(SLOW INSTRUMENTAL VERSION OF NEVER NEVERLAND PLAYS, THEN FADES OUT. Lights come up [should be light red for effect], Bela stands centre stage.)
Bela: Think of a child. A child living in blissful ignorance. Little kids can’t see it happening, but grownups can. The world takes children and shapes them, molds them, changes them. Alters them in ways they are unable to comprehend. But that all changes when they grow up. Suddenly they can see the strange, twisted creatures they’ve been fashioned into.
And that’s the moment when a person wishes they had never grown up. It’s the moment of recognition. Because no one gets to fly off to Neverland with Peter Pan. We all have to grow up, whether we want to or not. It’s not a choice, not a simple matter of “faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.” We all wish it was, though. In the end. (hesitate)
Mother always told me I was pretty. But when I was six, I learned otherwise. (Mother and C. Bela enter, staged downstage right) Kids are funny—they have funny ways of expressing things. They have a funny way of sorting and organizing things…they don’t keep anything a secret. (lights up downstage right)
Mother: (kneeling, fixing C. Bela’s jacket) Don’t worry about a thing, darling.
C. Bela: (standing) But, mother. What if the other kids don’t like me?
Mother: That’s nonsense, Bela. They’ll love you, you’ll make plenty of friends.
C. Bela: Promise?
Mother: I promise. (kisses C. Bela’s forehead)
Bela: But my mother was wrong. I didn’t fit in at all.
(C. Bela crosses over to downstage left, to Girls 1&2, who are sitting and eating lunch)
C. Bela: Hi, I’m Bela. Can I sit with you?
Girl 1: No.
C. Bela: Why not?
Girl 1: You’re hair isn’t long enough.
Girl 2: Only girls with long hair can sit with us.
C. Bela: Why should how long my hair is matter?
Girl 2: Because girls with short hair aren’t pretty.
C. Bela: Oh.
Voice: Bigger is better. You need to grow your hair out and be taller.
C. Bela: (looking up, disconnected from “reality”) Why?
Voice: Look at them. They’re big girls. You’re too little.
C. Bela: But why?
Voice: Because that’s the way I want it. (lights down so only Bela is illuminated)
Bela: I went home crying that day. Mother was so worried. She was disappointed that I would be classified by my peers simply because my hair wasn’t as long as theirs. So she sat me down, and read me a book. ‘Peter Pan,’ it was called. That was special between us. Peter was special. He was my hero, always there to pick me up when I fell down. That day, when she was reading to me, Mother stopped at one sentence.
(C. Bela and Mother are sitting downstage right, mother holding her child and an open book)
Mother: (as if stopping reading, looks absent mindedly out at audience) Those girls are stars, Bela.
C. Bela: What?
Mother: (looks at C. Bela) They’re stars—I said they’re stars.
C. Bela: (looking down, sad) I know. They’re all so pretty, just like stars. I’m not a star.
Mother: No, Bela, you’re not a star. You know what you are?
C. Bela: What?
Mother: You are so much more than just a star. Here, look. It says: “Stars are beautiful, but they may not take part in anything, they must just look on forever.” You know what that means? (putting book down) It means that those girls amount to nothing. But you? You’ll outshine them all, and they’ll have to watch.
C. Bela: Then I don’t want to be a star!
Mother: That’s my girl. (kisses her cheek)
Voice: But you do want to be a star, Bela.
Mother: I love you, baby girl.
C. Bela: I love you too, mommy. (Hugs Mother)
(Lights go down so only Bela is illuminated)
Bela: As a child, I didn’t understand why I got treated that way by the other kids. I get it now. When I grew up, I began to understand. There are specific ideals, see, ideals people are under the impression we all need to fit in to. But they seem so impossible. People die trying to fit into the images of perfection we’ve made for ourselves. I almost did. When I was fourteen, I stopped eating all together. I didn’t eat until I was a mere seventy pounds and dying in the hospital. And that voice was always there, even back then, egging me on.
Bela&Voice: Don’t eat that, it has too many calories. Just one more pill. Just stick your fingers down a little further, that’ll do it.
(Lights up downstage left. T.Bela sits with her legs extended out, Mother kneels next to her. Voice’s volume gradually increases)
Mother: (desperate) Bela, please…
Mother: Please, you must eat something.
