CASTING CALL: Busting McNutley’s – The First Reading!

whore-house-neon-signHey Actors and Theatrically-Inclined Folks,

We’re working on putting together a reading of my new play “Busting McNutley’s” for Wednesday Evening, March 19. There are eight roles and we could also use a narrator to read some pretty spicy stage directions. I’ve outlined the “types” of the characters below.

You don’t have to BE the type — just willing to bring the flavor of it to a reading. In other words, if you’re a dude who does a killer Katharine Hepburn or a lady who can capture a spirit of a smooth Southern gentleman, you’re eligible for the FIRST LADY and MAYOR, respectively.

McNutley’s is an old-fashioned house of ill repute that has fallen on hard times. A young BANKER arrives to evict its occupants – the widow KICKS McNUTLEY, dim barmaid NANCY, buxom performer HENRIETTA HONEYDEWS and super-obese prostitute BIG RUBY, but he’s shocked to discover some of the town’s most respected citizens (including his boss, his priest, the buttoned-up town MAYOR and his oversexed FIRST LADY) have secretly been involved with McNutley’s all along. Ultimately, the BANKER must devise an audacious plan to save McNutley’s that may just leave them all feeling like whores in church.


Kicks McNutley – a salty older madam

Nancy – a dim barmaid and ingenue who’s getting on in years, a Cinderella who never found her prince

Henrietta Honeydews – a brassy, buxom stripper a la Mae West

Banker – a earnest straight man

Father – an older, tippling Irish Priest

Captain – a gruff military leader

Mayor – a proper Southern politician

First Lady – a loquacious Connecticut nymphomaniac, think oversexed Katharine Hepburn

Contact me ASAP if you’re willing and able!

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RANDOM SPLURN 1: What an Alcoholic Made Me Think about Letters


I’m listening to the end of, “Time Is All We Have,” a memoir about a guy who went to the Betty Ford Clinic. Naturally, I Audibled it because I was curious if anything really nutbar went on in there and also on the off chance that he happened to be in there at the same time as Liz Taylor. (He wasn’t.) (But he mentioned her obsessively anyway.)

He’s getting to the end, talking about how he still is regularly in touch with several of his peer group and counselors from the BFC and it suddenly occurred to me that by “regularly in touch” could mean letters. He refers to letter writing occasionally throughout the book. At first my response was, “Yeah, I’d probably do some letter writing with that much time to kill.” It later occurred to me: he might have been writing them anyway.

It sort of astounded me. If I were in the kind of relationship where I occasionally exchanged correspondence by mail with someone (I’m not, by the way), I wouldn’t consider that regularly in touch. It would be an utter oddity. People with whom I’m “regularly in touch” I text and interact with on social media constantly. There are even a select few with whom I deign to spend time on the phone. (On a side note – I sometimes remember how luxuriant and essential I found talking on the phone as a high schooler and wonder what the hell happened to that feeling.)

And then I thought – how lovely it would be to be “regularly in touch” with someone that way. How many more people I COULD be regularly in touch with – not with a burning necessity to inform them of my every little opinion on what I was experiencing but, instead, a pleasant, gentle curiosity. I would sit down occasionally to put into words a snapshot of my life at that moment: the people who I see, the artists who are inspiring me, maybe even the mistakes I’ve made (transformed into hilarious life lessons through the magic of time and memory). And occasionally, I would open my mailbox to find a similar document of their existence, an opened window into their world, the curtains breezy, the smell of the pie cooling on the ledge. (BTW, does not that pie cooling on a ledge practice seem hall dangerous?)

And of course I’d find a way to turn it into a chore – one more writing or reading assignment I didn’t have to do. And of course I’d become frustrated with it because I can’t read/and-or/say/and-or/share/and-or/tweet enough about what happened five minutes ago: So why would I care to participate in the modern equivalent of occasionally looking at what was going on over on someone’s facebook wall a few months ago for no particular reason.

Nevertheless, I almost think it would be worth a try.

