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Copyright © 1996 by Nicky Silver

The Food Chain copyright © 1993, 1995, 1996 by Nicky Silver

Pterodactyls copyright © 1994, 1996 by Nicky Silver

Free Will & Wanton Lust copyright © 1990, 1996 by Nicky Silver

Fat Men in Skirts copyright © 1988, 1993, 1996 by Nicky Silver

Etiquette and Vitriol: The Food Chain and Other Plays is published by Theatre Communications Group, Inc., 355 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10017–0217.

All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in newspaper, magazine, radio or television reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that this material, being fully protected under the Copyright Laws of the United States of America and all other countries of the Berne and Universal Copyright Conventions, is subject to a royalty. All rights including, but not limited to, professional, amateur, recording, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio and television broadcasting, and the rights of translation into foreign languages are expressly reserved. Particular emphasis is placed on the question of readings and all uses of these plays by educational institutions, permission for which must be secured from the author's representative: George Lane, William Morris Agency, Inc., 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, (212) 586-5100.

Excerpts from Bertolt Brecht’s “Ten Poems from a Reader Who Lives in Cities,” found on page 112, are from Bertolt Brecht Poems 1913–1956, copyright © 1976 by Methuen.

Silver, Nicky

Etiquette and vitriol : The food chain and other plays / Nicky Silver.

Contents: The food chain—Pterodactyls—Free will and wanton lust—

Fat men in skirts.

elSBN 978–1–55936–760–8

I. Title.

PS3569. I4712A61996

812'.54—dc20 96–35078


Cover design by Chip Kidd

Book design by Lisa Govan

First Edition, November 1996








The Food Chain


Free Will & Wanton Lust

Fat Men in Skirts


As I write this there is some debate going on as to what I should call this collection. The publishers would like me to call it The Food Chain and Other Plays. Their thinking is this: The Food Chain, being a commercial production currently in the seventh month of it’s Off-Broadway run, is the most recognizable of my titles. Do they expect this volume to just fly off the shelves and give Stephen King a run for his money? I’m skeptical. I mean who buys play collections anyway? Theatre students, actors and playwrights’ families, I assume. (If they really want to sell some copies, they’ll take my advice, stop worrying about the title and put some naked people on the cover.) Besides, naming the collection after one play seems a slight to the others. And plays, after all, are like children. Should I inadvertently offend one it will, no doubt, grow up to hate me, use vulgar language in public and spend years in therapy.

I liked the title Etiquette & Vitriol, which comes from the play Free Will & Wanton Lust. But friends tell me it sounds snooty. As if all of a sudden I’m putting on linguistic airs. I also like the title Stop Talking! Four Plays by Nicky Silver. But I know that sounds negative. (It’s like naming a play This Play Stinks.) The title conundrum has me stymied. I find I can’t sleep at night. I can’t concentrate on other things! I break out in spontaneous sweats! Perhaps, I should just let it go for now.

. . .

All I ever wanted was to have “a life in the theatre.” It didn’t matter how I got there—playwright, director, actor, designer (lighting technician was out because I have a neurotic fear of heights, electricity, tools, ladders and work boots). I don’t remember ever wanting anything else. I also don’t remember any early magical event, any epiphany that turned me into such a single-minded fiend. I do remember, as a small child, my parents took me to see The Fantasticks. I don’t know how old I was, but apparently I was too young to sit still. I got crabby and had to be taken for a walk. It was years before I saw plays I liked. I think it was my eleventh birthday when my father let me pick a play I wanted to see. We drove to New York from Philadelphia and I picked Equus. I thought it was great! A play where people talked to the audience! A play NOT set in a living room! A play where actors played horses! And naked Peter Firth masturbating to orgasm as an Act I finale! It was swell! My father was less enthusiastic.

In any event, I started to read plays and found I loved them. I waited impatiently for high school to end, and when I could wait no longer I left, after eleventh grade. I’d enrolled in NYU, early admission. (That’s a program where you skip twelfth grade and go straight to college, thus avoiding all of your requirements like chemistry, geometry and gym.) For a while I just went nuts in New York, dyeing my hair very unattractive colors and enjoying my freedom. (This was the seventies after all.) I went to Studio 54 a lot, despite being underage, and wore over-priced, demented clothing such as hard vinyl pants and tunics made from Twister boards. I was in some plays, saw a lot of plays, read a few plays and thought about writing plays.

I was in a special part of NYU called the Experimental Theater Wing, ETW. The idea of ETW was to expose its students to various aesthetics in

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