Tuesday, 30 October 2012

'Whatever Happened to Xenia Cage?' Scene from my play

(In copying this from Word, some of the script formatting has slipped slightly, apologies.)

Scene Seven– Mrs Cage’s Art & Crafts store, Los Angeles, 1933

        Enter Xenia, wearing a fashionable hat. She looks around the store.

Xenia             I hope this store has what I need for my course. Let me think. (ticks things off on her fingers) Soft pencils, turpentine, good brushes…
    Enter John Cage, shop assistant (played by one of the sisters)

 John              Good afternoon miss. Can I be of any assistance?

Xenia             John! What are you doing here? Sasha said there should be no famous people in this play!

John              But it’s only 1933. I’m not at all famous, not yet.

Xenia             Neither should there be any men.

John              Well, what am I meant to do about that? Cut me a bit of slack Xenia, please.
Xenia             I suppose I might, for now. Just out of curiosity.

John              You do remember this scene?

Xenia             Unfortunately, I remember it very well.

John              Shall we begin again?

Xenia             If you insist.

John              Would you care to go off and re-enter?

Xenia             Not particularly. Just get on with it.

John turns away, then back to face her.

John              Good afternoon miss. Can I be of any assistance?

Xenia             Thank you, but I require no assistance whatever.

John             That’s such a shame, we have so much to offer. We stock absolutely everything a talented artist like yourself could possibly need, from stretched canvas to hog-hair artists’ brushes.

Xenia           I want sable, not hog-hair.

John              Ok. We’ve got those somewhere, but they will cost you. Folk can’t afford much in these recessionary times, there’s no demand for sable brushes.

Xenia             I need three. I’m studying art at Reed College.

John              That’s marvellous. I’m a student too, I study music. I just work in the store to help out as I’m between tutors right now.

Xenia             A musician. Any particular variety of music?

John              Modern, absolutely modern, but not jazz. I’m working on a bunch of my own compositions right now, some piano pieces.

Xenia             I play piano.

John              I’m sure you’re absolutely excellent.

Xenia             I would be if I could only practice more.

John              Absolutely, you must practice. It’s essential for a musician to know what they’re doing, even if they then want to break the rules.

Xenia             I see. So you like breaking rules?

John              The classical stuff has been absolutely done to death, I need to be original. I want to break down barriers between musical performance and everyday sounds.

Xenia             Experimental music. I see.


John              But I don’t mean to denigrate your tastes. And you must practice, it’s so important.

Xenia             It’s difficult to practice. Right now I don’t have my own piano, my cottage is too small. Sometimes I visit my friend Gretchen’s house. They’re very wealthy, they have a good Steinway grand which I play.

John (slowly) You play on Gretchen’s Steinway?

Xenia             I believe that’s what I said.

John              Absolutely! How many Gretchens are there in LA, do you think?

Xenia             Oh, quite a few I should imagine, only she doesn’t live in LA. We were at Monterey High together and they have a marvellous house above Carmel Bay.

John              Not so many Gretchens in Carmel.

Xenia             I wouldn’t know. But I’ll bet you she’s the only one with a Steinway.

John              I’m certain she is. I’ve played on that Steinway too.

Xenia             I beg your pardon?

John              When I’m in Carmel, I play on Gretchen’s Steinway, just like you do.

Xenia             Well that’s a new chat up line. I certainly don’t believe a word of it!

John              I’m not actually… er… (pause) Listen, perhaps an introduction is in order. My name is John Cage, this is my mother’s store, she set this up to help impoverished artists. I help out when I’m in town.

Xenia             I am Xenia Kashevaroff. Pleased to meet you, John Cage.

They shake hands.

John              And I’m delighted to meet you, Miss Kashevaroff. You are absolutely the loveliest young woman who has ever walked into this store.

Xenia             Now that’s a much better line. Please do continue.

John              And plenty of beautiful people do come in here. Artists bring their models, and models bring their artists. Teachers bring their students and students bring their lovers. I’m not saying which might be the woman in any case. And, Xenia Kashevaroff, you outshine them all! If I were to be the marrying kind, you would absolutely be the kind woman I would want to marry.

Xenia (with an exaggerated Southern US accent) Why Mister Cage, without that kinda noticeable little word, ‘if’, I’d say you were being kinda hasty.

John              But how much less fun conversation would be without a few ‘ifs’! Don’t you agree?

Xenia             I might need some convincing of that. Ifs can be confusing, though I do have more of a problem with buts.

John              Okay. (pause) Returning to ifs, if your friend Gretchen, with the Steinway piano, turned out to be the very same Gretchen as my friend Gretchen, with the Steinway piano, would that be kind of convincing?

Xenia             That would be very amusing. But how could we possibly prove it, without going all the way to Carmel?

John              We can absolutely resolve the whole thing. If you care to tell me your friend Gretchen’s surname, I can then tell you if it’s the same as my friend Gretchen’s surname.

Xenia             Oh no you don’t John Cage! I’m absolutely not caught out so easily!
John           Xenia, beautiful Xenia, I’m absolutely not trying to catch you out. No ifs, no buts!
                    My friend’s name is Gretchen Schoeninger, which I think is unique. So, what is
                    your friend’s name?                
Xenia          So? I don’t believe we’ve come to so’s, but I can reply with a positive and. And
                    my friend’s name is also Gretchen Schoeninger.
John              And Gretchen’s little white dog howls when I play her piano.
Xenia             Ands are certainly doing well. What is your opinion of howevers? I need to
                      use one just about now.
John              I’m broadly in favour. I believe I actually used a ‘however’ a bit earlier in this very conversation, when I paid you a compliment.
Xenia             I can’t say I noticed.
John              And you are absolutely free to use however or whatever takes your fancy
Xenia             I wouldn’t call it a fancy. However, Gretchen’s little white dog certainly does not howl when I play the piano.
John              And you probably play far more beautifully than I do.
Xenia             If I confess to Schubert, would that tempt you to confess to the sort of
                      music which you play, on Gretchen’s piano?
John              That is definitely a confession! I play my own experimental compositions.
Xenia             I kind of thought you might. What does that sound like, to make the poor 
                      puppy howl?
John              It’s modern atonal stuff, less Schubert, more Schoenberg.
Xenia             I don’t exactly know who that is.
John              Miss Kashevaroff, would you care to be enlightened?
Xenia             Well I do declare, Mister Cage, I never heard it called that before.
John              I never meant… oh what the heck! (offering his arm) Miss Kashevaroff, would
                      you care to find someplace really nice to sit and partake of a soda?  I could
                     then enlighten you.
Xenia (taking his arm) Why Mister Cage, that sounds most enlightening.
          They walk towards the exit arm in arm, then they stop. 
 John            So, my darling. Was that as terrible as you remembered it?
Xenia            Oh Bunny, of course it wasn’t terrible.
John             And will you ever forgive me?
Xenia            I don’t suppose so. Not for one single moment.
      They exit together.


  1. I'm building my John cage page at musicdna.info and I came across this looking for details about Xenia Kashevaroff - I loved it!

  2. Thanks John. It's an extract from a longer play.
    You may want to have look at on this blog again at the end of August when I intend to post a biography of Xenia, to coincide with her birthday. Several of the artists I write about on the blog were also friends of John Cage.