Listen: Cincy Playhouse shares CCM audio plays

The three stories feature the work of local writers, CCM and A&S students

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and UC's College-Conservatory of Music have partnered to share three new audio plays for theatre lovers everywhere. The CCM Acting Audio Plays, which range from 25 to 40 minutes long, represent a year-long collaboration that reached into many corners of Cincinnati. Listen online via Playhouse's website.

CCM Recording Studio

Behind the scenes of CCM Acting's Audio Plays. Photo/Provided

"This experience has shown me just how much our students love working across the college and across the university," says CCM Acting Professor Brant Russell. "I was pleased to be able to put everyone together, but once they started creating the work, you couldn't stop them."

The Audio Plays showcase the tremendous talents present throughout CCM and UC, featuring the work of students studying Acting, Sound Design, Stage Management, Media Production and Commercial Music Production as well as student playwrights in the College of Arts & Sciences' Creative Writing PhD program. They were recorded in CCM's state-of-the-art Media Production facilities and commissioned by the CCM Playwrights Workshop.

A student in a recording studio

Behind the scenes of CCM Acting's Audio Plays. Photo/Provided

"The relationships we have with Cincinnati artists are also an integral part of this project," Russell adds. Young Adult author and CCM Playwrights Workshop alum Liz Coley wrote Coming Back, an audio play about a college student's search for his missing brother in the Appalachian mountains. Musician, comedian and raconteur Paul Strickland wrote Nostaliga, which will be available with the other audio plays in the coming weeks.

A&S PhD student Maggie Su, who also participated in CCM's Playwrights Workshop, wrote Exposure Therapy — the story of a young woman who discovers she can travel back in time to traumatic events in her life. A&S PhD student Sakinah Hofler's The Missing follows a young Black woman as she searches for her missing sister on the streets of Newark, New Jersey. 

Audiences can listen to the plays for free, in any order, and from anywhere — so make sure your volume is turned up and enjoy the show! Listen and learn more about each audio play on the Playhouse's website and in the details below.


Coming Back

Coming Back is about a college student’s search for his missing brother in the Appalachian mountains. This piece is by Liz Coley, popular YA fiction writer and CCM Acting Playwrights Workshop mainstay.

[Music]

Narrator (Eli Lucas) : Caleb Washington sits on a bed in a bedroom. In his childhood bedroom. How do we know this? Borrow my eyes. There’s a high school baseball team photo on the dresser. He’s the tall one in the middle, looking just to the left of the camera lens. There’s a Pokemon lamp beside it, turned on, because the curtains are closed, even at midday. The lampshade spins, casting shadows on the wall—Charizard, Pikachu, Squirtle, Geoduck, and back to Charizard. This room, this house, is not the haven he remembers leaving behind him last August. He’s agitated. And how do we know this? He’s rocking with his arms locked around his bunched-up legs. His eyes look like he might have just wiped away tears. He stares at his phone. He stares at his phone. He stares at his phone. He dials. Two hundred and fifty miles away, in a messy apartment, an iphone rings.

[Ring tone, Audra in the middle of speaking to someone else in the room]

Audra (Rachel Jones) (to room): I said third shelf. On your right. Can’t you… ? Next to the ground ginger. No. Yes there. (to phone) Hello? Oh shoot—Caleb. Caleb, it’s you. Hi. Sorry I haven’t—

Caleb (Malik Smith): You haven’t called back? I left you three messages.

Ellynasia (Shakoria Davis) (at a distance): Hey Audra, where’s your cardamom?

Audra (to Caleb): I know, I know. Three? Really? Wait, hang on. (to Ellynasia): The whole spices are all together. Above. Yes. There. Cardamom pods.

Caleb: Did I call at a bad time? Again?

[Music]

Narrator: At a glance, Audra appears to be the kind of girl you could turn to for comfort. If you judged this book by her cover, you’d see a thick, pink paperback promising an enjoyable and distracting beach read to take you miles away from your troubles. Or a bubbly broad-bowled coupe of rosé champagne. Or a strawberry ice cream in the sun, just beginning to drip over the edge of the waffle cone so that you’d be drawn in to taste it. But you know what they say about appearances and book covers.

Caleb: Who’s with you?

Audra: Ellynasia. Should I put you on speaker?

Caleb: Please no. She’s living with you now?

Audra: No but she’s in my germ circle.

Caleb: I thought you went home.

Audra: I did, for a while. But it was super boring. My parents were. You know. Parents. Plus I was still paying rent here, so . . .

Caleb: Oh. Me too.

Audra: Yeah. It made sense to come back. So whassup? Are you finally around?

Caleb: No. I’m at home. I can’t . . .

Audra: Shoot. I was going to offer you vegan curry. And company. And Netflix.

Caleb: No. I.

Audra: Why’d you call? Just to like, check in?

Caleb: I’m trying to—I can’t decide—can’t figure out. If I should.

Audra: If you should what?

Caleb: Come back.

Audra: Um, classes are about to start. In a week. You’d better decide.

Caleb: I mean—we’re still searching.

Narrator: As an accomplished actor on her way to a potentially unusable BFA, Audra can display a frothy lightness that is anything but true. How do we know this? She makes ironic finger quotes with her free hand, which no one observes except herself. She is her own best audience.

Audra: Searching for a cure? For a vaccine? Searching for meaning in this ridiculous “uncharted” “unprecedented” time? I hear you.

Caleb: You didn’t listen to my messages? You didn’t listen to my messages. I don’t believe it. I’m. No.

Narrator: At this point, Caleb drops the call and the phone, while the shadow lamp spins on and on: Pikachu, Squirtle, Geoduck, Charizard. He’s beyond upset. How do we know this? He’s raking his fingernails up his left arm, leaving dry gray lines against his Black skin like furrows in a field of rich earth. Or rows of granite headstones in a churchyard.

Audra: I’m sorry. (beat) I said I’m sorry. (beat) Hello? Are you still there? Caleb? (To Ellynasia) I think he just hung up on me.

Ellynasia (distantly): Who was it?

Audra: Caleb!

Ellynasia: Oh my God. Oh my God! How is he?

Audra: He seems pissed at me. For not calling him. I mean, we’re all busy in our bubbles, right?

Ellynasia: No, no, no. No we aren’t. Not that busy. He reached out to you?

Narrator: And finally, we see the other woman in the apartment. Ellynasia. It’s a hot day without air conditioning, and as she leaps over the back of Audra’s sofa and sticks the landing on the cushion beside her, we take note of the dance muscles in her legs. She has nothing to be self-conscious about, this cut sculpture of a person. It’s clear that dedication to the kinetic arts has honed her body, mind, and attitude.

Audra: I guess he’s been calling a lot. Three messages, he said.

Ellynasia: And you didn’t answer?

Audra: I didn’t check them.

Ellynasia: Rude.

Audra: I was bizz—okay, Truth? I was super depressed. I couldn’t face anything or anyone from school after my show was cancelled. After everything was cancelled. I kind of went into a—a slump.

Ellynasia: Then you don’t know what happened.

Audra: What happened to Caleb? . . . What happened to Caleb?

Ellynasia: Play the messages. I want to hear exactly what he said.

Audra: Now you’ve got me freaked. O—kay....

Ellynasia: Put it on speaker.

Audra: Du-uh.

Caleb: Hey. It’s me, Caleb. I, uh, did you see on the news? Just,...I need to talk to someone. Call me?

Audra: Oh yeah. I did listen to it. Oops.

Ellynasia: That’s the first one? From when?

Audra: May 6? I didn’t think it was anything special. I mean ALL the news is terrible. Right? And I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole with him. You know he can be a bit of a Debbie Downer.

Ellynasia: Caleb? Are you kidding me? He’s Mr. Sunshine.

Audra: Fine. I guess I can be a bit of a Debbie Downer. That was right after the graduation that didn’t happen. I was bummed. Those poor seniors. What if that happens to us? Can you imagine?

Ellynasia: His brother Grant was a senior.

Audra: Well I didn’t know that. Then he called . . . May 15. I definitely never listened to this one.

Ellynasia: Girl.

Caleb: Hey. It’s me, Caleb. Again. Um. Update. We don’t have any leads. Not since the car. Please will you check with any of your senior friends? See if he said anything to anyone? And then call me. Please.

Audra: I don’t understand any of that. Who is he?

Ellynasia: Grant. His brother. Is missing.

Audra: What exactly do you mean by missing?

Ellynasia: He... Here. I’ll pull it up on my phone. (she reads) “University of Cincinnati student Grant Washington” –

Audra: They should say alumnus since technically he just graduated. “Virtually.”

Ellynasia: “Grant Washington has been reported missing in the Adams County Edge of Appalachia wilderness preserve. His car has been located about two miles from the nearest trailhead. Search and rescue dogs have failed to detect his track from there. Reward is offered for any helpful information. Please contact” blah blah blah.

Audra: Oh wow! How mysterious! It’s just like The Vanished podcast. Or like—

Ellynasia: Audra. We’re talking about Caleb’s big brother.

Audra: I know that. Of course we are! I should have called him back. I mean, I had no idea.

Ellynasia: Uh, yeah. For sure.

Audra: Wow. Missing since May. Caleb didn’t call again till August 3rd. That’s a really long gap.

Ellynasia: Ya think? Because you ghosted him in his hour of need?

Audra: I feel terrible.

Narrator: And she actually does. How do we know this? She’s twisting her lips in the approved manner to indicate guilt and chagrin. The discomfort in her facial muscles reads like a manual on feeling terrible. And also, though we cannot see it directly, that creepy feeling of shame that makes your upper back and shoulders and cheekbones ache is erupting as a crimson flush across ivory skin.

Ellynasia: Play it.

Audra: Yeah.

Caleb: Hi. I guess you’re busy. But. It’s me, Caleb. Again. They just found his phone. Call me?

Narrator: There’s a long pause in the apartment along with a meaningful exchange of widened eyes between the young women. Each of them is processing what this piece of information might

mean. Did they find Grant’s phone with his body? Did they find his phone at the bottom of a gorge with animal tracks leading away? Did they find his phone covered with his blood type? Does his phone show the signs of a struggle? And do they want to know?

Ellynasia: You have to call him.

Audra: You call him. He’s mad at me.

Ellynasia: We’ll both call him.

Audra: This is kind of exciting. You know?

Narrator: Audra doesn’t see the reproachful side-eye Ellynasia throws her way as she extends a finger and presses the call back symbol. Two hundred and fifty miles away, in a darkened bedroom, in the middle of the day, a phone rings.

[Caleb’s ring tone.]

Caleb: Hello?

Audra: Hey. Before you say anything, I’m sorry, and I have some ideas, and we really want to help you.

