A stage and the first row of seats in a small theater in a small town on the coast of Oregon. The unseen seats are filled with people auditioning for William Saroyan’s play The Time of Your Life.
Two men and two women are sitting in that first row of seats, each with a script in hand. The men are Fred, 50, and Brad, 60. The women are Anna, 44, and Sasha, 34. Anna and Fred are married, and Anna is directing the play. Fred, Sasha, and Brad are on the casting committee.
Phyllis, a middle-aged woman, walks onto the stage and faces the foursome.
Anna: Hi Phyllis.
Phyllis: Hi Anna. Hi everybody. Before I read, I just want to say I think The Time of Your Life is a fine play, though terribly dated. But as good as it is, I know I speak for several people who think it’s crazy for us to do a play with a jillion male characters and almost no female characters when we have many fine women actors and barely enough men in the entire town, let alone male actors, to fill the cast.
Anna: We’re reworking the play so several of the characters can be female.
Brad: Are we allowed to do that? Isn’t that copyright infringement or something?
Fred: Not at all. In Shakespeare’s time, men played women.
Brad: Maybe so. But this is not Shakespeare’s time. By about four hundred years.
Sasha: The good news is, with surprisingly few dialogue tweaks, several of the male characters play just fine as women.
Phyllis: (rolls her eyes) Now you tell us. I’m reading one of Kitty’s speeches.
Brad: You’re a little old for Kitty.
Anna: Brad. Would you please let me conduct the auditions? You’re here to listen, not talk. Okay?
Brad: Just trying to help.
Anna: (to Phyllis) You are not too old for Kitty. We’re re-imagining the play entirely.
Fred: Saroyan would approve, I’m sure. He was that kind of guy.
Brad: How do you know what kind of guy Saroyan was?
Sasha: Brad, I’m gonna kill you.
Brad: Okay, I’ll shut up.
Anna: Go ahead, Phyllis.
Phyllis: (puts on her reading glasses and reads from a script) I wanted to be an actress and have a young doctor come to the theater and see me and fall in love with me and send me flowers. I wouldn’t know who it was, and then one day I’d see him in the street and fall in love with him. I wouldn’t know he was the one who was in love with me. I’d think about him all the time. I’d dream about him. I’d dream of being near him the rest of my life. I’d dream of having children that looked like him. I wouldn’t be an actress all the time. Only until I found him and fell in love with him. After that we’d take a train and go to beautiful cities and see the wonderful people everywhere and give money to the poor and whenever people were sick he’d go to them and make them well again. (she takes off her glasses) Thanks.
Brad: She’s right. This play is terribly dated. And not very well written, if you ask me.
Sasha: (exasperated) No one asked you, Brad.
Anna: We’re also going to be modernizing the text. Thank you, Phyllis. That was wonderful.
Simon, a man in his fifties, comes onto the stage as Phyllis exits.
Anna: Hello Simon. What are you going to read for us?
Simon: Didn’t we just do The Time of Your Life? Like two years ago?
Anna: We did it eleven years ago when we had a sudden and unprecedented surplus of men. Since then we’ve gotten dozens of requests to put it on again, so finally we are, despite the current shortage of male actors. Hence the re-imagining and the modernizing of the text.
Simon: Let me tell you something. This play is not only dated, it’s embarrassingly sexist, and I say that as a card-carrying sexist. Even I’m embarrassed by how sexist it is.
Anna: We’re addressing that in the re-imagining. What are you reading for us?
Simon: Why do I need to read? You’ve heard me read a million times.
Fred: Come on, Simon. Everybody has to audition if they want to be in the play. Those are the rules.
Simon: Fine. (sarcastically) To be or not to be, that is the question? Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or that this too too too too solid flesh would melt thaw and resolve itself into a dew. Or into a much ado? Who knows for whom the bell tolls? It tolls for thee. And probably me. And that’s our show. Thanks for coming.
Simon bows and leaves the stage.
Brad: Nothing like a good old Shakespeare montage.
Fred: I think you mean pastiche.
Abigail, a middle-aged woman, walks to the center of the stage.
Anna: Hi Abi.
Abigail: Hi. I’m thrilled to hear you’re re-sexing this play. If ever a play needed re-sexing, this one does. If you need any help with that, let me know.
Anna: I will. What are you reading for us?
Abigail: I’m gonna do part of a monologue from my new one-human show Revolt of the Pronouns.
Brad: How timely. Pronouns are all the rage these days.
Sasha: (points at Brad) I’m warning you.
Brad mimes zippering his mouth.
Abigail: (strikes a pose) Love is only a problem when contextualized as something definable, tangible, bankable, spendable. When someone says, “I need love,” they’re confusing an abstraction with what’s real. Companionship, sex, touch, flossing your teeth. These are real. We need real things. We don’t need indefinable concepts. Consider the expression I’m in love. Suggesting love is some sort of container to get into. A swimming pool? A box? And where is this swimming pool or box? Consider the expression All you need is love. The car won’t start. All it needs is love? No. It needs gas. Unless it’s an electric car, and then it needs electricity. Love is a feeling. Let’s leave it at that. (bows) Thank you. I’ll be premiering Revolt of the Pronouns two weeks from today at the Unitarian. Hope to see you all there.
Brad: Wouldn’t miss it for anything.
Anna: Thank you, Abi. That was terrific.
Walter, a man in his late thirties, walks onto the stage.
Anna: (reads from audition list) Walter Iverson. (smiles at Walter) Welcome to the Coast Players Theatre.
Walter: Thank you.
