Posts Tagged ‘ Petti ’

Echoes of Ireland Sneak Peek

Happy St. Patrick’s.  This is the first of four monologues that make up “Echoes of Ireland”, which was done at DragonFly Performing Arts last year at this time with Ron Morehead and Susie Yzquierdo. 

I’ve added a link to The Salvation Army Disaster Relief on the right of this blog.  If you’re in any position to do so, please help them help the Japanese victims of the tsunami.  Say what you will about this country of ours, but when the chips are down we come up with the cash. 

Have a good weekend.  

Echoes of Ireland

by Brian C. Petti

PO Box 361

East Durham, NY 12423

bcpkid AT gmail.com 

Copyright 2010 © by Brian C. Petti

Donegal, 1860

Have you ever been hungry? Not that late for supper growl you get on your way to a meal, no. I mean the in-your-bones hunger, the kind that nary lets you think of ought else. The two days since and for all you know two days hence type. The hunger stirred in the pit of your belly, bourne of far too many days providing less that what a belly require, less than what a proper soul depends upon to thrive. Have you known that hunger, lads?

To understand me, to comprehend how I stand before you ten years hence breathing the air upon the wind of County Donegal, and all the seeming health that sails with it…you have to know the hunger that can turn a proper soul improper. There were crimes enough. There are judgments we’ve yet to repay, dwelling on this earthly green. And there were crimes enough committed ‘gainst us, that are beyond any earthly judgment I can reckon. And at the root of it all, tangled up in its sinew and vine, forcing all that blackness up through the ground and into God’s light there is one word, one notion—hunger.

Crops had failed before. I had heard tell, having tilled a parcel with me father since I were a wee lad in service to the same landlord. I worked me land, but I didn’t truly own me land, you see. But t’were mine nonetheless. Me Da, he taught me every stone of the place, and after he died out in that parcel is where we buried him. I knew that land like you know a woman. Actually, thinking about what I know of me Caitlin, I believe I knew the land a tad better. It fed me two girls. It gave me what little I had in me pocket any given time. It provided me any right I had, at eight and twenty years of age to be calling meself a man. I asked no more than to be doing me work, to have a meal for Caitlin and the two young ones at the end of the day, and to share a spot with the boys at Jimmy’s Pub upon the odd Friday—and Lord knows no more was ever visited upon me. Simple wants and simple pleasures. I was married and familied as we all were. We went to church Sunday as we all did and prayed with the same words. I yelled too much, or drank too much on the rare occasion, did me penance and moved on fresh to pull the crop from the ground once again.

‘Twasn’t a surprise when the famine come. We’d heard it coming in gossip and whispers. But to actually see those pieces of coal staring out of the ground like the cold, black eyes of the old serpent himself… What’s a potato? Not much. A bit to feed a soul. Wasn’t there corn enough? Weren’t there cattle enough to slaughter? And there were. On ships leaving the ports of Erin each day, off to keep England in beef and the rest of the world in corn, while those who tended the land… Everything we raised we sold, see. If you wanted to keep your land and not be turned out by the landlord, you did so. Potatoes alone could be grown enough to eat and sell as well. All the tenable land raised grass to feed the cattle. Only potatoes took hold in the leftovers. Hills and plains of rolling emerald, green the like of which there’s none to match in the known world. Cow food. What we ate, and lived upon, and fed our children with…t’was brown. And now t’was black.

The small farmers fell upon the mercy of the large crop farmers. The big farmers pled their cases to the landlords. The landlords turned to the absent owners, far away in England…there were no mercy to be found there. And you can be certain no mercy trickled down to the poor of Donegal. Those who could afford to feed their own locked their hearts to us. The church locked its front gate. And poverty locked its chains upon us. But the ports, they stayed open, every day without fail for five years, sending our food to foreign soil while Ireland’s children starved. While me own children starved. When the last of what little we had was gone and the prospect of replacing it were gone as well, we fell into a routine of survival, Caitlin and meself. I took the man’s role, and went into town each day to try to find work with the Irish relief, on the off chance they’d throw me a few scraps to dig a ditch that was of no earthly value to anyone. Caitlin took the woman’s part, traveling to a neighboring town with the girls to beg in the streets. I couldn’t have her doing it in me own town, see. Not if I were a man who aimed to keep me pride. So I sent me own wife and children out to strangers to do me begging for me. So’s I could keep me pride intact, see. That was the theory.

After months of living on the scraps we could beg or steal, Caitlin began to leave the girls at home and venture out herself. When she brought back more than she had before, I didn’t ask how or why. I should have. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to know what I already knew. Because how could a man live, knowing such a thing? The depths a mother would plumb to feed her children. So I remained unawares.

So why not just leave, you may ask, and not having been there ‘tis a fair enough question. The simplest answer is that leaving took fare for passage, and hadn’t we enough just keeping body and soul together. But there were other answers too. Caitlin’s mother, who she fed the best she could until the fever finally stole the poor old woman’s breath. And our cottage, small enough to be meaningless to anyone but us, but still the place we watched our girls take their first steps—the older one careful and tentative and the younger one running headlong to beat the devil. It was ours. The only place meself and the lasses ever called home. Until the filthy landlord blaggards turned us out like shiftless beggars. And damn my soul, there was the land I thought would come back to me like a long lost love. The air, the grass, the sky I knew and loved all me life, even after it betrayed me. The land I couldn’t bring meself to hate…until I came home from digging me latest ditch to find the girls’ mouths stained green with it, wild with the hunger, trying to fill their bellies with the grass like they’d seen the English beef cattle do. That was the end, there.

By that time we were squatters, spending our cold nights in a lean-to with the one candle, hoping no one would roust us out. I spoke to Caitlin that night over the candle, spoke to her eye to eye, in a way I hadn’t in what seemed like years. I told her I was proud of her for the mother she was to me children, and that her mother would be too. She looked away. I can still see the shadows on her face from the flickering light. But I kept on. I told her the time had come to leave and stake our claim on another shore, what with our children desperate enough to chew cud with the cattle. We owed it to them to be done with this place at last. She began to cry then. And I…I thought it were due to what she’d suffered: the ignominy she endured to feed her girls, the meager life we’d been reduced to, the mother she’d lost to the fever. But t’wasn’t any of those things. She cried because she was with child.

We hadn’t had marital relations in over a year. When a body’s main concern is surviving until its next meal, all other considerations become secondary. Yet I was to be a father once again—me with the two green-stained mouths I couldn’t feed already.

There’s another word you need to understand if you’re to understand me. Shame. The shame of a working man all his days, now helpless and idle. The shame of not being able to provide for me children as God intended. The shame of sitting in the candlelight, with nothing between meself and the cold air but a piece of tarp, on a piece of soil that didn’t belong to me…across from a softly weeping woman who put herself in harm’s way for me and mine. How quickly we lost all we were. How quickly we were reduced to beggars and whores, who once were men and women of substance and pride. And in that moment, the hatred welled up inside me. I hated those who starved me family without conscience. I hated me father for teaching me to love the land. I hated the mocking green of the country I lived in. I hated me girls for being born. I hated Caitlin for the truth behind her tears. I hated God for abandoning us in our time of need. But most of all, lads, I hated meself. Most of all, I hated meself.

Caitlin couldn’t board a boat in her condition—if she survived the journey they’d have sent her back as soon as she landed. And I couldn’t leave her alone to starve and die. So I forged a letter from a distant cousin who lived in New York, who I never met, nor knew naught about. It said that he would sponsor me two girls to come across. I made up an address. We packed a sack for the lasses, told our 11-year-old girl to be the mother and care for her little sister…and we sent our babies out into this Godless world unguarded.

