Monthly Archives: April 2020

Act Without Exit

For tonight’s playwriting class, we read Samuel Beckett’s Act Without Words I, which is a short (3-minute) drama with no dialogue, where a man onstage is tantalized by various objects. We wrote out all of the “rules” that Beckett had imposed on himself writing this world, and then we each chose three and wrote our own piece conforming to those rules.

So I give you my quickwrite piece from this week, following these three rules:

  1. All objects come in from above
  2. Every object must be addressed by the character
  3. Character can’t leave the stage/can’t escape

 

ACT WITHOUT EXIT

A kitchen set, linoleum, backsplash. Clean, tidy, functional. No furniture or appliances. Morning light through the curtains in the windows. ELENA stands center, on the phone.

ELENA
Yup, 10am. I’ll be there by 9:45 just to be sure. I’m just about to leave.

The fridge flies in, and ELENA goes to it. While she is there, a table flies in behind her and lands in the center of the room.

ELENA
I remember how to get there—it’s off the second exit, near the bank. Right by that new car wash.

ELENA takes out eggs, milk, chives from the fridge, goes to table; chops, breaks, combines, whisks.
The stove flies in behind her. ELENA reaches for it, turns on a burner.

ELENA
Of course I know. This is your first apartment, you think I would miss this?

ELENA goes to the stove, looks around.
A pan flies in from above.
ELENA takes the pan, sets it on the burner. Takes the bowl, gives it one last stir, and then pours the mixture into the pan.

ELENA
I wouldn’t say that. I’m sure he’d be happy to do it, but I really do think he was busy this weekend.

A dishwasher flies in from above.

ELENA
Oh honey, you’re being dramatic. He loves you. He’s just working.

She looks at dishwasher. Is it clean or dirty? Opens and checks. Dirty.
Behind her, the sink flies into place. She looks. It’s half full of dirty dishes. She considers. Does she have time to fill the dishwasher before she leaves?

ELENA
Yes, leaving soon.

A clock flies in above the sink. ELENA checks it. It’s 9:30.

ELENA
Oops…Very soon.

A towel flies in and lands near the sink. The eggs are cooked. ELENA turns off the burner, looks for a plate. A cupboard flies in.

ELENA
Just eating quick breakfast. Real quick.

She opens the cupboard and takes out a plate, dumps eggs onto plate. Grabs a fork from the sink, wipes it on the towel, starts to eat.

ELENA
Almost done. I’ll leave right after this. I’ll see you soon.

ELENA finishes the eggs, dumps the plate and fork in the sink. It’s time to go. She grabs her purse, starts to exit.

A broom and dustpan fly in from above and land near the fridge. ELENA looks at them and sighs. Puts her purse down. Grabs the broom and starts to sweep.

The clock ticks.

Scene.

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Alfie

About a month ago, before I realized how just stressful it was going to be all the time to be sheltering in place and living in this uncertain world (and I 100% know that I do not have it that bad), I had the option to sign up for free for a once-a-week, online playwriting class. And I thought, this is my chance to do something creative, and it’s only eight weeks, and why not? Let’s go for it!

Our first assignment was to quickwrite a burst of dialogue we had overheard in public, and then to quickwrite a description of a landscape, and then our teacher swapped them all around, and we each received one of each from other people, and then we had to create a short play using them.

It was weirdly intimidating to me. Like, I didn’t do the project until the very last minute (2 hours before the class started) because each time I thought about it I just felt a combination of panicked about having to be creative under deadline, and exhaustion. So I just whined about it until the last minute, then went into my bedroom, and put it together.

I actually kind of like it, and after we read everyone’s out loud in class, I felt pretty good about mine. So I thought I’d share it here.

ALFIE

Setting: A ridge on a hiking trail, a scenic view spot about halfway up Mount Tamalpais. Golden hour, about half an hour before the sun sets. There’s a bench, and some rocks and bushes. JUNE and SAM, both older, are sitting on the bench when the lights come up. They sit near each other on the bench, although not close enough to touch, and take in the view.

LYNN and CARA arrive together at the ridge, and stand off to the side, six-plus feet away.

SAM
Alfie? (No response) Alfie? (No response) Where’s Alfie? (No response) Has anyone seen Alfie?

JUNE
(mildly) I don’t know. I could have sworn he was just here.

SAM
Alfie? Alfie! Did he go somewhere?

JUNE
I’m sure he’s fine.

SAM
He’s not supposed to just go outside.

JUNE
(“there is no Alfie”) He’ll be just fine.

LYNN
(catching her breath) Did you hear what Trump said?

CARA
(panting)

SAM
Alfie’s blanket—

JUNE
Yes?

CARA
(panting)

SAM
It’s not on his bed—

JUNE
Everything’s fine.

CARA
(holding up a finger signaling “one sec”)

SAM
Did you put it in the laundry room?

JUNE
The blanket?

SAM nods, working his fingers along the bench beside him.

JUNE
You know, I think I did. Yes, I remember I think I did.

CARA
(finally catching her breath) Oh no, what did he say this time?

LYNN
Trump said— (sneezes) Sorry. Allergies.

SAM
(Has found a leaf growing up underneath the bench, and pulls it off triumphantly.)
I found it! I found it!

LYNN
Trump said that— (sneezes again)

SAM
(Pointing offstage away from LYNN and CARA) And there he is! There’s Alfie!

CARA
(doing stretches against a nearby rock while prompting LYNN) Trump said…?

LYNN
Trump said this whole thing would be over by June.

SAM
(happily) Alfie! Hi Alfie! Hi you little butterball! (waves)
(to JUNE) Has he been fed yet?

JUNE
I was going to feed him, but is it too early?

CARA
I heard that everyone has to be wearing a mask now. Like we should always be wearing masks.

LYNN
We should order more masks online.

SAM
Maybe I should feed him now.

JUNE
I think we should wait.

SAM
Yeah, maybe we should wait.

CARA
We should. We should order some masks online. How many do we have?

LYNN
I have the mask your mom made me but it’s— (gestures at her face)

SAM
Or maybe he’s hungry now.

JUNE
Let’s wait and see.

SAM
Okay.

CARA
You can’t wear that one all the time, though.

JUNE and SAM sit back against the bench. He lets the leaf fall and it flutters to the ground. After a moment, he scoots close enough to her that they’re touching. Then he puts an arm around her. She sighs and leans into him.

CARA
That mask is just for going into grocery stores.

CARA realizes LYNN is watching JUNE and SAM, and she starts watching them too. LYNN looks at CARA, smiles, and takes her hand. They stand silently. All four looking out at the view.

After a moment, a dog runs onstage and puts its head into SAM’s lap. He strokes its ears.

SAM
Good boy, Alfie.

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