SIOBHANS’ WHEEL WORLD
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: They/them. 40 years old.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: An identical hologram of NARRATOR SIOBHAN. They/them. About 40 years old. But with the energy of new technology. You could put a hand through them.
ANIMATED JESSICA RABBIT (i): An achingly and classically sexy variation on HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN. Must be played by an animated actor.
ANIMATED JESSICA RABBIT (ii): An achingly and classically sexy variation on NARRATOR SIOBHAN, but definitely a photocopy of ANIMATED JESSICA RABBIT (i). Must be played by an animated actor.
Everything spoken is tonally conversational and without irony.
If you don’t have enough money to pay the kind of designers it would take to pull this off, you could have one actor just read the whole play to their girlfriend in the kitchen. You would have to add a girlfriend character and they would have to be cooking spaghetti. You would have the girlfriend interrupt only one time, wherever it feels the most live, with the line, delivered with sincere anxiety, “Wait, are you funnier than me? I think you might be funnier than me.” But if it feels precious, it probably is. In that case, cut the line.
Bare stage, but huge. Exposed bricks, pipes, wings, the whole rigmarole. “About” “the size” of New York City Center.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN enters from the wings and sits on a stool onstage.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN (dry): My parents almost named me Siobhan, but they thought it would be too confusing for people to pronounce given the spelling. S-I-O-B-H-A-N.
Taking in the audience, resetting.
I had recently learned the plural possessive. Ess apostrophe. I was in the fifth grade. My best friend in my neighborhood, but not at school, had my same name. Siobhan. And inspired by the plural possessive, which I didn’t see many real world applications for, I decided that I would take advantage of the fact that Siobhan and I were multiples of the same noun and pitched a theme park idea to Siobhan called “Siobhans’ (apostrophe) Wheel World.” “Wheel” because I wanted to acknowledge the actual resources we had access to in the garage. Bikes, roller racers, wagons, wheelbarrows, power wheels. I thought we would be able to make something both grounded in that reality and transcendent of it at the same time, using the impossible-is-possible container of an amusement park. It would be a one day event, a pop-up amusement park, and we would go door-to-door selling tickets to the families I babysat for. One dollar a ticket.
It felt like a lot to ask, but I think my mom had forced me to go through some kind of budgeting around the cost of the ice cream in cones I wanted to serve, and one dollar per would pay for both the ice cream and the peanuts we puffy painted faces onto for the backyard peanut hunt.
We decided to kick off the grand opening of Siobhans’ Wheel World with a show. Celebrating wheels.
The show was inspired by silent films I think, because the show was completely silent. Our audience, which consisted of neighborhood children ages two to seven, a market demographic we did not keep in mind when conceiving of the show, provided an improvised soundscape of shrill variations on not paying attention.
I remember this because there is video documentation of it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now to have video documentation of children growing up, but my dad was an early adopter of almost every technology. (He was a car phone salesman.) In 1982, the year after I was born, he started carrying around a VCR on a shoulder strap with a DP size camera and a boom mic attached to it. Siobhans’ Wheel World kicked off in 1992 so it’s possible he had graduated from VHS to Hi8 technology which meant he no longer had to carry a VCR while he shot and narrated elaborate tours of myrtle beach hotel rooms, minutes-long attempts at zooming in on distant lighthouses and the detail work of shrink-wrapped easter eggs.
So, for the silent show at Siobhans’ Wheel World, we open on me riding a banana seat bicycle with a red wagon attached to the chrome seat handle by clothesline. I am wearing, as my base, a purple footied pajama that my mom had worn a few years back to be a care bear for halloween. I stuffed it with multiple pillows because I needed to be big. Over the top, I wore a ruffle-necked, polka dotted nightgown, ripping at the seams and cropped from the volume of the bed pillows. I had painted my teeth and nose black, jack-o-lantern style and wore a toddler-sized, pink tutu as a wig. Because I was not used to wearing a lot of pillows, I could barely ride the bike — pink and decorated with seashell decals. Its maker, Huffy, had printed the words “Sea Princess” on one of the support bars.
