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Brechtian Alienation

WGAE Registration #I228570


CHARACTERS

RHODA - 12, Whip smart with nerves of steel.

JOHN HENRY (J.H.) - 12, Rhodas best friend and staunch


supporter.

FANCY FALES - Late 20s, The new Playwriting teacher. A bit


of a prig.

ANGUS - 12, Not afraid to be who he is.

ELISE - 12, Organized and efficient.

MARGARET - 12, Pretty and poised.

TIME: The present.

PLACE: A school for gifted children in Brooklyn Heights -


Interior and exterior of Miss Faless office.
1.

(The exterior and interior of a private school office in


Brooklyn Heights. A door in a frame separates the two
spaces. Down stage right is a small bench for two. Down
stage left is a desk at an angle with a chair in front. The
placque on the door reads: Miss Fales.)

(RHODA and JOHN HENRY (J.H.), both 12,


SIT outside the office on the bench.
MISS FALES busies herself inside at the
desk.)

RHODA
(stands and smooths out HER
overly dressy dress.)
I feel ridiculous!

J.H.
I like the outfit. I think itll work.

RHODA
(fussing with HER hair ribbons)
Pigtails? Really?!

(HE takes RHODA by the shoulders.)

J.H.
Rhoda, weve been over this. Youre only cute for so long.
Use it while you can.

RHODA
I dont know, John Henry.

J.H.
Just dont let her smell the fear.
RHODA
But what if she refuses to include my...

J.H.
Ill be right here behind the door. If anything goes south,
we move to plan B.

RHODA
(bolstered)
Plan B. Right.

J.H.
(gesturing to the door)
Shes not so smart.
2.

RHODA
Clearly.
(beat)
You dont just like my play because were best friends?

J.H.
Of course not. Its terrific! I just know it. Miss Fales
is a moron.

RHODA
How could she not be? I mean what kind of parents name a
kid: Fancy Fales?

J.H.
(shaking his head)
She never had a chance.

RHODA
Im sure it wasnt easy. She must have had dreams. And here
she is, forced to teach playwriting to the children of the
bourgeoisie of Brooklyn Heights. How demeaning.

J.H.
Thats the bile talking. Stay focused, Rhoda.

(The door opens. RHODA AND J.H. react,


afraid theyve been heard. MISS FALES
stands there.)

FANCY
You may come in now, Rhoda.

J.H.
(cloying)
Hello, Miss Fales.
FANCY
(she doesnt particularly like
him)
John Henry.

(FANCY turns and enters the office.


RHODA whirls to J.H.. HE gives RHODA a
push through the door. Door closes.
J.H. listens at the door. FANCY sits
motioning RHODA to do the same.)

FANCY
Rhoda?

RHODA
Its about my play.
3.

FANCY
I imagined it would be.

RHODA
(taking a deep breath)
I dont think you quite got it.

FANCY
Excuse me?

RHODA
Got it. My play.

FANCY
I heard what you said. I just couldnt believe it.

RHODA
Its like this, Miss Fales: we clearly enjoy different types
of theatre.

(FANCY looks at her.)

RHODA
Just because you dont understand my play, doesnt mean you
should dismiss it.

FANCY RHODA
Rhoda, I have an English (shes heard it before)
Literature degree from... Sarah Lawrence. Yeah, I
(with RHODA) know.
Sarah Lawrence.

(Exterior Office. JOHN HENRY looks


worried. He motions off-stage and is
joined by ANGUS, ELISE and MARGARET.)
J.H.
(to group)
Its not going well. I told her not to be such a hot head.

(Interior Office.)

FANCY
Lets get back to my not understanding your play, Rhoda.

RHODA
I dont mean to suggest that your taste is ... suspect or
anything.

(Exterior Office.)

J.H.
Oh, brother!
4.

ANGUS
I smell disaster. Well, that and the cruddy Tea-Rose Miss
Fales always wears.

ELISE
Angus! Shh!

(Interior Office.)

RHODA
I just think sometimes... certain people need to see
something live to totally immerse themselves in the authors
vision.

FANCY
I assure you there is nothing wrong with my imagination.

(FANCY stands. RHODA follows.)

