April 20, 2022

EP 301: ”CHOICES” by James McLindon

EP 301: ”CHOICES” by James McLindon

CHOICES: A debtor burdened by crushing student loans is offered a way out … but is the deal too good to be true?

Written by James McLindon

Directed by Jonathan Cook

Performed by: Chelsea Glass and Eric Odom

Intro/Outro music: JK/47

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Playwright James McLindon Bio: James McLindon is a member of the Nylon Fusion Theater Company in New York. "Comes a Faery" was developed at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Sean Daniels directing and was twice a finalist for the Humana Festival. It was premiered at the New Ohio Theatre, produced by Nylon Fusion Theatre Company. "Salvation" was premiered in New York by the Hudson Stage Company, directed by Giovanna Sardelli, to critical acclaim in the New York Times and elsewhere. It received a second production at the Nuance Theatre in New York. Faith premiered at Local Theatre Company in Boulder, CO. Dead and Buried, was an O'Neill semifinalist and premiered with the Detroit Rep. Good and Faith were both winners of the John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award. Distant Music, is published by Dramatic Publishing and has seven productions, most recently at the Stoneham Theatre in Boston. His plays have been developed and/or produced at theaters such as the O’Neill NPC (selection and six-time semifinalist), Lark, PlayPenn, Victory Gardens, Irish Repertory, CAP21, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Seven Devils, Abingdon, hotINK Festival, Samuel French Ten-Minute Play Festival, Local Theater Local Lab, Telluride Playwrights Festival, Emerging Artists Theatre, Love Creek Productions, Prop Thtr, Lyric Stage, Boston Playwrights Theatre, Colony Theatre, Theatricum Botanicum, Circus Theatricals, Great Plains Theatre Conference, and Arkansas Rep. Four of his one-act plays have been produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and two at at the Samuel French Festival. Six of his plays were Finalists for the Actors’ Theater of Louisville’s Heideman Award. Publications: His plays have been published by Dramatic Publishing, Smith and Krause, Original Works Publishing (Dusk), and Level 4 Press.

Transcript

00:00 - INTRO

01:40 - "CHOICES" version 1 - 

SCRIPT: CHOICES

CHARACTERS

PROSPECTIVE CLIENT...   Any gender or age.

DEBT COUNSELOR...       Any gender or age.

SETTING

A modest living room (think poor graduate student), the present.

OPENING MUSIC CUE: “YELLOW SUNDAY”

PROSPECTIVE CLIENT READS BROCHURE. TURNING PAGES OCCASIONALLY.

CLIENT:          
I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.

COUNSELOR:       
It’s pretty simple. It’s just... disruptive.

CLIENT:          
No, I know, it sounds... simple.

COUNSELOR:       
Think of it as a choice. We’re all about choices. You can choose this. Or not.

CLIENT FOOTSTEPS.

CLIENT SITS AT TABLE.

CLIENT:          
No, no, I want to choose this, believe me. I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel just trying to keep up with the payments, but... this just seems too good to be true.

COUNSELOR:       
That’s often what disruption looks like. Remember all the things you used to have to pay to read, like newspapers and magazines? Now you get them online for free. We’re disrupting the entire debt consolidation industry, sort of like that.

CLIENT:          
Okay, but... I still don’t get it.

COUNSELOR:       
Tell me what you don’t get.

CLIENT:          
So, you pay off my student loans —

COUNSELOR:       
Your crushing student loans.

CLIENT:          
Yes, thank you, my 247,000 dollars in student loans, and all I have to do is pay you 72 dollars a month?

COUNSELOR:       
Yes.

CLIENT:          
For 25 years.

COUNSELOR:       
Yes.

CLIENT:          
And that’s it. That’s all I ever have to pay you.

COUNSELOR:       
That’s all you ever have to pay us.

CLIENT QUIETY DOES THE MATH IN THEIR HEAD.

CLIENT:          
Okay, so I’m not really great at math, but I don’t think that pays you back.

COUNSELOR:       
Yeah, it’s actually only about 21,000 dollars.

CLIENT:          
Only 21,000 dollars!? Okay, now I don’t get this even more.

COUNSELOR:       
Tell me what you don’t get.

CLIENT:          
What don’t I—? You give me 247,000 dollars to pay off my debt today and all I have to give you is 21,000 dollars over 25 years?

COUNSELOR:       
Right. Mainly to keep you focused.

CLIENT:          
So you lose money.

COUNSELOR:       
No —

CLIENT:          
Yeah, you lose money. Nobody sets up a business to lose money, unless they’re, like, money laundering or something. Wait, are you guys money laundering?

COUNSELOR:       
No.

CLIENT:          
What are you doing?

COUNSELOR:       
We’re providing choices.

COUNSELOR FLIPS TO PAGE IN BROCHURE.

I think maybe you skipped footnote seven.

CLIENT:          
I didn’t read the footnotes.

COUNSELOR:       
You should read the footnotes.

CLIENT:          
I never do.

COUNSELOR:       
You always should.

CLIENT:          
Okay, fine, what does footnote seven say?

COUNSELOR:       
It answers this question.

