Zelda! Zelda! by Marianne Weber
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
Time: July 1918
(Background could show some slides of troops at camp in Montgomery,
with military music playing.)
NARRATOR: In 1917 and 1918, thousands of handsome soldiers descended
upon Montgomery, Alabama waiting to ship overseas to fight. They
filled dance halls, courted our lovely girls, flew their planes
overhead and changed our conventional Southern society. Those daring
soldiers from faraway places and their new jazz music called to ZELDA
like a siren song. And so, at the dawn of the Jazz Age, the lovely
belle of Montgomery was on her way to becoming a woman unlike any
other. She became the flapper, ZELDA!
Curtain opens. ZELDA is wearing a flimsy slip. She sits before a
dresser and applies makeup. A Victrola plays a jazz song. Dresses and
a corset are strewn across the bed. She leans over and inhales the
sweet scent of roses. She smokes a cigarette and blows smoke toward an
open window. Outside a group of young men whistle and call.
Men (unseen) whistle and call: ZELDA! ZELDA! Come out, ZELDA!
ZELDA rises, picks up a scarf, goes to the window and flaps the scarf.
She lets it float to the ground as she says: Oh boys, I'm busy.
She laughs, turns the music louder and returns to her preening. She
picks up a pair of scissors, holds a tress of hair and snips it off.
She puts down the cigarette, takes a swig from a flask, gets up, holds
a dress close to her body, twirls about laughing giddily. She dances a
few steps to the fast jazz tune playing on the Victrola. She pauses
and looks at herself in the mirror. She tosses the dress aside, then
picks up the corset and flings it across the room. ZELDA grabs another
dress, twirls to the music.
MAMA (MINNIE Sayre) enters, turns off the Victrola and says: Baby,
people can hear this half way down the block. The Judge will have a
fit if he comes home and hears this racket.
ZELDA twirls around with the dress and says: How about this one
tonight? It's perfect for daytime parties, but it's rather drab for night.
MAMA: Oh, but the fabric is soft and pretty. I made one for your
sister from that same material. You both have a purse and gloves to
ZELDA: (throws dress on the floor.) It doesn't have any spark.
MAMA: (picking up dress) Baby, you are enough spark. Look at your pretty
self. She lays the dress on the bed and holds up the corset. You
don't have this on.
ZELDA points at the corset: I hate that thing. Besides, it's too hot
for a corset. Thank heavens women aren't wearing them so much
MAMA lays the corset on the bed. She says: Ladies still wear them. If
it's too hot, take that pretty fan with you tonight.
ZELDA picks up the fan and fans herself in a coquettish manner, and
says: Like this. Oooohhhhh, la la la. I could do a special dance with
this. I'll be a fan dancer. She dances and flits around.
MAMA: Tuck it in your purse. A lady never knows when she can use a fan
in a dramatic way.
ZELDA: If I use it at all, it will be to cool the sweat off my body
MAMA: Baby, don't be indelicate. MAMA spies a tress of hair on the
floor near the dresser. She walks over, picks it up and says, Why did
you cut your beautiful hair? You have gorgeous hair, Baby. I know
women who would kill to have hair as pretty as yours. You don't have
to do anything to it and it always looks lovely.
ZELDA in a sing-song manner: I snipped a bit here. Snipped a bit
there. I may snip a bit more everywhere.
MAMA: You shouldn't be whacking your hair. You'll ruin it. It will
look all chopped off and not at all feminine. .
ZELDA: Maybe it's time for a new style. Sort of sleek, with bangs. I
haven't decided yet.
MAMA spies the cigarette, picks it up then stubs it out. You know
better than to smoke! You could burn the house down!
ZELDA: Uh oh. You caught me.
MAMA: If the Judge catches you, there will be trouble.
ZELDA: Let me guess. He'll give the sermon on A woman who smokes a
cigarette will do anything. Or maybe it will be, (she says in a deep voice)
Cigarettes are for trashy women.
MAMA: At least you know how he feels.
ZELDA: Rules is a better choice of words.
MAMA: No disrespect, now, Baby.
ZELDA: The Judge isn't home yet, is he?
