κλείσιμο

H+G

Scene 1: Prologue

The stage is dark. Lighting is eerie and is slowly introduced as performers enter the stage. A slowed down version of the opening drum riff to Natti Vogel’s “Cannibal” plays. The riff repeats (vamping). Cast members enter from the back of the cantilever stage and move forward toward the audience. The six performers move in paired relationships, referencing the pairing of H+G, but complicating the singularity and gendering of this relationship (G+H, H+H, G+G, HG+GH, etc.). The performers move in a manner reminiscent of a New Orleans style “jazz funeral” march (side step together, side step together, etc.). They carry baskets filled with individually wrapped candy that is shaped, patterned, colored, and flavored like meat. The song is sung by multiple voices at a time, with the chorus sung improvisationally by the whole cast based on a set of scored, lyrical themes.

FIRST VERSE I finally found 
someone to consume 
me but I don’t want 
to be consumed 
I want to be wanted 
to be consumed
(Tell me Hansel, truly)

SECOND VERSE I finally found
someone who’s got the equipment
and they know how
to use it
but I’m not equipped
to be used by it
(Tell me Gretel, truly)

CHORUS Do you follow me?
Are you following?
Will you follow me?
Follow! Follow! Follow!

As performers reach the front of the stage, they offer a piece of candy in open palm to the audience. They directly address the audience with their song. They are inviting them to consume the candy/flesh, but also to consume their story, their social media, and to find them sexually appealing. As the audience reaches for the candy, they are at first coyly rebuffed (i.e., performer closes hand), but are then allowed to take the candy.

THIRD VERSE I finally found
someone to caramelize me
and I won’t lie
that I don’t care
unless I care
to be lied to
(Tell me folks, truly)

All six performers assemble into a single file line (shortest in front, tallest in back), running down the length of the cantilever, with arms outstretched and waving like a multiarmed deity.

CHORUS Do you follow me?
Are you following?
Will you follow me?
Follow! Follow! Follow!
Do you follow me?
Are you following?
Will you follow me?
Follow! Follow! Follow!

The performer at the front of the line sings/speaks in recitative.

PERFORMER (Recitative, ominously) I finally found someone who’s gonna help me by helping themselves to a helping of me thereby having some of me on me.

Lights off. Pause for audience applause.

 

Jan Brugger, προσχέδια για το H+G, σκηνή 4: The Witch (2016)

Scene 2: Flee from Home

The stage is dark. Lights come on. Father is standing on the stage, on the right facing the audience (not the cantilever), and Mother is seated on a chair towards his right. The children are huddled close to each other on low stools on the cantilever.

GRETEL
Did you speak to Aunt Tanya?

HANSEL Yeah … just a little.

GRETEL What did she say?

HANSEL She said that the Witch (indicating to the stepmother in the other room) doesn’t really care about us … Aunt Tanya thinks that she (indicating to where Mother is sitting) is trying to cook Papa into a broth of her own making … rich, successful.

GRETEL Yeah … she does have him eating out of her hands.

FATHER (In a corner of the room … muttering under his breath.)

MOTHER (Lowering the book she has in her hand) Stop stewing in your own head. It’s time you spoke to them. The sooner they know the easier it will be.

FATHER Easier, for whom? (Pauses) Aren’t you happy with what we have?

MOTHER Ah, so you know what happiness is … (Gives her husband a stern look.)

FATHER (Walks towards the door of the room, opens it, and seeing the children outside stops at the door) H, G … you’re home …

HANSEL (Stands up and jumps into the conversation) Are you really selling the house?

FATHER H, G … Who said that to you? (Pauses and a shift in tone) Well, I have some good news … (Children look up eagerly) We’re moving to a bigger house … but (pauses) to do that we need money … so we have to sell the family house.

GRETEL (Dejected) Is this house not big enough … There are just four of us … you, Gretel, me, and HER (indicating to where Mother is sitting.)

HANSEL And it’s all we have left of Mama. It has only been a year since she died … first that … then this woman and now the house … What do you plan to rustle up next?

FATHER Your mother and I think it’s …

HANSEL Our mother is dead … (In a matter-of-fact way.

MOTHER (Mother moves towards Father to show support) I understand this is difficult for you to swallow … but a new beginning will be good for all of us … Don’t you think so? (To Father and places an arm around him.)

