Wednesday, October 27, 2010

30 Patriot Actors: Playing Real People by Erin Browne

This play was originally performed during the Patriot Project at Columbia University in 2007, with no less than 28 amazing actors! A logistical nightmare but probably one of the most fun and exciting experiences I've ever had making theater. It was directed or wrangled by Donya Washington. 

Actors included: Juliet O'Brien, Morgan Cox, Melisa Tien, Hollis Witherspoon, Georgia Luce, Alex Delgado, Alexis Macnab, Elizabeth Days, Nathan Wright, Kila Packet, Angelique Chapman, Maiken Wiese, Kate Lord, Lipicah Shah, Annie Deng, Paul Coffey, Stephanie Imperato, Wil Petre, Vivia Font, Jennifer Bowen, Carissa Cordes, Sarah Silk, Jeff de Picciotto, Jess Crandall, Cara Francis, Emily Roberts, Tina Chilip, and Taliesen Farmer. Sorry if I'm forgetting anyone. 

It was later performed in 2008 by Poliglot Theatre as part of Riot Act with many less actors. Sections of it have also been performed as part of Gone in 60 Seconds, a festival of 1 minute long plays in North Yorkshire, England. 

It is culled directly from quotes I gathered for months from my friends, family, and people on the street. 

Seems like an impossible play to produce but I promise you it's not - and if you take it on - it can be a really great text to play with. And as always - if you do, please let me know at

30 Patriot Actors: Playing Real People

by Erin Browne

Can be played with 2-60 actors but for the sake of this performance there will be 30 indicated by the numbers 1-30

The actors are placed throughout the space with some perhaps in the audience.

OPEN (should move rapidly):

1-I am a patriot

2 – I am a patriot

3. 4. – I am a patriot

5 – I’m a patriot

6. 7. 8. 9. – I am a patriot

10. 11. – We are patriots

12. – I’m a-

13 – I am a patriot

12. – patriot

14. 15. 16. 17. 18. – I am a patriot

19. – I’m a patriot

(Pause, everyone looks around)

20 – I’m a patriot

21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27.  – I am a patriot


29 – I’m a patriot

30. – I am a patriot

(all actors take one step to the right)


1. I want you.

2. I didn’t love my country before that moment.

3. Rosa Parks, may you rest in peace. An American.

4 takes the hand of a woman standing next to her.

4. I love this country, I do. But it’d be really nice if I could actually marry my wife. Legally marry my wife.

4 kisses the women’s hand and looks into her eyes, they kiss. 7, 12, 24 clap and throw rice. 

5. I finally got my citizenship. I didn’t want to because I had to deny allegiance to Israel, or any other country, and I couldn’t do that. But if I was going to study in London, I needed it, so I could come back and forth to see my family… I have to say the ceremony was pretty moving.

6. Andersonville, little known American atrocity.

7. History is always told by the victors.

8. I’d love to see Michael Moore and President Bush just full-on make out. I’d pay to see that. There’s heat in that much venom. Wouldn’t you?

25 looks over and shakes head, sticking her tongue out and making a vomit sign.

9. 10. 11. – I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

28. George Washington. Of course.

18. Of course?

28. Why not?

12. He was trying to make me sing the song. It was a football game, and I didn’t want to sing it or to stand, I never do. It was about a hundred and twenty degrees and I just wanted to play my stupid trumpet and get the ef outa there.

2. 22. – Go, fight, win!

12. But he started yelling at me about Nam and the whole crowd turned. But I wouldn’t stand. I wouldn’t sing it, I refused to sing a song I have no connection to or to stand for respect out of something I think is a lie. I refuse to lie. I did feel bad for him though. Poor old guy, teetering on some sense of righteousness. I mean, I guess once you believed the lies in Nam you just had to keep believing.  

13. What do you do when your own country turns against you, starts hunting you for who’s dinner party you’ve attended?

1. Dixie Chicks, hey, I’m not into your music but you stand your ground girls.

30. I knew I wasn’t going to win but I had to run anyway.

14. Interment camps

15. Harriet Tubman

16. What do you do when your government programs you to kill and doesn’t program you to stop?

29. It was a greencard marriage

17. My family’s been in Brazil for how many years now, a full generation and a half I guess. And I’m here. But my Bubbe still says she’s German. My Bubbe still says she’s a German Jew. How do you swallow that one?

