Welcome back to Monday, where we find a slew of monologues off the Youtube and and run ’em here.
Since last week’s unknown playwright was Alice Gerstenberg, it is only fitting that this week’s monologue arises from her play.
The play is FOURTEEN and concerns the preparations of a fashionable dinner party.
This particular monologue concerns Mrs. Pringle who is having a meltdown because some guests have cancelled, etc. You can even read said monologue here:
MRS. PRINGLE: [Exhausted, harassed, angry, tempestuous.] I shall go mad! I’ll never entertain again–never–never–people ought to know whether they’re coming or not–but they accept and regret and regret and accept–they drive me wild. [DUNHAM goes out.]This is my last dinner party–my very last–a fiasco–an utter fiasco! A haphazard crowd–hurried together–when I had planned everything so beautifully–now how shall I seat them–how shall I seat them? If I put Mr. Tupper here and Mrs. Conley there then Mrs. Tupper has to sit next to her husband and if I want Mr. Morgan there–Oh! It’s impossible–I might as well put their names in a hat and draw them out at random–never again! I’m through! Through with society–with parties–with friends–I wipe my slate clean–they’ll miss my entertainments–they’ll wish they had been more considerate–after this, I’m going to live for myself! I’m going to be selfish and hard–and unsociable–and drink my liquor myself instead of offering it gratis to the whole town!–I’m through—Through with men like Oliver Farnsworth!–I don’t care how rich they are! How influential they are–how important they are! They’re nothing without courtesy and consideration–business–off on train–nonsense–didn’t want to come–didn’t want to meet a sweet, pretty girl–didn’t want to marry her–well, he’s not good enough for you!–don’t you marry him! Don’t you dare marry him! I won’t let you marry him! Do you hear? If you tried to elope or anything like that, I’d break it off–yes, I would–Oliver Farnsworth will never get recognition from me!–He is beneath my notice! I hate Oliver Farnsworth!
And now without further ado, here are our monologists….
Which Mrs. Pringle went the maddest? Feel free to comment and join us on Thursday when we profile another unknown playwright!!!
Imagine one outfit having a monopoly over theatre. Six dudes managed to do just that. This was a time when the touring company was a thing. The Syndicate kept the big houses. Thus, a touring company could spend weeks in New York City or San Francisco and have just a one night stand in, say, Yuma, Arizona.
This led to extremely large cities becoming centers for theatre (which was probably already going to happen) but also stifling local theatre. Why build a local theatre community when Sarah Bernhardt might come through town once in a blue moon?
BTW, here’s Sarah doing her thing at age 61.
Even the history-make(believe)rs have this mentality. In this article by the Utah state government about the old Salt Lake Theatre, they behave like celebrity worshipping asses:
“There was scarcely a luminary of the American stage who did not make an appearance: Maude Adams; P. T. Barnum; Drew, Ethyl, John, and Lionel Barrymore; Sarah Bernhardt; Edwin Booth; Billie Burke; “Buffalo Bill” Cody; Fanny Davenport; John Drew; Eddie Foy, Charles and Daniel Froham; Al Jolson; Lillian Russell; Dewitt Talmage; and scores besides.”
Scores. As in multiples of 20. And they even misspelled Ethel Barrymore’s name.
In terms of a local theatre, this syndicate behaved much like the Manila galleons of yore: Stop by once or twice a year, dump a bunch of silver on the local market and skedaddle.
In response to melodrama holding American theatre captive and then torturing it with its plaintive cries, The Little Theatre movement arose.
More nimble and adventurous than its bloated corn-fed melodramatic cousins, The Little Theatre created a more intimate theatrical experience. It experimented. And pushed social issues. And our playwriting hero Alice Gerstenberg was just one of those intimate, experimenting pushers. Though obviously the most important and awesomest one because this article is about her.
Gerstenberg was born into the well-connected Gerstenberg family of Chicago. They had four generations on the Chicago Board of Trade simultaneously. Her mom even donated entire collections to the Smithsonian. She was the grand-daughter of German immigrants. She attended Bryn Mawr and began writing plays professionally soon after graduating. The folks over at On Her Shoulders have written a much more thorough biography. It’s interesting and I’d simply be stealing from them.
