Woman in a Cocoon

A Mini Play

Stage Directions: A large cocoon looking like an enormous egg hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the stage. Inside a cocoon sits a woman. She will be referred to as “Woman in the Cocoon” throughout the play. Her monologue is interrupted by shouts of demonstrations, bullets, screams of the injured, and sirens of MDA (Israeli Red Cross), all of which are shown on several large TV screens on the floor.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: I left everything I had in Moscow – my past, my career, my circle of friends – and here I am, in the Holy Land. The land that I don’t know anything about, a new land

Sounds of an anti-government demonstration coming from several TV screens drown out her voice.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: And here I am, here I am… I got a little apartment for a very nice price, in a beautiful place called… (checks her notes) …called Neve Daniel. They call it a “settlement”, but listen… doesn’t every city begin as a settlement? And you know what, I found out that even Israel has its antisemites. How can I tell them from others – is that what you want to know? Anyone who calls this beautiful place where I live “controversial”. That’s how I can tell them. As for the local antisemites, they’re nothing new to those of us who grew up in Russia, right? Not that I ever encountered it, of course, because my parents were smart, which is why they passed on their Russian surnames to me. Who would want to have a Jewish surname in Russia?  I had one Jewish grandmother, and now that I am here, I can switch my Russian surname to hers, which was … (thinks) Goldberg! That’s right, I am going to change “Trofimova” to “Goldberg”! When you live among Russians, it’s smart to be Russian, and when you live among Jews, it’s smart to be Jewish, and if you don’t believe me, take a look at me! As for those Israelis who are unhappy with us Russians moving into the so-called “settlements,” they are left-wingers, at least that’s what my highly respected Russian friends call them, and my highly respected Russian friends are right, because who can take the lefties seriously? Those of us who had been born in the Soviet Union know a thing or two about the so-called “power to the people”!

She takes out a phone, turns on her camera, and looks at herself, turning her head this way and that way. Sounds of a demonstration coming from the screens become louder again, and at some point, drown out her words.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON (takes out a hat.) I got myself a little hat! (Puts on the hat.) I look good in it, don’t I? Wait a minute, let me take a selfie and post it on FB, so all my friends in Russia can see me in this hat and admire me and I’ll tell them that now I look like some of the local women! (Lifts her phone, admires herself in the camera, and takes a selfie.) I see many women here walking around with strange headwear – they do it to look unique. And why not? Aren’t we all women, don’t we like all kinds of hats, even strange ones like the kinds worn by these locals!

Voice of an invisible interlocuter: “They don’t wear it to look pretty or unique! Their headwear is for totally different purposes! They wear it because it is part of their religion!”

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: (waves away the words of the invisible interlocutor): I was so brave to leave my homeland at the beginning of the disgusting war it started just to steal the territory that belongs to Ukraine! Yes, I’m not afraid to repeat it – I was brave, and I was ethical! And if anyone out there wants to lecture me about this place where I live, this place having been taken from Palestinians, and then compare it to the way Crimea had been taken from Ukraine, I will just tell you to shut the f.. up! It’s not the same! This is our land! Don’t put an equal sign between Russia and Israel! They are not the same! I read Russian-language newspapers and I listen to what my smart Russian friends here say, they came here thirty years ago, they are real old-timers, they know what they are talking about!

Sounds of protests drown out her words.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: Of course, it’s a little sad that my whole life in Russia ended like this, as if I had never even been there. No one remembers me there and all my achievements will be forgotten. But I’m not worried! I will start over again, I will re-launch my career here, only I haven’t yet decided what it will be! Something literary no doubt!

Sounds of loud shooting are coming from one of the screens.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: And I do look pretty in my little hat! As for all these crazy locals who go on demonstrations against their own governments – you milksops don’t know how lucky you are, in Russia no one would have given you the right to scream like that!

She fixes her hair with her fingers, tilting her head this way and that way, taking more selfies.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: Now that I live in a democracy, I can safely ignore all these locals screaming about their little country turning into a dictatorship! What do they know about dictatorships? True, I had a good life in Russia, I made a good career, I knew all the film directors worth knowing – and now it’s all in the past, and I have to start from scratch. But I’m not afraid! No-no, I’m not afraid! I’m one of those positive-thinking people who always see their glass half full, not like those (nods in the direction of the screens) who only know how to complain and see the bad side of everything!

Sounds of protests from TV screens drown out her words.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: And all you out there who think I know nothing about this country, listen up! I take walks, I take long walks, you know, and I look around, I see empty space here and empty space there, and here’s what I say to myself – it’s beautiful, that’s all I know, and as for who had lived there before, I don’t know and frankly, I don’t need to know! And as for all of you who keep saying I should go live in a less controversial place, well, then who will live here? Right now, I live here, and it’s good enough for me! I’m only human, you know, I can’t know everything right away, but this thing I keep hearing from some of the locals that Jews shouldn’t live here because Arabs are going to build their state here – well, why did it take them so long, I ask you? They would have built it a long time ago if they wanted to, but they didn’t! If this is their rightful place, why did they become terrorists, I ask you? (Takes another selfie with her phone). I should get myself a little red hat, so I look like one of those fashionable women who wear red hats at the protests. If I buy myself a little red hat, I’ll look like a Little Red Riding Hood!

Voice of an invisible interlocutor: Those women at the protests don’t wear red hats to look like a Little Red Riding Hood. They wear them to look like slave women in “Handmaid’s Tale.” They do it to send a message that they won’t settle for anything less than a real democracy.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: I’m not stopping them from thinking the red hats are from “Handmaid’s Tale,” let them think whatever they want! I know a thing or two about literature – after all, that’s what I specialized in back in Russia! Come to think of it, I have a little red beret! (Removes her first hat and puts on a red beret.)

I look good in red, don’t you think so?

Sounds of demonstrations from several TV screens become louder, just as sounds of shooting from the other screens become more frequent.

WOMAN IN THE COCOON: Some say that it’s people like me that are giving a bad name to this country!  Well, let them talk! What do they know!

A crowd of protesters emerges from one of the screens. A tall man reaches up and disconnects her cocoon from the hook on the ceiling. The woman falls, and as she lies on the floor, she consoles herself with another little hat and another selfie.


About the Author
Nina Kossman, born in Moscow, is a bilingual poet, memoirist, playwright, translator of Russian poetry, and artist. She lives in New York where she edits EastWest Literary Forum, a bilingual literary magazine in English and Russian.