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Are Words Enough
The lights come up with a table on stage, with five chairs around it. A typewriter rests on top of the table. In the up stage right corner, next to the door is a hat and coat rack with two hats and two coats. Adam Cline is sitting in one chair and Richard Selsner is pacing back and forth in a rather nervous manner.
Rich: They're late....
Adam: Will you sit down already, I'm sure they will get here eventually.
Rich: They have never been late before... (knocking at the door) Wait that's someone now.
Rich opens the door and Dana Blane comes in with a heavy coat. Rich takes her coat and hangs it on a rack along with two others.
Dana: Oh hello Rich nice to see you again... Where is everyone else?
Adam: We're wondering the same thing, it isn't like Joe to be late, although Charles doesn't surprise me.
Dana: So we are... We're still doing this?
Rich: (taking offense) What do mean are we still doing this? Of course we are, what just because Mark—
Adam: Calm down Rich, it's a valid question.
(The room goes quiet for a moment and then there is another knock at the door. Rich opens it and Joe Rainhoft comes in, Rich takes his coat as well.)
Rich: Good we were just wondering where you were.
Joe: Sorry about that, but the storm is getting worse and I was stuck behind a snow plow although it will be to deep for the plows pretty soon. (Seeing Adam) Adam! Oh Captain!
Adam: My captain! Good to see you Joe. (They hug and slap each other on the back)
Joe: Where's Charles?
Dana: We aren't sure, I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't show up at all.
Adam: We still haven't addressed Dana's question.
Joe: And what is that?
Dana: Are we going to do this again? Come on we're all thinking it, we have been at this for twenty years, and for what? We could never finish it with Mark... and now that he's gone, what chance do we have? I have been thinking about this ever since I heard the news, and I have made my decision. I only came here to find out what the rest of you have decided.
Adam: Really? Oh you have got to be kidding me Dana, you said it yourself, we have been at this for twenty years and now that Mark is dead your ready to throw it all away, what about honoring his memory. After all he was the one that brought this little merry band of malcontents together. So yes, what's the point other that upholding the thing that was most important to our friend.
Joe: Ok let's all take a minute, I have to say, Dana has a point Adam, I want to honor Mark just like you but... Twenty years...
Dana: I just don't see the point anymore.
Joe: How many more years can we do this?
Adam: All of them! Or as long as it takes.
Rich: Well I for one am with Adam, I remember when Mark first came to me. It was in the spring a year or so before we first met. I had just won an Oscar a few weeks earlier, not that I got much credit as a producer but I was certainly pleased either way. (Charles enters quietly and stands in the door way) It was raining when Mark knocked on my door, he was a strange sight to see with that bowler hat of his and an ill fitting suit, he was holding a type writer, that type writer. (He gestures to the one on the table) he looked at me with that crooked grin of his and started to tell me the most wonderful story of how a young and successful producer brought together all the up and coming writers. From Hollywood to Broadway and writers from all manner of disciplines. Then, together they would make the greatest story ever written by mortal hands. As he finished his tale he looked at me and asked, "Will you do it?" You see I thought he was pitching me a movie script and maybe he was in way. But it was his words, his vision that made me fund this project. That story of his is still with in reach, so why stop. You, can still write it.
(He turns the typewriter and pushes it to Dana. She takes a long look. She is about to speak when Charles starts clapping from where he stands leaning against the door.)
Charles: Well that was quite a speech Rich, did you guys start without me, those are certainly fine words from the money man.
Rich: How, nice of you to join us Charles.
Joe: Actually we are discussing the merits of continuing our little project.
Charles: Your joking of course, you were always the funny one Joe, now let me see, I had a great idea on the way over it was...
Joe: Shut up Charles, this is serious. Can you please set aside the miscreant for a moment, we have more important things to discuss.
Charles: A fine welcome that is Joe, alright so someone wants to break up the band, is that it? Well that's fine with me, I never really liked coming here, I think it's better to write alone.
Adam: Some how that doesn't surprise me Charles. You were never much of a team player.
