Read page 1-20 Character Analysis For this discussion post, I would like us to focus on the first twenty pages of the play and what we know of Amber and Tom in these first twenty page
Read page 1-20
For this discussion post, I would like us to focus on the first twenty pages of the play and what we know of Amber and Tom in these first twenty pages (there's a lot, I know!). By now, you all have likely realized that the braided narrative and rapid shifts in storyline, voice, and tone are really challenging to follow in the play. At some points it can seem disorienting. When approaching previous works of literature, we examined themes and linked themes together throughout the works of literature. Themes are helpful for a play like Actually, but also helpful are character analyses where we provide a brief description of who a character is in order to better understand the action taking place. If we were studying acting, we would call this method acting where we learn everything possible about the character to inhabit the role as fully as possible.
For your initial post, choose either Amber or Tom and describe her or his character traits in as much detail as you can. To support your descriptions, make sure to present evidence (meaning quotes) from the text to support your analysis. Consider identifying two or three character traits for which you can find multiple pieces of evidence. In a final paragraph, tell us what you have learned about Amber or Tom in process of writing your analysis.
Initial posts should be 250-300 words.
Actually a new play by Anna Ziegler Representation: Seth Glewen The Gersh Agency 41 Madison Avenue, 33rd Floor New York, NY 10010 212-634-8124 | [email protected]
Characters Amber: early-mid 20s, high-strung, talkative, charmingly neurotic. She is Jewish. Tom: early-mid 20s, appealing and confident with some swagger that conceals a deeper vulnerability. He is African-American.
(Lights up on a college party. Princeton. Two students, freshmen— Amber and Tom—are outside on the quad. A first date. Sort of. They’re drinking. A lot.)
AMBER Let’s do another one. Let’s do Two Truths and a Lie. TOM No. AMBER Come on. TOM Okay. I have two truths for you…I hate games and I hate that game. AMBER But you’ll play it. TOM And why would I do that? AMBER If you wanna sleep with me tonight, for one thing. TOM (without missing a beat) Okay, who goes first? (A shift in tone. Amber faces the audience. ) AMBER So, like… TOM (to the audience) In some ways I’ve been on trial my entire life. Like every minute of every day of my life. AMBER
It wasn’t an actual trial. It was a hearing but it felt like a trial. We sat across from each other. At these long wooden tables. I felt like I was a character in The Crucible. Maybe because our “trial” was in a classroom where I’d happened to read The Crucible earlier that semester. TOM We sat across from each other. AMBER The room was very cold. I had to wear two layers. The cardigan I carry with me because I am always cold but also my jacket. Inside. TOM I couldn’t believe how cold this girl got. She’d have goose bumps like sitting outside on a 75 degree day.
AMBER See it became, almost immediately, “the matter of Anthony dash Cohen.” (bashfully) Which I couldn’t help thinking looked like what our last name would be if we got married? TOM I get an email from the Office of the Vice Provost of Institutional Equity and Diversity. It’s from some dude named Leslie. He made it clear that he was a dude by saying “because the name can be ambiguous I want to make you aware that I am a man.” I’m told to come into the office “at my very earliest convenience.
AMBER (back to the audience) What happened was I told Heather who told our RA Olivia who told whoever she told. TOM I honestly thought maybe this was about my being an asshole for not joining the Black Student Union. AMBER But I didn’t know Heather would tell anyone. She just came into my room and was like “Amber. People are saying you were topless at Cap and Gown last night. What the fuck. Were you super wasted?” And I’m like “that’s the least of it. I mean, Thomas Anthony practically raped me.” And she looked at me with these wide eyes, like she
was kind of seeing me for the first time, and what she saw both impressed and horrified her?…And I knew immediately that I said something I couldn’t take back. (Back in the scene) TOM (getting a little frustrated) So…are you gonna—
AMBER Okay my first truth is: I thought I’d fall in love on my first day of college. TOM First day. Wow. AMBER (she speaks very fast) Well, my parents did. My dad was my mom’s professor in a class called History of the American South and she liked his accent and in a sort of twisted way that he was old enough to be her father and I guess he liked being able to lord it over her and probably her looks –my mom was very attractive back then – because then they were together. TOM That was allowed back then? AMBER You don’t even know if anything I just said was true. TOM Okay. Fair point. AMBER Second one: I have never excelled at any sport. TOM But you’re on the squash team. AMBER Third one: I have no feelings for you whatsoever.
