charles mee

the (re)making project

The Plays

Coney Island Avenue

by  C H A R L E S   L .   M E E


Scene 1.

Tuvan throat singers at full volume.

Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn:
the second hand bookshop [later replaced by a Burger King]
a mosque
an ATM machine between the bookshop and the mosque
a kosher vegetable market
[which gets torn down and replaced with a different business several times in the course of the piece]

four or five dogs

A guy comes out carrying a card table
looks around,
finally decides where to set up the card table on the sidewalk.
Puts it there,

A timid guy, Harry, comes out
with a sheaf of papers,
looks out at the audience,
smiles uncertainly,
puts his chair at the table
(as the first guy leaves)
and takes his time to arrange for his poetry reading
in the coffee house,
taking out papers and putting them on the table
pouring a glass of water
sitting down in a chair at the table
looking through the papers
and finally,
when the singing stops,
from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The one tree in Francie's yard
was neither a pine nor a hemlock.
It had pointed leaves
which grew along green switches
which radiated from the bough
and made a tree
which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas.
Some people called it the Tree of Heaven.
No matter where its seed fell,
it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky.
It grew in boarded-up lots
and out of neglected rubbish heaps
and it was the only tree that grew out of cement.
It grew lushly,
but only in the tenements districts.

You took a walk on a Sunday afternoon
and came to a nice neighborhood,
very refined.
You saw a small one of these trees
through the iron gate
leading to someone's yard
and you knew that soon that section of Brooklyn
would get to be
a tenement district.
The tree knew.
It came there first.
poor foreigners seeped in
and the quiet old brownstone houses
were hacked up into flats,
feather beds were pushed out on the window sills to air
and the Tree of Heaven flourished.
That was the kind of tree it was.
It liked poor people.

[A song of wild wailing from Macedonia.
It could be, for example, that
Dionisis Savopoulos and Sotiria Bellou sing Zeibekiko.
Or Nikos Xylouris sings the mournful San Erthoun Mana I Fili Mou.

Or it could be the old Italian singer Giovanna Marini.

Harry gets up from the card table,
puts his papers together,
looks around uncertainly,
as though the host of the poetry reading
should be coming out to introduce the next speaker,
looks off in the other direction,
then pushes his chair in under the table
and walks off, still very uncertainly

as the entire cast comes out:
an elderly couple, a couple of kids
—this is a world of Sikhs, Turks, Russians,
Jews, Muslims, Italians, Asians, African-Americans—
and they all dance to the music,
a neighborhood dance in the streets,
and, one or two at a time,
they all dance back out

Scene 67. The Bed

Yusef comes out,
in a snit, exhausted,
wheeling a bed out with him,
checks where he has put it,
decides it's OK there,
goes back out,
comes back with a pillow
and a blanket,
followed by his wife,

For me,
it's not the beginning, it's the end.
No. No.
If this is how you are
for me it's over.
How it is for a man:
you can't be like this!
Talking late at night
having a conversation
after we have gone to bed
and it is time to sleep
because a person has to get up in the morning
and go to work!
And what is this to have a conversation in bed at midnight!
You should go back to your father's house
because, for us, it's finished.


you should feel free,
from here
from this home
take whatever can't live without
take whatever you love
and go back to your father.
For me,
I'm worn out.
I am exhausted.


I will have a nap.

[he puts an eye mask over his eyes,
lies down
and goes immediately to sleep.]


[he is asleep
she is shocked and undone.
her friend Birbal enters]

What is it?

Yusef says
for us
our marriage is over.
I think I wear him out
because I love him
and if you love a person
you want to take care of him
and make him happy with good stories
about what happened in the day
while he was gone.
Ask him: what does he think?
And if my friend says such and such
what does he think I should say?
Because he is good at this,
knowing what to say.

What did he say?

He said go away
go back to your father's house.
Take whatever you can't live without
take whatever you love
and go.

What's the problem, then?

What's the problem?

If he tells you you may take with you what you love
then take him with you.

Take him with me!

I'll help you.
You take that end.
I'll take this end.
We'll take him in the bed
to your father's house.
No problem.

Take him with me!
Oh, good! Good!
Thank you, Birbal!
Take him with me!

[Birbal and Anna wheel the bed out.]

Scene 8. The Kid from Brooklyn : Starbucks

A video is projected
of a three hundred pound guy in a wife beater undershirt
his hair slicked back, wearing sunglasses,
sitting in a black leather desk chair in his office,
shelves with stuff on them,
papers on the table next to him,
his shirt tossed over something behind him.

