A Short Play
By Michelle Ianiro
Two sisters, one light the other dark, struggle to
understand one another and undo the damage of a
generation’s belief in a community’s definition of beauty.
SHEREE (early to mid 30s) African-American, skine tone is
dark bronze or chocolate; professional & well spoken;
TONYA (early to mid 30s) African-American, skin tone is
very fair, could pass (actor can be other than African-
American as long as she looks ethnic); speaks in slang, has
a “false” confidence, pretty.
Calaveras Repertory Theatre’s
Evening of Short Plays
2009 Playwrights Masters Class
(Setting: Kitchen, after dinner; half attempt at cleaning
up –Tonya and Sheree are drinking and have been for a while
–both are tipsy -they are engaged in lively conversation –
James Brown playing in the background).
Is that James you got on?
I know Mama bout’ had a heart attack when he died.
Sho’ did! She was all “Lawd, they done took my James from
me!” Fallin’ all out like Fred Sandford and shit.
Wish I could have been here for that! I would have been on
(Laughing) Girl, I liked to die watchin’ Mama carry on. It
was too funny!
Yeah….Hey, where’s Howard? I’m just now realizing he’s not
I told him to get lost this weekend. I said “Howard, my
sista’s in town and I need you to git’! Find some place to
Poor Howard? Shit! He gets on my last nerve! Workin’ it,
you hear me?
Sounds like you’ll find any excuse to get rid of him.
Have you seen him lately? You’d get rid of his ass too.
You don’t love him do you?
Naw I don’t love that nigga’!
I hate when you say that!
Don’t start! I’m bout’ drunk and I don’t want to go there
with you, not tonight!
Okay, why are you still with him then?
Cause’, the nigga’ pays my bills and he’s good to me.
So you have a nice guy that takes care of you and you’re
I want someone who looks like Denzel… and pays my bills and
is good to me.
(SHEREE also laughs).
We all want that! (looks around) Where is Amy? I haven’t
seen the girl for at least an hour.
She and Lynn at the sto’. I promised Amy I’d give her a
I don’t want Amy to have a relaxer in her hair until she’s
older. She’s fine getting her hair pressed.
Pressin’ don’t straighten enough. She needs a relaxer.
Specially’ if she tryin’ to get that Tommy character to
Oh, she didn’t tell you?
No. Who is Tommy?
Girl, yo’ baby is sprung! He’s some little eighth grade
boy that all the girls are crazy for. Amy done liked him
for a long time now.
How come she told you and not me?
She ain’t gonna come to you with shit like that. That’s
what her Auntie is for! Anyway, he ain’t ever gonna look
her way with that Cecily-girl all up in the mix.
Uh oh. Cecily and Amy are best friends. Don’t tell me she
likes him, too?
Um hmm! Amy showed me a picture of her. Cecily is pretty
ain’t she? She all light-skinned, got that good hair. I
done told her.
What have you told her?
I can tell by your voice you bout’ to get up on your soap
I’m not getting’ up on any soap box. I just want to know
what you said.
I’m just sayin’. I don’t make the rules –fo you go gettin
Rules about what?
You know what I’m talkin’ bout’.
(SHEREE now sits the glass down that she has been nursing
throughout the conversation).
Please, enlighten me…no pun intended.
See? You fixin’ for it, ain’t you?
You brought it up. What is it I’m supposed to know?
That Cecily is high yella’! It’s true! Boys is just gonna
like her more, that’s all.
I can’t believe in this day and age that this kind of
thinking still exists. My whole life….God, what the hell
is wrong with us?
I’m just talkin’ the truth.
So this is the advice you gave to my daughter. That her
light-skinned friend is always going to get the boys unless
she perms her hair to make her…what…prettier? You know
what? I’m not havin’ this bullshit around my daughter, do
you understand me?
Don’t talk at me like I was a child.
I’ll talk to you however I damn well please! You go and
tell my baby something like this and I’m not supposed to
get upset about it? How does that work?
I just told the girl the truth! Shit! You shoulda’ done
told her, instead of tryin’ to keep her looking like some…
What?! Say it! SAY IT!
You ain’t gonna make me say nothin’. C’mon on now, I don’t
wanna fight with you. I was just tryin’ to help the girl
Help? Who can you help? Listen to you. You sound like you
never stepped foot inside of a classroom. (Mocking) Nigga’
this and nigga’ that, fasho’ and fixin’… Jesus Christ! We
don’t even sound like we grew up in the same house!
Here it comes! I knew it! You’ve always been shamed of
me. I didn’t get to go to college like you. Didn’t get
good grades. Guess I’m stupid huh?
What? No! I don’t think you’re stupied, Tonya!
You say that now. But I see how it is. Ever since you
came back from that all white uppity college and then moved
away from here, you act like you done forgot where you came
(Hurt)I’ve never forgotten where I came from. How can you
say that to me?
Cause’ it’s true!
(Shaking her head) You don’t get it, do you?