(Tom stares at her.) So now you guess. TOM No, I know. I’m thinking. AMBER Lay out your thought process. TOM Well, I’m an arrogant bastard so I think you do like me…And that shit about your parents is either too detailed to be a lie or so detailed it’s the obvious lie. AMBER Hm. Interesting. TOM You’re on a team here so I think you’ve excelled at sports. And I’m way confident you’re into me— AMBER So you’ve said. TOM So I’ll go with the lie is about your parents. AMBER The lie was not about my parents. TOM Then you’re no good at sports. AMBER I’m no good at sports. TOM How the hell did you get on the squash team? AMBER Anyone can get on the squash team.
TOM Is that right. AMBER I mean, you don’t have to be great. You can be good. Or just okay. It’s a great way to help you get into college. Just like being black. TOM Um. You know you can’t say that. Right? AMBER But it’s not a micro-aggression or anything. TOM Cause it’s like a macro-aggression. AMBER Come on. Everyone has things that help them get in. I’m not saying either of us is remotely unqualified to be here. TOM (in disbelief) Wow. Okay. AMBER No, I’m sure you’re super smart. You had to beat out a shit ton of other black kids to get in. I just had to beat out some other mediocre squash players. TOM You think my only competition was other black kids? AMBER Mainly, yeah. We all fill some stupid niche, which reduces us to something much less than what we are, but that’s the way it goes. Has it been very hard for you, being black? TOM (laughing) God, you really are a piece of work.
AMBER But has it? TOM (back to the audience) So I’m sitting across from Leslie, and the guy has an enormous beard. Part of me wonders if maybe there is a woman behind there. AMBER So I’m like “well…yeah.” And she’s like “well, yeah what?” and I tell her what happened. Or what I can remember. But I don’t tell Heather everything. I mean, why should Heather know everything? TOM And he’s like “I assume you know why you’re here” and I’m like “enlighten me, Leslie” not realizing I shouldn’t be, like, a dick right now. And he squints his eyes at me like he can’t believe what he’s hearing. Okay, so even though my mom was always like “don’t give anyone any reason to write you off” or maybe because of that – I’m not great at gauging when I should be polite. Like in 11th grade I once said to the school psychologist: “who’s your shrink, shrink?” I mean, like, I had this one weird thing and my high school sent me into therapy. What’s that all about? AMBER So I just say to Heather that things went pretty far and she’s like but that’s not rape and I’m like I know that Heather. What might have maybe constituted something approaching sex without my one hundred percent consent was that he got a tiny bit rough with me and at first I was like into it but then I wasn’t into it anymore and I was like “actually, um” and I stood up, but he pulled me back and kept going. Also I was just so, so drunk. TOM (back in the scene) It’s my turn, right? AMBER I’m all ears.
TOM Okay, so I guess I’ll say…in the spirit of truth… AMBER Or maybe a lie. TOM If I can, one day I’d like to play piano professionally. Like in a symphony. Or jazz piano. Or the orchestra pit of Hamilton or something along those lines. AMBER Oh god I love that show. TOM (impressed) You saw it?? AMBER No. TOM The second one is…my mom is the love of my life. AMBER Aw. That’s sweet. That better not be a lie or you’re kind of deranged. TOM I am capable of some pretty poor behavior. AMBER (flirty) Oh yeah? TOM The third one is… (He thinks for awhile) I feel most out of place when people would assume I feel most comfortable. AMBER Like when?
TOM You don’t even know if that one’s true. AMBER I know it’s true. The question is which of the other two is the lie. TOM Oh fuck. AMBER What. TOM I fucked it up. AMBER You forgot to lie. TOM I straight up told you I hate games. AMBER Wanna do it over? TOM I’m just too honest. What can I say? AMBER Then tell me some other things that are true. TOM (to the audience) I was playing the piano in one of the music rooms during a free period. And this teacher Emily Mackey, who couldn’t be more than five feet tall, and who teaches percussion, (which is like “percussion”—who even takes that?), she walks in and asks if I’d mind if she listened to me play. I was like sure, be my guest, and I just kept playing. And yeah, maybe I stepped it up a little because I had an audience. And maybe it wasn’t totally lost on me that Ms. Mackey looked about eighteen and also that she was a type I hadn’t tried before –
boy body, flat-chested, short hair. Also she would wear these little hats, like she was five years old.
