John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Stage play. A Day at the office.A ten-minute play in four scenes

Richard Hamilton. La detención de Jagger y Fraser. Litografía. 1967.


A poor women in her early twenties. Could be portrayed as a Black woman.

A man in his mid to late twenties/ can be acted as a female with name change. No need to contact author if this is done

Ideally a Hispanic male, but can be portrayed as any immigrant or as a female    

Ms. Arthur
A female any age

A woman in her late twenties to early forties

An office building, 


Guard station, Lobby
Clock on the wall 8:45 AM

Shaqunda sit at the guard’s desk

Mama? I had to leave the babies at the house alone (Beat) Cleveland there. (Beat) Mama I know he nine. I’m his mother but what else I gonna do? (Beat) I’m so tired. I got to sleep. I can’t. My mind lay down for the night and it don’t turn off ‘What’s gonna happen next?’ I got to move. Cops busted into the apartment next door last night, what time was that, three o’clock in the morning I think. Punks deal’n their dope. They know it won’t me that call the cops, phone turned off. Seen that cockroach walk across the table this morning, I hope to God my baby didn’t see it, but he smart he sees everything. Mama can you get over there this morning? The lines ringing. I got to go (Beat) Security, lobby (Beat. Whispers into the phone) Where you at? (Beat) At the corner? The babies wif you? I told you don’t leave them babies alone like that. (Beat) I know the water cold, but you got to be clean. Just jump in an jump out. (Beat) I know it cold, take the babies and go in the kitchen, bring the TV wif you. Turn the burners on the stove all the way over till they don’t go no more, it get warmer in there quicker. I call ya later. Don’t call here less somebody hurt. (Beat) No you can’t go to school today Mama got to work today, you go tomorrow. (Enrique the janitor walks by with a mop and pail. She hangs up the phone)Next month the water be warm’ I’m sixty dollars short for having the gas bill paid and they turn it back on. I beg that utility man not to turn off that gas. I begged him. Paycheck come, I pay something to it but I got do some good shopping. I got a dollar sixty-five for the bus, if I wait up until after seven I can save sixty-five cents. I know I got 45 cents on bureau at home, that’s a dollar and ten cent. A box a instant macaroni is a dollar twenty-five twelve, thirteen, fourteen fifteen thank you Jesus.  Why it so expensive to be poor? If I didn’t have to shop at the convenience store, what little money I got, go a long further than it do. But I can’t walk all them blocks to that super market. I’m so tired but wait until after seven to get the reduce fare. It so cold, what am I gonna do for two and half-hours. They say money won’t bring happiness. Give me a chance to prove that ain’t right. 

She looks around to make sure the hall is empty. She closes her eyes and lowers her head
I got faith in my lord, that he gonna come and help me. I know he will cause I asked for him to help me. No doubt in my mind he will help me. You got to faith or you got to have doubt. There ain’t room in the human mind for both so please Jesus, don’t let that toothache come back again today. I can’t wait in the emergency room for eight hours over a toothache. I axe for dis Jesus name Amen. (She opens her eyes and raises her head and speaks aloud)

Enter Heather Louis

Morning babe

Clarice say she heard that the state gonna offer insurance to poor people wif no job so they can go to the hospital when they sick. I don’t think that true. (She rifles through her purse and takes out a cosmetic kit and looks in a mirror)

Heather Louis thumbs through the newspaper on the lobby desk

Probably not. We’re a first world country with a third world health policy for out citizens.

Why?. Why is that?

Because we’re a great country and we make great mistake

 I could be pretty. I ain’t ugly. Look that nose. He broke my nose and that’s how it got fixed, just growed that way. They say down at the clinic they can’t pay for it because it would be cosmetic. Welfare don’t pay cosmetic; make sure the poor stay ugly. 

Your not ugly, Shaqunda

Gonna to die before I'm 30 anyway.

Oh stop now

Broke my nose. I throw’d that man out I told him I said “You can slap my face and knock me around and kick me down and stomp me, but you can not, I swear God himself, you can not beat the self respect out of me!”


Why I always got to rely on people who don’t give a damn about me? All my life its been like that. 

She looks around and then takes the want ads from the newspaper and reads them
TOMMY comes out of the mailroom and stops by her desk. She silently takes a few pages of the want ads and reads them

“Career opportunity.” Yeah I been there. That means they expect you to want to ask “
‘Ya all want fries with that’ until you 65. I can’t work in those burger places no more.
Wear you down. Some boy almost half my age yell’n and scream’n at me to move faster
They French fries fool, not vital medicine! “Duties will vary” that means anybody who works there can tell me what to do.

