A One Act Play
Playing In The Bush League
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 1992
CLORINDA: has a British accent
MITSUKO: looks Asian
PEGGY: a housewife
The DIRECTOR: sits out in the auditorium for most of
Time/Place: The action takes place in the literal space
where it is performed, and the audience is part of it.
Scene: Two forty-ish actresses, MITSUKO and CLORINDA, adjusting
chairs around a coffee table on a bare stage.
PLAYING IN THE BUSH LEAGUE
I think this chair was more to the left.
It looks all right to me.
I'm sure it was.
Maybe we'd better check with him.
He won't remember. He'll pretend he does, because he thinks he
ought to-- (DIRECTOR comes in and sits in audience)
CLORINDA (TO DIRECTOR)
Hi, there! Are we taking this from the top?
From the top. Peggy!
I'm here. Trying to get my props together.
Forget about the food.
Forget it. Just the lines. From the top.
MITSUKO (miming food)
I bought these grape leaves day before yesterday, but the family
decided to go out instead. Do you think they'll be all right?
Do you mean all right not spoiled, or all right they go with Chinese?
Peggy's sure to bring Chinese. Here. Mashed potatoes. From the
Should I heat them?
Don't bother-- I like them cold. I've had Chinese three days running.
Monday my son brought home a crew of his soccer friends, and I
got them all take out. Then it turned out they ordered pizza and
only ate the ribs. Mountains of fried rice. Five orders of moo
I have vegetable curry, too, a doggy bag from the Taj Mahal. I
could heat that, if you don't think it'd hurt Peggy's feelings?
Never mind. Sunday night in Larchmont Libby fed me the remains
of an Indian Feast for her in-laws. We sat in the kitchen at 2
am in our pajamas, devouring chapatis and feeling wicked-- .
Is your friend feeling better?
Less suicidal, at least. It looks as if she may get a contract
to write a textbook.
That should help, don't you think?
Except that being paid for writing something that students will
be forced to suffer through, reminds her that nobody reads the
verse she writes to delight them for free. Poetry's passe.
There are thousands of poets in America. Hundreds, within a ten-mile
radius of Harvard Square. Readings four nights a week--.
You went with me to that reading of Libby's. We were the whole
audience! In terms of communication, it's one hand clapping.
I guess to be popular you have to be Russian. Yevtushenko can
fill a soccer stadium.
Still? By now, surely, they're all writing jingles for Big Macs?
Not all. Ukrane, The ethnic minorities, they're trying to recover
an inspiring history. Or invent one?
God, what a glut of bad poetry that must encourage!
I don't suppose there's much more bad political poetry than bad
any other kind.
Writers get all tied into knots from the cross-pressure of what
is forbidden and what's the latest party line.
Even here -- I was going to write a letter about the FBI harassment
of Arab-Americans during the Gulf war. Compare it to what happened
to Japanese-Americans in World War II. But one week everyone you
know is against war, the next week you see your own peacenik congressman
giving the troops a standing ovation. Yellow ribbons on every
chest and tree, "nuke em" T-shirts hawked from stands
in Harvard Square as if it were a football game-. Then it's over.
Here, it's over, with no -
PEGGY (offstage, makes sound effect of bell)
MITSUKO (walks towards the "door")
Come in, it's open! (to CLORINDA) No more consequence than a football
game. Our coach's approval rating soared up over 90%!
PEGGY: (enters with newspaper, miming bundles of take-out)
The bastard! Did you read this? (passes newspaper) The United
States of Amnesia! How can we ever function as a democracy if
we citizens can't remember past the last election?
Come in, sit down, I'm just arranging. Tea?
What have you brought, there?
Two Special Lunch, plus broccoli bean curd and-- surprise!--moo-shi.
Is that all right? (they giggle)
All this-- so generous-- we must find room. There are these other
little things, too.
I love mashed potatoes.
PEGGY: (licks potato off finger)
I'm too angry to eat. (BREAKS, TO DIRECTOR)
So what am I supposed to do, here? I've been working with the
bit that I say I'm too angry, but I keep stuffing myself--
I think we all do--
If you're cutting the food--
For now. We're cutting it for now.
