A short play in three scenes
by Linda Lenzke
“Jenifer Street” is a short play in three scenes, spanning three generations of women who lived in the first floor flat of 916 Jenifer Street: a late 1950s butch/femme couple, a late 1970s triad of feminists (two lesbians and a bi-sexual), and a genderqueer couple today. Each vignette explores the culture and politics of the time and how it impacts on same gender relationships, exploring how both the personal is political and the political is personal.
Cast & Set Requirements
1. PJ (Peggy Jean): A butch-looking woman in her mid-to-late 30s dressed in pegged Levi jeans with the cuffs rolled up, men’s-style boots or oxford shoes and white short-sleeve t-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. She has short hair, combed back in a “duck-tail” style. She looks like James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” and has a boyish and defiant attitude.
2. Baby Doll (a nickname): A mid-twenties woman dressed in a tight sweater and skirt, accentuating her womanly figure with a scarf tied around her neck. She’s wearing high heels, nylons and a garter belt. She has on bright red lipstick with rouge (blush) on her cheeks. She chews gum and blows bubbles, snapping the gum as she talks.
In the middle of the stage is a tall rectangular cube. In this scene it is a dresser. On top of the cube is a simple, rectangular wooden frame sitting on top of the cube representing a mirror.
1. Debbie: A bi-sexual woman in her late 20s dressed in the androgynous uniform of the times, blue jeans, a printed t-shirt with a message on it and Birkenstock sandals or boots.
2. Free: A spirited, mid-twenties woman dressed in a similar outfit as Debbie, except with a flannel shirt with some kind of visible lesbian jewelry or buttons.
3. Megan: A twenty-something woman, wearing a prairie-style dress or skirt and boots.
In the middle of the stage is the same tall rectangular cube and frame, this time representing a kitchen sink and window.
1. Nina: A woman in her late twenties, wearing gender-neutral clothes and presenting herself in a gender-neutral manner.
2. Kit: Same as above, perhaps with a more masculine presentation.
Positioned stage left, the rectangular cube and frame are horizontal and at a 45 degree angle representing a flat screen television on top of a stand. Parallel to the TV is a cube used as a couch.
- Estimated running time: 12 minutes total (each vignette approximately 4 minutes)
- Intended audience: Queer people exploring gender politics.
- Language and content: Mature content with suggestive and adult language.
- Music: Each vignette is introduced with a song from the time period.
A short play in three scenes
by Linda Lenzke
Scene 1. The 1950s
Actors: PJ and Baby Doll
(The rectangular cube is positioned in the center of the stage with the frame on top. Dark stage, intro music plays, “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, light comes up on PJ, whose back is to the audience. She’s combing her hair into a “duck-tail” with imaginary butch wax. Her legs are spread slightly and her right leg is keeping time with the music. After about 30 seconds, Baby Doll enters the stage.)
PJ: (Sets the comb down on the dresser and turns off the radio, music stops, turns around to look at Baby Doll and sizes her up from head to toe).
“Baby Doll, you are one sweet-looking woman. Are you wearing anything underneath that skirt? You better let me inspect, just in case we get raided at the bar, and some copper wants to make sure you have a pussy underneath that skirt.”(PJ runs hand up Baby Doll’s leg and smiles when she reaches between her legs.) “Nope, you’re all woman, just the way I like it.”
Baby Doll: “You’re the one who needs to worry, you lookin’ all ‘Mack the Knife.’ You better have on at least three articles of women’s clothing so you don’t end up in the slammer tonight with your name in the State Journal tomorrow morning. You’ll lose your job. Now it’s my turn to inspect.” (Baby Doll seductively saddles up close to PJ and begins unzipping her jeans, when PJ grabs her hand and stops her.)
PJ: “Did I give you permission to do that? No. You gotta ask nice, you know what I mean, real nice.” (PJ releases her grip.)
Baby Doll: “Daddy, may I check to make sure you’re wearing women’s underwear, and a bra underneath that t-shirt and not an Ace bandage. Please Daddy, pretty please. I’ll be a good girl. I promise.” (Baby Doll waits for PJ to nod yes, and Baby Doll slowly unzips PJ’s jeans, and puts her hand inside and smiles broadly.) “Oh yeah, I feel lace inside there and not those skivvy’s you’re usually walkin’ around in. Now, let me make sure the Ace bandage is in the dresser drawer and you’re wearin’ a bra.” (Slowly lifts up PJ’s t-shirt and cups her hand over PJ’s breast. PJ steps back a couple of steps with a stern look at her face.)
PJ: “I didn’t say you could touch my tits, you know I don’t like that. I’m the one who does the touching.” (PJ holds Baby Dolls wrist with one hand and takes her other hand and pulls Baby Doll close to her. Then she places her hand on Baby Doll’s breast, firmly squeezing it and kisses her deeply on the lips, Baby Doll leans closer into PJ and moans with pleasure. They separate from each other visibly aroused.) “I don’t think we’re going out tonight. I think instead, we’re stayin’ home, right here at 916 Jenifer Street; we’re going in the bedroom. If you want to dance, we’ll slow dance in there.” (PJ takes Baby Doll’s hand and begins to walk her off stage to the bedroom).
