Ugly lies the bone, p.1

Ugly Lies the Bone, page 1


Ugly Lies the Bone

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Ugly Lies the Bone

  Lindsey Ferrentino






  Title Page

  Original Production




  Some Thoughts


  A Note on the Text

  Ugly Lies the Bone

  About the Author

  Copyright and Performing Rights Information

  Ugly Lies the Bone received its UK premiere in the Lyttelton auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 1 March 2017 (previews from 22 February). The cast was as follows:


  Kate Fleetwood


  Olivia Darnley


  Ralf Little


  Kris Marshall


  Buffy Davis


  Indhu Rubasingham

  Set Designer

  Es Devlin

  Video Designer

  Luke Halls

  Costume Designer

  Johanna Coe

  Lighting Designer

  Oliver Fenwick

  Music and Sound

  Ben and Max Ringham

  Movement Director

  Lucy Hind

  Fight Directors

  Rachel Bown-Williams and

  Ruth Cooper-Brown of


  Ugly Lies the Bone was developed during a residency at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s National Playwrights Conference (Preston Whiteway, Executive Director; Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director) in 2014.

  The play won the Woodward/Newman Award Winner, and was developed and produced by the Bloomington Playwrights Project (Chad Rabinovitz, Producing Artistic Director).

  The play received a developmental workshop by the Theatre Program of Fordham University in October 2014.

  The play received its world premiere by Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director; Harold Wolpert, Managing Director; Julia C. Levy, Executive Director; Sydney Beers, General Manager) as part of Roundabout Underground at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, New York City, on 13 October 2015. The cast was as follows:


  Karron Graves


  Mamie Gummer


  Caitlin O’Connell


  Chris Stack


  Haynes Thigpen


  Patricia McGregor

  Set Design

  Tim Brown

  Costume Design

  Dede Ayite

  Lighting Design

  Jiyoun Chang

  Sound Design

  Jessica Paz


  Caite Hevner Kemp


  Vincent T. Schicchi and

  Thomas Denier Jr.

  Wig Design

  Cookie Jordan

  Ugly Lies the Bone was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the winner of the National Art Club’s Kesserling Prize.

  For my three in Florida who are my home.

  For Cara Bortz, Ari Hollander, and Howard Rose

  who taught me the science behind compassion.

  To all the veterans who shared their stories with me

  and who, in serving our country, wrote their own.


  I would like to thank the artistic staffs at The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, The Great Plains Theatre Conference, Premiere Stages, and the Florida Studio Theatre for not only developing this play, but also inviting me into your community. Through your support, you helped show me that the new play world is thriving in theaters across the United States.

  Thank you to Jeanie O’Hare, Sarah Ruhl and Mark Bly for your encouraging whips; Tina Howe for telling me that Florida was my world and one that was worth exploring.

  My understanding of this play would not have been possible without Christianna Nelson’s dedication to both the Bloomington Playwrights Project and Shakespeare and Company production; Jedadiah Schultz and the passionate students at Fordham University. I’d also like to thank: directors GT Upchurch, Sherri Eden Barber, Jamie Castaneda, Patricia McGregor; Yale actors for Sunday living-room readings, and the generous support from the National Arts Club, The Kesserling Prize, the Laurents Hatcher Foundation, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and the Newman/Woodard Drama Award.

  The life that I have now would not exist without Roundabout Theatre Company, who gave me my first and second New York production and a true artistic home. Todd Haimes, Robyn Goodman (my personal patron), Josh Fiedler and Jill Rafson have provided the support that has allowed me to breathe easier as both a person and writer.

  And lastly, but certainly not least, thank you to the National Theatre – for allowing this play to live on a larger scale than even my fantasies would dream. To Rufus Norris for committing to gender parity, to Ben Power who made the phone call, to Emily McLaughlin who sat with Indhu Rubasingham and me, looking at every line. To Es Devlin whose set design made me weep. To Nick Sidi, my London theatre guardian, who advocated for my plays in the UK. And again to Indhu, who led the way.

  This play’s four-year development taught me that it really does take a village, and I’m the luckiest and most grateful writer to be included in all of yours.


  Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone.

  Beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own.

  Albert Einstein

  Some Thoughts

  On the world:

  This play was inspired by a real video-game therapy called ‘Snow World’ or ‘Cool’ (developed by Deep Stream Technology) currently being used to treat burn survivor veterans, living in perpetual pain. The game is an immersive virtual reality experience where soldiers’ avatars wander through a perfect snowy landscape, listen to Paul Simon, and have snowball fights with penguins. The senses are overwhelmed by foreign stimuli so that the brain avoids thinking about physical pain.

