Monday, March 4, 2013

English for Beginners: Act 2, Scene Four

(LAURA and GREG sit on a couch back-to-back, typing on the laptops perched on their knees.  LAURA pauses.  She looks up into the space infront of her at nothing.  Her lips move as she works out a line.  She thinks.  She is not satisfied.  She's also hungover, which is making writing harder then it should be.)

LAURA
What are you working on?

GREG
Job applications.

LAURA
This is a writing retreat.  You're supposed to be working on your writing.

GREG
I am.  I'm writing a cover letter.

LAURA
The point of getting away was so we could focus on our work in a supportive environment.

GREG
Do you want to ask Anne how she feels about that?

LAURA
Fine, that was a bad idea.  But she still has the opportunity to write without distraction if she wants.

GREG
How is stuff going with Mike and Jason, by the way?  Is having him here helping you get over your prolonged and ridiculous crush on him?  Do you feel that this "make friends with my forbidden fruit" thing is working out?  Or, have you been so focused on your writing you haven't given it a second thought.

LAURA
All that aside, let me take this from a different angle: You are procrastinating.

GREG
By applying for a job I'm procrastinating?  By being proactive in my career and trying to make money so I can afford to be a writer I'm procrastinating?

LAURA
You came here to write plays. Your first priority for this time is to write plays.  Your goal in getting a job is to write plays.  You've now given yourself a project that you must do first before you write plays.  How many more projects will come first?

GREG
How many times have I heard the words "Flag it and forget it" come out of your mouth?

LAURA
Hey, I'm getting better.

GREG
Or "I'm sorry, I totally just lost track of that email!"

LAURA
You are changing the subject. 

GREG
Nope, I'm turning the tables. Because, are you writing plays when you are not reading your email or returning phone calls?

LAURA
Sometimes...

GREG
And what are you doing right now?

LAURA
I am -

GREG
Chastising me.

LAURA
Point.

(They write.)

GREG
Should I put in that stage management credit?

LAURA
What's the job?

GREG
Executive assistant at a financial group.

LAURA
No.  It'll just confuse them.

GREG
But the skills are transferable.

LAURA
You can either spend half your interview explaining that or you can say "Project Manager for a non-profit."

GREG
That doesn't sound like a thing.

LAURA
Stage Management doesn't sound like a thing either.

GREG
If I leave out all of my theatre credits it looks like I spent the last five years doing...wait for it...part time book keeping.

LAURA
You'll just have to lie.

GREG
I can't lie on a resume.  Isn't it wrong?

LAURA
It doesn't matter.  LinkedIn, Craig's List, temping and all of that is just how you use your time while you wait for a friend to offer you a job.

GREG
Last week at a job interview I was asked why I was changing careers.  I had to explain I wasn't, that I'm applying for an admin job and I've been working admin jobs since my early twenties.  She looked at me like I was crazy.

LAURA
One time in an interview I was told "We've had artists work for us.  They are very fun, but not always dedicated."  I should have just thanked them and walked out.

GREG
I just don't get it.  I fundraise, I write press releases,  I manage databases, I manage people, I coordinate projects, I do customer service and I make and keep track of budgets.  Doesn't that count for anything?

LAURA
Yes.  Just don't say "theatre" until the third interview.

GREG
Point.

(They write.)

LAURA
Can you give a girl head?

GREG
If I wanted to, but I don't want to.

LAURA
No, I'm not talking about you, I mean in general.  Can a girl get head? Like when you go down on a girl is it called giving head or is that just when there is a penis involved.

GREG
Haven't you ever gotten head before?

LAURA
No.  Apparently I always got cunnalingus or eaten out, but I don't really like either of those phrases.

GREG
Going down?

LAURA
Sounds like an elevator ride.

GREG
What's the line?

LAURA
It's not a line, it's a stage direction.

GREG
So then it doesn't matter.

LAURA
Yes, it does.  One: I want to be specific. Two: It's probably going to be read out loud anyway so I should make it sound nice.

GREG
I hate it when my stage directions get a bigger laugh then the lines.

LAURA
You wouldn't believe how many times my directors have told me that I should just have the stage directions read in the full production.

GREG
Right, because producers totally want to cast another actor.

LAURA
I think they are thinking Word-for-Word style.

GREG
Don't write directions, just do it like Shakespeare.  Have the characters say it and make it impossible to cut the action.

LAURA
None of that fixes my problem -

GREG
Yes.  You can give a girl head.  It's not about the head of the penis, it's about putting your head between their legs.

LAURA
Really?

GREG
Sure.  Why not? What's the line?

LAURA
"Adam crawls under Maggie's dress and begins giving her head."

GREG
That's fine.

LAURA
I don't know.

