Bombardment, Episode 2

Splattworks continues its presentation of Bombardment, a two-act drama by Steve Patterson. The author will attempt to post an installment each day, but, if events intercede, installments may occur a day or so apart. So please be patient.


ARETHA: Is this is how you want me to be? Or is this how you want to be? I can be anything required. Rich. Beautiful. Bathed in seals’ milk. Sipping the blood of a freshly slain virgin from a Midori martini glass. My breath scented with opium. Underarms of honeysuckle. A kiss that can lift you to Valhalla, a whimper that can drop you to Siberia. Able to have anyone and anything. . .but you. (ARETHA sits.) My God. What I wouldn’t do for a knife to carve the features from my face. I won’t lecture you on the burdens of nobility. Any disadvantages we experience are more than compensated. Despite our pretensions, we understand this, particularly those who have experienced vicissitudes in attaining one’s position. In exchange, all I relinquish is control of my appearance, speech, public behavior. Otherwise, I am free. Further, in compensation I am granted control of all behavioral codes within these walls, this world. Not just for the footmen, serving maids, culinary technicians, but for all whose adherence to the rules insures the seamless, untroubled continuation of our. . .. Ones’ servants do not lay hands upon ones’ person! Not without invitation! And, in exchange, one lays ones’ hands upon ones’ servants with utmost discretion. One does not whisper in thy servants ear at table! One does not surreptitiously tease thy servant’s thigh with spouse so close as to hear thy servant’s breath quicken! One does not corrupt thy servant in the boudoir of thy wife! He had to be disciplined! Do not think I do not suffer for this decision! His very absence emphasizes the nature of his violation! The thought of his hands upon her skin cooks the very eyes within my skull! He betrays his place! My station! The very boundaries of reality have been violated! My double, carved of the same hard fruit. We cannot fit swelling to hollow with others. Not with the same exquisite perfection, flesh to flesh, soul to soul. But if he cannot be brought to rein, and all cannot be set as it was, I will sacrifice him! Not in vengeance, o sweet, sweet drug. For order. Stability. Such as he taught me.

PLACID enters. Carries a bag. Sets down the bag and opens it.
PLACID: But I do the sacrificing? Right?
ARETHA: On my order.
PLACID: Yeah, but chopping him, opening him up. I get to do that?
ARETHA: If I didn’t want him dead, I wouldn’t pay you. If I didn’t pay, you wouldn’t do it.
PLACID: Babe, I do it for you. For your love. Your love is my money. Your lips my municipal bonds.
ARETHA: Body. It’s either cost or commodity. Do your job. You’ll be compensated. Understand the nature of the transaction. What matters is Corno’s fate. Not yours. Death matters. When he’s dead, he’ll know what love means.
PLACID: It’ll look like love backed right over him. Repeatedly.

[To be continued]

Opening the Bomb Bay Doors

Splattworks now presents Bombardment, a two-act drama. Given the brief space appropriate for a blog, the play will be serialized in about 26 installments. The author will attempt to post an installment each day, but, if events intercede, installments may occur a day or so apart. So please be patient.


Steve Patterson

Bombardment premiered in 1991, produced by Stark Raving Theatre (Portland, Oregon, USA). Directed by Kyle Evans, the original cast included: Phil Baker as Corno, R. Marquam Krantz and Placid, Mary Jo AbiNader as Aretha, and Michelle Guthrie as Carmelita. Lights and sound design by Michael Delves. Special thanks to Rich Burroughs, EJ Westlake, Rod Harrel, Myra Donnelly, Dave Demke, Linda Grimm, and Greg Tozian.


A Drama in Two Acts by Steve Patterson

Copyright © 1998 by Steve Patterson


CORNO: A political strongman.
PLACID: Corno’s enforcer.
ARETHA: Corno’s wife.
CARMELITA: Aretha’s maid.

SCENE: A Deteriorating Mansion Outside the City

TIME: Outside of Time

“No vehicle had entered the town since the gates were closed. From that day onwards one had the impression that all cars were moving in circles.” — Albert Camus, The Plague




SETTING: Something between a throne room and a living room. A ruined city can be seen in the distance. Two large chairs at center, a table with an ashtray and pipe rack between them. AT RISE: Lights on CORNO, seated. In background, CARMELITA stands in a maid’s uniform.

CORNO: I used to be king. Born to it. Used to be lord of imponderables. If I wanted something, I didn’t command it. All I had to do was picture it, and someone brought it to me. A hint of thirst, and a glass materialized in my hand. I had the strength of ten, vitality of twenty. An enormous furnace burned within my chest, and it took all of life to keep it roaring. I ate a roast a day, and my arteries stayed clear and strong, the seams bulging with blood. There was never enough to sustain me. Not enough power, not enough brandy, not enough women. I raced boats and crashed balloons and juggled Thompson submachine guns. I wrestled land grading machines, silenced incorruptible senators, floored my Lamborghini in the bike lanes. When I walked down a country road, trees moved their branches to hold me in a steady flow of sunlight.

Drawn backward into darkness, CARMELITA exits.

