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Chrysanthemum

The lights brighten on a sitting room of ancient oriental design. We are in ancient Japan in the era of the samurai. The back wall is constructed of cream-colored silkscreen and the SL side of this wall should be a sliding door. Painted in black on the screen are several different nature scenes: the twisted branches of bonsai trees, snow-capped mountains, swimming koi, and a pagoda. The furniture in the room is simply crafted in dark wood and rests low to the ground. It is nighttime and there are several tabletop lamps glowing. While the craftsmanship is not openly luxurious, we should still be able to know that the residents of this home are of nobility. CS sitting on a silk cushion at a table is LADY ASAHI, who is in her early fifties. She is dressed in an autumn kimono, decorated with plenty of orange, white, and gold and is combing her very long black hair while singing softly to herself. All is peaceful until two men barge into the room from the sliding door, panting from running. They are covered in mud and grime.

COMMONER 1
Lady Asahi!
LADY ASAHI
After a startled yelp,
Pig! What are you doing in here? This isn’t your place! You do not have my permission to be here! Get out of my home, scum!
COMMONER 2
But milady, your husband, Samurai Takeda—

LADY ASAHI
Shrieking,
Husband? What about my husband? What would a peasant have anything to say about him? I’ll have him slice off your
LADY ASAHI cont.

head with his sword in front of the town if you don’t leave this instant!
COMMONER 1
Lady Asahi, we’re trying to tell you…

LADY ASAHI
No! You have nothing to tell me! Go!

COMMONER 2
Milady, the samurai is dead.

All three are silent and LADY ASAHI has frozen in shock. In the background we can hear violent echoes of fighting and the clanging of metal on metal as swords make contact with both armor and flesh.

LADY ASAHI
Quietly addressing the men,
When did this happen?
COMMONER 1
I’m sorry, milady…?
LADY ASAHI
Sharply,
I asked you when this happened!

COMMONER 2
About six hours ago, I would say. We ran from the coast. We were sent as messengers to let you know of the danger. We’ve been invaded, but we don’t know by whom.

LADY ASAHI
She is still in shock and her voice has grown flat and dull. Looking away from them,
Will they come for me?

COMMONER 1
We’re not sure.
LADY ASAHI
My daughter?


COMMONER 2
The assassins wouldn’t bother with her. A female child at her age is worthless anyway. She’s not a threat to them.

LADY ASAHI
Pause, bowing her head,
I understand.
Enter from the sliding door LADY ASAHI’S daughter, HANA. She is a small-framed young woman anywhere from 14 to 17 years old with hair every bit as long as her mother’s, but wet. She is in an off-white after-bath kimono. She is panting like the mens’ entrance from earlier.

HANA
Mother! What’s happened? I heard men shouting and running from the springs.
She sees the COMMONERS and takes a step towards them,
Ah! It was you two! Please, let me know of what you’ve come to tell. Is it a message for my father? If it’s he with whom you wish to speak, then I’m afraid that he’s not here right now, but I’m certain that I could—

LADY ASAHI
Don’t touch them, girl. They’re filthy. Their evil spirits will rub off on you. I’ll already have to scrub when they leave without you having to wash again.

HANA
Ignoring her mother,
Sirs, what is it that you’ve come to say?

COMMONER 1
Well, we’ve already informed milady over there, but I suppose—
LADY ASAHI
Her grief actually showing for the first time,
They’ve come to inform us of your father’s death.
She falls to her knees on her cushion. She weeps.


HANA
Softly,
No. No, it can’t be…

COMMONER 2
It pains me to say it, but it is child, it is.

HANA
Silent for a moment and then,
Had he any dying wishes?

COMMONER 1
None that I am aware of. He had not even a second to relay any of wishes he may have had before the sword slipped between the gap in his armor and—

LADY ASAHI
Moaning,
No more…no more…
COMMONER 1
--sliced such a horrible puncture in his ribcage that it left him breathless and no longer able to--

LADY ASAHI
Enraged and her voice broken by tears,
I said no more! Both of you, leave!

COMMONER 2
Our condolences, Lady Asahi.

LADY ASAHI
OUT!
The COMMONERS exit through the sliding door. HANA is lingering by the door after they exit. She is in pain as well, but unsure of what to do with herself.

HANA
Would you like me to leave, too?

