Sunday, March 4, 2012
Tension mounts as my editor and I make final decisions about layout and design. So many little details required to bring a manuscript into publishing form. What kind of font do I want, and should it be consistent throughout? What do I want the first letter of each new chapter to look like? How about point size? Will my target audience (many of us in bifocals now) be able to comfortably read a 12 point? What about the size of the book? Can it be easily stashed in a bag or purse to be carted about for moments of leisure reading, or stress-reduction reading while waiting in a long line at the bank? Will the cover convey enough to grab the reader’s attention? What about the colors? Do they catch the eye? On and on.
As exciting as all this is, I find it stresses my body. My shoulders inch up toward my earlobes; my breathing is shallow; my hands are clammy. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait after each decision. I need a distraction. Ah, I’ve got just the thing. I’ve always wanted to learn to write a 10-minute play—they’re big out here at the moment.
I send an e-mail to my writer’s group list-serve: Anyone have any pointers on how to write a 10-minute play? In a day or two, I’m bombarded with all sorts of wonderful tips and information, resources and leads. Okay, now I’m engaged. Book? What book? For better or worse, here’s my first attempt. Disregard formatting; the translation was lost in the cut/paste process to my blog. Hope you enjoy:
Jen/Blaire (same actor)
Martin/Stanley (same actor)
The couple’s kitchen
(MARTIN is dressed in a business suit, briefcase in hand, and is ready to leave for work. JEN wears a tattered housecoat and slippers. She sits at the table. Her hair is in rollers and she holds a mug of coffee.)
JEN: I’m sorry about last night, okay? I’m just not feeling it. (Pause) I’m trying . . .really, I am, but—
MARTIN: (He turns to her.) I know you are. I think it might be time to get professional help.
JEN: Therapy? (Beat.) You think I need to see a therapist? We can’t afford that . . .unless I get a job, that is.
MARTIN: Jen, we’ve talked about this. The last time you tried to work, you fell into a pit of depression.
JEN: I was working at K-Mart, for God’s sake.
MARTIN: We’ll figure something out. (He bends, kisses her on top of her head.) I’ll see you this evening.
(MARTIN exits. JEN blows her nose, wipes at her eyes. JEN extracts a phone book from a nearby table and thumbs through the Yellow Pages. She lifts the receiver on the phone and dials.)
JEN: Hello, my name is Jennifer Walsh, and I’m looking for a part-time position. (Pause) Yes, I have hostess experience. (Pause) A Masters Degree. I studied and lived abroad for several years. (Pause) Currently? (JEN sighs.) I’m a housewife. I’d really like to do something a little more meaningful. (Pause) You are? That’s wonderful. Yes, I’d like very much to come in for an interview. (Pause) Would it be terribly rude of me to ask what this job pays? (Pause) It does? (She flashes a big Victory sign in the air.) Thank you so much. I’ll see you tomorrow. (Stage goes dark.)
(The next morning, MARTIN and JEN sit at the breakfast table. MARTIN reads the paper. JEN is dressed and her hair is brushed. She quietly eats a bowl of cereal. MARTIN puts down the newspaper and looks at her. JEN averts her eyes.)
MARTIN: I have a meeting I expect will run late tonight. I’ll catch a bite at the office. No need to wait up.
(MARTIN scoots his chair back, grabs his coat and briefcase, kisses JEN on the top of her head and leaves. JEN quickly clears the table and dashes out of the room.)
(Stage goes dark. Next scene is at MARTIN’s office. He’s at his desk, and turns to the audience.)
MARTIN: I don’t know what’s gotten into her lately. I swear, she’s just turned into a cold fish in bed. (Pause.) A co-worker of mine suggested I start seeing an escort. He did that when his marriage started to slump, and it helped him through. (Pause) I don’t know . . .I’ve never been unfaithful to Jen. (Pause) Although, he said it didn’t involve sex, just some affection. I mean, is that too much to ask? A little affection and understanding?
(Stage goes dark. The next scene is an upscale parlor. A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN welcomes MARTIN into the room.)
BEAUTIFUL WOMAN: Good evening, Stanley. I’m so glad you’re here.
(BEAUTIFUL WOMAN leads STANLEY to a plush couch and hands him a glass of champagne. She takes his credit card. Soft music plays in the background.)
BEAUTIFUL WOMAN: Please make yourself comfortable. I’ll send Blaire right out.
(BEAUTIFUL WOMAN exits from a door behind MARTIN.)
(Moments later, JEN, dressed to the nines, wearing evening make-up, and a fancy coiffed wig, enters, approaches MARTIN from behind,slides her hands sensually down his neck and over his shoulders,nuzzles the back of his head.)
JEN: (Whispers seductively.) Good evening, Stanley. My name is Blaire, and I look forward to spending the evening with you.
(MARTIN turns to face her and recognizes JEN immediately. Both face the audience in a moment of shock. Turning toward each other, neither registers recognition on their face.)
(BLAIRE slithers around in front of STANLEY, sits on his lap, and gazes lovingly into his eyes.)
BLAIRE: Tell me something about yourself, Stanley.
STANLEY: I know it sounds like a cliché, but I don’t think my wife understands me. I don’t feel like she finds me attractive anymore.
BLAIRE: (Strokes STANLEY’S cheek as he speaks.) A handsome, well-built man as yourself? What’s not to find attractive? (BLAIRE leans back and makes a slow, visual assessment of STANLEY.) You’re obviously a man of means and good taste. Why, any woman would find you desirable, Stanley.
STANLEY: The only woman I really care about is my wife, and she no longer wants to make love with me. (STANLEY looks suddenly abashed.) Oh, no offense. I mean, you’re absolutely beautiful—stunning, in fact.
BLAIRE: We women are temperamental creatures, Stanley. We need to feel valued and appreciated, for more than just our abilities to manage a household, or put food on the table.
STANLEY: Oh, I do appreciate her. She’s brilliant—much more educated than I am, really. She’s a great conversationalist. And funny—we used to laugh so hard over the smallest things. (STANLEY looks away, lost in thought for a moment.) She’s detail oriented, excellent with money management, can multi-task like nobody’s business, and she’s beautiful.
BLAIRE: She sounds rather amazing.
STANLEY: She is rather amazing, now that I think about it.
BLAIRE: Have you told her that lately? (BLAIRE now straddles STANLEY and moves suggestively closer.)
STANLEY: (STANLEY runs his hands slowly up her sides and over BLAIRE’S breasts, and draws her even closer.) No, but I will. I promise, I will. (They kiss.)
(Stage goes dark. Next scene is in the couple’s kitchen the next morning. MARTIN is in robe and slippers, and JEN is in a sexy robe and slippers. Her hair is brushed. They hold hands over the breakfast table, gaze into each others eyes.)
MARTIN: Last night was wonderful, sweetheart. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed making love to you.
JEN: It was, wasn’t it? I’ve missed you too. I don’t know what changed. All of a sudden, whatever was blocking me seemed to just drift away.
(They smile, lean over the table to kiss. They sit back down to finish their coffee.)