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1. Please read the following play THE OFFICE HOUR by Julia Cho Synopsis: Gina was warned that one of her students would be a problem. Eighteen years old and strikingly odd, Dennis writes violently obscene work clearly intended to unsettle those around him. Determined to know whether he’s a real threat, Gina compels Dennis to attend her office hours. But as the clock ticks down, Gina realizes that “good” versus “bad” is nothing more than a convenient illusion, and that the isolated young student in her office has learned one thing above all else: For the powerless, the ability to terrify others is powerful indeed.2. Read the following article about the play:https://kollaboration.org/6657/new-play-office-hour-tackles-issues-of-mass-violence-and-korean-american-identity-that-hits-close-to-home/ (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。3. Watch the following videos based on the production of the play at Berkeley Rep:https://www.berkeleyrep.org/press/presskit-1718oh.asp#tabbed-nav=video (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。 (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。4. Answer the following questions: (1000 words minimum)What is The Office Hour about? What is this play trying to say about the ‘Asian American’ experience? How does it speak to issues beyond the Asian American experience?
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Office Hour
by Julia Cho
Represented by:
John Buzzetti
William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
11 Madison Avenue, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10010
(212) 903-1166
Long Wharf Theatre/Berkeley Rep
Rehearsal Draft
People want to be loved; failing that admired; failing that feared; failing that hated and
despised. They want to evoke some sort of sentiment. The soul shudders before oblivion
and seeks connection at any price.
Hjalmar Soderberg (as quoted by Asne Seierstad in One of Us)
1
Characters
Gina: 30s. An instructor.
David: 30s. An instructor.
Genevieve: A little younger than Gina and David. An instructor.
Dennis: 18. A student.
Near and on a university campus.
A winter day.
2
1
Café. Gina, David and Genevieve.
DAVID
All right, shall we?
GENEVIEVE
Should I? I had him first.
DAVID
Go ahead. Tell us everything you remember.
GENEVIEVE
Okay last year. He showed up in my Intro to Poetry class. He was wearing those
sunglasses and that baseball cap down over his face. I had everyone go around, you
know, say their names, say a little bit about themselves. He was in the back—everyone’s
around the table but he’s all the way against the wall—so the first pass misses him and
we have to go back to him at the end.
So it’s his turn and he says: nothing. Doesn’t even move. I try prodding him: What’s your
name? Where are you from? And he just keeps sitting there. I started thinking: Does this
guy speak English? What is going on?
And then comes the first assignment. It’s simple: write a villanelle. He writes—the first
line’s something like: “The art of ass raping isn’t hard to master.” I’m not kidding! And
you know it’s a villanelle so it repeats. And the rest is about—raping bleeding eye
sockets and getting raped and just rape rape rape, it was awful. (To Gina:) You think
that’s funny?
GINA
No. God no.
GENEVIEVE
So I email him and I’m like: What is this. He’s like: It’s a parody. And I’m thinking: Do
you think I’m stupid? Because believe me, if it were satirical, if it displayed any sense of
nuance or self-awareness or humor—. But it was the most blunt, immature, offensive—it
was—I’m not even describing it right. And the class is half women—over half women.
They started emailing me in a panic. We have a rapist in our class! We have a rapist in
our class!
DAVID
So what’d you do?
3
GENEVIEVE
I immediately told Professor Lang about it. She agreed it was totally inappropriate, but at
the same time, it’s a creative writing class; technically the students can write about
whatever they want. And the university has that whole “intellectual freedom” policy—
DAVID
He knows that, believe me, he uses it.
GENEVIEVE
Well, it got worse from there. I mean, the contents of this kid’s brain–! Other students
started not coming to class. They said he scared them. They said he freaked them out.
So I begged Professor Lang to get him out of my class. She said her hands were tied.
He’d done nothing to deserve disciplinary action. There was no proof he was dangerous
or violent. So I tried reporting him to student health services. I mean, clearly this kid
needed help. But no, they said he was an adult. He had to go voluntarily. Willingly. Yeah,
like that was going to happen.
