROUSPENSKAYA A singer with a “grand” manner. Russian. She has been on the scene for years. Her age is a secret. TABAC A juggler and jack-of-all-trades. Desperately poor. In his twenties. CLOUK & CLAIRE Acrobats. A couple who know each other’s every thought and gesture
A WORD OF EXPLANATION First of all, it should be made clear that there is not intention that the principal performers in this piece need to be expert high wire walkers. It is enough that they should be brilliant actors, singers and dancers without having to add the burden of becoming circus performers as well. Because of the stylized nature of the basic premise, with the “Artistes” setting up the scenes and telling the story in a presentational way, it is our belief that some sort of theatrical device can be used to suggest the three wires, growing in height, which are featured in the story. In a staged reading at the Playwrights Unit of the Sundance Institute, such a device was used and it did the trick very well. Later, in a more fully designed stage version at Goodspeed’s Try Out Theatre, various levels with ropes attached were designed to give the appearance of walking, and indeed, spinning and dancing and doing extraordinary thins, on a high wire. We discovered, to our relief, that all it took to create the illusion was the proper “set-up” and the imagination of the audience.
(An almost empty stage, with misty lights and projections. As the lights begin to come up, we see Madame Gateau, dressed in a household dress of Paris in the 1890’s.) MADAME GATEAU ON A STREET IN PAREE KNOWN AS ENGLISH STREET, THERE’S A PLACE WHERE THE PEOPLE IN THEATRE MEET. IT IS JUST A SMALL PARISIAN INN, BUT WE KEEP IT NEATER THAN A PIN, AND OUR SPECIALITY IS LETTING ACTORS IN. WHEN ENGAGED FOR A PLAY OR A NEW REVUE, YOU MAY STAY FOR A DAY OR A MONTH OR TWO. SO -- MONSIEUR, MADAME OR MADAM OR MADEMOISELLE COME AND MEET THE LIVELY CLIENTELE (AT) MADAME GATEAU’S COLORFUL HOTEL. (A rather large woman with a “grand manner” steps out and sings directly to the audience) MME. ROUSPENSKAYA I AM KNOWN AS MADAME ROUSPENSKAYA I AM RUSSIAN, VERY UPPER CLASS. I SPECIALIZE IN SINGING SLAVIC FOLK SONGS. MY VOICE IS KNOWN TO SOMETIMES SHATTER GLASS. (A threadbare young actor steps forward, juggling as he sings)
5. Tabac I’M TABAC AND AS YOU SEE, A JUGGLER. I ALSO DOUBLE UP ON COMIC SKITS. IF THERE’S A PIE OR PASTRY HITS A PERSON, I’M THE PERSON THAT THE PASTRY HITS. CLOUK (appears with Claire on his shoulder) I AM KNOW AS MONSIEUR CLOUK. CLAIRE I’M HIS PARTNER, MADAME CLAIRE. CLOUK & CLAIRE, TABAC & MME. ROUSPENSKAYA WE (THEY) ARE ACROBATS EXTRAORDINAIRE! IF YOU GO ON THE ROAD AND YOU’RE BEAT, BEAT, BEAT, TO RETURN TO GATEAU’S IS A TREAT, TREAT, TREAT! IF YOU‘D LIKE A STEAMY BEEF BROCHETTE, OR A LITTLE CREAMY CREPE SUZETTE, ORDER ONE FROM MADAME’S DAUGHTER, SWEET MIRETTE. IF YOUR NAME AND YOUR FAME START TO SLIP, SLIP, SLIP, DON’T BE SAD, DON’T BE MAD, HERE’S A TIP, TIP, TIP: YOU CAN FIND YOURSELF A HAPPY SPOT WHERE THE GOSSIP AND THE FOOD ARE HOT, MADAME GATEAU’S LOVELY MELTING POT! WE ARE HAPPY AS CAN BE IN OUR LITTLE HIDE-AWAY. MADAME HAS A SPECIAL TREAT THAT BRIGHTENS EVERY SINGLE DAY.
6. ARTISTES (CONT.) IF YOU’RE FEELING SOMEWHAT BLUE, AND YOUR LIFE IS QUITE UPSET, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS GAZE INTO THE FACE OF YOUNG MIRETTE... MIRETTE... MIRETTE! (Mirette appears, dusting things and cleaning up around the “parlor.”) MIRETTE I LOVE TO HEAR THE ACTORS TELL THEIR STORIES ABOUT THE MANY THINGS THAT THEY HAVE DONE. THEIR TRIUMPHS AND DESPAIRS, CATASTROPHES -- WHO CARES? I MUST ADMIT TO ME IT SOUNDS LIKE FUN. (Madame Gateau enters on her way to the kitchen.) MADAME GATEAU COME AND HELP PREPARE THE DINNER. HAVE YOU GOT THE TABLE SET? TIME TO TOSS AND SERVE THE SALAD, LIGHT THE CANDLES... (and off she goes) MIRETTE SOMETIMES I GET TO WATCH THEM AS THEY PRACTICE I FIND MYSELF A SPOT UPON THE FLOOR. THEN AS THEY DO THE SHOW< I ALWAYS YELL: “BRAVO!” AND SOMETIMES I MAY EVEN ADD: “ENCORE!” MADAME GATEAU (reappears, busy with chores) BETTER TIDY UP THE BEDROOMS.
7. MADAME GATEAU (CONT.) QUICKLY HELP ME SORT THE MAIL. BRING A MOP AND CLEAN THE KITCHEN, SHINE THE SILVER... (and she is gone again.) CLAIRE MIRETTE - WHERE’S THE CURLING IRON? CLOUK MIRETTE - IS IT TIME FOR TEA? MME. ROUSPENSKAYA MIRETTE - MY INHALER! TABAC MIRETTE - WHERE’S MY MAKE-UP KIT? ARTISTES MIRETTE! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! HOW WE ALL DEPEND UPON MIRETTE! (As the set pieces begin to fly in, and Mirette rolls in others, the parlor of the boarding house comes slowly into view.) MIRETTE & MADAME GATEAU ON A STREET IN PAREE KNOWN AS ENGLISH STREET, THERE’S A PLACE WHERE THE PEOPLE IN THEATRE MEET. IT IS JUST A SMALL PARISIAN INN BUT WE KEEP IT NEATER THAN A PIN, AND OUR SPECIALTY IS LETTING ACTORS IN.
8. ALL WHEN THE STRAIN OF THE DAY MAKES YOU BLUE, BLUE, BLUE, WHEN YOU FEAR YOUR CAREER’S DOWN THE LOO, LOO, LOO, WHEN YOUR LIFE IS LIKE SOME CAROUSEL THAT HAS BROKEN DOWN FOR QUITE A SPELL, WHEN YOUR WORLD IS FAR FROM ROSY< HERE’S A PLACE THAT’S ALWAYS COZY, MADAME GATEAU’S COLORFUL HOTEL! HA! (They all strike a tableau vivant down center with Mirette in the center. Then, after the applause, the Artistes drift out, deep in their own concerns. Clouk rubs a sore muscle, Mme. Rouspenskaya vocalizes, Tabac juggles, etc. Claire, who has stayed behind, picks up a potted plant and comes rushing over to Mirette.) ClAIRE I think I see something! Yes, a seed has sprouted! Maybe it means that I was meant to have a garden and my plan will come true. Mirette To have a house of our own -- a little house in the country, with a little garden. Mirette Not in Paris? ClAIRE Oh no, Paris is too expensive.
9. MIRETTE But how could you perform in the Music Hall? ClAIRE We would have to give up performing. MIRETTE But I love to see you do flips in the air! ClAIRE I love it too. It’s thrilling to fly through the air! But sometimes it’s frightening. It’s dangerous! I used to love that feeling. But now, sometimes I wake up trembling. What if Clouk is not there to catch me in his strong arms. (Shudders) Your are so lucky, Mirette. To have a safe, secure home! You will never have to worry. Clarie exits as Mme. Rouspenskaya calls from offstage. Mme. ROUSPENSKAYA Mirette! (Coming in) Ah -- I must have elixir! MIRETTE (getting out a small bottle and a glass) Yes, Madame. MmE. ROUSPENSKAYA Is for vocal chords -- to keep elastic! Is secret formula from wandering Russian holy man who hears me singing near my parents’ Dacha. When I am young girl, no older than you, Mirette. MIRETTE Really? Mme. ROUSPENSKAYA Da -- ten year old. I look up and he stands over me -- huge! Covered in rags. He says, “You are blessed with special talent -- Sing! For the glory of God!
