I am interviewed for POUND OF FLESH here in The Action Elite , please check it out.
Nice review in Variety today of ‘Pound of Flesh’ Review: Jean-Claude Van Damme Takes on the Illegal Organ Trade that mentions lots of good people and the writer, too, which I appreciate.
I am interviewed, along with some other wonderful people, in this issue of Kung Fu Magazine.
Please read and pass along. Oss!
So if you follow my FB page or Twitter, you’re no doubt already aware that a movie I wrote, POUND OF FLESH, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, opens tomorrow. Here’s the trailer for it:
And here’s a interview with director Ernie Barbarash Talks Pound of Flesh | The Action Elite that you must read.
And if you missed it, JCVD was on Conan a few nights ago to talk about our movie, show a clip and, as an added treat, he reenacted his iconic dancing scene from KICKBOXER. Here’s the full episode:
Full Episode - Mon. 5/11 - Jean-Claude Van Damme, Nina Dobrev, And Musical Guests The Word @ TeamCoco.com
So after years of writing scripts (and, thankfully, often getting paid for that) and sometimes seeing my work on the big screen but uncredited, this is the first official movie with my name on it… and as a long time martial artist who grew up watching BLOODSPORT again and again and again… I couldn’t be more chuffed that a martial arts legend is starring in it.
It opens tomorrow, May 15th, in select theaters and on VOD. Please tune in and I thank you all.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of this blog…
I used to bemoan the fact that I started it the day or two after Thanksgiving, when blog traffic was at an all time low… but now I think it’s perfect. Because it gives me time to offer thanks to all of those whom I’ve met through this little hole in the Internets.
And I am very, very thankful… especially this year 2014, I’m especially thankful for so many things. It’s been a stellar year.
I can’t say how much longer this blog will continue, of course… my writer-life has been consumed by other scribe chores, all of which are good and welcome. I’m writing now more than I ever have, and I love it.
Plus, the blog, as I’ve mentioned many a time before, is only supposed to be a small personal space. I cannot and will not complain that it didn’t grow and take flight like others I’ve known… that was never my intent, nor did I do the blog work necessary to build it as such.
It is just my small and humble Internet home, my little word dojo. I’m happy with it.
And I’ve noted many other blogs which were let go, and perhaps that may be the fate of this one, someday… at some point, we won’t need blogs, we’ll have words automatically beamed into our heads.
In the meantime, feel free to check in here once in awhile… most of my updates are featured on my Facebook page, Writer Joshua James… and you can follow my columns at Sessionville.
And I’ll be back here once in awhile to pound the makiwari board, too… and get my knuckles bloody, metaphorically.
To those who’ve graced my blog with your presence over the years, rolled on the mats with me here… I offer my heartfelt thanks.
(note, in light of the hysteria playing out on cable news, I thought I’d share my short play originally presented as part of THE FEAR PROJECT… it seems even more current today… now available in The Joshua James Project and, as noted, the performance royalties on this work are free for amateur production. )
SAM: A man in his late 40s, very dry and fatalistic.
GINNY: An actress in her 20s, prone to outbursts.
MOOG: A hipster musician.
BEVERLY: A woman in her late 40s, early 50s, a voice of reason.
SETTING: Gate 13 at JFK.
GATE THIRTEEN AT JFK.
(Scores of people sit waiting to board. One man, SAM, clad in a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, stands and catches people’s attention.)
SAM: Excuse me, I’m sorry, but excuse me, everyone, can I have your attention? Please? Before they allow us to board, there is something very important I need to share with all of you. My name is Sam Hunnicut, I’m forty-four years old, I’m an account associate with Bristol-Meyer, I have a wife, two children, three cats and a large mortgage. I’m an ordinary man living an ordinary life and I just want to say, before we all get on this airplane, that I have been suddenly overcome with an overwhelming sense of doom and I’m absolutely convinced that we’re all going to die. Thank you.
(SAM sits down. GINNY, a young woman, jumps up.)
GINNY: What the HELL is wrong with you?
SAM: I just thought everyone should know.
(MOOG, a hip young guy, chimes in.)
MOOG: You’re saying this plane is going to crash?
SAM: This plane will crash and we’re all going to die.
GINNY: Are you crazy! Stop trying to scare us!
SAM: I’m not deliberately trying to scare you or anyone. I simply thought you’d want to be informed.
GINNY: If you’re NOT trying to scare anyone, you’re doing a piss-poor job of it, you fucking psycho.
(A middle-aged woman, BEVERLY, stands.)
BEVERLY: Listen everyone, let’s all just calm down, please. It’s quite natural to feel nervous. We’re going to be fine, you’re going to be fine, sir. You’re just afraid of flying.
SAM: I’m not afraid of flying. I fly all the time.
MOOG: So what’s the big deal, man?
SAM: This time it’s different, this time I have a premonition, a vision or what-have-you, that this plane we are about to board is destined to go down screaming in a twisted fiery ball of death and destruction.
GINNY: Oh my GOD!
BEVERLY: Please, this isn’t helping any of us—
SAM: Of course, I could be wrong, I’ve been wrong about other things.
MOOG: Like what?
SAM: Reagan, I was really wrong about Reagan and Reaganomics, a huge miscalculation.
BEVERLY: See? None of us is omnipotent, I myself never thought rollerblading would be as popular as it turned out to be.
SAM: Enron, really wrong about Enron. Beanie babies. The euro-dollar, took me by surprise. Rap music, never thought that would cross over. The DeLorean. The XFL. My marriage, big mistake. So I’ve been wrong about a lot of things.
