You also may wish to check out the paperback book that contains this play: Ethno-Playography: How to Create Salable Ethnographic Plays, Monologues, & Skits from Life Stories, Social Issues... by Anne Hart (Jul 27, 2007). At this date the book is listed at the publisher's site and at: Amazon.com. The link for the book is at: http://www.amazon.com/Ethno-Playography-Ethnographic-Monologues-Events%C3%82%E2%80%94-Performance/dp/0595460666/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421888251&sr=8-1&keywords=ethnoplayography%2C+anne+hart
Growing Up in Coney Island during and the two decades after World War Two: A Stage, Radio, or Internet Play
© Anne Hart 1987
List of Characters in this Play:
Meir Cohen Levi, Father of Hadara and Husband of Tsipke
Hadara Cohen Levi, Baby in first chapter, then 9-year old
girl, first person as narrator.
Benjamin, son of Meir
Tsipke, the mother of Hadara
The Arab Sheik as Hadara's first husband,
*Ahmed (not his real name)
Eric* (not his real name), Hadara's second husband
Mrs. Hesk, an older neighbor with a Yiddish accent
Hadara's two children as five-year olds:
Hadara's two children as young adults: (17-20 age group)
Shoe Sales clerk
Darlene, college friend of Hadara
Black Man, in Subway
Goldie, Darlene's mother
Classmates, 8th and 9th grade, ages 13 and 14
Ext. Brooklyn, N.Y., Rainy Day, November 1941
AS CURTAIN RISES, WE SEE THE FRONT OF THE CONEY ISLAND
APARTMENT BUILDING WHERE MEIR in front of his brick, four
family apartment house tries to adjust the lens on his box
camera. He reacts to the invisible wind that slashes his
face, covering his white hair and beard with his hands as his
breath quickens in anger.
Whippet-wiry MEIR (age 47), a janitor, is dressed in patched
janitor's coveralls. From inside the house echoes of Bach
peal through the apartment and can be heard outside. OFFSTAGE
WHERE HEAR THE SOUND EFFECTS OF A SUBWAY elevator line
grinding by, drowning out the phonograph music.
TSIPKE (38), his wife, carries in one arm her blanketed two
week old daughter, HADARA. In her other arm, she tries to
balance a bouquet of American Beauty roses.
The blanket keeps blowing over the baby's face as TSIPKE
fidgets to straighten the blanket. The baby's nerve
shattering cry pierces the wind.
Hurry and take the picture.
The baby's turning blue from the cold weather.
TSIPKE shouts at MEIR. And the shouts seem to be coming from
a horde of women, SCREAMING together in fury.
We see the open mouth of TSIPKE. Her voice becomes an
indistinguishable roar of needy demand as loud as the wind.
MEIR tries to focus the camera once more. TSIPKE smiles and
tries to pose as he fidgets with the lens.
TSIPKE yells again and again, like a compelling tattoo.
The baby's freezing, you jerk.
Shut up! Damn it.
I'm trying to keep the lens from getting dusty.
Hurry up, neurotic. She can't
breathe. What are you standing
there for, got your thumb up your
MEIR'S temper cracks, and he lets fly with a right hook to
her left chest. The baby slides from the blanket into a
puddle of rain on the sidewalk. MEIR can't stop punching his
wife. The deep, red American Beauty roses scatter in the rain
near the baby's head.
Lights Come on. Spotlight on the Darkened Bedroom.
Int. Nov. 1950, Same Brooklyn Apartment
HADARA lies awake next to her mother in the rutted double bed
in which they both sleep. MEIR, in the next bedroom, sleeps
in twin beds with his 22-year old son, BENJAMIN. It's three
in the morning. Outside the window WE HEAR THE SOUND EFFECTS
OF the grinding subway train as it passes on its way from
Coney Island. There's the sound of squealing metal cars as
the train turns on the elevator line track.
Remember when we played suffering?
I'd rub your belly, and your doll would be delivered like a
TSIPKE laughs and hacks her cigarette cough.
HADARA rolls over, pulling her mass of hair from her eyes.
Mom, are you a worrywart?
No. Do I look that nervous?
TSIPKE pops the muscle up in her biceps to show how strong
her muscles are.
I'm tired of hearing about your
lack of romance.
I'm sick of your hands all over me
playing "having a baby." It's
always either how your mom gave you
away when you were two, or, where
daddy is off to by himself.
Your father gave me gonorrhea.
Where do you think he got it, in
France during World War One?
I'm not interested any more in
listening to your complaints about
daddy or your life story and how
you ate out of garbage cans as a
kid, or how dad's job is mopping
toilets in the Navy yard. You just
talk, but you don't change
You're nine today. You have to
No, I don't. The radiator dried out
the air again. Now my nose and
MEIR tiptoes out of his bedroom and crawls into bed with his
What's the kid doing up so late?
What are you doing here?
MEIR ignores her and takes off his pajamas, climbing into bed
to make love to his wife.
Get out of here.
Leave the kid, alone, MEIR.
You kicking me out of bed?
MEIR hesitates for a moment. TSIPKE is silent.
I want to go back to sleep.
Shut up, you tramp.
Don't call me a tramp on my
Better you should be crippled.
You should have been born a boy.
She says she got a high IQ
I'll smash you one, you piece of
MEIR hurries his pajamas back on and storms out of the
bedroom looking for something to smash. He finds a hammer in
the living room and begins to smash all the keys on HADARA's
piano. TSIPKE gets up and follows him into the living room.
Stop. I saved for months to buy
that old piano. My daughter's a
When MEIR finishes smashing the piano keys, he goes for
HADARA's violin. MEIR puts his foot through the violin.
TSIPKE jumps out of bed.
All the kid's birthday presents!
I'll teach you.
MEIR, having smashed the violin, finally storms into the
bathroom where HADARA's new puppy is sleeping in its basket
and holds the puppy's belly against the hot radiator pipe in
the bathroom until it stops whimpering.
The more HADARA CRIES, the more TSIPKE backs away from her.
MEIR comes out of the bathroom with his hammer in hand and
begins to chase HADARA around the living room and into the
kitchen, waving the hammer over his head.
If I catch you, I'll cripple you.
Heads will roll before you'll become a tramp and shame me.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry, daddy.
Better you should be a cripple then
to be born a girl and make trouble.