The letter didn’t come for eight months. For eight months we knew not a thing of our own children. Caitlin had another girl, and she was still nursing when the letter found us. It was from our oldest—I could tell by the scrawl on the envelope. She’d made it to New York, and even managed to find the relative we lied about by repeating his name often enough to anyone who’d listen. She was all right. She was alive, and being fed, thousands of miles away from this desolate place. But…our younger…didn’t survive the trip across. She died in me eldest’s arms, without a mother’s hands to soothe her or a father’s voice to calm her. The lost wages of vile desperation. And that’s all I can rightly say on that subject…

It’s now twelve years since that day. Ten years since the famine ended and the crop came back. Two hours since I had me last meal, and two hours until me next. Three weeks since I last heard from me daughter in the States. And a million years since Caitlin and meself have been able to look into each others eyes without a twinge of pain. We had two more girls, in our attempt, like the rest of Ireland, to repopulate the country after the food came back. So now we have four, plus the one we lost. And I till the land again, and we go to church as we did, and I have a few more pints than I used to on the odd Friday. But it’s all make believe. Like we’ve all already died once and we’re waiting for it to become official this time. We laugh without joy and we sing without passion. We know what’s under the rolling green, and we know what hides in the heart of the man or woman next to us. And we’ve not been able to forget what hunger feels like. And I fear we never will…

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Masquerade Sneak Peek

"Masquerade" by Erte.

Masquerade was written as a sort-of follow up to my first play Everything’s Coming Up Roses, which took place on an AIDS ward.  I was walking down a street in the Villiage after we did a performance of “Roses” at the Duplex Cabaret and my friend Jimmy’s friend was talking to us about the current AIDS situation, which is much less dire, but a lot less careful.  We first produced this in New Windsor, NY with a terrific cast that included Joe Gayton, Matt Meinsen, Jill Carroll and Joel Flowers.  It was subsequently done for a three week run at Cherry Lane Theatre by Ten Grand Productions, where it won two Independent Theater awards.  I just lent it to a friend to read so it was on my mind.  Masquerade isn’t published (unfortunate, but the material is a bit raw) so if you’re intersted in seeing the script just send me an email.

The setting is a costume party thrown by a longtime gay couple in NYC.  Have a great weekend everyone!  

Masquerade

by Brian C. Petti

PO Box 361

East Durham, NY 12423

bcpkid AT gmail.com

Copyright © 2006 by Brian C. Petti

Scene 2

The clock blinks 8:00. Lights rise to Hersh fully dressed in his Shakespeare costume, pressing the intercom button near the front door. He says, “Come on up, I ‘II leave the door open, ” then leaves the door slightly ajar. Seconds later SETH appears at the door. He is 50 and balding, dressed impeccably in white with royal blue accessories, including a handkerchief and a blue band around his fedora ala a refined Southern gentleman. He speaks with a slightly “Northernized” Southern drawl.

Seth

The party may commence.

Hersh

Come on in, Seth.

Seth

I noticed the front door was slightly askew. Forgive my forward nature, but I simply can not resist an open orifice.

Hersh

Are we going to be listening to this all night?

Seth

Whatever do you mean? Oh please don’t be impertinent; I just couldn’t bear your being an ape to my butterfly.

Hersh

I’ll take that as a yes.

Seth

I brought some liquid refreshments. Heaven knows when the Southern wind blows warm across the horizon and the heat licks its paws and breathes its hot breath on one’s willing eyelids, one feels the overwhelming desire to indulge one’s self in base and wanton…

Hersh

Michelob?

Seth

(breaking the act momentarily) It was on sale. Am I the first arrival? I’m forever showing up at places early. I was a premature baby, you know. I could not contain my constant yearning to leave the womb. I haven’t been back since.

Hersh

I just buzzed in Rudy and his boyfriend. They’re right behind you.

Seth

I wonder what the flavor of the week is.

Mario

Whatever it is, it’s coming in drag.

Seth

Oh dear Lord, must we baby-sit another one?

Mario

(entering) As I live and breath, is that the Tennessee Williams?

Hersh

Don’t indulge him.

Seth

Indeed it is. Darling, I just adore how you’ve decorated this apartment since I saw it last. It makes me feel safe and yet unguarded, all at the same time.

Hersh

Are you sure you’re not Blanche Dubois?

Seth

Oh, go write a Yiddish sonnet.

Hersh

There’s the Seth we know and love. (knock at the door)

Hersh

(getting the door) That’s Rudy, he just buzzed. What’s his boyfriend’s name again?

Mario

I don’t know. Maybe we can get away with calling him “Margaret” all night.

RODOLFO enters with a flourish, dressed in black with a cape. He is 28 and of Spanish descent.

Seth

Oh look, the conquistadors have landed!

Rodolfo

Senors and senoras, I am Miquel de Cervantes, creator of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and Ezmeralda and inspiration for the smash Broadway hit Man of La Mancha—at your service, (low bow)

Seth

Charmed, I’m sure.

Rodolfo

And this (as MARGARET enters shyly) is my companion for the evening…Margaret.

Margaret is 22, but is dressed as an 11-year-old girl, complete with a sweater, skirt and blond wig.

Margaret

Hi. I’m almost twelve years old.

Seth

If your mother could see you now, Rodolfo, not only a sodomite but a pedophile.

Rodolfo

We just came from my mother’s. I wanted to make sure she saw us in our costumes.

Mario

I swear you just do that to bother her.

Rodolfo

The woman still lights a candle every Sunday for my reformation. I just like to remind her that no miracles have occurred as of yet.

Hersh

The only miracle is that you and Margie didn’t get beat up on your way over.

Rodolfo

(brandishing sword) I had my buckler. Who would dare attack us?

Margaret

My hero. (they share a long kiss)

Hersh

I think they might faint.

Seth

I think I might vomit. (pause) They look like two puffer fish.

Mario

Okay you two love birds, break it up and give me your jackets. (they do)

Margaret

(to Seth) I just met him last week, but I think I might like him. He’s so different from ail the other boys.

Seth

Yes, he has been for quite some time.

Margaret

Have you known him long?

Seth

Honey, I’ve known him long, short and everywhere in between.

Rodolfo

Seth, stop putting the moves on my girl.

Seth

Is that what he is? I thought a bomb went off at a middle-school girl’s locker room.

Margaret

That wasn’t very nice…(transforming momentarily) you bitter, old, jealous queen. Oh, and did I mention old?

Seth

You’d better not again if you’d like to live to see twelve.

Hersh

I think I’m going to like her.

Mario

Hands off the jail bait, sweetheart.

Rodolfo

So when’s Doug coming? We’ve got some celebrating to do.

Hersh

Celebrating?

Mario

Not until nine, Rodolfo. Don’t get him started.

Rodolfo

Started on what?

Mario

He thinks we should be taking everything more seriously.

Hersh

I can speak for myself.

Mario

Go ahead then.

Hersh

I think…we should be taking everything more seriously.

Mario

Well said.

Rodolfo

What do you mean, that Douggie’s positive? Hersh, you’ve been out of the loop too long, it’s almost preferable these days.

Hersh

Preferable?

Rodolfo

All right, maybe not preferable, but a helluva lot of people would rather catch it early than constantly worry about it.

Hersh

I must be out of the loop, because I just don’t understand that.

Rodolfo

Think about it. The gay Garden of Eden, before the fall. Barebacking without a conscience, like in the good old days.

Mario

You better get this talk out of your systems before me little sister shows up.

Hersh

But how can you do that if you’re carrying?

Rodolfo

With other carriers. Read the Village Voice sometime, the ads are all over the place.

Hersh

Don’t you think it’s time to develop a conscience? I mean, otherwise what did we learn from all this?

Mario

Hey, I thought this was a disease, not a moral lesson.

Hersh

Life is a moral lesson.

Rodolfo

Are you passing judgment on me, Hersh?

Seth

I declare, this is no parlor talk befitting a lady. Why don’t you fine gentlemen retire to the cigar room and continue you discussion over a brandy, out of earshot of us gentle souls trying to enjoy ourselves.

