Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ohms of Resistance

Setting:  Can be a bare stage. Action takes place in the Gulf South, inside a barricaded Power Relay Station.

Time: Current, any time of day.

A hand-written or typed manifesto, heavily edited by hand.
A frayed wire.
A Smart Phone on a tripod (or can be imagined.)

(Jess Tendrup, a slim young man, dressed like a small town Metal Head, adjusts the video feature of his Smart Phone (either real or imagined) mounted on a tripod. He often speaks directly to the video camera.
When ready to begin, Jess steps into the camera frame, composes himself, musses-up his hair, and reads a prepared statement.)
In our Wired Society, we take electricity for granted. Flick up the switch. There is light. And we don't ask how. We simply will it. Like sorcerers, we bend electricity’s power to our own purposes. The combined force of society’s willpower has harnessed wild electricity, directed its flow along currents, over long-distance cables, and snaked it through complex micro-circuitry.  Right up to our own home addresses. Right up to the supermarket—where electricity, our wizard's apprentice, keeps the pizza bagels frozen. Right up to the hospital, the shopping mall, the multinational conglomerate. Up to the prisons, where we use electricity for sirens, searchlights, electronic locks and fences. Society wills it, and it is. Electric light is merely the physical form of society’s combined willpower!
(Forgets the prepared statement, speaking impromptu.)
So don’t tell me it’s nobody’s fault!
“Oh that’s just modern Society for ya, our god-forsaking, Hell-bent Secular Humanist modern society.”
“Oh dear! It just keeps on happening, but nobody can stop it. Politicians lack the guts. The people lack the power. And the perps are the police themselves, the military!”
“Well, that’s cuz not enough citizens are armed! Without more guns in the hands of heroes, nobody could have stopped this tragedy (that keeps on happening.) So nobody is to blame.”
Well, I blame me! I blame all y’all! We all are to blame for what happened. What keeps on happening! Only difference is, I am the only one doing something about it.
(Removes a frayed wire from his pocket.)
In a single stroke, we can be humbled, made to tremble before electricity’s awesome power. I promise, I will stop the insanity.
But first, hoo! I should take a breath! Aw man, I get ahead of myself!
(Puts wire back into his pocket.
 Adjusts the camera angle.
Musses-up his hair.)
I still need to record my final thoughts for posterity, my last Will and Testament, my video suicide note. My manifesto!
At the very least, I want my words spoken on this video to exonerate my family and to defend other innocent folk from blame. Although, Pastor Roloff, you go right ahead and die. Go straight to Hell and jump into the molten lake of eternal fire. Burn right up, Pastor.
Hello, Youtube! This is Jess Tendrup. Hi.
(Attempts to read prepared statement again, but occasionally digresses.)
Being of sound body, as y’all can see (flexes muscles). And of sound mind. Yes, I do know who I am—Jess Tendrup. Where I am—barricaded inside a Power Relay Station . And what I am planning to do.
I, Jess Tendrup, son of Mister and Missus Tyrelle Tendrup, recent graduate from Maranatha Christian Academy, and currently employed as a car detailer down at Big Sally’s Autobody—Hey Sal! As you can see, I won’t be coming into work today—do herein and forthwith solemnly accept full and sole responsibility for my actions. Nobody but me needs to carry any blame on this. Not my useless mama. Not my sister, (her name chokes him) Melissa Grace. Not even my daddy, who really is to blame. Really, if y’all only knew. But not even my asshole daddy needs to carry any blame on this. And even though Pastor Roloff loaded up my head with a bunch of hateful fantasy lies, I, Jess Tendrup, accept full responsibility for my own destructive actions. I know many folks will get hurt. People might, probably, die.
Sacrifices are expected with an Armageddon, a disruption of this magnitude. Not just the town grid, folks. Our town—we are the hub of the entire Gulf South. This Relay Station can bring down the whole region. Imagine the whole Gulf dark. Actually, in 10 minutes, y'all won’t need to imagine. Hospitals dark, electricity for critical-care and life support machines gone. Heart monitors will stop beeping. Hearts will stop. At the prisons, no more electricity for sirens, search lights, or electronic locks. What’s the good of electronic fences with no electricity? Prisoners will escape, run amok, marauding the lowlands and the high ground, savaging the citizenry. But worst of all, at the supermarkets—where we are most vulnerable— our pizza bagels will thaw.
Then there’s me! I’m a sacrifice too, a willing sacrifice, in order to “advance the Great Work”, to bring illumination to the masses. Like Pastor Roloff always says, “Shine a light so the Righteous, no longer groping in the dark, may find the uphill path to the Pure Land.” I’m a martyr for the cause, right, Pastor? Perhaps, if you will, even a victim? That is, if y’all are willing to accept that a person can be both the villain and the victim in the same story, especially when he tells the story himself.
Villain? Victim ? Martyr? What I truly am is Resistance. At the Autobody, Big Sal has been teaching me about a car’s electrical system. Sal taught me about Thomas Edison, an electronic scientist who proved there can be no light visible without Resistance, measured in Ohms. Love that word! (chants like “om”) Ohhhhms.  I am the tungsten filament inside the bulb that resists the current, halts the mindless march-step of electrons, and makes them reveal their incandescence!
“But why now, Jess? What changed?”
The Event…changed…everything, changed me. I can still hear and feel sirens whining inside my eardrums. My eyes wince at the memory of strobe lights, blaring on the rooftops of cop cars, fire trucks, a SWAT wagon, and two ambulances. Was all that show of force really necessary for one Black kid clutching a water pistol?
And where did the smoke come from? Emerging from-out the smoke, TV news crews walked and talked in slow-mo—it seemed at the time. Everything in slow-mo. Clicks of Smartphone cameras echoing, click-click. Click. Video Selfies, filmed by onlookers  in a slow steady arc, scanning the horror—gawkers! who uploaded the Event from their Smart Phones directly onto Social Media, separating the actual Event in both space and time from its truth. All via the alchemy of electricity—for us to Share and Like later on, at our leisure.
The Event completed my education in disillusionment, showed me the utter, moral bankruptcy of our Wired Society. All of us, we are nothing but a mountain-heap of dead batteries. Our potential expended. Useless and toxic.
But at the very same instant that the Event was re-wiring my brain circuitry, it also radicalized me. Knocked some of my electrons free from orbit. “That ain’t right!” I shouted at the cops, the TV crews, the gawkers. “Stop this stupid fucking insanity!” And when the TV news and gawkers turned their cameras on ME, that’s when it struck me. Sometimes it takes an act of stupid fucking insanity in order to restore Order. Yank off the bandage, so the wound can breathe and finally heal.
(Reading statement.)
My act of resistance shines a light onto our collective, national passivity. Calls attention to the strangle-hold of the special interest groups over Congress, such as the NRA, ACLU, NAACP, and probably NASA for all we know. My sacrifice—although it might seem senseless, nonsensical, and insane—advocates for sanity. For good sense. Deprived of your electric lights, may you see the true light of God’s judgment!
Most important of all, my resistance stands witness to violence. I am a lighthouse casting my beacon onto atrocities committed against us by those we trust!
(Speaking directly to camera.)
I, Jess Tendrup, witnessed a police officer gun down a child, a little-little kid, outside the Pump-Dump-and-Go gas station and convenience store. Just a boy, his small Black face is frozen forever in my mind in a grimace of terror. Y’all never want to see terror like that on a boy’s face! No, I’m just a boy. He was a little-little kid, like Melissa Grace, clutching his plastic, water pistol.
I was only at the Pump-Dump-and-Go to buy a Scratch ticket and a PBR when this cop gunned down this kid—could have been my own kid sister—over a toy gun painted safety orange! Other cops looked on, embarrassed, I guess. Did nothing. Nobody did nothing but take Selfie photos and videos. So I guess all y’all are right. Nobody is to blame.
And Nobody has been investigated for this mur-der. Nobody tried. Nobody convicted. Nobody brought to justice. But a kid died, all the same. A kid with a name, Baltimore Ferguson.
Mama, I’m talking to you right now! Keep Melissa Grace safe, you hear me? You know exactly what I am talking about. Since you don’t care nothing about yourself none, don’t even stand up to protect your own self, ever, you have only one job. Simple. Keep Melissa Grace safe from Daddy.
Now Melly, don’t you ever to watch this video until you’re a grown adult woman. Mama, don’t let Melissa Grace watch YouTube! Melly, you don’t need to see your older brother, Jess, like this, in his last minutes alive on this Earth. But when you do grow up and you do watch this, he loves you, Sister. Try to forgive him.
Please understand, Mel. It’s better he leaves now. Before he hurts somebody again, before he hurts you. He would never hurt you! But he did already punch Mama. Punched Mama right in her dumb, useless face, the way Daddy punches her. She didn’t do nothing to defend herself—from her own son!
He thought he inherited the family curse, the family disease. The Tendrup appetite for violence. But now, after Mama and Daddy and all their shit, after the Event, after the murder of Baltimore Ferguson, now he believes it’s the whole world’s disease. The strong hits the weak.
You, Daddy. What the fuck, old man, you’re a mean asshole. I hope this video breaks your heart, Fucker, but we both know you don’t got one. I hope my action today chokes you with shame. Be the first time in your goddamn life you felt shame, even though you got plenty to be ashamed for.
All y’all watching this YouTube video, I want it publicly known that my father, Tyrelle Tendrup, didn’t just beat me up to prove he's stronger than a kid. He used to touch me too. TOUCH me. There, I said it! 

