Author Topic: stage script in need of input  (Read 2658 times)

Offline Nancy Newsom

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stage script in need of input
« on: April 23, 2009, 11:02:52 AM »
I adapted this from a short story I'd written. What an excercise that was! I certainly discovered where I'd told instead of shown in my story.

Please give me any and all feedback possible -- I'd like to submit it to a local players theater.

Nancy



 BELOVED HEART - A Play in one act 

Scene:
A room with two upstage exits - stage right door leads outside, stage left doorway leads to another room. A table with two chairs at center. On the table is a glass pie plate with a white powdery substance, single-edge razor blade, glass pipe, two or three disposable lighters, an ashtray and a heart pendant. Seashells and various bric-a-brac scattered throughout room. Trash can downstage corner R. Collectible doll downstage corner L. Slip-on shoes downstage front center.

At Rise:
The lights come up on MICHAEL with his back to the doorway L, hunched over the table. He is barefoot, wearing dirty jeans and an unbuttoned shirt. His shoulder-length hair is unkempt, matted. He is unshaven. He is carefully scraping powder on the pie plate into a little pile and lifting it to the screen on top of the pipe. Every motion made is with the devotion, patience and intensity of a lover for his loved one, but with an edge of exhaustion. He brings the pipe to his mouth and closes his eyes as he puts the flame to the pipe and inhales. Sets the pipe in front of him, but doesn't release his hand. Holds his breath, opens eyes, finally exhales. Lifts the pipe to his mouth, lights flame again, but cannot get a toke. Sets the pipe down to the side, pulls the pie plate closer and scrapes at the edges with the razor, piling and scraping. Meticulously chops the substance into the finest powder possible with a mechanically precise and tense motion of the wrist. Piles the drug in the center of the plate. With the corner of the razor, takes the tip of the pile and puts it on the screen, repeats patterned technique of toke till eyes are opened again. Shoulders have become gradually more hunched, and the man appears to be curling in on himself. His overall tone throughout is obsessive-adoring toward the drug and paraphernalia.

A WOMAN enters through doorway just as MICHAEL opens his eyes.  She is barefoot but otherwise fully dressed - casual but clean.  Her hair is pulled back, and she has a patch of cover-up makeup on her cheekbone. She is carrying a pillowcase stuffed with clothing, shoes and toiletries. She is involved in her own ritual  as she enters the room - she surreptitiously sets the pillowcase down in the corner behind MICHAEL as her eyes scan the room for  something in particular. Stepping downstage she looks around the  room, then her eyes fall on MICHAEL. He has set the pipe down and is putting a new small pile on the screen. She watches him take a toke, then looks around the room in apparent search. When he is done with the ritual and his eyes are again open, he glances at her. Lifts the pipe to his mouth again, but before putting the flame to it, he offers it to her in a gesture. She catches his gesture out of the corner of her eye, turns toward him, then stops and shakes her head no, turning away from him again. She looks around the room in a distracted manner, then steps downstage R. to pick up a pile of shells.

MICHAEL seems oblivious to her actions, piles on and takes a new toke, closing his eyes as previously. She goes to pillowcase while his eyes are closed.

MICHAEL [on the exhale]: What're you doin'?

[She tenses at his question, then stuffs the shells one at a time, noiselessly, into the pillowcase.]

WOMAN: What do you mean?

MICHAEL [piling on another toke]: Are you leaving me? [Flame to pipe - takes toke with eyes open gazing straight ahead.]

WOMAN: I guess so. [Pauses, letting the words sink in on herself.  Steps downstage from pillowcase, standing next to him] I don't want to.... [Catches herself being weak, bolsters herself] Yeah, I am.

[Reaches abruptly to pick up ashtray from table. Crosses to trashcan and empties ashtray. While crossing back to the table she evaluates the ashtray, then decides she doesn't want to take it and sets it back on the table. Players are on opposite sides of table. Drugs and paraphernalia establish an obvious barrier. She brushes crumbs off table, sees the heart necklace on the table, reaches out to pick it up.]

MICHAEL [places his hand on hers, looking at her face]: Don't leave me. I need you. [beat] [Pats her hand and picks up blade to scrape plate.]

WOMAN [a chortle at the irony]: No, I don't think so.

[Clutching the heart in her fist, spins away from table, facing downstage. Gathering her strength, she tries to take a deep breath, but it comes in short quiet gasps. She wipes abruptly at her eye, exhales, then begins speaking - voice quavering at first. MICHAEL's focus is on a pile he is placing on the pipe.]

I can't compete anymore, Michael. [Voice strengthens.] There's more love in you for that drug than there is for me.

[MICHAEL stops and looks at her.]

Remember when you gave me this? [Turns toward him, holding necklace out.] We used to be the world for each other. [Melancholy smile as the arm drops.] That wasn't even so long ago.

[She steps toward downstage R. as if she's going somewhere, but she stops with no destination. She slowly spins all the way around, taking in the condition of the room, then she stops and looks at Michael. MICHAEL begins to rise. As he rises, it is apparent that his feet are extremely painful and he cannot stand on his own, so for the scene he is limited to standing near the table to support himself.]

