Fiction, Issue 1

Antinous: A Procession-Play

Sketches by Marina Resende

To be performed in transit through a series of convenient places in the city, which must each work well as arena or stage, towards a building of choice. 

This procession-play results from a collage between two homonymous texts, which draw from the story of the Roman emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE) and his lover Antinous. “Antinous (fragment) – Episodio quasi dramatico,” by Sergio Buarque de Hollanda, published in the modernist magazine Klaxon, n. 4 (São Paulo, 1922), translated, was the basis for the procession events. The source for the intimist lines of Emperor Hadrian was an early version of the poem “Antinous,” written by Fernando Pessoa, in English, in 1915 and published in 1918 (Lisbon). A Carnival parade, a religious procession, a protest parade, and a funeral procession: all are evoked by the “procession-play.” 

The text has been edited with the intention to perform it in Chicago, in spring/summer 2020, and with advice from Gautama Mehta and Maya Nguen. 

The text was updated in June 2019, reflecting developing imaginations for the production of the performance. A few, but not all speculative guidelines have been sacrificed when favouring performance over literature. Concepts for Wearables and Objects have been incorporated, as well as directives for a safer production on the streets. A new edit, finalised in March 2020, resolved alternatives suggested throughout the text. 

The place for Antinous is Chicago: city built by man, where everything that surrounds you is an affirmation of the human fantasy of domination over land and nature. The ideal site is the Jane Byrne Interchange: a monument to the 20th century city.

The Interchange is near where the “heart of Chicago” would have been in Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago. The Civic Center was meant to be a colossal structure “at the center of a system of arteries of circulation and of the surrounding country.” The street crossing employed a Haussmannian vista, where large avenues met at the hill-sized, neoclassical embodiment of Burnham’s desire for the White City.

Today, the Interchange is its own monument to the city of automobiles and agile logistics; concrete highways as arteries defiantly rising in the air; immensely outsizing the human body.

The area is currently a massive construction site: frames for elevated highways resemble the ruins of ancient arches; enormous cranes rest by hills formed by debris and dug-up dirt. Even as a construction site, the walkable paths under the roads and wide medians between highways would be a perfect location for the engagement of the pieces.

Alternative locations are monumental buildings associated with political or economic power, out of which the Thompson Center is preferred. The failures surrounding the Thompson Center make it particularly compatible with the last moment of the parade.

CHARACTERS 

EMPEROR HADRIAN, the despotic and pining, lustful and wistful autocrat who just lost his lover. 

dressed in an English suit (variation of the Modular Wearable), a monocle and a cigar during the procession. May wear a symbol of power from the Roman Empire. 

ANTINOUS, Emperor Hadrian’s recently deceased boy-lover, clad as the Sun. 

CROWD, as large as the ensemble allows, plus the size of the audience 

SLAVES, as many as needed to form the two longest possible lines stretching from the doorstep of the BUILDING (Place 3) to the end of this space, and to carry the Objects with ANTINOUS and EMPEROR HADRIAN. 

the SLAVES are dressed in the most basic form of the Modular Wearable. The SLAVES may carry other signs of their status. The SLAVES must always walk with their backs bent like pocket knives.

OFFICERS, military officers dressed in white. 

THE ORATOR, dressed in a vaguely sacerdotal Wearable. 

THE OTHER ORATOR, dressed in an even more exuberant variation. 

the ORATORS are distinguished by a large headpiece that makes them taller than anyone in the CROWD. 

IMPOSING FIGURES, consisting of 

MINISTERS, 

STATESMEN, 

CONGRESSMEN, 

FOREIGN AMBASSADORS, 

OFFICERS FROM THE FRENCH MILITARY MISSION 

all dressed in variations of the Wearable that identify their profession and social status. 