TSIPKE follows MEIR into the kitchen and lights a cigarette,
making the motions of heating up water for coffee.
Leave the kid alone.
I should have flushed her out into
the bay with the condom before she
was conceived. Better such a dog
If I have to get up for a second
Damn, those cigarettes are choking me.
But you two fighting all the time are driving me to smoke.
MEIR takes a swing at HADARA, but misses. HADARA darts out
the kitchen and dashes through the living room and out the
front door, running down the apartment steps to the basement.
She hurries down the cellar steps with MEIR, chasing behind,
hammer swinging over his head.
In the darkness of the cellar, MEIR chases HADARA. She
squeezes her body into a partially-filled co&1 bin, hiding
behind an old barrel. HADARA covers herself with coal.
MEIR peers around for a moment, wild-eyed. He wipes the sweat
from his upper lip on his pajama sleeve.
If I catch you, you die.
HADARA watches him from between the wide slats of the coal
bin as he swings his hammer overhead. MEIR passes a basement
worktable and puts down his hammer only to pick up an ax. He
slaps the ax broadside across his thigh several times. Then
he sighs and puts the ax back on the table. Finally,
exhausted, MEIR plods up the wooden stairs. The apartment
door closes with a bang.
Int. Kitchen Brooklyn Apartment. Same Night
No sooner did I put the baby on
your lap then you told me to take
her off because she gave you an
erection. Your temper is only a bad
habit. Why is it necessary to
transfer your stress to me? Why
isn't it important that you add to
my life span?
You keep hounding me just because
your step father came into your
room to have sex with you when you
went upstate to visit your mother.
He's your richest brother. Besides,
I told him to get out. You didn't
see him grabbing an ax or hammer.
Girls only make trouble. You know
how many times I asked the doctor
to check to make sure-maybe he made
a mistake-maybe she was a boy.
Is that why you never held a
conversation with your own
daughter? You never smiled.
Not once in your whole life did she ever hear you laugh,
except at her.
What about you going into your
son's room to massage his feet
every morning and comb his hair?
I'm a nineteen-fourteen fifth-grade dropout mom.
He's twenty-two. You're
And you're a cold fish. The only
passion I ever see is anger.
If that's the only way you can get power, I'm going back to
She turns around.
Where's the kid?
In the coal bins again.
Let her rot in hell down there.
MEIR staggers back to bed. TSIPKE sits on her bed with the
light on, smoking cigarettes and reading old newspapers.
Darken Stage or Curtain.
Int. Basement Morning
HADARA peaks out of the basement window and scratches off
some of the frost. She watches MEIR go off to work, walking
toward the subway station. Then she climbs the stairs back to
the apartment and knocks on the door.
TSIPKE opens the door wearing a stained and disheveled robe.
Benjamin just had a fight with me
over you making too much noise. And
he broke a lamp over my arm. I
dared him to do it.
Does daddy know?
I had to tell him.
So now he smashed your brother's typewriter right before his
term paper is due.
I'm too tired to go to school
HADARA slowly walks through the foyer, passing and looking at
her dead canary in its small bird cage.
It caught a cough.
You'll have to take it down to the garbage cans.
HADARA runs into the bedroom. TSIPKE follows her.
Listen, you little mouse, want to
Don't you have anything better to
TSIPKE goes back into the kitchen and begins to fry eggs.
HADARA comes into the kitchen. TSIPKE puts down a heel of rye
bread for HADARA and some hot cocoa and corn flakes.
Darkened Stage, Curtain
In a department store near a counter with women's costume
jewelry, lingerie, and cheap cologne…
Int. Department Store, Brooklyn Day
TSIPKE and HADARA walk through the department store. TSIPKE
shoplifts baubles and silken wisps of lingerie, cheap
cologne, and boxes of face powder, rhinestone costume jewelry
and lipsticks. When no one is in the ladies room, she taker
in clothing and stuffs the items into her panties.
So that's why I wear incontinence
panties. Bet you can't pronounce
I don't want any of the beads or
perfume. You've cursed them.
You've given them the evil eye. We'll get bad luck.
Why do you take things in tiny sizes, when you're shaped like
TSIPKE enters the toilet cubicle.
(banging on the wall)
Your father gives me three dollars
How else can I live like a lady instead of a woman?
I won't wear that crap.
TSIPKE (HANDING HER CLOTHES UNDER THE
Here, stuff this into your panties.
No! How come women of grandma's
generation never went to school in
the old country?
And how come you dropped out in the fifth grade?
I was born at the turn of the
So were a lot of famous women
TSIPKE drags whining HADARA into the fitting room with some
of the dresses and items tucked inside of three dresses
because the sign says only three garments are allowed in the
dressing room at one time.
In front of the mirror, TSIPKE tries on bras, slips, and
clothing under her own clothes. But all she brings out are
the three dresses she took in with her and hands them to the
clerk. The rest are stashed on her person.
TSIPKE (TO SALES CLERK)
These dresses aren't the right
TSIPKE leads HADARA by the hand into the shoe department to
pick out a pair of school shoes for her. They sit down to
rest in the shoe department. A salesman approaches. HADARA
points to a pair of saddle shoes and the salesman retrieves
the shoes. The SALESMAN tries to lace the saddle shoe on
Well, little girl. Give me that
skinny foot, here.
Leave me alone, you!
HADARA whispers in his ear and runs out of the shoe
That filthy-mouthed kid.
I wonder where she learned that?
Embarrassed, TSIPKE gets up and leaves to chase after HADARA.
She catches up with her and slaps her so hard she gets a
bloody nose. TSIPKE buys a towel and makes HADARA keep it on
Don't make me hit you.
Because if I do, I'll kill you.
He didn't have to call me skinny.
Horseface! Why did you say that
word to him in this place?
He meant I was ugly.
TSIPKE (STARING AT HADARA'S FEET)
You wore those old, dirty socks?
It's from the coal bin.
You're beginning to stink just like
your old man who's never taken a
bath since World War One.
Darkened Stage or Curtain End of Scene.
Back At Home.
HADARA is reading two comic books, "The Vault of Horror" and
"The Crypt of Terror. Mother and daughter are riding home,
seated on the subway.
See my scar? I don't know where you
Stop and I begin anymore.
Your curse and evil eye made me
fall over that fence last summer.
The year before, I got a fish hook in my leg.
