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Flip the Script Friday: debbie tucker green, dirty butterfly

It’s been a rather unproductive, unpredictable week in so many ways, that a play by debbie tucker green fits my feelings perfectly. I’ve just had 5 hours working at a craft fair and tomorrow is market day plus salsa saturday, but today is friday and I feel like Flip the Script Friday needs to return, so let me introduce you to dirty butterfly. No capital letters needed.

dirty butterfly at the Young Vic 1 - 11 October 2014

Photo Credit: Gillian Fisher/Afridiziak.com

 

Basics

dirty butterfly premiered in 2003 at Soho Theatre Company in London.

Characters

  • Amelia, black
  • Jason, black
  • Jo, white

Setting/Plot

Somewhen, somewhere (presumably London). The playwright notes that the “audience surrounds the actors.” Amelia, Jason, and Jo are all neighbors in an apartment building. Jo, who is white, has some type of unstable, abusive relationship, of which Jason and Amelia are intimately aware. The epilogue takes us out of the apartments and into a public space, a cafe where Amelia works. Jo enters, and the two have a conversation, punctuated by blood, vomit, footprints, and a trail of paper towels.

My Thoughts

This short-ish play is clearly green’s style, much like random, with truncated words and overlapping voices. It’s a mix of Sarah Kane, Caryl Churchill, and Suzan-Lori Parks. I’ve read a few other works by green, but dirty butterfly is probably my favorite so far. I wasn’t quite sure what the title meant, but for some reason, the paper towel trail and the blood seemed to make things take shape; you know, when you stain or cut a folded piece of paper, and then it’s symmetrical when you unfold it?

Can You Feel the Music

debbie tucker green really personalizes the play with 2 interesting song choices: “Secret Place” by Jhelisa and “Don’t Stop Movin'” by S Club 7. You couldn’t pick two more opposing songs if you tried. Jhelisa’s song is ambient and largely instrumental, and S Club 7 is just pop at its most 2000s. One song pulses with the Earth; the other has a dance beat but is escapist in its message and nature.

How I’d Flip It

green’s staging and notes are pretty straightforward, and I would definitely honor her wishes for a 360-degree arena stage. A revolve might be interesting, too. I feel like I’d put the three in folding chairs at random angles to one another on a donut-shaped stage, and then for the final scene, either raise the middle or put something there to indicate a coffee shop. This play and its characters have sharp edges, so a circular stage would catch them even further off guard.

2

a random morning

Despite emptying my plate of academic home fries, it has been reloaded this week with emotional mashed potatoes. So thanks for sticking around. And if you were waiting for an update, here it is.

With all the ups and downs I’ve been through this past week, it’s been hard to think of something fun or interesting to post about. It feels like these last few days have been a monochromatic blur, of wake up, do all my stuff I need to do, usually being late or just under the wire, grabbing coffee and food when I can, collapsing on the bed or couch, catching up with the parental units or any news from the day, attempting to do some reading or work before going back to sleep (usually too late) and do it all again the next day.

But this morning was a little different, mostly because I read random by debbie tucker green for British Drama class today. I’ll someday get around to doing a Flip the Script on it, but even though it was just 50 pages, it really profoundly affected me. At the beginning, I was annoyed with green, but by the end, I was having thoughts I didn’t think I’d have, and just felt…spent. Not in a bad way, just in a world-weary way, putting myself in the shoes of the characters. I mean, yes, my problems are not nearly as big as what happens in random, but to me, my issues are what I have to deal with each day, me, and only me; just because it’s not gun violence or knife attacks doesn’t mean the tough moments of my life are not real – even if they are more in line with the personal/emotional/mental than about physical safety.

After today’s discussion of random, we were assigned to pair up and tell each other about our mornings, from waking up until this point; while one person would tell the narrative, the other would write as quickly as they could, capturing the relevant moments to create the narrative, and then vice versa. Arielle and I were partners, and it proved to be a more telling exercise than I’d first thought it would be.

I will not be sharing Arielle’s morning here, and unfortunately, I did not ask Arielle to give me what she wrote about my morning, but it went a little something like…

“woke up at 4:15, went back to sleep, woke up again at 8, talked to parents on the phone, hung up, went back to sleep, woke up again at 9:00, contemplated not going to class today, do i really want to get out of bed, face the world of judgement, no one’s judging me here, but i should get up, i really don’t want to rush, want a healthy start to the day…but i guess that’s not happening. time to get up, face the elements, feet on the carpet, walk to the bathroom, turn on the shower, wait for the water to warm up, put in contacts, the blurry world becomes clear, get in the shower, wash my dirty self, prepare for class, go to class.”

And that was my morning, debbie tucker green style.

After hearing it read aloud to the whole class, I felt like I had just crossed a line, tipped my hand too much. I felt like I wanted to swallow myself, and in an unusual moment, I did something that I have never done before: stuck my right hand in my mouth and bit down gently on the four fingers I fit in there.

I left class feeling more down than before, and dreading the rest of the day, starting with the weekly TA meeting. I got to the meeting 10 minutes early, and was the first one there. Jo showed up about 5 minutes later, and as soon as she asked me what was the matter, the blubbery mess me bubbled to the surface. My head started to shake, and I could feel my tear ducts filling up. Just at the moment they were about to overflow the banks, everyone else came in. I don’t know how I did it – I didn’t even rub my eyes – I just blinked, and the tears receded from whence they came, and I wasn’t sad anymore.

Well, not on the verge of tears, but…my tears retreating into my face.

That’s something that’s never happened to be before.