And if you EVER touch Melissa Grace, I will claw my way back from Hell with a demon army to drag you, ass-fucker, down into damnation with me!
As for Pastor Roloff, only good thing I ever learned from all your sermonizing was eloquence; how to string together pearls of pretty words. Nuanced, hinting at deeper meanings. So here comes some eloquence. Brother, fuck you. Ain’t no such place as the “Pure Land” except in your bigoted, mother-punching imagination. Lay off the Apostle Paul’s hate-gospel for a while, huh? Get back to Jesus. Less righteousness and a lot more love. Amen…Brother?
Fuck eloquence. I blame YOU, Pastor! Because your mind is sick! Your values are sick! Your hateful attitudes are what make it ok for cops to kill Black children, for fathers to kill…their sons.
And uh, Big Sally—Sal, by the time you see this, guess you already figured out I won’t be coming into work the rest of this week neither. Sorry ‘bout leaving y’all short-handed at the Autobody. You deserve better. Thanks, Sal. For everything you done and tried to do for me.
One final word:  To the Homeland Security soldiers outside my barricade right now. I can hear y’alls battering ram banging away. Pretty soon, I know y’all’ll escalate to explosives. Probably right about the time I make the world go dark, y’all’ll break into this Relay Station and stumble upon my charred remains smoldering between the negative and positive terminals. Fellas, I am truly sorry to spoil y’alls day. You ain’t the cop who shot Baltimore Ferguson. Sorry ‘bout the smell. Burnt hair and yeah, burnt poo.  
At the very least, we can all agree that I spared the taxpayers the expense of frying me in the Electric Chair. These days, the cost of electricity is shockingly high!
Did y’all know, when the Electric Chair was first invented, scientists and the whole scientific community protested? God’s truth. Because the Electric Chair degrades the mysterious dignity of electricity, while mocking the very same science that makes it possible for Society to electrocute criminals to death.
(Removes the frayed wire from his pocket.)
 (chants like “om”) Ohhhhhhhmssss….
(Turns off the video camera.)
Hope I don’t really go poo.
(Puts the frayed end of the wire into his mouth.)
SOUND:  Pfzzt.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Next of Kin


Patient’s same-sex husband.

