Alcott by Rand Hinrichs
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
EXT. ALCOTT SCHOOL PLAYGROUND
Down the street, coming from the railroad tracks, up the funnel shaped horizon, strides a figure. At first, from a distance, shapeless, with swinging arms and marching legs. She wears a hat and a vest. The vest hangs loosely over her long dress and she strides along the sidewalk cubes between huge elm trees. The trees part loosely in the wind. She approaches the school playground, filled with children.
The sun comes through the clouds and shines first on her, then the playground. She stops just short of entering the playground area and there are sounds of children’s banter. The playground stretches ahead, first the ball diamond, and then the soccer field – all surrounded and framed by huge trees and playground equipment. As she approaches the boys playing baseball, the sun shines ever brighter.
Sounds in the background are those of boys playing the bases and outfield.
Only the pitcher and batter appear on stage.
PITCHTER: You can’t hit your butt with two hands. You swing like a rusty gate.
The batter flails at the ball and strikes air. The pitcher winds up and delivers again. The batter swings forcefully and misses again. The pitcher glares at him, expecting failure with the third pitch. He throws the ball high and outside of the plate. The batter makes another swing, chopping down and expecting to connect. Nothing. The pitcher waves his hand with fanning contempt and again yells at the batter.
PITCHER: You play like your sister.
He turns to walk away from the mound.
The batter’s anger boils over; his rage turns to action. He flips the bat end over end, striking the pitcher in the middle of his back. The pitcher’s lets out a gasping cry. He turns to run at the batter, hands clenched in fists.
The figure in the dress steps into the sunlight, nearby. She steps between the pitcher and the batter, raising her hand to the sky. The pitcher turns to walk back to the mound. The batter takes up another bat and squares away at the plate.
The pitcher winds up and delivers the ball. The batter swings the bat smoothly across a level plane to meet the ball. It sails into the air and sounds again come from the outfield (off stage): “Great hit - you smacked it. It’s a home run”. The Lady continues across the playground, encountering a group of children talking.
BOY: I can’t believe the summer is over and we are back in school again. I wish the summer was just starting and this school year is already done.
GIRL: The playground looks the same; the school looks the same. It’s all the same and we are here until May.
BOY: Look over there at the kids lined up at the parallel bars. They are lame, cant’t make it across the bars. Everything is a drag and I wish the time would go faster.
LADY: Children, don’t wish your lives away. Look at the playground, at your world and imagine how happy things can be. How fun to look at everything, if we can just imagine what could happen if we think, and then see, in a positive way.
GIRL: I don’t get it. I look over the playground and I see the parallel bars, the Jungle Jim, the swings, the merry-go-round and they all look the same as they did before. Nothing’s changed and there are just a bunch of kids hanging around, waiting for class to begin. It’s all the same, every day, every year.
LADY: That’s because you aren’t seeing with your happy eyes. Look across the playground again and imagine what could happen if you think with your happy eyes.
BOY: It looks the same to me; what do I need to do to make it different?
LADY: Imagine if a whole group of monkeys came out of the trees and climbed up on the parallel bars. A string of monkeys who saw the children fall from the bars, slipping from their grip.
Sound of monkey chatter comes from off-stage.
LADY: Squint your eyes and watch the monkeys clamor up the ladder and swing across the rungs with gliding ease. They skip two and three rungs and at times, carry a monkey friend attached to their feet. They catch the sides of the railroad matrix and lift themselves over the top, landing on the other side with their hands. They reach the end of the ladder rungs and twist over backwards, swinging back to the place where they began.
BOY: I think I can see them on the bars. The kids watch the monkeys and then they climb back on the bars. One by one they swing onto the bars, gripping one and passing two. The first one stops to hang by his legs on the final rung and the girl that follows reaches the second rung and hangs there. Soon the entire set of bars is filled with hanging children. They look like bats waiting for darkness. The next one through crawls along a tunnel that the hanging bat-children make with their encircled arms. I see it now. The monkeys stand by and chatter with glee.
Sounds of monkeys grow louder.
LADY: That’s it, now look again. The monkeys run away back to the trees.
The Lady moves across part of the stage as the children follow.
Now look at the Jungle Jim. Imagine what can happen if you use your happy eyes?
I can see a man. He is dressed in a safari coat and pants, with a pith helmet on his head. He has a mustache and wears round eyeglasses. I think it is Jungle Jim. He tells the kids to climb up the sides and he shows them how it’s done. Can you see him?
GIRL: (squinting her eyes) Yes, I can see him now. He is climbing up and swinging his arm like he is cutting through jungle trees and brush. He reaches the top and lets out a yell while dangling from the crossbars.
A Tarzan-like yells comes from the side of the stage.
Now the boys and girls are scaling the sides of the equipment. They’re swinging from one side to the other and slapping Jim’s palm as they pass by – high fives all around. They are sliding down the poles circling around like cork screws.
