That Serious He-Man Ball

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 14 No. 3/4, "Changing Scenes: Theater in the South." Find more from that issue here.

"Every place I've lived in manifests its own dimension," says Lamont. "I don't think I become that area, or anything so profoundly grandiose, but I do maintain a kind of bohemian mentality because I feel a strange physical abstraction. . . . It may sound like so much arty terminology but carried out to its logical conclusion it therefore makes perfect sense that the next great American playwright/sculptor/dancer/whatever would rise up out of Juneau, Alaska, for instance. Because so much is made of the media centers, if you're located elsewhere you get that rebel mindlock. I do find the energy that I get around Atlanta and its artistic scene to be quite inspirational. I think the true issue may not be place, as much as it is finding people who give off a certain exuberance you want to be a part of. Work with Jomandi Productions does that for me — no question!"

In this play, three old friends from the civil rights movement are shooting hoops in their suburban neighborhood and analyzing their dreams in light of their current comfortable way of life. Sky is a social worker. Jello is an ar­tist. Twin works for Xerox Corpora­tion. The men , in their late 20s, play basketball throughout the entire con­versation. The play is set in the present.



(Contagious laughter peaks/settles/trails into smaller giggles, then nods of admission, then, a pause.)

SKY: You too much boy. Hell-of-a Jello!

TWIN: Helluvajello!

JELLO: Member high school?

SKY/TWIN: (Moan)

SKY: I member when "poverty-look" was all rage. We wore bejesus outta them army fatigues.

TWIN: Never-ever-wash!

JELLO: Humongous Afros! Never-ever-comb!

SKY: And worse — we stank! (Hoots/howls)

TWIN: Oh but swore up and down we intimidated folk.

SKY: Militant and a half!

TWIN: (Growls)

JELLO: There was this particular phrase that every single time we spoke it, it always came out exactly same. (All look to one another. Light bulb goes on in other two heads. All speak simultaneously.)

ALL: ("Ferociously black") White muthafucka! (All crack into major pieces, each repetition more comic/exaggerated.)

JELLO: Bus driver pull off/we running for bus —

ALL: White Muthafucka!

SKY: Police hassle us in white neighborhoods —

ALL: White Muthafucka!

TWIN: Store manager wants to check bags when we don't even have bags —

ALL: (Maniacally) White muthafucka! (They descend into hilarity and back. There is a pause.)

SKY: Yessir. That was our heyday.

JELLO: We thought we had a built-in cause with all the trimmings.

TWIN: Ahhh, wait a minute. (Pauses) If, memory serves ... (Pauses) Someone promised us a revolution.

SKY: (Clears dignified voice) As black student union president, yes I did promise a few "revisions" —

JELLO: No-no, We paid cash-money "dues'' for the soon­to-be-happening revolution.

TWIN: I demand a refund.

SKY: Address all inquiries to: Revolutionary Refund Fund, care of Blumberg/Blumenfeld/Leibowitz/and Zeke —

TWIN: I pays my money., I wants my show —

JELLO: Stand guilty!

SKY: There is a toll-free 800 number, call now and get — free — a handsome ginsu pitchfork... (Sky/Jello enjoy hijinks)

TWIN: I see . . . (He paces, starts twirling ball casually) Funny. (Pauses) This part doesn't seem so la-di-da . . .

JELLO: What part, Sport?

TWIN: Here. We still paying dues. Really. I want to know where the money went.

SKY: Aww, take a joke and roll with it, buddy-man. Anyway, we got progress now. All kinds of human betterments . . . let's see now . . . (Chuckles) Betamax. Smurfs. Cabbage Patch Dummies. Fashionable white-collar crime — the list is endless. (Sky/Jello redo hijinks).

TWIN: Yes, I'm rolling with it all right. I'm 'bout to be rolled over, that's what you mean.

JELLO: Scrooge.

TWIN: "Take a joke?" Look at us! We are the joke.

SKY: Why Jello. Would you say he's being a tad preposterous.

JELLO: Why Sky. I'd say he is exhibiting boorish behavior, and needs to be admonished.

TWIN: (Shooting lay-ups)

SKY: Agreed! Boy needs a good admonishing — get out the admonisher and start it up!

TWIN: You're the joke, Sky! And you're the joke, Jello! We all are!

SKY: (His bell rung, he stands.) Who's "we," Twin, huh —

JELLO: Why you bring your funk down on us, Twin —

TWIN: We. Us. Whatever manhood is left that we're supposedly strutting the fuck around.

SKY: There you go. Crying black. Crying like them griping, mamby-pamps come moping into my office wanting "assistance."

TWIN: (Makes loud, crude, vulgar act of spitting that starts way in the back of his throat, (like the vagrants make) slams ball to ground.) That's what I think of the promised revolution. I wish we'd gone on the hell and had it! Just gone ahead and died and gone to some black valhalla-somewhere — stead of living this!

JELLO: (Aside) Think the man wants his money back, Sky.

TWIN: No, goddamnit I just want my money's worth! (Pause) We had a cause! A conflict and where did it go?

