Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

“The Yellow Canary Sandwich Shop”

In Drama on April 29, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Cast of Characters

JUDY, a 44 year old disillusioned wife, reporting for her first day of work as a waitress

PEARL, the proprietor of the diner Judy is working in, a 67 year old woman

CHRISSY, 30, another waitress

ED, a regular customer

BOB, Judy’s husband

CECILE, Bob’s much younger, secret girlfriend


One act play that takes place over one afternoon, in the present day, in a diner called the Yellow Canary Sandwich Shop.




At Rise:

(The interior of a small diner that has a long counter with stools near the entrance.  More tables are visible behind a mesh screen at center stage.  CHRISSY is wiping down countertops, and PEARL is pouring coffee for ED, who is sitting at the counter reading a newspaper when JUDY arrives.)


                   (Looks up as JUDY enters, wearing a mauve uniform dress and white tennis shoes identical to those worn by CHRISSY and PEARL)

Hello again, Judy.  Come in and Chrissy will show you where you can put your bag.

(CHRISSY moves toward JUDY and gestures toward a space behind the counter, PEARL exits)


Hi, I’m Chrissy.  Yeah, just anywhere down there is fine.  You waited tables before?


Well, yes I have, but it’s been a while.  My last job was as a waitress. (Pause)  That was in ’86.


We need to roll silverware before the lunch rush.  Here, you carry these and I’ll go get some napkins.

(JUDY takes the silverware bin and sits at the near end of the counter; CHRISSY joins her with the napkins a moment later)

You haven’t worked since 1986?  Why now?


Just decided I wanted to have my own money, that’s all.


(Points at JUDY’s wedding band)

Your husband stingy?


There’s a sweet boy that lives on our street.  (Pause)  He graduates from high school this year, and I want to send him on a trip somewhere.  He’s such a nice young —


Is he kin to you?  Shouldn’t his family get stuck with that bill?  Did you babysit him as a baby, or what?


(JUDY giggles at this comment, and becomes visibly nervous.  ED puts down his paper, interested in how JUDY will answer)

No.  I never knew him as a child.  They only moved to our street last fall.  He really is a wonderful boy…


Uh-huh.  (Pause)  Well, want a tour of the kitchen?  Come on, I’ll show you the basics before we get busy.  You really lucked out, you know, getting a job here after being out of the loop for so long.  It’s a pretty basic place.  Easy to find things.

(JUDY and CHRISSY stand up together.  CHRISSY places the rolled    silverware in a bin behind the counter.  Lights fade)





At Rise:

(Lights go up, ED is still seated at the counter, now eating his breakfast.  JUDY and CHRISSY are returning from their tour, moving downstage through a doorway in the mesh screen as a family approaches the entrance)


So that’s where you get the mayo and mustard.  Sometimes people want ketchup, or worse, horseradish.  Then you have to go spoon it out of the tubs in the walk-in I showed you.  You’ll get behind a lot running back here for that stuff.  I told Pearl we ought to keep this stuff in the front, but she never budges –


People are coming in.

(JUDY points at the entrance)


Alright, I’ll take these so I can show you how to fill out a ticket and turn it in.  I’ll be back in a minute with their order.

(CHRISSY passes through the doorway leading to the dining area.  ED raises his his coffee cup)


Miss Judy, would you mind?  It’s regular.  I see that you’re married.



(Pours coffee)

Yeah I’m married.  You?


Thank you.  I hope to be someday when I’m older.



That’s funny; I hope to be single again someday when I’m younger.


Aw, is it that bad?  (Pause) Is there another woman?


No, it’s not that bad.  Just empty.  But I’m a lot like you.


How so?


I still want to be in love, too.

(Leans in close to ED and whispers)

That’s why I’ve decided to leave my husband.  That’s why I’m working.  Today’s the first day of my new life.


I bet your husband will miss you sorely.  What’s his name?


(BOB and CECILE are approaching the entrance, and CHRISSY is returning from the dining area.  JUDY watches in disbelief, no longer paying attention to ED)


(CHRISSY approaches JUDY)


You ok?


(Pause) No.  I’m sorry.  I can’t work here.


(Removes apron and hands it to CHRISSY)

I quit.  I’m going home.  Thank you.  Nice talking to you, Ed.

(ED waves as JUDY runs out the back, just before BOB and CECILE enter.  CHRISSY stands with the apron in her hands, stunned, until BOB speaks)


Table for two, please?



