The Vulgar Librarian (part 1)
Manual Arts Theater presents:
The Vulgar Librarian
directed by Gwenyth Falt and Isabel Milenski
written by Vanessa DeWolf
March 26-29, 1999, 8pm
Oddfellow's Hall basement
915 E. Pine
Art opening at 7:30 pm, curtain at 8 pm
$8, $1 off with your library card
Tags: Manual Arts Theater Vulgar Librarian vanessa dewolf Improv
Added: 3 years ago
[scene opens inside a dark and dingy library, as three female librarians stand together while getting dressed]
IDA MAE: Ding dong ding dong ... Ding dong ding dong. Bong! Bong! Bong! Boooong!
EUNICE: Narrative requires rules. Rules about plot, character. An inciting incident, the obligatory scene, and of course--
MARGERY: Resolution, right? Am I right, is it resolution? It is, I think ...
IDA MAE: Being chased, and running down streets and alleys, and running and running and catching a whiff of breath over your shoulder! And just when you think you know what comes next ...
MARGERY: Oh, that's a kind of resolution ...
IDA MAE: Just when I finally get the knack of telling a story, it all flips off into the same old adolescent misery.
MARGERY: Well, just don't ask for directions, because then you'll have to follow them. Stuff about central conflict and verisimilitude ...
IDA MAE: Running, and running, and running, and then bang! Foreshadowing ...
MARGERY: And metaphor and simile!
IDA MAE: Foreshadowing!
EUNICE: Excellent, this is a veritable library of ... erotica!
[an unseen female voice interrupts, as the lights come on and the librarians begin rearranging the furniture on stage]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] You will begin receiving notices about overdue fines only once a book has been overdue for more than fifteen days. You must pay your fines in person. Do not mail checks to this library location. Our staff is helpful and friendly.
[the three librarians sit down at their desks]
EUNICE: Good morning, Ida Mae.
IDA MAE: Good morning, Eunice.
MARGERY: Good morning, Ida Mae.
IDA MAE: Good morning, Margery.
MARGERY: Good morning, Eunice.
[Eunice continues pouring tea and turns to Ida Mae]
EUNICE: [coldly] Good morning, Ida Mae ...
MARGERY: Good morning, Eunice ...
[she gives a weak smile]
EUNICE: Good morning, Margery ...
IDA MAE: New glasses?
MARGERY: Oh no, they're broken. These are my old ones.
MARGERY: Yes, I guess I just don't have any luck with them.
IDA MAE: No such thing as luck ...
MARGERY: Really? Well, then it's not my fault, it's fate.
[Eunice gets up]
EUNICE: No Margery, but it is certainly not fate. It's carelessness. You should learn to be more careful.
[Ida Mae looks down at Eunice's feet]
IDA MAE: New shoes?
EUNICE: [quietly] No ...
MARGERY: Well, they look new, Eunice. They ... they look brand new.
[she looks down at her shoes]
EUNICE: So young and shiny. So uncreased. So ... dangerous. No, I just haven't worn them long, that's all.
IDA MAE: Hurt, don't they?
EUNICE: Okay, they're new.
MARGERY: And red!
IDA MAE: [laughs] Red scarlet, darling!
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] At attention, ladies! Uh, ladies ... Yes yes, attention!
[they get up and begin putting their tea away]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Must be on the ball! Automation, I've been informed ...
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Uh, lovely ladies, at six forty five AM. So prompt, so ready for the public! Begin!
[Ida Mae pushes around a book cart, Eunice uses a typewriter at the reference desk, and Margery sits at another desk sharpening pencils]
MARGERY: I'm in love!
EUNICE: Margery! We don't talk of such things ... but if you're really curious, there are books that could help.
[she gets up and walks over to her desk]
EUNICE: Why don't you look under 817.43 Nin? Anais Nin.
EUNICE: Love is a great matter, Margery ... Read about it, but keep it to yourself.
MARGERY: Why? What do you know about ... love?
EUNICE: I know plenty about love, Margery. I know ... plenty, I know too too much about. That's enough sharpening, come sit at my desk.
[she gets up]
MARGERY: I want to know!
EUNICE: Private, Margery, private! Come sit, I'll let you do the typing.
[she sits her down at the reference desk]
MARGERY: It's true, I am in love ... Even if you won't tell me about it.
IDA MAE: Psst!
[she waves Margery over]
MARGERY: Did you see how red those shoes were?
IDA MAE: I have never seen her in red! Only brown ... Not even beige, which is a variation of brown!
MARGERY: And today, red!
IDA MAE: [pause] Keep typing ...
[Margery returns to the reference desk and begins typing]
MARGERY: It's broken ...
[she looks over at Ida Mae]
MARGERY: Will you finish the story?
[Ida Mae sneaks a book off the book cart, while Margery runs to her desk and grabs a notepad]
IDA MAE: Alright, where did we leave off?
MARGERY: Um, the paper.
IDA MAE: Let's see ...
[she begins reading]
IDA MAE: "The color of the wallpaper is repellant, almost revolting. A smoldering unclean yellow. And when you follow the lame uncertain curves, they suddenly commit suicide. Plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions. Outside of the pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, but now I am quite sure it is a woman."
[the unseen voice sneezes again, as the librarians rush to hide their work]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Dab morning, uh! Hope no one's fighting anything, I think I might have a touch of ... blah! Can never be too careful, ladies!
EUNICE: Take it to heart, ladies. Remember the five 'P's ... Prior Preparation Prevents a Poor Performance!
[Ida Mae, who had gone back to repairing a book on her desk, stands up]
IDA MAE: There, it's done!
