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Seen and Unseen the 10 minute play


Michael Cannarella


COLLEEN: Woman, 30, blonde, slight build, average height

LEON: Man, 50, short, stocky, cropped greying hair, clipped beard, slightly stooped, dark complexion

SETTING: Custodial supply closet, public school

TIME: 2 a.m.


(It’s the midnight custodial shift at a public school. LEON, a long- term custodian, and COLLEEN, a new worker, meet at the supply closet. A neon light shines overhead. Mops, buckets and cleaning supplies surround them.)

COLLEEN: Thanks for meeting me here, Leon. LEON: Yea, what do you need?

(LEON leans on a mop handle.)

COLLEEN: I don’t know what to do. LEON: What’s going on?

COLLEEN: Tomorrow I have to meet with the big boss, Handley.  Mr. Handley. They told him I’m not doing my job! All lies but…I don’t even know this man Handley.

LEON: It’s Martin, right?

(LEON pulls up a box of toilet paper and sits.)

COLLEEN: Yes, he’s sayin’ I left classrooms a mess, trash cans full, floor a mess. It’s not true, not true.

LEON: Colleen –

COLLEEN: What can I do? I need this regular check!

LEON: Listen, the problem is Martin. He’s the lead, he has the Manager’s ear and the Big Boss doesn’t want any trouble.

COLLEEN: I’m afraid of Martin.

LEON: Yea, well we all keep our heads down, (pause) no one wants to tangle with Martin.

COLLEEN: He came up to me in my supply closet, gets right up close, so close I could feel his breath on my face. Doesn’t say anything just stares. I pull away, then he tries to get closer.

(COLLEEN moves her mop bucket between her and LEON.)

COLLEEN: Yesterday, I pushed the mop and bucket between us.  Then he just walks away and says nothin’.

LEON: Martin’s that way with all the young women. It will be someone else before long, Colleen.

COLLEEN: Loretta’s section is a mess and no one says a word.  Like no one sees it. (pause) I heard sometimes she doesn’t even come back from lunch. No one sees that either.

LEON: Martin’s been here for 20 years. (pause) On the midnight shift, he decides what’s seen and what’s not seen. Most everybody just stays in their section, cleans, empties the trash, keeps a low profile.

(LEON stands and grabs the mop in the bucket. Both LEON and COLLEEN hold the mop handle between them.) 

COLLEEN: I’m a 30-year-old mother with two kids at home, I need this job. (pause)

(COLLEEN puts her hands to her face and speaks through them.)

 COLLEEN: The other day he stood in front of me blocking me right here in this supply closet. I – I didn’t know what was next!  Then he just walked away, didn’t look back at me.

LEON: I know –

COLLEEN: He follows me, I turn and he’s there, watching me, staring at me.

(COLLEEN pulls a rag from a box on the shelf in the supply closet stuffs it in her purse.)

LEON: None of us like it, but no one at the school sees what’s happening so we just keep our head down and clean. We try not to see it and just go about our business.

COLLEEN Does he harass other women?

LEON: Yea, he wants everyone to be afraid of him, especially the women.

(LEON shakes his head back and forth, looks down at the floor.)

COLLEEN: What’s Handley going to say to me? I’m new, what’s going to happen?

(LEON steps toward the door of the supply closet and pulls the door closed.)

LEON: Colleen, it’s simple. Handley doesn’t want to be here in the middle of the night, we see him maybe once a year, that’s it. What Martin sees Handley sees. What Martin doesn’t want him to see he doesn’t see. We work in that world here.

(Agitated, COLLEEN grabs the mop handle in the bucket, pulls it up and pushes it down in the water with a splash.) 

COLLEEN: It’s not right! I have to talk to someone, I’m a married woman, two kids. I don’t want some man following me around staring at me. I –

(LEON grabs the mop handle from COLLEEN’s hand.)

LEON: Speaking up gets you in deeper. Next thing you know your section gets bigger, you don’t have the supplies you need, you get no help, you work harder to do your job. We’ve all seen it. Martin wears people down, some get sick, injured or just quit. And of course, he can always find something wrong.  A table or board not wiped down, soil on the carpet, a can not dumped.

COLLEEN: I have bills to pay, I need this job!

LEON: I have bills to pay too, got young ones at home. But, we’ve talked to Handley and the Human Resources lady.

COLLEEN: Can’t they stop it?

(COLLEEN spreads her arms out, opens her eyes wide.)

LEON: They listen alright, even take notes, (pause) but nothing changes. The sun rises in the morning and Martin is still the king of the midnight shift same as before, no different.

COLLEEN: My God, someone must care! Someone must –

LEON: And I’ll tell you something else, none of the old timers really want to speak up either. Oh, they see it alright, we all see it but they don’t want to talk about it, you know, who wants Martin on their tail, being watched, followed, written up. No, (pause) better to stay low and say nothin’.

COLLEEN: It’s WRONG! (angry) Leon it’s wrong! I’m really a single parent now, and I have benefits here and a regular check. It’s paying the rent and getting food on the table. I need th –

(LEON stares at COLLEEN.)

LEON: Thought you were married?

