Sons of/and money

Sure, I’ve never seen war, but I’m still bitter.
My country is still bombing.
My country that says I get to decide.

I’ve never wanted to bomb
countries I’ve never seen
but hear are full of people.

My country doesn’t want me to see
their bodies or their anguish or even
the beauty of their countryside.

I’ve never met anyone from Afghanistan
unless you count the American veteran who said,
“No, it’s not made of rubble, it’s the most beautiful

place I’ve ever seen.” I decided again no more bombs,
but see? The mother.
I am not the mother of bombs.

My own mother taught me this.
She died with a bumper sticker
taped to the inside back window

of her last car: in hopes she’d soon
be able to take it down. It said:
End less this war.

She’d taped it there 16 years ago.
She just died of natural causes
like a broken heart.

She taught me not to let them take
one’s sons to war. I aborted any sons.
I’d like to abort this mission, sir.

My country answers, these are your bombs,
so you must pay for them.
I grit my teeth to rubble.

I spit again: these are not my bombs.
Yes, he insists, these are your bombs
because you paid for them.

I will not pay.
I will not make enough money to
owe you anything,
country who calls itself mine.

The end of ceremony

Water is life
it’s a trail of tears

Earthlings this week
put planets 40 lightyears away on the front page
because they might be “awash in water”

because water is life
it’s a trail of prayers

Leaving the Great Campsite on fire
to welcome home the US government
we are walking
our eyes on the sky

Whose land
whose water
who’s awash in oil
in radio silence

water is life
we set fire

 


Note on the poem

“Water is life” is the rallying cry of the water protectors organized by the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens sacred land and drinking water for the tribe and millions downstream. On Feb. 22, 2017, the day the Army Corps of Engineers gave as a deadline to evacuate the water protectors’ encampment blocking the completion of the pipeline, the top-of-the-fold news was of the discovery of a star system with Earth-sized planets that might have water.

President Trump had signed an executive order to allow the continued building of the pipeline; militarized police and National Guard troops echoed the forceable removal of indigenous people since 1492.

News:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2017/02/22/newly-discovered-network-planets-could-harbor-water-and-life-scientists-say/98244676/

http://www.salon.com/2017/02/23/standing-rock-is-burning-in-the-snow-and-departing-water-protectors-grieve-dapl-progress/

Repression of media coverage of the direct action was repressed even before Trump came to power: https://www.democracynow.org/2016/11/24/standing_rock_special_dallas_goldtooth_on

 

Consensuality

A play in six acts      © 2014 by Karina Lutz

 

 

 

Characters

 

In order of appearance

 

Margaret SANGER the historic pioneer birth control advocate
GENE a fictional lover of Sanger, young, handsome, salesman and artist
Mohandas GANDHI the demonstrator of the theory and power of nonviolence, liberator of India
KASTURBA Gandhi Mohandas’s wife
HERA in II, i; II, iii; and III, ii, a contemporary menopausal woman; in II, ii, a young hippie around 1970
ALICE a young satyagrahi (a practitioner of nonviolence), HERA’s goddaughter
DON young hippie man in II, ii, and by III an aging gangbanger
DEIRDRE friend of ALICE and WINNIE, 20-30 years old
WINNIE friend of ALICE and DEIRDRE, 20-30 years old
BART not particularly threatening-looking, clean-cut white man
CECIL not particularly threatening-looking, clean-cut white man
RAPHAEL a neophyte gangbanger, also unassuming, white
SANDY ALICE’s lover. If Sandy is female, give her lines in    V, iii, to another male character
THERAPIST androgynous
SENSEI martial arts teacher, in gear
JOE young man of color
ODEA in V, i, young woman of color; in V, iii, a 20-something clinic worker
FRANK HERA’s friend, a satyagrahi, 50ish

 

TRUMAN 30-40ish man
JEREMY young man
ADAM 30ish man
ED pro-life activist

 

The actors, particularly for III, i, should receive training in nonviolence or ahimsa. The actors must understand both the human capacity for violence and the potency of soulforce or satyagraha.

 

It is helpful for the actors in IV to have experienced a men’s group or some other sharing circle. An actual sharing circle might be used as a workshop for actors.

 

Scenes I,i; I,ii; and VI,i, are historical fiction. Scene I,iii, is historical fact, verbatim, from Sanger’s assistant’s stenographic notes of the conversation. (Ellipses are abridgements from the original, not meant to be pauses in speech.) Other scenes are fiction.

 

 

 

 

Minimum 11 actors needed. Actors may be double cast. Suggested pairings:

 

Alice and Odea
Don and Truman
Ed and Cecil
Frank and Sensei
Gandhi and Adam
Kasturba and Hera
Raphael and Gene
Sanger and Deirdre
Therapist and Joe
Winnie and Sandy
Jeremy and Bart

 

 

 

Settings

 

Various locations, from New York City, to South Africa, to India

 

Times

 

Turn of the century, turn of the millennium, 1930s, 1960s and now. Some memories are told by characters in one time of another time and acted out within the scene.

SCENES

  ACT I

 

Scene 1 Greenwich Village, NYC 1917
Scene 2 South Africa 1906
Scene 3 Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha, India 1935

 

ACT II

 

Scene 1 An American living room 2006
Scene 2 Central Park, NYC 1970
Scene 3 The same living room 2006

 

ACT III

 

Scene 1 The same living room; a bedroom behind scrim 2007
Scene 2 The living room 2007
Scene 3 Dark stage space without set

 

2006-2008

 

Scene 4 A kitchen 2012

 

ACT IV

 

Scene 1 Urban woods 2002
Scene 2 A Unitarian church basement 2012

 

Scene 3 A Unitarian church basement; the parking lot of an abortion clinic 2012

 

 

 

ACT V

 

Scene 1 Margaret Sanger’s study 1965

 

Optional Anywhere Anytime after 1935

 

Act I

 

 Scene I

Morning, in bed, in Greenwich Village, 1917. SANGER and GENE are newly lovers.

Young Margaret SANGER

My love, who are you?

GENE

I am who you love, of course.

Post-coital chuckle. Pause. Then nervously:

Of course, not to mean, “the one you love.”

SANGER

Of course.

Looks off to corner, pregnant pause.

SANGER

Hopping on top of him, she grips his forearms with her hands, pulls them over his head, and leans into them while he stretches.

But who are you, really?

GENE

I’m a man, a happy man, a well-pleasured man, and hopefully, a pleasure-giving man.

SANGER

And then some!

 Searching his eyes

Tell me more.

GENE

Well, I’m a salesman and an artist, grew up in Brooklyn…

SANGER

Sweetly

No, not that, like last night, deeper, who are You?

GENE

I’m a lover.

SANGER

Yes.

GENE

And I love to love everyone, strangers, beautiful strangers

Stroking her face.

family, friends, the other regulars at the café, my customers even. But beautiful strangers mostly, especially right now.

He rolls her underneath him.

SANGER

Yes. And?

GENE

Ah, well, it so quickly becomes ineffable.

SANGER

So, eff what you can.

GENE

Half a chuckle.

Well those seem to be the most important things….And beauty. I am a lover and maker of beauty.

SANGER

Yes.

GENE

And you? Who are you?

SANGER

I am a rebel woman, a champion of woman’s power, champion of birth control…

Pause, opens mouth to speak, then thinks better of it.

Well, you know what you read in the press.

GENE

Do I? Do they tell the truth?

SANGER

Hardly.

 

GENE

Well, I assume some is right. You are a fearless, charming, and whimsical advocate for women’s right to—well—to make love to strangers without consequence!

SANGER

And then some! I am a champion of woman’s power to choose her lovers.

GENE

So you are just like me. At the core.

SANGER

Yes, I am a lover …and a woman with a passion … and a lover of happy, loved children, and wild men, and freedom, and justice—

Breathlessly, then slowly

I love being alive—the coolness of skin, the heat of fire… but I love water just as much… I love words and silence… air… and earthy good, good…

GENE

Hmm, see what I meant by ineffable?

