Literature, Politics, Religion

Silo: a play from 2018 about a pandemic in Trump’s America

Interior of Red Cross House at U.S. General Hospital #16, New Haven, Conn. during the influenza epidemic. The beds are isolated by curtains

In 2018, I finished writing Silo, a play about a highly fatal pandemic spreading across the United States in the Trump era. It was a political allegory. The play considers how a group of plague survivors might try, and fail, to live together in an emergency shelter.

The play was my first work since publishing If in 2014. Although the play ended up being a semi-finalist for the Bridge Award in 2019, it never found a producer. One reason may be that it is extremely violent.

Now that the United States is actually facing a pandemic, and one that has been shaped by our current politics, I thought I would go ahead and publish the play. A link to the PDF appears below.

Silo - page 1Silo

Synopsis:

SILO is set in a refurbished missile silo in Kansas. The silo has been converted into a luxury emergency shelter for wealthy survivalists. A global pandemic has recently begun, and several survivors have taken shelter in the silo. The doors have now been locked, and will not be opened again until the pandemic has run its course.

Act I takes place in one of the larger living areas. The survivors who own units in the silo have gathered to discuss what to do next. The conversation quickly turns into a heated argument over how the silo should be organized. Rex, the entrepreneur who developed the silo, argues for following the bylaws that the owners signed when they reserved their units.

Heidi, an eight-months pregnant professor, insists that a family of refugees who took shelter in the silo should be included in the decision-making process. She demands that the silo be run based on inclusion and consensus. Her spouse, Rae, an alcoholic ex-prosecutor, believes that nothing matters because the human race will soon be extinct. Tony, an aggressive salesman from a Wall Street firm, insists that only owners should have a vote.

At the end of the act, Heidi forces the refugees into the room, and Rex’s panic leads to a series of shootings that leave Rex and José Luis, the father in the refugee family, dead.

Act II, scene 1 takes place in the silo’s infirmary. A security guard, Jesse, helps the surviving son from the refugee family, Miguel, to prepare the room for Heidi’s delivery. We learn that Jesse is a white supremacist. Heidi enters in labor, helped by Tony, with whom she is now apparently in a relationship. Rae enters, drunk, and argues with Heidi, while Paloma (Rae’s daughter) tries to get Rae to stop drinking. Tony attempts to dominate all the others, and especially humiliates Jesse.

At the end of the scene, Jesse kills Tony and then Heidi.

Act II, scene 2 takes place in the silo’s basement. Rae is now being held in a cage guarded by Miguel. She attempts to persuade Miguel to release her so that they can protect Miguel’s remaining family members from Jesse, who has become increasingly violent and erratic under the influence of methamphetamines. When Rae’s outreach to Miguel fails, she turns her attention to Shawn, formerly a software engineer but now a meth-addled follower of Jesse. This attempt also fails.

Jesse enters, pulling Paloma on a leash. At the conclusion of the play, Paloma takes advantage of Jesse’s psychosis to stab him to death. Rae seizes Jesse’s handgun and attempts to reestablish peace.

***

(Inspired by Frans de Waal’s Chimpanzee Politics and Judith Shklar’s “The Liberalism of Fear,” as well as, negatively, by Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberalism in The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. Also, to be clear, the contagion in the play is far more fatal than COVID-19.)

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