GRETEL (Looking at her stepmother angrily) At what cost! And did we say we want to move to a new house? Or is that what you want for yourself?

FATHER G … a little more respect please … she is your MOTHER now! And she’s right … I will hear none of this anymore … we shall move to our new home next week.

HANSEL Oh … this is all about her, isn’t it? (Looking at the stepmother) Didn’t Mama mean anything to you? (To Father) Do you even love us? C’mon G, let’s go (toward Gretel) … he couldn’t care less if we were dead meat.  (H runs off stage in the direction of the street.)

GRETEL H … don’t … wait … (Turning to the audience and then the parents) IS this necessary? 

Runs off stage after H.

OPERATOR Yes!

 

Jan Brugger, προσχέδια για το H+G, σκηνή 4: The Witch (2016)

Scene 3: Lost

H+G walk down a dim city street. They are fatigued and desperate from days of homelessness.

GRETEL I don’t see how we haven’t made it yet. Maybe this was a terrible idea, H. I’m so hungry!

HANSEL You just haven’t given this life a chance! (Noticing this hasn’t changed G’s demeanor) These buildings kind of look like home though … maybe we’ll find someone we know who can help us?

H+G approach a dumpster. As they pass by, the lid opens slightly to reveal someone (“I”) peeping out at the children.

I (Softly whispers as he closes lid) Meat! (Begins wailing.)

HANSEL (Startled) Hello? Is somebody in there?

Wailing continues. H goes to dumpster but G stops him.

GRETEL Wait! What are you doing? You don’t know what could be in there!

G opens the lid and helps a cat creep out. It shivers and shakes out his fur. He carries his paw like it’s hurt but his movements are silky and ripple like a snake.

I (Whimpering) Thanks! I’ve been trapped for days. One minute I’m fishing out some lunch and then the lid just slams down—nearly took my paw off!

HANSEL Are you okay?

I It was so dark. I was feeling completely lost, hopeless … But then, I heard your sweet voice, and you saved me! I owe you my life! Please, let me repay you.

HANSEL Actually, maybe you can help us. We haven’t found much to eat and we’re looking for a place to …

G nudges H’s arm, hinting that he’s said too much.

I Well, you’re in luck! (Digs through dumpster and eventually pulls out large, swirling meat-lollipops) I’ve been living off these in here. They’re leftovers from the woman who lives in this building.

I flourishes it around, teasing them. H+G unconsciously move closer, entranced by the candy.

HANSEL C… can I try that?

I Oh, how rude of me. Here.

H, transfixed, reaches out and takes a lollipop. He takes a big, long lick before G snatches it from his hands.

HANSEL Hey!

I Be patient! It’s big enough for the both of you. (To G) Go ahead, give it a try.

GRETEL (Holding back desire) No, thanks. I’m actually … not hungry.

I Are you sure? You look starved.

HANSEL Try it, G! That’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted! Trust me!

G apprehensively takes it and carefully touches her tongue to the candy. After a moment she becomes consumed and starts licking with increasing fervor as the candy begins to take over. H steals it back and begins to devour it. Back and forth they fight over and devour the lollipop.

HANSEL (Panting, in between licks) Ugh! … Can’t … stop. More … need … more!

I That’s my last one! But don’t worry. I know how we can make more … I’ll show you.

Suddenly, a bird falls from the sky. He squawks annoyingly and flaps around frantically.

J (To I) Iii!!! When did you come back?! (Looks around noticing H+G) Children!? Not again! (Back to I) What did you …? How did you …? (Calling out as if to signal others) Help!

I creeps up to J and knocks him unconscious. H+G back away in confusion, with fear in their eyes, but the candy has taken over, and they must still consume the lollipop.

I Damn Js … they’re always trying to steal my … (covered by cracking-off of wing.)

I, in having broken off one of J’s wings, tastes it and then washes his paws and face. I finishes cleaning.

I Follow me, friends.

I turns to walk off. H+G look at each other. Lights fade to black.

 

Jan Brugger, προσχέδια για το H+G, σκηνή 4: The Witch (2016)

Scene 4: The Witch

Many years later: Hansel and Gretel sit apart on high stools in the middle of the stage. A fern is placed stage left. A sunny window scene of a lake is on the wall behind them.

Light on Hansel cues monologue.