  Though I have taken artistic liberty, for more information see:

  On Jess’s physicality:

  Everything hurts; skin, muscles, heart, bones. She limps, uses a walker, and at least thirty percent of her skin is covered in third-degree burns and recovering skin grafts.

  Where does the pain live in her body? Where does she relax? Actor movement should reflect this.

  Additionally, as is typical of people suffering from PTSD, hyper-vigilance leads to scanning each room when you enter and keeping an eye open to identify potential threats.

  For more information on veteran burn survivors see:


  JESS, early thirties, severely distorted by third-degree burns uses a walker

  quick-witted, intelligent, tough

  trying to have strength in her body, vulnerability in her life

  KACIE, Jess’s older sister by a few years

  was probably beautiful once

  sweet, trying hard for positivity

  STEVIE, early thirties

  an inviting smile that makes you want to live in it

  life just keeps happening to him

  KELVIN, older than Kacie

  too comfortable in his own skin

  VOICE/THEIR MOM, sixties

  passionate, powerful, maternal

  casting preference should be given to someone with a strong vocal quality

  Cast can be any race an
d should hopefully reflect some diversity in this world.


  Titusville, Florida

  The heart of Florida’s space coast


  The end of NASA’s shuttle program

  The end of an era

  A Note on the Text

  A forward slash (/) indicates overlapping dialogue.

  An ellipsis (…) indicates an impluse that wants to be articulated, but isn’t.

  A beat indicates a full stop.

  This ebook was created before the end of rehearsals and so may differ slightly from the play as performed.

  As house lights fade, ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ plays in the dark, preferably the folk-rock version by Glen Navis.

  ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’

  When Johnny comes marching home

  When Johnny comes marching home again,

  Hurrah! Hurrah!

  When Johnny comes marching home again,

  Hurrah! Hurrah!

  Well the men will cheer and the boys will shout

  And the ladies they will all turn out

  And we’ll all feel gay when

  Johnny comes marching HOME!

  A woman’s voice speaks on top.

  VOICE(Off.) Open your eyes.

  Lights up to a small lit area downstage where JESS stands alone, in an army-green T-shirt and men’s sweatpants. Her hair, forehead, and ears are wrapped tightly in a scarf. She wears a virtual reality headset.

  Get ready for the Jubilee,

  Hurrah! Hurrah!

  We’ll give the hero three times three –

  JESSExcuse me – Can – Hello?!

  Hurrah! Hurrah!

  The laurel wreath is ready now

  To place upon his loyal brow

  And we’ll all feel gay –


  – when Johnny comes marching HOME…

  JESS rips off the headset and music cuts off. Her face and neck are severely distorted by third-degree burns. Skin is stretched tight with the rippled sheen of melted plastic.

  VOICEAre you alright?

  Is there a problem?

  JESSThat song.

  Are you kidding me?

  VOICEIt’s just a stock song file. Looks like I have – let’s see – a few patriotic anthems and… Paul Simon!

  JESSLook at me.

  Aren’t I suffering enough?

  VOICELoud music will overwhelm your senses… It’s the same as when you were a child and your mother said look over here so you didn’t notice while she ripped your Band-Aid off… that’s all I’ll do. Distract the brain with enough stimuli, it can’t THINK about your pain. It simply won’t have time…


  VOICE(Tapping the mic.) Am I still coming through the / speakers?


  VOICEAny pain?

  JESSPressure. Under my right eye.

  VOICEFrom the headset? When fitting equipment on the first day, I need to make sure the headset itself doesn’t add to your pain.

  JESSIt took three surgeries to give me back my eyelid. So no. It’s always there.

  VOICEI cannot undo what’s been done, but I can help you move on from here, if you’ll let me.

  JESSAnd you think this will work?

  VOICEI hope.

  In time.

  JESS…How long – ?

  VOICEThat’s what you’re helping me to figure out.

  JESSJust tell me –

  How. Long.

  VOICEHonestly, I don’t know yet, exactly. Very few people are – well, frankly, injured enough to qualify for this treatment.

  JESS laughs.

  JESSLucky me.

  VOICENarcotics dull your brain’s capacity for pain, but they will not make you healthier.

  I want to give the power back to my patients. Back to you.


  VOICEUntil now, pain management has not improved since World War II.

  You could stay on morphine… or try this… Okay?

  JESS(Softly.) Okay.



  Take a deep breath. And let’s begin again.

  JESS inhales sharply. Lights shift and the song picks up where it left off.

  JESS removes the headset to look up at the sky, speckled with a billion stars.

  A lived-in living room in a lived-in house slides in around JESS. Walls are covered in framed family photos. Red, white and blue streamers descend. A handmade ‘Welcome Home’ sign printed from the computer. The huge night sky looms behind it all.