Maybe you should cut it, period. What's it got to do with art
It may be a metaphor for first-world consumption--
Oh, great. So I'm playing to the prejudice against plump! People
who appreciate food are not the ones who starve the poor. In our
culture, the greed-heads go in for diet and liposuction. It's
only their bank accounts that are gross. Can't be too thin or
too rich, say the lean and hungry wolves--
Not now, OK? Can we cut past all the food business? To Reagan,
please? Start with "When facts--"
PEGGY: (changing position, in charcter)
When facts were at issue, Ronnie either fell asleep or entered
a dream world. Old movie plots and anecdotes about Welfare Queens.
This is a free country, isn't it? You can believe what you want.
An actor or a hero lives a myth.
A tax cut for the rich and a defense buildup will magically make
everybody prosperous -- if only they sincerely believe it will.
Clap if you believe!
But George Bush went to good schools, he took Economics.
You know, it's quite remarkable the way Bush and people like him
learn to wrap up their self-interest as morality. I suppose it
even makes sense, when you consider that "morality"
comes from the word "mores", meaning the customs of
the tribe. Nothing to do with universals. What's good for their
kind. You see it so clearly in their "good" schools.
Certain tribal signs, certain attitudes -- I mean, when I'm at
a parents' thing at Kenzo's school, they don't try to hide or
change what they are accustomed to say. Bash immigrants. Cut welfare.
Taxes are an affront. They accept the noblesse, but without the
CIA money and Bush buddies were behind the whole Savings-and-Loan
mess. Besides supplying good jobs for the Bush sons. If the Democrats
bring this up now, that's a low blow, that's sleaze. How a whole
tribe can have their hands in the till without admitting it, even
Casey's the key. Casey trained Bush, I imagine they hardly had
to talk at all-- .
Bush's 1988 campaign was full of old CIA guys he'd stayed in touch
with since he ran the agency. When he became veep, he brought
his creepy people into the Reagan White House.
It was already full of creeps.
Not the same creeps. Birchers. Not the same thing at all.
What do you mean? Reagan spied on the actor's union during McCarthy.
He's a creep from way back.
Yeah, but why?
James Bond's a good part.
For Kennedy, too.
Bush's brother, Prescott, cultivated the consultant to the US
Iran Hostage Task Force, who passed Carter's secret reports on
to Casey and the campaign.
How do you remember things like that?
I keep a file. You know I keep a file. I told you about the October
Surprise years ago.
You mean the Arms for Hostages deal.
PEGGY (scrambling through clippings)
Not exactly. (reads) "On October 17, 1980, George Bush cut
a deal with the Iranians: their people were to hang on to the
embassy hostages until after the elections, to make sure that
Carter is defeated; and in return the Reagan-Bush administration
would arrange for Israel to ship Iran American arms and spare
You've been carrying that around how long?
Since before the '88 election. I felt that if I could just understand
this, it would reveal how the mind of the American public works.
This story was printed in The Nation, thousands of citizens read
it, and yet Bush was elected by a huge majority.
Remember way back when the head of the Soviet Secret Police became
premiere of the USSR, and we felt so superior?
Some day you're going to write a book?
It'd have to be produced in London. American drama doesn't deal
with such things.
All right. A movie. Like JFK. Or I'll buy a van and cover it with
slogans in magic marker. I'll drive across the country, blasting
my inditement through a boombox at every shopping mall parking
lot--Unless you've got a better idea.
One has these little sputters of outrage, and then it all drains
away. "They" are willing to do "whatever it takes"
-- While we can't come up with anything TO do. Letters to congressmen!
On issues framed so that the congressman's secretary can count
how many "for" and "against". A poll.
And the pollsters tell us that the less people know about history
the more likely they are to approve the president does.
Did anybody disapprove of the Gulf war? Or did I imagine it? The
debate that lost 47-51 took place after the President had ordered
out the troops. It was moot, although the congress didn't know
it. But Somalia, Bosnia -- why can't we have a debate that sets
out principles and consequences? Why aren't there poems and dramas
to try to make sense of the starved or bleeding corpses?
Clorinda Marched On Washington, remember?
I thought it'd cheer me up a little, seeing people from all over
the country. But I had a bad sore throat, and with the bus trip
and being out in the weather and shouting "No blood for oil!"
I simply made myself ill. Afterwards, I realized: in all the analysis,
I never heard a clear cost-benefit. I bet my husband's brokerage
did one. For insiders only, of course.
People are too terrified to try to think it through. We don't
understand our economy, so we're superstitious.
