Three scenes from the Musquodoboit Valley Homegrown Script Project produced for the Bicentennial Theatre.
The following are three scenes from Hometown, the final product of the Musquodoboit Valley Scriptwriting Project where I led a team of young writers in designing and producing a feature-length play. I was also an associate producer for the project.
Act Two Scene Two: Club Royale
(Kurt is on-stage in the dark Club Royale. We cannot see the crowd, and we don’t know if Sophie is inside yet or not. The only visible area of the room is the bar, the rest is shadowy at best, and populated by the hulkish shapes of the soundscape business people and other denizens of the city. At the bar is a bartender and several patrons. Sitting on the end near the stage is Dodge. Kurt and his band are on-stage playing and Dodge is watching him while drinking a large glass of white milk—it isn’t entirely clear which Dodge is paying more attention to, the milk or Kurt.)
[#16: Kurt and His Band—Jazz Standard]
(As Kurt finishes his number, he comes down off the stage for a break. As he passes the bar, Dodge hails him and Kurt approaches.)
Dodge: Fine milk, Gordon. One must appreciate it. Bone strength has always been important to me, and wholesome milk is so much better for us.
Kurt (tired and impatient, it’s been a long night): What is it, Dodge?
(Dodge pulls a small tape recorder from his pocket and plays a snippet of poorly recorded music for a few seconds before stopping it.)
Dodge: You hear that? That is the sound of a hundred tapes hitting my desk. Every day I get more of these. Not bad, yeah?
Kurt: Not if that’s your sort of thing.
Dodge: It may not be your preference, but my preference is money (he gives his briefcase a pat). Any one of these could make me millions.
Kurt: With the right exposure and promotion, anything’s possible. That’s what you said about me. I’m waiting for a little upward movement, if you know what I mean. I’m getting tired of not going anywhere, Dodge. Beginning to wonder if you’ve been earning your cut.
Dodge: Such rude words. Other agents, you may find, do not throw away resources on long shots (Kurt glares at him) and hopefuls. Judging by your manner, I do wonder if you even wish to hear the offer I have for you.
Kurt: Keep talking.
Dodge: I have a promoter who owes me a favour or two. Has a gig needs filling. Downtown. Good place, good money. I know the guy.
Kurt: Can I play my own stuff? I’m getting tired of playing [Artist, #16] in sleazy dives. How good’s your promoter?
Dodge: He owes me a lot of favours. Look, he’s kind of impatient. Thinks he’s earned the big boys—and he only takes the best. If you stick, you get to fire me and go look for a big-league agent you like more, under the false assumption that they won’t pull you around like I have. If you flop, then I drop you and you go on living under the impression there are other agents until you decide your career is over.
Kurt: Nice ultimatum. You win either way.
Dodge: Not really, but believe that if you want. It hardly matters in our world. There is always another potential star. I think our business is done. And remember, Mr. Gordon, you are a pittance to me. If you prove too much trouble, than I will be far more inclined to collect a pittance from (he glances at the tape) Eli Hartnell and the E-Sharps instead.
(Dodge drains the remaining milk and leaves. Kurt shakes his head and is obviously a bit upset, but puts it behind him quickly. He turns to the bartender and orders a beer. From the shadows, Sophie walks up to him, which startles him a bit.)
Sophie: I saw you play.
Kurt (sipping, speaking sarcastically): Everyone loved it. Want a beer?
Sophie: Don’t be so hard on yourself. Really. Keep playing, people’ll listen.
(Kurt shakes his head.)
Kurt: What are you doing here, anyway? I haven’t seen you in months.
Sophie: You’re exaggerating. Besides, you know I’ve been busy with school.
Kurt: You done yet?
Sophie: Finished three weeks ago. Not sure what I’m going to do next, though. You been home at all? Did you hear about Tom?
Sophie: He’s got cancer. Meredith blamed it on the cellphones everyone’s got nowadays.
Sophie: It’s Meredith.
Kurt: What’ve you been up to?
Sophie: I told you. School. You seem to be having fun. (There is a fakeness and insincerity to this last line.)
Kurt: It pays.
Sophie: It pays?
Kurt: It’s a dark club in a dark alley of a bright city. There are so many better venues than this dive (the bartender shoots him a nasty glance).
Sophie: At least you have fun.
