Younger Male (20s)
Arthur has been waiting for hours outside a New York Hotel. He stands across the street (there is an outstanding court order that prohibits him from standing any closer) and he watches the curtains of a certain suite. He is convinced that the occupant - a wealthy female software developer - is sending him signals.
Arthur is joined on the sidewalk by Caroline, who is also watching the hotel for a sign from another occupant. Both suffer from de Clerambault's Syndrome, or Erotomania. People with the syndrome believe that someone - usually of much higher social or monetary status - is trying to send them messages, usually of love or a need for rescue. They watch and wait.
In the scene, Arthur has been watching and then writing little notes in a pad.
I'm trying to figure out the pattern. You saw the drapes. They moved. I need to understand the pattern of movement. What she's trying to tell me. It's the hardest part, the first stage. Like learning a new language. Before, years ago, the first time, I was - interested - in the Rockettes. One of them. I went to see them perform and, one day it was like a - revelation.
I knew they were trying to tell me something. I was mostly interested in the girl six from the right, Virginia. She was six from the right in every formation. She was scared, you could tell that, and the others were trying to tell me something, something that would help me act. I began going night after night to decode what it was, what they were telling me when they kicked, the language of it. And finally I figured it out, it was the producer, he had them all under his thumb, they were virtually his slaves and the dancers were telling me to stay true, don't give up hope, the time to act was coming...
But by that time, the same thing happend to me as always. By the time I understand, it's too much.
DANIEL from A View From The Roof
The time is Christmas Eve, 1938. Daniel Kanzler is in Venice, having escorted a young woman - Hannah - across the border from Austria. He is holed up in the the palazzo owned by Hannah's father, while he awaits documentation that will allow him to ship out to Palestine. But the wait is long and discouraging and Daniel is suffering cabin fever. Finally he decides to slip out of the palazzo and walk through the dark streets, taking advantage of the anonymity granted by the Christmas Eve crowds of church-goers.
I am very alone. The mist should be comforting, it should make me feel safe. It only makes me lonely. Above me the bells toll. Around me the Christians appear and disappear in the dark, marching to their churches, pulling me along with them. I find comfort in that pious tide; I have spent a month with no companion but worry.
We flow through the streets and alleys and over the bridges and I step aside only when we reach their churches. They stop to make their sign, then look aback at me. Do they wonder why I edge away?
I slip into the mist and move on, looking for that place, a refuge, a place I can enter, a bakery or tailors, I don't care, anywhere I can burst in and say "I'm Daniel Kanzler I'm a Jew I need help!" But there is no place marked safe, no person I can ask, my Italian is too bad and I look a bit different and I've listened too closely to the radio news...
I want to find the ghetto, the Venetian ghetto, the first ghetto... but I can't... I am lost and that makes me lonelier, lonelier than I ever thought possible and I long for the palazzo, for my prison - for Hannah.
Jason Bregner from Two Ships Passing
Jason Bregner is a conservative 23-year-old who has just graduated with an MBA. He has returned home to visit his mother - a left-leaning judge who has always mocked his politics. In this case, the issue that divides them centres on how comprehensive Medicare coverage should be. Jason says there are limits to what treatments a government can afford to cover and his mother disagrees, repelled that Jason would suggest that there should be age limits for certain medical procedures. When Jason's mother doesn't take him seriously (again) he unloads on her.
"You said being an adult meant making difficult choices and gradually I've come to see that, yes, it's true, if it's easy it's likely wrong. Or maybe it's right for some but wrong for others. But the minute you have to face a reality that is inconvenient or hurtful or actually involves making a hard choice, you run and hide behind whatever "principles" or "ideals" you're managed to trump up to suit the situation.
I wish you'd stop sometime and really take a look at me, really look, and while you're doing that, try thinking about what the world looks like through my eyes. All my life I've wished for that, that you'd stop for one minute and entertain the idea that the road you're travelling might have parallel lines, or ones going this way or that way and maybe they're okay, too, and maybe the girls I date aren't all sluts and maybe the job I landed after working so goddamn hard isn't just an excuse for lame jokes.
