a note that warms my heart

Got such a nice note today that I can’t help but share it.

Feedback — just the knowing that students have put my work to use — warms my heart.

I get frequent requests to use my ten minute plays in classrooms of all levels.  I’m always grateful, and usually ask the teacher or student to share with me how things go.  Sometimes they do.

Thanks, Jenn.

Jenn lives in Perth, Western Australia, and works as a Visiting Teacher for the Deaf at a mainstream high school that boasts an inclusive education unit.

Her note:

Hi Sam,

I hope you’re well.

I requested to use Easy Credit a few weeks ago with the deaf kids who I teach and it has been great! You say on your website that you wonder how things went so I thought I’d take you up on it.

I hope you don’t mind but I made up some focus questions (my role as a Visiting Teacher is to encourage/ develop strategies to include reading, writing & speaking so by using your play we were doing all three!) for afterwards and got some really interesting answers.

I have two year 12 students I teach in individual withdrawal sessions. I used Easy Credit with each of them and we had some fun with swapping around who was playing two characters etc.

My focus questions (which required full sentence written answers) were:
1) Why is the father angry?
2) Why is the mother angry?
3) Do the parents have a good or bad opinion about theur daughter’s behaviour? How can you tell?
4) What is your opinion of the daughter’s actions? Why do you think that?

The first three questions were answered fairly similarly but the fourth was curious.

One of the students said that he had a bad opinion of the daughter because ‘she took money from me and Mum’. (He was playing the role of the Dad in the play and clearly took it to heart, which I found quite interesting in itself).

The other one said he had a good opinion of the daughter because she was ‘being a coolhead without having an argument’.

So, I just thought I’d let you know.

Take care,
Jenn

They're called tweets, President Mubarak (a short play)

President Hosni Mubarak
President Hosni Mubarak

The private chambers of EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK.  He works at his desk, with paper and pencil.  Enter CHIEF OF STAFF.

SCENE 1

EGYPTIAN CHIEF OF STAFF:  Mr. President, the people are revolting.

PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK: You can say that again.

CHIEF:  No Sir, I mean they are actually revolting.

MUBARAK:  What seems to be the problem?

CHIEF:  They want a middle class, Sir.

MUBARAK:  They’ve got one.

CHIEF:  It’s disappeared, Sir.

MUBARAK:  Disappeared!  You are in the middle class.

CHIEF:  I’m the only one, Sir.  We basically have two economic classes now, Sir.  The poor.  And the billionaires.

MUBARAK:  Who is revolting?

CHIEF:  The poor.

MUBARAK:  That’s good to hear.  I’ve got enough problems without having a bunch of unhappy billionaires on my back.

CHIEF:  I’m not so sure, Sir.  There are so many poor people.

MUBARAK: So where exactly is this revolt?

CHIEF:  In the streets.

MUBARAK:  Then close the streets.

CHIEF:  We’ve tried that, Sir.  They keep moving to another street.  We can’t close them all.

MUBARAK:  Of course we can.  Impose a curfew.

CHIEF:  Yes, Sir.

SCENE 2

CHIEF:  The people are still revolting.

MUBARAK:  I’m sure they are.

CHIEF:  The curfew isn’t working, Sir.

MUBARAK:  Why not?

CHIEF:  They won’t listen.  It’s impossible to enforce.

MUBARAK:  Cut off the telephones.  That’ll stop ’em.

CHIEF:  They aren’t calling each other, Sir.  They’re using the Internet.

MUBARAK:  Excuse me?

CHIEF:  The Internet, Sir.  Computers wired together.

MUBARAK: They can do that?

CHIEF:  Yes Sir.  They also have wireless devices.  And they text.

MUBARAK:  Since when do the common poor use these Internets?

CHIEF:  They use it quite a bit, Sir.

MUBARAK:  And they talk to each other on this?

CHIEF:  Yes, Sir.  Mostly with social networking sites.

MUBARAK:  Why would the common peasant need this?

CHIEF:  Fun, mostly. They share things and tweet.  For example, yesterday I posted some amazing pictures of my granddaughter’s birthday party.  In some ways, I think it makes for a richer online experience.

MUBARAK:  Isn’t that nice.

CHIEF:  They also use these sites to discuss politics and plan protests.

MUBARAK:  Then this is the problem.  What are the names of these so-called websites?

