Added: 4 April 2005
[Plays and Screenplays]

The Revolutionary and the Temp

Written for actors Chris Ross and Whitney Porter as part of Spontaneous Combustion, an occasional festival of short plays organized by Manhattan Theatre Source in which writers are given a first line, a cultural reference, and two actors on a Friday night, and the task of writing a five-minute play for them by the next day at noon. Rehearsals and minor revisions take place for the next day and a half, and the plays go live on Sunday evening.

Setting: A corporate office.

Characters: CHRIS, a revolutionary leader, wearing a business suit and a beret or some such combination of business and revolutionary attire; WHITNEY, a temp, dressed in classic business casual.

Whitney: So what do you want me to do? It really doesn't matter to me. I'm real good with computers. I can write, edit, do HTML, PHP. I'm awesome with PHP. You can do anything with PHP. I know MySQL, if you need any database stuff...

Chris: Silence!

Whitney: I beg your pardon?

Chris: The People's Revolutionary Front has no use for idle prattle!

Whitney: Hey, you're not paying me enough to...

Chris: You will not be paid! Serving the revolution is its own reward! Are you trying to reproduce bourgeois labor relations right here in our mountain stronghold?

Whitney: Mountain stronghold? Well, I mean, we're on the 34th floor, I don't know if that's, I mean, whatever, erm, could we go back to that part about not getting paid?

Chris: What are you doing here? Who sent you?

Whitney: Labor-Pro Temp Agency.

Chris: You're not CIA?

Whitney: No.

Chris: NSA?

Whitney: No.

Chris: FBI?

Whitney: No.

Chris: Do you swear?

Whitney: Yes.

Chris: I'll be able to tell if you're lying. I can always tell. Now I will ask you again. Are you CIA?

Whitney: Yes.

Chris: I knew it!

Whitney: Ha! I was lying! Of course I'm not CIA. I'm a temp!

Chris: I knew that, I knew that. I could tell that, I could easily tell. I was kidding. It was a joke.

Whitney: OK. So what do you want me to do?

Chris: I want you to be in charge of revolutionary discipline. The movement is growing and I can no longer do everything myself. I've got battle plans to form, platoons to organize, anger to foment. I'd like you to focus on shooting deserters.

Whitney: Ooh, I don't know. You mean really shoot real deserters?

Chris: Of course.

Whitney: Isn't there any typing I could do?

Chris: You must understand the only punishment for betraying the revolution is death.

Whitney: Is there a warning system at all? Written reprimand? Employee file? Three strikes you're out?

Chris: No no. You're out right away, on strike one. Boom. Death.

Whitney: Harsh.

Chris: It's the revolutionary code.

Whitney: Sounds a little unfair.

Chris: Silence! It's fair. It is beyond fair. It's the fairest system there is.

Whitney: The fairest of them all?

Chris: Beg your pardon?

Whitney: You know, mirror mirror on the wall?

Chris: What are you prattling on about?

Whitney: Nothing. I just thought I'd throw that in there.

Chris: Whatever.

Whitney: So anyway, you have these deserters and you want me to, uhhh...

Chris: Shoot them.

Whitney: Wow.

Chris: Yes.

Whitney: I've actually never, erm, never done that.

Chris: We do train.

Whitney: Good. Thank you. But it's not really my...I mean, don't you guys have a website or anything? I could build you one. Interactive site? Connect with your membership? Track your user base?

Chris: No, I really just need a shooter.

Whitney: Get your message out? Snappy domain name? I think, you know, a revolution these days is going to need a web presence.

Chris: We're not about that dot com shit. Are you going to shoot him or not?

Whitney: Shoot whom?

Chris: Him. Over there. In the corner.

Whitney: What, under that blanket?

Chris: Yes, he's tied up there. We brought him back this morning.

Whitney: I don't know...

Chris: God, these temp agencies are useless!

Whitney: Look, I may be a mercenary, but, I mean, I have my limits. I am not going to just shoot somebody, without pay, without even knowing why.

Chris: For betraying the revolution!

Whitney: What revolution?!

Chris: The people's revolution to overthrow this war-mongering corporate oligarchy!

Whitney: You mean like bust through all this consumer-culture crap?

Chris: Yes! And liberate the true potential of the human spirit!

Whitney: End the tyranny of fear?

Chris: Yes! Exactly! Recognize our common interests and give full expression to the power of love in human affairs!

Whitney: What about using peaceful democratic processes?

Chris: Did you not just see this election?

Whitney: Good point. Still...

Chris: What is it?

Whitney: I just think, you know, a database-driven website, with a registered member base and customized news feeds, I mean, you're not using all available tools here.

Chris pauses before answering.

Chris: Could we have an e-newsletter?

Whitney: Easy.

Chris: Real-time news about government atrocities in an attractive Flash display?

Whitney: ActionScript and XML dude. Not a problem.

Chris: And you'll shoot the deserters?

Whitney: Reactionary dogs.

Chris: Well, good, good. So. Well. Here's the gun, there's the deserter...

Whitney: So there's just this pay issue.

Chris: No pay! It is an honor to serve the revolution! There are plenty of beans, there is rice, we have many tents, quite a few cubicles...

Whitney: Yeah but, the agency, there are rules you know.

Chris: Seven dollars an hour.

Whitney: Eleven fifty.

Chris: Silence!

Whitney: Eleven fifty, it's not negotiable, that's the agency's rate.

Chris: Fine, eleven fifty, but you disgust me.

Whitney: All righty then. Here goes nothing! [She picks up the gun and aims at the deserter.] 1...2...3...

-- LIGHTS OUT --

Comments

27 April 2005 13:13:54 John Schoneboom

Yes, it's that sixth minute that will bring a man down, no doubt about it. I recently entered a ten-minute play competition and was extremely apprehensive about all those extra minutes. I think I faltered in the sixth minute, visibly weakened in the seventh, and paled unutterably in the first half of the eighth minute before mounting a recovery. By the ninth minute I had rediscovered a sureness of voice, and the tenth minute, it goes without saying, knocks your eyes out. Once your eyes are knocked out I can write anything I like.

27 April 2005 11:59:46 jonathan

I love these five-minute plays by the way and was going to write to you about them before these handy new comment boxes popped up (where did you get the idea from??!).



I think my favourite is the Revolutionary and the Temp. No, the Detective! No, the Perfect Hat! You see, my shrinking attention span is affecting my ability to choose a favourite among short pieces of drama. I am quite certain, however, in looking forward to the day I can sit in a smoky cellar somewhere in NYC and see them (and more like them) in the flesh.



Mind I will start twiddling my thumbs and coughing pointedly if any of them drag on into a sixth minute...
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