Patient’s middle-aged aunt.

Fourth-year Medical Student, part of the patient’s care team. Female. Very young in comparison to other cast.


Hospital room.


Early evening, during visitor hours.

(A hospital room, during visitor hours. A family is gathered around the unconscious body of Jimmy Catalano. Chuck, Jimmy’s husband, is comforting Aunt Bella.)

Why don’t someone tell us something?! We been here 45 minutes and nobody will tell us nothing. Where is James’ friggin’ doctor? That nurse at the front desk won't tell us a damn thing.

She can’t. Nurses are forbidden from discussing a patient’s prognosis with family members. That’s the doctor’s job.

Then where the crapola is James' doctor?

Excuse me, may I come in?

(Charging the Resident.)
Where the hell is Doctor LeDoux? We been waiting here one hour. I want James’ doctor to get in here and explain to us what the hell is going on!

I’m sorry you’ve been waiting so long. Doctor LeDoux is not available right now. She’s in the O.R. That’s why I’ve come in.

And who the hell are you?

My name is Veronica Melbourne, I’m a Resident. I’m part of the team that’s taking care of Mister Catalano.

A Resident? We want a real doctor!

I assure you I am a real doctor. I’m in my last year of Medical School, and residency is the final step in my training. As I said, I’m part of the team who’s been caring for…

This is how Tulane treats families? We find James unconscious, unresponsive, with a tube down his throat. But no! The doctor makes us wait and nobody tells us nothing! Except that orderly. He walked by here, looked in and muttered “Oh, that coma guy”. Holy Mother of God! A coma?!

I am so sorry that orderly said that. That is grossly inappropriate. I will personally follow-up with the orderly staff to find out who said that and make sure it never happens again.


Is that what’s going on? Is Jimmy in a…a coma? Why is he in a coma?

Sir, what is your relation to Mister Catalano?

Jimmy is my husband.

I have some difficult information to discuss with Jimmy’s…Mister Catalano’s legal next of kin. Does Mister Catalano have a…um, wife?

Do you hear what Charles just said, young woman? He and James are married. Just as married as I was to my dear, departed Alonso.

I understand that. Unfortunately, the State of Louisiana does not yet recognize same-sex marriage as legal. I mean no offense, but..

We are offended! How would you like if YOUR husband was in a coma…

I did not say coma. And my hands are tied on this matter. As a medical professional, I do have to work within legal guidelines. Does Mister Catalano have any adult children?

No. We don’t have kids. Jimmy doesn’t have kids.

I see. Are his parents alive? Does he have adult siblings?

Charles and me are James’ only family. His parents kicked him out when he was 16 for being Gay. Then they died in a house fire—God have mercy on their souls—in their own bed. Now I am James’ only blood relative.

Ma’am, your relationship to Mister Catalano?

I am his aunt. James’ mother is my sister. James and Charles are practically my own sons.

Then that makes you Mister Catalano’s legal next of kin. As I said, I mean no disrespect to you, Mister…??

Caldwell. Chuck…Charles Caldwell.

(to Aunt Bella) And how may I address you?

Mrs. Isabella Lorraine Alfaro. The boys, they call me Aunt Bella.

Mrs. Alfaro, hello. Again, my name is Veronica Melbourne. Before we begin our discussion about Mister Catalano’s care, what would you like to happen right now? Should I discuss with you alone, or would you prefer Mister Caldwell to also be present?

Are you retarded in the head? Of course I want Charles present! He is James’ husband! You have the moral responsibility to discuss James’ healthcare with James’ husband!

Alright. As long we all understand that any decisions regarding Mister Catalano’s care can only be made by his legal next of kin. Please, may we sit down?

Is it that serious?

What I came to discuss is difficult. Sitting down is a good idea.

Sit here, Charles. No thank you. I will stand.

Mrs. Alfaro…

Please, include us both.

Yes of course. Mrs. Alfaro and Mister…??

He said Caldwell!

Excuse me. I’m so forgetful with names when I feel nervous. Mrs. Alfaro and Mr. Caldwell, please prepare yourself for difficult news.

Is it a coma?

Before I answer that question, can you explain to me what you understand about Mr. Catalano’s condition?

James came here this morning to Tulane for knee replacement surgery. Now he won’t wake up. Got that tube down his throat.

I dropped Jimmy off myself. Bella and I came back now, together, to check on him. Assumed he would need to rest up a couple days, then we’d take him to our home. But we don’t understand why he won’t wake up.

And that chooch in scrubs looked in and called him “the coma guy”!

Again, that was inappropriate. Mister Catalano’s surgery did go well. Only a couple hours ago he was alert and speaking.

Is he in a coma now?!

Not a coma, Sir. Please allow me to continue. I promise I will answer all your questions after I give you complete information. As I said, Mister Catalano was alert and speaking. Then the Charge Nurse informed the medical team that he was complaining of shortness of breath.

Oh my god.

I was part of the team that rushed into the room to help Mister Catalano. By the time we arrived, he was unconscious and non-responsive. We started CPR and then requested a Code Team.

A what?

An emergency trauma team. They confirmed that Mister Catalano’s heart was not beating, and they took over the CPR.

His heart stopped beating? Why?

After knee surgery, it’s common for a deep-vein thrombosis to form.

Missy, you better start speaking English. We have every right to understand this. And we can. If you speak language we understand.

Of course. I apologize for my word-choice. Let me back up a little. After Mister Catalano’s surgery, a blood clot formed in his leg. The clot broke away from the site of the surgery, and travelled in his blood stream to Mister Catalano’s lungs.

You said his heart stopped beating. He had a heart attack?

Not exactly. The blood clot blocked the major artery between Mister Catalano’s lungs and his heart. We call that a pulmonary embolism. Because of the blockage, his heart could not receive oxygen, and that’s why he had a cardiac arrest. His heart stopped beating.

But Jimmy doesn’t have heart problems!