CHIEF:  Facebook.  Twitter.  Youtube.

MUBARAK:  Shut these down!  Immediately!

CHIEF:  I don’t know if that’s a good idea.

MUBARAK:  If it resides inside my head, then by definition, it’s a good idea.  Would you like to have your head cut off?

CHIEF:  No Sir.

MUBARAK:  Then ban these Facebooks and Twitters.

CHIEF:  Yes Sir.

SCENE 3

CHIEF:  Mr. President, the people are really revolting now.

MUBARAK:  Tell me about it.

CHIEF:  It’s not a modifier, Sir.  It’s a verb.  Hundreds of thousands of them are in the streets now, revolting.  I’m afraid they might set this building on fire.

MUBARAK:  Still that middle class bullshit?

CHIEF:  The economic grievances have been building for some time, Sir.  But the more immediate problem now is Facebook and Twitter.

MUBARAK:  I told you to shut those down.

CHIEF:  We did that, Sir.  It made the problem worse.

MUBARAK:  If we turned it off, then why is it worse?

CHIEF:  The people want to Tweet, Sir.  They want to update their Facebook status and connect with their friends.  They’re angry.

MUBARAK:  Have the police arrest them.

CHIEF:  Not an option, Sir.

MUBARAK:  If it comes out of my mouth, then it’s an option.

CHIEF:  The police are on their side.

MUBARAK:  On their side?

CHIEF:  Yes, Sir.

MUBARAK:  But the police work for me.

CHIEF:  Police are people, too, Sir.  The revolt is widespread.

MUBARAK:  So the police are not following orders?

CHIEF:  No Sir.

MUBARAK:  Then call out the military.  I’ve never had any problem with them.

CHIEF:  That may piss the people off even more.

MUBARAK:  Maybe so.  But if we kill a few, the rest of the people will fall in line.

SCENE 4

CHIEF:  The people are still revolting, Sir.

MUBARAK:  I’m well aware of that.  Have we killed a few?

CHIEF:  Yes, Sir.

MUBARAK:  And they’re still up to no good?

CHIEF:  They’re fighting back, Sir.  They’re filling the streets and burning government buildings.

MUBARAK:  Then perhaps we should kill some more.

CHIEF:  You may want to leave the country, Sir.

MUBARAK:  Leave the country?  You think I need a vacation?

CHIEF:  No Sir.  You may need to leave permanently, Sir.

MUBARAK:  You would look very different without a head.

CHIEF:  I’m sure I would, Sir.  But part of my job description is advising you.

MUBARAK:  And you would risk your life by advising me to leave my country?

CHIEF:  Only because it may save your life.

MUBARAK:  Nonsense.  Where would I go?

CHIEF:  South America is always a good option.

MUBARAK:  And who would lead my people?

CHIEF:  They want to select a different leader.

MUBARAK:  I don’t understand.

CHIEF:  The people are ready for a change, Sir.

MUBARAK:  After 30 years — the best years of my life — and this is the thanks I get?  That’ll be all.  You can leave now.

CHIEF:  They want change in their government.

MUBARAK:  You’re talking gibberish.  You may go now.

CHIEF:  It’s been a pleasure, Mr. President.  I’m going to Paraguay.

MUBARAK:  Paraguay!  What’s in Paraguay?

CHIEF:  Google it.

MUBARAK:  What does that mean?

CHIEF:  Goodbye, Sir.

He exits.

end of play

St. Thomas Players Production of Yasmina Reza's Art

for The Salisbury Post

Salisbury has always been a good theatre town. I know there’s a rich history dating back to the previous century. And I know I’ve missed a few in my time (almost five and a half decades).

But it seems like Salisbury theatre has made some strides in recent years that sets it apart.

We don’t just have a community theatre offering shows every two months on a fairly big stage to a fairly big house.

We’ve also got a full season at Catawba, one of the finer college theatre programs in the state, if not the country.

And we have smaller companies, and some professional actors who live and perform here, offering a rich menu of quality theatre on a frequent basis.

I’m pretty sure that’s not normal for a town this size. I’m pretty sure it’s remarkable.

Just two weeks ago, Joe Falocco — a consummate actor with a Salisbury address — presented Shakespeare’s Villains at Lee Street Theatre. It was delightful, smart, and incredibly funny.

