by Lizette De la Peña
The play opens on a dock, where Soleil and their partner, Lionel, are loading crates onto a ship. Though Lionel is excited for their sailing trip, Soleil is hesitant and asks where they are going. Lionel claims that they are looking for a shipwreck and gifts Soleil a compass, suggesting that they can be the navigator. Out at sea, Soleil struggles to feel at ease, despite Lionel’s efforts, and contemplates changing their name—yet again—to Ariel. Lionel, who tends to forget Soleil’s name when they change it, nicknames them Ari. Later, the couple is caught in a storm. They argue about who got them lost, until Lionel confesses that he’d make the shipwreck up to give them an excuse to go out sailing. Soleil attempts to use their compass to reorient themselves, but it slips from their hand and falls into the sea. After the storm, Lionel apologizes for lying about the shipwreck, though Soleil quickly forgives him. Using the North Star as a reference, they reorient themselves and point towards home. They settle on a new name, for the time being—Polaris.
10-minute play, stage play, identity, nonbinary, LGBTQ+, sailing
I wrote Guiding Star for our Hybrid Play assignment—two characters, and an object as the focal point (originally, it was the compass, but its role has been diminished since the first draft). Out of all the plays we wrote this semester, this one was by far the easiest to write. Lionel and Polaris are characters that I already had living in my brain, both created with friends as part of a larger world. When we got the assignment, the first thing that popped into my brain was an image of the characters and a boat. I’m used to writing screenplays, but this character-centric story seemed to lend itself well to the stage.
At first, I had difficulty finding an excuse to put my two (lovable?) idiots on the boat. They were such vibrant characters that I knew they’d write the story for me once they set sail, but giving them a stereotypical “quest” to find buried treasure seemed too ham-fisted. I finally decided to make the treasure an excuse for Lionel to give his worrywart partner a vacation. I’ll admit the dialogue can be somewhat cheesy at times, but for me, that’s the appeal. Heavily inspired by conversations with my own significant other, the heart of the story is exactly what it sounds like—two idiots in love, lost at sea.
Though I don’t identify as non-binary, Polaris’s feelings of restlessness and insecurity come from a very personal place. As an immigrant who grew up in the U.S., I’ve often doubted my identity, though I’m proud of my Mexican heritage. In my academic career, I constantly pressure myself to go at breakneck speed—but have I picked the right path? Or am I going in the wrong direction? In the end, only time will tell. All I can do is hold on tight, pray for clear skies, and trust that I’ve made the right choice, for now.
LIONEL, 17, he/him pronouns. He is laidback and not one for planning, though he always means well.
SOLEIL, 17, they/them pronouns. High-stress, but a wanderer at heart, they tend to change their name often.
This play takes place over the course of several hours, on a small sailboat out at sea.
(LIGHTS UP. The stage is empty, save for the mast of the sailboat. There is the distant sound of waves along the shore, accompanied by the cawing of birds. LIONEL and SOLEIL enter stage right, carrying CRATES. Lionel steps from the “dock” onto the “ship,” sets his crates down, and goes about getting ready to set off, while Soleil hesitates on the dock. Lionel doesn’t notice at first, facing away from them.)
LIONEL You excited?
LIONEL I said, are you excited?
SOLEIL Oh. Yeah, yeah, sure. Are you?
LIONEL Yeah. (Soleil continues to hesitate, until Lionel turns around and finally notices that they’ve yet to set foot on the boat.) Are you okay?
SOLEIL I’m fine. I’ve just never been on a boat before.
LIONEL Wait, seriously?
SOLEIL Hey, not all of us can travel the world and go on vacation every year, y’know?
LIONEL No, no! I didn’t mean it like—
SOLEIL Hey, it’s fine. I’m just teasing.
LIONEL Oh. Haha. (There is an awkward pause.) Here, lemme help you with that. (Lionel steps off the boat and takes their crate, carrying it onto the boat with the other crates. He looks back—Soleil is still on the dock.)
SOLEIL (embarrassed) Sorry.
