Kara in Black by Max Bush; Drama
Cast: 7-9m, 10-13w (Fifteen of these characters are between the ages of 16-19 - ideal for universities and high school)
Unit set depicting different locales
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes approximate
KARA: Della's my sister!
SUE ELLEN: What do you mean?!
KARA: She likes old Elvis records!
SUE ELLEN: What does that mean?
KARA: They don't know that. And she doesn't know those people. They're going to try and kill each other.
SYNOPSIS: Kara in Black takes place January-March 2003, beginning prior to the invasion of Iraq and finishing three days after the invasion. Kara's older sister, Della is leaving to join her Army unit and travel to Kuwait for a possible invasion of Iraq. Kara (Known as "Weird Kara" for her unusual prom designs - she came to prom in something resembling a fruit salad a year ago) doesn't want her to go and for the first time in her life, she starts to think about the nature of war and what her sister will experience. With friends, Kara researches the first Gulf War to better understand what will happen to Della in Iraq. Kara speaks with a decorated war veteran (Stevens) to better understand combat experience and what it does to people.
STEVENS (Vietnam veteran): And then, and then something was pressing against my face..... The ground.... Oh yeah, I'm hit. My head was ringing and my shoulder, a round hit my shoulder.... Find 'em, got to find 'em... Get up, find 'em and kill, kill 'em all... but I took too long.... We had seven dead. Five alive. Seven...
KARA: (After a long moment) How old were you?
KARA: I'm eighteen.
Kara researches past wars and discovers "Women in Black," a non-violent international organization that holds vigils protesting violence towards women and children. She decides to open a local chapter and that decision leads to polarization among her friends and family. During the play Kara (along with some of her friends) discovers what matters to her, how to combat her fears of helplessness in a challenging world, and how to use her voice to express herself on what she knows to be true. After the invasion, things grow increasingly heated as each character must grapple with what their truths and feelings about this new war. Kara's vigil for peace brings out heightened emotions in a conclusion that will stay with you long after the play is over.
STEVENS: ... I said, "Throw a grenade in there." He threw it and ran, and it went off. I said, Cover me" and looked inside and there wa ... was... a family in there. The mother was on her knees rocking, she was doing some chant from Vietnam, and she fell over dead. There was a boy and a little girl - four, five years old - they were both hurt and screaming..... I got to find those kids, go back to Vietnam, find those kids, and talk to them. It's unfinished business.... Every time I hear a kid yell, that's what I think of.
KARA: (after a long moment) How old were you?
KARA: My sister is nineteen.
WHY YOU SHOULD PRODUCE THIS PLAY: University and college students will recognize themselves in these characters. They are on the same journeys of exploration as Kara, Della and their friends. All of the characters - whether they are for the Iraq War or against - speak from moments of honesty and their own convictions. There are no tidy answers to the questions Bush poses in the play - but rather a respectful look at the exploration of young people as they try to reconcile their beliefs, their cares and their own needs and how they fit into a messy world.
In our increasingly polarized world, Kara in Black is ripe for discussion - among the cast and crew and audience members. It's a perfect fit for theatre in education. Meticulously researched (Stevens' monologues are from interviews that Bush did with Vietnam veterans), the play was developed through an Aurand Harris Playwriting grant (funded by Children's Theater Foundation) and a commission from the Lawrence Arts Center in Lawrence, Kansas (courtesy of the Summer Schools in the Arts grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.)
Practically speaking, you have a large cast of actors (the majority female) in their late teens with substantial roles for the experienced actor as well as for the novice. With the large cast, you have the ability to give your students a meaningful, theatrical experience.
KARA: I'm protesting this war for you. And everyone else. I love you. And want you to be safe and still be my sister when you come home. Della? Della, are you still there? I'm doing this for you.
To order a copy of this play, read an excerpt and/or produce it, please go to:
Dramatic Publishing - Kara in Black
Dramatic Publishing - Max Bush