19. Al Gore.

4. He told you so.

20. I can’t even visit my mom and dad, I can but it’s… I haven’t in eight years. They can’t even see how I live here. I have one foot here and one foot there, and in the middle is a war. A war half of this country doesn’t even know is still going on. The worst part is, I really like my parents.

21. After the towers fell, I decided I had to do something different with my life. Being an actor just wasn’t cutting it. I was temping for this company and was supposed to be in the buildings that day. I called in sick. I was frustrated. Sick of auditioning and working a day job I hated. Then everyone who had been sitting around me the day before was dead. Something had to change. So, I trained for and was accepted into the air force. I fly to Iraq at least once a month.

22. Slavery.

4. It was our land first.

23. Ben Franklin. Inventor or Statesman?

24. What do you do when your government lies to you?

25. And they do it all the time.

26. That Chinese immigrant who invented the plane before the Wright Brothers.

27. Don’t be afraid.

28. They’re so cute. They’re so American. They’re just so into all the holidays.

29. Yeah, give em a few years.

30. I said if he won, I’d move to Canada. And I did. Been here ever since. It’s cold as hell but I love it. Wouldn’t move back if you paid me.

1. Four little girls were killed this morning

2. Yes, I live on a reservation. Yes, I look white and I live on a reservation. Fuck you for thinking you know who I am by looking at my face.

3. After September, some of the teachers started using the pledge as a weapon. Forcing kids to stand and recite over and over again. The Muslim kids were getting enough flack already, they didn’t need any fuel put on the fire of that dangerous brand of patriotic fanaticism. So, in my classroom there was no pressure. If you wanted to say it, you could say it. If you didn’t you could quietly go about your morning tasks as I did. Sometimes I would say it, sometimes I spent the time measuring exactly even cups of soil into tiny pots so we could plant our beans without dispute. Well, every school has that one teacher that scares all the children into singing America the Beautiful when no one has even taught them the words. That, um, patriot. This year he found it his duty to roam the halls during pledge, checking for participation. Once he came into my class, and started demanding all the children and even the parents who were still lingering, reluctant to let go of their babies hands, he was demanding loudly that they say the pledge. Many of these parents didn’t even speak English and were visibly frightened. Some children tried to translate what Gil was almost yelling into Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Russian. But I got really angry and asked him to leave the room, pay attention to his own oft-neglected class. It’s the only time I ever allowed my voice to raise in anger in front of the kids all year. Gil never entered my classroom again but stared daggers at me at assemblies and staff meetings. I did get a really nice present from the parents at the kindergarten graduation. They gave me flowers and a gift certificate to Century 21. They knew I’d like that.

4. There are multiple sides to every story but I only choose mine.

5. We gave them thirty thousand dollars. It doesn’t make up for a life without your father. But it was something. What is ever enough?

6. I’m Hawaiian, what does that mean? Am I American too? I don’t feel American.

7. I’m Alaskan…

8. I’m Puerto Rican.

9. It was during the time of the tit for tat killings and I walked into this pub on Halloween and said, “Trick or Treat.” This woman turned to me and said, “That’s not funny.” And then this guy walked in, opened fire and killed eleven. Shot eleven people. There were just bars you weren’t supposed to go into then. But you almost never get that here. We never get that here. No one ever says to me, oh you’re from Derry. It’s just, mate you’re Irish. 

10. Henry Ford

11. But he was a Nazi. Donated thousands to the Nazi party.

10. Even so.

12. Blacklists.

13. How dare you try to eroticize us. This is my country too.

14. You know, I know it sounds cheesy, but when I open my door in the morning and leave for work. I look at my neighborhood and walk to my car. I thank god we’re in America now. I say, thank you god.

15. Fuck this country.

16. My vote cancels out your vote.

17. So why should we bother going?

16. I don’t know, good point.

18. The rate of divorce for returning vets is over 80 percent. I quote this statistic to my wife, to prove to her that we’re normal. I say, “Honey look we’re just like everybody else. Who knew?” But she’s unamused. She’s unamused a lot these days.  

