Published by Samuel French in Ten-Minute Plays: Volume 5, 2000
Ten-Minute Comedy, 7 pages
"In white, all your senses are heightened. You hear new sounds, smell more smells. You develop a whole new set of senses." - Six
Sheri Wilner is a working, award-winning playwright whose plays have premiered across the country. She's a two-time winner of the Heideman Award, the prize awarded to the winner of the Actors Theatre of Louisville 10-minute play contest. Labor Day is one of her winning plays.
Labor Day features an ensemble of six characters, simply named One through Six, who are having a Labor Day party on the eve of the holiday. They're all dressed in white, the furnishings and decorations are white, even the food is white. Throughout the piece they play a simple game. When each player has their turn, they hit themselves on the chest and then say one word, like "sale," "trash," or "noise." The game is never fully explained in the stage directions, and the reader and audience are left to their own devices to figure it out.
The first hint toward the rules of the game comes on the second page when Six, the first to be called out of the game for having said two words instead of one, says, "If it were my WHITE party, I wouldn't serve WHITE wine." Five, playing the game, then repeats "wine." Six continues, "White wine is white in name only." Perhaps you've already figured it out, but, if not, there's another clue a page later when Five says, "house," which of course someone has already said. As Three puts it, "Oh please, of course someone said White House." Right there, I think it becomes rather obvious.
The interesting part of Labor Day to me is that Wilner isn't concerned with over-explaining everything. When you get the game, you get it. She trusts that the piece is otherwise interesting enough that you'll keep paying attention. Of course, the piece is only ten minutes long and the audience is only "lost" for a minute or two.
Furthermore, Labor Day is not about the game. It's about Six who, at 29, is at least a year older than the rest of the characters and is lamenting the end of the summer and the change of seasons as she wants to stop time. This year, she won't do it. She's staying in her white clothes and thereby stopping the passage of time. This is spelled out in a monologue and, unlike the game, the audience doesn't have to work to discover what is going on. Even if someone misses the rules of the game, they'll still understand the point of the play. I think figuring out the game just serves to sharpen interest levels and involvement.