Hersh

All right, I’ll shut up. Rodolfo, I’ve lost a lot of friends, you know I didn’t mean…

Rodolfo

It’s all right Hersh, no offense taken.

Margaret

That’s better. Isn’t life wonderful when we’re all friends? When I’m talking to God I often ask Him to let me make new friends, and now here we are, all together. I knew He would listen, (to Seth) Do you wear a bra yet?

Seth

Honey, drag is for fags who haven’t accepted themselves for the woman they are.

Margaret

Oh, I wish I were a woman. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about making friends or cup sizes or boys…don’t you think my boyfriend is handsome? Oh come on, you know you do.

Seth

You’re not quite as ignorant as you might seem at first glance. You’re still ignorant, but less so.

Margaret

I’m glad you think so. Can we be friends now?

Seth

I’ll take it under consideration.

ANGELA, Mario’s sister, enters. She is in her mid-thirties and dressed tastefully, but with no discernible costume.

Angela

Where are my boys?!

Mario

Bubalaben! (they greet her)

Seth

(looking on) Well, if it isn’t Snow White and the Seven Fags. Leave it to you to milk an entrance.

Angela

Okay Seth, get your ass over here.

Seth

Oh no.

Angela

Come on, everyone’s given me a hug except you.

Seth

Do I have to?

Angela

Yes. (he gives her a cursory pat on the back hug) A real one. (he complies)

Seth

Ew, I felt her tits.

Mario

I never thought I’d have to tell you this, but keep your hands off my sister’s breasts.

Angela

He just wishes he had them.

Margaret

I know I do. Hi, I’m Margaret.

Angela

Thatcher?

Margaret

No, Margaret from Judy Blume.

Angela

Oh, I get it. Don’t worry sweetheart, it takes time. You’ll develop soon enough.

Margaret

God, I hope so. I’ve been praying and praying for them.

Angela

They’re no picnic, believe me.

Seth

More like a full-course meal.

Angela

You better pipe down or I’ll let the girls loose on you again. Okay, let me see if I can pick all you guys out. (looking at Mario) Bea Arthur?

Mario

Dante Aligheri, nice try.

Angela

(looking at Seth) You’ve got to be Truman Capote.

Seth

Tennessee Williams. I’m more self loathing.

Angela

(looking at Rodolfo) Let’s see…Zorro, the gay blade?

Rodolfo

Nope.

Angela

Ricky Ricardo if he’d had your mother.

Rodolfo

Warmer.

Angela

I give up.

Margaret

He’s Miguel de Cervantes.

Angela

Gee, how could I have missed it?

Mario

Hersh’s turn.

Angela

(considering)…a member of the Israeli ballet?

Hersh

No. I’m Shakespeare.

Angela

You look more like Shakesburg.

Hersh

I married into a one-joke family.

Mario

Who are you supposed to be, sweetheart.

Angela

Some choice I had. Every famous woman writer was either insane or a dyke or both.

Hersh

What about one of the Brontes?

Angela

They all died young and slept in the same bed well into their twenties.

Seth

Emily Dickinson: “Because I could not stop for death—He kindly stopped for me.”

Angela

Cloistered herself in her room after the age of thirty and died a spinster.

Rodolfo

Virginia Woolf.

Angela

Married a man she didn’t have sex with for thirty years, then offed herself.

Margaret

Jackie Collins.

Angela

She makes people wish they had offed themselves.

Mario

So who are you?

Angela

Dorothy Parker. She tried to off herself too and she was hopelessly in love with a fag, but at least she was straight, (putting on 40 ‘s style hat) Look, I bought a hat.

Mario

It looks stunning, sweetheart.

Angela

(slowly) Seth?

Seth

(same way) What?

Angela

Tell me I look wonderful in my hat.

Seth

Doesn’t it bother you that I’m only nice because you force me?

Angela

Not in the least. Tell me.

Seth

(sing-songy) You look wonderful in your hat.

Angela

Thank you. I will not be fulfilled until every last queen adores me.

Seth

Hag.

Angela

I am not a hag. Hags convince themselves they can convert you all, then ambush you when you’re drunk.

Seth

Dear Lord, what a nightmare.

Angela

Believe me, you’re all the last people I’d be interested in having sex with.

Seth

Believe us, the feeling is quite mutual.

Mario

That’s right, Angela, you’re only interested in striking Mediterranean men who treat you like crap before they dump you.

Seth

(looking at Rodolfo) Who isn’t?

Hersh

Lay off her.

Mario

What am I doing? I’m just pointing out the fact that here we are on a Friday night and my only sister is once again surrounded by…

Angela

My good friends.

Mario

Look, there’s this gorgeous pre-med student who just took the apartment above us. I tried to get him to come meet you tonight, but he kept thinking I was hitting on him. Later on maybe we can go up together and just say “hi”…

Hersh

Why don’t you just have her carry a sign that says “I’m the desperate sister.”

Angela

Mario, you’re my brother and I love you dearly, but if you try to set me up with one of those vapid, Germanic blondes again I will be forced to kill you.

Rodolfo

What’s wrong with vapid, Germanic blondes? They make a good lay.

Mario

My sister doesn’t want a “good lay.”

Rodolfo

What does she want, a bad lay?

Angela

Hello! Aunties! I’m right here, I can decide for myself what kind of lay I want.

Seth

Apparently the “gay lay.” Hey, that would make a good name for a cocktail.

Margaret

(to Angela) What’s it like?

Angela

What’s what like?

Margaret

You know, that word you said. I knew this girl last year who said she got to second base, but I didn’t understand what that meant and I didn’t really believe her anyway.

Seth

My child, sexual relation is a violation a woman seldom overcomes, a brutal act of moral violence that seeks to subdue and eradicate her essence of pristine feminine purity.

Margaret

Is it really like that?

Angela

It’s exactly like that. And I love it.

Margaret

Really? Angela, I know we’ve just met and everything, but…will you be my friend.

Angela

Margaret, I would love to be your friend.

Seth

Another fag bites the dust.

Margaret

Oh, are the two of you best friends already? I wouldn’t want to intrude. I know, ail three of us can be best friends.

Seth

Goody goody for us.

Angela

Seth, you know I’ll always have a special place in my heart for you. C’mon and give me another hug.

Seth

Darling, I need a few more beers before I can feel your tits again without becoming ill.

Margaret

Angela, if I go to the bathroom, will you save my seat?

Angela

Of course I will, Margaret. (Margaret exits and Seth climbs immediately into her seat)

Seth

So tell us, Rodolfo, where did you find such an enchanting creature? The local YWCA?

Rodolfo

A friend of a friend.

Seth

Did he pass her a note in Algebra class?

Hersh

She is a bit young.

Angela

Don’t listen to them, I think she’s precious.

Rodolfo

Who do you want me to chase after, old guys like you all?

Seth

I have aged like a fine wine.

Rodolfo

Yeah, you start out bitter, but you go down so well.

Mario

Do I need to remind you there’s a lady present?

Seth

Thank you Mario, you wouldn’t believe what this vulgarity is doing to my fraying nerves.

Mario

I meant my sister.

Seth

Oh. I thought you said “a lady.”

Mario

Don’t mess with my family Seth, I may not look butch but I could beat you silly in a slap fight.

Angela

I could beat him silly in a slap fight.

Seth

Dear me, if this is the base behavior engendered by a healthy supply of testosterone. I simply want no part. My dear Momma always warned me about associating with I-talians.

Rodolfo

She also warned you about associating with those ”queer types,” and look how well you did that.

Seth

Sweetheart, I had no choice. I have two brothers and a sister and there’s not a straight weed in the garden. My dear Momma bore nothing but fruit.

Rodolfo

(raising his beer) A toast. To mother-made fags everywhere.

