How to talk to the Principal

[A group of students, in uniform, are standing inside the school hall. They are busy talking. Out of them, one prim ‘n’ proper girl speaks aloud.]

KATIE: Hey! I need to go to the principal. I want to get her to accept this request of mine.
QUINT: What is the request about?
KATIE: Well, I want to organize a pop-culture quiz in the school. It’ll be like a normal quiz, but instead of being about science or academics, it’ll have questions from Twilight, Mario, Iron Man etc. But to organize it, I’ll need her permission.
ALISON: And you are never going to get it.
KATIE: What? Why?!
PERCY: Because this school is very conservative, staidly conservative. Principal Mam will never allow a Twilight-themed quiz to take place inside the school premises; one that is sanctioned by the school, no less.
QUINT: In fact, I am pretty sure you will receive a scathing scolding for thinking of such a thing, especially when you are in senior year and supposed to be worrying about your SAT and AP exams.
KATIE: But, I am really passionate about this! I want this idea to succeed and have worked very hard on this! I need to get her permission, no matter what!
ALISON: How serious are you about getting this request accepted?
KATIE: Very. Very serious.
QUINT: Well then. There is one person who can help you get this letter signed from Principal Mam.
KATIE: And who is this miracle worker you are talking about? And how exactly does he/she plan to help me accomplish my task?
QUINT: Sherman.
PERCY: Oh dear. Not him.
ALISON: Yes, him. He can assist this girl when it comes to talking to Principal Mam. And you know this.
KATIE: You know what; I’ll go and talk to him. I’ll hold out a hope, even if it is a fool’s hope.

[Katie is led by Alison, Quint and Percy to a decrepit part of the school. A few children are playing soccer there. Among them, one stands out due to his tall height and auburn hair. Quint whistles and gestures that boy to come to them. The boy doesn’t respond.]

QUINT: Oy! Sherman! Oy, come here!
SHERMAN: You forgot to say something.

[Alison nudges Quint and mumbles something in his ear. Quint grumbles and calls out again.]

QUINT: Sherman, will you please come here and join us?

SHERMAN: Why didn’t you say so before?! Just a second there.

[Sherman turns around, passes the ball to another player and comes over to join the group.]

SHERMAN: Now, what task do you need done from me?
ALISON: How did you know we had come here to ask for your help?
SHERMAN: Alison dear, surely you don’t think I’m an idiot? You, Quint and Percy coming here just to meet me is unbelievable as it is… and if you bring this (gestures to Katie) delightful creature too, then there really is no doubt. Plus, she’s fidgeting the most, which only consolidates my assumption that she’s the person in need of help. Am I not right, sweetheart?
ALISON: (in a resigned way) Yes, we have come here to ask you for your help. And yes, Katie here is the one in need of assistance.
SHERMAN: Well, Katie, a.k.a new student. Why do you need my help in getting this official document signed?
KATIE: Wait, did any of you tell him beforehand that I need help on an official document?
SHERMAN: Katie, Katie… surely you should not be so quick to jump to conclusions about people, especially when they are trying to help you. And these 3 were with you the whole time. How could they have sneaked off and/or let me know what type of document this is?
KATIE: You mean to tell me this was just a lucky guess?
SHERMAN: One thing you should know about me is I never take guesses. First of all, that letter is of quite cheap paper, a paper that is remarkably similar to the paper our school lab has. Since it’s cheap, I can see through it and recognized the school’s logo and footnote. You also smell of printer cartridge, which is an ill afflicting every student who’s been near the school’s old printer. That you went to the old printer also told me that you were a new student, since no one who has been in this school for more than 6 months would be seen anywhere near that printer or in that room. So, there you go… no guesses. Logical assumptions.

[Katie is stunned. The other 3 just shrug appreciatively.]

