Issue Three Âş Fall 2015
Inside: Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
Clear David E Tolchinsky
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
My Birthday Party Wei He
Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
And highlights from Proscenium Live Fall 2015 Prosceniumâ€‚ 1
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
TABLE OF CONTENTS Issue Three º 2015
The Plays 06 Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis 21 Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
Co-Editor-In-Chief Steven Rathje Co-Editor-In-Chief William Rathje Publications Editor Jeffrey Denight
82 Clear David E. Tolchinsky
66 My Birthday Party Wei He
Chantal DeGroat in Pericles Wet, pg. 9
Prosceniumjournal.com Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org www.facebook.com/prosceniumjournal Follow us on Twitter @ProsceniumPlays Advertise with us: prosceniumjournal.com/advertise Support us: prosceniumjournal.com/support-us Submit: prosceniumjournal.com/submit
125 Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
Marie Hasselback-Costa in My Birthday Party, pg. 68
Cover Photo: Ashley Williams in “Pericles Wet” in Proscenium Live. Photo by David Kinder. 2 Proscenium Fall 2014 2015
Welcome to the third issue of Proscenium Journal! In this issue you will find five plays chosen from a staggering 412 submissions — our largest submission pool yet. We are thrilled with our line-up of plays: Pericles Wet by Ellen Margolis, Clear by David Tolchinsky, My Birthday Party by Wei He, Defacing Michael Jackson by Aurin Squire, and Between Two Nevermores by Sherod Santos. We are very excited to be releasing our third issue exactly one year after the release of our first issue. As Proscenium Journal turns one year old today, we would like to look back on a few of the things Proscenium has accomplished since its first birthday. Since last year, Proscenium has published 15 plays alongside playwright interviews online for free, chosen from a total of 850 submissions. It has had over 17,000 reads across its first two issues. Proscenium also hosted its first Annual Festival of New Work, Proscenium Live, in partnership with Portland Shakespeare Project at Artists Repertory Theater in Portland Oregon. Supported by a generous grant from Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service, Proscenium produced free staged readings of five plays in at three-day festival, bringing in an audience of over 375 people. Proscenium also commissioned its first play, Pericles Wet, a one-act adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles written by Ellen Margolis, which had two performances in Proscenium Live and is published in this issue. Finally, it also held its first Young Playwrights Competition. To celebrate Proscenium’s first birthday, we’re offering limited-edition print copies of Proscenium to donors with the goal of expanding to an online and in-print journal in the future. See more information at prosceniumjournal.com/support-us. Happy birthday Proscenium Journal — here’s to many more years of supporting playwrights, encouraging discovery, and making theater more accessible to wider audiences. Thank you very much for reading Proscenium Journal and supporting new work. We hope you enjoy our third issue! Sincerely, Steven Rathje and William Rathje Co-Founders and Co-Editors in Chief Fall 2014 Proscenium 3
Boxing the Sun Aurin Squire
Partnering with Portland Shakespeare Project and supported by a grant from Stanford’s Haas Center for public service, Proscenium Journal held a 3-Night Festival of New Work called Proscenium Live. This festival included 5 new plays performed by 15 Portland-area actors on the beautiful Artists Repertory Theater Alder Stage. One of these plays, Pericles Wet, by Ellen Margolis, was a adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles, commissioned by Proscenium Journal, that was performed alongside the original Shakespearian text. Over 300 people attended this festival, and several people participated in post-show discussions with the playwrights, which were held after every performance. And, like Proscenium Journal, the festival was completely free and open to the public. If you missed Proscenium Live, you can read Pericles Wet by Ellen Margolis in this issue. You can also read Black Coffee Green Tea by Damon Chua, Ski Lift by Chris Holbrook, and Tango Mike by Aleks Merilo in past issues of Proscenium Journal.
4 Proscenium Spring 2015
Featuring: Ski Lift Chris Holbrook
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
Black Coffee Green Tea Damon Chua
Tango Mike Aleks Merilo
The Widow of Tom’s Hill Aleks Merilo Photos by David Kinder Spring 2015 Proscenium 5
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
Pericles Wet Tango Mike
Ellen AleksMargolis Merilo 6â€‚Proscenium Fall 2015
A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright Ellen Margolis is Chair of Theatre & Dance at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Her plays include How to Draw Mystical Creatures (2004 NY Fringe Festival Award for Excellence in Playwriting, 2004 Jane Chambers Finalist, produced by ToyBox Theatre and Theatre Limina of St. Paul); Trying Not to Stare (Workshop, Portland Theatre Works through a grant from the Oregon Regional Arts & Culture Council); Picking Up the Baby (2006 NY International Fringe Festival); American Soil (Produced by Vital Theatre, New York); A Little Chatter (Commissioned and produced by Mile Square Theatre, produced by City Theatre, Finalist 2008 National 10-Minute Play Contest, forthcoming Playscripts, Inc.); When It Stands Still (produced by ToyBox Theatre); and others
that have been produced throughout the United States. Some of her monologues have appeared in the Smith & Kraus Audition Arsenal series, and she is the editor of two recent volumes, Singular Voices: Monologues from the International Centre for Women Playwrights and The Politics of American Actor Training. Ellen is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. When Proscenium approached you with the idea of adapting a Shakespearian work, what made you think of adapting Pericles? When I saw Pericles for the first time a few years ago, I both loved the play and felt I had unfinished business with it. The premise of unacknowledged incest is just a jumping-off place in Shakespeare, but today of course our understanding is different. When the opportunity
As Halloween approaches, Portland Shakespeare Project presents Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Henry James’s spine-tingling novel that is part ghost story and part psychological thriller.
Directed by Johann Johnson Starring Chris Harder* and Dana Millican Purchase tickets at portlandshakes.org or call 503.241.1278 *Member of Actors’ Equity Association
Fall 2015 Proscenium 7
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
came up to work with Proscenium Journal and the Portland Shakespeare Project, I had an electric realization, “Yes, time to dig into Pericles!” And then as I wrote, it became more about the position of someone who witnesses a violation and has to make a decision, and less about the daughter and her abuse--although we hear from her pretty strongly as well. How did the artists working with you in the Proscenium Live reading influence the development of this work? Knowing that a play is going somewhere, that someone besides me is interested in seeing it, is a huge gift, so thank you for that! And Michael Mendelson, who is Artistic Director of Portland Shakespeare Project and who directed the reading, was influential in all sorts of sly ways. A lot of his notes came on the fly during our brief couple of rehearsals. He threw a lot of great insights my way. And our actors were wonderfully game and also asked some terrific questions. You plan on expanding Pericles Wet into a full-length play. Can you tell us more about this? I’m close to wrapping up the first draft now. This has gone much faster than my usual writing process, which I attribute to the pleasure of hearing the first act with the keen, engaged audiences who joined us for the readings and talkbacks in July. They were so interested and encouraging that I went back to work with the feeling of a good wind at my back! In terms of content, as I said earlier, it’s aboutPericles’s role as a witness. It’s also about how life surprises him and beats him up. What kind of theatre excites you? I can be thrilled by all kinds of different work. I see as much as I can, both here in Portland and wherever I travel, and almost always, there is something that delights or excites me! I could 8 Proscenium Fall 2015
also quote my former student Ted Gold, who works as a designer with Shaking-the-Tree Theatre and Many Hats Collaboration, among other companies in town. One day in class, Ted really nailed it: “I like to leave the theatre Not Done.” What playwrights have inspired you? I’m inspired by every artist who keeps showing up at the plate. I have friends who write heroic numbers of drafts and who continue to ride out their careers through decades of ups and downs. I admire them so, and am grateful for their beautiful work. What advice do you have for playwrights starting out? If you’re lucky, you’ll find a couple people who love your writing, and who are also thoughtful and willing to talk with you about what does and doesn’t work. My advice is to be on the lookout for those people, value them, and make the most of their presence in your life. What are you working on now? After I send Pericles Wet to a few of my favorite readers, I’ll get back to a play called Crooked Numbers, which I put on hold when I heard from you last spring. Crooked Numbers is a play for four actresses, with family relations in the foreground and baseball in the background. It’s set in upstate New York in 1979, the year Willie Mays was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I’m also putting the finishing touches on self-publishing a book of my short plays. Available soon on Kindle! Pericles Wet is copyright © 2015 by Ellen Margolis.All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to email@example.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of Pericles Wet are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved.
Spring 2015 Prosceniumâ€‚ 9
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
Pericles Wet By Ellen Margolis
Kingdoms and oceans in an imagined land.
CHARACTERS (Act One)
PERICLES: a young prince ANTIOCHUS: king of Antioch HESPERIDES: daughter of Antiochus A (chorus): plays first Prince Courtier Dionyza, a woman in her late 30s B (chorus): plays second Prince Courtier Thaisa, a princess C (chorus): plays Third Prince Sailor Creative, inclusive casting is welcome. Act I Scene 1 (The court of Antiochus. Mounted on the wall are the heads of three dead princes. The sound of ocean waves lapping on a nearby shore can be heard.) A/FIRST PRINCE: This is Pericles, a story of romance, growing up, and loss. B/SECOND PRINCE: This is Pericles, a story of travel and coincidence. A: A story of men taking what they want. B: Of women left to sink or swim. (Enter PERICLES, who stands off to one side.) C/THIRD PRINCE: This is Pericles, a prince with a pretty name. I like his chances. A: The place: Antioch. B: The game: to solve a riddle. C: The prize: a princess. (Enter ANTIOCHUS with HESPERIDES. She is an adolescent, sweet and hopeful.) A: The stakes? B: The cost? C: The price of failure? 10 Proscenium Fall 2015
From left: Chantal DeGroat, Heath Koerschgen and Kayla Lian in Pericles Wet, performed as part of the Proscenium Live festival with Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, OR. Photo by David Kinder. ALL: You’re looking at it. A: We had bodies once. ANTIOCHUS: This tender girl, the jewel of our house, The gift that her poor mother left behind, The comfort of our days and waning age, We now acknowledge duly should be wed. A riddle has been fashioned as the test that will determine how her plight is cast. Should Aaron of Alsatia answer right, he’ll take her with our blessings right away. But if he fails, his execution swift, and no more will he see the light of day. A: Your majesty, I wish to take a chance and stake my life upon your daughter’s love. Read me the riddle, and I’ll wager all to win this beauty as my life’s companion. ANTIOCHUS: (reading from a scroll) Fall 2015 Proscenium 11
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
Thicker than water, more murky than blood, a taste sweet and salty, of tears a great flood. A father, a daughter, a mother, a death. A serpent that slithers into its own nest. A: These words I know, but here they make no sense. Sure fathers, floods, and serpents never met. I have no skill to piece these thoughts together. Your majesty, I fear I have misheard. ANTIOCHUS: Your hearing’s not my fault; I stammered not. So please don’t keep us waiting. Take a shot. A: Indeed, my lord, one picture comes to mind. The answer then, I hazard, is . . . a dragon? ANTIOCHUS: A clever man you seem, and valiant too. But as you answer false, we have no choice. Your life’s a forfeit. Look upon the world for one last instant. So your time has come. (ANTIOCHUS slices the air, and A is beheaded. A returns to his position. As B enters, ANTIOCHUS and HESPERIDES circle around. She is now a little older, sullen and defiant.) ANTIOCHUS: Here’s Baldrick of Bohemia come to try his fortune for the daughter of our heart. (reads) A noise in the hallway a knock at the door, a shadow familiar that spreads cross the floor. A keeper who plunders, a parent who nabs, a family likeness so piercing, it stabs. There are no commandments about kissing kin. It’s only convention that makes it a sin. (All stare at B, waiting for his answer.) B: A crafty riddle, but I think I’ve cracked it. The object of your puzzle is the Devil. A fallen angel, sure, is who you mean. I’ll stake my life and happiness on that. 12 Proscenium Fall 2015
(ANTIOCHUS stares at him, gestures. As before, B is beheaded and returns to his chorus spot.) ANTIOCHUS: Let Carlos of Castillo be brought forth. (C enters, while ANTIOCHUS and HESPERIDES circle again. A little older, she appears numb. ANTIOCHUS reads.) A father, a lover, a prison at night. A princess held captive, unless you guess right. A kingdom’s your privilege, a princess your claim if you look in its eyes and call it by name. Your answer, boy? To win her? Not a word? (C says nothing and is beheaded. PERICLES steps into the scene. ANTIOCHUS and HESPERIDES circle again, this time ANTIOCHUS dragging HESPERIDES roughly by the wrist. They end face to face with PERICLES. HESPERIDES now looks at the ground.) ANTIOCHUS: Ah, Pericles of Tyre, is it not? PERICLES: Indeed, my lord. ANTIOCHUS: Most welcome to our court. You understand the game as it is writ? PERICLES: I pledge my life against this beauty’s hand. ANTIOCHUS: A king, a daughter, blood, a prison, love. Shadow, father, viper, poison, tears. PERICLES: This trap, my liege, you cannot mean to set. (HESPERIDES looks up.) ANTIOCHUS: You challenge me? That’s hardly a reply. PERICLES: The answer I might give would be my last. I know the puzzle’s meaning but can’t say lest surely I’d reveal a grievous deed. Your majesty can not insist on that. ANTIOCHUS: I take your meaning. So. A middle way? You leave this land forever and live on. The false impression that you may have gleaned a secret that you carry to your grave. Thus may you live to marry, thrive, and sire a lineage of your own some other where. But if a word of this you utter forth, my agents will be on you like a fever. May I assume you understand this bargain? PERICLES: I neither state the truth nor speak the lie. And in exchange, I live. Fall 2015 Proscenium 13
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
From left: Ashley Williams, Chantal DeGroat, Heath Koerschgen, Kayla Lian, David Bodin, Ryan Tessler and Cordelia Schimpf in Pericles Wet performed in the Proscenium Live festival with Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, OR. Photo by David Kinder. ANTIOCHUS: Don’t tell, don’t die. PERICLES: And so I bid farewell to Antioch, (meeting HESPERIDES’s look) whose beauty I will ne’er behold again. (PERICLES turns and exits quickly. HESPERIDES’s eyes follow him from the room.) Scene 2 (Split stage. On one side, in a dumb show, PERICLES greets two courtiers (A and B) and oversees the moving of trunks. On the other, HESPERIDES prepares her bath. Note: the actress should be costumed in a fluid dress or robe, in colors that feel like water. She should not be naked or exposed. The sound of gentle waves.) HESPERIDES: (Letting water run over her hands and arms as she waits for the bath to fill. She speaks to the audience.) The word you’ll hear most frequently is daughter. They say that moving water soothes the soul. A waterfall, a rushy brook, a bath. 14 Proscenium Fall 2015
Have I a soul to soothe? I cannot say. I may have lost it sometime in my teens. He first came knocking on my door the night my mother’s body first lay in the ground. He lay with me, just that, a heavy weight upon a young girl’s bedclothes, nothing more. Once started, then, the knocks came every night. Why does he knock? He knows I cannot lock him out. Each night he’d enter, sigh, and stare while I, confused, would counterfeit to sleep. Each time, his smelly grown-up breath came closer, filled up the room and clotted up the air. Sweet air that wanted only to pass through, flow in the window, out again the door. (sits at the edge of the tub, puts her feet in the water) Within a month, his hands began to seek, explore the curves and bones his body’d made, his fingers found my mouth, then pushed inside the temple that I’d fancied was my own. And next of course, the weight of him became a weight much greater than a child could bear. Upon her, in her, grunting, toiling, rough, and then, once finished, falling off to sleep. (sound of waves starts to grow stronger) Her mind was shattered, terrified her heart. What happened to him? Would she be disgraced? What had she done to make her father hurt her? The blood that trickled, mingled with his seed, a world in shards, her life no sooner started than seemingly destroyed. PERICLES: (separately, across the stage) Goodbye, my friends. I fear Antiochus will break his word. Perhaps another kingdom may be kinder. HESPERIDES: Suitors there were, of course, that might have saved her. A steady stream of hopeful, useless beaux who couldn’t see what glared before their eyes or figure out a simple child’s quiz. And even if they had, a father’s wrath would swiftly have descended with his sword. Damned if they got it right, or if they failed. As this last one—this Pericles—discerned. PERICLES: If not, I’ll sail forever, or until you send me word Antiochus is dead. Fall 2015 Proscenium 15
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
HESPERIDES: Young Pericles, still wet behind the ears . . . But still. He might have saved me. Might have tried. Instead, he chose to keep himself alive and left me in the clutches of my father, taking my last chance with him out the door. (looks at audience) The word you’ll hear most frequently is water. The only place the king leaves me alone. Perhaps he fears his overheated will would push the liquid to the boiling point. If only I could live my whole life here! I’d never leave the water till that beast, that monster father’s bones were in the ground. PERICLES: For now, my aim: to circumnavigate the known and unknown world. So, my good friends, I take my leave, the seven seas to sail. To go by water’s always served me well. HESPERIDES: And as for Pericles, let him discover: sail where he will, the water is his hell. Let never ocean, sea, or river meet him with anything but violence, loss, and death. (loud crashing of waves) He left me here to tolerate my fate, but rippling out, my pain will toss his world. Scene 3 (A and B resume as CHORUS. C steps out as SAILOR. Waves subside to a quieter background sound.) A: She had no power to curse, of course. B: No more than any ordinary princess. A: And what’s a princess but a woman? B: Hesperides. Named for the evening. A: Sounds like the wind. (experimenting) Heh spare uh deez. B: (blowing) Shooh, shooh, shooh. Heh spare uh deez . . . No. Barely enough wind to blow about a toy boat. A: No more power to curse than any ordinary woman. B: Or maybe that’s enough. Will they meet again, I wonder. A: Leave her here for now. What’s become of the traveler? (The SAILOR is steering a boat. He is an old salt, straight out of central casting. PERICLES is at his side, looking nauseous.) SAILOR: Oh, aye, sir, aye. Been sailing these seas for fifty years, give or take. Smooth as a table top, year round. No trouble to be had unless you seek it out. Many a night I’ve played myself at checkers. PERICLES: Really? Seems a bit choppy. SAILOR: First time out on a ship then, sir? 16 Proscenium Fall 2015
PERICLES: Of course not! Just getting my sea legs is all. Just need to get her out in the open, no doubt. SAILOR: Oh, aye. PERICLES: Looking forward to it. Thank you again for the lift. SAILOR: It’s my honor, sir. I always say to the wife, there’s no one in Tyre but would do anything for that young prince. Peaceful kingdom, prosperous. Fair day’s wage for a day’s work. That sort of thing is top down, that is. If I may, sir—you’re looking a little grim around the mouth. PERICLES: (sucking air through his teeth) Yes, maybe just a little. This will settle down, will it? SAILOR: (looking across the smooth, calm sea) Can’t say as it gets more settled than this. PERICLES: Right, then. (whistles a happy tune to distract himself) SAILOR: Beg pardon, sir, but no whistling on a ship. Bad luck, don’t you know? PERICLES: Bad luck? SAILOR: Whistling, redheads, bananas on board. Bad luck. Starting out on a Friday. Albatrosses, of course. Dead bodies. Women. Haircuts. Priests. PERICLES: Can’t say as I believe in all that superstish— (nearly vomits) SAILOR: Maybe go below, sir? Or chew on a piece of ginger root to settle the stomach? PERICLES: (gripping the railing) Nonsense. Just need to—(struggling not to vomit) whoo! Whoa! I’ve kind of got this inner ear thing? Must have picked it up in one of my earlier successful sea voyages. SAILOR: Aye, no doubt. PERICLES: Perhaps I’ll just close my eyes. A: This is Pericles. Man among men. Queasy as a babe. B: This is Pericles. Feeling his lunch in his throat. Head whirring like a storm. A: Something new for Pericles, Sturdy veteran of many a sail. Wishing he’d gone by foot. B: Closing his eyes, breathing deep, he saw strange things: (PERICLES mutters, hallucinating.) PERICLES: The sailor’s head is a sea turtle. (giggling) How does he steer? All around us, the water teeming with life. (pointing in one direction after another) There, a sinner swallowed by a fish. Here, a pop-eyed man with forearms the size of pigs. A mad whale hunter, squinting into the distance, hollering for his harpooneers. And more and more! A talking sponge, a crocodile with a clock in its belly, a sea serpent. No! No serpents. B: He heard strange things: PERICLES: The mermaids are angry, their songs like the scraping of steel on steel! Is there no Fall 2015 Proscenium 17
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
way to drown them out? (covering his ears and flailing from side to side) LA LA LA LA LA. BA BA BA BA BA. I’m good at sailing and other things! Like fighting and ruling kingdoms and singing, obviously and standing up for the underdog except when it’s inconvenient or dangerous . . . A AND B: (walking blues) BA DOO BA DA DOO BA DOO DOO WAH WAH PERICLES: That’s ridiculous and not what I meant! I’m good on water always do what I—nope! like a lamb to the—no! bad father, sad dau— what else rhymes with-caught her, taught her, have those mermaids stopped— A: Pericles felt strange things: PERICLES: Hours . . . days . . . floating from nowhere to nowhere. Punishing sun. There’s no heat like the middle of the ocean. No shade to be found. (shaking, shivering) And at night the cold, the cold. My bowels have turned to liquid. Is there no god? B: Swore strange oaths: PERICLES: Poseidon’s member! Neptune’s bunghole! Davey Jones’s toilet! A: In his watery dream, he imagined Hesperides coming to his aid, offering him a stalk of ginger, saying . . . HESPERIDES: . . . here, this will soothe you. PERICLES: How very kind. (chokes) That root is not what it appears! B: Despairing, he shouted commands: PERICLES: Sharpen your sword and run me through! Anything but this unending illness. There’s gold for any man who’ll free me once and for all! (baring his chest) Will no one show the courage? Wait! Take a message to her. Tell her . . . what? SAILOR: (shaking PERICLES) Sir? Sir! PERICLES: Hmm? SAILOR: You must have drifted off. PERICLES: My friend! But your head was a sea turtle! SAILOR: Big slow breaths, best thing for it. Just breathe, sir. PERICLES: Yes. That’s a little better. Say, where are we now? Is there a name for this place? SAILOR: None that I know of, sir. PERICLES: And these waters? What are they known for? Sharks? Pirates? SAILOR: Oh, aye. No shortage of sharks. 18 Proscenium Fall 2015
From left: Chantal DeGroat, Kayla Lian, Heath Koerschgen and Ryan Tessler in Pericles Wet in the Proscenium Live festival with Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, OR. Photo by David Kinder. PERICLES: Good! An ocean should have sharks. Glad to hear it. (pause) No pirates, though? SAILOR: Seems unlikely. So it’s pirates you fear, is it? PERICLES: Among other things. Say, what’s that? That bit of land there? See? SAILOR: That sir? Oh no, sir, that be Tarsus. You don’t want to be stopping there. Terrible fortunes in Tarsus. Famine this long twelvemonth. It’s a doomed place, it is. Rocky coast and desperate starvation and not a hospitable creature to be found. You’re in charge, of course, but I can’t recommend stopping off at Tarsus. Sure they’d eat you soon as look at you. PERICLES: Nonsense. We’ll make friends with them. And I’m eager to get off this boat, you know. Change of scene. We don’t want to forget how to walk on land. SAILOR: Aye, it’s been a ferocious long voyage, sir. All of three hours. PERICLES: Right. Turn in then. LAND HO! (The SAILOR turns the boat sharply. PERICLES holds on for dear life.) PERICLES: (CONT) Whoa! (recovering, weakly) Well done. Ahoy the shore! (Lights.) Scene 4 (The shore of Tarsus. Enter DIONYZA, tough and wiry. She wears a baby in a sling and talks to the baby as she forages.) Fall 2015 Proscenium 19
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
DIONYZA: These brambles are crap. Nothing but thistles left. The berries that were once so lush long gone. Nothing left but the white and deadly ones. We could tell stories to relieve our minds. Stories of food and drink. Stories of cakes and cream. Not all stories are sad, you know. Just all the ones that come to mind. Do you suppose we did something to deserve this? Seems unlikely. Look at us. No cakes, no cream. A barren beach, sand hard as stone, and stones. Ah, my girl, I could eat you up, and not in a nice way. But that would go against nature. Can’t have that. Meanwhile, you’ve drained me dry. We must have something, anything, at least a little bit to drink. Is fresh water too much to ask? Is that a worm? (digs with her hands, frantic, then gives up) Bastard! Something’s alive here, I swear. I hear it breathing. PERICLES: (off) Holla the shore! DIONYZA: Alive, what’s this? A stranger? (Enter PERICLES, staggering out of the surf. DIONYZA watches him all the way along, till he drops to his knees.) PERICLES: Oh happy time. I’ve lived to kiss the ground. My insides thank me. Head, almost recovered. I turn from green to gray with hopes that yet I may recover color nearly human. Breathe, breathe, oh Pericles, and with each breath shake off that sea that shook you even now. But here, what’s this? Good day to you, good dame. DIONYZA: How are ya? PERICLES: Not well. Better than I was. Thanks. DIONYZA: Glad to hear it. Now step along. This barren beachfront’s mine, and I don’t share. PERICLES: Surely, you won’t turn away a sailor weary from travels. DIONYZA: Maybe “sailor” isn’t the word you mean. You look like you were dragged behind the boat. PERICLES: Yes, it was rough. Please help me. Let me and my crew come ashore here, won’t you? DIONYZA: This land has suffered drought, famine, insects, every blight known to man. It’s nearly a year now since it supported any decent sort of life. We went from grass-fed beef to grass to what crawls in the grass—rats, snakes. Well, not me. I turned up my nose at rats. For that, I was made Queen. Weird how people choose their leaders. Lucky for me, though, as it happened. When we all turned cannibal, some loyal subjects, the stupidest ones, refused to eat me—protected me, in fact. They had already forgotten they were the ones who made me queen. Now cannibalism has stalled, now what? Some go into the caves to eat bats, but that can backfire in a hurry. My daughter and I eat moths. Or worms when I can find them. Mostly, we live on the dry wind that blows through here. Farther inland, it’s worse. But who are you? PERICLES: My name is Pericles. DIONYZA: And your sad story? 20 Proscenium Fall 2015
PERICLES: Not all stories are sad, you know. DIONYZA: No? PERICLES: Just seeing the world, that’s all. So, this is your daughter? What’s her name? DIONYZA: I haven’t quite decided. She’s young yet. Conceived in the good old times, born into the bad ones. Not her fault. Would you like to hold her? PERICLES: NO! (DIONYZA glares at him.) She’s lovely. I just don’t think I should hold . . . wouldn’t want her to catch my sea sickness. DIONYZA: True enough. It’s work, keeping her healthy. (lowers her voice) None of the others know about this spot. That’s why I can still find roots and the occasional creepy-crawly. Which reminds me. You need to leave. Hop back on your ship. Get hopping! PERICLES: Please . . . DIONYZA: Mm-mm. No. No safe port here for you, little man. I could turn cannibal yet. PERICLES: I can’t go back on that boat. DIONYZA: Not my fault. PERICLES: But I’m a prince. Want some gold? Or food! I have food! Lots of lovely food. Purple plums and avocadoes. Do you like avocadoes? DIONYZA: My stomach’s rumbling. On the other hand, trust can be a dangerous thing. Especially with strangers. PERICLES: You can have it all. I just need a place to stay. Off the boat. DIONYZA: Have you got fresh water? PERICLES: Water, of course! (He hands her his canteen. She is suspicious. PERICLES drinks some himself to show it’s safe. DIONYZA grabs it, pours some into the baby’s mouth, then guzzles the rest herself.) DIONYZA: What else did you say? PERICLES: Anything you could want. There are laying hens. Two goats. It’s Noah’s Ark, practically. And corn—imagine if you were to plant it. Likewise, millet, red wheat—plant them! DIONYZA: The goats, they give milk? PERICLES: They will. One of them will. A boy and a girl. Healthy, and a kid on the way. DIONYZA: And hens? PERICLES: Hens. Eggs. Meat, if you like. DIONYZA: How many of you are there? PERICLES: One besides me. A skipper, good man. Keeps to himself. Handy with knots. DIONYZA: What do I need with knots? PERICLES: You need food. I have plenty. Shall we shake on it? DIONYZA: (taking his hand) You smell of fear and brine. PERICLES: You smell of . . . something I don’t recognize. Still. We’ll be friends. DIONYZA: Friends, yes, friends, absolutely. A deal is made, seamless and waterproof. A friendly pact between two monarchs. Me as ruler of this dashed, damned shore, and you as the Prince of —what’s it? PERICLES: Tyre. DIONYZA: Tired and dashed, what a duo. A deal. I get all your food and hopeful seeds, and you get to stay here, un-tossed by tempests and well. Well, well enough. And we’ll each feel we got Fall 2015 Proscenium 21
Pericles Wet Ellen Margolis
the better part, which is ideal in a deal. PERICLES: Nothing can spoil such an alliance. DIONYZA: Nothing. PERICLES: Good, then. DIONYZA: I mean the only thing—and this is, I almost hate to bring it up, it’s so silly—the only thing would be if, if you ever meet a lovely princess, as gentle as she is fair . . . PERICLES: Seems unlikely . . . DIONYZA: and marry her and have a daughter . . . PERICLES: I won’t. DIONYZA: And she grows up next to my daughter and eventually your daughter outshines my daughter in some way, or in multiple ways, then—and I’m sure you’ll be the first to admit this is only fair—then I would probably have to figure out a way to get your daughter out of the picture, most likely by commanding one of my idiot minions to kill her. PERICLES: What an awful thought! But all so very unlikely . . . DIONYZA: Exactly. And really, when you think about it, there are worse things than death that can happen to a daughter. (PERICLES vomits.)
