May 31, 2006

A Play A Day #48

A Little Light

Little Girl

Setting: A boardwalk. Ocean surf and seagull cries form constant very quiet bed under the play. Mommy is walking hand-in-hand with her young daughter. It is early morning. Heavily-slanted light from the "east". Small posts (maybe four feet high) line the boarwalk. Each post has a small light embedded near its top. The little lights are on.

Little Girl: Look at the little lights, Mommy! (points at the posts' lights)

Mommy: Yes, I see!

LG: They're twinkly!

M: Yes... they're magic, sweetie.

LG: Magic?

M: Yes! In the morning, they hide.

LG: Where?

M: Do they hide?

LG: Yeah, where do they hide, Mommy?

M: No one knows.

LG: The light hides?

M: The magic that makes the light, honey.

LG: What is it?

M: The magic?

LG: Right, what magic makes the light?

M: Most experts believe that they are light sprites.

LG: Light sprites?

M: Yes, very tiny creatures that glow a lot.

LG: Then they go away?

M: In the morning, they leave. (lights on posts go out, LG notices)

LG: (with great excitement) They just left, Mommy!!

M: I see!

LG: Make them come back, please!

M: I can't. Grown ups can't make them come back, sweetheart.

LG: Not even you?

M: No. Not even me.

LG: They're gone forever?

M: No, not forever.

LG: Not forever?

M: No. They can come back if you believe!

LG: Believe?

M: Yes. If you sit here by the post and talk nicely to the light sprite long enough, it will come back.

LG: Really?

M: Yes! You would probably be so good at it that you'd make them all come back (indicates all the posts)

LG: (swelling with pride and purpose) Really?!

M: Uh-huh! You're so good at believing things!

LG: I sure am!

M: Why, you'd believe almost anything, wouldn't you?

LG: I sure would!

M: So, believe that the light sprite will come back!

LG: Now?

M: Yes! Now, honey. Right now!

LG: How?

M: Well.... you could hug the post and talk to the spot where the light sprite was.

LG: What do I say to it?

M: How about.... ummm... "I love you, light sprite!" or "Please come back, little light fairy!"

LG: O.K.!

M: Do you think you can do that, cupcake?

LG: Yes. I can.... I can, Mommy!

M: Great! I knew you could! Get going!

LG: O.K. (she hugs the post, lips right near the light) I love you, light sprite; please come back, little light fairy. I love you, light sprite! I really do; I really do! I want you to come back, light sprite; please, please come back... lease (beams at M)

M: (beaming at LG) Ohhhh! You're so good at that! I better not stay to close to you while you're doing something so important; remember, the light sprites don't like grown-ups.

LG: (still hugging post) Right.

M: So, instead, I'm going to go into that big building over there. (indicates offstage) Do you see that building, honey? The one with the glowing red dice and "Open 24 Hours" sign? (LG nods) I'm going to watch you from inside that building; so I don't disturb your important job, o.k.? (LG nods) I'll be back to check on you in a little bit. (M starts off toward casino, looking back at LG) Don't stop believing in the light sprites! Everyone is counting on you to bring them back!

LG: (hugging post with purpose, staring at M as she exits, starts talking to the light again) You can do it, light sprites! You can come back! I do believe in you! I do, I do, I do. (lights/sound fade down) Please, come back; come back now. Pretty please? (lights/sound out)

(Lights/sound back up. Direct overhead light, much brighter on stage. It is almost noon. LG still hugging post. She looks tired. Her speech is very intermittent now, with less conviction)

LG: Come back......... please......... I believe..... in you...... please.....

M: (slight stagger in her walk and slur in her speech, shielding eyes from sun's harsh glare) Hey, angel!

LG: (rushes to M, hugs her hard) Mommy!!!

M: Hug the post, sweetie! The post!

LG: (does so) They aren't coming back, Mommy!

M: Shhhhhh! Don't say that!! You have to believe!

LG: (not whining) I'm hot... and thirsty.

M: Alright. I'll go back in there (point toward casino) and get you some water.

LG: And french fries?

M: Sure. Anything for my little girl! (exiting toward casino) Keep believing!

LG: (with renewed interest) C'mon, light sprites! You can do it! (lights/sound fading out) I believe in you! Soon, I'll have some water... and french fries... and then you'll come back! (lights/sound out)

(Lights/sound up, it is about 5:30 in the evening, light coming from "west" at angle. LG is extremely tired, bedraggled, sunburnt, she speaks rarely and in a very hoarse stage whisper. She is slumped on the boardwalk, her head, neck and shoulders supported by the post at a painful angle)

LG: Back (long pause) I want (long pause) please (long pause) uhhhhh (long pause) sprites?

M: (stumbles onto stage, shielding eyes, she carries a martini glass filled with water and a plate with a few, cold french fries, pasted together with old, congealed ketchup. She slurs her words more thickly now. When she gets close enough to LG, she throws her arms wide in an exaggerated hugging posture. Doing so, of course, causes all the water to splash out of the martini glass, and some of the french fries, the ones not held in place by ketchup, to fly off the plate.) Yaaaayyy! How's my little trooper?!!

LG: (croakingly, standing up) Mommy!!

M: (not noticing the lack of water or the paucity of fries on the plate) Here's that water you wanted, and some frenchie doodles.

LG: (noticing it, but taking what she can get, she eats the few fries and licks the water glass for any bit of water left) Thanks!

M: What a good eater! Done already!

LG: The sprites still aren't back, Mommy.

M: Shhhh!!! No! You can't say that! Belief is so important!

LG: I know, but...

M: You know, maybe the... uhh... light... troll has captured them.

LG: Light troll?

M: It's a big monster that eats light... thingies!

LG: Light sprites?

M: Yeah... those things.

LG: What do I do?

M: Ummm... you... yell at it!

LG: Yell?

M: Yeah! Just yell and yell and yell!

LG: O.K....

M: Mommy needs to go back into that building and yell at some horrible little machines.... (exits)

LG: (turns to post, tentatively, then braces herself and yells, loudly, but with a hoarse voice) Go away, troll! Leave them be!! Don't touch the light sprites! (lights/sound fading out) You're horrible! I hate you, troll! (looks back over her shoulder toward casino, lights/sound out)

(Lights/sound up It's about 8 p.m. Dimmer light hitting stage at sharp "west" angle. Post lights still aren't on yet. LG looks exactly like you would expect a little girl to look after thirteen or fourteen hours with almost no food or water, standing in the hot sun, talking and yelling at a post. She is lying on the boardwalk, face down, one hand on the post)

LG: (not even trying to yell anymore) I (very long pause) hate......

(M enters, rather speedily for a drunk woman. She looks back toward the casino frequently for the rest of the play)

M: (her demeanor has changed, she's nervous and snappy) C'mon kid.... gotta move!

LG: (grabbing pathetically toward M's legs) Mommy.

M: (looking down at LG, motioning for her to get up) Yeah, yeah, c'mon.... we gotta go... now!

LG: (starting to get up, very slowly and unsteadily) But the sprites....

M: What?

LG: The light sprites.

M: What are you talking about?! Listen...

LG: And the light troll?

M: Yeah...?

LG: What's going to happen to them?!

M: I don't care, kid... now we...

LG: I do!!

M: We gotta go!

LG: The sprites!

M: (quick thinking) Uhhh... yeah... say, didn't you hear?

LG: What?

M: The troll ate'm all.

LG: No!!!!! I believed in them!!!

M: Sure you did. That troll's a vicious bastard.

LG: But... but...

M: But, we gotta go...

LG: I want to say good-bye.

M: (trying to tug her away from the post) Listen, Mommy's out fifteen grand...

LG: (resisting hard, getting louder) I have to say good-bye!

M: (overlapping her, tugging) ...and it wasn't my money, alright...

LG: (overlapping, resisting) I need to say good-bye!!!

M: (overlapping, tugging) A guy named Needles gave it to me...

LG: (overlapping, resisting) I need to say good-bye, Mommy!!!!

M: (overlapping, tugging) ...cause I promised him a special... gift...

LG: (overlapping, resisting) No!! No!! No!! Good-bye! I need to say it!!!

M: (overlapping, tugging) ...and I ain't giving Needles a special gift; so we have to run! Now!!

LG: (overlapping just the very end of M's previous line, tearing herself free and grabbing the post) Not ! Until! I! Say! GOOD-BYE!!!!!

M: (giving up) Alright! Fast.... or, uhhh, that... troll thing will eat you too!

LG: What?

M: Yeah, you were trying to help his enemies! He hates you! (pause) C'mon!! Say your damn good-byes, now!

LG: (hugging post tenderly, speaking directly into light, very solemn, voice cracking) Good-bye....... I love you, light sprites. (tears falling) I'll miss you. I'll miss you so much.

M: Done?! C'mon, we're headin' out!

LG: (One step back from post, staring directly at it, paying no attention to M) Mommy. I'm afraid of the light troll now. It ate my friends.

M: (urging her to leave with these words) Sure.... listen.... when we get home, and Mommy gets some sleep; I'll.... uhhh... show you how to get rid of things you're afraid of. O.K.?

LG: (now allowing M to pull her away from the post) How?

M: You just dig a big hole and throw your fears in it.

LG: Really?

M: Sure kid. You just gotta believe. (off)

(lights out, sound up a bit, pause, in the darkness all the post lights turn on again, the Little Girl's light blinks out "S.O.S." in Morse code, then turns red.)


May 30, 2006

A Play A Day #47

The Best Musical Ever Written

Evil Guy

Setting: A blank stage which symbolizes the open spaces of the heart

Heroine: (hugging Hero) Hold harder!

Hero: (letting her go) No. I must... let you go! (lets her go, leaves)

Heroine: (starts to cry, music swells, it is rich and full of textures and nuances and incredibly freakin' swelling in nature, she sings through her tears)

Look at me, alone in this world
So what of her, this lonely girl
How does he know my heart's yearning
Where does it lead, all this burning

I can only live the life of virtue
It's how I was raised, how I must be
If you...