So it was my curse, was it? Does
that explain the eight stitches
they had to take in your chin? Now
that you're a scar face, only the
worse kind of man will want to
That stuff you took. It brings me
Then don't touch it.
I want to enroll myself in Hebrew
School on Monday. Nobody talks to
me in class in public school. I
don't have any friends. And when I
told the teacher, she gave me an
"F" in personal relationships.
Fadeout to a Darkened Stage
Curtain Descends: End Of Scene.
Tsipke's Apartment - 1955 - Day
I'm damn tired of your analyzing
Maybe I should go back to
buying corporate high-yield bonds?
(turns TSIPKE to mirror)
Go ahead, look at yourself stuffing
negligees into old ladies
You think I wanted you?
You hate kids, don't you?
No. Damn you. I'm desperately
Are you worth the three dollars a day your old man flings at
You've never gone back to school after the fifth
grade....never had a job, you lazy blimp.
Why did you have to be born just as
I was about to divorce your father?
I hate weak mothers.
A lady has a husband rich enough to
support her. A woman has to work
because she can't get a good enough
Only failures marry.
Think I wanted you?
I'm only taking care of you because your father made it my
What do you get from
stealing...some kind of sexual
What do you mean, sex?
I haven't had any since you were born.
Do I have to know that?
Horse face! Your father hasn't
had a bath since the end of World War One.
Is that why you're always saying
he's a disabled veteran?
TSIPKE pauses a beat, looking disgusted. Then she
slaps HADARA across the face. She retracts in
How the hell was I ever conceived?
My father paid us a visit.
What has that got to do with it?
I was so happy to see him,
I gave him my room and went to sleep in your father's room.
Did Benjamin watch the bang?
He was sleeping, I guess.
I wished daddy was proud of me.
A caring man prefers olive oil
instead of butter.
See this scar on my face?
What about the lightning you carved
on my face?
You called me horse face.
But you are as ugly as your father.
I don't look ugly.
I look Semitic.
Better get yourself an exciting
career because no man worth money
will want you.
I got that scar because you cursed
(shaking her mother)
Take it off. Take off the evil eye,
You had no right to throw a
protractor in my face.
Your evil eye made me fall over
that fence in the schoolyard and
split my face open.
You lost your balance because you
were playing with A Syrian girl.
She's a jynx to you because of some
We were nine years old.
I told you time and time again that
people who are not the same as us
are bad luck when we try to be
them. When we can't see the
boundaries, we don't know where we
end and where they begin.
No, it was your evil-eyed curse.
She was with you when it happened.
I wasn't anywhere near there.
You linked minds with me when I
threw the protractor at you. Or was
it a compass?
I didn't throw my mother's evil
eye. It was karma.
You're all crazy makers. All those
churches you go to, those clubs,
the gypsies you visit in
storefronts to gab.
I'm lonely. You did something bad
to Syrians in a past life. That's
why they're bad luck to you now.
The girl simply asked me to pretend
the janitor was chasing us.
The little bitch didn't take your
side, did she?
She forced you to climb the fence.
I'd do anything for her friendship.
It was her fantasy, not yours.
Can't you see? It was her karma cursing you.
We shouldn't even bring back her name.
She's a jinx.
Your father's mother's eye, those people from Bialystock, the
musicians who played with the Klezmorim, they will put the
curse of the evil on anyone who commits evil.
How should I know?
Of course she's a jinx.
Maybe she put a curse on all of us.
Isn't it odd that her brother-in-law turned out
to be the lawyer for the
city and we lost the case?
We make our own choices.
I had to pay all the
I've got to change my name.
Why do you let strangers torture
Isn't it enough you have this family?
Why did you tell me the Japanese
were bombing New York
when I was three?
Such trouble, such complications
from you, horse face.
That's my first memory.
You enjoyed making me sweat
I could feel your father
moving inside my body.
But it was me in your arms.
Now your mind has the strength of
Dad keeps saying he wished he'd
flushed me into the bay.
I'd be free,
if only I sent your brother
to the drug store for rubbers.
Free to do what--make lopsided
ash trays in your ceramics class?
You think your soul can be
flushed through your dad's
If you knew how much
I hate being female.
The day I married, I
wrote in my diary
"Today I died."
Then stop saying I'm killing you.
Your old man read it
back to me with
tears in his eyes.
We were on the honeymoon
train to Miami.
He opened your secret diary?
Girls make trouble.
Emotions make trouble.
My only need is to
get rid of them.
Through the storms of hell,
I curse you to be logical.
You'll get your wish...
in your husband.
Why are you afraid to be Jewish?
Polish Jewish, I mean?
You're a holocaust survivor,
aren't you, mom. Aren't you?
Why don't you ever talk about it?
The second generation mustn't know.
Would it really have made a
They said I had the map of
Jerusalem printed on my face.
You were beaten by strangers
who didn't even know your name.
They were biting my tits off.
And I was screaming that my hair is black because I'm from
What did you do with the fear, pass
it onto me?
I bleached my hair, and changed my
People change with time.
You think it's a joke?
I'll tell you where
the holocaust is, mom.
It's inside this dump.
Don't belittle the holocaust.
I take your father's and brother's slaps like a soldier.
And all you do is nag and laugh at
and complain. But nothing changes.
I'm growing up to fear all men.
He says you're overbearing.
Your brother is my life.
You're father is always at his flower shows.
And I'm all alone, except for you.
So would you lighten up?
I'll laugh at my own pain
if I want to, walrus-face,
You have a moustache.
Thanks for reminding me.
Hey, what the hell
did you ever do for me?
Curtain or Fade Out
Jr. High School Classroom Fall 1955 Day
It is the fall of 1955 at a public junior high school in
Brooklyn. HADARA (age 13) sits in a classroom that is made up
of mostly Syrian Jewish students whose parents are recent
immigrants from either Syria or Syria by way of Latin
It is break time in home room, when students are free to
chat. JUSTA, (13) and Seeley (13) are Syrian Pampered
princesses who sit in the surrounding seats near HADARA.
These girls are so wealthy they make uptown Jewish princesses
look like paupers. They all live around Ocean Parkway, the
wealthiest street in Flatbush, in private homes as big as
HADARA at 13 is a short, skinny girl with waist-length black
hair in corkscrew curls and pale green eyes hidden behind
coke-bottle thick eyeglasses.
