Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Case Study No. 0950: Mr. Falanzano, Miss Jepson, and Denise Pringle

A Day For Surprises
Greenfield Community College students perform the one act play "A Day for Surprises" written by John Guare. Recorded 5/9/09 at Greenfield Community College Sloan Theater.
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Added: 4 years ago
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[scene opens with a male librarian sitting at a table and pasting plates into library books, when a female librarian enters the room]
JEPSON: Pardon me, sir, but you have got to look out your window!
FALANZANO: Your paste pot is dried up ... Less time picking up coffee nerves on coffee breaks, more time collecting overdue fines, we might have more of a library.
JEPSON: Mister Falanzano, you have got to look out your window!
[he continues applying paste to the books, hardly paying attention to what she is saying]
FALANZANO: And you used up your two week vacation already?
[he shakes his head]
FALANZANO: Frazzle frazzle frazzle, another nightmare year in the overdue fine room.
JEPSON: [yelling] Sir!
FALANZANO: Alright, alright ...
[he nonchalantly goes over and looks out the window, then quickly returns to his desk with a nervous look on his face]
JEPSON: Tell me what you see!
FALANZANO: It's what I don't see ...
JEPSON: What don't you see?
FALANZANO: There's no lion, the one closest to Forty Second Street.
[he dials his phone]
FALANZANO: [into the phone] Operator? Operator, yes. The stone lion, closest to Forty Second Street ...
JEPSON: [whispers] It's missing, isn't it?
FALANZANO: [into the phone] That stone lion is missing.
JEPSON: [whispers] I know where the stone lion is ...
[he turns to her with an annoyed look on his face]
FALANZANO: That stone lion weighs twenty eight thousand pounds!
JEPSON: [whispers] I know where the stone lion is!
[he shakes his head and puts the receiver back to his ear]
JEPSON: There's a stone lion in ...
[she points off camera]
JEPSON: I assume it's the same one ... There's a lion in the ladies room and it's eaten Miss Pringle!
[he turns to her again]
JEPSON: It's sitting in the ladies room with Miss Pringle's feet sticking out of its mouth! Out of the lion's mouth!
[he puts down the phone with a shocked expression]
JEPSON: I know it's Miss Pringle, I'd been admiring her blue beaded shoes only this morning ... and the way that she braided the hair on her legs into her new black lacy stockings.
[she fidgets and again motions off camera]
JEPSON: It's sitting right by the wash stand, just the way it sits out front ... only Miss Pringle's feet are sticking out of its mouth.
[she sighs and walks towards a nearby book truck]
JEPSON: I ran out of the library screaming, I ran right out onto Fifth Avenue. And when I saw that the lion closest to Forty Second Street was gone ... I thought I had gone insane. I thought I had snapped!
[she motions towards the books on the truck]
JEPSON: All this library paste ... Kids sniff this stuff! I thought it had got to me, but you see it too! I'm not alone! Thank you, Mister Falanzano!
[she goes over and hugs him (as he continues to stand motionless)]
JEPSON: Thank god for you ...
FALANZANO: It's ... it's eaten Miss Pringle?!
[he pushes her aside and runs off camera]
JEPSON: You stay outta there! That's No Man's Land!
[he returns holding a pair of blue shoes]
JEPSON: You peeked into No Man's Land ...
[she casually walks back to the truck and begins pasting plates into the books herself, then turns and looks back at Falanzano (as if she can't understand why he isn't also going back to business as usual)]
JEPSON: No need to worry, really. It says here ...
[she opens one of the books and begins flipping through the pages]
JEPSON: L, L, L, L, L ... "Linnaeum," "Linoleum."
[she stops at one page]
JEPSON: "Lion" ... Lion.
[she begins reading]
JEPSON: "After devouring prey, are satiated for two to three weeks."
[she slams the book shut and smiles at him]
JEPSON: We're safe, Mister Falanzano ... for another couple of weeks anyway.