THE EMPEROR’S RETINUE, consisting of 

TIRESIAS THE SORCERER, in caricature Wearable, 

SANSÓN CARRASCO, in caricature Wearable, 

GUILDENSTERN AND ROSENCRANTZ, in caricature Wearable, and performing in comical timing like Stoppard’s GUIL and ROS, 

THE APPELLATE JUDGE ATAULPHO DE PAIVA, in caricature Wearable, and wearing a name tag. The Judge’s character may be altered according to the site of performance. 

The Emperor’s retinue serves as a chorus to the Emperor’s words. Throughout the performance, they follow HADRIAN closely and broadcast selections of his lines to the CROWD. The RETINUE, composed of five characters but with GUILDENSTERN AND ROSENCRANTZ always together, comprises four voices that speak each in one cardinal direction. 

Two MEN IN BLACK, wearing black suit Wearables and black sunglasses.

PROCESSION OBJECTS 

The Sun-float of Antinous (a litter) 

The chair-float of HADRIAN 

The car-floats of the IMPOSING FIGURES, pushed by SLAVES. 

The banners, plaques and flags carried during the procession by the CROWD, some SLAVES, and by the IMPOSING FIGURES (in which case they help to distinguish their status). Those may be all kinds of parade, carnival or procession objects. They include poles and flags, and banners or cut-outs representing vehicles. 

PLACES (PROCESSION ROUTE) 

Place 1 (a Square)—assembling point for performers and audience 

Place 2 (flexible)—opportunity for further speeches from Hadrian 

Place 3 (a Building or Monument)—a built structure in the city that materialises or symbolises power and authority. A range of buildings can play this role; essential is that the structure itself and its local cultural and historical associations lend themselves to the metaphor of Hadrian’s adoration of Antinous and the emperor’s exercise of power through monumental public art and architecture. 

Every time that the procession stops, CROWD, SLAVES and other performers ensure a clearing for the action to unfold: a stage or arena in the public space. To move as a procession, they form into columns again. 

PROVISIONS (PRELIMINARY) 

People in reflective vests will flank the performance at all times, signalling where necessary for vehicles to stop. 

A representative from the National Lawyers Guild will be in attendance to deal with the police.

THE PLAY

Place 1 (a Square) 

EMPEROR HADRIAN, ANTINOUS, CROWD (with musical instruments; includes: DRUMMERS and the AUDIENCE), SLAVES, OFFICERS, ORATORS, IMPOSING FIGURES assemble in costume. 

Everybody except for the characters in the following play makes a circle around a small space where the action will take place. OFFICERS cordon the circle. 

Four SLAVES carry ANTINOUS, lying on a float decorated as the Sun. They deposit the float on the ground. 

HADRIAN enters. He sits prostrated by the float, weeping. He raises his head, looking at the body intently, then raises his hand to reach it. 

HADRIAN (softly): 

Beautiful was my love, yet melancholy.
He had that art, of love’s arts most unholy,
Of being lithely sad among lust’s rages.
Now the Nile gave him up, the eternal Nile.
Under his wet locks Death’s blue paleness wages
Now war upon our pity with sad smile.

RETINUE repeats (lamenting. As with every line of the RETINUE, they speak to all four directions): 

Now the Nile gave him up! The eternal Nile! 

Drums begin to ruffle, increasing in volume and speed, as HADRIAN runs his fingers over the body. The circle of CROWD, SLAVES etc. explodes in dance and music, until they suddenly stop. 

HADRIAN halts immediately and looks around, his hand still on ANTINOUS’s chest. He looks at the body, recognising its lifelessness. 

HADRIAN stands up in a storm, violently separating from ANTINOUS and turning to the CROWD in anger. The people in the circle kneel down in fright, looking up to HADRIAN at the centre of the clearing. 

After a moment of this demonstration, upon which HADRIAN’s rage dissipates, he turns to ANTINOUS and begins to weep, sinking to the ground. 

The four SLAVES lift the float with the body again, higher than everybody else’s heads. 

HADRIAN stands up and looks up to the float with ANTINOUS, then to the CROWD. 

