by Malcolm Montgomery
Boy’s Play” centers on a family preparing for one of the most exciting days of young adulthood: graduating from high school. But for Amanda, it is the day that she comes to terms with more than just adulthood and shares her mixed feelings about her gender with her mom and brother. This play explores the impact that gender norms and social standards have on people individually and within their relationships with those closest to them.
Identity, Family, Queer, Self-discovery, Acceptance
As a journalism major and theatre minor at the University of Georgia, I have learned much about storytelling, interpreting facts and experiences, and gathering information and different perspectives through both formal and informal education. This education culminates in my midterm exercise for my basic dramatic writing class where I was tasked with incorporating different elements of theatrical storytelling such as subtext, moment-to-moment dialogue, character objectives and obstacles, and negotiation over objects into creating a 10-minute play.
Initially, I was inspired by a case I heard when taking an introduction to psychology course. We were debating the idea of nature vs. nurture when I heard the story of David Reimer, one of a pair of twin boys who, due to a medical mistake, was raised as a girl. I drafted my first play following the exact same scenario as Reimer. It centered on a ‘girl’ who was unknowingly born as a boy but felt that something was always wrong. But in the end, this plot didn’t seem to work within just 10 minutes. The pacing was off, it was hard to reveal the truth without giving one character overflowing monologues, and the script left me feeling as if I had written some form of science fiction.
After receiving feedback and looking back over the script, I decided it would be better to find a way to make the plot seem less contrived and more suitable for 10 minutes. At the same time, I was enrolled in a queer theatre and film class and was becoming more exposed to the experiences and views of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Here I found stories like that of Reimer, people who ended up feeling unnatural or bound by social norms regarding gender. Of course, there weren’t extreme stories of parents’ covering up their child’s true gender, but many of my classmates felt as though they went through a form of disillusionment to discover their true identities. The first part of the battle was to understand themselves and accept how they felt. The next step was to tell their loved ones.
These experiences led me to write this version of “Boy’s Play.” It fits more into the genre of dramatic realism as it depicts a scene as if it were a snapshot of a person’s life. I tend to find real life as a big inspiration in my writing and follow the style of playwrights such as Lorraine Hansberry, who recreated realistic depictions of human life in her most known play, A Raisin in the Sun. Similar to my aforementioned real-life inspiration, Hansberry was inspired to write her work by actual events in her life, namely the supreme court case Hansberry v. Lee.
Hansberry took her family’s struggles against racially discriminative housing practices and created a work that explores not only the legal aspects of racism but the impact that it had on a more intimate level within Black families. I feel that Hansberry exemplifies the impact of racism and its socioeconomic implications through the character of Ruth Younger. Though she may seem more mundane than the more outspoken characters such as Walter Lee and Beneatha, Ruth’s quiet and at times smaller demeaner makes her later actions, such as considering an abortion, disciplining her son, and struggling to bridge her relationship with her husband, showcase the often-unseen everyday struggles black women faced behind closed doors. In this same way, I hope to illustrate the often-unseen struggles of individuals discovering their gender identity; first trekking down a path of self-discovery within themselves and then opening up to loved ones about their discovery.”
 See: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-11814300
MARCUS, 18, Male, Athletic, Twin of Amanda, wearing a graduation gown
AMANDA, 18, Female, Tomboy, Twin of Marcus
MIRANDA, 46, Female, headstrong, has good intentions, mother of Marcus and Amanda
Marcus’ room/Present Day
(LIGHTS UP, MARCUS is sitting on his bed on the phone. The room is a generic ‘boys’ room, with action/ superhero movie posters on the walls and scattered athletic memorabilia. While on the phone, MARCUS fiddles with an old football with his free hand.)
MARCUS Yeah, I caught the score last night! 35-0! GO DAWGS! WOOF WOOF WOOF! (beat) Man, I’ll have to try and come with you and Aunt Bea next season up in Athens. I can’t believe you have season passes! By the way how is Aunt Bea’s knee doing? (Beat. As MARCUS speaks on the phone MIRANDA pokes her head in the room. She slowly steps in and stands by the doorway beaming at MARCUS, taking in her son in his graduation gown.) Ooh, that bad? (beat) I heard she took a bad tumble down those steps but I didn’t think it would take that big a toll. (beat) Well at least the brace is helping. I remember in 8th grade on the baseball team one of the- (Noticing MIRANDA watching him, MARCUS drops the football on his bed. To MIRANDA) Ma? (To the phone) Wait a minute, hold on uncle Ray. (Placing his hand over the phone and talking to MIRANDA) Everything OK?
