Where do you draw the line? Who decides?

ADAM:  Being a girl, growing up, is that what it’s like?  Do you have to deal with—I don’t know what words to use—do you have to deal with men being … creepy all the time?

 

The following is a scene from my full-length play DISCLOSURE, originally produced by Those Women Productions at PianoFight in San Francisco.

DISCLOSURE is available for production. Contact the author for rights: clashof[at]gmail.com.

(C) All rights reserved. The author is a member of The Dramatists Guild.Disclosure, Rehearsal photo with Gabriel Kenney & Kelly Rinehart

—————–

Adam, a 21-year-old college student, has had an affair with his graduate teaching assistant, Janice. She broke off the relationship because of ethical doubts and from fear of being disciplined for sexual misconduct. Now Adam comes to Janice to discuss his term paper. Shortly before this scene, Adam learns that his mother was abused by her uncle when she was a child.

 

(JANICE is sitting in her professor’s office, grading papers.  ADAM knocks tentatively on the half-open door.  JANICE looks up.  When she sees ADAM, she sighs miserably and shakes her head.)

 

ADAM

I just want to talk to you about my final paper.  Like any other student.  Okay?

 

JANICE

Yeah.  Okay.

 

(ADAM enters and sits down.  He pulls books and notes out of his backpack.)

 

ADAM

This passage here.  I want to use this in my paper, but it’s bothering me.

(He opens a book and begins to read aloud.)

“One day in 1867, a farm hand from the village of Lapcourt, who was somewhat simple-minded, employed here then there … was turned into authorities.  At the border of a field, he had obtained a few caresses from a little girl, just as he had done before and seen done by the village urchins round about him …”

 

JANICE

We talked about that in the discussion section last week.

 

ADAM

I wasn’t there.

 

JANICE

I noticed.

 

ADAM

It’s hard to be in class when … I mean, it’s hard for me to see you and, you know, not—

 

JANICE

I won’t mark your grade down for attendance if that’s what you’re worried about.

 

ADAM

I’m not.  Worried about my grade.  Although, I thought you said you were going to treat me like any other student.  You did say that.

 

JANICE

If you had pneumonia or something, or a family emergency, I wouldn’t mark you down.

 

ADAM

Whatever.  I really don’t give a shit.

 

JANICE

Sorry.

 

ADAM

Me too.

(Pause.)

My paper?

 

JANICE

Yes.  Sorry.

(Pause.)

You were thinking …?

 

ADAM

About how Proust and Foucault represent childhood.  And also, Foucault uses the phrase “timeless gestures”—I thought maybe I could make a connection to Proust’s search for lost time.

 

JANICE

Interesting.  That’s good.

 

ADAM

Thanks.

 

JANICE

So what’s bothering you?  About the passage.

 

ADAM

Foucault says: “What is the significant thing about this story?  The pettiness of it all …” And he calls it an “everyday occurrence” and an “inconsequential pleasure.”  And then he says, basically, that it was ridiculous for the authorities to make a big fuss, to turn this “everyday occurrence” into a matter for policemen and judges and doctors.

 

JANICE

In the overall context of his argument, Foucault is explaining how the discourse we use to discuss sexuality has changed over the past three centuries./ He suggests—

 

ADAM

But is it true?

 

JANICE

Is what true?

 

ADAM

That child abuse is an everyday occurrence?  Okay, I know that Foucault wouldn’t call it “child abuse.”  I mean, the things that happen between the peasant girl and the farm hand, he calls them “timeless gestures” and “bucolic pleasures.”  But, whatever you call it, does it happen all the time?

 

JANICE

It happens a lot.

 

ADAM

And does that make it petty and inconsequential?

 

JANICE

Not necessarily.  It’s a controversial passage.

 

ADAM

But, an “everyday occurrence”?  Is that what it’s really like?

 

JANICE

I’m not sure what you’re asking me.

 

ADAM

Being a girl, growing up, is that what it’s like?  Do you have to deal with—I don’t know what words to use—do you have to deal with men being … creepy all the time?

 

JANICE

“Creepy”?

 

ADAM

Yeah.

 

JANICE

Not all the time.  But, yes, there are a lot of “creepy” men in the world.

 

ADAM

And only a few of them get arrested or put in jail, and not every woman spends years and years in therapy dealing with her childhood traumas … so, is it actually “inconsequential,” like Foucault says? I mean, if it’s just the way things are, then … ?

 

JANICE

Well, there are differences in degree.

 

ADAM

But who draws the line?  Who decides?

 

JANICE

That’s a good question.  You should explore that in your essay.

 

ADAM

Oh, crap.  You sound just like a teacher.

 

JANICE

Well, I am a teacher.  That’s the problem, isn’t it?  Anyway, you said you wanted to talk to me about your paper.  Like any other student.  So I’m trying to talk like any other teacher.

 

ADAM

Okay, but you can tell me what you think, can’t you?  As a teacher.  As a person.  Is that not allowed, to have a real conversation about a real subject?

 

JANICE

Of course.  Sorry.

 

ADAM

Thanks.  So.  Let’s say a person, as a child, had an experience with an adult involving sexual contact … If you say she was “abused” or “molested,” then it’s a crime.  It’s a terrible violation.  But you might use different words, like “seduced” or “fooled around” or “obtained a few caresses,” and then what?  Does it change the experience?

 

JANICE

It changes the significance of the experience.

 

ADAM

For whom?  For the child?

 

(Pause.)

 

JANICE

That’s a good question.

 

ADAM

When she was a child, my mother was abused by her uncle.  She told me about it just recently.

 

JANICE

Oh.

 

ADAM

And she thinks our relationship, yours and mine, is abusive.  Was.  Was abusive.

 

JANICE

What?

 

ADAM

An abuse of power.

 

JANICE

Your mother thinks that—about me?

 

ADAM

She’s the one who reported us to the dean.

 

JANICE

Me.  Reported me.  I doubt your name was mentioned.  In any case, you are a tuition-paying undergraduate, by definition innocent.

 

ADAM

What do you mean?

 

JANICE

Just that you won’t—wouldn’t—wouldn’t have gotten in any trouble for having sex with me.  You weren’t running any risk.

