Finalist, 2015 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Drama
Discharged from the Marines under suspicious circumstances, Isaac comes home from the wars, only to find the life he remembers upended. Isaac’s father, who once ruled the family with an iron fist, has had a debilitating stroke; his younger sister, Maxine, is now his brother, Max; and their mother, Paige, is committed to revolution at any cost. Determined to be free of any responsibility toward her formerly abusive husbandor the home he createdPaige fervently believes she can lead the way to a "new world order." Hir, Taylor Mac’s subversive comedy, leaves many of our so-called normative and progressive ideas about gender, families, the middle classand cleaningin hilarious and ultimately tragic disarray.
|Publisher:||Northwestern University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
TAYLOR MAC’s plays include The Bourgeois Oligarch, The Fre, The Lily’s Revenge, The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, The Young Ladies Of, Red Tide Blooming, and The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac.
Read an Excerpt
By Taylor Mac
Northwestern University PressCopyright © 2015 Taylor Mac
All rights reserved.
Paige Connor, 55. Cisgender mother to Max and Isaac. Wife to Arnold. Main actions are to entertain, excite (with new information she's discovered), and tear apart the old regimes.
Arnold Connor, 58. Cisgender father to Isaac and Max. Husband to Paige. Main actions are those of an old dog: eat, sleep, and get comfortable. Arnold was an angry man but has had a stroke, which turned him into more of a clown — rather like a slower and older Harpo Marx. When he feels something, he expresses it, uncensored. In a heartbeat, he can switch from complete joy to complete sorrow and back again.
Isaac Connor, 24. Cisgender son of Paige and Arnold. Brother to Max. Main actions are to assess the situation, assert himself, convert, and keep things under control. The action is, for Isaac, one long attempt at squashing down a major PTSD explosion. At times he is more successful than others (meaning he can almost relax) and he uses different, lighter tactics (including teasing), but ultimately he fails. There should be peaks and valleys, but a slow burn is what's been crafted into the play.
Max Connor, 17. Transgender child of Paige and Arnold. Sibling to Isaac. Main actions are to excite (with new information ze's discovered), ward off attacks, showboat, raise hir status on the family totem pole, and stake hir intellectual territory. Ideally, the actor playing Max should be someone who was a biological female and now identifies as transgender or gender-queer.
The action of the play takes place in the kitchen and family room of a prairie-style house in the central valley of California, during a particularly hot summer, in August. It is the kind of home that, no matter how hard you clean, will always seem dirty. Dishes are piled up in the sink; the cracking wallpaper bears decade-old stains; piles of laundry are strewn about to the point where it's difficult to walk; and there seems to be a layer of dust on everything. It is an absolute disaster. There are two doors: the front door, and the back door, which leads to a medium-sized backyard. A hallway leads from the kitchen to the bedrooms. Arnold's cot is visible in the living room, as is part of the couch. The house was built by a first-time builder, in the early '70s, never intended to last as long as it has. It is a starter home that never really got started and can't seem to end.
[Seven o'clock in the morning. PAIGE is waiting by the door, looking out of it. She's had too much coffee. ARNOLD eats a bowl of mush as someone with brain damage would. He wears a frilly woman's nightgown. He has extreme makeup on and a clown wig, making him look like an effeminate cross-dressing clown. PAIGE pours herself another cup of coffee. She goes back to the door.]
ISAAC [trying to open the front door, which is blocked by too much stuff]: I'm home —
ISAAC [trying to open the door]: Is something blocking the door?
PAIGE: Come around back. Arnold, get in your place!
ISAAC: Why won't the door open?
PAIGE: I thought you'd use the back.
ISAAC: Why wouldn't I use the front door?
PAIGE: It's blocked.
ISAAC: What's blocking it?
PAIGE: We were getting rid of things and stopped caring.
ISAAC: So you left stuff blocking the door?
PAIGE: Come around back.
ISAAC: You can't move the stuff?
PAIGE: There's too much.
ISAAC: That's a fire hazard, Mom.
PAIGE: Oh, wouldn't that be wonderful.
PAIGE: Come around back.
ISAAC: I'm coming 'round back.
ISAAC: I said —
PAIGE: Come around back.
ISAAC: I know.
PAIGE [running to the hallway and shouting down it]: MAAAAAAAAX, YOUR BROTHER IS FINALLY HERE FROM THE WAR!
