Teenage Dick Content Transparency
In an effort to be more transparent, Woolly is now providing a fuller description of the plot and contents.
Content Transparency: This production includes depictions of suicide, violence, and ableism (including negative stereotypes and slurs) and discussions of abortion and its stigmatization.
Richard Gloucester, a 17-year-old with cerebral palsy, sets the stage of the play by directly addressing the audience, telling them that the play takes place at Roseland High School. He introduces the hero Eddie who’s the current junior class president. Richard is currently third in line for the presidency, the class secretary, but he has plans of taking down Clarissa, the vice-president, and finally Eddie. He plans on not doing it by pity vote or through campaigning, but by systemically destroying the competition because they have hated him since his birth for his disability. Richard realizes at the end of his monologue that he is late for English class.
He arrives to class where English teacher Elizabeth York readily accepts that he was late to class for his gait, not because he was talking to the audience. He greets Barbara “Buck” Buckingham, who is a 17-year-old girl who uses a wheelchair, before Clarissa questions why Richard always gets excused for being late. The class gets into a brief debate about it, Eddie using the opportunity to make fun of Richard and Clarissa comparing Richard to Buck despite their different disabilities. Elizabeth quickly pivots the conversation to Machiavelli’s The Prince which they were all supposed to have read for homework. However, only Richard knows any of the answers when Ms. York asks about the four pathways to power that Machiavelli outlines, even though Buck is Ms. York’s TA. Elizabeth asks if anybody else did the reading, and Clarissa says she did but that the reading was against her Christian beliefs which leads them to briefly discuss Machiavelli’s relationship to Catholicism and the pragmatism in his work. This brings Ms. York to talk about Machiavelli’s critique of idle cruelty which Richard asks about, but not before Eddie makes fun of him again. Richard asks Ms. York how Machiavelli’s idea of cruelty is different if you’ve been hated since birth, but class ends before she can answer.
Richard stays behind to apologize for his outburst in class and talks to her about the upcoming class election. He manipulates her into having the idea that he should run for class president against Eddie, who Ms. York dislikes. She compares the bullying that he goes through to that of her brother who had Down Syndrome who passed away a few years ago, which Richard points out is an awkward comparison. He uses the opportunity to convince Ms. York to waive the 200 student signatures he would need to run for president, get hall passes for the extra time it will take him to hang posters, and get Ms. York to talk to his teachers if his grades dip below a B average (the minimum needed to run for president). Finally, he asks her to also teach him how to drive, sarcastically saying that her confidence in him has inspired him. She, however, declines, noting that she drives a big SUV that she can barely drive.
Richard then turns to the audience, affirming that his covert campaign will be easier to wage than one in earnest. He then meets Buck in the hallway and asks her if she believes they’re social status can be overcome or if it is fixed. She believes that it is fixed, which surprises Richard. Richard reveals his aim to raise his social profile by taking Anne, Eddie’s ex-girlfriend and the most popular girl in school, to the Sadie Hawkins dance, a particularly difficult task since girls are meant to ask the boys to this dance. Buck guesses that getting a date with Anne is the first step in a multi-step scheme to run for president, but Richard lies to Buck and tells her that he just wants a date. Anne approaches them then and Richard tells Buck to step away.
Before Anne enters, he gives a small monologue to the audience confessing that Buck was right, getting a date with Anne is in fact a part of his scheme to become president. He goes to Anne and asks her if she is going to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. When she denies it, he presses her, asking if she pities or hates him. She denies both. Richard then implies that her ex, Eddie, has moved on and is dating someone else after unceremoniously dumping Anne. Richard posits that asking him will show how good of a person she is because she is taking “Richard – a cripple to his very first dance.” Though she agrees to take him, she is insistent that they are not dating, to which Richard says, “Not yet.” When she finally asks him, he says no, citing the fact that he can’t dance. She agrees to teach him given her dance background.
When she leaves Richard calls Buck back to the stage, who announces that Eddie is running for re-election. Buck likes Eddie’s candidacy because he is super nice to her, but Richard disagrees that Eddie is actually kind to Buck. They dispute whether Eddie having carried Buck for a symbolic touchdown was a nice gesture or a PR stunt. Though Richard disagrees with Buck, he pretends to be swayed by her argument. In supporting Eddie, Richard asks Buck what they might be able to do about stopping Clarissa from the running. Clarissa enters handing out flyers for her presidency and asks Richard and Buck to vote for her, attempting to appeal to them by proposing a coalition between Christians and the disabled. Buck and Richard are not buying it, and she tries to convince them by saying it’s the only way she’ll get into Stanford before outright stating that they will get into colleges because of their disabilities. Clarissa uses the opportunity to deck them out in her merch and snap a photo with them for her 7000 twitter followers despite Buck and Richard’s insistence that they don’t support her. After she leaves, Richard floats to Buck that they can knock her out of the race by having Buck leverage her position as a TA to lower Clarissa’s grades below the B average required to run. Buck says she wouldn’t be able to get access to Ms. York’s sheets, but Richard reminds her she’s a kleptomaniac by demonstrating the way that she taught him to steal keys off people without them noticing.