 

ADAM

I wasn’t trying to put you in a bad situation.

 

JANICE

But did you think about it?  Did you think about the consequences?

 

ADAM

I thought about, you know, pregnancy, STDs, condoms—

 

JANICE

Points for that.  But you also read the student handbook, you knew the rules about “amorous relationships” and “sexual misconduct.”  You knew right from the beginning.

 

ADAM

But I didn’t think about it.  Not that way.

 

JANICE

How did you think about it?

 

ADAM

I don’t know.  Just.  You know.

 

JANICE

No, I don’t know.  I don’t have any fucking idea.  So why don’t you tell me?

 

ADAM

Well, it actually sounded kind of sexy:  “Sexual misconduct … Amorous relationships.”

 

JANICE

Sexual harassment.  Violation of ethical standards.  Does that sound sexy?

 

ADAM

No.  That just sounds creepy.

 

(Pause.)

 

JANICE

When you came to class wearing those damned pajamas—did you have it all planned?

 

ADAM

Did I have what planned?

 

JANICE

Getting me to go to your room with you.  I mean, you had a condom in your pocket—

 

ADAM

I always have a condom in my pocket.  Like most guys.  I thought that was a good thing, being responsible—

 

JANICE

Were you planning to have sex with me?

 

ADAM

Planning?  No. … I was hoping, I guess.  I mean, yeah, I thought about having sex with you.  But it was just a fantasy.  Not a plan.  I didn’t think anything would happen really.

 

JANICE

But you tried.

 

ADAM

You can’t blame a guy for trying, can you?

 

JANICE

That’s open to debate.

 

ADAM

I didn’t force you to do anything against your will, did I?

 

JANICE

No.

 

ADAM

I’m not a … creep.  I’m not a … rapist.

 

JANICE

No.  No.  I didn’t mean that.

 

(Silence.)

 

ADAM

So, now what?

 

JANICE

So now I’m a teacher, you’re a student.

 

ADAM

Until I graduate?

 

JANICE

Not only until then, no.

 

ADAM

Forever.  Even when I’m not a student?  Just put it behind us?

 

JANICE

Yes.

 

ADAM

Is that really what you want?  It’s not just what you’re saying because of not wanting to, you know, violate standards of ethical conduct, or whatever?

 

JANICE

Yes, it’s what I want.

(Pause.)

I like you a lot, Adam.

 

ADAM

But you don’t love me.

 

JANICE

I’m sorry.

 

ADAM

Right.

 

(ADAM stands, gathers up his things, and turns towards the door.)

 

JANICE

Are you okay?

 

(ADAM shrugs without turning back to look at JANICE.)

 

ADAM

See you in class.

 

(He exits.)

 

END SCENE

 

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FlashPlays

Just for fun, I’m sharing the two shorty-short plays I wrote for the Bay Area Playwrights Foundation FlashPlays Festival, which ran at Brava Theater Center in San Francisco on December 6 & 7, 2015:

PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE

SETTING: A classroom. TIME: The present.

CHARACTERS:

TEACHER, White, any gender.

PARENT, Black, any gender.

The PARENT and TEACHER sit across from one another. The teacher consults paperwork.

TEACHER

You should begin talking to your son now about college as a goal.

PARENT

In our family, we don’t talk to the kids about whether to go to college—

TEACHER

Oh, but you should! Jerome is very bright.

PARENT

I meant, we don’t talk to them about whether, we talk to them about / where to go—

TEACHER

It’s important to begin the conversation now, before he starts high school, because the ninth-grade curriculum is so important. In order to be eligible for admission to a Cal State University—

PARENT

My husband and I met at Princeton.

(The TEACHER looks up.)

But we’re thinking that Jerome might do better at a smaller liberal arts college. A college where the faculty gets to know their students on a personal basis.

(Leaning in)

Do you know what I mean?

END OF PLAY

——————

WEATHER FORECAST

Four people enter from various directions. They crisscross the stage, passing each other while talking to themselves and/or pausing to address one another. They look up at the sky hopefully. One or more of them carries an umbrella. The following lines should be spoken in order but they may be divided, overlapped and repeated as desired.

Storm clouds: at noon above the East Bay hills—

I saw them too. The Weather Channel said—

When I awoke, the wind chimes had gone still.

The lull, you know, / before—

Is that a thunderhead?

The forecast said, tonight there would be rain.

A chance of rain, they said.

The air is warm.

I felt a drop.

Me too.

My elbow pain

is always worse before a major storm.

What matters is the mountains, if there’s snow—

When did you last see roses, or green grass?

In June I was—

I used to hate to mow

the lawn. But now I wish—

In June I was

back east where skies are grey. I miss the grey.

The forecast is for rain.

Tonight?

They say.

 

The cast members gather in the middle of the stage. They look up. They wait. If we have been having a wet winter [a consummation devoutly to be wished] their reactions, suitably jubilant, will show that rain arrives.* If not, then not: they will continue to gaze skyward and long for rain.

*We got our first significant rain of the season in the week preceding the show, so this play ended happily.

 

 

 

The Synopsis Clinic: Before & After

[Note: this post is primarily aimed at my fellow playwrights who are wrestling with the task of writing synopses.]

One of the most useful sessions I attended at the recent national conference of the Dramatists Guild was The Synopsis Clinic conducted by Roland Tec. My most important take-away from the clinic was that everyone struggles with writing a clear, focused, engaging synopsis.

Also:

~write in a tone reflecting the tone of the play

~use verbs expressing the actions of the character, not the playwright

~put the bacon first

I was lucky enough to be one of a dozen or so playwrights whose synopsis was critiqued in the clinic. My Before & After versions follow.

Before:

What’s even scarier than confronting your stereotypes? Facing up to your wishes and dreams.
Set in the present in an American city divided by race and class, Gap follows three teenagers as they navigate the perils of “doing school.” Aaron blames homework for ruining his life but still he plugs away. Zeta cheats. A little. Will, on the other hand, could breeze through school if he chose to. And he always goes to class when there’s a good reason. But usually there’s not, so he’s flunking out. Over the course of the school year, Aaron, Zeta, and Will bump up against other members of the high school community: stressed-out teachers and hovering parents, athletes, musicians, academic super-stars, and chronic low-achievers. Ultimately, their paths converge, and their unexpected friendship sets them moving in new directions.
Gap is designed to be performed by a multiracial ensemble of three women and two men. Running time is about 80 minutes. Set requirements are minimal.

