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This Is Shakuntala

THIS IS SHAKUNTALA

play

by Devi Dhvan Mesan


fatsodoctor@yahoo.com

ACT ONE

Prologue

!A crash of finger cymbals.

A sitar. A nagaswaram. A didgeridoo.

A kazoo.

A television screen or video projection. Or a hologram, that’d


be nice."

SCHOLAR WITH A QUIRT


Welcome to Kalidasa’s Abhijnanasakuntala!Shakuntala Remembering. This is the world’s story, though it
comes from India. Indeed, Kalidasa!who wrote this story, though he didn’t invent it, lived in India, though
it was not India in his day, but rather a Gupta kingdom, though it is possible that Kalidasa lived some time
before the Guptas, even a considerable amount of time by some accounts before the beginning of the
Common Era, though there’s no way to be certain of that fact for sure!is so beloved by Indians that he is
known throughout India as “The Indian Shakespeare.” But the evidence doesn’t suggest he’s that old.

This is a story of universal themes: love, betrayal, pride, repentance, and amnesia. In the play, which, for
obvious reasons, is a translation, a young woman is seduced by a king. But this is no ordinary translation, and
no ordinary seduction. The two really are in love. Their alliance is, indeed, an honorable marriage, much, we
may say, like the marriage of Aeneas and Dido, or like David and Bathsheba. A child is conceived. A promise
made. A ring given. An elephant goes mad. These common experiences are here woven together in a
narrative weft of singular quality, richness, texture, intimacy, and sensation. Indeed, we may call this play a
tapestry. A tapestry of tastes.

In the play you will see the conflict of the classes, the battle of the sexes, the decadence of royalty, the plight
of the poor, and the pristine quality of a priestly caste!all the characteristics of an India that is not only
shrouded in the perfumed smoke of the age old ages, but of an India that is alive and glowing just the other
side of a world which is spinning counter"clockwise into a profound darkness so that we might look towards
the sunrise in the East for the light.

But we might have questions, too. Is our delicate heroine a standard bearer for the displaced rights of India’s
fifth caste? Just where did Kalidasa stand with respect to the Muslim question? And what of lepers? Is the
absence of the presence of Calcutta’s major minority proof indeed that the play was composed in Benares, or
Varanasi, or Kashi?

Perhaps the play asks more questions than it answers. If so, it is just another of this play’s!this paragon of
play’s!exquisite and uniquely Indian complications, the kind in which India, a land famed for the coexistence
of its extremes, so delights...
!Video image begins to fade. Or an OLD MAN in a dhoti
wheels the TV out. Or R2D2 snaps off the hologram."

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This Is Shakuntala

… bordered as it is on the North and South by extremes of heat and cold, between blistering jungles and
boiling deserts, situated beside mountains and seashore, by the sea, by the beautiful sea...
!KRISHNA, wearing a businessman’s glasses and a power tie,
stands up among the audience."

KRISHNA
Where’s the antelope? Shakuntala opens with an antelope. Where is the antelope?
!SCHOLAR WITH A QUIRT comes back."

SCHOLAR WITH A QUIRT


Let us keep in mind that India is very old, as is a considerable number of its artistic products, and that age can
prove daunting. The Unternational Centre for Theatre Manthropology, which underwrites this performance,
is committed to transmitting the cultural products of India, rather than translating them. To this end one may
notice if one plays close attention, that we have altered slightly the traditional rendering of the story in order
to make it more accessible to the average audience.

KRISHNA
What is inaccessible about an antelope?

SCHOLAR WITH A QUIRT


Hence, this production imagines a Shakuntala which speaks to the contemporary Western mind...
!Video goes out again."

KRISHNA
Transmission? This is a cultural heritage you’re making an outwardly mockery of. I’m ringing the manager...
!KRISHNA makes his way to the aisle."

Oh, let’s see what I’ll do. I’ll stage a Midsummer Night’s Dream and make Quint and Bottom Abbot and
Costello and trade all the lovers for the cast of Gilmore Girls. And the fairies!baap re!don’t get me started.
So many possibilities. I will make them Indians of the Native American variety. Or maybe Mexican
immigrants. Oh, I know, I know, I will set the entire thing in Arkansas with hillbilly mechanicals and the
space aliens as fairies!
!KRISHNA goes out.

Darkness."

Scene 1
!ENGLISHMAN and DUHSHANTA in a red, radio#flyer
wagon before a very large and noisy fan. DUHSHANTA
stands in the back, chin up, sporting a peacock feather crown,
MacArthur sunglasses and pipe, white scarf, billowing in the
fan wind, and jodhpurs. ENGLISHMAN sits in the front,
miserably."

DUHSHANTA
ROW!

ENGLISHMAN
I’m wet.

DUHSHANTA
ROW!

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This Is Shakuntala

ENGLISHMAN
There’s more of the black sea rolling in the boat than out.
The polar wind cuts through the bulwarks and my bones
And pries my organs open to the steel spray of the sea.
Ice is fasting to my hair and chin.
In three days I’ve not had a drink
But passing ice more than not gagged with salt.
I’ve slept only in delirium these past eight days
Since eyes left closed a moment stick tight shut.

DUHSHANTA
Row on, Smithers!
I’ll tie you to a millstone and heave you overboard.

ENGLISHMAN
Hah! I’m in this boat for the duration, Your Highness.
The rowing blisters on my bottom have burst and worn away.
My flesh is frozen straight to the bench beneath me.
Not have I since we put out from blue Mumbai...

DUHSHANTA
Call it right!

ENGLISHMAN
Who calls it but who’s there, hm?
We’ll call these gunwales Bombay by all rights,
The crusted bow and damp, cold planks, our socks, perhaps,
The slim solid ground we only occupy
And yet our sad wake before it’s slipped back into sea
That’s Bombay but not beyond

DUHSHANTA
Row.

ENGLISHMAN
Pulling, pulling, pulling Souther than I thought there was
Into field"sized fields of floating ice and shellacking weather
To the Pole!

DUHSHANTA
THE POLE!

ENGLISHMAN
To the Pole, he cries. Lean into the waves.
My bleeding gums are my one consolation
Since they signal the onset of scurvy.
With any luck I’ll be dead in a week,
At least unable to bear movement in my joints
Or weight on my bones,
Incapacitated by default.
I’ll lie then in this boat with the black waves above me
Roll in this boat over black waves and brine,
Blasted by sleet and bleeding beneath my crackled cover
Until this boat and king hate my weight.

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This Is Shakuntala

Then he’ll probably eat me.

DUHSHANTA
We’ll dine at The Pole, Watson!
Slake our churning yearning
On an ice throne
At the end of the meridians
With a caper in one hand
Curd in the other
A mouthful of Apple Brown Betty
And an eye unblinking north on the slinking scalliwags toasting their tight brotherhood

Row on!

ENGLISHMAN
Bloody well said, sir!

DUHSHANTA
Onward!

ENGLISHMAN
Tallyho!

DUHSHANTA
Hold on there!
!ENGLISHMAN stops rowing. DUHSHANTA falls over
in the wagon and points over the side."

What say you?

ENGLISHMAN
Hard to mistake two hundred and fifty thousand square miles of floating ice. Looks like the Ross Ice Shelf to
me.

DUHSHANTA
I’m teary.
Remove your hat for our national anthem.

ENGLISHMAN
Lost my hat to a Weddell seal a thousand miles ago.

DUHSHANTA
!Singing, à la “America the Beautiful” or “God Save the
King” or something.."
ANTARCTICA, ANTARCTICA
OUR BLESS’D GONDWANALAND
YOUR WHITE CLIFFS AND YOUR GLACIERS
UNTOUCHED BY HUMAN HANDS

RECEIVE US AND DRY FREEZE US


PRESERVE US IN YOUR SUN
AND KEEP US ALWAYS NEW AS THEE
OUR HOME PRECAMBRIAN

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This Is Shakuntala

ENGLISHMAN
Fat lot of good it does us now that our teeth are falling out from scurvy.

DUHSHANTA
The sere state of the homeless, but
There’s a way through scurvy, Pancho.
That affliction of the tissues,
The crumbled capillaries and purple flesh,
The lethargy of joint and limb,
The hair, the mind, gone pale and dumb""
This stagnation of spirit’s an old human fault
Woven deep within our DNA.
Man’s system, you see, though tuned to millions of cellular miracles
Fails to manufacture sufficient vitamines,
Organic plaster and molding, so to speak,
Which when man misses in diet, he dies,
Like a plate of ice drifted too far
Towards the belt and withered by degrees to nothing.
HOWEVER: How well do you know your Antarctic fauna?

ENGLISHMAN
I can tell a seal from a penguin. What else is down here?

DUHSHANTA
Turn your sights to about 2 o’clock on the shelf.

ENGLISHMAN
Ah, yes. I see what you mean.

DUHSHANTA
What is it?

ENGLISHMAN
Well, pretty plain, I’d say. Upright, though rather squat. Beak. Apparently flightless. Good chance it’s a
penguin.
!DUHSHANTA jumps up."

Watson, we’ll have that bird!

ENGLISHMAN
If you’ll pardon my saying so, sir...

DUHSHANTA
No time for chit"chat. Getting food.

ENGLISHMAN
Very good, sir.
!ENGLISHMAN pulls the oars."

DUHSHANTA AND ENGLISHMAN


!Singing in two#part harmony, à la “Praise to the Man” or
“XXX Aberdeen” or something.."
PRAISE TO ANTARCTICA
THE NEW LAND OF PROMISE

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This Is Shakuntala

GLASSY AND PRISTINE IT LIES ABOUT THE POLE


LONG MAY ITS GLACIERS
AND ICE CAP BE SACRED
EVER THE LANGUISHING PLANET’S WHITE STONE

HAIL TO ANTARCTICA
THE LAST OF THE CONTINENTS
NATIONS AND EMPIRES
NOW SEEK THEE IN VAIN

BLESS’D TO ENGENDER
THE LAST DISPENSATION
HENCEFORTH, FOREVER,
THE WORLD’S AVOWED THRONE
!The wagon strikes the ice shelf. DUHSHANTA stumbles."

DUHSHANTA
Do you have the camera?

ENGLISHMAN
Lost at sea.

DUHSHANTA
Blast.

Well, break out the charcoals, then. I’m stepping onto the shelf and I want this moment recorded for
posterity.
!DUHSHANTA steps onto the ice."

In nomine patri, et filii, et apne atman.

ENGLISHMAN
Blast the ceremonics""sieze the bird!
!DUHSHANTA grabs ENGLISHMAN and yanks him
from the wagon."

DUHSHANTA
Blast your eyes, there’s time to eat, don’t you see?
Hold this moment just one moment!
We’re at the root of the world,
The footing of the sphere
From here form and emanate the several elements
This smooth blank field sinks miles down
And masses so its slick weight
Ice atoms bend warm beneath the strain
Their fine shells crack and into a vast sub"sea of matter
Spill their particular guts, which churn and burn,
Then flow together into unnamed combinations
Earth itself circulates the soup
Spinning newformed atoms out into the sodden ocean
Or belching the plasma skyward to drift northward in swollen clouds
Look, there’s a smokestack just there,
Its sides cleared of ice and blackened by its warm vomit
Blowing the stuff of things to the air

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This Is Shakuntala

This pitch wanders the atmosphere and seas


Until it settles, new soil and sod, stone and sand,
Et cetera.
Here are forged the several stones, the airs, the ethers,
The coded molecules of you and me,
All the disparate blocks of being which give difference
This more than any northward land is mother earth

ENGLISHMAN
I’m still going to have to take a dump on it sometime.

DUHSHANTA
We will set our throne at the Pole and there
At Earth’s one fixed point,
Declare a universal amnesty, receive the tired and poor,
The picked on, and worn and warped,
Those glossed into hurdled masses
And when the pressed upon have in their billions here assembled
We’ll shave away in shoveling mobs the layers of this polar plateau,
Relieve the cap continent of its weight,
Slow the mix and flow of matter,
Slide the snow and ice into the southern seas,
Then while we see the great white continent gleam green
We’ll see the northern surface unrenewed submit to the creep of crystal
In a generation the face of the earth above will shine a sea of glass,
And THEN! will there be below a fair world
Walked over by the small and simple
Knowing each by name
The uncolored country will flicker with a thousand flames,
Flags of every northward nation
Pitched on the very masts they drew leaping here before the wind

ENGLISHMAN
Sweet Jeremy Toad. The little mister’s just standing there.

DUHSHANTA
Of course he is!we’re not hunting antelope. Penguins have no land predators.

ENGLISHMAN
We’re not on land. The Ross Shelf is floating.

DUHSHANTA
Oh, it’s all the same. I’m standing on it, ain’t I? We don’t fill this bird with any more anxiety than you’d feel
at the approach of a block of cheese.

ENGLISHMAN
Right now a block of cheese would fill me with something quite different than anxiety, I can tell you.
!DUHSHANTA goes the the penguin."

DUHSHANTA
Such a bird, the penguin. Such human weight and manner about it. Look at the girth, the sloped shoulders,
the vacuous black eyes.
!DUHSHANTA takes the penguin by the wing and walks
with it."

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This Is Shakuntala

Hah. His head in the guillotine and he’s not even perplexed. We could do any number of things to this bird
and he’d not bat an eye, eh? We could dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and he’d stand there like he’d bought a
ticket.
!DUHSHANTA stabs the penguin in the skull with a tent
stake.."

ENGLISHMAN
Might even have applauded.

DUHSHANTA
Awfully magnanimous of the bird, wouldn’t you say, Tonto?

Man’s a peculiar beast.


What man can’t make himself
He’ll darn well take from something else.
You and I can’t make ascorbic acid,
But it’s to be found in buckets
In this old bird’s fresh carcass.
A disciplined diet of fresh penguin guts will have your gums back to normal and a full weight of cartilege back
in your joints in no time.
!ENGLISHMAN points down the shelf."

Oh, crap. Act natural.


!DUHSHANTA puts a brotherly arm over the tent spike in
the penguin’s head as PARK RANGER walks out of the
blowing ice."

Evening.

PARK RANGER
Afternoon.

DUHSHANTA
Is it?

PARK RANGER
You’re not eating that penguin, are you?

DUHSHANTA
Good heavens, no.

PARK RANGER
‘Cause you know this is an animal reserve.

DUHSHANTA
No, I was well aware of that.
!PARK RANGER wands DUHSHANTA with a metal
detector. It beeps."

PARK RANGER
This is a universal animal habitat, meaning it is reserved for the habitat of universal animals. The
administration is handled exclusively by Mother Theresa’s Nuns of the Holy Order of lilarasa.

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This Is Shakuntala

ENGLISHMAN
I don’t think Antarctic penguins are endangered.

PARK RANGER
An inciteful objection, smart guy, but it isn’t a question of endangerment. We might finally make a place
where all those distinctions don’t matter. If we can forget which animals are vertebrates and which are
invertebrates, which are warm"blooded and cold"blooded, the fast and the slow, tall and short...

DUHSHANTA
The endangered and the overpopulous.

ENGLISHMAN
The bond and the free.

PARK RANGER
... and just give ‘em all habitat, the ice cap could be international cooperation’s crowning achievement. And
think of the potential ecosystem. Lichens and lotuses, sarus cranes and wildebeasts, reindeer and refugees,
freshwater and saltwater crocodiles... wouldn’t you love to see antelope loping across the ice? Or a pack of
wolf cubs frolicking in the snow?

ENGLISHMAN
The wolves would eat the antelope.

PARK RANGER
Thank you for the civics lesson. Let’s see the stake.
!PARK RANGER moves to remove DUHSHANTA’s arm
from the penguin."

There you go, little guy...


!DUHSHANTA keeps his arm in place."

DUHSHANTA
Ahh... he’s traveling with us. He’s like the son I never had. My wives won’t carry children.

PARK RANGER
Wives?

DUHSHANTA
Not any one of the four hundred. We’ve tried.

Twelve years of wives and others


Others’ wives and bland acquaintances
Have not filled out
To fill my house

I’m afraid it might be me.

My rule collapsed
Between conspiracies internal and without
As armies moved and countries behind them
As policies and promises made wake
For money to ride in
As channels of goods switched their banks with the moon
Our needs were squeezing between others’ jostling

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So slimming down to afterthoughts

Narrowing means make narrower dreams


And fewer would live with the shrink
Democracy and the shareholders invited my resignation
Which I gave and control to the board
Because I had no heir
No pompous generation to carry the flag o’er the trenches
Wherever the onslaught, whatever the arms,
Draw the hungry country after to the plentiful dawn

Nah, it’s all done by consensus, now.

Smoky agreements over cards.

The only flowing springs there now are the people departing
And the letters they send back
We’ll be nothing soon
But a dimly kept picture of grandma

PARK RANGER
Refugees must register with the sisters within twenty"four hours of arriving in Antarctica.

DUHSHANTA
Refugees are fugitives. I’m a sovereign nation. I bear my citizenship in my bones.

PARK RANGER
Sir, you’ll have to register those bones within twenty"four hours of arriving in Antarctica.

DUHSHANTA
We’ll not be registrated under another banner!
Keep the bleak camps if you will at the margin of the land mass,
We’ll sit at the Pole ourselves
At rule
Call the fugitives free
And set the icing of the world
To preserve us all

The cold, chalk continent designs to be


Newly raised the ensign of nations

PARK RANGER
I’m afraid that’s impossible. Best I can give you is a weekend camping pass!no open fires. The U.N. has
reserved the whole continent for the reserve.

DUHSHANTA
!Biting his pipe."
What does the U.N. know about reserves?

I have crossed the oceans in an open boat


And stand in ice in Antarctica,
With blood in my stool and one eye snow blind
I am bitten leprous by wind and blanched,
I am slow from ache and starving limbs

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I have waived my former status, left my throne and land,


And they are there in New York City
Selling grape leaves on street corners
This bare page is mine, and I will write my name on it
I am King Duhshanta.

PARK RANGER
Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the continent.
!DUHSHANTA draws the stake from the penguin’s head
and brandishes it as a knife. PARK RANGER backs off."

DUHSHANTA
I AM KING DUHSHANTA!
!The penguin waddles away."

ENGLISHMAN
Bugger!
!PARK RANGER pulls the radio transmitter from his
shoulder."

PARK RANGER
This is ake"adam"bareh reporting level orange, suspect with possible weapon of solitary destruction, and
requesting immediate back"up.

DUHSHANTA
!Backing up to the wagon."
You won’t find me. I’m like the wind. And I’ll blend in the blasts which ever scrape this dome flat.
!DUHSHANTA clambers backward into the wagon.

Watch. I am the wind


!Pause as DUHSHANTA gathers strength."

MUSH!
!ENGLISHMAN sighs, takes the handle, and pulls the
wagon in a circle. PARK RANGER fades as he calls after
them."

PARK RANGER
The whole U.N. will be after you!

DUHSHANTA
Pansies!
!PARK RANGER fades away."

Hold up!
!ENGLISHMAN stops suddenly. DUHSHANTA falls
over in the wagon."

Shhh!
!They listen."

Ah"hah! Just past that pressure ridge I seem to hear conversation. You stay here, I’ll check it out.
!DUHSHANTA creeps across the ice. He stops, peering,
turns and returns."

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Right. The nuns are here.

ENGLISHMAN
Do they have brains?

DUHSHANTA
Very possibly.
!DUHSHANTA hands his crown and pipe to
ENGLISHMAN."

I’ll keep the glasses. Stay here...