END OF ACT ONE
22 Proscenium Fall 2015
Defacing Michael Jackson
ACT I SCENE 1 The stage is littered with junk - trash, product packaging, wrappers, twigs, brush, and rocks. Michal and Faye are sitting on opposite ends of the stage. Michal is silent; deep in prayer. FAYE: Well, there goes the sun, ladies and gentleman. Let's say a nice friendly gooooodddbye to week 3 of the Armageddon! No response from Michal. FAYE (CONT'D): No, you know. I think it's actually week 4. It's hard to tell, because the first big chunk was a bit of a blur, but... Again, no response. FAYE (CONT'D): God, you know what I could go for? I could go for a donut hole. Or a Big Mac. Or maybe a shishkabob. Definitely a shishkabob. Michal continues to pray, doesn't respond. FAYE (CONT'D): Something with meat. Again, no response. Faye stands up after a few moments, and starts to rummage around the boulder. FAYE (CONT'D): You could be doing something. MICHAL: Like what, exactly? FAYE: Well, if the past few days have been any sort of indicator, I'd say we have about a nine hour slot before the sun comes up, and it's too hot to look for food. Give or take 30 minutes or so. MICHAL: How can you be so sure? FAYE: I've been counting, sort of. For - since three nights ago. One minute, two minutes. Assuming my watch is still working, there have been - pretty consistently - ten hours between the last ray of sun at night and the first one in morning. But get this - the day before
Aurin Squire Spring 2015 Prosceniumâ€‚ 23
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright Aurin Squire is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and reporter. He is a two-time recipient of the 2014 Lecomte du Nouy Prize from Lincoln Center and a recent graduate of The Juilliard School and its Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright Fellowship. In 2014-2015 he has fellowships at The Dramatists Guild of America, National Black Theatre, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and the Royal Court Theatre’s US Writers’ Residency in London. Squire is the winner of the 2014 Act One Writing Prize Lincoln Center Theatre. He graduated with honors from Northwestern University and has been a reporter for the Miami Herald, The New Republic, Talking Points Memo, ESPN, and Brooklyn Rail. Squire’s enjoys long-term collaboration and new challenges. There’s not enough room to include everything, but several of his projects have received multiple development and productions around the world. His comedy “Obama-ology” was developed at Juilliard New Play Festival in September 2014, before receiving a critically acclaimed European premiere at London’s Finborough Theatre in December 2014, and being remounted in May 2015 at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. “To Whom It May Concern,” a dark comedy won LGBT awards for best play and best playwriting at Fresh Fruit Festival before being optioned and remounted off-Broadway at Arclight Theatre. “Freefalling” was first produced at Barrington Stage, earning a Fiat Lux Award with the Catholic Church in New York, was published at Dramatist Play Service, and won the grand prize in InspiraTO Theatre’s International Play Festival in Toronto. Defacing Michael Jackson won Samuel French International Play Contest, was published as a oneact, expanded into a full-length play that was 24 Proscenium Fall 2015
workshopped at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and earned an Act One Prize from Lincoln Center in 2014. His play “African Americana” started at Brooklyn Arts Exchange before being produced at Theatre 503 in London. In the fields of film and multimedia, Squire adapted the novel ‘Velocity’ into a screenplay for Moxie Pictures, and has served as a writer/producer for numerous web and multimedia projects. Squire wrote “Dreams of Freedom,” the installation video about Jewish immigrants in the 20th century for the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. “Dreams” won three national museum awards and is currently in the permanent exhibit at NMAJH. Squire’s plays, movies, and multimedia art has been produced across Europe, the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. His plays have been developed and produced at venues like Ars Nova, Abingdon Theatre, Cherry Lane, Lincoln Center Lab, National Hispanic Cultural Center. He lives in New York City. What was your inspiration for this play? Long convoluted answer: I was in a workshop led by Rogelio Martinez and he made us write down a list of our childhood rituals. After reading them aloud, our peers voted on what was most interesting. So my ritual was kids coming over and watching Thriller in our house because we were the first family to have a VCR. Each writer had their own and then we wrote an opening monologue in about two minutes with Character A discussing the ritual. After that we wrote a scene with Characters B and C discussing a threat to the ritual in about 5 minutes. Then we wrote a scene in which Character A is interrupted by Character B, who acts as a messenger informing A on the threat to the ritual, and this took about 3 minutes. Then we
wrote a monologue in about two minutes which Character B or C has a monologue about the ritual being destroyed. And then we had a final scene of Character A along with B and/or C has a final blow-up or dissolution. And after about 15 minutes there is a beginning, middle, end of a play: the toughest parts. Rogelio told us that we could go home and fill in the rest of the play as either a full-length or one-act. I thought it was a cool exercise and I put the papers away for a week. I lived in a dorm on 8th Street and 5th Avenue. On the last Sunday in June, the entire Gay Pride Parade pivots on 8th Street and 5th Avenue. My block. This meant it was a logistical nightmare to get out of the dorm. I took out those pages and -to pass the time- I began writing the in between scenes for a one-act play. I was entertaining myself until the crowd died down enough to walk outside. So after a few hours, the crowd was manageable and I had finished the one-act play. Vital Theatre had a one-act festival they ran and a few days later they asked me if I had anything to submit. I sent it in and the play ended up opening as a one-act at Vital. I didn’t show up for most of the rehearsals, tech, or dress rehearsal. I didn’t really think people would get the play and I was a little scared they would hate it so I busied myself with other plays and workshops at school. I got a voicemail from Liz Meriwether one night (creator of New Girl). She was a playwright in the festival who also did the ritual exercise with me. She was screaming ‘where are you?!?! Your play just went up and it was amazing!” I thought she was just being nice. Honestly, I thought it was a play no one would relate to, until I went to a performance. The play went on to win the Samuel French Festival and get published. I put it away for several years and people kept asking me ‘why don’t you expand?’ Finally after hearing it one too many times I sat down -almost in resentment- and said ‘FINE! I’ll write the damn full-length play and then ev-
eryone can shut up about it!’ When I sat down to write it, the voices came back immediately. I sent it into Juilliard and it got me into their Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship, got me an agent, won the Lincoln Center One Act Prize, got a workshop showcase at Nuyorican Poets Cafe. It would be nice to see it produced in a full production one day. What do you want the audience to come away with? I don’t know. It’s a personal play that I didn’t think anyone would care about or matter. I guess there are a lot of people out there who think their childhood - in some way - was embarrassing and doesn’t matter or deserve a place in any canon. Black kids, poor kids, gay kids, white kids who grow up in minority communities as the loser, girls of color. We’re told again and again that there is a set story that will be accepted by the mainstream. And in some ways I bought into that, which is why I was scared of the story, why I thought Liz was lying to me about the reception, why I didn’t want to expand the play. Despite the positive feedback, the belief system was so strong in my head, that I just thought people were being nice. But these characters, these stories were too strong for even my set beliefs and prejudices. It’s truly mystifying how I am self-professed storyteller who resisted his own voice. I didn’t tell the story. The story told me. Instead of defining the narrative, the narrative ended up defining me. Maybe it will do that for some people. What projects are you working on now? Getting out of the way and letting the stories define me. I’m a freelance journalist and I’ve been fortunate. In the last year I’ve written for The New Republic, Take Part, and Talking Points Memo, while continuing to review plays. I guest host podcast for news and theatre. On the playwriting end, I just graduated from Juilliard, Fall 2015 Proscenium 25
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
was a US resident playwright at Royal Court in June for “Mercury Parallel,” had my play “Obama-ology” at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts that same month, finished workshop at the Kennedy Center of “A Family Manual for Kwanzaa” (also a one-act I resisted that finally became a full-length) for the National New Play Network. I have residencies at National Black Theatre and Brooklyn Arts Exchange that are going into their second year. For NBT I finished a rough draft of “Zoohouse” in the spring and that’s a dark dystopia comedy set in an asylum for the Black and criminally insane. For BAX I’m continuing to work on “The Gospel According to F#ggots” which is set in a sex-positive queer terrain of transformational spirituality. Both plays are in verse. Original Works Publishing is releasing “To Whom It May Concern” as a book this fall, and I spent a week this summer re-editing and revising a play I wrote 10 years ago. It felt like I was working
26 Proscenium Fall 2015
on a new play because it had been so long since I’ve looked at the script. What playwrights have inspired you? There is the list of people I have never met, the list of people who helped me or taught me in some direct way, and then there are peers I have had class with or worked with in some way. For the first list: Maria Irene Fornes, August Wilson, Dario Fo, Sarah Ruhl, Suzan Lori-Parks. For the list of teachers there is obviously Chris Durang and Marsha Norman at Juilliard who have been great. And there’s Laura Maria Censabella at New School as well as Rebecca Gilman at Northwestern, Rogelio Martinez, Lucy Kirkwood at Royal Court, Michael Weller. As far as peers I would say almost everyone in the Juilliard fellowship and there are too many to name, But these were like the Jedi Knights of playwriting with their own voice and philosophy. You could pluck any one of those writers out
and start a theatre company focusing on their work for a whole season. When I was at New School and Actors Studio (when the two were cojoined) I would say Carla Ching and Matthew Paul Olmos. Then at the Kennedy Center there were so many great writers and I really liked Will Snider (from UCSD) Eleana Belyea (National Theatre School of Canada). Elena then introduced me to her classmate, Cliff Cardinal who is a innovative storyteller focusing on First Nation people in Canada. I guess the unifying threads running through all these artists are innovators in structure and storytelling with a purpose. I think there are theatre shaman in the world who are just channeling in these stories and voices from another reality. When you look and listen to Chris Durang in a class for two years and then you read his plays, you realize there is something else going on that can’t be explained logically and isn’t connected to the obvious psychological links. We love to do psychology 101 on writers and figure out how their dog dying influenced their great masterpiece and most of that is bullshit. The usual things that really inspire great writers and great works almost comes out sideways from places they don’t even understand, but are receptive enough to know they don’t NEED to understand. They just need to surrender to it. Why did you start writing plays? I had to take a playwriting class to finish my creative writing in the media minor at Northwestern. I wrote my first play there, got great feedback from Susan Booth, wrote my second play over the summer and submitted it to a small theatre on the south side of Chicago. They did a staged reading of my play and tape recorded it for me, which was just unbelievable. I’m not very smart when it comes to picking up on certain clues and I didn’t know the artistic director was flirting with me and intriguing on my ‘willingness.’ Can I say that? Well whatever. In
my college student mind I just passed it off as ‘eccentric, touchy-feely middle aged man who likes to talk to me.’ I wasn’t shocked or horrified by it. But it’s funny because the first person outside of school who took an interest in my work was trying to sleep with me and I didn’t realize it until he came out and pretty much said that. I guess it’s comedy because nothing happened. If something did, then it would be tragedy. But thanks to that initial ‘enthusiasm’ I kept writing. What kind of theatre excites you? It seems like such a cliche to say ‘dangerous’ theatre. Ohhh, scary. Theatre isn’t dangerous. Coal mining is dangerous. Reporting from a war is dangerous. But theatre can be freeing and vulnerable. Theatre can make people storm out in a fury or reduce someone to a sniveling wreck. I am all in favor of that cathartic fury or intestinal unraveling. When “Bootycandy” was at Playwrights Horizon people walked out. I found the play not only hilarious, but observing the temperature of the room wonderful when it exposes odd contradictions. I bet some of these same people will clap and bounce in their seats when Rambo decapitates an entire platoon, but will storm out when someone makes an anal sex joke. I find that hilarious, freeing, vulnerable. What advice do you have for playwrights starting out? Read the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink. He explains the different motivations that drive people and the strongest being intrinsic motivation. This is the innate motivation people have to fix things, solve puzzles, edit Wikipedia, do code for free systems like Linux. This is the “Sherlock Holmes” drive that almost seems to carry the human being along, despite their character defects and flaws. And most things in society are built to destroy that intrinsic drive and reFall 2015 Proscenium 27
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
route us to ‘fear drives’ of external motivations of material comforts or internal drives of accolades and approval amongst our respective tribes. Resist the drought of fear, replenish and rain the intrinsic rivers. You don’t have to build the streams and deltas. They flow naturally. You just have to let it not be walled up and rerouted. Whatever you can do, let that intrinsic river flow. It will lead you to your passions, it will tell you what issues make you “Sherlock Holmes” and want to get in their and figure it out. The things that motivate you might be a social issue, it might be global warming, it might be relationships between rich WASPs in the Hamptons (Lord hammercy!), it might be anything. It might be the things your mind is running from because you think no one will care. Is there anything else you would like to add? Read plays, see plays, talk about plays. Read poetry and every year write something that scares you. Get involved in community building, listen to anything you find repugnant and question yourself. Don’t be polite. Stop being polite. Write from a vigorous place of conflict, and not a whimsical need to be thought of as smart or a wordsmith. Stop reacting in Pavlovian outrage over Tweets and status updates. Start being outraged at real injustice. Save your power for things you have a say in and not celebrity beef online. We are more powerful than we know. Meditate, contemplate, go to that quiet place. This is what these stories have taught me. Defacing Michael Jackson is copyright © 2015 by Aurin Squire. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of Defacing Michael Jackson are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved.
28 Proscenium Fall 2015
Defacing Michael Jackson By Aurin Squire
SETTING 1984. The arid and abandoned land of Opa Locka, Florida. CHARACTER BREAKDOWN
The story is told with four actors. Florida Track A: 1. OBADIAH: light-skin teenage black boy and older adult man who narrates. Florida Track B: 1. FRENCHY: dark-skinned black teenager Florida Track C: 1. RED: mentally-challenged black twin 2. YELLOW: Other black twin who stutters 3. CITY COMMISSIONER: black commissioner Florida Track D: 1. JACK: white teenage boy new to area. DIRECTOR’S NOTES The stage is bare for almost the entire play. The objects in the play can be mimed, but it’s the director’s choice as to how many objects. The actors should be specific with objects mimed. Obadiah narrates the story as an older man, but lives in the piece as a teenager. Light shifts reflect a change from present to past as well as a jump to a new locations. The scene changes are minimal and the entire play should flow together without stopping. The MJ mural can be mimed as well. If it exists then it can be created through slides, video, or just fragments of photos. As long as there is a sense of regeneration and disintegration throughout the play. ACT ONE SCENE ONE OBADIAH: Can you take yourself back? Before the rubble and ash of the Twin Towers, Oklahoma City and Waco. Before crack, Columbine, Atkins, and AIDS. Further back, before Clarence and Anita, Bush and Quayle, Jim and Tammy Faye, even further! Before televangelists, telemarketing and Teletubbies. And here we are. The year of the eternal future: 1984. Opa Locka, Florida: a flat city of gasoline stations, abandoned parking lots, and a drainage canal where every year a few drunks drown in the weed-choked black water that carry waste from Miami and into the Everglades. A place where something is always getting started and nothing is ever finished. This is the edge. Of black and white. Of innocence and corruption. Of naïve optimism and jaded cynicism. Of the fading cold war and the approaching hot peace. Metal jacks and Thundercats. GI Joes and Cabbage Patch. And rising above it all is one man who they come to see. I aesthetically structured the room so that all eyes could see. They filed in with rubber bands, cracker jack toys and sticky sweet and sour fingers. The lights are turned off 30 seconds before the beFall 2015 Proscenium 29
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
ginning. To set the mood. And the crowd hushes in reverential silence. Can you go back? I can. LIGHTS SHIFT. OBADIAH is a teeanger shouting at his friends. OBADIAH: All right! Hey, quiet! My parents are in the other room. No fighting, no talking, and definitely no eating candy or food. My mom would kill me. We’ve only got a sofa and a loveseat and it has to last. We got Lays and Ritz, and that’s all you getz. If you’ve already seen him once this week, go to the back, greedy. Relax, you’re in my home. My living room. My family. And if any of you have seen the retarded twins down the block, tell them to give me back my bike. SCENE TWO FRENCHY, a sassy, dark-skinned teenager settles down a group of kids. Red, a mean-snarky teen, stands beside her. FRENCHY: A-ight, let’s get started. I said let’s get started y’all. Simmer down. BOY, YOU BETTA SIMMER DOWN! (over-official sounding) Welcome to ‘The Opa Locka City and Miami-Dade County, Florida Michael Jackson Fan Club.’ As you president, Yvonne “Frenchy” Carter I call this meeting to order. Now let’s get down to business because I got great news and I ain’t tryin’ to mess around w’ich y’all today. The first thing you can do is thank me because I am the best president ever. RED: You da only president ever. FRENCHY: I’m the only one qualified to fill the shoes of being responsible enough to do this, Red. RED: You da’ HNIC. For now. FRENCHY: Thanks for the fortune cookie, Niggadamus. OBADIAH: -Frenchy! Get to the news. FRENCHY: Well ANY-way. The city of Opa Locka is finally starting to come around to our love of Michael Jackson: the greatest musician and entertainer in the whole universe. I mean, did you see what he did onOBADIAH: -Frenchy. FRENCHY: Ahem. As I was saying Opa Locka wants to honor Michael Jackson and wants us teens -and even retarded kids like Red- to be involved. So they’re gonna build a giant mural on the city hall building wall! And we’re going to get to help make a monument to Michael. I’m telling you this is just the sort of thing that’ll bring the Jacksons in to town. Get a mural, a few statues, maybe a theme park. OBADIAH: We can just start with the mural first. This is kind of exciting. A mural. Wow. BEAT. OBADIAH: What is a mural? FRENCHY: It’s a thing, okay. A very big thing. So stop bothering me about dumb details. A mural is a fancy work of art. And it’s gonna have Michael Jackson on it. RED: Better keep Frenchy’s face away from it or she’ll crack the whole damn picture. FRENCHY: (fake laughing) Ahahahaha…that’s so funny Red. No wonder you and your brother came out retarded. Your momma probably saw your face and tried to shove you back in. OBADIAH: How are we gonna do this mural thing? FRENCHY: Well, I, as your trusted president have been put in charge of it. I’m gonna be picking 30 Proscenium Fall 2015
out different fans to help put it together. Don’t worry, Obie you’re at the top of my list. OBADIAH: You’d do that for me? FRENCHY: Hold me. OBADIAH: What? FRENCHY: I mean...I’d do anything for my favorite Michael Jackson fan club treasurer. Any other news? RED: (breaking their intimacy) There’s a new family that moved in down the street! FRENCHY: You bug-eyed muthafuckaOBADIAH: -Frenchy! FRENCHY: (composing herself) Ahem. Okay? So you think we should invite them into the club? RED: No, we should see if they got any cool stuff we can sneak on. FRENCHY: Meeting adjourned. Lights shift. OBADIAH: As it turns out the mural would be a pretty big deal. It would be a collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia from fans. We would all get a chance to have our voices heard. SCENE THREE YELLOW and FRENCHY play jacks. Yellow, the light-skinned twin of Red, is a boy with a speech impediment. After a toss, he swipes some of the jacks. FRENCHY: Uh-uh! Gimme back my jacks. YELLOW: I w-w-win. FRENCHY: You cheatin’! YELLOW: Fu-fu-fair as square. FRENCHY: Youze a lying cheatin’ retard. YELLOW: …ah-ah-I nu-never lie. FRENCHY: I’m finna go to Obie’s house becuz I ain’t playin’ wit you no more. Gimme back my jacks, retard! YELLOW: Nu-nuh-uh, ugly! FRENCHY: Who you calling ugly, retard! You so stupid that when you count to ten, you get stuck at one. YELLOW: Your…so ugly w-when you t-take a bath the water j-jumps out. FRENCHY: Yeah, well you’re so stupid that you took a blood test and failed. YELLOW: Yuh-you so ugly you make onions cry. FRENCHY: That ain’t nuthin’ because you so stupid that you tried to mail a letter with food stamps. You so stupid, you took a ruler to bed to see how long you slept! You is so stupid! That, that…they had to burn down the second grade to get your ass out of it. That’s how stupid you are! YELLOW: So? My momma said you uglier than s-s-sin on Sunday. Yuh-yuh-you so ugly… your doctor is a vet. Wuh-when you g-get up, th-the s-sun goes down. Yuh-you s-so ugly that if-f ugly wuh-were br-bricks you’d be the Guh-Great Wall of Ch-China. D-d-damn…youze ugly! FRENCHY: Gimme back my jacks! YELLOW: Muh-make me! FRENCHY: Ima tell yo moma! Spring Fall 2015 Proscenium 31
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
YELLOW: S-so? M-my momma don’t like you. S-she said you t-too ugly. FRENCHY: Then Imma tell my moma! YELLOW drops the jacks and FRENCHY scoops them up. She begins to leave. YELLOW: Wait! FRENCHY: What? (imitating) ‘Yuh-yuh-you g-g-got s-something t-to s-say?’ YELLOW: A secret. FRENCHY: No you don’t? YELLOW: Uh-huh. FRENCHY: Nobody else knows? (He shakes his head ‘no’.) Why not? YELLOW: S-s-savin it. FRENCHY: ‘Chamon, Yellow. Tell me, fool! YELLOW: (wags finger) Fuh-fuh-first, the rest of the jacks. FRENCHY: You are evil. FRENCHY hands over the rest of the jacks to Yellow. FRENCHY: This better be worth it, dumbo. Now tell me. Come on, I ain’t got all day. Gonna take you long enough to say it. What’s the secret? YELLOW: C-cr-crackers. FRENCHY: Crackers? YELLOW: Crackers…w-white people. FRENCHY: What about them? YELLOW: They coming. SCENE FOUR OBADIAH: In the hood when you got something everybody wants a piece. “Just lemme touch, man. Just lemme hold it for a while, man. I just wanna feel it, smell it, taste it, own it. Come on, man! Lemme borrow it fo’ a second! I’ll bring it right back!” Gimme, gimme, gimme is the ghetto anthem. My family was the first in our neighborhood. The first to have central air-conditioning. The first to have lawn sprinklers. The first to have an encyclopedia set. Oh yeah. Ghetto fabulous, that’s us. We were nigger rich and cracker poor as my cousins would say. So when we were the first to get a VCR, people lined up. And when we learned how to record something on it, the time had arrived. Because this is 1984, and the kids on my block only cared about one man. LIGHTS SHIFT. OBADIAH’s neck starts twitching like a zombie and he’s joined by FRENCHY and RED. They all do a quick series of dance steps like monsters. Frenchy and Red exit. OBADIAH continues to bob, grabs his crotch and unleashes a MJ-esque… OBADIAH: HOOOOO!!! (LIGHT SHIFT BACK) But I’m getting ahead of myself. All the kids would come to see, “Thriller.” That was the neighborhood activity, the daily event for us. Thriller at Obie’s home. We never got tired of it. The tape played again and again. Rewinding to the beginning… FRENCHY: (O/S) ObieOBADIAH: -fast forwarding to a part we likedFRENCHY: (entering) -OBIE! 32 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: Quiet, Frenchy. I’m reminiscing. FRENCHY: But we got a problem. OBADIAH: What? FRENCHY: White people. OBADIAH: Excuse me? FRENCHY: They’re coming for us. Moving in and taking over. I’m scared. Hold me! (she clutches him) That’s better. OBADIAH: Ahhh…Frenchy. FRENCHY: Yes, Obie. OBADIAH: Who told you that white people were moving in? FRENCHY: Yellow did. OBADIAH: But Yellow is, like… retarded. Brother is so stupid I told him we got a new color TV and he asked ‘what color?’ You can’t believe what he tells you. FRENCHY: He’s never wrong. Kiss me. OBADIAH: What?!? (removes her) Wait a minute. Where are these alleged White people? FRENCHY: Down the street, near the canal. Where is you going? OBADIAH: I’m going to go see for myself. FRENCHY: But you might get hurt! Aren’t you scared? OBADIAH: Why would I be scared? I see White people all the time on TV. SCENE FIVE Stakeout. OBADIAH and Yellow lay on the ground. OBADIAH cups his hands into a pair of binoculars and scans the horizon back and forth. Yellow steals one of Obadiah’s hands and looks through it, and they scan the horizon as Obadiah talks. OBADIAH: We’re scared of what we don’t know, right? Space aliens, Big Foot, Hamburger Helper and white people. I mean this is Opa-Locka. A city of blacks built in the swamps of Seminole country. A community dreamed up by a demented real estate developer who had an obsession with “One Thousand and One Nights” and an Arab fetish. Opa Locka has the largest collection of Moorish architecture in the western hemisphere. Blacks, Seminoles, Arabs, Moors. We are a tattered village of outcast people, ideas and history. We relate to Michael Jackson. A poor boy from Gary, Indiana with a fat nose, goofy grin and high voice. We live his life and see this outsider become the ultimate insider. You live as an outcasts, a minority and then one day... JACK enters. OBADIAH: …the majority arrives at your door. They have everything and you have nothing, so what do they want with your small little community? But you shouldn’t be rude or make them feel uncomfortable. LIGHTS SHIFT. OBADIAH: What are you doing here? JACK: Hi, I’m new in the neighborhood. OBADIAH: Why? JACK: Why? OBADIAH: Yes, why? JACK: Because my parents moved here. Hi, I’m Wes. Fall 2015 Proscenium 33
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
OBADIAH: No, you’re not. JACK: I’m not? OBADIAH: No, that’s not your name. JACK: Yes it is. OBADIAH: The neighborhood’s been talking and we’ve decided that your name is Jack. That’s your new name, Jack. JACK: But everyone calls me Wes. OBADIAH: No, they don’t. Everyone calls you Jack, Jack. JACK: Why? OBADIAH: No one told us your name, so someone just started calling you Jack and it stuck. (to audience) They actually called him Cracker Jack…don’t look at me. I didn’t come up with it. (to JACK) So now everyone calls you Jack, and it’s going to be a pretty hard name to shake. JACK: But I just got here. OBADIAH: Your name arrived ahead of you. I’m Obie. This is Yellow. JACK: Is that his real name? OBADIAH: I don’t know. Is that your real name? (Yellow shrugs) Well that’s what we call him. YELLOW: M-m-my b-brother is Red. OBADIAH: Red and Yellow are twins. JACK: (to OBADIAH) Oh…he’s a little…slow. OBADIAH: Slow? No, he’s very fast. He’s just retarded. Him and his brother. Only difference is Yellow stutters. JACK: That’s so sad. OBADIAH: Sad my ass. They’re both thieves. YELLOW: Nu-no, w-we ain’t. OBADIAH: Oh yeah, then where’s my BMX? YELLOW: Red’s got it. OBADIAH: And then I go to Red and he says Yellow’s got it. This is what they do. JACK: Then you should call the police. OBADIAH: The police? Jack, what the hell is wrong with you? I said I wanted my bike back. I didn’t say I wanted him killed. JACK: No, the police don’t kill people. My dad said they help people fix their problems. YELLOW and OBADIAH look at each other and then to the audience. OBADIAH: You see how strange Jack is? But I’ll be nice. (to JACK) Jack, your dad is a liar. JACK: So now you’re calling my Dad a liar? OBADIAH: Well yeah. Obadiah and Yellow laugh at him. Jack looks at them. JACK: I guess I’m outnumbered. OBADIAH: Get used to it. JACK: (humming) ...‘helpless like a baby.’ OBADIAH: What? JACK: You know, the song...’looking in the mirror…helpless like a baby. I can’t help it.’ OBADIAH: Michael Jackson. JACK: Yeah. I love Michael Jackson. 34 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: Are you serious? JACK: I would give my pinkie finger for a signed album. OBADIAH: No, you wouldn’t. I’d give both my thumbs for all his signed albums. JACK: Your thumbs? That’s it? OBADIAH: I would cut off my arm for a jacket. JACK: I would cut off both arms for his jacket. OBADIAH: Then how would you wear it? JACK: I’d have the jacket stitched to my back. OBADIAH: Wow...you’ve thought about this. JACK: Michael Jackson is amazing. I’m, like, his biggest fan. FRENCHY: (entering quickly) Waitwaitwaitwaitwaitwaitwaitwaitwait…Okay…um Jack, sweetie. You are not Michael Jackson’s biggest fan. I am Michael Jackson’s biggest fan. I am president of THE Michael Jackson fan club…I have all the albums. I write letters, I cut out all his pictures from Ebony and Jet and hang them on my wall. JACK: Who are you? OBADIAH: This is Frenchy. JACK: Are all you all related? OBADIAH: Ewwww. No, we’re just all united by our devotion to Michael Jackson. It’s kind of scary. FRENCHY: Yeah, I am MJ’s biggest fan. And Obie is second because he is co-founder and treasurer of the club. JACK: Okay, well I just really like Michael Jackson. As much as you guys. FRENCHY: You can’t like him as much as us. JACK: Why not? OBADIAH: Frenchy, let’s not get into this. JackFRENCHY: Because he is our’s. JACK: ...wait…are you guys…related to Michael Jackson?!? Oh my God!! Oh my God, you do kind of look like him a little. I mean the hair, the skinFRENCHY: -he’s ours because he’s black. JACK: So? FRENCHY: So there is a difference. I can love…Obie, name something white… OBADIAH: Hockey! FRENCHY: Name something else. OBADIAH: Ummm…serial killers! Sally Fields? Larry Bird. FRENCHY: Perfect! So I can love Larry Bird. But I can’t love him more than tall white dudes. It’s different. JACK: But when the Celtics beat the Lakers this year everyone on TV was celebrating. FRENCHY: Nah, people were happy. But it was different. Blacks were like ‘yah. Good game.’ and white people were like ‘FUCKING AMAZING, DUDE! Radical!’ And Mexican didn’t know what to do. They just looked confused. It was different. Bird was doing it for all them tall white dudes who can’t dunk and wear ties to work. JACK: Well I was rooting for the Lakers. I like Magic Johnson better any way. He’s way cooler. OBADIAH: See Frenchy! He likes Magic better than Bird. Fall 2015 Proscenium 35
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
FRENCHY: Yeah he’s a regular Abraham Lincoln. ‘Sho glad massa is so nice to us. I’se go tell the others.’ FRENCHY and Yellow laugh and exit. JACK: Why did she talk like that? OBADIAH: It’s just ‘fake slave’ speech. All blacks are required to learn how to do it. JACK: Oh, do you learn it to honor your people? OBADIAH: No, it’s usually to make fun of your people. JACK: Everyone is so mean. I thought neighbors are supposed to welcome you when you’re new in town. OBADIAH: Look...we’re just messing with you. Look, you can come over to my house tomorrow...if you like... JACK: Umm...why? OBADIAH: My parents have a VCR and we can watch…are you ready? “Thriller!” JACK: And then we can hang out? OBADIAH: Yeah. We’ll ‘hang’ JACK: Awesome, I’ve made my first friend. OBADIAH: Sure. JACK: Maybe we’ll best buddies. OBADIAH: We’ll see. JACK: And you’ll call me Wes? OBADIAH: Not a chance, Jack. JACK: (exiting) …at least I tried. OBADIAH: Keep trying. (to audience) After that first meeting, I told Frenchy to be nicer to Jack. Now what we did to him was unfair, manipulative and a little cruel. But all the black kids I knew acted this way toward white kids. We knew it didn’t matter if we made them squirm, because this was our way –at least for a few years- of evening the score a little. Besides, they would have the rest of their lives to take their revenge out on us. And they would. SCENE SIX FRENCHY and RED are on the steps outside Obadiah’s home. RED: I wonder what he got in that house. You know crackers get all the new shit when it comes out. I bet they got a lot of nice shit in that big fancy house. FRENCHY: He ain’t no motherfucking pharaoh. He’s just another Howdy Doody-looking cracker. Besides, he can’t be all that if he’s living here. RED: I saw the movers carrying in a black box. You know what it said? A-T-A-R-I. FRENCHY: You lying. RED: They got an Atari in there. Probably the 2600. FRENCHY: Only rich folks got the 2600. RED: He’s probably playing Space Invaders in there right now. FRENCHY: Space Invaders? RED: Yeah, like an arcade. And he’s probably got Pong and Frogger, FRENCHY: You dreaming. You think he’s got it like that? RED: Slinks said he got a white boy moved in next door and they got Donkey Kong in there 36 Proscenium Fall 2015
