STAGING NOTES: In Acts I-III, the stage should be empty
(except for the park bench) and slowly darkening as if the
sun were setting in "real" (Amersfoort) time (except for the
parts that occur in Nice, France). In Act IV, except for the
death scene at the start, the sun is rising over the same
ACT I: IN FRONT OF THE RAILWAY STATION IN AMERSFOORT, THE NETHERLANDS. 5 P.M. ON A DAY IN THE FALL OF 2003.
ACT II: THE SAME PLACE, SECONDS AFTER THE END OF ACT I.
ACT III: THE SAME PLACE, ONE SECOND AFTER THE END OF ACT II.
ACT IV: 10 A.M. FOUR DAYS LATER IN THE SAME LOCATION.
ACT I: THE PLAZA IN FRONT OF THE RAILWAY STATION IN AMERSFOORT, THE NETHERLANDS. THE SLANTING RAYS OF THE SETTING SUN ILLUMINATE THE SCENE. FREQUENTLY, THE LIGHT DARKENS SLIGHTLY FOR A TIME TO INDICATE A CLOUD PASSING IN FRONT OF THE SUN. [CREATE THE SCENE OUT OF LIGHT AND SHADOW.]
An OLD MAN, in a rumpled black suit, a white shirt, and a black tie, enters carrying a large, hastily-prepared sign made from an unfolded cardboard box. The sign is folded so the writing cannot be read by the audience. He stops stage center, looks around, and yawns silently...He looks around again and sees someone off stage right, so he turns, unfolds the sign for the passerby to see, and holds the sign in his outstretched arms with his back to the audience. PASSERBY 1 crosses the back of the stage and exits left as the OLD MAN rotates his body so the sign continually faces the PASSERBY. The OLD MAN next looks around and, after some time, he sees someone crossing the Plaza between him and the audience, so he turns to face PASSERBY 2 and rotates his body showing the sign to her. She crosses the front of the stage as she looks suspiciously at the sign and the man, then increases her exit speed after she makes eye contact with him. The sign has large, block lettering saying: "Help me find my true love. Ask me how." He holds the sign at arms length with a somewhat crazed smile on his face as he rotates his body from one side of the audience to the other side. Next, he turns toward another "passerby" somewhere in the area of the audience, this time with a pleading look on his face as he tries to attract help again, but again that fails, so he silently sighs and sits down on the center end of a park bench (near stage left) and props the sign up on the other end. The OLD MAN leans back on the armrest of the bench and closes his eyes as if he would like to go to sleep. [Hold this until the audience wants to 'ask him how'.] Then he suddenly wakes up. He reaches into his jacket pocket and honks the horn that is hidden there, first once, then, after looking around, several times. This attracts PASSERBY 3, who crosses the front of the stage about half way. He reads the sign and stops. He is about to speak to the OLD MAN when his cell phone rings, but, at first, he doesn't know that it is his. He looks out at the audience accusingly (but silently) and looks around as if to see whose phone it is. [Ideally, some audience members will be fooled enough to start checking their own phones.] Finally, he is startled to realize that it is his phone. He answers it and starts talking (in Dutch).
Hendrik, hang op. Ik wil een vreemde man melden op het stationsplein. Ik bel je zo terug. [Hendrik, hang up. I want to report a strange man in the railway plaza. I'll call you right back.]
He gives a sidelong glance at the OLD MAN, and then quickly walks off as he dials the Dutch equivalent of 311. The OLD MAN audibly sighs, lies back and puts his legs up on the bench, and appears to fall asleep. After a while, a POLICEMAN (in uniform) and a REPORTER (carrying a cloth bag, with her hair hidden under a chic e.g., Borsalino, hat) approach the OLD MAN. The REPORTER leans toward the OLD MAN but remains wary.
Pardon, spreekt U Nederlands? [Excuse me. Do you speak Dutch?]
The OLD MAN jerks awake and gives a dazed and uncomprehending look to the REPORTER, but does not speak. After receiving no response, she repeats the phrase slower, louder, and more carefully. After a pause, the OLD MAN shakes his head sideways and responds.