ENGLISHMAN
So you said.

DUHSHANTA
Grease the runners of the sled while I’m busy intimidating the nuns. Shouldn’t take me five minutes.

ENGLISHMAN
It’ll take me more than five minutes to grease the runners.

DUHSHANTA
Fine. I’ll take ten minutes.
!DUHSHANTA creeps again across the ice.
ENGLISHMAN slumps against the sled and recedes into the
blowing ice."

Brains, brains. I need brains.


!DUHSHANTA holds his ears."

Now, let me see. All the blowing ice in the air will mask the sound of my approach.
!DUHSHANTA sticks a finger in his mouth and holds it in
the air."

Hm. The wind is blowing toward me at about sixty miles an hour, so they won’t smell me coming.
!A huge, dead tuna falls out of the sky. DUHSHANTA stops
dead."

Hold! If my understanding of English literature is correct, this albacore on the ice before me is an omen
signifying either that I’ll soon tango with a beautiful woman or an enormous sea horse is about to drag me
irretrievably out to sea. I hope it’s the former.

VOICES
!Singing."
BAH BAH BLACK SHEEP
HAVE YOU ANY WOOL?

DUHSHANTA
!Listening."
Ah. I hear the sisters singing.
!DUHSHANTA creeps closer. SHAKUNTALA,
PRIYAMVADA, and ANUSUYA appear in nuns’ habits.
PRIYAMVADA and ANUSUYA dance in a clockwise

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direction around SHAKUNTALA, who, in her habit, kneels


before a squat, three#feet high rock, hammering away with a
chisel and, obviously, a hammer. On the ground to the side is a
tray upon which are a variety of fruits, including a coconut,
also an oil lamp, several small bowls, and a long#handled
ladle."

NUNS
!Still singing."
YES SIR, YES SIR,
THREE BAGS FULL

ONE FOR MY MASTER


AND ONE FOR MY DAME,
AND ONE FOR THE LITTLE BOY
WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE

BAH BAH BLACK SHEEP


HAVE YOU ANY WOOL?
YES, SIR, YES SIR,
THREE BAGS FULL
!At the end of the song, PRIYAMVADA and ANUSUYA
rest as SHAKUNTALA hammers."

DUHSHANTA
Yes, either I’ve come across three nuns or a very small flock of jesuit penguins. They seem strangely
unburdened by refugees.

These cheeks blush brightly in delight


Not the despair one expects of the chaste.
Wise men say
Only fools rush in.
I may be better off sizing up the situation for a bit. We’ll see how nun these sisters are and find an opening if
there is one.
!SHAKUNTALA rests the hammer, sags with some
exhaustion, and prays."

SHAKUNTALA
O god, father of mercy, satisfy this their ardent desire.
Send them thy holy angel to announce to them that thou,
Their father, are now reconciled with them
Through the suffering and death of Jesus
And that the moment of their deliverance has arrived.

PRIYAMVADA AND ANUSUYA


Amen.
!Taking up the ladle, SHAKUNTALA dips some ghee and
dribbles it out over the rock."

SHAKUNTALA
!Singing."
TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR
!The other nuns join in, resuming their dance, habits flapping
every which way."

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NUNS
HOW I WONDER WHAT YOU ARE
UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH
LIKE A DIAMOND IN THE SKY

TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR


HOW I WONDER WHAT YOU ARE

DUHSHANTA
Hey Bhagwan, look at that fruit. A single lime’s worth a bucket of brains.

SHAKUNTALA
The lord bless and keep you
Through his many varied forms
Through the creator’s first flowing water,
Through the fire and priest who bear sacrifice,
Through the time’s pieces, the sun and the moon,
Through the unbound medium of voice,
Through the fruitful earth, and through air.
Amen.

NUNS
Amen.

PRIYAMVADA
Put down your tools and join us. The ice is cold without your feet on it.

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, Sister Priyamvada, I’m busy.

PRIYAMVADA
You can leave chiseling for a moment.
!Singing."

A, B, C, D,
E, F, G,
!PRIYAMVADA takes SHAKUNTALA by the hands
and raises her up from the ground. SHAKUNTALA and
ANUSUYA join the song and their dance resumes."

NUNS
H, I, J, K,
L, M, N, O, P,
Q, R, S,
T, U, V,
W, X, Y, AND Z,

NOW I KNOW MY ABC’S


NEXT TIME WON’T YOU SING WITH ME?
!The dancing stops. PRIYAMVADA and ANUSUYA fall
to the ground. SHAKUNTALA goes to her knees before the
rock and genuflects."

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DUHSHANTA
So, this is Shakuntala.

Hard to tell under all that material, but the visible part’s quite nice.

Sweat like stars glances


As it freezes on her forehead
And her eyes flare dark below it
To melt and vaporize it
Raising it in a halo wispy
With the smaze gasped from her panted lips
Her chin slips slightly with each stiff breath
And hints at deeper heavings I would see
But for the fabric.
Mother Teresa’s got the wrong idea swaddling her up that way.
Good gracious, what am I thinking? She’s a nun.

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, and I’m getting a terrible ache in my back from hunching over this. Sister Priyamvada, help me out of this
thing, would you? I can barely breathe.
!PRIYAMVADA gets up slowly and helps
SHAKUNTALA out of her habit."

DUHSHANTA
Blast. The dilemma of our times. Do I step out and warn her that her skin will freeze white and dead in an
instant without some covering or do I keep silent and find out if it’s true what they say about what nuns wear
beneath their habits?
!SHAKUNTALA’s habit comes off to reveal a thick, rubber
wet#suit##complete with a hood##beneath."

Blimey. No dilemma after all. She’s not going to freeze and I’m not going to see any heaving, consecrated
bosoms, neither. Indecisiveness wins the battle.

SHAKUNTALA
Thanks, Sister Priyamvada. Now the wet"suit. This thing’s so tight I think I’ve lost the circulation in my
bosoms.

DUHSHANTA
Drat.
!PRIYAMVADA unzips SHAKUNTALA while
SHAKUNTALA pulls off her hood."

PRIYAMVADA
I told you to buy a woman’s suit.

SHAKUNTALA
I’m not a woman, okay? I’ve forsaken gender.

PRIYAMVADA
If you’ve forsaken gender, why do I have to keep popping open your clothes so you can breathe?
!SHAKUNTALA pulls her arms out of the wet#suit sleeves
with a snap and leans back against the rock to roll the suit off
her legs. As it comes off, the wet#suit reveals a stylish, white#
trimmed, black bikini."

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This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
She’ll be dead in a few seconds, but what a pair of bosoms.
!SHAKUNTALA stretches with relief."

PRIYAMVADA
Wait. Hold that pose. For a moment there you looked just like Ariel.

ANUSUYA
You’ll be stuck to that stone in a moment if you don’t get something between you.
!SHAKUNTALA stands up and picks up her habit."

ANUSUYA
Sister Shakuntala, it’s a lichen!

SHAKUNTALA
Like what?

ANUSUYA
A lichen has sprouted in the moisture your damp body has left on the rock.

SHAKUNTALA
My goodness. So it has. And it looks an awful lot like the Blessed Virgin.
!PRIYAMVADA falls on the rock, spreading her habit out
over the lichen."

PRIYAMVADA
It’s a sign, don’t let it freeze!

SHAKUNTALA
It’s not a sign. It’s just a blue"green organism composed of phycobiont alga and mycobiont fungus.

DUHSHANTA
Wow. A life"spring, even in a wasteland, and smart, too. If she weren’t a nun this would be my lucky day.

PRIYAMVADA
No, no, no. I’m telling you Mother Teresa said the Blessed Virgin would bring new life to Antarctica.

DUHSHANTA
She might even make the Pole itself blossom as the rose. Girls can leave the nunhood, can’t they? If they
meet the right guy? After all:

There once was a king from Kashi


Who balanced the world on his knee,
When people perceived it,
They forsook all commitment,
And followed him wild and free.

SHAKUNTALA
Listen, Sister Priyamvada. A vision of the Blessed Virgin or not, I’ll admit a lichen is pretty extraordinary
here. Stand up and we’ll cover it with my habit.

PRIYAMVADA
If you’re sure you won’t freeze solid and crack apart without it.

16
This Is Shakuntala

SHAKUNTALA
I’m not sure, but I’ve already grown attached to this lichen like to a sister. We ought to do what we can to
help this bleak world blossom.

PRIYAMVADA
Just let me know if your skin begins to splinter.
!PRIYAMVADA stands. SHAKUNTALA shakes out her
habit to lay over the lichen. The habit jumps out of her hands
and swirls around the nuns’ heads."

SHAKUNTALA
Hit the deck! It’s loose again!

ANUSUYA
Ack! Your nasty habit will have us all!
!The nuns flatten out on the ice. The robe swoops and soars
over them."

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, it’s more interested in me than the two of you.

PRIYAMVADA
It’s only right""it’s your habit!

DUHSHANTA
Now how I wish I were ice
And melting underneath this warm prone form.
With each turn right and left to keep one eye on the mad robe
She shows the ice in jealous clumps
Cling to skin and slip as quickly into dew.
I, oh ice, am kept from her by covenant,
But you, I see, know little oaths.

ANUSUYA
Help, help!

SHAKUNTALA
Go on, scream! There’s no one to hear you!
!DUHSHANTA leaps over the pressure ridge, tent stake
brandished heroically. With stabbing and slashing and
bellowing he tangles up in the wayward habit."

ANUSUYA
Oh, save us, there’s two of them!
!DUHSHANTA stumbles and falls to the ice fully wrapped
in nun’s habit."

PRIYAMVADA
Whatever it was it’s dead. Sister Shakuntala’s habit killed it.
!The three nuns push up from the ice and on hands and knees
tentatively approach the rumpled habit."

ANUSUYA

17
This Is Shakuntala

I’m told there are yeti in Antarctica.

SHAKUNTALA
It’s no yeti.
!With a roar, DUHSHANTA bursts through the habit,
rending it in pieces with his contraband tent stake. The nuns
shriek and backpedal."

DUHSHANTA
What habit would so torment chaste girls in this pure land?
!DUHSHANTA stomps terribly on the habit. ANUSUYA
curls into a ball and weeps."

You are chaste, right?

SHAKUNTALA
Yes, yes. She’s a little delicate.
!DUHSHANTA genuflects."

DUHSHANTA
Hail Mary, mother of god.

PRIYAMVADA
Thanks for putting down that habit. Sister Anusuya’s and my own are pretty well trained, but Sister
Shakuntala’s had a bad habit from the beginning.

DUHSHANTA
!Wiping off the tent spike on the ice."
My pleasure.

SHAKUNTALA
How did you know we were here?
!Suddenly losing strength, DUHSHANTA leans back
against the rock."

PRIYAMVADA
Not on the rock!
!DUHSHANTA stands quickly."

Sorry. Don’t sit on the rock. Come sit over here on the ice while I try to take care of this serendipitous
lichen.
!DUHSHANTA moves away from the rock.
PRIYAMVADA gathers up the shreds of the fallen habit
and arranges them over the lichen. DUHSHANTA edges
toward the offering tray."

DUHSHANTA
It’s quite the track you’ve worn around that rock. You must be tired.

PRIYAMVADA
It’s good exercise.

DUHSHANTA
I confess that I’m delighted to discover such angels as yourselves here in no man’s land.

18
This Is Shakuntala

!While the nuns are distracted, DUHSHANTA snatches a


lime from the tray. In a desperate rush he chomps a big bite
from it."

PRIYAMVADA
Psst. Sister Shakuntala, who is this guy?

SHAKUNTALA
!Aside."
Gracious. That was such an entrance. This man makes me feel like a natural woman.
!ANUSUYA’s head emerges from the ball she is.
DUHSHANTA stuffs the lime in a pocket."

ANUSUYA
Are you a yeti?

DUHSHANTA
!Laughing like Santa Claus."
Oh, my goodness, no.

ANUSUYA
You sound a little like Casey Kasem. Are you Casey Kasem?

DUHSHANTA
!Aside."
Hm. Here’s my present dilemma. Do I let on that I’m King Duhshanta come to claim their refugees or do I
pretend I’m Casey Kasem? Would they really prefer the refugees remain refugees?
!Reflecting."

Let it be the latter.


!Aloud. Like Casey Kasem."

It’s a sub"zero vacation below the arctic circle for our hero, but he’s not alone. He’s got three devoted girls in
his posse, and the temperature’s risin’. I’m Casey Kasem.

PRIYAMVADA
No you’re not. You don’t sound anything like him.

DUHSHANTA
I’m a graduate student. I’m doing dissertation research. On Antarctic flora. That’s quite a lichen you have
there.

PRIYAMVADA
There’s more where that came from. Oh, sure. We had thirty different colonies here just last week.
!Pause."

Then we had a drought.

DUHSHANTA
And you worship the divine child?

PRIYAMVADA
The divine child. That’s right. We’re of the Holy Order of lilarasa.

19
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
But you have vows, right?

PRIYAMVADA
Oh, heavens, yes. Poverty, charity, irritability, equal opportunity...

DUHSHANTA
Chastity?

PRIYAMVADA
Well... yeah...
!PRIYAMVADA looks at the other nuns. They look back."

... yes. Sure. Chastity. At least so far.

DUHSHANTA
!Aside."
O, the magic of this frost to so slow a girl’s alarm!
What you feared was a fire has cooled to a stone.
Have at her. Her heart holds contrary concepts,
So why should there not be room there beside the saints and sages
For you, the Pole, and for heirs of the New Earth?
!DUHSHANTA roars, leaps into the air drawing his tent
spike, and delivers an unearthly blow to the top of the rock as
he comes down. The rock splits apart and upsets the nativity
scene."

DUHSHANTA
BE FREE OF YOUR GODS!
!SHAKUNTALA leaps to her feet and pummels
DUHSHANTA with her fists. He holds her at bay with one
arm."

SHAKUNTALA
You’re no graduate student!

DUHSHANTA
!To the air."
Dream no more salt gods and kneelings,
Faiths and feelings, strained rites, or veils of constancy...

SHAKUNTALA
You big, fat jerk! Where am I going to find another rock on an ice shelf?!

DUHSHANTA
...Nor tensed liturgies, nor pewed hollows, nor brassy cymbals,
But that room remains for latter forms,
Present saints and ford"finders,
Chakravartins and brand"spankin’ new cosmic enterprises.

SHAKUNTALA
Let go of me!

DUHSHANTA

20
This Is Shakuntala

This world passes pretty Shakuntala,


Hie to the earth’s one fixed point!
!Elephants trumpet."

Hie, hie to the Pole!


!DUHSHANTA pulls SHAKUNTALA close, suddenly."

We’ll South, Shakuntala.


!EVERYTHING freezes. Pause."

ANUSUYA
Sister Shakuntala, your vows!

SHAKUNTALA
I’m crippled.

ANUSUYA
The refugees.

DUHSHANTA
South, Shakuntala.
!PRIYAMVADA retrieves the tent spike from the split
rock."

SHAKUNTALA
!Singing."
THERE ISN’T AN OCEAN TOO DEEP,
A MOUNTAIN SO HIGH IT CAN KEEP,
KEEP ME AWAY!
!PRIYAMVADA strikes DUHSHANTA with the tent
spike. DUHSHANTA pitches forward. ANUSUYA pulls
SHAKUNTALA from him and into the blowing ice.
SHAKUNTALA struggles, jerking almost to dislocate her
shoulder."

SHAKUNTALA
I’m cut and caught! Wait for me to loosen myself!
!DUHSHANTA lurches on his hands and knees and collapses
on the ice.

PRIYAMVADA stands above and behind him with the tent


spike. She looks at it. Something about it catches her eye. She
nearly drops it.

Crash of ice collapsing off the shelf.

Elephants."

Scene 2

!DUHSHANTA and ENGLISHMAN crouch below a ten#


foot stockade fence. A sign is nailed to the fence which reads,
“MERCY SISTERS.”

21
This Is Shakuntala

A second hand has drawn in a comma after “Mercy.”

DUHSHANTA has a green bandage around his head. The


offering tray lies empty.

ENGLISHMAN chews on a coconut husk."

ENGLISHMAN
Why didn’t you crack their heads open? I can feel my scurvy coming back.

DUHSHANTA
They didn’t give me a chance. The snow was blowing something fierce. I could hardly see.

ENGLISHMAN
It doesn’t snow in Antarctica. There’s no real precipitation at all.

DUHSHANTA
Well, the bloody blowing ice, then!

ENGLISHMAN
Alright. You couldn’t see.

DUHSHANTA
I think she liked me.

ENGLISHMAN
What gave it away? The kicking and screaming?

DUHSHANTA
Oh, stop it. How would you act if you’d taken a vow of celibacy and then ran into a strapping young king like
myself in Antarctica?

ENGLISHMAN
If I did?

DUHSHANTA
Play along!

ENGLISHMAN
She doesn’t know you’re a king.

DUHSHANTA
That’s right. And we’re not going to tell her, either.

ENGLISHMAN
I’m sorry for saying it, but I don’t think I’d be very impressed at meeting a king I didn’t know was a king
whether or not I was in Antarctica. And, if I may say so, her vows don’t seem to mean much to you.

DUHSHANTA
They’re her vows.

ENGLISHMAN
Whatever happened to the king’s sacred duty to procure security for the afflicted?

22
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
What’s afflicting her?

ENGLISHMAN
Well... celibacy!

DUHSHANTA
Darn right. I’ll be her king, yet.

ENGLISHMAN
By force.

DUHSHANTA
I’m telling you she likes me.

Acid rain is not more plain


On timber than the burning flame
An undiscovered country fires in human souls.

We’ll take her South.

ENGLISHMAN
She’s with nuns, Duhshanta. Nuns.

DUHSHANTA
Think of something! Even nuns can be distracted.

ENGLISHMAN
Just kidnap her, for crying out loud. Break down the fence. You’re a strapping young king.

DUHSHANTA
Oh, be more clever than that.

ENGLISHMAN
Send her flowers.
!DUHSHANTA smacks ENGLISHMAN up side the
head."

DUHSHANTA
And a pumpkin pie while I’m at it. She’s in there, fingers a"quiver, mouth dry, dusky eyes darting...

ENGLISHMAN
Dig underneath.

DUHSHANTA
Through the ice with my fingernails.

ENGLISHMAN
You could melt your way under.

DUHSHANTA
!Singing."
DOWN IN THE VALLEY

23
This Is Shakuntala

THE VALLEY SO LOW


HANG YOUR HEAD OVER
HEAR THE WIND BLOW

ENGLISHMAN
Too bad you lost that spike.

DUHSHANTA
HEAR THE WIND BLOW, DEAR
HEAR THE WIND BLOW
HANG YOUR HEAD OVER
HEAR THE WIND BLOW

Give me a boost.

ENGLISHMAN
I don’t know. It hasn’t been all that long since my back surgery.

DUHSHANTA
You haven’t seen her.

ENGLISHMAN
I’d love to take a look. You give me a boost.

DUHSHANTA
Like a glacier flow her parts together
Blue ice and snow fields
Sleek slopes, the fine gloss glinting.
All this wondrous ice cap
Glows against her, reflects and finds her.
Who would stand here
Would first kneel to her.

Boost me.
!ENGLISHMAN interlaces his fingers. DUHSHANTA
steps into his hands and peeks over the top of the stockade."

ENGLISHMAN
Is she there?

DUHSHANTA
I think so...
!The doors to the theatre smash in, splinters flying."

