Article Category Archives: Script

Go for Gold, Audrey Pham

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Act 1, Scene 1
Calgary, Alberta, Winter 1988

“BIRCHWOMAN’S”: a store that’s a cross between a hippie emporium and a pawn shop. It is dim, yet through the sunlit motes we can make out an assortment of curios and oddities. Every inch of the space is taken up by salable objects: jewellery, furniture, art, shirts that say “Where’s the Beef?” Long, beaded curtains hang from the ceiling and a hammock is set up above the cash register. There is no sign of life.

A knock at the door.


Another knock.

Tentatively, AUDREY PHAM, a tall, young woman with dark hair, aggressively permed, enters the shop. She wears puffy ski pants, the kind that are also overalls.

AUDREY: Hello?

She encounters the beaded curtain in front of her and awkwardly navigates through it; the beads get caught in aforementioned aggressively permed hair. She untangles herself and takes a scrap of paper out of her pocket: “Audrey Pham, Team Canada. Billet information and address.” She flips it over. It just says BIRCHWOMAN’S.

AUDREY: (Under her breath.) What the hell? Hello? Mrs…. Birchwoman?

She picks up a few of the objects around her. She finds a doll and animates it.

DOLL: I’m Birchwoman! Welcome to my spooky store!

AUDREY: Yeah, gosh, it’s like clearly from the first ten minutes of every horror movie.

DOLL: Don’t you feel like any second the camera will slowly pan past an antique that’s super-possessed?

AUDREY: Oh boy. Yeah, you’re right.

DOLL: What do you think the possessed object is?

Audrey holds the doll up and they look around from side to side.

AUDREY: I don’t know. That rocking horse looks pretty suspect though.

DOLL: Like if we turned our backs, it would start rocking? But, like, blurry and in the background.

AUDREY: Yeah! Oh my gosh, exactly. So scary.

DOLL: What’s that over there, Audrey?

AUDREY: What? Wait, how do you know my name?

DOLL: I know a lot about youuu. I think I heard something….”

Audrey creeps closer to the rocking horse.

DOLL: What’s it saying, Audrey? Do you hear that?


Audrey screams and flings the doll away from her.

AUDREY: Oh God! Are you a ghost? If so, I’m sorry, I really don’t have the time to solve any, like, unsolved mysteries or avenge your untimely murder or whatever. Please don’t haunt me. I have a brother though, I can take you to him, he’s… supple, you can easily possess him. He’s retired; it’ll be good for him to get a hobby—


AUDREY: (Looking around) N-nothing, I’m—hello? Is someone—

VOICE: We’re not open for customers today. And if you’re from that Neighbourhood Society, it’s appointments only.

AUDREY: I have an appointment! I’m Audrey Pham, the uh—Olympian…. I’m supposed to be here.

From the shadowy recesses of the store, BIRCHWOMAN emerges. She walks to the front door and slams it shut. A lot of BIRCHWOMAN’s questions sound like statements.

BIRCHWOMAN: The Olympian.


BIRCHWOMAN: You just walk into people’s homes.

AUDREY: I just thought, ‘cause it’s a store—

BIRCHWOMAN: We’re not open.

AUDREY: Oh. Well, it’s a Wednesday afternoon, so I guess I just assumed you were open.

BIRCHWOMAN: We’re not open for customers.


Embroidery by Amanda Tickner in neon style with the word "Open"

Open embroidery by Amanda Tickner

BIRCHWOMAN: So. You’re the athlete.

AUDREY: That’s right. It’s nice to meet you.

AUDREY extends her hand. BIRCHWOMAN dismisses it.

BIRCHWOMAN: Cold season. (Coughs wetly.) When’s your thing?

AUDREY: My—? Do you mean the Olympics? My final pass is February eighteenth.

BIRCHWOMAN: Well, you better win again. I’m not changing that sign.

AUDREY: What sign?

BIRCHWOMAN pokes her head out the front. She makes an exasperated sound.

BIRCHWOMAN: Oh shit, it’s blown down again. Cheap glue. (Pause.) Are you gonna stand there or are you gonna help me.

AUDREY: Oh! Sorry!