HADRIAN (nearly manic): 

Thy death has given me a newer lust—
A flesh-lust raging for eternity.
On my imperial will I put my trust
That the high gods, that made me emperor be,
Will not annul from a more real life
My wish that thou should’st live for e’er and stand
A fleshly presence on their better land,
More beautiful and as beautiful, for there
No things impossible our wishes mar
Nor pain our hearts with change and time and strife.

RETINUE (to the CROWD, walking into the clearing from four different points in the CIRCLE): 

He should live forever—and stand! A fleshly presence on their better land. 

DRUMMERS, SLAVES and OFFICERS parade in front and behind HADRIAN. While some SLAVES still cross and OFFICERS still march, four SLAVES join in with a sedan-chair where HADRIAN climbs. All music stops. The OFFICERS finish marching slightly into HADRIAN’s line. OFFICERS line up in form on the edges of the clearing, flanking it on either side. The RETINUE finds a place around HADRIAN fitting to their position. 

HADRIAN (determined; from the chair, looking at ANTINOUS): 

I shall build thee a statue that will be
To the continued future evidence
Of my love and thy beauty and the sense
That beauty giveth of infinity,
Though death with subtle uncovering hands remove
The apparel of life and empire from our love,
Yet its nude statue, that thou dost inspirit,
All future times, whether they will’t or not,
Shall, like a gift a forcing god hath brought,
Inevitably inherit.

RETINUE (dramatic): 

I shall build thee a statue! [Pause] That all future times—whether they want it or not—shall, like a gift a forcing god has brought, inevitably inherit. 

FIRST ORATOR moves into the circle, just under HADRIAN’s chair. He is distinguishably dressed in sacerdotal attire. A ruffle of drums or cornet call may introduce every new character, as a way to bring attention to their movement on the urban stage. 

FIRST ORATOR (projecting): 

…The Sage… the Builder. The builder Emperor par excellence. He who knew how to put nature under his command and his laws. Haussmann, Burnham, the Roman Passos! The Sage, the Builder… 

THE CROWD (making noises; beating drums): 

Very well. Bravo. Agreed. Very much agree–… 

FIRST ORATOR (projecting): 

The builder, the rebuilder, the warrior, the winner, the… 

HADRIAN (overlapping with FIRST ORATOR, causing him and all others immediately to go quiet): 

The picture of our love will bridge the ages.
It will loom white out of the past and be
Eternal, like a Roman victory,
In every heart the future will give rages
Of not being our love’s contemporary.

RETINUE (euphoric) 

It will loom white out of the past! And be eternal! 

SECOND ORATOR (emerging out of the CROWD, even more exuberantly dressed than FIRST ORATOR): 

Yes, sirs, the architect Emperor. The artist Emperor. Behold this monster city with its buildings, its skyscrapers, with its asphalted streets, with its advertisements, with its cinemas, its posters… Behold the burbling civilisation that fills our streets, our squares, our boulevards, our… Behold all that surrounds us. All of it, all the work of a single man. Of a single brain. 

Drums ruffle again, signalling for the SLAVES and other characters to form lines. The procession starts. Aside from the following performative order, this is identical to a parade in the city and shall deal with the timing, noises, music and diversions that any parade experiences and causes. The SLAVES line up and go ahead of everybody else, at the frontmost go the four who carry the Sun-float with ANTINOUS. These SLAVES arrive first to the BUILDING. 

The CROWD, OFFICERS, DRUMMERS, depart at the end of the line or lines of SLAVES. Meanwhile the RETINUE and the IMPOSING FIGURES get on some car-floats pushed by SLAVES, and join the float of HADRIAN. 

At Place 2, a convenient spot, HADRIAN motions to the SLAVES who carry his chair, and others around them. The procession slowly stops as HADRIAN speaks from his float. The front of the procession, where ANTINOUS lies on the Sun-float suspended by SLAVES, is further ahead in the trajectory towards the BUILDING when they stop. Again, the OFFICERS line to guard the clearing. 