VOICE
Ah"hah! They’re still up to their monkeying around business!
!KRISHNA and several FIREFIGHTERS come through
the audience."

KRISHNA
Oh, what is it now, it’s worse than before. Are you people besieging the Alamo, or what is it going on here?
!ENGLISHMAN holds up his hands in surrender.
DUHSHANTA hangs from the top of the fence."

24
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
Hey! Go back to the suburbs, ya know"it"all"know"nothing.

KRISHNA
And who are you now? Is this Duhshanta who breaks elephants and fights with demons?

DUHSHANTA
Have you seen the park ranger about those axes?

KRISHNA
You go on back to Bohemia. That is it. Get it all down. Go on. It is all going now.
!KRISHNA directs the FIREFIGHTERS who hack at the
stockade fence with their axes##some striking uncomfortably
close to DUHSHANTA."

ENGLISHMAN
My arms are tired.

KRISHNA
Well, put them down, for goodness sake. Nobody asked you to put them up in the first place.

DUHSHANTA
My arms are tired, too.
!To the FIREFIGHTERS."

Not so close, I’m hanging here!

PRIYAMVADA
!From Offstage."
I have a gun!

KRISHNA
No you don’t.

PRIYAMVADA
!From Offstage."
I do have a gun. And I’m calling the U.N.

SHAKUNTALA
!From Offstage to PRIYAMVADA."
What’s going on? Are the refugees here?

DUHSHANTA
How did everybody but me get these weapons down here?

KRISHNA
She doesn’t have a gun.

SHAKUNTALA
!From Offstage to KRISHNA."
What do you want?

KRISHNA
She doesn’t even have a phone.

25
This Is Shakuntala

PRIYAMVADA
!From Offstage."
I do have a phone. I ordered pizza last week.

ENGLISHMAN
Pizza?
!ENGLISHMAN jumps on the stockade fence, but hasn’t the
strength to pull himself over. He hangs beside
DUHSHANTA."

Let me in! Let me in!


!ENGLISHMAN kicks weakly at the fence."

KRISHNA
!To the FIREFIGHTERS."
I want all this cleared away. This preposterous fence, the ice, the actors, the... ice. Everything must go.
!PRIYAMVADA’s head appears over the fence."

PRIYAMVADA
Who are you? What do you want?
!To the FIREFIGHTERS."

Stop that! That’s an expensive fence. All this wood was shipped from Tierra del Fuego.

KRISHNA
I’m putting an end to all this, this, this, fun.

ENGLISHMAN
Oh, that’s rich. I’m not having any fun.

PRIYAMVADA
What kind of a person would chop down a mission of mercy?
!KRISHNA brandishes a fistful of papers."

KRISHNA
I have a court order.

PRIYAMVADA
You didn’t answer the question.

KRISHNA
I should very well ask you what kind of person would perpetrate this kind of flummadiddle.
!The FIREFIGHTERS have become interested in the
conversation."

What are you all turning your eyes on?


!The FIREFIGHTERS return to chopping at the stockade."

PRIYAMVADA
!To DUHSHANTA."
Do something!

DUHSHANTA

26
This Is Shakuntala

Me?! He’s got a court order.

PRIYAMVADA
You’re a king!

DUHSHANTA
Who says?

PRIYAMVADA
Who else would monogram a tent spike?

DUHSHANTA
Is Sister Shakuntala in there?

PRIYAMVADA
No.

DUHSHANTA
I heard her.

PRIYAMVADA
She has vows and you don’t have a kingdom.

DUHSHANTA
I have a vow to found a kingdom.

PRIYAMVADA
They’re cutting down our fence!

DUHSHANTA
Maybe it’s for the best.

Like gates are oaths,


Thrown closed to frightful powers,
Locked to the strange world and odd,
But fast against all striking verve
They often slow whom they would serve.

PRIYAMVADA
Think of the refugees!
!A large section of the fence collapses. PRIYAMVADA falls
with a shriek. DUHSHANTA falls on a FIREFIGHTER.
ENGLISHMAN is left hanging."

KRISHNA
!Reading from the court order."
In accordance with the statutes and ordinances...

ENGLISHMAN
What statues?

KRISHNA
STATUTES! Unlicensed tampering with tradition. Unauthorized corruption of text. Unwarranted confusion
of culture. Unearned disregard for time, place, and action. The list goes on.

27
This Is Shakuntala

!Reading again."

In accordance with the statutes and ordinances of Kansas City, the bearer is hereby empowered to supervise in
the suspension and dismantling of said enterprise at his earliest convenience, and granted also the use of said
city’s resources, namely the department of fire corrections, for said purpose. Furthermore, it is hereby
proclaimed...
!SHAKUNTALA hops into the breach. She is bound hand
and foot with rope, but she manages to hold and level a
double#barrelled shotgun at KRISHNA. The
FIREFIGHTERS step back."

SHAKUNTALA
You’d better take two steps back, turn tail, and make a beeline for the horizon, you lily"livered, sulphur"
breathing, cross"eyed, varmint eater.

KRISHNA
And you’re going to tell me you’ve put bullets in that?

SHAKUNTALA
You’d better believe it, you mule"faced, side"windin’, doodie dropper.

KRISHNA
The first thing is that what’s the necessity for name calling? The second thing is you do not put bullets in a
shotgun, you use cartridges. The third thing is I have a court order.

SHAKUNTALA
That’s all well and good, but the fine municipality of Kansas City takes a back seat to the U.N. High
Commission on Refugees.

KRISHNA
I have a court order.
!SHAKUNTALA takes a hop forward."

SHAKUNTALA
I’m only going to tell you one more time, stranger. Git.

KRISHNA
!Waving his arms."
Just tell me where is Kalidasa?! There is ice and stockades and sunglasses and shotgun bullets""where is India?
Where is Kalidasa?!
!SHAKUNTALA fires. The shotgun recoil spins her to the
ground. KRISHNA hits the deck A huge, ornate, crystal
chandelier drops onto the ice, taking the remaining
FIREFIGHTERS out of the game."

AUDIENCE MEMBER
!Standing and shouting with horror."
That’s my grandmother’s chandelier!
!KRISHNA scrambles over the chandelier toward
SHAKUNTALA who screams and fires again. The shotgun
jumps from SHAKUNTALA’s hands. A penguin falls into
the chandelier mess. KRISHNA grabs SHAKUNTALA by
the ankle."

28
This Is Shakuntala

ENGLISHMAN
!Still hanging on the fence."
Rape! Rape!
!SHAKUNTALA tries to crawl free, but KRISHNA pulls
himself over her and pins her down, pulling her head back by
her hair."

SHAKUNTALA
The U.N.’ll bomb the crap out of Kansas City when they hear about this.

KRISHNA
I have seen circus freaks better justified to perform.

SHAKUNTALA
And Mother Theresa’s gonna go postal.

KRISHNA
Do your parents know you are doing this?

SHAKUNTALA
My parents are dead.

KRISHNA
That’s just as well. They’d probably have keeled over if they’d seen you in this situation.
!SHAKUNTALA struggles. KRISHNA speaks to the
audience."

My humblest apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for bringing a premature end to tonight’s performance.
However, I am certain you will agree with me at this point that this production is going nowhere at a
particularly rapid pace, and surely you all have other, more significant matters to attend to. So, without
further ado, let me thank you for coming and direct you to the box office which will be happy to refund your
money. If there are any questions...
!A ship’s horn sounds nearby."

ENGLISHMAN
I beg your pardon, but there’s a big boat out in the bay.

SHAKUNTALA
The refugees!
!SHAKUNTALA struggles with renewed vigor.
KRISHNA jerks her violently."

KRISHNA
Stop it, you have no right to this! There is a tradition you have not entered.

SHAKUNTALA
I’ve bought a tradition with my sacrifice, and God will strike you dead if you keep me from my vows.

KRISHNA
Whose god? The refugees’ god? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s god? Pashupati? Grace Slick’s son? To whom
do you appeal?

SHAKUNTALA
Whoever’s on duty.

29
This Is Shakuntala

!REFUGEES begin to wander onto the ice."

KRISHNA
!To the refugees."
Go back. Go on home. This is all over, there’s nothing for you here.
!The REFUGEES do not speak English."

ENGLISHMAN
Take me with you.

SHAKUNTALA
They’re refugees, they’ve got no place to go, you moron!
!DUHSHANTA erupts from the rubble of the stockade,
chandelier, and assorted firefighters. He has one of the fire
axes."

DUHSHANTA
!Operatically."
DEMON!
!KRISHNA rolls out of the way as DUHSHANTA takes a
swipe at him with the ax. KRISHNA gets to his feet but
keeps ahold of SHAKUNTALA and stands her up before
him. KRISHNA moves to keep SHAKUNTALA between
himself and DUHSHANTA, who stalks him around the ice."

KRISHNA
I will have you prosecuted for assault, for violation of my civil rights, for harrassment, for unlicensed use of an
ax...

DUHSHANTA
And if I kill you?
!DUHSHANTA takes another swipe."

KRISHNA
For murder, then!

DUHSHANTA
This is the substance of kings,
You must face, to wash themselves red
As defenders of faith,
Staking the path of custom with unbelieving bones.

KRISHNA
But you can’t do it here. The rules won’t allow!

DUHSHANTA
You’ve got to break some eggs.
!DUHSHANTA takes another swipe."

You’re a trouble maker...


!Swipe."

...a busybody...
!Swipe."

30
This Is Shakuntala

...a misguided do"gooder...


!Swipe."

...a buttinsky...
!Swipe. SHAKUNTALA wrenches herself free and falls at
DUHSHANTA’s feet. DUHSHANTA corners
KRISHNA against what remains of the fence."

...a Nosy Nettie...


!DUHSHANTA pulls back the ax for the final, death#
dealing blow. The shotgun blasts again. Everything freezes.
ANUSUYA stands with the shotgun. There is silence as
smoke drifts from one of the barrels. A mackrel falls onto the
ice."

ANUSUYA
Mother Theresa wouldn’t want you to kill that man.

DUHSHANTA
!Losing some steam."
Blast.

KRISHNA
I am going to walk away from here and straight to the police and from there straight to the newspapers and
from there straight home to my wife who happens to be a Kansas City alderperson and THEN we’ll see who
will be destroying who.

DUHSHANTA
I don’t think she’d actually shoot me.

ENGLISHMAN
I’d love to see Kansas City. I hear it’s beautiful in the... what season is this?

DUHSHANTA
Shoot him, Sister, paint the ice with his blood! And then, on, on to the Pole on gilded runners my love and I
will go.

ANUSUYA
Oh, no. No. She has vows.
!PRIYAMVADA pushes up through the rubble."

PRIYAMVADA
I heard a boat.

ANUSUYA
Put down the ax.

DUHSHANTA
Shoot me.

ANUSUYA
Sister Priyamvada and I can’t take care of all these refugees by ourselves.

31
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
We’ll all go South
A host of dispossessed
On eager feet toward new trappings.
Leave us all this effete world
And find a rich order in the very South.

PRIYAMVADA
!Indicating DUHSHANTA."
Shoot him.

DUHSHANTA
The earth will not allow it. Gravity will pull the shot to the ground before it will permit my harm.

KRISHNA
Give me the gun. I’ll shoot him.

PRIYAMVADA
Sister Shakuntala...

KRISHNA
You are all coming with me. The police will be here soon and you will make a full accounting of this farcical
debacle of yours to my wife and assorted alderpeople.

ANUSUYA
Maybe you should wait until Mother Theresa arrives.

KRISHNA
Would you stop with the Mother Theresa! She is dead half way on the other side of the world in Calcutta and
she knows nothing of this, and anyway she would be ashamed of it all if she did.

PRIYAMVADA
Sister Shakuntala...

KRISHNA
The police will bring a warrant for all your papers and permits if you have them...

ANUSUYA
The refugees, too?

KRISHNA
Everyone involved!

PRIYAMVADA
!Pulling herself from the rubble."
Shakuntala...?

SHAKUNTALA
I’ll go South.
!PRIYAMVADA grabs SHAKUNTALA by the shoulders
and sits her up."

PRIYAMVADA
Let me ask the question, at least! What would you do? The refugees are pouring in by the boatload, the

32
This Is Shakuntala

security of the mission perimeter has been compromised, a vagrant king thinks to lead us all into a
cockamamie plan, this second madman wants to put us all on a boat to Kansas City...

KRISHNA
THERE IS NO BOAT!

PRIYAMVADA
...and Mother Theresa is due back here any day now. What would you do?

SHAKUNTALA
South.

PRIYAMVADA
Bugger.

DUHSHANTA
I have heard what I needed to hear!

PRIYAMVADA
Shoot him!
!DUHSHANTA throws up his arms. Sudden and complete
blackout. Beat. Light returns, brilliantly. DUHSHANTA
stands in the red, radio#flyer wagon. SHAKUNTALA lies,
still bound, scrunched up with the shotgun in the wagon at his
feet. ANUSUYA still stands as though holding the shotgun.
PRIYAMVADA still stands as though holding
SHAKUNTALA."

DUHSHANTA
!Arms raised like a field goal."
We will a comet to the Pole
Rush red headlong, to the Pole,
A gust of biting ice and glowing flesh,
On a sled to the Pole!
!Pause. No one comes to pull the wagon. DUHSHANTA
steps out of the wagon, takes it by the handle, and runs with it.
He makes a circle around the others before disappearing into
the blowing ice."

Jai, Jai, Sri Prthvirajya Ji! Ha ha ha ha ha!


!DUHSHANTA, SHAKUNTALA, and the wagon
disappear. PRIYAMVADA and ANUSUYA make a
sudden dash and disappear through the breach. The
REFUGEES have wandered away."

KRISHNA
Alright, then. I’ll take you.

ENGLISHMAN
Will there be fruit?

KRISHNA
Yes.

33
This Is Shakuntala

ENGLISHMAN
Um... could you help me down?
!Boat’s horn sounds again.

Police siren."

"""""""""""""""

ACT TWO

Scene 1

!The video projection."

SCHOLAR WITH A TOASTER


And so, King Duhshanta escaped with Shakuntala, and his trusted sidekick left to deal with unrelated matters
in Kansas City. With the security of the mission restored, the refugees arrived in boatloads and many more of
Mother Theresa’s Sisters of lilarasa necessarily came to the white continent to care for them. And, it was
thought there ought to be a man on hand in case there was any more trouble. So, Shakuntala’s Jesuit uncle
Gautama obtained the necessary permits from the park ranger and arrived with an impressive array of
weaponry including several stinger missile launchers and an M"1 tank salvaged from Afghanistan. In the
meantime, King Duhshanta with Shakuntala in tow had made good time toward the Pole. Having ascended
the Beardmore Glacier and leaving behind the Antarctic Mountains he was passing in good order over the vast
polar plateau. However, unbeknownst to him, Shakuntala’s good friends were in hot pursuit, concerned about
their friend who still lacked clothing appropriate to the climate. Let’s just see what they have to say, shall we?
!SCHOLAR WITH A TOASTER dials a cell phone and
puts it to his ear."

One ringy"dingy...
!SCHOLAR WITH A TOASTER chuckles."

Two ringy... oh, hello. Priyamvada? How’s it going out there? Uh"huh. Oh, you’ve reached the polar plateau,
have you? That’s marvelous. How’s the weather? Right. Right. Uh"huh. Well, I guess that’s to be expected
down there. What’s the news from Shakuntala? Oh really? Is that so? She’s burning up, is she? Yes, I find it
quite remarkable. What would you... uh huh... right... what would you say is wrong with her? Goodness, I
guess it could be cancer, but... uh huh... yes... what’s that... wha"... no, I’m sorry... I’m sorry, I... Pri...
!SCHOLAR WITH A TOASTER closes up the phone."

I guess we lost the cell.


!OLD MAN in a kurta and dhoti wheels out the TV/VCR.

Or the projection goes dark, or whatever.

Ice blows. Tablas rappity#rap."

SOMEONE
!Offstage."
Shaddup!
!Tablas stop. DUHSHANTA emerges from the ice pulling
SHAKUNTALA in the red, radio flyer wagon.
DUHSHANTA’s crown is on his head, but has lost the cape
and his shirt. SHAKUNTALA is still bound at the wrists
and ankles. She is also unconscious."

34
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
!Singing."
CUPID, DRAW BACK YOUR BOW"OW
AND LET YOUR ARROW GO"O
STRAIGHT TO MY LOVER’S HEART
FOR ME, NOBODY BUT ME

CUPID, PLEASE HEAR MY CRY"Y


AND LET YOUR ARROW FLY"Y
STRAIGHT TO MY LOVER’S HEART
FOR ME"E"E

NOW, I DON’T MEAN TO BOTHER YOU


BUT I’M IN DISTRESS
MY SWEETHEART IS UNCONSCIOUS
IN THE COLD WILDERNESS
SHE DOESN’T GIVE ME LOVING
THAT I THINK I HAVE EARNED
DON’T LET ME GET BURNED

SO""
!YETIS harmonize the chorus."

CUPID, TAKE CAREFUL AI"AIM


AND FREE ME FROM MY PAI"AIN
SHOOT UP MY LOVER DEAR
FOR ME, NOBODY BUT ME

CUPID, PLEASE LEND AN EA"EAR


WITH MISSILE ARROW OR SPEA"EAR
PUNCTURE MY LOVER’S HEART
FOR ME"E"E

!DUHSHANTA speaks to the YETIS."


This is the vast polar plateau. A field of emptiness it spreads bare and flat till it runs flush against the horizon
on every side. Six months of sun and six of its sister moon, this southern sling knows not grey, but lives each
day in black or white. The wind is filled stinging with shards of ice sheared up from from the ice below my
feet, and pressing in this reeling storm and force footed on this sleek shell I should be cold. But the
guidebooks were wrong. I’m sweltering under this cruel antarctic sun. The ozone hole is supposed to be
directly over me. I’ll probably get skin cancer. And this wind. This wind is a warm verse.

Oh, what a warm wind


Blows against me
Blows a barrier to my progress
Blows a wall...

Oh, that’s bloody awful. I’m much too stewed for poetry. My teeth are swimming in my jaw and my blood is
flowing like a river without banks in my limbs. My face is flushed and pounding and there’s a roaring in my
ears. My eyes are red and stung from the sweat that runs with each step. And this wind. I can’t believe the ice
cap has lasted this long under this blast furnace. How do you guys stand it under all that fur? And if
circumstances were not sharp enough, I’ve heard no word from my love for days. It’s not fair that she doesn’t
know what I’m going through hauling her body and soul over the ice. She’ll wake up at the Pole good as new
from her long rest and not even know I almost died getting her there. And obviously, there’s been no
snuggling on this trip. And she seems to be getting heavier. If she doesn’t give me some sign soon, I’ll have to

35
This Is Shakuntala

depot her here with the sled and retrieve her after I’ve got the kingdom set up and have the dispossessed of
the world shaving the ice off the cap.
!Phone rings."

SHE’S UNCONSCIOUS!
!SHAKUNTALA stirs and puts the cell phone to her ear
with her bound hands."

SHAKUNTALA
Hello?
!DUHSHANTA trudges on."

DUHSHANTA
Good gravy, she’s awake! Maybe I’ll finally figure out who keeps calling.

SHAKUNTALA
Is that you, Priyamvada?

DUHSHANTA
That blasted nun. I hope she’s dialing 10"10"321 and then the number.

SHAKUNTALA
I’m so glad you called.

PRIYAMVADA
!From the ether."
How are you, dear? You sound so far away.

