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.

Patent Leather Love Seat: A Solo Act

Today, two solo-acts that I wrote are being performed for the first time by two of my students who have a lot of dramatic experience. So I decided I’d post them both over the next two days. I’m happy to share these with other dramatic groups who use them for non-commercial purposes. Thanks.

Patent Leather Loveseat: A Solo Act

by

Mark W. Sasse

Characters:  Janey & Momma

Synopsis: Janey recalls the day her mother brought a loveseat into the house, which led to Janey’s first love.

(Janey starts with her back to the audience, standing and looking down at the loveseat. Then goes and sits on the arm of the couch, feeling the fabric, big smile on her face)

My Momma always said if you want a quality loveseat, you buy leather. (feeling fabric) Not just any leather. Patent leather. Thick-skinned. Layers of buffed lacquer, polished to a glossy veneer. Shiny enough to almost see your face.

(She slides down into the couch.)

So glossy that it demands attention. So beautiful that one is almost afraid to use it. You might also notice one additional thing regarding this loveseat that momma never mentioned. It’s half empty.

(still smiling)

What that’s? You’re asking about my smile? Oh, thank you. I’ve been told I have a nice smile. Smiles are attractive, aren’t they? Kind of like patent leather.

(still smiling)

But sacrifices were made to make this loveseat– leather demands it. And just like this loveseat, this smile isn’t free either. If you could see beneath this smile… (panting) Are you sure you want to see? Don’t be angry with me if you don’t like it. I did warn you.

(angry, stands and screams, sad and partial crying, sits down and touches the empty side of the seat)

This loveseat and I go way back.

I remember the day momma brought it home. I must have been eight or nine.

MOMMA: Janey, look at this. We just inherited this from your grandmother. Manufactured in 1932. They don’t make them like this anymore. This is the very seat where I first met your father. We spent many days and hours cavorting on this loveseat, until one day he kneeled right here, looked up at me and asked me to marry him. This is a magical seat. Your father and I have been married all these years and it started right here on this seat. One day you might have your own loveseat story. Sit. Try it out. There’s going to be boys knocking down the door wanting to cuddle up with you. Don’t worry. I’ll keep my eye on you.

It happened just like Momma said. Five years later, a thirteen-year old boy walked through that door and sat here for the first time. His family had just moved in next door and his mother made him come over and say ‘hello’. My mother took one look at his green eyes and sandy-brown hair and told him to sit on the loveseat. Then she called me down.

MOMMA: Janey. Janey. The neighbor boy is waiting for you on the loveseat.

She was so ridiculously obvious.

MOMMA: Janey, remember what I told you. This is the best seat in the house. Imagine the couples who have sat here throughout the years! Janey, this is Thomas. He lives next door and came to say ‘hello’. So why don’t you be friendly and scoot right up next to him. You won’t bite, will you?

Yes, she actually said that. I sat down, reluctantly, embarrassed of my mother who just wouldn’t shut up.

MOMMA: Now Janey, don’t give me that face. Sit down by Thomas. Just because it’s a loveseat doesn’t mean the two people sitting in it are going to fall in love. It’s just a piece of cowhide strapped over some sawed pieces of wood. Nothing magical there, (pauses and raises eyebrows) but you never know.

Momma always did have that way about her of seeing the magic in life even before it existed. I was furious at her and felt so awkward until I glanced over and saw him smiling back at me, and it became immediately apparent that some magic did exist in this tanned and stretched hide. I sat there tense, unable to speak, he said “hello” and I wanted to kiss him immediately. Blame it on the loveseat! But I didn’t kiss him, not that day. My hand shook and accidentally touched his leg. I wanted to die, I wanted to run away, but I hoped that the electrified air separating our hands would emit some secret coded message that can only be understood when sitting on a loveseat. I’m sure it did because as soon as Momma went into the kitchen to get us some ice tea, our fingers touched for the first time. We were in love.

From that day onward, this loveseat was ours. Each side occupied in tandem. Each side complimenting the other. A held hand there, a peck on the cheek there. We were meant for this seat. Month after month, year after year, Thomas and Janey.

In fact, we were here so often that Momma got annoyed

MOMMA: What are you doing on that couch?

Nothing Momma!

MOMMA: Janey, don’t get too comfortable over there.

But Mom, you said patent leather loveseats are the most magical places in the world

MOMMA:  I lied. I was thinking the other day, that three is the perfect number for a loveseat. (she sits down in the middle with a big smile on her face, putting her arms around the two people she squeezed in between, she slides over to her side)

It’s almost as if Momma saw the signs before I did. He started being busy on Fridays. I just assumed it was the basketball team. But I knew he couldn’t stay away long. I even polished it. I bought the most expensive leather treatment available, and I buffed this loveseat into tip-top shape. (standing behind it, buffing it)  Gorgeous (back and forth between treating the couch and looking in the mirror), seductive, beautiful, irresistible.

I knew it would work, because yesterday was Friday, and he returned like I knew he would. We were made for each other – one couple and one loveseat. How could he ignore such beauty? How he could ignore such history?

(smiling like the beginning)

And he walked in, smiling, of course. He had this glow about him, this radiant look, this outer veneer which confirmed my every thought. He loved this loveseat. How could he not?

I motioned for him to sit down, but he said ‘no’ and kept on smiling.

(getting emotional) He thanked me for all the fun we had had. For all the moments spent beside each other on the shiny loveseat. He thanked me and said that he no longer needed this loveseat. He had found another one. One that was shinier. (more and more angry) one that was newer, Italian-made he said. Manufactured in the Mediterranean. How can a loveseat from Ipoh compete with Turin? He kept smiling, and he praised the loveseat and the comfort it provided and he put his hands right here, and said, “I’ll miss this loveseat” and rubbed the leather gently until he leaned down and kissed it one last time. Then He stood up and walked out the door.

(She goes over and sits down on the loveseat, puts her head down and starts crying, after a few moments, she stands up and walks over to the side of the stage becoming Momma.)

MOMMA: Janey. (a little flustered, she puts her hand on Janey’s shoulder and rubs it gently in a sympathetic manner) Do you know what I noticed recently? This loveseat is quite worn. The gloss has dulled, don’t you think? And look here. There’s a hole in it, and besides, I don’t even think this is real leather. It’s that faux, hoity-toity stuff, and the wood, it’s only pine. They told me it was oak. This is really a disgrace of a loveseat. I hope you’re not too attached to it. I was thinking of burning it.

(sits back down and becomes Janey)

Oh Momma, you’re the best person in the whole world.

MOMMA: I know.

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