GINNY: Why is it every time I leave my apartment all I run into are lunatics?
SAM: I should add, however, that those were mistakes in judgment, I never had the premonition I have now about any of those things. I’ve had a premonition like this only ONCE before.
GINNY: Oh really. You’ve had this “psychic email” before? When?
SAM: 2004 American League championship, Sox down three games to none to the Yanks. That’s when it hit me for the first time, the premonition, I somehow knew the Sox would pull it out and win it all in spite of the odds. I almost called my bookie and put down a thousand dollars on Boston at twenty to one. But I didn’t, damn it. I should have bet ten or twenty grand but I didn’t, I was afraid of getting my legs broken if they lost. I didn’t know at that time how right my premonition was.
MOOG: Fuck me, man, this is freaking me out.
BEVERLY: Listen to me, please. Everyone. THERE IS NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF. We are all going to be fine. My cousin was a stewardess for fifteen years and was never in a crash. You are safer on an airplane than you are in a car on the freeway.
GINNY: Which is why I DON’T DRIVE! Oh God, oh God oh God. Oh good God, why does this happen? Why oh why did I agree to an audition in LA, I should have just sent a tape, it’s not even a real show, it’s on the fucking food network! I’m an actress, why should I have to audition for something on the FOOD NETWORK? Why should any self-respecting actress have to audition to be a CO-HOST for a FUCKING COOKING SHOW? This is insane, I’m not going to DIE FOR A COOKING SHOW!
BEVERLY: It’s okay, honey, I swear to you, there is nothing to be afraid of. Thousands of planes crisscross this country every hour of the day with no incident-
MOOG: Some planes DO crash, though, right?
GINNY: Planes crash, don’t try and tell us they don’t crash, we see it on the news! Planes crash or they’re hijacked, engines fail, the toilets don’t work and sometimes passengers get food poisoning, shit like that happens, don’t try and tell us it doesn’t happen because WE KNOW IT HAPPENS!
BEVERLY: Please calm down, there are incidents, yes, but statistically-
GINNY: Oh God, I’m freaking out, I’m going to have a breakdown, I swear I’m having a heart attack right now!
SAM: I knew this stockbroker during the crash of eighty-seven, he jumped out of a twenty-story window and the autopsy revealed he died not from the fall but from a heart attack he evidently suffered prior to impact.
GINNY: That’s it, fuck it, I’m not doing this. I’m outta here.
BEVERLY: Wait a second, please wait. I will admit that bad things do happen from time to time. Plane crashes, tidal waves, preemptive wars and fixed elections, unfortunate events do happen. They can happen on a plane, in a cab or in a bathtub. Bad things can happen to us anywhere at anytime. It’s important for us to take precautions and be safe, but neither can we run from the possibility of unfortunate events. If we hide, if we cower in fear, afraid to take two steps from our caves, well, that may not be dying, but it’s not what I call living, either.
GINNY: Fuck you, I’m outta here. Who else is going? (to MOOG) Are you coming?
MOOG: Fuck man, I can’t. I can’t. I gotta get on the plane.
GINNY: You don’t think looney-tunes here could be right?
MOOG: I hope to God he ain’t, but even if he is, I still gotta get on the plane, man.
GINNY: Are you nuts?
MOOG: I gotta go, it’s my band man, they’re waiting for me in L.A. We have a private audition with a major label, it’s tonight and if I don’t show … this is our big break, this is what we’ve been working for, for ten years, me and my band have grinded it out, pinching pennies for demos and headshots, playing shithole dives at four in the morning for no money in front of a few drunks and our girlfriends, we ate shit and paid our dues until we finally got a manager and now we got a chance, a chance to do this for the Big Time. If I don’t show they’ll kill me. I hope he ain’t right, but even if he is I still gotta go. This is my dream, I let this go, I let it slip through my fingers and have to go back to waiting tables, no health insurance, sponging off my folks and girlfriends, I don’t know if I even want to live anyway. I’m getting on this motherfucker no matter what happens.
GINNY: You’re a MUSICIAN? A MUSICIAN? I am definitely not getting on this fucking plane NOW!
SAM: She’s right, you know, a lot of musicians have died on airplanes.
(Many other passengers, silently watching, get up and immediately leave.)
MOOG: Fuck me. Dude, I’m telling you, if this is some kind of sick reality TV show prank, I want you to know I’m not signing any release and you won’t be able to use ANY of this footage, for real.
(Very brief pause.)
GINNY: Wait a minute, I’ll sign a release, is it a network show?
SAM: This isn’t a reality show, I’m not messing with you, I’m totally serious, I really did have a premonition and you should use this chance to change flights if you can.
BEVERLY: If what you’re saying is true, then why are you still here?
BEVERLY: Why are you still here, why haven’t you changed flights?
SAM: Well, I could be wrong—
GINNY: But you don’t think you’re wrong, do you? You believe this plane is going to crash!
(Very brief pause.)
SAM: I don’t really have much to live for, anyway. That’s why I’m not afraid.
BEVERLY: You’re saying that you’re suicidal?
SAM: Not suicidal, I’m not nearly that ambitious. I guess you could say I’m just ambivalent on living or dying. It wouldn’t really matter to me, either way.
BEVERLY: Why not?
SAM: Well, I’ve done pretty much everything I can do, up to this point. I got my college degree, got married and bought a house. I’ve worked for the same company for twenty years as an account associate, which is fancy talk for salesman. A man of twenty-eight was promoted over me, just recently, he has no experience in the job, he’s just younger and prettier and now I report to him. I’m basically being put to pasture, in no uncertain terms, even though I’m twenty years from retirement I’ve been deemed unnecessary to management and pretty soon I’ll be forced out. With the mortgage I’m carrying, that’s basically a quick trip to extreme poverty. So it doesn’t matter what happens, not really.
