Directed by Anika Solveig

Featuring Maryssa Wanlass & Leon Goertzen

A stage set. MARIE on the bed, supine, propped up
on her elbows. LEO straddling her. Somewhere, an
accordion is visible.

MARIE
[For the zillionth time:] Noooo. Try it again.
LEO
I’m really not comfortable with// this.
MARIE
Come on!
LEO
I don’t know where I should put my// hands or–
MARIE
DO IT!!
LEO
Yeah, no, I really think we should wait for the others to—
MARIE
(getting up on her elbows again)
Really? You think having an audience would help you// get over your–
LEO
Well, not an audience, per se, but if the fight choreographer were here to, you know, choreograph this part, then I would feel a lot safer.
MARIE
I’m the one getting ravaged, but you don’t feel safe?
LEO
Well, besides making things safer, the fight choreographer would be able to see what we’re doing from the audience’s point of view and just make it more… professional.
MARIE
Leo, you’re behaving as if you don’t realize what’s at stake here.
LEO
What is at stake here? It’s Monday. We’re not even supposed to be in the theater. I thought you wanted to run lines.
MARIE
–that you are oblivious to the opportunity that has been gifted us!
LEO
If you don’t need help with lines, I would appreciate the opportunity to do some laundry. This is supposed to be our day off, and I’m almost out of socks.
MARIE
Let me lay this out for you. Our “esteemed” director, Jonathan, is on his way out, and if we don’t pull this together—
LEO
Where did you hear that?
MARIE
I didn’t have to hear it. After yesterday’s run-through, I could see it all over the producers’ faces. Oh, they applauded politely, but did you notice how they snubbed Jonathan? All that hushed whispering amongst themselves and barely a nod to him, the director! There’s a lot of money riding on this show, and based on those dour expressions, I’d say regime change is coming.
LEO
Jonathan would have told me if there were a problem.
MARIE
Jonathan is the problem, and if you don’t make your move, you’ll get swept out
with him.
LEO
Make what move? I’m just the assistant director.
MARIE
For now you are, but Jonathan’s eclipse is your chance to shine! Think: previews are two weeks away. A revival of Tennessee Williams with no stars is running on a thin margin, so any delay will be catastrophic. If this show is going to open on time, the producers are going to have to hire from within, someone who knows the production…? someone the actors already rely on…?
LEO
I do try to be helpful.
MARIE
And now I’m going to help you help us both. We’re going to fix what’s not working in this show and save both of our jobs. And I don’t care who gets the credit. It’ll all sound better coming from you anyway. I just want to make sure that you and I don’t get axed along with Jonathan.
LEO
[Slightly frightened by her ambition:] That’s really… nice… of you.
MARIE
Well, haven’t we worked hard? Don’t we deserve to see this through? I am damned lucky to be playing one of the great tragic roles of the American theater, and I won’t be held back by someone else’ mediocre vision.
LEO
[Sincerely:] How are you going to do that?
MARIE
We are going do it.
LEO
Jonathan doesn’t even let me give notes. I’m just here as a resource for stuff about New Orleans—
MARIE
–which is practically another character in the play, and you’re the only one of us who has ever lived there.
LEO
I told Jonathan I spent a lot of time there when I was younger, but I didn’t actually live there.
MARIE
Visiting relatives? That’s close enough.
LEO
More like I went for Mardi Gras when I was in college. And one time for a marching band conference at the Superdome.
MARIE
(a beat, then recovery)
Don’t sell yourself short. That might be what got you in the door, but you’ve grown into a position of responsibility.
LEO
[Glumly:] You mean like writing down things that Jonathan says he wants to
remember later?
MARIE
Like “being a good listener.”
LEO
And helping actors run lines?
MARIE
And “supporting the artistic process on an individual level.” Which is why I’ve asked you to come in today. I’ve been thinking about how to connect my character to today’s audiences, how to bring Williams into the 21st century. But Jonathan shoots me down without even hearing my ideas. “Let’s just try it this way first” and then “Great! Moving on!” Yesterday’s run-through proves that this restraint and honoring the text has made the show hidebound. It’s too polite to make any impact.
LEO
But we have to honor the text!
MARIE
Listen. We agree, don’t we, that the text is about Blanche’s struggle to maintain the beautiful dream—”the belle reve”—of what she thinks life should be.
LEO
Uh-huh.
MARIE
For contemporary audiences to understand the destruction of that dream—we have to show them what happens to her, not just infer it.
LEO
“Imply.”
MARIE
What?
LEO
You said we can’t just infer it, but you meant that we can’t just imply it. To infer is what we need the audience to do, that is: to surmise or conclude from a limited// amount of information.