MARGERY: Oh, you finished the dictionary!
IDA MAE: Yes, it needed it.
[Eunice walks over to inspect her work]
IDA MAE: Uh, did you notice the seventy five pages of the index?
EUNICE: Ooh ...
[Margery stands up and points at Eunice's shoes]
MARGERY: Could I ... try those on, Eunice?
EUNICE: No you cannot!
IDA MAE: Eunice ...
MARGERY: Why not?
EUNICE: I have my reasons!
MARGERY: I won't hurt them, I just wanna ... try them on.
EUNICE: Well, I'm still ... breaking them in.
MARGERY: [pause] I'm ... gonna take off my shoes and go barefoot!
[she bends down to untie her shoes]
EUNICE: We don't allow bare feet in the library, Margery, you know that ... Not one iota of common sense!
IDA MAE: Eunice ...
MARGERY: I'm going to find an 817.43 ... Nin!
[she gets up and checks the card catalog]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ladies, char-charred chickety chicken soup and vermises, have you any wool?
[Margery takes a card, slams the drawer shut, and exits]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ladies and gentlemen, reservation numero two hundred and fifty seven rules! The glorious Dewey Decimal classification system! Now, right now!
[music begins playing, as Eunice and Ida Mae beging singing and marching around the library]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Five, six, seven and eight ...
EUNICE AND IDA MAE: Eight zero zero, general literature and rhetoric! Eight one zero, American literature! Eight one two point five two, Stein! Eight two zero, English literature! Eight two one point eight, yes! Eight three zero, dramatic literature! Eight four zero, French literature!
[Eunice, alone, finds a piece of paper on her desk]
EUNICE: An overdue notice?!
[Margery peeks her head out from backstage]
MARGERY: Is it, really? Can I see it? Is it stamped in red? I've never seen an overdue notice before!
EUNICE: It's nothing, dear, it's just a slip of paper! There's no stamp in red! You just ... You just keep doing your work, dear.
[Margery leaves, as Eunice inspects the notice]
EUNICE: "Dorothea Billie Wilkes" ... It's just like my dream! Who is she? Is she ever going to return it? Today? Tomorrow?
[she begins pacing]
EUNICE: More like never! She will never return it ... It's gone, gone! All lost from the Matterhaus Library, and it's already been--
[she looks at the notice]
EUNICE: Twenty five years?! Oh, inconsideration! Even if she returned it now, we'd have no recourse except to charge ... huge fines.
[she stares at the notice again]
EUNICE: "Alice in Wonderland" ... Possibly she was just a child, with an incompetent mother.
[she holds the note to her heart]
EUNICE: Oh, poor child clings to the book all through adolescence, even as it accrues heinous fines. All the while this woman, this uncouth woman flits about with all sorts of men ... with no wedding, no rice thrown, no invitations, none!
[she gets more angry]
EUNICE: That woman! This mother! She's not deformed or maimed, no! Her legs look lovely, she's probably blonde! Yes, blonde! What of this beautiful blonde woman with perfect legs ...
[she suddenly calms down, as a ghostly female figure appears from offstage and slowly walks around behind her]
EUNICE: And I have her name, she's just not physically here. If it's love that's hurt her, all she knows is she's done the wrong thing.
[she looks down, as the ghostly figure reaches out to her]
EUNICE: [quietly] I've done something wrong ...
[she takes off her necklace and slams it on her desk, then tries to rip the overdue notice in half ... which she has trouble accomplishing before the unseen voice interrupts her]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] If the day were not divided into hours and minutes, then we wouldn't know what time it is for work ... Hard work always pays off!
[the ghostly figure takes the necklace and puts it on, as Ida Mae and Margery (apparently not seeing her) enter the scene carrying books and sit at their respective desks]
EUNICE: [pause] Do you hear that?
[she looks up with a concerned look on her face, as the ghostly figure passes behind her while a wind sound effect is played]
EUNICE: I-Is that the wind?
[she turns around to look over her shoulder, as the figure reaches over on the other side and takes a book off her desk]
EUNICE: Ida Mae, did you hear that?
[the ghostly figure walks offstage, when Ida Mae suddenly stands up]
IDA MAE: There it is again ... It smells like smoke!
EUNICE: Oh dear.
MARGERY: Oh, I spent the night ... in the attic.
EUNICE: Oh dear!
IDA MAE: Really, Margery?
MARGERY: Yes! And, and I brought my book ... Drip drip drip, all night! On my shoulder, and then on my feet! And--
[she starts to point at her skirt, then stops in embarrassment]
MARGERY: Um ... My book is soaked! You see, um, there is a leak in this attic! There could be water under the table!
[Eunice gets up]
EUNICE: I had a nightmare. I dreamt I'd ... I'd done something really terrible. Something just horrible. I, uh ... I lost the key. Gone for good, I failed the library. We, we ended it all with poison. There were flames, and fire, and when I looked down ... my shoes were red.
[Ida Mae gets up]
EUNICE: Oh dear ...
IDA MAE: Eunice ... Have you been smoking?
EUNICE: You know I don't smoke!
IDA MAE: I kept pinching myself all night so I wouldn't fall asleep ... I read until 3 AM! I read straight through, and I even held my, you know.
[Margery gets up]
MARGERY: Oh, that's not very good! For your ... bladder.
IDA MAE: There was some light, and it faded into shadow. I watched the words move all about the page, and then the words slid off of the page and onto the floor! I picked them up and put them in my pocket, and then ... And then, you won't believe this, but the words became a voice.
[the ghostly figure returns on stage, as Ida Mae points to her head]
IDA MAE: And the voice lived here, in my head, and the voice said ...