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31 of 31: THE MIGRAINE


For Justin
By Paul Hagen

(Lights up on the interior of a plane. PAUL sits, super decked out for travel – he’s got a sleeping mask, neck pillow, earplugs: the works. He reaches up, as though to turn on his reading light, and is illuminated by its beam. He leans forward toward the audience as one would lean in to tell a juicy story to a friend over lunch.)

So here’s how it happened: I’m at this strange party;
The hors d’oeuvres were plentiful and pretty hearty;
It seems, Sweden was throwing a fete for the gays -
And transgenders, I guess, and those who swing both ways;
But especially the gays – celebrating gays wedding
By marrying couples in planes while they’re heading
Back to the U.S. And the couples were cute.
And the staff of the flight all sang to them, to boot.

(A flight attendant approaches PAUL. We hear the sound of a record scratching.)

Can I get you anything sir?

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I accidentally push my call button?

No, it was just—

I didn’t think so.

(PAUL stares daggers at the FLIGHT ATTENDANT, who hurries away. He leans back in toward the audience.)

Now where was I? Ah yes – it was all quite a sight,
Then the strangest thing happened, toward the end of the night.
A broad-shouldered Swede – he rose to the mic;
Promised he’d not take long but, he said, he would like
To announce which attendee would receive a prize;
Then he paused for a moment, and to my surprise:
It was MY name that he announced: a lucky break.
(Though at first I thought there’d been some kind of mistake.)
So I stepped up on stage with the couples and crew,
I shook hands with the broad-shouldered Swede, and I knew
That it would be a nightmare to schedule the trip,
But I smiled at the crowd and tried to get a grip.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT returns. Again, we hear the sound of a record scratching.)

Sir, can I offer you a glass of water?

Oh, but will that require you go away? You know, to get the water?

It will, sir, but-

Then by all means, yes.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT scurries away, and PAUL returns his attention to the audience.)

Since my boyfriend just got a new job, it was clear;
We’d prob’ly not schedule the trip for a year.
But we picked out a date, hoped we’d still be together,
We bought Swedish phrase books and shopped for cold weather.
In what seemed not too long, the whole year had gone by;
And we both headed off to the airport to fly.
The first thing I realized: I didn’t buy gum,
And I’d never once flown without chewing on some.
“They’ll have gum at the airport,” Justin patiently said.
(like he meant, “Don’t you worry your warped little head.”)
And, indeed, gum was found – though its price was quite high,
And I chewed it as we rose up into the sky:
I’d been worried, I – since I was young, had bad ears,
Especially for flying, but – no need for fears.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT returns with the water.)

I’ve brought you your water, sir. Perhaps you’ll be-

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT hands PAUL the water bottle. He opens it and proceeds to turn it upside-down and drop it into the aisle.)

Oops! I seem to have spilled it. Would you be so kind as to go and get me another?

Of course, sir.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT, somewhat steamed, heads away again. PAUL looks back to the audience.)

And just when I think that the danger has passed;
This – something – just hits me – almost like a blast
Of cold air from a car’s air conditioner vents;
My head’s suddenly tight and my body is tense;
And the light’s awfully bright; everything is too loud;
I’m aware of my nearness in space to the crowd;
I could only remember it from once before:
But it seemed I was having a migraine once more.
“But I can’t be,” I thought to myself – like a clown,
“‘Cause when you have a migraine, you have to lie down.
You need to be able to block out all light.
You need to not be on a nine hour flight!”
Attendants pass by, and one offers a drink;
I ask for a water but can barely think.
I manage to stand and from the overhead
Pull my toiletry bag – feeling like I’ll drop dead
Any second. I paw through it, barely can see.
I know I must find something soon to help me.
I grab anything that I think could help most
In amounts that might constitute an overdose:
Nighttime tylenol, xanax and also some nyquil.
I know it won’t stop the pain, but hope that I will
Pass out, and I press my palms into my eyes
And I issue a series of pained little sighs
And when they offer dinner, I push it away,
And for what it’s worth, lay my head down – and pray.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT returns and opens the water bottle, handing it to PAUL, as – again – we hear the record scratching. PAUL takes it and sips it.)

Oh I’m so sorry. Do you have anything wetter?

Than water?

