All Hallows Eve At the Amarillo Jehovah’s Witness Weekly Grief Group In the Backroom of the Y Just Off the Feeder
JAKE: Group Leader
DAN: In a Halloween cow costume
LIGHTS UP ON AN ILL-ATTENDED GRIEF GROUP. LOTS OF EMPTY SAD FOLD OUT CHAIRS. DAN IS OUT OF PLACE AS HE IS IN A HALLOWEEN COSTUME, A COW. PENNY HAS JUST FINISHED SHARING.THE GROUP IS HORRIFIED BY WHATEVER SHE’S JUST TOLD THEM. JAKE IS THE TIRED LEADER.
JAKE: Thank you for sharing Penny, the language of grief is a unifier and we all learn from you when you speak it with such visceral-uh- gory- horrifying details.
PENNY: Thank you Jake. The lord tells me to share and I must.
TANYA IS ABOUT TO THROW UP.
JAKE: You may sit down now.
PENNY: Thank you Jake. This grief group has given me so much. So much solace in a world I do not understand. So much comfort after the gruesome death-
JAKE: Please, Penny- sit. Thank you.
PENNY: Thank you, Jake.
JAKE: We’ve all come here to talk about our feelings in the here and now. To honor that large container which is ourselves. Which has room for all things. Let’s put both feet on the floor- palms on our knees either face down or facing the heaven. Let’s close our eyes. Dan, please. Let’s breathe and be here together. We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and we witness to each other. A few reminders and announcements- Please no cross talk or interrupting. No physical contact. Please continue to spread the word about this grief group. We hope to give our services to more in need.
Now, Let’s think of all the things we are grateful for today. We are living. We were lucky enough to secure the best Y backroom in Amarillo and we should count our blessings to be here together. To be present, to be exactly where our feet are and encourage the expression of emotion –
DAN: Can we talk about Halloween?
BEAT. THE GROUP DOES NOT WANT TO HEAR THAT WORD, LIKE A FORBIDDEN WORD.
JAKE: Dan- Please no cross talk.
DAN: Oh yes- Thank you Jake. May I taking the sharing position to discuss Halloween?
DAN: I uh-Is there something you are struggling with?
JAKE: Any rising uh issues with our fundamental core belief in not acknowledging holidays?
PENNY: Dan, it is ok to struggle
TANYA: We all struggle
ALL: Yes-it’s true- that’s what we’re here for etc. etc.
JAKE: Please! The Cross Talk!
DAN: Can I- I’m sorry- Can I share?
JAKE: In that?-
PENNY: This is a safe space Jake-
JAKE: Penny. Cross Talk. I mean yes please this is, of course, a safe place.
DAN ASSUMES THE SHARING POSITION.
DAN: I was born on October thirty first. On Halloween.
THE GROUP WINCES.
DAN: -which is- Halloween is- I’m sorry I have to say it
DAN: Halloween is my birthday.
THE GROUP GROANS.
DAN: And I understand about God and the Pagans and how this is their doing and I understand about Satan and I know that while Halloween does include fun with family and friends, these gatherings are centered around attributes such as witchcraft death, deceit, and fright which are opposing to God
JAKE: Well, it’s not that these attributes are subtly snuck into the day, Halloween openly boasts them
DAN: But I-I-I
JAKE: It’s ok-
DAN: I- miss my dog you know- And I have to thank you Jake because this group has really helped me work though a lot of this. I miss Banjo so bad- I miss watching him run through the field, ears flapping as he chased the cows. He’d bark and circle them and they’d look down and moo apathetically and he was in heaven. Well, no, now he is in heaven but I don’t know if there are any cows there.
PENNY: Of course there are cows there! He has his cow friends in heaven-
DAN: And if it’s even possible that on my birthday-
DAN: Banjo’s spirit or ghost-
DAN: Yes Penny- if his ghost can walk the Earth on this day according to the Satanist pagans- if by any infinitesimal chance they are even some kinda right then I want to be here for him. Suppose Banjo is roaming our street looking for anything to remind him of home. I want to be there and if I can make his ghost just a little bit happier by waiting for him dressed as those cows he loved so much then I’m going to do it.
JAKE: I think we should read a passage now-
TANYA: -I want to commune with the dead too. I want to talk to my cousin.
PENNY: Cross Talk! Can we get some more leadership here? This is ridiculous.
JAKE: Ok Ok Ok Tanya, that was an example of cross talk but let’s go with us. Your cousin was an adventurous woman
TANYA: I want to talk to her spirit. I applied for Long Island medium like 4 times, but apparently you have to live there to participate. May I?
TANYA TAKES HER SHARING POSITION.
TANYA: My cousin died. She thought she wanted to be an engineer and she always wanted to know how everything worked. It was really cute. And this one night we were at Pastor Rick’s- they are so rich- they’re house is unbelievable- they had a dumb-waiter. And Rena wanted to know how it worked because she’s predictable like that so she stuck her head in the bottom to see the gears. And I don’t know how this happened but it snapped and the whole thing fell and chopped her head off.
THE SOUND OF A BLOOD CURDLING SCREAM.
TANYA: Rena?! REEEEEENA?! Is that you?!
A PERSON POKES THEIR HEAD IN FROM OFF STAGE
PERSON: Sorry for the disruption folks, we’re rehearsing that last scene in Our Town in the Y front room here. Apologies. We’re pushing ourselves today.
JAKE: No worries brother, thanks and bless you.
TANYA: I lived my entire life with a cousin Rena until that day. Pastor Rick says that’s what happens to women who get into science but I think Rena is out there somewhere. I think she still wants to learn things and I imagine she’s snooping around with her head under her arm and now she can take that head and fit it into smaller places to see all the gears she wants.