He speaks:
Hey, the big man's back. www. the kid from
You know, the big man got up this morning
you know I felt like having a hot cup of coffee
and a piece of pound cake
I wound up in one of them Starbucks you know
I knew the joint wasn't right soon as I walked in you know
I seen these people sitting on couches
lounge chairs
whatever they were fucking drinking
they looked like fucking ice cream cones
fucking mounds of fucking whipped cream
and fucking all kinds of shit on top you know
finally I get up to the girl
she says you want an el grande?
you want a chocolate latto?
carmelo latto?
cherry lite?
I say listen honey
I don't know what kind of fucking place this is
I just want a large fucking coffee
and a fresh piece of fucking pound cake you know
she says that's seven dollars
plus she had the fucking balls
to have a fucking tip cup over there
she expect me to give her a fucking tip
I says seven fucking dollars for a fucking coffee
and a fucking pound cake?
fucking stick it
I went right around the corner to fucking Pancake House
I take an oath to my mother
I take the fucking breakfast special
two eggs over, home fries
bacon, sausage, two pancakes
all the coffee you can drink
threw in a shot of fucking OJ
and for an extra buck and a half
they gave me a fucking cheese danish
I walked out of there fucking stuffed
cost me eight and a quarter for the whole fucking ball o' wax
I could have eat the rest of the fucking day
what's a fucking working man supposed to do?
you go to one of them fucking Starbucks
the poor working guy
what do they think they're fucking serving over there?
fucking liquid gold?
fucking cup of coffee and a piece of pound cake
for seven dollars?
stick it up your ass, fucking Starbucks!
what about the fucking working man?
anyway, thinking about it
this is the old Big Man
and the Big Man's always happy to see you.

Scene 12.

While Big Mike speaks,
a woman enters, comes center stage,
stands looking straight out.
She lifts her dress up above her head
hiding her upper body entirely
exposing herself from the waist down
and takes a long, slow exit.

Scene 55. Macho

6 guys line up at the front of the stage
their backs to the audience,
and they watch
while 6 women dance for them—
a lonely, sad unison dance
while a soprano sings.

The guys are watching out of simple prurient interest,
but also to figure out how these women dance,
how a person dances to this kind of music.
What kind of music is it?
Kazakh folk songs?

A woman is lying on the floor.
One of the guys steps forward,
leans down, and locks lips with her
and raises her from the floor into the dance
with lips permanently locked in a kiss.

They go on and on and on and on and on
until he passes out and falls to the ground in a heap.

She turns to another guy and locks lips with him immediately
and they dance
but she stops them, interrupts the dance
to tell him he is dancing the wrong way
they lock lips and dance again
she stops to correct him again
until she spins around, grabs the sleeve of his shirt
and rips it.
Then he is pissed;
they argue;
they argue and argue and argue and argue and argue,
till the guy turns front and takes a dance posture
and flexes his bicep
he flexes his bicep to the music
2 guys join him in bicep flexing dance
all in unison.
Then they all do a hip thrust
very macho
then turns upstage and wiggle their butts
(not SO macho)
they move through other male display dance moves
finger snapping, etc
Then the women step up and do the same male display moves.

When they have finished,
the women just turn and walk off scornfully.
And the men look at one another,
not knowing quite what to do,
and then, one by one,
they turn and leave, too.

Scene 18. The Rent

Harry comes out again,
looking shy and uncertain,
a sheaf of papers in his hand,
and then he takes his place at the table,
and reads.

The landlord, Mr. Wallenstein, was a big, broad man
with a huge black beard,
and he had learned two English words:
"The Rent."
Twice a month he knocked on the door
and my mother went to open it.
The man never stepped across the threshold.
My mother would say,
"Hello, Mr. Wallenstein, how are you;
how is your family?"
Mr. Wallenstein got scared.
Mr. Wallenstein always got scared
when he got a big hello.
A big hello was bad news,
maybe an excuse that the rent was not available,
so all through my mother's effusiveness,
Mr. Wallenstein, without waiting for her to complete a sentence,
kept repeating over and over again,
"The rent, the rent,"
and when my mother said,
"How about some tea, Mr. Wallenstein?"
that really scared the daylights out of him,
and he raised his voice,
"The rent, the rent!"
I wish I had a recording of that.