AMBER And she’s like what does a tiny bit rough mean? And I can tell she’s imagining something worse than what it was and she says, all horrified, “and all you said was ‘actually?’” and I’m like yeah. And she said “but that’s not no” and I’m like I know that, Heather—I am aware that two different words in the English language are not the same word. TOM So when she stood up and was like leaning on the piano while I played, I might’ve gotten pretty fancy with my fingers, just sort of dancing them over the keys. I don’t mean to come off, like…but at the time I felt I knew a coupla things. One was that I was decent-looking. Or maybe a little better than that. And the other was that I was a damn good piano player. And she’s sort of swaying. Ms. Mackey. I’m playing Bartok’s third piano concerto, which is kind of a weird one, sort of all over the place, and not always the most, like, melodious, but she’s into it. And then, at the end of the first movement, she sits on the bench next to me so our legs are touching. And it’s this fucking electric electricity and I don’t know what to do about it. So I look her in the eyes and wait a second to be sure I’m reading everything right before I kiss her. So…the funny or maybe sad thing about Bartok’s third piano concerto is that he died before he finished it. He was writing it for his wife’s birthday; he was gonna surprise her and I guess he did, but not in the way he was going for. And the funny or maybe sad thing about that afternoon when I was playing it is that Mr. Damion, the chair of the music department at Carpenter, this total walking prick—I mean, the guy literally looks like a penis—well, he walked right into the room, and there I am, on top of the tiny percussion teacher, playing her like a fucking symphony. And…um. The least funny thing about what happens next is that she says I came onto her. And also, that I was aggressive or something.
AMBER When I was little, I remember wondering, like, how sex happens. Not like what it entails but how you possibly get yourself into the situation where it would actually occur. It all seemed so impossible to me, and embarrassing. TOM I mean, credit to my mom, because she didn’t believe it for a second…Said it was racism. Plain and simple. And, you know…maybe it was. Maybe it was. AMBER And then, when you’re just a little bit older, you wonder how to avoid sex. Like how to avoid bad sex, and how to tell ahead of time that that’s what it’s gonna be. TOM Ms. Mackey got fired, so I guess that’s… But then everyone asks why she’s gone and word gets around, so by December of my junior year, I’m the guy who fucked this sweet little teacher literally and figuratively, even though we didn’t actually fuck, and I have to see this shrink because what if I’m like totally depraved, which seemed like such a joke. But now… AMBER But knowing what kind of sex you’re about to have is, like, hard. You usually don’t know until you’re in it. Or maybe not even til after it’s over. Like days or weeks or even years in the past. Which is what I try to tell Heather, but she’s very definite about things, so she’s just like: if he raped you, he raped you, okay? And I’m like “okay!!”
TOM I think I went to a debate in the first week of school in this room. It was on whether Guantanamo Bay was constitutional or not, and this one dude was so crazy passionate about it being unconstitutional that I started to agree with the other side, just because they weren’t so annoying, and the whole time then and the whole time now I’m like how do you defend yourself? Is it what you say or how you say it?
AMBER It’s not a good story. It’s not a good story to say that I was into it and then I wasn’t anymore. It makes me seem…I don’t know. TOM
When I sit down with Leslie, he says “this is about you and Amber Cohen. I believe you two are acquainted.” And then there’s this silence while my brain computes that. Me and Amber Cohen. And my first thought is she did something weird, like maybe she’s in trouble for doing something really fucking weird, but then I look at his face and I can tell it’s not that. AMBER I don’t know how to be right now. Like should I look really solemn? But when I look at Tom I want to smile. It’s a problem. Also that I want him to smile back at me, which makes me feel…. TOM “I won’t lie to you,” he says, “this is serious.” And I’m like, thanks, Leslie. I appreciate the honesty. AMBER Which, to be honest, is probably my default state. This zone of wanting something and not wanting it at the same time. TOM And he starts talking about “Title IX” and how it’s his responsibility to oversee all investigations of conduct that might have violated the policy. And he’s speaking really carefully and not making eye contact and it’s making me feel like I did this time when I was going out with this girl Samantha at Carpenter who was actually a sort of minor celebrity – like she had this blog that I never read but which was apparently very popular and white people like Lena Dunham were all excited about it or something? I really didn’t care; she was hot and we’d go to her apartment after school and no one was ever home and then one afternoon I was sitting around in my boxers and her mother just, like, walks in and Samantha is all, “oh this is Tom; I told you about Tom, didn’t I?” which she clearly hadn’t, and the mother acts as though she’s so excited to see me there, which she clearly isn’t, and the whole thing is so uncomfortable and I sort of knew that if I’d been a different guy she would have sent me home on the spot but instead there I was having dinner with them and being talked to like I was the minor celebrity, like they’d be so disappointed when I’d finally have to leave. AMBER Like, what happened with Zach was a big example of that. He’s my friend Sarah’s brother, this totally white bread frat guy type, not the brightest bulb but cute, and I liked him probably in large part because he never seemed to know who I was, even though I was over at Sarah’s all the time and always tried to look nice for him but
