Younger Female (20s)
TIFFANY from Lipstick on his Collar
Tiffany is on the subway with her best friend Chelsea. It's been a long, bad day at work and an expected date with her boyfriend is apparently not happening, much to Tiffany's chagrin. She tells Chelsea that what had started as the perfect romance with the fella of her dreams is slowly turning into a nightmare. Starting with the fact that she figured out that Rick's love of paying for meals with cash probably means he has a wife stashed somewhere.
How was I to know? It was so romantic at the start. Oh Chelse, you can never tell with men. They're like Russian dolls. The outer layer is always so promising. But when the second doll appears you start to think, "Haven't I seen this before?" Plus, it's shrinking.
So you open more and more dolls and they keep getting smaller and smaller until finally, finally you get to the last one. You're thinking, "God, let there be a ring in it!"
But the damn thing's glued shut.
THERESA from Verona
The setting is a toll booth at the Verona exit of the New York interstate. Automation hasn't yet hit the I-90 and Theresa sits in one, handing out toll tickets to cars about to merge on to the freeway. It's a balletic movement. Theresa is talking ot a friend on a headset phone.
I gave him my number. He never called, but there are any number of reasons for that, some of them benign. Still, it's been a whole weekend, he's had time.
I'm not being foolish! He's a good catch. He's a regular. Every weekday, 5:10. Which means he works in Rome. He's got a briefcase on the seat beside him so he's got an office job though not President due to the fact he's driving a Camry. White shirt, like those religious guys but he's not - no cross or medal on his dash. Plus three times he's had a case of beer in the back seat. But it's only a 12, and it's Lite - so he's not an alcoholic.
Most days there's a hamburger carton in the backseat, not the healthiest choice but it also means no one is packing a lunch for him, like a wife. Anyway, there's no ring on his hand. Sometimes he's got a basketball in the back and that's a good sign. A hockey stick would suggest aggression. Man, another stopper, hold on.
(Leans forward, appears to listen.) The next rest stop is at Verona. The washrooms? Super clean. Use them all the time.
(Back to friend.) Canadians. They always ask 'about' the restrooms.
He's got a really sweet smile. He doesn't actually come to a complete stop but he always smiles when he takes the ticket and says thanks. Like I'm doing him a favour.
He's had my number seventy two hours. I wrote it on the back of a blank ticket. Maybe he decided not to call but actually stop and ask me out in person. Yeah, that's it.
In my dreams.
Sara Munro, from Taking Liberties
Sara Munro has come to the office of her English teacher. He had put a novel by Margaret Laurence, "The Diviners", on his class curriculum and this ignited a firestorm in the community. A group of evangelical Christians are demanding that the book be banned from the school and Sara is afraid that her teacher is going to buckle under the pressure. Sara is 17, a senior at her school. The quoted sections are from "The Diviners".
"I overheard you with the principal yesterday. I was in the office waiting for someone and his door was open and I want to be a reporter… I mean, I wouldn't have listened if the door was closed.
I heard him suggest you teach another book there were other good books by Laurence that wouldn't cause such a stink.
I listened today in class when you told us you were teaching the other book. That it was better to do so. And I understand. I understand the pressure everyone's putting on you and your family, and I know that the principal's stopped sticking up for you - but Mr. Bales, you can't do this, you can't stop now, not after being on the news, not after getting yelled at for so long!
(Opening novel.) Listen to this! Listen, it's the first couple of lines from the book. "The river flowed both ways. The current moved from north to south, but the wind usually came from the south, rippling the bronze-green water in the opposite direction. This apparently impossible contradiction, made apparent and possible, still fascinated Morag, even after the years of river-watching."
I think about you, and you leaving off teaching this book which you say will be so good for us to read. I can't help thinking the opening of this book is so appropriate, that the current does flow both ways. For us, it's flowing forward and these books are going to be accepted; and it's also flowing backwards, because the writers of all those short letters are pulling us that way, too. And I'm thinking that, on one hand, we want to be open and, on the other hand, we're pulling back in the direction of hiding things. And sometimes being too open about things can cause trouble, or is it only the real reason behind your being open that's bad? And isn't it weird how I can read this book and see nothing but beauty, but when someone else reads it out loud it sounds like filth. And it's weird I can feel old and young and really convinced of things, and confused, and really stupid and, at the same time, I feel smarter than all of them put together, all of them!
"This apparently impossible contradiction, made apparent and possible…"
How'd she know?
"The river flowed both ways."