[she continues sorting through the books]
FALANZANO: Miss Jepson, I ... I loved Miss Pringle!
[she answers him without even looking up from the books]
JEPSON: I liked her too, but for god's sake, let's not get all soppy eyed and sentimental ...
FALANZANO: Miss Pringle and I were going to be married!
[she closes the book she was working on and looks at him]
JEPSON: You sneakies! You and Miss Pringle ... Isn't this a day for surprises?
[she sighs]
JEPSON: You and Denise Pringle ... It's like all the surprises of the world store themselves up for a day when the one thing you do not need is a surprise.
[she goes back to pasting plates in the books, muttering to herself in bemusement]
JEPSON: You and Denise Pringle ... Sunuva gun.
[Mister Falanzano (still crestfallen) slowly walks back to his desk while carrying the shoes]
JEPSON: Like today ... Who needs a surprise today? I was going to go home, curl up with a good book, like any other night. Look at teh phone and welcome even a "Sorry, wrong number." Guiltily turn on my TV and watch re-runs of beautiful domestic comedies. "Father Knows Best." "Make Room for Daddy."
[she stares off wistfully]
JEPSON: "Hi, Lucy! Hi, Doris!" ... And then turn them off because it's time to water my geranium.
[she looks over at Mister Falanzano]
JEPSON: But today will give me something to think about ... A day for surprises.
[she puts down her book and starts walking towards his desk]
JEPSON: You and Miss ... Pringle?
FALANZANO: Me and Miss Pringle ...
[the sound of a lion's roar is suddenly heard off camera, as she jumps into his arms in fright ... which is quickly followed by the sound of the lion burping]
JEPSON: [pause] Would you like to ... come over to my place tonight?
JEPSON: Check over some books ...
FALANZANO: There's a lion outside the door!
JEPSON: Start something between the covers?
[he pushes her away]
FALANZANO: [yelling] Miss Jepson, my fiancee is dead!
JEPSON: Well, what do you want me to do? Start pasting Denise Pringle memorial stickers all over the Britannicas?
[she folds her arms]
JEPSON: I'll do it, but I'm not gonna waste my youth weeping over a not-very-attractive girl who was hardly worthy of you ...
[she sighs]
JEPSON: Life has handed us a surprise! There's so few surprises that I want to leap at the present life has given me ...
[she puts her hands on his face]
JEPSON: You feel so nice ... I wanna leap before the lion eats me!
[he pushes her hands away]
JEPSON: Those blue beaded shoes ... It's not the first time the lion's come to the ladies room and eaten one of the staff. Remember Miss Ramirez?
[he looks at her in shock]
FALANZANO: And nobody reports these horrors?!
JEPSON: There's a lot of lonely girls in this town, Mister Falanzano. You know what the biggest lie is? The more the merrier.
[he rubs his forehead and sits down]
FALANZANO: I don't understand!
[she walks over and rubs his shoulders]
JEPSON: Comfort. Comfort ... I'll sing you a song! A song by Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson. Yes, you'll like that.
[she starts to sing softly]
JEPSON: [singing] Charles gave Elizabeth a dodo.
[he gets up with a disgusted look on his face]
FALANZANO: Books? Poets?!
[he grabs a stack of book plates from the truck and throws them up in the air]
FALANZANO: Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson? I don't wanna hear about books!
[he stomps over to his desk, grabbing a book and tearing the pages out (as Miss Jepson looks on in shock)]
[he begins throwing books and plates all over the floor, eventually putting his head down on the desk and starts crying, while Miss Jepson tries to calmly clean up the book truck]
FALANZANO: My whole world was books, Miss Jepson ... It always has been. Until, until one night.
[he stands up straight]
FALANZANO: I came back late to the library, because I couldn't sleep and I wanted a book. I needed a book ... I demanded the company of a volume! And I heard whimpering from the stacks.
[he gets a far away look in his eyes]
