Seven New Plays from the Playwrights Ensemble: From the Playwrights Ensemble

Seven New Plays from the Playwrights Ensemble: From the Playwrights Ensemble


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810123465
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Publication date: 08/30/2006
Edition description: 1
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Sandy Shinner joined Victory Gardens Theater in 1979 and is currently associate artistic director. She has directed over 100 productions, most recently the world premieres of Claudia Allen's Hanging Fire at Victory Gardens, Joanna McClelland Glass' Trying, which transferred Off-Broadway after its Victory Gardens run, and Kathleen Tolan's Memory House at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival and Victory Gardens.

Dennis Zacek, now in his 27th season as artistic director at Victory Gardens Theater, has directed more than 150 productions since the theater's founding. Recently, Zacek was honored with the League of Chicago Theatres' 2004 Artistic Leadership Award. He is a professor emeritus at Loyola University and resides in Chicago.

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2006 Victory Gardens Theater
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8101-2346-5

Chapter One




There are those of my plays for which I take full blame, and there are those for which I take full responsibility. Fortunately (for you), you'll never get to see or read sixteen for which I take full blame. I didn't like them, so I shredded all copies except a copy of one I couldn't locate. It's out there somewhere to plague my spirit long after I'll have quit the scene. Along with Eden, Nevis Mountain Dew, Dame Lorraine, Spiele '36, One Last Look, Primary Colors, Terraces, Mirage, and The Inaugural Tea, Pecong is one for which I take (and happily so) full responsibility. All the aforementioned and some of the unmentioned, even those which I destroyed but nevertheless are still my "children," mean something to me. Pecong, however, is the play that was the most enjoyable for me to write, so it is extra special to me. I was having so much fun writing it, I deliberately did things to prolong the finishing of it, such as running out of paper and typewriter ribbons on the weekend so that I'd have to wait until Monday when the store opened to replenish my supplies. Yes, I said, typewriter ribbons. Remember them?

I won't go into any details about the philosophy of the play, the reasons that I wrote it, and all that. You read it and draw your own conclusions. I will say that I am forever indebted and grateful to the Victory Gardens Theater for providing me with the time, the space, and the wherewithal to write Pecong and for showing their faith in me and the play by rewarding me with its very first production. Usually when a prospective producer calls to say that he or she would like to present it at his or her theater, I say, "Thank you for your interest. Now, tell me the 'buts.'" That's when they start with, "Well, if you could cut this or change that ..." That's when I thank them as politely as I can (not easy for me) and tell them to find a play that will meet all their needs and priorities. I thank the Victory Gardens Theater for including Pecong in its first anthology and giving you the opportunity to read the play as I wrote it and, with your imagination, see the play as I see it. They never had any "buts"!

This play is dedicated, with love, to my family: my late mother, Carmen; my sister, June; my nephew Scott; my nephew Steven and his wife, Denise, "de niece"; my two grandnephews, Steven II and Leeland; and my grandniece, Elise Sophia. Many special thanks to my friends Jerry, Sandy, and Alexandra Shinner Wilson and Zachary, Dennis, and Marcie McVay Zacek and all the very special staff at the Victory Gardens Theater; to Michele Swanson, "Ms. Wonderful," for being in the Boyces' pool at just the right time, and the Boyces for having the pool; and to Graham Brown, for whom the role of Creon was written and who, in April 2002, finally got to play it, for his faithful and tireless efforts on behalf of the play. Pecong was written through the courtesy of the Marianne and Michael O'Shaughnessy Playwrights' Development Fund with grateful appreciation.


Pecong, by Steve Carter, was first presented by Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago, Illinois, in January 1990.


