Shelli Pentimall Bookler has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting from Temple University, a Master of Arts degree in Theatre Arts from Eastern Michigan University and studied at The Actor’s Studio at New School University in New York City. Several of her original plays have been produced in the Philadelphia area including Addicted, Bird in the Window, All the Dead Biddles, and Snyder v Phelps the Musical. Most of her plays are based in voicing the voiceless, and reflect current social issues. She values

theatricality, realism, vulnerability and edginess in her scripts and tries to spark dialogue and introspection once the play ends. She was a winner of the New American Voices Playwriting Series by Landing Theatre Company (Pieces of the Pie), semi-finalist in the American Association of Community Theatre (Bird in the Window and Pieces of the Pie), and the Garry Marshall New Works Festival (Call Me Abigail). She is a member of the Witherspoon Circle, the Philadelphia Dramatist Center, and the Dramatist Guild. She is also an actor, director and choreographer in the Philadelphia theatre community.

The Shame Play

Shelli Pentimall Bookler

SYNOPSIS

Shaming reflects our culture of shaming one another. From micro aggressions to overt criticism on social media, we cannot escape hearing what others think of us, and often cannot help but to allow the comments to damage and hurt us. In this play, we see three characters who represent three types of victims of shaming and the dangerous consequences of it. We also see how we can rise up against the shaming and take control and find empathy and compassion for one another despite the negativity and dehumanization that surrounds us all.

CHARACTERS

ALEX: M or non-binary, the boy who wants to be the girl

BEA: F, the perfectionist

CICI: F, the plus size

Shaming is performed on a bare stage with minimal props.

ALEX, BEA and CICI enter down stage. They each wear all black, but all in some outfit that reflects their character. They line up facing the audience.

They speak to the audience.

ALEX

Shame. Noun. A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or

foolish behavior.

BEA

Shame. Verb. To make someone feel ashamed.

CICI

A feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something.

ALEX

Shame on you.

CICI

A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.

BEA

The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another, as in ‘she was overcome with shame’

ALEX

A disgrace

CICI

What did you do?

BEA

La vergüenza in Spanish.

CICI

A painful feeling that's a mix of regret, self-hate, and dishonor.

ALEX

You shamed the family.

BEA

La honte in French.

CICI

Shame on you.

BEA

For talking back to your mother

ALEX

Shame on you

BEA

Die Schande.

ALEX

Shame on you

BEA

Haji.

ALEX

Did you cheat on the test?

CICI

Did you cheat on your diet?

ALEX

Did you cheat on your husband?

BEA

Aibu wewe.

ALEX

You freak.

CICI

I am so embarrassed by you.

BEA

You should be ashamed of yourself.

ALEX

Shame

CICI

Did you eat that whole pie?

BEA

Chi.

ALEX

What the hell are you wearing?

CICI

Shame

BEA

You came in second?

CICI

I can't believe you ate the whole pie.

BEA

Second is the first loser.

ALEX , BEA. CICI

Shame

ALEX

What will the neighbors think?

BEA

What will your grandfather think?

CICI

Is that whipped cream on your face?

BEA

Shame

ALEX, CICI

You make me sick

BEA

La vergogna.

ALEX

Shame

BEA, CICI

You worthless piece of 

ALEX

Shame

ALEX, BEA

I can't even look at you right now

CICI

Shame

BEA

After all he's been through

ALEX

After all we've done for you

BEA

Sarma ki bata hai.

ALEX, CICI

Have you even looked in a mirror?

(A beat.)

BEA

I am so ashamed.

ALL (whispered)

Shame.

ALEX and CICI slowly exit the stage leaving BEA in a spotlight. BEA speaks directly to the audience.

BEA

I was in fifth grade and was in Mrs. Solstace’s class for writing. We had a homework assignment on

identifying and creating slogans. First we had to match the popular slogan with the product, then second we had to create an original slogan for the products. The first part was simple—“Mmm mmm good” Campbell’s soup. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” M &Ms “Just do it” Nike. Please—any of us ‘latchkey kids’ who used television as a baby sitter recognized those. The next part was more challenging. We had to identify our favorite beverage, favorite restaurant, and favorite snack and come up with an original slogan for each on a worksheet she had given us. It was due the next day. This – this was problematic. You see, I identified my favorite beverage, Nesquick chocolate milk; my favorite restaurant, Wendy’s; and my favorite snack, Fritos. Clearly my parents did not cook. It was an immediate and decisive decision. But then—the perfect slogan. I began with the first- Nesquick. Chocolate milk, healthy, tastes good, easy for children to make. There’s a cartoon rabbit on the label. The text reads 7 vitamins and minerals, no artificial colors or flavors. I needed a slogan, catchy and unique. But here’s the problem—was I pitching it for parents, or for kids? I would later find out this is called 'demographics.' Depending on who you wanted to target, the slogan would be different. I tried a few: Nesquick, every drop counts. Nesquick, you’ll want to lick the glass clean. Nesquick, good to the last drop—no! Already taken. I scribbled out over 30 different slogans for just the first product until I found the perfect pitch. It took me literally all night to find the perfect one, and I was so proud of the final product. Unfortunately I ran out of time to complete the ones for Wendy’s and Fritos. We turned in the worksheet the next morning. Mrs. Solstace sat on the edge of her desk and began going through each of them.

