module 1: Plot Literary Response
PAUL DOOLEY (1928– ) AND WINNIE HOLZMAN (1954– ) are a husband-and-wife playwriting team. Dooley was the co-creator and head writer of the 1970s children’s television series The Electric Company. He has acted in numerous television shows and films, including Scrubs (2009), Grey’s Anatomy (2008), Grace under Fire (1993), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), and Sixteen Candles (1984). Holzman wrote the book for the Broadway hit Wicked (2003), which was nominated for a 2004 Tony Award. An actor and a screenwriter for numerous television shows, Holzman received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for writing the television series My So-Called Life (1994).
Cultural Context: The Post-it® brand changed the way Ameri- cans wrote notes and reminders. In 1980, Post-it launched the sticky note as a new consumer product. Initially intended for business use, Post-its quickly became a national household staple. Post-it’s Web site touts the product’s literal and figurative staying power, pointing out, for example, that a Post-it stuck to an evacuated home stayed put for three days during Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Since popularizing sticky notes more than thirty years ago, Post-it has created a wide range of related products, including digital notes.
Post-its (Notes on a Marriage) (1998)
Post-its (Notes on a Marriage) premiered at a benefifit performance for the Gilda Radner Cancer Fund, 1998. The cast was as follows:
ACTOR Paul Dooley
ACTRESS Winnie Holzman
There is a chair with a small table and a glass of water on either side of the stage, a la A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters. The Actor and Actress enter simultaneously from either wing, dressed simply. Each grasps a handful of Post-its as if it were a script. They sit, modestly acknowledging each other and the audience. Each takes out a pair of reading glasses, puts them on. The Actor lifts his first Post-it to begin . . . and reads. Every line is read from a Post-it.
ACTOR: Had an early meeting, couldn’t bear to wake you. Close front door hard or it won’t lock. PS: Last night was incredible.
ACTRESS: Helped myself to breakfast. You need milk. PS: Next time, wake me.
ACTOR: Hey, sleepyhead. Tried to wake you. Not easy. Left you some coffee, hope you like it black. ACTRESS: Thought 1 should spend at least one night this week at my place. Picked up some milk; you don’t have to pay me back.
5 ACTOR: Off to work, extra set of keys on hall table.
ACTRESS: Darling: Went jogging with Lila. If you go out, we need milk. Wow. I can’t believe we’re a “we”!
ACTOR: Hon: If you have time, could you pick up my shirts? Ticket on hall table. Thanks. PS: Milk.
ACTRESS: Shirts are in your closet. Your mother called. She seemed sur- prised to hear my voice. You obviously never mentioned me. (Icy) Your shirts came to fourteen-fifty.
ACTOR: Gone to florist. Back soon. Hope you liked the chocolates.
10 ACTRESS: Darling, don’t go in the den.
ACTOR: Sweetheart, I understand how much it means to you, but at this stage of our relationship I’m just not ready . . . to have a dog.
ACTRESS: (After a beat.) We need Milk-Bones. (Next Post-it.) Your mother called; call her. (Next Post-it.) Did you call your mother? (Next Post-it.) Went to lunch with your mother. Back soon. ACTOR: Your new best friend my mother called. Call her.
ACTRESS: We need milk. Also, your mom mentioned how much you hate Eugene. I don’t think Eugene’s so bad. You should hear my middle name. Thank God my mother’s dead!
15 ACTOR: Please do not mention the name Eugene to me ever again. Thank you.
ACTRESS: Shopping list: Pistachio ice cream. Sardines. Those tiny little cheeses that come in that cute little net bag . . . They’re so adorable, they make me cry.
ACTRESS: We need Pampers. And baby wipes. And we need to get married.
ACTOR: Meet me City Hall, six sharp. You bring old and borrowed; I’ll do new and blue. Mom will stay with Eugenia.
ACTRESS: Note to self: Find breast pump.
20 ACTOR: Take cold shower.
ACTRESS: Lose forty pounds.
ACTOR: Redirect sex drive into career. (Next Post-it.) Home late. Don’t wait up.
