SMOKE… Act III/Scene 3

This is the final scene of the play. Smoke… this title has multi-layered meanings for me. I have attempted to be very light-handed in weaving it into the story, but I would be very curious to know how you have interpreted the name. What does “smoke” mean to you?

Smoke… by Vic Briggs

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1     SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2     SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1    SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2    SMOKE… Act II/Scene 3

SMOKE… Act III/Scene 1   SMOKE… Act III/Scene 2

20s strawberriews

ACT III/ Scene 3

The  curtain is still drawn. A reddish light pulsates from behind, then a heartbeat can be heard in synchrony with the light. It beats four times, then its beat is drowned out by the sound of a clock. On the eleventh stroke the curtain is drawn and the same small room is revealed, with a door at the back and one to the side, the empty space towards the stage has a large window-frame hanging from the rafters.

When the curtain rises the first impression is one of noise. The room is full of people, all talking loudly, trying to make themselves heard over the music which is going at full strength. Laura (twenty), in a sequined black dress, is circulating amongst the guests, champagne bottle in hand. She makes her way towards an old man standing by the window and replenishes his glass. He leans in and kisses her forehead in thanks, tapping her shoulder.

John. How are you holding up, dear?

Laura. (kisses his cheek and takes his hand in hers) I’ve never seen mother look so happy. Or Dani. And the church! Just lovely.

John. (shakes his head) If I had a say in the matter…

Laura. They looked beautiful together, didn’t they? (looking around) They should’ve got here by now. I wonder what’s keeping them.

John. (viciously) It should’ve been you walking down the isle. I don’t know where my son’s head’s at half of the time.

Laura. (brightly) Do you know if Freddie and Margaret will make an appearance? I thought they said they would.

John. (concerned) Laura…

Laura. I must go and check if we’re ok for champagne. Will be right back.

Laura walks away in a hurry. John watches her depart, his shoulders slump. He looks both worried and a little upset.

The back door opens. Emma (fifty-three) and Daniel (twenty) walk in hand in hand. The whole room cheers and a round of applause follows. John looks away and downs his glass. Emma is wearing a short cream lace dress, her hair in loose waves on her shoulders. She looks happy. There is a youthfulness to her as she moves amongst the guests to greet them and accept their congratulations. Daniel, in a smart suit, always at her side, keeps nodding happily as he shakes hands.

Laura walks in through the side door and freezes in her step when she sees them. For a moment she looks distraught, but then Daniel notices her and her features transform instantly. She smiles, nods at him, then pulls up the bottle of champagne she’s holding in her hand and points at it as if to ask if he would like some. He nods in acknowledgement and she disappears back through the door and into the kitchen.

The back door opens again. Fred (forty-seven) and Margaret (forty-five) enter. He looks eager. She looks uncomfortable. Fred spots Emma and Daniel and goes straight to them.

Fred. (shaking Daniel’s hand) Congratulations old man. (turning towards Emma, embraces her and plants a peck on her cheek) You look stunning, as always.

Daniel. (pulling Emma back towards himself, his hand around her waste in a possessive as well as protective stance) Glad you could make it. Quite a party isn’t it?

A Woman. (overhearing) Heavenly! (raising her glass) To the newlyweds!

The rest follow suit. Waves of cheers “To the newlyweds!” resound around the room. Laura re-enters the room with a bottle of champagne and a couple of empty glasses. A young man follows her, holding four more empty glasses. Laura reaches the group and hands her glasses to Emma and Daniel. The young man does the same for Fred, Margaret and Laura, keeping one to himself. Fred takes the bottle from his daughter and fills up everyone’s glasses. They toast.

Fred. To love.

Daniel. (leaning in and kissing Emma on the lips) To my beautiful bride.

Margaret. Looks away.

Laura. To both of you, and a lifetime of happiness!

The Young Man. (raising his glass) Here-Here!

Emma. (embracing her daughter with one arm) Thank you, darling.

Margaret. Notices her father standing by the window alone, and leaves the group to join him. Fred and Laura move slightly to one side from Emma and Daniel who are being questioned by the young man about their plans for the honeymoon.