10. (She drinks elixir. It is strong stuff.) MIRETTE He didn’t even know you? MmE. ROUSPENSKAYA No. But he is holy man. So I do what he ask. MIRETTE Madame, if you have a special talent, can someone always tell? MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Not anyone. Must be someone with special understanding. MIRETTE But what if that person never comes? MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Ah -- then is tragedy of Fate -- candle that shines in darkness and dies unseen. Even greatest talent must be recognized, must be cultivated! (She retires to the side to take more of her magic medication. Mirette remains facing front, deep in thought. MUSIC begins.) MIRETTE I wonder if I have a special talent. MAYBE. MAYBE. CAN’T SAY FOR CERTAIN BUT MAYBE I’LL GO OFF ON MY OWN SOMEDAY, JUST SAIL AWAY, AND MAYBE -SOMEDAY. SOMEDAY.
11. MIRETTE (CONT.) IF I KEEP WISHING, THEN ONE DAY, THERE’S A CHANCE SOMETHING GRAND WILL HAPPEN TO ME. I COULD TURN INTO A PERSON WHO WOULD GO ON A CARAVAN. RIDING ON A CAMEL WOULD BE FUN. TAKE A TRIP UPON A SHIP, OR CLIMB UP SOME MOUNTAIN TOP. AND I WON’T CARE IF IT IS DANGEROUS... MAYBE. MAYBE. NOT RIGHT AWAY BUT THEN MAYBE, ALL THE DREAMS THAT I DREAM MAY ALL COME TO BE! I’LL DISCOVER SOME WONDERFUL WORLD THAT’S OUT THERE JUST WAITING FOR ME!
(She goes to Mme. Rouspenskaya.) LOOK INSIDE MY PALM AND TELL ME CAN YOU READ THE FUTURE THERE? MME. ROUSPENSKAYA I SEE AN ADVENTURE. MIRETTE I WOULD LOVE AN ADVENTURE. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA MAYBE DANGER.
12. MIRETTE I DON’T EVEN CARE. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA SEE THIS LINE; IT MEANS YOU’RE CHANGING. MIRETTE CHANGING IS ALL RIGHT WITH ME. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA YOU’RE STARTING TO GROW. MIRETTE OH YES, IT’S TRUE. I KNOW. I CAN FEEL IT CONSTANTLY. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA WHAT WILL BE WILL BE. MIRETTE I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA THE FUTURE IS A MYSTERY! (Then, as Mme. Rouspenskaya goes off, Mirette returns to her own thoughts. MIRETTE I WONDER IF MY LIFE WILL BE ADVENTUROUS, OR WILL IT BE SOME EVERYDAY ROUTINE. MAYBE. MAYBE.
13. MIRETTE (CONT.) NOT RIGHT AWAY BUT THEN MAYBE, ALL THE DREAMS THAT I DREAM MAY ALL COME TO BE! I’LL DISCOVER SOME WONDERFUL WORLD THAT’S OUT THERE JUST WAITING FOR ME! (As the song ends, Mirette bends down behind the hotel counterdesk to do some chore. As she is out of sight, a man enters. He is dark, handsome, haunted, dressed in a black coat and hat. This is BELLINI. He rings the bell on the desk and is surprised when Mirette pops up on the other side.) MIRETTE Yes, Monsieur? BELLINI I am looking for the proprietor. MIRETTE One moment, Monsieur. (She runs off. BELLINI looks around. When he notices Clouk passing by, he turns his back. In a moment, Madame Gateau enters with Mirette.) MADAME GATEAU Yes?
14. BELLINI I am looking for a room to rent. Something quiet. MADAME GATEAU I have nothing at the moment, sir. But one of my guests is overdue with his rent. If he doesn’t pay, he’ll be out by Thursday. MIRETTE Mama, do you mean Tabac? MADAME GATEAU Yes, Mirette. MIRETTE Of course he will pay the rent -- sometimes he is late. BELLINI I must have something now. I have just returned to Paris from abroad. Can you suggest another place? MIRETTE Mama, we have the little room down the back stairs. MADAME GATEAU That’s true. But it doesn’t suit everyone. (To BELLINI) It’s a basement room. BELLINI Just what I would like. MADAME GATEAU Very well. How long will you stay?
15. BELLINI My plans are uncertain. MADAME GATEAU Three months! Very well. But you haven’t even seen the room. BELLINI It will do. MADAME GATEAU Certainly, Monsieur ---? BELLINI Paul. MADAME GATEAU Supper is served at six o’clock. BELLINI I shall take my meals alone. In my room. MADAME GATEAU Of course. My daughter Mirette will bring your meals. Mirette, please show Monsieur Paul to his room. Excuse me, Monsieur. (She exits. Mirette watches intently as he signs the register.) MIRETTE Are you an actor? BELLINI No, I am not.
16. MIRETTE My father was an actor. He went to Brazil. BELLINI Then he must have been running away from something. Brazil is very far away. MIRETTE Have you been there? BELLINI Yes. MIRETTE Were you running away from something? (He looks hard at her, disarmed by her directness.) BELLINI Ah -- yes, I was. MIRETTE My father was running away from us. From my mother and me. His name was Gilbert. Did you meet him? BELLINI An actor named Gilbert? No. MIRETTE He is dead now. He died in Brazil.
17. BELLINI That seems a harsh punishment. (Picks up his bags.) Allez vite! (MUSIC as BELLINI follows Mirette to his “room.”) MIRETTE This is the room. (She starts to show him inm but he stops her.) BELLINI Give me the key. (She does.) Now go away. MIRETTE Yes, Monsieur. (Mirette starts out, but turns back to watch BELLINI from a hiding place. He looks around to be sure he is alone.) BELLINI A TINY LITTLE ROOM LIKE A PRISON CELL, WITH FOUR BARE WALLS. IT SUITS ME WELL. DOWN ON THE GROUND, NOT WAY UP HIGH. NOT MUCH SUNLIGHT. NOT MUCH SKY. A GOOD PLACE TO HIDE. A GOOD PLACE TO STAY UNTIL IT IS TIME TO RUN AWAY... TO RUN AWAY. TO RUN AWAY...
18. (LIGHTS shift. Morning. We are in the small courtyard in the back of the boarding house. Mirette comes in with a load of laundry. MUSIC becomes exciting and driven as she steps out of sight and watches BELLINI set up his rope across the courtyard. When he has finished, he does his version of the wire-walkerâ€™s salute and then he puts on a blindfold and steps up on the rope. MUSIC continues as he begins to walk back and forth, moving gracefully, like a cat. The Artistes appear at the windows of the hotel and as they watch, the sing.) ARTISTES EVERY MORNING WITH THE SUNRISE, EVERY MORNING JUST AT DAWN, WHEN HE THINKS THE WORLD IS SLEEPING, AND THE WATCHFUL EYES ARE GONE -THEN THE STRANGER LEAVES HIS CELLAR, CLIMBS UPON THE WIRE OUTSIDE. RISING LIKE THE GOLDEN SUNLIGHT, SUDDENLY HE STARTS TO GLIDE! TO GLIDE! TO CLIMB UP ON THE WIRE AND GLIDE! (BELLINI finishes his routine and removes his blindfold. When he sees Mirette, he jumps down, annoyed. MUSIC continues under.) MIRETTE Oh, do you have to stop? BELLINI For the moment.
19. MIRETTE Could I try it? BELLINI Anyone can try it, but you will fall. (Mirette steps onto the wire, wavers, starts to fall, and jumps down.) BELLINI What did I tell you? MIRETTE I didn’t fall -- I jumped off. (BELLINI laughs) Why is that funny? BELLINI Because it’s true. Because when you walk the wire, that is how you must keep the upper hand -- you must jump off before you fall. MIRETTE Would you show me how to do it? BELLINI No. MIRETTE Why? BELLINI Because I am not interested. (He exits. She looks after him, frustrated.) MIRETTE Then I will do it by myself.
