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Volume One – “Radio drama is not dead”

Complete text of Volume One posted as of 23 July 2007 

“Radio drama in the United States is not dead. It still occupies niches over the air and across the Internet. America’s first great mass entertainment medium retains its capacity to develop characters and advance plot lines in a singular manner. Lit Between the Ears offers plays for this power.” -excerpted from “Playwright’s Introduction”

Lit Between the Ears, Volume One“Lit Between the Ears, Volume One: Chekhov, O. Henry, Spear and Tarkington On the Air”
Radio Drama
By William E. Spear

Classic literary adaptations and contemporary drama have been brought together in “Lit Between the Ears, Volume One: Chekhov, O. Henry, Spear and Tarkington On the Air.” Written by William E. Spear and published by Wolfmont Publishing, Lit Between the Ears, Volume One celebrates radio’s unique capacity to entertain.

The plays range from a self-imposed 15-year prison sentence in “The Wager,” a countdown to death in “When the Last Leaf Falls,” a singing debut and attempted murder in “You Didn’t Have To Go” and three families’ diverging fortunes in “The Splendor in Midland.” Geraldine Downes, Jonesy, Donna Herb, Georgie Amberson Minafer and other characters tell their stories set in a banker’s mansion, art studio, nightclub and Midwest America.

Radio drama survives on compact discs, podcasts and Internet broadcasts. The medium’s flexibility and adaptability to various genre are strengths. Its individualized impact on listeners is another. “Lit Between the Ears, Volume One: Chekhov, O. Henry, Spear and Tarkington On the Air” offers plays for the enduring power of radio.

William E. Spear has written for radio since 1994. He founded Hunterdon Radio Theatre in 1999 and has written over 15 plays since. Spear’s work has been broadcast in New York and New Jersey and his plays have been published on web sites across the country. Lit Between the Ears, Volume One is his second appearance in print.

July 31, 2006 – Radio Drama – 6 x 9 Paperback Original
128 pages – $14.95 – ISBN: 0-9778-4022-0
 

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Lit Between the Ears, Volume One: Chekhov, O. Henry, Spear and Tarkington On the Air. Copyright © 2006 by William E. Spear. Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, electronic, mechanical, photographic, recorded or otherwise, without the prior written consent of Two Plus Plus Productions LLC.

Produced in the United States of America by:
Two Plus Plus Productions LLC
PO Box 5126
Clinton, NJ 08809-0126

ISBN: 0-9778-4022-0

Published in the United States of America by:
Wolfmont Publishing
PO Box 205
Ranger, GA 30734

Mr. Spear may be reached:

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Other published and produced plays by Mr. Spear:

Other publications which have included works from William E. Spear:

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Table of Contents


Playwright’s Introduction


Chapter 1 . . . . . The Wager . . . . . Page 11

YOUNG GERALDINE: No . . . no . . . no. That’s not true. I bet five million you wouldn’t stay in solitary confinement for five years.

– Young Geraldine Downes arguing with Pat Chains


Chapter 2 . . . . . When the Last Leaf Falls . . . . . Page 33

JONESY: (I’m counting) The leaves on the ivy vine. When the last leaf falls I’ll die.

– Jonesy counting falling leaves from her deathbed


Chapter 3 . . . . You Didn’t Have To Go . . . . Page 57

JACKY: When things are different you won’t talk so big.

MANNY: I’d rather be dead than let that happen.

JACKY: And I’d love to help you get that way.

– Jacky and Manny arguing over the sale of Club Ultra


Chapter 4 . . . . . The Splendor in Midland (in progress) . . . . . Page 91

KINNEY: I can’t see how she doesn’t see the truth about that boy. He’s a little tin god on wheels – and honestly, it makes some of us weak and sick just to think about him! Yet that high-spirited, intelligent woman, Isabel Amberson, actually sits and worships him!

– Fred Kinney describing Georgie Amberson Minafer to Eugene Morgan

 

Chapter 5 . . . . . Afterword . . . . . Page 119
 
 

 

Index . . . . . Page 127

Quick Order Form . . . . Page 128

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Playwright’s Introduction

          Radio drama in the United States is not dead. Nor is it sleeping.

          True, much of radio’s broadcasts are colorful celebrities and their even more colorful language. Sports and politics occupy a large chunk of the dial. News and talk are nearly everywhere else.

          But radio drama still occupies niches over the air and across the Internet. Throughout the country, dramatists and performance companies are shaping radio to meet their visions. America’s first great mass entertainment medium retains its capacity to develop characters and advance plot lines in a singular manner. Lit Between the Ears offers plays for this power.

          The Wager, When the Last Leaf Falls and You Didn’t Have To Go rely on this unseen force. Geraldine Downes, Jonesy, Donna Herb and the other characters are invisible but have the impact of a freight train.

          The scripts in this collection have the added benefit of performance by Hunterdon Radio Theatre in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. HRT has been offering contemporary radio drama since 1999. They are friends and colleagues. To them are offered my sincerest thanks. No one is better.

          Hunterdon Radio Theatre and other groups are telling contemporary stories through a medium which appeared 75 years ago. Listen to a broadcast or log onto a website. Or read Lit Between the Ears, Volume One. Radio drama is powerful. Radio drama is alive.

William E. Spear

 

 

~ Page 11 ~

Chapter One

The Wager

by William Spear

From Anton P. Chekov’s The Bet

Synopsis
Characters
Playwright’s Notes
Excerpts from The Bet
Script

YOUNG GERALDINE: No . . . no . . . no. That’s not true. I bet five million you wouldn’t stay in solitary confinement for five years.

– Young Geraldine Downes arguing with Pat Chains

 

~ Chapter One: “The Wager” – Synopsis ~

Synopsis
(Note: The ending of “The Wager” is revealed in the synopsis.)

          “The Wager” is set at a dinner party in the home of wealthy banker, Geraldine Downes. The guests are “. . . bankers and investors – men and women of considerable wealth – and academics and intellects – men and women of considerable learning.”

          The conversation evolves into a spirited debate over the relative merits of the death penalty versus life in prison. One of the academics says capital punishment is out of date and unsuitable for the country. The academic continues by declaring the death penalty should be replaced by imprisonment for life.

          The discussion rages and the guests take strong positions on either side of the debate. One of the guests, Pat Chains, is singled out for an opinion: “Pat you’ve been quiet on the issue. What does your young mind say?”

          Pat’s response is thoughtful:

The death sentence and the life sentence are equally immoral. But if I had to choose between the death penalty and imprisonment for life I’d choose the second. To live under any circumstances is better than not to live at all.” 1

          Geraldine lashes out and bets five million dollars Pat wouldn’t survive five years of voluntary confinement. Pat counters that if the offer’s genuine make it 15 years. Other parties add more to the stakes. Both sides finally agree and the wager is set – if Pat stays in prison for fifteen years he gets 10 million dollars.

          Pat’s confinement is within a small cottage, guarded by a watchman, on the furthest reaches of Geraldine’s estate surrounded by woods. All communications from the outside world are cut off. No television, no radio and no magazines or newspapers. Pat Chains will live the next fifteen years isolated from the present world.

          The 15 years of confinement take a physical and emotional toll on Pat. He’s often heard crying late at night. His appearance grows haggard and thin. During the latter years, he takes to the Gospel.

          The same 15 years are harsh to Geraldine. The stock market moves against her repeatedly. She makes riskier and riskier investments to recoup her losses but her fortune is halved and halved again. Her options are constrained by her debts and the millions of dollars she may have to pay Pat.

          On the last night of the wager, a thunderstorm is lashing the countryside. Geraldine sneaks out to kill the prisoner. It is the only way to avoid the inevitable scandal of not keeping the wager. The watchman has left the post seeking shelter from the storm. Pat is asleep, the task will be simple. Geraldine needs only to smother the prisoner with a pillow. She finds a note from the prisoner which she pauses to read. In it, the prisoner renounces freedom, the good life, money, and all which it might buy. He closes the note writing:

To prove to you how I despise all that you live by I renounce the ten million of which I once dreamed of as paradise. I shall go from here before the agreed time – midnight tonight.” 2

          Geraldine pockets the note, returns to her estate, and a few minutes after midnight is advised the prisoner has run away.

1 “The Bet” by Anton P. Chekhov.

2 “The Bet” by Anton P. Chekhov.

 

~ Chapter One: “The Wager” – Characters ~

Characters (in order of appearance):

  1. Announcer – Brings listeners into and out of performance. Sets style, pace and tone.

  2. Old Geraldine Downes – Banker; excitable, nearly broke from bad investments and wild speculations. Fearful of scandal should she have to pay off wager.

  3. Terry Moores – Academic; sides with Pat’s antideath penalty stance.

  4. Young Geraldine Downes – Excitable, arrogant, wealthy; smug in her hundreds of millions. As her stock market losses grow, she becomes imprisoned by the possibility of having to pay off the prisoner.

  5. Helen Lofted – Sides with Pat and Terry.

  6. Sal Rubell – Pro death penalty; sides with Geraldine.

  7. Pat Chains – Prisoner; declaration of “To live under any circumstances is better than not to live at all” initiates the wager.

Playwright’s Notes

  1. Adapted from Anton P. Chekhov’s short story “The Bet.”

  2. Old Geraldine is frightened and fearful of the bet about to be paid and its impact on her remaining wealth. Young Geraldine is reckless and nearly invincible in her wealth.

  3. As wager progresses Geraldine’s contempt and hatred for Pat grows.

  4. If the cast speaks more than one language, consider how they might enhance the passage where Pat sends his letter in different languages.

  5. Pat’s distinctive style and pace of speaking are imitated by Old Geraldine late in play.

  6. When reading note, Pat’s distinctive speaking style reflects experience.

  7. Old Geraldine speaks as character and narrator.

  8. The dates of Pat’s imprisonment may be inserted within Young Geraldine’s dialogue. The starting and ending date placeholders are noted as __________ __, 20__ and __________ __, 20__.

 

~ Chapter One: “The Wager” – Excerpts from Chekhov’s “The Bet” ~

           Among the guests was a young lawyer, a young man of five-and-twenty. When he was asked his opinion, he said:

The death sentence and the life sentence are equally immoral, but if I had to choose between the death penalty and imprisonment for life, I would certainly choose the second. To live anyhow is better than not at all.”

          A lively discussion arose. The banker, who was younger and more nervous in those days, was suddenly carried away by excitement; he struck the table with his fist and shouted at the young man:

It’s not true! I’ll bet you two millions you wouldn’t stay in solitary confinement for five years.”

If you mean that in earnest,” said the young man, “I’ll take the bet, but I would stay not five but fifteen years.”

Fifteen? Done!” cried the banker.

Gentlemen, I stake two millions!”

Agreed! You stake your millions and I stake my freedom!” said the young man.

. . .

          For the first year of his confinement, as far as one could judge from his brief notes, the prisoner suffered severely from loneliness and depression. The sounds of the piano could be heard continually day and night from his lodge.

. . .

          In the fifth year music was audible again, and the prisoner asked for wine. Those who watched him through the window said that all that year he spent doing nothing but eating and drinking and lying on his bed, frequently yawning and angrily talking to himself. He did not read books. Sometimes at night he would sit down to write; he would spend hours writing, and in the morning tear up all that he had written. More than once he could be heard crying.

. . .

          Fifteen years before, his millions had been beyond his reckoning; now he was afraid to ask himself which were greater, his debts or his assets. Desperate gambling on the Stock Exchange, wild speculation and the excitability which he could not get over even in advancing years, had by degrees led to the decline of his fortune and the proud, fearless, self-confident millionaire had become a banker of middling rank, trembling at every rise and fall in his investments. “Cursed bet!” muttered the old man, clutching his head in despair. “Why didn’t the man die? He is only forty now. He will take my last penny from me, he will marry, will enjoy life, will gamble on the Exchange; while I shall look at him with envy like a beggar, and hear from him every day the same sentence: ‘I am indebted to you for the happiness of my life, let me help you!’ No, it is too much! The one means of being saved from bankruptcy and disgrace is the death of that man!”

 

~ Chapter One: “The Wager” – The Script ~

  1. Beat 1. Introductions

  2. ANNOUNCER: Coming up next is . . . “The Wager” starring __________, __________ and __________.

  3. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: QUAINT CHAMBER PIECE. UNDER TO BED.

  4. OLD GERALDINE: It was fifteen years ago this very night. I had a party for bankers and investors – men and women of considerable wealth – and academics and intellects – men and women of considerable learning. One of the academics – Terry Moores – said capital punishment was out of date and . . .

  5. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  6. OLD GERALDINE and TERRY: . . . immoral . . .

  7. TERRY: . . . and unsuitable for the country. The death penalty should be replaced by imprisonment for life.

  8. HELEN: Here here. Well said Terry.

  9. YOUNG GERALDINE: I don’t agree with you. I’ve not tried either the death penalty or imprisonment for life. But the death penalty is far more moral and humane than imprisonment for life.

  10. SAL: Well put Geraldine. I quite agree.

  11. HELEN: How can anyone come to that conclusion?

  12. SAL: Capital punishment kills a man at once but lifelong imprisonment kills him slowly. The executioner who kills in one moment is more humane than the one who drags life out of you for years.

  13. TERRY: Both are equally immoral. Both have the same object – to take away life. The State is not God. It doesn’t have the right to take away what it cannot restore.

  14. ALL: (SPIRITED ARGUING) “Death penalty.” “Life imprisonment.” “Better to be killed at once.” “Stay alive . . . by all means.”

  15. Beat 2. The wager

  16. TERRY: (OVER ALL) Pat you’ve been quiet on the issue. What does your young mind say?

  17. PAT: The death sentence and the life sentence are equally immoral. But if I had to choose between the death penalty and imprisonment for life I’d choose the second. To live under any circumstances is better than not to live at all.

  18. SFX: YOUNG GERALDINE SLAMS FIST ONTO TABLE THREE TIMES.

  19. YOUNG GERALDINE: No . . . no . . . no. That’s not true. I bet five million you wouldn’t stay in solitary confinement for five years.

  20. PAT: If your offer’s genuine than I accept the bet. But I wager fifteen years not five.

  21. YOUNG GERALDINE: Fifteen years? Done. Ladies and gentlemen I stake five million dollars.

  22. PAT: Agreed. You stake your millions and I stake my freedom.

  23. Beat 3. Opening credits

  24. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: DRAMATIC AND CHURNING FROM PREVIOUS DIALOGUE. UNDER TO BED.

  25. ANNOUNCER: This presentation of “The Wager” is based upon an Anton Chekhov short story and stars __________, __________ and __________. The performance is directed by __________ and William Spear wrote the script.

  26. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  27. Beat 4. Last chance to back out

  28. OLD GERALDINE: Supper was a lively affair. I – smug in my hundreds of millions – taunted Pat. Loudly I counseled the inexperienced ideologue saying . . .

  29. MUSIC: QUICKLY OUT: BED.

  30. SFX: BED: SILVERWARE, PLATES, GLASSES: SOUNDS OF DINNER.

  31. YOUNG GERALDINE: (OVER SFX) Think better of it Young One while there is still time. To me five million is nothing. A rounding error by my accountant. But you are losing four or five of the best years of your life. You will not last beyond that.

  32. SAL: What Geraldine says is true. And do not forget that voluntary confinement is a great deal harder to bear than compulsory. I wager another five million you do not last the fifteen years.

  33. TERRY: I’ll put up five million on Pat’s behalf.

  34. HELEN: Count me in for the other five.

  35. YOUNG GERALDINE: The thought that you have the right to step out into liberty at any moment will poison your whole existence in prison. (BEAT) I am sorry for you.

  36. Beat 5. What will wager prove?

  37. MUSIC: BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  38. OLD GERALDINE: Ten million was wagered against Pat. Mere pennies to Sal and me. Unimaginable riches to Pat.