Fred. (to Laura, gesturing towards the departing Margaret) She’s not taking it too well.

Laura. She’s here, isn’t she.

Fred. Only because I insisted on it.

Laura. Why did you?

Fred. (raising an eyebrow) You’d rather she didn’t come.

Laura. There are many things I’d rather didn’t happen, Freddie, but it doesn’t do to dwell on it, does it?

Fred. (pulls her into his arms and kisses her forehead) You’re a wonder, you know that?

Margaret. Calls Fred from across the room. He kisses Laura’s forehead one more time and then moves towards his wife and her father. Laura stands in the middle of the room for a moment longer, glimpses over her shoulder towards Emma and Daniel, then joins her father, Margaret and John on other side of the room, by the window. Margaret was observing her.

Margaret. All credit to you, Laura. I don’t know if I could put up with this if I were you.

Laura. (towards John) Are you hungry? There are these little pigs-in-blanket. To die for!

John. You know what. I think I’ll go and get some.

Fred. I’ll come with you.

Fred and John depart to the back of the room. Margaret and Laura stand side by side in silence for a while. Margaret, keeps wrinkling her nose as she sips from her drink. Laura notices a packet of cigarettes on the windowsill. Takes it and picks out a cigarette.

Margaret. I thought you didn’t smoke.

Laura. I didn’t. (she handles the cigarette as if it’s a cigar; rolls it between her fingers, puts it to her nose and breathes in the scent of tobacco.)

Margaret. Neither did Dani. (pause) Before Emma showed up.

Laura. Shrugs. Empties out the lighter from the pack and lights up.

Margaret. I can’t stand it. Sorry. Do you mind if I leave you?

Laura. Smiles and shakes her head to indicate that she doesn’t mind. Margaret walks away. Laura draws in the smoke. Nearly chokes. Steadies herself against the window frame, then sits on it. The second time she inhales it goes down better.

The music turns mellow. A slow song begins. The light dims in the room. Emma and Daniel are in the middle of it. Laura watches him as he draws Emma into his arms and they begin to dance. Other couples join them. Laura looks away. She pulls her feet onto the windowsill, and then pulls them around and over to the other side, face on towards the audience. She holds on to the window frame to balance her weight, inhales the smoke deep into her lungs. We hear the pulse of a quickened heartbeat in the background. She exhales, lets go of the frame and plunges downward.

The heartbeat stops. The light flashes a bright red.

Someone’s loud scream reverberates around the room. The scene freezes.

Curtain.

SMOKE… Act III/Scene 2

The scene is set. Although it moves forward in time, in many ways the narrative returns to the beginning, as we delve back in to Emma and Fred’s story.

The passing of time is once again a major theme, that I explore in a somewhat different way from previous scenes. Another is regret and the deep need for companionship and happiness, which Emma cannot or does not want to give up.

I hoped to explain without seeming to do so why the characters may have acted in particular ways. So here is what I hope to find out from you: Do you think that the past justifies at least in part Emma’s choices? What about Fred? And Daniel? Are there any questions that have remained unanswered? Feel free to add as many as you like.

Smoke… by Vic Briggs

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1    SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2    SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1   SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2   SMOKE… Act II/Scene 3

SMOKE… Act III/Scene 1

woman smoking

ACT III/ SCENE 2

The same small room, a door at the back, another to the side. The empty space towards the stage has a large window-frame hanging from the rafters. Emma (fifty-two) and Fred (forty-six) are alone in the room. Emma is standing in the furthest corner of the window frame. Fred is on a chair in the middle of the room, his head in his hands. shoulders shaking slightly.

Emma takes out a cigarette from her pocket, lights it up and looks out through the window as she smokes. After a while Fred looks up. He looks worn out and distraught. His eyes are red and for a while he looks around blindly, unable to focus on one point. At last his gaze rests on Emma.

Fred. We have to talk about this, Emma.

Emma. Staring ahead of her, does not reply.

Fred. You can’t… It is not right. Dan has his whole life ahead of him. Can’t you see that what you’re doing is…? (he looks around as if he might find the word about him)

Emma. Stubs out her cigarette. Fumbles through her pockets. Finds another and lights up again.

