Pomona

A One-Act Play

by Kelson Vibber

SCENE:

The stage of a high school theatre.

TIME:

The present.

The Quixote High School Theatre Arts class is in rehearsal for its spring play, “Pomona.” Everyone is pleased with their parts and the production as a whole.

The cast has just arrived for rehearsal. The director, GEORGE is waiting onstage, with a very unhappy look on his face. The actors begin to wonder what the problem is.

GEORGE:

Gentlemen and ladies, we have a problem. (The actors know what’s coming, and are very disappointed.) We couldn’t get the rights.

KEVIN:

I knew it! And I so wanted to do all those math lines!

MICHELLE:

So what are we going to do?

GEORGE:

It just means we’re going to have to find another play, that’s all.

Lights dim to indicate passage of time, as the actors and director leave the stage briefly and return with stacks of scripts in their arms. Each actor reads through several scripts, discarding most but occasionally taking one to GEORGE, who invariably tosses it away after looking through it. Finally, MICHELLE shows him a script that he likes. Lights snap up and he speaks to his assembled cast.

GEORGE:

Michelle has brought in a new play that might actually work. We still have enough roles for everyone. I’ll get Ryan to write Samuel French right away. Meantime, your lines are due on Monday.

Lights dim again as everyone is studying their scripts. Lights rise on ROB and MICHELLE practicing a scene. Stage manager RYAN is sitting at the steps of the stage, following on-book.

ROB is sitting on a block DL, and MICHELLE is standing several feet away.

MICHELLE:

“You must come with us. It’s the only way to get your sister safely out of the city.”

ROB:

(standing) “But I can’t leave now! I have to—” Oh, hell, what’s the line?

RYAN:

“I have to be at the vote...”

ROB:

(picking up the line) “...or we might lose the company.”

GEORGE comes on, looking rather annoyed.

MICHELLE:

Who was that on the phone?

GEORGE:

We don’t have the rights.

ROB:

What, again?

GEORGE:

Yes, again. (Shouting, toward stage left) Cast meeting!

The remaining actors collect onstage, entering from stage left, except for JOSH, who sneaks in from right. Most of them were interrupted during some critical task, such as Physics homework, and their attitudes should reflect this.

GEORGE:

We can’t get the rights to “Pittsburgh.” We’ve only got four weeks left to rehearse, we need a play, however many people are in it.

The cast is generally disappointed. Lights dim, and the script searching sequence is repeated, except this time it is DORIS who brings the script that is ultimately chosen. Lights snap on again.

GEORGE:

I’m sorry we don’t have time to discuss this with everyone, but this is the only play I’ve seen I’m willing to direct, so we’re doing this one.

ROB:

“Weeks of Gin and Tulips?” What’s it about?

KEVIN:

It’s about an hour-and-a-half long.

DORIS:

It’s about these two alcoholics and all these problems they have. It’s mostly focused on them, but there are some good character roles in it.

GEORGE:

We’re casting tomorrow.

The stage clears as actors go to read the play. MICHELLE stays to speak with GEORGE.

MICHELLE:

I don’t really like this play much.

GEORGE:

That’s fine, but it’s what we’re doing. We really don’t have much choice.

MICHELLE:

I just know you’re going to cast me as the little girl, I just know it. I don’t want that part. I’m sick of being the innocent one. If you give me that part I’ll quit.

GEORGE:

(Thinking it’s a bluff) That’s fine, but Michelle, we have no choice.

Blackout. Lights come on again. Most of the actors are clustered around an imaginary cast list at stage left. GEORGE is trying to walk off stage right. MICHELLE catches him and stops him. She has been given the part she asked not to get.

MICHELLE:

(Handing him her script) You might as well give my part to Carrie, ’cause I’m not doing it. (She leaves.)

GEORGE stands there, disbelieving, as lights fade to black.

Spotlight on DORIS, holding a script in her hand and trying not to look at it.

DORIS:

Okay, here goes. “I am not an alcoholic. I refuse to say I am.”

Lights snap on and GEORGE walks onstage, trying to suppress his frustration.

GEORGE:

Forget it, we don’t have the rights. Samuel French has us on some list somewhere that says “Don’t let these bums do anything.”

DORIS:

(surprised and disappointed) Again?

GEORGE:

Again.

DORIS:

But what can we do? We’ve only got three weeks!

GEORGE:

I don’t know. (shouting, to no-one in particular) Cast meeting!

