A few months ago, a friend of mine lost his 16-year old son to heart disease. Truth be told, he’s more of a colleague than a close friend: someone who helps me in my career in as much as his job lets him, and who buys me dinner and drinks when we’re in the same town because his job allows him that luxury as well. Still, I like him quite a lot, and the loss of a child is something I, like most people, have a lot of trouble wrapping my head and heart around. Another fact that served to add few fissures on an already broken heart is that my friend’s son loved theatre: acting and directing; and was apparently quite good at both, falling for the stage at the same early adolescent age I did.

As I do when I feel utterly helpless, I got to thinking, “What can I do? I have to do something.” So here’s the harebrained idea I came up with: write short plays intended solely for teenage actors, who as it happens, are woefully underserved by the canon.

So the following is my first effort in this endeavor. It took me months to write. It came in drips and drizzles as real life-- such as the birth of my second son-- went on mercilessly around me-- over and under and through me. I’ve written first drafts of whole two-act plays in less time. But I think the slowness served this one. And I post it here certainly not to win any points—my plays are always poor XP performers—but to get feedback from the harshest, most insightful crowd of writers I know.


(Lights rise on Robert, Isaac and Jane. Robert wears a dark suit and tie.

Isaac wears a very old-fashioned "oilskin" raincoat, glistening with wet.

Jane wears a plain and modest dress of indeterminate vogue.

All three are between 15 and 18 years old, and should only be played by actors in this age range.)

ROBERT: You know what's amazing?


ROBERT: Right now, looking at these stars, I am the oldest... I have ever been.

ISAAC: Well, of course. What's amazing about that?

ROBERT: It just is.

ISAAC: It's just a tautology, is what it is. . . . And what stars?

ROBERT: Out there.

JANE: You see stars?

ROBERT: Are you kidding? I can't not see stars. They're everywhere.

ISAAC: They may be everywhere-- that much I'll stipulate-- but how could anyone see them through this murk?

JANE: You see murk?

ISAAC: Mist, murk. Sure.

ROBERT: That's bizarre.

ISAAC: You're bizarre.

ROBERT: That much I'll stipulate.

JANE: "Stipulate". Stip- you- late. Funny word. I like how it tongues. And I think I know what it means just by how you two have used it.

ISAAC: How it "tongues?" That's vulgar.

JANE: Vulgar.

ISAAC: I think so.

ROBERT: It's not vulgar. She's trying to be descriptive.

ISAAC: Fine. I apologize. Why do you keep squinting? . . . Be descriptive.

JANE: I don't know. Can't help it. Sun's so bright.

ISAAC: Oh, so you see sun?

JANE: Bright. Glorious.

ISAAC: And he sees stars.

ROBERT: The sun's a star.

ISAAC: I know that.

JANE: The sun is a star, isn't it?

ISAAC: And I can't tell if it's dusk or dawn.

ROBERT: Being the oldest you've ever been can be like that, I should think.

ISAAC: What are you nattering about? I'm stating, literally, I can see the sun either rising or setting in what must either be the East or West, and I can see the moon setting or rising in what must either be the West or East but . . . wait. . . they're in front of me. . . .which must be South . . . the moon is on my right. . . . which must be West. It must be dawn!

ROBERT: Unless you're in the Southern Hemisphere.

ISAAC: The Southern . . .

ROBERT: Can you see the Southern Cross? Is the moon upside down?

ISAAC: How would I --? It's cloudy in most of the sky, roiling murk and thunderheads, all right? There's no moon and I can hardly see any stars at all.

ROBERT: Well I'm fairly certain I'm in the Northern Hemisphere. There's Polaris. And I'm on some sort of city rooftop, but it's quiet and dark, like a blackout. A blackout . . . what would that mean? A war or something?

JANE: You don't see any people?

ROBERT: None but you and him.

JANE: Interesting. This is so interesting.

ISAAC: You think so? I think it's bizarre. And a joke. A stupid joke.

ROBERT: You discourage easily.

JANE (to Isaac): Tell me what you see. Tell me everything.

ISAAC: You mean be descriptive?

JANE: Yes. Do it.

ISAAC: Like I said, it's a murky twilight: sun setting or rising in the East or West, moon doing one or the other in one or the other.

JANE: And where are you?

ISAAC: I'm. . . on some sort of wall. . . of stone. . . some sort of battlement.