Narrator: And so, they talk. You don’t need to hear the sound of hammering to know that fences are being mended. Or the cackle of hens to know a scheme is being hatched. Or the tread of steps to know the game is afoot. We can see from the firm set of Caleb’s lips, the broadening of his shoulders, and the nod of his head that he has a plan. Audra’s eyes are alight and engaged. Ellynasia is pulling up maps on her phone. All they need is another accomplice. An accomplice with a car.

[Facetime ring tone.]

Henry (Jack McElroy): Caleb?

Caleb: Henry.

Henry: It’s been so—I can’t believe it’s you. Are you—are you okay? You look—

Caleb: Your hair’s crazy long.

Henry: And yours is . . . gone? What’s that about?

Narrator: Something beyond hairstyle changes has thrown them off balance. How do we know this? There’s a long moment of intense eye contact as they study each other on their phones while their memories adjust to five months of separation. They don’t appear to be breathing for that long moment. And when Henry finally breaks the spell, the lightness in their banter feels purposeful. Careful.

Henry: You think I should I cut it?

Caleb: Definitely don’t. Looks great. You can always cut it for casting if they make you. Should I grow mine back?

Henry: No. You rock the magic eight ball look, my friend. Hey. Can you tell me my future?

Caleb: You can only ask the magic eight ball a yes or no question. It doesn’t just speak its mind.

Henry: It hasn’t spoken at all. For months.

Caleb: I’m sorry.

Henry: I know. Have you finally decided? Are you are coming back? Or do I need to find me a new… roommate?

Caleb: Not at this time. Ask again later. Signs point to yes?

Henry: I don’t think I like those answers. We’re paying a lot of money for an empty place. It’s waiting for us.

Caleb: I’m sorry, Henry. You know how it is. I’m just not in a good— Anyway. You’re probably heading up to the apartment soon, right?

Henry: That’s the plan. Tomorrow, in fact.

Caleb: I was wondering, is there room in your car? For me?

Henry: Yes! Sure thing. But why? If you’re not—

Caleb: I need to get up there. Not for school. But. I’ve got to . . . got to go look for Grant myself.

Henry: Think there’s something the cops might have missed?

Caleb: I just want to trace his last steps. I need to see whatever it was Grant might have seen. Whatever made him . . . not come home. He missed my birthday.

Henry: Oh man. Cinco de Mayo.

Caleb: That’s when we knew he was gone. And then they found his car, full tank, flat tire, like 10 days later. Off the side of the road. He didn’t tell anyone he was going hiking.

Henry: He knows better than that! Never hike alone. Rule One!

Caleb: I know. They taught you guys that in the Scouts. Buddy system.

Henry: Rule. One. But how are you going to look for him? The wilderness area is huge.

Caleb: I got his phone. I mean, the authorities have it now, but they needed me to unlock it. I told them I could try cracking his password—which of course I already knew. I copied over his last photos and this voice recording he left me.

Henry: He left you a voice recording?

Caleb: Said he would send it when he was somewhere with signal. But then he never did. I don’t know what he was thinking. He said he was on his way back. Which is what makes it all so bizarre that he just took off. Vanished.

Henry: You don’t think he was . . .

Caleb: No. I don’t. I can’t.

Henry: It’s been three months, Cale. That’s . . .

Caleb: I know. I know. I know. And he’s Missing while Black. I get that. But: “I’m coming back”. That’s the last thing he said to me and I’m holding onto it. For dear, sweet, pitiful life.

Henry: Yeah. Sure thing. I’ll get you back to Cincy. Help you look. Whatever I can do, I’ll do. Just ask.

Caleb: About that. We were thinking—

Henry: Who’s we?

Caleb: Me and Audra and Ellynasia. If we could go to the last place we knew he was, maybe I could figure something out. Find a clue. I don’t know. It sounds . . . hopeless.

Henry: I disagree. It sounds hopeful.

[road noise]

Narrator: Now two days later, Henry and Audra and Caleb and Ellynasia are driving the 80 miles from the University to The Edge of Appalachia. Audra has claimed shotgun, because she gets carsick. To any passing cars or pickup trucks, they look like two couples heading into the foothills for a hike and a picnic, not a manhunt. Henry holds cautiously to five miles below the speed limit, window open. Above his mask, his eyes spend less attention on the road than on his rearview mirror, where Caleb’s reflection watches him back.

Audra: You didn’t say it was so far.

Caleb: Sorry. Are you sick?

Audra: No. But we might need to pull over and use a restroom. Can you look for one where I don’t hear imaginary banjos in my head.

Ellynasia: You’re worried about banjos, blondie?

Audra: It’s practically West Virginia.

Caleb: This is the near Edge of Appalachia, not the far one. Or the middle.

Henry: There’s a restroom at the first trail head where we enter the park.

Audra: You’ve been there?

Henry: Sure. I’ve been here.

[car parking and 4 doors opening.]

Audra: Henry, you said restroom! Not a stenchy outhouse!

Ellynasia: Prefer a tree?

Audra: Well, almost.

Caleb: Wear your mask. It helps.

Audra: You say that like you know.

Caleb: It’s how I scoop the litterbox.

Henry: I didn’t know you have a cat.

[Outhouse door squeaking open and banging closed. Locking.]

Ellynasia: I’m confused, I thought you guys were living together. Like together.

Caleb: At school. We’re roomates.

Ellynasia: Oh! I just assumed, um . . . Oh.

Henry: We could get a cat. If you come back, I mean. The lease allows.

Caleb: Why do you know that?

Henry: I was thinking about a therapy animal.

Caleb: For me?

Henry: For me. We’re all traumatized.

Ellynasia: I’ve got a turtle.

Henry: That’s unexpected.

Ellynasia: He’s vegan. It works. I couldn’t do a cat. I’d have to feed it dead flesh.

[Outhouse door squeaking open and banging closed.]

Audra: Next?

Caleb: I’m good.

Henry: Good.

Ellynasia: Don’t need to.

Audra: So, Caleb, tell me what kind of clues I should look out for. I mean, what exactly are we doing?

Caleb: Following his footsteps. As best as I can reconstruct them.

Audra: Where?

Caleb: Up this trail. It starts over there across the street. This is where I think he met the runner.

Audra: “The runner.” A runner who attacked him? Do we know that?

Ellynasia: We do not know that.

Caleb: Not attacked. Inspired him. Listen.

Grant (Cyrus Fontenot): Hey. Wish you were here with me, seeing all this. I wanted to call you all day, but there’s like no signal at all. No wifi. No cell. Pretty much no point in even having a phone out here. I don’t know how all these folks who live out here do it. Satellite, I guess. Anyways, just wanted to let you know, Cale, since I can’t get ahold of you—yeah, still zero bars--I’m starting this hike. A real long hike. Clear air, clear head. I need to be somewhere where I can breathe. The Marathon Man at the Lynx was an inspiration. Got four hours of daylight ahead. Don’t worry, my bro. I’m coming back.

Ellynasia: I take it that’s Grant’s voice.

Audra: I just got a chill. Look at my arms. All the hairs are standing straight up.

Ellynasia: You think the Marathon Man is a runner?

Audra: Wait. Wait. I’ve got it. The Marathon Man is a movie. Does anyone know what it’s about? That could be a clue.

Henry: We just passed a Marathon gas station. Maybe that’s what he meant.

Audra: I should’ve peed there.

Ellynasia: Life is full of regrets.

Caleb: Why would a gas station be inspiring?

Audra: I think it’s all about the movie. Weren’t there Nazis in it? What if he met a Nazi?

Narrator: As not one of them has seen or can reconstruct the plot of The Marathon Man, a heist story involving Nazis and diamonds, Audra’s insistence on that line of speculation falls out of favor, and the group trudges on.

[cyclic rise and fall of cicadas SOUND: feet crunching on the path]

Narrator: You might imagine a leafy deciduous canopy above, filtering the sunlight of a hot August day, and the smell of a dry earth trail below. White and purple asters bloom in the understory. Blackbirds sing their metallic songs. And you might be hearing cicadas humming in the heat until their drone becomes a backdrop to the conversation.

 

Henry: Are you sure we picked the right trail?

Caleb: Lynx Prairie trail, Henry. Isn’t that what we just decided?

Ellynasia: Marathon Man. Lynx trail. Seems obvious. But I still don’t get what we’re looking for now. All these weeks later.

Caleb: Inspiration.

Audra: Ow! Ew! There are mosquitos! You didn’t warn me there would be mosquitos.

[unzipping backpack]

Henry: Here. Spray yourself.

Audra: Well, aren’t you the little prepared Boy Scout.

Henry: You’re going to need sunscreen too.

Ellynasia: Are you actually a Boy Scout?

Henry: Eagle Scout. Yes. So’s Grant, by the way. He’s a good outdoorsman, Caleb.

Audra: How’d you know that?

Caleb: They were same troop. Henry’s Court of Honor was the year after Grant’s.

Audra: Court of Honor? That sounds fancy. Or medieval.

Ellynasia: How long have you guys known each other?

Henry: Long time.

Caleb: Yeah. Long time. Since fourth grade.

Audra: Childhood sweethearts? That’s so ado—

Henry: Not exactly.

Ellynasia: Audra! They’re not—they’re like almost brothers. From another mother.

Narrator: And that’s not quite right either. How do we know this? Because there is a holding of breath as Caleb and Henry avoid a glance that one would not mistake for brotherly. A glance that would hover like an unspoken question. A glance that would leave a message to an unanswered call.

Henry: Miles to go, girls. Onward.

Narrator: Moving to a social distance ahead, Henry points out the trees, identifying them by bark and leaf, only one of the many merit badges he earned before his Eagle. He instructs the group in distinguishing the calls of woodpeckers and blackbirds. As the trees give way to small patches of prairie, he shows fluency in the names of the flowers. In one-point-three looping miles, as promised by the wooden post, they are back to the parking area, having learned more about nature than about Grant’s disappearance.

Audra: So that it? The Lynx trail? Are you inspired, Caleb?

Ellynasia: That wasn’t a long hike.

Henry: She’s right. There’s no way Grant would have called that a long hike. That was just a little stroll compared to what the troop did regularly back in the day.

Audra: Maybe he was out of shape? I mean, I’m feeling it.

Caleb: No. Henry’s right. This is the wrong trail.

Audra: This is the wrong trail?

Ellynasia: This is the wrong trail.

Caleb: I had a feeling. It didn’t really match any of Grant’s last photos.

Ellynasia: Photos! Are they geotagged?

Caleb: No signal. Remember?

Ellynasia: Well that’s a dang shame. I thought I was being clever.

Caleb: You are. Just, no signal. I’m sorry everyone. Dead end.

