PLAY #97: Shell Game & Play # 43: Victory Over the Moon—a Futurist Opera

[both from Brief Candles: 100 Very Short Plays]
Gary Michael Dault

As the curtain rises, we see two substantial Conch shells sitting side by side on a grand piano.

SHELL A:  I can sense your nearness.

SHELL B:  You have no eyes.

SHELL A:  I have no eyes, but I am one gigantic ear.

SHELL B:  What can you hear?

SHELL A:  The slow crackle of your calcification—and the background murmur of the distant sea.  You hear the sea too, don’t you?

SHELL A:  No, I never have.  I hear the vacuum cleaner and the cats chasing one another.

SHELL B:  I dream of the sea all the time.

SHELL A:  How do you do that?

SHELL B:  I grow even more still than usual and listen.

SHELL A:  Listen to what?  How do you know what the sea is like?  You came from a gift shop—just as I did.

SHELL B:  You can’t take the sea out of a conch shell.  It’s always there.

SHELL A (sadly):  Not for me.  I hear nothing.  I think I’m just décor.  Something else to dust.

SHELL B (compassionate):  I’m sorry.


The opera takes place on the moon.  The cast consists of fifteen characters, only two of whom, in this brief excerpt, make an appearance: the First Strongman—played by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky—and the Second Strongman, played by poet Velimir Khlebnikov.  The costumes are by Kasimir Malevich. The unheard music is by the author.

FIRST STRONGMAN (shouting): All’s well that begins well and ends soon afterwards!

SECOND STRONGMAN:  There will be no end to this opera.  We will thereby astound the universe!!

FS (shouting): There will be no going back!

SS (whispering): Or forward.

FS (pointing proudly): You see our muddy airship?  We built it on credit.  The sun offered us cash, but we wanted to glide softly amid the winking stars of mounting debt.

SS:  At which point everything became unexpectedly cautious.  Our resolve failed.

FS (resigned): Now we breathe the emptiness of the moon.

SS (even more resigned): No more no less.

FS (suddenly animated): You can’t stand it either?  Then shake off the blades of sculptural moonlight and find another way to wash yourself!

SS (encouragingly): The way millions of others have done.

FS (comforting): You’ll be alright, you black multitudes.  You sit there in fat velvet chairs, watching us shoot at the past with our poet-revolvers.  Your heads are narrow and your sighs are made of stone.

SS (ingratiatingly): Go ahead, pick any fight with us—or with him!

FS: Or with him!

SS (reassuring):  Do it in this pebbled dark.  In this dry garden with its iron roses.  Long live this lunar darkness!  It will take you home again.  You will have warm suppers with knives and forks.

FS (shouting): And don’t forget to leave your windows open!


About the Artist

Gary Michael Dault is a writer and painter.
He has written frequently about the visual arts in Canada and, for over a decade, contributed a weekend visual arts review column ("Gallery-Going") to The Globe & Mail.

Dault has written for Television (including the six hour miniseries, Inside the Vatican with Sir Peter Ustinov) and for the concert hall [Alice in the Orchestra, with composer Gene Di Novi, and Hauntings for Orchestra , with composer Eric Robertson].

He has written eight books of poetry. His book of flash-fiction, Proximity:Forty Stories, was recently published by the Impulse b press in Toronto.

Dault is currently painting, writing plays and writing a novel about fashion and design called Décor. His Brief Candles: 100 Very Short Plays appeared weekly in 2011-12 in the online Toronto-based journal, The Monday Art Post.

About the Works

I had been contributing to The Monday Artpost--a Toronto-based arts-journal devised and published by photographers Lee Ka-sing and Holly Lee--since its beginnings, over a decade and a half ago. Almost exactly ten years ago, I began writing a series of 100 very short plays (the series was called Brief Candles, after both Macbeth and a book of short stories by Aldous Huxley) that appeared each week in that journal.

It was great fun to devise these short, spasm-like plays, which varied remarkably in subject, tone, atmosphere and language. But what was equally enjoyable was to construct their table-top "sets," hastily and temporarily erected on my work-table and invariably lit by a solitary table-lamp. The sets were then photographed and summarily dismantled.

Nothing of them remains now--except the photos published in the Artpost along with the texts of each play.

Toronto Metropolitan Department of  Architectural Science Toronto, CA.
Ryerson Department of  Architectural Science Toronto, CA.