Thursday, May 28, 2009
For years now, radio drama has been totally eclipsed by film and television. However, every now and then, the art form pops up to remind us of the ways in which radio can spark the imagination. The MFA playwriting students from the acclaimed theater department at UCSD have written four very contemporary radio dramas and we will hear them and talk with the scribes.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As TV and movies evolve closer to providing us with visual virtual reality, it's easy to forget that a much simpler form of entertainment used to enthrall the nation. Without images or color, with only sound and language, the radio play gave people dramatic experiences they could never forget. The sound of an overstuffed closet opening, the ring of an unanswered phone in a murdered woman's room, or the scrape of a claw on a door. Radio drama made listeners part of the creative experience. You made up the funniest and the scariest images right inside your head. This hour, with the help of some writers from the UCSD graduate playwriting class, we're reviving the fine art of drama on the radio. The themes of the plays are modern and sometimes disturbing, but we hope it gives you a taste of that creative listening radio experience. You're going to hear from many people during this hour-long showcase so let me begin by introducing a professor of theater at UC San Diego. Allan Havis is a playwright himself and provost of Thurgood Marshall College at UCSD and Allan, welcome.
ALLAN HAVIS: Good morning, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: My other guests are all MFA students in the playwriting program at UCSD. We’ll hear short plays they’ve written to presented on the radio. The playwrights are Jennifer Barclay, Krista Knight, Stephanie Timm and we will help your play by Ronald McCants. Actors and directors from UCSD are also in our studios. I told you there were a lot of people here to perform the radio dramas and we will introduce them before each play. I would like to make clear to our audience that some of these plays are explicit and deal with adult situations. This hour of these days may not be suitable for children. So having said that, Allan, UCSD has a very well-respected theater program. How does playwriting fit into that reputation?
ALLAN HAVIS: I think for the last 25 years the playwriting program has pursued a very bold direction to look for new voices, new political thinking, new colors on stage to be as contemporary as possible, and we have a great directing and acting program too.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there anything that you could say that your playwriting students have in common in their backgrounds that brings them to be wanting to be the playwrights of the future?
ALLAN HAVIS: They are all subversive. They write sexy stuff. They’re extremely clever with their language.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what kind of prospects does a playwriting graduate student have when they get out into the world now?
ALLAN HAVIS: Within reason, they make several million dollars upon graduating. They excite all the theaters in the country. All the regional theaters come to see our festival. They pick up agents right away. They go right into production work off-Broadway or in the regional theater system.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit about the regional theater system, because I think a lot of people still think that if you're going to be successful in theater as a playwright or an actor you have to go to wither New York or Los Angeles. That there is no middle ground.
ALLAN HAVIS: That's not true. There're wonderful cities such as Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco. I mean, theater is happening in every sector of the country. But there is major media in New York and LA and I think the majority of our graduating class, actors included, go to those two cities.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And do you keep in touch with your former students?
ALLAN HAVIS: I'm on Facebook.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Can you tell us where some of them might have landed?
ALLAN HAVIS: Rachel Axler was a writer for the Daily Show, Jon Stewart for a number of years and now she's with the new show for NBC. We have a lot of writers that have worked with HBO, Melanie Marnish, a lot of writers in New York City with the public theater.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, you've curated this group of plays that we are going to be hearing today, and in your opinion, what makes a good short play?
ALLAN HAVIS: Brevity. Clarity of focus throughout the exposition and just get right to the ambience of the play. Get right to the world of the story. And end before you want to end. I think looking for the quick button is essential for the short play.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you encourage your students to be experimental in this phase of their careers? And if so, how far are you comfortable with them going?
ALLAN HAVIS: I think their chief obligation is to be clear with their audience. They could be mysterious. They don't have to give away everything that they know. But if they are so enigmatic that only their best friends would know what they are writing about, then they might be hurting their prospects.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are going to hear our first play now. It’s called Chinatown Bus. There is something very wrong on this bus and the fact is slowly discovered by two cleaners who have seen too little of the city and too much of the bus. The playwright is Jennifer Barclay and Jennifer is here with us today. Jennifer, you are graduating in June, just a couple weeks from now, right?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: That's right.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Congratulations. What are your plans?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: Well, I’m interested in staying in Southern California. I really love San Diego and I’m also interested in working in LA. In addition to pursuing play writing I’m interested in writing for film and TV and writing for the radio. I love skipping between the different genres.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: LA is conveniently close. How did you come to playwriting?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: I started out as an actor. I acted my whole life pretty much up until I came here. So, I sort of emerged from it wanting to write really juicy roles for women and roles that were not just the typical ingénue or leading lady. Something unexpected and something that showed more of the range that I see in women.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, you say you like to write across genres in the sense of writing plays and screenwriting and so forth. Is there a particular type of discipline that you like though, comedy, drama, musicals?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: Probably dark comedy or dark serial comedy would be my most natural genre. A little twisted, little dark and twisted.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think so. I think we're going to hear a little bit about that. If you would without giving anything away, could you tell us just a little bit about Chinatown Bus? At least the setting.
