DIALOGUES FOR THE VACCINE HESITANT…
…and those who love them
Tiny Fist Waving BY KAREN HINES
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 & CHARACTERS It’s twilight. Pender Island. Moments after a young couple has been married on the Terrace of the Poet’s Cove Resort. Gentle waves lap at the shore. The weather is warm, just cooling. The sky is glowing blue. Wedding guests spill out from little rows of folding white chairs and wander toward the venue’s “Seaglass Ballroom.” They gaze up, blinking at the beautiful sky. At the doorway to the ballroom, guests pass through the soft beams of a few flashlights as their QR codes are checked: venue policy. There is a tiny baby in a grandmother’s arms. The bride reaches for it and nuzzles it. The groom wraps an arm around his little family, and they go inside. Nearby, at the end of a dock, the bride’s sisters, VICKI and VEDA, gaze out over the water. They are both masked, and about 6 feet apart. The wind is soft and moves through their nearly identical hair—nearly identical because Vicki and Veda are twins.
VEDA: So beautiful. VICKI: The wedding or the cove? VEDA: Both. There is some silence between them. Out in the calm water, a team of herrings surface. A sea eagle soars by.
VICKI AND VEDA: Mmmm. More silence. From the Ballroom, we hear Elvis: “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
VICKI: You should go inside. Get some oysters before 3
VEDA: I’ll stay here with you a little longer. Wait for the rush to be over.
VICKI: The oyster rush? VEDA: Yes. Exactly. VICKI watches the water, VEDA watches the sky. After a while:
VEDA: You know they give shots at pharmacies. VICKI: I didn’t know that. Of course I know that. Thanks. I’m good.
VEDA: Sorry. The herrings all dive down and disappear. A little later. The sky is delft blue. VICKI watches the appearance of a star. VEDA spies Jupiter.
VICKI: You shouldn’t feel bad for me. I just think of it as like having a dog. You can’t go into lots of places with a dog: restaurants, gyms, libraries… your little sister’s wedding celebration. If I had a dog, I’d be out here with him anyway. My dog would be smelling the ocean and very happy.
VEDA: (teasing) Are you telling me you have an imaginary dog?
VICKI: (nodding) Coco. VEDA: No. Coco was real. VICKI: Okay then, Hopper. He’s very well behaved. 4
VEDA: If he was real, your dog would be allowed to visit Baby Ivy.
VICKI: No. Because animals have been proven to carry the virus. There were two miniature Schnauzers in Florida just last week.
VEDA: Two is not many. Statistically speaking. VICKI: Statistically speaking, most pets don’t get themselves tested. Plus the fomites factor.
VEDA: Fomites? VICKI: Fomites. “Objects or materials which are likely to carry infection, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture.” And, quite possibly, “Schnauzers.” Don’t tell me I don’t know my science.
VEDA: I don’t think Rachel is afraid of fomites. VICKI: Wasn’t. Probably is since she had the baby. VEDA: Right. (beat) I don’t know how I’d be if I had a baby. VICKI: Probably insane. Pause. A sea lion barks from the shores of Saturna.
VICKI: I’d be just like Rachel. I wouldn’t want me around. Mask or no mask. Rachel had a Caesarean. I get it. And we need to protect our little sister. Doesn’t mean it isn’t killing me. Seeing my baby niece through glass doors. Little gushy thighs. Poodgy cheeks. Tiny fist waving.
VEDA: Ivy actually waved at you? 5
VICKI: Rachel puppeteered her gushy little baby fist to wave— make Auntie-Anti-Vax-Vicki feel okay. In the distance, the ballroom glows bright as night falls down. Wedding guests mill. Out in the cove, a sea otter silently dives down, grabs a clam in its clawless paws, and resurfaces.
VICKI: You should go inside. VEDA: I might. I do love oysters. VICKI: And gushy baby. VEDA: Yes. Sorry. Three more stars come out. I’ll stay here with you for now.
VICKI: You know I’m going to do it. I just need to wait a bit. VEDA: Wait for what. VICKI: Just a bit more time. To see how everybody does with it.
VEDA: You know how everybody does with it. VICKI: How more people do. VEDA: They’ll do just like how people do on the highway, only better. Statistically speaking. As opposed to how they would do with the virus. Statistically speaking.
VICKI: But I am not a statistic. I am a phobic. VEDA: Yes. But why you’re not afraid of the right things is 6
what I don’t understand. Why can’t you be afraid of spiders? It’s NOT obvious that the jab will kill you. What IS obvious is what must be happening inside nurses’ minds, the minds of personal support workers… that’s obvious.