Fred. Emma?

Emma. How is Margaret?

Fred. Better I think. The doctor prescribed her some sleeping pills. She will be… (pause) Don’t try to change the subject, Em.

Emma. You’ve lost the right to call me that. Twenty years ago.

Fred. I’m sorry.

Emma. Are you?

Fred. Gets up from the chair. Shuffles his feet. Makes one step towards the window. Stops.

Fred. I was a kid, Emma. I was a kid. I wanted to be a couple not a…  What was I supposed to do?

Emma. Stubs out her cigarette. Looks at Fred, ablaze with anger.

Emma. I. (she moves one step towards him)  I. (another step)  I. (step) I. (step and now they are facing each other) Yes. It was all about you, Fred. You chasing after me when I was weeks away from getting married. (she sticks her index finger into his chest) You moving in before I had a chance to breathe, to even ask myself if I was ready for anything serious. (index finger into his chest again) You telling me that you don’t want children two years — a whole two years — after we got together. (she tries to get her finger into his chest again, but he catches her by the wrist and draws her hand away, keeping it clasped in his grip) I gave up everything for you. (she pulls her hand out of his and steps away) Wasted six years of my life trying to make you happy, thinking of what you wanted, what you needed. (her tone is both accusatory and plaintive) You were a kid when we got together, but you weren’t a kid when you left me. (nearing despair)

Fred. Steps towards Emma. Embraces her. She lets him hold her in his arms for a little while, but then pulls away, shaking her head.

Emma. What’s the use, Fred? I’ve wasted my life trying to do what others wanted. I’m done playing nice. I’m fifty-two. Dan is my last chance at happiness. I’m not going to let you or anyone else take that away from me.

Fred. He’s eighteen, Emma.

Emma. Nineteen.

Fred. Not until tomorrow.

Emma. You were nineteen when we met… Remember?

Fred. Searches his pockets. Emma pulls out her cigarettes out of the pocket of her dressing gown and extends it towards him. He nods in thanks and takes one for himself and another for Emma. She takes it from him and then lets him light it. He draws in the smoke deep into his lungs.

Fred. It was your birthday… Twenty-five. (melancholy) Where does the time go? (pause) Couldn’t take my eyes of you. That little blue dress of yours… How could I forget?

Emma. What happened to us Fred?

Fred. I was a coward. That’s what happened.

Emma. Did you and Margaret never consider having children then?

Fred. shakes his head in sign of no.

Fred. Dan was born soon after we were married. His mother left a few months later so Mags helped her father raise him… (pause.) I suppose that must’ve satisfied her mothering instincts if she had any.

Emma. And you? (pause) Were you never even remotely curious to find out how Emma and I were getting on?

Fred and Emma look at one another in silence.

Fred. (looking away) I couldn’t, Em.

Emma. Goes back to the window. Sits down on the frame looking out, smoking.

Fred. I promised Mags that I wouldn’t and… I didn’t think you’d want me to.

The clock strikes five times.

Emma. Go, Fred. Please.

Fred. Don’t do it, Em. I beg of you. Don’t take Dan with you.

Emma. Because it will break Maggie’s heart?

Fred. Yes.

Emma. (laughs) Good.

Fred. And Laura’s.

Emma. Fuck you, Fred. As if you give a damn about Laura’s heart. Or anything else about her.

Fred. Maybe I don’t. But you should.

Emma. Gets up from the window and in a few brisk strides she is at the back door, pulling at it and keeping it wide open.

Fred. Shakes his head. Walks to the door. Pauses at Emma’s side. Hesitates, then leans in a kisses her on the cheek. She pulls back. Angry. He walks out of the door and she pushes it shut behind him. She stands for a few minutes on the spot. Still. Breathing in and out. Searches for the cigarettes again. Gets one out. Lights it and then moves very slowly towards the window, deep in thought.

There’s a knock at the door. She turns on the spot.

The lights go out.

Exit.

SMOKE… Act III/Scene 1

I have explored in previous scenes of this play the idea of a story told through silence and pause, through the play of light and darkness, and through body language. In this first scene of the third act of Smoke, I attempt to take this one stage further.

