The Sea Dove by John Schmidt


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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent


    Scene 1

      NONNA, alone, pondering life.

      Morning, the garden at NONNAíS house. NONNA enters from stage right.
      She is an older woman, walking through her garden, saddened about the
      difficult conditions in which her village and region are
      experiencing.

      NONNA: If I were God, I would change things. I would bring a mighty
      rain to the parched land. Eight months with only a few sprinkles to
      wet the ground before they quickly dry. The flowers Simona planted in
      the garden, I would bring back to life and water for days so they
      would again show their beauty, which they themselves canít see. Or
      can they? Can they sense each other and our sadness for them?
      If I were God I would bring Antonio back safely, the man most longed
      for by my young Simona. I would show my respect for them, and if I
      sensed he loves her as much as he did at our last sight of him, I will
      tell them this home is now theirs, to freely marry in, and live in as
      long as they care for me and my servant, Lombarda. He said he would
      not only bring back food for my household, but for many families in
      our village. For his thoughtfulness in our time of greatest crisis, I
      will bestow on him my humble home, where he can rest his head till the
      end of his days, and he and Simona can bring into the world happy
      children. If he can give up his ties to seawater and live in
      landlocked Viachella, he can walk in this garden daily and be content
      within these walls. Odd that he has seen so much water through the
      summer, and we none, but for our wells, which have almost dried up.
      If I were God, I would bring civilization back to our village, which
      once was great, but now is threatened by those starving, where some
      nightly steal from the homes of the rich or walk the streets in search
      of food. Our priest, Father Domenico, has so little left that they say
      he almost fainted while giving Mass. Even the homes of the poor, if
      they have a little bread, can feel threatened by the less fortunate.
      The street children, the orphans who have always lacked, would rob
      even the dogs for the scraps they find in trash heaps. Yet they are in
      danger from the common folk, who increasingly join them.
      We would ask for help from neighboring villages, but the drought has
      so infested the region that as far as anyone can ride for days in
      three directions, the message of starvation is the same. Many have
      traveled to Genoa, riding a day to the west to fish for food or find
      work of any kind. My dear Simona, Lombarda and I have no talent for
      fishing; we only know our laces, which in these times are only
      purchased or rented to adorn coffins. Antonio, being young, and a man,
      finds easy escape, while we women have trials. Yet he is our
      salvation, and the sky, which daily brings clouds with a hope of rain.
      Iíve said my prayers a thousand times, and clouds grow more
      abundant, yet do not give what is most needed. We could have crops in
      only a few short weeks if the sky would bless us but once or twice,
      greatly. So many near death would be spared.
      Many have left, with all they could take. Everything else was sold or
      offered to the few who have food to sell. But few sell what little
      food they have. Some of the rich hire guards to watch their houses,
      paying them with enough food to stay alive. Nothing more is required.
      My Villacella, where I have lived all my years, and my husbandís
      years before he passed away, has turned on itself for lack of rain.
      We took for granted all those good years, the long rains, and made our
      bounty known throughout our Italy. Yes, in some years rains were slow
      in coming, but they always came. We never starved. Now the skies offer
      us no bread. We send out all our money and possessions, hiring sailors
      to buy and barter for our very existence, to bring back vegetables and
      animals that are eagerly devoured.
      Odd how we gave so little thanks to God in those good years, thinking
      we mostly do the work, yet blame Him in the lean years. We never blame
      ourselves for not putting aside enough grain to last even a year.
      If I were God I would do things differently. I would revive my
      village. I would answer the prayers of my people, forgive their sins,
      if sins have caused this.
      But who have we sinned against? We only have ourselves. Or have we
      forgotten God, as the maker of rain and our prosperity? Or does He
      give us this time to test our faith in Him and make us stronger?
      No, Iím not God, but I wonder why these plants must suffer. Why the
      animals, what few are left, must suffer. Why my people nearly starve
      to death.
      (Looking right.) Our pantries are almost empty. Yet Simona and I still
      weave our laces for sale for far-off grain and vegetables.
      We heard by letter that Antonio would be returning soon with enough
      food for us for a while. He may be arriving this day. He and Simona
      will have a brief time together, to consider becoming man and wife,
      before he will be off again. I have already given my permission.
      Life gives us only a little time to raise the young, then they must be
      off to carry their ownóbefore my time with them passes. Humankind
      steadily rises to new heights, sons and daughters on the shoulders of
      those before. My old shoulders sink as I pray my soul to Heaven.