KATIE: So, err, yeah, you were right. I need this document signed from Mam. It is about this quiz that I want to hold in the –
SHERMAN: Sorry to disappoint you Katie, but I am really not interested in what this letter contains or what quiz you want to conduct in school. You seem like a good girl, and the people who have brought you here… though whiny ingrates (stares at the 3), are trustworthy people. So, I’ll help you in what you need.
KATIE: Gee, thanks!
SHERMAN: Thanking me right now would be premature, brash and naïve. For all you know, I might get you into disciplinary trouble, which would lead to your suspension or rustication. So I would suggest you bottle your feelings of gratitude, heartfelt no doubt, for some time and express them only when I prove myself deserving of them.
KATIE: Umm… okay?

[But Sherman has already started walking to an isolated corridor. The other 3 are following him.
On the way, Sherman finds 2 shoes. He picks them, looks at them, and gives them to a girl on the other side of the playground.]

GIRL: Oh, these are my shoes! Thank you very, very much! How did you realize they were mine?
SHERMAN: Uhh, just looked like the sort of thing you would wear. Looked like your style. They suit you too.

[The girl smiles and takes the shoes. Sherman rejoins the group, and they start walking to the isolated corridor.]

ALISON: Sherman, I know you quite well. And there is absolutely no way you gave the shoes to that girl because you thought “it was her style”.
SHERMAN: Then, you know me very well Alison.
ALISON: So, how did you figure out those were her shoes?
SHERMAN: When I checked the shoes, there were skin flakes on the laces. I know for a fact that that girl suffers from eczema, i.e., skin disease. After that, it was just a matter of connecting the dots.
QUINT: Dude, you’ll never cease to amaze me.
PERCY: And scare me.
SHERMAN: Anyway, now that we have reached a safe area to talk, listen to my instructions very closely girl. (Turns towards Katie)
KATIE: Wait a minute. Why do I listen to your instructions? Are you some kind of expert in pleading to the principal?
SHERMAN: (Towards Quint) Please handle this. You know I don’t like to praise myself.
QUINT: When it comes to getting something done from the principal, Sherman is the best person to talk to. So far, 6 teachers have tried on 11 occasions to get him reprimanded. None of them have succeeded. One time, a teacher dragged him by the ears into Principal’s chambers, screaming for him to be rusticated.
KATIE: What happened then?
PERCY: The teacher came out apologizing profusely. Sherman came out with 1 lollipop in his hand and 1 in his mouth.

[Katie starts laughing. Sherman tries to control, but even he breaks into chuckles. The rest join in too.]

SHERMAN: Anyway, now that we’ve established my credentials… let’s cut to the chase. First up, as soon as you walk into the Principal’s office, she’ll ask you to sit in a chair. Refuse, politely.
KATIE: But why?
SHERMAN: Because her chair will be 8 inches higher than your chair. This may seem like a trivial matter but its psychological effect has been enough many times to rattle even the most stout trouble makers. The very act of looking up at her for the entire time inside her room is enough to get the impression across of who is the boss. You don’t want that to happen.
KATIE: Oh my God. I am not entering a foreign embassy here. This is just the Principal!
SHERMAN: You’ll stick to such quixotic beliefs, and she’ll make mincemeat out of you and your request in no time. Listen to me carefully. Politely refuse to sit in the chair and instead ask to stand. Lie smoothly about how it would be disrespectful to sit in the chair when you’ve come to ask for a favour or something like that.
KATIE: But why stand? What if this takes half an hour or more? Won’t I get tired?
SHERMAN: No. Stand, no matter what. When you stand, with your height, you’ll tower over the principal. From childhood, she gets scared whenever someone towers over her. This will work in your favour.
KATIE: Wait, from childhood? How do you know stuff about her from her childhood?
SHERMAN: You remember how in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, Harry learned about Lord Voldemort’s past because Dumbledore said that was essential to defeating him? Yeah, this summer, I did the same.
KATIE: You are saying Principal Mam is like Lord Voldemort?
SHERMAN: NO! I am just using a comparison. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, as they say.
KATIE: Dear Lord, you freak me out. Anyway, why can’t I just approach her in a corridor or other public place? She often takes rounds of the school, right?
SHERMAN: Don’t. Ever. Do. That.
KATIE: Now why?
SHERMAN: Actually, why not: because Principal Mam wanted to be a stage actor when she was young. Her parents forbid her from taking this course, saying it was too risky. Every single day she regrets not pursuing her dream. One time, in College, she acted in a play as a Matron and a very close friend complimented her on her intense body language. Some people joked that she would be a great fit for a strict Principal. Since then, she likes putting on a show whenever she gets the chance and by approaching her in public, you’ll only give her a very good opportunity for such a thing.