MARIE
Yes! You see why we’re a team! You understand me even when I get my words mixed up. A good director isn’t the guy who can shout the loudest. An actor— an artist—needs to know she can rely on him to help her express her interpretation of the character.
LEO
I’m not even really the assistant director! My contract says “assistant to the director.”
MARIE
Assistant for now, but don’t you want more, baby? Help me, and we’ll show the producers what this show ought to be. They’ll see that you’re the one to take over and that my Blanche will be Remembered. Lissa won’t know what hit her.
LEO
What does Lissa have to do with anything?
MARIE
That conniving–! She’s just waiting in the wings for a chance to step in. I never met an understudy with as many opinions as that Lissa! Always lurking around the rehearsal hall—
LEO
Understudies are supposed to attend rehearsals—
MARIE
To be seen, maybe, but not to be heard! Every time I look up, she’s whispering something in dear Kimberly’s ear.
LEO
If an understudy has questions, they’re supposed to ask the stage manager.
MARIE
And when she’s not filling Kimmy’s ear with poison, oh the sighs! The little hmph commenting on my every line reading!
LEO sighs, perhaps in unconscious imitation of Lissa. He
gets some water from a Nalgene bottle. MARIE continues
without noticing.
Lissa Ortega! “In New Haven, we were taught to enghhh.” [makes a bratty, mocking noise] “In New Haven, we always oooghh!” As if a certain graduate school were the arbiter of taste and decorum in the theater! And the things she’s had to say about you—well, [shakes her head]
LEO
Lissa was talking about me?
MARIE
[With sympathy:] No, honey. Not even a little bit. LEO is completely confused by this. Oh, but she’ll learn not to underestimate you. When you’re directing this show, at the Delta Theatre, twenty-eight hundred seats in the heart of Times Square—
LEO
Even if Jonathan gets fired, that’s a pretty big leap, isn’t it?
MARIE
But that’s why we’re here now. When you show the producers that we’ve got a fresh, vital take on the play, they’ll be more than grateful that you rescued their investment; they will be in awe of your artistic vision.
LEO
Maybe it would help if you told me what my vision is, other than changing some of your blocking.
MARIE pats the bed for him to sit.
MARIE
The character of Blanche represents civility and refinement as a contrast to Stanley’s animal force. She is music and manners, and he’s all muscle. We can’t just imply the violence that Stanley commits. It has to be made real, in the flesh!
LEO
Well, we see Stanley shove Stella around in Act 1. We already know he’s a very physical guy.
MARIE
Yes, but when Chekhov puts a gun onstage in Act 1, you at least hear it go off in Act 2. He doesn’t leave the audience to figure it out themselves. I say we need to see the gun fired to understand the wounds that Stanley inflicts. If you just show things bandaged over, nobody cares.
LEO
But there’s no gun in Streetcar.
MARIE
While we strive to be more demonstrative, we must avoid becoming literal.I want to try something with the Blanche and Mitch scene, something that will give weight to the guilt that haunts her. I want to know what you think of it, but first, you and I are going to stage Stanley’s sexual assault of Blanche, without changing or adding any dialogue, but depicting in unmistakable terms the rape that Blanche suffers. Blanche Dubois is nothing if not resilient. When Stanley shatters that resilience, it’s everything she fears. It’s filth and pain, brutality, chaos! To make the final scene work, I have to show Blanche in the aftermath of that darkness, not just pretend that “something bad happened” off-stage. I need my character to suffer Total Psychic Annihilation, and you’re the one that’s going to do it to her.
LEO
I… I see myself more in a dramaturgical role.
MARIE
It’s because you understand this play that I need your help. You know the turbulence and passion that these characters feel, that they live with!
LEO
But I’m not an actor! I haven’t acted since high school!
MARIE
The instincts are within you! That sense of drama and storytelling—that doesn’t change!
LEO
I would really like to help you, Marie, and the show, but I don’t understand why you’re not doing this with Christopher. Wouldn’t it be better to do this with the actual actor?
MARIE
Are you asking me why I’m not re-staging the play with the actual actor who is sleeping with the director who himself is about to get canned?
LEO
Yeah!… Oh.
MARIE
Yeah, “oh.”
LEO
Still, this is making me very uncomfortable. I’m really not comfortable with what you’re asking me to do.
He turns away from her. Maybe to get more water.
MARIE
Wait. What was that? That look.
LEO
I’m not looking at you. I’m looking for my water bottle. Did you see where I// put it?
MARIE
Before that. There was a look in your eye.
LEO
I don’t remember thinking anything that would come out in a look.
MARIE
Yes. It was just a flash, before you turned away.
LEO
Oh, here it is. How did it get// over here?
MARIE
There was revulsion in your glance, like you were looking at someone– something– hard and cruel. Is that how you see me? Hard? Cruel?