      Scene 2

      NONNA and SIMONA, discussing the future and their current plight.

      NONNA is on stage; Simona enters stage right.

      NONNA: Good morning, Simona. I wanted to check the sky for clouds this
      morning.

      SIMONA (looking up): Did you find one?

      NONNA (sitting on the bench): Sit with me. Letís talk of better times.

      SIMONA: What times?

      NONNA: The future.

      SIMONA (she also sits on the bench): If we have a future.

      NONNA: We do. Weíll survive this.

      SIMONA: I donít know how many others will.

      NONNA: I was thinkingÖhow Antonio has had a world of water under him
      almost all summer while Nature has granted us none.

      SIMONA: I donít think of him much.

      NONNA: The man you would marry?

      SIMONA: A sailor. Who leaves in me each time for the next departure in
      only a few days.

      NONNA: But itís not his ship to guide.

      SIMONA (rises and moves off): On the coast a few days, to unload and
      load, ride a horse most of a day to see me, a few days here, then back
      again. Then no word for weeks or months except perhaps a letter or a
      word from a sailor who tells me he was at this or that port and he was
      still alive.

      NONNA: I understand your concern. (Rises and follows SIMONA.) My
      brother was a sailor and would be gone for months, and we would know
      nothing of his safety. Except perhaps rumors.

      SIMONA: More unsettling still, for a potential husband.

      NONNA: I know you love him.

      SIMONA: I phrased that carefully: ďpotential husband.Ē If one dares.

      NONNA: You dare. Have faith in him. Hasnít he always come back?
      Hasnít he spoken often of his love?

      SIMONA: And then off again. To ports seen before. Nonna, you know I
      have only had four periods of time with him in these two years, our
      longest being his last wintering here in Villacella. Five if you count
      the day we saw each other at the church.

      NONNA: And he asked around about you.

      SIMONA: And found me. Four timesówith months between. Each
      separation seems to be longer, not shorter. If I werenít in love with him,
      I would be looking for another man.

      NONNA: Who would that be?

      SIMONA: He would be a local man, who would walk me to church, talk to
      me everydayóand I wouldnít be afraid for his life at every storm cloud I see.

      NONNA: Antonio will settle down. I feel he will.

      SIMONA: He talked of taking a shop the last time he was here. He said
      we could move to Genoa where he could sell ropes and nautical
      equipment to shipmen. Iíd have a husband who sends off other
      husbands to their graves.

      NONNA: But he would stay behind. And he would sell them the best, and
      train them in how to use the equipment, if they needed to learn. He
      would be helping them return safely. We are a nation of sailors, Simona.
      We eat and breathe the sea.

      SIMONA (sad, ironic): As my father did.

      NONNA: His fate will not be shared by Antonio. Was a strange turn,
      that your father stepped on a boat at the request of friends for a day
      of pleasure fishing and all drowned.

      SIMONA: If he hadnít died, my mother wouldnít have died soon
      afterwards, from grief, and the hounding of debtors who all suddenly
      wanted payment.

      NONNA: I cannot speak of the greed of some men.

      SIMONA: Nor can I. It seems like another life, before I came here.

      NONNA: It has been a good life for us. Iím no longer lonely. You
      have been the granddaughter I always wanted.

      SIMONA: I had no one else to write to.

      NONNA: Iím glad you came to me.

      NONNA hugs her and SIMONA hugs back, kissing her face.

      SIMONA: I have been greatly blessed. Iím certain I would have been
      one of the street children in my old village if it hadnít been for you ó and
      long since dead.

      NONNA: We donít always understand Godís plans, but they exist.

      SIMONA: Antonio has been one of the three hopes of my life. My father,
      you, and him.

      NONNA: Iím glad Iíve been one. We all need hope. In times like
      these, we have little else. And when I am goneó

      NONNA releases her.