Audrey gives her a hand and together the two pick up a large banner and move it inside.

BIRCHWOMAN: Don’t ever buy vegan glue. I swear to God, it’s just pine sap and karma.

They straighten out the banner. It reads, in all caps and a bold font, perhaps Papyrus: “MEET OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST, AUDREY PHAN! FREE AUTOGRAPHS*!” In smaller print, underneath: “*GST NOT INCLUDED. LIMITATIONS APPLY.”

AUDREY: Oh… This is…. (Nodding). This is.

BIRCHWOMAN: We’re gonna put it back outside. Come on, let’s go.

AUDREY: You know, I don’t have a gold medal.

BIRCHWOMAN. Yeah, I figured you didn’t carry it on you. That what the “limitations apply” bit is for.

AUDREY: No, I mean I’ve never won a gold medal.


AUDREY: Yet. I’ll be competing for one on the eighteenth.

BIRCHWOMAN: The eighteenth.

AUDREY: Maybe.


AUDREY: I have to… well, we all have to qualify first.

BIRCHWOMAN’s eyes narrow.

BIRCHWOMAN: At the… qualifiers? Okay. I’ll just cross out “Olympic gold medalist” and write “Olympic Qualifier. Maybe.” Sure. That’s the same.

BIRCHWOMAN digs a felt marker out of a nearby pencil cup.

AUDREY: …and my last name’s Pham.

BIRCHWOMAN: Yeah, Phan, I got that.

AUDREY: No, Pham.


AUDREY: Pham. With a “mmmm.”


AUDREY: Mmmmm.

This continues.

AUDREY: “M”! Pham with an “m.”

AUDREY hands BIRCHWOMAN her registration slip as proof.

BIRCHWOMAN: Well, what the hell am I supposed to do with all this “Phan Club” merchandise, Audrey Pham?

She sorts roughly through a box.

BIRCHWOMAN: I got 300 coffee mugs that say “Number One Phan,” “Phandemonium.” And this. She pulls out a folded fan and snaps it open. On one side it reads: “My Uncle went to the Calgary ’88 Winter Olympics and all he got me was this stupid—” Flips to the other side. “Phan!” Tell me who’s gonna buy a sweatshirt that says: “Phantom of the Opera.”

AUDREY: Um. People who like Andrew Lloyd Webber?

BIRCHWOMAN: Please. He peaked with Starlight Express.

AUDREY: If it makes you feel any better, if my name was “Phan” it’d be pronounced “Fawn.” (Cheerfully.) So you’d still have a box full of garbage.

BIRCHWOMAN snatches the banner away from AUDREY and folds it up again.


This is an excerpt from my play Go for Gold, Audrey Pham, which is about a fictional Olympian competing in the non-fictional sport of ski ballet (I highly recommend looking this up on YouTube). Currently, I am expanding this play from a modest one-act to a sexy two-act magnum opus. (Hopefully. We’re not quite in workshops yet.) The title character of the play, Audrey, is very much a mixture of myself and Ali DeRegt, the comedic actor and puppeteer for whom I wrote the part. Audrey is awkward, kind, and funny. In initial meetings with people, her natural humour takes a backseat to politeness but, occasionally, her bolder and weirder jokes can’t help but slip out. The eccentric shop owner Birchwoman is both her own person (who is so much fun to write) and a metaphor for Audrey’s inner, often-leashed humour: loud, brash, unforgiving, and totally uncensored. Writing the two of them is endlessly cathartic for me as, respectively, they embody the jokes I allow myself to present in polite company, and the secret humour I easily let loose amongst a select group of confidantes.

Telling jokes is scary! But with high risk comes the potential for such sweet reward. Laughing with other people does the work of five cocktail hours, easily bumping up strangers to acquaintances and work-friends to friend-friends. Laughing at something with others can simultaneously excite and soothe, each chuckle acting like an affirmation of “It’s okay, it’s going to be okay.” Laughter in a theatre is a singular experience that I certainly took for granted before the pandemic. Can you imagine being in a space with hundreds of other people right now, all shaking uncontrollably at some bit on stage? Humour in theatre is a powerful tool, be it in a ridiculous farce or an unexpected moment of levity in an otherwise sober play.

