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At Home in the World

Dialogue Sample

Scroll and click on quote to go to scene. Act I Scene 1 – “I’m in my tower room, I can’t get out.” Scene 5 – “So how does it feel to be a woman, now that you are a woman?” Scene 13 – “Time is running out.” Act II Scene 3 – “Come on, let’s do this bike ride before it gets too hot.” Act III Scene 3 – “Jim! What do you mean, ‘She wised up’?“ Scene 7 – “I got outside.” Scene 8 – “A farm in Sweden.” Act IV Scene 10 - “If you get Wolf alone, give him my love.” Scene 12 – “We have a little time under this tree before your bus leaves.” Scene 13 - “Then I remember the promise that I received that summer.”

Act I Scene 1, opening of play. OLDER MARGARET I'm in my tower room. I can't get out. I feel cut off, as if outside is the real life, that I can't enter; I don't have the ticket. My sister Becky tries to reassure me. “Everyone’s a mess, they just hide it.” The problem is, when I lose the ticket, I don't believe I'll ever get it back again. It's spring. I'm looking out the window of my study. A car drones by. And I remember another time. 25 years ago. May. My senior year of college. I see myself, sitting on the floor of my first apartment, surrounded by note cards. That fall I had just come back from my Junior Year in France. Paris was a rehearsal, I told myself. Now, my real, extraordinary life will begin. October 31, 1969. Linda's Halloween party. A man was sitting alone, apart . . .

↑Back to Top↑ Scene 5, Jim’s bedroom. JIM So how does it feel to be a woman, now that you are a woman? MARGARET It feels wonderful. JIM And how does it feel to have a man inside you? MARGARET I’m close to you. JIM You’re not exactly answering my question, young lady. MARGARET Oh. (Kisses him.) JIM Hmm. Extra credit. Dear, what would you like me to do for you? MARGARET Gee. JIM Gee? MARGARET You know, in my tutorial, my teacher told me that Tiresias got to spend ten years as a woman. When he became a man again, everyone wanted to know who had the most pleasure. Making love, I mean. JIM And the answer? MARGARET The woman. More points of contact. JIM And what point shall I contact? MARGARET (Stretching her body against his.) Every one. JIM Wait a minute. (Reaching for condom.) Let us rearm ourselves with this little device that will save you from a fate worse than death. My sweet, you really should check out the pill. MARGARET At Family Planning. JIM What a name. Are you ready? MARGARET Could you do one thing for me first? JIM Anything. MARGARET Sing to me. JIM What shall I sing? MARGARET I don’t know. Surprise me. JIM Hmm. (Sings.) "Freight train, freight train, run so fast, freight train freight train run so fast, please don't tell which train I'm on, they won't know the route I've gone." MARGARET You know the world as it is, I’m connected to the world through you, we’re together, inside the song . . . JIM Hello, sweetness. MARGARET Hello.

↑Back to Top↑ Scene 13, towards the end of Act I. MARGARET (In her room. Sits on chair, typing. She tries to work, gets up, looks out window, sits down again. Sometimes relives what she is describing in movement, other times recalls it as she continues to work.) It’s so quiet. A car is approaching. Why won’t you come? Time is running out. I have to finish these papers or I won’t graduate. Thanks to the War in Viet Nam, we have the right to take pass-fails. I haven’t marched or sat in, but I have gone from door to door in distant neighborhoods, where women tell me, “I’ll have to ask my husband.” This should count for my taking pass-fails in the two courses I never really figured out, one of them I don’t know if I even went to it. That leaves two courses, four papers to go. I was in a play. (Sings.) "Marat we're poor, and the poor stay poor. Marat don't make us wait anymore. We want our rights, and we don't care how. We want a revolution, now." It was fun, like being in a club. The play was long. My character, Simonne, suffers for three hours. I told my new buddy Mark, “I can’t wait for the meeting of the General Assembly, that’s how I know we’re halfway through the second act.” “You can’t wait,” cracked Mark. “What do you think it’s like for us inmates?” Then one night someone ran in and shouted, “It’s happening at Harvard Square.” The rehearsal ended early. The streets got more and more packed with demonstrators, until we reached the side of the Yard. Suddenly it was quiet. Beams glared from police cars, crowds of students on one side, on the other side a row of science fiction helmets and frozen faces. Simonne has to save Marat. After a performance someone asked me, “How did you do it? I worked with mental patients last summer and you were just like them. Did you observe people?” My mother came. “Margaret,” she told me, “You were fantastic. Thank goodness your father didn’t see it!” Every night I wished, imagined, that you'd appear. Before each performance our director gave us notes. “If the energy is high enough, when you come to ‘Free all Political Prisoners’ you can shout ‘Free Bobby Seale.’” Someone suggested, “Why don’t we shout ‘Free all the seals!’” I think the whole discussion is ridiculous. Who cares what we shout at a performance? What fucking difference does it make? Bonnie rushed in to the apartment. “They shot four students!” The president sent troops into Cambodia. How can he do this? Doesn’t he have to ask Congress? What country is this? Everyone must go out into the street and become a prophet. It was dark in my bedroom when Ceal called. “Jim and I have stopped seeing each other. It was too hard for him, my saying ‘no.’” She means not going all the way. Perched on my moving bike, I peeked into the windows of moving cars. Square gray car, whip of hair – no, not Jim. I'm taking care of things. I keep on taking care of things. Fill out an application to teach on the other side of the world, get a phone call to come out for an interview at the airport. The director of the program and I sat at a plastic table surrounded by glass and metal. He evoked a lush world smelling green and brown. I’m going to get out of town. All my papers are due tomorrow. (Typing.) “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza played for the sheer joy of it. The games of the aristocrats were cruel.”