20. ARTISTES WHEN HE’S FINISHED WITH THE WIRE, WHEN HIS DAILY DANCE IS DONE, MIRETTE SNEAKS OUT TO THE COURTYARD, AND HER PRACTICE IS BEGUN. MIMICKING HIS EVERY MOVEMENT, COPYING EACH STEP HE TAKES, MIRETTE FALLS UNTIL EXHAUSTED, BUT SHE LEARNS FROM HER MISTAKES. SHE TRIES TO GO HIGH ON THE WIRE! SHE TRIES! (MUSIC continues as Claire enters, stretches, yawns, then smiles when she sees Mirette practicing.) CLAIRE What’s this? MIRETTE It’s a rope, to walk on! Do you want to try? CLAIRE Never! Rope dancing looks easy, but in fact there is nothing more difficult. If you have any brains, you’ll do something that looks difficult but is really easy. (Mirette walks three steps and wavers, arms flailing.) Well, three steps -- how long did it take to master that? MIRETTE Three days... CLAIRE Three steps in three days -- it’s a waste! If you want to perform, study dancing or singing or acrobatics. Or find a partner who can toss you in the air. Audiences love that.
21. (Claire exits as MUSIC continues and Mirette resumes her practice.) ARTISTES MEANWHILE FROM HIS BASEMENT WINDOW, HIDDEN SOMEWHERE OUT OF SIGHT, IN THE SILENCE AND THE DARKNESS, SOMEONE’S EYES ARE BURNING BRIGHT. SOMEONE’S HANDS ARE COLD AND ICY. SOMEONE’S FACE IS FULL OF FIRE! SOMEONE’S MOUTH IS DRY AS COTTON WHEN HE SEES HER ON THE WIRE. MIRETTE! YOU HAD BETTER WATCH OUT! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! YOU’RE ABOUT TO GET CAUGHT! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! MIRETTE! BELLINI STOP! (She remains on the wire.) I knew you were using my wire! MIRETTE How did you know? BELLINI I could feel it. You are a willful, obstinate little girl. Get down. MIRETTE Wait, I want to try something (MUSIC as Mirette does a trick. She is delighted. BELLINI is amazed.) It worked! BELLINI Interesting. Do you know what you did?
22. MIRETTE I’m not sure! BELLINI Try it again. (He watches intently. MUSIC as Mirette does the exercise, but this time she loses her balance and jumps off the wire, chagrined.) Next time, rmember what you are doing. (He approaches her and holds out his hand.) Let me see your foot. (She holds up her foot. He examines it, flexes it, then puts it down and holds his hand out for the other.) Excellent feet. Very few people are blessed with such feet. MIRETTE (flushes, pleased) Thank you! BELLINI What? This makes you feel proud? Don’t be a fool! This is a gift you were born with. Do not make the mistake of taking pride in something you have nothing to do with, MIRETTE I’m sorry. BELLINI You can take pride only in what you are responsible for, in what you earn of your own will. MIRETTE What do you mean? BELLINI Through practice and discipline. By doing what is difficult over and over until you have mastered it. (He smiles at her slightly.) Actually, you have done that, a bit. I have a suggestion.
23. BELLINI Try dancing -- or acrobatics, even the trapeze. MIRETTE (crestfallen) But -- why? BELLINI Because these things will make us of your gifts, and that is important. But I advise you to stay away from the wire. MIRETTE Why? BELLINI Because there is a difference between the wire and everything else. The wire demands all that you have. It is -- too much. MIRETTE But I love it. BELLINI Perhaps. But your love hasn’t been tested. You haven’t been tested. You are just beginning to learn who you are. Now you must discover the rest. MIRETTE How do I do that? BELLINI You have to search -- be an explorer. What you are looking for is yourself. When you find it, you will know.
24. BELLINI (CONT.) ALL OF A SUDDEN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, YOU BLINK YOUR EYES AND SEE: NOT WHO YOU ARE, OR WHO YOU WERE, BUT WHO YOU COULD SOMEDAY BE... LEARNING WHO YOU ARE. THAT’S THE THING TO KNOW. FINDING THE DOOR, THAT SPECIAL DOOR, WHERE ONLY YOU CAN GO. LEARNING HOW TO BE NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU. FINDING THE THINGS, THOSE SPECIAL THINGS, THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN DO. I COULD TEACH YOU LOTS OF SECRETS THAT WOULD TAKE YOU FAR. BUT THE SECRET I CAN’T TEACH YOU IS WHO YOU REALLY ARE. LEARNING WHO YOU ARE. LEARNING WHAT TO DO. THAT’S COMPLETELY UP TO YOU! MIRETTE TEACH ME! TEACH ME! TEACH ME! I NEED YOU TO TEACH ME! (BELLINI steps back on the wire.) BELLINI WALKING ON THE WIRE IS NOT WHAT IT MAY SEEM
25. BELLINI (CONT.) (Speaks over MUSIC) When you start off, you think it’s one thing. But the more you stay with it, the more you find out it’s something else. IT’S AN OBSESSION. WHAT YOU DON’T SEE IS THE STRONG OBSESSION. DESPITE THE PAIN AND STRIFE, IT DOMINATES YOUR LIFE! MIRETTE I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOW! BUT IT’S SOMETHING I MUST TRY TO DO. I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOW! ALL I NEED IS JUST SOME HELP FROM YOU. BELLINI YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. YOU’RE SIMPLY JUST TO YOUNG TO SEE THAT THIS COLD CHANGE YOUR LIFE. THE WIRE BECOMES YOU DESTINY. MIRETTE I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOW! BUT I’LL TRY TO DO JUST WHAT YOU SAY. I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOW! AND I’LL PRACTICE EVERY SINGLE DAY. BELLINI IT MAKES YOU RISK THE THINGS YOU’VE NEVER DARED TO DO BEFORE THEN ONCE YOU’VE CONQUERED THOSE, YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO CONQUER MORE.
26. MIRETTE BUT I FEEL ALIVE WHEN Iâ€™M ON THE WIRE! I KEEP DREAMING YOU WILL TEACH ME SO I CAN GO HIGHER! EVER SINCE THE DAY WHEN I SAW YOU THERE, I COULD FEEL MY DESTINY WAS DANCING IN THE AIR! RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES! CLEAR AS IT COULD BE! AND I KNEW THAT VERY MINUTE THAT THIS WAS MEANT FOR ME! (As he moves back and forth on the wire, and she follows beneath him on the ground, she sings and he echoes.) MIRETTE (& BELLINI) LEARNING WHO YOU ARE! (LEARNING WHO YOU ARE!) WHAT A THING TO KNOW! (WHAT A THING TO KNOW!) FINDING THE DOOR (FINDING THE DOOR) THAT SPECIAL DOOR (THAT SPECIAL DOOR) WHERE ONLY YOU CAN GO. (WHERE ONLY YOU CAN GO.) LEARNING HOW TO BE (LEARNING HOW TO BE) NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU. (NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU.) FINDING THE THINGS (FINDING THE THINGS) THOSE SPECIAL THINGS (THOSE SPECIAL THINGS)
27. MIRETTE & BELLINI (CONT.) THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN DO. (THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN DO.) MIRETTE YOU COULD TEACH ME LOTS OF SECRETS THAT WOULD TAKE ME FAR. BELLINI BUT THE SECRET THAT IS DEEPEST -THAT ONE IS SPECIAL. IT’S DEEP INSIDE. NO ONE CAN TEACH IT. BECAUSE IT’S A PART OF YOU. IT’S LIKE A FIRE YOU KEEP INSIDE: INSIDE YOUR HEART AND YOUR SOUL! MIRETTE TEACH ME! TEACH ME! TELL ME THAT YOU’LL TEACH ME TEACH ME! TEACH ME! ONLY YOU CAN TEACH ME! MIRETTE & BELLINI LEARNING WHO YOU ARE! LEARNING WHAT TO BE! THAT’S COMPLETELY UP TO YOU BELLINI AND ME! MIRETTE TEACH ME! TEACH ME! PLEASE!
