SONG:  “The Mask Dance

 

(Music in a slow, tribal rhythm. Courtiers and Principal Characters enter holding large masks on sticks extending to the floor. The masks exaggerate their original faces, which already had exaggerated makeup. In slow, minuet-like patterns, they greet each other with exaggerated politeness and ritualism, stiffly mask to mask. The Emperor slowly walks through them, greeted ceremoniously. He would like to “connect” to each one, but the impenetrable masks push him away. He tries to peer behind one or two masks, but the masks move like shields.  Failing contact, he is alone and apart from the group, and he slumps to the ground by himself down at the edge of the stage. Pitts enters and walks innocently through the Courtiers. They avoid him as an “untouchable” and arrange themselves leaving empty, avoided spaces where Pitts had been encountered. As Pitts comes to the Emperor, the Courtiers disappear.)

 

    Pitts                 

Do you know the thumb-kiss?

 

    Emperor          

Thumb-kiss?

 

    Pitts

We went through a tiny village once where friends kissed each other with a thumb-kiss.

 

(Pitts demonstrates the thumb-kiss, extending a “thumb’s up” forward and touching it gently to the Emperor’s lips. The Emperor awkwardly starts the reciprocal response, but stops.)

           

     Emperor         

Why should they do that?

 

    Pitts                 

Why shouldn’t they?

 

     Emperor         

It’s ridiculous.  A thumb-kiss, as you say. It doesn’t mean anything.

 

     Pitts                

No.  But it could, if you want it to.  It could be another way of saying . . .

 

     Emperor         

‘Hello.’  That’s all.

 

     Pitts                

Not just ‘hello’ but ‘hello’ and ‘I like you.’

 

     Emperor         

Between friends.  Your thumb-kiss might rarely be used in this empire.  The one or two friends I thought I had . . .  What is your name, little man?

 

     Pitts

Pitts.

 

     Emperor         

Pitts, what do I look like?

 

      Pitts

Like an emperor, from your clothes.

 

     Emperor         

Inside, I am quivering, quaking. It’s this mask I wear all the time. Sometime very long ago, this mask got hooked to my face, stuck to my flesh, tied to my soul. Put on some other mask? It would not fit. No, I chose it long ago. No turning back. I must accept this path.

 

     Pitts

Like your own ugly child.

 

(Pitts bows and thumb-kisses the Emperor. The Emperor thumb-kisses him back.)