The 2013 winner of the DC Horn Foundation/Yale Drama Series Prize In this darkly comic exploration of loss, intimacy, and motherhood, three women are joined by a baby who never lived. Morgan, in her middle years, is the grieving mother of a stillborn child. Elena, the failed midwife, burdened by guilt, is considering a career change. Dolores, eighteen, is pregnant with a baby she does not want. Meanwhile, Constantinople, the child who wasn’t meant to be, wanders lost in search of his mother, trying to make sense of the world while making an unlikely appearance in each woman’s personal drama. Poignant, lyrical, ingeniously absurd, and outrageously funny, Jen Silverman’s Still is a brave and remarkable exploration of grief and family. It is the seventh winner of the DC Horn Foundation/Yale Drama Series Prize, selected this year by Marsha Norman, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Getting Out; ’night, Mother; and other acclaimed theatrical works.
About the Author
Jen Silverman recently held a Lila Acheson Wallace fellowship at Juilliard. Previously produced plays include Crane Story and Phoebe in Winter. Her play All the Roads Home was selected for the 2013 Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. In addition, she writes poetry and fiction, and has been published in Ploughshares and the LA Review. She lives in Astoria, NY.
Read an Excerpt
By Jen Silverman
Yale UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2014 Jen Silverman
All rights reserved.
Characters (3F, 1M)
CONSTANTINOPLE He is a giant newborn baby, dead. He should be played by a fully grown, very tall man. He is slippery, as unclothed as possible. Unearthly, disturbing, and charming
MORGAN Constantinople's mother, 41, fierce, grieving, all angles
DOLORES 18, at odds with the world, from time to time a dominatrix
ELENA A young 30, a midwife, strongly principled, scared
Places: A rundown hotel on the outskirts of a city Morgan's basement
Playwright's Note: Actors must not cry in any moments except those that are specifically indicated. Then (with the exception of Constantinople's wailing, in Scene 9) they never give themselves over to expressing grief fully—all crying is subtle and understated. There is no moment in which these characters let themselves become sentimental. It is crucial that actors find and play the dark humor and moments of real joy.
There is no intermission.
A light on CONSTANTINOPLE.
He looks around. He looks at us.
He has a plastic hospital bracelet around his ankle.
You're really beautiful.
I ... That's great. How beautiful you are. That's ... wow.
I'm not good with words yet. I'm learning them.
I learned a new one today. "Audacious." I overheard it. I don't know how to use it yet.
So. About me. I was born two days ago. I'm learning that people may want to know this, about me, why I don't know things yet.
Things are just great here. Have you noticed? They're great. Everything is so strange and great. I need more words. I don't have enough words yet. Wow. You know? Words are great.
So that's me. I hope you like it. Being beautiful. Being here. I hope you like it a lot. I was dead when I came out. That was two days ago. Did I tell you that? I forget if I told you that. I'm just having a look around. I just want to see it—what I should have had.
Like you. I should have had you. Your faces. Your hands.
Don't feel bad or anything.
(listens for something, then stills as he hears it)
Oh. That's my mother. She's crying again.
She's very far away. I'm not sure where. I hear her in here.
(touches his stomach, where the umbilical cord was)
I don't know what she looks like. If you see her anywhere, let me know.
I'd better go. I'm getting stiffer. I don't have much time.
A seedy hotel. Elegance faded, dilapidated, a grime that sort
DOLORES sits on a pool table, cue in hand.
She is dressed in hardcore dominatrixgear.
She plays pool against herself.
DOLORES Your shot.
(she takes it, misses)
Ooh. Suckerrrr, my shot.
(she takes it, misses—as her opponent)
What did you say to me?
DOLORES checks her watch.
Then she moves the pool ball, sets up for a shot.
Then, spoiling for a fight with herself:
DOLORES You can't do that!
Put that back.
Girrrrl do not make me take out my combat boots.
A WOMAN comes in, out of breath, in a hurry. She's wearing formal work clothes. She wears a carnival mask, and we can't see her face.
WOMAN I'm sorry I'm late, I tried to call but I realized I don't have a number for you and—
DOLORES You're five minutes overdue. You're five minutes ripe. You're a woman?