LADY ASAHI
Yes, girl. You may go as well. Return to your bath.

HANA
I’ve finished bathing.
LADY ASAHI
Then go wash again! Go practice your tea ceremony! I don’t care what you do; whatever it is, just go!

HANA
She begins crying, but does her best to steady her voice.
Yes, mother.
She exits through the sliding        
door. LADY ASAHI, now alone but    still mourning, goes to a small table SL and lights incense. She then takes out a small painting of her late husband and places it next to the incense. She kneels before the makeshift shrine and prays.

END SCENE 1

SCENE 2
The same house, but a year or so later. The small table SL still has incense burning, but the small painting of the SAMURAI has been replaced by a larger and more formal one. At the CS table sit LADY ASAHI and HANA. Both are dressed in black kimonos with a white layer underneath as their mourning garb. On the table are a wooden box and various papers that have been spread over the table. LADY ASAHI and HANA are examining the papers.

HANA
I had no idea that father had all of these papers.

LADY ASAHI
Yes.
She continues to shuffle through the papers. She is obviously looking for something in particular.


HANA
Oh! It’s the deeds to the land! Mother, look at these!

LADY ASAHI
Yes, I see them.
HANA
Well, will we need them?
LADY ASAHI
Takes the papers from HANA and looks them over.
Yes, we will.
She places the papers in the box and goes back to the papers on the table.

HANA
Finding an odd sheet,
Father owned a fish market?

LADY ASAHI
Finally interested in something, but is as perplexed as her daughter,
Excuse me?
HANA hands her the paper. She reads it.
I suppose he did.
HANA
Does this mean that we have a fish market now?

LADY ASAHI
Thinking about it. Finally,
No.
She crumples up the paper and tosses it aside. HANA is disheartened at the loss of the fish market. Both go back to the papers. A few more moments of sifting until,
Ha! This is where he left it!

HANA
What is it, mother?
LADY ASAHI
Holding the paper aloft,
Your father’s will.

HANA
Excited,
Ah! Read it, mother! Please read it! What does it say?

LADY ASAHI
Have patience, child. Your father was long-winded even in writing. This could take some time.

HANA
I’ll wait.
She goes yet again back to the papers, keeping her head down to hide her eagerness.

LADY ASAHI
He was a good man. He left you his tea gardens and his best pottery.
HANA
He knew I want to be a master of the tea ceremony.

LADY ASAHI
Of course. He would have expected nothing else of his daughter.
HANA
What did he leave for you?

LADY ASAHI
Let’s see…the rock gardens, the water gardens, and the family silks. Ah, very nice.

HANA
What else, what else?
LADY ASAHI
Be calmed, child. He left nothing else for us. As women this is more than enough for our share.
She continues reading. Suddenly, something stops her.

   HANA
Mother, who will take over father’s land? Did he leave it to his brother?
LADY ASAHI
No, no, he didn’t leave it to your uncle.

HANA
Grasping,

HANA cont.
Well, then he must have left it to another Samurai, right? That has to be it!
LADY ASAHI
Not another Samurai, either.

HANA
Then the emperor! He had to have given it back to the emperor! You said he didn’t leave anything else to us, so…

LADY ASAHI
Confused,
It’s to be inherited by his first-born son.

HANA
Pause,
But, mother…he never had a son. He had me.

LADY ASAHI
I know this.
HANA
Nervous,
So that would mean that the land would go to me.

LADY ASAHI
Don’t be silly, girl. You know that you couldn’t govern a state. Even if you could, you would be hiding behind the shadow of a man.
HANA
Then the land must go to you!

LADY ASAHI
Are you crazy, girl? Huh? I am old and sick. I’m not strong enough to do such a thing. My husband has been murdered and I have become a lost and worthless woman.

HANA
She has no answer for this.
So what will we do?
Pause.
We are both lost and worthless.

LADY ASAHI
I may be, but you’re certainly not. You are still young and pretty. Your skin hasn’t been blemished and you are still pure as snow. You, girl, can marry.