After:

In a community divided by race and class, Aaron, Zeta, and Will cope as best they can with the pressures of “doing school.” Aaron is terrified of failure. He blames homework for ruining his life, but he wants to please his parents, so he plugs away. Zeta has set her sights on admission to an elite college, so she piles on the AP and Honors courses. And she cheats. A little. Seriously, what sensible person would write every English paper from scratch or fail to bring a cheat sheet to a French exam? Will, on the other hand, worries about whether he is “black enough,” or, maybe, too black. He loves to write. But he doesn’t go to class—it’s way too boring—so he’s flunking out, and when he turns in an essay that doesn’t “sound” like him, his English teacher assumes he’s plagiarizing. Over the course of the school year, Aaron, Zeta, and Will bump up against other stressed-out members of the high school community—overworked teachers and hovering parents, academic super-stars and chronic low-achievers—but they rarely connect. In their own ways, they are each lost in the quest to meet other people’s expectations. Until they find each other. Only then do they stop to consider what they really want for themselves.

A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG CAREERIST

Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with questions of work/life balance and particularly with the shape of women’s careers. For serious reflections on this topic, see my previous post: https://carolslashof.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/confessions-of-an-intermittently-emerging-playwright/
For a comic treatment of the challenges facing an emerging artist, read the ten-minute play posted below. GAIL & PETER puts a contemporary, gender-bending spin on the Greek myth of the sculptor Pygmalion who falls in love with his statue, Galatea. (This myth was the inspiration for Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which, in turn, was the source of My Fair Lady.)
GAIL & PETER premiered at TAPAS 2012 at Pegasus Theater in Rio Nido, California.

GAIL & PETER

GAIL’s studio. A winter afternoon. Grey light. GAIL is putting the finishing touches on her sculpture of a handsome tennis player. He stands on a pedestal in the middle of a drop cloth, positioned as if to make a serve. Next to the sculpture is a stepladder. GAIL kneels at the statue’s feet, gently sanding his ankles and legs while talking on a cell phone. Gradually, she works her way up his body, polishing, gently brushing away stone dust, climbing up on the step ladder when it becomes necessary. She is wearing an artist’s smock over sweater and jeans.

GAIL

Ohmygawd, he’s so beautiful. And he’s mine! Okay, not mine exactly. Strictly speaking, he belongs to the Beaumont Pool and Tennis Club. … Yeah, today—the movers are coming at four. … Do you know how many months I’ve been living on ramen, trying to finish this commission on time? And I haven’t even been on a date in—I don’t know—so long I can’t remember how long… But it’s all gonna be worth it—the offers are gonna start rolling in now, as soon as they see this guy… Hey, whaddaya think I should call him? …

(Sarcastic)

Yeah, right, Rumpelstiltskin is sooo romantic. … No, nix on Pinocchio too. I’m serious. He needs a name, a for real name. Something befitting his incomparable beauty and all the fame and glory he is going to bring me.

(By now, GAIL is standing on the step ladder, working on the statue’s left shoulder and arm.)

How about Peter? What do you think of “Peter”? You know, like Pierre, stone. … Well, to me it’s beautiful. Stone is beautiful. Especially when I’m carving it.

(She gazes at him lovingly.)

Hey, Peter. I love you, Peter.

(GAIL touches the fingers of PETER’s left hand very gently with the fingers of her right. The gesture suggests God touching the hand of Adam. PETER shudders; GAIL draws back, nearly falling off the ladder.)

Uh. I’ll call you back.

(GAIL steps down from the ladder. PETER steps down from the pedestal. Tentatively, GAIL reaches out to take PETER’s hands. He grasps her hands firmly in his and pulls her to him. He kisses her hard and long. After an extended embrace, they separate. GAIL takes a couple of steps backwards.)

GAIL (CONT’D)

Uh. Wow.

PETER

(More a statement of self-realization than an introduction.)

I’m Peter.

GAIL

Yes. Um. Hello. I’m Gail.

PETER

Hello.

GAIL

How… ?

PETER

You said my name. Peter. You touched me.

GAIL

Yeah, but…?

PETER

Before that, there was nothing. Only darkness and silence.

GAIL

And I… I brought you out of the darkness?

PETER

Yes.

GAIL

Wow.

Pause. They look at each other. He kisses her again.

GAIL (CONT’D)

No one has ever kissed me like that before—like I was the only thing in the world that mattered to them. Do you know what I mean?

(PETER shakes his head.)

With every other guy I’ve been with, it was like he had something else on his mind. Not me. Sex with me, maybe. But not simply me.

(Pause. Hastily.)

Not that I’ve been with so many guys—it’s not like I’m, well, you know… No, you don’t know, do you? You didn’t exist up until now.

PETER

Up until now, there was nothing. And then…

GAIL

And then…?

PETER

And then there was now. There was you.

(Pause.)

There is you.

GAIL

Never in the world has there ever been anyone like you, Peter.

PETER

I like it when you say my name.

GAIL

Peter. Peter. Peter.

They stand still, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. A sudden wind blows open the door of the studio, startling them; they separate. PETER shivers and rubs his bare arms. GAIL hastens to the door and looks out. Seeing nothing, she closes it and returns to PETER.

GAIL

Oh, dear. You must be freezing.

(GAIL feels the thin material of Peter’s t-shirt and shorts.)

GAIL (CONT’D)

You need something warmer. I didn’t think to… Well, of course, I didn’t know that you… I mean, it’s always warm at the Pool and Tennis Club…

(GAIL wraps her arms around PETER, trying to warm him up. They huddle together, briefly, then suddenly, struck by a realization, she pulls away.)

Oh, dear, the Beaumont Pool and Tennis Club… What the hell are we going to do?

Pause. GAIL looks at PETER. He shrugs.

PETER

We could kiss some more?