Director Dennis Zacek Set James Dardenne Costumes Claudia Boddy Lights Robert Shook Sound Galen G. Ramsey Composer Willy Steele Choreography TC Carson Production Stage Manager Galen G. Ramsey Assistant Director Sandra Jean Verthein


Granny Root Pat Bowie Jason Allcock Daniel Oreskes Creon Pandit Ernest Perry Jr. Persis Catherine Slade Faustina Cremoney Wandachristine Sweet Bella Diane White Mediyah Celeste Williams Cedric Gary Yates Oppidans Feleccia C. Boyd, Shanesia L. Davis, Lydia R. Gartin, Shawn Goodwin, Thomas W. Greene V, Alison Halstead, Dexter L. Warr, Christopher Williams

The play was subsequently produced by Tricycle Theatre, London, England, in 1992; Newark Symphony Hall, Newark, New Jersey, in 1992; the American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco, California, in 1993; and the Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, Kingston, Jamaica, in May 2003.


Mediyah, an Obeah queen Granny Root, her grandmother, also an Obeah queen Cedric, twin brother to Mediyah Faustina Cremoney, an island woman and a minor "prophetress" Persis, sister to Faustina Creon Pandit, the own-all, do-all, and existing Grand King Calabash Sweet Bella the Silent, daughter to Creon Jason Allcock, a visitor from a neighboring island Damballah, played by the actor portraying Creon

Additional characters include townspeople, dancers, musicians, and so forth. The number of townspeople can vary from theater to theater. It has been done with as few as two and three musicians, but it does tend to make the production look rather spare.


Time: Well in the past

Places: Trankey Island (Ile Tranquille), an "island of the mind" in the Caribbean, and Miedo Wood Island, a dark, mysterious place


[The wee hours before cockcrow on a lushly verdant Caribbean "island of the mind." On the floor of a hut, MEDIYAH sleeps on a pallet. Lantern in hand, GRANNY ROOT enters, thrice circles the figure of her sleeping granddaughter, utters some "mysterious" words, and gestures, symbolically. MEDIYAH stirs.]

MEDIYAH: Is you, Granny?

GRANNY ROOT: Who else?

MEDIYAH: I try to stay up, but you was gone so long, I had was to doze off .

GRANNY ROOT: Plenty to do. Get up from there and wipe the sleep from you eye. We have t'ing and t'ing to do, and we ain't have much time.

MEDIYAH: I ain't want this t'ing to happen.

GRANNY ROOT: It have to pass, darlin'. This old heart done beat long past she time. These old bone, them tired. Is about time this body get throw in the dirt and cause new tree and food to grow.

MEDIYAH: But I ain't want you to die.

GRANNY ROOT: Ain't I done told you I ain't like that word? I ain't want you to use it! Ain't I done tell you I goin' alway be with you? Is through you, you old granny goin' live forever.

MEDIYAH: I know you say this, but how I know it true? GRANNY ROOT: You callin' Granny "liar" to she face?

MEDIYAH: I ain't mean it that way. I just want to know if I reach me hand, I could touch you?

GRANNY ROOT: Better than that! Better than anybody "touch"! You goin' feel Granny. Granny goin' be there!

MEDIYAH: I goin' see you?

GRANNY ROOT: Only you, darlin'. Only you.

MEDIYAH: You make me promise?

GRANNY ROOT: I goin' told you this one last time. You goin' see Granny when you want to see she. Granny goin' let you see she when she want you to see she. And since Granny always goin' want you to see she, you goin' see she. No make me say that again. Now, give me you ear. Time fl yin'. Is a lot of thing I never tell you.

MEDIYAH: I all the time know that when you want me to know thing, you goin' tell me, and if you ain't want me to know thing, you ain't goin' tell me.

GRANNY ROOT: Well, you granny goin' meet she maker and still she no say too much, but certain thing you have to do. Certain thing you have to know. Is only one person in this world I ever love like you and that is you mother. I try me best to love you brother, but is you take me heart. You is you mother all repeat. Cedric have too much of he father in he.

MEDIYAH: But, Granny, Cedric and me ... twin. We have the same daddy. GRANNY ROOT: You hear what I say? You is all you mother! Cedric ... all he father!

MEDIYAH: Yes. Cedric even look like ...