SANGER

Yes.

Pull each other closer.

 

Act I

 

Scene II

 

South Africa, 1906. MOHANDAS and KASTURBA GANDHI stand in a room, facing each other.

Mohandas GANDHI

So you agree this would be best: we vow chastity together.

KASTURBA Gandhi

Yes, Mohandas.

GANDHI

And we come to this agreement freely, as equals.

KASTURBA

As always, your ideas are your ideas, but in this case, they fit very well with mine, and with how we are living.

GANDHI

Yes and no. Certainly, recently we been acting chastely, refraining from pointless carnality. But we have much to learn, or I should say, I have much to learn, to move beyond controlling my urges to purifying myself of them altogether.

KASTURBA

Much as you once had to learn to control yourself instead of trying to control me.

GANDHI

Yes.

KASTURBA

And we will still love each other.

GANDHI

As we love all humanity.

KASTURBA

And care for each other as husband and wife.

GANDHI

Of course, as we have since we were 13 and were married.

He leans down to fix her sandal strap.

And, I hope, you will continue to teach me the nonviolence you used to stop me from forcing myself on you. And I will continue to educate you.

KASTURBA

And I will continue to serve not only as your teacher and student but your aide.

bowing, hands together at heart

Jai Rama.

GANDHI

bowing

Jai Sita.

 

Act I

Scene III[1]

 

Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha, India, on December 3, 1935. GANDHI and SANGER sit cross-legged on ground outside a hut. Both are charming, sharp, and sparkling.

Note: ellipses indicate abridgment from original, not pauses in speaking.

SANGER

Mr. Gandhi, you and I have the interest of humanity at heart but while both of us have that thing in common, you have greater influence with the masses of humanity. I believe no nation can be free until its women have control over the power that is peculiarly theirs, I mean the power of procreation, that powerful force which allowed to run free has messed up the affairs of the world.

 

I believe that human nature is good in itself. I believe that men and women are essentially good. I believe that uncontrolled breeding has made the world a pretty sorry mess. I’ve read your books. I know your belief in continence[2] and the importance you place upon it. Your influence stretches far beyond India. Your word means something to women in other countries besides India. Even the opposition at home often quotes you in opposing our legislative campaign for birth control. I have an invitation from the All India Women’s Conference to come to their meeting in December as guest speaker but you see it is really only a pretense to come to see you. The real reason I came is to see if we could not agree upon a fundamental principle and some practical means of helping the women of the world.

 

Women’s lack of control over fecundity results in over-population, in poverty, misery and war. Should women control this force which has made so much trouble in their lives? Have they a right to control the power of procreation? Do you see any practical solution for this problem which in my humble opinion is the direct cause of much of the chaos in the world today?

 

GANDHI

I suppose you know that all my life I have been dinning into the ears of women the fact that they are their own mistresses, not only in this but in all matters….But the remedy is in the hands of the women themselves. The struggle is difficult for them but I do not blame them. I blame the men. Men have legislated against them. Man has regarded woman as his tool. She has learned to be his tool and in the end found it easy and pleasurable to be such, because when one drags another in his fall the descent is easy.….

 

I have felt that during the years still left to me that if I can drive home to women’s minds the truth that they are free, there will [be] no birth control problem in India. If they will only learn to say “no” to their husbands when they approach them carnally! I do not suppose all husbands are brutes

if women only knew how to resist them, all will be well. I have been able to teach women who have come in contact with me how to resist their husbands. The real problem is that they do not want to resist them.

 

I have been reading about this cause which you advocate so eloquently. I know some of the great people in the world agree with you. I have listened silently, very carefully while they talked to me. But always I have had to say to myself, “Why is it that I cannot see eye to eye with them on this thing?” My fundamental position is that so far as the women of India are concerned, even if the method you advocate were a solution, it is a long way off, for the women of India have so many things to think of now. Don’t tell me of the educated girl of India. She will be your slave, much to her damage, I’m afraid.

SANGER

You mean for instance that the women of the chawls will be against me, the women in the tenements of Bombay?

GANDHI

Yes.

SANGER

I disagree with you. When I was in Bombay one of the first places I went was to see these women of the tenements. I saw them sitting around, each with three, four or more children. We asked them how many children they had had, how many were dead. There were always some dead. Then we asked how many more they were going to have and every woman but one held out her hands in supplication as though saying, “No more. Pray God, no more!” It showed that they were already awakened to this idea. Again and again they ask what to do to prevent more children from coming into the world.…Let us not worry about the methods. Let us first discover whether they want more children or [not]. That will be the beginning.

GANDHI

I don’t want to say that women want children but that they will not do the thing that will keep them from having more children. They will not resist their husbands. Then I suppose you will say, if neither party resists, why should they not adopt artificial methods.

SANGER

You have been a great advocate of civil disobedience Mr. Gandhi. Do you also recommend that the women of India adopt…marital disobedience?

GANDHI

Yes, I do. But no resistance bordering upon bitterness will be necessary in 99 out of 100 cases. If a wife says to her husband, “No, I don’t want it,” he will make no trouble. But she hasn’t been taught. Her parents in most cases won’t teach it to her. There are some cases I have found, cases when I have known the parents, that the parents have said to the husband, “For heaven’s sake don’t force our daughter to do that.” I have come across amenable husbands too.

SANGER

But that advice is not practical. It means a revolution in the home. It leads to divorce. The average marriage contract assumes…intercourse [for] the married relationship [to] be harmonious….

GANDHI

There should be mutual consent. Without it the thing will be wholly wrong.

SANGER

That is right, but the problem is not often discussed by young people before marriage, although our young people of today are beginning to discuss it more and more, which is a very good thing.…. But consider the turmoil, the unhappiness it means for the woman if she resists her husband! What if he puts her out of her home? In some states in the United States a wife has no rights if she resists her husband. What can she do? I do not know the law in India but custom compels her to submit to the sexual needs of her husband.

GANDHI

There are no such laws here.

SANGER

Yes, but the custom is here. Customs are harder to change than laws.

GANDHI

Yes.

SANGER

You are giving them advice which they cannot accept. Would it not make their condition worse?

GANDHI

Not if they learn the art of resistance. It boils down to education. I want women to learn the primary right of resistance. She thinks now that she has not got it. Among the women of India it is most difficult to drive home this truth. If I were to devote myself to birth control I would miss this primary education.

SANGER

But cannot education go with birth control? In England many social workers claim that if they can instruct the poorer women in birth control before their fifth child is born, before the women have fallen into poverty and drink and degradation, these women can be helped. …The woman has more hope. She is not haunted by the fear of more and more and still more pregnancies. Every case shows a better condition of the woman’s mind, more patience, love, education in the woman’s life and home after she has been freed of the worry of having too many children….

Pause, both musing

SANGER

[Do] you hold that all sex union is lust except that for the specific purpose of having children?

GANDHI

Yes.

SANGER

I think that is a weak position, Mr. Gandhi. The act is the same. The force that brings two people together is sex attraction, a biological urge which finds expression in sex union. There are two kinds of passion, one is a force around which centers respect, consideration and reverence known as love. [This] kind may be the stepladder to God. I do not call that kind of love lust, even when it finds expression in sex union, with or without children.

GANDHI

I think there is a flaw in that position and the world will not have to wait long before it discovers it. I have found the same thing in old Sanskrit volumes, found lust clothed in the dress of love. But I know from my own experience that as long as I looked upon my wife carnally, we had no real understanding. Our love did not reach a high plane. There was affection of course between us. Affection there has been between us always but we came closer and closer the more we, or rather I, became restrained. There never was want of restraint on the part of my wife. Very often she would show restraint, but she rarely resisted me although she showed disinclination very often. All the time I wanted carnal pleasure I could not serve her. She would be a fairly learned woman today if I had not let this lust interfere with her education.….

SANGER

I think lust is a very different thing than love. I believe in sex love. Perhaps love in sex is a new thing in our evolution and develops in the human race as we evolve toward a higher consciousness. But it is generally acknowledged to be a very real thing, a force that cannot be denied.