Humour lets audiences relax. It softens their posture and opens their hearts. And then, if you’re a sneaky writer, it’s the moment you can strike with the thesis of your piece. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, and the best writers do it in a way that their audiences don’t realize they’ve taken any medicine at all (but at that point, it’s too late. They’re now changed. Nailed it).

As a shy person, one of the greatest salves I’ve found is to give my jokes to characters, and have those characters played by actors who are not me. What a joy, what a thrill, and what a relief to have these actors go out there and riff on the material I’ve written for them, while I sit comfortably in the audience. Phew.

Well, the digital audience, for now.

Thanks, Theatre!

Miss you, xoxo.


Listen to “Go for Gold, Audrey Pham.” Ali DeRegt – Audrey Pham; Braden Griffiths – Birchwoman; Camille Pavlenko – stage direction and essay.


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1 – female, 60s+

0.999999 – female, 60s+ (could be the recorded voice of ‘1’)

1=0.999999… is a simple equation, which states that the quantity 0.999, followed by an infinite string of nines, is equivalent to one.


The interior of an elevator, with reflective mirrors on all sides.

A woman (1), bone-tired, steps in at the top floor. She presses a button to go down to the ground floor. The doors shut.

She initially stares at the floor, then a thought makes her raise her glance. She sees herself out of the corner of her eye, and notices that she is surrounded on all sides by her own image, but is never able to fully observe herself, for the moment she turns her head, part of her image is obscured. She considers this, until a voice (0.999999) is heard.

0.999999…(O.S.)     You look tired.

The woman looks around, startled.

1                   Hello?

0.999999…(O.S.)     Hello.

The woman looks up to the ceiling.

1                   I didn’t call for help.

0.999999…(O.S.)     No.

1                   I can’t… Where you are speaking from?

0.999999… (O.S.)     Here. (it echoes, almost to infinity)

1                   Sorry? I…

                    Who’s speaking?

0.999999…(O.S.)     You’re speaking.

The woman rubs her head slowly.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Take the medication.

1                   What?

0.999999…(O.S.)     In your bag. The pills the doctor gave you with the bottle of water. He gave you the medicine directly – and the bottle of water – because he was concerned that your pain is unbearable, and he’s right, your pain is unbearable. He’s not supposed to do that, you know, give you the medicine directly.

1                   I know. He’s a kind man. How do you know?

0.999999…(O.S.)     I know.

1                   I don’t understand. Are you building security? Were you watching me?

0.999999…(O.S.)     Number one, no. Number two, yes. Always. Take your medication.

1                   It dulls my senses. I’m supposed to be looking after Grace’s children this afternoon. My daughter —

0.999999…(O.S.)     Grace will understand.

1                   You know Grace?

0.999999…(O.S.)     Grace will understand.

1                   How do you know Grace?

0.999999…(O.S.)     Grace would prefer it if you were up front with her. Grace doesn’t want to cause you stress, or make you tired, but she doesn’t know —

1                   —How do you know Grace?

0.999999…(O.S.)     She doesn’t want to broach the subject with you, and feels she needs to keep up this game you have begun. You have been playing it for so long that she doesn’t —

1                   I think the doctor must have given me something without me realising. I can’t drive like this. I’ll have to call a cab.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Call Grace.

1                   I WILL NOT CALL GRACE!

0.999999… (O.S.)     Aaron then.

1                   He lives three hours away.

0.999999…(O.S.)     I know. But he owns a car, and there are, I believe, trains.

1                   Are you being sarcastic?

0.999999…(O.S.)    (sarcastic) No! Me?

1                   Aaron loses money if he takes time off. He’s trying to save up for a house.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Call Danielle.

The woman peers at the floor numbers, and rubs her head.

1                   Why is this elevator so slow? It’s hot. This must be happening because it’s hot.

0.999999…(O.S.)     You are running a temperature. Your body is trying to fight what’s happening. Call Danielle. You have three children, call one of them to help you. Or a friend. You have friends. Good friends who love you and want to help.

1                   They have lives.

0.999999…(O.S.)     So do you.