Kurt: It’s not about fun. What’s this getting me? I can barely pay my rent. Not what I’d imagined.
Sophie: What did you imagine, exactly? You’re not just going to walk into fame—it’s a start. You have to work at it.
Kurt: You don’t think I’ve worked at this?
Sophie: That’s not what I—
Kurt: Besides, work doesn’t matter. You go as far as you go. You get what you deserve. I deserve this.
Sophie: That’s not true. I’ve heard you. You’re good.
Kurt: Stop telling me that.
Kurt: That I’m good.
Sophie: You are.
Kurt: But so what? It doesn’t mean anything. What’s good? Good is bad. I’ve got enough talent to get here, no further. It’s a simple equation.
Sophie: I can’t understand you.
Kurt: Maybe that’s ’cause you haven’t seen me in years. Let’s get out of here, the light gets to you after awhile.
Act Two Scene Four: The Watchmaker’s Shop
Watchmaker: Come on in. It’s about time.
Sophie: You were expecting me?
Watchmaker: Simple, really: your watch stopped, didn’t it? Once people have been in once, they don’t usually come back unless there’s a problem. So why did you come back?
Sophie: I—I had to…. My watch stopped.
Watchmaker: You don’t know?
Sophie: No. I just had to…see home again. I don’t even know what happened. I couldn’t live there anymore, in Montreal. I don’t know where I fit anymore. But it’s not the same here. There’s no music.
Watchmaker: It’s always quiet here. You used to like the quiet.
Sophie: I don’t know. I used to be able to hear all kinds of things around here. Now they’re gone and I can’t hear any more. There was always music! Everyone made music!
Watchmaker: You are angry. Angry people do not make good watches. They cannot be patient. Now I have to ask you questions. Why are you angry?
Sophie: Because this place has changed.
Watchmaker: Everything gets quieter over time—the ticking always stops. Same watch, though—just broken. (Somewhat exasperated, bordering on impatience but with a certain resignedness; aware that his student isn’t absorbing his lesson) The mechanism has not changed, and so the town has not changed. The river is the same, and if it wasn’t quiet here, I would be very worried indeed. Have you changed?
Watchmaker: Are you sure?
Watchmaker: Liars also make very poor clocks.
(The Watchmaker shakes his head.)
Watchmaker: You are young and I am old. You do not see the simplicity of clockwork—not yet. In time you will be old and you will see it. A clock never changes. The wearer grows old and dies and his clock continues ticking. The wearer may change before the clock. The wearer changes every second. He wears a clock to keep track of how he is changing. The watch changes only once—when it stops. Each time the wearer looks to his watch, he thinks it has changed, when really, only he has. There is one rule in watchmaking and one day you will learn it: the wearer is unimportant. Each wearer is different and changing. The watchmaker makes a clock. Who knows who makes a wearer? I don’t.
Sophie: So I’ve changed, then?
Watchmaker: Are you the same person as when you left? Of course not. That was four years ago. Your watch is exactly the same as when you left. You see?
Watchmaker: You are young.
Sophie: My watch is broken. So is my home! You can fix my watch, right? How do I fix my town?
Watchmaker: I can cure its sickness, its malfunction. I cannot stop its progression towards the end.
Sophie: I know it’ll stop eventually.
Watchmaker: Yes. And neither I nor you can do anything to stop it. What is the watchmaker’s job then, hm? Why do I fix watches if I cannot stop them from ending?
Sophie: I don’t know.
Watchmaker: Why do you play music? Why do you bring life to your home town?
Sophie: Because I enjoy it?
Watchmaker: You are young. I have fixed watches for 75 years. Enjoyment is no longer enough. But you still want to fix your town, and I still want to fix your watch.
Sophie: There is no reason, then. You just have to do it, like I just have to do it. That’s why I came back. I don’t have a choice.
Watchmaker: You are a part of your town and I am a part of your watch. You are not separate from it and you have a part to play in it. At least, that is what I think. I am old. I think that if I am a part of your watch then I have a part to play in its demise, therefore I must fix it until the time is right for it to end. I will know.
(Sophie hands him the watch and he unscrews the back of it and looks at the machinery.)
Watchmaker: I must select my tool and find the problem before I eliminate it. So must you.
(He fixes her watch.)
Sophie: This town needs music. It needs its heart. Music’s like the ticking of a watch, it’s got to be there.