Scene 51. The Brooklyn Girl

The actors all come out
put chairs in a row across the stage
and sit with their backs to the audience
watching for several minutes the video by Laurel Nakadate
from the P.S. 1 show Greater New York 2005
in which a young Asian girl wearing a girl scout sash stands
with fireworks going off behind her
and then we see squirrels close up
and then we see her dragged across a beach by a guy
and then we see her lying on a highway overpass with a dead bird
and then we see her dancing in her bra and underpants on her bed
as we see her figure out how to grow up
and make her own world to live in.
(Laurel Nakadate's work can also be seen on the internet.)

Scene 44. Cell Phones

Nine actors on cell phones at the same time
having the same conversation
about a love affair
a breakup
each taking different lines of the same conversation
or of archtypical conversations around this event
archetypal lines.

Then there is music
and they all sing.

Deborah Kapchan
Kazakh folk songs
LuakaBop on the internet

Scene 52. Home

Lisa comes out
followed by two guys carrying plywood panels.
As she talks,
they go on and off,
bringing in more pieces of flat wood,
chunks of plywood,
strips of plywood,
triangles of plywood,
little rectangles of plywood
a long strip of cloth that they hang from the top edge
of a piece of plywood
a can of paint
some pieces of plywood are painted a nice blue
or a bright red
or canary yellow
and some of them just have a stroke of paint here and there

So, you can put them over there.
Just lean them against the front of the store I think.
Or against that lamp post. That's better. That's good. Right.
[to the audience]
This is, you know, under construction
when I get it finished
I think
it will look sort of
there will be like a big big panel here

[and some of these lines she takes to the guys
as they bring in more stuff]

and then a little panel here
a triangle maybe
maybe leaning against the big panel you know
and then something blue
something a sort of light sky blue
because I think of it as a kind of
unfinished middle class living room you know
that we have been sort of creating since
the middle of the nineteenth century
the idea of a cozy sort of family room
where the family lives
and feels at home and comfortable
because they are middle class
and we're still trying to get it just right
like we're never finished sort of trying to rearrange it
so you know
I'm planning to finish it
probably it needs a little
I don't know
another touch of blue
or a kind of mauve
and then
sometimes I look at it
and I like it just the way it is
so I think
I don't want to touch it
I just want to leave it exactly as it is.

[Big orchestral music
and a woman comes out with a floor lamp
and dances
and places it here and there
trying first this place, then that,
to the music
and finally dances out with the lamp
not happy with any of the places
she has tried it out.]

Scene 87. The Kid from Brooklyn: Sheiks

A video is projected
of a four hundred pound guy in a wife beater undershirt
his hair slicked back, wearing sunglasses,
sitting in a black leather desk chair in his office,
shelves with stuff on them,
papers on the table next to him,
his shirt tossed over something behind him.

He speaks:
The Big Man's back.
www dot the Kid from Brooklyn dot com
Ya know
I want to give ya a little education today
ya see, these uh oil uh shieks
over there in uh Saudia Arabia
ya know the oil barons
they run the world ya know
they make two million a minute ya know
now they're making two million a minute
every time that fucking oil well goes boom
two minutes later ya got another fucking million
in the fucking bank ya know
I'm gonna tell ya something
which most of you people don't fucking know
ya see these Arabs
they wear their underwear once
they throw it in the fucking garbage
they wear socks one time they throw it in the garbage
they wear a fucking shirt one time
they throw it in the garbage
they wear a fucking $3000 suit one time
they don't bring it to a fucking dry cleaner
they throw it away you know why?
they got fucking money to burn ya know
when you got fucking money to burn
imagine fucking wearing a new pair underwear every day
new shirt every day
new fucking suit every day
and throw em they throw em in the fucking garbage
I wanna tell ya these Arabs
they know how to fucking live
cuz lemme tell ya they got fucking people
coming in waking them up
giving them baths
wiping their ass
cleaning their shit
they don't do fucking nothing that's all
they're ever blessed Allah fucking blessed 'em
with that fucking oil they got there
think about it
imagine that
not even throwing out your fucking dirty underwear
putting on a new pair every day
new socks every day
I tell you that's the fucking life.
Anyway, this is the Big Man signing off
www dot the Kid from Brooklyn dot com
We'll get 'em in the next life.

Scene 107. Bikini

While Big Mike speaks,
a girl in bikini underwear runs in and out
L to R
R to L etc
L to R
R to L etc.

Scene 66. The Line

Six people stand in a line
and, finally, a seventh person joins the line.

Is this the line for the Certificates of Good Conduct?

