Information for Foreigners: A Chronicle in 20 Scenes

by Griselda Gambaro

The play should be performed in a house or warehouse. The audience is split into groups, each of which has a Guide who takes us from scene to scene. The order in which the scenes are observed by the groups is aleatory until the final scene, where all the groups converge.

 

GUIDE: Ladies and gentlemen: Admission is ____________________________, for adults. If you’ve already paid, you can’t repent. The cost is already incurred. Better to enjoy yourself. No one under 18 will be admitted. Or under 35 or over 36. Everyone else can attend with no problem. No obscenity or strong words. The play speaks to our lifestyle: Argentinian, Occidental and Christian. We are in 1971. I ask that you stay together and remain silent. Careful on the stairs.

 

Scene 1

The Guide leads the group toward one of the rooms. The room is completely in shadow. The door is closed. A strident sound is heard. Then, many voices, indistinct and juxtaposed, carrying on an incomprehensible conversation.

GUIDE: One moment . . . I don’t find my lantern. Remember, opportunity makes the thief. Watch your pocketbooks! (Light up on a dark and wrinkled wall.) Only the walls they’ve left naked. (The light travels. A man is seated on a chair, wearing only faded underwear. He raises his head, surprised and frightened. He covers his sex with his hands.) Pardon us, I’ve got the wrong room.

 

Scene 2

The Guide, lighting the way with his lantern, leads the group out of the room. He tries to open the door of another room. Behind the door a sweet voice sings:

VOICE: Carnation, sleep and dream,
the horse won’t drink from the stream.

GUIDE: (With a shrug of his shoulders, returns toward the group.) It’s closed. (He knocks. Nicely.) May I? I’ve brought a group of spectators. They’re anxious.

VOICE: (Very rudely) What’s it to me? Beat it! I’m rehearsing.

 

Scene 3

GUIDE: (To the group) Pardon. People should be brought up better, don’t you think? (Tries the lock on the next door. It gives.) Here. Here, yes. Go ahead.

(The group enters this other dark room. Against the wall, some chairs. The Guide illumines them with his lantern. Then nicely) You can position yourselves wherever you like. There are chairs for everyone. (He looks) No, no enough to go around. (Arranges them, offers) Ladies first . . . !

(Lights on in the middle of the room. A young girl sits on a chair wearing clothes that are soaking wet. A man is standing at her side, observing her with a tender smile. The Guide waits for people to get comfortable, points out places. Then, with a finger on his lips, he signals for silence, and returns, like one more spectator, toward the characters who begin the action.)

MAN: (Always speaks softly, tenderly) Why didn’t you dry yourself? The floor is drenched. (He bends and dries her with a rag.) Lucky it’s not oilcloth. (The girl shivers with cold. The Man takes off his jacket, puts it on her shoulders. The girl looks at it, wraps herself in the jacket.) Why didn’t you dry yourself? Didn’t you have a towel?

GIRL: No.

MAN: (Dries the floor) What a mess! They fill the tub, but don’t put any towels? And the water? Was it tepid? (The Girl doesn’t answer. He shakes her, gently.) Tepid?

GIRL: No.

MAN: (He pulls a pistol from his belt and cleans it with a rag.)

Ah! The service is shi . . .

(The Guide says something. The man shoots him a quick look.) Yes. (He shows his weapon.)

Do you like it? It isn’t loaded. (She looks, doesn’t answer. The man begins loading the gun.)

Why so sad? (Points to the group.) Nothing will happen to you. There are lots of people. They’re watching us. (Takes back his pistol.) You won’t be pretty with your hair all wet. But that’s not too serious. (He leans toward her, curious.) Tell me, do you dye your hair? (Still watching.) You’re getting my jacket all wet. Excuse me, it’s the only one I have . . . (He takes it gently, shakes it and puts it on. With a shiver) It’s damp. (Pointing to the pistol) Do you want it?

GIRL: No.

MAN: I’m leaving it for you. I have another. The jacket I can’t. I swear to you.

GIRL: (Shaking her head) No.

MAN: (Surreptitiously) Speak up! I can’t hear a thing!

GUIDE: Louder! Louder!

MAN: What did I tell you?
(The Girl doesn’t answer)
Look at me.
(She obeys. He holds out the gun)
Take it!

GIRL: No . . . I don’t want to.

MAN: Why are you squeezing your legs together? Do you want to go to the bathroom?

GIRL: (Nods her head) Yes.

MAN: Then go!

GIRL: They’re . . . watching me.

MAN: So? We’re all adults, aren’t we? They at least are watching. What are you doing, always looking over there? What do you see that’s so pretty? (Puts his cheek against hers. Looks in the same direction.) Nothing! (Steps aside) I like to see people’s eyes when I talk to them. (Gently, he turns her head.) Look at me. (He points to the pistol) Do you want it?

GIRL: No, no! Leave me alone!

MAN: (Anxious) Do you want stockings?

(He takes his hand from her foot)

GIRL: No!

MAN: Always no! Why! My intentions are good. Take. Don’t you get bored all alone? (Insists)

Take it, don’t move. Don’t squeeze the trigger, that’s it, yes. Although . . .

GIRL: (Barely audible) Although . . .

MAN: If you squeeze, it’s all over. Do you have a boyfriend?

GIRL: No.

MAN: And so? Take, take hold of it I’m leaving it here, on the floor. All you have to do is lean down.

GIRL: For what? I don’t want . . . to lean down, I don’t want . . . anything.

MAN: The heart and the forehead . . . are sure. I’m saying, so as not to suffer . . .

GIRL: No . . .

MAN: (Caresses her cheek)

Of course no. There’s a sun outside. It splits rocks. So you don’t have a boyfriend? Well . . . ? (He goes toward the door. Returns. Smiles.) I’m going to tell them to heat the water! (He goes out) (The Girl looks at the pistol on the floor, leans down, trembling, stretches her hand. Freezes in the ad.)

GUIDE: Ladies and gentlemen, if it bothers you.

(He opens the door. Leading the group into the hallways, he explains) In March 1970, at the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany, they began an interesting experiment. Careful on the stairs.

 

Translation by Marguerite Feitlowitz.

Tags:
plays
script
latin american theater
participatory theater
violence
spanish language
translation
BOMB 32
Summer 1990
The cover of BOMB 32
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