FAQ for the full-length play, Black and White and Red All Over

My full length play, Black and White and Red All Over is an absurdist dark comedy, and often provokes questions for readers. In the digital copy of the play (which you can get here,) I have now included a Q and A, answering some of the more common questions. You can also view a sample of those questions below.

Black and White and Red All Over is an absurd dark comedy for 12 actors (6 male, 6 female, although 6 parts are interchangeable male/female).  A frivolous couple passes the time by hiring and firing servants, and reading old newspapers they deem to be the current. But when the Wife wants more out of her life, she charges her Husband with a perilous task... Meanwhile, four eclectic strangers wind up secretly waiting together in this couple's bathroom. When they discover the reasons they have all been put together, the absurdities and danger of their situation become alarmingly clear.

At its first production, reviewer Annie Attina called it "both hysterically funny and deeply disturbing," and commented that it is "a play so well-written...that it creates a mixture of delight and fear in the audience." Check out the play here, and if you've read the play, browse the questions and answers below, or email the playwright with your own.

NOTE: These questions and answers include spoiler alerts!

Black and White and Red All Over

Tara Meddaugh

What inspired you to write this play?
I had a dinner with the president of my university, and one of the sides was a dish of asparagus. He mentioned how eating asparagus could change the scent of one’s urine (yes, wonderful dinner conversation—I know! But this is life!). Through that discussion, I started to imagine a play taking place entirely in a bathroom. I thought it would be interesting if a small group of random people were convened there, with no one knowing why anyone else was there—that this bathroom might become a waiting room of sorts. I didn’t entirely know the route the story would take until I started writing, but the setting was my original inspiration.

At the same time, I had been thinking of the age-old philosophical question, “Can anyone perform an altruistic act?”  Is there anything someone could do that would truly be for someone else?  Even sacrificing your life for your child adheres to the Darwinian principle of doing what you can to pass on your genes (which is ultimately for your own bloodline/yourself). I ruminated on this question, and was first drawn to the character of the Young Man, his relationship with his distant parents, and what he might be willing to do to save someone else. The bathroom characters came first. But I had a whole lot of fun when the living room characters showed up.

Who is David Smith? What is the Young Man’s real name? Does the Young Man really know his name?
Husband and Wife’s son's is David Smith, who is also the Young Man (the parents call him "Davey" in the end). Yes, Young Man remembers his name finally, and tells Henry he knows his “real name now,” while carving it in the bathtub.

Young Man writes his real name in the will and seals it, without telling anyone else his name.  When he realizes Joanna is there to kill his father, James Smith, he tells Joanna that his name is James Smith; he is willing to lose his life to save his father’s life.  When Henry leaves the room to find a phone, he opens the will, and sees that the name of Young Man is not James Smith, but rather David Smith.  Young Man's last message for Henry is that he “reconsider his philosophy” (his philosophy being that no act is without selfish motivation). Young Man was sacrificing his own life for another (and not even for someone who has been that kind to him; his parents have all but abandoned him for who knows how long).

Did Husband and Wife arrange to have their son murdered?
No.  The parents did not hire someone to kill their son. Husband did kill someone, take his heart, and return with it as a gift for Wife.  Because Husband murdered the “wrong” person, a hitwoman was hired to kill him, in retaliation for the murder. This is why Joanna is present in the bathroom. Husband’s actions caused his son to be murdered; he does share the responsibility (and in the end, the blood)—but his intention was not to have his son murdered.

Why was Georgia wearing a red, black and white dress, and dancing the rumba at The Plaza? Does this mean she was part of the murder plan too?
Georgia does admit to wearing a dress like this, but it is not to imply she was part of the murder plan. However, it could raise the question—were she and Young Man both at The Plaza dancing together, but didn't realize it was each other?  Perhaps the world is full of many people, all doing the same thing, at the same time, in a robotic, routine fashion, with no one taking the time or care to notice who they are with, who surrounds them. And if this is so, then for those who ignore the world around them, perhaps they too share a bit of the responsibility when atrocities happen. If we turn a blind eye, if we see the good that ought to be done amidst a bad situation, but we choose not to do it, then are we also partaking in, or at least condoning, the bad situation?

In this case, yes, Georgia certainly bears part of the responsibility for Young Man’s death. While the red may not have been actual blood on her dress, like the parents, she is not blameless either.

Why do the characters keep forgetting things?
Besides Henry, who grounds the play, the characters are absurd. They are not meant to be 100% realistic, and it poses the question, what is reality after all? What is real? What is true? What is the past if not how someone remembers it? If you don’t remember the past, has it existed at all? If you remember it differently than someone else, whose version is correct? How can you ever know? If you believe it to be so (“I believe those were your exact words”)—then is it so for you? And if it’s so for you, does that mean it’s so for anyone else? Or is truly so at all anyway?

The characters are all fairly self-absorbed. They remember what they want to remember. They forget what they feel like forgetting. Time moves, for the couple, as they want it to move. Each character has his or her own world, which revolves around himself/herself.

How did you get interested in theatre of the absurd?
When I was 13, I wrote my first long play (I’d been writing plays and directing my classmates since I was 8), and I had set it in a house with a dozen characters who all lived there—but who did not know anyone else lived there. I had a couple who believed they were in a soap opera, a man fighting an imaginary war, and girls petitioning for insects’ rights. My heart and mind were excited writing this play—I had never read a play like this before, and I thought I had discovered a new form of theatre that no one had ever written before!

A year later, I read Ionesco in my French class, and I was disappointed to realize, I had not invented this weird style of drama. It had been around for quite some time, and it had a name. Theatre of the Absurd.

I may have been disappointed for a moment, but my excitement soon took over. I now had a name for this style of theatre, and a teacher who could point me to read more work by these absurdist writers. I read much more Ionesco (in English too—which started my love of the stylized translations), then Albee and Beckett.  I love the idea of taking serious things lightly and taking silly things seriously. 

Black and White and Red All Over was a joy to immerse myself in. I loved the strange world of absurdism, the dark comedy, and the humor that presents itself in a way not like a typical comedy.

To read the play, Black and White and Red All Over, click here.  And try to forget all the spoilers I've shared in this post! :)