  39. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  40. OLD GERALDINE: But what was the object of the bet? Why should Pat give up fifteen years of life? Why should we throw away ten million? Could we prove the death penalty was better or worse than imprisonment for life?

  41. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  42. OLD GERALDINE: No no. It was all nonsensical and meaningless. Simple greed
    motivated the shallow youth. Mindless folly born from a rich and pampered life propelled me.

  43. Beat 6. Terms of confinement

  44. MUSIC: SEGUE BED TO “GALLOWS” MOOD.

  45. OLD GERALDINE: Pat’s imprisonment began that evening. He was confined to a small cottage on the furthest reaches of my estate surrounded by woods. Sal read the terms.

  46. MUSIC: “GALLOWS” MOOD: OUT.

  47. SAL: A watchman will supervise the cottage at all times. You are prohibited from seeing or hearing any human being. Neither newspapers nor magazines are permitted. You may not have a television or radio.

  48. TERRY: (ALARMED) No radio? Have mercy on him. A radio might spare his mind.

  49. SAL: No radio. (RESUMES TO PAT) You may write letters but may not receive any. You may smoke, drink wine, read books, play music, or look out the window. But you must not leave the cottage.

  50. SFX: CLOCK BEGINS STRIKING TWELVE TIMES. UNDER TO BED.

  51. YOUNG GERALDINE: Your term of imprisonment is exactly fifteen years from midnight tonight – __________ __, 20__ – until midnight __________ __, 20__. If you break these conditions – if only two minutes before the end – we are released from our obligation to pay you ten million.

  52. SFX: CLOCK FINISHES STRIKING TWELVE.

  53. OLD GERALDINE: With those words and the closing of the heavy wooden door . . .

  54. SFX: CLOSING AND LOCKING OF HEAVY WOODEN DOOR.

  55. OLD GERALDINE: . . . The imprisonment began.

  56. Beat 7. Confinement: Years 1-5

  57. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: QUAINT CHAMBER PIECE. UNDER TO BED.

  58. OLD GERALDINE: During the first year Pat’ s notes detailed his loneliness and depression. He played the piano constantly.

  59. MUSIC: PIANO PUNCTUATES DIALOGUE THROUGHOUT.

  60. OLD GERALDINE: He drank no wine and smoked no tobacco. He read mostly light novels or sensational adventures.

  61. MUSIC: LET PIANO SOUNDS BREATHE.

  62. OLD GERALDINE: In the second year he stopped playing the piano . . .

  63. MUSIC: STOP PIANO.

  64. OLD GERALDINE: . . . And read only the classics. (BEAT) In the fifth year he played the piano again.

  65. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: ROILING PIECE. UNDER TO BED.

  66. OLD GERALDINE: Often the watchman heard Pat talking to himself late at night . . .

  67. PAT: (OFF MIC: ANGRILY) How could I have done this foolish thing. I’ m stupid . . . greedy . . .

  68. OLD GERALDINE: . . . Or crying in the early morning.

  69. PAT: (OFF MIC: OVER MUSIC: SOBBING)

  70. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  71. Beat 8. Years 6-10: The note

  72. OLD GERALDINE: In the sixth year the prisoner devoured languages, philosophy, and history. He requested new books each week and we struggled meet his requests. He consumed six hundred volumes in the next four years.

  73. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  74. OLD GERALDINE: In the tenth year he wrote this letter to us.

  75. MUSIC: BED: OUT.

  76. PAT: (FILTERED) My dear Jailers. I write these lines in six languages. Show them to people who know the languages. Let them read them. If they find not one mistake I implore you to fire two shots over the cottage.

  77. SAL: (BITE CUE) That violates the terms of the confinement.

  78. TERRY: It violates nothing. He has simply asked if his efforts are academically accurate.

  79. SAL: The terms of his imprisonment call for solitary confinement. He asks us to cheat for him.

  80. HELEN: He asks for nothing of the sort.

  81. YOUNG GERALDINE: (PACING LIKE OLD GERALDINE) Listen to the rest.

  82. PAT: (FILTERED) Those shots will show me that my efforts have not been thrown away. The geniuses of all ages and of all lands speak different languages but the same flame burns in them all. (BEAT) If you only knew what unearthly happiness my soul now feels from understanding them.

  83. ALL: “ Send the shots.” “ He’ s cheating.” “ That’ s not cheating.”

  84. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: SOMBER CHAMBER PIECE. UNDER TO BED.

  85. OLD GERALDINE: Later – when everyone had left the mansion – I crept out to the watchman’ s hut and fired two shots.

  86. SFX: FIRST PISTOL SHOT. BEAT. SECOND PISTOL SHOT.

  87. Beat 9. Geraldine’s declining fortune

  88. OLD GERALDINE: At the same time the stock market moved against me. My fortune – once grand and in the hundreds of millions – was halved. “ Just a bit of bad luck” I told Sal and Helen. But I prayed my luck would change.

  89. Beat 10. Years 11—13: Gospel

  90. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BIG CHURCH AND RELIGIOUS MUSIC. UNDER TO BED.

  91. OLD GERALDINE: In his eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth years of confinement Pat sat as still as a cross and read only the Gospel. The six hundred learned volumes previously mastered were discarded for the thin, easily comprehended text of Gospel.

  92. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  93. OLD GERALDINE: But if his new Chosen Text was easy to understand the stock markets were not.

  94. ALL: (BED) “ Buy.” “ Sell.” “ Buy.”

  95. OLD GERALDINE: The value of my investments halved again and teetered between recovery and further disaster. Small gains on one day were wiped out by losses on the next.

  96. ALL: (BED: FRANTICALLY) “ Sell.” “ At any price.” “ Sell it all.”

  97. OLD GERALDINE: I grasped at long shots doubling and tripling my positions only to watch my wealth disappear faster.

  98. Beat 11. Years 14 and 15

  99. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  100. OLD GERALDINE: In the last two years of confinement the prisoner lurched from the natural sciences to Byron and Shakespeare to chemistry medicine and novels.

  101. The man plunged from philosophy to theology to history. He raced along clutching for intellectual pieces amidst his emotional wreckage to keep himself afloat.

  102. MUSIC: BED: LET BREATHE.

  103. OLD GERALDINE: My investments – once gaudy and buoyant as an ocean liner – had nearly sunk. Minor rallies occasionally lifted my wealth only to dash it again. At length the date and time of the final crushing wave surged before me.

  104. MUSIC: RISE FOR PASSAGE OF TIME. OUT.

  105. OLD GERALDINE: The date is fifteen years since the imprisonment began. Eleven fifteen at night.

  106. SFX: OFF MIC: CLOCK STRIKES ONCE FOR 11:15 PM.

  107. OLD GERALDINE: Sal – my co-conspirator in the wager – joined me. As did the prisoner’ s friend Helen.  SAL: In forty-five minutes it’ ll be twelve midnight.

  108. HELEN: Pat’ ll win the bet. Incredibly stupendously he’ll win the bet.

  109. OLD GERALDINE: And I’ ll be ruined. Finished. Bankrupt forever.

  110. HELEN: It’s not that bad.

  111. SAL: You must’ve set some aside.

  112. OLD GERALDINE: No. I’ve doubled and tripled for years. My losses are many times what you’ ve suffered. (TO SELF) Cursed bet. Why didn’t he die?

  113. SAL: Pat’ll not let the bet ruin you.

  114. OLD GERALDINE: He’ll take my last penny and marry. He’ll enjoy life and gamble on the stock market. All the while I’ll look at him with envy – like a beggar.

  115. HELEN: He’ll help you.

  116. OLD GERALDINE: That’ s even worse. He’ ll say the same thing every day (IMITATING PAT): “ I am indebted to you for the happiness of my life. Let me help you.” (OWN VOICE) No it’ s too much.

  117. HELEN: (OFF MIC) Come back.

  118. SAL: (OFF MIC) Where’ ll you be?

  119. OLD GERALDINE: (CALLING TO THEM) In my chambers contemplating my financial death.

  120. Beat 12. Going to the cottage—11:30 PM

  121. MUSIC: BED: OMINOUS FORESHADOWING.

  122. OLD GERALDINE: My words were only partly true. I was going to my chambers but the death I foresaw was the prisoner’ s not mine. It was the only means of saving myself from bankruptcy and disgrace. (BEAT) I retrieved the key to the cottage.

  123. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE. THEN OUT.

  124. SFX: EXTERNAL: RAIN AND THUNDER. CLOCK STRIKE ONCE FOR 11:30 PM.

  125. OLD GERALDINE: Eleven-thirty – one half hour until . . . The rain battered the trees and froze my bones. The woods were dark except for one small light.

  126. SFX: BED: RUSTLING OF FOOTSTEPS ON LEAVES.

  127. OLD GERALDINE: I moved toward the light and it grew constant and larger. The shadowy outline of walls dimly rose around the light. It was the man’ s cottage. Lights blazing – triumphantly expectantly richly. All was lost.

  128. SFX: BED: RAIN, THUNDER, AND FOOTSTEPS ON LEAVES.

  129. OLD GERALDINE: I crept to the watchman’ s hut but he wasn’ t there. I suspected he’d gone to sleep in the warm dry greenhouse. Now was my chance – if I killed . . . no; if the prisoner died – the watchman would be blamed. He’ s responsible for the prisoner’ s safety. The prisoner would be found dead and it would be the watchman’ s fault.

  130. Beat 13. 11:45 PM

  131. SFX: LET BED BREATHE.

  132. OLD GERALDINE: I circled around to the window. He was seated at a table with his back to me. Books lay everywhere. On the chairs . . . the table . . . the floor. He didn’t move.

  133. SFX: OFF MIC: CLOCK STRIKES ONCE FOR 11:45 PM.

  134. OLD GERALDINE: One quarter of an hour separated me from ruin. I crept to the window and tapped on it. Nothing . . . I tapped again. Nothing. I delicately eased the key into the wooden door and released the lock.

  135. SFX: METAL GRATING SOUND WHICH ECHOS.

  136. OLD GERALDINE: My heart sank as the ancient spring announced my presence. I stood stock-still for three minutes but nothing happened. I went in.

  137. MUSIC: BUILD TENSION. UNDER TO BED.

  138. OLD GERALDINE: He was asleep. His hair was long and shaggy with streaks of silver. His skin was taut and he looked like a porcelain skeleton.

  139. MUSIC: BUILD TENSION IN BED.

  140. OLD GERALDINE: Now was my chance. I’d throw him to the floor and suffocate him with a pillow. He couldn’t resist and the finest medical examiner in the county would say he died in his sleep.

  141. Beat 14. Financial victory, moral loss

  142. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  143. OLD GERALDINE: With the pillow in my left hand and my right hand ready to throw him to the ground I readied for the task. That was when I saw his note. I stopped to read his words.

  144. PAT: (FILTERED) Tonight at midnight I regain my freedom. But before I leave this room it is necessary to say a few words to you. I despise freedom, life, health and all that your books call the good things of the world.

  145. MUSIC: ESTABLISH REVELATION. UNDER TO BED.

  146. PAT: For fifteen years I have been intently studying earthly life. Your books have given me wisdom. I know that I am wiser than you.

  147. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  148. PAT: You may be proud and fine but death will wipe you off the face of the earth as though you were no more than mice burrowing under the floor.

  149. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  150. PAT: You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth and hideousness for beauty.

  151. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  152. PAT: To prove to you how I despise all that you live by I renounce the ten million of which I once dreamed of as paradise. I shall go from here before the agreed time – midnight tonight.

  153. MUSIC: BED SWELLS AND GOES OUT.

  154. OLD GERALDINE: His words shamed me and I left the cottage. Never – even while foolishly betting millions on the Stock Exchange – never had I felt such loathing for myself.

  155. SFX: OFF MIC: CLOCK BEGINS STRIKING TWELVE TIMES.

  156. OLD GERALDINE: I slipped back to the mansion unseen by the others and hid in my chamber. It wouldn’t take long for . . .

  157. SFX: OFF MIC: CLOCK FINISHES STRIKING TWELVE TIMES.

  158. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: QUAINT CHAMBER PIECE. UNDER TO BED.

  159. OLD GERALDINE: . . . A few minutes after midnight Sal and Helen burst into my chamber.

  160. SAL: (EXCITEDLY) Geraldine come at once.

  161. OLD GERALDINE: What’s the matter?

  162. HELEN: Pat’s gone.

  163. OLD GERALDINE: Are you sure?

  164. HELEN: The watchman saw him climb out the window and run into the woods. You must come.

  165. Beat 15. Back to the cottage

  166. MUSIC: TRAVELLING FROM MANSION TO COTTAGE.

  167. OLD GERALDINE: We went to the cottage. The door was open and everything was as I’d seen it a few minutes earlier. Sal and Helen searched the woods. (BEAT) I quietly pocketed Pat’ s note renouncing the ten million.

  168. Beat 16. Closing credits

  169. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: QUAINT CHAMBER PIECE. UNDER TO BED.

  170. ANNOUNCER: You’ ve just listened to The Wager starring __________ as Young Geraldine, __________ as Old Geraldine and __________ as Pat. __________ performed as Sal and __________ performed as Helen. Terry was played by __________. Music was by __________. Sound effects were by __________.

  171. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  172. ANNOUNCER: __________ directed The Wager and William Spear wrote the script. I’m your Announcer – __________.

  173. MUSIC: UP AND OUT.

  174. OLD GERALDINE: Are you sure?

  175. HELEN: The watchman saw him climb out the window and run into the woods. You must come.

  176. Beat 15. Back to the cottage

  177. MUSIC: TRAVELLING FROM MANSION TO COTTAGE.

  178. OLD GERALDINE: We went to the cottage. The door was open and everything was as I’ d seen it a few minutes earlier. Sal and Helen searched the woods. (BEAT) I quietly pocketed Pat’ s note renouncing the ten million.

  179. Beat 16. Closing credits

  180. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: QUAINT CHAMBER PIECE. UNDER TO BED.

  181. ANNOUNCER: You’ ve just listened to The Wager starring __________ as Young Geraldine, __________ as Old Geraldine and __________ as Pat. __________ performed as Sal and __________ performed as Helen. Terry was played by __________. Music was by __________. Sound effects were by __________.

  182. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  183. ANNOUNCER: __________ directed The Wager and William Spear wrote the script. I’m your Announcer – __________.

  184. MUSIC: UP AND OUT.

  185. Beat 17. The End of The Wager

 

 

~ Page 33 ~

Chapter Two

When the Last Leaf Falls

by William Spear

Based upon O. Henry’s The Last Leaf

Synopsis
Characters
Playwright’s Notes
Excerpts from The Last Leaf
Script

 

JONESY: (I’m counting) The leaves on the ivy vine. When the last leaf falls I’ll die.

– Jonesy counting falling leaves from her deathbed

 

~ Chapter Two: “When the Last Leaf Falls” – Synopsis ~

Synopsis
(Note: The ending of When the Last Leaf Falls is revealed in the synopsis.)

          Sue and Jonesy are two artists sharing a studio. Sue is a no-nonsense transplant from Maine and Jonesy is a delicate newcomer from California. During a bout of cold harsh weather, pneumonia ravages the area and Jonesy succumbs to its embrace.

          Compounding Jonesy’s condition is her belief that she’ll die when the last ivy leaf falls from its vine outside their studio window. Sue doesn’t believe life or death matters are determined in such a way and tries logically arguing the point. However, she is fearful for her friend’s life and despite her most reasoned debates, a raging storm blows more leaves from the vine and Jonesy’s life fades further.