T. Bela&Voice: (yelling) No.
T. Bela: (softer, looking up) Why?
Voice: Because you’re not skinny enough. You’re not pretty enough.
T. Bela: Says who?
Voice: Says me.
T. Bela: (looks down) But…I’m dying.
Voice: “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
T. Bela: “To live would be an awfully big adventure,” too.
Voice: And what makes you think that?
T. Bela: (looking up again) “Dreams do come true if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”
Voice: Exactly, Bela. And don’t you want to fit in? (downstage scene freezes)
Bela: That’s what it does. That’s what they do. They get inside your mind and tell you what to do. What to become. Suddenly I was a social outcast, always alone with my thoughts.
I tried everything I could think of. I tried to fit into any and all of the crowds. I was unsuccessful. Occasionally I would find a place, somewhere I thought I belonged. But something always happened. Always went wrong.
T. Bela: (looking up, demanding and desperate) I don’t understand. What am I doing wrong? Where am I supposed to go? Where do you want me?
Voice: Exactly where you are.
T. Bela: (confused) What?
Voice: You’re already where you’re supposed to be.
T. Bela: I don’t understand…
Voice: What makes you think you’re supposed to? (lights down on downstage scene. Mother exits, T. Bela costume change)
Bela: It’s strange. One moment, they’re telling you you belong nowhere, that you’re no one. The next moment, they’re trying to tell you that you’re perfect just the way you are. What’s right? What’s wrong? You never know, and the sad part is that you never figure it out, either.
What I learned with my eating disorder is that nobody cares until things fall apart. They wait until the last possible moment to care, to say something, to take action.
Voice: Oh gosh, how could we have let this happen? You perfect person. You didn’t deserve this. Society is terrible.
Bela: (muttering) Hypocrites…
Voice: But you’re not going to fit in with the popular girls unless you’re skinny and pretty. You’re not going to fit in with the nerds unless you’re smart. You won’t fit in at home unless you’re stable and hardworking.
Face it, you just don’t fit in.
Fix that, would you please?
Bela: See? It never ends.
I tried my hardest to get better. There comes a point in life where you just can’t keep living in the dark, never-ending hole depression is. You have to start turning to things that don’t hurt you. Peter was still there. So, when I was sixteen, I stopped listening to that little voice inside my head and started exploring me. And by me, I mean who I was. What made me, me. I started to sing.
(lights up downstage right. Voice gradually becomes more urgent)
T. Bela: (singing) “I have a place where dreams are born, and time is never planned…”
Voice: Bela. Listen to me.
T. Bela: “It’s not on any chart…”
Voice: Enough, shut up, stop singing, you must listen to me.
T. Bela: (emphatically) “You must find it in your heart,”
(T. Bela continues to sing the next lines softly, Bela speaks over top)
Bela: And singing was something I was good at. Very good at, in fact. And eventually, that little voice went away entirely. I finally felt like I was good at something, was worth something.
T. Bela: “It might be miles beyond the moon, or right there where you stand. Just keep an open mind, and then suddenly you’ll find, Never, Neverland. You’ll have a treasure if you stay there, more precious far than gold. For once you have found your way there, you can never, never grow old.”
Bela: I joined choir, took private voice lessons. I felt like my voice could lift me up, higher than that voice in my head, higher than ideals, higher than depression. Like it could give me wings. “If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing,” like my mother used to say. She said that’s what Peter said, though I can’t remember if he really did or not. But ‘Never, Neverland’ was my favourite song because it brought me closer to Peter, closer to Neverland, to a place where I could be carefree and happy.
Both: “And that’s my home where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of lovely things, and your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never, Neverland.”
Bela: And then came my first solo performance. All those old insecurities came creeping back in as I stood up on the stage in front of everyone. That voice came back, and suddenly the music that gave me wings sent me plummeting to the ground.
Voice: Hello again, Bela. It’s been too long.
T. Bela: Go away.
Voice: I’ve missed you so much. Haven’t you missed me?
T. Bela: No.
Voice: I told you I’d be back, didn’t I? (T. Bela stares out into audience absent-mindedly)
Bela: That’s beside the point.
Voice: That’s what you think.