MOOG: Shit on a stick, I don’t believe this. I hope to Christ you’re not seated next to me for the whole flight.
BEVERLY: What about your family?
SAM: What about them?
BEVERLY: Don’t you think they’ll need you, that they’d miss you?
SAM: My wife despises me, she won’t admit it but it’s true. I know because I read it in her journal last week. It takes all her will power just to look at me in the morning without screaming. Twenty-one years of marriage and she’s hated me since year two. She was just too afraid to leave me. In her eyes I am good for only two things, paying the bills and impregnation. Paying the bills will soon be out and impregnation is now past us. She’d been badgering for children for years and I finally gave in. We have two.
(SAM stands up and stretches.)
SAM: My son, Brandon, he’s five and a homosexual. My five-year old son is homosexual. I know because he told me, he said, “Daddy, I think I’m a homosexual.” Not only does HE know he’s a homosexual and I know he’s a homosexual, anyone that’s ever MET him knows he’s a homosexual. He came out of the womb a homosexual and knew it when he opened his eyes. I love my son, but I thought I’d have years to prepare for the possibility of a homosexual teen-aged son, not a homosexual five year-old son, it’s too much to even rationally consider, and one thing I know is that there is nothing I can say or do that will in any way help him with the truly shitty adolescence he’s about to embark on. I’ve got nothing and as a result, if he lives, he’ll be sure to hate me for not being able to at least give him one decent piece of advice on anything. Add to that, I’m about to be unemployed so the dance lessons he wants will be out of the question and he’ll never forgive me for that.
(SAM loosens his tie and undoes the buttons of his shirt collar.)
SAM: Christine is the youngest, she’s three and a monster. I mean really, she’s a monster. She’s not human. She’s a serial killer in progress. She enjoys causing pain. She once drove a corkscrew into my foot and giggled when blood came out. I’m totally serious, she kills things, we have to keep the cats separate from her, she tried to put one in the microwave. She tried to cook one of my cats. My wife insists it’s just a phase, but she also said that about our lack of sexual intimacy and that phase has lasted eighteen years. Short of electroshock therapy, Christine is certain to end up on a federal watch list some day. She’s my wife’s favorite, of course. She hates me. I know because she told me, she said, “I hate you, Daddy.” Someday she’ll grow up and kill me and you’ll be able to see the whole sordid tale on cable late at night.
(An announcer rings out over an intercom, can also be done live by a person.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and Gentlemen, sorry for the delay but the problem has been fixed and we are now prepared to board Northwest Airlines Flight 113 from JFK non-stop to Los Angeles. Please have your boarding passes ready.
(Nobody moves for a moment. SAM picks up his bag and looks at everyone.)
SAM: The one thing I did have was baseball. Now that the Red Sox have beaten the Yanks and went on to win the World Series, now that the curse of the Bambino has been lifted, I am for certain sure that I’ve seen everything life has to offer and so, even if this plane does crash, it will just be saving me from a dismal existence of poverty, anger, embarrassment and extreme boredom. So I’m not afraid of dying, I’m pretty much ambivalent about the whole thing.
(BEVERLY stands and picks up her bag.)
BEVERLY: I’m getting on this plane to visit my sister in Los Angeles. She’s in the hospital with breast cancer. She never smoked, drank or ate bad food and still she got cancer. She taught yoga and ran marathons and she still got cancer. She’s been fighting it for three years, she’s had two mastectomies and countless rounds of chemo and radiation treatments. She’s lost all her hair, half of her body weight and quite a few of her teeth. In spite of all that, she smiles every time I see her. Every time I see her, she smiles because she’s happy just to be alive.
(BEVERLY takes her bag and walks to the boarding gate.)
BEVERLY: She’s faced things that are much worse than a dead-end job, an unhappy wife and two problematic children. She’s faced pain and agony far worse than any of us here can imagine and she’s smiled through it all. She’s currently in the last stage. She’s dying soon, and if I don’t get on this plane, I won’t see her, hold her or get to share that smile of hers ever again. I’m more afraid of that than dying myself.
(Very calm and collected, BEVERLY stops right before she enters the boarding gate. She looks right at SAM.)
BEVERLY: So I’m getting on this plane, and shame on you, sir, for airing your fears as irresponsibly as you have and scaring everyone here, shame on you for making a scene here because you’re too scared to go to parent counseling or couples therapy or make a career change. Most of all, shame on you for being afraid and acting ambivalent about it. You may not fear death, but you are certainly scared of life. I’ll tell you this much. There are things in the world much worse than getting on an airplane. One of those things is being as AFRAID of life as you are.
(BEVERLY boards the plane. MOOG glances at SAM and then picks his bag up and enters the gate, boarding the plane.
GINNY, torn, finally picks her bag up and follows. She boards the plane.
SAM sets his bag down and slowly sits, unable to move.
END OF PLAY.
This play was developed as part of a playwrights group with The Barrow Group. It was later produced as a showcase there in 2005 as part of THE FEAR PROJECT, but ultimately this work was left out that show’s move to Off-Broadway.
It later received its professional premiere at Miami’s City Theatre in 2007 to good reviews, though I wasn’t able to attend that performance.
There is much I’m proud of in this play, not the least with what Beverly finally says at the end and how it sums up. It reflects what took me decades to learn for myself. And in the readings leading up to the workshop and showcase, it was electric.