HADRIAN (ambitious, looking in the distance towards the front of the procession): 

Ay, this thy statue shall I build, and set
Upon the pinnacle of being thine, that Time
By its subtle dim crime
Will fear to eat it from life, or to fret
With war’s or envy’s rage from bulk and stone.
Fate cannot be that!

RETINUE (dramatic): 

I shall build thy statute! Time will fear to eat it from life. 

Drums ruffle, OFFICERS march on the ground without moving. The IMPOSING FIGURES and the CROWD cheer. 

HADRIAN (gesturing towards the rows of SLAVES stretching, from his view, until the BUILDING): 

Even in stone, our love shall stand so great
In thy statue of us, like a god’s fate,
Our love’s incarnate and discarnate essence,
That, like a trumpet reaching over seas
And going from continent to continent,
Our love shall speak its joy and woe, death-blent,
Over infinities and eternities!

RETINUE (dramatic, romantic. Speaking towards the CROWD): 

Even in stone, our love shall stand so great! [Pause] Our love shall speak its joy and woe—death- blent!—over infinities and eternities! 

There is dancing from the CROWD/SLAVES, the DRUMMERS, and the OFFICERS. 

FIRST ORATOR (excited; coming from the CROWD): 

…The Sage… the Builder. The builder Emperor par excellence. He who knew how to put nature under his command and his laws. Haussmann, Burnham, the Roman Passos! The Sage, the Builder… 

THE CROWD (making noises; beating drums): 

Very well. Bravo. Agreed. Very much agree–… 

THE FIRST ORATOR (excited) 

The builder, the rebuilder, the warrior, the winner! 

Ruffle of drums. The procession continues towards the BUILDING (Place 3). The SLAVES go ahead, the Sun-float of ANTINOUS at the front of the parade. HADRIAN and behind him his RETINUE are at the end of the procession. IMPOSING FIGURES (in car-floats or not) are mixed in the CROWD ahead of the imperial group. 

The SLAVES, bent like pocket knives, form two rows that stretch from the main door of the BUILDING or the pedestal of the MONUMENT all the way to Infinity, that is, to the farthest possible in their number and in this space as socially understood. The SLAVES carrying the Sun-float with ANTINOUS lay it down at the foot of the BUILDING, and at the centre between the rows of SLAVES. Between them parades the CROWD, carrying banners, plaques etc. in all shapes of automobiles. As it arrives, the CROWD settles around the rows of SLAVES to watch the scene. Two MEN IN BLACK are talking near the BUILDING and away from the CROWD. 7 

HADRIAN, closely followed by the other floats, arrives at the far end of the rows. He stops there with the RETINUE and preceded by the IMPOSING FIGURES. 

In order to draw attention to the MEN IN BLACK, who have been standing since at least the arrival of the SLAVES, the SLAVES, DRUMMERS, IMPOSING FIGURES turn towards the off-centre location where the MEN IN BLACK stand. There may also be other cues to their scene: the sound of a clock ticking, or a choreographic movement drawing attention to their act.

THE 1ST MAN IN BLACK (clearing his throat): 

I have been waiting for the Emperor since 10 o’clock. I’ll be received at four in special hearing… 

THE 2ND MAN IN BLACK (looking towards ANTINOUS dressed as Sun/ towards the BUILDING) 

It must be only a few minutes until 12 hours. The sun is marking midday. The Emperor is extremely punctual. He must be arriving at this moment. 

DRUMMERS ruffle drums. If there are cornets or other horns for the ORATORS, those also sound. Everybody (CROWD, SLAVES, IMPOSING FIGURES, RETINUE) turns towards HADRIAN. At the end of the rows, the OFFICERS force again a small clearing for HADRIAN with his RETINUE. 

