On the first day of my advanced playwriting class, we were told to name impossible things to do onstage that we would want to see in a play. The list included horse races, genuine horror, and so on. Afterwards, we had to start writing a monologue or play using three elements. For mine, I chose earthquake, live smell, and a one-second scene change. For greater effect, cooking (backstage) and the use of rain would enhance the experience. Fifteen minutes later, we read aloud what we wrote. The service worker is the last part I was able to get to in class, and I wrote the rest later.

Small Tremor

 (The curtains open to reveal a beautiful Victorian house set. All is silent for thirty seconds, then the stage starts to shake. An earthquake. Over the course of three minutes, the earthquake grows strong and pieces of the house fall off. By the time the earthquake is over, the set has somewhat dismantled. One-second scene change. Two women are walking on a street filled with debris. They are glum, and by looking at them, you can tell they are not well-to-do. The weather reflects their mood, and they have ragged blankets draped around them to provide some protection against the cold and wetness. They walk in silence for a minute.)

 

WOMAN 1: Suppose we can’t find anything to eat?

 

(The question lingers as they continue walking. Finally, they come across what they have been looking for – the natural disaster shelter. Nothing can be seen on the stage except for a crowd of people also affected by the earthquake. The two women stand around the crowd. Woman 1 looks despondently around while Woman 2 glances at the surroundings with a purpose. She finally turns to a service worker who strolls onto the stage.)

 

WOMAN 2: Excuse me – sir! (He turns to her.) Is there food around here?

 

SERVICE WORKER (sympathetically): Unfortunately, all of our food rations have been given out. There is a volunteer over there – (points offstage) – who brought a grill, but he doesn’t have much food and there already is a long line. (Beat) Sorry.

 

(He crosses the stage and exits. Both women wander around, and eventually settle centerstage, where they sit down on some blocks. A sound of a sizzling grill is heard. After a few minutes, the smell of meat permeates the space, and a man’s uplifting voice is heard.)

 

MAN: How are you holding up, sir? (1) (Beat) That’s good! I have faith that things will start looking up from here. Here ya go! (To the next person) Well, someone looks hungry! (2) (Laughs) No problem, ma’am. Fortunately, we only got small tremors where I was at. It only made sense that I come out here and do what I can do. (To the third person) This is for youuuu. (To the next person; curtain slowly starts to close) Here you go. (3) You are sure welcome! (To the fifth person) How are you doing? (4) Mhmm, mhmm. Good to hear. (5) (He continues to serve people as he talks with the same person.) Yeah, my family didn’t get much damage. We were just out of the way. (6) Well, even further from us…You know that nice neighborhood, uh, Silver Pine? (7)  They got way more damage than us, even though they’re further away. Even then, it’s nothing compared to out here. (8) I would think despite being renovated within the last four decades, they probably still didn’t have too firm structures. To think, I wanted to move to that neighborhood, but my wife is afraid of Victorian houses. (9) She thinks they all feel haunted. (10) (Laughs) Possibly. (11) Good talking to you, man. Take it easy. (12) (To the next person, shrugging) I do what I can, but it’s never enough. (13) (The curtain is almost all of the way closed. Woman 2 starts to cry.) I appreciate that, thank you. (Beat) I guess all we can do is just keep on living. It may just be my suspicions (curtains are closed), but things look like they will just keep getting better.

 


 

 

It is necessary for the actor portraying the Man to know what the other unseen characters are saying to get a full picture of their intertwined experiences. While these other characters are unseen, it is important for them to be unheard as well. 

(1) Alright. I’m glad to have made it here.

(2) Thank you so much for being here.

(3) Thank you.

(4) Well, now that I’m here, I know things will be getting better.

(5) What about you?

(6) Sounds like your area was fairly lucky.

(7) I do.

(8) I wonder why that is.

(9) Why’s that?

(10) Maybe there was someone or something that warned her about all of this.

(11) Thank you! Keep this up.

(12) I really appreciate you doing this. Thank you.

(13) It means so much to me that you’re here…That you’re doing this.