GAIL

No, I mean… I mean, yes we could do that, kiss, that would be nice, but I meant, about the Beaumont Pool and Tennis Club? What am I going to do?

(PETER looks at GAIL without comprehension. He shrugs, moves to kiss her. She pulls back.)

Oh, you don’t understand, do you? How could you? Um, see… How can I explain this? You don’t belong to me… I wish you belonged to me.

PETER

I belong to me? To Peter?

GAIL

No. You belong to the Pool and Tennis Club. They commissioned you. Uh, I signed a contract. I made a commitment, a promise… The art movers are coming this afternoon. Soon. To pick you up.

PETER

And you?

GAIL

No. Not me. Only you.

PETER

I don’t want to go anywhere without you.

GAIL

Oh, Peter… I don’t want you to go anywhere either. But what can I do? They paid a fee, an advance… It’s a legal contract. I have to deliver a statue to the Pool and Tennis Club. And if I don’t deliver a statue, then I don’t get paid, and if I don’t get paid, then I can’t pay my rent, my horribly, horribly overdue rent, and I can’t buy

GAIL (CONT’D)

groceries, and… oh, I’d have to pay back the advance too… I’d be worse than broke, Peter. I’d be out on the street.

(PETER stares at GAIL with utter incomprehension. She points out the window.)

Out there. In the cold.

He walks to the window and looks out. She joins him.

PETER

What’s out there?

GAIL

The city. Buildings. Streets, cars, people.

PETER

I could go out there.

GAIL

You don’t want to go out there.

PETER

It looks noisy out there. And bright.

GAIL

You like noise?

PETER

And light. Yes.

GAIL

It will be dark soon. The temperature is supposed to drop below zero tonight.

(Pause. PETER looks at GAIL.)

Fahrenheit.

(Pause. PETER continues to look at GAIL.)

That means it will be cold. Very cold.

PETER

Cold is not good.

GAIL

No. Cold is not good. Warm is good. A warm place to live, and to work. Those are good.

PETER

The Pool and Tennis Club is warm. You said.

GAIL

Absolutely! You would be nice and warm and cozy there.

PETER

You too? You could be nice and warm there too. And cozy!

GAIL

Well. No. I couldn’t. Actually. Because I don’t belong to the Pool and Tennis Club. I could visit you, I guess, but I couldn’t stay there with you.

PETER

Will you be cold?

GAIL

Not if I pay my rent and the heating bill. And if you go to the Pool and Tennis Club, like you’re supposed to, then I’ll be able to pay my rent. And the utilities.

Pause. PETER considers.

PETER

Okay.

PETER sits down cross-legged on the floor. He looks comfortable and content, prepared to wait for the movers to arrive.

GAIL

You’ll go with the movers when they come?

PETER

Sure.

(Pause.)

Can we kiss?

GAIL

Now?

PETER

(Nodding yes.)

And later? When you visit me.

GAIL

Later, um… later, I don’t know. See, the Pool and Tennis Club didn’t commission a person to come and stand in their atrium. They commissioned a statue. That’s what they’re expecting. It’s what they bought.

PETER

But I’m not a statue. Not any more.

GAIL

Yeah, and that’s a problem. A way huge problem.

PETER

Why?

GAIL

Because, if I don’t deliver on this commission, I am totally screwed.

(Pause. Pleading.)

There must be some way to undo—whatever I did. Some way to turn you back into a statue again.

PETER

I don’t want to be a statue again. I like being Peter.

GAIL

I like you being Peter too, but…You wouldn’t really know the difference, would you?

PETER

I don’t like it. The darkness. The silence. No kisses.

GAIL

Oh, Peter. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. But I don’t know what else to do. It’s not just the money. I mean, I’d probably figure something out… I could move in with friends, I guess, or… my parents, if worse came to worst. But I’d be finished as an artist.

(She is silent for a moment as she contemplates the truth of this statement.)

No one would ever give me another commission. No one would ever take me seriously as an artist again. Do you know how much I’ve sacrificed to get this far?

PETER

I won’t go back!

GAIL

But, Peter… Listen… I owe a statue to the Pool and Tennis Club.

PETER

Give them another statue. Not me.

GAIL

I don’t have another statue to give them.

PETER

I’m Peter. I belong to Peter.

GAIL

And you think that’s enough? You think you can live by simply being Peter?

(Pause. PETER shrugs.)

You don’t have a social security card or a green card or an address or a phone. Or a government-issued photo id, for chrissake. You don’t have a bank account, an ATM card, a credit card … I know these things don’t mean anything to you right now, but believe me, you can’t live without them. Not here. You don’t even have a last name!

PETER

I’ll figure something out.

GAIL approaches PETER coaxingly, holding her hand out. For every step she takes towards him, he takes two steps back.

GAIL

Like what? You don’t have parents to move back in with, or friends.

(Pause.)

Only me.

(Pause.)

Peter. Listen to me, you’ve got to try to be a statue again.

(Pause. By now, PETER has backed himself up to the door. He stands leaning against it.)

Maybe if you step back up on the pedestal and think quiet thoughts, maybe that would work. We could try it… Please…

(GAIL takes PETER by the hand to lead him back to the pedestal. He pulls away from her and runs out the door, slamming it behind him.)

Peter!

(Pause.)

Hell.

(GAIL stands in the middle of the room, looking around her, at a loss. After a few desperate moments, she sees the door open again. PETER enters. He is wet and cold.)

GAIL (CONT’D)

Oh, Peter, you poor thing!

(GAIL takes off her smock as she tentatively approaches PETER. She rubs him dry with her smock, cooing over him. He is shivering too hard to speak.)

You poor dear, it’s sleeting out there. It’s the worst weather ever invented. Half-rain. Half-snow. Come on, I’ll warm you up.

(GAIL takes off her sweater—she is wearing only an undershirt or camisole underneath and shivers a little herself. She does her inadequate best to wrap the sweater around PETER. Then, with an arm around his waist, she leads him back to the pedestal.)

In the atrium of the Beaumont Pool and Tennis Club, it’s always warm.

PETER

No sleeting?

