A One Act Play
The Gender Agenda
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 1983
JAN....40-50s. Enters as a man dressed for a high pressure
job as a software engineer. During the first minutes of the play
Jan changes clothes and applies makeup and a wig. This transformation
is so successful that an audience member coming in to the play
late would not see a man in drag on the stage, but a female character:
a respectable middle aged churchwoman with an excellent fashion
sense. It must be an open question in the minds of the audience:
What gender do the other characters in the play believe Jan to
BETH....50-60, a librarian. Conservatively dressed in a
well-made but not fashionable jacket and skirt, her hair is simply
styled and she wears no makeup. Typical churchwoman.
RUTH....30-40, middle management at a bank. She is stylish,
aggressive, good-looking, and she wears a chic flowered hat.
SHEILA...40-60. Defiantly uncouth and unkempt, her straggly
hair is salted with gray. She wears a loud plaid lumberjack shirt
and her slacks are held together with safety pins.
NOTE TO THE ACTRESSES: each of the women does suspect that JAN
is-- or was-- male, but each is unsure whether others share this
perception. At points in the action one or another will say something
that raises the possibility, but when there is no confirmation,
backs away from a confrontation.
SET: A one bedroom apartment in Bostons Back Bay,
overlooking the Charles River Esplanade.JAN, in business clothes,
enters in a rush)
JAN: Assholes! ( loosens tie)Fucking assholes!
(throws briefcase, jacket & tie. Clicks answer machine,
goes into bathroom)
answer machine(woman's voice): Jan? This is Ellen.
Mark's got a temperature of a hundred and two. I don't feel right
about leaving him, so I'll have to miss tonight's meeting. Sorry.(click)
answer machine (man's voice #1): The machine again! Jan,
this is your brother Dan, wasting his time and money on a machine.
Arent you ever home? Not while I'm awake, I guess. Please, call
777-624-0680 one of these days-- let us know if you're still alive.
(JANs head pops out from bathroom to talk to the tape,
revealing a bra strap on one bare shoulder)
JAN: I'm half alive, Dan. Half alive.
answer machine (angry man's voice, #2): Jan? Goddammit,
Jan, this is Jack. I don't know how the hell you managed to sneak
out the door, but you'd better turn around and get your ass back
here. We've got work to do. (click)
JAN: Asshole! (enters wearing slip and bra with men's
socks, carrying pantyhose. pushes phone button for programmed
Jack? I'm not coming in. .....Fifty-five hours a week, Jack. Fifty-five
hours a fucking week I put in, and that's not enough, you want
my weekend? (removes socks.)
Yeah, well, Toffer thinks because I don't have a wife and four
kids to go home to, I should do all the shit for everybody.
(begins to put on pantyhose)
He can say no, too! Tell Adam to shove it! Look, I don't have
time to argue. I've got people coming over any minute, a committee
from my church... Yeah, I said "church". You've heard of churches,
That's where women and children and the unemployed go on Sunday
morning. --- Very funny. If you could fire me, you'd've done it
last downsize. I'll see you Monday. Screw you, too, Jack.
(Hangs up. Looks at watch)
JAN: God! (hurries back into bathroom, comes out
wearing a frilly robe and a wig. Puts on music tape while applying
make up, singing along when possible. Doorbell buzzes)
JAN: Not yet! It's not even seven! (sweetly, into
BETH ON INTERCOM It's Beth. Beth Woodside, from
JAN: (intercom) Of course, Beth! Come on up.
Shit! (hurries into shoes, earrings, opens door; graciously)
JAN: Im here! Not quite together, but come on in.
BETH: (coming in) Oh dear. I'm early, aren't I?
I wasn't sure how long it'd take me to find you.
JAN: It's just a little before seven. I worked late, that's
why Im still changing--
BETH: Ruth's not here? "Urgent meeting.", she said. But
not what about.
JAN: I assume it's to do with the Denominational Resolutions
thingie. But do'nt you know? You are the Women's Committee delegate?
BETH: I was at the meeting, and the vote didn't go our
way. But that's not an emergency-- it's business as usual. I warned
JAN: You did. I heard you. Dont expect our Agenda to be
their agenda. You want coffee? I'll start some..
BETH: Thank you, but maybe later. You go right on-- Pretend
I'm not here.
(JAN notices male items: Whisks them out of sight, goes
into bedroom and talks from off.)
JAN: Make yourself comfortable.
BETH: This is a omfortable apartment. With a spectacular
view. (indicateswindow) Looks deserted, though.
A lovely park, but no people down there.
JAN: The bustle's all over on Newbury.
BETH: On my way home from church I see the Esplanade filled
with people. Joggers, Frisbee-throwers, mothers with kids.
JAN: The park is all European charm, except at night. Then
the predators prowl.
BETH: Your building has impressive security. Cameras everywhere--
catching me with my hair messed.
JAN: Big Brother can be a comfort , if you're a sister.
(emerges from bedroom, dressed)
BETH: A woman was raped in my building last month. A nurse,
coming home from work. The man was waiting, he must have known
when she'd get home.