It was the clot, Sir. One possible risk of this kind of surgery is the formation of blood clots.

So why is he unconscious? Why the tube in his throat?

The Code Team did CPR to get his heart beating again. After numerous attempts, they were finally successful. But although his heart did start again, in the meantime, Mister Catalano’s brain was also deprived of oxygen.

His brain? For how long?

We don’t know for sure. Long enough that his brain suffered anoxic brain damage.


Brain damage due to the lack of oxygen. That tube you see is helping Mister Catalano breath. The brain controls breathing. But because of the brain damage, Mister Catalano’s body cannot breath on its own.

People wake up from comas all the time.

This is not a coma, Sir. The damage is more severe than that.

What do you mean more severe than coma?

We don’t believe Mister Catalano will wake up.

He’ll wake up. Look, he’s breathing. I see him breathing!

I’m sorry to tell you this bluntly, Ma’am. But what you see is a machine breathing for him. If we remove the machine, his body won’t breath on its own.

He will die?!

I’m so sorry.

James chose Tulane! He didn’t have to come here for surgery. He did the research. Tulane is supposed to be the best in Orleans Parish for this kind of knee replacement surgery. How could you let this happen?

We are investigating right now how this happened. The best we can tell, after surgery, Mister Catalano should have received an anti-coagulant medication to prevent blood clots. He wasn’t.

Wait, what? You were supposed to give Charles medicine to prevent THIS! And you didn’t? This is your fault!

I’m so sorry.

Sorry?? Sorry won’t feed a mockingbird! Sorry won’t wake up my nephew!

Of course you’re shocked, angry, and grieving. I don’t claim to understand exactly what you’re feeling. But I am here to help you any way I can.

Help us by waking up my nephew!

Bella, please. It’s not her fault. She’s the bearer of bad news. (to the Resident) You tried to save him. You gave him CPR. Thank you for that.

I did everything I could, everything I know how to do.

And now Tulane rewards you by making you give us the bad news. You’re a very fine young doctor, Miss Melbourne.

Oh! Thank you, Mister Caldwell. It’s my duty and my honor to be with your family at a difficult time like this. (beat) There’s more for us to discuss.

God in Heaven! Are you kidding us?

Bella, please. Let her continue.

Mrs. Alfaro, did Mister Catalano ever discuss what he would want if something like this ever happened?

What do you mean?

How would Mister Catalano, James, want us to care for him? For example, we can keep him on the ventilator. And if he has another cardiac event, I mean, if his heart stops again, we could resuscitate him.

Of course we want that. We want him to live!

Is that what James would want? If his quality of life is compromised like this?

My nephew wants to live! Tell her, Charles.

Even knowing that he probably won’t ever wake up? Or if he did, he would not be the James you know?

I understand what you’re saying. Bella, she means withdrawing care. Withdrawing the breathing tube, letting Jimmy…

(Long beat.)

Well, I want him to live! You said I’m his next of kin. His legal next of kin. You have to do what I say. I want him to stay alive!


I'm sorry, Charles! But I can't just do nothing. Let them pull the...I can't stand by and watch James... He's my boy! You're both my boys.

(to the Resident)
We cannot possibly make a decision like that. Not minutes after you just walked in here and dropped a bomb on us.

Of course not. Mrs. Alfaro, you do not have to make any decisions right now. I’m introducing the topic. Begin to think about what I’ve said.

Don’t ask me! You should ask his husband! Charles! Charles is his husband!

Morally I agree with you. But you are the legal next of kin. Discuss it together then. Decide as a family the best course of action for Mister Catalano. What he would want. What the two of you together think is best.

Jimmy and I watched that whole Terry Schiavo fiasco in disgust. We never imagined it could happen to us.Never talked about what we would want. We both thought the real tragedy was that family’s grief put on display, held up to public scrutiny. Judged by Fox News and Facebook.

Terry Schiavo! No! No!

I know this is unthinkable, terrible news. But is there anything I can explain better? Do you have any questions for me right now?

No, not right now. Bella, Dear, any questions?

Isn't there any hope?

I can assure you he's in no pain.

My God! Oh my God! I don't want Jimmy to be in pain! Bella, I don't want him to feel pain!

(Rushes to comfort Chuck) How can you assure us that?

The most honest answer I can give you is Mister Catalano does not feel any pain. The part of his brain that experiences pain is not active.


Mister Caldwell, we also have medications we can give Jimmy to ensure he does not feel pain. Medication and other forms of palliative ease his transition.

(long beat.)

Perhaps I should give you some time to talk and absorb this. I can come back any time you need me. If you do think of other questions, ask for me by name, Veronica Melbourne.

Thank you, Miss Melbourne. We need time alone now, to grieve as a family.

Of course. Again, I’m so sorry, Mrs. Alfaro. Mister Caldwell... (Attempts to touch Chuck's arm, hesitates, then exits)

I don't understand what just happened to our family!

(The dam breaks, and Chuck finally has the break down he has struggled to hold back. Bella embraces and comforts him)

Jimmy is my husband!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The First Thespian

Thespis of Icaria, a Leading Man
Glaucus, a member of the Greek Chorus
Jerkus, a rival member of the Greek Chorus

Time:          6th century B.C.
Location:    Ancient Greece. On stage at Athens Amphitheater. 10 minutes until Curtain.
Props:         Sword. Sword belt. A mask of Tragedy and 2 masks of Comedy (Optional. Actors may pantomime those faces instead.)
Costume:    Matching togas. Thespis’ toga is too short. Glaucus’ toga is baggy and too large. Jerkus’ toga is just right.


Glaucus:     (Enters from wing, calling off-stage) Thank you, Ten!

Thespis:     (Enters from opposite side of Glaucus, doing vocal warm-up exercises...culminating with) DRACH-mah. drrrrach-ma. drach-MAH!

Glaucus:     Thespis, stop worrying. Tonight you will give an Olympian performance. If your voice fails, you can always rely on your lovely face.

