You'll notice that this was written two years ago.

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Yes, it's absurd. It seems even more absurd to me now, that I have my own (temporary) classroom. One of my 17 year-old students asked me last week what we were supposed to do if a live shooter entered Edgewood High School. I said I didn't know, but that there was a recent email about maybe having another drill. 

Then I looked at the closet in the back of my room. There's no way we could all fit in there. And my invincible, almost adult guys all talked about jumping out of my third-floor windows if someone came in with a gun. 

Tell me again where the absurd part stops and real life starts.

 

Safe

 

A short play by Gwendolyn Rice

1/17/16

 

Scene. Mid-afternoon in suburbia. Dan and Ginny, both in their 30s, sit at the kitchen table of their home. She is a teacher and he has a middle management office job. They have been married for quite awhile and have one daughter, Angie. It is very unusual for them to both be home in the middle of the day. Sitting in the middle of the table is a handgun. Dan is trying to piece together the events of the day. Angie is visibly distraught.

 

Dan

(seething) What is this?

 

Ginny

Oh come on.

 

Dan

What is this?

 

Ginny

You think this is helping? After the-

 

Dan

Tell me what that is and what it is doing in my house.

 

Ginny

Well I can’t keep it at school anymore.

 

Dan

What the fuck-?

 

Ginny

It’s my gun. Obviously. Should we move on to other nouns?

 

Dan

Where did you get it?

 

Ginny

At a gun store.

 

Dan

A what?

 

Ginny

They exist honey. There’s lots of them.

 

Dan

I know that.

 

Ginny

The one over by the mall was having sale.

 

Dan

(incredulous)You have signed petitions. You have marched with me, with Angie in the stroller, against gun violence.

 

Ginny

Yes. I know. That was before.

 

Dan

And yet-

 

Ginny

Could we just not, I mean maybe tomorrow, but not right now-

 

Dan

Ginny? You know they’re going to have to fire you, right?

 

Ginny

We’ll see.

 

Dan

I mean, just from the way it looks

 

Ginny

Yeah, I get that.

 

Dan

There is a very clear policy about firearms for the entire school district-

 

Ginny

I actually helped write that policy.

 

Dan

In the wake of Newtown and Virginia Tech and Columbine and a hundred others incidents of gun violence in schools

 

Ginny

Yes, and there are live shooter drills. We do them once a semester. I was on the team that wrote the protocol for those too.

 

Dan

Where was it? Just in your desk drawer? Or in a filing cabinet or something?

 

Ginny

It was in a locked cabinet. Padlocked.  There was one key and I had it with me at all times.

 

Dan

And you kept it loaded?

 

Ginny

Yes.

 

Dan

You had a loaded gun.  In your classroom. With a bunch of first graders.

 

Ginny

Art teachers get all grades honey. I know you know that.

 

Dan

Do you even know how to fire a gun?

 

Ginny

Yes.

 

Dan

Yes?

 

Ginny

There was a class. I took a class. At a firing range.

 

Dan

When?

 

Ginny

Over the summer.

 

Dan

When?

 

Ginny

When I told you I was going to yoga.

 

Dan

Okay. (he sits down and holds his head)

 

Ginny

Are you finished?

 

Dan

Am I-?

 

Ginny

If you’re finished with the interrogation then we can talk like normal people. Normal married people.

 

Long pause.

 

Dan

Okay. Talk.

 

Ginny

Do you remember last spring when we had the in-service with the security experts?

 

Dan

No, but keep going.

 

Ginny

We had a whole day seminar about the new security system. The automatically locking doors and the bullet proof glass and the intercom codes and the strategies about where you and your kids should be in your room to have the greatest chance of survival if there’s a live shooter in the building.

 

 

Dan

Okay.

 

Ginny

And to reassure us all about how thorough this new system was, the security people had a teacher there to give us a testimonial. She taught high school English in Red Lake, Minnesota, and one day one of the students came to school with a gun after he shot his grandparents to death. Now this was back in 2005, so they didn’t have the drills and all the security options that we do now. She said it was a normal morning in April, but then just as she started her lecture on sonnets they heard a couple of shots fired and someone got on the PA to say there was an emergency situation and everyone should stay in their classrooms until help arrived.

 

Some of the kids started crying and this teacher didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do, but they could hear the gun shots getting closer to their classroom and then a couple of people screamed, but no police sirens. No ambulances. It was like they were all alone, trapped in a horror movie with this armed killer on the loose and nowhere to go. But there was a little closet in the back of her classroom where she kept copies of her books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Julius Caesar and Of Mice and Men. She told all her students to be very quick and very quiet and go into the closet. So they all jammed in there with the light off and nobody moved for, like, two hours.

 

She said she’d never felt so vulnerable, so helpless in her whole life. Just sitting there, waiting to see if they were going to be shot. I mean, if he found them. . . one clip, one spray of bullets and they’d all be dead.

 

And this teacher didn’t even open the door enough to peek out until the police announced an all clear on a megaphone. When she finally opened the closet door she saw two girls from her 6th hour creative writing class, dead. Bleeding in the hall outside her room. And she wondered what would have happened if it wasn’t for her quick thinking. And she vowed not to go back to school until the district had put in the latest security system so she knew that all her kids would be safe.

 

Dan

Honey, I know that must have been very hard to listen to, but-

 

Ginny

And then it dawned on me. (pause) I don’t have a closet. The art room isn’t set up like other classrooms. It’s all open. There’s windows and open shelves and there’s nowhere. . .there’s nowhere to hide.

 

Dan

But you have the new security system—

 

Ginny

They don’t work.