The what?

The Certificates of Good Conduct?

What is that?

A certificate of good conduct, from the police department.

What do you do with that?

If you want to get certain jobs.
Or sometimes if you want to adopt a baby from China,
then the Chinese government wants to see
that you are a person of good conduct.

And the police department certifies you?


The police department?


Jeez. Like....

Like Russia.

Right. Like Russia. Or China.

Is this where you get one?


You get those at 1 Police Plaza.

Oh. You're sure?

Sure I'm sure. I got one when I adopted my daughter.

You have a daughter from China?

The Empress.

The Empress?

I call her The Empress.

Do people think it's, like, odd that you have a Chinese daughter?

Do you?

Oh, no. No. I mean: no.

Because a lot of people approach you
because you are with a child of another race
and think that entitles them to get all up in your business.

No. No, I wouldn't think that at all.

I was at this nature place once
and there was a vet there who was ultrasounding a pregnant alpaca—


You know, the animal?

Oh, right.

And we were asking (jokingly)
if she could tell if it was a boy or a girl.
'Cause girl alpacas are worth a shitload of money
and boy alpacas typically are worth very little,
so you want your dams to be having as many girls as possible.
And the vet said that there is no way to tell with alpacas,
which was just as well because otherwise
everyone would be aborting all the males.
And one of the other people there said,
"Yeah, this isn't China."
and my hackles immediately went up
and I just wanted to walk over to that woman
and slap her as hard as I could
(normally I'm not a violent person,
but I really had the urge, I'm telling you.)
Later I was thinking about it,
and I couldn't figure out why I was so upset about it....
because I think that probably
there would be abortions of females in China
if they were allowed to sex babies by ultrasounds.
And then I realized that what pissed me off so much
was the way she said it.
Her voice was dripping with self-righteous judgment.
It was full of
"we are so much better than the barbaric Chinese who kill babies" attitude.
THAT'S what pissed me off
because I'm sure I don't have to tell you
that this woman doesn't know JACK SHIT about China
or the complexities of reproduction and the one-child policy there.
I would have liked to have educated her,
but I couldn't right at the moment
(the vet was talking to the group
and she was across the barn from me
with about 20 people between us.)
I wonder if I should have pulled her aside later,
but what do you say?
How about "You are a stupid fucking moron!"


What is this line for?

Oh, this is the line for the notary public.

You need something notarized?

Sure. Who doesn't?

[a voice from off: Move forward please!
and so they all shuffle off]

Scene 23. The Orchestra

The cast comes out with musical instruments in hand
and sit in a semi-circle.
They don't really play these instruments—
and yet they can make amazing sounds with them
and they gradually drown out the recorded orchestra
ending with a Big Noise,
and, when that ends,
everyone sings
When Somebody Loves You
while they continue to make music with their instruments
but, finally, one woman's harsh almost screaming singing
dominates the room
and people begin to leave one by one.
The last guy tries to stop her from screaming singing,
and she kicks the shit out of him
gets him down on the ground
pounding and kicking him
while she finishes the song.

Scene 26. Ear Plugs

Anna and Birbal push Yusef's bed onstage,
as Yusef sits up in bed.

Where am I?
What happened?
Is there an earthquake?

ANNA [putting her hand on Yusef's shoulder to calm him]
Yusef, no, it's OK.
There's no earthquake.

I'm sorry
I bumped your bed.

It's OK.
You can settle back down.

What happened?

It's nothing.

[she eyechecks with Birbal]

I'm just putting together my things to leave.
I'm sorry I bumped your bed.
Can I get you anything?

No. Thank you.

A drink of water?

No, thanks.

Another blanket?

No. Thank you, Anna.

I would do anything for you, Yusef,
you know that.

Yes, thank you, Anna.

[a loud sound of crashing from off stage
shattering plates,
garbage can lids
steel shelves collapsing,
a booming sound

and Yusef sits up in a panic

What was that?!?!?!?!??!?
Where am I?

You're having a nightmare, Yusef!!!!!
Calm down!!!!!
Quick, sniff this handkerchief!

[she puts a handkerchief over his mouth and nose

and he slowly subsides,

sinks back down to the pillow]

Are you asleep, Yusef?

[no answer]

Are you asleep?


Are you asleep, Yusef?


[and now is this followed by deafening music and dance as they leave?]