The first production at The Barrow Group, however, was problematic. We had a first-time director. The actors playing Ginny and Moog were great, but the actors playing Sam and Beverly decided, once the play was on its feet, to just do their own thing and interpret their characters and lines how they saw fit, regardless of what the director or I thought.
“Sam” had already told me that he didn’t believe in memorizing lines or doing the same thing the same way twice, and so he was all over the place with no consistency. I had no idea what “Beverly” was doing when she was onstage, perhaps because she didn’t either. She was in her own world and wanted to do things the way she wanted to do them.
The performance of the play suffered greatly, as a result. There were times I wanted to slit my own wrists, all the more maddening because the next night might be good.
That’s the thing, as a playwright, you give someone a play of yours to do and it is literally out of your hands from that point on. Once you give it to them, it’s theirs and out of your control. They either do right by it or they don’t.
That’s the theatre biz, man. But the play remains one of my favorites.
Read that and 43 other royalty-free short plays in The Joshua James Project.
M.A.A.C. – MMA Fight Choreographer JOHN SALVITTI: POUND OF FLESH – KUNG FU JUNGLE, MAAC EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWJuly 12th, 2014
Great interview with Fight Choreographer John Salvitti.
John designed the fight scenes in our movie POUND OF FLESH… here he discusses his career and the film, it’s a great read, I highly recommend it, John’s a master who’s created some absolutely classic fights.
John’s reel is also a must watch:
Hey friends, another free play from my collection The Joshua James Project… this one is called:
(A hospital room. BERDENE, 58, sits upright in her bed. She wipes tears from her eyes with a handkerchief. RITA, 13, enters the room with a book in hand.)
BERDENE: Rita. What are you doing up here all by yourself?
RITA: Mom sent me to cheer you up.
BERDENE: Oh. Well. All right.
(BERDENE shifts in her bed. A quiet uncomfortable moment.)
BERDENE: So. Where’d your mother get to?
RITA: She’s hiding from Aunt Arlene.
BERDENE: Arlene is here? Oh my Lord, here we go.
RITA: She’s on her way. Mom and Aunt Arlene have been fighting.
BERDENE: I’m not surprised, they’ve fought ever since they were your age, so don’t worry about it. Come here and have a seat. What are you reading there?
(RITA sits in a chair next to the bed.)
RITA: The Mechanical Theory of Heat by Rudolf Clausius.
BERDENE: Oh. Are you reading that for a class or something?
RITA: No. Just for fun.
BERDENE: Oh. Okay.
RITA: Are you feeling all right, Grandma?
BERDENE: Not really, no.
RITA: Do you want me to get a nurse?
BERDENE: No, don’t, it’s just … It’s just, having to be here, in this situation . . . going through this, having all this stuff happen to me and all that. Doesn’t seem right.
(Brief quiet moment.)
RITA: Look at the bright side. It’s not a pickle.
BERDENE: What’s not a pickle?
RITA: This is not a pickle.
BERDENE: Where do you get pickle, how do you get PICKLE out of all this?
RITA: I’m just saying—
BERDENE: Where is this PICKLE THING coming out of?
RITA: I’m just saying it’s not the pickle that you think it is.
BERDENE: What is?
RITA: The situation.
BERDENE: My situation?
RITA: The situation, it’s not the pickle that you think it is.
(BERDENE looks at her granddaughter for a moment.)
BERDENE: You know, I know that you’re supposed to some sort of genius and all that, but would it be TOO much to ask if you could just make a LITTLE bit of sense every now and then instead of throwing pickles at me?
RITA: It’s a saying, you know, a folk saying, when something happens to someone and they find themselves in a tight situation, sometimes people say, “She’s found herself in a pickle” or “I’m in a heck of a pickle.” And all I’m saying is that the something situation that you have currently found yourself in is not the pickle that you think it is.
BERDENE: You READ entirely TOO much!
RITA: Of course I do. That’s all I do.
BERDENE: And the OTHER THING, HOW can you say this situation is not a pickle?! This situation is mostly CERTAINLY a pickle, it’s nothing BUT a pickle! This is the biggest goddamn dill pickle that I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure!
RITA: I can see how it may be perceived that way.
BERDENE: What other way can it be perceived?
RITA: The other way it can be perceived is as something that happens. It’s just something that happens to everyone. All of us. You. Me. Everyone.
(Brief quiet moment.)
BERDENE: And why is it described as “being in a pickle?” Certain situations, I mean. Why would someone say that, where does that come from anyway?
RITA: Because pickles traditionally taste very sour. Actually being INSIDE of one is thought to be sour beyond all recall.
BERDENE: If that’s the case, then this situation is definitely a pickle. In fact, pickle is the nicest thing you can say about it. THIS IS A PICKLE!
RITA: It’s not the pickle that you think it is.
BERDENE: Well honey, it sure as hell ain’t a TWINKIE, either!
RITA: You’re right. It’s not a Twinkie situation either.
BERDENE: I thought the reason you were sent in here was to cheer me up?
RITA: It was.
BERDENE: Well Honey, you’re doing a HELL of a job!
RITA: I’m sorry. My social skills are somewhat stunted. I don’t interact with real people very well, especially during something situations.
(Brief quiet moment.)
BERDENE: Don’t you interact with other people up there at that school of yours?
RITA: I do, but most of them are more socially handicapped than I am.
BERDENE: You’re not handicapped, Honey, don’t ever say that you’re handicapped and don’t ever let anyone TELL you you’re handicapped.