Seth

Here here.

Mario

Ever since Freud mothers have gotten a bad rap. My mother didn’t make me a fag—she was crazy, sure, but in an endearing way.

Angela

(touching Mario’s hand) Yeah, she was.

Mario

And she never had a problem with me and Hersh. In fact, all my gay friends loved her.

Seth

That’s probably why fags flutter around your sister like moths around a bug-zapper.

Mario

I adored that woman. When I was growing up, I wanted to be her.

Hersh

Mario, you are her.

Mario

(pleased) Thank you. (kisses him) Is there any wonder I love this man?

Seth

Well lucky for you to have had June Cleaver for a mother. My mother, unfortunately, is an experience one counts oneself grateful to have survived. I swear the old prune will live until she’s 100 out of pure obstinacy.

Mario

Oh, she can’t be that bad.

Rodolfo

I’ve met his mother. Try to imagine Patton in a sun dress with baggy panty-hose and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. And with a Southern drawl.

Hersh

(to Rodolfo) Speaking of guys in a dress, is your better half contemplating a time-share in the bathroom?

Margaret

(getting Angela’s attention) Psst! Angela!

Angela

(going to Margaret) What is it, Margaret?

Margaret

Oh, I just don’t know what to do…

Angela

What? What’s wrong?

Margaret

I think…1 think I just had…my first monthly.

Angela

You’re kidding.

Margaret

I don’t know for sure. When 1 first found out about them I asked God how 1 would know, and he told me I would realize it when it happened. And now it’s really happened. 1 think. Oh, tell me what it’s like…

Angela

Okay, well..do you feel bloated?

Margaret

I think so.

Angela

Do you crave salt?

Margaret

I could eat a bag of potato chips, if I didn’t think my face would break out.

Rodolfo

Everything alright, Margaret?

Margaret

Fine, we’re just talking girl-talk.

Seth

Which one’s the girl?

Margaret

What else?

Angela

Okay, do you feel slightly paranoid, as if everyone else in the room is keenly aware of your menstrual cycle?

Margaret

Yes! Oh, I wish you were my sister.

Angela

Here’s the important one: do you feel your belief in a rational God slipping away as you ponder forty some-odd years of mood swings, unreasonable weight-gain, maxi-pads, pap-smears, birth control, bad jokes by teenage boys who grow up to be teenage men, avoidance of white clothing and douching?

Margaret

Well, I still believe in God. Does that mean I don’t have it?

Angela

Margaret, I would like to welcome you to the strange and wonderful world of womanhood. Congratulations.

Margaret

You mean…I’m a woman now?

Angela

Ready or not.

Margaret

(looking heavenward) Thank you God, I knew you were listening!

Angela goes back to the group

Hersh

What’s up with the girl scout?

Angela

(matter-of-factly) Oh, she just got her period.

Seth

You mean she used proper punctuation at the end of a sentence.

Angela

I think this one calls for an exclamation point.

Hersh

So, little Margaret’s all grown up now.

Angela

Let’s be gentle—this can be traumatic.

Hersh

Yes, I’m sure it would be…were she biologically a woman.

Seth

Must we explicate this particular topic in the public arena? Discussion of the bearded flytrap and its many infinitely disgusting attributes is a matter best left to lesbians, Maxin-Gail commercials and Congress.

Angela

I swear, half of you avoid it like the plague and the other half wish you had one.

Seth

Perish the thought.

Hersh

They’re not so bad.

Rodolfo

Oh, that’s right…you were engaged, weren’t you?

Seth

Dear Lord, you almost married one.

Margaret

(wandering back, to Angela) Do you have an extra pad I can borrow.

Mario

(entering) Time to eat everybody! (all turn away, disgusted)

BLACKOUT

Sneak Peek–Bert Williams is nobody

Caricature of vaudevillian Bert Williams by Al Frueh

nobody has had a star-crossed history.  I worked on it for about a year, then had a staged reading of it down in Beacon with Passing the Torch Through the Arts that went very well.  I liked the cast, we had a space lined up in Kingston and we had just started the PR campaign…and I got sick.  So nobody was put on the shelf, where it has remained since.  I’m still sending it out, hoping it catches on with an African-American theater.  Bert Williams was a vaudeville performer, and the first crossover dark-skinned star in America. “Nobody” was his signature song. His story is as sad as it is triumphant, and I hope to get to tell it sometime soon. 

Bert Williams is nobody

by Brian C. Petti

PO Box 361

East Durham, NY 12423

(518) 239-6267

bcpkid AT gmail.com

Copyright 2009 © by Brian C. Petti

 ACT I

scene 1

The stage is bare, with the exception of a small chair and vanity table down left. A white gloved hand appears from the stage right wings. It timidly draws the curtain back a few inches, revealing the face of BERT WILLIAMS. He is in blackface in the minstrel tradition of the late 1800s, although he has coffee-colored skin himself. He appears as he did in his act: downtrodden, unsure, awkward—a poor soul. He slowly and with trepidation reveals himself to the audience and shuffles to center stage. Although he is a large man, he is wearing a suit with tails that is much too large for him, with a tie that is much too long and oversized shoes. The outfit is worn threadbare. After a moment of sizing up the audience and seemingly gathering his courage, WILLIAMS reaches deep into his jacket pocket and comes out with a small notebook. He makes a show of flipping through the pages, looking nervously at the audience from time to time to make them believe he is about to read and then flipping some more. Finally he finds what he has been looking for and begins to speak/sing…

NOBODY

Williams
When life seems full of clouds an’ rain

and I am filled with naught but pain,

who soothes my thumpin’ bumpin’ brain?

 (Looking at his notebook with surprise) Nobody . . . 

When winter comes with snow an’ sleet,

and me with hunger and cold feet,

who says “Ah, here’s two bits, go an’ eat!”

Nobody . . .

I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody,

I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time!

And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime, 

I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time!

When I try hard an’ scheme an’ plan,

to look as good as I can,

who says “Ah, look at that handsome man!”

Nobody . . .

When all day long things go amiss,

and I go home to find some bliss,

who hands to me a glowin’ kiss?

Nobody . . .

I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody,

I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time!

And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime, 

I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time!

 Nobody, no time!

WILLIAMS puts the notebook away and straightens his posture. His face and bearing change and in the space of a moment he is no longer the character from his act—not timid but proud, not downtrodden but sad, not stumbling but eloquent. He addresses himself directly to the audience in a slight West Indian accent.

 After I had achieved some degree of notoriety in my profession, I found myself being asked a particular question: did I wish I had been born a white man. My answer was always an emphatic “No”. How do I know what I would have been were I born white? I could have been a miner, burrowing away in coal dust, never knowing a bright, sunny day or a moment of good health for $8 a day. I could’ve been a streetcar

Williams (con’t)
conductor, on my feet from morning to night, traveling the same path I traveled the day before for $12 a week. Many a white man is less fortunate or less equipped than I am. Yet the question was asked to a man of some fortune, a man of some achievement. A man who starred in the Ziegfeld Follies.

To them I was none of those things. I was a man of color. Now, I have never found anything inherently dishonorable about being a Negro. But I have found it to be…inconvenient. In America.

Act I

scene 2

 A vaudevillian style scene-indicating sign is illuminated downstage left. It reads: “Williams Meets Walker, San Francisco, 1893”. Each subsequent scene in the play will have a similar sign.

 Market Street in San Francisco outside a minstrel theater. GEORGE WALKER, a lean, dark-skinned man of twenty, leans against the wall. Even in repose there is a sense of energy surrounding him, as if at any moment he were about to perform. He is brash, fast-talking and exuding confidence. WALKER is dressed as well as a poor performer can be—his appearance is always of utmost importance to him.