CORNO: I don’t feel like that now. I feel two-hundred and fourteen. I can’t feel my legs. I slowly blink, and my lids scrape against my eyes. My heart drags its twisted foot. I’m tired. Tired, tired, and I don’t know how it happened. I woke one morning to a strange woman’s scent. My possessions lost their loving familiarity. I didn’t know what to do. I opened the blinds, and the color drained from the sun.

The distant drone of airplanes, soft but slowly growing louder.

CORNO: Imperceptively, that which has so perfectly been balanced for so long…wavers. Clocks… hesitate. Deep within the machine, where even the designers can’t understand the construction, something stirs. Eases into consciousness. At first, confused. But, as it remembers where it is, what it is, what it does, and what it needs…the hunger begins.

Planes appear to pass overhead. Bombs rumble and lights flash. The bombardment grows in intensity. CORNO reacts with fear, shock, pain. The lights go out, concussion of the bombs continuing. The barrage ends, planes fade. CORNO’s armchair is empty. PLACID comes tramping in. Wears a distinctive hat. Hesitates when he sees CORNO’s empty armchair. Approaches it carefully. Sits, trying it on for size. Enjoys sitting there, but can’t lose the sense that he’s being watched, that he’ll be caught. Uneasily, he rises, slinks off. CORNO enters from the rear of the theater and takes a seat in the audience reserved for him. Immediately takes the character of someone excitable and late for the performance. If a man is next to him, CORNO begins hard-luck story about needing gas money; if it’s a woman, he begins flirting. Lights shift, and CORNO begins shushing everyone around him. Sinks down, trying to look inconspicuous. ARETHA enters.

[To be continued]

The Night before the Flight

Here we are, just about to launch the serialization of my play Bombardment. It’s kind of like the night before the mission. Which means I need to speak with the troops.

So. To my potential readers, I hope you have fun. It’s a weird kind of fun, but still….

As for potential theatre-makers who read it, I know that by publishing the play through a blog, I’m more or less giving it away. But, for what it’s worth, here are my ground rules, which admittedly operate on the honor system (not particularly appropriate for our times, but one can hope).

I own the copyright on this thing, flat out. If some of you actually want to do something with it–put it on as a reading or production–you can do so royalty-free. I do ask that you inform me first of the production, and, if comes to pass, I’d appreciate your sending me reviews, playbills, publicity materials, and the like (electronic documents will be fine). If you put it on, make a few dollars, and want to share some with the playwright, great–that would be kind and gracious. Not because I’m greedy or expect to ever make money off this play, but because artists of all levels deserve to be compensated for their work.

What I ask you not to do is this: don’t produce the play under a different title or with a different author’s name; don’t produce it without citing me as the author; and don’t change the words or scenes.

Use of the play does not extend to film or broadcast. Plays are meant to be performed. Live. In front of a live audience. If you shoot a short segment for Youtube or the like, say for publicizing the play, please contact me first, and please don’t run it without my permission. And if anyone’s crazy enough to try to film this monster, we need to talk.

Finally, Bombardment is play for mature audiences, given its language, ideas, and imagery (particularly its violence, sexual content, and nudity). If you’re underage, really, you shouldn’t be producing it. If you must, please first consult with a responsible adult. And, not to sound pretentious or make the play sound overly important, if you’re an artist living under a repressive regime, please use caution before committing to the play. I don’t think it could get anybody busted, but I’d feel like hell if it did. It’s just a play. (Sort of.)

In other words, I hereby waive any responsibility for any trouble this play gets you into. Seriously.

If you have questions or want to send me comments, I can be reached at

I guess that’s it. Tune in tomorrow, when the Bombardment commences. The engines are warmed up.

[To be continued]

Closing in on the Target

As I announced a couple days ago, Splattworks, over the next few weeks, will be serializing my drama Bombardment in bite-sized installments. It’s not an entirely new idea: Dickens serialized many of his novels before publishing them as the books we know today. Technology now allows me to do the same—amazingly—all around the world. Because I know you’re out there, in L.A. and Savannah and Hong Kong and Jordan and Brisbane and Berlin and….

Why this play now? The last decade has been so turbulent, terrible, and sometimes downright bizarre, that it’s come to feel like one, long, unbroken disaster, where one never knows when or where the next airstrike’s coming in. Every day makes history; some days are just bigger and more unsettling than others. Lately, they all have been.

It also feels like we’re coming up on one of those decisive moments, where we can pull up at the last minute or disappear into darkness, where the disparity between rich and poor has grown so great that society’s seams are splintering. Not just in the United States, where I live, but everywhere. The planet itself seems to be shaking and baking itself to pieces. The future, to me, has never felt so unknowable. The times, it seems, have caught up with Bombardment. So I hope readers find something in the piece that they can keep for themselves, even if it’s just an image or a line here and there.

To me, the play still seems a wild child. With time and experience, I can see a younger writer trying to find his way. Like a musician coming to competence, he has to try a little bit of everything and work through his influences. So there’s some Beckett here, along with some Ionesco and Albee, a touch of Brecht, and whole hell of a lot of Shepard, particularly in those epic monologues. I was still learning to let characters talk to each other.