JENNIFER BARCLAY: Well, I heard about the Fung-Wa line, a bus line that runs between Chinatowns in the east and I was interested in exploring menace. Menace is something that I'm often interested in exploring in my plays, and the people who are sort of in the background who clean up after us, who notice things even though we don't notice them.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well after giving it this kind of buildup, let's hear it. Chinatown bus, written by Jennifer Barclay, directed by Tom Dugdale. Jennifer will perform her own work joined by MFA drama student Zoe Chow.
UMU: Oh why can't I?
UMU: Ulu, I said why can't I. I won't be long.
UMU: Why not?
ULU: Look, I wouldn’t recommend it.
UMU: Why not?
ULU: Because they might, if they come back early, and you don't have time anyway, Umu. Focus on the chrome. If not properly maintained, chrome fixtures can become dull and cloudy.
ULU: They could be back any minute and if you are not here you know what.
UMU: But I've never seen…
ULU: Who makes the rules around here?
UMU: I've never seen the city.
UMU: So, I hear the bagels are…
ULU: A paste of baking soda and dishwashing liquid.
(Both speaking at once) And there are skyscrapers…and people go to museums the train runs underground and it goes everywhere. Everyone is eating bagels, the bagels are…
ULU: What’s that?
ULU: What did you find?
UMU: Just it's a bunch of candy wrappers.
ULU: What kind?
UMU: It's just some…
ULU: What kind? Oh, oh, oh.
ULU: Shoot. Shoot I thought we had the safe bus.
UMU: What are you—
ULU: Is this the one that we scheduled for this one…they promised, not after last time.
UMU: It's okay. I'll just clean up the wrappers.
ULU: Umu, these wrappers are from peppermint candy.
ULU: So. So children love these peppermint candies striped red and white. Do you understand how easy it is for an old man with lots of money and…shoot did you see the passengers when they get off the bus?
UMU: No, I---
ULU: Yes or no?
ULU: Yes or no? Come on!
UMU: I was refilling the Windex. I was unwrapping the paper towels. I was putting on the sterile latex gloves like you showed me.
ULU: Do you know who was on this bus? Do you? Do you know who eats these things nonstop and doles them out as little gifts over and over--
ULU: Is this what, show me--
UMU: Is this…
UMU: Is this blood?
ULU: Yes, of course its blood.
UMU: That's a lot of--
ULU: Of course its blood.
ULU: Clean it. This cleaner. This is the blood cleaner.
UMU: I didn’t know--
ULU: Hurry! Because they could be back…shoot! Clean faster.
UMU: But I--
ULU: Clean better. Did any children get off the bus?
ULU: Sleeping children?
ULU: Sleeping children carried off the bus, still.
UMU: I think--
ULU: And pale?
UMU: I think, yes.
ULU: Oh no.
UMU: Where you going?
ULU: I'm on break.
UMU: No, don’t!
ULU: It’s my god-damn union. I'm going on break. I’ll be right back.
UMU: Please don't, I don't know what to…if not properly maintained chrome fixtures can become dull and cloudy. After you clean the bus the chrome fixtures should sparkle. For blinding brilliance make a paste of baking soda and dishwashing liquid. Make a paste, apply this to the armrest and rub clean with a cloth. Warm vinegar and baby oil can help with the toughest of... (humming) Hello? Ulu, is that--
UMU: The lights, I-- Could you put the lights back on please? It's very dark.