WOMAN The traffic was crazy. I'm sorry.
DOLORES You are a woman.
WOMAN ... Yes.
DOLORES That's weird. I usually get men.
WOMAN I'm not a man.
DOLORES Yeah, well, I'm aware of that. Now. You gonna use that mask for Halloween?
I'm a failure.
DOLORES Yeah, I'm sure, but that wasn't what I asked. Halloween, yes or no?
WOMAN I'm sorry?
DOLORES Whatever, stop talking. Sit down.
The WOMAN sits on the edge of the pool table nervously. She checks over her shoulder.
WOMAN Nobody I know would be here, right? I mean, this seems like the sort of place nobody I know would ever go, but then again I'm here, so ...
DOLORES Listen, we need to establish some rules right off the bat. I'm here to be mean to you. I'm good at that. And mean feels very honest to me, and I'm a very honest person, so it's great how my personality and my life goals line up. But I don't do clichés, because clichés are not honest, so I don't want to hear about how terrible you are or what a naughty girl you've been because blah blah blah WHATever NEXT. Are we clear?
WOMAN I've never done anything like this before.
DOLORES Other house rules: If I get bored, I stop. If I get tired, I stop. If you don't suffer in a manner that I find enjoyable, I stop. I don't need to know your name, your occupation, or how you feel. Please for the love of God, don't talk about your feelings, this isn't a date. Which reminds me: you pay up front. Any questions?
WOMAN This is all very new to me.
DOLORES Cliff Notes version goes: pay up and shut up.
She holds out her hand.
The WOMAN puts a roll of bills into it.
DOLORES counts them, then pockets them.
WOMAN It was a moment. A split-second. And then disaster. I look back on it again and again and I'm still not sure if it was my fault. But either way, I failed.
DOLORES Look ... you're not all that special. You know? Most of us aren't. So whatever you did is probably not all that special. Next to Hitler, you're ... mediocre.
WOMAN I try to tell myself that some failure is inevitable. But I don't think it is. I think if you're good at what you do—if you're prepared and educated and precise—then you won't fail. But then I start asking myself—where did I go wrong? And I don't know. I'm prepared, I'm educated, I'm precise. I'm not boasting, these are just facts. And I can't really sleep anymore. And I can't eat. And the question shifts, you know. It becomes: How can I ever atone? And I don't know that either. But maybe you do.
DOLORES Only the bourgeois upper middle class can afford to worry about that shit. Do you want me to beat you or not?
WOMAN I don't know. Is that what we do here?
DOLORES You're paying, you tell me what you want. Slapping is OK. Hair-pulling. Some people like to be kicked. Spanked. Thrashed.
WOMAN Maybe if you just ... shouted at me? A little? There are certain phrases I remember from my childhood, they were very upsetting to me. Maybe they'd be appropriate in this context as well.
DOLORES You want to be yelled at.
WOMAN Well, yes, I thought that perhaps— DOLORES If you wanna be yelled at why don't you just call your mother? People come here for hardcore shit. I'm a hardcore person. You don't look like a hardcore person.
WOMAN I'm not, I'm not a hardcore person. But I was researching happiness on the internet, raw diets and Buddhist mantras—and it all seemed just ... very ... insincere.
WOMAN Weak. Diluted. Redemption for beginners. I
need advanced redemption. And then I saw your website.
And it seemed like a very extreme solution, true, but I'm
in a very extreme place right now.
(DOLORES looks ill.)
DOLORES throws up. The WOMAN is nervous but she's good at this kind of thing; she holds DOLORES'S hair back gently, DOLORES lets her briefly, then sits up, already better, and shoves her away.
WOMAN Did I say something?
DOLORES Don't flatter yourself, it's just food poisoning.
WOMAN What did you eat?
DOLORES Or allergies.
WOMAN Those are pretty intense allergies.
DOLORES I'm allergic to food poisoning. (she straightens, already back to business) You should go.
WOMAN I didn't mean to upset you.
DOLORES You look stupid in that mask.
The WOMAN takes off her mask. It is ELENA. She leaves. DOLORES sits on the pool table. She rubs her stomach.