HADRIAN (dreamy, looking towards BUILDING) 

My love for thee is part of what thou wert
And shall be part of what thy statue will be.
Our double presence unified in thee
Shall make to beat many a future heart.
Ay, were’t a statue to be broken and missed,
Yet its stone-perfect memory
Would, still more perfect, on Time’s shoulders borne,
Overlook the great Morn
From an eternal East.
Thy statue is of thyself and of me.
Our dual presence has its unity
In that perfection of body, which my love,
In loving it, did out of mortal life
Raise into godness, set above the strife
Of times and changing passions far above.

RETINUE (repeating after each stanza): 

Our double presence, unified in thee! Stone-perfect memory. Raise into goodness, set above the strife of times!

The SLAVES carrying the Sun-float raise it for a moment, and all other SLAVES kneel in veneration. Thus, attention is diverted once more to that end of the row. Near ANTINOUS/the BUILDING, the MEN IN BLACK still stand. They step further into the scene. 

THE 1ST MAN IN BLACK (pointing to ANTINOUS/ the BUILDING): 

The sun looks today like a big English lady with tortoise shell spectacles, very blonde, very red… 

THE 2ND MAN IN BLACK (examining ANTINOUS/ the BUILDING): 

Looks more like a guesthouse matron looking through her monocle… 

The 2ND MAN IN BLACK is surprised as the drums ruffle again., then HADRIAN on the car-float and others march between the rows towards the BUILDING. The OFFICERS march in first. Then the IMPOSING FIGURES (MINISTERS, STATESMEN, CONGRESSMEN, FOREIGN AMBASSADORS, OFFICERS FROM THE FRENCH MILITARY MISSION) follow, one by one, waving at the CROWD by the rows and fitted with caricatures of power. They settle at the other end of the rows. Then comes HADRIAN, standing up on his car-float and looking ahead in imperial stature. 

Finally, one by one, TIRESIAS THE SORCERER, SANSONE CARRASCO, GUILDENSTERN AND ROSENCRANTZ (together), and the APPELLATE JUDGE ATAULPHO DE PAIVA follow down the rows. The IMPOSING FIGURES and the RETINUE gather behind and beside HADRIAN. OFFICERS form again their protective ring in front of the SLAVES. CROWD, SLAVES, etc curve a denser group around HADRIAN and ANTINOUS and the BUILDING. 

HADRIAN (enraptured; upon seeing ANTINOUS/the BUILDING): 

My love for thee is part of what thou wert
And shall be part of what thy statue will be.
Our double presence unified in thee
Shall make to beat many a future heart.
Ay, were’t a statue to be broken and missed,
Yet its stone-perfect memory
Would, still more perfect, on Time’s shoulders borne,
Overlook the great Morn
From an eternal East.
Thy statue is of thyself and of me.
Our dual presence has its unity
In that perfection of body, which my love,
In loving it, did out of mortal life
Raise into godness, set above the strife
Of times and changing passions far above.

RETINUE (solemn, dramatic): 

Thou art already a god. No wish—but a sight [pointing to ANTINOUS/the BUILDING]. A vision of the real things beyond! Our life-imprisoned life, our sense-bound sense. [With feeling. Looking earnestly into the CROWD in each direction

HADRIAN (first stanza towards CROWD, second stanza towards the BUILDING, with emotion): 

My heart is singing like a morning bird.
A great hope from the gods comes down to me
And bids my heart to subtler sense be stirred
And think not that strange evil of thee
That to think thee mortal would be.
My love, my love! My god-love! Let me kiss
On thy cold lips thy hot lips now immortal,
Greeting thee at Death’s portal’s happiness,
For to the gods Death’s portal is Life’s portal.

From here on, HADRIAN addresses only ANTINOUS/the BUILDING, becoming gradually more detached from his subjects. Instead of stirring them to excitement, he becomes introspective and prophetic. The ORATORS’ declarations continue the myth of his political presence, but also become more didactic. This way, the energy of the play concentrates around the figure of ANTINOUS and wears away in the perplexment of HADRIAN’s obsession. 

RETINUE (incoherent, enraptured; repeating after each stanza): 

My heart! A great hope! God-love! Let me kiss on thy lips now immortal. 