I see your point. Then, maybe – colder?

I could get you ice.

Could you? Really? How perfectly perfect!

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT marches away and PAUL turns his attention back to the audience.)

When I come to, I think, well, I mean, I could swear
We MUST almost be done, but we’re just halfway there.
Justin asks how I am, asks as soft as a cloud,
But even that whisper is way, way too loud.
I rise to my feet, stumble into the aisle;
I’d laugh at myself but it hurts just to smile.
I wonder how it could have felt like so long
And yet, still, the headache’s impossibly strong.
And it might be the migraine, it might be some pill;
But the aisle won’t seem to stay steady or still;
And the world all around me seems, somehow, to buzz
At the edge of my vision, a frustrating fuzz.
So I get to the bathroom and back to my seat,
It’s a miracle that I don’t fall off my feet.
And I take some more pills, maybe just for good measure,
It’s relief to pass out again, if not a pleasure.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT returns with a cup of ice. We hear the record scratch again.)

Your ice, sir.

Oh, in a plastic cup?

That’s what we use, sir. It’s safer.

Even in first class?

You’re not in first class.

And I’m not that thirsty, either. You can clear these both for me, can’t you?

Of course, sir.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT takes the cup of ice and the water bottle PAUL hands her and stomps away, agitated. PAUL turns to the audience once more.)

By the time that we’ve landed, the worst has subsided;
As to whether I’m better, I’m still undecided.
The pain still feels near, as though at any moment,
It could roar right back, like a circling opponent.
Navigating the airport and down to the train,
I’m accosted by lights and noise, though not more pain.
When we’ve finally found a free automobile,
And we’re cruising through Stockholm, it doesn’t seem real.
The cab driver, he follows a long, curving road;
And soon, near a row of long building, he’s slowed.
There’s a torch that is lit just near the entranceway,
And it seems to say: Here, there is rest. Come and stay.
The desk clerk gets us checked in without delay,
Invites us to partake in the breakfast buffet.
I manage a few bites, then head to the room:
Bright and Swedish, but we make it dark like a tomb;
When the curtains are pulled – that is when I feel best,
And I sigh and unclench, for at last I can rest.
Though I know for the rest of my life, even then,
With each flight, I will fear, it will happen again.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT returns, this time empty handed. The record scratches.)

Sir, I have tried to be patient with you, but the simple fact is: The other passengers are trying to sleep and you seem to be having a very animated conversation with nobody. Now are you going to quiet down or do I have to call the air marshall?

(PAUL stands and slaps the FLIGHT ATTENDANT hard in the face. She crumples into the aisle. PAUL nonchalantly sits and turns back to the audience.)

The great irony of it all – and this is true -
Is that one of the things you’re not supposed to do
Is to think about a migraine after it’s gone
Because thinking of them can bring a new one on.
So now even the memory’s enough to stir fears.
Oh well – at least it distracts from my ears.

(Lights out.)


(Lights up. PAUL has his sleeping mask on. He is fast asleep. He starts awake and lifts his mask, looking up at the FLIGHT ATTENDANT.)

I’m sorry to disturb you, but I brought you that water you asked for.

Thanks. Thanks so much.

(The FLIGHT ATTENDANT walks away. PAUL pulls a pill bottle out of his pocket and takes one with the water. He considers the bottle for a moment and then takes one more. And, as the lights fade, he takes one more just in case. Blackout.)

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30 of 31: BODYWORK


By Paul Hagen

(We see a cross-section of a gym arrayed across the stage, from right to left: an exercise bike, an elliptical machine, weights, a yoga mat, his and hers showers, his and hers lockers, a smoothie counter and the front door.)

(JIMMY and JENNY are all about fitness and wearing Jane Fonda-worthy workout gear. They are totally working out. Currently, JIMMY is on an exercise bike and JENNY is on an elliptical machine.)

I’m breaking a sweat.

Yeah? That’s good!

It’s so good!
I swear, a good sweat can sometimes give me wood.

That is hot!

Yeah, I know it is!


I will think about sweat for the rest of the night.
You know what? I think later? I might just jerk off to it.