UMU: Who's there? Hello?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We just heard Chinatown Bus by playwright Jennifer Barclay. We will talk with her about that and hear several more radio plays when These Days returns in a moment here on KPBS. Welcome back. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. You are listening to These Days in San Diego. And with the help of some writers from the UC San Diego graduate playwriting class we are reviving the art of drama on the radio and we just heard Chinatown Bus by playwright Jennifer Barclay. And my guest is Jennifer Barclay and Allan Havis who is professor of theater at UC San Diego and a playwright himself. So, Jennifer, we left, that ended in a very ominous way. It's a frightening play. Where did the inspiration come from?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: I like the dark and twisted. It's interesting. I think horror is pretty hard to do on stage. And I think there is some more possibilities for it on radio.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I noticed that your two cleaners are named Umu and Ulu and also in the stage directions for the script, they just happen to be played by two women here, gender doesn't matter as far as you're concerned for the script. Why did you want that flexibility in writing this play?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: I think it's good to allow the possibility for just the best actors to be cast when I am writing things. So I try to keep things as open as possible. And I think in this particular case there is just a difference in status between the two characters. But I don't think their actual age or gender matters much at all.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, we hear that you do like sort of this darker element in your plays. Do you like it in the movies and in the other plays and books that you read?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: Yeah, definitely. I'd say that's definitely what I'm drawn to, but generally with a twinge of sense of humor. A bit of wicked sense of humor to cut it as an underlying level.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it more difficult to write a short play?
JENNIFER BARCLAY: I think, yeah. I think for different people there are different sort of natural forms that you fall towards. I think for me it is a little bit harder to do a short play, to figure out that whole arc in a punch. I think I more naturally think in sort of the 90 minute full-length play.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Allan Havis, you told us that the most important port of point of a short play is that it is short. But why it is important for playwrights to learn to write short plays. What skills does it develop in them?
ALLAN HAVIS: I think it's about getting the button. Finding the fun of concluding the setup without belaboring the exposition. On one hand we want to put as much information as we can to dress the stage but with these short radio plays it's like a joke structure. A good punchline will only work if it is a short walk around the block. If you have a long walk to get to the punchline, it just doesn't pay out.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We move to the play, another play called Firemen in the Ninth. In this play two very different Little League fans meet and eventually find out they have something in common. Now, the Playwright, Ronald McCants couldn't join us today but we are going to hear his play and Allan is there anything you want to say about this one?
ALLAN HAVIS: I mean, coming to all the plays today they have a shocking element to it, whether it’s the second shoe dropping or something that occurs in the mindset of one of the characters. Ron’s play is disturbing for its social documentation of the behavior of people.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's hear it. This is Ronald McCants’ radio drama. It’s called Firemen in the Ninth. The actors performing the piece are Sarah Garcia and Jim Carmody. Laura Bruckner will read stage directions.
LAURA BRUCKNER: Firemen in the Ninth, by Ronald McCants. Characters: Isaac, 50s, white wealthy professional voted most likable guy in high school. Zora, 30s, black, abrasive, working class. Time: any old afternoon right before sunset. A mesh fence overlooking a Little League baseball field, the sound of children, bats hitting balls, parents cheering and rumbles. Isaac standing at the fence examining the kids for a moment. The sound of someone hitting a ball and the crowd growing wild.
JIM CARMODY: Oh! Look at it! Oh, home run?
LAURA BRUCKNER: The crowd lets out a disappointed sigh.
JIM CARMODY: Shame, shame, shame. That sucks
LAURA BRUCKNER: Isaac smokes a cigarette. Zora enters and stands beside Isaac closely. Isaac tries to scoot away from her inconspicuously.
SARAH GARCIA: I used to play softball. I don't anymore, of course.
JIM CARMODY: I guess you’re talking to me.
SARAH GARCIA: You don't want company?
JIM CARMODY: Not particularly. I’m all the company I need right now.
SARAH GARCIA: Doesn't seem that way to me.
JIM CARMODY: There's about 50 yards of fence to my left. You’re free to take it. I look like I need a friend?
SARAH GARCIA: Yes.
JIM CARMODY: Leave me alone.
SARAH GARCIA: Relax. I ain't going to shoot you.
JIM CARMODY: Definitely not worried about that. Can I in any way persuade you in any way to move away from me?
SARAH GARCIA: You move.
JIM CARMODY: I was standing here first.
SARAH GARCIA: So? What’s your problem?
JIM CARMODY: You’re in my space.
SARAH GARCIA: You think I'll move because you want me to? You can just forget it.
JIM CARMODY: Screw you.
SARAH GARCIA: Screw you.
JIM CARMODY: Let me get this straight. You came over here to hmph me? Are you kidding me? Are you people everywhere I go…what, you come to politely tell me to stop smoking because kids are playing a poor game of Little League baseball 50 feet away. Leave me alone, you cigarette hating monster. I want a cigarette. Ok? I’m not at a restaurant. I'm not in a car with children. I'm effectively away from everyone but you. So go on and protect yourself and run away before my cancer mist envelops you. Man, you people, somebody needs to throw crap at you people for eight hours a day so you know how I feel.