LIONEL Hey, there’s nothing to be afraid of. (Lionel extends a hand to Soleil, which they accept. They slowly step onto the boat and immediately cling to Lionel once they’re safely aboard. He hugs them closely.) Hey. Hey, look at me. (Soleil pulls away to look at him.) Everything’s gonna be alright, okay? I promise you that much. (Soleil doesn’t respond.)
LIONEL Cal? Callisto?
SOLEIL (breaking away) My name is Soleil, remember?
LIONEL Right. Soleil. Sorry. Takes me a while to get used to the new one—
SOLEIL It’s fine. We should get going.
LIONEL … yeah, okay. Here, take this. (Lionel presses a compass into Soleil’s hand.)
SOLEIL What’s this for?
LIONEL (teasingly) Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a compass before!
SOLEIL You know what I mean!
LIONEL It’s a gift, dumbass. You like stars, right? You can be the navigator. It’ll get your mind off things.
SOLEIL I don’t know. I’m not great with maps.
LIONEL That’s fine! It’s not like we have one, anyway.
SOLEIL Okay, but I can’t exactly do any navigating if I don’t know the destination. Where are we even going?
LIONEL On an adventure! (Lionel laughs and turns to cast off the line. Soleil chuckles nervously.)
SOLEIL No, seriously, where are we going?
LIONEL I can’t tell you! It’s… a surprise!
SOLEIL Well, how long will it take to get there?
LIONEL Uhhh…(Lionel turns away and busies himself with hoisting the SAIL–or trying to, anyway. It flaps around uselessly.)
SOLEIL I assume you’ve been there before. Judging by the amount of supplies you stole–
SOLEIL Right. Well, you borrowed a week’s worth of snacks.
LIONEL Yeah. That’ll definitely last a week…(Lionel continues to struggle with the sail. It is clearly not going well.)
SOLEIL My point is that it looks like we’re gonna be gone awhile, and I… (pause) Do you need help?
LIONEL I’m good! (The ROPE in Lionel’s hands slips out of his grasp. He lunges for it, but he knocks his head on the boom and tumbles to the ground with a pained yelp. Soleil springs into action, grabbing hold of the rope and pulling the sail back into place.)
SOLEIL (tying the rope) Are you okay?
LIONEL Yep. Juuuust fine! (Soleil giggles and pulls him to his feet.) Thanks. (He gently kisses Soleil. They smile and blush sheepishly.)
SOLEIL So… will you tell me where we’re going now? (Lionel falters for a moment.)
LIONEL Yeah, uh… it’s a… (pause) A shipwreck!
SOLEIL A shipwreck?
LIONEL Yeah. It’s a really cool ruin that I heard about. Since you like history and that sort of thing. I don’t know. I just thought it was cool, and I wanted to show you! (He laughs nervously. Soleil doesn’t notice his discomfort.)
SOLEIL You could’ve just said that from the start, y’know.
LIONEL I wanted it to be a surprise… (Soleil takes the helm.)
SOLEIL I’m sure there are plenty of surprises awaiting us.
LIONEL Yep…(pause) Can I drive? (Blackout.)
(Lights up. Some time later. The sound of wind now accompanies the roar of the ocean waves. Lionel sits on a crate, reading an old tome, while Soleil sits on the other crate and studies their compass.)
SOLEIL I think we’re off course.
LIONEL (looking up) What?
SOLEIL We’ve been heading northwest for hours. I thought you said the shipwreck was west?
LIONEL Uh, no, it was west-northwest.
SOLEIL That’s not… I don’t think that’s how directions work…
LIONEL Yeah, it is. Stop stressing out so much. We’ll get there. It’ll be okay, Cal—Uh, Sol. (Soleil is quiet.) Sol?
LIONEL You okay?
SOLEIL Yeah, I’m fine. I’ve just been thinking.
LIONEL About what?
SOLEIL Well, it’s just that the sun is so hot—
LIONEL You don’t say!
