During the fall trimester each senior in James Watson’s play writing class composed a 20-50 page play. Beginning with The Elephant in the Room, a comedy written by Kendall Reingold, The Cardinal will be publishing a series of these plays. All of the plays written in the senior elective were submitted to ACT Theater’s playwriting contest. Of the hundreds of plays that were entered in the competition, Kendall’s was among eight that were selected to be performed two weeks ago at the ACT Theater’s Young Playwrights Festival. According to Kendall, “Working with professional actors and a professional director was incredible! I learned so much about how plays become performances and it was absolutely amazing to see what I'd written come to life.” Not only did Kendall receive the opportunity to work with professional actors and directors to make her play ready for the stage, but she was paid for her work as well. A truly brilliant comedy, The Elephant in the Room was a hit at the festival and Kendall’s hard work has definitely paid off. Finally, we at The Carinal welcome creative work (plays, poems, short stories, photographs, visual pieces, videos, podcasts, etc…) from other students in the SAAS community; both class work and personal pieces.
The Elephant in the Room
By Kendall Reingold
KATIE GREENBERG: daughter of Linda and Mark, 17 years old
LINDA GREENBERG: mother of Katie, wife of Mark, late forties-early fifties, bohemian wardrobe
MARK GREENBERG: father of Katie, husband of Linda, late forties-early fifties, wears Birkenstocks
TYLER: boyfriend of Katie, 17 years old, may have a mild Southern accent
Setting: The Greenberg family living room—a nice, but not flashy, semi-suburban home in Seattle in approximately 2011. Include a front door, a dining table, and stairs that descend into the room.
Linda and Mark are reading on the couch, preferably intellectual, progressive books or newspapers. Katie enters from the stairs, dressed for a date.
KATIE: Bye, mom! Bye, dad!
MARK (looking up): Did you feed the chickens?
KATIE: Yeah, this morning.
LINDA: And did you collect the eggs?
KATIE (impatient): YES. There were six.
LINDA: Oh, great! I’ll make a frittata or something. You picked all the radicchio, right?
MARK: So where are you going, anyway?
KATIE: I already told you, I’m meeting Tyler for dinner.
LINDA: It was on the calendar, Mark.
MARK: Nobody tells me anything around here. Well, when do you think you’ll be home?
KATIE: Um…maybe eleven? Can I take the Prius?
MARK: Sure. See you then!
LINDA: Oh, did you decide if you want to come to the ACLU auction with me on Wednesday?
KATIE (uncomfortable): I…can’t. Lots of homework.
LINDA: That’s too bad. Well, be safe on the roads!
KATIE (still a little antsy): Okay, bye. (Exits through the door)
Lights go out.
Katie enters through the door, happy.
MARK: Hi, Katie.
LINDA: How was dinner?
KATIE: It was good.
MARK: Where did you guys go?
KATIE: This Italian place downtown.
LINDA: So you and this guy…Tyler?
LINDA: … have been hanging out a lot. When do we get to meet him?
MARK: What’s with the hesitancy?
KATIE (snappily): Nothing!
LINDA: What’s wrong?
KATIE: Nothing, nothing; I just…he’s kind of…
MARK (half-joking): He’s not a Republican, is he? (Chuckles a little; silence ensues.) Oh my god. He is NOT!
KATIE: It’s no big deal…
LINDA: Honey, you can’t be serious.
KATIE: I mean, uh, his…um…family…
MARK: A Republican?
KATIE: Dad, mom…
LINDA: My daughter’s new boyfriend is a Republican! (Slightly hysterical) HE MIGHT AS WELL BE GLENN BECK JUNIOR!
KATIE: Mom, you’re freaking out.
MARK: Linda, don’t yell. Katie, what did I ever do to make you want to do this?
KATIE: I knew you’d be like this.
LINDA: Mark, Mark, MARK, our daughter is out of her mind!
KATIE: You’re out of your mind! Just give him a chance. He’s a nice guy.
LINDA: Well…I suppose we could have him over for dinner. Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow (smiles). That way we can…get to know each other (winks at Mark).
Lights go out.
Now, the living room is decorated with “Obama 2012” and “Pro-Choice Washington” materials, etc. The table is set for four people.