 

Dan

What-

 

Ginny

They don’t work. In Sandyhook, where all those little kids died, they had just upgraded their school’s security system. Like the week before. They had codes and they had drills and they had self locking doors and the guy shot his way through all of that and you know how the teachers in that school found out they were under attack? The principal ran into the hallway and shouted something right before she was shot in the chest.

 

Dan

Honey, have you talked to anybody about your . . .concerns?

 

Ginny

I don’t have a closet. The whole class can’t hide under my desk.

 

Dan

No, but-

 

Ginny

I can’t do my job if I don’t feel safe.

 

Dan

And I get that, but don’t you think getting a gun is . . .going in the wrong direction?

 

Ginny

I don’t know.

 

Dan

Even people who are well trained, who are armed, cops, soldiers, in an emergency situation like that there’s not enough time to react. And when the police arrive at a crime scene they don’t know that you’re one of the good guys.

 

Ginny

Do I look like one of the bad guys?

 

Dan

You do with a gun in your hand. (pause) So what happens now?

 

Ginny

I don’t know. I’ve been contacted by some lawyers.

 

Dan

From the teachers union?

 

Ginny

From the NRA.

 

Dan

Holy fucking Christ, are you kidding me?

 

Ginny

Who do you think is going to stand up for me in this situation?

 

Dan

Of course. What was I thinking?

 

Ginny

I don’t want to lose my job.

 

Dan

I can think of a few million people who might not want you in a classroom anymore.

 

Ginny

Are you one of them?

 

(pause. Dan says nothing.)

 

Ginny

(fighting back tears) I can’t just sit there and watch my students get shot. I had to do something.

 

Dan

This is not the answer.

 

Ginny

Then what is? (long pause. She wipes her tears away and looks at her watch.) Okay, well I’m going to go check up on Carly.

 

Dan

Your student teacher?

 

Ginny

Yeah. She should be out of surgery by now.

 

Dan

(stares at her blankly)

 

Ginny

(matter of fact-ly) She shouldn’t have come up behind me like that.

 

fin

Dear Mr. Shakespeare. . . Can I call you Bill?

Dear Mr. Shakespeare,

I'm working on a writing project. . . a collaboration of sorts with you. I'm filling in some of the story for "A Winter's Tale" that you neglected to include. Hope you don't mind. Just want to see what you think of this so far. . .feel free to "like" it if you think I'm on the right track. Yes, some of the lines are yours, but more and more of them will be mine, as we follow Hermione around for the 20 years or so that she was off stage. 

Anyway, I hope you like it. Suggestions are welcome. I'll keep working in the meantime. 

Like a Moth — True Stories Told Live

When it was announced last year that The Moth would be coming to Madison I was ecstatic. I’ve been a longtime fan of The Moth Story Hour on public radio, and a few years ago I got to attend a Moth Story Slam in person, in New York City. (There are also books, and a podcast, which are worth checking out.)

Basically The Moth is a storytelling extravaganza — the set up is that normal, everyday people are invited to come up to the mic to tell stories that are true, less than five minutes long, and performed without notes. You can sign up to tell a story around a specific theme, or you can hope to be pulled out of the audience to give it your best shot. It’s not stand-up. It’s not acting. It’s something that happened to you, that only you can talk about.

Finishing the Hat

No, friends, I have not become a Sondheim convert overnight, though I couldn’t resist borrowing the title of his best-selling book about the world behind his musicals.

I am actually, literally, finishing a hat for one of my actors in an upcoming production that I wrote and directed called "Talking Spirits," a program sponsored by the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum at Forest Hills Cemetery. Part research project, part historical drama, the play is actually a series of four monologues based on the lives of 19th century Wisconsin residents with a strong connection to the Civil War.

Br!nk New Play Festival has Women Playwrights Take the Lead

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By BONNIE NORTH  SEP 8, 2017

Playwright Gwendolyn Rice and Renaissance Theaterwork's Suzan Fete speak with Lake Effect's Bonnie North.

Renaissance Theaterworks began a quarter of a century ago as a way to both produce good work and also promote women in theatre, both onstage and behind the scenes. In those 25 years, the company has mounted 66 full productions and 40 staged-readings. Nine of those productions were original works by Wisconsin playwrights and seven were World Premieres.

This weekend’s Br!nk New Play Festival expands on Renaissance’s commitment to nurturing and promoting work by women. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the company will present staged readings of several new plays by Midwestern women.

Madison-based playwright Gwendolyn Rice is part of this year's festival, which will feature her new, 10-minute play, I Hear Everything. Suzan Fete is one of the founding members of Renaissance Theaterworks and will direct Rice’s play.

Rice says her plays have taken her around the country, but, in particular, 10-minute play festivals like this one are special for her.

"You don't get to go to the rehearsal. You don't know the director. You don't know the actor ahead of time," she says. "You just kind of show up, and see what your words have turned into."

 

Meet me in Milwaukee!

Great news! Starting this month I'll be writing about theater a bit east of the state capitol, in addition to my gigs in Madison. I'm reviewing productions in Milwaukee for OnMilwaukee.com, and contributing some previews of interesting performing arts events as well. 

So if you work in Milwaukee, pitch me! And if you're a frequent audience member, say hello. Looking forward to commenting on the work of companies I've admired for years -- and getting to know some new theaters as well. 

 

 

What's New

I'm Going Back to the Br!NK!

I just found out that my short play "I Hear Everything" will be part of the new Br!NK Briefs evening of ten minute plays, produced by Renaissance Theaterworks this fall. Couldn't be more excited about going back to Milwaukee to play with these amazing women!

Come check it out at the Broadway Theatre Center in Milwaukee, September 7 - 12! 

http://www.r-t-w.com/br!nk-festival.html