MIRANDA (proudly) Yes, everything’s just fine. I’m just admiring my handsome boy.
MARCUS (Embarrassed) Maaaa.
MIRANDA (Mimicking cradling a baby) I remember when I could hold you and your sister in my one arm. You were both so tiny. Made me nervous at first. Your father almost didn’t trust himself holding you. You were both so small and fragile! (beat. MIRANDA looks at MARCUS. MARCUS smiles awkwardly.) Now you’ve both grown into a man and woman. Makes me so proud.
MARCUS (Awkwardly) Yup, we sure have….
MIRANDA Didn’t mean to take you from your call, just wanted to see you all dressed up and in your gown. I need to peak in on your sister and see how she’s doing.
MARCUS Did she agree to wear the dress?
MIRANDA (Stalely) I guess. We reached a stalemate in the argument and she hasn’t said anything else about it. Let’s hope for the best.
MARCUS I didn’t think she would raise such a stink about it. Though I guess it makes sense for her. She’s never been one to dress up.
MIRANDA She’s a unique one in the family, I guess. No matter what I get her she wants something plain and boyish.
MARCUS I know. I always wondered why dad called her his little princess. (Jokingly) She never gave me Cinderella vibes.
MIRANDA Oh trust me, I realized I wouldn’t be raising a princess years ago but she’s still my girl, even if we don’t always see eye to eye.
MARCUS You rarely do.
MIRANDA Oh hush, it’s not that bad. I try to accommodate her…. she’s just …can be particular sometimes. (beat) But today’s not the day to dwell on that! (Checking her watch) We better head out soon it’s almost 4.
MARCUS OK, you want me to pull the car out of the garage?
MIRANDA Ahh, you can finish talking to your uncle, I have to finish icing the cupcakes for later. I’ll be ready in 20. (MIRANDA exits. MARCUS puts the phone back up to his ear)
MARCUS OK, I’m back. (beat) Yeah, it was just mom being a mom. What were we talking about? (Beat) Oh yeah. I’m glad to hear she’s recovering well… and that those tickets won’t go to waste. (beat) It’s been forever since we’ve been to a game live. (beat) No, It’s been more like 8 years. You know since… (beat, MARCUS’ face darkens a bit) What? (beat) Are you serious? (beat) On ESPN? (beat) Cornhole? As in…. Cornhole? (beat) A whole championship? What were they throwing it in someone’s backyard?
(While MARCUS is on the phone, AMANDA peaks in his door and slowly walks in, she is wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt. MARCUS sees her.)
MARCUS Wait a minute Unc, (Covering the phone with his hand and speaking to AMANDA) Why aren’t you in your gown? We’re supposed to be leaving in 20!
AMANDA I know! I’ll be ready by then. I’m just nervous.
MARCUS About what? All the work is over, grades are final, all we have to do is walk.
AMANDA Yeah, I know. It’s not that. I.. I honestly don’t know what it is.
MARCUS Well, it’ll probably go away once you’re getting your diploma and stare Dr. Roneria right in that smug little face of hers!
AMANDA (light chuckling) Yeah, that’ll feel pretty sweet … I guess. (MARCUS and AMANDA stare at each other awkwardly. After a beat of silence, MARCUS puts the phone back to his ear.)
MARCUS Hey Uncle Ray, can I call you back? (beat) Yeah, everything’s all good just getting ready to head out. (beat) Alright, I will! See you tonight. (MARCUS hangs up the phone and turns to AMANDA.) OK, what’s up?
AMANDA It’s nothing.
MARCUS If sticking it to Dr Roneria doesn’t get you giddy, something’s wrong. (beat) You’ve been plotting against that witch since we transferred into Woodward!
AMANDA I know. It’s just her snooty attitude. She’s always treated me funny.
MARCUS Well, half the school treated us funny.
AMANDA Ha! Us? You mean me?
MARCUS High school’s rough for everyone! All those egos, lost souls, and hormones running together to make one hellish cocktail of…. Hell.