SARAH GARCIA: All I’m asking--
JIM CARMODY: Get over it. I want a cigarette. My last dying wish won’t be a meal, but a cigarette.
SARAH GARCIA: Look, I just want to bum a cig.
LAURA BRUCKNER: Isaac gives her a cigarette and lights it.
JIM CARMODY: I assumed that--
SARAH GARCIA: Save it.
LAURA BRUCKNER: They watch the game for a little while. Someone hits a ground ball and gets an out.
JIM CARMODY: That’s no good.
SARAH GARCIA: Hmm. You ever wonder about kids?
JIM CARMODY: There’s no chance of you leaving me alone? Ok, so what do you mean?
SARAH GARCIA: Like what happens to them when Little League is over?
JIM CARMODY: That’s interesting.
SARAH GARCIA: Where they will go in life.
JIM CARMODY: By the time someone is around seven or eight you know what kind of life they will have.
SARAH GARCIA: That ain't true
JIM CARMODY: Yes it is. It’s so true, it’s scary. Look at that kid. You see him?
SARAH GARCIA: Him?
JIM CARMODY: Yeah, he’s fat.
SARAH GARCIA: He’s a kid!
JIM CARMODY: And he’s fat! That’s how his life has always been, that’s how it’s always going to be. That pig in uniform can't even run to first base. I’ve watched for eight innings. He's hit a ball a few times, he just can't make it to first base because he so fat. It's always going to be like that. He can have a great personality, strike a chord in a little girl or something but in the end he’s not going to make a home run, that piggy.
SARAH GARCIA: What about the pitcher?
JIM CARMODY: He's a winner barring the fact that he is going to go gay for a couple years he's going to turn out all right.
SARAH GARCIA: How do you know he's going to be gay? Oh, okay…nevermind. I can see he is a little…
JIM CARMODY: Look at the quiet black kid.
SARAH GARCIA: He looks pitiful.
JIM CARMODY: He’s sitting by himself. A ticking time bomb. He's going to explode one of two ways. He's either going to be really successful and make a lot of money or really, really successful at being a hostile, I'm going to shoot you in your face, loser.
SARAH GARCIA: Why is that?
JIM CARMODY: No friends. Poor. He's going to have to keep to himself. And that pudgy but not fat Indian kid?
SARAH GARCIA: Those must be his parents.
JIM CARMODY: Clocked them when I first got here. See how they stand far away from everyone else? They don't cheer or anything. They just stand there talking about how their child is becoming an American and why it was a mistake to move to America. That's going to be one screwed up kid who stays in his room and doesn't drink or party, a real drag. I think God needs to help him out a bit.
SARAH GARCIA: Are there any murderers out there?
JIM CARMODY: Not that I can tell.
SARAH GARCIA: What are the signs for a murderer?
JIM CARMODY: Quiet, gets aggravated easily, a real recluse. He wouldn't play baseball. A real murderer thinks about murder from the time they are probably five. Kids were murderous men. They get a lot of pleasure from tears. It starts with little evil things; mutilating dolls, hurting other kids on purpose and saying you're sorry. Being able to cover that up as an accident is really, really clever.
SARAH GARCIA: I'm a counselor.
JIM CARMODY: That's nice.
SARAH GARCIA: I listen to really horrible stories all day from people. A lot of people have traumatic experiences.
JIM CARMODY: What kind of people do you deal with?
SARAH GARCIA: Sex offenders in prison.
JIM CARMODY: Like rapists? Molesters and stuff? Wow. How you work with people like that?
SARAH GARCIA: I smoke a lot.
JIM CARMODY: What's the worst case you ever worked on?
SARAH GARCIA: I'm not sure you want to hear it.
JIM CARMODY: Come on, let me hear it. It must have made the news.
SARAH GARCIA: It didn’t. The kid is black. About 10 years ago, the little boy was seven. He was abducted from his house. His abductor raped and tried to kill him. He left him for dead. A group of kids were camping out. The boy saw their campfire and went to them. He was bleeding a lot. He found them and collapsed. He lost a lot of blood. So much. But, he survived and remember everything fully recovered.
JIM CARMODY: Any idea about why the man abducted him?
SARAH GARCIA: The man thought it would be easy to get rid of a boy from the ghetto. At the time his family wasn't much of nothing, well it looked like that. His mother was in school and raising him on her own. She just didn't have much money. They still don't. To someone looking at the boy it seems like he wasn’t going to be much of nothing. Who would miss him? But he did become something. About to go to college now. He's different though, I tell you. Lost more than blood that night. His mother never got over it. You finish her cigarette? I tell you his mamma never got over it. She hunted the abductor. Hunted him like a dumb little rabbit. She had a gun and could have shot him, end it all. But that wasn't enough. Not after talking to him, no, God's got ears. You find this funny? You know, she just married a policeman. He's given her a gift she's wanted for a long time. Finish your cigarette? Isaac?