HANA
Astounded,
M-Marry? Mother I can’t just go out and—

LADY ASAHI
You can, and you will. I will have the servants go into town and round up all young suitors for the taking. I will send notices abroad advertising a woman of nobility wishing to marry. If the servants are unable to find any men suitable for our purpose, then I will personally hunt and hand-select them as if they were fish in that…
Shuddering,
Horrible fish market of your father’s that we will not have any part in.
HANA
But, Mother…
LADY ASAHI
What? Are you afraid that none of them will find you to their liking? You need have no fear of that. We’ll dress you in your best robes and we’ll make up your face as if you were a delicate porcelain doll fit for the doll festival. Better yet, we’ll have new robes made for the occasion. Silver thread for the detailing would be nice, I believe. Young men will be clambering over one another, fighting for you to simply glance their way and smile.

HANA
But it’s nothing to do with that, Mother.

LADY ASAHI
Then what could it be?
HANA
Well, it’s just…I don’t wish to marry.

LADY ASAHI
You…You don’t wish to marry?

HANA
No, I don’t.
LADY ASAHI
Dumbfounded,
And why not?
HANA
Well, if I get married, then I’ll no longer be able to practice the tea ceremony. I’ll become a wife and it’ll be my duty to have children and care for the home. That’s not what I want to do with my life! The tea ceremony is the
HANA cont.
only thing I wish to do! And listen to this, Mother: if I am to marry, I will take my husband’s name. If that’s to happen, then how will we keep the Asahi name alive? It will
die with me. That can’t be what Father wanted! He would want his land ruled in his name, not taken over by another family!
LADY ASAHI
Considering this,
Yes, you do have something in your head after all. This is a problem, isn’t it?
HANA
And look at his will. See? It says that the land is to go to his first-born son. Father must have written this before he had me.
LADY ASAHI
It’s the only way that this could have happened. I pray the gods forgive me for saying this, but I never thought your father to be such a thoughtless man.
Pause
Either way, you must marry. That can’t be avoided.

HANA
But the name…!
LADY ASAHI
Gravely,
We’ll have to find a man who is willing to take your name in marriage.
HANA
Mother! How can you even think of a thing like that? That would be the highest disgrace a man could receive! There’s no way that a man could continue with his life if his family knew that he’d become a traitor! Taking the name of his wife. Hah! If I were a man, I wouldn’t stand for it. It would be just like living in the shadow of a woman.

LADY ASAHI
If he loves you, then he would do it. And if he refuses, he'll be taken care of.

HANA
Concerned about this situation,
Taken care of? Mother, what do you mean by ‘taken care of’?

LADY ASAHI
If he doesn’t want to find out then all the boy has to do is take your name.



The two women stare at eachother, HANA with an expression of fear and LADY ASAHI smiling, clearly up to no good.

END SCENE 2

SCENE 3

The same set from before, but HANA has left. LADY ASAHI is back to praying at the shrine to her late husband.

LADY ASAHI
I do not understand how you could have done this to me…
She pauses
Not that I could ever mean that in any way disrespectful—
There is a light tapping on the door.
But there is not a man in this land that has any wish to take your daughter’s name! This cannot be what you have wanted! It cannot!
The rapping continues.
Or what if it is? Oh, difficult—
The rapping is even louder.
You are difficult.
She unfolds herself from kneeling and walks to the door and slides it open. There is a young girl standing in the doorway. She is a SERVANT GIRL who is dressed plainly, a shadow compared to LADY ASAHI’S grand silks.
Yes, child, what do you need?

SERVANT GIRL
I have a letter for the Lady.
The girl presents a scroll tied with red twine to LADY ASAHI. Taking it, ASAHI examines the scroll.

LADY ASAHI
Have you any knowing from where it came?

SERVANT
Nothin’ at all.
LADY ASAHI
You mean to tell me that it simply came?

  SERVANT
That’s it, miss. It just kinda came.

LADY ASAHI
Out of thin air?
SERVANT
It hadta!
LADY ASAHI
You will use proper language in my presence, girl.

SERVANT
Sorry, miss. I just can’t help it.

LADY ASAHI
Opening the scroll. She is puzzled    
by its contents.
You say the letter came from the air?

  SERVANT
That I did, miss. Maybe it came from a dragon. A big one with yellow whiskers and red scales prob’ly dropped it this morning when—
LADY ASAHI
Stop your stories, child, and tell me where this came from!