AMANDA Well said, Shakespeare
MARCUS Shut up, you know what I mean.
AMANDA And you know what I mean. I’ve always been the odd one out.
MARCUS You have tons of friends. Don’t you have plans with Jane and Marcy tomorrow?
AMANDA Yeah, what, that’s like two people out of a class of like 400?
MARCUS You have more than that. What about Mark, Randy, Derik, Chris? …. Clarence?
AMANDA I haven’t talked to them since like middle school!
AMANDA Well, once puberty hit and everything it was a bit awkward between us.
MARCUS You all were thick as thieves. I still remember you guys going out digging for treasure in the backyard and playing capture the flag. How did it get awkward?
AMANDA I don’t know. Something gets weird when you’re going through changes and you realize you’re the only girl in the group.
AMANDA And all everybody wants to talk about is which girl they wanna make out with and who had…. It just got weird, OK? (awkward beat) We just drifted apart.
MARCUS Yikes…. Why didn’t you hang out with more girls then?
AMANDA I never felt like I fit in with the girls. I didn’t feel like sitting around talking about my ‘feelings’ and stuff.
MARCUS Being a little misogynistic there, aren’t we?
AMANDA You know what I mean. I’d rather play football than do…. girly things.
MARCUS I know. Remember when you used to sneak in here and take my nerf guns and Ninja Turtle action figures?
AMANDA Yeah, you always got the better toys.
MARCUS My stuff was cheap. You got all the good stuff.
MARCUS You got a whole Barbie dreamhouse one Christmas! And all you wanted was my mini basketball hoop. I swear you used to steal all my things.
AMANDA I did not.
MARCUS Did too. (MARCUS glances at AMANDA’s shorts.) Yo! Didn’t those use to be mine?
AMANDA I have no idea what you’re talking about.
MARCUS See! You’re always taking my things! Nothing you had was good enough.
AMANDA Nothing I had felt right.
AMANDA It just didn’t…feel right for me.
MARCUS What do you mean? (MARCUS stares at AMANDA, but she is silently looking down at the floor. After a beat.)
AMANDA Just forget it. Pretend I didn’t say anything.
MARCUS Fine. (awkward silence) Aren’t you going to get dressed?
AMANDA Yeah (AMANDA turns and starts to head for the door. MARCUS picks up the football and lightly tosses it up and catches it. He does this few more times to pass time. AMANDA slows down and stops right in front of the door. She turns around and watches MARCUS tossing the ball.) Hey. Did. Did you get that from…. (MARCUS looks up and sees AMANDA is staring at the football.)
MARCUS Oh yeah, I got it out of his closet.
AMANDA We’re not supposed to go in there.
MARCUS I know, but I remembered it and just felt like it was something he would want me to hold on to. To remember him by. (beat)
AMANDA How did you know I wouldn’t want it?
MARCUS Come on. A football? Wouldn’t you rather have one of his old army rings or something?
AMANDA We used to always play catch with it. He said grandpa gave it to him when he was kid. It always felt so special when he would pull it out.
MARCUS What are you talking about? You didn’t play catch with him after you turned 12. Him and I used to always toss it around on game days all the way until he went overseas.
AMANDA That’s because he kept telling me I should go help mom more. I don’t know why he stopped playing with me all the sudden.
MARCUS Well, you were the only girl out on the lawn chasing a football with the guys.
AMANDA So what?
MARCUS I don’t know. Maybe that got to him.
AMANDA Hmmm, he was always so old fashioned. Him and mom. (beat) Hey, could I hold on to it? Please?
MARCUS What? No! Why should you get it over me?
AMANDA It’s just special to me, OK?
MARCUS You know, you’re always like this.
AMANDA Like what?
MARCUS Greedy and selfish! Nothing you have is good enough or ‘feels right’. You always need my things.
AMANDA Dude, are you serious? What are you 12?
MARCUS Are you? What kind of girl is so clingy and conceited? You never like things unless they’re meant for someone else.
MARCUS (Speaking over AMANDA.) Whenever we go shopping, you make faces when mom picks out things for you. (Pointing at AMANDA’S outfit) And then you just come in here and take my old stuff. Which first off, Ewww, and second, it’s kinda crappy to me and mom.
