[A one-act play that I wrote while considering my own admissions journey to come. J]
Setting: A cramped admissions room. The spartan wooden table in the middle makes for a poor centerpiece, but it blends in well with the folding chairs set up on either side. A faded college logo—U of Q, it reads—is printed on the very center of the table and on the backs of either chair. Cork boards on the walls are inundated with pastel-colored leaflets, many of which show the campus’s fall foliage and the university’s science team. A bowl lamp hangs from the ceiling. Perhaps the only thing in the room that could be described as “cheery” is a paper banner hanging on the wall. It reads: “UNIVERSITY OF QUINCY INTERVIEW DAY.”
There is a young woman sitting at the table. Her name is Olanda; she graduated from the U of Q five years ago, but hasn’t been able to find a steady desk job. For now, the best she can do is come in during the summer and interview the next crop of possible UQ students. Her questions are printed on stately pink sheets of paper; judging from her neat piles of response forms and admissions standards, it looks as if she takes some pride in her job. Pride that has some trouble showing through her nervous expression.
The first applicant walks in, wearing a blue polo shirt ten sizes too small. His hair is gelled and parted down the middle, save for a little strand in the back that pokes up like a television antenna.
OLANDA: Hello there. You must be Ray.
RAY: You are incorrect. The name is Raymond.
Ray stands in front of the seat and crouches down onto it.
OLANDA: It’s great that you could make it today, Raymond.
RAYMOND: The day is always great when a member of the Alabaster family graces an institution with his presence. You have a front-row seat to brilliance.
Olanda smiles politely and shuffles a few papers.
OLANDA: Now, Raymond, the U of Q is looking for students who can demonstrate a commitment to academic success. I was impressed with your transcript, but just wanted to know if—
RAYMOND: My time here is not to be interrupted. Can your college demonstrate a commitment to academic success? I have Yale and Penn on speed dial, young lady, and I wonder if all your students combined can stand up to my potential.
OLANDA: Well, the Princeton Review just included us in their list of 10 up and coming colleges—
RAYMOND: Up and coming? The Alabaster family has been at the top of the social food chain for three hundred years running! I will not attend a school whose only claim to fame is improvement. Snorts. Why, I feel derelict just sitting here.
OLANDA (apologetic): The University of Quincy might not get the press that the Ivy league enjoys, but we still have a respectable list of prominent alumni. Take Jacobin Schwarz, for example.
RAYMOND: Jacobin Schwarz was our butler for three years. Three hundred thousand down the drain.
Olanda is silent for a few seconds.
OLANDA: Thank you for your interest.
Raymond stands erect, sidesteps away from the chair and turns for the exit. Olanda sighs as the door closes.
A few seconds later, a bright-eyed girl skips into the room. The red curls in her hair bounce with every step.
OLANDA: Welcome to the U of Q interview day. You must be Meghan.
MEGHAN: And you must be my key to a successful future!
Olanda is taken aback for a second or two. It’s something of a shock to hear such a shrill, excited voice after three minutes of Raymond Alabaster.
OLANDA: Well, before we go any further, I’d just like to get a chance to know you. Could you describe some of your chief interests?
MEGHAN: LEARNING! I wake up every day and race down to my encyclopedia. Books are the spice of my life! My mother’s a teacher, and we both spend the afternoon sipping herb tea and learning about the wonderful stories our planet has to tell. Jeepers, it makes me giddy just to think about all the good things books can teach you!
OLANDA: That’s excellent. I’m glad to hear that you take such interests in academics. Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?
MEGHAN: What else could a kid want but learning? I was in Girl Scouts a long time ago, but it was so boring. Our troop leader wouldn’t let me study the Mongol Empire during one of our campfire meetings. I was out of there like a kerosene molecule in a jet nacelle!
OLANDA: Well, are there any sports you play? Lacrosse, perhaps?
MEGHAN: Sports are an animal’s pastime. While my dad lumbered up to watch golf last night, I cuddled up with the University of Quincy viewbook—like any responsible Homo Sapien. Why aim for par when you can shoot for knowledge instead?
