DIALOGUES FOR THE VACCINE HESITANT…
…and those who love them
Vaxx Pass BY OMARI NEWTON
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 dope Hip Hop beat is pumping in an old warehouse turned makeshift dance studio/art gallery in East Vancouver. A group of four dancers are working on complex choreography. A short stocky black man (Amare) is leading the group through the steps, barking out commands, and punctuating them with explosive movements.
CHI, a lanky, dark skinned black man, who is highly suspicious of government, science and anything widely accepted as fact by the mainstream media. (25 years old)
AMARE, a stocky, dark skinned black man, who is driven by discipline and a compulsion with following rules and regulations. (29 years old)
JUNIOR , a short, energetic, Filipino man, possessed by a love of all things Creative. He has little patience for anything that distracts from his work. (22 years old)
SOSA, a short, explosive Black woman who is constantly in motion. She has strong opinions on what’s right and wrong and does not suffer fools. (24 years old)
AMARE: and 5, 6, 7, 8. Gimme one and two and three and four, hit, hit, get, get, get get! Yas! That was it. We’re ready. Sosa, you hit me with those Fosse hands I wanted.
SOSA: Yup! AMARE: Junior, those shoulders were FIERCE. JUNIOR: That’s how we do it. (Snaps his fingers playfully.) AMARE: Chi, you were smooth as always. CHI: They call me silky for a reason. (Chi smiles a playfully mischievous smile.)
AMARE: The only thing left is some administrative stuff, and we are good to go for defending our “World of Dance” championship title.
JUNIOR: World Champs! SOSA: We gon’ STAY undefeated! AMARE: So, everyone knows that wardrobe is red tracksuits, white runners, and red masks.
CHI: Uh, I thought we didn’t have to wear masks on stage? AMARE: We aren’t on stage, but we have to wear a mask everywhere else in the venue.
SOSA: and the show STARTS the second the champs arrive! AMARE: I want to make sure we look like one unit from the jump.
JUNIOR: Yessir! 4
AMARE: Okay. The only thing left is, did you all download your Vaxx Pass?
SOSA: Yup. Got mine yesterday so I could go back to my gym. Double vaxxed and Relaxed!
JUNIOR: My Tita made us download that IMMEDIATELY. I got mine too.
AMARE: Great, now— CHI: I don’t have one. AMARE: Oh, they’re super easy to download. There’s an app. I got mine today and it took like two seconds. Chi doesn’t move.
AMARE: Yo, you gotta get on this man. The show’s in less than two hours.
CHI: Yeah, umm. I don’t have any. AMARE: Neither did I until this morning. I’ll send you the download link again. Amare quickly punches digits into his phone. Chi still doesn’t move.
JUNIOR: Bruh, did you get it? (Pause)
SOSA: Is your battery dead? CHI: Nah… 5
AMARE: So… CHI: I can’t use the link, because— SOSA: You just need to enter the date that you got Vaxxed. CHI: I’m not. Vaccinated... AMARE: What? JUNIOR: Wow… AMARE: Why not? CHI: I don’t believe in it. JUNIOR: Wooow... SOSA: What do you mean you don’t “believe in it.” It’s not a mythical Dragon. Vaccines exist.
CHI: I don’t believe that they work. At least not in the way doctors say they do.
AMARE: Out of curiosity, what medical school did you attend? The university of YouTube, or TCC, Twitter Community College?
JUNIOR: This isn’t a joke, Amare. We’ve been rehearsing in this tiny ass room, dancing, sweating, breathing heavily for the last two days. My Tita is recovering from cancer. I’m her main caregiver, like…
SOSA: Bro, can you at least put a mask on then? Damn... The group masks up in disgust, with the exception of Chi.
CHI: I could put one on, but those don’t work either. JUNIOR: Do you work for FOX news? Did Tucker Carlson get a tan and join our crew?
AMARE: What’s going on with you man? You signed the waiver that I gave you two weeks ago, and you didn’t say anything.
CHI: I followed everything the waiver requested. AMARE: What do you mean? The waiver said by signing it you would follow all recommended public health protocols.
CHI: And when I signed it, I was. This passport business is new, like everything else in this pandemic. They just... make up the rules as they go along.
SOSA: The virus is changing, Black Bill O’Reilly. The PHO has to change with it. Is this guy for real?
JUNIOR: This is all TOO real. AMARE: Talk to us man. What’s going on? CHI: Look. I just don’t trust science. Big Pharma has a lot of influence on—
JUNIOR: So, is this some “Bill Gates is putting microchips in us, 5G towers shit?” I can’t with you people. You know your phone tracks you, right? Not that it needs to, you post your location on IG 24-7 anyway, with PICs!
CHI: You can’t make money hustling if nobody knows where you do business.