30. I think the number was more like 70 percent.

18. What?

30. It’s more like 70 percent of returning soldier’s marriages end almost immediately in divorce. I read that article.

18. I think you’re missing the point. 

19. I’m here, aren’t I?

20. Cindy Sheehan

11. My parents lived in Tel Aviv. We never thought that their bus would be bombed when they were on vacation in Egypt. I said to my mother, after my dad was murdered, “Move here, move here, live with us.” But she won’t leave. She won’t come here, and I don’t blame her, I miss it.  

22. The first time I voted it was part of the “popular vote.” (uses finger quotes)

23. If I have to explain the electoral college to one more Brit or Aussie, I swear to god I’m gonna- like why the hell do your barristers still wear wigs? Explain that one to me. Now that’s just weird.

24. That was a long march.

25. I feel like I’ve done my duty to the cause.

24. Me too. Let’s get brunch.

26. I just don’t feel American. I grew up in poverty. America betrayed me at every level of basic necessity. Food, health care, housing, education. Now, I live in Paris. I love Paris. No one asks me what high school I went to or congratulates me on scrapping my way out of the gutter to make it into such a good college. I am just me. The American who speaks decent French. So, I guess I do feel American but it took me leaving the states to feel that.  

27. Do you know a single sentence of the Constitution by heart? It’s got sections that are breathtakingly beautiful.


29. Would you quiet down a little bit. That’s like right in my ear.

28. You are welcome to step away.

29. I shouldn’t have to.

30. I had my gun to his head, and I thought, I don’t want to kill this guy. Does any human being ever want to kill someone else? But I pulled the trigger because he was an enemy to my country and that made him an enemy to me. It’s patriotic to fight.

2. Ruby Bridges.

4. It’s a total conspiracy.

6. Dude, lay off the drugs.

8. What, I’m supposed to say something patriotic? God bless America. How’s that?

10. What do you do when you’re government lies to you?

12. I am my family. My family is… I’ll write it down for you- Steps to a chalk board
Swedish (Oregon trail)
Native American
“French” (it says French on my mom’s adoption certificate but anyone looking at her would know she’s not French, but she believes in this mythology so who am I to argue?)
Irish-Canadian (potato famine)
German (indentured servant)
I have no idea where my British last name came from.
What I identify with most. Mexican, Swedish, Irish. (Underlines them)
Equals (draws an equals sign) American (adds a “?”)
I don’t know.

15. The Constitution once called me 3/5’s of a person. How can you align that with…?

5. With anything… How can you justify that?

16. Fight the power.

18. I’m not going to wax poetic about it, I’m just saying, some of it is pretty good. Sometimes. 

9. You Americans, your carbon footprint is huge.

22. And that is called prejudice.

24. Who’s Paul Revere? I forget, the horse guy right?

26. Freedom of speech does not include KKK parades.

28. My grandparents were imprisoned in an internment camp right here in Oswego, New York. Yeah, bet you didn’t know they had those around here did you? 

29. It was more of a refuge camp. Actually.

28. Tell yourself what you need to.

1. Really, we’re at a party and I must say, I’m a little toasted. Do we have to talk about this now?

30. Helen Keller

3. Here, my great great grand parents could have their own farm.

4. When the Republicans came to my town with their hoopla, I wore my I heart liberals shirt every day. I yelled in the face of every badge toting hypocrite, ‘fuck you, go home, this is my city.’ It’s patriotic to fight.

5. It’s not the worst place on earth.

7. I just couldn’t take working in an office where I knew nothing was going to change. Something drew me to Capitol Hill and like everyone else, I burned out. Instead of sticking around and being bitter, I got a teaching job. I work in an inner-city school and I see real change everyday.

10. How many times did they shoot him?

11. At least fifty times.

10. Shit man.

11. Again? It happened again.

10. Yeah.

13. Fight the system.

19. I was in a café in Amsterdam and by café I mean a place to actually get food. It was just starting to snow outside, almost New Years. I was sitting at the counter, totally fucked from jet lag and I really badly wanted a good falafel at two in the morning, which you know, it’s Amsterdam so that’s not all that unusual. I sit down and the man behind the counter walks up to me and says,

24. “Parle vous frances?”