JAN: I've got this really fine Colombian decaff, if you're
worried about insomnia. (JAN heads for kitchen)
BETH: Whatever you have is fine.
JAN: (calls back) Or would you prefer tea?
BETH: Whatever you're having.
JAN: Twilight Pleasure, or Darjeeling?
BETH: I usually drink plain Lipton. In bags.
JAN : Lipton. In bags. Well, nothing to do now but wait
for the kettle. And for the others.
BETH: I don't know how many of us will come on such short
notice. With a regular job--(doorbell rings)
JAN: Here comes somebody. (into intercom) Hello!
RUTH: intercom Ruth here. Is that you, Jan?
JAN: You found me. Come on up. (to BETH) Its Ruth.
BETH: Oh, good.
JAN: Will you let her in? Ill get the kettle.
(RUTH arrives at the door. BETH opens it)
RUTH: Beth--! Excellent! Somebody is punctual.
BETH: I was early, actually. It's a bad habit I have, assuming
my time is worth less than--
JAN:(enters with tea things) Ruth! Don't you look
RUTH: I came from work. No sense jaunting out to the suburbs
JAN: Your work approves of dashing hats?
RUTH: I approve of dashing hats. The Boylston branch adapts.
JAN: I bank there! It's right around the corner! But I
don't think I've seen....
RUTH: You wouldn't. My office is in back. Im glad you offered
your place-- such a handy location .
JAN: Not at all, I'm honored. I was surprised, though.
I suppose on a Friday night, the church is so busy that--
RUTH: I didn't want to meet at the church. It's better
if the congregation doesn't know.
BETH: Doesn't know what?
RUTH: I'll explain when we're all here. (doorbell)
JAN: Ahha! Right on cue. If four's a quorum, we're about
to become a committee. (intercom) Hello there.
SHEILA intercom: How the hell do I get to where
JAN: Sheila! Fourth floor. 4A. Right in front of you when
you get out of the elevator.
SHEILA: I don't do elevators. Where the hell's the stairs?
JAN: You can't get to the stairs. Not without a key. Or
ringing the super-
SHEILA: I'll ring the super.
JAN: Sheila, I dont think you--! Darn.
BETH: Is Linda with her?
JAN: She didn't say.
RUTH: Why are women always late? I'd like to get through
the agenda before midnight.
JAN: It's only ten after.
BETH: Four members by ten after is not bad.
JAN: It'll be twenty after by the time Sheila gets here.
She's coming up the stairs.
RUTH: Afraid of elevators? Sheila? !
BETH: I don't like them either. I feel trapped.
BETH: Just a coward, I guess. I never minded when they
had operators. Elevators were safe, then.
RUTH: Bullcrap! Excuse my French, but I bet there were
rapes by the operator! Hushed up, but I bet it happened-
JAN: What'ld be safe? Amazon patrols? Sorry. Shall we have
RUTH: Quite apart from your handy apartment, Jan, I'm glad
you joined our committee. You can make a real contribution.
JAN: I do so want to be a useful to the Unity church community.
All I've done so far is bring cookies for coffee hour.
RUTH: What a waste! When you have resources--
(to Beth) Jan's going to get a company secretary to type
and mail our Resolutions statement. Isn't that great? One reason
women aren't more effective is that we're more likely to be secretaries
than to have them.
JAN: It's my impression that at Unity Congregational, it's
the women who get all the work done. Education, fundraising, charity....
RUTH: All the grunt work. Bake sales and pew polishing.
JAN: Beth, didn't you start the soup kitchen?
BETH: I had a lot of help.
RUTH: But when the photos came out in the Herald, Beth
wasn't even in the pictures!
JAN: Perhaps she's too much of a lady to put herself forward.
BETH: You weren't in the pictures, either, Jan.
JAN: I was just helping out.. The credit belongs to the
BETH: I noticed that that newest couple-- the architect
and his young friend?-- they made sure they were right in front.
JAN: You think they clipped it out to send to their mothers?
RUTH: They won't have to. Their so-called friends will
send it. My Mom got dozens of photos when I was on the front page.
BETH: Ruth's mother was mortified.
JAN: Because nice girls don't put themselves forward?
RUTH: Nice girls don't get a messy divorce. Or let their
ex kidnap the kids, and have to hire a detective to track him
JAN: Oh, my dear! How terrible.
RUTH: Just the tea, please, no sympathy. I got my kids
back. I'll make damn sure the bastard never gets his hands on
JAN: Do you take cream?
RUTH: Black, please.
JAN: I don't think you should turn down sympathy, Ruth.
Do you, Beth? I mean, even if you don't really need it, what harm
can it do? My mother used to make what she called a Sympathy Special.
Tea with a drop of spirits. Would you care for a dash of rum?
RUTH: Sure, Jan. I'll have rum. You know, you look almost
like MY mother. Stirring that tea.
JAN: What a sweet thing to say!
RUTH: Not if you knew her! (Ruth laughs and gives Beth
a " do you believe this?" look, but Beth avoids her eyes.)
BETH: A cup of hot tea really can be comforting.
JAN: My mothers used Southern Comfort, but I prefer rum.
