Thursday, April 13, 2017


(takes a Dumbo figurine out of the bin)
My first “real job” was working at Disney. That was a right
of passage in Central Florida. Virginity? Forget it. If you
hadn’t worked at Disney by the time you were 21,
you were a freak. I ran the “Small World” ride-- yes,
the jokes, ha-ha--I LIVED IT. That was me helping you
onto your boat. I know-- the music-- it’s in your heads
right now. To survive, we had to blot it out like Vietnam.
Go ahead. Sing it with me...
(gently coaxing them to sing)
“It’s a Small World after all, it’s a small world
after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world--”
Stop! After so many seconds, its copyright infringement,
and they can sue us. And they will.
The Mouse will sue.
She reacts to thunder outside.
(she crosses to door, peeks out)
Summer afternoon in Central Florida you can count on it,
but this early… It’s odd… Neighbor said there was a
tornado warning… or “watch”, whichever…
(covers her watch/let’s them guess, then confirms)
No umbrella… I’ll hurry.
As she continues, Mary pulls out a stuffed orca whale.
From Disney, I moved to Sea World.
That’s when Scott and I got
together. Scott’s my man.
We were both theatre majors in college--
Yes, I was once a star! “But that’s not
the real world,” my Mom said.
So now, in the real world-- in this case-- Sea World--
Scott is the ski show announcer
and I’m working the whale show.
My job was to add “dramatic influence” by yelling “Shamu can
longer go to Ocean University!”
It wasn’t Shakespeare.
So, Scott and I say, “Enough of this”. We want to be big time,
professional actors so we naturally move to...
(encourages audience to fill in the blank,
probably will get “New York”, then says)
“Alexandria, Virginia.”
As she task on, Mary quickly illustrates the east Coast, putting an “X” atop and “X” atop an “X”
about where NYC would be, then makes dash marks up from Florida, stops and draws a circle
where Washington D.C. would be and writes it in.
New York City scared me too much, so
I convinced Scott we would start by becoming big time professional
actors in Wash-ing-ton, D.C....
$500 to our name...can’t afford anything...
end up in an air-condition-less one-room cottage in a sort of
transient motel complex in Alexandria, Virginia.
(draws arrow to and sketches Pizza Hut building)
Working at Pizza Hut. All of a sudden Sea World
ain’t looking so bad. I mean those were... lean years.
Lot of macaroni and cheese and rice a roni. I think
I auditioned for something once. After a while,
we figure, “Hey, we can work at Pizza Hut in Florida”.
And so we do. Move back to Florida.
And work at Pizza Hut.
Don’t get depressed. We weren’t.
(thunder is heard)
Oops! I forgot I’m hurrying.
(takes out a poster)
“Believe in Your Dreams.”
(starts to pin it up, turns back)
No, I don’t think it’s corny.
So, Scott marries me--
(waves little “cheering” flag)
Yea! I start substitute teaching. Yea!
Scott gets a steady job outside
the realm of food service! Yea!
I miss my period!...
(the little flag stops waving/beat)
We aren’t planning on that. Not at all. I remember a friend
asking, “Well, what were you planning on, Mary?”
I don’t know. Living our lives out like Peter Pan and
Wendy in Neverland... Florida can do that to you.
Make you want to sway in a hammock instead
of go after something...
Scott and I decide to buy a house. “A house?” my Mom asks.
“Yes, ma’am, we have a child we can’t afford, we’re gonna
buy a house we can’t afford to go with it! A little starter house
in Deltona.
(as Mom)
(as herself)
“Deltona, Mom. In the sticks”.
Scott and I started in downtown Orlando and had
been rapidly moving further and further away from
civilization. In the “Greater Orlando area”,
the sticks become the suburbs overnight,
so if you want to be boondock dwellers, you
have to be nomadic. So that’s how we ended up here,
in Deltona, the semi-sticks, the suburbs-to-be, in a
house we couldn’t afford, me working part time
as a tutor for Lightning Mike.
Mike leaves Florida. His Mom can’t take it anymore,
everyday driving by that field... that fence...
The principle at Deltona High calls me into his office...
(“goes there”)
He’s going to “let me go” or worse... send me back to the
sub pool for regular ed. Regular Ed, which cost me my
gall bladder and made my hair start to fall out...
“Good Morning, Mr. Galen.”
(makes terrified face, “walks into office”;
then, as Department Chair)
“Sit down, Ms. Tilford”.
(she does)
Ms. Tilford, I’m afraid you don’t have sufficient training.”
(beat/Mary adds a forced smile to her terrified face)
“Oh, please, God, just shoot me!”
(as Department Chair)
“So we’re going to send you to get some.”
(as herself, not registering his meaning)
“I saw a ‘hiring’ sign at the Winn Dixie.”
(as Dept. Chair)
“We’d like to offer you a full time position, Ms. Tilford.”
I’m thinking: “Oh, my God! I don’t believe it!
I’m a high school teacher”!
(then, a sort of “what in the name of Hell” realization)
“Oh, my God. I don’t believe it. I’m a high school teacher.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Scene-A-Week Returns with THE AZURE SKY IN OZ, opening April 21 at Straz Center

