The fear is that we won’t go gently or abruptly into that good night. We will hang on in the endurance trials of old age, forever rehearsing in the early morning twilight, fortified by a few hours of faulty sleep, the plot or why there is no plot, the explanations, the why, the lists, the old grievances never to be settled now, the stories never told or passed on, the interruptions, the terrifying proportions, everything larger than it is known to be, distorted in the mirror, and again and again.
Old people are interesting because they have no future. The future is what to eat for breakfast or where did I leave my shoes. Everything else is in the past. This is understandable.
Old people break the rules, the rules of conversation and being together. They break the rules, because, for one reason or another (illness, anger, damage, enough of that, whatever), the rules no longer apply for them. They are alone. Sometimes they are sad. Sometimes they are desperate. Mostly they are brave. Mostly they have given up on the promises of religion — life after death, immortality and such. Mostly they are concerned with dignity. Living with dignity, and dying with dignity.
But they are still obliged, as human beings, to make sounds. They are obliged to speak, whether or not anyone is listening: Act I (“Is It Light, Yet?”) is a series of personal, early morning thoughts, separated by short bulletins about what some of the rest of the people on earth are up to; Act II (“Asylum”) is a dialog between four guests at Assisted Living and the Counselor, who is trying to explain to them that the burden they feel will in fact never be relieved. Occasionally the guests break into song to relieve the tension; Act III (“The River Deepens”) is a series of reminiscences. The importance of the reminiscence is its persistence.
Performed by Robert Ashley, Sam Ashley, Thomas Buckner, Tom Hamilton Jacqueline Humbert, Joan Jonas, and "Blue" Gene Tyranny.
First produced in 2003 at MaerzMusik (Berlin Festival.)