My Play This Weekend in Penang: Grade Semantics

My play “Grade Semantics” hits the stage this weekend as part of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival in Penang, Malaysia.

grade semanticsPenang

 

This is a play that I’ve produced twice myself, and it’s a hit — especially with students and teachers. I’ve even had a HS counselor tell me after watching it that the farcical aspects of the play very much played out as true in those fun one-on-one chats with students.

Here an excerpt from the play. Enjoy!
STUDENT: That’s it. I’m going to tell the principal.
MR. S.: What are you going to tell the principal?
STUDENT: I’m going to inform the principal about your discriminatory grading practices.
MR. S.: I do not have discriminatory grading practices!
STUDENT: So, you are saying that everyone in your classes get the same grade?
MR. S.: No, of course not.
STUDENT: Just as I suspected. You look over the tests, and you discriminate. You say ‘that test goes into the good pile’ and ‘that test goes into the bad grade pile’ where all of mine always end up.
MR. S. Because—
STUDENT: You always have reasons, don’t you? Because. Because. Because. Because you don’t like words that start with the letter B.
MR. S.: That’s ridiculous.
STUDENT: This is anything but ridiculous. Let me ask you a question, Mr. S. Do you think bad grades will affect my future?
MR. S.: Yes, I absolutely think that’s true.
STUDENT: Ah, ha! Caught you! You are purposefully affecting my future.
MR. S.: That’s not what I said.
STUDENT: My bad grades might misrepresent who I am to the Ivy League schools. I might not get into Harvard because of your discrimination. Employers are going to look down upon me because of my bad grades. My future earnings are in jeopardy because of your grade discrimination. We are living in an age when grades just separate people into the achievers and the non-achievers. The passing and the failing. I thought we as a society were beyond this type of blatant discrimination, holding people back because of word that starts with B. But apparently, in some corners of education, there are still the vestiges of entrenched systemic discrimination. I thought you were better than that, Mr. S. I thought you were woke to the realities of the modern world. I’m ashamed to be your student and I do not under any circumstance acknowledge the authority of your grades over my life. I am, from this moment on, grade-free.

 

Monologue #2: A Battle Cry

Here’s the second monologue added to the PAGES on the right of my site.

In my play “Life with Stewart”, Nicholas Stewart, an aged Hollywood movie star, is asked to deliver again his famous speech as the unforgettable protagonist Wellesly Green from the movie “Surrender has no Tomorrow”. (Of course, all of this is fictional.)  So imagine a staggering figure, clad in battle gear, trying to rally his comrades to continue fighting against insurmountable odds in order to stave off certain death. Here is the monologue in its entirety.

NICHOLAS STEWART:

Character.  That is what stands between us and our destiny.  Each of us has sacrificed much to arrive at this point; the battered souls we are would give up the fight if it was merely up to us. If we were only flesh and blood, only here and now, only eyes and ears, surely we would not insist on pushing forward. For our eyes witness odds that our hearts cannot derive courage from.  Our ears hear not any reassurance to continue fighting, but only weakness and bickering, coming from our tired, cowardly jaws –  the ones we earned by witnessing too much death and experiencing too much despair.  Yes, our eyes and ears reveal how human we have become, how cold our flesh feels, and how much colder our blood may soon be.  But history reminds us that we are not only flesh and blood.  We are not only here and now.  We are not only eyes and ears.  We are made of more, much more.  Time has poured its tired hands into our being, strengthening us with wisdom gleaned from a thousand souls who came before us.  Those who knew us and loved us.  Those we never knew but influenced the mechanisms of support that we have come to live by.  Our character has been built by the sacrifices of these and others who lived their lives and suffered their deaths for our survival. If we extinguish the flickering flame of hope that the winds of fear are ferociously trying to snuff out, then we are not worthy to be called the sons or daughters of the ones that came before us.  As the poet Asophie said, “When a pebble dropped in a vast sea splashes beyond its capacity, crashing barriers that were never meant to be crossed, all that one is left with is the realization that the pebble was no small stone and the causality is no one’s fault but your own.”  If we die, then we shall be at fault.  If we live, then we too shall be the cause of that.  As for me, I choose life.  What choose you?