1                   For now. Danielle is happy, she’s just fallen in love.

0.999999…(O.S.)     After a lot of heartache.

1                   Yes. (looking around) Am I dying? Is this some kind of moment-of-death hallucination, a lift up into the light? (looking at the floor numbers) Or into the depths?

0.999999…(O.S.)     Number one, yes, but you knew that. Number two, no. Not yet.

The woman slumps against the wall, and slides down to sitting.

1                   Thank god. I’m not ready.

0.999999…(O.S.)     I know.

1                   Stop saying that. You don’t.

0.999999…(O.S.)     I do.

                    The way you look at your grandchildren.

                    The slow intake of breath when you have read a poem, that you both love and know that you are capable of writing yourself. The way you watch planes moving across the sky, then close your eyes and imagine where they are going. That feeling you get when you watch a video of yourself that someone has posted, usually against your wishes, though you don’t mind so much anymore, and you wonder if there is enough room in the cloud to keep all the videos in the world. The fact that you can’t listen to Joni Mitchell singing ‘Woodstock’ without crying.

1                   It’s a beautiful song.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Yes.

1                   I tried to write like that. A long time ago.

                    But I never managed it.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Are you sure?

1                   No one ever liked my music.

0.999999…(O.S)      Are you sure?

1                   I’m no Joni.

0.999999…(O.S.)     No one is, except Joni, thank god. Can you imagine a world full of Joni Mitchells? You’re you.

1                   I don’t know who that is.

0.999999…(O.S.)     (echoing) Take a look.

The woman raises her glance to the mirror for a brief moment, then looks away.

1                   I hate my reflection. I don’t recognise it anymore.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Look.

She raises her face, almost as if a strong hand is moving her head.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Do you remember Danielle tracing the parentheses around your mouth when she lay on your lap, having a bottle? Her fingers could still draw those lines in the dark.

The woman touches the lines around her mouth.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Aaron can conjure constellations between the freckles on your face. They’ve faded a bit, but the solar systems of his childhood are still there. Grace could touch the hands of a hundred strangers, and know yours immediately by the particular hills and furrows of your knuckles. Your grandchildren could be led into a room blindfolded and know they were close to you by smell alone.

1                   The smell of decay.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Never, to them. Years from now, they will walk into someone’s house, and with a particular fragrance mix of lavender-scented laundry and a recently baked ham, they will think of you.

1                   I’ll be remembered for laundry and roasted meat. That sums up my life nicely.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Don’t disparage. Those sensations belong to them, not you. The moment that sense memory reaches their brains, a connection fires up, a closed pocket opens, and then you are there, beside them, reading a story. And the fact that all of a sudden they can remember all the words to ‘Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod’ brings sorrow and comfort. And they will go home and read it to their own children.

1                   My great-grandchildren.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Yes.

1                   I want to see them.

0.999999…(O.S.)     They’ll see you.

1                   I haven’t done the things I wanted to do. I’ve achieved so little.

0.999999…(O.S.)     You’ve told yourself quite a few lies over the years, but that’s the biggest one.

1                   I’ve done some… bad shit. See? Swearing.

0.999999…(O.S.)     They’ll remember the bad shit, on bad days. But they’ll also remember that you swore.

1                   Can’t I just have a bit more time?

0.999999…(O.S.)     Yes. You can. I told you, you’re not dead yet. This isn’t the elevator to hell.

1                   Am I going to hell?

0.999999…(O.S.)     C’mon. We’re not so naive as to believe in that bullshit.

1                   Not heaven then either, I guess.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Only the most shallow people suddenly develop a defined sense of the afterlife in their final days. Just, you know, use the time that you’ve got left well.


1                   Who are you?

0.999999…(O.S.)     I told you.

1                   No. You deftly avoided the question.

0.999999…           Such an annoying trait, isn’t that? Can’t think of anyone else who avoids telling people what they need to know.

1                   Hmm. Touché. Are you some kind of an angel?

0.999999…(O.S.)     Do you believe in angels?

1                   I don’t know.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Do you believe in Mathematics?

1                   I have a degree in Mathematics.

0.999999…(O.S.)     That you do. Angels and Mathematics aren’t that distinct, you know. Your favourite equation. The beautiful one. Show me.

