Hi. Thought I would start small and very carefully. Have written this short this morning because I know I must get writing and give it a go. It is based on a real incident that happened to me a few years ago, so in a way I am safe because I can't claim to have written too much of it! It was already written as a real event! But, it is a starting point and I would appreciate all feedback. Thanks, Nikip xxxxxx Ps have no idea why it is underlined. It isn't in my document! Apologies! I have absolutely no idea how to fix the problem!
In the park
A woman is sitting on a park bench smoking. She is on a break from work, hiding
from the no-smoking policy of the adjacent school where she teaches. A van pulls
up. A white, South African man in blue overalls climbs out and starts cleaning the
dog shit out of the red bins nearby.He nods towards her and smiles
Man: You work next door? (He opens the bin and takes out a large, over-full plastic bag)
Woman: Yes, I teach….I teach English.
Man: That’s a hell of a job! (Woman glances at bag).
Man: I wanted to teach once, then changed my mind and went into Civil Engineering. (puts bag down in front of him). Never completed the course though. All the white
boys were marched out of university in Zimbabwe at gunpoint. Some Government
Woman: You from South Africa then? (man arches eyebrow. Woman laughs).
Sorry! Completely crap with accents! You could have just as easily been from
Birmingham as South Africa! I always get them in a muddle! (she drops her gaze to
Man: You like Macbeth? Great play. Studied it at A level. All those supernatural dark themes, all that power and greed. Gets under your skin a bit.
Woman: Yes. I’m teaching it right now in fact. Wish I could give my Year 9’s some
of your enthusiasm!
Man: What else are you teaching now?
Woman: (thinks) Well, to the older ones, “Of Mice and Men.”
Man: Ah Steinbeck. Love that novel. Poor George. What a decision!
Woman: What happened next?
Man: (confused) Eh?
Woman: In South Africa? What happened next?
Man: Worked on the roads, trying to make links between townships. Did that for a
while. Sitting ducks though. 5 crew shot in a week. I arrived in Britain 6 months ago. Asylum seeking. (man makes apologetic mock speech marks in the air). Guess
this job keeps the food on the table! (he smile. Woman smiles back awkwardly)
(School bell rings. Woman stands up)
Woman: Hope you get lucky. Might see you again?
Man: I am lucky. (he picks up the bag) Oh, what was that black guys name again?
(Woman looks puzzled)
Man: The black guy….in “Of Mice and Men”?
(Man walks back to the van, turns and lifts the bag in front of his body, laughing)
I love the juxtaposition of English teacher - black guy cleaning dog-shit bins - opposing experiences & cultures - and the wonderful surprise that undermines our suppositions-based-on-what-we-see. The Macbeth discussion - fantastic. It's all there, Nikip. Loved your opening: Hi. Afternoon. pause. You work next door? Then there's some fantastic information: Civil Engineering, Simbabwe at gunpoint, Macbeth, Of Mice and Men, working on roads between townships, Asylum seeker in Britain. And the ending is superb. My only advice (for what it's worth) is to look at the information in the middle and think about how you deliver it to an audience. Audiences don't like to be told everything - they like to discover. It's that old thing of showing, not telling (same as in poetry). And think about how people talk - interruptions, hesitations, unfinished sentences, overlapping, pauses, etc. Think about the rhythm. Think about the interest and entertainment value. And, most of all, think about seeing and hearing it as you write (i.e. it's for the stage). Read it aloud.
I think I've gone on enough. Sorry. But you MUST develop this. You must!
I'd take more time letting it unfold. In an instant we learn that he's an educated guy. I'd let the audience assume what they will at first - give them a chance to learn something about themselves. I think you have a much longer play here.
I agree with Kate that you have to stay with this - it's such an interesting, unexpected little slice of life, and I read it really wondering what is going to happen next. As you know from our discussion of Kate's play, this to me is a big win. Is he going to hit on her? Is her going to mug her? Then he starts talking about Shakespeare and Of Mice and Men. Fabulous.
The questions that the man asks and what he describes reveal so much about him - I was curious to learn more about the woman - some idiosyncratic detail.
I think you have the beginning of a longer play here. They have to see each other again. Something has to happen.
Great idea! I was in the jewellers the other day, buying wedding rings (excited me!) Next to me was another couple doing the same. The jeweller enthusiastically asked when they were getting married and the guy said "September." She then enthused some more and said the the prospective bride "I bet you are excited" and she replied in a very monotone, slow Brummy voice "No, I keep fainting and have been on medication ever since he asked me."
And Boz, thanks for your comments. I feel incredibly inspired to write right now because of all the support I have had. x
Wonderful piece. This is where, as playwrights, we can think outside of the box. A lot of the comments, and I read them all, had to do with direction, more than writing. If I were directing this piece, that pause, after Hi, and afternoon....might be three minutes long. I thought the exchange was true. I love half sentences, characters finishing the other's lines, etc, however, in a first encounter, this is truer...more believable. For some reason, I think I'd switch the first two lines. Man: Afternoon Woman: Hi.
Nitpicking...but this...You could have just as easily been from Birmingham as South Africa! Could easily be this, You could have just as easily been from Birmingham...somehow flows better...and the meter of this play is very important.
I wanted her to invite him to her class...and have him inspire and all that dreamy eyed idealism that is always my first instinct. Then, it was important that this just be a moment in their lives.
Here is something I have learned...the hard way. I do write truths...I have a weirdo magnet and wacky things happen. Get down the truth, then lie. Smile.
I really like this piece a lot. I'm thinking if she enters, lights the cigarette and smokes the entire thing...that would be the length of your play. I didn't like the bell, too obvious. She knows how long she has. Glance at her watch, put out the cigarette, and you have a ten minute play.
Fantastic advice thanks Paddy. I am wrestling it now as it happens! I think you are right about switching the openining around, especially after what Swann said about thinking he was threatening. Perhaps it would show her as more suspicious of him. I'll give it a go!
Someone who posted seemed to assume the guy was black. I assumed he was white. I guess he could be either from South Africa. Did I miss something? I thought he was white because of his statement about the "white' guys being shot and also he is described as white in the character description.
I assumed the woman was black for no reason at all except it would add interest. The race might be important if it somehow relates to the theme of the story. But it is would also an interesting juxta position.
You must develop it further. Your dialogue is terrific. You have us all enthralled.
I like "assumptions" as a theme. It's amazing how many mistakes result from assumptions. You described the character as white in the character description so I assumed he was white and that was reinforced by his statement about South Africa. I didn't question that until I saw another poster thought he was black. Then I had to go back to read it again to see if I was correct. Maybe your idea of assumptions could be fleshed out as you extend the play.
If the woman couldn't see his face because it is covered with a scarf due to cold or something, she might assume he is black due to his menial job? If she is a light skinned black woman he might assume she is white because of her teaching job. That might give you an opportunity to explore their racial assumptions and how those assumptions affect their reactions to each other then reveal their real identity and see how they react to that.
Just an idea. You've got something good going. Keep it moving.