Shelli Pentimall Bookler holds an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Temple University and an M.A. in Theatre Arts from Eastern Michigan University. She was the New American Voices Playwriting Series finalist (Pieces of the Pie), Midwest Dramatist Center’s Playwriting Conference finalist (The Interview), American Association of Community Theatre semi-finalist (Bird in the Window and Pieces of the Pie), and her play Captive was featured this year in Panglossian Production’s Weekend of Women Playwrighting  Series in Williamsburg. She is a member of The Dramatist Guild, Philadelphia Dramatist Center, and the Witherspoon Circle, a playwriting group based in Princeton, New Jersey, as well as an actor, director, dramaturg and choreographer in Philadelphia.

The Interview

Shelli Pentimall Bookler

 

CAST:

Katie Pursell, 25-45, F, a television news reporter

Lynn Bennett, 25-40, F, a woman who went for a run

LYNN, dressed in a running outfit, wearing headphones, jogs across the stage. She jogs across to the other side. She jogs across once more and off stage. Off stage we hear:

LYNN

(Screams.) Fuck! No! No!

Sounds of a struggle.

 

LYNN (cont.)

Fuck you! Motherfucker!

 

A thump.

 

LYNN (cont.)

Somebody help me! Please- anybody!

 

A beat. LYNN enters the stage, showing signs of a struggle. She looks around, sees someone off stage on the opposing side.

 

LYNN (cont.)

Hey- can you get help? Please? I think I killed him.

Lights down.

Lights up on KATIE, dressed professionally, for the camera. There are two chairs set up on the stage, ready for an interview. KATIE is putting in an earpiece, talking to the producer, looking out toward the audience, where he presumably is. We only hear his responses from off stage.

 

KATIE

What’s her name again?

 

PRODUCER (Off stage)

Lynn Bennett.

 

KATIE

(Practicing) Lynn Bennett. Lynn Bennett. (Looks out) Can you roll the intro (Warming up) Red leather yellow leather, aluminum linoleum, chew wax chew wax chew wax.

 

PRODUCER (Off stage)

And we are up in 3-2…

She looks out toward the audience/camera, reading the text. During her report, lights go to a spotlight on her.

KATIE (cont.)

On September 4th, thirty-four-year-old Lynn Bennett went out for a morning run in Hopewell Park. At seven a.m. Edward Mackler, a forty-two-year-old construction worker, attacked her with a knife. What he didn’t know was that Lynn Bennett was not going to go down without a fight. Lynn Bennett not only fought back, she used his own knife against him, and he now is in critical care at Mercer County General Hospital. Today, for the first time, Lynn Bennett publicly tells her story. Welcome, Lynn.

Lights up to show LYNN in a chair next to KATIE.

LYNN

Thank you.

 

KATIE

Lynn, can you tell us in your own words what happened that harrowing day?

LYNN

Uh, yes. Sure. It was, uh, a really nice morning, you know, warm but not too hot, fall, or, um, autumn weather. I didn’t want to go to the gym, I usually alternate between the gym and running, and uh, it seemed like a good day for a run in the park.

KATIE

And this was your usual route?

LYNN

Yeah, I like to go through the park because the paths are soft and there’s usually not a lot of people. Sometimes people walking dogs, but it’s pretty quiet at that time of day.

 

KATIE

It was around seven a.m.?

LYNN

Yeah, around seven.

 

KATIE

(Looking into the camera) Seven in the morning, while most of us are just waking up or having our morning coffee, am I right? (Back to LYNN) And what happened next?

LYNN

I was just running along the path and next thing I know someone grabbed me from behind and tried to pull me down.     

KATIE

You hadn’t heard anyone behind you?

 

LYNN

No, I had my headphones one; I listen to music while I run.

KATIE

Must have been quite loud.

 

LYNN

I guess.

 

KATIE

(Looking to camera) Note to self, keep the volume down just in case someone is behind you. Am I right? (To LYNN) So Edward Mackler grabbed you from behind and tried to force you down, what did you do then?

LYNN

I started kicking him struggling to break free and kicking my feet back and I got his shin and that loosened his grip for a second and I elbowed him in the side. He fell back, but he still had an arm around me so I fell down too.

KATIE

That must have been terrifying.

 

LYNN

I guess, I just sort of went onto like an auto pilot. I just wanted to get away.

KATIE

And you knew to start kicking and use your elbows, how did you know to do that?

LYNN

Well, I took a self-defense course at the community center a few years ago, but I think it was just instinct. Someone grabs you and you do whatever you can to get him off you.

KATIE

It is important for women to learn how to defend themselves. (Looking to camera) Remember that, ladies! Maybe check out your local community center for a course. (To LYNN) So you both fall to the ground, when did you realize he had a knife?

 

LYNN

When I fell. I landed, like, on top of him and I went to roll off and I saw his arm out and there was a knife, like a switchblade kind of knife that fell out of his hand.

 

KATIE

And you didn’t have anything on you? A lot of women carry mace or pepper spray when they are out alone. I know I have my rape whistle in my purse.

LYNN

No, I was out for a run. In the morning.

KATIE

Hmmm. (A beat.) So you fall on top of him, turn and see that he dropped a knife, and what went through your mind then?

LYNN

I was pissed. I was just so angry. I was like how dare you try to grab me and, and, who knows what, kill me, rape me, I don’t know, but no way are you doing that to me. Not today.

