Here goes nothing…

Would you look at that, it’s October again. That means it’s time to whip up a new batch of October plays. The concept is simple: Inspired by Suzan-Lori Parks and her wildly inventive 365 Days/365 Plays, I give myself a midnight deadline to write one dramatic moment, event score or other “stageable” scene every day in the month of October. This will be the sixth ninth year for me doing this exercise. It’s a bit like venturing into the kitchen in my mind, and some days it seems like the cupboards are better stocked than others, but I’ve got to get something served up. I never know quite what I’m going to get, sometimes a delectable morsel, others a meaty entree, and I’ll freely admit that occasionally what I’ll have ready by midnight will only be half-baked. I am pleased to share them briefly on this blog, each one will be removed one month from when it was first written.

Apologia

This play will have a HUMAN as well as a talking ELEPHANT and BAT. Good luck with that. A person at the zoo, contemplating the elephant pen.

HUMAN: I’m so sorry. I know you didn’t ask for this. You’re such noble and intelligent creatures. You encapsulate such… awesome raw power and yet you’re gentle and graceful. And I know you probably don’t realize this, but you’re image is used by a group of people who definitely do not share those qualities. I mean, I guess, once upon a time when society worked, maybe they did, but not anymore.

An Elephant enters. It’s speech to the human is not treated with quite the surprise you might expect.

ELEPHANT: I do remember, as a matter of fact.
HUMAN: Remember what?
ELEPHANT: When the old party of elephant men possessed honor and grace… to the extent your savage species could be said to have either of those.
HUMAN: But how do you remember?
ELEPHANT: They say an elephant never forgets? That’s not just a matter of any individual memory. And yes, we are well aware of the cult of power and influence that claims our likeness, and are distressed by their actions. We would actually prefer that they use some other creature as their icon. Say, the bat, for example
HUMAN: Why a bat?
ELEPHANT: They’re batshit crazy!
HUMAN (laughing): You said it! 

A bat flaps its way onstage.

BAT: Hey, you leave my shit out of this! That stuff’s useful! Humans use it to grow their crops. Some of them even burn it for fuel. My shit’s too good to be associated with those wack-jobs!
ELEPHANT: Woah, settle down, flappy!
BAT: Hey, I have a name, you know!

As it looks like they’re about to mix things up in a not particularly productive way, the human tries to extricate themself from the conversation.

HUMAN: Well, I’d better be on my way. I’ve got some donkeys to apologize to next…

The bat and elephant continue their trash talking as the human slowly backs away.

 

 

Barbecue

Two PEOPLE at home, having their dinner, which consists of something that has been barbecued. Suddenly, the door is broken down by several AGENTS in suits and aviator sunglasses. They hardly turn from their food.

AGENT: I’m looking for ________.
2: That’s me.

A device carried by the second agent makes a decidedly unpleasant noise.

AGENT: The truthometer tells a different story.
1: Ok, fine, I’m the one you’re looking for. I’m _________.

The device makes a cheerful chirp.

AGENT: You’re skating on thin ice.
1: Oh, come on, it was just a little joke.
AGENT: Yeah, well laugh while you can. We got a report you’re… uh… lacking, in the patriotism department. Like, that maybe you don’t love our leader as much as you could.
2: I couldn’t even begin to say how much we love the leader.
AGENT: You stay out of this.
1: Well, of course we’re good patriots.
AGENT: Are you? Well, when the game comes on, do you stand at attention for the national anthem?
2: Game? What game?
AGENT (to 2): Quiet!
(to 1): When you watch sports on TV.
1: I don’t watch very much sports, but are you saying there’s a law that when I’m watching sports… in my own home, with nobody but my family around, I have to stand for the anthem? Is that what you’re telling me? That’s a real law?
AGENT: No, that’s not a law. Yet.
1: Here, I’ll tell you what. You barged in on the middle of dinner and I’ve got a lot more to do after this, so I’ll prove it to you. After our leader’s glorious inauguration, I collected as many front pages from the newspaper as I could, to have souvenirs of the event.

The device chirps again.

AGENT: Ok, that checks out. I’ll let you folks finish your dinner, but you better watch yourself.

The agents leave.

2: How did you do that? I was reading that the truthometer is 100 percent accurate?
1: First of all, don’t believe everything you read.
2: And second?
1: Second, I did go around stealing newspapers and tearing the front pages off.
2: Why, in god’s name?
1: I wanted something to start the fire with for the barbecue. I tell you, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing that fat ugly face going up in flames.
2: I can believe that.

Lights down slowly. From offstage we hear a chirp. But it might just be crickets.

Missed

A COUPLE are sitting on a sofa. One of them is constantly looking at something offstage.

1:
2: What are you looking at, dear?
1: You know that cap to the glass water bottle?
2: Yeah?
1: The cat’s been looking at it like she wants to play with it.
2: She’s not giving it much interest right now.
1: Well, that’s ’cause she knows you’re watching her. You know how she is.
2: Ok.