Fred: Ever been in a play before?
Walter: Yes. In high school and college and some summer stock and…
Brad: Uh oh. Are you a professional?
Walter: Was. I’m the new English teacher at the community college.
Sasha: (smitten) Welcome to town.
Walter: Thank you.
Anna: What are you going to read for us, Walter?
Walter: I’m doing one of McCarthy’s speeches, but I would be happy to have any part in this play.
Brad: Who’s McCarthy?
Walter: A character in The Time of Your Life. The play you’re doing.
Brad: Oh that McCarthy.
Sasha: Brad. Nip it.
Fred: (to Walter) You need a script?
Walter: No. I’ve memorized the lines.
Brad: Uh oh. Sounds like a professional.
Anna: Would you stop saying that?
Walter: (takes a moment to collect himself) I’m a longshoreman. And an idealist. I’m a man with too much brawn to be an intellectual, exclusively. I married a small, sensitive, cultured woman so my kids would be sissies instead of suckers. A strong man with any sensibility has no choice in this world but to be a heel, or a worker. I haven’t the heart to be a heel, so I’m a worker. I’ve got a son in high school who’s already thinking of being a writer. (pauses briefly for what would be lines from other characters) They all wanted to be writers. Every maniac in the world that ever brought about the murder of people through war started out in an attic or a basement writing poetry. It stank. So they got even by becoming important heels. And it’s still going on. Right now on Telegraph Hill is some punk who is trying to be Shakespeare. Ten years from now he’ll be a senator. Or a communist. (comes out of character) Thank you.
Anna: Wow. That was fabulous. Gave me goose bumps.
Sasha: Me, too.
Fred: Me three.
Brad: I think he might be too good for us. He’ll make everybody else look like an amateur.
Fred: We are amateurs. What’s wrong with that?
Sasha: Would you two stop?
Fred: You’ll definitely get a part, Walter. We’ll call you when we finish casting.
Walter: (leaving the stage) Thank you.
Anna: Let’s take a break. (stands up and turns to address the unseen audience) We’re gonna take a fifteen minute break and finish up after.
Fred: (stands up) There’s coffee and cookies in the lobby. Help yourself.
Sasha catches up with Walter.
Sasha: You were great.
Walter: Oh thanks.
Sasha: I’m Sasha. I’m an actor, too. Actress. Actor.
Walter: Nice to meet you.
Sasha: How long have you been in town?
Walter: Two weeks.
Sasha: You and your wife?
Walter: No. I’m single.
Sasha: Oh. So am I. Well… I have a daughter. She’s eighteen. Going to college next year. Wants to be an actor. I wonder why. She’s been to every show I’ve ever been in since she was a baby. (embarrassed) I’m making a fool of myself, aren’t I?
Walter: Not at all. And may I say you don’t look old enough to have an eighteen-year-old daughter.
Sasha: I was sixteen when she was born. That makes me thirty-four. How old are you?
Walter: Not yet.
Sasha: Oh. I… um… if you’d like somebody to show you the local sights, you know, acquaint you with the area, I’d be happy to.
Walter: Will you be in the play, Sasha?
Sasha: Probably. I’m in all the plays. If I want to be in them. Here I mean. Not anywhere else.
Walter: A local star. So you’ll get one of the leads.
Sasha: So will you. You’re the best actor we’ve had around here in a long time. Possibly ever.
Walter: What do you do when you’re not acting and being a mother?
Sasha: I’m a psychotherapist. (laughs) Wouldn’t have guessed that, would you? The way I’m throwing myself at you. But I am. A psychotherapist.
Walter: I should get your number. I’m prone to depression.
Sasha: (taken aback) Really? I wouldn’t have thought that about you.
Walter: Oh I’m not depressed now. But I have my moments, and sometimes those moments stretch into days and weeks.
Sasha: Oh I’m like that, too. Life is depressing sometimes. But not right now. (looks into his eyes) Right now life is very exciting. For me anyway.
Walter: For me, too. I’d love for you to show me around.
Sasha: Oh good. I’ll give you my number. My home phone. Not my psychotherapist number.
Sasha: Where did you live before you moved here?
Walter: New York. Manhattan.
Sasha: How long did you live there?
Walter: Ten years.
Sasha: Did you love it?
Walter: I did love it. And then one day I didn’t love it anymore.
Sasha: What changed for you?
Walter: It’s a very long story, Sasha. But the short version is, I got my heart broken one too many times.
Sasha: I know the feeling.
Walter: Shall we go mingle with the others and get some coffee and cookies?
Sasha: I made the cookies. Oatmeal raisin. They’re fantastic. Alas, the coffee won’t be any good. But fear not, I will soon acquaint you with all the best coffee places up and down the coast, including my house. Where we could have coffee some time. And cookies. Or pie. I bake. It’s one of my manias. Not that I have lots of manias, but baking is definitely one of them.
Walter: Wonderful. Are you free tomorrow?
Sasha: Yes. (thinks) Well… not until after five. Do you like Mexican food?
Sasha: Can I take you out? For dinner? Tomorrow night?
Walter: That would be wonderful.
Sasha: Great. I’ll get something to write my number down. And yours, too. For me. And mine for you.
Walter: I have just the thing.
He gets a little notebook and pen out of his pocket.
Walter:Ever seen one of these before? (hands them to her) They’re fast replacing smart phones.
Sasha: (feigning astonishment) I’ve heard of them, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one. (writes her number and hands him the notebook) Are you really prone to depression?
Walter: I was. (gazes at her) But not anymore.