JUNIOR: “Hustling?” You breakdance for change at 7
Skytrain Stations. Stop talking like you’re El Chapo...
CHI: Why do you have to go all the way there? Can you really not understand why a black man is suspicious of scientists? Do you not know the history of governments using us as experiments?
SOSA: Damn… he’s not wrong on that one… AMARE: Okay. Listen. We get it. We are all aware that racism exists and history is filled with examples of messed up government behaviour. That has nothing to do with right now. With the GLOBAL PANDEMIC that we are in RIGHT NOW!
CHI: Oh, so they fixed racism? What year did that happen? JUNIOR: Fool, everybody here is BIPOC, okay. Quit playing with us.
AMARE: Yeah man. Let’s deal with the race angle later. Can we talk about this Vaccine? I didn’t know that you were anti-vax?
CHI: Why do I have to be “anti-vax.” I just have reservations. Like... what’s in this thing? How did they just magically whip these up as fast as they did?
SOSA: What’s in it is medicine. Medicine that protects us. That’s all I need to know.
JUNIOR: and they “whipped it up fast” because literally every doctor in the world has been working on it.
CHI: I’m hearing a lot of generalities, and not a lot of actual science. Did you know you can still get Covid after you’re vaxxed? 8
SOSA: Did you know you can still die in a bike accident while wearing a helmet? Did you know that you can still die in a car crash while wearing a seatbelt?
CHI: That’s not the same thing. JUNIOR: But it IS though. Seatbelts and helmets aren’t 100% safe, but they reduce the risk of death or serious injury by a lot, sound familiar?
CHI: Do you sheeple have any talking points that aren’t straight from the mainstream media?
AMARE: We aren’t scientists Chi. We aren’t the government and we aren’t “sheeple.” We’re your friends who love you and are trying to understand why a dude as smart as you has gone down this conspiracy route.
CHI: It’s not a conspiracy guys. I’ve heard stories— I know people who have had messed up experiences after getting vaccinated. Blood clots. Heart problems—
JUNIOR: and I know people who got hit by lightning— SOSA: I know people that won the lottery— JUNIOR: I know peeps that got pooped on by a bird while indoors... Random stuff happens Chi.
CHI: Well, I like to control as much as I can to minimize randomness.
AMARE: Look man. I’m admittedly not qualified to judge or criticize the plan that doctors and scientists have laid out for us all to follow.
SOSA: Kind of like how I’m not qualified to debate a pilot 9
on the best way to stop a plane from crashing, cause I don’t know how to fly a plane! If I’m a passenger on a plane that’s going down, my job is to shut my mouth, follow the orders that I get from the pilot and his crew, and hope for the best.
CHI: “Hope for the best?” Really? That’s the plan we’re following?
JUNIOR: Do you have a better one? CHI: Yes. Don’t stick random things in my arm that some quack on the payroll of big pharma just—
JUNIOR: “Big Pharma?” You’re obsessed. Dude… it costs money to do research. Drug companies have money and make drugs for a living. It ain’t that deep.
CHI: Oh, I think the problem is how shallow most people are. JUNIOR: Here we go… CHI: You know, a lot of people like to talk about sheep. That’s what they call the unthinking masses/
SOSA: /I think I’m gonna roll my eyes out of my head. CHI: who just fall in lock step with everything the government says. I use it sometimes, but it ain’t right. Sheep just move blindly as a herd. Sheep are harmless. Reactive. They have no agenda or real motivation except for following the group under the guise of staying safe. People today are more like... pigs. Pigs at the government troth, slurping down anything big brother tosses into their greedy, empty, little dish. Did any of you ever stop and think about why?
AMARE: Why what? 10
CHI: Why are they PUSHING these drugs so hard? I mean, hell, heroin dealers don’t even advertise this hard, and we have YEARS of data that tells us what a jab of heroin does. At least heroin offers some temporary relief.
AMARE: Dude, stop. Okay. Stop it. You sound unhinged. CHI: I sound unhinged? The government that has a known track record of decimating marginalized communities have convinced you to take an untested jab and I’m unhinged? When we were teenagers a few years back, our teachers wouldn’t shut up about staying away from drugs. Even weed was considered crazy. A PLANT, that grows naturally from the ground! Now we have the government and the mainstream media pushing some untested crap on us, because Pfizer said it’s okay? This is madness. It’s—
AMARE: Chi… My brother. Listen to me… I have nothing but love for you, truly, but you’ve lost it. This thing is killing people in numbers that we have never seen. ICUs are at capacity. Also, this thing is killing us, black people, poor people, working class people, at even higher rates than the average person. The media, that you hate so much, is trash—
SOSA: So trash… JUNIOR: For a lot of reasons. CHI: Well at least we agree on something— AMARE: They use all of this innuendo and coded language. “Triage protocols,” “front line workers,” “spike in numbers.” These are fancy ways of saying “choosing who dies, “poor people” and “more people are dropping dead.” I am just as skeptical, as scared, as hesitant as you are.