 WILLIAMS wanders into the scene stage right, looking from his notebook to the surrounding theater facades. He is considerably less well-dressed than WALKER, a pattern that will continue as their fortunes improve. WILLIAMS is nineteen, but holds himself with a maturity and regalness that belies his age and position. He speaks with a slight West Indian accent, in contrast to WALKER’S Kansas vernacular.

 Williams

 Excuse me, I was told I might find a man named Lester at this theater.

Walker

Let me see that…(looking at the notebook) Yeah, I know that hack. What you barking up his tree for?

Williams

I was told he could sing and dance.

Walker

Were you now? And who told you, a blind, deaf man?

Williams

Listen son; is the man here or not?

Walker 

Who you calling “son”? How old are you? 

Williams

Nineteen.

Walker

 Ha! I’m twenty. And no, “son,” he ain’t here. If he was you’d see a lot more cats around. Dey respond to his voice when dey in heat.

Williams 

Thank you and good day.

WILLIAMS turns to go back where he came from, but WALKER stops him.

Walker

 Hold on, hold on big fella. You don’t talk like no Negro I ever heard. No “yassurs,” no “y’alls”. Where you from anyway?

Williams

Antigua.

Walker

I’m from Kansas myself. Danced all the way from Lawrence to San Francisco and I ain’t gonna stop ‘till Broad-way! Antigua, huh? Where’s that, in the Carolinas?

Williams

The West Indies.
Walker

What language do they speak there?

Williams

English. (about to turn away again) Cheers.
Walker

You ain’t no big talker, are you?

Williams

I talk when I have something to say—you should try it some time.

Walker

Oho, the big man got jokes. You should save some of those for your act.

Williams

How do you know I’m in an act?

Walker

You’re at a theater looking for a man who can sing and dance. What for, to go play water polo?

Williams

Excuse me.

WILLIAMS turns to leave again, but WALKER steps in his path. 

Walker 

Whoa now, you just gonna up and leave without finding what you came here for?

Williams 

(pointing at his notebook) You know where this man is?

Walker
 Would you forget about that talentless Bon Bon? You came here for a man who could sing, and that’s me. And you came here for a man who could dance, and that is definitely me. You got the wrong name, but you found what you were looking for. George Walker.

WALKER takes off his cap and extends his hand with a flourish. WILLIAMS considers, then grudgingly takes his hand.

 Williams

 Bert Williams.

Walker

You can call me George.

Williams

You can call me Bert Williams. Who do you work with?

Walker

Oh, I’ve been around this block. There ain’t a darkey revue or minstrel act I haven’t been in at one time or another.

Williams

So why are you looking for a job?

Walker

I wasn’t looking for a job, Bert Williams. A job done found me!

Williams

All right, bud. I’m going to walk into this theater right here and I’m going to ask the producer to tell me everything he knows about Mr. George Walker. What kind of tale is he going to tell me, do you suppose? 

Walker 

I’ll tell you exactly what he’s gonna say. He’s gonna tell you George Walker is the best dancer this stage has ever seen. He’s gonna say that man has more talent in his little finger than the rest of his chorus combined.

WILLIAMS moves to enter the theater, but is stopped by WALKER saying…

Then he’s gonna tell you not to take me on if you know what’s good for you.

Williams

How come?

Walker

(with fierce sincerity) ‘Cause I get what’s mine. ‘Cause whatever they convince themselves I’m worth, I tell them to double it if they want to keep me. ‘Cause I got plans, Bert Williams, plans to make a name for myself. Plans to share my light with the world. And no producer man in no podunk, broke-down theater in no San Francisco is going to stop me. That’s why.

Williams

(beat) You can call me Bert.

WALKER straightens WILLIAMS’ tie.

Walker

I think I like “Bert Williams” better.

BLACKOUT

Sneak Peek–Absolution

This was my shot at the Pinters and Pirandellos of the world.  My first “non-realistic” play, and the first that was successfully  produced in New York by a comedy troupe that just killed it.  Also a very good reading at Creative Theater/Muddy Waters Players with Pettiplays alum Peter Dawson.  Have a good weekend. 

Absolution

By Brian C. Petti

PO Box 361

East Durham, NY 12423

(518) 239-6267

bcpkid@gmail.com

Copyright 2008 © by Brian C. Petti 

ACT I, scene 1

 

The stage is set to resemble a bare, efficient office, the “Office of Absolution”. There is a door upstage left and another upstage right. The upstage left door leads to an offstage waiting room, and above it hangs a single, unlighted bulb. There is a large desk right of center, stationed in front of a banner that reads “Happiness Equals Productivity”, with the official seal of the Office of Absolution. There is an office chair behind the desk and another stage left of it. The desk itself is adorned with various primary colored folders, along with a tea kettle and a rotary phone. File cabinets line the upstage wall, also housing rows of primary colored folders—in fact the entire room is composed of blue, red, green, yellow or orange. The lights rise to reveal CENTRAL, a bespectacled man in his mid-forties, sitting behind the desk. He is dressed in a dark blue suit with matching tie and suspenders. His manner is unerringly calm and zealously ingratiating, even when confronted. In the other chair is CITIZEN, who is in his late thirties and is visibly nervous. He is dressed completely in off-white, suggestive of a uniform of some kind. CENTRAL’s opening speech is well-rehearsed, and designed to alleviate CITIZEN’s apprehension.

Central

 

We at Central are here to help, to protect, to enlighten. We are committed to providing well-being, alleviating neurosis and providing for the harmonious existence of our citizenry. No sin is too great to be expunged, no fear too frightening to be assuaged, no outrage too outrageous to be understood. This Office of Absolution and all its denizens wish to keep you content, innocent, and above all happy. Hence our motto, which we ask you to repeat with us…

Central and Citizen

 

Happiness Equals Productivity”.

Central

 

What can we do for you today?

Citizen

 

We’re starting already? Don’t you want my name?

Central

 

It’s not necessary. We are all equal members of Central.

Citizen

 

You keep records, don’t you?

Central

 

Certainly, certainly. Very accurate records indeed. But you need not identify yourself other than as a Citizen.

Citizen

 

That’s very kind of you.

Central

 

We know.

Citizen

I…I’ve never been here before.

Central

 

Yes, we are aware of that.

Citizen

 

I don’t quite know how to go about this.

Central

 

That’s understandable.

Citizen

 

You will help me, won’t you?

Central

 

Of course.

Citizen

(pause) So…what should I say?
Central

 

Whatever it is you came here to say.

Citizen

 

Just like that?

Central

 

Yes.

Citizen

 

You’re not going to write this down, are you?

Central

 

We will make a full notation after you are gone. Right now you have our full attention.

Citizen

 

(with effort) I don’t know if I can…it’s so horrible…what I’ve…I

Central

Would you like some tea?

Citizen

 

Tea?

Central

 

Yes, it’s very calming. Weak tea acts as an alkali. Cancels out the acids in the stomach, you see.

Citizen

 

I wasn’t aware of that.

Central

 

It’s scientifically proven. Who would have thought that a cup of tea would have such a curative effect?

Citizen

 

Not me.

Central

 

Makes you feel a little less fretful about the world, doesn’t it?

Citizen

 

What?

Central

 

Tea.

Citizen

 

Oh. Yes, I suppose. (pause) Should I…

Central

 

By all means.

Citizen

 

Where was I?

Central

 

To the best of my knowledge you never left your seat.

Sneak Peek–Before the Parade Passes By

It’s Sneak Peek Friday!  Here’s a blast from the past–I’ve been working on getting this transcribed into digital form, so it’s been on my mind.  Before the Parade Passes By was the prequel to my first play, Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and featured Jim Pillmeier as Sidney J. Stein.  He also played the role when it was done in New York, my very first official NY playwrighting credit.   The story of that star-crossed production can by seen here: https://pettiplays.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/my-first-new-york-show-embarassment-with-a-spotlight/.  Our excellent original cast when we did it at Bard included Mary El, Joseph P. Morgan, Michael Vanacore and Ellen Boswell.  Enjoy.

