benjamin franklin and katharine hepburn walk into a bar
Kim is in danger of losing her job because she hasn’t shown up in several days. She has worried herself sick to the point where she hasn’t been able to leave her room, but she knows that she has to. She attempts to argue and bargain with her depression and anxiety, represented by Katharine Hepburn and Benjamin Franklin, respectively. Katharine wants to keep her in. Benjamin pushes her to go out—neither of them are right and Kim has to figure out a way to decide for herself without letting either of them take over.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—The founding father, revolutionary, and inventor we all know from the $100 bill. Didn’t have much formal education growing up, but made up for it just fine. Bit of a jerk. Was most likely a member of a sex cult.
Trends towards functional but at the same time is reckless and impulsive. He represents the anxiety that makes Kim get things done. He gets out of the house sometimes. He is very attentive to deadlines and is likely to go into a complete and total panic until every last thing is done, no matter how important or minute the task. And then it’s a matter of how well the task was completed... He always has something more to say.
He has been with Kim since elementary school but does his best to make sure other people don’t know. His worst fear is that Kim will be a failure—even in third grade, he was sure one missed assignment would be the end of both their worlds and make everybody hate her. He credits himself with every success and achievement she’s made, with a sort of “where would you be without me” attitude. He talks quickly and becomes very defensive.
KATHARINE HEPBURN—Award winning legend of stage and screen with that iconic “transatlantic” accent. Her older brother Tom killed himself when she was 13, and she found him hanging in the attic. Her family tried to hush the incident up and her father reportedly referred to it as a “foolish stunt.”
Trends towards dysfunctional; she represents stagnation and overthinking. She represents the fear and depression that keeps Kim from getting things done. Katharine likes to lay in bed and brood. Responsibilities? Those are someone else’s problem. What kind of consequences can you face if you just don’t go anywhere?
She has been with Kim since high school and claims that she’s there to protect her from Benjamin, to keep her from over exerting herself. In reality, she’s the reason Kim rarely leaves her bed. Her worst fear is that something bad will happen to Kim if she goes out, whereas she knows Kim will be safe if she stays in. She talks slow and smooth, but snaps easily when angered.
KIM—A young woman who has become somewhat agoraphobic and is determined to shut that down so she can have at least one productive day this week. She lives on her own and doesn’t have anybody to check in and take care of her, so she has been struggling like this for a while. Constantly exhausted, but trying to be optimistic about it. Developed Benjamin and Katharine to cope with the depression and anxiety that has been with her since childhood—the idea behind it is that if you name something, you can tell it to eff off. In theory, it works, but in practice? It’s a 50/50 shot. She is easily overwhelmed by her own thoughts, as represented by Katharine and Benjamin arguing with each other. Her greatest fear is that she’ll never get out of her own head enough to be functional and do anything that makes her happy.
The chaotic and cluttered bedroom of a 20 something year old woman living alone and struggling with her mental health.
Benjamin and Katharine are not meant to be literal representations of their real life counterparts, but manifestations of Kim’s fears and anxieties. They’re not exactly voices in her head so much as how she compartmentalizes and processes her thoughts and feelings, and personality-wise they are a hodgepodge of traits popularized (or bastardized) by history and media.
Act I, Scene 1
Kim’s bedroom. It’s the kind of mess that accumulates when just getting out of bed takes as much effort as running a marathon—half empty water bottles, an overflowing trash can, dirty dishes, a pile of clothes so large you fear for the chair hidden beneath it. She is wrapped in a blanket, talking quietly to herself, breathing deeply. It is morning. At rise, she is alone.
Nothing bad will happen. I will be fine once I get there. I can accomplish anything I want. Nothing stands in my way. I am strong. I am in control of my life.
(Benjamin and Katharine enter from opposite sides to stand behind her. Kim continues repeating throughout, getting louder.)
This is different. What do you suppose it is today?
It seems she’s got it in her mind that she’s going out today.
Oh, at last! It has been a whole week. There is so much that she needs to get done; it is astonishing. I could not live with myself procrastinating like that. I would go insane, I would be crawling in my own skin. I would-
(Cutting him off.)
I’d smother you with a pillow to get you to just be quiet for one goddamn minute! You know, not everybody can be as insufferably capable as-
(LOUD now, cutting Katharine off.)