          Sue enlists the help of Behrman, another resident living in the same building. Behrman is an older artist seeking inspiration for a masterpiece. As Jonesy counts down the remaining ivy leaves, she offers her imminent death as an inspiration which Behrman accepts. Sue chastises them both but Jonesy insists she’ll die when the last leaf falls. Sue forms a plan around the phrase “when the last leaf falls” and relents the idea of Jonesy’s death inspiring Behrman’s art but under one condition – Jonesy must sleep while Behrman is painting.

          After Jonesy falls asleep, Sue instructs Behrman to paint an ivy leaf outside the window of the studio. When Jonesy wakes, she can’t believe the last leaf hasn’t fallen. Not realizing it’s a painting, she watches the leaf throughout the evening and into the early morning.

          Amazed at the leaf’s resistance to the storm outside, Jonesy wakes Sue:

Maybe I shouldn’t think about falling off. If that leaf refuses to give up then I should fight too.”3

          Jonesy has her first meal since becoming ill and her health begins to return.

          The next day, Jonesy is still weak but out of danger. Sue shares the secret of Behrman going into the storm and painting the last ivy leaf outside their studio window. Jonesy insists on thanking Behrman. The two walk across the hallway and knock on Behrman’s door. No answer. They knock again but still no answer. Jonesy is frantic something has happened to Behrman and Sue begins to walk her back so as to keep her calm.

          Behrman appears and tells of Jonesy’s ivy leaf inspiring his masterpiece. He has sold his painting to a local dealer and shares his wealth with Sue and Jonesy. 

3 “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry.

 

~ Chapter Two: “When the Last Leaf Falls” – Characters ~

Characters (in order of appearance):

  1. Sue – Struggling with Jonesy’s deteriorating health. Turns Jonesy’s deathwatch of the ivy leaves into a means of restoring her health.

  2. Jonesy – Deathly ill from pneumonia. Sees counting the falling ivy leaves as a countdown to her death.

  3. Behrman – Older artist looking for artistic inspiration. Sees Jonesy’s pending death as potential inspiration.

  4. Announcer – Provides back story of pneumonia ravaging county and how Jonesy is stricken.

  5. Doctor – Physician tending Jonesy and other patients stricken with pneumonia.

Playwright’s Notes

  1. Based upon O. Henry’s The Last Leaf.

  2. Sue, Jonesy, and Behrman are artists.

  3. Sue is young but has a rough and tumble demeanor.

  4. Jonesy is young with a delicate and sensitive voice.

  5. Behrman is older and has an accent. Choose where accented words work best.

 

~ Chapter Two: “When the Last Leaf Falls” –

Excerpts from O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf” ~

          At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. “Johnsy” was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d’hôte of an Eighth street “Delmonico’s,” and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

          That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”

. . .

          One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, gray eyebrow.

          “She has one chance in – let us say, ten,” he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. “And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-up on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she’s not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?”

          “She – she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day,” said Sue.

          “Paint? – bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking about twice – a man, for instance?”

          “A man?” said Sue, with a jew’s-harp twang in her voice. “Is a man worth – but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind.”

          “Well, it is the weakness, then,” said the doctor. “I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent. from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten.”

. . .

          Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy’s fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.

          Old Behrman, with his red eyes, plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.

          “Vass!” he cried. “Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der prain of her? Ach, dot poor lettle Miss Johnsy.”

. . .

          Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit-miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.

          When Sue awoke from an hour’s sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.

          “Pull it up; I want to see,” she ordered, in a whisper.

          Wearily Sue obeyed.

          But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, but with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from a branch some twenty feet above the ground.

          “It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time.”

. . .

          The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.

          “Even chances,” said the doctor, taking Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “With good nursing you’ll win. And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is – some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable.”

          The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s out of danger. You’ve won. Nutrition and care now – that’s all.”

 

~ Chapter Two: “When the Last Leaf Falls” – The Script ~

  1. Beat 1. Bumper-Jonesy collapses

  2. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BOHEMIAN AND ECLECTIC. UNDER TO BED.

  3. SFX: ESTABLISH DINING AREA – SILVERWARE CLINKING ON PLATES, GLASSES TOASTING.

  4. JONESY: (CALLS TO WAITER) A bit more sherry over here.

  5. SUE: (CALLS TO WAITER) Over here as well. (TO BEHRMAN) What about you Behrman?

  6. BEHRMAN: Noth-ingk for me. Behrman is too upset. Listen to this – Kincaid hass an exhibition. And at Joellini’s no less. Conn you be-leaf it?

  7. JONESY and SUE: (CHUCKLE AT BEHRMAN)

  8. JONESY: Kincaid’s a good painter.

  9. BEHRMAN: Maybe goot for paint-ingk dee houses or street curbs but Kincaid iss not art. He coot not make a masterpiece if Rembrandt handed him von.
  10. SUE: (LAUGHS) What masterpiece are you working on Behrman?

  11. BEHRMAN: Inspiration first Miss Sue. Then comes dee masterpiece.

  12. SUE: (LAUGHS) You haven’t had an inspiration in fifteen years.

  13. BEHRMAN: But Behrman he iss still looking.

  14. JONESY: What if it never comes?

  15. BEHRMAN: Better to die vait-ingk for inspiration than to paint the junk. Better to burn up in dee summer or freeze to death in dee winter than paint junk.

  16. SUE: Are you all right Jonesy? You look pale.

  17. JONESY: It’s a bit warm Sue. More sherry’ll . . .

  18. SUE: (ALARMED) Jonesy? Are you okay? (CALLS OUT) She’s fainting. Somebody help.

  19. Beat 2. Opening credits and background

  20. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: SEGUE. UNDER TO BED.

  21. ANNOUNCER: When the Last Leaf Falls is based upon an O. Henry short story and stars __________ as Sue and __________ as Jonesy. __________ directs the performance and William Spear wrote the script.

  22. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  23. ANNOUNCER: Pneumonia is ravaging the county. Stalking its victims without remorse. Sue – rough and tumble from Maine’s timber country – resisted Pneumonia’s embrace. But Jonesy – sensitive and delicate from California’s shores – fell seriously ill. And the Doctor’s prognosis is grave.

  24. Beat 3. Doctor’s prognosis

  25. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE. UNDER AND OUT.

  26. SFX: OFF MIC: BED: WIND.

  27. DOCTOR: (OVER SFX) Rest Jonesy. I’ll have Sue bring you some soup and medicine.

  28. JONESY: (WEAKLY) It won’t do any good Doctor. Ninety-nine . . . ninety-eight . . . ninety-seven (UNDER TO BED) Ninety-six . . . ninety-five.

  29. DOCTOR: (OVER JONESY) Sue may I speak with you in the hall.

  30. JONESY: (BED) Ninety-four . . . ninety-three . . . ninety-two.

  31. SUE: Of course.

  32. SFX: SUE OPENS AND CLOSES DOOR.

  33. SUE: How is she?

  34. DOCTOR: Not well. She has one chance in five of surviving.

  35. SUE: The pneumonia’s that bad?

  36. DOCTOR: Worse. She doesn’t think she’ll get well. Is anything on her mind?

  37. SUE: Someday she wants to paint the Bay of Naples.

  38. DOCTOR: Paint? At this rate she’ll never get to Italy to paint. Does she have a boyfriend or favorite movie? A book she’s read more than once?

  39. SUE: None of those things.

  40. SFX: BED: WIND.

  41. DOCTOR: Then her chances of surviving are less – one in ten.

  42. SUE: You have to do something.

  43. DOCTOR: Give her this medicine. But it will do little if she doesn’t want to get better.

  44. SUE: Thank you.

  45. DOCTOR: I must be going. Pneumonia’s striking everywhere. People are dying before I can help them.

  46. SUE: What was she counting?

  47. DOCTOR: The leaves on the ivy vine outside her window. She said when the last leaf falls she’ll die. (BEAT) Good day Sue.

  48. Beat 4. Jonesy tells Sue of the ivy leaf

  49. SFX: UP AND ESTABLISH WIND. UNDER MUSIC.

  50. MUSIC: CHANGE OF MOOD – UPBEAT. UNDER TO BED.

  51. SFX: SUE SOFTLY WHISTLES A FEW UPBEAT NOTES.

  52. SUE: Jonesy do you mind if I draw in here with you?

  53. JONESY: (TO HERSELF) Fourteen. (TO SUE) Okay. (TO HERSELF) Thirteen. (UNDER) Twelve . . . eleven.

  54. SUE: I’m illustrating an advertisement for riding pants. Have a look. It’s a Hunterdon County cowboy. With a monocle.

  55. JONESY: (TO HERSELF) Nine. (TO SUE) That’s nice. (TO HERSELF) Eight . . . seven.

  56. SUE: What are you counting?

  57. JONESY: Six. They’re falling faster now. The wind and ice are making them drop.

  58. SUE: What’s falling faster?

  59. JONESY: The leaves on the ivy vine. When the last leaf falls I’ll die. Didn’t the Doctor tell you?

  60. SUE: (SCORNFUL) Utter nonsense. Ivy leaves can’t predict your life or death.

  61. JONESY: These do.

  62. SUE: The Doctor told me you were getting better. You’d be cured soon. Have some soup while I finish my drawing.

  63. JONESY: No soup. I want to watch the last – five four, only four are left – want to watch the last leaf fall before dark. Then I’ll be done.

  64. Beat 5. Behrman’s entrance

  65. SFX: OFF MIC: BEHRMAN KNOCKS ON DOOR.

  66. SUE: Come in.

  67. SFX: OFF MIC: BEHRMAN OPENS AND CLOSES DOOR.

  68. SUE: Hello Behrman.

  69. BEHRMAN: (COME ON MIC) Hello. How iss the patient?

  70. JONESY: Not vell . . . I mean not well. I’ll be dead before dark.

  71. BEHRMAN: With that icestorm blow-ingk outside vee’ll all be dead of Pneumonia before morning. (BEAT) I come look-ingk vor inspiration. I must haff inspiration for my masterpiece.

  72. JONESY: Death inspires. Use me.

  73. BEHRMAN: Dat’s a goot idea. Ven Miss Jonesy crosses to dee other side …

  74. SUE: (BITE CUE: FRUSTRATED) Jonesy isn’t crossing to the other side.

  75. BEHRMAN: But I must haff inspiration. Behrman he must haff the inspiration.

  76. JONESY: You heard him Sue. He must haff the inspiration. (ALOUD) Three. Only three are left.

  77. SUE: (MORE FRUSTRATION) Stop counting.

  78. BEHRMAN: Vot are you count-ingk?

  79. JONESY: Ivy leaves. When they’re all gone I’ll die.

  80. BEHRMAN: Then I haff my inspiration.

  81. JONESY: Then you haff inspiration.

  82. SUE: Both of you stop.

  83. JONESY: But it’s true. I’ll die when the last leaf falls.

  84. SUE: Say that again.

  85. JONESY: When the ivy leaves are gone I’ll die.

  86. SUE: All right – you can be Behrman’s inspiration. But you must let me close the shades to help Behrman. And close your eyes while he’s working.

  87. JONESY: Can’t he work in the other room?

  88. SUE: We’d rather be here with you. Besides I don’t want you looking at those silly ivy leaves.

  89. JONESY: Tell me when you’re finished. I want to see the last one fall. I’m tired of waiting. Tired of thinking. I want to let go and sail down like one of those tired leaves.

  90. SUE: Try to sleep while Behrman works.

  91. JONESY: For a few minutes. But . . . wake me before dark . . . to see the last leaf . . . fall.

  92. Beat 6. Sue’s plan

  93. SUE: (WHISPERS) She’s asleep. Come on Behrman. I need your help with Jonesy.

  94. BEHRMAN: (WHISPERS) Behrman is an artist not a dock-tor. Vot can he do for Miss Jonesy?

  95. SUE: (WHISPERS) You can do a lot. But we’ll need your paints. And an overcoat. Hurry.

  96. Beat 7. Jonesy awakens

  97. SFX: UP AND ESTABLISH: WIND. UNDER AND OUT.

  98. MUSIC: PASSAGE OF TIME – ACTIVE AND INDUSTRIOUS. UNDER TO BED.

  99. SUE: (WHISPERS) That’s a good likeness.

  100. BEHRMAN: (WHISPERS) Tank you Miss Sue.

  101. JONESY: (OFF MIC: GROGGY) Is that you Sue?

  102. SUE: Yes Jonesy. Behrman’s with me.

  103. BEHRMAN: Hello Miss Jonesy.

  104. JONESY: You’re drenched Behrman.

  105. BEHRMAN: It iss noth-ingk. I haff been busy.

  106. SUE: Behrman found his “inspiration.” He’s working on his masterpiece.

  107. JONESY: May I look?

  108. BEHRMAN: No Miss Jonesy. You may not look until it iss finished. Many days from today.

  109. JONESY: But I’ll be dead by then.

  110. BEHRMAN: Behrman iss the artist. He cannot rush the masterpiece.

  111. JONESY: Pull up the window shade. I want to watch the last leaf fall.

  112. SUE: (PLEADS) Have some soup Jonesy.

  113. JONESY: I don’t want soup. I want to see the leaf.

  114. SUE: I won’t let you stare at that silly leaf.

  115. BEHRMAN: The light iss bad for my masterpiece.

  116. JONESY: (PROSTESTS WITH REMAINING STRENGTH) Open the window shade.

  117. SUE: All right.

  118. SFX: SUE OPENS WINDOW SHADE. BED: WIND BLOWING.

  119. SUE: (BEAT) There.

  120. JONESY: (AMAZED) The leaf is still there.

  121. SUE: Are you happy?

  122. JONESY: The wind is blowing and everything’s icy. It should have fallen by now.

  123. SUE: But it hasn’t.

  124. JONESY: Turn on the outside lights. It’ll fall off during the night. Then I’ll die.

  125. BEHRMAN: Behrman must go back to hiss apartment. He must continue vit hiss masterpiece. (BEAT) Goot bye Miss Jonesy. Goot bye Miss Sue.

  126. SFX: OFF MIC: BEHRMAN OPENS AND CLOSES DOOR.

  127. JONESY: Prop me up Sue. I want to watch the last leaf.

  128. Beat 8. Jonesy’s realization

  129. SFX: UP AND ESTABLISH: WIND. UNDER AND OUT.

  130. MUSIC: PASSAGE OF TIME – CONTEMPLATIVE AND INTROSPECTIVE. UNDER AND OUT.

  131. JONESY: Sue are you awake?

  132. SUE: No.

  133. JONESY: Good. The last leaf isn’t falling off.

  134. SUE: (YAWNS) Hmmm. You’re right.

  135. JONESY: Maybe . . . maybe I shouldn’t think about falling off.

  136. SUE: What do you mean?

  137. JONESY: If that leaf refuses to give up then I should fight too.

  138. SUE: (GENTLY) You woke me up at two in the morning to tell me that.

  139. JONESY: Yes. (BEAT) Bring me some soup.

  140. SUE: Sure. It’s in the kitchen.

  141. JONESY: (BEAT: CALLS TO SUE) It’s still blowing hard outside.

  142. SUE: (OFF MIC) Good night to stay indoors.

  143. JONESY: Wonder if the Doctor’s making any house calls.

  144. SUE: (OFF MIC) I hope not. Wouldn’t want him caught in that. (BEAT: ON MIC) Here’s your soup.

  145. JONESY: (BEAT) Mmmm. Tastes good. (YAWNS) Good night Sue.

  146. SUE: Good night Jonesy.

  147. Beat 9. Jonesy’s progress

  148. SFX: UP AND ESTABLISH: WIND. UNDER AND OUT.

  149. MUSIC: PASSAGE OF TIME – QUIETLY INVIGORATED. UNDER AND OUT.

  150. SUE: (SOFTLY) It’s morning Jonesy. Wake up. The Doctor’s here to see you.

  151. JONESY: (GROGGILY) Vot’s . . . I mean what’s wrong?

  152. SUE: Nothing.

  153. DOCTOR: Sue tells me you had some soup Jonesy.

  154. JONESY: A bit.

  155. DOCTOR: Good good. Better better. More soup and rest and you’ll be as good as new.

  156. JONESY: Thanks Doctor. (TO SUE) Open the window shade Sue.

  157. SUE: All right. (BEAT) It’s open.

  158. DOCTOR: May I speak with you in the hall Sue.

  159. SUE: Of course.

  160. SFX: SUE OPENS DOOR.

  161. SUE: How is she?

  162. DOCTOR: Better. She’s got some color back. I’d say her chances are at least fifty-fifty. I’ll be back this afternoon.