And these lines from the last page: "The waters flowed from north to south and the current was visible, but now a south wind was blowing, ruffling the water in the opposite direction, so that the river, as so often here, seemed to be flowing both ways. Look ahead into the past, and back into the future, until the silence."
You can't teach any other book, Mr. Bales. It has to be this one. It just has to be."
The complete text of Taking Liberties
This is a shot of my friend Florence Gibson MacDonald and me, demonstrating. I'm not sure what we were demonstrating against or for on this particular day, but it had something to do with Stephen Harper. We were supposed to be mad but it doesn't look like it in this picture. It's kind of hard not to have fun with Florence, even at an anti-Harper demo.
Florence Gibson MacDonald is a wonderful playwright, the author of a number of works, including her breakout hit Belle. This short piece is taken from that play. Florence's plays can be ordered from Playwrights Canada Press.
Belle from Belle
BELLE is set in America in the Reconstruction Era (1865-1870) and tells the story of two freed slaves, BELLE and BOWLYN, as they travel north to make a new life for themselves and their newborn child.
In this scene, BELLE (age 15) has left BOWLYN, their lives in shambles, and returned south to her sister ALTHEA.
Oh Althea my breakbone pain!
I remember the day that momma got crushed.
I was just comin' to my sixth year. She one brutal worker our mamma, she took the horse and wagon for wood for fire for puttin' up jelly preserves from the bumper crops that year and like I said- there was no more wood 'cause it was a bumper year an all hands out. So that day she took that skittish horse that Blueberry and she hauled a load o' wood to shame a man 'cause she was gonna to do all Mizz Harness' puttin' up if it kill her. But that skittish mare that ol' Blueberry, it near dusk and that old mare she thinks she feels Mr. Fox come swishin' with his tail and she up and rears and I hear mamma's voice low and smooth to soothe that skittish animal but that Blueberry she up and tipped that cart and she crushed our mamma's arm. And I hear that low, sweet soothe, and it draws me out to find her, find her lyin' there, the blood in rivers from her arm, and she callin' out to me, "Belle, you get your daddy, you call out to him for me." And I run through the night, my legs beatin' the air like a winnower's flail, my voice ringin' through the night clear as silver. And he pulls that wagon up with one arm and he holds her with the other. And he carries her in his work strong arms to our cabin. And infection set in and the fever to her brain and I did everything to make her better- spider web poultices and mud cakes to draw out the stench and she said...she said... towards the end... "I remember your voice. When mine was weak to a whisper, your voice was like a clear bell in the night air.
I'm glad I called you Belle.
I'm glad I called you Belle"...
Nun from Into
The opening scene of Into belongs to the Urban Nun. She is now stuck in a massive traffic jam heading back in to the metropolis, and while she waits she recounts the weekend she has just spent at a northern retreat for nuns. The Sisters' convention ended with the murder of a Cardinal but, as the Nun recounts, at least it began auspiciously.
"I'm an urban nun. I take my God with smoke. I want him loud. Rumbling like the Queen car, howling drunk, crazy with despair, a thorn in the side, a kick in the gut. Don't want him leafy, gold leafy green leafy palm leafy. Don't want him pastoral. Pastoral is death. And yeah, yeah, death's a comfort - but comfort is false.
So this comes. A letter. An invitation. To an up-north, get-down Nunfest. A Retreat for all the remaindered nuns of the world. The valiant last two hundred. All of us called to a fine and quiet place of birds and bugs - and birds - and bugs - and bugs - and bugs. So many, many bugs.
Nuns alfresco. "In God's own perfect nature". I think not. If nature's so perfect, God won't be there. What's for him to do? Relax? God's going to relax? Maybe he's going to lie under a tree and daydream new plagues? Right.
But I go. If only to remember what my sisters look like. Hey - even nuns get nostalgic. We get lonely! I get lonely! I'll often dig out my convent yearbook on a slow Saturday night, and imagine proms that never were, football games I never cheered, Clash Days that faded into black and white. I'll recall novices who slipped on the trip up God's altar. And I'll curse the sisters who never visit me because of the trough of incorrectness in which I wallow.
We retreat by bus and car. Minivan multivan mountain bike. Some hobble up the northern concessions - Barefoot Nuns of Perpetual Atonement - grateful for the gravel, the sharper the better. And arriving by floatplane? You guessed it - the Yankee Techno nuns.
We're met by Sister Katherine. Kate the Innocent. My convent bunkmate way back when. A vestal goofball sap with a saran wrap smile. Kate welcomes us to the lodge, her arms upraised, like a Rio statue.
