Stones Fall, Birds Fly, by Laura Maria Censabella

November 21, 2012

Excerpt from one-act monologue play:

Character: Leonardo “Lenny” Vinci, a bird-like working class man, originally from the Lower East Side of NYC. Place: Beside the highway in upstate New York. Time: The present.

LENNY VINCI hitches along a sparsely traveled country highway in upstate New York. He is a small man in his 60s who buys his clothes in the Boys’ Department. He speaks with the traces of a Lower East Side accent. A car goes by without stopping for him. (Beat.) The story of his life, but today he is quietly amused as he glances at the audience. Then: birdsong. He watches with awe as a bird leaves its perch on a tree and flies above him.


The first time I tried to fly?! The day after I saw my pop beat my ma. I took his big black umbrella onto our second floor fire escape, breathed in and out to make myself light (He breathes shallowly and quickly.) and poof!—I jumped. (Beat) Hit the sidewalk fast enough to break both legs in four pieces. Show you a secret. (He lifts up his work shirt. We see red strap marks circling his shoulders.) These are the marks of my newest wings.

(He drops his shirt.) My name’s Lenny. Lenny Vinci. Leonardo. Like Leonardo Da Vinci but without the Da. First time I heard of the man was when I was lying in bed waiting for my legs to heal. Ma gave me a 3rd grade reader filled with Leonardo’s drawings of flying machines: screw propellers, tent-like parachutes, and men working levers connected to giant bat wings. You ever have a moment in your life cracked you wide open? That’s what happened to me when I saw Leonardo’s drawings. ‘Cause they were the pictures I’d been seeing in my head since birth.

“What is it, Ma? Why am I having Leonardo’s dreams?” But Ma just smiled at me like she knew something but wasn’t saying. Then she cried: “Iddu nun volau! Iddu nun volau!” (Thoughtful, translating the Sicilian) Because he never flew. The great man never flew. (Beat) I hadda find me a patron and finish out Leonardo’s  dream.

So I spent my days calculating the speed of pigeons over the East River by estimating their bank angles against their turning radii and I prayed for a Medici to show up but there weren’t none on the Lower East Side. Finally this lady from the Catholic Youth Organization saw my formulas and sent me to an after-school program for mechanical design. It wasn’t exactly the Renaissance but when they gave me my certificate I was so filled with Leonardo power that I took that diploma and went to every aeronautics firm in the tri-state area and I explained to them my idea of human-powered flight.

Isn’t it everyone who wants to float above the dirt and stink with wings attached to their shoulders like angels fly?

[Stones Fall, Birds Fly continues.]

Laura Maria Censabella is working on a commission from Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Project for a new science-based play. Her one-act play Stones Fall, Birds Fly was produced by Wide Eyed Productions. Her children’s musical The Last Pine Tree on Eagle Mountain is touring the NYC public libraries. Other plays have seen many productions in NYC and regionally. She has received three grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts.  Her work has won two daytime Emmys. Teaching appointments include Columbia University and the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is director of the EST Playwrights Unit.

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