Friday, February 12, 2010

"The Most Hated Man in Berkeley:" Outline for a Play

My play, The Sexiest Man Alive, is in production, the second one, Shark Soup, is complete and being read by Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and so it's on to writing my next play.

This one, The Most Hated Man in Berkeley is about U.C. Berkeley's last conservative professor's encounter with a Black leftist, which leaves both of them changed.

Here's the outline. Feedback welcome.

The Most Hated Man in Berkeley
a play by Marty Nemko


David: Professor of American Studies, 65. One of the last conservative professors at Berkeley. He is one year from retirement. His estranged daughter is dean of graduate school admissions.

Jose: Chair, Dept. of American Studies. Wants to prove to himself and everyone that he's not an affirmative action hire.

Yasmine: 21, bisexual, socialist, Black, senior, major in American Studies, president of the Diversity Alliance. Jose's advisee.

Amarika, 20,Yasmine's lesbian girlfriend/roommate, Black. Fiery! Tattooed, pierced.

Scene Outline

A few minutes from now, via SkypeVideo recorded in his office, David is to deliver his Last Lecture. Although it's a year before his retirement date, scheduling issues require him to record it today. Jose urges David to "be moderate for once in your life. Go out with grace." David is conflicted.

Outside David's office, Amarika convinces Yasmine to protest David's lecture. They hold signs such as "David Michaels: Nazi" and "David Michaels: Racist."

David begins his Last Lecture, "The Decline and Fall of the American Empire." all cylinders blazing. He outlines (in 2 minutes total) what he will talk about:

Government spending as oblivious to cost/benefit and probability--e.g., social programs. alternative energy, global warming, and its utter ineptitude-- e.g., Marin/Richmond water pipe, Napa trolley, Electric vehicle plug in stations. Yet the govt. is ever innovative in collections--parking kiosks eliminate time left in meter, traffic light cameras, fines so usurious they'd make a loan shark blush.

The unfair treatment, relative to their merit of men, especially white men.

The dangers of uncontrolled illegal immigration.

"Straight talk about race:" The failure of education including Head Start--the only reason the achievement gap has closed slightly is that all the attention to Blacks and Latinos has caused Asian and white scores to decline. Of 200 nations in all recorded history, there never has been a moment, anywhere, where Blacks haven't represented the lowest socioeconomic stratum. He calls for a return to tracking and an end to reverse-discrimination hiring.

Amarika bursts in. Yasmine, despite prodding, stays out. Amarika disrupts David's lecture, gets in his face, and David has a stroke. Amarika runs out. Yasmine decides to try and save him: calls 911 and gives mouth-to-mouth.

Yasmine discusses with Amarika whether she should visit him in hospital. Yasmine is filled with guilt, yet is scared of hospitals, disease, and death.

Jose visits David in the hospital. David is paralyzed from the waist down. Jose starts out kind but then reveals his true purpose: to get David to forgo emeritus privileges (e.g., the right to come back and teach.) Jose wants him to sign. David rips up the paper, balls it up, and fires it at Jose's face.

Yasmine visits David. She mentions that she's about to start her senior project: creating a small mural showing Blacks' struggles. David tactfully is critical. Throwing back at him his urging her to consider opposing viewpoints (but actually as a guilt-soaked olive branch,) she asks him to be the out-of-her-dept. committee member on the project. He needs something to keep him from worrying about getting another stroke so he agrees.

A series of three scenes between David and Yasmine, showing the evolution of her mural, their growing conflicts about it (each is resolved, replaced by a bigger conflict) their growing friendship, including her efforts to get him to try to walk. Also, she reveals her fear of hospitals, sickness, and death to him. That's an area of commonality, which brings them closer still.

Intersperse those 3 scenes with a series of scenes between Yasmine and Amarika. In the first one, Amarika convinces Yasmine to have a turkey-baster baby with her. (Amarika actually seduces Yasmine with a turkey baster.) Yasmine's inner conflicts about many things are given voice, opposed by Amarika's monolithic, passionate but less impressive views. Their growing apart parallels Yasmine and David's getting closer. In the third scene, Yasmine is pregnant with the turkey-baster baby.

Jose convinces Yasmine to apply to Berkeley's graduate school in art, specializing in African-American art. He artfully manipulates her to drop her objections re the practicality of that degree.

Yasmine asks David for a graduate school letter of recommendation to his estranged daughter: Berkeley's Dean of Graduate Admissions. After an empathic conversation about their estrangement (Yasmine is estranged from both parents) he agrees, she takes his hand in thanks, he kisses her , gets turned on, and feels her up. She pulls away and awkwardly leaves.

Amarika goads Yasmine to sue for sexual harassment. She refuses.

Amarika, with a letter of support from the Campus Diversity Coalition, convinces Jose to file a lawsuit--not just for sexual harassment/abuse of power against David but against the university for continuing to employ a professor who has demonstrated "a pervasive and persistent pattern of racism." The suit demands $10 million and David's immediate firing.

David reads the lawsuit complaint to Yasmine--It includes a diverse litany of politically incorrect things that David said and did--"It goes to character and shows his racist views, which is why he wanted to sexually assault an African-American woman."

Yasmine convinces the Diversity Coalition to call off the suit.

Amarika, furious at that and jealous of having been replaced, if only platonically by David, pulls David's respirator plug.. He has a second stroke, a minor one.

David is forced to resign. David and Yasmine, having grown very close and developed an appreciation of each other's views (e.g., about capitalism vs socialism) despite their remaining profound differences, they decide to continue their relationship. Yasmine tells David that she aborted the baby. It's ambiguous whether it will stay platonic.

With Yasmine looking on, David re-records his Last Lecture. The introduction is more circumspect and leaves the audience thoughtful. (The End.)


Cornhusker said...

Your play is hysterical!! I am dying to know if the professor and the lesbian become a couple.

Marty Nemko said...

That'll be the sequel: "The Oddest Couple."


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