      SIMONA: Donít talk about leaving.

      NONNA: Iím old woman. An old woman who needs to tell her wishes.

      SIMONA: Go on, then.

      NONNA: I want you and Antonio to live here. In my imagination, I see
      the flowers blooming. I see many children.

      SIMONA (limiting the observation): I see a few.

      NONNA: Well, that will be your decision. I think I hear Lombarda
      speaking with someone. May be Antonio. I want to greet him, then you
      two can be alone.

      NONNA exits right.


      Scene 3
      SIMONA and ANTONIO, first scene togetherótheir hopes and the sad past.

      The garden. SIMONA is onstage.

      SIMONA: They say a sea gull can live for months on the sea, especially
      if near a shipís scraps. But how long can a wife exist, with worry
      and dread for him? If heís lostólike a fatherówhat will be her
      fate? Sheíll have no grandmother to run to, who went to Heaven even
      before the first-born arrived. I see something of my future, but
      itís not bright. I donít want to be the doubting sort, the woman
      who sees only darkness. I want the lightóand here he comes.

      ANTONIO enters right, taking her hands.

      ANTONIO: Iíve longed so many days to see your face again.

      SIMONA: And I, yours.

      ANTONIO: Did you get my letters? óthat I was safe?

      SIMONA: I received two, the first after weeks of waiting, and the
      second still longer.

      ANTONIO: Though I told you I had to stop at Crete before I could send
      back a letter. And once I cross the Mediterranean itís hard to find
      someone whoís coming back to Genoa who will deliver it. And then my
      man in Genoa has to find someone coming to Villacella.

      SIMONA: I understand. Are you well? Were the seas rough?
      ANTONIO: On the return, at times, but not more than our sailing skills
      and my prayers could handle.

      SIMONA: Iím glad you pray, Antonio. Most men think they are beyond
      fate and Heavenís power, and see none but their own.
      ANTONIO: We rounded our Italy, then to Crete and points east. I heard
      the drought in this area had worsened. On the return, I spent most of
      my pay for food for the four of usóand for a boy Iíll soon look
      for. I would have perhaps had enough for a shop if I hadnít needed
      to spend so much on food.

      SIMONA: Youíre very thoughtful.

      ANTONIO: Nonna and Lombarda will be preparing a feast for us, which I
      brought on my horse. Your two wagons of food will be here tomorrow.
      They were happy to see me.

      SIMONA: We all are. And it will be delightful to have something new to
      eat, besides pasta and dried fruit.

      ANTONIO: Before coming here I told Annibole to spread the word to the
      families I bought food for, that they can ride to Genoa and fill their
      wagons. Within days there will be food for many.

      SIMONA: Youíll be a hero to all of us.

      ANTONIO: I only want to be a hero to you. Trust me in this; I may have
      to go back to sea once or twice more, as I see it now. My sum is
      mounting, but I donít have our fortune yet. Before I came here, I
      was able to add a few more coins and jewels to my hiding place the
      woods. Once again on this voyage, when we were in ports and other
      sailors went to taverns, I spent each night on board, or walking the
      beach to dream of my Simona. (He kisses her hands.) Iím content with
      my dreams of the future and seek nothing but that day to be ours.

      SIMONA: I hope Iím worthy.

      ANTONIO: You are. My heart, not hardened by cold wind or stale bread
      aboard, readies itself to sail someday to a land of love.

      SIMONA: Then Iíll try to be stronger.

      ANTONIO: Thereís little real danger when Iím away.

      SIMONA (breaking from him): Antonio, every day on the sea is a danger
      to me. If you were to send a hundred letters, the last one would still
      have doubt attachedóif something had happened between then and now.
      ANTONIO: Iím a good sailor. Some say, none better. And I have my
      captainís promise to ask the owner to pay me better on the next voyageófor
      the shop, and our future.

      SIMONA: Iím glad you pray for the shop.

      ANTONIO: Iíd sell seamen everything they need.

      SIMONA: And you wouldnít be going away again.

      ANTONIO: No.

      SIMONA: And we would be honest with each other.

      ANTONIO: Yes.

      SIMONA: And have children.

      ANTONIO: Of course. After only one or two more voyages.

