Betterland by David Lohrey

Drama/ 6 Characters, 3 Women, 3 Men/ Full Length, Two Acts

Synopsis: (from “In Betterland, a veteran schoolteacher, faced with dismissal, discovers that her principles are no longer valued by the institution she serves. Her enlightenment is triggered by the arrival of the first genuine student she’s had in years. The other high schoolers, catching the subversive scent of curiosity, set into motion events that compel the teacher’s final act of defiance. Finally, defeated, she is nonetheless set free by her realization that neither she nor the student is welcome in a system devoted to the unexceptional.”

From Show Business: “As the play opens, Miss Vanderhoff is being pressured into transfer or early retirement by school administrator Stiles due to a single ‘incident’ marking an otherwise officially acceptable career . . . . The story of an intimate relationship that develops between Miss Vanderhoff and Lafayette, a transfer student placed in her High School English class, is renacted as Vanderhoff relates it to Stiles.

“Lafayette epitomizes everything popular culture has led us to believe characterizes ‘inner city youth.’ He’s black, he’s hostile, he’s done time in juvenile detention for car theft. But much more than a menace to society, Lafayette turns out to be the first ‘real student’ Vanderhoff has ever had. He begins to show a personalized enthusiasm for critical thinking that contrasts the years of resistance or passionless, grade-focused ambition she has come to expect from her students.

“In spite of her continual claim not to ‘love children,’ which she sees as a prevailingly sentimental and unrealistic reason to pursue the needed job of teaching, Vanderhoff develops a concern and interest in Lafayette’s well-being that eventually alienates her other students — especially Billy. Out of resentment for the new teacher’s pet and a fear of summer school, Billy pushes both student and teacher to points of no return through manipulation of Lafayette’s insecurities and a brutal attack upon Miss Vanderhoff’s already harried defenses. Supported by a cabal of students, administrators, and parents, Billy then engineers the downfall of both.”

“Raises a host of difficult questions about education in general, and shows the precarious balance between politics, ethics and practicality . . . . When the cast came out for their final bow, it took me a long moment to remember that I had not been again sitting in a classroom, led by the type of teacher whose commitment I’d remember gratefully for the rest of my life.”
– Show Business

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Contact information:
Amateur and professional rights:
David Lohrey
411 Walnut Street #7829
Green Cove Springs, Florida
USA 32043

About the Playwright: David Lohrey completed his undergraduate degree at UC, Berkeley. Later, he studied creative writing at San Francisco State University, UCLA, and California State University, Los Angeles where he completed his MA. David now teaches at the college level in New Jersey, and is Literary Manager at Theatre-Studio, Inc. in New York City.David’s plays have received productions and staged readings across the country, including Group Rep and FirstStage in Los Angeles, The Long Beach Playhouse, the Dayton Playhouse, the Turnip Company, ArtGroup, and TRU’s 2nd Annual NYC Play Festival.

His work has received awards in competitions such as New Century Writers’ Competition, Riverside Stage Company’s Founder’s Award Competition, Harvest Festival of New Plays at the Sonoma County Rep, the 1998 Writers’ Digest Writing Competition, the 1999 Writer’s DigestWriting Competition, and the Generic Theater Company’s Dog Days Festival. For three years, David has been a voting member for TheatreLA’s annual Ovation Awards. He has been a member of the Dramatists Guild since 1982, and recently joined the Play Selection Committee at the Long Beach Playhouse.

Betterland was first produced by the Long Beach Playhouse, Long Beach, California in 1999.