As if in a trance, 1 takes a marker from her bag. On one mirror, she writes ‘1=’ and on the mirror opposite ‘0.999999….’

1                   The same number.

0.999999…(O.S.)     Yes. Finite and infinite.

1                   Yes.


0.999999…(O.S.)     You.

1 stands and traces the equation with her fingers. She takes her phone out from her bag and dials a number.

1                   Hi. It’s Mum.

                    I’m… I’m tired. I’m not feeling well. Do you think you could come get me from the doctor’s?

                    We’ll talk about it when we get home. I promise. Okay. Thanks love. See you soon.

The elevator dings to indicate that she has reached the ground floor. The door opens. 1 turns to her left, then to the back, then to the right, considering her many reflections. She turns to the front and exits the elevator.

England and Theatre, My Neverland

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“England” (from Traveltheatrics)

Author’s Note: TravelTheatrics is a storytelling show written and performed by solo performer Keara Barnes, who enacts six of her travel stories and encompasses 18 different characters. It continues to tour around Canada. “England” is the opening story from TravelTheatrics and Keara would like to dedicate it to her stalwart mother. “Theatre: My Neverland” is dedicated to the audience members that keep theatre alive.


My name is Keara.

I am the child of two immigrants.

Two adventurous souls who found each other on the other side of the globe.

England, the lair of Shakespeare, produced my Father.

Ireland, isle of the storytellers, created my Mother.

Canada, our multicultural country, conceived me.

Travel trickles through my blood.

My bones burst with stories.

To me, travelling and storytelling and theatre all centre on the same thing.

Moments of connection.

To each other, ourselves, the world.

Uniting the three like roots of a tree that when connected, flourish, but when disconnected, the tree deteriorates, and the wood slowly decays.

It is dead inside, no longer able to thrive, and I have been at this point many a time.

My soul has struggled to survive amidst a dark wood where the only echo is “you can’t,” instead of “you could.”

But amidst the darkness I have sought out light, and initiated a spark to make that blaze bright.

The resulting fire then conspires to bring us lost souls together.

The embers crackling like laughter.

Stories are our flames.

Theatre is my spark.

And travelling is my fuel.


England: Wet, Pebbly, Enchanting.

My first international trip.

I’m six years old with an imagination on the go.

The Barnes family rents a lovely cabin in the seaside town of Selsey, trees dotting the beach like straws in a cocktail.

The ocean breeze is inexplicably alive as it snakes through every orifice, every pore, invigorating me in a way I’ve never experienced before.

Nothing is amiss.

And OH MY GOD they have candyland!

Now this is bliss.

I make a friend, Katie, her straight dark hair framing huge brown eyes, wide open with excitement as we skip through the sand searching for those perfectly rare sea shells.

KATIE: Would you like to build a fairy house?

KEARA: Yeah!!! (Pause) Um, what’s a fairy house?

KATIE: You don’t know what a fairy house is? We have them all over England.

KEARA: Uh … ya I do! It’s … a house for fairies?

KATIE: Precisely!

Turns out I’m smarter than I showed!

It’s not exactly the Enigma code.

We scour and scrounge for our perfect treasures, our amused parents overseeing fondly from afar.

We find a rivet in a sandbank, a perfectly hollowed-out shelf on which to construct our dreams.

KATIE: First we have to place the shells around the house like furniture. Then we leave it overnight for the fairies to move around as they please. We have to come back every day until it stays the same as the day before and that means the fairies like it.

KEARA: Wow. How do you know all that?

KATIE: I’m British. We know everything.

KEARA: No wonder my Dad always has the right answer.

KATIE: See you tomorrow, Keara! Fingers (crossed)!

KEARA: Fingers (crossed)!

The following morning I fly across the sand, wings bursting from my sides, towards my magic mentor, the six-year-old fairy guru who stands overseeing our creation.

I’m nearly there, it’s about time to decree–

KATIE: It’s changed! See!

Sure enough, the furniture has been rearranged.

Pieces have been plucked and carefully placed, changed, but with a thoughtful purpose.

KEARA: Did you move it around?