28. (When the song is over, BELLINI turns to Mirette, half teasing.) BELLINI Now -- why is it exactly you want the wire? MIRETTE Because -- just because -- I do! (BELLINI laughs. Mirette is suddenly upset, near tears.) I know it’s a stupid answer! But I don’t know how to say it! I just feel it! BELLINI It’s not a stupid answer. MIRETTE It’s not? BELLINI It’s the only answer. We will begin tomorrow. MIRETTE You will teach me? BELLINI Perhaps you are a wire walker. We shall see. (He exits. Mirette turns front and makes an exultant gesture -- “yes!” -- and then goes running off to the side. MUSIC as the setting for the hotel parlor comes into place and the lights change to evening. Clouk and Claire practice a new comic bit. Mme Rouspenskaya studies her horoscope and glances up at Clouk and Claire. Tabac trudges in, dejected and sits in a corner as Mirette comes running in
29. her nightgown. Claire jumps into Clouk’s arms to finish the new bit and everyone applauds. ) CLOUK Do you like it? We show it tomorrow to the manager. MIRETTE I like it! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Claire, you must not forget to smile. TABAC (glum) Yes, pretend you’re happy no matter what. CLOUK Tabac! What’s the matter with you? TABAC I got canned. ARTISTES (ad libs) Oh no! Oh, I’m sorry! How terrible! (etc.) MIRETTE What? Fired? (He nods. Suddenly, the room gets quiet.) CLAIRE When did it happen, Tabac?
30. TABAC This afternoon. They’ve replaced my act. No more pies in the face. No exploding souffles. No taffy that sticks to my shoes. MIRETTE What will you do? TABAC (despondent) I don’t know. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA You must have faith. Somewhere, someone is waiting to throw pies in your face! (The Artistes laugh, but not Tabac. Mirette does not understand.) MIRETTE You shouldn’t laugh! CLAIRE (explaining to Mirette, comforting Tabac) He will find a way.
MIRETTE But how will you pay the rent to Mama? What will you do? TABAC (shrugs, at a loss) I don’t know. CLOUK You must have faith, Tabac!
31. TABAC In what? CLAIRE In your guardian angel! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA In God Himself! (MUSIC begins) CLAIRE In your talent! CLOUK That your luck will turn! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA HOLD YOUR HEAD UP. NO SELF-PITY. LOST YOUR PAY-CHECK. IS THAT A TRAGEDY? DON’T GO IN FOR MOURNFUL SOLOS NO ONE GIVES A DAMN. DON’T YOU KNOW THE SHOW GOES ON LIKE SOME MIGHTY MARATHON. GOOD TIMES COME. GOOD TIMES GO. IT’S AS THOUGH THE WORLD’S A CIRCUS! THOUGH YOU LOST YOUR JOB TODAY, CHANGE IS ON THE WAY! WEAR A SMILE! THAT’S THE STYLE!
32. LET THOSE PEOPLE KNOW -THE SHOW GOES ON! CLAIRE PLAY THAT FANFARE! CLOUK RAISE THAT CURTAIN! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA SHINE THOSE SPOTLIGHTS! CLOUK & CLAIRE BRING ON THE ACROBATS! ARTISTES LET THE BIG PARADE START ROLLING! DONâ€™T YOU KNOW THE SHOW GOES ON LIKE SOME MIGHTY MARATHON. CLAIRE PAINT YOUR FACE. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA TAKE YOUR PLACE. MIRETTE NO ONE PAYS TO SEE YOU WEEPING -MIRETTE & ARTISTES BANG THAT DRUM! HERE WE COME!
33. READY? BIG TABLEAU... (Suddenly MUSIC stops as Bellini comes storming in.) BELLINI This is too much! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Sir, would you like to join us? BELLINI I would like some peace and quiet! (Bellini exits, glowering. The others begin to disperse) MME. ROUSPENSKAYA (muttering to herself.) He needs elixir! (As they start to go, the bed appears, along with Mme. Gateau) MADAME GATEAU Mirette! Itâ€™s time for bed! MIRETTE Yes, Mama. ARTISTES (MUSIC while they are slowly exiting) THE SHOW GOES ON!
34. ARTISTES Good night. Sleep well. Bon-nuit, Mirette! (etc.) (And as the MUSIC concludes, Madame Gateau begins to make up the bed.) MIRETTE Mama, I know why monsieur Paul is so peculiar. It’s because h is a wire walker! MADAME GATEAU I knew that already. MIRETTE And wire walkers are different from other people! MADAME GATEAU Don’t be silly -- they are just like other performers who do tricks -- like jugglers and tumblers and sword swallowers. MIRETTE No, wire walking is different. MADAME GATEAU So you tried it yourself, is that it? MIRETTE Yes, and now monsieur Paul has promised to teach me. MADAME GATEAU What! He has no right to come here and string up his wire and tell you taht you can be a performer! MIRETTE No, he didn’t -- I learned by myself! But finally he understood that I really want to learn more, and now he’s agreed to teach me!
35. MADAME GATEAU I don’t like the sound of this, Mirette. MIRETTE Mama, listen! When I get ready to practice, I look at the wire, and I feel a tingling in the soles of my feet -- and then I step out and there I am, walking on air! (Madame is alarmed, but tries to hide it.) MADAME GATEAU The wire is low? MIRETTE Yes. MADAME GATEAU Well, I suppose there’s no harm in it, but walking back and forth on a wire seems silly to me. I’m sure you’ll get tired of it. MIRETTE I don’t think so. MADAME GATEAU Performers live an uncertain, unfortunate life. We are lucky not to hhave to live thike them. MIRETTE I think they’re lucky. MADAME GATEAU When you grow up, you will be able to run the boarding house, Mirette. That is why I show you how everything is done, and why I am so proud of you -- my little assistant! (MUSIC begins) You won’t have to worry about how to get by. You will not have to risk your life doing something foolhardy and dangerous. KEEP YOUR FEET UPON THE GROUND: SAFE AND SOUND.
36. MADAME GATEAU (CONT.) SAFE AND SOUND. SEE THOSE BRIGHT LIGHTS IN THE SKY: THEY CAN LIE. THEY CAN LIE. DON’T BREAK YOUR HEART BY DREAMING DREAMS OF THINGS THAT WON’T COME TRUE. FOR IF YOU BREAK YOUR HEART, MY CHILD, YOU WILL BREAK MINE TOO. LET’S KEEP OUR FEET UPON THE GROUND: SAFE AND SOUND. SAFE AND SOUND. ALL THOSE LIGHTS SO GLAMOROUS: NOT FOR US. NOT FOR US. WE ARE JUST ORDINARY PEOPLE. AT HOME IS WHERE WE’RE FOUND. NO SHINING SPOTLIGHTS, SPANGLED COSTUMES TRUMPETS ROARING CROWDS ADORING! WE KEEP OUR FEET UPON THE GROUND. (Madame Gateau kisses Mirette goodnight. As she turns to leave, Mirette’s eyes open wide. Madame Gateau pauses in the doorway and looks back at Mirette. Mirette closes her eyes just in time, and Madame Gateau tip-toes out.
37. Mirette sits up in bed, looks to be sure her mother is gone, and then...) MIRETTE BUT THE SECRET THAT IS DEEPEST, THAT ONE IS SPECIAL. IT’S DEEP INSIDE. NO ONE CAN TEACH IT. BECAUSE IT’S A PART OF YOU. IT’S LIKE A FIRE YOU KEEP INSIDE: INSIDE YOUR HEART AND YOUR SOUL! INSIDE YOUR HEART AND YOUR SOUL! (Mirette yawns, puts her head on the pillow and falls asleep as the LIGHTS dim out. MUSIC as Clouk and Claire run out and do a very brief acrobatic number while Bellini is setting up the wire. When they have finished, they take a quick bow and exit as the LIGHTS come up on Bellini finishing his preparations. It is early morning of the next day and Mirette enters from the opposite side of the stage, surprising him.) MIRETTE (eagerly) Good morning, Monsieur Paul. BELLINI You’re here early. That’s good. (He touches the wire.) Before you begin the practice, you must check the wire. Touch it. Feel it’s tension. Is it cold? Hot? Damp? Dry? Most of all, you must discover whether any oil at it’s core has seeped out to the surface to surprise your feet and make you slip. Do you feel any oil?