GANDHI

I’ve read all that. My past experience does not bear it out. In books you read something and the wish becomes father to the thought. There is so much poetry thrown in that you become intoxicated with it and what was vice becomes virtue….Perhaps you tell the doctor that whiskey befogs your brain and he gives you an antidote. Would it not be better not to take the…whisky?

SANGER

No, I don’t accept that analogy.

GANDHI

No, you will not accept the analogy because you think this sex expression without desire for children is a need of the soul, a contention I don’t support.

SANGER

Yes, sex expression with love is a spiritual need and I claim that the quality of this expression is more important than the result, for the quality of the relationship is there, regardless of results. We all know that the great majority of children are born as an accident, without the parents having any desire for conception. Seldom are two people drawn together in the sex act by their desire to have children.…If we can have a choice in our mates there is a natural sex attraction between two people. You then have a different experience and in the experience an expression of love which makes you a finer human being.


Act II

 

Scene I

Alice’s generic American living room, current times. Middle-aged HERA and ALICE  sit, lounging comfortably.

HERA

So you are loving your women’s studies course?

ALICE

Yes, absolutely! I can’t believe you were there! I so wish I could see what it was like to be in a consciousness-raising group. Can’t find anything on YouTube.

HERA

No, they were always confidential.

ALICE

Tell me stories!

HERA

Chuckles

Like the good old days, when you called me “Gad-ma-ma”? Yes, I will still tell you stories, and now that you are grown up, more grown-up stories. Here’s one that will tell you why we needed that second wave of feminism. The sexual revolution was in full swing–

ALICE

–in the seventies?

HERA

Yes, late sixties, early seventies. After the pill but before AIDS.

ALICE

No rubbers.

HERA

Nope, no rubbers, and no rules. Pressure cooker with the top off.

ALICE

Is that something like a microwave with no door seal?

HERA

Yeah, that’s good, more like that. Lots of collateral damage, but some of it wasn’t so obvious at the time. Okay, here’s the story. I was at this concert, outdoors, a beautiful day, tripping…

 

Act II

 

Scene II

Central Park, 1970, free concert. Very young woman (HERA) and young man (DON) on blanket. A video on scrim behind them of hippies dancing; the smell of cannabis, clove cigarettes, and/or patchouli oil.

DON

Come on, baby, let’s get it on.

HERA

No, thanks.

DON

There’s no reason to say no. Not today, we’re free! It’s a new age, nothing can stop us!

HERA

You’re free.

DON

You’re free, free for the taking!

Puts his arm around her waist, she shows reluctance, but does not resist.

You’re no square, no virgin. You’re on the pill, right?

HERA

Um, yeah.

DON

So what’s to stop me?

He pulls her behind shrubbery.

HERA

I’m too high.

DON

Too high! Can I have some of that?! Oh, I know where it is.

He dives under her miniskirt with his hand…Her eyes disappear up into her head

HERA

Turns head and mouths to the audience:

No, no, no.

But she does not physically resist.

 

Act II

 

Scene III

                        Same living room as II, i.

HERA

Wipes a tear.

I didn’t realize we had the right to say no. It’s so pathetic, I actually started using the diaphragm to regain some control over when I had sex.

ALICE

But at least you didn’t get pregnant when he raped you.

HERA

Rape?

looks stunned, then realizing

ALICE

Yes, the date rape. Isn’t that what it was?

HERA

It certainly was, it’s just so strange, we didn’t have a word for it then, and I’ve never thought about it in those terms. Date rape.

ALICE

So when did you learn you had the right to say no?

HERA

Now that’s a long story!

ALICE

Did you use nonviolence?

HERA

Ha! You are studying that, too, this semester?

ALICE

Peace and Conflict Studies is my minor.

HERA

Awesome, lots to talk about next visit.


Act III

 

Scene I

A year or so later. ALICE, seated on floor of her home.  HERA and Alice’s friends WINNIE and DEIRDRE come in, surround ALICE, carefully hug her, tenderly sit down around her.

DEIRDRE

Oh my god, oh my god, are you all right?

ALICE

In a strange way, yes, very all right. I’m safe now. Thank you so much for coming, I can’t believe all of you came!

HERA

What happened?

ALICE

These two guys were going to give me a ride, but instead they took me to a house. There were a couple more men there. There was a woman in a bed in another room, I could see through the open door. There were children sleeping on the couch, I thought it was safe. But they pulled the kids up by their arms, and pushed them away. The men tried to rape me, but they didn’t.

HERA, WINNIE, DEIRDRE retreat to the sides of the stage, listening to the story. A scrim lowers into the center of the stage.  ALICE stays behind it, continues her narration from there (or a recording). Four men, DON, RAPHAEL, BART, and CECIL, emerge behind the scrim in profile. DON is older and looks much older than he is, like he hasn’t stopped taking drugs since the ’60s.

They attempt a gang rape. ALICE resists physically, but without violence.  DON & RAPHAEL, move clumsily, fighting among themselves as they strip her and pin her to a bed. They push each other away, vying to be first to rape ALICE. She is able to keep them at arms length. Her voice starts out pleading and helpless, and then becomes stronger, clearer, and more emphatic, but never violent or threatening.

 

The choreography must not eroticize the act of rape. If this is dubious, do not use scrim, simply use offstage voices and dim lights.

 

Either way, ALICE’s nonviolence should be projected to the audience and transmit peace—in yogic terminology, the actors should create a darshan of ahimsa for the audience. This transmission comes from the woman constantly, with increasing power in the course of the scene. It comes from the men to the audience after they receive it from/with her.

 

ALICE’s words don’t have to be audible, but the tone should be clear.

ALICE

Fearfully and fitfully.

No, no, no, please, don’t, stop!

Haltingly.

Stop—Don’t—Stop—Don’t—Please—Don’t do this. Why?

Hypnotically, syncopated.

Really, stop! I don’t want to get pregnant. I don’t want to get pregnant. I don’t want to get pregnant. I don’t deserve this.

ALICE as narrator

The guys in front didn’t have erections, but one did in the back, held it in his hand—but he couldn’t see that the others didn’t—he was behind them. But the two guys pinning me down, they kept getting in each other’s way. I don’t know. It was so strange, one over me then the other, pushing each other away, as if they were fighting to be first, but relieved to be pushed away, because they didn’t have it up.

ALICE behind scrim

More and more firmly, rhythmically.

Please stop, please stop, please stop. Please. STOP.

Increasingly loud, determined, from deeper in the body.

No. I mean it! Don’t do this, I don’t want to get pregnant. You don’t need to do this, NO, NO!

Not loud but firm.

GET. OFF. ME. You don’t really want to hurt me, do you?

Revelatory.

Now.

The MEN stop.

ALICE

Completing the darshan.

Let me go.

They let go. One gathers her clothes and hands them back to her, apologetically, possibly even respectfully. The men instinctively back away, making a path for her to the door.

MEN

spontaneously, not in unison

Sorry.

ALICE puts back on her clothes, leaves.

BART

What the hell?!

CECIL

What just happened?

DON

Fuck!

BART

We were all fighting each other, man, and ourselves—

CECIL

What was that all about?

RAPHAEL

Finishing BART’s sentence

—and then it seemed like we didn’t really want to do that to her.

BART nods, astonished, embarrassed

CECIL

I know I didn’t.

BART

But I thought I did.

CECIL

Yeah.

DON

What a bitch!

RAPHAEL

I know this is weird, but she made me feel like, like, she saw inside us. …

CECIL

She’s a witch!

RAPHAEL

. …and she saw something good!

DON

Man, what are you on?

Turning away, shaking head

That was just too weird.

RAPHAEL

Really weird.

BART

Let’s get the fuck out of here.

Starts to leave, punches a wall, hurts fist, shows pain, shakes head.

 

RAPHAEL and DON exit, opposite sides. Others stand stunned, embarrassed, then scatter. Scrim rises.