GAIL

No sleeting. No wind blowing, no rain, no hail, no snow. I promise. And it’s bright, and noisy. Lots of people coming and going all day long. And they will all stop to admire you.

(PETER allows GAIL to guide him back up onto the pedestal. She climbs up on the step ladder in order to position him as he was at the opening of the play. Her sweater falls off his shoulders. She leans down to give him a brief kiss.)

Goodbye, Peter.

PETER freezes into position as a statue just as the doorbell rings. Presumably, it is the movers. GAIL glances at her watch, climbs down from the ladder, and walks to the door.

END OF PLAY

Sneak Preview of DISCLOSURE

Maya wants to disclose the truth, confront the past, and move on

Come to a reading of DISCLOSURE, a new full-length play by Carol S. Lashof on Monday, October 8, 7:30 PM at the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco.

For more information, visit http://playwrightscentersf.org
or contact the playwright at clashof(at)gmail(dot)com

Keep scrolling down to read the opening scene …

DISCLOSURE

SCENE 1

(Early afternoon.  ANNA is sitting alone at a café table with two empty chairs.  She is folding and twisting a letter in her hands.  MAYA approaches.  ANNA looks down at her hands.)

MAYA

Hi, Mom.

ANNA

Hello, Maya.

(MAYA sits down across from her mother.)

MAYA

How are you?

ANNA

How should I be?

MAYA

Good, I hope.  You should be good.

ANNA

How can I be “good” when you drop something like this on me?

(ANNA gestures with the letter in her hand.)

You want to tell me something to keep me awake at night, you could at least have called.  Why write me a letter?  Who writes letters anymore … ?

MAYA

Let’s not talk about this now.  It’s not a good time. Or place.

ANNA

You decide to write to me out of the blue about something that happened years and years ago, and then you tell me that now is not a good time to talk about it. Is that reasonable?

MAYA

It’s Adam’s birthday.  We’re celebrating.  He’ll be here any minute.

(Looking at the menu)

I’m going to have the Salad Nicoise.  How about you?  Have you decided what you want to order?

ANNA

You should have told me a long time ago about all of this with Uncle Robert.

MAYA

“All of this”?

ANNA

Thirty-five years ago … And you only get around to telling me now?

MAYA

I didn’t want to upset you.

ANNA

You didn’t want to upset me before, but now you do?

MAYA

Of course not.

ANNA

But why now? What am I supposed to do about it now?

MAYA

Who said you were supposed to do anything?

ANNA

You must want me to do something, or why tell me?

MAYA

It’s me who needs to do something, Mom.  Not you.  I need to deal with what happened. I need to confront it.

ANNA

This is your therapist talking, isn’t it?

MAYA

No, it’s me talking.  To you.

ANNA

But this is what he said you should do, isn’t it?  And you do what he tells you to do.  The infallible Dr. Jugular, who thinks that everything wrong in your life is my fault?  Your divorce.  Your cigarette smoking.

MAYA

His name is Jugar.

ANNA

When I started smoking, we didn’t understand the dangers.  But by the time you started … Anyway, I quit.  I wish you would quit.

MAYA

My cigarette smoking is not the point, Mom.

ANNA

I realize that.  But it worries me … lung cancer, I mean.

(Pause.)

MAYA

Suppose I had told you before?  About Uncle Robert.

ANNA

If you had told me when you were a child that my brother was hurting you?  I would have done anything necessary to protect you.  How can you doubt that for even a moment?

(Pause.)

MAYA

I did try to tell you.  Once.

ANNA

You did?  When?

MAYA

The summer when I was ten, when we were staying in that cabin in the foothills … do you remember?

ANNA

(Mystified)

I remember the cabin.

MAYA

I told you about Doctor Dolittle …

ANNA

Doctor Dolittle?

MAYA

About going to see the movie with Uncle Robert.  How scary it was.

ANNA

You were scared of Doctor Dolittle?

MAYA

Yes, I had nightmares.  Don’t you remember?

(ANNA shakes her head.)

Of course, you thought it was silly.  Who could possibly be frightened of Rex Harrison?

ANNA

Oh.  I remember one time you threw a temper tantrum when My Fair Lady was on TV.  But … but you never said …

MAYA

I didn’t know what words to use.

ANNA

So then how was I supposed to know …?

(MAYA looks at her watch.)

MAYA

That boy is always late.

ANNA

Did Dr. Jugar say how I was supposed to know?

MAYA

That’s not the point.

ANNA

Then what is the point?

(Pause.)

MAYA

I’m not going to Ilene’s wedding.

ANNA

What?

MAYA

Cousin Ilene’s wedding in December.  I’m not going.  Not if Uncle Robert is going to be there.

ANNA

It’s his granddaughter’s wedding.  I assume he’ll be there.  But lots of other people will be there too. You wouldn’t have to talk to him.

MAYA

I refuse to be in the same room with him.

ANNA

I already sent the RSVP to Bobby and Sharon. I said we’d be there, you and me and Adam …

MAYA

An RSVP is not an irrevocable contract.

ANNA

But what will we tell them about why you’re not coming?

MAYA

Why we are not coming.

ANNA

You mean you don’t want me to go either?

MAYA

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

ANNA

Ilene is my niece.

MAYA

Grand-niece.

ANNA

It’s a family gathering.  Everybody will be there.

MAYA

Mom, listen to me. I am asking you not to go.

ANNA

But, Maya …

MAYA

Please.

ANNA

Of course, if you feel that strongly about it …

MAYA

I do.

ANNA

All right.

MAYA

Thank you.

(Pause.)

ANNA

You know, Robert hasn’t had a drink in almost fifteen years.  He’s a different person now than he used to be.

MAYA

That doesn’t change what he did to me.

ANNA

I know.  And what he did was horrible. Truly horrible.  But it was a long time ago. And you must have been in same room with him dozens of times since then.

MAYA

For years I blocked it out of my mind.

ANNA

You mean, you forgot about it?

MAYA

No, not forgot.  Just tried very hard not to think about it.  And sometimes I succeeded.

ANNA

But not any more?

MAYA

Please tell me you won’t go to the wedding.

ANNA

I told you already.  I won’t go to the wedding.