also not like I was trying to look nice because you can’t seem to be trying to look nice when you’re going over to your friend’s house to do Latin homework. I was a senior in high school and I’d just gotten into college. Like, that day, I mean. I’d come home from school and I was scrolling through this really dumb email where you have to rank like the five best books you’ve ever read and then send it onto the second person on the list and I was trying to decide whether to make my number one, like, Gone Girl or The Iliad, when I see I have a new email and the subject line is “Welcome to…” but you can’t see the whole thing, so I open it and it’s Princeton. TOM I’m like what policy, Leslie? I honestly don’t know what the fuck he’s…But then he says “sexual misconduct.”…And he says it strangely loud, like he’s embarrassed, which embarrasses me. See, I’ve never had any clue what to do with someone who’s trying to hide how they feel…probably because I am always trying to hide how I feel. AMBER Which is…I mean, I was NOT expecting to get in. I really wasn’t, even though being a mediocre squash player can help a lot because colleges need to fill their teams, and there just aren’t enough really excellent squash players. But still I didn’t expect anything that good to happen to me. I was always kind of not the best at anything, you know? Like, I was never the prettiest girl. Not, like, ugly. I mean, I can actually look in the mirror and see a person who’s kind of attractive, looking back at me. I don’t know. My mom told me once I was “pretty enough” which might explain everything. TOM So I’m just like…what?? And he says it even louder, even though the problem wasn’t that I didn’t hear him. AMBER The day I got into Princeton was the second night of Passover and Sarah had invited me to her family’s seder. But I mean, who does the whole service on the SECOND night? And not only that but her dad asks everyone at the seder to discuss things, like why is it worse to be indifferent than stupid? In reference to the four sons. And why do we say next year in Jerusalem?
And before I know what I’m doing I’m looking right at Zach and saying something about Jews and longing, and I know my face is very very red and kind of splotchy. Which is what happens when I’m embarrassed, so the whole world can see exactly how I’m feeling at all times. TOM So, just to be clear…Amber says I violated the policy? And he says yes, she has lodged a complaint. And I’m like “but that girl is seriously into me” and he gives me this look like I’m deluded. (a realization) Which I guess I am. AMBER After the seder, we’re all just hanging out, and Zach wants to watch hockey because the Rangers are having an okay season so they’re “worth watching”, but, you know, they lose. In like overtime. And Zach is not happy. I guess he’s one of those beleaguered fans who takes everything really hard, and he’s like “I’m gonna have a fucking drink” which makes it sound like he hadn’t already been drinking all night long, but now he switches to beer, even though it has barley or wheat in it or whatever and isn’t something you’re supposed to have during Passover. But he’s just like “fuck it. The Rangers weren’t supposed to lose during Passover either.” Which doesn’t make any sense. TOM I ask him: what exactly does she think I did? And Leslie turns this bright shade of red and says “she thinks you raped her, Thomas” and I can’t help it but I start to cry. AMBER Sarah had fallen asleep on the couch, and Zach was just like “Amber” and I was like “yeah?” and he asked if I wanted to see this app on his phone that’s like an updated version of Angry Birds Star Wars and I said sure, but really he just wanted me to come sit next to him because once I was there he kind of touched my wrist and I froze and of course he knew. I mean, really he’d probably known for years. And he stands and kind of pulls me up with him, and we go to his room and he’s kinda stumbly drunk and I am completely sober and we fall onto the bed and he is not exactly gentle with me but I don’t really mind; the next day I get a UTI and it hurts so bad, but I don’t know that right now and eventually he takes his fingers out of me and squeezes one of my boobs really hard, and I moan a little because I think that’s what people do but he puts his finger to his mouth like I’ve made this faux pas by making a sound, a gesture I remember at least subconsciously because I am always silent during sex, always always, like you practically don’t even know I’m