ACTRESS: Hey, stranger, if you’re not too busy, could you call Eugenia tonight, around bedtime? Just to see if she recognizes your voice?
ACTOR: Hon: Sorry about your birthday. PS: I got the raise!
25 ACTRESS: To the new vice president in charge of marketing. We need milk. Please advise.
ACTOR: Hon: I think we’re out of milk. (Next Post-it.) Still no milk!
ACTRESS: If you want it so bad, get it yourself. The milk train doesn’t stop here anymore.
ACTOR: If you can’t even manage to get to the store—get some house- hold help!
ACTRESS: (Icy.) Have gone to bed. Dinner is in fridge. If there is some- thing in particular you wish for dinner tomorrow night, please leave note to that effect, and I will have Ursula or Carla or Jose, if it’s heavy, pick it up. (Beat.) I can’t take this anymore! We barely— (Turns Post-it over.)—communicate! There’s got to be more to this marriage than a few hastily scribbled words on a small square of pastel paper! (Beat.) By the way, we’re out of Post-its.
ACTOR: You think I want to spend every night at the office? You have absolutely no concept of how a business is run.
ACTRESS: To Whom It May Concern: Regarding your Post-it of June the tenth, allow me to clarify my position—up yours. Eugenia and I will be at your mother’s. PS: You need milk.
The Actor glances over at the Actress, she sips her water, coolly avoids his gaze. Finally . . .
ACTOR: Call her at my mother’s. (Next Post-it.) Must call her. (Next Post-it.) Reminder: Take out garbage. Call her. (Next Post-it.) People to call: Her.
The Actor looks over again at the Actress. She continues to ignore him.
ACTOR: Shopping list: Small loaf bread. Half pint milk. Soup for one. (Next Post-it.) Scotch for one. (Next Post-it.) Inflatable doll. (Next Post-it.) Scotch for two.
The Actress looks at him. He catches her eye. Caught, she hastily looks away.
ACTOR: Things to tell her. That I’m sorry. That I miss her. That all I want—all I ever wanted—for her to be happy.
The Actress turns to him, touched by this. Then . . . takes the next Post-it. Reads.
ACTRESS: We need milk.
35 ACTOR: Dearest—have gone down to the end of the driveway to get the paper—back soon.
ACTRESS: Honey, that therapist called back. He can see you Monday.
ACTOR: Sweetie, your therapist says your Tuesday is now Friday.
ACTRESS: What a session! Dr. K. believes that part of me is locked in unconscious competition with you, and envious of your of mascu- line role. By the way, we need cucumbers, sausages, and a really big zucchini.
40 ACTOR: At last—a breakthrough today with Dr. G. It all became crystal clear. My mother. My father. His mother. You. Your mother. (Turns Post-it over, continues,) I see our entire marriage in a new light! I must free myself from the past so we can truly have a future. This changes everything.
ACTRESS: Hon: A Diet Coke exploded all over that note you left. Hope it wasn’t important.
He stares at her. Oblivious to his reaction, she reads the next Post-it.
Took Eugenia to Brownies. Back soon.
ACTOR: Took Eugenia to kickboxing. Back soon.
ACTRESS: Took Eugenia to therapy. Could be a while.
ACTOR: Someone named Olaf called. Needs your résumé. What résumé?
45 ACTRESS: I landed the job! I start Monday! (Next Post-it.) Last-minute meeting. I’ll try to call. (Next Post-it.) I’ll be working late, don’t wait up. (Next Post-it.) I’m glad you waited. Last night was incredible.
ACTOR: Drove Eugenia to DMV. Hope she doesn’t drive me home.
ACTRESS: Eugenia called. Loves college. Mentioned someone named Tyrone. Doesn’t miss us at all.
ACTOR: Pick up travel brochures.
ACTRESS: Eugenia called. When can we meet Tyrone?
50 ACTOR: Schedule trip to campus when we get back.
ACTRESS: Sweetheart: Travel agent called. Cruise is confirmed! The honeymoon we never had! A time for us to leave all this behind and enjoy ten glorious days of total togetherness.
