In one scene (shortened from the original four scenes for the
Original cast: Walter Matherly, Mark Enslin
Original Performance: April 2005 House T h e a t e r,
Mark and Walter, sitting on chairs, with cardboard boxes
over their heads, holding hands.
Mark (takes off his box, knocks on Walter’s box): Knock
knock. Hey – how is it?
Walter (taking off his box): Still numb. Num’b’.(to audience):
You pronounce the ‘b’.
M: Why do you think you’re ‘num – b’?
W: Something happens, I don’t feel anything. Something
doesn’t happen, I don’t feel anything.
M (optimistic): You’re ‘reliable’!!
W: (shrugs it off)
M:You ever hear of ‘predisposition to action’?
W: No–pe. (to audience): I’m practicing the ends ofmyworDS.
M: Biologist Humberto Maturana coined it – he said, we
humans do and feel things together such that our bodies
become PREdisposed to act. Take a mother with a baby – all
that bonding and loving each other they do – the moment the
baby cries the mother jumps up and takes care. She’s ‘predisposed
W: What’s that got to do with numb”b”?
M: If you have no feelings, you’re not ‘predisposed to act’!
M : In other words, when your baby cries, you don’t jump up.
W: I don’t care about the jumping up part. I’m no mother.
It’s the numbness –
M: Let’s try something. Here’s an ice cube – do you see it?
M: I’m going to press it in your arm.(presses ice cube in
Walter’s arm) How do you feel?
M: And how do you feel predisposed to act?
W: Predisposed’? Huh ?
M: What are you gearing yourself up to do with this cold
thing on your arm?
W: To tell you to get it off!!!
M: Good. Next: You ticklish?W: Yup
M: Under your arms ?
M( starts tickling him): How do you feel?
W(giggling): I feel tickled.
M : And the ‘predisposition for action’?
W(giggling): I want you to stop….no, continue!!!…
no, stop, stop!!
M: Ok. Imagine your wife.
W(longingly): Oh I would love to. The box
has come between us, more trouble –
M: she ticklish ?
M : Imagine that I’m tickling her – with your
permission. Here I go (Mark makes animated
tickling gesture) Now, what do YOU feel?
W: (looks for a moment at Mark miming tickling):
Aside from enjoying you make an ass
of yourself, nothing at all.
M: No, c’mon – what do you feel?
M: What am I supposed to feel? You’re tickling
HER, how can I feel it?
M: Imagine! Use your mind like a human, not
only for ingesting and pooping out data.
Imagine your wife – see, she’s laughing, she’s
giggling. Remembering being tickled yourself.
W: Alright – yeah, my imagination – ok
alright . She’s laughing! Get her a little lower,
under the ribs!!…. T h a t ’s it, now you got her –
s h e ’s hysterical!! (he starts giggling)
M: How do YOU feel?
W(giggling): Me? I feel good, great!! I love
to see her laugh!! (to his imaginary wife) He’s
good, isn’t he? Man, he got me going there,
right under the armpits –
M: And, predisposition to action?
W: Alright now stop tickling her. She’s my
wife…Keep your hands to yourself, one thing
leads to another –
M: Alright, last experiment –
W:Wait, time out. What has my feeling numb
got to do with you tickling my wife? It’s MY
numbness I’m concerned about. Are you
proposing that I’m supposed to FEEEL vicariously
what the other person is feeling – and
thus won’t be numb? That I have FEEL my
wife being tickled?
M: Why not? You feel only when things happen
W (his mouth open, speechless, jabbering):
Well no, of course not, but err, umm, see I –
M: Speechless, eh?
W: Not really but I uhhh –
M: Let’s go on – See my hand? And my
W: You got fangs there buddy. What are you
going to do?
M: OK, I’m going to dig my nails into the
hand of –
W: Not MY hand! –
M: No, not yours – into the hand of someone
we don’t know, on the other side of the world.
W: As far away as possible, puhlease!
M: I’m going across the ocean, I’m traveling
in Europe, I’m in the Middle East, I’m in Ira-
W: now wait a minute –
M, repeating: I’m in the middle east, I’m in
W: No, DON’T GO THERE!!! Not there!!!
I t ’s not only a horrible situation, it also
changes this skit from a light-hearted comedy
between two men in boxes into a political
polemic and —
M: I’m digging my nails into a man’s hands,
someone we don’t know. Here I go. (Here
Mark sings one pitch; he keeps singing this
throughout the ‘digging-his-nails-into-aman’s-
hands’ section, stopping only to speak
his lines.) How do you feel?
