Today I switched gears. Needed a change up. Needed to write something a bit different. So I’ve moved away from the sci-fi theme park play, and I’ve tried writing something more in the realism vein. Here was my prompt for today:
I’m sorry, I don’t know who painted this piece so I can’t give it the credit it deserves! It’s one of the prompts from the 31 plays in 31 days website which doesn’t seem to acknowledge the artist of this work. If anyone knows, please let me know!
This was an interesting prompt, being an abstract image. I tried to look at it for a long time, and see some meaning, theme or feeling behind it, rather than just write a play about an artist or an artwork. And the writing below is what I came up with today. It’s incomplete (isn’t it always?!), and it’s a first draft, so be kind!
An old, steel playground, baking under midday sun. A little shade, but not enough. A teenage girl – Finn – tries to sit on the metal round-a-bout, but it’s just a little too hot. Her hair is cut short, and she wears a plain outfit with grey-ish sneakers. But her face is open, lifted upwards, trying to smile.
Over to the side of the playground, playing on her phone, is Finn’s mum – Melody. She’s not trying to hide her nerves at all. She keeps looking around, checking her phone, fiddling with her hair.
MELODY: You ok?
MELODY: We can just wait another ten and –
FINN: I’ll keep waiting.
Melody sighs and steps forward.
MELODY: It’s way too hot here. Sorry, it was a bad idea.
FINN: No, it’s perfect.
MELODY: I didn’t even think about how hot it would be out here.
FINN: I like it.
MELODY: No one likes this heat.
FINN: I do.
MELODY: Hate when you do that. Come on, I’ll buy you an ice cream.
Nothing. Finn just repositions herself, trying to smile more widely. Waits.
MELODY: Finn, don’t expect anything. (beat) Come on, let’s go.
FINN: STAY THERE!
FINN: I don’t want him to see you first.
MELODY: Well I’ll go wait in the car then.
MELODY: I’m not waiting in the car.
FINN: Go hide behind that tree.
MELODY: Look, he might not come, ok, so don’t get your hopes up. And don’t sit there grinning like a simple little –
She stops, seeing someone arriving from stage right.
MELODY: … oh, shit.
FINN: Is that him?
Melody is frozen.
FINN: Mum?! Is that –
MELODY: … yeah.
Melody suddenly turns and walks in the opposite direction. She exits stage left.
Finn is suddenly left all alone on the playground. She stares out to the right, seeing the person coming, and then looks away. Tries to gather herself together, tries to look pleasant again. Tries to smile.
Stewart enters stage right and stops. He looks around, knowing Melody should be around somewhere.
FINN: Are you…?
STEWART: But are you -?
STEWART: You’re Finn?
His confusion is palpable. Her smile drops.
STEWART: Sorry, I think I just -… uh, I thought that…Doesn’t matter.
Is your mum here?
FINN: She went off that way somewhere.
STEWART: Oh… should I -…?
FINN: Were you expecting me to be different?
STEWART: No no no no no. Please don’t do that. It’s not your -… I think I just had this idea. Just building for a long time. A picture. You know, you hear ‘teenage girl’ and you think makeup and selfies and –
FINN: Boys can take selfies too!
STEWART: Oh, yes, true. You should see my brother’s instagram account. Ridiculous.
FINN: You have a brother?
STEWART: Two. One married. One overseas somewhere, doing whatever. So yeah… you, um, you have three cousins. On my side.
FINN: Can I meet them?
STEWART: We’ll see.
FINN: I won’t be any trouble.
STEWART: So, you’re Finn.
FINN: It’s short for Finnley.
STEWART: I know. We had a friend called Finnley. Alwys thought it was weird she named you after her, but…
FINN: Should I call you Stewart, or –
STEWART: Yes. Stewart. Stew.
FINN: Are you named after a stew?!
She laughs. He realises she’s joking and also laughs.
FINN: Imagine if you were named after a stew! Or any food. “Hello, my name’s Potato.”
STEWART: “Nice to meet you, I’m Mushroom.”
FINN: That’s kind of cute, actually. Like, you could be Mushy for short. What’s like the cutest food name you could ever have?
FINN: Yeah, or like, cupcake.
FINN: No, cupcake’s cuter.
FINN: If I had a dog I’d call it cupcake.
STEWART: What if it was a massive rottweiler?
FINN: It wouldn’t be.
FINN: What did you want me to be like?
STEWART: No, I didn’t want you to be anything…
FINN: What picture did you have?
STEWART: In my mind?
FINN: Yeah. Did you think I’d look like you?
STEWART: I imagined meeting someone…
FINN: It’s ok, just tell me. I want to hear all about everything. Like, everything you’re thinking.
STEWART: I’ve been trying to understand Tik Tok and these youtube influencers, and practising things like ‘flex’ and ‘I stan them’. And also… listening to music and I don’t know if pop music is cool again because when I was a teenager it was all alternative. You just didn’t ever admit to listening to pop, even though all of us did, and we can still sing all the lyrics to Backstreet Boys, so…
FINN: I love Backstreet Boys!
STEWART: I din’t expect you to be… friendly.
FINN: Why not?
STEWART: I suppose I had an idea that teenage girls don’t like people, don’t like talking, just roll their eyes and…
And you don’t know me. You don’t owe me this friendliness.
FINN: I guess you don’t have to be friendly either. If you don’t want to.
STEWART: Am I not…?
FINN: Mum said this might just be a one time thing, and I shouldn’t try to be too annoying. Sorry.
I have a few ideas about where this might go if I were to write some more, but I’m keen to hear your thoughts. What do you think might happen next?