CLIENT:          
About whether you’re money-laundering?

COUNSELOR:       
About how we get paid.

CLIENT:          
So how do you? I mean, after I finish my payments you’ll be short about 230,000 dollars. Not to mention any interest. So where do you get the rest from? Oh, there’re a bunch of hidden fees, aren’t there?

COUNSELOR:       
There are no fees at all.

CLIENT:          
Then c’mon, how do you get your money back from me?

COUNSELOR:       
We don’t get it back from you.

CLIENT:          
You don’t?

COUNSELOR:       
We don’t. (PAUSE) From you.

CLIENT:          
Who do you get it back from?

COUNSELOR:       
The insurance company.

CLIENT:          
What insurance company?

COUNSELOR:       
You should really read footnote seven —

CLIENT:          
Just tell me, what insurance company!?

COUNSELOR:       
Your insurance company.

CLIENT:          
Why would my car insurance company pay you?

COUNSELOR:       
Not your car insurance company. Your life insurance company.

CLIENT:          
I don’t have life insurance.

COUNSELOR:       
Footnote seven.

CLIENT:          
I have to get life insurance?

COUNSELOR:       
We pay for it.

CLIENT:          
What good does life insurance do anyone? Unless I die.

COUNSELOR:       
Read footnote seven.

CLIENT:          
Oh my god. You’ve looked at my DNA!

COUNSELOR STARTS WRITING DOWN THIS NEW BUSINESS MODEL.

You have, you totally have, and you’ve found out I must have some horrible genetic abnormality that means I’m going to die young, so that’s how you... What are you writing down?

COUNSELOR:       
No, please, go on, that’s a really interesting business model.

CLIENT:          
Stop it! That’s not your business model?

COUNSELOR:       
No, but it’s pretty good though. Way disruptive.

CLIENT:          
So, I’m not going to die young?

COUNSELOR:       
Well, how would I know that?

CLIENT:          
There’s no DNA stuff in your file on me?

COUNSELOR:       
All we have is what you gave us.

CLIENT:          
(RELIEVED) I’m not going to die young.

COUNSELOR:       
Well, not in the next 25 years. As far as I know.

CLIENT:          
So how do you make money from my life insurance?

COUNSELOR:       
How does anyone make money from life insurance?

CLIENT:          
Somebody has to die. (PAUSE) But you just said I wouldn’t!

COUNSELOR:       
I said I don’t know anything about your DNA. Or your health at all for that matter. We don’t worry about that. Please. Read footnote seven.

COUNSELOR HANDS CLIENT BROCHURE AGAIN.

Please.

CLIENT:          
Okay, fine.

CLIENT QUIETLY READS THE FOOTNOTE.

(STUNNED) Oh my god!

COUNSELOR:       
(VERY EXCITED) I know, right!? The first time I read it, I was like, Whaaaaat!? But the more you think about it, the more genius it is. Dis! Effing! Ruption! Amiright!? (CATHING HIMSELF, THEN CALMING DOWN) Sorry. I just love this product so much.

CLIENT:          
I’m not going to agree to this! Does anyone ever agree to this?

COUNSELOR:       
No. (PAUSE) Not at first.

MUSIC CUE: “GNOSSIENNE NO. 3”

But then they think about it. And they think, well, when I took out my crushing student loans, I knew that they would impact my life. Severely impact my life. For a whole lot of my life. Decades and decades and decades of my life. And see, that’s all this is really. You just assumed that the impact would be frontloaded. And all we do is... backload it for you.

CLIENT:          
Me dying in 25 years at 55, that’s what you call “severely impacting” my life?

COUNSELOR:       
Well, it seems severe to me.

CLIENT:          
No, it’s severe, it is very severe!

COUNSELOR:       
Yes. But. What a much better life it will have been. These next 25 years anyway. Which, after all, are your prime.

CLIENT:          
How do you... you know... do it?

COUNSELOR:       
Do what?

CLIENT:          
Make it so you get to, you know, collect.

COUNSELOR:       
Before we get into the details, I think it’s best that you get comfortable with the concept —

CLIENT:          
Tell me how!

COUNSELOR:       
Well, it’s up to you. See? Choices. Most people opt to handle matters themselves. We’ll give you recommendations and how-tos in the next brochure. It’s under “Self-Termination.” A lot of people, though, find they’re too... squeamish? for Self-Term when push comes to shove and for them we offer Appointment Service. The App Serv team is excellent, guaranteed painless and they can make anything look like an accident. And finally, there are some people who are squeamish, but also find that having an actual appointment makes them... ummm...

CLIENT:          
Freaking terrified?

COUNSELOR:       
I’d call it anxious. For them we offer a third approach, a service where you just go about your business and we... take it from there. That one’s called Dealer’s Choice. (PAUSE) You don’t have to decide that now.

CLIENT:          
A lot of people must just run when their time is up.

COUNSELOR:       
Oh, people are surprisingly ethical about it. Also, we implant a chip that sends us your GPS coordinates.

CLIENT:          
What if you dig the chip out?

