note: This is a two-scene excerpt. The full text of the play is available for review or performance from the author.


A Lover of Beauty


copyright 1999 by Lila F. Ralston; all rights reserved

(may not be performed, copied, distributed, quoted, or used in any manner whatsoever without the author's permission; contact lila@markandlila.com)


To Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, the Celtic Studs from Outer Space

“I’m little and ugly--and because I’m a lover of beauty I’m going to live and die alone.” --Joe Feinson, in Sidney Kingsley’s Detective Story

This play was first performed August 11, 2000 at the Athens Community Theater by members of the Town & Gown Players. It was directed by Pamela Mitchell. Rhys was played by Allen Rowell; Hal, by John Vance; Margaret, by Cindy Nason. Backstage crew were Eric Wagoner and Chris Johnson; electrician, Jen Webber; lighting designer, Stuart Ivy; special props designed and constructed by Brian and Catherine Finnegan.


RHYS EVANS: an actor, tall and handsome, 35-45

HAL HEINRICH: a bodyguard (actually an expensive security consultant, an expert); confident, a bit older than Rhys, rather ordinary looking

MARGARET ANDERSON: a maid at the conference center; short, middle aged, unremarkable

Time and Place: The present. An exclusive conference center at which Rhys is attending a summer writers’ workshop while working on his first screenplay.




Scene Four: [The Same, later that day]

[Lights come up on HAL, who is carefully photographing the display left by Margaret from several angles with a ruler laid next to them for scale. RHYS sits on the bed, fidgeting irritably]

RHYS

Aren’t you finished yet? I want that stuff out of here.

HAL

Just about. [He takes one more shot, lets camera hang by neck strap as he sweeps the objects into a large plastic bag, then puts bag and camera into gym bag. Taking out a micro-cassette recorder he speaks into it.] June twenty-ninth, sometime between 7 and 11 a.m., sculpture of hands made of stiffened white thread, chained together with gold chain, heart-shaped links, holding gold star-shaped sequins, left on table in room. Check sequins for prints. [puts recorder away]

RHYS

How long is it going to take you to put a stop to this?

HAL

I’m not necessarily going to put a stop to it.

RHYS

What?

HAL

So far it’s nothing you can’t live with. And trying to stop it completely might make things a lot worse. Remember, I told you--these people can get violent if you frustrate them or threaten them.

RHYS

So don’t threaten. Just call the police and have them arrested.

HAL

For what? So far, all we’ve got is trespassing, at most. Say we have this person arrested. The judge lets him or her out on bail. Next thing you know there’s a gun in your face. Leave it alone, Rhys. Let me handle it. I’m screening your calls and mail for you. If you overreact, it scores points for the stalker.

RHYS

All right. I’ll let you handle it. But handle it. I want my room to myself! Get them to change the lock or something. I’ve wasted two days on this already and I’ve only got three weeks to work on this screenplay before I go back into rehearsal.

HAL

I know how you feel. But keep in mind there’s nothing threatening about these little tributes, and they don’t seem to be escalating. I think I can keep this person out of your room. Just give me a little more time to work on it.

RHYS

Damn it, Hal, sometimes I think you don’t do anything but make soothing noises.

HAL

Well, if you wanted someone to follow you around making scary faces at every nutcase you meet, you should’ve hired somebody else.

RHYS

[amused in spite of himself] Oh, get the hell out of my room. At least let me do some work, if you’re not going to.

[Exit Hal; lights down]

================================================================

Scene Five: [Margaret’s house, Thurs., July 1, evening. Margaret sits on the sofa, reading. She wears comfortable clothes, not stylish but not distasteful. Knock on door. Margaret puts down book, opens door. Hal is there. ]

HAL

[formal but not hostile] Good evening, Ms. Anderson. I’m--

MARGARET

[defensive, almost icy] I know who you are, Mr. Heinrich. Come in.

HAL

[enters] Well. If you know who I am, you probably know why I’m here.

MARGARET

I have some idea, yes.

HAL

My client would prefer that you left him alone.

MARGARET

I’m sure that he would.

HAL

Can I get you to agree to do that?

MARGARET

No.

HAL

I could take it up with your employer.

MARGARET

That’s your privilege, of course. But I haven’t committed a crime, since I had a legitimate reason to enter the room. Besides, you’ll notice that I stopped leaving things in his room two days ago. Under the circumstances I doubt I’d get fired. Unless you put pressure on the Center to fire me, which would be very bad P.R. I suppose the question is whether you and Mr. Evans can put up with a little unwanted attention.

HAL

My client came here to work on his screenplay. He doesn’t need distractions.

MARGARET

I think everybody can use the occasional distraction. And this can’t be new to him. He’s an actor. He’s used to people fawning on him wherever he goes.

HAL

Not in his hotel room.

MARGARET

If nothing like this had ever happened to him, he wouldn’t have you working for him.

HAL

That’s true. Dealing with situations like this is part of what I get paid for.

MARGARET

And dealing with people like me. So how do you deal with us?

HAL

That depends on the situation. Will you agree to keep your, um, tributes out of Mr. Evans’s room?

