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Nota bene: If you haven't already done so, read the Teaser of this teleplay before reading this.






ACT ONE


FADE IN.

INT. PERFORMING ARTS CENTER. FATHER ANTHONY NEWPORT’S OFFICE. DAY.


From the wall hangings, it is obvious that Father ANTHONY is the Director of Drama for the seminary: posters from various productions that have been staged at the seminary are framed and on the walls. The bookshelves are stuffed with scripts and other theatre-related literature. On ANTHONY’s desk is a stack of theatre-related catalogs. In a place of prominence on one of the walls is a beautiful and elaborate crucifix.
ANTHONY and LOUIS are sitting in one corner of the room in comfortably stuffed armchairs. ANTHONY is nursing a scotch, LOUIS drinking a Pepsi.

LOUIS
… and the production of ‘King Lear’ was rather underwhelming – the actor playing Lear was a tired old ham who had probably played the role once too often and was embarrassingly O-T-T. The Fool was rather good, though you could tell that he knew he was in a clunker and was trying to put on a happy face and get through it with his dignity intact. No doubt that one’ll be off the résumé a-sap. (beat) And that pretty much wraps up the theatre going I did during the summer.

ANTHONY (after a drink from the scotch)
Thank you for that lucid and coherent summary and critique of the theatre scene-at-large, Ben Brantley.

LOUIS
So, what’s on the slate for the fall production? Are we doing a musical in the fall or in the spring?

ANTHONY
How many times do I have to tell you that I never reveal the production slate until it is formally announced to the entire student body?

LOUIS
In other words, you’re still deciding.

ANTHONY (grinning)
Pretty much.

LOUIS
You are such a procrastinator.

ANTHONY
Procrastinator? I like to think that I’m careful to select two shows that will properly showcase the talents and capabilities of the students and facilities.

LOUIS
You are also such a blowhard.

ANTHONY
Watch it. Don’t forget I’m your spiritual director as well, young man.

LOUIS (sincerely)
And a damn fine one you are, too.

ANTHONY rolls his eyes and sighs.

ANTHONY
Only you, Louis Stephenson, would use such language in the presence of a man of the cloth and the caretaker of your soul.

LOUIS
And only you, Father Anthony Newport, man of the cloth and caretaker of my soul, would use such language – and then some — when frustrated with actors who forget their lines or crew people who miss light and sound cues.

ANTHONY
All bets are off when I’m working in that capacity.

LOUIS (mock chastising)
Now Father, you know that you don’t stop being a priest of God when you’re directing a production. The spiritual life must pervade all facets of your life; one doesn’t stop being a Christian at any time whatsoever. It is an all-or-nothing call from God.

ANTHONY (laughing)
Oh go to hell, you bastard. You know those are my lines.

LOUIS (feigning shock)
Oh my virgin ears! Such language!

ANTHONY
All joking aside, Louis, how did your spiritual life fare over the summer?

LOUIS thinks about this question for a bit, fiddling with his drink and looking at anything but ANTHONY.

LOUIS (quietly, still not looking at ANTHONY)
Oh, Father, I don’t know. I have a difficult enough time being on speaking terms with God during the structure of the school year, let alone during the summer months when I’m left to my own devices.

ANTHONY
Yes, I recall our last few sessions at the end of last year were pretty much on that subject. I’m guessing from your avoidance of looking me directly into the eye that God hasn’t heard much out of you since May.

On the words “directly into the eye,” LOUIS looks up sharply at ANTHONY. At the end of the above words from ANTHONY, LOUIS nods almost imperceptibly.

ANTHONY
Don’t get worried, Louis; I’m not upset. A bit dismayed, perhaps, but certainly not upset. That’s something we’ll work through during the coming months.

Another nod from LOUIS.

ANTHONY
Good.

He finishes the scotch in one gulp and stands up.

ANTHONY (cont.)
Now, it’s time for you to clear out of here so I can continue going through MTI and Samuel L. French to find one musical and one play to grace the stage of the St. Genesius Performing Arts Center at St. Anselm Seminary College.

LOUIS stands up and heads for the door, and ANTHONY crosses the room to his desk. LOUIS opens the door, then turns back.

LOUIS
Do you at least have some leads you can tell me about?

ANTHONY (without looking up from the catalog he is now perusing) Out Stephenson.
LOUIS (grinning)
Yes, Father.


CUT TO:


INT. FRANCIS MARTIN’S DORM ROOM. DAY.


Loud, raucous music is blasting from FRANCIS’ stereo. He is in the final stages of unpacking: the clothes are in the closet, the rug is laid down on the floor, the sheets are on the bed, and the posters are on the wall. He is setting up his computer when there is a knock at the door.

FRANCIS (calling out without looking up)
Yeah!

The door opens, and JOEL and ALEX trickle in.

JOEL
How’d it go with Thomas?

FRANCIS picks up the remote control for his stereo and turns it down.

