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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Short Play #2: "Job Hunting in the Age of Farmville" (a one-minute play)


“Job Hunting in the Age of Farmville”

a One-Minute Play

by Kirby Fields

Produced as part of Spare Change Theater's One-Minute Play Festival, New York, September 10-11, 2010, and again as part of the Best Of Festival, July 29, 2011

At rise:  GLADWELL on one side of the desk, RUPERT on the other.

GLADWELL
So, Mr. Rupert.

RUPERT
Yes.

GLADWELL
Your education is impressive.  Your past experience exactly what we’re looking for.  And your references impeccable. 

RUPERT
Great.  So when do I—?

GLADWELL
I’m afraid, however, that we’re not going to be able to hire you.

RUPERT
But, why not?

GLADWELL
Well, we were all ready to make an offer, and then we checked your Facebook page.

RUPERT
Oh.

GLADWELL
Yes.

RUPERT
I see.  May I ask what it was exactly that—.

GLADWELL
I’d really rather not—.

RUPERT
Was it the picture of me getting tazed on the field in Philly?  Or the one of me doing a line of coke off a hooker’s ass?  Or wait a minute!  I know!  It was the beer bong with Mike the Situation Sorrentino, wasn’t it?

GLADWELL
No, no.  We’re a very tolerant company.  It wasn’t any of those things.

RUPERT
Then what was it then?

GLADWELL
It’s your status updates.

RUPERT
What about them?

GLADWELL
They’re just not very funny.

(end of play)


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guest Blogger: "Stepping Back," by Craig Weiner

I don't read anymore.  Not like I used to, when I spent hours in used bookstores desperately seeking performance-enhancing supplements to my English major and two subsequent masters degrees.  Now, I'm lucky if I can get through a Sports Illustrated before the next one comes in the mail.  My wife will turn to me in bed and say, "You should read this book, but I know you won't."  I don't even give her an empty promise.  I just roll over and go to sleep to numb the shame. 

I've thought a lot about books since reading Kirby's inaugural Remainders post.  I have a lot of them.  Each time I've moved, I've faithfully packed them up in new cardboard boxes that I've had to purchase for the occasion because the last thing you want to do after you move is look at cardboard boxes, let alone keep them.  Five different apartments in six years in St. Louis, a year in Boston, to a storage unit while searching for myself abroad for a few months, a year in New York, two in Pittsburgh, and then seven more and counting back in New York.  I'm in my fourth apartment here.  The last three apartments have come with a wife and two of those have included a small child.  The last time I moved, I didn't even bother to organize the books on the shelves.  Ernest Hemingway rubbed shoulders with whoever wrote the "I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski" trivia book based on the Coen brothers film and no one cared.  When space got tight in our daughter's room, we moved the bookcases into a narrow hallway that has essentially served as stroller parking and storage.  Suddenly, it appeared that there were no books in our apartment, save for the hundred or so books for two year-olds, many of which extol the myriad virtues of not defecating in one's pants.
I know he claims that this is his daughter's, but don't let him fool you.  I've shared a hotel room with the man.  I know the truth.
It seemed strange to me that the bookcases were not the central feature of the living room, like trophies on a mantelpiece to show off how well-read I once was.  You ought to be able to tell a lot about a person by the books on their shelves.  What did it say about me that I had no books?  Or rather had hidden from them like a former best friend with whom you no longer had something in common, yet always rode the same busy subway train each morning, avoiding eye contact, perhaps moving to another car during a stop.  I was angry that the books had been relegated to obscurity, but of course I was only angry at myself for arriving at this point.  I had all the excuses, including the scarcity of space and the compromise that comes with not living alone anymore, but I was finally resolved to do something about it.  Our apartment was closing in on us.  Toys mounted.  I tried to counteract the expanding force by exercising in the hopes that a smaller ass might allow us to live here another year without moving to a three bedroom in Queens.  My last resort was to redesign the apartment.