house. And dat E.T. game in the arcade. FRENCHY: The E.T. arcade game sucked. Besides, my mom’s got a Commodore at work and she said in a few years they may let us have it. RED: You broke-ass Africans don’t even have a toaster. How you gonna get a Commodore? FRENCHY: We don’t have a toaster cuz your stupid-ass brother tried to toast crayons in it. RED: He was trying to make a rainbow. JACK enters. Frenchy tries to be nice but is rolling her eyes and looking at him suspiciously. FRENCHY: Hey, Jack. JACK: Hi, French. FRENCHY: It’s Frenchy. JACK: Oh, like in “Grease”? FRENCHY: What? No, like in Paris, France. RED: What’s happening, Jackie? Ain’t it funny how life is like Space Invaders? JACK: I don’t understand. RED: You been playing video games in there, haven’t you? JACK: No. RED: Let me see your fingers. FRENCHY: Don’t mind Red. We’re trying to get him to switch to a different race. Something a little less embarrassing for our people. RED: Frenchy, his finger tips are hard. He’s playing video games! FRENCHY: Ignore the felon. Look I’m sorry about what I said earlier. We wanted to welcome you into our club…if you were interested in joining. JACK: Sure. I got a lot of cool Michael Jackson stuff we can do. We can have a dance party. Buy gloves and put glitter on themFRENCHY: -that’s great, but all MJ related activities have to run through me. But first we have to ask you a few questions. An entrance exam we give it to all of the members. JACK: Wow, an exam. It sounds so official. Is there anything I should do to prepareFRENCHY: -first question. Michael Jackson was born where? JACK: That’s easy. Gary, Indiana. FRENCHY: How many Jackson kids? JACK: 9. FRENCHY: 10. JACK: Shoot. But Michael was the 8th. FRENCHY: No, he was the 7th. OBADIAH: (entering) He was the 8th. Everyone getting along? FRENCHY: Yeah. Just getting to know Jack a little better. JACK: They’re giving me the entrance exam into your club. OBADIAH: Entrance exam? We don’t haveFRENCHY: -Next question. What was the Jackson 5’s first hit? JACK: Easy. “I Want You Back.” FRENCHY: First solo hit? JACK: Umm… FRENCHY: …ah-ha! I thought so! “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough!” Fall 2015 Proscenium 37
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
JACK: …no it wasn’t. FRENCHY: Yeah it was Jack. I told you, you don’t love him like I do. JACK: It was “You Can’t Win.” From “The Wiz.” FRENCHY: What? OBADIAH: He’s right. “The Wiz” did come out before that. FRENCHY: Wait…okay…movie soundtracks don’t count. JACK: You didn’t say that. FRENCHY: Well I’m saying it now. OBADIAH: All right. Enough. We’re here today for “Thriller.” Who wants to see it? Everyone scream. Jack stands up and starts dancing excitedly. FRENCHY: Sit your cracker ass down! Jack stops dancing. OBADIAH: Frenchy, remember: nice. FRENCHY: I’m sorry. Jack, please sit your cracker ass down. Jack sits down. OBADIAH: Thank you. Now before we get to Thriller I have an even bigger surprise: a meeting. Frenchy and Red boo. OBADIAH: As your treasurer I went down and asked about the mural costs and they said someone has agreed to donate the entire amount. We don’t have to ask for any money or dig into our savings, which is good because we only have about 37 cents left out of the founder’s initial dollar. FRENCHY: Obie that’s great! You are so brilliant, I knew you would be perfect as treasurer of my fan club. How did you get it? OBADIAH: We got an angel donor. FRENCHY: From who? OBADIAH: Jack. FRENCHY: What? JACK: My Dad said he could get his company to put up the difference. OBADIAH: There’s just one thing though… FRENCHY: Thank you, Jack. I was wrong about you. You’re in the club for sure. I’ll even make you an honorary board member. This is great!! OBADIAH: Frenchy, there’s a catch thoughFRENCHY: Oh, who cares?!? As long as it gets done! OBADIAH: I’m glad you feel that way. Cause Jack gets to organize the project. FRENCHY: What? OBADIAH: He thought it was only fair that since he was helping to pay for it, his son -Wesleyshould be entitled to help put it together. FRENCHY: But…that was my job. RED: Who cares! As long as it gets done. That’s what you said French. OBADIAH: Frenchy it’s gonna be a great mural. And Jack is a nice guy. He likes Michael Jackson. He knows all the trivia. JACK: “I Got You/I Feel Good.” That was the song the Jacksons performed that won them their first talent show competition. It’s by James Brown, who is also very cool. 38 Proscenium Fall 2015
FRENCHY: But new guys can’t just come in and takeover stuff. We got rules here about board members. OBADIAH: Frenchy, you ever heard of the Golden Rule? FRENCHY: No. OBADIAH: He who has the gold, makes the rules. FRENCHY: Well the board still has to vote on it. OBADIAH: Okay. All those against this? (Frenchy raises her hand) All those for it (Red and Jack raise hand). And all those staying the hell out of it (Obadiah raises his hand). It passes. Congratulations Jack. Now for Thriller. JACK: I can’t wait to get started on this. Jack and Obadiah exit. Frenchy sits outside stewing while Red teases her. RED: What’s the matter Frenchy? You sweating like a Haitian now. And if you keep it up, your hair gonna nap up like an African. You don’t have to worry. In the movie, the White zombies eat your brains first. And since you ain’t got no brains, you should be cool for a while. Hehehe. BAM! SCENE SEVEN FRENCHY talks to friends in the fan club. FRENCHY: So this White boy comes in and starts messing things up. First day he takes my seat in Obie’s living room for “Thriller.” I mean, this is Frenchy Clark’s seat. Ain’t nooo-body supposed to sit in that seat. He just comes in like he’s God/king all-mighty. And nobody stops him. Not even Obie. See, folks, this is how it starts. This is how white people take over. My momma told me all about it. First it’s your seat, then it’s the whole neighborhood. They’re all sitting in there, laughing and jumping like it’s the first time they’ve seen it. Trying to impress Cracker Jack. Like he’s special. But what about Frenchy Carter? I’m the special one. Shoo, they make me sick. Frenchy continues miming her diatribe as the LIGHTS SHIFT and RED enters. He stands next to Frenchy. Spotlight on him. NOTE: in this exchange Yellow and Red are on opposite shoulders of Frenchy. They can be differentiated by different color shirts or baseball caps. RED: (thinking) I wonder what dem titties feel like? I heard a black woman titties are as warm as chocolate chip cookies. One big chocolate chip right in the middle of each titty. Maybe Frenchy would let me eat her chocolate chips. They in the oven, growing bigger and softer every day. LIGHTS SHIFT to YELLOW. YELLOW: (thinking) R-red…wa-why staring at F-Frenchy’s chest? (He looks down) Dayum! S-sweet gravy. Red? R-red, I know you hear wh-what Imma thinkin’… LIGHTS SHIFT BACK TO RED. RED: Hell yeah, twin ESP. I know your thoughts. And I ain’t sharing my chocolate chip cookies. Damn, this girl still talking. FRENCHY: I can’t wait till I marry Michael Jackson and move into his mansion. We’ll buy this block and all of Opa Locka. What kind of a stupid name is that for a city. I’ll pour gasoline on all the roofs and burn down this whole city and rename it “French Toast,” which will be the name of our first kid. Fall 2015 Proscenium 39
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
RED: That’s cool, Frenchy. FRENCHY: Ahh, Red? What are you two felons looking at? YELLOW: Hu-hu-he just like your shirt. FRENCHY: Why are you two acting so weird? YELLOW: C-cuz, w-we-we-we l-looking atFRENCHY: -looking at what? RED: Nevermind! What were you saying about Michael? FRENCHY: Oh, and we’ll have ten kids and move to Africa and buy some islands. And each island will be named after our kids. RED: Booty thicker than a bag of Snickers. FRENCHY: And Michael will dedicate his next album to me and I’ll become famous, and everyone will know me, but I won’t know anyone, like all stars. YELLOW: Thighs s-swole like Bu-bublicious. FRENCHY: We’ll be on the cover of “Ebony” and I’ll be “Jet’s” swimsuit model of the week, and I’ll start my own hair products line called “Kool n’ Kinky” which will blowout people’s hair into an afro. And I’ll become president and then queen and then an astronaut, in that order. RED: Damn those chocolate chip cookies. FRENCHY: I’ll be so famous I might have to marry another husband, Tito Jackson…maybe Jermaine. If Obie acts right, I might even let him marry me. But first Michael, I promise. And, and, and…that’s what is going to happen. Yeah. Just like that. SCENE EIGHT Jack watches TV and Obadiah comes into his living room. OBADIAH: Jack, you ready to go to Nasty Man? JACK: What’s that? OBADIAH: The store. JACK: You got a store called Nasty Man? OBADIAH: Yeah. It’s the one on the corner. They couldn’t afford a sign when it opened so there was no name for a while. So peopleJACK: -came up with one for it. Why do you call it that? OBADIAH: Cause it’s nasty, man! Windows got dead flies stuck to the glass, toilet is always backed up. But the boiled peanuts are amazing, the grape drink is cold, and they got a Jamaican patty that’ll make you cry. You should show your face there. Nasty will probably give you a free bag of peanuts. JACK: Really? All of sudden everyone is so nice to me. OBADIAH: That’s the Golden Rule. JACK: I don’t know who to pick for the mural. OBADIAH: Pick whoever gives you the most. JACK: That doesn’t seem fair. Maybe you can help me? OBADIAH: Help you how? JACK: You can tell me who to pick for the different parts. OBADIAH: Why me? JACK: You were the first one who wanted to hang out with me. Even my Dad likes you. He says 40 Proscenium Fall 2015
you’re not like the others and you can come over. He even said you could even sleep over and he wouldn’t even be scared. OBADIAH: Gee, thanks. JACK: We should have a sleepover. And then you can help me pick. OBADIAH: Why can’t you just do it? JACK: Cause everyone is so nice to me. But not in a good way. You guys are always together, laughing and having a good time. OBADIAH: Well you got in the club so you can always join us. JACK: It’s not the same. I’m just in the club because my Dad paid me in. But I want to be like you guys. Like a family. OBADIAH: You’re too plain to be…in, Jack. JACK: Why? OBADIAH: Cause all of us are messed up. That’s why we came together. Frenchy’s dad left and her mom drinks, Red and Yellow’s dad beats the hell out of them. JACK: Well what’s wrong with you? OBADIAH: I don’t know. My parents are never around. So these guys became my family. JACK: I can be family too. OBADIAH: Jack, you’re just too normal. JACK: No, I have messed up stuff about me. OBADIAH: Like what? JACK: My Dad does things and that’s why we had to leave the last place we lived at. Cause of what he did. OBADIAH: What did he do? JACK: I don’t want to talk about it. If I tell you, you’ll hate me and tell other people. And then we’ll have to move again. But I just was just proving that I have messed up stuff about me too. OBADIAH: But that isn’t you. That’s your Dad. JACK: …right. You’re so smart Obie. I just want everyone here to be my friend like they are with you. OBADIAH: Why do you think most people are friends with me? JACK: Cause you’re smart and funny? OBADIAH: It’s because I have a VCR. JACK: That’s not the only reason. OBADIAH: Sure and we got stuff that people take. Got a mango tree in the backyard and I haven’t tasted one mango from it. Why? Cause before the mangos get ripe, people peel back our fence at night and pluck the tree bald. JACK: Frenchy likes you. A lot of the girls like you. OBADIAH: Cause I’m high yellow. JACK: Cause you’re what? OBADIAH: Nevermind. Look, why don’t we go to Nasty Man. Get some free boiled peanuts, grape drink and go over to my place and watch “Thriller” JACK: But no one else is over there. OBADIAH: I’ll show it just for you. Payback for the glove. A private viewing of “Thriller.” JACK: Oh...sure, okay. Fall 2015 Proscenium 41
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
OBADIAH: What’s wrong? JACK: I’ve seen “Thriller.” Many, many times. OBADIAH: How? JACK: I have the tape. OBADIAH: What?!? JACK: I’m sorry, I was going to tell you, but my parents have a VCR. BETA. You should switch. My dad says it’s the future. OBADIAH: You had a VCR this whole time? JACK: Yeah, my Dad keeps it hidden because he’s afraid…well he just likes to keep stuff hidden. And I didn’t want to say anything. OBADIAH: Great. JACK: I just wanted to fit in. OBADIAH: With us poor kids, right? JACK: No! With you. I thought you wouldn’t talk to me, or…or… OBADIAH: Or what? JACK: Be my pal. You know, a special friend. OBADIAH: (to audience) At this moment, a strange feeling is bubbling up. A chemical reaction like...something coming loose and breaking a part. My mom makes a special stew out of chopped carrots, sliced onions, diced celery, and beef chuck. Hours of stirring the pot and the meat would break apart into thin, stringy fibers of flesh until it was unrecognizable. And things inside me keep bubbling up, breaking apart, disintegrating, and falling down. This hot gray stew is in my gut. Rising up my chest and neck, up through my head. Bubbling and foaming over the brim and sliding down the sides of me. JACK pumps his fists and OBADIAH jerks away. JACK: Ah. You flinched! Jack punches him three times on the arm and then rubs it. JACK: Your turn. OBADIAH looks at the floor. He raises his fists slowly and suddenly jerks forward. JACK flinches. JACK: I flinched. Now you hit me. OBADIAH raises his arm but can’t bring it down. There’s a strange moment: intimate and tender. Obadiah breaks the moment by jokingly punching Jack and laughing. OBADIAH: You’re funny. JACK: (runs off) Hey, you wanna see something? OBADIAH: What? You got an Atari back there, don’t you? Everyone’s said they’ve seen the box. JACK: (O/S) That’s all I have left. My Dad traded it in. OBADIAH: Jack, your father should be arrested! How do you trade in an Atari? It’s got Frogger! JACK: (re-enters with VCR tape) I know but the salesman convinced him to buy something else. It’s this weird Japanese thing. You gotta keep this a secret, ok? OBADIAH: I better cause if I tell kids you gave away Atari, you’d lose all your cool points. JACK: No, that’s not the big secret. This is. (shows tape) 42 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: Is that your copy of Thriller? JACK: No. Look, my dad would kill me if he found this outside his stash. You can’t tell anyone. OBADIAH: All right, Jeez! Just put it in. JACK: I don’t want to show it to you now. You should come back. Let’s have a sleepover. OBADIAH: To watch a video? JACK: Yeah, try something new, right? We can talk, hang out, and watch this. It should be watched at night. SCENE NINE Pieced-together mural of Michael Jackson’s face. OBADIAH: We were going to use a picture of Michael Jackson from “Off the Wall” and let people in the neighborhood just decorate it. The designer Jack’s Dad hired said we could make a mosaic. Little pieces of Michael that each person could take away and add something to and bring back. That way everyone gets to do something. But then people started to fight over who got what, so Jack had to take over. He handed them out to people. Pieces of the mural disappear. OBADIAH: The ears were the first to go. Then the neck, hair, chin. Jack said he wanted to save the bigger parts for the bigger friends. Nasty Man gave him free boiled peanuts for a week. He puts them in this wet paper bag and Jack said it looked disgusting. The peanuts were all slimy and wet. Nasty Man had these red eyes, and his breath smelled. He had sores on his arms and he told Jack that he works on the weekend as a lawn man and that he does the lawns in half the neighborhood. The peanuts were good so Jack gave Nasty’s son the nose. Frenchy got an eyebrow. I know she’s the president of the fan club and all, but until she learns to be nicer to Jack that’s all he’s giving her. SCENE TEN Frenchy talks with Yellow about how everything has gone wrong. Yellow tries to seduce her. FRENCHY: I call this emergency meeting of “The Opa Locka, Florida and Miami-Dade County Michael Jackson Fan Club” to order. I just want to say that we have a serious issue and that issue is Cracker Jack and how he’s taken over this club. YELLOW: W-whut you talkin’ ‘bout? FRENCHY: Yellow we can’t let these white folks take over. They’re like aliens. But not the cool E.T kind. Now Cracker Jack-er has taken over. And that was my project! It ain’t fair. YELLOW: T-t-t-t-tough. FRENCHY: Tough? YELLOW: T-t-tough. Dat’s what they do. FRENCHY: And are you gonna just sit there and stand for it? We need to strike back. YELLOW: (singing softly to her) You can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t get out of the game. Yellow tries to kiss her. Frenchy ignores him and blocks his kiss with a sudden epiphany. FRENCHY: Let’s vote him outta the club! Then we go down and talk to Opa Locka city manager and tell him Cracker Jack ain’t a part of the club no more so he can’t be in charge. I’ll start up a petition to get him off the board. Just gotta come up with a catchy title, sign it, then get your Fall 2015 Proscenium 43
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
brother to sign it, then some of my friends... YELLOW: Wh-hut about Obie? FRENCHY: He’ll come around. And you’ll use them claws of yours and scribble your name. BEAT. FRENCHY: What’s the matter? YELLOW: J-jack has Atari. Obie t-told m-me he played it. FRENCHY: So? Yellow, you gonna let Atari get in the way of our friendship? YELLOW: Yup. FRENCHY: Fine! Go on with ya’ retarded ass. Probably can’t even play the game. Sell your own sister down the river for a game. You see, dat’s what dem white folks want you to do, Yellow. My mom used to be in wit’ dem Black Panthers and she told me all about how dem white folks trick no-education-having niggers with penny candy and a smile. My momma knows all about dat. YELLOW: J-just cuz y-yo momma so B-Black she purple d-don’t make her a Black Panther. FRENCHY: You just another house nigger. YELLOW: W-what? FRENCHY: A house nigger. You selling me out for Atari so you can sit up in Jack’s house smiling crooked as the devil while he lets you play his games for a few minutes. I don’t need you cause Obie’s gonna back me up with this. And so are a lot of other kids. So go on with your stupid games. YELLOW: (exiting) M-maybe retarded, b-but I ain’t stupid, Frenchy. FRENCHY: You can’t let White people just take over stuff without a fight. They coming for me and all of you. They coming for the aliens, for Michael Jackson, for all of it. But I’m not gonna let them. Look at what happened to Lionel Richie! And Debarge! They get in the mix and get ya to switch. SCENE ELEVEN Jack and Obie play Nintendo. OBADIAH: Jack, I was thinking about the painting? JACK: Yeah? OBADIAH: How about we do something nice for Frenchy? JACK: What do you mean? OBADIAH: I noticed you haven’t given away a few pieces. You still got the eyes. JACK: I’m saving the eyes. They’re special. OBADIAH: What’s so special about them? JACK: The eyes are the center. Everybody wants them. OBADIAH: I just feel bad since the whole thing was sort of Frenchy’s idea. JACK: Why do you care about her? OBADIAH: Cause she’s my friend. And she’s cool. You guys should be friends. JACK: Every time I see her I try to say hi but she just turns her nose up and walks off. That’s not a friend. You’re my friend. OBADIAH: Well…thanks. JACK: You wanna see something? 44 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: What? JACK: The video. But remember…. OBADIAH: …yeah, secret. Sure. Fine. JACK: Cool. Jack stops playing Nintendo and exits. Obadiah pauses the game. OBADIAH: Jack rummaged under his bed and then came out with this black BETA tapes and a quilt. He looked like he was carrying a grenade and put them down gently. I started to shiver. JACK: Are you cold? OBADIAH: A little. JACK: (handing him quilt) Here. OBADIAH: (wrapping self in quilt) Thanks. Then Jack put in the tape. JACK: (getting under quilt) It’s kind of fuzzy at first. I don’t know if you can see it. OBADIAH: Kind of…what is that? An elbow? A chin? JACK: It takes a minute to come into focus. OBADIAH: Okay, I see a man and a woman and… JACK: Yeah. OBADIAH: That’s their skin. All of it. JACK: Yeah. OBADIAH: And they look very…very…angry. No. No, I take that back. They look…I don’t know what they look like. JACK: Isn’t it cool? OBADIAH: It feels like the room got 30 degrees colder. JACK: My Dad said it’s the real reason people started buying VCRs. So they could watch… ’this.’ OBADIAH: How did you get ‘this?’ JACK: He ordered it from a catalog. It came in this package in the mail wrapped in brown paper like my school lunch. And he told me he had to hide it from my mom because she would get pissed if she saw it. So I hid it under my bed and then…when she was gone to the store a few days ago, we watched it. OBADIAH: With your Dad? JACK: Yeah, it’s cool right? Everyone does this when they grow up. Makes you wanna grow up faster. Hey, are you all right? OBADIAH: Huh? JACK: You’re not freaking out, are you? Cause we said we’d keep this a secret. My Dad can’t find out I showed this to you. OBADIAH: I won’t tell. JACK: Do you want me to turn it off? OBADIAH: …no. Obadiah is transfixed at the screen. Jack inches closer. JACK: Hey Obie? Can I feel your hair? OBADIAH: My hair? JACK: Yeah, it looks different. OBADIAH: Little did I know that for decades this would be a constant question every time I ran Fall 2015 Proscenium 45
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
into whites. I know they’re curious but it makes me feel like I’m in a zoo. They ask and then they put their fingers on it. Some squeal with delight at the experience, others are fascinated and begin running their fingers over my scalp. And you kind of just stand or sit there as someone is touching you. But not like a person. It never feels like they’re touching me. It’s like they’re pressing their fingers in me and I leave. My hair, my skin, my whole body. And I feel like I’m standing somewhere else watching them say… JACK: Wow, it feels like a brillo pad. I wonder what Michael Jackson’s hair feels like? OBADIAH: Probably wet. He’s got a jheri curl. A lot of activator juice. JACK: You’re funny. I feel like when you’re talking to kids, you’re talking over them, sort of making fun of them. My mom says that means you’re probably real smart. Are you black? OBADIAH: Yeah. JACK: But all of you? It’s just that my parents were wondering if your family was half of something. Like a Cuban or Seminole. OBADIAH: Nope. Just black. JACK: Really? Like forever? OBADIAH: Okay, I think my Mom said we’re part Irish. JACK: Like Larry Bird. OBADIAH: No, like a leprechaun. But that’s a zillion years ago. JACK: That’s so cool. So you’re like me. OBADIAH: No. I’m black. JACK: I wish I was part black. But not too black. Not like Nasty Man or Frenchy. Just enough so I could… I wish I was Black like you. Or Michael Jackson. OBADIAH: Well I wish you were too, Jack. JACK: Obie, I like you. Do you like me? OBADIAH: You’re…sure, Jack. I like you. JACK: I wanna show you something my Dad showed me. Can I? OBADIAH: Sure. Fine. Sound of static rising as Jack and Obadiah go under the covers. The world goes into darkness except for the eyes on the mural. END OF ACT ONE ACT TWO SCENE ONE RED: RIOT!!!! Police sirens and helicopters buzz as a riot unfolds. Red and Frenchy talk to the audience. Their words overlap. RED: Every two years it’s like clockwork. Christmas in the summer. Time to go shopping! FRENCHY: In 1980 it was Arthur McDuffie. A Black man was beaten to death by 12 white police officers at a traffic stop. In 1982 it was a black kid shot and killed at a video arcade by a white cop. The pig said he thought the black kid was trying to reach for a gun. Come on, man! Has you never been in a video arcade before? RED: Riots are like Christmas. Except you your own Santa Claus. FRENCHY: It’s disgusting how these idiots cut up. In the summer, after hurricanes. And espe46 Proscenium Fall 2015
cially around Halloween. RED: Get whatcha want! Get whatcha need! FRENCHY: See, this is why we can’t have nothing. This is why we can’t move forward. RED: I’m moving this toaster forward, bitch! Brother Red is getting fed. Ahahaha! FRENCHY: You guys are a disgrace! Stop it! You’re only hurting yourself. What about the Black community? RED: Fuck them! What they do for me, huh? Call me and my brother retarded, stick us in the back of the class. Call us stupid and make us ride the little bus. Kids laughing at us, teachers beating our asses. But we gotta go so my dad can collect his check. Getting our asses beat for 10 years so I can go work at the post office. Fuck that shit. Me and my brother not big enough to get the real prizes during a riot. Mostly when you’re a kid you gotta crawl around. Wait for the gangs and the ex-cons to get their share. Then it’s the pissed-off Dads and Moms who got bats and guns they wanna use. Then we crawl in. Snatch the small stuff, some food, maybe a can opener, some batteries, toaster. Yellow found me a tape deck. Guess what it’s got in it? “Off the Wall.” The classic. FRENCHY: What would Jesse Jackson say? Or Malcolm X? RED: (listening to tape) Who? Well I ain’t never met them niggas but I’m pretty sure they’d say ‘get your’s cause Imma get mine.’ FRENCHY: What would Michael Jackson say? RED: He’d say “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough.” FRENCHY: What would the Jackson 5 say? RED: I think I saw Tito and Jermaine around the corner carrying a dish washer. FRENCHY: Michael would tell us to love each other. He’d say we gotta stop the violenceRED: -“Burn This Disco Out…” FRENCHY: If we don’t stop you know what’s gonna happen next? RED: “I wanna rock wit’ you. SLAP. All night! Feel you in the-” FRENCHY: -guns. They’re gonna start firing in the air! GUNFIRE erupts in the air. RED: Ghetto fireworks! They scramble and run into each other. FRENCHY: Red! They’re lighting up the sky again. RED: I know. It’s kind of cool. “I can’t help it…if I wanted to. I can’t help it…if I tried…” FRENCHY: Red, what is wrong with you? RED: (flirting) Hey, you wanna go up on the roof and try to see the tracers? FRENCHY: What?!? No, Red! The bullets come down, jackass! RED: Frenchy, how come you always so mean to me? My brother, I understand, but me? FRENCHY: Red, you acting strange. RED: (taking out marijuana blunt and smoking) One of the bums gave me something to celebrate. FRENCHY: Red, you in the 6th grade. Twice. You’re not allowed to get high. RED: Not allowed to do a lot of things. FRENCHY: Oooooh, Imma tell yo daddy. RED: Frenchy, my whole head feels like it’s floating. I gotta get some more of this. Fall 2015 Proscenium 47
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
FRENCHY: You’re going to feel like shit tomorrow. RED: It’s beautiful. Why can’t you be happy for me? FRENCHY: My momma says every time you get high you lose a couple of brain cells. What are you gonna do, boy? You’re already slow. Now you gonna add slow and high? RED: Frenchy, why are you like that? You should be nice to me, girl. You should start being nice to me. FRENCHY: (backing up) Okay, Red. I’ll try. RED: How about you start trying now… Red kisses and gropes Frenchy. She punches him in the face. FRENCHY: Muthafucka what’s wrong with you? RED: That’s all right. (standing up) You ugly any way. FRENCHY: Just go home Red. YELLOW: Dark, midnight-looking-gorilla black bitchFRENCHY: GO HOME!! RED: You stupid, Frenchy. What you saving them goodies for? Ain’t nobody gonna love you. What, you waiting on MJ to marry you? FRENCHY: You don’t know anything. RED: Or maybe you waiting for that red-boned faggot to kiss you. FRENCHY: What? RED: “What?!?” Ahaha, you think Obie’s ever gonna touch you? You been holding out for a faggot all this time. Now who’s retarded?!? FRENCHY: You’re lying, Red. You’re a liar. Frenchy hits Red, who laughs. He stands with his arm wide open, daring her. RED: What you got, huh? Come on, bitch. What you gonna do? Frenchy unloads on him with punches and slaps. Red stands there like a rock. RED: (as he’s getting hit) That it? That all you got for me, Frenchy? Huh, come on. When you’re done it’s my turn. When you’re done it’s my turn, bitch. You better knock me out, Frenchy. Imma beat that face and that pussy when you’re done so you better knock me out. Imma tax that gorilla pussy. Come on with it! Frenchy stops hitting him. Red moves toward her. He fakes like he’s going to punch her and she flinches. He laughs. FRENCHY: RedRED: Shhhhh…one of these days Frenchy…(looks her up and down) It’ll be real quiet. You won’t even see it coming and then...snatch! Hell, you might even like it. Beg for it. You know why? Cause. BEAT RED: Nobody’s gonna ever love you, girl. Red wanders off. More gunfire and Frenchy screams. She runs over to Obadiah’s place. SCENE TWO Frenchy knocks. Obadiah answers the door. OBADIAH: Frenchy what’s wrong? FRENCHY: My mom’s not home and I got locked out. Can I… 48 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: Yeah sure. You ok? They walk into the house. FRENCHY: Nah…nope, I’m cool. I just want some place to hang out for a bit… OBADIAH: In the middle of a riot? FRENCHY: Yeah. OBADIAH: It’s all right to be scared. It’s pretty scaryFRENCHY: -I ain’t scar’red. Okay? Are you scared? OBADIAH: Yeah. FRENCHY: You’re not supposed to say that, Obie. You’re supposed to be a strong black man and say you ain’t scared of anything. That everything’ll be okay. OBADIAH: Who told you that mess? FRENCHY: My mom. OBADIAH: Not your Dad? FRENCHY: Obie, you know my dad left when I was 5. OBADIAH: He was probably scared. FRENCHY: He needed to be a man and take care of his business. That’s what he needed to do. What is wrong with black folk? OBADIAH: I think we’re all scared. FRENCHY: Stop saying that shit, Obie! BEAT. FRENCHY: Scared of what, white people? OBADIAH: Remember when I was going to that fancy private school with all them white kids? FRENCHY: Ugh. Yes. Your sister went there too long and became uppity and all (imitating stuck-up rich woman) ‘oh, how are YOU doing today, mother?’ Stuck-up, siddity littleOBADIAH: -Okay, okay, I get it. No one would want to be my study partner, or work on projects together. But I was the first to be picked on all the teams. FRENCHY: So what? OBADIAH: Before anyone knew me. And they never got to know me. It was like ‘here’s the prize. Talented pet.’ Who’s going to get to take him out? And I would just say ‘Sure. Fine.’ Kids, thought I was tough because I was Black and didn’t say many words. But I didn’t say anything at that school because I was scared that if they got to know me...if they really knew what was inside... FRENCHY: And what is inside, Obie? OBADIAH: ...I don’t know. That became my nickname: SureFine. Cause I said it so much. I didn’t even have my own name any more. Like those kids the cops shoot down in the street every summer. It’s like they don’t even have names any more. FRENCHY: Well when you get married –to a Black woman- and raise your kids they’ll been seen and have beautiful names like Africa and Kenyatta. OBADIAH: We’ll see. FRENCHY: Obie, you are getting married to a Black woman! OBADIAH: Sure…fine. FRENCHY: And not everyone is scared. You know who isn’t scared? OBADIAH: (sighing) Michael Jackson. Fall 2015 Proscenium 49
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
FRENCHY: Exactly! Hanging around Cracker Jack is making you soft. OBADIAH: He says ‘hi’ by the way. FRENCHY: Yeah right. Yellow walks in eating from a bag of food. Obadiah is startled. OBADIAH: Yellow! Stop walking in my house unannounced. You scared the shit outta me. YELLOW: Sorry. OBADIAH: Well, I see you’ve been having a good time. YELLOW: Yeah, w-went shopping. You w-want some? FRENCHY: We don’t eat stolen food around here, Yellow! And when is this shooting gonna stop?!? Sometimes I hate black people. OBADIAH: How can you hate your own family? FRENCHY: When your family betrays you it’s easy. By the way…how’s the Atari? OBADIAH: How would we know? FRENCHY: I thought Jack and you all be playing Atari all the time. That’s what Red be saying. OBADIAH: Jack doesn’t have an Atari. He has an NES. FRENCHY: What? YELLOW: Nin-ni-niOBADIAH: It’s coming soon… FRENCHY: I’m gonna be dead by the time he gets this out… YELLOW: Ni-ni…Nintendo. It’s Japanese. FRENCHY: Japanese?!? Sounds stupid. (pause) So Cracker Jack don’t even have Frogger or Pong? OBADIAH: Nah. But he does have Donkey Kong. FRENCHY: Well lucky you. OBADIAH: Look, Frenchy I know we don’t hang out as much as we used to, but...things are changing. FRENCHY: What’s changed? I haven’t changed. Yellow hasn’t changed. He is still retarded. Red is still a felon and Black folks still burning down their own homes and stores. What’s changed? OBADIAH: Me. FRENCHY: How? YELLOW: Yeah, how? OBADIAH: It’s hard to explain. FRENCHY: I know how you’ve changed. You don’t got my back any more. OBADIAH: That’s cause you haven’t been asking me to get your back. YELLOW: S-sign the p-papers. FRENCHY: Naw, forget it. OBADIAH: What papers? FRENCHY: I had this idea but since Red didn’t back me up and nobody else did…I just gave up on it. OBADIAH: What was the idea? FRENCHY: I had a petition to get Jack kicked out of the club. OBADIAH: Then everything might return to normal? Yeah, I like that. FRENCHY/YELLOW: WHAT?!? 50 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: I mean things have gotten kind of crazy, right? FRENCHY: Yeah. OBADIAH: And it’s not Jack’s fault but maybe this whole rainbow coalition, peace-and-love thing isn’t gonna work. FRENCHY: Yeah, I mean I don’t have nothing against white folks. Obadiah and Yellow skeptically look at each and the audience. FRENCHY: You got, um…Abraham Lincoln, Wonder Woman, Ronald McDonald… Mrs. Buttersworth! They’re cool. OBADIAH: Sure. And maybe things would return back to the way they used to be. YELLOW: W-what about the…Ni-ni-ni-ni… FRENCHY: O Lawd. OBADIAH: The Nintendo? YELLOW: Yeah. OBADIAH: Sorry, Yellow. But we all gotta make sacrifices. FRENCHY: I was wrong about you. Maybe you do got a sista’s back? How are we gonna kick him out? OBADIAH: We’ll just ask him. FRENCHY: Obie, you can’t just walk in white folks house and say ‘hey, we’d like to take away your power.’ What’s wrong with you? I thought you were supposed to be the smart one. OBADIAH: I can get Jack to do it. FRENCHY: Well even if you could, -which I doubt- what about the Michael Jackson mural? His Dad is paying for it. OBADIAH: Jack given away most of the pieces so it’s not like his Dad can take his money back. FRENCHY: So the fan club is back together again? OBADIAH: Absolutely. FRENCHY: I gotta tell my mom’s. She’s gonna be so happy. We are taking back Michael Jackson! OBADIAH: I’m ready to do this. FRENCHY: See you guys, later. And Obie, are you still scared? OBADIAH: Girl, I ain’t scared of nothing. SCENE THREE A few pieces of MJ’s face are brought back into the mural. JACK: People have already started turning in their pieces of the mural. After the riot a lot of community leaders thought this could be a fun thing to do. Unify people and bring them together. The riots were scary. And confusing. Why would people shoot and burn down their own stuff? My Dad says it’s because Black people don’t know any better but to act like monkeys. But I know that’s not true and for the first time I stood up to him. I said ‘Obie is smart. He wouldn’t burn down his house.’ And my Dad that’s because Obie is half-white, and if he was all Black he would’ve been out there looting like the rest of them…’ and then he said a word that I know you’re not supposed to say. Even though my Mom says she likes it here, my Dad said moving here was a big mistake. And the only place to get groceries at night is Nasty Man’s store and my father refuses to let her enter an establishment that has pickled pig feet floating in a jar. Fall 2015 Proscenium 51
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
But if we didn’t move here I would’ve never met Obie. He’s so...my mom saw him working at the mural and said he was very articulate and very clean. OBADIAH: (entering) Okay, I got us some salt n’ vinegar chips, and candy apples from Nasty Man’s. JACK: Did he touch the candy apples with his hands? OBADIAH: Afraid so. JACK: Ew…his cooties are going to be slimed on it. OBADIAH: It’ll still taste good. Where are your parents? JACK: My Dad is working late and my Mom had to drive across town to get milk. OBADIAH: Why didn’t she just go down a block to Nasty Man’s? JACK: I don’t know. Hey Obie, I got a surprise! (reveals tape) Another one of my Dad’s videos came in. “Behind the Green Door.” I wonder what’s behind it? You wanna watch? OBADIAH: Maybe. I think a few friends from the neighborhood wanted to stop by and talk to you Jack. JACK: I’m tired of talking about the mural. Besides we got time. It’ll be fun. You want to, right? Come on…it’s just touching and I like the way you feel when I’m…when we touch. Jack puts in tape and grabs blanket. He drapes it over himself and Obadiah as they watch the tape. Jack and Obadiah look straight ahead as they reach for each other under the blanket. JACK: (whispering) Can I… OBADIAH: Sure. Fine. Jack lifts the blanket up over their heads. OBADIAH: Can I… JACK: Yes. The blanket shifts and squirms on the floor. YELLOW walks in eating candy. He looks at the blanket and waits. He eats and watches. Then he notices what’s on the screen and becomes hypnotized. Yellow drops some of the candy on the blanket. He picks it up, gobbles it down, and continues watching the screen. YELLOW: HEY! Are y-youObadiah and Jack explode from under the blanket half-clothed. They scramble around to put on clothes. OBADIAH: YELLOW!!! JACK: OH SHIT! How did he get in here? OBADIAH: He’s a thief. How do you think he got in? YELLOW: This the n-new game on Ni-ni-niJACK: No, it’s not Nintendo! Oh my God, if my parents find out ObieOBADIAH: Jack, stay cool. JACK: He can’t tell anybody. OBADIAH: He’s not. Yellow, you’re not going to tell anyone right? Yellow shrugs his shoulders. JACK: What? What does that mean? Is that a ‘no?’ Is he saying no? OBADIAH: He wants something. JACK: What? You want some of my Michael Jackson tapes, Yellow? The mural! I’ll give you 52 Proscenium Fall 2015