While I have a particular narrative in mind, each of you will interpret what you see differently. So this is a summons to make the scene your own: What is it that you see?

spotlight

Smoke… by Vic Briggs

ACT I

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

ACT II

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 3

 

 

Act III/ Scene 1

Complete darkness. Silence. Then a giant clock ticks away. The light flashes on and off with every stroke like a heartbeat.

At first the stage is empty, but at the seventh stroke a woman materialises in the middle of the room under a bright white spotlight. The rest of the stage around her is pitch black.

It is Laura. She is barefoot, dressed in a long shift – a nightdress that just covers her knees, and stands upright. Tense. Her fists clenched. Her eyes fixed one something just above the horizon. Her hair is dishevelled. Streaks of black run from her eyes down her cheeks. This spotlight remains on for the duration of the entire scene.

A light flashes to her left and a second spotlight is fixed on two figures framed by a window. Emma holds onto the frame so that she may not fall. At first the other figure is just a dark silhouette just behind her, occluded and yet visible.

The light flashes red and the figure is Daniel. It flashes white. Darkness. It flashes red again and the figure is Fred. Darkness. Another white flash. The figure moves forward towards Emma and embraces her. It is Daniel. Emma buries her face into his shoulder. The light goes out on the two so that they are no longer visible.

Another spotlight appears on Laura’s right. Fred and Margaret face one another under it. They seems to be having an argument. The light flashes red and a third figure appears cloacked in black, occluded just behind them. It flashes white and the figure appears between them. It is Daniel. Margaret takes him in her arms and caresses his hair. Fred’s shoulders slump, his head in his hands. The light goes out on the three of them.

The stage is succumbed into darkness, bar the spotlight underneath which Laura stands looking upward. The light is a bright white. Her fists unclench. Her body convulses. Then a reddish smoke begins to descend until her dress looks covered in blood.

She reaches for her stomach, gripping at it with claws. Then collapses onto her knees.

The light flashes red outward strongly, followed in near synchrony with the white and then the space is enveloped in complete darkness once again.

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 3

If you’ve come along with me on this play-writing experiment, then you know that in the last scene I introduced the idea of youth and age – the latter is protective of the former, but in some ways it is also in competition with it. A competition that is ultimately one with time. I decided to continue this theme in this last scene of act 2 with a twist. In the next act I will try to interweave the different strands and make them work as one. For now… this is where my instinct and imagination drew me, so I relented and let it be.

How does this scene make you feel? Do you blame Daniel for his actions? Do you blame Emma? Where do you feel Laura and Emma’s relationship stands in all this?

Smoke… by Vic Briggs

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1     SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2    SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1    SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2

olderwomen

ACT II/ SCENE 3

Same room. Emma, fifty-two, is sitting at the table, her head in her hands. The audience can only see a part of her face, as her body is turned in part away from them. Daniel, eighteen, stands at the window smoking. He looks distraught, but also rebellious. He finishes one cigarette and lights another. Every now and then he looks towards the spot were Emma sits motionless.

Daniel. Emma?

For a minute or so, there is no answer then Emma gets up from her chair and approached him. He offers her a cigarette. She takes it. He lights it for her. She nods in sign of thanks and then takes a place at the opposite side of the window from the one he occupies. They smoke watching one another.

Daniel. How could I possibly know that she was your daughter? You never even mentioned that you had a child.

Emma. Exhaling. Says nothing.

Daniel. I didn’t meant to —

Emma. I don’t give a flying fuck, my dear, what you did and did not mean to do. (she moves from the seat in the window and starts pacing) Don’t you understand? (pause) This is not about me. This is about you being a worthless little fuck who has been cheating on my daughter!

Daniel. Don’t be like that. Laura and I… She got the wrong end of the stick. It’s just… casual. (pause) I was going to tell you… next week. (pause) Honestly.

Emma. Do you introduce every casual fuck to your parents? (pause) What am I going to do? (talking to herself) She loves him. God! How did I get into this mess?

Daniel does not answer for a while. He lights another cigarette. Emma comes back to the window. They look at one another. She seems to want to burn him through with her gaze.