I'm sorry I helped it all fall down. It's my fault, too. I'm just as much a junkie as you are, I guess. God, I've got these stupid scars on my face - we both do. [Slight hysteria in her voice.] You know what happened last night? A tooth fell out of my mouth - right on my pillow. The drug fairy came by last night, Michael, and pulled out a tooth!

[Her face screws up as if to cry, but she jerks herself - as if shaking off the situation. She turns quickly downstage to her shoes, slips them on.]

I've got to get out of here.

[She moves toward the pillowcase, but MICHAEL has moved to stand in the way, still leaning against the table. He moves to block her way.]

MICHAEL [desperately and aggressively]: You can't do this to me.

[WOMAN stops just short of pushing him into the table. She backs up against the wall L. still within his reach but pulling away.]

WOMAN [incredulous]: You? You? What am I doing to you? I'm not doing any damn thing to you.

[Gasping breath, stifling a scream and trying to keep from fully breaking into tears, she quickly steps downstage and turns away from him, staying near the wall.]

I'm trying to save my own life.

[She bends to pick up the collectible doll at her feet, then drops heavily against the wall. MICHAEL leans toward her, supporting himself unsteadily on the corner of the table.]

MICHAEL: You can't leave me. I need you. I can quit, just like you are. Com'on, we can do it.

[He tries to balance himself in preparation to lunge toward her, calculating every painful move as if he is trapping a wild cat. She looks up at him and steps toward downstage center, edging out of his reach.]

WOMAN [voice raised just short of yelling]: God, look at you - look what you're doing. Yeah, you could quit, but you won't and you know it. That's the difference between us. You're pitiful - you look like the living dead, for crissakes. You stink of ether and...and death. Damn it, Michael - how could you do this to me?

[MICHAEL has dropped to the chair. She rushes straight to the pillowcase. MICHAEL reaches out to grab her. Before she reaches him she brushes the pie plate to the floor downstage. MICHAEL loses focus and turns to rescue the plate, reaching for the blade and dropping to his knees to pick up any drugs that he can find on the floor. She grabs the pillowcase and runs past him to the door, where she pauses, turns, and looks at MICHAEL. Exit, slamming door.]

[MICHAEL hears door slam, looks up, looks around for her, realizes that she actually has gone. He tries to stand but his legs buckle. He pulls himself up to the table and, using the table for support, shuffles toward the door. He winces in pain as he lunges across the distance from the table to the door. While he is trying to get to her, he is crying, "No - no - don't leave -" in frightened desperation. He struggles with the door, unable to grasp or turn the handle at first. When the door finally is open, the sound of a car engine starting. He leans against the door, fully aware that he couldn't get to her.]

MICHAEL [Very loudly. Almost conversational at first, deteriorating into sobs.]: Don't stay away. You're right to leave for a while. I'm sorry. I'll straighten up and it'll all be better. Call me soon. I love you, too. You have to take care of yourself. You're right, I know it.

[Sound of car pulling away. Crying, he shuffles from the door to the table, pulls himself along the table edge to the chair, where he drops heavily. Looks out past her empty chair through the still-open door. He puts the pipe to his mouth.]

[Still crying] You're right. [Puts flame to the screen] I love...

[Takes a long drag on the pipe, sets it down without letting go.  Holds the toke in as he looks out through the door.]

Lights fade to black

Offline chesterlily88

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Re: stage script in need of input
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2009, 11:49:18 AM »
I love this!  Very short and powerful.  I like the detail in the stage directions, but I'm not sure if you need all of it as it leaves the director very little room for his or her own interpretation.  I wouldn't necessarily take anything out-just think about it.  Some of the contractions you used I've never seen before, like Com'on for Come on.  I've always seen C'mon used in that case.  And also, is "crissakes" supposed to be for Christ sakes?  In that case, it may be easier to just write it out.
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Offline Flmngo

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Re: stage script in need of input
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2009, 08:55:39 PM »
I agree that the scene is powerful. I also agree that the stage directions are too specific.

As an exercise, try taking out all the stage directions and see if the dialogue can stand on its own. Then you may see where you need to expand a character's lines to bring the audience into the scene.

Also, who is the main protagonist here? Are we to identify with Michael or the Woman. You've not identified her with a name, so I'm assuming it is Michael. However, the Woman seems to be more sympathetic.

Finally, where in the play does this scene take place? If if is towards the beginning, is seems to be giving too much away. We learn a lot about the Woman and her relationship to Michael and the drugs. You may want to reserve more of that for later revelations.
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Offline checksixproductions

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Re: stage script in need of input
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2009, 08:52:13 AM »
Nancy:

Very powerful scene, I share chesterlily88 opinion about your contractions.  Otherwise, this woman has so many lines perhaps she should be named.  Sorry, I am not a druggie, but what is Michael doing?  He is toking, smoking pot?  But also razor blading lines, Cocaine?

As a director, I like your stage directions, especially how you keep with standard story movement format, i.e., moving stage right is moving to the future.  It helps visualize your story, although the director will alter a lot in the shooting script. 

