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In the Stars - Brent Watts

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In the Stars

by Brent Watts

 

(The space is revealed to the audience. Three friends lay inclined on a hill, facing outwards and looking upwards. Setting: Breathitt County, Kentucky. 2019 CE or 2019 BCE. Either way, it’s the same beautiful summer night: frogs, lightning bugs, a gentle breeze.)   

MAX  

You know, the sky is really beautiful at night. 

SULLEY  

Yeah. It’s so clear. I love it here in the mountains.  

MAX 

Why have we never looked up at it like this before? 

SULLEY 

I dunno.  

MAX 

I mean, I’ve looked at it before. 

 

SULLEY 

Well yeah, I have too.  

MAX 

But like, I’ve never looked-looked at it before. Like I looked at it, but I didn’t see it.  

SULLEY 

Yeah. 

ASTRID 

You guys wanna know something crazy? 

MAX 

What?  

ASTRID 

Well, when I was little, I used to look up at the stars all the time.  

MAX 

Okay? 

ASTRID 

And like, I would think that they were like pictures 

MAX 

Pictures?  

ASTRID 

Yeah, like, if you look at a bunch of them in a row, if they’re like the same brightness, they make these like, lines. And if you get the right lines, they look like things.  

MAX 

I don’t get it.  

ASTRID 

Like, okay. Hold on. You see that one star, right there? The really bright one like right above us?  

MAX 

Yeah. That one?  

ASTRID 

No, that one. 

(She moves his arm, like you do to people when you’re stargazingAgainst the broader field of stars, ASTRID’S STAR appears, where the audience can see it as well.)  

MAX 

Oh okay yeah that one. 

ASTRID 

Do you see it? 

SULLEY 

Yeah I got it. 

ASTRID 

Okay, you see how there’s two other stars to the side, and another above it? 

MAX 

Uhhh…. 

ASTRID 

Just take a second.  

(A beatAs they look into the sky, trying to see, the three stars slowly come into focus for the audience as well. More or less, the three stars form a triangle around the first star.) 

MAX 

Okay, I’ve got it.  

 

SULLEY 

Me too. 

ASTRID 

Well, when I was little, I’d usually fall asleep before my parents got home from working. I didn’t understand that, so I’d wait up as long as I could, but eventually I’d just give out and my grandma would carry me to bed. Anyway, whenever she would pick me up, I would open my eyes a little and look out, up at the sky and I’d see those stars. Maybe it’s where I was half asleep, but I would always imagine that those three stars were my grandma, my mom, and my dad. And that the one in the middle was me. And then I’d really fall asleep, like for good, and when I woke up, everyone was home, and the stars were gone, so it made sense to me.  

SULLEY 

So the way the stars looked, like the way they were together, you thought that was like your family?  

ASTRID 

Yeah, I guess so.  

SULLEY 

That’s neat. 

ASTRID 

You think so? 

SULLEY 

Yeah, I like that  

MAX 

I’ve never thought of them like that before.  

ASTRID 

Really? 

MAX 

Yeah. Actually, hold on, let me see if I can get one. 

ASTRID 

Okay, but don’t use mine. 

MAX 

I didn’t plan on it.  

(A beat. ASTRID’S CONSTELLATION fades, and the full sky of stars comes into focus.) 

MAX 

Okay, I’ve got it. You see those three stars over there, above the trees?  

ASTRID 

Yeah? 

MAX 

See how they form a line? It’s almost perfectly straight.  

(The three stars slowly come into focus.)  

ASTRID 

Okay. 

 

MAX 

Yeah? 

SULLEY 

Yeah.  

MAX 

Okay, the one on the right end. See how there’s two bright ones to the right of it? One kind of on top and the other on the bottom? 

(As he speaks, they come into existence.)  

SULLEY 

Yeah I see it. 

 

ASTRID 

Me too. But what is it? 

MAX 

Ready for it? It’s a fish! 

ASTRID 

Really? A fish?  

MAX 

What’s wrong with a fish? Don’t you see it? 

ASTRID 

Of course I see it. I just think it’s funny that you can’t think of anything besides fish.  

MAX 

Well, I like to fish.  

ASTRID 

Yeah, we know. 

SULLEY 

I think it’s nice. I like the fish stars.  

ASTRID 

You wanna try?  

SULLEY 

Me? I dunno, I’m not really that creative.  

ASTRID 

So? it’s your turn. You find one. 

SULLEY 

Uh, okay, let’s see. There’s…a lot.   

ASTRID 

I don’t think there’s any more than there usually are.  

SULLEY 

Good point.  

(MAX’s CONSTELLATION fadesand the full sky of stars comes into focusA long silence as SULLEY thinks.)  

MAX 

Y’know, you don’t have to think that hard about it.  

SULLEY 

What? Oh…okay. 

ASTRID 

Just look up there and make something up. It’s totally up to you.  

(Another solid beat. Ambient noises come to the foreground of the soundscape, maybe some gentle piano music. SULLEY thinks for a moment. The field of stars fade away. Then, he smiles.) 

 

SULLEY 

Ooh, okay, I got it. You guys are really gonna like this.  

(A single star comes into focus: the beginning of SULLEY’S CONSTELLATIONEverything else fades to black, but the star remains; bright, beautiful, and new.

END PLAY 

 

What kind of child were you? Did you look up at the stars? What did you think about them? 

 If you could make a new constellation, what would it be? What would it look like?    

What kind of person are you now? Do you ever look up at the stars now? What do you think about them now? 

If you could make a constellation for Breathitt County, what would it be? What would it look like? 

 

Brent Watts is a theatre artist and linguist from Breathitt County. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2018 and is enrolled in its Master of Arts in Linguistic Theory and Typology program. 

This column is brought to you by Our Breathitt, a community arts and health experience bringing together artists and Breathitt Countians from across Kentucky. Project is organized with IDEAS xLab (an artist-led nonprofit), and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Starting in August 2019, five collaborating writers, each with their own perspectives and ties to the county, will offer weekly columns and audio stories for radio and podcasts. Contact us at 859-397-1317 to join this conversation by leaving a voicemail with your response to the questions we raise and adding thoughts of your own! You may hear your responses incorporated into future posts and narratives! You can also email at ourbreathitt@gmail.com. We hope you will mark your calendars and join us at the Our Breathitt Summit, October 11-12 in Jackson, Kentucky. Information at www.ideasxlab.com/ourbreathitt