The REPORTER turns her head to read the sign, then looks at the OLD MAN again.
Do you speak English?
(She has a slight Dutch accent.)
The OLD MAN sits up, puts his feet on the cobblestones, and looks up hopefully to the REPORTER.
Yes. Can you help me?
The POLICEMAN comes between the two and takes control of the situation.
Why did you make that sound?
(The Policeman has a strong Dutch accent.)
The OLD MAN spreads his arms out.
To attract attention. I need help!
I am police officer Van den Plaag. This is Miss Vrinten. She works for Amersfoortse Courant, the newspaper. What help you need?
I NEED HELP TO FIND MY TRUE LOVE!
He points with both hands to his sign.
The POLICEMAN takes from his pockets a small notebook and a pen, then says officiously
Give me your name.
The OLD MAN looks from the POLICEMAN to the REPORTER.
Is this necessary?
It is necessary to give a police report for me to help you.
I don't need a police report. I need help finding my soul mate! I NEED ADVERTISING!
Quiet please! Do not shout. From where are you?
Then be peaceful. You are a guest here. Where is your passport?
Passport? It's back in the hotel! Go away. Please leave me alone... Or help me. I need help, not harassment!
(To the POLICEMAN)
Willem, laat mij met hem praten. Laat me hem ondervragen. Ik red me wel. Hijlijkt ongevaarlijk en hij interesseert me. Je weet dat ik niet in zeven sloten tegelijk loop. Ga jij maar weg, [Willem, let me talk to him. Let me interview him. I will be OK. He seems harmless, and he does interest me. You know that I can take care of myself. You can move away,]
She gestures toward the back left corner of the stage.
Hou een oogje op me, en doe maar wat je wil. [keep an eye on me, and do what you want.]
The POLICEMAN thinks it over briefly, then points at the OLD MAN as he cautions him.
Talk is OK. Angry is trouble. You understand?
The POLICEMAN touches his baton holster menacingly as he backs away several steps.
So, how long is your true love lost?
The POLICEMAN gives a dismissive wave of his hand.
That is too old for a police report!
The POLICEMAN moves to the back left corner of the stage behind the bench, and starts to smoke a cigarette, but he keeps an eye on the OLD MAN.
May I sit down?
After the OLD MAN moves the sign to the middle of the bench, the REPORTER sits on the other end of the bench. She takes a tape recorder from her bag, points the tape recorder at the OLD MAN, and turns it on.
Perhaps I can help. Please tell me what has happened.
Why do you have to tape me?
Tape me? I do not understand.
He lifts his head to point his chin at the tape recorder.
Record my voice.
Because this will help your advertising. I am a reporter for the Amersfoortse Courant. I am looking for a story for the newspaper. You say that you want help, yes? This
She holds up the tape recorder.
will help to make the story…
She wiggles the tape recorder between their faces.
He leans back, rubs his chin, and thinks for 15-20 seconds, then leans forward and tries to negotiate.
I will tell you my story if you write what I tell you into an article and put it in your newspaper.
The REPORTER shakes her head, rejecting his offer firmly.
Just now Willem and I--
She points in the direction of the POLICEMAN, then says formally into the tape recorder
Just now officer Willem Van den Plaag and I are looking for information about a "strange man" in front of the Railroad Station. I can not promise anything.
The OLD MAN leans back on the bench and hand waves as he calculates for another 10-20 seconds. Then he leans forward and says carefully
Can you promise to take me to the newspaper and help me prepare an advertisement in Dutch to help me find my true love?
If you can pay for the advertisement, then -
I CAN PAY FOR THE ADVERTISEMENT!
He realizes that he has raised his voice, and he looks at the POLICEMAN, who has begun to stare at him. The OLD MAN cringes, then speaks quietly for a while.
Yes, I can pay for the advertisement.
Then, yes, I promise to help you. Wait please.
