Hatchet Club: A One-Act Play

July 24th, 2009

Requirements:  2F, 4M

Setting:  The living room of a small apartment in a university town, somewhere in the Midwest.  An evening in early April, the present.

Plot:  Faculty members in the Department of Religious Studies at a midwestern university take turns hosting meetings in their homes.  These meetings are both social and academic in nature.  After food and drink, they proceed to critique each other’s research. Hosting the event the evening the play takes place is Christina Jaher, a 33-year-old Assistant Professor who is nervous about the meeting because she has never hosted one, and also because she is the only woman in the department.  Helping her with arrangements before the men arrive is Joanna, the daughter of a neighbor, a 15-year-old girl who looks up to Christina.  Sadly, nothing goes right at the meeting, and the men tear into Christina’s research mercilessly.  Are they sexist?  Would they have behaved the same way had the colleague been a man instead of a woman?  Hard to say. Later that night, Joanna reappears with disappointments of her own, and the two women share a quiet moment of healing together.

Theme:  Wherein lies the roots of sexism against women?  Does it go all the way back to Genesis in the Old Testament?

Notes:  There was a real Hatchet Club at the University of Kansas, but it was in the History Department, not the Department of Religious Studies.  By some strange coincidence, I was actually present at one of their evening meetings, in which the men ripped into the research of one of their female colleagues.  I was horrified by the viciousness of their attack, and had no choice but to write this play.

History:  The play was produced by the Lawrence Community Theatre, with two other one-acts by Lawrence playwrights, Nov. 17-20, 1983. I directed the play, and two of the four men in cast (John “Jay” Alexander and Ambrose “Amby” Saricks) were actually faculty members at that time in the History Department at the University of Kansas.  But I am quite sure that they were not among the men who originally inspired the writing of the play.

Availability: The text of the play was included in Vol. 1 No. 1 of Plays, edited by Cj Stevens (Baton Rouge: Oracle Press, 1985). It’s long out of print.  Write me if you’re interested, and I can send you a photocopy of the play.

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