(to her stomach)
CONSTANTINOPLE Wow. Hello. I just, the weirdest
thing just happened. I was walking and then my hands
were wet. And then my head was wet. And then
everything was wet! The—
(points up, to the sky)
Up there was wet. And the wet was falling, so down here
was wet. It was—
So that happened.
Oh I learned that one too. It's new. There were two
(gestures: male teenagers, chains and tattoos)
big people and they were all FuckYou
NoFuckYouMuhfucka and then they said: hardCORE.
(beat, tries the word)
(out to the audience)
Can you tell me what that means?
My mother played me The Ramones. She played The
Grateful Dead. She played me recordings of the collected
calls of all the insects in the Northern Hemisphere, and
parts of the Southern Hemisphere as well. She likes insects.
She read me the dictionary. I learned a lot of words that
way but not all of them. Some of them got stuck in her
throat before they reached me. Sometimes she didn't
She's not crying today.
I'd like to find her. When she starts crying, I walk and
walk. My joints are getting stiffer. Sometimes I have to
stop. I wait for her voice to get closer but it hasn't yet.
Oh! There she goes.
He walks off.
MORGAN'S house. The basement.
A single window, high up, at ground level.
Dirt floor. Dim.
MORGAN, despondent, in her bathrobe, sits on the floor, ELENA
sits with her.
MORGAN I did everything right.
ELENA I know.
MORGAN The things I ate. The things I didn't eat. The things I drank or didn't drink. Nine months without wine. Water aerobics. Everything you told me to do. Why is it my fault?
ELENA It's not your—
MORGAN Why do I feel like it's my fault?
(cuts ELENA off)
Don't answer that.
I don't want to see anybody. Ever again.
MORGAN I just want to sit here. Moss will grow. Up over my face. Like a burka of moss. Moss will grow over the basement. Over the door. Over the house. I'll just sit here forever in a subterranean pocket of moss. It will get hard to breathe and everything will be very green but at least nobody will drop by with casseroles.
ELENA Morgan ...
ELENA The casseroles are people being nice. It's a midwestern thing I guess.
MORGAN Fuck nice. I don't feel nice. I don't want
anybody else to feel nice. I want everybody to be
miserable. More miserable than me. I know I'm
competitive, but this time I want everybody else to win.
Don't you have somewhere to be?
ELENA Do you want me to go?
MORGAN I didn't say that, I just asked if you had
somewhere to be.
Don't answer that.
I feel crazy. I'm sorry.
ELENA Do you want some casserole?
MORGAN Which kind?
ELENA The one with the pink stuff in it.
MORGAN Bacon, that's bacon.
ELENA No, the gray stuff is bacon.
MORGAN The pink stuff is also bacon.
ELENA Is that a yes?
MORGAN Yeah, whatever, no, OK.
ELENA gets MORGAN casserole.
MORGAN holds it throughout but doesn't eat.
ELENA Maybe we could go eat upstairs. In the dining room. Or the kitchen. Or the living room. Or you could take a hot shower? Change your clothes?
MORGAN They didn't want to see the photos. I said: Wanna see the photos? But none of them did.
ELENA I know.
MORGAN He was beautiful.
ELENA I know.
MORGAN He was dead but he was beautiful.
They think it's my fault.
MORGAN Everybody, Elena, everybody—and they think if I'd had him in a hospital he would have been fine—this whole crazy thing of a homebirth, they're thinking, it sounds Greenpeace and hippie and Little House on the Prairie and in the end her baby is dead. That's what they're thinking. And if they're not thinking it's my fault, then they're thinking it's yours. The midwife, after all.
A beat. This hits hard.
ELENA It's neither of our faults. We took every precaution. Every care. It was a safe and healthy delivery—
MORGAN Until it wasn't.
ELENA Do you think it's my fault?
MORGAN I didn't say that.
ELENA There was nothing Little House on the Prairie about any of this, Morgan, and you know that. We followed the designated standard of care, I've delivered hundreds of babies without incident and this one time— MORGAN There was incident.
MORGAN Say it.
"There was incident." Say it.
Just say it!
ELENA "There was incident!" Morgan, this isn't easy for me either. I've never lost a child before. Never.