That is totally how I think you should jerk off – do it!
Man, but you know what really gets my juice flowing?


The rhythm of this thing when I really get going.

Oh, man!

It’s hypnotic. I’m, like, preorgasmic
I’m filled with this energy – ancient and cosmic.
The same force that blows the winds and turns the tides.

Is it time to move forward?

Let’s take a few strides.

(JIMMY and JENNY run over to their next exercise stations – weights for JIMMY and yoga for JENNY.)

Man, I love getting ripped!

Yeah, you really look pumped.

Know what’s better than lifting?

No, dude, I am stumped.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Nothing! Man, it was just a trick question.

‘Cause you love it so much.

It’s my fucking obsession.

You love definition.

I’m so damn defined.
And my muscles? They drive ladies out of their mind.

Me? I drive the boys wild with the way that I stretch.

Man, how flexible are you?

I’ll give you a sketch:
See: The pose was an Eka Pada Sirsasana
I pushed my leg toward my neck — it didn’t wanna


Had a friends pull – I don’t break like China.
Who cares if I dislocated my vagina?

Yeah, who cares?

I’m bad-ass!

Come, on: Let’s hit the showers.

(JIMMY and JENNY run to the shower stalls, enthusiastically hurling their workout clothes over the curtains and then peeking their heads out.)

Yes, let’s!

Man, I could hit the showers for hours!

I know, right?

I love how the sound of the splashing
Keeps changing.

To dripping.

Or trickling.
Or thrashing.

Or bending.

Or scrubbing.

Or rubbing.

Or peeing!

I just can’t stop thinking ‘bout what I’m not seeing!

(Wrapping themselves in towels, JIMMY and JENNY proceed to the lockers to change back into street clothes.)

And then there’s the locker room!

Man, is that fun!

It’s so hot, you know, just the thought that everyone
Is about to work out.

Or just recently finished!

How fat people smile when their weight has diminished…

Catching glimpses as towels are wrapped and adjusted.

I love those naked people.

Even if they’re busted!

(JENNY and JIMMY sling their gym bags over their shoulders and shut their lockers, heading over to the gym’s Health Bar where they pick up two waiting smoothies.)

Dude, I love a nice smoothie.

Yeah, I love the sucking!

Sometimes a good protein boost’s better than fucking!

A nice shot of wheat grass — I know, it sounds corny –
But all that nutrition: It gets me so horny!

I know, right?

I could lick the cup at the end.

I could kill when a chunk gets caught where straws bend.

(JIMMY and JENNY finish their smoothies and eye the door.)

Well I guess we should go.

Nothing else left to do.

At least not here.

Yeah… I could go somewhere with you.

You mean… talk?

Or whatever?

Or do something more…

Yeah, I would – except pretty soon I will be sore.
The gym makes me feel sexy as hell.

I don’t doubt it.

But then leaves me too tired to do much about it.

(JENNY gives JIMMY a friendly pat on the back and bolts out the door. Crestfallen, JIMMY waits a moment and then heads shuffles to the door also – as lights fade to black.)

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29 of 31: A Notebook’s Worth


A Notebook’s Worth
For David Sedaris
By Paul Hagen

(A classroom at an all boy’s boarding school. Rows of uniformed, well-groomed young men sit, facing front with a notebook unopened in front of them. PROFESSOR MESSINGHODEN is standing at the front of the classroom with one of these crisp, new notebooks raised in one hand. He stares at the students – portly, pompous and indisputable. He begins to pace the perimeter, occasionally slamming down his notebook on a startled student’s desk.)

You WILL fill up these notebooks; I do not care how.
Write your memories, dreams, that you’re hungry right now.
Write whatever sick words your small minds can amass;
But fill up these pages or don’t pass the class.

Do these notebooks have worth? There’s no doubt in the matter.
For when writers are good, then their notebooks are fatter.
Their pages are fuller with rumbles and riddles,
with doodles and ditties, with jottings and tittles.

Like a bank account, they start with what you put in,
And your interest will grow – the longer it’s been.
There is something impressive in words on a page:
Like a fine wine, they seem to get better with age.

