SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY

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An oddball kid named Tino befriends the cantankerous lunch lady at his crappy public school and becomes a hero in the process.

Read Sample

ACT 2, SCENE 3

A classroom where class is in session. An
attentive Tino sits, correcting a grammar test as
the TEACHER, whom we hear but do not see,
reviews.

TEACHER
Okay, anybody get number four correct?

(Tino raises his hand.)

TEACHER (cont.)
Anybody who’s not Tino?

(Tino puts his hand down.)

TEACHER (cont.)
It should be “their”—t-h-e-i-r. Can anybody tell me why?

(Tino raises his hand.)

TEACHER (cont.)
Anybody else? No? Okay, “their” is the plural possessive that lets us know that a thing, in this case the books, belong to them. Their books. A lot of you put t-h-e-r-e, but remember the trick I taught you? “There” is just “here” with a little extra. That’s how you know we’re talking about the location of a thing, right? Is it here? No, it’s there—t-h-e-r-e. Alright? That’s how you’ll remember which one you should use. Okay, number five…

(Tino very tentatively raises his hand.)

TEACHER (cont.)
Tino, I think you can give someone else a chance since you actually got this one wrong. Surprisingly.

TINO
But that’s the thing. I… I don’t think it’s wrong.

TEACHER
Oh, you don’t?

TINO
No, ma’am.

TEACHER
Okay, well let’s read it: The group of girls blank laughing too loudly. Should it be “is” or “are” in the blank?

(Unseen classmates respond in unison.)

CLASSMATES
Are!

TINO
But that’s… not right. I don’t think.

TEACHER
Tino, I know you know better than this. Girls is? Come on. This is why I don’t let my son listen to Hip Hop and all that mess because it un-teaches everything you learn in school.

TINO
But I don’t lis—

TEACHER
(cutting him off)
It keeps you ignorant. You all are dancing to your own ignorance, singing along to some “you is” and “they ain’t.” And that’s if they bother with a verb at all. They might just go, “you a stupid ho” and not even dignify your existence with an “are.” But Tino, you can’t sit there and tell me you think this should be “girls is.”

TINO
(becoming flustered)
I… don’t…

TEACHER
Right. Plural noun, plural verb. Everybody get that? Okay, then. Number six…

TINO
But “girls” isn’t the subject.

TEACHER
Tino. Do you hear yourself? You just did it again. “Girls isn’t.”

TINO
I mean the word “girls”—the singular word—isn’t the subject. The group—that’s the subject of the sentence, isn’t it? And it’s singular.

TEACHER
First of all, a group, by definition, can’t be singular.

TINO
Then how come you can say “a” group? Isn’t “a” supposed to be only for singular nouns? A group is a singular unit. That’s why we say “the group is.” We don’t say “the group are.” Right? The group is laughing too loudly…

TEACHER
But it’s the girls that are laughing. The girls are the subject.

TINO
(sooooo frustrated)
But… “the group of girls”… “of” is a preposition so—

TEACHER
(cutting him off again)
Tino, I’m going to need you to just go ahead and trust me on this. I’ve got decades of grammar usage under my belt. The girls are laughing. Not the girls is laughing. The end. Moving on...

TINO
(fed up with being dismissed)
BUT THE GROUP IS LAUGHING! And I don’t need decades of grammar usage to know that’s right!

(Pause. Tino knows he has gone too far. )

(End scene.)

Cast Requirements

1 black boy (12-ish)
1 black/Latinx girl (12-ish)
1 black woman (mid/late-30's)
1 black woman (over 55)
4 pre-recorded voices (preacher, teacher, principal, 911 operator)

Set Description

Various. (Working class living room, 2 bedrooms, classroom, principal's office, cafeteria, church.)

Production and Development History

Commissioned by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Writers' Theater of New Jersey.

Public reading at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere at Salt Lake Acting Company, Writers' Theater of New Jersey, and Red Twist Theater (Chicago).

New York City Premiere at Keen Theater Company.