MAMA: Not yet. He called a while ago to say he'd been detained.
He's probably finishing his chess game.
ZELDA: Ha! Or canoodling some hussy.
MAMA: ZELDA! Don't say such things about the Judge. Where did you
get such an idea?
ZELDA: Oh MAMA, I'm just teasing about Old Dick.
MAMA: I don't like that kind of teasing. It's disrespectful. And I
don't like you calling your father Old Dick. When you call him Judge
it's bad enough.
ZELDA: Oh MAMA. I know you try to be his opposite, but sometimes
you're just like him, you know.
MAMA: How's that?
ZELDA: No humor. None at all. You should lighten up. Laugh more.
MAMA: The weather is too hot, and I'm tired tonight. I'm not in
the mood for humor.
ZELDA: I guess not with the dark shadow waiting to cast his gory glow.
MAMA: I know the Judge can be harsh sometimes.
ZELDA: Sometimes, MAMA! There's no reasoning with him-about
MAMA: Well, this is his house.
ZELDA: How well I know that. (Sarcastically) It's good of him to let
us live here.
Outside the window, whistles and calls of "ZELDA, Oh, ZELDA! Come
out ZELDA. The party's started! Where are you ZELDA?" More
ZELDA goes to the window, leans out and yells, Go on boys, I'm
MAMA: Baby! Get back in here! You're half naked! You'll be the
talk of this town.
ZELDA laughs and turns around and shimmies. I already am! I like being
MAMA: Daring is hardly the word. This shameful behavior will lead to
your ruination. Act like a lady!
ZELDA: I'm not ready to be a lady, all corseted, prim and proper,
tight as a tick. ZELDA sits at the dresser and applies lipstick and
fluffs her hair.
MAMA: You might as well get ready to be a lady. You're 18 and it's
time for you to act like one. You'll never have any respect in this
town if you keep this up. You don't want a bad girl reputation. She
walks behind ZELDA and says, That's too much rouge.
ZELDA: It's the right amount for evening.
MAMA: Maybe for hussy-like females.
ZELDA laughs. Hussy-like! Oh MAMA, what a word!
MAMA: Can you think of a better word to describe what this is?
ZELDA: Not really.
MAMA: I was always good with words. Still am.
ZELDA: Maybe you ought to do more of what you really like, MAMA. Maybe
you ought to write more.
MAMA: I do enough. You children and the Judge have been my life.
ZELDA: But don't you get sick to death of us? Everything's the
same, day in and day out.
MAMA: Some days are long, but I'm satisfied with the rewards.
ZELDA: Which ones? The ones where the Judge comes home, eats his
sandwich and goes to bed, sometimes before sunset.
MAMA: He gets tired, Baby. He has long days.
ZELDA: MAMA, didn't you ever feel like you wanted more?
MAMA: I suppose. When I was young. You know about the time I went to
Philadelphia and spent several months there during the winter. Oh that
was a magical time. I read for a part in a play. I was just thrilled
out of my mind when I was offered a role. I could see the world just
waiting for me. For me!
ZELDA: So what happened?
MAMA: Your grandfather Machen had a fit. He said he'd rather see me
dead than performing.
ZELDA: Dead! How awful! That's cruel. What did Grandmother do to
stick up for you?
MAMA: There wasn't much she could do. She never crossed him.
ZELDA: Not ever?
MAMA: Never. He was the leader, and she followed.
ZELDA pauses, then thoughtfully says: Do you suppose that's why she
MAMA: You know we don't talk about that.
ZELDA: Maybe we ought to talk about it. Maybe we ought to talk about
MAMA: Oh ZELDA, my MAMA suffered and grieved after your grandfather
ZELDA: People die every day, and those they leave behind don't
always go crazy.
MAMA: My mother was different.
ZELDA: Well you lost a baby, and you didn't go crazy and kill
MAMA: I grieved, but I was young, and I had your father to lean on. I
had hope for happiness ahead. And it came. You children came. Mother
thought her life was over without her husband. She loved your
grandfather and she couldn't live without him. She grieved herself
to death. Some animals do that, you know.
ZELDA: Maybe it's more complicated than that.