Doubtlessly, you will fill them, not to be uncivil,
Predominantly, with what seems like pure drivel,
Not only to me but to any who’d test you.
You’ll be small on the page — even if it’s your best you.

You may curse my name by the end of semester;
Especially those who’ll be forced to sequester
Themselves for a week, without reason or rhyme;
Just to fill up the pages to turn in on time.

With shame, you’ll turn red as you hand them to me.
When you think of the stained, strained, pained mess I shall see,
And I’ll read just enough to know that they’re completed.
And which of you criminals stupidly cheated.

Then return them to you, and you’ll pack them away.
And for years they will not see the clear light of day.
Those of you who don’t lose them to some dark abyss,
You will find them one day, and I promise you this:

It will feel like the best thing you did in your life,
When you’re in your cold bed with your old, wrinkled wife.
And you’ll wonder how you ever were so inspired,
How you marvelled and planned, how you never got tired.

So I say to you: Write! Like your lives were at stake!
Write ‘til your hand cramps and then DON’T take a break!
For when – far down the road – it is finally read;
Then you’ll want to thank me, and, men, I’ll be dead.

(He slams his notebook on the edge of his desk. A schoolbell rings. Lights out.)

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28 of 31: Sheer Perfection


For my Three Belindas
By Paul Hagen

(BELINDA whisks onto the stage, dressed in 18th Century finery. A large, empty mirror frame sits above a vanity. MELINDA mirrors her every move on the far side of the mirror.)

(BELINDA stops, struck by her own reflection.)

Oh, just look at you! Aren’t you the prettiest thing?
The way that you look is the way that birds sing.
Compared to you, even a kitten’s not cute.
And if you were music, you would be the toot
Of a trumpet announcing the coming of kings.
Yes you’re flowers and jewelry and all the best things!

(BELINDA cocks her head and holds ear as though listening to compliments.)

Oh you flatter me! No, there’s no need to decoy it.
But now that you’ve started – go on, I enjoy it.
As bright as the sun? Oh, no! How could that be?
As grand as a masterpiece! Little old me?
Clever? Me? Charming? Me? Courteous? Cunning?
She can’t hold a candle to me? That is stunning!

(BELINDA laughs a merry, performative laugh that slowly fades until she is looking at herself more soberly in the mirror.)

You’re lucky, you know that? You, there in the glass.

(MELINDA seems startled for a moment. It is the first time we see her doing anything other than exactly mirror BELINDA.)

You look like me but, luckily get to pass
On the silly old men and the grabby young boys
And the smoke and the drinks and the spills and the noise.
Yes, I think it would be nice to be a reflection:
To be nothing but how I look – sheer perfection!

(BELINDA runs one perfectly manicured finger over the mirror. MELINDA startles BELINDA by pulling her finger away first.)

Then why don’t you?

Why don’t I what?

Why don’t we switch?
You’ve got the desire – go on: Scratch the itch.

But how would it work?

You’d come be the “in here” her.
The one who does nothing but dance in the mirror.
I’ll suffer the men and their pushy advances.

Won’t you miss it in there?

What? Oh – I’ll take my chances.

(BELINDA and MELINDA mirror again – holding their palms together.)

I’m here.

And I’m here, and I’m going to be there.

And I’m going to be there.

And you will breathe my air.

Oh, I think I feel faint.

It’s okay, just you wait.
It’s a passing sensation – quick to abate.
And soon you will be here.

And soon you will be here.

And I’m there. I mean, here.

Yes, you are. I mean: We’re.

Well, enjoy yourself in there.

Wait. Where are you going?

I’ve got life that needs living, and things that need knowing.

But wait—

You’ll see plenty of me. Don’t you worry.
Not out much, I fear. Or when I’m in a hurry.
But we’ll be together when we’re getting dressed.
Or when we can’t stop brushing our hair when I’m stressed.

What do I do?

Not much. You’ll have plenty of quiet.
I suppose that it might be nice as you first try it.

Just at first?

Then you’ll find that there’s not much to do.
Because nobody else lives in there but, well, you.

All alone? No! You tricked me!