LADY: Now open your eyes. Jim is gone back into the trees, but the children are still happy. Look at the swings. Look at the children on the swings and imagine that they are acrobats, that they swing higher and higher, until....
GIRL: I see them swinging so high that they flip over the crossbar at the top of the swings.
BOY: I see them jump out of the seats when they are at the top of the swinging arch – some do back flips and others twist before they land back on the ground.
Excited shrieks and laughter from off stage.
BOY: The merry-go-round is spinning faster and faster. Everyone jumps on and no one is pushing, but it goes faster and faster. The riders let go of their hand grips and hold tight with their legs. They bend in toward the middle against the pull of the circling wheel.
GIRL: I can see it now, faster and faster. Wait, one boy fell into the middle of the wheel and the wheel keeps going around and around. He can’t get out of the center; the spokes are knocking him back down, pushing his face into the ground.
LADY: Stop, close your eyes and don’t look any more.
The woman in the dress continues across the playground. A soccer ball rolls in from the side of the stage and a boy follows behind chasing the ball. The Lady puts her foot on top of the ball.
BALL CHASING BOY: Hey lady, give us back our ball. We want to finish the game before we go to class.
LADY: You boys aren’t playing the game right. You are touching the ball with your hands and you’re tripping each other. Not the way to play. I’m watching you – there’s always someone watching.
BOY: It’s not a real game, it’s just playground soccer. Besides the other team is doing the same thing. We just want to win. It’s about who wins, not how you play the game.
LADY: When you get older you will understand that the way we play the game makes it fair for everyone. When you don’t play the game right, no one really knows who the winner is, in the end. No one wins. Just think about that when you get older and bigger.
The children from the group return to center stage, joined by some others from the soccer game. They join in a dance line.
In unison, all the children move to the right, left; forward and back. They continue to dance in a line and one group sings to the other:
We’re going to be big someday,
Like huge around, we’ll own the town.
We’re going to be here and there,
We’ll grow a pair,
They’ll stop and stare.
Let’s drive a very, very, big black car,
Hold on to shooting, blazing, stars.
Come make your mark on this new world.
Get it on, giddy-up and swing and swirl.
We’re going to be big some day
And have our say,
Grow up real fast and have no past,
Be women, men; remember when.
We won’t care if it’s more or less,
We’ve never heard of the IRS.
Like summer days without an end,
All time is now, no matter when.
Each day is Christmas,
A day at the lake.
Every gate’s a free pass,
And every lunch, cake.
Each gift’s a puppy,
Cuddly and fluffy,
Each tree’s for climbing,
And all chat is rhyming.
We’re going to be big someday,
We’ll hold our ground,
Won’t settle down until tomorrow,
Beg, steal and borrow.
The opposite group responds:
Stand still, don’t kid yourself.
You’ll be addicts, dotes and adult,
Senior, senile, AARP-cult.
You’ll thrive on altered facts,
And work to pay your tax.
Someday you’ll marry,
Then life will get hairy,
Some day’s are scary,
And then, you’ll be buried.
You’ll make sons and daughters,
Come Hell or high water.
Find love and be married,
With a pre-nup, cash - carry.
The days will just fly,
The years will go by.
Retirement is near,
You can’t see or hear.
Your memory fades, you have hearing aids,
Dysfunction-nuts and sagging butts.
Assisted homes and worthless combs,
Facial creams and broken dreams,
Unfounded fears and hairy ears.
You hear us now; you’ll need a pal.
The original group sings back:
Stop sing’in that song, we don’t hear you.
We’re soaring up into the blue.
Make a song that sings for me, and
Make a wish so big to be
All that we can, it’s what we’re due.
Come on, come on, for me and you.
We’re going to be big someday,
How far we go, no one can say.
Believe me ‘cause I say it is,
And once again we give you this:
We’re going to be big someday,
And have our say.
We’ll grind it out without a doubt.
No need to pout.
We’ll tear it down and build it up,
Just give us room, ‘cause that’s enough,
To make us great and so we say,
We’re going to be big someday.
The student body moves right and then left, once again, in a final thrust. They stop and stand frozen in their places. One boy is pushed by the final movement of the crowd, and he bashes into a girl who has entered from the side. She recovers her balance and stares at him for a few moments; then, glares at him. He breaks the awkward silence.
BRONSON: Hi, what’s your name? I’ve not seen you before. What grade are you in? What class are you in? Do you like school? Do you like me?
ROZ: My name is Roz and I have many of my own friends here, but, otherwise, I can do everything by myself.
BRONSON: My name is Bronson and I’m just starting this school. I don’t have any friends here and would like to find some.
ROZ: It’s not my first day at this school and I’m tired of this already. I want to learn to read and figure math; I want to write and calculate numbers. I know my numbers and many words. How many numbers and words do you know?