Since I brought up Mary El’s name, I’d like to announce that my talented wife has just been cast as Little Edie in 90 Miles Off Broadway’s production of Grey Gardens, directed by Joe Gayton!  She will be ridiculously good in this role.

Check out my blog about the Grey Gardens ladies here:  https://pettiplays.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/grey-garden-my-favorite-hot-messes/.  Have a great weekend everybody.

Before the Parade Passes By

Copyright  (c) 1997 by Brian C. Petti

bcpkid AT gmail.com

ACT I

Scene 1

A funeral parlor.  There is a kneeler front center facing the audience.  Behind the kneeler are rows of foldout chairs.  CHRISTOPHER, JENNIFER and MOTHER sit in the front row, lost in thought.  CHRISTOPHER is 28, dressed tastefully and conservatively in keeping with his personality, which is careful and self-conscious.  JENNIFER, 23, is dressed in a black dress.  She seems lost amid the events around her, as if she has given up trying to be seen or heard.  Their MOTHER Rebecca Wregget is a former actress whose attractiveness has settled into a weathered, disappointed look.  She stares ahead emotionless. 

The wake is for Nelson Wregget, a semi-famous children’s book author. 

Also in attendance is a couple in their fifties, Nelson’s brother TIM and his wife MARY.  Assorted others filter in and out of the upstage parlor doors, as the wake is open to the public.  An UNDERTAKER stands in the back of the room.  When dialogue is spoken, only people involved in the conversation can hear it.

TIM

Death is a real pain in the ass.

MARY

How profound.

TIM

That’s exactly it–when we talk about death, why must we be profound?  Death cheapens our lives.  Look at my brother.  He did such and such and made this and that and what happened to him?  He died.  That’s all.  He was here on minute and gone the next.

MARY

We’re here for more than a minute.

TIM

The rest of it’s just a set-up.  Like From Here to Eternity, we’re just living out the soap operas of our lives unaware of our impening doom.  Everything leading up to that last minute is foreplay.

MARY

If only your foreplay lasted so long.

TIM

Sex, that’s a perfect example.  We think if we have children it will make us immortal.  It won’t.  It’s all an illusion, the work we do, the food we eat, the books we write–it’s all just a trick to keep us from thinking about them Kamikase planes swooping down.

MARY

You never wrote any book.

TIM

What?

MARY

You said, “the books we write” but you never wrote a book.

TIM

I was making a point.

MARY

Your brother Nelson was the writer.  You sell insurance.

TIM

And where is he for all his success?

TIM points toward the corpse.

MARY

The man was famous from writing children’s books.  He won more awards than he could count, and all you see as important is his death?

TIM

His books have a life of his own.  His is over.  Nobody lives to read their own epilogue.

MARY

This from the man who makes a living off the fear of impending death.  He’s got kids too you know.

TIM

You’re not getting it.  The mantle of generations…it’s all crap.

MARY

There’s still heaven.  He was a Catholic.

TIM

If there’s a single reason the Irish have allowed themselves to be trampled, it’s their childlike insistence that comfort and joy can wait until after we croak.  We don’t live on, we just die.  Kaput.  Over.  His two kids had better realize…

MARY

Three. Chris, Jen and Sidney.  You always forget Sidney.

TIM

Oh yeah, the fruit.

MARY

Don’t be common.  He’s your kin.

TIM

His father disowned him when he was fifteen.  That makes him a nephew once removed.

MARY

Fool.

TIM

What did I do now?

MARY

I was referring to your brother, but come to think of it you’re a fool too.

TIM

What does it matter?  We’ll all end up like Nelson some day, stuffed in a box.  You’re Deborah Carr and I’m Burt Lancaster and we’re waiting for the bombs to drop.

MARY

You’re no Burt Lancaster.

TIM

(beat) And you’re no Deborah Carr.

JEN

How old was I?  I couldn’t have been more than seven, but I still recognized his voice on the phone, you know?

CHRIS

I know.

JEN

The whole thing is so mysterious.  Even biblical.  He’s like the Prodigal Son.

CHRIS

Too bad there’s no fatted calf to kill.

JEN

What’s wrong?

CHRIS

Nothing.

JEN

It’s almost like a rebirth.  Daddy dies and this new life appeared.

CHRIS

Your older brother is no bundle of joy.

JEN

Sidney’s new to me.  I barely remember him.

CHRIS

Don’t get your hopes up.  He may not be all you expect.

JEN

I think he will be.  I’m sure my life will change when I meet him, I just feel it.  I took this Anthropology class once and the professor said, “This class will change your perspective of the world around you forever.”

CHRIS

Did it?

JEN

No.  But I remember her saying it as if it were yesterday.

CHRIS

No wonder you quit college.

JEN

I quit because I fell in love.

CHRIS

Right, the Colonel.  Where is the old dog anyway?

JEN

That old dog can do fifty push-ups in under a minute, which is more than any of you white-bread lawyers could do in an hour.  He’s only forty-seven.

CHRIS

How can my little sister be married to someone who lived through the Eisenhower administration?  So where is the middle-aged Romeo?

JEN

France.

CHRIS

Reliving Normandy?

JEN

Army business.  (apprehensively)  I left a message at his hotel room two days ago. 

CHRIS

Oh.  (beat)  I’m sure he’ll make it back for the funeral.

JEN

I hope so.  (pause)  I miss him so much.

CHRIS

He’ll be here as soon as he can.

JEN

I mean Daddy…I meant Daddy.

SIDNEY enters through the back door.  He is wearing sunglasses and mildly inappropriate clothing–a bit too fabulous, perhaps with a scarf.

MARY

Look who just walked in.  No, don’t look!

TIM

How am I supposed to see if I can’t look.

MARY

Just glance quick.

TIM coughs and takes a peek.

TIM

Who is he?

MARY

Your nephew Sidney.

TIM

Why would he show up here?

MARY

I’ll take a wild dress and say because they’re having a wake for his father.

TIM

They hated each other.

MARY

You have to love people when thy’re dead.

TIM

Will you love me when I’m dead.

MARY

You sell insurance.  I’ll adore you when you’re dead.

MARY peeks at SIDNEY herself.

Nobody is talking to him.

TIM

I guess they’re all happy with their wardrobe choice.

MARY

C’mon, we’re going to reintroduce ourselves.

TIM

Are you kidding?

MARY

He’s your nephew and we’re going to make him feel comfortable.

TIM

It’s a funeral parlor.  You don’t want to be too confortable here.

MARY

Get up in the name of all that is holy and talk to your nephew.

TIM and MARY move to where SIDNEY is standing.

TIM

Hello.

TIM turns immediately to leave, but is stopped by MARY.

MARY

Hi.  Aren’t you Nelson’s son Sidney?

SIDNEY

Indeed I am.

MARY

I don’t know if you remember, it was so long ago.  I’m your Aunt Mary and this is your Uncle Tim.

SIDNEY

Of course I remember.  You’re both exactly the same.  Except older.

MARY

Yes.  (there is an awkward pause)  So…how are you?

SIDNEY

Still gay, how are you?

MARY

We’re fine. (beat)  Uncle Tim still sells insurance.

CHRIS

He’s here Mom.

MOTHER

I saw him.  It doesn’t matter.  This is your father’s day and I won’t let anyone upset that.

CHRIS

Do you think he’ll try?

MOTHER

I wouldn’t put it past him.  Not a word from him in fifteen years–that’s not a loving son.

CHRIS

Dad was pretty rough on him…

MOTHER

Don’t speak badly about your father, not today.  He was my husband and my father and this day is to honor him.  Not for reconciliation, not for redemption–for him.

CHRIS

I’ll tell him to leave you alone for awhile.

