DIALOGUES FOR THE VACCINE HESITANT…
…and those who love them
But Why? BY MC CHISHOLM
DIALOGUES FOR THE VACCINE HESITANT… …and those who love them
“Throughout the pandemic our focus has been to centre artists to help us make sense of these extraordinary times. So, when the Dr. Peter Centre approached us about working on a project about vaccine hesitancy, we had to say yes — because we see that the issue of vaccines is dividing friends, families and communities. As artists we want to do our part to bring people together, and to fight what we see as the worst side effect of this pandemic — the schisms and fractures emerging in many corners of society. With Dialogues for the Vaccine Hesitant and Those Who Love Them, we commissioned four playwrights who’s lived experience might offer insight and understanding around some of the more polarizing and difficult circumstances we are all facing. We think of these as theatrical conversations embodying the difficult situations that many of us are finding ourselves in. Whether it’s a discussion you are having with yourself, or someone in your circle, we hope these short plays will help you navigate this issue with compassion and empathy.”
SHERRY J YOON Artistic Director Boca del Lupo
JAY DODGE Artistic Producer Boca del Lupo
ABOUT BOCA DEL LUPO Boca del Lupo’s mission is to create extraordinary performances in unconventional spaces. The company is devoted to accessibility and works to broaden the participation, perception and importance of contemporary performance within the multiplicity of Canadian cultures. Led by Artistic Director Sherry J. Yoon and Artistic Producer Jay Dodge, Boca del Lupo has created more than 60 new works since its inception in 1996. Productions have toured to nationally and internationally and the company hosts a vibrant artist development program known as SLaM. During the tenure of the pair, the company has received numerous awards including Jessies for Outstanding Design, Outstanding Production, Significant Artistic Achievement and Outstanding Performance; the Critic’s Choice Award for Innovation; the Alcan Performing Arts Award and The Patrick O’Neill Award, which it won for Plays2Perform@Home, a home delivery theatre project that inspired these Dialogues for the Vaccine Hesitant and Those Who Love Them. Boca del Lupo is are grateful to create and work on the unceded territory of the xwm θkw y̓ m (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and S l̓ílw taɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) people.
SETTING A sunny kitchen, with lots of plants and great art, (mostly kid’s art!). Covid vaccines have been approved for kids age 5 to 11. A radio plays instrumental easy listening music in the background.
The actor playing LINDA will double as SPARKLES, whose lines are only suggestions, please make them your own. If you are more comfortable speaking, squeaking... mini-pig, puppy, etc... change “cat” to your species. I wrote this with crucial input from Dr. Elizabeth McLaughlin, child psychologist. She explained the importance of supporting a kid’s resiliency, and of helping them understand how to accept discomfort to achieve a goal. She also directed me to the “CARD” system for dealing with anxiety/fear.
COMFORT Help your child accept negative thoughts and feelings. Let them know these are normal and will pass. Coach your child to be courageous and to be the ‘boss’ of their worry.
ASK Listen and talk to each other. Ask your child how they are feeling and answer any questions they have honestly. Use words that your child can easily understand and follow their lead. If your child doesn’t seem interested or is not ready to talk, that’s okay. Tell them they can always come to you if they have questions.
RELAX Children see and feel what their parents are doing and often do the same. Model relaxation for your child. Speak to your child in a calm and normal speaking voice. DISTRACT Try to keep normal routines and limit the amount of time your child focuses on whatever is making them anxious.
KIM is a Dad in his late thirties. He’s preoccupied, wondering how to talk with his elementary school age daughter, SUZU, about her getting her shot. He’s having a hard time organising his thoughts. His mom, LINDA, “Nana” is over for a Saturday morning visit. She thinks this generation of parents is too indulgent. Kim turns down the radio as he pours Linda a coffee.
LINDA: That’s good. Kim! Mmm, I shouldn’t be drinking caffeine, but I love the smell of coffee too much to give it up.
KIM: I can make decaf— LINDA: Yuck, I don’t trust that stuff. Who knows what they put into it to get the caffeine out. So, did you make the appointment for Suzu, yet? It takes time for the vaccine to kick in.
KIM: Mom, I know how it works– I got the jab as soon as I could.
LINDA: I want to be safe around my grand-daughter, just get it done and over with.
