1 ALMA´S BIRTHDAY PARTY
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U.S. ALMA My dear friends! Welcome to my birthday party! You want to know which birthday it is, yes, yes! I hear the whispers
Well, I can assure you: at my age, one does not make a secret of it any more. I was born in 1879. Today I am 129 years old!
U.S. ALMA I want to thank (person t.b.a.) for having put his beautiful building at our disposal. It's a great pleasure to announce the list of our most honorable guests: the illustrious painter Gustav Klimt, who was the first man to kiss me; my peerless piano teacher and fervent lover, poor Alexander Zemlinsky, who was the first man to fondle my breasts, killing me gently with his virtuoso fingers; my ravishing mentor Max Burckhard, who introduced me to the enigmatic realm of Nietzsche, and all my other lovers and husbands whom you may meet as our party warms up. And last but not least, I want to announce the grand surprise of the evening. Believe it or not, we will have a visit from my first husband, the one and only Gustav Mahler!
RESERL He's here, madam, he's here! Herr Direktor Mahler has just arrived! On a bicycle!
Mahler enters and approaches U.S. Alma to kiss her. The maid offers him a basket of apples.
RESERL Herr Direktor Mahler, may I offer you an apple as a gesture of welcome?
Mahler hesitates before picking up an apple.
ALMA 1 Ah! The director of our Royal Opera has such difficulty in choosing an apple, no wonder his anguished decisions concerning the repertoire of his Opera House lead only to compromise! Nothing but compromises !
MAHLER One must be very young and inexperienced to make such a silly comment. Maybe just innocent. Or perhaps you have some personal grudge against me? I wonder what it is, since I'm sure that if I'd ever met you, I'd have remembered it to my dying day! - Who are you?
ALMA 1 I am Alma Schindler. And I bear you no grudge.
MAHLER Who does then? A colleague? A friend? A fellow believer?
ALMA 1 Alex, it's your turn. Speak up!
ZEMLINSKY Leave me alone.
ALMA 1 Alexander!
MAHLER You are Alexander
ZEMLINSKY Yes Sir!
MAHLER The composer?
MAHLER I see!
ALMA 1 What do you see?
MAHLER Well, you did send me that ballet, »The Vivacious Heart«, didn't you?
ALMA 1 No, not the »Vivacious Heart«, but the »Vitreous Heart«. He sent it months ago. And to this day Alexander Zemlinsky has received no answer from you. It's simply unbelievable.
MAHLER The ballet is worthless. I don't understand how you can defend such rubbish. It's simply a dead herring.
ALMA 1 It's not a dead herring at all, and it makes me suspect that you have either failed to examine it, or else not understood it. And in any case, you could have at least answered politely. You could have said »no«, but you should at least have given a response!
ALL Yes! Yes.
MAHLER I presume that you are a student of music?
ALMA 1 Yes sir. I've already composed a few dozen Lieder. And the draft of an opera!
MAHLER Oh, really?! I'd like to get acquainted with your pieces
ALMA 1 starts to play one of her songs on the piano.
ALMA 2 can be heard from outside.
ALMA 2 Herr Direktor Mahler! Herr Direktor Mahler!! Herr Direktor Mahler!!!
Alma 2 enters. She addresses Gustav Mahler:
ALMA 2 Herr Direktor Mahler! This young lady's claims are pure presumption! She's a usurper! It's my music you should listen to!
MAHLER Who are you?
ALMA 2 I am Alma Schindler. This woman is an impostor!
Alma 3 enters. She addresses Gustav Mahler in her turn:
ALMA 3 Herr Direktor Mahler! Herr Direktor Mahler. Don't waste your time on those two; it's not worth it. They're both charlatans. Not an ounce of talent between them. It's my music you should listen to! Come with me to my room; there I will play you my music! And you will learn what it means to be gifted
MAHLER Who are you?
ALMA 3 Alma Schindler, who do you think?!
RESERL (insists:) Herr Direktor Mahler, will you please be so kind as to finally choose an apple?
Mahler picks up an apple. He is totally confused.
ALMANIAC Herr Direktor Mahler, now you should offer the apple to the true Alma, to Alma the genuine one. To Almschili. So that we can finally get to know her, and discover what she was like! as a connoisseur of her field, you should be able to determine her real virtues. Be our Paris, so that once and for all we will finally get to know the genuine, true Alma.
Mahler stares at three Almas. He is at sea.
U.S. ALMA Come here, Jew!
MAHLER & WERFEL (puzzled:) Yes?
U.S. ALMA (addresses the Almaniac:) Come hither. Come to me!
