THE SUBJECT

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Philip Waterhouse is losing it. Two years after filming the brutal death of a fourteen year-old kid for a gritty documentary about gang violence, he is finally getting the recognition he’s always hoped for. But he’s also getting a lot of criticism. From the press, from his friends, and worst of all, from Leslie Barnes, the mother of the victim. When Leslie begins to video-stalk Philip, he has no choice but to confront both her and the possibility that he may be more culpable than he’s been willing to admit.

Read Sample

(Outside the working class home of Malcolm Barnes.
Phil is filming Malcolm and Malcolm is reaching for
the camera. Phil evades him.)

MALCOLM
Come on, man! I ain’t gonna break it…

PHIL
It’s not the camera I’m worried about you breaking. It’s the Rules of Documentary…

MALCOLM
Come on, it’s just us! We just playin’ around. I ain’t aksin’ you to put what I record in the movie or whateva. Yet.

PHIL
Yet?

MALCOLM
I’m sayin’: what if what I record is the hottest shit anybody ever seen?

PHIL
I doubt that.

(Malcolm stops reaching for the camera.
He looks offended.)

MALCOLM
What’s that supposed to mean? You ‘on’t think I got good ideas for a movie?

PHIL
No, that’s not what I’m saying at all…

MALCOLM
Because I do. I do got good ideas.

PHIL
I’m sure you do, but that’s not what I meant. I just meant that you’d be shooting me…

MALCOLM
Shooting you?

PHIL
You’d be filming me. Recording me. I don’t think I’d make a particularly hot subject.

MALCOLM
Why not?

(Phil considers for a moment.)

PHIL
…Alright.

(Phil offers the camera to Malcolm.
Malcolm takes it.)

MALCOLM rec)
Tha’s what I’m talkin’ about…!

PHIL
Just for a few minutes, though.
(about the camera)
It’s pretty simple. Just aim and shoot.

MALCOLM
(steadying the camera)
Aim and shoot… this ain’t nothin’. I could do this…

(Phil shrinks a little.)

MALCOLM
(teasing)
Aaaah, how that feel? You ‘on’t like that shit, do you? You ‘on’t like bein’ on the othuh side…

PHIL
(reaching for the camera)
Well, if you’re going to be like that…

MALCOLM
Naw, I’m just messin’ witchu! I’ll be good now. I’m serious. I’m good…

(Malcolm gets serious. Phil folds his
arms across his chest.)

MALCOLM (cont.)
Okay, so… lemme aks you a question…

PHIL
Shoot.

MALCOLM
I am shootin’.

PHIL
No, I mean… never mind. What’s your question?

MALCOLM
…How did you get into the business of makin’ movies?

PHIL
Well… I’ve always been a big fan of film… all kinds of film. I mean, I could watch any genre movie and enjoy it… comedy, mystery, horror…

MALCOLM
Me too…

PHIL
But the ones that really appealed to me were documentaries.

MALCOLM
How come?

PHIL
Because. Because I liked the idea that art was just… happening. All around. It was just unfolding. And I wanted to be where it was unfolding. I wanted to catch it. Preserve it. So I could give it to other people and they could be moved by it like I am.

MALCOLM
So… you think of me like art?

PHIL
… Yeah. I do.

MALCOLM
Tha’s cool.

PHIL
I think so.

MALCOLM
Could you teach me?

PHIL
Teach you what?

MALCOLM
How to see art?

PHIL
Well… I’m not sure that anyone can really teach—

MALCOLM
(kind of excited)
Cuz like right now, right? I think I could see whatchu see. I think I see like you see. I think I see art—even in you—but I ‘on’t know for sure cuz… you know… I ain’t no expert or nothin’. But you a expert. So you could teach me. And that’s my idea for the movie…

PHIL
Your idea?

MALCOLM
Yeah. We could make the rest of the movie about you teachin’ me how to make movies. Tha’s hot, right?

PHIL
Uh…

MALCOLM
Think about it: you start out makin’ a movie about a kid who wanna join a gang…

PHIL
A brothahood.

MALCOLM
Right. But you end up savin’ him from a life of crime wit’ your… your art and shit. So your movie become more than just a movie. It’ll become like… like a message, right? A message for people to help othuh people. And you’d look like a hero. And I’d get to live past twenty-five.

PHIL
I… I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that, Malcolm.

MALCOLM
Why not?

PHIL
Well, for starters… I already told you: I went to school for this.

MALCOLM
What school you go to?

PHIL
Uh… UCLA…

MALCOLM
For real? Right here in L.A.? What kind of stuff they teach you?

PHIL
(becoming flustered)
Well… it was… a lot of technical stuff… a lot of jargon… angles and cuts and editing… also a lot of the business aspects… it took seven years and about twenty professors…

MALCOLM
I could do that.

PHIL
It’s expensive.

MALCOLM
They got scholarships, don’t they?

PHIL
Yeah but… what do you have going for you as a candidate? What do your grades look like? What sorts of extracurriculars are you involved in? I mean ones that don’t involve guns and graffiti…

MALCOLM
I ‘on’t got no gun.

PHIL
Yeah but your “brothas” do. And what do you think they’re going to do when they find out that you want to quit the brothahood to go make art?

(Malcolm considers for a moment. He
hands the camera back to Phil.)

MALCOLM
You right.

PHIL
I’m sorry, Malcolm, but—

MALCOLM
(hiding his hurt)
Naw, it’s cool. You right. It was just a idea.

Cast Requirements

2 White Men (l30's/40's)
1 Black Man (teen-looking)
1 Latina (30's/40's)
1 Black Woman (40's)
1 Racially Ambiguous Woman (20's/30's)

Set Description

Los Angeles, present

Honors

Victory Gardens' Ignition Selection

Production and Development History

Commissioned by Atlantic Theater Company (2008). Then readingsreadingsreadingsreadingsreadings. Soooooooo, so very many readings.