Family Secrets – Southampton High School (2011)

Chela Novak and Ryan Casey perform in James Allen’s play, “Family Secrets.” (Photo by Star Black)

Click here to watch “Family Secrets” on Youtube

Lights come up on a stage to a couple standing outside, they are wearing winter coats and there is a good bit of distance between them.

MOTHER’S OFFSTAGE VOICE: Would you two hurry up and come inside! MATT: (Frustrated) I just don’t know why you always have to do this…

SAM:  Do what? What is it that I’m doing wrong? You’re the one that never tells me anything…

Sam turns with her back against him and takes another step upstage towards the audience and shivers slightly to shake off the cold. Matt follows Sam’s movement and puts his hand on her shoulder.

MATT: Come on Sam, you’re cold, I’m cold, we don’t have to do this right now, we can just talk abo-

SAM: -out it later? We can just talk about it later? Is that what you were going to say? Later? When the hell is later?!? You know, you always say that, and God dammit, I’m getting sick of it!

MATT: Sam, please, it’s Christmas. My, I mean our, family is waiting for us to-

SAM: Family? What family? They may be your family, but they most certainly aren’t mine! I mean, how could they be? I don’t know anything about them! I mean Matt, I love you, I really do, but without knowing your family, I don’t know you Matt!

MATT: That’s not true Sam. You know plenty about them just like you know plenty about me…

SAM: Oh yeah? Like what?

MATT: Well…you know my mother’s birthday is the fifth of July, and my father and her never got married…and ummm lets see, you know that my brother is only my half brother and not a full brother and –

SAM: Enough! I mean real things about your family! The things that are kept in “hushed tones” when I’m around, the things that you go to the other room to talk to your mother about! Those things Matt! Not all this other crap!

MATT: Well fine.  If I tell you what you want to know, about these “hushed” conversations, can we go in and finally eat?

SAM: Well, yeah.

MATT: And if I tell you, do you promise to finally drop this whole thing?

SAM: Well…yeah.

MATT: Ok then. What exactly do you want to know?

SAM: Well…

MATT: Well?

SAM: I just don’t know where to start! I don’t know what I want to know.

MATT: Then how am I supposed to tell you? I’m not a mind reader you know.

SAM: Well, what should I know?

MATT: You tell me.

MOTHER’S VOICE OFFSTAGE: Sammy, Matthew! Come on, your dinner is going to get cold!


MATT: Come on, she left the door open…lets go in!

SAM: Matt, no! You can go in if you want, but I am staying right here until I get the answers I am looking for.

MATT: But you don’t even know what questions you’re looking for!

SAM: Well, then I guess it’s your job to help me find them isn’t’ it?

MATT: All right! All right…look Sam, I know you’re thinking about more than just knowing my family.  What is it?

SAM: But that’s just it Matt! If I don’t know your true family, then I don’t know the true you! I don’t know the things that make you tick, or the reasons you act the way you do.

Matt takes a few steps away from her and says nothing.  He holds a cold look.  Sam becomes slightly impatient. Well? WELL?

Matt kicks at the ground scuffing his shoe across the stage.  Almost as if it was a way to show his discomfort, and Sam’s body language suggests the expectation of an embrace, warmth.

MATT: Can’t you just fucking let it go???

SAM: Matthew, I am not going to sit here and listen to you talk to me like this.  If you’re going to yell at me like that, I might as well just go and sit in the car!!!

MATT: All right, you really wanna know huh?  All right. Well, I’m going to tell you.  But remember, Samantha, you asked. I didn’t decide to just up and tell you, got it?

Sam becomes slightly thrown off, due to the obvious power switch in the argument.  But she tries best to keep her cool.

SAM: Yeah, yeah I got it.

MATT: All right. I want you to ask yourself this, when was the last time you saw my mother wear a short sleeve shirt?

SAM: I don’t know…why? What the hell does that matter?!

MATT: Never. You never saw it. You wanna know why Sam? It’s not cause she’s cold all the time! It’s cause she’s covering up years of collapsed veins.

SAM: What do you mean?

MATT: What do you think I mean? I mean that she was an x heroin addict, a junkie!

(Awkward silence)

SAM: Oh…well Matt…I mean…

MATT: (ranting, furious) And my father, well, he’s the same.  Aint much better.  Aint much worse.  I mean, he got clean quicker than my Mom did, but he’s more shot than my Mom is anyway.  He’s in his own damn world. (Beat) She says he’s always been like that though.  (Awkward silence between the two of them.  Sam just stares at Matt, speechless.)  I couldn’t tell ya Sam. I really couldn’t tell you anything about who my father or my mother was.  They were slaves to the dope that they pumped into their bodies when I was a kid.  That’s what I knew them as.  Those were my parents. Slaves to an addiction.

SAM: (She grabs his arm, gently) But Matt, what they did then, doesn’t make you who you are now…

MATT: No Sam, you’re wrong…you’re just…just…fucking wrong.

SAM: Matt…what do you mean?

MATT: Jesus Sam.  I mean my moral compass.  It’s ass backwards.  I was a thief when I was only 15, taking what I needed from other people, feeling my way through a drug addicted fog, with a hand held loosely by my mother, and sometimes my father, like the blind leading the blind. I mean, I know, I shouldn’t of kept this from you, but I didn’t know any different. I mean would you? Would you spill all your families scandals and secrets to this guy you just met? No…you wouldn’t…because you couldn’t. But you…I mean, I should have…and I didn’t.

SAM: Well Matt, how do you expect me to handle this? I can’t fix years of damage, but I am trying to understand where you’re coming from. And like you said, you didn’t tell me in the beginning. But then you get mad at me when I’m looking for answers? I mean, can you even blame me for being frustrated?

MATT: I don’t blame you, Sam. I just don’t know what to say…

SAM: What do you mean you don’t know what to say?

Matt: I mean I don’t know what to say.

SAM: You need to let me in you know…

MATT: No I don’t. I’m just better off alone, it’s what I know.

SAM: You may know how to be alone, but that doesn’t mean you should.


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