Scene 146. The Irish

When the reservoir was built in New York,
the labor was imported from Ireland.
Passage to America and return to Ireland was guaranteed,
and the pay was four cents an hour.
Good, work clothes, and lodgings (tents)
were also provided.
They worked ten hours a day,
six days a week.
On Sundays, the Irish laborers were taken to famous Ulmer Park
on the outskirts of the city
where a picnic of free beer was provided.
The first strike by the Irish
was for an increase in pay to five cents an hour.
They lost.

Scene 18. Duet

A woman enters and stands still.
A man enters and throws himself repeatedly to the floor.
Finally she does, too,
but at last she leaves
leaving him to go on until he is exhausted,
lying on the ground
as another scene enters and begins.

Scene 56. Dad

My dad called me today to tell me all about his concert. He was ecstatic...apparently it went off fabulously and he got a 10-minute standing ovation. It was the crowning moment of his life, he said. How wonderful! I am so disappointed that I had to miss it.

After we talked about that, he asked if I'd heard from the MFA committee yet. I explained that my submission has only been there a week and that it would probably be a couple of months before I hear anything. He jumped in and said, "Good! Oh good! So there's still hope...heh heh!" in this overly enthusiastic way like he really doesn't think I have a snowball's chance in hell. Then he said, "And you know, don't feel bad if they don't take you, 'cause it's probably just a bunch of egos getting in the way."

Um.....ok. Can't say it had even crossed my mind this early in the game.

THEN he went on in that same vein for a long time and I was just sitting there thinking that he really doesn't think I'm going to be accepted. I don't have any idea where all of this is coming from.
Then he said, "Someday you'll get a 10-minute standing ovation after a reading and you'll have that wonderful feeling of success, too."

Well, no. Standing ovations tend not to happen at poetry readings. So I said to him that I'd get that feeling of success if I published an entire book of my poems and he jumped in and said, "Yes, and you'll sell a million copies!", actually. Poetry is kind of a forgotten art and it doesn't have that much popular appeal. I don't need to sell a million copies to feel successful.

What IS it with him? He is going way over the top with this fakey enthusiasm and instead of making me feel supported (which I think is what he's trying for) I feel totally patronized.

At what point in our lives do our parents finally stop making us crazy?

Scene 12.

A woman enters, comes center stage,
stands looking straight out.
She lifts her dress up above her head
hiding her upper body entirely
exposing herself from the waist down
and takes a long, slow exit.

Scene 48. Sex

There is a constant simulcast projection on a big screen of live action as it is happening in the moment on stage,
and also pre-recorded stuff
of the same actor we are seeing on stage,
but of her in the dressing room
then leaving the dressing room
then standing just off-stage preparing to come on
then leaving the stage
and returning to her dressing room
and also two small TV sets on a bar with irrelevant movies playing, and projected over the set and back wall as a whole,
another continuous Hollywood movie
while she speaks:

"Two weeks is a long time without sex,"
I heard someone say yesterday.
When you've been married 12 years
and you've got children,
sex every two weeks, hell, every two months,
is cause for celebration.
Forget about exchanging loving glances across any part of the house.
I am either fixing my kids' lunches
or figuring out where someone's homework folder is.
Let's face it.
Romantic sentiments including sex
have no place in a marriage with children.
When they all turn 18
perhaps there'll be time for such pursuits,
but will we still know each other then?
I am looking at a picture of my husband's grandparents
standing in front of their pharmacy
on the corner of Coney Island Avenue and Locust.
I am told this picture was taken in the fifties
during the pharmacy's heyday.
Riva and Sol worked here morning till night,
only taking quick lunch breaks
upstairs in their one bedroom apartment.
It was also here that they raised their daughter,
my mother-in-law.
I have often wondered what sort of marriage they had.
In the picture Riva stands proud,
determined and independent.
Sol's demeanor is resigned,
almost defeated.
I doubt if they ever had a chance to
exchange loving glances at each other during the day,
much less at night when they tumbled into bed.
Theirs was the American dream.
Two Jewish immigrants who had done well
and sacrificed much.

Scene 118. The Cockroach

A woman puts a soft cello case over her back
so she looks like a cockroach
and does a cockroach dance on the floor
to music.

Scene 8.

An old woman sings.
She's just that: some old woman from a village
with a faltering raspy voice.
who has been singing in the village all her life
and when she sings
you think she comes from a thousand years of living.
It could be the Italian singer Giovanna Marini.

An older man enters
and sits in a chair on the other side of the 'stage'
he seems to be an elegant, older Mafia don
a rectangle of light is put on him from the side
and he looks a little like a Magritte painting.