   SERVANT
I tell ya miss, I dunno where it came from! The sky, it came from the sky! From a dragon…

LADY ASAHI
Shuts the door on the girl in mid-sentence and sighs.
Oh, me…
Looks at the scroll. She is unable to read it.
Chinese by its appearance. I shall send it off for translation to that man at the temple. He will know what to make of it. Hana!
Enter HANA from the sliding door.

Come here. You are to take this scroll to the temple on the lake. Do not ask me if you may read it; it is in Chinese and I cannot even read it myself. There is a man there who can understand this language. Ask for him when you get there and when you find him, ask him to translate what is inside. Go, and be back before nightfall.

HANA
But mother, why not just ask one of your servants do this for you? It’s a simple task.

  LADY ASAHI
Yes, it is an easy job, so go do it. Should I give a reason for everything I do, a reason for every time I take a breath? I think not. There is no reason. Just do as I say.
Hana exits. Arguing is useless anyway.

END SCENE 3

SCENE 4

CS is a majestic pagoda, in front of which is a white bridge that arcs gracefully over a pond filled with lotus blossoms and lily pads. This is the centerpiece of a peaceful garden surrounding the entire temple grounds. DSR is a red arch marking the entrance to the temple. DSL is a Zen rock garden with a rake leaning up against a tall black stone. HANA enters the scene from the side apron, walking through the arch and the garden until she gets to the bridge, where she stops and looks below into the water. Enter MR. OJI from SL. He is an elderly yet delightful man with a white beard and plenty of wrinkles. He walks with a cane or walking stick due to his age and a crippled leg.

MR.OJI
Good afternoon, Miss Hana.

HANA
Oh, Mr. Oji!
MR. OJI
Hobbling to the bridge,
Have I heard correctly that you have called for me?

HANA
Yes, I did call for you.
She pulls the scroll out of a bag on her hip.
My mother has asked for you to translate this for her. It’s written in Chinese. We can’t read it.
MR. OJI takes the scroll and begins reading it.
Can you tell me what it says?

MR.OJI
That depends on your mother’s wishes. Has she allowed you to know what the letter is or who it came from?

HANA
She never said anything about that. She only said to bring it to you.
MR. OJI
Closing the scroll,
In that case I have no right to tell you what it says. I am very sorry, Hana, but your mother will have my head. It would be best for me to send a translation of the letter with a messenger within the week.

HANA
Mr. Oji…
MR. OJI
It is for your own sake, Hana.

HANA
Can’t you tell me just one little thing inside it? Please?

MR. OJI
Your mother said that it was to only be brought to me.

HANA
But she never said that I couldn’t know what it said after I brought it to you!
MR. OJI
Sighing,
You will be the death of me, Hana.

HANA
I’ll make sure that she never knows, Mr. Oji.

MR. OJI
One sentence, Hana. One. That is all you will learn of this from me.

HANA
That is all I need.
MR. OJI
Unrolling the letter,
“I request the presence of a Lady Keiko Asahi to discuss my interest in the marriage of her daughter, a Miss Hana Asahi.”
HANA
Wh-who is this from?
MR. OJI
Flipping the scroll on its back.
there is a seal.
The seal says that it is from a Mr. Xi Jin Xiang.
Closing the letter.
I have no say in the matter, but I would not support your marriage to this man.
HANA
I do not wish to marry him either way, but what do you know of him?
MR. OJI
I know little beyond that he is a noble that has recently immigrated to Japan from China. He claims to be a friend of the emperor and this country.

HANA
He is nobility, so my mother will arrange a marriage if she finds him suitable. That is something that cannot be avoided. But why say that you would not support the marriage?
MR. OJI
There are…rumors. Stories are being spread that are not in Xiang’s favor. I cannot say how many of the tales are true, but some are easier to believe then others.

HANA
What are some of the rumors?
MR. OJI
I have heard only what manages to pass into the temple walls, but the most common rumor is that he is not a friend of the emperor at all, but a foreigner who wishes to topple the nation. Others say that he is a weak man who’s title of nobility is nothing short of comical and that he is nothing of a threat.
HANA
And which of those do you believe?

MR. OJI
Smiling,
I do not listen to the stories; I only hear them.

HANA
So you haven’t taken a side.

MR. OJI
Men cannot judge unless they have met.

HANA
But if you do not listen to the stories, then how can you say that you would not encourage me to marry this man?

