: If you haven't already done so, read the Teaser
of this teleplay
before reading this.
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.
… 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
So, what’s on the slate for the fall production? Are we doing a musical in the fall or in the spring?
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?
In other words, you’re still deciding.
You are such a procrastinator
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.
You are also such a blowhard
Watch it. Don’t forget I’m your spiritual director
as well, young man.
And a damn fine one you are, too.
ANTHONY rolls his eyes and sighs.
Only you, Louis Stephenson, would use such language in the presence of a man of the cloth
and the caretaker of your soul.
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.
All bets are off when I’m working in that capacity.
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 facet
s of your life; one doesn’t stop being a Christian
at any time whatsoever. It is an all-or-nothing call from God.
Oh go to hell
, you bastard. You know those are my lines.
LOUIS (feigning shock)
Oh my virgin ears
! Such language!
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.
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.
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.
He finishes the scotch in one gulp and stands up.
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
LOUIS stands up and heads for the door, and ANTHONY crosses the room to his desk. LOUIS opens the door, then turns back.
Do you at least have some leads you can tell me about?
ANTHONY (without looking up from the catalog he is now perusing)
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)
The door opens, and JOEL and ALEX trickle in.
How’d it go with Thomas?
FRANCIS picks up the remote control
for his stereo and turns it down.
Surprisingly easy and straightforward. He laid down the law and told me I had Gabriel to thank for my return this semester.
You did know that Gabriel came to your rescue, didn’t you?
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.
I doubt if he had to argue that long – we all know the respect that everyone here — students and monks — have for Gabriel.
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.
Have you talked to him since you’ve been back?
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.
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.
And the new students will see the awesome spirituality of one of the holiest men around.
I’m determined to get the secret of levitation
out of him this year. We all know the old boy can do it.
Forget it, Joel: you aren’t tuned into the Holy Spirit
near enough to do it.
Are you doubting my spiritual life?
Not at all. But I think we’d all agree that none of us measures up to Gabriel.
I’ll buy that for a dollar
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.
Round up the usual suspects
The three of us, of course, and Stephenson.
Should we add a newbie
to the mix?
JOEL looks right at ALEX.
Are you thinking whom I’m thinking?
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)
MARCUS looks a bit confused, and gets up to open the door. JOEL is standing there grinning.
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.
Oh. You again.
The grin disappears from JOEL’s face.
Well hello to you too, Miss Sadsack.
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.
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
I don’t think it’s really any of your business what I possess, sacred or otherwise.
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.
You’re having a party?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Helen, I need you to proofread these letters for me and retype them as needed.
He hands her the papers.
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?
Well you’re in luck, Helen. I’m not a priest, I’m just a brother
JEREMIAH (getting ready to lecture)
Now Helen –
I know, I know: (as if by rote
) a brother takes vows of poverty
, 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.
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?
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:
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
I could give Mr. Foster lessons.
HELEN looks up, a smile on her face.
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.
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.
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
Someone beat me to it? It was those bastards Woodward
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.
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
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.
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
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.
END OF ACT ONE