KIM: She’s got a lot of questions— LINDA: That’s silly. She’s too young to really understand— KIM: Actually Mom, I’m always surprised at how much she does understand—
LINDA: You indulge her and that’s why she comes up with all kinds of notions. Like this thing with needles...
KIM: Lots of kids have a fear of needles. I still hate needles. She should have a say on decisions that affect her, especially her body.
LINDA: Such a big deal over something that takes two seconds.
KIM: It kind of is a big deal, Mom! Argh, never mind.
LINDA: No tell me. You’re not one of these anti— KIM: No, I didn’t think twice about getting the shot—for me. But it’s different making that choice on her behalf, she’s so little so... vulnerable, it’s not rational but what if... never mind I’m just trying to, to make it clear for myself first, so I can explain it to her.
LINDA: I would have lost my mind explaining everything to you and your brothers. “Why do I need to go to bed?” “Because it’s dark”, “But why?” “Because the sun is gone”. “But why?”. “Because the earth turns”. “But why?” “Because it does. Now go to bed!”. The ‘but whys’ never end! Get it over with quick and if she freaks out buy her an ice cream afterwards. That’s what I did with you.
KIM: Yeah. I remember sobbing my eyes out, eating moon mist ice cream and then throwing up.
LINDA: You always had a tricky tummy. I had three of you to wrangle into the doctor’s office, by myself—
KIM: I know, you did your best. LINDA: Oh, lord, I traumatized you. KIM: (chuckling) It’s okay Mom, really. If I wasn’t trying to figure out how to talk with Suzu, I wouldn’t even have remembered throwing up all over the car.
LINDA: And all over Kyle. 6
KIM: Although, he deserved that. He told me that the needle would make all my blood come out.
LINDA: Oh, that little— ! KIM: Maybe I’m overthinking this. I just don’t feel like I have all the answers.
LINDA: Nope. And you never will. That’s being a parent... KIM: Top up? KIM pours more coffee while LINDA speaks...
LINDA: Kim, about what you said— oh that’s good, leave room for cream, thanks— what you said, about kids being so little, vulnerable... I do know how that feels. You would look up at me with so much trust, it was scary. So, I pushed you though as fast as I could because I didn’t know what else to do. I’m... sorry. I was winging it, but you, you’re a great dad. So just listen to her and answer her honestly. Dang, I wish I could go back and take my own advice.
KIM: Thanks Mom. LINDA: And— maybe this will help— it got easier when I realized that it was okay to answer to some of those “But Whys?” with “I don’t know.”
LINDA: Where is she anyway?
KIM: Upstairs with the cat. (calling off, and up the stairs) Suzu?? Hey, Suuuzu...? We go upstairs where we find SUZU and her pet cat 7
SPARKLES, playing in her walk in closet. SUZU is rummaging through piles of craft supplies looking for something. SPARKLES can meow, hiss and purr— assent, refusal, confusion or delight...
SPARKLES: Mreoowrr? (watcha doing?) SUZU: I’m trying to find something to protect you. There is too much junk in this closet! Oh! This’ll do it! Hold still now, you have to wear this.... Doo dooo do doo SUZU hums as she ties the ribbon in a bow around the cat’s neck. SPARKLES doesn’t mind, he is used to playing dress up.
SUZU: Ta Da! This ribbon is the magic invisibility ribbon of... magic.
SPARKLES: Mrerp. (I’m not impressed) So SUZU explains the significance.
SUZU: Sparkles. This ribbon will make you invisible because, it’s a... force shield! And the Covid germs will go, “Aaaarrrgghhghgh, help!!!–I want to get in this kittycat, but on no! This magic ribbon has power over me, it makes me, it makes me... blow up!— Shaboooom! Brrrroom, Pyyoow!”. That’s what germs sound like when they blow up. And then— “EEEEEeeeek!” They fall down. Dead. Do you like that?
SPARKLES: Prrrrrrr (purring yes) SUZU: Good. You’re protected. And you look pretty! Hm, where’s my wand? Boy, Dad is right, it is messy in my closet. I want my wand so I can— Sha-zing— turn the evil Covid guys into... into... snowflakes or— no, Sparkles, stop scratching –you’ll lose your magic bow! Do you want the 8
Covids to GET YOU?!
SPARKLES: Hissssst-rrrowr! (you scared me!) SUZU: I’m sorry, don’t be scared, I’m just trying to protect you. Shh... because you are just a little kittycat and I am bigger than you. I love you. And it’s my job to take good care of you because there’s this thing in the world now, and it’s Covid which is hurting people... SUZU confides in SPARKLES. You know Lilly, my book buddy?
