Older Female (30s)
Chelsea is heading home on the subway after a long, hard day's work. She's fed up with her job in the perfume department of a major department store. Among other things, she developed onosmia, the inability to discern smell. But mostly she is sick of spending her days spritzing customers, and flogging the latest scent. She describes her disenchantment to her co-worker Chelsea.
OK, you've got your goldfish, you've got your aquarium. Some coral, a plant maybe. In the middle, you've got a castle. Goldfish swims all day. She swims around the castle, says, "Look, it's a castle." Goldfish swims around it again, says, "Look, it's a castle."(Swizzles her finger.) "Look, it's a castle." The whole day.
Because goldfish has no brain? It's groundhog day, all day, 24/7, no brain, around and around and around.
My brains are spritzed. I'm this far from being that goldfish. This far. One more circle of the bowl and "Look, it's a castle."
MOTHER from The Boy on the Wall
A young mother has lost her very young son in war. She has been asked by her church to unveil a plaque listing the church’s war dead, which includes her son, Will. She is speaking at the presentation, and trying to keep it together. She has a tiny cross on her lapel.
They give us these for losing our sons. You go downtown to an office and show them the documentation, and they give you this. You have to go there. They won’t mail it and that makes it hard or, in my case, maybe it makes it ‘good’ because I wasn’t going out, I wasn’t going out of the house at all, and I certainly didn’t want to go some office downtown and say, ‘My son is dead, can you give me my consolation prize’. Oh it was hard. But I went, because I was hoping a silver cross would give me some kind of communion with Will I wasn’t having. It was in an envelope, just a brown envelope, letter size. I pushed it in my purse. I didn’t look at it on the bus, I made myself wait, it’s the kind of thing that you take out and look at when you’re sitting on his bed, playing one of his records…wishing… stuff…
…I would give my life, to know just three things for sure.
I wish I could know if it was fast, the end. They say every dying boy, man, calls for his mother, but I know that is ridiculous and sentimental. I actually hope he thought of his trumpet. It would break my heart even more if he was thinking of me when he was hit because – I don’t know – I guess I’d feel like I was an accomplice.
I wish – I wish I knew what to think about that war. Because my heart breaks every time I hear people making speeches about it. It’s breaking now and it’s me who’s doing the talking.
I wish I could know if there is a heaven and if I’ll meet him again…
Well, I have a silver cross, and his name on a plaque.
And I look at it.
And I wish.
(Goes to Will, touches his name on the plaque.)
(To God.) If this is in fact Thy Will being done - Then I don’t love Thee anymore. But that’s not to say I don’t wish I still could. I really wish I could. I’ll always wish that.
(To congregation/audience.) He was 19, for Godsake.
That’s not old enough to be on a wall.
Anne Harvie from Taking Liberties
Dean Anne Harvie has arrived at the university, and is speaking before the university senate. She is under personal and professional attack for the position she has taken against the university's affirmative action policy, but she is also casting her mind back to a dark day in her own family's history.
"When I was nine, my father was arrested on a variety of charges relating to his activities in the washroom of the bus terminal. The police came one evening, summer '65, and took him away in handcuffs. To say this frightened me, well, that is an understatement. My father's name was printed in The Gazette along with the charges he faced. To say this destroyed our family, that too is an understatement.
A cycle of terror began. Our car tires were slashed, our windows were broken. Night after night our placid street was violated by hooligans pulling up and heaving abuse, plus the more tangible offerings of their hatred, at us. My father was released on bail but he was too ashamed to leave the house. He stopped working. My mother banished him to the back room. She couldn't, wouldn't speak to him, and would hardly even look at him; didn't want me to either.
And then Daddy killed himself in our garage. In a way so disgusting, so revolting… It defies description. It defies telling. It defies comprehension that despite the turmoil he was in he would do this, and do it to me. I was nine, nearly ten. I'm 40 now and I still won't forgive him. I'll never forgive him.
You see, I found him.