      SIMONA: With the drought, money is very hard to find, and food.
      Perhaps a shop owner in town would take what you have now for his
      shop?

      ANTONIO: What good would it be to have a shop and starve to death like
      the others?

      SIMONA: Forgive my impatience. Sometimes I donít know the greater
      danger, death on land or at sea. But I would be willing to risk my
      life now, on land, for yours at sea.

      ANTONIO: Have faith in providence, that we are meant to be together,
      and I will safely return.

      SIMONA: I had a naive hope for my father, that he would always be
      there for me.

      ANTONIO: As I did of my father before he died in a tavern brawl and I
      was left for an uncle to raise. I know what itís like to be raised
      by a relative, never really sure if youíre a burden or not. I left
      my uncle as soon as I could for the sea, though he loved me and waved
      at me on the dock as I set sail. I think he was sad to see me go.

      SIMONA: Iím sure he was.

      ANTONIO: But going was the right thing to do.

      SIMONA: But not always the right thing. Donít forget, I know what
      the sea can do to a family. I lived near the sea while you were a boy
      living inland. But enough of the past. Did you sell our lace?

      ANTONIO: All of it.

      SIMONA: Did you tell them how long it takes to make it?

      ANTONIO: I did. I got the best prices I could. I used some of your
      money for food and gave the rest to Fiorella. Though I gave a portion
      to my captain, as we agreed I could. Heís been very good to me.

      SIMONA: Everyone should be. You deserve only good.

      ANTONIO: I deserve you.

      SIMONA: I pray I can deserve you.

      ANTONIO: You do.

      SIMONA: I can smell the preparations.

      ANTONIO (teasing): Will you let me join you ladies?

      SIMONA (teasing him): Do you have your manners about you?

      ANTONIO: I do.

      SIMONA: We are not sailors, who drool their drink and rub their mouths
      on their cuffs.

      ANTONIO: I will pay attention.

      SIMONA: Very well. Weíll be honored.

      ANTONIO: And Iíll enjoy your home.

      SIMONA: Our home. Nonna said it is ours.

      ANTONIO (smiling): Our home.

      SIMONA and ANTONIO exit right.


      Scene 4
      CORRADO and GIOVANNA, first scene together,
      their hopesówith AMBROSIO entering.

      A street in Villacella that night. Lights are dimmed to denote a night
      scene, perhaps with blue lights. GIOVANNA and CORRADO enter up right.
      CORRADO is one of the street orphans DANTE has taken in over the
      years, though CORRADO now lives in a barn owned by a neighbor of
      GIOVANNA. Once as rowdy as any, he has been softened and converted by
      the love of GIOVANNA. She is in love with CORRADO and hopes to marry
      him.

      GIOVANNA: You have been very quiet, Corrado. What are you thinking?
      Are your thoughts as dark as this night street?

      CORRADO: Thoughts that would make the sun rise in a moment if I
      demanded it.

      GIOVANNA: Such power!

      CORRADO: Grown by your love.

      GIOVANNA: Do you think the love of man and woman has such power?

      CORRADO: Ours does.

      GIOVANNA: Or does such power come to us from God?

      CORRADO: Bothóeither will work for me.

      GIOVANNA: They say the stars are human souls who continue to shine on us.

      CORRADO: They must all take second to your light.

      GIOVANNA: You say words that open doors in my soul that I never knew
      were there.

      CORRADO: May I open them all, in time.

      GIOVANNA (moving away from him): Not all, sweet Corrado, for, they
      say, once the mysteries of a woman have been given up, the man may
      disappear as easily as a star on the horizon.

      CORRADO (following her): What they say may fit some men, Giovanna, but
      my love for you is like a field of spring flowers that, like a bee, I
      glide on, one flower to another, continually filled yet wanting more.

      GIOVANNA: What if night makes them unseeable, even to a bee?

      CORRADO: I would lie near them and wait.

      GIOVANNA: Not return to the safety of your hive?

      CORRADO: Itís only until morning.

      GIOVANNA: But what if a night storm knocks off all their petals and
      nectar? Surely you would buzz on to another field.

      CORRADO: I would wait until new blossoms are born.

