Kelly P. Lusk
(Ludwig Beethoven is sitting on the floor writing in a notebook. Ideally a piano is on stage… not a big deal if not. This is in an infinite time where artists come and go. Every artist who ever lived or will ever live… knows each other. Beethoven sits among oil lamps and candles)
Beethoven. Did you say something? (Pause) No? I don’t sit at the piano and simply move my fingers hoping that they strike the right notes. I can’t just do that. That’s like asking a painter to stand at a canvas and simply paint. Or asking a mother to think about a child and expect it to be born. I see the letters. Letters fall from the sky. The ceiling. (Beat) I have one coming. I can feel it. They come from the ceiling in hordes. Pile up on my floor. Make a mess of my room.
Beethoven. E. D sharp. E. D sharp. E. B. D natural. A.
(Beat. He sings the notes he just said on ‘bums’)
Beethoven. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bummmmmm. (Beat) There’s more. I can feel it. I just don’t know where they are.
(He goes to the floor and begins to write. Elise comes in)
Elise. Before I met him I couldn’t hear a thing. Not a sound. Sirens coming down the street would have to come out of their car and push me over to the side of the road. A dog had to drag me out of a burning building once…I thought the smoke was from his cigarettes. We make a good pair somehow, though. Well… we did.
Beethoven (singing and writing). Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum… Bum… Bum? No.
Elise. I talked in sign language. (Does her sign language) Hello. How are you today? I’m fine. I saw a giraffe take a bite out of a truck today as a dinosaur sat on it dreamingly.
Beethoven. Bum. Bum!!! BUM!! BUM!!!
Elise. He’s writing a song for me. It’s called ‘Fur Elise’. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to be popular at all. (Beat) I’ll tell you something. I can hear now. Because of him. You see… he gave me his hearing. It’s true. He said:
Beethoven (still writing and looking down… as if she is not there). All these songs I write for you… I want you to hear them.
Elise. So we exchanged ears. It happened in a dream. We were sleeping next to each other in bed and he said:
Beethoven (still). When you wake up… you will hear all the wonders that I hear.
Elise. We were in a dark room. Just a piano with a candle was there. I don’t even remember there being any walls or anything. But I’m sure it was a room, not an open space. A room. He came to me took my hands and he—
Beethoven. Kissed you. I kissed you.
Elise. He kissed me. And whispered into my ear.
Beethoven. Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world
heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight
have all pass'd
(During this time we hear sounds stirring from deep inside the earth. It starts with wind. And sounds fly past that are caught in the breeze. Everything that she hasn’t had the chance to hear. From the beautiful to the horrible)
Elise. And with one final whisper he said
Beethoven. Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song.
Elise. And then I heard a loud bang. (A very strange but present loud bang) It sounded like pots and pans shattering on the floor. What it was actually was… every sound. Every sound in the entire world. Every sound that everyone who has ever lived had ever heard. Even trees that fell in the forest that no one could hear. I heard them. Every sound came to me in a one second bang. And I could hear. He looked at me and said.
Elise. (Sign language) Yes.
Beethoven. You don’t have to do that anymore.
Elise. (Sign language) What?
Beethoven. That. Your hands don’t have to talk for you anymore. You can use them now as accents in your speech instead of speech itself. Here. Follow me.
Elise. He led me to the piano.
Elise. I can’t play, Ludwig.
Beethoven. I want you to play.
Elise. I sat down and… played
(We hear the styling of what sounds to be a three-year-old child who has down syndrome… and no limbs… and blind out of his right eye.)
Elise. I’m sorry.
Beethoven. No. No. That was… interesting.
(They share a laugh)
Beethoven. Hear this is how you do it
(We hear moonlight sonata)
Beethoven. Try again.
(We hear the retarded Childs music again.)
Elise. I don’t know how to play.
Beethoven. It’s not that you don’t know how to play… it’s that… this piano isn’t for you. This piano is for me. Here I’ll make it for you.
Elise. He pulled a crowbar out and starting with the lowest note he begin to loosen and pop each key out of the piano
(Randomly we hear the notes that he is plucking out)
Elise. It started slow at first then he got in a frenzy. He became a mad man he plucked out the notes faster and faster and I saw the keys fly in the air and I had to duck to make sure I didn’t get hit. Faster and faster they fell from the air. I had to catch some for fear they would shatter on the floor, but most of them all ended up in a pile to the side. He was finished and tired. He leaned up against the now pure wood slate that was at the front of the piano. Sweat was dripping. He breathed heavily in and out. Then he walked slowly over to the pile of keys carefully examined it and picked one up. Returned to the piano and placed it carefully in a selected spot. Went back over the pile. Did the same again. This one took twice as long. He was looking for the right key.
Beethoven. D3!! I’m looking for D3!!
Elise. He finally exclaimed. And placed it again. He went back and forth forever. Always taking twice as long as he did before. Even righting his wrongs and exchanging keys. Hours later he was done and I took a look at the once beautiful piano and saw something that looked like it was out of a Salvador Dali painting. There would be a whole section of pure black keys, then white keys, then mismatched for a while, back to small chunks. And no longer did it go from low to high or high to low, but explored every pitch within every inch of the keyboard.
Beethoven. Now try.
Elise. I sat down. Shaking. I was nervous that all his hard work would be for nothing because I still can’t play. I put my fingers on the keys and started guessing which keys to play.
(We hear Fur Elise. It continues to play as they talk)
Beethoven. All you needed was a piano that was for you.
(Beethoven sits down at his notepad)
Elise. We were together for years after that. He wrote song after song for me but he said nothing would be as good as the song from that dream. He couldn’t hear anymore. His hearing went downhill. His songs went down hill. Eventually he just had to simply write and give it to an orchestra and hope for good reviews. Years later… I decided to leave him.
Beethoven (looks up). What?
Elise. I need to go.
Elise. This isn’t good. This isn’t good for me or for you.
Beethoven. But I write songs for you. And I gave you my—
Elise. Well maybe you shouldn’t have. And maybe you should stop. Writing songs for me.
Elise. I’m going to France. I heard Picasso will be there. Should be exciting.
Elise. Keep in touch? Write me? I’ll write you first so you know where I am.
Elise. Okay. I’m leaving now
(Begins to leave)
Beethoven (Calling out) Elise.
Beethoven. Could you play it one more time?
(Elise sits down at the piano and begins to play. We hear ‘Fur Elise’)
Beethoven. I can’t hear it…
(Beethoven gets on all fours and puts his ear to the floor. He begins to cry)
Beethoven. I can’t hear it… I can’t hear it.
(Elise continues to play as the lights fade)