SPARKLES: Merwr. (“yes”) SUZU: Well, her grandmother got really sick... SPARKLES: Mrrwor?? (“How sick?”) SUZU: ... like really, really— really sick and almost died. I don’t want my nana to... heavy sigh Through the closet door we hear KIM calling.
KIM: (muffled) “Suzu??....Suuuuz...? SUZU: Uhoh, shhh.... KIM knocks on the door.
SPARKLES: MRRooowrR!! (yikes!!) KIM: (muffled) Are you in there, Su? Can I come in? SUZU: Okay. The door opens and KIM enters to sit on the floor.
KIM: Hey what are you doing in the closet? 9
SUZU: Sparkles was scared, he feels safe in here. KIM: Oh, why does he need to feel safe? SUZU: I dunno KIM: Well. It’s good he’s got you with him. SUZU: Uhuh. KIM: Suzu, have you thought about what we talked about yesterday, that kids can get vaccinated now, for Covid?
SUZU: Yeah. KIM: What do you think? SUZU: I don’t think kids should get vaccinations because I already got them when I was little, right?
KIM: Yes, before you started school. But they weren’t for Covid. Do you know what Covid is?
SUZU: It’s invisible and it’s bad. It’s a bad, little germ, that makes you sick with spikes. KIM: Right, because it has spikes it’s called a Corona virus. SUZU: And it’s scared to come into the closet.
KIM: (chuckling) I didn’t know that! Well, your closet is safe because no one goes in but you and Sparkles.
SUZU: And you, when we tidy up.
KIM: How does it make you feel when I ask you about Covid? 10
SUZU: (Big sigh). Ahhh, I don’t like it. Everybody all the time is always talking, blah, blah, blah Covid. Just go away Covid! Get lost Covid, don’t let the door hit you Covid! Byyyyyyyyyyye
KIM: Wow, it’d be great if we could just tell it what to do. But it’s not going away, is it.
SUZU: But why?
KIM: Because germs, viruses, get passed around, right?
SUZU: But why? KIM: Because people carry them, they don’t mean to, but they can give viruses to other people.
SUZU: So, everybody should stop giving covids to other people!!
KIM: That’s one reason why we get the vaccine. So that we’re less likely to give it to other people. What do you think about you getting the vaccine?
SUZU: I think vaccines are for big people and parents and nanas and, and... bus drivers aaaand all the old, old people and teachers can get the vaccination. And Sparkles and me can stay in here.
KIM: Wouldn’t you get bored if you stayed in here forever? SUZU: (eagerly) We could get me a big TV and Playstation? KIM: (smiling) That is not going to happen. SUZU: Aww! (she knew he was going to say that— it’s a bit of a game between them) 11
KIM: What about everyone at school? Would you miss them? SUZU: There’s this girl, this older girl, Madison and she said the vaccines don’t work.... She showed us on her phone, that people said that.
KIM: Okay. We’ve talked about the internet and how hard it is to know what is true on it, right?
SUZU: Ahuh. KIM: Will you promise me that we will only look at things together? And if Madison or anyone shows you something you will tell me?
SUZU: Yes, I didn’t know she was going to show us that stuff! (she is getting upset) KIM: I’m not mad, Suzu. Other kids have different rules in their families. But in our family, we will check things out together, okay?
SUZU: Okay. So, the vaccine isn’t bad? KIM: No, a lot of scientists have tested it and they have to tell the truth. Sometimes you get a reaction though. After I got my vaccine, I felt really tired.
SUZU: But why did you get it then? KIM: Because now, I can do the things I enjoy, like seeing my friends without worrying. Would you miss your friends if you stayed in here?
SUZU: But why, do kids have to get it? KIM: Because even though some people get reactions 12
from vaccines, many more people get very sick, much more sick from Covid.
SUZU: How sick? KIM: They have a hard time breathing and they feel very bad.
SUZU: Do they die? KIM: Only sometimes. And the doctors and nurses are helping the people who do get very sick.
SUZU: What about Nana, will she get sick? KIM: Nana had the vaccine and she’s careful. You can help keep her and everyone safer if you get the vaccination.
SUZU: They should like put the vaccination in a little pill for kids, why don’t they do that?