Audra: Don’t say that! Spit over your left shoulder!

Henry: Audra. Cale, it’s okay. We’re just getting warmed up.

Audra: Speak for yourself. I’m boiling.

Henry: Here. Take this.

Audra: I can’t share your water bottle, Henry. COVID?

Henry: It’s a spare.

Ellynasia: Of course it is. Got any more?

Henry: Sure. In the car. I always carry extra. Just in case.

[car doors and/or trunk latch, water bottles being tossed and caught.]

Audra: So now what?

Caleb: We find a longer trail. I’ve got the — [crumpling paper] — somewhere here... Got it. Map. Okay. Yeah. Here. The longest trail by far. Buzzard Roost Rock Trail.

Audra: Oh that sounds inviting. A long walk with vultures waiting to pounce on us.

Henry: The problem is, it suggests nothing to do with lynxes.

Ellynasia: Maybe he saw a bobcat on the trail. Maybe that’s what he meant.

Audra: A bobcat on the trail. Awesome. I may just wait in the car while you three are eaten by bobcats. And your bones are picked clean by vultures.

Henry: Audra. That is a very unhelpful attitude. (hard whisper) When we are trying to find someone who has been missing for three months.

Audra: Oh. Um.

Ellynasia: It’s a gorgeous day. Henry has water.

Henry: And power bars.

Ellynasia: I love you, Henry. Let’s power on.

Caleb: You all rock.

Audra: Buzzard’s rock. What? It’s a joke, guys.

Narrator: Water and power bars are truly restorative. How do we know this? The sleuths have set forth on a new, longer hike and no one is complaining. There’s new pep in Caleb’s stride, and Audrey is glowing with exertion and SPF30 sunscreen but not with resentment. Henry is scrolling through the photos Caleb copied over to his phone from Grant’s phone, examining them with his Eagle Scout eyes. And then, several paces ahead, Audra screams.

Audra: What is that? Oh my God. No. I can’t — I’m not looking. I’m not.

Ellynasia: What are you —? Oh. Oh my. You guys are going to want to see this. Or not.

Narrator: Tracing the sightlines from their extended index fingers and triangulating the intersection point, Caleb’s eyes widen and his bones melt. There’s a rusty tin shack, half-hidden in the trees, about fifty feet downhill from them off the trail. Only the rising altitude of the path and the early drop of some yellowed leaves has made it so obvious.

Ellynasia: If he took shelter . . .

Audra: Or was dragged . . . Ow!

Henry: (loud whisper) Stop it.

Caleb: He’s not in there. I’m telling you. He’s not.

Henry: He’s not. Do you want me to look? For you?

Caleb: Just. Yes. No. I’ll come with you.

Narrator: Audra clutches her collarbone as a worried heroine might, lifting her chin defiantly, and quite aware of her lighting and angles, while Ellynasia shades her eyes and watches the guys make their way to the shack, circling it once, circling it again, disappearing for a while, and finally emerging with looks both relieved and frustrated. There are no answers to be found here.

Ellynasia: Where exactly did they find Grant’s phone?

Caleb: It was turned into some nearby store last week. By a hiker.

Ellynasia: After all this time? And it still worked? That’s weird.

Audra: Something—or someone!—must have protected it. From the rain, I mean.

Narrator: Audra points an accusing and dramatic finger at the rusty tin shack.

Ellynasia: Yeah, no. That’s been ruled out. Right guys?

Caleb: Right. There’s undisturbed rotting leaf mulch a foot-thick inside.

Audra: Did you take a long stick and poke—ow!

Ellynasia: They said it’s clear. Are you like hoping to find . . . never mind. What’s the plan now? Keep going to the end of this trail?

Caleb: Yep. Nothing’s changed that.

Audra: There’s a little voice in my head saying turn back. Save yourself.

Henry: More to the point, save your water. We’ve got some elevation gain ahead.

Narrator: The vigorous uphill walk becomes a strenuous uphill hike, and while the posted mileage is only a bit over two miles each way, when the grade is this steep, muscles and cardiovascular health are sorely tested.

Audra: Well at least I know I don’t have COVID, because I’d certainly be dead by now.

Ellynasia: My glutes haven’t gotten a workout like this since my last real dance class. Feels awesome.

Henry: Guys! Guys, hold up. Look at this photo. Look.

Caleb: Hand me—Oh my gosh, yes. It’s the same rock formation.

Audra: Can I see? Oh wow! Perfect match. You think a person could squeeze in that gap there? Should we—

Ellynasia: No, Audra.

Henry: Grant took this on May 3rd. Day after graduation. At, uh, 2:15 p.m.

Ellynasia: Congratulations, Caleb. Now we know the when and where he was.

Henry: But not the what and why.

Caleb: But we’re on the right path. He was right here. Right where I’m standing.

Audra: Excellent. So we go back?

Caleb: We go on.

Audra: I was afraid you were going to say that.

Narrator: The final confirmation that they are going to see what Grant saw before he vanished awaits them at the peak. How do we know this? Look at the iPhone screen with Caleb. There’s a photo of a viewing platform ahead. Then a photo of foothills with the platform close in the foreground. And finally – the last shot. A panoramic photo taken by spinning in the middle of the platform, which is what Caleb is doing. Audra is holding the railing and peering over the edge. She has decided the mood called for here is anxious, with eyebrows drawn tight and shoulders tucked up and in.

Caleb: It’s so fresh. It’s so clean. It’s so freaking beautiful.

Audra: It’s so far down!

Ellynasia: Wouldn’t you call it inspiring? I’d say it’s downright breathtaking.

Henry: That’s an oxymoron.

Ellynasia: What?

Henry: Inspiring fills you with air. Breathtaking steals it.

Audra: Then there’s expiring. What if he slipped? Or what if he . . . (gasp)

Henry: Audra.

Audra: Listen to me. We are trying to solve a mystery, are we not?

Caleb: Yes Audra. Go on. I’m listening.

Audra: There’s this thing. It’s—there’s a French word. L’appel du vide.

Caleb: Which is?

Audra: The call of the void. Literally. You look over the edge and you feel it. A tug. A call to just what- the-heck leap. And see what happens.

Caleb: I don’t think.

Narrator: In spite of not thinking, however, he does. How do we know this? He and his companions move to the edge of the platform and gaze over The Edge of Appalachia, the edge of the platform, the edge of the void. And they hear it. Above the whine of cicadas. Below the chatter of birds. They hear the call. Who hasn’t?

Henry: Play that message again?

Caleb: Yeah. Okay.

Grant: Hey. Wish you were here with me, seeing all this. I wanted to call you all day, but there’s like no signal at all. No wifi. No cell. Pretty much no point in even having a phone out here. I don’t know how all these folks who live out here do it. Satellite, I guess. Anyways, just wanted to let you know, Cale, since I can’t get ahold of you.—yeah, still zero bars--I’m starting this hike. A real long hike. Clear air, clear head. I need to be somewhere where I can breathe. The Marathon Man at the Lynx was an inspiration. Got four hours of daylight ahead. Don’t worry, my bro. I’m coming back.

Caleb: He’s coming back. He didn’t fall or leap over the railing. He’s not down there.

Narrator: No one know how to punctuate this last sentence. A period, an exclamation point, a question mark. Caleb leads the way back down the trail for two-point-two exhausting miles. There are no more clues. There is nothing else to go by. They’ve heard Grant’s words, studied his photos, traced his footsteps. They have seen what he saw. Or have they? Sometimes you see mostly clearly through someone else’s eyes.

[4 car doors opening and closing. An engine starting up. A song on the radio.]

Henry: You know, if he had four hours of daylight left, there’s another couple of trails…

[nonverbal anguished sound from Audra]

Caleb: It’s ok Audra. We already did the longest one. We’re tired. We can try again another day, if you’re all up for it.

Henry: Right. I’m going to gas up on our way out.

Caleb: Sorry everyone. I don’t know what I expected. A revelation?

Audra: Clouds parting. Voice of God.

Ellynasia: It’s okay Caleb.

Caleb: I just. I felt what he felt. Up there. I did. He wanted me to feel it. He wanted me to share that with him. In my head—I can see him trying to call me from up there with all that space and and beauty and air. But what happened next? I’m missing something. Where is he?

Audra: We may never know.

Henry: Audra.

Caleb: I’m missing something. Missing . . . time. There’s a gap. Four hours of daylight means about four o’clock. The last photo was taken at two. What happened in between? Is that when his tire picked up a nail? Was he waiting for triple A? He said he was going to start a hike? But he said he was heading back? It doesn’t make sense.

Henry: Cale, we’ll know when Grant tells us. Right?

Caleb: I suppose.

Henry: Yeah he will. He’ll tell us. When he comes back. Right? ‘Cause he’s coming back. For sure.

Caleb: Henry. You’re the best. Sorry I’m so . . . Here. Let me pay for your fill-up.

[car stopping, radio off, 2 car doors opening.]

Caleb: Anyone need anything from inside? No?

Narrator: Caleb’s head is bowed to the sidewalk, so he doesn’t see. He doesn’t see the signs. How do we know this? Because if he saw them, he’d be rapidly recalculating everything.

Marathon Man (Dustin Parsons): Hey, how can I help you?

Caleb: I need a fill up, on pump one. Is that like – how much is that?

Marathon Man: It depends on the size of your tank. You got cash on you right?

Caleb: Yeah. Go for it. And, uh, do you by any chance, have Ding Dongs? You know, Hostess Ding Dongs? Kind of gross, kind of epic?

Marathon Man: Sure we do — hey, do I know you? Your eyes look familiar.

Caleb: I don’t think so. This is my first time hiking out this way.

Marathon Man: You have a good hike? It’s a great day for it.

Caleb: Yeah. The Ding Dongs are . . . where?

Marathon Man: Second aisle on the right all the way at the end. You might want to check the expiration dates. Don’t know why we stock them, actually. They just sit — Got it! Now I know!

Caleb: What?

Marathon Man: Is it, no offense. Is it a Black thing? I mean culturewise? Liking Ding Dongs?

Caleb: Um, that is kind of offensive. What are you saying? Black on the outside white on the inside?

Marathon Man: Sorry man, no. NOT what I was asking. The last guy I sold Ding Dongs to was a Black dude. Looked like you. Around the eyes. No offense. More than just his skin, you know what I mean?

Narrator: In that moment Caleb’s chin flicks up and his head swivels fast enough to snap a weaker man’s neck. He’s putting it together. He sees the signs through the glass doors. The big old signs announcing:

Caleb: You’re the Marathon Man at the Lynx! The Lynx First Stop convenience store!

What did you talk about? With the guy. Besides Ding Dongs. What did you say to him?

