In which I share something that I wrote more than 7 years ago and feel slightly embarrassed about it
(but less embarrassed than I ought to)
I have Randy Dean, pastor of a small, rural church in Wisconsin, author, and all around bad ass for the inspiration of this short sketch. This was deep in my earnest phase as a person and a writer. You can feel the drama and the rhythm of my words leading to the gloriously hopeful end after every person has bared at least three very personal reasons for grief. So, you’ll also notice this was still in the midst of my emotionally-manipulate-an-audience-to-illicit-the-appropriate-Church-service-response-phase. I had a lot of real angst to manage through during this writing. You see, I had dated exactly one boy in my life, and he wasn’t that into it, so he called things off. In the summer of my abyss, I wrote this.
This is not good writing. I’m not telling a story, even the snippets are just meant to create the strongest emotional response, remind you of your worst trauma, or of somebody’s trauma, and then immediately go “there, there; you’ve got this.” You might cry, even, if you saw this performed on stage with the appropriate music accompanying it.
On the other hand, I have to give to my past self. I was fiercely committed to hope, a trait I like to think I’ve passed on to my present self. In fact, bad writing aside, I find this quite comforting. For one thing, sometimes, like right now, the darkness feels as oppressive as I person 8 says it does while crossing to center stage. How dark is this darkness? How long is four years? And despite its lack of context, the little Biblical text that I borrow from Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…the light will shine on them,” well that’s just downright comforting.
And finally, I love how meticulous my stage directions are. This sketch was never staged, yet I wrote down in detail each moment of the staged experience as if it had.
ShadowsClaire Burkitt8 person cast, 6 of 8 actors triple up on roles. Persons 1 and 8 are the only roles each of the two actors take. For persons 2-7 each line is a new character and should be portrayed as such with different voice inflection and tone qualities. The lines should be delivered with a great deal of emotion because we only get a glimpse of each person’s story and it is at the climax of each. It may be helpful for the actors to expand each of their characters’ stories on their own, so as to have a better understanding of what they are trying to tell the audience in a single line. The end of the skit is triumphant and defiant. There should be no doubt about the victory that is coming. The stage should be dimly lit, so that we can make out the actors faces and little else. Person 1 is played by either a man or a woman. Person 2 is a woman. Person 3 is a woman. Person 4 is played by a man or woman. Person 5 is a man. Person 6 is played by a man or a woman. Person 7 is a man. Person 8 is played by a man or a woman. For the actors’ (persons 2-7) final lines they should pick
one of their characters to deliver the line as. This is not strictly the case, for example “He is not here” would be best spoken as an angel.Person 1: (Situated CS) And again, shadows fill my vision.Person 2: “This isn’t going to work out between us,” he said.Person 3: …yelling, “You’re not my daughter.”Person 4: …waving his fists wildly and stumbling toward mePerson 5: She said, “I can’t do this.”Person 6: And she’s coughing and shaking. She doesn’t even realize it’s me.Person 7: “Why are you even here homo?” they called laughing at how clever they are.Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision.Person 4: “I hate you!” (yelled very loudly)Person 5: (wincing at each “again” as if seeing the blowsin front of him) And he hit her–again–and again.Person 3: He said he’d be on time for supper, but he wasn’t.Person 2: All I remember is a ripping sound. I still can‘t tell if it was his hands on my dress, or the universe tearing.Person 6: He told me, “Don’t tell anyone, or-or else–” (stops short unable to disclose the details)Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision. (Enter person 8)Person 8: (Person 8 moves across the stage, is very animated and ends this brief monologue CS, Person 1 stepping aside) And how dark is this darkness, how penetrating and deep. From judging whispers, to accusing shouts, to snide glares. Darkness. Nothingness. Pain, by comparison, is better than the nothingness that follows. So here is why we fear death, yet cannot escape its grasp every single day. Oh, I would give anything for a light, anything for a piece of life to cling to, but how dark is this darkness.Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision.Person 8: (quietly) Shadows, you will not define me.Person 7: …and then they took the house…Person 3: Why him? (Desperation in voice) Why war?! He was too young!Person 2: Sobbing and crying she said, “I don’t have enough food to feed my own children!”Person 5: …sleeping in cardboard boxes…Person 4: (hands held up to ears to shut out noise)…somuch yelling…Person 8: (a little louder and firmer) Shadows, you will not define me.Person 1: (quieter) And again, shadows fill my vision.Person 6: He was wearing a seat belt that day, to hold up his pants.(crying) He was only seventeen!Person 3: He said he still wanted to be friends.Person 5: It hadn’t been a problem for the last year, but…Person 8: (still louder) Shadows, you will not define me.(All characters shift to hope, joy, and peace. There is laughter and smiling as these lines are given with a sense of gaining momentum and triumph. Lights progressively get brighter, with spot CS on Person 8)Person 2: Remember that one time…Person 8: Shadows, you will not define me (exit Person 1)!I will never surrender to the shadowmaker!Person 7: I will never leave you.
Person 4: There will be no end to the increase of peace.
Person 3: Do not be afraid.
Person 5: And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
Person 6: …to proclaim liberty to the captives and set the prisoners free.
Person 8: Shadows, you will not define me!
Person 2: They know not what they do.
Person 4: …kept me alive.
Person 5: He is not here. He is Risen.
Person 3: The hope of glory
Person 6: Life more abundantly!
Person 7: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…the light will shine on them.
Person 8: (As loud as possible, with defiance and victory) Shadows! You will NOT define me!
I have to confess how difficult it was not to edit this to make it more suitable to my tastes today. I really had to restrain myself not to compromise the integrity of this piece. If I wrote this piece today (aside from demonstrating that I had not grown at all as person or a writer), I might include snippets of different kinds of people’s lives–like people of color interacting with law enforcement, undocumented folks, trans folks. Maybe I would shoot for just one laugh before whiplashing you back into all your feels in which one of the actors has to portray the trials and tribulations of a house cat: and she thinks I LIKE chasing orange feathers on the end of a string!