HANSEL (Obese. Loss of hand from the accident is apparent) Gretel and I were in a bad place after we left home. When we got in with the Witch … I mean, she really understood me. I mean we loved each other. She just … she was always stalking her exes, she was always using breaking up as this bargaining chip. She always had one foot out the door. And since we broke up, I …

(Delivered uncomfortably) I mean I’ve always been an emotional eater.

Giant T-Bone Steak gently walks in from stage left. Stops behind Hansel and looks melancholy, listening intently.

HANSEL I remember watching this one episode of Dr. Phil where a woman talks about how she can’t stop eating. And she was even eating in her sleep. She would wake up in the morning and all the groceries she had bought for the week would be gone. They put a camcorder in her home and there she was at like, 2 am in her kitchen, browning chicken with the spatula and everything. I’m watching this at age nine terrified this is gonna be me at forty—standing there at 3 am in my boxer briefs, crumbs in my chest hair, eating my feelings out of a box of zebra cakes.

(Shaking head) And here I am.

Hansel looks over his shoulder and—not realizing Giant T-Bone Steak is standing behind him—jumps a little as T-Bone comforts him with a gesture of emotional tenor. The light above Hansel clicks off.

Light on Gretel cues monologue.

GRETEL (Wearing sunglasses. Pregnant. Blindness from the accident is apparent) My Aunt Tanya was always telling us, “if a man has a bad picker, he’s doomed. And frankly, if it’s the second marriage, the children are doomed.” She was talking about Hansel and I paying the price of dad’s bad picker. Hansel was … well, let’s just say he inherited his father’s picker. And he made her feel young, you know … I get that. But I’m just gonna call a spade a spade here—the Witch was manipulative. (Pause.)

(Delivered guilty-as-charged) Sure, I haven’t seemed to score any trophy husbands either (pause) and maybe I should mention that I’m single at the moment (pause)—but at least I’m not carrying around their baggage. (Pause.) Past a certain age, you can’t blame your parents anymore for the bad choices you’ve made. You can’t blame them because … all of a sudden … you’re the parent. And one day you find yourself mid-sentence … and you realize you’re gritting your teeth through the same lie your parents told you.

All lights (including the sunny window) go dark. The Witch steps into scene and is backlit as she begins to saw off hunks of meat from the standing Giant T-Bone Steak and tosses them into a cauldron.

 

Shanna Zentner, προσχέδιο για το H+G, σκηνή 5: Separation Anxiety (2016)

Scene 5: Separation Anxiety

The Witch stands in a kitchen adding ingredients to a stew. Hansel is sitting. Gretel is standing.

HANSEL We were told that you were the one who could give us more. The treats I mean. We ate them and it was … bliss.

WITCH Ah, so you enjoyed those but then what? Was there nothing else?

GRETEL Else? … We were just hoping that we could eat and maybe rest for a while.

The Witch looks up lost in thought.

GRETEL (Politely) Excuse me … miss? Will you help us?

Struck by an idea and oblivious to Gretel’s questions, the Witch quickly turns around and reaches, out of view of the audience, in search of something.

WITCH I must finish it, for the recipe is still not right! It is when I fix it that you both will eat again!

The Witch pulls out a box and opens it. She raises a crooked cuboid and turns it over in her hand before adding it to the pot. The Witch stirs the brew, absorbed in it, while looking/smelling the effects of her ingredients.

Gretel grabs Hansel’s hand and leads him to the front of the stage out of earshot of the Witch.

GRETEL I don’t know about this, Hansel. We should get out of here.

HANSEL What? No! Just relax. The food is almost ready and you heard her. It just needed a bit more flavor or something.

GRETEL Maybe we could keep searching? (Gretel turns to look at the Witch and is startled because she is standing right behind her with a spoon.)

HANSEL Oh good.

Hansel steps up to receive the apparent offering. He reaches out for it but Gretel swipes his hand away.

HANSEL Hey!

GRETEL Is there anything else we could have?

WITCH If you want comfort, you must eat!

Gretel hesitates and looks to Hansel, but he encourages her toward the food. She succumbs and takes the spoon in her mouth. Gretel goes quiet, then lethargic. The Witch eases her into a chair.

HANSEL Is she okay? What’s happening to her?

WITCH Gretel will see it all now. Your time will also come, and when it does, you will realize that the path you’re on, that we are all on, is not linear.