RITA: It’s all right, it’s a natural result of my intellectual being growing so much faster than my emotional being. It’s just something that happens. I’m only thirteen and I’m going to graduate from MIT this spring. That’s something, and as a result of that, something else happens. It’s how things work. The price of being a prodigy.
(Brief moment. BERDENE sighs.)
BERDENE: I used to know this fella named Pickle. He used to come into my Daddy’s bar all the time, almost every day, we’d say “Hey Pickle.”
RITA: His name was Pickle?
BERDENE: I don’t think his real name was Pickle, it’s just what everyone called him. I never knew what his real name was. We all just called him Pickle. Not exactly sure why.
RITA: I imagine that there was some sort of sexual connotation attached.
BERDENE: Someone’s not nearly as socially stunted as she’s been pretending to be. Yes, I’m pretty sure he got the nickname because of something like that, but he was always real polite and decent to me. I was kind of sweet on him, even though I was nothing but sixteen and he was almost my father’s age, I always batted my eyes at him. He always smiled at me. I was always hoping something would happen between us, though it never did. Nothing ever happened. He liked me, though. I could tell. He was always real sweet to me. Real sweet fella.
RITA: So he was more of a Twinkie than a Pickle.
(They look at each other quickly. They both giggle.)
BERDENE: Yes, Pickle was definitely a Twinkie. A big sweet Twinkie. I liked him. I was always sad nothing ever happened between us.
RITA: Where is he now?
BERDENE: I imagine he’s passed on. Like my father and mother and brother and sister. Like I’m probably going to do.
RITA: Like all of us.
BERDENE: I shouldn’t be telling you this, Rita, but I’m pretty scared right now.
RITA: You haven’t even gotten the test results back yet. You could be fine, it could turn out to be benign.
BERDENE: This time, but what about next time or the time after that? I’m old enough that I’m feeling my mortality. I’m feeling it down deep in my bones. I’m feeling the crush of time.
RITA: Have you heard of Stephen Hawking?
BERDENE: Fella in the wheelchair, right?
RITA: Yes. He has some interesting theories on the perception of time. I’ve been toying with some of his theorems as of late. Can I give you an example?
BERDENE: Keep it simple, Sweetie, remember that I’m a civilian.
RITA: Simple is best anyway. You ever notice a bicycle tire, how when it spins, the spokes of the tire seem to go in the opposite direction of the tire?
BERDENE: Like a wagon wheel.
RITA: Exactly. The tire is going one direction but we perceive it as going the other. Perception is key. Long and short of it, life to us appears as though we are born, we live and then we die.
BERDENE: And that isn’t what happens?
RITA: That’s what we PERCEIVE happens. The reality, like the spokes of the wagon wheel, could be and probably is the opposite. Instead of birth as the beginning and death as the end of the cycle, birth could be the end and death could be the beginning. That’s what it could be and most of us simply aren’t in a position to see it.
BERDENE: Are you currently in that position?
RITA: I think I could be.
BERDENE: And you can see … something?
RITA: I’ve always seen something. The big difficulty is in describing it.
BERDENE: So it could be?
RITA: It could be. I’ll keep working on it.
BERDENE: I just wish I knew for sure. What happens, I mean, when we … when I die. I never bought into any of that other jumbo, the bible and all that silliness, it just never seemed right or even fair to women. But the only alternative I can see is that nothing happens, and that doesn’t seem right either.
RITA: And that’s why you’re scared?
BERDENE: Yes. Because I don’t know what’s going to happen when I die, if anything. That’s what I’m frightened of most. Maybe nothing happens. I just hope … I really, really hope … that something …
BERDENE: Yes dear?
RITA: I don’t know everything. I know quite a lot about a lot of things, but I don’t know everything. But one thing I definitely do know.
BERDENE: What’s that?
RITA: When you die?
RITA: Something happens. Something definitely happens.
(BERDENE looks at Rita for a moment. BERDENE opens her arms. RITA goes to her. They hug for a long moment.)
SOMETHING SITUATION NOTES:
First produced in 2002 as part of Manhattan Theatre Source’s SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, featuring Holland Hamilton as Rita and Carla Hayes as Berdene. I believe Andrew Frank curated / directed the entire evening, if I recall.
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION shows were like those 24 hour plays. You showed up on a Friday night and were assigned actors, a first line and something that had to be mentioned in the play at some point (in this case, it was pickle). The writers took those ideas home, wrote a play THAT NIGHT, brought it back Saturday morning and gave to the actors, who memorized it and staged it, and opened to an audience on Sunday night.
It was a lot of fun, and I did four of them, which resulted in the plays THE PAP, THE ITCH, SOMETHING SITUATION and PRETEND IT IS.
Holland, who was 13 or 14 at the time, was someone I’d known already for quite some time. Her father, R. Paul Hamilton, had acted in several of my plays and her mother, Anita Hollander, directed my play QUITTING. Great people, all of them.
I also met Carla Hayes through this play and she’d go on to act in much more of my work. It was one of those instances where everything came together perfectly. They elevated it to a level beyond anything I could have imagined. It really moves me, even to this day.
I actually later expanded this play to one act length and added the aunt character, and it also did well. That version is featured in the one act play section of the book.
If you like the piece, it is one of 44 royalty free plays in The Joshua James Project, please check it out and share with your friends.
One of my short one act plays that’s now ROYALTY-FREE, via The Joshua James Project.
ALL THE RAGE
(Evening at a dark semi-crowded singles bar.
MARCUS, a slick handsome dude in his thirties, sits by himself at a table. He holds his drink up and gestures to someone across the room. He is signaling a bartender that he wants to buy a drink for someone. After a moment …
LISA, an attractive woman in her twenties with a drink in her hand, joins him.)