38. MIRETTE No. BELLINI None? MIRETTE No. It is cool, but not oily. BELLINI That’s right. Because this wire lay coiled for five years in the grass of a meadow high in the mountains. It is seasoned. Say it. MIRETTE Seasoned. BELLINI You must walk only a wire that you know, a wire you have seasoned. (She nods.) Now. We begin. You have passed the first test of the apprentice -- you have wlked the length of the wire. By doing this, you have earned the right to learn the wirewalker’s salute. From now on you will do this to begin each practice, to end each practice, and mark the mastery of a new exercise. You will choose the salute of a master. This is the salute “simple” (French pronunciation), the oldest known. (He demonstrates on the ground, a standing salute: one hand is lifted and then lowered as the head is bowed.) There are many others. Professor Obloumov did the Hussar’s salute in honor of his native Georgia. (He does it.) Signora Petra did a salute that reflected her nature -whimsical and Italian. (He does it.) Blondin was by nature elegant. (He does Blondin’s salute.) Now -- choose your salute. (MUSIC as Mirette performs a gesture we have seen him do earlier.) That is my salute.
39. MIRETTE You are my teacher. BELLINI We shall see. (He comes close to her and, taking her face in his hand, speaks very seriously.) Your have to understand -- this id different from anything you have known. If you dedicate your life to t he wire, from that moment on, you are alone. FOR IF YOU CHOOSE TO WALK UPON THE WIRE, YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE OTHERS FAR BELOW. JUST KEEP YOUR EYES UP HIGH ON THE HORIZON. IF YOU LOOK DOWN, THEN DOWN IS WHERE YOU’RE BOUND TO GO. IT’S FRIGHTENING TO WALK UPON THE WIRE. YOU’RE TERRIFIED AND YOU FEEL SO ALONE. BUT IF YOU DO SURVIVE, THERE IS SUCH ECSTASY! TO RISE UP HIGH AND TRIUMPH OVER MORTALITY! THEN ALL YOUR FEAR IS GONE, ONCE YOU HAVE WALKED UPON THE WIRE! (MUSIC continues under as he begins to teach her.) BELLINI Watch me. (He shows her an exercise.) Now -- try it. (She starts to do it on the ground. He stops her.) On the wire. MIRETTE I want to try it on the ground first. BELLINI That is not the way it works. MIRETTE But what if I am not ready?
40. BELLINI If you want me to be your teacher, then from now on, you must trust what I know. Perhaps you are not ready for a teacher. You must decide. MIRETTE I am ready! (She goes to the wire and does the move. She looks at him, elated.) You were right -- I can do it! BELLINI Now -- try this. Observe. (He demonstrates a movement on the ground, and she does it on the wire. Then:) Now trust everything that your feet and your muscles have learned. And do exactly the same thing -- On this wire! (MUSIC glissando as a higher wire suddenly appears, as if by magic. This is the three-metre practice wire. It is not the highest wire, which we will come to by the end of the show, but it is high enough to give the feeling of being up in the air.) MIRETTE Where did it come from? BELLINI This is a three-metre wire, my practice wire. I am giving it to you. Go on -- you are ready. (Mirette goes to the ladder and begins to climb. When she reaches the little platform by the wire, it is clear that she has a sudden attack of panic. She stops, frozen, unable to move, and the MUSIC stops.) MIRETTE I canâ€™t to it!
41. BELLINI Yes, you can! MIRETTE I can’t! BELLINI Don’t be afraid. Step onto the wire. Now feel the wire under your foot and... (But she steps back. He groans.) MIRETTE I just want to wait a minute. BELLINI Wait? For what? You think an angel will come and take you by the hand ? (She starts out on the wire. But she stops.) MIRETTE I can’t! I can’t do it! BELLINI But you have to do it! Don’t you understand? This is essential! If you can’t do this, you can’t do anything! You’re crippled! (Again she tries and again she fails.) MIRETTE I’m afraid! (Suddenly Bellini yells at her in a rage)
42. BELLINI Don’t give in to it! Do you hear me? You must not give in! If you give in now, it will never go away! Mirette! Step onto the wire! MIRETTE (in a small voice) I’m sorry. I want to try it again on the low wire. (He looks up and sees that she is weeping. Suddenly his anger ebbs away like a storm that has blown over. He speaks to her very gently, but passionately, as he tries to explain.) BELLINI You cannot feel what it is on the low wire. It is still too close to the ground, where you can step off. There is no danger. But up there -- (MUSIC as he speaks, looking up at some personal vision in the sky.) It is closer to the sky -- you are in the air. You can taste what it is to be free! If you can walk this wire, mirette, then maybe someday you will walk the other -- the high wire! Maybe someday you will know what it is to be n the clouds, close to heaven -- (as MUSIC concludes) -- to be free! (The Artistes who have been watching the lessons from their windows, begin to sing as Mirette makes her first tentative moves, and Bellini sings a countermelody, encouraging her to go on.) ARTISTES (& BELLINI) FOR IF YOU CHOOSE TO WALK UPON THE WIRE, (ONE STEP! YOU START WITH ONE LITTLE STEP!) YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE OTHERS FAR BELOW. (THEY ARE GONE, THE ARE SOMEWHERE BELOW.) JUST KEEP YOUR EYES UP HIGH ON THE HORIZON. (DON’T EVER LOOK DOWN!) IF YOU LOOK DOWN, THEN DOWN IS WHERE YOU’RE BOUND TO GO!
43. (THERE IS NO “DOWN!” NOT FOR YOU ANYMORE!) IT’S FRIGHTENING TO WALK UPON THE WIRE. (THIS IS IT; I NOW YOU CAN DO IT!) YOU’RE TERRIFIED AND YOU FEEL SO ALONE. (DO IT NOW OR YOU’LL ALWAYS REGRET IT!) BUT IF YOU DO SURVIVE, THERE IS SUCH ECSTASY! (SUCH ECSTASY!) TO RISE UP HIGH AND TRIUMPH OVER MORTALITY! (MORTALITY!) BELLINI THIS IS YOUR DESTINY! AND IT WAS MEANT TO BE! YOU’RE GOING TO FOLLOW ME! AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE! BELLINI & ARTISTES AND ALL YOUR FEAR IS GONE BELLINI ONCE YOU HAVE WALKED UPON THE WIRE! MEN THE WIRE! WOMEN THE WIRE! (The Artistes applaud and cheer as Mirette lifts her hands in triumph. There is a loud splash of MUSIC as Bellini and Mirette go off and the Artistes come down from their observation places and pour into the living roo, practicing their acts.
44. Tabac, wearing a sandwich board announcing “TABAC -- AND HIS CIRCUS OF ACROBATIC FLEAS!” He pantomimes juggling fleas from one hand to the other. Then, as things begin to get “out of hand,” he goes into an eccentric dance as the fleas invade his costume. Clouk and Claire try a few acrobatic positions as Mme Rouspenskaya practices an operatic suicide, hitting her high note and stabbing herself in different ways until she finds one that she approves. At the high point of all this madness, MAX comes in. He is a flamboyant impressario, with striped trousers, an overcoat trimmed in fur and a top hat. His tie sports an enormous jeweled pin and he carries a silver-headed cane.) CLOUK & CLAIRE, AND MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Max! Welcome back! How have you been?! (excited ad libs, with much theatrical hugging and kissing all around. MAX Hello, hello! Bon soir! Guten eben! Buena serra! Dobriy vecher! How is everyone? MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Wonderful, darling! Max, do you come from my beloved St. Petersburg? MAX Yes, yes, of course -- St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Baden Baden.
45. CLOUK When did you arrive? MAX I came directly from the train -- oh, the cab -- I must get my bag. (Hurries out.) TABAC Is that the Max that everyone talks about -- Max the Impressario? CLAIRE Yes, of course! He is the one who created our act! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Max has uncanny eye for talent. When he first hears me sing, he says, â€œThis is voice that will shatter glass!â€? So is how my act comes to be! TABAC This could be my chance! (Goes rushing off.) (Max comes in with bags just as Mirette comes running in from the side calling his name.) MIRETTE Max! MAX Ah, Mirette! (He embraces her and then takes a present frm his pocket and holds it out.) Now you must guess -(Mirette understands. This is the game they always play. MIRETTE Vienna? (Max shakes his head no.) Prague? Rio de Janeiro?