"Redesign" is probably a generous description of what can be done on a $300 budget.  "Rearrange" is really the word.  Move a dresser here, throw out a dresser there, buy another dresser, throw out a broken bookcase, buy a smaller used dining room table, move a nursing chair from here to there, and now we have the makings of a roomier home.  In a stunning transformation, the bookcases have been moved to a more prominent part of the hallway, just off the living room, visible to anyone who wants to stand near our hallway.  Last night, I arranged the books.  One entire bookcase of plays, another one for literature, i.e. anything written before 1970, plus contemporary fiction on the lower shelves.  The remnants of my other major in History now sit neatly atop two dressers, as well as in a smaller bookcase, in the bedroom.  There is still a box of my wife's cookbooks in the hallway.  We need another bookcase, but I oughtn't push my luck.  To purchase a new hideously wood-colored Ikea bookcase to match the relics from graduate school that persist in our lives is a design folly my wife would not stand. 

What made this event momentous was not so much the return from banishment of the books, but the fact that I voluntarily removed nearly a dozen books from my collection, to be donated to Housing Works, where no one else will read them, either.  Big, thick books that I packed and unpacked, year after year, but certainly never re-opened.  Textbooks about Dramatic Theory & Criticism, Theater Production & Management, even an old French textbook from God knows when.  It was liberating in a way I hadn't imagined, not because I had freed up space, but because I had come to terms with my new life.  Not only do I no longer read, I no longer write.

Ask Craig about this one between innings of a Red Sox game sometime.  Just don't expect him to be conversant in English.
I used to be a playwright.  I haven't written a new full-length play since the day my fingers grasped the diploma that came with my MFA.  Yes, I've written some shorter pieces, even had some some minor productions of them.  I've tinkered with and retooled a play that I began in 2002, but haven't quite been able to adequately finish.  I attend meetings with a writer's group, but it is more an excuse to see my friends than it is to workshop any pages.  I used to consider myself a serious writer, always with some sort social or political theme in mind, whether it be race or war.  I used to write angry, which I felt spurred my productivity, but I don't get angry anymore.  Now, the news is just minor indigestion, and the moment passes.  I don't have the energy for anything more.  Maybe my priorities have changed.  Maybe I'm just getting old.  I'm more interested in dabbling in writing sitcom pilots that only tangentially deal with identity or injustice, and I'm lucky if I make time for that once every other week.

So, I don't need to hold onto obscure textbooks that I once thought I'd refer to when I joined the faculty of a college theater department.  That ship has sailed, so there's no longer any need to pack for the journey.  I am content to spend whatever free time I have with my daughter, tickling her and dusting off my reading skills to help put her sleep.  Or I'd rather go to a bar and watch football with my friends and have a pint or three.  Or just have a date night with my wife, which I will do tonight, instead of writing something not terribly important to me.  Maybe one day I will be fired up about something, or strike a brilliant idea for a play, but I'd list myself as "doubtful" on the injury report for that game.  I'm certainly a little remorseful that I am not living the life of a successful playwright, but it's not something that tears me up inside, and it seems like something that should.

Now, I take a step back from the hallway and into the living room and look at my books--arranged, but not yet alphabetized.  I am the curator of my own museum.  I am a little lost, but I know I am home.  I should look for something to read.
 
A still from the New York production of Craig's play, The Home for Lost Boys.
 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Short Play #1: "Dead on Our Feet"



“Dead on Our Feet”

a ten-minute play
  
Produced in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on January 8, 2005, as part of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, directed by Victor Maog.

Characters

            ALVIN – 37 year old banker

            OLIVIA – 35 year old part-time real estate agent

Setting

ALVIN and OLIVIA’s upper-middle-class bedroom:  a bed flanked by floor lamps; also, a vanity.  Eleven o’clock on a weeknight.  July.

At rise:  ALVIN wears his pajamas and reclines in bed.  He reads a copy of US News and World Report through his reading glasses.  OLIVIA enters the bedroom from the bathroom.  She sits at the vanity, reclines her head, and examines the underside of her nose in the mirror.  She touches a Kleenex to her nostrils and inspects it.  She repeats this action twice.  She is satisfied with the results of her inspection. 

