While making up for missed classes, an intersex teenager strikes up a rapport with their biology teacher, who provides much-needed validation for their skepticism about surgically “normalizing” their body, and— perhaps dangerously— treats them like an adult.
Burbank arrives late to detention, joining their heavily-pregnant best friend Dierdre, who reacts poorly to their androgynous new haircut. While they work on their biology assignment— and their teacher, Mr. Mazer, tries to keep them on task— Dierdre complains about how her mother has made adoption plans for her baby and antagonizes Burbank over their chosen name and awkward behavior surrounding her condition. Both speculate over their unfuckableness.
At the end of detention, Mr. Mazer compliments Burbank on their haircut, and Burbank, in response, requests that he refer to them using the pronoun “they.”
Burbank and Dierdre hang out at the mall over the weekend. There, Dierdre suggests that Burbank’s teenaged angst would be solved by getting laid and offers to set something up for them, inquiring about Burbank’s ambiguous genitalia situation in the process.
The two are interrupted mid-conversation when they spot Mr. Mazer from across the room— he appears to be out on a date with another man. Dierdre laments that of course their cute teacher is gay and asks Burbank if they agree that he’s cute— after some prodding, they agree.
Dierdre turns the conversation back to Operation: Get Burbank Laid and begins suggesting classmates who might show them a good time. Burbank confesses that they’re uncomfortable— they’d hoped their first time might be special. Dierdre ridicules them for this, and Burbank relents, telling Dierdre to get them Tommy Poletti, a classmate she has previously speculated might be gay.
Back in detention, which they have because they keep missing first period for doctors’ appointments, Burbank tries to scope out the Mr. Mazer situation— was that guy at the mall his boyfriend? Mr. Mazer deflects, finally distracting them with a stack of scholarly articles he thought they might like. Things get a little awkward, and Burbank bails, but later can’t stop thinking about their conversation.
Dierdre and Burbank attend a New Year’s Party at a classmate’s home. They smoke marijuana, and Dierdre psyches Burbank up to go have sex with Tommy, ultimately sending them off to meet him in the pool shed as midnight nears. The encounter is awkward and uncomfortable, and Tommy leaves them to go come out to his girlfriend. Burbank and Dierdre fight over whether the sex “counts,” and Burbank storms off, Dierdre hollering their dead name behind them.
They go home, take a shower, indulge in some casual self-harm, and masturbate thinking of Mr. Mazer. Afterwards, they read the first of the articles he gave them— a popular science piece about an intersex chicken.
The new year is off to a rocky start, and it gets worse once school starts back up. Burbank is prescribed new hormones by their doctor and cornered by the ex-girlfriend of the boy they fucked at the party— his ex writes SLUT on their forehead. In detention, Mr. Mazer slowly teases the whole sad story out of them, and Burbank indicates he is the only person in their life they feel is truly supportive of what they’re going through. They kiss him— and, quickly realizing their mistake, flee the room.
Dierdre visits Burbank at home to apologize for the New Year’s Party from hell, but Burbank is slow to forgive. They read to Dierdre from one of the articles Mr. Mazer gave them— a description of a foreign non-binary gender— and Dierdre comments that other students have started to talk about how close Burbank and Mr. Mazer are. Burbank lies and says there’s nothing going on and they would tell Dierdre if there was.
After Dierdre leaves, Burbank keeps reading, disappointed that none of the identities described in the papers quite encompass what they feel.
Back at school, they confront Mr. Mazer about whether he really understands what they’re going through and worry about the future of their friendship with Dierdre. He reassures them, and Burbank explains more about why they didn’t find the articles comforting— because they have come to the conclusion that they are evolutionarily dead, and they need someone to prove to them that they’re not. After a fraught argument, Mr. Mazer has sex with Burbank. When he asks if that helped, Burbank responds that they don’t know.
That night, Burbank has a nightmare in which Dierdre appears and inflicts her pregnancy on them. It is, fortunately, only a nightmare.
Burbank goes to school. They go to detention, where Mr. Mazer is notably less friendly than usual. After they finish their makeup work, Burbank accuses him of being a jerk— and Mr. Mazer tells them that he knows he crossed a line and blames himself for that, and he needs to back off for both their sakes.
Burbank runs off to answer an urgent text from Dierdre. They join her at the hospital, where she is quick to lament the name that her baby’s adoptive parents gave him and that no one is impressed with her. Burbank assures her that they are very impressed, and Dierdre responds that she had a vision while she was in labor of their ten-year high school reunion, and that she was all alone and Burbank was gorgeous.
Burbank confesses that they had sex with Mr. Mazer, but that it’s a secret and can never happen again. Dierdre asks if it helped. Burbank says that it showed them that sex isn’t magic, but someday, someone will want them. Together, they speculate that being in love is like being in mutually-assured destruction.
Dierdre begins to crash, fretting that she will always be alone, just like in her vision. Burbank assures her that she’s just tired and she’ll be okay, and Dierdre asks Burbank to stay while she sleeps. Burbank assures her that they’ll stay as long as she needs them to. As Dierdre drifts off, Burbank considers the future, feeling confident for the first time that they’ll be okay.
A marvelous achievement on all fronts, A Singular They is, in short, a simply brilliant play.
Burbank – NB,17. Intersex. Aggressively androgynous. Struggling to assert an identity that they themself are not entirely certain of. Pronouns: they, them, theirs.
Dierdre – F, 17. Pregnant and unrepentant. Not a good friend, but she'll have to do. Pronouns: she, her, hers.
Mr. Mazer – M, Mid-20s. A first-year teacher, kind of a cool nerd, trying very hard. Pronouns: he, him, his.
Setting: A Red suburb in a Blue state. Early 2010s.
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“Aliza Goldstein’s arresting serio-comic study of an intersex teen in Allentown, Penn., is about as timely as a play can be in an era when bullying and bathroom ordinances are so much a part of our conversations. It’s a remarkable piece of writing to boot.” —Los Angeles Times
“A singular play, poetic, necessary and important. Its ongoing future seems as inevitable as it is heartening to contemplate.” —Los Angeles Times
“Recommended. An astonishingly edgy, timely and sensitive drama.” —Stage Raw
“In Aliza Goldstein’s play A Singular They, everyone connects deeply; no matter how uncomfortable the subject may be, they connect. This wonderful new play explores the intimate details of teenage anathemas. It is, at times, deeply introspective. It is also enlightening, provocative, and opens up the mysterious personal life of the teenage mind.” —Joe Straw #9 Blog
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement. Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date, unless other arrangements have been made in advance with your Stage Rights Licensing Representative.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for A SINGULAR THEY consists of:
11 Production Scripts / $140.00 (shipping included)
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Stage Manager’s Script – Printed on standard 8.5” x 11” 3-hole-punched paper, with the same page numbers and text as the Printed Production Scripts, but with more space on the page for notes and cues.