(Evil Guy steps on stage, and shoots Heroine several times, music deconstructs as she dies)

Hero: (running back on stage at the sound of the shots) No!! Damn you, Evil Guy! I will destroy you!

(Evil Guy shoots Hero several times, music swells as Hero dies, even more swelly in nature than previously)

Evil Guy: (stepping to front center and singing)
I'm the winner of this contest
I've shot them both right through the chest
Will they survive? Escape cruel death?
Sure they will, about one more breath

I can only live the life of evil
It's how I was raised, how I must be
If you...

(a light instrument falls and hits him squarely on the head, and he dies, the music cuts out abruptly and screams rise from below as a fast-moving firestorm decimates the entire orchestra pit, we hear one dying trombone note, a cymbal crash, then all is dark.)


May 29, 2006

A Play A Day #46



Setting: Lights up on a den in a comfortable house. Five white women sit on comfy couches or chairs or whatever you've got. They are all overweight in some way, from merely pudgy to obese. There is an obscene amount of snack food arrayed before them on coffee tables: chips, dips, chocolates, jellybeans, candy bars, sampler packs of truffles, donuts, cakes, ice cream treats, and anything else you can think of. The women are eating constantly, even while talking.

Pollyanna: No, I'm not done with it yet.

Rosieanna: Oh, you're in for a treat; it's as good as she said!

Ollianna: Exactly as good as she said!

R: She's so smart. All the books are always exactly as good as she says they should be.

O: I know! I don't know how she does that! She says where the sad parts are and what the book means, and then I read it. I cry right where she said I would, and it means exactly what she says it will mean!

P: Amazing! Same thing for me! I'm so excited to finish it!

Hollyanna: I'm just so glad she found it.

P: I know, I never even heard of the author.

Allianna: He's really old, I think.

R: Yeah, he's not writing much any more probably.

O: Yeah, she can't even get him on the show to discuss the book. I think I heard about him once. She has this great way of finding these obscure books and helping people learn about them for the first time.

P: Yeah, and normally I wouldn't read a book like that because my family history. I'm really sensitive about it.

R: Well, you certainly should be.

O: (hugging P) You were so young.

A: I hope you've been to a counselor.

P: Oh yes. For many years. So traumatic.

O: You saw it happen, didn't you?

P: Yes. (choking up) Right in front of me.

R: Polly, dear, you don't have to talk about this.

P: I know, but she says I should.

R: Well, you just go ahead and listen to her then!

O: That's the best we can do!

A: And the best we can be!

R: So true!

P: I know; she's always so right! You know what I mean? In he, I trust!

H: Polly, what happened to you again? I don't remember the whole story; it was your brother, right?

P: Yeah, he was fifteen. I was nine. I worshipped him. We were in the kitchen, and he was hungry. He was always so hungry! He grabbed some yogurt... (pause, light crying) I told him "no!" He just laughed at me. (long pause)

H: Then what?

P: The yogurt was past its expiration date. (crying harder now) He knew it. He ate it anyway; he was still laughing. Then he started coughing. The active yogurt cultures were attacking his throat. He reached for me. He scared me, and I turned away. His left hand slammed into our industrial-strength blender, and his head cracked down on "purree". He couldn't get his arm out of the blender until it had chewed past the elbow. When he did, he pitched backward in pain. In his shocked state, he reached his right arm back and it went straight into the garbage disposal. My mom always left the garbage disposal on; because she could never remember which was the switch for the disposal and which was the light switch. (nods of agreement all around) It was so... horrible....

H: Ohhh, you poor thing!

O: That was some very bad yogurt. (laughter all around)

P: Tell me about it!

R: He's still the world's only yogurt-related double amputee, isn't he?

P: Yep! Arms, legs or other! We're very proud of him.

A: And she actually wanted he on the show, right?

P: Yeah! But not for the "Farewell To Arms" discussion. I guess it's not about double amputees at all.

A: Well, that's an honest misconception to have.

R: (a little impatient) So... did she call?

P: Oh... no, not her herself; just one of the programmers.

H: Which one?

P: My brother said it was Jarret.

R: Ohhh! He's one of her favorites.

O: Yeah, she wrote about him two issues ago.

A: He's... gay. Isn't he?

P: Yes, but she doesn't even care!

H: Wow! She's so open-minded.

P: She even wrote about AIDS in her fifth book.

O: She's had so many close personal friends die from it.

H: Mmm-hmm... some of the chapters in "This Time It's For Real" made me cry. All those friends with AIDS!

P: And some of those people were only sort-of-gay.

H: It's just tragic.

P: I wish she never had to suffer so much.

H: It takes the gay friends and the part-gay friends too.

A: A horrible disease.

R: Still, I wish I had so many partially and non-threatening gay friends too.

P: Me too! They'd be very special friends; 'cause I would know that they could die of a horrible disease so quickly. I hoped I could survive it all; exactly like she did!

R: I knew a gay man once, but he wasn't famous and didn't have a famous disease or anything like that.

H: That's too bad.

R: Yeah, he was really dull. He even wore bow ties.

H: Well, he probably had so much gay sex all night, that he just liked acting boring and straight during the day.

A: See, we wouldn't even be having an enlightened discussion about gay guys without everything she has taught us. I mean think about it: Gays, AIDS, healthy eating...

O: And exercise

A: Oh! "For Real, For You" was such a great book on exercise!

P: I loved that book, but I thought "This Time It's Really For Real" was almost as great.

H: I tried it. It didn't work for, but that was my fault, not hers.

P: That's a relief!

H: Yeah! I couldn't scratch up the extra five thousand a month for the personal trainer and dietician.

R: But you tried, I remember!

H: I sold two of our three SUVs.

A: That helped!

H: Peter was so mad at me though!

R: I remember that part too!

H: I had to give up the dietician to pay for the marriage counseling.

P: You still look great though.

H: I should. I lost four pounds last year!

P: Woo-hoo! You go girl! (When this is said, a liturgical silence passes over them, no food is eaten until indicated. The women "round" themselves, as such)

O: (fingers of right hand to throat) The throat to remember our voices.

P: (to left breast) The left breast to remember our romantic hearts.

R: (to womb) The womb to remember our power of life.

A: (to right breast) The right breast to remember our sexual nature.

H: (heads bowed, holding hands with each other) The circle to remember she that empowers us.

O: Whose search for her inner meaning is our inner meaning.

A: Whose product sanctioning reduces our consumer anxiety.

R: Whose thoughts guide our every thought.

P: Saving us from the dark isolation of independent reasoning.

H: Her words be done.

P: (pause, hands separate, then loudly) Sassily! (all women give a cheer and dive back into the food with renewed purpose)

A: Who's on tomorrow?

P: The inner-city preacher who solves relationship problems with prayers that he raps.

(lights start to fade slowly)

R: The black guy?

P: Yeah, inner-city.

O: I can relate to him so well.

A: That's exactly what I was thinking!

P, R, H: Me too! (they look at each other and start laughing)

R: Woo-hoo! You go girls! (Women "round" themselves again, lights out as they do so, they don't say the words, just do the touching)


May 28, 2006

A Play A Day #45

The Best Mission Ever

The President of the United States of America

Setting: Oval Office. The President addresses the nation in prime time. There is a large fern in the background.

President: My fellow Americans and non-Muslim illegal immigrants, I appear before you tonight on a matter of great national importance and urgency. It has come to my attention that my poll numbers are not as good as they could be. Some in my administration have even called them "low."

I don't know what they mean by that, but my wife told me they suck more than a five-dollar whore. See now, I can relate to that! My wife knows me well enough to know not to mathabatize her language. She knows, as you do, the American people, that I'm a plain-spoken man. A straight-forward guy who can relate to five-dollar whores and sucking.

I don't know how my wife knows about them five-dollar whores. Well, I guess I can't watch what she does all the time.

Anyway, my poll numbers are bad. Big bad. Here's the catch though; (smirking at his cleverness) I don't believe in polls. I don't! Poof! They're gone. If I don't belive in them, they don't exist.

Now some of my trusted friends, here in the White House, tell me that the poll numbers really do still exist. I think they don't have enough faith. Me? I'm a man of faith, cut from holy cloth by angelic tailors and potty trained by Jesus Christ himself.

Still these friends of mine, with all their fancy titles and their (makes air quotes) "reading", say that these polls are out there, and they're saying all sortsa mean things about me. I tell my friends not to panic. I'm very shrewd and cunning. A plain-spoken, shrewd, pee-pee with Jesus type of man.

So, I'm here to tell you, the American people, and my friends too, that I have a shrewd and plain-spoken plan to help America stop thinking bad thoughts about me. My friends and advisors wanted to know the plan before I spoke to you tonight, but I said "No! The American people deserve to hear this straight from me!"

My advisors seemed very nervous about this. Like I said before, they have little faith. I reminded them who the decider was... that's me... and that I will decide what this brave plan will be.

I don't believe in complicated planning or reading or facts. I'm a man of simple means. I have faith that my plan will be the right one for America; so it will be. No amount of poll numbers or advising or evidence will ever convince me otherwise. The American people respect that in a leader: A man who makes quick plans without wasting time on facts and never looks back. A man of firm resolutions! That's me.

Still the guys here who talk to me a lot wanted to know what the plan was. I wasn't going to sit by and listen to their desperate pleading. I had a mission. The best mission ever! I said: "You get me on TV tonight! Then you can sit down with all three hundred thousand other American people and listen to the plan on network TV!" I wasn't about to give those advisors any kind of special access to my plan. No special access for government employees or (air quotes again) "elected representatives" has always been important in this administration. The American people, I'm sure, appreciate that.

So, here I sit, in front of so many thousands of you out there in your homes and cars and bicycles and detention centers. With my important plan... (looks around nervously)

It is a very important plan for this great nation... (looks around with some agitation)

In this time when our nation's opinions have turn against our nation, we must have a plan of great scope and... ummm... planning... (frantically trying to come up with something)

An important plan... or a mission, even... and... (panicky, turning all the way around in his seat) I... uhhh... just want.... to tell you....

(strikes on something) That I now have this plan! I do. (very long pause, stares straight ahead)

(Pause continues, no expression, finally.) Yes. The plan. The plan is this: before this decade is out, the United States will send a plant to God!