Why can't I join your sorority?
The Megaz looks like a lot of fun.
You have to be Syrian to join.
Well what if I said I was a Syrian
Jewish Princess who spent all day
shopping and had a big house like
you instead of a two-room
You ain't got any Syrian name or
That means nothing.
What if I had a Syrian bio father and a Polish Jewish step
father or somethin'?
I haven't seen you around any
Syrian neighborhoods. You don't
even live near our blocks. I've
never seen you go to the Syrian
How do you know what synagogue I go
Besides, my mom is so scared of being Jewish, she drags me to
She got beat up plenty just for looking like the stereotype.
Your family doesn't hang around
with our crowd at the Nobeh parties
we have on Saturday nights. You're
not even religious. You wear
lipstick. I've never seen you
Well, what if I hang around the
Suppose I insist I am Syrian and I want to join.
I have a special reason for wanting to join the Megaz.
I want to find a rich husband to cherish me.
What would I have to do to get in?
Pass initiation. You have to take
off all your clothes in Seeley's
closet and let her six-year old
brother feel you up.
I couldn't do such a thing.
Did you ever let a boy feel you up?
Justa giggles and starts to chew on her snack.
Is that your stupid initiation
You have to take off your sweater
and bra in Seeley's closet and walk
into her living room and stand
there while Tynie feels you up.
What about Seeley's mother?
She's in Florida for a week.
The maid finishes the ironing at two and leaves to go
We're nearly fourteen.
We don't need the maid to watch us every minute.
If I take off my clothes
are you sure I can join the Megaz?
Do you want to join?
You're pretty weird.
Int. Seeley's House
Seeley, Robrana, Wiley, and dusts, the leaders of the Megaz
sorority of Syrian Jewish junior high girls meets at Seeley's
house on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. All the girls are 13 and
go to the same junior high school.
No parent is present in the large, mansion-like private home.
The heavy, black maid is busy ironing clothes and walks out a
few minutes after all the girls arrive and settle down, lady
like and quiet in the spacious, plush living room.
I heard all of your parents come
from one city in Syria--Aleppo.
Is it true the Aleppan Jews don't hang around with the Jews
Is it like the Litvaks and the Galicianas used to be fifty
years ago in Europe?
HADARA looks around the house, pacing the floor nervously.
All I know is that we have two
One in Bensonhurst for the Damascenes.
And there's one here for the Haleebees from Aleppo.
Our grandparents were born in Aleppo
My mom is from South America.
Seeley looks at JUSTA wide-eyed. The two girls exchange
glances and nudge one another's elbows, smiling and giggling.
We're all Syrians.
Give me something proud to be a
Of what can I be proud?
Of what I do instead of who I am?
Give me something proud to say about being a Litvak?
You can be proud you're in the same
classroom at school with us and
Oh, so you do talk to me.
How come you don't marry
Ashkenazi Jews from Europe?
You think Sephardics or Mizrahi are better or older?
Equal, but different, like men and women?
You think we're self-styled Jews from Northern Europe?
Maybe you think we're part Vikings and Asians.
We never saw you around our social
I stood outside the Syrian
synagogue on the holidays.
So, I hear Davie Joseph is practicing for his Bar Mitzvah.
He's probably right next door.
Hadara, you know what you have to
It's initiation time.
Sure. Whereas your closet?
It's dark in the hallway as HADARA enters Seeley's huge
closet and takes off her sweater end undershirt.
She stays in there a long while, as the girls pass around
plates of Syrian pizza--cheese and spices melted on top of
What are you doing in there so
After a long moment of torment, HADARA walks out in nude
colored body suit from the waist up, clutching her undershirt
and sweeter to her undeveloped chest. Justa pulls her sweater
and undershirt out of her grip as HADARA crosses her arms
over her chest to hide her flat breasts.
Justa tosses her clothing high in the air to Seeley, then to
Robrana and to Wiley. The clothes continuously are tossed in
the air from girl to girl as if they were & volley ball.
Monkey in the middle.
The Polish girl plays a fiddle.
Give me beck my clothes. Please,
HADARA paces around chasing after the girls, trying to form
same eye contest to get their attention and get her clothing
back. She keeps her hands crossed over her chest.
Where's your six-year old brother?
You lied to me. He's not here.
He'd probably tell your parents.
Hey, Seeley. Give her back her
Go on give it to her.
Oh, gee. All right. Here's your
JUSTA tosses the sweater and HADARA reaches up to catch her
clothing in mid-air. The girls giggle loudly.
Look how small her breasts are.
She's as flat as a pancake.
HADARA's back is toward the camera. The girls stop in their
tracks and all of them stare at HADARA's naked chest as she
struggles to put her torn undershirt on and then her red
We have no initiation rights to
join the Megaz We just wanted to
see how crazy you'd act to get into
You really went and did it.
Why did you lie and keep insisting
you were Syrian? I know where you
live, in a roachy apartment next to
the subway and not in the Syrian
I'll have to face you in school
tomorrow and for the next three
Crazy HADARA is really nuts enough
to get naked to join our club.
A Crazy HADARA.
You have to be born one of us to join.
JUSTA opens the door and shoves HADARA into the street. She
backs up and the four girls pace toward until HADARA is
standing at the curb. Then the girls toss her into the street
into the path of an oncoming car. The car brakes and comes to
a halt a few inches before hitting HADARA.
HADARA looks up only to see Avy Joseph, the Syrian Jewish
boy' she has a crush on coming out of the Synagogue after
practicing for his Bar Mitzvah.
Their eyes meet, but each turns and quickly walks in two
opposite directions, to offstage. Avy is dressed in a prayer
shawl and skull cap. He had been practicing for his Bar
The girls go back into the house, giggling and slam door
shut. HADARA is left standing on the curb in silence as Avy
Joseph approaches as he is on his way home nearby.
Hello Avy. How's school?
AVY walks away quickly, not paying any attention to HADARA.
Soon a swarm of teenage girls leave the synagogue end catch
up to AVY as HADARA watches from a short distance away,
unnoticed. The girls crowd around AVY as he stands with
crossed legs, leaning on the fence of one of the areas
upscale homes chatting with them. He's popular with the girls
as they smile and admire the dimples in his cheeks.
Darken Stage: Curtain.