Thespis:      But I'll be wearing a mask.

Glaucus:     Even wearing the mask of Tragedy, your unique talent shines through, my boy. Like a star in the heavens! No doubt, after tonight’s performance, Zeus himself will reserve a spot in the night sky for your soul to sparkle when you ascend.

Thespis:      Does my face look lovelier when I speak in this direction, (turns head in profile to audience) or speak in this direction?

Glaucus:     Where will your audience be seated? Speak in the direction of their ears.

Thespis:      But what if I misspeak, Glaucus?! What if tonight, in front of all the free citizens of Athens, I, Thespis of Icaria, flub history’s first line?

(Groups of ladies and men are arriving for the show.)

Glaucus:     Welcome to Athens Amphitheater, Senators, Ladies. Have you come to see tonight's Choral performance? Most excellent. We have a very special treat for you tonight. Very special indeed. (to Thespis) See how the nymphs look longingly upon you, and even the satyrs...

Thespis:     Satyrs! (Leading man smile.)

Glaucus:     ...much admire your comely good looks.

Thespis:     But tonight, Glaucus, will god-like beauty be enough?

Glaucus:     I said good looks.

Thespis:     I don’t want to be known merely as a glorious physique, an Adonis.

Glaucus:     (under breath) Narcissus more like.

Thespis:     I want to be remembered—nay Glaucus, celebrated down through history for my skill as …as an…what do we call this? Is it choric refrain anymore? With only one singer? We don’t have a word for this in Greek. Am I really the first...ever…to try this?

Glaucus:     To my knowledge, dear Thespis, which admittedly is not so vast as your own, I never before heard of a Chorus member who attempted a solo.

(Jerkus enters)

Jerkus:        Nor should it be attempted.

Thespis and Glaucus in chorus: (intense dislike) Salutations, Jerkus!

Jerkus:        Since the dawn of Chronus, there has always been a Chorus. We are the necessary foundation of a story well told. How else would the audience understand the playwright’s meaning? Without the Chorus to explain it to them? In song.

Glaucus:     But never before has a single member of the Chorus stepped forward by himself, under his own spot of torchlight, and spoken in the voice of another man or acted out the deeds of another man or pretended to be another. Indeed Thespis, what you are attempting is the birth of a new kind of theater.

Jerkus:        Don’t break a leg stepping under that spot of torchlight.

Thespis:     (acid) Why thank you, Jerkus, for your too kind words. (Stage whispering to Glaucus) But Glaucus, how does one person pretend to be another?

Glaucus:     Uhhh…alright, let's start with your name.

Thespis:     Surely you know me, Glaucus. We have sung together the stories of gods and heroes in wild, dithyrambic refrain for 8 years. Thespis. Of Icaria.

Jerkus:       Genius!

Glaucus:     Dear Zeus. Yes, I do know you, Thespis, my lovely boy. Now introduce yourself as the person you pretend to be.

Thespis:     Oh! Of course. Right! (grabs Glaucus by the forearm in a Greco-Roman handshake. Casually introduces himself as if to a business associate.) I am Pericles.

Glaucus:     You are? Really?! This is how an orator, a statesman, a general of Thrace greets his warriors?!

Thespis:      I am Pericles?

Glaucus:     Mean it. Again!

Thespis:      I am Pericles!

Glaucus:     More authority! Again!

Thespis:      I am Pericles! I am Pericles!

Glaucus:     (tents fingertips together and nods) Goooooood.

Jerkus:       That was good?

Thespis:     (to Jerkus) I shall instill fear and respect for Pericles in the audience.

Glaucus:     Not the audience. The armies of Thrace! If you pretend to be Pericles, then pretend to stand where Pericles stands. (Turns Thespis by the shoulders toward audience.) On a hilltop, above the valley where Thracian warriors have assembled to receive your command.

Thespis:     Yes, I see. And then, I shall roar like a fearsome lion. (Roars!)

(Jerkus roars in laughter, mocking Thespis.)

Thespis:     (ignoring Jerkus) To instill fear and respect in the audience...(catching on) the armies of Thrace!


Glaucus:     (beat) I like where you are going. Choose something else.

(Thespis struggles to come up with a new idea.)

Glaucus:     For example, draw your sword, thus. Instead of roaring like an actual lion, speak your name…with a roar in your voice!

Thespis:     (draws sword) I…Am…Pericles!

Glaucus:     You make me shudder. You are so real. Honestly, Thespis, there should be a word, a name, for what you can do. Let us pretend to be another person. You imitate or mimic the words and actions of a character in a story...

Jerkus:       Thus you are a pretender? An imitator? History's first mimicker?

Glaucus:     No, I don't like the implied guile of pretender. Imitator sounds cheap.

Thespis:     And mimicker? I can’t even pronounce mimicker without tripping. What about charmer? Because I charm the audience into believing that I am indeed Pericles.

(More guests arrive at the amphitheater.)

Glaucus:     Good evening, ladies. Oh yes, many good seats left. Just beyond the urinals. Upwind, I assure you! (calling after them as they pass by) Thank you for supporting local theater!

Jerkus:       Charmer sounds like spells and magic, a snake charmer. A charlatan.  

Glaucus:     (to Thespis) My dear boy, you are the leading man of the Chorus.

Jerkus:       Leading man? (beat) No, that will never catch on.

Thespis:     Will the audience accept me, Glaucus? Are they willing to accept that I, Thespis of Icaria, humble singer…

Jerkus:       Humble!

Thespis:     …of the Athens Amphitheatre Choral Company, speak for Pericles? That I truly am the Great Pericles?

Glaucus:     (ruminates) That depends on your motivation.

Thespis:     My what? What in the name of Melpomene is motivation?

Jerkus:       This I gotta hear.