LEO
To be honest. what you’re saying about the play makes sense, it’s just that… well… I don’t feel right about how we’re going about this.
MARIE
I’ve tried talking to Jonathan; he keeps giving me the brush off.
LEO
I’m sure he has a lot on his mind. This is just so… sneaky. It doesn’t feel right, Marie.
MARIE
I’m open to your suggestions. This was the best I could come up with, for all of our sakes.
LEO
I don’t want Jonathan to feel we’re trying to stab him in the back. You know, I got into theater because it feels like every cast// becomes…like…
MARIE
[Sotto voce:] Don’t say “family.”
LEO
–a family. It’s hard, and the hours are crazy, but we’re in it together, and the result depends on everyone working together.
MARIE
We’re not stabbing him. He shot himself. In the foot.
LEO
That togetherness, that collaboration—it’s like the one great, good, true thing in my life, and you’re making it so… mercenary!
MARIE
I’m not making it mercenary! I’m trying to make it better! I’m trying to save it! If we don’t save ourselves, we’ll be collaborating on unemployment.
LEO
But while we’re saving ourselves, can’t we save him, too?
MARIE
I don’t want to keep banging my head against this wall!
A stalemate.
So maybe I’m thicker-skinned than I once was. This artform is still an industry, and I can’t afford to be tender-hearted. It’s not anything personal against Jonathan. It’s that I’m so close right now. I didn’t go to some fancy graduate conservatory like our Lissa. I came up through storefronts and black box theaters. “Ivy League” was the tranny bumming smokes on the corner. But I have been in the trenches, educating myself: Shakespeare, not in the parks but in a parking lot! An all-female Mann ist Mann, getting shut down by the Brecht estate on opening night! Leftist musicals touring Bumfuck, California for crowds of unwashed hippies! I held my costume hat in my hands and thanked each one of them for coming, whether they donated or not. When I got called for this role, I had a talk with my agent. She says this is my time. Now, this role, when I’m the right age, and in a big, New York production! I’m ready. I’ve been waiting—no, preparing! I’ve been working toward this for my whole life, and now it’s so close I almost can’t see anything else. I know scene 11 is why the producers are unhappy. How could it not be? It’s the final scene of the play. I swan around shivering, worrying about [Southern dialect:] “my silver lapel pin with the artificial violets,” but people just think “Why does Blanche have a chill in the New Orleans heat? Must ’cause she was such a slut at the Tarantula Arms!” What they don’t see is how profoundly she’s been wounded, by almost every interaction with men. Stanley is the final, brutal, devastating straw.
LEO
(A beat. LEO puts his hand gently on her arm.)
I know what you mean about show being kinda flat. I just can’t take any more–
MARIE
Any more what?
LEO
I’m out of water.
MARIE
Wait. Tell me.
LEO
I’ll be right back. Shoot! I don’t think I have change for the machine.
MARIE
I’ve got an unopened bottle of Voss [or whatever brand] in my bag, and you can have all of it if you tell me what you can’t take any more of.
LEO
It’s just.. everything is so… Verlogenheit!
MARIE
Thanks? But I didn’t sneeze.
LEO
No, Verlogenheit is like lying. Like us. Like this whole job has been.
MARIE
Haven’t I been true to you? Tell me how to make you feel more like family.
LEO
That’s what I want it to be, but if this is a family, I must be the maid. When I got this job, I thought, “Wow, I get to work on this amazing script with one of mydirecting idols—” I thought I could learn so much, but all I get is scutwork.  Jonathan didn’t meet with me until rehearsal started, so the concept was already finalized. Now, when I’m not running personal errands for him, I’m running lines in another room. I never get to see his directing process.
MARIE
You’re not missing much. Mostly, he’s just telling stories about other shows he’s worked on.
LEO
Oh my god, the stories!
MARIE
Endless. He’s one of your idols? Really?
LEO
Did you see his ANTIGONE: THE MUSICAL?
MARIE
You know that was based on someone else’ graduate thesis.
LEO
But HAMLET set in North Korea went from the Fringe to Broadway!
MARIE
That wasn’t supposed to be a spoof. He thought it was very serious, high concept. Kim Jong Eun denouncing that show was the best thing that ever happened to Jonathan. Some producer mistook good press for talent, and here we are…
LEO
Verlogenheit!
MARIE
Or something.
LEO
The one time he was nice, we went for a drink after rehearsal. He tried to bond with me about being gay.
MARIE
He came on to you??
LEO
No, it wasn’t like that, but he was making it like this really important thing we had in common, and I didn’t know how to tell him I’m not.
Awkward pause.
LEO
He really is terrible.
MARIE
He should be killed.
