Scene 1

SCENE 1: LATINIDAD

SETTING: The stage can be set with a bare minimum of chairs and places for actors to stand. This play should be portable and adapted to a readers’ theatre or off book performance.

[Gringos wear loud travel shirt over black

SALES need signs, marker and t-shirt/give away products]

ACTORS STANDING: Diane, Warner, Gringa, Gringo, Meredith, Cherryl, Sales1, Sales2. Diane carries Kentucky Fried bag]

DIANE

God, how I wish I’d studied Spanish instead of French, it’s so much more useful. Then I could’ve explained to Christian the gardener what I really meant for him to do!

WARNER

I was a Spanish major but when the Puerto Rican on the corner knew more, spoke better, than me? I knew something was slightly wrong with that.

GRINGA

I always thought it’d be nice to have a few phrases for our trip to Puerto Vallarta….

MEREDITH

I’m worried if I don’t teach Spanish to my kids, they’ll miss out on so many opportunities.

GRINGO

We all should have studied other languages when we were young. When you get older, your brain isn’t quick.

CHERRYL

When I spoke to my new mother-in-law last night, I remembered “el” is for male. That’s my biggest problem. I’m like, “why do inanimate objects have to be male or female?”

SALES#1 

Have you always wished you could Speak Spanish?

CHERRYL 

Uhhuh

SALES2 

Wanting to get a taste of Latin fever?

GRINGA

YEAH!

SALES#1 

Communicate with local shopkeepers?

WARNER

You bet.

SALES2 

your maid and the gardener. [i]

WARNER

Excuse me?

DIANE

Yes! And tell the pool boy to use less chlorine!

WARNER

What?

SALES2 

Try our program today!

SALES#1 

Addictive online games! Learn how to tell Hispanics what to do!

SALES2 

Effortless! “¡Manos arriba!” Arrest the undocumented in fluent Spanish and have fun along the way!

SALES#1 

Buy Now! (holds sign that says $699)

SALES 2

Only $495!

SALES#1 

[crosses out $699]

ONLY $299!

SALES2 

[crosses out $495]

Start yours today for just $219

[Exit Warner]

GRINGO

Spanish? Why should I learn to speak Spanish? These people need to learn to speak English if they’re going to get my money. [exit Gringo]

SALES2

[almost pleading] $89.95?

SALES#1 

[crosses out $2 from $299] $9.99?… Plus a free T-Shirt! Come on,“Let’s TACO ‘bout it”!!

ACTORS EXIT

ACTORS STANDING: Meredith, Santos, Mom, Angélica, Dr. Profe

MEREDITH

For most people, Spanish and other world languages weren’t necessary, but for me, Spanish saved my life. I had a hard time explaining it until I heard distinguished writer and filmmaker, John Phillip Santos from Texas, define the Spanish language and Latino culture as an identity where all of us might find home

SANTOS 

Latinidad offers an opportunity for all Americans to identify with social and linguistic exile.

[Exit SANTOS, to wings]

MEREDITH

Exile. That word rang so true for me. I turned to Spanish as a way to make up for a family that was medicated and falling apart.

[Enter, MOM]

[flash back to 1991 on an international phone call from Mexico to the U.S.]

MEREDITH

Ma! Ma? The connection’s bad, Ma. Why don’t you ever call me? I’ve been trying to reach you for 7 months. I really miss you.

MOM 

[DRINKS and POPS PILLS}

No you don’t honey, you’re having a good time and all on your father’s money. Did you ask him to send me that check? Your sister really needs that new dress. Can you hear me? Meredith? Did you hear me about the dress?

MEREDITH

It’s the rainy season now, Ma—the water got into my room and I woke up covered in mosquitos. They’ll eat you alive down here, but I met an indigenous woman and she gave me some leaves from the citronella plant. Did you know there are plants and herbs for//

[Mom interrupts]

MOM 

[Strung out] Good, good. Don’t get into trouble with drugs down there Meredith. And don’t forget to ask your father for more money, your sister really needs a dress for the junior dance.

MEREDITH

I miss you, guys. Sometimes I feel so alone but then I think maybe I needed to feel this alone to become a part of something new, do you know what I mean?

MOM

[cutting her off] Speak up Meredith, I can hardly hear you. Maybe it’s too hard to for me to understand. I’ve got my own problems here—you’ll see when you come back to reality.