Bush called it voodoo before he gave in to Reaganism.
The real wages of the average worker go down by 11%, and the top
1%'s share increases by 27%, and most Americans are too afraid
to think about what that means for a country whose foundation
is the belief that all citizens are created equal.
The collapse of communism, which should have made us secure, is
releasing mass unemployment, and stored-up tribal hate.
The cold war was a cover. The security apparatus only pretended
to believe --
On television. Colonel North in uniform, explaining how he had
to Lie, cheat and steal, hire murderers. What would make you do
You mean, like to stop Hitler?
A better hypothetical: to save millions of little girls from being
mutilated, having their genitals cut away--?
Would you approve a military occupation, jail the parents and
O, yes. The classic tests. Would you starve, or eat human flesh?
Steal medicine, or watch your children die? My son asked me if
the draft comes back and he's called up, -- what would we do?
I think my husband would take a stand. He did during Vietnam.
Tenured academics can afford to be virtuous.
Armand's colleagues put a lot of pressure on him. His dissent
might reflect on the university, they said.
We've never recovered from the fifties.
I can't understand why the Red Scare was so traumatic.
You didn't live here. There was such an atmosphere, we took cover
from the A-bomb--
A few hundred people lost jobs, a few dozen went to jail, only
two were executed. Why are Americans such cowards?
The Civil Rights movement was brave. Students against Vietnam
The lesson of Vietnam, now, is pick a fight to win. Doubts about
the use of force is the disease, the syndrome.
All my friends have it. The disease of empathy, which makes them
the kind of people who return lost wallets, vote against their
Face it: The people you know are wimps.
They're women, mostly.
Women act out of concern for people instead of principle--
The Golden Rule IS a principle.
Maybe the ONLY principle-- all the rest are rationalizations.
At least, the Golden Rule is the bedrock of democracy. It makes
it possible for us to be a community, rather than warring interests-
Once the shooting starts, though, wives and mothers rally round.
This is a country with no sense of history. The public's tired
of Iran/contra, like it's tired of the deficit. Not that I don't
sympathize. I paid $20 for a video put out by the Christic Institute
where a couple of dedicated lawyers lay out the issues and follow
the money trail. I can't sit through it. I fall asleep. Only a
It seems like the sort of thing PBS should do.
They did. April 1991 on Frontline. It put everybody to sleep except
right wing Republicans, who've put it in the party platform to
shut down PBS before people wake up again.
During Desert Storm, they wanted to shut down CNN.
Frontline showed General Haig smiling, saying "What's the
surprise: haven't you people read Machiavelli?"
No, but we've seen the movie. The boys are working late, sitting
around the T.V. watching screaming Iranians wave their fists and
curse Uncle Sam and Jimmy Carter.
Men with short haircuts and red ties, drinking Scotch, smoking
(The women each take a giant pretzel from a box on the table and
assume the persona of the Guys)
"Look at the bastards!"
"Jesus, that burns me up. We oughta drop a nuke on all of
em. Fucking wogs."
"That fag in the white house, hasn't he got any balls at
all? How can he watch those cocksuckers shake their puny little
fists at us, and not wipe their fucking asses right off this earth."
"Carter's gonna make a deal."
(Both heads turn, stylized.)
All Eye-ran's arms are U.S., right? Sold to the Shah. Every day
goes by, they fall apart, they jam, they run out of ammo."
"The Iraqi's are wiping them."
"France and our other buddies are helping us supply Saddam,
so the Ayatollah's desperate. Spare parts for hostages. "
"Smiling Jim wouldn't do that."
"What else can he do? Jim-boy's walking around without his
balls, his balls are in Khomeini's pocket."
"His approval polls are in the toilet. Carter's dumb, he's
a back-hills redneck who likes to fool himself he's on some kinda
high moral plane. But he'll pay to get those hostages. Round about
"Jeesus. So what do we do about it?"
"We get there first."
"Hashemi wants a back channel."
"Give him two. Theirs and ours."
"Winning is the most important thing."
"Winning is the only thing."
The one with the most toys wins!
I can see how it's an obvious ploy. But at the part where Bush
goes along with it, don't you tend to see him saying,
(Pulls out a presidential "frame", like the one on a
dollar bill, that she can pose in to do a Bush imitation)
"Wait a minute, hold on here, we're getting into deep doo-doo?"