Marathon Man: Nothing.

Caleb: No, no. Think. Not nothing. He said you inspired him.

Marathon Man: I can’t recall.

Caleb: He was arriving or leaving? Ding Dongs for the trail or for the road? Come on, man. You must remember something.

Marathon Man: Leaving? I guess? Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. Leaving. He’d done three outta the five trails, eight miles or so already, and it was getting late. I told him he really ought to come back for the Portman trail because it’s a portal to The Buckeye Trail.

Caleb: What’s the Buckeye Trail?

Marathon Man: This here. Fourteen hundred forty miles going all the way around the state. One long, long, long trail.

Caleb: Fourteen hundred miles! You’ve done it?

Marathon Man: Only about two hundred-fifty. Little Loop, they call it. This guide here has all the instructions for finding the whole thing. You just follow the blue blazes.

Caleb: How long would that take?

Marathon Man: Not many people have hiked through. Usually they do it in parts.

Caleb: But if you did?

Marathon Man: About ten, twelve weeks? Depending on how in shape you are, weather, camping skills. You know.

Caleb: A real long hike.

Marathon Man: You can say that again. But you really get out there and see God’s country.

Caleb: And you can breathe . . .

Marathon Man: Alls you really need is a tarp and a blanket. Grandma Gatewood did the whole Appalachian Trail last century with just a bedroll and a knapsack. Don’t need to get fancy.

Caleb: Well, my brother’s always prepared. Keeps a couple of space blankets in his car emergency kit.

Marathon Man: He’s your brother! I called it.

Caleb: He bought a guide?

Marathon Man: Yeah. I’m pretty sure he did. And a whole box of power bars and blue Powerade. Your friend’s done pumping gas. You want a guidebook too?

Caleb: Yeah, thanks. Then I can see what he’s seeing.

Marathon Man: Okay. With the Ding Dongs it’s thirty-two fifty.

Caleb: Here you go. Keep the change. Portman Trail. Starts where?

Marathon Man: Just about four miles down the road that way. Turn left on Brush Creek and go till you see it. You might get up top by sunset. It’s a real short hike to there.

Caleb: And then the really long one. Fourteen hundred and forty miles. Huh. Well. He should be coming back soon.

Marathon Man: Good for him. Tell him Hey from me. Y’all take care.

Caleb: I will.

[convenience store door opening and closing. Car door opening and closing.]

Ellynasia: What happened? You look happy.

Caleb: I found him.

Audra: You found him? In there?

Henry: Where is he?

Caleb: He’s hiking. He’ll be coming back soon.

Henry: Okay. Good. So. Will you? Be coming back?

Caleb: Yes Henry. (sound of a smile) Yes, I will.

Narrator: There’s another dialogue happening deep beneath this one. One of which Audra and Ellynasia are completely unaware. How do we know this? Because they are punching Caleb’s arms and high fiving him and pressing him for details while Henry is offering him a quiet steady look that says maybe it’s time to look for something else that got lost along the way.

Cast

  • Narrator — Eli Lucas
  • Caleb — Malik Smith
  • Marathon Worker — Dustin Parsons
  • Henry — Jack McElroy
  • Audra — Rachel Jones
  • Ellynasia — Shakoria Davis
  • Grant — Cyrus Fontenot

Production Team

  • Director — Brant Russell
  • Project Manager — Lucy Guillemette
  • Assistant Project Manager — Maggie Seibert
  • Audio Engineers — Patrick Van Meter*, Dustin Parsons
  • Sound Designer — Haruka Iihoshi
  • Composer — Christopher Aldi

Exposure Therapy

Exposure Therapy is the story of a young woman who, via court-mandated psychotherapy sessions, discovers she can travel back in time to traumatic events in her life. This play is written by Maggie Su, a PhD student at UC's College of Arts and Sciences. Su has an MFA from Indiana University, and has been a writer in the CCM Acting Playwrights Workshop.

Liv (Kristina Steinmetz): Time travel isn't like what you see in the movies. It's not a Beatles Sgt. Pepper acid trip where you fall through a kaleidoscope of colors and butterfly kick your way through your unconscious making friends with a sea of rainbow fish. Losing grip on time feels like you're in a snowglobe that's being shaken. Violently. It happens for the first time during my inaugural court-mandated therapy session with Stephanie Harper LPC. One wine drunk accident and I end up with a licensed professional counselor. She's 25, just two years older than me, and looks like a Zumba instructor I had freshman year of college. She runs her practice out of her hipster two-story house in the rapidly gentrifying Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati. I get caught in a storm on the walk there and drip rain on her mustard yellow sofa. She sits across from me with her high blond ponytail and pink pantsuit, legs crossed. She's half smiling, half frowning.

Stephanie (Liza Lagerstrom): [Sighs]I have to say it doesn't look like you're excited to be here, Olivia.

Liv: Oh no. That's just my face.

Stephanie: Your arms are crossed like you're protecting yourself.

Liv: I forgot to wear a bra. (beat) Are many people excited to go to therapy?  Like, is that  common?  I didn't think it was something people got excited about. It's not like going to Disneyland or winning the lottery. You don't see people excited to take medicine, you know?

Stephanie: It's normal to feel nervous. Let's go ahead and get started. For my records, could you please state your full name and age.

Liv: My name is Olivia Chen but I go by Liv. I'm twenty-three.

Stephanie: And you've never been to therapy before?

Liv: No.

Stephanie: Tell me about your family.

Liv: I'm an only child. My mom and dad are still  married,  both   retired professors.

Stephanie: What do you do?

Liv: I write college essays for rich kids and I paint. I have some demon baby sketches up at a coffee shop a few blocks from here. Maybe you've seen them?

Stephanie: I don't think so... What do your parents think about your job?

Liv: Do you have family?

Stephanie: No.

Liv: No family, really?

Stephanie: My parents and older brother died in  a car crash when I was twelve.

Liv: I'm sorry.

Stephanie: That's okay. Tell me this. Why did you come to therapy today?

Liv: Can I call you Stephanie instead of Dr. Harper? I mean, I haven't called you anything yet but I think it would help if I could call you Stephanie.

Stephanie: Well, I'm not a doctor, so yeah. You can call me Stephanie.

Liv: I'm here because my boyfriend dumped me.

Stephanie: What's his name?

Liv: Does it matter?

Stephanie: It might help personalize him for me.

Liv: His name is Jay.

Stephanie: What happened between you and Jay?

Liv: I don't know. We were together for fourteen months. We signed a lease a few months ago.  We picked  out  our kids' names.  He wanted   Charles, Victoria,  Edward. All very white British  royalty  but  whatever. I thought I had time to change his mind.

Stephanie: It was serious.

Liv: Yeah.

Stephanie: What happened?

Jay (Gabriel Nasato) (V.O.): [phone static] You have to stop calling, Liv. This relationship is toxic. I'm going to block your number.

Liv: I don't know. He changed his mind.

Stephanie: Have you ever read the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken"? "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both."

Liv: Yes, I'm familiar with it.

Stephanie: Is it possible Jay's taking the path less traveled?

Liv: I couldn't say.

Stephanie: It seems like you're reluctant to talk about that today. That's okay, that's normal. Let's switch gears and try something different. Can you stand up? Yeah, go ahead. Now I know  this is going  to be  difficult but  I want  you to close your eyes. Do you trust me?

Liv: Mmmm...

Stephanie: Well, you're going to have to. I want you to clear your brain of all the clutter, all the  mind dust. Those stray thoughts that swirl around without your permission.

Liv: Okay.

Stephanie: Good. Now I want you to visualize your earliest memory instead. Place yourself in that image.

Liv (V.O.): Why is this when I time travel for the first time? In this random girl's office? With  these cliché  platitudes? I don't know. It doesn't make sense.

Stephanie: Smell the smells. Taste the tastes.

Liv: A sun-drenched dining  room, the strains of NPR All Things Considered drifting in from the kitchen. I'm in a chair that's too big for me. My feet dangle above beige carpeting. My hands are small, clenched into fists.

Dad (Hunter Trammell): You need help with your ramen, Liv? Twirl your chopsticks around the noodle.

Liv: My dad looks so young. He's trying to grow a goatee. But it's patchy, disconnected, looks  like Tetris pieces. How old is he? Twenty-five? (to Dad) Dad? Can you hear me?

Liv (child): Da? Da?

Dad: There you go. Blow before you slurp, okay? Good girl. I have to make  a  quick call. I'll just be in the other room. Eat, eat.

[Footsteps, child laughing]

Dad: Robert, you know today's supposed to be my day off. I haven't had one in weeks. They moved up the conference. Well, there's no need to yell about it.

Liv: I remember this now.

Dad: Yes. I'll come into the office. Just let me call a sitter.

[Bowl crashing]

Dad: Olivia! What did you do? Are you kidding me? You can't be left alone for one second? You're almost three years old.

Liv: Don't be mad. I didn't mean to. I never mean to.

Dad: Hey, don't cry. It's okay. It's okay. I promise.

Liv: He feels so real. My head against his chest. Dad, I'm sorry. Don't leave.

Stephanie: Liv? Liv Chen? Are you with me?

Liv: What?

Stephanie: We were doing a visualization technique and you fainted. It happens sometimes. Maybe you locked your knees? I'll get you some water.

Liv: No, that doesn't make sense. I was there. I was three years old eating ramen with my dad. I knocked the  bowl over  when  he  left the room. It spilled everywhere. I got burns on my thighs.

Stephanie: Are you afraid to be left?

Liv: Isn't everyone?

Stephanie: With your breakup, it makes sense that you would revisit that memory. Another time in your life when you felt abandoned.

Liv: No, you don't understand. I was there just now. It was real.

Stephanie: It sounds like a very vivid memory for you.

Liv: No, it was real. I felt like I could change things. Like, if  I  could've just talked to my Dad I could've fixed it.

Stephanie: Can't you talk to him now?

Liv: You don't get it. That thing about your parents and brother, the car crash? Was that true? Because you know I can google that.

Stephanie: I'm sorry. Our time is up.

Liv: If you're trying to teach me a lesson, it's not working.

Stephanie: We'll revisit this next week.

Liv (V.O.): Maybe's Stephanie's right, maybe the time jump was just a memory, a vivid hallucination from my oxygen-deprived brain. I'll go to work and forget  it ever happened.

Bradley (AJ Civello): You really think this is going to get me into Brown? A bullshit story about Chinese food?

Liv: Vietnamese food.

Bradley: Whatever.

Liv: It's not just about you trying pho for the first time. It's a metaphor  for your openness to new experiences, new cultures. We're  trying  to  turn  you into a woke king here, Bradley.

Bradley: Huh.

