[A ten-minute play]
by Cătălina Florina Florescu, PhD
A summer day with clear sky
A forest by a lake
NOTE ON DIRECTING:
Before the characters enter, we’ll see a time lapse video of a tree growing.
NOTE ON ACTING:
GRANDPA is terminally ill. GRANDSON is his interpreter. More exactly, GRANDPA does not speak anymore. He used to speak fluently in his native language. However, due to his accelerated decline he has been reduced to silence. He uses a screen, and his words appear in Romanian. When he types, he does that slowly.
NOTE ON SETTING:
The setting is minimal. We see a blanket on the floor that should be taken/function qua a lake. The edge of the blanket touches a wall/screen onto which we see stars. Some trees are painted all around.
FINAL NOTES: This piece should be treated with the dignity it deserves, meaning, despite polarized debates around the topic of assisted death, the stigma surrounding such cases should disappear. No one chooses to die like this. But life is unscripted, which is why theater is therapeutic. Finally, this piece is not a monologue. GRANDPA’s voice is clearly there. It is extremely important to let him think in his native tongue and allow the audience to have access to his ideas via translation. I am a naturalized American who values her roots.
PERSONAL NOTE. The piece was inspired (in part) by the watercolors done by Constantin Găvenea, a painter from Tulcea, Romania (see photos at the end of this document). Fun fact: The Danube Delta is the only delta on the old, beautiful European continent. I grew up enchanted by that place.
GRANDSON pushes his GRANDPA’s wheelchair. At one point the latter gestures to stop.
(Looking around, transported.) This is breathtaking!
GRANDPA nods. He starts to type. The grandson is taken by the beauty of the place that he does not realize that GRANDPA started to type. GRANDPA pats him on his back. He turns around and, for a split second, acts like he does not know what he needs to do. GRANDPA pats him again.
(To the audience.) My grandpa taught me to introduce myself. To say my name loud and clear and add Nice to meet you. To do that with humans, animals, objects, and spaces. Yes, you heard me right. My name is Andrew Boieru. This is my grandfather, Constantin Boieru. I am his interpreter tonight. (Turns his body to the screen. To GRANDPA.) Why would I forget to introduce myself, grandpa? I was going to. I needed a minute. This place is gorgeous. I’ve never been here. Why are we here, grandpa? I mean I know why, but why here.
GRANDPA types. As he types, GRANDSON starts translating.
“I came here many times before I got so sick. I loved the quiet. It was my special place. (Beat.) When I am gone, …
GRANDSON stops translating.
GRANDPA types. Same steps as before.
(Reading.) “You promised.”
(To GRANDPA.) Yes, I did. I’m sorry.
(Reading.)”That’s OK, but we need to hurry.”
(To GRANDPA.) Can’t we just wait a little?
Instead of typing, GRANDPA points to his neck. Now we notice it is wrapped in a scarf. GRANDPA types.
(Reading.) “My painkiller will run off soon. I need to do it tonight.”
(To GRANDPA.) Nothing to change your mind, huh?
(Reading.) “I’m in pain. I’ve been in pain for too long. It has to end tonight.”
GRANDPA turns his head towards the stars. GRANDSON puts his hands on GRANDPA”s back.
(To the audience.) My grandpa is dying. The cancer has spread throughout his body. He asked me for a favor: to bring him here. He loves nature. The sound it makes. How it loves humans unconditionally even though nature is disappointed with us. All the terrible things that we do to it. I have been with grandpa for as long as I can remember. But this place is new. He took care of me growing up. He made me breakfast. He came to pick me up from school. I taught him English. He taught me Romanian. He showed me Romania on the map. Do you know where that is?
On a screen, the map of the world appears flattened out. He points to where we are and suggests traveling until he reaches Romania.
Here. This is it. A patch of land. I have never been there. My grandpa and I made plans to go there once I graduated college. That’s when he came to the States. But… (points to him).
GRANDPA notices the map. Starts to type.
(Reading.) “Show the other map. The one with the Danube traveling through Europe.”
A map showing the starting and ending point of the Danube is projected. 
(To the audience.) My grandpa told me once how one river, the Danube, has several different names. (Variations of the Danube in various languages appear on screen.) I can say these two: Dunăre, Danube. My grandpa grew very close to the Danube. He learned how to swim there. How to row a boat. How to fish. He made love there. When his wife died, he cried in the river. He thought all these variations of water will create a continuum, more like something without a clear beninning and without a clear ending.
(Reading.) “All these years since we have been apart, do you think the Danube missed me?”
GRANDSON doesn’t know what to reply. GRANDPA types.
(Reading.) “Do you think this lake knows who we are?”
Again, no response from GRANDSON. GRANDPA types.
GRANDSON grabs a bottle of water. Puts a straw in the bottle and assists his grandpa. He sips with evident difficulty.
