Read an excerpt from Tyler English-Beckwith’s “Maya and Rivers,” now streaming on ALL ARTS as part of “House Seats: Fire This Time Festival”
From the playwright:
I chose this moment in the play because it is about Maya and Rivers realistically looking at what a future may look like for them in a world that is dying. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is such an interesting question to ask children because it allows them both to create a narrative for themselves based on a very limited understanding of their surroundings and to think outside of what is immediate to them. The future, to young people, is so vast. But unfortunately for Maya and Rivers, abundance doesn’t exist in their world. So dreaming about the future is just dreaming.
Excerpt from “Maya and Rivers,” by Tyler English-Beckwith:
MOON MAYA: I made up some lie about going to the plant to get fresh water, but I couldn’t tell if she believed me or not. My daddy was at the launch pad so he didn’t care. Third craft left yesterday. 50 on board.
Moon Maya shakes her head.
MOON MAYA: No survivors.
RIVERS: I think a boy I knew in 2nd grade was on that spacecraft. Joey. He had the biggest glasses I’ve ever seen on a person that small. Wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up.
MOON MAYA: What did you want to be?
RIVERS: I don’t remember.
MOON MAYA: You remember everything. You remembered the time I got my head stuck in between the banisters at your 9th birthday party.
RIVERS: Well that was hard to forget.
MOON MAYA: Tell me.
RIVERS: I wanted to be a rocket ship.
MOON MAYA: A what?
RIVERS: See naw. Uhn uhn.
He unwraps a tootsie roll and stuffs it in her mouth.
MOON MAYA: I’m sorry I didn’t mean to-
She stifles a laugh.
RIVERS: Forget it.
Moon Maya touches his arm lovingly.
MOON MAYA: Why a rocket ship?
Rivers looks to Moon Maya for safety. She gives it to him.
RIVERS: Because then the fire would be under me. Not on top of me beating me down. It would
lift me all the way up. I would be invincible. Unbreakable.
They share a smile.
RIVERS: And you?
MOON MAYA: I haven’t really thought about it.
RIVERS: Yeah right. You think about everything.
MOON MAYA: You promise not to judge?
RIVERS: I just told you I wanted to be a rocket ship. No judgment here.
MOON MAYA: But it isn’t like cool or progressive or revolutionary…
Rivers takes her hand.
RIVERS: No judgment.
MOON MAYA: I want to be a mother.
MOON MAYA: You think it’s stupid.
RIVERS: No, of course not. But what about the mandatory contraception?
MOON MAYA: It isn’t realistic, Rivers. It’s just…something I want, but I can’t have. I want to create. We live in a world where nothing grows or flows organically. But a mother creates inside of her the greatest gift of all. Life. She nurtures it and guides it. The way Mother Luna used to guides the tides. She bestows it with all the energy she can manifest. On an earth with empty vessels, the greatest thing you can be is full.
MOON MAYA: I love you, Rivers.
MOON MAYA: I love you, Rivers. More than there are stars in the sky, more than you love the moon, I love you. | EARTH MAYA: I love you, Rivers. More than there are stars in the sky, more than you love the moon, I love you.
RIVERS: Don’t say that.
MOON MAYA: Why?
RIVERS: There’s no time for love. No place for it.
MOON MAYA: But, I do.
Rivers looks at his oxygen pack.
RIVERS: Two orbs of oxygen left. Two orbs left up here in this perfect emptiness. Then we go back to a dead planet, and we pretend like we’re living.
RIVERS (cont’d): Don’t waste these last moments on saying things that can never manifest, because in a world with a manufactured life source something like love just isn’t authentic. All we have is right here. All we have are these last two orbs.
MOON MAYA: Lie to me Rivers. Tell me that you can pack up the moon in your backpack and bring it to me. Tell me that we could create a home in a crater. Tell me that we could just leave it in the backyard and bounce on it when we’re sad. Tell me we could hide it from the neighborhood kids so that no one would know our lunar secret, but when I tell you I love you more than there are stars in the sky-
RIVERS: I’m leaving on the next one.
MOON MAYA: What?
RIVERS: I bought a ticket this morning. I’m leaving on the next space craft tomorrow.
MOON MAYA: Why?
RIVERS: Why not?
MOON MAYA: Thirteen percent success rate! That’s what they advertise on the radio. Thirteen percent! Like they’re proud of themselves. Do you know what happened to Joey?
RIVERS: He flew above that giant dead rock.
MOON MAYA: And then he came crashing down.
RIVERS: What kind of existence is the one at home? My mouth is so dry some nights I find my
self enjoying the act of swallowing my spit. We’re all dying, my Maya.
Rivers tries to grab her hand, but she snatches it away.
MOON MAYA: You’re a coward, too afraid to look into the faces of the people who are dying of thirst. I’m drinking my spit too, Rivers, but I’m not running away.
RIVERS: There is nothing there for me!
EARTH MAYA: The stars went dark. The moon fell out of the sky. It was the end of the world.
MOON MAYA: What about me?
RIVERS: I want to be a rocket ship, Maya. The fire that flames below me only burns what’s left
MOON MAYA: Soon, the world won’t exist, and neither will we. But when you’re flying, past the earth, past us all don’t forget gravity. Don’t forget what held you close. Close to the ground. Close to me.
Rivers looks at his oxygen pack.
RIVERS: Half an orb left.
Rivers traces her fingers with his.
RIVERS: You could come with me. I can get another tick-
Moon Maya shakes her head. Rivers nods, understanding.
RIVERS: Can we dance again? One last time.
Moon Maya nods.
He walks behind her and grabs her waist, taking her in.
RIVERS: How do you feel My Maya?
MOON RIVER: Full.
Tyler English-Beckwith is a playwright, filmmaker and actress originally from Dallas, Texas, and currently based in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is the recipient of the 2020 Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers and the recipient of the 2018 Kennedy Center Paula Vogel Play Prize. Tyler is also a member of the 2020 Page 73 writers group Interstate 73. Her plays include: “Mingus” (2020 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 2019 Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Play Conference Finalist), “Maya and Rivers” (2020 Fire This Time Festival), “Bitch” (Development: Page 73’s Interstate 73, Joust Theatre Company), and “TWENTYEIGHT” (The Vortex, Austin, Texas). The series of original films Tyler wrote, co-directed and acted in titled “Umbra” can be seen on meowwolf.com. Her screenwriting work can also be heard on the upcoming scripted podcast “Daughters of DC.” Tyler holds an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch, and a B.A. in African and African Diaspora Studies from UT Austin. Tyler hopes to create worlds, in her writing, where black women live beyond the basic means of survival and have the audacity to be autonomous.
We’re sharing excerpts from the plays featured in “House Seats: Fire This Time Festival,” now available to stream on the ALL ARTS website and app. More information about the films and excerpts can be found here.
Top Image: "Maya and Rivers," by Tyler English-Beckwith. Photo Credit: Garlia Jones.