It's the only alcohol I really like.
BETH: I like it, too. It smells like Christmas. I make
Hot Toddies sometimes, to ward off a chill.
JAN: Best of all, I like those concoctions you get at Polynesian
restaurants! Served in a skull, with a floating gardenia.
BETH: The "love potion"! I haven't had one in years. It
comes in a whole pineapple, with two straws, and you can't order
one just by yourself.
JAN: "Suffering Bastards." With a parasol. I've always
wanted to carry one. A Parasol, with a big flowered hat. Like
yours, Ruth. I adore it!
RUTH: Filene's Basement. Try it on. Go ahead,.
JAN: The Divine Basement - Where else? (tries on hat)
RUTH: Bloomie's, maybe.
JAN: I bet Lana just goes wild over this!
JAN: Your friend. Isn't that her name?
RUTH: What are you talking about?
JAN: The woman in the park--
BETH: You remember, Ruth. She came by to pick you up after
the fund raiser. We met her.
RUTH: Oh, you mean Nancy!
JAN: I could have sworn she said "Lana". I mean, it's so
exotic, like Lana Turner.
RUTH: She probably did say "Lana". She hates being called
Nancy, so going from Nan to Lana--
BETH: But if it's her name--
JAN: If she hates it, let her change it!
RUTH: Why not?
BETH; A girl I went to school with changed her name from
Peterson to Maridaughter. Marcia Maridaughter. I have a hard time
saying it. (SHEILA knocks on the door, Jan goes to open)
JAN: Hail, the intrepid climber!
(SHEILA stands panting, transfixed by JAN in
RUTH: Come in so Jan can shut the door, will you?
SHEILA: O. Yeah.
JAN: (realizes, takes off hat) Uh..thanks, Ruth.
It's not really me, is it?
SHEILA: How should I know? It's something.
JAN: (referring to hat) Ruth can carry it off.
SHEILA: Jan! What the hell kind of a job've you got? You
can afford all this?
JAN: I'm in software. Computers.
SHEILA: Still money in computers?
JAN: If you're in the right place at the right time. That's
where I am at the moment, so I'm stuck until I've paid off my
SHEILA:(at window) Jesus H. Christ! The view!
JAN: You should see it at sunset.
SHEILA: Isn't Ellen here? She's usually first.
BETH: Didn't she call? What about Margaret?
JAN: Margaret's on my machine from yesterday. Her boss
sent her out of town to help with an audit.
RUTH: Damn! I really wanted Margaret here.
JAN: Ellen's Mark is in bed with a fever.
SHEILA: So we're the whole committee? Jeez.
BETH: Unless Linda--
SHEILA: Forget Linda. I went by her place to get her, nobody
RUTH: If other women won't--! Never mind. No one has to
know we're a minority. We'll pick up support.
JAN: Maybe your friend Nancy-Lana. She seemed like a really
RUTH: Forget it. Nancy's allergic to churches.
JAN: Tea or coffee, Sheila?
SHEILA: Coffee. If it's made.
JAN: We're tea, but coffee's no trouble. Irish?
SHEILA: One grandmother.
JAN: Irish coffee, I meant! With whiskey. We're having
Comfort Specials, tea with rum.
SHEILA: Oh. Well, why don'tya give me that? If I don't
have do anything to deserve it.
RUTH: I Xeroxed an agenda. (hands out papers)
JAN: Aren't we organized!
BETH: But what are we organized for, exactly?
RUTH: Did you read the newsletter? Our congregations proposal's
for the Denominational Resolutions? Environment, Bombing of Civilians,
Racial Profiling, Capital Punishment, et cetera: Not one item
would differ if every woman in the world dropped dead!
JAN: Women are the civilians. Mostly.
BETH: Its my fault, I guess. I tried my best to make the
case for our Womens Agenda, but the rest of the committee just
couldnt see it as urgent--
RUTH: Right! That's exactly right! That's why we've got
to take our fight to the convention floor! Especially on child
abuse and family issues. But no, that's not Evil Doers Out There--
its Us, and its too close to home!
BETH: Ruth, you're not old enough, but I've been through
SHEILA: You start by getting angry--
BETH: We did! In '79 we rushed the podium, dozens of us.
We liberated the microphone.
RUTH: You forced them to listen!
BETH: We looked hysterical. Church ladies smile and suffer.
They work for the good of others--
SHEILA: They lose.
RUTH : You won! You were on TV, embarrassing them till
your motion passed! Twenty odd years ago, our church led the entire
left wing of liberal Christianity in empowering women.
SHEILA: Face it: the left wings been clipped. If we are
all that's leftof the left, it'll never fly. As for liberals--!
BETH: I lost a lot of friends in the fight twenty years
ago. Hilda Fry still doesn't speak to me.
SHEILA: Why do you care? Hilda's the worlds biggest bore.
Hey!? Maybe I can get her not to speak to me!
BETH: I was fond of her. We go back a long way.
RUTH: What was so awful you said about her?
BETH: It was about her husband. You know how it is. In
the excitement -- Anyway, we're not friends any more, and that's
more real to me than Resolutions, I'm afraid. What difference
do they make? I mean, we're not against the environment!