GRANNY ROOT: Hush! Don't even utter that name! We ain't never mention that name. If you have suspicion, keep it in you head and you heart. You ain't need that name in you mouth. Now, we have to go past all that 'cause t'ing already set in motion. I been out doin' and doin'. Come here to me!

[GRANNY ROOT firmly grasps MEDIYAH'S arms.]

Before, all you did know, for sure, was herb and root and bush to cure a pauper at death door. Now, darlin' granddaughter, you goin' know more. Granny leavin' you for you own appliance, all she power and she science.

MEDIYAH: Don't leave me, Granny.

GRANNY ROOT: All is ready. T'ing in motion. You can't stop tide or wave in ocean. Once you was baby, then you wean. So you was princess, now ... you queen! Stand up tall and wipe you eye. You is queen and queen don't cry.

MEDIYAH: What about Cedric?

GRANNY ROOT: Cedric is man! Only woman does have power and knowledge of science in this family. Nothing Granny can do for Cedric no more. You do for him what you can, if you willin'. He you brother and he not a bad sort, but he too much he father and that same father cause me and you grief. Now hear me 'cause I think it goin' soon day. The minute I shut me eye, you reach with you hand and pull out me heart. Wrap it in tingus leaf while it still beat. If anybody want, all you could have you funeral funnery and t'ing, then throw this ol' carcass in the hole that I done dig out back. Then, you and only you take me heart and bury she on Miedo Wood Island.

MEDIYAH: Miedo Wood Island? But, Granny, I can't go there. Nobody can go there alone. Since I been live on this earth, only one person me ever see go there and come back to tell it ... and that is you. GRANNY ROOT: And now, you goin' be the only one go there.

MEDIYAH: But that place have all wild animal and serpent and haunt and t'ing.

GRANNY ROOT: Mediyah! You queen now. No place hold badness for you. You born on Miedo Wood Island like you mother before you and me. You have nothing to fear! You the queen of Miedo Wood Island. It belong to you now. Nothing touch you! And if you feel to take somebody there ...

MEDIYAH: Somebody? ...

GRANNY ROOT: ... nothing touch he, either.

MEDIYAH: Granny, what you talkin'?

GRANNY ROOT: Remember, you power is great. Make you no misuse it. Make you no abuse it. Make you no confuse it. Or, dear heart, you could lose it. But you could have lickle bit of fun now and then. I always have lickle fun doin' t'ing to that Faustina Cremoney. She of the great trifling effort. But the gods, them know I ain't mean she no real harm. She can sometime be lickle botheration, but she not too bad a sort. Have some toleration with people like she. Howsoever, if somebody do you a true and harsh badness, defend youself with all you power. Bring down rage and destruction. Don't care who it is and no mind the cost to you, so long you have honor and standin' when you see you face in you glass. Now I goin'. I hear cock stampin' he foot and clearin' he throat to sound "Mornin'!" Come! Let Granny caress you one next time.

MEDIYAH: I ain't want this time to come!

GRANNY ROOT: What I tell you 'bout that, eh? Granny goin' all the time be with you. When it dark. When it light. When it day. When it night. When it sun. When it storm. When it breeze. When it warm. Well, you goin' stand there and let me go to me grave without kiss?

MEDIYAH: Oh, Granny. Granny.

[From off stage comes the lilting rhythm of Calypso music. In the distance, a dancing figure clad like a chanticleer struts and prances.]

GRANNY ROOT: It time! Remember me! Think of me and you mother and let we have vengeance. Good-bye, darlin'.


GRANNY ROOT: Bye, girl. Now.

[Suddenly, there is a cock crow, and the dancing figure mimics a real rooster. Simultaneously, GRANNY ROOT lifts her arms to heaven, and MEDIYAH screams and plunges her hand into GRANNY ROOT's chest and pulls out her pulsating heart. She wraps it in a large leaf as GRANNY ROOT falls back, lifeless, in her chair. MEDIYAH sinks to the ground at her grandmother's feet. The scene brightens just a bit, and the dancing figure is revealed to be CEDRIC. He is exuberantly tipsy and is accompanied by an entourage that consists of two overly attentive dancing ladies and some musicians.]