Richard speaks to the audience again, pitying poor Buck for how he manipulated her into aiding his secret campaign. He then moves us to the dance studio where he confronts his own image in the mirror and ogles at Anne in her dance clothing. Anne compliments him on his dancing, despite being somewhat “spazzy.” They joke and riff on “spaz hands,” which ends with Richard guilting Anne over the term, but quickly revealing that he was only doing so as a joke. Anne then has him move around and tries to get him to commit to the dancing. He falls and she goes to help him, but he rebuffs her. They talk about how he falls frequently, and Anne asks him about what it feels like to move in his own body, apologizing for if its offensive to ask. Richard says that he had never been asked and tells her it’s like constantly walking on ice patches he didn’t know were there. She shows him how to dance a bit more, and then he asks how often she comes to the dance studio. She shares that she’s there all the time working towards her dream of becoming a professional dancer in New York and then demonstrates a bit of her skills. Richard is baffled that she also wants to escape from Roseland given her high social standing. He tells her he would rather change the place he is than think of escaping. He makes a move on Anne, who is surprised at first. They kiss, and there is a blackout, Richard exclaiming, “Did anyone else fucking SEE THAT?” into the darkness.
When the lights come back up, we are back in the classroom with Clarissa in disbelief over failing the grade check to run for president. In Clarissa’s attempt to get Ms. York to reverse the decision, Ms. York reveals that Richard is running for president, which startles both Buck and Eddie. Clarissa accuses Ms. York of striking her from the ballot for her Christian faith, and Ms. York sends her to “the Tower” (which is the principal’s office). Clarissa laments the life she planned after her presidency as she is taken away.
Eddie and Buck then confront Richard about his secret presidential campaign. Buck is disgruntled about his secrecy, but Eddie is angry. Eddie and Richard yell at each other before Eddie gives Richard a wedgie and leaves. Buck confronts Richard about the way he used her, to which he apologizes. She asks him why he can’t just be happy with himself and pokes fun at his brooding response. When he begins to rage at Eddie again, Buck reveals that she likes him. Richard casts doubts on her ability to ever be in a relationship with Eddie because of her disability. This is the last straw for Buck who pushes back against Richard’s doubts. Richard wonders how he’ll take down Eddie without Buck when Anne appears in the door. She kisses him and they are transported to her bedroom.
Richard marvels at being taken to Anne’s bedroom to the audience, wondering what move to do next, before Anne stops him. Anne confesses that she isn’t ready for them to continue. Richard asks if it’s because of how he looks, and Anne assures him that it’s because she isn’t ready to bring their relationship there. Richard and Anne start talking about their relationship status, Anne saying that they’re seeing each other and Richard asking if they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. This leads Anne to talk about her previous relationship with Eddie. Richard tries to get her to tell her how it ended and accidently guesses the truth, that she had gotten pregnant. Anne reveals that though she thought about keeping it, she wasn’t ready to be a mother, so she went to an outpatient clinic alone while her parents were away and broke up with Eddie without telling him. Anne tells Richard that she does really like him but that after her experience she’s not looking for anymore drama. Richard holds her as the scene ends.
Richard then steps forward and addresses the audience again, tempted to reveal Anne’s secret to the school to take down Eddie. However, he decides to wage a virtuous battle because of Anne’s belief in him and care for him. The scene shifts to Ms. York introducing the presidential debate between Eddie and Richard. There is a screen behind them that projects tweets with the hashtag #RoselandHSDebate. She starts by asking Richard why he wants to be president to which Richard gives an overly eloquent answer before being heckled by a classmate in the audience who gets sent to the Tower by Ms. York. She then asks Eddie what he would do differently from last year to which Eddie says he wouldn’t change anything, much to Ms. York’s dismay. She then takes a tweeted question about Eddie’s ability to balance the presidency with his athletic commitments to which he says, “Yep.” Ms. York then asks Richard another question but is interrupted by heckling from the audience and on the twitter feed, sending another classmate in the audience to the tower. Ms. York then asks Eddie about his intentions with the student union fund, using the opportunity to talk about the overfunded football team and underfunded school play, and Eddie asks her whether she should be impartial as the moderator. The two students who were sent to the tower begin tweeting their indignation about being kicked out for participating. Clarissa then asks Ms. York and the two of them whether it is morally wrong to choose between two non-believers since neither of them are Christian. Eddie, and a couple tweets, dismiss Clarissa’s statements, but Richard addresses Clarissa’s feelings of persecution by relating to them and asking Clarissa to be his campaign manager. She agrees but only if it’s called a Social Media Manager. After Eddie rouses their audience into a chant, Richard and Eddie beginning fighting back and forth about Eddie’s ability to do the job. Eddie derides Richard as a freak, but Richard asks if a freak would be dating Anne Margaret, revealing to the school that he is with Eddie’s ex-girlfriend. Richard asks Anne to step forward, but she runs away. The debate gets disbanded by Ms. York who exits. Richard and Eddie are left bickering again, Richard nearly reveals Anne’s secret by telling Eddie that he knows why they broke up, but Eddie doesn’t. Richard yells at him one last time, telling him that pity has its limits for cripples like him, before exiting.