A couple of weeks before that, St. Thomas Players gave us a thoroughly engaging production of Rabbit Hole.

Now, as it does each year, St. Thomas Players knocks out another summer with another one-two drama punch, following Rabbit Hole with an excellent production of Yasmina Reza’s Art, currently on view at Catawba’s Florence Busby Corriher Theatre.

The acting here is very, very good — but it doesn’t get in the way of a play that’s quite fascinating.

Near the end of Art, Yvan, the character who gets in the middle of his friend’s argument, sums up the play we’ve just seen when he says something close to this: ‘Nothing beautiful has ever been created as a result of rational argument.’

Good point, but the larger point is that while isolated statements in an argument can seem rational, the argument as a whole is absurd.

Just as arguments for isolated bits of a war can sometimes make sense, even though the war as a whole is absurd.

The war in Iraq began for one reason and continued on for a variety of entirely different reasons. Same for Afghanistan — and other conflicts between nations, races, municipalities, friends, people, families.

In the moment, there’s always somebody who can explain it like a champion. And then there’s always history, wherein the absurdity rises to the surface.

People still debate what really started the Cvil War.

This is the idea that gets distilled into Art, a very tight play that is not absurd, as a play, but instead is a play about absurdity.

We’re talking about a guy who attacks his friend for buying a painting that’s simply blank — white paint on a canvas.

It sets off a barrage of complicated, personal, hurtful argument, wherein the absurdity becomes as stark as the white painting that begins the ordeal.

As the play unfolds, the characters get heated about ideas, and the judgmentalism escalates. Sometimes it gets so complicated that I can’t follow the argument. I don’t know exactly what they’re talking about, but I know exactly what they’re saying and what they mean — and I’m pretty sure that’s the point.

This big mess doesn’t seem to challenge the actors. They don’t miss a beat as they whip through each other at a brisk pace. They’re exceptionally well prepared, and they seem to understand the nuance of each and every verbal dagger they throw.

Craig Kolkebeck directs the play and acts. He plays Serge, a dermatologist who buys a white painting and knows how to get under his friend’s skin.

Kolkebeck possesses the gift of naturalness. He’s always immersed in the play itself, never on a stage or aware of an audience.

I first heard about Art, the play, in the 90’s, over a glass of wine, from Bob Paolino, who had seen it in New York. We were talking about theatre and he said “I like Art.” This sounded like a weird thing to say, and I probably said something like “I do too.”

Bob straightened me out.

“The play, Art,” Bob said.

Soon after, I read it and discovered that I liked Art too. I’m glad I got a chance to see it, and I’m delighted I got to see Bob’s exuberant, winning performance in it. He plays Marc, the friend who instigates the argument when he notices that, like The Emperor Who Has no Clothes, the painting has no color.

One mustn’t play favorites with an ensemble cast of three that thoroughly clicks, but the manic moment of the evening obviously belongs to Anthony Liguori. He plays Yvan, the neurotic scapegoat, whose monologue about his wedding invitations provides the comic peak and is a sheer delight to watch. As long as it is (and it’s a long monologue), I’m sure everyone in the audience would have gladly granted him another five minutes.

The set is tasteful, white, and stark — and it’s also for sale. Upon leaving the theatre at the play’s conclusion the audience is invited to bid on the pieces in a silent auction.

This is a great show. I’m sure the army of volunteers involved in the production are proud of their work, and they should be.

A few notes from the navel-gazing-sphere

I haven’t blogged much lately.  Haven’t updated my Facebook status or Tweeted much either.

So I thought I’d just run through a few things that have been going on in my life.  If anybody’s interested, fine.  If nobody’s interested, that’s fine too.  A little public navel gazing helps me sort things out for myself.

Alicia and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary on Friday.  We didn’t go out that night because she had to get up very early Saturday morning and take Emma to Greensboro.  It’s been our tradition to go to a movie at the Manor in Charlotte on our anniversary, so we went Saturday night.  We saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a really good Swedish film.

I’ve been working on a full-length play, writing a page or two each morning.  Hopefully I’ll be done with a draft mid-summer.

I took my mom’s recycling and garbage to the street tonight, possibly for the last time.  I’ve been doing that on Sunday nights for many years — ever since street-side garbage collection began in Salisbury.  Her house was in use by relatives last weekend.  They made a lot of trash and didn’t take it out.