GREG
Maybe the problem is that he's doing it at all.  Why is he doing it?

LAURA
It's a dream sequence.

GREG
Dream sequence. So, you've decided that you don't want this play produced after all.

LAURA
I've decided I don't know what will get a play produced so I've decided just to write and care later.

GREG
You said that you'd be working your "most produceable play yet" when we got here.

LAURA
I said a lot of things a long time ago.  I'm writing this now.

GREG
A long time ago? It was yesterday.

LAURA
My hangover has made time stop.

GREG
Is that why you never age? You are in perpetual hang over?

LAURA
Absolutely. And fuck you.

GREG
Well, good luck with that.

(They write for a while.)


LAURA

I do not have a thing for Jason any more, by the way.

GREG
Right. Whatever. Fine.  Good for you.

LAURA
You don't believe me?

GREG
No.

(Pause. Laura stops writing.)

LAURA
I don't have a crush on him.  Not any more.  Now I just want some of whatever magic fairy dust he's been sprinkled with to rub off on me.

GREG
You think Jason's been sprinkled with magic fairy dust?

LAURA
I can't figure out why else he could possibly be having all of this success.  A residency,  a full time literary management job, teaching classes.  I mean, you and I have read his plays.  They aren't anything special.  I just don't get it.

GREG
He's from a rich family, he went to a very good school, and he's got time.  With all of that comes an ego without the normal weaknesses, a tendency to act like he owns the world, and the time to write and submit.  He's also got that thing in his voice, you know, that thing that makes it sound like he's always asking people to do favors for him...but that thing where you feel like you want to. You know?  You can't just buy that at the corner store.

(Pause.)

LAURA
He makes me feel like I'm not real.

(Pause.)

GREG
You are going to have to explain that one.

LAURA
I mean...I'm replaceable.

GREG
Laura.  No.  I love you.  Everyone here loves you -

LAURA
Jesus, that's not what I mean. See, here's the problem: playwrights and actors...we're basically unskilled labor.

GREG
I'm not. I've got two master's degrees in real things, not your bullshit playwrighting -

LAURA
No, you and I are over educated, that doesn't mean we're skilled.  Anyone with a typewriter and a rudimentary idea of formatting can be a playwright.

GREG
No, it does mean I'm skilled.  You and I are experienced, educated and good -

LAURA
Because ANYONE can be a producer and fuck all if I know what the fuck they want.  And ANYONE can be a funder and fuck all if producers know what THEY want.  Getting a play produced is fucking weird.  Someone in Congress says: What is the cultural value of theatre? So someone else says: it teaches us about ourselves.  So someone else says: We need to synthesize our knowledge. We need more theatre about the struggle of scientists to get to Mars.  Yes, says Congress, we'll fund that.  So they offer to hand out money for that project.  A theatre applies for that money and gets a playwright to write that script.  Three years later it is produced and it's about a woman looking up at the moon while her mother dies of cancer.  And everyone looks around and goes "What the fuck does this have to do with anything?" And no one knows.  Congress says theatre is irrelevant.  Theatre sends out surveys to prove it isn't.  The Lion King tours again and everyone goes to bed unhappy, not very entertained and with empty pockets. 

GREG
What does this have to do with fairy dust.


LAURA
It's just...why does he get to do the things that make him a playwright and I don't? Why do they want him and not me? 

(Pause.)

GREG
By the way, you never told me how the last show went.

LAURA
This isn't about that.

GREG
No.  Obviously.  Bitter Betty was born and boiled in a void.  

(Pause.) 

LAURA
That was stupid.

GREG
It was a little.

LAURA
Do you want an opportunity for a rewrite?

GREG
No.  We'll let it sit.  Come on.  Tell me. 

LAURA
Great.  It went just great.

GREG
That was strained.

LAURA
I've decided I want to be nice from now on.  I want to say nice things about people.  I don't want to be one of those people who looks back on their previous experiences and does nothing but bitch and moan.   I'm going to see the good in everything.

(GREG stops typing and turns around.)

GREG
What the fuck?

LAURA
What?

GREG
I ask you how the show went and you say "You want to say nice things about people?"  You just went on a rant for ten minutes about not getting produced and now you want to be "nice." Bullshit.  I call bullshit!  What the fuck?  What the hell happened?

LAURA
Nothing happened.  It was great.  Everything went great.

GREG
Except...

LAURA
No.  No except.  It was a perfect experience.

GREG
Except...

LAURA
Except...it was a little bumpy.  That was all.  And, maybe, I'm going to give up directing and I'll just write plays and I'll never produce anything ever again and nobody can make me and that's just fine because I'm bad luck anyhow and everyone hates me.



(LAURA continues writing as if nothing has happened.  GREG stands up and moves around to the front of LAURA and closes her laptop.)