LAURA BRUCKNER: Sirens.
SARAH GARCIA: Funny how life is. I think God needs to help you out. You're in my custody and I'm not going to make the same mistake you made with my boy. I'm going to own your life in a dirty little cage and I'm going to bleed you dry.
LAURA BRUCKNER: Sirens get louder. End of play.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We just heard Firemen in the Ninth. The playwright is Ronald McCants and Ronald can't be with us today, so I can't ask you anything specifically about this Allan, but when young playwrights are writing a play that is this powerful, how do you guide them?
ALLAN HAVIS: I try to stay out of their way. And ask them to be responsible with the accusations, the moral accusations that they are making on a society.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move on to our third play. It's called, it's got a long title, it’s called the Burn the Houseplants and Run Away With Me to a Lonely Spot on the Edge of a Cliff. And as the title might suggest, this is a play where two women on vacation have a rocky encounter. The playwright is Krista Knight and Krista, let me ask you just about yourself to begin with. How did you end up in the playwriting program at UCSD?
KRISTA KNIGHT: I actually started out as an undergraduate doing neuroscience and then I got sort of sucked into the theater world. And I don't know. When I heard that Naomi Zutka was teaching here I thought it might be a good opportunity to come back to school.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why did that particular teacher lure you back?
KRISTA KNIGHT: I think because of her reputation, both because of her work and her reputation as a mentor. I'm also from Northern California, so I thought it might be time to come back to the West Coast.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you recently received a grant to write a full-length play about evolution versus intelligent design. Tell us about that play.
KRISTA KNIGHT: It's called Filling. When I got the grant, when my proposal to write about evolution and intelligent design was accepted, I was like oh god, now I have to write a play actually, but, so what I did because I have a background in science, what was more interesting for me was to try to figure out why someone needed intelligent design to be true. So the conceit to Filling is an amalgamation of evolution and assimilation. So it's about a young boy who has moved from Mexico to live with his grandmother in Central agricultural California and why and how he resists sort of evolving quote unquote into an American.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How interesting. The play that we will hear today, I'm just going to call it Burn the Houseplants right now, what inspired this play?
KRISTA KNIGHT: I was sort of interested in playing with some, a nebulous border, especially in terms of women traveling. I've been reading a lot of Jane Bowles. Especially My Sister's Hand in Mine and there's something very interesting to me about women in foreign environments. So it's never specified in this play what that environment is, only that it's foreign. And they are walking along a sort of nebulous edge that keeps shifting.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, let's hear it. This play is Burn the Houseplants and Run Away with Me to a Lonely Spot on the Edge of a Cliff by playwright Krista Knight. This play is directed by Adam Aryan and stars Sarah Garcia and Zoe Chow.
LYNN: I think I have food poisoning.
ROSEY: You don't.
LYNN: I can tell, from that hotel. That sandwich is all I can see. It's all I can think about. It’s everywhere you look.
ROSEY: Do you have the map?
ROSEY: The map, Lynn.
ROSEY: We are lost.
LYNN: Tomato. Everyone I see is a tomato. See those picnickers down there, so many round tomatoes.
ROSEY: You almost went over the edge. Be careful. Jesus Christ. They should put a sign here or something, or a rail, something to keep you from hurting yourself. Do you have the map?
LYNN: It looked okay.
LYNN: The sandwich. It looked okay.
ROSEY: It was shrink-wrapped.
ROSEY: It could have been there a year. You can eat local food, it just can't have been cooked in the water. It’s contaminated.
LYNN: Where are you getting that?
ROSEY: The Field guide.
LYNN: Step out of that for a minute, will you? That's why we’re here.
ROSEY: You tell me that anymore it's really going to lose its meaning.
LYNN: I don't just say that.
ROSEY: You said it about the hotel.
LYNN: You were rude to the clerk.
ROSEY: I wanted her to spell my name right. If I don't say Rosey with a Y at the end, they misspell it.
LYNN: You should say Rosey with an –E-Y.
LYNN: Because the way you say it, people think it's R-O-S-Y.
ROSEY: You also said it about me needing to explore on my own and you are saying it now.
LYNN: If you're not going to experience something just a little out of the ordinary, just a little peculiar, R-O-S-E-Y, then why are you here?