OLIVIA
I read today that most women would rather be widows than divorcees.

ALVIN
That doesn’t bode well for us husbands.

OLIVIA
Something about coping more easily with a permanent loss than a loss you would have to interact with on the weekends.

ALVIN
I could see that.

OLIVIA
What with the children and the joint custody and all.

ALVIN
I got the reference.

                        (pause)

OLIVIA
That’d be awful, wouldn’t it?

ALVIN
Uh-huh.  What?

OLIVIA
If something were to happen.  Something catastrophic.

ALVIN
That would really be something.

OLIVIA
What would we do?

ALVIN
I don’t know.  I don’t like to think about it.

OLIVIA
Me neither.
                        (pause)
But really. 

ALVIN
Olivia.

OLIVIA
What would we do if something bad, something really bad happened?

ALVIN
Olivia, not tonight, please.

OLIVIA
OK, OK, Mr. Grumpy.
                        (pause)
If something bad were to happen I hope it would happen to me.  I hope I die first.

ALVIN
So do I.

OLIVIA
“So do I?”  What is that supposed to mean?

ALVIN
What is what supposed to mean?

OLIVIA
“So do I.”  “So do I” like so do you hope to die first?  Or “so do I” like you also hope I die first?

ALVIN
That one.  So do I hope you die first.

OLIVIA
That’s a terrible thing to say.

ALVIN
I just agreed with what you said.  Was I not supposed to agree?

OLIVIA
Of course you weren’t supposed to agree.  You were supposed to say, “Olivia, honey, don’t think such things.  Neither one of us will ever die.  Ever.  Besides, if one of us has to go I would rather it were me.  I couldn’t bear going on without you.”

ALVIN
Do you want me to try again?

OLIVIA
Would you?  I’ll say my line.  Then you say yours.
                        (a beat)
I hope I die first.

ALVIN
Olivia, honey, don’t think such things.  Neither one of us will ever die.  Besides, if one of us has to go—.

OLIVIA
“Ever.”

ALVIN
Excuse me?

OLIVIA
You forgot the “ever.” 

ALVIN
I said “ever.”

OLIVIA
You said the first “ever,” but not the second.

ALVIN
There are two “evers”?  “Neither one of us will ever, ever die?”

OLIVIA
No.  Not there.  It comes after.  “Neither one of us will ever die.  Ever.”  The second one punctuates the first.

ALVIN
So it does.

OLIVIA
Again.
                       
(While OLIVIA gathers herself, ALVIN rolls his eyes.)

OLIVIA (cont.)
I hope I die first.

ALVIN
Olivia, honey, don’t think such things.  Neither one of us will ever die.  Ever.  Besides, if one of us has to go I would rather it were me.  I couldn’t bear going on without you.

OLIVIA
That was good.  Did you mean it?

ALVIN
            (meaning “no”)
Yeah.

OLIVIA
Al! 

ALVIN
What?  I did.  Really, I did.

OLIVIA
I want you to mean it.  Say it like you mean it.

ALVIN
I did say it like I meant it.  You even said so yourself.

OLIVIA
But now I know you didn’t. 

ALVIN
What do you want from me?

OLIVIA
I want you to say it like you mean it and really mean it.

ALVIN
Jesus.  How do you expect me to take you seriously when you’re always clowning around?

OLIVIA
I do not “clown around.”

ALVIN
“Say this.”  “Do that.”  “Not like that, like this.”  “You’re doing it all wrong.”

OLIVIA
So what if I play games?  It’s the only way I can keep you from being so clinical.  But if you want me to be serious I can be serious.  I can be as serious as a preacher on Easter if you would prefer.

ALVIN
No, no.  If you want to play, we can play.  We can play.

OLIVIA
Al, don’t.

ALVIN
In the event that something catastrophic did occur, how long should I wait before I begin dating again? 

OLIVIA
I am not having this conversation.

ALVIN
What length of time is respectable but reasonable?   

OLIVIA
I’m not listening. 