COUNSELOR:       
We don’t put it anywhere too... accessible. (PAUSE) You can always say no. We’re all about choices. (HIS SPEECH GETS A LITTLE DARKER WITH EDGE) Quantity or quality. You can live in your run-down studio apartment if you want. With a roommate. And drive a 15-year-old beater. And eat ramen noodles. And never take a decent vacation. And waste a lot of your life living on the shoulder of poverty.

CLIENT:          
Or I can have only 25 years left.

COUNSELOR:       
Twenty-five debt-free years to keep and spend your money. To travel, buy a house, have kids, have a life, whatever that means to you. And do you really want to live longer than that?

CLIENT:          
My parents got to.

FX: AN EERIE SWELL BEGINS, BUILDING UP IN INTENSITY TIL THE END OF THIS SPEECH.

COUNSELOR:       
(OMINOUS) But do you want to? With the rising tides of climate change lapping at your ankles and blowing down your little garret. With the prospect of pandemics and failed leadership raking and dividing us. With the last shreds of our democracy fraying before your eyes, while the old-world order collapses. I don’t think it’s too much to say that the ones who choose to go with us are in many ways the lucky ones.

EERIE SWELL ABRUPTLY ENDS AND COUNSELOR IS SUDDNETLY CHIPPER AGAIN.

Hey, it’s a big decision, so you take your time, talk to your friends, your family. And if you do choose to go with us, just give me a call.

MUSIC: “YELLOW SUNDAY”

CLIENT:          
Wait. Are... are you a client?

COUNSELOR:       
Want to see my GPS scar?

CLIENT.:         
No thanks.

COUNSELOR:       
Have a look around on the beach. You’ll be surprised. Here’s my card. When you’re ready, call me.

CLIENT:          
(DISMISSIVELY) Yeah, I don’t think so.

COUNSELOR:       
How about I just leave it here then. On the counter. For you to think about. Okay?

COUNSELOR PLACES CARD ON THE COUNTER.

CLIENT:          
(UNCERTAINLY) Okay.

COUNSELOR:       
(CONFIDENTLY) Okay. Have a great day!

COUNSELOR FOOTSTEPS AND EXITS OUT FRONT DOOR.

CLIENT LOOKS THROUGH THE BROCHURE AGAIN AND THIS TIME CONSIDERS.

CLIENT:          
Okay.

END OF PLAY

11:18 - "CHOICES" version 2 -

Same script as above with roles reversed

21:25 - Interview with playwright James McLindon

Jonathan CookProfile Photo

Jonathan Cook

Playwright / Voice Actor / Host

Jonathan Cook is heavily involved in the fine arts as an actor, writer, and filmmaker based in South Carolina. Many of his short plays have been produced in theatres around the World and and he is a six-time recipient of the Porter Fleming Literary Award in the playwriting category. Aside from playwriting, he has also written and directed several short films that have been presented in regional film festivals as well as distributed internationally on ShortsTV. He is also the host and producer of the radio theater podcast GATHER BY THE GHOST LIGHT. Launched in 2020, GATHER BY THE GHOST LIGHT is a collection of stage plays adapted to an audio only format performed by voice actors and edited with appropriate sound effects and music.

James McLindonProfile Photo

James McLindon

Playwright

Brief Biographical Summary: James McLindon is a member of the Nylon Fusion Theater Company in New York. Comes a Faery was developed at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Sean Daniels directing and was twice a finalist for the Humana Festival. It was premiered at the New Ohio Theatre, produced by Nylon Fusion Theatre Company. Salvation was premiered in New York by the Hudson Stage Company, directed by Giovanna Sardelli, to critical acclaim in the New York Times and elsewhere. It received a second production at the Nuance Theatre in New York. Faith premiered at Local Theatre Company in Boulder, CO. Dead and Buried, was an O'Neill semifinalist and premiered with the Detroit Rep. Good and Faith were both winners of the John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award. Distant Music, is published by Dramatic Publishing and has seven productions, most recently at the Stoneham Theatre in Boston. His plays have been developed and/or produced at theaters such as the O’Neill NPC (selection and six-time semifinalist), Lark, PlayPenn, Victory Gardens, Irish Repertory, CAP21, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Seven Devils, Abingdon, hotINK Festival, Samuel French Ten-Minute Play Festival, Local Theater Local Lab, Telluride Playwrights Festival, Emerging Artists Theatre, Love Creek Productions, Prop Thtr, Lyric Stage, Boston Playwrights Theatre, Colony Theatre, Theatricum Botanicum, Circus Theatricals, Great Plains Theatre Conference, and Arkansas Rep. Four of his one-act plays have been produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and two at at the Samuel French Festival. Six of his pla… Read More

Chelsea GlassProfile Photo

Chelsea Glass

Voice Actor

Eric OdomProfile Photo

Eric Odom

Voice Actor

Eric Odom is a stage and voice actor from Augusta, GA. Eric can be heard in episodes of the Gather by the Ghost Light podcast. Notable stage roles include Charles Condomine in “The Blithe Spirit”, Albert Chang in “Rules of Seconds”, and Mr. Chu in “Akeelah and the Bee.”

JK/47Profile Photo

JK/47

Composer

Composer based in Austin, TX.