FRANCIS
Surprisingly easy and straightforward. He laid down the law and told me I had Gabriel to thank for my return this semester.

JOEL
You did know that Gabriel came to your rescue, didn’t you?

FRANCIS
Yeah. He told me after the fact that he had pulled every string he had for me, so I had damn well better live up this year.

JOEL
I doubt if he had to argue that long – we all know the respect that everyone here — students and monks — have for Gabriel.

FRANCIS
But man, considering some of the shit I pulled last year, I don’t think they were too willing to let me return. But whatever, I’m back, and I owe it to Gabriel, plain and simple.

ALEX
Have you talked to him since you’ve been back?

FRANCIS
Nope. Been too busy getting settled in and having the meeting with Thomas to seek him out. Though I heard he’s supposed to be addressing the entire student body tonight. He gets the opening conference of the new school year.

JOEL
Good idea on the part of the powers-that-be to let him do it. He’ll set a good tone to get things underway.

ALEX
And the new students will see the awesome spirituality of one of the holiest men around.

FRANCIS
Hear hear.

JOEL
I’m determined to get the secret of levitation out of him this year. We all know the old boy can do it.

FRANCIS
Forget it, Joel: you aren’t tuned into the Holy Spirit near enough to do it.

JOEL
Are you doubting my spiritual life?

FRANCIS
Not at all. But I think we’d all agree that none of us measures up to Gabriel.

ALEX
I’ll buy that for a dollar.

JOEL
Not to change the subject – okay, I’m changing it – I think a little gathering in my swanky quarters after his conference would be appropriate.

FRANCIS
Round up the usual suspects?

JOEL
The three of us, of course, and Stephenson.

ALEX
Should we add a newbie to the mix?

JOEL looks right at ALEX.

JOEL
Are you thinking whom I’m thinking?

ALEX
Marcus Bellows.

JOEL
Marcus Bellows.

FRANCIS
Marcus Bellows?

CUT TO:

INT. MARCUS BELLOWS’ DORM ROOM. DAY.


By this time, MARCUS is completely moved in. As JOEL expected, his room is now a shrine of religious paraphernalia – religious icons adorn the walls, there is a cross or crucifix on each wall, there are devotional candles in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and there is an incense burner on a small end table. A CD of Gregorian chant is currently playing.

MARCUS is reading a magazine. There is a knock at his door.

JOEL (calling through door)
Avon calling.

MARCUS looks a bit confused, and gets up to open the door. JOEL is standing there grinning.

JOEL
Could I interest you in any of our fine beauty products? I’m sure we have something just right for your skin color and condition.

MARCUS
Oh. You again.

The grin disappears from JOEL’s face.

JOEL
Well hello to you too, Miss Sadsack.

MARCUS
I’m sorry. It’s just that after your condemnation of my religious possessions earlier, I’m not exactly thrilled to see you standing in my doorway again.

JOEL
Whoa, whoa, whoa – I wasn’t condemning your religious items; I happen to own a few myself. I was just cautioning against having too many of the sacred and not enough of the profane.

MARCUS
I don’t think it’s really any of your business what I possess, sacred or otherwise.

JOEL
Well, if you’re going to be snippy with me, I’ll not bother extending an invite to a little gathering in my room tonight.

MARCUS
You’re having a party?

JOEL
Don’t say it like I’ll be committing one or more of the seven deadly sins, child. I’m just having some friends over for a few drinks and a few laughs, and thought I’d be hospitable and pass along an invite to you. But with that kind of attitude, I don’t know if I want you there or not.

MARCUS
Look, I’m sorry for being a bit tetchy, but how do you expect me to react when you waltz in here like you did on that ridiculous meet-and-greet earlier?

JOEL (grinning again)
Pretty much the way you did, actually. To those who have already experienced a Finchworth and Rhodes meet-and-greet, it is referred to as a baffle-and-befog. And we certainly achieved that with you.

MARCUS
You certainly did. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have better things to do with my time than continue being baffled and befogged.

MARCUS heads back to the chair he was sitting in.

JOEL (serious again)
Pardon me for trying to be hospitable.

He turns to go, but then instead comes into the room. He squats down in front of MARCUS, who is by this time reading his magazine again, and speaks.

JOEL (low, intensely serious)
A word to the wise, Marcus: with an attitude like the one you’re displaying, you will maybe last one semester here. No doubt you came to the seminary with plenty of preconceived notions about what the seminary and what seminarians are like. Let me assure you that, like the rest of God’s children on this earth, we here are human beings who are struggling with our own flaws and shortcomings. It sometimes seems like a curse to be “rotten with perfection,” as Kenneth Burke so eloquently put it, but there you have it. Seminarians put on their pants one leg at a time, and our shit certainly does stink. I’ve seen plenty of your kind in my time here. The formation program will do its job, as it has always done, and try to mold you into the kind of man whom Holy Mother Church needs to tend the flock of the Good Shepherd. And it will, as Sacred Scripture words it, separate the chaff from the wheat. It’s up to you to decide if you want to be the wheat or the chaff. For God’s sake, and for his peoples’ sake, choose to be the wheat, Marcus, so that you’re not wasting your own time or the seminary’s time.