Charles: Oh go back to your textbooks Adam, your much more suited for a class room than serious writing, or is high school English also to challenging for you?
Joe: Stop, both of you.
Charles: Oh I'm sorry Joe, I forget the thought of failure gets you so upset, overfamiliar its I guess.
Joe: I would not act so c***y Charles Welles, riding off your father's success must get tiring eventually. Tell me, did you ever even write anything on your own? Or did you just steal stuff form Daddies notebooks. You certainly don't contribute much at our little meetings.
Rich: Enough! This isn't helping, if we are going to talk about this then talk. This arguing isn't getting us anywhere.
Adam: Well Dana? You know what I think and it seems like it's just Rich and I against the three of you.
Dana: Adam. What is there left to do? How many of these stories have we written now? I loved this, loved doing it, but what is there left to do? (Turning to Rich) Rich, it was a noble pursuit and it was worth doing, but I can't keep coming here year after year. I have to go I'm sorry.
(Dana turns to leave and opens the door to reveal Barbra. Barbra steps inside and Dana tries to walk past her outside. But Barbra stops her. Barbra is holding a cardboard box stuffed with folders and papers and resting on top is a statute of Atlas. She sets it down on the floor, down stage right.)
Barbra: Oh hello, wait you can't leave, the snow is too deep now, I barely made it here myself. I'm afraid no one can leave until the plows come through tomorrow morning.
Dana: I think I'll be just fine thanks.
(Dana steps outside the doorway and looks around for a few seconds before exiting. Meanwhile Barbra removes her hat and coat and puts it on the rack.)
Rich: Excuse me but who are you young lady?
Barbra: Oh I'm so sorry, where are my manners, stepping in like that without an invitation. My name is Barbra, Barbra Baker.
Joe: Oh... I see, your Mark's daughter.
Barbra: Yes, I am, I guess none of you have met me before, Dad used to speak of you often so I feel as if I know you, but we have never met. I thought I might see you at the funeral, but none of you came.
(There is an awkward silence and Dana comes back in.)
Rich: I thought you were leaving Dana.
Dana: I was, but it appears that I can't. The snow is to deep now.
Adam: Dana, this is Barbra Baker.
Dana: Oh, I'm so sorry for your loss, your father was a great man.
Barbra: Not great enough to merit your presence at his burial though.
Joe: Barbra we all knew your father very well, we worked with him for many years and he once mentioned to us his distaste for funerals, he preferred to think of someone's life rather than their death. So we decided to do the same, we will all visit his grave in due time and pay our respects.
Barbara; Knew him? This little group may have been together for twenty years but you only meet once a year, one day a year to work on writing the greatest story you can put to ink. How could you know him in only twenty days?
Dana: With all do respect, writing isn't so simple as meeting and cranking it out on the type writer. No, when you write you have to let out a little part of your soul, plant it like a seed and nurture it as it grows into a story. We have written quite a lot together, so yes, we knew your father.
Charles: We still do, the man is dead, but we still have something of him, just look at this rusty old type writer, if anything is as ancient as Mark and so full of his spirit and vitality, it's this old thing.
Rich: I guess in our own way, this is how we remember your father, but it's no easy thing. In fact, that's what we were discussing before you arrived, whether to keep going with this project, or abandon it now that your father is dead.
Barbra: No you can't stop now, he wouldn't want it to end with him.
Dana: Why not, it's been twenty years and we have written dozens of stories, yet, never the one we want to. Only good, never great. Why keep going?
Barbra: Do you really have to ask? You said that you didn't attend my father's funeral because you wanted to remember his life, so commemorate it, make a tribute to it by finishing this story.
Adam: I was planning on going... Your mother met me several times and she asked me to give the eulogy. I wrote it out and was all ready to go, heck I was even dressed and just about to step out the door, when I stopped. You see I wrote about the man I knew, but he was an altogether different man than you knew. So I left it alone, let you alone. I decided it was better for you to remember the father you knew and loved than discover there was a man you never met.
Barbra: Don't I have the right to decide that for myself, I love my father and I want to hear about every part of him. Won't you tell it to me now...