RUTH: The difference is, "we the human race" can't solve
any of these problems without equality. Women are the majority!
We are the caretakers! Were losing the gains we fought for even
here, and in most of the world were suppressed, silenced, and
sold. It's considered bad taste to bring it up!
JAN: Unless it's in a country our government wants to bomb.
SHEILA: I'm all for bad taste. Call everything by it's
honest name. Let it all hang out, hey Jan?
JAN: I guess. Only, as Beth says, it's easy to get hurt
if people who are close are forced to take sides.
BETH: It's civil war.
RUTH: Capital punishment! Without equality, why should
we care whether killers die or rot in jail? 97% of them are men!
Every day, women are murdered by their husbands or their so-called
BETH: What do you expect, when our so-called entertainment
is a training course in assault and battery?
SHEILA: Now you're for censorship? The Last Lady Liberal?
JAN: I wouldnt put down anyone's way of expressing love.
But all this violence can't be good for the children--
RUTH: It's a symptom, it's not the cause.
BETH: I'd put fighting smut at about on a par with de-genderizing
RUTH: The liturgy can be fixed with one blue pencil. "Mandkind"
is replaced by "humanity" or "people", "sons" become "children"--
BETH: That's censorship.
SHEILA: Well, that kind I'm for! I'm tired of praying to
men, singing about men, looking at all their bearded pictures.
Twelve goddam apostles on those windows, every one of them with
a goddamn beard!
BETH: Icons are easy to destroy. But ideas--
RUTH: Problem is, what good is it to ban pornography, if
you encourage the pornographic attitude that women's bodies are
SHEILA: Hey! Curling up on a cold night with a hot magazine
beats Doctor Dentons and a hot water bottle.
BETH: Those magazines turn you on?
RUTH: All I can think about is how hard it must be to suck
your tummy in and stick your tongue out at the same time.
JAN: Don't you find it distressing to go in to buy shampoo
and find women spread out like lunch meat?
SHEILA: Split beavers?! They don't "distress" me. I've
got a hair pie just as cute as Madonna's. It's the rest of me
JAN: Really, Sheila!
BETH: The models are so young and emaciated--
RUTH: Except where they have implants.
BETH: What do men see in starved twelve-year-olds?
RUTH: Someone who's no threat. And not his mother.
JAN: Maybe they see the Virgin.
SHEILA: Twelve can pass for a virgin.
JAN: I mean an innocence given freely, that neednt be fought
for or earned- like Mary's.
SHEILA: Is that how men feel?
JAN: I'm only speculating.
BETH: Who can tell? Men watch what they say around us the
same way we do around them.
SHEILA: Crap. You want to know men, watch TV. Look at Hustler.
You see any Virgin worship? Shit! It's shining eyes and skinny
butts and perky boobs, for the normal guys to jerk off.
SHEILA: Sure. Dirty old men, horny teenagers...
RUTH: Monsters in three piece suits.
JAN: I dont think you can generalize like-
SHEILA: It's OK, it's how they are: whats the harm? Unless
the guy starts to think that he can use a real female the way
he uses the pictures.
BETH: Which I don't think men would do if they had the
imagination to put themselves in the woman's. To imagine
RUTH: Men can be raped. (to JAN) Can't they?
SHEILA: Oh, yeah?
JAN: You mean by other men.
SHEILA: Believe me, there are times when if men could be
raped by women, I'd rape one.
SHEILA: Sorry, Jan. I'm corrupted by pornography.
(During the following speech the others are increasingly uncomfortable
and begin a second conversation overlapping SHEILA 's lines)
SHEILA: When I had a cyst the size of a soccer ball and
they took out it along with one of my ovaries and God knows what
else, I felt all dried up. Worse than dying. My sleazy boyfriend
bought me an "erotic art" book. Brought it into the hospital.
I'd lie there with the book on my belly and try to prime the engine.
Fantasizing that the IV tubes were connections for some space-age
screwing machine. Teasing my poor old pain numbed scar tissue
with memories of love.
RUTH: Would you reach me a napkin, please?
RUTH: Thanks. I can't help thinking about those men--.
The Catholics who were molested as altar boys?
BETH: So many! Hundreds.
RUTH: They were my son Jeffrey's age. Some even as young
BETH: I always heard priest jokes, but I never imagined--
JAN: I'ts not like they all-
BETH:100 priests. In one diocese. Not a few rotten
apples -a whole barrel.
SHEILA:(contd) I'd imagine myself in a cave, caught
by one of those Greek goat guys,. Or pretend surgery was just
Playing Doctor. Like with my cousin. We only saw each other a
couple of times a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas. Wakes and weddings.
While the grownups caught up, we did too: down my basement or
Aunt Lucy's fruit cellar Playing Doctor, tickling and rubbing
and diddling right where we'd left off maybe a year before.
RUTH: I sometimes wonder about our own minister.
BETH: I dont think so. There'd be gossip.
JAN: He's divorced, isn't he?
BETH: There was plenty of gossip about that!