And that makes me happy for her.
DAN: Yes. Just like Banjo
JAKE: There are no ghosts or holidays or birthdays or cow costumes.
TANYA: I think Rena would want me to help you Dan. I think Rena would’ve loved Banjo and so would I
DAN: He would’ve loved you
TANYA: So let’s wait for him. Let’s see if he comes by, or Rena or Penny’s son who went by Christina.
PENNY: He won’t come by. He hated me.
JAKE: You mean ‘It’- Stephen King’s ‘It’
TANYA: Cross Talk Jake. Let’s just see. See if we can call their ghosts- Because wouldn’t it give us comfort and isn’t comfort what this grief group is for?
THEY ALL LOOK TO JAKE.
JAKE: I can’t.
TANYA: Don’t you miss Pauline, Jake?
JAKE: I do.
TANYA: What if her ghost-
JAKE: Pick a different word-
TANYA: -or spirit-
TANYA: Her little tinkerbell light what if walks on by… wouldn’t you want to say hello.
JAKE: I would. I do.
DAN: Let’s do this- ok- Everybody put something in a middle here, something that reminds you of your loved one. Come on- here’s Banjo’s Bone.
TANYA: Here’s Rena’s Einstein choker necklace from the accident. It’s got some blood on it maybe that will help-
JAKE: Pauline’s hanky.
PENNY PULLS OUT A BUTCHER KNIFE AND PUTS IT IN THE CIRCLE. THE GROUP TAKES THAT IN.
PENNY: Christina’s favorite.
DAN: Ok. Let’s sit- everybody put both feet on the ground.
THEY SHUFFLE CHAIRS AROUND. A FLURRY OF MOVING AND SITTING AND ADJUSTING.
JAKE: Please don’t tell Pastor Rick
TANYA: Never- no one is telling Pastor Rick- Penny?
PENNY: I won’t. I promise.
TANYA: We all promise?
THE GROUP NODS. EVERYONE IS IN.
DAN: Ok we ready?
THEY INDICATE THAT THEY ARE READY. SOME SCARED. SOME DESPERATE.
DAN: ok. Tinkerbell light Séance-
JAKE: Don’t use séance
DAN: Tinkerbell light brigade sit in grief group Amarillo chapter edition call to the dead- begin!
THEY SIT IN SILENCE.
JAKE: So uh- what are we supposed to do here?
PENNY: Yea are they just gonna come in?-
DAN: I don’t know-
TANYA: Ok ok calm down. Ok How about this-
TANYA BREATHES AND JUMP A LITTLE LIKE ACTING WARM UP.
TANYA: Ok everyone. Stare out to a fixed point. Soften your focus. Stare far far out past the Amarillo city line into the great unknown. Focus and think of your loved one. What they smelled like on the best days, the kindest thing they ever said to you, that look on their face in their final moments
A SCREAM FROM OFF STAGE.
PERSON STICKS HEAD IN.
PERSON: I’m so sorry folks- we’re making headway on this scene though!
TANYA: Think of how unknowable life is, death is, what your loved one like to eat for dinner.
PENNY: I feel nothing!
TANYA: Close you eyes. Hold hands! I feel it!
THE GROUP HOLDS HANDS. THEY SQUEEZE. THEY TRY TO FEEL IT.
TANYA: Jake misses you Pauline
JAKE: I do!
TANYA: He forgives you for the affair
JAKE: I do!
FLICKER OF LIGHTS. DAN GASPS
DAN: Satan is joining us-
PERSON FROM OFF STAGE RE-ENTERS.
PERSON: Son-of-a-breadbasket We blew the fuse sorry! Art is dangerous- sorry to- What are you guys-? I’ll just- ok bye-
TANYA: If you are out there. Wherever you are- behind a rock or under a tree or behind the moon know we love you. Know we wait for you here and will find you in the here after-
AS TANYA SPEAKS, VERY SLOWLY AND SOFTLY THE SOUND OF A DOG BARKING CREEPS IN. AS SHE SPEAKS THE BARKING GROWS LOUDER AND NEARER.
TANYA: We’ve forgotten how bratty you could be Rena, or how sexually confused you were Christina,
BARKING. THE BARKING BEGINS TO OVER WHELM TANYA’S SPEAKING. DAN OPENS HIS EYES AND HE CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT HE SEES. BANJO!
DAN STANDS. THE GROUP CONTINUES TO HOLD HANDS AND FOCUS. TANYA MUMBLES.
DAN WALKS FORWARD TOWARDS THE NOISE. THE GROUP FINALLY NOTICES. THEY WATCH DAN, WHO MOOS A LITTLE TO CALL BANJO OVER.
JAKE PICKS UP THE BONE AND HANDS IT TO DAN. THE GROUP HOLDS HANDS AND DAN TOSSES THE BONE OUT INTO THE AUDIENCE.
BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.
Molly Beach Murphy is a playwright and director originally from Galveston, Texas. Molly is a three-time artistic resident at the OBIE Award-winning Incubator Arts Project for which she created Molly Murphy & Neil deGrasse Tyson On Our Last Day On Earth (also seen in Ars Nova’s 2015 ANT FEST), Indigo Dai: Immortal Men, and Morbid Poetry. Molly is a 2015 member of Fresh Ground Pepper’s Playground Playgroup, JACK’s Creating Dangerously Writing Workshop, and The Habitat’s Director’s Playground. Recipient of the Garland Wright Award for Achievement in Directing. BFA, Southern Methodist University.