By this point, Olanda has begun to wonder what other summer jobs might offer $13 an hour.
OLANDA: Thanks for coming in today, Meghan. We’ll be sure to send you even more information about the U of Q.
MEGHAN: U and Q rhyme! That’s—gasps—that’s KNOWLEDGE!
Meghan pushes back her chair and runs for the door, skipping all the way.
Olanda leans back in her chair and takes a minute to sigh, wondering if it really would have been that hard just to find a job in a cafeteria line. Or an assembly line.
The door creaks open slowly. Olanda presumes it’s the draft.
WALKER: Greetings, Olanda. We are now connected by the deep.
Walker walks in slowly. He is dressed in a long purple cloak; only his face is visible. There is purple and black makeup on his cheek.
OLANDA: It’s good to meet you, Walker. That’s an interesting cloak you’ve got there.
WALKER: This is not a cloak. It is a Deep Channel Garment. It allows the deep to follow me wherever I go.
Olanda nods slowly. She pulls up one of her pink question sheets and lays it flat on the table.
OLANDA: Before we get started, Walker—there was some missing information on your transcript. You didn’t indicate a state and country. All I have here is… Olanda squints. “Cavern of the depths.”
WALKER: The exact location is not for you to know. That will come after initiation.
Walker stands up from his chair and walks slowly across the table.
WALKER: I have waited fifteen months for a suitable partner in the deep. I seem to have finally found my match. Drape my cloak over your head, and we shall chant the forbidden tune of the Cavern Depths together.
OLANDA: I take it you have a great interest in out-of-school activities.
WALKER: Stand up. The deep does not wish to wait for its host partners.
OLANDA: Perhaps we can discuss your standardized test scores?
Walker is now face-to-face with Olanda, who remains seated. Walker slowly raises a cloaked hand and draws it over her face.
WALKER: Repeat after me, in tune: “As the deep fills my mind with thoughts of the eternal caverns…”
OLANDA: Get away from me!
She stands up and retreats to the corner of the room. Walker lowers his cloaked hand.
WALKER: Very well. The deep will find you… in time.
Walker walks backwards out the exit. As the door slams, Olanda clutches her head in her hands. She looks ready to bang it on the desk when the door opens.
OLANDA (in a monotone): Welcome to interview day at the University of Quincy. You must be Chelsea.
Chelsea nods quietly and sits at the table. Olanda sighs and draws out one more pink question sheet.
OLANDA: What is your prime motive in coming to the University of Quincy, Chelsea?
Chelsea (again, quietly): Well, I liked the range of classes that you offered, and I was very excited about the chance to play soccer on the club team. I’m not the best player, but all of my neighborhood friends say that I do alright.
Olanda perks up a little. This person seems… normal, almost.
OLANDA: Perhaps we could talk about your transcript?
CHELSEA (blushing): I was sad to have gotten a C+ in World History last year. I tried very hard in that class, and I think I learned more than what the grade indicates. Then again, I was excited with my B+ in advanced algebra. My mother always said that I could go far in math.
Olanda’s eyes are now wide in astonishment. She seems almost afraid to believe that this girl might be an all-around average kid.
OLANDA: Just one more thing. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
CHELSEA: I’m just a suburban teenager looking for a welcoming place to study and have fun.
Olanda’s eyes are still wide.
OLANDA: That’s it?
CHELSEA: I… I guess so.
OLANDA: No aristocratic, stuck-up family heritage?
CHELSEA: I don’t think so, no.
OLANDA: No unhealthy obsession with books and facts?
CHELSEA: Not that I know of.
OLANDA: And you’re not about to convert me to the deep?
CHELSEA: I’m not sure what you’re talking about.
Olanda, relieved and with a wide smile on her face, stretches out a hand.
OLANDA: Congratulations. Welcome to the University of Quincy.
A confused Chelsea grasps Olanda’s hand and shakes it. The curtain falls.