TEACHING PLAYWRITING IN HIGH SCHOOLS

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STUDENT NUMBER ONE

ME: So what have you got?

STUDENT 1: Nothing.

ME: Who’s your main character?

STUDENT 1: I don’t know.

ME: What’s his name?

STUDENT 1: John. No…wait… (long pause) No, it’s John I guess.

ME: Where does he live?

STUDENT 1: I don’t know.

ME: What city?

STUDENT 1: I don’t know.

ME: When he wakes up in the morning, what’s the first thing John sees?

STUDENT 1: Nothing.

ME: Okay, so John is blind. Good start. Write that down.

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STUDENT NUMBER TWO

ME: What’s your play called?

STUDENT 2: “Pole Hoes.”

ME: What’s it about?

STUDENT 2: Pole hoes.

ME: You mean like, strippers?

STUDENT 2: Yeah.

ME: What happens to them?

STUDENT 2: They get abortions.

ME: Abortions, huh?

STUDENT 2: Cause one girl, she get raped.

ME: Ah. You wrote “rapped” here instead of “raped.”

STUDENT 2: I did?

ME: “Someone help me!” she says. “I’ve been rapped.”

STUDENT 2: I gotta change it?

ME: Yes. But you can wait until you type it.

STUDENT 2: I gotta type it?

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STUDENT NUMBER THREE

ME: So what are you writing about?

STUDENT 3: It’s about a boy, he’s fighting with his grandfather.

ME: Cool. What about?

STUDENT 3: Well his name is Axel and he’s supposed to save the world but he doesn’t want to.

ME: How is he supposed to save the world?

STUDENT 3: That’s his destiny. But he’s angry so he wants to destroy it instead of saving it.

ME: Why is he angry?

STUDENT 3: His mom died.

ME: So why are you writing about his fight with his grandfather?

STUDENT 3: Because I lost it.

ME: What do you mean?

STUDENT 3: I wrote it and it was great but I lost it when it fell out of my notebook so I need to rewrite it.

ME: What notebook.

STUDENT 3: This notebook. I’ve been writing this.

ME: Wait…every page is filled. How long have you been working on this?

STUDENT 3: About two years. And I wrote the scene with the grandfather but the pages fell out and I lost them. Man, that was a bad day.

ME: You’re writing a novel.

STUDENT 3: I guess. It’s just a story.

ME: Can I read it?

STUDENT 3: Yeah. I guess. I’m nervous.

ME: Why?

STUDENT 3: No one’s ever seen that before.

ME: You’ve never shown anyone this notebook?

STUDENT 3: Just my mom.

ME: So…what happens in this story?

STUDENT 3: Axel is supposed to save the world. That’s what all the prophecies say. But a Sage murdered his mom and his grandfather never told him. So now he told him so Axel gets angry and doesn’t want to save the world anymore. So he goes out to the woods to kind of think and be alone. He has to figure out what he wants to do.

ME: Has your mom read this?

STUDENT 3: Yeah. She says she loves how words just flow right out of my pencil.

ME: Have you made a copy of this notebook?

STUDENT 3: No.

ME: Okay. Well the first thing we’re going to do is go to the office and make copies of every page. I’ll keep the copies safe so if you ever lose the notebook, you can just as me, okay?

STUDENT 3: Okay.

ME: So is this what you want to do? Writing?

STUDENT 3: Yeah. I love it. I write all the time. I think about it all the time. Because Axel, you know, it’s like…he’s me. I’m writing about myself.

ME: That’s usually how it works. How old are you?

STUDENT 3: Sixteen.

ME: Do you want to be a writer?

STUDENT 3: I want to get really, really good at it. Because I know I can’t make any money off it unless I’m really, really good. And I hope I make some money but really that’s not why I do it. It’s not about the money. I write because I love it. And I just want to keep writing until it’s perfect. So people will read it. I want to be known.

CONVERSATIONS WITH NICK ABOUT THE THING THAT GOT STUCK UP HIS NOSE

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NICK: Dad! Dad! Help!

ME: What’s wrong.

NICK: Okay. I had a thing. A red thing. And I was just smelling it. And it just, like, jumped in my nose and it’s way up there and I can feel it! How am I gonna get it out???

ME: Wait, wait, wait…hold on. You stuck something up your nose?

NICK: I didn’t stick it up my nose, dad. I was just smelling it and holding it close to my nose.

ME: What were you smelling?

NICK: The red thing.

ME: You were smelling a red thing and you sniffed it up your nose.

NICK: Yeah! But dad…it will probly be okay, right? I mean probly it’s just gonna come out later.

ME: Okay. Was it big or small?

(long pause)

NICK: Small.

ME: It was just a small thing?

NICK: Yeah.

NICK’S GRANDMA: I’ll go get some of that saline stuff.

