on happiness

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Here’s a one act with the theme of happiness.

 

The Actors 2m, 2f

There are four actors in the show: two female and two male. They should all be wearing the same thing and able to approach each of the monologues differently. Every monologue is the introduction of a new “character.” It up to the actors and/or director how the monologues are divided.

 

Actors should be able to dance or at the very least be capable of moving stylistically.

At least one of the actors should be able to play the cello and a separate actor for the violin.

 

 

The Setting

The play takes place on a street of any city. This moment happens right before sunrise.

 

 

The Play

This play does not tell one story. It tells many stories.

This play does not build to a dramatic climax. Every moment is the climax.

This play does not have a protagonist or antagonist. It simply has people.

This play does not try to change you. It simply tells the truth.

 

 

Note

All of the monologues in this play have come directly from interviews I have held. Although some parts may be shortened, this is what people said verbatim in stream of conscious. People say beautiful things when they let their hearts speak. Thank you so much to everyone who helped with the interview process.

 

Lights rise to show we are moments before sunrise. We

                        hear birds and other animals depending on the city

                        preparing for a new day. Four people wandering the

                        streets, perhaps coming from a bar, perhaps from a

                        rough night of work, perhaps just for a late night walk.

                        They may or may not interact with each other. One of

                        the actors steps forward.

 

1

Happiness is defined as a state of well-being and contentment. Joy. Felicity. Aptness.

 

Another actor steps forward.

 

2

I think it’s more complicated than that.

 

The two notice each other for a brief moment.  After a

                        few awkward beats, one of the actors shrugs and walks away

                        and continues wandering around the space. A new actor steps

                        forward.

 

3

I define happiness as the universe finally aligning with what I want.

 

The final actor steps forward. The other actors freeze

as son as this actor speaks.

 

4

I think happiness is hard to define simply. it’s just being able to know that you’re where you’re supposed to be in that moment.

 

Two of the actors begin to dance together. The

                        remaining actor stays frozen.

 

And knowing that you’re living the life you want to be living. If that makes sense. In order to determine that you’re happy I would say it’s something you know. You can’t help that bottle of happy energy from blowing up inside of you. It’s like this uncontrollable thing. It manifests itself.

 

At “manifest itself,” the fourth actor gets up and is

hit by uncontrollable ecstasy. This infects the other

 two dancing actors. The dance moves from ecstatic

 to hectic. And scary.

 

Um, I don’t really think, well I know I’m not happy. I feel like there’s too much up in the air in my life right now and I don’t have my feet on the ground and I don’t have anything to cling to. And that’s just far too stressful to even entertain the notion of being happy. I don’t consider that a bad thing because happiness…it’s special.

 

The other actors stop moving suddenly. One of the

 actors sits out. The other two embrace each other

and begin to dance as though they are in an old black

 and white movie dancing in the streets.

 

It doesn’t come around all the time.  Because then it’s just being. You wouldn’t be happy. You’d just be. I’m perfectly content living for those little moments of happiness intermixed with all the bullshit. I don’t think people who are depressed can’t be happy. I’ve had problems with depression growing up. To be able to define happiness in day to day life, it’s a lot harder. But there are still those moments that shine through the darkness.

 

The actor steps back and the other dancing actors,

stop. The actors move around the space except for

the actor who sat out the final moments of the last

monologue. That actor steps forward.

 

5

I am happy right now. But good and bad come in cycles. Happiness. Discontent. That’s the way of the world. You’re never supposed to be too far from either. I’m a little close to happy but it’s been a good week. Last week I was stressed.

 

Two of the actors upstage pantomime the following

                        fight described.

 

My roommates were upset with me. I was leaving the house a mess. My girl roommate she has a boyfriend now who she’s been having a lot of sex with so she needs to throw her problems on someone else. But when we talk we’re okay. It’s only recently that we’ve fallen out of being happy.

 

The fight ends and the actors return to wandering

                        the space. One of the actors wanders towards a violin.

                        Another towards a cello. The other wandering actor

                        dances to the music as the speaking actor talks rhythmically.

 

I have an optimistic outlook on life. I’m a big fan of fake it until you make it. If you smile, you can trick your body into being happy. Kind of like acting. If I say the right thing in the right phrase, then I’ll believe it.

 

Beat. The music stops. Everyone on stage considers this.

                        The actors shrug it off and continue.

 

In Spanish, the word for happy is contenta. Content. That’s beautiful isn’t it? You can be happy and you can still yearn. You can be happy where you are and still want things. I was depressed once where I was.

 

The music slows down.

 

Where I was, the people I was around, I felt like a dark hole in the ground. All black except for one spec of hope.

 

The actor speaking notices for the first time

                        the music has slowed down. (S)He turns to the

                        musicians and shakes her head. Without speaking

                        (s)he get them to speed the music back up to normal.