Glaucus: Ah! Motivation is “why are you talking? Why are you doing such-and-such?” In real life, when we talk or do something, it's because we want something. We are motivated to talk because we want something. What does your hero want that motivates him to say "I am Testicles!" (pronounced Testa-cleez)

Jerkus:       (raucous laughter) Oh Glaucus, the hero in this play is named "Pe-ri-cles". Good thing Thespis is history's first "Leading Man".

Thespis:     (movie star smile to more passing nymphs and satyrs) Thank you for coming tonight. Stay after the performance. I would be happy to autograph your papyrus. (rakish wink)

Glaucus:     Quite true! I have no mind for memorizing lines. I would flub history’s first line for sure if I were standing in your sandals. Instead of a Leading Man like you, Thespis, I am merely your follower. Perhaps I could be called history's first…uhh… Thespian?!

Jerkus:       History’s first…uh…Th-th-th-theth-pian. Malarckus!

Glaucus:     And here's Jerkus, history’s first critic! 

Jerkus:       Well I, for one, need the Chorus to back me up, to keep me in step with the group mind, to keep me in line!

Glaucus:     What you do, Thespis, is Art.  And Craft. It requires Art, Craft, and a courageous heart to step forward into the torchlight and stimulate our intellects, arouse our emotions, stir our psyches with only your words and actions.

Thespis:     Brother, you should be directing this whole show.

Glaucus:     What would that make me then? A Director?

Thespis:     No, a tyrant.

(All 3 share a knowing laugh. Pause. Laugh again.)

Glaucus:     Speaking of tyrants, (indicating Jerkus) Pericles wants to defeat a tyrant. That is his motivation. He stands above the battlefield, (indicating the  audience) addressing archers, spearmen, charioteers, and common soldiers, trying to rouse them to righteous indignation against an evil tyrant. Pericles appeals to their clan pride as Thracians! He wants to motivate them into fighting and dying for Thrace. When he says “I am Pericles!”, he is declaring, “Pericles has arrived! Let the fight begin!”

Thespis:     And this is motivation?

Glaucus:     If your motivation is true to real life, Thespis, if we recognize and sympathize, then yes, I believe the audience will accept you as the hero.

Jerkus:       They are lighting the torches. The flutes will start soon.

Thespis:     How is my hair?

Glaucus:     Tousled. Like a hero. Sword belt secure? (Thespis tightens his sword belt) Loins girded? (Thespis flashes his underwear under his toga) Good and good. Ok, here goes. Let us each don our mask.

Jerkus:       Don’t flub your precious line.

(They face audience side-by-side, with Thespis in the middle. All 3 solemnly pull down a mask from atop their heads. Thespis is Tragedy. Glaucus and Jerkus are Comedy. Actors may pantomime if no actual masks are available.)

All 3 in chorus:  Ahhhhhhh…. (Glaucus and Jerkus repeat chant over Thespis’ line.)

Thespis:     (with a roar in voice) I…Am…(draws sword)...Testa-cleez!

(Glaucus chokes on chant. He pulls up his mask. Now his face has become Tragedy. Jerkus pulls up his, but remains Comedy under his mask. Fade to blackout as the panting Thespis, oblivious of his flub, turns to Glaucus for approval.)

Friday, January 17, 2014


The Italian Mafia goes up against the Gay Mafia for control of VitaminD, the hottest new club drug in the 5 boroughs.

