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The Best of PlayGround 2003


COLD CALLS ©2003 Martha Soukup HUNTERS AND GATHERERS ©2003 Kenn Rabin I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL ©2003 Cass Brayton LETTEROPHILIA ©2003 Kristina Goodnight PLANS AND PECCADILLOES ©2003 Maria Rokas SOUND ©2003 Aaron Loeb THE VIGIL ©2003 Michael Lütz CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that performance of the plays contained in this publication (see above) are subject to a royalty. They are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Berne Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional/amateur stage rights, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound recording, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as CD-ROM, CD-1, DVD, information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis is placed upon the matter of readings, permission for which must be secured from the Author’s agent in writing. The English language stock and amateur stage performance rights in the United States, its territories, possessions and Canada in the above-listed plays are controlled exclusively by PLAYGROUND, INC., 268 Bush Street, #2912, San Francisco, CA 94104. No professional or non-professional performance of the Play may be given without obtaining in advance the written permission of PLAYGROUND, INC., and paying the requisite fee. Inquiries concerning all other rights should be addressed to the appropriate playwright, c/o PlayGround, 268 Bush Street, #2912, San Francisco, CA 94104. SPECIAL NOTE: Anyone receiving permission to produce any of the plays contained in this publication is required to give credit to the Author as sole and exclusive Author of such Play(s) on the title page of all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play(s) and in all instances in which the title of the Play(s) appears for purposes of advertising, publicizing or otherwise exploiting the Play and/or a production thereof. The name of the Author must appear on a separate line, in which no other name appears, immediately beneath the title and in size of type equal to 50% of the size of the largest most prominent letter used for the title of the Play(s). No person, firm or entity may receive credit larger or more prominent than that accorded the Author. The following acknowledgment must appear on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play: PlayGround developed and subsequently produced the World Premiere of [Play] in San Francisco in [year, as indicated on credits page] James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director SPECIAL NOTE ON SONGS AND RECORDINGS: For performances of copyrighted songs, arrangements or recordings mentioned in these Plays, the permission of the copyright owner(s) must be obtained. Other songs, arrangements or recordings may be substituted provided permission from the copyright owner(s) of such songs, arrangements or recordings is obtained; or songs, arrangements or recordings in the public domain may be substituted. Layout, Artwork, Introduction ©2003 Playground, Inc. Printed by DeHART’s Printing Services Corporation.


Table of Contents Introduction ................................................................... 1 Foreword....................................................................... 3 COLD CALLS.................................................................... 5 HUNTERS AND GATHERERS.................................................15 I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL..................................................27 LETTEROPHILIA ..............................................................35 PLANS AND PECCADILLOES .................................................45 SOUND .........................................................................57 THE VIGIL .....................................................................69


The Best of PlayGround (2003) Maria Rokas, Editor PlayGround, Inc. Board of Directors James A. Kleinmann, President Kari Kiernan, Vice President Lara N. Gilman, Secretary Deeje Cooley, Treasurer Robert Allen Jennifer Cooper Paulette Donsavage Trynne Miller KJ Page Octavio Solis Susannah Wise Meg Zweiback Artistic Director James A. Kleinmann Casting Director Annie Stuart Education Coordinator Garret Jon Groenveld Acknowledgments: Continued thanks to Paula Vogel for the inspiration, to co-founders Brighde Mullins and Denise Shama, to A Traveling Jewish Theatre for providing a welcoming home since 1996, and to the Bay Area’s emerging playwrightswhose work fuels everything we do and who represent the future of the American Theatre. PlayGround is a member of Theatre Bay Area and Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization of the professional theatre. PlayGround operates under an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. PlayGround is made possible in part by generous funding from: California Arts Council, The Dramatists Guild Fund, Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Lenore & Howard Klein Foundation, Negley Flinn Charitable Foundation, Bernard Osher Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, The Zellerbach Family Fund To make a tax-deductible contribution to PlayGround, write to: PlayGround, Inc., 268 Bush Street #2912, San Francisco, CA 94104. Or visit our website, www.playground-sf.org.


Introduction Welcome to The Best of PlayGround (2003), the third publication in PlayGround’s ongoing “Best of” series. During the period from October 2002 through March 2003, PlayGround developed and staged 36 original short plays out of 230 submissions by San Francisco Bay Area emerging writers. Each was written in just five days in response to different monthly topics initiated by PlayGround. Seven of these works are receiving their world premiere in June 2003 at PlayGround’s annual showcase for emerging writers, The Best of PlayGround festival, now celebrating its seventh consecutive year. The Best of PlayGround (2003) features the seven plays selected for this year’s festival. PlayGround was founded in 1994 by myself, Brighde Mullins and Denise Shama. Our mission was and remains: to support the development of new local voices for the theatre. In our first nine years, PlayGround has quickly emerged as the largest developer of new works and new writers in the Bay Area. PlayGround has also become a place where community is created, where developing writers create connections with the Bay Area’s working professionalsdirectors and actors who make their careers on some of our most significant stages. Since 1997, PlayGround’s alumni have gone on to win both local and national honors for their short and full-length work, including recognition at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the Love Creek/Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival, Humana Festival, Sundance Festival, and The Drama League’s New Directors-New Works series, among others. PlayGround’s ongoing activities include: the Monday Night PlayLab, a monthly staged reading series of original ten-minute plays by emerging writers running October through March; the Emerging Playwright Awards, presented to the top emerging writers discovered through the Monday Night PlayLab series; The Best of PlayGround festival, featuring short plays by the season’s Emerging Playwright Award winners, fully produced by a team of professional directors, designers, actors, and dramaturg; monthly playwriting intensives and lectures; and two full-length commissioning programsthe June Anne Baker Prize and the PlayGround Fellowship. We look forward to providing additional services for developing playwrights and the professional theatre community in the years to come. - James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director 1


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Foreword The short play form is an especially good way for playwrights to hone their skills. A writer must seize upon an idea, distill it, and then create a universe to support it and characters to carry it outall within the ten-page/ten minute parameter. The clarity of the initial idea is essential to success here, forlike a short storythe brevity can either galvanize or incapacitate a writer. If the idea is general rather than specific, muddy rather than crystalline, then the resulting play usually meanders around in the muck while the characters blather on, having nothing really urgent to say. A play in search of an idea is a dreary and tedious little enterprise. Happily, each of the playwrights in this collection set out with a sharp, singular idea to explore. In the PlayGround process, writers are given a topic and a few days to write their play. Almost any word or phrase can be a topic (this year’s included ones like The Stranger and Deus Ex Machina) because it acts only as a prod for a writer’s imagination. There is no prescription for how to use itonce it has ignited an idea the topic may be left behind. The play’s universe and characters start bubbling up while the idea is being mulled, and the writer sits down to write. The ten-page limitation does several things: 1) It frees a writer to imagine any sort of universe: an idea may be too difficult to sustain for ninety minutes, but for ten minutes it can be a delight. 2) It forces a writer to be economical: wandering around the point won’t do; just get to it. 3) It allows for more unanswered questions than the longer play form: after two hours you have to know why those sisters never went to Moscow, but in only ten minutes it’s enough to know that they just didn’t. Thus, the limitation serves to both liberate a writer and compel them to write carefully, nimbly and with ingenuity. Though these plays weren’t written to be performed together, they coincidentally share a common theme: the human hunger for contact with another. The collection is home to characters that are aching, reaching, bungling, struggling, kicking and screaming to find and hold the one who has what they need. Their needs range from the simple (Call me back!) to the complex (Be who I need you to be!), and they occupy the full spectrum of contentment with themselves and the world, but in each case the writer is probing our hunger for contact. The plays in this collection are unfinished at time of publishing, for no writing process is truly complete until it has been exposed to 3


the rigors of an audience. These scripts might be thought of as snapshotsthey capture the plays in the moments just before they are fully realized. A play is an alchemical creation, altered in turn by the writer, the actors and director, the audience, and the writer again. Herein are seven plays, representing the best of this year’s PlayGround-supported work, happy brainchildren of seven terrific emerging writers. Enjoy! - Luan Schooler Dramaturg, The Best of PlayGround

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COLD CALLS By Martha Soukup

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COLD CALLS By Martha Soukup COLD CALLS was originally developed by PlayGround (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director) in San Francisco for the PlayLab staged reading series on January 20, 2003. It was directed by Jenny Lord. The cast was as follows: Caller......................................................... C. Kelly Wright Audience Member........................................... Jeffrey Draper House Manager...........................................Charles Blackburn COLD CALLS was premiered by PlayGround at the 7th Annual Best of Playground (2003) festival on June 14, 2003. It was directed by Danny Scheie. The cast was as follows: Caller............................................................ Julia Mueller Audience Member...................................... Ian Scott McGregor House Manager................................................ Danielle Thys Martha Soukup won the Nebula Award for short fiction for her short story “A Defense of the Social Contracts,” which is collected, along with other Nebula-, Hugo-, and World Fantasy Award-finalist fiction, in her book, The Arbitrary Placement of Walls (DreamHaven Press). She has lived in San Francisco for more than a dozen years, but while she was still in Chicago, she wrote and performed for the science fiction and fantasy comedy sketch troupe, Moebius Theatre, in Chicago; and she is a long-ago graduate of the Players Workshop of the Second City improvisation course. She was awarded PlayGround’s 2003 June Anne Baker Prize and has been commissioned to write her first full-length play.

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COLD CALLS By Martha Soukup A boiler-room cold-call center. The CALLERfor whom we'll use female pronouns here, but, as with later parts in the script, may be a woman or a man, pronouns to be changed accordinglysits at a simple desk with a fairly complicated phone. There’s a monitor and a keyboard to one side of the desk, a coffee cup, newspaper, some other office clutter. She’s wearing a telephone headset. Possibly, bright and tedious office music is playing. CALLER hits a button and there is the sound of rapid computer phone dialing, eleven digits. A pause, and she speaks into the headset. CALLER:

Good evening, is this (checking the monitor) Andrea Metheny? Yes, Ms. Matheny, I’m calling about your dog. Your dog. Mr. Scribbles, a sevenyear-old cocker mix with arthritis in the left rear ankle joint?No, Ms. Matheny, I’m not with the vet’s office. Ms. Matheny, I’m calling to tell you toquickly nowcheck your back yard. Your back yard, Ms. Matheny. Mr. Scribbles will have just about loosened the third picket from the end in your back fence and in (checks monitor) 45 seconds will be making his way toward the freeway. No, Ms. Matheny, I'm not “kidding.” You have twenty seconds before he breaks free.You do that. I’ll hold.

A pause. CALLER picks up a copy of the New York Times from the desk and idly, rapidly fills in the crossword, in ink. Peppy boring music plays. Yes, Ms. Matheny, I’m here. You shouldIt’s all right, Ms. MathenyMs. Matheny, take a breathThe picket will be easy to replace, any home-improvement storeNo, I’m not in the neighborhood, Ms. Matheny. Ms. MathenyYes, you’re welcome.Yes, ma’am, I did mention an arthritic joint. You’ve probably noticed Mr.