Company seeks self- motivated individual…. Casual work atmosphere, we don’t pay you enough to dress up

You remember that job in the storage company I applied for?


It still open. Now that’s a good job. Good pay, full benefits, everything. And that man liked me. He say he hire me. He understood that I didn’t have no phone to call and everything. But it’s way up in out county, I can’t get out there everyday. Cost me more than he could pay me.
All I gave up to get that GED and it don’t make a danged difference. When you poor you believe in anything, even the GED. I can get into the community college, only thing I can study is an associate in arts and that’s gonna take me four five years…..for a two year degree.
I need this job, eight dollars an hour and benefits after 120 days, that’s a good deal. The man say sometimes they got over time. Can’t make too much less the welfare say my babies lose their food stamps. Last job they was slick, cut me back an hour here and there so they don’t have to pay benefits. You k now what?

What’s that babe?

When you poor you just run in place all the time, its so hard to stop being poor, and its sad
how few options you really got

Keep the faith, kiddo

Enter Enrique with a bucket and mop. He is between Shaqunda and the choir

Ola Senior Enrique! 

Enrique stops and points at Mark

You see? That’s so American. You know in my country, a person like you, in your position, he don’t even look at a man like me.  In my country, you know how they treat you? Like this (Slaps his open hands together) Bam! Like that. They call to you like this (He snaps his fingers) No Respect! Because they know if you work with your hands, you are nobody! (He wipes unseen dirt from his hands)  But in America it’s like this (He takes his cap from his head and holds it respectfully on his chest and gives a frozen smile and speaks Anglo) “Why yes, please, when you get a moment, would you please look into that for me?” (He pauses as if listening intently) “Oh there is no rush! Whenever you can! Please and thank you very much!” …You know why they talks like this? Because in America you don’t know who anybody is by what they do. The waitress who brings you your eggs could have a PhD. You don’t know, today she’s a waitress and tomorrow she runs the world so you better be nice to her now.
    That’s how America is. But also, you know what these North Americans say? They say (speaking Anglo)   “There is no shame in an honest days work” (He stops and thinks and then smiles) I like that. In America, they respect the work you do and not the kind of work you do. Nobody is going to judge me on what I accomplished. They judge me on what they think I can accomplish. But these North Americans… That’s what they don’t get it. They think this country
it’s about freedom. That’s not it. Everybody they got freedom. My country got freedom.
What America don’t got…..don’t have…you say don’t got or don’t have?



What America don’t got and have is the past.   In my country everything, everything, everything is the past. “Who was your father?”  “Who was your mother?” My country is a country of history. America is a country of a really good idea.
     My children are educated here in the United States. They know so many things. They know English. They say to me “Papa, English borrows from other languages” I don’t think so. I think English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over the head, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar and then runs like hell. You ever listen to these Americans? You can be bare but you cannot be a bear.  It don’t work because it’s out of whack….will somebody please tell me…what the hell is a whack and where do I buy it?
They sell Turkey ham. What the hell is that?
They have victimless crime. (Beat) How?
Act naturally. Legally drunk. So there is illegally drunk?
Oh my I have a terrific headache from watching that tragic comedy. Be careful, that is wet drywall. Yes, in fact, I would like a whole piece because it’s wicked good. Yes, I’m taking a working vacation. There is no egg in eggplant, it’s a vegetable.

Ms. Arthur, the boss, walks by.

I gotta get back to work

ne is a moose but two is not meese. Hammers don't ham but writers write and grocers don’t gross but farmers do produce produce. Desert and desert. You explain, I can’t

Remember Mark, somethin open in the mailroom, I’m your girl

You park in a driveway and drive on a parkway.     The second hand on a watch I understand, but why are not the other two the first hand and the third hand.

I know, I’ll take care of you

Exit Heather Louis

Miss Shaqunda, you think if Mister Mark hires you for the mailroom, I can do your job?

SHAQUNDA (She waves majestically)
It all yours...you gotta believe in somethin’ I suppose

Lights fade on stage left and center


Lights on stage right

Enrique is mopping a floor outside Ms. Arthur’s office. You can’t see the person he is speaking to.

It’s partially completed and a real fantasy. You fill in a form by filling it out ad there no apple or pine in a pineapple. I know because I looked for it.  Pretty ugly….explain that…...

Good morning! Join us for happy hour later?

How are you feeling today?

LARA (smiling)
Big, big headache. Not a kid anymore I guess

MS. ARTHUR (Smiling)
Hung over?

LARA (Smiling)
Hung over? Me? Naw. Little tired.

