Manufactured Prodigy by Milton Joseph
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
Lights up. Inside a newborn baby’s room at night, MARY STANFORD and ASHTON MORRISON look over a baby’s crib. MARY sings a lullaby.
MARY: Goodnight, Jane. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
ASHTON: Isn’t she beautiful, Mary?
MARY: She really is amazing. One day, she will become a fantastic actress!
MARY: Our daughter is going to become a star, Ashton! It’ll be wonderful!
MARY exits, ASHTON follows behind. Lights out. A narrow light peeks in from offstage (akin to a hallway light sneaking through an ajar bedroom door). JANE MORRISON-STANFORD enters. MARY and ASHTON continue their argument offstage. JANE rehearses a monologue in the darkness.
ASHTON: “A star?” What are you talking about?
MARY: She’s going to follow her dreams, Ashton.
ASHTON: Her dreams? Jane’s two weeks old! All she wants is to eat and sleep right now.
MARY: Right now, yes, but she’s going to grow into a star! One that will shine brighter than any other! I already have it planned out: She’ll begin her acting career starting when she’s four, no, three-years-old! Oh, Ashton, it’ll be so wonderful!
ASHTON: …you’re joking, right?
MARY: I’m dead serious, Ashton. I just know she’ll be amazing!
ASHTON: How would you even know that?
MARY: Because I know, okay!? Jane is going to be famous and everyone will love her and she will love everyone back! We’ll get her into acting as soon as she can talk!
ASHTON: Okay, Mary, we’ve never discussed this. Are you serious? You’re going to turn Jane into a child actress?
MARY: Mm hmm.
ASHTON: Are you trying to ruin her life?
MARY: No, of course not.
ASHTON: You know those child actors never lead good lives, right?
MARY: Some of them do!
ASHTON: But most don’t! Even if she does somehow miraculously become famous, you’re still forcing this on her, stripping away her childhood in the process!
MARY: No! I mean, she can still have fun and play and-
KURT MORRISON enters. KURT goes to center stage and prays.
ASHTON: What about Kurt?
MARY: What about Kurt, Ashton?
ASHTON: Kurt’s already 4. He could become an actor sooner than her. If you’re gonna make Jane famous, then what about Kurt?
MARY: Pfft. Don’t be ridiculous, Ashton. Kurt’s not suited for that kind of life.
ASHTON: Oh, but our two-week-old daughter is!?
MARY: You just don’t understand, Ashton…
ASHTON: I really don’t, Mary. I honestly don’t get it.
MARY: That baby, Ashton, is going to live out our dreams!
ASHTON: You’re only doing this for yourself.
MARY: Oh, really? Then whose idea was it to ruin my dreams by getting me pregnant?
KATIE MICHAELS enters. KATIE stands next to KURT, consoling him. JANE stops rehearsing and joins KURT and KATIE. JANE prays alongside her brother.
ASHTON: Are you blaming me and your son for your own inability to follow your dreams!?
MARY: What was I supposed to do, Ashton? You forced me to raise him!
ASHTON: “Forced?” He’s your son! I didn’t want you to get rid of your own child! Don’t you love him? [beat] Mary, you love Kurt, don’t you? Mary, where are you going!? [beat] Mary? Whoa! Wh-what are you doing!?
MARY: I’m sorry, Ashton.
ASHTON: Mary, stop!
MARY: I never wanted it to be like this.
ASHTON: Y-you don’t want to do this! Mary!
MARY: I’m sorry.
ASHTON: Listen to me! Mary!!!
The narrow light goes out. Baby’s crib/room is removed. MARY enters, joining in with the rest at the gravesite of the late ASHTON. Lights up.
MARY: I can’t believe it’s been 24 years since the car accident.
MARY: Jane, do you have anything to say to your father? [beat] Ugh, never mind.
KATIE: Mrs. Stanford, where are you going?
MARY: I’m so tired of all this… I can’t stand her! Why is she so quiet all the time? What happened to your sister, Kurtis?
KURT: Are you seriously asking that right now? You did this to her, Mom. You did!
MARY: No. I did not do this to her. She had a bright future but then she threw it all away!
KURT: Please don’t make this day about you and Jane again! We’re visiting Dad’s grave!
MARY: Oh, what even is there for you to remember? You only knew him for four years.