LEO
Which would leave the show without a director.
MARIE
Yeah. And then what would we do? We should make some kind of plan for what to do if the director were suddenly out of the picture.
LEO
I… I dunno. Maybe you’re right. If we work out something to show them, we could at least try to talk to Jonathan before we take it to the producers.
MARIE
You said “we.”
LEO
I guess I did. I guess I’m on board, at least to try it.
MARIE
You see? We’re good together. We can do this.
LEO
It just doesn’t feel right to me.
MARIE
Leo, this isn’t about get rid of Jonathan. I don’t hate him. He’s fine, mostly, but his vision for the play is holding back the story. That’s what’s putting us in jeopardy. Is it the violence you’re worried about? Let me tell you about the other half of my idea.
LEO
Okay…
MARIE
I didn’t want to start with this because it makes it seems all about me. It’s supposed to be a counterpoint to Stanley’s violence. [She fetches the small accordion.]
LEO
What is about to happen?
MARIE
You know how Williams’ stage directions describe the music in Blanche’s head. The audience is supposed to hear it from Blanche’s point of view, but they don’t find out what it means until the scene with Mitch.
LEO
You know how to play the accordion?
MARIE
Just a little something I picked up when I was playing a Kit Kat girl. So, this is scene 6, right? It’s after midnight. Blanche and Mitch have been out on an awkward date. They come back to the apartment, and Blanche is moved to hear that Mitch’s dying mother wants to see him settled, so Blanche tells him why she’s lonely, too.
MARIE takes a position near the “window” and gazes out.
She accompanies herself under the following.
“He was a boy, just a boy… When I was sixteen, I made the discovery–love… It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that’s how it struck the world for me. But… there was something different about the boy, a softness and tenderness… He came to me for help… and all I knew was that I’d failed him in some mysterious way…!” “[At the] Moon Lake Casino, very drunk and laughing… We danced the Varsouviana! Suddenly in the middle of the dance the boy I had married broke away from me and ran out of the casino. A few moments later–a shot!” “I ran out—all did!—all ran and gathered… at the edge of the lake… Then someone caught my arm. ‘Don’t go any closer!… You don’t want to see!'”
[Sings:]
‘TWAS ON A SUMMER NIGHT
THERE WAS JASMINE IN THE AIR
THO’ THE MOON WAS NOT YET BRIGHT
AS THE SUNLIGHT LINGER’D IN YOUR HAIR;
YOU HAD DRIFTED AWAY
FROM THE SOIREE,
AND FOR THIS I CHIDED YOU;
IT WAS THEN THAT I SAW
THAT MY LOVE WAS,
NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU
LEO
Oh my god.
MARIE
I think my fingering will get smoother, but she is supposed to be kinda drunk.
LEO
No, it was perfect like that! I can totally see it!
MARIE
Yeah?
LEO
That musical motif makes so much more sense now! Nobody knows what a varsouviana is, so when you make it real like that, it’s like…
MARIE
Not too on the nose, I hope.
LEO
No, it’s everything!
MARIE
I wanted to show that Blanche isn’t just a taker. She doesn’t just demand beauty from the world around her; she has it in her.
LEO
I get it now! This puts Blanche’s snobbery in context. She wants everything to be beautiful—she demands it—not because she’s a snooty bitch. She’s… she’s an artist!
MARIE
And not just a slut.
LEO
No! No! She’s so alone! She sees potential for so much beauty with her artist’s eye, and the real world is a disappointment. That gap between her expectation and reality is what makes her sympathetic.
MARIE
So to be persecuted and tortured by Stanley for craving beauty—
LEO
Oh, my god.
And then when her own sister won’t believe her, it’s… It’s devastating. I don’t know the words.
MARIE
Show; don’t tell.
LEO
I think if we talk through it, slowly…
MARIE
Yes, we can take it very slowly!
LEO
And gently…
MARIE
I’m sorry I yelled before.
LEO
[He positions himself as he talks:] So, Stanley comes out of the bathroom, and Blanche is on the phone. I need my script.
MARIE
Follow my lead.
LEO
No, just give me my script.
MARIE
I’ll feed you the lines. I know both parts.
LEO
I don’t want you to feed me lines. I need my script! Can’t you let a man–
MARIE
Here, here, take this one!
LEO
Thank you. [A beat.] I don’t have a pencil. MARIE groans and gets a pencil from her purse.Thanks. Sorry. Okay.
MARIE
“Stay back! Don’t you come toward me another step or I’ll—”
LEO
“What—”
MARIE
“I warn you, don’t, I’m in danger!” [She mimes smashing a bottle.]
LEO
“Oh, so you want some rough-house! All right, let’s have some rough-house!”
BLACKOUT
END OF PLAY

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