MS. ARTHUR (smiling)
You’re hung over

LARA (Smiling but just barely)
Oh yea of little faith! Look, I’m fine. I’m here right? That’s all that matters. I made it to the deck. I reported for work. (He smiles and winks) I’ll have an eye opener at an early lunch. It’ll be fine. It was a fun night huh?

MS. ARTHUR (Hands on hips)
 No, it wasn’t. You pulled out a joint, lit it and insisted on passing it around to our customers.  You embarrassed me, you embarrassed yourself and you embarrassed the company. You’ve gone from being the life of the party to the drunk at the party. Word about last night got back to the main office. I’m suppose to fire you. Look, I think you’re an alcoholic and you need help (BEAT) You’re a good person. You’re my best salesperson. You’re probably the best in the company. I like you. Hell, it’s impossible not to like you.  You’re fun. But you’re a drunk.

I can’t believe your going to fire me

It’s a disease, so no, I won’t fire you. But I won’t be made a damn fool of and I won’t make empty threats.  I will not allow you to take advantage of me or others in this firm. I’ve put some thought into this and it’s my goal to be decent and reasonable with you, but get this straight. I won’t cover up for you and I will not, nor will I allow anyone in this firm, to spare you the consequences of your drinking. I’ll fire anyone who lies for you and I’ll make damn sure no one pays your bills because you drank you commissions away. Here’s some literature I picked up for you. They have an AA meeting across the street in the basement of the Church at 5:30. I expect you to be there. You can do this, I got faith in you.


Lights fade on stage right 

Lights on stage far right

Enrique is mopping a floor outside Ms. Arthur’s office. You can’t see the person he is speaking to.

Dear Tommy Thank you for your letter of June 1. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you employment with our firm at this time. This year we have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of application requests. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for us to accept all candidates. Despite your outstanding qualifications and previous experience, we find that your experience does not meet with our needs at this time. Therefore, we must pass on your application for the applied position. We wish you the best of luck in your career goals. Sincerely, Jane Foresman

He stares out into the audience for a second and then sits down and writes the following letter

Dear Jane. Thank you for your letter of June 6. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me a position with your company. This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals. Despite your firm’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting me, I find that your rejection does not meet with my needs at this time. Therefore, I will initiate employment with your firm immediately. I look forward to working with you. See on Monday morning, 9 sharp. Best of luck in rejecting future candidates. Sincerely, TOMMY

He puts the phone down. Ms. Arthur walks into the room

I was just reading some of the ideas you were kind enough to write down and place in the company suggestion box. If you don’t want to get caught doing this again I suggest that the next time you not drop in suggestions written on your departmental letter head since you are the only person in the mail room department.

TOMMY hangs his head

Ma’me, if I could just explain

MS. ARTHUR (Not looking up at Tommy but reading)
Now here’s one. Beer in the soda machine. No I don’t think so. Hold the office Christmas party at McDonald’s play land. No I don’t think so. Pre-mixed martini’s in the soda machine, no I don’t think so, but original. Plant hedges around everybody’s cubicles. Again, original but I don’t think so. Same goes for ‘Place mosquito netting around cubicles.’, ‘Come to work in you’re Pajama’s Day” and ‘Hang mistletoe over everyone’s desk except for the ugly people day’ love it but I can’t go with it.   Synchronized chair dancing, although it sounds lovely is also out as is you’re wonderful suggestion that we all place a photo of our mothers on our business cards.

Ma’me…I….I get bored. You got to do something to break the tension around here. This place is filled with tension. Even the computers have ulcers.

Pack up your stuff....

This isn’t fair, all I did was goof around

And bring them to the third floor on Monday morning. See Lara, she’ll show you the ropes.

She picks up the papers and waves them at Tommy as he starts to leave the room

 and do more this stuff with her, maybe that’ll wake her up again…

She leaves but shouts over her shoulder

and find a replacement for yourself

Lights fade


Clock on the wall

5:00 PM The building lobby. Tommy is leaving at the same time and holds the door open for Enrique. They both leave. Ms. Arthur steps off the elevator with a top coat and a brief case. Lara steps off behind her. Before they leave they pause and shake hands. Shaqunda is alone in the lobby. She picks up the phone.

Mama? They hired me here. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus. I start in the mailroom on Monday. Twealve dollars an hour with health benefits, vacation. Oh Mama…

Enrique, in a winter coat, walks out of the janitors room, locks the door behind him wave’s goodbye to Shaqunda who is still on the phone. He stops and turns and walks to the security desk where he puts on the security guard hats, waves goodbye again and leaves.

You gotta have faith