Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An American Daughter

Tonight I had the privilege of seeing my little brother act in a production of An American Daughter, by Wendy Wasserstein. (Todd is a senior theatre major at SUNY Geneseo)

I was unfamiliar with this play prior to Todd's being cast in it, though as I was reading information about the play tonight, I discovered that it had once been made into a Lifetime movie.

Basic plot: A conservative Senator's liberal daughter is nominated for surgeon general. All goes well until the news is spilled by a well-meaning friend that the daughter once overlooked a jury summons, and by the media spin on some comments the daughter makes about her mother as a homemaker. Her popularity rapidly sinks, and she's under great pressure to withdraw from the nomination. Not a far stretch from reality for a storyline, eh? An American Daughter particularly deals with women's issues - feminist issues, women's power. I really enjoyed it.

One character, an African-American Jewish woman, gives a great monologue:
Judith: I went to the Festival of Regrets. I prayed by the banks of the Potomac. There were old men davening in prayer shawls and young lawyers in Brooks Brothers suits. I watched while the men tossed in their bread crumbs of secret sorrow. "Oh, Lord, my God, I cheated on my income tax." "Oh, Lord, King of the Universe, I lust after the Asian check out girl at Haney Farms Delicatessen." "Oh, Lord, my God, I have sinned, I dreamt about a strip of bacon."
At first, I remained silent. I stood there feeling my familiar distance and disdain. And then, almost involuntarily, I began shredding my low fat orange-cranberry muffin. I wanted this God, this Yaweh, to know me. So I tossed my first crumb into the water. "Oh, Lord, my God, King of the Universe, I have failed to honor my mother and my father" and that regret floats out to Maryland. "Oh, Lord, my God, I distrust most of the people I know, I feel no comfort in their happiness, no sympathy for their sorrow." A tiny cranberry sits on the water. "Oh, Lord, our God, who is like you on Earth or in Heaven, I regret the men I've been with, I regret the marriage I made, I regret never having children, I regret never having learned to be a woman." I pull off the entire top and a wad of muffin sails like a frigate toward the Washington Monument. "Oh, Lord, my God, Mighty of Mighty, Holy of Holy, I can't make life and I can't stop death. Oh, Lord, my God, the Lord is one, I've wasted my life."
And I jump in.
It seems I'm still a very good swimmer. There I am, bobbing up and down in my pearls and Liz Claiborne suit, when I notice a box of Dunkin' Donut holes floating along. And suddenly I remember the slogan from my mother's favorite doughnut shop, "As you ramble on through life, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole." And I began laughing and laughing. Now I had a purpose. Now I had a goal. I must rescue the doughnut holes and bring them here. These are the doughnut holes of my discontent!

I wish I could find online the text of the daughter's best monologue, but I can't seem to pin it down. But the gist of it: She finally argues that people are not satisfied unless there is a "reason" for a powerful woman to be powerful and a "reason" and way for her then to be brought down from power. Good stuff...
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