the eyes. You can do whatever you want with it. Yellow shrugs his shoulder. JACK: Now he’s got nothing to say. Do you want to wear my Thriller jacket? I’ll let you wear it for a week. OBADIAH: He wants the tape. JACK: No way! That’s my Dad’s tape. He’ll kill me. Yellow shrugs his shoulder. JACK: Wait! Wait, okay. Yellow, you don’t even have a VCR. You gotta have one of these boxes to make these tapes, run. It makes no sense to give you this, right? Yellow starts walking away. JACK: Wait, Yellow! Just wait and...Obie, what should I do? OBADIAH: Give him the tape. JACK: But...this isn’t fair! Jack takes the tape out and puts it in a dust jacket. He hands it to Yellow. JACK: What are we gonna do? OBADIAH: We? JACK: Yeah! We’re in this together, right? DOOR KNOCK. Obadiah thinks for a moment while Yellow exits and re-enters with Frenchy. JACK: Frenchy, what are you doing here? What is everyone doing here?! FRENCHY: You know why I’m here. JACK: No, I really don’t. Do I have to pay her off too?!? FRENCHY: You don’t have to pay me nothing. I just came for what you owe me. Obie is taking care of things. OBADIAH: I was going to get to it. FRENCHY: Well then get to it. OBADIAH: Jack, Frenchy thought it would be a good idea to have you take a step back from the fan club and the mural. FRENCHY: We kicking you out. JACK: You’re kicking me out of an un-official fan club? For what? FRENCHY: You been all up in our business, taking over shit. But you ain’t taking over jack, Jack! JACK: That’s not true. My Dad was only trying to help your little project. FRENCHY: We don’t need his help. JACK: Yeah, you do! FRENCHY: We got our own help. The Black community can help itself. JACK: You people are burning down your stores and homes! What do you mean you can help yourself? You’ve been here forever and you can’t even put up a stupid mural of Michael Jackson. OBADIAH: Jack, that’s not fair. JACK: It’s not fair? What does fair have to do with it?!? Red stole from my mom’s car last week. And I can’t say anything because then everyone would turn against me. Is that fair? FRENCHY: It was reparations. JACK: Give me a break! Obie, are you listening to this stupid shit? This is why my dad says Fall 2015 Proscenium 53
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
Blacks can’t get ahead. You burn your own house down and then complain about the smoke. You steal and then want hand-outs. OBADIAH: What do you mean by ‘you?’ I’m not stealing anything. JACK: Oh, I didn’t mean…you. You’re different. You know that, right? OBADIAH: No, Jack. I’m not different. FRENCHY: Thank you, Obie. JACK: You’re not like her or Yellow. FRENCHY: Divide and conquer. This is what the enemy does. JACK: This is stupid! The ‘enemy.’ I’m not the enemy. I’m just a friend. FRENCHY: The enemy always starts off as a friend. Even Hitler was a few people’s friends before he got in charge. OBADIAH: Okay, Frenchy. That’s not cool. Jack is all right. FRENCHY: Well I guess someone has had a change of heart. Guess Cracker Jack ain’t getting kicked out. Is he, Obie? OBADIAH: Frenchy, we just need to talk about it. We can work this out. FRENCHY: I ain’t working a damn thing out with Cracker Jack. JACK: She’s never been fair. Since the day I moved in, she’s hated me. And I never did anything to her. FRENCHY: You stole from me! JACK: What did I steal? Frenchy looks at Obadiah. FRENCHY: You stole what I really cared about. JACK: Your dumb fan club? FRENCHY: Nah. It wasn’t the club. It was what was in the fan club. JACK: What is she talking about? OBADIAH: I don’t know. FRENCHY: I guess Red was right about you, Obie. SCENE FOUR OBADIAH: (holding paper) When I first heard the news about Michael Jackson, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I drink Pepsi every day. Everyone was down for days. But I think we are all missing an important lesson. This is yet another reason why you shouldn’t have a jheri curl. It’s like pouring gasoline on your head. And it itches. I heard he went up like a roman candle. Burned away the top layer of his skin. They say your skin is the body’s largest organ. What happens when you lose all of it that quickly? The doctors said it was just the top and they can patch him up with some plastic surgery. I feel bad for Michael. I hope he doesn’t die. He should at least get a lifetime supply of Pepsi. JACK: Why would you put something on your head that can catch on fire? It seems like pretty bad decision. I don’t put anything on my hair. I just comb it in the morning and go. I hear that if you have this thing called a jheri curl you gotta spend hours every day in front of a mirror spraying juice on it. I asked Nasty Man what’s in the juice and he said ‘pretty little white boys who ask too many questions.’ Well that was rude. And every time I ask someone at school they tease me. Why are people so sensitive about hair? It’s just like fingernails to me. I don’t know 54 Proscenium Fall 2015
why Michael got rid of his Afro in the first place. FRENCHY: I’ve written a letter to Michael Jackson every day he’s been in the hospital. I figured maybe if I keep sending letters, one will get through. My mom says that he don’t even read the letters. He has someone do it for him. But I know he’ll read at least one. What else does he have to do but sit around in the hospital. In the last letter I included this: an afro pick. Get rid of the juice Michael and get back to your roots. RED: I heard when he caught fire he just kept on dancing. OBADIAH: Wow. RED: Dancing through fire. And he didn’t stop. They had to tackle him to the ground and pour water on him. Who knows? Maybe if nobody was looking he would’ve kept on dancing in the fire. I’d like to die like that: dancing in fire. JACK: On the plus side, everyone has gotten excited about the mural again. A reporter from a paper even came out to talk to me. I was listed as the president of the Opa Locka Michael Jackson fan club. I know that must’ve made Frenchy upset but I don’t care. It was cool to see my name in the paper. OBADIAH: Jack was in the paper. Like the whole mural was his idea. I guess it’s in print now. Can’t do anything to change it. My parents were right. It really is all about the golden rule. SCENE FIVE Obadiah is hanging out at Jack’s place. OBADIAH: Jack, I’ve been thinking about somethingJACK: Obie: I have a surprise. I want to give you the eyes. OBADIAH: What? I thought you were saving them for someone...special. JACK: (hands eyes to him) I was. OBADIAH: This is great. I can give these to Frenchy and thenJACK: Obie, no... Jack snatches the eyes back. He starts to walk away and then calms down. He switches the conversation. JACK: Did you see the article in the paper? OBADIAH: Yeah, I didn’t know you had been elected president of the fan club. JACK: Ha! Yeah the reporter made a mistake. OBADIAH: My Mom said papers print corrections on mistakes they make. JACK: Okay. OBADIAH: If it was a mistake, can’t you call and have them print a corrected copy. JACK: I guess, but who cares? It’s exciting to have the mural in the paper. My Dad said they can even throw a big party when it’s time for it to be shown. OBADIAH: Okay, Jack. But listen to meJACK: Oh, and don’t worry about the tape. He was pissed off so I just told him Red stole it. OBADIAH: Jack! You can’t do that. JACK: Hey, do you have a better idea? Obie this gets us outta trouble. And my Dad never liked Red and knows that stole from us. OBADIAH: What if he calls the police? JACK: He’s not. My Dad said he’s given up and there’s no point. Some people are beyond help. Fall 2015 Proscenium 55
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
OBADIAH: So all’s well that ends well. JACK: Yeah and he still likes you. And we can still play together. Even though you didn’t stick up for me. OBADIAH: What do you mean I didn’t stick up for you? JACK: Against Frenchy. You know she’s always hated me but you still pretend like it’s okay. But if I did that to her, you wouldn’t be my friend. OBADIAH: I’ve known her longer. JACK: But I’m closer to you. OBADIAH: No, you’re not. JACK: Yeah, I stick up for you. My mom didn’t want me hanging out with you. When we first moved in and my Dad called you ‘a name’ I told him that you were different. OBADIAH: What did your Dad call me? JACK: I don’t remember. But he was just angry and I stuck up for you. Even my mom gets quiet when he’s like that. But I said something. And now he likes you. Have you ever done something like that for me? OBADIAH: I appreciate it, Jack. JACK: Then how come you make me feel bad about a silly title in a newspaper story. Why can’t you be happy? OBADIAH: Cause I messed up. But you can help me fix things. JACK: How? OBADIAH: The mural. Let me have the eyes. I can give them to Frenchy. Maybe then she won’t be mad. JACK: NO! OBADIAH: Why not? I thought you said you were saving them for a special person. JACK: Yeah, but not her. OBADIAH: Says you? JACK: Yeah, says me! OBADIAH looks at the eyes. OBADIAH: And what if I were to just take it? JACK: But it’s not your’s. You’d be stealing. OBADIAH: So what if I did? After all, isn’t that what you expect me to do? Isn’t that the way I’m supposed to be. JACK: You’re not a thief. OBADIAH: (getting in his face) Isn’t that what your Dad thinks I am? Don’t you think I am too? What are you gonna do, Cracker Jack. You’re gonna fight me? JACK: Obie, what are you doing? OBADIAH: I’m stealing. That’s what we do right? We steal and then ask for handouts! That’s what you said! JACK: But…I didn’t mean it. OBADIAH: I’m gonna give this to Frenchy. She’s gonna be cool and everything is gonna return to normal. OBADIAH snatches the eyes from the mural and starts to leave. JACK: That’s not true, Obie. I’m your friend. 56 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: No you’re not. JACK: I AM! Look let’s just have some fun. My dad has another tape. OBADIAH: No more tapes, no more Nintendo, no more. You’re not good for me. You’re making me change and I don’t like it. JACK: I didn’t make you change. You were like this all along. OBADIAH: I was happier before you came. Things were simple. You guys stayed over there and the we lived over here. Red and Yellow, and Frenchy and we all were together. JACK: OBIE, THEY’RE NOT LIKE YOU! OBADIAH: Jack, some things you can’t be a part ofJACK: OBIE, THEY’RE JUST A STUPID, BUNCH OF WORTHLESS NIGGERS!!! BEAT. OBADIAH: What? JACK: They’re not like you. You’re different. OBADIAH: If you tell your Dad about me taking the eyes, I’ll tell everyone about the tapes and what your dad does to you. And then your family will have to move again. OBADIAH exits with the eyes. SCENE SIX Street corner outside Obadiah’s home. FRENCHY: What do you mean we can’t come over? YELLOW: …his m-mother said we’re n-not allowed. FRENCHY: Not allowed? Why? It’s been a week since he showed it. I need to see it. YELLOW: H-heard C-Cracker Jack has a new tape player. FRENCHY: It ain’t the same thing. What’s wrong with Obie? Leaving us out here. That ain’t right. YELLOW: …wuh…wuh…word. FRENCHY: That’s wrong. Yellow go ask him why? YELLOW: Nuh…nuh…nah. I can’t. FRENCHY: Why not? YELLOW: I…g-got his s-sister’s bike. FRENCHY: Forget them. Tired of going over to they stupid house anyway. Think they all that just because they got a VCR. When Frenchy Carter grows up, Imma get ten VCRs. Big fat ones, like Zenith. YELLOW: …yeah… FRENCHY: And they ain’t gonna say shit. Have my own private screenings. My own special shows…my own family. YELLOW: …yuh…yuh..yo, I h-heard dat. FRENCHY: Ewwww. Why you talking like that? YELLOW: G-got a t-tape by R-Run D…M…C… FRENCHY: Sounds stupid. BEAT. FRENCHY: Let me borrow it from you? (Yellow shakes his head) Fall 2015 Proscenium 57
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
Why not? You probably stole it. YELLOW: D-did not. FRENCHY: You and your brother are going to burn in hell. Bunch of retarded-ass felons. YELLOW: Fuh…fuh…fuck you…Frenchy. FRENCHY: High-yellow retarded ass. Think you special cause you light skinned? YELLOW: Yup. FRENCHY: Fuck you then. I’m Black and beautiful. Just like Michael Jackson. When I grow up I’m going to be his queen. Then I won’t have to go over to Obie’s house. Fuck this, I’m gonna get a errenge soda and some pop rocks. Frenchy exits. Yellow follows after her. YELLOW: C-careful! Duh..don’t m-mix them together. F-Frenchy? C-can I ha-ve a sip? SCENE SEVEN Frenchy walks by Obadiah on her way to the store. She sucks her teeth and keeps moving. OBADIAH: Frenchy? FRENCHY: …yeah? OBADIAH: We’re having a memorial service of “Thriller” at my house. Maybe raise some money for Michael and his skin that got burned off. We’ve raised 75 cents and three watermelon Now and Laters. Wanna show up? FRENCHY: Nah…I don’t need to see it. Cracker Jack can take my place. OBADIAH: Why are you acting stank? FRENCHY: Don’t tell me about acting stank. Your whole style is stank. Thinking you’re so big and bad just because you’re the only one with a VCR. OBADIAH: I do not. FRENCHY: Then why are you going to shut us out? OBADIAH: I had to. FRENCHY: Why? OBADIAH: I...I was busy. FRENCHY: You busy a lot. OBADIAH: And what if I am? Is that a problem? FRENCHY: Nah, I guess you can do whatever. OBADIAH: Damn, Frenchy. Why are you making this so difficult? FRENCHY: I’m being difficult? Fine, then let me make it easy for you. Seeya later! OBADIAH: I got something for you. FRENCHY: Keep it. OBADIAH: Frenchy this is big. This is what you really wanted. FRENCHY: Obie, you don’t even know what I really want. OBADIAH: It’s about the mural. FRENCHY: Oh, you mean the mural created by your friend Cracker Jack, president of the MJ fan club? OBADIAH: Yeah. And he said he was sorry about the article. The reporter got his title wrong. FRENCHY: Whatever. I don’t care any more. OBADIAH: I was going to give you this from the mural. 58 Proscenium Fall 2015
FRENCHY: Obie, fuck the mural! Damn! It’s ruined anyway. Cracker Jack and his Dad, you, and this whole city ruined myOBADIAH: -stop blaming him, okay? You blame me, you blame Red, you blame Cracker Jack. You’re always blaming people. You love to be pretend like you had nothing to do with it. FRENCHY: Oh, you telling me about myself like you’re the HNIC. OBADIAH: Maybe I am. FRENCHY: Setting all these rules like you the head nigga in charge. I’m the HNIC. And I’m quitting this. Goodbye, Obie. Don’t call, don’t stop by, when you see me in school don’t say hi cause I won’t be saying shit back to you. OBADIAH: Frenchy…this is the last time sharing this. You’re gonna miss out. We won’t be a family any more. FRENCHY: A family? Where did you get that from? OBADIAH: (exiting) Nevermind. FRENCHY: Go get Cracker Jack to look at it with you. You and your cracker friend licking each other… OBADIAH: What? FRENCHY: …like he’s vanilla and you’re chocolate ice cream. OBADIAH: Shut the fuck up, Frenchy. FRENCHY: Yellow told me you were trying to lick Jack. Trying to lick the white right off him. OBADIAH: He didn’t. FRENCHY: He did. He said youze a faggot. Figured that. Well I don’t need any yellow faggots in my life. BEAT. OBADIAH: Forget you. I can hate you too. Buck tooth, snaggle tooth, charcoal nigger bitch. You think anyone will ever love your ugly midnight ass? You wish you looked like me, you project monkey. (he laughs) And you talk about Michael Jackson marrying you? Only if the fire burned his eyes out and his nose away so he wouldn’t have to see your chimp-ugly face and smell your funky daisy dukes. Michael Jackson ain’t never going to marry you because all you is, is some dark ghetto trash nigger bitch. SCENE EIGHT CITY COMMISSIONER presents plaque to Jack in front of the mural. They laugh and grin. CITY COMMISSIONER: As your city commissioner, I welcome you to this wonderful event. We are so happy to be here today to honor a national treasure: Michael Jackson. And the city of Opa Locka has taken special efforts to make sure Mr. Jackson’s image lasts forever with this beautiful new mural completed thanks to the efforts of our own sons and daughters. And especially due to the dedication of Ron and his son, Wes, who is –as I understand it- president of the Opa Locka Michael Jackson fan club. You must be pretty proud of yourself, young man. JACK: Um...thanks. CITY COMMISSIONER: How does it feel to have this finally complete? JACK: Good. CITY COMMISSIONER: So you’re happy? JACK: Yeah. Fall 2015 Proscenium 59
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
CITY COMMISSIONER: (aside to Jack) Look, kid give me a break here. JACK: A break of what? CITY COMMISSIONER: Just say something. We got local news here taping. (back to crowd) So any words for us today? JACK: My Dad said he believes the mural might give people hope. CITY COMMISSIONER: Yes, yes indeed son. We could all use a little hope. JACK: My Dad said that the reason why people like Michael Jackson is because he’s a real American. And because he worked hard nobody sees him as just Black. They see him as an American who keeps getting better every year. And if you…I mean if we just stopped complaining and worked harder we would be just like Michael Jackson. And there would be less complaining and asking for handouts in the…in the community. CITY COMMISSIONER: Well! That is a very…interesting statement. And I’m sure we are all going to digest that thoroughly, Wes. I know I am. JACK: My Dad said people in this neighborhood should smile more. And not look so angry. Because when you look angry no one wants to give you a job and then you’re stuckCITY COMMISSIONER: -a big hand for Wes, everyone. Yes, kids say the darndest things, don’t they? JACK: Actually my Dad said that. CITY COMMISSIONER: Well the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Yes, Blacks are certainly familiar with the “Strange Fruit” that falls from the American tree. And your Dad’s words just helped remind us of that. Let’s clap it up for Wes and the Opa Locka fan club. In fact let’s have some of your co-partners up here. I understand there were some others who helped you out. Do you wanna invite them up on stage with you? Jack shrugs his shoulders. CITY COMMISSIONER: Let’s get at least one other helper up here. A young man named Obie was your assistant. Come on up, young man. Obadiah reluctantly walks up on stage and stands on the other side of the City Commissioner. CITY COMMISSIONER: There he is. Such a fine looking young man. And we have some local businesses I also want to thank for sponsoringFRENCHY marches up on the stage. CITY COMMISSIONER: Yes, young lady is there a problem? FRENCHY: Well…(losing a bit of nerve)…well…I wanted…well…well… CITY COMMISSIONER: Yes, well well well. There will be time for individual pictures with the mural after the ceremony. So you can just go and sit down. Right now. FRENCHY: But I’m in the club. I’m the president. CITY COMMISSIONER: (laughs) Well I believe Jack is the president. JACK: Actually… FRENCHY: I am. And…well I want to stand on this stage. Because this is my project. This is my mural, this is my town, this is my Michael. CITY COMMISSIONER: ‘My Michael.’ Isn’t she just precious? (aside to her) Look, you lil’ raggedy nappy-headed fool: you better sit your ass back down with your Mama and quit fucking wit’ my hustle! (back to audience) Kids say the darndest things, don’t they? Now let’s get you off the stage, lil girl60 Proscenium Fall 2015
OBADIAH: -Let her stay. She helped out. CITY COMMISSIONER: Oh. Okay, All right, Miss Well Well Well. I guess you can stay up here. Lord knows you could use some manners but you can’t help how you was raised. Just take a few steps back. Now take a few more. Good. Okay, don’t get in the first picture. Or the second or third. That’s reserved for the big boys, right fellas? City Commissioner grabs Obadiah and Jack as cameras flash. Frenchy watches all her glory, dreams, and efforts go to others. Lights shift to Frenchy. FRENCHY: It was a sloppy job. My grandma makes ceramics down at the community center and she said the mural didn’t look right. The artist they hired was a friend of Ron’s and never had any experience doing ceramic murals. He didn’t burn the tiles in the fire at the right temperature. And when it rained a week later all the color dripped off. But the check had cleared and the artist was gone. We were left with this ghost-white MJ. Some people said it looked more like Andrew Jackson than Michael. Everyone pitched in and repainted it. Then when it rained again and the paint ran away from Michael, a smaller group of people got together the following weekend and painted it. But after a few months people just got tired of repainting the mural. When the next riots hit, some rocks swiped the top of the mural and parts of Michael’s forehead disappeared. Then a hurricane took off his chin. And pieces of the hair chipped away. Some taggers started putting their gang logos in the gaps, promoters were pasting little stickers for upcoming shows on him and pretty soon Michael’s face was something else. Ads, Bugs Bunny, malt liquor, lucky numbers, and dirty jokes. The only thing left were the eyes. BEAT. FRENCHY: And so one day when it was Christmas in August and the streets were hot with tear gas and smoke, I went down to the mural. I stood in front of these pair of eyes. And I remembered how things used to be on this block. My old friends and all those songs we used to listen to back in the day. I remembered all this. BEAT. FRENCHY: And I smashed each eye until they were empty little holes. Next week those holes were filled with promos for the new summer movies. No one even noticed. SCENE NINE OBADIAH: 1984 disintegrated in little pieces before my eyes. Like bits of sky or sun burnt skin. Bit by bit it all fell down. The neighborhood changed. Latinos and Whites moved in, raising the property values, which meant black families were forced to move out. Fast food, grocery stores and delis arrived. And so did crack and AIDS. Friends and neighbors we had known for years started dying. Their mouths would shrivel up and their eyes would bulge out of their heads and a desperate panting would come across their face as if they were saying ‘save me.’ But we could only watch. My cousin Francine started using heroin and became one of the first women in America to die from AIDS. The doctors panicked and didn’t know what to do with her. They said her body just quit. The autopsy said it was pneumonia. VCRs went on sale that summer and became the hot Christmas item that year. Along with the Apple, if you could afford the luxury of a personal computer. Run DMC’s record became the first rap album to go gold and the beginning of a new attitude in America. Fall 2015 Proscenium 61
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
BEAT. OBADIAH: Red became a professional criminal, known for pistol whipping and knifing his victims. He was the meanest man in town until the police shot him dead for trying to rob a McDonald’s. Shortly afterward, his brother, Yellow, just disappeared one day. Frenchy got pregnant. And then got pregnant again. And then got pregnant for the third time before she was 18. Years of living amongst us turned Jack into a Republican political consultant who believed in trickle-down Reaganomics and the end of affirmative action. I think he’s still angry at us. Maybe we should have learned his name. Maybe he should have learned ours. I discovered what that strange feeling was and buried it like a ticking bomb. Then there’s Michael Jackson. He recovered from the fire, but he wasn’t the same. Maybe it was the trauma of almost being burned to death, maybe it was the money, or maybe it was because the world was crumbling so fast. He became suspicious of everything. Overly-protective and even more shy and quiet. The changes were slow and each time we saw our hero, we recognized him a little bit less. It looked like he was dying. LIGHTS SHIFT. Obadiah looks at mural. OBADIAH: Some of my friends said he was on crack. Others said he looked so skinny and pale because he got AIDS. But the truth was a lot more painful. He was the one who was killing himself, piece by piece. It sounds silly but to a child living in Opa Locka, it felt like he was trying to kill me too. Bit by bit he was poisoning us. And so we killed him first. In our tape decks, in our minds, on our radio stations we killed him. We let him fade from our memories so that it was easier to laugh at him. Make jokes about this strange man with a high-pitched voice. This grotesque, pale Tiny Tim with a button nose and razor-thin lips. And then one bright calm day, I sat down to have lunch when I got the news. Michael Jackson. Dead. BEAT. OBADIAH: My God...I haven’t even thought about him in… Obadiah tries to eat, but can’t. OBADIAH: I walked out of the restaurant and down the street. It was such a nice day. People were dining outside in sidewalk cafes whispering ‘well you know Michael’ and ‘it is so sad.’ Businessmen were staring at the iPhone screens in the middle of the crosswalk. And I fought the overwhelming urge to run. Why did I care so much? Who cares? Millions of people die every year. And where the hell was I walking to? My feet carried my body as my thoughts drifted. I haven’t listened to a Michael Jackson album in…wow… Lights shift to Yvonne “Frenchy” Clark’s House. Clarence, aka YELLOW, is putting on his jacket. He speaks slow and soft to avoid stuttering too much. They are grown and married. FRENCHY: You’re leaving now? YELLOW: I want to go down to the hall. FRENCHY: Why? YELLOW: For the mural. P-people will be gathering there. FRENCHY: Clarence, no one in this town even remembers that dumb mural. YELLOW: We do. FRENCHY: It doesn’t matter. There’s nothing left of it. YELLOW: How do you know? FRENCHY: I just do. 62 Proscenium Fall 2015
YELLOW: We’ll see about that. FRENCHY: What do you mean ‘we?’ YELLOW: You’re coming. FRENCHY: Clarence, I have to clean up around here. Make sure the Ernest does his homework. I just can’t go downYELLOW: -Baby, we’re saying goodbye to Michael. Can’t you spare a minute? BEAT. FRENCHY: Wait for me. I just got to fix myself up. YELLOW: No, baby. You’re beautiful natural. FRENCHY: You’re just saying that so I won’t take forever to get ready. YELLOW: Yup. But also cause it’s true. You’re my chocolate chip. FRENCHY: Okay but let me do my hair and put on some makeup. YELLOW: No, baby. Come as you are. Just as you are. They exit. SCENE TEN Setting: Opa Locka City Hall. Mural. Jack stands there holding a flashlight into the space where the mural should be. Frenchy and Yellow enter. JACK: This was it. FRENCHY: Excuse me, sir… JACK: It was right here. The mural was on this building. FRENCHY: I didn’t think anyone would be down here. JACK: There were a few other people who stopped by. But that’s been about it. I can’t believe it. I haven’t thought about Michael Jackson in… FRENCHY: Years. YELLOW: Decades. JACK: 1984. That’s when we did this. YELLOW: We? JACK: Yes, I lived around the block. I’m Wes. YELLOW: Wes. Wes? Wait…are you... JACK: Cracker Jack. YELLOW: Honey this is Cracker Jack…I mean, Jack. Well, I mean... FRENCHY: Oh, cool. Been a while. You still live here? JACK: O God no! I mean, no. My family, we moved a long time ago to…to another part of town where… YELLOW: Totally understand. JACK: Yeah, back then it was just, ah, it was just really… FRENCHY: Agreed…it was just really...something. JACK: And you’re Frenchy? FRENCHY: Yvonne. (pointing to spot on mural) YELLOW: Clarence. (Jack looks confused) Yellow. JACK: You’re right. The mural was on this building. JACK: Oh. I can’t tell where though. Fall 2015 Proscenium 63
Defacing Michael Jackson Aurin Squire
FRENCHY: Here it is. Right here. You can still see the outline of... Frenchy gets a bit emotional. JACK: Is something wrong? YELLOW: No, nothing. She was just a b-big fan… JACK: So was I, but I guess you win the competition of who was the biggest fan Michael Jackson fan in Opa Locka. FRENCHY: What? JACK: He is yours again. FRENCHY: Yeah, he’s ours again. Now that he’s dead, we get to have him back. YELLOW: Honey. OBADIAH: (entering) Wow, there’s actually people down here. FRENCHY: Obie? OBADIAH: Yvonne! (they hug) Yellow? YELLOW: Clarence. I left Yellow behind a long time ago. OBADIAH: Of course. What happened to our mural? FRENCHY: I destroyed it. YELLOW: Honey, what are you talking about? JACK: From what I remember the mural deteriorated and the city just didn’t keep good maintenance on it. And there were all those riots and graffiti artists. OBADIAH: Wes? JACK: Hi, Obie. Looking good. How are things going? OBADIAH: I was eating lunch when I found out and I just spaced. I’ve just been walking around the past few hours. Obadiah goes up to the mural. Frenchy follows him and they share a moment. Jack and Yellow go off to the side and talk quietly. FRENCHY: Obie, the eyes were right there. They reminded me of your eyes. See. OBADIAH: Yvon, you didn’t really destroy it? FRENCHY: His eyes were like black pearls. BEAT. JACK: Well…this is great catching up with you guys. We should all hang out some time? OBADIAH: Ummm…sure, I guess we could all… FRENCHY: Stop being phony. YELLOW: Yvon. FRENCHY: You know we won’t ever do that. After that year we all hated each other. But I am glad to see you all tonight. Even you Wes. JACK: Thanks. FRENCHY: So as the president of the Opa Locka Michael Jackson fan club let’s just say a few words and leave. That year is gone and so is…(sighs and points at the empty space where the mural was) I’ll start. (to mural) Michael: I love you, baby. You were our Black prince. Beautiful, graceful, magical. And now you’re gone. I will always love you. Goodbye my beautiful prince. YELLOW: Michael. You were my brother and my heart. I wouldn’t have made it through my childhood without your voice. And every time I hear your music, I think of my brother, Ernest. 64 Proscenium Fall 2015
Most people knew him as...as ‘Red.’ He was h-half of me. You were the other half. Now you’re both gone. So I guess that ‘me’ is gone forever. Goodbye brother. JACK: Michael: there will never be another. I always wanted to dance like you, sing like you. You were so powerful and gentle. And even though I’m an old white dude…you made me feel like I was in your family. And you made me apart of this family right here. Goodbye Michael. OBADIAH: Michael. Brother. I am so sorry but I have to say this: I hated you for a long time. For a long, long time. You hurt me so bad. You betrayed me. But…I hated only as much as I first loved. And I thought you betrayed my family only because I betrayed them first. So I want to apologize to everyone here and to you. I don’t have any more hatred in my heart and I don’t have any more nostalgia for the good ol’ days of 1984. That was a long time ago. You can rest now. I love you brother. FRENCHY: I guess this is the last meeting of the Michael Jackson fan club. Obie, do you have a closing treasury report? OBADIAH: I think I still have a few watermelon Now and Laters. But the treasury closes with its initial seed grant of $1. Paid for and returned to the president. OBADIAH hands her $1. FRENCHY: If that’s the last financial report then this meeting is adjourned. I dissolve this organization, our constitution, and our ties. Goodbye...family. OBADIAH: We lost our Michael. The hero we first saw ourselves in. And the one we first erased. Our tormentor and our gentle prince. The prodigal son who left us and the one who came back home. Our brother. And that time, that neighborhood, and that piece of our childhood: it all crumbled. Like pieces of the sky. Disintegrating into air and light. A memory. The neighborhood slowly fades away into darkness and oblivion.
END OF PLAY
Fall 2015 Proscenium 65
My Birthday Party Wei He
My Birthday Party by
66â€‚Proscenium Fall 2015
A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright Wei He is a bilingual playwright and fiction writer who grew up in Inner Mongolia, China and now lives in Cleveland, Ohio. She holds an MFA degree in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. Her fiction, poetry and plays in English and Mandarin have been published internationally in the United States, Mainland China and Taiwan. Her screenplay, Paper Dragonfly, will be published by China Film Press next year. And she is proud of her secret recipe of Sand-Wei-ch. What was your inspiration for this play? I got the idea for the story on my twenty-sixth birthday. I was going through a weird phase back then. I was experiencing something strange yet familiar, something that I couldn’t give a name to. So I wrote this play to help me figure out what I was doing with my life, to help me survive youth. I felt very close to the main character. It was like witnessing the life of an imaginary friend through the ten years between age twenty-six to thirty-six.
simply where we meet him. And if it’s good, we’re reminded that we are in the theatre and we like being there.” What do you want the audience to come away with? The play received a public reading in Buffalo in August. After the reading, an audience member told me the play made him think about what happened to the person who did not make the current choice that was made. The decisions that were not made would veer back into one’s life. That sounds like a good answer to this question. What projects are you working on now? I am working with a composer on an opera right now. Our last collaboration went very well. We’re trying something very different this time. I’m also revising a full-length play about a thief. The story is set in China, but the play is in English.
What playwrights have inspired you? I’ll just list a few names here: Chekhov, Harold Also, at that time, I was obsessed with mono- Pinter, Annie Baker, Will Eno, Wallace Shawn, logues “Thom Pain” by Will Eno, “The Fe- Paula Vogel and two Chinese playwrights, Guo ver” by Wallace Shawn, etc. In a monologue, Shixing and Ho Jiping. the entire world is constructed through the lens of the narrator. The narrator’s conceived reali- What advice do you have for playwrights ty is the only reality audiences have access to. starting out? Though the line between the character’s interi- I consider myself a playwright who just startority and external world is blurry, the narrator’s ed out. The advice I would give myself at this impressions of the invisible characters convey point is simply to keep trying. No matter what distilled images of them that make them pres- you’re told, go read plays, lots of them, go see ent and tangible. Conor McPherson said: “… productions (when you have money) and keep But with one actor talking only to the audience, writing. what we have in front of us is a guide. He’s telling us about somewhere outside the theatre, not trying to recreate it indoors. The theatre is Fall 2015 Proscenium 67
My Birthday Party Wei He
Is there anything else you would like to add? Writing in a foreign language has been quite an adventure for me, fun and challenging. Some people have pointed out that there are a lot of images in my writing. I guess the influence comes from my mother tongue. Mandarin is an image-driven language; each character looks like a picture of stick figures.