SHAKUNTALA
I’m in a wagon. I guess it’s a sled. There are no trees.
!PRIYAMVADA and ANUSUYA enter with their cell
phone. They trudge behind the wagon. ANUSUYA leafs
energetically through a hardcover book They yell because the
connection is not very good."

PRIYAMVADA
It’s the Antarctic, honey. Are you okay?

SHAKUNTALA
It’s very hot for the Antarctic. I feel like my blood is boiling. What’s the elevation of the Antarctic? Things
boil easier at higher elevations, you know.

PRIYAMVADA
What was that? You say you’re warm?

ANUSUYA
How warm?

PRIYAMVADA
Shh! This is long distance.

ANUSUYA
I have to know how warm!

36
This Is Shakuntala

SHAKUNTALA
How is it in Paris?

PRIYAMVADA
We’re not in Paris, Sister.

SHAKUNTALA
But you’ve been there, right?

PRIYAMVADA
No.

SHAKUNTALA
Oh.

DUHSHANTA
The same virus is swimming in her arteries. Is it a creature of the Pole or something we brought here? Did I
give it to her? Did she bring it from the swamps of Calcutta? Or perhaps it rode here from unknown habitats
in the knotted hair of refugees.
!DUHSHANTA looks over his shoulder discretely."

PRIYAMVADA
Are you still there, Sister Shakuntala? Hello?

DUHSHANTA
Naught for desire so tunes a body as disease.
For though her breasts once so sweetly round
Now are fallen slack at the straps,
They quiver in fever,
Channel streams of sweat toward her pale navel
With such fetching ache,
I would her ill increase to tempt me.
Sweat and shrink, Shakuntala.
Sultry summer noon never sapped a body thus.

PRIYAMVADA
!In a whisper to ANUSUYA."
That King Duhshanta’s got her all messed up. Maybe he’s got her drugged.

ANUSUYA
Well, ask her.

PRIYAMVADA
Are you on drugs, honey?

SHAKUNTALA
No thank you.

ANUSUYA
!To PRIYAMVADA."
Give me that.
!ANUSUYA takes the phone."

Sister Shakuntala, dear! We’re awfully worried about you. You’re not making any sense.

37
This Is Shakuntala

SHAKUNTALA
Thanks, Anusuya. Would you like an appetizer?

ANUSUYA
How warm are you?

SHAKUNTALA
You tell me. What am I looking for?

ANUSUYA
Do you have...
!Looking in the book."

... stomach pain?

SHAKUNTALA
Did you need some?

ANUSUYA
How are your joints?

SHAKUNTALA
Strictly medicinal, dear. You know the law.

ANUSUYA
Wait...
!ANUSUYA turns a page."

... is your heart palpitating?

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, my, yes.
!DUHSHANTA stumbles to his knees, gets up painfully, and
continues."

ANUSUYA
!Slamming her finger onto a page."
I knew it, she’s in love!
!PRIYAMVADA snatches the book."

PRIYAMVADA
We know that!

SHAKUNTALA
I’m very tired, Anusuya. Really. My arms are as thin as pencils
and the rest of me is wasted, too. I’ve lost a year of puberty
off my breasts. My shadow is becoming too heavy to draw along,
and I fear it may tear away completely and be buried in the
blowing ice.

ANUSUYA
And she’s got scurvy.
!SHAKUNTALA weeps."

38
This Is Shakuntala

SHAKUNTALA
My skin is so withered I think my soul may be showing through.
!DUHSHANTA staggers."

PRIYAMVADA
Wait. Sister Shakuntala. Everything’s going to be okay. Just listen to me. Okay? Listen. Do you have
Triple"A?

SHAKUNTALA
!Sobbing."
No!

PRIYAMVADA
Well, that’s bad. You really shouldn’t let that lapse. But don’t worry. It’s okay.
!DUHSHANTA collapses face down on the ice.
ANUSUYA and PRIYAMVADA stop walking."

You’ll just have to rely on King Duhshanta.

SHAKUNTALA
I think there are yetis here.

ANUSUYA
Yetis!?

PRIYAMVADA
You’re going to have to ask him for some relief.

SHAKUNTALA
No, no, I really can’t. He might get the wrong impression. What if he expects favors?

PRIYAMVADA
Sister Shakuntala, I’m not sure you’re in a situation which lends itself much to idealism.

ANUSUYA
Maybe the yetis would eat him and carry her back to civilization. I’ve heard wild animals know instinctively
when people need help.

PRIYAMVADA
Is he there?

SHAKUNTALA
I don’t see him. King Duhshanta! King Duhshanta! Nothing. Oh, dear, I’m all light headed from that
shouting. Don’t hang up the phone, Sister Priyamvada.

PRIYAMVADA
Why would I do that?

SHAKUNTALA
I can smell onions so I think I’m about to have a siezure. I may not be lucid for the next little while.

ANUSUYA
Don’t swallow your tongue!

39
This Is Shakuntala

SHAKUNTALA
Don’t hang up, Priyamvada! Don’t hang up!

PRIYAMVADA
I’m here, Sister. Just let it come.
!SHAKUNTALA has a siezure. DUHSHANTA lifts his
face from the ice."

DUHSHANTA
The ice is running, Shakuntala,
A cold sweat on my face
As blistered as yours.
!DUHSHANTA crawls."

PRIYAMVADA
I’ll sing to you, Sister Shakuntala.
!The same tune as the PRAISE TO ANTARCTICA song."

GENESIS, EXODUS
LEVITICUS AND NUMBERS
DEUTERONOMY, JOSHUA"JUDGES"RUTH

DUHSHANTA
The ice is running, Shakuntala,
A chill river through my limbs
And hissing on my skin.

PRIYAMVADA
SAMUEL, SAMUEL,
KINGS, KINGS, AND CHRONICLES
CHRONICLES, EZRA, NEHEMIA"ESTHER"JOB

DUHSHANTA
The ice is running, Shakuntala,
A dark arctic sea to the sky
But sere waves beneath me.
!DUHSHANTA crawls back around to the wagon."

PRIYAMVADA
PSALMS, PROVERBS, ECCLESIASTES
SONG OF SOLOMON, AND ISAIAH,
JEREMIAH, LAMENTATIONS!
!PRIYAMVADA adds a cymbal crash."

EZEKIEL, DAN, HOSEA, JOEL, AMOS

DUHSHANTA
So grips the ice your heart, I see,
Fast. So slim girl, yours is the lucky part
To fall insensible in fits
While I suffer on, on my hands and my knees,
I bear the rash clutch of ice,
And bear us both in effort o’er the plate.

40
This Is Shakuntala

PRIYAMVADA
OBADIAH, JONAH, MICAH, NAHUM,
!Then rapidly..."

HABAKUK, ZEPHANIAH, HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH,


AND MALACHI
!DUHSHANTA takes the phone."

DUHSHANTA
Hello?

PRIYAMVADA
Oh, you yellow breasted bustard!

DUHSHANTA
Who is this?

PRIYAMVADA
Are you going to skin her alive and boil her bones in carbonic acid for an encore?

DUHSHANTA
Sister Priyamvada, I think Shakuntala is ill. Her teeth are slippery. I’m seeing yetis.

PRIYAMVADA
You did this to her.

DUHSHANTA
My bones are powder.

PRIYAMVADA
Listen, if you’re a goner, the least you can do is disembowel yourself and stuff Sister Shakuntala into the cavity
to stay warm until we get there.

DUHSHANTA
Do you have food?

PRIYAMVADA
If we have any once we get there it won’t be for you.

DUHSHANTA
This is not Shakuntala’s own affliction. We burn together.

SHAKUNTALA
!Reaching from her siezure."
Darlings!

PRIYAMVADA
Is that Sister Shakuntala? Put her back on.

ANUSUYA
Did she swallow her tongue?
!DUHSHANTA loses track of the phone."

41
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
Beautiful girl.

SHAKUNTALA
Dear friends, don’t draw tight your cords for this one.

PRIYAMVADA
Hello? Did you put down the phone?

SHAKUNTALA
!To DUHSHANTA."
Give them room. They are not here.

PRIYAMVADA
Pick up the phone!

DUHSHANTA
Let them come and take space here. I may forfeit my own in a whiff of dust or drowned in a pool of my own
melting.

SHAKUNTALA
No, you’ll not lose your place. Your face by mine is cooling already.

PRIYAMVADA
!To ANUSUYA."
I think he dropped the phone.

ANUSUYA
Really?

PRIYAMVADA
I can hear talking.

DUHSHANTA
If our cheeks can so cool beside each other, what chill may cool our breasts?

SHAKUNTALA
Wait. I think you’ll break the wagon.

DUHSHANTA
Oh, frisky"femured girl, let’s dissipate this heat together.

ANUSUYA
What are they saying?

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, no. I’m not that kind of nun.
!SHAKUNTALA tips over the wagon. DUHSHANTA
catches her by the ankle."

PRIYAMVADA
Something about femurs.

DUHSHANTA

42
This Is Shakuntala

We may be lost, but we may make something which will live and find its way.

SHAKUNTALA
You’re mad. What baby would survive this?

DUHSHANTA
It’s the thigmatropic law, Shakuntala.

YETI
The sun will make him impervious to sun.

YETI
The wind will make him impervious to wind.

YETI
The ice will make him impervious to ice.

YETI
The storm will make him impervious to the storm.

YETI
The law will make him impervious to the law.

DUHSHANTA
It’ll be like he was five boys in one.

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, where is the providence in fate?

DUHSHANTA
Don’t blame fate for a happy ending.

SHAKUNTALA
Where’s the happiness? We’ve lost the Pole ourselves and you’ll try to satisfy yourself on me.

PRIYAMVADA
I’m still on the phone! Somebody pick up!
!SHAKUNTALA squirms across the ice. DUHSHANTA
grabs the phone."

DUHSHANTA
HER MOUTH SAYS NO BUT HER EYES SAY SUNNY"SIDE"UP!
!DUHSHANTA throws the phone and grabs
SHAKUNTALA by the rope around her ankles."

SHAKUNTALA
Rape! Rape!

DUHSHANTA
Go on, scream. There’s none to hear you.

SHAKUNTALA
There are yetis about.

43
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
Yetis. They’re so passive"aggressive the worst they’ll do is refuse to watch.

PRIYAMAVADA
The line’s gone dead now.

ANUSUYA
!Spying something."
Priyamvada. Is that...?

PRIYAMVADA
!Seeing the same."
Oh, dear.
!PRIYAMVADA and ANUSUYA dash out.
SHAKUNTALA kicks her legs. Though his arm flops about
from fatigue, DUHSHANTA keeps his hand clamped on the
rope."

DUHSHANTA
I could let you free.

SHAKUNTALA
Not by cutting the ropes.

DUHSHANTA
Vows are as easily cut, Shifty Shakuntala. And as easily tied together again. Why would you go to the Pole,
reject calling and comfort, friends and refugees, leave your former purpose for a sheet of ice and me, and now
scrape away from me, who would queen you?

SHAKUNTALA
It doesn’t matter what I thought. We’ll never make the Pole.
!DUHSHANTA undoes the knot at SHAKUNTALA’s
ankles with a jerk."

DUHSHANTA
Fly then. Be free.

SHAKUNTALA
!Weeping, she drags herself."
I’m sorry I cannot relieve you. Do not forget me.

DUHSHANTA
Oh, there’s no forgetting.
Your body will not moulder nor resolve,
But join the ground in crystal
And lie forever a crusty hedgerow on the heath.
The sun will stumble daily
On your cracked and crackled corpse,
Stab it set in innocence into each night.
Here, unused in life, unworn in death,
Will ever keep this cinder flesh.

SHAKUNTALA
!Wailing."

44
This Is Shakuntala

I cannot move!
!DUHSHANTA sags."

DUHSHANTA
What a waste of an excursion. It’s not like I didn’t plan. I brought sun glasses. Who’d have thought food was
so crucial to an Antarctic expedition? And whatever happened to the fabled hardiness of nuns? I almost wish
I had that English fop with me again, except that he’d be absolutely no good for child bearing. So now she’s
off and I’m left sitting here with this rope to wear myself... hey, I brought rope, too. How could I fail?
Bother. I may as well eat the rope. Give me something to do while I expire and if it chokes me, so much the
better to go sooner.

SHAKUNTALA
It’s not enough to have my feet and not my hands.

DUHSHANTA
WHINE AND COMPLAIN! I don’t have food, I’m too hot, I’m dying of scurvy, I won’t bear your child, I
need my hands! Is that all you know to do?! I’ve sunk us both, and I can bear that weight, but it would be nice
if you would keep your criticisms to yourself. To tell you the truth, you don’t have to do anything. If you
could just lie still and shut up I might blast this blazing heat of ours. But you’d rather I made it easier for you
to abandon ship. Whatever happened to the hardiness of nuns?!

SHAKUNTALA
I’m hardy, Mister. I’ve swabbed lepers.

DUHSHANTA
That’s not reassuring to the rejected. I’m not gangrenous in the least. Yet.

SHAKUNTALA
You can free my wrists.

DUHSHANTA
C’mon Curly Q. You can free the world.

SHAKUNTALA
Don’t ask again. Please.

DUHSHANTA
Oh, it’s easy, Sister. Like falling off a log and then you’ve got your hands and your legs all four to scamper
across the ice as you wish.

SHAKUNTALA
It would leave no scampering in me.

DUHSHANTA
Nah. You’d be surprised how invigorating it can be. Like a York Peppermint Patty.
!Teasing."

And I’ll cut your wrists.

SHAKUNTALA
!Aside."
I’LL CUT MY WRISTS! WHAT WAY IS THERE OUT OF IT?!
!SHAKUNTALA holds out her wrists."

45
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
!Struggles to set the wagon upright."
Let’s try on the sled.
!DUHSHANTA hasn’t the strength to get the wagon up."

Ah, forget it.


!DUHSHANTA nudges the wagon out of the way and drags
himself to SHAKUNTALA. He takes SHAKUNTALA by
the wrists."

Gadfrey. I thought I was burning up. You’re like fresh poured tar.

SHAKUNTALA
!Shocked by his touch."
That was not very poetic.

DUHSHANTA
These are not poetic times, Ma"dear"a.

SHAKUNTALA
Do it quickly.

DUHSHANTA
!Aside."
There’s someone, somewhere, right now who’s thinking badly of me. But don’t tell me she doesn’t want it.
She’s so shriveled on our trek that the cord hangs loose about her wrists and she could easily pull free all by
herself. No, she’s as much in this as I. If you look closely you can see the sparkle in her eye that twinkles, “I’ll
be the mother of the world.” She just wants to to have a convincing case that she only buckled under the
constraint of the moment.
!To SHAKUNTALA."

Oh, Marmoset Mouth, do not fear bad conduct on my part.

SHAKUNTALA
Your conduct is bad.

DUHSHANTA
Yes, but don’t fear it.

SHAKUNTALA
It’s not fear. I have ice in my eye.

DUHSHANTA
Hold still, I’ll get it out.
!DUHSHANTA leans his mouth close to
SHAKUNTALA’s eye. His lips quiver. Her eyelids tremble."

SHAKUNTALA
Get on with it.
!DUHSHANTA puts his tongue in SHAKUNTALA’s eye.
She recoils."

SHAKUNTALA
Gross!

46
This Is Shakuntala

!SHAKUNTALA spits in DUHSHANTA’s eye."

DUHSHANTA
Oh, that is it.
!DUHSHANTA pins SHAKUNTALA’s head to the
ground and leans over her."

VOICE FROM THE ETHER


HOW"DEE!

SHAKUNTALA
!In a scurvy#sodden flurry."
Oh, dear. It’s Mother Theresa. Hide.

DUHSHANTA
Hide?

SHAKUNTALA
You don’t know Mother Theresa like I do. She’ll tear your arms off.
!DUHSHANTA turns the wagon over himself as
PRIYAMVADA and ANUSUYA enter. Together they
manipulate a MOTHER THERESA marionette."

MOTHER
Oh, Sister Shakuntala, so glad I found you.

PRIYAMVADA
We ran into each other on the glacier.

MOTHER
Now, I have a statue of St. Christopher for you and a small bag of Doritos. How are you feeling?

SHAKUNTALA
I’m dying of scurvy.

MOTHER
Can you walk?

SHAKUNTALA
No.

MOTHER
Can you crawl?

SHAKUNTALA
Not very far.

MOTHER
Can you sing?

SHAKUNTALA
What tune?

MOTHER

47
This Is Shakuntala

Oh, any tune will do.


!MOTHER THERESA sings."

MANY’S THE TIME I’VE BEEN MISTAKEN


AND MANY TIMES CONFUSED
YES, AND I’VE OFTEN FELT FORSAKEN
AND CERTAINLY MISUSED...

SHAKUNTALA
I can’t sing.

MOTHER
Oh, dear.
!MOTHER THERESA, in the manner of a prestidigitator,
produces a homing pigeon. She speaks to it in Morse Code."

BEEP BIP BEEP BEEP BIP BIP BEEP BEEP BEEP BIP BEEP BIP BIP BEEP BIP BIP BEEP BEEP BIP
BIP BEEP.
!With a final nod from MOTHER THERESA, the pigeon
flies off."

Dig in, Sisters of lilarasa. Help’s on the way, but it may be awhile.
!ANUSUYA and PRIYAMVADA sling backpacks from
their backs and begin to set up camp around the overturned
wagon."

SHAKUNTALA
You’ll get us back to the ice shelf?

MOTHER
Yes, dear.

SHAKUNTALA
I’ll never see the Pole.

MOTHER
Goodness, it’s only a phallic symbol. If you want to see one that badly I’ll build one right here.
!MOTHER THERESA begins to fashion a phallic symbol
from the ice."

This will be even better. There’s not really a pole at the South Pole.

SHAKUNTALA
But you’ve never been there.

MOTHER
Some things you just know, dear.

SHAKUNTALA
!Aside."
Oh, where do duty and dharma cross? When I would have one the other foils me and back again. Can I not
serve man and me?
!DUHSHANTA appears apart from the camp."

48
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
One step forward and two steps back. I’m a long way from the Pole, but I was this close to a new kingdom.
Too much talk. I should have taken her right away. It would have given me the strength to go on, and the child
would have pretty much gestated by the time we reached the turning point.
!Raging."

I am no man!
Those of the old world move
On commodities and bonds,
Futures and measures,
The papers of plenty
Like space sleds down avenues and across oceans in heartblinks.
And here is the mouse on a wheel.

YETI
What is swifter than the wind?

DUHSHANTA
Snow. It goes before the wind.

YETI
What can cover the earth?

DUHSHANTA
CNN.

YETI
Are there more living or dead?

DUHSHANTA
Where?

YETI
What is space?

DUHSHANTA
The final frontier.

YETI
What is grief?

DUHSHANTA
Inertia.

YETI
Poison?

DUHSHANTA
Umm... inertia?

YETI
Defeat?

DUHSHANTA

49
This Is Shakuntala

Inertia! Hey, how long is this going to go on?

YETI
What is the greatest mystery?

DUHSHANTA
Every day children are born beside us and we live as though death rules the world.
!SHAKUNTALA sits on the wagon."

Scene 2
!Darkness. Narrow light comes up on SHAKUNTALA
sitting on the overturned wagon. Back in her habit. Eight
months pregnant."

ANUSUYA’S VOICE
Psst. Are you awake?

PRIYAMVADA’S VOICE
Yes.

