CYBERHATE / Playwright/actor: Rachel Morgan ’15
"I don't want to get online today."
A young woman of today is wrestling with the stress and trauma of unwanted text messages appearing on her cell phone. The messages are hateful and intensely personal, filled with spurious language and offensive thoughts. Having tried unsuccessfully to elude her cyber harasser by blocking certain screen names, she agonizes over her situation. The very technology she embraces to stay in touch with friends and socialize is becoming her enemy
“I can’t disconnect from the very thing hurting me,” she wails. “She’s SLANDERING me online! She can say what she likes of me, and I can’t run, can’t fight back because I need the Internet to get by....
As the scene ends, she finally confronts the message, then turns away in horror, throws the phone down, and runs offstage.
Rachel Morgan ’15 said her research for this script shows that cyber harassment is most common in school groups where the people know each other well. And the impersonal nature of technological communication just adds to the problem
“When you’re on the Internet or your cell phone, you don’t have to look at the person you’re talking to,” she said. “So it’s much easier for people to say all these nasty things to you. They don’t have to see your reaction, to see how much it’s hurting you. All they see is the words.”
CURRENT NEWS / Playwright/actor: Kris Ratliff ’13
“Brad and Angelina! Are they broke up again?”
A news host speaks from a makeshift television set as an audience goes from interested to uninterested, depending on the topics. Serious items are trivialized by their juxtaposition with gossipy celebrity news in a parody of contemporary programming.
In a typical segment, the announcer says:
“In other news, schools are trying to figure out ways to make students feel more secure. Speaking of secure, go to our website to find some great dieting tips to make you feel secure and not insecure the next time you try a bikini on!”
And again, following a bit on the top film at the box office:
“But what’s really topping the charts is the rate of people coming down with the flu this month. They’re calling this a pandemic, and already 10 people have died. But, you know who is wishing they were dead right now? Madonna! After being seen in a not so flattering dress last week during the Golden Globes.”
Kris Ratliff ’13 said her takeoff on current news shows is meant to draw a contrast between today’s pace of information and that of the 1950s.
“News in the 1950s was very slow paced, but now everything is so quick, it moves so fast,” she said. “We’re also obsessed with celebrities, as opposed to what’s really going on in the world. And it’s hard to trust the news stations—they all have a biased point of view.”
Ratliff also did some research on the possible link between the jittery, rapid-cut style of today’s television programming with the incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.
“I don’t fully believe in everything that’s said about ADHD,” she said, “but there is research that shows children growing up with television now are more likely to develop the dysfunction.”
LEFT BEHIND / Playwright/actor: Jacob Alexander ’16 (right) / Actor: Tony Del Grosso ’14 (left)
“Go out and live. Do what I was too scared to do.”
A teenage boy of today is having a “conversation” with a departed friend who committed suicide, apparently over the issue of being gay in an intolerant society. The mood varies from touching sentiment to anger from the one “left behind” at the thoughtlessness of his dead friend.
The live boy suffers from recriminations that he might have done more to save his friend:
“I wonder sometimes if maybe I could’ve convinced you to stay. Maybe we could have played Mario Party and listened to all of our crazy ’80s metal and nothing would have changed. But no. I can’t have that. And everyone tells me it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I just know they’re lying.”
His departed friend insists that is not true:
“No, they’re right. Look, I’m not going to try and justify what I did. But I’ll say this: You have to stop doing this to yourself. I’m the one that’s dead, not you.”
After bringing his friend around somewhat, the departed boy says:
“See? I promise, things are going to be fine. Go out and live. Do what I was too scared to do. You’ll see me around.”
Along with several other writers in Today Is History, Jacob Alexander ’16 says the issue of being gay or lesbian is a defining concern for his generation. In this script, he touched on the societal pressures on this issue, but mostly on the sense of loss being felt by two people who loved one another.
“Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a theme common to both today and the 1950s,” he said. “The ways people go about it are different, but the end goal is the same. And that is to let people know that when their loved ones are gone, they’re still around, in a way. They’re alive in you.”
BABY DOLL / Playwright/actor: Hillary Roser ’14
“I am terrified that the next time I see my father is going to be in that emergency room.”
A pregnant teenage girl in the 1950s trying to decide what to do about her situation confronts the horrors of a botched abortion through overhearing her physician father describing an especially gruesome case he dealt with in the emergency room.
Her anxiety mounts as she describes her state of mind:
“And I don’t know what I’m going to do. Because no one tells you what to do when it happens. When you take what little precautions you can because you love your boyfriend and you want to be all grown up, but then it doesn’t work and you find out that you aren’t ready to be THAT grown up.”
Steeling herself for her own abortion, she reveals that her boyfriend is taking her the next day to a shady person who performs the procedure for $700.
As the scene closes, she says:
“And I am terrified that the next time I see my father is going to be in that emergency room.”
Hillary Roser ’14 wrote this script and a companion piece, “Signs,” that is acted immediately following “Baby Doll” and brings the abortion issue into the present through a protest by opponents of abortion.
Of the “Baby Doll” monologue, she said:
“It’s not fair that you have to make this kind of decision before you’re ready for it, but you can’t run away from it. It’s one of those turning points in your life.”