The scene shifts to Richard finding Anne in the dance studio. She locked the door, but Richard enters with a key stolen from the front desk guy. Anne asks why he revealed their relationship, and he accuses her of being ashamed of him. She disagrees, arguing that she just doesn’t want to be in the public eye after everything that has happened. Richard apologizes but still claims that Anne is caught up on his disability, minimizing her experience of having an abortion in the process. She eventually divulges more of the experience, but Richard makes it about Eddie’s absence. Anne tells Richard to never mention Eddie again, which makes Richard realize she still has feelings for Eddie. Richard asks if she’s still in love with Eddie to which she has no response. Richard thinks she doesn’t take their relationship seriously, but she says that she has told him more than anybody else knows about her life. Anne challenges Richard to prove that he isn’t the nasty resentful person that she saw at the assembly if he doesn’t want her to be ashamed to be in public with him. She leaves and Richard steps forward addressing the audience. He debates with himself over whether he wants Anne’s love or Eddie’s downfall more, considering what would happen if he chose Anne’s love. He steels his resolve and set off.
Richard changes off stage as Anne talks to him nervously about being out in public. Richard enters the dance in a tux and expresses his excitement to take it all in. The DJ then plays a song and the two of them do an amazing dance routine. Ms. York comes on and tells them how wonderful it was, awkwardly complimenting Anne for teaching Richard. Ms. York then spots a student trying to add alcohol to the punch, exiting to bring them to the tower. Anne affirms how happy she is to be there with Richard, confirming that it is, in fact, a date, and Richard starts to feel guilty. Anne apologizes for being afraid to be out in public, and Richard says he thinks he made a mistake. Buck then comes on to let them know that everybody is tweeting about rumors of Anne Margaret’s abortion. Eddie is at first targeted, but the tweets quickly begin to criticize Anne. Clarissa and Eddie enter, Eddie questioning Anne about the abortion and Richard yelling at Clarissa that her twitter rumors shouldn’t have targeted Anne. Anne runs away and Eddie runs after her affirming his love for her. Ms. York enters, and Richard blames Clarissa who tells Ms. York that it was Richard who put her up to it. Ms. York dismisses everyone but Clarissa, before Anne comes on stage and the scene transforms around her.
Anne delivers a monologue to the audience about how this would be different if it wasn’t Richard’s story or any of the other Shakespearean protagonists. She relays how it would be different had it been her story as she uses a bucket and rag to wipe blood onto her forearms. Anne tells the audience how she is not the object or foil or plot device, but a professional dancer, elaborating upon her dreams as she continues wiping blood onto her arms. She ends by apologizing, saying it isn’t her story and that she will go now, and then the stage turns red.
Richard enters the spotlight she previously occupied. He is then caught up in grief as voices read off tweets mourning Anne Margaret and praising Richard for being good to her, ending with a chant of “Richard is good!” He is showered in “I Voted” Stickers that float down into the audience like confetti.
Elizabeth then enters onto the stage tells him to give his acceptance speech. In his speech he decries the audience for killing his girlfriend, saying he will defund the football team and the computer lab to make a dance studio in her honor and finishes by yelling at the audience about what they’ve done to Anne and himself.
Buck then enters and remarks that his speech resembled Mussolini. Buck asks him how it feels to get what he wanted and tries to get him to admit that he killed Anne. Richard yells back that yes, he did plan this all and that Buck can’t do anything about it, but Buck says she has and then Eddie comes on and beats the shit out of Richard. Ms. York comes on to stop the fight and Richard asserts that he is not her dead brother or her pawn. Ms. York leaves and Richard reveals that he stole her keys
He gets in her car and goes to run Eddie over, Ms. York, Clarissa, and Buck watching from the sidelines. Anne appears before him, pleading with him to stop this for his own sake, to not become the villain, because he was loved by her. Ms. York, Clarissa, and Buck witness him run over Eddie so that he won’t walk again.
The play ends with Richard asking the audience what they expected. They knew he was a villain from the beginning. The lights go out and then are brought back up without him there. The remaining actors look at the negative space and then have a curtain call.