JEN gets up and goes to SIDNEY, who has finished his conversation with TIM and MARY.

MOTHER

Yes, do that.  Tell him I’d like to bury my husband in peace.  I deserve that much.

JEN

Sidney?  Is it really you?

SIDNEY

I hope so, I’m wearing his garters.

JEN

It’s…I mean I am…

SIDNEY

You’re wearing my garters?  Do they pinch your thighs too?

JEN

No, it’s me.  Jennifer.  Your sister.

SIDNEY

Oh my Lord. let me take a look at you!  The last time I saw you, you were…

JEN

Seven.

SIDNEY

I was going to say devoid of secondary sexual characteristics.

JEN

Some things never change.

SIDNEY

Oh stop it, you’re perfect.  You have that Marian the Librarian meets Bugs Bunny thing going on.

JEN

Is that a compliment?

SIDNEY

Of course!  Bugs looks scintillating in drag.

JEN

So…what have you been doing with yourself?

SIDNEY

In the last fifteen years?  Let’s see…I’ve been platinum, fuscia, shocking red, and I had a violet rinse to coincide with my nipple ring period.  I’ve been Bette Midler, Marlene Dietrich, Josie from Josie and the Pussycats, Gloria Steinem, and even Barbra Streisand during a particularly weak moment, God forgive me, and I have better legs than any of them.  I’ve been East of Eden, North By Northwest, West of the Mississippi and South of France, if you know what I mean.  I’ve been…

JEN

My brother.

SIDNEY

Yes.  For a short time I was that too.

JEN

I missed you.

SIDNEY

How sentimental.  You missed your long lost gay brother.  There should be a Hallmark!  “Across the years, my love never lagged/’Cause through it all, I loved that fag…”

JEN

I heard so much about you.

SIDNEY

Truth is so much stranger than fiction.

JEN

It was all good.

SIDNEY

Now I know you’ve been misled.  Who’s been spreading these hideous lies?

JEN

Chris mostly.  And Mother sometimes.

SIDNEY

Really.  Well, since I haven’t seen either of them in quite some time, I wouldn’t put much stock in their opinions. 

JEN

I agree.  I’d like to get to know you. 

SIDNEY

Wasn’t that the Carpenters?  Or was it The Fifth Dimension.

JEN

What?

SIDNEY

I forgot, you Generation Xers don’t recognize any cultural reference pre-MTV.

JEN

You’re different…

SIDNEY

i(instantly defensive)  From what, those preconceived notions my dear brother and dearer mother drilled into your head?

JEN

No, different than I imagined.  I’ve been dreaming for years of the moment I would meet the brother I lost when I was seven.  I thought I would feel close to him immediately because we were blood.  I would tell him all about me and he would satisfy my endless curiosity about him.  I thought you would give me a chance to do that, but it seems you’ve already made up your mind about me.

SIDNEY

My dear, I have to make something abundantly clear to you.  If we are to have any type of relationship at all it is absolutely imperitive that I get to be the drama queen.  Now…let me introduce myself more properly.  My name is Sidney J. Stein, son of Rebecca Stein Wreggett and the deceased auter Nelson Wreggett, and for better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, your brother.  Charmed to meet you.

JEN

I’m Jennifer.  My friends call me Jen.

SIDNEY

Does anyone call you Jenny?

JEN

No.

CHRIS moves over to where JEN and SIDNEY are speaking.

SIDNEY

Then that’s what I shall call you.

CHRIS

Jen, Mother would like to speak to you.

JEN

Look Chris, it’s really him!

CHRIS

Yes, I see that.

JEN

Where are you staying Sidney?

SIDNEY

I just arrived.  I figured I’d find a hotel.

CHRIS

Shouldn’t be so hard for you.  No luggage?

SIDNEY

I like to travel light.

JEN

We can’t let you sleep in a run-down hotel.  Why don’t you stay at the house with us?

SIDNEY

I don’t think…

CHRIS

That’s probably not a good idea.

JEN

At least come back and have a drink with us.

CHRIS

I’m sure Sidney has other things to do…

SIDNEY

I’d love to.

JEN

This is wonderful.  The family back together after all this time.  I think I might cry.

SIDNEY

Drama queen…

JEN

Sorry, I forgot.  I’ll have to remember not to upstage you.

JEN goes back to her mother. CHRIS is left with SIDNEY, and is keenly aware of the public nature of their conversation. 

CHRIS

Hello Sidney.

SIDNEY

Why hello Christopher.  Fancy meeting you here. (beat)  I’m sorry, was there anything else you thought I should add?

CHRIS

What are you doing here?

SIDNEY

Well, it’s a Tuesday, and I don’t let a Tuesday go by without hopping on a bus and driving ninety miles north to frequent a local funeral home.  You meet so many interesting people if you bring Kleenex.

CHRIS

Why are you here, Sidney.

SIDNEY

For the same reason you’re here, to pay repect to my dear, departed father.

CHRIS

After all this time?

SIDNEY

I did have to wait until he passed on, didn’t I?

CHRIS

So this is the moment you pick to drop back into everyone’s life.  Your father’s wake is the perfect opportunity to make your grand entrance.

SIDNEY

Do you think it was grand?  I was aiming more for subtle chic with a dash of sophisticated panache.  I’d be appalled if it came off as merely “grand”.  I should have worn a pillbox hat…

CHRIS

Still concerned only with yourself.

SIDNEY

It’s a little too late to be concerned about Father, isn’t it?

CHRIS

It’s a little late for a lot of things. 

SIDNEY

How ominous, how knowing, how…intentionally opaque.  You should write screenplays Christopher.  You ahve a way with a loaded, yet meaningless line.

CHRIS

There was only one writer in this family.

SIDNEY

Now’s your chance.  You don’t have to compete with the great Nelson Wregget.  Only his ghost.  But I suppose we’ll all have to wrestle with that one.  The residue of a famous father.  Listen to me, I’m the gay L. Ron Hubbard: “How do fathers castrate their sons?” Faganetics, page 69.

CHRIS

Cut it out.

SIDNEY

What’s the matter Christopher?  If there’s one thing we could always share it was an overwhelming resentment of our dear Daddy.

CHRIS

This isn’t the time or the place.  Mother sent me over here to ask you to let her bury her husband in peace.  I intend to see that happens out of respect for my father and respect for her.

SIDNEY

How conventional.  You respect the man if you feel you must.  Say your prayers and kiss his hand and shed a small, yet significant tear as they lower him into the ground.  Just don’t expect me to join you in your… ordinary grief.

CHRIS

I’m warning you, Sidney.  This is not your stage.

SIDNEY

Every floor I stand on is my stage, brother mine.  Another result of my star-crossed upbringing.  So let me warn you: contribute some witty dialogue or stay in the wings, either way Mama’s gonna have his say.

UNDERTAKER

Ladies and gentlemen, if you would be so kind, please pay your respects before we end the viewing for tonight.

SIDNEY

Time to pray for father’s immortal soul, Christopher.

CHRIS

You know what Mom wants.  I suggest you let her have it.

SIDNEY

I intend to.

All of the family make a quick prayer before the casket and file out.  MOTHER doesn’t acknowledge SIDNEY’s presence.  SIDNEY and JEN exchange a few words in pantomime, then JEN leaves SIDNEY alone.  SIDNEY approaches the casket awkwardly and kneels, aware of his own ridiculousness.  He looks a bit apprehensively up toward God, then decides He probably isn’t watching.  SIDNEY stands.

How to say all I have to say.  How about a showtune?  This is from Hello, Dolly, words and music by Jerry Herman.

“Because you treated me so rotten and rough.

I’ve had enough of feeling low,

So wave your little hand and whisper ‘so long dearie’,

Dearie should have said ‘so long’ so long ago.”