GINA
Did you try talking to him?
GENEVIEVE
(Makes a disgusted sound.) Yes. Like that did any good. He just has this force field. Just
trying to get him to say anything—at all. He just sits there—(to David:) you know,
you’ve tried.
DAVID
I have tried.
GINA
So what exactly happened when you tried talking to him? How’d he respond?
GENEVIEVE
Complete wall. I tried asking him about friends. Family. His poetry. Why he wants to be
a writer. Nothing. I mean, maybe if I were lucky, he’d deign to speak like a word or two.
But sometimes he’d take such a long time to answer, that by the time he mumbled
something out, I wouldn’t even remember the question! It was insane.
Finally, I just quarantined him. I had him submit his poetry only to me. But I couldn’t
even flunk him. The assignments were complete, on time. Awful, but on time. So in the
end, I could dock him on class participation, but that was it. After everything, he ended
up getting a decent grade. But the relief when that class ended, I can’t even tell you.
DAVID
Which leads him, in the fall, to my class. Writing for Stage and Screen.
4
GINA
And was it bad?
DAVID
Abysmal. It was the same thing. Violent, brutal—he seems obsessed with torture and
pedophilia—
GENEVIEVE
Uh-huh uh-huh—
DAVID
–and these super-detailed revenge scenarios. Brutal sex scenes. But all of it immature,
like it’s so obvious the kid has never actually had sex.
GENEVIEVE
(Disgusted:) Can you imagine?
DAVID
The worst, though, was that because they’re writing scenes, the students have to read
their work out loud. Like, act it out. I mean, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard some
corn-fed kid from Iowa say the line, “I’m going to ass fuck you till you bleed… Dad.”
Yeah, yeah, that’s a direct quote.
It was—after his first scene, the room got very still, very quiet, but it was like you could
hear everyone’s thoughts screaming: This kid is really fucked up. No one knew what to
say. What can you say?
GINA
But you tried talking to him too?
DAVID
Of course. Well, he started coming to my office hours. Like, every time. He showed up,
always just five minutes before I was done for the day, that little prick, and he’d sit there,
say nothing, and basically just waste my time.
GENEVIEVE
God, just being alone with him, in a one-on-one conversation…
DAVID
Finally I told him to stop coming. The bastard hated me. I didn’t give a shit; I gave him
F’s.
GINA
You did not.
5
DAVID
Yes I did. His scenes were awful. He deserved F’s. It got to the point where the other
students refused to read his scenes. It was like a revolt. And who could blame them? His
scenes were disgusting. Revolting.
GENEVIEVE
You failed him? Good for you. I wish I had.
DAVID
Actually no, you don’t, because he became a super huge pain in the ass. He went on
every site that rates teachers and gave me the most awful ratings—
GENEVIEVE
No—
DAVID
He wrote letters complaining about me to Professor Lang, to the dean—
GENEVIEVE
Oh David, I had no idea—
DAVID
All these bogus user names and letters signed, “A concerned student.”
GINA
Then how’d you know it was him?
DAVID
It had to be. I read the reviews. The language was exactly like the language in his
screenplays. Same awkward phrases and shitty grammar. That’s how stupid he is.
GINA
He doesn’t seem that bad; I mean, he’s quiet but… They just turned in their first
assignment. I guess I’ll see.
DAVID
Well the shit he writes is only part of it. I mean, that’s not really what we’re talking
about, is it.
GINA
Then what are we talking about?
David and Genevieve exchange a look.
DAVID
All right I’ll just say it: he’s a classic shooter.
6
GENEVIEVE
It’s true. I didn’t want to say it, but that’s exactly what everyone thinks.
GINA
I—wait. You think this kid is capable of…?
DAVID
Yes, absolutely. Why do you think I got in touch with you guys? Why do you think we’re
here discussing him?
