Playaday: Affecting Adult

13—Adult who affected you strongly as a child

CHARACTERS

MARY—an overly imaginative second grader

MARY’S MOM

MRS. ROGERS—a colorless, depressed second grade teacher who hates teaching

MARY’S DAD

SCENE ONE

The family kitchen. Mary is talking with her mother.

MARY
And we’re going to do a play! A Christmas play.

MOM

Tell me about it.

MARY

There will be Mary and Joseph and Wise Men and Shepherds. And guess what?

MOM

What?

MARY
I get to be the Angel Gabriel!

MOM
Oh my. And what will you do?

MARY
I’ll tell Mary about Baby Jesus and then I’ll tell the Shepherds. And guess what?

MOM

What?

MARY
I have a beautiful costume.

MOM

You do? What does it look like?

MARY

It’s a long white dress with sparkles in it. And I have silver wings. Great big silver wings. And a halo. That’s golden.

MOM
That sounds very fancy. When is the play?

MARY
Right before Christmas.

MOM
I’m looking forward to it.

MARY
Oh. No. You can’t come.

MOM

Why not?

MARY

You just can’t. Mothers can’t come. It’s only for the school.

MOM

That doesn’t make any sense.

MARY
But you can’t! It’s only for the school!

MOM

I’m going to talk with Mrs. Rogers and find out,

MARY

No! No! You can’t! You can’t come! Don’t talk to Mrs. Rogers! You just can’t come!

SCENE TWO

A Classroom, after school. Mrs. Rogers is sitting at her desk, correcting papers. Mom enters.

MRS. ROGERS

(Looking up.)  Hello. Who are you?

MOM

I’m Mary’s mother.

MRS. ROGERS

Oh. Well, what do you want? Mary’s doing very well in school.

MOM

I know she is. But she tells me that she is in a Christmas play, and that parents can’t come to it.

MRS. ROGERS

Where in the world did she get that idea? There is no Christmas play.

MOM

Oh. I see. Well, thank you. 

SCENE THREE

The kitchen. Mary’s Mom and Dad are seated at the table.

MOM

We have to move. She can’t go to that school. There’s nothing for her there. She spends all her time making up stories.

DAD

Is that a bad thing? I used to make up stories in my head all the time. She has a good imagination,

MOM
I know, I know. Making up stories isn’t bad. Using her imagination isn’t bad. But if she’s doing that in school, it means she isn’t learning anything there. We have to move. At least out of the town school district.

DAD

All right. We can start looking for a house in city. It’s about time we stopped renting anyway.

MOM

Good. I’ll get the paper and see if there’s anything for sale now.

I don’t know about the conversation in Scene Three, but the rest is true, and we did move so I got to go to a better school. But now I credit Mrs. Rogers for sparking my interest in making up plays! 

Playaday: View from the Top

#83—View from the Top

CHARACTERS

Two people sitting on a park bench:

ONE and

TWO

ONE

So. I’m supposed to write an article about “The view from the top,” and I don’t have the faintest idea how to begin. The top of what? A tree? What’s the highest thing you’ve ever been on? 

TWO

Easy. An airplane?

ONE

Nah. Airplanes don’t count. That’s a view from above, not the top. 

TWO

Okay. Definitely not a tree. I’ve never been in the top of a tree, and I don’t ever want to be, either. A mountain, I guess. Maybe a sky scraper?

ONE

Oh yeah, a skyscraper. I hadn’t thought of that. I once had a piece of German chocolate cake in that restaurant on the top of the old World Trade Center. And then I went out and looked at the view, and got really nauseous. I don’t think I barfed, but I might have.

TWO

Wow. The World Trade Center. I never made it to that one. Why did you get nauseous?

ONE

I don’t know. Vertigo, maybe. Maybe because it was windy and they say those tall buildings sway? Maybe it was just the cake. It was a huge piece and really rich. But this isn’t getting me anywhere. 

TWO

Sure it is. You saw a view up there.

ONE

Yeah, I must have. But I don’t remember it. Have you ever been in a tall building?

TWO

Yeah. Empire State when I was a kid, but I don’t remember that. But I do remember the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.

ONE

Never heard of it. What were you doing there?

TWO

Visiting my aunt. 