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COLD CALLS Scribbles limping in the morning after colder nights.Your vet can advise you on that. Have a good evening. CALLER disconnects the call, turns to the monitor and keyboard, and, while typing, in a matter-of-course tone: Call completed. CALLER hits the dial button. The sound of rapid dialing. Another pause and another check of the monitor. Good evening, is this Mr. Arnold Wiseman? Mr. Wiseman, it’s not indigestion. Call 9-1-1 now.No, sir, immediately when I hang up.I’m hanging up so you can call now. CALLER disconnects the call. Call completed. CALLER starts another call: dialing sound, etc. Yes, is this Rudy Petroff? Good evening. 29 Down is “calyx.” C-A-L-Y-X. The outer envelope of a flower.It doesn’t matter how I knew, Mr. Petroff. Have a good evening. CALLER disconnects and looks at her copy of the Times. Huh! CALLER fills in, presumably, 29 Down. Puts the paper down, types on the keyboard: Call completed. Gets up, stretches, and draws a cup of coffee from a machine in the corner. Drinks and checks her watch. Goes unhurriedly back to her station, takes another sip, and places another call. Yes, may I speak to Mr. Joshua Leeds? (Pause.) Mr. Leeds, I’m calling about your blue 2002 8


COLD CALLS Mercury Sable, currently parked on the street in front of your condominium?No, Mr. Leeds, this is not a sales call. Sir, your car is beingYes, Mr. Leeds, I can put you on our No Call list, but I don’t think youMr. Leeds, you may be interested to know CALLER reacts to being hung up on, with a mild quirk of the lips; hits a button to disconnect from her end. A pause, then: that your car is, as we speak, being driven away by a fourteen-year-old joyrider on a dare. Types on the keyboard. Okay, No Call listJoshua Leeds, Mountain View, California. There you go. Another call. Good evening, is this Mrs. Sally Rodriguez?Good evening, Mrs. Rodriguez. If you take the next BART train into the city, which departs in thirteen minutes, you’ll find Susan outside the Carl’s Jr. at Civic Center. She’s ready to come home if you don’t ask any questions right away. No, Mrs. Rodriguez, I’m not a friend of Susan’s. You should bring a coat for her, it’ll be raining by the time you get there. She doesn’t have one.Mrs. Rodriguez, there really isn’t time for questions if you’re going to make the train. (Talking over an interruption.)Good evening, Mrs. Rodriguez. (Typing.) Call completed. Another sip of coffee, and CALLER hits the dial button again. Sound of rapid dialing. A cell phone starts ringing in the front of the audience, where AN AUDIENCE MEMBER is sitting. The AUDIENCE MEMBER starts visibly, takes out his cell phone, looking guilty, and is about to turn it offwhen he sees the CALLER looking at him.

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COLD CALLS AUDIENCE MEMBER:

(Mumbling.) No, no way.

The phone keeps ringing. The CALLER waits. The AUDIENCE MEMBER turns to the person in the seat next to him. I mean(Smiles awkwardly.) Nah, that’d be crazy. Phone keeps ringing, CALLER keeps waiting, AUDIENCE MEMBER holds the phone out like it was a dead fish, not quite prepared to answer it or turn it off. HOUSE MANAGER bustles in. HOUSE MANAGER: AUDIENCE MEMBER: HM:

(Stage whisper, to AUDIENCE MEMBER.) Sir! Sir, phone off during the performance! (Smiling, embarrassed.) Right, I know! It’s just that shemaybe(Trails off: this is ridiculous.) (Still a stage whisper, but chillier.) Sir. (Holds out hand for the phone.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:

Um

The phone stops ringing. The HM keeps his or her hand out. The AUDIENCE MEMBER flinches from HM's stare, but pulls the phone back and, holding it high so he or she can see, makes a show of turning it off. HM:

Well. All right. At the same time the CALLER is hitting a button to disconnect an unanswered call. The HM gives the AUDIENCE MEMBER a very stern look, then exits. CALLER is having another swig of coffee. AUDIENCE MEMBER gives a little, nervous wave, trying and failing to establish eye contact. 10


COLD CALLS CALLER:

(Typing.) No answer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER lowers his arm in the useless manner of someone trying to pretend no one saw him waving in the first place, looks around, and hunches back into his seat to watch the play. CALLER places another call. AUDIENCE MEMBER looks at his phone, which doesn't ring. CALLER:

Yes, is this Vivian Park? Good evening, Ms. Park. He’s at her place now. Yes, that her. I would say you have about 35 minutes to catch them in flagrante.Have a good evening, Ms. Park. (Typing.) Call completed.

CALLER stops typing, pauses, and looks directly at AUDIENCE MEMBER. He automatically looks behind him, but CALLER does indeed appear to be looking right at him. Still looking, CALLER presses the dial button. Sound of automatic dialing. AUDIENCE MEMBER’s phone starts to ring. He sits, frozen. The HM enters rapidly and makes a beeline for AUDIENCE MEMBER. He sits fixed in the gazes of HM and CALLER, the ringing phone in his partly outstretched hand. HM:

(In a stage whisper of command.) Sir, I’ll have that phone now.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: HM:

(Caught between embarrassment and panic.) But! Sir.

There is a brief tussle for the phone. HM grabs it, AUDIENCE MEMBER tries to wrest it back. He has it for just a second and hits the answer button, but HM grabs it back decisively as: CALLER:

Good evening, Morgan Hinkle?

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COLD CALLS AUDIENCE MEMBER: CALLER: AUDIENCE MEMBER:

(He doesn’t have the phone, but the CALLER has just said his name.) Yes? Yes? (Into phone, ignoring AUDIENCE MEMBER.) Mr. Hinkle, are you there? Mr. Hinkle? I’m here! I(to HM) I need my phone!

HM finds the off switch on the phone, turns it off and pockets it. III think it’san emergency HM:

Sir! If you don’t settle down this instant, I’ll remove you from the theater as well as this phone!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:

HM:

But! (He looks at the CALLER.) Okay, okay, okayI’m sorry, I thought I’d turned it off, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t let you stay as it is. This is not the way to support the arts. Sir.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:

Sorry.

HM:

(Very cold.) Final warning. HM exits with the cell phone. CALLER is hitting the disconnect button on her phone.

CALLER:

(Typing.) No answer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER looks to where the HM exited the theater, then back at the CALLER. AUDIENCE MEMBER:

No! Wait! I’m here!

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COLD CALLS CALLER:

(Hits the dial button; the sound of automatic dialing.) Good evening, is this Carolyn

AUDIENCE MEMBER jumps from his seat and on to the stage, where he lunges to hit the hang-up on CALLER’s phone. AUDIENCE MEMBER:

Look! I’m here! Morgan Hinkle! She wouldn’t let me answer, but I’m right here!

CALLER removes his hand from the telephone and something on the keyboard. AUDIENCE MEMBER:

types

What is it? Is my house on fire? Has my dad? Oh god. Am I about to have a stroke? Earthquake? Bankruptcy? What is it?

AUDIENCE MEMBER grabs CALLER by the shoulders; CALLER shrugs him off. Let me see! What is it? AUDIENCE MEMBER tries to turn the monitor around toward him to read what’s displayed. CALLER puts a hand on it; AUDIENCE MEMBER wrenches harder and the monitor jerks through his hands and falls noisily off the desk. HM returns at that moment with one or two largish men who grab AUDIENCE MEMBER’s arms without preamble. Wait! No, you can’t take me away, I have to find out They talk over each other. HM: AUDIENCE MEMBER:

Sir, the police have been called and are on their way. But I have to read what’s on thegod, it broke, didn’t it. (To CALLER.) Tell me what the call was! 13


COLD CALLS HM:

I don’t know what your problem is but you can tell them all about it at the police station.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:

Is it my wife? Is it brain cancer? TELL ME! Tell me what it is! You have to tell me!

The largish men finish dragging AUDIENCE MEMBER out of the theater. HM:

(To audience.) I’m sorry. Thanks for your patience. Enjoy the rest of the show. HM exits the theater. A pause. The CALLER stands, walks around the desk and picks up the monitor, placing it back on the desk and plugging it back in if necessary. Tries its power switch; shakes her head in acknowledgment that it won’t turn on again.

CALLER:

It’s a shame when people don’t answer the phone.

She drains her coffee cup, tidies a couple of things on the desk, picks up the Times, and exits. A pause. The CALLER’s phone starts to ring. It rings, and rings, and rings, and rings, and keeps ringing as: Lights slowly fade.

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HUNTERS AND GATHERERS By Kenn Rabin

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HUNTERS AND GATHERERS By Kenn Rabin HUNTERS AND GATHERERS was originally developed by PlayGround (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director) in San Francisco for the PlayLab staged reading series on March 17, 2003. It was directed by Elizabeth Williamson. The cast was as follows: He.............................................................. Kevin Blackton She............................................................ Nora el Samahy HUNTERS AND GATHERERS was premiered by PlayGround at the 7th Annual Best of Playground (2003) festival on June 14, 2003. It was directed by Amy Mueller. The cast was as follows: He................................................................ Liam Vincent She............................................................... Julia Mueller Kenn Rabin’s prose has appeared in various literary journals, and will be in the forthcoming anthology The Way We Work. Plays include Interior Decorating, Vocabulary Lesson, and Celadon Box #8, which premiered in the 2002 Best of PlayGround festival and was published in The Best of PlayGround (2002). He has won a Marin Arts Council Fiction Grant, and an Affiliate Residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Kenn has received two Emmy nominations for his work on television documentaries, which include the PBS series Vietnam: A Television History and Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years. Other films and television credits include: Barry Levinson’s Yesterday’s Tomorrows, The American Experience, American Masters, Color Adjustment, Bill Moyers’ Journal, Kevin Costner’s 500 Nations, Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner, Regret to Inform, and the 2003 Oscar-nominated films Daughter From Danang, and Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks.

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HUNTERS AND GATHERERS By Kenn Rabin The tourist ferry to Alcatraz, by the bow. It's foggy and chilly. Lights up. Sounds of boat engine, water lapping. SHE, under-dressed, looking out, snaps a photo with good 35mm camera. She is cold. Foghorn sounds once. A pause. HE, warm sweater and slacks, enters, tentatively, comes to be casually by her side. Waits before he speaks. HE:

Hello again.

SHE:

Hi.

HE:

Not much to see in this fog.

SHE:

You’d be surprised. (Sights him viewfinder. Playful.) Do I know you?

HE:

You can take my picture if you want.

SHE:

(She thinks about it; doesn’t.) It’s freezing. It’s supposed to be summer.

HE:

Mark Twain once said…

SHE:

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” I’ve heard that.

HE:

You know, they have cameras that can shoot through the fog. Infra-red. And in the dark. They cut through all this.

SHE:

I’ve seen those photos. They look like they’re taken under water.

in

her

She shivers. HE:

Would you like to go back inside?

SHE:

Uh uh. I’m being a tourist. I want to see Alcatraz appear out of the fog. Like Camelot. I’ve never done this tour. 17


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS HE:

Me neither.

SHE:

So you’re being a tourist too.

HE:

I’ve lived here for fifteen years.

SHE:

(Playful:) At Alcatraz? He suffers the bad joke. Pause.

HE:

Is all this moisture good for the camera?

SHE:

I don’t know. (Flirty.) Are you concerned about the camera?

HE:

I’m trying to

SHE:

Make conversation? Good. (Pause. She looks out at water, snaps picture.) It’s about time.

HE:

What is it you see out there? It’s a blank to me.