Maybe I'm scared about the job. Maybe I'm scared shitless I'm going to screw up. Maybe I'd like some support from you, Mom, not money - support - and I'm sorry the job's at a bank but it's a bank!
(Holds his hands out one above the other, indicating they've been on separate planes.)
We've spent our whole lives going like this. We've never connected unless I made the effort. God Mom, didn't you ever notice it was Gran I told everything to? Well she's dead now, Mom. And I don't have anyone who listens."
Lee Kwan from Walking on Water
The time is 1949 and the setting is Munro island on Lake Kawartha. Lee Kwan is the chauffeur for the Munro family and he has taken Mrs. Munro north to pick flowers. She begins prying into his personal life, wondering if there might be a young woman back in town for whom he'd like to take flowers. Lee was born in China and was sent to Canada to join his father; shortly after his arrival the "Exclusion Act" was passed, prohibiting Chinese women from immigrating to join their spouses. So Lee has grown up in an all-male society of bachelor-men and has had very little conventional contact with women. Certainly, there is no girlfriend back in town - but he does remember the kindness of the mother of a childhood chum, Max Bloom. Max's mother is dying - and Lee would, in fact, like to take flowers to her.
"When I was a boy Max was the only one who asked me to his house, ever. And Mrs. Bloom always insisted I stay for dinner. My uncle - he was raising me after Dad died - he'd allow it, but under protest. (Shrugs.) They were Jews; he probably thought they'd try to circumcise me. Excuse me.
One summer - I was ten - Mrs. Bloom asked me if I wanted to stay over. I said no, I didn't. I did want to, but I knew Uncle would say no.
That's not true. I said no, because I wasn't sure how they slept. I knew it wasn't four to a room like me and my uncle and two of the Sunrise waiters, three snorers and me. But you don't say no to Mrs. Bloom. She went to the laundry and in front of everyone she told Uncle, "Lee's staying over; get his toothbrush."
But, by eleven, she's having major regrets; she's yelling at us to shut up and then she comes to the room. Lights out. She goes over to Max and I see her shape in the dark, I see her lean over his bed for a moment - she's murmuring something I can't hear. Then she comes to my bed. I'm terrified. Terrified, curious - too - what is this crazy woman doing, this "mother" doing? And she does this: She pulls the covers up around me, she leans over and says something, not English, for sure not Cantonese. I'm pretending to be asleep, I feel her breath, and then she kisses my forehead. First kiss.
As soon as she's gone, Max wants to talk again, but I don't. I need to think. And this is what I thought. "This is what it's like. This must be what a mother does. This must be what happens in a family." And I swore, with all the ferocity a ten-year-old can muster: someday I will get this for myself."
Bodene Corbitt (playing Sadie Munro) and Richard Kwong (Lee Kwan) in the Curtain Club production, Richmond Hill. Brandon Moore directed. Photo by David Strong.
Wesley Marshall from Sister Jude
Wesley is engaged in a mighty wrestling match with his personal demons. When an electrical storm hits his town, he climbs to its highest point, the parking lot on a hill popular with young lovers. Wesley stands in the empty lot with coat hangers in both hands, arms raised, inviting the wrath of God.
(Muttering.) "Rain. Come on rain. More lightning. Make it rain hard. More electricity! Good. I have to tell you this now. This hill is as close as I can get to you. There's nothing between us now. It's just me, then sky, then you.
Forgive me for I have sinned. I have sinned repeatedly and with ingenuity. I have gone out of my way to sin. I have slow-danced with the Devil.
Every Friday since my late teens I have put buttons the size of dimes in Globe and Mail honour boxes, and then I have removed not one but two papers so that Mom and I could do the Jumbo Crosswords separately. I told her I paid for the Globes out of my own pocket and I have knowingly accepted her gratitude.
I broke the Crown Derby gravy boat accidentally and then begged Jude to glue it back up before Mom could see. I crumpled somebody's bumper in the K-mart parking lot and I didn't leave a note on their windshield. I have never smoked a cigarette but I have wanted to. OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD I lie even to you. I HAVE smoked a cigarette. I found it on the street and I lit it - I knew how from watching Jude - I lit it and then I walked down Munro Avenue and I felt - virile.