MR. OJI
I said men couldn’t judge unless they have met. You are not in a position to make these decisions, Hana. Not at your age, not under your mother’s rule, and certainly not as a young woman. You know this and you know that there is nothing you can do to change it.

HANA
Defeated,
I know.
MR. OJI
Writing on the back of the letter,
Here is a translation of the letter. Please see to it that it returns to your mother.
He hands her the letter.

HANA
Tucking the letter in her bag,
I will, thank you for you doing this for her.

MR. OJI
Anything for your family. Which reminds me, I shall go tend to your father’s grave.
MR. OJI Cont.
He begins to walk away and makes it off the bridge.

HANA
Wait!
MR. OJI turns around.
Is my father well?
MR. OJI
Quite well, my child. Quite well. He is looking upon you from the heavens.

HANA
Good. Thank you.
Exit MR. OJI. HANA slips the scroll out of her bag. She looks at it.
Xi Jin Xiang?
  She stumbles over the name,

Shin Gin Shang? Jee Joon Shung?
   
     She gives up.
Marriage…
She shreds the letter and drops the bits of paper into the river below, watching them float into the water.
It’s not something I need.
Exit HANA SL off the bridge.

END SCENE 4

SCENE 5
The home of LADY ASAHI and HANA. It is the same room that we have been seeing, but it is now occupied by more than just the two women. Along the back screen wall are 6 SUITORS lined up in stick-straight stance being evaluated by LADY ASAHI. She goes down the line starting from SR.

LADY ASAHI
To SUITOR 1,
Too thin.

LADY ASAHI cont.

To SUITOR 2
Too plain.
To SUITOR 3,
Too…filthy.
To SUITOR 4,
Too—
Enter HANA from the sliding door.
Ah, there you are, girl! What took you so long? The walk isn’t far. You should have been back before now.

HANA
I apologize, mother. Mr. Oji and I spoke. I lost track of the time.
LADY ASAHI
Oh, yes, Mr. Oji. And what did he have to say about the letter?
HANA
Setting her bag on the table,
He wasn’t able to translate it.

LADY ASAHI
That is nonsense. Everyone in the village knows that that man is fluent in the Chinese language. He is able to translate anything given to him, no matter how ancient. I’m willing to say that you did not even bring him the letter.

HANA
No, mother, I did! He could read it, but he didn’t understand enough to give me translation. It was probably junk anyway.
LADY ASAHI
You hear me, girl, no letter addressed to me is… is junk. Letters sent to me are even higher in importance than anything sent to the emperor himself—
She stops herself. Everyone in the room is staring at her for insulting the emperor. LADY ASAHI, hushed and extending her hand,
Let me see the letter.
HANA
I don’t have it. Not anymore, at least. It…It fell out of my bag on the way there.
LADY ASAHI is building up anger.
Yes, when I was crossing though the woods I tripped over a fallen tree and it flew out of my bag and into a stream.

LADY ASAHI
Yet you claim that Mr. Oji himself read it.
HANA
Well, he did. The letter was wet but I still brought it to him. It wasn’t very wet, just around the edges.

LADY ASAHI
It had to have been soaked, all of the ink washed away. That must have been why Mr. Oji couldn’t translate it.

HANA
Exactly, mother! That’s why he was unable to give you a translation. You know him, mother, he wouldn’t want to give you any work that was less than perfect.

LADY ASAHI
Yes, I would say that that was the reason. It is quite plausible. Yes, except that your clothes are still fresh. Traveling through a forest would have covered you in grime, especially if you tripped on a fallen tree.

HANA
I stumbled, but I did not fall. I caught myself before that could happen.
LADY ASAHI
But then you say that the letter landed in a stream. To catch this letter you must have wandered into the water or reached into it.
HANA
The stream was not deep and the letter only skimmed the surface. I squatted and plucked it from the water.

LADY ASAHI
And then, of course, you do not have the letter itself. Nor do you have its translation.

HANA
That’s right.
LADY ASAHI
However, I do.
HANA
Pause.
You…you have what?
LADY ASAHI
Clean you ears out, girl! I said that I have Mr. Oji’s translation!
HANA
Strangled,
H-how do you have…
LADY ASAHI
Do you think me a fool? Huh? Is that it?