 

You can tell people you’re depressed but what are they going to do? You have to pull yourself out of it.

 

All of the actors except for one fall to the ground

                        and look up at the sky.

 

6

Happiness is a situational thing. This outside force. Like birthday cakes make me happy. There’s a big difference between joy and happiness. I think joy is something abiding and beyond circumstance. If you’re caught in a windstorm and you’re freezing to death, you may not be happy about it. But you’re still joyful. Joy is a much grander thing to strive for and to achieve. I don’t think we as people are designed or created to sustain happiness because we don’t have control over our situations. Things don’t last. A greater thing to strive for is joy. For joy, you have to rely on something constant or non-changing. Some people find it in beauty.

 

One of the actors lying down rises stylistically

                        and tries to pull down the stars. At first it’s beautiful

                        but slowly becomes heartbreaking as the task becomes

                        more impossible.

 

But even that’s fleeting. Something that’s like “even though it sucks, at least I’m…” For me, I’m a Christian so I trust in Jesus and Jesus is my constant. Am I happy now? Yeah. Things are going well. But also my joy reservoir is very deep. It’s kinda like joy is a deep well.

 

The actor reaching for the stars stops. The other actors

                        slowly get up and begin to search the stage. Each of them

                        find their own space and begin to dig.

 

Despite the weather and the situations, the deeper your well is the better chance you still have water. No matter how bad the drought is. Joy comes from suffering.

 

For actors digging, it gets harder and harder to

                        keep digging.

 

That you’re able to dig that well deep even though the process of digging is really painful. But when rain comes—

 

Beat. The actors stop digging and look up at the sky.

 

When rain comes, you’re more full. And when bad times come, you still have something to hold on to.

 

The sound of rain is heard as the actors shake off

                        that last story. They move through the space getting

                        more restless. Each of the actors end up on different

                        sides of the stage.

 

7

I’m happy off and on. If I had a checklist for my own happiness, it involves enjoying my current endeavors, having awesome friends, and having a good handle on my future. People who are depressed, simply put, are unhappy. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the tools to be happy. It’s just…a skewed perspective or something or maybe even just another person blocking them from their happiness.

 

The actors all move away from their corners one

                        at a time until they are center sitting in a circle

                        around the actor who speaks next.

 

8

(as though he or she is a camp counselor)

I think that happiness can be defined as being secure within yourself and your values. And content with holding onto those values. So many people I know are so hungry and so desperate for something.

 

The actors tumble away at “desperate” and move           

                        like restless sleepers, each one battling their own

                        unique nightmare.

 

They don’t really stick true to their values. They try to change who they are just to feel like they’ve achieved something. Happiness is being very present and owning whoever and whatever you stand for. I think that people who have been diagnosed with depression—it’s not that they don’t know how to be happy. It’s that they aren’t content quite yet. They feel like they are missing out on something or someone. A lot of people who are depressed feel emptiness because they have given up who they are.

 

At “who they are” the other actors wake up abruptly

                        and begin to shake off their nightmares, slowly rising.

 

If there is a checklist, my checklist is Have I given up anything of myself? Have I changed myself? Did I change for the good? Do I feel secure? I know what I want in life. And I know what I deserve.

 

The actors, now fully risen, yawn. They all step back

                        together in a line. One falls asleep on the other. They

                        are disturbed and wake up. After a beat or two, one of the

                        actors goes to get the violin. Another actor steps forward.

 

9

Happiness is knowing that there’s good stuff. And there’s bad stuff. Accepting that there’s bad stuff but holding out for the good stuff. Knowing that we may be at a bad point but we can get back to that good stuff. So, by that definition, I am pretty happy. I mean there’s a lot of bad stuff happening right now.

 

            The music speeds up and the other actors begin to dance.

 

But I know I can get back in a good place. Depression’s not as simple as getting happy. It’s kind of…I don’t know. Holding someone makes me happy.

 

The two dancers embrace.

 

But I don’t need that to be happy. Does that make sense?

 

The music stops. The speaking actor sits down and plays

                        with his or her phone. The two actors embracing hold it. The

                        actor who was playing the violin puts the violin away and

                        looks at the two actors embracing for a beat or two and then

                        steps forward. Once the actor steps forward, the two embracing

                        actors separate. One pulls out a book. The other a mirror.

 

10

Am I happy? God. I hope I am. I’m happy right now at least. I’m healthy, you know? And that’s exciting. I don’t exactly look the way I want to but I’m happy with what I’ve got. Who really cares anyways?

 

The actor with the mirror sets the mirror down and

                        looks at the speaking actor attentively.

 

I’m in love. So that’s nice, I guess. I’m not really the falling in love type. I used to read all those Russian love stories and I gotta say Anna Karenina has ruined me for life when it comes to how I feel about love.

 

The actor with the book literally throws the book

                        down and pulls out a piece of paper and pen.