Act III

 

Scene II

Same scene as beginning of III, i (without scrim).

I’m—trying—to explain this—as if there’s a physical explanation—but it was something else. I just kept talking. Kept saying why they shouldn’t do it, that I didn’t want to get pregnant. There wasn’t a moment when I was ready for them to rape me. But there was this feeling of guilt, you know, that old bullshit, what did I do to deserve this? Shouldn’t have gone with them, should have listened to my intuition. It was so clear, “DON’T GET IN THE CAR!” But I overrode it. Being nice. So by the time I was trapped in the house, there I was blaming myself for ignoring my intuition, now that it was obvious.

DEIRDRE

Why did you go with them?! Where did you find them?

WINNIE

Giving DEIRDRE a fierce, judgmental look, then turning to address ALICE.

Are you sure you are alright?

DEIRDRE

Shrinking away. Genuinely.

Sorry.

ALICE

Not responding to DEIRDRE.

I don’t know, I feel shaky, more afraid now. While it was happening, there was no time to feel fear. It was just surreal—super real—slow motion.

HERA

How did you get home?

ALICE

I got my clothes back, they gave them to me. I took them to the bathroom and got dressed. Then I just walked out the front door. They let me go, then one came after me, looked apologetic, and asked if I wanted a ride back to the subway.

HERA

And you took it?

ALICE

I took it. It was clear it was over—not going to happen. I didn’t know where I was, how to get out of there. And they had changed.

HERA

Learned something.

ALICE

They were sorry.

WINNIE

You are lucky!

ALICE

It wasn’t luck, it was…something else.

DEIRDRE

This is really hard to believe.

ALICE

Excuse me, I need a shower.

DEIRDRE

You shouldn’t take a shower before you go to the police.

ALICE

I’m not going to the police.

DEIRDRE

Are you sure? You don’t have to decide about charges now, just to collect evidence, in case you want to later.

ALICE

There is no sperm. They tried, but then they stopped. I was not raped.

HERA

Are you sure?

ALICE

Standing up

Yes, I’m sure, please, excuse me.

Awkwardly, they all surround her with hugs. Then part, making a path for her to the bathroom door. Bring clean clothes, tea, blessings. Some believing, some incredulous. A few tears.

.

Act III

 

Scene III

Time montage. ALICE stands in center. SANDY diagonal front right, facing ALICE. THERAPIST,  diagonal back right, facing her. SENSEI, dressed in karate gear, diagonal back left, facing her. DEIRDRE diagonal front left, facing her. Light on ALICE throughout scene.

 

Lights down on SENSEI, DEIRDRE, and THERAPIST, while they stand staring ahead (i.e. towards ALICE).

 

Lights on SANDY and ALICE.

SANDY

This is really hard to believe. Are you sure you are okay?

Tentatively puts arms around ALICE.

ALICE

Well, I’m not hurt. They didn’t do it.

SANDY

But it doesn’t make sense. How did you stop them?

ALICE

I don’t know, it was nonviolence, I think my soulforce worked to stop them.

SANDY

You mean the soulforce Gandhi talked about?

ALICE

Yes.

SANDY

Maybe it was so overwhelming, you blocked it out.

ALICE

Releasing herself from the embrace.

 I don’t think so.

Light fades, ALICE turns to THERAPIST, lights up on ALICE and THERAPIST.

THERAPIST

We psychologists call it “magical thinking”—like when children imagine they can control everything that happens to them, and create fantastical stories to explain how they triumph. It’s a coping mechanism—easier than feeling powerless.

ALICE

But I wasn’t a victim, I know that. I wasn’t powerless. And I wasn’t raped.

THERAPIST

You feel you weren’t raped. But you say there were four guys. How is that possible?

ALICE

I know it doesn’t seem possible. But it happened.

THERAPIST

Let’s just explore the possibility that more happened that you don’t remember.

            Light fades, ALICE puts on karate jacket and turns to SENSEI. Lights on ALICE AND SENSEI.

ALICE

Sensei, respectfully, I know it sounds impossible, four guys and me. But I didn’t try to fight. I don’t know why, I genuinely didn’t want to hurt them. I just resisted–with my words, and with my soul.

SENSEI

You take this idea of nonviolence too literally. You have to be ready to defend yourself. It isn’t about wanting to harm them; it’s wanting to save yourself.

ALICE

Well, I did, I saved myself by not harming them.

SENSEI

They must have been on drugs.

ALICE

So you think I was just lucky.

SENSEI

Yes, you were lucky. And you must learn to defend yourself, because next time you might not be.

ALICE

Yes, my mother thinks I should get a gun, too. Even if I had had a gun and the willingness to use it, do you think I would have had a chance fighting against four guys?!?

SENSEI

Sometime, you will have to fight back. You must prepare, must practice. Keep practicing.

ALICE

I don’t know if it’s all that helpful, this practice, of meditating on being attacked and having to fight all the time.

She takes off her karate jacket. Lights down, ALICE turns to DEIRDRE, lights on DEIRDRE and ALICE.

ALICE

I’m so tired of trying to explain this.

DEIRDRE

Did you call the police?

ALICE

What, so they can go to jail? That’s probably where they learned this!

DEIRDRE

There is such a thing as too much compassion.

ALICE

Yeah, there’s such a thing as false compassion—that comes out of fear. That’s not what this is. I’m not afraid to punish them. I really just have no desire to harm them. For some reason, the whole time, I never did.

 

I just wanted to stop them. I was afraid, but amazingly lucid, you know? I prayed. And then it became clear that we were all fighting, the internal fight I was having with myself—blaming myself for getting into the situation, yadda yadda—was reflected in them, fighting between themselves to be first.

Slowly now.

I could see our oneness, and inside us, a part of them, a higher part of them—us—all connected like the fighting parts were all entangled—but this higher part of all of us, it didn’t want to do what they were doing, that was the part in each of them that let them each be pushed out of the way. Once I felt that, it ended. They let me go.

DEIRDRE

Shaking her head.

I’m sorry Alice, but this is really hard to believe.

Lights down

.

Act III

 

Scene IV

ALICE’s kitchen, a few more years later. with low-hanging lamp over kitchen table with two chairs.  Lights low, focused on table.

DEIRDRE

entering

Alice?

ALICE

Yeah? Here I am.

Turns on light over table.

Still awake? What’s up?

DEIRDRE

It’s time for you to hear my story.

ALICE

I’m happy to listen.

DEIRDRE

You won’t be happy. It’s not happy-making. But it’s important, I think, for you to hear. Like yours was important to me.

ALICE

Okay.

DEIRDRE sits down

What happened?

DEIRDRE

I don’t want you to think I’m denying your story about the gang bang any more. I think I believe you now, after all these years—that they really didn’t rape you. You are so much healthier now since you reclaimed that as your truth. And you are so clear about it. But my experience doesn’t fit in with yours. It’s the opposite.

ALICE

You were raped?

DEIRDRE

Yes, I was.

ALICE

Oh, I’m so sorry.

DEIRDRE

I want you to know that I wasn’t able to stop it. Even though I was nonviolent. Even though I didn’t hate—I didn’t harm him. But I was not in control of the situation and I couldn’t stop it.

ALICE

I’m so sorry.

Sitting down, grabs hold of DEIRDRE’s hands across the table.

DEIRDRE

Okay. Here goes.

Pause

It was about four years ago, just before we met.

Takes a deep breath.

Okay.

In a deep, solid voice

I was attacked by a friend. Someone I trusted. He just lost his mind. His eyes were so dark, so dead, really. Only more like a vacuum, sucking the life out of me. He was in active hate. I said “no.” I said “stop.” He said, “but you said you loved me.” I said, “I do.” But of course it wasn’t that kind of love and I wasn’t feeling friendly love, at that point, either, just remembering it. But I tried. I tried to bring it back—‘cause “love conquers all,”[3] right? “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,”[4] right? He said, “you lie!” And he grabbed a crowbar. He … threatened…to stab me with it.