  163. SUE: Thank you Doctor.

  164. JONESY: (OFF MIC: CALS TO SUE) Come sit with me Sue.

  165. SUE: (CALLS TO JONESY) All right.

  166. SFX: SUE CLOSES DOOR.

  167. SUE: (BEAT) How’s this?

  168. JONESY: Better. I’ve been looking at my ivy leaf.

  169. SUE: Are you starting that again?

  170. JONESY: No no. I’ve been thinking how it reminds me of Naples. I want to paint the Bay of Naples.

  171. SUE: I know you do. Someday.

  172. Beat 10. Where’s Behrman?

  173. JONESY: Where’s Behrman?

  174. SUE: I haven’t seen him.

  175. JONESY: (ENERGY PICKS UP) Maybe he’s working on his masterpiece.

  176. SUE: Have more soup. Then rest before the Doctor comes back.

  177. Beat 11. Jonesy’s well

  178. SFX: UP AND ESTABLISH: WIND. UNDER AND OUT.

  179. MUSIC: PASSAGE OF TIME – TOWARDS RECOVERY – INVIGORATED AND HEALTHY. UNDER AND OUT.

  180. SUE: (OVER MUSIC) Well Doctor?

  181. JONESY: (BEAT) Well?

  182. DOCTOR: (LONG BEAT) Congratulations Jonesy. You’re out of danger. More soup and rest.

  183. JONESY: Thank you Doctor. And you too Sue.

  184. DOCTOR: Remember – soup, more soup, and soup for desert. And don’t overexert yourself. You don’t want a relapse. (BEAT) I must go. There’re other patients in the building. I’ll let myself out.

  185. SFX: GO OFF MIC: DOCTOR’S FOOTSTEPS. OFF MIC: DOCTOR OPENS AND CLOSES DOOR.

  186. JONESY: (BEAT) Open the window shade. I want to look outside.

  187. SUE: All right. (BEAT) It’s still blowing hard out there.

  188. JONESY: It’s comfortable in here.

  189. Beat 12. Sue’s confession

  190. SUE: (BEAT: AWKWARDLY) Jonesy I have a confession to make.

  191. JONESY: About what?

  192. SUE: Your ivy leaf.

  193. JONESY: That was silly of me to think I’d die when it fell off. I’m glad you talked me out of that.

  194. SUE: But the leaf did fall off. Yesterday afternoon when you were sleeping.

  195. JONESY: You’re wrong. It’s right there.

  196. SUE: It fell from the wind and ice.

  197. JONESY: But I can see it.

  198. SUE: Behrman painted a leaf on the window. Making you well was his inspiration.

  199. JONESY: (MARVELS) It looks like a real leaf.

  200. SUE: He went into the wind and ice and painted it. That’s why he was drenched yesterday.

  201. Beat 13. Is Behrman dead?

  202. JONESY: I must thank him at once. Help me walk to Behrman’s.

  203. SUE: Only for a moment. Remember what the Doctor said.

  204. JONESY: I remember. I’ll only say thanks.

  205. SUE: Take my arm. (BEAT) That’s it. Don’t rush. Behrman’ll wait. (BEAT) Here’s our door.

  206. SFX: BEAT. SUE OPENS DOOR.

  207. SUE: Just a few steps to Behrman’s. (BEAT) You made it. I’ll knock.

  208. SFX: SUE KNOCKS THREE TIMES.

  209. JONESY: (BEAT) Knock again Sue.

  210. SFX: SUE KNOCKS THREE TIMES.

  211. SUE: Maybe he’s out.

  212. JONESY: He wouldn’t go out in this weather. You don’t suppose …

  213. SUE: Don’t jump to conclusions Jonesy. Behrman’s not sick.

  214. JONESY: The Doctor said he had other patients in the building. Maybe Behrman was a patient. (CALLS TO BEHRMAN) Come to the door Behrman. It’s Sue and Jonesy.

  215. SFX: JONESY BANGS ON DOOR.

  216. SUE: Take it easy Jonesy. The Doctor said not to overexert yourself.

  217. JONESY: The Doctor didn’t know Behrman was dying. (CALLS TO BEHRMAN) Behrman it’s us.

  218. SUE: Let me help you back to bed.

  219. JONESY: No. (CALLS TO BEHRMAN) Behrman open the door.

  220. SFX: BEHRMAN OPENS THE DOOR.

  221. BEHRMAN: (GROGGILLY) Vot iss all dee racket for?

  222. SUE: We thought you were dying.

  223. BEHRMAN: Vit dat noice you vake dee dead.

  224. Beat 14. Jonesy’s thanks, Behrman’s surprise

  225. JONESY: Sue told me you painted the ivy leaf. Thanks Behrman.

  226. BEHRMAN: No Miss Jonesy. Behrman iss thank-ingk you. Miss Jonesy is Behrman’s inspiration. Behrman paints all night. He shows the dealer Joellini who buys for more money than Behrman can imagine.

  227. SUE: Congratulations Behrman. You got your masterpiece.

  228. BEHRMAN: I haff gifts for Miss Sue and Miss Jonesy. Come in and to be seated. (BEAT: OFF MIC: CALLS TO SUE AND JONESY) The gifts are in dee studio.

  229. JONESY: I wonder what it is?

  230. SUE: An ivy plant.

  231. JONESY: You’re not funny. I don’t even like the color green anymore.

  232. BEHRMAN: (COME ON MIC) Diss iss for the both of the two of you.

  233. JONESY: (BEAT) An envelope?

  234. BEHRMAN: Iss inside dee envelope.

  235. SUE: Open it Jonesy.

  236. JONESY: (BEAT) It’s airplane tickets . . . to Italy.

  237. BEHRMAN: The dealer I sell to commissions Behrman to paint the town vair she grew up. Vair is this town you ask?

  238. SUE: Vair . . . I mean where?

  239. BEHRMAN: Naples Italy. I say I go to Naples but I need help from two colleagues – Miss Sue and Miss Jonesy. The dealer – she says yes. She pays anything to have Naples painted by Behrman.

  240. ALL: (CHUCKLE)

  241. SUE: Behrman come dine with us.

  242. BEHRMAN: Behrman iss pleased to dine vit Miss Sue and Miss Jonesy. Iss soup still on dee menu?

  243. JONESY: I’ve had enough soup.

  244. SUE: How about a steak. And some sherry.

  245. JONESY: Anything . . . except for salad.

  246. ALL: (LAUGH WARMLY)

  247. Beat 15. Closing credits

  248. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH. UNDER TO BED.

  249. ANNOUNCER: You’ve been listening to When the Last Leaf Falls starring __________ as Sue and __________ as Jonesy. __________ was Behrman and __________ performed as the Doctor.

  250. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  251. ANNOUNCER: Music was by __________. Sound effects were by __________.

  252. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  253. ANNOUNCER: __________ directed When the Last Leaf Falls and William Spear wrote the script. I’m your Announcer – __________.

  254. MUSIC: UP AND OUT.

  255. Beat 16. The End of When the Last Leaf Falls

 

 

~ Page 57 ~

Chapter Three


You Didn’t Have To Go

By William Spear

Synopsis
Characters
Playwright’s Notes
Script

 

JACKY: When things are different you won’t talk so big.

MANNY: I’d rather be dead than let that happen.

JACKY: And I’d love to help you get that way.

– Jacky and Manny arguing over the sale of Club Ultra

 

~ Chapter Three: “You Didn’t Have To Go” – Synopsis ~

Synopsis
(Note: The ending of You Didn’t Have To Go is revealed in the synopsis.)

          Donna Herb is a couple of Scotches away from an attempted murder. She’s a struggling singer who’s been divorced for six months. As she tells her story, “. . . I’m a bartender who wants to be a singer.” Her 10 years of learning craft and polishing skills are supposed to pay off tonight when she debuts at Club Ultra. But the Club’s cranky and nasty owner, Manny Jenkins, cancels her debut at the last possible second and keeps her tending bar.

          Club Ultra is also home to Jacky Harris and Joe Barnes. Jacky’s the Assistant Manager and has been contractually, but contentiously, buying Club Ultra behind the scenes. Joe’s an ambitious orchestra leader who conducts the Club’s house band, the Groove Masters, and has written songs for Donna. Their collaborations extend beyond the Club.

          Manny is trying to back out of his deal to sell the Club. Three years ago he hastily agreed to sell the Club when it was losing money. Now it is booming. On the night of the final payment, Manny and Jacky argue and she says she’d love to see him dead. Moments later, Manny collapses after drinking two Scotches.

          The police arrive and leading the investigation is Donna’s ex-husband, Fred Ackerman. Fred’s a handsome man and capable police detective. Jacky suggestively responds to him: “Interrogate me Mr. Detective.” Fred’s looks don’t impress Joe who spends the balance of the play commenting that, “He’s not that good looking.”
Donna’s not impressed with her ex-husband either. He never thought much of her singing career, never encouraged her, and thought it was a waste of time. His presence wounds Donna in two ways: 1) It’s a reminder of his indifference to her singing, and, 2) She’s the primary suspect in Manny’s poisoning.

          As the setting of moves from Club Ultra to Donna’s apartment to Jacky’s apartment, the focus of the investigation shifts from Donna, to Joe, and ultimately to Jacky. Fred accuses Jacky of attempting to murder Manny.

          Details begin to challenge Jacky’s guilt. If Manny was poisoned from the same Scotch drunk by Donna, Joe, and Jacky, why didn’t they get sick? Donna and Joe theorize Manny was poisoned before his Scotch at the bar and Donna drives them to Club Ultra to look around for clues to the poisoning. On the way to the Club, Donna is followed but she loses the tail.

          They enter the Club and find Manny looking for clues. He’s looking for evidence that Jacky tried to poison him. As they argue the point, Thelma shows up to kill all three of them. Thelma poisoned Manny, the police will find all three of them dead, and she’ll be the surviving owner of the Club. As she takes aim, Fred shoots the gun from her hand. Fred had tailed Donna and Joe to the Club. He arrests the Jenkins and they confess to trying to back out of the deal with Jacky.

          A month later Donna has successfully debuted and Fred saunters into the club “to hear Donna’s sound.” Donna counters, “If you’d encouraged me when we were married you would’ve heard me then.” Fred claims leaving Donna was the source of her success. She dedicates to him her next song, “You Didn’t Have To Go,” which ends, “You didn’t have to go . . . But I’m glad you did.” She and Joe end the play with a long kiss which is enthusiastically approved by the Club’s audience.

 

~ Chapter Three: “You Didn’t Have To Go” – Characters ~

Characters (in order of appearance):

  1. Announcer – Brings listeners into and out of performance. Sets style, pace and tone.

  2. Donna Herb – Bartender at Club Ultra and long-time aspiring cabaret singer. Nicknamed Kid by Joseph, Jacky, and Manny. Late 20’s to early thirties.

  3. Joe Barnes – Ambitious bandleader and saxophone player of Groove Masters. Wants to go national with group. Early thirties to mid thirties.

  4. Jacky (Jacqueline) Harris – Hustling tough Assistant Manager at Club Ultra. Ex-waitress, promoted by Manny, eye for the men. Early forties.

  5. Manny Jenkins – Rude, inconsiderate, abrasive owner of Club Ultra. Late fifties.

  6. Fred Ackerman – Detective, Donna’s ex-husband. Somewhat full of himself and his looks but basically a good person. Late 20’s to early thirties.

  7. Thelma Jenkins – Manny’s wife and would-be murderer. Veneer of civility masks cesspool of murderous intent. Late fifties.

Playwright’s Notes

  1. You Didn’t Have To Go is an original radio drama by William Spear.

  2. Donna speaks as a character and as a narrator.

  3. There’s plenty of double entendre and nearly triple entendre throughout.

  4. Enjoy the comic moments.

  5. Lastly, this is a mystery; sly and comic but a mystery.

  6. Donna’s dream of a singing career has lasted for ten years. She’s sung in churches, local ballgames, even picnics. Her then-husband Fred felt she should have moved faster; he viewed her lack of quicker progress as a sign of low commitment. This was always a point of contention while they were married.

  7. Donna’s car is a racing green 1966 Roaring Cloud XLF with the long-nose style. It was part of the settlement from her ex-husband.

  8. Donna tends to be practical which is why her singing career is unfolding so deliberately. From her ex-husband’s perspective, Donna’s career is standing still. From her vantage point, she is building her craft.

 

~ Chapter Three: “You Didn’t Have To Go” – The Script ~

  1. Beat 1. Introductions

  2. ANNOUNCER: Stay tuned for You Didn’t Have To Go.

  3. MUSIC: LIVELY JAZZ MUSIC. UNDER TO BED.

  4. DONNA: (NARRATOR) I’m Donna Herb . . . Singer. Actually I’m a bartender who wants to be a singer. My ex-husband used to tell me I had a great voice . . . when he was around.

  5. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  6. DONNA: I’ve been pouring drinks at Club Ultra for six months. Waiting for a chance to sing. The Club’s south of Flemington on Route Thirty-one. It used to be an automobile dealership but now it’s a jazz joint. Joe Barnes and his Groove Masters are the house band; no one’s hotter than them. Joe was looking for a singer and I was looking for a chance. He’s a nice guy in and out of Club Ultra . . . if you know what I mean. (BEAT) It’s just past nine and the crowd’s pouring in through the snow.

  7. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH. QUICKLY OUT.

  8. SFX: ENTHUSIASTIC APPLAUSE FROM ALL.

  9. ALL: (OVER APPLAUSE: ENTHUSIASTIC CHEERS)

  10. DONNA: (CHARACTER) Great set Joe. You are and the guys are smoking.

  11. JOSEPH: It gets better next set. You ready?

  12. DONNA: I’m ready.

  13. JACKY: Hey Kid. It’s finally your debut. Break a leg.

  14. DONNA: Thanks Jacky.

  15. JOSEPH: Here’s the playlist for the set. Your first song is “You Didn’t Have To Go.” Then “Stormy Weather” and “I Can’t Get Started.”

