Speculative Now

A monologue stretched taut over its scaffolding, an argument between holograms, a call to speculative action, an overflowing

Bright blue print of kitchen faucet with two spigots on white background.
1Nancy Julia Hicks, 2022.

Speculative Now is an experimental concept posited by Kat Purcell as a provocation in the format of a short essay, for Lightning Rod V (the fifth annual iteration of an annual intensive for cohorts of emerging queer & trans artists in Minneapolis) in summer 2021. The experiment was carried out by the 2021 artist cohort under the design and leadership of Marcela Michelle, Kat Purcell and BE., with pedagogical foundations provided by the Lightning Rod Core Artist Ensemble lead by Marcela Michelle and with stage management & care support from Suzanne Victoria Cross, Keila Anali Saucedo and Yoni Tamang. A showcase was staged and streamed with generous support from Pillsbury House + Theatre. For more information about Lightning Rod, check out Lightning Rod’s Instagram. The following monologue is an expansion of the original provocation. As you read, please keep in mind that western science/technology is only recently catching up with Indigenous understandings of time and matter, and that colonial structures of time have been used as a tool of violence against Black and Native peoples for centuries. The “queering” of time constitutes a contemporary wordsmithing to describe an old/new formation, and you are invited to contemplate its limitations as well as its possibilities.

Notes on Aristotelian conventions applied to dramatic structure for this writing:

Character Consider who the Faucet is, not who it represents. Consider the lack of significant difference between the behavior of the Faucet and the behavior of KP.

plot No one has actually agreed to have this argument.

thought Is there a weakening of the illusion of persona, if you allow yourself to be multidimensional in a way that is diverse and contradictory?

diction A lover’s appeal disguised as rhetorical argument.

spectacle Mirrors, lights, mimesis, and other devices to reflect the four conditions of Now.

melody Listen for the words and movements, and let them spill through when they come. Sometimes this simply manifests as lists and/or iterations.

ACT j Scene ∞

KP is in a kitchen and appears to be alone. There is at least one appliance in the kitchen, which is a western-style sink with a running-water FAUCET. KP appears to be listening, with much of their body turned toward the FAUCET, their hands in the sink basin. This “moment before” is brief. As soon as the action of the scene is ready to commence (readiness as indicated by lights, entrance, a curtain) the monologue begins almost immediately. How would you portray the breath before the big bang on stage?


[as if interrupting someone else’s dramatic monologue]
if you are limited 
to a small space, 
a very small space, 
and at any-one-limited-moment you can
be and act 
as whatever persona constructed 
—by you or others— 
character-limit-persona that is
distressing you today... 
if you know this to be an experience 
that you are having...
why would you lie like that? 
you can’t pluck just one moment 
from—is it even
to pluck?

A fermata, a whole note rest, and three forte symbols.
(an unspecified lengthening of a powerful rest)
the fact is 
that i am 
very much…
i think about my dead friends all of the time. 
i just always assume that they are around, 
like the theatre, 
which is also all around us, 
and is also dead.

but you are not dead 
and here i am. 
arguing with the faucet. 
an appendage of an appliance, 
pouring into a container that 
promises to hold only as much as it can. 
into a sink that promises to 
drain the excess. 
me, a flesh puppet that 
mimics the shape of the basin. 
i am writing lists of vessels 
that might safely get it 
and to the other side 
of a black hole: 

an egg 
a home
an island 
a memory 
a hole 
a few million tons of gas
an alphabet
a knot 
or braid
a strawberry
deja vu
an optical illusion
a story
a song
a rainbow
a relativistic jet
(In the interest of public safety and to protect the liability of the author, please note this nonexclusive list of vessels that are unsafe to enter into a black hole with: a rocket, a star, a house, a photon, a camera, lungs, a comet, a human body, a wave, a bridge, an electron, a personality or persona, dust, a river, a dream, a number, a dental dam, a hair comb, a reflection, a horizon, tolerance.)
well, most of us will not be leaving this planet. 

we are severely anti-capitalist. 
we are sipping carbonated water from aluminum cans and 
slipping down self-care vortices. 
and we are running 
—in desperate coriolis— 
so fast as if to outstrip our own flesh 
—and we announce.. .
we love ourselves. 

i am, myself, also running but, yelling, also, 
honor to entropy! 
honor to erosion! 
honor to decay! 
as i sprint… and i really do mean it. i love myself enough to let it all slip away. 

i am told that Now is a moment that is destroyed 
over and over 
just like infinite deaths. 

i resist this lie, 
when i remember to. 