Liv: Think of it this way: You want to go into business and globalization is the name of the game. How can you  sell other people's  culture  if  you  don't know it?

Bradley: That makes sense.

Bradley's Mom (Emma Fitzgerald): Here's your check. Thanks for coming by, Liv. It's good to have diversity in the house. Bradley's getting a lot out of your guidance.

Liv: Oh, I'm sure he is.

Bradley's Mom: You think he'll get into Brown, right?

Liv (V.O.): By the time I get home, I've almost forgotten about the morning,  about being shaken back in time two decades. But then  I take  off  my  pants... Burns on the inside of my thighs.  Not from when I was a kid. Fresh red welts.

Liv (V.O.): What do you do when you discover you have a superpower? Do you use it for good or evil? Public interest  or personal gain? I've been dragged to enough superhero movies by stoned ex boyfriends to know that power is a double-edged sword.

Liv: Okay, okay. World hunger, global warming, no more war? I could try to kill Hitler. Seems like there might be some unforeseen consequences to that though. Why did I never watch The Butterfly Effect? It must have to  do  with  visualization. It  only  happened   in   Stephanie's office. My memories. Think. What would I change if I could? My middle school blunt cut bangs. Freshmen year of college when I threw up vodka cranberries on Caleb's bed. Jay... I'll go back to when things  started going wrong. I'll fix it. Time travel can't be that hard. All Stephanie did was talk in a soothing voice. I'll put on a playlist of rain sounds. I think I still have that candle that smells like fresh laundry.

[rain sounds]

Liv: I can see Jay's apartment. His stained futon. A landscape painting of buddha hanging about the spice rack.  It smells like bread because he lives above a Jimmy  John's. I'm  there. I'm in the image. Fuck.

Liv: Hellooo? Anyone home?

Stephanie: Liv? What are you doing here? It's 11 'o clock at night.

Liv: I need your help. I think I'm going crazy.

Stephanie: Are you okay? Have you hurt yourself? Do you need a ride to the hospital?

Liv: Hey, would you just let me in? It's cold out here.

[Door creaks open, closes]

Stephanie: What's going on?

Liv: I want to do the visualization technique again.

Stephanie: What?

Liv: I want to go back to January of this year. I'm in  Jay's  apartment.  It's hot, too hot because  he doesn't control the heat. We're having a big fight.

Stephanie: You've got to be kidding me right now.

Liv: I want to go back and fix things. I've been thinking  a  lot about  what happened with  us  and  I think  it's at the source of my... Trauma.

Stephanie: You can't go back in time and fix it. All you can do is learn to deal with it in the present.

Liv: Look I know you don't believe me. That's fine. I barely believe myself. But Stephanie, please, I need this. As a friend.

Stephanie: I'm not your friend.

Liv: Fine, as my therapist.

Stephanie: Even if you could time travel, what do you have to gain?

Liv: I'll get him back. This  was  the tipping point, the moment when he realized I was a needy, co-dependent monster.

Stephanie: You want to trick him into staying with you.

Liv: I mean, is it a trick if it makes me a better person in the long run?

Stephanie: You're glossing over systemic issues.

Liv: I'm pretending to be normal to get the guy. Fake it till you make it. Look,  aren't  you  supposed  to  give  in to patient's delusions? You're not supposed to let them know that they're acting crazy. You humor them until they've calmed down. It's a relaxation technique  for  God's  sake.  It can't hurt me. Please.

Stephanie: If I do this, will you leave?

Liv: Yes. Scout's honor.

Stephanie: Fine... You're in Jay's apartment. What are you wearing?

Liv: I just took off my jacket. I'm wearing a  cardigan,  a  scarf.  I  had   a   late class  in  the  English  Building.  A seminar on Hemingway.

Stephanie: What about Jay?

Liv: Basketball shorts, a T-shirt  he  got for free outside the student union. Should my eyes be closed?

Stephanie: Yes. Close your eyes.

Liv: Wait, this isn't right. This isn't where I'm supposed to be.

Liv: This is our first date. A busy Friday night at Northside Tavern. We snagged a table that Jay's legs barely fit beneath. He asked me out on Wednesday at a coffee shop where I'd been pretending to read poetry and sketching strangers' ankles.

Jay: I had to talk to you. You looked so sad. Contemplative. I just wanted to know what you were thinking.

Past Liv: Oh, that's just my face.

Jay: It's a good face.

Past Liv: Yours isn't bad either.

Liv: Why am I here?  There's nothing  for  me to change. Look at how happy I am. And drunk. I forgot I showed up to the bar a half hour early and chugged a double gin and soda.

Jay: Sorry, it's so crowded. I should've asked you to dinner instead. I'm not a big drinker.

Past Liv: Me neither.

Liv: Liar.

Past Liv: I mean, I don't drink when I'm alone. I only drink when I'm around friends. Or cute boys who stare without blinking and make me nervous.

Jay: I'm not blinking?

Past Liv: Yeah, you're making my eyes water. What are you a robot?

Jay: This isn't the first time I've been accused of that.

Past Liv: Just my  type.

Jay: I've never dated an artist.

Past Liv: When you think about it, artists are robots'  natural  enemies.  Robots  are all head, artists all heart. How else can I vomit feelings onto a canvas?

Jay: Vomit art?

Past Liv: Exactly. You might even see some vomit art tonight. Do you karaoke?

Jay: No.

Past Liv: Tsk. Stick in the mud.

Liv: I know that look. He's judging me. I thought we were so in sync at the beginning.

Jay: Were you born in the U.S.?

Past Liv: Midwest born and raised. Want to have a chili cook-off? I also make a mean green bean casserole.

Jay: But where are your parents from?

Past Liv: My dad's from Taiwan, my mom was born in Jersey, mostly German. I can take a DNA test if you're interested.

Jay: That won't be necessary.

Past Liv: Ever dated anyone non-white?

Jay: I haven't.

Past Liv: Never dated an Asian girl. Never dated an artist.  This  is  a  big  night  for you. What about you? Where are your parents from?

Jay: Colorado. My mom raised me and my brothers. My dad died when I was sixteen. He was a drug addict.

Past Liv: Shit. I'm sorry.

Jay: That's why I try to stay away from alcohol.

[Glass shattering]

Past Liv: Fuck. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I made a mess.

Jay: Hey. It's okay, there's no use crying over spilled PBR. We'll clean it up.

Liv: This isn't Stephanie's office. It's not Jay's apartment either. I'm driving and my face is wet. Shit. This must be the night Jay blocked my number and changed his locks. He figured out I'd been sneaking in.

Liv: I don't remember this. It's raining so hard I can't see anything.

Past Liv: He doesn't love me anymore. He left me. I'm alone.

Liv: Stop accelerating! Are you trying to kill yourself?

Past Liv: He  doesn't...

Liv: I know things look  bleak  right  now. Jay doesn't want to see you anymore. You thought you were going to marry him and have 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, a retirement fund.

Past Liv: ...love me.

Liv: But hey, listen to me. This is not how the movie  ends.  It's just the  low- point before the redemptive upswing. The inspirational music is coming on. You're going to get Jay back.

Past Liv (to Liv): How?

Liv: Keep your eyes on the road. (beat) You don't know this yet but you have a superpower.

Past Liv: What?

Stephanie: Are you okay, Liv? You're crying.

Liv: I slipped through time again.

Stephanie: No. You were here the whole time.

Liv: I went back. But not to the fight in Jay's apartment. I went back to our first date.

Stephanie: No. You fell asleep. Sitting on this couch.

Liv: I broke a pint glass. I was really drunk. (beat) Then I was driving my minivan.

Stephanie: You went further back in time?

Liv: Not backward, forward. Is it still called a memory if you don't remember it? I was driving home from Jay's.

Stephanie: You're starting to remember the accident.

Liv: How do you know about that?

Stephanie: You know how I know about that.

Liv: I wasn't trying to kill myself. I was just drunk and emotional.

Stephanie: You could've died.

Liv: I didn't want  to  die.  Not  really.  I just wanted to do something that would make me stop thinking for a second, a minute, an hour. I wanted to go numb.

Stephanie: Getting Jay back won't fix that.

Liv: Maybe not. But isn't it a start? It's like Star Wars. Help me, Obi-Wan Kanobi, you're my only hope.

Stephanie: If you're not dating Jay, your life is hopeless?

Liv: Yes. No. I don't know.

Stephanie: You have value.

Liv: What do you know about value? You look like a Lululemon model. You have money, a career, magical powers. You don't know what it's like to live with this emptiness.

Stephanie: You're right. I don't know your emptiness. Just like you don't know mine. Did you ever fact check my story?

Liv: What?

Stephanie: About my dead parents and brother. You thought I was lying.

Liv: No. I didn't-

Stephanie: I wasn't lying. They really  did  die. This isn't the Truman Show. Not everything is about you. You might be the main character of your own  story but you're not the main character of mine.

Liv: Look, you're right. I don't know you. I didn't know Jay. All I see are reflections.

Stephanie: We'll continue discussing this next week.

Liv: Look, I can't leave. Not yet. I can't leave until I go back again. I have to change something.

Stephanie: Why do you need me for that?

Liv: You're the only person who takes me back. Maybe you're a witch or a shawoman or something. Please, just one more time.

Stephanie: Were you able to change the car crash?

Liv: No.

Stephanie: Then why do you think you can change things with Jay? The past  is the  past. All we can do is accept that and move forward.

Liv: I just know. I'll never ask you again. It's something I need to do.

Stephanie: Fine. This is it though. Close your eyes.

Liv: And the snowglobe shakes for the last time.

Liv: I'm standing  in  the  kitchen  of  Jay's one bedroom. Dishes piled high, mostly mine. A black beetle crawls from under the sink  to  the  trash  can.  It smells like bread.

Jay: How was class?

Past Liv: It was good. We read "Hills Like White Elephants." "We could have  everything and every day we make  it more impossible."

Jay: Haven't read that one.

Past Liv: It's about a man pressuring his girlfriend to get an abortion. It reminded me of us.

Jay: No comment.

Past Liv: You don't want to talk about our fight in the park yesterday?

Jay: No. I just want to have a quiet night. I want to watch Pitch Perfect and not get yelled at.

Past Liv: Is that all I do? Yell?

Jay: Yes.

Past Liv: Very funny.

Jay: It's true. Being with you is like being on stage without a script. Like playing Jeopardy and I only have wrong answers.

Past Liv: That's bullshit. I just have feelings and, as my partner, I thought you'd be interested in hearing  them.  My mistake.

Jay: What did I even do yesterday? I didn't agree with you when you said you thought all cops are racist.

Past Liv: You also texted your ex-girlfriend.