KATIE

And at this point you could have run away. You could have ran and found someone with a phone—

 LYNN

No, no like I told the police, he grabbed my hair and pulled me back down. I couldn’t get up. He had my hair.

KATIE

And that’s when you grabbed the knife?

LYNN

I grabbed the knife but I was still on my back on top of him, so I used my elbow again and got him in the rib and he let go long enough for me to turn over and I punched him. 

 

KATIE

You punched him—

LYNN

In the face, yeah. The knife was in my left hand, and I punched him with my right. I was so pissed. I wasn’t really thinking I was just so angry.

KATIE

So you elbowed him, kicked him, punched him in the face—sounds like a cage fight! And that’s when you stabbed him?

LYNN

He kept clawing at me, he grabbed my shirt and kept holding me down, he wouldn’t let go and that’s when I stabbed him. In the throat.

 

KATIE

(Looking at the camera) Stabbed him right in the throat. So brutal. So amazing.

LYNN

It’s not amazing it’s just what I had to do.

KATIE

I think every lady out there is now going to carry a knife when they run.

LYNN

They shouldn’t have to.

KATIE

Just to protect themselves, of course.

LYNN

But we shouldn’t have to do that. Carry a knife or a taser or a gun or whatever. We should be able to go for a run in the park without having to worry about who’s going to jump out and attack— 

KATIE

Let’s talk about where we are now. Edward Mackler, the man who attacked you, is taken to the hospital and falls into a coma from profuse blood loss, where he remains now under doctor and police supervision.

LYNN

Yeah.

KATIE

And police have taken your statement as well.

LYNN

That’s right. I told them everything that happened and I found out that this guy had a record. He has a history of assault. 

KATIE

And the police believed your story?

LYNN

This time.

KATIE

I’m sorry?

LYNN

I just mean that’s not always the case. Women report being attacked all the time and people don’t believe them. I got lucky here because of this guy’s past and because there was evidence, but too many times it’s just a case of he said she said and the guy gets away with it. It’s not right.

KATIE

(Dramatically, to the camera) No, it’s certainly not. (Back to LYNN) The doctors at County have commented that there is a chance he does not wake up. How would you feel if that were to happen?

LYNN

I don’t think I’d feel anything.

KATIE

Nothing at all?

LYNN

What should I feel? Guilt? No, it wasn’t my fault. He attacked me. Sadness? Why? That’s one less asshole out there attacking women.

KATIE

Relieved? Powerful? Proud?

LYNN

I don’t know. It’s complicated, I guess.

KATIE

I’ve seen quite a few posts on social media about this situation, and there are some who are critical of you. How do you respond to the folks saying that you went too far?

LYNN

I was defending myself.

KATIE

To those who say you could have taken the knife and ran away to get help rather than stabbing him?

LYNN

And he could have run away before the police go there. And he could have found another park and another woman who maybe wouldn’t have been able to fight him off—

KATIE

To those who say let the police do their jobs—

LYNN

And I did once they—

KATIE

A complicated situation indeed.

LYNN

Well, no, it’s not complicated. There’s nothing complicated about fighting back when someone attacks you. Anyone who wants to criticize me, you don’t know what it’s like. You don’t know what it feels like to be grabbed and forced down and held down and feel helpless and vulnerable, when all you wanted to do was go for a run in the park.

KATIE

And certainly, no one wants to be in that terrifying, harrowing position.

LYNN

And yet they are. Every day.

KATIE

(To the camera) Every day. A truly terrifying thought. (To Lynn) So one final question. Is there anything you might want to say to those who are cheering you on? The women and the girls who see you as a hero? Anything for them?

LYNN

To the women? No. I don’t have anything for them. I have a message for the men. (Looking right at the camera) Stop assaulting women. Stop raping women. Stop hitting women. Stop abusing women. Stop harassing women. You’re not impressing anyone. You’re fucking pathetic. That’s the message I have for the men and the message we as a society should all have. It’s the only fucking message that needs to be out there.

KATIE

Well those are strong words.

LYNN

Yeah, well they are the right words. 

KATIE

Strong words from a strong, savage, aggressive woman. Thank you, Lynn Bennett, for joining us today. A tough as nail woman who know how to put up a vicious fight. I’m Katie Purcell. We’ll keep you updated on this story as it continues to unfold. Until then, ladies, go get some pepper spray!

LYNN

Are you fucking kidding me?

LYNN stands, takes off her microphone and exits.

 

KATIE

(Looking out) We can edit that last part, right?

 

The light fades on KATIE as LYNN crosses to a spot on the other side of the stage, presumably her apartment. She sits on a chair, picks up a television remote and points it out toward the audience. A spotlight returns on KATIE, speaking to the camera.

 

KATIE

We have just learned that Edward Mackler, the man who attacked jogger Lynn Bennett on September 4th, has just died from complications from the stab wound he received during that attack. It was only a few days ago that Ms. Bennett was here for an exclusive interview where she revealed she did not feel any remorse for his now fatal wound to the throat. Ms. Bennett was not available for comment when we tried to reach out to her once we learned of this recent news. We can only wonder what she may be feeling now.

Spotlight down on KATIE as LYNN turns off her television. She stares out for a beat, clearly absorbing the news. There is no discernable emotion, just thoughts. Lights down.

End of play.      

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