SKY: Somebody explain this shit to me please.

JELLO: Not me. (Retrieves ball, begins shooting lay-ups)

TWIN: No. You explain the shit to me. Explain hope. Explain progress.

SKY: Twin. Count em: Urban League. The Black Caucus. NAACP. They all still in the game for us.

TWIN: And all got great new strategies every trimester. Ha! Terminologies and mush. Heart of the matter is you drive through any metropolis and you see same sorry sights —

SKY: We have to institute programs —

TWIN: Oh we been instituted all right!

JELLO: Hey. Take on anybody, 50 cents a game, c'mon.

SKY: You don't want to know truth.

TWIN: Look in the dictionary under "reduceable," and I bet it says: "i.e. as in black man."

SKY: And you don't want to believe.

TWIN: Don't have to believe. Just screw. Go to church. Go to work. Screw and watch the box.

JELLO: And trust in Santa Claus.

TWIN: Does Santa trust in you?


TWIN: What do you believe then?

JELLO: I believe, "In God We Trust." (Chuckles)

SKY: Yeah! Come ere boy! (He/Jello slap high fives) You believe in greenbacks! You ole slick shyster . . . (Pause. Sky/Jella exchange merriments.)

TWIN: Well. If the beef was only with Santa Claus and Jello the world would be copacetic.

SKY: The floor open to suggestion, Twin. Let's hear it.

TWIN: All right. (Pauses) A black mafia. Kidnap some dignitaries. Dicker for some nuclear armaments, work it from there.

SKY: That all?

JELLO: Get Xerox to give him his raise, obviously.

SKY: Of course. How feeble-minded of me to forget.

TWIN: We can't stay where we are, I know that.

SKY: You on dark side, today. What's hurting you big boy.

TWIN: I tell you what's hurting me. (Moves, throws water on face, sits.) It's a knot. And it's shaped like a fist and hitting me dead in my chest.

SKY: Ha! — Deal with it then.

TWIN: I deal plenty. But the truth is we living a double hustle. A hex. Whammy.

SKY: I don't want no proximity to anything sounds like defeat. System works. Just ask them Charlie Chans running Jello's 7/11. You got to get your respect and keep charge of it.

JELLO: My offer for sport still on table —

TWIN: Translation: Be a black man, then a man, struggle for both of em. Few I seen could ever handle it. They sure got "charge" of you something fierce, Sky.

SKY: Nobody "got me." I been there and back, don't be backhanding me — Jello, the pill please — (Claps, gets ball.) Five straight.

JELLO: (Positons for rebound) From there? Dream on.

SKY: Boy using color as a crutch and it is most unbecoming. (Shoots, misses.)

TWIN: You so into your man-thing you can't see out of it, Sky. And 50 cents say you miss every last one.

SKY: Hope you got money on you. (Shoots, misses.)

JELLO: E.T. come home!

SKY: Me? I'm trying to better my own personal wherewithal in this here universal squalor. I can only handle but so much squalor at a time, unfor­tunately. (Shoots, misses.)

JELLO: Your game a universal squalor — three straight!

TWIN: (Aside) Big whoopee, Sky.

SKY: Big-whoopee-Sky, my ass! Life a test! Bang! That's it. We not running comer store, we must not want the fucker hard enough. (Shoots, misses.)

JELLO: Four . . .

SKY: Did I ask Jello! (Shoots, misses.)

JELLO: That's strange. A miss.

TWIN: Just imagine . . . (Pauses) The militant Sky I know, evolving into Protestant ethic material. Angel Gabriel take me home. . . (Mild chuckles)

JELLO: Five straight — Home you can't hit air!

SKY: Can so hit air.

JELLO: Regardless. Let us now listen to Jello's equation of life.

TWIN: (Aside) I'd rather see Sky hit air.

JELLO: Silence, please. I am about to speak. (Pause, preps) I have my art. Therefore, being an artist I try and see life through here — (Touches heart) And not here — (Touches head) That, my yokels, is the secret of self­coexistence. Keeping clear of the popular dogma and ensuing dogmatics — throw out the Freud, the Carnegie training, the Born Again, the cults (religious and otherwise) —

SKY: And them what don't have their art, Jello?

JELLO: Lettum eat scooter pies! Everybody has their art. Call it what you will, it's there inside them. It may be another form. Another ability, but it's there. Hell man. Life a fast Chinese fire drill. You get in, get out, do your dance and adios Jack! We living this dog­eared Afro-colored experience, and that's all there is to it. It's our second nature.

SKY: We don't have to just be living it. We can make it something else. We can effect upon it — we —

TWIN: Awww Sky! — You been reading The Prophet or some shit?!

JELLO: My evaluation is: stay outta complexities, major and minor.

SKY: And that's definitely you, Jello.

JELLO: The only definitely Sky is that the moon's a balloon.

TWIN: Which are you, J-Man: Barnum or Bailey?

JELLO: Don't patronize. It's you I feel sorry for, Twin. Xerox done given you an extra insanity pill to stomach.

SKY: I'm hip to that. One. They already took the brother's mind.