Jay: It was her birthday.

Past Liv: You never told me  she  was  an  Aquarius.

Jay: It's not about that. You don't just have feelings, you weaponize them. You're a force, Liv. You never mean to but you come in and you destroy everything.

Past Liv: I destroy everything?

Jay: The crying in public, the screaming fit in the park. How do you  not see that these are problems?

Past Liv: It's not my fault that you can't apologize. That you're inconsiderate.

Jay: If I'm inconsiderate, if I'm a bad partner then why do you even keep me around?

Past Liv: I don't know. Why do I? [Footsteps, door opens, slams] Leaving your own apartment in the middle of a fight. Who does that?

Liv (to Past Liv): Pssst. Hey Liv, it's Liv. We need to talk.

Past Liv: What the fuck?

Liv: I need you to let me take over from here.

Past Liv: What are you talking about? You're just a voice in my head.

Liv: I'm you. Remember when we peed our pants running  the  two-mile  during soccer tryouts Freshmen year? When we masturbated to Game of Thrones sex scenes during band camp?

Past Liv: Okay, okay.

Liv: You're fucking this up.

Past Liv: Jay's not really gone.

Liv: He is. This is the tipping point.

Past Liv: He loves me.

Liv: He's sick of you. That's why you need me.

Past Liv: You're here to fix this? You're going to make sure he doesn't leave?

Liv: I'm here to make things better. I know things you don't know yet.

Past Liv: Okay. If it'll get Jay back. How does this work?

Liv: I'm going to take control from here. I've never done this before but I think it will work... Just clear your mind...

Liv: There's a 24 hour Waffle House two blocks away from Jay's apartment. Last time I did this I walked around for an hour looking for him before  tracking him through Snapchat. Now,  I don't have to guess where he is. This place always has condensation on the glass  and  smells  like  burnt coffee. He looks so sad sitting there in a booth by himself. He's not even looking at his phone, just  staring  at the door.

Liv (to Jay): Can I join you?

Jay: How'd you know I'd be here?

Liv: Just a hunch.

Jay: Everything should've been easy between us. You fall in love with someone and everything is supposed to click into place.

Liv: I've got a lot of jagged edges. Can I tell you a story?

Jay: Sure.

Liv: The last time I was  here,  I stormed in. I called you names, I threatened you, I just wanted to get you to talk to me. I thought if you got angry it would mean you still felt something.

Jay: I'm numb to it.

Liv: I know.

Jay: I know you think I'm a perfect person. But I'm not.

Liv: I know that, too.

Waitress (Gracie Schmidt): Here's your coffee and pancakes. Can I get you anything, miss?

Liv (to Waitress) No. Thank you. (to Jay) You always eat pancakes when you're sad.

Jay: Yeah. They remind me  of  my  Dad.

Liv: The last time I was here I swept them off the table. When the waitress came back, I pretended it was an accident. After she left, you told  me  it was over.

Jay: Why aren't you doing that now?

Liv: I'm done breaking things. I'm letting you go.

Jay: What if I don't want to go?

Liv: You do.

Jay: Do you want a  pancake?

Liv: Yeah.

Stephanie: Liv? Can you hear  me?

Liv: Yes.

Stephanie: You were gone for a while. Are you okay?

Liv: I'm trying.

Cast

  • Liv — Kristina Steinmetz
  • Stephanie — Liza Lagerstrom
  • Jay — Gabriel Nasato
  • Dad — Hunter Trammell
  • Bradley — AJ Civello
  • Bradley’s Mom — Emma Fitzgerald
  • Waitress — Gracie Schmidt

Production Team

  • Director — Brant Russell
  • Project Manager — Lucy Guillemette
  • Assistant Project Manager — Maggie Seibert
  • Audio Engineer — Patrick van Meter
  • Sound Designer — Geoffrey Mintz
  • Composer — Dominic Wintz

The Missing

The Missing follows a young Black woman as she searches for her missing sister on the streets of Newark, New Jersey. This play is by Sakinah Hofler, a PhD student in the fiction writing program at UC.

*Audio play includes strong language.

[Ominous futuristic music plays over narrator’s introduction]

Narrator (Lydia Noll): Nova Harding here from The Missing, where we discuss those who are no longer present and those who are no longer included. Today’s extra special episode is one that was recorded using a standard cell phone. That’s right! We have someone doing an actual live search of one of the missing. As we’ve learned in The New America, this could’ve happened yesterday, this could happen tomorrow. So, without further ado here’s Episode #137 of The Missing.

Lena (Sierra Coachman): [Breathing heavily, intense music plays in background] Today is uh, December 16th, no, it’s-it’s the 17th, about 5:55 p.m. Uh, at approximately 5:12 p.m. near Baxter and Sussex, I saw-I saw my sister. Kara. Kara Mikayla Clark. She disappeared four years ago, the day after Christmas. We woke up and she didn’t come down for breakfast and then we went to go check on her and she was...she was gone. Just gone. She was 19, a year older than me, and the cops told us she’d run away and that she’d be back, but she didn’t come back and it’s been four years, and my dad says she’s gone forever and my mom always said she’d be back and, Oh god! [Click off, music stops. Calm music starts, click on] Okay. It’s 6:20 p.m. and I want the record to show that I saw my sister, who disappeared four years ago, Kara Mikayla Clark, today near Baxter Terrace and Sussex Avenue.

Lena (Cont’d): I usually, um, try to avoid that neighborhood but the traffic was at a standstill on 280 and I thought if I could cut through the streets, avoid rush hour, I could get home at a reasonable time. I had the green, but she walked in front of my car, and it drives me crazy that people in Newark just walk in front of cars whether or not they have the light so I honked and honked, and when she looked up, I saw her face. It was her. Lace front weave, a bad one, but it was her. She had on this thin, blue jacket and a metallic mini-skirt and I only paid attention because it was such a light jacket for such cold weather. The high today was what, 33? And then she gave me the finger. But, I swear, it was her and I—

Elliot (Charles Gidney) : Lee? Lena? Hon? Are you ready?

Lena: [Calling out] I’m in the bedroom! [Back into the phone] And I jumped out of the car and I ­—

Elliot: You ready? They only have top shelf for the first hour before… Lena, what’s wrong? Hon, you okay?

Lena: I'm fine.

Elliot: Your makeup… it's… you've got those raccoon eyes going on. Black stuff all over. Something happen? Who’s on the phone?

Lena: I'm recording. I… Elliot, I saw my sister today.

Elliot: Your sister?

Lena: Yes, my sister.

Elliot: She's alive? I mean, she's okay? She's here?

Lena: I was driving and she walked in front of my car. And you know how people just walk in front of your car. But this time it was her. She lost a lot of weight. I was shocked. You know, I just sat there like the light turn red and then turn green again. And then the car started honking at me. But I got out and I left the car running right there on Baxter Terrace.

Elliot: What are you doing over there?

Lena: And I called out to her and she… she ran.

Elliot: People get carjacked over there, Lena. I'm glad you're okay. Are you sure it was her? I mean, sometimes I see my mom and then I remember.

Lena: Yes. I had on those stupid heels and she was gone before I could catch up. I don't even remember driving back here. I should have parked I should have kept looking. I wasn't thinking. That's why I'm recording. I want to… I don't want to forget what I saw. I saw what I saw.

Elliot: I mean, you're the one who said she might be…

Lena: I know what I saw.

Elliot: Do you want to go back there? I don't know to the police.

Lena: No, she was running. If it was her right? And she knows it was me. Why would she be running? It doesn't make any sense. [Music starts] I'll get ready.

Elliot: It's just a holiday party. I mean, we're already late. And you know what they say, when we show up late? This is bigger than that.

Lena: No, if you want to make partner you've got to go to these things. I need time to think anyway. And to get out of the house.

Elliot: You're sure? I don't mind.

Lena: Yes, I'm sure I need to drink. [Music continues]

Lena: [Music stops, background talking] It's 10:40 and more still here still talking to everyone. Love them love them. After careful thought and consideration, I've decided that I'm 100% sure I saw Kara. 151% [toilet flushes]. Crap.

Margaret (Ava Panagopolous): [High heels clicking against the floor as a woman approaches) Hey! You’re Elli’s girlfriend, right?

Lena: Elliot? His fiancé.

Margaret: I'm Margaret

Lena: Lena.

Margaret: We just love Elli at the office. Smart guy, articulate, funny.

Lena: That he is.

Margaret: He talks about you a lot.

Lena: That he does.

Margaret: And then what do you do?

Lena: I'm a mechanical engineer for Boeing, just started a few months ago.

Margaret: Oh, how fascinating. My dad was an engineer. We're a family of lawyers, doctors and engineers, you know? And I think Elli said you’re from Newark? And you became an engineer? Really? That's amazing.

Lena: What do you mean?

Margaret: [laughs nervously] Oh, you know, it's just in the news so much. You never really picture engineers coming from there.

Lena: [Defensive] Well, my dad's from there, and he's a lawyer, and my mom's from there and she's a physics professor and my sister's from there. And she wanted to be a doctor before…

Margaret: I didn't mean anything by that. I didn't mean to offend…

Lena: …before she went missing. MIA.

Margaret: Like missing in action?

Lena: No, like missing. [Sings] M-I-S-S-I-N-G. Gone. Vamoose. Here Friday. Gone Saturday.

Margaret: Oh, I'm sorry. Is that… ? Oh yes. I think my phone is ringing. I gotta go. Nice to meet you Nina.

Lena: Kara wanted to be a doctor. When I was younger, and I got sick, she would make me Kara's Get well soon. She’d pour water over three or four Maraschino cherries and then add some unshelled Carolina pecans. I swear it worked better than NyQuil. Once we were playing manhunt and I slipped under our neighbor's chaining fence and the metal scraped off all my knee skin. And she's the one who sent me in the house and poured alcohol all over it, hurt like hell, but I didn’t need stitches. [hiccups] Can’t do none of that when you’re missing. She wanted us to be K squared, which was dumb because my name starts with an L. I want it to be the Kool and La Gang Soul sisters. K-L-G-S-S. We could’ve done it, you know. [Click off]

[Music starts, click on]

Lena: Drove by Baxter and Sussex. Six times. No sign of her.

Elliot: We can try again tomorrow.

[Click off, music builds, click on]

Lena: December 19. Drove around Baxter and Sussex for about a half hour. Nothing. [click off]

[Music fades out, click on]

Detective Silas (Ethan Murphy) You can have a seat right over there. Sorry for the mess.

Lena: Thank you for your time, Detective Silas.

Det. Silas: Okay. Lena, you say? What is that? L-E-E-N-A?

Lena: L-E-N-A. Last name Clark. No E.