Katie is waiting nervously on the couch. The doorbell rings.
KATIE: I’ll get it!
She opens the door. Tyler enters
KATIE: Hi. So…here we are. Thanks again for doing this. I hope my parents aren’t too crazy.
TYLER: Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine.
KATIE (grimly): I guess we’ll see…
Linda and Mark (carrying a drink) enter from offstage.
LINDA: Oh, you must be Tyler! We’ve heard so much about you (glances pointedly at Katie).
TYLER: It’s nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Greenberg. (Shakes their hands)
LINDA: Call me Linda.
MARK: And I’m Mark.
LINDA: Why don’t you come and sit down? Dinner won’t be ready for another few minutes. (She leads the kids to a couch with a prominent view of the “Obama 2012” poster. Mark follows and sits down with her, opposite the kids.)
MARK: So, Tyler. Tell us about yourself.
TYLER: Well, I just moved up to Seattle last year, and—
LINDA: Oh, from where? Mark’s from San Francisco, but I’ve lived here all my life.
TYLER: I’m from the South.
MARK (choking on his drink): The South? (Clears his throat) You don’t say. Let me guess, (hopeful, but worried) um…Olympia? (Pause) Portland? (Pause, then, nervously,) Los Angeles?
TYLER: Actually, I’m from Mississippi. Jackson, to be exact.
MARK (strained): Katie, you didn’t mention that! How…quaint…
LINDA: Isn’t that cute! A real-live Mississippian! That’s how you people call yourselves, right?
TYLER: Yes, ma’am.
LINDA: Aw, look at you, with your backwa—I mean, old-fashioned manners and everything! Just like the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird (chuckles). But please, call me Linda.
KATIE (embarrassed): Uh…is that the oven timer I hear beeping?
LINDA: Oh, calm down, Katie! (Pause) I do have to get dinner out, though. Everybody, sit down at the table. (She exits offstage)
Mark, Katie, and Tyler sit down at the table. Linda re-enters with dinner: squash stuffed with a mysterious grain and vegetables.
LINDA: Here we are! It’s a new recipe from Namaste Magazine—acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and chard. I wasn’t sure if you were a vegetarian, so I decided to be safe. Katie’s last boyfriend was a vegan, you know.
MARK: You mean Jake? Great guy.
LINDA: And so handsome! Such a shame he had to leave for Yale.
KATIE (almost interrupting, makes an “ahem” sound, then, a little too loudly,): Please pass the water!
A short awkward silence ensues
TYLER (serving himself some squash): Thank you for dinner, ma’am. Sorry—Linda.
Linda smiles and watches as he takes a bite, almost giggling when he struggles to swallow.
MARK: So, Mississippi. Go Tar Heels, right?
TYLER: Well…actually that’s North Carolina. Ole Miss is home to the Rebels.
MARK: Oh, Rebels, huh? Still got that spirit of 1860 down there, don’t ya? (Laughs)
TYLER (to Katie): It’s okay, (obviously lying—) I…get that all the time…
KATIE (to Tyler, quietly): I am so sorry about all this.
TYLER: Don’t worry about it.
KATIE: So…how was your day, Mom?
LINDA: I got fifty eight more signatures for the petition! You know, Katie, you really should come to these things with me.
KATIE (very uncomfortable): Maybe…sometime…you know it’s not really my thing…
TYLER: What sort of petition are you working on?
LINDA: Oh, it’s to get state funding to provide daily organic cooking classes at all public schools, K through twelve. We’ve got such a great group of people working on it. You know, who can’t stand by and let big food corporations ruin the planet.
MARK: You’re involved in politics, aren’t you, Tyler?
TYLER (warily): Yes…
LINDA: Oh, that’s lovely! What do you do?
TYLER: I’ve been volunteering…for the Jack Sheffield campaign.
LINDA (stiffening): As in…the incumbent…?
TYLER: Yes, him.
LINDA (tensely): Really…well that is just…perfect.
Uncomfortable silence, as people finish the food
KATIE: Wow, look at the time! Tyler, don’t we have to head out soon if we want to make it to the movie?
TYLER: Uh…yeah, looks like we do. (Looks questioningly at Katie) I guess we should get going. Thank you so much for dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Greenberg.