46. MAX No, no, no -- it is from Schlisselberg um Rhine in Transylvania. (He presents the gift.) MIRETTE Thank you, Max. TABAC (enters in an outlandish costume) Sir, may I present myself? I am a juggler and many other things as well. I am Tabac! (He shows off his latest trick.) MAX Yes, yes I like it -- don’t worry, I’ll catch your act. (Looks around.) Well, what’s going on? Is he making a comeback? ARTISTES Who? MAX Who? Bellini! -- the great man himself! I just saw him outside. (Mirette is listening intently.) MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Bellini! CLOUK I remember Bellini. CLAIRE Who could forget him? TABAC Who was he?
47. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA He was incredible. MAX He did things an ordinary person could not even imagine! TABAC But what does he do? MAX He is a high wire walker. TABAC Is that all? I can do that too. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Not like this! CLOUK He was the best -CLAIRE The most amazing! (MUSIC) MAX The Greatest High Wire Walker of all time! THE GREAT BELLINI! THE FABULOUS BELLINI! HE WAS THE GREATEST TIGHTROPE WALKER OF THEM ALL. THE GREAT BELLINI! INCREDIBLE BELLINI!
48. MAX (CONT.) HE SIMPLY WAS TOO BIG FOR ANY MUSIC HALL. FROM MUSIC HALL HE MOVED ON TO THE CIRCUS BUT SOON HE FELT CONSTRICTED BY THE TENT. HE SET HIS SIGHTS MUCH HIGHER THAN THE CIRCUS, THEN HIGHER YET, AND ON AND ON IT WENT. HE KEPT RAISING UP THE WIRE, HIGHER, HIGHER, HIGHER -UNTIL HEâ€™D GONE WHERE NO ONE YET HAD EVER DARED TO GO. NO NET... ARTISTES NO NET! MAX NO CHANCE OF ANY NET! ARTISTES JUST HIM -- AND DEATH -MAX AND FIFTY THOUSAND PEOPLE DOWN BELOW! MAX & ARTISTES OH...OH... THE GREAT BELLINI! THE FABULOUS BELLINI! HE WAS THE GREATEST TIGHTROPE WALKER OF THEM ALL! THE GREAT BELLINI!
49. MAX & ARTISTES (CONT.) INCREDIBLE BELLINI! HE SIMPLY WAS TOO BIG FOR ANY MUSIC HALL. ENORMOUS THRNONG OF HAPPY PEOPLE HEâ€™D ENTHRALL. (And now the artistes take turns remembering.) CLAIRE HE RODE A BIKE ACROSS NIAGARA FALLS CLOUK WHILE JUGGLING FIVE BRIGHTLY COLORED BALLS. CLAIRE THE, PUSHING OFF WITH JUST THE SLIGHTEST GRIN, CLOUK HE STOOD UPON HIS HEAD, AND RODE IT BACK AGAIN! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA HE COOKED A MUSHROOM OMELETTE WHILE STANDING FOR AN HOUR ON A WIRE SUSPENDED FROM THE EIFFEL TOWER! CLOUK HE SHOT A CANNON OFF ABOVE THE RING IN BARCELONA! CLAIRE HE WALKED A FLAMING WIRE WEARING A BLINDFOLD IN VERONA.
50. CLOUK & CLAIRE THEY TIED HIS FEET -THIS IS HARD TO BELIEVE AND WHEN HIS HANDS WERE BOUND, HE CRAWLED ACROSS A TIGHTROPE TWO THOUSAND FEET ABOVE THE GROUND! (a pause, as they look up, imagining) TABAC My God! MIRETTE That’s impossible! MAX Ah, yes -- it’s impossible. For ordinary mortals, (MUSIC) it’s impossible. But not for him! MAX & ARTISTES THE GREAT BELLINI! THE FABULOUS BELLINI! HE WAS THE GREATEST TIGHTROPE WALKER OF THEM ALL! THE GREAT BELLINI! INCREDIBLE BELLINI! HE SIMPLY WAS TOO BIG FOR ANY MUSIC HALL. ENORMOUS THRONGS OF HAPPY PEOPLE HE’D ENTHRALL BELLINI TRULY WAS THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL! MME. ROUSPENSKAYA I THOUGHT HE WAS RETIRED. CLAIRE I THOUGHT THAT HE WAS DEAD.
51. CLOUK I THOUGHT THAT HE WAS CRIPPLED. WELL, THAT’S WHAT SOMEONE SAID. MAX NO, NO, NO. HE’S HERE RIGHT NOW! ARTISTES HERE RIGHT NOW? WHATEVER DO YOU MEAN? MAX HE’S IN THE BACK APARTMENT THE ONE BELOW THE STAIRS. CLAIRE YOU MEAN THAT DARK UNPLEASANT MAN? THE ONE WHO ALWAYS WEARS A SCOWL AS BLACK AS MIDNIGHT, A FROWN AS DARK AS DEATH. (Hearing all this, Mirette goes running out.) TABAC HE LOOKS LIKE HE’S AUDITIONING FOR A ROADSHOW OF “MACBETH”! ARTISTES THAT’S BELLINI? MAX THAT’S BELLINI!
52. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA THAT MEANIE? ARTISTES THAT MEANIE? IT’S DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE. MEN TO BELIEVE... WOMEN WHAT HAPPENED? MEN WHAT HAPPENED? MME. ROUSPENSKAYA YES, WHAT HAPPENED? ARTISTES YES, WHAT HAPPENED? MAX WELL I REALLY DO NOT KNOW. SOMETHING HAPPENED TO BELLINI. BUT WHAT, I DO NOT KNOW. THERE MUST BE SOME REASON THAT HE’S HIDING IN THIS PLACE. IT’S AS IF HE FELL, SOMEHOW, NOT FROM THE ROPE, BUT FELL FROM GRACE. (And now the mood of the MUSIC changes, becomes more somber and introspective.)
53. WOMEN AND HIGH ABOVE THE CIRCUS TENT, THE ROPE IS TIED NO MORE. AND ALL THE RIGGING THAT HE USED IS LYING ON THE FLOOR. NO LONGER DO THE BANNERS WAVE. THE STREAMERS DO NOT STREAM. I IMAGINE, FOR BELLINI, IT’S LIKE SOME SORT OF DREAM. MEN AND HE, WHO WAS HIGH, IS HIGH NO MORE... HE’S REDUCED TO A ROOM ON THE BASEMENT FLOOR. AND MAYBE HE SLEEPS AND MAYBE HE DREAMS. MAX AND MAYBE HE HEARS THOSE DISTANT SCREAMS: (Very softly.) THE GREAT BELLINI... THE FABULOUS BELLINI HE IS THE GREATEST TIGHT ROPE WALKER OF THEM ALL! MAX & ARTISTES THE GREAT BELLINI INCREDIBLE BELLINI BELLINI IS -- OR WAS -THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL. CLAIRE (Speaking over MUSIC.) I have a terrible headache.
54. CLOUK Come on. I’ll rub your back. (and they exit.) MME. ROUSPENSKAYA, TABAC & MAX BELLINI IS -- OR WAS -THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA I must have elixir -- for my throat. TABAC & MAX BELLINI IS -- OR WAS -THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL. TABAC Well, it’s getting late... MAX (left alone) HE WAS THE GREATEST TIGHTROPE WALKER OF THEM ALL! (The LIGHTS black out, then come up on the “practice area” outside in the courtyard. Bellini stands there in the gathering twilight, deep in some memory of his own. In a moment, Mirette comes rushing in, very excited.) MIRETTE Why didn’t you tell me who you really are?! BELLINI What do you mean?
55. MIRETTE You are the Great Bellini! BELLINI Where did you hear that? MIRETTE Is it true that you walked a flaming wire, wearing a blindfold? BELLINI My, what an exotic trick! -- Who thought that up? MIRETTE You did! The Great Bellini! BELLINI Oh, I don’t think so. MIRETTE Yes! And I want to do those things too! BELLINI I have retired. I told you that. MIRETTE But you are the greatest wire walker of them all! Everyone knows it! BELLINI They’re wrong. MIRETTE Are you trying to fool me?
