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Grief Finds a Creative Home


By Joey Brenneman
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Joey BrennemanWhen my father passed away, I felt like there was no room for my grief.  It didn’t fit into any space that I had ever known.  Sitting at his bedside as he passed was the most profound moment of my life. I am constantly amazed by the fact that one day we are here and one day we are not.  The loss I felt was abrupt and disorienting.  I didn’t know where to go with the depth and range of my emotions.  Luckily, inspiration hides in dark spaces. My journey with grief guided me to the page and I wrote my play, Of Loss and Grace.  In the play, the young daughter Kai is able to communicate with her father after his death and ultimately it is Kai’s journey that heals her mother’s broken heart.  The play poured out of me, quite effortlessly, and my grief found a home. Hopefully, in its performances, it will provide an empathetic space for the emotions of its audience members. 

Joey Brenneman is a playwright, actor and mother in New York City.  “Of Loss and Grace” was produced Off-Off-Broadway in December and is currently looking for another theater to house it for a longer run.

For more info about Joey or the play go to www.oflossandgrace.com


THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE FULL LENGTH PLAY, OF LOSS AND GRACE, BY JOEY BRENNEMAN. THIS IS SCENE FIVE WHERE KAI IS 7 YEARS OLD. JOEL, HER FATHER IS A CHINESE AMERICAN MALE BUT KAI IS THE SPITTING IMAGE OF HER CAUCASIAN MOTHER, GRACE. THE SCENE TAKES PLACE IN THEIR NEW YORK CITY APARTMENT, SHORTLY AFTER JOEL'S DEATH. KAI IS WATCHING TELEVISION AND EATING CEREAL OUT OF A BOX. JOEL, SITS BEHIND HER WATCHING HER.

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Of Loss and Grace - scene 5.



JOEL
You've had sugar cereal every day this week.

KAI
So.

JOEL
So, you know the rule.

KAI
It's not the rule anymore.

JOEL
Why not?

KAI
She doesn't care anymore.

JOEL
Well, I do.

KAI
Well, you don't count.

JOEL
Yes, I do. Get the cheerios.

KAI
You can't make me.

JOEL
Kai. KAI!

KAI
Jeez alright.
(She gets the cheerios)

JOEL
And get a bowl.

KAI
(under her breath)
There's not that much difference.

JOEL
What?

KAI
In the sugar. It's not that different.

JOEL
Yes, it is.

KAI
Nuh uh, it's about the same. Look at the label.
(she points to the cheerios.)
See?

JOEL
Well that one still has more junk.

KAI
It doesn't really matter. We're all gonna die anyway.

JOEL
That's a sucky attitude.

KAI
I'm not allowed to say that word.

JOEL
You didn't say it.

KAI
You shouldn't say it around me.
JOEL
You're right. I won't say it anymore.

KAI
Good.

JOEL
And you shouldn't be eating in front of the television.

KAI
It's no big deal.

JOEL
It is. You have to be conscious while you're eating.

KAI
Whatever.

JOEL
You know I hate "whatever". It means that you don't care, that
you're not listening.

KAI
Whatever.

JOEL
Kai! Jesus, I'm gone a few months and all hell breaks loose.
(Kai keeps watching the tv.)
Kai. Turn the tv off.

KAI
No!

JOEL
Kai!

KAI
I'm allowed to watch it.


JOEL
No, you're not. Not while you're eating.

KAI
I don't have to listen to you.

JOEL
No, but you could choose to listen to me.

KAI
(she shuts it off with the remote.)
There. are you happy?

JOEL
Thank you. Now, eat your breakfast.

KAI
I'm not hungry anymore.

JOEL
Don't be difficult, just eat.

KAI
I said, I'm not hungry!
(she knocks the cereal box over.)
(continuous)

JOEL
Kai!

KAI
What do you care?! You're not even here anymore!

JOEL
I care about you a lot.

KAI
No, you don't.

JOEL
I love you, Kai.

KAI
Well, I hate you!

JOEL
You're just angry.

KAI
No, I'm not! I hate you! I hate you! I HATE YOU!
(Her screams turn into sobbing)

JOEL
Shh. Kai. Shhh. It's okay. It's okay.

KAI
I miss you. I miss you so much.

JOEL
I know. I miss you too.

KAI
The tv keeps me company.

JOEL
Oh Kai.
(He looks at her)
God, you're beautiful. You look just like your mother.

KAI
I wish I didn't.

JOEL
What?

KAI
I wish I looked like you.

JOEL
What do you mean?

KAI
I should look like you.

JOEL
Why?

KAI
Dominant genes, dad.

JOEL
Yeah but, your mom's a pretty strong woman.

KAI
Not without you.

JOEL
Kai.

KAI
She's not good Dad.

JOEL
She is. She just needs some time to be sad, to be angry.

KAI
But she forgets things. She forgot to sign my permission slip to
go to the Liberty Science Center and I had to stay behind with
Miss Mendleson and the stupid first graders.

JOEL
Well you got to have an extra art class didn't you?

KAI
So. It just would be better if I looked like you.

JOEL
Stop. You're gorgeous.

KAI
But Mom would look at me, and think of you, and she'd be happy.

JOEL
She'll be happy again.

KAI
I just wished I looked a little like you.

JOEL
You do.

KAI
No I don't.

JOEL
On the inside. You have my brains.

KAI
Dad.

JOEL
And a big heart and you have my knees.

KAI
I do?

JOEL
I remember when you were born. I said look, she has my knees.

KAI
I hate my knees.

JOEL
And you have my name.

KAI
That's weird too.

JOEL
Why?

KAI
I don't look like Kai Chen. When people see me, it's like they're
all confused.

