Ella's Secret by Harris Freedman
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
ELLA Schlessinger - mid-50's; born Cologne,Germany; living in
England since age 16.
HELGA Hartmann - mid-50's; Austrian-born, living in Cologne Germany
since age 13.
SETTING: ELLA's Sitting room. London, April 1980
The play is best presented without an Intermission
(London 1980. April. Sunday 10 a.m. Raining and chilly.)
(SETTING: Minimum furniture. ELLA's sitting room: Two arm- chairs, a
coffee table, a writing desk and chair, a hat and coat rack, a table
with a telephone and stereo or radio)
(AS HOUSE LIGHTS DIM TO BLACK OUT
MUSIC BEGINS: "UNA FURTIVA LAGRIMA" FROM "ELISIR D'AMORE"
THEN AS LIGHTS COME UP CROSS FADE OUT UNA FURTIVE LAGRIMA
AND FADE IN THE MONKS CHORUS FROM THE FORCE OF DESTINY'.)
(MUSIC CONTINUES AS LIGHTS COME UP on ELLA wearing her house-robe and slippers
She is sitting at her writing desk putting a ribbon on a present she has just wrapped
There is a KNOCK ON THE DOOR.)
ELLA: (Calls out) Wait just one minute!
(She gets up, turns off the Music, goes to the door.)
What is it?
HELGA: (From Offstage) Mrs Schlessinger?
HELGA: (From Offstage) May I please speak with you?
(ELLA hesitates, then she opens the door, and we see
HELGA wearing a raincoat and rain hat; she is carrying
I should have telephoned.
ELLA: Who are you?
HELGA: I actually did telephone.
ELLA: You never called me.
HELGA: I did call, but I was afraid you would refuse to see me, so I
ELLA: So it was you who called twice yesterday.
HELGA: Ya, ya, I'm sorry.
ELLA: If you were trying to frighten me you didn't succeed.
(ELLA begins to close the door, but she stops when HELGA speaks.)
HELGA: Please. Just give me one minute of your time.
ELLA: Why should I?
HELGA: I'm sorry for hanging up, but as soon as I heard your voice I
knew I couldn't explain over the telephone.
ELLA: I don't like people who telephone and hang up. Now what is
HELGA: I'm sorry for coming without warning so early on a Sunday
ELLA: Come to the point.
HELGA: It couldn't wait.
ELLA: What couldn't wait? Who are you for heaven's sake?
HELGA: If I tell you my name, please promise at least to hear me out.
ELLA: Why should I promise anything?
(ELLA again begins to close the door.)
ELLA: I beg your pardon?
(ELLA allows the door to open.)
HELGA: My name is Helga Hartmann.
ELLA: (Beat) Hartmann.
HELGA: I am his wife.
ELLA: Whose wife?
ELLA: (beat) Eric.
ELLA: I'm afraid I'm busy.
HELGA: He needs your help.
ELLA: If it's about the letter, I sent it at least three years ago.
HELGA: Five years ago.
ELLA: Can it be five years already?
ELLA: Then you know I sent the letter.
HELGA: Yes, the first one.
ELLA: Oh, I see.
HELGA: May I speak with you?
ELLA: About the second letter?
HELGA: In a way, and about Eric.
ELLA: I was very clear in the second letter.
HELGA: But you didn't write what we asked.
ELLA: I couldn't.
HELGA: And you didn't come.
ELLA: No, I couldn't.
HELGA: Eric needs your help.
ELLA: I've done what I could.
HELGA: I'm not sure.
ELLA: Well, I am. I think I have heard enough.
(ELLA begins to close door.)
HELGA: Please, allow me to explain.
ELLA: There is nothing more to be done.
HELGA: There is.
ELLA: It's not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact!
HELGA: Please, Frau Schlessinger. I was referring to Eric.
ELLA: He is not my concern.
HELGA: Eric has changed.
ELLA: Haven't we all?
HELGA: Of course, but with Eric it is more - it is extreme.
I came from Cologne yesterday just to see you. I didn't know where
else to go.
(ELLA opens the door wide and steps aside.)
ELLA: Come in. It's chilly in the doorway.
HELGA: I don't want to disturb you or your family.
ELLA: My husband is away. Come inside.
HELGA: Only for a moment.
(HELGA steps inside.)
ELLA: Let me have your umbrella and your coat. 9
HELGA: They are wet.
(HELGA hands her umbrella to ELLA.)
HELGA: Danke schön. ELLA: English.
(ELLA takes umbrella, and places it in the umbrella stand.)
(HELGA takes off her coat and hands it to ELLA.)
ELLA: Your hat.
(HELGA takes off her hat and hands it to ELLA.)
Thank you. It's very wet this morning.
(ELLA hangs up HELGA's coat and hat as she speaks.)
ELLA: London is always wet.
HELGA: I'm sorry to disturb you on a Sunday, but I felt it was my
best chance to find you at home.
ELLA: You were correct.
HELGA: Cologne is also wet and dreary these days. But you know
ELLA: It was a long time ago.
HELGA: You are Cologne-born?
(ELLA motions to the sitting area.)
ELLA: Please sit down.
(HELGA remains standing.)
HELGA: I came for Eric's sake.
ELLA: Have a seat. I won't be a moment.
(ELLA goes to Exit, but when HELGA speaks she stops and turns to face
HELGA: I'll wait.
ELLA: Actually, I'll be more than a moment - I'll put on clothing.
HELGA: Don't go to any bother on my account.
ELLA: No, of course not. But I do have to dress.
HELGA: Eric doesn't know I have come here to see you.
(ELLA looks at HELGA, then EXITS.)
(HELGA inspects the room. She notices the photo albums on the coffee
table, sits, opens an album and begins to look at the photos.)
(AS LIGHTS DIM TO BLACK OUT - MUSIC FADES IN:
OVERTURE to MACBETH by Verdi)
END of Scene 1
[end of extract]
Directed by the Author
Teatro Millelire, Rome, Italy (in Italian)
Directed by the Author
Spoleto La Mama Fringe Festival, Italy (in Italian)
Ridotto Teatro Dell'Angelo, Rome, Italy (in Italian)
Beth Shalom Holocaust Memorial Centre, Nottingham, England Holocaust
Museum Houston, Texas, USA
United Nations, NYC, USA
Ethnic Cultural Theatre
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington, USA