HANA
N-no, mother, not at all. I j-just want to know how you got—
LADY ASAHI
You want to know how it came to me? Fine. Mr. Oji sent a runner from the temple carrying a copy of his translation of the letter in writing. He told me that he sent a translation of the letter with you, but released a runner to send a second copy of the letter in case you lost the first. A wise man. He knows of your clumsiness. Oh, and in fact, that messenger left shortly before you arrived. It surprises me that you did not pass him on your way inside.

HANA
To herself,
Mr. Oji, how could you?
LADY ASAHI
It will delight you to know that I have written a response and have invited this Mr. Xiang into our home for dinner in three days time.
HANA
Whispering,
No…
LADY ASAHI
And imagine this: he even agreed to take your name! This is all coming together perfectly!
                 To the SUITORS,
What are you lot still doing here? Get out of my home! All of you! Leave! You will not marry my daughter! Go!
Exit SUITORS and LADY ASAHI, chasing them out of her home. HANA is folded up on the floor, still whispering “No…No…No…” to herself.

END SCENE 5

SCENE 6

The same room. SR is a sleeping mat with HANA curled up on it. LADY ASAHI and MR. OJI are at the center table drinking tea.

LADY ASAHI
Hana, come have tea with us.
HANA moans.

MR. OJI
Yes, Hana, please join us. The tea is fresh and hot. It will make you feel better.

LADY ASAHI
She sips.
And I even prepared it myself.

HANA
Muffled,
No, you didn’t. That little girl Yoko did…

LADY ASAHI
What was that?
HANA moans again.

MR. OJI
A week she has been like this, you say?

LADY ASAHI
It feels like a lifetime.

MR. OJI
You cannot tell me that that single message is the cause of this?
LADY ASAHI
I would like the think it not, but I cannot be sure. This only began after I announced my invitation of Mr. Xiang into our home.
MR. OJI
Have you considered the possibility that she does not wish to marry this man, or even marry at all?

LADY ASAHI
Sipping,
Hm, yes, so I have been told.

MR. OJI
Perhaps you should listen to your daughter.

MR. OJI Cont.
Waits for a reply. When he doesn’t get one,
I should warn you that I have not heard favorable information concerning this Mr. Xiang.

LADY ASAHI
I do not have the time to fuss over petty servant gossip.

MR. OJI
I should also remind you that your deaf ear to “petty servant gossip” is what killed your husband.

LADY ASAHI
I did not murder my husband! It is the enemy that took care of that! You will not place that blame on me.

MR. OJI
I do not mean to point fingers. I only intend to serve as a messenger of a potentially ill fate for your daughter and in turn, you.
LADY ASAHI
Pause,
What stories have you heard about our Mr. Xiang?

MR. OJI
Simple matters of government conspiracy.

LADY ASAHI
Such tales fail to amuse me.

MR. OJI
They are not meant for entertainment, milady. They are meant as news of what is to come.

LADY ASAHI
I do not see how news concerning the government has anything to do with my daughter’s marriage.

MR. OJI
I would assume that rumors of his wishes to topple the emperor’s rule would spark even a slight bit of your interest.
LADY ASAHI.
They do not.
MR. OJI
And if I may ask why?
LADY ASAHI
The emperor’s actions do not affect myself.

MR. OJI
But they do affect your people.

LADY ASAHI
The majority of those swine cannot so much as read a caution sign.
MR. OJI
He sighs and stands. Fighting with this woman is  
Exhausting.
I am simply requesting that you act with caution when considering the man to become your heir.

LADY ASAHI
You need not request. I will look into the matter myself.

MR. OJI
Please do. May I send a messenger in a fortnight to check your wellbeing?
LADY ASAHI
You may, but I do not believe that it will be necessary.

MR. OJI
We will see, milady. We will see. Good bye,
To HANA,
Goodbye, Hana. May you be blessed with luck.
Exit MR. OJI.

LADY ASAHI
The old man has no idea what he is talking about.
Pause,
But he is known for his fortune telling.
Pause,
And he is correct most of time.
Pause,
What am I doing…?
She blows out the lantern on the table then goes to HANA and pulls the blankets over her. She walks to the door, pauses to take one last glance at her daughter, and then exits.