On the Sea Princess, I was playing a male taxi driver who is about to pick up a prostitute and give her a ride.
I know this because I wrote the show. I don’t think that is clear to anyone else. Though it is maybe clear to the other Siobhan who played the prostitute. She’s wearing a very short, gingham, wrap-around suggestion of a skirt that my sister once wore in a tap number when she was four. Underneath the skirt, Siobhan is wearing a bathing suit that could be used only for dress-up because cut-outs revealed midriff, and we were not that kind of a family. Siobhan wore a deep red lip, a legit brunette wig that didn’t come from my house, and some kind of garbage bag necklaces draped around her shoulders.
Most of the show consists of me, precariously, and as fast as I can, driving the twelve-foot-long sea princess wagon in a very tight circle around my driveway. My dad boldly breaks the fourth wall. And because his mouth is closest to the camera, it is the dominant sound of the film.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN does an impression of their Dad.
Siobhan, Be careful.
Siobhan, slow down, watch the kids.
Over and over.
After several rotations, the other Siobhan, the whore, pops a hip and sticks out a thumb. I stop the cab to pick her up. I waddle off the Sea Princess and open the door for her. She gets in and fills the space of the little red wagon with her gangly legs and pouty lips, lounging, enjoying a moneyed, dangerous life that’s only possible in a city where taxis are real.
A taxi that I am driving.
As Siobhan is talking, an animated taxi cab starts to confidently walk onto stage, upright, using its back wheels as legs and front wheels as arms. It realizes that it has walked onto the wrong stage, and humiliated, mouths the word “sorry” and walks backwards, doing the classic over-performance of a tip-toe exit to make it clear that it is being quiet and respects what is actually happening onstage. NARRATOR SIOBHAN never sees that this has happened.
Then, after I circle the driveway a few more times with my paying customer and listen to my dad simultaneously ruin the show by inserting himself and immortalize it by filming it, I drive off path, into the yellow grass and hurl my body off the bike, unafraid to do my own stunts because of how many pillows are in my mom’s care bear costume. The other Siobhan rolls out of the wagon, her legs twisting like Nancy Kerrigan doing a triple axle but horizontally in the grass.
The cab has gotten into an awful accident. And that’s pretty much the show. Or at least, that’s when the cab driver exits.
Ominous music from speakers.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: The dress-up clothes box lived inside of the attic off the rec room, located above the garage that housed the rides of Siobhans’ Wheel World. We created many haunted houses there, where Aunt Jan’s lace and pink chiffon bridesmaid dress was used in a kind of Bride of Frankenstein like way, naturally distressed from being the only gown available to us. Aunt Jan is a nun, so she would never have an occasion to pretend like she would wear the gown again after my parents wedding, having taken the vow of poverty. So we, as children, who had not taken the vow of poverty, got to wear it to every nightlife event the attic had to offer.
In preparation for any haunted house, we spent hours meticulously peeling the skin off of dozens of green grapes so that the we could offer a bowl of them to a haunted house guest — one of my parents — only for the guest to learn after they popped a peeled grape into their mouth, that they weren’t grapes at all.
They were actually cats’ eyes.
But sometimes, if my parents had left to go for a ride, which meant drive to every subdivision model open house they could find on a sunday, the other Siobhan and I would push the dress-up clothes box down the stairs of the attic, slide it through the kitchen and over the kelly green carpet to the other stairs. And then we’d drag it up one stair at a time to my bedroom. We closed the door behind us, and pushed the brass button lock into it’s handle. We hadn’t communicated directly about why we were going to all of this length. We didn’t have to.
An identical hologram of NARRATOR SIOBHAN joins them onstage.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: I’ll be her.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: And I’ll be her.