FANCY
Im afraid my minds made up, Rhoda. I stand by my decision
and will not be including your play in the first annual play
festival.

(FANCY strides toward the door.)

RHODA
(stopping her)
Miss Fales, may I level?

FANCY
Please.

(Exterior Office.)
J.H.
Here she goes.

ELISE
Places everyone. Plan B!

(Interior Office.)

RHODA
I realize youre new here, but you need to see my play. Deep
down, I think you want to see my play.
(strongly)
So youre gonna see my play!

(J.H. throws open the door and the GANG


rushes in. MARGARET guards the door as
J.H. crosses to RHODA. ANGUS and ELISE
strong-arm MISS FALES into her chair
and tie HER up with a jump rope.)
5.

RHODA
Im sorry it had to come to this.

FANCY
Let me go! What do you think youre doing? Ill see you all
expelled.

MARGARET
(calmly)
Miss Fales, its a school for gifted children. The
headmaster enjoys an occasional uprising.

FANCY
Margaret, I am shocked to find you a part of this unruly
mob.

MARGARET
Theyre my friends, Miss Fales. Besides, Im the lead in
Rhodas play.

FANCY
Just what is it you hope to accomplish here?

J.H.
Didnt you teach us that sometimes something reads well, but
doesnt play well?

ELISE
And vice-versa?

ANGUS
(to Fancy)
Like that play you wrote.

ELISE
The one about native Americans.

FANCY
(a sore subject for her)
Corn Bread: A Meditation on Class and Consciousness in 18th
Century New England.

ELISE
Thats not what the Brooklyn Heights Press called it...

J.H.
(warning)
Elise!

FANCY
All right. Since I seem to have no choice until I put you
all on academic probation...
6.

MARGARET
Miss Fales, again, school for the gifted - so no academic
probation.

FANCY
Fine. Why dont you all enlighten me about what Rhodas play
has that I was unable to discover by reading it?

J.H.
(caught short)
Well, its got lots of...

ELISE
Theres the part about...

MARGARET
Themes of...

FANCY
(smugly)
Um?

RHODA
(bravely)
Ive got... Brechtian Alienation.

FANCY
What?!

ANGUS
Does it hurt?

J.H.
Yup. Shes got it. Dont make her say it again.
MARGARET
(pulling her aside)
Rhoda, are you sure?

RHODA
Natch.

(The GANG joins them, leaving FANCY to


try and eavesdrop.)

ANGUS
(worried)
I dont know what that is, Rhoda.

ELISE
I do. I have this Uncle who loves theatre and he says...
7.

J.H.
Later, Elise. Youve got it, Rhoda. And well make sure she
knows it.

RHODA
(back to Fancy)
Thats right. Good old Brechtian Alienation.

FANCY
Then why didnt I see it?

ANGUS
Well, you are a little snooty...

J.H.
That and we think your taste is up your butt.

RHODA
John Henry!

J.H.
(Looking at others)
Well, we do.

(ALL think for a moment, then nod THEIR


heads in agreement.)

ANGUS
Rhoda, what exactly is it?

RHODA
Its like this, Angus: When a character in a play breaks the
fourth wall addressing the audience directly, it reminds
them...
ELISE
(out)
The audience...

RHODA
Right. That theyre watching a play. Hence the distancing
or alienation effect.

ANGUS
(admiringly)
You really are gifted.

FANCY
(tartly)
I dont see how this applies to your play, Rhoda.

RHODA
I believe the final scene of my work will illustrate fully.
John Henry?
8.

J.H.
Places, please, for Little Trojan Women scene 36.

(MARGARET wraps a scarf around HER head


for a Greek Tragedy look. ELISE
pulls a paper crown with a tattered
veil festooned with a bridal garland
out of her back pack. SHE also
produces a pinafore. ANGUS puts on the
pinafore and warms up vocally.)

RHODA
As youll remember, Miss Fales, my play is mash-up of Little
Women and The Trojan Women.

J.H.
Focusing on the theme of the subjugation of women in two
vastly different time periods.

RHODA
Hecuba, played by Margaret..

(MARGARET touches HER hair.)

RHODA
...meets her daughter, Cassandra - Elise...

(ELISE curtsies.)