ME: Good. Okay.

NICK: WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO DAD???

ME: Hey, you know what? It’s totally okay. We’re gonna try to flush it out.

NICK’S GRANDMA: Here.

ME: Great. Okay, which side is the red thing on?

NICK: It went into this nose over here. Not the other nose.I was just holding it close to my nose, dad! And it sniffed up in my nose!

ME: What I want you to do is tilt your head and snort the water into the other nose. Can you do it?

NICK: Uh-huh.

ME: There you go. Good! Now tilt your head the other way and blow. There you go.

NICK: It didn’t come out, dad!!!

NICK’S GRANDMA: What did this thing look like?

NICK: It was from my art project at school.

NICK’S GRANDMA: Was it a piece of the red rice you used on this picture?

NICK: Yeah.

NICK’S GRANDMA: It was?

NICK: Yeah. Dad? I was just trying to smell it and it just jumped up my nose! Maybe it will just come out when I go to bed, dad!

NICK’S GRANDPA: All right. Nick, lie down. Grammy, get a flashlight.

NICK: How big are my sinuses dad?

ME: Just lie down, Nick.

NICK: Okay…OKAY…

NICK’S GRANDMA: Here’s the flashlight.

NICK’S GRANDPA: Let’s take a look here… Oh. I see something.

NICK: WHAT IS IT???

NICK;S GRANDPA: C’mere and look.

ME: Oh, wow. It’s huge. Hang on. I’ll go get some tweezers.

NICK’S GRANDPA: You just lie still, Nick.

NICK: So I just was sniffing it, okay? And it just got snuffed right up my nose! I didn’t mean to do it!

ME: Okay. Shine the light in there. I see it. It’s not too far…okay. Got it. It’s kinda stuck. THERE! Got it.

NICK’S GRANDPA: What is it?

ME: I don’t know. What the heck is this?

NICK: What is it, dad?

NICK’S GRANDMA: Let me see it. It’s squishy.

ME: Yeah, but it’s kind of hard in the middle.

NICK’S GRANDMA: Is it food?

ME: I don’t think so.

NICK’S GRANDPA: Is that paint on it? Or ink?

ME: It’s not coming off on my fingers.

NICK: Probly it’s just a thing.

ME: Wait…Nick, you made that Christmas ornament at school. With the picture of you as Rudolph.

NICK: Uh-huh.

ME: Is this the nose? Did it fall under the table while we were packing the ornaments away?

NICK: Yeah. That’s probly it.

ME: So you had Rudolph’s nose inside your nose.

NICK: Dad?

ME: Yeah.

NICK: Can we put it back on the ormament?

EAVESDROPPING ON STRANGERS – At the used record store

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(At a used record store in Philly. She’s behind the counter.)

MAN: I can’t believe he gave you poetry.

WOMAN: Like a whole book of poetry.

MAN: Wait…that he wrote?

WOMAN: No, no. In a book. He gave me a whole bunch of things.

MAN: Still…

WOMAN: Then I found…I don’t know if I should…

MAN: What?

WOMAN: He gave me this too.

MAN: Wha…? Holy… HA! He gave you that?

WOMAN: Totally.

MAN: Oh my God! That’s disgusting.

WOMAN: Look at this part.

MAN: OH MY GOD!

WOMAN: I know, right?

MAN: I would feel weird just carrying that around!

WOMAN: It is weird. But it’s totally not weird if you know him.

MAN: That’s not weird??? That’s totally weird!

WOMAN: No, it IS weird. I’m saying… if anyone else gave me this, I’d be like… but he’s so funny that I just didn’t take it seriously. Like if Terry gave it to me –

MAN: Now HE is weird.

WOMAN: Totally fucking weird. I mean I like him. He’s cool. I would totally hang out with him. But if he gave me this that would be TOTALLY weird.

MAN: You should put it on display in the store.

WOMAN: I know, right?

MAN:  Can you imagine? Kate comes down one day –

WOMAN: Oh my God.

MAN: There’s, like, a whole bunch of them on a table in the center of the store.

WOMAN: HAHAHA! Holy. Shit.

MAN: So are you gonna keep it?

WOMAN: God, no.

MAN: What are you going to do with it?

WOMAN: I’ll probably trade it to Sticky Steve.

