|About the author: Pauline Benner is a professional musician who plays oboe and English Horn with The Symphony of the Lakes in Warsaw, IN, and The Lima Symphony Orchestra in Lima, OH. She also plays woodwinds in the orchestra at The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre and the IPFW Theatre in Fort Wayne, IN, as well as The Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw, IN. In addition, Pauline is the worship leader at Community Christian Reformed Church in Fort Wayne, and a singer/songwriter. She released her first independent album of all original songs Words of the Mute in 2011.For most of her life, Pauline has had a moderate to severe stutter and Tourette’s Syndrome. Many of the situations and dialogue in Unspoken are based on true events that she has experienced in her life as a person who stutters.
Pauline lives in Fort Wayne, IN, with her husband, Brad, and their two children, Jack and Anya.
Unspoken – A Play About Stuttering (Plot Summary)
It’s May, 1999. Peter, Matt, Sarah and Amanda have just graduated from college. When Matt asks Peter about his future plans, Peter confidently replies that he will get a high paying job, and marry his girlfriend, Amanda. Then Peter sits down, and an exact replica of himself enters the room. It turns out that it was not Peter speaking before, but Internal Peter – Peter’s inner voice. This time Peter answers the question. He stutters very badly, and gives only short, insecure answers.
A few days later, Peter is at a job interview at Jefferson Investments. Internal Peter takes the interview first, and gives very articulate answers. He is offered the job, and is able to negotiate his starting salary even higher. When Peter takes the interview, he stutters so severely that he is not even able to correct the interviewer when he mispronounces Peter’s last name.
A few days later, Peter is offered a minimum wage job at a coffee shop. He is disappointed with the salary, but takes the job. That evening Peter reveals to Amanda his frustrations over his stutter. She listens, but seems distracted. Internal Peter berates Peter for revealing his weakness to Amanda. He tells him that she will never fall in love with him until he learns to speak fluently. A few weeks later, Peter’s confidence is built up when he is promoted to assistant manager at the coffee shop.
That evening, Internal Peter is rehearsing his marriage proposal to Amanda. He gives a beautiful, eloquent speech. When Amanda arrives, Peter begins into his rehearsed speech, but he is stuttering very badly. Before he can propose, Amanda interrupts him. She confesses that she is embarrassed by his stutter, and abruptly leaves. Peter is stunned and heartbroken.
Three months later, Peter runs into Sarah at the coffee shop, and she invites him to come over to her new apartment to hang out. The next weekend, Sarah flirts with Peter, and they realize that they share an appreciation for science fiction.
The next day, Peter calls Sarah to ask her out. He stutters horribly on the phone, but she agrees to go on a date with him.
Six months later, Sarah and Peter are dating seriously. Sarah tells Peter that she thinks he should apply for a job at Jefferson Investments. He tells her that he can’t because of his stutter. When she continues to encourage him to apply for the job, Internal Peter tells Peter that his stutter is all that anyone can see when they look at him. Then Sarah tells Peter that she is in love with him. Peter begins to respond, but stops when his stutter overwhelms him, and he cannot speak at all. Then Sarah asks Peter to marry her, and Internal Peter is finally silenced and defeated.
Some background from the author
What prompted this play to be written?
Every year the community theater in my city holds a playwright festival where they have a contest for local original plays. I wrote this script and submitted it to the contest in 2015.
It occurred to me that stutterers are hugely underrepresented in theater, television and movies. Usually, they are merely a minor character who is meant simply to be the comic relief, or the butt of an ongoing joke. I am grateful in recent years for movies such as The King’s Speech which portray stutterers as more complex characters, but I still feel as though there is no representation for what we experience internally. Even my husband, who has known me very intimately for many years, did not realize that inside my head, my internal voice is fluent. I thought that the stage would be a great place to watch the contrast between the stutterer’s internal fluent voice, and his external stuttering voice.
Also, the play is very autobiographical. I have experienced many of the situations in the play, and some of the dialogue is virtually verbatim from my personal experiences. In 2015, when I began writing the play, I was going through a time when I was finally beginning to realize that I had falsely believed for many years that my stutter was what was holding me back from finding success in life. I finally began to realize that this was not true; I needed to accept myself, and stop waiting for my stutter to be cured, in order to achieve what I wanted in life. I thought it would be interesting to make my internal conversation as I went through this realization the conflict between antagonist and protagonist.
I also hoped that this play would be inspirational for other stutterers who are struggling to find acceptance or success. And really for anyone who feels that a flaw, a disability, or even just low self-confidence is holding them back.
Has the play been published or performed?
It has never been published or performed.
Who can perform this play, how can they obtain the full script and what acknowledgements are required?
The full script is provided at this link for use by anyone. If someone would like to use or produce the play, I ask that I be acknowledged as the playwright. Also, if someone is planning to produce and perform it on stage, I would like to be notified so that I can advertise it and come see the performance.
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