Det. Silas: Alright. I'm going to need her full name.

Lena: Kara Mikayla Clark. K-A-R-A. Mikayla. M-I-K-A-Y-L-A. Clark.

Det. Silas: Date of birth?

Lena: July 19, 1994.

Det. Silas: She's over 15.

Lena: Well, she disappeared nearly four years ago when she was 19.

Det. Silas: And you're filing the report now?

Lena: We filed one back then. Someone came by our house and said we had to wait 24 hours. Then we spoke to a Greenberg. I can't remember if he was a detective or an officer. But that was his name. And we came down here a lot. They kept telling us that there was nothing they could do, that she was 19 and free to come and go and that since her purse and license weren't there, she must have run away. But I found her. Like I saw her on Baxter Terrace. And I know it's her and I think I scared her and that's why she ran I thought perhaps someone who's used to finding people…

Det. Silas: Listen, Lena….

Detective Ali: Hey, Mike, you finished with the McCormick report? System’s showing is still got it in use.

Det. Silas: One minute, Ciera. Listen, Lena. I'm really sorry about your sister. But I'm inclined to agree with whomever you spoke to earlier. If she was over 18, wasn't in any danger and she took her purse and her license... It even says in the report that you mentioned she might have had a boyfriend? If there was any evidence we could have went off of... But it's tough when someone's of age and honestly wants to leave. I would love to help. I really would. But I don't think there's much we could do at this point. Occasionally people go missing and they're taken. Most times people go missing and they choose to disappear, to leave everything behind. We've got a few missing kids, young ones, Amber alerts, and we're using our resources to find them. The holiday season ain't really happy, you know, muggings, car jackings, I would love to help. I really would. But I think it's also important to consider that sometimes no matter how much we love people, they might not want to stay with us. And you said you saw her and she ran.

Lena: Could you look at this picture? Maybe you've seen her…

Det. Ali: Today, Mike. I just need you to click the X on the file so that I can open it.

Lena: I just thought someone can help me look…

Det. Silas: Why don't you organize a search? People do that all the time. You can make photocopies and hang them up, pass them out. You can check the public registry for her also, see if anything comes up. Social media, Facebook, I've been into Snapchat myself.

Lena: Never mind.

Det. Silas: Lena, I…

[Footsteps rushing away]

Det. Ali: Hey, hey, Lena, right?

Lena: Yes. Sorry, I… [trying not to cry]

Det. Ali:  Girl, don't apologize. Detective Ciara Ali. Women apologize too much for things that are not their fault.

Lena: Sorr— well. I’m fine.

Det. Ali: You did the right thing. Coming here. Looking, Caring. One thing I've noticed about this job and the city, heck this country, is that women and girls who look like us, like me and you? They go missing a lot. I didn't realize that until I started working here.

Lena: Oh, when you say you and me…

Det. Ali: 14,000 to 16,000 people go missing in a state every year. 99% of the time they come back or we find them. But there's that 1% and too many of that 1% is Black. It's not proportional to the population. Yet you never hear about them the way you hear about Natalie Holloways or Laci Petersons, you know.

Lena: Do they…Do they get found?

Det. Ali: That's a tough question. I'll tell you this: a few have been kidnapped, but what my department is finding more and more — and Detective Silas is a good man, but he's also a man. That's one of his problems — is that girls and young women from this city, wind up in complex situations.

Lena: Complex situations?

Det. Ali: I’m going to keep it one hundred. Trafficked. Forced into prostitution. Sometimes they want to come back but they can’t. They’re ashamed. Scared. Not everyone out on the streets wants to be out there. I’m hoping your sister is off with her boyfriend, living her dream life. But, realistically...like you, I want her to be found, no matter what...let me see your picture. You two look a lot alike. Same braids. Same brown eyes. Cute Santa hats. I mean she’s…

Lena: She's lost a little weight since that picture. When I saw her. I've got to go.

Det. Ali: Hey, I'll take a pic of your pic and keep my eyes out. Here's my business card.

Lena: Thanks.

Det. Ali: And if you saw what you saw, keep looking. You never know. And I know it might be hard, but I really, really hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Lena: Thanks. Merry Christmas.

[Click off]

Lena: About to return dad's call. When I don't pick up they call, like three times in a row. I'm going to tell him everything. Hey, Dad. No, everything's fine. Oh, no, my phone's on the charger. That's why I'm using Elliott's phone. Dad, listen, it's me. We're fine. I didn't mean to freak you out. I'm sorry, dad. Yeah, we're fine. Oh, that's really good. I'm so happy to hear that. I just wanted to let you know that... Yes, I hear her. Yes. Oh, no. I was gonna say that. Elliot and I might stay up here for the holiday. Yes, I got off. It's well, I was thinking. Well, Elliot has a lot of work to do. We'll celebrate with you on New Year's. Yes, of course. I know what time of year it is. Elliot has to work and I don't want him to spend the holiday alone. We're not certain yet. I guess the day of works. No, no, tell mom. I'll call her back later. Hi, Mom. Yes. Congratulations. I'm glad you decided… I'm glad you're doing this. Yes, wedding planning is going great. Yep, I'm still keeping the dress. It's not too revealing. Okay, yep. I'll let you know when the dress gets here. Yes, I know. The fittings. No, I haven't driven by the old house. I'll do so tomorrow. Okay. I know. I know. I'll talk to Elliot. Yes, Mom. Yes, Mom. Yes, mom. Okay. I love you too.

Elliot: Hey, have you seen my phone? Nevermind.

Lena: I needed to charge mine. You know how my parents freak out whenever I don't pick up.

Elliot: But it's not plugged in.

Lena: My mom's gonna start adjuncting next semester.

Elliot: Your phone's not plugged in. It's flashing.

Lena: her first job. Since all of this.

Elliot: Sounds good. Lena, I'm worried about you.

Lena: I was going to tell them, but she got a job. She wants me to go by the old house. Ask the renters if they've seen or heard anything again. But, they sounded… they sounded happy.

Elliot: Do you think perhaps you might want to talk to someone? I know you did a while ago...

Lena: Maybe Kara has gone by the old house. I just, she was so far from it and she didn't come…

Elliot: I thought the renters would call if she came by.

Lena: I told my parents we weren't coming down for Christmas.

Elliot: What? It would be good for us to get out of town. You can go to Lexington market. Grab some crab cakes. You love crab cakes.

Lena: If we find her before, then.

Elliot: Lena are you…?

Lena: Something happened to her. Her freshman year, she goes away and she comes back after spring break a different person. She wants to drop out and transfer to Essex County College. And she was all upset and I thought she was being spoiled and then weird. And she started spending all this time online. When I started school, I wanted to be the opposite. And now something has happened and she's out there and I'm trying to find her. I just want to find her.

Elliot: Lena, this isn't your fault.

Lena: I called her a fuck-up. Did I ever tell you that?

Elliot: Everyone fights with their siblings. And honestly, some people are fuck ups. Lena… are you sure you saw her?

Lena: You don't believe me now?

Elliot: Could you cut that thing off?

Lena: I know what I saw.

Elliot: I believe you think you saw her, love. I believe that. But and hear me out, I've seen my mom over and over since… ever since… you know. I see her when I'm downtown in the office and the city. Once I had to get out of my Uber because the woman, from the back, looked just like her.

Lena: What are you trying to say?

Elliot: Sometimes I dream and she's there and I wake up and she's not. Sometimes I think I see her and no one's there. It's just in my mind. Margaret, the one I call Barbie Margie, asked how you were doing. Asked me what happened to your sister. I told her what you've been saying for four years. That she's dead. Here one day, gone the next. Margie said you were haunted.

Lena: I was drunk. And she's a hisidity bitch.

Elliot: Three years I've been telling you — stick to rum. Vodka is not your friend. Look, I think we should go down to your parents for Christmas. If they're happy and your mom is going to be working again… I think they'd be even happier to see us.

Lena: I’ll think about it.

Elliot: You haven't been driving over there right? Not without me right?

Lena: Why would you think that?

Elliot: I want you to be… safe. We moved to this area for a reason.

Lena: Sounds classist Elliot.

Elliot: I'm just worried. Please cut that thing off.

[Click off, Click on]

Lena: Call out of work. Went by the old house. Nothing. Nada. Niente. They always never seen nothing. Anyway just parked in front of the apartments of 65 Baxter Terrace. [Car door opens and slams shut, music starts] Okay, just a side note on 65 Baxter Terrace: project apartments arranged in the ingenious shape of an X. Each angle contains a courtyard and each courtyard has two metal garbage cans chained to a big tree and each metal garbage cans stands empty. Yet, each courtyard is somehow littered with crushed soda cans, crumpled fast food wrappers, unread newspapers, gum and crates. In this courtyard, there's a baby stroller missing two wheels lying on its side. No baby though. One day, and we all know it's coming, they're going to force everyone to move out and tear this whole area down. Build some high-rise condos and charge three times what current residents pay. That's the way it goes, I guess. One of my co-workers doesn't live far from here, where it's already been gentrified, in of the new high-rises on the 10th floor. She's got this bomb view of New York City. Here, I bet the builder decided they were projects for a reason and stopped building at one, two, three, four, five floors. The only thing the residents who live here have a view of is a huge concrete slab.

Lena (cont’d): Maybe if they climb to the roof and don't mind being cold or catching one, they might be able to see the city… Basically, where I live, where I grew up, it's… nice. Homes, yards, overhead plants decorating front porches. Here it's,… it's broken bottles, car windows, dreams. Elliott's… not from here. He doesn't understand. Same city, two sides, same people, different incomes. All with problems. All of us. Oh, excuse me. Excuse me, Miss? Miss? Could you look at this picture and tell me if you've seen this person?

Woman 1 (Sydni Solomon): Nope. Not in the mood for crazy. Come on, boys.

Lena: If you could just look at this picture…

Woman 1: Over here talking to herself and then get to have the nerve to step to me, absolutely not…[voice fades]

Lena: She's my sister.

Lena: Excuse me. Hey, guys. Hi. Have you seen this person around? It's my sister.

Religious Man (Mateo Sollano): No, we haven't. But if you're searching for someone, allow us to introduce you to the one true God. And your search will be over for this life and the next.

Lena: No, uh, thanks.

Lena. Excuse me, Miss? Miss? Have you seen my sister?

Social Worker (Nora Kovasckitz): Jesus. I said not today. No, no, whatever you're selling. I don't want any of it. I don't have money or time for Girl Scouts, Mary Kay, Tupperware, alternative electricity, Direct TV, life insurance, none of that.

Lena: I just need some help.

Social Worker: We all do.

Lena: Could you at least look at the picture?

Man (Noah Buyak): Hey, what's good?