  16. DONNA: Oh yes I can. I’m definitely ready.

  17. JACKY: Hey Joe. I got a table down front for that guy. He’s pretty good looking.

  18. DONNA: What guy?

  19. JOSEPH: I’ll tell you later.

  20. Beat 2. Thelma

  21. THELMA: (OFF MIC: BITE CUE) Oh Joseph. There you are.

  22. JOSEPH: Thelma . . . we’re going over Donna’s debut.

  23. SFX: COME ON MIC: THELMA’S FOOTSTEPS.

  24. THELMA: (ON MIC) So Donna you’re finally debuting.

  25. DONNA: Joe put together a great first set – “You Didn’t Have To Go,” “Stormy Weather” and “I Can’t Get Started.”

  26. THELMA: Sounds like a winner Joe. Break a leg Kid.

  27. DONNA: Thanks.

  28. JOSEPH: Let’s finish going over the playlist with the band.

  29. DONNA: Okay.

  30. SFX: GO OFF MIC: JOSEPH AND DONNA’S FOOTSTEPS.

  31. Beat 3. Dispute over Club Ultra

  32. JACKY: Where’ve you been Thelma? You disappeared after the blow-up between Manny and me.

  33. THELMA: In his office calming him down. He’s pretty sore about you buying the Club.

  34. JACKY: The last payment’s ready.

  35. THELMA: But the Club’s taking off. Drawing huge crowds. He should’ve talked with me before . . .

  36. JACKY: (BITE CUE) Wait a minute. Manny sold the Club on the up and up. What else matters?

  37. THELMA: Don’t go simple Ms. Harris. Money matters. The Club is worth twice what you’re paying.

  38. JACKY: Maybe . . . but the deal’s done. Whether he likes or not he signed a contract.

  39. THELMA: Remember Ms. Harris – there are no guarantees. Things change.

  40. Beat 4. Joe and Donna return

  41. SFX: COME ON MIC: JOE AND DONNA’S FOOTSTEPS.

  42. THELMA: (TO JOSEPH) Joseph have you and The Kid finished prepping for her debut?

  43. JOSEPH: We’re set.

  44. DONNA: Seven numbers altogether starting with “You Didn’t Have To Go.” Then it gets hotter and smokier after that.

  45. THELMA: I’m sure tonight’ll be memorable.

  46. DONNA: Aren’t you going to stay?

  47. THELMA: I’ve got some calls to make and some contracts to review. Break a leg Kid.

  48. SFX: GO OFF MIC: THELMA’S FOOTSTEPS.

  49. Beat 5. Canceled audition and threatened demotion

  50. JOSEPH: Where’s Manny? He’s always late.

  51. MANNY: (OFF MIC: GROWLS) Gimme my Scotch Donna.

  52. JOSEPH: (OFF GUARD) I didn’t see you Manny. The place is packed.

  53. JACKY: You’ll make a ton of money tonight Manny. Despite the snow.

  54. MANNY: I said gimme a Scotch Donna.

  55. DONNA: It’s on the bar.

  56. MANNY: Why didn’t you say so.

  57. JOSEPH: Manny I’ve got some new songs for Donna’s debut. Real torch numbers.

  58. MANNY: Change in plans. Make the customers dance.

  59. JOSEPH: Tonight’s Donna’s debut.

  60. MANNY: Make’em dance.

  61. JOSEPH: I broke my fingers arranging these songs. Donna’s going to sing them.

  62. MANNY: I’m short-handed tonight. Donna’s gonna have to tend bar. So Make’em dance. (TO JACKY) Gimme another Scotch Jacky.

  63. JACKY: Tell Donna. She’s the bartender.

  64. MANNY: I’m telling you.

  65. JACKY: I’m the Assistant Manager.

  66. MANNY: You’ll go back to waiting tables again if you don’t get me a Scotch.

  67. JACKY: When things are different you won’t talk so big.

  68. MANNY: I’d rather be dead than let that happen.

  69. JACKY: And I’d love to help you get that way.

  70. DONNA: Here’s your Scotch Manny.

  71. MANNY: Thanks Kid. (BEAT) Another night.

  72. DONNA: Sure.

  73. Beat 6. Manny and his murder

  74. MUSIC: OFF MIC: CUE TO RESUME SHOW.

  75. MANNY: Next set folks. Let’s try to put on a good show.

  76. DONNA: (CALLS TO MANNY) Break a leg Manny.

  77. JACKY: I hope he breaks both legs. And his neck.

  78. JOSEPH: I can help with that.

  79. DONNA, JOSEPH, and JACKY: (LAUGH AT JOSEPH’S QUIP)

  80. MUSIC: FANFARE FOR MANNY.

  81. MANNY: (TO AUDIENCE) Welcome to Club Ultra. I’m the owner Manny Jenkins. My staff is pleased to present a program of dance music.

  82. JACKY: (UNDER MANNY) Staff?

  83. JOSEPH: (UNDER MANNY) I hate dance music.

  84. DONNA: (UNDER MANNY) Anyone for a Scotch? I’m pouring.

  85. JOSEPH: Make mine a double.

  86. JACKY: I’ll take a triple. In a dirty glass.

  87. MANNY: So get on your feet . . . and (CHOKES) I’m . . .

  88. DONNA: What’s wrong with him?

  89. MANNY: I’m . . . Help me . . . (GAGS) I’m . . . Help . . .

  90. SFX: MANNY COLLAPSES.

  91. ALL: (GASPS, SHRIEKS, AND SCREAMS)

  92. Beat 7. Opening credits

  93. MUSIC: QUICKLY UP AND ESTABLISH: SLOW MOURNFUL JAZZ SONG. UNDER TO BED.

  94. ANNOUNCER: You are listening to You Didn’t Have to Go starring __________ as Donna Herb and __________ as Joseph Barnes. Directing this performance is __________. You Didn’t Have To Go was written by William Spear.

  95. Beat 8. Back at Club Ultra

  96. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  97. DONNA: (NARRATOR) An ambulance came almost before Manny hit the floor and carted him off to Hunterdon Medical Center.  Manny’s wife – Thelma – went with him. The police arrived soon afterward, took all the customers’ names, and closed Club Ultra for the rest of the evening.

  98. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  99. DONNA: We were about to leave when an officer told us a detective was coming to ask us some questions.

  100. MUSIC: BED: OUT.

  101. JOSEPH: Why’s a detective coming?

  102. JACKY: So Manny choked. Who needs a detective to solve that?

  103. DONNA: (CHARACTER) I’m exhausted. If the detective doesn’t come soon I’ll sleep here.

  104. JACKY: Wow. Look what’s coming to our party. A model from the pages of G-Q. (TO FRED) Interrogate me Mr. Detective.

  105. DONNA: Oh no.

  106. Beat 9. Donna’s ex-husband

  107. FRED: Hello Donna. It’s good to see you.

  108. DONNA: Hello Fred. I wish I could say the same. (TO JOE AND JACKY) Joe Barnes . . . Jacky Harris . . . this is . . .

  109. FRED: (BITE CUE) I’ll make the introductions. I’m Fred Ackerman. Detective Fred Ackerman.

  110. DONNA: Detective Ackerman is my ex-husband.

  111. JACKY: Donna how’d you let a good-looking guy like Fred get away?

  112. DONNA: Believe me it was easy.

  113. JOSEPH: He’s not that good looking.

  114. Beat 10. Questions

  115. FRED: I’ve got a couple questions about what happened. Were all three of you talking with Jenkins before he collapsed?

  116. JACKY, DONNA, and JOSEPH: “Yeah.” “We were talking with him.” “Sure.”

  117. FRED: Did he say or do anything unusual?

  118. JACKY: Just another night with the world’s crankiest and nastiest club owner.

  119. JOSEPH: Pretty normal for him.

  120. FRED: What about you Donna? Was Jenkins cranky and nasty when he cancelled your debut?

  121. DONNA: He can be pretty irritating at times. Which is most of the time.

  122. FRED: Was he irritating enough to kill him?

  123. JOSEPH: What do you mean?

  124. FRED: Nothing. By the way . . . any of you tend bar?

  125. DONNA: I do.

  126. FRED: Mrs. Jenkins told us her husband drank a double Scotch before he went on mic. Did you pour his drink?

  127. DONNA: Yes. Why?

  128. FRED: Just confirming events prior to Jenkins’ collapse. Mr. Barnes and Ms. Harris – you can go.

  129. JACKY: Let me know if I can help in any way.

  130. FRED: Not so close; you may wrinkle my suit. I have more questions for you Miss Herb.

  131. Beat 11. Fred interrogates Donna

  132. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  133. DONNA: (NARRATOR) Detective Fred Ackerman – my husband of seven years and ex-husband of six months – asked me questions for two hours. Did I always pour Manny’s drinks? What bottle did I use? Where was his glass? I didn’t enjoy my time with Fred any more than when I was married to him.

  134. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  135. DONNA: Fred questioned me until after midnight. Finally he called it quits.

  136. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  137. FRED: That’ll do for now. Where can I find you if I have more questions?

  138. DONNA: Glenview Apartments in Lebanon.

  139. FRED: Where we lived when we were married?

  140. DONNA: That’s the place. But I changed the locks. No sense letting in any bad memories.

  141. FRED: Just the same . . . make yourself available if I need you.

  142. DONNA: That’s over Fred.

  143. FRED: You’re a suspect in a police investigation.

  144. DONNA: Investigation into what?

  145. FRED: Jenkins cancelled your debut. Made you work the bar.

  146. DONNA: We were shorthanded.

  147. FRED: If I was breaking into singing for ten years – and a guy cancelled my debut – I’d be sore.

  148. DONNA: It wasn’t meant to be. I’ll get another chance.

  149. FRED: When? After another ten years go by?

  150. Beat 12. Donna on Donna

  151. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  152. DONNA: (OVER MUSIC: NARRATION) His words ripped open an old wound. Fred never thought much of my singing career. Never supported me; never encouraged me. Thought it was a waste of time. It was one of the reasons we got a divorce.

  153. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  154. DONNA: I mumbled “Good Night” and walked away.

  155. SFX: DONNA’S FOOTSTEPS ON WOODEN FLOOR.

  156. DONNA: (OVER SFX) Joe and Jacky were waiting for me.

  157. Beat 13. Joe and Jacky interrogate Donna

  158. JOSEPH: (OFF: WHISPERED) Donna. Over here.

  159. DONNA: What are you doing here?

  160. JACKY: How’d you get away from him?

  161. JOSEPH: He’s not that good looking.

  162. JACKY: Skip that. Why’d you do it Donna?

  163. DONNA: Do what?

  164. JACKY: Poison Manny.

  165. Beat 14. Donna’s denial

  166. DONNA: So that’s what Fred thinks.

  167. JACKY: You had the motive – Manny cancelled your debut.

  168. JOSEPH: And the means – you poured his drink.

  169. DONNA: I didn’t poison Manny. But I’ll find who did.

  170. JACKY: How?

  171. Beat 15. Detective Ackerman scatters them

  172. FRED: (BITE CUE) What’s going on?

  173. JOSEPH: (SARCASTICALLY) It’s Mr. Magazine Cover.

  174. FRED: Would you like to make a statement at headquarters Horn Boy? Downtown?

  175. JACKY: I’ll go downtown with you.

  176. JOSEPH: I’ll make my statement here. Why don’t you . . .

  177. DONNA: (BITE CUE) Hello Fred. We were discussing poor Manny.

  178. FRED: Discuss him somewhere else. I’ve got an investigation going on and I don’t want you hanging around.

  179. JOSEPH: Come on. I’ll drive.

  180. Beat 16. Joseph and Donna at Donna’s apartment

  181. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  182. DONNA: (NARRATOR) Joe took us home. First Jacky. Then me. At my apartment he invited himself in.

  183. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  184. JOSEPH: How about some coffee?

  185. DONNA: (CHARACTER) It’s in the freezer. Help yourself.

  186. JOSEPH: Aren’t you going to make it?

  187. DONNA: (EMPHATICALLY) No.

  188. JOSEPH: Okay okay. I’ll make it myself. (OFF MIC) You sit down and relax. I’ll make the coffee.

  189. SFX: OFF MIC: EXTENDED CRASHING OF COFFEE CANS.

  190. JOSEPH: (BEAT: OFF MIC: TEASINGLY) I’m all right. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Just attacked by the sharp edge of a wild coffee can.

  191. DONNA: (BEAT: TO JOSEPH) Know what I don’t understand?

  192. JOSEPH: (OFF MIC) How Oakland lost the championship?

  193. DONNA: (NARRATOR) Oakland’s my favorite team. I live and die with them. Mostly die. (CHARACTER: CALLS TO JOSEPH) Not that. How did Fred know Manny cancelled my debut?

  194. JOSEPH: (OFF MIC) And why does he think you poisoned Manny?

  195. DONNA: He could’ve heard us talking at the Club.

  196. JOSEPH: (ON MIC) But he wasn’t in the conversation. Here’s your coffee.

  197. DONNA: Maybe Jacky. She’d say anything to talk with him.

  198. JOSEPH: He’s not that good looking.

  199. Beat 17. Fred arrives

  200. SFX: OFF MIC: FRED KNOCKS ON DOOR.

  201. DONNA: I’ll get it.

  202. SFX: DONNA TAKES SIX STEPS, BEAT, OPENS DOOR.

  203. DONNA: (BURDENED) It’s you.

  204. JOSEPH: (OFF MIC) Who? . . . Oh it’s the walking magazine cover.

  205. FRED: Can it Baton Boy or your next overture’ll be from behind bars.

  206. DONNA: Come on in Fred.

  207. FRED: Thanks.

  208. SFX: DONNA CLOSES DOOR, DONNA AND FRED TAKE SIX STEPS.

  209. DONNA: What do you want?

  210. FRED: Nothing from you. I’ve got questions for Glenn Miller over there.

  211. JOSEPH: The name’s Barnes . . . Joseph Barnes. Besides I play sax not trombone.

  212. FRED: I don’t get it.

  213. JOSEPH: Figures. What do you want?

  214. FRED: What was the name of your guest at the Club?

  215. JOSEPH: Just a guy I know.

  216. FRED: A guy that’s a producer with International Talent Agency?

  217. DONNA: Joe you didn’t tell me he was a producer.

  218. JOSEPH: The band was auditioning for International and I wanted him to hear you.

  219. DONNA: You should’ve told me – I would’ve prepared more. Researched International.

  220. FRED: And wait another ten years like when we were married.

  221. DONNA: Stay out of this Fred.

  222. JOSEPH: I was doing you a favor.

  223. DONNA: The only favor you can do is leave.

  224. FRED: I need to talk to Baton Boy.

  225. JOSEPH: The name’s Joe Barnes.

  226. FRED: I don’t care if it’s Woody Herman. I’ve got questions to ask you.

  227. DONNA: Then I’ll leave.

  228. SFX: DONNA OPENS DOOR AND SLAMS IT SHUT.

  229. Beat 18. Donna goes to Jacky’s place

  230. DONNA: (NARRATOR) My apartment had gotten suddenly – and very – crowded. I don’t mind a couple of guys fighting over me but not in the middle of a police investigation. I wanted to think and it wasn’t happening in between Joe and Fred.

  231. MUSIC: BED: SPARSE AND ALONE.

  232. SFX: BED: 1966 ROARING CLOUD X-L-F ENGINE RACING.

  233. DONNA: (BEAT) I zoomed around Hunterdon County in my 1966 Roaring Cloud X-L-F. It was part of my settlement from Fred. His grandfather raced in Europe and left a garage full of them to Fred.

  234. SFX: BED: REV OF X-L-F ENGINE.

  235. DONNA: I could’ve had his Roadster. It handles great but give me an X-L-F every time. It’s racing green with the long-nose style. . . . I like going fast.

  236. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  237. DONNA: Two cups of coffee and an hour later I flew past Jacky’s place. From the corner of my eye I saw lights on in her fourth floor apartment. I turned around, parked, and went up.

  238. SFX: BED OUT: 1966 X-L-F ENGINE.

  239. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  240. SFX: DONNA KNOCKS ON DOOR. BEAT. KNOCKS AGAIN. BEAT. JACKY OPENS DOOR.