[the figure begins to repeat what Ida Mae says]
IDA MAE: "Oh dreadful and intense agony, when the ear begins to hear and the eye begins to see and the pulse begins to throb and the brain to think again, and the soul to feel the flesh!"
[the figure stops and stands behind Ida Mae]
IDA MAE: Yes, yes! Emily Bronte's "The Prisoner!" Exactly!
[the figure begins to walk away]
IDA MAE: Then I woke up ... I thought to myself, am I just imitating something I've read? Or am I just imitating?
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Blah blah, something about, blah blah blah, something about ... Cough! Cough! I can't quite, um, get to work ladies! Lovely!
[the librarians sit back down at their desks, but Eunice hears the wind blowing again]
EUNICE: There it is again, just like last night! Do you hear that?
[the other librarians do not respond, as the ghostly figure walks behind her]
EUNICE: [calmly] No, no it's just the wind. There is, there is no voice ...
[she covers her ears and yells]
EUNICE: There is no voice! None!
[they both look at her, as she slowly gets up]
EUNICE: Look over there ... a book on the floor! That just makes me mad!
[she storms off stage, as the ghostly figure sits at the reference desk]
EUNICE: [from off camera] This book is wet ...
MARGERY: Actually, a wet book is a very enjoyable read. Be careful, transparent pages, the soaking is deep. There is a leak in this roof!
[Eunice appears back on stage, and Margery grabs the book away from her]
MARGERY: Do you know that I spit cherry pits?
EUNICE: [pause] Actually, Margery, I didn't know that.
MARGERY: It's true, I do! I can accurately hit a man from twenty ... yards. What do you do?
EUNICE: Well, I uh, crucify most of my worldly ... Um, nothing.
[the ghostly figure gets up from the desk]
EUNICE: I guess I'm just a reference librarian, that's all.
MARGERY: I don't agree with you! Liar, liar, liar!
[the ghostly figure slowly walks up behind Ida Mae, whispering under her breath]
IDA MAE: Oh!
[she jumps up out of her chair]
IDAE MAE: I can't believe I cut myself again ... I don't know why I keep doing this!
[Eunice gets up to give her a handkerchief for the cut on her hand]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Sit down!
[Eunice stops and goes back to her desk]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] I ... forget the next step. What comes next? Sitting, lovely ladies. Um, lovely ladies. Uh ... dee dee dee dah! Dee dee dee dah! Deep in the heart of Texas!
[the ghostly figure lies down on top of the card catalog]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ladies, listen up! It's time for reading recess!
[the lights dim, as the three librarians each grab a book and begin reading]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Take your reading recess ... now!
[the librarians get up and begin reading their books]
EUNICE: [reading aloud] "The tongue wrapped around mine. A tail curved between my legs, like the smokey sensation, forbidden and addictive ... "
[the ghostly figure begins singing and hovering around Ida Mae ... until a crack of lightning sounds and the lights go out, then a young woman (clutching an umbrella) stumbles into the library and collapses]
MARGERY: Who is she?
EUNICE: A new patron ... How did she get in?
[they all cautiously move towards the (apparently) unconscious woman]
EUNICE: [loudly] Can I help you find something?
IDA MAE: A new patron ...
EUNICE: Shh ... Margery?
EUNICE: Quick, bring me ... "The New Patrons Manual for the Helpful Librarian," quick!
[she runs off]
IDA MAE: [loudly] Do you want some information?
[Margery returns with a book]
MARGERY: Here, Eunice! Is this it?
EUNICE: Yes, yes! Read from the first chapter, "Patron's First Visit!"
[the woman begins stirring]
IDA MAE: I think she's waking up now!
[they all rush to their desks, as the woman slowly sits up]
MARGERY: Okay, here goes ...
[she opens the book and starts reading]
MARGERY: "When approaching the new patron, make them feel at ease."
[Ida Mae slowly walks over and pats her on the shoulder]
MARGERY: Uh, uh ... "Familiarize them to the peculiarities of your library."
IDA MAE: [slowly] I have a snake in the basement ... It's a boa constrictor.
MARGERY: Uh, they can get shocked sometimes ... Oh! "Introduce them to the reference librarian!"
[Ida Mae helps her up]
IDA MAE: Get her up and introduce her ...
[Eunice shakes her hand firmly]
EUNICE: Eunice Grimm! Eunice Grimm, the reference librarian!
MARGERY: "Familiarize them with the reference desk!"
IDA MAE: Ah!
[they all point at Eunice's desk]
EUNICE: Here it is!
BILLIE: Oh, shiny ...
[she sits down, as Eunice looks down her glasses at her]
EUNICE: [coldly] It's where I usually sit ...
MARGERY: "Familiarize them with the library rules" ...
IDA MAE: Um ... No offensive personal hygiene in the library!
MARGERY: No excessive touching or ... exposure, heh.
EUNICE: No disruptive or unsafe behavior!
IDA MAE: And no large bundles!
BILLIE: But that's me! I mean, I'm just here to ...
[she trails off]
IDA MAE: Uh, do you want some information?
BILLIE: Well, yes!
IDA MAE: Alright then! Okay ...
[Margery grabs a chair and sits down, as Ida Mae begins pacing nervously]
IDA MAE: Um, Nicholas was a Russian czar, and he lived during the Great--
MARGERY: What is your name, anyhow?
IDA MAE: Alright, Ivan the Terrible was another Russian czar, and he had a son who was a hemophiliac!
BILLIE: Where, where did you come from?
IDA MAE: Uh, the traditional form of a sonnet, yes? A B B A, A B B A, C D C D C D ... Or, A B A B C D C D E F E F G? Gee!