END SCENE 6
SCENE 7
A room in the interior of a ship. The walls and floor are made of a brown wood and the room is very cramped. SR is a makeshift cot and SL is a wooden writing desk, the only thing of value in the room. The upstage wall has rickety shelf and to the left of it is a door. At the desk sits XI JIN XIANG who is writing on a piece of yellowed paper. His clothes are threadbare and he wears no shoes. His hair is dirty and his face is unshaven. He does not speak as he is writing, but we can hear his thoughts.

VOICE OF XIANG
It has been a week since I boarded this ship and set sail for Japan. I would have no reason to be there, but the circumstances are…
He crumples the paper and throws it to the floor. He brings out another sheet.
There will be a girl waiting for me when I get to Japan. I have only corresponded with her mother briefly in that time between the incident and my boarding of this ship. I can only gather that she will be an old crone expecting me to take her back home to China with me. She will be sadly mistaken. The girl will be useless to me after I…
Frustrated, he splashes ink on the page. One more sheet is pulled out.
The rest of my men will also be waiting for me when I leave this cursed ship. It stinks like raw meat in these quarters. Sometimes I wonder if they even know who I am. Or is it who I was?
A knock on the door.

XIANG
Yes, come in.
  Enter a DECKHAND.

DECKHAND
We’ll be arriving on land momentarily, sir. Is there anything that you need me to take before you exit the ship?

XIANG
Kindly,
No, I believe I can handle everything.

DECKHAND
Very good then, sir.
Exit DECKHAND

XIANG
Fool.
He gathers his few belongings from around the room, including the scrapped papers. After putting what he can in his bag, he draws out a fine silk coat and puts it on. From under the bunk he draws a long covered sword. He looks at it and ties it under his coat. Collecting his bag, he exits.

END SCENE 7

SCENE 8

HANA and LADY ASAHI’S Room. There is a smaller silk changing screen set up SL. The servant girl from earlier (YOKO) is trying to urge HANA into getting dressed.

YOKO
C’mon, Hana. Your mum said ya hafta get dressed for the man who’s comin’.
HANA
There isn’t a man coming, Yoko.

YOKO
But yer mum said—
HANA
It doesn’t matter what my mother said! She’s delusional. She honestly thinks that Mr. Xiang is coming. If he were coming then he would have sent another letter.

YOKO
Actually, miss…
HANA
Sits up and stares.
HANA CONT.
There’s no one coming.
She lays back down.

YOKO
Arranging and sorting a heavy pile of clothing on the table,
How come you don’t like ‘im? You’ve never even met the man.

HANA
There’s no need for me to have met him. I want nothing to do with him. It’s simple really.

YOKO
Pauses in her folding.
Is this about your tea ceremony thing?

HANA
Maybe a little.
YOKO
But tea ceremony’s boring.
HANA
Sitting up,
It is not! It is graceful and serene and—

YOKO
Boring.
HANA
What do you even know about it? I’ll bet you don’t even know the first thing concerning how to whisk tea.

YOKO
I don’t have to. I just know it’s boring.

HANA
But you’ve never even done it. If you saw it I’m certain you’d change your mind.
YOKO
And if you met Mr. Xiang you’d change your mind too.
The two girls stare at eachother coldly.
But there’s no need for you to meet him. It’s simple really.
HANA
Why am I even having this conversation with you? You’re only seven . You don’t know anything about what’s happening.

YOKO
I dunno. You started it.
Back to sorting clothes.
And I’m not seven. I’m seven and a half. There’s a difference.
HANA
Mumbling,
A huge difference.
YOKO
Pulling a white kimono with pink cherry blossom embroidery out of the pile,
Ohhh, Hana, lookit this one! It’s so pretty! I’ve never seen this one before and I wash all your clothes so I know every kimono you have. Wear it! I’ll help ya put it on!

HANA
It is nice.
YOKO
So you’ll let me put it on you?

HANA
No.
YOKO
C’mon, why not? You’ve worn that robe for a week now. It’s all icky. You should wear somethin’ clean for when that man comes.
HANA
I told you—
YOKO
Okay, even if he doesn’t come, will you still put it on?
  Pause,
Please? It’s all silky and new. No one’s ever even worn it.
   She holds the cloth up to her ear.
What’s that, Miss Kimono?
Pause,
Oh. She says she wants you to wear her.