  241. JACKY: (TIMIDLY) Hello Donna. Come in.

  242. SFX: JACKY CLOSES DOOR.

  243. DONNA: (CHARACTER) Fred’s questioning Joe at my place and I needed to get out. Hey where are you going?

  244. JACKY: Visiting a friend in Boston. I’m leaving tonight.

  245. DONNA: Massachusetts in the winter? You hate snow.

  246. JACKY: Things are getting too hot around here. Hand me that bag.

  247. DONNA: Here you go . . . look out.

  248. SFX: SOUND OF BAG DROPPING ON GROUND.

  249. DONNA: I’m sorry Jacky.

  250. JACKY: Just put it in my suitcase.

  251. DONNA: There must be a hundred thousand dollars in here.

  252. JACKY: Next payment in a deal. Put it in my suitcase.

  253. Beat 19. Joseph arrives

  254. SFX: BITE CUE: OFF MIC: JOSEPH KNOCKS ON DOOR THREE TIMES.

  255. JACKY: (WHISPERS) Don’t say anything.

  256. DONNA: (WHISPERS) It might be important.

  257. JACKY: (WHISPERS) Shhh.

  258. SFX: OFF MIC: JOSEPH KNOCKS ON DOOR THREE TIMES.

  259. DONNA: I’ll get it.

  260. JACKY: Don’t Donna.

  261. SFX: DONNA OPENS DOOR.

  262. DONNA: What are you doing here?

  263. JOSEPH: Fred’s on his way over here.

  264. DONNA: How do you know?

  265. JOSEPH: He got a call from headquarters about a hundred thousand-dollar payoff and hung up. Then he asked me about Jacky and left.

  266. JACKY: I have to go.

  267. DONNA: Why?

  268. JACKY: I don’t have time to explain. If you get to Boston look me up.

  269. Beat 20. Fred arrives and arrests Jacky

  270. FRED: You won’t be further than the county jail. You’re under arrest Ms. Harris.

  271. DONNA: What are you doing Fred?

  272. FRED: Stay out of this Donna. Go stand with Count Basie.

  273. JOSEPH: For the last time it’s Barnes . . . Joe Barnes. I play saxophone. Not trombone . . . Not piano . . . Saxophone.

  274. JACKY: What’s the charge?

  275. FRED: Attempted murder.

  276. Beat 21. Jacky’s charge

  277. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  278. DONNA: (NARRATOR) Joe looked at me and I looked at Jacky. She didn’t move. Fred’s words immobilized her. Boxed her in like an invisible coffin. Fred repeated the charge.

  279. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  280. FRED: Jacqueline Harris you’re under arrest for the attempted murder of Manny Jenkins. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

  281. DONNA: On what evidence?

  282. FRED: For starters she blackmailed Jenkins for years.

  283. JACKY: Blackmail?

  284. DONNA: (RESTRAINS JACKY) Quiet Jacky. Go on Fred.

  285. FRED: Bled him financially. She wanted another two hundred thousand to leave him alone for a while. But he couldn’t raise the cash. Jacky took what he had and threatened to get the rest . . . through other means.

  286. JACKY: I’ve been buying Club Ultra for the last three years. Tonight was supposed to be the last payment – one hundred thousand dollars. Manny pulled a double-cross in his office and said he was selling to another buyer. Ask Thelma. She heard the whole argument.

  287. JOSEPH: What’d you do?

  288. JACKY: (SLOW BURN) I offered another fifty thousand but he laughed. Said I’d never own Club Ultra. I was pretty sore. Stormed out of his office and back to the bar. I was so mad at I could’ve . . .

  289. FRED: (BITE CUE) Killed him?

  290. JACKY: Yes kill him. But I didn’t.

  291. FRED: I’ve got half a dozen witnesses who heard you threaten to kill Manny. (BEAT) Let’s go Ms. Harris.

  292. Beat 22. Talking out loud

  293. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  294. DONNA: (NARRATOR) Fred arrested Jacky and carted her off in handcuffs. Joe and I drove back to my apartment to finish the coffee we’d brewed two hours ago. It was as bitter as our moods.

  295. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  296. DONNA: This coffee’s terrible. I can barely swallow it.

  297. JOSEPH: It tastes like poison. How could Manny’ve drunk two Scotches if they tasted like this?

  298. DONNA: Maybe the poison didn’t have a taste or smell. He wouldn’t have known he was drinking it.

  299. JOSEPH: But you poured us drinks from the same bottle. We didn’t get sick.

  300. DONNA: Other people ordered Scotch earlier in the evening.

  301. JOSEPH: None of them got sick. And I didn’t see anybody put poison in his glass.

  302. DONNA: (REVELATION) Maybe he was poisoned before he got to the bar. Manny and Jacky argued in his office before the second set. If he was poisoned there . . .

  303. JOSEPH: (BITE CUE) Nobody would find poison in the Scotch bottles or Manny’s glass.

  304. DONNA: And anybody could get into the office and remove the evidence at a later date . . . Come on Joe. We’re going to the Club.

  305. Beat 23. To the Club

  306. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: TRAVELING MUSIC. UNDER TO BED.

  307. DONNA: (NARRATOR) We sped off in my Roaring Cloud. I always go fast but we set new records. Once around a corner the rear tires fishtailed on the icy road . . .

  308. SFX: TIRES SLIDING.

  309. DONNA: Fast and Furious had nothing on me. . . . Joe went into the fetal position mumbling he’d go to Church on Sunday if he survived.

  310. SFX: COME ON MIC: ESTABLISH AND GO OFF: X-L-F ENGINE.

  311. DONNA: But a strange thing happened on the way to Club Ultra. A car tailed us. I threw in some extra turns to lose them. Whoever it was had the car and skill not to be shaken. It stayed on our tail until we were a few blocks from the Club. I pulled into the parking lot and uncurled Joe.

  312. Beat 24. An open door and Manny inside

  313. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  314. DONNA: Come on Joe.

  315. JOSEPH: (PRAYING TO HIMSELF) I’ll donate to charities. Adopt stray animals. I’ll even visit my mother more often.

  316. DONNA: Snap out of it. We’re at the Club.

  317. JOSEPH: (NORMAL) You mean we didn’t crash?

  318. DONNA: Not even close.

  319. JOSEPH: Do I still have to go to Church on Sunday?

  320. DONNA: (NARRATOR) The back door was open. We crept in as quiet as church mice. We heard a soft clinking sound.

  321. SFX: OFF MIC: BOTTLES CLINKING TOGETHER.

  322. DONNA: (WHISPERED) We walked towards the bar.

  323. SFX: ON MIC: BOTTLES CLINKING TOGETHER.

  324. DONNA: (WHISPERED) The clinking got louder. We couldn’t see anything. It was either a rat or . . . I took a chance. (CHARACTER: ABRUPTLY) Stand up. You’re covered.

  325. SFX: STOP CLINKING BOTTLES.

  326. DONNA: (BEAT: TRIUMPHANTLY) Look what we’ve caught.

  327. JOSEPH: Well well well. This won’t look good for the police . . . Manny.

  328. MANNY: What’re you doing here?

  329. DONNA: Checking for mice. What’re you doing?

  330. MANNY: I own the place.

  331. JOSEPH: That’s not what Jacky says.

  332. MANNY: She’s a liar and a blackmailer. She poisoned me to get control of the Club.

  333. JOSEPH: Jacky says she was buying Club Ultra. The last payment was tonight. . . . By the way what are you doing here?

  334. MANNY: Looking for the poison.

  335. DONNA: But why’re you behind the bar?

  336. JOSEPH: He’s getting evidence.

  337. DONNA: The evidence isn’t out here. It’s in . . .

  338. THELMA: (BITE CUE: OFF MIC) His office.

  339. Beat 25. Thelma Jenkins — the killer

  340. MANNY: Thelma?

  341. JOSEPH: Mrs. Jenkins?

  342. DONNA: Try killer. Or soon-to-be killer.

  343. THELMA: Excellent work Miss Herb. Regrettably you won’t be around to enjoy your detecting debut.

  344. MANNY: I can’t find the Scotch Jacky poisoned.

  345. DONNA: It’s not here Manny.

  346. MANNY: Huh?

  347. DONNA: Thelma poisoned you in the office when you argued with Jacky.

  348. MANNY: Thelma poisoned me? That’s rich. That’s funny. (LAUGHS) Ha ha . . . Tell them Thelma.

  349. THELMA: She’s right. I poisoned you.

  350. MANNY: Why?

  351. THELMA: You sold the Club for half of what it’s worth.

  352. MANNY: Who cares about the money? We have more than enough to retire.

  353. THELMA: Don’t go simple on me. Money is all that matters.

  354. DONNA: The police’ll catch you. They’ll figure it out.

  355. THELMA: They’ll think you came back to cover Jacky’s tracks and Manny found you. Gunshots were fired and all three of you were killed. I’ll be the surviving owner of Club Ultra.

  356. MANNY: I don’t understand. Why kill me? You’re my wife. Why kill me?

  357. THELMA: Stop whining Manny. Stand next to them.

  358. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BUMBER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  359. DONNA: (NARRATOR) Thelma’s finger tightened on the trigger. I closed my eyes and braced for the slam of the bullet. The shot came . . .

  360. SFX: PISTOL SHOT.

  361. THELMA: (SCREAM OF PAIN)

  362. DONNA: I heard a scream but it wasn’t me. I looked at Joe; he was okay. Manny stood there blinking like a dumb toad. The scream came from Thelma. She was holding her gun hand but the gun – and parts of her hand – were gone.

  363. THELMA: (THROUGH PAIN) What . . . what happened?

  364. JOSEPH: The gun must’ve backfired.

  365. DONNA: (CHARACTER) I don’t think so. (CALLS TO FRED) That you Fred?

  366. FRED: (OFF MIC) Yeah. You and the Band Leader okay?

  367. JOSEPH: Oh great . . . the Police Gazette pinup boy.

  368. FRED: (ON MIC) You got any other songs? Or do I have to slap you to unstick your needle.

  369. DONNA: It took you long enough. Get lost while you were tailing me?

  370. FRED: How’d you know?

  371. DONNA: Any other driver’d been wrapped around a telephone pole. You’re the only guy I know with enough car to stay with me.

  372. FRED: I always did have the right equipment.

  373. DONNA: Your arm must hurt from patting yourself on the back all the time. Do something useful with it and call headquarters to release Jacky.

  374. FRED: Why don’t we celebrate with a drink? I know a great after-hours place. By coincidence it’s my apartment.

  375. DONNA: I could stand a Scotch. How about steaks? Shrimp cocktails . . . and dessert.

  376. FRED: Sounds great. What time?

  377. DONNA: Joe and I’ll be there after we get Jacky.

  378. Beat 26. Back at Club Ultra

  379. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS. UNDER TO BED.

  380. DONNA: (NARRATOR) Joe and I drove to the jail and got Jacky. The Jenkins admitted Jacky’d been buying Club Ultra for three years and they tried squeezing her for more money. They cooked up the blackmail angle with a phony bank account in Jacky’s name and regular deposits. But with the last payment of a hundred thousand the Club was hers.

  381. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  382. DONNA: A month later Joe and the Groove Masters were warming up for their second set. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Fred saunter into the club and up to me.

  383. MUSIC: BED OUT.

  384. FRED: Hello Donna. It’s good to see you again.

  385. DONNA: (CHARACTER) Hello Fred. I wish I could say the same.

  386. JOSEPH: It’s Hunterdon County’s entry on the Most Beautiful list.

  387. FRED: Stow it Sax Boy or I’ll arrest you for impersonating a musician.

  388. JOSEPH: Don’t exert yourself. I wouldn’t want you to mess up your hair.

  389. DONNA: What do you want Fred?

  390. FRED: Jacky told me you were singing tonight. I wanted to hear your sound.

  391. DONNA: If you’d encouraged me when we were married you would’ve heard me then.

  392. FRED: You weren’t serious then – singing in churches and weddings. You were pretending to be a singer.

  393. DONNA: I was building my craft. Getting experience.

  394. FRED: If I hadn’t left you’d still be playing picnics and county fairs. Now look at you – you’re headlining at Club Ultra. I heard you on the radio the other day. You’re going places. All because of me.

  395. DONNA: You know something Fred – you’re right. I owe all this to you. In your honor I’m dedicating my first song to you.

  396. MUSIC: OFF MIC: CUE TO BEGIN SET.

  397. ALL: (APPLAUDING AND CHEERING)

  398. JACKY: Welcome to Club Ultra. I’m the new owner Jacky Harris. Put your hands together for Joe Barnes and the Groove Masters featuring Donna Herb.

  399. SFX: APPLAUSE.

  400. ALL: (CHEERING)

  401. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: “YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO GO.” UNDER TO BED.

  402. DONNA: My name is Donna Herb and we are Joe Barnes’ Groove Masters. This first song is for my ex-husband Fred Ackerman. It’s titled “You Didn’t Have To Go.”

  403. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  404. DONNA: (OVER BED: DONNA SINGS FIRST CHORUS OF “YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO GO.”)

  405. Beat 27. Closing credits

  406. MUSIC: UNDER TO BED.

  407. ANNOUNCER: You’ve just listened to You Didn’t Have to Go. __________ starred as Donna Herb and __________ as Joseph Barnes. __________ was Fred Ackerman, __________ was Jacky, __________ was Thelma, and __________ was Manny.

  408. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  409. ANNOUNCER: Music was performed by __________. Sound effects were performed by __________.

  410. MUSIC: LET BED BREATHE.

  411. ANNOUNCER: You Didn’t Have To Go was directed by __________ and written by William Spear. I’m your Announcer – __________.

  412. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH.

  413. DONNA: (OVER MUSIC: FINAL CHORUS) . . . You didn’t have to go . . . But I’m glad you did.

  414. MUSIC: OUT.

  415. ALL: (ENTHUSIASTIC APPLAUSE AND CHEERS. UNDER TO BED)

  416. DONNA: Hey Joe.

  417. JOSEPH: Yeah Donna.

  418. DONNA: Fred’s not that good-looking.

  419. JOSEPH: I know. How about a kiss?

  420. SFX: JOSEPH AND DONNA KISS.

  421. ALL: (ENTHUSIASTIC APPLAUSE AND CHEERS.)

  422. DONNA: Oh baby. You don’t ever have to go.

  423. MUSIC: UP AND OUT.

  424. Beat 28. The End of You Didn’t Have To Go

 

 

~ Page 91 ~

Chapter Four

The Splendor in Midland (in progress)

by William Spear

Based upon N. Booth Tarkington’s
Pulitzer Prize winning novel,
The Magnificent Ambersons

Treatment, Part One
Characters
Playwright’s Notes
Excerpts from Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons
Script Excerpt

KINNEY: I can’t see how she doesn’t see the truth about that boy. He’s a little tin god on wheels – and honestly, it makes some of us weak and sick just to think about him! Yet that high-spirited, intelligent woman, Isabel Amberson, actually sits and worships him!

– Fred Kinney describing Georgie Amberson Minafer to Eugene Morgan

 

~ Chapter Four: “The Splendor in Midland” – Treatment, Part One ~

Treatment, Part One
(Note: Significant story points of The Splendor in Midland are revealed in the treatment.)

          The Splendor in Midland chronicles the changes in fortunes and social positions of three Midland families: 1) The Ambersons; 2) The Minafers; and, 3) The Morgans. The Ambersons and Minafers are both financially decimated. The Ambersons also lose their prominence and standing within the community. Concurrent with the decline of the Ambersons and Minafers is the rise in wealth and status for the Morgans.

          The focal character, and catalyst for events, is Georgie Amberson Minafer. Georgie is the third generation of Ambersons in the Midwestern town of Midland. His abundance of manly beauty and Amberson lineage is noticed by everyone. However, his antics as a spoiled youth make Midlanders hope and pray for his come-upance – something that will take him down a notch or two. When his come-upance ultimately arrives, it delivers a fierce thrashing “three times filled and running over.”

          The Ambersons, Minafers, Morgans and Georgie are not the only main characters. There is a prominent character which changes in a similar scope and magnitude but never speaks a single word.

          Midland – Setting, Backdrop and Character

          The Splendor is also about how Midland and life in Midland change. It is where most of the story takes place, serves as a prop for Georgie and, later on, extinguishes the few sparks of Ambersonian pride and arrogance remaining within him. It also advances the story and impacts the other characters’ lives.