Setting: Late 1970s, Manhattan, Studio 54 nightclub

Andy Warhol
Truman Capote
Tony Contralto
Christophuh Contralto

2 chairs
2 guns
Folded piece of paper containing white powder

On an empty stage, Warhol is pacing, massaging a migraine. Capote anxiously awaits Warhol’s response. Halston, hip cocked, studies Warhol critically.
Warhol:    As much as I am loathe to admit it, at least this time, I have to agree with Tru. We must do something. We can't just recline on our chaise lounges, drink Cosmopolitans, and allow these New Jersey mooks to sweep us away. All our hard work, our reputations.
Halston:   Your hair is just awful. How bold!
Capote:    (speaking with an effete Southern drawl) Miss Halston, will you please shut your damn corn hole! Our dear Andrew is deathly serious. The Contralto family poses a significant threat to our cozy little “Velvet Mafia” and to our interests in New York. These so-called "mooks" are coming to Studio 54 today, before it opens. With guns, most likely. We need some semblance of a plan.
Halston:   What do you suggest, Truman? Blackmail? Murder? In cold blood perhaps? Why not simply slay them, as we always do, with devastating style, an arched eyebrow, and biting wit?
Tony and Christophuh Contralto enter, unseen by Warhol but seen by the others.
Warhol:   Those thugs are probably not intelligent enough to appreciate wit, Halston.
Capote:   (whispering) Andrew dearest…
Warhol:   And it will take more than a belted, camel-hair trench coat and an eyebrow pencil to get these mobsters off our backs.
Tony:      Mobster is such an unkind word.
Warhol:   Oh my God!
Chris:      We prefer the term “Consultant”.
Warhol:   We were not expecting company so soon. We were just…having a private conversation. Um, good afternoon. My name is Andy Warhol.
Tony:      Right, Warhol. I seen your paintings. Giant soup cans.
Warhol:   Yes, exactly. Soup cans. Very expensive, giant soup cans. And this is the internationally famous writer…
Capote:   I prefer the term “raconteur”.
Warhol:   Truman Capote.
Chris:      In Cold Blood! Right on. That movie was truth, man.
Capote:   Charmed, I’m sure.
Warhol:   And fashion designer, Halston.
Tony:      (to Halston) You, I never heard of.
Halston:   (inspecting Tony’s clothes) I would never have guessed.
Tony:      (to the group) Please excuse the intrusion. I am Tony Contralto. How do you do? This is my associate, Christophuh Contralto.
Chris:      How you doin?
Tony:      Christophuh is the amiable one in the family.
Warhol:   Welcome to Studio 54.
Tony:      Thank you. You understand what I am saying, when I say “family”?
Warhol:   Yes we do.
Capote:   Although to us, “family” means something entirely different. Do they seem like “family” to you?
Warhol:   (indicating Tony) He is definitely not family.
Halston:   (indicating Christophuh) Although he might be.
Tony calms an offended Christophuh with a slight gesture.
Tony:      We come under the flag of parlay, to tawk to youz, have a sit-down, family to uh, “family”.
Capote and Halston carry in two chairs. Tony and Warhol sit, facing each other.
Warhol:   Mister Contralto…
Tony:      Please, Tony is fine.
Capote:    Mister Tony. I am sure that your family and our family can reach a mutually beneficent agreement.
Tony:      I am sure we can. In fact, I know we will.
Warhol: mean, Tony, what we currently have in place is a fair deal for everyone concerned. The Contralto family continues to sell the street drugs and all the organics: marijuana, heroin, opium, cocaine…
Capote:   And of course, crack cocaine.
Warhol:   Exactly. But we control the designer drugs. Anything engineered in a laboratory.
Halston:   Anything with a designer label, spelled with initials: LSD, PCP, XTC, X, MDA.
Warhol:   MDMA, GHB.
Capote:   K.
Warhol:   We’ll even let you have crystal meth. Although technically meth is made in a laboratory…
Capote:   But Crystina can be such a bitch.
Halston:  We don’t like how she accessorizes. Crystina often arrives at social events with guns.
Capote:   Uh! And all her meth-labs keep exploding. Oh my, so untidy.
Warhol:   Hard to part with such a reliable cash-earner as crystal-meth, but we’d be willing to let it go…if things can stay the way they’ve been. Your territory. Our territory.
Tony:      (uncomfortably long deliberation) Used to be. But you crossed the line with VitaminD.
Warhol:   Well, VitaminD is our biggest seller in the discotheques.
Halston:   Studio 54 alone accounts for a quarter of the citywide VitaminD demand, in all of New York!
Capote:   It’s the hottest new club drug in the 5 boroughs! Oh my, Miss Liza Minnelli herself cannot get through a single Tea Dance without a double-dosage of VitaminD. And poppers.
Tony:     I know. That is why the Contralto family wants a cut of the action. Half.
Chris:     And thank you for the crystal-meth business. We’ll be taking that too.
Tony:     See? The amiable one.
Chris:     Until you piss me off.
Tony:     Until you piss him off.
Capote:   Oh Dear, let us not piss off Mister Christopher then. Ladies, conference.
The 3 Velvet Mafia gather to discuss in private, away from Christophuh and Tony.
Chris:      You ever been inside a Manhattan discotheque like Studio 54 before?
Tony:      Nah. What for? I seen that movie “Saturday Night Fever”. What do I want to do the Hustle for? Like this buncha finnochios?
Chris:      (singing) Awwww, do the Hustle! Doot doot doot, doo-doo, doo-doo, doot doot…
The 3 Velvet Mafia members re-approach.
Tony:      Christophuh, shut yer damn corn hole.
Capote:    (approves of Tony’s word choice) Ah! Another raconteur.
Warhol sits again. Tony remains standing.
Warhol:   Mister Contralto, um, Tony, after careful deliberation, we, the Velvet Mafia have decided—unanimously—to respectfully decline your request. We cannot share the proceeds of our VitaminD business. VitaminD is our territory.
Chris:      I don’t feel so amiable no more.
Halston:   It has a designer label. Engineered in our laboratories. Sold in our discotheques and night clubs.
Capote:   Enjoyed by our family.
Tony:     (grabbing Warhol’s shirt) You think you can say no to Tony Contralto? No to the entire Contralto family? Who da fuck are youz? Three bippity-boppity-boo fairies from Sleeping Beauty? You will all be sleeping beauties when Christophuh gets tru with youz.
Chris:     Ha! Bippity-boppity-boo.
Capote:  Oh shut your damn corn hole.
Chris:     You shut your damn dick holster, faggot!
The 3 Velvet Mafia members do not like the word “faggot”.
Halston:  Faggot?! We are not merely some department store, ready-to-wear, off-the-hanger faggots. I’ll tell you who we are. We are the Velvet Mafia, the Pink Mafia, the Lavender Mafia, the Gay Mafia. We are the cultural elite, taste makers. We decide whose little black dress your wives will wear to your funerals—a year in advance!
Tony:     He said, shuddup. Before we stuff your dick holsters…with our guns.
The 2 Italian Mafia guys pull out guns.
Capote:   Guns. I knew it. Oh my.
Warhol:   (standing) You came to Studio 54 under the flag of parlay! No weapons. Just talk.
Chris:      Tawk time is done. Weapons now.
Tony:      Well fellas, looks like it’s bullets versus high fashion.