(Pause)

But it doesn’t seem fair to Ilene.  It’s not her fault that her grandfather is … what he is. Was.

(Pause.)

MAYA

Would you call them?

ANNA

You want me to call Bobby and Sharon?

MAYA

Yes.

ANNA

What do you want me to tell them?

MAYA

The truth.

ANNA

You want me to tell Bobby that his father molested you when you were a child and therefore we’re not coming to his daughter’s wedding?

MAYA

I would really appreciate it if you would do that for me, yes.

(As ANNA is hesitating over her reply,  MAYA sees ADAM approaching, and her face lights up.)

MAYA

Here’s Adam!

(The following four lines are whispered.)

ANNA

Does he know?

MAYA

No.  Hush.

ANNA

Aren’t you going to tell him?

MAYA

Not today. Not on his birthday.

(MAYA stands up as ADAM reaches the table.  She hugs him warmly.  ADAM also hugs his grandmother.  Both women are obviously delighted to see him.)

ADAM

Hi, Mom.  Hi, Grandma.

ANNA

Happy birthday, Adam.

MAYA

Happy birthday, darling.

(ANNA and MAYA produce birthday cards and hand them to ADAM, who opens them eagerly.  There are checks inside.  ADAM kisses MAYA and ANNA on the cheek and puts the checks in his wallet, taking a credit card out as he does so.)

ADAM

Lunch is on me!

MAYA

Adam, no, you should save your money for school, or car repairs, or …

ANNA

Or to treat a pretty girl.

ADAM

Don’t worry, grandma, I promise to treat lots of pretty girls, and I’m going to start with my two favorite ladies.  Have you ordered yet?

MAYA

No, we were waiting for you.  After all, you’re the birthday boy.

ADAM

I’m sorry I’m late.  I had to finish the reading for my class this afternoon.

(ADAM glances briefly at the menu.)

Let’s order champagne.

MAYA

Didn’t you just tell us you had class this afternoon?

ADAM

It’s a class on James Joyce.  His characters are drunk all the time, so why shouldn’t I be?

MAYA

Well, I shouldn’t be drunk to meet my client.  I have a two o’clock appointment, and it’s already almost one.

ANNA

It’s a party.

MAYA

Easy for you to say.  You’re retired.

ADAM

C’mon, Mom.  It’s my twenty-first birthday. Anyway, I’m sure you can drink half a glass of champagne and still tell your clients how they should invest their money.  If anybody can.

MAYA

Okay.

(ADAM stands up and gestures to the waiter.)

END SCENE

THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM, a ten-minute play

 When Angela decides to give a dog to her mother as a holiday gift, sibling rivalry threatens to morph into canine homicide … Read THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM, a ten-minute play for two female actors.

 Like all scripts and monologues shared on this site, THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM may be used without charge in classrooms and for auditions.  Any other use requires the author’s permission and may be subject to royalty/licensing fees.

THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM

a ten-minute stage play

by Carol S. Lashof

TIME: The present

PLACE:  The living room of Angie’s apartment in San Francisco

CHARACTERS:

SYDNEY (SYD): A middle-aged woman.

ANGELA (ANGIE):  Also a middle-aged woman, SYD’s younger sister.

THE DOGGY IN THE ROOM

(ANGIE and SYD are sitting at the kitchen table of ANGIE’S  apartment in San Francisco.  They’re wrapping gifts. ANGIE wraps carefully, slowly, meticulously, with sharply creased edges and using lots of curling ribbon.  SYD moves through her stack of presents much more quickly with less attention to detail.  ANGIE hums off key as she wraps.  SYD tolerates the humming as long as she can.  Which isn’t long.  She glares at ANGIE.  ANGIE continues to hum, oblivious.)

SYD

(Sharply)

Maybe you want to put on a CD or something?

ANGIE

My CD player is broken.

SYD

Oh.

(SYD grits her teeth and keeps wrapping.  ANGIE keeps humming.)

Why don’t you let Mom buy you a new one?  You know how she likes to spoil you.

ANGIE

It’s okay.  I’ll get this one fixed.

(A dog barks offstage.)

SYD

What’s that?

ANGIE

What’s what?

SYD

The barking.  It sounds like there’s a dog in your bedroom.

(Pause.  More barking.  ANGIE hums louder, trying to cover the sound of the barking.  The dog’s barking will continue intermittently, but never very loudly or insistently, throughout the scene.)

That has to be a dog.

ANGIE

It doesn’t have to be a dog.  It could be a recording of a dog.  Or a person imitating a dog.

SYD

But it is a dog, isn’t it? In your bedroom?

ANGIE

Well.  Yes.

SYD

You have a dog?  In this apartment.  I didn’t know you were even allowed to have dogs in this building.

ANGIE

She’s a small dog.

SYD

Still.

ANGIE

Her name is Frederica.  She’s an English cocker spaniel.

SYD

(Not a question)

It’s not really a good idea, is it, to have dogs in the city.

ANGIE

I wasn’t planning to keep her in the city.

SYD

You’re moving?

ANGIE

I mean, she’s not really mine.  She’s a gift.

SYD

For who?

(Pause.)

ANGIE

For Mom.

SYD

What?

ANGIE

I got her all her shots and everything.  She’s housebroken.  And I got the special crate you need to take her on the plane, and I made the reservations for her.  I was surprised actually.  It wasn’t that expensive, even with the transfer in Chicago—

SYD

Wait a minute.  This dog is going back to Wisconsin with me?

ANGIE

No.  With Mom.  She’s going with Mom.

SYD

But that means with me.

ANGIE

Mom is Frederica’s owner.  Her guardian, I mean.

SYD

I am already the owner of two cats.  And one of them needs daily insulin shots.  Twice daily.  I can’t deal with a dog.

ANGIE

It’s Mom who will be dealing with her, not you.

SYD

But Mom lives with me.

ANGIE

Don’t worry.  They’ll take good care of each other.  Frederica will be a great source of comfort to Mom.

SYD

Mom is doing just fine.  Without a dog.  She doesn’t need “comfort.”

(Pause.)

And why does a small dog need such a long name?  Four syllables!