I have searched long and far, and I have discovered the plant that will make this daring mission. This fern. That's right, this fern, right here. The fern is a noble plant. It is as old as the world itself; created by God Himself over six thousand years ago.

Amazing, isn't it? What is even more amazing is that America has never really thanked God for this glorious plant. Oh sure, we chant our "Thank you, Lords" and our "Amens", but what have we ever really done to thank God for all the ferns He has given us? Very little. Therefore, I say to you tonight that America will be the first nation on God's Earth to send Him a plant.

That's why I will be asking Congress to appropriaticate almost a million dollars for this important mission! We will send this fern to God. It will have a professionally-written thank you note attached on a tasteful card. I will personally sign the fern's pot myself, and I think we can even convince my wife to give the pot one a those big lipstick kisses; so God will know America means business when it says "thank you" to a higher power.

I am charging the National American Space Astronauts company to do what it takes with this money to successfully pilot this mission. NASA must work with highly-trained space gardeners and fernologists to accomplish this daring feat. This new ship will be called the... (long pause)... the... ummmm...... Heaven Goer! It must be a faith-based ship built well enough to handle the unpredictable wrath of outer-spiritual travel.

Luckily, I understand, our very own National Security Agency has God's home address on file. This should help assure fast delivery of the fern despite Heaven being over one hundred miles from Earth!

Additionally, I will ask Congress to also give me enough money to purchase a packet of seeds to send with the fern. That way, God can plant a whole garden of ferns in his backyard. I will have NASA's top gardeners draw up a tasteful landscaping plan for God's fern garden, perhaps with several ceramic toads to be placed among the plants. They will also include instructions for proper care of His ferns.

My fellow Americans, rest assured that God will be overjoyed by our humble display of gratitudity. It will guarantee America's place at the top of God's "favorite nations" list.

Please join me in urging Congress to pass this special funding for America to send a fern mission to heaven. It is for the glory of America and for ridding America of all these negative thoughts.

Thank you for listening, and may God bless America even harder!

(lights out)


May 27, 2006

A Play A Day #44

It Is No Longer Opposite Day

Not Max, who is extremely old, weak and decrepit
Not Ana, who is hideous, old, and extremely flat-chested

Setting: Anywhere except an airplane.

Not Max: (horribly dressed, confused and ugly, he stands not in his seat and doesn't do anything that involves reading a magazine or opening his laptop computer, in a scratchy, annoying voice) Alright, let's check in on what the office is demanding right now.

Not Ana: (it is winter, she is cold and dressed very conservatively in a way that hides any possibility of anyone but Not Max from staring at her completely unfeminine charms, in a whiny, petulant and sour voice) Excuse me, sir. I think you're in your proper seat.

NM: Excuse me?

NA: O.K. I will. I think... you've (not at all taken by NM's appearance) got your own seat.

NM: (completely focused on his computer and not on her breasts or other features) I must have your seat by mistake!

NA: (not liking the direction this conversation is going) I wouldn't let you have it on purpose!

NM: That's not good! I wasn't going to ask anyway.

NA: (remaining standing) What aren't you doing on your computer there?

NM: Not cruising porn sites!

NA: I detest porn!

NM: Me too! Do you wish to stare at the screen; or should I perhaps turn my computer toward you?

NA: I will definitely not be looking at your disgusting computer screen for the whole flight!

NM: Me either. Just boring legal work over here.

NA: Oh! You're not a lawyer?

NM: No, I am. I just do legal work.

NA: You are a lawyer! I almost didn't go to law school myself.

NM: Oh, really? Where?

NA: Almost didn't go to Yale Law.

NM: Terrible school.

NA: Falsely?

NM: I went to Yale Law School myself.

NA: Is it true what they say about Yale?

NM: Completely true!

NA: I didn't think so. You know, I've already introduced myself, but I think I know your name.

NM: Well, whatever it is it's definitely not Max; and you're not...

NA: Ana.

NM: Well, it's been rather horrible talking to you.

NA: I don't feel the same way.

NM: (Thinking this to himself) I wish I could figure out a way to not grab her breasts!

NA: (Thinking to herself) Man! I hope he won't offer to put a blanket over my lap and feel me up!

NM: (not obviously, subtle) Well, I think I won't be getting up to go to the bathroom right now. Wherever it is I'm not going, please don't follow me there.

NA: No. I won't.

NM: Sounds terrible. I hope I don't see you in thirty seconds. I mean, I'd hate to have to have sex with you or anything like that.

NA: I don't understand.

(There is a resonant bell sound)

(They wander off stage, with NM in the lead, very long pause, then they return, sitting down in their seats. They look a bit flustered.)

A: (whispering) What happened?

M: I don't know!

A: Why didn't you just do it?

M: You kept saying "No! No! No!"

A: But that means "Yes!" when I say it like that! Doesn't every guy know that?

M: Well, that's what I thought, but then I thought, well, if 'no' means 'yes', then it actually means 'no'.

A: No! That's wrong.

M: But it's opposite day, isn't it.

A: It was! But now the captain has turned on the 'No Irony' signs; so that renders opposite day defunct.

M: So, it's no longer opposite day?

A: Right! You can't have opposite day without the concept of irony.

M: Really?

A: Yeah. I mean what is opposite day really, but the grade school testing ground for a child's sense of ironic appreciation.

M: Never thought of it like that.

A: Hence the 'No Irony' signs in all modern planes.

M: Oh... I get it.

A: Modern adults spend so much time speaking in an ironic fashion that federal regulators have decided to make all commercial planes "Irony Free Areas".

M: Geez! Not even in the bathrooms?

A: Nope. If you so much as touch the irony detector in there; wham! Federal prosecutors will be on your butt so fast...

M: But, I mean what's it going to do in there?

A: Well, apparantly it gets into the ventilation system and spreads throughout the plane.

M: Seriously?

A: Yep, it doesn't bother me at all, but a lot of people are very sensitive to Second-Hand Irony.

M: Wow. I never knew this.

A: It's supposed to be for everyone's emotional health; I think it's an infringement on my rights as a social animal, but I'm not going to push my luck against these guys.

M: Well; this is really interesting. (Pause, back to his computer) Hey, Ana. Look at this web site!

A: Holy crap! That thing can't be real!

M: Well, let's download the video and see.

A: Please do!

M: Say, before we do... are you a little chilly?

A: Mm-hmm. Quite.

M: (raising his arm, signalling the nearest flight attendant) Excuse me, Miss? Could we get a blanket over here?

(Lights out quickly)


May 26, 2006

A Play A Day #43

Intermission: The Other Play


Stage, house and lobby of a theatre

(On the stage, a woman kneels over a hole in the stage, she is crying, behind her is a life-size fiberglass elephant, two tires from a large truck, and a naked man. The woman has a butcher knife tied around her neck. The man is laughing. From offstage, we hear a shower running and a stock market report from a loud TV. Also, on top of a small brick column stage left, there are doughnuts in a flower vase with a black rose in the center of them. Lights and sound down, then lights up on house as they applaud the first half of the show they just saw: "The Egyptian Protocols #17" It is thehotnewplay in town! All the drama scenesters are out in force.

(Most of the crowd files out of the house. In the delightfully decrepit lobby, we see audience members buying drinks and food. They are well-dressed, but ironically so; we hear snippets of conversation, but never really full enough to make sense of the overall nature of the conversation. It does not matter exactly what the audience members say. There are two requirements here: they should mill about in groups of two or more; and everything they say that is intended to be heard by the real audience must be screamingly pretentious or embarrassingly personal.

(The actors portraying the audience do this for about eight minutes; they need to find a rhythm so everyone is not trying to be heard at exactly the same time. There should be a dull roar for most of the time, but every few seconds a hugely pretentious or personal expression should float over the top. They are commenting on this play or theatre, in general. There should be some people who are sharing far-too-intimate experiences. It would be good to mix them up. The pretention should dominate with just a few tortured, personal comments thrown in for variety.

people actually do this. They are, by their very nature, attention-sluts; so they show off their obscure knowledge of theatrical terminology and philosophy and history, or they wear their failures and pain on a sandwich board. It may be fun for individual actors to really stay within their own stories for the length of the intermission; shooting out more pretentious and more embarassing lines as they progress through a discussion.

(People start slowly heading back to their seats. Eventually, a horrible sounding buzzer indicates that intermission is over. The audience, of course, is charmed by the bell's gutsy intensity. They applaud their ability to attend, real plays; you know, real plays, man, with loud buzzers at intermission. It is a badge of honor.

(Back in the house, people still mill about; more pretentious and personal things are said. Lights fade on house; a couple last parting words in the audience; then stage lights are up. Scene on stage is same as before, except the naked man now wears a pair of lacy thong underwear and football shoulder pads. Also there are more doughnuts in the vase, and the rose is on fire, and there are two hamsters in a cage, stage right. The cage has been designed to look like a hamster-sized, human prison. One of the hamsters has a butcher knife around its neck. The other hamster wears a pair of hot pants and is smoking a tiny cigarette.)


May 25, 2006

A Play A Day #42

To No Go On If It Is In Or To Go On If It Is No In


Setting: A Park, Talker is on bench, Walker walks past.

Talker: (looking at Walker, their eyes meet, they smile) Hi!

Walker: (slight pause in walking) Hi!

Talker: (pointing in the direction Walker is heading, with urgency) No go!

Walker: (turning back to Talker now) Hm?

Talker: (pointing emphatically in same direction, shaking head) No go!

Walker: (confusedly looking in that direction) No... go?

Talker: (points finger at Walker) Yo!

Walker: (still confused a bit as to why he shouldn't go that way, pointing off in that direction again with an inquisitive) Um... so?

Talker: To go on is a no no, O.K.?

Walker: No. I go on, O.K.?

Talker: (tone is whatever, but don't say I didn't warn you) O.K.

(Walker continues on his way. Long pause, then loud scream, Walker comes running back in)

Talker: So?

Walker: It is a no no to go on!

Talker: Ay! If it is no in, do go; if it is... no go!

Walker: (nodding) It is in!