A material structure starts to artfully erect itself around NARRATOR SIOBHAN and HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN, kind of similar to the mechanics of the way the cottage gets cleaned in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. It does it itself. We start to see the bedroom of a ten year old child who has been taught to be concerned about the resale value of the family home and whose mother has a subscription to Country Living magazine. This means that there is nothing on the walls, painted white, and that the matte salmon, wicker, craft-fair trash can is lined with a Kroger bag. The bedspread is a quilted polyester, glossy peach with lace trim and matching shams. There is a strategically arranged pile of stuffed animals on the bed, in a pecking order and subservient to an oversized teddy bear with a crinkly paper bow. The teddy bear isn’t as cute as he should be, but he makes up for it in volume.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN puts on a dirty 60s mini dress, beads, sheer robe, etc.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN starts to trudge in place.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Man, we really need a ride.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN follows suit, and pulls a slip and a beat-up leather purse out of the teddy bear’s mouth. Note: Performers should not pretend to be children. Stakes are real.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: I know. My feet hurt really bad.
Dramatically oversized high-heeled shoes appear on their adult feet.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Yeah, I can barely walk in these things.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Oh my god, look. Here comes a truck. I think he’s stopping!
NARRATOR SIOBHAN makes a noise with their mouth to make it seem like the truck passed them by. The mouth noise is recognizable as just a plain old human doing an impression of a truck, but actual mud sprays their clothes. They are still in the bedroom.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Aww man, looks like he’s not.
Seems like HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN somehow engineered the mud. NARRATOR SIOBHAN accepts this.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Do you have any lipstick?
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Yeah, I have red and purple. I’m wearing red.
Her lips flip from their natural color to a deep red.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: It looks really good.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: You should do red too.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN’s lips flip to red.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: I cannot believe we don’t have a car.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: We’re gonna have to figure out how to get somebody to drive us one way or the other.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Well I know one thing we could do.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: What, pay money?
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Well, we don’t have any...
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Right.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: We could, act, like...
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: What.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: We could act sexy.
Scandalized but porous:
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: What??
Embarrassed, the tactic is to act like NARRATOR SIOBHAN is stupid for reacting so hugely.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: What.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: I don’t know.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: It’s not a big deal.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: I know, I just, yeah. It’s worth it to not have to walk.
NARRATOR SIOHBAN throws themself onto the carpet, pretending to fall.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Oh my god/ Ok let’s just do it.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Are you OK? I hope you didn’t hurt the baby.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN stuffs Aunt Jan’s bridesmaid gown into NARRATOR SIOBHAN’s dress. NARRATOR SIOBHAN catches on.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: No!
NARRATOR SIOHBAN feels their stomach to check. A sigh of relief.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: I actually can feel it kicking. Oh my god! Feel!
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN feels the dress inside the dress and then gets jealous that NARRATOR SIOBHAN has a baby.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Oh my god, my baby’s kicking too!
The clincher. They have to protect the babies.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Ok, we have to get off the highway.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Let’s just do it.
Agreeing, but in treacherous territory.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Yeah, What.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: Rendezvous, I don't know. You know what I mean.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: This was the part where the scene shifted. We kind of dropped being pregnant hitchhiking prostitutes, and we would start taking my mom’s old mini shift dresses and slips off, We’d take the gowns/babies out of our temporary uteri and the heels, the sunhats and the pearls off until we were both fully nude.
Somebody had gifted me a gyroscope that I didn’t care about. A gyroscope is an ancient Greek angular velocity thing. It’s also a popular toy. It is also why airplanes can fly. That’s not generally how I used it. Siobhan and I discovered that the little plastic stand that the gyroscope spins on was perfect to take turns making out with, the other watching.
The gyroscope stand was a hot cherry red. It read like cartoon lips to us. Like in Roger Rabbit when Jessica Rabbit, animated, blows a kiss to Eddie Valiant, who is made of flesh and blood, and the kiss smooch flies through the air to his cheek. Those aerodynamic lips were plump, muscular, separate from Jessica Rabbit, but of her.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN blows one of these air kisses to NARRATOR SIOBHAN as a live orchestra is revealed, playing a romantic, swollen symphonic movement.
When the kiss hits NARRATOR SIOBHAN’s face, it slaps.
When the kiss hits NARRATOR SIOBHAN’s face, HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN transforms into ANIMATED JESSICA RABBIT (i).
