WOMEN'S MARCH MANIFESTO: REFINERY29
A collaborative project within R29. In addition to writing the script, I helped concept, research, produce, direct, and perform (see my cameo in "We mean business"). Below, our printed zine with the full script and annotated references across a history of women's rights movements.
PLAYWRITING CLASSES AT YALE: AN EXCERPT
Dawn. Jack’s first day of the fourth grade. Sunlight enters through the windows of an elementary school classroom in perfectly contained squares. One of those horrible fifties Brutalist buildings (exposed concrete). Brutal. A grid of light on the floor. A grid of desks. A large green chalkboard on the backstage wall dominates the space. Three words are written:
RESPECT / RIGOR / RESPONSIBILITY
MARIE is organizing her pens on her desk.
TOBY is watching her and smirking.
FINLEY is picking his nose.
JACK is day-dreaming and scribbling absent-mindedly on his desk.
MS. CLENCHER stands facing the chalkboard. She casts a long shadow. She is quite still.
TOBY reaches out and tugs MARIE’s ponytail. Hard.
MARIE: Ms. Clencher--!
MS. CLENCHER: Children! Welcome! Welcome to the fourth grade. This is a very important year in your development. This is the year that will prepare you for your transition into the Upper School.
As you have all been told, the Upper School is demanding. It requires new levels of focus, independence, and organization on your part. To navigate the Upper School, you need to learn to manage your time. Managing your time is an essential life skill that will benefit you immensely, well beyond your time here at Cheshire Academy.
There are certain expectations that you must be familiar with. These expectations are essential for you to master in the fourth grade. Mastering these expectations will prepare you for the Upper School. These expectations are written on the board. They are:
Respect. Rigor. Responsibility. Learn them, know them. They will guide you to a lifetime of success!
Let us go through them. Who knows what Respect is? … Toby?
TOBY: Um so Respect is like when your friend has a video game that you want and your parents haven’t bought it for you yet and you wanna play it but you can’t because it’s only single-player and your friend won’t let you play and you wanna play it but you have to wait until he says its okay because its his game not yours and that’s Respect.
MS. CLENCHER: Yes, Toby. That is one way in which we demonstrate respect. In your example, you show respect for another person’s property. In the fourth grade, we will learn to—
MARIE: Oh! Ms. Clencher! Ms. Clencher I know! Respect is—
MS. CLENCHER: Marie! Please raise your hand. Raising your hand is also a sign of respect.
Marie raises her hand.
Ms. Clencher waits(a little too long). Yes? Marie?
MARIE: Respect is also when you’re the person whose video game it is and your friend also wants to play and you let them play.
MS. CLENCHER: Quite right. A subtle but important form of Respect. In this case, you are demonstrating respect for another person by sharing your own possessions with them. In the fourth grade, we will learn respect for other people’s property, for other people’s ideas, and other people’s contributions to the classroom. Who can tell me about rigor?
Silence. Some squirming.
Surely someone here knows. Finley?
FINLEY: …. I think… um… is it something that worms do?
MS. CLENCHER: No, Finley, that is wriggle. Worms wriggle, which means to move from side to side. Not rigor.
Rigor is hard work! In the fourth grade, you will be getting much more homework and you are expected to complete it in a timely manner and to the best of your ability. Perhaps some of you engage in after-school activities, such as ballet or soccer. This may mean managing your time with unprecedented attention so that all of your assignments are completed by their due date.
That means you, JACK.
Jack’s eyes focus on Ms. Clencher at the sound of his name. He has not been listening. He turns bright red.
JACK: Um. Sorry…. I… what?
MS. CLENCHER: You are required to demonstrate rigor in the Upper School, Jack! Please pay attention. That is a sign of RESPECT for your fellow classmates. Perhaps you feel what I am saying is boring? Perhaps you already know the answer? In which case, please explain to the class what rigor is.
Jack blushes deeper.
JACK: Uh…. It’s… Uh… I think its like what happens to dead people? Like my brother told me this story about how he saw this dead guy and he was all stiff like he was frozen and then he said that was rigor and that afterwards he was gonna blow up like a balloon and green goo and white worms were gonna come out of his eyeballs and—
MS. CLENCHER: That is rigor mortis, Jack, not rigor. Rigor, as we have just extensively covered, and which you would know if you had been paying attention, is learning the importance of working hard. Doing your homework on time. Of all the students here, it is vital that you in particular, you in particular, Jack, internalize the importance of rigor in your life.
On a side note, please refrain from repeating your brother’s tasteless tales within the walls of Cheshire Academy. I have asked you before to keep your imagination in check. Children—should you have any questions about rigor mortis, please ask Mr. Cerise during your next science class.
Jack bashfully begins to doodle on his desk. He looks like he wants to disappear.
Now. Rigor means handing in your homework on time. Rigor means you will be learning things in this classroom that most children do in seventh grade. Cheshire Academy is a rigorous academic environment and you will begin to practice the principles of rigor this year. Let us move on.
Responsibility. Who can tell me—yes? Marie?
MARIE: Responsibility is when you take a book from the library and you have a responsibility to bring it back on time and also to not write in it because it’s a library book.
MS. CLENCHER: Correct. Responsibility means acting on the RESPECT you have for others and other people’s property and taking care to do your homework on time, and NOT DESTROY OTHER PEOPLE’S PROPERTY! JACK! We do not draw on Cheshire Academy desks! Your art class is for drawing! How many times do we have to discuss this?
The children glare at Jack.
This is very frustrating, Jack. We, your teachers here at Cheshire Academy have the RESPONSIBILITY to teach you these principles. To make sure you internalize them. To guide you to a rewarding life. This is our responsibility, Jack. Yet it is quite clear you have not yet learned respect. That is quite clear. You do not respect your teachers. You do not respect your fellow classmates. You do not respect the IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES OF CHESHIRE ACADEMY! Most importantly, it seems you have utter disrespect for the task we, your teachers, have been appointed to mold you into an ethical human being, a law-abiding citizen, and a stable member of the workforce! Indeed, it seems you have DISRESPECT for this noble duty!
A hushed silence. Jack stares at his desk and shuffles his feet nervously.
There is only one thing to do, Jack. You leave me no choice. You will be spending recess in here erasing your mess and cleaning all the desks in the classroom. It seems that is the only option left. The only hope you have of understanding respect, rigor, and responsibility.
JACK: But Ms. Clencher!!!!!!!!! No!!! I promise to respect all week! Really I will. I’ll even practice at home! Please?!
MS. CLENCHER: I don’t want to do this, Jack. You leave me no choice. You will stay at recess. That is final. Please respect my decision.
JACK: But… but…. Can’t I come after school? Please? It’s just that… um… recess is the meeting of the Wensleydale Warlocks and it’s my turn to bring in my spell…
All the children snigger derisively.
MS. CLENCHER: Once AGAIN, Jack, you demonstrate your lack of respect for my request. You may engage in social activities on the weekend. Recess you will be cleaning your desk. I will ask you to come in again tomorrow if you continue to protest.
Jack bites his lip. He looks like he’s about to cry.
Now, let us look at last night’s homework…
As Ms. Clencher begins to go over the homework her voice fades. Jack sits still and holds back tears. He smudges his desk-drawings with a small fist.