NAWPA: On the Showroom Floor Synopsis

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On the Showroom Floor
by JudyLee Olivia

Jackie: “JK”–early thirties, single, petite, dark eyes and hair. She lives in a suburb of Chicago, but still has a slight Texan accent. She has same charismatic personality as father, but has acquired a “professional” manner. She looks like her mother once did, hauntingly attractive. She sells commercial real estate.
Holley: JK’s youngest sister, twenties, tall, thin, has father’s blue eyes, sandy brown hair. Works as a receptionist for the car dealership where her father works. She is likeable, but sarcastic and is divorced.
Howard: “HB”–JK’s father, mid fifties, with deep set blue eyes. A large man, big boned, tall, balding and paunchy, a Car Salesman whose personality and charm make up for his lack of education.
Diane: JK’s older sister, mid thirties. Built like her father, large boned, tall with sad eyes. Teaches art in high school, married, with three children, but rarely speaks of family.
JK’s mother: early fifties, petite with dark eyes. Her raven hair has turned dull, not gray, just dull. She was at one time a beautiful woman. She is distant, but people are drawm to her. She works at a Statuary.

The play is set in the early 1980s, in the fall, though we go back and forth in time, and in and out of reality.

The action takes place in Lubbock, Texas. All of the family live within a few miles of each other, except for JK. The stage space is unrealistic. There are various sizes and lengths of panels which look like glass and suggest various looks including a car dealership, window, etc. Upstage left, the hood of a car protrudes, as if it had been driven through the glass of a showroom floor. (The hood should be of Chevrolet design, no specific year, and must be practical as characters sit on it, but it foes not have to be totally realistic. Though we see mostly the oversized hood, there should be room behind it where characters can sit in front and back seats.) Downstage right, we see the metal door of a storm cellar, which rises from a mound of ground and which can be slid down, like a slide. In the middle of the stage is a circular dais. There is no break in the action and no intermission.

On the Showroom Floor is a full length, ninety minute drama with no intermission. It is set in the 1980s in Lubbock, Texas. It tells the story of the Larson family: HB, a Car Salesman, his wife Irene, and their three grown daughters, Diane, JK, and Holley. The showroom floor serves as a metaphor for all the places life is played out. There are various sizes and lengths of panels which look like glass and suggest a variety of ways one sees life–through the window, through the glass hoses of our work, through the frames of pictures, old and new. Easily realized technically, the play calls for creative use of light and sound to help realize the emotion and trauma that the Larson family experience as they go back and forth in time to unravel the mystery of the storm cellar that has never been used, and the mother and wife who cannot seem to connect with them.

The play is written in a kind of poetic pause–short sentences, one word sentences, that captures the southwest rhythm of Texas, but also allows for thought between each stoppage. Neither the set, characters, nor language is completely realistic. Interspersed between the dialogue, the characters speak directly to the audience using monologues to engage the audience in each character’s story. Visual images tie the past to the present, portraying how memory distorts and disturbs our ability to understand our familial relationships.

Using stanzas of Don McLean’s song “American Pie,” written about the death of Lubbock native Buddy Holly, the play explores how certain events in people’s lives become defining moments that change them forever. In the final scene, JK, speaking of her father, says to the audience: “Defining moments … Changed him … Maybe. It was because. He realized. For the first time. How fragile life is. How in an instant. The music can die. How dreams can shatter. Like glass. How people’s lives are played out. On the showroom floor. In the back seats of cars. Over the phone. Under the stars. Individual lives. Multiplied. Become one nation. Under a kind of god. Indivisible. Invisible. Unless. We take time to notice. Look beyond our own window…”

On the Showroom Floor is a new play, stylistically challenging for both actor and audience, with mature, but universal themes.

Winner–James H. Wilson Memorial Playwriting Award, 2nd Place, Sponsored by the Deep South Writer’s Conference, Fall, 1999.

Staged Reading: April 1, 2000–Tri State Actors Theater, New Jersey (Link to website for playwright bio and info on reading).
-Synopsis written by the author.