The modern aspect in “Signs” is that a friend of one of the activists asks for advice on whether or not to have an abortion.
“Although abortion is a somewhat different issue now than it was back then, it’s still an issue,” Roser said. “There are positive and negative things about it in both times. I’m not trying to make a general statement of right or wrong. I’ll be happy if the audience left thinking about things they’ve never considered before.”
DUCK AND COVER / Playwright/actor: Olivia Luken ’16
“Nobody’s got any kind of bomb and they wouldn’t drop it without a warning.”
The opening scene in Today Is History features an instructional film from the 1950s aimed at teaching children to duck and cover in the event of an atomic bomb explosion. The actor, a young person of that era, takes a cynical view toward this government-sponsored educational campaign:
“These constant drills at school are so lame,” she says. “As if the ‘bright light’ (of an atomic explosion) will wait for us all to ‘Duck and Cover’ or go to the bomb shelters so that we will all be saved....Nobody’s got any kind of bomb, and they wouldn’t drop it without a warning.”
Recalling 1950s paranoia over nuclear war, the student takes a dim view of the bomb shelters being constructed by many, stocked with canned food and bottled water:
“I think they’ll just go to waste and never be used. I don’t see what the big deal is—it’s not like we’re going to the moon. Like that’ll ever happen.”
Olivia Luken ’16 said her research took her back to the 1950s and early 1960s when the threat of nuclear war was made chillingly possible by the Cuban missile crisis early in President John Kennedy’s term of office. The launching of Sputnik, the first satellite, by the Russians in 1957 underlined the scientific progress, and therefore threat, of the communist regime.
Luken also turned to her own high school history class, where they had studied the “duck and cover” phenomenon, for background in writing the script.
“We talked about that in class, and I found the ‘Duck and Cover’ videos on YouTube,” she said. “Seeing those kids duck and cover under their desks just looked ridiculous.
Obviously, that would never stop a nuclear reaction. I thought it was silly.”
50S COCA COLA / Playwright: Andrew Traughber ’14 / Actor: Skyler Slone ’15 (above)
“Take a look at the bottle. Remind you of anything?”
A single actor plays the roles of the speaker as well as three of his friends, who are in the habit of stopping by the Town Grill every Friday after school for a Coca-Cola and gossip from the waitresses.
A town character—Crazy Billy—comes in and sets the boys to thinking about romance and sex as he compares the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle to that of a woman:
“Take a look at the bottle. Remind you of anything? A woman. Nothing is sweet as a woman. You boys got any girls?”
After informing the boys that his daughter, Mary-Sue, might go to the dance with one of them, the boys play rock, paper, and scissors for the right to approach the girl and ask for the date.
The lead character wins:
“I turned around on my stool. Billy handed me something cold—he wasn’t so crazy after all. I’m convinced that Coca-Cola is what made Mary-Sue say yes.”
Skyler Slone ’15, who jumped from seat to seat while portraying all four boys, compared the 1950s ritual boys went through to build up the courage to ask a girl out, with today’s world where technology makes relationship building a different game. The methods may have changed, but the universal coming-of-age theme of approaching the opposite sex is still fraught with peril.
“Today, with social networks and texting, a lot of things are more formal,” he said. “This monologue shows how simple things were back then. They weren’t about—‘My god, she didn’t respond to my text. She must hate me.’ They didn’t have the things that are cataloguing our reputations now online. So I feel the situation in this scene was a bigger deal for them in some ways, but it was also in a simpler time. Kind of a paradox—things were simpler, but this single act meant more.”
ARE WE READY FOR THIS? / Playwright: Hillary Roser ’14 / Actors: Jacob Alexander ’16, Tony Del Grosso ’14 (above, left), Skyler Slone ’15, Dorcas Washington ’16 (above, right)
“I guess I’m just worried about showing up late because then everyone will notice when we walk in.”
Four actors portray a gay couple from today and an interracial couple from the 1950s, all of whom are about to attend their high school senior prom. The first gay boy from today and the white boy from the 1950s are waiting for their dates to come down so they can leave for the dance.
The gay boy exhibits some anxiety about the possible social and personal repercussions of the evening ahead of him:
“I’m just worried about showing up late because then everyone will notice when we walk in, and I guess that could get awkward...I just hate when people stare, it’s rude.”
Finally, the second gay boy comes down and asks, “Well...was I worth the wait?”
“Absolutely,” says the first boy.
The African American girl enters with, “Well, how do I look?”
“Perfect,” says her date.
As they prepare to leave, the second boy and the girl say, “Are we ready?’
Their dates respond in unison, “I sure hope so.”
Dorcas Washington ’16 portrays the girl. She feels the boldness of the 1950s couple can easily resonate with young people today.
“These kids are being independent,” she said. “They’re saying they care what others think, but they’re not going to let someone else interfere in their lives and prevent them from doing something they truly want to do.”
In writing the script, Hillary Roser ’14 said she thought about the personal courage needed to confront societal mores.
“They’re not really thinking about a statement on a national cultural basis,” she said. “They’re just thinking, ‘This is scary.’ Confronting your peers about things they may not approve of. Being excited about seeing the person you love. Those are universal feelings.”
Return to Today is History.
Read about junior Hunter Kissel's installation of artifacts on the theme of Today is History.