The Almaniac hesitates.
U.S. ALMA Don't fear me!
ALMANIAC Oh! May only your friends fear you.
U.S. ALMA Speak up so I can hear ! What did you say?
ALMANIAC I said: May only your enemies fear you.
U.S. ALMA Your name, I'm told, is Alma-Maniac?
ALMANIAC Oh no. No, not Alma-Maniac, that's just what a few vicious people call me.
U.S. ALMA For many years I've wanted to meet the man they call the »Alma-Maniac«!
ALMANIAC Even if they named me in mockery?
U.S. ALMA I hear they call you that because of your mania to know all there is to know about Alma Mahler-Werfel - and that is to say, about me!
ALMANIAC Just one glance at Alma Mahler would make any man an instant Alma-Maniac!
U.S. ALMA Ohhh! You're far too kind! Let's get down to business. But let's be honest, Jew! You are a Jew, are you not?
ALMANIAC But Madam! Weren't All Alma-Maniacs Jews !
U.S. ALMA That's true: amazingly I've always been desired by little, ugly Jews who swarmed around me like flies to a honey pot
MAHLER & WERFEL Thank you.
U.S. ALMA But this time I want your view on a special matter, which will require all your almaniacal manic insights.
ALMANIAC But first of all, dear lady, let's watch the following performance which our long-time friend, the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, (name also t.b.a.), has organized in honor of your splendid birthday party!
The 3 Almas change into American Living Telegrams, and perform Tom Lehrer's Alma song.
ALMA 1-3 The loveliest girl in Vienna
was Alma, the smartest as well.
Once you picked her up on your antenna,
you'd never be free of her spell.
Her lovers were many and varied,
from the day she begun her beguine.
There were three famous ones whom she married,
and god knows how many between.
Alma, tell us: all modern women are jealous,
which of your magical wands
got you Gustav and Walter and Franz?
ALMA 1 The first one she married was Mahler,
whose buddies all knew him as Gustav,
and each time he saw her he'd holler:
MAHLER »Ach, that is the Fraulein I must have!«
ALMA 3 Their marriage however was murder.
He screamed to the heavens above:
I am writing Das Lied von der Erde -
and she only wants to make love!
ALL Alma, tell us: all modern women are jealous,
you should have a statue in bronze
for bagging Gustav and Walter and Franz.
ALMA 2 While married to Gus, she met Gropius,
and soon she was swinging with Walter.
Gus died and her teardrops were copious.
She cried all the way to the altar.
ALMA 1 But he did work late at the Bauhaus,
and only came home now and then.
She said: »What am I running, a chow-house?«
It's time to change partners again!
ALL Alma, tell us: all modern women are jealous!
Though you did not even use Ponds,
you got Gustav and Walter and Franz.
ALMA 3 While married to Walt she met Werfel,
and he, too, was caught in her net.
He married her, but he was careful,
because Alma was no Bernadette.
MEN And that is the story of Alma,
who knew how to receive and to give.
ALMA 1-3 The body that reached her embalma
was one that had known how to live!
ALL Alma, tell us: how can they help being jealous?
Ducks always envy the swans who get Gustav and Walter -
you never did falter - with Gustav and Walter and Franz!
Applause and congratulations. A cake is presented to U.S. Alma.
U.S. ALMA My dear friends, thank you! Thank you very much! - As you can see, we have a little problem here: there are apparently three different girls who all claim to be the true young Alma. Obviously, there can be only one real young Alma, as there is only one real mature Alma, and that is Me! Consequentially two of the girls must be fakes. So here is my problem: I do know who I am, since no one wants to be a 124-year-old Alma, but I don't know who I was - when I was young, alive and kicking. Now then, my dear Almaniac, tell me as you would tell a friend: which of these three Almas is the real me?
ALMANIAC Dear lady, before I place myself in your hands entirely, will you permit me to tell you a maische - an old story?
U.S. ALMA Why not? Since I was a child, I've always loved a tale well told.
ALMANIAC For countless centuries , in every generation, God has created a woman of irresistible charm and magic power.
U.S. ALMA Whom I hope he names Alma!
ALMANIAC But of course. What else?
ALMA 1 Like me!
ALMA 2 Like me!!
ALMA 3 Like me!!!
ALMANIAC Just a minute, will you, please! - Now whoever has faith in her power, and believes that this gorgeous Alma loves him, finds grace with God and Man. From every generation God chooses a man he loves best and gives him that Alma. Thus the essence of Alma is like a diamond, refracting a thousand beautiful colors and having the secret power to render its owner agreeable before humanity and God. Do you follow me?