SHE:

Well, maybe that’s what I’m shooting. Blanks. You know how an artist buys blank canvases? Stretches them? Treats them, before painting on them? Maybe I’m taking pictures of blank… fog… so I can use them as a foundation to build on. Maybe that’s my canvas. Pause.

HE:

(Victorious; understanding:) OH!

SHE:

Oh what?

HE:

You’re a conceptual artist! This is conceptual art!

SHE:

I said maybe. Or maybe the fog is a finished statement all by itself. Doesn’t need anything else. Think of all those married couples who collect sand from all the beaches they visit. They keep them in little labeled bottles on their mantle. These will be pictures of today’s fog. As opposed to yesterday’s fog. Or China’s fog. Or 18


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS New Jersey’s fog. (Snaps picture.) I’ll keep track. Make a catalogue. I’ll go around the world HE:

collecting fog? Not even fog, but PICTURES of fog? Should I know this about you?

SHE:

Mmmm. You should know everything about me. But you don’t, do you? You don’t know anything about me.

HE:

Apparently not. But whose fault is that?

SHE:

Yours. Here we are, in prison together.

HE:

Going…

SHE:

Going. Of course. Going. And we know nothing about each other.

HE:

But we’re two strangers, aren’t we. We meet on a boat.

SHE:

A ship. Like Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Well, maybe I wouldn’t go that far. But this is the point I’m making.

HE:

About us being

SHE:

I said. I wouldn’t go that far. But yes. Strangers. And for some time now. Pause.

HE:

(He doesn’t:) I see. Silence, for a while. The sounds of the bay, a foghorn. She looks for pictures to take, doesn’t snap any. Seems disappointed.

SHE:

You don’t take me seriously, I don’t think.

HE:

(Grins.) I take you very seriously. You’re my serious, mysterious stranger. 19


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS SHE:

Then treat me like one.

HE:

I will. I do. Don’t I? (Pause.) So I only get one chance at this, is that it? She lifts the camera to take a picture of him. Doesn’t. Lowers the camera again, disappointed.

SHE:

You should know this about me. I like collecting things.

HE:

You’re allowed to collect things, if you have the money and space for them.

SHE:

Thanks for your permission. Or you clear out other things.

HE:

What?

SHE:

Or you have to clear out other things and make the space. Seeing something, she moves away from him, goes to the other end of the railing. He stays where he is for the moment. Pause.

SHE:

When I was a child, I thought fog was… God’s touch. Because I learned in school that fog was clouds come to earth. I loved the idea that I was literally walking in the clouds, which to me meantHeaven. Especially on those days when the sun would slice through, like day carving night. Then I was convinced of it. And why would God let me preview Heaven if I wasn’t going to get in later on? (Pause.) I felt pretty confident as a kid that I had the Heaven thing sewn up. (Pause. Sad.) Now I feel different about all that. Different-LY. (Pause. To him.) Tell me a fog story from your childhood.

HE:

I don’t know one. Waityes, I do. I read this story when I was a kid. It was about a dinosaur who comes back in the fog, from way out in the 20


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS ocean, the Deeps. He follows the call of the foghorn, which he thinks is hisis his mate. SHE:

Dinosaur love. Doomed. Tiny pause.

HE:

The two men who run the lighthouse, they turn off the foghorn. Then this dinosaur, he goes crazy from loneliness. He wrecks the lighthouse, searchingyou knowfor his love. And when he realizes what he’s done, he makes this big, sad, lonely sound. It’s the same sound as the foghorn. He sort ofREPLACES the foghorn. If that makes any sense. So somewhere deep in my subconscious, when I hear a foghorn…

SHE:

…Yes, to this day, right? You think it’s him. (Pause.) How did you know it was a “him?” The dinosaur. You said “his mate.”

HE:

Well, I don’t know. I just assumed. Maybe the story said.

SHE:

It could have been a “she.”

HE:

I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.

SHE:

See? That’s good. strangers.

A

good story. Intimate

Pause. Foghorn sounds again in the distance. He moves back to her. HE:

I think it was just “the creature.” In the story. Pause.

SHE:

Finally, it all comes down to a question of, do you cultivate, or do you just take what you find and eat it as you find it?

HE:

What? I don't follow. 21


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS SHE:

We were talking about collecting things.

HE:

Oh. Before the fog stories.

SHE:

Yes. But now I’m talking about cultivation. Which relates.

HE:

Okay…

SHE:

Sorry, I’m jumping around a bit because I want to get this point in. We’ll be at the prison soon and I don’t know whether we’ll still be together there. At the prison, or coming back.

HE:

Okay…

SHE:

(Fishes for a tic tac mint.) And there’s this point I want to make. About cultivation. Versus not. Because it seems to me we have a choice here. Have had. For some time now. And we should understand this.

HE:

Okay…

SHE:

Because for thousands of years, thousands or millions or whatever, there WAS no cultivation. People ate whatever they found. We settled for what we found. (Pops a mint in her mouth.) We collected, and whatever we collected was good enough. We didn’t try to grow, we didn’t try to change. If it was a berry, we ate the berry. If it was a seed, we ate the seed. If it was a rabbit or a squirrel, or a fish we caught, I guess maybe we cooked itif we’d discovered fire yetand we didn’t if we didn’tbut we didn’t make sauces, we didn’t make fondues, we didn’t make Peking Duck

HE:

Beijing Duck. She sticks a mint in his mouth before he can protest.

SHE:

Mmmm. And then one day… we did. Started to. It was no longer good enough to just take what we 22


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS found in the form we found it. We grew things, tended the land. We didn’t just munch on seeds, we planted them. We had a vision of the future, that we could make something better than what we found if we could just… wait. HE:

I get where you’re going with this…

SHE:

We made sauces. We were willing to wait to eat while we made sauces and grew things. We were willing to WORK AT IT! Pause. They look out, chew the mints in unison. Foghorn.

HE:

We’ll be at the prison soon.

SHE:

So this thing about being strangers…

HE:

Yes. This game.

SHE:

This thing about being on a boat together.

HE:

A ship. Yes.

SHE:

Or meeting on a cable car.

HE:

Yes.

SHE:

Or on the pier, watching the sea lions. This moment when two strangers come together, if they ARE strangers, and they know absolutely nothing about each other. Or everything. How it can be like picking a random seed up off the ground.

HE:

And then you either…

SHE:

Yes. See, now you’re beginning to understand.

HE:

Yes. It’s different like this.

SHE:

You can take a photograph at that moment and it can be a blank or fog. It can bea base. It can be added to. 23


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS HE:

Yes. Sauces.

SHE:

And it can be the very same photograph.

HE:

(Excited.) Yes! And it can be one of those instant photos or a digital one, or one where you have to take it to K-Mart and wait an hour.

SHE:

Yes, welljust don’t push the metaphor too far. He frowns. Pause. Foghorn.

SHE:

(Encouraging him.) But listen! YOU’VE planted a seed! Now every time I hear a foghorn, I’ll think of that lovesick dinosaur, crying out. And you as a child in a dark room somewhere, jammies on, flashlight under the blanket, reading that book. Thank you for that. (Pause. She shivers.) I should go inside.

HE:

No, don’t. Here. I should have offered it sooner. He takes off his sweater, puts it around her shoulders. Under it, he’s wearing a button-down shirt and tie.

SHE:

You’re dressy.

HE:

It’s a special occasion.

SHE:

It is?

HE:

We were going to meet.

SHE:

Yes, of course.

HE:

And I wanted to look nice.

SHE:

For me?

HE:

Yes.

SHE:

For this conversation we were having. 24


HUNTERS AND GATHERERS HE:

Yes.

SHE:

Going to have.

HE:

Yes. And beyond. If there WAS a beyond.

SHE:

The prison.

HE:

Yes. A pause, a sweet moment between them. Then they look out at the water again. Now he starts to shiver.

SHE:

(A smile.) Would YOU like to go inside?

HE:

(Freezing, but putting up a brave front.) Oh, no no no. I’m fine. Pause. She prepares to take a picture of him, sights him in the camera's viewfinder.

HE:

So. You’ve never been to prison before?

SHE:

Not this one, anyway.

HE:

Other ones?

SHE:

There are prisons and there are prisons. (This time she snaps the picture.) This one we’re going to, I hear no one’s ever escaped.

HE:

(Returning to her.) I’m sure they’ll tell us on the tour.

SHE:

It must be tough. To escape, I mean.

HE:

That’s the idea, one would think. Of making it a prison. Besides, you have to want to. (Pause. Then, pointing out at the fog.) Look. I think it’s clearing. They both look out over the bow. The sound of the surf. The ship’s bell sounds. Twice. As they peer over the railing together, lights slowly fade. 25


26


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL By Cass Brayton

27


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL By Cass Brayton I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL was originally developed by PlayGround (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director) in San Francisco for the PlayLab staged reading series on February 17, 2003. It was directed by Ben Yalom. The cast was as follows: Wanda Lust.................................................... Jason Frazier Peter.......................................................... Leon Goertzen Dustin..................................................... Richard Gallagher I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL was premiered by PlayGround at the 7th Annual Best of Playground (2003) festival on June 14, 2003. It was directed by Lee Sankowich. The cast was as follows: Wanda Lust..................................................... Liam Vincent Peter.......................................................... Leon Goertzen Dustin.................................................... Ian Scott McGregor Cass Brayton is a child of the tundra, having been reared in Montreal. His alma mater is Concordia University (Con U.) where as editor-in-chief of his campus newspaper, he survived many attempts by the misguided to remove him from office. He was an original member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, San Francisco’s radical drag street theater troupe; however, several consequent years of drama therapy have restored Cass to virtual normalcy. He is a member of Rumpus, a playwriting group. I’d Like to Buy a Vowel is his first produced play.

28


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL By Cass Brayton Darkness. Music plays, something tuneful, but suggestive of longing for an absent someone, maybe “Come Back From San Francisco” by Magnetic Fields. Song fades. Lights up. WANDA LUST is on her knees, wiping a shag rug. She’s dressed down in something like a kimono. As the play progresses she gets dressed up for a night out. WANDA LUST:

Drag queens don’t do love letters. They just don’t. If you ever find yourself entangled in a relationship with a she-male don’t go sending herhimher any love letters. You’d just be asking for trouble. Now, you’re probably thinking that if you manage to get yourself implicated in some kind of gender-blend, booze-drenched, meth-propelled, Hollywood-sized psychodrama you hear what I’m saying?If you get yourself involved in an interlude with someone squished like a sausage into a neon-hued, eyeball-searing, quasi-pussprint camisole-and-hot-pants-type ensemble, an outfit that when you get back to her place she pops out of so she can turn up the heat by slipping into one of her Fredericks-Foxy Lady baby dolls, if that’s where you suddenly find yourself, you’re probably thinking right about then that the concept of trouble is simply redundant. And you’d have a point. You probablyyou definitelydon’t want to be mailing that person letters of love. Like I said, you’d just be asking for trouble.

PETER:

Dear Wanda. I really, really, really want to thank you for such an interesting time last night. The whole experience was enlarging. You really opened my mind. Big time. Your friends were really interesting too. And all the places you took me to. I never knew all those places with no signs were really bars. Glad they didn’t ask for ID. We must look fairly sophisticated together, huh? You and me? “I bask in your reflected glory.” I’ll be kind of busy with finals for a while… 29


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL WANDA LUST:

It’s only February.

