SHORT PLAY — “Inside/Outside”

There is a systemic presence of racism and bigotry across our world. We are forced from childhood to define “other” by arbitrary characteristics like skin color, to see difference as a sign of danger.

Art can help us bridge this difference, to work through our trauma. It helps us analyze our experiences, and sometimes can put hard-to-understand things into clearer words.

I will never understand the experience of Black Americans. The best I can do is share places to find better resources, such as here and here.

Donate. Sign petitions. Call legislators.

Keep making and sharing art. It’s one of our best tools to urge social change.

[interior: the POPPYHEAD BAR, the city of PELLEOP]

[The walls of the POPPYHEAD are decorated in dark green wallpaper; the wood of the bar is a deep, dull oak, stained and scarred. The thin, matted carpeting is a faded brown, and manages to produce a pathetic squeak as chairs are pushed back from the handful of tables, clustered in the center of the room.]

[People born in the city are born into one of two categories. Left Siders, purple on the left side of the face, and Right Siders, purple on the right. They are, from an early age, encouraged to identify strongly with their group, and to view those different to themselves as other, as dangerous.]

[The front door of the POPPYHEAD flies open, bright beams of light flooding into the darkened bar. Two figures push their way inside. They pull bandanas from their face, and take their seats at the table closest to the door.]

[AGRAHM sits at the table closest to the bar. He sips his drink and eyes the newcomers.]

[The figures exchange a few muttered words. MARL, with a green bandana, calls to the bartender.]

MARL:

Barkeep, we’re waiting to be served.

BARTENDER:

You part of those riots out there?

[SHEN, wearing a gray bandana, snorts.]

MARL:

We’re just trying to be heard.

BARTENDER:

You’re welcome to sit, but I’m ‘fraid I can’t serve you.

MARL:

Why not?

[The BARTENDER shrugs.]

AGRAHM:

Can you blame him for wanting to protect his establishment?

SHEN:

What’s that supposed to mean?

AGRAHM: [laughs]

You jokers cover your faces and parade through the streets, raising your fists and shouting your slogans. ‘Protect Left Siders’ –what about us Right Siders, huh? Don’t we need protecting?

SHEN:

From what?

AGRAHM:

Eh?

SHEN:

From what do you Righters need protecting? The world’s designed for you, it’s made to keep you safe.

MARL:

We’re within our right to go out marching-

AGRAHM:

From where we’re sitting, don’t look so much like just a march. Y’all look pretty riotous.

SHEN: [spits]

They’re not riots ‘til the Allied Guard starts shooting.

MARL:

It’s not that Right Siders don’t matter, we-

AGRAHM:

Then why not say it? Say ‘Protect All Siders’!

[The few other patrons of the bar raise their voices in a clamor of agreement. The BARTENDER remains silent.]

SHEN:

Maybe Right Siders don’t deserve protection!

MARL:

That’s not-

AGRAHM:

So that’s what you’re rioting for, eh, you want us all dead!

SHEN:

Maybe I do!

MARL:

That’s not the point!

[Calls from the other patrons drown MARL out. ‘They want us dead!’ ‘We’re not gonna take that!’ The BARTENDER steps in.]

BARTENDER:

Now, just you all hold on. You can preach whatever you like outside, but in here we don’t talk like that.

SHEN:

You think you’re so high-and-mighty, Barkeep? Keeping your distance, saying nothing. While we Lefters are killed on your doorstep—for sport.

BARTENDER: [stabbing a thumb in his chest]

This is my joint, and my rules. And I say no ‘Lefter’ or ‘Righter’ talk, you take that outside.

MARL: [visibly trying to remain calm]

Where can we talk? We can’t speak here, the A.G. patrols the streets—we’re not safe in our own homes.

AGRAHM:

That’s an exaggeration.

SHEN:

Is it? Tell that to the half-dozen Lefters killed in their beds last month.

AGRAHM:

Lefter propaganda.

SHEN:

You honestly think that?

AGRAHM:

That many people killed for no reason, we would’ve heard about it.

MARL:

You did hear it, we all heard it.

AGRAHM: [hesitantly]

Might’ve heard about a few Lefters killed…but it was self-defense!

SHEN:

Self-defense? Behind a locked door, in their beds, with no weapons? The A.G. scared of a few sleeping men?

AGRAHM:

The Guard wouldn’t’ve fired for no reason!

SHEN: [contemptuously]

No reason, sure.

MARL:

Like the threat posed by sleeping men? By the back of a fleeing Lefter? By peaceful marchers in the street?

[The bar falls silent.]

BARTENDER: [clearing his throat]

Why bring that talk in here? We’re trying to have a nice, quiet drink.

AGRAHM:

Yeah, in here’s a chance to escape all that damn carnage. Don’t you want that, too?

BARTENDER:

Just leave the war outside.

SHEN:

What happens when it follows us in?

MARL:

There is no “outside.” The war is everywhere, always has been.

SHEN:

You want to hide your face from the wind, to pretend it’s all over.

MARL:

You want to feel safe—can’t you understand we want the same? To feel safe in our own skin.

AGRAHM:

Then why march? Why stir things up? They were fine the way they were, ‘til you lot started making noise.

MARL:

You see things as ‘fine,’ you feel safe, you become complacent. You can’t see the fire for the smoke.

[SHEN walks out, throwing open the door and once again flooding the bar with light and the sound of commotion from the street.]

[MARL slowly follows. As he reaches the door, he turns.]

MARL: [to the BARTENDER]

Do we have to wait for you to tell us where to speak? Where you feel comfortable letting us talk? How long do we have to wait for you?

[He follows SHEN out the door.]

BARTENDER:

Anybody else who wants to talk about Lefters or Righters should leave, too. Keep that talk outside.

AGRAHM:

You’re right.

[He sinks back into the comfort of his drink.]

No place for that in here.

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