          As fortunes were made and lost, and made again, families settled in the area. Modest homes were built and the town was crafted from the surrounding forest. Many owners preserved the great elms, walnuts, beeches and sycamores and they were rewarded with yards well shaded in the summer and warmly buffered from winter winds. The houses “were of a pleasant architecture. They lacked style, but also lacked pretentiousness, and whatever does not pretend at all has style enough.”4

          The pleasant and unpretentious homes of Midland mirrored the owners’ prosperous but plain lives. In those days, Midlanders took time for all-day picnics, open houses, balls and cotillions. They also enjoyed other civilities such as boating, walks in the forest and, when a young man wished to fully announce his intentions for a young woman, serenading . . . complete with a four-piece orchestra.

Side note – Twenty years before The Splendor, Eugene Morgan drunkenly attempted to serenade Isabel Amberson. The evening and their relationship ended comically if not romantically. Many years later, his relationship with Isabel will resume but never recover.

          Over the course of the story, Midland grows from its horse-drawn roots into a gasoline-powered commercial center. Along the way it acquires all the characteristics and conditions that accompany economic growth.

          Formal Ball for Georgie

          The Splendor in Midland begins with a magnificent ball honoring Georgie Amberson Minafer during the Christmas break of his sophomore year in college. Georgie is mechanically greeting the guests with “I remember you very well indeed.” Isabel, his mother, welcomes the guests with an even-tempered graciousness which balances Georgie’s coarseness.

          Although some of the town’s residents decline attendance for any event celebrating Georgie, much of Midland flocks to the Amberson mansion to be seen with the town’s most famous family.

          Most of the other characters are present – Wilbur Minafer, Fanny Minafer, Major Amberson and others. Only George Amberson, Georgie’s uncle and Isabel’s brother, is missing. At precisely the moment his absence is noted, he enters with a flourish unexpectedly escorting Eugene Morgan.

          Eugene’s presence causes a stir with the Ambersons and Minafers. They gush over him with respect rarely shown to anyone outside of the Ambersons and Minafers. Georgie is puzzled. Unknown to him, Eugene’s presence in the Amberson mansion, and relationships with its inhabitants, began long before he was born.

          Back stories – Major Amberson

          For years, the Ambersons have been the standard to which others have strived. Starting in the 1870’s when Major Amberson made his fortune while others were losing theirs, Midlanders have talked of the Ambersons with a mixture of awe, reverence and tourist attraction. Casual visitors to the town were certain to receive tours culminating in the display of Major Amberson’s mansion:

This house was the pride of the town. Faced with stone as far back as the dining-room windows, it was a house of arches and turrets and girdling stone porches: it had the first porte-cochere seen in that town. There was a central “front hall” with a great black walnut stairway, and open to a green glass skylight called the “dome,” three stories above the ground floor. A ballroom occupied most of the third story; and at one end of it was a carved walnut gallery for the musicians.5

          Citizens told strangers the black walnut and wood-carving cost sixty thousand dollars. They boasted that the President of the United States wanted to swap the White House for the Amberson Mansion . . . but the Major turned him down.

          Major Amberson and his family dominated the thoughts, actions, purchases, and extravagances of Midland. And no Amberson was more closely watched than Miss Isabel, the Major’s only daughter.

          Isabel, the Major’s Daughter

          Isabel, to be clear, was as lofty as all the other Ambersons. But her brand of Amberson-ness was more charming than chafing. As one voice said, “She’s not more than eighteen or nineteen years old – but she’s kind of a delightful looking young lady.”6

          The young men of Midland thought the same of Isabel and swarmed around her like gnats on a warm summer day. But of that buzzing multitude, only two voices caught her ear – one sparkling, the other persistent. The Sparkling One was well-dressed, generous, poor and gifted with amazing persuasiveness. The Persistent One embraced steady over spectacular and took a path that valued incremental gains over flashy leaps and bounds.

          Speculation grew that an engagement announcement was imminent. All signs indicated the Sparkling One would capture Isabel’s fancy. But one night, he had a few too many drinks. In the unsteady enthusiasm of the moment, the Sparkling One and his musician friends went serenading Isabel. On the front yard of the Amberson mansion, with Isabel and her neighbors watching from various windows, the Sparkling One ingloriously stepped through his bass viol. All the musicians, who included Isabel’s brother George, fell down laughing. The Major, was barely able to control his own laughter.

          Everyone was laughing except Isabel. She was mortified about the Sparkling One’s disrespectful demeanor and communicated her displeasure to him. The Sparkling One turned on his limitless charm in a note:

You seem to care a great deal about bass viols. I promise never to break another.”

But the Sparkling One’s charm did not have its usual effect. His repeated requests to present himself and make a formal apology went unheeded. At this moment, Isabel unleashed a characteristic that would repeat itself throughout her life, constrain her experiences and ultimately contribute to her death: She placed the Amberson name before her personal needs. She discarded the Sparkling One because she interpreted his actions as potentially disrespectful to the Amberson reputation.

          Side note – Years later, when she is gravely ill and moments from her death, she will express her first sentiment based upon her desires without concern about how others might discuss the Amberson name. By then it is too late to be of consequence.

          The Marriage of Isabel and the Persistent One, Wilbur Minafer

          The news of Isabel marrying Wilbur Minafer was met with more amazement than congratulations. True, Wilbur’s steady demeanor and rising business stature drew respect. As did his regular church attendance. Isabel was even praised for choosing such a reliable husband despite her own showy tendencies.

          But most Midlanders were shocked that she would choose Wilbur over Eugene Morgan, the Sparkling One. Gene was popular and well liked. He was gracious and charming.

          Side note – After the setback, Gene was counseled by friends and acquaintances to forget the heartache. He lingered in Midland for another year but eventually closed his law practice, settled his accounts and moved away. He will largely forget the heartache but fondly remember the woman who caused it.

          Tongues wagged leading up to the wedding. Speculation was fierce the wedding would be an expensive pretentious Amberson affair.

          The speculation was right. Raw oysters were served in scooped out blocks of ice while a band from out-of-town serenaded the champagne-sipping guests.

          Speculation was Wilbur would take Isabel on a frugal honeymoon based upon his means and not his in-laws’ wealth.

          Their four-day sightseeing trip to the state’s capital proved the speculation was right.

          The speculation was they’d have a house full of children that Isabel would spoil because she could never love Wilbur.

          On this point, the speculation was only partly right. Isabel and Wilbur had one child, not children. But that child was spoiled enough for a whole carload.

          Georgie Amberson Minafer

          Isabel and Wilbur’s only child was a royal terror named Georgie Amberson Minafer. He ran wild in Midland. His arrogance and disregard for everyone except his mother and the Ambersons was notorious. He got into fights, swore at a minister, drove his horse cart recklessly, talked back to adults, and conducted himself horribly.

          During this time, the Midland residents began wishing and praying for his “come-upance.” They were certain that something somewhere was bound to take him down and they only wanted to be there when it happened.

          From adolescence to young manhood, through a trail of private tutors, public schools, and onto college, the great “come-upance” was prayed for. But none came. Georgie’s arrogance blossomed into a snobbishly veneered set of ill-used manners and customs. All of which set a beautiful stage for a ball in his honor.

          So Begins the Relationships, the Romances the Jealousies and . . .

          Eugene’s arrival surprises Isabel and they gush like teenagers. Georgie watches with amazement as his mother is captivated by the newcomer. Isabel mumbles a greeting and Eugene stammers a response. The intervening twenty years disappear and two young lovers are standing before each other.

          Their giddiness is shattered when Georgie offers a perfunctory, “I remember you very well indeed.” Eugene gracefully and pleasantly counters with, “You never saw me before Georgie. But you’ll see plenty of me from now on.” Isabel, with her enthusiasm straining to be properly tempered, adds, “I hope so.”

          Side note – This three-sided moment, awkward, clumsy and achingly human, begins a delicate, bittersweet and several years long courtship between Isabel and Eugene which seems on the verge of being realized only to be tragically crushed.

          Eugene is heartily whisked away by Ambersons, Minafers and old friends. Moments later, an unaccompanied beautiful young woman arrives and captures Georgie’s attention. Lucy Morgan is sparkling, charming, witty, and unknown to Georgie, Eugene’s daughter.

          Georgie escorts Lucy around the mansion and is constantly interrupted by other young men greeting her and requesting dances. His dismisses their frequent intrusions as overtures from lesser beings. He arrogance is compounded by his scathing commentary on Eugene’s work with automobiles and bleak prognosis for their future. Georgie’s evening with Lucy does not go well.

          The ball introduces all the significant characters and sets into motion the following story lines:

  1. Rekindles feelings and elements of relationship between Eugene and Isabel;
  2. Begins Georgie and Lucy’s tumultuous relationship;
  3. Renews Fanny’s feelings toward Eugene;
  4. Establishes the Amberson’s prominence and position with Midland;
  5. Continues Eugene’s friendship with Isabel’s brother, George;
  6. Establishes Georgie’s general and evolving contempt of Eugene; and
  7. Introduces the succession of women caring for Georgie – Isabel, Fanny and Lucy.

          . . . The Splendor in Midland

          With the Ambersons, Minafers and Morgans properly introduced, and the dramatic tensions between the four main characters set into motion, The Splendor in Midland has begun.

4 “The Magnificent Ambersons” by N. Booth Tarkington.

5 “The Magnificent Ambersons” by N. Booth Tarkington.

6  “The Magnificent Ambersons” by N. Booth Tarkington.

 

~ Chapter Four: “The Splendor in Midland” – Characters ~

Characters

  1. Isabel Amberson Minafer – She’s the adoring daughter of Major Amberson and devoted wife of Wilbur Minafer. But her single-minded pre-occupation with her son Georgie’s well-being keeps Isabel from the only man she ever loved – Eugene Morgan.
  2. Georgie Amberson Minafer – The only child of Wilbur and Isabel Minafer and the only grandchild of Major Amberson, Georgie is spoiled from birth. His come-upance, long hoped and prayed for by Midlanders, takes shape when his parents and grandfather dies and the Amberson fortune is wiped out. Compounding his situation is the prospect of dealing with his feelings for Lucy.
  3. Lucy Morgan – Quick witted, vibrant and always protective of her widower father, Lucy is every ounce the equal of Georgie in their combative relationship. But when she and Georgie part ways, with no obvious prospect of re-uniting, her radiance dims as if covered by the soot of Midland’s sprawling factories.
  4. Eugene Morgan – His passion for Isabel has not dimmed in the 20 years since she abruptly married Wilbur Minafer instead of him. Eugene returns to Midland as a widower with a beautiful daughter. When Isabel’s husband dies, Eugene resumes his courtship of her.
  5. Fanny Minafer – Her “ancient recollections” for Eugene drive her thoughts and actions. When her recollections remain unrequited, and Eugene’s preference for Isabel is obvious, Fanny’s jealousies start rumors with ultimately tragic consequences.
  6. George Amberson – He’s Georgie’s uncle and namesake, best friends with Eugene and caring brother of Isabel. Every ounce of his tact and diplomacy are engaged in managing the often-colliding interests of the Ambersons and Minafers.
  7. Major Amberson – The aging patriarch of the Ambersons, he struggles with his accounts as his fortune slowly dwindles. Isabel’s death breaks his spirit and the Major’s passing leaves the Ambersons in a state of bustitude.
  8. Wilbur Minafer – He’s the least likely man to end up as Isabel’s husband. Wilbur’s bland, uninterested in parties and absorbed in his business dealings. However, he is also grateful for the events that brought Isabel to him and works diligently to provide a living for Isabel and Georgie rather than rely on the Major. His death is incomprehensible to Georgie and his subsequent significance is unexpected.
  9. Midland – On the edge of the American frontier when Major Amberson makes his fortune in the 1870s, Midland is a thriving commercial center when the story ends. Along the way, the pace of life outraces the residents’ capacity to live it and the city soils itself with soot and smoke from its factories. Midland was dominated by the Ambersons for two generations but exacts revenge on the third. 

 

~ Chapter Four: “The Splendor in Midland” – Playwright’s Notes ~ 

Playwright’s Notes

          The Splendor in Midland is based upon three families – the Ambersons, Minafers and Morgans. Each families’ role shifts throughout the drama, occasionally driving the story and plot lines and occasionally being driven by others. But more often than not, they are moving in lockstep out of interwoven histories, mutual goals and desires, petty jealousies and emotions.

          The main characters are Isabel Amberson Minafer, her son, Georgie, Eugene Morgan and his daughter, Lucy. They are an overlapping spectrum of contrasting personalities and shifting alliances. Their internal values and characteristics collide vigorously and frequently throughout The Splendor.

          Condensed portraits of the four characters are presented below:

          Isabel Amberson Minafer – a “divinely ridiculous woman”

Georgie Amberson Minafer – come-upance, three times filled and running over

Lucy Morgan – Georgie’s equal and then some

Eugene Morgan – a wild fellow in his younger days who’s done fairly well of late

          Other Characters
          Although Isabel, Georgie, Lucy and Eugene generate enough dramatic tensions among themselves to keep moving the story lines forward, they often are subjected to unexpected complications from other characters. Frequently they are joined by other Ambersons or Minafers. There is even a passage later in the story in which Georgie is nearly consumed by Midland and what it has become.

          Further background on the other characters is as follows:

          George Amberson – Georgie’s namesake is the warmth and humanness of the Ambersons. He is a bit of a philosopher but doesn’t take anyone or anything seriously. He is a slightly rumpled tuxedo that exudes an easygoing air of grandeur and privilege. He is thoroughly engaging without being overbearing or superficial. People tend to take on additional sparkle and luster around him as he gives any setting a grand and gracious demeanor.

          Wilbur Minafer – Isabel’s husband, brother of Fanny, and father of Georgie “… might not be an Apollo, as it were,” but he’s “a steady young business man, and a good church-goer.” His stature and relevance grow after he dies.

          Fanny Minafer – Tormentor of Georgie and possessor of “ancient recollections” for Eugene. She is conniving, underhanded, and vulnerable. Of all the characters, she is the most completely human.

          Major Amberson – Generous patriarch of the Ambersons, widower. Made his fortune in the 1870’s when others were losing theirs. At the time of his death, his heart of gold is the only valuable left in the estate.

          Midland – Location of most of story. Midland grows from a frontier town into a thriving center of commerce. Its aura becomes covered with soot and grime. Midland’s growth leaves behind the Ambersons and Minafers and rides along with the Morgans.

          Various – Another set of characters comes into and goes out of The Splendor in Midland for narrative or specific purposes. Fred Kinney has a revealing conversation with Eugene about Georgie. Lawyer Frank Bronson and his investment company failure contribute further financial ruin to the Ambersons and Minafers. Mrs. Johnson, neighbor and confidante of Fanny, confirms to Georgie the gossip of his mother and Eugene. Sydney and Amelia Amberson, Georgie’s uncle and aunt, are pigs at the trough of the Amberson fortune. John Minafer, Georgie’s great-uncle, is coarse, unmannered and an embarrassment to Georgie.

 

~ Chapter Four: “The Splendor in Midland” –

Excerpts from Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons” ~

Uncle George Amberson: “the aristocratic duck” – Georgie explaining his Uncle George to Lucy

. . . Leaning gracefully upon the mantelpiece of this room, a tall man, handsome, high-mannered, and sparklingly point-device, held laughing converse with that queer-looking duck, the Sharon girls’ uncle. The tall gentleman waved a gracious salutation to George, and Miss Morgan’s curiosity was stirred. “Who is that?”

“I didn’t catch his name when my mother presented him to me,” said George. “You mean the queer-looking duck.”

“I mean the aristocratic duck.”

“That’s my Uncle George, Honourable George Amberson. I thought everybody knew him.”