GINA
I thought we were going to discuss a troubled student, that’s the word you used,
“troubled”—
DAVID
I think I said “trouble” as in, “this kid is trouble.” I mean, look at the profile: Painfully
socially awkward. Totally isolated. Delusional—he thinks he’s a great writer. Obsessed
with violence. Oh—and this is the scary part—most likely no history of documented
mental illness. And he’s probably committed zero crimes. He could just waltz into a
Walmart and arm himself to the teeth.
GINA
Don’t you think that’s a little…?
DAVID
You don’t know, you’re not the one who flunked him. The fact is, when he comes to
school loaded for bear, I’ll be the first stop.
GINA
But there are violent screenplays, movies; I mean, there’s a whole genre—
DAVID
Yeah, and poetry? Is that a violent genre too?
GINA
I’m just saying, his writing’s disturbing, but that doesn’t mean—anything—necessarily—
DAVID
You’re right. It doesn’t. Every semester I’ve got kids working on horror stories, war
stories, gang stories. The body count by the end of the year is obscene. If I thought just
writing about violence meant a kid was violent, one, I’d be stupid, and two, I’d think
most of my students were homicidal. But this kid is different. Even if I’d never read a
single word he wrote, just looking at him, being around him, it’s obvious he’s not
normal. I mean, you’ve seen him—do you think he’s okay?
7
GINA
(Pause.) So tell the school, tell the authorities.
DAVID
Tell them what? We think this kid might be up to something dangerous?
GINA
Tell them he needs help. That he needs to be evaluated, like professionally.
DAVID
Did you hear Genevieve? She tried.
GENEVIEVE
They said the only way is for him to voluntarily commit himself. The question is: does he
pose a threat to himself or to others? I say: yes.
DAVID
I say hell yes.
GENEVIEVE
But proving it—it’s impossible.
GINA
What about family? Has anyone tried to get in touch with them?
DAVID
How? It’s not like he’s going to tell us their names or contact info. The school has it but
that’s personal, they’re not going to share it.
GINA
So what do we do?
Pause.
GENEVIEVE
Well…maybe you could try talking to him.
GINA
Me?
DAVID
He is in your class now.
GINA
You mean he’s my problem now.
8
DAVID
He’s our problem—he’s this whole school’s problem.
GENEVIEVE
I’m just saying, maybe you could get through to him a little.
GINA
I’m not a therapist—
GENEVIEVE
But you guys must have stuff in common—not psychologically but, you know, a
background.
DAVID
We’re not saying do an intervention. But maybe you could get him to talk, get the names
of his parents, his family; then we could get in touch with them. Let them know he is not
okay.
GENEVIEVE
Yes, that’s it: get someone to pay attention to him.
DAVID
Because whether you agree with us or not, it’s obvious he needs some kind of help—
medication or therapy or something. It’s not normal to not talk ever. It’s not normal to be
that isolated. It’s not normal to be that sad.
GENEVIEVE
And angry.
GINA
It isn’t?
I mean.
Isn’t it?
Pause.
DAVID
Well then at least get him to drop English as his major. Do you think you could do that?
GENEVIEVE
Oh that’d be great. Make him comp sci’s problem.
David and Genevieve share a laugh.
9
GINA
Did you two ever think maybe it was good he had writing as an outlet? That maybe by
writing down all the shit in his brain, it keeps him from acting out? I mean, what if he’s
totally harmless and we’re just being paranoid and irrational?
DAVID
…Then good. I hope so. If I’m wrong, and we do nothing, he’ll just go through life, kind
of sad and messed up, but basically, as you say, harmless. He’ll continue to take English
classes, spreading his particular brand of joylessness throughout the department. He’ll try
to be a writer and then finally one day he’ll wake up to the fact that he’s a completely
talentless hack. And he’ll take stock of his life—his empty, lonely life—and probably kill
himself.
That’s like the good version.
The bad?