(To the audience.) End of life… close by the water. Close by the stars. I came here to help grandpa die. Last time when I visited him in hospice he was on the floor. I asked him what had happened, and he couldn’t recollect. After a few minutes he said there was no life in him anymore. Only memories floating inside his tissues. Only sighs stuck in his arteries. Otherwise pain increasing day after day after day. He asked me if I could help him die. Assisted suicide. Next to nature. To take him back to the hospice once the deed was done and tell those people he died on the way back. Although his favorite nurse knows the plan. I didn’t want to do it at first. When I found him on the floor, that was it! He looked into my eyes and said, Ai milă. That means, Have mercy. My grandpa was a teacher of geography back in Romania. When he came to the States, he couldn’t find any jobs. His English was too broken, they said to him. He didn’t get how a language could be broken and even if it were why nobody tended to care its wounds? Was his Enghish broken or is this how natives break the immigrants’ spirit? Grandpa had to choose between going back to living in a cruel dictatorship or accept his life with a “broken” English here. He stayed. He was a janitor for several elementary schools. He wanted to be close to small kids. They never had a problem understanding his (air quotes) broken English. He volunteered to take them to the park and tell them stories about trees and stones, stories from here, stories from his home. He told them stories about how trees adapt and grow roots in other soils.
GRANDPA types. He pats GRANDSON.
(Reading.) “Tell them that the Danube travels through ten countries. Travels without a passport.”
GRANDPA starts to pour water on the ground.
(Reading.) “If I could go back to my Danube, my water… If this (points to the bottle) water could take me there. (Silly.) Where is my goldfish to grant me just one wish? (Thoughtful.) Will this lake be enough for my last longing?”
GRANDPA indicates he wants to be pushed closer to the lake. GRANDPA types. Everything that happens in the next exchange is very direct, without emotions, or, well, almost.
(Reading.) “Now. Don’t change your mind.”
But the Orion…
(Reading.) “Yeah, what about it?”
The Orion is not here yet.
Let’s wait a little.
(Reading.) “No! Do it now. Don’t make me pain one minute longer.”
GRANDSON takes something out of his pockets. But he is not yet ready. He needs a moment.
(To the audience.) When I was growing up, my grandpa told me many stories. But the way he used to tell them was different. I never knew when they ended. (Nostalgic) If they ended… My grandpa said that his favorite constellation was Orion. He pointed to the sky and showed me the formation. Three starts forming a line, and not a triangle. Three stars walking in a single file up in the sky. He said the constellation was named after Orion, son of Poseidon and Euryale, the daughter of King Minos of Crete. It is said that a scorpion bit him and that’s how he died. But my grandpa said the bright constellation was known by Sumerians, too. And that the constellation’s brightest star was Rigel, the sixth brightest star in the sky. He said there were many legends surrounding this constellation. My grandpa said people are better when they look at the sky, the ocean, something bigger than them. (He looks at what he holds in his hands. Sighs heavily.) A promise is a promise. (Emotional.) It breaks my heart to set my grandpa free, which sounds awful because he is in so much pain only morphine can help. Still … (Can’t finish.)
He acts as if following instructions. He holds his GRANDPA’s head in his hands and kisses him. GRANDPA types: “Just like we rehearsed.” To avoid a huge emotional moment here, GRANDSON does everything with precision. Imagine a doctor who has to be professional when informing a patient and their family about a devastating diagnosis and/or an irreversible progression of an illness. When GRANDSON is done, he takes the blanket off of the floor. There is anger and frustration in this gesture. As a consequence, the lake “disappears.” GRANDSON puts the blanket on them, covering their bodies as well transforming their backs into screens onto which we will see the rest of the play. Like in a shaddow-puppet show, we see a hand placed on GRANDPA‘s back. Flickering stars appear on the blanket. We see the Orion constellation. Then it disappears. The sun is up. The forest is replaced by more and more buildings invading not only the characters’ backs but also the rest of the scene and gradually the entire theater space. The audience has been immersed into this experience. We hear the sounds of a city. Then, they stop. We hear the rhythm of a pulsating heart, followed by an imagine that appears from one of these many buildings (as if the heart was playing hide-and-seek with us). The heart starts to fly east. It flies until it reaches the Danube. GRANDPA is finally back. We hear the famous waltz, “The Blue Danube.” Bodies jumping into water are seen projected on the bodies of grandson and his grandpa.
 One possible example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5Ob2o7Rnao
Bio: Dr. Cătălina Florina Florescu was born in Romania and has been living in the States for 25 years. She holds a PhD in Medical Humanities from Purdue University. She teaches undergraduate courses at Pace University in New York and graduate courses at Stevens Institute in Hoboken. She is a published author and a playwright. Her trilogy on breast cancer is the only one currently in the world. Its last piece, “Cancer, Choreographed” will have its international premiere this coming spring. http://www.catalinaflorescu.com/.