Daniel. You’re right. You always are. I should’ve handled things differently. I just … You keep pushing me away and … (stepping towards Emma and trying to draw her into his arms) I love you.

Emma. (holds him at an arm’s length) Stop this nonsense, Dan. The only person you ever loved is yourself.

Daniel. (shakes his head, shoulders slumped) I hate myself. I hate myself for how you make me feel, always telling me that I’m too young, too self-absorbed, too… everything to be with you. Well… I listened to you and look where it’s got me.

Daniel stubs out his just lit cigarette and walks away from the window towards the door. Emma watches his movements from her spot at the window. He is about to exit, when he turns around, standing his ground.

Daniel. I love you. Isn’t that enough? How many times do I have to tell you that age doesn’t matter?

They look at one another. Emma sighs. Daniel sprints back towards her and takes her in his arms. She tries to resist, but very feebly. They kiss.

The entrance door closes with a bang. Emma detaches herself from Daniel and runs to the door. She opens it widely.

Emma. (loudly) Laura? (louder, and almost desperate) Laura!

Daniel continues to stand where Emma left him moments earlier. He looks downward, unhappy. Then his gaze redirects through the window. He beckons Emma back.

Daniel. It wasn’t Laura.

He sounds relieved. Emma sighs and approached the window. Daniel points through the window. Emma’s glance follows to the indicated spot. For a moment she freezes then gasps, her hand to her mouth.

Emma. Fred.

Daniel. (watches Emma) Who?

She turns away from the window and from him. They stand in complete silence for a while.

The back door opens and Laura steps into the room. She seems very happy, singing a love ballad off-key. As she enters the room she sees her mother and stops in mid-verse. She walks over then she notices Daniel at the window. She stops in her tracks.

The scene freezes. The lights flashes red. All is darkness except for the three figures in the room each under a spotlight. The light flashes again a bights white, and all succumbs to darkness.

Exit.

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2

Age and youth. Their concerns are disparate. Where youth sees the promise of love and a bright future ahead, age has the wisdom of the past to forewarn of the dangers of such optimism. I wasn’t sure whether this was the right place to go. It may not be apparent in this scene as yet, but I am going back in time to revisit the theme of the first act, but from a somewhat different angle. This scene opens the door a little only. It announces without revealing. What do you think will happen next?

young-vs-oldSmoke… by Vic Briggs

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

 

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1

ACT II/ SCENE 2

Same room as scenes 2 and 3 Act I. Emma now fifty-two is sitting at the table typing away on her laptop. Laura, nineteen, is sitting on the bed reading a book. She is distracted, She keeps looking up from her book and towards her mother. Eventually she puts her book aside and walks to the window.

Laura. Mum?

Emma. (not looking up from her computer) Yes dear?

Laura. Mum, I need to talk to you.

Emma. (continues to type) I have a deadline. Can’t it wait?

Laura. I suppose.

Laura. Returns to the bed and takes up her book. Leafs it for a few moments as if searching for a specific page. Gives up and puts it back down. She fidgets trying to get comfortable then gives up on that too. She stands up and walks back to the window, looking wistfully towards the audience.)

Laura. (to no one in particular) What a beautiful evening.

Emma. (typing away) What did you say dear?

Laura. (turning her head towards her mother) It’s nice outside. I think I will go out for a walk.

Emma. It’s going to rain. (stops typing and looks in the direction of her daughter) They said it was going to rain tonight.

Laura. I’ll take an umbrella.

Emma. You lost our last one.

Laura. (sighs) Oh, never mind. I don’t think I’ll go. (turning towards her mother) Can you talk now?

Emma. Sure. I can talk now. (indicates for Laura to approach) I’ll take a break. Do you want some tea?

Laura. No, no. I just want to talk to you. (takes her mother’s hand and brings her to the bed. They both sit down).

Emma. Well?

Laura. Mum.

Emma. Observes her daughter. Begins to look apprehensive..

Laura. (exhales loudly) I met someone.

Emma. Is that all?

Laura. (tentatively) We’re in love.

Emma. (laughing) Already?

Laura. (stands up from the bed, looks offended). Yes, already. How else do people fall in love?

Emma. Fine. Fine. So who is he?