Business was slow in May, but we had one great week that really helped.  June has been okay so far.  Last week, I trained somebody to do some of our deliveries.  I’ve been doing about 350 of our 470 Coffee News locations each week.  He’ll do about 100 a week, which leaves me with 250.  That basically gives me an extra day each week.  It’s going to cost — but I think I’d rather have the time than the money.

I like summer.  I always have.  When it gets above 95 and stays above 85 at night, I complain as much as anybody else.  But I generally like hot weather.  Days like today don’t bother me at all.  We have AC.  Until about mid-way through my childhood, we didn’t.  In fact, we lived in the house we’re in now for two years before we got AC, in 1988.

My 2009 New Year’s resolution was to walk 10k steps a day each day of the year, and I’ve kept it up now almost a year and a half.

My 2010 resolution was to do yoga every day, and I’ve done that.  There have been a few days when I made it brief — ten or fifteen minutes.  Usually I spend thirty to forty minutes.  If I have the time, I’ll take an hour or even 90 minutes.  I pretty much stick to the same routine, but vary how long I stay in the poses.  It’s almost the exact same routine I’ve used since 1974.  I’ve always done yoga, but haven’t made it a daily routine since Sarah, our first child, was born.  Yoga requires a quiet house, and kids aren’t all that quiet — so my yoga was sporadic for 27 years.  Now that my daughter Emma is 17, has her driver’s license and a job, the house is quiet again.  This was a great resolution.  Daily yoga is ten times better than yoga two, three, or even four days a week.  I feel great and have lost 23 pounds.

I was a little sorry missed the Six Pack of Plays that Lee Street Theatre just produced.  I knew some of the playwrights and would have liked to support the effort.  I never got done with work in time.  Saturday was an option, but we wanted to celebrate our anniversary.  It would not have been kosher to attend those plays as an anniversary celebration.  I had some highly egocentric emotion over the whole affair because they didn’t pick my plays (the scripts didn’t conform to the guidelines).

I did put those rejected plays online — on this website — and received  an email yesterday from an international student in China.  He said he was just writing to thank me for the play.  He was an actor in Nice Name for a Sky.  That’s all he said.  It’s nice to know somebody is making use of the script.  I’d love to see a picture.

Alicia took our dog, Jackie, to the vet.  She got some pill for fleas and the dog feels a lot better.

I’m really enjoying my new car — an 85 Honda Civic station wagon that I bought two months ago.  It rides well, is easier to load and unload, and is easier to get in and out of than the ’94 Civic I got rid of.  Every once in awhile, a spark plug wire gets loose, but everything is cool when I pull over and push it back in place (as long as I don’t burn my hand).  Thursday, the speedometer/odometer stopped working.  I’ve got to get that fixed.  I like to know how fast I’m going.

I’ve been visiting my mom each day in the Alzheimer’s unit.  She spends her days shuffling up and down the halls.  I’ve enjoyed being there and have gained a lot of respect for the staff.  They are special people.  I’ve also enjoyed getting to know some the residents.  They’re each at their own stage, dealing with the disease in their own way — and some of them are a real trip.

So that’s about it — and now it’s after one o’clock in the a.m. and I’ve got some work to do!  And my own garbage and recycling (mostly recycling) to take out.

Ball machine for dog

According to the explanation on YouTube, the guy who made this machine spent two years on the job, on and off.

It was worth it — if not for the dog, then for the resulting video.

Cracking the local theatre scene – a pretty tough nut

The internet distributes my ten minute plays quite well. Shambles links to my website (which is now over ten years old) and sends a steady stream of traffic from theatre students around the world. They often request permission to use my 10 minute plays in their classes.

This week, three students asked me for scripts for their projects.

Stephan, a student in England, wants to use Panic Attack. Avery, in Georgia (USA), is using In the Waiting Room. And Diana, in Romania, is doing a school production of Responsibility.

Sometimes, the requests come from places in Asia and Africa where I’m guessing there may not be access to many short plays in English in the library.  Sometimes they translate them.  One student in Sudan told me he translated Pizza into Arabic and changed the title to “Milk.”

Often, teachers tell me they use the scripts to help their students learn English.