My Birthday Party is copyright ÂŠ 2015 by Wei He. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to info@ prosceniumjournal.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of My Birthday Party are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved.
Proscenium osceni In Print We are now offering limited-edition print issues of Proscenium Journal to donors. Learn more at www.prosceniumjournal.com/support-us. 68â€‚Proscenium Fall 2015
My Birthday Party Wei Hei
Character W: female, 30s, she reminds us of a beautiful bird without feet that has flown over mountains and forests. Setting A bedroom: A bed, a nightstand with drawers, a dresser, a closet for clothes, a window, magazines and books on the floor, a glass on the nightstand, etc. Lights up. The room looks like the hostess did a sloppy job of tidying and cleaning in the past week. W enters. She is in sweatpants and a T-shirt, hair unbrushed and tied back casually. She goes over to the closet and rummages distractedly. She removes a dress and fingers the fabric. She hangs it back. She removes another dress and holds it in front of her for a second then puts it back. She removes another dress and hangs it back immediately without looking. She turns sharply and goes over to collect the magazines and books scattered on the floor and stacks them on the nightstand casually. She wipes the dust off the lamp with her hand then wipes her hand on her T-shirt. She nudges the tower of books she just deposited on the nightstand accidentally and they collapse back onto the floor. She looks at the books for a second. She drops on the bed heavily and takes a breath. She suddenly rises and hunts in the bottom drawer of the nightstand and comes up with a pack of cigarettes and an empty food can. She removes a cigarette and lights it. She takes a long pull and snuffs it out in the food can. She opens the top drawer of the nightstand and comes up with a pack of gum. She removes a stick and stuffs it in her mouth. She goes over to open the window as she chews the gum. A breeze comes in. She sneezes. She freezes. She slowly lands back on the bed. She takes out the gum and drops it in the food can. Imagine this. It’s one fine cool morning. You wake up in your bed. Your husband or wife has gone out. You rub your eyes with the back of your hands. And immediately forget if you have slept or not. You smell the linen. Unfamiliar. Its fabric feels hard and dry. At this moment, you say to yourself, oh my god, I don’t know where I am and I feel like shit... No, no, no, don’t say that. That’s not how you feel. That’s a cliché. You have a very clear idea of where you are. You’re right there. You can’t be anywhere else. You know that too well to tell yourself that what’s going on in your life could be something else. For a long time, you’ve been running away from a feeling, a feeling that knows you by your name. Then this morning, the second before you wake up, it catches you off guard. Then it takes Fall 2015 Proscenium 69
My Birthday Party Wei He
Marie Hasselback-Costa as W in a rehearsal for a reading of “My Birthday Party” at the Against the Grain Theater Festival. Photo by Vincent Lopez.
part of you and leaves. Now you open your eyes and find you’re stuck with what remains of yourself. She relights the cigarette and takes a long pull. Today doesn’t feel like a birthday at all. This morning I woke up and looked at the clock on my nightstand to see what time it was. But I couldn’t read the numbers. I stared at the clock for a whole minute, but the moment I moved my eyes away I forgot what I’d just seen. The information just refused to sink in. Strange. I thought a woman gets more and more sensitive to numbers as her birthday ruthlessly comes back year after year. But despite all that, today is still my birthday. And I have a party to prepare. My husband will bring home a big cake. I’m inviting all of you to share it. It’s gonna be a big party, isn’t it? W rises from the bed suddenly and snuffs out the cigarette. She wanders on the floor restlessly. I have a carpet to vacuum. Then the kitchen! And the air, smells like cigarettes. Hamilton doesn’t like me smoking. Oh god, what have I been doing since I got up this morning? What time is it? W looks at her watch. Oh, it’s... (the real time) 70 Proscenium Fall 2015
The party won’t start until midnight. Because that was when I was born. So I still have a few hours. W lets out a long breath. I’m still thirty-five. W sits back on the bed. I know I’ve got a lot to do but I can’t, I can’t concentrate. I have to talk to you first. I want to tell you something about me. Something like, it always rains on my birthday. So my personality drips water. She considers. She smiles apologetically. Actually I’m not sure what that means. But I’m sure I’m not going anywhere. At least I won’t go anywhere before I’m done talking to you. A woman who’s not going anywhere is... vulnerable. You know what kind of vulnerability it is. You see meaning everywhere, in everything. Every thought hits you as a feeling. You stay alert. Like a little girl in a yellow taxicab and she doesn’t know where she’s going. She pauses. When I was growing up, I was told to be a sweet heart at school and at home. I even continued being one for a couple of years after my twentieth birthday. I smiled hard at myself in the mirror, hard enough to see fifty percent of my teeth. They were white as icing. Oh, I know, I was young and stupid. I went out with a couple of boys my age but nothing was serious. Love was just a little slutty thing back then. Then I met Hamilton at twenty-six, who later became my husband. He’s ten years older than me, and very different from all the guys I had dated before. The age difference made him a simple sweet creature in my eyes, which means he had learned how to keep his desire within reach and make a relationship all about love. He’s not a difficult man to read. He tilts his head back if bored. And to the left when intrigued. He laughs at all my jokes. I remember I got Novocain at the dentist the afternoon Hamilton and I first met. My teeth and tongue are tripping over each other. My breath turns papery. I smile funny. Every color looks festive to me. I’m sitting in a seat closest to the entrance. Hamilton pushes the door open and walks in. He takes a seat next to me. He takes out a book from his pocket, leans forward and starts reading. I sit back and look at the fuzz on the back of his neck. Sunlight reflects off the glass door and splashes into the room. A big, white, shiny drop lands on his head. It looks like he just stuck his head into a beautiful half-transparent cloud. I sneeze. (As HAMILTON) Bless you. (As W) Thank you. Fall 2015 Proscenium 71
My Birthday Party Wei He
He goes back to his book. Then I sneeze again. (As HAMILTON) God bless you. (As W) Thank you. He turns a page and wrinkles the bridge of his nose. Then, I sneeze again. Hamilton looks up and turns to me. He is probably thinking I have a cold and has regretted sitting next to me. I always find this kind of person unpleasant. (As HAMILTON) Do you... (As W) No, no. It’s not contagious. (As HAMILTON) No, no, I didn’ mean... (As W) I’m just sitting in a draft. Kind of chilly. That’s all. I’m annoyed. But he cracks a smile. I smile back though I couldn’t feel it because of the anesthetics. He smiles more and looks at my face with interest. My face must be looking red and bright, as if the sun were approaching. I look at this man, who’s probably ten years older than me, though there’s a kind of playfulness to his character that makes him look younger. I ask him what book he’s reading. I’ve forgotten the name of the book. But I remember it was checked out from a library. I bet you really want to meet Hamilton. Well, you will. Very soon. As long as you stay till he comes home from work. He will bring home a birthday cake. I like maraschino cherries, apples and pears. Hmm. Citrus fruits. Also bananas and strawberries. As for Hamilton, he doesn’t care about fruit. He only asks for extra icing. He likes a birthday cake to be extra sweet. A celebration that’s intense and overwhelming. So we would remember. Memory is a tricky thing. It’s a tiny sewing machine. It stitches time on your skin, across your lips, around your elbows. It’s not your life that it’s after. It’s the process of turning you into a quiet, wrinkled, sweet-ass mummy. This is what Jack said. Jack was my friend. My best friend. It’s always weird that a man and a woman never sleep together when they get along so well. Well, that’s me and Jack. But he was into me at one point. That’s why he first approached me. We met at a party. I didn’t know many people there. He didn’t know many people there. He hid in the shadow on the porch, smoking. I only saw a blink of red light. On and off. On and off. Like it was breathing. That was a nice, quiet moment until he told me a story. 72 Proscenium Fall 2015
It’s about a young woman who believes her husband is a hit man. (As JACK) But he looks totally harmless, you know? Hey, you see that car over there, parked neat and clean along the curb? Yeah, the husband is like that. Yep. A reliable car on a quiet street. But in her eyes, there’s another layer under his skin. A layer that only a killer has. Fast, quiet and professional. Which became the thrill of her long, safe and insipid life. But you know, being a hit man is a dangerous professional. He might get slit in the throat or caught by the cops. So here’s her little intriguing dilemma: she’s attracted to him because he’s a killer but at the same time she doesn’t want him to be in danger. She wants him to be stuck in between. Guess what she does to achieve that? She has an affair with his new target, which happens to be their neighbor. What’s that face you got there? You look like someone just slapped you cross-eyed! Are you following the logic here? The logic is that she creates a trail of evidence back to her husband even before the murder is committed. Because if her lover died, people would suspect that her husband did it. And he can’t just give up on this one; that’d be against his work ethic. So he has no choice but to keep trying and failing. She’s damn smart. Now she and her killer husband can live together happily ever after. End of the fairy tale. She lets the story sink in. (As JACK) That’s it. (As W) Wow. I didn’t get the story. Jack dropped the butt of the cigarette and snuffed it out with his heel. Then he lit another one. We kept quiet for a few minutes. (As W) Are you hitting on me? She lets the joke sink in. A brain is a little weird thing, isn’t it? After we became better friends, I asked Jack about that story. He said the problem was not the husband. It was the wife. (As JACK) She was so bored. She had nobody to talk to. So she went nuts. Jack rolled his eyes. But I thought there was something more to the story. And I was convinced Jack felt the same way. It was just neither of us would say it. I guess that’s why I liked being around him and always let him finish his stories. I find it very hard to describe Jack’s personality, or the air about him, in a straightforward way. He was, was, like a sofa that has been used for three or four years. Worn, human oil stained, with a ball of a woman’s long hair hiding in its folds. But still swollen with padding and tense with live springs. Jack always drank like he had been through some real sorrow. So hanging out with him made Fall 2015 Proscenium 73
My Birthday Party Wei He
me temporarily forget how yesterday becomes today and how today will become tomorrow. Jack was glad to see me date Hamilton, which actually never alienated me from Jack. We entertained ourselves by watching lots of comedies and making spurts of little, cynical laughter. We watched pathetic characters fuck up their lives, then laughed at our own little, slightly corrupted selves like real adults. But also rest assured there was always time for us to do something to change our life, to make it better. It’s like, we could enjoy a play titled The Comedy that has no jokes in the text. At the end of the play, when we realized the only joke is in the title, we wouldn’t be pissed. That was how confident and hopeful we were. W removes a blue tie from the closet and puts it on. I introduced Jack to Hamilton at a party. Hamilton was wearing a blue tie. Jack was holding a bag of ice against his forehead the whole time since he had been in a fight. He had forgotten how he got into the fight in the first place when the party started. Hamilton was suspicious about our friendship at the beginning, but very soon he started liking Jack. I think it was Jack’s personality that was magical. Jack gave a piece of himself to people around him, sometimes two pieces if he really liked you. At that party, Jack says to Hamilton: W empties the food can and holds it against her forehead. (As JACK) Good-quality coffee makes me hyper. And CRY, cry at seeing the sunrise. Hamilton smiles. He’s showing his teeth. He’s not touched. Jack pours himself a drink. W mimes it with the glass on the nightstand. (As JACK) Hey, Hamilton, you wanna have a sip from it? Hamilton is confused. That’s just what Jack would do. Offering people his coffee cups, beer bottles, dinner plates, sometimes the key to his car. (As HAMILTON) That’s okay. I’m not surprised. Jack takes a sip himself. But he’s still sober. (As JACK) Hey, Hamilton, I once saw a squirrel. In a spin-top dumpster. Looking for food. Jack has to take two sips from the drink to finish the sentence. (As JACK) You know bumblebees, right? Hamilton nods. He starts getting curious where this is going. (As JACK) I once saw, this bumblebee, drowning, drowning in a pool of water. He was trying to crawl on this tiny tiny rod floating on the surface of the water. But the damn wood kept spinning. So the bug tried and tried, but he kept falling off back into the water. 74 Proscenium Fall 2015
Jack has tears in his eyes. He’s drunk now. Hamilton pours a drink. He looks at me and back at Jack then at me again. I tell Hamilton Jack and I are simply good friends, our relationship never gets physical. It’s true. Hamilton considers this for a while. (As HAMILTON) Your friend got an interesting mind. Then he turns back to Jack. (As HAMILTON) Hey, Jack, let me tell you a story of mine. I once drove across the country from east coast to west. I had a pick-up truck back then. Hamilton starts loosening up. I’m getting a glimpse of what he was like ten years ago. When he was willing to take risks. When he was beautifully flawed. Soon it’ll be hard to tell him apart from Jack. (As JACK) Hamilton, I had seventeen cats when I was a little kid. They were all bonkers. W laughs as JACK. Hamilton laughs too. That’s always how a good camaraderie begins taking shape. (As JACK) When my family moved to another state, my uncle volunteered to drive them up a few days after we moved. All seventeen of them, for thirteen hundred miles. (As HAMILTON) Wow. (As JACK) After thirty hours of driving, he arrived at our new house, released the cats. And left with out saying a word. W laughs hard as JACK. They double over with laughter. W, as HAMILTON, holds the glass and spills on the tie and starts sucking the water from it. W puts the glass back on the nightstand and collects herself. Three months later, Hamilton proposed to me. It was a windy day. Wind blew my hair all over my face. And I felt so young and hopeful. Then we got married soon after that. The day before the wedding, Jack came to see me. He got a black eye from fighting with his girlfriend. She hit him with an extension cord. (As JACK) Is this what you want? (As W) I thought you liked him! (As JACK) I just think you’re in love with something that may or may not be there. (As W) What do you mean? Fall 2015 Proscenium 75
My Birthday Party Wei He
(As JACK) Hamilton is a great guy. I know you feel secure with him. Because he’s simple and easy to be pleased. (As W) He is a great guy. He checks out a lot of books from the library. He knows a lot because he reads a lot. So we always have a lot to talk about. (As JACK) All right then. Jack turns to leave. (As W) Hey, Jack! (As JACK) Yeah? (As W) It won’t change anything between us. You know what I’m saying? (As JACK) You’re saying we’re best friends. (As W) Exactly. And...and you’re not going anywhere, are you? He turns back. His black eye keeps blinking. (As JACK) No, I’m not going anywhere. That’s the problem. That’s where the problem has always been. W lights another cigarette. Do you think the second half of a decade always feels shorter than the first? Well, I do. But a couple of months before my thirtieth birthday, time suddenly slowed down. It’s like the feeling you have when you step into the muck on the bottom of a river. It sucks your feet in and stops you from whatever you’re doing. To flee from the water or wade further. It makes you question, doubt, and think that it’s all right to feel desperate. Since thirty is a kind of a threshold and Hamilton had been there, he asked me a month before my birthday: (As HAMILTON) How do you wanna celebrate? (As W) I’m thinking doing something small and quiet, maybe? (As HAMILTON) Small and quiet? Why, why? This is your birthday and we should have a big celebration! I tried to talk to Hamilton, but instead of articulating my thought, I made myself sound like something made entirely of flammable chemicals and was prepared to sparkle like fireworks on that special occasion. (As W) Let’s go traveling. I’d like to travel westward. W removes a suitcase from the closet and hauls it onto the bed. 76 Proscenium Fall 2015
The morning we left for our trip, when I woke up in my bed, Hamilton was already out to buy breakfast. I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand, and immediately forgot if I had slept or not. W starts taking her clothes out of the closet and tosses them on the bed. I had a very clear idea of where I had been and where I was at the moment, even where I would go if life continued like this. The idea was so clear, like a beam of light in which I could read a book at night. So I didn’t try to comfort myself by thinking what was going on in my life could be something else. Jack was not there for me. He hitchhiked to a southern city to look for his girlfriend. She had an abortion and a breakdown and decided to get away from him. W starts packing slowly. It looks like she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Hamilton brought home a box of donuts for breakfast. I peeled myself off the bed and sat at the counter in the kitchen, sipping from a mug of coffee. Hamilton was flitting about and humming loud. Then he paused at one point and examined my face. (As HAMILTON) Are you all right, honey? (As W) I’m just trying not to pass out from the excitement....Honey, can I ask you a question? (As HAMILTON) Sure. What is it? (As W) What food, do you think, tastes like our love for each other? It’s a stupid question, you must be thinking. Actually it can be way more demonic and devastating than you’re expecting. Hamilton turned to me, assumed a serious expression. (As HAMILTON) Chocolate donuts, no doubt. Hamilton opened the donut box and there was a brown sticky ring smeared on the inside of the paper lid. The topping of the only chocolate donut in the selection had come off. All the other donuts remained intact. My jaw tightened. I started feeling stings on my gums. Hamilton paused for a second and scraped the chocolate off with a table knife. He licked the chocolate off the knife. A sourness rose in my mouth and the stings grew intense. And my tongue tasted like...I know this is weird. How is one supposed to know the taste of her tongue? But I found my tongue tasted like an old piece of chewing gum that had lost its mint flavor days ago. We traveled westward and landed in a different time zone. It was only nine here when it was already midnight back home. I recovered three hours by coming here. On our way to pick up the luggage, I started shaking uncontrollably. (As HAMILTON) Are you all right? You’re shaking. Fall 2015 Proscenium 77
My Birthday Party Wei He
He walked me to a wall and rubbed my shoulders. I didn’t know how to respond. Something was pulling away from my body. I just leaned against the wall with all my being. Tides of people rushed by us. Nobody paid attention to us. We just stood there, me unraveling, Hamilton trying to stop it. There was only a tiny space between us that formed a peephole, through which I could see all the unstoppable steps. W pauses. One month after Hamilton and I got back from the trip, Jack came back too, with his girlfriend, and the residue of their little drama, something like one or two ounces of spleen and guts. He found her in a motel, throwing up the alcohol from the previous night into a toilet. We went to a bar to catch up, to exchange feelings as if we could drift off somewhere else. (As JACK) Memory is a tiny sewing machine that stitches time on your skin, your elbows, whatever. It’s a process of turning you into a quiet, wrinkled, sweet-ass mummy. (As W) Did you read some book, or join a cult on your trip to come up with that? (As JACK) What? No, no. (As W) Then where did you get that? (As JACK) Here. W gestures in front of her chest. (As W) Your heart? (As JACK) No. Here. This is where the booze passes to get into my body and sometimes also out. Despite all the gloom and goo, Jack talked me out of divorcing Hamilton. Yes, that was what I’d been thinking. (As JACK) Let me tell you a story. (As W) Oh, God. (As JACK) Come on. This is my gift for your birthday. (As W) Really? (As JACK) So there’s a woman. (As W) A woman like me? (As JACK) There’s no woman like you, you’re unique, sweetheart. 78 Proscenium Fall 2015
W makes a face. (As JACK) One day, this woman, I don’t know how old she is. Maybe five years after her prime? An awkward age. Her gums start peeling away from her teeth because she’s chewed too much gum. So she has surgery. The doctor stitches up her mouth halfway. She can only stick out her tongue through one corner of her mouth. Like she just ate something delicious. But it’s not her fault, and that makes her feel even worse. She goes to a bar at two in the afternoon. She just wants to have a drink alone. Through a straw. She takes a seat at the counter and orders a glass of red wine. A young man walks in and takes the seat next to her. He turns to her, How do you do? Before she can reply, he orders a glass of red wine and asks for a straw. The woman thinks she knows what this young man is doing. But actually he means something else. She shouldn’t have been drinking anyway. She thinks she smells of apples, those that hide behind the leaves in the fall and are left there through the winter. She doesn’t want to wait in the bar for her ride. That would look like she’s waiting for the man to buy her a drink. So she waits outside a pharmacy. She thinks it looks better. She’s such a simple creature. (As W) I’m still thinking you were actually talking about me, Jack. (As JACK) No, no, of course not. (As W) Then what’s the point of your story? (As JACK) Don’t grow up to be such a simple creature! (As W) Ah, I see. I knew Jack was talking about something more than that. And he knew that I got it. Then we had a few drinks without saying anything. Then he said: (As JACK) You’re still a girl. But you’ll grow up. After that, there were times when things did get better. On one of those good days, Hamilton and I invited Jack over to camp in our backyard. We built a small fire, drank beer and believed what we had been through could be explained away by singing catchy silly songs. Hamilton even came up with the idea of baking potatoes by burying them in the embers. Jack was surprisingly cheerful and sober. Hamilton fetched butter from the kitchen. Jack wiped the ash off a potato on his sleeve before handing it to me. W folds the sleeves of a heavy coat and places it absentmindedly in the suitcase. Two weeks ago, Jack came to me and told me that his girlfriend had another abortion. She did it behind his back. He couldn’t even say the word. It shamed him like a crime. (As JACK) I’m so fucked up. (As W) You just fucked up a little bit. Fall 2015 Proscenium 79
My Birthday Party Wei He
I thought that would help. Some bright light from outside landed on his hair. And it looked like, by some stupid process, his hair had turned white all of a sudden. (As JACK) Never ask me about my feelings. Never again. When the girl was lying on the bed, Jack was sitting in a bar. Drinking hard to get himself into trouble. He got into a big fight after two days. Then another bigger one six hours after that. W starts unraveling. She removes a drawer from the nightstand and empties it on the bed. Then he called me and asked me if I wanted to hear a story. I asked him where he was and he hung up. W stuffs everything she tossed on the bed into her suitcase. A couple of hours after his call, I got a call from the hospital. Hamilton went with me. Hamilton looked at Jack and breathed loud. It felt like he was not looking at a swollen and stitched face. But a fire was going out. He was blowing on the embers to recover the light. Hamilton was not looking at Jack. He was looking at himself. The other version of him that didn’t survive his youth, didn’t achieve the turn. The Hamilton I married was a survivor. I had a feeling that I’d never been this close to him before. Jack died at thirty-five. W pauses. Actually two months ago, Jack came to me to borrow some money. He broke the news that his girlfriend got pregnant again. After they accused one another, begged of one another, fought, apologized, tried to wipe the hurt off each other’s face, Jack made a decision. Despite all the shit Jack had been through his whole life, he had never borrowed money from me before. So I wrote him a check immediately. But instead of taking the girl to the hospital, he bought a lot of fruits and vegetables for her with the money and got himself a library card. Then he checked out a book. (As W) What you reading? (As JACK) A book. (As W) About what? (As JACK) Babies. We were sitting on a bench in a park and ate chestnuts quietly from a brown paper bag. Jack wrinkled his forehead when reading the book. That day turned out to be one of the best days Jack had ever had. He was sober enough to read a book about babies. He meant every word he said and could make sense out of his feelings. This man just turned thirty-five, the same age Hamilton was when we first met. I sneezed. W sneezes. (As JACK) 80 Proscenium Fall 2015
Bless you. (As W) Thank you. W freezes. It continues for a few moments. Then she carefully sneezes again. (As JACK) God bless you. (As W) Thanks. W opens her mouth, ready to sneeze again. (As JACK) Is it the wind? (As W) ...Could be. Kind of. Jack took off his coat and handed it to me then returned to his book. W takes a breath. Then I realized... I was probably in love with this man all along. But he died two weeks before my birthday. W looks at her watch and stares at it for a few moments. She looks up with a determined expression. She zips up her suitcase and quietly puts on a coat. Oh, Hamilton will be back very soon. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I just...I wanted to invite all of you to my birthday party. There would be a cake, candles, a big celebration. But, it looks like it’s not gonna happen. You see, I have to leave. I’m going traveling. I’m so sorry. We should have celebrated my birthday together, shared the cake. And I would make a wish. I wish things were not like this. Hamilton is coming home. There’s not much time left. I’d better hurry. W picks up the suitcase and is about to exit. The sound of a key turning in a lock. Lights fade to dark. END OF PLAY
Fall 2015 Proscenium 81
Boxing the Sun Aurin Squire
David E. Tolchinsky 82â€‚Proscenium Spring 2015
A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright David E. Tolchinsky is the Chairman of Northwestern University’s Department of Radio-TVFilm and Founder/Director of Northwestern University School of Communication’s MFA in Writing for Screen+Stage. Some of his work centers on teen subcultures, particularly in relation to social decay. He is also interested in horror, mental illness, and psychiatrists. He has been commissioned by such studios as Touchstone/Disney, MGM, and Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Pictures to write screenplays, and his feature film Girl (screenwriter, associate producer) is distributed by Sony/ITunes. He has designed the sound for interactive computer environments and video installations seen internationally, and was nominated in 2003 for a Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild Golden Reel Award for his sound design for Dolly. He has cocurated gallery exhibits including The Horror Show in 2009 at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs in New York City which explored horror in film, video, installation, photography, sculpture and painting and which was featured as a “Voice Choice for Art” in The Village Voice and on their blog, and which was accompanied by a 32-page catalog. He co-produced Debra Tolchinsky’s 2011 feature documentary, Fast Talk which investigated the accelerated speed of argumentation in college debate and which is available on iTunes. More recently, he published “Where’s the Rest of Me?” a reflective essay about Spalding Gray and monologue writing in Paraphilia Magazine and cocurated The Presence of Absence sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Council at Hairpin Arts Center, Chicago. Most recently, he was ranked #14 on New City’s Film 50: Chicago’s Screen Gems 2013, was the recipient of a 2014 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Literature (Poet-
ry, Prose, Scriptworks) and made his premiere as a playwright and theatrical director at the 2015 Strawberry One-Act Play Festival, Hudson Guild Theatre, New York City, with Where’s the Rest of Me?, an adaptation of his essay. His play was nominated for Best Play and he was named Best Director. He is a graduate of Yale (BA, magna cum laude) and USC School of Cinematic Arts (MFA). Read more at Davidetolchinsky.com. What was your inspiration for this play? I was thinking about ambivalence. What is it exactly? To like something and not to like something at the same time. And I was thinking about clarity, that I’d like to be clear in my own life and writing. And I was wanting to write something contained and therefore cheap to produce, with no special effects, no flying demons or giant stadium crowd scenes or implications of child abuse, elements that have led some of my earlier screenplays to attract interest from all kinds of studios, producers, and directors, but at the same time have made them difficult to get produced. Also, my dad was a psychiatrist and a professor of psychiatry (see my essay and play “Where’s the Rest of Me?” for more about him) so we’d have a lot of psychiatrists hanging around at the house when I was a kid. So while not an inspiration for this particular play, in general psychiatrists tend to show up in my work. What do you want the audience to come away with? To quote Maximus (as written by David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson) after he slaughters a bunch of guys in Gladiator: “Are you not entertained?” And after they’ve Fall 2015 Proscenium 83
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
been entertained, I want audience members to talk about the play, to think about it, to dream about it, for it to burrow into their brains like some kind of hideous parasite. But if they’re just engaged and not bored for 90 minutes, then great, I’m happy.
themselves and are similarly open-ended. Mulholland Drive comes to mind and so does Ju On. Ju On didn’t really affect me while I was watching it, but it gave me nightmares because on the surface it didn’t make any sense. My brain had to keep rolling it around.
Much of your play is shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. What was your goal in leaving aspects of this play open-ended? We just had a preview screening of The Coming of Age, the screenplay I was commissioned to write for Fork the Man Productions, and someone in the audience asked me the same question. Am I detecting a pattern in my writing?
So maybe in some cases it’s better to imply than to state. Leave the audience to fill in/discuss/ dream. And Clear is about scraping past the conscious mind and defenses to the unconscious, so it makes sense that the play is open-ended because the unconscious is open-ended. Similarly, in The Coming of Age, a woman is slowly suffering from dementia: does it make sense to have such a movie make too much sense? Shouldn’t the form reflect the content? That is, as the character loses her mind, shouldn’t the movie? So linear becomes non-linear, pieces start to be missing.
I intended to write something contained, but I didn’t intend to write something open-ended. I just tried to amuse myself, to write something that would be cool to see, to create interesting twists and turns. Along the way, maybe I left out the boring parts (too little conflict, what I’ve seen before, something stupid and on the nose or what I couldn’t stand to write for whatever reason). And maybe I’m a little more interested in questions than I am in answers. The first half of horror movies is always the part I like best because the first half contains suffering people who think they’re going crazy or dying from a strange medical ailment. The second half contains what is usually a dumb, disappointing answer that we’ve seen before – demonic possession or angry ghost or pissed off house or alien or whatever. (Although a few horror movies do have awesome and unexpected answers.)
As a side note, my colleague Rebecca Gilman read my play and asked: do you know Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman? I didn’t, but luckily Redtwist Theatre – everything I’ve seen at that theatre is great by the way – was running it. I felt like I was . . . home. Interrogations, mysterious characters, memories, dreams, and you’re not quite sure what it all means. But you feel the feeling. And you’re into it until the very last moment. And you’re thinking and talking about it afterward. And even if you can’t articulate it, you know there’s some kind of logic at work. So The Pillowman didn’t influence me since I saw it after I wrote Clear, but it definitely told me it’s okay to leave things open for Thinking more about your question: Ironical- interpretation. ly (or maybe not), what I teach mostly at NU is story structure – four-act structure, mythic Anyway, to me, Clear is clear – I understand structure, sequence structure, scene structure, why everything happens and what it all means, beginning, midpoint, dark moment, and ending. but I understand that to audience members, it But, the movies that affect me the most are the may not be completely clear and the play may ones where the structures do not easily reveal feel open-ended. And by the way, I should say I 84 Proscenium Fall 2015
think I understand what it all means, but it’s usually someone else – my wise spouse and sometime collaborator Debra Tolchinsky, for example – who tells me what a particular screenplay (and now play) is really about – and usually it’s hard to take because there’s some ugly truth in there I wasn’t aware of. What projects are you working on now? Currently, I’m co-creating a film-based installation/performance/lecture series about historical and new radical therapies entitled: Wilhelm Reich: An Attempt to Heal in the Modern World. Dan Silverstein, artist and Associate Director of Collections and Exhibition Management at Northwestern University’s Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, is responsible for the sculptural aspects, including fabricating an interpretation of an orgone accumulator. Melika Bass is creating a film for the project. Debra Tolchin-
sky is curating. I’m writing something to perform in the space of the installation – a play? A monologue? Who knows, but it will involve a protagonist suffering from some kind of illness; even though his medical tests are normal, he just doesn’t feel right, he knows that something is terribly, terribly wrong. He finds little help from talking cures or other conventional therapies. Desperate, he encounters psychologist Wilhelm Reich in a dream — there is something compelling about Reich’s claims that all health and illness stem from “orgone energy,” that he is suffering from armoring caused by blocked orgone. But then he encounters Reich’s detractors – Sigmund Freud, a former female patient, and an FDA agent, all who question Reich’s theories, ethics, and sanity. Indeed, according to Reich, orgone is not just in the body but is responsible for movement in petri dishes formerly thought to be bacteria, the blue in
Fall 2015 Proscenium 85
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
the daytime sky, and all matter in the universe! ing on it. Scary, scary stuff coming out of my Our protagonist is forced to probe his own be- brain! liefs about Reich and his subjective sense of his mental and physical health. And of course I’m chairing Northwestern University’s Department of Radio-TV-Film and Anyway, I’m excited to see how it turns out and running our MFA in Writing for Screen+Stage. how the space of the installation adds meaning Both fun and challenging. to what I write and vice versa. And I’m excited to see how it stands on its own, produced at a What playwrights inspire you? more traditional venue at a later date. And I’m Martin McDonagh. The Pillowman as menexcited about the questions the overall project tioned above, but before that, I saw The Cripis meant to raise for our audience members: ple of Inishmaan performed by the Atlantic How do I think about my own relative health and Druid Theater Companies in 2008. It was and illness and what constitutes health and ill- like I finally understood what all those people ness in the modern world? Ultimately, how do who loved theatre were talking about–ironwe examine radical new theories with a critical ic and hateful and then emotional and sweet, yet open perspective? turn after unexpected turn. Up until that point, I was mostly a dedicated movie guy, although Along the same lines, in the spring, Chica- in college as a composer, I was also deep into go’s A Red Orchid Theatre is hosting a night experimental music, the avant-garde, and perof plays around the idea of health and illness formance art. And in grad school, I was makin the modern world as part of their incubator ing films that seemed like documented installaseries. I’m cocurating the three-week run with tions, but I never was into or knew much about awesome playwright/NU RTF lecturer Brett what most people think of as theatre. Neveu. We’re including my play Where’s the Rest of Me?, as well as new plays by Brett, Colleague Thomas Bradshaw, for being disLisa Dillman, Shannon Pritchard, Grant Varjas, gustingly playful and making us laugh even and Marisa Wegrzyn with regards to visions of when we don’t want to. His play Mary is brilhealing in unexpected ways; strange modern liant. Carlyle even better. illnesses (mysterious or ignored or illnesses where doctors say there’s nothing wrong); ex- Colleague Zayd Dohrn, for taking us into dark plorations of alternative, unexpected healing/ and disturbing worlds, for forcing us to think. therapies; unexpected healers; unexpected pa- His plays Sick and Reborning in particular are tients; psychiatrists; suicide; phobias; and mov- profound. ies. Rebecca Gilman – Luna Gale should have Finally, I’m doing tweaks on my latest horror/ gotten the Pulitzer. The way Rebecca rotates thriller feature screenplay, Cassandra (what through scenes, in a theatrical yet hyper-real – the same name as the character in Clear?). way. The way she tackles social issues head on, I’m going to direct a 10-minute short based on with humor and a heart. the screenplay and then the feature itself. I’m working step by step as I gather resources. This Doug Wright – I Am My Own Wife (which did script is giving me nightmares while I’m work- get a Pulitzer – the world worked as it should) 86 Proscenium Fall 2015
blew me away in the same way that The Pillowman did – what? This is what theatre can be? The author can be a character in his own play? What? Sarah Kane – Blasted.
live theatre, which is hard for a moviegoer like me who likes to offer up annoying commentary along the way. I also hate when actors look at me, talk to me (hey, Bald Guy! Yeah you!) or sit on my lap. The fourth wall is a pretty good thing.