Laura. (sits back down.) How do you know it is a he?

Emma. (a little surprised) Isn’t… this person a he?

Laura. You don’t have to look so worried. Yes. A he.

Emma. It wouldn’t have mattered, you know.

Laura. I know.

Emma. (waiting) I’ll make us some tea…

Emma disappears through a lateral door into an adjacent room. The sound of a kettle being filled up and some clattering of china is audible. Laura paces from the bed to the door of the kitchen, peers through about to say something, but then changes her mind and walks back to the bed. She sits down. She stands up again. Emma appears in the frame of the kitchen door, leans against it and crosses her arms on her chest, watching her daughter. Laura smiles and sits down on the bed again.

Emma: So?

Laura. So what?

Emma. Well! Are you going to give me any details? Who is he? How did you meet?When do I get to meet him?

Emma walks over to the bed and sits down again, next to her daughter. They hold hands as Laura confides.

Laura. He is someone from uni. We met at a party. You won’t get to meet him any time soon.

Emma. What do you mean ‘someone’? What bloody party? You’ve never been to any!

Laura. (lets go of her mother’s hands and stands up, incensed) I knew it! You don’t like him already and you don’t know the first thing about him!

Emma. Laura…

Laura. Mother!

Emma stands up from the bed and faces her daughter.

Emma. (now sounding worried) Answer my question. What do you mean ‘someone’? Is he an OLDER man?

Laura. (laughing) What if he is?

Emma. Don’t play games with me. This is serious. Who is he?

Laura. Oh! Stop worrying for nothing. He’s a student.

Laura catches her mother’s hand and draws her near. Emma looks relieved and embraces her daughter. The sound of the kettle from the back room announces that the water is ready for tea, so Emma goes into the kitchen. The audience cannot see her, but they can hear her voice clearly as her conversation with Laura continues.

Emma. So why don’t I get to meet him?

Laura. Because you’re going to scare him off.

Emma. I’ll do no such thing.

Laura. Promise?

Emma, re-enters the room, two steaming mugs in hand. She walks over to the bed and holds one of them out for Laura.

Emma. (mocking) I solemnly swear!

Laura. On your job?

Emma. Do I have to?

Laura nods.

Emma. Alright then.

Laura. Takes the extended cup and sips from it. She burns her lip slightly.

Laura. I’m meeting his parents on Sunday for brunch. Wanna come with?

Emma does not answer. She takes her mug over to the window and sets it on the windowsill. She retrieves a pack of cigarettes from the inner pocket of her cardigan and opens it up slowly, all the while looking into the distance.

Laura continues to stand in the exact spot as when she asked her question, unmoving.

The light dims on the entire scene, with the exception of the window where Emma lights up a cigarette and draws the smoke deep into her lungs before exhaling. The lights go out.

Exit

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1

I have always struggled to identify with characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, but I’ve always understood their desperate need to reach out. My main character has chosen to go it alone, but there are limits to her strength. Act II of Smoke attempts to reconcile her fear of what the future holds in store with a determination to face the uncertainty of the future with courage and optimism. It is a fragile balance.

What this first scene of Act II aims at is to give a glimpse into her outer world from within. The play of light and shadow is key. I hope that I have managed to make clear whose perspective is captured on the imaginary stage, but I would love to know whether you agree. Particularly, what does “sound” and “colour” reveal to you in this context?

Beating HeartSmoke… by Vic Briggs

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

ACT II/ SCENE 1

A blinding flash of light and then complete darkness.

From the darkness emerges a play of shadow and light – rosy-red. Almost immediately this play is pinpointed by the sound of a heartbeat.

The silence without is interrupted every now and then by laughter. The laughter does not belong within, but it comes as if from outside the room. When there is laughter, the heartbeat quickens.

Another blinding flash of light and then again complete darkness. The play of light and shadow. Again the heartbeat.

But now there is music somewhere in the background. The heartbeat aligns itself to the sound of the music; the sounds are entwined into one rhythmic dance.

A blinding flash of light and then darkness. Light-shadow at play. The heartbeat.

Muffled sobs from without interrupt its rhythmic sequence. The heartbeat quietens, as if listening out for that someone crying.