Remember, every word Bush's said to us in the last fifteen years
has come from a media consultant. The only time I was sure Poppy
was speaking from his heart is when he came out against broccoli!
The captain of the team, the cheif, he doesn't condescend to discuss
strategy with the rabble. His job is to win, ours is to cheer.
I think the staff runs these scenarios for practice, and then
almost accidentally one of them becomes policy.
Unless it's leaked to the New York Times.
To come up with such ideas, you must have to go through a kind
of boot camp for the mind, where you come out extraordinarily
clever in one way and numb and blind in all others.
Cloak and dagger guys gave the Iranians the plans for Carter's
commando rescue, that's why it failed-
I don't really understand these people.
But you just gave a good imitation of one.
I didn't play him from the inside. They aren't like us.
Like women, you mean?
Well, that's probably the basis. From childhood, they're conditioned
to avoid being sissy,-
It's got to be more than that. My husband, my son? I can't imagine
those words coming out of their mouths.
Then how could you tell what to say? You don't watch cop shows.
The English think Mamet's the quintessential American.
So aren't we Americans?
Not according to Pat Buchanan. I'm not a Christian. Clorinda's
a naturalized Anglican, but she's only been here--what?
I was born in Michigan. But anyone who looks Asian develops an
We all see the tough stuff from movies, T.V. Bullying, threats,
blows; then the tough guys bounce back, they launch missles. We're
primates! Monkey see, monkey do.
CNN sent us a birthday vision of Saddam Hussein: he's lost 100,000
men, but he's walking tall. Skinnheads giving the Nazi salute
and toppling Jewish grave markers. What's lacking in me, that
I don't get it? Of course, we can't really know what goes on in
the inner circle. Skull and Bones, Trilateral Commission, locker
My students, my 18-year-olds: they want their kids to be boys!
They tell me girls are too much of a worry, terrible things happen--
like getting raped. Is raping better than being raped? It's boys
who're injured playing sports, who crash cars -- sorry, Clorinda.
It's true, I know it. I had to start dying my hair two months
after Geoffrey got his license!
They chug beer and form gangs and bash each other and go to jail!
What cost Dukakis the 88 election was when he was asked what he'd
do if a brute raped his wife. He couldn't say. If his imagination
had ever gone there, it didn't come out swinging.
There are so many places where the imagination is helpless, humiliated,
(The frame, BUSH voice)
"This great nation. kinder and gentler."
But Bush doesn't dare to be kinder or gentler. That's Barbara's
job -- to show feeling! The Little Woman, who bakes cookies and
reads to the children and visits the sick, yet sets her feelings
aside if they conflict with what her husband decides.
(Hang the frame up, add Bush's face in the middle. Bush's recorded
lines come out of a speaker in Bush's own voice -- they're all
from his speeches-- or a lifelike imitation. )
The vision thing. When I see that proud flag, those broad stripes
and bright stars-- bombs bursting in air--
with the good old Texas values.
This is about freedom!
This is about jobs!
We've drawn a line.
We know why --we're Americans
the indomitable spirit,
Prepare for the next American century!
Have the will to do what must be done.
MITSUKO (during the mask lines)
Is that what you wanted from my speech? I'm not clear about who
it is I'm saying that to.
DIRECTOR (from the audience)
None of this is going to work. We need massive rewrites. These
ladies are way out of their league. If the audience wants insight
into the government, they'll expect to get it from professionals
whose job it is to -- Jeeze, I'm doing it, too! What I mean is,
I can't stage this. You can't act it. It's analysis.
PEGGY (confronting him)
Artists should be doing analysis, showing how feelings
and facts intersect --
We're not talking about artists. A couple of Cambridge housewives,
sitting around and talking politics--
Not the characters, necessarily. The writer and the actors, their
Is boring, if the audience you're preaching to is already converted.
And offensive if they're not.
CLORINDA (no British accent)
You mean us? Or the Cambridge ladies? I do think it makes for
too much the same note, the way they keep agreeing.
Doesn't even rise to the level of a debate.
Should each of us represent a certain group interest, or have
a psychological history that accounts for our point of view? You'd
be the Marxist, Clorinda, because you hate your father, and Peggy'd
be a case of sibling rivalry. Yes, then one of us is really on
the other side-- The family money's in a firm owned by the oil
baron who's trying to corrupt the handsome congressman.
