Chalk Tracings: A play by Elizabeth Andrews

Connie walks on stage as the lights come up, remembering the events of 1986, the year she began the most important case of her career.

"As I walked the halls on the eve of the trial, every imperfection that I saw in that school building and its administration, every water-stained ceiling tile, every spineless textbook, every frailty of the teachers was stored in my memory—a checklist of things I would make sure to change."

So opens Chalk Tracings, a play by Elizabeth Andrews that dramatizes the results of her research into underfunded public school systems.

The book Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol motivated Andrews, a geography major. "Kozol takes a hard look at the injustices that occur in our schools. He talks about children who don't have bathrooms in their schools, or whose bathrooms overflow sewage that the school can't afford to properly clean up. He asks a really compelling moral question: How can we do this to our children?"

Andrews volunteered in inner-city schools and read cases in which schools brought lawsuits against their states to get more funding. As a cultural geographer, she looked at the ways location affects people's lives. For example, since public school funding comes from property taxes, poor communities always have the least funded school districts. She based her play on events she found common in public school districts across the country.

The main character in Andrews' play, Connie Malone, is a lawyer who represents the fictitious Kingswood School District. Connie's lines during the court scenes contain actual statistics, examples, and situations that occur in schools across America.

Andrews relates to the character Shantay, a student at Kingswood. Shantay, at first a victim of Kingswood's failing system, overcomes her disadvantaged situation. "On an emotional, more than a practical level, I feel connected to her," says Andrews. Only through understanding and empathizing will people want to solve these problems, Andrews believes.

"I can't say what effect my play will have on other people, but I hope it will help them explore these issues as it has helped me."

Elizabeth Andrews received a B.S. in geography in May 1998, with honors in geography and theatre, from the Colleges of Earth and Mineral Sciences and Arts and Architecture, and the Schreyer Honors College. Her geography adviser is Roger Downs, Ph.D., 302 Walker Bldg.; 8651915; rd7@psu.edu. Charles Dumas is her theatre adviser.

Last Updated September 01, 1998