Monday, August 23, 2010

An Excerpt From Lillian Alling: Oakalla

The entrance to Oakalla Prison Farm

Act 1 | Scene 9

Jimmy and Irene are packed in his truck on the side of the road:

Jimmy: They put her in jail? After all she's been through?

Irene: It was prison, not jail. Oakalla, near Vancouver.

Jimmy: For what?

Irene: Vagrancy and an unlicensed firearm.

Jimmy: Didn't Dad speak up for her?

Irene: He tried to, though I don't know why. He didn't ower that woman anything.

Jimmy: She was trying to get on with her life, and they threw her in jail?

Irene: It was prison!

Irene looks past Jimmy - where a vast field at Oakalla Prison gradually appears: male and female prisoners at hard labour, harvesting or cleaning up after harvest. Lillian is among them as armed guards patrol.

Irene: Oakalla Prison Farm. God, the tales they used to tell...

Male and Female Prisoners: (Chanting as they work) Oakalla...

Irene: Oakalla - near Vancouver - but much closer to Hell.

Male and Female Prisoners: (As they work) Oakalla...

Irene moves away from Jimmy, watching Lillian in her imagination. Action continues in both settings:

Jimmy: Mom, what happened to her? You said Dad turned his back on you, risked his own life?...

Irene: Leave it alone, son. It's too complicated. I'm too old. But I've started it now - and it has to be told.

Male and Female Prisoners: (wearily) Mmmm....Mmmm...

Irene: We think we lay the past to rest, but the past lives on...!

It grows darker. Jimmy watches his mother, and she watches Lillian, as prisoners at Oakalla launch into a work song which they've adapted from a hymn. Lillian doesn't join in.

I've found a place of pure delight
Where mercy makes all burdens light
The warden growls from dawn to dark
The guards may bite, the dog's may bark
But, oh, what lovely rags we wear!
They'd be in fashion anywhere!
Oakalla is Paradise!
If Heaven's only half as nice,
I'll whistle through Eternity,
The angels will dance jigs with me!
I'd love to do my time here twice:
Oakalla is Paradise!
(Growning at their work) Aaaah....Ooooo...Mmmmm...

Lillian moves away from the other, closer to Irene, who watches her intently.

Lillian: (to herself)
I wait and I wait...
The answers I lack
Lie further ahead...
I never, I never look back.

The past lives on.
It's beside me,
Here and now...
He has to be told -
But - God help me - how?