RUTH: With a priest, little boys or incest is no worse
than an affair with a woman. It's all the same, and got to be
BETH: The secrecy's what makes it so damaging.
JAN: He must confess himself, or go to hell.
BETH: And this went on for decades!
RUTH: Using terror. Tell and I'll destroy your family.
The threat of hell--
SHEILA: (contd) I don't know how old we were when
we started. I don't remember starting. I do remember when we stopped.
My cousin got too big and grabby.
RUTH: There was a sitter when I was five who wanted me
to play Baby.
JAN: To play Baby?
RUTH: To suck him.
BETH: Today they want little kids to play Grownup. Act
out what they see on cable TV!
SHEILA: But you can't protect a kid from what's inside.
Call it sin and wall it out, cut it off, you kill what's most
alive. Then you get dirty and perverted.
BETH: I say we add pornography to the agenda.
SHEILA: Even if you keep your daughters out of the hands
of men, what about their own hands? What about booze, and pills?
What about a razor?
RUTH: Also we renew our campaign for equal pay. Women are
losing ground all over, slipping down the job ladder at the same
time the welfare net has been yanked out from under us.
BETH: Every dollar spent on Defense increases the disparity.
Women aren't hired to design weapons, or even consulted--
SHEILA: Cause that's rocket science. Wiping asses ain't.
RUTH: Nursing and elementary school are harder than rocket
science. In brains and judgment, they're comparable work.
SHEILA: What if you can't get comparable work? If your
daughter grows up like you-- the only experience she has ain't
the kind you can put on a resume! My old Ma, she caught herself
a man, all right, even hung onto him. Her mistake was to outlive
him. What'll comparable work do for her?
BETH: Sheila, we're in a struggle that will outlast us
SHEILA: Women my age! Or Jan's! Trained to shut up, and
RUTH: A transitional generation--
SHEILA: Tough titty for us, huh?
BETH: If we're moving forward, if it's only temporary--
SHEILA: That's me. The eternal temp. Temporary wife, stop-gap
mother, file clerk or sperm hole. A body that works cheap until
a better one comes along. Not Jan, though. Not cheap.
JAN: We need to concentrate on what we might correct.
BETH: Like our own denomination. Women are 80% of the volunteers,
why can't we have at least half the paid positions? 60% of the
scholarship money. Places in divinity school..
JAN: Then, we tackle the World Council of Churches.
SHEILA: Why not start with Congress? An constitutional
amendment: one senator from each state a she!
BETH: There are countries where they have--
SHEILA: Not Russia! Russia's gone backwards. Did away with
quotas, kicked out all the girls!
BETH: Iceland. France!
RUTH: Vive la France!
BETH: Maybe if France's ex-colonies follow that example--
JAN: You mean like Morocco?
RUTH: Wouldnt it be a hoot if half the Mullahs were Mamas?
JAN: The Mamas and the Pappas. (they laugh)
SHEILA: Tackle the Pappa at the Vatican. Demand pairs,
a he-Pope and a she-Pope!
RUTH: But I don't want more Popes!
BETH: One is more than enough.
JAN: Catholics do honor the Virgin. And have female saints.
SHEILA: Now if only they had a Saint Sheila the Unkempt,
patroness of lost faith and lost minds-
RUTH: A Mother Superior for every monastery. With 3 you
get egg roll!
JAN: This is getting pretty silly.
BETH: Silly? Silly is when the bishops decide that only
males can be priests, because Christ came with a male organ.
SHEILA: If he ever came at all.
JAN: Do you think Christ really had a penis? I mean, he
had to move around freely and preach, only males were allowed,
so he had to look male. But I don't believe he really was.
BETH: Wouldn't his parents've noticed?
JAN: He was conceived of the Holy Ghost.
SHEILA: So he could look like a hole or a ghost.
BETH: There's a Feast of the Circumcision. Presumably there
was something to cut.
SHEILA: Weird, huh? That flap of skin as the Sign of the
JAN: But maybe more was sacrificed: maybe the whole thing.
BETH: Three separate shrines have Christ's foreskin, so
there must've been quite a bit of it.
JAN: If he'd been in bodily form the woman that he was
in spirit, no one would've taken him seriously in those days.
SHEILA: In those days or now.
JAN: Jesus took women seriously himself.
SHEILA: He didn't make them Disciples.
BETH: Women were disciples! Martha, and Thekla, and Mary
SHEILA: Too bad the Magdalene didn't write out her Acts!
RUTH: She did! In the Gnostic Gospels.
SHEILA: That's in the Bible?
BETH: The apocrypha, not the official canon. It was suppressed
SHEILA: A long time to do without.
JAN: I think of the Virgin as the second part of the Law.
You know, do justice, and love Mercy? The Virgin's Mercy.
SHEILA: Will you shut up about the Virgin? Virginity's
nothing! Never-had Never-Never land!
JAN: Tearing Mary down diminishes all women. She's love.
SHEILA: Selfless, right! Selfless, like Mary. "According
to Thy will. Cause I am nothing.
JAN: God's feminine aspect is Sophia, Holy Wisdom--
SHEILA: If you're so crazy about the One True Church, why
don't you go back to her?
