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Lights up.plays

COURTNEY is taking MEL’s new author headshot.

MEL sits at her writing desk.

COURTNEY arranges lighting instruments and a backdrop and continues through the first lines of dialogue.

MEL watches her, intently.

MEL: It’s very important to me that the photograph look like a male author’s headshot, I need to be really clear about that.

COURTNEY: You’re the customer.

MEL: Because the last photographer, she wasn’t ok with that. She was afraid it would ruin her reputation. She said that female authors can’t look cold in their photographs, it hurts book sales. And I’m out to change cultural perceptions around what’s acceptable for male and female authors–the personas they’re allowed to project.

COURTNEY: Uh-huh.

MEL: You see what I’m saying, right?

COURTNEY: Lady, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not good with people. I’m doing this as a favor to my friend. She’s the one who usually does the artsy headshots, but her kid has lice, so she has to stay home and soak his head in mayonnaise or something.

MEL: Mayonnaise?

COURTNEY: Yeah, it smothers them. But you have to leave it on forever to make sure they all die. Because lice are tougher now, did you know that? They have super powered lice now, mutant lice.

MEL: Gross.

COURTNEY: It’s not even an excused absence from school anymore–the CDC does not consider it an infectious disease anymore, I guess it’s a condition instead of a disease–seems like a technicality to me, but there you go.

MEL: It’s not an excused absense?

COURTNEY: Yeah. So there are some dipshits of parents who are sending their kids to school when they still have the lice and so it’s basically impossible to get rid of them. That’s why my friend is staying home with her son–waiting for it all to blow over. (beat) Hold still, I’m going to get a few shots to test the light. (She takes half a dozen shots in rapid succession.)

MEL: You said you didn’t have experience with headshots?

COURTNEY: (checking the test photos, making adjustments to the light) Correct. I usually shoot products. Catalogues, that kind of stuff. Some nature shots. So, I don’t care what kind of statement you do or don’t want to make with these shots.

MEL: I’m not sure I’m comfortable with–

COURTNEY: Listen, lady–Mel, right? This other photographer bailed–I’m guessing you have a deadline of sorts–let’s give this a try, ok? You want to look like a guy, right?

MEL: Not exactly–I want to look like me, but strong, and look directly into the camera. Female authors are usually tilting their head in their photos, with a hand under their chin, gazing away from the camera, like they’re too vapid to even endeavor direct eye contact.

COURTNEY: Huh. Yeah, that seems about right. Never thought about it that way before….Ok, so, not that. We are going for the opposite of that.

MEL: Right. want to look directly into the camera. No smile, just projecting power.

COURTNEY: Power. Got it. (beat) You want those books behind you?

MEL looks behind her.

COURTNEY: I can blur them out if you want, but you got a lot of dudes behind you. Dickens, Twain, Longfellow. Maybe switch those out for some Woolf, Angelou, Dickenson…

MEL: Didn’t even think about that. Good eye.

COURTNEY: That’s why they pay me the big bucks.

MEL switches out the titles. She sits back down and looks intensely into the camera.

COURTNEY: (puts camera on a tripod) Ok, now take that jewelry off. (beat) We’re going for masculine, right? The shine is going to distract from the composition of the shot.

MEL takes off her jewelry, puts it in a desk drawer. Assumes a pose again.

COURTNEY: Puff your chest out. Not sexy, it’s not about the boobs–guys just take up more space, so make sure your shoulders are broad and you’re not curving them in–women do that go cover up their chest sometimes, it’s a learned protective physicality to avoid catcalling and all that shit.

MEL straightens her posture.

MEL: What do I do with my hands?

COURTNEY: Try flat on the table, like you’re going to launch off of it. (laughs) Hey, that’s good! Hold it.

She takes several photos.

COURTNEY: Ok, relax.

She takes the camera off the tripod, kneels down next to MEL, shows her a few.

COURTNEY: Are we heading in the right direction?

MEL: These are great!

COURTNEY: Glad you like them. (checks her watch) Now, you still have me for another thirty minutes, so let’s keep shooting–and there are no silly ideas, ok? We could have you sitting on the desk, instead of behind it–let’s brainstorm.

MEL sits on the table.

MEL: (nodding) This feels good. I feel powerful.

COURTNEY: Let me reset the light–we’ll get you what you need, no worries.

COURTNEY continues to adjust and take photos, making silent adjustments to MEL’s posture and position. They find more power in each new pose. Perhaps there are moments of laughter between shots.

End of play.

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