↑Back to Top↑ Act II Scene 3. MARK Come on, let’s do this bike ride before it gets too hot. (They grab chairs, turn them around to represent bikes, and begin to ride.) MARGARET I hope you get to see your vegetables. MARK Thank you, Margaret. MARGARET You know, there’s a rabbi at college who helps guys get out of the draft. MARK Did you ask him for a deferment? MARGARET Very funny. Ceal sent me to him. MARK Why? MARGARET Second semester sophomore year. I was scared. MARK What was going on? MARGARET First I couldn’t decide what courses to take. Then I saw people who took a year off, worked, traveled. I was afraid I’d never go after the adventurous life I'm meant to have. MARK And what would that life be? MARGARET I'm not sure. Out in the world. Not the safe suburban life of my parents. MARK Was the rabbi helpful? MARGARET He said, “Excuse me, I have to take this phone call. I don’t have much time. I have to talk to a young man who’s in trouble with the draft. Why don’t you try psych counseling?” MARK Ouch. Did you? MARGARET No. MARK So how did you come out of it? MARGARET I went to France! Oops! MARK (Scats "Sweet and Lovely.") BAH ba BAH BAH BAH ba ba ba BAH BAH BAH The hill! And now, Mademoiselle, for your viewing pleasure, the Charles River. MARGARET Gee this is great. It reminds me of France. We'd get up early, go biking along the Loire. That would be the perfect day for me, an early morning bike ride, then swim in a little river. What would be the perfect day for you, Mark? MARK Why does it have to be perfect? Why can’t it just be nice?

↑Back to Top↑ Act III Scene 3, takes place in Older Margaret's imagination. OLDER MARGARET Jim! What do you mean, "She wised up"? It wasn’t religion. It wasn’t the chain of laundromats. JIM She saw that we could never have a life together. OLDER MARGARET Why not? JIM Look at me, Margaret. Am I nice? Do I know how to be happy? OLDER MARGARET Why? It’s not about the state of the world. It’s not an awareness. What is it? JIM I don’t know. OLDER MARGARET And that photo. The beautiful woman with the still face. That was Miranda, wasn’t it? She kicked you out, right before we met. Why? JIM Because I would get drunk. Cry. Shout. Get nasty. Or distant. And once, I had a hangover, we were trying to make love . . . OLDER MARGARET What happened? JIM Never you mind. She didn’t want me around, and she was right. (Exits.) OLDER MARGARET (Calling after him.) Did you love her? Did you love me? Why won’t you stop drinking? Why can’t you love anyone in return?

↑Back to Top↑ Scene 7, Margaret’s bedroom. MARGARET I can't sleep in here. Sleeping bag, pillow, sheet. I'll sleep outside, on the roof of the old apartment. (Walks, spreads out stuff.) Below me are the lights of the city, dark, hot, still. It’s so peaceful up here. I got outside. (Triumphant gesture catches her off balance, sees edge of roof, moves back, lies down.) OLDER MARGARET (Enters, stands behind Margaret's bed.) The next morning I went back to my room, put on an old blue and white nightgown, and slept all day. I must have brought night back from the roof. Over the next few days my room became dark, cool, quiet. I have taken to my bed. MARGARET (On her bed.) My illness has no name. My whole body has collapsed. My feet are so swollen I can hardly walk. Am I disintegrating? Limp to the bathroom. How funny they feel, my arms and legs. OLDER MARGARET Jim gave me a present. “Now do you see? Now do you get it?" Oh, boy. I tried to run from my fate and I ended up getting whipped with a belt in an ordinary bedroom on a bright ordinary summer morning. MARGARET Why am I so happy in this little room? Whispering? Rustling? OLDER MARGARET We’re here, Margaret. Come. MARGARET Who are you? OLDER MARGARET We're waiting. Come.

