Prior Engagement

by Wyn Alyse Thomas

two hands holding

sisters, grief, loss, marriage

Critical Introduction

I created this play for my final playwriting assignment for Basic Dramatic Writing. The
prompt was to have a character in an ordinary location doing an ordinary activity, and to
then have a second character enter and start doing an odd activity. This suggestion
pushed me out of my comfort zone, as I often start writing plays by taking inspiration
from a real-life event and evolving it, while this activity forced me to concoct a scenario
from scratch. The prompt to have an odd activity had me creating a scenario more
separated from reality than I typically do.

Nevertheless, I still leaned into realism in this play, sticking to a strictly dialogic form in
which the audience feels like they are witnessing a snippet of life rather than a theatrical

My goal was to craft realistic dialogue that gives a sense of relationship, similar to the
style of Lauren Gunderson’s plays. In particular, I was inspired by Gunderson’s play I
and You, which is my favorite example of a two-person play because of how it creates
vibrant characters and a building plot in a scenario (two teenagers sitting in the room of
a sick girl) that is simple and could easily be boring without skillfully crafted dialogue. I
and You is in part what inspired me to create a gentle rollout of subtext throughout my
play, subtext which appears in the development of the relationship between these two
sisters and in the reveal of the stakes that have been driving their interaction with one

This play was chosen as one of the winners of the Barter College Playwrights Festival,
where it received a staged reading, including a talkback afterwards. Based on the
feedback I received, I am now working on expanding “Prior Engagement” into a full-
length piece.


TALIA: 22 years old, female.

LILY: 23 years old, female.




Kitchen of Talia’s apartment, which she shares with her fiancé.

(TALIA is at the kitchen sink cleaning a huge pile of dishes. There is a knock at the front door. TALIA walks over, takes a deep breath, and opens it. LILY walks in, carrying a large, overstuffed bag and an open pair of scissors. She sits on the ground and starts looking through the bag.)

TALIA Good morning.

LILY I’m busy. (LILY is unable to find whatever she is looking for. She dumps out the contents of the bag and is left with a large pile of her own clothes. She grabs a t-shirt for the Patriots. She starts cutting it to shreds. TALIA goes back to washing dishes.) What do you have to drink?

TALIA Water.

LILY I meant–

TALIA We have water.

LILY (still cutting the shirt) No thanks. (TALIA finishes cleaning a glass, then fills it up with water. She sets it down in front of LILY, then goes back to washing. LILY drinks the water.)

TALIA You’re probably dehydrated.

LILY You sound like Mom.

TALIA I’ve spent a little too much time with her this week.

LILY She’s being a control freak?

TALIA Maybe a little.

LILY Shocker. (LILY has finished cutting up the t-shirt. She digs in the pile and then finds a somewhat cheap-looking sweater. She starts cutting it to shreds as well.)

TALIA Come on, it’s a big deal for her, and I’m not making it a big deal.

LILY Doesn’t mean she has to be mother-of-the-bridezilla.

TALIA That would make me a bridezilla, and I am no bridezilla.

LILY Motherzilla.

TALIA I guess. Was she for y–

LILY (looking up) What?

TALIA Never mind.

LILY Is Adam here?

TALIA No, he’s not.

LILY I thought he lives here now.

TALIA He does.

LILY Then why isn’t he here?

TALIA Something about bad luck to sleep together the night before the wedding.

LILY Oh. Can I talk to him?

TALIA Well, he’s kind of booked today. And then there’s the honeymoon. So maybe after that.

LILY I need to talk to him before the wedding.

TALIA No you don’t. He’s busy. Marrying me. (LILY digs through the clothes more and starts cutting up a nice blouse.) I liked that shirt. It looked nice on you. (LILY keeps cutting.)

LILY Can I come to your wedding?

TALIA You are coming to the wedding, we invited you months ago.


TALIA You RSVP’d yes, remember?

LILY I don’t have anything to wear.

TALIA You can wear something of mine, I have a dress that should fit you.

LILY Is it white?

TALIA No, you’re not really supposed to do that.

LILY Yeah. (LILY picks up a dress nice enough to wear to a wedding and starts cutting it.)

TALIA Do you need to borrow anything else? Maybe some heels? I have these new pink ones that are way more comfortable than you’d think.

LILY Do you have anything to drink?

TALIA Your water is in front of you.

LILY I don’t want water.

TALIA I know.

LILY I want something to drink.

TALIA I know, but you can’t. The wedding is today.

LILY My wedding is today.

TALIA My wedding is today.

LILY It’s been a short engagement.

TALIA It’s been six months.

LILY You got married six months ago?

TALIA Adam proposed to me six months ago.

LILY Can I talk to Adam?

TALIA Adam is busy.

LILY I need him.

TALIA You’ll be okay. (LILY picks up another nice dress and starts cutting.)

LILY I have to talk to him about something.

TALIA What do you need to talk to him about?

LILY I can’t tell you.

TALIA Uh huh.

LILY It’s a secret.

TALIA He doesn’t have time to talk to you.

LILY But I need him.

TALIA You can’t have Adam. (LILY drinks some of her water. TALIA walks over with a pitcher and fills it. She then goes back to the sink and continues to wash dishes. They are silent for a moment. LILY picks up the most expensive looking dress yet.)

TALIA You’re sure about that one? You could probably sell it. (LILY starts cutting it.)

LILY I have to.


LILY I have to.

TALIA That’s okay.

LILY I need my dress for the wedding.

TALIA You can wear mine, don’t worry about it.

LILY I don’t have anything.

TALIA You could have worn that, you know. (Beat.)

LILY Where’s Adam?


LILY I need to talk to him.

TALIA You can’t, Lily.



LILY You don’t understand! He is going to propose to you!

TALIA Lily, no. We’re already engaged.

LILY Most people will think it’s crazy for him to propose at my wedding, but it was my idea!

TALIA Oh Lily.

LILY You’re not stealing my moment, I want him to do it.

TALIA Lily, he already proposed at your wedding. It was six months ago.

LILY No, my wedding is today.

TALIA My wedding is today. Your wedding was six months ago.

LILY Ben’s at home getting ready.

TALIA No he’s not, Lily.

LILY Where is he?

TALIA Lily, you remember. You remember he’s gone.

LILY No. No. (LILY picks up her wedding dress out of the stack.)

TALIA Don’t cut that one. (LILY shakes her head and raises the scissors. TALIA starts making her way towards her.) Please. You’re gonna wish you didn’t. (LILY’s hands begin to shake.) You’re gonna want something to remember him. (LILY begins to cut, but TALIA grabs the dress from her. LILY collapses and cries. Beat.) I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. (Beat. TALIA folds up the dress nicely. TALIA goes to the cabinet and pulls out a half empty bottle of wine. She pours a glass for LILY and sets it in front of her. End of play.)


Kim Morgan Dean, Angie Fisher, Barrett Guyton, Nicholas Piper, and Barter Theatre