JOEL
Yeah, but what about your friends, Lily McIntosh or Tia Schlossberg.
They both look Chinese and they have Irish and Jewish names.

KAI
Confusing.

JOEL
You know what the Chinese say about confusion?

KAI
What?

JOEL
That it's a heightened state of consciousness.

KAI
Whatever that means?

JOEL
It means that you're going to be okay....in a little while.

KAI
I sure hope you're right.

GRACE
Kai, who are you talking to?

KAI
Dad.

GRACE
Oh. Tell him I said hi.

KAI
She said.

JOEL
I heard her.

KAI
I wish she could hear you.

JOEL
She could but she doesn't listen.

KAI
How come I can hear you?

JOEL
Because you're crazy.

KAI
Dad.

JOEL
I don't know. Kids are closer to the spirit world.
(Grace enters.)

GRACE
Kai, do you know where the---
(she notices the cereal and freezes)

KAI
She gets stuck. Like that. All the time.

JOEL
I know.

KAI
Can't you do something?

JOEL
Grace, you have to keep moving. I know it's hard but you have to.

KAI
Mom?

JOEL
Kai needs you.

KAI
Mom?

GRACE
Yeah.

KAI
Do you want some coffee?

GRACE
Thanks.
(she picks up the cereal.)

JOEL
She shouldn't be making you coffee.

KAI
It's ok. I like it.

GRACE
What did I---? Damn it!

KAI
What's wrong?

GRACE
Oh, nothing...I just, I can't find the flash light.

KAI
Why do you need a flash light?

GRACE
Because it's supposed to storm tonight.

JOEL
It's gonna blow over.

KAI
Are you sure?

JOEL
Yes.

GRACE
It was on the weather channel.

KAI
That's all she watches now.

JOEL
Tell her the weather channel isn't always accurate.

GRACE
You know what? Next time you talk to your father ask him where the
flash light is.

JOEL
Under the window seat.

KAI
It's under the window seat.

GRACE
That's ridiculous. Why would it be---
(she looks there and finds the flash light.)
Oh my god?

KAI
See. She's stuck again. She doesn't even know that it's almost
time for school.

JOEL
So tell her.

KAI
I can't.

JOEL
Why not?

KAI
Because I don't know how to tell time yet.

JOEL
So then how do you know it's time?

KAI
Because I can almost tell time and it's almost time to go.

JOEL
Stop being a little shit and just tell her.

KAI
You're not supposed to say that word around me.

JOEL
Damn it! Just tell her.

KAI
Or that word either.

JOEL
Kai!!

KAI
No. It's her job. She's the mom.

JOEL
Grace, it's time to go.
(She doesn't move)
Grace!!
(She still doesn't move)
Grace, Look at the clock
(She does)

GRACE
Oh shit! Kai, go brush your teeth...and put your shoes on.
(Kai exits. Grace is frozen in grief again. She talks to
Joel as if she is talking to the heavens. She doesn't direct
it to him on stage. It's by chance that the conversation
makes sense.)
I can't do this.

JOEL
Yes, you can.

GRACE
This wasn't the plan.

JOEL
Apparently it was.

GRACE
What am I going to do?

JOEL
You're doing it Grace. You're working it out.

GRACE
I can't do this by myself.

JOEL
It will get easier. You just need time. She's a great kid. You'll
get through it together.

GRACE
What were you thinking?

JOEL
I know. I shouldn't have gone outside.

GRACE
What the hell were you thinking?

JOEL
Nobody really thinks they're gonna get hit by lightening, I mean
what are the odds? Really?

GRACE
A million to one.

JOEL
Pretty incredible when you think about it. I mean, why me?

GRACE
Why me?

JOEL
With those odds?

GRACE
Why?

JOEL
Everything has to line up perfectly. To be so in sync with nature?
It's pretty profound. When you think about it. Somewhat
exhilarating. The moment when it all lines up. The odds of being
in the exact space at the exact moment it strikes.

GRACE
I'm so lost without you.

JOEL
There has to be some plan.

GRACE
I don't know what to do.

JOEL
Don't you think?

GRACE
Please come back. Please.
(He exits. She remains in a hunched position on the floor
rocking back and forth. Kai enters with her shoes in hand.)
I told you to put your shoes on!

KAI
I can't.

GRACE
Why not?

KAI
They're too hard to tie.

GRACE
Kai, you can tie your own shoes. You're not a baby.

KAI
Not these.

GRACE
So, then wear your other shoes.

KAI
They don't go with this.

GRACE
Wear your boots.

KAI
Mom, just tie them.

GRACE
I can't.

KAI
Please.

GRACE
I said I can't!

KAI
But mom.

GRACE
Do you hear me?! I said I can't! I'm not gonna tie your shoes
for you for the rest of your life! What are you gonna do when I'm
not around?

KAI
Forget it. I'm not going to school.

GRACE
Oh yes you are!

KAI
I'll call in sick.

GRACE
No, you won't.

KAI
You do it all the time!

GRACE
Kai, get your shoes on now!

KAI
I'll just go barefoot.

GRACE
Don't be a brat.

KAI
I'll tell everybody that my mom doesn't even care about me.

GRACE
Kai.

KAI
I hope I get sick and die and then you'll really be sad that you
wouldn't tie my shoes.

GRACE
I'm sorry. Oh my god I'm so sorry.

KAI
Now will you tie them?

GRACE
I can't.

KAI
Mom, please.

GRACE
I can't oh my god I can't I'm so sorry I just can't. I can't do
any of it.

KAI
You can, mom.

GRACE
I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

KAI
It's ok mom. It's gonna be ok.

She holds her mom and rocks her. Lights fade.


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