Sure.  Follow me…

(Turns to lead BOB and CECILE to a table in the dining area.  Lights fade)


At Rise:

(It’s now dark outside.  A full moon is shining brightly and CHRISSY is standing at front entrance with sweater and purse in hand.  PEARL is closing her register and ED is folding his newspaper)


Crazy day, right?  I saw more excitement here today than I’ve seen all year!

(PEARL doesn’t look up from the money she’s counting, just grunts)


I agree.  Does seem a little dull around here sometimes.


Must not be too dull for you, you can’t seem to find much else to do these days except hang around here!


(Steps out of door, almost shouting)

Good night Ed!  See you tomorrow Pearl!


                   (Not speaking until sure CHRISSY is gone)

Why don’t you go home, get a sleeping bag, and camp out on the sidewalk there so when she gets here in the morning, she’ll know for sure that you’re after me.


                   (Laughs very loudly)

That girl doesn’t suspect a thing!  And anyway when are you going to stop caring?


You know I can hardly bear to listen to her mouth run as it is.

(Turns toward ED)

Can you –


Imagine?  Yes, I think I can.

(Both laugh and exit.  PEARL locks the door, then the couple exits stage right as the lights fade)



exercise, p. 298

In Journal on April 27, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Developing a dramatic premise for “The Tortoise and the Hare”

Premise- Plodding wins the race.

Based on the ideas that- 1. Boasting does not win races, or anything else, and 2. If a person is boastful, he or she will be defeated by those who work slowly, with diligence and humility.

Scene 1- Tortoise’s morning at home.  Must rise very early in order to eat breakfast and get ready for school.  Has very long lists of tasks to complete and a large calendar he uses to track school work.  Very type A and a health nut.  Rides the bus to school.

Scene 2- Hare’s morning at home, opens with Hare jumping out of bed upon realizing that he is late for school.  Struggles to find what he needs for school, his caffeine pills, and his keys.  Angry, he decides to run all the way to school instead.

Scene 3- In the school’s courtyard, before the first bell.  Hare has run all the way, and is arriving just as Tortoise is getting off the bus.  Hare is tired and clumsy, and knocks Tortoise off the curb as he passes him.  Hare doesn’t stop to help, but crosses the yard to brag to his friends about the distance he had run that morning.  Tortoise has righted himself and makes his way toward Hare.  Tortoise approaches just in time to hear Hare’s call for a challenger.  Confident with anger, Tortoise accepts.

Scene 4- Group moves to the school’s track for the race.  Hare speeds ahead of Tortoise, who is reciting his multiplication tables as he moves.  Hare runs completely out of sight of Tortoise, and doubles over.  He’s having heart palpitations due to all the excitement and his long time addiction to caffeine pills.  He is confident that he will have time to lay down and take a nap before Tortoise rounds the entire track.

Scene 5- Hare wakes to Tortoise about to finish.  He tries to win, but it’s too late.  Hare is stunned and reacts wildly.  A teacher approaches just in time to see Hare bouncing around Tortoise, slapping his shell and shouting for him to “come out of there!”

Scene 6- Hare is given after school detention.  He can see Tortoise board the bus after school through a window.

exercise, p. 328

In Journal on April 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm

BETH:  The pitcher has my goldfish in it right now.  You’ll have to use a mixing bowl.

KEVIN:  Looks like one of them has gone to paradise.

BETH:  What are you talking about?  (Looks at pitcher) They’re both in the pitch…

KEVIN:  See the one floating at the top, belly up?

BETH:  Oh, no-Bubbles!

KEVIN:  That means he’s a floater.

BETH:  What a jerk you are!  Everything you see is a joke, and everything you say is sarcastic.  You won’t even hold off when my pet has just died.

KEVIN:  Yeah he’s dead, whether I was sarcastic about it or not!

exercise, p. 304

In Journal on April 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Scene continued after the bank’s message…

MAN:  Let’s take a personal loan from Sovran.

WOMAN:  No.  I don’t feel comfortable borrowing money to fund a vacation.

MAN:  Now that we’ve paid off the second mortgage, we’d be able to make the monthly payments.

WOMAN:  Yes, technically we would-

MAN:  But?

WOMAN:  But we’d be back at square one.

MAN:  We deserve this!

WOMAN:  Yes we do. (pause) We also deserve to take a vacation without falling back into debt.