She turns off the tape recorder, takes it with her, gets up and goes over to the POLICEMAN, and argues quietly with him for a while trying convince him to leave, but he refuses and remains. The REPORTER returns to the OLD MAN. The POLICEMAN finishes his cigarette, drops it, steps on it, picks it up and exits stage left. Then he returns after 20-30 seconds, having thrown away the butt responsibly, and resumes watching the pair.
The newspaper sells advertisements. If the lady in the advertisement office cannot give you all the help that you need, I will help you to put one in the newspaper, as big as you want. So, tell me your story. OK?
The OLD MAN thinks for a moment, then nods his head in agreement.
The REPORTER sits down on the bench opposite the OLD MAN, turns on the tape recorder, and points it toward her face. [However, it should be pointed back and forth, depending on the speaker, until as indicated below.]
Your sign says that you are looking for your true love, yes?
It is difficult to find true love.
That's why I'm asking for help.
Do you know her or him, or is it a person you have not met?
I know who she is.
But how do you know she is your true love?
I know what true love is. I've known what true love is for more than forty years.
As the above is said, the POLICEMAN gets a call on his radio. He listens and tenses up a bit, responds, listens, then waves questioningly to the REPORTER. She waves back in reassurance, and he leaves to attend to other duties. [The REPORTER now puts the tape recorder on the bench pointing toward the OLD MAN.]
Forty years! That is a long time. Tell me about your forty-year true love. Did you meet her in Holland?
No, we met on the beach in Nice, France.
Ooo, la la! That is a romantic place. Please tell me about that meeting.
As the OLD MAN provides the following background, the lights on the left side of the stage darken and the lights on the right side slowly get VERY bright, like at the beach on a cloudless day.
He begins to tell his story.
When I graduated from high school, my parents knew I was too immature to be successful in college, so they sent me to grow up on a collective farm in Israel. I learned some Hebrew and changed a lot of fat into muscle. But I didn't like the fact that Israelis treated Arabs like dirt and I was bored, so I tried to convince my parents to let me leave the kibbutz and wander through Europe back to London, where an Icelandic Airlines ticket would be waiting to take me home. My argument was that, if I couldn't become an Israeli Rugged Pioneer, at least I might obtain a little European education before I went to a university. Finally, they gave in. The first thing I did after I left the kibbutz was to throw off my virginity, which led to a life-long FASCINATION with sex. Then I began my European odyssey. I absorbed boatloads of European culture for five months, in the style of Europe on Five Dollars a Day. (Yes, there actually was a book by that name once, and my diary reminded me that my THIRTY DAYS in Greece cost me a total of $89.13.) After Greece, I went to Italy where I was seduced into accepting a ride in a green convertible by an American lawyer. He drove me all the way through Italy, but eventually he tired of my naive heterosexuality, so he passed me off in Cannes to a French Count or someone, who figured out in less than the course of the brief train ride from Cannes to Nice that I was nothing more than an inexperienced, straight boy in a buff, man's body. I couldn't understand his pronunciation of "faux pas", so I was dropped without ceremony. Two days later I went to the beach in Nice, France. The date was July 6, 1961, two days after having sex for the SECOND time in my life, with a pleasant and efficient French prostitute. I was more excited than a teen let loose in an adult video store, and hungry for more.
SOUNDS OF A GENTLE OCEAN.
A YOUNG MAN walks into the extremely bright side of the stage carrying a thin Greek beach towel and a paperback book. He stops in the light near center upstage. [He must be buff, as if he has just left the kibbutz, and must look SOMEWHAT like a young OLD MAN.] He spreads out the towel, takes off his white T-shirt and slacks to reveal an American bathing suit. He folds up his shirt and pants and places them in a pile at the center-facing end of the towel to use as a pillow. He lies down on his back on the towel, sighs loudly, relaxes for a short time, and then turns on his stomach, faces the audience, sighs contentedly again as he basks in the sun, and closes his eyes. Subsequently, a vaguely Scandinavian looking YOUNG WOMAN enters from the other side. She wears a dress with a full skirt and carries a beach bag. She stops near the right side downstage, takes a towel from the bag and spreads it out on the rocks, takes out a book and an International Herald Tribune from the bag and puts them on the towel. She takes off her dress to reveal a white bikini with black polka-dots [or whatever]. She folds the dress carefully, puts it in the bag, sits down on the towel, and begins to read the newspaper. The YOUNG MAN slowly opens his eyes, lifts his head, looks around, sees the YOUNG WOMAN, and starts staring at her. Eventually, the YOUNG WOMAN sees him staring, briefly [at least three - four seconds] returns his gaze, then returns to reading the newspaper. She finishes reading an article, puts it down, and lies down on her back with her feet in his direction so she can look at him discretely. He starts writhing with indecision. Finally, he gets up and goes over to her.
