THE CROWNING OF ST. KATHRYN: A PLAY IN TWO ACTS

This one woman play was written by my dear friend, Katie. She’s brilliant…just saying. 
I wanted to share because it’s really great, but I also think we need to hear about disability through artistic mediums.  

katie

 

THE CROWNING OF ST. KATHRYN: A PLAY IN TWO ACTS

WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY: KATHRYN SHELLEY

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

The playwright would like to acknowledge that the inspiration for the title of this work came from a painting by Peter-Paul Rubens entitled, “The Crowning of St. Catherine” (1631). The paining is part of the permanent collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, and is on display in the Great Gallery. The playwright would like to thank the Monuments Men for saving this piece from the Nazi regime so that she may know the piece and be able to use it as inspiration for this play.

 

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE

The play opens with a spotlight on a woman sitting in a wheelchair, looking down at the ground as if nodding off to sleep. This is KATIE.

KATIE

Is reading as lights come up. Slowly raises head to look at audience, and quickly closes the book as she begins to speak, throwing the book off to the side.

Oh, hello! I didn’t see you there!

My name is Kathryn Elizabeth Shelley.

You may well be wondering why I am in this wheelchair. You wouldn’t be the first to wonder; but thank you for not wondering out loud and asking me right off the bat. I appreciate a smidgen of politeness now and again.

KATIE

Well, if you ARE wondering, let me set the scene for you:

Lights dim as KATIE says the next line.

Imagine, if you will, you are a young woman. Thirty-one years old, home alone. You are 30 weeks pregnant. You have been feeling pains similar to contractions all night, but infrequently.

KATIE

KATIE grabs her stomach as if in pain.

Suddenly, the pains are becoming sharper, more frequent. This CANNOT be happening. The baby is coming and you are not ready. Your first baby was stillborn after 8 months of pregnancy – you cannot – will not — go through that again.

KATIE

KATIE starts rolling back and forth across the stage as if pacing.

Think, think, think …

Smacks forehead.

MOM! You will call your mom. Your husband works in a factory and is hard to get ahold of during his shifts

Aside: This was before cell phones, you understand.

KATIE

So, you pick up your landline and call your mom, who luckily only lives minutes away – This baby seems determined to make its entrance, and quickly.

KATIE acts as though on the phone.

KATIE

Yes, hello? Mom? I need to go to the hospital. Please come and pick me up.

KATIE

Your mom makes it there in record time. In her panic she remarks as to why you didn’t call 911, as you live directly down the block from the local fire department. Still, instead of delaying the proceedings any further, she implores you to get in the car and races away to the hospital in the next city over.

KATIE

Tires screech to a halt. Red light. “Aw, hell” your mother says as she runs the light, not giving a damn about the law in a time like this. Luckily, it’s still morning – after the morning rush and before the lunch crowd takes the roads – and so a car crash doesn’t occur and your mother is able to make it to the hospital sooner rather than later.

KATIE

Pretending to be a hospital employee:

What?! Baby on its way?! Let’s get you inside.

KATIE

Before they can get you into a wheelchair, your water breaks. Shit.

KATIE

As hospital employee:

Don’t worry ma’am we’ve got you. Mom? Are you her mom? Can you go to the waiting room and see if you can call the dad?

KATIE

They rush you to a room, ready to deliver a baby, but then you wait. Everything had been happening so quickly. Why is the baby stopping now?

KATIE

As hospital employee:

Oh, dear! Looks like she turned. She decided she didn’t want to come out, after all.

Laughs nervously.

Well, unfortunately she’s going to have to make her entrance whether she likes it or not. Guess we’ll have to prepare for a C-Section.

Assuredly:

Oh, don’t worry ma’am, it’ll be over before you know it!

KATIE

They knock you out with anesthesia as they preform an emergency C-Section. You don’t even get to hear your daughter’s first cries as she enters the world. Everything is black.

KATIE

You awake, thinking momentarily that it was all just a bad dream. Then you hear an unfamiliar voice attempting to rouse you from your slumber.