I know that some students probably do have access to a good library and could certainly find a better script than mine — but this website makes it easy, and these exchanges give me a tremendous amount of pleasure.

Thus, without Broadway success, critical success, or money, I’m sort of a content playwright. I make the plays free and accessible online, and get the satisfaction of knowing that the words I put on the page are getting used on a regular basis.

But, I just can’t crack the hometown. Here in Salisbury, NC, we have three theatre troupes, plus a local college with an excellent theatre department. They all have done new plays written by local folks (including some really bad ones, which is the norm for new plays) — but I can’t get them to consider mine.  They will give me the time of day, when I buy a tickets to their productions — but that’s about it.

I have done plays here. That’s how I got started, in the mid-90’s, by producing them myself. They went really well.  Got a lot of support and learned a lot.  A self-produced local production is one good way to get a play done, and it’s a lot of fun — but it’s ultimately an ego trip that doesn’t tell you a lot about the play.

This spring, Lee Street Theatre will be producing a festival of ten-minute plays. They did this last year also. Last year I didn’t enter the contest for two reasons. The theme was “city.” I didn’t have any plays that specifically talked about city life, and I didn’t have the time or inclination to write one. I love cities, but the theme is a little broad. It would be much easier to write a play about a pair of socks. I also noticed unsavory signs of politics and competition among those involved, and feared my play would be rejected.

I did go to the show. It was fun, but a fairly weak production overall. A number of people asked me why I didn’t submit one, and I said it was because I didn’t want to be rejected in my hometown (Salisbury — a small town) and thereby suffer the embarrassment.

This year, a couple of people on the committee urged me to submit — and they whispered to me (pssst…psssst) that a discussion had taken place and that it was decided a play of mine would be picked.

They call the evening “A Six Pack of Plays” and the scripts must be set in a bar.

Well, I wrote a play called A New Normal.  (You can see it here, if you like).  It’s set in a bar. It’s about a bar’s last night in business. It takes place on New Year’s Eve, 2008, during the heart of the Great Recession. It’s certainly no masterpiece, but I think it’s okay.

Problem is, I didn’t read the guidelines. When I read the guidelines, in order to get the address and mail the play — I noticed that it was limited to three characters.

My play had six (although three of them had no lines, such that those actors would really not need to rehearse more than one day).

I inquired about the strictness of these rules and learned that the cost of violating this decree was severe. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that this play would not be considered. So I didn’t send it and never showed it to anybody.

They extended the deadline a few days and I wrote a second play (well, it’s actually an adaptation of something I wrote a few years ago; it worked quite well). This one was not set in a literal bar, although it’s about a person who has spent too much time in a bar, and she invites the audience to join her at the bar. I thought it hit the “bar” theme pretty hard.

I submitted this play, but it was disqualified because it was not set in a bar. When they say bar, they mean a real bar. Symbolic, thematic, metaphorical bars will not suffice.

I understand, of course, that they want the convenience of using a single set for all six plays. But I’m certain this could have been done with a prop or two, without any set-changing fanfare — and it would have added a bit of variety to the evening.

It’s called Nice Name for a Sky and is posted here.

My ten minute plays have had a number of productions, including hundreds in classrooms around the world, with almost fifty productions in theatres, including some pretty nice ones in New York, Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, Melbourne, Charlotte, and elsewhere. Several have been published by play services and, and three of them last year in the NC Literary Review. And I’ve won two state arts grants for playwriting and filmmaking.

But I’m still trying to figure out how to play the local theatre political scene. Still looking for my first local theatre production. It’s a tough nut to crack. Maybe it’s because I take it all too seriously.

Catawba Theatre's "Working" is excellent

Catawba College Theatre’s current production of Working is excellent.

I’ve been too busy the past couple of years to go to all the shows, like I used to — but I did see The Boy Friend, earlier this year, and tonight I saw Working.

Catawba College Cast of "Working"

Perhaps I think it’s awesome because I haven’t had much time for theatre lately, such that anything seems awesome to me.  Or, perhaps I think it’s awesome because it’s awesome.  I’m pretty sure it is.

Ironically, I had reservations about going to this show about working because I’ve gotten behind on my work this week and had to leave a good bit of work undone in order to go.  I’m glad I did.

These kids are putting up some sweet, delightful musicals.  They have a ton of talent.  Strong voices.  The acting is nearly perfect; they’re incredibly well prepared.  They understand the story they’re telling and never do anything to get in its way.

The four piece orchestra on stage isn’t bad entertainment, either.

I’ve got Studs Terkel‘s book, Working, here in my office, right here beside me.  It’s been here on my shelf, beside me, for over 20 years.  I’ve never read the whole book.  But occasionally I open it and start reading — and no matter which page I turn to, I become mesmerized for some time.  It’s a masterpiece.

The show captures the poignancy of working Americans also.

The Catawba Theatre faculty — the brains behind this production — does a wonderful  job with multimedia.  Moving characters in silhouette, behind changing photos projected on screens, make the background as fluid as the performance on stage.

There’s a lot to watch, and a lot to hear.  The songs tell simple, clear stories.  The photos provide a powerful montage.  But it’s all organic.

There’s one more night, tomorrow (Saturday, April 17).  There were a few empty seats tonight.  Not many.  If it’s possible to get a seat tomorrow, it’s worth it.

Comment from…a foul mouthed 2nd grader?

Received an interesting bit of profanity today — a comment about one of my plays.  I don’t care to say which play, and I deleted the comment.  But this is what the commenter says:

“i thought it was a pice of shit play and it was 20 fuckin minutes…fuck you for making me read this.”

Is the play a piece of shit?  Quite possibly.  Such a discussion would not be wasted on me.

But making him or her read it?  And 20 minutes on 1100 words?  Give me a break.

Hype for my new book of plays

cover of An Actor's Dozen
cover of An Actor's Dozen

This is the cover of a book I’m publishing.  Consider this the pre-publication publicity hype.

These days, with print-on-demand, self-publishing can be remarkably easy, and cheap.

It’s also possible, of course, to pay editors and graphic artists, etc.

But it’s nearly free if you do your own editing, typesetting, and design — and upload the files yourself.

Of course, then you get book covers that look like…this.

In a few days, this book will be available on Createspace.com, Amazon.com, the local bookstore (Literary Bookpost), the store at The Looking Glass Artist Collective, and from the trunk of my car.

The media blitz will be minimal — but so was the risk.

It didn’t cost me anything but missed sleep.

I seriously doubt any traditional publisher would have been interested in the least.  The cost is high and the market is small.

If nobody buys it — so what?  It’s stored on a computer and printed only when somebody wants a copy (except for the ones I buy, that will be in the trunk of my car).

If people do buy it, good for me.  I make a few dollars profit per book (instead of the tiny royalty a hypothetical traditional publisher would hypothetically pay, if they would hypothetically publish it ).

If anybody wants to read the plays for free — they’re all here, on the website.  Lots of people do every day.  There’s nothing new in the book other than the more portable form and a little more editorial scrutiny.

This is just to state the obvious:  publishing is really changing.

Think Tank (a ten minute play about right wing ideas)

Think Tank. Copyright 2009. Samuel M. Post

This is different.  I’ve never written a play and posted it on the blog first, before it at least had some kind of reading (and preferably a performance).  Feedback welcome.

An office. Could have a small sign denoting the name of the organization: “Institute for American Study”

SMITH WONNER, a gentleman — distinguished, gray hair, flawless conservative suit and tie — sits at his desk reading.

He picks up the phone and dials.

He has a heavy, but refined, southern accent.

SMITH: Mrs. Ghondlesonni, may I see you in here for a minute.

He continues reading.

Enter JANE GHONDLESONNI. She’s young, bright, preferably blond, pretty, and sharp. She has a huge smile with great teeth. Her business suit is conservative in color and style — but with a short hemline that’s deliberately sexy.

JANE: Good morning, Sir.

SMITH: Mrs. Ghondlesonni, I’m thinking of making a few modifications.

JANE: Modifications?

SMITH: A shift.

JANE: A shift, sir?

SMITH: Modifications, really.

JANE: We’ve been doing fairly well sir. The radio heads have been loving our–

SMITH: Oh oh oh oh oh — don’t think I’m not pleased with your work, Mrs. Ghondlesonni. It’s been superb. Just superb. You did get the bonus check last month?

JANE: Oh, yes sir.

SMITH: Well, good.

JANE: That “African Muslim” campaign has worked out well, don’t you think?

SMITH: My God, Girl! That was brilliant. Couldn’t hope for any better!