56. BELLINI Something happened that changed everything. MIRETTE What happened? BELLINI You can’t understand. MIRETTE If you tell me, maybe I can help you. BELLINI You help me? It’s too complicated. You’re only a child. (MUSIC begins) MIRETTE Sometimes a person can help you even if they are a child. SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED SOMEONE, SOMEONE TO PULL YOU THROUGH. SOMEONE TO COME AND OPEN UP A NEW WORLD FOR YOU! JUST WHEN I NEEDED SOMEONE, THAT’S WHEN YOU CAME TO ME. THAT’S WHEN YOU CAME TO TEACH ME! TEACH ME WHAT I COULD BE! SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED SOMEONE LET THE ONE FOR YOU BE ME... BE ME...!
57. MIRETTE (CONT.) LET THE ONE FOR YOU BE ME! (MUSIC continues under dialogue) BELLINI This is different. It’s not something that can be changed by another person no matter how much you wish it could be. Leave me alone, Mirette. I can’t teach you any more. MIRETTE (taking him by the hand and tugging him toward the wire) But you have to! BELLINI No! MIRETTE But that isn’t fair! BELLINI Fair! Are you really so stupid that you think the world is fair? It’s over. The lessons are over. Can’t you get that through your head? I don’t want to take you up on the high wire. That’s it. End of discussion. I’m not a teacher. I told you that in the beginning. MIRETTE You said I was good. BELLINI I was lying.
58. MIRETTE No, you weren’t! You weren’t lying! You’re lying now! Something is making you lie! BELLINI Leave me alone! MIRETTE Why do you walk away? Why don’t you look at me? BELLINI (exploding) Because I’m sick of looking at you, that’s why! I’m sick of having you hang around my heels like a little dog, yapping and scratching. I want my silence! That’s why I came here. No -- leave me alone! MIRETTE Are you afraid of something? BELLINI Don’t be silly. MIRETTE Then why wont’ you look at me? BELLINI Because I can’t stand the sight of you! Good God, no wonder your father ran away! (MUSIC stops abruptly. Mirette gasps. It’s as if she had been physically struck. Without a word, she turns and runs away from him as MUSIC resumes.)
59. BELLINI Mirette! -- wait! Mirette! (But it’s too late. She is gone. As the MUSIC slows down, he sings.) SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED SOMEONE. THAT’S WHAT THEY ALWAYS SAY. SOMEONE TO COME AND CHASE THE AWFUL DARKNESS AWAY. SOMETIMES I DREAM OF SOMEONE SOMEONE TO SET ME FREE. BUT THESE ARE MERELY DAYDREAMS THEY’RE NOT REALITY. I’M LOCKED INSIDE A PRISON. NO ONE ELSE CAN FIND THE KEY BUT ME! NO ONE ELSE CAN SET ME FREE! (He goes off as LIGHTS DIM OUT. Music changes, becomes dark and gloomy as the LIGHTS come up on the parlor, b athed in gloom. Mirette sits in a chair with her head bowed. The others gaze at her, worried.) MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Mirette, you must fight back to this Black Despair. I know what this is because I am Russian. Beleive me, it can swallow you up! (Mirette does not respond. Madame Rouspenskaya sighs as Mirette turns her face ways, and her mother looks on helplessly.) Is terrible. Is the Black Despair. (Tabac enters and tries to sneak by Madame Gateau.) MADAME GATEAU Monsieur Tabac!
60. TABAC (caught) Yes, Madame? MADAME GATEAU (gives him a bill) This is your final notice, Tabac. You must leave by tomorrow noon. TABAC Madame, I did find temporary employment this afternoon. It is not quite enough to pay the rent in full, but perhaps you would accept partial payment until I can perform again -- for another week or two. MADAME GATEAU What is this temporary employment, Tabac? TABAC (humiliated) Sweeping the stage at the Music Hall, Madame. Sweeping and cleaning. MADAME GATEAU And what is the pay? TABAC Five sous a week, Madame. MADAME GATEAU But your rent here is ten! TABAC Yes, I know.
61. MADAME GATEAU I am sorry, Tabac. I am sure you hope and believe that you will perform again, but I can’t be a dreamer like you. I have to be realistic. You may never perform again. You may have to sweep the stage for five sous a week for the rest of your life. TABAC I have already packed my bags, Madame. (Tabac exits. Clouk pulls Claire aside) CLOUK Perhaps we could loan him another hundred sous. CLAIRE But how will he ever pay it back? CLOUK I don’t know, but Tabac would help us if we were broke. CLAIRE Yes, if he could, but Madame is right -- he could be a pauper for the rest of his life! CLOUK What a terrible thought! CLAIRE Terrible but true. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Is a hard life. (MUSIC begins.) Is not easy to keep going. (Tabac appears in his room, and the others go to their rooms where we will see them also in the windows.)
62. TABAC WHEN YOUR HANDS START TO SHAKE AND YOU DROP THE BALL -CLOUK & CLAIRE WHEN YOU SLIP AS YOU FLIP AND YOU START TO FALL -MME. ROUSPENSKAYA WHEN YOU GO FOR THE NOTE AND YOU START TO COUGH -ARTISTES WHEN, NO MATTER WHAT YOU TRY TO DO, NOTHING SEEMS TO WORK OUT RIGHT FOR YOU, THEN YOU STOP AND START TO WONDER WHAT TO DO... WOMEN WHAT TO DO... MADAME GATEAU (in the parlor, with Mirette) DO’T BREAK YOUR HEART BY DREAMING DREAMS OF THINGS THAT WON’T COME TRUE. FOR IF YOU BREAK YOUR HEART, MY CHILD, YOU WILL BREAK MINE TOO. BELLINI (in his room, packing) A GOOD PLACE TO HIDE. A GOOD PLACE TO STAY. UNTIL IT IS TIME TO RUN AWAY...
63. ARTISTES WHEN THAT NEST FOR YOUR EGG SEEMS TO DISAPPEAR WHEN YOU CEASE TO BELIEVE IN YOUR OWN CAREER WHEN YOU KNOW YOUR BETTER DAYS ARE THROUGH, AND NOBODY’S WAITING THERE FOR YOU, EVERY DAY YOU’RE GROWING OLDER. WOMEN AND THE STAGE IS DARKER, COLDER. ARTISTES THEN YOU START TO WONDER WHAT TO DO... BELLINI RUN AWAY... ARTISTES WHAT TO DO MADAME GATEAU YOU WILL BREAK MINE TOO... ARTISTES WHAT TO DO... BELLINI RUN AWAY... ARTISTES WHAT TO DO...
64. BELLINI RUN AWAY... (LIGHTS change as Mirette and Artistes exit. Bellini appears in the courtyard carrying his bad and goes over to Madame Gateau, who is seated, peeling potatoes.) MADAME GATEAU Yes? BELLINI I am leaving, Madame. MADAME GATEAU Leaving? But you paid for three months. BELLINI Never mind -- keep the money. Here is the key. (He starts to leave, but she stops hi.) MADAME GATEAU Monsieur! Does Mirette know you are leaving? BELLINI No. MADAME GATEAU But you should explain to her! She will be upset. She is upset! You canâ€™t just walk out without saying good-bye! BELLINI Tell her I said good-bye.
65. MADAME GATEAU You tell her! BELLINI Good-bye, Madame. Good luck to Mirette. MADAME GATEAU No! You must not walk out of here like that with no explanation. You were teaching her this wire-walking. It meant more to her than I realized. Shehas been miserable since the lessons stopped. I don’t know how to help her. She was a beautiful, healthy young girl, and now sheis like a dead perso. She looked up to you, she admired you-- if you have to leave, then you must explain to her why! BELLINI Where is she then? Send her out. MADAME GATEAU Yes! (She starts to exit just as Mirette appears. Madame Gateau and Bellini share a look and then Gateau exits. Bellini is shocked by Mirette’s appearance. She won’t look at him.) BELLINI Mirette! My God, what’s the matter with you? (Mirette doesn’t respond. He continues, builty and angry with himself.) I didn’t mean what I said the other night. Forget it. (She looks up at him briefly) You are truly talented. I believe that you could be one of the best. It would not surprise me at all if you were greater than the Great Bellini. (He waits, but she does not respond.) I am leaving, Mirette. MIRETTE Where are you going?