If nothing else, I hope Bombardment’s a diverting read. I’m just happy to take a breath and let it off the reins. Maybe something interesting will happen. Or maybe it’ll just run over the top of the hill, and never be seen again. Putting it out there feels a little…edgy. Exciting. Kind of like an opening night. And that’s what theatre…and all art…should be about.

One more bit of business, and then the play should begin on Saturday. Thanks.

[To be continued]

Commencing Bombardment

Back in the early Nineties, we had ourselves a perfect little pocket war, known as Operation Desert Shield, the only U.S. war, so far, to sound like a feminine hygiene product. It was a swift, unforgettable thing, with CNN broadcasting live footage of Scud missiles falling on Tel Aviv, our wealthy friends, the Kuwaitis, getting looted by another one of our wealthy friends, one Saddam Hussein. Back during the Cold War, we weren’t always too choosy about who we took up with, and, as often happens, some of our relationships ended badly.

Seriously, it was a terrible war, with real bombs, blood, and bodies, and there was nothing amusing about it. I keenly remember feeling an awful sense of despair, as it became readily apparent the violence was inevitable, with no true certainty how it would turn out. Just as with its sequel, Operation Desert Storm (like most sequels, even more of a bummer), there were legitimate fears the war would set the entirely Middle East ablaze and completely destabilize the world economy. We’d have to wait another decade for that to happen.

History felt like an irresistible wave, a tsunami that rolled over everyone, no matter where they lived and how much money they did or didn’t have. The sense of fear and helplessness haunted me long after we’d tucked everyone back in their boxes, and I dealt with it the way writers do: I picked up the pen. In this case, I wrote a two-act drama called Bombardment.

At that time, I’d become friends with some wickedly clever artists running a new Portland Theatre Company, Stark Raving Theatre, and I asked them if they’d take a look at it. You know, just to see what they thought. They said, sure. And the next thing I knew, we were building a set. That’s the way theatre ought to be done–by the seat of your pants, with absolutely no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

The four-actor play–two men, two women–was directed by the very talented Kyle Evans, and ran for six weeks. It took a typical trajectory for a new play by a then-unknown playwright: a great opening (when everybody’s friends and family showed up), struggling weeknights, but stronger weekends. Reviewers were puzzled, dismissive, or both, but word got around that the play was a wild little beast, and really different from anything else running in town. Weekend audiences began to grow, and we closed strongly.

A year later, I tried to hide myself in a plush theatre seat at the Oregon Book Awards ceremony (Oregon’s top literary prize), absolutely terrified that Bombardment, one of three Finalists, might actually win, and I’d have to say something in front of a bunch of writers much more distinguished than myself.

It didn’t win (it’d be almost 20 years before I’d finally bring the OBA home for Lost Wavelengths), but the Bombardment experience really set the hook: I wanted to keep writing plays. For good or ill (depending on who you ask), I’ve been doing it ever since.

So I’ve always had kind of a soft spot for Bombardment, even though it totally screwed up my life. The play was just so . . . out there. I was so new to playwriting, I didn’t even know how many rules I’d blithely shattered. Bombardment was like letting the horse loose, holding on, and just marveling at its power while trying not to worry about getting killed.

Over the years, as I’ve honed my craft (supposedly), I’d dig the play out of the files, work on it a bit, maybe shop it around to a few theatres, maybe put it back in the folder. I came to accept it just wasn’t the kind of play for bigger theatres–the kind afraid of possibly alienating their subscription base. It was just too jagged, non-linear, brutal, and, frankly, weird. It’s a play for theatrical buccaneers.

And that’s why we’re here.

[To be continued]

Blame it on Radiohead

Kris Kristofferson used to do a song called “Blame it on the Stones,” back when moms and dads worried about the Rolling Stones destroying Western Civilization™ and running off with their daughters. All that trouble and mess and uncomfortable dinner conversation, it was all because of some damned artists.

That was some time ago; so, to stay a little more current, we’ll go with Radiohead to blame pointlessly, even though they’re more likely to discuss Western Civilization™ in depth over a nice cup of Earl Grey.

They have been a bit…subversive, however, in launching their last couple albums. The gorgeous In Rainbows was offered on a pay-what-you-will basis through their Website The recent lush, wonderfully strange King of Limbs sells similarly through the Web, for a straight-up $6.00 U.S., and, shortly after release, the band threw in a couple extra songs (which, refreshingly, are very good).

So. In the spirit of skipping the middleman and gatekeepers, and going straight to the people who matter–the audience, I’m serializing one of my plays, a full-length drama in its entirety, right here on Splattworks. For free.

I’ll be presenting further details over the next few days, but here’s the news:

Splattworks will publish sequential excepts from my somewhat experimental, very dark, and brutally surreal drama BOMBARDMENT, an Oregon Book Award Finalist. (Above is a production still from the 1991 world premiere.)

Why that play released at this time will be explained. Paraphrasing a better-known playwright, also writing about one of his plays, there actually is a method to the madness…if a little madness to the method.

But, for now…blame it on Radiohead. Or, as Radiohead might say, blame it on the Black Star…which is where this play definitely lives. On that, more tomorrow.

[To be continued]