The Absurd Lust to be Accepted
Andre N. Jones
Andre African-American Male 40s. Personable.
Charming. Principled. Driven by logic.
Academia A large commanding voice. Rigid.
Scene 1 Here. Now.
(A single chair, sits alone on
stage in dim light.)
(We hear an assortment of sounds. The
opening music from Pacman followed by
the sound of registering one credit to
play, electric static of internet
connection, and voices are heard. A
customer service rep for a credit card
company, a college admissions rep, The
Facebook, messenger sounder all play
together as a a cacophony of noise, as
a man, ANDRE, enters. He stands by the
chair blank faced until the sounds die
off into a deafening silence. he
stares out. Long pause. ACADEMIA,
speaks as Andre continues to stare
A black man in whiteface? What does that look like?
A black man in whiteface!
You won't be able to put that in front of a commercial
If you write the way I tell you to, you can have your
play produced at Interact Theatre, next year.
Every time I move I lose/
When I look I'm in/
Every time I turn around/
I'm back in love again/
(He chuckles. Speaks to us.)
That was just a snippet of the kind of stuff that was
said to me in Grad school... Yeah, Grad school. We're
not talkin' bout someone who has no education. We're not
talkin' bout a fresh outta high school kid. I'm talkin'
bout this is nineteen years of marriage, four children
and takin' on the burden of debt to advance and enhance
my professional skill set during an economic downturn
later... And I mean, it sticks in my crawl, cause the
assumption is that you know nothing... And I ponder
this, you know? The very point of going to Grad
school is to prepare to be... more professional,
right? So by that logic, doesn't that suggest that I
had to have brought something—some knowledge—some
wisdom—some experience to the table? I don't know.
I'm just sayin, it would seem that a man with a job, a
wife and four children is not only busy, but he has
something to offer—and shouldn't be made to feel
inadequate, or small in any way... Right?
(Shakes his head.)
There's a system in place. And, it doesn't matter
where you are in your development—notice I said your
development. They don't care. Everybody has to go
through the system.
(Lights shift dim.)
Individual thought breeds chaos.
All students must learn this way.
Conformity is required.
(Lights shift back.)
All right, now I know that you can pull the wool over
the eyes of a twenty year old. Hell, there might be
some thirty year olds that you can do that to. But
I'm in my forties... And I'm a Playwright, right?
Independent thought is what we do! That's why we
write plays. Because we have a point of view... I
mean, you can't teach anybody how to write. In fact,
that's one of the first things they tell you when you
come to class.
No one can teach you how to write. We're just here to
give you tools to help you enhance your craft.
So I'm like, cool, you know? This is the place for
me, right? And, I'm not interested in playin' nice,
puttin' my nose in anybody's rear end or playin' some
psychological video game...
(We hear the theme music for Super Mario
Bros. Andre begins to hop like the
Boy was I wrong.
(Music transitions into the end of a
I mean, I remember one of the first classes I took,
was a class called Solo Performance. Basically we
were challenged to write a one person show.
Shocking that I'm doing this now, right? Anyway, we
were challenged to have a finished first draft of a
one person show by the end of the semester. And, we
were expected to have someone read it or read it
ourselves on the last day of class. So, every week we
would bring in five maybe six pages to read in class,
right? So one week I bring in this scene where the
main character, who is a black detective, goes to a
meeting with his Captain. A white, Irish policeman in
South Philly. And while I'm in the middle of the
scene my professor says...
You don't want to write stereotypes!
(Pause. Andre looks at us
Like that, all snarky and rude. And I'm like, what?
You don't want to write stereotypes!
(Andre shakes his head.)
Just about all the plays I've read by white folks that
have black characters in them, those characters are
stereotypes—Television and film make a killing from
Audiences get really annoyed when you write
You're right. Black people have been screaming that
for years. But, it hasn't stopped us from being
portrayed as maids, butlers, thieves, thugs and
hoodlums—or drunks who never grew up and waste money or
I know let's make the black guy a rape suspect in
this innocent white angel's trial.
And all white people are racist, right?
Who said that?
(Pause. Andre turns to us.)
From that day on the struggle was real. I mean, that
professor, wooo! He had a problem with me! But what
was I supposed to do? I'm writing from my experience
and you're gonna tell me that my experience is
(Andre shakes his head.)