when i remember to,
i like to stop whatever 
it is i am doing
and give my 
undivided attention 
to persons that are in my presence.
[KP leans in close and whispers to the FAUCET. The FAUCET begins to drip.]
Photo of soft waves with salmon-colored filter.
Nancy Julia Hicks, 2022.
bosses hate this.
[KP returns]
i like to speculate that 
this is okay 
—that i can allow it 
—whatever else i was attending— 
to slip away, 
and that it will always exist 
there’s no way that 
i could ever destroy 

said principle applied to Now, 
i am both having 
an imaginary conversation 
with you 
while doing the dishes, 
talking it out with 
the faucet, 
and, simultaneously, 
i am directly telling you how i feel. 
both of these events are happening, 


this is natural, even normal. 
but it does not feel peaceful or right. 
coulda, and 
putter through our lives 
in spinning triangulations, 
goading us 
to break the dam 
so that the water 
can remember where it used to flow.
...my discomfort surfaces a question: 
why would i get on a stage 
to pretend to be 
or do something that 
i don't actually need a stage for? 
why would i construct an imaginary kitchen and harass the appliances?

a stage is a technology that 
inflates and collapses space. 
within its 
we stretch time like wet muslin. 
we transmogrify, 
which is to say
we create distances between 
and Now 
and Now 
and Now
and Now
and Now
and Now…
even though everything is happening all at once and forever. 

theatre is not necessarily about telling the truth, because the dead do not care about the truth.
Warped and distorted blueprint-like drawing of rectangular space.
Nancy Julia Hicks, 2022.
[KP lets their attention slip away from the FAUCET. The flow of water from the FAUCET increases, and gradually the sink basin is filling up.]
at the edges of these 
theatrical distances, 
anything can seem manageable, 
anything can look encapsulated 
—as if it has borders and boundaries. 
imagine the sink 
overflowing to become a lake, 
which is what it already is: 
a basin that cannot 
keep its promises. 
does it make logical sense to 
get out of the way, so that 
in your view from a mile off, 
a flood will
be conceivable? 
or do you stay 
and get swallowed 
by it, 
so that you are the one encapsulated…? 
or can you imagine other scenarios?

a mask 
—a piece of persona— 
a similar technology to the stage, 
(not least because it can 
be employed by anyone) 
whether that mask is 
chosen or coerced, 
it implies 
a layer and 
therefore an added dimension. 
an assumption is a dive into implications. 
an implication is a dimension that is temporary. 
dimension can always, 
be swept away 
at any time, 
like a privilege. 

underneath cloth and paper masks, 
i think our mouths are all agape! 
like fish out of water, 
like constantly shocked, 
like we're trying to catch flies, 
like showing off our molars. 

by the way
do not forget to
remember that
isn’t a safe place 
all the time for everybody.

privileging Now does not make a virtue. 
too many 
get defined by frightened people. 
—as in, you and i— 
will not be leaving this planet. 
i’m scared, 
and i’m running, 
and i’m yelling, 
and i think 
but i have hope since 
it’s not me who gets to decide 
whether that is true. 
power is different from influence. 
what are we wielding today?
[by this point in the impossible linearity of a staged monologue, water is lapping at KP’s feet.]
Mottled and indistinct image in grayscale.
Nancy Julia Hicks, 2022.
i need to argue a 
Speculative Now, 
to explain why i’m talking to a faucet, 
instead of to you.

our perception of time is 
shaped by the events we use to measure time. 
not by anything else. 
that is emotional. 
that is attachment. 
that’s passing dimensions as if 
they are permanent, 
in deliberate manufacture of the 
irreducible subjectivity of Now. 

and i know the 
sea is giggling as 
it eats away at the 
beach. and i can 
the unraveling of all of our 
best intentions, in 
the everlasting mutability of Now. 

tomorrow is canceled. 
climate seasons are 
supplanted by 
cycles of 
acceleration, and 
linear causality
explain social uprisings, and 
i’m sick of hearing you try 
to force it to make 
that kind of sense. 
it makes 
a different kind of sense 
we just have to
listen to 
the earnest desperation of Now. 

the largest waves are impressions of
where the water is mostly likely to be, 
not necessarily where the water is.
when we glimpse subatomic particles,
which are waves, which refuse to decide where to be
(teleportation involves the telling and keeping of secrets) 
the particles are saying, 
“don’t watch, come!” 
they are guiding you and i 
by subatomic hands to 
the obvious multiplicity of Now. 

you want a denouement, 
but you ain’t getting it. 

you will beg to be allowed to give up, 
and you will be denied. 

pull you and me into 
pull you and me into 
the sink. 
we are cramming ourselves 
into the sink.
we are cramming each 
other into the sink.
we are elbows and 
we are mouths,

trying to learn from 
the appliance:
is there 
such a thing 
as excess? 
we will live within 
the distances we create, 
never outside of them. 
we are not 
but we are crying. 
it hurts, 
feels anaerobic 
like tough love should, 
like swimming far from the shores of the lake.
The scene does not end
Kat Purcell

Kat is a white (irish famine diaspora settler) nonbinary transexual performer, lighting designer, experimental producer, installation artist and theatrical director. Kat is best known in the Twin Cities as the creator of Lightning Rod, an annual intensive for queer and trans artists, which is happily growing and evolving beyond their wildest dreams. They have performed and worked in London, New York, Paris, Stockholm and Minneapolis. Kat graduated from the London International School of …   read more