VICKI: Please stop now. Because that’s not obvious. You make that up. Maybe the nurses are cool with it and thinking “This must be. This will pass. This will pass.”
VEDA: Sure. VEDA gets a text: the ringtone is a tiny submarine. VICKI watches a small boat sparkle in the distance.
VEDA: I think I have to go in. VICKI: Yes. Later. VEDA has not gone in. Many more stars have emerged. Lots of fish have now dived down to sleep.
VEDA: You’re not afraid of flying. Or the ferry sinking. VICKI: The heart fears what the heart fears. The vax made you sick and that disturbed me.
VEDA: It lasted a day. And because of it, I won’t get really sick, thank you jab. Plus I didn’t puke or anything. I just felt like I was dying. I overreacted and should not have called you. I spent one day on the sofa watching Netflix. I had never seen The Wire. Now I have. Now I really know who RuPaul is. Thank you jab. I needed a day away from Zoom. I watched the earliest Sex and the City episodes. They were actually excellent.
VICKI: Some people die. 7
VEDA: And we’re back to the highway. You are not afraid of driving.
VICKI: When I’m the one behind the wheel. Invisibly, a wayward cormorant soars high above, searching for home.
VICKI: You think I don’t read science. You have no idea. I’m waiting to see the results of a new study that suggests that by immunizing human hosts, we’re just making carriers for newer more virulent versions. That people who should naturally die from these versions don’t die because of the vax and so they spread the more deathly versions.
VEDA: So what, you’re offering yourself up as a sacrifice? VICKI: No. The opposite. I’m waiting for other people to do that. Get ‘er done.
VEDA: The herd. VICKI: The herd. VEDA: The herd is in the ICU. And the cows are being asked who the nurse should call before they put them on the ventilator. (beat) Vicki, I do not understand how vaccinated people would be more likely to spread the more deathly versions than you would. VICKI turns to look at the wedding party, the ballroom glowing, people dancing to “Halo.”
VICKI: I can’t go inside. So you have to. Go in there and hold the baby.
VEDA: I will in a bit. 8
VICKI: You think I’m stupid. VEDA: No. VICKI: You think I’m not afraid. You think I’m not lonely. VEDA: I just don’t understand. Pause.
VICKI: You asked what I’m waiting for. And I’m afraid to tell you, really, because you’ll think it’s stupid. Pause. I’m waiting for the results from the new llama tests.
VEDA: Llama tests? VICKI: They’re working on a nose spray that can both prevent AND treat it. Coronavirus. It’s a treatment made of “nanobodies”, small, simpler versions of antibodies, which llamas and camels produce naturally in response to infection. Once the therapy has been tested in humans, scientists say, it could be given as a simple nasal spray to prevent – and even treat early infection. So possibly no vaccine required. They say it’s fantastically exciting. So you see I am not anti-science.
VEDA: They’re testing science in the noses of llamas? VICKI: They’re cultivating nanobodies in the llama noses, then infecting rats with Covid and treating them. The rats are bouncing back really well. So why would I let someone shoot my body full of toxins when I can easily wait for a natural llama-tested rat-proofed nasal mist?
VEDA: This is better than a needle? A tiny needle that holds microscopic atomic-sized…atoms? That are invisible to the eye but powerfully activate your immune system pronto? And that are available at your local pharmacy? Right now?
VICKI: I just don’t want something unnatural being injected into me.
VEDA: Why do you think the vaccine is unnatural? You live on diet cola, Vicki.
VICKI: Stop it. VEDA: Chemistry is natural. A natural science. The vaccine is chemistries coming together to create antibodies, which are also natural.
VICKI: A tic crawling under your skin is natural—and it stimulates your immune system into rheumatoid arthritis. That’s natural science, too.
VEDA: But according to science, the injection you’d get would be more like a cat scratch than a tic bite.
VICKI: Where do you get your science? VEDA: From scientists. Unlike you who get yours from teenage boys in sweatpants.
VICKI: No, I get mine from Harvard grads on podcasts. VEDA: Those people are not scientists. They’re writers. I trust people who actually studied science.
VICKI: Remember that insane man in the 80’s who put poison Tylenol in a Tylenol bottle? And now billions 10
of products have safety wrapping and lids? It’s an environmental disaster from one guy? He was a scientist.
VEDA: And this why you don’t want the vax? Pause.
VICKI: I do want it. I really want it. I’m just really really scared, Veda. It’s been a hard year.