 

So I’m not exactly getting my unrequited, undying, total insanity kind of love. Which ironically in the long run makes me happy. Most days I think yeah this is the person I can marry. Other days I plan out my escape. Drawing maps and looking up airline tickets. That’s love. Or at least for me. Sorry. I’m off topic. Am I happy? I think happy’s a state of being. It’s essentially who you are.  I don’t think I’m morbid. I’m technically bipolar. So I guess I’m more than happy. I’m manic.

 

The actor with the cell phone looks to see if it’s time

                        to go. It’s not. The actor returns to the cell phone.

 

I’ve spent so much of my time in and out of therapy. On this pill and then on that one. And I’m done with it. If I’m not cutting and I’m not thinking about cutting, then I’m happy.

 

                        The other actors pull out their cell phones. It

                        becomes clear they are waiting to be called on.

                        A voice over comes on and says “We’re ready for

                        you now.” The actors look up, put their cell phones away

                        and look up. They shake their heads.

 

11

(all of the actors in unison)

No. Not today.

 

The lights change to show the sun is starting to rise.

                        The actors move to separate sides of the stage moving.

                        One actor gets the violin and another actor gets the

                        cello. The two remaining actors dance. The actor playing

                        the violin steps forward. The actor playing the cello

                        continues to play. The other two actors stare into the

                        audience, focused and still. The only movement is watching

                        them breathe.

 

12

Am I happy? Yeah! I am very happy. I am doing what I want to be doing all day long and all night long. The minutes of my day are spent doing things wisely. And if I die tomorrow, today would have been a worthwhile day. Everyday. I am living life. What my life is right now, I don’t know how anything will ever compare. I feel so fulfilled. I think this may be the most fulfilled I have ever felt in my life.

 

The two actors who have been still begin to move around the

                        space dancing to the music. In the dance one of the actors should

                        try to slowly catch the other actor, who is running away, afraid.

 

In college, I was pretty miserable. I think it’s because I didn’t have my calling. I didn’t know who I was. I knew but I was afraid to do it. It was buried very deeply in me that I was an artist.

 

The actor finally catches the one running away. Together, they

                        stylistically and beautiful fall to the ground. They got into

                        a resting position in yoga. And then slowly go into downward

                        facing dog.

 

I also feel like I just really, really now believe in the power of positive thinking. And meditation. And manifesting what I want. And thoughts become things. And the only reason I believe in it is because it just keeps happening. If I concentrate on something long enough, I will get it. I know what I want and I can visualize it.

 

The moving actors transition into another yoga position.

                        The cello still plays.

 

Now that being said I don’t have everything I want and need but I feel like seventy five percent of my life is what I want and need. But I also had to work for it. There is happiness and satisfaction in I worked for this. I deserve this.

 

The actors doing yoga stop and move around the stage trying

                        to hide. At “justified” one of them dies. At “country” the other

                        one dies. At “tomorrow” the cello stops.

 

And so when I think about depressed people…well there’s depression that’s justified. Like your family is in a war-torn country and they may all be dead tomorrow. And there’s the depression that’s defined by our contemporary society that is created out of images in the media.

 

The actor who was playing the cello slides down to the

                        floor in between the “dead” actors and rolls over to them

                        to wake them up. They don’t wake up but the actor keeps

                        trying.

 

And images and thoughts about what success means. And a particular American quality of not being present and reaching out for things that aren’t instead of just living your life.

 

The actor who was trying to wake up the other actors

                        gives up. (S)he stands up and stares into the audience

                        broken but, again, very still.

 

I don’t know. A lot of things started to change for me when I started doing yoga.

 

The actor begins to go in “Sun’s Salute” in yoga.

 

And meditate which is just being present. To me the solution is not Prozac but rather reflection, solitude, and self-care.

 

The other actor join the actor doing yoga. This goes on for

                        a beat or two. They finish and one actor steps forward. The

                        others play tag.

 

13

I heard it said once that happiness depends on where you happen to be and so it’s very fleeting in that it’s in the moment. Happiness…a lot of people seem to talk about “are you happy?” “Oh, I’m so happy.” It seems like a fluffy word. I don’t understand what brings it a lot of weight. I think other words help to better deepen it.

 

The actors stop playing tag and get lost.

 

Everybody takes the word happy and they take it all different directions. It’s sort of a happenstance thing. I consider myself…I have a cheerful disposition naturally. I think it’s a choice to be happy.

 

They became okay with being lost and decide to

                        just live in the moment.

 

Some people have an easier time with it. Whether or not they are going to cling to that joy. Day to day. Moment to moment. The way I am wired, it’s easier for me. But my brother for instance he’s much more prone towards negativity.

 

One of the actors moves away and become sad,

                        suddenly.

