Gone Lawn
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Gone Lawn 51
harvest moon, 2023

Featured artwork, Cheeseburger Picnic, by Chris Mars

new works

Paul K Smith

The ‘Mona Lisa’ Women

A One-Act Playscript

A 10-minute historical romp- & -theatrical sonata, for 2 actors, as if
Piano (Mona Lisa)    &    Drum (Kat’rina);    with    1 Male Voice (Leonardo).


KAT'RINA Lisa Gherardini: The model for the “Mona Lisa.” The first model.

MONA LISA Giaconda:      The model for the “Mona Lisa.”   The final model.

LEONARDO DA VINCI:    The Voice of the Artist.

Setting:   Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop, Eastern France 1519: At Rise:

Two women are sorting Leonardo da Vinci’s paints,
silk brushes, and gear into two packing crates. They are
Kat’rina Lisa (about to turn sixty) & Mona Lisa (twenty).
Mona Lisa spreads out a series of sketches for the
“Mona Lisa” painting-- from earliest to most recent.

This one is me,  That one is you!

That was me? I’d hoped one day, old with lines in this face, my picture would survive: From when Il Maestro pressed his lips to this cheek.   His kiss was light, gentle, non significava niente. But for her, it was a first, forbidden kiss.   My first kiss.   When I looked like that.

You don’t, now.
Every line in this face is a line of wisdom, dearie.
--Come help. Which do you want to clean up -- the Paints?-- or the brushes?

Neither one.
“Neither one?” -!
-Why do you think Leonardo took you on?

Because I’m pretty?
Well, my “pretty” one, You can take out the slop buckets and the bedpans.
----L'uomo stuck pencils everyplace didn’t he? This is not a Studio-- it’s Chaos--!

In one, penciled stroke, he’d draw not just a bird but the Meaning of Flight.
He taught me to see, within his pictures: The Dark Space-- And, the Empty Space. The value of darkness.   The value of the empty space.   He taught me, to see.

Taught me to see what was offal./

/He said, drawing most people was like drawing animals. But drawing me, was like drawing a plant. While I’d sit. For him. With him. --He needed all these things --saffron, azurite, malachite, --to mix his paints. Now, he won’t.

What he needed-- was not you. --Don’t! set the paint rags on top of His Notebook--!

I cannot decipher these scrawls.

You can read, can’t you?

Yes, I can read!

Open it. Hold it before that looking-glass. -What do you see...?: Words written backwards.    Leonardo’s way of telling the world, some things only make sense backwards.
--If you are with a man, when he shares his Life with you, and he bares his soul?:
he shows you his secrets.   Like this-- his secret code.  What did you know about Leonardo?

I know he learned from me.

He learned from you?   Leonardo da Vinci learned from you?

He thought he needed to know anatomy, to paint. So he would study dead bodies. But I said, if you want to paint a shepherd, or a farmer, you don’t have to know his bone-structure in death. -You have to know the man’s life.    -Live in his cottage.    Plow his fields.    Help him birth lambs. You want to feel the heat of the sun. The cold of the snow. -You want to paint a farmer against a red sunset, against the green poplar tree-line,    & the blue sky shimmering in the air? --Who cares about the bones, life is all about the soul. -Yes, he learned that from me.

Leonardo learned from you, how to paint a landscape?

He learned from me, how to see it.

Don’t see a single Landscape, here.   -That tells us what he thought, about that.
Wonder what he thought, about you?    Let’s bring his Notebook up to that mirror. Stay put, if you really want to know what he thought of you:    Leonardo writes--

“Of such a simple thing, is my ignorance. Mona Lisa, sitting, only smiling, helps
me remember: what it is to be, when my brain sleeps, & Never labors to think.”

Still, he did welcome me.

The man couldn’t help himself. You know he would always rescue a wounded kitten.
Like you.
Here he writes-- about the time you first came to the Studio:/

/I will read the rest of that Ode to La ruota della fortuna:

“Tonight-- after tonight-- after this first night-- Now every other woman’s kiss
will be compared to her kiss, every night with a woman will be measured by
this, tonight, & my every happiness gauged by this first night of Mona Lisa.”