ANUSUYA’S VOICE
She’s gone again.

PRIYAMVADA’S VOICE
No kidding.

ANUSUYA’S VOICE
Should we tell on her?

PRIYAMVADA’S VOICE
What if she’s just going out to pee?

ANUSUYA’S VOICE
I think something’s out there.

PRIYAMVADA’S VOICE
He’s dead. He’s dead and frozen into the plateau.

ANUSUYA’S VOICE
Maybe yetis.

PRIYAMVADA’S VOICE
You think she’s sneaking out of camp with yetis? Go back to sleep. We’ll ask her about it in the morning.
!A match flares in the darkness apart from
SHAKUNTALA. ANUSUYA’s and PRIYAMVADA’s
faces appear in the light."

ANUSUYA
So?

PRIYAMVADA
She said she goes out looking for rock samples.

50
This Is Shakuntala

ANUSUYA
You believe her, don’t you.

PRIYAMVADA
No, I don’t believe her.

ANUSUYA
Yes you do.

PRIYAMVADA
I don’t believe she’s seeing yetis.

ANUSUYA
So where are the samples? Huh?

PRIYAMVADA
You can’t expect her to find anything. She’s a nun, not a geologist.

ANUSUYA
!Seeing something."
Shh.
!PRIYAMVADA blows out the match. Pause. A match
flares and lights a lantern in the darkness apart from
SHAKUNTALA. PRIYAMVADA holds the lantern.
ANUSUYA appears beside her."

ANUSUYA
Something’s got to be done.

PRIYAMVADA
No, I agree.

ANUSUYA
So you’ll follow her?

PRIYAMVADA
You do it.

ANUSUYA
I have terrible night vision.

PRIYAMVADA
Alright, fine. But if I see her going to the bathroom I will never speak to you again.

ANUSUYA
I won’t want to hear about it.
!PRIYAMVADA blows the lantern out.
Pause. Narrow light appears on ANUSUYA standing apart
from SHAKUNTALA.

PRIYAMVADA steps into the light. Silence. Blackout.

Light. ANUSUYA and PRIYAMVADA pick up rock


samples."

51
This Is Shakuntala

ANUSUYA
She hasn’t been off by herself in days.

PRIYAMVADA
Model prisoner.

ANUSUYA
How do you think he didn’t freeze to death?

PRIYAMVADA
Maybe the yetis kept him warm.

ANUSUYA
Maybe she wanted to stay.

PRIYAMVADA
He’s already forgotten her name. Another week and he’ll forget her face, too.

ANUSUYA
No. I mean, you gotta admit, y’know, that’s a heckuva face. Who’s gonna forget the image of that blooming
face against a world of dry ice?

PRIYAMVADA
Who’s gonna forget the sacred vows of a holy order?

ANUSUYA
Oh. Do you think she’s showing?

PRIYAMVADA
A little.

ANUSUYA
Do you think Mother Theresa’s noticed?

PRIYAMVADA
She doesn’t notice things like open sores and plague"infected mucus. Pregnant nuns she notices.

ANUSUYA
Well, she hasn’t said anything.

PRIYAMVADA
Give us a chance to get off the plateau, then she’ll say something.

ANUSUYA
So, what’s she off doing? Think she’s looking for him?

PRIYAMVADA
Please.

ANUSUYA
Well, she didn’t take the bucket.

PRIYAMVADA

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This Is Shakuntala

You don’t always take the bucket, do you?

ANUSUYA
Yes. I can’t afford a ticket for dumping on the plateau. Anyway, how embarrassing.

PARK RANGER
!From the ether."
HOLY FLAPJACKS! WHAT IN THE SAM HILL IS GOING ON HERE?

PRIYAMVADA
Oh, crap. It’s the Park Ranger.

PARK RANGER
!From the ether."
Ma’am, you can’t leave this here! This is a fragile ecosystem. Do I leave this sort of thing in your living room?
Weren’t you ever taught to leave a campsite cleaner than it was when you arrived? Ma’am, I don’t believe it’s
possible to forget not to go to the bathroom on the ground. We’d be in a fine pickle if everyone forgot things
so easily as you.

Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot not to park my Volvo on your cocker spaniel.

Somebody’s going to forget and dump on you one of these days, Ma’am. That’s what I predict. What goes
around comes around, you know. And it looks like plenty of you’s gone around.

ANUSUYA
Uh oh.

PARK RANGER
No, Ma’am, I’m afraid it’s not so simple as a ticket. I have no choice but to report you to the U.N. No,
Ma’am. What with that revolutionary loose on the plateau they may shut you down. Yes, down, Ma’am. You
and your camp"mates and your team leader and your whole pottie"abrogating operation! Shut down, the whole
thing, end of story. It’s getting to be just too big a mess!the ecosystem can’t stand the strain. The refugees
will just have to run wild and free like the antelope. When word of this gets out your name’s gonna be mud!
no, worse than mud. You know what your name’s gonna be.
!PARK RANGER appears on his way to where he was
going."

PARK RANGER
Good afternoon, ladies. And how’s the plateau today?

PRIYAMVADA
We heard what just, uh... happened.

PARK RANGER
Give a hoot, don’t pollute.

PRIYAMVADA
!Sidling."
Couldn’t she just get a ticket or something?

PARK RANGER
Oh, she’ll pay a fine, don’t think that she won’t. About seven billion dollars of a fine.
!PRIYAMVADA hands ANUSUYA a bucket filled with
rock samples."

53
This Is Shakuntala

PRIYAMVADA
Go clean it up.

ANUSUYA
There are fossils in there. Antarctic fossils!

PARK RANGER
Oh, that’s very neighborly of you, Ma’am, but cleaning it up at this point won’t do much good. It’s impossible
to restore an ecosystem as pristine as the Polar Plateau once it’s been introduced to human feces. See, what
we’re going to have to do now is the Parks Department will stretch an enormous plastic tarpaulin over
Antarctica and using a colossal magnifying glass, we’ll shrink"wrap the continent to prevent any further
contamination.

PRIYAMVADA
What if we cleaned it up and sprayed the area with 409?

PARK RANGER
ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?! There’s an ozone hole above us the size of Antarctica and you brought
409 out here?

PRIYAMVADA
We can’t pay a fine like that. She’d have to sell a country or sue Philip Morris for that kind of money.

PARK RANGER
She should of thought of that before she voided herself on the Polar Plateau. Ma’am, the law is the law. It’s no
use complaining to me.

ANUSUYA
Isn’t there any way to appeal?

PARK RANGER
Ma’am, you’re standing in a public park. The Parks Department can investigate a murder if it’s committed in a
public park. Now, crap is serious business and it’s bad no matter who it comes from. We’re not in a position
to grant exceptions even to nun poop, as pure as I’m sure it is. The Romans started granting poop pardons and
the Huns wiped them out. I don’t have to issue a citation, but there must be some penalty. How else will she
learn her lesson?

PRIYAMVADA
But she’s not going to forget again!don’t you see the logic?

PARK RANGER
Ah, yes, I see where you’re going. Okay, okay, listen. You’re very nice nuns. But it’s an immutable law of the
universe!the park ranger spoke it: someone will forget her. I am required to inform you that you may contest
this curse by producing a token at the appointed hour. But the fine is still there. That tarpaulin’s going to
cost a pretty penny, and I don’t know why the UN should have to pay for it. They didn’t poop here. Now, if
you’ll excuse me, I have some phytoplankton to classify. Have a good day on the plateau.
!PARK RANGER strides out.

Pause.

ANUSUYA hurls the tent stake offstage. There’s a cry and a


thud.

54
This Is Shakuntala

Blackout."

Scene 3

!TV screen#projection#hologram lights up."

SCHOLAR WITH AN INNER TUBE


And so Anusuya killed the Park Ranger with a tent stake, setting in motion a chain of events which were to
alter her life forever. Furthermore, her fossils turned out to be an extraordinary scientific find, as she expected,
and on the open market they would have fetched as much as seven hundred million dollars apiece. More than
enough to pay Shakuntala’s fine. Unfortunately, they were plastered with doodie. And Shakuntala was as big as
a house. Their only hope was that Duhshanta had made it to the South Pole, had become King of the World,
and could intervene for them with the U.N. At least, they thought, he could hide them. But, one thought
nagged them all: would he remember?

PRIYAMVADA
!On TV behind the SCHOLAR WITH THE INNER
TUBE."
He had sex with her in a Radio Flyer wagon on the polar plateau!

SCHOLAR WITH AN INNER TUBE


They hoped for the best.
!Light elsewhere. ANUSUYA and PRIYAMVADA are
chained together at the neck, left and right wrists, and left and
right ankles. They wear orange habits."

ANUSUYA
Well, it could be worse.

PRIYAMVADA
Yeah, it could be worse.

ANUSUYA
He could have been mad.

PRIYAMVADA
Yeah. Real mad.

ANUSUYA
I was real surprised, actually. I figured when her dad found out he’d have gone hunting that Duhshanta.

PRIYAMVADA
Yeah. It’s surprising.
!SHAKUNTALA blasts by them, shrieking. She wears an
elaborate, white wedding gown which gracefully brings out
her eyes and emphasizes her pregnant belly, though over her
head is drawn her nun’s habit. She collapses in a fit and beats
the ground with her bouquet. ANUSUYA and
PRIYAMVADA speak without irony."

ANUSUYA
She looks nice, though.

55
This Is Shakuntala

PRIYAMVADA
Yeah. She looks nice.

ANUSUYA
How’d her dad get here so fast?

PRIYAMVADA
Magic flying machine.

ANUSUYA
She must have been glad to see him after so much time.

PRIYAMVADA
Oh, yeah. They’re very close.

ANUSUYA
What did he say when he found out she was pregnant?

PRIYAMVADA
“You have not proved an object of regret for me.”

ANUSUYA
That’s sweet.
!ANUSUYA weeps."

I always cry at weddings.


!The marionette MOTHER THERESA enters manipulated
by several nuns."

MOTHER
Ah, here’s our little queen. Straight out of the story books.

NUNS
Pax tibi.

SHAKUNTALA
SHUT UP! I HATE YOU!

ANUSUYA
!Pulling PRIYAMVADA toward SHAKUNTALA."
Here, your veil’s a little crooked.
!SHAKUNTALA slaps ANUSUYA away."

SHAKUNTALA
STOP IT!

MOTHER
Now, Sister, it really is crooked. Anyway, she just wants to touch it.

SHAKUNTALA
She’s welcome to it. I’m leaving it behind. I don’t know why I’m wearing it.

MOTHER
Well, for your wedding, of course.

56
This Is Shakuntala

SHAKUNTALA
I have a common law marriage.

MOTHER
That’s what all men say, honey.

SHAKUNTALA
I wish I was dead.

MOTHER
Now here, take these diamonds we found near Mount Erebus. They’ll emphasize the sparkle in your eyes.

PRIYAMVADA
!To SHAKUNTALA."
You might not be happy about this, but somebody is.

MOTHER
Of course she’s happy about this. First a baby and now diamonds. If she gets any luckier we’ll have naked
Balinese dancers down here next.

SHAKUNTALA
Why not? The rest of my vows don’t mean anything, why should my vow of poverty be any different?

PRIYAMVADA
You don’t have to keep them. Just wear them to the wedding.

SHAKUNTALA
I’m not going to a wedding, I’m eight months pregnant.
!A roaring noise comes from the blowing ice."

MOTHER
Now, put on a happy face, Sister Shakuntala. Here comes your father.
!HARLEQUINS dance across the stage strewing flower
petals. The wind blows them all away.

SHAKUNTALA’s father KALIDASA roars into view on


a 250cc four#wheeled ATV. He is a fine#looking Indian
gentleman in sandals, a dhoti, a kurta, and a stiff, oversized,
Spanish#ruff collar. He also wears a pointy goatee, and is
mostly bald on top. He rolls to a stop and kills the engine."

KALIDASA
Thy beauty, maid, doth frigidairely glow
In purity t’ outwhite the very snow.

SHAKUNTALA
There is no snow in the Antarctic. Dad.

KALIDASA
Alas, ‘t is blitheringly sorrowful
To see one’s progeny about to go.
To leave a"fluttering the nest they’ve known
Since youth to fly and weave a younger home.

57
This Is Shakuntala

I’ll bear this while my mind, as though a ripe


Banana newly laid beside a pile
Of churnéd cream, when dress’d with choppéßd bits
Of nuts, a cherry, sugary sauce, may split.

MOTHER
Hello, Kalidasa, so good to see you again.

KALIDASA
Thou charitable dame, how now art thou?

MOTHER
I’m lovely. So glad you could make it. Shakuntala, it’s your father.

SHAKUNTALA
Yes. Quite.

KALIDASA
My own, dost thou perceive the joy this day
Portends forst thou? Then hold thy head and shake
It ‘til thou feelst the goodness rattle ‘round
Like BB’s. Then say if thou canst longer frown.

SHAKUNTALA
I canst.

KALIDASA
!Laughing."
Frevocious girl! 0 rocks and blinding ice,
Cavorting wind and bellowing cloud, throw rice
Upon our happy heads this happy day,
For my own girl goes happily away!

SHAKUNTALA
I’m going to have my baby right here all by myself and I’ll build an ice fort and we’ll live here forever.

MOTHER
Goodness. An ice fort. And how will you eat?

SHAKUNTALA
The yetis will bring us food.

ANUSUYA
They do that. I heard they do that.

SHAKUNTALA
!To ANUSUYA."
You’ll come with me, won’t you? Sister Priyamvada, it’s a new world. You always wanted to see a new world,
right?

PRIYAMVADA
No.

ANUSUYA

58
This Is Shakuntala

Oh, Sister Shakuntala, it sounds fabulous and all, but we have to be here for the hearing. Sorry.

SHAKUNTALA
No, come to the South Pole. Duhshanta will be king of the world soon. He’ll drop the charges.

PRIYAMVADA
Charges are filed.

SHAKUNTALA
He’ll acquit you. He’ll pardon you. He’ll commute your sentence.

PRIYAMVADA
Yeah, well, you let us know.

ANUSUYA
Send us some pictures of the baby.

MOTHER
Now, you be tough and smile, dear. It’s time we left.

SHAKUNTALA
You know the way?

MOTHER
Oh, it’s easy. You just go South, and if you find yourself suddenly going North, you know you’ve gone too far.

KALIDASA
Forsooth! Thy elder brother’s fast arrived
To guide you to your destiny alive.

SHAKUNTALA
I’M NOT GOING ALL THE WAY TO THE SOUTH POLE IN MY CONDITION!

KALIDASA
Not so, my dear, your darling elder’s here
And will uprightly swallow all thy fear.

Avaunt, Sharngarava, avast and hark!


!Silence. The sound of a cuckoo. Silence. Cuckoo again.
Silence. SHARNGARAVA rises out of the ice. He’s a
strapping young brute in WWII#issue winter camouflage and
cross#country skis. He puts his fingers to his lips and cuckoos.
Silence."

SHARNGARAVA
Present.

YETIS
Straight on and smooth
And breezes blow behind you
But go briskly on the ice
And love will find you.

MOTHER

59
This Is Shakuntala

Ah, now hear those yetis. Isn’t that sweet.

SHAKUNTALA
!Wrenching her arm."
I’ll go myself!

KALIDASA
Give heed and hearken to these simple rules,
And trust thy doting father. One, a fool
And money soon are parted. Two, a bank
Account is wisely started. Three, give thanks
Each day for what thou hast. The fourth, let sins
Lie silent in the past. The fifth, who wins
The fight is never wrong, so, six, do all
You can to get along. This last one""eight"

SHAKUNTALA
Seven. You’re on seven.

KALIDASA
The eighth: in every circumstance, obey.

SHAKUNTALA
You almost had me going with those first few.

MOTHER
They should print that on marriage licenses.

KALIDASA
Sharngarava, my son, ingest these words
And in Duhshanta’s presence pitch them forth
Again: you got her. Can you keep precise
This message as you travel o’er the ice?

SHARNGARAVA
Yes.

SHAKUNTALA
Marvelous.

KALIDASA
Give, daughter, arms to friends and to your dad
Who will be evermore and after sad.
!SHAKUNTALA stands still a moment, then takes
ANUSUYA, PRIYAMVADA, and KALIDASA in an
embrace and weeps."

SHAKUNTALA
How can I bring someone else into this family?
!PRIYAMVADA looks at her seriously."

PRIYAMVADA
Sister Shakuntala, I’m sure everything’s going to be just fine. You’re going to reach the South Pole, and find
Duhshanta sitting on a crystal throne in an ice palace, and he’ll welcome you in and make you an equal among

60
This Is Shakuntala

all his wives.

SHAKUNTALA
His wives?

PRIYAMVADA
Just hear me out. If ... I’m not saying anything’s going to happen... but if he should give you any kind of
runaround...

SHAKUNTALA
What kind of runaround? I’m eight months pregnant.

PRIYAMVADA
No, everything will be fine. I’m sure.
!PRIYAMVADA holds out DUHSHANTA’s bloody tent
stake with her free hand."

Just hold onto this. It’s monogrammed.

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, for crying out loud. I’m going already.

PRIYAMVADA
Take it!
!SHAKUNTALA walks away."

SHAKUNTALA
I’m going!

PRIYAMVADA
You take this thing!

SHAKUNTALA
You’re trying to plant evidence on me!

PRIYAMVADA
Look at it!

SHAKUNTALA
I’m not looking! I’m on my way!

PRIYAMVADA
Look at it! It’s got his initials on it!

SHAKUNTALA
I’m taking my big fat belly to the South Pole!
!SHARNGARAVA takes the spike from
PRIYAMVADA. SHAKUNTALA bellows over her
shoulder, drily."

I’m gonna be the queen of the world! See ya! I’m going!
!SHAKUNTALA disappears in the blowing ice.
SHARNGARAVA slides after her. MOTHER
THERESA and the NUNS go, too."

61
This Is Shakuntala

PRIYAMVADA
Well. Time to start mounting our defense.

ANUSUYA
Yep.
!KALIDASA starts up the four wheeler. He shouts over the
noise."

KALIDASA
I knoweth some accomplished barristers.
Perchance you’d like names and phone numbers.

PRIYAMVADA
!Shouting."
Sure!

ANUSUYA
!Shouting."
Yeah. That’d be great!

!Blackout."

ACT THREE

Scene 1

!Sound of enormous gears turning.

Train whistle.

Marching feet.

Wind.

Brilliant light. The South Pole.

Blowing ice swirls and whips. A Rolls Royce Silver Ghost


shoots by.

CHAMBERLAIN slides out of the ice on a conveyor belt."

CHAMBERLAIN
So I says to him, I says,
MIND YOUR P’S AND Q’S, MISTER!
There’s a good lad. I’ll give him what for, I’ll tell you.

The accounts at present tally thus: Refugees in total seven hundred and seventy million four hundred and
forty"four thousand two hundred and twenty"eight. Refugee mothers currently expecting children in total
eleven million eight hundred thousand one hundred twenty"one. Refugee mothers expecting children before

62
This Is Shakuntala

the end of the month in total three hundred and eighty"six thousand five hundred fifty. Refugee husbands
planning to put refugee wives in the family way by week’s end in total fifty thousand ninety"three.

Refugees expected by boat from the various northern continents of the planet by week’s end in total one
million nine hundred ninety thousand nine hundred ninety"nine. Refugees expected by courier service by
week’s end in total four hundred fifty"seven thousand one hundred and one. Refugees expected by their own
inventive means by week’s end sixty some odd thousand.

