by Gillette Elvgren
This play deals honestly and sensitively with depression and suicidal impulses among teens.
CHARACTERS (All sixteen or seventeen.)
MORGAN: the extreme sports, short haired, jock girl who is always on the edge, very physical, always pushing and challenging the status quo. She is a self confessed feminist.
HEATHER: The girl who wants to belong. She has been experimenting with the dieting/purging/gorging cycle and hates herself, hates her body. She somehow feels that if she can look prettier that this will solve all the problems she has at school and at home.
DENNIS: the mascot type, clever, energetic, wanting to please. He’s head over heels in love with Heather -- even if it means just being her friend, he’ll take that. Somehow he seems to have avoided the bevy of teen problems that plague the other characters in this play which makes him odd man out--the key word here is “dork.”
ANTONIO: an outsider, dark, brooding, ironic and somewhat cynical. a sad demeanor, which makes him a likely character to play Hamlet. He comes from a wealthy family. He is lonely but doesn’t want to admit it.
MR. PETERS: English lit /drama teacher. Loves Shakespeare. Has a real concern for these kids. He doesn’t always play by the book.
(The set is a high school theatre, backstage, the acting class is using the proscenium for a rehearsal space, doing scenes from HAMLET. Placed about are: a few cubes, at an angle on old painted drop indicating that the last play they did was a musical. A step ladder is set up, an old prop trunk, a costume fitting manikin with a few period costume pieces flung over it, and a follow-spot (not necessary) . MR. PETERS enters with stool. He sees audience and crosses downstage to address them.)
PETERS: Drama class. Fifth period elective. I always say you have to be a little crazy to want to step into a character written by someone else, to try and bring that character to life, to present truth through fiction. No easy task.
We were doing scenes from HAMLET by William Shakespeare--a tragedy written in the early 17th century. If you can get past the “thee’s and the thou’s” it’s pretty potent stuff. It’s the story of a college student, a Prince, who discovers that his Uncle has murdered his father the King. So what should he do about it? That’s the question.
(Pulls note from his pocket.)
When I was moving things around I found this. It wasn’t addressed to anyone specific. I figured it was from one of my students . . . someone in this class. No signature. Somebody was thinking about suicide. Somebody needed help, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. It happened on a Friday afternoon.
(The bell rings. MORGAN enters, wearing a leather jacket, with “Girl Power” on the back, in a circle with a line through it. PETERS hides note.)
PETERS: Uh, Morgan. You alright? You’re here early.
PETERS: You want to talk about anything?
PETERS: How about giving me a hand?
(She sticks out her hand, not looking at him or moving. She is blowing a bubblegum bubble.)
PETERS: Funny. These cubes go over there. And we don’t chew gum when we do Shakespeare.
MORGAN: Ah yes, the royal “we.” (She shrugs and starts moving the cubes over by pushing them with her foot in a desultory manner, blowing a big bubble. PETERS watches her. She looks up.) So. . . what?
(DENNIS hurries on.)
DENNIS: I got my lines down, Mr. Peters--down! And if Antonio doesn’t know his, I know them, too. You wanna hear? Shakespeare’s HAMLET, the part of Polonius, Ophelia’s wacky father: (He stands on a cube speaking in a quavering voice. PETERS is rereading the note.) “To thine ownself be true. . .”
PETERS: Uh, later Dennis. (MORGAN pushes cube from beneath DENNIS, he flies off.)
DENNIS: Hey, watch it! (Pause.) Where’s Heather? She wasn’t in Geometry last period.
PETERS: (Concerned.) Is she alright? Has anyone seen her?
DENNIS: She gets sick a lot.
MORGAN: I don’t know how to tell you this, Dennis.
DENNIS: What? What happened?
MORGAN: We went ski diving yesterday. 9000 feet. Her chute dumps. Splat. Knee deep in concrete.
PETERS: Heather went sky diving with you?
DENNIS: I don’t believe it.
MORGAN: Like a pancake.
DENNIS: You lie.
(ANTONIO comes on, looking at his lines, stands over DENNIS and recites, holding a script.)
ANTONIO: “Be wary then; best safety lies in fear.”
DENNIS: (Pointing to MORGAN.) You’d better tell her that. She’s the one that jumps out of airplanes.
MORGAN: Antonio has nothing to say about the fear-factor. Yesterday we stayed late for a Chem. Project we were working on and his Trans Am wouldn’t start. I offer to help. “Hey Antonio, you want a ride on my Suzuki?” He turns me down. “Hey, Antonio, I got an extra crash helmet.” He calls Mommy on his cell. “Hey Antonio, you need to loosen up, how about jumping out of an airplane with me at 14,000 feet? I’ll hold your hand, huh, Antonio, huh?”
ANTONIO: “Youth to itself rebels, though none else be near.”
MORGAN: And all he can do is quote Shakespeare. Chicken.
DENNIS: You’d never get me into one of those sling planes.
MORGAN: Nobody invited you.
(ANTONIO whispers in DENNIS’ ear.)
DENNIS: So, how’d you get the name, Morgan?
MORGAN: It’s my middle name.
DENNIS: It’s a boy’s name.
MORGAN: So what?
DENNIS: So what’s your real first name?
MORGAN: None of your business.
ANTONIO: It’s Priscilla.
MORGAN: Shut up, Antonio.
ANTONIO: She dares me to take this course. She tells me it will put me in touch with my feelings. Then she tells me to shut up.
MORGAN: So, why did you take this course?
ANTONIO: Because I wanted to see her make an ass of herself.
ANTONIO: But none of the roles seem to fit her. Ophelia’s no good. She’s a teenager but she’s . . . a cow, and Hamlet’s mother Gertrude is . . . confused, reticent, which leaves her out. That pretty much takes care of the female roles. But wait a minute, what about Hamlet? He toys with death. All that anger, that madness, those fits and starts. Who is he really, I wonder? Who, for that matter, are any of us?
DENNIS: Hamlet just happens to be a male role.
MORGAN: And my name is Morgan. Which is somewhere, in-between right? I like it that way. Nobody knows. . . for sure