What kind of theatre excites you? Theatre-making is all new to me, so recently, diKenneth Lonergan. recting my own short play Where’s the Rest of Me? excited me. It was like magic – four actors And somewhere between writing and perfor- up there on a stage with a movie screen behind; mance: suddenly we were in a different world/differKey & Peele – I appreciate the smart way they ent space/some of the audience was laughing use comedy to probe race and relationships. and/or crying, and honestly and unexpectedly Spalding Gray. A great loss. . . so was I. It was like a dance and a dream and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. a personal catharsis. P.S. You should cast my Tina Fey. lead Greg Peace in your next play – you won’t be sorry. And I just re-watched the film Dirty Dancing written by Eleanor Bergstein. I don’t know What advice do you have for playwrights Bergstein’s playwriting, but her screenwriting starting out? in this film is fascinating, with a lot going on Be fearless. Be persistent. Be a nice person in in terms of sexuality, class, Judaism, race (in real life, but be a total monster in your writing. the background, but there), and of course ad- Write monsters. Write monstrously. Write the olescence. Insightful and tricky. And oh yeah, scene you can’t see in real life but it would be there’s some great dancing too. great to see. Write a dark wish. Write something that will change the world. Write something Why did you start writing plays? that you get up in the middle of the night to Because Rebecca Gilman told me to. I tend to reread. And reread and reread. And don’t let the do what people tell me to do. And maybe I start- bastards get you down. And I like what Thomed to write plays because cool playwright Wen- as Bradshaw said to me (paraphrasing): “Dave, dy MacLeod, who we had come as a visiting you just got to get these plays up. Don’t wait. artist to NU many years ago, made me a list of Just do it yourself if you have to. You’ll learn as plays to see. And then Rebecca, Zayd, Thomas you go regardless of the result.” I also like what and my other colleagues gave me more great Rebecca Gilman said: “Dave, be careful; you plays to read or see and soon I realized the- only have one premiere. Make sure it’s someatre, rather than being unbearable torture, could thing you’re proud of.” Both are paradoxically be as fun, disturbing and profound as movies. right. Writing is built on such dichotomies that Anyway, other than the Ibsen plays I had seen you — and your characters — have to negotiin college which were pretty great, most of the ate. Conflict, always conflict. theatre I had seen was bad. I will say though I still hate that I can’t make snarky asides during And I’d give young playwrights starting out the Fall 2015 Proscenium 87
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
same advice I give our MFAs: find a creative community to support you, and think about art. Why are you writing what you’re writing? Why is your writing important? Think about craft and think about business (not a dirty word) including how to talk about you and your work. Learn transportable writing skills like character and conflict and, yes, structure — whatever that means to you — so you can ask interesting questions: am I a playwright? Maybe I’m a TV writer. Maybe I’m both. The story I’m writing – is it a play? Maybe it’s a pilot? Maybe it’s a screenplay or a radio play or a monologue or videogame or an installation with performance elements. Maybe it starts out as one but depending on creative and business opportunities becomes something else. Be open and be ready. And I’d tell a playwright who’s starting out, if it feels right: apply to my MFA program. I’m very proud of the faculty we’ve gathered together – the playwrights mentioned above (all of them also TV writers and/or screenwriters; clearly, we practice what we teach) as well as our other cool writers (Bill Bleich, Erik Gernand, Kat Falls, Mia McCullough, Laura Schellhardt, and Zina Camblin), and our cool filmmakers and our cool screen cultures/performance studies/ theatre scholars.
You founded Northwestern’s MFA program for Writing for Stage and Screen and are Professor and Chair of the Department of Radio/Television/Film. How has your time as a professor influenced your own writing? Because I teach writing, I think a lot about my process and craft and my students tell me things about craft I never would have thought of, so I keep learning more and more. But the more I know and teach the more I don’t want to know, the more I want to forget. I used to plan out my writing with detailed outlines. Now if I just know four structural points or even just the ending, I’m ready to go and write. This thing I’m writing now about psychologist Wilhelm Reich – as I said above, I don’t know if it’s going to be an essay, a monologue, a play or maybe a hybrid movie/play, and that’s OK. Letting it go where it wants to go. Not planning too much, letting my characters and the voice of the piece tell me. The latest draft of my feature, Cassandra, is the best I’ve written because I threw away the outline and just let it go, waited for the scenes to come while I walked, while I dreamed, etc. That’s another piece of advice – writing happens in odd places and times, while walking, taking showers, staring at the wall, or watching a bad movie; the computer is usually not where you get your best ideas. And while often we work on deadlines (especially when doing writing for hire or when in school), sometimes our best writing happens when we have the time to put drafts away or let the writing come slowly. So I try to balance having some work that needs to be done with a particular deadline in mind, some work I let just percolate.
And regardless of the outcome (the program is competitive): keep writing, keep pitching, keep applying to as many opportunities as you can (each time you do, you learn to talk about your writing and yourself in a new way), keep knocking at the door, and if one door doesn’t open, find another one that may or ignore the door altogether and just do it yourself, whatever that “it” may be, however you can. This is what I teach. This is what I practice. Less directly answering your question: I’ve been running this MFA since 2005; at the same time, it’s like I’ve been enrolled in an MFA, being educated in a whole new art form. So besides 88 Proscenium Fall 2015
being infected with the impulse to write plays, I’m sure my screenwriting has been influenced as well but I really don’t know how. Similarly, I don’t know if my writing is influenced by my students, but I’m definitely inspired by my students (undergrads and grads) and by what they’re achieving now as alums . To name just a few — Dave Holstein (staff writer, The Brink), Jen Spyra (former writer forThe Onion and now staff writer, Late Night with Stephen Colbert), Eoghan O’Donnell (creator of The CWs The Messengers), Marisha Mukerjee (staff writer, Heroes Reborn), Sarah Gubbins (playwright, The Kid Thing), Erik Gernand (playwright, The Beautiful Dark), Andy Miara (former head writer, The Onion News Network; writer, several Comedy Central pilots) and J. Ryan Stradal (author of the New York Times best selling novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest). Two of my students were recently picked by Variety as “film students to watch.” Several of my students have formed a cool theatre company here in Chicago. Anyway, on and on – too many to talk about here. But inspired by them all.
The Coming of Age) for making time to read my screenplays and now plays and for giving me great feedback. And I want to thank Brett Neveu for arranging a reading of the play at A Red Orchid Theatre; I’ve definitely incorporated feedback that came out of that experience.
Finally, I’m so busy with my NU commitments, I’ve had to learn to write whenever, however, wherever. So how I write probably influences what I write. Is there anything else you would like to add? I’d like to thank Debra Tolchinsky, Raisa Tolchinsky and Zane Tolchinsky, who inspire me with their own artistic creations, who put up with me and my evil little stories, who realize you can write evil stories without being evil, who give me invaluably honest, sometimes painful feedback, who put up with my intense ghostliness when I’m lost in some story and especially when it’s not going well. I also want to thank writers Charles Harmon, Taras Otus, Ron Ward, and David Bradburn (who directed
Clear is copyright © 2015 by David E. Tolchinsky. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to info@ prosceniumjournal.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of Clear are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved. Image of David Tolchinsky is by Debra Tolchinksy. Fall 2015 Proscenium 89
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
By David E. Tolchinsky CHARACTERS
DR. FIELD, 50. A psychiatrist of sorts. CRAWLEY, 40. A cop. THE RECEPTIONIST, 25. Blonde. Almost a cliché. JARVISH, A violent cop-hating mental patient. CASSANDRA, 35. Dark. Crawley’s girlfriend. His lifeline. And we may or may not meet: DUARTE, Crawley’s boss (Note: Duarte can be cast with the actor playing Jarvish.) TWO UNIFORMED POLICE OFFICERS, (Note: These can be cast with the actors playing Jarvish and Cassandra.) A psychiatrist’s office.
PRODUCTION NOTES The rooms (the office and the reception area) could be constructed. Then again, don’t be afraid to put up a curtain between two parts of a bare stage. . . and call it two rooms. A nice office. A large desk. Leather couch. Expensive bookcases. A window that looks out onto a very high ledge. A frosted door leads to an outer office, currently in complete darkness. Later we’ll see that it contains a receptionist’s desk, a few chairs, a cabinet, a door to the outside world. It’s all familiar, but still there’s something off, maybe the lighting is a little too extreme, maybe the perspective is just a little forced. Note: The frosted door between the inner and outer offices is angled such that when someone stands behind it that person is not visible to audience members except when a light behind the door reveals that person’s shadow. (IN THE NICE OFFICE, DR. FIELD, A bearded MAN in a suit, 50, with a substantial presence, sits across from OFFICER CRAWLEY, 40, thrown on jacket, good looking yet tired and underfed.) DR. FIELD: Officer Crawley, I would say you’re a very good candidate for hypnosis. CRAWLEY: Hypnosis? Isn’t that for people who need to stop smoking or are afraid of flying? DR. FIELD: Sometimes it’s used to help people remember things they can’t quite remember. CRAWLEY: Things? DR. FIELD: (severe) What happened at the bank. CRAWLEY: I remember what happened at the bank. I remember it too fucking well. DR. FIELD: That’s not what your captain said. CRAWLEY: Duarte cleared me. She told me what happened at the bank wasn’t my fault, that I shot my weapon in the line of duty. 90 Proscenium Fall 2015
DR. FIELD: Still, she told me you have memory gaps, that she’s concerned about you. That’s why she asked you to come here. (Crawley gets up, starts to pace.) CRAWLEY: Or maybe she’s just jerking me around. I told her the whole story in excruciating detail, she knows that. She cleared me. DR. FIELD: Why don’t you tell me too then? (This makes Crawley uncomfortable.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Then I can tell her she was mistaken, that you’re fine, you can go back to work and we can both get on with our lives. (As Crawley recounts what happened in the bank, the lights dim a little and maybe we see those events enacted by shadowy figures in the background.) CRAWLEY: There were three of them. Two no-brain, no-name punks. And a third one named Stefan. He was a little older, had some smarts, but he was a nervous type. Someone on the street saw them robbing the bank, Stefan got scared and shouted for the punks to grab the pregnant woman and the kid as hostages. That’s when my partner Joe and I got there. DR. FIELD: You were the first responders? CRAWLEY: It was my job to establish the perimeter and wait for command unless it was an active sit. DR. FIELD: Active sit? CRAWLEY: Active situation. Hostages being shot. And even if it was an active sit, I had to determine would crossing the perimeter result in an AE. DR. FIELD: AE? CRAWLEY: Acceptable end. No additional casualties except for the perpetrators. DR. FIELD: And was it an active sit? CRAWLEY: It was about to be. DR. FIELD: About to be? CRAWLEY: I had a hunch that the threat was imminent. DR. FIELD: But technically, no one was being shot so it wasn’t an active sit. CRAWLEY: I’ve been a cop for years. I have to trust my intuition. Duarte knows that and that’s why she cleared me. DR. FIELD: And so you crossed the perimeter? CRAWLEY: I took them by surprise. I was in control. Everything was moving towards an AE. But then Joe took his eyes off Stefan and so Stefan grabbed him too so now they had him, the pregnant woman and the kid. DR. FIELD: Which meant an acceptable end was now unlikely? CRAWLEY: They had them as shields so there was no clean shot, there was nothing to do but try to talk them out -DR. FIELD: But they were killers. How can you talk to killers? CRAWLEY: No, they weren’t killers, they were just scared. And Stefan was smart, I just had to remind him he didn’t want to do this, that you always have options. DR. FIELD: Do you believe that, that you always have options? (Crawley looks out the window: Definitely a long, long way down.) CRAWLEY: Yeah usually. Fall 2015 Proscenium 91
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
(Dr. Field walks over, is now right behind him.) DR. FIELD: “Yeah” and “usually” are two different answers. CRAWLEY: Yes, you always have options. DR. FIELD: Did Stefan have options? CRAWLEY: Sure, he could have given up and done minimal time. DR. FIELD: Is that what you told him? CRAWLEY: Yeah. DR. FIELD: But he told you to fuck yourself. CRAWLEY: He told me I was right, was about to let the three of them go but then. . . He shot my partner in the back. DR. FIELD: Because -CRAWLEY: He got scared, he got mad, the gun went off, I don’t know. DR. FIELD: And so you tried to escape before he killed you too. CRAWLEY: I did my job: I pulled my gun and shot Stefan and then I took out one of the punks, then the other one before they could react, but Stefan -DR. FIELD: The one who shot your partner in the back, the one who wasn’t a killer. CRAWLEY: Stefan didn’t die right away and he killed the pregnant woman and the kid before I could shoot him one more time. DR. FIELD: He’s starting to sound like a killer. CRAWLEY: But he wasn’t. I know killers. I know what they look like, sound like, feel like. He killed but he was no killer. DR. FIELD: This is getting confusing. (Crawley moves away.) CRAWLEY: Look: There’s two kinds of killers. The kind who enjoys it, and the kind who can’t stop himself from doing it but who hates himself. DR. FIELD: Which one are you? CRAWLEY: I’m a cop. I’ve killed when I’ve had to. It’s just part of the job. DR. FIELD: So there are three kinds of killers. CRAWLEY: No, I’ve killed but I’m not a killer. DR. FIELD: Like Stefan? CRAWLEY: No, yes, it wasn’t like him to kill, especially a pregnant woman and a kid. DR. FIELD: You knew Stefan well? CRAWLEY: I didn’t know him at all but I knew his type. DR. FIELD: The type that kills pregnant women and innocent children, but not you. CRAWLEY: As Stefan was dying, he told me: They wanted me alive, to suffer, to think about what I had let happen. DR. FIELD: They? CRAWLEY: I don’t know. He died before I could ask him. DR. FIELD: So he was following orders? (Crawley doesn’t respond.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Officer Crawley? CRAWLEY: I didn’t let it rest. I found out everything I could about Stefan. DR. FIELD: Is that what beat cops do? 92 Proscenium Fall 2015
CRAWLEY: It’s what I do. He was a loner, used punks when he had to, but was always the one in charge -DR. FIELD: But he said they wanted you alive. CRAWLEY: I don’t fucking know. OK? (Dr. Field seems intrigued.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Go on, tell me he meant the voices in his head, tell me I couldn’t have predicted he would kill my partner, tell me it wasn’t my fault. DR. FIELD: Why would I tell you that. CRAWLEY: Isn’t that your job, to make people feel better? DR. FIELD: I’ll make you feel better by telling you the truth: because of you, many people are dead. If I were you I would have killed myself by now. CRAWLEY: I don’t know why Duarte sent me here exactly, but I’ve had enough. (Crawley opens the frosted door. Lights up on THE OUTER OFFICE. Sitting at the receptionist’s desk: a beautiful BLONDE, 25, in a tight low-cut shirt, filing her nails. This is the RECEPTIONIST. She looks at Crawley briefly and then goes back to her filing.) DR. FIELD: Pity. (Dr. Field picks up the phone.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): (into the phone) Ms. McCracken - are you in the upstairs office? Good. Is O’Shaunassey? (The receptionist continues to file her nails. Clearly she’s not this McCracken person.) DR. FIELD: (beat) No? But Mr. Jarvish is and he’s mad? Well, then have him come down. (beat) No, he can keep it. Just tell him to make sure the safety is on. (At the door, Crawley is ready to go but then his cop training kicks in and he turns back.) CRAWLEY: Another cop? DR. FIELD: No, a violent sociopath. CRAWLEY: And he has a gun? DR. FIELD: (indicating the holster under his jacket) You have a gun. CRAWLEY: That’s different. DR. FIELD: Are you sure? CRAWLEY: I’m going home. (Crawley starts to go -- ) DR. FIELD: To that large and lovely girl in that bathroom magazine whom you’re sure is looking right at you. CRAWLEY: To my girlfriend. DR. FIELD: So you really are a lucky man. CRAWLEY: I’m not sure about that, given recent events. DR. FIELD: But you’ve been shot at but never killed and everyone says what happened at the bank wasn’t your fault. Everyone says you did your job. CRAWLEY: Everyone except you. DR. FIELD: Who am I. Just a name on a door. Fall 2015 Proscenium 93
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
CRAWLEY: (reading the door) E.A. Field who majored in philosophy at Harvard and graduated summa cum laude, who then went on to attend Pritzker School of Medicine, did a psychiatric residency at Feinberg as well as additional training at the Manhattan Institute of Psychoanalysis. E.A. Field who also spent some time in Argentina although I couldn’t find out exactly where or why, before returning here to establish a practice concentrating on patients suffering from PTSD. DR. FIELD: (amused) Is that all? CRAWLEY: Duarte wouldn’t tell me how she came upon your name, but I did some digging and found out it was from a mid-level FBI agent. No one at the FBI would confirm anything but I had the feeling you’re quite well known in such circles. DR. FIELD: You should be a detective. CRAWLEY: I like being a beat cop. DR. FIELD: You like low pay. CRAWLEY: I like doing a job that needs to be done. DR. FIELD: Getting rid of the scum? CRAWLEY: Protecting and serving or at least that’s what the manual says. DR. FIELD: Don’t sergeants and detectives do that too? CRAWLEY: Sergeants send other cops to do what they’re too afraid to do themselves. Detectives just scribble on little yellow pads. DR. FIELD: So you’ve never taken the test to be considered for promotion? CRAWLEY: I took it. DR. FIELD: And you didn’t do well. CRAWLEY: I ranked the highest in my class. DR. FIELD: So you could have been a commander by now. CRAWLEY: What is it that you really want to know? DR. FIELD: I want to know about your girlfriend. CRAWLEY: She’s the kindest, most beautiful girl in the world and I can’t believe she wants to be with me. DR. FIELD: Yeah? Call her up, have her come over. I’d like to meet her. (Dr. Field holds out the phone.) CRAWLEY: That’s OK. DR. FIELD: Are you sure? (Crawley takes the phone and hangs it up.) CRAWLEY: Yes, but I want you to know: she’s more than beautiful, she knows things. DR. FIELD: Congratulations for having a well-educated girlfriend. CRAWLEY: No you don’t get it: she knows things she can’t know. She told me not to go to work that day. She told me she had a really bad feeling that something very, very bad would happen. DR. FIELD: And that’s why you crossed the perimeter? (Crawley nods.) DR. FIELD: A killer that kills but isn’t a killer. A woman who knows things she can’t know. Are you sure this isn’t one of those overly complicated riddles that actually has a very simple answer? 94 Proscenium Fall 2015
CRAWLEY: There is no simple answer to what happened at that bank. DR. FIELD: There’s always a simple answer if you can let yourself see it. (Crawley thinks about it.) CRAWLEY: The only answer was for me to have stayed home. DR. FIELD: You were cleared by Duarte. CRAWLEY: It doesn’t matter, everything’s different now. DR. FIELD: What exactly is different? CRAWLEY: Six people died on my watch. DR. FIELD: And if they had died, not on your watch? (Crawley thinks some more.) CRAWLEY: I would have wished I had been there. DR. FIELD: Exactly. So why don’t you go home to -- What’s her name? CRAWLEY: . . . Cassandra. DR. FIELD: Who predicts the future but to whom no one listens. Are you joking? CRAWLEY: No it’s her name. DR. FIELD: Go home to Cassandra or whatever her name is-CRAWLEY: (annoyed) Her name is Cassandra. Her parents are Greek. She’s dark and beautiful with a single strand of gray that she’s had since she was a child. That’s what first caught my eye. DR. FIELD: Go home to gray-haired Cassandra and ask her what she thinks you should do. CRAWLEY: She’d say: Let’s have a baby. Everything will be OK. DR. FIELD: And she’d be right. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. Now if you’ll excuse me -CRAWLEY: I’m worried she’s about to leave me. (Beat.) DR. FIELD: Why don’t you ask her to come down, this is about the two of you, not about your career, and certainly not about some anonymous corpses. CRAWLEY: My partner Joe Sheridan with chunks of his lung on the floor is not anonymous. And that pregnant woman. Betty Abramson with her blown open womb and unborn baby hanging out is not anonymous. And that kid Sami McKeever with half his face missing is not anonymous. DR. FIELD: What is it that you want, Officer Crawley? CRAWLEY: I want one good night of sleep. DR. FIELD: Drink a bottle of cough syrup. You’ll sleep like.. . Sami McKeever. Now if you’ll excuse me. (Dr. Field picks up the phone.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Ms. McCracken, is Mr. Jarvish on his way? (beat) Well when he gets out of the bathroom, make sure he comes down. (Covering up the phone, to Crawley) You’d better go: Mr. Jarvish doesn’t like policemen. (Beat.) CRAWLEY: Please, can you help me? (Dr. Field uncovers the receiver.) DR. FIELD: Tell Mr. Jarvish to wait, Ms. McCracken. Fall 2015 Proscenium 95
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
(Beat, still into the phone.) Just don’t turn your back on him, you’ll be fine, I’ll be done in here in a second. (Dr. Field hangs up the phone.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): What do you want help with exactly? CRAWLEY: I want . . . to be clear. DR. FIELD: About what happened? CRAWLEY: About who I am. DR. FIELD: Do you promise to do everything I ask you to do? CRAWLEY: You mean talk, right. About myself? About my childhood? DR. FIELD: I mean everything I ask you to do. (Crawley looks at him.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Then again, Mr. Jarvish is waiting. And O’Shaunassey will be here soon, so perhaps it’s better if you just leave -(Dr. Field opens the door wider. There’s that beautiful blonde at the reception desk, smiling at Crawley.) CRAWLEY: Fine. I promise. DR. FIELD: So we won’t be disturbed. (Dr. Field closes the door and turns the lock. Lights down on the outer office. Dr. Field lowers the blinds. He takes the phone off the hook.) DR. FIELD: Give me your phone. (Crawley gives him his cell phone. Dr. Field throws it in a drawer.) DR. FIELD: And your badge. (Crawley hesitates.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): To signal to your unconscious self that you are relinquishing your assumed identity, your power, anything that might offer you protection. (Crawley continues to hesitate.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): And because you promised. (Crawley gives him his badge. Dr. Field throws it in another DESK DRAWER.) CRAWLEY: So now what? I lie down on the couch or something. DR. FIELD: You tell me. (Crawley starts to sit on the couch, lies down, sits up, gets up. Sits in a different chair.) CRAWLEY: (standing) I’ll just stand. DR. FIELD: What does ambivalence mean to you, Officer Crawley? CRAWLEY: Not being sure I guess. DR. FIELD: I guess? CRAWLEY: Not being sure. DR. FIELD: Ambivalence is being very sure but of two ideas that can’t go together. CRAWLEY: Yeah whatever. DR. FIELD: Give me your gun. (Dr. Field holds out his hand. Crawley hesitates.) CRAWLEY: . . . Well, seeing how you’re a doctor I guess it’s OK. 96 Proscenium Fall 2015
DR. FIELD: You guess? CRAWLEY: It’s OK. (He hands Dr. Field his gun reluctantly.) DR. FIELD: Don’t worry, I’ve helped a lot of people like you. (re feeling the weight of the gun) Intimidating. CRAWLEY: That’s the point. And don’t worry it can’t hurt you as long as the safety’s on. (Then Dr. Field takes off the safety. Click!) CRAWLEY: Maybe you should give it back to me? DR. FIELD: Afraid I’ll shoot you? CRAWLEY: (watching the gun) No I guess not. DR. FIELD: You guess not? CRAWLEY: You won’t shoot me. DR. FIELD: So I’m not a killer. (Crawley looks him up and down.) CRAWLEY: No, you’re not a killer. (Dr. Field is amused.) DR. FIELD: Like Stefan wasn’t a killer. (Dr. Field picks up the phone, talks into it, as he casually swings the gun around.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Ms. McCracken, have Mr. Jarvish come down now. (Beat) He’s already on his way? Good. (Dr. Field hangs up the phone.) CRAWLEY: (watching the gun) But you said you’d help me. DR. FIELD: (Still gesturing with the gun.) And I will. (The outer office remains dark but a SPOTLIGHT on THE FROSTED GLASS DOOR slowly reveals someone on the other side. His shadow looks large and looming.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Don’t make any sudden movements and don’t tell him you’re a policeman. CRAWLEY: Anyone who points a gun at me I have the right to defend myself. DR. FIELD: (Gesturing severely with the gun) It’s a good thing I have your gun then, so you don’t shoot one of my patients. (The gun ends up pointed at Crawley.) CRAWLEY: You know guns sometimes go off. (Dr. Field seems amused. He takes out the bullets and hands them to Crawley, who puts them in his coat pocket.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): You’ll take away his gun too? (Dr. Field puts the gun in the desk drawer.) DR. FIELD: That’s up to you. (Before Crawley can object, Dr. Field unlocks the door. In walks MR. JARVISH. The spotlight dims. He’s a skinny mealy-mouthed man in a telephone repairman’s jacket, a guy you’d move seats to Fall 2015 Proscenium 97
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
get away from.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Mr. Jarvish. How are you? JARVISH: How am I? You left me waiting, Doc. That’s how I am. DR. FIELD: I apologize. Mr. Crawley came here unexpectedly. (Jarvish looks him up and down.) JARVISH: Who the fuck is he and why didn’t he have to fucking wait? (Jarvish looks Crawley up and down some more.) DR. FIELD: He’s my associate here to help you get better. JARVISH: He looks like a cop and you’re helping me get better -DR. FIELD: No, Mr. Jarvish, I’m not. In fact your desire to kill policemen has increased since you’ve been under my care. JARVISH: What’s he going to do that’s different than what you’ve been doing? DR. FIELD: He’s going to tell you a story about a bank. CRAWLEY: How will that help anything? JARVISH: Yeah, how’s that going to fucking help anything? DR. FIELD: Mr. Jarvish might have some valuable insights. JARVISH: Is this about me or about him? DR. FIELD: Everything is about you Mr. Jarvish. JARVISH: I like coming here, Doc. DR. FIELD: I’m glad, Mr. Jarvish. (Crawley looks at the door.) JARVISH: (too close, to Crawley) So let’s hear the fucking story. And it better be good. (Crawley is silent. He looks harder at the door.) DR. FIELD: Mr. Crawley? (The door. Still there.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): As I recall, it begins with two men walking into a bank? (Still the door. Still there.) JARVISH: Are they cops? Boy, I’d like to shoot a cop right now. (Crawley moves towards the door, but Dr. Field blocks him -- “you promised.”) CRAWLEY: They’re not cops. They’re punks. JARVISH: Is this a funny story? CRAWLEY: No, it’s extremely sad. JARVISH: Why would I want to hear a fucking sad story? CRAWLEY: Because it’s true. JARVISH: I’d rather hear an untrue story about a bunch of fucking pigs being blown away. (Crawley eyeballs Jarvish aggressively, too long.) DR. FIELD: (to Crawley) Well, then, Mr. Crawley, if this can’t work, maybe you should go -(Dr. Field steps aside. Crawley hesitates and then:) CRAWLEY: Maybe. . . I should tell my story. (Once again, we might see these events enacted by shadowy figures, who evolve according to Jarvish’s commentary.) CRAWLEY: (turning towards Jarvish) Two punks walk into a bank and then a third one walks in 98 Proscenium Fall 2015
after them. JARVISH: Why because he’s a fucking gimp? CRAWLEY: Because he doesn’t have to rush. He’s the one in charge. JARVISH: What’s his name? CRAWLEY: Stefan. JARVISH: I hate that name. Sounds like a brand of cake mix. Let’s call him Chuckie. CRAWLEY: (annoyed) Fine whatever. JARVISH: Not whatever. Let’s call him Chuckie. CRAWLEY: Fine. There’s a bank and two punks and Chuckie -JARVISH: Great fucking name. CRAWLEY: They walk in and scream EVERYONE FREEZE! And the cashiers and the patrons freeze. JARVISH: I hate the word patron. Sounds like some high brow opera-loving fuck. Let’s call them customers. CRAWLEY: Fine whatever. JARVISH: Not whatever. Let’s call them fucking customers. CRAWLEY: Fine. Everyone freezes including the cashiers and the customers -JARVISH: Who are all fucking losers with nothing but overdrawn dollar ninety five Christmas accounts -CRAWLEY: And the robbers start robbing the bank but then someone outside sees. JARVISH: Who sees? CRAWLEY: A pedestrian passing by. JARVISH: What’s this asshole’s name? CRAWLEY: I don’t remember and it doesn’t matter. JARVISH: It matters. What’s her fucking name? CRAWLEY: Suzy, Mia, Angel or whatever. JARVISH: Angel. I like that. CRAWLEY: Fine. Whatever. JARVISH: No, not fucking whatever. Angel. Her name is Angel. CRAWLEY: Fine. Her name is Angel. JARVISH: Who’s really really hot in a tight top with big boobs and short short prostitute shorts. CRAWLEY: Is that necessary? JARVISH: Girls named Angel always grow up to be prostitutes. CRAWLEY: Fine, whatever. JARVISH: Not fucking whatever. This is important. CRAWLEY: Fine, her name is Angel and she’s a prostitute -JARVISH: In a tight tight shirt -CRAWLEY: Angel -JARVISH: The prostitute in short fucking shorts that shows off the folds of her hot wet vagina. DR. FIELD: (Placing a hand on Jarvish’s shoulder) Mr. Jarvish -JARVISH: You know I can’t stop myself, Doc. DR. FIELD: It’s OK. Mr. Crawley. Go on, Mr. Crawley. Fall 2015 Proscenium 99
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
CRAWLEY: So Angel calls the cops. JARVISH: I hate fucking cops. CRAWLEY: No, really? (Jarvish pulls out a BIG BIG gun and points it at Crawley. Dr. Field observes Crawley. . .) JARVISH: Yes, really, you fuck -CRAWLEY: (watching the gun) Relax. I was being sarcastic. JARVISH: That’s like a joke? CRAWLEY: Like a joke, only funnier. JARVISH: So this is a funny story? CRAWLEY: (Watching the gun) Yeah sure, it’s fucking hilarious. JARVISH: I’m not laughing yet. DR. FIELD: You will be. Go on, Mr. Crawley. CRAWLEY: (to Jarvish) If you put the gun away. JARVISH: Are you sure you’re not a cop? CRAWLEY: What do you think? (Jarvish looks him up and down.) JARVISH: I think I haven’t made up my mind. (Jarvish keeps the gun aimed at Crawley.) DR. FIELD: Go on, Mr. Crawley. CRAWLEY: He’s pointing a gun at me. DR. FIELD: Don’t worry. He won’t kill you. He only kills cops. CRAWLEY: Is that a joke? DR. FIELD: I don’t make jokes. JARVISH: But you do, right, Crawley? CRAWLEY: Right. You know guns go off whether you want them to or not. JARVISH: Is that a joke? CRAWLEY: I don’t know. Is it? JARVISH: That depends: Does a joke have to be funny to be a joke? DR. FIELD: No it’s more about the intention than the result and has your gun ever gone off, Mr. Jarvish? JARVISH: Never. DR. FIELD: Mr. Crawley? (Crawley looks at the gun.) CRAWLEY: So Chuckie sees Angel and the two punks start towards her forgetting about the cashiers and the customers and someone yells RUN! JARVISH: Who yells run? CRAWLEY: It doesn’t matter. Just one of the customers. JARVISH: It fucking matters. It’s some uptight business suit prick named Oppenheimer. CRAWLEY: Fine. Oppenheimer yells run! EVERYONE RUN! JARVISH: Fucking pussy-ass coward business suit fuck. I hate his fucking guts. CRAWLEY: And everyone runs out the back door. JARVISH: Fucking pussies all of them. Run, you fucking pussies, run. CRAWLEY: Except for the pregnant woman and the kid -100 Proscenium Fall 2015