A young woman in a dress with a red crown of flowers
comes Downstage and smokes cigarette smiling
just that, no more, and is happy

After a moment,
a little guy in dunce cap walks in and around.

A woman in an elegant black dress
does a passionate dance to the music
and then throws herself to the ground on her back
over and over and over
as she kicks and writhes wildly on the ground on her back
like a cockroach frantic on its back.

A guy stands to one side with bloody hands
showing them to the audience

A young man with Down syndrome
enters wearing a crimson prom dress.

An extremely tall skinny naked guy with caked blood on his head
and his entire body charcoal black——burned from head to toe—
does butoh walking
but seems genuinely to have mobility issues
walks stumbles shuffles lurches on his tiptoes
falls over to the side
goes into a crouch
goes to the ground

A woman in a beautiful black dress enters
dragging a guy by the hand
he is naked from the waist up
she shoves him to the ground roughly over and over.

A guy enters wearing a wedding dress
and he is still standing there
as everyone else leaves.

Scene 38.

A guy with Down Syndrome enters with a goat on a rope
he sits in a chair, holding onto the rope.

The narrator comes on
gently takes the guy by the hand
and leads him around the periphery of the stage
just in front of the front row of the fan-shaped stage
as a kind person would tend to a needy person in any village in the world
taking them through the streets
and takes him out.

Scene 23.

A woman in silver sheath enters and dances
4 more women in silver sheaths enter to dance
one in red silver, one in blue silver

now a church choir sings gregorian chant dirge
as another woman in a black dress and also a black veil
enters up center and comes all the way slowly down center
holding a bouquet of flowers in front of her
motionless in every way except her walking very slowly
to lay the bouquet flowers on the ground
her eyes are streaming tears of blood.

Scene 36. The Funeral

Some very long ten minutes of total silence
with dirge music (Polish music?)
for the death of a child or a grandfather.

Scene 16.

The guy with Down Syndrome enters and sits on box
he has on a strait jacket
watches TV on packing crates
he frees his hands and eats bread and sings along with TV
making drumming motions with his hands

old woman in black with guitar
sings an Italian lament

Mafia guy comes in and gently escorts the guy with Down Syndrome out
while old woman plays

narrator voiceover
while we hear the inarticulate sounds made by the guy with Down Syndrome

Mafia don removes the strait jacket from the Down Syndrome guy
he and the Down Syndrome guy kick a soccer ball back and forth
(really a ball of old cloth)
and leave kicking it

The old woman sings and plays alone
as lights go slowly to black.

Scene 3. The Epileptic Dances

while twelve others just stand there watching,
to music by Mozart.
Or it could be someone with some extreme motor skill difficulty
while the others watch
and then,
toward the end,
the others join in the dance, too,
not mocking the dancer
but appreciating and emulating his aesthetic.

Scene 44. The Computerized Soap Dish

A guy comes in with a small cardboard box
which he puts down on the card table.
He opens it carefully
and takes out an object,
which he treats delicately.
So he can both point to this object,
and also gesture with his hands
to explain what he is talking about.

you take a soap dish
a plain round plastic soap dish
say a half to three quarters of an inch thick
of the kind you can
stick into the wall
above the sink in the bathroom.
And you slice the dish in half
around its circumference
so that you have two discs
and you should have a hollowed-out inside.
That's where you will want to put your computer components,
your chip and your various lights and sensors and indicators
so that you can obtain a reading of moisture levels
soap residues
your scent indicator
your density indicator
which can be set in such a way that you have a reading
on soap content
which is to say how creamy your soap is
how it ought to froth up when you use it
so you have a sense of your different soaps
your miniaturized scale so you have a running tally
of your remaining soap weight
which will tell you when you are getting low on soap.
These will be the basics of your computerized soap dish
that will give you continuous read-outs on all the things
you will be needing to know
about your soap.

You can, uh,
email me with any questions.
I'm happy to answer them anytime.

[he gathers up his stuff,
puts it back in the box,
looks around to see if there is anyone else there
to tell him what to do,
leaves a little embarrassedly]

Scene 88. The Lottery

[Jean enters,
carrying her cardboard box.
She goes to the card table,
opens her box,
and takes out a handful of cards.]

This, basically,
is all you'll need
to build your lottery ticket house.


I mean,
you'll need a lot of them!
But they're not hard to find.
You can build the entire house of discarded tickets.

I myself am building several apartment buildings
arranged around a central courtyard
with a playground in the middle for the children.