He stands up and leaves the room, MARCUS speechless as the lecture he has just received.

CUT TO:


INT. ADMINISTRATION BUILDING. HELEN FOSTER’S OFFICE. DAY.


HELEN is working at her computer again when Brother JEREMIAH Kimble walks in with a handful of papers.

JEREMIAH
Helen, I need you to proofread these letters for me and retype them as needed.

He hands her the papers.

HELEN
Sure thing, Brother.

JEREMIAH (a slight grin on his face)
Helen, Helen, Helen … when are you going to get used to the fact that I prefer to be called Jeremiah?

HELEN (also grinning)
I’m sorry … Jeremiah … but when are you going to get used to the fact that I was raised to never call a priest by his first name only?

JEREMIAH
Well you’re in luck, Helen. I’m not a priest, I’m just a brother.

HELEN
Same difference.

JEREMIAH (getting ready to lecture)
Now Helen –

HELEN
I know, I know: (as if by rote) a brother takes vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability, but is not ordained to the ministerial priesthood. A brother’s functions within the monastery can include many things, save functioning as a priest. (normal voice again) I’ve heard it all before, Bro- sorry…Jeremiah.

JEREMIAH
Very good, Helen. You’ve learned your lessons well. Now for tomorrow’s class, I want you to write a two-page, typed double-spaced essay explaining why it’s all right to call Brother Jeremiah simply Jeremiah. Any questions?

HELEN
Just one: when I turn in my two weeks notice, how exactly do you want it formatted?

JEREMIAH (wagging his finger at her)
Shame on you, Helen Foster.

HELEN (also wagging her finger)
Shame on you too, Brother Jeremiah.

JEREMIAH laughs heartily, and turns to leave the office. On his way out, he calls back over his shoulder:

JEREMIAH
Get back to work, Mrs. Foster. What do you think we pay you to do, cavort with the monks and students all day?

HELEN shakes her head and chuckles, then picks up the papers JEREMIAH gave her and starts looking through them.

Shortly after JEREMIAH departs, LOUIS appears in the doorway. HELEN doesn’t see him.

LOUIS (in a caricature of a French accent)
I see before me a vision of beauty such that I never saw in my country. She is, how does one say in English? perfection itself. Such grace, such beauty – mon Dieu!

HELEN (without looking up)
If only my husband sounded like Maurice Chevalier and told me things like that. Instead, I get it from a nineteen-year-old ham actor who is also a celibate seminarian.

LOUIS
I could give Mr. Foster lessons.

HELEN looks up, a smile on her face.

HELEN
Somehow I think that if my husband talked to me like that, I wouldn’t be nearly as flattered as when you do, Louis.

LOUIS (like a bashful schoolgirl)
Why Helen Foster, you’re going to make me blush telling me things like that.

HELEN
Is there anything I can do for you, Louis? Or did you just stop by to sweet-talk a girl?

LOUIS (as W.C. Fields) Both and, my dear, both and. (normal voice) Word on the street is Father Gabriel’s giving the opening address of the school year? Can you confirm this for me? (very confidentially) Strictly off the record, you understand. Your name will never be connected with the story I’m working on.

HELEN leans in, just as confidentially.

HELEN
As a matter of fact, some other hack journalist beat you to the punch: it’s on record, Father Gabriel More of the Order of Saint Benedict will be addressing the entire student body at eight of the clock post meridian.

LOUIS (shocked)
Someone beat me to it? It was those bastards Woodward and Bernstein at the Post, wasn’t it? First Watergate, now this. Oooh, it’s enough to make a guy want to throw in the journalistic towel.

HELEN leans back and starts going through the papers again.

HELEN (not looking up)
Sorry, Louis, but they one-upped you on sweet-talking this girl.

LOUIS (surprised)
Really? How’d they manage that?

HELEN (not looking up)
They brought me half a dozen long-stemmed roses and a box of chocolates. And spoke to me in French.

LOUIS
Well, if I had the funds they did instead of the shoestring budget the school newspaper — (draws himself up proudly) The Voice of St. Anselm Seminary, that paragon of journalistic integrity – (normally) gives me to work with, I could have done the same thing.

HELEN (not looking up)
Be that as it may, Louis, they were still here before you. Too little too late, I’m afraid.

LOUIS
Ah well, so it goes. But mark my words, Mrs. Foster: one of these days I’ll cover a story in The Voice that will earn it the Pulitzer Prize it deserves.

He leans across the desk and gives Helen a quick peck on the cheek then turns to leave.

LOUIS (on his way out the door)
I bet Woodward and Bernstein didn’t give you a kiss on the cheek.

HELEN smiles, and returns to the papers.


FADE OUT.

END OF ACT ONE

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