there, and then he climbs on top of me and sticks it in. And the whole time, which isn’t a long time, I keep thinking “I got into college today” which, in conjunction with what’s happening right now, makes me feel like a…yeah, like a different person, I guess. And when he’s done he grunts a little, like this sound is just getting pushed out of him and it’s not exactly a happy sound, but still I feel weirdly privileged—and in all honesty, grown up—to know what Zach Lieberman sounds like when he comes. TOM Leslie hands me tissues and I blow my nose over and over again; it’s embarrassing how many times I blow my nose, but I don’t want to say anything so I just keep going. I can’t stop thinking about leaving Carpenter on the last day, after eight years, trying to or hoping to feel a little…I don’t know—sad?—because if you’re not sad at that moment doesn’t it mean all those years were a waste? And then there’s my dad, who was a math wiz for about a minute; he won a state competition and the family threw a party for him; he was suddenly everything to everyone, but by high school he was drinking, and getting into fights, and so he never made it to college, which haunted him forever because he knew he should have. And here I am, at Princeton, sitting across from Leslie, who asks what questions I have about the rape I may or may not have committed within the first two months of school. Of course there they are too, like clockwork: the men swaying in the trees, because they’re always there, waiting, behind your eyes. And I just blurt out: I’m innocent until proven guilty, right? And Leslie looks kind of apologetic and then, really gently, is just like: not really, no. College campuses are not the criminal justice system. He says there’s going to be a formal investigation. A panel of three “neutral” appointees will interview me extensively and they will interview Amber and any witnesses to try to get a full picture of what happened and then we will “convene” altogether and discuss. And I think immediately oh that fuck Jayson better not fuck me over, not because I did anything wrong but because my roommate is such a douche and so clearly has it in for me. AMBER I keep looking across at Tom and feeling annoyed because how differently could this whole thing have turned out? He really is just so, so cute, like you kind of want to hug him – and then fuck the daylights out of him. I mean, he is like cute and hot at the same time, which is a rare combination. TOM I mean, fuck me, right? AMBER
It snowballed. I’m suddenly the most interesting person Heather has ever met and she wants to be with me all the time. She even waits in the hall when I go talk to this guy Leslie, whom I’d just assumed was going to be a woman because of the name and also because here was someone whose job was to talk to predominantly female rape victims. But it wasn’t. TOM And Leslie says if the panel determines that a preponderance of the evidence suggests I did it, he will be brought in to help determine my penalty. And I’m like “what??” and he says: if they find that the claim is more likely true than not true, which is still sounding kind of opaque to me, like it could mean anything, and then he’s like “fifty percent plus a feather – that’s what it’s like”, and I picture this two sided scale, and each side has the same amount on it – of books and barbells and the fear that I admit consumes me sometimes – the same shit on both sides, but wait, what’s that up there? Oh, it’s a feather, and it comes drifting down from the sky…and lands on one side of the scale and suddenly that side is weighted down beyond belief. Suddenly there’s no contest. AMBER I tell Leslie that my mom says Bob, my horrible-in-a-totally-clichéd-way stepdad, she says Bob says I have to be really careful and think twice about accusing a black man of…you know. And the way Leslie looks at me, even though he doesn’t say anything, makes me worry even more that Tom isn’t gonna get a fair trial, like he’s gonna be one of those black men just tossed recklessly into the tornado of a broken system, but then I realize that shouldn’t really matter to me. I can’t fix the system. I mean, everyone says I’m the victim. So…I’m the victim. Right? TOM So the panel of three neutral appointees is made up of a white dude who’s like the assistant assistant dean of students, this hippy-ish art professor who looks white to me but her last name is Diaz; and a black woman in the women’s studies department. Which is like, really? AMBER And then Leslie looks at me with his beady little eyes and says “but are you sure you want to bring this claim? You know it’s a very serious accusation, young lady; you have to be one hundred percent sure” and I wanna say I’ve never been one hundred percent sure of anything ever but he’s staring at me hard, like it would suit him just fine if I walked right on out of his office and his life, and for the first time I flash back to the night in question and to the way I felt the next morning, how I wanted to get out of Tom’s room as quickly as humanly possible, and dig a hole and just live there
forever, and I’m like “I’m sure, Leslie, but thank you for reiterating the gravity of my actions.” TOM He puts his hand on my shoulder and is like “call me if you need anything” and I wanna die, it’s just so forced and sweet. I have the sensation I always have when someone tries to be paternal, which is pretty much uncontrollable rage mixed with deep-seated resentment and I brush his hand off my shoulder as though it was a bug and he flinches like I hit him or something. AMBER Linda is also there with me, at the trial. She’s my lawyer. That creeper Leslie told me I could bring one person with me to any discussion related to the investigation – a friend, a relative, an advisor or a lawyer. So duh. I go with a lawyer. TOM I am all alone. I don’t even tell my mother about this. It reminds me of this time in 9th grade when my mom came to see me in the school play and she got all dressed up and was so proud but the thing is—I never stepped foot on that stage. I was in the third floor computer room making out with this girl Julia, who was also in the chorus and when we realized we missed the beginning we didn’t know what to do so we just stayed there and later my mom was like “you were just so good in that play” and I guess she must’ve thought I was one of the guys in a mask or maybe she ju
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