I can offer a little more conflict. 

Check

ORIGINAL:

MICHAEL [on the exhale]: What're you doin'?

[She tenses at his question, then stuffs the shells one at a time, noiselessly, into the pillowcase.]

WOMAN: What do you mean?

MICHAEL [piling on another toke]: Are you leaving me? [Flame to pipe - takes toke with eyes open gazing straight ahead.]

WOMAN: I guess so. [Pauses, letting the words sink in on herself.  Steps downstage from pillowcase, standing next to him] I don't want to.... [Catches herself being weak, bolsters herself] Yeah, I am.

[Reaches abruptly to pick up ashtray from table. Crosses to trashcan and empties ashtray. While crossing back to the table she evaluates the ashtray, then decides she doesn't want to take it and sets it back on the table. Players are on opposite sides of table. Drugs and paraphernalia establish an obvious barrier. She brushes crumbs off table, sees the heart necklace on the table, reaches out to pick it up.]

MICHAEL [places his hand on hers, looking at her face]: Don't leave me. I need you. [beat] [Pats her hand and picks up blade to scrape plate.]

WOMAN [a chortle at the irony]: No, I don't think so.

[Clutching the heart in her fist, spins away from table, facing downstage. Gathering her strength, she tries to take a deep breath, but it comes in short quiet gasps. She wipes abruptly at her eye, exhales, then begins speaking - voice quavering at first. MICHAEL's focus is on a pile he is placing on the pipe.]

I can't compete anymore, Michael. [Voice strengthens.] There's more love in you for that drug than there is for me.

[MICHAEL stops and looks at her.]

Remember when you gave me this? [Turns toward him, holding necklace out.] We used to be the world for each other. [Melancholy smile as the arm drops.] That wasn't even so long ago.

[She steps toward downstage R. as if she's going somewhere, but she stops with no destination. She slowly spins all the way around, taking in the condition of the room, then she stops and looks at Michael. MICHAEL begins to rise. As he rises, it is apparent that his feet are extremely painful and he cannot stand on his own, so for the scene he is limited to standing near the table to support himself.]

I'm sorry I helped it all fall down. It's my fault, too. I'm just as much a junkie as you are, I guess. God, I've got these stupid scars on my face - we both do. [Slight hysteria in her voice.] You know what happened last night? A tooth fell out of my mouth - right on my pillow. The drug fairy came by last night, Michael, and pulled out a tooth!


REWRITE:

MICHAEL [on the exhale]: What're you doin'?

[She tenses at his question, then stuffs the shells one at a time, noiselessly, into the pillowcase.]

BARB: What does it look like?

MICHAEL [piling on another toke]:  Are you leaving me? [Flame to pipe - takes toke with eyes open gazing straight ahead.]

BARB: Leaving you?  Like, there is someone left to leave?

[Reaches abruptly to pick up ashtray from table. Crosses to trashcan and empties ashtray. While crossing back to the table she evaluates the ashtray, then decides she doesn't want to take it and sets it back on the table. Players are on opposite sides of table. Drugs and paraphernalia establish an obvious barrier. She brushes crumbs off table, sees the heart necklace on the table, reaches out to pick it up.]

MICHAEL [places his hand on hers, looking at her face]: Don't leave me. I need you. [beat] [Pats her hand and picks up blade to scrape plate.]

BARB [a chortle at the irony]: No, I don't think so.

[Clutching the heart in her fist, spins away from table, facing downstage. Gathering her strength, she tries to take a deep breath, but it comes in short quiet gasps. She wipes abruptly at her eye, exhales, then begins speaking - voice quivering at first. MICHAEL's focus is on a pile he is placing on the pipe.]

I can't compete anymore, Michael. [Voice strengthens.] There's more love in you for that drug than there is for me.

[MICHAEL stops and looks at her.]

Remember when you gave me this? [Turns toward him, holding necklace out.] We used to be the world for each other. [Melancholy smile as the arm drops.] That wasn't even so long ago.

[She steps toward downstage R. as if she's going somewhere, but she stops with no destination. She slowly spins all the way around, taking in the condition of the room, then she stops and looks at Michael. MICHAEL begins to rise. As he rises, it is apparent that his feet are extremely painful and he cannot stand on his own, so for the scene he is limited to standing near the table to support himself.]

I'm sorry I helped it all fall down. It's my fault, too. I'm just as much a junkie as you are, I guess. God, I've got these stupid scars on my face - we both do. [Slight hysteria in her voice.] You know what happened last night? A tooth fell out of my mouth - right on my pillow. The drug fairy came by last night, Michael, and pulled out a tooth!

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Offline Nancy Newsom

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Re: stage script in need of input
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2009, 01:23:30 PM »
I truly appreciate the input. I wrote this as an exercise to make sure I was "showing" and not "telling" the content of a short story. But in terms of scriptwriting, I need to leave more to the interpretation of the director and the actors. I don't need to write a character who can't come alive in someone else's body! Thanks for all the input, friends.