Refugees presently at work shaving the ice off the polar ice cap in total two hundred forty"eight million nine
hundred thirty"six thousand four hundred twelve. Refugees at work in various services in support of the polar
ice cap shaving in total two hundred seventy"two million eight hundred sixty"two thousand seven hundred
fifty"two. Refugees on leave in total one hundred fifteen thousand six hundred seven.

Languages currently spoken among refugees in Antarctica in total eight hundred and three.
Currencies currently accepted as legal tender among refugees in Antarctica in total two hundred and twelve.
Flags forsaken by refugees in Antarctica in total two hundred and twelve.

Refugees purporting to assume the title KING OF THE WORLD in total one.

Surface area of Antarctic over which ice removal is currently taking place in total 8 million two hundred and
forty"five thousand square miles. Mean depth of ice removed from the ice cap to date in total one thousand
three hundred and seventy"one feet continent"wide.

Number of penguins ingested raw by refugees in order to prevent the onset of scurvy in total...
!Silver Ghost slides across the ice to a graceful stop $nothing to
run into%. Flags of unbroken white fly from forward posts.
DUHSHANTA stands in the driver’s seat.
DUHSHANTA wears a white dhoti and kurta, sandals,
white scarf, white driving goggles and cap."

DUHSHANTA
Chamberlain! How much ice is left to remove from the cap?

CHAMBERLAIN
Can’t say, Your Majesty. The number of refugee scientists currently estimating the amount is in total fifteen
thousand two hundred and twenty"one.

DUHSHANTA
Splendid! Have your raw penguin today, did you?

CHAMBERLAIN
Certainly did! And I poured over it a sauce of my own device made from corn syrup, pulverized walnuts, and
melted ice.

DUHSHANTA
How was it?

CHAMBERLAIN
Delicious.

DUHSHANTA
Delightful! Who’s your pal?

CHAMBERLAIN

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This Is Shakuntala

You are.

DUHSHANTA
Who’s your pal?

CHAMBERLAIN
You are.

DUHSHANTA
I’m your pal!
!DUHSHANTA steps out onto the hood of the automobile."

This Pole, its ice and molded stone


The cut rocks by wind, this sharp air,
All the light and darkness and the polar time they split,
Penguins, seals, whales, terns,
Did I mention the ice?

CHAMBERLAIN
Oh, yes.

DUHSHANTA
It spins around my axis.
Each particle and piece
Draws an orbit on my mark,
Bent by my geometry in loyal circles
Though just last month
Late and lost to the Pole, on this plateau
I pulled myself with hardly strength to push my blood through my veins.
Between that time and this
Half the ice cap’s disappeared
By my direction.
The dust of all northern lands blows my way
And takes up shovels and picks
In service of this new, last nation.
Holy Smoke! What old congress of countries can dispute me?
!A penguin wanders out of the blowing ice with a rolled up
piece of paper strapped to its neck."

CHAMBERLAIN
Carrier penguin, Your Highness.
!CHAMBERLAIN removes and unrolls the letter."

DUHSHANTA
Yes?

CHAMBERLAIN
!Handing the letter to DUHSHANTA"
From the United Nations, sire.

DUHSHANTA
Don’t let that penguin get away.
!CHAMBERLAIN chases the penguin. DUHSHANTA
reads."

64
This Is Shakuntala

Joint resolution three seven four two eight one “R”, undersigned by the U.N. general secretary, counter"signed
by representatives of all the nations on earth, and notarized three days ago by Ellen Green, notary public,
Dane County, State of Wisconsin, U.S.A.
!Reading."

Dear Duhshy, We were so glad to hear from you last week. It sounds like you’ve got your hands full down
there. How is it going? Too cold for us! Winter’s coming on here in New York and that’s more than enough as
far as we’re concerned. Finland says we’re all a bunch of babies, but we told him he could spend a year with you
and he said no. As for your inquiry: I’m afraid we’re full up with countries at the moment. Sorry. Anyway, all
that down there’s supposed to be a refugee camp. So, what we’d prefer is that you disappear in some South
American country""oh, wait, Honduras just offered you asylum; thanks, guys""and leave the refugees to the
nuns. Thanks again for writing. We look forward to hearing from you again. Sincerely, The United Nations.

WHAT KIND OF CRAP IS THIS?!

P.S.: we’ve set up an embargo and the bombing will begin in fifteen minutes.

Bombing, my fat bottom!


!CHAMBERLAIN comes up with the penguin."

CHAMBERLAIN
I got him.

DUHSHANTA
What men are these who so pant
Their emptiness the asteroids of space can hear it?
What dream have they that right
Takes residence in their catalogs of self"titles?
What hope do they own that might
More than theirs will not make room for itself,
Build a city, name it capital, swell its borders
Swallow the smaller, splinter its rivals,
Apportion the remains to the conquered and weaker,
Border, deborder, and reborder them all
With the same strong badge their bombs and blockades blankly flash?
I am the king of the world.
What’s our military number?

CHAMBERLAIN
Refugees enlisted in the regular army in total three hundred and eight.
Refugees enlisted in the volunteer reserves in total five hundred fifty"five million, five hundred fifty"five
thousand, five hundred fifty"four.

DUHSHANTA
Call up the reserves, and take a letter!

CHAMBERLAIN
What do I do with the penguin?

DUHSHANTA
Oh, let it go. We’ll chase down another.
!The penguin scuttles away as CHAMBERLAIN takes up
pen and paper."

65
This Is Shakuntala

Dear U.N., Thank you for your recent letter. I’ve been in New York in the winter, and, believe me, I
sympathize. Everything here is well. The ice cap is nearly gone, and the numbers of refugees arriving at my
shores from your countries nearly doubles daily. Go ahead and drop your bombs, I’ll soon flood the northward
earth with weak and simple things y’all will find unhappily familiar like the nicknames of people whose given
names you’ve forgotten. And we have plenty of food. Sincerely yours, Duhshanta, the King of the World.

Now go find a penguin and get that thing off.

CHAMBERLAIN
Bother. Those things didn’t use to run so fast.
!CHAMBERLAIN dashes off into the swirling ice."

DUHSHANTA
Strike up the band! A song for Mount Erebus!
!Music plays. DUHSHANTA sings."

ON TOP OF OLD SMOKY


ALL COVERED WITH SNOW
I LEFT MY POOR SWEETHEART
FOR A"COURTIN’ TOO SLOW

SHE WANTED A PALACE


SHE WANTED A CROWN
BUT WHEN I SAID “CHILDREN”
SHE WAS TRUE TO HER VOW
!CHAMBERLAIN slides in on a conveyor belt."

CHAMBERLAIN
Your Highness, Mother Theresa’s at the palace accompanied by a pregnant nun in a wedding dress and a
World War II vet in winter camouflage. Shall I let them in?

DUHSHANTA
A vet? Really? Does he have one of those fold"up shovels?

CHAMBERLAIN
I’ll check. They say they have a message from Kalidasa.

DUHSHANTA
No kidding? He’s certainly keeping strange company these days.

CHAMBERLAIN
Perhaps he’s representing the UN.

DUHSHANTA
If that’s the case, I’ll use him for a human shield!
!DUHSHANTA and ENGLISHMAN laugh."

I don’t really expect those U.N. boobies will actually hit anything as important as the palace, but you can never
be sure that they really know where the important things are. Go ahead and let them in.
!CHAMBERLAIN stands aside."

CHAMBERLAIN
Your Highness, Mother Theresa, a pregnant nun, and a former G.I.

66
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
Excellent.
!MOTHER THERESA marionette and
SHARNGARAVA draw in SHAKUNTALA in a red,
radio flyer wagon. SHAKUNTALA in her white wedding
dress and nun’s habit seems worn out."

CHAMBERLAIN
His Royal Highness King Duhshanta.
!DUHSHANTA clears his throat."

Oh. The king would like to know if you have one of those fold"up shovels.

SHARNGARAVA
Sir, yes, sir.
!SHARNGARAVA unfolds his shovel."

DUHSHANTA
Let me see that.
!DUHSHANTA takes the shovel."

Ah. It’s beautiful. Well balanced. Durable. I see you’ve used it.

SHARNGARAVA
Sir, yes, sir! I’d sooner dig myself a hole in a snow bank any day of the week than melt myself in a puffy
mattress like a pat of butter on a spud, sir!

DUHSHANTA
Oh, I’m with you there, son. No man’s got a problem when he can dig himself a hole.

SHAKUNTALA
!To MOTHER."
I have a headache.

MOTHER
Shh, dear. Duhshanta’s shoveling.
!A bomb falls."

DUHSHANTA
Wow. First time they’ve been early for anything.
!DUHSHANTA returns the shovel, and refers to
SHAKUNTALA and SHARNGARAVA."

Are you two getting married?


!SHAKUNTALA swoons."

CHAMBERLAIN
They have a message from the reverend Kalidasa.

DUHSHANTA
Oh, right. That’s what you said. How is everything back in the old country?
!A few more bombs."

67
This Is Shakuntala

MOTHER
His message to you is:

Thou sovereign king...

DUHSHANTA
As opposed to what other kind of king?

MOTHER
No, he didn’t say.

DUHSHANTA
Go on.

SHARNGARAVA
Thou sovereign king who sagely governs life,
Who guards the world and frees its folks of strife,
Who turns the day to night and night to day,
Who brings the rains and drives the clouds away,
Thou art most worthiest of men, the treat
Of springtime... !

DUHSHANTA
Blah, blah, blah.

MOTHER
Uh, ensign of nations, vanguard of the downtrodden... ah!
Shakuntala, resplendent as the sun,
Whose belly baketh even now a bun,
Was worthy choice on thy insightful part,
!More bombs."

So now receive her swollen to thy heart!


Take thou she ever blameless to thy bed,
And here before our witness her thee wed!
!Bombs."

DUHSHANTA
Pardon me?

MOTHER
How far should I back up?

DUHSHANTA
No, I heard what you said.

MOTHER
Can I say something?
!Bombs."

DUHSHANTA
Certainly.

MOTHER

68
This Is Shakuntala

She never listened to me, so she’s hardly free of responsibility for this whole thing, but you didn’t exactly go in
the front door. What have you to say for yourself?
!Bombs."

SHAKUNTALA
Well? What do you say?
!Bombs. DUHSHANTA jumps up."

DUHSHANTA
Alright, that is enough!
!Bombs fall. DUHSHANTA draws an ivory handled
revolver. SHAKUNTALA and the rest gasp and shrink.
DUHSHANTA runs away. Bombs. Six gunshots. An
airplane stalls and shrieks into an explosion. DUHSHANTA
returns, replacing cartridges in the cylinder."

Are you saying I knocked her up?


!SHAKUNTALA tries to rise from the wagon, but cannot."

SHAKUNTALA
I saved your life!

DUHSHANTA
What? When?

MOTHER
Well, look. of course he doesn’t recognize you. You’ve got that habit wrapped around your face.
!SHAKUNTALA keeps MOTHER from removing the
habit."

It’s time to take that off. It’s not big enough to hide all of you and not small enough to pass for hair.
!SHAKUNTALA fends off MOTHER THERESA."

SHAKUNTALA
There isn’t going to be any wedding! I’m going to be a single"nun"mom.

DUHSHANTA
There’s not going to be any single"nun"moms in my Antarctica. Take that thing off and we’ll find you a nice
Episcopalian priest to marry.

SHAKUNTALA
I came to the Pole to marry my child’s father.

DUHSHANTA
So we’ll publish your picture to see if your face rings any bells. Chamberlain, get someone to restrain this nun
and remove her habit.

CHAMBERLAIN
Yeah, okay.
!YETIS appear."

SHAKUNTALA
Go get your own veil. This one’s mine. If you don’t want to know me, leave it at that and I’ll stay a nun.
!The YETIS hold SHAKUNTALA."

69
This Is Shakuntala

You’ll take one face and not replace it with another, and who will I be then?
!The YETIS tear off SHAKUNTALA’s habit and send it
fluttering through the air. Another habit is intact on
SHAKUNTALA beneath it."

DUHSHANTA
Sweet merciful crap!
!The YETIS tear off SHAKUNTALA’s second habit and
send it fluttering. Another habit is intact on
SHAKUNTALA beneath it."

MOTHER
Ave Maria.
!The YETIS tear off habit after habit while
SHAKUNTALA sings."

SHAKUNTALA
ARE YOU HAPPY ARE YOU HAPPY
BROTHER JOHN? BROTHER JOHN?
IF YOU BREAK YOUR GUITAR
WILL YOU PLAY THE SITAR?
DING DONG DIN
DING DONG DIN

ARE YOU SNAPPY


ARE YOU SNAPPY
BROTHER JUAN?
BROTHER JUAN?
VERY PLEASED TO MEET YOU
NEXT I THINK I’LL EAT YOU
DING DONG DIN
DING DONG DIN

ARE YOU NAPPY


THIN AND SCRAPPY
BROTHER TRAN?
BROTHER TRAN?
IF YOU AREN’T BIZARRE
YOU WON’T GO VERY FAR
DING DONG DIN
DING DONG DIN
!The YETIS give up. There is a huge pile of habits."

DUHSHANTA
!Looking SHAKUNTALA over."
Hm.
!Aside."

Whether or no she’s mother by another


I’ll own up I’m caught and falling
In ellipsis to and from her.
!To SHAKUNTALA, et al."

70
This Is Shakuntala

Listen, I’m as interested in progeny as the next guy, and now there’s a whole kingdom needing a successor.
But I’m not going to jeopardize this whole operation by muddling the waters of legal succession with
somebody else’s baby. And this is somebody else’s baby.

SHAKUNTALA
Who else’s? I’ve been living with nuns for fifteen years!

MOTHER
We’re not accusing you of anything seamy. Kalidasa’s pretty well convinced the whole thing was consensual.

DUHSHANTA
It’s not at all consensual. I haven’t agreed to anything.

SHAKUNTALA
!Aside."
I saved him from scurvy with food and myself and hoped he’d reach the Pole and welcome me. Which gods are
now battling over the chance to strike him deaf and dead for this blank abuse?
#To DUHSHANTA.$

A few hundred miles back we burned ill together in desperate straights on the polar plateau. There was new
life between us in this radio flyer wagon. You took your portion and got better and got to the Pole. All that
was left for me went to making a baby, and I’m just about finished. And I don’t have insurance.

DUHSHANTA
!Covering his ears."
Now, now, now, enough! I feel like there’s a millstone around my neck.

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, that’s it.
!SHAKUNTALA overturns the wagon and throws herself
weakly at DUHSHANTA. DUHSHANTA catches her."

DUHSHANTA
She’s going to hurt herself.
!SHARNGARAVA pulls SHAKUNTALA back. She
searches frantically in her dress and habit."

SHAKUNTALA
When I find that tent stake I’m going to punch your eyes out.

DUHSHANTA
Tent stake.

SHAKUNTALA
!To MOTHER THERESA."
Where’s my tent stake?

MOTHER
The Park Ranger kept them all when we landed on the Ross Ice Shelf.

SHAKUNTALA
No, no, no. I had one.

DUHSHANTA

71
This Is Shakuntala

Chamberlain, maybe you’d better call in one of the doctors.

SHAKUNTALA
It was your own stake. You smuggled it into Antarctica somehow. You split my nativity scene with it. You
killed my habit with it when it got out of control. There was a man from Kansas City with a shotgun.

DUHSHANTA
This just gets bigger and bigger, doesn’t it. Mao Zedong’s going to be crossing the continent in a clockwork
tank, next.

SHAKUNTALA
You are a whited sepulchre.
!More bombs fall."

DUHSHANTA
Wait just a moment while I go talk to myself.
!DUHSHANTA steps apart from the others."

I’m set aback


Not by my guilt
But her anger.
Were I not oddly bold to be right
She’d convince me I’m wrong.
And fetchingly too!
I declare I’m quite spun
By her trembling mouth,
Those eyes indignantly arched,
Wrestling together at her nose
Rolling dark furrows in her brows
And blazing red!
Honest injun, she’s got red eyes.
Blast, what a warm woman!
I wonder if anyone would believe I did knock her up?
!DUHSHANTA returns to the group."

My life is public, and no one’s ever mentioned to me that I did this.

SHAKUNTALA
Oh, what’s the use? You got me. I’m a whore. I ignored the pit and the snake and the bees and trusted the vine
and put out my finger for honey.
!SHARNGARAVA drops SHAKUNTALA and turns to
go."

SHARNGARAVA
Get it in writing, people! I can’t stress this enough! There are two kinds of people in the world, and the happy
ones get it in writing!

SHAKUNTALA
You can’t leave me! The world is broken. Living truly is nothing but trouble and the rats grow fat.

DUHSHANTA
She’s right. You can’t leave her.

SHAKUNTALA

72
This Is Shakuntala

Just take me away.

SHARNGARAVA
Where’s left, miss?

SHAKUNTALA
I don’t know! Where do the refugees of refugee camps go?!

SHARNGARAVA
Ah, that’s a policy issue, miss.
!YETIS appear with bombs. They circumambulate the
perimeter of the shelter."

DUHSHANTA
She can’t stay here. I’ve got trouble enough with the U.N., I don’t need rumors flying about the world that
I’ve turned Antarctica into some kind of Osho compound.

CHAMBERLAIN
If I might say so...
!YETIS throw bombs into the bomb shelter."

DUHSHANTA
By all means, say so.

CHAMBERLAIN
Why don’t we just keep her here secretly in the bomb shelter until the baby arrives? After that a simple DNA
test will officially disprove any connection to you.
!The bomb shelter rocks and rumbles from the bombs dropped
in by the YETIS."

DUHSHANTA
Capital idea! And if it turns out that it is my child we can just keep them here secretly until they die!

CHAMBERLAIN
Quite so!

DUHSHANTA
Perfect!

SHAKUNTALA
O fart! Where is the providence in fate?
!A crevass opens up. SHAKUNTALA steps into it."

CHAMBERLAIN
Oh, my.

MOTHER
Oh, dear.

DUHSHANTA
I didn’t tell her she could do that!
!YETIS stop dropping bombs."

Chamberlain, how long before our ice shaving operation will uncover her?

73
This Is Shakuntala

CHAMBERLAIN
If it’s a superficial crevass, only a couple of days.

DUHSHANTA
But she’ll be dead by then, right?

CHAMBERLAIN
If it’s deeper than we think the ice cap itself is, we’ll probably never reach her.

DUHSHANTA
I can’t decide whether to be relieved or consternated.

CHAMBERLAIN
Apathy is my drug of choice, your highness.

Scene 2

!Man handcuffed."

MAN
Do you know your beaches?
Are the ebbing lines where seas meet sand
Under your eye, or do lengths elude you
Slipped into gray and shadow,
wriggled not"to"be’s in boats
Passing under your unknowing nose
To scale the bluffs and sperse bootling inland?
Do you staff the bunkers?
Are the glint lines sighted on the ways easy
Strangers might come by, or are there gaps
Unguarded, paths left wide
Where the frank new might slip inside
Build cottages in the countryside
And blur simply into your unwalled towns?

!The BUTCHER, the BAKER, and the CANDLESTICK


MAKER materialize with garbage cans."

!Pause."

!BUTCHER lifts his garbage can lid. BAGG sticks his head
out."

BAGG
Nothing to be done.
!BAGG’s face contorts into a ferocious smile."

!Pause."

!BAGG’s face returns to normal. BAKER lifts his garbage


can lid. BAMM sticks her head out."