(There is a pause as Adam decides and he walks slowly over to the type writer and lays a hand on it, he addresses the first few words of his speech to it before addressing the others.)
Adam: Mark Baker was a cursed man, he was cursed with the gift that God bestows least often upon his children. Sure enough we all have some small taste of it, something of a feeling for it, but it's not the same. You see Mark had that most glorious curse, of greatness. He had it in his mind and upon his tongue, it was in every one of his limbs so that he could bear a great and terrible weight. Mark was a Titan, Atlas he was. Yet he held not the world but the weight of his own greatness. The commission he had, to do what he was made to do. Take heart, be glad that you do not have to carry his burden. For whoa to thee that must carry such a cross as to be a champion for others. But these are weights gone now, for he has left us. And with his passing he leaves behind that task, that greatness he never overcame. So it falls to us, to take up the task, to rise to greatness and do what he alone could not, to be an Atlas for for your fellow man, to bear greatness upon your shoulders so others don't have to, for it is a mighty weight...
Dana: I suppose, that we are those that have to take up his mantle.
Joe: Indeed we are.
Charles: But we will need everyone. (Looking at Dana)
Dana: Yes, I, we owe him that much.
Rich: You know, we are down a man, and who better to inherit your father's mantel.
Barbra: I think, that this place, this group of people, this was a major part of my father, and one I never saw. What you said just now, I wish I knew my father well enough to say something as true as that. The man I knew was a great father, a good husband and a worthy man, but I knew him only over the brim of books and on opposite sides of a desk or typewriter. I never got to see anything else of him, and I want to. So I suppose if there is an open spot, then I'll take it.
Joe: Good, very good, then we can get started. Barbra, we usually begin with some brain storming to see if anyone has thought a worthy story over the past year. Or we might decide to continue one we have begun a previous year.
Barbra: Have you ever finished a story?
Rich: Yes, several times actually. But we were never completely happy with them, they were never "the one." Even so, we have published some of them, but we usually start it here and then one of us finishes it on their own.
Dana: Yeah I finished one of our stories about the wanderer and made it into a play.
Barbra: The wanderer?
Dana: He is one of the characters we created together, he is the last descendent of a family devoted to discovering the purpose of life. So it falls to him to come up with an answer after countless generations.
Barbra: Wow, tough stuff.
Charles: Tell me about it, but no comedy could ever be the greatest story ever written. Most entertaining perhaps, but that's a mission for other men I guess.
Rich: So anyone have any ideas?
(Pause as everyone looks around the table.)
Barbra: Well I might have something. (she crosses to down stage right and picks up the box of files and places it on the table next to the type writer.) When my father died I inherited many things from him. One was a letter from my father mailed along with this box to my home in Colorado. That letter is how I learned about this group, or at least the specifics, he told me to come here, he said this was my inheritance.
(The others huddle around the box and start drawing out files and manila envelopes filled with papers. Joe takes out one and opens it on the table. Barbra steps back and stops Adam before he joins the others. They two of them speak privately while the others murmur to each other.)
Barbra: That was hardly a eulogy.
Adam: No, no it wasn't, but it's what they needed to hear.
Barbra: Well it certainly worked.
Barbra: Wait, one more thing.
Adam: What is it?
Barbra: Why only one day a year? That hardly seems enough time to write anything.
Adam: It keeps us from getting attached. When you spend to much time with an idea you start to think it's better than it is. Even in the shortest amount of time, you'll know if it's "the one." And so far it hasn't been, when we have the right idea, we'll stay for longer.
(The others suddenly get louder as Adam joins them and Barbra remains slightly outside the group)
Joe: Look! This is the first story we wrote about the wanderer.
Dana: Oh what about this, it's that short story we made about the boy who couldn't feel pain.
(They keep pulling out papers but Charles takes out one and stares intently at it as he reads, slowly stepping back from the group and sitting down.)
Rich: Look here Dana this is our original of that play you wrote. (Hands it to Dana) Barbra does that box have all our stories?