FALANZANO: And there was Miss Pringle, whom I didn't even know had a pass key. Whom I'd never spoken to, even when we met at clearance sales at Marboro Books.
[he gestures off camera]
FALANZANO: There was Miss Pringle, whimpering and holding volumes of Lewis Carroll, Camus, Proust. The Joy of Cooking.
[he smiles]
FALANZANO: Holding these volumes and weeping ... the overdue cards in the backs of the books slipped out like tears that piled up around her ankles, and then her knees.
[he rubs his hands together]
FALANZANO: I cried out, "Miss Pringle!" She stopped and sniffed like a suddenly spied gazelle in some quiet tropical place.
[he leans forward and whispers]
FALANZANO: "Who is that?" she cried out. "I've spent twenty years of my precious life in school and I've just enrolled for classes in the fall. If I don't become a member of the human race soon, I'll kill myself! Who is that? Is that you, Mister Falanzano? Oh, please love me. I'm here. I'm ready."
[he steps away from his desk]
FALANZANO: And we raced to each other, and the wind our bodies created racing ... running to each other, set all the overdue cards flying into the air! Overdue cards no longer, but blossoms from a thank-god early spring.
[he looks down]
FALANZANO: Her pleas for help had sounded an echo ... a Little Sir Echo in my heart. And I quickly undressed her, and then myself. And while she arranged our things with a neatness that was her trademark and the bane of the overdue fine room, I arranged for us on the floor of the Neglected Masterpieces Section, a bed.
[he pantomimes moving things around on the floor]
FALANZANO: A couch made of photostats of Elizabethan love lyrics! She said, "I've never loved anyone so I want this to be good" ... I said "Oh, I've never loved anyone before either."
[he looks away wistfully]
FALANZANO: So, I took out a copy of "Love Without Fear," she took out a "Modern Manual on How to Do It," and we wrapped ...
[he rubs his hands together]
FALANZANO: Like Christmas packages for people you love, we wrapped our bodies! Our phosphorescent, glowing, about-to-become-human bodies around each other, and we began ... reading!
[he smiles]
FALANZANO: For the first time in our lives, we wore flesh for clothing instead of baggy tweed!
[he walks over towards Miss Jepson]
FALANZANO: After many months of this meeting at night in the stacks, undressing and reading all about the art and science of love ... "boning up," you might say, for our final exam.
[she looks away, as he becomes more animated]
FALANZANO: After many months of this study, we felt we had the system down ... Up. In. Oh oh oh.
[he gets behind the book truck and begins thrusting his pelvis while wheeling it back and forth in a suggestive manner]
FALANZANO: We wrote that formula down many times to make sure we knew it by rote ... In the world of sex, you want nothing to go wrong!
[he moves away from the truck]
FALANZANO: So, I bought contraceptives and she bought contraceptives, as we had been instructed to do in the New York Post's weekend series "Stop That Baby" ... and we finally felt we were ready.
[he gets a serious look on his face]
FALANZANO: There was a full moon that night. We took a quick gander at "Human Sexual Response" and cleared our throats. The library closed and we came out of our hiding places after the watchmen passed by, and we met in the stacks of the Rare Book Room!
[he closes his eyes and shakes his head]
FALANZANO: To be double sure, she had wrapped herself in Saran Wrap from head to toe ... and I remembered the lessons I was taught, and I pinned the Playmate of the Month over her head, and proceeded into her.
[he puts a hand over his heart]
FALANZANO: Perhaps some of the one hundred and twenty seven rubber devices I wore on my erect bookmark dulled some of the sensation. But I must say, all went well ... as well as Chapter Seven of "Ideal Marriage" and a pamphlet from the US Government Printing Office had led us to believe.
[he looks down]
FALANZANO: If we were doing it for credit, I would've given us an "A" ...
[he puts his hands on his hips and nods]
FALANZANO: An "A-plus!"