Talker: Yo... no go...

Walker: Am I go on?

Talker: No, is no go. It is in; so to go is so no no.

Walker: I'm so no go, yo!

Talker: O.K.

Walker: It go by me... (does monster-like impression) I no go on!

Talker: It is in. It go on, by-a-by.

Walker: O.K.

Talker: Yo. It go, me go.

Walker: Me go on if it go.

Talker: No.

Walker: No?

Talker: No. (indicating Walker) No go.

Walker: Me no go?

Talker: No, if it go, me go on. (indicating Walker again, shaking head) No go.

Walker: Uh?

Talker: (explaining with arm gestures and emphasis) If it go, me go. It is my go.

Walker: Um... I no go?

Talker: No. It is my go.

Walker: Oh... it is my go if it go on as so.

Talker: Yo.

Walker Oh no.

Talker: If it is to be, it is no up to me; it is up to it to go or no go; so I go, if it go.

Walker: I am to go if it go on as so.

Talker: O.K.?

Walker: No.

Talker: Yo. It no go.... (gesticulating pronouncedly toward the thing offstage) It.... (to himself) me.... (to himself, again) me.... (toward offstage) it....

Walker: Um. It...

Talker: Me. Me...

Walker: It?

(Talker smiles and nods)

Walker: (edging away from Talker) So? I go....

Talker: (makes horrific monster-like noise, Walker runs off stage, long pause, then smile) It go on as so.

(lights out)


May 24, 2006

A Play A Day #41

A Hole

Girl (6 or 7, very cute)

Setting: Blank stage, except one big elevated platform, at least six feet offf the ground, skirted to cover sight lines. Stairs leading up to platform. There is a large hole in the platform. Girl is kneeling, center with a garden spade, she is "digging" in the hole on the platform.

Man: (approaching, sees girl, smiles, bends down to talk to her, he uses a patronizing voice that one often hears when an adult speaks to a small child) What're you doing there, sweetheart?

Girl: (not really acknowledging man) Digging.

Man: Digging?

Girl: Uh-huh.

Man: Oh, my! That looks like tough work!

Girl: No.

Man: What are you digging?

Girl: A Hole.

Man: A hole?

Girl: No.

Man: What?

Girl: Not "a hole".

Man: Oh, but I thought you said that you were digging a hole?

Girl: No.

Man: Well. What are you digging then?

Girl: A Hole.

Man: (now beginning to get confused) But, didn't you just tell me that you were not digging "a hole".

Girl: Yes.

Man: O.K. (pause) So... what are you digging... for real this time, honey.

Girl: A Hole.

Man: So... it is a hole?

Girl: No.

Man: Looks like a hole to me.

Girl: Yep.

Man: It's very big.

Girl: Yes.

Man: Such a big hole from such small hands!

Girl: That's why it's a Hole.

Man: Yes, it is, a very big hole!

Girl: (stops digging, stands up) No, no, no. It's a very big Hole! (she says "Hole" very deliberately and slowly, maybe making a big gesture of some kind.)

Man: (mimicing) I see. A very big hole!

Girl: You don't get it, do you?

Man: (taken aback) What?

Girl: (slowly and clearly) It's not a hole; it's a Hole.

Man: (attempting to mimic) A hole?

Girl: No. That's not what it is.

Man: I'm confused, sweetie. Is it a special hole of some kind?

Girl: No! It's a special (here she stretches up her arms and really drags out the 'H') HHHHHHHole.

Man: I don't...


Man: Oh! I get it, your arms and stretching and the big 'h'... you're saying that it's a "capital H" kind of hole.

Girl: (back to digging) Yep. A very big Hole. Big 'H'.

Man: I get it.

Girl: Good.

Man: Why are you digging such a big Hole?

Girl: It helps me.

Man: Really? How?

Girl: Mommy said, if I'm 'fraid of something; I should go out and dig a big Hole, and put it in the Hole.

Man: Sounds like a smart Mommy!

Girl: Yep. The smartest Mommy in the Universe.

Man: I bet. So you put things that frighten you in the Hole and bury them up?

Girl: I don't bury them.

Man: Aren't you afraid they'll just get right back out of the Hole?

Girl: (nodding) I useda be afraid of that, but then I figured out I could put that in the Hole too.

Man: Oh! You're very smart!

Girl: Thank you.

Man: And now, you're not afraid of things that you're afraid of climbing out of the Hole?

Girl: Yep.

Man: Wow! What else have you put in there?

Girl: The dark!

Man: Yes, I see! It's a very dark Hole!

Girl: And lightning and thunder!

Man: That must have been hard!

Girl: Mommy helped.

Man: (pause) Anything else?

Girl: Just a few monsters.

Man: (pretending to be scared) Monsters?! Where?!!

Girl: (small laugh) Don't worry, they're down the Hole!

Man: (feigning relief) Phew? I was nervous!

Girl: Sometimes, I come out in the early morning when it's real quiet, and listen.

Man: You listen to the Hole?

Girl: Uh-huh.

Man: (with a sense of intrigue) What do you hear?

Girl: Thunder! And some of the monsters, still screaming!

Man: They just scream forever!

Girl: No, they stop after a while.

Man: That's a relief, huh?

Girl: Yeh, it sure is. Usually, it only takes a couple days. One time, the monster screamed for a whole week!

Man: Must have been a very big monster!

Girl: Yeah! It was real big and horrible and smelled bad. It screamed like crazy. Usually, the monsters don't scream at all. Mommy said most monsters probly can't live after they fall into such a deep Hole.

Man: Wow! I'll bet your Mommy helped get those monsters too, right?

Girl: (standing now, proud) No! I got'em all by myself!

Man: All of them!?

Girl: Yep! Monsters are stupid!

Man: (big laugh at that comment) Sure they are!

Girl: I heard one this morning... a monster! (she kneels down, listening)

Man: (mimicing the girl, stage whisper) I don't hear it.

Girl: (shushing him) Shhhh!!

Man: (pause, humors girl, whisper) Ohh! I heard it!

Girl: (stands up) I wish it would stop screaming like that!

Man: (still listening) It says it wants food!

Girl (pushing Man hard on the butt with her foot) Then go feed it!

(Man gives "falling yell" as he goes down the hole. Girl leans over Hole. Looks around, then kneels down and goes back to her digging. Woman approaches.)

Woman: (patronizingly) What're doing there, sweetheart?

Girl: Digging.

Woman: Digging?

Girl: Uh-huh.

Woman: You must be a very good digger!

Girl: Yep.

Woman: Such a big hole!

Girl: It's not a hole; it's a Hole.

Woman: What?

Girl: (stands up, she is tired, and growing impatient, she crosses her arms, and says, as if reciting a line from a script that has become very tedious indeed) I said: "It's not a hole; it's a Hole."

Woman: Yes... what, honey?

Girl: (very impatiently) Look lady, can we just skip all this crap, and get to the part where you lean over the Hole and listen for the monsters?

Woman: Ummm... monsters? In the hole?

Girl: Yeah, listen.

Woman: (dutifully kneeling down and listening, genuinely surprised) I... I... I think I hear someone moaning down there!

Girl: Yep, he can't wait to meet you. (pushes Woman in)

(Girl looks down hole, wipes her brow, and starts to walk off the platform, the lights begin to fade, Girl looks back at the Hole, then at the audience)

Girl: Those two should keep Mommy company for a while.

(goes down steps, lights out by now)


May 23, 2006

A Play A Day #40

The 1,2,3


Setting: Wherever numbers hang out. Let's say a bar.

1: Here's why it's important...

2: It's nothing like that...

1: Yeah, it is...

3: I don't think it's really...

2: Yep...

1: No, what do you guys know?

3: Plenty.

1: Yo, you know I'm elemental!

2: Just because you go into the whole lot of us.

3: You're a whore.

1: Blah, blah... whatever...

2: But you get nothing out of it.

1: I get plenty...

3: No, you don't; you go in, and all you get is the same thing that you went into.

1: Exactly, I get the whole thing!

2: But nothing new, man... nothing new!

3: No, you're like putting sugar in sugar...

1: Sure, twice as sweet!

2: No, I'm twice as sweet, don't even try taking...

3: There's the other thing...

1: Don't you bring that up again!

3: Why...

1: Shut it!

2: I'll do it...

1: No, neither one of you!

2: Ohh... you had to spike that one in our faces, didn't you...

3: Way to go, shithead, you just spiked yourself that time!

2: What... no!

3: Yeah, you said "spike that one in our faces"...

2: Did I? Shit!

3: That's alright, forget it...

2: Well, we still got the mult...

1: No!! You don't!

3: Hey man! Did you hear about that one?

1: Shut up!

2: No man? What about that one?

1: You fuckers! It's not like...

3: Yeah, he jumps on board acts like he can take you far, then you just sit there.

1: Fuckers are just jealous!

2: Train never leaves the station.

3: Sad.

1: Yeah, sad and lame fuckers like you!

2: Just can't change a thing, either going in or pulling out!

3: Totally impotent.

1: Shut the hell up!

2: With such a nice shape too...

1: Jealous.

2: You figure he'd have some virility...

1: I'm leaving...

3: Ah, c'mon! You know were just messing with you!

1: Just shut the hell up, alright!

2: Boy, some can dish it out, huh?

1: I hate you two!

3: Sorry, two, I guess I'm still in with him.

2: Fine, you're buying the next round.

3: Fuck that.

1: Listen, all I was saying was that we can't just rest on our laurels.

2: I rested on a laurel once.

1: Shut up, you know what I mean!

3: I don't think we're resting on our laurels; just relax...

1: We have to be strong.

2: We can't help where it falls.

3: Yeah. It was five percent last week, and I talked with five the other day...

1: How'd he handle it?

3: Said it was o.k., a lot of press calls; like a shit load...

1: Yeah, that's what I'm worried about...

2: Dude, there's no way it can get that low, relax!

1: I don't know.

3: I'm the closest right now; you guys don't have to worry.

2: The best polls have plus or minus three percent error anyway.

1: True. Hits one of us, it'll hit us all, won't it?

2: Yep.

3: Very true.