KATIE: No! It wasn’t me, it was the fairies.

She is so earnest and sincere, I feel a sudden and immense revere.

Maybe, just maybe, there really are fairies here!

I suddenly feel nauseous and hot. Is that a spot?

I’m just overwhelmed. This is a lot.

KATIE: Would you like to come get some ice cream?

This is clearly the girl of my dreams.

One mint chocolate cone down the hatch, with candyland spread across the ground, I feel the dizziness return.

Ignoring it, I protest as I’m scooped off to bed.

And as I slip into sleep, to a land where magic has always been, I grin at realizing for the first time, it’s not just within.

Magic is real.

(KEARA starts vomiting)

The flu. AND chicken pox.

Then, the storm hits.

Our perfect family vacation suddenly plummets into chaos.

The rain menacingly lashes, the ocean dashes threatening waves at our door like meteors headed to earth.

CLAIRE: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Alan will ye go and do something about the power!

ALAN: What the bloody hell do you expect me to do about it, Claire?

KEARA: I’m scared! (She scratches her arms)

CLAIRE: It’s alright pet, the storm will pass soon.

ALAN: I told you, stop scratching or you’ll look like a cork board when you grow up!

KEARA: But I’m itchy! (She throws up)

CLAIRE: Oh for the love of god, Alan will ye grab another bowl, she’s filled this one up already.

ALAN: For Christ’s sake, I can’t see anything in the dark!

KEARA: Am I gonna die? (She throws up again)

CLAIRE: Will ye stop, you’ll be fine you just need to keep your medication down! Alan!

ALAN: Alright, alright! Bloody hell-Ow!

CLAIRE: Alan fer fecks sake what are ye doing over there?

ALAN: I’m trying to find a bloody bowl like ye told me to!

CLAIRE: RIGHT! That’s it! Alan sit down. Keara bend over. Your not going to like this but lord have mercy, here come your pills!

Thanks to my cool-handed Mother, I get better, my body finally unfetters from its illness.

My fear of death having now passed, I re-focus on the fairies, who I need to get back to fast.

KEARA: I’m back! How is it?

KATIE: There you are! I’ve been waiting ages for you! Shall we look together? On the count of Three. One …



It’s gone. The storm destroyed the fairies home.

This is the first heartbreak I have ever known.

KATIE: I hate you storm! I’m glad you’re dead!

KEARA: Stupid Storm! If you ever come back, my Mommy’s gonna make you take YOUR pills!

We set to work re-building our dreams, which is something always worth doing if they are big enough.

KEARA: How long does it usually take until they like it?

KATIE: I don’t know. It’s always different.

KEARA: But … I have to leave tomorrow.

KATIE: Oh. Me too.

My first day on the beach, I found the most perfect shell. Smooth and pale pink, I have been envisioning its new home on my bedside table.

It will be a vessel through which to hear the sea, while I snuggle up in bed, cosy as can be.

(KEARA pulls the shell out of her pocket)

KEARA: Here. Let’s use this.

KATIE: It’s perfect!

KEARA: I know.

(KEARA places the shell in the house)

KEARA: See you in the morning. Fingers (crossed)!

KATIE: Fingers (crossed)!

The following morning, I am very calm approaching the house.

I think, even if we fail, I tried my best.

And in that moment, that became my new life manifest.

Once again, Katie has beat me there, standing before the house like a mother bear.

Katie excitedly points at the fairy house.

Nothing is astray. And my pink shell is exactly where I placed it yesterday.

KEARA: We did it!

KATIE: They really like it.

We quickly wet some sand and seal up the fourth wall, save a small entrance for someone no bigger than a doll.

KATIE: Done. Now it’s their home forever.

KEARA: Will you ever come back to visit it?

KATIE: No. We always go somewhere different every summer, and I build a new fairy house.

KEARA: Do you ever see the fairies?

KATIE: Sometimes. If I close my eyes and then open them super fast. I can just see them disappear.


KATIE: I gotta go. Thanks for being my friend. (Pause) I’ve never built a fairy house with anyone before. I’ll really miss you.

KEARA: I’ll miss you too.

And with that, she leaves.

