Emily McClain is a theatre educator and is the co-director of theatre at Buford High School in Buford, Georgia. Her play SLAYING HOLOFERNES was selected for the 2019 Ethel Woolson Lab with Working Title Playwrights. SLAYING HOLOFERNES was also selected as a winner for the Essential Theatre’s New Play Festival in July of 2019, receiving a World Premiere production. Emily’s historical drama about the Booth brothers, MY BROTHER’S SECRET KEEPER, was selected for the Reading Series at Pumphouse Players and will be presented in January 2020. She has been a featured playwright with Elephant Room Productions for her play CHEEK BY JOWL in June of 2019. Her short plays have been staged at Out of Box Theatre (Santa After Hours 2018 and Women’s Shorts 2019), Merely Players (Amplifest), Atlanta AppCo (Culture Series), Raze The Space (Los Angeles Library Series 2019), Theatre Oxford (Ten-Minute Play Winner 2019), and Actor’s Express (Courtroom Drama Series 2019). Emily lives in Lawrenceville with her husband, two children, and a sweet dog named Walter.

The Great Suburban Outback

Emily McClain

CAST

ANGELA JACOBSON

Late 40’s, “progressive Mom”

DAVID JACOBSON

Late 40’s, “sitcom Dad”

BRENTLY JACOBSON

11, “surly teenager”

ASHTON JACOBSON

13, “perky tween”

MELAIKE FAMORIYO

30’s, host of the show  The Suburban Outback Experience

ABIOLO OTU

30’s, camera operator for Melaike’s show

SETTING

 

Living Room of the Jacobson Family

TIME

The Present

SYNOPSIS

The Jacobson family is thrilled to find out they have been selected to be the host family for a foreign exchange student. What they don’t realize is that they are actually on a reality television show broadcast to so-called “Third World Countries” about Suburban American Culture.

(Lights up on a living room. DAVID is relaxing in a recliner, watching TV, perhaps drinking a beer. BRENTLY is playing a game on his laptop, the sound is obnoxiously loud. ASHTON is lounging on the sofa, taking a variety of selfies. She reviews them, deletes, takes more. ANGELA comes rushing on, very excited, reading a text off her phone.)

ANGELA

Guys! Guys! Why are you all just hanging out? They’ll be here any minute! Hey! Guys! Brently, turn that down! ​(He doesn’t)​ David, listen to me!

DAVID

What's that, honey?

ANGELA

Everyone, listen to me! I just got the text that it’s happening today!

BRENTLY

What's today?

ANGELA

What's today? (She laughs but then realizes he is being serious) Guys-- we've been talking about it for a month! Remember?

ASHTON

(Not looking up for her phone)

You talk about a lot of stuff.

ANGELA

Okay, but this is big-- this is huge! I know you guys remember-- Hey! Listen to me! (​Everyone reluctantly turns their attention to her)​ We have been, our family I mean, we have been selected to host...​(She is beyond thrilled)​ A FOREIGN EXCHANGE STUDENT! ​(She squeals with excitement, her family does not echo her sentiment)​ Isn’t that exciting?

 

ASHTON

Like... a person from another country? Is going to come here? To live? With us?

 

ANGELA

Yes! Isn't that awesome?

ASHTON

Uh, I guess.

ANGELA

Come on, Ashton! I can’t believe you aren’t more excited! Brently? It’s a chance to meet someone who is from another country-- from someplace other than the United States! It’s a huge honor for our family to have been selected to participate! ​(Reading from the text) “Your application was reviewed and your family will provide an ideal learning opportunity...” ​(Appealing to her husband, who is bemused)​ Tell them how exciting this is, David!

DAVID

Sure. It’s really great to have a complete stranger come into our house.

BRENTLY

(Not looking up from his computer)

Sounds like the beginning of a Criminal Minds episode.

 

ANGELA

Brently! They aren’t-- okay, listen. I’m sure they have to go through an elaborate screening process before they are allowed to come here. And they are going to be so... overwhelmed... When they get here.

DAVID

Overwhelmed?

ANGELA

Sure! I mean, it doesn’t say what country they are coming from, but I’m sure it’s some... ​(with weighty meaning)​ underprivileged place... like a Third World kind of place... like... Haiti...Sri Lanka... Kenya...

BRENTLY

Kenya isn't a third world country anymore.

ANGELA

It isn't?

BRENTLY

Nope. It got upgraded to developing nation.

DAVID

Still not the same as America, right?

BRENTLY

(Shrugs)

I don't know. I guess.

 

ASHTON

I'm not gonna have to share my room, am I?

ANGELA

Well sweetie, that will depend. They say the student’s name is (Reading laboriously from the text)​ Me-LAH-eek-EE? And I’m not sure if that is a boy or a girl’s name, really. But if it’s a girl, she will stay in your room and if it’s a boy he can stay with Brently.

BRENTLY

What, like, on the floor in my room?

ANGELA

I mean, we will have the air mattress set up.

