Tuesday, November 8, 2011

English for Beginners - Act I, Scene One

Mrs. Delany from Prologue
Lights up.  It is late afternoon.  A fog still hangs in the air. The house is empty.  A bird calls.  After a moment, JASON enters.  He is a good looking man in his twenties. Tall, with a friendly nature and a gentleness about him.  He carries with him his messenger bag and an overnight bag.  On his entrance, he rubs his eyes.  He is exhausted.  He looks around for signs of some other person.  He goes up to the glass and peers in, knocks on the doors and tries all the handles.  
JASON
Hello?
JASON takes out his phone and spends a few moments checking and sending messages.  He goes ahead and settles on to one of the couches.  He sits for a moment looking around.  He yawns.  His phone beeps.  He looks at it.  Texts. He yawns again.  He lays down as he continues to text.  The phone rings.  JASON silences it and puts the phone away from him. He rubs his head and thinks.  He picks up the phone again and stares at it. He then puts it away from him again and lays down to sleep. 
The sound of a car.  ANNE and CLYDE enter.  They are both in their early thirties.  Both are a little overweight, but have a settled-into-their-bodies look.  Neither uncomfortable or unhappy.  Both have too many bags with them.  CLYDE pinches ANNE's bottom as they climb the stairs.  She giggles happily.  

ANNE
Stop it.

CLYDE 
I can't help it.

ANNE
I'll drop everything.

CLYDE
I don't care if you do.
He pinches her again.
ANNE
Ah!  Stop it!

CLYDE
No. 
He pinches her again.  She laughs and drops all the luggage when she reaches the porch. She turns to him and kisses him.  He rises to the kiss and also drops his luggage.  
CLYDE
We have to hurry before anyone else gets here.

ANNE
Right here on the porch?

CLYDE
Why not?
He kisses her more, pushing her farther onto the porch.  She gives in.  He pushes her against the house.  She giggles as he starts taking off her clothes.
ANNE
No.  It's too cold.

CLYDE
Come on.

ANNE
No.
But she keeps kissing him.  He puts his hands up her shirt.  She giggles.  They keep going. 
ANNE
Ow!

CLYDE
Sorry.

ANNE
There's a nail.

CLYDE
Oh, baby.  I'm -

ANNE
No.  It's OK -

CLYDE
 - sorry. Maybe we -

ANNE
- don't worry.  Just move -

CLYDE
 - shouldn't do this.

ANNE
- to the couches.

CLYDE
I love you.

ANNE
I love you, too.
They kiss some more.
CLYDE
Wait, what couches?

ANNE
Over there.

CLYDE
Damn, this place is fancy.

ANNE
I know.  Remember the retreat last year? Fucking on a bunk bed wasn't any fun at all. 

CLYDE
Ha! 
They kiss.  They start moving over to the couches.  Not wanting to separate from each other, they keep kissing and groping.  CLYDE settles ANNE on the arm of the couch.  JASON wakes up. 

CLYDE  
Wait. I wasn't at that retreat.

ANNE 
Oh.  Right.  Maybe I'm thinking of something else.  

JASON
Hey, guys.
ANNE screams a little.  CLYDE removes his hands and looks thoroughly embarrassed. JASON sits up.
JASON
Sorry.  I figured you didn't see me so I thought I'd say something before I scared you.  Too late, I guess.

ANNE
Hey, no.  We were just -

CLYDE
I didn't see any other cars, I thought we were here first.

ANNE
This isn't your house is it?  We're looking for a vacation house.  We're meeting other people.

CLYDE
Please say you are a playwright.

JASON
I think that's the first time anyone has ever said that to me.  Yes, I am a playwright.  I'm sorry. Again.  I came by taxi. I thought someone was supposed to be here already, the email said something about dinner -

ANNE
Julia. Julia is cooking but, it's Julia. And Julia is always late so we figured we'd get a few minutes alone.

JASON
I'm sorry to ruin your plans.
Pause.
JASON
I'm Jason, by the way.

ANNE
I'm Anne and this is Clyde.

CLYDE
Nice to meet you.

Pause.

CLYDE
How do you know Laura?

JASON
School.  You?

CLYDE
You know.  Around.  Readings and things.

ANNE
School in...Chicago?

JASON
Yeah.  

ANNE
I think I remember her talking about you.  It's nice to meet you.  I'm glad you could come all the way out here to participate in...whatever this will be.