BRONSON: I’m kind of afraid. Are you afraid? I’m kind of lost around here, but it’s exciting to find my way in a new place.
ROZ: I know my numbers and many words and I’m not afraid. I like to be more than afraid. I want to be better than others and I think I’ll be happy when I am better. I want to be rich and happy; or, at least rich.
BRONSON: My mother said that I should do the best I can.
ROZ: Did your mother put you in those faded jeans with the holes in the legs? Is that the best she can do?
BRONSON: They are what my folks can afford. I know how much my father makes each week, but my mother told me not to tell anyone.
ROZ: I want to make a lot of money and so I’ll learn what I need to. I want to sail through this class and be on to the next. I think I will be big someday.
BRONSON: When my dad gets paid, I’ll get some new jeans. Will you be my friend when I get new jeans?
A larger boy standing nearby has been watching Roz and listening to her talk with Bronson. He moves in more closely, positioning himself between the two. He pushes Bronson backwards with a side glance at Roz.
KAYMAN KYTE: Don’t waste your time on him. Why do you have holes in your jeans, po-boy? I know my way around here. Be my friend and you can get ahead here. I’ll watch out for you.
ROZ: His folks are going to get new jeans for him and don’t push him around.
Bronson takes a step forward.
BRONSON: She has a right to be my friend. She can do what she wants without your help.
Kayman sticks his fist under Bronson’s face.
KAYMAN: How would you like a knuckle sandwich, po’boy? How would you like to shut up?
TEACHER: Boys, boys, don’t fight, it’s time to go into class.
MISS HONEYCUTT: Now we are going to have music time. Take these instruments. A pair of sticks for you, and you; a tambourine and bells for you, and you. Here is a tom-tom, a cow bell and wood block. Now, try them out by playing them together.
The following part of this scene appears on YouTube: “Miss Honeycutt Rocks at Alcott”
ALCOTT AUDITORIUM (a few years later)
The children are gathered in the school auditorium for their PE class, a square dance. There are three squares of four couples. Roz, Bronson and Kayman are in one of the squares. There is a gym class teacher standing on a stage in the background, prepared to call the dancing. The children join hands in anticipation of the square dance beginning. Bronson and Kayman jostle each other, jockeying to be next to Roz and to be her partner. The call begins.
SQUARE DANCE CALLER: Dare to be square! Now circle to the right and circle to the left – side couples arch, face the head and pass them under.
Bronson and Kayman glare at each other as Roz partners up with Bronson.
CALLER: You dip and dive and on you go – now don’t you blunder. Circle to the left and don’t be late – swing your partner high and low; promenade with head and toe.
Roz and Bronson look fondly at each other, smiling, as Kayman swings his partner in closely, crowding near them.
CALLER: Gents go in with a right- hand star. Break it up and you’ll go far.
Kayman elbows Bronson sharply as they break the star formation.
CALLER: Gents swing out and ladies in – promenade around the ring.
Kayman punches Bronson in the stomach as he passes by. Bronson, in turn, hits back as he passes Kayman.
CALLER: Texas star again you bring,
Rip it apart and out you swing,
When you’re home you swing her ‘round,
Ala-bam left and circle down.
Kayman again punches Bronson. Bronson doubles over and Roz promenades with Kayman.
CALLER: Hand over hand and around you go,
Do-si-do and do-si- do.
All gents meet and then you greet,
Form a star and go out far….
Bronson and Kayman face each other and draw their hands back to strike a blow. Roz jumps in the center of the two and the music stops as all squares freeze.
Miss Honeycutt steps out in front of a western band on the stage. There are two violins, a guitar and a banjo player. Miss Honeycutt is dressed in a sequined-style Nudie Suit and she joins the band with her guitar. The song shifts to a country rock piece. The squares break apart and begin to dance in a more, western kind of number. The dance number is very lively, but the center of focus continues to be Miss Honeycutt, as she plays with the band.
HONEYCUTT: I’m the queen of the cowboys,
Catch a look at me, now boys.
I’m a brand that roams free,
At a ranch that’s called “Me”.
I’m the queen of the cowboys,
Saddle up and let’s ride, boys.
Get along, strap your leather,
Saddle up – ride together.
I’m your house in the orchard,
I’m your castle in the sky,
Take a look at me now boys,
I’m the answer to your why.
I’m your castle in the air,
I’m your home in the sky.
Take a look at me, now boys,
I’m ahead of a lie.
I’m the queen of the cowboys,
I’m the head of the herd,
Like a blue-ribbon cow,
I’m the best, take my word.
I’m the queen of the cowboys,
Grab ahold, take a chance,
I’m a bee making honey,
There’s a buzz in my pants.
I’m your place in the sun,
In the middle of the night.