ONE

I didn’t know you had an aunt in Warsaw.

TWO

Yeah. Well, neither did I till a few years ago. Anyhow, that’s a long story. The point is, the Palace is this gigantic building that the Soviets built back in the 50’s. It’s really tall, I think one of the tallest buildings in Europe. And like I say, gigantic. Anyhow, My aunt took me there, and we went to the top. 

ONE

Good view?

TWO

Well, that was the funny thing. I only know things like “please” and “thank you” and “good morning” in Polish. My aunt speaks English, but, you know, with a heavy accent. And she gets stuff wrong. So she said, “Good view but not today because of frog,” And of course she meant fog. When I told her, she laughed, and then she said that instead of saying “please,” I’d been saying “little pig.”

ONE

That’s a good story, but it doesn’t help much.

TWO

Well, maybe the point could be that there isn’t a view. No matter how high you get. There just isn’t one. Because you’ve had too much cake, or because of the frog.

ONE

Yeah, I suppose. I guess I just have to keep thinking.

Playaday: The gods at home

#40–A poem in the voice of a god or goddess

CHARACTERS

HESTIA—goddess of the hearth

ATHENA—goddess of war, among other things

LOKI—the Trickster

SETTING

The Media Room on Olympus, comfortably furnished. Coffee table with bags of junk food. A TV that’s on, no sound.

At Rise:

Hestia sprawled on the sofa, eating something crunchy out of a bag. Athena in a chair, watching the screen, intently. 

ATHENA

Look at that. Will you just look at it? It’s my thing, and even I’m appalled. Oh, for the days of single combat!

HESTIA
Ah, who gives a shit? I gave up on that lot a long time ago. We were here before they were, we’ll be here after they’re gone. Why bother yourself with them?

ATHENA

I think you’re wrong. I think that when they’re gone, we will be, too. I mean, think about it. Since that Greek lot faded away, we’ve been pretty much confined here. Nobody calls us, nobody burns cattle for us, nobody challenges us. Nobody down there believes in us. We’re just, just, characters in stories. That’s the only thing that keeps us going. So when they’re gone, the stories will be gone, too. We’re just doomed.

HESTIA
Maybe you are, but who every told a story about me? I’m fire, right? Have you ever seen a statue of me?

ATHENA

Um. I guess not. But there’ve got to be some. I mean, those Greeks made statues of everything.

HESTIA

Well, yeah. A few. But nothing like the ones of you, and Hera and Aphrodite. Everybody knows what Aphrodite looks like.

ATHENA

Or what they think she looked like. Or used to look like. I mean, now, she’s just another old woman trying to keep her girlish figure.

HESTIA

Anyhow, my point is. I’m the personification of fire, so even without them, I’ll be here. Maybe even more so, depending

ATHENA

But isn’t it about the hearth? I mean, there won’t be any actual hearths when they’re gone. 

HESTIA
Who knows? I’m not losing any sleep over it. Want some chips?

ATHENA

No thanks.

HESTIA
Party mix? Demeter made some fresh. It’s pretty good.

ATHENA

Oh, maybe. She does make good party mix. Lots of garlic.

(She gets some food and sits comfortably.)

(Loki enters.)

HESTIA
Son of a gun. Loki. What are you doing on this mountain? I thought you were still bound. Has your Ragnarok happened already?

LOKI

Nope. It turns out it might not. Who knows? Wotan and that lot are all sitting around trying to figure out if they need to arm up. Nobody’s been paying much attention to me lately and my chains kinda wore out, so I left. And I heard that there were good snacks here. Might was well hang out with you all, if you don’t mind. 

HESTIA
Sure. Help yourself.

ATHENA
Make yourself at home.

LOKI

(Grabbing a handful of food and sitting.)

Thanks.

Playaday: Ripping Paper

What a terrible prompt.

#107—Ripping Paper

CHARACTERS
Writer at a Typewriter
Artist with a sketch pad
Toddler 
Dog


SETTING
The humans are seated around a table, on which is a stack of paper. The dog is under the table.


WRITER
I like to rip paper. Whenever I write something that’s terrible, I enjoy tearing it up into thin strips, and then crumpling the strips into a ball which I then toss on the floor.
(Removes a piece of paper from the typewriter, tears it, crumples it, and throws it on the floor.)