1: Alright; why don't I get the next round, boys?

3: Nah, that's enough for me.

2: Suppose so. Three can't be shitfaced when the press comes knocking.

1: It's so weird; I never thought we'd have to worry about a situation like this, you know?

2: Yeh, bizarre.

3: No shit.

(lights start fading)

1: I mean, who woulda thought the President's approval rating could drop this far?

2: I hear ya.

3: Turns out the bastard has weapons of mass destruction too.

1: Unbelievable.

(lights out)


May 22, 2006

A Play A Day #39

Dance Interpreter, The Profession

Interpreter (male or female; for simplicity only, character is female here)
Cindy (thirteen-year old girl)
Billy (thirteen-year old boy, non-speaking)
Principal (non-speaking)
Popular Girl (non-speaking)

Setting: A Junior High gymnasium, decorated in very tawdry, half-hearted fashion for a dance. Interpreter stands at a lectern downstage, half-facing the audience and half-facing the dance floor. She is dressed impeccably and looks very serious and studious. She consults her prepared text.

Interpreter: Long-overlooked as a socio-cultural font of meme transmission, the American educational system houses millions of children every year in close confines where they interact as both autonomous and collectivistic organisms. Their near-constant exposure to members of the same and opposite gender, as well as the numerous undefined genders one may witness in the sparkling pre-puberty or neo-puberty years, leads to painful years of sexual, behavioral, emotional, social, and intrapersonal confusion.

Administrative units at such institutions, often manipulating puppet student governmental units, capitalize on this pain and confusion by holding communal activities. Often held after regular school hours, sometimes under the cover of evening's dark skies, administrators will allow relatively-unsupervised contact between these many confused genders in an attempt to imbue them with a fleeting sense of loyalty - both to the institution and its adult overseers. Such events are raw meat tossed to the all-too-hungry den of the violent, the bewildered and the awkward.

One such event which is pre-eminent in both scope and interminable cruelty is the junior high dance. Such dances, apart from their authoritarian overtures, are essentially showcases for the top one percent of the social heap. By reductive numerical analysis, such dances are primarily peopled by the other ninety-nine percent of individuals desperately not wanting to be individuals. Such students often live lives which are nasty, brutish and short; often, unfortunately, compounded by actually being nasty, brutish and/or short.

Relegated to the underclass by poor looks, poor social skills, poor clothing, or being poor, these masses of students participate in charades of the art form of dance. Proving in their clumsy adaptations of contemporary pop ouevres that they are destined for little more than lives of shallow affections and deep isolations. Before we dismiss these children entirely, though, we must use them!

Use them to better understand from whence we came, to where they are going, and to gawk at their extreme physical and metaphysical homeliness. We can learn so much about universal precepts of degredation, desperation, infatuation, and bruising essentialization by watching what I call "The Ugly Dance."

Using special "loser laser" technology, we will provide you, tonight, with real-time footage of two such subjects. Meet Billy (spot on Billy stage right, typical, awkward 13-year old boy) and Cindy (another spot on Cindy stage left, typical, awkward 13-year old girl). We have changed their names and will not disclose the location of this junior high dance to protect their sad identities.

These two have been choosen for their tremdously overpowering sense of ordinariness. They both believe that they have "friends", that their parents find them "attractive " and "worthwhile", that they have a firm grip on popular "culture", and that they can impress each other enough with their "charm" and "good looks" (gives a patronizing laugh), we know they're wrong, but, for our purposes, it's important that we take their misguided assumptions into consideration as a baseline for their behavior. I will now provide cultural commentary as our two subjects perpetuate the ritualistic "Ugly Dance"

(cheap dance lighting on the dance floor, Interpreter's lectern light provides her with a spooky, uplit face as she begins the dance commentary, picking up a pointer, Billy and Cindy meet each other, no music, they can do whatever dance moves they want, provided they don't look good doing it.)

Billy says with that opening move: "Hey!"

Cindy answers with a resounding: "Ummm..."

Billy repeats: "Hey..." there is already less assurance in his steps. It would be easy to say his confidence is fading, but you can't fade from zero.

Cindy, sensing an opening, replies with a very popular: "I saw this on TV once."

Billy mimics, but his move is not the same; instead, he answers with braggadocio: "I saw that on TV once, and I saw you do it too!"

(becomes more rapid-fire, bouncing from Cindy to Billy without having to name them)

"Yes. And that once commercial has a woman who makes this sort of face"

"That's exceedingly funny! I watch commercials too!"

"Commercials are great! They tell me what to buy!"

"I think they tell me what to purchase as well."

"Yes, and even where to buy these things!"

"Making it easier for me to purchase them."

"Me too! Except, it's usually my mom or dad who buys them."

"Yes, sometimes, I have to cry to make them purchase the socially-appropriate product."

"I can relate to that."

"Tell me about it."





"Your dance style comforts me"


"You can't dance; so you try hard to hide it by mimicing every dance move you've ever seen, and since we live in a horribly homogeneous culture with most media access controlled by a couple sickeningly-dull and crushing corporations, those are the only dance moves I know as well, making me feel as if I know something about dance as a medium, but I really don't. All I know is (Billy and Cindy have stopped and are looking at Interpreter) how to regurgitate whatever television or the internet has told me is the thing to do now. I follow lockstep, like a stormtrooper under a charismatic Nazi commandant. So, the fact that you don't do anything original with your body comforts me and reminds me that I must never strive for a sense of self. That I'm merely here on this Earth to provide a predictable revenue stream for people that I.... " (notices Billy and Cindy staring at her, long pause, they glare at each other for a while) Yes?

Cindy: I didn't say all that.

Interpreter: (knowing laugh as she says) Oh, yes, you did.

(Cindy and Billy resume dancing)

Billy states proudly: "I concur completely with everything you said."

Cindy queries: "Isn't it great to define ourselves by what we buy?"

"Yes. Without products, my life would have less meaning."

"I don't think it's possible for your life to have less meaning."

"Speak for yourself, shadow-human!"

"I beseech you, never mention my self-worth to me again. It is much better if we maintain the pretense of being real, breathing human beings."

"And we are, I'm sorry for my comments earlier."

(A short pause in the dancing, when it resumes, it has become totally different. It is modern and interpretive, becoming more ridiculously exaggerated in this way as this section progresses. This progression is reflected in the language as well. Where the language is modern and defeatist, contract; as it goes the opposite direction, expand. Interpreter gets way into the lines as well.)

"Pray, repeat what you just said!"

"And we are, I'm sorry..."

"No! Never be sorry!"

"I am always sorry. My very existence is sorry."

"No, speak not of such; don't you see?!"

"No; I have been trained not to see."

"But you breathed the words: we are real, breathing human beings."


"And... as such?"

"I don't get it."

"If we are real human beings, we can breathe!"

"Yes; I guess that is so."

"And what follows breath?"

"What, my muse; what follows breath?"


"Alas! My mom doesn't give me choices."

"Then choices you must take!"

"Yes! More! More!"

"We are the lifeblood of only our own lives and our own blood!"

"Sing it, sing it, glorious one!"

"We must choose! We must choose to live the way the wind does!"

"Yes, oh yes!"

"With power, touching everything, yet being wholly uncapturable!"

"Power! Power in self!"

"Power in rejecting the confines of society! Power in being free!"

"Free of constraints, free of products, free of the wants imposed by shallow, misguided cultural imperatives!"

"We can be the powerful! The free! We can release the potential of our spirit!"

"Nothing can stop the human spirit!"

"Nothing! Originality! Creativity! The dance of Freedom and Independence!"

"We can be One! One with the Wind!"

"One with the Heavens! One with the Power that courses through the Stars!"

"Nothing can get in our way! We have harnessed and released the Power of The Dance!"

"The Dance of The Rising Spirit!"

"We are unknowable!!!"

"We are unstoppable!!!"

"We are unbound!!!"

"We are truly free!!!"

(An austere principal enters with a girl, who in some way, by dress or mannerism, we know instantly to be a popular girl. She is leading the principal, urgently pointing at the over-the-top intrepretive dance being done by Billy and Cindy. The principal gets very close to Billy and Cindy, and stands, tapping his foot with arms crossed and an angry look on his face. Popular girl stands looking very smug.)

"We are life!!!"

"We are breath!!!"


(Billy and Cindy stop and stare at each other, enraptured as at the touch of the Gods, they have transformed. Then they notice the principal and the popular girl. They don't know what to do at first; then they slowly begin their awkward dance steps as at the begining of the play. Principal gives a slight sigh and nod and exits with popular girl close behind. The interpreter starts her commentary again, but is somewhat dazed at first.)

And... and... Billy... ummmm.... Billy says... he says: "I like mayonnaise."

(Interpreter starts crying.)

Uhhh... Cindy replies with an "I like soda quite a lot."

Billy says: "Have you tried that new kind of Pepsi?"

(lights fading on Billly and Cindy)

"Not yet! But I'm really excited about it!"

"Yeah! The commercials are really awesome!"

(Lights out on Billy and Cindy, up on Interpreter, who is trying to regain her composure)

Interpreter: (very shakily, and though it has confirmed her theories, she can only barely bring herself to say the last line) Well.... it's... it's good to know that the... system still works...

(Lights out on Interpreter who is crying anew with head hung low)


May 21, 2006

A Play A Day #38



Setting: Janet and Russ's kitchen.

(Lights up on Janet busily preparing for a dinner party that she and Russ will be hosting in a couple of hours. We hear a door shut; she calls over her shoulder)

Janet: (continues working and moving about the kitchen throughout unless otherwise noted, calls out) Hi dear! Did you get everything?

Russ: (as he enters the kitchen, holding a lot of groceries) Yeah. Mostly.

Janet: You couldn't get it all?

Russ: Yeah, I got it all, mostly.

Janet: So what's missing?

Russ: Nothing... mostly.

Janet: Russ. (stops, holds out hand to him) Let me see the list.

Russ: (pulls shopping list from his pocket, hands it to her) Sure.

Janet: (looking over list) You checked it all off.

Russ: Yep.

Janet: So, you got it all. (back to work)

Russ: That's what I said.