Gretel snaps to attention and grabs Hansel’s hand. He flinches but smiles, pleased that she is alert. He allows her to manipulate his arm. Gretel stares at his hand blankly. She places his hand on her cheek, rubbing it there but is bothered by it. She smacks herself with the hand.

HANSEL (Laughing nervously) What are you doing? 

Gretel pulls on his fingers and wrist. She locks her fingers around his thumb while placing her foot against his thigh and begins to pull as hard as she can.

HANSEL Wait, stop. Stop! Gretel!

Gretel dislocates Hansel’s wrist and begins to weep, stands back from him staring down at his hand, then steps forward and begins to slam his wrist against the chair, cutting his skin. She pulls the hand free from his arm. Gretel, eyes only on the object, takes a bite.

 

Andrew Bearnot, προσχέδιο για το H+G, σκηνή 6: Lesson Learned (2016)

Scene 6: Lesson Learned

H+G stand at a table wrapping candy. H struggles with just his hand. The Witch is near the fireplace, stirring a pot. She is mumbling to herself. We hear sentence fragments that hint at experiences from her past but don’t necessarily make a lot of sense. They cast the Witch as a complicated figure with a complicated past. Gretel in particular seems wary of the Witch’s fragile state of mind.

WITCH They never saw … if only … there was a time when I felt love … too many mistakes … she was my greatest … they were all corrupted … the world was changing … wasn’t my fault … they still blame me … soon we will all be made pure.

A clock strikes, and the Witch seems to snap out of her dreamlike state.

WITCH It’s time.

HANSEL Time for what?

WITCH You two have been working here for quite a while. You were born into a world not meant for children. A world where no grown woman or man can carry on. I will show you the way. 

Witch reaches for a similar cuboid from the previous scene and drops it into her pot.

GRETEL No.

WITCH Don’t you see why this must be?

HANSEL We still don’t know what you want; talking in rhymes; never telling us what this work is for. What are we doing here?!

GRETEL She wants to hurt us.

WITCH I want nothing. But you must know the way of this world. I must be the one to show you. Your dear sister has already tasted the truth. Now you must eat child.

She lifts the spoon of stew.

GRETEL No! I won’t let you!

Gretel charges at the Witch. The Witch flicks her hand (hissing sound), blinding Gretel. Gretel screams. The Witch starts choking her.

HANSEL Gretel!

Hansel grabs something and cuts the Witch down on her back. Immobilizing her. Still blinded, Gretel feels around the table for balance and finds the oil lamp. Vaguely seeing the glow of the fireplace through her blinded eyes, she hurls it at the Witch but misses. It shatters against the hearth, and the oil spreads slowly.

WITCH (Laughing) There is no life left in this world. That is why you have been cast aside. Unwanted. Unloved.

HANSEL That’s a lie! Me and Gretel have each other!

Gretel is silent in her doubt.

WITCH The only lie is hope. The lie you believe will save you from the fate we all must suffer. Only you will not survive.

Hand in hand H+G flee the house into the darkness of night. Hansel guiding her and Gretel asking him what he sees so that she can offer guidance in his frantic state.

GRETEL I can hardly see.

HANSEL I think I hear a stream.

They make it to the stream but cannot heal themselves. They fall into an embrace.

Ambient synth fades in.

 

Vidura Jang Bahadur, προσχέδια για το H+G, σκηνή 6: Lesson Learned (2016)

Scene 7: Reflection

H+G lie in the dim light of the forest. They stare at the night sky in silence. A small fire burns between them. The crackle of the fire can be heard, along with the wind and distant animal sounds. Some time passes. Lights brighten slowly, indicating the sunrise as sounds fade out. The operator sits at the control panel and appears tired. As the scene progresses, the operator leans back in their chair, settles into a more comfortable position and closes their eyes.

HANSEL (Sits up) Maybe you’re right. Maybe this is all my fault. I should have never run away. You only followed to protect me. And now look what I’ve dragged you into. Look where we are. I lost my hand and you’re blind! I’m so sorry, Gretel.

GRETEL (Sits up) Don’t blame yourself. I was afraid of losing the house too, and all our memories of Mama. I chose to run after you. We couldn’t have known what would happen.

HANSEL I wish we could go back home. I wish we could ask Mom and Dad for help. They were right about some things. I see that now.

GRETEL I know. I miss them too.

HANSEL It feels like we’ve been lost in this forest forever. Do you think we’ll ever find our way out?

GRETEL I don’t know. But I want to keep trying.