KATIE

Mrs. Shelley, you have a baby girl!

KATIE

And just like that, I arrived into the world.

End scene.

 

SCENE TWO

KATIE

16 months after my arrival, it was determined I had Cerebral Palsy. Spastic Quadriplegia. The muscles in my legs and arms were tight, spastic. My parents knew something was off when a.) I didn’t start walking like a normal baby and b.) Whenever they would sit me down, I would do this:

KATIE flops over the side of her chair.

KATIE

You see, balance is also affected by the CP meaning I cannot stand or walk without holding onto something. However, this diagnosis didn’t stop me from learning. I knew my ABCs at sixteen months. Already, I loved to sing.

KATIE sings

“A,B,C,D,E,F,G…”

KATIE

The love of singing came from my Grandma, who would watch me while my mom was at work. However, my dreams of being a famous pop star were squashed at the age of nine by my older, and of course wiser, cousin Kelly who Grandma also watched during the summers.

Voiceover – KELLY

You can’t sing. And you can’t dance. You’re not going to be Britney Spears.

KATIE

Oh yeah? Just watch me!

KATIE “dances” in her chair and sings “Hit Me Baby One More Time”.

KATIE

Okay, okay, so in hindsight, Pop singer was never going to be a great profession choice for me. I was too shy, anyway. In all honesty just wanted to meet…

Aside: (and then marry)…

Justin Randall Timberlake.

KATIE

And yeah… dancing was not my thing, although I always wanted it to be…

KATIE

When I was four years old, I went to a local pre-school for special needs kids. A classmate of mine, who also used a walker, took ballet classes for “special” (air quotes around the word ‘special’) kids. But, my parents quickly quashed my dream of being a Ballerina.

Voiceover – MOM

Your dad won’t let you go to downtown Detroit for classes. He says…

KATIE mimics her dad as MOM says these next words:

  “It’s not safe.”

MOM

It’s not like they’re really dancing, anyway. Most of them are more disabled than you are!

KATIE

Yeah… so, as much as my family got me into the arts, they decided dancing was not in my future. Instead, my mom had me singing showtunes every time she played Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat or Les Mis on cassette tape in the car…

KATIE starts singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables.

Aside: I was definitely an Eponine, but more on that later.

End scene.

SCENE THREE

KATIE

High school was going to be my moment. My mom was in musicals and choir in when she was in high school, and I was going to be just like her.

Voiceover – MALE VOICE

No, you’re not.

KATIE

Mr. Smith?

KATIE looks around, confused by this unexpected voice.

Voiceover – MR. SMITH

I mean, I’ll let you into choir… you’re not THAT bad… but I’m the musical Nazi, so no musicals for you.

KATIE

Beseeches the Godly voice of MR. Smith:

Thank you? I mean, wait, what? But I am Eponine! My love for Dan Brim will be unrequited for the rest of my days! I was born to be in Les Miserables! Or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! I didn’t listen to hours of Donny Osmond for nothing!

Voiceover – MR. SMITH

Okay, I’ll put you in Footloose.

KATIE

Celebrates

YES! Wait. What the fuck, dude? I try for two years and then you FINALLY put me in a musical where majority of the cast DANCES?! Oh, well. I suppose I should be grateful.

MR SMITH

Yes, yes you should.

KATIE

I was also cast in the straight play that year. And thus, my evident not-so-horrible ability to act got me a part in Footloose. It was one of the only parts that didn’t require dancing, or much singing; merely the ability to say lines on cue.

KATIE

I received the not-so-coveted part of the curmudgeonly old Aunt Lulu who, like the rest of the adults in Beaumont, Texas, abhorred dancing.

KATIE

Mimics the part of AUNT LULU:

Pumpkin, hush, please! That boy is a menace! I’m the dance Nazi: ‘No dancing for you!’.

KATIE

But despite the less-than glamourous role, I was having the time of my life. I finally found my people!

Wistfully:

Theatre Kids.