What you do is,
I mean I think everyone basically knows how to
build a house of cards?

So you place them like this.
I use a scissors
to cut the little places where you want to
join the two cards together.
And then just a little spot of glue.
Like this.

There you have it.
Two cards joined together,
this is the basic unit.

You take another two cards,
cut the little place,
join them together.
Spot of glue.
And put them with the first two cards
and you have a room.

You can leave an open space between the two units
for two doorways.
Or, of course, you can put them together to make your room
and then you would want to cut out a little door.
One more card for the roof,
and there you have it.

You group some rooms
say five or ten or twenty
depending on how large a building you want to build
and that becomes your ground floor.
And you build up from there.
I've built thirty-four story buildings
with lottery tickets.
As well as
car ports,
river piers
small stand-alone ranch houses,
bigger summer houses with decks and terraces,
swimming pools.

The most amazing thing, obviously,
is that your discarded lottery tickets are all free
and since you are investing your own labor
that's essentially free, too.
So, in this way,
you can always have a place to live
that is beautiful
and even, in fact,
a work of art.

And then, too, of course,
if you incorporate in your work
the occasional lottery ticket that you purchase,
rather than making the whole thing out of discarded tickets,
then you also have a chance at
capital appreciation
just as you do with any other real estate investment.

I'll be in the lobby afterwards
if there are any questions?

[she gathers up her tickets and her box,
and leaves]

Scene 17. The Developer

Lisa enters with a couple of construction workers
who stand behind her while she talks.

This thing is
I have sort of come up with this plan
for a whole new neighborhood
I mean of course
leaving the neighborhood we begin with
but naturally evolving also into a new neighborhood
which will have a big sort of
Frank Gehry building right here
something silver
and with big swooping
sort of swooping things
rising into the sky
like aspirations
or transportingness of a kind
and then apartment buildings along the avenue
about ten blocks worth of mixed income housing
but maybe that would be designed also
by Frank Gehry
and then there would be
down more or less near Ocean Parkway
an amphitheater
where there can be football and Nascar racing
so you would have pennants
and big signs and billboards about gas and oil
and also a baseball stadium
and it would be the race track of the future
just as the stadium itself
or the amphitheater itself
is a reference to the race tracks of the past
which is Greece

[we begin to hear a sound track of cheering,
the sounds of a baseball stadium
and also of racing cars
and, finally, of radio advertising]

and there would be possibly
some new teams
which I think would bring out some new sponsors
so that what would begin with new architectural plans
as anyone of course would always hope
would lead to new city plans
and new human plans
and there would be some thinking ahead
as well as thinking back
and cherishing and relishing the moment
and you would also begin to have a sense of perspective
as though you might see a vanished civilization
from outer space
ancient cities
and detonating and crumbling and rebuilding
so that you would treasure life itself
this would be the goal, finally,
to treasure life itself
in all its manifestations
under the sea and on the surface of the earth
and also in space

[Now we hear guys singing It's Raining Men
while a group of construction workers
stretch out a yellow tarp.]

Scene 61. Rain Delay

We hear the song
It's Raining Men
by Paul Jabara and Paul Schaffer

Humidity's rising
Barometer's getting low
According to all sources
The street's the place to go

'Cos tonight for the first time
At just about half past ten
For the first time in history
It's gonna start raining men

It's raining men
Hallelujah it's raining men, Amen
It's raining men
Hallelujah it's raining men, Amen

Humidity's rising
Barometer's getting low
According to all sources
The street's the place to go

'Cos tonight for the first time
At just about half past ten
For the first time in history
It's gonna start raining men

It's raining men
Hallelujah it's raining men, Amen
I'm gonna go out
I'm gonna let myself get
Absolutely soaking wet

It's raining men
Hallelujah it's raining men
Every specimen
Tall blond dark and mean
Rough and tough and strong and lean

God bless Mother Nature
She's a single woman too
She took on a heaven
And she did what she had to do
She taught every angel
To rearrange the sky
So that each and every woman
Could find her perfect guy

It's raining men
Go get yourself wet girl
I know you want to

I feel stormy weather moving in
About to begin
Hear the thunder
Don't you lose your head
Rip off the roof and stay in bed

It's raining men Hallelujah
It's raining men, Amen
It's raining men Hallelujah
It's raining men, Amen

It's raining men Hallelujah
It's raining men, Amen
It's raining men Hallelujah
It's raining men, Amen

[And, while we hear the song
the construction crew
starts to cover the stage with a huge yellow tarp.

