Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Actor in the House

Scene One

The set opens on the second floor of a tidy urban dwelling, a spacious home populated by mother, father, son one, daughter, and son two. The light is early morning pale in the daughter's bedroom. Walls are painted a putrid bright blue, barely discernable as the shades are drawn. The room is almost, but not quite (and this is a fine but important distinction) a garbage dump with piles of clothes, books, papers, packages, shoes, scrap booking material, photographs and toys arranged, just so, so that the room is a bit of a maze.

The daughter snores. Not softly.

Shift to the green illuminated clock: 7:55 am.

Enter Mother, tip-toeing. Clearly matronly, but with some degree of verve to her veer. She maneuvers through the mess to perch on her daughter's bed, rest a soft hand, gently, on her shoulder.

Although Mother's gesture is tender, there is a slight hesitation, a fallback, a reluctance that almost signals? Fear?

Mother: "Scarlett? Honey? It's almost 8. Time to get up for school! I know you were up really really late because of rehearsal, but we do need to get up for school."

The bed is unresponsive.

Mother: "Sweetie? Please?" She shakes the lump of blankets.

Suddenly, a glass-shattering scream pierces the room. This is no ordinary sound. In the daughter's awakening, we have the ability to stop pace-makers and induce labor. The sound -- not quite a scream but far more robust than a shout or wail -- is a Primordial Movement, making its way through the house, resting on the resigned shoulders of each family member.

First, in the kitchen, son two claps his hands on his ears, wincing. He is naked. And, sitting on the table. He is about 5 years old. A scruffy, skinny dog sits on the table beside him, eating out of a cereal bowl. There are no adults in sight. And the TV is on.

Father is shaving when the sound hits, and he does NOT nick himself, as would someone surprised or without a steely layer of reserve. Indeed, his eyes roll but there's a gleam of "that's my baby" in those brown pupils, as he continues trimming a very hot stubble off his chin.

Back in daughter's room, the Primordial Movement grows into a complete Chorus accompanied by Narration:


"I am SOOOO TIRED!! OMIGOD that sun is so BRIGHT!!"


"I BROKE my ankle and NOBODY CARES."

"Last night, I NEVER fell asleep at ALL and NOBODY CARES!!"

"My homework isn't done and I will have to STAY INSIDE during recess!"

But the main sound shooting across the set is the weeping -- the loud, dry heaves, the wails and maons, the ocassional collapse to the floor to best a chest and struggle to stand, once again.

Mother is long gone, so this is largely an audio performance. The daughter's ability to project should stagger the audience.

Scene One last approximately 40 minutes.

Scene Two

Daughter is sitting at her mother's computer, scrolling through upcoming auditions. The time is mid-afternoon, right after school. The light is bright, the room a colorful array of books, lamps and photos. The Mother is more relaxed, eager for an interaction other than the typical morning. The daughter is noticably excited, transformed. She hops in the computer chair and exhibits an unnatural energy, a hyperkinetic series of body motions and facial experessons.

Daughter: "Can I Can I Can I?"

Mother: "What?"

Daughter: "Audition to be in My Fair Lady? See, see, see, right here! Flower Girl and ensemble!! It's during Miracle Worker rehearsals so if we ask them if I can it will be fine!!! Fine!!"

Mother: "Sweetie, you would be working about 50 hours a week in theater then, and going to school. You don't have time."

Light changes in the room. There is an instant, intense darkening. The daughter falls out of sight. Following the Mother's gaze, we see she is writhing on the floor.


Mother pauses and must here capture, exquistely, the expresson that says "I wish everyone who asks me why I push her so much or everyone who says 'just say no to her' could be ME right now" and also "OMIGOD we both need a psychiatrist."

Mother: "Come on up. Stop! Don't beat your head against the floor! That's not helping! Here, let's look at other shows."

Daughter is back to the screen quicker than Sarah Palin returning her wardrobe.

Repeat scene several times, with different plays that Daughter will DIE if she is not in.

