What it's about.
Miles for Mary takes place in the physical education teacher's lounge of Garrison High School in Ohio, 1988. No intermission, a never-changing set, and an oftentimes hilarious, seemingly endless series of passive aggressive meetings between high school athletics department staff members trying to coordinate their school's annual Miles for Mary telethon.
I am fairly risk-averse. I spent the majority of my life proudly claiming my Gryffindor status, only to be officially sorted into Hufflepuff rather recently, a house that values hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play over courage, daring, nerve, and chivalry. That being said, I usually make it a point to be civil in everyday life, even when it's painful. It seems the polite and respectful way to go about things. I recognize the need to censor myself to a certain degree in order to maintain order in my life, particularly in an office setting.
For example, I'll tell a coworker he or she looks good even if they don't, or that they did a good job, even if they didn't, and I'll keep the frustration out of my voice when I am explaining something simple to a colleague who doesn't understand, and the dislike out of my voice when I am working with a colleague I don't enjoy spending time with. It's just small stuff. Little white lies out of necessity. And in spite of those white lies, I always strive to be as honest as possible. I don't want to relinquish my personality or my beliefs, but at the same time I know people who work together need to be able to do so with limited conflict. It's a delicate balance.
It reminds me of when Harriet from Harriet the Spy wrote down the unflattering truth about her classmates in a private notebook, a private notebook that was eventually read aloud to her entire class, thus making her the pariah of the 6th grade. She was being honest and didn't do anything wrong, but in her case, brutal honestly brought her more harm than good. After all, she had to go to school every day with these people. Ultimately, Harriet had to apologize, even though she had meant what she had written, and she had to tell little white lies in order to smooth things over. She came to the realization that, "The truth is important, but so are your friends, and if you can have them both, then it's a good life." I happen to agree. And I also think this belief extends to coworkers. And in regards to Miles for Mary, the athletics staff of Garrison High School generally thought so too.
In the many meetings that were conducted on the Miles for Mary telethon, it seemed that all of the participants wanted to keep things calm as much as possible, and avoid any confrontation. However, eventually, emotions overrode everything else, and in spite of their best efforts, the staff members were left with no choice but to deal with the very intense environment they had all contributed to creating.
So much about these meetings reminded me of my experiences with the corporate world (a world which I have recently become a part of). I know what it's like to participate in unnecessary meetings, I know what it's like to be patronized by a colleague, and I know how it feels to swallow my pride and say the civil, politically correct, HR-approved thing, rather than the thing I want to say. "Mean what you say and say what you mean," is all well and good, but most people wouldn't be talking to their coworkers anymore if they really said what they meant without any reservations or hesitations.
It wasn't until some time into the play that it was revealed that the Miles for Mary telethon was to raise money for athletic scholarships in honor of a young sports star and former student named Mary who died tragically in a car crash before even graduating from high school. Yikes. Sometimes people get so caught up in the trivialities of life that they forget the things that really matter.
The last scene of the play (SPOILER ALERT) doesn't include any physical actors. A video simply plays on a TV set, and it's a video that was made for the telethon, featuring Mary herself. You see her running, goofing off with her friends, and it was just a punch in the gut to me. How? How could the athletics staff have lost focus on what they were doing so badly? They got so caught up in office politics and pettiness that they forgot the reason that they were there to begin with. It was all for Mary. This girl had had her entire life ahead of her, and now she was just the inspiration for a telethon people begrudgingly participated in.
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