LISA: Thank you for the drink.
MARCUS: Hey, it was my pleasure. My name’s Marcus.
MARCUS: Hey Lisa. Lisa, I have a confession to make.
LISA: You do?
MARCUS: Yeah, see I’ve never done anything like this before.
LISA: Like what?
MARCUS: Bought a drink for a woman I didn’t know.
MARCUS: It’s true, all true, this is my first time. I was sitting here thinking to myself, Marcus, it’s time to do something different in your life, do something out of character for a change. Smile to someone you don’t know, order a vodka martini with a twist instead of a Jack and Coke, and buy a pretty lady a drink. Do something new with your life. Do one thing, ONE thing that you’ve never done before, Marcus, and if you get nothing else out of it, at least you get that. You know what I’m saying?
LISA: Um. I think so.
MARCUS: You do?
LISA: I think. Trying something new.
MARCUS: That’s what I’m saying. Take a chance, buy a pretty lady a drink.
LISA: You think I’m pretty?
MARCUS: I think you’re very attractive. You are a very attractive woman.
LISA: Okay. Thank you.
MARCUS: You’re welcome. (Short pause.) So.
MARCUS: So tell me about yourself.
LISA: I’d rather not.
MARCUS: Excuse me?
LISA: I’d really rather not.
MARCUS: Oh. Okay.
(Short pause. LISA takes a sip of her drink.)
MARCUS: So what would you like to talk about?
LISA: Anything you like.
MARCUS: Anything …
LISA: Except me.
MARCUS: Except you. Okay.
LISA: We can talk about you, if you want.
MARCUS: Hey, I can do that—
LISA: Only if you want to—
MARCUS: Talking about myself—
LISA: You don’t have to.
MARCUS: Not a problem, one of my favorite subjects.
MARCUS: Okay. (Short pause.) Well, like I said, my name’s Marcus, and I—
LISA: Are you happy?
MARCUS: I’m sorry?
LISA: Are you happy?
MARCUS: Happy with what?
LISA: Happy with, you know, your life.
MARCUS: Happy with my life?
MARCUS: Pretty much, I think, yeah. I’d say yeah.
LISA: You would.
MARCUS: I would, I mean, there are some things I could have that would make things better, I mean, the promotion I’ve been waiting for, I want a new car, those things. More money is always welcome, but for the most part, I’m pretty satisfied. With my life.
LISA: You are.
MARCUS: Yeah, I’m pretty satisfied, yeah.
LISA: Oh. Okay.
MARCUS: So. Umm, like I was—
LISA: What about people?
MARCUS: I’m sorry?
LISA: How do you feel about people?
MARCUS: How do I feel about people?
MARCUS: Which people, where?
LISA: All people, do you like people? In general.
MARCUS: Am I a people person, is that—
LISA: Yes, that’s it.
MARCUS: I would say yes, I like people. I’m pretty social, I like most people. Not all people, but—
LISA: Who don’t you like?
(Very brief pause.)
MARCUS: I don’t like Barbara Walters, no reason, really, she just annoys me, and this guy in accounting at work because he’s a snide bastard, but for the most part …
LISA: As for most people …
MARCUS: I like them, yeah. I like people.
MARCUS: People like you.
LISA: Oh. Okay.
MARCUS: So …
LISA: I don’t think I like people.
MARCUS: You don’t?
LISA: I don’t. I don’t like people.
MARCUS: Most people?
LISA: Just about all people.
MARCUS: Almost all people, you don’t like?
LISA: Pretty much, yeah. Just about every person out there, I don’t like.
MARCUS: Oh. Well …
LISA: Can I ask you a question?
MARCUS: Sure you can ask me a question.
LISA: It’s kind of personal.
MARCUS: I can take a personal question.
LISA: Okay. (Very brief pause.) Have you ever felt like killing somebody, I mean REALLY felt like actually killing somebody?
MARCUS: Uh …
LISA: It doesn’t have to be anyone you know, it could be just Joe-Schmoe on the street, you know? You ever just see somebody and get the urge to hit them, you know, over the head with something hard and heavy?
MARCUS: Well …
LISA: Or have you ever been standing in line behind somebody at the grocery store, stuck behind a very loud person with nowhere to run and she’s complaining to the check-out person and she’s usually complaining about something completely beyond the power of the clerk to do anything about, say she’s mad because macaroni’s not on sale this week, it was on sale last week why can’t it be on sale this week too and you look at this person standing in line bitching about NOTHING and you just want to rip her arm off and beat her to death with it. Just hammer her over her head with her own arm, screaming over and over “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! IT’S JUST A COUPON SO SHUT UP!” That ever happen to you?
MARCUS: Actually …
LISA: And the way some people get off the bus or train, run into you and not have the common fucking decency to say “excuse me,” and sometimes they won’t even look at you, like they couldn’t be bothered, and it makes you just want to take out your apartment keys, go up to them and stab them right in the eyes!
MARCUS: As a matter of fact …
LISA: And especially people with cell phones, I am to the point now where anytime I see someone with a cell phone I want to take it away from them and make them EAT IT whole, it’s like you can’t go anywhere without having someone else’s boring fucking private conversation forced down your throat! I was standing in line at the movie theater and I was forced to listen to some asshole discuss the results of his proctology exam with his doctor! I wanted to take the phone away from him and shove it straight up his ass! I was even on a date last week, we were out at dinner and he took a call right in the middle of the appetizer that lasted halfway through our main course! And it wasn’t even anything important, he was setting up a squash match with one of his buddies! And I had to sit there and listen to him josh around with his pal, like I had nothing better to do! You know what I did, you wanna know what I did?