      GIOVANNA: That would be next season.

      CORRADO: I would wait.

      GIOVANNA: A full winter without honey?

      CORRADO: I would store it up to see you again in bloom.

      GIOVANNA: But they die, Corrado. In a great drought, they wither and die.

      CORRADO: Not to imagination, or memory. As I know the stars and the
      forms they take in manís imagination, if clouds cover them, they are
      still in me, and in my soul.

      CORRADO starts to kiss GIOVANNA, but she moves off.

      GIOVANNA: You have been reading too many books.

      CORRADO: But I have learned to read, thanks to you.

      GIOVANNA (scolding playfully): I taught you to read so you could read
      the Bible, not books of love poetry.

      CORRADO (grinning): But both were made under Godís Heaven.

      GIOVANNA: One woos the soul, and the other, the wife to be.

      CORRADO: Then I want both.

      GIOVANNA: Weíll seeÖ (Changing the subject.) This afternoon I saw
      Antonio in the street walking into a shop, and ran to him to learn the
      news. My father has left for the coast for our wagon of food. Antonio
      is planning to take a shopóhere in Villacella, I hope.

      CORRADO: Iíll believe it when I see it.

      GIOVANNA: You donít believe him?

      CORRADO: Heís a sailor. Iím not saying a sailor canít find home
      on land, but for how long?

      GIOVANNA: For a life.

      CORRADO (mimicking her): Weíll seeÖ

      GIOVANNA: And how long before you return to Danteís?

      CORRADO: The thought is as far as the farthest star. If your
      fatherís neighbor continues to allow me to stay in his barn and work
      for him and your father for bread, then Iíll see you everyday until
      we are wed. When the drought is over, Iíll find more work, in the
      harvests foreveróor in a shop.

      GIOVANNA: Do you fear for Andrea, left with Dante and Bandino?

      CORRADO: Andrea was an orphan before Dante look him in. He can defend
      himselfóor run away to me, if he has to. He knows where I am.

      GIOVANNA: Would Bandino hurt him?

      CORRADO: Bandino hurts everybody. He can remember his parents; he says
      he was stolen. But he knows he would have to answer to me.

      GIOVANNA: But if you are the oldest, and away, he might consider
      himself the oldest now, and hurt Andrea or even Dante.

      CORRADO: Dante is indestructibleóa sailor and trader and scoundrel
      beyond injury.

      GIOVANNA: You use strong words for an uncle who took you in when no
      one else would.

      CORRADO: I owe him nothing. Heís no kin of mine, no more than a
      dog.

      GIOVANNA: Are you being unkind?

      CORRADO: As kind to any animal in the streets that would keep food
      from starving boys and girls.

      GIOVANNA: I feel thereís hope for him, still.

      CORRADO: And I have no feeling for him at all, except in leaving. And
      I did. Good riddance.

      GIOVANNA: He is your family.

      CORRADO: I have no family. It was him who made up the story that
      heís our uncle. True, I donít remember much of my parents, but I
      know heís no kin.

      GIOVANNA (trying to soften him toward DANTE): You canít be entirely
      sure.

      AMBROSIO enters up right, searching along the buildings for food.

      CORRADO: A man who takes in boys from neighboring villages to protect
      him from his own neighbors, some who would like to have him put away
      because they know he can be dangerous. When heís drunk, Iíve seen
      him go into the past, like heís living old times but has lost the
      present. And since his past has been murderousÖ

      GIOVANNA: I donít want to think any more about them. I only want you
      safe with me.

      CORRADO: Are you sure youíre safe with me?

      GIOVANNA: Of course.

      CORRADO: Then so be it.

      GIOVANNA: I will put them all in my prayers, and the parents left
      behind or gone to Heaven.

      CORRADO: Iíll pray too, though fewer prayers in number.

      GIOVANNA: Thereís Ambrogio. Simona said Antonio would like to see
      him again. (To AMBROSIO as she takes from a pocket a small loaf of
      bread wrapped in a towel.) Ambrogio, come here. I have some bread for
      you.

      AMBROSIO runs to her.

      GIOVANNA: I was saving it for Corrado, but he isnít hungry.

