Beginning one week after the November presidential election, New York’s Primary Stages commissioned a collection of over 70 pieces written by a diverse array of playwrights from their artistic community. Each artist crafted a short monologue from the perspective of a character in America on the morning of November 9th. The resulting works will be presented twice, under the collective title Morning in America, November 9, 2016 9 AM, on February 18 and 19. Kate Fodor’s Rubber Knife is but one of pieces that came out of this call to the writing community.
Kate Fodor’s plays have been produced across the US and around the world, including at Steppenwolf, Playwrights Horizons, Primary Stages and London’s Courtyard Theatre. She has received the Kennedy Center’s Roger L. Stevens Award, the National Theater Conference’s Barry Stavis Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting.
* * *
RUBBER KNIFE by Kate Fodor
A 20-year-old theater major at the University of Illinois addresses the audience.
He wears dark sweats and a plain white t-shirt. Bare feet. He holds a hunting knife.
A lot of students live in this apartment complex. A bunch of theater geeks like me and my roommates. Some pre-med girls on the fifth floor who have a mason jar full of kidney stones on top of their TV — but they’re pretty nice. And these two guys on the ground floor who are like scholars of dickishness and assholery, majoring in ignorance. Guy who harrassed my friend Kayla in the parking lot when she came over. And of course they have a big Trump bumper sticker stuck to their front door.
I’ve been looking forward for a long time to seeing those dudes’ faces this morning.
(He rubs his eyes, still holding the knife.)
We stayed up for the whole thing last night and we’re tired and not feeling all that good. And of course those fucking dudes are out there in the parking lot yelling USA, USA — which my roommate swears is them yelling JEW-S-A because the premeds upstairs are Jewish. I hope that isn’t true, but either way, I really need them to fucking stop.
(He looks down at the knife in his hand, then back at the audience.)
Don’t worry. I wouldn’t kill them. I can’t. It’s a rubber knife. We have stage combat this morning.
(He bends the tip to show them.)
The head of the theater department, Cathy Davis, is waiting for us when we get to stage combat. I guess she felt like she had to come and say something. In loco parentis. You know, just a few words to explain why it’s all right that the world has revealed itself to be full of shit and evil. We circle up.
Cathy tells us Rehearsal Room B in the Theater Arts building is exactly the right place for us to be this morning. People are crying. My friend Cha Cha takes my hand, other people are holding hands too. Cathy says the fight is on and the fight will need us. She says artists matter more than ever now. Because that’s what she has to believe.
Everybody says what they feel — I mean, I don’t, but a lot of people do.
My great-grandfather flew planes in World War II. I follow this woman on Twitter who raised money for water in Africa by rowing across the Atlantic solo — naked, actually, but that’s not why I follow her. It was because of chafing, like she had to at a certain point not have the clothes. Hillary fucking Clinton — not that I wouldn’t have preferred Bernie, because I would have — was advocating for migrant farm workers when she was my age.
The fight needs us, Cathy, really?
We take a bathroom break. A girl from the musical theater program is on the rehearsal room floor in the fetal position, crying. I get it. I want to do that, too. And I also want to kick her really hard as I go by.
My friend Ted is practicing his monologue from Henry V:
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Our stage combat teacher, Miriam, says, OK, come on. She’s maybe 5’ 2”, with dreadlocks, skinny and smiley, not someone you’d think was a blackbelt in karate. She looks tired, but she doesn’t say anything about what happened last night. She opens up her suitcases. There are swords, spears, hammers and knives, and we get to choose our weapons.
© 2017 Kate Fodor