Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Cut Scene

Originally, the opening scene of my play The Rules of Embedment or Why Are We Back In Iraq? (Sample Scene)took place during the February 15, 2003 mass rally in New York City. Right before the first public reading staged last November at Another Urban Riff (Cast & Credits), I ended up cutting the scene out, in order to cut down on the long-day's-journey-into-night running time and overabundance of characters.

It was a tough scene to cut. Part of the reason I wrote the play in the first place was to protest the terse media coverage of the F15 rally and the many others that followed. I wanted to give this historical worldwide protest its proper due, and to tell the story of what really happened. Also - considering I never served in the Military or worked for the Media - I felt it was important to include a scene in my topical play in which I had actually been an active participant.

But I cut it. And I cut some more after the first reading. And - like most playwrights - I've continued to cut in-between performances.

But since the city's about to become a battleground for the status of our 1st Amendment rights ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances"), I thought the cut scene might be of interest. Here's the original Act 1, Scene 1:

(It is February 15, 2003 - the day of the mass rally in New York City that attracted over a quarter million people in protest of the imminent war with Iraq. The rally was coordinated with thousands of other protests across the world involving millions of people. The location is a street corner between 60th Street and 3rd Ave. Ten police officers stand behind blue barricades warning 'DO NOT CROSS'. Most of the police officers are talking among themselves. Iron holding pens are lined up in front of the stage to the left of the officers to control the crowd.)

(To the left of the officers is a crowd of at least twenty-five visible people packed to the edge of the curtains. The protestors are multi-ethnic and range from young to old. A few hold radios broadcasting speeches from the rally. Many are recording the scene with camcorders and digital cameras.)

(A mom with a baby carriage - decorated with antiwar stickers - stands near the front of the stage. A group of five young-to-mid teenagers dance and jump around while enthusiastically beating on tom-tom drums, plastic buckets and metal pots. At least six signs held by protestors read 'No Blood For Oil.' A man wearing a George W. Bush mask carries a sign that says 'Empty Warhead' with an arrow pointed down at his head. Three old ladies dressed entirely in pink hold a sign that reads 'Pink Ladies for Peace.' Two women of Middle Eastern descent are dressed in full burqas and veils. An enduring hippie carries a sign declaring 'US Socialists against the War.' A man in his thirties, dressed like an anchorman while wearing a cardboard television set that covers his shoulders and head, renders propagandistic news reports.)

(Though upset that they are being prevented from attending the designated rally area on First Avenue, the crowd, for the most part, is calm and mellow. Most are relieved and overjoyed to see how many other regular people are in agreement.)

(TED WOLF pushes his way, methodically, through the crowd until he reaches the police barricade. He is wearing a blank, blue baseball cap, black Ray-bans, and a press pass dangles around his neck. A small notebook and pen are clutched tight in his fists. Two policemen, both white and young and with dark moustaches, guard the barricade while the remaining officers hang back and shoot the shit.)

TED - How's it going, officers? Can I cut through? I'm press.

(TED flicks his press pass with his pen. POLICEMAN #1 ignores the request while POLICEMAN #2 scowls and turns away.}

TED - Come on, my boss will ream me out unless you let me cross over to report your side of the story.

POLICEMAN #1 - Glad to see that you care. Don't go quoting me, though. My name in the paper won't help me put bread on the dinner table. But some of the other boys love to shoot their mouths off.

(POLICEMAN #1 pulls back the barricade and allows TED to cross through. TED heads off stage right, in search of some colorful quotes from more forthcoming policemen.)

(Seeing an opening, a few people in the crowd attempt to sneak through. But POLICEMAN #2 rams into them with the barricade, using more force than necessary. Some of the other police officers in the background watch the proceedings with amusement, yet make no motions of becoming involved.)

POLICEMAN #1 - Please, people! Listen to me! For your own good, get back!

POLICEMAN #2 - Move back! Everybody better get the fuck back NOW!

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