End of Scene
Eight Years Later In Time:
Int. - Dance Hall - YMCA - New York City - Night
An uncrowded dance-hall floor is livened by classical
Flamenco guitar music. "El Judio" is playing--a Middle
Eastern-sounding wild, Flamenco dance.
HADARA swirls onto the dance floor, alone. She's wearing
white, with long, fringy ear rings.
Her hands clap in the soft, seductive rhythms of southern
beat builds in a crescendo with the music. Then she
begins to dance by herself.
The music grows louder, the dancing wilder as a crowd
forms around her. HADARA is now twenty-one years of age.
She's a petite, slender woman with long black hair and dark,
Hadara finishes her dance. Someone puts on American dance
records of the sixties.
One man, MALEK, 28, a Lebanese exchange student walks toward
Thanks for editing my technical
I doubt if I could write a book in Arabic.
Hey, introduce me to that blonde
who walked in with you.
MALEK points to HADARA's girlfriend, ANDREA.
She's a tall, buxom blonde.
Sure. Oh, Andrea!
Meet an old friend--
Malek Edeen. He's a good,
Druish boy from Beirut.
That's a Druze.
My religion is Druze, from Lebanon.
Hi! Has HADARA been writing your
Would you like to dance?
No. I'm supposed to meet this
violin-playing Afghan urologist.
You look German.
Is that where you're from?
I'm a Polish Jew from West First
Street, near Coney Island
just as Cleopatra was from Alexandria, near Egypt.
Malek, Andrea only dates foreign
Jewish doctors from Asia.
The ones born here want wives whose
fathers are rich enough to set them
up in business.
Say, I have a friend who came from
Syria only five days ago.
And you want me to teach him
He doesn't speak a word.
All I know in Arabic is "ya
HADARA and MALEK walk out of the dance hall to a quiet area
of the YMCA with lounge chairs and desks.
What does he do for a living?
He's a year away from his doctorate
Hmm...a good provider.
The guy speaks German.
He lived in Frankfort for the past six years.
A doctor of engineering!
Is that a good enough provider?
That's not as good as matching me
to a military colonel.
But it's easier than trying to marry a doctor in New York.
Who said anything about marrying
Oh, flesh out.
What kind of a visa does he have?
A thirty-day one.
How come you stopped dating me?
You're a mechanic.
I told you I'm looking to marry a professional.
What would he see in you?
Hey, we all go into marriage
looking for a package deal.
It's a trade-off.
The most successful guys still have
And what are you peddling?
I'm a college graduate...worked my
What's the least stressful job? That's what I want.
That won't make you rich.
Don't I deserve a prince?
MALEK and HADARA meet up with AHMED HADDAD.
They shake hands.
Well, here's your sheik.
MALEK speaks in Arabic to AHMED, who nods, smiling.
The conversation is conducted entirely through MALEK, the
Are you sure you're an engineer?
(in Arabic the translated
in English by Malek)
Tell her what you do.
(in Arabic, then
translated in English by
I'm a mechanical engineer
babysitting for an Arab family on
Long Island in exchange for a room.
Tell her about you getting a
doctorate in engineering.
(in Arabic then translated
by Malek in English)
I've got a year to go.
What do you say we all go to chat
in an all-night automat?
Let's shove off.
They head for the subway.
End of Scene: Curtain.
EXT. SUBWAY ENTRANCE
INT. AUTOMAT - NEW YORK - NIGHT
Ahmed says he's on a thirty-day
visa and has to find a wife, fast.
I want lots of children.
He's ready to start a family.
Children only make a woman poor.
He has no money.
I don't want to be dragged to the
level of my husband's job.
Careful, Ahmed's an aimed bullet.
How ironic New York Jews aren't
invited to work in Lebanon.
What brought that out?
Imagine being arrested for looking
convexed-nosed in a Phoenician
world where everybody else looks
convexed rather than perplexed.
(looking at his watch)
Yallah! Look at the time.
The last bus leaves for Hoboken at three A.M.
I'll walk you to the Times Square subway entrance.
They all rise and leave the eatery, walking to the Forty
Second Street subway entrance. AHMED drapes his arm around
HADARA and she looks into his smiling eyes.
Do you speak any German?
I only speak English.
Say... "I speak some English."
I speak some English.
There. I'll have you talking with a
Brooklyn accent in three months.
A clock in a store window reads 2:30 A.M. They look up at
They reach the subway entrance. MALEK pays HADARA's subway
fare, putting a token in the turnstile.
Thanks for the English lesson.
MALEK pauses, looking down, then at his watch. He turns and
walks away. AHMED follows behind.
What? Aren't you two gentleman
going to take this lady home?
I'm talking Ahmed home.
There's no way I'm missing the last bus.
MALEK storms off, shoving AHMED to hurry.
HADARA kicks the wall in the subway station.
(shouting to Malek)
It's an hour's ride back to Coney
End of Scene.
New Scene: Inside of Subway Car.
HADARA is wearing a fancy white dress and spike heels.
She takes the D-train to her Brooklyn station, KINGS HIGHWAY.
Opposite her sits a middle-aged black man with a frightening,
badly-scarred face. He's dressed in filthy, torn clothes and
wears a cap.
He smiles sardonically and stares at her during the entire
subway trip. HADARA closes her eyes and pretends to sleep for
most of the trip.
When the train stops at KINGS HIGHWAY, the black man follows
her, ducking behind the KINGS HIGHWAY station sign when she
turns around to see whether
anyone's following her.
He hides. She isn't aware he's following her until she starts
to walk the short distance to her four-family apartment
The black man catches up to her by an open lot, just a few
feet from her house. He puts his hand on her shoulder and she
spins around to look into his frightening face.
HADARA gives him a look of terror. She bolts and makes a run
for it. We see her spike heels trying to run. Her tight skirt
hobbles her, and he catches up, grabbing her and throwing her
to the ground.
My purse. Take it.
There's only a dollar.
HADARA thrusts her cloth shoulder bag in his face. He grabs
it and tosses it in the lot. He drags her in the high weeds
and begins to strangle her.
HADARA closes her eyelids a splinter and pretends she's
unconscious. He releases his thumbs from around her throat as
she makes herself limp.
BLACK MAN drags HADARA over the curb, hidden behind a parked
car. He lifts her skirt and shoves his hand into her panties.
He bends over and looks closely at her face to catch a
reaction. HADARA opens her eyes and gives him a fierce look
Bitch. Don't say a word.