It’s like watching Peter fly back to Neverland, but Tinkerbell has found a new home.

And I, Wendy darling, have gone on one great adventure.

And now, that it’s all over, I know this to be true.

I do believe in fairies, I do, I do.


“Theatre, My Neverland”

Then dazzling light.
Magic is within your sight.
The energy shifts, your interest is captured, enraptured.
You are entranced, forevermore enhanced.
It speaks to you, guides you over to the window and pushes you out.
And though you have doubt,
You trust in its power; its unassailable influence,
Keeping you safe yet vulnerable.
Anything but comfortable.
You are flying among the stars.
Over parked cars and jazz bars.
Destination: Neverland.
The journey is carefully planned,
Not a moment astray.
The cold night air takes your breath away.
You relax and then tense,
Putting up a pretense that you are unaffected,
But we are all connected,
Feeding off the same energy.
Soon all of this will be a memory.
Stay engaged, stay present.
It’s not always pleasant
But that’s life.
Rife with unending strife.
And that is precisely why we are here.

Whale Song

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Author’s Note: This 15-minute play was written for Women of the Arctic at the UArctic Congress 2018 and presented in Helsinki, Finland, on September 6, 2018.



Hello. Good evening. I hope you’re having fun. I found out about this conference on Twitter and wow…. I just had to be here. I won’t take too much of your time, I promise—I know you have important things to do. Like saving the world. Or saving the Arctic…. Can we actually do that? Save the Arctic?

(Checks her phone)

Oh, that’s my husband. (Dictates) Reply: Screw you, period. (To audience) Sorry.


Is anyone here named Harvey? No? Good. (Or “Oh, I’m sorry” if the answer is yes.) I don’t like Harveys. Harveys suck. First it was Harvey the hurricane. When it hit Texas, I spent days glued to the TV, obsessing over the news. I don’t live in Texas but for weeks afterwards I dreamt of Biblical floods, floating furniture, and wet cats. Then it was Harvey the Hollywood producer. When it came out that he had been assaulting women for decades, I was overwhelmed with hashtag MeToos on social media and ate nothing but ice cream for weeks. That’s how we deal with crises in America. I highly recommend Ben & Jerry’s. But it was the third Harvey, my husband, who finally broke me. Actually, what he broke was my cheekbone. The only thing I remember is fist, floor, and then I was magically on a bus headed North. Though I have no recollection how I got to the bus station. My father used to say, “When in doubt, go North.” He never explained his logic but I always assumed he liked the North because there are less people there. People weren’t his thing. Anyway, the most North place I could think of was Alaska.

(Pause, she surveys the audience)

Can I just say: It’s so nice to be here with all of you. And I’m hoping you can help. Since Trump, we’ve been desperate for help. Actually, speaking of Trump….

(Takes out her phone, dictates) Tweet: Screw you @realdonaldtrump. That’s his Twitter account.

(The phone refuses to do it)

I shouldn’t go there anyway.

(Puts her phone away)

Alaska is where my friend Teri lives. Teri is fierce. She’s a Raven. In her culture, you’re either a Raven or a Wolf and she’s definitely a Raven. Her people come from Glacier Bay. Teri is a traditional weaver who fights to keep her culture alive. She weaves these amazing robes and she always calls me girlfriend. “Hi, girlfriend!” I love Teri. Alaska is also where my friend Allison lives. She’s an Inuk social worker from a tiny town in the Canadian Arctic. She has lots of traditional tattoos on her chin and on her hands. Allison is a powerhouse of a woman who keeps her community together and she has the biggest warmest smile ever. I love Allison. I don’t remember much about the bus ride. I mean, I remember staring out the window but I can’t tell you what I saw. Rain, fields, industrial wastelands…. I was staring out to try to see what was inside of me but there was nothing so I just kept staring at emptiness.


Excuse me for a second. (Takes out her phone, types) Note to self: Try—the—Finnish—saunas. (To audience) They’re supposed to be very healing. Though I don’t know how I feel about getting naked in front of a bunch of strangers. What if there are Harveys there?