JANE: Sometimes the ideas just…

SMITH: Genius! Pure creative genius!

JANE: Yet, you’re thinking of making a change?

SMITH: Not a change. A modification. A additional line of attack, if you will.

JANE: Do you think the public can handle more? We know that too much noise can confuse the audience. We’re still using the “racist” label and getting good traction out of “Nazi” and “Socialist,” don’t you think?

SMITH: Traction? My girl, our polls tell us they’ve taken root! And I’ve got to hand it to you, I never thought we could pull that one off. “Nazi” and “Socialist” at the same time! I thought that was a leap but damn if you didn’t fuse those two into one powerful label — like a marriage, in which the whole is stronger than the sum of two halves. Exquisite work, Mrs. Ghondlesonni. Exquisite!

JANE: Couldn’t have done it without Hitler.

SMITH: I agree. That was the glue that made the whole thing stick.

They laugh, enjoying the moment of victory.

JANE: Then, since it’s working so well, are you sure you want to change, sir?

SMITH: looking at his papers Been reading a proposal here given to me by Stanley Bead.

JANE: Stanley Bead the third.

SMITH: Yes, so he is. Mr. Stanley Bead III.

JANE: What’s he proposing?

SMITH: It’s bold. Quite bold.

JANE: Like what?

SMITH: For one thing…well…why don’t we invite Mr. Bead in here and we’ll just knock these ideas around for a minute?

JANE: It’s not “flip flopper” again, is it?

SMITH: Of course not. It’s much too soon to recycle that one.

JANE: I agree, sir.

He picks up the phone and dials.

SMITH: Mr. Bead, how soon can you be in my office?

He listens.

SMITH: Excellent.

Enter STANLEY BEAD III. Sharp. Conservative. Young. Handsome.

STANLEY: Yes sir.

They shake hands and sit.

SMITH: Good to see you, Stanley.

STANLEY: And you, Sir.

SMITH: Been reading over this, and I’m intrigued.

STANLEY: Thank you, sir.

SMITH: Looking ahead. Forward thinking. I like that.

JANE: So do I.

SMITH: Of course you do. We need to always be looking around the next corner.

STANLEY: Yes sir. Glad you agree, sir.

SMITH: What Stanley’s proposing here, Mrs. Ghondlesonni, is fairly far reaching. I see a three year plan here, putting us into the heart of 2012.

JANE: Really.

STANLEY: Presidential elections are my specialty, sir. Get’s my adrenalin flowing. Helps me rise to the challenge.

He smiles — almost as if he’s taking a bow.

STANLEY: Flip flopper.

SMITH: We’ll always be indebted you for flip flopper, Stanley. The whole country owes you a debt of gratitude for that.

JANE: Too bad “paling around with terrorist” didn’t gain credibility. Do you remember how I reacted the first time I heard it?

SMITH: Yes — you had your doubts. I remember.

JANE: I thought it was weak then, and I still think it’s weak now.

SMITH: And you were right.

STANLEY: Hey, nobody hits a home run every time at the plate!

JANE: It was a very costly mistake!

STANLEY: Obama still would have won.

JANE: I’m not so sure.

STANLEY: You still think calling him a Momma killer would have worked?

JANE: I damn well know it would have!

STANLEY: You had no narrative to go with it! None! Zip!

JANE: No narrative necessary!

STANLEY: If you’re a thinairist!

JANE: I am a thinnairist — and proud of it!

STANLEY: Well I’m not! I need a hook!

JANE: Why! That’s old school! For slow media! Things are too fast now!

STANLEY: Fundamentals are fundamentals!

JANE: And the fundamentals have changed!

STANLEY: They most certainly have not! That’s why we call them fundamentals!

SMITH: Okay, okay!

He chuckles.

SMITH: That’s what I love about this institute. Vigorous debate. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I would like to take a look at Stanley’s proposal here. Stanley thinks this health care bill will eventually pass and we need to be ready for the aftermath — and he’s got an interesting theory. Stanley, you tell her.

STANLEY: Well, in a year or two, we’ll have some health care reform, and guess what? A lot of people will still be sick. And a lot of people will still be dying.

JANE: That’s obvious.