There's worse. I come up here often. I come up here on Armour Hill every night there's no moon. This is where Jude and Billy used to come and park. I saw them here. Once. Twice. More than that. Many more times. I saw them and I saw others. This is where everyone else from school comes to park and pet and feel and fornicate and I come up here too - I still come up here - and I sneak from car to car and I look in the windows, sometimes there're too steamy to see anything but God it's true and I do this night after night after night. I don't want to do it! I just do it!
I LIKE doing it! I don't want to do it but I do and I can't stop! (Raising coat hangers in each hand.) Now you know it all. Everything I do and everything I think. They aren't the thoughts and actions of a worthy man, are they. (Raising arms higher.) You've got to let me know. You've got to send me a sign.
(Throwing his arms high.) Strike me down oh mighty heavenly father strike me down with a bolt of lightning I don't have rubber-soled shoes on, hit me hit me hit me I am the willing vessel of your wrath hit me hit me hit me… Strike me down… Smite me… (Pausing; lowering arms slowly; joy in face and voice.) Why haven't you - struck - me down?
Am I a worthy man?
Are my sins forgiven?
(p. 156, A Perfect Piece. Note: Sister Jude is available from the Playwrights Union of Canada (see links) in copyscript format. This monologue is included in the Playwrights Canada Press anthology, A Perfect Piece. ISBN 0-88754-498-3.)
Stephen Ouimette (Centre, seated) was the original Wesley, in a production of Sister Jude at Arbor Theatre in 1986. With him are Stewart Clow, Deborah Kimmett and Jacqueline Blais.
YOUNG TERRY from American Detour
The time is 1970. YOUNG TERRY has fled his northern Ontario hometown and made it across the border. He’d been picked up by an American antique dealer who is taking him south. YOUNG TERRY is paying for his ride in stories. He’ll pay in other ways later, but right now it’s just tall tales. He tells his new patron about his birth.
It was late August. 1950. The linty navel of the century. An evening of magic in a dying town. Ma’s legs are spread wide. On the kitchen table. The nearest hospital’s fifty miles east, in Sault Ste Marie. The midwife’s my aunt. She did all my sisters. I wasn’t scrambling out. I was taking my time. I knew it was shit out there.
But eventually…I’m out - and surrounded by women. My mother, aunt, my seven sisters. Seven’s Biblical. OK, in truth? Four sisters. No Dad, he’s even further north, hunting.
The women are all there, staring down at me and the littlest one – the one I love – Lucy – she pokes me. “How do we know it’s finally a boy?” she asks. My mother whips down the swaddling blankets and shows them my dick. I’ve been showing it ever since.
Much later, 35 years and one murder later to be exact, YOUNG TERRY is hiking north again – he and his older self. They are once again fleeing, this time the Midwest city where Young Terry lived his dream for a too-brief moment in time.
I sure hope this is north. It’s all so different now… God I hope people still pick up hitchhikers. I sure hope someone picks me up. Damn it’s bright out here.
(TERRY holds thumb out.)
That city? That was the place I began dreaming. The city of dreams. And now it feels – well, like a dream, nothing more. That’s about twenty cars.
Used to be: at night I’d close my eyes and see nothing. Just black. I’d fall asleep. And when I next opened my eyes, you know what I’d see? The next day. Not a new day. Just the next day.
I used to say: When I get where I’m going, I’m opening my eyes, and I’m going to really see stuff. A lot of stuff. New stuff. Beautiful stuff.
So now I’m going back home. I know: to go back, you have to have been someplace. But I was someplace. Least, damn close.
These two pieces are from American Detour (2012), a new play which has not yet been produced. Interested producers can get a copy from the playwright’s agent.
Boy, from Into
The play Into was inspired by a short story by Julio Cortazar entitled "The Southern Thruway". In it, a traffic jam forms on the expressway leading in to Paris; the stranded commuters are forced to form a loose social union. Into moves the jam to outside a North American metropolis and extends it further - when the hours grow to days and months, a quartet of commuters are forced to form a confederacy. It's an unlikely quartet: a businessman, a beauty, an urban nun and a disaffected white youth (Boy).