JARVISH: Who are too fucking fat and stupid to run. CRAWLEY: Who are too scared to run, so the two punks grab them. JARVISH: You know if you fuck a pregnant woman, you’re really fucking two people at once -DR. FIELD: Mr. Jarvish please -JARVISH: Sorry, Doc. CRAWLEY: And that’s when the two cops come in and it’s really tense with one punk holding the pregnant woman and the other punk holding the kid and Chuckie telling the cops not to move or they’ll kill the pregnant woman and the kid, “WE REALLY WILL. WE REALLY FUCKING WILL!” JARVISH: Chuckie’s like a fucking hero. CRAWLEY: Chuckie’s a nervous rabbit ready to explode and the kid starts whimpering and the pregnant woman starts crying. JARVISH: Fucking pathetic. CRAWLEY: And one of the cops feels really bad and tells the pregnant woman and the kid “Don’t worry it’s going to be OK” and the other cop says “Careful, watch Chuckie” -JARVISH: Really great fucking name. CRAWLEY: But the other cop is young and takes his eyes off of Chuckie and Chuckie grabs him. JARVISH: Stupid fucking cop. CRAWLEY: Which leaves the other cop to deal with the situation. JARVISH: What situation? CRAWLEY: There are hostages who might die. JARVISH: Who gives a shit about fucking hostages. This story sucks. (Jarvish extends his gun towards Crawley’s face.) DR. FIELD: Mr. Crawley -CRAWLEY: What. DR. FIELD: Do you think Mr. Jarvish is a killer? CRAWLEY: Yes. DR. FIELD: Very good, very decisive. Which type? (Crawley looks at him. A big gun pointing right at him. Behind it, a big smiling face.) CRAWLEY: The type that enjoys it. DR. FIELD: Excellent. JARVISH: Even if you aren’t a cop, maybe I’ll kill you just because you told a fucking awful story. DR. FIELD: Rather than killing Mr. Crawley: How would you make the story better, Mr. Jarvish? (Jarvish cocks the trigger.) JARVISH: I don’t fucking know. It’s not my story. (Crawley looks at the door.) DR. FIELD: Pretend you’re the cop who isn’t the hostage. What would you do? (Dr. Field stands against the door, blocking Crawley’s would be exit.) JARVISH: I’d fucking blow my brains out if I were a cop. Fall 2015 Proscenium 101
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
CRAWLEY: Too bad you’re not a cop. JARVISH: Are you being sarcastic again? CRAWLEY: Boy, you’re really smart. JARVISH: I’m starting to like you. (But Jarvish keeps the gun trained on him.) CRAWLEY: Then you should stop pointing that gun at me. Guns go off. JARVISH: My gun never goes off. CRAWLEY: But it will one day: The spring will snap unexpectedly. Your finger will twitch. Someone will bump you. Who knows, maybe a spark will fly up the barrel because the air is too dry. (Jarvish turns the gun around and looks into the barrel.) JARVISH: Really? That could happen? CRAWLEY: Maybe I’m asleep. DR. FIELD: You can’t sleep, remember, Mr. Crawley. JARVISH: (still looking in the gun) Have you tried obsessive masturbation? Works fucking wonders for me. DR. FIELD: Mr. Jarvish, what if you didn’t blow your brains out. What if you took your job seriously as a policeman and tried to solve the situation the best you could. What would you want to know? JARVISH: I’d want to know what Chuckie wants. DR. FIELD: Mr. Crawley? CRAWLEY: He wants a lot of money, so he can start his life over on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. If you stare into that barrel long enough, you’re going to die. JARVISH: What does your first fucking sentence have to do with your second fucking sentence? DR. FIELD: Mr. Crawley has a tendency to put unlike ideas together. CRAWLEY: I was just noting: he has a gun pointed at his face. DR. FIELD: Mr. Crawley also has a tendency to say what’s obvious. So Mr. Jarvish, what do you do about Chuckie? JARVISH: Just give him the money. Here, is this better -(He points the gun at Crawley again.) CRAWLEY: It’s a dream come true. JARVISH: I think you’re fucking hilarious. CRAWLEY: And I think you’re a fucking idiot. JARVISH: And I think I might actually kill you. DR. FIELD: Mr. Crawley, how does that make you feel? CRAWLEY: It reminds me why I hate psychiatrists. JARVISH: Me too! We have so much in common. CRAWLEY: We have nothing in common. I think a cop is supposed to prevent robbers from robbing and hostages from dying. JARVISH: I don’t like being a fucking cop. Can I be Chuckie instead? DR. FIELD: Good idea. Let’s look at things from a different angle. (The lights change dramatically, the reverse of what they were before.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Now, Mr. Jarvish: What would you do as Chuckie? 102 Proscenium Fall 2015
JARVISH: Kill everyone. DR. FIELD: So what should the cop do about you? JARVISH: The cop should shoot me right now before it’s too late cuz I’m about to unleash fucking Hell. (He points the gun towards Crawley and then Dr. Field and then back again.) CRAWLEY: (to Dr. Field) You do realize this is just a story? JARVISH: A story that’s going to end with a big fucking bang. (Jarvish trains the gun on Crawley.) DR. FIELD: Mr. Jarvish, why are you going to kill people when you don’t have to? You could give yourself up. You could cut a deal for minimal time. Why do something that will end in your own death? JARVISH: I just know the cop better shoot me quick or he’ll wish he had stayed home because something very bad is going to happen. (Jarvish extends the gun.) DR. FIELD: Just like your girlfriend said, Mr. Crawley. JARVISH: Is she one of those large and lovely girls with big tits and a big fucking ass? Can I meet her? DR. FIELD: How do you feel about that, Mr. Crawley? CRAWLEY: I feel he’s disgusting and he should put the gun away. (Jarvish laughs and then stops. He points his gun harder at Crawley.) DR. FIELD: I meant about Mr. Jarvish’s suggestion that the cop should shoot Chuckie. CRAWLEY: You’d have to shoot him in the head and blow off his hand so he doesn’t shoot the cop’s partner because of a reflex reaction in his trigger finger. DR. FIELD: So are you saying it’s a poor solution to shoot Chuckie? CRAWLEY: I’m saying it’s a solution but it’s a difficult one to pull off. DR. FIELD: Could you have pulled it off? CRAWLEY: Why don’t you give me my gun back and I’ll think about it. (Dr. Field goes to the drawer and hands Crawley back his gun, ignoring that Jarvish has a gun trained on him.) JARVISH: You have a gun too? (Crawley puts the bullets back in.) CRAWLEY: You never know when you’re going to have to kill someone. JARVISH: I’m really starting to like you. CRAWLEY: And I’m starting to hate your fucking guts. (Crawley points the gun at Jarvish. Jarvish laughs.) DR. FIELD: Well, Mr. Crawley: What’s your answer. Could you have pulled it off? CRAWLEY: No one can answer a question like that in the abstract. DR. FIELD: Very honest. Very good. Mr. Jarvish, let me see your gun. (Jarvish stops pointing the gun and hands it to Dr. Field. Crawley looks relieved until: Dr. Field examines it, spins the barrel, and gives it back to Jarvish.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): 6 bullets. 4 more than you’ll need. (Crawley looks at Dr. Field.) Fall 2015 Proscenium 103
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
DR. FIELD (CONT’D): (to Jarvish) Now grab me and hold your gun to my head. JARVISH: This is the best day of my life! (Jarvish holds Dr. Field with the gun to his head.) DR. FIELD: OK, Mr. Crawley, shoot him before he shoots me. And blow off his hand. CRAWLEY: You’re kidding right? (Dr. Field just looks at him.) CRAWLEY: But he’s not really going to kill you. JARVISH: Who wouldn’t kill a psychiatrist given the opportunity. CRAWLEY: Well, do what you’ve got to do. DR. FIELD: You wouldn’t prevent a murder? CRAWLEY: You told him to kill you. DR. FIELD: OK, Mr. Jarvish, give me the gun. (Jarvish does as he’s told. Dr. Field takes out the bullets. Dr. Field hands the gun back to Jarvish.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): OK, now I want you to beat Mr. Crawley with this. (Crawley points his gun harder at Jarvish. Jarvish LAUGHS harder.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): I assume you’re not going to use that. CRAWLEY: I’ll defend myself. DR. FIELD: You’re going to shoot a man with an empty gun? CRAWLEY: Only if he forces me to. DR. FIELD: Hit him, Mr. Jarvish, with your empty gun. CRAWLEY: Jarvish, you have no reason to hit me. JARVISH: I’m not going to hit Crawley. I like Crawley. DR. FIELD: So don’t you think you should give me your gun, Mr. Crawley, before Mr. Jarvish gets hurt. As you point out, guns just go off. CRAWLEY: How do I know you won’t put the bullets back in his gun? (Dr. Field takes Mr. Jarvish’s bullets, and throws them in the desk drawer. He slams the drawer shut.) DR. FIELD: Satisfied? (Crawley hesitates and then gives his gun to Dr. Field who puts it in the desk drawer. Dr. Field leans up against the door.) DR. FIELD: Mr. Jarvish, I want you to know something about Mr. Crawley, something very personal. CRAWLEY: You wouldn’t. (Eye to eye . . . and then. . . ) DR. FIELD: This personal thing about Mr. Crawley that Mr. Crawley doesn’t want you to know -JARVISH: Oh Jesus, you’re not an atheist or a Jew or a homosexual are you? CRAWLEY: What if I were? JARVISH: It would be absolutely fine. I have a very open mind about such things. It’s only cops that need to be brutally tortured and murdered. (Crawley looks at Dr. Field, Dr. Field looks at Crawley.) DR. FIELD: This personal thing? This personal, private thing is the fact that Mr. Crawley . . . 104 Proscenium Fall 2015
loves his girlfriend very much. JARVISH: Is she a large and lovely girl or not? CRAWLEY: Just shut up, OK. JARVISH: Gee, that’s not a very nice way to talk especially when I just told you how much I liked you. CRAWLEY: I don’t fucking care. I love my girlfriend -DR. FIELD: He loves her but he also thinks she’s a goddam bitch and sometimes he thinks about killing her. Isn’t that right, Mr. Crawley. CRAWLEY: You shut up too, you mindfuck. JARVISH: Look, Crawley, it’s OK: I thought the same things about my girlfriend before I killed her. DR. FIELD: He’s not just confused, he’s got a bad case of ambivalence. JARVISH: Is that contagious? DR. FIELD: It just means he’s uncertain about things that he’s certain of. And he’s very clear about things he’s confused about. JARVISH: (superfast) Sounds like one of those fucking riddles. Like the one about the A-hole dad who bites it in a car crash but his brat survives but is fucked up and then the surgeon working on the brat says I can’t operate on this fucked up brat because it’s my fucked up brat. JARVISH (CONT’D): (even faster) Well, it turns CRAWLEY: (to Doc) THIS out the surgeon is the fucking mother, who I IS like to imagine is large and lovely with enorBULLSHIT. mous tits, but who ever thinks a fucking woman THIS could be a surgeon especially a large and lovely ISN’T woman with huge fucking tits and a vagina just HELPING pouring juice, right? ANYTHING. DR. FIELD: You’re wrong, Mr. Crawley. You’re already much much better. CRAWLEY: You’re the one who’s sick, not me or Jarvish. JARVISH: I definitely like you, Crawley. I shouldn’t have said those negative things about your girlfriend. I know how much you love her. CRAWLEY: Yeah whatever. DR. FIELD: Not whatever this is important. Mr. Jarvish, I want you to know: Mr. Crawley really loves his girlfriend and would die for her. JARVISH: That’s fucking sweet. I wish I could meet her. Especially if she’s large and lovely, I’d like to stab her big fat ass -(Crawley grabs Jarvish:) CRAWLEY: Not another word about her, you fucking loser -(Jarvish is shaken.) JARVISH: You’re right. I am a loser. Christ, maybe I should just kill myself. (Crawley lets him go.) CRAWLEY: Look: I’m sorry I said that. You’re not a loser. And I appreciate that you’re here trying to get help. I like you too, Jarvish. I shouldn’t but I do. (Jarvish gets . . . teary.) JARVISH: That really means a lot to me. I promise: I’ll never hurt you and I’ll never let anyone Fall 2015 Proscenium 105
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
else hurt you. CRAWLEY: Yeah, whatever. DR. FIELD: Whatever, Mr. Crawley? CRAWLEY: Fine not whatever. Thank you, Jarvish. That’s nice of you. (Jarvish hits Crawley affectionately in the arm, still crying.) DR. FIELD: One other thing, Mr. Jarvish: Mr. Crawley is a cop. (Jarvish stops crying and HITS Crawley in the head with the gun. HITS him. HITS him!) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): That’s enough, Mr. Jarvish. JARVISH: The fuck you say. (HITS HIM! HITS HIM! HITS HIM!) DR. FIELD: MR. JARVISH -(Jarvish finally backs away.) JARVISH: Why’d you have to be a cop? (Hits him one more time. Crawley gives him the finger as he drops to the floor bleeding.) JARVISH (CONT’D): Can I kill him now, please!? DR. FIELD: (leaning in) Not until he tells us what really happened at the bank -CRAWLEY: (through his blood) What happened at the bank is I did everything I could have done in a complex situation -DR. FIELD: No, Officer Crawley, because of your ambivalence, you did everything except the one thing you knew you had to do -CRAWLEY: Which was fucking what? DR. FIELD: You tell me. CRAWLEY: (blood dripping down his face) FUCK YOU. JARVISH: God, he’s making me nauseous. Can I kill him now? DR. FIELD: Not yet, Mr. Jarvish. (Crawley suddenly springs up and hits Dr. Field, and grabs Jarvish’s gun and hits Jarvish with it. Dr. Field and Jarvish stagger back as Crawley heads towards the door. Wobbly, Dr. Field picks up the phone and dials quickly.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): (into the phone) Ms. McCracken, send O’Shaunassey down as soon as O’Shaunassey gets here because I have a little task that needs taking care. JARVISH: (rubbing his head) O’Shaunassey? I thought they put that evil fuck away for good after all those cops lost their eyeballs. DR. FIELD: O’Shaunassey made remarkable progress in the institution and has been released into my care -(Crawley throw opens the door. Lights up on THE OUTER OFFICE. There’s the receptionist.) JARVISH: Are you shitting me? How can a fucking monster like O’Shaunassey make remarkable progress? DR. FIELD: If one’s goal is to wipe out all remnants of humanity and leave nothing but sociopathic blood lust, then progress is easily obtainable especially as I was the one making the assessment -106 Proscenium Fall 2015
(Jarvish laughs hard as Crawley stumbles towards the receptionist, slamming the door behind him. Lights down on Dr. Field’s office as -- Terrified, the receptionist heads towards the door to the outside. Crawley blocks her, gesturing with the gun as he does -- ) CRAWLEY: Tell me -(She eyes the door to the outside) THE RECEPTIONIST: What? CRAWLEY: Everything. (The door.) THE RECEPTIONIST: I don’t know what you mean -CRAWLEY: I mean Field, I mean Jarvish, I mean are you part of this insanity -THE RECEPTIONIST: I’m just the receptionist. (The DOOR.) CRAWLEY: BULLSHIT -(Coming towards her --) THE RECEPTIONIST: Please. Don’t shoot me. CRAWLEY: What? (She looks at his gun. Shit. He forgot about the gun.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): (lowering it) Sorry. (She goes around him, almost at the door -- ) CRAWLEY: Regardless of how this looks: I’m not the bad guy. (He rips open his shirt. She hesitates. She comes closer to look. . . He’s wearing a wire attached to a recorder.) CRAWLEY: I was sent to gather evidence. RECEPTIONIST: So you’re not really a patient? CRAWLEY: I’m a cop. There’s been rumors about torture and other twisted shit going on here. But we haven’t been able to prove anything. But now I have it all on this -(Re the recorder. He staggers towards the door to the outside.) RECEPTIONIST: Shouldn’t you rest a little first? CRAWLEY: They’re going to come out after me and if they see this (re recorder) they’re going to kill me for sure -RECEPTIONIST: They’re not going to kill you and they’re not going to come out after you. CRAWLEY: (pouring blood) You’ll excuse me if I don’t believe you. (He keeps staggering towards the door to the outside.) RECEPTIONIST: You think you’re the first to come running out of that room wearing a secret wire? CRAWLEY: (wavering) I just need to get this to my boss -RECEPTIONIST: Your mouth says one thing, your body says another. (He holds his head in pain.) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): This is the part where you fall down. (She pushes a chair, so he manages to fall right into it. Half-conscious. Lights up on Dr. Field’s office. Fall 2015 Proscenium 107
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
Dr. Field sits at his desk writing in a notebook. Jarvish just stares at him.) DR. FIELD: (stopping, annoyed) What? JARVISH: Do you think he suspects? DR. FIELD: (severe) Since you’re asking me that question, you must think he does. JARVISH: Well, what do we do? DR. FIELD: We don’t think about it. JARVISH: How do we not think about it? The fact that we’re talking about it makes me think about it. DR. FIELD: Well, don’t talk about it. Talk about something else. JARVISH: Something else. . . Why couldn’t I have just killed him? DR. FIELD: You know why. JARVISH: O’Shaunassey -DR. FIELD: Yes, O’Shaunassey. JARVISH: Why? DR. FIELD: Because that’s what they want. JARVISH: What about what I want? What about what you want? This is your office. That’s your name on the door -- I mean -- Fuck them. DR. FIELD: If I were you, I’d be careful. They may be listening. (Jarvish looks scared. Dr. Field goes back to his writing. Jarvish still looks scared.) MR. FIELD: (without looking up) Aren’t you wondering what O’Shaunassey looks like? JARVISH: (refocusing) . . . I bet O’Shaunassey’s an evil looking fucker. Is O’Shaunassey an evil looking fucker? DR. FIELD: You’ll just have to wait. (This seems to excite Jarvish. Dr. Field goes back to writing. Jarvish paces.) DR. FIELD: (stopping) Jarvish -JARVISH: How long will I have to wait? DR. FIELD: Not long. (This excites Jarvish. Dr. Field goes back to writing. Jarvish paces faster.) DR. FIELD: (stopping) Jarvish -JARVISH: Aren’t you scared we won’t be able to control O’Shaunassey? DR. FIELD: I have this. (He pulls out a large HYPO from his jacket pocket) DR. FIELD: It can knock out an elephant. JARVISH: But aren’t you scared? DR. FIELD: Yes. I’m very scared. (This excites Jarvish. Dr. Field continues writing. Jarvish paces faster and faster.) DR. FIELD: (stopping) Jarvish. Please. JARVISH: Sorry, but how soon until O’Shaunassey gets here? (Really annoyed now, Dr. Field opens his desk drawer, and pulls out a TRASHBAG, which he hands to Jarvish. Jarvish looks at him questioningly. Dr. Field pulls out a trashcan from under 108 Proscenium Fall 2015
the desk. Jarvish tentatively dumps the contents into the bag. Papers. Coffee cups. Nothing unusual. Dr. Field pulls out the desk drawer he had put Crawley’s cell phone in. He places Crawley’s cell phone on the desk. He looks to Jarvish. Jarvish looks in the drawer, amused, he pours out what looks like a HUNDRED CELL PHONES into the bag. He resets the drawer. Dr. Field pulls out the drawer he had put Crawley’s badge in. Puts the badge on the desk. Jarvish looks in the drawer, more amused, dumps into the bag: a HUNDRED BADGES! Resets the drawer. Faster -- Jarvish pulls out the drawer where Dr. Field had put the bullets in. A THOUSAND bullets pour out into the bag! Resets it. Now the drawer where Dr. Field had put Crawley’s gun. Dr. Field grabs Crawley’s gun and Jarvish dumps the drawer. Out comes -- ALL KINDS OF GUNS! Resets it. Dr. Field returns the cell phone, badge and gun to their respective drawers and then pulls out more guns from his pockets, puts them in the gun drawer.) JARVISH: How soon? (Dr. Field pulls out from his jacket a VERY LARGE KNIFE and puts it on the desk.) DR. FIELD: Very. Soon. Lights out in Dr. Field’s office. (IN THE OUTER OFFICE: Crawley’s eyes open slightly, still groggy, he’s not looking but we are: The receptionist opens a cabinet full of bloody towels and a few clean ones, one of which she grabs. She shuts the cabinet door just before he looks up.) The receptionist hands Crawley the towel, with which he wipes his head.) RECEPTIONIST: How can I be sure you’re a cop, if they hit you in the head as hard as you say they did? CRAWLEY: I have this -(re the recorder) RECEPTIONIST: I can buy one of those at Radio Shack. CRAWLEY: And I have a badge. RECEPTIONIST: That’s what they all say. CRAWLEY: I’ll show you. (Starting to take it out but remembering) He took it. And my phone and my. . . fucking gun. (He KICKS the chair hard.) RECEPTIONIST: You’re scaring me. CRAWLEY: Sorry. (The phone rings. But she doesn’t answer it. RINGS, RINGS, RINGS. He holds his head in pain.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Aren’t you going to answer that? RECEPTIONIST: He told me it’s OK if I didn’t. CRAWLEY: And it’s OK to just listen while they almost killed me? RECEPTIONIST: They almost killed you? CRAWLEY: Didn’t you hear me yelling as they beat me until I was senseless? Fall 2015 Proscenium 109
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
(She nods, ashamed.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): And you didn’t do anything?! RECEPTIONIST: He said I’d hear things, but that I shouldn’t ever do anything because it would ruin everything. And if everything was ruined, then well. . . Bad things would happen to me. CRAWLEY: He said that to you really? RECEPTIONIST: He said they said that. CRAWLEY: (crazed) They? RECEPTIONIST: You’re still scaring me. CRAWLEY: Sorry. But who are “they”? RECEPTIONIST: I have no idea. I’m just the receptionist. CRAWLEY: I told Field a robber at the bank named Stefan said they wanted me alive. RECEPTIONIST: So Stefan knows who they are? CRAWLEY: Stefan is dead and Stefan never said anything like that. I made it up. Just so Field would think there was more to the bank than there actually was so he wouldn’t suspect why I’m really here. RECEPTIONIST: You’re confusing me and I’m sorry I didn’t stop them from hitting you with a gun but some situations are frightening and it’s not always clear what to do, but I know I shouldn’t leave this job. CRAWLEY: Because you get off on hearing people scream? RECEPTIONIST: Because I’m pregnant. (This takes Crawley by surprise.) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): (even faster) Pregnant and stupid because I let some jerk sweet talk me and it didn’t even feel that good well actually it did feel really good I actually enjoy sex quite a bit in fact some people tell me I’m a sex addict but how can it be an addiction if it’s just that you like having sex really really a lot with whoever happens to be around. (This makes an impression on Crawley as well.) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): Anyway now I’m alone and pregnant and scared and confused. Really, really confused. But that’s no excuse is it. That’s what you’re thinking isn’t it. What kind of monster am I who can just sit here and listen and do nothing while a man is screaming? CRAWLEY: . . . No. I’m thinking I’m sorry you’re in a bad situation. And I understand what it’s like to be confused. RECEPTIONIST: That’s what the other one said too. CRAWLEY: The other one? RECEPTIONIST: I can’t say. CRAWLEY: It’s OK. I’m a cop -RECEPTIONIST: How do I really know you’re a cop. You were hit in the head and you have no badge and you’re talking kinda crazy. CRAWLEY: Look at me and you’ll know: (She looks in his eyes. He looks away, can’t help but look at her breasts, looks away embarrassed.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Sorry. RECEPTIONIST: Don’t be. You’re not the first. You have nice eyes. Even if they’re kinda sad and tired. 110 Proscenium Fall 2015
CRAWLEY: That’s how you know I’m a cop. Cop’s eyes are always sad and tired. RECEPTIONIST: That’s what the other one said too. CRAWLEY: The other one? (She looks away, perhaps to his crotch.) CRAWLEY: I got to get to the station. (He stands up shakily.) RECEPTIONIST: Please don’t go. (She holds on to him.) CRAWLEY: I have to. But I’ll be back with other cops. I’ll give them this -(re the recorder) And that will be the end. Dr. Field will go to jail -RECEPTIONIST: But then what happens to me. CRAWLEY: . . . We could use a good receptionist down at the station. (She suddenly laughs.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): What? RECEPTIONIST: Never mind. Do what you have to do. I’ll be fine. (She comes in close.) CRAWLEY: What about the baby? RECEPTIONIST: I’m not really pregnant. (He pulls away.) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said that. CRAWLEY: Yeah, whatever. (He heads towards the door.) RECEPTIONIST: You’re going to leave me here with a raging monster lurking around. CRAWLEY: You mean Jarvish. RECEPTIONIST: I mean the other one. CRAWLEY: You mean Field? RECEPTIONIST: No, the other one. CRAWLEY: O’Shaunassey. (She looks very very afraid and nods.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Why don’t you get out of here too? RECEPTIONIST: They’ll come after me like they’re going to come after you. CRAWLEY: You said they wouldn’t come after me and that you didn’t know anything. RECEPTIONIST: I’m sorry but I don’t want to be alone. I’m scared. I’m really really scared. CRAWLEY: We’ll take you into protective custody. RECEPTIONIST: You can’t even protect yourself. You’re still bleeding bad by the way. (Close now, wiping his head with a towel.) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): How can I help you feel better. . . (Even closer.) CRAWLEY: Can I use your phone? RECEPTIONIST: Is that all? Are you sure? (He holds out his hand for the receiver. She gives it to him, he’s forced to touch her hand to get it away. Fall 2015 Proscenium 111
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
He dials. He gets a machine.) CRAWLEY: (on phone) Hi, it’s me. I’ll be home soon. I love you. (He hands the receptionist back the phone, again their hands touch.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): I’m sorry. I have a girlfriend. RECEPTIONIST: If you’re sorry, she probably shouldn’t be your girlfriend. CRAWLEY: No, I’m not sorry, I’m glad. I just meant I’m sorry I couldn’t take you up on your offer -RECEPTIONIST: Your mouth still says one thing, (definitely looking towards his crotch) your body definitely says another. CRAWLEY: Trust me: I love my girlfriend very much. RECEPTIONIST: I trust you. Does she trust you? CRAWLEY: Why shouldn’t she? RECEPTIONIST: Well I don’t know. You tell me. CRAWLEY: She should trust me. Completely. (This seems to amuse her.) RECEPTIONIST: Tell me her name. CRAWLEY: Cassandra. RECEPTIONIST: Wait -- Does she like predict the future or something? CRAWLEY: It’s her fucking name, OK? RECEPTIONIST: That’s no reason to cuss at me. CRAWLEY: I only cuss when people hit me in the head with a gun and ask me the same questions over and over and yes, she predicted the future once and yes, no one listened. (He starts to leave.) RECEPTIONIST: I can predict the future too: She’s on her way. She’ll be here soon. CRAWLEY: (turning) What. RECEPTIONIST: He told Ms. McCracken to have her come. Because you’re in trouble, more trouble than you even realize. CRAWLEY: I have to call her and tell her I’m not in trouble. RECEPTIONIST: But that’s a lie: You are in trouble, terrible, terrible trouble. Aren’t you? (He looks at her.) CRAWLEY: Yes I am. I am in terrible, terrible trouble. RECEPTIONIST: You should tell her to come right away before it’s too late. CRAWLEY: Yes, I should tell her to come right away before it’s too late. (She hands him the phone. He calls again.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): It’s me. I’m not in trouble. The person who called you was joking. I’m fine. Just go home. I’ll be there in a little while. (He hangs up.) RECEPTIONIST: You’re a good liar. CRAWLEY: I lie when I have to. RECEPTIONIST: Because of your philandering? CRAWLEY: Because I’m a cop. RECEPTIONIST: That’s not an either or relationship is it? CRAWLEY: Yes. No. I mean she doesn’t need to know the terrible things I’ve had to do. 112 Proscenium Fall 2015
RECEPTIONIST: What terrible things have you had to do? (Alone with himself. . .) CRAWLEY: I’ve just done what a cop has to do. RECEPTIONIST: You sound confused which is what you said you were right? CRAWLEY: Look: I killed three people. Because it was my job. Because I’m a cop. RECEPTIONIST: That’s not the whole truth. Is it? (His head hurts.) CRAWLEY: I don’t understand what you’re getting at and I thought you don’t know anything. RECEPTIONIST: I don’t know facts, but I know things. Like Cassandra knows things. CRAWLEY: . . . Were you listening at the door? RECEPTIONIST: A woman doesn’t have to listen at the door to know things. Like Cassandra knows things, things she keeps from you. CRAWLEY: She doesn’t keep things from me, nor does she tell me everything. RECEPTIONIST: They really did hit you in the head hard. CRAWLEY: I mean: some things aren’t important to know. RECEPTIONIST: Like what Cassandra does all day and with whom. CRAWLEY: Yes, no, I mean she has no reason to tell me. . . RECEPTIONIST: Don’t you want to know? CRAWLEY: . . .I do, but I trust her. RECEPTIONIST: You’re lying. (Crawley moves farther away.) CRAWLEY: Are you sure you weren’t listening at the door? RECEPTIONIST: What do you think? CRAWLEY: I think Cassandra loves me and I love her. And we trust each other so we don’t have to know every detail of every minute of each hour of each day of each of our lives. RECEPTIONIST: What about not knowing things about your own life? (This question makes his head hurt worse.) CRAWLEY: If you mean do I not think about unpleasant things in my life, yes, when you’re a cop having to deal with the shit a cop has to deal with, it’s the only way to survive. RECEPTIONIST: That’s not what I mean. (His head hurts even worse.) CRAWLEY: If you mean: Do I really love my girlfriend? Yes, she’s the reason I can find my way home each night. RECEPTIONIST: That’s not what I mean. (Even worse.) CRAWLEY: If you mean: do I ever think about telling her I don’t love her anymore? Yes all the time. RECEPTIONIST: To torture her? CRAWLEY: To make her not care what happens to me. In case something goes wrong. RECEPTIONIST: What could go wrong. CRAWLEY: I could die. RECEPTIONIST: Is that what you want? CRAWLEY: . . . I don’t know. Fall 2015 Proscenium 113
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
RECEPTIONIST: Do you think killers lie to themselves? CRAWLEY: What? RECEPTIONIST: You heard me. (His head SCREAMING in pain.) CRAWLEY: Killers can’t lie to themselves. They see the truth in the bloody face of their last victim and the smiling face of their next victim and in the mirror every moment of every single day. RECEPTIONIST: You know a lot about killers. CRAWLEY: I’m a cop. It’s my job to know. RECEPTIONIST: I like how sure you are. Maybe you should stay. Maybe he’s helping you. (Crawley walks towards the door.) CRAWLEY: They hit me with a fucking gun. I’ll be back with more cops. (He starts to open the door to the outside/sky bridge. A crack of DAYLIGHT.) RECEPTIONIST: What should I tell Cassandra when she gets here? CRAWLEY: She’s not coming. I left her a message saying I was OK. RECEPTIONIST: If she loves you, she can tell you’re lying, that you’re so ambivalent about your life you don’t know what to do. And she’ll be here. (Suddenly angry) CRAWLEY: He told you what to say and what to do, didn’t he? That’s why they didn’t come out after me, because they knew you’d say and do just the right things to keep me here -RECEPTIONIST: You sound more than ambivalent, you sound kinda delusional and paranoid and you’re probably not even a cop. You’re probably just a lunatic like all the other lunatics that come in here. (He calms down.) CRAWLEY: I’m not a lunatic. . . I’m just -RECEPTIONIST: In denial? CRAWLEY: Confused. . . very very confused. RECEPTIONIST: About what? CRAWLEY: What I should have done. RECEPTIONIST: Or what you did do? CRAWLEY: I’m clear about what I did do. I killed three people. And maybe I allowed other people to die because of my indecision. RECEPTIONIST: Indecision or ambivalence? CRAWLEY: He’s told you every fucking thing to say to me. RECEPTIONIST: You should stay. You need help. CRAWLEY: Not the kind of help where they hit you in the head with a fucking gun. RECEPTIONIST: Then why did you come here? (She strokes his face. So close. He grabs her hand HARD and pulls it away.) CRAWLEY: I came here because Duarte said I should come here. RECEPTIONIST: Duarte? She was the other one who said she was a cop. She was quite disturbed when she came just like you. And when she left, she was better -CRAWLEY: You’re lying. RECEPTIONIST: Look into my eyes and you’ll know I’m not. 114 Proscenium Fall 2015