HANA
At wit’s end,
Oh, all right!
She gets out of bed and crosses to YOKO. She snatches the kimono from her and goes behind the changing screen.
   YOKO
You want some help?
HANA
No. I can put on a kimono myself. I’m not as incompetent as my mother likes to think I am.

YOKO
Yer more like your mum everyday.

HANA
   Peaking her head out from the     
   side of the screen,
Don’t ever say that to me. I’m nothing like her.

YOKO
Giggling to herself,
Yes, Miss.
It is silent for a moment. YOKO hums to herself while HANA changes.

HANA
Ouch!
YOKO
Jumping up and crossing to the screen,
Hana, what did you do?
HANA
My hair is caught in the cloth. I’m stuck.

YOKO
I got’cha.
She slips behind the screen and we can see her helping HANA with the tangle of cloth.
Hana, what’s this? How’d ya get stuck in all this?

HANA
I don’t know. It just started pulling when I put it on.

YOKO
I thought ya said ya knew how to put one of these on?

HANA
I do!

YOKO
Then how does this happen?
She continues fumbling with the garment until,
Oh, that’s how it happened…
She finishes dressing HANA then the two step back into full view. In YOKO’S hands is a large silver pendant with an oval cut of jade set into the center.

    HANA
Hushed,
What is that?
   YOKO
I dunno. It sure is nice though.

HANA
Very.
YOKO reaches up behind HANA and clasps the necklace.
Yoko, do you know where this Kimono came from? And don’t tell me a dragon sent it.
YOKO
Maybe it fell from the—
HANA
Or that it fell from the sky.

YOKO
‘Kay. Guess it came from your mum then.

HANA
So you don’t know.
YOKO
Well, a dragon could have sent it. There was a big boat at the pier yesterday. It had a big twisty dragon with stringy whiskers cut into the side.

HANA
Do you know where the ship was from?

YOKO
I dunno. The big men there called me some mean things and shooed me away. I couldn’t understand what most of ‘em were sayin’ anyway.

HANA
To herself,
Chinese…?
  To YOKO,
Yoko, I think I’ll go back to sleep. It’s late anyway.

YOKO
But I finally got’cha up!
HANA
I know, but I was thinking while I was changing. If Mr. Xiang does indeed come then I will need to be well rested so that I don’t anger mother.

YOKO
But what if you make Mr. Xiang mad?

HANA
If I make him mad then mother will see his bad temper and send him back to China.
YOKO
You’re mean.
HANA
Smiling,
Am I?
YOKO
I’m leaving before you get meaner.

HANA
Walking back to her bed,
Don’t forget blow out the lanterns.

YOKO
Travels the room, blowing out the lanterns until she gets to the one on the table.
I’ll leave this one on in case you wake up.

HANA
That’s fine. Thank you.
YOKO
Crossing to the door.
Thanks for letting me dress you. Now yer mum won’t have any reason to hit me tonight.
Pause as she reaches the door.
At least, I hope so. Good night, Hana.
She exits.

HANA
Quietly,
Good night, Yoko.
HANA settles into her bed and drifts off to sleep on her back. She is asleep immediately and is not waking up for anyone. The room is silent for a moment until we hear a soft noise from behind the wall screen. Enter XI JIN XIANG, wearing the same clothes that he dressed in prior to leaving the ship. He quietly paces the room, scanning tables and opening drawers. He eventually crosses to HANA. He crouches and examines the necklace she is wearing and appears surprised that he has not woken her. He gently places the necklace back on her chest and crosses to the table CS and blows out the lantern, plunging the stage into darkness.

END ACT ONE
I hate when script formatting gets all screwed up.
Anyway, this is the first act to my most recent play for Playwriting class. The story is set around ancient Japan and is (so far) probably going to end up at a little over two acts.
If some of the parts of the story seem confusing PLEASE let me know. There's a chance that something that doesn't quite make sense will probably make more sense to you when you read the second act, but it could also be that I didn't tie something together. Well, that or I forgot how to use English for a second. That's ben known to happen too. XD

So please enjoy Act I of Chrysanthemum and I ask that you comment with suggestions! Thanks! ^^
:iconkadberryf:
KadberryF Featured By Owner May 25, 2009  Student General Artist
I demand to see Act II!
Reply
:iconsince-then:
since-then Featured By Owner May 22, 2009
ACT II!!!!!
Reply
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