I worked at the polls for yesterday’s primary election. I think there are dramatic possibilities but I am not sure who would be best to write it.
The core ensemble consists of 4 Men and 3 Women ranging in age from 55 – 75; all Caucasian. One man is ethnically Hispanic. There are no persons of color on stage at any time and, with the exception of Man #4, no character’s appearance would suggest any ethnic background other than northern European. With the exception of Man #4, no one has an accent of any kind.
- Woman #1: The Leader; Mid-70’s Caucasian female. Very Republican. Politically incorrect and thoughtlessly offensive in her speech. Talks at great length without pause for breath; or thought. Few boundaries; by the end of Act I the audience knows everything about the character; 99% of which is unrelated to anything that will happen during the play. She considers herself at once a stickler for rules and above them.
- Man #1: Mid-60’s retired, Caucasian. Quiet. Keeps his opinions to himself. Closely allied with Woman #1
- Man #2: Mid-50’s, Caucasian, unemployed, white-collar, liberal. Probably gay.
- Man #3: Late-60’s, Caucasian. Retired military, a transplant from a liberal Eastern state. Views largely undisclosed but roots are definitely liberal. Good natured but impatient.
- Man #4: Mid-50’s, Hispanic, Articulate, white-collar. Naturalized citizen from a Spanish-speaking country
- Woman #2: 60’ish. Wife of Man #4. Caucasian, Not bi-lingual.
- Woman #3: Mid-50’s, Caucasian. ‘Hard’ in appearance, manner, and speech. She acts both as a primary source of conflict and, occasionally, as Greek Chorus. She is absolutely without boundaries. By the end of the play the audience has heard her detailed, often graphic, biography, some of it horrifying, all unrelated to the action of the play.
Except where noted, the Poll Workers are strangers to each other with apparently little in common. They have all chosen to be in the room but for varying reasons which are only hinted.
Man #4 and Woman #2 are married to each other. Woman #1 treats them with brittle politeness. She dislikes them for undisclosed reasons. This is reflected in the blocking.
Man #1 and Woman #1 know each other before the play commences but the nature of their relationship is undefined.
Throughout the play ‘voters’ enter and exit. Some very dramatic and vocal, others almost invisible. Their motivation is usually subtext but sometimes blatantly obvious. These include:
- Right-wing activists hoping desperately, and in vain, for an opportunity for confrontation.
- An undercover police officer
- A Native American woman in the Witness Protection Program
- A vocal Xenophobe, obviously racist, possibly lesbian.
- Annoyed dowagers or all (Caucasian) stripes
The action takes place over a 14 hour period on a single day. The set is one large room of undefined boundaries. It is the library of a K-5 public school in an affluent school district. Colors are bright and cheerful in stark contrast to the tone of the action taking place. Bookshelves, table & chairs are appropriate for the size of the room’s usual occupants. The Poll Workers seem over-sized and clumsy in the obviously unfamiliar environment. There are visible computers but their screens are dark. They are juxtaposed against the ‘business’ in the play which is decidedly ‘low tech’. The library is closed for the day but periodically unidentified characters will enter to complete business which is both unrelated and intrusive. Their entrances and exits are observed but not acknowledged by the core ensemble.
Downstage is an obviously temporary arrangement of furniture; a mixture of round library table and mismatched rectangular folding tables, stools and chairs of varying heights. On top of a bookshelf upstage center, behind the Poll Workers’ activities, a red stuffed dog views the action. The unused ballots rest on top of a shelf prominently labeled “American Girl”. The ballot box sits in front of a shelf labeled “Dr. Seuss”. There is one voting device in the corner that looks vaguely computerized. It’s screen glows. It is assembled with great care and confusion in the Prologue and disassembled with equal care and confusion in the Epilogue. It remains ignored and untouched throughout the play.
Of the members of the core ensemble, only Man #2 and Woman #3 ever exit. Man #2 exits for brief offstage announcements which can be heard by the audience but not by the characters on stage. Woman #3 exits for a time in Act II after an extended confrontation with Woman #1
The climate outside is desert heat. Temperatures in the room fluctuates from low 60’s to high 80’s at apparently random intervals.
A primary election in a very Republican district in a very Republican state. Primary elections are closed so voters aligned with a specific political party may only vote on that party’s ballot. Independent voters may choose to vote on any ballot they wish. There are no Independent voters.
The effort that brings all the characters together is expressly political but politics is the one thing they are specifically prohibited from discussing. They observe this prohibition with a fluctuating degree of strictness.
With the correct playwright I think it has ‘Pulitzer Prize’ written all over it…… or maybe an Emmy as a reality show. With the November election only a few weeks away they could write the sequel at the same time.