The Princess: A Play in One Act
Mother—40s, dressed in semi-formal loose blouse, and pants. She carries a large pocketbook.
Emily—early 20s, long hair, and floor-length dress. She carries a small pocketbook and a thick Manila envelope.
Attendant—mid-20s, hair in messy bun, Southern accent.
Older woman—mid-60s, white hair in a bun, she wears a faded Mickey Mouse tee-shirt.
(Dark stage is illuminated by a bent streetlamp downstage left. It flickers to life before a dim dawn glows orange over the entire stage. The streetlamp shines a cool-toned green in contrast with the warm sunlight. An approaching engine sounds and two seats are brought downstage right and after MOTHER and EMILY enter to sit. Rectangular spotlight on both faces shoulders up. MOTHER may hold steering wheel with her cellphone or pantomime.)
MOTHER: (On phone) Well, Anna, I just don’t know. He really didn’t talk about your date with me. Do you think he enjoyed it or—?
(Beat while she listens to the other end.)
MOTHER: Um, I mean—did he ask you out again after? No?!
(EMILY peals into quiet giggles and MOTHER swats her trying poorly to stifle her own.)
MOTHER: (Puts receiver to shoulder to steady her breathing then,) Yes, yes I’m here, Anna. Sorry, I—(Beat). I said I’m sorry uh—maybe he’ll ask you today? Yeah! Oh yeah, I’m sure.
(EMILY squints while craning her neck to read a sign. After reading, she taps MOTHER on the shoulder and points ahead.)
MOTHER: Anna, I’m really sorry but I’m gonna have to call you back. Yeah, I’m taking Em’ to the DMV. Ok. Ok, I’ll call you after. Ok, bye. (She hangs up and puts the phone on top of center console.)
EMILY: We need to take the next exit; the sign was back that way.
MOTHER: Alrighty. Gee, Anna’s date didn’t go too well, apparently.
EMILY: Apparently. What happened?
MOTHER: She said he was nice, but that he was—fat!
(The two are quiet for a beat then breakout laughing simultaneously.)
EMILY: Well, what does she expect she’s old—
MOTHER: Hey, she’s not that much older than me.
EMILY: Yeah, but you’re married and not a cold bitch.
MOTHER: She is pretty frigid.
EMILY: Her only boyfriend’s been that cat of hers, I wonder when the last time a man’s even been in her house.
MOTHER: Long enough for her to get a dog, too I guess. Ok, where is the exit?
(EMILY checks the directions on her own cellphone.)
EMILY: Turn left onto Main Street in two point six miles. Why is this the only one open today?
MOTHER: Because it’s so close to the holidays and the one closer to home doesn’t have appointments ‘till after New Year’s. And someone couldn’t wait that long.
EMILY: I’m just excited!
MOTHER: I don’t blame you, sweetie.
(EMILY starts to examine the contents of her manila envelope. She looks as if she is counting the papers while making sure all of them are present.)
MOTHER: Do you have all of them?
EMILY: I have the letter for the DMV from the endo, my original birth certificate, my first ID, a notarized adult civil name change form ordered from the local judicial circuit and… (she pauses and searches deeper in the envelope.)
MOTHER: Oh, I have the two pieces of mail in my purse to prove residency.
EMILY: Ok, thanks. (Beat). God, this was a lot of work.
MOTHER: Well, they don’t make it easy so you can be sure. You are sure about this step now, right?
(EMILY looks matter-of-factly over the lenses of her sunglasses then spins the string around the envelope’s clasp shut.)
EMILY: This is the part where you tell me how proud of me you are of congratulating me on finding the court fee waiver all of my own.
MOTHER: You know I am, sweetie, why else would I be driving you all this way at a strange time of year if I wasn’t?
EMILY: I know, Mama. Thank you. We both worked hard in our own ways.
(They smile at each other briefly. MOTHER then turns on the radio and the car is filled with static as she begins to tune the dial. She surfs the stations a few moments before stopping on a clear song. Beyonce’s voice is heard singing “If I Were a Boy” and immediately upon hearing the chorus EMILY turns off the radio completely and they sit in silence.)
EMILY: It’s so funny how many gas stations here have fruit stands.
MOTHER: I hate their little alligator heads they sell.
EMILY: Yeah, with the big marble eyes watching me and my diet coke wherever I go. (Beat) Oh, you’re gonna wanna turn into that plaza there, mom.
MOTHER: On the left, with the Winn-Dixie?
EMILY: Yeah, it says it’s in there.
(The dawn fades to black followed by the spotlights leaving EMILY and MOTHER’s faces. The dim of the broken streetlamp burns brighter for a moment then pops off.)