[his expression suddenly changes to one of self-doubt]
FALANZANO: Well ... "B-plus," anyway.
[he slowly walks back to his desk, keeping his back to Miss Jepson]
FALANZANO: Anyway ... A few weeks later, Miss Pringle came to me with tears in her eyes. You were having a coffee break. Tears in her water mark blue eyes. She stood me right here and placed my pasting hand on her womb.
[he places a hand over his stomach]
FALANZANO: I felt a swelling, a ... a distension. Life? Within her?
[he smiles]
FALANZANO: Somehow, despite the one hundred and twenty seven suits of armor, the eleven diaphragms, the six hundred and eighty two white pills, the three one-hundred-foot rolls of Saran Wrap ... somehow, despite all these precautions, life had managed to creep--
[he gets a defiant look on his face]
FALANZANO: No ... triumph through!
[he puts his other hand over his heart]
FALANZANO: I loved Miss Pringle!
[he suddenly puts his head down and starts pacing around his desk]
FALANZANO: She ... did not want the child. We took a book from the uptown Yorkville branch, where nobody knew us.
[he slams a book shut on his desk]
FALANZANO: We took out Ann Landers' "Getting Rid of that Senior Prom Boo-Boo and Put Yourself into Freshman Honors" ... It had all the information, technical and otherwise, to help us to get rid of our child.
[he looks off into the distance]
FALANZANO: What had been our photostatic bed of love now became an operating table, and I remember seeing between her legs the photostat of a poem by Sir Philip Sidney ... "Ring out your bells, let mourning shows be spread, for love is dead."
[he gets an angry look on his face]
FALANZANO: And I, who had been so proud of inserting life into a difficult envelope, proceeded again into Miss Pringle and removed ... n-not a child, not a miniature fetus of myself.
[he lowers his head]
FALANZANO: I removed ... my hand felt it, and I pulled out a small undeveloped volume of the "Complete Works of Doctor Spock."
[he shakes his head, then holds his thumb and forefinger only inches apart from each other]
FALANZANO: It was only this big! Time would've gestated it into a full set! Time and nature ... but what hurt me was that juice!
[he looks upward]
FALANZANO: That juice which I'd bragged ... Oh, that juice which I was so proud, hubristically proud for leaping so many hurdles like a Kentucky Derby Day dark horse winner!
[he shakes his head]
FALANZANO: No no, an Olympic runner who finally carries that Torch of Life and plants it at the very summit of Mount Olympus to claim it for himself ...
[he paces around his desk]
FALANZANO: That juice which I bragged to call triumphant, could only father ... could only create a dull set of books.
[he looks at Miss Jepson]
FALANZANO: Just the flour and water of library paste. Not semen at all ... My life has been lived in books. I had become a book.
[he looks around the room]
FALANZANO: Library paste ... We would've all been better off if we never opened a book.
[he buries his face in his hands, then Miss Jepson gets up and (taking the paste pot off his desk) begins pasting his hand, when she looks over his shoulder]
JEPSON: Look ... The lion's walking down the steps back to its perch.
[she sighs]
JEPSON: Isn't that New York for you, nobody even looks ... They all think it's "Candid Camera!" You could strut down Fifth Avenue N-U-D-E and nobody's even look!
[she takes his hand and places it on her chest ("pasting" them together), then again looks over his shoulder]
JEPSON: The lion is on its perch now. You'd never even know he moved ... except for that little piece of pink garter dangling from its tooth like a salmon.
[she begins placing paste on her free hand]
JEPSON: You'd never even know he moved ...
FALANZANO: You'd ... never even know he moved.
[she places her hand on his cheek (again "pasting" them together), then pulls him in for a hug and begins singing]
JEPSON: [singing] Charles gave Elizabeth a dodo, and never even offered one to me. A lovely lemon colored dodo, with eyes as green as grass ...
[her singing trails off, and the scene fades to black]