Is all the same stuff, except he doesn’t just kill himself. He takes as many people with
him as possible.
Pause.
GENEVIEVE
All I know is there’s something wrong with him. Something very wrong. And I don’t
know. Maybe ten years ago, that wouldn’t have worried me so much. Like, there are
broken people—always have been, always will. But now? It’s like they’ve been given
ideas. There used to be stuff that you couldn’t imagine happening. But now you can.
Maybe that’s what scares me. The thing out there that we haven’t imagined yet because
we can’t imagine it. But the broken ones can.
DAVID
I’ve taught screenwriting in correctional institutions, I’ve been in rooms with gang
members, guys who’ve done shit, guys who are serving time for murder, assault. But I sit
down and talk with them, and we can connect. Eye contact. A back and forth. For all that
they’ve done, there’s still a humanity. An animating force behind the eyes.
Not this kid.
Not ever with this kid.
This kid scares me.
And if you had any sense, he’d scare the fuck out of you too.
10
2
An office. Small, bare. The furniture—one
desk and two chairs—is wooden and heavy.
There is a wall-mounted shelf with a few
dusty, random books.
The door is propped open. There is one large
window with blinds that don’t work very
well. Outside the day is overcast and gray.
The sun will start setting soon if it hasn’t
already.
Gina sits at the desk, grading a paper, pen
poised. She has trouble concentrating. She
glances up at the clock. It reads 4:47.
She gets up, looks out the door and down the
long hallway. No one.
She comes back into the office and starts
packing up her stuff.
A student, DENNIS, silently appears in the
doorway. He is slight, small. He wears a
baseball cap pulled down low over his face
and dark sunglasses.
He carries a heavy, black backpack.
Gina doesn’t realize he’s there. When she
finally sees him, she’s startled.
GINA
Oh hi.
Sit down.
I thought you weren’t going to show.
Sit, sit. Did I say that already?—sorry.
He sits.
Gina goes over to the door and kicks up the doorstop. She pulls the
door shut, but not all the way. She leaves it resting lightly on the frame.
She sits down.
11
GINA
Okay. So. Like I said in the email, these conferences are just a chance for me to check in
with everyone outside of, you know, a group structure. Everyone gets the same: twenty
minutes. We can talk about whatever you want. Your writing, your process, your plans
for the semester—it’s up to you. And that’s really it. Any questions?
Beat.
GINA
Okay. Well, I have some.
(She takes out a sheet of paper and takes note of his answers, even when he doesn’t
respond.)
These are just, uh, basic. Helps me keep everyone straight.
All right… Dennis.
Year. You’re a junior?
(Dennis nods—once.)
Junior. From…?
(Dennis is quiet.)
Around here or…?
(No response.)
You look a little young for a junior. Did you start school early?
(No real discernible response, though Gina gets a sense that the question bothers
Dennis.)
Major. You’re an English major?
(No response.)
Is that a difficult question to answer?
(Pause. He nods.)
Yes it is difficult or yes you’re a—
(He nods.)
Yes you’re a major. Okay. If you are an English major, do you plan to start working on
your thesis project in this class?
(No response.)
Okay…why don’t you take this, think about your answers and write them down for me
and bring it back. How does that sound?
She slides the paper to the middle of the desk.
He puts his hand on it and starts sliding it toward himself.
Gina puts her hand on the paper to stop it.
GINA
You know this time is yours. Are you sure you don’t want to use it?
No response.
12
GINA
We could discuss your progress.
No response.
GINA
Or what happened in class.
No response.
She lifts her hand from the paper and leans back.
GINA
All right. Fine with me. I’ve got lots of reading to do. Only please stay for the whole
twenty minutes. To be fair.
She goes back to reading/grading.
Silence.
Dennis reaches into his backpack.
He takes out a gun.
She looks up—
He shoots her.
Blackout.
Lights up.
Gina is grading papers just as before. Dennis is sitting just as before.
After a moment, Gina looks out the window.
