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Justin - male, 38
Emily - female, 25
Kevin - male, 28
Teresa - female, 29
Gina - female, 64


The backyard of a house. A town of 7,000 in western Wyoming.

Heroes of the Fourth Turning

Scene 1- Justin enters early in the morning with his cup of coffee, he hears a noise and grabs a shotgun and aims it off stage, he shoots and exits, moments later he enters with the bloody corpse of a doe. He lays it on the porch and starts to gut it but his hand is shaking.

Scene 2- It’s later at night, there has been a party at the house that is starting to die down. Justin enters and sees there is still some blood where the doe was and starts to clear it up. Emily, who walks with a cane, comes out on the porch. She talks how she is finding the party overwhelming but is happy to be out, she has been sick and isolated for a while. She decides to go inside with the help of Justin while she waits for her mom, Gina, to pick her up. They cross paths with Kevin as he is coming out. He has a bottle of Whisky. 

As he is staggering around the yard Teresa enters. It is clear that they have history, Kevin feels lost in life and that he is succumbing to moral corruption like pornography. He thinks having a girlfriend will make things better, hoping that it may be Teresa. Teresa talks about her time in Brooklyn being a conservative in a liberal hotspot. She mentions that she does cocaine. She also is convinced that there is a war coming and tells Kevin that he needs to not be weak. He wants to know what she means by war as Emily re-enters, she talks about her mom’s inauguration as the president of the university. She got mad at her mom who publicly asked her to say her liberal friend was a bad person. Emily doesn't see the world as black and white as that. Kevin talks about Teresa, who has exited, and tells Emily about how Teresa was almost kicked out of school because she slept with someone. Kevin talks about his struggles saying that he wishes all the things of the secular world, (phones, astrology, pornography and orgies) would just blow up so that some truth would arise from it. At this point Justin reenters, he mentions that he is working on a children’s book. He recites the story about the grateful acre. Which (similar to the giving tree) is about an acre of land that has dirt, then grass, then people, then buildings, then radiation and finally a world of no people. 

They start to discuss the college and their curriculum. The college has not accepted federal funding or gives student aid. Kevin thinks their curriculum is great, but that he was not prepared to live in the real world. He thinks maybe he should go to New York, to be a saint among the sinners. Justin thinks they should just stay isolated and preserve themselves and let the hedonists eat themselves alive. Kevin gets on the topic of transgender people, wanting to be part of the conversation but fees shut down on facebook when he tries. Justin brings up an argument about how those people are separating the soul from the bodies. Emily identifies as someone who is dealing with sickness in her body. Kevin goes off to pee in the woods. Emily wonders to Justin if the college really produces good people. Kevin seems so lost and Teresa seems shut off. Kevin vomits over himself. He begs them not to tell Teresa. Emily needs help going to the bathroom and Justin helps her inside. Justin comes back to take care of Kevin who is wasted. He tells Justin that he is in love with Emily and wants to take care of her. Justin tells him to not say anything that Emily can get emotional. Kevin says he wants to protect her from Justin, and doesn't want to do the same thing he did to Teresa. Justin was the boy that slept with Teresa. Justin says that he deserved his forgiveness and second chance. 

Teresa comes back out. Kevin awkwardly grabs the two in a group hug where, unseen by Kevin, Teresa strokes Justin’s arms. Emily comes back out and Kevin asks Teresa to tell them more about this upcoming war. She talks about the fourth turning theory which includes a generational cycle of High, Awakening, Unraveling and Crisis. This follows into a debate with Teresa and Emily about abortion, because Emily has a friend who works at Planned Parenthood and cant believe that she is just plain bad. 

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The Ending - Spoilers Ahead

They touch on Trump but that is interrupted by the entrance of Gina, Emily’s mom who has just been made president of the university. They all quickly sober up. They all congratulate her, she is revered by all of them. After prompted for an encore, she re-reads a little of her speech. Kevin finally gets the courage to ask her why being catholic means being conservative. He questions why the curriculum didn't encourage him to seek out other points of view but rather lead them all to the same conclusions. She answers by talking about how conservatives like to do things slow and be thoughtful while progressives charge ahead, a mob ready to trample on liberties to get to their end goal. Kevin doesnt feel like this has answered his question and says that he just cant be passive about being associated with a president like Trump. Gina doesn't want to talk about Trump (a common theme with all the characters) Gina is about to leave. As she says goodbye to everyone she makes a joking remark about Teresa’s hero, Steve Bannon, which opens the flood gate of a debate between her and Teresa. Teresa talks from a very radical mindset saying she believes that the liberal agenda is to take revenge on white people for “america’s original sin, slavery” Gina even thinks that this is too radical and cant believe what she is hearing. Tersa feels that Gina has become passive to the situation and says she is ready to fight for her side. Gina asks her where her teaching went wrong. She says that she is too wrapped up in the identity and that she is just as fragile as they are. She says that she is disappointed that she risked her job to grant her clemency when she was in school and slept with a boy, only to find out that she ”has reverted back to an emotional, spit-spewing slut, whoring herself to popular opinion” With that Gina says her goodbyes. She tells Kevin he should come apply for the dean of admissions. She leaves. Kevin is excited by the idea and then has a mental freak out and runs into the woods, he is so drunk at this point. Terea leaves. Justin confesses to Emily that he is planning on joining a monastery to get away from this. Emily is sad by the idea of not having him and asks him to stay. She then breaks down telling about how a woman at her work that morning was cursing at her because she didn't understand what it was like to be a woman in her position. Emily works at a pro-life charity that helps woman through the pregnancy to avoid an abortion. Emily starts swearing and cursing about how broken everything is how how she is physically broken. In her rage she ends up standing out without help which we have not seen her do yet. Justin and Emily are both shocked. He asks if she is in pain. She says yes, and I love the pain. They make their way inside. End of play.

  • By Will Arbery

    Will Arbery is an American playwright, screenwriter and TV writer (Succession (HBO), known for his plays Heroes of the Fourth Turning, Plano, and Evanston Salt Costs Climbing. Heroes of the Fourth Turning was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Arbery was the recipient of the 2020 Whiting Award for Drama.

    Playwright's Website 
  • More plays by Will Arbery:

    Evanston Salt Costs Climbing