Dark but not Idle

As the Under Armor ad featuring Michael Phelps says at the tag line…

It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light

So no, I’m no Michael Phelps but the message I take away from this gorgeous piece of video work is: just keep going. 4 weeks ago I put myself into a playwriting class with Gotham Writers Workshop. It’s good to be self motivated which I have been. It’s also good to realize you’ve taken yourself as far as you can alone and it’s time to engage with the world. Once a week I gather with a six fellow playwrights and we work together. It’s a diverse group with a range of experience and a consistent level of commitment. I really enjoy them and appreciate the critique and imagination each of them have. Below is a sample of the work we do in class and as part of our homework exercises. More pieces to follow as I find the time to get back to uploading stuff I want to share onto my web log.

{one class was devoted to character development – after going through an exercise devising a character on the fly we were given 10 minutes to put that character into a scene} 

Setting: Present day in the mid afternoon

The scene opens on an old shack in the Hawaiian island of Ni’ihau, the westernmost community in the principal Hawaiian Islands. The people living there, the Pu’uwai, are an “unincorporated community” of native Hawaiians who live as they once did hundreds of years ago.

We can see straight into the home where Sally Bondonovan, an 85 year old Hawaiian native, is sitting carving a bowl from a coconut. Her home is primitive, cozy and inviting. Sally sits and works in peace.

Daniel walks through the jungle underbrush towards the home. He is white, about 40 years old and wears a US Army uniform. He walks up to the house, looks for a place to knock and, finding nothing substantial to knock on, clears his throat as a means of an introduction.

I could hear you coming from half a mile away.
Don’t they teach you boys Kung Fu or something to make you walk more quietly?

Um, yes, actually they do give us some stealth maneuvering training. I didn’t think it proper to sneak up on you

You’re different from the other guys they’ve sent. You’re accent, not American are you?

Well, actually I am American, but you’re right, I’m from Great Brittan originally

How’d they get you in that uniform then?

I was naturalized twenty years ago

Doesn’t sound very natural to me
Look we both know why you’re here and I’ll tell it to you right off the bat
I’m not leaving

Do you think that’s why I’m here?

You haven’t’ given me any other reason to think so

Your home, it’s very nice. Primitive but cozy somehow

Since when does primitive equate with uncomfortable?

You’ve got an extraordinary vocabulary for someone who lives like a Pygmy

Pygmy’s live in Central Africa – you’ve got the wrong continent for that analogy


And you are changing the subject…what’s your name?

Oh, Sargent Ashton, but you can call me Daniel

I’ll call you Ashton

Suit yourself


{Our homework was to then script a monologue}

He quiets a bit, not wanting to make her feel rushed. He is a patient man. She observes him observing her as she takes stock of the handsome Brit/American. It feels good to have a conversation, been a while. She’s ambivalent, though, as to whether or not he’s a good guy or a bad guy. It’s a salve to be listened to, regardless.


I’m very smart, you see; I was lucky. As a child my mother read to me. Most around here at that time didn’t learn to read and I had a mother who did. You can imagine how that separated me from the pack. I earned a full scholarship to the University at Manoa and I took off every day like a bird dropping from her nest, diving for juicy morsels of knowledge. I scooped it up, digested the information, and used that energy to push my way upwards as hard as I could to see if I could reach the sun. I was eighteen years old and ready to take over the world with all my beautiful knowledge. I worked so hard that they told me I had to graduate a year early in 1941. I didn’t want to graduate. In fact, when they cancelled classes for two months after the attack I was glad for it. Not for the attack, mind you. Not for the attack. I was glad for the delay that kept my graduation day at bay. When that fateful day finally came and I stood there in my cap and gown I was grateful for the gas mask they asked us each to wear. The ships were still burning and the acrid smoke hurt our lungs to breath but I didn’t care so much about breathing. I started to cry and I wanted to cover my face. Everyone around me was laughing and dancing. I wanted to hide how much it hurt to stop learning.


(writing in his journal)

It takes a lot of convincing to get someone to do something they are sure is wrong. But once you can get them to step over that magic threshold, once you can convince them to abandon the voice that cries out “No, don’t do it!” you’ve got em. They are locked into a trap, invisible as it is, and there is no way for them to get out without the complete dismantling of the entire mechanism that sucked them into it in the first place.

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