Monologue 1: Excerpt from new novel “Which Half David”

I’m finally getting around to posting some monologues that people (especially drama folk) can use for a variety of purposes. You’ll find these on the right of the website under “Monologues.”

This first one is actually from my new novel, not even fully edited yet, but set to release later this summer. It’s entitled “Which Half David.”

Here’s the scene where Tobin is defending in court some tribal members from government oppression. Here’s his long speech. Let me know what you think!

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The last thing I want to do today is come here as the all-knowing, eloquent-speaking foreigner and tell you all how democracy and justice are supposed to work. I’m not here to preach, instruct, belittle, or go on indefinitely about this great American justice system the Republic of Sulu inherited from the Filipinos. I’ve lived here long enough to know that you, as a nation, have nothing to learn but much to teach. You already know what democracy is. I’ve seen it in the villages were I work. I’ve seen it in the cities where I have lived. We’ve all heard it in the sporadic demonstrations. You all know clearly what democracy and justice is. The only question you must ask yourself as a nation is whether you have the will to make it a priority. My defense attorney has already stated more aptly than I ever could the minutia of the law which, I believe, proves our case. We all heard what your constitution states about religious freedom. We all heard the testimony of the abuse of power, which was prevalent in Minao Province. And we heard the testimony of exactly what happened that terrible, terrible night. But here is the fine matter that I want to emphasize. When I first arrived in the Sulu Republic eight years ago, I met this remarkable man, Gani, and, honestly, I thought I came here to save him, to spread Christianity, and to teach him how to live a better life. But in turn, I have been profoundly changed by this amazing man. He would never tell you anything about himself. He’s too humble for that. But you need to know the type of man who made the decision that night to ‘take a stand’. He has taken on himself to make sure that every child in the village is properly fed and cared for. Now you might think that is kind of strange, and if strange means out of the ordinary, that would describe him beautifully. On Monday and Tuesday nights, he holds a literacy class where all thirty-seven children in the village show up for a three-hour lesson. And on top of that, he schedules a thirty-minute, once-a-week session with each of the children to make sure they are learning their lessons. Can you imagine that—at least twenty-four hours a week devoted to the children of the village? On Wednesday is his animal husbandry lectures he gives to the women of the village. My group introduced some basic techniques to better help the animal population of the village, but Gani, once he saw the benefit of it, didn’t stop there. He spent eight weekends in the capital at the National Library learning much more about the subject than I learned in any of my training. And he learned it all through a translator because he can’t read Sulunese. Mr. Toggi, can you hold up that notebook? This is what he created. A comprehensive animal husbandry course, adapted for the jungle and this environment, and within two years of implementing his program, the disease rate of animals in the village has decreased by 200%. So much so that when the surrounding villages heard of its success, they came and begged him to teach them the methods as well. Of course, he couldn’t refuse. So he spends four days a month traveling long distances into remote valleys just to improve the lives of the villagers. His wife died three years ago. He lost his oldest son last year. And he continues to have the widest smile, the most sincere greeting, and the warmest heart out of any person I have ever met. You see, it’s very simple, actually. Gani is a leader who truly leads. He does what he says he’s going to do. He backs away when confrontation is not beneficial. He is gracious, honest, and … and here’s truly the fine point of everything: he’s a Christian. For that fact, and for that fact alone, he has been imprisoned, threatened, bullied, and beaten by the local authorities. And yet, do you know what he did the day after Christmas this past year? I’m sure you don’t. He brought a basket of food and gifts from the village to Commander Tulok in Minao City as a goodwill gesture. Look at his face. He didn’t even know that I knew. Here’s another thing he never mentioned. Commander Tulok accused Gani of offering him a bribe and threw him in prison overnight. Of course, the commander enjoyed the generous gifts and foods that he brought. When Gani came home to the village the next day, he didn’t even tell us what had happened. We didn’t even know he was in prison until I was told about it the next time I passed through Minao City. This is the leader who is on trial today. What happens to me and everyone else is not important because we all follow Gani. He has proved himself over and over again, only to be pushed down and trampled on by the local authorities. But no more. No more. What happened in that village the night of the attack was horrific. We will never forget it, and we will always regret the outcome. But the outcome was not dependent on the brave, courageous man who is in charge of our village—Gani. He did not bring anything on anyone. And so if you are required to find a villain to pin these murders on, you will not find one sitting there. It’s your right and duty to decide all of our fate. That is the beauty of the jury system, but I guarantee one thing. If it was you that night, staring down the barrel of a gun. You would have done more than Gani. You would have reached down into your being for the courage to fight and defend what you have every right to defend.