The RETINUE kneels towards ANTINOUS/ the BUILDING. 

The four SLAVES lower or release the car-float and HADRIAN gets out. He is wearing a monocle and dressed in the latest fashion from London; he is chewing on an unlit cigar. 

HADRIAN walks up to the BUILDING and the float with ANTINOUS. HADRIAN gets off his float, and a few SLAVES from the lines crouch and form a pyramid so that HADRIAN can step on their backs and get closer to ANTINOUS (the Sun) and higher than everybody else. 

Meanwhile, the CROWD cheers wildly, DRUMMERS play, and the MEN IN BLACK SUITS observe. 

HADRIAN (atop the pyramid of SLAVES, addressing ANTINOUS/the BUILDING): 

Thus is the memory of thee a god
Already, already a statue made of me–
Of that part of me that, like a great sea,
Girds in me a great red empire more broad
Than all the lands and peoples that are in
My power’s reach. Thus art thou myself made
In that great stretch Olympic that betrays
The true-wholed gods present in river and glade
And hours eternal in its different days.

RETINUE (admiring, towards the CROWD): 

Already a statue made of me! In a great red empire more broad than all lands and peoples in my powers reach. 

HADRIAN (causing everyone to stop talking; addressing ANTINOUS/BUILDING): 

O love, my love! Awake with my strong will
Of loving to Olympus and be thou there,
The latest god, whose honey-coloured hair
Takes divine eyes! As thou wert on earth, still
In heaven bodifully be and roam,
A prisoner of that happiness of home,
With elder gods, while I on earth do make
A statue for thy deathlessness’ seen sake.

HADRIAN turns around and looks to RETINUE, CROWD, everyone below. 

HADRIAN (absorbed, declaring. He speaks the first line with the conviction of bravado, then he turns introspective): 

That deathless statue of thee I shall build
Will be no stone thing, but my great regret
By which our love’s eternity is willed.
My sorrow shall make thee its god, and set
Thy naked presence on the parapet
That looks over the seas of future times.
Some shall say all our love was vice and crimes.
Others against our names, as stones, shall whet
The knife of their glad hate of beauty, and make
Our name a pillory, a scaffold and a stake
Whereon to burn our brothers yet unborn.
Yet shall our presence, like eternal morn,
Ever return at Beauty’s hour, and shine
Out of the East of Love, and be the shrine
Of future gods that nothing human scorn.

The SECOND ORATOR comes forward, in front of the pyramid to address the CROWD. For a moment, he is the centre of attention and his speech is heard by all. 

THE SECOND ORATOR (didactic, pointing to the BUILDING): 

Yes, sirs, the architect Emperor. The artist Emperor. Behold this monster city with its buildings, its skyscrapers, with its asphalted streets, with its advertisements, with its cinemas, its posters… Behold this palace… [Points to the BUILDING or MONUMENT, then turns towards the CROWD]. Behold the burbling civilisation that fills our streets, our squares, our boulevards, our… Behold all that surrounds us. All of it, all the work of a single man. Of a single brain. 

Drums. There is a moment of excitement amongst OFFICERS, IMPOSING FIGURES, until everybody suddenly stops. 

HADRIAN (prophetic, disconnected from the emotion of the ORATORS and the CROWD): 

The end of days, when Jove is born again,
And Ganymede again pour at his feast,
Shall see our soul from death released
And recreated unto love, joy, pain,
Life—all the beauty and the vice and lust.
All the diviner side of flesh, flesh-staged.
And, if our very memory wore to dust,
By the god’s race of the end of ages must
Our dual presence once again be raised.

HADRIAN descends and the pyramid of SLAVES dissolves. The SLAVES set down the float with ANTINOUS, if possible atop the steps at the entrance to the BUILDING, or on the pedestal of the MONUMENT. The CROWD disperses in dances while HADRIAN curls beside and if possible below the level of the float with ANTINOUS. HADRIAN falls asleep. The ORATORS take the body of ANTINOUS away.

END.