There'll be jealousy--
Or some other outbreak of the irrational---,
Pushing one of us over the edge-
We get conflict! Otherwise, what the hell's going on?
MITSUKO: (exaggerated "acting")
I never thought you'd do a thing like that, all those years we've
been friends. I trusted you with my boys' future, and now I learn
you belonged to the Klan!
These women are only able to talk politics because they trust
and agree with one another. That illustrates the silencing--
Illustrates! Like in a textbook? You think the average person
is going to have patience? Let's find out. What're we dealing
with? In the way of expectations. Could I have the house lights,
please? (HOUSE LIGHTS UP)
I mean, even sermons, even people who voluntarily go to bloody
church, only expect to be jawed at for fifteen-twenty minutes.
Tops. Ok, audience, could we have a show of hands, here? What
would you estimate is your tolerance for political analysis? I
mean, even in your own house, let alone you have to go out and
pay for it! Five minutes? How many would say five minutes? Ten?
Let me see it for ten? Fifteen? Anybody more than fifteen?
(to PEGGY) Now, you see? You've worn out your welcome.
Thanks a lot.
I say they'll only sit still and listen if something's at stake.
Face it: disinterested means boring.
I have never considered myself boring!
That's because you're a born schoolteacher! If schoolteachers
had any inkling how boring they are--
MITSUKO: (to Clorinda)
I don't approve of this. I believe you aren't in character.
And just what do you mean by that?
That at this moment you don't have artistic validity. You're not
playing your objective.
Clorinda's supposed to be my friend.
I want the women plausible. If one of you is married to a CIA
front, and the others suspect-- .
The old narratives lead to the old dead ends. Once the story is
a struggle for dominance--
Otherwise, all I see is talk, and I figure the reason is, you
each want to prove you're the superior talker. And the only response
you're going to get from me, if I even sit here,-- if I'm willing
to put up with it because I can't get my money back,- is, I don't
like these women. Drinking tea!
I spent a lot of time working up my character's history, writing
out a biography. If you change the script, will that be wasted?
Or do you propose that we improvise based on our character work,
to come up with more exciting scenes?
I thought she asked us to write a political profile, instead of
I did that too. It's all mixed in. Clorinda, 43 years old, born
in London, lived in the U.S. for 19 years with my husband, a successful
businessman who became a citizen before I did. A class misfit
in Britain, I am very conscious of the way Americans deceive themselves
But the conflict isn't between charcters. It's between what the
author's trying to do and the expectations of the audience.
-and the producer, and the critics, and any normal--. Well, don't
just take my word for it. Ask them. You come and you expect to
be shown an action, and you'll pass judgment on that, am I right?
You don't expect the day's headlines. Plays are timeless, universal-
If they are, it's not because of some exalted esthetic principle.
It's because it takes years of staged readings and networking
and luck and a ton of money to get anything on.
Right! This script: the first draft was poured out with some mad
idea of helping to elect Dukakis. During the second draft the
country went through an off-year election where both parties decided
not to discuss substance. Not the S&L mess, not Iran/contra,
not the plutocratic policies that have made democracy less and
less possible in this nation. Just flag-burning and Read My Lips.
Did the CIA have a plan, back then? Including a revolt by the
Kurds? If the guys Clinton names to the State Department and the
CIA turn out to be old buddies of Bush's buddies, who lobbied
for the Irangate pardons, does that mean it's a bipartisan conspiracy
to cover up the conspiracy against accountable government? If
we could draw a parallel with the Spanish-American War, would
that make it timeless and universal? Is it possible, yet, to dissect
this? Using theatre, the keenest instrument a community has?
Issues are on T.V. now.
Where they're controlled by conglomerates tied to the system through
contributions and interlocking directorates--
Bullshit! They're controlled by what an audience -- not any audience,
but the audience that a sponsor wants to sell his products to
-- what that audience wants to see. Which seems to be mostly stories
about good looking guys with fast cars and guns.
So here's a trio of middle-aged middle class feminist pseudo-intellectuals
dishing up tea and righteousness in Cambridge. What makes you
think this chat is of any interest?
To you? Come to that, who the hell are you?
We should ask them, then. (points to audience)
You know damn well who I am. My voice is in your head, all the
time. I can tell you just what it's worth, this little domestic
Remember Mercy Otis Warren? No? Anybody here know Mercy Otis Warren?