Blackout. Lights rise up partially, to the dimmed setting, and we see dozens of scripts laying on the floor of the stage as cast members search frantically for a play they can learn in three weeks. Suddenly, spotlight on JOSH, triumphantly holding a script entitled, “God Returns, Part II: The Sequel.” The lights brighten as JOSH explains the play to GEORGE.

JOSH:

See... it’s not Samuel French, it’s Dramatists Play Service. And it’s got the count. And, it’s only forty-five minutes.

GEORGE:

(not entirely happy with the idea, somewhat patronizing) But, Josh, you see, I’ve had some really, really bad experiences with plays that have “God” in them.

JOSH:

But, George... we only have three weeks.

Pause

GEORGE:

Point taken.

Blackout. Lights slowly come up on the end of the play, with all the actors facing backward at ROB, who stands majestically atop a block in the center of the stage. It is the final dress rehearsal. GEORGE walks down the aisle up to the stage as the actors disband and break character. No-one is pleased.

GEORGE:

(to cast) I was really impressed. You all knew your lines, even if Rob had seventy percent of them—

KEVIN:

(interrupting) Seventy-three percent!

GEORGE:

(pointing briefly at KEVIN, he speaks perfunctorily) Thank you. (Looks at the whole cast and pauses for dramatic effect before shouting) Other than that, you all sucked! Equity actors only get three weeks!

KEVIN:

Equity actors have full-time rehearsals! We have school to work around!

GEORGE and DORIS speak simultaneously.

DORIS:

(to George) And we are far from being professionals!

GEORGE:

(to Kevin) Around which to work! Don’t end a sentence with a preposition!

JOSH:

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Cool it! George, we already knew we sucked. We didn’t need you to tell us that. Okay, so it’s a disaster. But every dress rehearsal is like that.

DORIS:

He’s right. An audience makes such a difference.

JOSH:

See, I’m right. It’s not as bad as it could be. At least we have something.

Everyone freezes momentarily as lights fade to black. Lights come back up on the cast milling about in preparation for their final performance. The mood is nervous, but much improved.

DORIS:

(to Kevin) I think we’re actually gonna make it!

KEVIN:

Half an hour.

ROB:

I wish we’d at least heard something.

LOUISE:

Watch. Tomorrow, we’ll get a letter saying we can do it.

MICHELLE walks in from the audience.

MICHELLE:

I just wanted to say, break a leg! I hope nothing goes wrong!

Just then, GEORGE walks in, looking half-dejected, half-homicidal.

GEORGE:

(sighing in frustration) We’ve got a problem. (It strikes everyone at once. Moans of disappointment, grumbles, etc.) We can’t go on. Dramatists Play Service just called, and they know we heard before we went on. We can’t just pretend we didn’t know.

There is a long pause in which no-one speaks. Finally, KEVIN says what is on everyone’s mind.

KEVIN:

What do we do now?

Blackout. We hear the sounds of an audience talking, quieting as they realize the play is about to start. When the lights come on, the stage is clear. DORIS and ROB walk onstage, each carrying a folding chair, which they set up side-by-side DC. LOUISE walks on with a copy of the telephone book (white pages), and hands it to DORIS. LOUISE leaves. DORIS and ROB sit down, and set the phone book down in front of them, opening it. They begin to read, alternating each name.

DORIS:

Arnesen, Ellis, 730-9876

ROB:

Arriba, Carlos, 930-8724

DORIS:

Arrus, Benito, 555-6789

Lights dim and they are silent, but continue mouthing words. JOSH comes on behind them, juggling, while KEVIN and LOUISE pantomime a fencing duel— quite well, actually. From time to time, ROB and DORIS skip major portions of the book, eventually getting about halfway through. Finally, lights come back up to full and we hear the last name in the phone book.

DORIS:

Quijana, Alonso, 246-0193

ROB and DORIS close the book, and stand up as the entire cast lines up and takes a bow— to sparse applause. There is a great deal of relief in everyone as the realization dawns, “It’s over!” Lights dim momentarily, and the cast is all standing around talking about how terrible the experience was and how glad they are to have it over. Then GEORGE walks onstage, looking even worse than last time.

GEORGE:

Bad news, ladies and gentlemen.

A murmur of surprise arises, as in “What the hell is he talking about?”

GEORGE:

The phone company is suing us for copyright infringement.

Blackout. End of play.

April 1994