Nothing bad will happen. Nothing.
God, you guys, can you just...
(Motions for them to scram.)
I really need to focus. The bickering is not helping.
What is there to focus on, dear? You’re in bed. All there is to do now is lay your head back down, pull up the covers...
You haven’t even turned the light on, it really would be so easy to just—
I said no. I can’t go back to bed. Not for the sixth day in a row.
I was hoping you wouldn’t say that.
Well I, for one, second that motion.
She wasn’t asking you, Ben.
And I wasn’t asking you, Katharine. You’re the reason I’ve been all cooped up; the reason I feel like I’m going vomit every time I reach for the doorknob.
You see, Katharine? At least I serve as a positive influence. She is finally going to get something done. I would never—
Hold the fuck up, Benjamin, you’re just as bad as she is. I didn’t invite either of you.
Well hold on now, Kim, that’s not fair.
Are you really attempting to defend yourself right now? After everything she just said? The nerve of some people!
Oh, please! You’re the only reason I’m here, to give her a way to cope with all of your hectic nonsense! Just because you’ve been here since she was in third grade doesn’t mean you have any kind of moral high ground.
What kind of man panics a third grader to the point of tears over homework? Third graders barely even have homework!
(Advancing towards Katharine now, a challenge.)
Without me, she would be a disgrace to everyone that came before her—she should be more grateful, a girl like her with such a fine formal education. If I had had that, imagine what more I could have achieved—how much more I could help her achieve!
Are you proposing that you somehow made her life better when you waltzed in after she made it to high school? She nearly had to redo her sophomore year because of you! Her parents dragged her to therapy!
Oh, as if there’s anything shameful in that. They should’ve done that in third grade; she needed it! Then I wouldn’t even need to be here!
Neither of you need to be here! I don’t want you here!
I don’t even want to be here!
(A pause. Katharine and Benjamin look at her with concern.)
Jesus, not like that. That sounded bad.
Promise me it will never come to that.
(Beat. She sighs.)
I just meant that...
(Struggles to find the words.)
I don’t want to stay holed up in here for the rest of my life. And I don’t want to panic every time I leave the house. I don’t want to fight with you. Or for you to argue with each other. Because if I let any of that happen, people are gonna think I’m a fucking lunatic.
It’s like the setup to the most depressing joke you never asked to hear: Benjamin Franklin and Katharine Hepburn walk into a bar, only the bar is my head, and they proceed to trash the joint.
God, this is why I don’t tell my therapist about you.
I need to be a functioning person or else... I don’t even know what else. I’ll definitely lose my job. And my sanity is already pretty tenuous as it is.
That’s because you always stress yourself out, dear. Every time you go somewhere, you inevitably end up wanting to come back here—oh, and you do make yourself so upset about it.
Uh, I don’t know if you know this, but you’re actually the one that does that.
Actually, if it’s anyone it’s almost certainly Benjamin, but agree to disagree darling.
(Benjamin starts to say something, Katharine shoots him daggers. Kim rolls her eyes.)
In any case, it seems to me that the simplest solution is to just not leave. Stay where you know you’ll be comfortable.
(Throughout the next section, Benjamin and Katharine “fight” over Kim. She grows visibly more and more upset.)
Comfort never pushed resolutely onward in the face of political revolution. And comfort certainly does not keep you highly regarded in the minds of your peers. Lazy habits seldom earn respect.
And behaving like an absolutely boneheaded alarmist never helped anyone calm down. I mean, for Pete’s sake, look at her!
I have no earthly idea what you are talking about Katharine; she seems better than ever.
(Taking Kim by the shoulders and pulling her to standing.)
She is better than ever and out of bed and ready to seize the day so that she can make something of herself.
(Yanking her back from him.)
Your ridiculous little spectacles must be dirty, Benjamin; she is about to lose her marbles. She always does with you. She’s never okay with you. She’s never okay when she leaves the house.
You silver screen strumpet! It is your fault everybody hates her!
(Katharine reaches for her again, furious, and Kim ducks out of the way. They both step towards her and she shouts, keeping them at arm’s length.)
Oh HELL no! I’m gonna need the both of you to take it down a couple of fucking notches.