Think you can fool me?
Tryin' to pass for white?
Bitch. Shut up.
Tryin' to pass for white. Yes.
BLACK MAN spits on the ground next to her. HADARA screams. He
puts his hand over her mouth. She quiets. He tears off her
glasses and stomps them until
they shatter. He loses his cap. He drags HADARA further under
the curb, against the tires of the parked car.
BLACK MAN begins to strangle HADARA more violently. She
closes her eyes. Instantly a window in the apartment house
across the street opens quickly
with a very loud creak. BLACK man is startled as he looks up.
In the window is a very old lady.
(in a thick, Yiddish
You pishikas, get
the hell off my stoop.
Why you Hassids foolin'
around so late?
It's Shabbos. It's Tish B'Av.
BLACK man is startled and runs away.
HADARA rubs her neck and staggers to her feet.
Mrs. Hesk, Please, Mrs. Hesk, Call
I've just been strangled and almost raped.
Are you all right?
I wish you pishikas wouldn't make so much noise.
I said strangled! Would you call
the police, already?
I'm calling. I'm calling for you.
HADARA sits down on her stoop and waits for the police car to
arrive. She rests her head in her hands and sobs. The police
car arrives with two officers.
So you're the girl whose boyfriend
got fresh and to get revenge,
you're sending us on a wild goose
No. Why don't you believe me?
I was strangled and almost raped by this black guy who
followed me from the subway to my house.
Were you raped?
No. I was almost murdered!
The jerk shoved two fingers into my vagina.
Am I still a virgin?
Could I catch V.D.?
Look, if your boyfriend got
If I had a boyfriend to protect me,
this wouldn't have happened.
Okay. I just want to make sure.
These are whore's hours. Why were
you on the subway so late alone?
I went to a club meeting, met some
people, and talked.
They walked me to the subway.
I can't see without my glasses.
He smashed them.
SECOND OFFICER searches the empty lot.
There's a cap. It looks like the
kind they usually wear.
Can't you see all the broken glass?
What do you do?
I'm a creative writing major at
My minor is film and archaeology.
I want to be a visual anthropologist someday.
Would you like a police ambulance?
Can't you see my neck?
And I have a sociology exam on Monday.
The police car leaves. HADARA sits on the stoop and waits
for the ambulance, rubbing her bruised neck.
Ambulance paramedic walks over.
Are you the one?
My horoscope saved me.
Hey, can I catch V.D?
That creep poked his cruddy nails into my vagina.
Not unless he scratched you there.
Now how am I supposed to know
whether I'm scratched?
I was too busy worrying about getting strangled.
Hop in. You'll be okay.
No I won't.
You're going to send me a bill for fifty bucks for this ride.
You should only live so long.
(talking to paramedic)
The hospital smacks me for another
How come I'm attacked and I get to pay for my exam?
End of Scene. Curtain.
INT. DARLENE LEVINE'S HOUSE - SEPT. 1963 - DAY
DARLENE LEVINE (25) is a judge's single daughter who lives in
a plush private home in Jamaica Estates, a wealthy suburb of
New York (Queens).
She is HADARA's best friend and confident at NYU. But DARLENE
has dropped out of school to travel and husband-hunting, both
HADARA arrives in the afternoon.
ANGLE ON GOLD DOOR KNOCKER and mahogany door. DARLENE opens
the door, greeting HADARA with a smile.
HADARA walks into the house, lavishly covered and plush with
paintings DARLENE and her mother have created.
What's the big emergency?
Don't I have to confide in
The two young women take seats opposite each other on the
plush white sofa.
I met the sexiest guy at
But he's bald.
And paunchy at twenty-nine.
You let a good provider go?
There's no way he could support me
the way my father does.
Is he available?
I'll never leave my parent's home.
If I had a good job,
I'd leave today.
Would you trade all this for a
roach-wracked studio in Greenwich
I guess you're either born lucky or born rich.
Which are you?
HADARA grabs DARLENE by the shoulders and grins at her.
You don't work.
I'm wearing myself out to finish college at night, slaving in
a typing pool all day.
Yes, it's better than my granny's sweat shop job from the
triangle building fire days.
What do you do? Live off your daddy's trust fund?
Or are you still living at home at age twenty-five?
Shop. Travel. Brunch.
Design and sew my own clothes and live at home waiting to
You're an animal.
(sipping tea, eating)
You're weird, but then all creative
writing majors are different than
us secretarial science students.
Guess what's news? My mom's just
been arrested for shoplifting.
And my brother's the lawyer who's defending her.
I've got an appointment with my own
Now I have something to tell her.
I'm so ashamed of being ashamed.
How'd they nab her?
With a sexy nightie draped over her
Is she crazy?
No, but she's not a fair-weather
friend like I just realized you
Mom weighs two hundred-fifty pounds.
But the nightie was a size six. I wear a size fourteen.
DARLENE retrieves some muffins from a plate and
serves them with tea.
My mom just won a prize for her
And my mom walked out of the store
in a daze from her high blood
The security guard tackled her to the ground, smashing her
head against the pavement.
Poor old dumpling.
Is she okay?
We've been having awful security
problems with our sliding glass
I'm getting married on Friday to
Sex can be beautiful, if it's with
someone who knows what he's doing.
He asked for a certificate of my
I fell in love with an Arab once
when I was seventeen.
His Lebanese parents forbid him to see me.
Because you're Jewish?
It wasn't because I'm Greek.
Hey, I look Greek, don't I?
Didn't they know Arabs and Jews
shared a common ancestor eight
thousand years ago?
Maybe they realized the genes were
either too close, or my blondeness
comes from Jewish men marrying
German or Slavic women a thousand
years ago when they couldn't find
enough women coming out of the
Middle East to marry in those
Am I your best friend?
We're both Litvaks.
Maybe it's better to marry outside
Besides, I'm too American and too intellectual to think of
myself as some word that sounds foreign.
There's cake in the fridge.
I'm going to work on my college term papers.
Wait, we have to talk about the how
the present changes our own futures
based on decisions we make right
My advice is not to marry him. Find
a nice Jewish boy.
Such a choice will change your grandchildren's lives for all
Like your dad?
Go to a Beverly Hills synagogue.
Give your babies a chance.
With what? My college loan?
Do you want to give me a day job?
