By Bruce Shearer
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Bob Dylan, musical legend and survivor
Fan, A music lover who may or may not be a journalist
The play is set in a backstage corridor.
A fan or journalist meets Bob Dylan in a backstage corridor and asks him a few questions.
BOB DYLAN IS WALKING DOWN A BACKSTAGE CORRIDOR WHEN A FIGURE STEPS OUT OF THE SHADOWS AND SPEAKS TO HIM.
Fan: What was it about Donovan that so upset you, Bob?
(BOB STOPS AND ALMOST STEPS BACK.)
Bob: Who are you?
Fan: I’m a fan.
Bob: Not from Rolling Stone?
Fan: We’re all rolling stones, Bob.
(BOB ROLLS HIS EYES)
Bob: Speak for yourself lady/mister.
Fan: I don’t mind trying, but I though that was your job.
Bob: A popular misconception.
(BOB AND THE FAN JUST LOOK AT ONE ANOTHER IN SILENCE UNTIL BOB FINALLY SPEAKS.)
Bob: You’re not from the press?
Fan: Not from anywhere.
Bob: That’s an interesting place.
Fan: You should know.
Bob: I do know.
Fan: Tell me about it.
Bob: I might sometime.
Fan: And Donovan?
Bob: Mr. Mellow Yellow.
Fan: The same.
(BOB PAUSES AND THINKS FOR A MOMENT.)
Bob: He irritated me at the time.
Fan: His success, or his modesty?
Bob: It was something.
(THE FAN CHUCKLES.)
Fan: He wasn’t for you. You always went with the best.
Bob: How do you mean?
Fan: The best voice, Joan Baez. The best guitarist, Paul Butterfield. The best band, The Band. The most poignant folk story, Woody Guthrie.
You always touched the top!
(BOB TAKES A STEP AND IS READY TO MOVE PAST.)
Bob: That’s how you see it.
Fan: An unerring sense of the musical gods and the ability to suck them dry.
(BOB STOPS AND POINTS A FINGER AT THE FAN AS HE SNAPS IN ANGER.)
Bob: You’ve got a problem.
(THE FAN SOFTENS HIS/HER VOICE IN A MORE CONCILIATORY TONE.)
Fan: Did I say there was a problem?
Bob: That’s how it sounds to me.
(THE FAN PATS BOB ON THE SHOULDER.)
Fan: Performing for the masses at the Martin Luther King rally, a duet album with Johnny Cash to capture country, and then headliner with The Travelling Wilburys, a constellation of stars with a jewel in the middle.
Bob: Things happen.
Fan: Not to other people.
(BOB LOOKS DOWN AT HIS FEET.)
Bob: It’s just where I was standing.
Fan: That’s right, Bob.
(BOB MOTIONS WITH HIS HAND FOR THE FAN TO PAUSE.)
Bob: Is this a lecture? Your own little worldview out on show?
Fan: Might be. Thought I’d see what you thought.
Bob: This is not how I see it!
Fan: It doesn’t actually matter how you see it, Bob.
(THE FAN SMILES.)
It never did.
Bob: You need your own audience.
Fan: I’ve got one?
(BOB PUTS HIS HEAD BACK AND LAUGHS AT THIS.)
Bob: I’m just a performer who’s lived through some times.
Fan: With that special ability to touch the zenith and then let go, oh so gently.
(BOB ANSWERS WITH A SUSPICIOUS TONE.)
Bob: You do sound like a journalist.
Fan: What if I was just a lover of music?
Bob: What if you were?
Fan: Just offering some feedback.
Bob: I didn’t ask.
Fan: It’s bigger than that, Bob.
Bob: Is it?
(THE FAN BRUSHES BACK HIS/HER HAIR AND SOFTLY SIGHS.)
Fan: You couldn’t just let folk fade quietly. You had to piss all over the ones that loved you best!
(BOB REDDENS WITH ANGER.)
Bob: They had it coming!
Fan: Did they?
Bob: Bogged down, full of crap, afraid of change.
Fan: What about you, Bob?
Bob: What about me?
Fan: What scares you?
(BOB IS ABOUT TO SPEAK OFF THE TOP OF HIS HEAD, BUT THEN PAUSES FOR A MOMENT TO CONSIDER.)
Bob: Too many questions expecting to be answered.
Too much pondering on the past.
Way too much celebrity blocking out the music.
(THE FAN IS SURPRISED.)
Fan: Wait on, wait on. It has worked out.
Bob: Has it?
(THE FAN CHUCKLES.)
Fan: You’re the living legend. The ghost that sings.
Bob: I just picked up my cards.
Fan: You knew how to play them.
Bob: No, I got lucky.
Fan: What about all that hard work.
(BOB TALKS WITH PAIN IN HIS VOICE.)
Bob: There are hard working wrecks all over the road.
Fan: Back in the day they used to say . . .
Bob: Enlighten me brother/sister. What did they say . . .?
Fan: You had the spirit shining out of you.
(BOB PAUSES TO CONSIDER THIS AND THEN RESPONDS SOFTLY.)
Bob: Where is it now?
Fan: Only you know.
What’s the secret, Bob?
Bob: That’s easy, friend.
(BOB HUSHES HIS VOICE CONSPIRATORIALLY AND LEANS FORWARD.)
Bob: The secret is . . .
There is no secret!
(BOB AND THE FAN BOTH LAUGH.)
I have to change.
(BOB HOLDS OUT HIS HANDS.)
That’s your issue.
Fan: So it is.
You playing tonight?
Bob: I play every night.
Fan: Is that how you relax?
Bob: I don’t relax.
(BOB SMILES AND TURNS TO LEAVE.)
I have to go
(THE FAN HOLDS UP A HAND FOR BOB TO PAUSE.)
Fan: One more thing.
Bob: Just one?
Fan: Where are the crossroads?
Bob: They’re all over the place.
(BOB SPEAKS QUICKLY AND SHIVERS.)
But don’t go there at midnight!
Fan: Isn’t that the time?
Bob: No, it’s too cold.
Fan: Do we all reach our own crossroads, Bob?
Do you still see them out of the crack of the window in the black limousine?
Bob: I don’t answer difficult questions, I just pose them.
Fan: It must be lonely.
Bob: It is.
(THE FAN REACHES OUT AND TAKES BOB’S HAND.)
Fan: It just doesn’t quite add up.
Bob: It never does.
(THE FAN SPEAKS SOFTLY.)
Fan: I guess this is off the record.
Bob: You take it and use it any way you can.
Fan: Just like you did, Bob.
Bob: Just like I did?
Fan: It’s a hard way.
But it’s the only way.
Fan: Good luck tonight
Bob: I thank you.
Fan: But you don’t need it.
Bob: I don’t?
Fan: No, you had a lot of things going, good fortune included, mostly talent and daring, but definitely nothing like that.
Bob: You might be right.
Fan: I might be.
Bob: Fare thee well.
Fan: You always had the words, old new and reinvented.
Bob: I have to go.
(FAN HOLDS BOB’S ELBOW FOR A MOMENT.)
Fan: Can you explain it, Bob?
Bob: Explain it?
(THERE IS A LONG PAUSE WHILE BOB AND THE FAN LOOK AT ONE ANOTHER.)
Fan: You know what I mean.
Bob: Only in a song!
(BOB WALKS AWAY AND THEN LIGHTS GO DOWN.)
Bruce Shearer is a Melbourne writer of poems, plays and short -stories.