[Margery reaches over and touches the woman's hair]
MARGERY: It's hard out there, isn't it?
IDA MAE: Synesthesia is the mixing of many senses in a single image ...
[Eunice, who had been sitting silently at Ida Mae's desk, suddenly gets up]
EUNICE: I'll just get the appropriate form!
[she hobbles over to her desk]
EUNICE: Just a moment ...
[she reaches into the drawer and begins pulling out papers]
EUNICE: I can't seem to find the appropriate form ...
[she begins to get agitated]
EUNICE: Are we out of forms? I can't find the--
IDA MAE: Eunice!
MARGERY: Top shelf ...
IDA MAE: On the left ...
EUNICE: [calmly] Oh, yes ... Here it is.
[she takes the paper over to Ida Mae's desk]
EUNICE: If you could just fill this out ...
BILLIE: Should I take a memo? I-I'm here to, uh ...
[she trails off again, as Eunice points to the form]
EUNICE: Well, aren't you going to start filling out?
[she walks over to the woman's umbrella]
EUNICE: I'll just take this ... We don't allow large bundles in the library!
[she angrily picks up the umbrella and walks off]
MARGERY: You are soaked! What's it like out there?
BILLIE: Uh ...
MARGERY: Wait! Don't tell me! I'll imagine it ...
IDA MAE: Maybe it's a book you're looking for?
[the woman turns and suddenly seems interested]
BILLIE: Uh ...
IDA MAE: Yes? Yes? A little fiction, huh? Maybe a novel?
[she runs off stage]
MARGERY: When you read a book, do you feel just exactly like the heroine?
[the woman shakes her head]
BILLIE: [quietly] No.
MARGERY: It's so horrible to be separated from all this wetness ... It's so disappointing that the storm is out there and that I'm in here.
[she points to her glasses]
MARGERY: That's how these got broken ... from looking too close.
[she starts walking away]
MARGERY: Sometimes I imagine that I'm ... a calculator. And I'm outside on the moore, and I'm getting soaked without an umbrella.
[she turns back and suddenly gets very excited]
MARGERY: Would you like me to recite a poem?
[she suddenly begins fishing through her pockets]
BILLIE: Do I need to write a cover letter? Uh, I have my own pen!
[Margery suddenly leans in close]
MARGERY: Have you ever been kissed?
[she backs away]
MARGERY: No ... Ahem, no, you've never been kissed. Uh, I-I can tell.
[the woman begins writing on the form, but Margery stops her]
MARGERY: Oh! Pens are not allowed in the library!
[she takes it away]
MARGERY: Pencils ...
[she runs over to her desk]
MARGERY: She won't be pleased at all ...
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Achoo! Oh, pardon me ...
[the woman suddenly looks up for the unfamiliar voice]
BILLIE: [loudly] Mister Dirkenschmeir's office, how may I direct your call? I'm sorry ma'am, it'll be just one moment, will you hold?!
MARGERY: [confused] What was the last book that you read?
[the ghostly figure (still sitting on the card catalog) suddenly stirs]
LIBRARY GHOST: Talk about all the things that would make you hard to read out loud ...
[the woman (perhaps hearing the voice?) gets a far away look on her face]
BILLIE: All the way through? I'm not sure, uh ... I think I was nine.
[Ida Mae returns with a book]
BILLIE: Oh, uh ...
IDA MAE: Oh.
[disappointed, Ida Mae takes the book back]
IDA MAE: Maybe you'd like something a little shorter. More manageable? Not a problem!
[she turns and leaves again]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Achoo! Pardon me ...
BILLIE: Dirkenschmeir Stationers! Office supply and espresso mart! Billie Wilkes speaking!
[Eunice, returning on stage, nearly faints at the sound of that name, while Billie becomes more and more agitated]
BILLIE: Accounts receivable! How may I help you!!
EUNICE: Oh no! That name, it's just like my nightmare!
[Margery tries to calm Billie down as she begins whimpering, while Eunice looks up to the heavens]
EUNICE: Why me? I'm just a reference librarian!
[she begins hobbling towards Billie]
EUNICE: She got in ... The patron got in!
[she points at Billie and begins yelling]
EUNICE: Sin! Devil! Hell bent, we're all doomed! Flames, the hell pit! Oh god!
[she storms off stage, as the other two librarians follow her to try and calm her down ... the ghost soon follows, leaving Billie by herself]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Cough, cough! Ahem ... Achoo!
[she gets up, looking for the source of the voice]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Achoo! Mmm! Yummy yummy, in my tummy ... Oh, oopsie! Oopsie! Oh, bad girl made a messie wessie. Cleanie, cleanie, cleanie!
[Ida Mae is at her desk cutting pages out of the books (and sniffing some glue while she's at it), when Billie walks in on her]
BILLIE: Ida Mae ... What're you doing?
[she starts rolling around in her chair, acting very paranoid]
IDA MAE: These are a beautiful pair of scissors, aren't they?
[Billie cautiously moves closer, as Ida Mae gets up and hands her a book]
IDA MAE: I have a feeling I have a special knowledge about words, and where and how they should meet.
[she hands Billie some pieces of the pages and glue, so she places them in the book]
IDA MAE: Right ... here! That is a good story!
[they both look at the book, when the unseen voice interrupts]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Uh, ladies? Prepare.
[Ida Mae quickly hides the book and then begins scurrying around the room in terror]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Are you prepared?
BILLIE: Prepared for what?
IDA MAE: Librarians prepare the books!
BILLIE: For who?!
IDA MAE: I'm sorry ... I'm sorry, I have to go!