74
This Is Shakuntala

!Pause."

BAMM
Nothing to be done.
!Pause."

!BAKER hits BAMM in the face with a pie."

!Pause."

!CANDLESTICK MAKER lifts his garbage can lid.


LOLLIPOP TROLLOP sticks her head out."

LOLLIPOP TROLLOP
!Breakneck speed."
We got the goods on ya ya pinko commie runt we’re in the know ‘cause your boyfriend yah you heard me
squealed like a stuck pig in a poke and spilled the beans that’s right out of the frying pan into the fire is where
you are pal in the thick of things see ain’t no big daddy to pull no strings for ya this time uptown or downtown
‘cause this is midtown fella and we ain’t playin it’s showtime and you’re the main attraction so start singing
birdie and maybe today won’t be the day you get plucked awright now I’ve rolled up the doors on my ears but I
have yet to see any syllables from your mouth driving up and parking in my head you flaming hippie scum I
shaved this morning and drove down here special to hear your aria and the music’s started so let’s hear some
yelping ya hear me I wanna know where you got this tent stake!
!CANDLESTICK MAKER holds up the tent spike."

!Pause."

MAN
I found it.
!BUTCHER strikes MAN."

BAGG
Nothing to be done.

BAMM
!Like a dog."
Arf!
!Pause."

LOLLIPOP TROLLOP
!As before."
Are you rich I don’t care are you powerful I don’t care are you famous I don’t care you fat freak who do you
know huh who do you know ‘cause I don’t mind hauling them in here to watch you squirm like a worm on a
hook you know the mayor I’ll haul him in here nothing says I can’t you know the satrap I got a chair in here
with the satrap’s name on it you know Emporer Ming screw Emporer Ming you’re mine baby until you fess up
now where you sack of flour did you get the tent stake?
!Pause."

MAN
I found it in a penguin’s brain.
!BUTCHER pulls down MAN’s pants."

!Pause."

75
This Is Shakuntala

The penguin was dead.

BAMM
Did I ever tell you the time I ate a penguin?

BAGG
Yes.

BAMM
Oh. okay.
!LOLLIPOP TROLLOP takes the spike. Smells it."

LOLLIPOP TROLLOP
!Same as before."
So far your story checks out buddy but don’t go thinking you’re off the hook ‘cause the hook is sharp and
pointy see it’s your lucky day ‘cause it’s my wife’s birthday and I don’t wanna go home just yet so I’m gonna
check out your story you know what I’m saying you knobbly toad I’m gonna check it out and when I come
back your head’s gonna roll like a drum.
!CANDLESTICK MAKER disappears with the garbage
can and LOLLIPOP TROLLOP."

BAGG
She’s been gone long.

BAMM
Not too long.

BAGG
Oh, no. Not too long.
!Pause."

But long.

BAMM
Shall we go find her?

BAGG
Yes.
!Pause. YETIS play pine trees in the back."

BAMM
I meant today.

BAGG
Well say so.
!Pause."

MAKE"UP!
!BUTCHER strikes MAN with a giant powderpuff and
kicks him in the butt."

BAMM
Hah. I could do that.
!Pause."

76
This Is Shakuntala

Here she comes.

BAGG
Who?
!CANDLESTICK MAKER reappears with garbage can
and LOLLIPOP TROLLOP. He sets the can down."

MAN
I’m a dead man.
!Pause."

LOLLIPOP TROLLOP
Well well well well well well if it isn’t the cat with nine lives seems the king had a sudden attack of compassion
when he saw that spike he turned white as a sheet and nearly fell right off his throne which doesn’t mean we’re
suddenly gonna be chummy you and me it just means that for now you’re off my top ten list down to number
thirtyfive or so of people to watch so watch it I’m not through with you yet ya big lug.

MAN
I’d like to see my lawyer.
!Pause."

BAMM
No.
!Wind whips up the blowing ice, obscuring everything."

Scene 3

!The ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA descends and


hovers above the ground."

ANGEL
Fear not. I am the Angel in Little America. My father was St. Peter and my mother was The Enlightenment.
In spite of her faults I remain a friend to Shakuntala’s mother Antoinette who sometimes presumes to speak
for me at festivals and such. She gets me all wrong, of course, but publicity’s publicity, and few have gone so far
on public ignorance as the divine Miss A. Shakuntala has become like my own self. Like a tolerant friend of
her mother. She asked me to check up on the tyrant.
!ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA looks around."

But it’s dark. This should be the Antarctic summer but it’s dark as dung. Where are the refugees? Why are
they not pulling to the sea blocks of ice cut from the plateau? I could read the newspaper, I suppose, but I’d
rather get my information by hearsay. I’ll just disguise myself as a snowman and hear what these girls have to
say.
!ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA descends to the ice and
becomes a snowman. Two GIRLS enter with flashlights.
They wear smart suits. The first is reading a scroll."

FIRST GIRL
Well, now, things seem to be going along quite smashingly.

SECOND GIRL
Indubitably.

77
This Is Shakuntala

FIRST GIRL
This U.N. resolution has right properly put King Duhshanta in his place.

SECOND GIRL
Unquestionably. Oh, read it again.

FIRST GIRL
Oh, no. You read it to me. Your voice is ever so much more pleasant than mine.

SECOND GIRL
Oh, no, no, no. Yours is the better reading voice.

FIRST GIRL
Certainly not, certainly not.

SECOND GIRL
I’m afraid so.

FIRST GIRL
Do you really mean it?

SECOND GIRL
Quite.

FIRST GIRL
Thank you so much. You really are the cat’s meow.

SECOND GIRL
On the contrary. I believe you are the cat’s meow.

FIRST GIRL
Oh, let’s both be meows.

SECOND GIRL
Shall we?

FIRST GIRL
Let’s.
!Reading."

U.N. resolution three fifty"seven point three article twelve underscore letter b dot html. So, uh, King
Duhshanta, like how are you? This is the U.N., how are you doing? We’re like so cold here right now we can’t
even tell you. It’s bad enough that the weather sucks, but Portugal won’t shut up about it. It’s always going
‘I’ve got goosebumps’ and ‘this blanket doesn’t do anything, you know,.’ We’re all about to kill it. So, we were
all sorta sittin’ around talking last night, and we kinda decided to annex you. That okay? If it’s not okay just say
so, ‘cause we can annex something else, but when we were all thinking about it last night we were all like ‘Yah,
that’d be really cool. I just know King Duhshanta will be cool with that.’ So, you can just abdicate your title
and we’ll just send down a temporary peacekeeping force if it’s all cool with you, okay? Thanks so much.
You’re the best. Love, the U.N.

SECOND GIRL
A model of composition.

FIRST GIRL

78
This Is Shakuntala

I certainly agree. But why isn’t it summer down here?

SECOND GIRL
Should it be summer down here?

FIRST GIRL
I’m quite sure it should. By my calculations January Seventeenth is well into the Antarctic Summer.

SECOND GIRL
No, but I do believe it is the Sixteenth.

FIRST GIRL
No, I’m sorry. It’s the Seventeenth today.

SECOND GIRL
On the contrary. The Sixteenth.
!First GIRL produces a day planner."

FIRST GIRL
According to my Franklin Planner it is the Seventeenth.

SECOND GIRL
Oh, my, so it is. My mistake. Will you forgive me?

FIRST GIRL
Certainly.

SECOND GIRL
You are so kind.

FIRST GIRL
So why isn’t the sun out, do you think? Is it haze?

SECOND GIRL
Goodness me, I’m confounded. What do you think?

FIRST GIRL
I asked you first.

SECOND GIRL
I asked you second.

FIRST GIRL
Shall we be perplexed together?

SECOND GIRL
Let’s.
!They act perplexity. CHAMBERLAIN slides into view on
a conveyor belt. He points a pistol $not a revolver% at the
GIRLS."

CHAMBERLAIN
Take dictation.

79
This Is Shakuntala

FIRST GIRL
Excuse me?

SECOND GIRL
I’m afraid we have no stenographic training. If you can wait until the haze clears we can have a team air"
dropped in.

FIRST GIRL
Indubitably.

CHAMBERLAIN
I was speaking metaphorically.

SECOND GIRL
Whatever you say.

FIRST GIRL
You’re the boss.

CHAMBERLAIN
Do you feel that wind?

SECOND GIRL
You mean the wind which seems to split our bones open?

FIRST GIRL
And strip the marrow from inside?

CHAMBERLAIN
There’s no haze. There’s no light. You thought an ozone hole was bad news. The whole of Antarctica’s under a
light hole. No light comes in, no light goes out. Let’s see the U.N. annex that.

FIRST GIRL
Preposterous.

SECOND GIRL
I most heartily concur.

CHAMBERLAIN
Go ahead, try it. Call the U.N.
!First GIRL dials a cell phone and hands it to second GIRL."

SECOND GIRL
!Taking the phone."
Thank you so much.
!Second GIRL listens for a moment. She hands the phone
back to first GIRL."

SECOND GIRL
Today partly cloudy with a chance of blowing ice in the afternoon.

FIRST GIRL
My goodness. I should have brought a coat.

80
This Is Shakuntala

SECOND GIRL
!As if catching on to the joke."
Did you hypnotize us? Come on, are we hypnotized?

CHAMBERLAIN
No.

SECOND GIRL
Hey, make her act like a chicken.

FIRST GIRL
On the contrary, make her act like a chicken.

CHAMBERLAIN
The king ordered the lights out and the lights are out.

SECOND GIRL
Shoot her first.

FIRST GIRL
Oh, no. After you.

SECOND GIRL
I insist.

CHAMBERLAIN
Oh, fer...
!CHAMBERLAIN pulls the trigger. A light shines out the
barrel."

FIRST GIRL
Oh, that’s very good.

SECOND GIRL
Oh, I agree completely. Quite good.

CHAMBERLAIN
The refugees have been freeze"dried and vacuum packed, what remains of the plateau will remain of the
plateau, the nuns on the shelf have been turned into penguins, and there will be no summer, no sun, no light.
Only wind and ice. Antarctica will be like the dark side of the moon.

SECOND GIRL
No, excuse me, the moon has no wind.

FIRST GIRL
That’s true, that’s true. And no ice, either.

CHAMBERLAIN
When he saw the tent stake he remembered the wagon, the scurvy, the half"clad nun, and knew he hadn’t
forgotten such warmth like a common fool.

No king, he thought, commands all things,


Nor rules any men or taken space
With even slight certainty

81
This Is Shakuntala

When the barest breeze so lifts his thoughts


And in whipping wider circles strews them
Past his clutching clutching fingers.
This king gives up effort
To the fast naught of living,
Since his tightest thought
Unravels of itself.

ANGEL
But does he sorrow?

CHAMBERLAIN
He sorrows like a normal man. So summer is cancelled.

FIRST GIRL
I’m sure the U.N. will express its condolences. She slipped down a crevasse right?

SECOND GIRL
Indubitably.

CHAMBERLAIN
Go tell the U.N. to do its worst. King Duhshanta won’t hardly notice.

FIRST GIRL
After you.

SECOND GIRL
Oh, no, no, no. After you.

FIRST GIRL
No, I insist.

SECOND GIRL
Oh, you are too kind.

Scene 4

!DUHSHANTA appears on his throne. He is dressed in a


dark suit and sunglasses. A black sunshade stretches overhead.
DUHSHANTA is contorted in sorrow over the throne and
perfectly still.

Labels are affixed to parts of DUHSHANTA’s body. His


forehead reads ‘ANGUISH.’ His left shoulder reads
‘DESPAIR.’ His right breast reads ‘REGRET.’ His belly
reads ‘THE FLU.’ His right knee reads ‘SHAME.’ His left
big toe reads ‘HARDWARE.’"

CHAMBERLAIN
Behold the wreck of royalty. Once master of a continent wrenched inert by cosmic forces. Still keeps the
crease in his slacks. What a man.

ANGEL

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This Is Shakuntala

Really. It’s no wonder Shakuntala wondered what he’s up to. If we weren’t physically incompatible I’d be
tempted to steal him out from under her. ‘Course, I guess she’s not really over him at this point.

DUHSHANTA
!Singing."
WHY DO BIRDS SING SO GAY
AND LOVERS AWAIT THE BREAK OF DAY
WHY DO THEY FALL IN LO"OVE?

WHY ARE COWS ALWAYS CHEWING CUD


WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE
WHY DO THEY FALL IN LO"OVE?

LOVE’S A 1040"A
YOU FILL IT OUT AND THEN YOU PAY
WITH ALL THE IRS HAS KEPT
WHY DON’T I GET A REFUND CHECK?

TELL ME WH"Y"Y
Y"Y"Y"Y"Y"Y

FIRST GIRL
We should go.

SECOND GIRL
Indubitably. Farewell, Your Highness.
!DUHSHANTA drools. The GIRLS fade into the ice.
ENGLISHMAN comes running. He carries an umbrella."

ENGLISHMAN
Your Majesty, I’ve heard all about it and just let me say I don’t know what to say.

DUHSHANTA
How was Kansas City?

ENGLISHMAN
Where?

DUHSHANTA
Was the food okay?

ENGLISHMAN
I don’t know what you’re talking about.

DUHSHANTA
Where have you been for the last hundred years I’ve been suffering the pangs of a damned soul?

ENGLISHMAN
I’ve been chasing penguins in the Weddell. About eaten by a killer whale last week.

DUHSHANTA
My head is empty.

ENGLISHMAN

83
This Is Shakuntala

The echo must be annoying.

DUHSHANTA
My heart is empty.

ENGLISHMAN
Must be playing heck with your blood sugar.

DUHSHANTA
I wish the scurvy would come back so I could feel something.
!ENGLISHMAN strikes him viciously with the umbrella."

ENGLISHMAN
Feel that?

DUHSHANTA
Yes. May I have another?

ENGLISHMAN
Not until after dinner. Looks like you’ve been busy, after all. Come down here and tell me about this ice
sculpture of yours. Looks quite like that Shakuntala.

ANGEL
Oops.

DUHSHANTA
What’s that?

ENGLISHMAN
This sculpture. I think you’ve quite captured her likeness here.

DUHSHANTA
I remember. The bare rock, the bare shelf and the camp behind its bare wall. The bare plateau on the sled, the
bare sun sprinkled about, her bare leg. I remember her bare teeth and her bare eyes, the fight they fought. I
remember my blank and bare mind, my bare face. The fight they fought against my bare denial, the armor they
threw up against my salvos, the bulwarks breaking the space between my lips and her. I remember my bare life
over that crevasse blank and bored and tugged minute by minute by wishing I had made her child. Where were
you?

ENGLISHMAN
In the Weddell, Sire. Couldn’t be helped. Must have food, you know. Can’t always do what we must or
should for being out finding food.

ANGEL
So far I’m with him. It’s a pain we have to eat so often.

DUHSHANTA
Where’s the providence in fate?

ENGLISHMAN
Buck up, now, Sire. The story’s not over yet. The tent stake came back in the brain of a penguin. You know
what that means.

DUHSHANTA

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This Is Shakuntala

The penguins are on my side?

ENGLISHMAN
Exactly, and they’re in cahoots with fate.

DUHSHANTA
Fate and the penguins should make up their mind and ruin or save me.
!DUHSHANTA pulls the tent spike from his suit coat and
rises a little."

I’ll put every penguin in dogfood tins.


!Sagging."

Strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders. And try not to step on the penguins.

ANGEL
How’d she get that stake?

DUHSHANTA
Oh, I don’t know. Her friends told her to kill me with it or something.

ENGLISHMAN
Why didn’t she?

DUHSHANTA
Couldn’t find it. Not quite finished penguin ran off with it.
!With sudden vigor."

I’ll kill myself with it!


!DUHSHANTA raises the tent stake to plunge into his own
heart. With a cry ENGLISHMAN catches his arm. They
fall together from the throne and struggle against each other."

ENGLISHMAN
No, no, you’ve got so much to live for!

DUHSHANTA
You can be king of the world! I’d rather burn in hell than rule a frozen earth!

ENGLISHMAN
You can’t make me king of the world""I can’t be trusted!

DUHSHANTA
You don’t need to be trusted, just well dressed!

ENGLISHMAN
No, I won’t let you do it!
!DUHSHANTA overpowers ENGLISHMAN, pinning
him and raising the stake over him."

DUHSHANTA
I’ll kill you and then kill myself!
!DUHSHANTA sees ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA.
He freezes solid."

85
This Is Shakuntala

Blimey.

ENGLISHMAN
!Forced through DUHSHANTA’s chokehold."
You’ve done an excellent job there, Your Highness.

DUHSHANTA
But for the color it’s my Shakuntala herself. I know her nose, the hairline which says, “comb me,” the lashes!
that’s fine work to fashion lashes out of ice""the chin to make China weep, the neck and shoulders and the
bulbous rest is all my love lost beneath the polar cap.

ENGLISHMAN
!Croaking."
Quite the reproduction. You’ve endowed it with such life I’d almost say it breathes.
!DUHSHANTA rises to look closely at ANGEL IN
LITTLE AMERICA. He gets very close but is careful not to
touch."

DUHSHANTA
It does seem to swell and shrink with life. The hair seems almost naturally free. The eyelids nearly flutter.
!DUHSHANTA stops cold. ENGLISHMAN leans in for a
look."

ENGLISHMAN
!Whispering."
What is it?

DUHSHANTA
!Awed whisper."
It’s perspiring.
!ENGLISHMAN looks closer."

ENGLISHMAN
I’d recommend you back off a little, Sir. Seems your breath is slightly melting the piece.

DUHSHANTA
No, no. It sweats and radiates.
!DUHSHANTA puts his nose to ANGEL IN LITTLE
AMERICA’s cheek."

It’s warm.
!DUHSHANTA licks ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA’s
face."

It tastes like flesh.


!ENGLISHMAN whirls DUHSHANTA about and slaps
him twice."

ENGLISHMAN
Snap out of it, man!

ANGEL
He would see her in penguin droppings.

86
This Is Shakuntala

!DUHSHANTA takes ENGLISHMAN by the throat to


strangle him. CHAMBERLAIN slides in on a conveyor
belt."

CHAMBERLAIN
Just to let you know, Your Majesty, a boatload of Indonesian orphans was sunk by the U.N. blockade this
morning.
!DUHSHANTA hurls ENGLISHMAN away."

DUHSHANTA
WHO IS IT PAINTS TARGETS ON SUCH THINGS?!

CHAMBERLAIN
None of the children survived...

DUHSHANTA
Good for them.

CHAMBERLAIN
But we now have a few thousand refugee parents who on account of their own fertility deficiency had invested
considerable hope in that boatload of children. They have collectively collapsed insensate on the shelf. We
fear the penguins could push them off.

DUHSHANTA
I’ll be their children. They can adopt me. I’ll lie in their cradles and goo and burp. They can change my diapers
and feed me strained peas. I’ll be the lost of every family. I’ll say momma in their languages and I’ll dress in
their dress and bus in the morning to their schools and sing their anthems and send money to their parents in
the old country. I’ll speak reverently of their causes and bow my head to their dead. Let no one now in
Antarctica be without a mouth at the dinner table. I will eat at every dinner table.

ANGEL
!Sniffling."
Oh, that got me.

DUHSHANTA
Then there is nil.
The torrent which cuts the desert deep,
Miles of bright castles, gouted curves,
Chasms with white blades and roar,
Crawls sickly toward the sea,
Sighs its last in dust
And disappears without even a bed behind.

