Congratulations to Olga El, first place winner in the Script (Stage Play or TV/Movie) category of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning stageplay script, "Jaguar Woman."
Elder-trickster-storyteller, Enitan, guides you through an immersive neo-folktale in Jaguar Woman, a show that observes what happens when corporate greed threatens a small
Afro-Indigenous community. The show explores the idea of the "outsider" and the roles that outsiders (including the audience) can play.
In Jaguar Woman, the fourth wall is eliminated and the audience ultimately gets to decide if Enitan's story about a mysterious stranger, who left a permanent mark on his community over 30 years prior to the present day, is entirely truthful.
There is plenty of reason to doubt him given his propensity for drifting into alternate story tangents, soliciting money, commenting on the present social and political climate (or the weather), teasing the tourists, provoking the supernatural, and smoking cigars. Yet, workshop readings of the show prove this compelling storyteller still captures the trust of his listeners.
The "small community" in Jaguar Woman began as a quilombo—communities that were created by Africans who escaped slavery. Quilombos sometimes included people from other cultures; my quilombo also has Indigenous Brazilian founders, a significant Portuguese ancestor, and various mixed ancestors worked into it's predominantly West African heritage. This history feeds into the storylines in the work.
Jaguar Woman highlights the endangered state of quilombos today and in recent decades, calling attention to the environmental effects of corporate greed and the cultural effects of racist and hetero-patriarchal hierarchies. The work explores what happens when a community—that grew autonomously for centuries—is increasingly affected by mainstream culture.
Though not explicitly stated in the show, many of the show's colorful characters embody the essence of West African spiritual entities known across the diaspora by various names (and as orixá in Brazil.) The jaguar is also a revered entity in indigenous Brazilian spirituality (as well as in several indigenous South and Central American cultures.)
While focused on one lesser-known aspect of the African diaspora, in many ways Jaguar Woman is commentary on all "western" culture—including that of the United States—a poignant reminder that the real-world threat of fascism looms with bigotry and oppression at its foundation.
The intersection of BIPOC spirituality and culture; relevant socio-political commentary; and a multidisciplinary, movement-heavy approach to the overall vision is integral to all my work.
Jaguar Woman is the second work in a trilogy of new plays and the full script was solicited by an Off-Broadway theater in 2019.
(Two aerialists descend from the ceiling. The male partner in white and yellow, the female in black and purple, interact in a dramatic dance. Cool colors and dramatic lighting flood the scene. Cosmic video art is projected onto the background. Afro-Native-influenced music fills the soundscape.)
(VOICE OVER/FROM OFFSTAGE)
The Indios used to say: The jaguar stalks the sun all day long and swallows it up at dusk, filling the night sky with its beautiful spotted coat. Each morning the sun is reborn from her inexhaustible womb. The darkness from which all things are born is the same darkness to which all things return when they are finished. Only jaguar has the courage to lead the souls through the underworld so they may return anew like the golden sun. In the shadows, the jaguar will wait until it is time to consume the world. When the jaguar feeds for the last time it will cause the end of days.
(Aerialists land on the stage and Samba/partner dance. Carnivale participants come from various corners of the theater shouting and dancing, interact with the audience, run on stage, continue to dance. Warm, full lighting floods the stage. Village scenery/composite set is visible. Carnivale music is played by musicians on the stage. An old man, ELDER ENITAN the narrator, sits slightly off-center at the edge of the stage. He stands and walks DR.)
I could tell you a story about the time Abeni Vasconcelos put a spell on Danilo to make him fall in love with her.
(ABENI VASCONCELOS steps out from the carnivale crowd, leading DANILO AMBROSIO-LOPES by the chin with her pointer finger. As they dance she playfully, then more seriously swats him away.)
It took a week for Abeni to decide that she did not desire Danilo's love after all and, when he found out, he stormed around like a wild bull for days, breaking everything in his path.
(DANILO AMBROSIO-LOPES pulls on an extravagant carnivale hood with horns.)
He scared Abeni and the rest of us so bad that we locked ourselves up in our houses and refused to go to work or let the children play outside.
(DANILO AMBROSIO-LOPES chases the other revelers who play along in mock fear, continuing to dance.)
It was Tia Adesina who brought order by slapping sense back into Danilo with her cane. It was the same cane she used to whip Abeni until her ass was as blue as the river.
(TIA ADESINA emerges, in an elaborate white and purple carnivale dress and exaggerated sparkly cane, and chases the duo back into the crowd.)
I could tell you about the time Samra El-Habib accidentally made love to a wolf in the guise of a handsome, white man from the city.
(SAMRA EL-HABIB emerges from the crowd with a man carrying a bombastic wolf mask/prop over his head, they dance.)
She gave birth to a furry infant with pointed ears and silver-moon eyes and the wolf-man retreated to the forest, carrying his tail between his legs, never to be seen again.
(A child appears and chases SAMRA EL-HABIB, who chases the wolf-man back into the crowd.)
Or maybe you want to hear about the day José Delgado Leontes Aurelio Lopes-Lopez had to defeat all the Capoeristas in the village before he could marry Marcia, Danilo's sister, the Mestre's daughter.
(Berimbaus feature in the music more heavily as the tempo of the music gains speed, singers sing a Capoeira song, as the crowd moves into a semi-circle open to the audience. JOSÉ LEONTES emerges holding hands with MARCIA AMBROSIO-LOPES. He meets his first challenger and a series of quick fight-games ensues; JOSÉ LEONTES fighting challenger after male challenger. He eventually fights DANILO AMBROSIO-LOPES, THE MESTRE, and then his future wife MARCIA-emphasis on the game with MARCIA. When the game is over he kisses his wife and the crowd throws confetti eventually morphing back into a generic carnivale crowd. Music resumes as regular carnivale music.)
Keep Reading! Click here to download the full script.