“He looks as though everybody ought to know him,” she said. “It seems to run in your family.”

If she had any sly intention, it skipped over George harmlessly. “Well, of course, I suppose most everybody does,” he admitted – “out in this part of the country especially. Besides, Uncle George is in Congress; the family like to have someone there.”

Georgie Amberson Minafer and Lucy Morgan: being an Amberson – Georgie explaining to Lucy the benefits of being an Amberson

Perhaps it was on account of their parents,” Miss Morgan suggested mildly. “Maybe she didn’t want to offend their fathers and mothers.”

“Oh, hardly! I don’t think my mother need worry much about offending anybody in this old town.”

“It must be wonderful,” said Miss Morgan. “It must be wonderful, Mr. Amberson – Mr. Minafer, I mean.”

“What must be wonderful?”

“To be so important as that!”

“That isn’t ‘important,’” George assured her. “Anybody that really is anybody ought to be able to do about as they like in their own town, I should think!”

          Fanny Minafer and “the queer-looking duck”: preview of her “ancient recollections” – Georgie witnessing his Aunt fanny dancing wildly with Eugene

. . . Here and there were to be seen couples so carried away that, ceasing to move at the decorous, even glide, considered most knowing, they pranced and whirled through the throng, from wall to wall, galloping bounteously in abandon. George suffered a shock of vague surprise when he perceived that his aunt, Fanny Minafer, was the lady-half of one of these wild couples.

Fanny Minafer, who rouged a little, was like fruit which in some climates dries with the bloom on. Her features had remained prettily childlike; . . . But she had been never more childlike than she was tonight as she flew over the floor in the capable arms of the queer-looking duck; for this person was her partner.

The queer-looking duck had been a real dancer in his day, it appeared; and evidently his day was not yet over. In spite of the headlong, gay rapidity with which he bore Miss Fanny about the big room, he danced authoritatively, avoiding without effort the lightest collision with other couples, maintaining sufficient grace throughout his wildest moments, and all the while laughing and talking with his partner. What was most remarkable to George, and a little irritating, this stranger in the Amberson Mansion had no vestige of the air of deference proper to a stranger in such a place: he seemed thoroughly at home.

          Georgie Amberson Minafer and Lucy Morgan: their beginnings – Georgie’s insistence upon taking Lucy for a sleigh ride in his cutter

What you got to do after two o’clock to-morrow afternoon?”

“A whole lot of things. Every minute filled up.”

“All right,” said George. “The snow’s fine for sleighing: I’ll come for you in a cutter at ten minutes after two.”

“I can’t possibly go.”

“If you don’t,” he said, “I’m going to sit in the cutter in front of the gate, wherever you’re visiting, all afternoon, and if you try to go out with anybody else he’s got to whip me before he gets you.” And as she laughed – though she blushed a little, too – he continued, seriously: “If you think I’m not in earnest you’re at liberty to make quite a big experiment!”

She laughed again. “I don’t think I’ve often had so large a compliment as that,” she said, “especially on such short notice – and yet, I don’t think I’ll go with you.”

“You be ready at ten minutes after two.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Yes, you will!”

“Yes,” she said, “I will!”

Georgie Amberson Minafer and Lucy Morgan: “He’s my father” – Lucy’s father dancing with Georgie’s mother

Well, you’d better dance with your mother! I never saw anybody lovelier. How wonderfully they dance together!”

“Who?”

“Your mother and – and the queer-looking duck,” said Lucy. “I’m going to dance with him pretty soon.”

“I don’t care – so long as you don’t give him one of the numbers that belong to me.”

“I’ll try to remember,” she said, and thoughtfully lifted to her face the bouquet of violets and lilies, a gesture which George noted without approval.

“Look here! Who sent you those flowers you keep makin’ such a fuss over?”

“He did.”

“Who’s ‘he’?”

“The queer-looking duck.”

George feared no such rival; he laughed loudly. “I s’pose he’s some old widower!” he said, the object thus described seeming ignominious enough to a person of eighteen, without additional characterization. “Some old widower!”

Lucy became serious at once. “Yes, he is a widower,” she said. “I ought to have told you before; he’s my father.”

George stopped laughing abruptly. “Well, that’s a horse on me. If I’d known he was your father, of course I wouldn’t have made fun of him. I’m sorry.”

“Nobody could make fun of him,” she said quietly.

“Why couldn’t they?”

“It wouldn’t make him funny: it would only make themselves silly.” 

 

~ Chapter Four: “The Splendor in Midland” – The Script ~

  1. Beat 1. Fred Kinney greets Eugene
  2. MUSIC: OFF MIC: ORCHESTRAL. BUMPER BETWEEN BEATS.
  3. KINNEY: (OFF MIC: CALLS TO EUGENE) Gene Morgan! (ON MIC) I’d heard you were in town. I don’t believe you know me!
  4. EUGENE: Yes, I do, Fred Kinney! Your real face – the one I used to know – it’s just underneath the one you’re masquerading in tonight. You ought to have changed it more if you wanted a disguise.
  5. KINNEY: Twenty years! It makes some difference in faces, but more in behavior!
  6. EUGENE: So it does. My own behavior began to be different about that long ago – quite suddenly.
  7. KINNEY: I remember.
  8. EUGENE: Well . . . Know what I remember? Your wedding. I saw lovely wife upstairs.
  9. KINNEY: She wasn’t going to miss a big Amberson show for anything.
  10. EUGENE: I remember your bachelor dinner too – most of it, that is.
  11. KINNEY: More than what I can say about the night we went serenading.
  12. EUGENE: That’s a night I try not to remember.
  13. KINNEY: Sorry Gene.
  14. Beat 2. Midland’s last 20 years
  15. EUGENE: Don’t think anything about it. Tell me, what’s the old town been like for twenty years?
  16. KINNEY: There’s an heir to the Amberson line. Have you seen young Georgie?
  17. EUGENE: Real good-looking boy. Seems like fine Amberson stock.
  18. KINNEY: Too much Amberson, it seems, to some folks. His mother just fell down and worshipped him from the day he was born.
  19. EUGENE: That’s what Mothers are supposed to do.
  20. Beat 3. Isabel
  21. KINNEY: Still it beats me! I don’t have to tell you what Isabel Amberson is, Eugene Morgan. She’s got a touch of the Amberson high stuff about her, but you can’t get anybody that ever knew her to deny that she’s just about the finest woman in the world.”
  22. EUGENE: No; you can’t get anybody to deny that.
  23. KINNEY: Then I can’t see how she doesn’t see the truth about that boy. He’s a little tin god on wheels – and honestly, it makes some of us weak and sick just to think about him! Yet that high-spirited, intelligent woman, Isabel Amberson, actually sits and worships him!
  24. EUGENE: How do you know, Fred?
  25. KINNEY: You can hear it in her voice when she speaks to him or speaks of him. You can see it in her eyes when she looks at him. What does she see when she looks at him?
  26. EUGENE: She sees something that we don’t see.
  27. Beat 4. Georgie, an angel?
  28. KINNEY: What?
  29. EUGENE: An angel.
  30. KINNEY: If she sees an angel when she looks at Georgie Minafer, she’s a funnier woman than I thought she was!
  31. EUGENE: Perhaps she is. But that’s what she sees.
  32. KINNEY: My Lord! It’s easy to see you’ve only known him an hour or so. In that time have you looked at Georgie and seen an angel?
  33. EUGENE: No. All I saw was a remarkably good-looking fool-boy with the pride of Satan and a set of nice new drawing-room manners that he probably couldn’t use more than half an hour at a time without busting.
  34. KINNEY: Then what . . .
  35. EUGENE: Mothers see the angel in us because the angel is there. If it’s shown to the mother, the son has got an angel to show, hasn’t he? When a son cuts somebody’s throat the mother only sees it’s possible for a misguided angel to act like a devil – and she’s entirely right about that!
  36. KINNEY: I remember what a fellow you always were to argue. You mean Georgie Minafer is as much of an angel as any murderer is, and that Georgie’s mother is always right.
  37. EUGENE: I’m afraid she always has been.
  38. KINNEY: She was wrong once, old fellow. At least, so it seemed to me.
  39. EUGENE: (AWKWARDLY) No. I, well, no . . .
  40. KINNEY: Wait till you know young Georgie a little better. Something tells me you’re going to change your mind about his having an angel to show, if you see anything of him!
  41. EUGENE: You mean beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, and the angel is all in the eye of the mother. If you were a painter, Fred, you’d paint mothers with angels’ eyes holding imps in their laps. Me? I’ll stick to the Old Masters and the cherubs.
  42. KINNEY: Somebody’s eyes must have been pretty angelic if they’ve been persuading you that Georgie Minafer is a cherub!
  43. EUGENE: They are. They’re more angelic than ever.
  44. Beat 5. Old times and new times
  45. MUSIC: OFF MIC: LIVELY WALTZ.
  46. EUGENE: Good-bye, I’ve got this dance with her.
  47. KINNEY: With whom?
  48. EUGENE: With Isabel!
  49. KINNEY: It startles me, your jumping up like that to go and dance with Isabel Amberson! Twenty years seem to have passed – but have they? Tell me, have you danced with poor old Fanny, too, this evening?
  50. EUGENE: Twice!
  51. KINNEY: My goodness! Old times starting all over again! My goodness, indeed!
  52. EUGENE: Old times? Not a bit! There aren’t any old times. When times are gone they’re not old, they’re dead! There aren’t any times but new times!
  53. MUSIC: UP AND ESTABLISH: LIVELY WALTZ. UNDER TO BED.
  54. Beat 6. The End of The Splendor in Midland excerpt 

 

 

~ Page 119 ~

Chapter Five

Afterword

Thank You and Enjoy
Biographies
Definitions and Usage

 

~ Chapter Five: Afterword – Thank You and Enjoy ~

Thank You and Enjoy

          Thank you for purchasing Lit Between the Ears, Volume One: Chekhov, O. Henry, Spear and Tarkington On the Air. Enjoy the Plays, Synopses, Character descriptions and Playwright’s Notes. Hopefully the stories are compelling and the book conveys radio’s unique entertainment characteristics.

          Next in the series, Volume Two: Dickens, Poe, Spear and Tarkington, is planned for release during the 2006 holiday season. Consider it for your library or as a holiday gift for a friend or loved one.

          Future Volumes will continue with adaptations of classic literature and original works. Some of the original plays have been performed on stage. Others gave been adapted for film scripts. All were initially written for radio.

          Lastly, one of the goals of this series is to broaden access to radio drama. Compact discs, podcasts, satellite broadcasts and Internet radio are customizing audio entertainment. This is the medium’s strength. Each listener individualizes the dramatic experience and is effected differently.

          What radio drama moves you? Drop me a line.

William E. Spear
TwoPlusPlus@earthlink.net

 

~ Chapter Five: Afterword – Biographies ~

Biographies 

          Chekhov, Anton P. – (29 January 1860 – 15 July 1904) Russian writer. Known primarily for several hundred short stories and four major plays: 1) The Seagull; 2) Uncle Vanya; 3) The Three Sisters; and 4) The Cherry Orchard.

          O. Henry – (11 September 1862 – 5 June 1910) American writer William Sydney Porter. Adapted pen name O. Henry while in prison. Created unexpected endings to stories. Stories successfully using twist endings are often said to have an “O. Henry Ending.”

          Spear, William E. – American playwright, author of Lit Between the Ears, Volume One: Chekhov, O. Henry, Spear and Tarkington and a dozen other plays. Founder and President of Hunterdon Radio Theatre (http://www.hrtonline.org/), a 501C3 tax exempt nonprofit New Jersey corporation. Currently preparing Lit Between the Ears, Volume Two.

          Tarkington, N. Booth – (29 July 1869 – 19 May 1946) American writer. The Magnificent Ambersons was second book of Growth trilogy. Chronicles Amberson family’s economic and social decline between the Civil War and World War One. The Magnificent Ambersons won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919.

~ Chapter Five: Afterword – Definitions and Usage ~

Definitions and Usage

BEAT – Elemental unit of telling a larger story. Contains: Setup, Conflict and Resolution. A series of BEATS tells an entire story.

Also, similar to a pause when used with dialogue.

BED – Foundation for a beat. MUSIC, SOUND EFFECTS or VOICES may be a BED upon which another element performs.

BREATHE – When foreground story elements pause to allow bed to be heard. The Announcer in the closing credits often BREATHES, or pauses, while music continues underneath.

BUMPER – Music or sounds in between beats. Often conveys a transition between locations or passage of time.

CUE – How a performer picks up a line. Enclosed within parens when used in an actor’s dialogue.

DIRECTIONS IN PARENS – Directions, ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS, for performing line.

ELEMENTS OF RADIO DRAMA – Voices, music, sound effects and silence.

ELLIPSIS (…) – Similar to (BEAT) when used in dialogue.

FILTERED – When a voice, music or sound effect is processed either mechanically or electronically. Talking through a coffee tin provides an approximation of how a telephone filters a voice.

LINE NUMBERS – Reference device within script for performers.

MIC – Short for microphone. A simple device until one has to tell a story, perform music, or convey sound effects without bumping into it or its cable, stand, or base.

MUSIC – One of the four ELEMENTS OF RADIO DRAMA.

OFF MIC – Further away from microphone than when usually performing. Each performer has a normal distance from the microphone for delivering lines, music or sound effects. Being OFF MIC conveys a feeling of depth or space within a performance. To GO OFF MIC is to move away from the microphone and the other performers. Opposite of ON MIC.

Also, used to start dialogue, music, or sound effects away from the other performers.

ON MIC – Normal distance from microphone for performing. Performers ON MIC are on the same aural plane. When a performer moves closer to, or further away from, the microphone, the audience perceives the performer coming towards, or moving away from, the other performers. Opposite of OFF MIC.

OUT – Volume of an element declines until no longer heard. Opposite of UP.

OVER – When volume of voice, music or sound effect rise relative to other elements. Opposite of UNDER.

PASSAGE OF TIME – Advancing the story’s timeline through music or sound effects rather than voices.

PERFORMERS – Actors, musicians, sound effects artists, directors, engineers, technicians or cast or crew member directly involved with the presentation of a script.

SEGUE – Frequently a transition between two beats. Can also be transition between ELEMENTS OF RADIO DRAMA. Imagine a percussive beat segueing into the rhythmic pounding of a machine.

SILENCE – One of four ELEMENTS OF RADIO DRAMA. Used like garlic in spaghetti sauce; a small amount enhances but too much overpowers.

SOUND EFFECTS – One of four ELEMENTS OF RADIO DRAMA. Sounds other than voices or music for telling a story. Examples would include pistol firing, door slamming or steps on gravel. Abbreviated as SFX.

UNDER – When volume of voice, music or sound effect declines relative to other elements. Opposite of OVER.

UP – Volume of an element rises from not heard or inaudible to distinct. Opposite of OUT.

VOICES – One of four ELEMENTS OF RADIO DRAMA.

WALLA-WALLA – One of the best known and most used sound effects. Actors create aural illusion of crowd or background conversations by repeating “Walla-walla.”

 

 

~ Page 127 ~ 

Index

B

Biographies

C

Chekhov, Anton P.

D

Definitions and Usage

H

Hunterdon Radio Theatre

O

O. Henry

S

Spear, William E.

T

Tarkington, N. Booth

The Splendor in Midland

The Wager

W

When the Last Leaf Falls

Y

You Didn’t Have To Go

 

 

~ Page 128 ~

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Comments»

1. voiceovertalent - August 27, 2007

The “Definitions and Usage” section above is very interesting. I’ve working in radio for several years now, and I learned a few new ones today. http://amazingvoicetalent.com

2. William Spear - August 27, 2007

Terry,

Thanks for stopping by. Your feedback is appreciated.

Bill

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