BREAKING THE NEWS


BREAKING THE NEWS

by

Mary F. C. Pratt




This play was part of a 24 hour play festival from "The Garden of Voices," a producer of podcasts like "old fashioned radio dramas." We started at 7 p.m. The playwrights had till 9 a.m. to send the scripts to the producer, and the directors and actors had till 7 that evening to rehearse. The plays were then presented live on Zoom, and will be available later as a podcast.
 The participants decided on a charity--Planned Parenthood--and came up with  some themes that fit in with the charity's mission. I chose these: 
 
Generational differences in mentality of what families should be.
Young couple deciding if it's the right time to start a family


CHARACTERS

SUSAN	        A retired teacher, in her 70s. 
JENNIFER	Susan’s stepdaughter, a businesswoman in her fifties.
JASON	        Jennifer’s son, working the gig economy. In his twenties.

SETTING 	A coffee shop. The present.






















At “Rise”:	Coffee shop sounds. SUSAN is seated.


JASON
Hi Gram. Thanks so much for coming. 

SUSAN
Not a problem. What are grandmothers for?

JASON
Cookies? Birthday presents? Moral support? 

SUSAN
All of the above. Where’s your mother, speaking of moral support?

JASON
She texted awhile ago to say she’s running late. Some meeting she can’t get out of.

SUSAN
Well, okay then. This will give us a chance to get caught up. I’ve hardly seen you since you’ve been driving that delivery truck.

JASON
I know, right? Weird hours. But it’s the best job I’ve had for awhile. Anyhow. It’s good to see you, Gram. 

SUSAN
Likewise. I’ve missed you. So what’s up? All you said was you didn’t want to talk to your mother alone. It sounds serious, kid. What’s going on?

JASON
Well, it is kind of serious. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we should wait till Mom gets here.

SUSAN
Why? So you won’t have to repeat yourself, or because you don’t want her knowing that you talk to me sometimes when she’s not around?

JASON
Ha. All of the above. Can you read my mind?

SUSAN
Of course not. It’s just that it’s a lot like mine.

JASON
Yeah, it is, isn’t it? And that’s weird because I’m not even related to you.

SUSAN
Be that as it may. Your grandfather is related to you, and I’ve been married to him long enough to know how his mind works.

JASON
Um. Not like mine for sure.

SUSAN
Exactly. Now what’s going on?

JASON
Well, you know Darcy?

SUSAN
Of course I know Darcy. You’ve been together two years.

JASON
Three.

SUSAN
Wow, already. But yes, I know Darcy. 

JASON
Well—we’ve been thinking about having a baby.

SUSAN
You and Darcy?

JASON
Yeah, Gram. Me and Darcy.

SUSAN
Of course. You just caught me by surprise there. Your mother will have a shit fit. But I guess you know that or you wouldn’t have asked me to be here.



JASON
Yeah, she will. And it’s weird because you won’t. Have a fit. I mean, you aren’t, right? And I knew you wouldn’t. And she’s younger than you, no offense. I mean, obviously because you’re her stepmother and all, but. . . 

SUSAN
Well, technically I could be her stepmother and younger than she, you know. If your grandfather had married somebody very young after your real grandmother died.

JASON
Hey, you are my real grandmother. Cut it out.

SUSAN
I know, I know. And you are definitely my real grandson. So, real grandson, your mother will have a fit. That’s a given. How about your father?

JASON
Wbo knows? I don’t care. I haven’t seen him forever. He’s never even met Darcy. All the family that matters is you and Grandpa and Mom. Would it bother Grandpa?

SUSAN
Of course not. He’s all about live and let live. You know that.

JASON
Yeah. He didn’t bat an eye about Darcy.

SUSAN
We’re old hippies you know, sweetie. We invented sex and drugs and rock and roll and shacking up. “Living together without benefit of clergy” they used to call it. How quaint is that?

JASON
So what happened to Mom? How come she’s so—straight?

SUSAN
She got religion. And—she rebelled, right? Goes both ways. Our parenting style was pretty casual, to say the least.

JASON
Yeah, but you married Grandpa. I mean, you weren’t like in a commune or something.

SUSAN
Okay. All right then. So, Jason, you and Darcy want to have a baby?

JASON
Ooops. Here comes Mom.