CICI enters as Mrs. Solstace.

CICI

Devin, excellent, very creative. Barbara Jean, I like your choices. Everett, clear and concise, bravo! Jose, yes, yes, that’s my favorite too...

BEA

Then she came to mine. I sat tall in my seat waiting for the praise of my unique, interesting, catchy slogan that took me all night to finalize. I even pointed out on the sheet that it could easily transform into a jingle. I was waiting for her to ask me to sing it for the class. She held up my worksheet, advertising the scribbles, the cross outs, the changes, the process of creative genius, for everyone to see. I noticed she was holding it with only three fingers, as if it were contaminated or peed on, and said

CICI

No. No—this is not acceptable. Sloppy and incomplete. You should be ashamed to put your name on it.

CICI exits.

BEA

My face burned. My stomach dropped, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears as every student in the class turned to stare at me, scowling. (Beat) Never again. I made it my mission that I would never feel that again. I would strive for perfection, and expect perfection. No excuses.

She never even bothered to read my slogan. (Singing in a jingle format) Make your day delicious, Nesquick is nutritious—and good!

ALEX and CICI enter, stand on either side of BEA.

ALEX

Oh my God, did you see her face?

CICI

It was as red as a beet!

ALEX

She looked like she was going to pee herself.

CICI

She looked like she was going vomit.

ALEX

She looked like she was going to die!

CICI

Wouldn't you?

ALEX

Oh my God, yes, I would have just died if it were me.

CICI

Serves her right, she's a big snob.

ALEX

She is so stuck up.

CICI

Thinks she's better than everyone. 

ALEX

Well obviously she isn't!

CICI

Knocked her down a few pegs.

ALEX

I bet she peed herself a little.

ALEX, CICI

She’s ‘sloppy and incomplete!’

ALEX and BEA exit, leaving CICI standing on stage alone.

CICI

People don’t see me. They see my weight. I was once told at a job interview that I was a liability because of my weight. They were afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it up the stairs to the office floor without having a heart attack. There’s the look of disgust I get from diners when I am in a restaurant. And the servers giving me dirty looks when I don’t order from the “skinny” menu. When I walk into a store at the mall and the salesperson immediately says...

BEA pops in.

BEA

We don't have plus sizes here.

BEA exits.

CICI

People giving me dirty looks at the grocery store when I put anything but vegetables or Diet Pepsi in my cart. People on airplanes with their petrified looks until I walk past the empty seat next to them. The hair stylist giving me a surprised look when she sees how clean and cared for my hair is. The doctor giving me a dirty look when she sees my weight on the chart. You know, a study from the University of Pennsylvania states that more than half of the 620 doctors surveyed characterize obese patients as 'awkward,' 'unattractive,' 'ugly,' and ‘noncompliant’. More than 1/3 of them regarded obese individuals as ‘weak willed’, ‘sloppy’, and ‘lazy’.

ALEX enters as doctor.

ALEX

You've lost 24 pounds.

CICI

I’ve had pneumonia for three weeks.

ALEX

Keep up the good work!

CICI

And the next year...

ALEX

I see you’ve gained a lot of weight in the past six months. Do you have an exercise routine?

CICI

I go to the gym five days a week.

ALEX

Do you work out or are you just drinking the smoothies?

CICI

I was in the ER this weekend and they said I have a gall bladder infection. They gave me antibiotics and said to see a surgeon.

ALEX

Looks like I haven't received the medical records yet.

CICI

Could you tell me about some options? This isn't the first time I've had an infection.

ALEX

Have you considered weight loss surgery?

CICI

To cure a gall bladder infection?

ALEX

A fatty liver can cause gall stones.

CICI

Don’t you want to see the blood work and records first?

ALEX

I can tell you have a fatty liver by looking at you.

 

CICI

I go to the dentist.

BEA enters as dentist.

BEA

You seem to have some erosion on the back of your teeth.

CICI

I’ve been seeing a therapist for bulimia.

BEA

Well no wonder you look so good!

CICI

And then there's my own family. Thanksgiving with my mom and sister...

ALEX (as sister)

You're fat shaming.

BEA (as mom)

I’m not fat shaming. I’m giving incentive.

ALEX

By humiliating her?

BEA

By pushing her to fix herself. 

ALEX

She's not broken!

BEA

She's unhealthy.

ALEX

And now she’ll starve herself and be unhealthy on another extreme.

BEA

Don’t be so dramatic. She can afford to skip a meal or two.