Betsy Ross? Uhhuh.
The author has instructed me to tell you that our - uh- director
here -- is using as an illustration of the ineffectuality of female
narratives the work of Mercy Otis Warren, a satirical playwright
whose depiction of colonial politics provided through classical
models a justification for the American Revolution. She was influential
in intellectual circles for a brief period, but has dropped out
of our nation's history. Betsy Ross, on the other hand-- how many
know who she was? Yes. Except that she was probably a Tory.
Politics without power is gossip. If housewives waste their time
on this conspiracy stuff, what we should be looking for is what
it does for them. Personally. Cause, realistically, what any of
them thinks makes zero difference.
A housewife wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. I saw that when I was a kid,
maybe 8 years old. A company toured to my school -- living in
the Midwest, I never saw a black person till I went to college.
All I knew about them was the play --
Yeah. When Harriet Beecher Stowe was introduced to Lincoln he
said: (BUSH MASK:)
"So you are the little lady who started this great big war!"
Little! Little lady! You see how it works? Make us feel small,
This is not what I trained for! I've spent years--
Oh, yeah? Tell me about your career.
If you can call it a career. What have you done that you're proud
(The actors are invited to "own" this next section.
They may substitute material from their personal experience during
rehearsal, using examples from recent roles. PEGGY and the DIRECTOR
are "in charge", during the audience-participation section
on stage, and direct it through their questioning.)
I've played Lady Macbeth! I was very powerful, but in a subtle
way. "Look like the innocent flower", the line goes--
Where was this?
In college. In workshop, actually -- not even mainstage. But I
What was so great about it?
It's a major role!
Not if you go by the number of lines. Compared to her husband-
Without her, Macbeth would be just another thug story. She's the
one who prays to be made ruthless, for the sake of the prize-
CLORINDA (acts it)
"stop up the access and passage to remose
that no compunctious visitings of nature
shake my fell purpose"
And she's the one whose repressed kindness comes back in dreams
and drives her to suicide--
"the Thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?"
I almost got the part for real at the Festival, but the costumer
had this strong design concept, and I wouldn't have looked right
-- I got understudy, and Second Gentlewoman.
Still, you got to put a murderess on your resume, you proved you
were the type. Tell them about the show you just got out of.
One of those mystery deals.
You mean like "Sleuth" or "Deathtrap"?
She means like "Murder On Tap". Audience Participation,
set in a saloon. The idea is supposed to be that people pump the
cast member who is serving them for clues, but really it's to
get drunk and dirtyminded-
It takes skill! Improvisation! Whatever the customers throw at
you, you have to come right back in character. It's a real test,
too, for your projection and concentration--
Right! Just how loud and insensitive can you be? But the worst
is, hustling tips. That's how they're paid. Not for acting--
Lots of times I've waitressed to support my art--
Support it, yes. But this supplants it.
It's better than--
Which is why you quit. You hated it.
I hated it. But I didn't quit. I was replaced.
But you told us-
I lied. Oh, I meant to quit. It was so depressing. Not the waitress
part, or even the insults and the pinchers. But the script---
well, you know. When any one of the suspects can turn out to be
the murderer. They all have to be slime. My character was a cheap
slut with a flashy wardrobe, but none of them were any better:
a vulgar oil heiress, a womanizing senator, a pill-popping athlete--but,
hey. It's a living.
Don't feel bad. The most successful actresses I know spend most
of their time auditioning for commercials where they're expected
to look at a jar of salad dressing the way Nancy looked at Ron.
Or industrials where it's clear they're looking for a "type".
Isn't that an awful feeling! You go to a call-back, and there
in the room are the same five actresses, every time. My type!
I look at them and realize that the director has somebody in mind,
and that I'm not as good an approximation as Sandra, although
closer than Susan. An artist's soul isn't blond or brunette, short
How do you think I got this part? The Chinese actress who was
originally cast was offered a T.V. movie.
Good for her!
Playing a Vietnamese prostitute. But it's reasonable money.
I auditioned, too. There are so few parts for Asians--.
Does whether or how much you are paid determine what you are willing
Should it? Have you ever had a part you would have paid "them"
to let you do?
But it's not just a great part. Even with some silly humiliating
stereotype, you can bring something --
In Cleveland the black actress played Mitsuko. She wore chopsticks
in her hair so you could tell what she's supposed to be.