STANLEY: We’ve gotta be ready to take advantage of that. We won’t want to repeal it, even though we’ll talk about doing just that. But primarily we need to be prepared to use it.

getting more excited

STANLEY: We need to pounce — pound home the idea that it’s a failure. That it doesn’t work.

JANE: Hit me.

STANLEY: Doctor Death..

JANE: We tried that.

STANLEY: No — we tried Death Panel.

JANE: Seems a little recycled.

STANLEY: Dr. Death is fresh. It’s alive. And it’s not thinnairist. It’s actually true.

JANE: True?

STANLEY: Every President is a Dr. Death. It’s part of the job.

SMITH: Could it be cliche?

STANLEY: Not if it’s presented right, by the right people.

They all ponder this.

SMITH: Mrs. Ghondlesonni?

JANE: I suppose it could work.

STANLEY: My wife loves it, and she’s my harshest critic. Dr. Death.

SMITH: When do you propose we launch this?

JANE: The longer you wait, the better it will work.

STANLEY: I go along with that.

SMITH: Excellent. Let’s look at this energy label.

JANE: Excuse me sir, but haven’t we already discussed publishing a book called “Hitchhiker Nation,” describing a world where only government employees are allowed to travel — the world Obama wants us all to live in.

SMITH: Stanley’s got another idea and I just want you to hear it.

STANLEY: “Comobile,” designed to evoke an image of prolonged suffering. The small cars Obama wants people driving will cause more fatalities and more people living in comas. Variation on “death trap,” but repackaged as Comobile!

JANE: Sir, don’t you think that sucks?

SMITH: That occurred to me, but I wanted some input.

STANLEY: It at least deserves an experiment.

JANE: It’s not worth spending on the focus group. That’s terrible.

SMITH: Let’s move on to taxes. When they want to raise taxes two percent on the upper one percent, we need to be ready. They’ll be talking about our own people then, you know. They’ll be talking about us.

JANE: Now I say we stick with fundamentals. un-American. Socialist. Nazi. Marxist.

SMITH: Stanley thinks we might need something new.

STANLEY: Beggar.

JANE: Weak.

STANLEY: Robber.

JANE: Weak.

STANLEY: Thief.

JANE: Weaker.

STANLEY: Commander in Thief.

They ponder this.

JANE: It’s clumsy.

SMITH: A little.

JANE: But…I’ve got to admit. Commander in Thief. It’s not bad.

SMITH: Let’s try that one out, Stanley.

STANLEY: Will do, sir.

SMITH: Now we get to the re-election, where Stanley has a pretty bold suggestion.

STANLEY: It’s not a thinnairst idea.

JANE: Just say it.

STANLEY: You weren’t a big fan of flip flopper at first.

JANE: Just say it.

STANLEY: I say we go for the heart of the matter and let the chips fall where they may.

JANE: What!

SMITH stands up at his desk.

SMITH: Maybe I should leave the room for a minute. Would that be useful?

STANLEY: Might not be a bad idea, sir.

SMITH exits.

STANLEY: Nigger.

JANE: Say what?

STANLEY: We just call him a nigger. I mean, keep in mind, the country will be experiencing a tremendous amount of African-American fatigue by then. It could backfire. But the odds are against us anyway unless we cause a fundamental shift in this country’s thinking about race and ethnicity. It could get us back Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia. Ohio. Florida!

JANE: (wistful)  Florida.

STANLEY: (filled with emotion)  Florida, Jane.

He stands up and paces.

STANLEY: Blanket all media with vigorous denials by the campaign. Start early and let it build.

JANE: It will build.

She’s mesmerized. He takes her hand. She stands up and they gaze into each other’s eyes.

JANE: The White House is forced to respond. We know race is our only issue. I say we stop playing in the sandbox with it. I mean, we hit the N word so long, so loud, and so hard that it becomes the only subject. The American people become totally desensitized. Make nigger a household word.

JANE: Like Nazi.

STANLEY: Exactly.

JANE: Hitler.

STANLEY: (tender) I did tell you how brilliant I thought that was?

JANE: No, I don’t think you did.

STANLEY: It was.

Mutual attraction getting stronger. Magnetized and moving closer.

STANLEY: You’re a genius, Jane.

JANE: (seductive) Socialist.

STANLEY: My favorite of them all.

They touch.

JANE: I’m married.

STANLEY: So am I.

Overcome with passion, they embrace and kiss.

Curtain