Baby Doll: (As they walk to the bedroom, Baby Doll asks,)
“Just out of curiosity, what’s the third article of women’s clothing that you’re wearing?”
PJ: (PJ winks and smiles.) “…your pink anklets with the white ribbon lace on top!” (They disappear off stage giggling and laughing).
Scene 2. The 1970s
Actors: Debbie, Free, and Megan
(The rectangular cube is set upright, front and center stage with the frame above it. In this scene the cube represents a kitchen sink, the frame a window looking out on Jenifer Street. It’s the summer of 1978. The Meg Christian song, “Sweet Darlin’ Woman” is playing as the houselights come up. Debbie is standing behind the window looking out at the audience washing dishes).
Debbie: (Talking to herself as she washes dishes, she is visibly upset.)
“I can’t believe I moved from my husband’s house, to my girlfriend’s flat, and here I am again, washing everybody’s dishes. “Sweet Darlin’ Woman” my ass, I’m still just the maid and everybody’s surrogate mother.” (Debbie turns off the music as Free saunters into the kitchen.)
Free: “There’s my sweet darlin’ woman. Finished with your chores yet so we can fool around a little?” (Free tries to put her arms around Debbie and give her a kiss, clueless that Debbie is upset about cleaning up in the kitchen again. Debbie spurns her advances.) “What’s wrong, babe, you look mad?”
Debbie: “I am mad and when Megan gets home from her consciousness-raising group, we’re going to have a house meeting and make some decisions by consensus (Debbie emphasizes the words by consensus,) on who is responsible for what chore, on which day of the week, so each of us cooks, washes dishes, shops for groceries, vacuums, does laundry and empties the litter box. So far, I’m doing everything except grocery shopping, and you can’t even remember when you go to the co-op that we’re boycotting orange juice because Anita Bryant and Save Our Children are trying to take our rights away!”
(Debbie folds her arms as if she’s already won the argument. Free is standing wide-eyed and surprised by the size of Debbie’s anger).
Free: “Babe, but don’t forget I brought home your favorite Guerilla Cookies for you?!”(Debbie is still fuming, as Megan opens the door, enters the house, and walks in the kitchen chanting.)
Megan: “Out of the kitchen into the streets, what do we want, equal rights, when do we want it? Now!”(Megan lifts one arm and forms a fist. Both Debbie and Free are standing together in stunned silence, both looking in disbelief at Megan’s enthusiastic performance. Megan surveys the scene and senses something’s wrong.) “What kind of scene did I walk into?”
Debbie: “We were just talking about how I’m always in the kitchen while you two are out in the streets carousing around the neighborhood like a couple of house cats without a care in the world. We’re going to have a house meeting and make some changes around here.”
Megan: (Trying to stay positive, she attempts to switch the conversation back to why she was chanting when she walked in the door.)
“I have something to add to the meeting agenda. We’re all going to plan a trip to Washington D.C.! At the CR group tonight we talked about the March on Washington for the Equal Rights Amendment sponsored by NOW. The NOW Chapter is chartering buses and for $35.00 each, we can march with thousands of women in D.C. on July 9, 1978.”
Free: (Free mentally calculates that by changing the subject to the March on Washington, maybe Debbie will calm down a little.)
“Yeah that’s a great idea!” (Playfully looks at Debbie to see if she’ll change her mood.) “Don’t you think, babe?”
Megan: (Flirtatiously) “Which babe are you addressing, Debbie the disco queen, or Megan the mermaid?” (Debbie’s mood lightens with the playful talk.) “I have another great idea. It’s Thursday night and Debbie’s been working too hard. Let’s put on our dancing shoes and go on down to Lysistrata. Afterwards at closing time, a bunch of women are heading down to B.B. Clarke Beach to go skinny dipping. I can’t think of a better way to cool down after a night of hot women and dancing. What do ya’ think?” (She looks at both Debbie and Free, Free moves closer to both of them.)
Free: “I can’t imagine anything better than a night out on the town with my two girlfriends, one on each arm.”
Megan: (Debbie getting into the spirit of the moment, grabs one of Free’s hands, while Megan grabs Free’s other hand and Megan begins to chant.)
“What do we want?”
Debbie: “Girl’s night out!
Free: “When do we want it?” (In unison, the three women shout.) Now!!!!
Debbie: “I love consensus.” (They scurry off the stage, hand in hand, laughing and giggling.)