VEDA: Yes, yes it has. Pause. Do you remember when we were separated in grade six and we were both feeling sad on the same day and we skipped out of our separate classes at the exact same time without knowing and we both went to Dairy Queen and found each other there?
VICKI: Yes. VICKI wipes some tears away. VEDA stares across the smooth surface of the water. The sky is super-clear and stars keep emerging. An Otter cracks a clam on a rock on his belly.
VEDA: I guess what I don’t get is how you can be so afraid of these random things—
VICKI: Statistically speaking— VEDA: And wait for a llama mist— VICKI: It’s very close. And I read that in the Guardian. So that you know. And I mean, who do you know with Covid? 11
I know no one. How do I know what’s normal for an ER? An ICU? The numbers are actually tiny in the grand scheme. The chances, if you’re careful, are slimmer than they’re made out to be. Like car accidents, as you say.
VEDA: Except car accident victims aren’t flooding the ICU. And then there’s Joannah. Pause.
VICKI: Of course I think about Joannah. But we don’t know that was Covid.
VEDA: Of course that was Covid. She was just one of the first is all. No one knew. It was January.
VICKI: I know. January 20/2020. VEDA: Night flight from the Philippines. Stopover: Taipei. She goes to work with a tickle, subways home to spare Mom from her cough, and then she’s alone. And then she dies. Sweetest caregiver with no one to care for her. I can’t bear it.
VICKI: I can’t bear it either. But that doesn’t mean it was Covid. I can’t think about her.
VEDA: I can’t not think about her. And all the nurses, Vicki. VICKI starts humming and plugging her ears.
VEDA: I can’t not think of you in there, and all the doctors surrounding you, and Baby Ivy has a fall and hits her little head god forbid and the ICU is full, and Rachel isn’t allowed to be there with her child. And I can’t be there with you. And they’re too busy to give you a phone. You can’t even use the keypad anyway, you’re so messed up. 12
That’s my version of hell.
VICKI: Stop it. Go get oystered with all the happy people. VEDA: Leave you here with your imaginary dog? VICKI: I said stop it. Do you think I’m not lonely? Do you think I’m not terrified of dying alone? Do you think I don’t feel the judgement of every person at this wedding? Do you understand I can’t control this fear?
VEDA: Not yet. VICKI: Not yet. VEDA: There, there. It’s okay. I’m so sorry I can’t rub your back.
VICKI: I know. Pause.
VICKI: I’m going to do it. I just have to figure out how. Meditation or something. Hypnosis. Veda, this is a bit of hell, too. Pause. By the way, I also can’t not think about Joannah. But for me, God forgive me, that’s why I’m afraid of that vaccine. That that might happen to me.
VEDA: You know that’s insane. VICKI: I don’t know anything now. Not yet. VEDA: Okay. 13
VEDA: Neither do I. Pause.
VICKI: Um… I sort of want to be alone. I need to think. VEDA: As long as you don’t think stupid thoughts, sweet sis.
VICKI: I’ll try. VEDA sees Rachel all in white stepping out to feed little Ivy.
VICKI: Go. VEDA: (softly) K. Okay, then. I’ll say hi for you. VEDA leaves to join Rachel and the baby. VICKI sets her eyes on the mouth of the cove. She speaks to her imaginary dog.
VEDA: There there, Hopper. It’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. She wraps her arms around herself and tells herself, softly: It’s okay … She looks up at Jupiter and the moons of Mars. The sea lion barks, very close now. END OF PLAY
KAREN HINES is an awardwinning playwright, performer and director in theatre, television and film, and a National Magazine Award-winning writer. She is a recent finalist for the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, and a twotime finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama for The Pochsy Plays and Drama: Pilot Episode. Hines appeared as “Karen” for three seasons on CBC’s Emmy Award-winning Newsroom, and in many “awkward assistant” roles in Torontofor-New York movies. Her short films featuring the character Pochsy have been presented internationally, as have the live performances, and her solo Crawlspace (recently presented by Boca del Lupo) has toured widely (Crawlspace is now a CBC PlayMe Podcast). Hines’s latest dark comedy All the Little Animals I Have Eaten was cancelled before its 2020 Toronto opening due to COVID-19, but morphed during lockdown, and will premiere in a French translation at Montreal’s Jamais Lu Festival this May. Along with a few current Boca projects, Karen is now writing the fourth in the Pochsy series, Pochsy IV: My Heart Breaks For You.
© 2021 KAREN HINES 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 15