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Lola B. Pierson’s “Office Ladies”

Lola B. Pierson’s “Office Ladies”
Lola B. Pierson

Lola B. Pierson

This is our first Revisionings to look at a piece of drama! Lola B. Pierson is a crucial member Baltimore’s grassroots theater scene, both as a writer-director and as the founder of Baltimore’s insanely popular Ten Minute Play Festival. Here’s Lola:

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These are two drafts from Office Ladies, which is a show I wrote and directed several years ago. It feels slightly embarrassing to present the second draft as the finished draft, but I’ll just call it the most recent draft even though I haven’t touched it in several years. Plays always feel a bit easier to rewrite because you’re able to hear actors read them aloud and they give you their impressions of how well the language is working (or isn’t working) simply by how they deliver a line.

Version 4: Scene 7

Lights up on Marisabel and Rosie.

MARISABEL
You are doing a terrible job.

ROSIE
I have secrets.

MARISABEL
No you don’t.

ROSIE
I have secrets like
(Whispering to the audience)
I am covered in tiny scabs.
(Regular voice to Marisabel)
Is that bad?

MARISABEL
I don’t know. How long has it been that way?

ROSIE
I guess forever starting now.

MARISABEL
It’s okay. You’ll get new skin tomorrow.

ROSIE
What?

Lola enters. Walks directly down center. Confesses.

LOLA
I don’t even really like theatre that much any more. At first, when you are young, you discover something remarkable and magnificent and you know it immediately: this is the thing I have been searching for my entire life. This is the thing I will spend the rest of my life looking for. And once you find it once, it gets easy to find, and then soon enough you’re finding it everywhere and all of a sudden the whole world seems to be full of remarkable things. And you are living the most remarkable life, knowing the best people, and doing the coolest things, knowing that regular life doesn’t even come close to what you’re doing. And then one day it cracks and suddenly nothing seems remarkable and you don’t care when good things happen and you don’t care when people you know die. Because everything has become something that can’t measure up to the greatest thing.

HER FATHER
This is a play about the atomic bomb.

LOLA
It clearly isn’t.

HER FATHER
This is a play about the thing you cannot come back from.

LOLA
That’s only maybe true.

HER FATHER
This was supposed to be a play about the atomic bomb.

LOLA
I have secrets too. I have secrets like
(whispering)
In the winter you can make yourself a hot shake using oatmeal and bananas. I call this a hot oatmeal shake.

BLANCHE
That sounds like a dance.

HER FATHER
The ants grow tiresome.

FOUMI
And that rhymes with ants! The ants grow tired. Some.

HER FATHER
In response to pressure–

LOLA
Fine, You tell a secret.

HER FATHER
(Whispering)
Nothing is more exciting to me than the sight of a mushroom cloud.

LOLA
Is that true?
(Pause, no response)
I have never been divorced, but I left my father and for me that was the same thing. For some people that is the same thing.

FOUMI
I come from ants like some people come from money.

LOLA
I have been having a lot of trouble writing lately.

BLANCHE
Get to work!

LOLA
I have been trying to write this play, but I have been sad and I’ve been unfocused because my father died.

MARISABEL
No he didn’t.

LOLA
No, he didn’t, but I did move out of his house and it hasn’t really ever been the same between us since.


They were a number of pretty big changes that I made to this scene. Some of them reflected larger structural changes in the play and others just made the scene flow better. I changed the character from “Lola” to “Self.” I also cut the lengthy monologue about theatre, though that bled into some other scenes in the play. The character of “Her Father” got an increasingly big role because the whole thing with the atomic bomb ending up being much more important to the play than the idea of making a play and metatheatricality. Every single time I rewrite a play I have to get rid of the more writery lines in favor of dialogue that sounds natural, or at the very least funny. I usually try to make things lighter in rewrites and flow a little faster than they did. My earlier drafts always end up feeling unbelievably clunky.

Version 9: Scene 7

Lights up on Self.

SELF
I have a lot of secrets.

ROSIE
No you don’t.
SELF
Yes, I do! I have secrets like,
(whispering to the audience)
I have little tiny scabs all over me.
(Yelling voice)
Is that bad?

ROSIE
I don’t know. How long has it been that way?

SELF
I guess forever. Starting now.

Lights up on Rosie.