Fiercely but steadily

But he raped me instead. He raped me. I prayed to stop it, to not be killed. And this is the answer I got—I survived. That’s about it.

Bitterly

Now tell me about your God. Your Savior.

ALICE

I’m so, so sorry. No, sweetheart, I don’t think what happened to me means anything like that. No blame, my love, no blame. It is absolutely not your fault. You did not deserve it at all.

DEIRDRE

Don’t worry, I’m beyond that. I couldn’t have survived if I thought I deserved it. I’ve had lots of good therapy and I’m through the other side. I don’t blame myself anymore for what he did. But I do worry, sometimes get stuck on this thought: why couldn’t I have stopped my rape? Just one guy, a friend, someone I loved in real life, not some stranger. Shouldn’t that be easier, more real? If nonviolence is supposed to transform the situation? If Gandhi could turn back the entire British army? If Martin Luther King could transform a nation? If Gandhi and King were just human beings? Now, with Jesus, it’s understandable…

They both chuckle.

Serious again.

But I couldn’t stop him, not with all my willpower, my will to love, my will to stop the harm, with the most earnest, pure intention of my life. Why not?

ALICE

Oh, my love, my sweet, sweet love where is the justice?!

She wraps herself around seated DEIRDRE, holds her for a good long while, while they weep.

 

Sitting back.

King and Gandhi never promised that nonviolence would make their followers safe. My experience just shows that possibility; not a promise. Deirdre, no one expects you to be able to stop a rapist by loving. I know your big heart—I know you must have done the best you could.

DEIRDRE

But it is a promise, in the Yoga Sutras: “When we are firmly established in nonviolence, all beings around us cease to feel hostility.”[5] But I wasn’t able to do it.

ALICE

So here’s a new moment to practice nonviolence. Towards yourself.[6]

Long pause

 

Here ALICE offers to hold space for her friend. It is something they have done before, so it comes easily:

Can you love yourself now, with as much compassion as you wish you’d had for him?

DEIRDRE

Sighs

Yes…

Peacefully now

Yes, that’s how I’ve healed. I spent many years in that process.

They begin to shift to working in “body time”—slower, looking deep inside and listening to themselves in the present vs. thinking about the past. So words come much more slowly:

But as we talk about this, I realize there’s another level of forgiveness. I didn’t want to merge with his rage. I have to forgive myself for that. For fearing his rage. For wanting to love only the good, sane, part of him, for not even having seen or anticipated the other part, the violence in him—in fact, maybe that’s why he raged that I didn’t love him! I hadn’t even seen that part of him! In a way, he was right!

Astonished

Reflectively

Nonviolence is a continual conversion.[7]

 

What a tall order it is to return hate with love. I wasn’t able to do it in that moment, but maybe now, where I am safe, with your arms around me, your love supporting me, I can send a little back to that moment. Would you do that with me?

ALICE

Of course.

DEIRDRE closes eyes, sits tall, in meditation. ALICE shifts, continues to hold her in her arms. Long pause. A slight smile grows on DEIRDRE’s face. ALICE’s arms slowly drop away, she sits back, watching. Lights gradually come up until very bright around DEIRDRE—till she appears to be glowing. After a moment, she opens her eyes, the tiniest hint of a smile on her face.

ALICE

awed

Wow. I could feel that.

DEIRDRE

Wow.

ALICE

You sent yourself and him that love, didn’t you?

DEIRDRE

Yes, and I felt it melt the rage in him…and the rage that has been in me ever since, what was left of what he had deposited in me.

ALICE

Whoa.

Pause

DEIRDRE

Tone changing toward casual conversation

But I don’t know if I could do it in the face of an attack.

ALICE

You might, I mean, I didn’t imagine what happened to me could happen. And no one expects you to. You are good enough. As you are.

Pause

DEIRDRE

Contentedly

Alice, I have to offer you my forgiveness, too. I was resentful of the power you described having in your story. Even the version of the story where it wasn’t your power, it was grace. I was envious—wanted you to be less, but I certainly forgive you now for being yourself, for coming into your power.

ALICE

Thank you.

Struck

You are the first person to say anything like that. A lot of people have reacted in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s felt like when women tell people they’ve been raped, and people deny it, or blame them. People denied that I wasn’t raped, the same way! Thank you so much. And please forgive me for not tuning in to your unspoken story.

DEIRDRE

Of course. And thank you for listening so well.

They bow their heads, lean foreheads together, hold hands.


Act IV

 

Scene I

Early in the millennium. In the small, trash-strewn overgrown woods between the tracks and the highway. Spring. Teenagers  JOE and ODEA enter holding hands. JOE kicks an old mattress, wipes leaves off it.

JOE

Here, it’s time for love.

ODEA

I said I loved you, but I didn’t say I want to make love.

JOE

We don’t need to “make love,” having sex would be just fine!

ODEA

Not here, this is gross.

JOE

Where else can we go? Plus, you love nature.

ODEA

I said I loved animals.

JOE

Rrr—oar

he imitates a macho guy imitating a sexy lion.

ODEA

Funny.

Pushing him gently away

You don’t really want this either, I can tell.

JOE

What? If you don’t want it why did you start taking the pill? I’m so excited to not have to wear a raincoat.

ODEA

You still have to wear a raincoat.

JOE

 What? What are you talking about?

ODEA

I’m talking about condoms, you still need to wear a condom.

JOE

What’s the point of the pill then?

ODEA

The point of the pill is I really, really don’t want to get pregnant. I don’t want an abortion, ever.

JOE

So what’s the point of the rubber?

ODEA

Disease.

JOE

I don’t have no disease.

ODEA

And you assume I don’t? And the same of any other ladies you’ve been bringing to this lovely paradise?

JOE

Come on baby, you don’t need to get like that. I need you, and I need you now, and here we are.

Alternates turning on the charm and seducing and fidgeting nervously.

ODEA

Avoiding a kiss

The other day, when we kissed, I was so happy, I thought I’d never come down.

JOE

Let me bring you there again.

Pulling her close

ODEA

You were different. Sweeter. Now it’s like you’re acting out somebody else’s movie.

JOE

What do you want? Don’t you want my love?

ODEA

Where is your love?

Trying to make eye contact

Your sex is open but your heart is closed.

JOE

Well, you’re rejecting me.

ODEA

Because you’re closed down.

JOE

This isn’t the way it was supposed to go.

ODEA

No, it wasn’t.

Pause. They look away from each other, fiddle with dry leaves.

JOE

You wanna get high?

ODEA

No, thank you.

She gets up and starts walking toward the road.

JOE

“No thank you”? What’s happened to you?

He follows.

ODEA

It’s the same thing. This is the opposite of last week. When we were kissing, there was nothing we needed. No drugs, no sex, nothing more. Just you breathing on me, just you looking in me, your eyes were a hundred miles wide.

JOE

Yeah, that was sweet.

Softens shoulders.

You were sweet.

Behind her, he reaches out for her back, but doesn’t touch, lets arm drop.

ODEA

We were sweet. That’s what I want.

She turns and looks him in the eye.

JOE

Stepping into her circle, putting arms around her.

And then when I get all worked up from kissing, you gonna leave me here with my happy Jack?

ODEA

You don’t have your rubbers, right?

JOE

No, you said you’re taking the pill. For me.

ODEA

She turns back to walk.

Then you’re not ready for me, baby.

JOE

Eagerly following.

You weren’t ready for me last week, when I had the rubbers.

ODEA

In view of the cars.

Maybe that’s the wrong word I’m using, “ready.” I guess I mean no. Just no.

JOE

Man.

ODEA

Sorry.

JOE

Dejectedly

Yeah, sorry.

They go separate ways.

 See you.

 

 

Act IV

 

Scene II

Men’s group, derived from 1990s Men’s Movement, with some more mainstream members. RAPHAEL, TRUMAN, JOE, SANDY, ADAM, ED, and group facilitator FRANK, drumming in a half circle (the audience is conceptually the other half of the circle). All are older than in their last scenes. Some get up and dance. Talking stick and feathers are in the center-front of the stage.

