Don’t Miss This Script: The Listener

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This week’s recommendation of The Listener, comes from Undermain Emerging Artist, Brittany Johnson.

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I first saw The Listener by Liz Duffy Adams two years ago and was immediately struck by the tension between the surreal dystopia of the play’s apocalyptic world and its familiarity to our current society.  The play is set “generations in the future” in Junk City, a city-sized garbage dump where markers of civilization (streets and homes) are carved out of trash piles and nothing else exists for miles.

The play opens with characters Smak and Jelly searching through piles of trash; they are the Finders, whose job in this society is to find any junk that can be used by the Jimmies, those who create things out of useful junk. At the top of the play, Smak and Jelly have just found a metal garlic press, something new, which they take to Namer, to bestow a title upon it and decide whether it is useful junk. If you can’t tell by now, each person in this society is named after his or her job. The most important of these posts, and the title character, is the Listener. The Listener is in charge of a machine with which she radios messages into the unknown in hopes of making human contact. One solitary listener holds a lifelong position spent living alone in a tiny hut with constant contact via the radio machine.

As the play unfolds, Adams reveals that the inhabitants of Junk City are descendents of the people who refused, or were too weak, to leave the planet Earth in order to colonize on the moon, now called New Earth or Nearth. John, a member of Nearth, has traveled through space to rescue the Junk City citizens and bring them back to civilization, where the average life expectancy is 195 years and plans are already in the works for “the next move”.

Though the play definitely serves as a cautionary tale for what might happen if human beings continue to squander the Earth’s resources with disregard to renewing them, it is also an interesting take on how humanity survives no matter what the conditions. The play is brimming with stories of love, jealous, passion, and the determination to survive.

Though this is not one of Adams’ most popular or well-known works, it is worth a read if you’re looking for something different, post-apocalyptic, and entertaining!

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