I've been looking for a new play and started a couple that didn't work. So I invited the characters to sit down and talk. This is the beginning of what happened next. START TALKING A Play in One Act Mary F. C. Pratt CHARACTERS PLAYWRIGHT Older woman. JOAN Older woman, a folklorist PATRICIA Joan’s daughter, a businesswoman in a “little suit.” ALEX Joan’s grandchild, Patricia’s child, a teenager. Garbed rebelliously. GRANDMOTHER Older Woman, an artist. RED Grandmother’s grandchild, ten or twelve years old, wearing a red hoodie. LAURA Annie’s daughter, a circus performer, in her late twenties, arty and self-centered. ANNIE Laura’s Mother, middle-aged. Vague and worried. PAT Annie’s boss, an Older Woman who owns a greenhouse. Outspoken, tough. Work clothes. STAGEHAND Unspeaking. SETTING Bare stage, a table, six chairs. Folding chairs available backstage. At Rise: Playwright is sitting at the table working at a computer. Joan, Patricia and Alex, and Grandmother and Red enter in their family groups, silently. After some jockeying around, the grandmothers sit together, the grandchildren sit together. There is space around Patricia. PLAYWRIGHT (Looking around the table.) Okay. Everybody’s here. Good. So start talking. GRANDMOTHER So what do you want us to talk about? What do you want to know? I’ve got work to do. I don’t have all day. PLAYWRIGHT Talk about whatever. Who are you? You say you’ve got work to do? So tell me about it. I don’t have all day, either. I want to kick-start at least one of these plays. So talk. (All start babbling at once.) PATRICIA Wait, wait. Everybody stop. This is ridiculous. Somebody needs to organize it. PLAYWRIGHT Fine, fine. Go for it. PATRICIA All right. We’ll go around the table and introduce ourselves. Say your name and something about what you think you’re supposed to be doing, at least so far. PLAYWRIGHT (A snort, a guffaw—some kind of dismissive noise.) PATRICIA So I’ll start. I’m Patricia. You can probably tell by my clothes that I am a successful business woman. PLAYWRIGHT What business are you in? PATRICIA I have absolutely no idea. Now do you want me to talk or not? PLAYWRIGHT Yes, yes, yes. PATRICIA Then if you’ll be quiet, I’ll get on with it. May I? PLAYWRIGHT Yeah. Go ahead. PATRICIA All right then. As I said, I’m Patricia. Joan is my mother and Alex is my child. I think my mother is getting dotty and should be in some kind of assisted living. So far, I live offstage, on the telephone. I haven’t even had any lines yet. GRANDMOTHER And you’re already a character with distinctive clothes. That’s impressive. PLAYWRIGHT Huh. It is, actually. PATRICIA If you’ve finished interrupting? All right. I am suspicious that Alex is in cahoots with Joan. Perhaps they even laugh at me behind my back. Next? GRANDMOTHER I bet they do. PATRICIA What? They do what? GRANDMOTHER Laugh at you. Behind your back. I know I do. PATRICIA What are you talking about? You don’t even know me. You’re not in my play. GRANDMOTHER Thank God. But in my play my grandchild and I laugh at his/her/their mother, who is my daughter, all the time. PATRICIA What’s up with that, Playwright? Do you laugh at your daughter? PLAYWRIGHT I don’t have a daughter. But this isn’t about me. Talk. PATRICIA We are talking. Next? You. . .(Points at Red.) RED That would be me. I’m Red. You can tell, maybe by the shirt. Anyhow, I’m a kid and I live in a play that’s supposed to be, like, a rewrite of Red Riding Hood, or something. Maybe I’m trying to rescue Grandmother from the sun? Not like she’s sunbathing, I mean, but maybe she got eaten by the sun? Or maybe some wolf eats the sun? Grandmother talked about that a little bit. Or something. It’s all pretty, like, vague or something. I knock on the door a lot. GRANDMOTHER Right. (To Playwright.) And that vagueness is getting tiresome, if you want to know the truth, which, as an artist I assume you do? PLAYWRIGHT I certainly aspire to the truth, yes. And it is getting tiresome for me, too, which is why you’re all here. So keep going. GRANDMOTHER Well then. I am Grandmother. And as she/he/they said, I think it’s a Red Riding Hood riff, but I don’t think it’s very successful so far, though I do like being an artist instead of a pathetic old bedridden lady, and I like throwing out the natural foods crap my daughter makes Red bring to me, and I like feeding her/him/them coffee and chocolate bars instead. I do hope you can make something out of that bit, at least. JOAN You do that, too? Throw out the stuff your daughter sends you? PATRICIA Mother, it isn’t your turn yet. JOAN Oh for goodness’ sake, Patricia. I’m next at the table. GRANDMOTHER Yes, Patricia. For goodness’ sake. (Turns to Joan.) And I’ve done my bit, so go ahead. JOAN (To Grandmother.) Thank you. When this is over, we need to talk. (To all.) In the meantime, I’m in an embryonic play with my grandchild Alex, and with, or possibly despite, my daughter Patricia, who, until now, has, mercifully, been offstage and silent. (Examines Patricia.) So that’s what you look like. Nice suit. PATRICIA No need for personal comments, Mother. JOAN I beg to differ. Playwright, personal comments allowed? PLAYWRIGHT Oh, please!