ANGEL
!Weeping."
Stop it, you’re killing me.
!ENGLISHMAN disappears."

ENGLISHMAN’S VOICE
AAACH!

DUHSHANTA
!Perking up, slightly."
Hm?

87
This Is Shakuntala

!Looking around."

Where’s my California Kid?

ENGLISHMAN’S VOICE
Help!

DUHSHANTA
Where’d he go? Find out where he went.
!CHAMBERLAIN disappears on the conveyor belt and
reappears almost immediately with a video projector and a
bag full of pool balls."

Did you really check on him?

CHAMBERLAIN
I most certainly did. I ran as fast as I could go to the Ice Cap Bar just a mile or two north of here.

DUHSHANTA
Everything’s north of here.

CHAMBERLAIN
So I knew I couldn’t miss it. Anyway, I went inside and sure enough they had a television mounted on the wall.

DUHSHANTA
Yes?

CHAMBERLAIN
Unfortunately, the bar crowd was watching pro wrestling.

DUHSHANTA
What happened to my Englishman?

CHAMBERLAIN
Well, I asked if I could change the channel to CNN, but everyone said no.

DUHSHANTA
You don’t know where he is!

CHAMBERLAIN
No, I do, I do. To make a long story short, I challenged the best of the bar to a game of pool, and, as you
know, before I was a refugee I was a marbles ace, and I correctly assumed the same principles applied. So, they
let me change the channel and keep all the balls I managed to knock off the table.

DUHSHANTA
And?

CHAMBERLAIN
I recorded the report. Would you like to see it?

DUHSHANTA
Yes!
!CHAMBERLAIN fires the projection at anyone who might
be watching."

88
This Is Shakuntala

CNN
the local Englishman was hoisted today by an invisible force and borne off to destinations unknown. We have
video of the scene. Brett? Yes, you can see here how this Englishman just sort of lifts off the ground as though
by magic, and, indeed, our experts are at this point attributing this sudden takeoff to magic. Expert? Yes, I
would call this an m2 magic event right now. Excuse me, Expert, for our viewers who are unfamiliar with such
things would you just explain what you mean by “m2”? Certainly, an m2 is a magical event of the second
magnitude. Ah, I see. Thank you, Expert. Here’s that video clip again of the said Englishman rising, almost
jerking, right into the sky. And I think we’re going to go now to a person who wants to say something about
this. Yeah, I just think it’s magic, ‘cause...

DUHSHANTA
Alright!
!CHAMBERLAIN switches off the video projector."

Which way did he go?

CHAMBERLAIN
Up.

DUHSHANTA
After up, after up!

CHAMBERLAIN
I believe he went north.
!DUHSHANTA brandishes the tent stake."

DUHSHANTA
The U.N.’s behind this! Come and get me you lousy nations!
!GREEK YETI appears with a curtain. Her mouth moves
but is a moment behind the sound."

GREEK YETI
In case of emergency, take this enchanted curtain which soothes and relieves while it covers and protects.
!GREEK YETI hands curtain to DUSHANTA and mimes
the directions."

Fasten the curtain about your neck.


!DUHSHANTA does so."

If any threat is imminent, real or perceived, place your hand over your mouth and refer to the curtain with a
footnote. Remember to document your sources fully. Thank you.
!GREEK YETI disappears."

VOICE
Set your teeth, Duhshanta, and come off the Pole. I’ll bite through your Englishman’s neck and drink his blue
blood.

ENGLISHMAN’S VOICE
Oh, now, really, I must protest. My blood is as red as anyone’s.

DUHSHANTA
You corpse"eating dryer sheet!

89
This Is Shakuntala

ENGLISHMAN’S VOICE
I’m not a corpse, either. Really.

DUHSHANTA
Chamberlain, from which direction comes that black voice?

CHAMBERLAIN
North, Sire.

DUHSHANTA
EVERYTHING’S NORTH!

VOICE
Ha ha ha ha ha!

ENGLISHMAN’S VOICE
Now, that hurt. You can exude evil without yelling in my ear.

DUHSHANTA
Show yourself, you nothing nations! Set aside your shield and set yourself against my thunderous weapon. I’m
raising it now...
!DUHSHANTA raises the stake."

... and I’m aiming it north.

If all the land must pass away


This stake will burn across the earth,
Upturning plains and leveling peaks
Drinking oceans, scourging forests and towns
Swallowing clouds and air,
Removing stars
Until it burning pierce your hide.

MEGAPHONE VOICE
Attention, Dramatic Work, we have you surrounded. Lay down your lines and come out with your hands up.

VOICE
uh oh.
!DUHSHANTA and CHAMBERLAIN exchange
ignorant looks."

MEGAPHONE VOICE
You have to the count of three to surrender.

VOICE
I think you should do as he says.

DUHSHANTA
Weren’t you about to eat my Englishman?

MEGAPHONE VOICE
One...

DUHSHANTA

90
This Is Shakuntala

I’m busy saving my Englishman. You’ll have to wait your turn.

MEGAPHONE VOICE
Two...

VOICE
Here’s your Englishman.
!ENGLISHMAN falls out of the sky."

ANGEL
They’re not paying me enough for this crap.
!ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA ascends.
DUHSHANTA catches her by the foot."

DUHSHANTA
That’s not north!

MEGAPHONE VOICE
Two and a half ... there will be no two and three quarters ...

DUHSHANTA
All of you! Get off my continent!
!Dangling from the ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA,
DUHSHANTA hurls the spike at the sky. Blinding flash.

Blackout."

Scene 5

!Machine gun fire. Shouts. Explosions.

Sounds of general mayhem. Silence.

Light returns.

DUHSHANTA, ENGLISHMAN, CHAMBERLAIN,


SCHOLAR WITH A FAN stand on a bare stage.
KRISHNA faces them over an open trap door. He has
SHAKUNTALA&no longer pregnant&by the arm. She
wears the ANGEL IN LITTLE AMERICA COSTUME."

KRISHNA
So. We meet again.

DUHSHANTA
Do we?

KRISHNA
It has all come to a quiet end. There’s nothing left of all the prancing and posing. The stage is there. The lights
are there. The city has revoked your license. There is a warrant issued for your arrest. All this has come to
nothing. Not even amusement remains. It’s drained out of all the people watching and left behind just crusted
smirks.

91
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
So leave me Shakuntala.

KRISHNA
What, like an heirloom?

DUHSHANTA
She’s all I’ve done this for.

ENGLISHMAN
You rowed me here in a leaky boat for a new nation and to transform the world.

CHAMBERLAIN
As of this moment there are seven hundred and seventy million four hundred and forty"four thousand two
hundred and twenty"eight refugees who think the same thing.

KRISHNA
!To SHAKUNTALA."
I’m going to go ahead and go. You can go to jail with him or take off now and disappear.

DUHSHANTA
It’s all yours, Shakuntala. My mind is full again.

SHAKUNTALA
I’m not sure I know who you are.
!KRISHNA and SHAKUNTALA descend into the trap.
CHAMBERLAIN and ENGLISHMAN wander away."

CHAMBERLAIN
Well, I guess that’s it then.
!DUHSHANTA siezes SCHOLAR WITH A FAN."

DUHSHANTA
Say something!

SCHOLAR WITH A FAN


!Outward, with a flourish."
Thanks for coming! That’s all there is. Please obey local laws and practice courtesy as you’re driving home. And
remember, public television relies on your support.
!DUHSHANTA knocks SCHOLAR WITH A FAN
senseless."

DUHSHANTA
!Over the open trap."
I’M NOT THROUGH PLAYING!
!DUHSHANTA drops through the trap."

Scene 6

!Footsteps."

DUHSHANTA
Hello?

92
This Is Shakuntala

FAMILIAR VOICE
Well, well. Whom do we have here?

DUHSHANTA
Who’s that?
!Flashlight shines on DUHSHANTA."

Hey, give me one of those.

FAMILIAR VOICE
No. You have to answer my question.

DUHSHANTA
Yes, you’re a jerk. Now give me a light.

FAMILIAR VOICE
The question is...
!Flashlight turns to reveal the face of PARK RANGER’S
GHOST."

Did you forget something?


!DUHSHANTA screams like a girl and falls to the ground."

DUHSHANTA
Yes, yes! I forgot my lover.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


!Dancing."
You forgot your lover, I was right, you forgot your lover, I was right...

DUHSHANTA
Shut up, shut up, shutup! It was only temporary.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Nothing’s temporary down here, Pal.

DUHSHANTA
What... under the polar ice cap?

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Hah.
!PARK RANGER’S GHOST swings the flashlight around
to reveal an arch. On the arch is printed LASCIATE
OGNE SPERANZA, VOI CH’INTRATE."

Yeah? What is that, Italian? I don’t read Italian.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Don’t read much at all, apparently. It says, “Abandon every hope, ye who enter here.”

DUHSHANTA
Maybe it loses something in translation.

93
This Is Shakuntala

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


This is hell, Doofus.

DUHSHANTA
Why didn’t you just tell me? I’ve been conquering a continent, for goodness sake.
!Pause."

Hell’s under the polar ice cap, eh?

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Forget the ice cap. Come with me.

DUHSHANTA
!Standing."
I get my own flashlight.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


I’ve only got thirty"three more lines. You’ll survive.
!They walk."

This is home to life’s unkind,


Merciless, the spiteful men
Whose violent minds

Make their bodies pawns...

DUHSHANTA
Show me one.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Now, you took a line. I’ve got only twenty"five left.

DUHSHANTA
Just show me one.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Keep your pants on. Now I’m down
Eight or nine, and haven’t said
Anything about contempt,
Sloth, or envy. And I’ve slipped
Out of rhyme.

DUHSHANTA
You don’t have anything to show me.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Just shut up a minute! Now
These are dark dimensions where
Penitentless spirits go.

DUHSHANTA
Show me just one peni...

PARK RANGER’S GHOST

94
This Is Shakuntala

!Pointing."
There!

DUHSHANTA
Saved a line...

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


Be quiet!
!Pause."

know
This reducéd soul, in life
Reveled in great unearnéd gold
Here, in hell he gnaws and bites
Burnished coins, his only food

DUHSHANTA
He’s bodiless, of course...

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


You’re of ghosts to hell th’most rude...

DUHSHANTA
Hey! Slick! You gave me line twenty"four and picked up the rhyme.

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


!To ether"
I am not responsible!
He is uncooperative!

DUHSHANTA
Is the tour over? Is there a chocolate bar or something at the end?

PARK RANGER’S GHOST


That’s enough. Get out of hell.
One would think that after so
Many acts have fall’n on you
You would somehow come to know!
!PARK RANGER’S GHOST stalks off."

DUHSHANTA
Hey! I want a light.
!Flashlight flies in nearly striking DUHSHANTA."

Oh. Thanks.
!DUHSHANTA picks up the light.

VYASA THE DOG wearing laurels sniffs


DUHSHANTA."

DUHSHANTA
Hey, there, boy. Howya doin’ boy? Yeah, you’re a good dog, aren’t you. Yeah.

VYASA THE DOG

95
This Is Shakuntala

ARF!

DUHSHANTA
Sorry, no treats. Caught me at a bad time. I know where you can get a lot of penguins.

VYASA THE DOG


ARF!

DUHSHANTA
Hey, can you smell a trail, boy? Huh? Are you a smellin’ dog? I bet you are. Here boy.
!DUHSHANTA thrusts the tent stake at VYASA THE
DOG’s face."

Go find her, boy. Go get her. Go on, boy, you know the way.
!VYASA THE DOG turns a circle, yaps, and trots off.
DUHSHANTA follows."

Hah"hah!
We’ll go on, this dog and I
Beneath our blue ice sky toward her.
Her nunly smell and habit
Her gaunt frame and skin worn wan
In antarctic wind and sun.
We’ll go on. I behind this sure dog
And he behind his sure nose,
Up this right"hand turning road
Toward her and toward our son.

It must be a son.

Sniff, boy! Sniff great loads of air.


Let atmospheres inflate those bellows
Swirled with her fuming spores.
We’ll on, boy, on to woman’s
Secreting away, and blast the place apart.

VYASA THE DOG


ARF!

DUHSHANTA
Sniff, boy, sniff! We’re so close I imagine I can near smell her myself.

VOICE
Stop.

DUHSHANTA
Sweet merciful crap. People keep saying that to me.

VOICE
You cannot continue with that dog.

VYASA THE DOG


Woof.

96
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
Don’t worry. I’ll handle this. I don’t see any sign!

VOICE
This is Kolob. Not all dogs go to Kolob.

DUHSHANTA
This dog brought me this far, and I am relying on him to find the rest of the way for me.

VOICE
If you want to enter the last world, you will have to leave the dog behind.

DUHSHANTA
This is the last world?
I’ve oared an open boat
Over Antarctic pitching seas
Trudged foot"numb on Antarctic ice
Dried up and died in Antarctic scurvy
And found and made the Antarctic Pole.
Every other fell into that path
From cold places on native ground
So that so soon the planet’s underpants
Were boiling with the last people.
AND! And all the upward eyes are down
Turned to that last land below them.
All are down turned.
There’s no further to look than the Pole.
How now is this the last world?

VYASA THE DOG


ARF!

VOICE
Will you leave the dog!

DUHSHANTA
No!
!Pause."

VOICE
Oh, come on.

DUHSHANTA
No, that’s it. This dog has Shakuntala’s scent in its nose.

VOICE
She’s in here, okay?

DUHSHANTA
Really? No foolin’?

VOICE
Scout’s honor.

97
This Is Shakuntala

DUHSHANTA
!To VYASA THE DOG."
Sorry boy.

VYASA THE DOG


Ruff.
!DUHSHANTA climbs the ladder.

Blackout.

Light returns. DUHSHANTA emerges through a trap door


into the living room. SHAKUNTALA sits knitting in a
rocker. VYASA THE DOG curls up by the fireplace.
DUHSHANTA, bewildered, sits in a recliner and picks up a
newspaper. He looks around. He reads the paper.

Doorbell rings. DUHSHANTA gets up and opens it.


ADAM and EVE stand there with fig leaves in appropriate
places and a basket of flowers and toiletries."

ADAM AND EVE


Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood!

ADAM
I’m Adam. I suppose you know my wife, Eve. Not in the Biblical sense, of course.
!ADAM and EVE laugh."

EVE
We’re so glad to meet you. We brought these for you. Just a little something.
!DUHSHANTA takes the basket."

SHAKUNTALA
Thank you for coming by. Do come in.
!DUHSHANTA takes the basket. ADAM and EVE step
in."

EVE
Oh, this is lovely. I love what you’ve done with the drapes.

SHAKUNTALA
Have a seat. Can I get you anything? I have a bowl of cookie dough in the fridge.

EVE
Oh, that’d be wonderful. I’ll take a smidgeon.

ADAM
Do you have any cheese?

SHAKUNTALA
I’ll just check.
!SHAKUNTALA goes out."

ADAM
So, Duhshanta. Like the neighborhood?

98
This Is Shakuntala

!Pause."

EVE
We just love it here. It’s very quiet. The lake is only a hop skip and a jump away. And there are fireflies in
the summer.
!Pause."

ADAM
Listen. Duhshanta. Don’t worry about the Pole. Everything’s taken care of.

DUHSHANTA
The Pole?

ADAM
That was good work down there. You almost stripped the cap clean.

DUHSHANTA
Yes. But.

ADAM
Do you know how desperate men
Descended on the South at your behest?
How torn, how ripped from occupation
Were the sighing masses on your ice?

DUHSHANTA
Well, I have some idea.

ADAM
Do you know how bowed the nations bent
In absence of their average frame?
UN ministers are flummoxed, man!
I know. I rent out the space.
!SHAKUNTALA returns with cookie dough, cheese, and
green KoolAide."

SHAKUNTALA
Here I am. Hope my husband hasn’t talked your ears off.

DUHSHANTA
I’m confused. May I have some cheese?

SHAKUNTALA
Why of course. Help yourself.
!DUHSHANTA takes cheese."

EVE
Did you recover this couch?

SHAKUNTALA
Yes, I did. How did you know?

DUHSHANTA
!Leaping."

99
This Is Shakuntala

No, no, no! I’m king of the world!

SHAKUNTALA
Yes, we know, dear. Sit down and eat your cheese.

ADAM
Just sit back a moment, Duhshanta, and I’ll explain everything.

Antarctica symbolizes the millenial vision of mankind’s return to a golden age.

It also symbolizes the celestial orb of Mormonism.

The Ranger symbolizes Gandhian politics, and his death symbolizes the world’s inevitable return to divine"
right monarchy.

The penguin symbolizes an antelope, which, in some tribal mythologies, is a symbol of penguins.

Scurvy symbolizes millenial angst, and the exhaustion of humanity. It also symbolizes the declining or
increasing threat of nuclear armageddon. It also symbolizes the stock market.

The U.N. symbolizes itself, but without the bunny costumes.

The tent stake symbolizes the World Trade Organization, The Peace Corps, NATO, the G8, the IOC, and
the AARP.

Kalidasa symbolizes Ben Johnson.

The Englishman symbolizes the produce aisle at Kohl’s.

And the dog. The dog symbolizes dharma!note the nice aspiration. And what is this dharma? In the crudest
of translations one could say that it is doing what is right. But in the least crude of translations one could say
that it is doing what is RIGHT ON! And in the funniest of translations one could say that it is doing what is
tthhhhhbbbb. And in the commercialest of translations one could say that it is doing it your way.

Now then, Duhshanta forgot his lover because of the curse the Park Ranger put on Shakuntala when she
pooped on the ice shelf.

DUHSHANTA
It wasn’t my fault.

ADAM
Exactly.

SHAKUNTALA
Are you saying it was my fault?

EVE
Everyone has to poop.

ADAM
It was the poop’s fault, which symbolizes colonialism. When Duhshanta saw the tent spike, he recalled
everything, and, to his credit, set out in search of his lost wife.

SHAKUNTALA

100
This Is Shakuntala

I wasn’t lost.

ADAM
Now that Duhshanta has found the heavenly realm, he has been reunited with Shakuntala, his soul mate, and
as joint home"owners they can begin a new life of peace and harmony...

DUHSHANTA
And ruling the world.

ADAM
Exactly.

DUHSHANTA
Where’s my son?

ADAM
Thanks for the cheese. Had a delightful time. Stop by whenever you’re free.

EVE
You must show me what you did with this couch.

ADAM
We’re at the end of the road.

DUHSHANTA
Which symbolizes time.

ADAM
You are fast, Duhshanta. Quick as a flash.

DUHSHANTA
Where’s my son?

ADAM
Got a big day ahead of us tomorrow. Awfully nice meeting you.
!ADAM and EVE go out. DUHSHANTA stands still,
looking about."

SHAKUNTALA
They’re very nice. I wonder if they’re vegetarian.
!DUHSHANTA eats cheese. Looks. Sits. Reads paper.

A child’s ball bounces in and rolls. DUHSHANTA looks up.


KRISHNA enters. He wears a pair of baby#blue lederhosen,
a ruffly white shirt, and a wide#brimmed, blue hat with a
puffy white feather.

KRISHNA chases the ball. DUHSHANTA watches him.


KRISHNA snatches up the ball, tosses it in the air with a
giggle, misses it on the way down. Laughs. Grabs it and
throws it in the air again. DUHSHANTA watches.

Flower petals fall in abundance.

101
This Is Shakuntala

KRISHNA plays with the ball. SHAKUNTALA knits.


DUHSHANTA watches."

THE END

102