MAN:  Look, I know how hard the past few years have been on you and that’s exactly why I think that this would be worth it!  A chance to start fresh!

WOMAN:  Or a chance to throw money problems on top of money problems and hope that they cancel each other out…

MAN:  You’ll never really be debt-free, you know.  Would you rather be indebted to the bank, or to your marriage?

exercise 2, p. 313

In Journal on April 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Scene in which: 1. Two characters (Martha and Maggie) are playing scrabble 2. Arguing about whether abortion is right or wrong 3. Waiting for their lawyer to call regarding their lawsuit and 4. Sitting in another woman’s (Bird’s) kitchen as she bakes a cake


Challenge!  Contractions don’t count.


You’re ridiculous.  And that’s a ridiculous rule.  We can all plainly see, everyday, that people everywhere do in fact recognize contractions as actual words.


Those are the rules.


All right then, I’ll pass. (Exchanges tiles)


I want Dennis to stop this nonsense.


He always calls back eventually.


Well, if ours is truly the only case he’s working on, which I doubt, there should be no reason to delay in returning phone calls from his only client!


Still your turn.


I don’t like his secretary, either.


(As Martha plays her turn) See?  This is exactly what I was saying earlier.  How can you so thoroughly criticize a situation that exists for your benefit?


Basket. 14 points.  (Pause)  Abortion laws don’t benefit me if I never abort a human life, do they?  And neither does my lawyer if he wins my case, but never tells me!


(Phone rings.  Martha and Maggie are preoccupied with their argument)  You cannot control other people’s actions, Martha!


Yes, because laws don’t exist to protect innocent people from the harm that others would…


(Interrupts while kneading dough) Shall I get the phone?

exercise 1, cont. (p. 313)

In Journal on April 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

More on “Procedure”

Beat three begins with a new scene.  A remains cool and questions B about her feelings on the procedure.  We learn that it was B’s first time to handle a cadaver.  The beat ends with B stating that the procedure will remain a memorable one for her.  Beat four begins with A revealing that the dead patient was actually her father.  This unravels the tension created by A’s clinical detachment.  The beat, and the play, end with B admitting that her emotions obscured the information she was supposed to have been retaining.  A’s response mirrors the premise of the piece; that the past is unrepeatable.  This neatly resolves the various functions of the work.  The premise is stated, or rather, made clear to the audience, the plot comes to an end and the physical action, or dialogue, is realistically wrapped up.

exercise 1, p. 313

In Journal on April 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

Analyzing the beats in Joyce Carol Oates’ Procedure:

In the first beat, we see two nurses about to prepare a corpse.  One is obviously in charge (A,) and the other is a tyro (B.)  The beat ends when  B says aloud that it’s her first time to prepare a body, and A gives her a look of reproof.  The first beat contains information about the nurses’ relationship with each other.  The second beat consists of all of the steps of the procedure.  I think that one could say that the second beat is made up of several “micro-beats,” with each being a particular step of the procedure.  In each “micro” beat, nurse A remains cool and professional as she instructs B at each step.  Following each instruction, B reveals her inexperience with the physical aspects of the procedure and her emotional discomfort with the gravity of the situation.  This pattern serves three purposes: 1, It keeps the plot moving, or keeps the nurses actively carrying out the action they’re on stage to perform 2, While performing the actions, the characters are revealing things about their nature, and 3, The build-up of all these micro beats within beat two creates a lot of dramatic tension.  Beat two ends with A instructing B to transfer the body “quietly and with dignity” to the morgue, when B has been anything but quiet and dignified.

More Words…

In Journal on April 11, 2011 at 9:23 am

A continuation of my effort to not procrastinate.

Atavistic– adjective form of atavism

Atavism- recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination.  2.  an individual or character manifesting atavism

Proustian–  of or relating to Marcel Proust, his works, or his style.

So a Proustian moment describes a situation where an individual, without conscious effort, remembers the past upon seeing some random cue in everyday life.  Proust is often credited with identifying this concept.

Inimical- being adverse, often by reason of hostility or malevolence.  2.  Having the disposition of an enemy; hostile.

She Seems So Mature…

In Creative Nonfiction on April 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm

My Mother’s Husband once told me, “seems is a very safe word.”  I was a teenager at the time, and therefore utterly incapable of reading between the lines.  Today, I’m sure that he intended to foster complexity in my thinking, and he did.  I am not sure if he is aware that my naive interpretation of his advice has been showing up in most of the papers I have written since.