 

Drumming peters out. MEN set the drums aside, make small talk as they begin to re-form the circle.

FRANK

When all seated

Welcome to our new people, Joe and Raphael. And since you are new to this whole Men’s Movement, just some ground rules. We try to focus on “I” statements: “I feel this way”; “I thought she did this for such and such a reason,” and like that, because that’s the only way to be honest. And tell the truth. If you aren’t sure how you feel or felt in a situation, you can say that. “I don’t know, I feel both angry and elated,” or something like that. Speak from your heart, or your gut. Feel free to go inside the feeling, and name it. Also, no crosstalk—especially no arguing anyone else out of their feelings. You may propose an alternative way of looking at something, but please honor each other’s truths. And keep what you hear in here. Keep it confidential. Don’t even assume that people will want to continue the conversation outside the group—I know some of you are friends—check in first to see if they want to talk more about it. Main thing is, we want this to be a safe place to share. Okay?

Looks for confirmation, gets it.

Let’s go around the circle and introduce ourselves again.

Each MAN around circle says his name.

FRANK

I know a lot of you have wanted to talk about rejection. Rejection by women, or lovers I should say. So that’s the topic for today.

 

One more thing, from now on, only the person with the stick speaks.

 JOE picks up talking stick from center of circle.

JOE

taking a deep breath

I put myself out there a lot. So I get rejected a lot. You just have to suck it up. It’s part of “being a man.” But here’s what’s up—this is where my strong feelings are. I hate when they use getting pregnant as an excuse not to have sex. I mean, why can’t they just use birth control and forget about it?

pauses, looking at his hands

FRANK

So would you like people to try to answer that, or do you want to tell us how it all feels?

JOE

I want answers.

TRUMAN

reaches for stick

Because they can get pregnant anyway. My first love…got pregnant on the pill … she moved away…I don’t know if she aborted it or if she gave it up for adoption—when I asked, on the phone, all she said was, “it’s gone.”

Passes talking stick back to Joe.

JOE

The silent treatment. That’s rare!

snickers, TRUMAN gestures, JOE gives stick to TRUMAN

TRUMAN

Yeah, but Joe, it is real, they can get pregnant. But it’s also an excuse. But why do they need an excuse? Because some of us have been too aggressive, ’cause we’re not listening for the real reasons. And sometimes, it feels like they get all twisted up just trying to figure out a way to reject me without rejecting me. Trying to spare my feelings, and sometimes it works. I’m a sucker! I’ll take that excuse just long enough to make it back to my own cold bed. Then it hits me, yep, rejected again.

JEREMY

Yeah.

 TRUMAN passes stick to JEREMY.

JEREMY

Yeah, yeah. I get so angry. Rejected again. But underneath that anger, I’m just hiding the pain. And it’s the same with an abortion, only to the Nth. She’s rejecting me and my baby. My girlfriend had an abortion, and it was worse than her leaving me. I was so angry, I, I left. It was all I could do. But that didn’t stop the pain.

barely a flicker of the pain crosses his face. The anger returns. Places stick in center

FRANK

So can we focus today on rejection by someone you want to have sex with, and save the stuff about abortion for another day?

nods all around

So what’s that about, the being so angry you rejected her?

Passes stick back to JEREMY.

JEREMY

I couldn’t trust myself, being that angry. I started wanting to hurt her. I’d rather be in control—I’m not going to be violent. But she wasn’t going to be controlled, so I had to do what I could do, which really, was just to leave.

FRANK

Name the feelings.

JEREMY

Now I’m getting pissed at you, Frank. Name the feelings?! I said I’m angry! What do you want?

hands the stick to Frank.

FRANK

I guess I meant how do you feel now. But I hear you now! Angry!

 

But you also mentioned pain.

JEREMY

Pain? Anger? What’s the fucking difference! Who likes being rejected? I wanted her, I loved her. And she was pushing me away. So it hurts really bad. But it’s easier to take that and shove it into being angry. It’s much easier to be angry. It’s her fault anyway! And I use the anger to protect myself from more harm. I’m getting out of there. But I really wanted to hurt her—so two birds with one stone. I’m gone—I’m safe, and she’s the one who’s crying.

 

I’m safe, that’s interesting I said that. There’s two sides of that. I’m safe from being hurt anymore by her, and I’m safe from hurting her, which I was afraid I’d do. But I did do. ’Cause she didn’t want me to leave. You know, I say she’s the one who’s crying, but really I’m still hurting, too.

gestures with the stick toward FRANK, FRANK points towards the center.

FRANK

 Okay, let’s just be with that a little. Thanks, Jeremy.

JEREMY puts stick in center. Long pause as men reflect.

ADAM

Very barely sobbing, sobers up, picks up stick

Yes, sometimes it feels like it’s easier to be angry than feel the pain of the rejection. Like I deserve better. But that fact is the pain is still there, just buried. Until I feel the pain of the rejection, it’s still there, worming it’s way through my gut.

 

Why won’t she love me, when what I feel for her is so good? Why won’t she let that in? Why doesn’t it change the way she feels? Even the questions, even the questions are just a way to avoid this—this—

Lets it out, face into hands, weeping

I have to face it, my heart is broken….

 

…and it’s such a relief to admit it!

 

…to feel it!

Puts stick back. All pause, various feelings on faces

RAPHAEL

 Picking up stick

I want to go back to Jeremy’s stuff, is that okay?

Nods all around

What you said about pain and anger makes so much sense to me—and I’ve never thought about it this way before. How we hurt ourselves—how it’s almost the same thing—you can’t hurt her without hurting yourself. Don’t I know. I used to be—um—too aggressive. I know you guys talk about these myths of “being a man”—Joe you mentioned one—but I had ’em all.

JOE looks baffled, quizzical.

When you said, men are supposed to suck it up. Remember? I guess that’s why I’m here, to try to figure out these myths. I had really fallen for all of ’em—that the woman says no but she means yes, that she deserves to be raped if she dresses like a whore—all of ’em. But listening to you, Jeremy, I’m seeing how they all come out of that one, that we’re supposed to be the aggressor, put ourselves out there, be the one who can handle rejection, be tough. But I couldn’t take it. If she tried to reject me, well I just pushed. I wouldn’t take no. I thought I was tough, but in reality, I just couldn’t take no for an answer, ’cause I couldn’t take it.

TRUMAN

Maybe there’s a big difference between being the “initiator” and being the “aggressor.”

FRANK

to TRUMAN

 He’s still got the talking stick.

RAPHAEL

Nods to Frank, smiles to group

And I finally met a woman who—um—took this bull by the horns.

Smirk

But it’s good. She took the risk, and she asked me out, and it turns out, it felt really good not having to do all the work. I was feeling shy, and she took all the first steps, and for a change, I know she really wants it. It’s a completely different experience.

JOE

I’ve always been the shy one—I like them to come to me. But let me tell you, it doesn’t save you from being rejected. I’ve still been dumped! And it still sucks.

RAPHAEL

Good point. But I’ve got the stick here, and I’m not done.

JOE

Sorry.

RAPHAEL

It’s really different…because…and it’s strange, I used to be proud of this, but now I’m ashamed, especially with you guys. But…I’ve raped a couple women….And because I was so aggressive in my attitude all the time, even the girls I dated at that time, I never knew if they liked me, really, or were just afraid of me. Or excited/scared. But I didn’t even know that at the time. But with this new way, I can see it, can feel it. It is a whole different way of being.

Bashfully

And I think I love her.

Puts the stick in the center

MEN

Aho.

 

 

Act IV

 

Scene III

 Same men’s group from IV, i, different session. Drums arranged, MEN from IV,i, seated in a semi-circle.

SANDY

So what’s today’s topic?

FRANK

Abortion.

to group

Okay, let’s get settled.

JOE

to SANDY

Never had one.

Snickers from some MEN nearby.