19. People always guess I’m French when I’m abroad, I consider this lucky. “No,” I say hoping he’ll guess I’m Canadian, a lie I can maintain.

24. “Ah, American,”

19. He says, “Yes.” Damn.

24. “Falafel?”

19. He asks. “Yes, please.”

24. “I am from Afghanistan,”

19. He volunteers while he begins to make my falafel and gives me a look I can’t interpret but isn’t nice.

24. “I hate your president,”

19. He says, handing me my sandwich and pulling up a stool to sit across from me. “I hate him too,” I say just wanting to eat.

24. “I hated your whole country until I saw on the news your people protesting him.”

19. “Yeah,” I say, “many many people don’t like him there.”

24. “I hate Afghanistan’s leaders too, they killed my family. I hate your leaders and my leaders. That’s why I’m here.”

19. “Me too,” I say with my mouth full of falafel.

24. “This country, I like. Smoke a little hash, get a whore. Live your life.”

19. I laugh. When I leave he says,

24. “come back again before you go.”

19. I do, and every time he greets me by name.  

25. Your country has a history of oppression I personally couldn’t stomach.

29. My country?

25. Yes, slavery for one.

29. Um, imperialism for one.

25. Nuevo imperialism.

29. That’s not a real term, you just made that up.

25. I read it in the paper just this morning.

29. What paper?

25. Oh, shut up.

23. The great, beloved, and dangerous Martin Luther King Jr.

22. The D.A.R., which I can never remember if it means Daughters of the American Republic or Revolution, gave me this medal for excellence in the study of US History at this fancy tea party with little cakes. A medal and a scholarship that bought maybe one of my college textbooks. But it was nice of them, I guess, to help the underprivileged. They called me to this podium, pinned it on my fancy shirt and asked, “Why do you like to study US History?” I said the first thing that came into my fifteen year old head, “Only through knowledge do you know what’s wrong and how to fight.” The looks of horror were priceless.   

27. America is a story of oppression and redemption, oppression and redemption, and again, oppression and redemption. Redemption can take a really long time and you can’t wait, and your children can’t wait. You have to ask for it now. You have to demand it now.

29. Political

30. Preachy

1. Didactic

2. Influence peddling

3. Sermonic

4. One-sided

5. Propaganda

6. Pedantic

7. Moralizing

8. Homiletic

9. It’s supposed to be “Important”

10. Boring

9. I wouldn’t be going if Diane wasn’t in it, trust me.

10. How does she get herself into these things?

9. Don’t ask me. 

(all actors take a step to the left)

CLOSE (should also move rapidly):

1.     Anat

2.     Ruth

3.     Dave

4.     Mitch

5.     Uncle Ron

6.     Keshia

7.     Alex

8.     Roee

9.     Adam

10.  Nina quoting J

11.  The Stephanies

12.  Carmindy’s husband, whats-his-name

1. Javier

12. Right, Javier

13.  Martina

14.  Baby Abby

15.  Matt

16.  Nina

17.  Joanne

18.  Josie

19.  Kelley

20.  Nathan

21.  Nick

22.  Thomas

23.  Kristen

24.  Miguel

25.  Heather

26.  Me

27.  And of course the 1980 Heald Colleges Edition of the Oxford American Dick-tionary

26.  mature

27. thanks

28.  Nic, who used to send three quarters of her pay check to the Philippines and died of an aneurism one week before her citizenship test, hello buddy

(28 kisses a butterfly made of one hand and makes it fly away)

1. And Bruce Charles Browne who always says-

30. E.K.

29. Yes dad?

30. What do you write your plays about anyway?

29. All kinds of stuff.

30. Your lib-ber-ral politics? (he can hardly spit the ugly word out)

29. Some-times dad.

30. Hmph. (30 nods proudly, 29 smiles)

1.  I don’t write this country. We write this country, together, every day. You have the power to write what you want. Don’t be afraid.

The View by Modest Mouse can play and there can be a dance party.                                    The End

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