A laundromat/coffee shop hybrid establishment.
We hear the sounds of a busy coffee house:
The hissing of an espresso machine, the clattering of ceramic dishes, conversations being carried on at low, and not-so-low, murmurs.
There is a smattering of applause—not the most enthusiastic.
An open mic is in progress.
The HOST of the open mic is at the microphone.
And our next comic is new to the room, and she looks a little nervous. So please give a warm welcome to our first female comic of the night, Lydia Clark-Lin, everyone. Come on, make some noise.
LYDIA approaches the microphone with trepidation.
She glances at the audience members with anxiety; the anxiety, however, is controlled, to a degree.
She looks down at a thin stack of index cards in her hands.
The sounds of the café lessen, but continue.
My name is Lydia Clark-Lin and I am here against my will, under orders from my developing fetus, who visits me in my sleep and gives me instructions.
She looks around the room, taking in the blank stares.
(moving on quickly, this can still work out) Um, okay, so I anticipated that if I introduced myself in that way, I might receive this kind of response, so I guess that’s okay.
I mean, I’m kidding, anyway. I don’t have a developing fetus talking to me, that would be, like, crazy, right?
It’s an embryo, technically. Until the eighth week. And don’t worry, it’s not gonna make it that long!
There is dead silence; the joke has bombed.
(thrown, addressing the host) I only have five minutes to fill here, right?
Okay, so I tried to write down some notes—
(pulling out some index cards, and promptly dropping them) Oh, sorry—
Lydia hears something from the crowd.
Oh, yeah, I’ll hurry up—
(recovering, sheepish but relieved) Oh, you were joking.
I get it, that’s very funny. You are a very funny audience member. Good job.
Lydia gives the dude a thumbs up.
She hears something from another part of the audience.
(embarrassed) Oh, he wasn’t joking?
Everyone’s got something to say. What a participatory audience this is!
Well I’m just gonna start, don’t mind me, just carry on with what you’re doing—that’s right, make that cappuccino, do that laundry, just like that. I’ve just got a few things to say and then I’ll be on my way.
(reading off an index card) My mom is a TV newscaster, so I’m not uninformed. Just traumatized.
She waits a moment for laughter…that does not come.
I guess that one’s more of an inside joke among the children of newscasters
(looking at another card) My mom tells me my dad is Chinese, and that he left her for an Asian woman when I was still in the womb.
I was like, “Oh, mom, I guess next time you won’t ask to know the sex of the baby first, so your only daughter can grow up with a father figure in her life.”
The room is dead silent.
(conceding) Yeah, I guess that one’s kind of convoluted logic, huh. It’s because there’s this stereotype about Asian men preferring boys—(oops) not sexually! Preferring boys for their progeny—(considering) I mean, it’s not really a stereotype, it’s kind of true—(oops again) not that all stereotypes are true! (conceding) But this one kind of is…
Great, my first open mic and I’m already perpetuating stereotypes. Good job, Lydia! Maybe the apocalypse will come tomorrow.
(forging ahead; this set has no future, but why not) So my mom hates Asian women—because you know my dad left her for an Asian woman, right—and that makes things kind of awkward and uncomfortable for the two of us, because…well, you know…
(gesturing towards her facial features) Hello!
(noticing the light; to the host) That’s the third time you’ve flashed that at me—does that mean something?
(chastened but relieved) Oh, okay, got it! I am leaving the stage.
Thanks for, um, listening.
Lydia rushes off.
SAM CHANSE is a playwright and theater artist based in New York and California. A 2015 Sundance/Ucross Playwright Fellow, MacDowell Fellow, and member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, her solo play, Lydia’s Funeral Video, was published this year by Kaya Press.
Adapted from Lydia’s Funeral Video, by Sam Chanse, Copyright © 2015 by Sam Chanse. With the permission of the publisher, Kaya Press.