LISA: I waited until we were finished eating, because it was a wonderful filet mignon and I didn’t want to waste it, excused myself, went to the ladies room, called him from there on his cell phone and screamed “HEY ASSHOLE! DON’T EVER CALL ME AGAIN YOU SELF-IMPORTANT CONDESCENDING PRICK WITH TOO MUCH MONEY AND NOT ENOUGH HAIR! ASSHOLE ASSHOLE ASSHOLE! And then I left.
(MARCUS reaches into his pocket with no small amount of stealth, takes out his cell phone and turns it off. Tucks it back in his pocket.)
LISA: I wanted to do more, I did, I wanted to really hurt him. But I had to settle for just screaming at him. People, people just drive me crazy sometimes, sometimes I want to crush them all, they’re so stupid.
MARCUS: Well. Wow.
LISA: I think I’m kind of angry. Do you think I’m kind of angry?
MARCUS: I think you might be a little angry.
LISA: You do?
MARCUS: Just a little bit, a little bit angry.
LISA: Don’t you ever get angry?
MARCUS: Sure I do.
LISA: When was the last time you got really angry?
MARCUS: Well. I’m not sure. Ah, I know. At work, every time I get on the elevator to go home, this guy, this guy from accounting I don’t like, he gets on usually right after me, from the floor below. And I’ve already pressed the button for the first floor, the button is lit up so you know it’s been pressed and we’re already going to the first floor but it never fails, it never fails, when he gets on the elevator, he presses the button for the first floor as well, even though it’s already lit, it’s like he doesn’t trust me, a guy from marketing, to push the right elevator button, and he always has to push it again himself, always. And I always, I always feel a little … peeved … when he does that.
(Very short pause.)
LISA: Haven’t you ever thought about just grabbing him by his tie, twisting it around his neck until he turned purple, then banging his head against the elevator doors, again and again and again until he learned his lesson, you ever thought about doing that?
MARCUS: I have thought about that, yes. Once or twice.
LISA: Don’t you just want to kill him? Don’t you just want to kill him and everybody like him? Just find all the assholes of the world and just kill kill kill?
MARCUS: Well Lisa, I’m going to be utterly honest with you. Much as I think that getting rid of the genius that invented car alarms, long-distance telephone commercial pitchmen and members of the Republican National party would be a step in the direction toward greater good, much as I believe that there are people, annoying people like Pat Robertson, Bill O’Reilly and Jenny McCarthy who well and truly deserve a fate such as the one you describe, no, I do not want to kill people. Not them or anyone. Not that I haven’t thought about it, not that I don’t get homicidal urges whenever someone calls me on my home phone and tries to sell me something I don’t need, I do. But I don’t act on it. I don’t and I won’t.
LISA: Why not?
MARCUS: Well, I guess it’s because … you know, I could sit here and bitch about the gym teacher I had in junior high, I could hunt down the sadistic prick and really make him pay for being such a mean, scheming asshole all throughout my puberty, I could do that, but ultimately … ultimately I think it’s better to forgive and let it go. Almost sounds kind of like some retro-sixties bullshit, I know, but it’s what I believe. Forgive them. Forgive all the petty assholes of the world, forgive the bullies, the plastic people, the fruitcakes, the pre-packaged teen boy bands, the telemarketers, the born-again Christians and the Scientologists. Forgive the bullies that have beaten you up. Forgive the psychotic ex-girlfriend who’s still obsessing and stalking you despite the fact it’s been five years and there’s a restraining order. Forgive the relatives that keep forgetting what it is you do for a living. Forgive the woman that refuses to wear a bra and yet gives you shit about looking at her chest. Forgive the men in charge everywhere that feel free to look you right in your face and lie their ass off. Forgive the slick guy in the suit who’s pretending he’s never bought a woman a drink before just so he can get into her pants. Forgive all the bullshit and let it go. Let all the anger and rage go. You have to do that in order to get to the good stuff. That’s what I believe, I believe … ultimately I believe in love. Not love in the Jesus-freak kind of way, but love in the sense of all the great things that can sometimes happen between people. I believe in love. And what I think is that you can either kill all the people in the world that deserve it, or you can love all the people that deserve it. But you can’t do both. You can only do one. And I choose love. That’s what I believe.
(Short pause. LISA finishes her drink. Looks away.)
LISA: Huh. Well.
MARCUS: Yeah. Yeah.
(LISA stands, prepares to leave.)
LISA: Thanks for the drink and for … everything.
MARCUS: No. Thank you.
LISA: Okay. Good-bye.
(LISA walks away.)
MARCUS: Take care of yourself, all right?
(She looks at him a full moment.)
LISA: I’ll try.
MARCUS: Okay. Good.
(LISA exits. MARCUS finishes his drink.)
Originally produced by THE DEFIANT ONES at Manhattan Theatre Source, featuring Ato Essandoh and Carrie Keranen, directed by the author, as part of the evening CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Produced numerous times since, but that was the first.
If you like the piece, is is one of 44 royalty free plays in The Joshua James Project, please check it out and share with your friends.
I’m pleased to announce the following… Jean-Claude Van Damme Joins ‘Pound of Flesh’… I’m so happy right now.
A short play sample from my collection The Joshua James Project
MAN ONE: Career Diplomat in a suit.
MAN TWO: Career Diplomat in a suit.
Outside the United Nations
MAN ONE stands outside, smoking a cigarette to relieve his stress.
He is joined by MAN TWO.