[To ARNOLD, excited for ISAAC to see ARNOLD in his place, dressed like a clown] Arnie. Away from the door. Arnie. Arnie away from the door. Arnie. Arnold, sit in your chair. Your chair. Sit in your chair. Arnold! Get in your place for I.
[PAIGE loses patience and moves ARNOLD to the chair.]
ISAAC [opening the back door and entering]: Why's the lawn so overgrown —
[Seeing the disaster that is the home] OOAH!
PAIGE [scared by ISAAC's scream]: OOAH!
ISAAC: JESUS HELL!
PAIGE [laughing]: You scared me.
ISAAC: What happened?
PAIGE: Why did you yell like that?
ISAAC: It's a fucking disaster in here.
ISAAC: What —
PAIGE [to ISAAC]: Sit down.
ISAAC [meaning, "answer me"]: Mom!
PAIGE [excited to tell him]: Honey, sit down, I have so much to tell you. Arnie, close the door.
ISAAC [seeing ARNOLD for the first time and freaking out]: OOAH!
PAIGE [another scared scream at his scream]: OOAH!
[Laughing] You keep scaring me.
PAIGE [to ISAAC]: Isn't it great. Arnie, close the door, you can see the heat in waves. Arnie, close the door. The air can't fight the world. We're cooling and heating the planet at the same time. Arnie, close the door. Arnie, close the door. The door. Close it. Close it. Close the door. Yes the door. Yes the door, the door. Close the door.
ISAAC: I got it —
PAIGE [to ISAAC]: He will do it!
[To ARNOLD]: Arnie, close the door. Close the door. Arnold, close the door. Yes. The door. The door. Close the door. Close it. Close. Close. Close the door. Close the door. Close the door, close the door, close the door, close the door, close the door. Door. Door. Door. Close. Close door. Yes. Hand. Hand on knob. Hand on knob. Yes. Yes. Push. Push. Yes. YES. CLOSE THE DOOR!
[ARNOLD closes the door. Pause. ISAAC suddenly runs to the kitchen sink and pukes. PAIGE almost goes to help him but doesn't know what to do.]
ISAAC: Why are there dishes everywhere?
ARNOLD [going to turn the air-conditioning off]: It's cold.
PAIGE: Don't you turn off that air.
ISAAC [to ARNOLD]: Why are you dressed like that?
ARNOLD: It's cold.
PAIGE [calling down the hallway to MAX]: MAAAAAAAAX. GET IN HERE. YOUR BROTHER HAS FINALLY ARRIVED AND I WOULD RATHER NOT BE ANY LATER THAN WE'RE ALREADY GOING TO BE.
ARNOLD [holding his penis, which is a habit he has]: It's cold.
PAIGE: Yes, we heard you, Arnie.
ISAAC: Why is there air-conditioning?
PAIGE: I wanted it.
ISAAC: He's shivering.
PAIGE: Of course he is. It's freezing in here.
ISAAC [going to turn the air-conditioning off]: He hates air-conditioning.
PAIGE: Don't you touch that air. That air goes off when I say it goes off.
[Excited to share this new information] This is not a house of sweat anymore, Isaac.
[To ARNOLD, while throwing him a pink sweater with bedazzled kittens embroidered on it and reprimanding him for not following the rules] You know when you're cold, you put on Sparkle Kitty.
PAIGE: Don't hold your penis.
[PAIGE squirts ARNOLD with a spray bottle, the way you would a cat you're trying to train.]
ISAAC: Dad, why do you have makeup on?
PAIGE [a realization]: I forgot his estrogen. Too much new stuff. His complacence is contingent on the routines.
[As if to say, "How could anyone keep track of all this?"] Look at his pills. There's all kinds of rules about when and how but I figure, if he doesn't have that long to live, all at once is fine. He won't swallow them so you have to put them in a shaky-shake. It takes him forever to drink it so you have to sit with him.
[During the following she makes ARNOLD his shake.]
ISAAC: The doctors prescribed him estrogen?
PAIGE: Oh god no. The doctors prescribed him poodle-diddle-wing-wang. The estrogen's extra.
PAIGE: It keeps him docile.
ISAAC: He's gonna grow tits.
PAIGE [commenting on his speech]: Grammar!
ISAAC: He's going to grow tits.
ISAAC: He's going to grow breasts.
PAIGE: Then he can fondle himself.
[Actually concerned about ISAAC] You're so skinny. Isn't the military suppose to make you bulky?
ISAAC: You can't give him, Dad ... men, estrogen.
PAIGE: Is that what the Marine Medical Affairs says?