RHODA
Cassandras a chronic liar, or is she? They are joined by
Beth March, tragically ill younger sister. Beth is played
with surprising reality by Angus.

J.H.
Isnt that even more Brechtian Alienation?

MARGARET
How do you mean?

J.H.
A boy playing a girl with no ironic subtext.

ELISE
No. Thats just drag.

RHODA
(taking stage)
The time is now and then. The place, outside the walls of
Troy and Concord, Mass.
(dramatically)
Lights up!
9.

(MARGARET kneels as HECUBA. SHE bawls


her fist at the heavens and speaks.)

HECUBA
Aieee! Oh, Gods, the tragedy you have visited upon me. Oh,
women! Oh, tragedy!

(RHODA and J.H. become the Chorus.)

CHORUS
Oh, tragedy! Oh, women!

(CASSANDRA enters a bit crazed. SHE


speaks very grandly then with a
Brooklyn accent.)

CASSANDRA
By Athena, they have made me concubine and fool!

HECUBA
Cassandra! My own!

CASSANDRA
I, Princess royal of Troy!
(shakes head)
What a story.

(SHE rushes to HECUBA sobbing.)

HECUBA
(looking darkly to the skies)
They have made you mad!

CASSANDRA
Yes... no... It may just be the New England winters.
HECUBA
Oh, daughter.

CASSANDRA
(edgily)
I see the infinite. The gift of prophecy is mine.

HECUBA
(worrying the tatters in her
veil)
Such a messy child...

CASSANDRA
(suddenly)
I see light. Radiant light. Sweetness and butterscotch...
(darkly)
And I smell death.
10.

(BETH enters. Stops to cough daintily,


then bravely carries on.)

BETH
I ran all the way from Orchard House. I am a little out of
breath.

(BETH commences to cough wildly.)

HECUBA
Beth, my Beth. By Louisa May, you have escaped the Greeks!

(HECUBA cradles her.)

BETH
Dont worry. I dont mind... so awfully much.

(BETH clutches her heart.)

BETH
(to audience)
Its just Ill miss you all...

(SHE points to the audience then MISS


FALES. BETH coughs and slumps in
HECUBAs arms.)

HECUBA
Cassandra?!

CASSANDRA
(matter of fact)
She dies.

HECUBA
(angrily)
Away foul temptress of the fates!

CASSANDRA
(insulted)
What da ya talk?

(BETHs eyes pop open. To HECUBA.)

BETH
You mustnt be cross. I am not afraid.
(out)
I die.

(SHE dies.)

HECUBA
(wildly)
Aieeeeeeeee!!!
11.

CASSANDRA
(dryly)
I warned ya.

HECUBA
Oh. Bethie, my Bethie... Ah, woe is me.

CHORUS
Oh, woe! Oh, woe! Thrice woe!

(CASSANDRA unpins her veil and covers


BETHs face.)

HECUBA
The city ablaze, my Bethie dead. Oh, Little Women born from
Trojan Women - hear me now: Thy cup will be bitter.

CHORUS
Bitter. Bitter.

HECUBA
Heed me Amy, Jo, Meg and yes, my Beth. Listen supplicants
everywhere: An unhappy end awaits.
(defiantly)
Spear-mongering Greeks - you can keep this stinkin town. I
fall bowed to the silent earth.

(SHE does.)

RHODA
Curtain.

(THE FIVE join hands and bow to the


audience, then MISS FALES.)
FANCY
Rhoda, I dont know quite where to begin. Its bold, Ill
give you that... its certainly vulgar...

(ALL hold THEIR collective breath.)

FANCY
(slowly and decisively)
And... I think, I think I love it! Youre in the festival.

ALL
Hooray!

RHODA
Miss Fales, whoever said you have no taste was wrong.

FANCY
Just be in the auditorium tomorrow at four.
12.

ANGUS
Wait until you see the opening number.

ELISE
Youre going to love it.

RHODA
Come on everyone, weve got to work on that tap break.

(As THEY gather their things.)

FANCY
Wait... a musical number? No one mentioned a...

ALL
Bye, Miss Fales.

(THEY are off. FANCY still tied up


struggles with the jump rope.)

FANCY
(weakly)
John Henry... Rhoda...

BLACKOUT