			(Door opens, JENNIFER enters.)

SUSAN
Jennifer, over here!

JENNIFER
(From the counter.)
I’m going to grab a coffee and I’ll be right there. Though God only knows I don’t need more.

SUSAN
Take your time. (To JASON) Okay. You’re on. And no matter what, I’ve got your back.

JASON
I’m really nervous about this.

SUSAN
Of course you are. It will be fine. Really.

JENNIFER
(Comes to the table.)
So what are you two plotting? Jason, you look so guilty. And so do you, Sue. What are you plotting?

SUSAN
The revolution, what else?

JENNIFER
It wouldn’t surprise me. God only knows we need one. We need something. The traffic on Main Street, even before rush hour, is as bad as rush hour. And the price of gas! And now they want to raise our property taxes again, and for what? And clearly the government’s gone to hell.

SUSAN
Jennifer dear, we know all about the world. It is a mess. We agree. So let’s not talk about that. We all agree it’s a mess. We’re here because Jason has something to say that’s even more important than property taxes. Jason?

JASON
Yeah. Well. Um. Mom. Darcy and me are thinking about having a baby. We’ve pretty much decided to. I mean, it isn’t completely definite yet, but we’re pretty serious.

JENNIFER
What? A baby?

SUSAN
No need to inform the whole café, Jennifer. It is exciting, but still. This is a family matter.

JENNIFER
Exciting? Exciting? It’s appalling. Jason! I thought you’d outgrown this business. I mean, living with Darcy without being married, but now this. . . 

JASON
Mom, you’re the one who didn’t want us to get married, remember? You thought it would blow over. Well it didn’t. We really love each other. And now we want to have a baby.

JENNIFER
But why? Whatever for? With the world going to pieces, and you don’t have a real job—

SUSAN
When your father and mother had you, Jennifer, the world was going to pieces, too. The war in Viet Nam was going on and on, we all figured the Soviets would nuke us, we were just beginning to understand about how bad air and water pollution were. And, well, my dear,  we had no real jobs. Your dad was doing seasonal apple picking when your mom got pregnant.

JENNIFER
But he went to college. He became a professor. He wasn’t just a—a barrista, or a van driveror whatever.

SUSAN
When your mother got pregnant, your father was a dope-smoking wanna-be artist, Jennifer, and your mother thought she was the next Edna St. Vincent Millay. I was a budding herbalist, pardon the pun. Your father didn’t go to college until after you were born, after we were married. I was there. I know.

JENNIFER
But he always told me. . . 

SUSAN
I know what he always told you, and I never corrected him. You were conceived on a commune, presumably by your father. You survived your birth, but your mother, who was my dearest friend, didn’t. And your father never wanted you to know because it was so awful and so hard and because, yes, he managed to make something of his life after all.


JASON
Wow, Gram.


JENNIFER
Sue, I didn’t. . . .

SUSAN
I know. And it’s all right. Those were the best of times and the worst of times. It was crazy, but we thought we’d change the world. We really thought we would. And we really loved one another out there on the farm, and it all sort of worked for awhile. You were the second baby born there, and we were all so happy till your mom started bleeding and we didn’t get her to the hospital in time, and she died and it all just fell apart after that. It all just fell apart.

JENNIFER
But I thought she. . . 

SUSAN
I know, Jennifer. I know. Your dad and I will sit down with you later and tell you the whole story. 

JENNIFER
Sue. . . 

SUSAN
But this conversation is about Jason and Darcy. And by the way, Jason is not what you call “just a”van driver or “just a” anything. He’s a responsible person, trying to make a living in a hard world.  And Darcy is a law clerk, for goodness’ sake. So even though the world is going to hell, they’re as equipped as anybody to be parents. Better equipped than we were, believe me.

JENNIFER
I don’t know what to say.

SUSAN
Try saying nothing.

JASON
Uh, Mom? You okay?

JENNIFER
I don’t know. I’m not sure. I don’t know what to think. I didn’t know any of that. I thought Dad and Mom lived in a house with a bunch of people when they were in college. I didn’t know it was a—commune. I’m going to—I’m going to the restroom. I have to go put some water on my face. I’ll be right back.