U.S. ALMA Of course I do. Go on, go on!
ALMANIAC Then it so happened that at the beginning of the 20th century there were three chosen men, our Gustav, our Walter, and our Franz, whom God loved equally alike. And all three appeared worthy of that magic woman Alma. And God was perplexed! He grieved to think that two of his sons would be offended and deceived! What could he do? - He secretly commissioned a doll-maker, a puppeteer in Munich, to fashion two puppets modeled on his Alma, sparing no cost or effort in making them identical, entirely identical to her. And when the three stood side by side, God himself couldn't distinguish the true Alma from the fake. Full of joy, he called each of our three chosen heroes, our Gustav, our Walter and our Franz, and gave to each of them his personal blessing - and one of his Almas, too.
All men start to shout to one another, starting an argument about Alma.
MAHLER Mine was the true Alma! That's for sure! There can't be any doubt about it!
GROPIUS Excuse me, Gustav, Mine was the true Alma! I was the first man who made her feel like a woman. I was the hero of her life!
WERFEL You should be ashamed. Mine was the true Alma! I was the one she gave herself to with total abandon.
GROPIUS Don't flatter yourself
WERFEL That's just your jealousy speaking.
ZEMLINSKY Maybe she married you three, but I was her first lover! Long before she knew you even existed! She loved me the most !
BURCKHARD It was a false Alma that loved you, stupid! The true Alma entrusted her mind only to me! Didn't you know that? And that is more than the few tacky kisses she allowed you to steal.
KLIMT To me she gave her first kiss, you wrinkled herring! The most precious gift she had to offer! I was always the king of her life! Read her diary! You've all been seduced by fakes! Shame on you!
GROPIUS (to Mahler:) Shall I tell you what Alma said about you?
MAHLER Leave me alone! Alma loved me! And that I know for sure!
GROPIUS Well, if you refuse to listen to what she said about you, you probably know why. (to Werfel:) And let me tell you this, Franz: she said that as a man, you were far from handsome.
WERFEL And what happened to make you so boring to her after such a short time?
GROPIUS She found me boring?
WERFEL She said that as a lover you were not a Kokoschka, and as a spirit you were not a Gustav Mahler.
GROPIUS Alma, is this true?!!
ALMANIAC Silence! Silence!! Silence!!! Please!! No arguments! Don't quarrel!
U.S. ALMA Silence!!! - Now finish your stupid story, please?
ALMANIAC I have! It's finished! Don't be cross! What follows speaks for itself: It's very easy now to find out who has had the true and only Alma: Remember that whoever has the true Alma will be loved by God and Man. Now, then, let each one of you bring to light the promised virtue of your Alma, let each one of you shine forth through your creativity and through your ability to create and combine Goodness, Truth and Beauty in an artful way. And let us, my dear guests, follow them on their journey this evening, and each of us shall find out for ourselves, and all of you for her: who was the true Alma!
(sings:) Bey mir bist du schejn, die Alma is a so schejn,
die Alma is die Schejnste oif der Welt
ALL (sing:) Bey mir bist du schejn, die Alma is a so schejn,
die Alma is die Schejnste oif der Welt
ZEMLINSKY What's the matter with you all of a sudden?
BURCKHARD What's the matter with you all of a sudden?
KLIMT What's the matter with you all of a sudden?
The audience is divided into five groups, following
ALMA 1 & ZEMLINSKY
ALMA 2 & KLIMT
ALMA 3 & BURCKHARD
FRANZ WERFEL & WALTER GROPIUS, followed by the ALMANIAC
U.S. ALMA & MAHLER
ALMANIAC (to people who have not yet decided:) Go, go, go! Follow them! - Alma is chased by Gustav Klimt, the greatest womanizer of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. He will steal her first kiss. Go on! Follow them. You'll find a ticklish tidbit of juicy gossip. - Here, here! Follow Alma and the director of the Vienna State theatre, Max Burckard. He will try to seduce Alma with his ingenious mind. Find out if he succeeds! - Yes, yes, don't by shy! Go! Go! Go!! - Follow Alma and Alexander Zemlinsky, her piano teacher. The man with the unforgettable hands. She tries to leave him for another man. Find out who it is! Go on, go on! Don't miss their hot embraces! - Follow Walter Gropius, the father of Modern Architecture who claims also to be the father of poor little Martin, found dead under strange circumstances, and who was in fact someone else's child! Who was it? Who did it? Franz Werfel, the world famous author of The Song of Bernadette and Jakobowsky and the Colonel will assist him! - Don't hesitate! Go! Go!!