MORGAN Well me neither, Elena, I've never lost a child
I would have wanted to see the photos. If it was somebody
else's baby. I would've wanted to see. Wouldn't you?
ELENA I would. I would have too.
She touches MORGAN'S hand. MORGAN lets her.
MORGAN Where do you think he is?
ELENA They're preparing him.
MORGAN He should be here. With me. They can't prepare him for anything I wouldn't prepare him for better.
They're preparing him to be buried.
MORGAN I don't care.
A coin on his tongue. Coins on his eyes. Snacks for the
That's what I would have done.
I want to see him. When can I see him?
ELENA Let me get you some more casserole.
MORGAN I WANT MY FUCKING SON.
I never got to hold him.
I was scared when they said, "Do you want to hold
I was scared of him.
I wish I'd held him.
ELENA I'm sorry.
MORGAN (turning away, cutting) It's not your fault.
In the dilapidated hotel.
DOLORES, sprawled on the pool table.
She tells dead baby jokes to her stomach.
DOLORES What do you call a dead baby in a swimming
What do you call a dead baby on a beach?
What do you call a limbless dead baby in a pile of leaves?
What's funnier than a dead baby?
A dead baby in a clown costume!
(to her stomach)
I'm not raising you, I'm killing you. But if I were raising
you, I'd raise you with a killer sense of humor. That means
you'd massacre thousands while you laughed.
We'd get along. I'd read your tea leaves. You'd learn tarot.
We'd both learn to tango. We'd tango around the room
of a garret somewhere in Paris. High above the city. You
would plan your latest crimes and you would run them all
past me. I would give them the A-OK and then you would
carry them out. You'd wear spurs. I'd have a top hat. We'd
escape into the Wild West, once we got sick of Paris. You'd
be a crack-shot sharpshooter. I'd be an alcoholic. It would
be awesome. Wouldn't it be awesome?
Too bad I'm not raising you.
The quality of humanity is going down. There have been
CONSTANTINOPLE appears in the doorway. He watches her with interest.
DOLORES Who the fuck are you, room service?
CONSTANTINOPLE I'm Constantinople.
DOLORES Excellent, I'm Darfur. Move along, cupcake.
CONSTANTINOPLE What are you doing?
DOLORES Talking to myself. Are you retarded?
CONSTANTINOPLE No, I'm Constantinople. Have you seen my mother?
DOLORES looks him up and down.
DOLORES You look weird.
CONSTANTINOPLE You look sad.
DOLORES Fuck you, I'm Comedy Central. Life's a dream. Row row row your Sound of Music. You seriously look weird.
CONSTANTINOPLE Well, I'm young.
DOLORES So am I and I know how to dress myself. No excuse.
CONSTANTINOPLE I died two days ago.
DOLORES And I have plans to kill myself next week. Get into the Waaaambulance, this pity party got shut down.
CONSTANTINOPLE I was born two days ago.
CONSTANTINOPLE You're very hard to understand. Is that normal?
DOLORES Are you a boy or a girl?
CONSTANTINOPLE I'm a boy.
DOLORES Where's your Mom?
CONSTANTINOPLE She's not here?
DOLORES No, I don't think so. No.
CONSTANTINOPLE When she stops crying, I get confused.
DOLORES I don't think you're old enough to be here.
CONSTANTINOPLE I got lost. I walked and walked and then she stopped crying and I was lost. But then I smelled her. And I followed it here. But now you're here and you don't smell like my mother at all. I need her to start crying again.
DOLORES Sounds like she cries a lot.
CONSTANTINOPLE She cries until she falls asleep. I can tell when she cries in her sleep because it's muffled.
DOLORES I don't cry.
CONSTANTINOPLE Not ever?
DOLORES Not ever.
CONSTANTINOPLE What do you do?
DOLORES I hit people mostly. If I start feeling emotional.
CONSTANTINOPLE Does it help?
DOLORES Well, I'm feeling emotional. Come here.
CONSTANTINOPLE approaches. She punches him in the arm.
Excerpted from Still by Jen Silverman. Copyright © 2014 Jen Silverman. Excerpted by permission of Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword, by Marsha Norman, vii,