PETER:

…but will definitely, definitely want to hook up again sometime in the future. Yours always and forever. Peter, “the Great.” (Pause.) P.S. My mother says that presoaking with baking soda will definitely get the puke stains off a shag carpet. P.P.S. Could you send me Dustin’s phone number?

WANDA LUST:

Drag queensas a speciessee themselves as practitioners of psychic surgery on all the Peters of the world. Schools fuck with their little brains. Queens fuck them back to normal. It’s a calling. Someone has to teach them all the shady and taboo subjects that never make it to the stateapproved curriculum. Don’t they?

DUSTIN:

Hey Wanda. What a kick running into you Saturday night. I meant to call you since I got out of juvey. And there you were. Like a vision that comes to me when I wish it to be so.

WANDA LUST:

The Aleister Crowley of the Tenderloin.

DUSTIN:

That stuff I sold you? It might have been cut with something totally unbeknownst to me. Sorry. If I ever thought I was responsible for the most microscopic misfortune wafting down upon your weary head, I would rather cut off my left testicle instead. This I vow to you.

WANDA LUST:

Vow? Forget the vow. If you try to pull that shit on me again, I’ll shred your scrotal sac with my own fingernails.

DUSTIN:

Now I know where to get better stuff so next time, we can rock. I’m still working on putting that band together so keep up those vocal chops. Shine on. Dustin, “the Wind.” (Pause.) P.S. That guy you were with. Peter? Does he play an instrument?

WANDA LUST:

One of the reasons I hate love letters is that they never come. Or they come from the wrong 30


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL person. And once in a long while, instead of pacing through another night rendering that shag carpet even shaggier, as you wait for some word from the right person you decide to take a little pleasure wherever you can find it. But then, a few days later, the mail arrives, shattering the comforting little fantasy you've concocted that this latest guy, maybe, just maybe, dear God, this one won’t be a delinquent who spent his formative years smoking in a pissoir AWOL from English classes, trying to get by on little more than grunts and charisma. PETER:

Dear Wanda. A Valentine 4 U.

WANDA LUST:

(Miming with her hands.) That’s 4 U.

PETER:

Thank you forever / For helping me see it. / The only true life / Is don’t dream it, be it.

WANDA LUST:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Frank N. Furter.

PETER:

You’re so easy to love. Happy VD Day. Guess Who? (Pause.) P.S. Could you send me Dustin’s phone number?

WANDA LUST:

The way I see it, in the alphabet of life, lovers are the vowels. That’s VOWEL, with a V. As in vaginitis? You may think that for you it’s all coming together, that you’ve almost got the whole puzzle figured out. But believe me, it won’t all click into place till you start turning over those E’s and O’s. Now you may think there are just a few too many I’s for your liking, but when the big wheel ratchets to a stop, who do you think’s going to be there to help you hit it big? It won’t be Miss Vanna, my friend, the mute ambulatory mannequin of American letters. That bitch will give you nothing till you start buying vowels.

DUSTIN:

Wanda. Why don’t you pick up when I call? And why don’t you get a computer? I can help you set it up. 31


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL WANDA LUST:

I’m enjoying my reign as Queen of the Luddites.

DUSTIN:

We could do e-mail so I wouldn’t have to handdeliver letters over to your place all the time.

WANDA LUST:

If you quit peddling your boney ass in the alleys off of Polk Street long enough to get down to the post office, you could buy some stamps and wouldn’t have toOh why bother? I happen to like letters. You can fondle them. They’re like email with molecules.

DUSTIN:

You wanna get together and do some music (or whatever) sometime? Don’t forget, you are the lust of my life. Let me know, you crazy diamond. Dustin. (Pause.) P.S. How do I get a hold of that guy Peter?

WANDA LUST:

However creepy and puerile Dustin’s attempts at manipulation might be, you’ve got to love him for being calculating enough to throw an occasional bone your way, while trying to wheedle out of you what he really wants. I know it’s not my carcass that vulture wants to munch on. I may be no Dolly Levi, but I can play along. Hel-lo!

DUSTIN:

Hey Wanda. That dude Peterit’s so cool. He’s a drummer. Got his own kit and everything. I don’t know what’s up with him. He acts kind of weird. But who cares as long as he can keep a Pause.

WANDA LUST:

I think I hear it now, the Pause Pause Pause of the tom-toms.

DUSTIN:

Looks like we’ll be laying down some tracks after all. The first good thing that happened since I got out. Let’s write some songs.

PETER:

Dear Wanda. Dustin called me out of the blue. I wasn’t going to bother him what with the syphilis and all. He looks so healthy. Thanks for letting me know. He never brought the subject up. He said he might let me sit in with his band 32


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL sometime. My big break! You bring magic to my life. DUSTIN:

Syphilis!!!! You stinky ho!!

WANDA LUST:

A poet in touch with the temper of his times.

DUSTIN:

Stay away! Far away from me! You are one twisted cookie!

WANDA LUST:

Does that make me a cruller? I was just trying to help him stay focused on his art. It’s the only thing that lasts.

PETER:

Dear Wanda. I hope you don’t get mad at me but I have to let you know I met someone else. We go to the same school. I really want him to get to know you, the coolest person in the world (that I met so far). Soon as finals are over. Thanks for everything. Pete.

WANDA LUST:

If one day a letter did manage to find its way into your mail slot, wrapped in an envelope plain as the smock on a Walgreen’s cashier… If one day you found your name glowing in some scrawl you could never forget, wild and potent like hieroglyphics on a tomb, patterns so familiar they evaporate all distance, receptors in your brain shifting to overload, popping as your heart starts to palpitate, thumping hard, so hard you don’t even register the spelling mistakes…

PETER and DUSTIN enter dressed up carrying letters, flowers, balloons, sparklers, etc. If this is what showed up one daywhat some would call a letter of loveit might not be all that bad. If you tore your way into that envelope, if you saw those tender words: PETER:

Come back.

DUSTIN:

Come back to me. 33


I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL PETER:

Hurry home.

DUSTIN:

I need you.

PETER:

Need to feel you.

DUSTIN:

Need to taste you.

PETER:

Read me a poem.

DUSTIN:

I wrote a song for you.

PETER:

Let’s do it again.

DUSTIN:

Never leave me.

PETER:

I bought you a book.

DUSTIN:

Let me dream beside you.

PETER:

I made you some breakfast.

DUSTIN:

Use my credit card.

As WANDA moves toward them, PETER and DUSTIN withdraw and exit. WANDA LUST:

You could wait a long time, Miss Havisham, a long time for that bonus round. In the meantime, drama will have to serve. I mean, love never lingers but drama just goes on and on. A consonant searching for vowels.

Music fades in. WANDA finishes dressing, checks herself in the mirror, turns off a lamp, and exits. Lights fade. Music fades.

34


LETTEROPHILIA By Kristina Goodnight

35


LETTEROPHILIA By Kristina Goodnight LETTEROPHILIA was originally developed by PlayGround (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director) in San Francisco for the PlayLab staged reading series on February 17, 2003. It was directed by Jim Kleinmann. The cast was as follows: Marjorie...................................................... C. Kelly Wright Letterophilia Expert.............................................. Eric Cook Harold............................................................ Mark Farrell Denise........................................................... Valerie Weak LETTEROPHILIA was premiered by PlayGround at the 7th Annual Best of Playground (2003) festival on June 14, 2003. It was directed by Jim Kleinmann. The cast was as follows: Marjorie......................................................... Julia Mueller Letterophilia Expert................................... Ian Scott McGregor Harold..............................................................Rod Gnapp Denise............................................................... Lisa Kang Kristina Goodnight is a two-time PlayGround Emerging Playwright Award winner and recipient of the inaugural June Anne Baker Prize. Her short play The Bandersnatch was featured in the 2002 Best of PlayGround festival and published in The Best of PlayGround (2002). She recently completed her full-length play The Eve Generation, commissioned and workshopped by PlayGround. Several of her other plays have been produced in the Bay Area and elsewhere, including A Perfect Human Being, which was the inaugural production for Guilty Theatre, a company she co-founded with three other female playwrights. Kristina received her MFA in Playwriting from Saint Mary's College and her BA in Dramatic Art and English from the University of California, Davis.

36


LETTEROPHILIA By Kristina Goodnight AT RISE: The lobby of an apartment building. A bank of mailboxes sits center, facing upstage. After a moment, MARJORIE enters, carrying a plastic bag; she looks around, filled with contained desperation. She approaches the mailboxes, pulls a bent bobby pin from her pocket and deftly begins picking a lock. She pulls out a stack of mail, sifts through it efficiently, shoves several envelopes in her sack. MARJORIE:

(Muttering bitterly.) All she ever gets are credit card applications…

She picks another lock, repeats the process. (Sifting through mail.) Bob must appear in court for jury duty… mmm, he may already have won ten million dollars… She stands, searches through her pocket for a key, holds it out in front of her in a trembling hand. She opens her own mailbox with a key, pulls out the mail. (Barely able to contain her excitement. Sifting through mail.) My name has been selected for the Wall of Tolerance… it is up to me to save the Oak Street Branch of the Public Library… for the price of a large cappuccino I can feed a child for three days… need to save the rain forest… save the right to choose… the right to life… She pulls one envelope from the stack; she holds it up, her hands shaking. Her face lights up as though she has found a treasure. Slovenka! She rips open the envelope and pulls out a handwritten letter. Her body relaxes like an addict getting a fix. She sinks to the floor, lovingly running her hands over the paper. She puts the paper to her cheek, caressing it ecstatically. 37


LETTEROPHILIA A separate shaft of light comes up on the LETTEROPHILIA EXPERT. As he begins speaking, MARJORIE freezes and remains frozen for the entirety of the following speech. LETTEROPHILIA EXPERT:

Letterophilia, a disease characterized by a disproportionate affection for written correspondence, affects over one million literate Americans. In the majority of cases it remains undiagnosed, and the afflicted is simply known as a person who “just really loves letters.”

As the shaft of light goes out on the LETTEROPHILIA EXPERT, MARJORIE unfreezes. She is slumped against the mailboxes in a state of ecstasy. HAROLD enters, carrying a large stack of envelopes. As he approaches the mailboxes, MARJORIE pulls herself together, shoving the mail into her sack. He unlocks his mailbox. MARJORIE:

Hi, Harold.

HAROLD:

(Sighing.) Hey, Marjorie. (He sifts through his mail, disappointed.) Typical.

MARJORIE:

(Indicating his letters.) That’s, um, quite a stack you have there.

HAROLD:

What? Oh yeah. Holiday cards.

MARJORIE:

Did you… uh… happen to include one of those typed letters on red paper describing all your recent accomplishments?

HAROLD:

No, I decided to write a personal note to everybody this year.

MARJORIE:

(Trying to control herself.) Inin your own handwriting?

HAROLD:

Well, yeah, not that anyone ever writes back, but

MARJORIE:

Did you just write on the card or did you have to carry over onto stationary? 38


LETTEROPHILIA HAROLD:

Well in some cases, yeah

MARJORIE:

Did you use that rough, cream-colored paper that you alwaysI mean, that a lot of people use, the kind that when you press hard with a ballpoint pen you can feel the texture of the script on the other side?

HAROLD:

Yeah

MARJORIE:

(Zealously.) Want me to mail those for you?

HAROLD:

(Sighing, dejected.) I don’t want to trouble you.

