Is the Mind Not of the Body: A Play

Is the Mind Not of the Body: A Play

This week, I wrote a short play.

In studying the later Victorian Era and writers such as Oscar Wilde and the ceaseless traveler Robert Louis Stevenson, I was tasked with exploring the perpetual identity crisis of the time. When “Being Ernest” was actually dishonest and Mr. Hyde was indeed Dr. Jekyll, writers also found themselves hiding their true selves as in the tragic case of Oscar Wilde.

I enjoy flexing my creativity in ways that are not typical of my normal fiction writing. This lends itself well to becoming a well rounded writer and an author unbound by genre.

This is another historical piece with twists and turns. It is a short, one scene play, of which I have only written one other a couple of years ago HERE. Feedback is always encouraged and appreciated as it helps me become a better writer. CHEERS!!

Characters

DOCTOR HANK CHARLESTON, a psychotherapist in his late 50s

CHARLIE HENDERSON, a troubled man and subject of HANK’s psychoanalysis

 

Setting

In DOCTOR CHARLESTON’s office, early 1900 Europe

 

At rise, CHARLIE is seated in a chair across from HANK, sitting identically across from him. The two are separated by a wall but visible to each other through what appears to the audience as an open threshold.

 

HANK

Good morning, sir. Let’s start by introducing ourselves. This is an easy enough practice. I am Doctor Hank Charleston, as I am sure your caretakers have informed you. Please, tell me who you are.

CHARLIE

I am Ernest.

HANK

You are earnest as in honest, or you prefer the name Ernest?

CHARLIE

It’s not up for interpretation. It is what it is. I am Ernest.

HANK

Fair enough, Ernest. From where do you hail?

CHARLIE

I am from nowhere. I’ve stayed mobile through my days and claim no place as my home.

HANK

Alright, from where do your parents hail?

(Both men shift in their seat)

CHARLIE

They reside in Edinburgh, where I was born. But I am not from there. I take pieces of places that I travel and carry them with me in spirit. I visit France, and gain a French accent. I travel to New York and develop short patience. My influences stay fluid.

HANK

Do you understand why you are here today?

CHARLIE

I am ill in body.

HANK

Ah, you see I am a doctor of the mind.

 

CHARLIE

The mind is of the body, good doctor. I assure you I am not crazy.

HANK

Are you of nobility or of poverty?

CHARLIE

I am of that which I am. If I appear rich to you, then am I not a rich man? If I appear a pauper, do I not have any worth? My social standing has little to do with the weight of my purse.

HANK

You would appear to me as a man of indecision, Mr. Henderson.

CHARLIE

I am Ernest.

HANK

Pardon me, Ernest. I can see already that my agenda means little to you in the ways of treatment. What is it you wish me to do for you that I cannot decide by my observations?

CHARLIE

I wish for you to look away from what is in front of you. By looking too deep into a subject, one will draw their very own conclusions which would be contrary to that of its true intention.

 

 

HANK

What is your true intention, might I ask? If assumedly one is wrong, how then can one know the true meaning if not told outright?

CHARLIE

It is no concern the true meaning, that is simply the point. Let be and it holds its place where it belongs.

HANK

Where you belong.

CHALRIE

I am Ernest.

HANK

I am beginning to think that your claim to honesty and earnestness is simply a diversion to a lie you wish me to believe.

CHARLIE

Who is lying to whom, doctor? I tell you of my life and you tell me it is a lie? One that would not know me from the next fellow would tell me where I am from and what I am called.

 

 

HANK

In my profession, I am accustomed to one attempting to mislead me into thinking they are one way, when indeed they are quite the opposite. You tell me are Ernest, but you leave little evidence to a namesake or a state of moral being of that which you claim. I ask what you would have me believe and you talk around the answer, attempting to divert my attention from the answers I seek to that which you wish to allude to.

 

CHARLIE

(laughs) I travel to India and live amongst the soldiers. They reform the people and guide them to civilization. Where they had been hungry, they were fed. Where there had been chaos, the soldiers supplied order. Where they had been savages, the white man brought government and structure. Though conquered, who are the people of that place? Are they of that place or are they of their reformers?

When I was a child, I lived at my nursemaid’s breast. While my parents were well read, she had been ignorant, yet charged with my upbringing. Then am I of nobility of my parents or the poverty of my nursemaid? If I am of one or the other, can one not move fluidly from one house to the other? As so I have done in my life. None of which is false, but merely an adaptation to that of my surroundings.

HANK

Is this a form of survival? This fluid adaptation of adjusting to your surroundings? What would happen if you remained you in every situation? Would you parish?

CHARLIE

I would no longer be Ernest.

HANK

You would be dishonest, or no longer yourself?

CHARLIE

Yes.

HANK

As it is Mr. Henderson…

CHARLIE

I am still Ernest. It is quite questionable of a man with an education such as yours to continuously forget simple things as a man’s name, as I doubt it is of pointed insult that you do such.

HANK

Despite your claims, sir, I fear that little can be done of your condition. You claim to be earnest, all the while failing to take responsibility for yourself in the face of facts, there is nothing more I can do for you.

CHARLIE

More? All you’ve done is made a feeble attempt to prove me as not Ernest. I hardly see how that has improved my illness at all.

HANK

And what physical illness do you believe you have?

CHARLIE

I no longer appear as myself. I look as if a stranger every passing day. I fear that I am becoming that which I am pretending to be all along. Am I my father’s son? Am I my wife’s husband? Or am I the persona I provide to my critics. Am I a doctor or a patient? I believe the latter is true.

HANK

Again, this is an illness of the mind. Now I bid you a do.

CHARLIE

Is not the mind of the body? (CHARLIE stands in unison with the man on the other side of the wall. In mirrored motions, both men approach the threshold, adjusting their coats and examining their face in front of each other as if both faced a mirror, looking at each other as if looking at themselves. Both men gather their hats and exit stage opposite each other but in step).

Dacia M Arnold

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Dacia

Dacia Arnold is an author that struggles to find a balance of work, motherhood, marriage, writing, and the occasional craft. Her first full length novel, Apparent Power, is in the works to be released December 2018. Dacia served 10 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and deployed twice to Iraq and often incorporates these experiences into her writings both fiction and non-fiction. She currently lives in Denver, Co with her husband, two children, and a fat beagle named Watson.


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