“Gauging” a kiss.    -That’s the Engineer in Leonardo.    Enjoy the memory--
That’s all you(’ve) got now, isn’t it?    ---Sure feels cold in here.
-I miss Florence. Think you could fetch in wood for that fire? --Before it burns out?

You going to come with me?

The difference between us, is: I was young-- I was attracted to the man who was young.
-That is natural.You were attracted to the man who was Older. Jaded. All used-up. You were attracted to that. The spent man. That, is unusual.   Un-natural.

I wanted to be with him, when it would dawn on him, what his life has all been for.

You mean:   you?!?      --What are these??⁇

Alpine gentianes.

You sent that weakened man off, mountain-climbing? In his condition? In this cold? To get flowers for you?
-Did you send him up there? -That's how he got the chill that killed him?
--You brought about his death!    You! are the reason Leonardo is Dead.

He wanted to see the blue flowers of Savoy.

When God created this world, I wonder if even He could envision snakes like you.

Creating the world? -Was not done all at once.    We create our world every day. And you are so hateful, every time you open your mouth, snakes pop out.

You just need Mirrors, don’t you? No people... -Is that all you’re good for, to admire those long fingernails? Fetch in the wood for that fire, are you at least good for that?

I could never be like you.

You have this air of being useful and significant. --But for what? And, to whom?

You were not there. You were not born! When he was first starting out. As an artist.    Before he became “Da Vinci.” Just- Unknown. Uncertain. Painting cadavers. -He could not afford models. You may have been the last woman to sit for him.   BUT *I* was the First.    In the beginning... --That does not get packed in a crate! Hand me that! I made this for him to wear. From an amulet Marco Polo discovered. -It shows the Lion of Samarkand swallowing the Sun-- Containing it. This would contain his fire. His desires. While wearing this charm, he could love only me./

/-It did not work.

-You need to get the firewood. From out back--

When I first sat for him, he looked like a shipwreck.    Or like a voyage he’d lived his whole life for- but he’d never taken. -Only one thing could pull up anchor, fill that sail!, --get him riding the waves.    I gave him new hope.    So he’d finally, after- what?-: thirty years, forty years of you while, ---what do you do, ---Watch an artist go dry?
---I inspired him for the final stretch.    He’d be telling me, modeling is the soul of painting.    I became the soul of his painting.    I fulfilled him.    Me, Not you.
This face-- this smile-- It is my smile in the painting--    Not yours!

Better look closer:    That’s a survivor’s mouth.    We endured hard years.
And good ones.    We Survived.    -Prevailed.    ----And then, you came.---
…..So is this the drawing where you inspired him?    ---This one, you think?
Sketching this, to complete the “Mona Lisa”? thinking of you?

Oh I know it was.

And I know it will burn just as good as wood. Forget the firewood-- this burns just as well.
I think-- I do think-- you will be out of His life now.

Kat’rina burns Leonardo’s life-sketch of Mona Lisa.

You --    Witch!

Maybe with this, It Will Register-- that Everything will Be Different For You Now.
This faery tale of a man besotted with you, pampering you, in a château--    is    Over.
Kat’rina leaves.
Mona Lisa unfurls another drawing-- a secret sketch.
This is a self-portait of Leonardo.    She puts it on an easel.
She speaks to Leonardo’s self-portrait:

--Leonardo...    Somehow, Somehow... Come ba-a-a-a-ck to me?
I want, your eyes to catch my eyes as you would each morning.
I want, your eyes to catch my eyes as we would each night.
I want to feel you hold my fingers in your hand; for warmth.
I want--- to give you warmth.
To live.     Now now now now Now.

I held you in my arms, Leonardo.   Your last day.   I touched your face.   I held you: Without a kiss, you left me.

