A One Act Play

The Gender Agenda

By G. L. Horton
copyright © 1983 Geralyn Horton

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 be?

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.

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. (click)

(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 number)
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 intercom) Hello!

BETH ON INTERCOM It's Beth. Beth Woodside, from United--

JAN: (intercom) Of course, Beth! Come on up. (off)
Shit! (hurries into shoes, earrings, opens door; graciously)

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 Ruth.

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 dashing!

RUTH: I came from work. No sense jaunting out to the suburbs and back.

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 you are?

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.

JAN: Claustrophobia?

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 some tea?

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 regulars.

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 down.

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 them again.

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!

RUTH: Lana?

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 the hat)

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 bills.

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 was home.

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 strong person--

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 this.

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 lovers-

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 the liturgy.

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 shameful.

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 that suffers--

JAN: Really, Sheila!

SHEILA: Really?

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.

BETH: Normal?!

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 being raped.

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.

JAN: Sheila!

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?

JAN: Surely.

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 as Jason.

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 secret.

BETH: The secrecy's what makes it so damaging.

: 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 all.

SHEILA: Women my age! Or Jan's! Trained to shut up, and serve men.

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 Covenant.

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 Magdalene-

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 in 440-something.

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. Selfless--

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 me."

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 they?

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 National..

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 normal.

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 simple, inside.

SHEILA: What a freak show! (SHEILA applauds)

BETH: Sheila...

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)

: 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 that, Jan?

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 amputation--

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 make me?

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.

RUTH: Implants?

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 doll!

RUTH: Sheila--

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 insult.

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 be treated.

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 bills.

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 elected!

: 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.

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 the candles.

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.

ALL: Amen.



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