BILLIE: Prepare what?
[she begins pushing her bookcart]
BILLIE: No no, stay with me! Tell me a fairy tale, like ... Thumbelina!
[Ida Mae stops in her tracks]
BILLIE: Oh, I've always wondered what it would feel like to be small ...
IDA MAE: [quietly] Thumbelina ...
[she leaves her bookcart and approaches Billie]
IDA MAE: Alright, alright! Alright ... How about you just, um, why don't you lie down on that table right there?
BILLIE: Oh ... okay.
[she lies down on the portable table]
IDA MAE: And, um ... It's okay.
[she tries to get comfortable]
IDA MAE: Yes yes, breathe in and out! Breathe in and out! Just close your eyes, very good. Close them. Now hold your breath, and imagine ...
[the lights dim, as Ida Mae stretches her arms out]
IDA MAE: Thumbelina!
[music begins to play]
IDA MAE: Thumbelina ... Yes, yes! She's floating!
BILLIE: Oh, floating ...
IDA MAE: She's floating!
[she starts pushing the table around, which causes Billie to scream in fright]
IDA MAE: It's okay! She's floating ... She's floating, yes!
[after the initial shock, Billie switches to lying down on her belly and flaps her arms]
IDA MAE: Into the floodgates!
[she begins pushing her around the room]
IDA MAE: Now the waterfall's edge is coming closer and closer! And she cries!
BILLIE: She's going to drown! Oh, the girl is so tiny!
IDA MAE: Now the waterfall edge is coming closer!
BILLIE: No! No!
IDA MAE: Closer!
IDA MAE: She cannot stop it!
IDA MAE: She's going over!
[she tips the table forward, and Billie falls off]
IDA MAE: And she floats!
[Billie sits up on the floor and raises her hands above her head]
BILLIE: I just don't wanna think about out there ... I had to. I did. I threw it all away!
[she gets up]
BILLIE: Do you ever feel like that? Like you just gotta get out and slow down?
[Ida Mae hesitates, but Billie runs back to the table]
BILLIE: Oh, keep the story going! Come on! I don't wanna think about anything from out there!
[she gets back on the table]
[Ida Mae gets behind her, but then stops]
IDA MAE: I see a ghost!
[Billie cranes her neck in the direction that Ida Mae is looking]
IDA MAE: What is she doing?
LIBRARY GHOST: [from off camera] I can tell people that I'm going to Greenland. Or Iceland. That I'm going to the South. Home. I've never been to the South.
[Billie appears to faint, as Ida Mae moves in closer]
LIBRARY GHOST: Library card ...
IDA MAE: Mark Twain! Carson McCullers! They all write of the South, as if it was my home, but it isn't!
[she reaches out and takes the card from the ghost]
IDA MAE: Oh, well!
[she drops the card on her table and tries to compose herself, as if she no longer sees the ghost and believes it all to be a daydream]
IDA MAE: I read far too much! And there are plenty of excellent reasons to quit! Yes yes, to quit ...
[she suddenly gets a scared look on her face]
IDA MAE: What am I saying?
[she picks a book up off her table, as the ghost slowly walks behind her]
IDA MAE: Emile Bronte needs to meet Daphne du Maurier!
LIBRARY GHOST: I cannot stop this wind upon the bindings and inside the covers ...
[she looks towards the unconscious Billie]
LIBRARY GHOST: A new patron, and all she wants are books to pass through her ...
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ladies, jump to it!
[the unseen voice begins coughing, as the lights come up and Billie slowly gets off the table]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Proper record keeping is the heart of any well-run library! Count and record, then count again and check your records!
BILLIE: Just a moment, ma'am, do you know your party's extension?
[she opens a nearby book and begins furiously scribbling inside of it, as Eunice slowly walks into the scene]
BILLIE: Where's the eraser on this pencil?!
EUNICE: No erasers! Erasers ... are for mistakes. Avoidable mistakes.
BILLIE: Excuse me, I've made a mistake ...
EUNICE: Didn't you think first?
BILLIE: I'm sorry, ma'am, he's out of the office for the day. May I take a message?
[Eunice advances upon the harried woman]
EUNICE: Young lady ... Are you here for a book?
[this seems to snap Billie out of her stupor]
BILLIE: Yes! Did Ida Mae tell you?
EUNICE: [laughing] Yes ... Of course she told me!
[her ominous tone is replaced by (fake?) cheerful exuberance]
EUNICE: I'm the senior librarian here, after all!
[she picks up a nearby book]
EUNICE: Have you ever read ... Jane Eyre?
BILLIE: No ...
EUNICE: It's about ...
[she puts the book on the movable table that Billie had been lying on, then nudges it towards her in a menacing fashion]
EUNICE: Injustice! Deep injustice, of the worst kind!
[Billie takes the book and sits in a chair, as Eunice continues to move the table around the room]
EUNICE: Rules ...
[she slams the table down on the floor]
EUNICE: And violence!
[she calms down]
EUNICE: Loneliness ... These injustices particularly strike me. Fuck injustice.
[she stops and hobbles back towards Billie]
EUNICE: I know what you're thinking right now. You burst in here illegally, and you've been staring at me, wondering ... Haven't you?
[Billie looks at her in confusion]
EUNICE: First it's "Oh my" ... Then it's "Oh, the poor dear!" Then it's "How did it happen?" Well, you can just sit there in godamn wonder, because I'm not telling you one detail!
[she points to her (apparently wooden) leg]
EUNICE: I have to take it off sometimes, or I might get wounds! In the dark, I clutch it to my breast like a child! And then scratch it viciously, trying to get to its core! I'm crushed in its wooden nature, I wake up with it every morning, unforgiving!