Judy Garland Sneek Peek and Actual Playwrighting News

Big doings this week!  My newest play “Banshee” was picked up for publication by Next Stage Press in Texas.  In addition, “Judy Garland–The Lost Episode”  is slated to be produced in New York in September.  Usually this much Petti news in one week involves a hospitalization!

To commemorate the occasion, here is the first scene of “Judy”.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!  Remember, for more in-depth info about the plays, click on my website link on the right of this page.

Judy Garland–The Lost Episode

Copyright (c) 2010 by Brian C. Petti 

Scene 1

(A CBS studio stage in Hollywood.

Lights come up on JUDY GARLAND center stage at a chair, with a small table beside her. There is a glass of wine and a lit cigarette in an ashtray on the table. It is the set of the television series, “The Judy Garland Show”. It’s March 13th, 1964 and JUDY is 42. She is in repose, readying herself for a rehearsal of the song she is about to sing—but this readying consists not of any vocalizing or practice, but of tepid interest in everyone else’s job around her. She looks into the light, guarding her eyes, then offstage tentatively. After a bored moment she leans forward and speaks to Bill Colleran, her producer/ director, who is (in her mind’s eye) directly in front and below her.)

JUDY

Bill…?

Bill, can you hear me, or are you too busy being a director? (beat) While we have this quiet MOMENT together, I want to thank you for everything you did to try to make this show a success. I know you’ve worked harder than ANYONE over the past year to make a go of it…

I know, I think it’s been a success too, but those judgments aren’t ours to make. All we can do is put forth the best version of ourselves, and if it’s rejected…

JUDY (con’t)

no, I was going to say, “Screw the bastards,” but if you prefer the HIGH road…

I’m glad you can still laugh, Bill. It’s our only defense against the world.

Or at least the network, this is true. And the studios, don’t forget those wonderful people. It’s always the

VICTIMS who end up with a sense of HUMOR, isn’t it? Only the ones who never had a bad thing happen to them in their LIVES can afford to be so damn deadly SERIOUS.

(JUDY reacts physically to BILL’S placement in the following dialogue, speaking to him as the “camera” close up, then far away, then close up again.)

Oh, are you going to be my camera? I adore it when you do that. I can picture you there in front of me and it’s as if I’m singing directly to you. Otherwise it’s just a big black EYE with no life behind it and I’m afraid I might FALL IN. Isn’t that silly?

You’re being kind. I know it’s ridiculous. But when you’ve grown used to seeing real eyes looking back at you, eyes full of vigor and LIFE, it’s difficult to turn back to that dull, unblinking, SOULLESS thing. That’s why I love the way you do it. I see your face.

All right, two verses down here…

Do you HAVE to? Can’t I pretend you’re way up there? I grew up on the MGM lot; I had to pretend to have a childhood. I imagined FOOD! Surely I can…

all right, if you must leave me all alone here in the dark.

Not dangerous!? I’ll have you know I’ve had more atrocities committed upon me on Hollywood stages than in all the back alleys of the country combined. At least muggers stop MUGGING you when they have your money!

JUDY (con’t)

Do you remember the day we met? You told me that darling story about how you rode your bicycle down to the train station at five in the morning when you were a boy just to meet me. All that way just to touch my hand—I knew you would treat me like a dream. After all the fat jokes and “old lady” comments it was such a relief to know my new producer would at least be a FAN of mine. Not that all of that was Norman’s fault—it was all Aubrey’s idea to desecrate the sacred cow. And I’m sure “cow” is one of the tamer names he’s called me over the past few weeks.

It is, isn’t it? I knew he was a snake the day I met him, President of CBS or not. He showed too many TEETH when he smiled.

You know what Norman did do? He warned the writers to stay away from me. One of them admitted it. Norman was afraid they’d get too close, coming over my house all hours of the night to play cards. Like I was setting some kind of TRAP for them! You know what the simple truth is? I’m not ready to sleep after I perform. Everybody talks about this wonderful peak of emotion and communication I achieve, and then I’m just DUMPED back in my driveway. “Thanks for the transcendent experience, Judy, now get some sleep so you can go get ‘em again tomorrow!” I’ve had an experience too, you know, and I may have given something of myself I can’t get back. So if I feel the need to be surrounded by living, breathing PEOPLE instead of enduring another endless night with myself and my bedroom slippers, whose business is that? I want to play cards and smoke and laugh and tell stories and feel like I have some…connection.

You always come when I call. You’re the only one left who does.

(after a pause, looking up at the long shot) Bill, my camera in the sky? You know, I think you’re my favorite director. I used to say it was Vincente, but he couldn’t protect me in the end, it turned out. He wasn’t the man I thought he was—and I don’t mean that whole (making a motion with her hands) thing. I could have lived with that if he just would have stood UP for me… (beat) You know who my first love was? A musician I dated when I was nineteen. I was over the moon for him. He

JUDY (con’t)

eloped with Lana Turner and I read about it in a trade paper. How does a girl compete with LANA TURNER? It makes short work of a fragile ego.

I’m sorry, Bill, have I rendered you speechless? (looking down) Oh there you are again. You do move like a cat, don’t you? Are we up to the finale?

Bill…Bill…it’s all right, don’t let me scare you. Save your speech. I think of our relationship in purely professional terms. This is our last go ‘round together, I thought I’d let you know how much I appreciate you. Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. This (motioning around the stage) is all about love, isn’t it, creating something out of air, lungs, notes on a keyboard, a table and a chair? (beat) They’ll probably never air this show you know.

Then why else are we here? I won’t ask you to protect me. Some scars are as permanent as limbs, or organs. I’m beyond protection.

I’ll tell you where that leaves us. (beat) Let’s sing the Goddamn SONG, that’s where it leaves us!

Finding a WordPress Theme is Like Picking Out Candles (and Hemingway Sucks)

“Fauna” or “Benevolence”? How to decide? It’s bad enough I have to smell cookies baking from the soft glow of my wife’s candle in the kitchen without actally EATING cookies. Now I have to smell test my blog theme? What does “Benevolence” smell like, anyway? Or “Green”? My guess is a lot like armpits and raw vegetables.

I ended up picking “Hemingway”, which looks like it belongs to Darth Vader, not a closet case who blew his brains out. But, he (Hemingway, not Darth) was a writer (much as I despise the Lost Generation and their expatriot, post-war, self-indulgent malaise–John Steinbeck would kick their asses!) So am I. Kind of. I mean I AM. Really. I’m a playwright, and I have the $2.38 royalty check to prove it!

Writers write. So I will. Occasionally I will talk about my plays, if there is a reason to do so. But mostly I’m going to write what’s on my mind, for nobody in particular. Off the top of my head I came up with such subjects as “Being Underemployed Isn’t Funny Anymore”, “Inappropriate Behavior in Applebees”, “How Catholicism Made Me the Underachiever I am Today,” and “Balding–the ‘Choice’ God Made for You.” Boy, I wish I were you guys! My dream is to have said enough funny/entertaining/bearable things to collect them into a 99 cent Kindle book, so I can make maybe $3.61 more. You will NEVER see ads on my page! Unless someone asks me–I’m too nice a guy to say no. Oh, and if I made a spelling mistake, PLEASE bring it to my attention. It’s what I deserve, and it makes you look super smart.

Welcome to my mind…. No, I didn’t mean it, it’s so hard to be ironic in print.

My play website is http://pettiplays.wikispaces.com/. I have two plays on Kindle, “Next Year in Jerusalem” and “The Measure of a Man”. Please buy these and come back. That means you, Mary El! (my wife, and probably my only reader at this point–one less candle can buy you a real live play!)

Here’s sneak preview:

Relatively Cute Applebees Waitress: Can I you get you guys anything else?
My 8-Year-Old: Oral sex.
(moment of awkward silence, everyone staring)
My 8-Year-Old: What? I said Oreos, XX.

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