KATIE

I met and became friends with the ever elusive, (not-so-great in retrospect) Dan Brim: leading man Marius with gorgeous curly hair! And George Benson! He looked like Mark Cohen from Rent! He was so charming and cute! And there were my friends: Larry Nearhood, and Dan Priest, and Liz Markham, and… (Sighs) Those were the days. I felt like I belonged.

Voiceover – MR. SMITH

But not for long!

Lights turn red, ominous music starts to play

KATIE

But it’s my senior year, Mr. Smith! What do you mean I can’t be in the play OR the musical?! If the sets aren’t accessible, MAKE them accessible!

KATIE

I’m not so great of a singer? You’re preparing me for rejection, is that it? YOU CAN’T CAST ME “JUST BECAUSE I’M DISABLED”? Did you seriously just say that?

KATIE

Starts to sob and scream

FUCK YOU AND YOUR FUCKING SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL. I WANT SO MUCH TO TELL YOU TO FUCK OFF. BUT I CAN’T. I CAN’T. I CAN’T…

Voiceover – MULTIPLE VOICES (Chanting)

 You can’t, you can’t, you can’t…

KATIE starts to shut down, voices surrounding her.

KATIE

I…

Fade to black.

END OF ACT ONE.

 

ACT TWO

SCENE ONE

Lights come up – spotlight on Katie.

KATIE

I…

KATIE

Triumphantly:

 I CAN!

KATIE

Phew! That was scary for a while there, wasn’t it? It took me a while to realize it, but I CAN! I CAN, GODDAMNIT!

Katie laughs giddily as she wheels herself in circles around the stage, clearly having fun.

KATIE

I have long been afraid of hurting others, I have always been doing what’s expected of me. Always remaining

Places hands together as though praying:

“St. Kathryn”.

Well not anymore!

End Scene.

 

SCENE TWO

KATIE

There is a story that has turned into the stuff of legend in my family: Apparently, when I was little, I saw an angel on the roof of my grandmother’s neighbor’s house.

KATIE

I don’t remember this, but Grandma swears I saw this angel. I’m pretty sure it was just my over-active imagination. I also thought the statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus at Catechism were going to start talking to me. Those things were creepy.

KATIE

The thing is, my grandma is not the only one who is convinced I have a connection with God. Random strangers like to remind me of this ALL THE TIME. If I had a dollar for every person who came up to me on the street and told me they would pray for me, I’d at least have one-hundred dollars…

KATIE

Most of the time I brush it off good-naturedly. They mean well, right? Extra prayers my way certainly couldn’t hurt. However, I’m not dying or starving or homeless, so I often feel there are people in the world who are much more deserving of their prayers.

KATIE

But try to tell them that, and they look at you like they’re about ready to come at you with a wooden cross screaming, “BE GONE, SATAN!”. So, in order to avoid the drama, I just politely Aside:(if awkwardly) say thank you, and go along my merry way.

KATIE

Thinks:

Also, I have always been on shy side, never very outspoken. This doesn’t help dissuade others from the angelic, saint-like comparison…

KATIE

Mimicking Adult:

“Look at how much trouble Katie doesn’t cause”. She’s so much better behaved than the other children, just sitting there politely.”

KATIE

In response:

Um… I’m only sitting here politely because I can’t really GO anywhere… Do you expect me to miraculously get up and run around, chasing after other kids? Trust me, I would if I could.

KATIE

Also, this (air quotes) saint-like thing seems to attract creepy old men and repel men and women my own age. I have often joked about becoming a nun because so far, I have been doomed to a life of chronic single-dom. However, (beseeches someone in the great beyond) HONESTLY, I DON’T WANT BE A NUN.

KATIE

As much as I would love to for life to work out this way, I know that if I were to become a nun, I will NOT be the next Maria Von Trapp, fall in love and live happily ever after. If I were to actually become a nun? I would be Von Trapped.

KATIE

Instead, I would very much like to have a normal love life. BUT, that has never been my lot in life – and for the life of me, I can’t figure it out.

End Scene.