MARJORIE:

Really, I don’t mind, the mailman already came and all, I can just run down to the box on the corner. (Evenly.) Just… give… me… your letters.

HAROLD:

Alright. (He hands her the letters. She stuffs them in her bag.) So, you get anything good?

MARJORIE:

(Suddenly wary.) What?

HAROLD:

Your mail?

MARJORIE:

Oh, yeah, I won a million dollars and got a letter from my pen pal in Zagreb. She’s having to go into hiding.

HAROLD:

That’s terrible.

MARJORIE:

It’s nothing compared to Ria, this woman I correspond with in East Timor, or Cynthia in San Salvador. Her whole house was destroyed in the earthquake.

HAROLD:

You have a lot of pen pals.

MARJORIE:

Yeah, well, I just really love letters.

HAROLD:

At least they write back to you. When I finally got up the courage to send a letter to Debbie, this girl that asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance 39


LETTEROPHILIA fifteen years ago, she didn’t send so much as a postcard back. MARJORIE:

Maybe she was really glad to hear from you but wanted you to know that she got together with the debate team captain Steve Esposito on graduation night and got pregnant with twins and now all Steve does every day is drink a case of Bud Ice and watch reruns of Different Strokes and she has to support him and the twins and the two little ones all on a nurse's salary. (Pause.) Or something like that.

HAROLD:

Yeah, that sounds just like my Debbie. She probably just didn’t like me because she didn’t think I would amount to much. And let’s face it, she’s probably right.

MARJORIE:

Oh, no.

HAROLD:

I always wanted to be a man of letters, but

MARJORIE:

That would’ve been… very appealing.

HAROLD:

But no college would take me. When I applied to all those schools a couple years ago, they didn’t even bother to send me any rejection letters

MARJORIE:

(Guilty.) Maybe you could try a correspondence course.

HAROLD:

Yeah, maybe.

MARJORIE:

Or if you reapply to those two state schools, maybe they would be more likely to admit you if you took another year of foreign language and brought your GPA up to a 3.0.

HAROLD:

Thanks, Marjorie. You’re the most sympathetic person I know. You always remember everything about my life. (Sighing.) Well, better go pay some bills.

40


LETTEROPHILIA MARJORIE:

Don’t forget to pay your renter’s insurance. They, uh, might be sending you a notice saying that a bill collector is on his way.

HAROLD:

Oh, yeah, okay.

MARJORIE:

(Looking back at the mailboxes.) Hey, did L.M. Hawkins move out?

HAROLD:

Who?

MARJORIE:

Apartment 315.

HAROLD:

You mean Lydia?

MARJORIE:

Yeah, Lydia. She hasn’t been picking up her mail… or so I’ve heard.

HAROLD:

Nobody told you?

MARJORIE:

What?

HAROLD:

She… um… jumped.

MARJORIE:

She what?!

HAROLD:

Apparently she couldn’t take it anymore that none of her kids ever answered her letters and just, well, ended it.

MARJORIE:

(Shaken.) Oh wow. (Pause.) Did she leave a note?

They freeze as the LETTEROPHILIA EXPERT enters. EXPERT:

Someone you know may be suffering from Letterophilia if he or she exhibits one or more of the following symptoms: an extreme concern for not breaking the link in a chain letter, an intimate familiarity with the route of your local postal carrier, an unreasonable bitterness about the advent of the Internet, or actually reading the letters inviting you to choose a new long distance carrier. 41


LETTEROPHILIA MARJORIE and HAROLD unfreeze, exit. The LETTEROPHILIA EXPERT exits as DENISE enters, carrying a large shopping bag. MARJORIE enters; DENISE sees her, hides herself. MARJORIE, clearly in a state of withdrawal, picks the lock on a mailbox, finds it empty. With greater desperation she opens a second box, finds it empty. Almost hysterical, she opens a third box, finds it empty. DENISE approaches. DENISE:

Good afternoon! I’m Denise Hartwell. The new tenant in apartment 315.

MARJORIE:

(Taking gulping breaths.) H—hi.

DENISE holds out her hand. MARJORIE extends a trembling hand. As they shake hands, MARJORIE peers inside DENISE’s bag. Her eyes widen. MARJORIE:

That’s, uh, quite a load you’ve got there.

DENISE:

(Pulling away.) Oh, yes, moving in and all. Lots to buy.

MARJORIE:

Can I help you with it? Llooks really heavy.

DENISE:

No, I’ve got it, thanks. MARJORIE holds on to the bag; DENISE tightens her grip.

MARJORIE:

Really, let me give you a hand

DENISE:

(Overlapping.) I’m fffine! In their struggle, the bag falls to the ground; a mound of letters comes tumbling out. MARJORIE tries to grab for some. They fight. DENISE successfully gathers up the letters, stuffing them down her shirt, in her pants, and in the bag. MARJORIE is left only with a torn piece of envelope.

DENISE:

(Looking down at MARJORIE, shaking her head.) Poor little tyro. Still picking locks, huh?

MARJORIE:

W-what do you mean? 42


LETTEROPHILIA DENISE:

You need to learn how to… communicate your needs to your mail carrier. Ted can be a very giving man, you know.

MARJORIE:

Bubut this is my Pause!

DENISE:

Not anymore. And by the way, successfully made it into hiding.

MARJORIE:

How dare you!

Slovenka

She starts to pounce on DENISE as the shaft of light comes up on the LETTEROPHILIA EXPERT. MARJORIE and DENISE freeze. EXPERT:

If you suspect you are in the presence of a letterophile, be sure to avoid the following: asking the letterophile to get your mail while you are on vacation, revealing that you work for Federal Express, Mail Boxes, Etc. or the United Parcel Service, or suggesting that the letterophile do volunteer work that involves stuffing envelopes, delivering messages to convalescent hospitals, or assisting the illiterate.

DENISE and MARJORIE unfreeze and exit. HAROLD enters, carrying several envelopes and his mail key. DENISE enters from another direction with her shopping bag. HAROLD opens his box; it is empty. HAROLD:

(Sighing.) Typical.

DENISE:

Afternoon.

HAROLD:

Any idea if the mailman came yet?

DENISE:

Ohhh yes. He came.

HAROLD:

(Sighing.) Mine’s empty. Again.

DENISE:

Sorry Harold.

HAROLD:

Have you seen Marjorie lately? 43


LETTEROPHILIA DENISE:

Apartment 217?

HAROLD:

Yeah.

DENISE:

Didn’t you hear?

HAROLD:

(Sighing.) Probably not.

DENISE:

(With a strange smile.) She was arrested for tampering with the U.S. Postal Service.

HAROLD:

Oh. That’s a shame. She was a really good friend.

DENISE:

Maybe you could write to her in jail. She strikes me as someone who would make a good pen pal.

HAROLD:

(Sighing.) Yeah, maybe you’re right.

DENISE:

(Indicating his letters.) Want me to mail those for you? Lights fade to black.

44


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES By Maria Rokas

45


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES By Maria Rokas PLANS AND PECCADILLOES was originally developed by PlayGround (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director) in San Francisco for the PlayLab staged reading series on January 20, 2003. It was directed by Nancy Carlin. The cast was as follows: Pear................................................................. Stacy Ross Waldo............................................................ Don Speziale PLANS AND PECCADILLOES was premiered by PlayGround at the 7th Annual Best of Playground (2003) festival on June 14, 2003. It was directed by Loni Berry. The cast was as follows: Pear............................................................. Danielle Thys Waldo.............................................................. Rod Gnapp Maria Rokas has a BA in film from San Francisco State University. Her first play, Beauty the Beast, was a finalist in the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco’s 2001 Dramarama competition and Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills’ 2001 one-act competition. She sits on the board of the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco as education coordinator.

46


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES By Maria Rokas Darkness. PEAR (woman 40s) is standing at back of stage. WALDO (man 40s) is standing just off. There are two chairs front center stage, side by side, facing the audience. One has a purse slung over it. PEAR will pass between them as she makes her way up the “aisle.” PEAR:

They say there are no accidents.

WALDO:

It was a simple mistake.

Lights up to dim. PEAR at back of stage posed as though holding a bouquether wedding day. She takes steps forward, slowly, as: PEAR:

The doors swung open, and suddenly I doubted my ability to breathe. (Holding her elbow out.) If someone hadn’t been holding me up, been dragging me forward, I’d have gone down like the Titanic. (She wavers, catches herself, stepping forward.) As I was walking down the aisle… each step felt like a question that I wanted just a LITTLE MORE TIME to consider than what one is usually allotted in their journey from here (stopping, looking to the end of where she’s going) to there. Airplane runways are what, thousands of feet long… and what have I got to work with? A couple of yards, max… A couple of yards to decide whether or not to take off again, or come in for a landing. (Staring very hard at the spot where she’s heading. She raises the bouquet higher, takes a step.) Should I? (Takes a step.) Should I? I mean, if you’re looking for a sign from above, what better place than a church, right? (She looks up to the heavens as she steps forward and trips. She looks out, confused.) But how do you interpret a trip? Uncomfortable shoes, long dress, lumpy carpet(dread) or an indication from the almighty that you are about to make the biggest mistake of your life.

47


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES Lights come up fully. WALDO enters and walks to her side between the chairs as: WALDO:

She’s got a pear shape. I’m not sure people should be shaped like fruit. (Gazing across the stage seductively.) I had been looking at her frienda tall, leggy brunette with a long neck. She looked like a sexy giraffe. I was getting up to go talk to her when the waitress dropped a beer in my lap, (looking at his lap) which got the giraffe’s attention… for all the wrong reasons. (He sits down, dejected, hunched over.) She wound up with my buddy, and I wound up with the pear (looking at her, looking away) and we just sort of stayed there… afraid to move… for way too long.

She takes a seat in the chair with the purse. They turn away from each other, uncomfortable. PEAR:

It was like a sick game, where neither person ever agreed to play, but somehow we found ourselves in the thick of it. Every date, every kiss, every step down that aisle, simply a move by two hopeless passive-aggressives who didn’t have the guts to play life for real.

WALDO:

For a while she became more of a cantaloupe. I used to call her “Tubs” for all the pints of ice cream she’d eat. I’d find the empty containers in the garbage outside. She’d look at me like she didn’t know how it happened… BUT I KNEW

PEAR:

I had it under control for a while… But then one day, for no apparent reason, they rearranged the shelves in the frozen food department. It used to be breakfast and lunch items on one side, dinner on the other. Ice cream didn’t even enter into the picture. It was on another aisle… (waving off in another direction) somewhere else somewhere far, far away… But this time, as I opened the case, (she reaches) and reached for the frozen dinners he says taste better than my cooking… a couple of old friends caught my eye. 48


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES (She pulls back, covering her eyes with her hands. She peeks through. Lustful.) Ben… and Jerry. (Shaking her head trying to clear it.) It was an accident. WALDO:

There are no accidents.

She is driving. PEAR:

I kept looking for other, less complicated grocery stores. Two blocks this way. Thirteen that way. As I drove further and further, past mini-malls, and shopping centers… (in a daze, turning off the road) I contemplated marketing tactics and ice cream… Then sixty-three miles out of town, on a dirt road, (she stands) I found a little out-of-theway grocery storemore of a bait shop really… But even there, at Zeke’s Tackle Box, by the register, next to the night crawlers, in a tiny little freezer case. (She looks down in awe at the case, reaches out, pulls her hand back. She sits down, hunched over, hiding.) And then there I was, sitting in the car, in a neighborhood where no one would recognize me, up to my ears in Chunky Monkey… He says crime doesn’t pay. But what about the little crimes, things no one else can see? I mean if a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around to see you eat it… (taking a bite, swallowing hard) what’s the harm right?