Lena: Have you seen my sister?

Man: Mmmmmmm, y’all twins?

Lena: We’re not.

Man: You two look just alike. Matter of fact, you look better than she does now. Why don't you come inside and see her? I left her… in the living room. On the sofa.

[Lena stumbles, falls]

Man: Oh, Lord, are you okay? Here, sit right here. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. Let me take you inside. And get you some water and see her.

Lena: Oh, Okay…

Man: Right over here.

Lena: What's her name?

Man: Who?

Lena: The woman in the picture. My sister.

Man: Jessica. Kesha. Sharonda?

[Lena runs away]

Man: Apartment 4F Come on. Beautiful. Where you going?

Lena: I'm so stupid.

Woman 2 (Isabella Wagner) Excuse me? You dropped this.

Lena: Oh, thank you. Yes.

Woman 2: No problem.

Lena: Have you seen the woman in this picture?

Woman 2: Hmm. Maybe. I've seen everyone in this picture.

Lena: Nevermind.

Woman 2: I seen the doppelganger.

Lena: What do you mean?

Woman 2:  Gotta light?

Lena: Uh [shuffles around in purse] No.

Woman 2: Damn.

Lena: You were saying?

Woman 2: We all got twins in this world. Even if we weren’t born twins. Someone who looks like you but got different parents.

Lena: I know what a doppelganger is. Have you seen one that looks like her?

Woman 2: Seen them all. You gotta come back late-late, though. It's too bright for the doppelgangers right now.

Lena: Uh, okay, thanks.

Woman 2: Here's a tissue. You look a mess.

[Click off, music starts, click on]

Lena: It's two in the morning. I started searching. Googling. It's nice to know you're not alone. But also bad to know you're not alone. There are so many families out there looking, waiting. I found a lot of names LaShaya Stine. She disappeared when she was 16 from Aurora, Colorado. Her parents went to wake her up for a job interview and discovered she was gone. She left behind her clothes, her wallet, her phone charger. And they haven't seen her since. Her window was open. Like Kara’s. The police treated her like a runaway, like Kara. Except at least when the police chief came back from vacation, he actually looked into her disappearance and found a surveillance video of her walking alone down the street in the middle of the night. There have been reports of people seeing her at motels since then. Accompanied by a man, but she's still considered missing.

Lena (cont’d): Matrice Richardson. Probably the only one I've heard of, about 24 when she went missing from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, specifically the Malibu/ Lost Hills sheriff's station after she was arrested for not paying a restaurant bill. Even though her mother begged the police not to let her go until she could get there because of her concern for her daughter's mental state. The Sheriff's Department released her, all by herself, onto a dark road in the middle of the night. According to their spokesperson, she had quote, exhibited no signs of mental illness or intoxication. She was fine. She was an adult, end quote. One guy she had once gone to a high school dance with said hits are in a hotel bar in Vegas. He said she was wearing a white dress and white shoes and ran away when he called out to her. Her own father, he, he was riding with his bike club in Vegas and swore he saw her walking and talking on the phone. He said quote, I'm running over to where she is. I'm almost getting hit by cars. She was standing in the middle of two palm trees in a restaurant parking lot. And then she's gone. I'm like, where was that girl? End quote. They found her, naked mummified remains on some property known for producing porn nearly a year after she'd gone missing. Seven miles away from where the Malibu police released her. People who lived in that area heard screams a few nights after she'd gone missing. No charges. It wasn't even considered a homicide. Meaning she was never in Vegas. She was never wearing a white dress and white shoes. Who did all of these people see? Does this, does this happen all the time?

Lena (cont’d): Yasmine Acreee went missing in the middle of the night in Chicago, Illinois. Two locks on an outside fence and a lock on a basement door had been broken. She was just gone, without her eyeglasses. The police came, I guess because she was 15, but they didn't dust for fingerprints or investigating any of the three broken locks. And they assumed she was a runaway, despite her not having a history of doing so. Honors student. At least her family is still looking still searching for answers. Phoenix Colden disappeared December 18, 2011 in Spanish Lake, Missouri. Seems like a lot of people go missing around Christmas. Her car was found abandoned, running. Inside they found her purse, her glasses, her ID, her shoes. Never heard from or seen again.

Lena (cont’d): Rae’Vanna Anderson. Shantay Jones. Ashani Creighton. Sharaun Cole. Kelly L. Allen. Arnika Miller. Asia Nicole Martin. Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook. Now, those two were 15-year-old twins who disappeared on March 18, 1990. They've been scared of a man following them in a van and they went to some of their relatives houses and at each one wanted someone to walk them home. Their cousin's house, their sister's house. The last time they were seen was by a lady who worked at a gas station who knew them. The family had to wait 24 hours to file a police report. The police lost that report and accidentally closed the case the next year, and then reopened it 12 years later. Twelve years and they're still missing. Still gone. Still disappeared. Decades later and nothing.

Lena (cont’d): Sheila Diane Hughes. Sherneica Monique Frazier. Tilwanda... There are 1000s of names.

Elliot: Lena? Lena, what are you doing? You're working?

Lena: I can't sleep. You would have liked her. She would have 21-questioned you the night you came up to me in the library. She would have been like, and what do you do? Oh, a law student huh? Well, I think you're too old for her. Well tell me this Mr. I want to be a lawyer but ain't one yet... There's a difference between someone dying and someone disappearing, Elliot.

Elliot: I know.

Lena: There's no grave to visit. No place to put flowers, no nice gathering with friends and families to say some nice words. Nothing. Your parents by a house in Maryland that looks just like the one they had up here. And they decorate a bedroom with 1000s of pictures of someone none of you got to say goodbye to. Your mother goes from being a professor to being monitored while she's on medication. Your father pretends everything is fine. No obituary, no articles, no closure, just a bunch of I'm sorries and friends who stopped texting you and calling you because they're tired of you being so sad. Then when you see them at Whole Foods or the mall, they look like they want to run away but then they decide to ask you how you're doing but they don't really want to know.

Elliot: I can't imagine what you're going through, hun. I really can't. You're right. It's a huge difference. Who are those pictures of?

Lena: Missing black girls and women.

Elliot: No way. I mean, if there were that many missing…

Lena: There are that many missing, way more than this…

Elliot: It would be on the news.

Lena: There's a reason why it isn't.

Elliot: I got you. I'm sorry.

Lena: Do you believe me Elliott?

Elliot: Huh?

Lena: Do you believe me?

Elliot: It's just that for years you've been saying she's dead, so I'm trying to wrap my head around her not being dead.

Lena: Maybe, Maybe she is dead. Maybe I just went down a rabbit hole. Go to bed. I'll be there in a minute. I've been thinking we can go to my parents.

Elliot: You sure? I don't mind staying up here. I can make some mac and cheese and pick up some chicken.

Lena: Kraft is not real mac and cheese.

Elliot: It's as it is on the box

Lena: hahahahaha its flavored cardboard.

Elliot: Are you coming to bed?

Lena: Soon. Promise.

Elliot: I believe you saw something I believe you saw something that triggered something else and you're in pain. That's what I believe.

[click off, click on]

Lena: I waited until Elliot fell asleep and got out. Christmas Eve and it's actually snowing out here. Not the cute flakes but those fast tiny flakes the sticking kind.

Cashier (Lydia Robinson): Welcome to Checker’s. Can I take your order?

Lena: May I get a fish sandwich and some extra tartar sauce and a coffee, black?

Cashier: $3.68.

Lena: [Fiddles with car radio] Absolutely nothing on. I'll probably be back before he gets up. Probably wake him up with my diarrhea. [Car window rolls down].

Cashier: Thanks. Merry Christmas.

Lena:You too. Back on Baxter and Sussex. The snow’s quiet, slippery. Everything looks the same when it’s like snowing like this. The cars, houses, the street. It’s kind of pretty. Ethereal. You almost can't tell which part of the city you’re in. People are out walking up and down the street. How can you not wear a real coat? There’s a — Kara? [Lena runs out of her car] Kara, Kara! Please, slow down. [Women scuffle]

Woman 3 (MJ Robinson): Get off me.

Lena: Kara, It's me.

Woman 3: My name…. My name is Joy.

Lena: Kara.

Woman 3: Crazy! Joy. Get off me.

Lena: Please, Kara. What’s wrong with you? It’s me. It’s Lena. Please. Just come with me. Please. We’ve been looking for you. Please. It’s..You won’t get in trouble.

Woman 3: You’ve got to go, now. Right now.

LenaL Please come with me! I know someone who can help you.

Woman 3: Look, you don’t want to get in trouble, okay? Please, let go of my arm. Hey, hey, let go! Hey, open this door.

Lena: Please talk to me. I can't let you go.

Woman 3: You've got to let me go.

Lena: I can't do that.

Woman 3: Please. Look, I don't want to. I don't want you to get hurt. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. believe he'll kill me. Let me out of this car.

Lena: What's your name?

Woman 3: I told you, it's Joy. Can you pull over? Is, is a child lock on?

Lena: Please for me. Please. I promise you I know that someone can help you. Please tell me the truth. Look at where I'm at.

Woman 3: Pull over. He's gonna kill us.

Lena: Please speak into here. I promise you, you'll be safe. Just say your name. Can you do that for me?

Woman 3: And you'll let me out?

Lena: Say your name. I promise you, you're safe.

Woman 3: You promise?

Lena: I promise.

Woman 3: Okay. Okay. My real name is Kara Clark. Kara Mikayla Clark. You got that Lena?

[Music starts]

Narrator: That's all for today folks. Join us next week for Episode 138 of The Missing, we’ll talk about 39 recovered children. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Nova Harding. Have a good night.

Cast

  • Narrator — Lydia Noll
  • Lena — Sierra Coachman
  • Elliot — Charles Gidney
  • Margaret — Ava Panagopolous
  • Det. Silas — Ethan Murphy
  • Det. Ali — Neuma Joy
  • Woman #1 — Sydni Solomon
  • Religious Man — Mateo Sollano
  • Social Worker — Nora Kovasckitz
  • Man — Noah Buyak
  • Woman #2 — Isabella Wagner
  • Woman #3 — MJ Robinson
  • Cashier — Lydia Robinson

Production Team

  • Director — Brant Russell
  • Project Manager — Lucy Guillemette
  • Assistant Project Manager — Maggie Seibert
  • Audio Engineer — Patrick Van Meter
  • Sound Designer —  Aaron Woodstein
  • Composer — Daniel Hodges

About Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is our region’s preeminent professional, non-profit theatre. Winner of two Tony Awards, the Playhouse produces a season of mainstage and community touring productions that feature storytelling of exceptional artistry and unmatched variety. Learn more at cincyplay.com.

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