William Leavengood
There is a desk and a cork display board on stage. Mary enters, carrying a large plastic bin with a
stuffed Toto dog on top, which she hefts up onto the desk. She puts the dog under her arm as she
removes the lid. She suddenly stops.
I don’t belong here anymore...
(looks around the space)
But I just can’t stand to think of them
coming into “this”.
(wipes perspiration off her face)
My God, did they cut funding for the air conditioning?
She crosses to a wall unit air conditioner, turns it on. It hums to life.
I think if summer in Florida lasted
one more month, we would all hang ourselves.
(frowns, fanning herself)
August, and another school year begins.
Whatever happened to September, y’all?
Don’t want to be all sweaty for my
contract meeting. This is my last
hour as a teacher. Come nine o’clock,
I will be an administrator at another school.
(puts face in front of air conditioner)
Please, God. Get cold…
A slight rise in the humming sound and Mary sighs in relief from the first of the cold air. She
fans herself.
Thank you....
She mops her face with the stuffed Toto, moves back to bin, takes out her teacher I.D. badge on a
Supposed to turn this in but I kinda’ want to keep it.
(considers the badge)
I guess we all wonder if we’ve done enough.
(sets badge on desk,smiles at them all)
I’m Mary Tilford by the way. Hey!
I’m gonna hurry. I don’t want the kids to see me.
(takes out a deck of cards from bin, smiles)
The ace of hearts.
My first student was hit by lightning. Walking through
a field by a chain link fence. That lightning hit that fence, shot out
and killed him. Mike was dead, but his brother revived
him. His brother, who was walking a few feet away... Just a
few feet made the difference. Of course, in the womb,
the difference is a hair’s breadth.
(she sets down cards, starts taking out “classic” plastic
cartoon figurines, carefully arranging them on her desk)
Yeah. My students and I like ‘em. They’re cheerful.
And when Alicia throws them at you, they don’t hurt
too much. Bullwinkle rocks.
(continues setting up figurines)
Admin said the room should be “restored to neutral”, but
I want the place set up so the new person will have
what she needs. So it won’t seem so strange to the kids
without me. We’re like a big family.
I come from a small family who all died.
My Mother was a Catholic from
Mississippi and my father was a Jew
from New Jersey-- a naval officer who played the
organ. No, I’m not kidding. He died
in front of me when I was six.
I remember the ambulance coming, but no sirens.
Did you know that?
For heart attack victims, so they won’t startle ‘em..
No sirens, just the red lights... that silently take
my Dad away and leave Mom and me alone... with his debt...
surprise debt. That’s a man thing, I guess, so the women
folk won’t worry.
(thick beat)
Mom borrowed money to pay for his funeral and we
had to move into a trailer in Orlando.
(beat, distant thunder is heard)
Mike-- it’s weird-- what the lightning chose to take from him
and what it left him. Reading, writing, math-- 16 years
of learning and education-- gone.
Mike would pick stuff off his face and put it
in his mouth-- Not that teenage boys are known for
their social graces, but...
So that’s what I worked on with Mike-- social skills.
Back then, I wasn’t trained or qualified to teach him
to read from scratch-- I was a substitute. The beginning of
every year in most public schools around here-- there are
unfilled teaching positions, so they say “Mary?”... and we
need the money, so here I am, teaching this boy with
traumatic brain damage about
courtship and zit picking... And I got him to stop,
even though he didn’t understand why it wasn’t okay.
The lightning had taken that, too.
Mike’s sense of humor, though... completely intact. Incredible.
(picks up cards again)
He loved his cards-- not playing games, he couldn’t-- just
the cards themselves.
(she sorts through the cards)
He had a crush on this really pretty girl, learning disabled,
and he showed me a card.
(she shows the audience…)
“I’m gonna give Lauren
my heart--” It was the ace of hearts-- And I said “Go ahead, Mike.”
And I watched him hand her that card and say
“Lauren, I’m giving you my heart.” And Lauren just...
(she makes a blank face)
(sets cards back down)
That’s a tough part... Lotta times, they
just don’t get it. So that’s the highly romantic, noble reason
I began teaching special education, I needed
the money. I guess that’s why a lot of us start

doing what we end of doing for the rest of our lives....