The Rebellious, the Confident, and the Honest: A Solo Act

The Rebellious, the Confident, and the Honest: A Solo Act

by

Mark W. Sasse

 

In two hours, I’ll be standing in procession, walking down the middle aisle with the teary-eyed faces of friends and family cheering me on. I’ll hear my name announced loudly and clearly: Jenny Anne Folsom. I’ll take a deep breath and step onto the podium, reach out with my (confused) right hand to shake with the principal while holding out my left to receive that piece of paper I’ve been dreaming about for these last twelve years.

And just like that, (snaps her finger), this chapter of my life will be finished.

(fearful)

Suddenly at the turn of 18, I’m an adult, like someone flipped a switch and instructing the universe to unplug me from everything I’ve ever known – as if this diploma in my hand automatically matures me and ushers me into adulthood.

I’m supposed to be ready. My parents tell me that I’m ready. My high school transcript says I’m ready. My birth certificate says so too.

But what if I’m not.

Some graduates are wild stallions, born and bred to roam freely, yearning to be unshackled from parental authority. My friend Sheila is like that. Here’s what she always says:

SHEILA: Oh, I cannot wait to get out of here. If I have to sit under one more lecture from Mr. Jones on morality, I’m going to throw a vulgarity into his face, and see if his morality can repulse it. I swear I’m going to do it. He makes me sick. This place makes me sick. They treat us like we’re morons. They say they’re preparing us for real life by making us live in this sheltered cocoon which is nothing like real life. All they’re doing is stifling us. You know what I’m going to do in college, everything I couldn’t in high school. Then I’ll make my own decisions about life, not what these narrow-minded people think. The world is mine to conquer and experience and nothing is going to stop me.

Don’t judge Sheila too harshly. She’s unsettled, like we all are, but she verbalizes it more forcefully than most. She needs to find out for herself if there is meaning in the frivolities of life. I know what college will be like for Sheila, and I worry for her, but yet I understand her. We all have a small sliver of Shiela within us. A streak of rebellion that wants to dabble in the unknown. But I could never be like here.

I’m supposed to be ready. My parents tell me that I’m ready. My high school transcript says I’m ready. My birth certificate says so too.

But what if I’m not.

My friend Tori was born ready. She skipped third grade and joined my fourth grade class, the same fourth grade class that I almost flunked. Tori has been the top student in school ever since. She spent last summer as an Ivy League intern – as a high school junior – and she’ll be going to Harvard tuition-free. I wish I had her confidence.

TORI: I know exactly what I’m going to do with my life. A 2380 SAT score gives one that luxury. Some call me full of myself or overly ambitious, but my parents told me one thing: “Never apologize for your God-given gifts” and I never have. I know where I want to be when I’m 30, 40, 50, and at sixty, I’ll have thirty more years of bliss from my sea-side resort in Santorini while most of my classmates don’t even know where that is. Some call me cocky, but I’m not. I have sure-footedness. My goal is simple, by twenty-three I will have passed the bar and have earned my MBA. Corporate law for twenty years will make me one of the youngest woman CEOs in history. Yes, it is ambitious, but there’s nothing to stop me but myself. I just have one bit of advice for my contemporaries: stay out of my way.