Harveys are very clever. By the time you realize what they’re up to, it’s too late and your only option is to get out. Or, as I like to call it, to migrate. Which means to go from one place to another. Or to empower yourself by adapting to changing circumstances rather than being victimized by them. The opposite is to remain. Do not remain. Under any circumstances. Because you can’t fight a Harvey. Look at what happened in Texas. Look at what happened in Hollywood. Look at what happened to me.


(To Think Corner’s staff) I don’t suppose you have Ben & Jerry’s here, do you? Oh, well. Allison met her Harvey when she was a teenager. The melting Arctic attracted a mining company to her town, the mining company brought in a bunch of workers—mostly men—and that became a breeding ground for Harveys. Because what else is there to do up there but to prey on young women and sell them to your friends? By the time Allison migrated to Alaska, her Harvey had made enough money off of her to buy a fancy sports car. Animals migrate too. They migrate for food, better climate, to escape predators, or birth their young. Whales in particular are expert migrators. These big mamas kick ass, excuse my language. I mean, you gotta hand it to them—they can evolve faster than you can say hyppytyynytyydytys.

(To audience) Isn’t that the craziest Finnish word? I don’t know if it’s real. I found it on the Internet. Say it with me: hypytyynytyydytys … hypytyynytyydytys. It means “bouncy cushion satisfaction.” (Laughs) I mean, how do you put that in a sentence? “Honey, today while you were at work, I experienced bouncy cushion satisfaction.” Or “Thank you so much for having us over! Your couch has such good hyppytyynytyydytys.”


Whales used to be land animals. Fifty million years ago, they had four legs and huge teeth. Then the ice sheets melted, the oceans rose, and when it became clear there wasn’t gonna be enough land for everyone, the big mamas were like: “We’re outta here.” And they migrated to the ocean. How’s that for a winning strategy? “Shrink those legs and grow some fins, ladies! We’re diving in!”

(To an audience member) Have you ever heard a whale sing? It’s amazing, right? (Or “It’s really amazing” if the answer is no) Listen.

(She plays whale song on her phone. Listens for a while)

I wish I spoke Whale…. Or is it Whalish, like Finnish? Or Cetaceanese? I’d ask them: “How did you know?” Because, think about the people in Texas who didn’t leave until the water was up to their second floor. Think about the women in Hollywood who didn’t walk out of that hotel room until he had gotten his way. Think about me and Teri and Allison and all the beautiful wonderful women out there who have found themselves in the same situation. Why didn’t we know? Why didn’t we migrate before it was too late? Is there something wrong with us?

(End whale song)

For Teri, it was different. Her Harvey came from upriver, from a place she had never been where they decided to throw toxic industrial waste into the water, so how could she have known? The doctors called it “cancer,” which, if you ask me, is just fancy medical talk. A Harvey is a Harvey is a Harvey no matter what name you give it. It’s fed and fattened by money and power and preys on vulnerable people. Particularly women. But whales are smart. They didn’t wait until it was too late. And some of that migrating was tricky: they had to move their nose up to the top of their head, develop a communication technology that would work under water, and grow baleen for filtering food. Me? Nothing that elaborate. I’m still trying to grow a thick skin so I have a long way to go.

(Her phone rings)

That’s him calling…. (Hesitates) I’m not answering.

(Puts her phone away)

Harveys will follow you everywhere—I have learned that by now. It’s in their nature. Ignoring them doesn’t work. Confronting them is not exactly recommended. But preventing them—that’s the answer. You have to defeat a Harvey before it becomes a Harvey. Can you help?


You know, I did make it to Alaska. And when I got there, something really beautiful happened. Me and Teri and Allison and the whale from 50 million years ago—we all converged in one place. It was the most amazing thing. Four warrior females on completely different journeys and, somehow, our migration paths magically converged. Like what’s happening right now in this room.

(Pause. She holds the moment)

Well, I have to keep moving before Harvey catches up with me. Before I leave, here’s a song. It’s kind of a whale song. Not really but let’s just say it is. At the very least, it’s a migration song. “To go from one place to another.”

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

No more Harveys, OK? For me. For Teri and Allison and the whale. For all of us. Please. No more Harveys.


Oh, and if you have time, it’d be great to save the Arctic.