Caity-Shea Violette is a national award-winning playwright based in Boston. Her plays include TARGET BEHAVIOR (Kennedy Center’s National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Excellence Award Winner, David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award Semifinalist, Shakespeare’s Sister Playwriting Fellowship Semifinalist), REAP THE GROVE (O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Finalist), THE STAND (Susan Glaspell Playwriting Festival National Award Winner, InspiraTO Playwriting Contest Finalist), and others. She is a member of Dramatists Guild of America. Caity-Shea earned her BFA in Theatre from University of Minnesota, Duluth and is a graduate of St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Playwriting at Boston University. More information about her work is available at www.caitysheaviolette.com

The Stand

A Ten-Minute Play by Caity-Shea Violette

CHARACTERS:

ALICIA, mid-late 20’s, female. Ethan’s mother. Current inmate at Cook County Jail awaiting her arraignment.

RAQUEL, late 30’s / early 40’s, female. Cook County Public Defender.

PLACE:

The visitation room of Cook County Jail in Chicago.

TIME:

Present day.

NOTES:

Punctuation and pauses are important to this piece. A slash ( / ) indicates where the next speech begins. A dash ( - ) indicates a character cutting themselves off or allowing another character to cut them off without speaking over them.

SYNOPSIS:

After surviving years of abuse, Alicia is now being held in Cook County Jail in Chicago for her husband's murder. When her public defender presents a deal offered by the DA, Alicia must now choose between guaranteed jail time away from her young son or risking a life sentence to tell her story in court. The Stand is an exploration of the impossible choices created in the wake of domestic violence and the limited options the criminal justice system offers survivors.

(The visitation room of Cook County Jail. There is only a table, two chairs, and the sterile fluorescent lights above. Alicia is sitting in one of the metal folding chairs. She wears handcuffs and a prison uniform with a long sleeve shirt. She is clearly waiting, though not impatiently. She smooths out the same persistent wrinkle in her shirt sleeve. Raquel finally enters hurriedly, carrying a folder stuffed with documents.)

RAQUEL

I’m sorry to be-

ALICIA

It’s okay.

RAQUEL

Just had a hearing run longer than expected.

ALICIA

I’m glad you could make it.

RAQUEL

I know- I was sorry to have to reschedule, I just needed to wait on everything to come back.

ALICIA

Of course.

(Raquel flips through her folder until she finds what she’s looking for.) 

RAQUEL

They treating you okay in here?

(Alicia nods.)

                                    

RAQUEL

Good.

(Pause.)

RAQUEL

So, the evaluation came back- it’s not what we- They concluded that you are fit to stand\trial. If that’s what you choose.

ALICIA

But you said-

RAQUEL

I said we should get you evaluated.

(Pause.)

RAQUEL

That’s not game over, we just need to adjust our strategy.

ALICIA

Strategy.

RAQUEL

How we can best tell your story. That’s all it is.

ALICIA

If you just let me speak to them-

RAQUEL

I don’t think that’s a good idea right now.

ALICIA

Then when?

RAQUEL

Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.

ALICIA

At the trial? If they just let me explain-

RAQUEL

I’m not sure a trial is your best option.

(Pause.)

 

ALICIA

What do you- ?

RAQUEL

The DA offered you a deal.

(She waits for Alicia to respond. She doesn’t.)

RAQUEL

Because of your circumstances, they’re willing to drop it to voluntary manslaughter. Honestly, it’s a lot better than I thought we would get.

ALICIA

How many- ?

RAQUEL

15, up for parole in 8.

(Alicia is silent. She returns to her wrinkled shirt sleeve and continues trying to smooth it out.)

RAQUEL

I know that is hard to hear.

ALICIA

15.

RAQUEL

Up for parole in 8.

(She begins pulling at the fabric trying to force it to flatten.)

RAQUEL

Mrs. Jacobsen?

(Alicia places her hands flat on the table. A breath.)

RAQUEL

If we go to trial, you’re looking at a life sentence. Between the autopsy and your statement- 

ALICIA

I was tired when they talked to me / I didn’t know- 

RAQUEL

You agreed to be recorded, you signed your statement. Both are fair game to show in court.

ALICIA

But they don’t understand, if I could just explain / I know they- 

RAQUEL

Alicia, I’m going to be straight with you. I’ve seen a lot of people like you, a lot of good people, bet their life on the understanding of strangers and lose. That’s not a gamble you want to take. If you don’t take this deal, you’re looking at double- triple- the amount of jail time. I don’t want that for you. 

ALICIA

But the documents- the police reports, court orders, the social worker- Susan- she said she took notes.

RAQUEL

And that’s why they were willing to cut you such a great deal. I know it’s difficult to hear, but this is good news. 

(Silence)

ALICIA

I called her twice a week for two years. The few times she answered, she rushed me off the phone.

RAQUEL

Social workers are spread too thin, no one’s going to fight you on that. 

ALICIA

I left her voicemails. I emailed her pictures- when I could get them. Didn’t she document them?

RAQUEL

The system is broken, I’ll be the first one to say it, but that doesn’t- it cannot justify- 

ALICIA

He slammed my son’s head into a desk. Had to get three stitches across his temple. My husband lost his keys and Ethan got in the way. He was two. 

RAQUEL

I’m very sorry you had to go through that.

ALICIA

But I didn’t- I didn’t have to go through that, I had already been calling her for six months.

(Pause. A shift in Raquel. Less defender, more prosecutor.)

RAQUEL

Did you tell the hospital?

ALICIA

What hospital?