Naturally, there's an orientation cocktail party. And yes, the jokes are just what you'd expect from a giggle of godbrides. Requests for Virgin Marys. Purple Jesuses. Rusty Nails. But funny things - the walls of isolation begin tumbling like Jericho. We're so diverse, this last two hundred. We're so international. We're so intercultural. Yet we're also interlinked by this umbilical wince of faith. A tender bond, fortified with booze.
So - when Sister Kate gets out her singing nun guitar? And warbles "Kumbayeh"? Like a Kate Bush with a human? Well: shut up! Show some respect! A musical cliché chased with Scotch can cure any sister's blues.
And: when Sister Kate suggests a little splish-splash? Don't even think about laughing! God's tilted the world into darkness. His moon is warming the lake. His sand fleas are urging us off the beach. So we strip! And we run! No shit!
Carmelites, Ursulines, Josephines, Magdalenes!
Militants, Pacifists, Militant-Pacifists!
New Agers, Mainliners, Hardliners, One Liners!
The chaste - and the chased. The dogmatic, the pragmatic, the stigmatic!
The night is filled with the rustle of shedding habits! Falling wimples muffling fleabeach! Twittering like a hundred plucked ravens we pound over naked sand! An army of motoring legs and arms! We immerse in the northern waters! Two hundred throats - gasp! Four hundred nipples - pop! It's a glory of dunking sisters! It's a nubile of nuntits!
Nuntits! Nunarms! Nunbushes! Dark sacred nunbushes! Oh baby baby!
I float out on my back, past them all. I look up at the moon and the stars - stars that might spell 'God' if anyone could remember the language - and I say, "Things don't get much better than this."
Exactly. They start getting worse."
Marian from The Edible Woman
Marian has just fled the party of her lawyer-fiancé and spent the night with Duncan, a graduate student. Somehow she had hoped that the act of escaping to Duncan would be enough to quell the growing terror she is feeling. As her life has slipped out of control, Marian has begun referring to herself in the third person. Later, in the monologue, she turns to Duncan for help.
(To herself.) "Last night everything seemed resolved. But this morning she can't remember what that resolution was. Whatever decision she made is already forgotten - if indeed she had ever really decided anything. It might've been an illusion - like the blue light on their skins last night. Oh, Duncan's accomplished something - but she hasn't. And Peter, her fiancé - he is still, very, very real.
(To Duncan.) How do I get out of this mess! Duncan, maybe I should see a psychiatrist! I want to be adjusted. I don't see any point in being unstable! And I've been starving myself to death - I don't see any point in that, either. I just want to be safe. I think I must have thought Peter was safety and now I know I've spent all these months getting nowhere. I haven't accomplished anything! Now I've got to decide what I'm going to do.
But I don't think I can do it alone. I don't know what to say. Peter is not going to understand. No matter what words I end up using - the English language isn't big enough for what I have to say but - but - unless - maybe -
Perhaps I don't need words at all."
Cecily Smith as Marian, in The Edible Woman (Ann Arbor)
Ellen from Good Things Come
The time is Spring, 1936. Ellen is a somewhat spoiled young girl of 11 – in the play she ages to 80. Ellen is obsessed with the Lindbergh kidnapping; she waits in her bed for her own Bruno Hauptmann to appear, in a state of fear and delirious anticipation. The setting is her bedroom, somewhere in New Jersey.
"Betty Gow put the baby to bed exactly at 9. The hall clock was chiming as she pinned the blankets tightly around the child. So he couldn’t thrash when he slept. Poor thing. Betty turned out the lights and left the room. She went to the kitchen where she had a relaxing Ovaltine. It’s not easy nursing a baby, especially a really famous one. It was a winter’s night. March 1, 1932 to be precise. Four years ago almost to the day. I was 7 and the events of that night are etched in my mind. Forever.
Baby’s Daddy was in the library, right beneath the infant’s room. He was writing letters to Important People and signing autographed photos for the Unimportant. Baby’s mother was having a bath. Working out the tensions of being famous. Back upstairs in the nursery, the window was open a good foot. Just like my own Daddy, Charles Lindbergh believed in the value of fresh air.
Bang! A ladder hits the window sill.
Downstairs in his study, Mr. Lindbergh pauses mid-autograph and wonders about the sound. He decides it’s a slat falling off an orange crate in the kitchen. Seriously. A slat off an orange crate. Idiot. He goes back to his work. Anne Morrow Lindbergh hears nothing over her splashing.
There’s a slight scraping along the sill as the ladder finds a grip.
Footsteps up. Quiet. Catlike. A shadowy figure appears at the window but Baby is asleep, of course.
