Chaco has been on my mind for years. I started a play about Willa Cather’s trip to the southwest, based on a fragment from a biography; since I was not being literal, I spelled her name with one ‘l’. The play is unfinished. — Sallie
May 27, 2003
A full-length play, no intermissions, 90 minutes. Cast: Wila and Edith, the young archeologist, her older lover, Eve, the video store guy.
Set: at left, the x-rated video shack, huge sign. Over it, an enormous billboard with a picture of a pensive Jesus. Under the picture, “JESUS IS WATCHING YOU.” Center stage, a large boulder, on which Wila and Edith are sitting, wearing long skirts, boots, jackets, hats, gloves. At right, a crumbling ancient wall. Beside the wall, ANNIE is kneeling, cleaning a chink with a small brush. She wears shorts, t-short, no bra, sandals, a hat. As she cleans, she is reciting:
“A little stone city, asleep”
(Looking up, attentive) Quoting is not allowed under the terms of my will.
Never mind that now, Dear. Turn your attention to how long we’re going to be stranded here. The sun is setting…
That was Mesa Verde, as the Willa first saw it. Chaco she didn’t explore, didn’t get to define it—
No time. Edith was determined to get back to New York.
Wila, you had opera tickets.
Manon, with… The only true voice I’ve ever heard.
(Reciting as she brushes)…
(She finds Eve, apparently a mummy, in the stone wall. Gradually, Eve revives and begins to tell her story, the story of a culture’s survival and destruction, showing her techniques of conservation—which only Annie can hear. Wila intertwines this with her writing of “The Professor’s House” — rattlesnakes, their rescue, etc. Her relationship with Edith unfolds…Purchase of the grave plot in New Hampshire. They are not aware of Annie’s conversation with Eve although there should be curious correspondences.
In the second act, the video store man is challenged by Annie’s patron/lover. Wila and Edith are rescued. Annie’s p/l sees the discovery of Eve, wants to exploit it; Eve doesn’t speak to him, appears again to be a mummy. Annie refuses to let this happen—he feels he controls her through money—and Eve is returned to her cranny.
Wila leaves to write the novel.
Annie continues her exploration of Chaco, which will become her book and the healing of her solitude through a relationship with the XXX man (?).