I didn't speak for ten months, and then I did. I didn't go to school for a year, and then I did. I didn't make friends, didn't trust anyone in this city for five, ten years, for decades actually.
And these past months, with all that's happened - I'm coming to see that the forces that killed my father are always present here. With us, in us. In this city. At this university, and everywhere else. Sometimes flourishing, sometimes dormant, but always, always here. Yes. And my devotion to history - that's why I'm an historian, isn't it. Because if I can understand this peculiar desire to crush liberty, if I can understand it and somehow explain it, to myself, to you, to them - if I can do that, then I can be an instrument in the preservation of liberty. Somehow.
I came here this morning with every intention of resigning as Dean of the History Department. I'm stand before you and as I reflect on all the history I have witnessed and endured over the past decades - I think; no, my absence from this institution would be a capitulation to those who would restrict us. Yes! And it would make your life too easy! The intolerance out there would subside because this month's target had removed herself. You could get on with the important business of balancing sheets and autographing degrees. But nothing would have changed and perhaps nothing can change - but I have to try.
Anyway, who am I to make anything easy! I'm staying. I'm going to put battens on every last one of my windows. I'm gong to find the people here who agree with me. I'm going to collect them about me, the people who'll escort me out of class and home and back to class again, the people who'll hold up placards for me and bat away the stones, the people who will pass motions and write articles and write editors, the people who will help me do what must be done.
You will find me tough as nails, because I'm right. I am right. I know I am right. (Not as definite.) I am right."
The complete text of Taking Liberties
The following monologue is by my friend Florence Gibson MacDonald. Missing is a stage play that actually began its life as a radio play. I was Florence's script editor and tried bossing her around but good luck with that eh. Anyway, Florence followed her head and heart and a wonderful play resulted... To order the play or to find out more about Florence's work, go to Playwrights Canada Press.
Elaine in Missing
Missing is about identity; who we are, who others think we are. In the play, a young farm wife, Evelyn MacMillan, vanishes without a trace.
During the hunt and police investigation that follows, we come across Evelyn, a young woman recently imployed as a waitress in a diner. In this scene, as she talks to the owner, Janine, we are left wondering: is Elaine the missing woman, Evelyn? Does she think she is? Has she been, and now she is not?
I’m transformed, Janny, I’m my own woman now- I mean, I could be with him if I want, but I don’t. I don’t need him. I don’t need anybody. I can walk out that door, any door- hell!- I can walk through walls if I got a mind to.
I can do whatever I want, and that cop? She don’t know stink. I can be different, different as far as the eye can see. And everything will be different too. Everything will be better. I thought having kids would make it better, but kids don’t make anything better, I’m better off without kids-.
And kids, kids are better off without me. What was I thinking to have his kids? They would only turn out like me, and I wouldn’t ever want that- ’cause I’m buried Janny, buried like bones. All bloody and broke out of shape, waiting for somebody to come along and put me back together again.
I envy her, that Evelyn MacMillan, the courage to leave.
I wouldn’t want to be stuck like her with three kids- three kids trying to crawl out from under the weight of my craziness- I mean, can’t you just see them? That oldest girl? Tipping her nose up at everything older than her precious fifteen years. That little one, agreeing to anything, just to keep the peace. And that boy who won’t talk, turning into his dad- keeping the fucking vow of silence- christ Janine, I’d hurt them I would, I’d kill ’em...
...Coming in from the barn on a winter night, kids squabbling and dinner cooking and you ask him to meet you eh, meet me half ways, but he can’t, he won’t, he don’t... he’s just another wall, holding out the cold.
So it’s better that she goes, Janine, just goes away. But she doesn’t leave them, she doesn’t. She takes them with her in her heart.
And she doesn’t leave him because she hates him. She leaves because she loves him. Because he is a good man, and he will be a better one without her. He’ll have to be. For his kids.