They nod to each other politely. MAN TWO gestures for a light for his cigarette.
MAN ONE gladly gives him a light.
They both stand and stew for a moment.
I know, I know.
Those backstabbing bastards.
I’m with you.
You can’t trust ‘em.
You said it.
They’re just not … trustworthy.
Not one bit.
It’s a cultural thing, I think, it’s just not genetically possible for them to be trusted, there’s just something …
Something somewhere, in their wiring, something in their …
DNA, it’s in their fucking DNA …
That’s right, in the DNA, something that’s programmed to be …
Untrustworthy, Yeah. Yeah. I’m with you. Yeah.
Those bastards. After all we’ve done for them.
And there’s no talking to them!
You try and be reasonable, you state your case with logic and intellect and fucking … fucking …
Reasonableness! And what do they do? Drop their pants, turn around and immediately start talking out of their ass!
I know, I know. It’s shameful. Nothing but Ass-talk. It’s a Goddamn shame. It’s like they think every day is their birthday or something.
Those fucking bastards.
Where would they be without us, anyway?
Nowhere, that’s where!
Between you and me …
Just between you and I. I sometimes think that the best thing to do in the name of world diplomacy …
Best thing to do, and I wouldn’t say this to anyone else on the council but you …
I hear you, same from me to you, big guy …
And this is just my opinion, but I sometimes think that the best thing to do with those people, would be to just simply drop a big fucking nuclear warhead right in the Goddamn center of them. I mean, I’m all about peace, I want the peace just as much as anyone, but sometimes, sometimes you just wanna go, okay, you’re going to be that way? BOOM! Take that you ungrateful fuckers, BANG! WHOOSH! All gone.
Between you and me …
I feel the exact same way.
I’m telling you …
That’s not our official policy, mind you …
Ours neither, of course.
Our OFFICIAL policy is to TRY and be diplomatic with the stubborn fuckers. TRY TO, anyway.
Same with us, same with us.
Because they bring SOME assets to the table.
A few, a few, that’s true, they do.
But there are days, I’m telling you, there are days …
I hear ya …
There are days when I dream of us, our people, doing just that same exact thing to those greedy fuckers. Just go, is that what you have to say? Okay! Bang! Whoosh! Boom!
Bang! All gone!
All gone! Those bastards.
Those fucking bastards.
All we’ve done for them and this is how they treat us?
It’s a disgrace, how’re they’re behaving, seriously. This is a problem, this is a big serious fucking problem.
You know what I think? Fuck those guys. You know? Just fuck ‘em!
Fuck ‘em! Fuck those assholes and their Ass-Talk, fuck ‘em!
Fuck those fucking bastards. Just what do they offer the world in terms of culture, anyway?
Shit. Not much.
Try nothing! Nothing! They make a few decent movies …
That they do, it’s true …
But we always remake them for ourselves anyway …
We do too!
Other than some cool movie ideas and an okay film festival, they do nothing!
Their cuisine is pretty good, too. But other than their food and movies, there is NOTHING that they have to offer to the civilized world, nothing. Those bastards.
That’s right, those bastards. Wait a minute. You said food?
Sure, the food is good.
Are you serious? Their … cuisine?
Come on, admit it, their food is pretty good, they got good restaurants. I always eat like a pig when I’m over there.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Who are we talking about again?
Who are we talking about? Who do you think we’re talking about?
Aren’t we talking about the Americans?
What? Are you fucking crazy? We’re talking about the Goddamn FRENCH, why would you think that we were …
(Short pause as they look at each other.)
You’re from America, aren’t you?
And you’re with the French team, aren’t you?
Well. At least we’re PRETTY MUCH on the same page, save one or two wrinkles.
Right, right. We should probably …
Get back to the table, get on with the diplomatic talks …
Got a lot of work to do …
You said it, you said it.
(The two men walk off in opposite directions.
They stop and glance each other.
They turn toward the audience.)
POSTSCRIPT & PRODUCTION NOTES
This piece was developed and presented through No Shame Theatre (which allows artists to present new, unfinished work, without staging or memorization, in front of audiences) during the white-hot days of protest in New York right before the Iraq War.
“Diplomacy” debuted February 21, 2003, featuring:
Adam Devine as Man One
Joshua James as Man Two
Performed at No Shame Goes To War (Los Angeles), on March 8, 2003. Directed by J.J. Hickey.
? as Man One
J.J. Hickey as Man Two
Performed at No Shame Goes To War (Charlottesville), on March 21, 2003, performed by Chris Patrick and Scott Silet.
Performed at No Shame Goes To War (Cedar Falls), on April 4, 2003, performed by Luke Pingel and Grant Tracey.
An early version of this script was subsequently presented through No Shame Goes To War, a non-profit protest against the war seen at theatre venues throughout the country.
DIPLOMACY received its professional world premiere in the summer of 2006 at The City Theatre in Miami, Florida, as part of their Summer Shorts Festival. James Randolph directed the production.
A personal note. I wrote this piece in one afternoon and performed it that very same night at No Shame (back when it had a New York City branch) with my buddy Adam Devine. Nothing more exciting than to get an idea and put it on stage right away.
It always cheeses me now to hear wealthy pundits proclaim on TV that “everyone thought Iraq had WMDs,” completely forgetting that we renamed french fries and french toast because the French weren’t buying it at the time (not just the French, of course, but the UN and hundreds of thousands of Americans were smart enough to see through it, which is why a half a million Americans marched in protest of the war before the invasion … just in NYC alone).
Like it? There are 44 royalty free plays in The Joshua James Project, please check it out and share with your friends.