What happened to nobody can teach you how to write?
And I'm paying for this now. One thousand dollars per
credit. And I have to complete sixty credits. Fifty
three of them are all in my major. Playwriting I, II,
III, IV, Projects in Playwriting, Research, Seminar in
Dramatic Literature I and II etcetera etcetera. You
have five years to complete three years worth of
credits. You complete said credits and the University
awards you with a Master of Fine Arts Degree. Pretty
cut and dry, right?
Nope! It's a crazy game. So, I pass my first
semester taking six credits with an A in Playwriting
II and an A- in Solo Performance... Yeah, when I read
the play in class that professor was beside himself—I
mean tickled pink at what he heard, but because I
challenged him in class, he couldn't bring himself to
just give me an A... Not to mention that there were
several people in the class that hadn't finished their
plays and still got As. I had come to find out that,
that would be par for the course.
I go through two more semesters, and I increased my
work load. I mean, I gotta get these credits out the
way, ya mean? Now the aim for each of these classes
was to get a finished first draft of whatever you were
writing. That goal was easy to me. I mean, I'm
writing everyday just letting the world touch me, and
then spilling it out on the page, you know? And in my
third semester I took a class called Docudrama. Now
this was fascinating, because I had to find a criminal
case. Research it. And write a first draft of a play
based on the material. So, I'm going to class each
week—and I had developed a method of writing where I
would write the beginning scene, and once I finished
it, I'd immediately write the end scene, and then I'd write
the crucial scene—the point of no return. And then I
write the middle. And I'm doing all these exercises
in class like writing a departure scene, writing a
home coming scene, writing a scene where someone
teaches someone else something blah blah blah. And
I'm getting great feedback on what I'm doing, you
know? And, I'm combining imagined scenes with the
source material to make the play my own, you know?
So, I finish my first draft by spring break and I turn
it in, right?
Why I do that? After break my professor meets with me
and he says...
You said this play was about how black and poor people
are looked at as disposable.
This play is about corruption.
What does corruption have to do with disposability?
(Pause. Andre speaks to us.)
I was like, you're kidding me right? The arrogance of
the corrupt—and their carefree attitude toward those
whom they see themselves as better than—makes the
black and the poor—who rarely get justice—feel
disposable! What do I do, right? I've got four weeks left in the
semester, right? If I stand pat I already know my
grade will suffer—even though I finished the draft,
right? But I know that I can write, because he never
said it wasn't good. He just said I didn't hit the
target I set out to hit. Okay, so I challenged myself
to write another draft in four weeks. And I did it.
I wrote my play, Dusting, which I took down to the DC
Black Theater Festival that summer. And I wrote his
play, Steel, which was just from the source material.
And don't you know, he had the nerve to give me a B+!
Then I go to end of semester meeting, and he and the
other professor basically tell me that I can't write.
But Dusting is a huge success in DC.
So I had sent some of my work to the Delaware Division
of the Arts for their Emerging Artist Fellowship. And
I purposely sent them work that my professors hadn't
seen. You know, material I had written either before
getting in to Grad School, or stuff I had just written
for me. I said if I get this Fellowship, then I'm
doing something right. But if not, then maybe I need
to listen to what they're telling me at school. And
over that summer I got a letter from the Delaware
Division of the Arts that I got the fellowship. Only
thing was, in order to take the fellowship, I had to
take off for the full year from school, because the
state requires that you not be in school to receive
(Pause. Andre weighs things on an
I had completed 39 credits. But I was tired of the
games. A year to write uninhibited? Man, give me my
credits. I'll see y'all next year. So, during my
fellowship year, I wrote two new plays, and did
readings for them. I did a full production of one of
my plays called Verbalized Ink. I adapted a short
film from the source material of my docudrama, and
showed it in the fall of that year, and I wrote and
performed a one man show entitled Off. A really
productive year. I mean there are so many other
stories I could tell you. I'm a grown man and playin' this game of highjynx with
people, who are insecure, and have the audacity to be
teaching under the guise of being able to make me more
professional... It's scary. I wanted to quit so many
times—But the only way to beat the game is to earn
each and every one of those credits.
(We hear the completed level music from