The red light flashes outward strongly, followed in near synchrony with the white and then the space is enveloped in complete darkness once again.

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

Sometimes our silence speaks louder than words.

The third scene of this play explores the power of silence. I attempted to showcase the pause – give it power. By giving silence an equal share on the page, I hope to show rather than tell how each character feels about the situation, so that when they do speak – even without pause – the silence still runs between them as an undercurrent.

I would love to know which pauses spoke to you most.

smoke-n-mirror

Smoke

By Vic Briggs

ACT I/ SCENE 1: SMOKE…

ACT I/ SCENE 2: SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2

ACT I/ SCENE 3

The same room. Emma (thirty-two) sits on the bed, covered by a blanket. She looks worn out. Margaret (twenty-four) is occupying the only chair in the room. Emma’s approach to the conversation is direct and unhesitant. There is determination inscribed in her every feature. Margaret appears uncertain, discomfited by her presence in that room. There are long pauses before most of her lines.

Emma. What do you want?

Margaret looks away, fiddles with the handle of her purse, clearly struggling formulate what she is about to say.

Margaret. You know what I want.

Emma. I want you to say it to my face.

Margaret makes eye contact for the first time. She appears to be staring Emma down.

Margaret. You don’t think I can?

Emma. (derision in her every word) No. I think you are quite capable of it, but I want you to do it. Say it.

Margaret. Breathes in deeply and then exhales.

Emma. Not as easy as it seems, is it?

Margaret gives her a look. Breathes in and tries to get it over with as quickly as she can.

Margaret. I don’t want you to have Fred’s baby.

Emma. Stands up from the bed. The blanket falls to the floor. She does not look heavily pregnant, but there is a small bump, just noticeable. She looks triumphant and defiant.

Emma. And what do you propose that I do about it?

There is a long pause, when Margaret finally speaks, her tone is subdued to nearly a whisper. It sounds as if she is trying to persuade herself as much as her opponent.

Margaret. That is not my problem.

Emma covers the distance between her and Margaret in a few paces.

Emma. Then why the fuck are you making it yours?

Margaret. Fred never wanted your baby. You trapped him. You got pregnant on purpose!

Emma. (smiling) Fred never wanted anybody’s baby. He fucked me [over]. Sometimes women get pregnant when that happens.

Margaret. (standing up from the chair to face Emma) You trapped him. You trapped him! You… You…!

Emma. I what? What is that your little posh mouth can’t get out?

Margaret. (shaking her head) I won’t be brought down to your level.

Emma. I’m not the one asking a desperate woman to kill her unborn child.

Beat.

Margaret. (horrified) That’s not what I said.

Emma. That IS what you meant.

Margaret begins to pace back and forth, every now and then looking up at Emma, who stands still, a protective hand over her bump.

Margaret. (pacing) Fred will not acknowledge your child.

Emma. That’s Fred’s business.

Margaret. You will have to bring it up on your own.

Emma. That’s my business.

Margaret. He will never change his mind.

Emma shrugs as if to indicate she does not care, or perhaps that she is not as sure of it as Margaret seems to be.

Margaret. (sounds desperate) I love him!

Pause.

Margaret. I’m going to marry him.

Emma. That’s your business.

Margaret. Oh, for Christ’s sake! Is that all you can say?!

Emma. What do you want me to say?

Margaret. Shrugs. Sits down on the chair.

Emma. If that’s all, I’d like you to leave now.

Margaret. (standing up) I will. (pause) I will, but… you must promise that you will never contact him again.

Emma. Fine.

Margaret. walks towards the door. Emma follows her. Margaret turns around, looks at Emma one more time, hesitates

Margaret. And you must promise that your child won’t either.

Emma. You’ll have to ask her.

Margaret. You must promise.

Emma. I’ll make no bargains on behalf of Fred’s daughter.

Margaret. It is not Fred’s, it’s yours.

Emma. Not ‘it’ – her. And no. I won’t promise you that she won’t try to contact her father.

Margaret. Fred will never acknowledge her.

Emma. That’s his business.

Margaret. Bitch.

Exit.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/daily-prompt-connection-2/