JAN: Well, I--I---
BETH: Sheila, Jan has joined our church. Made the committment.
We don't ask people why they left the faith they were born in.
SHEILA: I'll tell you why. I wanted to live in sin. At
least I did then, and I'd do it again if I got the chance. So
I can't kneel down to some old fart and say, "father, forgive
BETH: That's a standard Protestant reason, you know. Martin
Luther left and married a nun.
JAN: If I understand what you're getting at--
SHEILA: Forget it! I'm a Wild Woman. Aren't you, Ruth?
RUTH: What do you mean?
SHEILA: Bet ya are. Under those frilly hats. A Wild Woman
who's got no patience with hypocrisy and bullshit.
BETH: If we had any real power-
SHEILA: They'll never give it to us! But at least for once
we can howl out loud, and let em know we resent it!
RUTH: Right! The first time two men in a row stand up to
speak to the question, we start the shouting: "take turns! take
turns!" And we keep shouting until they give us the mic!
BETH: The men'll walk out. They'll leave.
BETH: No, it's not. They'll take their money and their
wives and theyll go somewhere women will stay in their place.
Where men can control the conversation and be comfortable.
JAN: That's what happened in the seventies?
BETH: Women won, but the church collapsed.
SHEILA: Your marriage collapsed too, didnt it? You got
uppity, he got a new wife.
BETH: That's not the whole story--
SHEILA: But it is! We can't win: they make all the rules!
If by some miracle we the majority voted ourselves half the senate
and Cardinal's hats and seats on the stock exchange, -- which
we won't, because women are always thinking about their fathers
and sons and lovers and humanity and all-- men would show up in
skirts and grab them anyway. (to JAN ) Wouldn't
JAN: I've heard some men say that women should run things.
At least for a while, to compensate--
SHEILA: An experiment.
JAN: Kind of a Time Out from aggression.
SHEILA: You think that's sex?
JAN: Not sex. Gender. Universal yang and yin...
SHEILA: Shit! Most of that passive patient stuff is just
fear. If you can't win a fight, your best bet is to keep the peace.
BETH: You think we have a chance to win this time, Ruth?
RUTH: That's not the point! We have to fight, even if we
are bound to lose! Somebody has to, to shout out a warning as
humanity goes marching over a cliff again, if just for the satisfaction
of saying I told you so as we all fall down! We are the Prophetic
Voice -- or who will be? If on Sunday we lose by a landslide--.
JAN: This Sunday?
BETH: That's when the delegates are instructed for the
JAN: We've got do this carefully. Not seem too strident.
SHEILA: Strident? We're gonna yell "take turns"!
JAN: But if the initial presentation is too-- militant--?
SHEILA: God forbid! We'd be taken for dykes! Eh, Ruthie?
JAN: Will you be the one presenting our Agenda, Ruth?
RUTH: I thought about asking the minister..
SHEILA: Hell, no. No!
BETH: He's very sympathetic..
SHEILA: Not a skinny bearded white prick-- a 300 lb. Polynesian,
with breasts like watermelons! Twelve of em, apostles --
BETH: Unless we want people to cover their ears and run
for the doors, the Woman's Committee should at least try to look
SHEILA: Define normal.
BETH: Like the rest of the congregation.
RUTH: Blend in with the scenery.
BETH: No camoflage or combat boots. No feathers, fezzes,
or beads. We mustn't frighten them-- especially the women.
RUTH: Ellen'll be with us. She'll wear office clothes.
(JAN goes to closet,)
JAN: What do you think of this dress?
BETH: It's perfect! (checks label) The company you
work for must be very classy.
JAN: Well, the pay is. I don't wear this to work.
SHEILA: Your Sunday best?
RUTH: I wish I had something this nice. Jason threw mud
on my only really good outfit, and I won't get it back from the
cleaner's till Monday.)
JAN: You might try this one. (gets another dress)
BETH: It'd be way big.
JAN: Not belted. I wear it at the knee, but calf length
would be flattering--
BETH:(holds it up to herself) It's gorgeous!
JAN: Sometimes it takes frills to bring out what's really
SHEILA: What a freak show! (SHEILA applauds)
SHEILA: Come as you are, I say. What do you say, Ruth?
BETH: Margaret's preppie, Linda's Harvard ethnic. If Ruth's
friend Lana --
RUTH: Will you shut up about Lana?
SHEILA: How about Authentic Angry? A style from the floor
of the closet.
JAN: Wear slacks if you want to.
BETH: Nobody says you should be uncomfortable.
JAN: But don't you think this'd look nice? (holds jacket
up to SHEILA)
RUTH: Look at it in the mirror, Sheila.
SHEILA: Thats not ME!
JAN: It'd just take a minute to replace those safety pins.
I've a sewing kit right here--
SHEILA: I popped the buttons when I sneezed. Also I wet
my pants. Guys don't do that: wet when they sneeze, or run in
marathons: lady runners are subject to incontinence. Did you know
JAN: I've never thought about--
SHEILA: They don't sweat as much, the lady runners, but
it's better not to be incontinent, don't you think? I popped this
button, thought I was getting fat... fatter-- cause I thought
I was into menopause, but I wasn't. I was pregnant. Forty-eight
and pregnant. Would you like to see the scars? Not from that one:
I had an abortion, those scars are inside. Scars from the twins.
