String Theory

1678 - Adrian Borda - AdrianBorda dot Com

“Vasily, my friend, the Symphony board asked me to approach you.” I said to the man in the straight-backed chair.

“The light,” my old friend responded. “I’m trying to capture the way light filters through the F-holes. Can you imagine? Standing next to the soundpost as a string is plucked or bowed. It must refract the light.”

“I don’t think music works that way,” I said. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Inside the cello, the light beams into the soft, unvarnished wood, like the sun does in a forest. Particles of light dancing in the raw darkness.”

“And the strings change the light?”

“The sound… the sound moves the air; the air bends the light.” He lifted his head from the instrument he was cradling against his body. His dark eyes found mine, and I saw universes spinning in their depths.

“Vasily, are you alright?”

“I am the music,” he said. “The music is me. I am my instrument. It plays me. The light gleams and the sound shakes all of creation.”

“The sound of your cello?” I wondered if I should be calling the staff physician.

“My cello, your viola. The doorstop when you stub it with your toe. The stars. The stars sing their light.”  He pauses, then lifts his hand. “In the beginning, there was the Word, but what was before the beginning? What came before the word?”

“Music?” I guessed.

“Music! Yes. Music shapes creation. Music shapes us all.”

Apparently, this was as lucid as my old friend was going to get. “Vasily, the Symphony wants to commission a new concerto from you. For the new season.” I waited for him to respond. When he did not, I asked gently. “Vasily, they want you to compose. Do you understand?”

My friend was silent. Then he raised his right hand, the one gripping his bow. He played a note, then a scale, then a tune I’d never heard before, and for just a second, I felt like I understood the universe and it understood me. But only for a second.

“Vasily?” I spoke his name again.

He continued to play.

I checked my watch. I was due back at the university where a new group of students was waiting to learn Music Theory 101 from the famous conductor – me. “Vasily, I’m afraid I have to leave now. Shall I come back later in the week – take you to lunch?

“Lunch… yes.. at the café in the park,” he said. “I need to see the light on the water and hear the way it’s shaped.”

Nothing he said made sense to me, but I was certain it was making sense to him. “Alright, then. I’ll be back on Thursday at one. Perhaps we can discuss your commission then.”

“Commission… I should charge the length of a comet’s tail. But I will settle for my usual fee. A concerto for strings and light… ready for September.”

“Vasily, are you sure?”

“Nothing is sure.”

“Pitches are sure.”

He shook his head, “Oh, if only that were so.”

Vasily lifted his bow, put it back down, and repeated the strange tune he’d played a few minutes ago. He ignored me when I said goodbye and I made sure to close the door to his studio as softly as possible.

On Thursday morning, I received a text message. “Keep your tie on. I need to know how red sounds near water. See you at one.”

I stared at my reflection in the window of my classroom. How had he known I’d already been wearing a red tie?”

Image Source: Adrian Borda

28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #12 – The Trilogy Challenge (Part I): Rochambeau Rumble





Gentlebeings  – and not so Gentlebeings – welcome to this year’s Rochambeau Rumble, where an intergalactic panel of players tries to win the ultimate game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Let’s meet them. Rock, who are you and where are you from?


Name’s Thaaj. From Tellarus. I work as a blaster in the flobutnum mines. Got a wife and a son who’s gonna be a miner like me some day. (beat) I will crush the competition. (Rock holds his arm up, one hand in a fist.)


Alright, next is Paper. Tell us about yourself.


I’m Laihaina from Serenity, and I’m a schoolteacher in the Interplanetary School on Novelus Two. I don’t want to boast, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got my competitors all wrapped up.  (Paper extends one arm in front of her, her hand flat like paper.)


Well good luck to you, Paper. I hope your students are watching tonight and cheering you on. Scissors, you’re up.


I’m Aelak of Fiskar. I’m a cardio-thoracic resident, and I’ve never lost a patient. I plan to cut through the competition. (He extends his arm to the side, his hand in a scissors position.)

ANNOUNCER (nervous laughter):

Well, that’s great, Scissors. Thanks for that. (recovers) Audience, the stage is set, the players all seem pretty confident. (shifts to a Monster Truck announcer voice): Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!  (beat) Round one begins now. Players… take your marks.

Read the Entire Play:  012 – 2402.15 – Rochambeau Rumble

Important Note:

This play mentions three different charities, all of them are real, and I hope you’ll consider throwing some or all of them a few bucks:

Paper for Water

Doctors Without Borders

The Halo Trust


28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #11 – The First Line Challenge: Comparing Apples and Bananas


LINDA (still waving the knife): You never know anything do you. Never read the briefs, never check the news. You’re always just stumbling around in the dark. You’re lucky you got out alive.

JACK: Don’t you dare blame me for this. If I hadn’t pretended to be one of the potential buyers, we’d never even know it had been sold! You were the one who knew it’s worth, Linda Lee. You’re just as responsible as I am!

LINDA (bitter laughter): Me? Responsible? Hardly. I’m just a pawn in your game, Jack. (mimics him) “Boo hoo, I didn’t have the scratch!” (normal voice) You think you can manipulate me, but I see right through you.