ALVIN
Clearly, bringing somebody to the service is in poor taste.
           
OLIVIA
This is me ignoring you.

ALVIN
Two major holidays?  Three?

OLIVIA
You are speaking another language.

ALVIN
What if they’re back-to-back?  Like Christmas and New Years?

OLIVIA
We aren’t even the same species.

ALVIN
I’m not sure she should stay over in any case. 

OLIVIA
We are not amused.

ALVIN
If things get serious, do I introduce her to your sister?
                        (OLIVIA looks devastated.  ALVIN realizes he has crossed
the line.)
Olivia, I’m sorry.
                        (The apology does not take.  HE tries a new tack.)
I’m joking.  You know I’m joking.

OLIVIA
I don’t think it’s very funny.

(OLIVIA gets into bed and turns off her light.  ALVIN returns to his magazine.  After a moment, OLIVIA abruptly turns on the light.  She again touches her nose and inspects her fingers.  She sits on the edge of the bed.)

ALVIN
Olivia?  Honey?

OLIVIA
Earlier tonight, as I was preparing for bed, I turned, I turned my head, in the bathroom. 
                        (pause)
I was in the bathroom and I turned my head and I felt something seep, escape from my nose, and I was confused, and I saw there, on the floor, a drop, a single drop of blood, my blood, that had flown from my face to the tiles of the bathroom floor, and just kind of splashed there, a red drop of blood on the white tiles of the bathroom floor.

ALVIN
So you had a nosebleed. 

OLIVIA
A spontaneous nosebleed.  This perfectly healthy person just happened, without cause, to discharge blood from her body onto the bathroom floor. 
                        (pause)
And you are un-alarmed. 

ALVIN
It was the air conditioning.

OLIVIA
What?
 
ALVIN
The air conditioning dries the capillaries in your nose.  When you sneeze or blow your nose the capillaries burst and your nose bleeds.  Had you sneezed before going to the bathroom? 

OLIVIA
I sneeze from May to September.

ALVIN
There you have it.

OLIVIA
                        (turning towards him)
I get headaches.  Crippling headaches.  Balls of pain the size of a pearl nestle behind my left eye.  They expand to the size of cue balls. 

ALVIN
Millions of people suffer from migraines.  We’ll ask Doctor Chase to increase the potency of your painkillers.

OLIVIA
Sometimes I have . . . episodes.  Seizures.  Spells.  I lose consciousness.

ALVIN
You blackout?

OLIVIA
I’m discombobulated.

ALVIN
Oh.

OLIVIA
I stand in the aisle at the grocery store and I can’t remember why I’m there.  I can’t remember what vegetable oil is called.  I forget what the children look like, what brand of peanut butter they prefer.  I forget their names.

ALVIN
You forget their names?

OLIVIA
Sometimes.

ALVIN
You’re exhausted.  That’s all.  You need sleep.

OLIVIA
That’s what everyone says.  Drink more fluids.  Take your vitamins.  Rest.  What if it’s more than that?

ALVIN
It’s not.

OLIVIA
I know it’s not.  But what if it is?  Illness today is crafty.  It hibernates.  It squirrels itself away into your breast, your colon, your immune system.  Or it strikes without warning.  A bomb rupturing a pipeline.  A volcano smothering a civilization unawares.

ALVIN
Olivia.

OLIVIA
That woman in Santa Fe died from a brain tumor.  Her husband recalled only that she was forgetful and occasionally her nose bled.  She was thirty.

ALVIN
Olivia.

OLIVIA
We no longer confine the unwell.  They’re among us. 

ALVIN
Olivia!

OLIVIA
Look around you.  We’re all dead on our feet.  And we don’t even know it.

ALVIN
Olivia!  Don’t think such things.  Neither one of us will ever die.
                        (pause)
Ever.

                        (pause)

(OLIVIA smiles a bittersweet smile.  She reaches up and kisses ALVIN on the cheek.  She lies down.  OLIVIA sneezes.  She sits up.  She touches her fingers to her nose.  She turns and shows ALVIN the blood on her hand.)

(end of play)