Sitting alone in a dimly lit room (Act 1, Scene 1+)
Sitting alone in a dimly lit room, an anxious man, head in hand, listens to the radio from an old record player
The radio plays:
"Are our children falling behind? A new study shows that American kids rank 258th out of 5,273 sovereign, independent nations in the core four "DAMP" arts: that's Drama -- including film, dance and the like. Art -- that's visual art like painting and sculpture. Music -- including music composition, lyricism, and song craft. And lastly Poetry, and other forms of creative writing.
So what say you Eleanor? Can our kids catch back up? Can America be no. 1 again? Or, are we doomed to languish forever in mediocrity?
Is this all a political ploy to boost stock prices for the big 12? More importantly, what does it all mean for the future geopolitical, economic, and military primacy of the United States of America?"
"Look Charlie, countries like South Sudan and Armenia are so far ahead of us right now, it's not even funny. We should be afraid, we should be acting NOW, and if we're not careful, we're going to end up like China and India.
DAMP is the past, DAMP is the present, and DAMP is the future."
"Correct. What say you Mort?"
"America can, must, and WILL catch up with these other countries in the core four. Fundamentally, I agree with Eleanor. DAMP is the catchword, but the spirit is what matters here. And the spirit is innovation, it's novelty, it's aesthetics.
That's what drives the nation, that's what drives the world, and most importantly, that's what drives the economy."
In disgust, the radio is silenced.
"DAMP?!? DAMP?!? I'll show them DAMP. The Pagan dogs! If this is where the world is heading, I'll stay dry, thank you very much.
What happened to the old classics like Math, Engineering, Technology, and Science -- the good old METS!?
I may not know anything about the Arts, but in the old days there was a little more respect for the Sciences, and you could be a Scientist, and you could make a living. It wasn't much of a living, but you could get by.
I'm from what you might call the old school I guess.
For almost 2,500 years my family has made these little flash cards [shows a flash card to the audience: 1 + 1 = 2]. This one my father made -- by hand. In our group it's all made by hand, with traditional sharpies.
It took him three weeks to make this one, but when the God-King of Uzbekistan saw this one, he ordered six more just like it from my father, and what my dad made from that commission fed us all for 1 year.
There were 128 of us in the family, and I was the youngest. I was the only one who took up the family business, and now I’m one of the only ones left from our little group that does these at all. It’s an old craft, and it’s dying, but what can you do?
Here, let me show you some of my own work, if you don’t mind. This was my first piece. This one isn’t for sale, but I can make you one that fits your needs, something to go up on your bathroom wall? [Shows a card: 1 + 1 = 3].
This one is a mistake. I don’t know if you can tell, but this is a three, and it should be a two [points at the three]. I was trying to outdo my father on my first try, and I got ahead of myself. 75 years later, and I’m still trying to catch up to the old man. I keep this one around to remind me that you have to stay humble.
Math is fickle. Math makes you pay for your mistakes. It’s an ancient craft, but it means something, and if we lose that meaning, we lose everything.
The arts might make you more, how do you say it – ‘financially stable’, but they’ll make you go soft, too. Anyway, you don’t care about that, that’s just the ranting of a bitter old starving mathematician, heh!
Anyway, here’s another one – this is one of my more advanced works.
You see this one [shows another card: 2 * 3 = 6] this one looks like a mistake, like my first one, but it’s not. It’s supposed to be like this. It’s a little more advanced. It’s an unusual piece, because most people don’t use this method at all anymore.
What they teach in school – well, you can’t learn this from a textbook, I can promise you that. If you want to buy something for a friend or a relative, they make great gifts, and I’ll give you a good price, don’t worry about that.
Or, maybe you’re interested in something that’s a little but more of a, how would you call it? An ‘experiment and equation’ routine. I can do Science too!
This is one of my favorites. In the old days, you could get your head chopped off just for trying this one in public, but I’m pretty sure that I can trust you.
Let me just make sure that I’ve got everything in order for this one. I don’t want you to think that this is some kind of a parlor trick. This is actual Science. Watch carefully, there’s a twist ending to this one.
OK, OK, OK. Are you ready? [Takes a penny and a big book from his table.] Watch carefully, watch carefully this is really amazing. [Lets them both drop].
Same Time! Same Time! Isn’t that something???
Thank you, thank you! I had a funny feeling you’d like that one.
Well, now that I know that I can trust you, let me show you one of my more recent experimental works. [Takes out a card of a square]. This is real, very real, and very rare – it’s a geometric piece, a perfect square.
See this? All four sides are exactly the same length. These two [points to the vertical lines]: stretch them out as far as you like, and they will never touch. These two as well [points to the horizontal lines]. Very rare.
One last piece before you go – a folk-math piece I’m doing for a friend. It’s a bit kitsch, but hey what can you do if it pays the bills? [Takes out a card with flowers instead of numbers – 2 flowers + 2 flowers = 4 flowers]. It’s based on a miracle working piece called “the 2 plus two equals four”.
Eh, it’s folk math, but so what if it helps a friend. And if it pays the bills, well…..
So, what do you think, you’d like to buy something maybe? I can make you something in a 1 + 1 = 2 or maybe even a multiplication piece. Very rare, very unique, maybe 200,000. It wouldn’t kill you…
No? Nothing? Fuck.
Eh, I should have listened to my mother – I SHOULD have taken the easy route. I should have done something REAL with my life – I SHOULD have been a musician!
The Pagan dogs!
A knock on the door. Aaron rises to see who is there.
“Wait a minute! What in the devil do you want now?
"Oh, Marti, it's you. Come in out of the rain. Welcome to the House of the Damned."