Big as a house, stretch marks like I'd been run over by a tractor-trailer.
Then the Cesarean: huge scars from when Rowena and Rebecca came
into the world, and even bigger ones from when Rowena took herself
out of it.
BETH: Sheila! I'm so sorry-
SHEILA: Her sister found her. Said it was my fault, I never
gave Rowena what she needed. Wasn't kind enough, wasnt understanding.
Rebecca went to live with her father, she can't stand to look
at me. He's not understanding either, but a man's not expected,
she doesn't blame him. And I don't blame her. She has her own
scars, like every woman- in fact, that's how I define it. Womanhood.
Not being selfless, or wearing frilly clothes. (SHEILA
attacks, tears at JAN's skirt ) So wher are
your scars, Jan? Can't be a woman without scars--
JAN: Let go! Sheila, get away..
SHEILA: Let me see the scars! Or is it no big deal, your
BETH: Sheila, control yourself, act like a...
SHEILA: Lady!? (laughs) Like Jan? Beth, look at him! You
know that perfect lady's not a woman, don't you? You must, I can't
be the only one !
JAN: Get away from me, I'm warning you...
SHEILA: God! He's not even-! He's still got his-!
BETH: Stop that, both-! Watch out. Sheila, He's-!
(JAN knocks SHEILA down)
SHEILA: (sprawling) Oooff!
BETH (overlap) Are you all right? You're hurt--
JAN: Sorry, she shouldn't- Beth! You called me-
SHEILA: Don't teach that punch in Girl Scouts.
JAN: (defeated) Basic training.
SHEILA: Muscles, a right cross, six inches of cock:
some lady you are.
JAN: I am. Inside.
SHEILA: Cause you want to wear a dress? What does that
JAN: I was born wrong, can't you see? I need the operation
to set it right.
SHEILA: Trade up to a bigger set of falsies.
JAN: (hands on bosom) This is my own.
JAN: Hormones. Two years of hormones.
SHEILA: Ain't science grand, Dr. Frankenstein! They grow
you breasts, they cut off your dong, and you're one of the girls!
Why stop there? Slice off an ear, presto: Van Gogh! Saw yourself
off at the knees for Lautrec! Jesus, H. Christ! It makes me sick.
BETH: I think it's rather sweet.
RUTH: Liking women so well he has to be one.
SHEILA: It's contempt! For himself, for us.
BETH: Imitation's the sincerest form of flattery.
SHEILA: Thinking we're nothings? "According to thy will"
is crap! Catholic crap!
JAN: It's not meant like that. I've always...
SHEILA: Expecting us to welcome a- fake. A middle age Barbie
SHEILA: I'd like to see him smear himself with burnt cork
and join the black caucus!
BETH: But if he wants to work on our side..
SHEILA: With his fellow eunuchs. Amputees.
JAN: Gender has nothing to do with organs-
SHEILA: Or cramps? Or hot flashes? Tell us all about it!--
after you've been pregnant.
JAN: I've had children. Two sons, almost grown. I love
them, but there's no way I could be a father to them. I tried.
SHEILA: You fathered kids?
JAN: Procreation's easy. But fathering? Much more of a
charade than this, believe me.
RUTH: You have a wife?
JAN: I had one.
SHEILA: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!.
JAN: My wife's been very understanding.
RUTH: We usually are, aren't we?
SHEILA: She? -- They? went along with this?
RUTH: Just like we did!
JAN: All of you? You never believed I'm a woman?
BETH: I didn't want to say anything that'd hurt you. And-
sometimes, when were talking, I forget.
SHEILA: Not me. Every minute, I knew. Every minute's an
BETH: This whole thing reminds me-- When I was seven or
eight and visiting my grandmother, she had a neighbor, a young
man, who was "artistic". I'd visit his family's apartment and
he'd draw pictures for me, with pastels. Not very good pictures,
I suppose, but for a little girl they were magical. Teddy bears
and dancing girls and bouquets of flowers. And sometimes the young
man,-- I've forgotten his name-- sometimes he'd go out of the
room and his "cousin Rita" would come in instead, all blond hair
and lipstick and elegant gowns.
SHEILA: Freaked you out.
BETH: Not at all! Oh, even at seven, I knew there was something
naughty going on that I probably shouldn't tell my grandma. But
magical! To be an artist. To create not only pretty pictures but
a living being, another self. He was able to live in two worlds-
even then, I envied that. If I could pass for a man, I'd do it.
RUTH: You would?
BETH: Sometimes. If I could still be a woman, too--
JAN: I thought I was better. People at the church treat
me like a lady.
SHEILA: Yeah, well, the hypocrisy runs pretty deep. They
treat me like a Protestant.
BETH: You're good, Jan. Like a lady is how you ought to
SHEILA: Good! Jan's perfect, the perfect lady! But why
shouldn't she be? Man's ideal: smiling, suffering, all good deeds
and no wildness, no resentment--!