Rest.

2: Huh.
1: What?
2: According to this, the earth just missed getting hit by an asteroid last week…
1: Oh.
2: (is she playing with it?)
1: (no) And what would have happened if it had hit?
2: It would have been similar to a nuclear winter. We’d either get roasted by the initial heating of the atmosphere or else we’d freeze when all the debris blocks out the sun.
1: Well, we don’t need an asteroid for that, we’re well on the way already. (there she goes!)
2: (she’s so funny!) Oh, hi kitty. No, we weren’t watching you.
1: Oh, come on, you little brat, you don’t need to hide when you’re playing. You’re a cat, for crissake!

They both make a show of looking the other way. One eventually gets back to surreptitiously watching.

1: Well, that’s nothing. I guess they’re looking at how the Yellowstone supervolcano could go off any minute now.
2: That’s terrible!
1: Well, that’s in geologic timescales, so “any minute now” might mean in the next thousand years, or it might be… well, any minute now.
2: I don’t know how you can be so chill about it, though.
1: Well, after last November, global catastrophe seems inevitable, so what difference does it make whether it’s natural or man made?
2: But what about us? Our lives together? Starting a family? All gone… like that.
1: Well, if right now is all we got, we’ve got us, this place… the cat. That’s a family, kinda.

Rest. After a moment, they kiss. There is a tremendous noise offstage.  

2: Kitty!
1: I missed it!

 

Tell your story 

(Monologue)

I had the opportunity yesterday to meet in person for the first time someone who has been very supportive of my writing endeavors for several years, and he was asking about my process— he’s a writer too— and I told him about what the ups and downs of a play-a-day exercise, and about how much more difficult it’s been this year… because of all the crap that’s been going on. Anyways, as we were saying goodbye, he said to keep writing, even when it’s tough. Now, I’ve heard that hundreds of times, from every creative writing teacher I’ve ever had, dozens of my colleagues, and heaven knows I said it myself to other writers when it was easier for me.

But then he said something I hadn’t heard before. “If you don’t tell your story, who will?” It seems so simple—so obvious, really—and yet I’ve never thought of it that way. I had always thought I was writing because I thought I had some modest talent but I didn’t really need to write.

“Well, I sorta think…” I said before I had fully known what I was about to say, “I think there are forces out there that are trying to silence the stories of the people who aren’t in power.” He looked at me and nodded, he just seemed to understand that it was just hitting me at that moment I never thought I would be saying something like that in this country, and that it broke my heart just one little sliver more to admit it. He let me have that moment, then just said, “tell your story.”

Infestation

The trail from “Shy” again. Bob is walking along, but now there are several BLUE JAYS. Like, a dozen or two if you can swing it. They do the same darting-around and avoiding a direct line of sight for Bob as he walks through.

BOB: Oh, hello again, Jay.
JAY: Squawk!
BOB: Brought some friends, I see.
ANOTHER JAY: Squawk!
BOB: Anyone want their picture taken?
JAY: SQUAWK!
BOB: Ok, guys, what’s going on here? I’ve never seen one of you guys in the valley and certianly not this far south until a few days ago, and now there are dozens of you.
MORE JAYS: Squawk!
BOB: You guys ever happen to see The Birds?

The jays all stop moving or squawking all at once. The ones that had not been watching Bob directly  very slowly turn to face him.

BOB: Horrible film, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Rest. Bob exits twice as fast as he entered.

Instrumentation 

ANNE, a composer is in whatever her preferred writing place is, whether that’s at a desk next to a piano or tapping a tablet at the trendy tea shop. She’s listening to music: the second movement of Shostakovich’s tenth symphony. A FRIEND speaks.

FRIEND: What’s that?
ANNE: Shostakovich.
FRIEND: That’s a racketty one.
ANNE: It’s his musical portrait of Stalin, written just after Stalin died.
FRIEND: And why are you listening? Is this for your own symphony, or have you just declared war on your ears?
ANNE: Very funny. I’m trying to get ideas for my own symphony.
FRIEND: Oh, and you want to depict/
ANNE: Our own “leader and teacher,” yes. I’ve got a motive I think I can have some fun with, problem is, I don’t know what kind of instrumentation would really be a good fit. It’s gotta be just as pompus as the Stalin music, but ugly and impotent as well.
FRIEND: How about a kazoo?

Rest. We hear in Anne’s mind’s ear. The Stalin music, played by a kazoo.

ANNE: You know, that’s not a bad idea.
FRIEND: Well, you know I meant it as a joke.
ANNE: So did he.

You too?

Today’s play is a reaction to the hashtag that’s been blowing up social media the last few days. For reasons I don’t fully understand, I don’t know if I should share it now or wait about a week, or even if I should publish it at all, so at least for now I’m just leaving another placeholder…