JASON
You sure you’re okay, Mom?
JENNIFER
I will be. I will be okay. This is just a lot. I’ll be okay.
			(Exits.)

JASON
Grandma!

SUSAN
Yeah?

JASON
Is that for real? I mean, all that weird stuff about grandpa and drugs and communes?

SUSAN
Of course it’s real. You’ve seen the photos of us on the farm.

JASON
Yeah, but I didn’t know it was—I mean, I didn’t know it was something like that. Mom said it was when you were in college, like she said.

SUSAN
Sweetie, I told you we invented sex, drugs and rock and roll. Flower power. All you need is love, right? And your grandpa and I don’t talk about it much because—well, we just don’t. It’s our past and it’s hard to get younger people to understand what it was like. Like we didn’t understand our parents growing up in the depression and World War Two. And your kids won’t understand you growing up in the trump and covid and climate change years. 

JASON
Thanks, Gram.

SUSAN
For what? It isn’t over yet. Your mom will have more to say.

JASON
I know But thanks just for saying that about my kids not understanding. My kids. Mine and Darcy’s. Or kid. I think we might only try for one.

SUSAN
Here she comes.

JENNIFER
(Entering.) There. I feel a little better. I can handle this. Okay. So Jason,  maybe you can handle parenthood. It will be harder for you than it was for your father and me, but maybe not as hard as it was for your grandparents. I get that. I think. But Jason—-

JASON
Yeah?
JENNIFER
You’re going to adopt, right? I  mean, Darcy’s a—man.

JASON
Yeah, but no, Mom. We’re planning to—I mean we’re thinking about—trying for a biological one.

JENNIFER
But Darcy’s. . . 

JASON
He has a uterus, Mom.

JENNIFER
But Jason. That’s—-what will people think? What will—

SUSAN
What will the neighbors say? Is that what you mean, Jennifer? Is that what you’re worried about? 

JENNIFER
Well, it’s just—unnatural. It’s too strange, Jason. It’s just too strange and unnatural and you just shouldn’t do it. If God wanted men to have babies—

SUSAN
. . . he would have given them uteruses? Or is it uteri? In this case, Jennifer, that’s exactly what God, or whatever,  has done.

			(Brief silence, and an increase in coffee shop sounds.)

JENNIFER
Oh. Oh. I didn’t think of that. There’s so much I don’t understand. The world is so complicated. I just don’t understand anything any more.


SUSAN
Has anybody ever understood anything? Really understood anything?

JENNIFER
Well, I always thought I would someday. When I got to be your age, maybe. Sue, don’t you understand at least some things?

SUSAN
Nope. Hardly anything. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Life goes on. And now you get to look forward to being a grandmnother yourself. That is, if Jason and Darcy decide to go through with it. Are you going to, sweetie?

JASON
Well, yeah. We’ve pretty much decided to. We were just hoping Mom wouldn’t mind too much. And, well, we’d kinda like to get married first. Do you mind that now, Mom?

JENNIFER
It will take—well. It will take some getting used to. Seeing Darcy pregnant? Okay. I think I can do that. I always liked Darcy. And sure. Clearly you two love each other, so get married. I think 

JENNIFER (Cont.)
it’s time. My son-in-law, the mother of my grandchild. It sounds strange, but—yes. I can say it. Can’t I, Sue? My son-in-law, the mother of my grandchild! I like it!

JASON
Thanks, Mom. Love you.

JENNIFER
I love you, too. And oh! Look at the time! I’ve got to run. I’ve got to get dinner on the table before  choir practice. ‘Bye!

SUSAN
‘Bye, Jennifer. I am proud of you.

JENNIFER
Thanks, Sue. ‘Bye.

JASON
Weird. I all worked way better than I thought it would. What happened? 

SUSAN
Stories work. Perspective works. And love, Jason. Love works. We’re among the lucky ones, you know? Love’s not all you need, but—it’s most of it. 
JASON
Thanks, Gram.

SUSAN
Any time. 


End of Play







 



2 comments on “BREAKING THE NEWS

  1. Cousin Maggie says:

    WOW. This is a mind-bender blue-eyed wonder! BRAVA!

    • It was a mind-bender to write, too. It surprised me! If you get a chance, when the podcast comes out, listen to it. The actors—especially the guy who plays Jason, were incredible.

      >

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