Watchmaker: Now you are beginning to get old—you are beginning to think. (He hands her her watch.) You can bring music back here, and the town will glow again before it ends.
Sophie: Then we need a show, so I can use my tools. That’s all I’ve got.
Watchmaker: Very good. If your watch should stop again, ask yourself if it is time before you come to see me.
Sophie: I will, thank-you.
(Sophie turns to leave, but before she reaches the door, the Watchmaker interrupts.)
Watchmaker: You would do well to remember that the heart is a watch, too. And, on occasion, it may need repairing as well.
Act Two Scene Six: Helen and Claire’s Montreal Apartment—On the Phone
(Claire and Helen are standing in their Montreal loft apartment—an open-concept, neo-modern, and very sleek design. They are standing together behind a sink, doing dishes. Their cordless phone rings and they answer on speaker while continuing to do the dishes. Sophie is on the other end.)
Sophie: Hi, guys.
Claire: Why hello. And who might this be?
Helen: We thought you’d call.
Claire: Didn’t think it would take a week, though.
Sophie: I’m sorry, guys—did Kurt tell you?
Helen: We ran into him three days ago.
Claire: Taken in by the truly awesome sight of his ego. It’s a local tourist attraction.
Helen: He didn’t mention you, though. Seemed surprisingly frazzled.
Claire: We didn’t think you’d snapped quite yet.
Helen: But we have been wrong before.
Sophie: I didn’t “snap”! I just…went home. I had to go home. You guys might not quite understand this but I needed to come back and hear things again. I needed to be here, ’cause I belong here. This is where I fit, there’s music, there’s people, there’s me. It all works together but it doesn’t apart.
Claire: You know, Helen, I think we do understand.
Helen: It’s the old sense of belonging quandary, isn’t it?
Claire: Yeah, Sophie belongs at a ceilidh the same way we belong in a bar on Sunday night.
Sophie: I panicked.
Helen: We know.
Claire: Kurt did mention that you had some hysterics or something. We just figured you’d finally found out how shiny his trumpet really is and been terribly disappointed.
Helen: But evidently that’s not it, since Kurt’s all high and mighty and you’re living in Nowhereville organizing shindigs. That’s why you called, isn’t it?
Sophie: I don’t even remember why I called. You are unbearable.
Helen: We aim to please.
Claire: We’ll come back, then. That should settle things down fairly quickly. Probably not, actually.
Helen: Might make the place a little more interesting, but if I know Sophie, then she’s looking to make home even more boring.
Sophie: I need a show, guys. There’s nobody around here anymore, they’re all gone. I need someone who can bring people out.
Claire: Did you try the Four Old Men?
Sophie: It’s not the same without you guys.
Helen: Look, there is a solution, here. We can all be happy, and trumpet-boy can show off in front of the yokels, which might not make him much cash, but given his current job, that’s obviously less of a concern anyway. And it’d do his ego a world of good.
Sophie: You mean Kurt? He’s not going to want to play here. Wouldn’t do anything for his career.
Claire: Oh, he’s told you, too? Do you know, he plans to be a musician. I’d not have guessed. You’d think he’d play every chance he gets.
Helen: Go on, ask him. We’ll come back and blow you into the next dimension or something. Then Kurt can follow up our complete destruction of everything we used to be with his soulful jazz.
Claire: It’ll make great reading for the biography doc. Claire Orsin, in tears onstage that night, wailed out the final chords of Woodpecker Waltz and threw her guitar and shoes into the crowd before storming off to the scout camp at Lake Error-Free to profess her undying love for polka music while floating naked in the water! Then Kurt Gordon arrived on the scene to settle everything down with a Diana Krall number. I can see it now. This could work.
Sophie: Thanks, Claire, but I need emotion this time. I need a little passion.
Claire: What, my tears not enough?
Helen: Kurt’ll bring you emotion. It’s all he does nowadays. We were down his way the other night so we could inhale our smoke quota for the evening in the Club Royale. The guy’s going for a sad streak. You might just get to him with all this talk of emotion and meaning. He’s digging meaning right now.
Claire: If he doesn’t play your show, we’ll show up to the club and demand he play [#10] until we get thrown out.
Sophie: Thanks for forgiving me, guys.
Claire: Who said anything about forgiveness?
Helen: No, we’ll take care of you next Friday.
Claire: Bye-bye now!