↑Back to Top↑ Scene 8, Margaret’s bedroom. MARGARET Jim? Are you happy? JIM Now? Yes. MARGARET And in your life? JIM I seek experience. I taste. I learn. I make choices. MARGARET Jim . . . If you could have any life that you wanted, live anywhere that you wanted, where would you go? JIM I’ve been thinking about heading out west to San Francisco. I’ve been here too long. Eight years! MARGARET Yeah. But I don’t mean a place only. A life. What life do you want? JIM You’re going to laugh. MARGARET No. JIM A farm in Sweden. MARGARET The couple that took you in when your motorcycle broke down? JIM How did you know about that? MARGARET It doesn’t matter. You mentioned it once. Tell me more. JIM I was 21. Just finished college. MARGARET So you went roaming in Europe. JIM Yes. My last fling. Before I was going to come back and change the world. Figure out the universe. Before I made my pact with the devil. MARGARET What do you mean? JIM Doesn’t matter, sweetheart. MARGARET Tell me about the farm. Will there be rabbits? JIM Yes. And we will breed like rabbits. Thirteen children. MARGARET Like Bach. JIM Piano guitar duets on the lawn after we milk the cows. MARGARET Don’t people milk the cows first thing in the morning? JIM Evening too. MARGARET Good. JIM Sweden was so beautiful that summer. The farm was at the end of the world. So far from everything that had seemed important to me. Green fields, blue sky, lake. And the people's spirit as wide and free. In the summer the sun doesn’t set. We'd stay up talking. Drinking beer. The family made it themselves. Sometimes we’d get quiet. The summer night still, around us. Inside an enchanted time, as you might put it. MARGARET Are you still in touch? JIM No. MARGARET Could you? JIM Don’t think so. The summer’s over, Margaret. MARGARET Jim. We’re feeding the rabbits. We’ve milked the cows. (She puts her two palms up. He clasps her hands.) JIM Roll out the piano. I’ll tune my guitar.

↑Back to Top↑ Act IV Scene 10, Margaret's bedroom. MARGARET (Sits down.) If you get Wolf alone, give him my love. JIM Certainly. MARGARET Perhaps he'll give you the information you couldn't get from me. JIM Perhaps. MARGARET You can ask him. Was she good? Really good? JIM Margaret . . . MARGARET You probably won't have a locker room available, unfortunately, but there will be a bathroom, and you can share details side by side in front of the urinal. JIM Be quiet. MARGARET Did you get a good price for me? You can keep it all, I don't want a cut. JIM Stop it. MARGARET It's disgusting. My enchanted night. I was suspicious, but when I met him, I forgot everything. I thought, Jim is giving me a present. A man who hears the questions, but is not destroyed by them. Who can be with me in the garden. And when you came to get me, and left so quietly, I thought you understood. I wanted to see him again. But, I told myself, I have made a promise to Jim. Maybe, somehow, I can give . . . Stupid! (Bops her cheek with the palm of her hand.) JIM You're not stupid. MARGARET Go away. JIM No. (Sits down on bed next to her.) Look. Look! First, there was no money. Secondly, I will not ask Wolf a single question. And if he begins telling me anything, and frankly, I don't think he will, I'll say "It's between you and Margaret." MARGARET Why did you do it? JIM You wouldn't understand. MARGARET Explain it to me. JIM He has all the prizes. The house. The family. The degree. The position. Universities courting him. I have nothing. You were my prize.

↑Back to Top↑ Scene 12, Boston Common. MARK We have a little time here under this tree before your bus leaves. (They sit.) MARGARET We made it. Thanks. MARK Glad to be of service, ma’am. That’s what we male nurses do. MARGARET (Jabbing him.) You were an inmate. MARK That play seems long ago. And now the summer’s over. MARGARET Yeah. MARK You know . . . Margaret . . . I’m sorry . . . that I wasn’t able to be with you this summer. I was in some weird place. But it wasn’t you. MARGARET I think I understand. It must have been so hard. What will you do? MARK My mother’s a Quaker. I’ll get some conscientious objector job. MARGARET What about your horn? MARK Berklee School of Music will just have to wait. Come on. We should get going. (Turn upstage chairs into bus. Margaret on bus, talking to Mark through bus window.) MARGARET Bye kiddo. Off the pigs! Free all the seals.

↑Back to Top↑ Scene 13, end of play. OLDER MARGARET And I rode off. I'm in the world! Time passes. The air hardens. Then I remember the promise that I received that summer. Don't be afraid, Jim. I'm not.