ARTIST
I like to rip paper. Every day I draw a little sketch, just for practice, and then I tear it in half and wad it up and throw it over my shoulder.
(Does that.)


TODDLER
I like to rip paper. 
(Grabs a fistful of paper from the table and starts tearing it and throwing the pieces around.) 

DOG
Woof.
(Picks up papers on the floor and tears them into tiny pieces. )

Playaday: Savoring Senses

#115—What can I love and savor through my senses?


CHARACTERS

HUMAN
HAWK 
BEAR
BAT
MOLE

Setting: The edge of a forest. A semi-circle with Human in the center

HUMAN
All right, you guys. I’ve brought you here because I want to know what your worlds are like. So tell me.

HAWK
Oh, I can see. I can see miles and miles. My world is clear and far and full. And silent, but for the wind.

BEAR
And my world is dark and snuffly, full of musk and meat, grubs, berries, apples, acorns, the edible treasures you throw into cans and hang in feeders. And you, always you, and your dogs, all around.

BAT
Nothing but sound. Sharp and hard. Buzzings and screamings and the dullnesses of clotheslines and grass. The hollowness of openings in boxes and towers and holes in walls.

MOLE
Thick, wet, dry, crumbly, slick, live and soft, dark and hard. Edible, poison. Spring, sharp. Air near the tops.

ALL BUT HUMAN
And you, Human? Tell us your world.

HUMAN
Not as clear or far, but enough for me. Flowers an dfood, just enough. Wind and music and th evoices of my friends. Not every rustle and click and snap. The smooth sheets and stones, the rough of pavement and sand. And, too, the sweet of peach and bitter of coffee. The salt of cheese, the comfort of bread. The taste of coming snow. The sense of who I am.

Also written among the thrum and bustle of our son’s family. I did not write one on the 14th, in the car on the way home.


Playaday: Eglise de Stains, Utrillo

#56—Animate a favorite painting with words.

I love this painting. I’ve had a print of it since high school and it now hangs in the kitchen. I wrote this sitting on the couch in our son’s house on the 12th, surrounded by the clamor of grandchildren.

CHARACTERS

Jean

Marie

SETTING

 Rue Jean Durand, Paris, looking toward Eglise de Stains as painted by Utrillo.

JEAN

The street is strangely empty today. Where is everyone?

MARIE
Perhaps they’re in church?

JEAN

Why would they be there? It is not Sunday. It is not a holy day.

MARIE
True. Perhaps a funeral?

JEAN

We’d know about a death, surely.

MARIE
Oh I don’t know. We don’t know everyone in the neighborhood now. Why lives in the house with the green shutters?

JEAN

Somebody new, I think. I don’t remember.

MARIE

Well then. Perhaps there was a death in the house.

JEAN
I don’t think the neighbors are all in church, Marie. No one rang the bell. And there is not a cat, hnot a pigeon, not a dog in sight. No one opening a window. No one calling hello. It is silent as well as empty Strange.

MARIE
Wait, Jean! I have a thought. Remember Maurice?

JEAN
The painter.

MARIE

Yes. He stood yesterday, right where we stand, with his easel and palette and brush, looking the way we are looking now, down the street, toward the church, all down the street to where it bends away.

JEAN

Yes, yes, what of it?

MARIE
Let us walk down the street, this silent street, to the house at the very end, the one with the red roof.

JEAN

Why?

MARIE

Let us just do it, Jean. Step. One foot out. Step.

JEAN
Marie! I cannot lift my feet. They are stuck in this, this. . . 

MARIE
Paint, Jean. This grey paint. The street is painted now. It is empty of everything but paint.

Playaday: Schubert of the Pampas

#60—“The Schubert of the Pampas” describes composer Carlos Guastavino. Describe yourself as “The…. of the . . . “

(I’m going to be offline over the weekend, but I’ll still try to write my playlets, which I shall post on Monday. This one wrote itself. The characters inhabit a Play for Voices that I wrote which will be a podcast sometime in February.)

CHARACTERS

VICKY—a retired lawyer—queen of the courtroom

SHARON—a massage therapist—supreme organizer

NANCY—a former priest—queen of the sacristy

LINDA—a retired nurse

SALLY—a matriarch—NOT an angel

They are old women who have been friends for years.