NARRATOR SIOBHAN holds the kiss to their cheek, and their body flickers from NARRATOR SIOBHAN to Eddie Valiant, a bearish schlubby detective with a five o’clock shadow and a fedora. We hear NARRATOR SIOBHAN make a grunt, a struggling grunt. Because this cosmic read of Siobhan feels semi accurate. They are truly an Eddie Valiant but they don’t want to be, not right now. Then, due to NARRATOR SIOBHAN’s active resistance, the flicker of Eddie starts shifting into Eddie dressed in the taxi driver’s purple pajama and polka-dotted nightgown look of Act One. Then, the figure flickers again, into ANIMATED JESSICA RABBIT (ii), same as HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN.
The SIOBHANS stand next to each other as animations, two ANIMATED JESSICA RABBITS, sparkling like they’re inside a snapchat filter, shiny hourglasses with purple eyelids, red gown slits up the thigh. They are holding hands, flirtatiously smiling at each other, whispering bitchy stuff into one another’s ears.
Although we just saw NARRATOR SIOBHAN transform into ANIMATED JESSICA RABBIT (ii), another NARRATOR SIOBHAN walks out from the wings of the stage to speak.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Naked, we got on top of my bedspread and moved all of the stuffed animals except for the giant teddy bear, who we treated like a Hugh Hefner type, giggling at anything the teddy bear didn’t say, our fingers flirting with the crinkly blue bow around his neck. We pretended like an invisible man was taking pictures of our naked bodies as we gushed over the bear. We posed, contorting ourselves into the positions we already knew were sexy. They were positions we would draw on Siobhan’s mom’s — she was a teacher — Siobhan’s mom’s chalkboard in her classroom before school started in the morning. We would erase them before the bell rang. Wrapping our thighs around the bear, our shins sometimes touching, we communicated like:
NARRATOR SIOBHAN makes a noise with their mouth of the sound of a camera shutter. They do it over and over. It becomes rhythmically regular, and after a few moments of the camera shutter, a drum punctuates the hip swings of the two ANIMATED JESSICA RABBITs who walk to NARRATOR SIOBHAN and lift NARRATOR SIOBHAN onto their shoulders. They sing For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow to the beat of the camera shutters. The orchestra joins.
The ANIMATED JESSICA RABBITS put NARRATOR SIOBHAN down.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: I remember a long time after that, when I was eighteen, a twenty-year-old girl who seemed forty-five, who I was in love with, started gabbing. Something about orgasms. And I weighed in like an old pro. I started talking about how many orgasms I would have just like walking around. She was confused.
I thought the feeling of being wet was an orgasm.
The gyroscope stand make out/ nudie mime photo shoot with Siobhan and the bear was the first time I ever got wet.
A curtain rises behind the set of NARRATOR SIOBHAN’s childhood bedroom. The orchestra plays bawdy horn-driven music. A giant hand twists the tip of a giant gyroscope between its finger and thumb to spin on top of a giant red gyroscope stand. The gyroscope does so expertly, defying gravity, acrobatically suspended sideways on the tip of the cherry red stand — a giant replica of the makeout accessory. A chorus line of JESSICA RABBITS do a Rockettes-like number in front of the spinning gyroscope. Their synchronous, kicking, animated legs become a kind of scrim of the set of NARRATOR SIOBHAN’s bedroom.
We see the two SIOBHANS again, indiscernible as hologram or narrator, identical. They are dressed as they were at the top of the act. They wear the same dress-up clothes, and NARRATOR SIOBHAN is still pregnant with Aunt Jan’s chiffon and lace bridesmaid dress. In heels, they walk down the side of the highway of SIOBHAN’s bedroom, in place on some kind of moving platform, as if they have been walking for hours.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: We’re never gonna make it.
HOLOGRAM SIOBHAN: We have to.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Oh my god, I think my water broke.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN stops on the moving platform to look down at the floor and the moving platform continues to move her until it reaches its edge. NARRATOR SIOBHAN crashes to the ground mumbling, “Oh no.” Blackout.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN wears Aunt Jan's pink chiffon and lace bridesmaid gown.
NARRATOR SIOBHAN: Narrator Siobhan moves to New York and works as a whore for a while.
Orchestra plays an overture-like finale, reviewing all the musical moments. There are some cartoon honks involved.