The Velvet Mafia share a silent deliberation.
Halston, Warhol, and Capote in unison:         You lose.
The 3 Velvet Mafia members begin a fashion show cat walk from one end of the stage to the other, passing in front of the bewildered Italians. Capote struts first.
Halston:   (stage-whispering to Capote) Chin forward. Squint your eyes like you hate us.
Sitting down again, Warhol pretends to scribble notes for a review.
Halston:   Truman is modelling last season’s look for the short, stout, has-been writer of novellas and true crime fiction. His fedora rakishly angles across tiny, bloodshot, piggy eyes. While his jaunty cape is flung over a shoulder with careless abandon, as if to say, “Who are you, Manhattan, to laugh at me…”
Toward the end of Halston’s babble, Capote and Warhol both attempt to run off stage, in opposite directions. Tony and Christophuh stop them in their tracks, threatening them with guns.
Tony:      Stop this faery crapola now! Get back over there, you three sissies. And let me tawk for a while. It’s my turn to tawk.
Chris:      Yeah! Just shuddup and listen, why don’tcha.
Tony:      What we have here, Christophuh, is a failure of communication. We are all using the same English words, but mean something different. For example, when you and I say “family”, we mean the Italian Mafia. An organized crime syndicate with deep pockets, loads of guns, rifles, oozies, and ammo. And plenty of politicians, cops, and judges on our payroll. But when they say “family”, they mean sissy finnochios who take it up the butt.
Chris:      (to Capote) You probably never even had a whiff of cooz.
Capote:    Oh dear, I am feeling nauseous. Halston, please ask our guests to leave now.
Tony:       Or for example, when I say “give us half the VitaminD business,” they say “No.” But what I hear is “ok Tony, yes. Take half the VitaminD business.” See my confusion?
Chris:       I can, Tony. I can see your confusion.
Warhol:    Yes, you are both very confused.
Tony:       (gun to Warhol’s temple) Damn Gays, always acting like they are better than everybody else. Like their shit don’t stink like shit.
Capote:    I have been told that mine smells of jonquils and orange flower blossoms.
Tony:       I said shuddup! Christophuh.
Responding to his name like a one-word command, Christophuh pushes Capote onto his knees, gun to his head.
Tony:       Our guns say that one Christophuh is better than all 3 of you princesses put together. Now, if all the backtalk and sarcasm are done, let us return to our earlier discussion regarding VitaminD. You 3 Marys will continue to sell VitaminD to your discothèque “family”, to all your queer-boy faggots and their fag hags. “Miss” Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Cher, whoever. You sell. Your territory. We take half the profit. Our territory. Capisce?
Halston:   Why should we agree to this extortion?
Chris:       Cuz my gun says so.
Warhol:    Might makes right?
Tony:       (pressing his gun more firmly against Warhol’s head) Don’t it?
Halston:   Get a load of tough, macho Rock Hudson and James Dean. Only hetero.
Chris:       Rock Hudson ain’t Gay!
The Velvet Mafia share a look.
Capote:    Can I get off my knees, please? I have a condition.
Halston:   Sometimes Truman’s blood alcohol level gets dangerously low.
Capote:    And then I get dizzy, with palpitations.
Christophuh pistol-whips Capote, knocking him unconscious with a blow to the head. Capote crumbles to the floor.
Chris:       Still dizzy?
Tony:       (finally removing the gun from Warhol’s temple, he sits on either of the chairs) One more time. Give us half the profits from the sales of VitaminD.
Capote rouses himself. Stands, wobbly, and reaches out blindly, in delirium.  
Chris:       (to Capote) Whatcha say to that, “raconteur”.
Capote:    I need a doll. I need a goddam doll! Don’t y’all know who I am?! I am Neely O’Hara dammit! Someone bring me a goddam doll!
Warhol:    Please let us give Tru some VitaminD. Otherwise, he’ll never shut up.
Tony and Christophuh silently confer, then agree. Warhol removes a folded paper from a pocket, opens it, and smears the white powder inside all over Capote’s nose and face. Capote perks up.
Capote:    (Performs some impressive dance-like karate, his accent changing from Southern effete to bad mock Asian.) Woo-chah! Hi-yah!
Tony and Chris:          What da fuck?!
Halston:   (imitating Capote’s effete Southern) Oh dear. Where are my manners? Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce…Miss Yakuza...
Capote:    (more karate) Ninja Transvestite Assassin!
Tony:       You have got to be fucking kidding me. Christophuh, you believe this shit?
Chris:       If she’s a real ninja, Tony, then I am gay.
Halston:   I told you.
Capote really feels the VitaminD pumping. Making various karate shouts, he rushes Christophuh, smacking the gun from his hand with a karate chop. Crouching low, he kicks the feet out from under Christophuh, knocking him to the floor.
Capote:    (jumping upright into a karate stance) Who dizzy now, mudda-fuckuh?!
Chris:       You bitches are crazy!
Tony, in a panic, jumps up, pointing his gun at each of the Gays in turn, trying to regain control of the situation.
Capote:    Ayyyyyyye!
Capote does an insane cartwheel, landing behind Tony. Capote karate chops the back of Tony’s knees, causing Tony to buckle to the floor on all fours, the gun flying out of his hand. Halston and Warhol grab the 2 guns that are now on the floor. Capote is about to karate-chop the back of Tony’s neck, but Warhol calmly stops him.
Warhol:   That’s enough for now, Miss Yakuza. Thank you.
Capote restrains himself, slowly pulling both fists toward his torso while exhaling forcefully between pursed lips. He puts his palms together in prayer, inhales slowly, and bows to the audience.
Warhol:   Ah Contraltos, now that our roles are reversed, we can return to our earlier discussion. We, the Velvet Mafia, stand firm in our resolve to retain all 100 percent of our VitaminD profits. And because you have behaved so un-amiably today, we will also take back our crystal-meth business as well.
Tony:      Fuck youz. We’ll just come back here tomorrow with more guns iz’all.
Halston:   Tomorrow is the weekly Tea Dance at Studio 54. Can you imagine 400 sweaty Gay men…
Capote:    (back to his effete Southern drawl) And Miss Liza Minnelli.
Halston:   …all high on VitaminD? All believing that they too are ninja transvestite assassins?
Tony and Christophuh do not like those odds.
Warhol:   Stand up! Hands up!
Tony and Christophuh return to their feet, hands on their heads.
Warhol:   The next time you mooks decide to leave Jersey City, or West Orange, or East Orange, or whatever New Jersey rock you live under, and decide to drive the Holland Tunnel over to Manhattan to threaten the Velvet Mafia, the Pink Mafia, the Lavender Mafia, the Gay Mafia, just remember one thing…
Halston:   Warhol, and Capote in unison:       Fags bash back!
Capote:    Gentlemen, show us your catwalk strut—(imitating their Jersey accents) da fuck outa our nightclub!
Tony and Christophuh cautiously exit backwards.
Halston:   (stage-whispering to them as they exit.) Chins forward. Squint your eyes like you hate us.

Fade out.