GREG
Spill it.

LAURA
No.  I'm not going to.  I've burned my bridges and now I've created a containment area and I want to leave all of that behind me.

GREG
Jesus christ! It couldn't have been that bad.  And why didn't you bring up any of this yesterday?

LAURA
God, that was like a year ago, I can't remember that far back.

GREG
Shut up drunkie.  Tell me the whole thing.

LAURA
I loved the play and I felt like I could really do something great with it, you know?  I felt like I was a director with vision. Then, an actor drops out and then another. Then the lighting designer stops taking his meds and breaks up with his wife and freaks the fuck out. And then the costumes weren't in on time and then they were over budget and the production manager didn't want to pay for them.  $250 for twenty one fucking costumes! What the fuck kind of budget is that! And then the lights didn't work, and then they do, and then they don't. And then I was up every night for a week painting.  And then the tech took forever for five fucking cues and then the designer wanted to die.  Literally.  And I'm sitting there on the floor crying with him and thinking: I don't want to do this today.  Me.  Like I'm the one in crisis.  But I think: Not right now.  Just hold it together for a few more days. Really? Really? None of us are getting paid and it's all going to shit and I want this person to "Hold on for a few more days?" Who the fuck do I think I am?  And then the producer shows up from wherever the fuck he was this whole time and the cast go crying to him about the costumes and he's so fucking sympathetic he's bitching right along with them and I have to pull him aside and explain to him it's his job to keep them calm, not freak them out more! And then the lead refuses to memorize her lines and starts telling racist jokes backstage.  Then EVERYONE gets the flu!  Jesus Christ everyone was fucking freaking out and the playwright comes by and is disappointed as all hell and I feel like a failure.  It's opening night and we're all on edge so she leads us through a breathing exercise to calm us all down.  The actors, the producer, the designers, me.  We're all sitting there breathing and I'm thinking: the wall sconces are so stupid.  I should have just pulled them.  It would have been better to pull them than leave them up looking stupid.  And all I can think is: this play will fail because the wall sconces are terrible and everyone in this room knows it and no one is saying anything. Then, everyone is calm and we open the doors and we have our opening night with like...ten people.  And when it was all said and done someone said it was my fault. Someone said I was a passive agressive bitch and I ruined the show.  And I thought, yeah.  Maybe I am.  Maybe I am a passive agressive bitch.  Maybe it was all my fault. I'm a bad luck penny.  Nothing I'm doing matters and nobody cares and I'm going to die alone in this basement theatre and no one will even know I ever existed.   

(Pause.)

GREG
I think I'm going to go see what Francis is up to.

LAURA
You are just going to leave me after all that?

GREG
Yes.  Yes I am.

LAURA
No rebuttal? Nothing to add?

(Pause.)

GREG
Laura.  Just write.  Just put your head down and write.  And when you are done writing, put it up on stage.  And if someone wants to do it for you, great.  Let them.  That way you can write something else.  And if you've got something so good that it has to be up, then put it up and fuck everyone else. You aren't going to die alone in a basement.   And if you do, fine.  But if nobody cares it'll be because you didn't make them care.  Just fucking write.  Put your damn head down and write.  And I don't mean put your head down and don't fight.  I mean focus on your work.  Write good things, write shitty things, write what they pay you for and write what they'll lock you up for.  Write because it's a good way to get laid.  Write because it's a good way to never ever ever get over something. Write because you are addicted.  Write because you have something to say, write because you don't have anything to say. Write because you want to impress someone.  Write because you want to destroy someone.  Just put your head down and write. But don't write because you are running away from directing because you had one or two failures  What's going to happen when your writing fails? Because it will.  If you write enough sooner or later you will fail.  Are you going to run away from that too?  Write, Laura, put your head down and write.  And when you want them to hear you, work to be heard and don't give up until they can't hear anything but you.  All that other stuff is bullshit.  Unless, that's what you want to write about, then make it everything.  Just fucking write Laura.  

(Pause.)

LAURA
Should I blow out my candles too?

GREG
Ha ha.

LAURA
I tell you what.  I'll stop feeling sorry for myself if you stay.  

(He thinks about it, he moves back into position and the work.)

GREG
If you write this into a play, make it be a lady talking to you instead of me.  You don't want your female lead being told what's what by a man all the time.   

LAURA
I think it's fine as long as you aren't a father figure and we don't have sex.  And you don't tell me "what's what" all the time.   

GREG
But I do.

LAURA
Yeah...but I don't always listen and sometimes you're wrong.

GREG
I'm never wrong.

LAURA
Ok.


(Pause.)

GREG
The sconces were terrible.

LAURA
Right?

GREG
You couldn't have said so?

LAURA
I should have. 

(They write.)