Barbra: I would assume so, I have read a few but I wouldn't be able to tell if any were missing.
Charles: That's not all it has, (he stands up and comes around the table, leaning against it as he reads from the folder he is holding.) 'Charles Welles, son of Orson Welles. If ever there was a greater shadow for a man to be cast in I have not encountered it, he has a great love of film and a good eye for stories, and perhaps an even better hand for writing them. But to be the son of Orson Welles, both a gift and a curse to be heir to the man that created the greatest film ever made. Torture, to live in an attempt to out shine such a dominating legacy. He has stopped writing altogether because his work is received only by inquiries as to the lost notebooks of his father, notebooks I suspect he burned himself. He is a man living in the shadow of greatness... He is envy.' Your father always did have a silver tongue, only he could make such damming words sound like praise.
(Charles closes the folder and tosses it back on the table. Dana opens the folder and removes a page before handing it to Adam, who does the same and gives it to Joe, who passed it to Rich.)
Joe: Quite the inheritance Barbra, it seems your father did not share the same affection for us as we did for him.
Barbra: No, you don't understand. There are a lot of papers in that box and I have not read them all, but I have read that folder. Front to back I read every page he wrote on everyone of you, the good and the bad. Most of all why he choose each of you. Joe, the poet who walked across the country to write about the wonders of the places he saw and the people he met, only to find the world had all but lost interest in his art. Dana, the girl who was such a great actress, but when she finally made it to Hollywood, she found it was not the romantic place she imagined. Tired, feeling used and betrayed she forsook the screen and took up the pen. Adam, the man who wanted nothing more that to write books, and soon discovered that you can't feed a family on dreams. So he became a school teacher but still writes with all the enthusiasm and optimism of youth. And Rich, who has spent his life being asked for his money and wants only to give it to a worthy pursuit, this one. You see, my father didn't just want writers, he wanted the right ones. This is the greatest story ever written. If you are to succeed, if we are to succeed. Then we need people from all walks of life, ones who know the struggles and weaknesses of our race, but also their hopes, strengths, and greatness. We are all here for a reason... There is a page at the back of that folder, he left it for you.
(Joe is holding the folder now and quickly opens it up and reads from it.)
Joe: 'What makes a story great? Well it has to be true, it has to say something true about all of us, the human race. Each and every person who hears it, must relate to it, only then will it stand the test of time. So it must be written by those that understand humanity, who are themselves relatable. So I have chosen Charles; Envy, but also spirit. Dana; innocence, both lost and gained. Joe; anger and determination. Adam; disappointment and hope. And Rich; is power and wealth, but also prudence and discernment. These are the things that make any story relatable to every man and woman under the son, for we have all felt these things. I have chosen each of them for a reason, for they will make this story, great.
Charles: Do you ever get that feeling?
Adam: I know exactly what you mean...
Dana: When you hear something true, something profoundly true.
Adam: You get a tingling inside, because you know it's right.
Rich: It makes you sit up and listen...
Joe: That's it, that's our story. (Closing the file and putting it down)
Charles: What do you mean?
Joe: This, us, our merry band of malcontents and their search for whatever they may find, what better story could there be but the quests for greatness.
Dana: Your right, and it has that feeling of truth.
Rich: Alright then.
Adam: Well Barbra, this is how it always starts, with an idea, ready to join us in the telling?
Barbra: Yes, yes I am.
Charles: Then that is your inheritance.
Adam: Alright Charles, looks like it's time for you to get to the typewriter. (Charles hurriedly sits down in front of the typewriter and puts his fingers on the keys.) I think we are ready for our first words, would you do the honors? (Turning to Barbra)
Barbra: (Barbra picks up the small statue of Atlas and turns it over in her hands as she speaks.) Greatness. It is precious, and rare, so hard to find among all these earthly things and yet so, incredibly important. But maybe, just maybe, it can be made. If the right people come together and the right man sets them to a task, perhaps they can forge greatness out of their own will. But then the question simply becomes, are there words enough to tell a story that is truly great.