      CORRADO: Well, I wouldnít sayÖ

      GIOVANNA (quieting CORRADO with a wave of her hand and feeding
      AMBROSIO): Have you had anything to eat today?

      AMBROSIO shakes his head ďnoĒ and eats once the bread is in his
      hands.

      GIOVANNA (folds the towel back up and pockets it, kneeling): One day,
      when the drought ends, weíll have food enough for everybody. Weíll
      have a celebration in the square and have fruit and vegetables, and
      kill caves for the feast like we used to.

      CORRADO (kneeling, to AMBROSIO): And when I have my land, and I will
      someday, youíll work there and never go hungry again.

      AMBROSIO: Thank you, Corrado.

      CORRADO: Until then, I might even get some money from Dante to feed
      you.

      AMBROSIO: One lady said he is too stingy to drop a coin on a dead man
      because the man might come back to life and run off with it.

      CORRADO (to GIOVANNA): See? (To AMBROSIO.) Then Giovanna and I will
      marry and her father will share his land. Iíll work hard, grow a fine crop, and feed us.

      AMBROSIO: Iíd rather have a boat.

      CORRADO (a little taken aback, but recovering quickly): Then Iíll
      buy you a boat.

      AMBROSIO: Iíll sail far off and bring back food like Antonio. Iíll
      save you both from the drought.

      GIOVANNA: Thank you, Ambrogio. Did you know Antonio is looking for
      you?

      AMBROSIO (excited): For me? Is he here?

      GIOVANNA: Yes, and he has something for you.

      AMBROSIO: What?

      GIOVANNA: Iím not supposed to tell you.

      AMBROSIO: Where is he?

      GIOVANNA: Where does he usually have a room?

      AMBROSIO (pointing left): Right over there, at Anniboleís.

      GIOVANNA: Then in the morning, be waiting for him at the front door.

      CORRADO: Or ask Annibole to let you in early. Antonio wouldnít
      care.
      AMBROSIO: Thanks for the bread.

      GIOVANNA: Iíd give you more if I had it.

      AMBROSIO: I know.

      GIOVANNA (rubbing AMBROSIOíS hair): You are a good boy. May all the
      blessings of Heaven fall upon you. (She kissed his head.)

      AMBROSIO: Iíd rather have a loaf.

      GIOVANNA (smiles): That too.

      AMBROSIO: Simona has fed me almost as much as Father Domenico.

      GIOVANNA: They both love you. But be understanding if Father canít
      feed you much. I donít think he even has enough for himself.

      AMBROSIO: Then who will say Mass?

      GIOVANNA: When he was hearing a confession this afternoon, I left some
      bread for him. Why donít you run along and be waiting for Antonio at
      sunrise?

      AMBROSIO: All right.

      AMBROSIO punches CORRADO in the side and darts away.

      CORRADO (rising, to AMBROSIO): Hey!

      AMBROSIO exits left, laughing.

      GIOVANNA rises. In these next few lines, GIOVANNA becomes more amorous
      toward CORRADOóbut this is subtle. Her talk with AMBROSIO has
      increased in her the desire to be a mother. She is a good Catholic
      girl, yet still a girl, learning how to handle the affections of a
      young man while needing to wait for marriage. In the next few lines,
      she takes his arm, and may touch his shoulder or lean her head on his
      shoulder. She becomes quieter. These are indications of how their
      story will unfold next.

      GIOVANNA (takes CORRADOíS arm): And our first little Corrado will be
      just like him.

      CORRADO (taking her arm and kissing her face): And many more.

      GIOVANNA: When the time is right.

      CORRADO: Iíll pray for rain for two reasons, that we survive, and
      that you and I can wed soon.

      GIOVANNA: God knows our needs.

      CORRADO: And I need to get you home so your father knows you are
      safe.

      GIOVANNA: Iím safe with you.

      CORRADO and GIOVANNA, holding hands, start toward the left exit.

      CORRADO: Weíll let the stars guide us…

      GIOVANNA: Yes.

      CORRADO: Öto a home where youíll read the Bible to me and Iíll
      read love poems to you.

      CORRADO and GIOVANNA exit left


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