RAQUEL

The hospital where he got stitches?

ALICIA

They would have taken him away.

RAQUEL

What about the car? The two of you had a car, didn’t you?

ALICIA

He never let me touch the keys.

RAQUEL

He had to sleep sometime, didn’t he? Why didn’t you go then?

ALICIA

Go where?

RAQUEL

You don’t have family you could have stayed with?

ALICIA

Not anymore.

RAQUEL

What about a shelter?

 

ALICIA

They were full.

RAQUEL

You had house visits. Even if she didn’t return every phone call, the social worker still had to do house visits. Her notes say you repeatedly told her you could handle it, that Ethan was safe with you. 

ALICIA

She needed to know that I could take care of him.

RAQUEL

Is refusing to get him out of a dangerous situation taking care of him?

ALICIA

They would have taken him / away.

RAQUEL

And now they did.

ALICIA

Stop! Stop, why are you-

RAQUEL

This is what your trial would be like, Alicia, only ten times worse. Every piece of evidence you have can just as easily support a motive for premeditated murder. 

                                                            

ALICIA

What about self-defense?

                        

RAQUEL

It’s only self-defense if he was physically threatening your life when it happened. 

ALICIA

He had a gun in the house. Kept it locked up under the bed. Should I have waited until he used it?

RAQUEL

Mrs. Jacobson-

ALICIA

Should I have bought my own? Shot him while our son slept down the hall? 

RAQUEL

The system is broken-

ALICIA

The system is only broken for the people no one cares about. 

RAQUEL

You’re right! This whole process is messed up. I want to help you, I’m trying to help you. But I can’t fix the entire justice system overnight, we have to figure out how to move forward. We’re not going to get a better deal. 

 

ALICIA

What if I request a different lawyer?

RAQUEL

Go right ahead and you can hear them tell you the same thing.

(Silence)

RAQUEL

I’m not saying any of this to hurt you, Alicia.

(A breath.)

RAQUEL

If you want to do this, if going to trial is something you feel you need to do- I just want to make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Trials are grueling, everything you say and do will be questioned. If you cry on the stand, you’re manipulative. If you’re too calm, you’re cold. And even if you do everything right, tell your story exactly how you want it to be told, there’s no guarantee the jury will believe you. A witness stand is not a place to be heard, it’s a place to be judged. 

(Silence)

RAQUEL

I know it’s not a perfect solution, but Cook County, the prison- it has services. Group therapy, educational programs. Eight years is a blink compared to the rest of your life.

(Pause)

RAQUEL

How old would Ethan be?

ALICIA

Thirteen.

(Pause)

ALICIA

He’s going to hate me.

RAQUEL

If he’s anything like my teenager, he’ll hate you at some point no matter what you do. 

ALICIA

He won’t be.

RAQUEL

Won’t be what?

ALICIA

Anything like your son.

(Pause)

                                                            

RAQUEL

You could still see him graduate from high school, go / to college- 

ALICIA

Don’t! Don’t use my son / to try to talk me into- 

RAQUEL

That’s not what I-

ALICIA

Don’t use him to talk me into throwing away my life so it can fit into your schedule. 

RAQUEL

I’m giving you your options. You can take them or leave them. 

(Raquel takes out the document detailing the plea deal and tosses it on the table. She stands to leave.) 

ALICIA

Wait-

            

RAQUEL

Yes?

(Long silence)

ALICIA

If I could just- how can you know they won’t listen? 

RAQUEL

I can’t.

ALICIA

But they won’t?

RAQUEL

I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

(Pause)

ALICIA

I knew that if I ever- if this ever happened, I knew there was no going back. 

RAQUEL

Mrs. Jacobson-

ALICIA

Watts. My last name is Watts.

RAQUEL

Ms. Watts, if you want to take this to court, you need to be careful about what you say next. I can’t present a false testimony if I know things happened differently. 

ALICIA

I need- I just need you to-

RAQUEL

What?

ALICIA

I need you to hear me. I need someone to just-

(Silence. Raquel sits back down.)

ALICIA

I didn’t want it to be violent, I didn’t want my son to hear gunshots in his dreams, I didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives looking over our shoulder. I just wanted- needed it to be done.

(Pause)

ALICIA

My husband, he had a bad heart since he was a little boy. People with congenital heart defects need to avoid too much potassium or it can make their heart tense up and then just- stop. Like a heart attack. They sell it in bottles- potassium chloride. You can buy it online, just $7 for a vile. (Beat) It was hereditary. He gave my son that bad heart. But when he started showing him how to feel with it, too? Showed him cruelty that hardens you from the inside, I couldn’t just- I couldn’t- Boys with angry fathers grow into angry men. He gave my son that bad heart, I couldn’t let him destroy it too. 

(Pause)

RAQUEL

(Simply, but genuinely) I hear you.

ALICIA

When do I need to-?

RAQUEL

They gave us 24 hours. I know it’s a quick turnaround, that’s just unfortunately how these things tend to go. 

(Pause)

ALICIA

24 hours.

RAQUEL

Here, you can-

(Raquel gently slides the paper closer to Alicia. Long silence while she begins to read it. Raquel senses that Alicia needs time to process.)

RAQUEL

I know this can take some time to sink in. I’ll let you-

(Raquel picks up her folder, getting ready to go. Alicia’s eyes dart up toward her.)

ALICIA

Will you sit with me? Just- for a little while?

RAQUEL

Yeah. Yeah, I’ll stay.

(Alicia looks at Raquel, then looks at the paper. Blackout.)

END OF PLAY

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