A Day for Surprises
John Guare

One Act

1 man, 1 woman: 2 total
Simple Interior

Book Type: DPS
Price: $6.00
ISBN/Code: 978-0-8222-0276-9

FEE: $35 per performance.

THE STORY: Zany and absurdist in style, this hilarious short play deals with the surprising day on which one of the stone lions in front of New York's Public Library left its perch long enough to devour one of the lady librarians. The victim was also the fiancée of a fellow worker—whose grief leads to an enormously funny recounting of their brief liaison. But, as the satiated lion resumes his customary perch, consolation is at hand in the form of another lady librarian, and we are aware that still more surprises are likely to come as life goes on its unpredictable way.



A Day for Surprises is a short one-act comedy about how people in modern society often live life vicariously while avoiding contact, love, and relationships with others. Guare sets the play in the New York Public Library, which he mocks as a staid, lifeless, and banal milieu. The two characters in the play are simply designated as A and B, reduced by their mundane positions to merely letters: this is particularly apropos since they both work in the library and are bibliophiles. B is actually Mr. Falanzano, in charge of the pasting room, and A, his subordinate, is Miss Jepson, who labors in the overdue fine office. Their daily drudgery is momentarily interrupted when the twenty-eight-thousand-pound stone lion on Forty-Second Street comes to life (the only thing alive in this library) and devours Denise Pringle, B's fiancee, in the ladies' room. Guare gives A and B, two lifeless individuals, exactly what they need: a surprise - something to shock them out of their daily inertia.

Miss Jepson needs some excitement to break the routine of her banal existence. She describes her evening's plans to Mr. Falanzano: "I was going to go home, curl up with a good book, like any other night - look at the phone and welcome even a Sorry Wrong Number ... Guiltily turn on my TV and watch re-runs of beautiful domestic comedies - Father Knows Best - Make Room For Daddy - hi, Lucy, hi, Doris! Then turn them off because it's time to water my geranium." Thus, after being surrounded by books all day long, Miss Jepson does not have enough imagination to do anything else but read. Then she turns to television to provide her with the domestic life that she lacks, interrupting her fantasy life only because the routine of watering her flowers demands it. Attracted to B, she invites him to her place to "start something between the covers" (19), indicating that she might have in mind merely a chat about books or perhaps something more romantic. She admits, "There's a lot of lonely girls in this town, Mr. Falanzano" (19).

Mr. Falanzano's life has also been fairly parochial, with books establishing an identity for him. As a result, the librarian, in frustration, proceeds to tear apart the books in the pasting room. He reveals how he got to know Miss Pringle for the first time. Mr. Falanzano returned to the library one evening when he could not sleep, hoping to find a good book. There he met Miss Pringle, who was totally absorbed in Lewis Carroll, Proust, Camus, and The Joy of Cooking. They had known each other earlier after having met during clearance sales at Marboro Books. Pursuing their common interest in reading books at the library, they soon fell in love. During the months that followed, they often would rendezvous in the stacks after the library was closed, strip themselves of their clothes, wrap their bodies around each other, and begin reading. They eventually decided to consummate the relationship: "I bought contraceptives and she bought contraceptives as we had been instructed to do in the New York Post's weekend series - Stop That Baby, and we finally felt we were ready. There was a full moon that night. We took a quick gander at Human Sexual Response and cleared our throats" (21). Guided by chapter seven of Ideal Marriage and a pamphlet from the U.S. Government Printing Office, they had sex together. Despite the precautions taken, Miss Pringle later became pregnant. The result of the pregnancy was their baby: a volume of the complete works of Doctor Spock. Mr. Falanzano laments that the only thing he could father was a set of dull books: "The flour and water of library paste. Not semen at all. My life has been lived in books" (22). A, overcome by this love story, begins pasting herself to B, the only way she can make contact with him.

A Day for Surprises contains several of the motifs Guare works into his more mature dramas. In this early play, Guare focuses on the need to live life fully rather than vicariously through words and images created by others. Guare is suggesting that imagination is the key to establishing an identity for oneself and to making contact with others who might share the same interests. However, being obsessed with anything (including books, television, media hype, or movies) can be distracting and ultimately mundane, leading us away from more imaginative and rewarding real experiences. Those who lead such parochial lives need to invigorate themselves every once in a while with a day for surprises. Similarly, Guare demonstrates that the form of his plays matches the content; what begins as realism is suspended from its inertia by Guare's absurd view of life, in which surprise turns conventional drama into something more creative and imaginative.

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