The Ballerina and the Clown
ZINNIA (early twenties)- a prideful, sheltered ballerina for the king
AMMADON (late twenties)- a well-meaningful clown from a traveling circus
CROWD- townspeople comprised of different classes between children and adults
The public town center in a kingdom ruled by a king.
(The public town center is busy with shoppers and merchants. Voices pile over other voices as merchants try and sell their products and shoppers try and haggle for lower prices. In the middle is a running water fountain. ZINNIA sits on that fountain, gloomy. AMMADON is happily performing for a mix match crowd.)
ZINNIA: (brooding) "How can I, Zinnia, the king's ballerina, be outshined? And by someone much younger? Sure, that travelling magician's tricks were marvelous. (stands up) (strikes a pose) But Vadim lacked the proper grace and poise any performer for the king should bring. Of all the nerve, he even suggested I be his assistant. An assistant? Ha! I'm a ballerina!" (begins several basic dance steps) "A dancer! My purpose is to be seen and admired by the audience! To bring a choreographed story to life!" (continues dancing) "My parents have given all they could to let me study! Poor Papa had to work in the fields in the blistering sun while Mama washed and washed piles upon piles of grimy clothing! All so I could attend the best ballet school and become the best ballerina in all the kingdom!"
AMMADON: (stops his performance and watches ZINNIA)
CROWD: (begins to notice ZINNIA)
ZINNIA: (still dancing) "My reward came when I was chosen to perform for the king. He enjoyed my work, and I was permitted to stay in the palace! I would spend nights performing for him and his guests at the grandest of balls. Those jamborees lasted well into the night."
CROWD: (gasping in awe)
ZINNIA: (leaps) "How can I be forgotten so when a travelling magician came by? How could I be replaced?" (lands)
ZINNIA: (realizes she is being watched) (smiles and bows gracefully)
ZINNIA: "And that is how to entertain a crowd!" (boastfully but still sulking) "To think someone like Vadim offered me a position as his assistant! What a joke!"
AMMADON: (O.S.) "Did someone say joke?"
ZINNIA: (notices AMMADON) "You're that clown performing earlier."
AMMADON: (exhibits a handstand) "Indeed, I am. I am one who wears the baggy clothing and stumble over my own two feet." (turns right side up) "So you can imagine my own dismay in seeing someone frowning."
ZINNIA: (turns head) (adamantly) "People are free to frown, smile, or pout. No one should be limited to a single expression."
AMMADON: (enduring the mulishness) "You are quite the intellectual. I can see by your clean hands and pristine outfit that you don't work in the kitchen nor the fields."
ZINNIA: (indignant) "I should say absolutely not. I am Zinnia, the king's ballerina."
(The title catches AMMADON'S attention.)
AMMADON: "Really? The king? What a prestigious honor!"
ZINNIA: "One not fulfilled easily. I am the best ballerina in the entire kingdom."
AMMADON: "Bravo! Surely someone as talented as you has had the leads in the tragic Giselle, the comedic Copppélia, or the fantastic Cinderella."
ZINNIA: (looks at him suspiciously) "Fascinating how an oaf is aware of so many elegant and artistic stories."
AMMADON: (confidently) "I have seen and enjoyed my own fair share of dances travelling the world."
AMMADON: "Yes, as part of a circus. I am Ammadon, the clown. I have also witnessed many other entertainers from kingdom to kingdom, village to village."
ZINNIA: "Have you now? Would that include magic?"
AMMADON: "Of course—close-up, bizarre, coin, escapology… Any particular interest?"
ZINNIA: (disgruntle) "There's someone new in the kingdom. A magician. Seeing an uncouth clown here in the town square, I wasn't sure if he was a part of your troupe."
AMMADON: (places fingers on chin) "Illusionists have been with our act. Mind readers have come and gone. Some crowds have been dispelled and considered Gospel magic to be contradictory since it combines magic with a Christian message. But Vadim isn't part of the ensemble."
ZINNIA: (genuinely surprised) "How did you know his name? I didn't mention it."
AMMADON: "As you revealed, he's the new magician in town. The townsfolk have talked about him. He put on quite the performance. The king has requested he stick around."
ZINNIA: (folds hands over chest) (sarcastically) "How wonderful!"
AMMADON: (studies her body language) "Am I to assume that this means you've been replaced? As the king's entertainer?"
ZINNIA: (unravels hands) "No! Never! Even if Vadim is around, I can still hold on to my title."
AMMADON: "Your title? How would a ballerina come into play if a magician is the new favorite? The king has had the habit of replacing his favorites year after year, so goes the story."
ZINNIA: "So says you. For you information, he and I have shared the stage. Now I've been offered a position as Vadim's assistance. It's not uncommon for entertainment to be done with a partner."
AMMADON: "Then how was pairing up with him? Was the audience enthralled by the art of illusion?"
ZINNIA: "Of course they were. Those tricks were magnificent."
AMMADON: "Then perhaps the applause was all worth it."
ZINNIA: (hesitant) "Sure, it was."
AMMADON: "Why the delayed response?"
ZINNIA: (thinks back to the performance) "They were pleased with the acts, not the person."
AMMADON: (sympathetically) "Entertainers are the entertainment. There's the curse of being looked through. And there's the curse of becoming stifled."