W: No, I won’t do this – it’s a fiasco over
there – if I didn’t already have a box, it would
drive me to hiding inside a box – it’s a mess, a
disaster area over there –
M: Not about tidiness issues – how do you
W: The invasion started as a farce, now its
black comedy, annd –
M: Not about theatrical forms, either. How do
you feel that I’m digging my nails into a
W: I won’t go along with this.
(M continues the digging action, with
W: I wish you would stop…..(Mark continues)…
How can I get you to stop? I have my
box you know….retreat IS an option…
M: That I’m pressing my nails into the hand
of a man.
Walter (upset): What is this – reality TV? A
ritual? A symbol? A representation? A simulcast?
Infomercial? Metaphor? Test? What are
you asking me to participate in?
M: I want you to imagine I’M digging my
nails into the hand of a man, and then tell me
how you feel
W: “How I feel”? “How I feel?” You’ve got a
lot riding on the question ‘how do I feel’?
M: What’s the question you’ve got a lot riding
W (opens his mouth, is speechless): Err,
ummm, seee , but, uhhhh –
W (to audience): This is the second time I’ve
been given nothing good to say back. No
snappy comeback. To the writer I protest –
M: Just imagine the situation
W: Alright alright.
M: Imagine I’m digging my nails into the
hands of a man.
W: Alright. No it’s not alright – I hate this, I
hate what you’re doing…People like you are
vicious, enjoy inflicting pain… those A m e r i c a n
soldiers, humiliating soldiers, torturing them.
Oh they say “a few rotten apples” – bullshit!! –
W: C’mon stop it – I voted against this. I registered
people to vote to be against this. I go
to rallies against this –
M: not asking you what you’re DOING, –
I’m asking you what you’re feeling . Do you
feel the suffering?
W: O give me a break. I feel MY suffering….
Give me that hand (pulls Mark’s pressing
hand away) – See I can’t stop you – I
can’t stop this war – the racism in this count
r y. . . s t u p i d i t y…neocons…the sickening
wealth… the power over— you want the
W: Oh give me my box, I can’t stand watching
this.(Puts on box)
M continues pressing down on hand
W (peeks to see if Mark has stopped; goes
back inside box)
W (from half inside the box): And you’re
wrong – I’d like to feel something. there’s a
little sweetness, to feeling. But there has to be
some positive outcome – why feel if it’s
going to be horrible?
W peeks to see if Mark has stopped. Back
W: (half out of box): Alright, I don’t feel anything.
You wanna know why? Because I don’t
want to feel anything. You wanna know why?
Because I’m smart not to feel anything: I do
not want to sit here in a hot seat of pain where
everything I do seems grotesquely insufficient,
the insufficiencies grinning at me like
gargoyles. I don’t trust ‘feeling’. I’ll settle for
good old numb.(back in box, then comes out:
“b” (goes back in).
M (stops the nail digging): Sorry. (gives hand
back to suffering man) (to audience): I work
backwards: the baby is crying and crying and
crying – and it doesn’t look like anyone is
jumping up, to stop war on Iraq. So – we
seem to have no predisposition to action. So –
we don’t know what we’re feeling. Or we
simply feel nothing. We’re num’b’.
(puts his box on, reaches out to hold Walter’s
Search Public i
- 1968 Revolt
- 2016 election
- abortion rights
- African American
- African Americans
- African Americans
- Arab Spring
- Art Theater
- Champaign County
- Chief Illiniwek
- Citizens United
- civil rights
- Communication Technologies
- Community Forum
- county goverment
- County Nursing Home Art Exhibit
- Court System
- death penalty
- DNA Testing
- Eastern Europe
- European Union
- Food Insecurity
- Foreign Policdy
- Foreign Policy
- Free Speech
- Gun violence
- health care
- Honduran Election 2017
- Human Rights
- Illinois taxes
- Middle East
- Nuclear War
- Nursing Home
- Occupy Movement
- prison strikes
- Public Health
- safety net
- Science Fiction
- Sexual abuse
- social security
- social services
- solar energy
- South Africa
- State Government
- the elderly
- University of Illinois
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Urbana school desegregation
- Vietnam War
- Voices of Color
- wonen's rights
- Worker Cooperatives
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- December 2018
- November 2018
- September 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- January 2016
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- July 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- November 2008
- October 2008
- August 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- September 2006
- July 2006
- June 2006
- June 2005
- November 2004
- October 2004
- September 2004
- March 2004
- February 2004
- December 2003
- November 2003
- October 2003
- September 2003
- August 2003
- June 2003
- May 2003
- November 2002
- October 2002
- April 2002
- March 2002
- February 2002
- December 2001
- November 2001
- October 2001
- September 2001
- August 2001
- July 2001