TOM: The Phoenix from the Lake – UPDATE Sept, 2019

by admin on September 7, 2019

As I mentioned in my previous post,( see April 29,) Juggling With Plays, my new play has finished the workshop stage with Janet Munsil’s playwriting group and I have rewritten many scenes as a result.

Now it’s over to you for comments and constructive critiques,  as I post it here, scene by scene over the next few weeks. After I’ve had everybody’s feedback, I’ll begin the submission process to community theatres, colleges and university theatre companies and see if a full stage production happens.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey, I could use your support and encouragement. Remember what Goethe had to say about this process?

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!”

– an alternative title might be, TOM: Birth of a Legend…. but for now, I’ll stick with the phoenix version.

So here is the opening scene (plus cast and setting):

 

                

                                                                               TOM

                                              THE PHOENIX FROM THE LAKE

                                                         

                                                     © April, 2019. Victoria, B.C.

 

 

   CAST OF CHARACTERS

(Three female and five male actors can double all the parts)

 

TOM THOMSON, age 39……….painter, inspiration for the Group of Seven

WINNIE, mid 30s…………..school teacher, TOM’s mistress/fiancée

LAWREN HARRIS, early 30s…..wealthy member of Toronto group of painters

FRED VARLEY, mid 30s……….English, member of Toronto group of painter

A.Y. JACKSON, mid 30s……..member of Toronto group of painters

EDIE FITZGERALD, mid 20s……………wife of FITZ and TOM’s lover

‘FITZ’ FITZGERALD, late 20s……..husband of EDIE, wounded WW1 officer

WALTER BOCKMANN, mid 30s….American draft-dodger, WINNIE’s unwanted suitor

AGNES WALLACE, late 30s……..Toronto Art Gallery owner, TOM’s new patron

RECRUITING OFFICER, 40s……………..WW1 Army travelling recruiter

MARIE, 30s………………French Canadian prostitute, hired by recruiter

ANTOINETTE, 30s…………..2nd French Canadian prostitute

MABEL, 30s………….dining car staff on ONR, Ontario Northland Railway

OLIVE, 30s……………VOICE OVER only, 2nd dining car staff on ONR

 

The time is 1917, spring and summer, during World War 1.

The setting is the Don Valley, Toronto, and Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, Ontario.

The set is a simple movable platform structure which is turned and re-positioned to become at different times, a cabin, a fishing lodge veranda, an island, an army recruiting platform and a railroad dining car. It is non-naturalistic, stylised and expressionistic. The music is public domain WW1 soldiers’ songs, freely available.

The cast of three female actors and five male actors can be doubled as follows, if desired:

MARIE as MABEL/AGNES

ANTOINETTE as EDIE

FITZ as RECRUITING OFFICER

VARLEY as BOCKMANN

 

ACT ONE

SCENE 1 – AN EMPTY STAGE. DARKNESS.

(As moonlight fades up gradually, we can see the dark blue cloth of the lake rippling across the stage with the faint outline of an upturned silver canoe floating on the surface upstage.

Silhouetted against the moonlit lake several figures appear, to call out, in turn).

WINNIE:

Tom!

EDIE:

Tom?

AGNES:

Tom?

FITZ:

Tom!

HARRIS:

Tom!

(Light fades to black and figures, canoe and lake disappear. Musical segue to):

 

 

 

SCENE 2 – TOM’S STUDIO/SHACK IN THE DON VALLEY, TORONTO.

(An empty stage with platform structure indicating a stylised rough artist’s studio interior. A curtained off alcove. Behind the curtain is an old brass bed. At stage level is an easel and an armchair with cloth thrown over it. Two people are in the bed, arguing in the dark as play begins.)

WINNIE V/O:

No, Tom.

TOM V/O:

Come on, sweetheart.

WINNIE V/O:

No, Tom, please.

TOM V/O:

Why not?

WINNIE V/O:

It doesn’t seem right.

TOM V/O:

How do you know? You haven’t tried it yet.

WINNIE V/O:

And I’m not going to start now.

TOM V/O:

Don’t be such a prude, Winnie. Lots of women do it.

WINNIE V/O:

No, I don’t want to. (Light snaps on beside bed and WINNIE sits up, pulling sheet around her. We see her but not TOM.) I’m not a prude. But Huntsville is not Toronto. I could lose my job. (She pushes the curtain aside and puts on a dressing gown as she emerges and slumps in armchair.)

TOM:

Winnie – sweetheart. Come back to bed. Let’s at least talk about it.

WINNIE:

No. I didn’t come all the way down here to talk about posing nude for you, in this grubby little shack you call a studio.

TOM:

(Gets up, pulling on Edwardian long johns and comes out to hug her.)  So what did you come for?

WINNIE:

To talk about us. You and me.

TOM:

What about us? Is something wrong? (He attempts to caress her but she holds him off.)

WINNIE:

There will be, unless we get married.

TOM:

Oh, don’t start this again, Winnie. You know I can’t afford to marry. I can barely support myself and I’m not living off you.

WINNIE:

You wouldn’t live off me for long, Tom.

TOM:

What do you mean?

WINNIE:

I’m three months pregnant.

TOM:

Jesus Christ… How could that have happened?

WINNIE:

How does it usually happen?