Setting:  A coffee shop, the middle of a conversation.

VICKY

No, I didn’t always want to be a lawyer. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Queen.

LINDA

What? Queen? Vicky! Where did you get that idea?

VICKY

The coronation movie. I saw it when I was, what? Three? Did you see it? Elizabeth, like a fairy tale princess with that gown and cape and crown and the scepter and the orb and the sword. . .

LINDA

(Ironic.)

Well, I must say it affected your taste in clothes. Those little suits of yours.

NANCY

You do wear nice jewelry.

VICKY

That’s due to Sharon. If you like nice jewelry, have a spouse with good taste, I always say.

SHARON

That’s my girl. Queen of the Courtroom.

NANCY

Well, what about you, Sharon? Was massage therapy even a thing when we were kids?

SHARON

I vaguely remember a large Swedish masseuse  in some movie or other. But no. I wanted to be a secretary.

NANCY

That was basically the choice, wasn’t it? Teacher, nurse, secretary, housewife.

SALLY

And I picked housewife. And I don’t regret it at all.

SHARON

Why should you, Sally? You’ve raised a batch of great kids. And grandkids, too. Without being the “angel in the home,” too.

SALLY

Right. Anyone who calls me an “angel” would be in serious trouble. But back to you, Sharon. A secretary. Why?

SHARON

I like order. I like office supplies. Folders and stickers and file boxes and rolodexes and pens and pencils and. . .

VICKY

Oh no! You got her going! Everything in our house is labeled and filed! Sharon, Supreme Organizer!

SHARON

(Primly.)

However. You can find things in our house, can’t you? And it really helps me with the business.

VICKY

All true, all true. Nancy. Were you one of those girls who dreamed of being a priest or an astronaut or something girls couldn’t be?

NANCY

As a matter of fact, I was. I wanted to be a priest. But when the dust had settled, when I began to realize that dealing with a parish and trying to talk about a god I only half believed in, I saw that it was at least partly about the stuff. 

LINDA

The stuff?

NANCY

Yeah. The music and the stained glass and the incense. And—the clothes. You know? The robes. They were pretty nice.

VICKY

I get it, Nance. If I was Queen of the Courtroom, you were. . . 

NANCY

Queen of the Sacristy.

LINDA

What’s a sacristy?

NANCY

The dressing room. Backstage. Yeah. That works. But not queen, when I think about it. More like, oh, I don’t know, clown. 

SALLY

Clown?

NANCY

That’s not right either. Impressionist, maybe. But that doesn’t matter any more. What about you, Linda?

LINDA

Nurse. Nurse LInda all the way. The Florence Nightingale of Milwaukee. I still miss it.

VICKY

Craziness. I can not imagine wanting to take care of sick people.

SHARON

But you used to take care of deranged people, love. Some of those clients of yours. . . 

VICKY

Different, different. They didn’t barf and need bedpans.

SHARON

I hate to break this up, but I have a client in half an hour so I’ve got to run. See you all next week?

(Stands.)

SALLY

God willing and the creek don’t rise. Yeah, I’d better get going, too.

(They all stand, and exit, talking quietly, as the curtain falls.)

Playaday: Cover an Indiscretion

#32—Cover up an indiscretion

CHARACTERS

Person One—co-host of the dinner party

Person Two—co-host of the dinner party.

Persons Three through Six

Setting: A dinner party.

For the first ten minutes, the people make polite dinner party conversation, ad lib.

Suddenly, there is a raspberry noise and all is briefly silent. Person One wrinkles their nose and looks pointedly at Person Two.

PERSON TWO

It was the dog.

PERSON ONE

We don’t have a dog.

Curtain.

Playaday: A Birthday Poem

#47—Birthday poem for someone whose birthday is that day

Characters:

Bev, whose birthday it is

Everett, a poet

They are drinking coffee in a cafe.

BEV

Okay, Ev. It’s my birthday. I have graced this earth for seventy years and I want a poem.

EV

I’ve tried. I’ve really tried, but I just can’t find the words.

BEV

Come on, you’ve had a whole year to work on it.