Now, don’t make a fuss.
At least no one makes love to the mirror like us.

(MELINDA prances merrily away from the mirror. BELINDA – now trapped behind the mirror in MELINDA’s body – stands, alone, dismayed. Blackout.)

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27 of 31: Fatty in a Tube Top


For @MattHeartSpade and @BrittersBlog
By Paul Hagen

(Lights up on quiet subway car, sitting in the station. We hear the ding warning that the doors are about to close. SHYLISA, the titular Fatty in a Tube Top, comes charging down the platform hollering in the hopes that someone will hold the doors for her. No one does.)

(All of a sudden, the track to Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” blares out of nowhere. The other train passengers look confused but SHYLISA starts grooving her body to it and starts singing.)

My belly’s hanging out, all right?
But my tittes are squeezed in real tight.
I’m waiting for someone to release them.
Over my waistband see the top of my thong?
And don’t my jeans look painted on?
Yeah, I’m smooth as gravy.

(SHYLISA strides confidently up to a a BUSINESS MAN and shows off her assets.)

Your body’s saying let’s go.
It’s just your mouth that’s saying no!

Baby, I’m a Triple D
And I’m busting out of this.
I’m fatty in a tube top,
I got something you can kiss.

Yeah, I’m luscious and I’m thick,
And there’s plenty more of me
I’m a fatty in a tube top
You’re gonna like what you see.

(SHYLISA bends over and twerks agains the BUSINESS MAN vigorously.)

I’m a fatty in a tube top, baby.
Gonna rub on up against you, honey.
I’m a fatty in a tube top, baby.
Hey! Hey! Baby, I’m busting out!

(SHYLISA commiserates with some GIRLFRIENDS, who totally get her.)

From time to time, my top scootches low;
I dig in my thumbs and pull it up, you know.
Or gravity
Could release me.
I’m stretching the limits of the stretch of my tube
With my humongous uni-boob
Such a fancy lady.

(SHYLISA approaches a CONSTRUCTION WORKER carrying a cup of coffee and attempts to seduce him.)

I’m an ocean of a wet dream!
You be coffee, I’ll be cream!

Yeah, this necklace ‘round my chins
It gets caught up in my cleaves.
I’m a fatty in a tube top;
And, no, I’m not wearing sleeves.

But don’t call me Rubenesque
‘Cause I don’t know what that means.
I’m a fatty in a tube top;
In a tube top and jeans.

(SHYLISA sits down next to a MALE MODEL and continues to dance vigorously.)

I’m a fatty in a tube top, baby
Gonna lay my rolls up on you, honey
I’m a fatty in a tube top, baby
Hey! Hey! Baby, I’m busting out!

(On her other side, an OLD MAN appears to be enjoying SHYLISA’s performance.)

I’m a fatty in a tube top, baby.
It’s so full, it’s nearly see-through, honey.
I’m a fatty in a tube top, baby.
Hey! Hey! Baby, I’m busting out!

(SHYLISA stands and walks to the pole.)

I’m putting on a nip show!
When I’m cold they say hello! Oh!

(SHYLISA works the pole like a pro!)

I’ve got stuffing, you can see:
Like my well-upholstered seat?
I’m a fatty in a tube top.
And I don’t watch I eat.

(SHYLISA has attracted the attention of some TEENAGE BOYS.)

‘Cause my chubby up on top
Gives them chubbies down below
I’m a fatty in a tube top
And yeah, baby, I know.

I’m aware of how I look.
I’m a roly-poly girl.
I’m a fatty in a tube top:
And I am round like the world!

(SHYLISA works the train as the various passengers wave cash at her. She takes it and stuffs it in her tube top.)

I’ve got ample samples – try!
I will see we all get fed.
I’m a fatty in a tube top,
When I lay down I spread!

I’m a fatty tube top, baby:
Hey! Hey! Baby I’m busting out.

(The train pulls into the station. SHYLISA bows as the train applauds and she exits.)

(Lights flash out and back up on the opening scene. Once again, we hear SHYLISA running down the platform. The door dings and closes, leaving her sad on the platform. She never made it. Blackout.)

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