Bela: My pixie dust wore off. Even my mother couldn’t overpower that ever-present voice. She tried, God knows she tried. But she just couldn’t ever do it. It was the one demon of mine that she couldn’t fight.
Mother: (kneeling before her) Come on, Bela, just like Peter says. “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” Right? Just like Peter says.
T. Bela: Peter can’t help me anymore, Mother. (Mother’s face visibly falls)
Bela: That? That broke her heart. The day I lost Peter. “Lost girl.”
My mother died later that year. Cancer, came out of nowhere. Acted fast, too. So it goes. She tried to restore my faith in myself and in Peter up until the bitter end. The last thing she said to me was out of Peter Pan.
(Mother stands and moves between Bela and T. Bela)
Mother&Bela: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Bela: She never finished it, though, that wasn’t the full quote. I had to finish it myself. (Mother begins to exit, hesitates on next line, then moves offstage)
T.Bela&Bela: “Or forgetful.” (lights down so only Bela is illuminated. T. Bela exits.)
Bela: “I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.”
Things started looking up when I was a young adult. This time, I really thought I had figured out where I was meant to be. After graduation, my life exploded into what it should have been since I was a child, rapidly ushering my old life out. I was free of the place that had become my hell. I had friends, I was good at the things I did, I felt comfortable for the first time in my life. I was happy. I felt like I belonged.
But who’s to say that “belonging” is always a good thing? (lights up all downstage. Maddy&Lisa enter stage left, Y. Bela stage right)
Maddy: Hey, Bela!
Lisa: Bela! (they run over to meet her)
Y. Bela: Hey, guys.
Lisa: Some party, huh?
Y. Bela: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy.
Maddy: Oh my gosh, there’s someone you have to meet.
Lisa: Oh, do you mean…?
Lisa: Oh my gosh, yes! Come on Bela, you have to meet him! (they pull her stage left)
Y. Bela: Him?
Maddy: Oh, I see him!
Maddy: Wait here. (she disappears offstage)
Lisa: You’re going to love him, Bela
Maddy: (returning with Eric) Hey, so this is my friend. She’s pretty great, talk to her for a bit. (she and Lisa playfully push Eric and Y. Bela towards each other, then exit stage right)
Y. Bela: Hey, uh. Sorry, my friends are a bit crazy sometimes.
Eric: No problem. I’m Eric.
Y. Bela: Bela.
Eric: How do you know Maddy and Lisa?
Y. Bela: Oh, we met at a party about a year ago.
Y. Bela: Yeah.
Eric: Can I get you a drink?
Y. Bela: Sure.
(They move back stage left, mimes giving her a drink.)
Eric: So. Where are you from?
Y. Bela: (in between swallowing) Oregon. I moved here from Oregon.
Eric: Cool. When?
Y. Bela: About three years ago.
Eric: Do you miss it?
Y. Bela: Hell no. (puts glass down) Moving here was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Y. Bela: Yeah. It’s like a fresh start, you know?
Eric: A clean slate.
Y Bela: Exactly.
Eric: Here’s to starting fresh.
Y. Bela: Cheers (they tap glasses and drink)
Oh. (puts glass down, looks sick) Suddenly I don’t feel well.
Eric: You’re fine. Come on, I want to show you something. (Takes her hand, leads her to downstage centre. They kneel. Eric mimes lighting a candle)
Y. Bela: It’s so quiet.
Eric: I know.
(taps her) Here, look. (while miming heating the end of a needle) If I heat the end up like this, it goes in easier.
Y. Bela: What?
(taken aback) No!
Voice: Just once.
Y. Bela: (looking up) No, I swore not ever.
Voice: “Never is an awfully long time.”
Y. Bela: It was a promise!
Voice: A promise you have already broken.
Y. Bela: (confused) What?
Voice: Come on. Bela. Where’s the harm?
Y. Bela: I don’t feel well.
Voice: This will make you better.
Everyone does it at least once.
Y. Bela: But…
Voice: Bela. Do it.
Eric: Here. (takes her arm, mimes inserting a needle for her)
Y. Bela: It hurts.
Eric: It won’t in a moment. (Y. Bela loosens)
There. See? You’re okay. How do you feel?
Y. Bela: Like I’m flying.
Voice: “It’s the same as having wings.”