DAVID

It’ll be an upgrade from the dirt floor of the shack they probably are used to sleeping on, right?

ANGELA

All right, David. That’s probably an overstatement--

DAVID

I mean, it’s like those commercials with the starving kids you could help feed “for just pennies a day.”

ASHTON

You always switch the channel when those commercials come on.

DAVID

I do not! It’s just... I already know what they are going to say so I don’t need to watch it-

ANGELA

It's fine, honey. We get it.

 

DAVID

I'm just saying-

(He is interrupted by a knock at the door offstage. ANGELA claps her hands excitedly)

ANGELA

Oh my god, this must be- Oh my god!

(She rushes off stage, leaving the rest of her family stunned. We hear her enthusiastic greeting offstage and she returns a moment later with MELAIKE. ABIOLA follows a few moments later, filming everything on a handheld point-and-shoot style camera. MELAIKE speaks to the

camera as if she is narrating on a nature documentary. ANGELA is very confused but trying to be polite. *NOTE: Whenever MELAIKE or ABIOLA are speaking to the camera, she has a “foreign” affectation in her speech. This affectation is dropped when she and ABIOLA talk off-camera to each other. Directors and actors are encouraged to play with how and when the switching happens.)

MELAIKE

It appears we have been invited in by the matriarch of this particular tribe. This is very exciting for us! Abiola and I have never been this close to a full pack of Sub-Americans before.

 

ANGELA

Uh, hello? Welcome? You must be Muh-LEE-ka-EE?

MELAIKE

(Repeating slowly, gesturing to herself.)

Melaike. Melaike.

ANGELA

(Stumbling over it but trying)

Mee-lie-key. Ok, hi, welcome to our home! I’m Angela and-- guys, come over here and meet ​(pauses)​ Mee-Lay-Kuh?

 

MELAIKE

(To camera) It can be challenging to master complex names for this group. They struggle with diphthongs. Although their own tribal names can be fascinating. ​(To ANGELA) T​ell me, Ann-Gel-Ah, what are the names of your children?

 

ANGELA

Oh, yes- this is Brently ​(She prods her son to stand)​ and this is Ashton.

MELAIKE

Pleasure to meet you both! ​(To camera)​ Both children are named in the tradition of this tribal group, with the addition of the -LY and the -TON to signify their “uniqueness.” The irony of this is, of course, obvious. ​(Back to ANGELA)​ Tell me, do they conform to the expectations of their peer groups?

ASHTON

She seems a little... old... to be a high school student.

BRENTLY

(To Abiola)

What kind of camera is that, dude?

ABIOLA

(To MELAIKE)

I should keep my objective distance?

MELAIKE

No, Abiola, I think you can effectively engage and connect with the adolescent. He is demonstrating the standard behaviors- attraction to technology and attempting to bond with older male figures over it. See if you can ask him about ​(She checks her notebook)​ “Fortnight?”

BRENTLY

Oh, Fortnight is the BEST! Do you play?

ASHTON

Ew, seriously? Is his name ebola? Like... the disease?

DAVID

No, surely not... I think she said AYE-bee-oh-la. Because no one would be named after a disease, that would be ridiculous. ​(He laughs a little too loudly)​ How’s it going, man? I’m David Jacobson, pleasure to meet you-- ​(Going to shake ABIOLA’s hand. ABIOLA stares at him stoically and continues filming and DAVID stands awkwardly until ANGELA speaks.)

ANGELA

Ok, excuse me-- what is-- WHAT IS GOING ON? You were supposed to be-- I mean, we were expecting to host a student! A foreign exchange student. Not two adults who are-- are you making some sort of movie?

 

MELAIKE

It’s a documentary show- The Suburban Outback Experience. Very popular all across the world. We look at the fascinating culture of Sub-Americans!

ANGELA

I'm sorry, what?

MELAIKE

Sub-Americans. From the suburbs? Not rural, not urban. A complex group, so interesting in their interactions. I have studied them for years, of course only in the abstract. It is such a pleasure to see in person what I have only previously read about in books.

DAVID

So you're not high school students?

MELAIKE

(Laughing)

No, no. ​(To camera)​ All right, let’s take a look at the main area of

the Sub-American home- the “living room.” Now, typically this room is arranged in a shrine to a central screen and this room is no exception. In most of the upper middle-class tribes, the size of the screen is directly connected to the virility of the patriarch. It would appear (she eyeballs the “TV” that DAVID was watching)​ that this patriarch is past his peak virility.

DAVID

Excuse me?! What? I’ll have you know that I am PLENTY virile!

(All overlapping)

BRENTLY                   ASHTON

Gross.                           Ew! Daddy!

ANGELA                      MELAIKE

David, not now!           Eh, okay.

 

DAVID

Honey!

ANGELA

Sorry, but... I mean, come on! That TV is 5 years old and--

DAVID

It works fine and I like it! I don’t appreciate the insinuation.

ASHTON

So wait... if you’re not a student, that means I don’t have to share my bedroom, right?

