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Mixed Messages: A One-Act for Two Players

31 October 2017

A small crowd of people is scattered across one side of the stage, each attending to his or her own task — eating, working, sleeping, reading, etc. International Community enters opposite.

International Community: (wailing tragically, almost desperately) Oh the children! Someone help the children! So many! (Falling to his knees, reaching toward the crowd) So helpless! So much need! Help them! Help them!

Extras either ignore International Community and slink off stage, opposite, or hurriedly finish their tasks, shouting reasons why they cannot help as they gather their things and rush off stage. One Person is left, watching the scene quietly, pensively. Person watches others leave and turns to consider International Community. Finally:

Person: (decidedly) I will. I don’t have much to give – love and a family and a safe home, but that’s enough, right? That’s really what people need.

International Community: (standing quickly, suddenly haughty and proud) Really? How many bedrooms do you have?

Person: (confused) Um … what?

International Community: What is the square footage of your home? Property?

Person: (stuttering, still confused) I don’t … what does … ?

International Community: (interrupting) And what is your net worth? Do you have debt? What’s the value of your life insurance and retirement plans?

International Community approaches Person and delivers a quick poke to the ribs.

And let’s talk about you: Are you healthy? Really healthy? Has anyone in your family ever been sick? With anything? Ever? What kind of health insurance do you have? You don’t have health insurance? Are you one of those people who doesn’t believe in modern medicine? I need a doctor’s note. Oh, and I need it notarized. And the notary has to be valid for a year.

Person: (trying to interrupt, irritated) But you just said …

International Community: (ignoring Person) What does your work history look like? Are you employed now? Are you a good employee? I need a letter from your boss. Also notarized. Valid for a year.

Oh, have you ever been in trouble with the law? Arrested? Why? When? Can you prove it? 20 years ago?! Are you reformed? Really, really reformed? I need a police report. Also notarized. At least one year.

What about your family? Are you married? Happily? How happily? How did you meet? Why did you marry him? Ever been married before? When? To whom? What happened? I need certified copies of every document imaginable to support your statement.

And your parents? Are you close? Were they good to you? Abusive? How did they discipline you? How did they raise you? How do you feel about how they raised you? Did they warp you? Siblings? Names and places of residence. How are they? Are they warped? Where did you grow up? Did you move a lot? What was the best part of your childhood? What was the worst part of your childhood? How well did you perform in your third grade grammar class?

Person: (trying to interrupt again, insulted) I don’t see what …

International Community: (still ignoring Person) Who do you hang out with? Good crowd? Bad crowd? How do they feel about you adopting? Are they ethnically diverse? How diverse? Do you live in a United Colors of Benetton ad? How could you make your social circle more diverse? Are they supportive? Will they help you? I need friend notes. Of course they have to be notarized. You’d probably go make up friends otherwise.

What kind of person are you? Race? Height? Hair color? Religion? Talents? Skills? Hobbies? I’m going to need a full autobiography.

And what are you going to do with this child? Will you teach him about us? Will you say nice things about us? What resources – that you’ve never considered before this moment – are available in your community? How will you raise him? How will you discipline him? How will you prepare him for a happy, successful life? What will you tell him about his birth parents?

Person: (humbled and a little angry) Yes?

International Community: (scanning Person skeptically, then casually) I’ll think about it.

International Community turns to exit, takes a few steps, pauses, pivots slightly – almost facing Person again, but not quite – to add:

International Community: That’ll be one year’s wages.

Scene.

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