ISAAC: I'm in the Mortuary Affairs. It's not medical. I pick up guts. Exploded guts.
PAIGE [suddenly emotional, regarding how dangerous ISAAC's job is]: Whose fault is that, that you chose to join the Mortuary Affairs?
ISAAC: Someone has to do it.
PAIGE: Someone does not have to do it.
ISAAC: You can't leave body parts lying around.
PAIGE: If it means you risking your life to pick them up, yes, you can.
ISAAC: The families need me to send their kids home.
PAIGE: You read that in the handbook.
ISAAC: That doesn't make it untrue.
PAIGE [actual concern]: You don't know what that job has done to you, I.
ISAAC: I'm okay.
PAIGE [actual concern]: You don't know what you are. These things sneak up on you. They infect.
ISAAC: Nothing's wrong with me.
PAIGE: You think that because you've gotten numb to it. You can't pick up dead things every day and not get numb to it.
ISAAC: I'm fine.
PAIGE: You're obviously not fine.
ISAAC: Why does he have makeup on?
PAIGE: We were supposed to start this off right. [Slight pause] It's just makeup.
ISAAC: He put makeup on himself?
PAIGE: I was sitting around waiting for you.
ISAAC: You made him look like that?
PAIGE: It's what we do now. We play dress up. I thought it'd make you laugh.
ISAAC: Well it doesn't make me laugh. Fucking hell —
ISAAC [taking the wig off ARNOLD but speaking about PAIGE]: What's the matter with you!
PAIGE: Oh don't do that. You'll spoil it.
ISAAC [looking in a drawer where the rags used to be and not finding them]: He let you do that to him?
PAIGE: He's not all there, I. It's okay. He doesn't even know.
ISAAC [looking through the laundry on the floor]: I need a rag.
PAIGE: What for?
ISAAC: There's laundry everywhere!
PAIGE: I didn't want to fold it.
ISAAC: You left clean laundry on the floor?
PAIGE: I don't do laundry anymore.
ISAAC: It looks like a fucking squat in here. I can't find a rag. I need a rag. Why aren't they where they're supposed to be?
PAIGE: Use a shirt.
ISAAC: I NEED A RAG.
PAIGE [throwing a T-shirt at him]: USE A SHIRT. IT DOESN'T MATTER!
[ISAAC tries to take ARNOLD's makeup off with the T-shirt.]
[Disappointed that he's taking ARNOLD's makeup off] What? No. It took me all morning to do that face.
ARNOLD [a little hurt by ISAAC's rough wiping]: Err.
[ISAAC goes to get some Crisco.]
Where's the Crisco?
PAIGE: You want to make a stir-fry?
ISAAC: To take that shit off his face.
PAIGE: Isaac, slow down.
ISAAC [regarding the Crisco]: Why isn't it in its place?
PAIGE [excited to share this new information]: We don't do places anymore.
ISAAC [opening a cupboard]: You just put things in random cupboards?
[The cupboard has nothing in it.]
PAIGE: We don't do cupboards anymore. We don't do order. Places and cupboards are what your father wanted so now they're your father's job. And since he just likes to stand by the door hoping to flee, the house is a disaster.
[During the following, ARNOLD gets up and stands by the door.]
PAIGE: He likes to escape and waddle through the neighborhood tract yards of mediocrity. You have to keep an eye on him. We're becoming the talk of the block. People wave at us. They never used to wave. Now they wave. They don't say hi. Just wave. Arnie, away from the door.
[Calling down the hallway to MAX] MAAAAAAX. WE WILL BE STUCK IN TRAFFIC.
ISAAC: I just got here. You're going somewhere?
PAIGE: You're coming with us. Saturdays are homeschool cultural outing days. We drive to the city and go to museums and galleries, concerts.
PAIGE: The public school was not a healthy environment for Max.
ISAAC: You had one semester of junior college.
ISAAC: You don't know enough to homeschool.
PAIGE: Don't you tell me what I know enough to do! [Meaning, "if they are allowed to, I should be allowed to"] People who believe Adam and Eve populated the planet are allowed to homeschool.
ISAAC: Everybody has problems at school. Problems are normal.
PAIGE: They let people homeschool who aren't sophisticated enough to understand metaphor.
ISAAC: If you needed help you should have told me, but you can't just take Max out of school.
PAIGE: I'm all about the metaphor now.
ISAAC: She's the smart one. You're gonna ruin that.
PAIGE: Don't you tell me what I am and am not qualified to do.
