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.



By Vic Briggs


ACT I/ SCENE 2: SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2


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.


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!


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.


PROJECT R in session #16 Julie L

          1. On Failure. What does love mean to you?

Love is magic! Really! But only at the beginning 🙂 Then it’s a bit confusing (where did the magic go? 🙂 ) and then it’s the part you get to know your partner (because the blindness is gone as well) and involves a lot of work to maintain it. Of course you’re not doing all this work because you have to, but you have to have a very solid base to start building on.

          What constitutes a failed relationship?

Not letting go of each other, not being synchronized in thoughts/ day to day activities, not being open, lack of communication, thinking that there’s someone out there better than your partner.

          What about a successful one?

Truly believing that your partner is the best! Best looks, the smartest, best sense of humour, best father! 🙂

Did you ever think of yourself as a failure because a relationship came to an end?

Yes, I used to when I was young and stupid. Now I think both partners are responsible for the failure or the success of a relationship. Even if they fail see it.

          2. On Being Flawed. Are you more comfortable on your own or in a relationship?

I am very comfortable in my relationship that made it so far!

Do you think there is something wrong with people who cannot or would not sustain long-term relationships?

Yes, I guess they’re in denial for some reason. Probably related to a very sad memory.

          3. On Eros. Do you require a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled?

I don’t know. What I can tell is that I need my relationship like air right now. If for some reason I had to be out of it, I guess I’ll find a way to eventually feel fulfilled. I can’t tell if it would be a hobby or a new job. Most probably it would not be replaced by another relationship; it would feel really weird after the history we had, in the context that we are right now.

           4. On Soul-mates. Do you believe that there is a soul-mate for everyone out there?

No! You find the person you like, you discover him/her, fall in love, fall out of the magic stage of love, and then work on the relationship because that person literally becomes the best friend you ever had, and you get to care about him/her more than anything in the world. And then the kid comes along! This brings a different kind of magic, which you’re sharing with the partner. And you start a new stage of love, an even more secure kind, with the ultimate thing in common (I know I brought the kid again in the equation, sorry! I think children are a blessing to partners that have survived a long relationship. The children are the universe’s prize for successfully surviving the relationship. And they have to come at some point, otherwise that relationship will fail. Of course, don’t have children too early in the relationship.)

          Do you ever feel that you are only half of the equation, and will be ‘lacking’ something until you find someone to share your everyday life with?

I guess anyone starts feeling this way at some point, no matter how cool or glamorous they think the single life is. Everyone needs love to survive.

          5. On Self-Love. Do you think that to be loved by others you have to love yourself?

Yes, I think that’s true. Nobody loves grumpy, insecure, frustrated people.

          What does self-love mean to you?

Being proud of your accomplishments and comfortable with who you are (looks and personality).

          To love, can it sometimes mean letting go?

Yes! You have to let go for the other one. There is no such think as 100% compatibleness. So in order to make the relationship work, you also have to let go sometimes, especially if it makes the other one happy. Good will come to you as well if you let go! 😉 But fight for the relationship if the other one seems to let go too much of you. Sometimes this might happen as well.

           6. On Fulfilment. Can we only find fulfilment in others, or is it possible to be happy and find contentment in our other accomplishments, whatever our relationship status?

I think smart people can find fulfilment in others as well. I like people who sincerely do so.

          7. On Interpersonal Skills. Are people in relationships simply better at ‘people skills’ than those who are not?

I don’t get this question, sorry…

          8. On Project R. Do you think this a worthwhile project? In what way, if at all, did this project help you think through the question of “relationships”? Feel free to add here any other thoughts you may have on the subject that was not covered by the above questions.

– I am pretty sure that whatever you started working on is a worthwhile project! 😉