Je me excuse. Do you speak English?
May I please read your International Herald Tribune? I'll return it.
She gives the newspaper to him. He returns to his towel, lies on his stomach, and starts reading the paper, but he mostly uses it as a device to look at her. She lies down on her back again, but stirs and looks at him from time to time. After a minute or so of looking at the newspaper haphazardly, he gets up and returns it to her.
Thank you very much.
You are welcome.
He returns to his towel and continues to look at her. She looks at him a few times as her eyes go from him to the audience/water and back, and finally she rises and heads downstage. He jumps up and intercepts her.
Excuse me Miss, but I couldn't help noticing that you were looking at me. Is...
Thanks for posting this Joebob, it's an interesting excerpt.
If you don't mind I'll just wade right in and make a few random comments that you can do what you want with.
I'm having a little trouble getting a feel for the tone of this piece. The beginning seems comedic, stylized, almost Chaplinesque. For that matter even Kafkaesque.
But then it seems to shift away from metaphoric melodrama when the young man and young woman take stage. Is this going to be a heartfelt story of romance and love or something else?
Yes I am confused! haha
I really like your use of silent scenes, though in the beginning I felt you could trim your stage directions a bit, and leave room for the actors and director to discover.
You cover some of the same ground for much of the early dialogue, but I think that might be a way of creating tension. Because you do start with a strong identifiable want that keeps us reading.
The use of Dutch - hmmmm, do you care that most won't know what they're saying? Is it obvious by their actions, not sure. They're talking about the dangerousness of the old man, but he really doesn't seem dangerous, so maybe we want to know that they think he is.
And so far I'm ambivalent about the presence of three passersby, a reporter and a policeman before the Old man starts talking. Do you think it would help to cut to the chase a little quicker?
I'm rambling, and I apologize.
I think you do have an interesting premise, - at first I thought he wanted to find true love and then it seems he wants to find his specific true love, is this right?
I better shut up, I like it, glad you posted it.
Hope you can find something of use in my comments.
Thanks so much for your comments and puzzlement. My initial intentions are to form a compact between the actors and audience that is separate from everyday experience but is almost real, not surreal. Everyone is outdoors in a busy place, so people are going to be walking by from time to time. True, there are a lot of stage directions at the start, which could put some directors off, but each has a specific purpose. For example, the Old Man's yawning and sleeping: at the end of Act three, it is revealed that he has just arrived from America (so he is jet-lagged), which turns out to be important for the drama. Also, showing the sign first to someone other than the audience members will make them curious, I hope.
You have given me an idea: have one Passerby (the one with the cell phone, perhaps) walk across the front of the audience, not the stage. What do you think about that for my purposes?
The sound of the horn is just a twisted McGuffin: HEAR it in Act one (the first sound in the play) and SEE it at the end of Act three. The Old Man avoids stating his name in an attempt to generate universality. With regard to Chaplinesque/Kafkaesque; yes, please. Both I hope. While it primarily is a drama, I have tried to provide laugh lines occasionally. With regard to the use of Dutch, the first spoken words are in Dutch to emphasize that things aren't going to be completely normal, just kind of normal, and to initiate one of the threads running through the piece: the difficulties of human communication. I have tried to arrange the use of Dutch so that it becomes easier to understand by both words and actions as things evolve.
The central question of the play is: Does the Old Man know what he is talking about or not? The Reporter will have to examine his experiences AS HE SEES THEM, then determine if he is deluded or telling the truth: does he know what true love is or not?