School for girls
by Nona Fernández
Translator: Cristóbal Pizarro Schkolnik.
During a student protest in 2015, a physics teacher hides in the sciences lab of a girl's school to hide a panic attack. From the buildings undergrounds, a voice asks for help. It's a forty five year old woman, dressed with school uniform from a occupation in the year 1985 and - together with some other classmates- don't know they are frozen in time. Stars and student occupations. Black holes, space travel, astronomy class. The laws of physics and the misery of betrayal. The relativity of time and other things, things that we cannot understand without a good education.
Physical copy available at Librería Gam, at the following link https://www.libreriadelgam.cl/libro/liceo-de-ninas_81770
The following text is an excerpt from the play.
This play is fully protected under Chilean copyright laws.
Monologue of the Aged young-man (Alfa Centauri)
As if lost amid outer space, the Aged young-man lights up in the middle of complete darkness. He seems ready to teach a class. The scar of a gunshot wound on his forehead.
Aged young-man: Pegasus 51 was the first one in suggesting it to me. “Alfa Centauri,” he said. “Why don’t you get into the militias?” And I -not very convinced at the time- said no. I said that I wanted to continue fighting at the public school with the secondary students, that actually, the truth was… it scared me. “Now you’re afraid, Alfa, but sooner or later you’re gonna join us. Occupations are not enough, protests are not enough. We have to take up arms, they are leaving us with no other choice”. That’s what he said.
Pegasus 51 had been kicked out of the school, and no other place wanted to take him in. It’s because he had a subversive kid record, on account for him being a student leader and having been arrested a few times. It’s because, from a young age, Pegasus chose a more radical fight. That’s why he had a small handgun.
The Aged young-man produces a small handgun from his pocket and shows it.
Aged young-man: A shitty weapon, like this one, a “cat killer”, to protect himself, he said. (He puts it away). That’s why one night, in Villa Francia, with his brother and other four classmates, they decided to rob the bakery on Las Rejas and April 5th. The militia needed financing, because as militias, like everything else in life, they have to be financed somehow, they won’t fund themselves.
And that’s how Pegasus, his brother, and his classmates, walked down towards the bakery, and a police van showed up behind them and lit Pegasus up with its headlights. He was there for no more than two seconds, in front of the light, still, thinking what to do. “Shit, for fuck’s sake, we haven’t even robed the place, and they’re already onto us,” he must have told himself.
The group dispersed. Pegasus and his brother, not knowing they were being followed, went into an alley, and some cops popped up there too, just out of the blue. On one side, a cop in a van. On the other, cops on foot. And Pegasus and his brother between them. They all looked at each other. They all observed each other for a minute. Cop. Militiaman. Militiaman. Cop.
If it had been a civilized matter, Pegasus could have said: “boys, what’s the deal, why were you chasing us if we’re just walking down the street?”. But it hadn’t been a civilized matter for a while, for anyone. The cops’ boss, a big, sturdy man, with a sinister appearance, looking at him with his crazy eyes, was a second lieutenant of the Alessandri Police Station and had been onto them for a while. He had raided his house in Villa Francia, chased his family, and annoyed his parents. He just wanted to catch him, so a conversation that night, Pegasus knew, was not going to be possible.
According to the cops, what followed was a confrontation. Everyone is shooting to kill. Bang… Bang… A cop is shot in the chest and falls to the ground. But the shot comes from a Taurus, used by one of his colleagues. Bang… bang… Pegasus is shot in the back and falls to the ground as well. Bang… Bang… Pegasus’ brother is shot too, but this one is more serious, it’s in his heart. “Jesus,” Pegasus thinks. “This was not the idea, I’m gonna get my ass kicked at home.” Pegasus crawls, he wants to hug his brother, know if he still breathes, but a cop stops him, punching him in the face with a rifle. “What’s wrong with you, you fucking cop, that’s my brother, I just wanna see how he’s doing.” Not listening to him, they handcuff him, and the three cops take him by the hair, legs, and put him on the van.
The rest of the classmates are hidden, watching from afar, without knowing what’s happening inside. They don’t know Pegasus is in there. They don’t know they have him on the ground, squashed under a cop’s boot. They don’t know one of the cops fires a shot on the back of his neck. Bang… They don’t know they take the body out of the van and throw it to the ground, next to his brother’s body. They don’t know.
There, that was it for the two brothers.
Pegasus was 18 years old and was never able to finish high-school.
The bell rings, indicating a change of scene.
As if lost in outer space, the Aged young-man lights up in the middle of complete darkness. The scar of a gunshot on his forehead. He has a letter on his hands. It’s a graph paper sheet, old and deteriorated. The Aged young-man reads. Maybe he reads for his comrades as if he was at a funeral.