JASON
I've been looking forward to it.

CLYDE
Does that mean you know Francis too?

JASON
Yeah, we go way back.

CLYDE
Great.  That's just great.

Pause.

ANNE
I'm going to go smoke and get the rest of our things.

CLYDE
Great.  Thanks.  Do you need help?

ANNE
No.  No.  I've got it.  I've got it.  

ANNE exits.  They watch her go.  CLYDE and JASON sit or stand.  Whatever they do, it isn't comfortable.

JASON
Do you think it'll be long before someone shows up?

CLYDE
You know Julia.  

JASON
No.  I don't, actually.

CLYDE
Oh, well...I wouldn't expect her for a while.  I mean she's great, a great writer.  Really great.  

JASON
Just late a lot?

CLYDE
It's like her super power.

JASON
Hey, man, again I'm sorry -

CLYDE
No, look.  I'm glad you spoke up.  Don't think about it.

JASON
Cool.

CLYDE
Actually.  Don't think about it at all.  Anne and I aren't really together.  When we see each other we're together, when we don't we're not.  You know?

JASON
Yeah.  I've been through that.  It was a long distance thing so not quite the same.

CLYDE
  It feels like that sometimes.  It's been going on for a while. Anne just wanted to keep this quiet. You know how incestuous theater communities can get.  Everyone knows everyone's business and everyone is always talking about everyone. 

JASON
Mum's the word.  

CLYDE
Thanks man.

JASON
How's that going to work?  Two weeks in close quarters...

CLYDE
All I'm saying is don't be surprised if we disappear now and again.
JASON laughs. ANNE returns with a bottle of Jameson.
ANNE
Anybody feeling chilly?

CLYDE
Genius.

ANNE
No cups though.

JASON
I'm not shy.

ANNE
Good boy.
They all take turns drinking in silence.  ANNE and CLYDE are still embarrassed.  They touch each other for comfort.  JASON politely ignores them.
CLYDE
Do you know who else is coming? 

JASON
I only know Laura, Mike and Francis.  Oh, and Francis's partner...

ANNE
Greg.

JASON
Greg.  And always late Julia.
ANNE laughs.
ANNE
Do not call her that.

CLYDE
Alex is coming.

ANNE
That's what he says.

CLYDE
He told me yesterday he'd see me here.

ANNE
How much do you want to bet we'll see him sometime next week just in time to present his play. He'll stay one night and then be gone again.

CLYDE
He said he was coming for the whole time.

ANNE
Whatever. So. Maybe Alex.  

CLYDE
Brian and Sadie are coming too.

ANNE
Jesus.  

JASON
What's wrong?

ANNE
No. We really shouldn't say anything

CLYDE
They are perfectly nice people.

ANNE
We wouldn't want to ruin your opinion of anyone before you meet them.

CLYDE
Other then late Julia.

ANNE
But that's a fact not an opinion.

CLYDE
Brian and Sadie are both really nice people.

ANNE
Just really shitty writers.

CLYDE
I'm getting sick just thinking about sitting around talking about their work and trying to come up with something nice to say.  Arguing over turns of phrases in Brian's next gay tragedy play.  Discussing character motivation in the next installment of Sadie's never ending "my daughter is a drug addict who tried to kill me and I use playwrighting as therapy" lifetime to-be drama. 

ANNE
At least we'll be drunk.

CLYDE
I wonder why Laura invited them.  Maybe we can claim emergency rehearsal those nights?

ANNE
Doubtful.  Unless you want to end up on The Shit List.

CLYDE
So then AJ will be here.  Fuck. Kill the man who invented blogs. 

JASON
Who's AJ?

ANNE
He's this prick with a blog.  He actually calls it "The Shit List". He writes reviews on plays he sees, only he only talks about the stuff he hates.  He goes into detail.  I just know he's going to have a whole series about this retreat and all the "crap" plays he's heard.  What did he say about that one show?

CLYDE
"Tis a pity the play is shitty"
JASON laughs.
JASON
That's nothing we don't say to each other.

ANNE
We don't say it on a blog for the world to read.  We say it behind each other's backs like civilized people.

CLYDE
  I mean, I agree with him sometimes, but for the most part he's just trying to be a jerk. He loves calling out actresses who are too fat or too old for their parts.  He'll go to community theatres and rip apart the older actors.  These are people who have full time jobs and just want to have a good time and he rips their performances to shreds.  I mean, no one takes him seriously. It's not like he's ruining careers or anything.  But it doesn't garner him any good will.   