ROSEY: You told me to come.
LYNN: I told you I was going.
ROSEY: Well that's not why I'm here and I don't have to be here to experience anything more than I do any other day, so will you just let me be without falling in love with all? Just because I'm on vacation doesn't mean I have to let go of the filter.
LYNN: Let's go down to the beach.
ROSEY: I don't want to be out here when it gets dark.
LYNN: It's not cold. It’s a tropical climate. You could live outside.
ROSEY: Did you see that?
LYNN: Why don't homeless people just move here?
LYNN: Why don’t they just move to where it's warm? They wouldn't need shelter. Their stomachs are like cow stomachs. Instead of wandering into the hospital and making us figure out if they have a brain injury or are drunk or what, why don’t they just take one of the rafts down here? I'm tired of every day everything consuming my life. I want this place to--let's hire a driver.
LYNN: Oh, it's okay now? I thought you didn't want to experience anything. Which, can I add, makes you an excellent travel companion.
ROSEY: You should call Ethan when we get back to the hotel.
LYNN: I’ve talked to him.
ROSEY: You sent them an e-mail.
LYNN: No reason to go through the gestures while I'm here. He knows I’m thinking about him. I’ll buy him a conch shell or something. You haven't called the guy, have you? Is that why you brought it up?
LYNN: Or his wife?
ROSEY: No! I'm done. I’m done.
LYNN: Are you done?
ROSEY: You didn't hear that right over by the border?
LYNN: No, Rosey.
LYNN: The edge, it was you almost went over that time.
ROSEY: Oh, I didn't see it.
LYNN: Yeah, well look at your hands.
LYNN: Look at these. These have got to be the softest hands I have ever felt. Rosey!
ROSEY: Stop it.
LYNN: I wonder if you've worked a real day of your life with these hands. Maybe I should go to night school.
ROSEY: It's called lotion.
LYNN: Okay, relax. We're on vacation. We are not lost. The hotel is right back there.
ROSEY: I think we passed the border somewhere.
LYNN: It doesn't matter. We haven't been out here long.
ROSEY: It might be hard to get back and the Field guide says be in a hotel when it gets dark.
LYNN: I want to see the picnic on the beach.
ROSEY: You know, I'm not sure those are picnickers.
LYNN: What do you mean?
ROSEY: What picnickers do you know to like things on fire like that?
LYNN: Well if you think I'm going to complain they took their clothes off, I'm not.
ROSEY: That thing they’re burning, it looks like me.
LYNN: No it doesn't.
ROSEY: That's me.
LYNN: Not everything is about you Rosey.
ROSEY: That looks like me.
LYNN: That's not you. That just looks like you.
ROSEY: That's what I said. See? There! Lynn—See?
LYNN: It’s a New World. Don't, we don't make snap judgments. That's why we’re here. Rosey? Hey, honey? Rose, Bunny, come on, this isn’t…Rosey? I was only got a minute. Rosey? Rosie! I'm glad you came. This needed to happen, Rosey, it did. Believe me, he wasn't going to leave his wife. You needed to believe it needed to happen. This is exactly why I didn't want you to come. I said it. I knew you would be game for anything. Rosey! If you made friends about me I’m leaving. It's always you. I don't know why but I thought I would get here and all these natives... I know, but a fantasy…all these natives would crowd around me and all at once just, do you want me to... Rosie?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's the play Burn the Houseplants and Run Away with Me to a Lonely Spot on the Edge of a Cliff and it was written by Krista Knight. Krista what is the relationship between Rosey and Lynn?
KRISTA KNIGHT: I think they are friends from wherever they are coming from, but have sort of fled to this place for different reasons. But I think it can be, sort of traveling together can be an interesting pressure cooker for female relationships. So I imagine that they are both sort of escaping from their own things but that one might be trying to escape sort of alongside the other.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the way you wrote the dialogue is very clipped. Why did you want to write in that style?
KRISTA KNIGHT: I think I wanted to keep, to keep the mystery of their location at the ready. So, by allowing them to go on for any extended period of time would sort of keep them from being, I think they're constantly being sort of interrupted by their relationship with the environment. So every time like they almost trip or fall that sort of cuts, that has to cut into the language and cut it short.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you a fan of David Mamet?
KRISTA KNIGHT: I am, yes. I love Glen Gary Glenn Ross. I have a complicated relationship with David Mamet, but I do love some of his work.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What other playwrights do you admire?