Safety is the ultimate goal for a child.  And I do refer to my teenage-self as a child.  Of course, safety can mean twenty different things to twenty different people.  A seven year old might consider crossing the street to be a high-priority safety issue.  In my case, intellectual safety seemed important, even necessary.  According to Betty Friedan, in the Feminine Mystique, the mark of maturity is “doing the work you’re capable of.”  At age 15, I decided that, in order to do what I was capable of, I would require an all-female college.  My first and only choice was Hollins University, in Roanoke, Virginia.  I studied all the “firsts” and accomplishments achieved by their Alumnae as if I was going to be tested.  The University produces women who go on to literally climb the highest heights; Charlotte Fox- the first woman to reach the apex of Mt. Everest, class of “79.  I am still influenced by the fact that a majority of our women Senators graduated from single-sex universities.  Based on this type of information (the kind that leaves stars in one’s eyes) I concluded that Hollins would provide the environment that I thought was critical to my growth- an environment of safety.

In 2000, Hollins offered a program called “Hollins Summer” for high school junior and senior girls.  The program consisted of a two-week stay on campus; dormitories, classes and all the rest of the college experience.  I wanted it.  Six months and $700-earned-in-an-IHOP later, I got it.  I was aware of my family’s perceptions of my maturity level; I could tell they thought it was on the increase.  I believed it was, too.  I was certain that my name would one day share something in common with the likes of Ann Compton, Lee Smith and Annie Dillard:  The name of a Hollins Alumnus.

A lot happened between my return from Hollins that summer and graduation.  Another 10 years have passed since I graduated from high school.  My trip to Hollins that summer remains the only visit I’ve ever made to Virginia.  I have nothing in common with Annie Dillard, but her short story “Terwilliger Bunts One” is featured in an anthology that was required reading for a class I did not finish.  The story is new to me, found by chance.  It’s about Dillard’s Mother, an “unstoppable force” of verbal prowess and opposition to conformity, who adored “anyone who met her verbal challenges.”  This is the part where, in the past, I would have written something like “It seems that before Dillard experienced the nurturing environment of a single-sex university, she thrived in conditions of another kind; the intellectual anarchy created by her Mother.”  Instead I’ll say this: Because of my unrealized dream of attending Hollins, I know that the safety of what seems to be is worthless.  Only what is matters to our growth.  No special locations required.

As it happened, the experience I felt would be critical to my education, to my growth as an individual, turned out to be unnecessary.  Even the idea behind my desire to have that experience is no longer valid.  Safety is not the means by which maturation is bestowed.  It is earned in what seems to be the anarchy of our lives.  It grows in little waves each time we forsake safety to meet the challenges of risk and uncertainty.  We somehow, simultaneously, practice vulnerability and resilience.  What seems to be, usually is another.

Substituting “seems” for “is” was a habit of mine that I’m glad to be rid of, although it was a process necessary to my learning to think, write and speak with certainty.  It was a good trade.  One of the memories Dillard reminisces on in “Terwilliger…” concerns a particular verbal exchange between a cashier and her Mother, who got the last word in a very clever way.  Dillard writes, “It took me years to determine where the joke lay.”  Seeing this admission, I feel that perhaps I grew to have something in common with the likes of Annie Dillard after all.


Finding More Ideas

In Journal on April 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Words interest me, specifically their associated meanings.  This interest exists outside the role of student.  From time to time, a book will hound me into starting a list of words whose meanings I intend to look up.  My interest must be wrapped in ego, because I initially resist admitting that a list is called for.  I do not stop reading to look up definitions.  Instead I do the best I can with context, and put the list aside forever when I’m done with the book.  The lists can be found in every room of my house.  Eventually, a word will begin to repeat itself on the lists.  I usually have the meaning down by the third or fourth repeat.

The following are words that I read in various sources today.  Their definitions are my first attempt at breaking the habit of waiting through multiple books to learn something.

Heuristic- Involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery or problem solving by experimental and especially trial and error methods.  Also, of or relating to exploratory problem solving techniques that utilize self-educating techniques (as the evaluation of feedback) to improve performance.

Solipsistic- Overly concerned with one’s own desires, needs or interests.  Also, solipsism (in philosophy) is the theory that one’s own mind is the only thing that can be known and verified, and/or is the only reality.