The Words on the Page

Union Square Incident

September 5, 2017

 

Union Square Incident

by Warren Leight

Published Draft - November 2016

Drama, 12 pages

 

"Do you know what this year has told me. I don't matter. The only reason a woman ever matters is her vagina, and now that mine's too old and He doesn't want to grab it, it's okay for me to be marginalized or discarded or vilified. Even by other women." - Julie

 

Leight wrote Union Square Incident in mid-November for a 24-hour play festival. The election still fresh in most people's minds, he used it as fodder, creating an almost worst-case scenario for his characters, who have all been detained in an unknown holding cell, many of their possessions taken from them. As he states in his description, "Pockets turned inside out. No belt." The outlook is grim.

 

We meet the prisoners one by one and quickly see different ages, ethnicities, and points of view. The cynic. The one who doesn't think it's so bad. The one screaming about rights. It's real and raw, and it provides a snapshot of NYC.

 

Although this is rather short piece, probably coming in at around ten minutes performed, three things about the writing style stood out. First, Leight used humor, mostly via juxtaposition and one-liners inserted throughout. An example:

 

Jason: "Guess what?"

Ashlie: "I give up."

Jason: "That's all we wanted to hear."

 

The situation definitely isn't funny, and you almost feel bad for laughing. However, it proves a powerful tool as it makes you really recognize and consider your reactions.

 

Another element that jumped out was the choice to put periods instead of question marks at the ends of interrogative sentences like, "Don't you think," "Are we good," and "Why can't I see him." The lack of the implied upglide flattened the read and removed any sense of hope. The writing itself gave the impression that, on some level, these characters are depressed and have already given up.

 

The third thing that stood out was the reliance on a shared experience. While strongly implied, Trump and Clinton are never mentioned by name. It is always "they," "he," and "her," and, to really drive the point home, phrases like, "Everyone's a winner here" and "I'm with her." I think the choice to rely on pronouns is quite smart. It forces us, as an audience, to actively participate and to recognize. It draws us in and gives the sense that, if we're not careful, this could happen to us. Fiction could become real. 

 

Overall, I felt Union Square Incident served as a (minimally veiled) allegory. As short as the piece was, the story kept changing. The oppressors were represented by a single character, Jason. At first he said the prisoners weren't being detained. Later he stated there was no need to detain them any longer. Pressed on the point, he laughed it off saying that he hadn't, in fact, said what we all heard him said and stressed that it didn't matter since it was now in the past. It isn't a comfortable moment.

 

We're taught in other ways as well, often through the dialogue. "So how about we ask her what happened to her instead of telling her?" Although it is a bit on the nose, it points out foibles of everyday conversation and asks us to think about our behavior. The piece's biggest moral comes in its last line: "Until it ends, we're just going to be here for each other."

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Writing for film, television, and the stage is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult - and most rewarding - art forms. The language needs to be visual and evocative as each script must achieve two important tasks...
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