I held you in my arms and I knew--
Just space.    Empty space.

the empty space
in my arms

the empty chair
at my table

the empty space
between my heartbeats

the empty spot
on my bedpillow

the empty space
before my lips

the empty space
that walks with me

the empty space
that loves me—

...the empty space in my soul

...the empty space that would hear me

the empty space that would dance with me

the empty space that would see me

the empty space
I touch

MONA LISA (continued)
the empty place
that might hold me

the empty space
I would embrace
with all my love, you are
my empty space.

Give me this face.

I’d fold you in my hands, like bringing these hands together to pray: and finding your soft face between them.

Each time I meet your lips
it is my prayer
for one more kiss.

Mona Lisa kisses Leonardo’s self-portrait. And now it is
as if her kiss conjures up the Voice of Leonardo:

When you left me, I was a boy.

If you came to me now, you’d find an old man, time leaking from his pockets.
If only Daedalus ’d lent me his wings of audacity, to fly to you.
Have, yes, been designing a flying machine.
To sweep through the Venetian air, cross the Giocondan ramparts--
to hold you:   once more.   Thought you could pack up your Smile, & leave?
Yet-- look there-- it remains!   With me!   Blessing my studio-- --our? home?

Cursing me-- with hope: you will return.    Ever smiling.    Come ba-a-a-a-a-ck to me.

Cruel of you, to leave.   -I awaken to your Eyes.
Your face guides me.   Your mouth teaches me.
So many cartographers’ maps-- to navigate this New World that lacks you --Yet--
In my world the only true compass is your face.   Your smile.
The pounding of your heart once matched the pounding of mine.

Just like this.
You’d kiss.
This day.

Thirty years inventing:    new paints. Colors.    Brushstrokes. Layering on this Smile.
Toil was our wine, our bread, our sacrament. "Smile for me,” Madonna Lisa.
Am left-- bereft.    Alone.    With just shreds of the garments once draping you.
With colors to bring out your smile.    For me.    Forever.
Painting your face, embraced by a landscape of blues and greens.
Cool tones.    To out-endure time’s yellowing erosion. But not memory.

--Of your watching me lay the one line of paint into a landscape of cliffs, barren of life. Across the twisting waters-- Just the one thin bridge a man might cross
To flee his visit to the Circean wonders of you. No he can’t. No, I can’t.    That face--
This face-- Crafted by nature? By God? By me? Or by you, my love-- to lure me in?
Always possessing with that smile.  Is it a smile? No one, no one, no one Knows.

KAT’RINA Returns to the Studio.

(His Supplication to her, to Mona Lisa the woman:)
Where did you go? To Venice? Or back to the Tuscany of your youth? Why leave?

When you went through that door-- you took our world.

Left me searching --imagining you might be in this pale pale capturing of you.

Or behind the mirror: or in the mirror, the one high up there-- the one meant to bring in more light, to flush out the darkness why can’t! it! Bring! In! You!

No.  You are not yet dead to me.    That, is my curse.    I want, you back.    'Til then?
-I live like a Copernicus: Waiting for a comet:    hoping to be alive when you return.

The two women touch Leonard’s portrait, and take each
other’s hand-- forming a circle of three--
as indigo blue, evening twilight slowly falls.

{=== END OF PLAY ===}

March 15, 2023 Developmental Draft.
© Copyright 2023 by Paul K. Smith. All Rights, including Performance Rights, Reserved.
Contact: paulksmith@MoroscoTheatre.com

Paul K. Smith was raised to be a cowboy in Texas, was educated to be a neurologist at the Center for Brain Research, worked as an investment banker on Wall Street and in Hong Kong, so of course became a playwright. His productions in New York include The Women of Paris, A Woman with a Rose, Badass Women, Pablo’s Kisses, Pagan Women, American Woman, Sarah’s Rapture, The Break-Up, City Suite, A Twilight of Joy, “You’ve Got to Put Them Out of Their Misery,” Ritual Cleansing, Sweetmeat & Rotgut, Rebooting Life, When the Moon Dances on the Water & A Day of Promise in New York.