CHI: Then… Why were you one of the first to put that thing in your arm?
AMARE: Because as scared as I am of the vaccine, I’m even more scared of this virus.
JUNIOR: Preach! CHI: So… That’s your argument? You let fear guide you, and your biggest fear wins?
SOSA: This guy misses the point more than Shaq at the free throw line…
AMARE: No man. I have to push fear aside. Fear is a response. It’s not rational. It’s a physical and psychological response to the unknown. We have to focus on what we DO know.
CHI: We don’t know ANYTHING about this! Doctors and scientists literally say that they have “theories.” My theory is, Pfizer is interested in profits, not public health. Didn’t they pay the biggest fine in—
AMARE: What I know is, I know nothing about science. As suspect as I am of whatever plan doctors and scientist have laid out for us, I am not qualified to comment on it, or offer a better plan.
CHI: You have a brain. You have a gut. You have your own body. That qualifies you to weigh in on what is put inside of you.
AMARE: No. It doesn’t… Let the pilots fly the plane. Especially during extreme turbulence.
JUNIOR: He couldn’t even fly a kite... 12
SOSA: He can’t even swat a fly, let alone fly anything. CHI: Why are we talking about planes? You always change the subject.
AMARE: It’s an analogy bro. Think of this pandemic as a plane that’s crashing. We are going down fast, and it doesn’t look good. We need to act quick if we want to save as many people as possible. The doctors and scientists are our pilots and air traffic controllers. The nurses are our flight attendants. Their plan might be a long shot, but it’s all we have man. (Pause)
CHI: Okay. So. Say I take this thing. How do I know that in five years from now, I don’t get, like... cancer?
JUNIOR: The plane’s crashing man… CHI: What about our rights? Our freedoms? SOSA: Plane. Goin down. The clock is ticking. CHI: What if this passport is the first step towards full on facism?
SOSA: It’s not a passport bro— JUNIOR: It’s a proof of vaccination. This. Is. Not. New. SOSA: When I went backpacking I had to get all types of vaccinations.
JUNIOR: Do you call your library card a passport to take out books? Is your health card a hospital passport?
CHI: The government is not our friend. Especially not black people. Aren’t you afraid that—
AMARE: The government has drones that can kill enemies of the state hiding in caves across the globe. Do you REALLY think if they had a fascist takeover planned, they would need to use trickery? You think that’s the plan? Dupe us into vaccines?
JUNIOR: Only someone that has never left Canada would believe something as dumb as this. In most countries, governments don’t play. When protests happen, the cops just beat people’s non-compliant asses off the streets. When they want people to self-isolate, they lock them in their buildings, weld the doors shut, and station armed guards at the door. You think we’re oppressed in Canada because club owners want you to show an app on your phone before you perform in a live dance show?
SOSA: Bruh, please… AMARE: Look, we just love you man. We want you to stay part of our crew. We want to hang with you, perform with you and do all the things, but if you don’t get the vaccine, you can’t get the passport, and if you don’t have the passport, you can’t get into any venues where we’re booked… It’s too late for this upcoming show. I’m sorry, but you’re out. The rest of us will have to skip dinner and rework the choreo…
JUNIOR: Great…. SOSA: Thanks man… AMARE: Stop guys. I’m sure he feels bad enough as it is. Will you at least think about getting vaxxed? For the next show? You’re an original part of this crew. We need you. 14
CHI: I’ve got a LOT to think about… END
OMARI NEWTON is an awardwinning professional actor, writer, director and producer. As a writer, his original Hip Hop theatre piece Sal Capone has received critical acclaim and multiple productions, including a recent presentation at Canada’s National Arts Centre. He was commissioned by Black Theatre Workshop (BTW) in Montreal to write a companion piece to Sal Capone entitled Black & Blue Matters, which premiered at BTW in 2019. Omari and his wife, fellow professional playwright Amy Lee Lavoie, recently received a generous grant from the Canada Council to co-write a new play: Redbone Coonhound. Their latest collaboration is a bold and innovative satirical comedy that confronts instances of systemic racism in the past, present and future. Newton’s work in Speakeasy Theatre’s production of Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment earned him a 2017-2018 Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor, as well as a nomination for Best Direction. Notable film & TV credits include: Lucas Ingram on Showcase’s Continuum, Larry Summers on Blue Mountain State and lending his voice to the Black Panther in multiple animated projects (Marvel). Most recently, Omari has a recurring role as Nate on Corner Gas (the animated series) and a recurring role as Corvus of Netflix’s hit new animated series The Dragon Prince.
© 2021 OMARI NEWTON 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 email@example.com · DESIGN: Cabin + Cub Design 16