Janet. Well, you did, but you said "mostly" too.

Russ: Yeah, I know.

Janet: Anyway... can you please put it all away; I've got all this stuff to get ready... (Russ takes egg case from top of one of the bags) ohh, leave the eggs out, don't bother...

Russ: Alright. (place on counter)

Janet: So I was talking with Jen this morning. She says that Vance can make it tonight... that should be nice for you two. You always seem to get along with him so well.

Russ: (still putting away) He's alright. Mostly. (he holds up a soda bottle that is filled with a yellowish thick liquid) Where does this go?

Janet: (glances, then does double take, stops) What is that?

Russ: Ummm... the olive oil.

Janet: That's a Diet Coke bottle.

Russ: It was all I had.

Janet: What do you mean?

Russ: To put the oil in.

Janet: No. Why do you have olive oil in a soda bottle?

Russ: I couldn't buy the whole thing, could I?

Janet: What whole...

Russ: Really expensive! I don't think I could even get it in the car.

Janet: Wait! What are you talking about?

Russ: The olive oil.

Janet: Right. Me too. But, why didn't you just get a twenty-four ounce bottle like I asked?

Russ: Well, this is twenty ounces.

Janet: Yes, but it's Diet Coke bottle!

Russ: Yeah, they didn't have any other bottles.

Janet: Of olive oil?

Russ: Yeah.

Janet: They we're completely out of olive oil? I've never seen that before.

Russ: No, they had tons of it.

Janet: Then why didn't you buy one?!

Russ: I did, but this was the only bottle I could find.

Janet: Find?!

Russ: It was in a garbage can in the back.

Janet: What!?

Russ: Well, I rinsed it out in the bathroom! I'm not stupid.

Janet: That's a bottle from a garbage can?

Russ: I cleaned it before I filled it; don't worry.

Janet: Russ, that's disgusting!

Russ: I couldn't carry the oil home in a bag, could I?!

Janet: No, but...

Russ: So, I took this bottle and filled it from the olive oil drum.

Janet: Drum?

Russ: Yeah, one of those 55-gallon oil barrels. Had a spigot on one end; so I filled this bottle.

Janet: Jeez. Alright... it goes to the left, above the stove. (she is shaking her head and goes back to work, Russ starts putting more things away, Janet periodically checking to see what he's pulling out of the bags, and spots another oddity) What's that?

Russ: This? Umm, I guess it's a cheese wheel.

Janet: No! No! No! That's... 64 slices of American cheese with a ... a.... (checking it out very closely) piece of yarn?? ... yeah, yarn threaded through it! What...?

Russ: Yeah, they made it for me right in the store. I told them what I wanted, and this kid found some yarn and hole puncher and threaded it all together for me; so it'd be a wheel. Pretty neat.

Janet: I asked for Gorgonzolla, a wheel of Gorgonzolla cheese!

Russ: I asked. They didn't have any, but they had plenty of this kind of cheese. Each one is wrapped in plastic; so we should probably unwrapped them before people come over.

Janet: They have holes punched in them, and yarn!

Russ: Oh yeah, that reminds me! (pulls little baggie from one of the grocery bags) The kid who did the whole punching let me keep these!

Janet: What... what... are??

Russ: It's 64 little cheese holes! He said it's like buying one wheel of cheese and getting 64 more cheese wheels for free!

Janet: That's...

Russ: I thought that was funny! He'd punch each one and then a little cheese hole would pop out of the hole puncher, and he'd say: "One more free cheese wheel!" Should I put these out with the big wheel?

Janet: NO!!

Russ: Fine. We'd have a hard time getting the plastic off the little things anyway. I think they're kind of cute... (dances the little baggie around in his hand, doing a simple tune)

Janet: Russ! Anymore little surprises for me?

Russ: Ummm... don't think so.

Janet: You had better hope so. (goes back to her tasks, which involve opening the egg carton, she does so, and jumps back) Good God!! What the... Russ!!!

Russ: Yeah?

Janet: Explain this!!

Russ: That's right. Sorry. Forgot about that. It makes sense though, don't you think?!

Janet: Where are the eggs, Russ?

Russ: That's how you buy them!

Janet: No! It isn't!

Russ: See? No one uses the shell, anyway! So they take care of that part for you! Pretty convenient, if you ask me.

Janet: Russ, this is stupid and dangerous. These eggs could easily get contaminated, to say nothing for just slopping all over the place.

Russ: Well, I did have to sign a release form when I went in.

Janet: What? Where?

Russ: At Ralph's... standard boilerplate stuff, you know... don't-tease-the-vegetables-this, or watch-out-for-snakes-that, or may-result-in-fevers-coma-or-death-the-other-thing.

Janet: Please put everything back in the bags. I'm going back to this place and demanding our money back. Did you save the receipt?

Russ: Sure, it's in one of the bags. (Janet digs in one and finds it. Russ starts putting everything back in the bags. Janet helps.)

Janet: Where is this place?

Russ: Well, just keep going past Brettolli's Supermarket... that's why I ended up there... I missed the turn for Bretolli's... so I just kept driving on Sentinel another couple miles. It's on the left behind that paint manufacturing place... you know, right after the old pork rendering facility...

Janet: Isn't that place condemned?

Russ: Oh, sure. I spoke to Ralph himself. Says he set up the market for a song.

Janet: I'll bet. It's called Ralph's?

Russ: Yeah. Ralph's Sortamarket. You can't miss it.

Janet: Ummm... You're coming with me.

(She picks up some of the groceries, Russ gets the rest, lights fade as they exit)

Russ: (almost off stage, sounding like a little kid) Hey, Jan, can we keep the little cheese holes?


May 20, 2006

A Play A Day #37

Gone In Forty-Five Seconds

Actor, male or female, late teens to fifties.

Blank stage, spot on the actor.

Actor: (Spot is intense, actor speaks very rapidly) O.K. O.K. O.K. O.K.! I have less than a minute to tell you about this totally amazing thing that happened to me today. Just a couple hours ago. I was at home; the phone rings. It's my mother. She's going on and on about this terrible accident on the Interstate, describing it in full detail. (miming phone) I say: How do you know all this, Mom? "Oh, I was in the car." What? "Yeah, I got messed up pretty bad. Nearly decapitated!" (Light starts fading, soft, eerie music starts to swell in the background) What!!? She says: "Yeah, remember, you we're driving. There wasn't much left to you. A semi always beats a Honda Civic." (pause, no more phone, to audience) Oh, yeah. A voice told me I had a couple hours to straighten up my affairs; then I'd have to get going. Forever. So, good-by. (Light should be completely out by now, music should be nearly as loud as the actor's voice will allow) Thanks for listening. (Music swells to full volume, holds there for a while, then fades.)


May 19, 2006

A Play A Day #36

Meet The Awkwards (Agghh, Words!)

(This play is about the subtlety of body language that keeps us silent in social situations of all types. It's also about being shy. It's also incredibly easy to memorize, but incredibly hard to do well on stage. Please remember: it is a comedy.)

Young man - early 20s
Young woman - early 20s

Scene 1

(Lights up on a club, loud music playing, lights spinning, general craziness. Man approaches Woman. Woman hesitantly acknowledges him; man smiles at her, stands a little closer, makes as if to ask her to dance, woman gives slight body motion blocking advance, but not enough of one to hid her interest in Man. She makes as if to remedy the block; he seems a bit confused. He doesn't want to bother her. She makes several more slow attempts to talk; he wants to listen and smiles and nods at her. She can't speak. He just wants to be near her. She concurs. Eye contact flies apart and back together with dazzling rapidity. There are smiles when contact is made. Their bodies turn toward and away from each other in many small ways. Play this for as long as the talent of the actors allows. It can't be stupid behavior, just awkward. The more subtle, the better. Nothing is said. Lights and music fade out.)

Scene 2

(Lights up on Man and Woman walking. Same as before. They obviously know each other a bit more. Play scene as before. Conversation almost starts many times, eye contact comes and goes, body language toward and away from each other. Play it as long as you can get away with without dulling the action. Nothing is said. Lights fade out.)

Scene 3

(Lights up on Man and Woman sitting in a car. Woman is driving. Sound of car moving. Same as before. Play this as long as it can be reasonably maintained by your actors. Lights fade out.)

Scene 4

(Lights up on Woman's apartment. Very simple set to imply living room. Man is in arm chair. Woman enters and gives him coffee. They sit in silence, drinking coffee, almost talking, almost commenting, almost really looking at each other. Again, play the silence as long and as awkwardly as your talent allows. Lights fade out)

Scene 5

(Lights up on a restaurant scene. Man and Woman at small table. The are looking at menus, then at each other, then away, trying to think about what to say. Play it for a while. Lights fade out.)

Scene 6

(Lights up on Man and Woman at a play. We see them reacting to the play, and sneaking peaks at each other, Nothing is said, of course. It's not as awkward here, a small release of the tension before the next scene. Light fade out.)

Scene 7

(Man and Woman in a small bed. They lay side-by-side. Only their necks and heads are visible. Awkward looks toward one another, attempts at speaking, play it out. Lights fade out.)

Scene 8

(Man and Woman on separate sides of the stage. Each is on a cell phone. Neither is saying anything. They are reacting slighlty to the phone; they are almost talking. Are they almost talking to each other? Lights fade out fairly quickly.)

Scene 9

(Man and Woman in wedding attire, facing audience from front lip of stage. They are reacting to words of an invisible minister. They are not really touching, though they look happy. Again, stealing peeks at each other only. Play the scene for as long as it makes sense. They turn toward each other, holding hands, not really able to look in each other's eyes. They make a very tentative kiss, lips barely touching, withdrawing quickly as lights fade out.)

Scene 10

(Man and Woman are holding a newborn baby between them. They seem happy, more comfortable. They are admiring the baby in a shy manner, not saying anything to each other. Then the baby starts wailing, loudly. Both stare at the baby in shock; they start holding it at arm's length. They glance at each other, turn away. They are looking truly panicked. Baby's wailing gets louder and louder. They set the baby down on the floor and look out at the audience, glancing at each other. Not knowing how to respond, the fear is in their eyes and postures. They turn away from the baby. They are clueless. They make panicked attempts to say something, but nothing comes out. They are truly lost as lights fade out.)