HER FATHER
This is a play about the atomic bomb.

SELF
It clearly isn’t.

HER FATHER
This is a play about the thing you cannot come back from.

SELF
That’s only maybe true.

HER FATHER
This was supposed to be a play about the atomic bomb.

ROSIE
You know, I have secrets too. I have secrets like,
(whispering)
In the winter you can make yourself a hot shake using oatmeal and bananas. I call this a hot oatmeal shake.

HER FATHER
In response to pressure–

SELF
Fine, You tell a secret.

HER FATHER
Nothing is more exciting to me than the sight of a mushroom cloud.

SELF
Is that true?

HER FATHER
A mushroom cloud is a distinctive pyrocumulus, or fire cloud, made of condensed water vapor or debris resulting from a very large explosion. They are most commonly associated with nuclear explosions.

SELF
You think the aftermath of an atomic bomb causes the most beautiful picture in the world?

HER FATHER
Mister Kirchen, You know what the kids are going to find in their stockings when they wake up Christmas Morning? ’Tomic bombs, hehehehehe.

FOUMI
Can I tell some secrets too? I’ve got some good ones about ants.

SELF
Um…

FOUMI
Like, here’s one:
(Whispering)
Modern day ants evolved from prehistoric wasp-like insects and they are very, very good teachers.

HER FATHER
On August 6, 1945 three planes were sent to drop”Little Boy” over Hiroshima. Because of the large risk of civilian casualties and great financial cost involved in shooting down aircraft, the Japanese military policy was to generally avoid armed conflict with smaller formations of planes. They did not predict that such a large amount of destruction would be delivered by such a small squadron. Or such a small flight, rather, “squadron” refers to a larger number of planes. At 8:15 the the gravity bomb, “Little Boy” was dropped from an altitude of 31,060 feet. It fell for 43 seconds to height of 1,968 feet above the city. Roughly 80,000 people were killed the day of the first bomb by either the blast itself or the attendant firestorm. Because of its proximity to downtown area the blast also succeeded in killing 90 percent of Hiroshima’s doctors and 93 percent of its nurses, leaving few to deal with the multitude of injured civilians. Three days later a second “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki, its secondary target. Though it relied on plutonium as opposed to uranium for its explosion, it also fell for 43 seconds before detonating. Immediate casualty estimates for “Fat Man” range from between 40 and 75,000 people. The pilots who delivered the bombs felt a great sense of loss the very second after the bombs were released, but it wasn’t a guilt over what they had done it was that they missed their cargo. It is a feeling that they never fully recovered from and some of them reflected on it on their death beds.

SELF
(Pause, no response)
I have never been divorced, but I left my father and for me that was the same thing. For some people that is the same thing.

HER FATHER
Boom.

ROSIE
(Whispering)
A hot oatmeal shake makes an excellent treat on a cold December morning.

FOUMI
“Hot oatmeal shake” sounds like a dance.

MARISABEL
I have a secret, too. Mine is about water.

FOUMI
Ug. It’s ALWAYS about water.

SELF
This is all making me very very nervous!

FOUMI
I come from ants like some people come from money.
Pause.
Yelling secrets!

SELF
I have been having a lot of trouble getting anything done lately. I have been sad and I’ve been unfocused because my father died.

MARISABEL
No he didn’t.

SELF
No, he didn’t, but I did move out of his house and it hasn’t really ever been the same between us since.

MARISABEL
That’s not the same thing at all.


Baltimore native Lola B. Pierson is a playwright, writer, and director. She is the co-artistic director of The Acme Corporation and the creator of Baltimore’s Ten Minute Play Festival. Lola holds a B.A. in Human Rights and Playwriting from Bard College and a MFA in Theatre Arts from Towson University. She has been awarded “Best New Playwright” by the Baltimore City Paper and her production of Beckett’s Play won “Best Production of the Year.” Most recently she is the recipient of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance’s Ruby Award for Literary Arts and the Baltimore City Paper‘s “Best of Baltimore” for her production of Peter Handke’s Kaspar.

Param Anand Singh

Param Anand Singh is a poet and translator who used to be called R.M. O'Brien. A sticker he made might be in a movie.

About The Author

Param Anand Singh

Param Anand Singh is a poet and translator who used to be called R.M. O'Brien. A sticker he made might be in a movie.

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