MARK: You’re welcome. You two have fun; drive safe. And have Katie home by eleven.
TYLER: Absolutely. Goodnight!
Tyler and Katie exit through the front door.
LINDA: Unbelievable. Jack Sheffield?
MARK: Honey, what did you expect? He is a…Republican…
LINDA: But it’s worse! He’s not just some undecided child—he is an active enabler of the right-wing agenda!
MARK: Well…isn’t that actually better in some ways?
LINDA: Like what? Give me one good reason.
MARK: I mean, at least the kid stands up for what he believes in? He’s genuinely committed to his cause. Even though his cause is despicable…I guess we should at least give him some credit. What I’m saying is, even though he’s a…Republican…at least he knows how to follow through.
LINDA: Whose side are you on, huh?
MARK: Nobody’s. I’m just trying to make the best of this mess, that’s all.
LINDA: (Sighs) I guess you’ve got a point. But what did we ever do to deserve this?
MARK: Oh, it’ll be over before you know it. (Putting his arm around Linda, comforting her) You know how these teenage relationships are—fizzled out with within a few months. We’ll have our daughter back any day now. Good as new.
Lights go out.
Katie and Tyler enter the empty living room; it is dark outside.
KATIE: That was fun. I hope my parents don’t ask me about the “movie” (laughs).
TYLER: I can’t believe you told them we were going to a movie.
KATIE: I told you that was what I was going to say.
TYLER (more serious): Why didn’t you tell them?
KATIE: I just couldn’t do it.
TYLER: Well, you’ll have to sometime…
KATIE: I know, but not yet.
TYLER: You don’t need to be scared; they’re your parents.
KATIE: Exactly! You met them! You know they won’t be able to handle it!
TYLER: It might be hard at first, but they’ll come around.
KATIE: I don’t know…
TYLER: Look, I get it. I know how hard it is in this city—don’t think I haven’t struggled with people like your parents—but at some point you can’t hide who you are anymore. Sooner or later you’re going to need to tell them.
KATIE: I guess…I mean, I do want them to know, but I can’t yet. I mean, they’d try to accept it but I just don’t think they could. I guess…I’m afraid to find out.
TYLER: I get that. It’s okay. No need to rush.
KATIE: Thank you…for everything.
TYLER: Anytime. I know you’ll tell them when you’re ready.
KATIE: Tyler…Am I a bad daughter? You know, for…I feel like I’m betraying them.
TYLER: Absolutely not. You can’t change who you are, and your parents know that. It might take some getting used to, but you can’t let them get in the way of your feelings.
KATIE: If you say so. Well, I better go inside. Don’t want to miss curfew on top of all this.
TYLER: Goodnight. (They hug)
Lights go out.
Linda and Mark are sitting down, each busy with an individual activity. Katie enters, barefoot, carrying a pair of shoes, which she begins to put on.
LINDA: Is Tyler coming over next weekend?
KATIE: No. He’s busy.
LINDA: Oh, that’s too bad. There’s this amazing new Silent Opera at Benaroya Hall, about the lives of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. I thought it would be fun for us all to go see it.
KATIE (embarrassed): Oh no…
MARK: Come on, it’d be great! I’m sure he’d love to see what culture looks like.
KATIE: I’m sure he’s perfectly well cultured. He lives in the same city as we do.
MARK: Well, he did spend his first sixteen years in the land of… (With contempt) NASCAR.
KATIE: Oh my god; leave him alone! He can’t even go to the stupid Silent Opera, so there’s no point figuring out how it’ll “educate” him.
MARK: Alright, alright.
LINDA: So where are you going today?
KATIE: Out...with Tyler.
LINDA: What’s your plan?
KATIE: I…don’t know yet…I’ll be home by six. Have you seen my blue jacket?
LINDA: You left it on the couch; right there (points to it). Are you going to be outside much?
KATIE: Um…it’s possible. I’m not sure. Just…trying to be prepared, you know (smiles and picks up the jacket).
KATIE: Great. See you then! (She exits out the front door)
LINDA: I wish she’d tell me more.
MARK: As long as she’s staying out of trouble…
LINDA: You’re right. She’s a good kid. It’s just…first the Republican, and now she won’t tell us where she’s going with him? I’m…a little worried.