WALDO:

Then sort of a watermelon… Then she went to Weight Watchers… Now she’s a pear again.

They stand up and flip the chairs to face each other. As they sit down they’re too close for comfort and slide the chairs back. PEAR:

We were sitting at the dinner table, on some holiday or another… I was staring at him. (Pointing at him, spinning her finger counterclockwise.) Watching him chew his cauliflower counter-clockwise for the thirty-seventh time. And like clockwork, I watched him pick up the salt shaker, and, as always… 49


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES He reaches for the shaker. He shakes as: One, two, aaaaaand… (looking at the audience) wait for it… (looking at him.) He starts to put it down, but thinks twice and shakes one more time as: Three. And then he put it back like he always does. He puts it back. BUT THIS TIME (perking up, staring at the shaker) closer to me. Not perfectly aligned with the pepper shaker as usualmarking the halfway point across the impeccably polished mahogany table that seats twonever more. (Increasingly intense.) For the past fifteen years a line divided our houserunning down our bed… through the living room couch… and across this table. But when he put that little piece of pottery closer to me… he broke the line, and a little bit of his world started to flow into mine… (Giggly.) And suddenly I no longer felt the need to drive the turkey baster up his nose and suck out his brain… (Serious, picking up the shaker, turning it over in her hand.) Like a chess piece. My move. Were we going to play for real? If we were, we needed a plan. A game plan. WALDO:

She has a plan.

PEAR:

A simple plan.

WALDO:

You wanna see God laugh… make a plan.

He stands up and flips the chair around so he’s facing the audience. He picks up a remote and starts to change channels. She gets up and starts to pace the stage like a drill sergeant. PEAR:

We discussed the plan at great length. 50


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES WALDO:

(Watching sports.) N-n-n-n-o. You fool. G-g-g-ggo. YES!

PEAR:

He agreed. We would make this work. We would tear down the barrier between us. At the very least WE WOULDN’T DIE ALONE. (Kneeling next to him.) All I needed was the sealing wax on our little pact. She pulls the remote out of his hand. TELL ME. He looks at her, frustrated. He picks dessert up off the table. He eats. He doesn’t look at me when he says it. He looks at his slice of lemon meringue pie… he takes a bite… and as the tartness starts to pucker his tiny little mouth, he says:

WALDO:

(Puckered.) I love you… (swallowing) now turn the channel to something I want to watch.

PEAR:

(Deer in the headlights, looking out at the audience. She makes her way back to her chair as:) So it was OK… I suppose some people would go mad in an... (thinking) UNUSUAL marriage contained by a house with walls that feel more like prison bars than reinforcement… (smiling in a weird way) but not me. (Flipping her chair towards the audience.) I had the plan. (She sits, she’s driving.) But then I was driving down the freeway… going 35 in the left lane. People were honking. A lot. (Turning, yelling at another car.) WHAT’S THE PROBLEM ASSHOLE! (Pleading, shaky.) What they didn’t understand was that I was going as fast as I could. There didn’t seem to be enough energy in me to push the accelerator towards the floor. The needle was dropping… 25… 15. (Looking around, desperate.) I had to get off. I started shaking, my feet lifting off the pedals. I NEEDED to get off. (She slings the purse over her shoulder, stands.) I pulled off the freeway and 51


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES into the nearest parking lot and staggered into the store with the brightest neon sign in what I was sure was a dangerously low blood sugar haze… (looking around, twirling, dazed) and found myself surrounded by cheap shoes that smelled of petroleum byproducts, and Barbie dolls with dead eyes… everywhere. (Looking up at the heavens.) How did things get so complicated? (Shaking her fists.) AND WHERE IS THE FUCKING ICE CREAM?! (Gaze coming down and settling on something in front of her, taking a step forward, pointing in awe.) I didn’t know they sold guns… (Her hand becomes a gun pointed at the audience. She strokes the gun and puts it in her purse.) It was an accident. PEAR calmly sits down. She’s driving, smiling. WALDO stands. WALDO:

It was an accident. A simple mistake. Third and Main. Right next to the place I always go, every day, right after I finish my lunch, at the same place, every day, after having a BLT and coffee. It’s where I get my gum. I need something to chew. It gets me through the day. The repetitive motion broken apart by the occasional snap crackle and pop. (Making a couple of cracking noises with his mouth, he smiles wickedly.) It drives my wife crazy. She says that’s what kids who don’t know any better and cheap women who do… do. But I like my gum. And that’s where I was going. Truly. Wrigley’s green. Had the quarter in my hand, my hand in my pocket. (Putting hand in pocket.) But I wound up here instead… You get turned around.

PEAR:

(Driving, looking around anxious, smile gone.) I didn’t know where I was going. Every place I went seemed to sell weapons or ice cream.

WALDO:

Even though you’ve lived in the same place all your life, walked the same streets so many times you don’t even think about it anymore, one day 52


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES instead of taking a left, you accidentally take two rights… PEAR:

I turn here…

WALDO:

Go up a steep hill…

PEAR:

Go down there… She turns the steering wheel as:

WALDO:

And turn into a small alley. (Shrugging his shoulders.) It could happen. And the next thing you know…

PEAR:

And the next thing I know…

WALDO:

You’re somewhere…

PEAR:

I’m somewhere I’ve never been before…

WALDO:

For no apparent reason…

PEAR:

With no idea how I got here or how to get back… She is getting out of the car as: He looks down at his clenched fist and opens his hand one finger at a time as he ticks off:

WALDO:

BLT, coffee, (looking up at a sign) Mr. Hard-On’s Euphorium Emporium, (opening his hand fully, looking at his palm, snapping his gum) with a quarter in my hand.

PEAR:

Some distance away, I see something familiar. But for some reason it gives me no sense of comfort. It’s vague at first, like waking up, before your eyes adjust, and it takes a while before I see Waldo… and realize where he is.

WALDO:

(Shaking his head to clear it.) I’m turning to leave… when a tall, leggy, brunette with a long neck brushes up against me, knocking the quarter 53


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES out of my hand. It lands on its edge and follows her into Mr. Hard-On’s. (Cocking his head, staring at the door.) Now normally I wouldn’t step foot inside a place of ill repute (snapping his gum, smiling) but a quarter’s a quarterespecially when considering the current state of our economy. He slowly starts walking off stage, her gaze following him. PEAR:

And I’m thinking: where is my husband going with that woman with the incredibly large hands and feet? THIS… is not part of the plan. She steps forward, clutching her bag to her side, following after him. I’m shaky as I step through the door, wishing I had just a little more sugar under my belt. (Shielding her face at different angles, trying not to look at what’s around her. She winds up where she started at the beginning of the playthe top of the “aisle.”) I keep my eyes low. They grip the red carpet that I follow like a runway, like the aisle, that should guide me to where I want to go. I look up for brief moments and I’m met by images that make me look away as though someone has just snapped a rubber band in my eye… But as I make my way along, I realize he’s not here. So this isn’t really happening. And I can go, if I can just find my way out. (She stops, looking anxiously to both sides.) But I find myself sandwiched in-between a man with his head buried in a magazine and his hand buried in his pocket, and two people of undeterminable gender and questionable manners… I’M TRAPPED. (She closes her eyes, panicking.) And then… from above… a voice… It seems there’s a fifty-percent off sale on all flavored latex items… (Looking to both sides quickly.) And they all scatter. (Relieved.) And I’m saved… But the runway keeps leading me further and further away from the door… until it ends 54


PLANS AND PECCADILLOES (looking up in awe) in a wall of many booths side by side going on forever… She looks at the booths, cocks her head, looks up at the wall, reading. Twenty-five cent movies… (Choking up.) I can’t remember the last time I went to the movies… (Weary.) If I could just sit down for a moment… relax… clear my head… (She fishes through her purse.) I open my wallet but find no change. I reach deep into the dark cavities of my purse looking for a quarter, and find nothing but… She pulls the gun out of her purse, pointing it at the door. And then suddenly… as though answering my prayers… the door opens… Blackout.

55


56


SOUND By Aaron Loeb

57


SOUND By Aaron Loeb SOUND was originally developed by PlayGround (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director) for the PlayLab staged reading series on February 17, 2003. It was directed by Amy Glazer. The cast was as follows: Kenji.......................................................... Leon Goertzen Sophie............................................................... Lisa Kang SOUND was premiered by PlayGround at the 7th Annual Best of Playground (2003) festival on June 14, 2003. It was directed by Shana Cooper. The cast was as follows: Kenji........................................................... Leon Goertzen Sophie............................................................... Lisa Kang Aaron Loeb is a third-generation Berkeleyan, though he’s made pitstops in Illinois (where he grew up) and New York along the way. He studied playwriting and dramatic literature at New York University and his short works have been performed at La MaMa E.T.C., PlayGround and living rooms around the country as part of the Performer’s Workshop Ensemble’s House Theater project. He works by day as a videogame producer in Sausalito and moonlights as a reader at San Jose Rep. He is a two-time PlayGround Emerging Playwright Award winner, having been previously recognized for Shameful/Shameless, published in The Best of PlayGround (2002).

58


SOUND By Aaron Loeb KENJI, a Japanese-American man, early to mid-30s, stands behind SOPHIE, a Korean-American, early to mid-30s, on a completely empty, black stage. He has his hand over her eyes and is whispering in her ear mischievously. At times in the play, they talk outthere are two nurses in the room with them. KENJI:

Shhh… Listen. What do you hear?

SOPHIE:

Nothing.

KENJI:

Nothing?

SOPHIE:

Nothing.

KENJI:

That is how it all began. In the beginning, it was completely silent, and they were alone in the one ocean’s briny emptiness, Man and Woman. Izanagi and Izanami, He Who Invites and She Who Invites. They came together, and from their union the world was born. It is a story written for me by my ancestors, written in my bones, written

SOPHIE:

(Shrugging off his hands.) Cut it out. (To the nurses.) He isn’t usually this weird.

KENJI:

I was being entertaining, not weird. Charming! I was being charming.

SOPHIE:

(Quietly to KENJI, but playful.) Ken, the “Wise Man of the Orient” routine is embarrassing, not charming.

KENJI:

(To the nurses.) This is what I teach, these stories. Japaneselanguage and ancient culture. Fascinating subject.

SOPHIE:

We met at a faculty party. I’m not in folklore

KENJI:

cultural studies 59


SOUND SOPHIE:

I’m in physics. High energy? Essentially we’re seeking to isolate particles that prove the viability of the big bang… uh… the big bang theory that… uh… Pause, the nurses are unimpressed. My god, Ken… we’re tedious.

KENJI:

You’re tedious, sweetie. I’m charming.

SOPHIE:

I can’t go five minutes without spewing forth my research and you’ll seize any opportunity to break into one of your Va-China monologues. Tedious!

KENJI:

It’s a beautiful story… a beautiful religion. And it should be Va-Japan Monologues. He smiles solicitously to nurses.

SOPHIE:

That doesn’t rhyme with Vagina.