Scene Three

A visibly tired Mother is discussing with Father how much gas money they should pay for a fellow actor driving with Daughter. They are in the master bedroom, a brown and buttery cream room lit with the late afternoon sun and good wood. It is pleasant.

They do not see the daughter outside of their door.

Mother: "How much should we pay Frau Schmidt? I mean, what was your final calcuation?"

Father: "I think it cost $120 for gas, all told. Let's give her $50."

Mother: "Fifty!!!! If we owe $60, let's give her $70!"

Father: "Why?"

Mother: "Well, she actually drove."

Father: "But she HAD to be there those times anyway."

Mother: "So why not split it and give her $60?"

Father: "Because! We're now careful with money, remember? Haven't you given her four bottles of wine, a rack of chocolate and a handmade scarf already, anyway?"

The Mother simply rolls her eyes (she is as good as everyone else in the household as this when there is no real defense) and grabs her purse. Shifting so that her back is to Father (who is now busy with socks and underwear storage), she takes $60 from her wallet.

She meets the Daughter out in the hall, who scampers in delight behind her mother. They head downstairs, where Frau Schmidt will be any second.

Mother: "Scarlett? What do you think? If Frau Schmidt paid $120 for gas and we give her half, $60, is that enough?"

Daughter pauses and starts. She turns to her mother and grabs both of her mother's hands, pressing them directly underneath her own tiny chin. The face? Mournful? Eyes? Frightened, eager, hopeful and innocent.

Daughter: "Oh Mama! That is a wonderful idea! Because every night she complains so much about how much money she is spending on gas! It's a real sacrifice for her! She has some major money problems and this show isn't helping!"

Mother (frozen in uncertainty with years of Catholic girlhood Guilt effectively evoked; with Desire to Please discovered, seared and utilized; with role of Savior and Beneficiary of Those in Need tapped and readied. She is completely derailed): "Oh my!"

Daughter, instantly disengaged and trotting downstairs. "Just kidding!"

The End


Daisy said...

Oh, the drama!

Anonymous said...

Lord save me from drama queens. I'm so glad I had sons.

Becky said...

I think the Matron kind of likes the drama! I know I would. Maybe. Or I LOVE reading about it!

smalltownme said...

My first mental comment was what Daisy said. My second comment was what Kmkat said. I better give up now.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Matron, I have three of them. Daughters that is.


As I look down at my word verification, it says: unking

As in queen? As in drama queen.

I think it is a sign. Of what? I don't know either. But it is a sure sign of something. I find them everywhere. It's part of my charm.

Anyway, back to you. Lovely tale, rollicking really, with a surprise ending and all. Well done.

JCK said...

High drama. No one tells it better than the Matron. Her name is no accident, is it!? :)

Anonymous said...

When she wins the Oscar, the Tony, the Grammy and the Emmy all in the same year, you will invite us, right? I always wanted to walk the red carpet.

Lynda said...

Girls. They just plain wear you out! Gotta' love her, though :-)

Memarie Lane said...

i never thought i'd wish for my kids to be mediocre and talentless, but here's hoping.

"Last night, I NEVER fell asleep at ALL and NOBODY CARES"

I'm with ya, Scarlett.

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine the drama of living with Madam Scarlett. But clearly you love her:)

Cherish said...

Wow! How very wonderful that all of mine are boys

Unknown said...

If my daughter is actually at your house, as seems to be the case, then who do I have here?

Please don't tell me they're multiplying.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think I heard Scarlett scream.
That girl is something special, hang in there Matron!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It's probably a good thing Scarlett and I don't live together. I have a theory that kids somehow know which irrational behavior they can adopt that there parents can cope with and which ones they can't.

I developed my theory when my girlfriend and I had kids the same age. I would watch her 8 month old who never even moved off the blanket and wonder how she could tolerate having a child that did nothing. She would watch my 8 month old run in crazy circles around the room and wonder how I could stand having a kid that never stopped.

My kids have plenty of horribly annoying habits, but drama isn't one of them.