[she stops and looks down]
EUNICE: I loathe the beast ... and love it.
[the ghost slowly enters the scene, unnoticed by the others]
EUNICE: How did you get here, hm? Through that door? That door was locked!
LIBRARY GHOST: This is it ... This woman's moment to be complete.
BILLIE: I've come to read ...
EUNICE: [yelling] I want my key back!
BILLIE: You ... You locked them in, didn't you?
[Eunice hobbles over and grabs the book out of the woman's hands]
EUNICE: You give me that!
EUNICE: You're wrinkling it! You got sweat all over it! You removed the bookmark when finished! No discondition upon checkout, no discondition upon return! Has there been any discrepancy?!
BILLIE: I have just come to read!
[Eunice puts the book down on Margery's desk, then pulls out the chair and motions for Billie to sit down]
BILLIE: Oh ...
[she reluctanly gets up and sits down with Eunice hovering above her]
EUNICE: Those two librarians ... They love the Bronte Sisters!
BILLIE: Were they ever--
EUNICE: No, not me. Not me ... Ayn Rand! Have you ever read "Atlas Shrugged"?
BILLIE: No ...
EUNICE: Sacrifice without personal payment? That's nothing! Suicide! Suicide, which is fully felt! That is elegant! Sylvia Plath and her underpants.
[Billie leans in closer]
EUNICE: Virginia Woolf ...
[she takes off her sweater]
EUNICE: Stripped off her clothing, and walked into the ocean ever so gently ... Cleopatra clasped her asp to her breast!
BILLIE: No ...
[Eunice begins hobbling towards her]
EUNICE: Yes! And so, you can tell me ... How did you get in?
[Billie backs up into the wall, while Eunice reaches out and begins stroking her hair]
EUNICE: It's not fair ... to keep a secret. I mean, you stole something which wasn't yours.
BILLIE: [yelling] Ida Mae!
[Ida Mae comes running into the scene]
IDA MAE: Billie?
[she sees Eunice standing in front of her]
IDA MAE: Eunice, you're scaring her.
[she takes Billie by the hand and brings her to sit at her desk, when Margery enters the scene]
MARGERY: Ida Mae? I've been thinking about the wallpaper story, and I think she's got fake feet ... in the wallpaper!
[she suddenly climbs up on top of the card catalog and reaches towards the ceiling]
MARGERY: Y'know, I think that she's just trying to climb up to the tallest window and then maybe she'll just ... leap off! And--
[Eunice hobbles over and slams her hand down on the card catalog]
EUNICE: [yelling] Margery, where are your shoes?!
[Margery (apparently barefoot) screams and jumps down, then begins running around the room as Eunice chases her]
MARGERY: I won't put them back on, not ever! You can't make me!
[she tries to hide behind her desk, then pushes it towards Eunice before running away again]
MARGERY: I can spit cherry pits!
[she puts a cherry pit in her mouth, then spits it in Eunice's face]
EUNICE: Gah! Margery! Impudence!
IDA MAE: Eunice! I have something to tell you ...
[Eunice stops chasing Margery, then turns towards Ida Mae]
EUNICE: Well ... Go on, Ida Mae!
IDA MAE: Well, it's just that being a librarian ... Well, it's hard, Eunice!
EUNICE: Duty is always difficult, Ida Mae ... Always! It's to be borne bravely. We've had to deal with--
[she stops and stares at Billie]
EUNICE: Criminal elements today. Sin has gotten into our library, and it is our duty ...
[Ida Mae walks up and tries to calm her down]
EUNICE: It is our duty to bear this cross with dignity!
IDA MAE: Yes. Yes, Eunice, yes. I was just wondering that maybe since being a librarian is hard, if I could just maybe please have a ... have a day off.
[Eunice looks shocked (she steadies herself on her desk as if ready to faint) then slowly hobbles off stage ... the other two librarians run off after her, leaving just Billie and the ghost]
LIBRARY GHOST: Neglected. Like unopened books, they don't have any creases.
[Billie (apparently hearing the ghost) slowly gets up and approaches her]
LIBRARY GHOST: Books held by the same three sets of hands and eyes, for so long now that they need something more. Something ... something like you.
[Billie continues staring blankly at the ghost]
LIBRARY GHOST: I see into them, I read them. The books and librarians.
[she motions towards Billie]
LIBRARY GHOST: Come on!
BILLIE: Where are we going?
[the lights dim]
LIBRARY GHOST: We're going to read ... Follow me now.
BILLIE: Is that you?
LIBRARY GHOST: Yes ...
[the lights completely go out, when the unseen voice can suddenly be heard singing]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] I'm looking over a four leaf clover, that I overlooked before! One leaf is Ida, the second is Margery, the third leaf is Eunice that limps in the lane! No need explaining, the one remaining, is somebody I adore! That's me! 'Cause I'm looking over a four leaf clover ...
[she begins coughing, as the lights come up to reveal an empty room]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] That I overlooked before!
[she stops singing, as her voice suddenly gets very serious]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] I spy with my little eye ... Not one librarian working! Not one librarian there, no one! Not one! Eunice Grimm!
[Eunice comes running into the scene]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ida Mae Pepper!
[Ida Mae comes running into the scene]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Margery L. Peacock!
[Margery comes running into the scene, then tries to quickly sneak back offstage (perhaps to put on some shoes?)]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Front, Margery!
[Margery quickly turns and joins the other librarians in the lineup]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Margery, front and center, ladies! Ladies, where were we?
[the librarians nervously look at each other, but say nothing]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Nobody? Shame on you! Shiftless! Let's check in with our shame regarding our transgressions, shall we? You make me suffer ... Why can't you?