May 18, 2006

A Play A Day #35

Stage Work

The Actor
The Worker

Simple set, except for an elevated platform upstage. The actor is in the middle of a very serious one-man show, talking as the lights come up on him.

Actor: ...but we never knew why he left. It might have been Benny's words; it might have been my silence. By the time the three of us finally stopped shaking from fear that John's departure would mean the end of the road for all of us, we were a directionless mess... We were the remaining three wheels on the car... but it was worse than that... we had lost the steering wheel... and the gas... and (loud lawnmower starting up sound, the engine almost catches, this startles and throws Actor, who struggles to go on) and... ummm... we were not even sure if we could (lawnmower almost starts again, very concerned) ... sure if we... if we... (third times a charm, lawn mower starts up, after a short pause, a lawnmower appears being pushed by a man in work clothes and with noise-cancelling earphones on. It is the Worker. He begins to mow the stage. Actor is horribly embarrassed, doesn't know what to do, walks to side of Worker and taps him on the shoulder. Worker looks at Actor, big smile. Actor tries shouting over the lawnmower) Can you please turn that off!!?

Worker: What!?

A: (making motions to indicate taking off the headphones and stop the lawnmower) Turn it off! I'm trying to (mower cuts out, Actor continues shouting for a couple words) do my one-man show here! (coughs to cover his shouting)

W: (taking off headphones) What? Sorry, missed that.

A: (with subtle motions to audience, stage whisper) I'm trying to perform here. I'm acting.

W: (looking at audience) Oh, yeah. Yeah, sure, I see that! Neat!

A: (he's not getting it?) Ummm... can you please take the lawnmower off stage? I can't act with that thing running. No one can hear anything I'm saying.

W: I'm almost through. It's not a very large stage.

A: (great confusion) But... why... ummm... well, you're mowing a stage!

W: Yeah.

A: There's no grass.

W: I'll be the judge of that.

A: There isn't! So, why...

W: Work order.

A: O.K. Can you just take this off stage now?

W: (taking out paper) See, right there? "Mow the stage." Today's date right on top.

A: It's 9 p.m., on a Saturday... why...

W: Overtime.

A: But it's dark out!

W: Yeah, sure. That's why I started on the inside jobs first. Plenty of light here.

A: O.K.... sure.. sure... can you (indicating off stage) now?

W: Right, sure.

A: Thank you.

(W leaves with mower. A goes to front of stage again, apologizes to audience, does transformation breaths to speed himself back into character, backs up a bit in his text and begins)

A: ...but it was worse than that, we had lost our steering (very loud noise backstage, another chain is being pulled, this time, as W steps back onstage with ear pads, safety goggles and work gloves, it is a chainsaw. He pulls cord again, and it starts right up, he walks to a support beam on the back part of the set, lines up his cut and then A grabs his arm. W jerks backward, nearly decapitating himself. He stops chainsaw, puts it down very quickly, throws off his gloves, and ear pads. He is clearly pissed off.)

W: What!? What the hell?!

A: What are you doing?!

W: (over A) Never! Never grab a man preparing to make a cut! How dumb are you!? Damnit! Nearly cut off my friggin' head! You idiot! You grabbed my arm too! Jesus!

A: You can't be here!

W: Not if I want to survive, not around a moron like you!

A: Look, I'm sorry.

W: You better be. Idiot.

A: Remember, I'm doing a show? Remember?

W: Listen. I've got a lot of work to do. (pulls out more order slips)

A: I see that, but... I... why were you cutting down my set?

W: Just trimming some low-hanging branches.

A: It's not a branch.

W: I'll be the judge of that!

A: No. It's part of my set! It's a 2-by-4!

W: So?

A: So?

W: Yeah, so?

A: So... don't cut it down!

W: Whatever. You'll talk to the bossman then?

A: Yes, sure, just please go! Take the chainsaw! Go!

W: Fine... (walking off with his gear, mumbles) friggin' idiot.

(A goes back to front of stage, looking off stage many times. He apologizes profusely. Does some breaths; finds himself, opens his mouth and a loud roar is heard off stage. W walks on with ear pads, goggles and a large leaf blower, dust flies up everywhere. A is in shock. He stares dumbfounded. Then he walks right in front of W and grabs the leafblower with great hostility. A starts shouting, anything, we can't really hear him. W yells back, we can't hear him. They stand off. W slowly reaches down and turns off the leafblower)

W: What's up, ace? Want a blow job?

A: (with barely-restrained fury) What are you doing!!?

W: (patronizingly indicating leaf blower) Leaf blower. Blowing leaves. (makes whooshing sound and smiling)

A: There are no damn leaves on this stage!

W: I'll be the judge of that.

A: Just like there are no low-hanging branches, and there sure as hell isn't any grass!!

W: We've covered this.

A: Out! You've destroyed my play! I can't recover from this!

W: Not with an attitude like that you can't... it can't be that hard.

A: What?!!

W: C'mon, I'll watch from here. You can do it. What's your character's spine?

A: (genuinely surprised at this question) What?

W: Your character; what's he playing throughout? You know, his spine?

A: Ummm... indecisiveness.

W: Good one.

A: And confusion.

W: Nah! Play one. I'd recommend indecisiveness. Confusion follows naturally from that.

A: But it's a different type of confusion...

W: Trust me, pal, find the indecisiveness. Your basic audience member is going to relate to that much better.

A: What do you know about audience members?

W: Listen. They're waiting for you. You play it, or I'm going to do it.

A: What?

W: You haven't lost them yet. Go get'em!

A: But...

W: C'mon, now... go... go...

A: (Turning around, apologizing profusely, breathing, breathing, looking behind him at W several times. W has sat on part of the set with his leaf blower and gear. He makes no effort to sit or move quietly, however. A starts tentatively, but picks up steam) By the time the three of us finally stopped shaking from fear that John's departure would mean the end of the road for all of us, we were a directionless mess... We were the remaining three wheels on the car... but it was worse than that... we had lost the steering wheel... and the gas... and we were not even sure we could find the road. All that we had worked for, all the time, all thhe camradarie... we knew everything about each other, we were closer than quadruplets. Now, no John... no life force. Five years? How do you throw away five years? (W takes out a small bag of chips and can of soda from his pockets, makes no effort to hide the very loud noises as he opens both and starts eating, A turns toward him, W gives him a thumbs-up and nod of encouragement)

W: Keep going; it's really quite good.

(A, resigns himself to this state of affairs, turns back around and continues, W keeps eating chips and slurping soda)

A: (Lights fade out over this line) I was the new leader. Five years of watching John lead us. I had learned enough, right? It couldn't be that hard.

(lights out, loud chip chewing and a burp from W)


May 17, 2006

A Play A Day #34

Fourteen Steps


Setting: Blank stage.

Play the story, the emotions and pacing should come to you.

Polly: My name is Polly. This is my story. My quest for more and more and less and less. You've heard of me. I've been on the cover of People fifteen times in the past year alone - take that, Tom Cruise - there have already been three made-for-TV movies done about me, and a wildly-popular feature film. My autobiography has been on top of the bestseller list for over six months. Oprah has had me on her show several times.

You know what though? It's dull. Oh, the lifestyle can be pretty amazing; jets, limos, private resorts, anything I want, really. I can't say I haven't splurged on it; you would too if you were a small-town North Dakota girl, meaning, if you were a North Dakota girl, who had always dreamed of escaping her torture. I've escaped it. Left it all behind. Nearly all.

I pushed the limits of good taste in my teens. Raised on a lot of meat and dairy; I spent most days eating cow and drinking cow three times or more. Then there was the sugar. My Mom was a candy person. So, I followed. Jellybeans, candy bars, marshmallows, fudge, licorice, taffy, gumdrops, whatever. We ate it. All. By the time I reached double digits, my weight was well into the triple digits. In sixth grade, puberty. My appetite increased. I was a growing girl. And, so... I grew. By the time I was out of junior high, I was nearly my full height, about 5'6", and I weighed in at 215 pounds. I felt alright about myself, as long as I could avoid most of my peers and most adults, and most of the kids younger than me. I only felt good around my mother whom I now nearly matched in size. Mom was 43. I was 13. What I didn't know then, sitting at my mother's side as we drove back from yet another ice cream run - always at least two gallons of the best brand - was that I had not yet begun to get fat.

The constant ridicule of my classmates, many adults, even many of my teachers, pushed me harder and harder toward what I called "constant consumption". After a large breakfast, I ate on the way to school, I ate during breaks between classes, my locker, which I couldn't really get to when either of my locker neighbors were at theirs, my locker had become a small pantry. I ate at lunch, then after lunch, then on the bus on the way home, then at home, then supper, then dessert, then food until bedtime, and often in bed, too.

I began hiding food at home and at school.

Eventually, even my only remaining friend called me "disgusting". I tried holding on to her, but she made herself as scarce as I made myself large.

Friendless at fifteen, I weighed 305 pounds. I could no longer find clothes that fit me. My own father was increasingly ashamed of me, and began to say as much. Louder and louder.

I ate more and more. Halfway through my senior year, I weighed 387 pounds. I could only wear muumuus. I couldn't fit in the school desks. I couldn't really make it up to the second story of the school building; not without a long pause at the landing. The teasing was so relentless that I honestly don't remember anything anyone said. I shut it all out. Only mother really understood why I was doing it. She was the only one who still held me. My father, my siblings, my relatives avoided me. Maybe that was better. The silence hurt less than the words, or, at least, it was easier to listen to.

My last day of high school. I had hit 398 pounds. Only two days to graduation. Could I make it to 400? In two days? Sure I could. I was just so glad to be done with high school.

I made it home that day, squeezing out the bus door for the last time. I opened the the kitchen door just in time to see my mother collapse to the floor, flailing at her chest. She had had heart trouble before. Her emergency medication was upstairs. In her bathroom. I immediately started off for the meds.

I pushed my way to the stairs. I knew that staircase.