ANNE
Every now and again his blog is picked up by the Huffington Post or the Chron or some place, so now he thinks he's on to something.  The thing is, he hates women playwrights and women directors.

CLYDE
You keep saying that, but I don't think it's true.  I'm pretty sure he hates everyone equally.

ANNE
No.  I'll bet you even money that he'll have nothing but nice things to say about all the male playwrights here, but every time a woman reads he'll tear the piece apart. 

JASON
Why is he coming if he's not a playwright?

CLYDE
He is a playwright.  There was this thing a while back.  Some playwright called him out on his blog.  "I'd like to see you do better."

ANNE
And son of a bitch, some shifty little fly by night rinky dink company fucking produced this piece of shit -

CLYDE
It made money.

ANNE
And it got produced in New York off Broawday.

CLYDE
So now every review has this undercurrent of "see, it's not that hard".

JASON
What was the name of that play?

ANNE
"The Alchemy of Perspiring". Fucking douche bag.

Pause.
JASON
I saw that.

CLYDE
Oh yeah? What did you think?

JASON
There was a lot of sex.

ANNE
Every single woman in that play was a honey trap.  A body with a hole in her head and a hole between her legs.  And if she did show the slightest hint of having a brain, it was used to play games and fuck over the hero of the play. 

JASON
Sure.  I guess. I don't know.  I kind of liked it.  I mean.  It felt like a first effort, sure, but...you know.  Not bad.  I mean. Maybe when I saw it the actors were just really good. 

CLYDE
Maybe.  I mean.  I guess it had it's good parts. 
ANNE
No.  It didn't. And if I get half a chance when he shows up I'm going to fucking tell him so.
 
CLYDE
You got to give him this, though.  He said that if playwrights wanted people to come see their shows they needed to have specific elements.  That creating a successful show was a recipe.  Audiences need a reason to leave the house. I only ever see plays any more if it's either "A" really fucking good or "B" has one of my friends in it.  I don't have money or time to waste on something that may or may not be good.  And if it isn't "A" or "B", it's got o appeal to me on some other level.
ANNE
Like those live Twilight Zone episondes?

CLYDE (singing)
"Help I'm slippen into the Twilight Zone! This is a mad house, feels like being cloned!"

ANNE
You're such a dork.

CLYDE
I'm just saying, you can't predict what a single person is going to want to see, but you can predict group behavior.  Sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, a decent plot, good looking talented actors, a little bit of glitter, good advertising, and good timing.  It's not rocket science.

ANNE
So, you have to sell out, basically.

CLYDE
It's not selling out.  It's being strategic.

ANNE
Bullshit. Look.  To tell you the truth AJ can do whatever he fucking wants because he's a soulless asshole.  But inviting him here is just more proof that Laura is moving ever closer to the dark side.

JASON
The dark side?

ANNE
You know she got her last play produced at MRC right?

JASON
Yeah.
 
ANNE
Yeah, well.  She wanted to get produced there so that's the play she wrote. Tailor made. It's like she looked at their season I went "Oh, I see a lot of white people hanging out talking about their white people problems ...I bet I can write one of those plays."  And so she did. Whatever.  It's just that...I'd never compromise my writing that way. You know?  She neutered herself to get that play done.   She used to be this amazing experimental writer.  Her work had poetry and it really meant something.  Now, it's just empty crap.

CLYDE
MRC doesn't just do white people plays.

ANNE
They totally do. I mean, I know she's your friend and you two go way back, but I'm just being honest here. 

JASON
No.  It's OK.  I didn't really like the piece either.  I didn't really see it as a "white people" play, but I guess I can see where you're coming from.

ANNE

You went to school with her.  What was it liking watching that play?  I couldn't hear Laura in it at all. It was like watching the Little Mermaid give up her voice so that she could try and fuck the prince.  I just wanted to yell "He's not worth it honey!"

JASON
There were lot's of reasons I didn't like it.  At the same time, I felt it was really more mature then anything else I had seen from her.  It had a lot of depth and honesty.  I was proud of her.

ANNE
But it wasn't her.  If you put that play up against anything else she's ever written you would think it was a different writer completely.