AMANDA But I-
MARCUS You know she works her butt off to get you all the nice things in your closet, and you hardly wear them! You haven’t put on a dress or skirt since the last time we went to church. Mom nearly had to ground you just so you would stop wailing about wearing a dress to dad’s funeral! (AMANDA is silent and gets very still and tense. She looks at the floor, speechless)
MARCUS What? You know I’m right? (AMANDA is still silent. Her arms are limp by her sides, and she begins to grab the sides of her shorts in awkward frustration.)
MARCUS Look, we don’t have time for this. Get dressed, we need to leave! (AMANDA is still silent. She glances up and stares at the football) Amanda! (AMANDA suddenly jumps forward and grabs the football.)
MARCUS No! (She turns to leave, but MARCUS grabs her by her t-shirt and yanks her back towards him. AMANDA drops the football and immediately tries to grab it again, but MARCUS blocks her. The two start wrestling.)
MARCUS It’s mine!
AMANDA I want it!
MARCUS No! (MIRANDA comes through the door as the two wrestle)
MIRANDA Hey! Both of you, stop it! Marcus, get your hands off of her! (MARCUS and AMANDA keep wrestling.) Marcus! Right now! (MARCUS lets go of AMANDA, AMANDA stands motionless. She crosses her arms and starts to hug herself.) What’s the matter with you two? You sound like two 5-year-olds! You’re supposed to be graduating, you’re beyond this! (Beat. MIRANDA notices AMANDA’s clothes.) Girl, I know you’re not still in your pajamas! (AMANDA stands motionless and silent. She silently starts crying) Baby, what’s wrong?
AMANDA I don’t want to go.
AMANDA I don’t want to go.
MIRANDA But baby, you worked so hard for this. The family’s all coming out, and all your friends’ll be there.
AMANDA I don’t have friends!
MIRANDA What? What about Jane and Marcy?
AMANDA They don’t understand me. No one does.
MIRANDA Understand what, honey? (AMANDA hesitates.)
AMANDA I was meant to be a boy. (Silence.)
AMANDA (hesitant) I always felt like I’m trapped in the wrong body, doing the wrong things, around the wrong people. (beat) I just don’t feel right. (beat) It doesn’t feel natural to wear rings or dresses. Or frilly, girly things. (Amanda studies MIRANDA’s puzzled face.) I’m sorry. I know you and dad wanted me to be a… normal girl, but it never felt right. It still doesn’t feel right. (AMANDA gestures to her clothes.) This is me. (MIRANDA and MARCUS are silent. Both gaze toward the floor, deep in thought. MARCUS looks up towards AMANDA and glances at the football in his hands. He takes a step towards AMANDA but stops when MIRANDA begins to speak.)
MIRANDA (deeply confused) I…. (beat) I….. I’m sorry. I don’t know…(MIRANDA can’t bring herself to look at AMANDA.) Look, I don’t know the right response to…. This. I just…. I don’t understand. (Looking at AMANDA.) Wha-? (beat) How do you-? I just don’t understand the whole…. ‘I’m supposed to be this gender’ thing. You were born a woman. Why do you ‘feel’ like you need to be a boy? (AMANDA stares at MIRANDA silently, hurt. AMANDA opens her mouth to speak, but no words come out. AMANDA hugs herself and looks down, shaking her head. After more awkward silence, MIRANDA glances at MARCUS.) Oh! (hesitating) Let’s…. save this for later. We have to get going. (MIRANDA flattens her dress by gliding her hands down her sides and sighs. To AMANDA) Go get dressed. (To MARCUS) Marcus would you go pull the car around. We’ll leave as soon as your sister’s ready.
MARCUS (in a daze) OK. (MIRANDA turns around and exits the room. AMANDA and MARCUS are still. After a beat. AMANDA slowly turns to leave.)
MARCUS Wait! (AMANDA turns back around and looks at MARCUS, still holding herself. MARCUS, carrying the football slowly walks towards her. He gives her the football.) I think you should hold on to this. (AMANDA holds the football close to her chest. MARCUS awkwardly but tenderly places his hand on AMANDA’s shoulder. AMANDA looks at MARCUS and then hugs him. MARCUS returns the hug.)
AMANDA Thank you.
MARCUS I love you, bro. (BLACKOUT. End of play.)
I dedicate this work to everyone who is still trying to get to know and understand the stranger within themselves.
Citation Style: MLA