EAVESDROPPING ON STRANGERS – Today at the library

library

EAVESDROPPING ON STRANGERS
SCENE – THE LIBRARY
MAN: Hi.
WOMAN: What can I do for you?
MAN: Um… so here’s my… this is what happened. I was… there was this little girl that works at a diner down there.
WOMAN: Uh-huh.
MAN: And she was supposed to meet me here and show me how to send an application… but she’s not not coming.
WOMAN: Okay. This is the reference desk, so…
MAN: I don’t know anything about computers. I mean I don’t even have one and she was supposed to… she said she would come down here… meet me at the library and show me how to see what jobs were out there.
WOMAN: Okay. I see.
MAN: But now it’s like she’s not even returning my phone calls. At all. I mean I just tried her again and she’s not there.
WOMAN: Right.
MAN: And she said her boyfriend got a job and she helped him and she was gonna meet me here and show me. She works at that diner, down there.
WOMAN: I don’t know –
MAN: So is there anyone here, like… that I could talk to? That could show me…
WOMAN: Well, yeah.
MAN: How to… I don’t even have a computer and I guess…
WOMAN: What would we do is you could make an appointment and come back and whoever is free can help you –
MAN: My brother dropped me off here. I’m staying with him. I don’t have a car… Like if I come tomorrow, I don’t know if I can come tomorrow.
WOMAN: Okay.
MAN: Like… could you help me right now, or…
WOMAN: I’m… I’m… I wish I could. I’m at the desk right now so if people come up…
MAN: Yeah, I’m not gonna… if you need to go.
WOMAN: Right. I’m sorry.
MAN: Could I just… slide behind there? I mean just for a second?
WOMAN: Uh… sure.
MAN: And you could show me… just for a second… how do you find out where there are jobs.
WOMAN: Uh…okay. Like… in the area?
MAN: Yeah.
WOMAN: So what kind of work do you do?
MAN: Like something in… like if there’s a warehouse or packaging or sending out things. Organizing. Sending out things.
WOMAN: Let’s look at… so these are the jobs at the Amazon warehouse.
MAN: Okay. Just these?
WOMAN: No, there’s ten pages here. There are currently 278 jobs available with Amazon.
MAN: Oh, wow. Oh, wow! See this is already… I mean already, you just…
WOMAN: But…but… they’re not… they’re not all…
MAN: I don’t see a phone number. Who do I call?
WOMAN: You don’t. You would send them a resume.
MAN: Okay. Right. So I would just send it?
WOMAN: Yeah, but you see, each one of these jobs has a job number so you couldn’t just send in one resume for all these jobs. You would have to go through and see which ones you qualify for and then you would apply for each individual job.
MAN: Oh.
WOMAN: And I don’t… that’s really something you’d need to do on your own and really take some time and go through it on your own.
MAN: I don’t have a computer at home, so… what’s this here?
WOMAN: That says there’s a position in the warehouse.
MAN: Oh! Okay! Yeah, that’s what I mean. Something like that. How many…?
WOMAN: There’s one warehouse position.
MAN: Oh.
WOMAN: In California.
MAN: Oh… so this is not even…
WOMAN: I guess not. I guess this is all over.
MAN: You see I’m originally from Mount Laurel. That’s where I’m from. But my brother has a room. My wife… I have to get my resume from her. When she left, she changed all the passwords and so I can’t get…
WOMAN: Ohhhhhhhh…
MAN: It’s something else. My brother has a couch and so that’s where I am. I really wish the girl from the diner… I don’t know why she… So I had to get down here. And something in the area. A job in the area.
WOMAN: Right, well, you know where you can also look is monster.com
MAN: Monster?
WOMAN: dot com.
MAN: Monster dot com?
WOMAN: Yes. You would put your resume on there and… see businesses don’t just put things on their own website. They put them on other websites to try and get to as many people as possible.
MAN: This place has really changed. I remember being here years ago but not recently. It’s different now.
WOMAN: So if you have a resume, you would put it up here.
MAN: Where?
WOMAN: Monster dot com.
MAN: Monster?
WOMAN: dot com. Do you want me to write that down for you?
MAN: Yes.
WOMAN: (writes) Monster… (writes) dot (writes) com.
MAN: The girl from the diner… she said her boyfriend sent in a resume with his smart phone.
WOMAN: Ha! Probably did.
MAN: So I have to do a resume then.
WOMAN: Well… yes.
MAN: I don’t… I had one but my wife changed all the passwords.
WOMAN: Okay… um… come over here.
MAN: This is really nice of you.
WOMAN: Oh, it’s my pleasure.
MAN: No really. Thank you.
WOMAN: Look here are books about writing a resume, sending out a resume…
MAN: (looking through book) So there are different styles and things.
WOMAN: Yes.
MAN: Okay, okay. Well you’ve given me… you’ve really… I already feel like there’s a lot to think about here and consider.
WOMAN: Yeah.
MAN: So thank you.
WOMAN: Okay.
MAN: I mean it. This was just wonderful of you. This was really good of you. You were very helpful.
WOMAN: Oh… you’re welcome.
MAN: Thank you.
WOMAN: You’re welcome.
MAN: I’m gonna take some of these brochures.
WOMAN: That’s why they’re there.
MAN: Thank you.
WOMAN: You’re welcome.
MAN: Goodbye.
WOMAN: Bye.