ANGELA

No, sweetie, there’s been some mistake. ​(To MELAIKE)​ There has BEEN... SOME... MISTAKE... We were supposed to be hosting a foreign exchange student from some underprivileged country and... change their lives and it was going to be so amazing and such a learning experience, and-- this is NOT that at all!

MELAIKE

Very true. And how does that make you feel? As a mother, as the matriarch of this tribe?

ANGELA

Excuse me? How do you think that makes me feel? I’m... upset! I’m very confused and aggravated!

 

MELAIKE

(Continuing to push, ABIOLA moves to get a closeup on ANGELA)

I see... and do you think it reflects poorly on you? This oversight on your part? Is this indicative of the type of parent you are?

ANGELA

How- how DARE you! I cannot believe you have the nerve to stand here and-- in my home, in my living room-- you are gonna stand here-

DAVID

Ok, honey...

ANGELA

No, David! She is insulting me as a MOTHER and I’m not going to stand for it!

MELAIKE

So... What are you going to do?

ANGELA

I... I want to speak to your SUPERVISOR! Who do I call? I need to speak to your boss immediately!

 

(MELAIKE and ABIOLA are both thrilled at this statement. It is clearly  something they were hoping would happen)

MELAIKE

(To camera)​ This is a wonderful development, dear viewers! We are about to see a very special aspect of the Sub-American culture-- the Manager Confrontation Ceremony! We are very, very fortunate to have this opportunity!

ASHTON

OMG, Mom, what did you do?!? Did you sign us up to be on some show? This is so EMBARRASSING!

BRENTLY

This is really wild--

ANGELA

Brently and Ashton go to your rooms right now!

(They start to protest but DAVID shushes them and hustles them offstage. DAVID comes back, puffing out his chest)

DAVID

All right, let’s just get a couple of things straight right off the bat here-

MELAIKE

Abiola, be sure to widen the shot to include the display of pseudo-authority. ​(To camera)​ Many times, the patriarch of the Sub-American tribe will take an aggressive posture position in conflict to support his mate-- although ultimately the female is the true dominant position. Think of this as a “power behind the throne” sort of scenario. ​(To DAVID)​ Yes, go ahead please, what should we get straight?

DAVID

Uh, well... You're not going to come here and-- wait, is that true? Honey, is that true?

ANGELA

What?

DAVID

What she said? That I’m just a... a figurehead?

ANGELA

Wha-- No! No, of course not! Not at all! No-- ​(To MELAIKE)​ Why would you say that?

DAVID

Oh my God it’s true... ​(He slumps into his recliner, totally gobsmacked)

MELAIKE

I apologize if I overstepped my boundaries. ​(Talking to DAVID like he is a child)​ You are very, very important to this tribe! ​(Stifles laugh) ​You are clearly in a position of authority-- just look at your throne!

DAVID

No! No I’m not! Do you think I’m important Angela? ​(Yells offstage, “upstairs” to his kids)​ Brently? Ashton! Do you think I’m important to this family? I am, aren’t I?

ASHTON

(Screaming from offstage)

WHAT?!?! DID YOU SAY SOMETHING? I’m FaceTiming with Madisyn K and Carrianne!

DAVID

Come down here now! And bring your brother!

ANGELA

David, this feels really unnecessary okay, we have a lot to deal with right now--

DAVID

(hysterically)

No I need an answer! Right now! I deserve an honest answer, don’t I? KIDS! COME DOWN HERE NOW!

ANGELA

David! Stop all that yelling!

MELAIKE

(ABIOLA whispers to her)​ Oh, okay. ​(To ANGELA)​ Abiola’s camera battery died and he is replacing it. Would you mind recreating the Manager Confrontation Ceremony part again for us? I really think my viewers would be fascinated by it. It’s so exotic!

ANGELA

I think you need to leave now.

DAVID

And I want you to delete that footage about my TV!

ABIOLA

No.

DAVID

Well... okay then. I guess that’s okay too...

 

(ASHTON and BRENTLY come back on stage, clearly put out at being summoned after having been sent away)

ASHTON

What is the big deal, dad? Are those weird people still here?

DAVID

I have a question for you and I want you to answer it honestly-

BRENTLY

Your tiny TV sucks.

DAVID

Wha- wait, no-- That wasn’t what I was going to ask! Wait, really?

ANGELA

That is not the point right now, David! I just don’t understand this at all! We aren’t the exotic ones! We aren’t the ones that should be--​ (A sudden realization) A​re you trying to teach us a lesson or something? Is that what this is?

MELAIKE

No of course not! Why would you think that? A lesson?!? That’s... that’s ridiculous... What kind of lesson could we possibly be trying to teach-- ​(She exchanges a glance with ABIOLA and he nods. They both beat a hasty retreat)

BRENTLY

(To ABIOLA and MELAIKE as they leave)

Ha! Good one. ​(He goes back to his computer and gets back on his game, the

volume immediately obnoxiously loud.)

(Blackout)