Posted in Writing

Waiting for Scorsese: A One-Act Play

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SCENE ONE

The auditorium is well lit and shining. There are six rows of seats, each row having eight seats. All eight seats on the bottom row have RESERVED marked on them. Besides the reserved seats, the theater is jam-packed with people. Only a few seats remain open.

An elderly woman, MARIA, 62, sits toward the right on the second-to-top row, all by herself. She has a bag next to her, and she sits very confidently, like she is at this theater tonight for a reason. Her hair is long and blonde, and her cheeks are rosy red. She knows her age but attempts to look ten years younger with all her makeup. It isn’t working.

A married couple, GREG, 34, and LYDIA, 31, walk into the theater. They walk up to the second-to-top row and make their way to the center. Greg goes to the right side of the second-to-top row, the only place in the theater with two spots next to each other. He sits next to Maria. Lydia sits next to Greg on stage left. Lydia starts digging into a box of popcorn with her hands, while Greg takes a sip from his Diet Coke and sets it down on the cup-holder next to him.

GREG: This work?

LYDIA: Yeah, I don’t want to be too close to the screen.

GREG: Well, it’s a little high. I don’t know. I like to get the full theater experience.

LYDIA: By moving your head back and forth for two hours? This will work fine.

GREG: How’s the popcorn?

LYDIA: A little stale.

GREG: How so?

LYDIA: Well, it tastes like they didn’t freshly cook it. Like they just got it out of one of those bags.

GREG: But we saw the guy preparing it. It was fresh.

LYDIA: Tastes old to me. Days old. Still good though.

GREG: Did you get any butter on it?

LYDIA: A little.

GREG: That stuff will kill you.

LYDIA: Not if you just put a little on it.

GREG: It’s filled with all kinds of trans fat and hydrogenated oils. It’s disgusting.

LYDIA: Whatever.

GREG: I don’t know why you eat that shit.

LYDIA: It isn’t shit.

GREG: It’s like the worst thing in the world you can eat. Apart from donuts and Jack-in-the-Box Ultimate Cheeseburgers. (sets his things on the seat to right, between him and Maria, nods to Maria) Evening.

MARIA: Good evening.

GREG: (turns back to Lydia) So what did you think of the party last night?

LYDIA: I don’t know.

GREG: I think it was fine while it lasted. Went a little long though.

LYDIA: Yeah. Do you have the ticket?

GREG: Huh?

LYDIA: The stub. The ticket stub.

GREG: Why?

LYDIA: I have to go to the bathroom, and they need to see it when I come back in.

GREG: We were just outside. Why didn’t you go to then?

LYDIA: I didn’t think I had to. But now I do.

GREG: Well hurry up, the movie’s gonna start any minute.

LYDIA: (looks at her watch) It doesn’t start for awhile.

GREG: Well, the previews could start soon.

LYDIA: This is a film festival. There aren’t previews.

GREG: Oh, right. (hands her the ticket stub) Here.

LYDIA: Thanks. You want anything else out there?

GREG: Like what?

LYDIA: I don’t know. Raisinets?

GREG: I’m fine.

LYDIA: Okay. Be right back.

Lydia goes down the stairs and exits stage left. Greg sits still for a moment and takes a sip of his drink. He turns to the right and smiles at Maria. She smiles back. Greg pulls out his cell phone and dials a number. Maria looks as if she wants to talk to him but acknowledges that he is about to talk on his cell phone. Greg puts the phone to his ear.

GREG: Kyle? Hey. How do the dailies look? No, from Sunday. (beat) I told you that her shots were a little over-exposed. Why didn’t you listen to me? (beat) Look, go through the other footage and see if there are other angles of that shot. No, I know I got a close-up, a medium, and a wide. (beat) Yeah, I’m just at the festival. Seeing Scorsese’s new movie. Yeah, I’ll let you know. Okay. Bright and early? (beat) Bye.

Greg puts his phone down and turns it off. He puts it in his coat pocket. He looks over at the popcorn and takes a bite from it. He laughs to himself. Maria, who has been curiously glancing at Greg while he was on his cell phone, leans in toward him.

MARIA: Excuse me?

Greg doesn’t appear to have heard her as he puts his cell phone away.

MARIA: Hello? Excuse me?

GREG: (hearing her this time) Yes?

MARIA: Are you a filmmaker?

GREG: Yes. Yes, I am.

MARIA: Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s just wonderful. I’m so happy for you.

GREG: Thank you. Are you a filmmaker, too?

MARIA: No, no. I’m a film goer. I’ve been coming to this festival for a few years now.

GREG: Yeah? Do you work for festivals or anything?

MARIA: No. I just like seeing the movies. I bought a pass. (points to the pass around her neck)

GREG: Oh yes. I see.

MARIA: Yes. This gets me into the premieres, the dramatic and documentary competition, the midnight movies, and even the galas, like this one.

GREG: You go to the midnight movies?

MARIA: Why yes.