I’m your queen of the cowboys,
Riding wind like a kite.
Riding tall in the saddle,
Down the street in the parade,
Got a big hat and cattle,
I’m the bill that’s not paid.
I’m the Queen of the cowboys
Doing what I do best,
Take a look at me now boys,
Got some starch in my vest.
I’m your castle in the air,
I’m the sugar in your pie,
Saddle up with me now boys,
Try it once,‘fore you die.
Climb back on if you fall off,
Shake the dust off and ride,
Get back on take my hand,
I’m your honey not your bride.
As the song reaches a crescendo, Miss Honeycutt recedes into the background, toward the back of the stage. The western band returns to a more traditional square dance number and the children resume the square dance movements; after some time, they begin to pair off and move toward the door, exiting the auditorium. Kayman is with Roz, arms coupled, as they leave the room with the other dancers. Bronson is left alone in the room as the band stops playing.
EXTERIOR – ALCOTT PLAYGROUND AND SCHOOL (eight years later)
It is late in the afternoon and the playground is empty. Roz sits on the lower end of the teeter-totter staring across the vacant field. Suddenly she is lifted up as Bronson first pushes down on and then sits at the opposite end of the board. Roz shouts with delight and turns to look at Bronson. He lowers her down and circles around to her side of the equipment. He takes her hand, and they walk to the nearby swings, taking a seat next to each other, still holding hands.
BRONSON: I remember when we met at the first day of school at Alcott, and now we are done with high school and taking off for college.
ROZ: It was such fun to be in classes together and the time went by quickly. It seems like yesterday. How do you feel about leaving home for college?
BRONSON: I want to be off on the next step. I want to learn how to be a teacher. What about you?
ROZ: Yes, I think I’m ready for greater things. I need to get away from this town. I plan to be a teacher, too. Will you miss anything about this school, the times and this town?
BRONSON: I think I will miss the good times and I will miss seeing you. What do you feel?
ROZ: Some of my best times were being young with you at this School. I don’t think I will be the same in the future, but I will miss the things we did together in the past.
BRONSON: Let’s plan to stay in touch and meet back here when we are finished with college. Until then, I will think about the things we did when we were kids. The times we had when we were young.
ROZ: Like the ledge game, remember? So many times,we started at the kindergarten room and worked our way around the ledge, all the way around the school building. Our rule was that if one of us feel off, we both had to start over again back at the kindergarten room. We laughed when that happened.
BRONSON: Oh, that was so much fun, let’s do it one more time. Start at the kindergarten room and see if we can still make it all the way around the building.
ROZ: Let’s, it will be fun, just like we used to.
Roz and Bronson walk away, from the swings to the building. At the door to the kindergarten room, he grabs hold of a window corner and pulls himself up on the ledge that runs beneath the windows. He takes her hand and pulls her up next to him, on the ledge. The exterior base of the window is wide and easy to catwalk. The space between the windows is more difficult to navigate where the ledge becomes very narrow.
BRONSON: This is the easy part, across the windows. Then, dig your toes into the narrow part of the ledge. Inch your way, little by little.
ROZ: I remember – take small steps and reach toward the next window to step over to the next wide ledge.
They move slowly along the ledge and edge toward and around the corner of the building. She begins to falter, missing a step as she reaches for the next window ledge. He grabs her wrist and holds her from falling away from the building ledge.
ROZ: That was close. Once we jump down at the first doors and make our way across the front of the building, we will be halfway home.
BRONSON: Just keep thinking – if one falls off, we have to start over again. We need to help each other.
They continue inching along the ledge and reach the second corner of the building. They pass by the third-grade classroom and eye the prize – the end of the ledge at the second-grade section of the building. They reach the next set of windows.
ROZ: Look. The principal’s office. If he caught us back then, we were in big trouble.
They reach the wider window ledge and press their faces against the pane to get a look at the principal’s office.
BRONSON: It’s empty now, but you didn’t want to be here when he was there. When caught, you knew that he would call your parents and then there was trouble when you got home.
ROZ: I never had to go in there to see the principal, so I don’t know what that is like. I always wanted to be the best in school; so never got into any trouble.
The two pass the principal’s office windows and again begin to work their way along the narrow ledge. Her foot slips the second time, and she begins to lose her balance on the ledge.
ROZ: Help! I’m not going to make it – hold onto me so I don’t fall.
BRONSON: I’ve got you – grab for the brick corner of the window casing.
He grabs her wrist, but she is too far gone, teetering backwards and unable to reach any part of the building to hold on. She falls off the ledge and he loses his balance. They fall together into a low evergreen bush below the windows. They laugh and embrace each other as they lie on the top of the bush. They continue to laugh and hold on to each other.
BRONSON: Now you see, we need to start over again.
ROZ: It’s my fault, but we do get to start over again, don’t we?
[End of Extract]