GINA
Funny. I just remembered… I stopped talking for a while when I was young. I don’t
know why. I think, maybe it was an experiment? Or I was tired. Tired of my own voice.
Nobody noticed at first so I kept not talking, just to see how long it’d take till someone
did. And if I remember correctly…it took awhile.
But I remember…how good it felt. Not to talk. There were so many things I didn’t have
to deal with anymore: useless conversations, annoying rounds of small talk. And the
longer I went without talking, the less I wanted to. The silence, it started to
feel…precious. Like I didn’t want to break it. Didn’t know if I could break it.
13
Dennis reaches into his backpack.
He takes out a small, black case. It has some gold lettering stamped on it.
He unzips it and takes out a small nail clipper that is neatly strapped into
the case, along with other travel-sized grooming implements.
GINA
I had a friend who went on one of those silent meditation retreats? She said when it was
over, the teachers had to go out among the students—the meditators—and actually force
them to talk.
As Gina talks, Dennis chews on the side of one of his fingers and cuts a
small hangnail. He really digs in the nail clipper to get at it.
GINA
My friend asked a teacher: “I’ve learned so much in ten days, could I stay for twenty?
Thirty?” And the teacher said, “No, we’ve learned ten is the right amount. Any longer
and some people would never be able to talk a—
The sharp sound of a nail being cut interrupts her.
Gina stares in disbelief as Dennis proceeds to carefully trim his nails.
She waits for him to stop. He doesn’t.
GINA
Could you please put that away?
Dennis stops as if noticing Gina for the first time. He slowly puts away the
nail clipper.
GINA
Thank you.
Pause.
The pause turns into a beat.
The beat turns into a silence.
GINA
How is this going to work, Dennis? We’ve got a long semester to go. You really going to
just—. Every class? Every conference?
Pause.
14
GINA
Okay.
Okay.
She returns to grading.
Dennis takes that as a dismissal. He stands and picks up his backpack.
GINA
Where’re you going?
Dennis heads for the door.
GINA
(Sharp:) This is 25% of your grade. Showing up to office hours and checking in with me.
It’s the easiest part of your grade. You really gonna flunk it just because you don’t like
my company? You’ve got fifteen more minutes. Sit down.
Dennis slowly sits down.
Gina sets down her pen.
GINA
You know I watched you in class the other day. While everyone was talking. The way
they reacted to what you wrote…you didn’t seem the slightest bit surprised.
I have to say, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Usually, college kids, it’s sort of hard
to shock them. You’ve all been raised on horror movies, flesh-eating zombies, perverse
youtube videos I can’t even fathom. But perhaps it was the combination of necrophilia,
incest and cannibalism in an assignment that was supposed to be autobiographical that
really pushed the class over the edge.
Gina studies Dennis’s face for even a flicker of emotion. There’s
nothing.
GINA
Afterwards, three students came up to me saying they’d like to drop the class. That’s on
top of the two who already have.
Now I’m just an adjunct. I don’t even have an office. (Gesturing around:) This, I share
with three other adjuncts, all of us teaching writing classes, with no hope of tenure, barely
getting by. But what else can we do? We’re writers. We have no skills.
So I need this class to go well. If enrollment dips below fifteen—for whatever reason—
that’s pretty much a guarantee I’m not coming back.
15
It’s enough to make my insomnia flare up. Which it has. When it’s really bad, the only
thing that calms me is to get in my car and drive. But there’s really nowhere to drive to
around here. Everything shuts down after ten o’clock. I’ve found that the only thing open
is the donut shop by the dead mall. It’s open twenty-four hours. Around four a.m. there’s
even a little crowd. Because that’s when the donuts come out.
Anyway, I bring this all up because the other night, I drove by the donut shop, and I saw
someone who reminded me of you sitting inside. He wasn’t wearing that hat, those
sunglasses. But he looked like what I think you might look like underneath all that. He
was slumped— …
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