JANE: A castle?

ISAAC: Perhaps. Yes.

ROBERT: A ruin?

ISAAC: Perhaps.

JANE: How fascinating!

ISAAC: I'm glad you think so.

JANE: What's your name?

ISAAC: Issac.

JANE: Mine's Jane.

ISAAC: Hello.

ROBERT: How do you know?

JANE: What?

ROBERT: What your name is-- how do you know?

JANE: I don't know. I just know.

ISAAC: Me, too.

ROBERT: I'm Robert.

ISAAC: How do you know?

ROBERT: I don't. For all I know, it might not be.

JANE: I'll call you Robert.

(Robert walks to the edge of the stage.)

ROBERT: What's the drop off like?

ISAAC: The drop off?

ROBERT: From your wall? Is it high?

(Isaac walks to the edge as well.)

ISAAC: Yes. It's quite high. It's . . . I don't know. Ten fathoms? More?

ROBERT: So sixty feet. 20 meters, approximately.

ISAAC: If you say so.

ROBERT: So the fall wouldn't kill you.


ROBERT: No, but hitting the ground would.

ISAAC: Hilarious.

JANE (to Robert): You said you were on a rooftop.

ISAAC: How high are you?

ROBERT: Oh, I'd say at least stories?

JANE Stories?

ROBERT: Floors. Of the building.

JANE: Yes, of course.

ROBERT: Maybe 14 feet each.

ISAAC: A hundred and forty feet.

ROBERT: Something like that.

ISAAC: Maybe 24 fathoms.

ROBERT: If you insist on being archaic.

(turning to Jane)

How 'bout you? What's your drop off like?

JANE: I don't have one. The mountainside slopes gently downward in front of me.

ROBERT: Ah, I see. . . . or rather I don't. And there's the rub, I suppose.


ISAAC: Does it bother anyone that we've managed to avoid so far the essential question?

ROBERT: Which is?

ISAAC: How did we get here?

ROBERT: That's the essential question?

ISAAC: I'd say it's pretty essential.

JANE: Hmmm. Is it though?

ISAAC: How couldn't it be?

JANE: I mean, I feel like. . . .

ISAAC: Somebody put us here. That much is self-evident.

ROBERT: Is it?

JANE: Somebody put us here?


JANE: One of us?

ISAAC: What? No. Not one of us.

ROBERT: We're dreaming?

JANE: Maybe one of us.

ISAAC: No. Somebody.

ROBERT: Somebody who?

ISAAC: Somebody else.

ROBERT: Somebody dead?

JANE: I don't think there's a somebody.

ROBERT: If there's a somebody, there's an awfully sadistic somebody.

ISAAC: How can there not be a somebody? Do you think we're complex enough to create all this?

ROBERT: Why not?

JANE: Depends on what you mean by 'we'.

ISAAC: Sophistry. A creation implies a creator. Anything I can learn about where or what I am is merely a hopeful overture to knowing Him, communicating with Him.

JANE: Him?

ISAAC: It's an expression. You have to have expressions for things. Sometimes they're inadequate.

ROBERT: Sometimes woefully so.

ISAAC: And we live with that.

ROBERT: Maybe we're dead.

ISAAC: Well that would be trite.

ROBERT: Or not alive.

JANE: Not yet away.

ROBERT: Sure. Isn't that exactly the self-perceived definition of a teenager?

ISAAC: Teenager?

ROBERT: Isn't that us?

ISAAC: I've never heard that word before.

ROBERT: Strange.

JANE: Maybe . . .


JANE: Maybe the essential question is what we are to each other.

ROBERT: I'm not sure that's in the form of a question.

JANE: Fine. What are we to each other?

ROBERT: "What are we supposed to do?" is more like it.

ISAAC: If we had a better sense of the Creator, we'd be able to answer those questions.

ROBERT: Or so you would have us believe.

ISAAC: You have to believe in something.


ISAAC: Because . . .

ROBERT: Exactly. See, I don't want have to rely on faith. I shouldn't have to rely on faith. Whatever I learn, I want it proven to me. Then I can trust that knowledge with my own two eyes and then I can take that knowledge and with my own two hands, I can use it. To do something.

JANE: Why?

ROBERT: Why? Why what?

JANE: Why do something?

ROBERT: You have to do something.

JANE: You do?

ROBERT: The very act of doing nothing is doing something.

