I will never give her inventions clever names, they will always be The Machine   Leave a comment

Valedictorian: Do you know what this machine does, Maggie?
Maggie: No?
Valedictorian: Did you know that the human body is the perfect conduit for quantum energy, Maggie?
Maggie: No?
Valedictorian: Well I did! And if my calculations are correct (and they are, because I am the Valedictorian, the smartest person in my graduating class), then once this machine is turned on, I will have all the energy I need to destroy the White House! But you won’t be around for all that! You will be the first meal for my machine! No matter. It’s only a pity that you won’t see the anarchy, and your beloved Washington D.C. burning to ashes!

This exchange always bothered me. Even when I first wrote it. Even when I sent it off to Sterling Playmakers for consideration in their one-act play. Even as the wonderful Sara Gray and Leandra Lynn memorized it and performed it with proper hamminess. I just…always hated it. For the first several drafts, this exchange was simply [mad science]

Part of the reason I hate it is for the same reason The Matrix doesn’t work: humans are a terrible conductor of energy. I knew it then. I know it now. But the Machine had to be deadly. Just, like, lethal, all the time, for sciencey purposes.

Now I’ve written several plays, some with Valedictorian, all with Maggie in them. I have a much better sense of the characters. The Valedictorian is driven by a need to control everything, and also she needs funding, desperately. She’s callous and immoral and doesn’t really care who lives and who dies, except that she would prefer to live (and maybe Robster can live too). The Valedictorian that I know wouldn’t actively try to kill someone. That would be a waste of everyone’s time.

The problem is that I love this exchange so much:

Valedictorian: It’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Or is it 1400? I always forget.
Rob: I think 1400 is from that Simpsons episode where Lisa was the President.
Valedictorian: Really?
Rob: I think. Now you have me confused.

This makes me giggle even years after I’ve written it. I can’t even explain why. There are funnier lines. There are more clever exchanges. I don’t even think this got a laugh when it was performed. But I can’t make myself get rid of it. And because I can’t get rid of it, I’m stuck with the terrible mad science above. Without that dialogue, Valedictorian and Robster have no reason to remember the address for the White House.

…Unless the Valedictorian wants to try to exchange brains with the President and needs to make sure that the Machine works without killing either subject?

Oh man that could totally work.

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