They have to pause frequently in their work
to do unison dances to the song.
This is humiliating to different degrees for each of them.

And then,
while the construction crew finishes the job
the umpires come on and do a dance with umbrellas.

They are totally straight faced but there is a lot of hip shaking.

At the end of the dance
the construction crew joins the umpires for a full cast rain delay dance.

Scene 15. Yusef Wakes Up

YUSEF [waking up}
Where am I?

Oh, Yusef, are you OK?

Yes, I'm OK. Where am I?

we're at my father's house.

Your father's house?


What are we doing there?

You remember, Yusef,
you told me to go away,
to come back to my father's house.
And you said
I could bring with me whatever I loved.


So I've brought you.

You brought me?

Oh, Anna,
I love you.

I love you.

I don't know how I was ever so lucky to find you.
The best thing I ever did in my life
was to ask you to marry me.
And I'd marry you again and again and again
if you'd have me.
I'm so sorry.
You are my only treasure.
You deserve only what is good and sweet.
You are so precious.
If you'll take me back,
I'll never leave you again.

You never did leave me.

[they kiss]

Scene 22. New Immigrants

For me,
my early morning impression
was of young boys streaming out of tenements
to go to the synagogue to say kaddish for a departed parent
before going to school,
and maybe also carrying up a fifty-pound bag of coal
before breakfast.
Everybody worked all the time,
and if there was no job,
people worked at something;
they sorted rags or sewed garments,
or fixed flowers and feathers for hat manufacturers.
People scrabbled for a little living.
They did everything for children.
My son will be a doctor, they'd say,
or a lawyer, mayb a teacher.
I never heard anyone express lesser hopes for his child.
A man peddled fourteen hours, maybe,
and brought home two dollars after he paid off his merchandise
and his cart hire,
or he brought home eleven dollars a week
from the factory for fifty-four hours' work.
Who has ever seen such optimism anywhere on earth?
The night before High Holy Days—
everything would become quiet—
that whole teeming district of tenements
would suddenly come to a complete halt.
You'd see workingmen with shiny faces
coming out of the public baths
and walking home and holding hands with their sons,
and you've never seen its equal for brightness and happiness.
Where else on earth, among the poorest people,
did you see in every home a blue-and-white box
where you were supposed to put your pennies?
Once a week
an old woman would come around and empty it
and off it would go somewhere overseas—
the poorest of the poor helping still poorer ones
across the Atlantic somewhere.
Hundreds of sweatshop employees,
men and women who sat at machines for nine and ten hours a day
came home,
washed up,
had supper,
and went to the lodge hall or settlement houses
to learn English
or to listen to a fellow read poetry to them.
PAID readers of poetry. I saw it.
I saw gangsters and bums,
but I also saw poets,
settlement workers,
welfare workers,
all hoping and striving for one goal—
to break away—
and they did, too—
and so they made room for new immigrants.

Scene 55. Coney Island Baby

Coney Island Baby—song by Tom Waits
with archival footage of coney island

And, while we hear the song and see the video:

Scene 95.

A guy breaks a dozen wine bottles on the cobblestones
or into a box,
puts his face into the pile of broken glass,
has another guy stand on his neck
to press his face down into the glass—
some miraculous trick
to avoid being cut,
he stands up with a lacerated forehead—
while a teen age girl hands out fliers for some other show.

Scene 71. The Sumo Ballet

It is only to be hoped
that one of these days
someone will be able to stage this play
with a ballet
performed by three sumo wrestlers in tutus and toe shoes
to the music of Shoukichi Kina.

Scene 82. Freak Show

a freak show at Coney Island?
maybe not doing a freak show but backstage putting on makeup? and talking about the act? perfecting it, what still needs to be done to make it perfect?
or a roller coaster ride?
or the 4th of July parade?
everyone in their costumes,
which they can then remove
and have swimming suits underneath

Scene 2. The End

everyone at the beach in swimsuits
sing and dance to
a Beach Boys number
or a Russian song
or a Tuvan song?


A NOTE: Coney Island Avenue was greatly inspired by the theatre work of Pippo del Bonno and Constanza Macras, and it incorporates texts from the Tales of Birbal from the court of Emperor Akbar, Harry Golden, Betty Smith, and blogs and podcasts from the internet, among others.

Charles Mee's work has been made possible by the support of Richard B. Fisher and Jeanne Donovan Fisher.

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