Yes, Tori is intense. I admire her confidence and I hope life turns out well for her, but I can’t afford such lofty sentiments when I have this mountain of doubt within me. In an hour, I’ll be standing in procession, but I’m scared to death.

I’m supposed to be ready. My parents tell me that I’m ready. My high school transcript says I’m ready. My birth certificate says so too.

But what if I’m not.

What if I can’t handle college? What if I can’t pass my classes? Will my parents be disappointed with me? Will they lament all the money that they threw down the drain? My parents aren’t rich. Maybe I shouldn’t go to college. Maybe I should just get a job.

Money is one thing, but if I can be honest, there’s something more that I worry about. There’s more important things than money to lose.

What if I step out into the secular world and mess everything up?  What if I do something that will embarrass my parents? What if I become one of those statistics – you know the ones – what if I become one of those teens who experiences new ideas in college and end up walking away from how I’ve been raised. What if in two years I will be the one to denounce my faith and yell to the sky that God is dead? What happens then?

Would I be the subject of stares and whispers? “She’s the one. And she comes from such a good family.  Such a shame.”

(emotional) What if I can’t do it?

(yelling offstage to her mother) What? Okay, Mom. Okay. I’m almost ready. I’ll be there in a moment.

But what’s my alternative?

I can’t very well repeat my senior year for the next twenty years.

I have no idea what the future holds for us graduates. Perhaps Sheila will find the freedom she desires.  Perhaps Tori will find the success which seems so assured.

But, what if Sheila learns that freedom can be confining?

What if Tori learns that success can be a millstone around one’s neck?

What if I learn that doubt is normal and that the fear I feel inside my chest is no different from what Sheila or Tori are experiencing?

(hears her mother’s voice again)

Yes, Mom. I’m coming.

I honestly don’t know where I’ll be a year from now or five years from now. I don’t know if I’m going to make my parents proud or if I will be a disappointment, but here’s what I choose to believe: Our future isn’t etched in stone. It’s the choices we make, the trials we learn from, and the truths we allow ourselves to believe.

The day is finally here. I may be nervous, I may have my doubts, but it’s here, and if I can be honest with you, I’m excited.

A Little Christian-Themed Drama

I was asked to write a few dramatic sketches for some meetings we were having this month, and I had a lot of fun putting together some Christian-themed drama – some dramatic – some down-right silly like “Birds on a Wire” which had two birds watching humans fret about all the little details of their lives. The birds were hilarious. But anyways, here’s a series of short monologues which were performed dramatically. The entire piece was called “If God’s Love was a Seed.”  I’d appreciate your feedback.

If God’s love was a seed,

It would flutter effortlessly in the breeze, catching the first gentle lift, depositing itself on your back. The hull would crack and spit out new life, tiny roots would weave themselves into your pores and stretch and twist between the sinews, riding each synapse, informing each cell, infiltrating every blood stream, travelling to the extremities until deeply coiling itself within every fiber of your being. Outwardly it would grow a trunk as wide as a giant sequoia, as inter-woven as a banyan, reaching far into the sky, forcing you to submit to its goodness, the weight of the love would coerce you to the ground, compel you to lie prostrate under its crushing weight. You wouldn’t be able to move an inch without feeling the overburdening load of love on your shoulders. That’s what it would be like if God’s love was a seed.

If God’s love was a droplet of water,

It would displace the ocean, creating a tidal wave from pole to pole, stretching from hemisphere to hemisphere, no ark big enough could hide a pair of animals, no man righteous enough could swim in its presence, no man sinful enough could remain unaffected on the rocks. All would drown beneath its current, a riptide to reconcile, a tsunami to sanctify, an ebb with everlasting flow and a flow with everlasting ebb, an unsettled discontentedness upon the deep, never still, always searching, clear and cool, pure and satisfying. One drink for salvation, two drinks to spread the word, three drinks to dive beneath the endless pool of life. That’s what it would be like if God’s love was a droplet of water.