ZINNIA: (lowers her head) "I thought I had outhit all my competition when I was chosen to be a performer for the king. Some may call me pigheaded. But it's the drive—the passion—that I had in order to be where I am today. But if I cannot be remembered by the king or his court, what will become of me?"
(ZINNIA and AMMADON stand in silence)
AMMADON: (looks at ZINNIA) "What becomes of you is up to you. And now it appears like you have your options boiled down to two choices: Stay and be Vidam's beautiful assistant, or take your act elsewhere and grow your talents."
ZINNIA: (angrily)"Why should I leave? Why should I improve anything about myself when I've been entertaining the king for a year?! That is the highest honor any entertainer could hope to achieve!" (glares at AMMADON) "If you ask me, it's you who doesn't know how to develop oneself! All you do is prance until you fall, make the same facial expressions, and make viewers uncomfortable! Your performance can never be on the same level as mine!"
AMMADON: (annoyed) "In what manner? My act is suitable for everyone."
ZINNIA: "Exactly! Everyone!" (places finger on his chest) "What do you know about performing for the king? You're just a clown!"
(Another moment of silence goes between ZINNIA and AMMADON)
AMMADON: (ominously) "It is not in a performer's act that should be compared to another. As much work as you placed in towards your art, there are those who praise your act because they believe from those around them that it is refined. Others, however, look down upon clowning because the common man enjoys it. There is nothing wrong with what a king or a common man appreciates when all performances are art."
ZINNIA: (realizes her disgrace) "I had no intention of insulting any form of art. Pardon my harsh words, but I don't dance for a hobby. Ballet is more than art. It is more than mere steps accompanied by music and costumes. It is a way of life. With my situation, you can only imagine—"
AMMADON: "I don't have to imagine." (removes his hat) "Contrary to what you think, I understand this predicament more than you know… I was the king's fool."
ZINNIA: (stares at him in shock)
AMMADON: "I worked for the king a year ago. I was his court jester. I was the one who delighted him when he was weary, and I was the one nominated to give him any bad news. Such was the territory that came with the occupation. And I loved every moment of it."
ZINNIA: (remains quiet)
AMMADON: "You know the king treats his entertainers with the best accommodations. He himself can only enjoy the same jokes, the same routine for so long. He, himself, has a kingdom to rule with others to impress. His grand balls attended by the finest of people attest to that. The world changed, and so do people's tastes. I merely left when he found someone else."
ZINNIA: "Leave? But why not fight for your position?"
AMMADON: "I discovered a new stage." (points to the commoners)
ZINNIA: "The commoners?"
AMMADON: "Commoners, royals… Everyone deserves entertainment." (places back on hat) "And that's the job we fulfill. But you know it's more than that. You know it's a calling, a need to satisfy, a passion you cannot live without."
ZINNIA: "The cheers, the applause, the appreciation of my talent."
AMMADON: "Professional stages are not for those who are wanting, but for those who have a desire."
ZINNIA: (ponders on his words)
AMMADON: "That's why I, a clown, have been talking with you, a ballerina. I've been in the same position as you. I was merely trying to help."
ZINNIA: (sighs)"You are right. I was taking my anger out on you. I worked hard to get where I am today. To say that I need to develop my skills converted to I'm not the best. I cannot imagine life without a stage."
AMMADON: (softly smiles) "I may have something of interest." (shows a piece of paper)
ZINNIA: "What is it?"
AMMADON: "A ticket."
ZINNIA: "For what?"
AMMADON: "The show for tonight." (hands her the ticket)
ZINNIA: (accepts the ticket) "Show?"
AMMADON: (nods) "If you like what you see, perhaps you may consider travelling with me and my troupe."
ZINNIA: "Join the circus?!"
AMMADON: "The circus offers one of the biggest stages, drawing the biggest of crowds. The ring master is always looking for new talent."
ZINNIA: "But you belong there. Not me, a graceful ballerina."
AMMADON: "As I said, I was the court jester in this kingdom. I was able to learn about the different dances while at the palace. Not all ballets end in the tragic loss of life or love. Some performances are Thalia, the mask of Comedy. I believe if you bring smiles, then you should be welcomed."
ZINNIA: (ponders AMMADON's advice)
AMMADON: "It may also be easier if you have a partner to help you learn your new steps."
ZANNIA: (softly smiles)
AMMADON: "And now I must be heading out. The show will be starting, and I must prepare." (exits)
ZANNIA: (watches him leave) (sits on fountain) "I always thought performing for the king was the highest honor any performer could achieve. In any other tale, that is where the story ends—with the hard working ballerina achieving her dream to perform on the grandest of stages. What comes after that? She never expected more competition to come through. It's not like I could poison Vadim, either." (looks at ticket) "Papa and Mama gave what I could. They didn't have much for entertainment. I was the one who brought smiles to them. Would joining the circus be an insult to them? I would still be performing. It would only be on a new stage with a new crowd every night. Almost like the king and his socials. Hm. I could sit all day and wonder, or maybe I need a sign."
AMMADON: (returns to the fountain) "Whoops! I was headed in the wrong direction!"
ZANNIA: (laughs) (takes his hand) "We'll take these steps to the new stage together."
ZANNIA and AMMADON: (exit together)