Maybe I should, too.
The black actress? I thought Diane played Clorinda.
That was at the staged reading. Diane's since started her own
company, so she'll have control.
You're telling me there's supposed to be a part in this for a
black actress? But it doesn't matter which? Is that PC?
Didn't you read the script?
Or just your own role? There's enough of it!
Really, I think the three of us could all play each others parts.
The differentiation is all on the surface.
Maybe yours is, but I've put in some serious work, building up
Out of the hours of your life, what proportion would you say is
spent "doing art" -- creating something to communicates
I take class. That's three hours on Saturday morning.
"The House of Blue Leaves." "Glass Menagerie".
My audition piece, which I adapted myself--- maybe two percent?
Have you ever acted in a political play where women were central?
The Good Woman of Setzuan.
In the last couple of shows you did, what was the trope? The central
metaphor, the message?
You mean the "Moral"?
Like the AIDS plays? Is that the kind of thing you're thinking
Yes, sure! Good example! The first story somebody wanted to tell
about AIDS was a Biblical story of sin and retribution. God sent
the plague to punish homosexuals. T.V. borrowed a plot from the
soaps. But a few writers and actors are trying to find a truth
people can live with in the face of death.
That's a rather special case--
Not really. If a play doesn't include its own justification, it's
suspect. Look for the hidden propaganda.
Analyze MISS SAIGON the way David Hwang does Madame Butterfly.
And close it down because it's a cheap lie, not because it's not
an equal opportunity pimp. Cinderella's story says, "deserve,
a prince will rescue you." The Saturday morning cartoons
say, "violence is fun". (go out to interview audience
What was the last show you went to see? The one before that?
Why did you go to it?
And you, madame? (con't)
This (gentleman / lady) is a friend of (cast member).
Do you see everything she's in?
Do you decide on the basis of how big a part she has, or whether
you expect to like the play?
Are you one of the maybe 5 % who aren't prejudiced against political
argument in the theatre? --,
Or did you decide to come in spite of it, to support a friend?
How many people here would seriously counsel actors to volunteer
to be in plays that are trying to push people towards utopia?
To boycott scripts that glamorize greed?
We're not responsible for the effect of our acting. Our job is
to express the emotions of the character.
That's what they want you to think! Forget it! Be a citizen, be
a holy artist, be a mensch! Let the theatre reclaim its philosophical
function - a critique of social values. Look at Fugard, look at
I knew you'd drag in Havel!
He was performed in living rooms, in basements-
But he was famous first, or who'd care? People sat up when Havel
went to jail, when he put his life on the line-
CLORINDA: ("acting" tragic scene)
I'd like to die for the cause. If it was worth dying for. Bravely,
perfectly. Standing firm under pressure, even torture, never betraying
my ideals or my friends or the noble dead. A martyr, a saint.
(dies, to applause) And then of course afterwards I would get
up and come in front of the curtain and curtsy to the rapturous
applause, (does so)the bouquets, accept the presidency of my grateful
That's a laugh. You don't believe that stuff. You'd never say
it, if the author hadn't put it in your mouth!
I suspect that's the truth.
Whose side are you on?
It's not my place to take sides, but to make sure that the voice
that is entrusted to me gets heard. My sense of truth--
I don't see how you can have a sense of truth if you make your
living from lies.
That bank commercial? It's hardly a living.
You take money for lies. Don't you? Can you face these people
and defend the scripts you act?
We're trained to believe!
Where would the author of this crap be, if the only actors willing
to mouth her stuff had to agree with it! I suppose you want government
subsidies it, yet! Not a chance.
DIRECTOR ACTIVATES BUSH FACE. SPEECHES RUN UNDER DIALOGUE:
No enduring artistic value
trite 60's rhetoric
PEGGY (similtaneous with mask speeches)
Stop it! I'm the author! I mean isn't it obvious, that mine is
the character that is the writer's mouthpiece-
ALL AD LIB
No, I am! She is! She's sitting out there--etc.
All right! Cut it out! We're off the track, now.
Do you think at this point you can come out of hiding? Admit the
argument of the play? I give you 3 more minutes.
Can I have ten? (NO!) All right. I'll try.