KENJI:

Shhh! Don’t say that!

SOPHIE:

We’re at an OB/GYN! They’ve heard the word.

KENJI:

But still…

SOPHIE:

VAGINA! VAGINA! VAGINA!

KENJI:

(Smiling at nurses again.) It’s the mood swings.

SOPHIE:

You blame everything on the mood swings. You blame you not doing the dishes on my mood swings! And why are you so defensive about some story where the universe comes from a giant man and woman in the ocean making out?

KENJI:

They fished the islands of Japan from the brine with a jewel-encrusted spear.

SOPHIE:

Oh, never mind… I hadn’t grasped the perfect phallo-centricity of it! 60


SOUND KENJI:

What are you talking about, phallo-centricity?

SOPHIE:

Okay, lemme see if I have this straight. First man and first woman…

KENJI:

He who invites and She who invites…

SOPHIE:

Are out in the inky blackness, surrounded by the warm, salty ocean water.

KENJI:

Right… So?

SOPHIE:

And to make Japan, they take a big, hard speara very valuable one covered in jewels, probably purple and red jewels, and they jam it over and over again into the hot… salty… water.

KENJI:

Oh my God! That’s amazing!

SOPHIE:

You’ve never thought of this before?

KENJI:

Sophie, every semester I tell this story to a room full of hormonally raging, oversexed 18-year-old freshmen. You really imagine I’ve never heard it before? I’m playing along.

SOPHIE:

Uh-huh. (Acknowledging something said by the nurses, and lifting her shirt a little to expose her stomach.) Oh, sure. Will it be much longer? Okay…

KENJI:

(Hugging her, ready to wait quietly.) Chock full of sexual subtext though it might be, it’s still a beautiful story. They were alone in the silence when the world had no form, but together they made life. It’s a very old, very beautiful story.

SOPHIE:

(Short pause as they smile and she leans against him. Then she frowns and launches in.) Yeah, but it’s just a story. And it’s not like you believe it.

KENJI:

My great-grandparents believed it.

61


SOUND SOPHIE:

You know I hate it when you start talking about religions, like you actually believe them. “Ah, the beauty of faith! The magnificent panoply of human yearning for the divine!” It’s, like, medieval?

KENJI:

Let’s… Let’s just be quiet. They’re almost done.

SOPHIE:

Okay. We’ll just be quiet. (Pause.) Besides, we both know the universe was created when matter and antimatter met and exploded, leaving the tiniest but most beautiful thing imaginable.

KENJI:

Shhhh…

SOPHIE:

Subatomic particles that, in isolation, have seemingly no mass. But in the grand cosmic scale, given how much matter and antimatter collided during the big bang, enough mass to account for the entire universe. From that explosion, that cosmic cataclysm between perfect opposites, and the tiny, comparatively microscopic mass that remained afterward, the universe was born. One moment, nothing. The next, everything. Including Japan and the hot… wet… salty… ocean.

KENJI:

And where did the matter and antimatter come from?

SOPHIE:

From nothing.

KENJI:

That sounds an awful lot like religion to me. I prefer the giant phallus. That makes no sense! Something came from nothing?

SOPHIE:

Of course it makes sense. Mass can be at a zerostate and break down into perfect opposites matter and anti-matterthat, when brought together, return to a zero-state.

KENJI:

I thought you said they make mass.

62


SOUND SOPHIE:

No. Not in small samples. Maybe a boson here, a baryon there… It’s very complicated. You see

KENJI:

Sophie… Be quiet, okay?

SOPHIE:

I will not be quiet. Don’t boss me, Kenji.

KENJI:

No, seriously! Be quiet. They’re ready.

SOPHIE:

No! I willOh! They suddenly both grow very quiet, excited. They get close and look out at an imagined monitor where they will see their baby. Pause. Whispered: Do you hear anything?

KENJI:

(Also whispered:) Nothing…

SOPHIE:

Nothing.

KENJI:

(Pause. Upset.) Shouldn’t we be hearing something? Nurse? Shouldn’t we bewhat’s wrong?

SOPHIE:

Why isn’t there… why don’t we hear it?

KENJI:

Is she leaving? Where is she going? Nurse… what’s going on? Why aren’t we hearing anything? Where is she going?!

SOPHIE:

Don’t yell.

KENJI:

Is she getting the doctor? What the hell is going on?!

SOPHIE:

Stop yelling! Everything’s fine.

KENJI:

Everything is not fine! (To the remaining nurse.) Please explain what’s happening? Why don’t we hear anything?

SOPHIE:

I’m sure everything will be okay… just calm down. 63


SOUND KENJI:

What, you just take it on faith? “Hey, it’s supposed to be a routine test, and the nurses are running around telling us nothing, but gosh, it's just too nice a day for something to go wrong?”

SOPHIE:

And your panicking is definitely fixing everything.

KENJI:

I am not panicking. I’m demanding a rational explanation.

SOPHIE:

(Convincing herself.) Look, sometimes things go a little screwy. It’ll be fineKaren told me when she went in

KENJI:

Soph, this isn’t helping. Be quiet while I go get the doctor.

SOPHIE:

Be quiet? Be quiet?! What the hell is that?

KENJI:

(Waving his hand in her face, dismissive.) We don’t have time for this right now… Just let me figure out

SOPHIE:

Don’t wave your hand in my face and order me around. This is just as scary for me, so don’t try shutting me up. You don’t get to control me.

KENJI:

Oh, Jesus leaping Christ on a pogo stick. This again.

SOPHIE:

Mom told me, “A Japanese man wants to control his wife, like Japan always wants to control Korea.” She warned me, but I wouldn’t listen!

KENJI:

We are not having this argument right now! We are not having this argument right now!

SOPHIE:

We will have this argument if I say so, and you do not get to wave your hand in my face and tell me to hush up like a demure little girl for you! She warned me

64


SOUND KENJI:

You think my parents didn’t warn me? When you started snorting at my nephew’s name, they told me, “Sophie's too low class.”

SOPHIE:

Your brother names his son “Aragorn Skywalker Miyazaki” and you want me to keep a straight face? Kids won’t be half as kind as I was!

KENJI:

He’s a big fan!

SOPHIE:

No, Ken. Guys who dress up as Klingons to go to ren faires are big fans. People who learn to speak Elvish are big fans. Naming your kid “Aragorn Skywalker Miyazaki” is fanaticism. Pure, religious fanaticism! And I do not snort when I laugh!

KENJI:

You are a snorter!

SOPHIE:

You’re a snob! Your whole family are rich, arrogant snobs!

KENJI:

Your family are racists!

SOPHIE:

Racists?! Well. I’m sorry if they haven’t gotten over hundreds of years of Japan systematically butchering Koreans! (Putting on a snooty accent.) I know it’s awfully provincial of them, terribly unsporting

KENJI:

That is completely unfair! You can’t lay every crime of Imperial Japan at the feet of every Japanese family. Particularly an American one! That’s pure, unadulterated racism. You’re the one who told me that in the first place!

SOPHIE:

Told you what? What did I tell you that you didn’t already have stored away with the rest of your limitless manly wisdom?

KENJI:

When I first met your family, you were the one who said, “they’re a little racist against Japanese people.” Your words, Soph, not mine! Q! E! D!

SOPHIE:

Well, maybe they’re right to be. 65


SOUND KENJI:

Maybe they’re… (Flabbergasted.) What do you want from me?!

SOPHIE:

Well, an apology would be nice.

KENJI:

I have done nothing that requires an apology!

SOPHIE:

An apology from Japan!

KENJI:

You’re mad at me because Japan hasn’t apologized for imperialism?! I’m not even from Japan! What are you talking about?!

SOPHIE:

I’m talking about the systematic murder, rape and torture of the Korean people by the Japanese people(To nurses, as they put something on her stomach.) Would you please hold on a second? I’m having a conversation with my husband. Fine! Hey, that’s cold!(Back to her argument.) Maybe this is a sign, Ken. Maybe this was all doomed to failure from the start. I mean, how did we ever get this far?

KENJI:

We got this far because you’ve pretended, up until this moment, to be a rational human being.

SOPHIE:

I am the only rational human being in this marriage, Ken! I am the scientist here. I am the woman of learning. You are the sexist imperialist who feels he must control his wife to be happy!

KENJI:

I have never felt that once until just now, but man, oh man, do I feel it now. You know what, maybe you’re rightmaybe we’re just too different. Maybe there never was hope that we could do thismake this work. Maybe it’s just impossible! Scientifically impossible. Is that what you wanna hear?

SOPHIE:

Whatever you want to believe. Whatever rules you want to dictate.

KENJI:

Unbelievable. Well, if that’s how you want it. I’ll just… I’ll just wait outside. 66


SOUND SOPHIE:

You do that! And try not to invade China on your way out, Tojo!

KENJI:

That was… You apologize! That is totally… Apologize!

SOPHIE:

I will not!

KENJI:

Good! I’ll just leave you here to stew in your own misguided self-righteousness, then!

SOPHIE:

Thank God for that! I prefer silence, which, p.s., I have no chance of getting when… We hear the sound of a fast heartPause. SOPHIE and KENJI cease hostilities and look out at the monitor that was still earlier. Pause.

KENJI:

Is that…?

SOPHIE:

Little Bilbo Baggins Miyazaki-Park? KENJI goes to SOPHIE. Still a little distant.

KENJI:

Look at her… him… her… She’s sothere! I thought we’d agreed on Bilbo Baggins ParkMiyazaki? SOPHIE puts her hand on his cheek.

SOPHIE:

Shhh… Listen. What do you hear? Pause. The heart Pauses.

KENJI:

Everything. SOPHIE turns KENJI’S face gently so they look each other in the eye as she says:

SOPHIE:

Everything. THEY embrace. Black out. In the darkness, we hear the heart Pause. 67


68


THE VIGIL By Michael L端tz

69


THE VIGIL By Michael Lütz THE VIGIL was originally developed by PlayGround (James A. Kleinmann, Artistic Director) in San Francisco for the PlayLab staged reading series on March 17th, 2003. It was directed by Jim Kleinmann. The cast was as follows: Alon...............................................................Nick Sholley Sister/Sheri.................................................... Carla Pantoja Jack.............................................................. Mark Manske Barkeep................................................................TJ Metz THE VIGIL was premiered by PlayGround at the 7th Annual Best of Playground (2003) festival on June 14, 2003. It was directed by Michael Butler. The cast was as follows: Alon..............................................................Liam Vincent Sister................................................................ Lisa Kang Jack................................................................ Rod Gnapp Barkeep....................................................... Leon Goertzen Sheri.............................................................Danielle Thys Michael Lütz wrote and directed The Payoff Pitch, a staged reading of a one-act play performed at Venue 9 in 2002. Another of his short plays, Second Firsts, was developed as part of PlayGround’s PlayLab staged reading series. Mismajored in marketing at the University of Arizona, he pocketed a degree in 1993. He solidified his interest in writing in 2001 at a playwriting class taught by John Fisher at Berkley Extension. He enjoys exploring life through fiction and is a member of the playwriting group Rumpus.

70


THE VIGIL By Michael Lütz ALON:

Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. My sister phoned with the news. Lights up. ALON is sitting on a chair with a small fish net in one hand and the phone in the other.

SISTER:

Your mother is dead, will you come to see her now?

ALON:

She may have passed last week, knowing my sister.