ANGIE

She’s named after the opera singer.  But you can call her Freddie.  Or Fred even.

SYD

Frederica!  Freddie!  Fred!  She’s going to be a pain in the ass.

ANGIE

Do you know that dog owners over 65 make 30% fewer doctor’s visits than non-dog owners over 65?  That’s from the Harvard Health newsletter.

SYD

Do you know that dog owners over 65 make thousands of emergency room visits every year due to injuries caused by tripping over their dogs?

ANGIE

Where’d you get that from?

SYD

I don’t remember, but it’s true.  Ask Siri.

(SYD gets out her smart phone and offers it to ANGIE, who waves it away.)

ANGIE

Mom’s smart enough to watch where she’s going.  And Freddie is smart enough to get out of the way.

SYD

Mom does not need a dog.  She’s got me.  And Joel.

ANGIE

But you’re at work all day.  And Joel is leaving for college in September.

SYD

She has friends. Lots of friends.  They go to movies, concerts, lunch, bird watching!  She plays mahjongg! You should see her calendar.  She goes out more than I do.  Way more.

ANGIE

You should go out more often.  It would be good for you.

SYD

We’re taking an early flight home on Saturday morning because Mom has a ticket for a cello concert on Saturday night.  Some classical luminary.

ANGIE

Aren’t you going?

SYD

I can’t.  I have a grant proposal due on Monday.  It was hard enough to take the time off to be here this week, what with helping Joel finish his college applications …

ANGIE

See.  That’s my point.  You have your own life.

SYD

Of course I do.  So do you.  And yours happens to be as far away from Mom as you could get without leaving the country.  Well, the lower 48.

ANGIE

My daughter is living in Hawaii.  I’m splitting the difference.

SYD

And I’m in Madison and Mom’s in Madison and this yappy dog is going to be in Madison.  With me.  In my house.

ANGIE

(Talking over SYD)

Which Mom helped you buy.  And which is, I might add, a very big house.

SYD

(Talking over ANGIE)

Peeing on my rugs.  And scratching my furniture.

ANGIE

And Frederica doesn’t yap.  She barks sometimes, in a friendly sort of way.  Come and meet her.  You’ll love her.  I promise. She’s totally adorable.

(ANGIE stands up and starts to walk towards the bedroom.  SYD remains sitting.)

Or you can wait until tomorrow.  If you want.  At the party.  When I give her to Mom. She’ll be so pretty, curled up under the tree with a big pink satin bow around her collar.  And a cute little tag that says “For Mom.  Love, Angie.” Or maybe I’ll let her jump out of a box, and we can all yell “Surprise”!

SYD

A big pink satin bow? Where did you get that idea?  From a Hallmark commercial?

ANGIE

It doesn’t have to be pink.  Or satin.

(ANGIE shuffles through a pile of ribbons and decorations, holding up one and then another for SYD’s approval.)

How about this one?

(ANGIE wraps one particularly large and gaudy ribbon around her own neck.)

What do you think?

SYD

I think I’m going to strangle you with that goddamned ribbon.  And then I’m going to strangle the goddamned dog.

(SYD reaches for the ribbon.  ANGIE laughs—but nervously—and dodges away from her sister, leaving the ribbon in SYD’s hands.)

ANGIE

You wouldn’t, would you?  You wouldn’t hurt Freddie!

SYD

If you force me to take that canine diva home with me—I can’t promise what I’ll do.

ANGIE

I’m not forcing you to do anything.  I thought you’d be pleased.  Haven’t you always wanted a dog?  I thought you always wanted a dog.

SYD

Me?  No.  It was you.  Every Christmas.  And Hanukkah.  And Kwanzaa.  Every birthday.  Every day in between.  You whined and you begged.  And Mom said no.  Because she knew that she would end up being the one who walked it three times a day and scooped its poop and took it to the vet.  And now you’re trying to get revenge on her by giving her a dog, which she isn’t even going to want.

ANGIE

Her.  She’s a her.  And Mom will walk her and brush her and love her and … and they’ll make each other happy.  Don’t you want Mom to be happy?

SYD

Of course I do, but—but Mom doesn’t even like dogs.

ANGIE

Well, maybe not dogs in general—

SYD

Any creature not capable of intelligent conversation—Mom is not interested.  Simply not interested.  Bored.  By dumb animals.  And babies.

ANGIE

But Frederica.  She will love Frederica.

SYD

You don’t know that.

ANGIE

Yes, I do.  She adores Frederica.

(Long pause.)

SYD

What are you saying?

ANGIE

Mom loves Frederica.

SYD

Are you saying that Mom already knows you’re giving her this dog, that she’s already met the dog?  Because you said it was going to be a surprise at the party tomorrow, so I thought—

ANGIE

I said we would all shout “Surprise!”  I didn’t say Mom would actually be surprised.  She promised to pretend to be surprised.  But of course she already knows.  How could I give her a dog without knowing whether they would like each other?  Besides, she had to sign the adoption papers, didn’t she?  We went to the breeder together, and she picked Frederica out right away.  It was love at first sight.  You should have seen them … well, you will see tomorrow … Freddie crawled into Mom’s lap and nuzzled her cheek.  It was the sweetest thing.

SYD

And what did Mom do?

ANGIE

She cooed.

SYD

She what?

ANGIE

Cooed.  She cooed.  She was in raptures.  She beamed.  She petted her and rubbed her tummy and cooed to her in baby talk.

SYD

You’re talking about our mom?  Our mom “cooed”?  Over a dog?  She talked to it—her—in baby talk?  She beamed!?

(ANGIE imitates their mother fussing over the dog.  She talks in a high, sweet voice.  SYDNEY watches in astonishment.)

ANGIE

Oh, you sweet wittle thing … Aren’t you adorable?  Oh, you are just the cutest wittle doggy in the whole wide world … that’s a good baby … oh, good girl, good girl … who’s my wittle sweetie-poo …

(ANGIE continues to coo and babble, using nonsense words and blowing kisses.  SYD twists and yanks the ribbon in her hands.)

SYD

I don’t believe it.

ANGIE

You will.  When you meet Frederica.  When you see the way Mom babies her.  And the way Frederica curls up in her lap.  And purrs.