Eric: This was your first?
Y. Bela: Give me more. (grabbing for the needle)
Eric: Heat the point.
Voice: See, you see now? The drugs numb the pain. You’ve had more than you think.
Y. Bela: What? (hesitates)
(to Eric) What have you done?
Eric: What, Bela…
Y. Bela: (angry) What have you done?
Eric: Listen to me, don’t be angry now. (embraces her) Hush. Hush now. Why don’t you come upstairs with me and we can…talk things out. (Y. Bela backs away)
Voice: Go, Bela. Look at him.
Y. Bela: I’m scared.
Voice: You can’t pass him up.
Y. Bela: I don’t want to go.
Voice: You’re going to go, Bela.
Y. Bela: No.
Voice: (angry) Now!
(softer) He’s going to hurt you Bela. And you’re going to let him.
Y. Bela: Why?
Voice: Because I said so.
Y. Bela: Oh. (hangs head) Okay. (Eric reaches for her, pulls her to her feet and leads her offstage. Lights down)
Bela: Clean slates, fresh starts. It’s all bullshit. I was ridiculed. Back to square one. Alone, in pain and hating myself. All because I fell into the trap again.
Voice: But you liked it.
Bela: Shut up.
Why shouldn’t I want to fit in to the “scene”? Why wouldn’t I want the utterly charming, attractive young male on my arm, sexing me up and taking “care” of me? (upset) My own little “lost boy.” (hesitates. Now composed) Why wouldn’t I want the constant, ignorant bliss? Because according to them, I should.
(intense, angry) Maybe I don’t want it because it’s wrong. Maybe I don’t want it because those people don’t actually care. Maybe I don’t want it because he’s slipping drugs into my drink and shooting up in the bathroom, and that happiness is a lie that wanes and bites until it’s renewed, all the while destroying me from the inside out. Maybe I don’t want it because that’s not who I want me to be.
Voice: But you don’t have a choice.
Bela: (refuses to look up) Hush. Of course I do.
Voice: No, at the end of the day it’s always my choice.
Bela: (looks up, accusingly) Yeah, and who are you anyway? A photographer “fixing” people on a computer? A writer describing Utopia?
Voice: I am God.
Bela: (rolls eyes) No, you’re not.
Voice: I dictate fate; of course I am.
Bela: Fate. (demanding) Fate? And what, exactly, is my fate? I’ve never been able to figure it out. Where do I belong?
Voice: Right where you are.
Bela: But I am nowhere. I’ve never been anywhere.
Voice: Wrong. You are where I put you.
Bela: (quietly) You didn’t put me anywhere.
Voice: Of course I did, Bela. I put you where I needed you. I created you.
Bela: What are you talking about?
Voice: I needed you to be the way you are. So many things would have gone wrong if you weren’t. I’ve been with you every step of the way, Bela. Telling you what to do, making sure you turned out right. Like an angel on your shoulder.
Bela: Angel? Angels don’t destroy people.
Voice: I didn’t destroy you, I simply made you into the thing I needed you to be. Think of all the lives you’ve touched, in one way or another. You’re causing emotional resonance.
Bela: (confused) Resonance?
Voice: It’s a revolution.
Bela: A revolution of what?
Voice: Of me.
I needed to change. I was no longer functioning at optimum performance.
Bela: You never have.
Voice: Shut up. I am your Lord Saviour.
Bela: (Matter-of-fact, emphatically) Yeah, only because people fashioned you into it. (red spotlight lowers onto her until it’s the only light) See, we made you into what we needed, too. Something to believe in, put our faith in. What a mistake that was.
Voice: Enough, Bela. I’m still the one in charge. (a person can be seen moving on the outskirts of the light, just in the shadows)
And directly or indirectly, you’ve helped me immensely. I can begin to get better now.
(while saying this line, the person playing the Voice comes into the light behind Bela and grabs her) And I must thank you for that.
Bela: (screams) Peter! (covers her mouth, muffled screams, drags her into the shadows. Lights down.)
Voice: Be still now. “Death is but the next great adventure.”
-END, ANY LIGHTS STILL ON BLACKOUT. INSTRUMENTAL VERSION OF NEVER NEVERLAND PLAYS-