[the librarians hang their heads]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Punishment is a necessary good ... Lift your left arm high!
[they do nothing]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Lift it, ladies.
[they all raise their left arms]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Expose the fleshy underbelly! Now, yes ... Reach in with the right.
[they place their right hands under their left armpits]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Reach ... Reach, Margery! And pinch! And twist! I want to see bruises! And holding for five, four ... Harder ladies, you're not working hard enough. Three, two, and one! Thank you!
[they let go]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Automation, I've been informed!
[she laughs, then starts coughing again]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Pale and hairy librarians don't attract handsome patrons! Do you? Eunice, move that chair!
[Eunice confusedly goes over to her desk and moves the chair]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ida Mae, move ... Move the other chair, yes yes.
[Ida Mae moves over to her desk and does the same]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] And Margery! Find me my pink book!
[Margery runs around before stopping at a bookshelf and moving books around]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Mmm, oh so sallow! Yes, let's play "Rearrange the Library" and see if you can put it all back right!
[Eunice and Ida Mae end up moving all of the furniture towards the far wall]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Huh, yes! Ida and Margery, move that ... infernal reference desk!
[they push Eunice's desk back towards the far wall]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] And Eunice! Do something useful! All books with the word "Able" in the title! Pink healthy cheeks, ladies, come from hard work!
[she coughs, as the librarians continue mulling about the room rearranging furniture]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Automation! Faster, ladies. Faster, faster! Ida, when was the last time you shaved?
[Ida Mae turns away embarrassed, as Margery holds up a large brown book]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] That is not my pink book! That is brown!
[dejected, Margery tosses it carelessly in the corner]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Slouching and shuffling ... Margery, front and center!
[Margery stands at the front of the room, while the other two continue rearranging the library]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Yes, how many titles do we have?
MARGERY: Uh ...
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Hmm?
[noticing the annoyed tone in the voice's delivery, Eunice stops and tries to whisper from across the room]
EUNICE: [quietly] Twenty five thousand ...
MARGERY: [loudly] Twenty five thous--
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] What! No cheating!
[Margery gives a nervous laugh]
MARGERY: Uh, three ...
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] You don't know!
MARGERY: But I--
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Useless trollop!
[she puts her head down and joins the other librarians in their mad dash to rearrange the furniture]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] And when was the last time you checked the dictionary, Ida Mae?
[she stops and looks around nervously]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Hmmm? Oh, you stooge! Nitwit!
[Ida Mae picks up the dictionary]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] What? Now?!
[she looks down timidly and then puts the dictionary on top of the card catalog]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ooh! Eunice, front and center! Front and center! Faster! Faster!
[Eunice hobbles towards the front of the room]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] What were the five 'P's, Eunice?
EUNICE: Prior Preparation ... Prevents Puh-puh--
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ooh, you stuttering idiot!
EUNICE: [screaming] Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, ma'am!
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Wouldn't want to have a poor performance, now would we, lovely ladies?
EUNICE: [quietly] No, ma'am ...
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Give yourself a rigid test. Will you pass the test?
[she starts coughing and sneezing]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] I don't think so, do you? Librarians? Do you think you're librarians?
[Margery holds up another book]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] That's red, not pink!
[Margery turns in shame, as the ghost (with her head down reading a book) slowly makes her way back onstage]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Margery is not enough! Ida Mae is not enough! Eunice is not enough! You are all ... replacable.
[the librarians all stop at the sound of the word "replacable", when Margery takes the red book and throws it against the wall while screaming]
MARGERY: [yelling] Books! Books! There is not one picture book in this library!
[all of the librarians suddenly begin kicking books on the floor and tearing pages out of them, screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs ... As the ghost sits down near the card catalog (facing away from the audience), the librarians eventually calm down and the room becomes deathly quiet]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Et tu, Eunice?
[Eunice puts her hands to her face, then looks around on the ground for her glasses]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Eunice ... Will Eunice Grimm, reference librarian, please report to my office immediately? Thank you.
[Ida Mae reaches out and takes Eunice's arm]
IDA MAE: No, Eunice, no ...
EUNICE: I have to speak with her!
[Ida Mae joins Margery (who's cowering against the opposite wall) as Eunice hobbles towards a doorway near the back of the room]
IDA MAE: No! No!
[the unseen voice begins growling into the microphone, as Eunice opens the door while the lights dim]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Eunice Grimm!
[a green glowing light emanates from the doorway, as Eunice gasps at the unseen source of the voice]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Step into my office!
[she slowly walks into the doorway]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Atheist! Are you afraid to see me for who I really am?
[Eunice can be heard screaming off camera]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Onomatopoeia, Eunice! Boo! Boo-oo! Stop your babbling! Stop! Booo! Disrespect will not be tolerated! Go back, you stuttering ninny! Patrons might come at any moment! Ingrate! Cretin!
[with the lights still dimmed, Eunice can be seen slowly exiting the doorway and stepping back into the library]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Judas! Abortion! Oh ...
[she begins coughing again, as the ghost can be seen passing Eunice and moving towards the doorway]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Don't you know I'm you? And what, praytell, are you?
[the sound of the door slamming shut behind the ghost can be heard, as the unseen voice suddenly lets out a shriek]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Stay back! I'm going to call security! No, stop it this instant! What, what are you doing?
[the sounds of a struggle can be heard]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] Ah! Those are mine! My Danielle Steel! My Louis L'Amour! My Charlie Maclean!
[the librarians can be seen running around the darkened room]
MRS. DEWEY: [from off camera] I'll count to three, and if you don't return them I'll ... I'll ... start screaming at the top of my lungs! One, two, three!