Scene 3. The Present
Actors: Nina and Kit
(A rectangular cube and frame are positioned stage left and placed horizontally at a 45 degree angle representing a flat screen television on top of a stand. Parallel to the TV is a rectangular cube to be used as a couch. Nina is on stage watching sitting on the couch watching the television as a music video is playing the chorus of a song by Ellie Goulding, “Anything Can Happen.”Lights come up as Kit walks on stage to join Nina.)
Kit: (Kit walks over to Nina, sits next to her, puts her arm around her shoulder and kisses her cheek.)
“What’s my favorite genderqueer up to?”
Nina: “Kit, I’m watching this music video, ‘Anything Could Happen,’ and it’s freaking me out, reminding me that we have more questions than answers.” (Nina turns off the television with the remote).
Kit: “I still don’t know what you’re talking about?
Nina: (Nina becomes more frustrated and animated as she stands up).
“Okay, are you ready?” (The questions start rolling off her tongue faster and faster, as her voice gets louder and her hand gestures increase and punctuate her words.) “First, are we going to get married if the Supreme Court rules in our favor, if yes, when, where are we going to have our reception, what are we going to wear, who do we invite and how many guests each, just friends, or friends and family, will they even come, do we invite our exes like Carson, your college boyfriend, your friends all called you Kit Carson, like you were a single person, a mountain man, trapper and scout from the Old West, who you can’t stop texting and revealing intimate details about our life, how are we going to pay for it, who is going to walk me down the aisle since my father disowned me when I told him you were my partner and he said, ‘what business are you in?’ and walked out of the room, then I told him that I was genderqueer and he said, ‘Good, I guess that means you’re not my daughter anymore, so I don’t have to pay for your wedding or walk you down the
aisle.’ and if that wasn’t bad enough…”(Kit stands up, and puts a hand over Nina’s mouth, then gently pulls her close and hugs her.)
Kit: (They both sit back down on the couch.) “What did you eat or drink today?”
Nina: “Well, I didn’t have time for breakfast, ‘cause I was running late for class this morning, so I stopped at Starbucks, to get a Green Eye (Kit makes a face like she doesn’t understand.), then I skipped lunch, (Nina’s speech becomes more rapid as she talks.) and when I started to get a little shaky, Crystal from my Gender and Women’s Studies Program gave me some dark chocolate (Nina pops up again and begins pacing) and then I stopped for a Red Bull on my way home since I knew we had that meeting to go at the LGBTQ Community Center…”(Kit interrupts her.)
Kit “S-l-o-w down and back-up. Actually sit down.”(Kit takes Nina’s hand and helps her sit back down on the couch.) “I’m not a coffee drinker like you are; what the hell is a Green Eye?”
Nina: “A Venti Green Eye is an extra-large drip coffee, with three shots of espresso!”(Her eyes widen and she smiles like she’s proud of herself.) “Some people call it Triple Death.”
Kit: “Oh my God. We need to get you detoxed and fed. You’re going to drink a lot of water and get some dinner in your stomach. We’re not going to that meeting.”
Nina: “Oh good!” (Nina quickly stands up again.) “While I was waiting for you to get home from work, I was thinking about our conversation that we had last night about starting a family. I was wondering, which one of us should carry the baby, how are we going to inseminate, are we going to buy semen, order it from the Fertility Center of California Sperm Bank where Jules and Eve got theirs, look at a catalogue like we’re ordering from L.L. Bean, or ask one of our friends to donate, and if we ask one of our friends, do they get parental rights, and that’s only the beginning, if one of us carries the baby, can the other adopt, and what does the baby call us, we aren’t going to be mom and dad or mom and mom, what are the gender neutral names for parents, I’m freaking out, and we haven’t even begun to discuss the option of adopting or fostering a child?!”
Kit: (Kit wraps her arms around Nina and pulls her close to her chest.)
“Sit back down. Take it easy, we have lots of time. We only have to answer these questions, one at a time, and one day at a time.” (Kit and Nina sit back on the couch. Kit holds Nina’s hands.) “Here’s what I’ve been thinking. There’s no one in the world I love more than you. I’m not sure today if I want to get married or not, but I know, like I know my own name, there’s no one in the world I’d rather spend my life with than you, and if we want to get married, I want the law to recognize and protect us and our children, I want our families to know that wherever I’m welcome, you will be too, I don’t care what our baby calls us, I just want our kids to know that we love each other unconditionally and as a family we will always take care of each other and love with an open and accepting heart, I also know as I sit here with you that you will be an incredible mother whether you give birth or not. And dear one, whether I call you sie, hir (pron. see/hear), zie, or zim (like he/him, but with a “z” at the front.) you are my one and only, my soul mate.” (There’s a long moment of silence as they gaze into each other’s eyes. They begin to kiss).
Kit: “One last thing, just a reminder, we must always remember, just like the song you were listening to when I walked in the door, ‘Anything Could Happen.’ Right now, I want to go into the bedroom and make love to you, and make a baby. Let’s pretend that anything could happen.”
(Kit grabs Nina’s hand and they stand up and walk off stage.)