KET Arts


Back to Teachers' Guide

Black Women Playwrights | Teachers' Guide

Play Synopsis

The setting is an inner-city environment of tenements and crowded streets. Women of different ages and races are seen going through their everyday routines. From a high window come the sounds of an argument. A straw hat sails from the window, lands on the street, then is crushed by a passing car. Loureen comes out, retrieves her damaged hat, and returns to her apartment. As she opens the kitchen door, her husband, Samuel, resumes the argument, pounding the table and raising his voice, until he screams, "When I count to five I don't want to see ya!" But before he can reach five, Loureen gathers up her strength and yells back, "Damn you to hell, Samuel!"

An explosion rocks the kitchen. The smoke slowly clears. Loureen, who has been knocked under the kitchen table, opens her eyes and calls for Samuel. In the middle of the kitchen is a three-foot pile of ash. Samuel's black-rimmed spectacles rest near the smoldering summit. Loureen phones a friend, Florence, who lives in the apartment above hers.

Florence comes down, and the two women try to figure out what has happened. Their talk is filled with doubts, pleadings, conjectures, studded with non sequiturs, as though the explosion has scrambled the reasoning powers of both women. Loureen is horrified by the thought that she might have killed Samuel with her words. We learn more about Samuel and his treatment of Loureen. We learn more about her friendship with Florence. Finally they conclude that Samuel is definitely gone, reduced to a pile of cinders. Was it a miracle? Or did Samuel combust from his own oily venom? The talk turns to the future that Loureen has been given and then to Florence's bleak marriage. They agree to talk tomorrow. Florence leaves. Loureen sweeps up the ashes, then sits down for a leisurely dinner. The faces of the women who appeared in the opening of the teleplay appear again, fading in and out.

In the Classroom

What do students expect from the dramas they see? Is physical action more compelling than interior struggles or ethical debates? When might a playwright choose to emphasize language over action, dramatic lighting, or set changes? From the synopsis, students can see that the structure of the play is a deliberate choice. It underscores the writer's intent. For more on language and structure, see Artistic Choices.

How is a script transformed into a teleplay? The KET production of Poof! is clearly faithful to the original play, yet some additions were necessary in bringing a stage play to the screen. Read the script after watching the play. Discuss those changes you remember, and the reasons behind them.

For a copy of the original play:

Humana Festival '93: The Complete Plays
Edited by Marisa Smith
Smith and Kraus, 1993
ISBN: 1-880399-37-7: paper

Back to Teachers' Guide