 

And this is the way my mom is wired too. My brother doesn’t take medication. He found other ways. I think that it’s…wow this is a big issue. I feel like if you’ve got your moral code in place and it’s something that you stick by and cling to and you know that you’re confident that you’re making good decisions, then that can help you cling to joyful thoughts. Because you can be confident while you’re doing it.

 

The other actors leave the stage except for the one

                        speaking and the one who separated himself/herself.

                        The “isolated” actor looks around and just decides to

                        be happy throughout the final moments of the monologue.

 

To answer the question, yes I am happy. But that’s a decision I have to make daily. I think the main thing that keeps me happy is knowing what is true and I know what is actually truly reality. If I cling to that, I know…ultimately there is nothing wrong. Just because I am on my own, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. Because I can be strong by myself.

 

The speaking actor leaves the stage and the isolated

                        actor speaks.

 

14

I don’t think there is a constant state of happiness. I probably believe in virtue of being human that one is immediately destined for a sense of incompletion and yearning and loss. And almost by default one is not going to be happy. Having said that, I think there are momentary flashes of happiness.

 

The other actors come back on stage at “momentary.”

                        Although there is no music heard, they begin to dance

                        a spontaneous and constantly changing dance that

                        ranges from happy to sad to deranged to broken to

                        complete.

 

I think that where I am in my life is that there is a trap in setting externals to happiness. Anything external is pretty much guaranteed to keep one in a constant state of disconsolation. I feel pretty much that there is something to a Buddhist remove or a little bit of a withdrawal. Which in some ways is paradoxical in that you can’t allow determining factors. I believe that there is a place a person can go where there is an evenness regarding various things that happen out there which ironically can allow for a much fuller engagement with people and things. And eating and breathing in the world.

 

The actors stop moving and all except one sit down on stage.

                        They each take a deep breath and (except for that one actor)

                        collapse. The one standing actor steps forward.

15

I have been one of those people who is genetically inclined towards happiness. So much so that when my husband met me and heard things about me, he thought surely this could not be true, that I was literally as happy and as unfucked up as I seem.

 

The collapsed actors sit up.

 

Given that I’ve had this feeling all my life about happiness, I have also felt naturally the things that would make me happy and just went towards them. And that’s possibly my biggest talent in life.

 

Together the actors stand.

 

It includes close relationships and pets and friendship and really good coffee.

 

The other actors meet together.

 

And I have this huge community, which turns out to be called theatre, where I would have nothing but closeness. There is one thing that has happened in my life and that has come close to threatening my happiness. And it has been a really interesting struggle for me how to balance maintaining my happiness with feeling the way that I do about this issue.

 

One of the actors in the embrace starts to fall

                        but the other two catch him/her.

 

Which is I got sick four years ago. It was caught early and the best possible case. But then we learned it’s genetic.

 

The “falling” actor struggles to stand on his/her

                        own. There is a struggle while the others try to help.

 

And so there’s this threat hanging over my head. And it’s just…there’s a lot of likelihood that it could happen again. And for the first time in my life I could feel robbed of that happiness.

 

The actor, with help, can finally stand on his/her own.

 

But lately it’s all the same definitions are true for me but to live in the moment, truly in the moment, to be present with the person in front of me, that is happy. Being present and living for the moment, not because I am afraid I am going to die, but because worry rob you of that. Happy is like screw you worried. You have no part in my life.

 

All of the actors speak in unison to say

 

16

Screw you worried!

 

                        The lights change to show that it is getting closer

                        to sunrise. The actors all suddenly become aware of

                        the time and start to think about heading home. Instead

                        they decide to stay for a moment longer and dance as though

                        it’s the last dance before the club closes.

 

17

When I was younger, my mom said I was just naturally happy. That I never cried. And I was always dancing. And singing. And just being happy. But then one day, that just went away.

 

The other actors freeze.

 

She said she didn’t know what it was but something in me just snapped. Well, it’s because I was molested. A few times. And it just kept happening. When I got to high school, I thought it’d stop but it didn’t. I was raped in high school. And I just got so…depressed. Everything in the world just stopped.

 

As if discovering their bodies for the first time

                        the actors slowly start to move.

 

But one day I just…I just didn’t want to be so sad anymore. I wanted to just…forget. And then eventually I wanted to heal. And it took work. And I had to fight. Suicide was so, so tempting but I kept fighting and fighting and fighting. And eventually I started to fight to be happy.

 

The actors begin to hum in harmony. It could be

                        any song as long as it fits with the moment.

 

So am I happy? Hell yes I am. And I will fight until my heart gives out. Because at the end of every day, there’s a brand new one waiting. At the end of every awful night, almost suddenly it’s sunrise.

 

The lights change to show it is sunrise. The actors

                        all look up at it and take it in. One by one they go

                        to where they are supposed to go. One by one they

                        all exit.

 

                        End Play.

 

 

 

 

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