SYD

Dogs don’t purr.

ANGIE

This one does.

SYD

And Mom doesn’t fuss. She doesn’t coo.  It’s just not who she is.

(ANGIE shrugs, giving SYD a “wait and see” look.)

Mom never fussed and cooed over us when we were babies.

ANGIE

How would you know?  You couldn’t possibly remember.

SYD

I don’t remember her ever fussing and cooing over her grandchildren.  Do you?

(Pause.  ANGIE thinks about it.)

I would remember if she cooed over Joel.  Did she coo over Amber?

(Longer pause.  The answer is clearly “no.”)

When you and Paul and Amber were living in Chicago, and Mom came to visit for the weekend, did she babysit so you and Paul could have a date night?  Or was she too busy going to the Art Institute and the Symphony?  How many diapers did she change?

ANGIE

You can’t blame her for not liking to change diapers.  Nobody likes to change diapers.

SYD

Did she coo?  Did she beam?  Did she babble away in baby talk?

ANGIE

She took Amber to the ballet.  You remember how much Amber used to love ballet … And she took her to the planetarium as soon as she was old enough.

SYD

Exactly.  Once her grandchildren were old enough to be interested in ballet or art museums or the solar system, once they were old enough to talk and read and get good grades, then she was interested in them.  But not before.  Not when they were babies. Not when they were little helpless bundles of neediness. Our mother is not interested in dumb little creatures who only need to be loved.

(Pause.)

ANGIE

Except Frederica.

SYD

(Ominously)

Except Frederica.

(SYD tugs on both ends of the ribbon in her hands, testing its strength. She walks quickly towards the bedroom door.  ANGIE grabs hold of SYD’s arm, trying to stop her, but SYD breaks free.  She runs into the bedroom and slams and locks the door behind her.  A furious barking erupts. ANGIE pounds on the door, shouting to be heard above the noise of the dog.)

ANGIE

No, Syd!  No!  Don’t!  Please, don’t!  I’ll bring her back to the breeder.  Or I’ll adopt her myself.  I’ll move to a place where I can keep a dog. I promise.  Don’t hurt her.  Please.

(Suddenly the barking stops.  There is a long silence. ANGIE presses her ear to the bedroom door.)

Sydney?  … Frederica? …

(From the other side of the door comes a small, happy “yip,” then the rhythmic thump of a wagging tail hitting a hard wood floor and the coo of an enraptured dog lover.)

SYD

(Off)

Ohhh, aren’t you the sweetest little thing?   Oh, you cutie-pie!  Who’s Mommy’s favorite little baby?  Come here, Freddie.  Give Mommy a kiss …

(And now the dog is purring.  The purring and cooing continue until the lights fade out.)

END OF PLAY

COME LIVE WITH ME, a Mini Opera script

COME LIVE WITH ME: A Mini Opera by Carol S. Lashof

inspired by On Paper by A.L. Kennedy

(with additional inspiration provided by Christopher Marlowe)

 

The BOYFRIEND and the GIRLFRIEND sit in their separate rooms at their separate computers, or ipads, or smartphones.  In between texting or messaging or virtual chatting with each other, they perform other tasks, virtual and actual (e.g. surfing the net, playing online games, folding laundry, trimming nails). Background noises might include the whoosh and bing of electronic games as well as the whirr of household appliances.

 

BOYFRIEND:

Come live with me and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove

Of urban streets and avenues,

Of hipster clubs and skyline views.

 

GIRLFRIEND:

What fun! Let’s get a downtown flat

For you and me and my Siamese cat.

Suburban life is such a bore!

 

BOYFRIEND:

We’ll find a loft on the fifteenth floor—

 

GIRLFRIEND:

Pick up Chinese from the place next door.

BOYFRIEND:

A spacious loft with a sunny deck.

 

GIRLFRIEND:

Hang on, sweetheart, for just a sec.

 

The GIRLFRIEND exits briefly.

 

BOYFRIEND:

We’ll share the chores and share the joys—

But your parents, will they let you go?

 

She returns with a snack.

 

GIRLFRIEND:

I love the city.  I love the noise

Of people with get up and go.

 

BOYFRIEND:

Your parents, will they let you go?

 

GIRLFRIEND:

Oh, they’ll be glad to see me go.

 

BOYFRIEND:

I’m going mad, I miss you so.

 

GIRLFRIEND:

By now, I should be on my own.

 

BOYFRIEND:

With me, you mean, or all alone?

 

GIRLFRIEND:

With you, my love, I meant to say.

Don’t twist the words some other way.

I meant to say the time has come

For you and me to make a home.

 

BOTH:

The time is now / The time has come

To find a place

To call our own/To make a home.

We’ll find a spacious/cozy uptown/downtown flat

For you and me and your/my Siamese cat.

We’ll sip merlot and go to plays.

On weekends, we’ll have lazy days.

We’ll grill on the deck when the weather’s fine.

What’s mine is yours.  What’s yours is mine.

 

BOYFRIEND:

There’s a loft uptown with a sign “to let.”

 

GIRLFRIEND:

Will the landlord let us have a pet?

How much is the monthly rent?

 

BOYFRIEND:

I haven’t called about it yet.

 

GIRLFRIEND:

Do you have enough for first month’s rent?

 

BOYFRIEND:

I thought that we would split the bill.

 

GIRLFRIEND:

Of course, of course, of course we will.

But as for now, my cash is spent.

 

BOYFRIEND:

Maybe if your parents lent—

 

GIRLFRIEND:

My student loans are overdue.

My last paycheck went all for food.

 

BOYFRIEND:

The payment for my car is late.

My “rainy day” reserves are gone.

 

GIRLFRIEND:

My bank account is overdrawn.

 

BOTH:

I’m absolutely broke. I hate

To say that we will have to wait.

 

Some day we’ll find a cozy flat

For you and me and your/my Siamese cat.

We’ll sip merlot and go to plays.

On weekends, we’ll have lazy days.

What’s yours is mine. What’s mine is yours.

But I owe it all to my creditors.

What’s yours is mine. What’s mine is yours.

But we owe it all to our creditors.