New Scene – TOM – Birth of a Legend. Act 1, Scene 8. Nov. 2019

by admin on November 12, 2019

20190919_193449 (1)

Tom Thomson 1915 Autumn Woods, 1915




(JACKSON and HARRIS sit painting in front of platform structure which is now transformed into a canvas lean-to shelter beside a small campfire. Sounds of water sloshing and voices off from the lake. As lights come up, WINNIE is hauling ‘canoe’ ashore on stage left and we see only the front portion of it.).

WINNIE:                                                                    (calls out to them) Look what I caught. Supper!( WINNIE holds up a fish as she approaches the campfire.)

JACKSON:                                                              Good. We’re starving. Where’s Tom?

WINNIE:                                                               Swimming. Tried to drag me out of the canoe but I escaped. I told him I’m not going skinny-dipping with a campsite full of men.

TOM:(V/O)                                                       (More splashing and calling out offstage left.) And I told her she needs to get used to appearing in the nude if she’s going to be my model. Hand me my clothes, Winnie.

WINNIE:                                                          They’re in the canoe. Get them yourself.

HARRIS:                                                                     A.Y.’s had the campfire going for an hour, waiting for you to show up. We’ve been trying to catch the sunset while we waited. Have a look and see what you think, Winnie.

JACKSON:                                                                        I know this isn’t up to Tom’s standard, but it’s tricky when the light changes so fast. (He shows her a small canvas sketch he’s been painting.) Lawren’s is much better.

HARRIS:                                                               I went out to that point over there, and I had the sunset for an extra half hour. I saw you coming across the lake in silhouette, so I painted you in.

WINNIE:                                                                      Not a very good likeness. I look like a deadhead log. (She laughs at the look on his face.) Only teasing, Lawren. It’s very good, isn’t it, Tom?

TOM:                                                            (appears with a towel, pulling on his shirt and looking at HARRIS’ sketch) It’s better than good, quite a change from your usual stuff. I like it. You should do more of this, see where it goes. What d’you think, A.Y.?

JACKSON:                                                                          I already told him that. I wish I could make a breakthrough like you and him, but I seem locked into my usual derivative style.

WINNIE:                                                                    Well, I like yours best, A.Y. It’s a beautiful sunset. I’d be happy to hang that on my wall.

JACKSON:                                                                   (handing it to her) It’s yours, Winnie. There’s lots more where that came from. Typical example of A.Y. JACKSON – painter of pretty, predictable pictures. Guaranteed not to upset your guests.

TOM:                                                                       Don’t be so hard on yourself, A.Y. A new style doesn’t happen overnight. You have to keep working at it and not get discouraged. You’ve got a great eye for detail, doesn’t he, Lawren? Look at this bit in the foreground.

JACKSON:                                                                          I dunno. Maybe I’m just too old a dog to learn new tricks.

WINNIE:                                                                     You should see the boxes full of sketches Tom stores in Dad’s cabin. And those are just the ones he doesn’t throw out, or paint over. I have to keep rescuing his rejects and hiding them.

HARRIS:                                                                            I told A.Y. he’s a natural colourist. It comes too easy for him. He needs to get outside his comfort area and take more chances. It’s only paint. You don’t have to do a masterpiece each time.

JACKSON:                                                                   Easy for you to say. I don’t have the time or money to spend painting you do. I have to earn a living.

HARRIS:                                                                     Tom seems to find the time and he’s not exactly flush with money. It’s about choices, isn’t it?

TOM:                                                                      Well, you’ve both chosen to be soldiers now. This may be your last chance to do any serious painting, so don’t waste it.

WINNIE:                                                                     You can all sketch me cooking this fish over the fire then, instead of sitting there, drinking beer and watching me work. Or you could gut the fish if you prefer.

(They begin to sketch from different vantage points as WINNIE prepares the food. A noise is heard offstage and they turn to look apprehensively, as TOM snatches up his rifle. More sounds of breaking branches and then a voice calls out.)

MAN (V/O):                                                          (from offstage) Hey! Whaddya doin’ here? (A man enters weaving slightly. He’s drunk).

TOM:                                                                  Bockmann? It’s me, Tom.

BOCKMANN:                                                                   I know it’s you. They told me at the lodge you was back here, Thomson. Keep turnin’ up like a bad penny. Whyn’t you stay down south where you belong.

WINNIE:                                                                You’re drunk, Walter. Why did you come here – are you following me, again?

BOCKMANN:                                                              Jus’ keepin’ an eye on the both of you. Moment my back is turned, he’s sniffin’ around you.

TOM:                                                                      More like the other way around, Bockmann. Every time I leave, you start pestering her. Now, piss off before I throw you in the lake to sober up.

BOCKMANN:                                                             Talk big with a gun in your hand, Thomson. And your pals to back you up.

TOM:                                                                      And you’ve got a big mouth when you’re drunk. Next time I hear you’ve been following Winnie, I’ll come after you, Bockmann. And I won’t need a gun. Or any help. (TOM pushes BOCKMANN, who falls backwards and TOM stands over him, threatening him.) Get up, you bastard – I’ll knock you down again and next time you won’t get up.

(JACKSON & HARRIS pull TOM off him. JACKSON helps BOCKMANN to his feet and gives him his hat.)

JACKSON:                                                                          I think you’d better leave, mister. Go home and sober up.

BOCKMANN:                                                          You’re the ones better leave, an’ right now. You’re trespassin’.

TOM:                                                                What the hell are you talking about? I’ve camped here dozens of times. Nobody owns it. This island is crown land.

BOCKMANN:                                                              Not any more it ain’t. This is my island. I bought it an’ I got the deed to prove it. Now clear off, the lot of you or I’ll be back, an’ this time I’ll have my shotgun.

WINNIE:                                                                  You’re talking nonsense, Walter. You’re drunk. Now go home before you cause any more trouble.

BOCKMANN:                                                                  It ain’t nonsense. I bought this property to build a cabin for us, Winnie. Some place we could be together. I did it for you. You said yourself you always been wantin’ a cabin by the lake.

WINNIE:                                                                  That’s the drink talking, Walter. This is your fantasy, not mine. My dream of a cabin by the lake never included you.

BOCKMANN:                                                             You change your tune quick whenever Thomson arrives. You’re happy enough to go out with me when he goes back to his Toronto women.

TOM:                                                                        Shut up and leave, Bockmann, or I’ll drown you in the lake with my bare hands.

BOCKMANN:                                                       (shakes off HARRIS & JACKSON who have been restraining him) I’m goin.’ But I’ll be back an’ you better be gone – all of you – unless you want your ass full of buckshot. You comin’ with me, Winnie?

WINNIE:                                                                           I told you, Walter. Go home and sober up.

TOM:                                                                                  And keep away from her in future. She’s not interested in any Yank draft-dodger hiding in the woods.

BOCKMANN:                                                                 Get off my goddam property, Thomson, I’m warnin’ you. (He stumbles off into the darkness.)

(CROSSFADE and music segué to SCENE 9).



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila November 13, 2019 at 7:35 am

I haven’t found scenes 2. to 7 of Act One so I can’t say too much about scene 8. However.. ! Unless he’s cleared of suspicion in the next scenes it would
Leave me wondering if Bockman will be the one who murders Tom Thompson.

admin November 21, 2019 at 10:21 pm

Last scene of Act 1 is now posted, Sheila – keep reading….
You can read all the previous scenes from one to 8 by scrolling back through the monthly archives at the left side of the home page – I began posting them in September.
Although the play is not intended as a murder mystery, there are plenty of unexplained questions a hundred years after his death.

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