JAN: I feel resentment! That's why I joined your committee.
I'm competent: I'm an engineer. Wearing a skirt doesn't make it
OK for some dumb bus driver to condescend to us.
SHEILA: You mean us, skirt wearers?
RUTH: You know what Jan means.
JAN: If you had any idea how happy you made me: what a
joy it was to think you'd accepted me! I felt in a state of grace.
A woman among women.
BETH: Not often you get a state of grace from a committee.
JAN: Well, I guess I owe you all my thanks, with apologies.
It seems you've been very kind.
SHEILA: It's kind, to feed a sick fantasy?
BETH: Why sick?
SHEILA: Life comes in sizes and colors. You take what God's
given- you don't spit on your own flesh. If out of some kind of
misguided niceness I pretend a mask he's wearing is a human face,
I'm part of his lie. A liar too!
BETH: If Jan honestly thinks -
SHEILA: He can't, the way women are! It's a lie.
JAN: Even if what you say is true, I can't accept the alternative.
Some lies are better than others. I'll go away: but I wont go
back. My life is set on this path- however thorny. You've been
more than kind-- enlightening-- and for the most part it's been
a pleasure.(shakes hands with RUTH)
BETH: Ruth, don't kick him out, we need her!
SHEILA: His classy job and his pile of dough?
JAN: I don't have money, Sheila. It all goes for medical
BETH: Because he cares. Jan's a caring person.
SHEILA: This parody?
RUTH: They tell us the word "man" means both sexes -- so
why can't woman? If Jan says he's a woman, maybe that's his way
of saying human.
BETH: Sheila, whatever Jan is, is on the right side! Women
can be big enough, we can include-
RUTH: I'll wear your dress, Jan, (picks up dress)
Thanks. But I'll bring one of my own to change into before Jason
has a chance to destroy it.
SHEILA: All right. All right! If you're still willing to
lend the jacket, I own a decent pair of slacks. You won't wince
to be seen with me.
JAN: I've got to resign. If you weren't convinced, the
congregation won't be. They'll see an impersonator.
BETH: They won't mention it. Christian forbearance.
RUTH: You're not the only one who has to use art. I don't
go up to Jeanne Tormond and point out her dark roots, or tell
her to stop shopping in the teen section.
SHEILA: Frank Snelling's a slumlord, for Christ's sake!
We elected him to the finance committee.
JAN: I .. I don't know what to say.
SHEILA: Just promise me one thing. Don't run for national
office! Tennis champs, surgeons, dancers are bad enough: but it'd
really piss me off if one of you trans people was the first woman
RUTH: Will you shut up!
SHEILA: At the hospital, there's a guy Head Nurse! I mean,
the U.S. President has to be born here. Can't the first woman
at least be a born woman, without a head start? (all laugh)
Plus which, you better teach me that right cross.
JAN: Sheila, I'm really sorry. The way I was born- it was
nothing I wanted.(SHEILA picks up JAN's robe)
SHEILA: You wanted this? Some consolation prize, for impotence.
JAN: Not impotence. No. Power of a different sort. Receptivity.
The power to feel, to be touched, to contemplate without ...(strokes
the robe) When I was a child, I built a tent out of blankets stretched
over the dining room table. I'd hide in there, away from my bully
of a brother and his friends. My mother would protect me. As long
as I was in there the big boys were to leave me alone. I'd lie
quietly, listening to her records- mostly early music records,
motets and Gregorian chant. My father hated them, he called them
depressing, so she'd only play them afternoons. They weren't depressing
to me, just mysterious. Strange, far off sounds of faith and comfort.
BETH: Even in my most radical stage, I took comfort from
the ancient liturgy. When I was really depressed, I'd sneak into
a vesper service at the Anglicans.
SHEILA: Smells and bells do get to you.
JAN: I'd sneak my mother's robe under there, as a pillow.
It smelled of soap, like the nuns. We didn't go to church very
often, but I was fascinated by the nuns, and by the statues and
RUTH: Mother Mary Queen of Heaven in her sky-blue robe.
JAN: And the nuns, like black birds.
SHEILA: Truth is, I miss the blackbirds. Not Sister Luke
with her ever ready ruler, but my art teacher....
JAN: There was one old one with such a sweet smile. I used
to fall asleep in my tent and dream that I was a nun, old and
sweet, walking down the cloister in my veil, my skirts trailing
behind. The sun was warm, roses bloomed, and I would gather herbs
for healing. I knew all their names. Each one had a Latin name
and a common name, and there was a special prayer to say over
each of them. I gathered them tenderly, reciting the prayer, thinking
of lovingkindness. Isnt that a peaceful word, lovingkindness?
BETH: It is. (BETH puts her arm around JAN
JAN:There was such peace in that dream, or day dream. Such
peace. When I came to consciousness the peace was still all around
me, but when I look down and see my clothes, my body, it begins
to drain away....
That peace will be mine some day, I know it will. Holy Mary, Mother
of God, pray ..(SHEILA joins JAN'S prayer)
for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.