copyright © 1987 Todd Ristau


(GADSTRIM enters, with a shopping bag filled with all sorts of stuff. He is the sort of person you smile at, and then suddenly feel as though you want to cry. He is surprised to find the audience is paying attention to him.)

GADSTRIM: Hi. (pause) Gosh, this is nice...I never really expected such a turn out. I’m so glad that you came. Really. (He begins to personally thank each member of the audience, at random, then laughs) Oh, gosh, this will take forever--look, take my word for it, I appreciated all the support. I intend to send notes to everyone who sent money, flowers, food, whatever. You read about whole towns showing this kind of unity, human bonding, but you never really believe it because each of us has, I think, a very negative--and might I say, incorrect-- opinion of our won capacity to share. Then something like this happens and varooooom! Here you are, sitting next to each other, ready to give. Nice. It’s such a beautiful thing when humans can do what you’re doing tonight, without, of course, the intent to satisfy morbitity and a thirst for the obscene and terribly private. Honest concern and a genuine interest in your fellows is beautiful beyond Christiandom’s dreams.

(At this point the bottom of the bag falls away and its contents spill onto the floor.)

Have you ever been in love? (pause) I think its time to get started.

(GADSTRIM slits his wrist and a torrent of blood begins to pour from it onto the stage.)

I’ll tell you what love is....what I have come to know it to be. To know what love is you must first have to know what life is. Life is like --no, life IS-- the collection of things, and Stan, I don’t mean simply the Ken Doll collection of beach houses and Barbies....I mean that the process of becoming a self is the creation of a past--life is a collection of expriences. Its natural to go through life just filling a bag with lots of stuff--memories, feelings, memories of feelings and feelings about memories--Now, why do you suppose we do it? To sit in an old folks home and go through the bag making sure we haven’t lost anything, keep re-checking the inventory, congratulating ourselves on our wise purchases, cursing ourselves for not taking advantage of some blue light special or splurging on something we thought we couldn’t afford? I think not.

(BARDELLININA enters very quietly, and repairs the sack belonging to GADSTRIM. He notices, smiles, and continues to bleed and talk for the audience. BARDELLININA replaces the things in the bag.)

This is where love enters the picture. You collect these things so that you can share them with someone else. I feel like that, like I’ve been collecting things for a very long time now. Special, wonderful things that someone, somewhere is going to enjoy taking part in. I’m searching for her, and frantically, because the bag is very full now, and I am losing things here and there, have to pass things up more often, and--


(She hands GADSTRIM his bag, smiles shyly, both are hesitant and expectant.)

GADSTRIM: Hi. Thank you.

(He turns back to the audience and ignores her.)


(She has an emotional response of some kind, which he does not see, and exits.)

GADSTRIM: (continuing unaffected) And then, it starts to rain, and the bag is getting wet. I’m clutching to the bottom, trying to keep it from tearing....I’m on these shop doors, but the doors are all locked, and then they turn the lights out and I think I can hear people inside laughing at me, and the awnings are rolling up, and these people with umbrellas pass by and they look at me like I’m crazy, like they can’t undestand why I'm out here in the rain clutching this bag full of shit---

(The lights, which have been slowly dimming through this last speech are now completely out.)


This was kind of an attack on myself, obviously, and an acknowledgment that my tales of woe had gotten me lots of drinks, loans, and support from the folks who listened and No Shame was another way that I was working sympathy. Also that I was too bull headed to be open to the love and affection that was offered me because all I wanted was what I had been told I couldn’t have. I knew all this, but like the guy in the piece, knowing something and doing something about it are two different things. Did this one in Theatre B with Theresa Carson, I think. The weird names are because at this time, I was doing a lot of steam of conciousness things, I’d start with just random letters typed on the page. I would just type whatever word was in my head at the top of the page and let that be a title and let the piece just flow out after it. I don’t think I really even knew what modicum meant until after I’d written this, all in one go, no rewrite or pre-thought. Those were the days.

"Modicum" debuted 1986-87, performed by Todd Ristau and Theresa Carson.

Performed at No Shame / Charlottesville on July 19, 2002, by Todd Ristau and K.T.

Performed at No Shame / Los Angeles on November 29, 2002, by Eric Johnson and Christina Romero. Directed by J.J. Hickey.

[Todd Ristau's website] [Ristau Entertainment Ltd.]

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