Precepts of Men?

a play in 5 questions,

By posing and answering five questions that she believes every woman should ask, Maggie brings the Riddle marital relationship into the 21st century. In the process, she perhaps takes some of her fellow women back into the 19th. Is it all for everyone’s good?

Unlike a novel, the script of a play is never finished. It can be altered by the playwright, director or even actor at any time – even in real time. Therefore, there is no published version of the script. If you are interested in the reading the current working draft, please email me at the contact page. For an introduction, a few excerpts are presented below:


Maggie:  Thank you for coming to my show – and yes, it is my show, despite being called “The Precepts of Men?”  In fact, that is my point, and the reason for the question mark.

My working title was Does the Earth Move?  – question mark. (She makes the sign in the air.) And other questions every woman should ask! (exclamation point!)(She makes that sign, and smiles.) I still think that would have been a good title, and the intriguing question about the earth’s movement is still the final act.  Using it as the title of the entire work would have been similar to using the title to one short-story as the title for an entire collection. I assume a writer does that because it reflects her main focus, or that she just thinks it is the best story.  Either would be true in my case

Certainly I feel that the last question is the most compelling, because it covers so many areas of life – physical and spiritual, scientific and theological – that I intend to explore here.  But my producer said that it was ambiguous, and perhaps even misleading.  He doesn’t think I am either of those things, and as you will see, I can’t argue with that.  Besides, this is not a scientific exploration or a women’s self-help lecture.  It is also not a reading – although there will be some of that. (She opens and flips through the book she is holding, and then nods her head, knowingly.) And likely some arguing, and maybe even some acting, which is what you came for, I guess. Personally, I hate drama….

Question 1: What’s in a Name?

I am here to get you to think, remember? Anyway, I started to call the married-name issue an injustice, and I guess I have argued that it is, but some questions are not a matter of justice.  Some are just common sense, if you look at them the right way. (She looks at Jackson, smiling.)

There are other intriguing (and exasperating) issues in life that I want you to consider, including the very important question asked in my original title.  I believe women need to be heard on all issues, but if the truth be told by all – men and women – there are certain issues on which a woman’s view is the best – even when it is shared by a man. (Again, she looks at Jackson.)     But let me say at the close of this introduction that I am concerned a little about the tone I have set.  I’m really not a radical or a feminist or even a very out-spoken woman.  I’m just not very tolerant of stupid things in life. I think you will see that if you read Jackson’s book, and I think that is what my friends are complimenting when they praise how he depicted me.  I don’t accept things just because my husband says so or because “they have always been done that way” or to just “go with the flow.”  That’s no way to live, and it’s really no world to live in.

Question 2: How did I get here?

Maggie:  Now, second of all, you must understand that I am a Texas woman, and I don’t say that just because I have lived in the state my entire life…. 

…Jackson and I have been down this path already, and he wrote about it.  (She turns a few pages in the book, and then and looks at the audience.) I actually like this part, mostly, so it is a good place to begin.  (She reads aloud.)     “Magnolia Rivers Stone Riddle was not really a beautiful woman – not yet, anyway. In fact, Jackson found it difficult to even think of her as a woman.  She was more girl than woman to him because her appeal, for now, was in her wholesomeness.

Anyway, what in the world has all this got to do with me, you are wondering? Well, I’ll tell you, and it is more than just the fact that I briefly attended the university located in Huntsville named for Sam Houston.  It has to do with individuality.  It is about making up one’s own mind about something and sticking with it even when the majority decides otherwise. 

…But, I am focusing too much on the Texas part, and not enough on the woman part of my character.  I was both born in Texas and born a woman.  It is very clear to me that each of these facts is essential to understanding me, but truthfully, gender has to trump geography, doesn’t it?  “How did I get here?” is not really a geographical question.  You knew that, didn’t you?

Question V – “Does the Earth Move?”


Maggie:  Ok. (She gets out of bed, fully awake, and talks as she pulls on jeans and then puts on a sweatshirt over her night shirt.)  I did say that this is the most important question, and you know how much we have struggled with the Joshua passage. Before I start to explain it to them, though, I want to say I am happy, regardless of whether the earth moves or not.  It’s just another precept of men.  (She looks at the audience, then walks around the bed and starts to pick up the book on Galileo.  She sees the open Bible and picks it up instead. She sits on the bedside.)  So what other Scripture have you found for me to use?  ‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free?’

Jackson:  Don’t be irreverent. 

Maggie:  “He touched her and she was healed?”

Jackson:  And don’t blaspheme! (He stares at her and then takes the Bible from her).

Maggie:  Men!  Why is it that the smart ones are always cowards and the dumb ones are always in charge?  (Jackson does not answer, but puts down the book and then starts toward the door.)  You’re letting me have the last word on that topic?