Aged young-man: The first time I went to a protest, I saw how cops kicked the shit out of us for asking things we thought were fair. Everyone was running. We looked like rats, we had no defense. There I understood that all the bad things I had seen since I was kid, happened because of the interest a group of people has in wringing out everyone else and that that group finds support in violence to keep things the same. There I also understood that complaining against that or trying to establish a dialogue was too difficult because the only thing you get is being punched back.
We don’t like violence. It’s the brutality of the system that leaves us no other way out. They sentenced us to an order that is not good for everyone but only for a few. We are young, we value life, and we fight for a better future for all. It’s because of that love that we hold the arms, and we are not afraid to die.
The Aged young-man stops reading.
Aged young-man: Zed Neptune was an inspired person and liked to write. He gave me that letter so we could publish it in the school journal. I didn’t change anything in it, I just added a couple of comas, but everything else is his. “Alfa Centauri,” he told me, “don’t change a thing,” and I gave him my word.
Zed Neptune was a classmate at the Aplicación Public School. Two weeks after writing this, he died at a shootout in Pudahuel. His body had two bullet holes, one from a SIG rifle and the other from a UZI submachine gun.
He never saw his letter published.
The bell rings, indicating a change of scene.
A Black Hole
As if lost in outer space, the Aged young-man lights up in the middle of darkness. The trace of a fresh gunshot on his forehead.
The Aged young-man: Alfa Centauri, that’s me, was arrested for killing a policeman at the school’s occupation. He did it with a “cat killer”, a shitty weapon, he used to defend himself and to defend his classmates. Alfa Centauri, that’s me, was locked up in a dark room, isolated from the world, completely uncommunicated. A two-by-two dump where you could barely see, where you couldn’t hear a thing, and where he wasn’t able to hear anything from her mother or his friends. Every now and then, the door would open, they would take him out to another room, sit him on a chair, and ask him questions. They’d ask for his militia comrades, for his secondary classmates, for his family. They’d ask, and they’d hit, and they’d ask again, and they’d hit again, and they’d keep asking, and they’d keep hitting. But Alfa Centauri, that’s me, never, listen up, “never,” turned into a traitor, disgusting, pig. Alfa Centauri, that’s me, never turned anybody else.
And that’s how Alfa Centauri, that’s me, after every interrogation, would go back to his darkroom turned into a hopeless case. Locked up in there, he spent days, or years, I don’t know. Time is relative. Imprisonment is a black hole that sucks up everything, minutes, memories, even dreams. Alfa Centauri, that’s me, in that dark room where I was or am, had a repetitive dream. There, he dreamt of the last class he had in school.
The Aged young-man looks at Yuri Gagarin’s poster on the lab wall. He approaches.
The teacher spoke about the special soviet program that sent the first man to space. On April 12th, 1961, Major Yuri Gagarin became the first cosmonaut that traveled into outer space in his ship, the Vostok 1. Alfa Centauri, that’s me, dreamt of or dream of, being Major Gagarin. Alfa Centauri, that’s me, dreamt of or dream of, being there, locked up in the Vostok 1, looking through a small hatch into the darkness of the Universe. What you could see or can see from it is unnamable. Stars are within reach, closer than you can imagine. Pegasus 51, Cassiopeia Gama, Zeta Neptune, Omega 21, Epsilon Sagittarius, Andromeda Beta. Major Yuri Gagarin, that’s Alfa Centauri, that’s me, locked up in his ship, exempt from gravity, could float between four walls, walk through the ceiling, jump and fly over every corner of his confinement. In space, the body is light, you don’t feel hungry or cold. You don’t feel afraid either. You don’t miss anyone either. In the dream I dream, Major Yuri Gagarin, that’s Alfa Centauri, that’s me, was taking or take the radio to communicate with Control on Earth, to report that everything is ok, that he can see things clearly from here, and that just how it was recorded in History, from outer space, the Earth looks blue. You can’t hear any God’s voice.
Hello?, Major Yuri Gagarin here, that’s Alfa Centauri, that’s me, communicating with planet Earth. Hello? Control? I have important information to deliver. Hello? Control? Is there anyone there? Can anybody hear me? Can anybody hear me? Can anybody hear me?
The bell marking the end of the scene rings.
School for girls opened on October 23rd 2015, at Teatro UC.
Cast: Juan Pablo Fuentes, Francisco Medina, Carmina Riego, Roxana Naranjo y Nona Fernández.
Stage and costume design: Catalina Devia.
Lights: Andrés Poirot
Music: José Miguel Miranda
Stage construction: Rodrigo Iturra
Hairdresser: Rodrigo Cuevas
Photography: Maglio Pérez
Production: Francisca Babul
Press: Rodrigo Alvarado
The production of this play was supported by FONDART 2015.
To contact the author, write to us.
The Interdram Interviews 2020 are funded by the Ministry of Arts and Culture (Fondart Nacional de Difusión convocatoria 2020).