COLLEEN: My husband Jacob can’t help. I’m alone with two kids. I need this job I –

LEON: Jacob?

COLLEEN: He won’t get out for another six months, (lowers her voice) he’s serving his time.


COLLEEN: He knows he shouldn’t have run. But he was scared, easy to see why he didn’t see her. A woman on a bike on a dark rainy night. He heard the crash, sure he heard it, but he just kept driving and hightailed it home.

LEON: I’m sorry.

(COLLEEN shakes her head and looks away from LEON.)

COLLEEN: Someone got the plate number and the cops were at the door within an hour. Jacob was crying – cryin’, Leon. Then he just took it, told them he did it, cried some more, I was so mad at him. He knew what he did was wrong, but to just break down like that. (pause) I don’t know what to do.

LEON: Every young woman who works here has to deal with Martin. Can’t tell you what to do but Martin wants respect. Some pick up with him like Loretta, how they deal with it.

(COLLEEN violently pushes the mop handle and it bounces against the wall of the supply closet.)


(LEON holds out both hands.)

LEON: I know, I know, that’s not gonna happen –

COLLEEN: (shouting) She doesn’t even come dressed to work! A custodian in heels and no one sees that? What the hell!

(COLLEEN wide eyed looks at LEON, questioning.)

LEON: It’s crazy, I know, but calm down!

COLLEEN: (agitated) He sneaks up on me, corners me, gets up close. I have to defend myself however I can. (COLLEEN clutches her purse.) Good thing Jacob doesn’t know about this. He would settle this and Martin would be gone!

LEON: Colleen it’s OK, it’s OK, calm down. You gotta give Martin a little of what he wants. He likes to feel like he’s the boss, he’s in charge. But he doesn’t know the half of what goes on around here. I know the women have it harder. But, what more to say?

COLLEEN: Why doesn’t the school do something about it? There must be someone to tell.

LEON: I told you, (pause) others have tried. I’ve seen it time and again over the years.

COLLEEN: The principal, the school board? LEON Whoa!

(LEON hits a box of toilet paper on the shelf with his fist.)

LEON: Don’t go there, Colleen! They don’t want to hear about it, and you will really be in big trouble here. I don’t want to see you gone. You think any of them want to know about a problem on the midnight shift for some custodians? Colleen, they don’t even know we’re here. Somehow those classrooms just get cleaned and picked up magically, what they think.

COLLEEN: My Jacob is serving his time for a mistake he made, he’s doing it. He says he’s gonna make it right, but me and the kids, we’re paying the price too. (pause) That attorney we were given, he only met us once, made this deal that took my husband away. I’m payin’ the price now. But why not Martin? Shouldn’t he pay a price for how he treats people? He can’t get away with this! I’m gonna stop him!

LEON: Wait, Wait! OK, I’ll do what I can, I’ll talk to Martin, I –

COLLEEN: I do my job, I work hard, my section is clean. Rex and Megan need me. When I get home in the mornin’ they’re just waking up, like angels, sleepy eyed. I make them lunch, get them off to school. I’m home in the afternoon when they get home. Megan, my oldest, only 11, is like a mother with Rex, trying to keep him outta trouble. (pause) What does Martin want from me? (pause) I’m spent, I don’t know –

(LEON grabs each of COLLEEN’s hands.)

LEON: Look, Handley is gonna tell you to work harder so you look him in the eye and tell him you will work harder. Don’t say anything about Martin. He’s not gonna fire you this first time, but Handley doesn’t want to hear about Martin. That’s his man. Colleen, think about it, what’s seen and unseen.

COLLEEN: (in a whisper) So I need to do what?

LEON: Look, Martin is boss ‘round here. Nobody has taken him down, no one at the school wants to hear about Martin, so you best don’t bring it up. When you see Martin, don’t hide or show you’re scared, go about your cleaning.

COLLEEN: He sneaks up on me, says I missed this office or that black board, he writes it down in his book. It’s not true.

(LEON shakes his head up and down.)

LEON: Listen to what I said! Don’t be scared, show him you know he’s the one in charge, however you can. “OK, Martin, yes Martin, thanks,” talk like that to him, and don’t ask questions about anyone else especially Loretta, that’ll really get him mad.

COLLEEN: And Mr. Handley?

LEON: Don’t need to say a word, just nod and agree with whatever he says. There may be a Human Resources lady there too, just nod and agree no matter what they say, just nod.

(COLLEEN nods tentatively.)

COLLEEN: OK, don’t say anything to them. I’ll be scared but just nod. I’ll try to be pleasant no matter what.

(LEON smiles, nods.)

LEON: You got it!

COLLEEN: Oh. (pause)

(COLLEEN puts her hand on each side of her head.)

COLLEEN: I can’t do this, I can’t. (pause) Pretending it’s OK with him following me? I’m not that person. I need to stop him, Leon.

(COLLEEN starts to shake.)

(Footsteps heard coming down the hall.)

(COLLEEN and LEON speechlessly look at one another.)

(From her purse COLLEEN pulls out a Glock pistol.)

(LEON steps in front of COLLEEN between her and the door.)

(Sound of the supply door opening.)