No I don’t! Why you treatin’ me like I done did somethin’
Because you’re spreading the same kind of crap that Mama
did when we were kids. I spent most of my childhood
thinking there was something wrong with the way I looked
because I was darker than you, because my hair wasn’t as
“good” as yours… whatever that’s supposed to mean.
What the hell are you talkin’ bout’?
That is how things were and you know it! You were the one
Mama treated special. You were going to marry money
because you were light-skinned. The pretty one. You never
had to do anything for yourself. That’s why your living
with someone you don’t love now. You can’t take care of
yourself, never had to! I had to go to school. That was
all I was good for. “Cain’t catch a man lookin’ like a
jigaboo”. A jigaboo. Mama called me that! Her own daughter.
“Gurl, you so Black!” And she’d say Black like it was a
disease, like we all weren’t or something, just me. “Book
learnin is all you good for.” (Beat) I’m not bitter,
really. It did me good to go away to school and get away
from this craziness! I’m glad Mama pushed me to get good
grades, rode my ass! I probably never would’ve left here
and had the kind of life I have now. I’m better for it. In
her own warped way, she did me a huge favor.
Well lucky you! Ain’t that sweet! While you was away at
college, getting’ away from yo crazy kin’, I was the one
havin’ to live here. You don’t think I didn’t want to go?
My grades was never as good…
Don’t start with that shit again! You didn’t need straight
As to get into college…
Stop interrupting me! How could I go? I didn’t get no
scholarship like you! What money Mama had, she wasn’t
givin’ to me to go to school with. I’d come home from
school proud that my grades was goin’ up and Mama would say
“What you proud fo’? All you gots to do is land a man with
a good job. Take care of yo’ ass! It’s a good thing you
high yella’ and is pretty, cause’ you ain’t got nothin
I hear you talkin’, but I just can’t feel sorry for you.
You knew full well what was going on. And you used it to
your advantage, every chance you got.
You did. I couldn’t bring a boy home for fear that you’d
I never wanted your blackass boyfriends! You talkin’ shit
You always found an excuse to come and interrupt our
studying, prancing around in next to nothin’. Throwing
your head around t show how your hair moved. It was
humiliating. They’d never look at me again after seeing
And I’m supposed to feel sorry for that? That your
boyfriends liked me better? How could I help that?
You could have helped it if you wanted to.
You jealous? Sweet Jesus! All this time, you was jealous
I am not! I’m proud of who I am and how I look. Something
I learned on my own, thanks to you and Mama.
How you can only see one side a things. You always been
like that. Eyes on yourself and nobody else. Ain’t no one
ever said they was proud of me. Not Mama, not you. No one.
Just that I was pretty. That was alright for little bit,
but after a while you want someone to love you for more
than the way you look. (Tearfully) Guess she was right
tho’. Never could get the kind a grades that would get me
into college. I didn’t land me nobody good, well at least
not until Howard. All I ever wanted was to go to school
like you and get the hell outta’ here.
If you can see this, if you understand how this shallowness
made you feel, how could say to Amy the things that you
I told her the truth. You may not like it, but its truth.
Like I said befo’, I don’t make the rules. That’s just how
Just how they is. What stopped you from going to school
later on? You could have worked your way. What has
stopped you from picking up a dictionary and learning how
(Hurt) Well, there it is, then.
Oh, Tonya…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.
Yes you did. (Beat) Bein’ told all your life that you ain’t
worth nothin’ except for your face… Well, what the hell
happens when you ain’t fine no mo’? That’s what I want to
know? What then?
Mama was wrong to say what she did. Mama was wrong about a
lot of things.
Yeah, well…it don’t matter nohow’.
It does matter. She made me feel ugly and you worthless.
There’s no excuse for that. Mama needs to be told.
That’s how Big Mama used to talk. She was always callin’
somebody chocolaty or high yella’ and she treated them just
so. Maybe Mama don’t know no better cause of Big Mama.
I don’t buy that! Everyone has a choice at some point to
either remain ignorant or move forward. Everybody!
Not everybody is like you, Sheree. You cain’t judge no
body on how you’d do things. That ain’t right either.
I don’t expect people to be like me, but I do expect people
to learn from past mistakes. If we don’t we’ll never move
This why you don’t come home much?
Yeah. Not the best memories.
What we gone do?
I’m not sure.
We’re okay. We should have talked like this sooner.
Yeah. You know what I was thinkin’?
Maybe I could go to school to get my license to do hair.
Its good money.
You’ve always been good at hair.
And by the time you get your license, Amy will be old
enough to get a relaxer. You can do her hair.
(SHEREE goes to her purse and pulls out her cell phone and
Who you callin’?
Mama. (Pause) Hi Mama. How are you? (Pause) Good to hear.
Listen, Mama…I’m here at Tonya’s and we’d like you to come
over. (SHEREE gives TONYA a look and TONYA nods her head).
We all need to talk.