BOY and the Businessman have fought, the latter having no patience for Boy's suburban aimlessness. Boy stormed off angrily, intending to join one of the other confederations in the giant jam, but soon he returns to his little unit, bruised and bloodied.
"I don't understand… I don't… why do they hate me… All of them back as far as you can see, they hate me, they all hate me. I went looking for some other group to hang out with. Fine, I think, you guys don't want me, I'll go live with the Chipeaters. So I went to them and said, "Hey there, Chipeaters, what's happening?" And they yelled at me to screw off. And it was the same with the Dental Confederation. I said, "Hey Dentists, can I join you?" They told me to wait at the side of the road. They had these chairs set up and old magazines and a fish tank. Which was cool, but I waited and I waited until I realized it was a dentist trick. They were going to make me wait there till I rotted. Dentists make me mad.
And after that it was just one thing after another. The Timid Zone set off all their car alarms at the very sight of me. The Volvos promised they'd form a committee to see about letting me in. As if. And every other group turned me away too, until finally I got to the crest of the hill and there they were. The Disaffected White Youth. My people. As far as the eye could see. A whole valley-full. Their music rose up like the holy sound of cars crashing.
I could smell hamburger cooking. Just like when you're sitting in your car at the back door of the Sizzle Pit waiting for your girlfriend to get off work. And there were babes. Real babes. Disaffected white babes. Not ones like up there in the Bourgeois Confederacy where they won't speak to you unless you're taking French fucking immersion.
I stood at the top of the hill and I said, "Hey! Disaffected White Youths! I have come from far way through many alien lands to join you!" And all was silent. Until someone threw something. At first I thought somebody was throwing me a big fucking piece of hash. You know, a welcoming gesture. But it was a rock! And then there was another rock and then another and they were hitting me, they hurt, they hurt me and it was like each rock was saying, "Get the hell out goof, we don't want you."
But I know those people! They live on my street. Maybe not exactly my street but one just like it and now they're throwing rocks! Like they hated me! Why do they hate me? What did I do to them? What can I do? Where can I go?"
LITTRELL in The Betrayal
Littrell has finally made a friend at work – a new employee, Steve. He thinks Steve is gay and he’s cool with that; what’s important is that after years of being the office reject, he’s got a buddy. And Steve is not great with computers, so Littrell has a role, too. But then he starts getting suspicious, and follows Steve home. And watches his window at night. And comes to realize the truth. In this segment, it’s evening, dark. Littrell is getting ready to avenge his friend’s act of betrayal.
I knew it! I knew it! I knew she’d be there! I wasn’t going to let it get to me but – fuck – I knew it. It’s like, it’s like it always is, like this always happens. Steve comes and for a whole month I’ve liked going in to work. I shouldn’t be making that the criteria for enjoying work but it’s like you have a role. And he doesn’t fit the mold. The mold being: don’t be my friend. But he is. Except.
This past Saturday. I was having my suspicions, you see glances, stuff like that, and when you have suspicions, you have to verify. Verify or deny. I’m out on the street – and who should I see walking towards me but him – that’s logical – he lives up there. But – who’s that he’s walking with? Her. Hot Jennifer from the office. Codename: Hotsheets. Steve and Jennifer, socializing, on the weekend. HR. Verboten. “No Littrell, we can’t hang out.” They’re walking close and their hands are almost touching… did they see me? Nope? Bushes. (Indicates that’s where he is.)
Steve and Hotsheets. Took him less than a month to make a special office friend, a real one. And“Special” as in probably even dating. Which means he isn’t gay after all. It all make sense now. I warned her he was gay and she didn’t look surprised in fact she laughed - and now I understand why she laughed: she knew he wasn’t.
But I still wasn’t 100% sure. Verify! So I set a trap on Monday.
(Hoists up a large sports bag, starts rummaging in it.) I go to Hotsheets’ facebook page and take a picture off it. Someone’s posted one from when she was at university, puking out, some girl holding back her hair. I photoshop Steve’s head on the girl. Do a really good job. Then I say to him across the little barrier between our workstations: “Steve, I’m sending you something, but don’t forward it, OK?” He looks kind of surprised but he promises. And I put “Don’t Forward” right on the subject line, and hit ‘Send’.