EV

Well come on yourself. Occasional poems are not my forte.

BEV

What do you consider your forte? Those obscure things you get published in the little weird magazines that nobody reads but other obscure poets?

EV

Well, yes. I guess so.

BEV

What’s the point in being a poet if you can’t write a little birthday poem for your old friend, huh? What’s the point?

EV

Okay, okay. Here. (Takes a notebook and pen out of his pocket.) Give me a minute. Drink your coffee or something.

(He writes in silence while she drinks her coffee and looks around.)

BEV

Done yet?

EV

No! Just shut up and let me work!

BEV

Okay, okay. You don’t have to be hostile about it.

EV

Urf.

(More silence.)

EV

Okay. Here it is. Ready?

BEV

I’ve been ready since early this morning. Go for it.

EV

(Stands.)

For Beverly.

Seventy years you’ve graced the Earth.

I’m glad your mother gave you birth.

I hope you’re here for many more,

but who knows what life has in store?

Happy Birthday then, dear Bev,

from your buddy, the poet Ev.

(Sits.)

BEV

(Stands and applauds, sits again.)

There. That wasn’t so bad, was it? What would I do without you?

EV

Bah.

CURTAIN

Playaday: A Fork that Changed my Life

Prompt #21 A fork that changed your life

What kind of weird poems did we write with these prompts? Good grief.

CHARACTERS

MARLENE

GEORGE

Setting: Lunch at a Senior Center. Marlene and George are seated next to one another, eating. George drops his fork which lands under Marlene’s chair, and she picks it up.

GEORGE

Thank you. 

MARLENE

You’re welcome. I haven’t seen you here before. Are you new in town?

GEORGE

Not new in town so much as new to the Center. My wife passed away last year, and my daughter made me come here today because she says I’m eating funny. I tried for awhile, you know, but I got tired of cooking for one. 

MARLENE
I know what you mean. My son got me coming here, too. Mine was popcorn and cocoa for dinner. What was yours?

GEORGE

Cheerios.

MARLENE

Yeah, you can’t get very far on popcorn and cheerios. I resented it for awhile, but my son was right. The food’s not too bad here, and I like that they give you a sandwich for supper, too.

GEORGE

Do they really?

MARLENE
They do. They’ll come by with a box when they bring the desert. Pretty good deal. Not as good as my cooking used to be, but—I don’t have to cook it.

GEORGE

It’s better than my cooking, but I guess it doesn’t take much.

MARLENE
So what do you do to pass the time?

GEORGE

Photography. I used to be a pro, so I’ve got some good equipment. I still try to take a photo or two every day.

MARLENE
What kind of photos? People? Buildings?

GEORGE

Macro. Little stuff. Leaves and frost crystals and things like that. Insects. 

MARLENE
So there’s always something, right? Wherever you look?

GEORGE

There is. Right here, for instance. I could take a photo of this lettuce, up close. It has fascinating texture. All those little ribs and the variations in color. I should have brought my camera. Maybe

MARLENE
You’ll have to do that next time. You could do a whole series “Senior Lunch.” Maybe they’d even hang it up here. They do hang paintings. I bet they would.

GEORGE

Interesting thought. I’ll bring the camera. What about you? I mean, how do you pass the time?

MARLENE
The time. Sometimes it seems there’s so much of it to pass.

GEORGE

And despite that, it goes by so quickly.

MARLENE
I heard someone say that when you’re old, the years go quickly and the days go slowly.

GEORGE

I think that’s true.

MARLENE
But I pass the time in front of my computer screen. I’m a writer. 

GEORGE

Novels? Poems?

MARLENE
Plays. In fact, I’ve got one coming out next week. 

GEORGE

Where?

MARLENE
Right across the street here. The Community Players. It’s not Broadway, but they’re pretty good and it’s fun. You should come. I’ll get you a ticket if you like.

GEORGE

Thanks. That would be great. Maybe we could catch some dinner first. Real dinner, in a restaurant.

MARLENE
Now that would be a change. I hate eating alone, in a restaurant.

GEORGE 

So do I. What’s the play called?

MARLENE

You’re not going to believe this.

GEORGE

Try me.

MARLENE
It’s called “A Fork that Changed My Life.”

(They both laugh.)