SOLEIL Unlike you—
LIONEL You wound me. I thought we had something, Sol. (Soleil chuckles).
SOLEIL My point is that it’s really annoying. And I’m not sure I like Soleil much. Doesn’t really fit my…
SOLEIL Sure, my vibe. Let’s go with that.
LIONEL Okay, but… what does that have to do with the sun…?
SOLEIL Soleil means sun, you dingus.
SOLEIL Yep. Certified dingus.
LIONEL Is this you saying you wanna break up? You’re too good for me—is that it?
SOLEIL I would, but then I’d be crushed by crippling boredom. So I guess I’ll have to keep you around.
LIONEL If I’m so entertaining, maybe I should join a circus. (pause) On second thought—
SOLEIL I’m sure your dad would be thrilled about you taking up the family business.
LIONEL Hey, hey, hey. You promised you’d never bring that up again.
SOLEIL Alriiiiiight. I have better blackmail on you anyway. (Lionel groans and flops over on the deck dramatically, much to Soleil’s amusement. They sit in comfortable silence. There is a distant rumble of thunder.)
LIONEL So… if Soleil doesn’t fit the vibe, what does? Are you going back to Cal–?
SOLEIL (Interrupting) No. No, I… I don’t really feel right using it anymore…
LIONEL …Sorry. What else, then? (Soleil contemplates the question.)
SOLEIL I don’t know. Ariel is nice.
LIONEL I guess it is. Sol was nice, too, though.
LIONEL Can I call you Ari?
SOLEIL Sure. (looking down at the compass) Okay, we’ve definitely been heading the wrong way. (Blackout.)
(There is a crack of thunder and the crash of a wave against the boat. Lights up—Lionel and Soleil are clinging to the mast and each other, their boat rocking in the storm.)
SOLEIL I told you we were heading the wrong way!
LIONEL Okay, okay, I’m sorry!
SOLEIL Why didn’t you bring a map? It would’ve been so much easier–!
LIONEL You try hunting down convenient treasure maps for historical relics and see how it goes for you!
SOLEIL Anything would’ve been better than sailing blind! Did you even TRY to look–? (A flash of lightning and another crack of thunder. Both of them jump and cling harder.)
LIONEL I’m sorry! This is my fault.
SOLEIL No, it’s mine. I got us lost.
LIONEL No, you didn’t! I made it up, okay? The shipwreck isn’t real.
SOLEIL You WHAT?!
LIONEL I know, I know! It was stupid, and I’m sorry. (pause, struggling to hold on) Maybe—Maybe we can try to steer back to shore?
SOLEIL In this storm?! (Soleil takes their compass out of their pocket and squints at it through the rain.)
SOLEIL I—I don’t know where we are. It keeps spinning— (The boat rocks, causing them to lose their grip on the compass. It tumbles into the sea.
SOLEIL No! Oh, god… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry… (A crack of thunder and a flash of lightning. Blackout.)
(Lights up. The storm has passed, and Lionel and Soleil sit with their backs against the mast, exhausted.)
LIONEL I’m sorry I dragged you out here. And… I’m sorry I lied about the shipwreck. I just wanted to distract you. You’ve been so stressed out lately… I just wanted to give you a break.
SOLEIL It’s fine. It’ll be okay. (Soleil looks up. Lionel follows their line of sight, then looks at their face and smiles fondly.)
LIONEL The stars are beautiful tonight, aren’t they?
SOLEIL Yeah…(pointing) Look, there’s the North Star. Home is… that way. (They point into the audience.)
LIONEL Hey, looks like you’re guiding us back after all! And you thought you needed a map!
SOLEIL (chuckles.) Yeah… (Pause.) Your dad is gonna kill you.
LIONEL Party pooper. Maybe that should be your name.
SOLEIL Polaris, actually.
POLARIS (SOLEIL) My name is Polaris. For now.
LIONEL Polaris. It suits you.
POLARIS Yeah. It does. (Polaris rests their head on Lionel’s shoulder. For one night, all is well. BLACKOUT. End of play.)