A handsome German face becomes visible. Bruno Hauptmann. One foot in, then shoulder in, torso in, other leg, he’s there. Bruno pads silently over to Charles Lindbergh Junior and starts freeing him from his blankets. Tsking at the idea of pinning a child, especially such a famous one. Picks the sleeping baby up with one felonious arm and slips back over to the window. Leaves an envelope with a ransom note that is riddled with spelling mistakes. It’s not his fault; English is not his first language. Bruno and Baby slide out into the winter night. Gone. Down the ladder - and straight into the terrified psyche of a nation.
That was four years ago and I have lived in terror ever since."
DAUGHTER from The Shield
DAUGHTER is about 20, the child of immigrant parents. DAUGHTER speaks flawless English and is attending university, with hopes of eventually becoming a doctor. However, her father has been murdered in his taxi – his throat slashed by two men - and DAUGHTER is struggling. This monologue is part of a victim impact statement she is giving at the sentencing of her father’s murders.
"…They’re talking about forcing all drivers to have shields. But most cabbies are like Dad – they want to talk with their fares. The shields are a thousand bucks… plus you have to spend more to change the car’s heating and cooling… but… I think it should be law. And I think the government should pay for the shields. Sorry Dad. He hated that kind of attitude. “The government should pay.”
… Mom and I have responded in different ways. Because of language. It was me who had to speak to the media, just like it’s me telling you how those – (Points.) those beasts – have ruined our lives. After the killing, it was up to me to tell people about Dad, why he came here, how he loved it here, how he loved being in a country where there was no fighting… how he loved the idea that I could be growing up here… And as long as I kept talking about it I was doing OK, but after a while no one wants to hear you talk and then…
… He didn’t want a shield. He liked to talk too much.
…Seven years. We had a nice apartment, it was clean. We were working hard, then those two guys who have made nothing out of their lives and will never make anything out of their lives, who are the seventh or seventieth generation of making nothing out of their lives, who see that as a virtue, they slit his throat out behind some mall and for what? Seventy bucks. And they’re so stupid they don’t see that Dad parked right under a security camera, that my Dad’s final act in this country is smart, he outfoxed them.
… As will I. Mom is desperate to go home, back there, back to the land where hate lasts for centuries but we’re not, we’re staying, because this, this is my Dad’s dream for us. And me, I’d rather be here too. There’s hate here, yes - but at least it’s quick."
Misty Simmons from Backbencher
(Episode 19, Triumph and Tears)
Misty is one of Nellie Gordon’s constituents, the younger sister of her best friend. Misty has battled a serious addiction problem for years and recently relapsed. After a conviction for drug possession, she was sentenced to an extended term in the federal penitentiary where, after assaulting a guard, she was placed in segregation. In this scene, Misty is recording a statement for Nellie about the conditions in solitary. Nellie plans to take the tape to a Justice Committee meeting in Ottawa. Nellie is trying to force some amendments to the federal government’s draconian omnibus crime bill; she hopes that Misty’s story will underline her belief in rehabilitation (as opposed to incarceration and, in particular, the use of solitary confinement.)
The character of Misty – along with the Backbencher series – was created by Wendy Lill. This speech is from Episode 19, written by Dave Carley. For the full script in word, click here.
Okay… Uh, the cell is six feet wide, ten feet long. I can say that for sure because it’s cement blocks, right, there are six of them across and ten down. And the ceiling is twelve blocks high, there’s a light hanging down and it’s on all day, 24/7. Uh. And there are ceiling tiles, 95, there should be 96 but one’s missing. The ceiling tiles have those holes in them for noise which is good because it’s another thing I can count. The sink drips, five drips a minute. The light buzzes, I try to pretend it’s a lawnmower in my old backyard…
I’m allowed out an hour a day in the yard, to walk. Other than that, it’s just me, me and my thoughts. That’s the part I don’t like, I mean, if I could just be blank, I could do it, that’s why I count the blocks and the dots on the tiles, to stop thinking. And the other thing I wish is I could stop hearing cuz people are yelling and crying. I mean, you can close your eyes but you can’t close your ears. But the thinking is the worst, the thoughts, maybe if they gave me something, I would like that, or or if I knew for sure when I was getting out I could start counting the days instead of the blocks or if they’d let me write stuff like letters but I can’t have a pen cuz they think I’ll stab myself or something…
Tell your committee that I have two kids. I had their pictures but I ripped them up once. I tried to write their names on my arm. Like a tattoo? People said I was cutting myself but that’s not cutting. I just want them near me...