FRANK

Okay, so today we’ve finally gotten to the topic of abortion, how we feel about it, how it has affected us. Has anyone been involved with a woman who had one?

Almost all MEN raise hands.

Go ahead, say it out loud.

MEN

YES!

Angry, relieved, sad, betrayed, defiant

FRANK

That’s more like it!

Picks up talking stick from center of circle.

Who wants to start?

Walks across and gives RAFAEL  the stick, returns to his seat.

RAFAEL

Just thinking about it still makes me angry. My girlfriend told me she was on birth control, but she wasn’t. I was ambivalent, really, about having babies, in no rush. Now I’ll always use a rubber, no matter what a woman says, unless I see her using something. I just don’t trust. And that makes me angry, too. But back to the story, she lied, and she got pregnant, and then she aborted the baby. It was awful. It’s been years and I’m still able to get this angry!

Nods from the group.

So why am I so angry? I don’t really believe she’s a murderer, more like she killed some part of me. So why can’t I let it go? …. Anybody else angry?

puts the stick down.

ADAM

picking up stick

Not angry, really, but it bothers me to hear it called a baby. If it couldn’t live on its own outside her, it was a fetus. I’m banking on that. I couldn’t live with myself if I thought I’d talked my wife into killing a baby. It wasn’t a baby. Yet.

 

But it still hurts—there’s still a hole. She’s never gotten over it, because she wanted it. But we couldn’t afford it. But maybe that’s just what I tell myself—we couldn’t afford it. Maybe we could have, if we gave up some other things—going out to eat, buying a house, vacations. …. I guess it was a choice, and one that still makes me uncomfortable. Mainly I regret how emphatic I was, like you always say Frank, I talked her out of her own feelings. … Now that I sit with these feelings, I realize, it was greed… And under that, fear, fear’s what feeds the greed. I was afraid of what would happen to our lives. Afraid of the responsibility. And what if the kid grew up to be a monster? Would it be my fault? Shame. There’s a lot of shame.

Passes stick to center

MEN

Aho.

silence, reflection

SANDY

Picks up stick.

I think I know that kind of shame. I was ashamed when my high school girlfriend got an abortion. She was too young and really not ready at all, but I was ashamed because I wasn’t sure when life began. Is that what it comes from, underneath? I wasn’t sure if it was murder, or violence—I was just guessing it wasn’t, hoping it wasn’t.

 Raises questioning eyebrow to ADAM, hands stick to him.

ADAM

Definitely, that’s part of it, the unknowing. Damn but you can’t not think about it, with all the prolifers injecting their doubt everywhere.

 Doesn’t look to see reactions, assumes everyone’s prochoice. But ED and JOE react, though they try not to show offense.

But the shame I’m touching now is about having talked my wife out of her better judgment, of having reacted from fear rather than love. Still, I don’t know that I made the wrong decision—just that I didn’t handle it well. That I hurt her—that’s what I’m ashamed of.

Addressing SANDY.

But tell me more, it sounds like you’re more sure now, like you’re not ashamed anymore. Am I hearing you right?

SANDY

 nods

Yeah, the shame is gone.

ADAM

How did you work through it?

passes stick to SANDY

SANDY

It’s kind of a long story, some of the older guys here have heard it already

several MEN nod.

And it’s not really on the topic. But when my wife got ovarian cancer, and they removed the tumor, it was about this big

motions with hands, size of baseball

and it had hair and teeth.

 Acknowledging the incredulous, repulsed looks of ADAM and others

I know, it’s gross. But it was this cyst, that had started growing human hair and teeth. It had been alive, growing in her. Like a fetus, human and alive, but deadly. But just like that fetus my high school girlfriend aborted, the cancer had to be removed for Angie’s sake, it was absolutely the right thing to do. But it was still eerie, still so sad, like what is this? Why?…But, you know, those tears about my wife’s surgery washed away the shame about the abortion. Something can seem to have a life of its own, but it’s not right to let it to grow. It doesn’t fit, like more unwanted babies won’t fit on this planet.

Gestures to pass stick back to center

But what about your story, were you finished?

Tries to pass stick back to ADAM, but ADAM is closing down: sets jaw, slumps shoulders.

FRANK

to ADAM

Are there some more layers under the shame?

 ADAM takes the stick from SANDY.

ADAM

Well, that’s a lot to digest. But yes, there’s more.

Looking inward

Pain…loss…and anger. But there was something else, under all that. An incredible sense of relief. A freedom that seemed—new—and huge—like I had been given a new life, reborn….I had a dream that night. After driving Sue home from the clinic, I fell asleep with my hand on her belly, spooning her from behind. The dream was that our life together was a brand new paint box. All fresh oil paints, lined up in a rainbow. Clean brushes, all sizes. The paint box was open. That was the whole dream. We had so much to create, and now we would have the time to do it. I still feel the relief. And freedom. And the itching creativity!

 

I was relieved, really relieved. I wasn’t ready to bring up a child.

Tenderly

It’s better to not have agreed to father a child I didn’t want. Really, it’s good I didn’t father a child I didn’t want.

 Feeling the power of his truth

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if all children were wanted by both parents? You see so many couples where one wants the kids, and the other goes along. Those people who want the kids should marry each other! People have kids out of obligation, when the world is overpopulated. That’s just fucked.

FRANK

Well, some of us in this room might be “just fucked.” What feeling are you trying to express with that? Can you own it?

ADAM

I feel strong. I know what’s right for me, and I’m not going to let it happen to me, having a baby to make someone else happy.

 jubilant. Pauses, then passes stick

SANDY

All right!

JOE

There’d be a lot of lesbian mothers out there if people who want the kids just married each other! It’s always the woman who wants them, pressuring the guy. The guy says no way; she gets pregnant anyway. He says I thought I said no way, and she ends up keeping the baby, or even getting an abortion! Either way, it’s his baby, and he’s not consulted.

FRANK

Let’s not forget speaking in “I” statements.

TRUMAN

grabbing stick

 Here’s one. You know Joe, it’s not just women. I did it. I convinced my wife to have a baby she didn’t want. I love him, but I regret bringing him into the world that way. I thought she would change her mind when she saw him—she loves babies—but she didn’t. She fell into a post-partum depression I’m not sure she ever completely shook. We have to trust women to know when something in her body is not right. At the least ambivalence, we should be out of there. It’s a long haul.

FRANK

Okay, let’s not get into debating opinion, stick with the feelings behind the opinions.

Silence. TRUMAN returns stick.

FRANK

Okay, let’s go deeper again. Who’s got a lot of feelings coming up now?

Many nod heads, but JOE almost stands up, reaching for the stick.

JOE

I’m having trouble with all this. I don’t know if you guys know, but I’m pro-life.

 He pauses to check for reactions.

But I have a story, too. My first girlfriend had an abortion when we were in college. We…never…talked about it. We didn’t talk about anything. But it was awful, hanging there like rotting meat in every conversation. I felt like she had cut out some part of my soul. And she acted like it was my fault; I got her pregnant. Well, I guess I did. I guess I didn’t realize how easy it was. Or that it was at all my responsibility. You remember those days, right? If a girl would do it, it was because she was on the pill, right?

Getting mixed reactions; pause; ambiguous movements of the stick

FRANK

Raising eyebrow to JOE

Question for the group or yourself?

JOE takes stick.

JOE

Deciding to keep the stick

I hate it. I hate abortion, and I hated her doing it, and I hated her not telling me ’til afterwards, and I hated losing that baby. It was a baby! I hate the word fetus! It sucked when she stopped talking to me altogether. It hurt so bad. She turned all her friends away from me. Talk about rejection! All the girls I knew! I was so sad, really. But I didn’t know that at the time. But it’s like, it’s like, I needed to mourn. But there was no funeral. Nothing but all these girls looking at me like I was bad! … I guess, there is a lot of shame here, a lot of shame. I’m so sorry, so sorry.

Wipes an eye.