CEDRIC: Mediyah! Mediyah! Rouse youself and make you come out here and greet you brother, the champion! I win again! I win again! Four time in a row I win again! I win again! King of Calypso. I vanquish all me rival and scuttle all me foe. I put them to rout with sweet word from me mout'. All I do is sing out, and down they go. Is then when they fin' this night made for me, one, to shine. And I win again! I win again! Ain't I told you so? I win again! I win again! Four time in a row. One more time to go and the permanent title of Mighty, Royal, Most Perfect, Grand King Calabash is mine. Yes, girl. You shoulda see you brother. I all the time magnificent and superb, but tonight ... I go past that. Tonight, I sing better than God! I win again! I win again! Me put them all to shame. I win again! I win again! Them too sorry that them came. Them saga boy so wilted them faint right to the floor. Them kick up them feet and can't compete no more! I win again! I win again! I lash they with me tongue. I win again! I win again! I King of the Pecong. I bring home the medal, the cup, and the cash. Higher than high is how I does rate. Climb out you bed and celebrate. I win the title four time straight. One next time and I permanently be the great Mighty, Royal, Most Perfect, Grand King Calabash.

[CEDRIC and his companions are dancing vigorously when MEDIYAH, now clad in mourning, comes out of the hut with the wrapped still-beating heart in her hands. CEDRIC, on seeing her, sobers immediately.]

All you, less that noise! I say, "Quiet!" nuh?

[Everyone goes silent, staring at MEDIYAH.]

The ol' lady gone, eh?

[MEDIYAH nods.]

She go peaceful?

[MEDIYAH nods.] She ain't have no pain?


CEDRIC: Then, she go good. What more all we could want? She run a long and good race, so why you look so baleful. All we have to pass. Who know that better than she? No, Sister ... We ain't have to be sad. We ain't have to feel bad. Let we take she and put she in the ground, Pronounce some pleasant word, then prance around. Let we sing and take libation. Then let we make some lickle celebration. Mop up you face and let we see you smile. Granny Root goin' home ... in style!

[He gestures to his musicians.]

All you boy, help me pick she up and tote she to she restin' place.

MEDIYAH: She hole already dig in the yard. Put she in it gentle.

CEDRIC: Where you go?

MEDIYAH: Elsewhere!

CEDRIC: What you do?

[MEDIYAH holds the leaf-wrapped, audibly beating heart aloft. Thunder. Lightning flashes. CEDRIC is suddenly trancelike.]

I understand!

MEDIYAH: All you, be gentle with she remains!

[CEDRIC and the men pick up the corpse and, joined by the two dancing girls, do symbolic, ritualistic movement, then exit. As MEDIYAH prepares to leave, GRANNY ROOT, now clad in black veiling and holding a large opened black umbrella trimmed with the same black floor-reaching veiling, appears. MEDIYAH still holds the heart aloft.]

Remember, Granny. You make me a promise to all the time be here.

GRANNY ROOT: And since when Granny Root fail to keep she promise? Granny goin' all the time be with you, girl.

MEDIYAH: I the granddaughter of Granny Root. Let everybody know it. I the granddaughter of Granny Root. Let everybody know it!


Excerpted from VICTORY GARDENS THEATER PRESENTS Copyright © 2006 by Victory Gardens Theater. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword | Richard Christiansen....................vii
Preface | Dennis Zacek....................xiii
Pecong | Steve Carter....................3
Flyovers | Jeffrey Sweet....................83
Voice of Good Hope | Kristine Thatcher....................137
Battle of the Bands | Dean Corrin....................189
Affluenza! | James Sherman....................269
Free Man of Color | Charles Smith....................329
Hanging Fire | Claudia Allen....................385
Victory Gardens Theater Playwrights Ensemble....................441

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