ISAAC: You can't do stuff like that. You can't dress people up in clown outfits and let the house go to seed. You said Dad had a little stroke but that he was okay. Look at him. That is not okay. WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!
PAIGE [slight pause]: You're not supposed to tell people who go to the wars about local adversity. Lots of things have happened, I, that we haven't told you. A refugee woman down the street got hit by a car. Should I have sent a tweet? She was running after her dog.
[During the following PAIGE turns on the blender. ISAAC tries to keep it together as the noise gives him a little PTSD reaction.]
[Speaking loudly over the sound of the blender] SHE CAME HERE TO ESCAPE BIG THINGS. SHE EXPECTED TO BE BLOWN UP, MUTILATED, OR EATEN BY A STOMACH WORM, BUT TO BE HIT BY A CAR? RUNNING AFTER HER DOG IN THE GOOD OLD U.S. OF A.? AFTER ALL THAT MISERY, YOU'D THINK SHE'D LEARN TO PRIORITIZE HERSELF OVER HER SCHNAUZER.
[ISAAC pukes in the sink.]
[Turning off the blender and with actual concern] What's wrong?
ISAAC [his head in the sink]: I'm fine.
[PAIGE turns on the blender. ISAAC starts puking. PAIGE turns off the blender.]
PAIGE: Is it the blender?
[PAIGE turns on the blender. ISAAC starts to puke again. PAIGE turns off the blender.]
PAIGE: I think it's the blender.
ISAAC: I'm fine.
[PAIGE turns the blender on. ISAAC starts puking and PAIGE turns the blender off. ISAAC stops puking. Slight pause. She turns it on and ISAAC starts puking. She turns it off. He stops. On: puke. Off: no puke. On: puke. Off: no puke. Pause. On: ISAAC yanks the blender out of the socket. A pause. PAIGE puts her hand on his head. He shakes her off. Pause.]
PAIGE: Are you going to apologize for being late?
ISAAC: Said seven.
PAIGE [correcting ISAAC's speech]: Who said seven?
ISAAC: You said get here by seven. I'm here. It's seven.
PAIGE: I said I wanted to be on the road by seven.
ISAAC: Some people get parades and banners and I come home to this?
PAIGE [a sincere question]: You wanted a banner?
ISAAC: Yes. Three years away from home, in a war zone, I want to have a banner and cookies and a clean home and a father who isn't dressed up like some crazy tranny clown.
PAIGE: Don't say that word.
PAIGE: Tranny. [Obviously quoting someone] "Only people who want to be reality TV stars say that word." [Showing two sets of shoes] How are the shoes?
PAIGE: You can't let me know which ones you prefer?
ISAAC: They're both fine.
PAIGE: Yes, but who ever wanted to be fine? Whoever wanted to be a C student? [Excited to share this new information] You become a C student and you live a C life, Isaac.
ISAAC: The black ones.
PAIGE: Thank you.
[She's about to put on the black shoes but then considers it might be sabotage and puts the light blue ones on to show him.]
What's the situation?
ISAAC: You look ... fine.
PAIGE [calling down the hallway]: MAAAAAAX! WE ARE LEAVING IN TWO MINUTES.
ISAAC: Dad can't leave the house like that.
PAIGE [surprised that ISAAC would think she'd take ARNOLD]: He's not going. I've become a little more eccentric since last you saw me but I'm not insane.
ISAAC: Who's gonna take care of him?
PAIGE: Gonna? Gonna!
ISAAC: Who is going to look after him while we are supposed to be gone?
PAIGE: Nobody. Same as when we go to work. Plop him on the couch, lock the door, and he's there when we get back.
ISAAC: You leave him alone?
ISAAC: All day.
PAIGE: I'm doing things. I'm not missing being part of the world to hang out with your father.
ISAAC: Dad is part of the world.
PAIGE [as if smelling rotten milk]: Ew.
ISAAC: Mother —
PAIGE [slight pause]: I discovered the most amazing thing, I. It used to be you could be a mediocre straight white man and be guaranteed a certain amount of success. But now you actually have to improve yourself. Because now ... [in a mock horror movie trailer voice-over voice] The darkies have come. And the spics. And the queers. And those backstabbing bitches waiting to get at the mediocre straight white man the minute it becomes known he is barely lifting a finger but thinking he is lifting the world.
Excerpted from Hir by Taylor Mac. Copyright © 2015 Taylor Mac. Excerpted by permission of Northwestern University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents