This trio of plays explores the use of drama as a support in healing, training, and entertaining all. Using the healing and accessible art of theater, timely interests-addiction, HIV, mental illness, racial injustice, sexual harassment, and more-are brought to life in a trio of contemporary scripts.
In the title play, "The Stakes," an idealistic African American social worker-the target of workplace racism, sexual harassment, and political machinations-is encouraged by a coworker who shares with her his enthusiasm for African proverbs.
A young woman strives to overcome her dual afflictions of mental illness and substance dependence in "Abiona." With the help of health-care professionals, plus her own insights related to her African heritage, she learns to find hope again.
In an addiction-recovery center, one man struggles in his quest for sobriety. He finds solace in learning that the origins of the group's holiday celebration can be found in African traditions. "GumBO" won the 2000 Script Writing Award given by the Gwendolyn Brooks Center of Chicago.
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THE STAKES: Three Plays of the Black Experience to Heal, to Train, to Entertain
By Charlotte E. May-Séré
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Charlotte E. May-Séré
All rights reserved.
A clinic examining room. The room contains an examining table and chair, plus a sink with soap and paper towels. Next to the examining room is a conference room with podium. A bunch of dried flowers is on a shelf there. In the background is VICTORIA's office, which may be on an elevated structure. It contains a desk and two chairs. Next to it is the office of her supervisor, AGNES DUDWORTH.
VICTORIA is in her office working with papers as well as on the telephone. She is an attractive young lady, with a warm, friendly demeanor. She is genuinely invested in helping her clients and in being of value to the institution that employs her.
WINNIE enters the examining room. She is petite and shapely and walks somewhat seductively. She arranges things, then leaves the scene. She returns almost immediately with a broom and dustpan and sweeps the conference room and examining room. She leaves the broom and dustpan in the conference room when she goes out again. She returns immediately with charts, which she deposits on the table in the conference room, and then leaves.
RANDALL RANSOM enters the conference room by a door different from the one WINNIE exited by. He is a handsome man, about medium height. He has a slightly rakish look, together with a certain self-absorbed arrogance. He picks up a chart and begins to read it. He then reads from other charts and makes notes in some of them.
VICTORIA greets her colleague, MRS. SIMMONS, who is just entering VICTORIA's office. MRS. SIMMONS is matronly and has a warm, friendly demeanor. She holds a box of faux pearls that she gives to VICTORIA.
MRS. SIMMONS. Faux pearls for the jewelry class. I'm donating them to the Center.
VICTORIA, accepting the box of pearls. Dear Mrs. Simmons! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Faux pearls for the jewelry class! I'll take them to the conference room where we're keeping things for the Center.
MRS. SIMMONS. Don't thank me, Ms. Shepherd! You're the one who deserves thanks. You're the founder. Imagine! Organized the Center all on your own! How could you accomplish so much?
VICTORIA. Giving others a chance to create!
MRS. SIMMONS. You give your heart!
VICTORIA. Ah! To go down deep and raise those hidden treasures!
MRS. SIMMONS. (Noticing book on VICTORIA's desk, she reads the title.) African Proverbs.
VICTORIA. That book was donated for the African proverb class.
MRS. SIMMONS. A class on African proverbs! Who's leading it?
VICTORIA. Our very own Dr. Curtis Wyman!
MRS. SIMMONS. Dr. Wyman? The surgeon?
VICTORIA. The surgeon Dr. Wyman! Proverbs! The perfect flesh for his surgeon's mind. He's even writing about the proverbs.
MRS. SIMMONS. He's perfect for the proverb class! There's such a buzz about the Center! Hear it's called Healing Hands.
VICTORIA. Healing Hands. Yes, that's the name for the Center.
MRS. SIMMONS. Excellent name! (Notices box of modeling clay.) But what about this clay?
VICTORIA. Modeling clay for the sculpture class.
MRS. SIMMONS. Sculpture? Can't think of a soul to run a sculpture class!
VICTORIA. None other than our good client, Mr. Tulane!
MRS. SIMMONS. Mr. Tulane! But I thought he—
VICTORIA. Wait till you see him!
MRS. SIMMONS. So he's bett er! Wonderful! Of course it's a credit to his doctors—especially Dr. Wyman. But credit also goes to you. Think I didn't notice how much time you spent? How patient you were?
VICTORIA. You always encourage me, Mrs. Simmons. With Mr. Tulane, with the Center, with whatever I do!
MRS. SIMMONS. My pleasure. But I'll be leaving shortly. Today's a clinic day. I bet Mr. Tulane'll stop to see you.
VICTORIA. He needs those funds.
MRS. SIMMONS. Those funds. I'm sure Mr. Tulane wants to see you bad. But before I go, now, I just have to say it— (Hesitates.)
VICTORIA. What's on your mind, Mrs. Simmons?
MRS. SIMMONS. Beware of that Ransom guy! (Indicates conference room where RANDALL is at this moment.)
VICTORIA. Dr. Ransom.
MRS. SIMMONS. Him! Dr. Ransom! Struts around here like he's chief cock in a bunch of hens. Steady getting an IV feed. Guess what's in the IV bag.
VICTORIA. I can't guess. What's in his IV bag?
MRS. SIMMONS. Himself. Full of himself! Don't ever turn your back!
VICTORIA. My supervisor, Ms. Dudworth, told him not to be so loose around me.
MRS. SIMMONS. Did it do any good?
VICTORIA. Can't tell yet.
MRS. SIMMONS. The way he is with us, if you know what I mean!
VICTORIA. We're all human beings.
MRS. SIMMONS. He makes differences!
VICTORIA. Dr. Ransom is a pocketful of problems. But Ms. Dudworth helps so much. I don't worry.
MRS. SIMMONS. Still, you watch the man. Where we're concerned.
But he'd still like to get in with a pretty young lady! (There is a knock at the door.)
VICTORIA. Mr. Tulane.
MRS. SIMMONS. I understand, dear. But mark my word. Watch that Ransom fellow. Promise me.
VICTORIA. Thank you, Mrs. Simmons. I promise. (MRS. SIMMONS greets TULANE as she is leaving and ushers him in to see VICTORIA. TULANE walks with a cane. His voice is cheerful and shows that he is confident he is on the mend. He holds behind his back a gift for VICTORIA.)
TULANE. Something for Miss Vicky!
VICTORIA. No gifts for me, Mr. Tulane.
TULANE. But I made it myself!
VICTORIA. What could it be? (TULANE reveals his gift, a clay paperweight in the shape of three clasping hands, one jet black, one white, and one a shade of yellowish beige.) A paperweight!
TULANE. A paperweight for the weightless Miss Vicky! She walks on air!
VICTORIA. Three clasping hands! How lovely!
TULANE. With the Center named Healing Hands, I knew what to make for you. Hands.
VICTORIA. Three hands, clasping: a black hand, a yellow hand, a white hand.
TULANE. Because at Healing Hands, all colors will create hand-in-hand.
VICTORIA. Thank you, Mr. Tulane. This will be our symbol. It will occupy a special, central place at our center.
TULANE. But these hands also stand for how you reached out to me, through the darkness.
VICTORIA. That's why I'm here, Mr. Tulane.
TULANE. The paperweight stands for the great weight on your shoulders. Yet you carry it all as if it were paper.
VICTORIA. You give me too much credit, Mr. Tulane. Volunteers make Healing Hands. And thank heavens you're leading the sculpting class!
TULANE. Know why I'm for the sculpting class?
VICTORIA. You enjoy sculpting and wish to share it with others.
TULANE. But I sculpt because of you, Miss Vicky. You put that idea here.
VICTORIA. Sculpting was to brighten your outlook.
TULANE. Just when I gave up on life, you wanted me to celebrate life!
Shape the shapeless clay!
VICTORIA. You were more at ease.
TULANE. You made ease out of "disease." Sculpting is a prayer for me, a paperweight for you.
VICTORIA. A lovely gift, Mr. Tulane. Thank you. (Pause.)
TULANE. You're welcome, Miss Vicky. I'll be getting along now. Isn't it time when you go down there to work on charts?
VICTORIA. Yes, I'll be leaving shortly. But before we go, have you received a letter from that fund we applied to?
TULANE. No word yet, Miss Vicky.
VICTORIA. Any day now you should hear something.
TULANE. After clinic, if there's a letter, I'll come right back so you can see it.
VICTORIA. By all means, Mr. Tulane. Let's stay right with this until you get those funds you so deserve.
TULANE. Sure thing, Miss Vicky. If there's a letter, I'll bring it right to you. (TULANE leaves VICTORIA's office, exits the scene. VICTORIA gathers up the book, the box of modeling clay, and the box of faux pearls. She walks to the conference room and enters.)
VICTORIA. Good morning, Dr. Ransom. (She puts the book, faux pearls, and modeling clay on a shelf next to the dried flowers.)
RANDALL. Good morning? No, it's a beautiful morning, a beautiful day!
VICTORIA. Why yes, it is a beautiful day.
RANDALL. And here you come looking just like the day!
VICTORIA, ignoring the compliment. I have some charts to review.
RANDALL, slightly huff ed, but not entirely put off. Any one in particular?
VICTORIA. I'll start with James Tulane.
RANDALL, handing VICTORIA the chart. James Tulane. What's going on with him?
VICTORIA. He's improved. But he still needs the State to pay more of his expenses.
RANDALL. Well? What's being done for the man?
VICTORIA. We helped him obtain more in his food allowance. He was using his food money to pay on his medical bills. Then we helped him apply to the Special Fund.
RANDALL. What else?
VICTORIA. Most importantly, we treated his depression. That, plus counseling and monetary assistance changed his whole outlook. He's cheerful now!
RANDALL. But he still needs more. Right?
VICTORIA. Of course, and we're in the process of—
RANDALL. So what you did, didn't really do it, huh?
VICTORIA. We helped in many ways. Ms. Dudworth can vouch for that. We dispensed to him from our Service Fund. He doesn't qualify for more help from the State because of the income standard, and then, too—
RANDALL, cutting her off. I see, I see. Well! (He eyes her up and down, a look of dalliance coming over him.) Let's talk about us, huh?
VICTORIA. Excuse me?
RANDALL. You look better and better every day. (Pause.) Know that?
VICTORIA. Now really, Dr. Ransom—
RANDALL. Randall. How many times must I tell you? Call me Randall!
VICTORIA. But how many times must I tell you—
VICTORIA. Relax? How can I, when you're constantly—
RANDALL. I told you how things are with my wife and me.
VICTORIA. But still—
RANDALL. Understand. I've been with my wife for years. We have children. But it doesn't mean ...
RANDALL. It's like chemistry—the chemistry I studied so long ago. Chemistry. You mix hydrogen and sulphur. No matt er how oft en. No matter when you mix 'em. You get the same result each time. Hydrogen sulfide. Every time you mix 'em it's hydrogen sulfide! (He simulates a look of revulsion, fans the air to get rid of the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide.)
VICTORIA. Then get help.
RANDALL, exasperated. You should be intelligent enough to understand.
VICTORIA. What could there be to understand?
RANDALL. You don't get it!
VICTORIA. There's nothing to get!
RANDALL. Get this: smart guys are restless.
VICTORIA. That has nothing to do with me.
RANDALL. A man gets restless. He has to keep looking.
VICTORIA. Not this way.
RANDALL. Women are flattered with a guy like me.
VICTORIA, completely turned off. If you'll excuse me. This is a busy morning ... (She sits down and begins to write in a chart.) Service sheets in these charts. After that, final plans for the Healing Hands Center.
RANDALL. Your center, your Healing Hands Center, is just another program when there are already too many programs.
VICTORIA. But none like this! At Healing Hands clients will bring out the specialness just waiting to be stirred and mixed, then spread on canvas to make something new and lovely. All are included. Illness is no barrier. Guidance for budding artists, yearning writers, aspiring dancers, theater—
RANDALL. You name it, huh? You and your Healing Hands have the answer! Well, let me tell you: It takes more than an idea. It takes money. Money!
VICTORIA. Lots of donations. Today, faux pearls for the jewelry class. Yesterday, clay for Mr. Tulane's sculpting class. And look, someone's donated dried flowers for the floral class!
RANDALL. Stuff! A few donations. So? Staff must be hired!
VICTORIA. The great thing about it—
RANDALL. Nothing great about it! Pick us clean, hiring staff we can't afford!
VICTORIA. But volunteers will run Healing Hands.
RANDALL. What? Think people'll work for free?
VICTORIA. Volunteers are eager to join Healing Hands.
RANDALL. They won't show up!
VICTORIA. There's even a waiting list of volunteers. People are eager to share their hearts. (RANDALL is uncomfortable, squirms, doesn't know what else to say to deprecate Healing Hands.)
RANDALL. Then share your heart with me, you great big chocolate drop! (He pinches her playfully on the cheek.)
VICTORIA, moving away from him. Keep your hands off me! And don't call me "chocolate drop"!
RANDALL. But chocolate drops are sweet when they know their place! (He makes lip movements to demonstrate.)
VICTORIA. Don't call me "chocolate drop"!
RANDALL. Sorry. (Pause.) But what about me? I need a little attention. (Pause. He places his hand on her knee.) Wouldn't you say?
VICTORIA. Don't touch me! (Immediately gets up and moves toward the door.)
RANDALL. (Rushes ahead of her, gets to the door, and blocks it so she can't get out.) Just tell me what you like.
VICTORIA, struggling to get the door open. Let me out! Let me out!
RANDALL. Tell me what you like. (He continues blocking the door with his back and one hand, and tries to paw her with his other hand. She fends him off as best she can while trying to get away.)
VICTORIA. To leave!
RANDALL. There's a butt on here somewhere ...
VICTORIA, trying to get past RANDALL. Please, Dr. Ransom ...
RANDALL. There's a butt on here somewhere ... (Continues trying to paw her.)
VICTORIA. Let me out!
RANDALL. Just tell me what you like. I'm very amenable.
VICTORIA. Let me out! (VICTORIA struggles furiously trying to get past RANDALL. He finally reluctantly moves aside. She rushes out. RANDALL makes angry gestures of irritation, then collects his composure and resumes reading of chart. WINNIE enters by same door VICTORIA just exited from. She bustles in, carrying supplies for the examining room, and distributes these with assistance from RANDALL.)
WINNIE. Why, that little twit! Zipped past me without a word! Could see I was all loaded down. She—
RANDALL, innocently. Who, sweetheart?
WINNIE. That little spittoon!
WINNIE. That Victoria Shepherd.
RANDALL. Victoria Shepherd? Let's see ... ah, yes!
WINNIE. What's her problem? Almost bumped me over!
RANDALL, sympathetic toward WINNIE. Hellcat!
WINNIE. What is her trouble?!
WINNIE. Running past me like that, almost knocked me down. Why, she— Why, that—
RANDALL. Don't worry your pretty head about these brain-free staffers.
WINNIE. A no-brain who thinks she's so competent! She's spoiling the clients. Helping this one with more income, that one over his depression. To say nothing of her Committee for the Indigent! And that Healing Hands—
RANDALL. Oh, how we go on about that little drop!
WINNIE. What was she scared about?
RANDALL. Who knows?! They scare easily, and do they run! When they're scared, all you can see are the whites of their eyes! (Laughs.)
WINNIE. Scared. As if something just happened. As if something happened ... here! (Pause. RANDALL is silent.) What happened, Randall? Was somebody hollering?
RANDALL. Wasn't from here.
WINNIE. Something happened here. (Pause.)
RANDALL. I wasn't going to say anything.
WINNIE. Tell me. What happened?
RANDALL. They're always after men of power.
WINNIE. Why, that brazen little—
RANDALL. Don't worry, honey. I can handle it.
WINNIE. Can you?
RANDALL. She was on me like a louse. Wouldn't keep her hands off me.
RANDALL. I told her that between her and me it's strictly business. (Pause.)
WINNIE, enraged. Why, that—
RANDALL. Don't clutter your mind with inkwells!
WINNIE. Why, the presumptuous little—
RANDALL. Think no more about it. Your big huggy bear's here. (Tries to embrace WINNIE.)
WINNIE, coldly. If he's here, I should hope so.
RANDALL. Here with his arms wide open.
WINNIE, cold, angry, sarcastic. I hope so.
RANDALL. Hope no more!
WINNIE. I certainly hope so—after I waited for you till midnight!
RANDALL. You did?
WINNIE. And in the rain!
WINNIE. Oh, Randall! Where were you?
RANDALL. We were supposed to meet?
WINNIE. How could you?
RANDALL. I forgot. (Pause.) Now look, Winnie, I'm really sorry. I just forgot.
WINNIE. That's all I ever hear: you just forgot!
RANDALL. Dearest Winnie, I am so sorry. I ... I ... What can I say? I just forgot.
WINNIE. You just forgot. Is that all you can say, after I got soaking wet?
RANDALL. I forgot. You see my ... uh ... (stammering) ... my ... my wife ...
WINNIE. Your wife! Your wife! Always your wife! Sometimes I wonder why I—
RANDALL. I'm really sorry, darling.
WINNIE. This always happens.
RANDALL. Now you know how I feel.
WINNIE. But ... but ... (RANDALL interrupts her with a passionate kiss. WINNIE melts in his embrace, her body responding with sensuous titillation.)
RANDALL. Same time, same place?
Excerpted from THE STAKES: Three Plays of the Black Experience to Heal, to Train, to Entertain by Charlotte E. May-Séré. Copyright © 2013 Charlotte E. May-Séré. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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
In Memoriam.................... vii
Author's Preface.................... xiii
The Stakes.................... 1
Act One.................... 3
Act Two.................... 43
Scene One.................... 81
Scene Two.................... 97
Scene Three.................... 107
About the Author.................... 159