(A glass door with an open sign sits in center stage. The lighting is cool-toned like a streetlamp in Scene 1. A desk sits a few feet away on both sides of the door. A white screen hangs on center stage right facing the adjacent wing. Enter ATTENDANT who sits at a desk on opposite side of the screen. She pulls out a deli ticket dispenser and places it on her desk. Looking around on either side to see if the coast was clear, she props her feet up onto the desk and sighs contentedly. Almost directly after she does so, MOTHER and EMILY enter through the front door with a ring of the bell on the handle. The ATTENDANT quickly lowers her feet and brushes off her desk as the two women approach her.)
ATTENDANT: Good mornin’, ladies!
EMILY and MOTHER: Morning!
ATTENDANT: How can I help y’all today?
EMILY: Well- (Beat).
MOTHER: Uh, my daughter came here today to change her name.
ATTENDANT: I could help you with that, I just need ya to take one of these here tickets.
(She slides the dispenser towards Emily who pulls one out weakly.)
MOTHER: What did you get?
EMILY: Twenty-five. So, do we start now?
ATTENDANT: Well, actually, I’m on seventeen at the moment so I’m gonna have to ask y’all to take a seat over there for a sec, this won’t take long.
(EMILY looks around to see no one).
MOTHER: But there’s no one here!
ATTENDANT: Actually, the customers in front of you are probably waiting patiently outside. Ya’ll go check if you don’t believe me.
EMILY: That’s fine. Mom, let’s go out.
(EMILY takes MOTHER’s arm and they walk to the other desk. MOTHER sits in the chair and EMILY sits on the desk.)
ATTENDANT: Now serving guest twenty-one at desk number 1!
(An older woman wearing an old Mickey Mouse tee-shirt walks in from outside and looks around.)
ATTENDANT: Howdy, ma’am! Are you guest number twenty-one?
OLDER WOMAN: I’m on deck as twenty-two. I just had to get out of that heat.
ATTENDANT: I hear ya. You can sit for a spell to cool off and I’ll let ya know when you’re up.
OLDER WOMAN: Thank you.
(OLDER WOMAN pulls chair from next to ATTENDANT’s desk and sits close to MOTHER and EMILY. MOTHER greets her)
OLDER WOMAN: Hi there. What brings you two in?
EMILY: I’m changing my name today.
OLDER WOMAN: Oh wow, did you just get married?
EMILY: (She laughs) No, ma’am. I’m just doing it for my own benefit. What about you?
OLDER WOMAN: I’m picking up my grandson’s gun permit for him. It’s all he wanted for his birthday this year.
MOTHER: That’s an interesting gift from a grandmother. Did he just turn eighteen?
OLDER WOMAN: (She laughs) Just next week my big man’s gonna be thirteen! And he’s becoming quite the little gentleman.
ATTENDANT: Last call for twenty-one! Guest number twenty-one, please come to desk number one at this time.
(When twenty-one does not enter after a beat, the ATTENDANT goes to the door and looks out both ways. She then sits back down, scratches something off on her desk and sighs again.)
ATTENDANT: Guest number twenty-two please come to desk number one! Guest twenty-two, thank you.
OLDER WOMAN: It’s been grand talkin’ to ya’ll but I must be off!
(OLDER WOMAN goes to sit at attendant’s desk. They talk mutedly while the ATTENDANT gathers her papers and gives them to her. MOTHER and EMILY speak while she stills back down across the room.)
EMILY: Well Annie, forget your gun. Go get your grandson’s before he’s an adult already.
MOTHER: I can’t believe she just said all that. I’m wondering if we should report her?
EMILY: Not here, mama. That just might cause a bang-bang for the both of us city girls.
MOTHER: I hope we don’t see her on the news someday soon. What a crazy person!
(The ATTENDANT hands the older woman her papers and she exits through the front door.)
ATTENDANT: Now servin’ guest number twenty-three. Guest twenty-three, please come to desk number one, thank you.
MOTHER: There wasn’t anyone out there when we got here. I swear, that lady just magically appeared.
EMILY: Maybe she’s got some old Disney magic in that old Mickey shirt she found.
MOTHER: Yeah well this isn’t exactly my idea of the happiest place on Earth.
EMILY: Shots fired. (She mimics guns firing with her hands).
ATTENDANT: Last call for guest number twenty-three! Guest twenty-three please come to desk number one at this time. Last call, thank you!
(No one enters. After a moment, the ATTENDANT crosses something else from her list again and does not sigh this time.)
ATTENDANT: Girls, I’m sorry but it is my lunch break now (She stands).
EMILY: But it’s only 9 o’clock.
ATTENDANT: I didn’t eat breakfast.
(She exits out of the front door and fade to black).
(The ATTENDANT enters through the front door with half of a soda and burps as she turns back on the lights. EMILY and MOTHER are seen at the same desk lying down and snoring. The ATTENDANT goes over to a sleeping EMILY and slowly pours a small stream of her drink into her open mouth. EMILY sputters and begins to cough which in turn wakes MOTHER).
