Rubber Duckies in a Row
by Alan David Perkins
Copyright © 1995
Ray Ellis has been running the bill-painting department for Consolidated
Duck for over ten years. The bill-painters have prided themselves in doing
as little work as possible and drawing no attention to themselves. One day
Ray decides that every bill-painter is going to work and work hard by
quadrupling the daily quota, giving meaning to their mundane existences.
Surprisingly, the bill-painters are willing to trust their boss and, though
they now have a new pride in their work, the department causes an unpleasant
imbalance in this smooth-running factory. All of a sudden the bill-painters
are condemned by CEO Kathryn Saunders and her loud-mouthed Plant Supervisor,
Albert Barrows, and are ultimately fired.
BILL MELVIN - Male, mid 30's. Bill painter. The "new kid" in the
department. A little too corporate for a blue-collar job.
CALVIN NETTLES - Male, 40's. Overweight. Burned out bill painter.
RAY ELLIS - Male, 40's. Supervisor of the Bill Painting Department at
Consolidated Duck. Strong, brash, hardened.
ALBERT BARROWS - Male, 40's. Supervisor of Consolidated Duck. As anal and
forceful as they get. Very slick, very loud.
KATHRYN SAUNDERS - Female, 40's. CEO of Consolidated Duck. Motherly and
kindly, though very shrewd and heartless underneath. Very attractive.
RONALDO SANTOS - Male, mid 30's. Hispanic. Overtly homosexual and quite
obnoxious bill painter.
ISELA HERNANDEZ - Female, 30's or 40's. Hispanic. Quiet and mousey bill
JUDY - Female, late 20's. New Age, flaky bill painter. Dresses loudly and
carries a lot of bags.
115 - 135 minutes.
The Bill-Painting department of Consolidated Duck. The room is cramped and
dismal, housing one desk and several long counters with stools. Present are
pots of paint and jars of brushes. Rubber Ducks litter the room. By each
desk there are boxes and boxes of ducks. There are shelves for the ducks to
dry on. The only practical door is the entrance to the room. Next to the
entrance is a rack with smocks in which the painters change into each
morning. A large clock looms over the room. The time of day is always
determined by the clock.
The play is in two Acts. Each Act is divided into multiple scenes that
take place an undetermined amount of days from each other.
This play started as a comedy sketch. I based it on an experience I had
when I worked for an Ad agency. One of the Account Execs was running around
claiming there was a "crisis." I asked the Exec, "Will people
die? Are lives in jeopardy?" to which she answered "no."
"Well," I replied, "it isn't a real crisis then." She
did NOT promptly strangle me.
While working in the word processing department of a law firm, I wanted
desperately to write about them. Each and every one of them would get by
doing as little work as possible and get treated as though they were heroes.
Everyone expected them to do nothing and, when they did just that, they were
appreciated for it. I tried to fit in but I wound up hating myself. After a
while I noticed I was doing the work of five, and the other four were doing
I came up with the whole rubber duck and "ducks in a row"
scenario and eventually the story fell into place. I find this play to be
rather poignant. I definitely look at it as a fable.
At the crux of this play is the whole issue of losing one's perspective.
In the original sketch, in which Albert was having a "crisis" and
Kathryn hands him one of the rubber ducks and instructs him to figure out
what it's for, Albert loses his perspective of what is truly important in
life. The characters here do as well -- Ray, the supervisor, has lost
perspective and has basically killed himself due to this. Kathryn has lost
her perspective as well, insisting on a certain order despite what is
actually right and good. Bill, who was once a respected Account Exec for an
Ad Agency (I couldn't resist) has lost his perspective and has found it by
painting duck bills.
In addition, this addresses those out there (you know who you are) who
have the standard "check your brain at the door" job, and how it
can eventually consume you. These people are all something, but they just
show up and do the job so they can go back to their something. Sadly, they
lose sight of what they've left behind. What's more, it's not like they're
doing something that gives them a sense of accomplishment. They don't paint
rubber ducks, they just paint the bills. That's GOT to be demoralizing.
I wrote "Type A" in the same year. I had such a good time with
Albert and Kathryn that I decided to pair them up with characters from
CONTACTING THE PLAYWRIGHT:
The entire script of
Rubber Duckies in a Row is available upon
request from the playwright.
No production of this play can take place without permission from the