MEREDITH

This is my reality mom, this is where I want to [cut off]

MOM

Nice talking to you Meredith, see you in a few months. [Exit]

[Back to present, MCT looks puzzled at receiver, puts it down and addresses audience. PROP: “White board”; Marker]

[Enter Angélica with white board and marker]

MEREDITH

Once I left home in Chicago, I never wanted to go back. Spanish helped me get my first job as a Los Angeles Unified School teacher in 1992. For the first time I felt like I could use Spanish language to help others like 14 year old Angélica, working on her spelling.

ANGÉLICA (“child voice”)

People, pee-pol, [spelling on board] P-I-P-O-L, is that right Miss?

MEREDITH

That’s a really smart way to spell the word—I like the way you sounded it out and heard all the consonants, “people.” Take a look at how it’s spelled and look at how many letters you got right! There’s no “i” but that makes perfect sense! I bet you’re using your Spanish to help you?

ANGÉLICA

When I see that word, “people” I think in my mind: PAY – OH- PAY – LAY.

[She spells “Pe o pe le” on board]

see pe-o-pe-le, people.

MEREDITH

Wow, what a cool trick! That’s a great way to get started.

ANGÉLICA

I do that all the time, Miss. But I didn’t think I was s’posed to. No one ever knew I was doing it… until you.

MEREDITH

I wish more of your teachers knew too.

[Angélicia kneels and contines spelling]

[To Audience]

So I got a doctorate in Education—to have more time to write about what I learned from students like Angélica.

[Enter PROFE]

[flash back to job interview lunch in Agua Linda, US-Mexican restaurant]

DR. PROFE

[Seated at a table] So is the job talk about bilingual kids in Philadelphia something you’re working on for an article?

MEREDITH

It is. And I’m really looking forward to getting to know the kids in Georgia.

DR. PROFE

Listen to me, your job is to milk your dissertation for all you can get. Forget about socializing until you get tenure. Well, let’s order. How’s the Mexican food in this place? Whaddya think I should order?

MEREDITH

Order a taco salad

DR. PROFE

Hey! I’m going native! [Exit]]

MEREDITH

I found solace in the possibility that no matter where I was born, the color of my skin, who my parents were, or what my first language was, learning Spanish could help me become something new, my own version of mestizaje [meh-stee-ZAH-che]

ACTORS STANDING: Meredith, Santos, Sales1, Gringo, Angélica,

[Enter SALES#1 and GRINGO together, “job interview”]

SALES#1

[Interviewing] What qualifies you to teach Spanish in Liberal Arts High School, [struggles with name, stress on second syllable] Mr. PerEZ

GRINGO

Hey, I gotta Spanish last name? That’s “Perez” – P-E-R-E-Z. My degree’s in English but there weren’t any positions so I applied/ [interrupted]

SALES#1

Congratulations, you’re hired! Spanish levels 1-4, right this way….[walks off stage]

MEREDITH

But how can we become something new if we don’t start studying languages until high school and then, we don’t have enough qualified teachers, or enough time? Too many of us are afraid that becoming something new makes us a wannabe or a traitor.

SANTOS 

We are all of us mestizos, whether we know it or not. Our ancestors were always encountering new people—it’s all there in our DNA! It’s radical—if we are from everywhere then we have a right to be anywhere—we can speak any language, and we can change. If we have a right to be anywhere, speak any language, then no borders will stand—not even here in Texas.

MEREDITH

Dr. Santos, is there space for someone like me in your creative writing program?

SANTOS 

[apologetically] Yes, but I’m afraid it’s only open to Latinos. Lo siento. [Exit]

[visibly disappointed, turns to audience]

MEREDITH

Nevermind, I have to go write an article about you and your relationship to language, but thank you anyhow.

[Angélica stands]

ANGÉLICA

Miss, why are there so few people like you who speak Spanish?

MEREDITH

Like me? What do you mean?

ANGÉLICA

White people. Miss, is it okay if I say “white people”?

MEREDITH

Of course you can, Angelica!

ANGÉLICA

And it’s not a bad word?

MEREDITH

It’s doesn’t have to be. [Exit Meredith and Angélica]

[i] http://www.mexperience.com/blog/?p=462