She’d just be keeping him from that if she were there. She’d be picking away at his better parts, and filling them in, like tooth decay. Like a gnat in his ear, after him to do this, do that, do the other thing, because it’s her that wants to do it- her- she want to do this and do that and do every other thing besides. That’s want she wants! If I were her, I wouldn’t want to pass through one more round of seasons on that farm.
If I were her. But I’m not.
I’m not her I’m somebody else now, aren’t I Janine?
The cover of Florence Gibson MacDonald's Missing, published by Playwrights Canada Press.
Mother, from A View From The Roof
The year is 1931 and the setting the backroom of a tiny beauty parlour in Toronto. Mother is exhausted after a long day of hairdressing, but she desperately wants to make an emotional link somehow with her daughter. The child - now 16 - is going back to Germany to live with her father, a wealthy university professor in Munich. Mother wants to put the record straight on her relationship with her father, and why she and her daughter fled from Switzerland to Canada.
This excerpt, from A View From The Roof, is very closely adapted from a story by Helen Weinzweig, entitled "My Mother's Luck".
"Your father - he was an anarchist. The meetings were in our small room. Every other word was "revolution". Not just the Russian revolution but art revolution, religious revolution - sex revolution. At first I was frightened by the arguments - until I realized that these intellectuals did not have to do the things they argued about. Where I come from, I was used to real trouble, like sickness and starvation and the pogroms. So I did not pay too much attention until the night we all had a big argument about Nora.
This play, "A Doll's House", shocked everybody. Before you were born, your father sometimes took me to a play. It was a money-waster but I went anyway, because it was nice to sit in a warm theatre, in a soft seat and watch the actors.
That night, we talked to three in the morning about Nora. For the first time I was able to join in. I was the only woman who sympathized with the husband! He gave her everything, treated her like a little doll, loved her like a pet - this is bad? So they have a little argument, she says she must leave him and the children? Leave the children? Did you ever hear such a thing! The servants know how to run the house better than I do, she tells her husband. Servants! I said to myself - there is your answer. She had it too good!
But the next day, I could still think of nothing but what Nora did. It never occurred to me that a woman leaves a man except if he beats her. But it made sense.
From that time on, I began to change. I shingled my hair; I sat in the cafes and smoked. When I got pregnant I refused to go for an abortion like your father wanted, and you were born. Your father had to leave university and be a clerk in a shoe store. He hated the job, he hated me. You cried a lot. Nothing in your father's books explained why you cried so much. Then he talked me into going back to work; they were glad to have me back at the beauty parlour. Your father was glad to get back to his books.
One day, winter, I came back from the beauty parlour to our cold room and dirty sheets, and our six dishes and our two pots sticky with food. There was not a penny for the gas and I could not heat your milk. You cried, you father yelled he could not study. You would not stop screaming and I spanked you. Your father said I was stupid to take out my bad feelings on an innocent child. I sat down, beaten.
In that moment, I knew I was going to leave. There is a second, no longer than the blink of an eye, when husband and wife turn into strangers. They could pass in the street and not know each other. That's what happened that night.
Two days later, I left our room with you. We took the train to Hamburg. I'd managed to save a bit of tip money - I bought underwear for us, a new sweater for me and a nice little red coat for you. We took the boat to New York. A sailor gave you a navy blue sailor hat with the name of the boat, "George Washington", in gold on a ribbon around it. You wore it day and night, on Ellis Island, on the train to Toronto.
Oh - one o'clock already! We should be in our beds! First, wash the cups. Hannah; you know I cannot stand mess in the kitchen. Remember, never leave dirty dishes around. Show your father I brought you up right.
Just think, in a week you will be on the ocean and not so long after that, Germany.
Go already. I will turn out the light.
Go! Go my little flower! Go!"
The complete monologue My Mother's Luck
Aunt Zenaide from Writing With Our Feet
Aunt Zenaide, the battle-axe aunt from Arthabaska, has arrived in Jean-Francois' foot-writing garage, to console him after the death of his parents. Sadly for J-F, Aunt Zed has a rather bizarre approach to the expression of sympathy.