HANSEL I don’t know if I can keep going, Gretel. I’m so tired.

GRETEL Please, Hansel. I need your help.

HANSEL (Stands. Walks toward front of stage) I can’t stop thinking about the Witch. I’m afraid I killed her.

GRETEL You had no choice. She was dangerous.

HANSEL But you’re the one who hurt me. She was kind to me.

GRETEL She was manipulative. I didn’t want her to do to you what she did to me. It was terrifying to lose control of myself that way.

G raises her hand gently as if reaching for something in the air. Seeing this, H approaches G, taking her hand. G rises with H’s help. H guides the blinded G as they walk carefully off stage. The control panel operator is now unconscious.

 

Vidura Jang Bahadur, προσχέδια για το H+G, σκηνή 6: Lesson Learned (2016)

Scene 8: Epilogue

Operator wakes: notices H+G have left the stage; manipulates control panel, all stage tech off, darkness. Reprise of intro song heard vaguely behind audience.

Witch, visibly injured, hobbles onto stage left, face angled down. Over-ear headphones hang around her neck, the source of the music. Continues slowly until arriving immediately before the audience. Decelerates to a complete stop, like a commuter train pulling up to a platform (wheezing slightly). Reaches into pocket, unplugs headphones and lets cable dangle, ending music.

Witch raises head, gazes through audience. Inhales, holds breath for a moment, and begins.

WITCH (Lifting face and eyes to the sky) Do they realize what happened?

OPERATOR (Slumped at control panel) They realize they’re not the same.

WITCH (Considering) Do they recognize what was given, what was taken?

OPERATOR They may know tomorrow. Or later. Today, they walk.

Witch winces briefly and cranes head, face and eyes remaining skyward, and then rests it on left shoulder. Operator regards Witch.

OPERATOR You carry hurt, but it’s not their hurt—do you understand?

WITCH (Slightly defiant) I did not choose to hurt them.

OPERATOR No one had a choice. It could’ve been anyone; it would’ve been someone else.

WITCH (Defeated) But it could have been better for them. They can never go back now.

OPERATOR It could’ve been worse: they could’ve never left home in the first place.

WITCH (Sighing, leveling gaze directly at audience) You may be right; if it had to happen.

OPERATOR (Definitively) It had to happen.

WITCH (Hopeful, still looking at audience) Then perhaps they will not think so badly of us when they are older.

Witch reaches into pocket and removes sealed Ziploc® bag containing two raw meat scraps. Opens bag, looks into it, places at feet of audience. Witch turns to face stage, sits next to bag on hands. Stage gradually returns to full brightness.

Elizabeth Allen-Cannon, προσχέδιο για το H+G, σκηνή 8: Epilogue (2016)

1 “Hänsel und Gretel” was first recorded and published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm in their Kinder und Hausmärchen. Its roots may rest in the Great Famine (1315–22) of medieval Europe.

2 Some of the texts and films that we study in the course: Michael Hardt, “Production and Distribution of the Common: A Few Questions for the Artist”; Jack Zipes, “Who’s Afraid of the Brothers Grimm?”; James S. Williams, “Aberrations of Beauty: Violence and Cinematic Resistance in Haneke’s The White Ribbon”; Ann McGuire & David Buchbinder, “The Forensic Gothic: Knowledge, the Supernatural, and the Psychic Detective”; Ruth Bottigheimer, “Work, Money, and Anti-Semitism”; Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel, Australian Opera; Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel, Metropolitan Opera; Grimm (TV series), season 1, episodes 1–3; Medium (TV series), season 1, episodes 1–2.

 

Credits

Scene 1: Prologue
Written by Andrew Bearnot, directed by Ben Nicholson

Scene 2: Flee from Home
Written by Vidura Jang Bahadur, directed by Kyle Hossli

Scene 3: Lost
Written by Jan Brugger, directed by Evan Carter

Scene 4: The Witch
Written by Elizabeth Allen-Cannon, directed by Jan Brugger

Scene 5: Separation Anxiety
Written by Kyle Hossli, directed by Shanna Zentner

Scene 6: Lesson Learned
Written by Evan Carter, directed by Vidura Jang Bahadur

Scene 7: Reflection
Written by Shanna Zentner, directed by Andrew Bearnot

Scene 8: Epilogue
Written by Ben Nicholson, directed by Elizabeth Allen-Cannon

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