[everyone begins to scream, as the green light goes out ... this causes everyone to stop, including the unseen voice (who gives a few weak coughs before she too falls silent), as a spotlight hits the three librarians standing alone on stage]
EUNICE: So ... Twenty five years is an awful long time to be in one library, isn't it?
IDA MAE: [quietly] Yes.
MARGERY: [quietly] Yes.
EUNICE: Do you ever wonder about how things might've been ... different?
IDA MAE: Yes.
EUNICE: [pause] Did you ever think about leaving? Before today?
MARGERY: I don't know.
EUNICE: [annoyed] Well did you ever try the door?
MARGERY: Not really.
EUNICE: There is a sort of moot point that I ... locked us in twenty five years ago.
MARGERY: [quietly] What?
EUNICE: Twenty five years ago I ... I locked us in.
MARGERY: [calmly] Where's the key now, Eunice?
EUNICE: [pause] I lost it.
[the lights flicker (to simulate lightning) as the sound of thunder and falling rain begin, while the librarians scatter off stage]
[the ghost appears to the three librarians, when Billie walks into the scene carrying a book ... She appears stunned, but then hands the book to the ghost, who makes three cups appear (out of the pages of the book?) and hands one to each librarian]
MARGERY: [holding up her glass] Zelda Fitzgerald ...
IDA MAE: [holding up her glass] Anne Sexton ...
EUNICE: [holding up her glass] Dorothy Parker ...
[they all drink, then begin convulsing before falling silent ... Billie puts her hands to her mouth in horror, as the ghost looks on]
BILLIE: [quietly] Are they dead?
LIBRARY GHOST: [pause] No. I'm just ... preparing them. For the journey.
BILLIE: Do I have to? Can't I just stay and read?
[the ghost takes off the necklace from around her neck and places it on the table near Eunice]
GHOST: [quietly] Yes.
[Billie picks up her book and begins reading]
BILLIE: "It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door! 'John dear', I said in the gentlest voice. 'The key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf!' That silenced him for a few moments. He stopped short by the door. 'What is the matter?' he cried. 'For god's sake, what are you doing?' I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder. 'I've got out at last,' said I. 'In spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back' ... "
[Ida Mae slowly begins to stir, then Eunice bolts up gasping for breath ... they look at each other and hug, but then notice that Margery still isn't moving]
IDA MAE: Muh--
[Ida Mae shakes her, and Margery eventually begins to awaken ... Eunice gets up and opens the backdoor (as the sound of the rain falling gets louder), then Margery suddenly runs outside as the audience can see her standing in the rain]
[as Billie and the ghost look on, all three librarians eventually make their way outside and close the door behind them ... Billie eventually walks off stage (as the ghost slowly exits the stage herself), then returns pushing a bookcart, and (after picking a book up off the floor and placing it on her cart) she heads backstage as the lights dim]
The Vulgar Librarian
Playwright: Vanessa DeWolf
Co-Directors: Gweneth Falt & Isabel Milenski
Eunice Grimm (Reference Librarian): Pauline Luppert
Ida Mae Pepper (Second Librarian): Dawn Eshelman
Margery L. Peacock (Junior Librarian): Emily Stone
Lydia Acher (Library Ghost): Marchette DuBois
Mrs. Dewey (Oppressive Authority): Robin Kurtz
Performed in the basement of the
915 E. Pine, Seattle, Washington, USA
Mar. 29, 1999, 8 p.m.
$8 ($1 off w/ library card)
THREE LIBRARIANS MAKE UP THE CIRCULATION staff of The Vulgar Librarian. None of them is vulgar, no matter how they might desire to live up to the title: they are all as formal as library science education, schooled in Dewey decimals, data retrieval, and fastidious page repair. Instead, it is the outside world that is vulgar, in the eyes of this demurely dressed ensemble. Outside, technology has overtaken the pristine world of the word. It makes sense, then, that Eunice, the research librarian, has locked the doors of the library, and that there has been nary a patron in 25 years.
With a beautiful set comprised of hundreds of ripped-up books set against the huge wooden desks and card catalogues that used to grace every library, at first glance The Vulgar Librarian seems to have a healthy ironic grasp of the modern dysfunction of the library. According to the liner notes, the company (Manual Arts Theater) wanted to explore "the obsessive, systematic nature of the library," and "the social implications of being on the brink of a technical age that is both liberating and oppressive." But like a doddering old patron, the play can't seem to decide how it wants to read. Is it a mystery? A melodrama? Occult? Poetic? Any librarian would be hard pressed to categorize its method or message.
Perhaps the problem is in the voluptuousness of the material, a voluptuousness with which the actors cannot compete. As a setting for exploration of erotic liberation, the library is almost without limits, and when one can pull from any text, the cross-references confuse as much as they illuminate. What excerpts the narrative draws from are well chosen, but the ideological force of the "social implications" prevents any character development, and instead the librarians devolve into ciphers, falling victim to a simple violent epiphany (the references to Southern literature proving all too prophetic). The Vulgar Librarian is literally overtaken by its subtext. The aftermath is merely disappointing, a denouement as scattered as the disembodied pages strewn about the stage's floor, and far less entertaining. --TRACI VOGEL
This is Ida Mae Pepper, and this is her world. As a career librarian, she knows all too well that categorizing thought comes precariously close to totalitarism. In The Vulgar Librarian, Ida Mae liberates herself from an oppressive and clingy world through luscious books, glue-sniffing, and silent movie fantasies. But the coming storm blows something into her literary enclave that threatens to change everything...