JACK (leaps to his feet): You? You don’t know anything about me! You have no clue what I’ve been through!

LINDA (advancing with the knife): Oh, I know more than you realize, Jack-o. I know about the lies, the betr – beray – betryl –

JACK (correcting her drunken misspeech): Betrayal.

LINDA (still drunk): Right, betrayal.

Read the entire play here: 011 – 2402.14 – Comparing Apples and Bananas

28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #010 – The Original Musical Challenge: Mother of Water

Walking Into the Sea


Old Fisherman:
I put to see at the break of dawn

Seamen’s Chorus:
Mother of Water, guide me on.

Old Fisherman:
I search for where the fish have gone.

Seamen’s Chorus:
Mother of Water, guide me on.

Mother of Water, mother of waves!
Other lives she takes but ours she saves!

Read the Entire Play Here: 010 – 2402.12 – Mother of Water

28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #09 – The Song Challenge: Remembering the Sky





Sometimes we had to be reminded, but the truth is, we had other kinds of learning, not just what a Teacher laid out for us. Your grandfather taught me to catch fish, and clean and cook them, and your grandmother taught me how to bake bread.


That doesn’t sound very efficient. Replicators are less messy and less wasteful.


Mm. So they are, but food tasted better, then. And no recreational program can beat the feeling of falling snow getting into your eyes and hair. It was annoying, but it was also magical.

(He sings)

I remember snow
Soft as feathers
Sharp as thumb tacks
Coming down like lint
And it made you squint
When the wind would blow…

Read the entire play here: 009 – 2402.10 – Remembering the Sky

28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #08 -The Sports Challenge: Dancing With Dinosaurs

Dancing With Dinosaurs



As I said, these gators are all nuisance animals. They were brought here from someone’s pond, canal, or swimming pool. They crashed a barbecue and drank all the beer – or more likely, someone’s dog or cat. Here in Florida, when a gator is deemed a nuisance – and they have to be at least four feet long for that to happen – you will call the gator hotline – it’s 866-FWC-GATOR – and they’ll send a trapper. Whether it’s a large alligator or a smaller one, whether it’s the same cost to you – nothing. The trapper’s payment is that they get to keep the animal. They usually keep them until they have ten or twenty, and then they sell them to a processing plant where they get used for leather and meat. Some very lucky gators are trapped by organizations like mine, which bring them to refuges. They can never, never be released back into the wild. You may wonder if we’re helping. Sadly, we’re only helping a very few animals. We humans are encroaching into their territory and developing their wetland homes into condos and housing developments, and they die. Last year, my rescue saved about fifteen alligators. The state of Florida killed over ten thousand.

Read the entire play here: 008 – 2402.08 – Dancing With Dinosaurs

28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #07 – The Idiom Challenge – Beauty is a Curse



FRAN: I love it. I feel… magical. But I can’t afford it. I’m sorry, I should go change.
EVELYN: I won’t hear of it. As I said, my darling girl, we have other payment options: Cash, Card, Carotid, or Curse.
FRAN: Carotid?
EVELYN smiles, revealing her fangs – she is a vampire.
EVELYN: Yes, darling. You let me nip you just over your carotid artery and sip a little bit of the lovely red juice that flows through your body.
FRAN (shuddering): I don’t think… what was the other option? A curse? You mean like I have to give you my first-born child or I’ll wake up in the morning in the shape of a toad?

Read the entire play: 007-2402.07 – Beauty Is a Curse

28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #06 – The Riddle Challenge: Variations On a Theme




Charlie: Name one.

Teacher: Okay… MacBeth.

Charlie: MacBeth has a riddle.

Teacher: I think you’ll find that Shakespeare’s work is full of riddles. In MacBeth, however, the key riddle has to do with the title character’s ultimate demise: In act four, scene one, the witches warn MacBeth, “Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth.”

Lisa: That’s a riddle. How so?

Teacher: Who can answer?

Read the entire play here: 006 – 2402.06 – Variations on a Theme

28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #05 – The 30-Word Vocabulary Challenge: Officemates




MORGAN: Morning. Coffee?

ALEX (grateful): Coffee? Yes. (beat) Black.

MORGAN: Sugar?


MORGAN (surprised): No sugar?

ALEX (patting their middle and shaking their head): No sugar.

MORGAN (nodding their understanding): Health matters.

ALEX: Health matters a lot.


Read the entire play here: 005 – 2402.05 – Officemates


28 Plays Later 2024 – Brief #04 – The Phobia Challenge: Somebody, Save Me




KAL: You’ve never been standing outside a building in Metropolis when someone has pointed to the sky and said, “Look! Up in the air! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s – ”

THERAPIST: “… a pterodactyl!”

KAL: Excuse me?

THERAPIST: That’s the line, isn’t it?

KAL: I was going for “Superman.”

THERAPIST: The comicbook character? That’s absurd.

KAL: And a dinosaur that hasn’t lived since the late Jurassic is a frequent sight in your skies?

Read the entire play here: 004 – 2402.04 – Somebody Save Me