EMILY: What did you do that for?
ATTENDANT: (Laughing) You looked like you needed a little caffeine.
MOTHER: Is number twenty-four outside?
(The ATTENDANT takes a long drink from her soda, finishing it off. She walks to her desk).
ATTENDANT: Nah, we’ll skip Christmas Eve and open presents early. Ya’ll can sit here now.
(MOTHER and EMILY quickly gather themselves and proceed to her desk).
ATTENDANT: (Scratching her head) Now, what did you need help with, again?
EMILY: I’m making a few changes to my ID.
ATTENDANT: A few, huh? Alrighty, do you have all the paperwork with ya? Birth certificate, proof of residency, court orders, old license?
(EMILY opens her manila envelope and hands the attendant her documents. The ATTENDANT’s eyes widen slightly towards the middle then close back to normal at the bottom of the stack.)
ATTENDANT: So… you wanna change your first name and your—(beat while she looks back at one of the papers) “current gender marker” on your driver’s ID?
EMILY: (Somewhat timidly) Yes, ma’am.
ATTENDANT: (Without hesitation, somewhat enthusiastically) Okay! I’ll pull that up right quick on the computer, your old info I mean. Then we could type all the new stuff in.
(EMILY and MOTHER exchange a pleasantly surprised look as the ATTENDANT produces a laptop and begins typing onto it.)
MOTHER: So that’s all? Does she take the picture today and then you guys will mail it or-
ATTENDANT: No, ma’am. We could just print it here for her. I just gotta ask her a coupla questions before I take her pic.
EMILY: Sounds good to me.
ATTENDANT: (Clears throat) Are you currently residing in 137 Queens Circle?
ATTENDANT: Your date of birth is January 25th, 1998?
ATTENDANT: And with this here court order, it says that you, Eugenie Henderson have legally changed your gender marker from male to female identification and your present name to Emily Henderson?
(EMILY flinches at the sound of her birth name and MOTHER bows her head down a little. EMILY regains her excitement at the end of the ATTENDANT’s question).
EMILY: Yes and Yes.
(Attendant types in her computer)
ATTENDANT: Well, that’s everything put in the computer- (Beat) now I just need ya to sign this here release and I can get your picture, little missy.
EMILY: (Squeals) Ok, just here?
(She points with pen and ATTENDANT nods, smiling before signing quickly and with gusto).
ATTENDANT: Now just step in front of that camera over there and keep your face straight forward for me.
(EMILY hastily gets up after hugging MOTHER to stand in center stage in a statute pose like that of an eager soldier).
ATTENDANT: Ok, ready? 1-2-3.
(Spotlight on EMILY and rest of stage to black. A flash is omitted with a camera sound effect.)
ATTENDANT: Alrighty, you get three tries, but come over here and take a look at this one.
(EMILY and MOTHER do behind ATTENDANT’s desk to examine the photo).
EMILY: Oh- let’s try that again, I knew I’d hate it.
(EMILY walks to center stage and one more photo is taken same suit as the first. She reacts the same as she did for the first try.)
MOTHER: But I do think that one is better.
EMILY: Just one more time, please. I’m sorry.
ATTENDANT: (Laughing) It’s fine! I had a friend like you once. She always took longer than me to get ready so we called her “Princess.”
EMILY: Haha, really?
(She then takes her third photo).
ATTENDANT: Oh, yeah. She was young when she started that whole- process. We were in high school then.
EMILY: What a coincidence.
MOTHER: Are you still in touch with her?
(Before the ATTENDANT can answer her question, Emily looks at the final photo and squeals happily again.)
EMILY: That’s the best one!
MOTHER: I liked the second best, but it’s your ID. What were you going to say about your friend who transitioned?
(The ATTENDANT clicks her computer a few times and closes it once the printer is heard sparking to life. The ATTENDANT waits to answer until EMILY’s ID is printed and she holds it and looks at it carefully.)
ATTENDANT: Not a word from her nowadays. She was mighty sweet… I miss her a bunch.
EMILY: What happened? Did she move far after graduation or something and you guys lost touch?
(The ATTENDANT places the ID in front of EMILY and stands up).
ATTENDANT: Nah, she uh—she passed before out senior year was up.
MOTHER: Oh, my God! I’m so sorry.
EMILY: Wow, me too. I’m very sorry.
ATTENDANT: Well, it gave me a lot of peace knowing she went as herself, ya know. In her body, as she wanted it.
EMILY: What do you mean?
ATTENDANT: The Princess died during that procedure; like the one ya’ll get last, I think. I know a lot of ‘em don’t always get it. You’re not getting it done, are ya?
(EMILY and MOTHER look wide-eyed at each other for a beat, then the flash and camera sound effect spark and the lights stay black.)