the first scene
The cast of characters for the play, imagine a u.s. without racism, are:
TEACHER (DEE) – Black, she/her, over 50
KENJI – Asian American, he/him, 30s, married to Khadija
HARRISON– Black, he/him, 60s
LAWRENCE – White, he/him, over 60, married to Yunia; also plays IMAGINARY NEIGHBOR 1 and 2 /OFFICER THOMAS
KHADIJA - Biracial (based on a woman who is Black and Japanese), she/her, 30s, married to Kenji
BIRCH – white, they/them, college student 20s, Sally’s kid; also plays JOY BEHAR/CHER/JULIA ROBERTS
SALLY – White, she/her, 40s-60s, Birch’s mom
YUNIA – Mixed Latina and Indigenous, she/her, 50s-60s, married to Lawrence
And here is the first scene...
Scene - Class is in session
A beat-up looking high school classroom with chalkboards and a TV monitor. SOUND – intense music. TEACHER enters and writes on the chalkboard “imagine a U.S. without racism.” School bell rings. She turns to the audience and reprimands.
You are all here because you have been very, very bad.
My job today is to take your little brain and twist, and twist, and twist it. When I let go, it will spring back but hopefully some of the gunk will fall out. It will be hard. You will get very pissed off at me, and I can’t guarantee that you will be gunk-free at the end. Gunk has a way of sticking to things: the interior of your head, the little hairs in your ears, the exterior of your heart. But you have been bad and so I must try my best to make you less bad.
(KENJI, sitting in the audience, raises his hand.)
Yes (checks her roster) Kenji.
(Stands) We don’t think we registered for this? –
Oh, you didn’t. It registered you. You were asked to (she points her pointing stick at the blackboard) imagine, and you said, and I quote, “There is no fucking way.”
(HARRISON, sitting in the audience, laughs.)
(HARRISON stands as KENJI sits.)
I would not laugh if I were you! You said, “It’s impossible. What a waste of time.”
Anyone else wondering why you’re here? (HARRISON sits back down. TEACHER references her notebook through the following. The actors are scattered among the audience.)
Lawrence! (He stands) you said, “you’d have to be pretty naïve.”
Khadija! (She stands as LAWRENCE sits), “It makes me nervous to picture. I don’t see things changing.”
Birch! (They stand as KHADIJA sits), “It’s inherent, ingrained, ineradicable,” and while I appreciate the alliteration –
Thank you! –
-- it was still very disappointing. (They sit back down.)
And Sally (She stands), you said, “it would only happen if space aliens invaded” and even then, you had doubts!
(SALLY looks to the rest of the audience with a “you know what I mean” gesture/expression.)
This lack of imagination! – No, this refusal to even try to imagine – is unconscionable.
(SALLY sits. TEACHER eyes the students)
You don’t even remember arriving here today, do you? None of you do. It’s like you woke up from general anesthesia to find yourself in this classroom, you have no idea how you got here, but here you are, once again in a conversation you never expect to be in yet always seem to find yourself. (Under her breath, a little unnerved) Me, too. (Back to the students, with confidence) But this is our purpose today.
(TEACHER softens when she sees YUNIA). Oh, Yunia...
I know you shouldn’t be here at all. But I will need you.
You said --
To imagine anything is not difficult.
(In reverie) Magnificent. Transcendent.
Imagination is our greatest capital.
Now, class, open your senses and see.
(She slides the chalkboard to reveal, underneath, a chalk drawing of a beautiful and abundant peach tree seen through a window.)
A peach tree.
Inhale. (She does.) You can almost smell it can’t you?
(She reaches into the drawing and magically produces a peach).
Imagine what a peach can do.
(Teacher extends the peach in Khadija’s direction.
Sound and lights shift as Khadija walks from the audience to the stage. TEACHER places the peach in KHADIJA’s hand.)