MARK: She’s a teenager. I just wish she wouldn’t take this new “rebellious” thing so far.
LINDA: I know. This phase had better pass soon.
Lights go out.
Linda and Katie are arguing. Mark is reading the Seattle Times.
LINDA: Katie, you know your father and I are just looking out for you. We don’t want you getting mixed up with…bad influences.
KATIE: Are you serious right now?
LINDA: Of course I’m serious! Look, you’re seventeen years old. I know you want nothing more than to “assert your independence” by doing stuff just to piss off your parents. Like, dating…him.
KATIE: That’s not what it is!
LINDA: (cutting her off) Look, Katie, you’re a smart, beautiful girl and we love you very much. It just kills us as parents to see you throwing yourself into the world of government-hating, anti-welfare, gun-slinging evangelists.
KATIE: YOU’RE NOT GETTING THE POINT HERE.
LINDA: Yes, I am. I don’t want you to lose sight of the way we brought you up; you know—
MARK (recoiling from his newspaper): HOLY CRAP!
MARK: What…is this?
LINDA: What is what?
MARK: Come over here…take a look at this article…
LINDA: (reading): “Republicans Rally Downtown for Sheffield...” what’s the big deal, Mark?
KATIE: (quietly): Uh oh…
MARK: Look…at the picture…Tell me who you think…
LINDA: OH MY GOD! KATIE?!?!?
MARK: Is that really you? Katie? At the—
KATIE: I can explain.
LINDA (almost sarcastically): Oh, please do! (Aside, more desperately) God, let there be some kind of explanation!
KATIE: Well…uh…you know…you raised me to think I was one kind of person, and I figured I was, my whole life, but…
LINDA: Yes! Because that is a good kind of person to be!
MARK: Are you saying that you think you might be…this…other kind of person?
KATIE: Yeah. I wanted to tell—
MARK: Look, sometimes, after you’ve been raised to be one way…you start to wonder about the other way…so, sometimes…teenagers need to…experiment a little. I get that. You’re just trying to see what else is out there.
KATIE: No, I’ve seen what’s out there. I’m sure.
LINDA: Katie, don’t be rash. You’re young; your prefrontal cortex isn’t all there yet…you don’t really know what you want…
KATIE: Yes, I do. About this, at least.
LINDA (strained): Oh god…
MARK: So you think…this is who you are?
KATIE: I do. I wanted to tell you before, but I knew you’d have a hard time with it. I was waiting for a better time.
LINDA: So…you really think you’re…
KATIE: Positive. I am absolutely a Republican.
LINDA makes a small noise, like a gasp mixed with a squeak.
MARK: This is all Tyler’s fault, isn’t it? I never should’ve let him influence you like that!
KATIE: No, Dad, Tyler didn’t make me this way. It’s just who I am. (She exits upstairs)
LINDA: Mark…oh my god…our own daughter?
MARK: I know. Wow…
LINDA: Where did I go wrong? How could this happen?
MARK: You didn’t do anything wrong. You’ve been nothing but a great mom to her. So I guess this means it was bound to happen.
LINDA: I guess. It’s just…I never thought it would be our daughter. Well, at least she hasn’t joined the NRA or anything.
MARK: And the day comes when we’re grateful our daughter doesn’t own a machine gun…
BOTH: laugh, and then go quiet.
LINDA: I really hope this isn’t permanent.
MARK: It can’t be. I mean, this is Katie we’re talking about here.
LINDA: I know, but after what just happened, it’s hard to be sure what that means.
MARK: Come on, you said it yourself; her brain is far from being fully developed. I actually just heard this interview on NPR about how teenage brains are actually like those of crazy people!
LINDA: Ha, that seems rather obvious now.
MARK: Well…what are we gonna do?
LINDA (sighing): I guess…I guess we’ll have to try to accept it. If we don’t, she’ll probably just go off the deep end—maybe even, God forbid, join a— (shuddering at the word) church.
MARK: No! We can’t let that happen.
MARK: Hm. (Pause) Well…you know what this means (begins to smile).
MARK (wryly): Our room and her room are now bipartisan chambers.
Linda and Mark begin to laugh nervously, as lights dim and go out.