TOM:

But I mean three months? I haven’t been up in Huntsville for over four  months…

WINNIE:

I was in Toronto at my aunt’s for New Year’s Eve, remember. Or were you too drunk?

TOM:

You think that’s when it happened. After the party?

(WINNIE nods.)

TOM:

Are you sure?

(WINNIE nods again.)

TOM:

Have you been to a doctor?

WINNIE:

Are you mad? Old Dr. Edmunds’ nurse would’ve told half of Huntsville before I even got home.

TOM:

So how can you be sure?

WINNIE:

Same way all women know. My periods have stopped.  And I have morning sickness every day.

TOM:

Jesus Christ…

WINNIE:

Does that mean you’re upset because I’m pregnant? Or annoyed because you can’t paint me in the nude with my belly sticking out?

TOM:

(kneels before her and kisses her stomach.) It’s not sticking out yet. I still have lots of time.

WINNIE:

(beat) For one wild moment I thought you were going to propose.

TOM:

This is no joke, Winnie. What are we going to do?

WINNIE:

What everyone has to do, of course. Get married. Fast.

TOM:

Oh no. I told you from the beginning I’m not the marrying type, Winnie. I have too much I want to do and it doesn’t include raising kids.

WINNIE:

What about me? You got me into this situation, Tom. What are you going to do about it?

TOM:

Don’t worry. We’ll think of something… aren’t women supposed to know when it’s safe? That’s what you told me, Winnie.

WINNIE:

Yes, but it didn’t stop you when you’d been drinking though, did it?

TOM:

I thought we had an understanding. We’ve both had other partners. I knew you were seeing other men when I was away all winter. I don’t  blame you. We’re not in the Victorian era, my love. This is 1917. A new century. It’s what we agreed, remember?

WINNIE:

That was then. This is now. It may be a new century – but out there in small town Ontario it’s still the Victorian era when it comes to unwed mothers.

TOM:

Look, you don’t have to stay pregnant if you don’t want to…

WINNIE:

What? Have an abortion?

TOM:

Women do it all the time.

WINNIE:

And just how would I do that in a town the size of Huntsville, without everyone hearing about it?

TOM:

I don’t know, sweetheart. We have to think about it.

WINNIE:

What do you think I’ve been doing for three months?

TOM:

You don’t have to do it up there. Do it down here in Toronto. Could you stay with your aunt? I’ll pay for it. Don’t worry about that.

WINNIE:

And what if I don’t want to have an abortion? They’re too dangerous. Everyone says so.

TOM:

Be reasonable, sweetheart. You can’t stay in Huntsville if you’re going  to have the baby. You’ll have to go away somewhere you’re not  known. Do you really want that?

WINNIE:

I really want you to marry me, Tom. Don’t you love me, is that it?

TOM:

I love you, Winnie but I won’t marry you and have a family. I don’t want to marry at all. But if you want to have this baby, you’ll have to leave Huntsville.

WINNIE:

How? I can’t just leave a class-full of kids in the middle of term.

TOM:

Wait till the end. It’s not that long. You won’t be showing much by the time school’s out.

WINNIE:

And then where will I go – The States? England? Are you going to pay for that, too?

TOM:

You can stay here with me and I’ll paint you in the nude as your  breasts swell bigger and bigger…

WINNIE:

In this shack? Be sensible, Tom.

TOM:

See what I mean? Next you’ll want me to buy a house. Get a job – give up painting…

WINNIE:

That’s the best idea you’ve had yet.

TOM:

My worst nightmare. How about your girlfriend in Boston? Wouldn’t she help you?

WINNIE:

Daphne? She might. She once admitted she’d got in trouble when she was in high school.

TOM:

Have you thought what you’ll do if you have the baby? You can hardly bring it back to Huntsville.

WINNIE:

I don’t know. Put it with an adoption agency, maybe. Or bring it back here for you to deal with. How does that sound, Tom?

TOM:

I won’t be here, I’ll be in Algonquin Park. Painting.

WINNIE:

Hiding in the bush. Having everyone think you’re a ‘conchie’ – running from the war.

TOM:

You could come and stay with me. After the adoption. Camping in the wilderness – you love that, don’t you? Just you and me, Winnie. Like before.

WINNIE:

You make it all sound so simple.

TOM:

(kissing her) I’m a simple man, sweetheart.

WINNIE:

You’re a selfish bastard.

TOM:

(Puts arms around her)You’ve known that from the start. I’ve never tried to hide it. Painting is my life. I told you I’m no family man.

WINNIE:

So you want me to go back up north and act like nothing has happened?

TOM:

No. I want you to stay right here and pose for me now, in the nude.  Before you get too fat.

WINNIE:

And if I do. What will you do for me?

TOM:

Anything but get married and have a family. Here. (Turns armchair she has been sitting in, around to face upstage towards the easel and sits her back down, slipping off the old dressing gown as she sits with her back to audience.) Now. Think lovely thoughts. (He takes up position behind easel  which is facing upstage.)

WINNIE:

Hah! I’ll think of how I’m going to get even with you.

TOM:

Good. Good, that’s it, look right at me, sweetheart.

WINNIE:

Don’t worry. I’m not letting you out of my sight.

TOM:

Perfect. (Picks up charcoal and begins to sketch with rapid strokes. Comes around to adjust her position on the chair and she pulls him down on top of her. They embrace.)

                                        CROSS FADE TO SCENE 3.

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