 

SCENE THREE

KATIE

Write that you have a disability on an internet dating profile. I dare you. You’ll either get creepy guys who fetishize women with disabilities, or no one at all. I dare you, try it. If you can find someone, send him or her my way, will you?

KATIE

I recently had a guy on a subway in New York City tell me he would take care of me and bathe me. Yes, bathe me. Not a pleasant experience, let me tell you.

Pretends to be addressing creepy guy:

I can bathe myself, thank you. Good day, sir.

Yells poignantly:

I SAID GOOD DAY.

KATIE

So, in retrospect, maybe in order to avoid creepy situations like that, staying single is the best option? But then again, being single just leads people to see you as even more angelic and saint-like, because hey, weren’t all saints single?

KATIE

Also, the longer you remain single and living with your parents, the fact that you’re getting older becomes unimportant and you become more and more infantilized by older adults.

KATIE

Mimics elderly adult, patting unseen person on the head:

“Oh, it’s so good to see someone like you out and about! And you’re so pretty!”

KATIE

Sarcastically, patting unseen elderly person on the head:

“Oh, it’s so good to see someone like you…

KATIE

Shocked:

NOT DEAD! You look so much like a corpse!”

KATIE

Addresses audience:

“KATIE!” You’re all screaming at me in shock and outrage, “THAT’S NOT POLITE!” You’re right: I’d never ACTUALLY say that. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

KATIE

Besides, tell me this: is it polite for strangers to come up to me on the street and treat me like a child?

KATIE

Well, I suppose if I must be likened to a saint, liken me to Joan of Arc, because I am NOT going quietly!

End Scene.

 

SCENE FOUR

KATIE

There is this gorgeous painting at my former place of employment: The Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio.

KATIE

This painting hangs in their Great Gallery. A massive painting by Peter Paul Rubens entitled, “The Crowning of St. Catherine”.

KATIE

The painting shows the baby Jesus sitting on the lap of the Virgin Mary, placing a crown on the head of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

KATIE pretends to be baby Jesus, placing a crown on an invisible head to her left

Lights change, indicating change in train of thought.

KATIE

As if struck by an idea:

So today you are witnessing my coronation, as it were. The crowning of St. Kathryn!

KATIE

Warning: This might be gross to think about, so forgive me in advance, but as an infant making my way into the world, I never (air quotes) “crowned”.

KATIE

I assume I was taken out of my mother’s abdomen by force. I was there, of course, but unfortunately, I am not fully cognizant of the events of that moment. My point is, I was unable to make my entrance the way that I wanted.

KATIE

Sings loudly:

“I’ve gotta be me… I’ve gotta be me…”

KATIE

Addresses audience again:

Oh, don’t worry about me! I am not having delusions of grandeur I assure you. I have long accepted I am not going to be the next Britney Spears; I am not going to be a ballet dancer; I am not going to be the next Bernadette Peters, either. I am most definitely NOT a saint, and NOT worthy of a crown.

KATIE

But what I DO know is that I accept myself. I am worthy of my self-love and acceptance. I also accept my love for the arts and I am not letting that go, not ever again.

KATIE

I am not going to let anyone tell me I can’t do something ever again. Only I have the authority to tell myself I can’t do something. And from now on, I am going to try to utilize that authority sparingly.

KATIE

If I want to write and perform in a one-woman show, I am writing and performing a one-woman show! And if it gets the attention of my celebrity crushes like Josh Groban, or Emerald Fennell in the process? Fantastic! If not, whatever! I did what I wanted without letting the thoughts of others deter me!

KATIE

Now? Now the not-so-saintly Kathryn Elizabeth Shelley is making her foray back into the world of the sinners and seizing the moment. Her way.

KATIE

Seizes something in her hand, as if she is holding a scepter, and looks upward. She says the next line defiantly:

Place the crown on my head, baby Jesus, I am ready.

Voiceover – MULTIPLE VOICES(Chanting)

You can! You can! You can!

Triumphant, heavenly HALLELUJAH-like music plays

KATIE

Serenely:

 I can.

Fade to black

 

END OF ACT TWO

 

THE END

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