If God’s love was a dot in the sky,

Or a faint dying light of a star a billion light years away, it would collapse upon itself, creating a black hole of nothing and a black hole of everything, the centrifugal force would squint its nose at the laws of physics, and each planet and star would vacate their position into the velvet blackness, firm and smooth, a sea of calm amidst an ocean of sky, all being, all thought, all motion, all happenstance would be drawn to the edge and compelled to admit the power of the dot, the overwhelming presence of the dim light, and all of time and space would center itself around the dot, coerced to admit its helplessness against the outspoken words of love. That’s what it would be like if God’s love was a dot in the sky.

If God’s love was a moment in time,

It would stretch from the first Word of Creation to the last battle of Armageddon. It would encapsulate every breath, every second, every tick of every clock. It would stand guard for every impatient heart, and would hurry along any indecisiveness. A blink of the eye in an eternity, a thousand years with each tick of the hash mark, tick, tick, tock, tock, four universes colliding, unable to bear the weight of the affection upon its being, all hurt swallowed in a nick, all doubt relieved with a snap, an alarm would signal the lifting of the curse, and time and being and love and believing would be revealed at last. That’s what it would be like if God’s love was a moment in time.

If God’s love was a seed, you could not bear the weight on your back.

If God’s love was a droplet of water, you would be doomed to a life beneath the current.

If God’s love was a dot in the sky, you would be swallowed by the expanse of the universe.

If God’s love was a moment in time, you would feel affection for an eternity, all in one second.

God’s love is a seed. Will you allow it to grow?

God’s love is a droplet of water, will you drink it up?

God’s love is a dot in the sky, will you jump into its vastness?

God’s love is a moment in time, will you wait for it?

 

creative commons

The Monologue of Nicholas Stewart

In our new soon-to-be-released play “Life with Stewart”, Nicholas Stewart, an aged Hollywood movie star, is asked to deliver again his famous speech as the unforgettable protagonist Wellesly Green from the movie “Surrender has no Tomorrow”. (Of course, all of this is fictional.)  So imagine a staggering figure clad in battle gear trying to rally his comrades to continue fighting against insurmountable odds in order to stave off certain death. Here is the monologue in its entirety.  I’d appreciate your feedback.

NICHOLAS STEWART:

Character.  That is what stands between us and our destiny.  Each of us has sacrificed much to arrive at this point; the battered souls we are would give up the fight if it was merely up to us. If we were only flesh and blood, only here and now, only eyes and ears, surely we would not insist on pushing forward. For our eyes witness odds that our hearts cannot derive courage from.  Our ears hear not any reassurance to continue fighting, but only weakness and bickering, coming from our tired, cowardly jaws –  the ones we earned by witnessing too much death and experiencing too much despair.  Yes, our eyes and ears reveal how human we have become, how cold our flesh feels, and how much colder our blood may soon be.  But history reminds us that we are not only flesh and blood.  We are not only here and now.  We are not only eyes and ears.  We are made of more, much more.  Time has poured its tired hands into our being, strengthening us with wisdom gleamed from a thousand souls who came before us.  Those who knew us and loved us.  Those we never knew but influenced the mechanisms of support that we have come to live by.  Our character has been built by the sacrifices of these and others who lived their lives and suffered their deaths for our survival. If we extinguish the flickering flame of hope that the winds of fear are ferociously trying to snuff out, then we are not worthy to be called the sons or daughters of the ones that came before us.  As the poet Asophie said, “When a pebble dropped in a vast sea splashes beyond its capacity, crashing barriers that were never meant to be crossed, all that one is left with is the realization that the pebble was no small stone and the causality is no one’s fault but your own.”  If we die, then we shall be at fault.  If we live, then we too shall be the cause of that.  As for me, I choose life.  What choose you?