JASON
But, shouldn't a writer's voice grow and change over the years?  The things that happen to us change who we are.  The things we like and the stories that are important to us change.  Our writing should reflect that.   All those experimental pieces she used to write have influenced the way she writes now. 

CLYDE
I agree.

ANNE
I'm not going to give up the way I write just because some producer somewhere doesn't think people will come to see it.  And I'm not going to change the way I write to conform to some idea of what "good theatre" should be.

JASON
Compromise doesn't have to mean selling out or giving up.  Really amazing things can come out of a compromise. I think it's good to write new things and to shake up your own sense of who you are.  So even if your voice or style or the uniqueness of you doesn't change, through a sort of cultivation it becomes solidified.

ANNE
No way.  That's bullshit.

CLYDE
Anne, you've got to -

ANNE
I don't have to do anything.  And, no, that point is bullshit.  You don't cultivate a voice, you have a voice.  It's something you are born with.  And the moment you start compromising that voice, it's like you are compromising a piece of your fucking soul.  And you know, I can always tell when a playwright has started compromising their voice because they are always working on something "new".  And they've got nothing else to say about it other then "new".  Why? Because they don't even themselves know what it is they are writing! Because they can hardly finish a project before they are bouncing over to the next one.  Always hoping that the next play will "hit it big" or whatever.  And when a play doesn't sell, they think they are a shit writer and start writing something "new." They don't even bother to take the time to really write one thing really well, they have to write a million things poorly.  And you know what? Here we are bitching that Brian and Sadie always bring the same shit, but I fucking respect that.  They really want to get those pieces right.  They may write shit plays, but they don't fucking compromise. They are writing what is important and meaningful to them.  And, no, maybe it doesn't appeal to the fucking masses.  But when, exactly, did we start thinking that appealing to the masses was a good thing?  American Idol appeals to the fucking masses.  Hitler appealed to the fucking masses.  I'll be the voice of fucking decent, thank you very fucking much. I'm not going to cultivate a liking for fucking compromise.        
Pause.
CLYDE takes the Jameson bottle and caps it. 
CLYDE
Maybe we'll save some of this for everyone else.

ANNE
Oh come on.  You know what I'm talking about.  You never back down. You've gotten in fights with producers and directors who didn't get your vision and wanted to cut the shit out of your plays.  You know fucking better then they do you and you don't comprimise. 

CLYDE
You're absotlulty right.

ANNE
Don't fucking start placating me.

CLYDE
I'm not, babe.  I'm not.  I just think maybe we should get to know Jason before we show him the big green monsters we really are. 

ANNE
I'm not going too far.

CLYDE
No, babe, but -

ANNE
You know how I feel -

CLYDE
I know, I know.  Let's just take it down a notch.

ANNE
I'm not going to self censor what I feel because it's offensive.

CLYDE
No one is asking you to.  And this is all good stuff.  You don't want to waste it on just the two of us.  Right?  I mean, if you spend it all now what will you do when AJ shows up?  You're going to be all tuckered out.  You gotta save some energy for the big fight.


ANNE
You're right.  You're right.  I'm sorry Clyde. I'm sorry, Jason, I'm sorry. I'll chill out.  I'll chill out.

Pause.
CLYDE
I've been looking forward to this retreat for a long time.  It was hard to get the time off of work, but I'm really looking forward to, you know, being a writer for a few weeks.
 
JASON
Yeah.  Me too. It's nice to be away from the distractions of my life. 
 
CLYDE
There are worse ways to spend two weeks.  Between work and work and work it's hard to sit down and really work on something.

JASON
What are you working on?

CLYDE
I'm working on a musical about the FBI called "and You Can Tell Everybody That J. Edger Hoover Looked Fucking Fabulous in Red Sequins." 

ANNE
It's kind of a drag show.  It's really funny.

CLYDE
Anne brought "The Boy, the Ballarina and the Red Ring". It's a really really beautiful play about a boy who runs away and joins the circus.

ANNE
Aww.  You're so sweet.  It's a little more complicated then that. But yes.  In its essence that's what it is.
CLYDE
So, what did you bring?

JASON
Uhm...Something new.

Pause.
 A car pulls into the drive way.  JASON, CLYDE and ANNE all turn and look expectantly.  JASON's phone beeps. 
End of Scene.




  

1 comment:

Ben C. said...

"American Idol appeals to the fucking masses. Hitler appealed to the fucking masses." LOL Love it!