All you're going to meet in New
York are Puerto Rican shipping
Nice Jewish boys won't marry you.
Even with my master's degree in
No, because it's not a terminal
What are you going to do, read them Shakespeare?
Sounds like I'm auditioning for a
They'll ask what your father does
for a living.
They want your dad to set them up in business.
Or pay their medical school tuition.
You don't have big breasts and a small nose.
In fact, your face is scarred horribly.
So you'd better have daddy's big trust fund.
You have to be practical with men.
I'd rather run my own business.
I'm marrying to get away from poverty.
Why do men ask what does your father do for a living instead
of what you plan to do with your life?
Women are judged by what their
My dad mops toilets in the Navy
I'm too phobic to learn to drive.
And I don't feel safe alone with men.
Maybe you'll like being a bag lady.
You'll get to ride the stinky bus all your life.
What if I don't find a husband with a house as big as my
There's a shortage of princes.
I'm desperate, Darlene, desperate.
My sister's already a producer in
She graduated from an Ivy League
drama school. You just started
Think a man cares what you do for a
living? No one ever asked me what I
All they ask me is what does your
Your knight in armor wouldn't want
you to neglect his babies.
Or clean up after his horse.
What's your trade-off?
Without a doctorate, you'll never find a tenured job in
I know because I work as a secretary for a college.
I've already published a novel.
In a woman, that's like being a
Like I said, sooner or later, I'll get this big house.
My sister's already got the big script editing job in
Creative but poor gals like you need to stick with a real job
Never. I need the Pulitzer Prize.
The road ahead lies in observing this planet.
We're news because we're the media.
And still waiting to be rescued,
like the censored media.
So how do I launch you?
I'm gifted, damn it. The media is
an eternal teenager.
Don't think you're somebody special
because you work hard. I work
When's the last time you ever
Your brother's a lawyer why didn't
he ever introduce you to his rich
Law is no profession for a poor
My family would never turn their
back on me.
But your brother hates you.
Ignores. Fears. Withdraws.
You mom's retarded.
She's a storefront musician, a
psychic and a telepathic
clairvoyant, like me.
She's a kvetch.
Quality men freak out when they
Because you're bizarre. And I've
heard that line enough from you.
Your bust is as flat as mine.
So how come you're rich?
I had a nose job.
End of Scene.
New Scene: Spot Light/Sound Effects or CUT TO:
Tsipke's Apartment - Sept. 1963 - Night
HADARA is sitting at her desk in her room reading a book on
archaeology. The phone rings. She walks into the living room
to answer it. She's alone at home.
Hello? Oh, hi, Darlene.
My two-hundred dollar purse is
I'm giving you a chance to return it before I phone the
You're crazy. I wouldn't touch your
purse and ruin my reputation.
My mom's on the extension.
Didn't you just come from your
Are you going to return my hundred
and twenty-five dollar purse?
I'm calling the insurance company--now.
I didn't see any purse.
But I can see from where you grabbed the idea.
On a separate phone line:
GOLDIE , (DARLENE'S MOTHER)
dials up HADARA's brother, BENJAMIN
late at his law office.
Listen to this, you thief.
(on phone line)
Hello? Is anyone on the line?
Your mother was arrested for
What kind of a forblundget family are you, anyway?
What kind of trash?
Are you trying to get me fired?
BENJAMIN makes angry gestures and hangs up on her.
What I told you about my mom was in
Did you hear what my mom said?
Who can I trust with my life?
Surely not my best friend.
There wasn't anyone else here.
My own family scares me to hell.
Darlene never lies to me.
She's jealous of my Arab fiancé,
because her own Arab boyfriend
rejected your Jewish background.
If you don't return her purse, I'll
have your brother disbarred.
I'm making a citizen's arrest.
Nothing can scare me any more.
Well, the next step is to tell the
You've never confided in me the way
I've opened up to you.
You must have actually thought you
were my best friend.
I pity your real sister.
Like mother, like daughter.
I'm the most honest person you'll
Give him up, for your own sake.
I'm marrying that Syrian.
Don't waste your time.
Your children will be afraid to tell anyone from their
father's country that you're Jewish.
HADARA bangs the receiver with a vengeance.
End of Scene. Curtain.
October 25, 1963
Ext. Tsipke's Apartment House Brooklyn Day
HADARA and AHMED walk up the stairs.
They hold hands.
We see wedding ring on HADARA'S finger.
Couple is smiling. HADARA giggles.
You tell your parents first.
No, you tell my mom.
HADARA knocks on the door of her parent's apartment.
TSIPKE opens the door and smiles.
End of Scene. Curtain.
INT. TSIPKE'S APARTMENT BROOKLYN 8 DAY
Come on in.
I was just soaking my bridges.
HADARA and AHMED walk in and sit down on the sofa.
Mom, we were married two hours ago
in the County Clerk's office.
No. We did it.
We had a hard time finding two witnesses to sign the
It's a good thing you didn't ask me
to come down to city hall.
My angina has gotten so painful, that I can't walk out of the
house at all these days.
We found this couple who were
waiting to be married.
They acted as our witnesses.
MEIR, hey, cockroach back, flat
butt, get in here.
MEIR staggers from his bedroom to the living room.
Well, hello strangers.
Those two just got married.
(with an Arabic accent)
We're going to spend the night at
the Americana Hotel.
Yeah. And I'm paying the sixty
dollars a day from my college loan
I'm going to look for work if I can
borrow three dollars from you.
Now, he tells me, after we were
married that he's not an engineer.
How much can you hope to make?
I'm a machinist. I'm looking for a
job. I don't have a secondary
We need a lawyer.
Benjamin doesn't care.
What kind of schooling do you have?
I left Syria at seventeen to learn
to be a machinist in German
That's all he does, mom.
He's just a factory Joe.
Do you want to stay married?
Yes. He told me he wants to have
his own business.
Can't Benjamin help you?
He kind of slithered away.
Benjamin is starving.
He won't work for anybody, and he can't find clients.
Benjamin is dying with diabetes.
Don't bother him, I warn you.
Well, before you go to the hotel, I
want to give you a present.
TSIPKE scurries into the kitchen and grabs a gift-wrapped
package from the cupboard.
Is that a gift for me?
I knew you two were going to be
TSIPKE hands the gift-wrapped package to AHMED.
He takes it and smiles, unwrapping it.