SISTER:

Alon? Do you hear me?

ALON:

Yes.

SISTER:

I said

ALON:

Yes.

SISTER:

(Pause.) Well, I thought you might want to know. If you had come up when I said…

ALON:

I began to think of the train ride to Tucson. I saw the bobbing blue hairs in coach with their knitting needles stitching stories with strangers. Kids playing cards from their laps and hearing their voices change in the tunnel. While my sister continued, I could feel the rumble of the train through my feet and my calves began to tickle a little. ALON feels his calf, or lifts his pant leg or in some way physically verifies this sensation.

SISTER:

…and then probably over here for the reception.

ALON:

Mmm… right. Then what day?

SISTER:

I just told you! Thursday the vigil 71


THE VIGIL ALON:

Yes, sorry. Thursday the vigil and somewhere else for the reception.

SISTER:

Travis and I will work out the details. Mother wanted…

ALON:

I would have to bring my fish on the trip and what a hassle that would be on the train.

SISTER:

Will you be staying with us?

ALON:

I should bring Meursault.

SISTER:

Who?

ALON:

I regretted saying it immediately. It hardly seemed appropriate and my sister was brooding.

SISTER:

Who, Alon?

ALON:

My fish.

SISTER:

Your… (Pause.) Thursday’s the vigil.

ALON:

And she hung up. I didn’t want to impose the fish on anyone and there was no one to impose the fish upon. But a dead fish didn’t seem like something one would want to come home to. My mouth began to water and I knew I wanted a drink. Maybe somebody from the bar could watch over Meursault… ALON takes a seat at the end of the bar.

JACK:

(To BARKEEP.) And from my angle, bub, a woman wants to spy the peter for any reasonI’m trippin’ over my trousers to oblige! Am I wrong? (To ALON.) Hey ’Lon.

ALON:

Hey. BARKEEP pours ALON his regular drink.

72


THE VIGIL JACK:

Doesn’t matter some boyfriend or husband is the reason… (To ALON.) Goin’ over this lady I met during a remodel near 4th Street. Hot housewife, heavy for attention…

ALON:

Seems Jack got involved with a married woman during a home improvement project. Months go by and the Mrs. tells the husband she knows about his trainer at the gym, and by the way:

JACK:

“And by the way,” she says, “I fucked the handyman during the remodel.”

BARKEEP:

Oh shit.

JACK:

I shit you not.

BARKEEP:

Had it comin’ I suppose.

JACK:

So here we go, right?

BARKEEP:

Just trouble, all of it.

JACK:

The husband storms the work site todaySIXTHIRTY in the a.m. (JACK takes drink.)

BARKEEP:

Oh, here we go.

JACK:

Six-thirty! Birds chirping, the sun’s stretching outreal still time of the morning up at Minquit Creek. No traffic, nothing. Hear the bark scratch from a squirrel squirting up the maple it’s so quiet. The boss and I are just pouring some joe, us just the two, and I’m scooping the powdered cream and BAM the door’s kicked in. “Who’s in charge here?” the husband says. Boss pipes up and the guy recounts the remodel, his wife, and he wants a finger pointed. I’m still gripping my spoon and ready for whatever comes my way. Boss tells him, now get this, “I know the story, but your wife sir, was not wearing a ring… (Pause.) I don’t think to blame a man for that.”

BARKEEP:

Huh. I’ll be. 73


THE VIGIL JACK:

Yep. Sit on that a minute because he sure did.

BARKEEP:

I’ll be.

JACK:

And you know how the husband does? It’s going to stay with me for ages. He’s wearing a jacket and tie. He does just like this…

ALON:

Jack got up to imitate the moment. He was superb at this and it made him all the more intimidating to me. JACK mimes a man reflecting, taking one off-balance step back while loosening his tie, and with his eyes staring blankly says:

JACK:

“No… I couldn’t.” JACK hangs his head and makes to walk off, before returning. He banters with BARKEEP. Miles Davis’ “Baby Won’t You Come Home” plays.

ALON:

And I drank my drink and thought a lot. I had forgotten that I’d come here with the purpose of finding a caretaker for my fish. The drink was warm in my belly and I felt fine. I had put back a spot of scotch at the house and I could feel my face redden. I noticed that I had moved my body just slightly and was pretending to watch the television so as to not be interrupted or expected to contribute. Usually I would have a book or my accounting papers with me to serve this purpose. The fish was coming, I had pretty much decided. I couldn’t think of anyone to give my house keys to or who I could ask to do such a thing. It seemed very personal and a terrible inconvenience. And besides I was a stranger to these people and

JACK:

Well, well, well.

ALON:

A woman had walked in and Jack wasn’t the type to ever refrain from some type of commentary. It was often funny, though it got on my nerves a 74


THE VIGIL bit. To be judged so often seemed a tough road, though I imagined we all did it, and we all had it done. She placed her bag at an empty table and came over to order from the bar. JACK:

Very fetching, I’d say.

BARKEEP:

Hello there.

SHERI:

Hi. Hmmm… house white, please.

BARKEEP:

Sure.

JACK:

Mixed nuts? (Offering a bowl.)

SHERI:

No thanks.

ALON:

I watched her through the bar mirror as she returned to her seat and opened a book. I knew the book and liked it. She swayed to the trumpet as she read. The music was powerful and giving me strength and I thought to say something… (ALON lifts himself from his stool, but grabs bowl of peanuts instead) but considered the trumpet too eloquent to interrupt. And besides, I enjoyed watching her savor the wine and take in the book.

JACK:

The cat’s meow, eh?

ALON:

She’s…

JACK:

She has my second wife’s hair. (Pause.) Yep. Having a drink and saying nothing: the perfect woman.

ALON:

And in a peculiar way, I agreed. I wondered how he meant it, and I couldn’t quite tell. But I agreed, and said, “It’s true.” Jack bought us shots and I knew I would get shnockered but he seemed so happy to connect that I didn’t refuse. We did them and I thanked him. He went on about his ex-wife and I drifted in and out of the conversation quite unintentionally. I was very 75


THE VIGIL warm now but not dizzy yet. He continued to pat my back and rub my shoulder and look deep into my eyes with sincerity and, I know it’s ridiculous, a sense of naked friendship. I spilled the peanuts from my fist back into the bowl like you would with sand at the beach until I caught the Barkeep’s eyes and knew I was doing something drunk. (ALON moves toward bathroom.) As I made my way to the bathroom I looked at the lady directly for the first time… It seemed very easy to desire somebody that was nothing but a reflection of everything you project… I watched her in the spell of the trumpet and thought, “Musicians must make a pretty good go of it in this life.” Except I’d said it and was at her side and leaning on the table. SHERI:

Uh, yes. I guess so.

ALON:

And she looked past me for the barkeep. It’s okay, I was just saying I’d read the book and found it very uplifting. ALON starts to leave the table.

SHERI:

Dostoyevsky? Notes from the Underground?

ALON:

“I am a sick man… I am an angry man.”

SHERI:

(Giggling slightly.) Yes. That’s it alright. And that brightens your day?

ALON:

Well not so much brightens… he’s not, uh, I don’t think sick. Do you think sick? No. I, I think he’s just going a bit cuckoo. Angry: yes. For certain, angry. And funny I thought, I thought funny at times. I mean in that kind of dark way…that funny can be. Sometimes.

SHERI:

I think so too.

ALON:

I have a… I have a strange favor to ask you.

SHERI:

Okay. 76


THE VIGIL ALON:

Okay? But I haven’t

SHERI:

It’s okay that you ask your strange favor.

ALON:

Oh. My mom said, for about ten years now, that when she passed she wanted us all to have a screwdriver and think of her kindly. Would you toast with me?

SHERI:

Yes. Your mother passed recently?

ALON:

Today. Yesterday maybe.

SHERI:

Let’s toast. ALON orders drinks from BARKEEP.

ALON:

I ordered the drinks and felt a strange quiet and loneliness in Jack’s absence. I turned to see that he was speaking very quietly on the bar phone and seemed to be hiding his face. ALON comes back with the drinks.

ALON:

Do you want to start?

SHERI:

Me?! I don’t even know your mother.

ALON:

Okay. You could start with saying something kind about your mother.

SHERI:

What is your name?

ALON:

Alon.

SHERI:

Alon, I am Sheri. Tell me what you remember about your mother.

ALON:

Mom, she uh, well she had me take home one of her fish, a goldfish. It was very embarrassing on the train, in a mayonnaise jar? I told her it was absurd but she insistedshe was very insistent, mother. 77


THE VIGIL SHERI:

Yes.

ALON:

It was at this point I smelled the drink. I raised it to my nose and was flooded with images of my mother. ALON’S remembrance of his mother could be a break in structure of “direct address to audience” and sharing this directly to SHERI. Watching her in that tattered rocking chair, bringing the clinking ice to her thin mustache as she went on about the neighbors. Her cantankerous demeanor playing canasta with the ladies. Her grunts of disapproval at the soap opera. Her cackle through thin brown teeth while she remembered, while she remembered, while she remembered her life.

SHERI:

Cheers.

ALON:

Cheers. Thank you. ALON leaves table and heads out of the bar.

JACK:

Hey, see you buddy.

ALON:

See ya… Jack.

BARKEEP:

Later ’Lon.

ALON:

Okay, Jerry. (Pause.) And I left. I was through. I’d gotten through it. Toasted mother. Talked to Sheri. And I would take Meursault to Tucson. And maybe my immediate departure would make Sheri think a little. Maybe she’d keep an eye out for me or I’d see her in again. Maybe not. In the chill of the night, I walked off my buzz and more than once smelled the orange juice on my mother’s breath as I leaned into her rocker and she kissed my neck goodbye. End. 78


THE BEST OF PLAYGROUND (2003) Seven short plays by seven of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading emerging playwrights as featured in PlayGround’s 7th annual Best of PlayGround festival. COLD CALLS by Martha Soukup You’ve just sat down for dinner when the phone rings. Another telemarketer? This is one call you won’t want to miss. HUNTERS AND GATHERERS by Kenn Rabin A fog-bound ferry ride provides the backdrop for a chance encounter between two strangers and possible romance. As they near their destination, they must face the question: is it the end of the ride... or just the beginning? I’D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL by Cass Brayton Wanda takes us on a personal journey in search of love, just one letter away from solving the puzzle. Vanna White, move over! LETTEROPHILIA by Kristina Goodnight Wonder why he never writes back? This comedic case study of addiction and its impact on one community offers a possible answer. PLANS AND PECCADILLOES by Maria Rokas “They say there are no accidents.” So starts Plans and Peccadilloes and a day in the life of Pear and Waldo. Theirs is no match made in heaven but you’ll never believe what fate has in store for them. SOUND by Aaron Loeb For Kenji and Sophie, a visit to the OB/GYN brings with it unresolved feelings about pending parenthood and a history of two peoples in conflict. It seems there may be only one way to resolve their differences... but will they hear it in time? THE VIGIL by Michael Lütz With a nod to Camus’ The Stranger, one man comes face to face with his own isolation when he receives the news of his mother’s death. At the local bar, amidst an unlikely cast of characters, he finds an opportunity to challenge that isolation and, perhaps, pay his last respects. A publication of PlayGround, Inc.

Best of PlayGround 2003  

An anthology of the best short plays from the 7th annual Best of PlayGround Festival, June 12-29, 2003.

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