MAMA: Let's not talk about it. Saddens me. There are times when I
wish I had a MAMA to talk to.
ZELDA: Like now, like you and me talking.
MAMA comes up to ZELDA, hugs and kisses her on her head and says, Yes,
ZELDA: So what did Grandmother do when Granddaddy said you had to come
MAMA: What could she do? (pauses) I packed my bags and came home.
ZELDA picks up a few pieces of jewelry, puts on earrings and says:
Like a good little girl.
MAMA: Wistfully says, Like a good little girl. I was sad at first, but
it all worked out. I met your Daddy and fell in love.
ZELDA: I think I'm more like you were back then, MAMA. I want more.
Don't you see that?
MAMA: I'm not blind, Baby. Of course I see that. But ladies have a
certain path to follow.
ZELDA, growing anxious, says: I feel like(haltingly) like I'm
penned in. Like a bird in a cage. She throws her hands into the air
and says: I want to SOAR. SOAR!
Judge walks in with scarf in his hands as ZELDA has her hands in air
and says. If you were trying to soar with this thing, it's a wonder
you're still alive to tell it!
MINNIE jumps up, grabs the scarf. Oh, she must have dropped it. Glad
you found it. It's one of Baby's favorites. She hands it to ZELDA
and says: Here, cover yourself.
ZELDA slings the scarf over her shoulder.
JUDGE: I didn't find it. I took it away from some army man parading
around the yard with it. He was acting the damn fool. He didn't want
to give it up. I took after him.
ZELDA: Now that must have been a sight for sore eyes.
JUDGE: Rather disgusting. I chased him off.
ZELDA: Judge! You didn't!
JUDGE: Don't worry. He'll be back. Probably bring friends with
him. And another thing,
JUDGE: Your behavior! I know you've been running around with some of
those army men. Flaunting yourself, acting the fool. I won't have it!
MINNIE: Now, now, Judge.
JUDGE: Hush woman! I want this little Missy to hear what I have to
say. Baby, you're going to change your behavior and I mean it!
ZELDA: But Daddy.
JUDGE: Don't "but Daddy" me. I've said my peace and I expect
you to follow it.
ZELDA: Yes, Daddy.
MINNIE: I'll get your sandwich in a few minutes, Judge. There's
some sweet tea waiting for you.
JUDGE: I'll go read the paper. I need a few minutes to unwind.
I've had a brutal day.
MAMA says: I can't believe you threw this beautiful scarf out the
ZELDA: I said I wanted to fly!
MAMA: You'll fly, Baby. You'll meet a nice boy and get married and
fill your home with sweet babies, just like I did.
ZELDA jumps up, puts her hands over her ears and makes a face. Not me!
That's not flying! I'm going to do something. Be somebody.
MAMA: You are somebody, Baby. You're my sweet Baby; you're a
talented dancer; you're a lovely society girl. Oh yes, and a poet.
Remember your poem that was published? It was a poem about our boys
going to fight. You have real talent in that area, too.
ZELDA: Oh yes, Over the top with Pershing. ZELDA chants: "They took
their places in face of death, and waited their turn with bated
breath." Then repeats it louder: "They took their places in face
of death, and waited their turn with bated breath."
Outside, more whistles and calls of ZELDA! ZELDA! She goes to the
window with the scarf and flaps it:
ZELDA: "Woooo Hoooo! Later, Boys!" She lets the scarf float to the
ground. More whistles and calls follow.
MAMA: Come back in here! Shame on you! No lady shows her bosom. I'll
tell the Judge about you prancing around half naked. He'll forbid you to go out.
ZELDA: You wouldn't do that to me, now would you? I'm a good girl.
I really am.
MAMA: You're not acting like one. You're being naughty.
ZELDA: Oh, but naughty is more fun. I'm just having fun. Fun like
you used to have. You did have fun, didn't you?
MAMA: Of course I had fun.
ZELDA: Did you and Daddy have fun together, or was he always THE
MAMA: No he wasn't always The JUDGE as you say. I remember those
days very well.
ZELDA: Tell me. What fun did you have?
MAMA: Oh, we talked, walked. Dined out. Enjoyed each other's
[End of Extract]