JELLO: Second: They swiped his b-ball game! (Throws tricky pass which Twin bobbles. Sky/Jello chuckle.) (There is a pause as Twin retrieves. Plays toss with himself)

TWIN: Well. I think it's sadly hilarious.

SKY: I do too. Hate to see a black man play that flick­Ted. It brings shame on all of us, does it not Jello?

JELLO: Sadly hilarious, all I can say.

TWIN: What happened to us? (Pauses) We finish being rebels and fall right off the face of the planet. "They" finish being hippies and wind up smack back on yellow streets of gold.

SKY: That's sticking in your craw? — Toss the rock!

TWIN: (Maintains possession)Why we stop being rebels, anyway?

SKY: Lazy man's talk. — Flip the pill.

TWIN: Am I a lazy man? (There is silence. Pause. Twin looks to Tello and Sky)

JELLO: Pass the rock, honey.

SKY: Nobody said you were, Twin.

TWIN: You damn near said as much.

SKY: Cause you talking like you is. What do you want, Twin, huh? I'd like to hear it, first person.

TWIN: I want same standards for me and you as there is for that elite classification known world round as: ''White Males!'

SKY: I knew it. Bellyaching black mens. What the fuck you think we living, Miracle on 34th Street? — Give up the ball!

TWIN: Why can't we make them live in the same world. Give them same equal opportunity to be —

JELLO: "Zapped. Splat. Dead!'

TWIN: And I want the revolution you promised!

SKY: Now baby, baby. (Shakes head) You should know, that it's only a paper moon.

TWIN: Is that a dream? Why is that a dream? We can't be rebels. Can't have no revolution. When do we get to assume our rightful place as men on this earth?

SKY: Question your manhood, not nobody else's.

JELLO: C'mon Twin. Let's play ball. Chill out. (Twin stares at Sky/Jello. Moves alone to basket)

TWIN: (Sits on ball)You want it? Come take it! It's corner store. Come on and take it! Take bad boy, Sky. You a he-man, right? (Sky moves to Twin, Tello moves between them, in "matador" fashion he halts Sky's onrush with a towel. Sky grabs towel, holds it, throws it down, walks away. Beat passes.)

TWIN: I thought not.

JELLO: Might not intervene next time, Twin. Give up the ball.

TWIN: I miss it. Yes. Wearing funky-ass clothes. Funky hair. Attitude. Had a damn sight more going for us then, that's for goddamn sure!

SKY: The ball, Twin. Now.

TWIN: We were arrogant. Restless. Shit! Nowadays mister Chuckie look at us like we dead issue. Him and his girlies cruise through downtown like we some sideshow! Like we streetpeople never get the two-martini lunch! Like we got no power!

JELLO: We came to run hoop, Twin, whaddya say?!

SKY: Naw-naw, let him go on that's what he want. Like dudes everywheres, can't get no satisfaction so come on court and wanna bitch! Get all diseased in their mind and wanna bitch!

TWIN: Bringing some long-ago passion out in the fresh air, buddy!

SKY: Give up the pill or I'ma kick your ass out in the fresh air!

TWIN: (Laughs) That reminds me Sky. Yes it does. See, I never hear your voice no more. Nope. I hear an ancient white man telling us to work hard and hustle.

SKY: Listen to this — trying to Perry Mason my case cause some shit didn't go down right for you from high school, now how you sound?

JELLO: We talking a lot of angry English out here. Let's just tone this conversation down.

TWIN: Sky already toned down. Toned his act way down.

SKY: You like the griping niggas come into my office —

TWIN: Toned down so much he gone sour. Don't even know relationship to his own color. Sky think he still black.

SKY: Griping about Mister Cholly like he some kinda voodoo king and they all helpless to his spell.

TWIN: He think he black. I think he a pussy!

SKY: (Moves on Twin, Jello steps in) Punkface mother — get outta my way —

TWIN: Worse! Sour Pussy! Chuckie got the grip on you bad!

JELLO: (Restraining) Twin will you take that someplace else —

SKY: Too late now —

TWIN: Too late for us — (He rises) I leastways know when mine got cut off! I felt it then and I'm damn sure feeling it now. But you —

SKY: You whipped boy — everybody see that — your mind turned over — you like a great big punk getting fucked all in the face —

TWIN: You just angry, dickless and still got all common sense free world will allow — you under the spell, Sky!

SKY: Are you gagging on it, Twin? Or does it just slide on down your throat, honey —

TWIN: You got zapped all up your ass and never felt a thing. And why? (Throws ball at Jello/Sky)Why don't you feel nothing, Sky! — Why — cause you the worse kinda black nigga eunuch, buddy! Eunuchs don't feel nothing they just get taken over! Buddy, you been raped! (Sky shoves Jello aside, in a snap, he and Twin are into it thick. Punches are thrown. Jello tries to come between them. In process, becomes a combatant himself. Lights slowly dim, as their silhouettes do battle. A brief final flurry is exchanged as lights die out. The three of them are now sprawled about stage. Lights finally out. The end of Act One.)