ALEX

Not eating is as bad as overeating.

BEA

Diabetes runs in our family—my Uncle Darren—

ALEX

Had type one diabetes which is not related to weight, it’s genetic. I am just as at risk.

BEA

Obesity leads to heart problems—My Aunt Greta—

ALEX

... Smoked two packs a day for fifty seven years! Maybe that has something to do with her heart.

BEA

Doctors say weight can also lead to heart disease.

ALEX

And fat shaming leads to depression and anxiety which also affects the heart—

BEA

You sound like some sentimental poet.

ALEX

And you sound like a jackass.

BEA

What did I say that was so bad? I was just trying to help!

ALEX

Well you aren’t helping. You’re hurting her.

ALEX and BEA exit.

CICI

Most of the time people don’t know they are fat shaming. A lot of times they do. I’m not sure which hurts more.

ALEX and BEA enter again and stand to each side of CICI.

ALEX

You’re so fat the only thing stopping you from Weight Watchers is the door.

BEA

You’re so fat Goodyear wanted to fly you around the Superbowl.

ALEX

You’re so fat when you step on a scale it says “fail”.

BEA

You’re so fat I took a picture of you last year and it’s still printing.

ALEX

Hey, you have something on your chin... no, the third one down.

BEA

Behind every fat person, there's someone beautiful... no, seriously, you're in the way. 

ALEX

The bakery called, they want their rolls back.

CICI

People don’t see me. They see my weight. That’s what hurts the most.

ALEX

What hurts the most?

BEA and CICI exit.

ALEX

I was four years old. My mom was reading me a story called On the Night You Were Born. She said when I was born the polar bears danced, the moon shined bright, the geese sang, the little birds waited to see me smile. And the lady bugs, the lady bugs watched and waited. The lady bugs stayed on the flowers to see me. And I said to my mom that I was a lady bug. She said, no, I was a big strong bear. I said no, mama, I know I’m a little lady bug. And she said ‘Don’t ever let your father hear you say that'. She put the book away and I never saw it again. From that moment on it was GI Joe dolls, toy trucks, dinosaurs, but all I wanted was babydolls, pink ponies, princess castles. But I never got that. So I made friends with the other little girls, who brought me to their homes to play with their toys. Once we played ‘movie stars.’ We went into her mom’s bedroom and put makeup on each other, and put barrettes in our hair. My mother took one look at us, grabbed me, pulled me into the car, took me home and sat me right in front of my father. The look on his face, I’ll never forget. Complete disgust. Hatred. Repulsion. I will never forget what they said.

BEA and CICI enter as mom and dad.

BEA

You're a freak.

CICI

Is this what we raised?

BEA

You are an embarrassment.

CICI

You disgust me.

BEA

I'll teach you to be a man.

 

CICI

You will be a man.

ALEX

My father grabbed his clippers and I watched the tufts of my hair fall to the floor along with my tears. I pretended they were feathers from a beautiful bird that would one day help me to fly away from there. My mother scrubbed my face til my skin was raw. I was beaten into what my parents wanted me to be, not who I was. I knew who I was and that I just had to wait. To wait until I could be me without being beaten. Til I could grow wings and fly. But it didn’t end when I left home. It was everywhere...

BEA

What are you?

CICI

Are you a boy or a girl?

ALEX

And it started to get to me

BEA

Fag!

CICI

Freak!

ALEX

I am a freak.

BEA

She-male!

CICI

You know God hates you, right?

ALEX

I hate me too.

BEA

You're disgusting.

ALEX

I disgust myself.

CICI

You should be ashamed.

ALEX

I am.

BEA

Shame.

CICI

Shame.

ALEX

I am ashamed.

BEA

How can you live like that?

ALEX

I can't.

CICI

You should kill yourself, you’re going to hell anyway.

ALEX

Maybe I will.

BEA, CICI

Shame shame shame shame shame...

ALEX

Enough! I did hate myself. And I didn’t want to live this way. Not like this. (A beat.) People don’t see me. Not the real me. Not the real me.

BEA opens her purse, pulls out a bright scarf, puts it on ALEX.

CICI

Shame.

BEA pulls out a colorful headband, puts it on ALEX.

CICI

Shame.

BEA pulls out a lipstick, puts it in ALEX’s lips.

CICI

Shame.

ALEX looks at CICI.

ALEX

Shame on you. For not seeing me. As a person. As a human being.

BEA

Shame on you. For not allowing me to be me, a person, with flaws, imperfect.

CICI

Shame on you. For not seeing me. For only seeing my weight and not the person inside.

BEA

I see you.

ALEX

I see you.

CICI

I see you.

ALEX

Beauty.

BEA

Kindness.

CICI

Compassion.

ALEX

Smart.

BEA

Sassy.

CICI

Fierce.

BEA

Imperfectly Me.

CICI

Unashamedly Me.

ALEX

Authentically Me.

End of play.