(The two react—Benjamin stammering something along the lines of “Well I never,” Katharine gasping and clutching her proverbial pearls.)
My apologies, dear. I suppose some of us got a little carried away.
(Glares at Benjamin AGAIN.)
It was never my intention to get you so worked up, I just-
Well, look at it from my angle darling. I’m speaking from personal experience here—that is, I’m only trying to help. Sometimes seclusion is just the thing. If anyone knows about that, it’s me. After my-
Oh, is that all you can ever talk about? Me, me, me, I know, my brother. SOME of us spare a thought for others once in a while. You never-
(This strikes a chord with Katharine. She claps a hand over Benjamin’s mouth.)
(Seething, but trying to keep it together for Kim.)
After my brother killed himself, I kept very much to myself for a while. I didn’t talk to many people, I stayed shut up in my room—and look what I was still able to accomplish! All those nominations and awards!
And my father was a doctor, of all things. If there had been anything wrong with that, he would have done something for sure. Well, he got me a tutor, but other than that?
He taught me not to put my troubles onto anyone else, so I didn’t, and I turned out just fine.
(Benjamin grumbles from behind her hand. We can’t understand him.)
Alright, well first of all: that’s pretty messed up and definitely not the right way to teach kids to process their emotions. And second, that was only for like two years. You were a teenager—you still had other people to take care of you. For the most part, anyway...
I don’t anymore. I’m living on my own, I have to work to support myself...
I so don’t have the option of shutting down entirely. If I do that, I will never get anything done literally ever.
(Benjamin grumbles again at this. We still can’t hear him. We still don’t really care.)
Oh my God, Benjamin, would you get it through your greasy, old man head already? I’m not going anywhere if you keep telling me what a piece of shit I am. No, you know what? I will go somewhere—I’ll crawl my ass right back into that bed. Which, as I have already said, is NOT an option.
And if you give me that “you’d be nothing without me” spiel again, so help me God, I will projectile vomit directly on you.
(Throughout the following section, Kim realizes that she has lost control of the argument entirely and sits back with her blanket to observe and react until she hits her own breaking point.)
(Benjamin’s really riled up now. He bats Katharine’s hand away.)
This is wildly unjust! You let her have too much sway over you, Kim! She always wants you to take the easy way out!
“Easy” my left tit. Why are you so intent on tearing the poor girl down all the time? All you ever do is scold her and frighten her until she’s ill and exhausted, you worthless crumb.
(Now it’s personal. Or, as personal as it can be when neither of them is real.)
I am a founding. Father. FOUNDING, you hear me? As in, founder of this NATION. They do not put just anybody on hundred dollar bills—they put VALUABLE revolutionaries on them! Send me a letter and let me know when they start putting washed up old-
Oh, can it you balding prune! Go get your kite and key, why don’t you—I think I hear a storm rolling in, wouldn’t want you to miss out.
As a matter of fact, I think there’s a fork in that week old bowl of ramen; you could always just stick it in a power outlet for the same effect.
And if I do not survive the jolt, then perhaps I will finally be spared the incessant droning of your voice. Learn to speak proper English, would you? How anyone could consider you a lady fit for the public is quite beyond my faculties. You wear trousers as if trying to be a man, but all I see is a barbarous whore.
Is that right? I’m the whore here, Mr. Sex Cult?
(Pushing them apart)
Yeah, NOPE! That’s it! That’s it!
(Light bulb- she grabs a roll of duct tape from the mess and threatens the two of them with it.)
I know that neither of you is going to leave, but you’re gonna shut up and listen for a minute—I’m giving you one of two options.
One: you stay quiet for one singular day so that I can make an attempt to pull my life back into some semblance of “together.” I walk out that door with you, but you let me make my own decisions. I face the people I’ve let down honestly, and if it sucks then it sucks and the world will keep turning and I will keep going. I make it to the end of the day doing the best that I can because it’s more than nothing, and then and ONLY then will I come back home and curl up in a ball.
I step out that door. And you two seal your lips.
Or, we have option two:
(Holds up tape.)
I seal them for you.
BENJAMIN AND KATHARINE, SIMULTANEOUSLY
Well it isn’t my fault that [she/he]—
Two it is then.
(She rips a piece of duct tape. Blackout.)