Poor poor Jean Francois. You're not equipped for life. Was there an estate? A big one, a small one, an in-between one? I suppose your mother brought something to the marriage but my brother was as useless as tits on a brass monkey. What - there is money? Oh, I'm so relieved. For you. You could move to Arthabaska and live with us. I'll only offer once. You remember our house. We could fix up the garage just like this.
And I could use the company. All I do in Arthabaska anymore is sit and think. Xenon doesn't talk much and when he does say something it isn't worth hearing. You and Sophie are educated… but if you won't come you won't come. I'm not like the rest of the family, I don't belabour a point. Ah, your Daddy - he was a good man. Don't ever forget that. Sure he had a temper, but that's genetic. Nothing you can do about genetics.
But to die the way your folks died, ah, it tears out my heart. I don't give two hoots about your Maman, she made him move here and I can't forgive her that. My favourite brother forced to move to Montreal, where he's a stinking fish out of water. And I curse Bombardier. I curse the day the first skidoo rolled off the assembly line. That they should all die in such a collective manner. Ten skidoos. Ten couples. All plunging simultaneously through the ice of Lac Aylmer. And not one of the wives sitting behind her stinking husband. Because they were swapping. Did you know they were swapping?
The philistine relatives talked of nothing else, all through the holy service. No doubt the swapping was the idea of your Maman. Urban slut. And for them to get fished out of Lac Aylmer after a week. Twenty corpses frozen like human ice-cubes. And for them to be shoved into those cheap plywood coffins because the funeral home ran out of good ones.
And then to be driving back to Montreal and have the hearse hit that propane truck. And both vehicles blow sky high. And then to discover that just before the accident, the back door of the hearse had fallen open. And your boxed parents had shot out and landed in a frozen ditch. Where they skidded through the dead bulrushes. And, unlike Moses, no Pharaohs' daughter happens along to save them. Oh no, it has to be a pack of hungry, thrill-seeking dogs!
Did you just tell me to fuck off? I'm so glad! Already you're getting your spark back and your parents aren't even in the ground! They hadn't dug the hole yet - had I told you that? Because of the strike. So we had to leave your Maman and Papa lying there - phew!"
American Gothic, by Grant Wood. His models were his sister, Nan Wood, and an area dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby.
NAN WOOD in Waiting for Grant
This piece is a bit of an imagined back-story to the famous Grant Wood painting, American Gothic. NAN Wood and Doctor Byron McKEEBY are in a room in Eldon Iowa, Grant Woods’ studio. Grant Wood has yet to appear to begin that day’s session – and NAN and McKEEBY are arguing over their “characters”. At the end of the monologue NAN should put on her glasses, and go into her ‘American Gothic’ pose…
He’s changing me. He says that when he’s done the painting no one will recognize me. He ordered me to slick down my hair and part it in the middle and trim this apron with rickrack. They don’t make rickrack anymore or at least you can’t find it in Eldon so I tore some off mother’s old dresses. But the apron is from Chicago – he sent away for it. And of course he wants me to look cross. (Putting on apron.)
Truth is, I am a little mad at Grant, so it won’t be hard to look sour. He was looking for a woman model and he said he had someone in mind but she would be mad if he asked her. Because he didn’t like to paint pretty women. So I said, “Well then, what about me,” hoping he’d have the good grace to say, “Oh no Nan, you’re way too pretty to paint.” But he answered, far too quickly, “Yes, of course. You’ll do.”
So here I am, pretending to be a farmwife. I could give a fig about farming. But in the painting I’m supposed to be one of those terribly proper girls whose chief thrill in life is going to Christian Endeavor and frowning horribly at the young couples in the back seats if they carry on. So you can see why I’m going to Des Moines first chance I get. I’m plotting it right now. He might be painting me looking at you, but what I’m thinking is, ‘Des Moines, here I come’.