GREG: Aren’t those typically sick horror movies geared toward younger men?

MARIA: I do find that I’m usually the only older woman in the auditorium, yes.

GREG: Hmm. (becoming less interested in the conversation)

MARIA: I was at The Blair Witch Project at Sundance in ’99. I was at the first screening. I told everybody, this was going to be a phenomenon. No one believed me.

GREG: Yeah, well, you were right.

MARIA: What kind of films do you make?

GREG: Comedies, mostly.

MARIA: Oh, lovely. Slapstick?

GREG: No, I like to think of my style as more Noah Baumbach. His films really inspired me in film school.

MARIA: Oh, where did you study?

GREG: Arizona State for two years, then I transferred to NYU.

MARIA: I always loved New York. That’s where I’m from.

GREG: Yeah, it’s a beautiful city. I regretted moving to LA. But it’s kind of where the business is. There weren’t too many opportunities in New York.

MARIA: I really miss New York. I lived there until about ten years ago.

GREG: What did you do there?

MARIA: Acting. I’m an actress.

Lydia appears on stage left and walks up to Greg. She sits down as she takes off her jacket.

LYDIA: The line was so long.

GREG: For what?

LYDIA: The bathroom.

GREG: Oh.

LYDIA: I guess nobody’s bladder works anymore. Too many pregnancies.

GREG: Right.

Greg gives her the popcorn and moves back to unveil Maria, who appears agitated that her conversation with Greg was interrupted.

GREG: Honey, I’d like you to meet… (beat) I’m sorry, what’s your name?

MARIA: Maria. Hello. (shakes Lydia’s hand)

LYDIA: How are you?

MARIA: Doing well, thank you. Are you excited to see the film tonight?

LYDIA: I don’t know much about it.

GREG: Well, it’s Scorsese. How do you go wrong?

LYDIA: He’s the guy who directed Jaws, right?

GREG: No, no, honey. That’s Steven Spielberg.

LYDIA: Who is he, then?

GREG: He directed Goodfellas. Casino.

LYDIA: Casino? That was terrible.

MARIA: It’s a wonderful film.

LYDIA: So violent.

MARIA: I’ve heard this one’s pretty violent.

LYDIA: Greg, what kind of movie did you bring me to?

GREG: It’s gonna be a return to form for Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio. Robert De Niro. It’s got a great cast.

MARIA: Did you hear that Scorsese might introduce the movie tonight?

GREG: Really?

MARIA: Yeah, well, it’s opening night of the festival. It would seem likely.

GREG: I would die if I could meet him. His body of work is astounding.

MARIA: Yes, of course.

GREG: Taxi Driver. Raging Bull. Classics.

MARIA: Yeah.

LYDIA: (cutting in) Do you want to change seats?

GREG: Huh?

LYDIA: Is this woman bothering you?

GREG: No.

LYDIA: She can’t seem to mind her own business.

GREG: We’re just talking, honey. Calm down.

LYDIA: Well, I want to punch her in the mouth. That’d shut her up.

GREG: Shhh.

MARIA: (pretending like she can’t hear) So what are your names?

GREG: Uh, I’m Greg. And she’s Lisa.

LYDIA: Lydia.

GREG: (shakes his head in embarrassment) Lydia. Lydia.

LYDIA: Can’t remember your wife’s name?

GREG: Shush.

MARIA: Aww. You’re married?

GREG: Yes. Six months.

MARIA: That’s sweet.

GREG: Are you married?

MARIA: I was. A long time ago. He passed away.

GREG: I’m sorry to hear that.

MARIA: It’s okay. It’s been a long time.

LYDIA: Greg, did you bring anymore food?

GREG: You’re not allowed to bring food in here.

LYDIA: Huh?

GREG: Outside food I mean. No, I didn’t.

LYDIA: This popcorn is just making me hungrier.

GREG: Well, go get some more food then.

LYDIA: Isn’t the movie going to start soon?

GREG: (looks at his watch) You have a couple minutes. Why don’t you go get some of those Raisinets for me.

LYDIA: Why don’t you ask nicer?

GREG: I didn’t –

LYDIA: That sounded like an order, Greg.

GREG: I didn’t mean it to sound like an order.

LYDIA: I’ll be back. Remember to save a seat for (emphasizes) Lisa.

She walks out of the room at a rapid speed.

MARIA: (after a long beat) She’s got a fiery attitude, that one.

GREG: Yeah. Gotta keep a leash on her.

MARIA: She looks sort of familiar.

GREG: She was on a reality show I worked on about a year ago.

MARIA: Reality show?

GREG: That’s right.

MARIA: I don’t watch that mind-numbing calamity.

GREG: Yay for fiction, huh?

MARIA: Yay for fiction. Thank God reality TV didn’t take over the world. We actresses would be out of the business.

GREG: I don’t do reality TV stuff. I work in narrative mostly. It was one of those months where I had nothing going on. It’s a long story.

MARIA: Yeah, I know how that goes.