KIM: It’s a good idea and they would if they could. I don’t like needles either. When I got vaccinated I had to take big breaths.
SUZU: You did?
KIM: Yes, like this... can you breathe with me, in through your nose and.... out.... KIM and SUZU do a breath together, making a whooshing sound when they breathe out through their mouths.
SPARKLES: Purrrrurrrmrr (“humans are weird”) KIM: And the nurse told me some people look at their phones to make it easier, and I said, “Good idea!” so I 13
looked at pictures— of us at the lake. SUZU: Did it hurt?
KIM: The needle? I didn’t notice because I was looking at a picture of us in Kyle’s boat. Afterward my arm was a bit sore. It’s all better now.
SUZU: I don’t want to get sick... KIM: I know, but you’re a really healthy kid, and most kids don’t get very sick.
SUZU: But why? KIM: Your body is young. Your ‘immune system’— have you heard of that?
SUZU: It’s why I eat fruits and vegetables. To keep my in moon system strong.
KIM: Immune system, right. When you’re young and growing, your immune system is stronger than big people’s.
SUZU: But why do I need to get a needle then? KIM: It’s the best way to be extra safe and to help protect others. Can you think of something you don’t like doing but you know that afterwards, you will be glad you did?
SUZU: Hm... maybe, tidying up, I don’t like doing it, but I like it after, when it looks nice.
KIM: Sometimes it’s worth doing something uncomfortable. Does getting the vaccine sound like something you could do?
SUZU: Maybe... SPARKLES scratches his neck with his hind foot, whappawhappa .
KIM: Here, Sparkles— let’s take that ribbon off.... SUZU: No! Don’t! Leave it on him! KIM: He’s tangling— SUZU: I put it on him, to protect him! I’m a-sposed to take care of him.
KIM: Okay, I see. Like I’m supposed to take care of you? SUZU: Yes. KIM: You do a good job... Hey, if he needed to go to the veterinarian, would you go with him?
SUZU: Yes, I would tell him it’s good for him, sometimes we do things that are hard but that we will feel good about after and I would give him a treat to help him.
KIM: Like I can help you, if we go together? SUZU: You and me and Sparkles? KIM: Sparkles too? Gee Suzu, I don’t think they allow pets—
SUZU: I can show Sparkles how to get a needle. So he can be brave.
SPARKLES: Meow (I’ll be brave) 15
KIM: Wow. I’ll try to find a clinic where we can take Sparkles, but if I can’t, could you look at a picture of him when you get the needle?
SUZU: Maybe he and Nana could watch on zoom? KIM: Oh! You could talk to Nana and show Sparkles how to get vaccinated. SUZU: Yup. I could do that. Dad.... Why is Covid so mean? KIM: Pardon? SUZU: Why does it want to hurt nice people, why does it want to hurt us? KIM: Because it— it um (remembering Linda’s advice)... I don’t know. Maybe we could find out. SUZU: Maybe I will be a virus scientist and find out.
KIM: Maybe someday. Hey Suzu, Nana is in the kitchen and she brought cookies.
SUZU: Cookies! C’mon Sparkles! SPARKLES: Meowp (okay!) They all get up, SUZU scoops up SPARKLES, their voices fade as they head downstairs.
KIM: You should ask Nana to tell you about the time she took me to get vaccinated when I was your age, it’s a good story, your uncle Kyle is in it and.... THE END!
MARY-COLIN CHISHOLM March 2020: my play A Belly Full (with M. Kash) closed a week after opening. Three scheduled productions, including one new work, were sent to limbo and my projected ‘best year in a long time’ disappeared. My personal crisis was quickly put into perspective by the stories of those directly affected by Covid. And I was one of many artists saved by the federal CERB. So, probably like you, I baked, walked, dreamed vividly, hunkered down, planted seeds, and discovered the ways of zoom. Through all this, I learned to re-see and value; kindness, connection, nature, reinvention, and breathing through uncertainty. I am not grateful for Covid, or thankful for its lessons. It is a random virus, and it hurt too many, especially our most vulnerable, to ever be thanked. But as we inch towards health, I will remember to hug my blessings and to love fiercely our wild, green fragile world.
© 2021 MC CHISHOLM No part of this book may be reproduced in any part by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical. For special permission, including educational purposes, please contact Boca del Lupo at firstname.lastname@example.org · DESIGN: Cabin + Cub Design 17