[Katie stares, dumbstruck. The other 3 just look disbelievingly and mumble among themselves.]

KATIE: I’ll not even bother asking how you came to know of that information. But let’s get back to business. I go in to her office, decline the offer to sit down, stand up instead, tower over her with my overbearing presence and then ask firmly and confidently for her to accede to my plea?
SHERMAN: No. Do not be firm and confident while talking. Combined with all the standing up and imposing around, she’ll think you are bullying her and revolt against you.
KATIE: How can you be so sure?
SHERMAN: Because I know. And stop doubting my methods. It’s all fact. So, as I was saying, you shouldn’t be firm and strong. Try to be meek, with a mousy voice. Stutter very slightly and roll your ‘r’s a little bit.
KATIE: And why should I do this? Or wait, is that “doubting your methods?”
SHERMAN: It’s not. This is just asking me to explain my procedure. And I love doing that. I am asking you to speak like this because the Principal’s daughter speaks like this. Any emotional attachment she feels towards you will only further your case. And Mam feels that rolling ‘r’s while speaking is very cute. This’ll work in your favour too.

[Katie stares at him for some time, with a ludicrous expression on her face.]

KATIE: Does it ever occur to you that… what you are doing… or what you are advising me to do… it is morally wrong?
SHERMAN: It doesn’t occur to me because it’s not. Principal Mam is renowned for using a student’s fears to test him/her whenever he/she comes to meet her. It seems only fair that someone do the same with her.
KATIE: You know what? Fine! I’ll do exactly as you say because even though you seem like a scoundrel with precious few morals, I can see how this demeanor might work. I’ll go and talk to her now.

[Katie leaves for the Principal’s Chambers. Sherman watches her go. He then turns around to the 3.]

SHERMAN: So, Alison and Percy, I believe I must congratulate you on your first kiss? Though I can see it wasn’t exactly graceful.

[Alison and Percy are taken aback. They quickly retort.]

ALISON: What do you mean? How can you even imply –
PERCY: No such thing ever happened!
SHERMAN: Since the past 15 minutes, you both have been surreptitiously glancing towards each other every now and then. Alison, you have got Percy’s cheap cologne’s “fragrance” wafting from your shoulders, which would be exactly where he would have held you for a kiss. And Percy, you really need to learn how to kiss. Or do you get a girl’s lipstick over your upper lip every time you kiss her?

[Alison and Percy embarrassedly look away. Quint grins and gives a high-five to Sherman.]

SHERMAN: Ah, our little morally perfect saint is here. (Waves to Katie) So, how did it go?

[Katie doesn’t say anything till she comes near them. She’s still quiet.]

QUINT: So, what happened? What did she say? Tell us!

[Katie smiles. Slowly, she takes out something from her pocket.]

PERCY: What, a lollipop?! Darn it Sherman, maybe you’re too good a teacher!
SHERMAN: Congratulations Miss Katie on the successful completion of your endeavour. (Bows) I look forward to attending, and hopefully even participating, in your quiz. And since I presume my work here is done, I’ll take your leave.

[Sherman grabs the lollipop from Katie, and leaves.]

SHERMAN: (Shouting) Think of it as my fees!
ALISON: He’s psychic. A weirdo, if there ever was one.
KATIE: Whatever. He helped me get this. I’ll never forget that. Plus, he is quite cute too.

[Alison, Percy and Quint stare at her, agape with wonder.]

KATIE: (Laughs). Come on guys. We have got a quiz to organize.


How to talk to the Principal

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A short play set in a school. A girl named Katie wants to get a request application signed by the Principal. But the application is of a slightly risqué nature. To understand how to approach the Principal for this matter, Katie is taken to meet Sherman, a roguish genius who know the Principal inside-out and can help Katie. Will Katie accept his method or will she pursue the task on her own?

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