MARGARET

Yes.

HAL

Will you agree not to have any personal contact with him?

MARGARET

I will agree not to initiate any contact with him. I won’t refuse to speak to him if he speaks to me first.

HAL

Then I think we can avoid any further action. Mr. Evans is annoyed, of course, and I don’t think he’ll get any less annoyed, but if you confine yourself to doing the sort of thing you’ve done the last few times, I think he can live with it.

MARGARET

[a bit surprised; relaxing slightly] That’s generous of you. Thank you. Is there anything else?

HAL

Just a couple of questions.

MARGARET

All right.

HAL

What is your relationship to my client?

MARGARET

“Fan” covers it pretty well. I’ve never met him and don’t plan to. I’ve seen all his films, including the bad ones. I read magazine articles about him whenever I see them.

HAL

Do you feel he owes you something?

MARGARET

No. I’ve read your book, Mr. Heinrich, and I don’t think I fit your profile. I have no history of mental illness--you won’t have to take my word for that, of course--and I’m not interested in taking over Rhys’s life. He has a wife and a career and he’s welcome to both. All I want is to get his attention while he’s here.

HAL

One other thing. Most stalkers start small and then gradually build up. But that thing with the bed was pretty high-profile, and since then you’ve toned it down a lot. How come?

MARGARET

Technically I’m not a stalker. I’ve been working here for six years, as I’m sure you know. He came to me.

HAL

You didn’t answer my question.

MARGARET

I had to assume I’d be stopped after the first time. I wanted to make an impression.

HAL

You succeeded.

MARGARET

I don’t think so. Not yet.

HAL

What do you hope to accomplish?

MARGARET

I don’t know. Well, I know but I’m not sure I can explain it to you.

HAL

Try me.

MARGARET

It’s human nature, when you see something beautiful, to want to possess it. You probably see that all the time.

HAL

Mm.

MARGARET

You see a rose, you want to smell it. You smell it, you want to pick it. Some people dry them and keep them for years. Not that you can’t resist the impulse if you want to--but it’s always there. Whenever you see something beautiful, the thought “I want that” crosses your mind.

HAL

[framing the question carefully] In what sense are you hoping to possess my client?

MARGARET

Well, I know he’s not going to marry me, or even date me. I’m not going to have his baby. He’s not likely to come over for dinner. I could almost certainly get him to speak to me, but it wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation. I could buy an autographed photo or something, or bribe someone for a lock of his hair, but I’m not really into that sort of thing. I suppose what I’m after is to establish some little corner of his mind where there’s an image he can’t get rid of. Not an image of me, just some picture that will stick in his head and force him to remember me. Well... remember my work. As far as I know he doesn’t know what I look like.

HAL

He doesn’t.

MARGARET

Good. It’s not my strong suit.

HAL

What is your strong suit?

MARGARET

My imagination, I guess. I’m good with visual images.

HAL

[glancing out window] Your garden is certainly impressive.

MARGARET

I want to leave my mark on him...colonize him. So that in some sense, everywhere he goes he takes me with him.

HAL

Sort of like writing “Margaret Anderson was here” on him?

MARGARET

Something like that. But he’s the only one who has to be able to read it.

HAL

Some people would try to accomplish that by attacking him.

MARGARET

Why would I want to hurt him? He brings pleasure to millions of people. He’s enriched my life. Don’t worry--if I can’t get what I want the way I’ve been trying so far, I’ll leave him alone.

HAL

How long do you intend to keep trying?

MARGARET

Until he leaves. I am hoping he’ll stay through the end of the conference, so in a way it’s useful to have you here--telling me exactly how badly I’m pissing him off.

HAL

[laughs] I’ll admit that’s the first time anyone’s ever said that to me.

MARGARET

Well, why not? I assume you know enough about me to see I’m not a threat to Rhys.

HAL

I know your name and address. I know you’re not married and have no close relatives. I know you have no criminal record, and I know your work history and your academic background-- Master’s degree in English, University of North Carolina, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa. I confess I’m surprised at your choice of career.

MARGARET

Why? It’s not terribly hard work. It’s not stressful. The pay and benefits are enough to live on, since I don’t have any dependents. I can stop thinking about work the minute I clock out. I tried doing tax work once--the pay was good, but I kept waking up in the middle of the night wondering if I’d made a mistake on a return. I never had the stamina for teaching. This job’s not exactly creative or challenging, but I have the garden for that. And my...I call them “gestures”.

HAL

It seems like a very limited outlet. Haven’t you considered making a career of your gardening, or something in the arts?

MARGARET

My work is very personal. When I make one of these gestures, it’s intended for a specific person at a specific time. For that matter, I’m not sure I could make one for anybody but Rhys. And I don’t think he’d pay me for them, do you? No, I like my job. I don’t have to share the garden with anybody, and the gestures don’t have to mean anything to anybody but me and Rhys. If that’s all you wanted, Mr. Heinrich-- [opening door for him]

HAL

That’s all, thank you. [Exit Hal. Lights down.]