GREG: So you’re an actress?

MARIA: Yes. For life.

GREG: (awkward beat) Have I seen you in anything?

MARIA: I did some TV shows in the 70s.

GREG: Really?

MARIA: Yeah, I was on an episode of Mary Tyler Moore. They were gonna ask me back for a second episode, but some new writers came onboard and decided to go in a new direction.

GREG: That’s too bad.

MARIA: Yeah, and I did three episodes of Gunsmoke. That was a joy.

GREG: Nice. Anything lately?

MARIA: I generally work in student films now.

GREG: Oh, I see.

MARIA: Yeah, you never know who may be the next breakout director.

GREG: You’re looking at one. (laughs)

MARIA: How old are you?

GREG: I’m 34.

MARIA: You look 18.

GREG: Well, thank you.

MARIA: So young. Hollywood is always going for younger. Once you hit my age, you are down for the count. You are a fly on the wall for no one to see.

GREG: I bet it must be hard.

MARIA: When I did theater in New York, I was the talk of the town. In the late 70s, I was becoming kind of a name.

GREG: Really?

MARIA: Yeah, there was a write-up of me in the Times that described my performance in A Streetcar Named Desire as audacious, scandalous, and highly memorable.

GREG: Great. Were you Stella? (acts) Stella! Stella!

MARIA: I was Blanche.

GREG: Who?

MARIA: You haven’t heard of Blanche Dubois?

GREG: I hear Streetcar, I think of Brando doing that “Stella, Stella!”

MARIA: Blanche Dubois is one of the most important characters in all of American play-writing.

GREG: I’m sorry. I haven’t actually read it.

MARIA: Or seen the film?

GREG: Lydia wouldn’t like it.

MARIA: She picks your movies for you?

GREG: Netflix is our best friend. She picks one, then I pick one. She picks modern romantic comedies, I pick classic and newer comedies, and some action movies.

MARIA: That’s nice. So anyway, yeah, I was becoming more well-known around 1978, and it was around this time that some movie directors were casting for parts. I almost got to audition for Meryl Streep’s part in Kramer vs. Kramer.

GREG: And you had never done any film roles?

MARIA: Just extra roles mostly. My main focus was theater acting at the time. But I was thinking about giving the movies a shot.

GREG: Okay.

MARIA: So I got a few auditions, and you’ll never guess what one was for.

GREG: I don’t know.

MARIA: Guess.

GREG: I don’t know. Star Wars.

MARIA: Nope.

GREG: What else came out around then? Saturday Night Fever.

MARIA: Nope. Think 1980.

GREG: 1980. Raiders of the Lost Ark.

MARIA: That was ’81, but no. You may know the director. We’re about to watch his newest film.

GREG: Scorsese. No way. Raging Bull?

MARIA: (smiles) Not only did I audition for the role of Vickie, I was one of the last three remaining choices.

GREG: Who played that part in the movie?

MARIA: Cathy Moriarty.

GREG: That’s right. Where has she been?

MARIA: Who knows.

GREG: That’s cool. So you were close?

MARIA: So close. Close to stardom. Close to working with an idol like Scorsese. You know why he didn’t pick me?

GREG: Why?

MARIA: He said I looked too old.

GREG: Oh.

MARIA: Yeah.

GREG: That’s too bad.

MARIA: After that, nothing really happened. I continued doing theater, but my career never really took off. Now I’m doing crappy student films here in Los Angeles. (gets angry) I used to be a star. I used to be somebody other people could look up to. Now look at me. I’m nothing.

GREG: You’re not nothing. I’m sure you’re a great actress.

MARIA: Would you care to see my reel? I would love to work with you.

GREG: (taken aback) I would take a look at your reel, sure. That would be great.

MARIA: I don’t have one with me, so we’ll have to exchange phone numbers.

GREG: Can we do it after the movie?

MARIA: Sure.

Lydia comes back into theater just as the lights start going down. She sits down in her chair and hands Greg some licorice. She opens her box of Milk Duds.

LYDIA: They didn’t have Raisinets.

GREG: I hate licorice.

LYDIA: Deal with it.

A shadowed figure walks to the front of the room and looks at the audience members on stage.

ANNOUNCER: Welcome, all, to the Los Angeles International Film Festival world premiere of Martin Scorsese’s brand new motion picture. At this time I’d like to remind you to turn off all cell phones and pagers and anything that makes any kind of noise. I want to remind everybody that we’ve added a screening to the schedule. Next Wednesday we will be showing Stephen Frears’ latest, and the director will be in attendance, so definitely get your tickets fast, at the ticket booth or online. Finally, I wanted to say that, after the movie, we are going to have three surprise guests for a short Q&A. They’ll be able to take any questions you may have. So, without further ado, please enjoy the show.

Audience applause ensues as the lights get even darker.

MARIA: I’m so excited.

GREG: Yeah.

BLACK OUT.

Click here to read SCENE TWO.

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