KRISTA KNIGHT: I love, I think Fornez is always the person that I go to, and then Carol Churchill. There's some really exciting work happening now, especially I was thinking earlier about like radio plays. Jordan Harrison has this great sort of stage/radio play called Kid Simple that really plays with both of the forms in an interesting way. Yeah, Ann Marie Healy. I think there's some really exciting work happening now. Of course Arthur Miller and Thornton Wilder. You have to go back to those classics.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The old standards. Well, let's take a break. When we return we will hear another one of our radio plays brought to us by the graduate playwrights from UCSD. You are listening to These Days on KPBS.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. You are listening to These Days I am Maureen Cavanaugh. I would like to remind our audience that some of these plays are explicit and deal with adult situations. This hour of These Days may not be suitable for children. This hour of These Days we've been doing something that's rarely done on radio in America. We are doing drama on the radio with the help of some writers from the UC San Diego graduate playwriting class. Allan Havis has been my constant guest as I've spoken with a series of playwrights. He is a playwright himself, provost of Thurgood Marshall College at UCSD and professor of theater at UC San Diego. Right now we are moving toward our fourth and final play. It's called Housebound. And in this play a troubled domestic situation Is interrupted by magical thoughts of revenge. We have the playwright on the phone with us. Stephanie Timm, can you hear me? Good Morning Stephanie.
STEPHANIE TIMM: Hello.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You started your third year of the graduate program. In what ways are you a different playwright now than when you first started the playwriting program?
STEPHANIE TIMM: I think that I have become a little more secure with my writing voice, for one thing. And I also think that in terms of getting into my writing I have, through school, working with my faculty have been able to sort of get into the writing in different ways.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Stephanie, I've asked just about all the playwrights on the show today this question, so going to ask you, how did you get into playwriting?
STEPHANIE TIMM: Well, think it's probably similar to some of the other playwrights. I was an actor first. And when I graduated from undergraduate I moved up to Seattle and I wanted to have audition material for myself and so I started reading tons and tons of plays, and just started realizing that there was a real lack of contemporary plays that had roles for, really good roles for young women such as myself at the time. And so I started writing things for myself to perform and I did that a couple times and then the writing took over. I found the writing to be much more interesting than the acting part.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, well the play is called Housebound. The playwright is Stephanie Timm. It's directed by Laura Bruckner and it stars Jim Carmody, Maritza Herrero, Krista Knight and Sarah Garcia. Let's hear it.
NARRATOR: Housebound by Stephanie Tim. Maude, 66 and her adult daughter Beth, 42, lay on lawn chairs by the backyard pool wearing matching swimming suits, hats and sunglasses. Adelaide a 14-year-old Haitian girl also in a matching swimsuit polishes Maude’s toenails.
MAUDE: Well I'm just so embarrassed about it. I can’t go to Whole Foods or the UPS store or Costco or anyplace without someone asking me.
BETH: Kissing them? But he’s Highway Patrol.
MAUDE: Yes. With tongue. Supposedly. That's what I get for marrying a younger man.
BETH: Kissing them with tongue? What does he do? Lean into the widow and give them a smooch instead of giving them a ticket? I can’t imagine it.
MAUDE: That's because you're a good girl and you don't think of your father as a sexual being.
BETH: And he's not that much younger than you.
MAUDE: That's the sad thing is, I can't imagine him as a sexual being either and I'm his wife. He’s more slug-like, asexual. That's why I was drawn to him in the first place.
BETH: Mom, stop.
MAUDE: It's part of his good cop routine. That’s what I think. Some kind of interrogation technique. But explain that to the community. No they won't hear of it.
BETH: Of course. It's more sensational in the news if he's just some kind of pervert. Maybe he just wants a little love, a little affection. Poor daddy.
NARRATOR: Barney, 60, shuffles in wearing a thick blue robe, sunglasses and slippers.
BETH: Hi, daddy.
MAUDE: Barney, I have a jar that needs opening.
NARRATOR: Barney ignores them. He kneels down beside Adelaide who stops polishing Maude’s toenails for a moment. He pulls a quarter out of her ear.
MAUDE: Barney, sweetie, did you hear what I said?
(Speaking in French)
ADELAIDE: Yes, like Harry Potter.
NARRATOR: Barney hands her a plastic lawn that’s clear and it has magenta stars and glitter inside that moves when turned this way and that. Barney pats her on the head. He shuffles out.
MAUDE: He’s lost his mind temporarily. He’s suddenly speaking high school French.
BETH: Who is that by the way?
MAUDE: Who? Adelaide? Our maid of course. Your father got her for me at Christmas.
BETH: But I thought you had the Merry Maids come in.