She innovated the use of the split subject before Charlie Chaplin’s alcoholic father-in-law used it and she pushed herself some feminism. Her first collection of plays was published in 1908, specifically for female college students, with all-female roles. Yay for experimenting, yay for feminism. Though some argued that she maintained the biases of an earlier time.
The plot is simple, the point is valid. In Overtones, two women meet for tea. Each are accompanied by her “overtone” – that is, a primal version of her that speaks the truth and isn’t afraid of social norms. Like much of Gerstenberg’s work, it is a one-act.
Gerstenberg worked to popularize both Little Theatre as well as one-act plays.
Here is the same section in a modern production:
Great set-up right there. The two ladies meet and we get to hear from Margaret’s honest half, Maggie.
I like this part, simply because Hetty is so proud to have a car [which she may or may not actually have].
Hangry Maggie is a hoot:
And thus it goes…
Theme. The theme of honesty is always a good choice. The additional spin of being honest with oneself cements it in nicely.
Characterization. Yep, it’s a comedy, but all four characters have depth, even though they’re components of larger characters.
5. Family friendly. Community theatres and high schools would do well with this, royalty-free.
The next play we’ll cover is a very unusual piece written while America was busy getting its young men killed in World War I. Unlike many of Gerstenberg’s plays, this is pretty much the opposite of of comedy. Attuned concerns a soldier’s wife writing him a letter and talking her feelings out loud. More or less a monologue, it is also approximately 10 minutes long, thus foreshadowing that trend. There is a twist at the end, which I won’t give away.
It is an artifact of its time. You want to see how Americans on the homefront in 1918 felt, this should do it:
We have some universal concerns here, especially the direction that she is “afraid of her next thought.” How true. How often does this happen to us? When people are forced to think things that frighten them, life (and stageplays) get interesting.
Her mention of thousands of others missing their loved ones also rings true and the fact the guy’s letter woke up the whole house speaks volumes to how important communication was in those days.
And it has a “special delivery” which we don’t have anymore. At least I don’t. Or ever did.
2. A VERY strong female monologue, written by a woman. One of Gerstenberg’s monologues from her play Fourteen is still used for auditions, but this monologue is where it’s at. Deep characterization.
3. Surprise ending.
It may be a bit too sentimental for modern audiences. I don’t consider it a deal-breaker, but it does skew sentimental. If sentimental is your bag, then consider this a highlight. It is very debatable.
2. Remember all that experimenting Gerstenberg was rocking?
Audiences might laugh at Tom getting pantomime-killed. The play would still pack a punch without it. There is another special effect that is integral to the plot. Since the play is in the public domain, one could modify it totally.
The ending. Not giving it away. It’s a great ending (see HIGHLIGHTS) but might not be great for 2018 audiences.
The final one-act we’ll go over today is The Pot Boiler. And it’s as awesome as it sounds. The definition of “pot boiler” from etymonline:
The notion is of something one writes solely to put food on the table.
This is a hilarious little play. Basically, a playwright brings a wannabe playwright to a rehearsal of his play and explains the whole dang thing. The actors and playwright get snippy, too.
It’s basically a Playwriting 101 course in satirical play format.
It’s funny. “Sud” is the playwright. “Wouldby” the novice.
2. It’s funny because it’s true. Here, Sud, playwright extraordinaire, argues with an actress about a word. How often have we seen people in life clash because they both “know” more than anyone else?
Here it is in a 2008(?) production.
Sud the Sellout.
Everything you need to know about writing plays can be found here. Sud is with Wouldby watching Pencil and Ivory, two actresses. Ivory is called a “vampire” here – the long form of “vamp” – which, according to Google dictionary is….
I’m so disappointed “home wrecker” doesn’t get a hyperlink there. Now that we all know what “vamp” is, let’s hear Sud’s expert career advice.
I wonder if this is a different version of A Model Maid. This may have influenced/been influenced by the short film series Sweedie, featuring Wallace Beery as a Swedish maid. Essanay and Gerstenberg were based in Chicago.