‘Exteriors’ by Kathleen Collins

Exteriors by Kathleen Collins, 2016

The magic trick:

Stage cues and scene setting that read like a script

Notably, Kathleen Collins was best known as a playwright. “Exteriors,” culled from a story collection published in 2015, decades after Collins death, reads like a script. Usually that description refers to fiction heavy on dialogue. This is different, though. This is fiction that feels theater-ready because it’s all stage cues and scene setting.

And that’s quite a trick on Collins’s part.

The selection:

“OK, it’s a sixth-floor walk-up, three rooms in the front, bathtub in the kitchen, roaches on the walls, a cubbyhole of a john with a stained-glass window. The light? They’ve got light up the butt! It’s the tallest building on the block, facing nothin’ but rooftops and sun. OK, let’s light it for night. I want a spot on that big double bed that takes up most of the room. And a little one on that burlap night table. OK, now light that worktable with all those notebooks and papers and stuff. Good. And put a spot on those pillows made up to look like a couch. Good. Now let’s have a nice soft gel on the young man composing his poems or reading at his worktable. And another soft one for the young woman standing by the stove killing roaches. OK, now backlight the two of them asleep in the big double bed with that blue-and-white comforter over them. Nice touch.

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