(He looks into her eyes, but then looks away quickly, disturbed.) CRAWLEY: Did they hit Duarte too? RECEPTIONIST: Much, much harder than they hit you but she said it was worth it. (He looks at the door to the outside and then the door to the office) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): Cassandra isn’t really coming. She was never coming. No one called her. I-I was scared. I wanted you to stay. Your head stopped bleeding by the way. CRAWLEY: I’ve been hit a lot worse. (She seems amused. He opens the door to the outside world/sky bridge: Even more LIGHT and the sound of BIRDS CHIRPING. He looks outside -- sounds of CHILDREN LAUGHING far below. Wind all around.) RECEPTIONIST: Stay. Soon, you’ll feel better, just like Duarte. (He can feel the breeze. Such a comforting breeze. And the laughing. But then the laughing turns to SCREAMS and GUNFIRE. Memories of Sami McKeever, Joe Sheridan, and Betty Abramson dying.) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): If you leave, you’ll kill yourself. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but sometime soon. And until you kill yourself, you’ll torture Cassandra. Torture her until she hates you and after you’re dead she’ll curse you and miss you and live a life of absolute misery. (He turns. . . He closes the outside door. He slowly walks over to the office door. He stands there. She kisses him on the cheek. He slowly opens the door to the office. It’s pitch dark in there. Suddenly, he’s hit really HARD from behind with the TELEPHONE. We see but he doesn’t: It’s wielded by the receptionist. She then smashes the tape recorder that Crawley was wearing. Lights out on the outer office. IN THE DARKNESS What looks like a man walks onto stage. The sound of a gun shot! The man falls. What looks like a a pregnant woman walks onto stage. A gun shot! She falls. What looks like a little kid walks onto stage. A gun shot! He falls. Very dim lights up on Dr. Field’s office. Crawley wakes with a start. He’s on the couch. The spotlight slowly illuminates part of the floor. A dead man face down with his chest splayed open.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Joe . . .? (Another spotlight reveals: A dead pregnant woman lying in a pool of her own blood with her dead fetus strung out nearby.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Betty? (Another spotlight reveals: A small boy lies face down dead. . . His bloody guts uncurled about him.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Sami? (Lights revealing blood! Covering the walls! All the furniture has been removed except for the couch and the desk.) Fall 2015 Proscenium 115
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
CRAWLEY (CONT’D): I’m losing my fucking mind. (Dr. Field throws open the frosted door.) DR. FIELD: (coming in) Or maybe you’re finally asleep -JARVISH: (coming after him) So next time be careful what you fucking wish for. (Dr. Field locks the door. Crawley stands up on guard. Jarvish comes towards him threateningly. Crawley prepares to meet him. But instead Jarvish picks up what looks like Sami’s corpse and dances with it.) JARVISH: O’Shaunessey was standing right next to your ugly cop head. You could be dead right now just like Sami here. (Crawley looks closer.) CRAWLEY: (re corpse) It’s not real. (Dr. Field picks up “Joe” off the floor. Two men holding what looks like two blood-covered decaying people.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): None of them are real. (Jarvish brings Sami closer.) JARVISH: Are you sure it’s not real? What about the eyes? (Crawley looks.) CRAWLEY: The eyes. . . They’re -JARVISH: Sad and tired just like every cop’s. DR. FIELD: Each one of O’Shaunassey’s creations made up of parts that don’t quite belong together. JARVISH: I wonder how your eyes would look stuffed inside the head of your large and lovely girlfriend -CRAWLEY: I wonder how your ass is going to look stuffed into your own face. (Jarvish yanks out his GUN.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): Go on. I don’t give a shit what you do to me. (Jarvish stops, the feeling is gone.) JARVISH: What about what I do to Cassandra? (Crawley’s jaw grinds. The feeling is back.) JARVISH (CONT’D): Or what O’Shaunassey does -- Or what we do to her together. (Crawley lunges, Jarvish raises his gun, Dr. Field blocks.) DR. FIELD: Mr. Jarvish - please. (Dr. Field indicates for Jarvish to give him the gun. Jarvish does as he’s told. Dr. Field puts it on the desk.) DR. FIELD: (to Crawley) I was able to sedate O’Shaunassey just in time -JARVISH: But O’Shaunassey will wake up and be back soon to slice you’re fucking head off and then -- do you mind if we call her Cassie while we’re torturing her mercilessly? (Crawley lunges for Jarvish, Dr. Field intervenes.) DR. FIELD: (to Crawley) Listen: If you answer my next question truthfully, I’ll send Jarvish away for good. And I’ll make sure he does nothing to your girlfriend. More importantly, I’ll take care of O’Shaunassey permanently. CRAWLEY: And then what? (Jarvish bursts out laughing.) 116 Proscenium Fall 2015
JARVISH: Cops are so fucking stupid. DR. FIELD: You’ll be cured, Officer Crawley. (Crawley thinks about this.) CRAWLEY: How will you know if my answer is true? DR. FIELD: Your eyes will tell me. JARVISH: Or maybe Sami’s will or whose ever eyes these really are -(Jarvish scoops out Sami’s goopy eyes and throws them at Crawley. Crawley shoves him hard. Jarvish grabs for the gun, but Crawley gets it first. Jarvish is amused. Crawley lowers the gun and puts it on the desk.) CRAWLEY: Ask your fucking question. (Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. And then:) DR. FIELD: What was the one thing you didn’t do at that bank, Officer Crawley? (Waiting and then:) CRAWLEY: I think I did everything I could have. JARVISH: Can I hit him one more time before O’Shaunassey comes back? DR. FIELD: Think harder, Officer Crawley. I want you to succeed. (A moment and then:) CRAWLEY: OK, I didn’t do everything I could have done. But I did a lot. I did enough. I did my fucking job. DR. FIELD: You disappoint me Officer Crawley. (The outer office remains dark except a light comes up on the frosted door illuminating the silhouette of a figure holding the large knife. Jarvish gets excited.) JARVISH: O’Shaunassey time! (Crawley looks at the gun on the desk -The shadowy figure tries the knob. It’s locked. Jarvish goes towards the door to unlock it, but Dr. Field blocks.) DR. FIELD: What was the one thing you didn’t do at that bank, Officer Crawley? CRAWLEY: I never should have talked to Cassandra. Then I wouldn’t have to think about the pain I’ve caused her and will cause her in the future. I never should have been a cop. Then I wouldn’t have been in charge with every decision falling to me. And I should never have been at that bank, as a cop or as a pedestrian or anything else. Then I wouldn’t feel all this guilt. DR. FIELD: Guilt, Officer Crawley? For what. CRAWLEY: For not doing what I had to do. DR. FIELD: Which was what? CRAWLEY: I should have shot Stefan before he shot my partner. JARVISH: Can I unlock the door now!? CRAWLEY: I answered your fucking question truthfully. DR. FIELD: No, you told me what you thought I wanted to hear not what you believed to be true. (Jarvish heads towards the door.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): You don’t feel guilt, you said it yourself. You think you did everything you were supposed to. Fall 2015 Proscenium 117
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
CRAWLEY: Then why am I here. DR. FIELD: You tell me. (The shadow on the other side of the door. With the knife. Trying the knob. Crawley blocks Jarvish just in time.) CRAWLEY: Because I feel lucky. Lucky that I’m alive, and that those people are dead and not me. (Dr. Field smiles at Crawley. Jarvish looks disappointed.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): So am I cured? (Jarvish looks happy.) DR. FIELD: Are you still asking me? JARVISH: Which means it’s time for O’Shaunassey! (Jarvish reaches for the door.) CRAWLEY: Wait. That’s a lie. I should have been quicker to shoot Stefan but I was worried I would miss and Joe would die. OK? I let my fear get in the way of my judgment. It haunts me every day, every night, it’s all I think about. (A long moment and then:) DR. FIELD: I’m proud of you, Officer Crawley. (Jarvish is disappointed. Crawley breathes a sigh of relief.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): Open the door, Mr. Jarvish. (Jarvish reaches for the door gleefully. Crawley grabs Jarvish, Jarvish grabs the gun from the desk and hits him with it -- Crawley screams in pain and fights back, grabbing the gun and hitting Jarvish with it. Dr. Field unlocks the door. CLICK. Crawley and Jarvish turn -The door opens. Crawley points the gun towards the door -The looming figure turns out to be. . . the receptionist. Lights down on the frosted door. Dr. Field and Jarvish appear to be disappointed. Crawley is relieved.) RECEPTIONIST: (Nervous and scared) I heard you yell. This time I was going to do something. (re gun) Why are you pointing that at me? (He lowers the gun.) CRAWLEY: You have to leave now -DR. FIELD: It’s OK. She can stay -JARVISH: Sure, have her stay. She’ll do even if she isn’t large and lovely. (Crawley points the gun at Dr. Field and Jarvish.) CRAWLEY: Touch her and you die. RECEPTIONIST: It’s OK, Officer. Nothing’s going to happen to me. DR. FIELD: She’s right. So you can put your gun down. (Crawley keeps the gun trained on him.) CRAWLEY: What about O’Shaunassey? (Jarvish bursts out laughing. Crawley cocks the trigger.) DR. FIELD: Careful, Officer Crawley, as you point out guns go off. CRAWLEY: Not this one. Not unless I want it to. (Jarvish laughs and laughs.) 118 Proscenium Fall 2015
RECEPTIONIST: Please, Officer Crawley, put the gun down or bad things will happen. (She holds out her hand for the gun. A long beat. He gives it to her. She puts it on the desk. Jarvish LAUGHS harder.) CRAWLEY: (to the receptionist) You should leave now. DR. FIELD: Stay where you are. RECEPTIONIST: (to Crawley) I have to do what he says or I’ll lose my job. CRAWLEY: ARE YOU INSANE? LOOK AROUND YOU! (She sees: The bloody real looking corpses.) RECEPTIONIST: Oh God. (She faints into Crawley’s arms. He’s forced to hold her up. Jarvish keeps laughing. Crawley starts to take her outside.) RECEPTIONIST (CONT’D): Will you look into my eyes, Officer Crawley? CRAWLEY: There’s no time for that. (She holds onto him.) RECEPTIONIST: Please I need you to. . . CRAWLEY: (trying to get away) I love my girlfriend. I told you -(She holds onto him tighter.) RECEPTIONIST: Why is it that men can easily look at a woman’s legs, at her crotch, at her breasts. But to look into her eyes seems to be a betrayal of the worst kind -CRAWLEY: It’s not a betrayal, it’s just. . . painful. RECEPTIONIST: You didn’t really look before, did you? . . . CRAWLEY: I was remembering Cassandra’s eyes. She has the eyes of an angel. Now can we go? RECEPTIONIST: Not until you tell me what you see when you look into my eyes. (He looks, peels himself away, scared.) CRAWLEY: You’re a . . . (She pulls out the knife from behind her back and slices Crawley’s face. AAAAA!) RECEPTIONIST: A killer? Is that what you were going to say? CRAWLEY: (in pain) No, a lost child who can’t find her way home . . . am I right (into her eyes) O’Shaunassey? RECEPTIONIST AKA O’SHAUNASSEY: You know better than me. (The receptionist AKA O’Shaunassey SLICES his face again. Aaa!) DR. FIELD: Which kind of killer is she, Officer? (Crawley looks deeper, as he writhes in pain.) CRAWLEY: The kind that can’t help herself. (She slices the back of his leg. AAAA!) RECEPTIONIST AKA O’SHAUNASSEY: And who hates herself afterwards. (She slices the back of his leg deeper. AAAAAAA!) O’SHAUNASSEY: I’m sorry. (She raises the knife. Crawley hits her, grabs the knife from her, and throws it out the window. Crawley watches it go -- a long way down.) DR. FIELD: (behind him, re jumping) Why not? Fall 2015 Proscenium 119
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
CRAWLEY: Because it would break Cassandra’s heart. (Crawley runs towards the door -Dr. Field grabs him, pushes the gun into Crawley’s hand.) DR. FIELD: You’ve been attacked. You’ve been scarred. You’re bleeding. You have justifiable cause. It’s what you want, isn’t it. CRAWLEY: No. Not as long as I have Cassandra. (Crawley puts the gun down and heads towards the door He swings open the door -Lights up revealing a woman, dark and beautiful, with a single strand of gray. Crawley’s taken aback.) DR. FIELD: Officer Crawley’s girlfriend I presume? (Jarvish bursts out LAUGHING. Cassandra is horrified to see Crawley’s bloody state.) CASSANDRA: A woman called me. She told me not to believe you, that you were in trouble, that I should come right away -(Crawley looks at O’Shaunassey who shrugs coyly.) CRAWLEY: I’m not in trouble. I’m fine. (Crawley takes her by the arm, he can’t help but bleed on her.) DR. FIELD: (blocking) I’m Officer Crawley’s therapist. CRAWLEY: He’s not my therapist. I was here investigating him -(Jarvish laughs at this.) CRAWLEY: (leading her towards the door) Let’s go -DR. FIELD: He started to get violent, he’s very strong as you know, we had to restrain him and he ended up injured in the process -CRAWLEY: Let’s go now, please -(He pulls her harder towards the door, limping.) DR. FIELD: (to Cassandra) If you leave, I can’t guarantee he’ll be alive tomorrow. Or if you will be. (Cassandra looks worried.) CRAWLEY: If we don’t leave now, they’ll hurt you like they hurt me. (He pulls her forwards.) JARVISH: (blocking, to Cassandra) Hello, I’m Dr. Jarvish. Do you mind if a call you Cassandra? CASSANDRA: Well, that’s what he (re Crawley) calls me, although it’s not really my name -(Dr. Field, Jarvish, and O’Shaunassey share a look.) CRAWLEY: (to Cassandra or whatever her name is) Your name is none of their fucking business. Let’s go now. (Crawley starts to pull her out the door -- Until Dr. Field blocks them.) DR. FIELD: (hand on his gun inside his jacket) I’m sorry. I really can’t let him go not when we’re this close to a cure. CRAWLEY: (to his girlfriend) Don’t worry we’re going to make it. (He pushes Dr. Field out of the way and swings open the door. He starts to pull her through -CRAWLEY: No matter what they say keep walking -JARVISH: (ogling her behind) Sure, keep walking, Angel. 120 Proscenium Fall 2015
CRAWLEY: (spinning around) Don’t call her that, you fuck. CASSANDRA OR WHATEVER HER NAME IS: But Angel is my name. JARVISH: It is?! . . . . Are you a. . . prostitute? ANGEL AKA CASSANDRA: I don’t like to think about it. DR. FIELD: And you’re his girlfriend? ANGEL AKA CASSANDRA: That’s what he pays me to be. Yes. (Jarvish laughs so hard he’s almost rolling on the floor.) ANGEL AKA CASSANDRA: (to Crawley) But even if you didn’t, I’d still be your girlfriend -(Jarvish laughs even HARDER. Snapping, Crawley lunges for him. Dr. Field lunges for Cassandra AKA Angel and grabs her, yanking out a gun from his jacket and putting it to her head.) ANGEL AKA CASSANDRA: Please no! (Crawley grabs the gun off the desk. Dr. Field throws O’Shaunassey and Jarvish two more guns - from the desk drawer. Jarvish grabs the dead kid doll. And O’Shaunessey grabs the dead pregnant doll, putting the guns to their dead dollheads. Crawley is caught in the middle as he trains his gun on DR. FIELD.) JARVISH: Kinda reminds you of what you let happen to that kid, huh Cop. O’SHAUNASSEY: And that poor pregnant woman -DR. FIELD: And your partner. Remember when Stefan had a gun to his head just like this? (Crawley is deep inside himself.) CRAWLEY: I remember. ANGEL AKA CASSANDRA: Don’t let them hurt me. Please. . . (Dr. Field holds the gun to her head.) DR. FIELD: If you shoot Mr. Jarvish I’ll shoot Angel. If you shoot her (meaning O’Shaunassey) I’ll shoot Angel. If you shoot me, they’ll shoot Angel. CRAWLEY (CONT’D): So there’s nothing I can do. ANGEL: What do you mean there’s nothing you can do? DR. FIELD: And nothing you could have done at the bank? (Crawley is silent.) DR. FIELD: JUST SAY IT. (A moment.) CRAWLEY: I could have killed my own partner. DR. FIELD: Because. . . CRAWLEY: They would have no power, nothing to bargain with, and mostly they would have been surprised. I could have taken them all out before they re-focused themselves enough to kill the hostages. DR. FIELD: Are you sure? CRAWLEY: I think so but it’s hard to answer in the abstract. DR. FIELD: You don’t have to answer in the abstract. (Dr. Field holds the gun to Angel’s head harder. Fall 2015 Proscenium 121
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
O’Shaunassey and Jarvish seem excited. Crawley looks at Angel, crazed.) ANGEL (CONT’D): I don’t understand. What do they want? CRAWLEY: They want to help me not to be confused. ANGEL: What are you confused about? CRAWLEY: Why you want me to quit the force. ANGEL: What? CRAWLEY: It’s all I have. It’s what I’m good at. ANGEL: But it seems like being a policeman is making you sad? CRAWLEY: So I’m not good at being a policeman? ANGEL: You are, you’re very good -CRAWLEY: I could have been a detective -ANGEL: You could still be a detective, if that’s what you want -CRAWLEY: (an absolute crazed look in his eye) I don’t know what I want. I just know people died and I couldn’t stop it. ANGEL: People die, that’s just what happens sometimes. CRAWLEY: You’re trying to confuse me again. ANGEL: No, I just want to stay alive -DR. FIELD: Yes, she is trying to confuse you. JARVISH: Do it before it’s too late. O’SHAUNASSEY: Do it now and you’ll be free. ANGEL: I know I’m not really Cassandra and it makes no sense: but I love you. I really do. CRAWLEY: (moved. . .) I-I love you too. (And then . . . He shoots her in the chest. He shoots Jarvish. He shoots O’Shaunassey. He shoots Dr. Field. Jarvish and O’Shaunassey fall as does Angel in disbelief. Dr. Field seems to struggle with the pain.) DR. FIELD: Very good, Officer Crawley. You found the answer. (But -Dr. Field doesn’t fall. Dr. Field stops struggling with the pain and stands back up straight. Then Angel slowly rises up . . . O’Shaunassey and Jarvish slowly rise up as well.) ANGEL: (to Crawley) You shot me. . . ? CRAWLEY: I’m sorry . . . DR. FIELD: It’s OK, they were only blanks. But here’s your real bullets back. (He hands Crawley the real bullets. Crawley tries to make eye contact with Angel, but she won’t look at him.) DR. FIELD (CONT’D): This could have all been avoided if you had only shot your partner like you were supposed to. CRAWLEY: But that’s what I did do, you stupid fuck. (They look at him as -The lights change radically, the reverse of what they just were.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): . . . My gun went off. I shot Joe by mistake. Even though Chuckie was going to let him go. 122 Proscenium Fall 2015
JARVISH: Wasn’t his name Stefan? CRAWLEY: Then Chuckie dropped his weapon just like you said he would. And so did the punks. DR. FIELD: Well, guns go off. CRAWLEY: And so do people. (They look at him.) CRAWLEY (CONT’D): I shot Chuckie. And the two punks. First one then the other then the other. And then I put myself in a situation where I finally would have to make a decision. I shot that pregnant woman Betty Abramson and that kid Sami McKeever. I shot them in cold blood. (A long silence. And then:) DR. FIELD: So you’re a killer. . . CRAWLEY: Is that a question or a statement? DR. FIELD: . . . You’re a killer. (Crawley nods.) O’SHAUNASSEY: But which kind of killer? (Dr. Field looks in his eyes.) DR. FIELD: The kind who can’t stop himself. JARVISH: No, the kind that enjoys it. (O’Shaunassey looks into Crawley’s eyes.) O’SHAUNASSEY: . . . Enjoys it more than any of us will ever know. ANGEL: (starting to cry) I don’t care. I still love you. CRAWLEY: I lied: I don’t love you. I feel nothing for you. Because you’re not dying in front of me in a pool of your own blood. If you were, well then maybe I would love you. (And now dry-eyed and cold as ice:) ANGEL: For what it’s worth: I’m having your baby. (A long time and then. . . Angel walks out slowly. . . ) JARVISH: (to Crawley) . . . Congratulations. I know you’re going to be a great father. (Jarvish . . . . walks. . . . . out. O’Shaunassey wants to say something to Crawley, but instead just. . . follows. Dr. Field takes out Crawley’s cell phone and badge from the desk. And leaves them by Crawley. Dr. Field picks up a cigarette and lights it. He smokes it with great relish. Smoke fills the room.) DR. FIELD: I’ll bill you. (Dr. Field . . . walks . . . . out, as the lights start to dim. Crawley is alone in the bloody, smoky, dark room.) CRAWLEY: How do I feel? Not confused. How do I feel? Not ambivalent. HOW DO I FEEL? I feel. . . Clear. (He looks at his gun. . . He begins to raise it to his temple -- ) DR. FIELD: (as a voice in the darkness) Well, Officer Crawley, I’d say the hypnosis was very successful. (The lights suddenly become very bright. The room is no longer covered with blood or in any way disturbed. Dr. Field is sitting across from Crawley, who likewise is not injured, but looks like he did at the Fall 2015 Proscenium 123
Clear David E. Tolchinsky
beginning.) DR. FIELD: You’d better give me that (re the gun in his hand) before someone gets hurt. (Field holds out his hand. Like in a dream, Crawley hands Field his gun. Field pushes a button on the side of his chair. The door opens and in walks The Receptionist/O’Shaunassey, but she’s dressed in a high class suit. She’s accompanied by Angel and Jarvish, in police uniforms.) DR. FIELD: Did you get all that, Captain Duarte? (The Receptionist/O’Shaunassey AKA Duarte nods and indicates a recorder in her jacket pocket.) DUARTE: Although I’m not sure how admissible it will. DR. FIELD: Oh, don’t worry. Officer Crawley will confirm all of it. Won’t you, Officer Crawley? (Crawley nods.) DR. FIELD: (to Crawley) Are you ready? (Crawley nods. Duarte looks to Angel and Jarvish, who step forward and cuff him.) DUARTE: Read him his rights and all that other bullshit. (Angel and Jarvish start to lead him out. Crawley still seems like he’s dreaming.) CRAWLEY: (to Field) Thanks. (Field nods. A beat and then . . . Angel and Jarvish escort him out.) THE RECEPTIONIST AKA DUARTE: Nice work as always, Doc. (She leaves as well. Field pulls out a bottle of scotch and a glass and pours himself a long one. He sips it slowly . . .) DR. FIELD: Yeah, whatever. (He looks at Crawley’s gun. He raises it to his temple. And leaves it there for a long time. Lights eventually fade. . . to black.)
END OF PLAY
About the Playwright 124 Proscenium Fall 2015
Between Two Nevermores by
Sherod Santos Spring 2015 Prosceniumâ€‚ 125
Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
A Conversation with the Playwright Poet, playwright, and translator, Sherod Santos is the author of six books of poetry, most recently “The Intricated Soul: New and Selected Poems.” In 2005 he published “Greek Lyric Poetry: A New Translation,” for which he received the Umhoefer Prize in Translation. Mr. Santos has received fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Guggenheim foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999 he received an Award for Literary Excellence from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Productions of his plays include: 10-minute play, “Star,” Algonquin Theatre, New York City, 2010; one-act play, “Coffee Shop,” The Flint Michigan Play Festival, 2010; full-length play, “Lives of the Pigeons,” The Side Project, Chicago, 2013; two-minute play, “Beginning of the Revolution,” Royal Court Theatre: “Grit,” 2015. His work has also appeared in literary journals and magazines including The Antioch Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Nation, Poetry, The Yale Poetry Review, The American Poetry Review, The New York Times Book Review, The Kenyon Review and Parnassus Books. His book, “The Pilot Star Elegies,” was a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award and he is a recipient of the The Pushcart Prize. What was your inspiration for this play? As a poet I’m of course drawn to what is, in essence, the formative story of poetry and poets. It’s a story that evokes poetry’s deep-seated link to love and death and the erotic and, at the same time, its kinship with secrecy. In poetry as in plays, what isn’t said is always as important as what is. That’s a pretty heady combination of energies, and I was, as you say, inspired by the prospect of re-imagining them. (Bare room. Three female figures, barefoot, 126 Proscenium Fall 2015
What do you want the audience to come away with? First and foremost, I’m only interested in “lived” experience, not in “literature” and “literary traditions.” I think the worst that could happen would be for an audience to feel compelled to interpret the play or to fix it in some scholarly context – the boneyard of the arts. My hope, in fact, is that the audience would enjoy the play without knowing anything about the myth itself. Can you discuss your choice to experiment with traditional play formatting in this script (i.e. leaving out character names)? I wish I could say that I had even the vaguest sense of what I was doing in the early stages of writing, but I simply struck a small match in a very large cave, and it seemed to take forever to find my way. At times I felt like I was writing a play in verse, at others like I was writing a poem in dramatic form, and in each case I was unhappy with the either/or nature of that relationship. In your example, the conventions for formatting a script kept chopping up the poetry; at the same time, the continuities of a traditional poetic form kept redirecting the discontinuities between characters. What I wanted was a form that accommodated, on equal terms, both of those impulses. What writers inspire you? I’m afraid my reading is hopelessly unsystematic, and so far as I can tell it hasn’t over time shown any special loyalty to any particular genre or period set of authors. I’ve always believed that the books we need most find us, not the other way around. Certainly much that has been meaningful to me I’ve discovered largely by accident, stumbling on one book while
looking for another. That’s the most compelling reason I can think of for preserving our used bookstores and libraries. In my experience, for what it’s worth, wandering aimlessly along dusty bookshelves can lead to profoundly personal discoveries.
Between Two Nevermores is copyright © 2015 by Sherod Santos. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to email@example.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of Between Two Nevermores are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional What advice do you have for writers start- and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all ing out? other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved.
Look closely, listen closely, read closely, take it all in. Then work, work, work until you move beyond the difficulty of the work to a love for the difficulty. In my opinion, only then are you truly prepared to turn inspiration into art. Oh, and one other thing: don’t think you’re a genius.
Proscenium osceni Want to submit to Proscenium Journal? Simply send your play as both a PDF and Word file to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Submission: (Title), (Author)”
Please also send us a short author bio and information about production history (if applicable). We look forward to reading your submissions!
Fall 2015 Proscenium 127
Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
Between Two Nevermores By Sherod Santos
gray threadbare robes, huddle in a corner murmuring to themselves. Mid-stage, Eurydice, dressed alike, sits on a wooden chair at a plain deal table. Loud buzzer. Offstage, creak of metal door. Eurydice looks up. Orpheus enters. Murmuring abruptly stops. Eurydice speaks first.) What’re you doing here? I think you know. Do I? You know at least I wouldn’t have come for anything other than to take you out. Who let you in? The night nurse at the nurse’s station checked me through. Of course she did. So what’d it take, your sweet talk or your everso-lyrical tears? I simply explained the situation as it is. Which is? I am your husband, after all. That’s all? There wasn’t any reason 128 Proscenium Fall 2015
to turn me back.
I doubt reason was needed. You could talk a woman out of her grave, or into it, if you wanted to.
That’s not the impression I came here to leave.
Then I suppose you didn’t hear the ward fall silent when you walked in? I didn’t hear anything fall. (From three figures, barely audible whispers.) Do you hear anything now? (Pause, listening. Whispers from three figures clarify into words, as if a radio is being tuned in.) (VOICE 1)
LOOK SEE PRETTYBOY’S PAID A VISIT
What’s that, noise? A voice that slipped its gag.
(VOICE 2) COCK-OF-THE-WALK TO MADHOUSE COME
(VOICE 3) SOMETHING IS IN STORE
It seems you’ve caught Fall 2015 Proscenium 129
Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
their attention. What outsider wouldn’t? No outsiders try.
(VOICE 1) I’M TOLD HE LIKES IT LIKE HE ALWAYS DID
(VOICE 2) MAYBE IF WE COULD COAX HIM OVER…
(VOICE 3) …WE COULD MILK HIM LIKE A COW
You’d be wise to keep your distance. I’m not surprised. I knew I wasn’t coming to a nursery school. Light’s more at home in the dark in here.
(VOICE 1) A CREAMSTREAM FROM THE WELLHEAD SPILLS…
(VOICE 2) …DEEP ENOUGH TO FLOAT A COAL BARGE ON
You hear the same from foul-mouthed juveniles trolling the malls. Thus so: sex in here is a tight-strung wire 130 Proscenium Fall 2015
the fingers more or less play. This is no place for you. It’s no worse in than out. A bit Spartan, yes, a bit routine, but time is nothing to complain about. The root-white walls are bare enough to spare us memories, and meals are nicely seasoned with a pinch of pentobarbital.
What are the terms of your release?
What makes you think I asked for terms? You’d be better taken care of where you were. The truth is, the attendants here take my well-being seriously. I’m not just the bride of a legend, a backlit figure who comes and goes. No, as it turns out, there’s more to my story than that. You can’t tell me there’s nothing back there you miss. What I miss only are the woods beyond Fall 2015 Proscenium 131
Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
the forage fields. The wild rose canes, the rowan trees. Holm oak heavy with acorns. Pitch pine heavy with cones. Clusters of ash wound round with twining bittersweet vine.
I know those woods as well. They’re where we met.
And everything changed.
I saw you first leaning out over a shallow pond gazing into your drowned eyes.
Your presence lagged behind me like a feral dog.
I wasn’t hiding, I said hello.
And when I turned I stood aslant the universe.
We met halfway and sat together on the trunk of a fallen tree.
I knew too little not to take you at your word. Nothing I said was out of line. Enough to entrust you with my hand. 132 Proscenium Fall 2015
I only meant to walk you home. And step by step my fate was sealed.
You make it sound as though I didn’t care.
It wasn’t that you didn’t, it was how you did. How you saw me always in the mirror of your appetites.
Was it wrong to want you?
What you wanted wasn’t me, it was the wanting, the excess of it, the superabundance that goaded me to make a fetish of a god. I never loved you against your will. Like a matchstick struck, your love was sparked by the wide-eyed thrill an arsonist feels in burning a kindled building down.
Since when was I ever—?
What’s almost worse, you channeled my unhappiness through the meters of a poem. I shouldn’t have held it against you. That’s who Fall 2015 Proscenium 133
Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
you are, that’s what you do. But that’s exactly what I did. It’s as though you found a tear in the earth that opened to take you… …away was all. That’s all, away. It’s not for nothing I’ve labored to breach the barrier air nature made to keep you here. That’s the catch. There is no “you” to keep. When my name’s called now, the woman who answers isn’t the woman you’ve risked your hopes to overthrow. That woman died twice before. I won’t go back alone. This isn’t a place you want to hang around in.
(VOICE 1) O ORPHEUS DID YOUR FATHER NOT WARN YOU NOT TO TURN YOUR BACK ON WOMEN WITH MAYHEM ON THEIR MINDS
At least they know me for who I am.
Don’t kid yourself, 134 Proscenium Fall 2015
not even you can talk them down.
(VOICE 2) LIKE A BANDAGE UNWOUND FROM A WOUND YOUR REPUTATION WON’T HELP YOU HERE
They can’t be moved to tears.
(VOICE 3) PELTED WITH MUD AND STICKS AND STONES YOU’LL SOON ENOUGH CHANGE YOUR TUNE
(VOICE 1) NO LONGER THE BLOND TRANSCENDENCE THAT YOU WERE
(VOICE 2) SNAKESKINNED WITH YOUR BLOOD YOUR BODY DRAGGED TO A RIVERBANK AND PARTED FROM ITS HEAD
That can’t happen to me. (VOICE 3)
IMMORTALS DIE AT A DIFFERENT RATE BUT DIE THEY DO
Unburied? (VOICE 1)
DRAGGING THEIR FEET A VAPOR LIKE DRY ICE FOLLOWING
(VOICE 2) UNNAMED Fall 2015 Proscenium 135
Between Two Nevermores Sherod Santos
Poetry’s not worth the sorrowing song accounted for.
It mattered enough once.
It’s little enough now.
(VOICE 1) WHICH BRINGS US TO THE EVENING NEWS
(VOICE 2) THE OUTLOOK FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS
(VOICE 3) SUNDAY SILENCE MONDAY SILENCE ALL DAY ALL NIGHT NOTHING BUT SILENCE
Better off not another word.
(ALL 3 VOICES) AMEN
A long, deep, compassing pause, nothing like anything to speak of again. (Voices of three figures subside into an unintelligible confusion of words that abruptly ends. Orpheus and Eurydice stand unmoving. To an almost painful degree, the stage is flooded with light. Offstage, a metal bolt is thrown and the stage is pitched into darkness.)
END OF PLAY
136 Proscenium Fall 2015
Proscenium It All Starts Here
Supporting playwrights. Encouraging discovery. Making theatre accessible. Copyright ÂŠ 2015 Proscenium Journal. All rights reserved. Spring 2015 Prosceniumâ€‚ 137
Mai Dang Lao David Jacobi
Supporting playwrights. Encouraging discovery. Making theatre accessible. 138â€‚Proscenium Spring 2015
Photos by David Kinder
Copyright ÂŠ 2015 Proscenium Journal. All rights reserved.
Published on Sep 7, 2015
Published on Sep 7, 2015
Proscenium Journal is the first free literary journal for publishing plays. Proscenium's Third Issue includes five plays: "Pericles Wet" by...