  JESS takes a deep breath, her last look at the sky, grabs her walker, and turns into the house. KACIE, JESS’s older sister, empties bowls of soggy potato chips, trying enthusiastically for positivity.

  KACIELooked like you and Kelvin really hit it off?!

  JESSIs that really his name?

  KACIEWhat do ya mean is that his name, I’ve been talking to you about Kelvin for the last year!

  JESS– yeah, on the phone I thought you were saying Kevin.

  KACIE laughs.

  KACIEWe met on one a those free websites…

  JESSMaybe the L was a typo.

  KACIE– very funny.

  JESSWhat’s with all that hair on his chin?

  KACIE’Cause of his disability.

  JESSSomething’s wrong with him?

  KACIENo, no. He – gets monthly checks – so he doesn’t wanna – appear – too employable.

  JESSOh. That explains it.


  JESS…He asked me what I thought of his goatee. I told him he looked like a shitbag. And he went – ‘yes!’

  KACIE laughs. Beat.

  KACIEKelvin couldn’t wait to meet you. Even offered to fly with me to Texas to pick you up from the hospital, but –

  JESSI’m happy you’re happy.

  KACIE– oh I am I guess, sure –

  JESS walks through her house, looking at old photos, taking it in. She passes an empty aquarium.

  JESSMom’s fish finally died.


  Well, sort of –

  JESSHow does something sort of-die?

  KACIE…His tank kept getting cloudy, I was always forgetting to clean it. So I – just – set him free – out back in the lake –

  JESSLake? It’s a drainage ditch.

  KACIEI’m sure he has a very nice life –

  JESSIf he can survive the alligators – and why is the tank still out? We look like hoarders.

  KACIEIt’s been a lot, okay?


  KACIEI’m glad you’re back in time to see the last launch, there’s a big viewing party at * the port, we want you to –

  * JESS’s leg cramps.

  – That’s –


  KACIEThat’s – normal?

  JESSA muscle spasm. To hold the bone in place.

  KACIERight. Is there anything –


  KACIEI’m happy to –






  KACIEWe – should all go visit Mom tomorrow! Together. You could put on one of the sundresses you used to wear, they’re still in your room.

  JESSWhat’s wrong with what I’m wearing?

  KACIEYou’re in boy’s clothes.

  JESSThese are MY clothes now.

  KACIEI know, I’m –

  Do… you think people liked the scratch-offs?

  Billy won twenty bucks! – only cost me fifteen to get one for everybody who came… So – we’re ahead!

  JESSYou invited fifteen people here?

  KACIEYou love parties… Remember?

  JESS empties the closet.

  Are you looking for something?

  JESS searches and pulls a decorated poster board out.

  That’s – no –

  JESS(Laughing.) What. Is this?

  KACIE– nothing – no – put it away.
r />   JESS…?

  KACIEIt’s, um, it’s my dream board…

  JESSYour what.

  KACIEYou glue on – what you want from life, your ideas. So you can see it… The universe can see it too… That’s how I got Kelvin.

  JESSNo. You got him from OkCupid.

  KACIE– stupid, give it to me.

  JESSWhat’s with all the pictures of snow –

  KACIEYou know I’ve never seen it. Me and Kelvin’re renting an RV next summer, drive through the Rockies. I wanted to go tent camping, but Kelvin wants a refrigerator when we go, so we’re saving –

  JESS keeps searching the closet.

  I know I’m supposed to love it here, but I sometimes think Florida is too hot… Not a big deal. Seriously, what’re you / looking for?

  JESSWe had a mirror on that wall.

  KACIE– No. No we didn’t –

  JESSI didn’t forget what our house looked like.

  KACIEI dunno what –

  JESSUnder our graduation pictures.

  KACIEOh, I threw all that away forever ago.

  JESS tries getting down on all fours.

  Get up! Can you – You’re gonna hurt yourself!

  JESS pulls the large mirror out from under the couch.

  JESS…You couldn’t even hide it well.

  KACIEAlright. C’mon. Get up.


  JESSDo not change anything.

  I don’t want things different.

  KACIENo, no – they’re not.

  Nothing is.

  JESSI am only staying here till I get a job.

  KACIEIt’s your house too.

  JESSIt’s actually not either of ours ’cause she’s

  not dead.


  KACIESo we’ll go visit her tomorrow?

  JESSMaybe. Just so I can tell Mom you killed her fish, then moved into her bedroom.

  KACIEI – She has a bigger bed!

  JESSYeah, I don’t wanna think about what you need a bigger bed for these days.

  KACIE laughs.

  Did you ask about a teaching job for me at your school yet?

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