JANE: Hmmm. That's weird. I'm not sure I understand that.

ROBERT: Trust me.

JANE: So take it on faith then?

ROBERT: It's self-evident.

JANE: Maybe to your self. It's not to mine.

ROBERT: So trust me.

JANE: I don't want have to rely on faith. I shouldn't have to rely on faith.

ISAAC: It's not about wanting to. Or having to. What if it's the right thing to do? What if the Creator wants us to believe?

JANE: Why would He, if She's a He?

ISAAC: Wouldn't you? If you created all this?

JANE: I'm not sure I would.

ISAAC: Well that's where we're different.

JANE: Agreed.

ROBERT: The creator is a credophage.

JANE: What?

ROBERT: A credophage. He thrives on faith. He eats it. And if he doesn't, he dies.

ISAAC: Make it ugly if you want. I choose to believe in something higher.

ROBERT: Higher?

ISAAC: Beyond all this.

JANE: Beyond?

ISAAC: Different.

JANE: I'm somewhere different.

ROBERT: She has a point. So am I.

ISAAC: You don't understand.

JANE: Agreed.

ISAAC: I believe that the Creator needs for us to understand that this particular creation is nothing more than . . . than . . . a separation. An illusion. And to believe is to take the first step towards moving beyond the illusion, the separation.

ROBERT: What's the next step?


ROBERT: You say belief is the first step, what's the second?

ISAAC: Action, I guess.

ROBERT: You guess.

ISAAC: Action.

ROBERT: What action?

ISAAC: That much is implied, don't you think?

ROBERT: I don't know. . . . No. An implied action implies an implier. And that's where we part company.

ISAAC: It's a sacrifice.

ROBERT: What is?

ISAAC: All action. All good action. I know people like you don't understand this word. But it's a sacrifice. Proof to the someone that put us here that I understand that this world-- that all worlds are an illusion.

ROBERT: Illusions of what and to whom? . . . Stick with what you got, that's my advice. I have stars-- blackness-stabbing fusion machines. You've got murk. She's got sunshine and a gently sloping mountainside. We get what we get.

ISAAC: Not if I take the next step.

JANE: What are you talking-- you're not talking about what I think you're talking about, are you?

ISAAC: I'm talking about stepping forward, Jane.

JANE: No. That's just . . . wrong.

ROBERT: At least he's doing something.

JANE: Quiet you! Don't you dare encourage him.

ROBERT: Why are you angry at me? And what are you afraid of? After all, you see the mountainside gently sloping downward. In your world he couldn't possibly hurt himself.

JANE: In your world he would plummet ten stories.

ISAAC: But I'm not in your world or yours, don't you see? I'm not even in this world. Not really. Or if I'm in it, I'm not of it. Don't you see?

JANE: I don't see, no.

ROBERT: Afraid not.

ISAAC: I pity you two.

JANE: Don't pity us. Be here with us.

ISAAC: I can't. Everything . . . good requires a sacrifice.

JANE: Don't do this. Please don't do it.

ISAAC: Sorry.

(Isaac steps forward, past the end of the stage.


A brief moment later, a single spot light picks up Isaac just off the lip of the stage at the front of the audience. He looks around at all the people, shy and intimidated at first. But then he shakes his head and says. . . )

ISAAC: This isn't real either, you know.

(With that, he walks through the audience up and out of the house.

Lights shift back to the stage: Robert and Jane.)

ROBERT: You know what's amazing?


ROBERT: Right now, looking at these stars, I am the oldest... I have ever been.

JANE: You see stars?

ROBERT: Are you kidding? I can't not see stars. They're everywhere.

JANE: I see the sun. Bright. Glorious.

ROBERT: The sun is a star.

JANE: I know that.

ROBERT: My sky is clear as a bell.

JANE: Mine too. Wait . . . No . . wait . . . there's a cloud. Just the tiniest . . . sort of shadow floating up there.

ROBERT: Where?

JANE (pointing up and out): Right there.

ROBERT: Oh . . . yeah . . . I see it, too.

(Fade to black.

End of play.)

Trip"tych (?), n. [Gr. consisting of three layers or plates; (see Tri-) + , , a fold, layer.]

Anything in three parts or leaves.

Specifically: -- (a)

A writing tablet in three parts, two of which fold over on the middle part.


A picture or altarpiece in three compartments.


© Webster 1913.

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