First, all plays have arguments. If they don't quarrel with the
fiction put forward by the powerful, they are reinforcing that
fiction. That's why Plato wanted to banish dramatists and actors
from his Republic. That's why Shelley called poets the unacknowledged
legislators. Unacknowledged or unconscious--the central stories
aren't even noticed. They're taken for granted, the way you take
for granted that when the good guy wins the lottery or gets the
girl it's a happy ending. But we aren't condemned to these same
old roles. We can rectify words, we can invent meaning. Artists
don't have to lie, or be exploited--
I think there's a contradiction here. The author wants to exploit
our personalities,-- no-- really, she asks for improvisation,
puts pieces of our bios, our very souls, into the text, to sell
some half-baked ideas -.
Not to sell, just to show. I'm trying to be fair-
Do you call it fair, to get an audience in here--
Not all that much of a one--
-- to be entertained, then force your actors to fake politics-
Wait a minute! I have politics of my own. Just because I don't
think the theatre should be used to promote them.--
Art is not useful, except to take your mind off. Beyond that,
I think you could defend a purpose to catharsize feelings--
Catharsis is a terrible idea! Dry old Aristotle wanted to purge
emotion, get rid of it like a bit of spoiled fish. Emotion is
to be cherished, explored, understood, shared--
Sure! Your first duty, your contract with the audience. They expect
to be amused or moved, and if they get harangued instead they
deserve their money back! (to audience)
Oh, shut up!--Enough of criticism as consumer guide. How about
raising the level of discourse? No more jokes about my figure,
or the way I walk-!
If we aren't doing our job properly, maybe you can inspire someone
else to do it better. Once you've explained what it is.
The playwright doesn't claim to have answers. Just a faith in
the process. We are together, here, the ones who speak and the
ones who watch, and we make an emotional journey through a set
of actions. We discover truth, and judge significance.
Greek plays have a chorus who represent the community-
They're history! Look, no modern audience is going to sit through
the SUPPLIANTS. If you want to fool yourself that you can change
the world, lecture. Write essays. Be a syndicated columnist. Forget
theatre. Politics is all exposition. You can't deal with complex
facts onstage. If a story has just two sides--
Courtroom drama. How many here like courtroom drama?
Then maybe you can keep the facts straight long enough to decide
who deserves to win. But that's all that's decided.
Our citizens just push levers, and admen push their buttons-
Don't be cynical! We have to think of every moment rescued from
apathy and self-censorship as a victory. We've actually talked
here for --.
Almost an hour. Would you wind it up before everybody leaves,
please? (If PLAYING is part of a bill, the protest should come
from a voice offstage, saying that [Title of next show] is waiting
in the wings. A terrific show, folks, about - [description])
Ok, ok. One more minute, OK? The last point has to do with e pluribus
unum. We're all in this together. Can't tea drinkers find a way
to talk to the kid cutting school, the youngster who joined the
army to learn computers? We owe ourselves, to know ourselves,
fellow citizens. The guys who see our life together as a contest
assume that only certain people deserve the truth. They establish
security clearances, they hire people who are experts with words
to distract and cover up-- .
There you go.
You're doing it yourself.
Us and them.
We all do it! It's built into the mind. So you see what I mean?
We've got to open up, we've got to forgive each other and help
each other to stop that pattern. Because in bad times, when the
effects of these policies pushed through without debate begin
to catch up to us, when we begin to feel the pain, where will
we look? For scapegoats? Drama can give people a sense of their
history. We examine these things in places like this.
You can't decide to change the function of a social institution-
Look around! (indicates audience)
You have an intelligent face, sir(m'am). Can you think of a work
of the theatrical imagination which made you feel at one with
your whole community? Part of its fate? (react to audience response)
You shouldn't put people on the spot like that.
Without rewrites, and rehearsal--
We need to find some new stories, stories about something other
than winning through to a goal or outgunning the enemy. Over and
over, till the young people have the lesson by heart --and that's
the perfect term, by heart, for the grooving of a common emotional
path by what's told on cop shows, on the news-
If the Berlin wall falls, it's the triumph of capitalism.
What are the stories you want for your children, people? Even
more-- for your neighbor's children? Here, we don't need a license,
or a sponsor. We establish a place of welcome, and of witness,
to do justice to ourselves -- if you'll help us.
Uh -- we're out of script now.
But we can take notes. From your reaction, we can expand or we
can cut the show down.
If you want to continue. Now, it's up to you.