MAUDE: I needed someone full time. A live in. She's more than a maid. She like a daughter to us. Aren’t you, Adelaide? A daughter who does her chores.
NARRATOR: Maude pats Adelaide on the head.
MAUDE: Yes, yes. A very good daughter. If it weren't for Addy, I wouldn’t be able to get anything off of high shelves. That's how useless your father is right now. But Addy, she can climb around and fit into nooks and crannies like you wouldn't believe.
BETH: Isn't she a little young?
MAUDE: That's how you get them these days. She's from Haiti, poor thing. Part of the Diaspora.
BETH: The Diaspora?
MAUDE: Now she lives in a nice, nice land of southern Florida, don't you sweetheart?
BETH: I just don't understand why she gets to wear matching swimsuits with us.
MAUDE: Don't be jealous, Beth, honey. We love Addy. We've practically adopted her and you are too old for sibling rivalry.
NARRATOR: Maude and Beth lay back in the sun. Lights shift. Adelaide stands up, holds out her wand. She addresses the audience.
ADELAIDE: I believe in magic, magic like Harry Potter. I am an orphan like Harry Potter and I live in the closet under the stairs. These people, they do not know my powers. But soon I will unleash them. I will revenge them for making me shower with the garden hose. I will revenge them for making me wear matching outfits with the old lady. I will steal all of their quarters, lots and lots of quarters. Then torture them endlessly by shoving them into their ears. I will take my revenge on them. And then I will flee to a magical land to the north called Québec and be reunited with the other witches and wizards of my family.
NARRATOR: Adelaide winds up her magic wand and then suddenly points it at Maude, whose whole body spasms of the she's been stabbed. Adelaide smiles. She then winds up her magic wand and points it at Beth, who suddenly grabs her throat as if she's been strangled. Adelaide smiles and shakes up her wand and watches the glitter float to the bottom.
ADELAIDE: I am not Adelaide, but instead Harry Potter.
NARRATOR: Lights shift and Maude and Beth lie as before.
MAUDE: Adelaide, sweetheart, go get mommy some more water, okay?
NARRATOR: Maude hands Adelaide an empty plastic cup.
BETH: Me too.
NARRATOR: Beth hands her a plastic cup also.
ADELAIDE: Yes, yes.
NARRATOR: Adelaide takes their cups and exits. End of play.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That was the play Housebound by Stephanie Timm. Stephanie, what inspired Housebound?
STEPHANIE TIMM: I think I ran across a news article about a couple in Florida. I collect weird news articles of strange news, and I read a little article about this woman and her daughter in the South, southern Florida who had basically a house slave from Haiti. And in the article there were details, like they made her shower with the garden hose and how they had her since she was 12. And just the whole thing just seemed very strange and interesting and I was just intrigued by what kind of family would think this is okay in America, in the modern world. Yeah, so it got, the article got me thinking.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's very interesting. Harry Potter's story serves as a reference point in your play. Adelaide compares herself to Harry Potter. Why? Why that device?
STEPHANIE TIMM: Well I was thinking about how Harry Potter is an orphan and Adelaide is an orphan and just the idea, I always sort of wonder, people who are powerless or in situations where they are powerless, how do they find power within themselves to cope with the situation that they are in. And I think that fantasy and storytelling and pretend are a way that young people are able to cope with traumatic things that go on in their lives. So that's why Harry Potter.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Stephanie, the reason that you’re not able to be with us in studio today is because you are really just days away, perhaps hours away from giving birth. And writers often have a certain time they like to write, like early mornings or late at night. I wonder what you've been thinking about how you are going to adjust your schedule to write while you are having a newborn.
STEPHANIE TIMM: Oh boy. I think it's going to be a big challenge. I’m definitely a morning person. I can't really focus very well after 12 o'clock in the afternoon. And so, it'll be interesting. I think I'm going to be very exhausted. I think there's going to be a lot of strange writing that comes out of exhaustion. In the 30 minutes that I have while the baby is sleeping.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well good luck, Stephanie, and thank you for joining us today.
STEPHANIE TIMM: Thank you so much.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Allan Havis, thank you so much for being here today and guiding us through these plays and picking these plays for us.
ALLAN HAVIS: Maureen, thank you so much. It was a lot of fun. Thank you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is Allan Havis. He is professor of theater UC San Diego and a playwright in his own right. I want to thank very much our playwrights Jennifer Barclay, Krista Knight, Ronald McCants and Stephanie Timm. And the actors and writers from the UCSD theater department who took part in our radio drama experiment today.