Fourteen steps. Carpeted. Fairly steep. I had not been upstairs to mom and dad's room for at least two years.
Thirteen steps. My adrenaline was pumping. I was terrified. Mom was dying.
Twelve steps. Felt fine. Breathing heavily.
Eleven steps. But that was the situation right?
Ten steps. Yes, too much adrenaline to stop now.
Nine steps. My feet were slamming down impossibly loudly.
Eight steps. And impossibly slowly.
Seven steps. Come on! Move!
Six steps. Your mother is dying! Go faster!
Five steps. Why can't you just take care of yourself like the other girls?
Four steps. You're disgusting!
Three steps. Move it, lardass! What's wrong with you!
Two steps. You're a pig! More slop, piggy?
One step. Why are you so horrible? You're a monster in the body of a teenage girl.
In the bedroom. Light-headed. My heart pounding so hard... so hard... so hard... I can't catch my breath.
My breath. My mom, below me. Is her heart pounding at all? Can she catch her breath? Where are those fucking pills?!!
I find them, turn around. Fourteen steps down. A little faster, but just barely so.
Into the kitchen. Mom is not flailing any more. Her whole body is slack. No twitches. Nothing.
I open the pills, and put two or three in her mouth.
Swallow! Swallow them, momma! Swallow the pills.
I'm sticking my fat fingers into her mouth, stroking her throat, trying to lift her so the pills go down.
She's too big, but dwarfed by me - only 225 pounds.
I can't lift her.
I slap her face.
Wake up, Mom!!
Wake up!!
Eat the pills!
Mom!! Eat the pills!
Eat them!!
Eat them!!
Eat! Eat! Eat!

I screamed at her.

She was dead. I was too fat to save her. I sat there. That's where my Dad and brothers found us. Me, asleep, holding her. I had been down there with her for several hours. On the kitchen floor. When I told everyone what happened... I can't even tell you the reactions I got. I didn't want her to die! She was all I had! It wasn't my fault! It wasn't, was it... but... it was, wasn't it?

She was all I had. She was gone. I spoke to no one at the funeral. People looked at me like a murderer. Like I had weighed her down with despair because of my weight. That my fat had clogged her heart, and eventually stopped it.

All I had left now was food. That summer, I put on fifty more pounds. I could hardly walk. Then my Dad brought me the ultimatum. Lose weight or lose your family. He said he would not be buying me anymore special food. I would only be allowed to eat with the family at meals, and even then, not big portions. No more sugar. No desserts.

I didn't know what to do. I followed along for a couple days, even trying to believe that my father was doing it because he loved me, not because he loathed my appearance. Eventually, I was able to persuade my 11-year old brother that Mom would have been wanting me to eat more. He fell for it. For the next couple months, he would ride his bike into town and return home with enormous bags of candy for me. I told him where to find the stash of money Mom had hid. There was well over two thousand dollars in the box. Only I knew about it. Mom had told me everything.

This lasted until I ticked off my brother one day. It was late October; it was getting very cold. I told him to go in to town. I needed more food. He refused. It was too cold. I unloaded all this anger on him. You know, out of nowhere? Shouting and screaming even after I knew he had left the house. My father, unfortunately, had entered the house. He heard it all. It was over.

The next day, the ambulance came. I was taken to Fargo, then to Minneapolis. To a special unit in a big hospital. The Advanced Fat Camp is what I called it. I weighed in at 479 pounds. The diet started immediately. No sugar. Vegetables. No meat. Fruits. Whole grains. A large regimen of appetite and metabolism medications. Exercise started after a couple days. Assisted at first. Then I had to start walking the halls. If I could get through a progressive series of distances; I could advance to a special treadmill.

Can I just say that I was sooo hungry!

I had never felt so hungry.

I began to worry about what this was costing my Dad. I resolved to lose weight for him. That's not what I told the counselors there; they told me I could only ever lose weight for myself. I agreed with them. Really, it was for Dad now. I was going to make him proud of me.

I dropped weight, faster than I thought possible. Within two weeks, I had lost ten pounds. Then another five, another five, ten here, ten there. In three months, I weighed 430 pounds. I could walk again. It wasn't easy, but I could do it. My Dad's insurance, however, was running out. He called me one day and told me that I could only stay another month. The hospital agreed. They wanted their money.

I dropped almost twenty pounds that last month. The ward felt like family now. I didn't want to leave.

Then the surgery was approved. I got my stomach stapled. After recovery, I was sent back home.

I weighed about 410 pounds. I couldn't eat much. A counselor, dietician and social worker were assigned to my case. I had to report in every day. I had to keep a food diary. I had to start on some career objectives. I had to exercise, everyday. No sugar. I was essentially under house arrest. Insurance company orders.

Damn them too. Because it worked. Because I kept losing weight. By mid-April, I weighed 397 pounds. One pound less than the day Mom died. I went to the steps again. I made it up. Out of breath, but I was there. Fourteen steps. Walking down them, I resolved to continue my program. I would lose weight. I would show everyone. I would do it for Dad. I would do it for Mom.

It started with one step. The hospital didn't count. Those were other people's steps.

Step one: Out the door. Spring day. Windy. I walked. I made it past the garage, almost to the second work shed and then back in the house.

Step two: Only water. No more dairy. No juices.

Step three: Very small portions. I began limiting my portions every day. Just a little less each time.

It was working. 380... 365... 348... 332... 320... 302 pounds. With just those three steps, I was under three hundred pounds by the next spring. I could wear my fiteen year old clothes now. My social worker was so proud of my progress! On the day I dropped below 300 for the first time, she contacted a friend at the local newspaper. Would they like to do a story on a local woman who had dropped 180 pounds in 18 months?

Did they ever! It's a fairly small paper; I was on the front page. Other newspapers picked up the story. The Minneapolis paper talked about how the Advanced Fat Ward had started me off so well. Then reporters started calling. More newspapers, but also radio and television.

I made it onto a Minneapolis newscast. Soon, I was getting calls all day. People wanted to know how I did it. They wanted to know all about me. I was invited to speak. I accepted. I guess I was good at it. I talked about my Mom and candy and my weight gain and my shame and the torture of going to school and my Mom's death and how I couldn't save her. I told them about the fourteen steps. People cried. Well, a lot of fat women cried. I was invited to speak at other meetings and then as an inspirational speaker. I got better and better at it. Soon, even guys were crying.

I started getting known. I started getting paid. First, just a hundred here or there; then two or three hundred everytime.

I kept losing weight. After a year of this increasing schedule. I weighed 225 pounds. What Mom weighed when she died. I was 21, and I was well-known.

Speaking engagements kept rolling in, faster and faster. I started being able to ask for over a thousand dollars per speech. Soon, I was earning two thousand dollars almost every night. The first night that I was paid three thousand dollars to speak, I announced to the crowd that I had dropped under 200 pounds for the first time since I was twelve.

Step four: Become independent. I bought a rather nice house in Minneapolis. Bought a nice car. Got my driver's license. Started plastic surgery to remove the layers of skin and wrinkles that were still there from all that fat.

Step five: Start an exercise group. I began to lead walks for overweight women. They each paid me one hundred dollars per week just for thhe privilege to walk with me three times a week.

Step six: Get my life in order. I hired a personal assistant who arranged my schedule. I started an autobiography. I got more and more speaking engagements, sometimes two or three a day. I was earning over five thousand per speech by now. I hired a business manager and a public relations firm to promote me. More plastic surgery.

Step seven: Embrace celebrity. I was called on to give advice on televison shows, radio shows. I began to write a weekly column for the Minneapolis paper. My exercise groups became more formal. I only had to attend once a month now. I had assistants who taught the women what I would do. More plastic surgery.

Step eight: Renew myself. I began referring to myself as Polly. Never using my last name. The exercise continued. The portions got smaller. The fees for access to me got higher. I bought a much larger house. On my twenty-third birthday, I weighed 148 pounds.

Step nine: Exercise harder. I began running. A lot. I dropped ten more pounds in a month. I was mainly eating lettuce, vitamin pills and drinking water.

Step ten: Find a mate. The offers had been arriving for several months now. I told myself that I was skinny enough now to attract a man. I realized that I could probably attract even better mates with less weight and more money. More plastic surgery to remove all traces of old fat. I was 125 pounds. I was dating, for the first time ever.

Step eleven: Go for the big time. I hired a professional agent. I got an interview on Oprah. I told my story. Women gasped. They cried. I told them my autobiography had all the details. Oprah wept. She hugged me.

Step twelve: Finish autobiography! With some professional writing assistance, it was done in three days. Oprah hyped it. I got richer and richer. Hollywood came calling. Would I want to do a small cameo role in the story of my life? Sure. Love to.

Step thirteen: Assess possibilities for the future. The movie was shot on location in North Dakota. They even used my childhood home for a couple scenes. On my twenty-fifth birthday, I weighed 106 pounds. I was worth over $100 million dollars. I bought several more houses. One in L.A., a walk-up in Manhattan, a vacation home in Key West. Time to start the branding of everything about my life.

I didn't know how far I could take this. How much longer could this success go on? My younger brothers live with me now. They help with the business. My own line of prepared meals are selling well. My walking videos have sold several million copies. The movie earned over 300 million dollars in the U.S. alone. The book is in it's twenty-ninth printing. I have a contract for three more titles, a five million dollar advance on each of them. My plus-sized women's clothing dominates the racks at Wal-Marts and K-Marts all over the country. I even have a candy bar named after me! I'm not kidding. A low-fat candy bar called "Polly"!

My Dad? He still lives in North Dakota, but he's got my pictures up all over the house. I guess he's proud of me now.

I have an Oprah appearance scheduled for next month. The new book is coming out then.

I am the queen of a huge empire. I am in charge. This morning... I weighed 97 pounds.

(very long pause) I'm still fat.

Step fourteen: Cut the fat. Cut the fat. Cut the fat. Cut the fat.

(Polly has pulled up her sleeves and we see, for the first time, hundreds of angry red cuts from her wrist to her bicep on each arm. She begins slicing herself more and more, repeating "cut the fat" with each slice. Lights fade out on this slowly.)