A long, silent beat. Very long. Very silent. They both look straight ahead. Finally he lifts the next Post-it.
ACTOR: (With great relief.) God, it’s good to be home! (Next Post-it.) Dinner Wednesday with Eugenia and what’s-his-name.
ACTRESS: Tyrone called—it’s a boy. Kareem Eugene.
ACTOR: Eugenia called. Loves being a mom.
55 ACTRESS: Off to throw pots! Back soon! (Next Post-it.) Don’t forget— we’re bird-watching Thursday! (Next Post-it.) What night is good for square dancing?
ACTOR: Any night you want—we’re free! Nothing to tie us down.
ACTOR: Eugenia called. Could we take Kareem for the weekend?
ACTRESS: Tyrone called. Could we take Kareem for spring break?
ACTOR: Kareem called. Could he spend the summer with us? Again. (Next Post-it.) Took Kareem to DMV.
60 ACTRESS: Honey—last night was incredible. I couldn’t believe how long it went on. You’ve got to do something about your snoring.
ACTOR: Shopping list: Bengay, Dentucreme. Viagra.
ACTRESS: Wrinkles Away. I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Support-Hose. Estrogen in a Drum.
ACTOR: We need milk of magnesia.
ACTRESS: Call Medicare.
ACTOR: You left your keys in the door again.
ACTRESS: Do you have my keys?
ACTOR: I can’t find my glasses.
ACTRESS: Have you seen my cane?
ACTOR: How can I see your cane if I can’t find my glasses?
ACTRESS: Gone for walk.
ACTOR: Where are you? Next time you go out, leave me a note!
ACTRESS: Sweetheart—dinner in oven. Taking nap. Love ya.
There’s a pause as lights slowly fade on the Actress. Then . . .
ACTOR: Call Emily. Also cousin Ruthie. Send note to Father McKay and everyone who sent flowers. (Beat.) The service was lovely. Everybody said so. (Beat.) I was looking through your things for that locket you said Eugenia should have. I could hardly believe what I found. You’d saved every Post-it I ever wrote you. I wish I’d saved yours. I could be reading them now. (Beat.) Back soon. Going to the store. We need milk.
Reading and Reacting
Summarize the plot of Post-its. What actually happens in this play?
What events occur offstage? Identify the references to these events in the characters’ dialogue.
Read the stage direction at the beginning of the play. What information about the two characters do you get from these stage directions?
What facts are revealed in the course of the play about the two charac- ters? What more can you infer about them?
In this play, the actors read every line from Post-it notes. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this format?
What props are used in this play? What purpose does each prop serve? If you were staging this play, would you use any additional props?
Do you think the fact that this play has only two speaking parts is a handicap? Can you suggest a way to add other characters while retaining the “Post-it” format? What other characters do you think could have speaking parts?
How much time passes in the course of this play? How can you tell?
Do the two characters grow and change over the years? Does their rela- tionship grow and change? Explain.
Why is the reference to needing milk repeated over and over again? Is this an effective use of repetition, or does it become annoying? Explain.
JOURNAL ENTRY Write a series of text messages between this play’s two characters, using shorthand and abbreviations as needed. (If you like, you can “translate” some of the play’s Post-it messages into text mes- sages.) Does the change of format change the nature of the conversa- tion? If so, how?
CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE Savanna Dooley, a screenwriter who is also Dooley and Holzman’s daughter, describes Holzman’s book for the musical Wicked as follows: “It is rich with her trademarks: a story about an out- sider, fully realized characters, and some subversive political commen- tary.” Does Post-its also demonstrate Holzman’s “trademarks” as described by Dooley?
Related Works: “Hills Like White Elephants” (p. 74), “Love and Other Catastrophes: A Mix Tape” (p. 84), “The Story of an Hour” (p. 127), “Meeting at Night” (p. 719), “Parting at Morning” (p. 719), “How Do I Love Thee?” (p. 719), The Brute (p. 814)
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