The Bears Sleep at Last

By Geneviève Billette
Translated by Nadine Desrochers

The Bears Sleep at Last
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Their whole bodies are ready for sleep, but sleep doesn’t come.

The cold has deserted winter, causing the polar bears in the zoo to pace in an endless quest for sleep. Their caretaker, Sasha, will do anything to bring them slumber. But when a boy named Marcus suddenly appears ... Read more


Overview

Their whole bodies are ready for sleep, but sleep doesn’t come.

The cold has deserted winter, causing the polar bears in the zoo to pace in an endless quest for sleep. Their caretaker, Sasha, will do anything to bring them slumber. But when a boy named Marcus suddenly appears at his window, bringing a different outlook on the meaning of family, Sasha finds himself buried under new responsibilities—such as packing lunches and reading bedtime stories—rather than snow. And so he keeps going back to the bears, believing that he’ll find relief by the day that’s circled on the calendar, but missing Marcus’s pleas for attention and care.

Woven through a delicate and charming balance of the unique and familiar, this ethereal, melancholy play for young audiences brings light and warmth to wintering hearts.

Geneviève Billette

Geneviève Billette holds a degree in French Studies from the University of Montreal and is a dramatist from the National Theatre School of Canada. She devotes herself to writing and translating and is a professor at the Graduate School of Theatre at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Le pays des mains, published by Leméac in 2004, is the recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Grand Prix Paul-?Gilson, and the Prix Gratien-?Gélinas. Her many plays have been performed in Switzerland, Canada, France, Martinique, Germany, and Mexico. Many have been translated into several languages. She lives in Montreal.

Nadine Desrochers

Translations by Nadine Desrochers include four plays by Sarah Berthiaume, two of which, The Flood Thereafter (Talisman Theatre, 2010) and Yukonstyle (Playwrights Canada Press, 2014), were part of Canadian Stage’s 2013/2014 season; Marilyn Perreault’s Rock, Paper, Jackknife . . . (Talisman Theatre, 2009; Playwrights Canada Press, 2010) and BUS STOPS (Théâtre I.N.K./Centaur Theatre, 2016); and Billy (The Days of Howling) by Fabien Cloutier (Talisman, 2014; A Play, A Pie and a Pint, Traverse Theatre/Òran Mór, Scotland). Her translation of The Medea Effect by Suzie Bastien (hotINK festival, New York, and Talisman Theatre, 2012) won the 2013 META Award for Outstanding New Translation.

Excerpt

Sasha’s apartment, a few hours later. Marcus is sleeping. Sasha is working on equations in a notebook. Next to him, a cup of coffee.

Marcus: (awaking abruptly) Sasha! I dreamt I was suffocating, that my tongue went to hide at the back of my throat because the students in my class were asking what my nickname was. I couldn’t answer, I didn’t have one, and my tongue went to hide at the back of my throat forever! Sasha? Sasha?!

Sasha: I’m here, Marcus. Breathe. Please, just breathe.

Marcus: Okay.

Sasha: But do it as well.

Marcus breathes.

Marcus: I can’t go to school, Sasha. Everyone there must already have loads of nicknames.

Sasha: What are you talking about .  .  . It’s normal for you not to have one. To get a nickname, you must first go to school. People must get to know you first.

Marcus: I would really like for my nickname to be nice.

Sasha: It will be, it will be.

Marcus gets back into bed. Sasha sits close by and goes back to his equations.

Marcus: Aren’t you going to sleep?

Sasha: I am trying to figure out how many more blocks of ice I will need to carry per hour. Three degrees higher, that’s the forecast. I have to maintain a temperature that’s bearable for my bears .  .  . though it’s barely bearable .  .  . so to speak .  .  .  

.  .  .

Marcus: Sasha .  .  . the date that’s circled in red on the calendar .  .  . what is it?

Sasha: Now’s not the time, Marcus.

Marcus: We know each other pretty well, now. Enough to share each other’s secrets, don’t you think? And I’m really curious about it.

Sasha: I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Marcus: Actually, right at this moment, it’s more the red pen you used to circle the date that makes me curious. That part of the story shouldn’t be so long to tell .  .  .

Sasha smiles.

Sasha: Fair enough, I’ll try and find your pen for you.

Sasha digs around. Marcus is all hope.

Ah-?ha!

Marcus: You found it?

Sasha: Oh.

Marcus: What?

Sasha: I forgot to put the cap back on. I’m sorry, Marcus.

Marcus: (undone) It doesn’t matter.

.  .  .

Sasha: Marcus, since you’ve been here, I know I haven’t always stepped up. But if you could just wait another ten days .  .  . if you could just wait until that date that’s circled on the calendar .  .  .

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