Thank you, momma.
A dozen packages of condoms fall out of the package.
AHMED is startled.
HADARA breaks out in laughter.
She can't stop laughing.
AHMED examines one condom carefully, reading the package
I thought you were giving me a
wedding present, you know, like a
You knew we were going on our
My psychic abilities never fail me.
Thank you, mommy.
Don't let him put the rubber on dry
and then ram into you.
That's how your old man tore me apart.
Oh, shut your face.
I didn't know about women.
He ripped me open trying to jam a
dry condom into a young virgin.
Is that why you made such an ugly,
cringing face the first time?
I thought it was because I didn't take a bath.
It was all over before you entered
Ahmed, he's a premature ejaculator. Hope you're not.
Ma, don't embarrass him.
We really must go.
Where you eating dinner?
Go, already. It's six o'clock.
Gee, you made me feel young again.
I feel like it was me going on my honeymoon with a new man.
Tsipke is watching our marriage
Well, you're not pumping anything
Our marriage is still just like I wrote on my honeymoon on
that train to Florida.
I remember finding your diary and
crying. You wrote "Today I died."
The real 'me' did. You only see
what my job, my responsibility is.
To take care of all of you, but
it's like an observer from above
looking down on a body going
through the motions of taking care
of you while my 'real' days of fun
and adventure slip away as if I
were invisible. We're all invisible
and so totally alone.
I'll be at the Americana for two
So, long, honey. Hope you can still
End of Scene.
NEW YEAR'S EVE, 1969
INT. BALLROOM OF PLUSH HOTEL AT NIGHT
A live band is playing. A Hawaiian buffet is set out.
Couples are dancing. There is a Christmas tree.
Music plays "Auld Lang Syne."
HADARA (28) and AHMED (32) are seated at a table with
untouched plates of food in front of them.
You're too crazy to have a lawyer.
Why are you sending my babies to
My mother will raise them just like
I was raised.
Answer my question.
Just tell my lawyer that your
health is too bad.
But you told me if I signed the
house over to you, that the divorce
would be canceled.
Is this supposed to be the perfect marriage? I was always
told that old proverb: that it's better to be lucky than
It costs too much to bring up kids
here. Besides, they'd grow up to be
drug addicts or whores...like
You can't take them.
Please let me have just one.
I'm not separating my kids.
They're my life. You can finally have that career.
Isn't that what you really want?
I want a career for the time when
my children will be busy with their
Besides, I paid thirty dollars for this romantic dinner.
I want to be rid of you.
You're a stone around my neck. I want to be free.
You want to be free?
There's no man freer than you.
I've got to get back to my restaurant.
At midnight, the music grows louder, all the couples sitting
and on the dance floor hung and kiss.
I can't stand to be alone in that
You want money?
Then go out and earn it.
Get a job like I had to do.
I gave up that option when you
forced me to have children.
AHMED gives HADARA the "barber's itch."
He pinches the hair at the nape of her neck and pulls her
hair upwards to give her a sharp pain.
Lower your voice, your whore.
Didn't you hear me? I said lower your voice.
I'll beat the sassiness out of you.
That belly dancer told me you're
the worst lover she ever had.
AHMED grabs HADARA and shakes her.
He throws her to the floor and kicks her as the dancing
couples watch in horror.
Are you coming home?
How come your whore is old enough
to be my mother?
You're going to get it later
tonight, you bitch.
End of Scene. Lights Out
New Scene at Hadara's Modest Cottage In San Diego:
Ext. Hadara's Modest Cottage.
Ahmed Shoves Hadara Up The Driveway And Into The House.
Int. Living Room Hadara's Home Night
She flops down on the sofa. AHMED paces the living room floor
circling around her like a beast.
I'm a total romantic.
AHMED hurries to the desk drawer and retrieves his handgun.
He puts the gun in HADARA'S head.
I want custody of the kids or
you'll be dead in twenty-four
AHMED shoves her back on the sofa as she tries to rise. He
turns around, waving the gun, and thrusts his buttocks in
Why do you think I go with a woman
ten years older than you?
See any tail up there, man-hater?
(shoves him away)
Get your butt out of my face.
She probably makes you feel important, and I make you feel
I'm a man, not a beast.
No? No horns? No tail?
AHMED spins around and puts the gun in her head again.
Your favorite pick-me-up is putting
AHMED puts the gun in his belt and lights a cigarette. He
rips off his shirt and lifts his arm, rubbing out the lighted
cigarette in his armpit.
See these scars?
What must I do to get rid of the pain?
AHMED rolls up his sleeveless undershirt to reveal shrapnel
scars on his torso.
I've seen them before.
I'm willing to die...to kill to
preserve the honor of my babies.
And you're sending my kids back to
Syria where twice you were tortured
in jail there?
The morals of too many Americans
are like pigs.
AHMED spits in HADARA's face.
Why'd you bring your two brothers
here to live with us? I'm like a
I'm running a restaurant, not a
I gave up a Jewish doctor for you,
just to make peace.
Peace? You think you're too good
You think you're some pampered princess.
Don't you know anything about the care of husbands?
Bitch. Why'd you marry me?
So I'd have a good subject for a
book or a movie.
I wanted to be a visual anthropologist.
I couldn't afford the tuition.
So I decided to live as the other half lives in the third
I wanted to understand what it feels like to be an Arab.
I'm not good enough for you, am I?
You destroyed me.
Look at you…a lawyer for a brother.
Your father's a janitor…mops toilets at night.
I own my own business.
And I never graduated from secondary school.
You need street smarts to compete.
I dropped out of school to work as
AHMED shakes her.
Didn't I lease that restaurant and
get you started in business?
Did I leave you when I found out you lied?
Doctor of mechanical engineering, bullshine.
You're no good as a mother or as a
What kind of a father would dump
his kids on his mother?
In another country, yet?
And then go back to his restaurant?
Hamed, get your tail in here.
How come you always run out of
Then your fists fly.
I'm a rich girl without money.
Not a poor girl.
I want a divorce.
You're a rope around my neck.
I want to be free.
Then give others freedom.
I'm housebound with panic disorder.
What a great time to ask for a divorce.
Hamed. Hurry up.
I need you in here.
AHMED calls in his brother, HAMED. He wakes up and treks into
the living room, sleepy. He smiles a broad, weird grin, and
looks at HADARA sadistically.