I watch him. I wait five minutes because he’s on the phone, then he checks his emails. His expression doesn’t change. He doesn’t laugh. I say, “It’s just a joke, buddy, delete it.” That was the test. Our inter-office email, if you right click, go to properties, double right click, your email history comes up and you can tell if someone has opened your message, deleted it - or forwarded it. Steve the Stupid hadn’t figured this out yet.
Thirty seconds later, sure enough, he’s forwarded it. I hear a gasp from Hotsheets. Steve, pal. Is there a price for betrayal?
He goes to bed at 11 every night. And just before that he comes out and has a smoke. He’s a creature of habit, though he changed the habit tonight, cuz of Hotsheets. But he didn’t change it enough.
(LITTRELL starts bringing up rifle.)
GARLAND in Twelve Hours
Garland Dean is in his mid-twenties. He's on Death Row and has been appealing his sentence. However, right now it's early morning and the man in the cell next to him is to be executed by lethal injection in a couple of hours. Garland is very surprised; he expected the death sentence to be commuted.
I’m next. A classic. For a month I know Deanna’s seeing my best friend. I hear stuff, you know, you go into places, hear the whispers even though nobody’s lips are moving. So, a mature person would talk to his girlfriend, but fuck maturity, that’s for mature people. I’m gonna catch them in the act. At trial I tried temporary insanity but they discovered I bought the gun two weeks before and that kinda sunk the ‘acting in the passion of the moment’ thing.
Except – isn’t the death penalty supposed to deter people like me? Sorta like: There’s Deanna lying there with her legs wrapped around my former best friend and, yup, deterrent, I stop and think calmly and deterrently; “But wait Garland. You better put down your gun. You could get the death penalty in this state.” Or, or maybe I’m not even sure what the law is exactly, so I get out my smartphone, that I don’t own. I do a quick google to see where our state stands on the death penalty. “Oh darn – we have it? Shit, I can’t kill her. Keep humping her, pal. But wait, what’s this I’ve googled? The governor always grants clemency in these cases? I’m gonna blast you to hell. Wait – oh no, foiled, the governor’s under pressure to stop commuting and he’s in the shitters in the polls… Caution! Don’t kill her! Excccept! I forgot, they only apply it to black people.” (Checks arm, looks up in joy and wonderment.) I’m white! (Aims.) Pop pop.
Rick from Twelve Hours
Rick is a prison guard and is meeting with the anaesthetist who will be present with him at the execution he must soon carry out.
Damn, she was hot. She was sitting at the back watching the door and when I walked in she gave a kind of half wave. Thing is, I’ve never dated an Asian. Karen and I got married as soon as I got out of nursing and got hired at the Psych. I dated other women – before that – but never had the chance, well, even ten years ago there weren’t so many Chinese women, in Beaufort, at school, but it has always been a kind of – desire – of mine, not that I’d act on it but I sure fantasize.
So I’m walking over to her thinking that, that she’s hot, Asian hot doctor hot, and what she wants to talk about is the opposite of hot. That on Friday we’re going to – put somebody down.
I sit down and we talk about this and that, this and that, I’m mostly thinking ‘that’ trying to keep my mind of ‘this’ and then she asks: “How do you do it?”
I know it affects me. I have trouble sleeping the night before. If I sleep at all. And then, during… I feel this – strange – when I do it – this strange – rush – not a good one, not a good rush – a rush, then a flat. I don’t like the feeling. I do, then I don’t. I go out, drive around. Go home. Sleep. I feel – disconnected – not attached – to anything for a while. Last time, three weeks. And then it starts to go away.
I said, “It has to be done. You know that too. That’s why you’re coming in with me.”
And she was nodding. I like her a lot right now. She gets me. “We’ll do it right. You can watch me every step. You don’t have to do anything more than watch. I wear a white jacket. Nice pants. He deserves that respect. It’s all I can give him in the ten, fifteen minutes I’m there. Respect. Don’t wear your scrubs. Dress nice for him.”
And then I stood up, we shook hands, paid the bill at the cash, walked out to our cars and then we stopped and shook hands again and I said, “See you Friday,” and as I walked away I thought how utterly totally completely fucked that must sound, like we were going on a date.