66. BELLINI I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. MIRETTE (looking up for the first time) Because you don’t want to teach me? BELLINI No! -- I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone. -- It was in a town in Portugal... (MUSIC comes in as he tells her the story.) ... a walk above the market square. I planned a somersault through a hoop in the middle -- a difficult trick, but something I’d done a hundred times before. The wind was calm, the wire was seasoned, my balancing pole felt secure. I walked twenty feet, and then I stopped. My mind began to race -- works, images, a jumble. I thought, this is it, this is what they talk about -- the Fear that masters, that takes you and holds you, so you can’t move. Of course I faced Fear every day. I lived with it, courted it, defied it, loved it -- and suddenly it turned and caught me. I was no longer the Master, the defiant, triumphant one who could challenge even Death and win.. I was paralyzed, trapped. For a long time, I couldn’t move. I don’t know how long. Finally, I sank to my knees, -- and crawled off the wire. MIRETTE How awful. BELLINI Yes. It was. It is. -- I can’t teach you, Mirette, because I can’t do it myself. I walk the low wire because I have to. It’s in my feet. But as for the other - (MUSIC stops.) - it is finished. You must go on without me, with someone else. MIRETTE No. I don’t want it anymore.
67. BELLINI It is your gift! MIRETTE I tried to practice and I couldn’t. BELLINI Why not? MIRETTE My mother was right. If you dream of something that won’t come true, you will be hurt. It’s better not to try. Good-bye, Monsieur Paul. (MUSIC as Mirette turns and goes to the courtyard. Bellini watches her, troubled, as Mirette takes the knife her mother has left behind. She walks to the rigging and clasps the guy-rope that secures the threemetre practice wire. MUSIC reaches a climax as she cuts the rope and the wire collapses. Mirette runs off weeping. Bellini is alone on stage. He is in a state deep concentration, as if his mind had suddenly been cleared by Mirette’s act of cutting the rope. Standing there, rapt, he sings.) BELLINI ALL OF A SUDDEN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, YOU BLINK YOUR EYES AND SEE -NOT WHO YOU ARE OR WHO YOU WERE BUT WHO YOU STILL COULD BE! (MUSIC. Bellini calls out to Max, who has just appeared in the courtyard along with the Artistes.)
68. BELLINI You there! MAX Yes? BELLINI I want a word with you. I have decided to make a walk. Over the rooftops of Paris. Tonight! MAX Tonight! Ha! CLAIRE He will make a walk! Did you hear what he said? MME. ROUSPENSKAYA Is he serious? MAX Heâ€™s not serious. (Bellini turns to face him, his eyes ablaze.) He is serious. CLAIRE Oh, God -- what if he falls? BELLINI If I fall to my death, Mirette must find another teacher. CLOUK Monsieur, are you sure you want to do this? BELLINI (to Max) I need winches and rigging -- do you know where I can find them?
69. MAX This is very sudden -- are you sure? How long has it been? Don’t you need to practice? BELLINI I don’t need to practice. I am ready. MME. ROUSPENSKAYA He does this for Mirette! (To Bellini) Is this not so? BELLINI Yes, madame, it is so. I do it for Mirette. And for myself! MAX (Now energized and excited) The return of the Great Bellini! Superb! BELLINI Meet me in one hour at the Trockadero! (and he goes rushing off.) MAX Yes! Fantastic! Extraordinary! The Great Bellini will make his triumphant return to the high wire this very evening, ladies and gentlemen! A walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Palais du Chaillot! MAX & ARTISTES COME GATHER ROUND ME EVERYONE! (COME GATHER ROUND HIM EVERYONE!) THE GREAT EVENT HAS JUST BEGUN! (THE GREAT EVENT HAS JUST BEGUN!) FOR WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE (YES, WHAT WE ARE ABOUT TO SEE--) WILL SOON GO DOWN IN HISTORY!
70. (WILL SOON GO DOWN IN HISTORY!) (IN HISTORY--IN HISTORY--IN HISTORY!) THE GREAT BELLINI! THE FABULOUS BELLINI! HE IS THE GREATEST TIGHTROPE WALKER OF THEM ALL! THE GREAT BELLINI! INCREDIBLE BELLINI! MAX TONIGHT BELLINIâ€™S GONNA TRY TO SHOW US ALL. I GUARANTEE THAT WHAT YOU SEE WILL JUST ENTHRALL. SO HOLD YOUR BREATH AND PRAY TO GOD HE DOES NOT FALL! (Speaks over MUSIC) Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in years, the genius of the high wire returns to reclaim his title -- the Archangel of Danger, the Prince of Peril! They stretched the wire this very evening, when it was dark. Who knows if it will hold! Ladies and gentlemen, please! Direct your attention to the tower up to yur right -- yes! There he is...Quiet...Ladies and gentlemen, please! There he goes! (MUSIC as Bellini goes out on the wire. Suddenly he hesitates. And then as the others are singing, he stops, as we see him freeze with fear.) ARTISTES MIRETTE SEES THE GREAT BELLINI, SEES HIM AND SHE HOLDS HER BREATH. HIGH ABOVE THE STREETS OF PARIS ONE FALSE STEP CAN LEAD TO DEATH. MIRETTE SEES HIM AS HE FREEZES. THEN SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE MUST DO.
71. ARTISTES (CONT.) SUDDENLY SHE TURNS AND RUSHES RACING DOWN THE AVENUE! MIRETTE! PUSHING THROUGH THE THRONGS OF PEOPLE, GIVING THE GREAT DOOR A SHOVE, CLIMBING UP THE NARROW STAIRWAY, TO THE TOWER HIGH ABOVE. THEN AT LAST SHE SEES THE TOWER SEES IT WHERE THE WIRE IS TIED. CLIMBING THROUGH THE TINY WINDOW SUDDENLY SHE’S THERE -- OUTSIDE. OUTSIDE... WAY UP HIGH IN THE SKY... OUTSIDE! (Mirette steps onto the wire as the others turn front and sing.) ARTISTES SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED SOMEONE, SOMEONE TO PULL YOU THROUGH. SOMEONE TO COME AND OPEN UP A NEW WORLD FOR YOU! (Mirette makes the wire-walker’s salute and begins to walk to Bellini.) JUST WHEN I NEEDED SOMEONE, THAT’S WHEN YOU CAME TO ME! THAT’S WHEN YOU CAME TO TEACH ME, TEACH ME WHAT I COULD BE! (Mirette is close to Bellini now. During the next verse of the song, as she gets near him, she reaches out her hand.)
72. ARTISTES (CONT.) SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED SOMEONE LET THE ONE FOR YOU BE ME! BE ME! (As Madame Gateau enters and watches from below, Bellini reaches out to Mirette’s hand. And somehow that seems to break the spell. He moves toward her on the wire and they stand face to face as the MUSIC soars.) ARTISTES LET THE ONE FOR YOU BE ME! (With a sweeping gesture, Bellini lifts Mirette up into the air and places her on his shoulder. Then they turn to face the cheering crowd as the MUSIC surges and everyone sings.) ALL DON’T YOU KNOW THE SHOW GOES ON LIKE SOME MIGHT MARATHON? GOOD TIMES COME. GOOD TIMES GO. IT’S AS THOUGH THE WORLD’S A CIRCUS! THOUGH YOUR LUCK IS RUNNING LOW, SHOW THEM YOU’RE A PRO! BANG THAT DRUM! HERE WE COME! READY? BIG TABLEAU! THE SHOW GOES ON! AND ON! AND ON! AND ON!
THE SHOW GOES ON! THE SHOW GOES ON! THE SHOW GOES ON! AND ON! AND ON! AND ON! (Max pulls a string at the side and a large banner fills the back of the stage as Bellini and Mirette and everyone strike a theatrical tableau. The banner reads:)
MIRETTE & BELLINI! WIREWALKERS EXTRAORDINAIRE! STUPENDOUS FEATS!! (And the LIGHTS black out.)