So sorry…so sorry, I didn’t mean to do it, though really I wanted to make her pregnant, show her what a good father I would have been, I was so immature, I’m so sorry. So sorry we didn’t know how to talk, left her alone with it, all I probably did was glare. So small. Never even got to feel this. Never, never, even felt this. Now…I feel…relief, and yes, how relieved I was—how sad—how conflicted.

Puts the stick on the ground, sobbing softly.

MEN

Aho.

Drums of mourning

JOE

Picks up the stick again

I guess there was a lot more to it than I thought. Or felt.

Smiles, relieved. Puts stick down for good.

ED

Reaches for stick.

I’m prolife too.

Observes reactions, all are less reactive or judgmental this time.

Or at least that’s what I’ve called myself. But I had an extraordinary experience recently. A few months ago, I was picketing the clinic down on 9th Street. This woman came in, she had fire in her eye. Didn’t look guilty, avoid our eyes like most of them do. But she wasn’t all feisty either, like the others, who want to spit at you.

ED unceremoniously leaves stick in seat, stands up, walks to stage right, picks up picket sign, a big picture of an aborted 12-week old fetus, and acts out the story while continuing to narrate. Set of clinic entrance and parking lot rolls out. WINNIE enters stage left. 

ED

I was between her and the door, which is as good as it gets out there, with my sign, a picture of a 12-week old dead baby. She looked at it, and looked at me. She almost looked like she loved me.

WINNIE

Kindly.

Was that yours?

Gestures toward image on the picket sign.

ED

 to men’s group

For a second I wanted to cry–that’s something I haven’t told anyone.

to WINNIE

I am praying for you to turn back. Surely someone wants your baby because God loves it.

DEIRDRE, dressed in a white coat as a clinic worker, watches from the clinic door.

WINNIE

I’ve prayed to God to take it from me, and He said, come here.

Gestures towards clinic

That’s what they do here.

DEIRDRE enters from clinic door, goes to WINNIE’s side. ED ignores her, WINNIE

greets her with a nod.

ED

 Narrating again

And I felt so sorry for her, felt such love for her, really, I just wanted to take her home. And then the strangest thing happened. She started leaning over, cramping up, or something. And blood started running down her leg.

WINNIE hemorrhages, holding eye contact with ED. Dark blood drips out of her skirt. ED drops his picket sign. DEIRDRE runs back to exit clinic door, comes back with gurney  and ODEA, also dressed as a clinic worker, who carry WINNIE into clinic. ED stands there, immobilized.

ED

So how did I feel? I don’t know, I was just stunned. I guessed it was a miscarriage. I was embarrassed that I felt that love for a stranger. And for a girl getting an abortion of all people!

Sits back in men’s circle, picks up stick.

But also, awe. It was awe. Like our prayers met, right there in our eyes. I’ve never felt a prayer being answered, or saw it being answered, like that.

 

But shame. Like, how am I supposed to explain this to the guys on the picket line? (They’re not quite as understanding as you guys.)

Warm chuckles around the circle.

Luckily, with all the commotion, no one asked. Still, I felt, and still feel, really naked. Like God called me out on my prayer: can I really love my enemy? And He told her to come there! I really haven’t thought of it much since, but now I’m feeling the awe. Maybe it was an accident. But maybe not. It feels like maybe it was the realest thing that ever happened to me.

 

But I still don’t know what it means.

Picks up drum. Lights down. Quiet drums of awe and mystery.

 

 

Act V

 

 Scene I

Back in time, mid-1960s. Margaret SANGER in her 80s, in waning health. With an old friend, GENE, in her study.

SANGER

Did I ever tell you about the time I met with Gandhi?

GENE

Yes, sweetheart, you did. You told me at the time. I remember, you were quite impressed.

SANGER

Yes, he had quite an effect on me. But I recently found my secretary’s notes from our conversation. And what we talked about had so little to do with how I remember the conversation. I mean, it was the usual, me trying to convince him to take up our cause, that much I had remembered well enough. And that he refused.

GENE

Well you were a “woman rebel”[8] from Greenwich Village and he was a karma yogi in an arranged child marriage, what did you expect?

SANGER

I always loved a challenge! But what I remembered was not that so much as his presence, that I knew I was in the presence of a truly great soul, a mahatma. And some sense he transmitted of being truly alive, of being wide awake.

GENE

Like you.

SANGER

But I wasn’t really.

 Picks up papers from the desk.

I look back at this conversation, and I could have said these words in my sleep.

GENE

Do you have the notes there?

SANGER

Yes, I just transcribed the stenography. Here it is.

hands typewritten sheets to GENE

GENE

reading

When was this? Right after the war?

SANGER

No, 1935.

GENE

a few moments pause while he reads

It sounds like neither of you were listening to each other very well, my dear.

SANGER

Not? What do you mean?

GENE

Well, I remember you in those days. You had such a relentless passion in those days.

touches her hips playfully

I mean when speaking, seriously, you were on a mission—took no quarter.

SANGER

And the greatest meeting of my life, I missed? By not listening?

GENE

Well, yes, that’s how this reads. You don’t really acknowledge what he’s saying—only respond with more arguments.

SANGER

Yes, that’s what I did. I can’t believe I missed this part where he said, “I suppose you will say, if neither party resists, why should they not adopt artificial methods.” And he did have a good point, I think, about women needing to learn their power to say no. I am surprised how many women have still not learned it. And he was right, teaching that has not been our first priority.

How would the world be different if I had listened better?

GENE

And he to you.

SANGER

And of course, I thought how much faster would we have progressed if he had taken up the cause. How his dreams for India, for village self-reliance might have come true if there were enough land for the villagers! And how the rest of the world would have listened to him!

GENE

Would they? Have they listened to his teachings about nonviolence?

SANGER

It’s not too late.

Musing

But what if we did all our sex education to include birth control and the right to say no or yes. And that power to say no—that power is exactly what he communicated to me—without words. But it is almost as if he did not know how to say yes, the way I have in my life…

GENE

lovingly, sexily

Yes, you were very, very good at saying “yes”!

SANGER

…I did not know that is what I might have communicated to him.

GENE

It is so rare to see you regret.

SANGER

It’s one of the few.

GENE

It has been a remarkable life.

SANGER

Yes, it has. As was his. So few people have been able to see so much of the change we wanted to make in the world as we two. But there is so much left undone.

GENE

You’ll just have to come back then, my dear!

SANGER

Will you come, too?

 

 

Optional Final Scene

Find someone local to tell her or his own sexual nonviolence empowerment story to their community/audience. This would be someone who resonates with Alice’s claim to have stopped the rape nonviolently. The person may tell their story improv or write and perform as a monologue. Or an actor may take the oral history and perform it for anyone who would prefer not to get on stage.

 

When and where appropriate, after the play, instead of a traditional talkback with actors/playwright/director, use an expert facilitator to invite personal nonviolence stories from audience.

 

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Verbatim interview of Mohandas Gandhi by Margaret Sanger as per The Margaret Sanger Papers, Vols. II: Birth Control Comes of Age, 1928-1939. Edited by Esther Katz, Peter C. Engelman, Cathy Moran Hajo, and Amy Flanders. Retrieved Aug. 27, 2004 from http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger. The text is published by University of Illinois Press. Currently at http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/secure/newsletter/articles/gandhi_debate.html as of Sept. 17, 2013. Permission granted by Alexander Sanger, trustee, for use for Providence performance May 2014.

I am indebted to Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen, based on a historic conversation between Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg for the idea of turning Gandhi and Sanger’s conversation into a play about its consequences.

[2] I.e., abstinence

[3] Virgil

[4] Martin Luther King, Jr.

[5] Patanjali, trans. Alistair Shearer. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

[6] “Maybe when we think nonviolence failed, and violence occurs, is the time when nonviolence is truly to be practiced, nonviolence towards ourselves.” Kathleen LaRoche, personal correspondence.

[7] Dr. Laura Landen, Providence College, in personal conversation.

[8] The name of Sanger’s 1914 newspaper.