Thirty Pieces of Silver: A Play in Three Acts

BOOK: Thirty Pieces of Silver: A Play in Three Acts
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Thirty Pieces of Silver

A Play in Three Acts

Howard Fast

CONTENTS

ACT I

Scene One

Scene Two

ACT II

Scene One

Scene Two

ACT III

A Biography of Howard Fast

DEDICATION

To the thousands of American anti-fascists who wear the mantle of their country's honor nobly and proudly

INTRODUCTION

TOWARD
the end of 1947, a Broadway producer who had read two plays of mine which he did not feel were right for production, suggested that I write about something close and meaningful to me. He signed a contract for an option on this yet unwritten play and gave me his verbal assurances that if it had any merit whatsoever, he would produce it. Almost a year later, I handed him the first draft of
Thirty Pieces of Silver.
He read it through and dismissed it with one word—‘impossible'.

So ended my modest and brief flirtation with the Broadway theatre. While I was serving a short prison sentence for Contempt of Congress, an earlier play of mine was prepared for production
off
Broadway; but neither the play nor the production blazed any trails of fire across the sky. I decided that the novel and the short story were forms better suited to my skills, and
Thirty Pieces of Silver
reposed half-forgotten in a drawer of my files. There it gathered dust until January of 1951, when quite by accident its extraordinary career began.

I received a letter from the New Theatre, in Melbourne, Australia, saying that they were looking for scripts about the modern scene, and did I have anything they could possibly use? Possibly because Australia was sufficiently distant for me to plunge again, and possibly because the fascination of the theatre is something no writer truly shakes loose from, I rooted out the MS. of
Thirty Pieces of Silver,
shook the dust from it, read it through, made some changes, and sent it off to Australia.

My own opinion of that draft, reread after so long an interval, was that the subject matter was quite interesting and that the play was structurally not too bad. I knew it had weaknesses, some of them fairly serious, but I was also not completely certain that the Australian Theatre group would want to perform it.

However, they were quite taken by the play—again while recognizing its weaknesses—and they decided to go ahead with the production. Whereupon, it opened first in Melbourne and then in Sydney. In each place, it had, I was informed, long and successful runs—that is, long in the local terms of such productions. While it was playing in Australia, the Czech Theatrical and Literary Agency heard about it somehow and wrote to me, asking whether I could send them a copy to read. I now studied the MS. more carefully, and decided to do a complete rewrite, basing this new version on criticisms from Australia and the comments of various actor-friends to whom I had shown it.

I finished the rewrite and sent the new version off to Czechoslovakia by airmail. It was translated and went into production immediately, and opened in Prague in April of 1951. The production was, according to information received, an excellent one, and became a considerable hit—maintaining an unusually long run. A second company opened in Pilsen, and then in short order, sixteen additional Czech companies began to perform the play.

I now received correspondence from Vienna, Berlin, and Tel Aviv—all of it concerning
Thirty Pieces of Silver.
Once again, I did a rewrite, particularly of the third act, and sent additional manuscripts out. Separate German translations were made for Vienna and Berlin, and soon thereafter it opened in each of the above-mentioned cities. A Yiddish translation was performed in the Yiddish theatre in Poland, while a Polish version opened in Warsaw. Meanwhile, a British director working with a Hebrew group in Israel, had supervised a translation into Hebrew, although the first Hebrew production in Israel did not take place until December of 1952. However, at one point during 1952, productions were running simultaneously in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Warsaw, Pilsen and Moscow. Both Italian and French translations have been completed, and openings in Antwerp and Rome are scheduled for 1953. A Canadian production is scheduled to open in 1953—which will give an audience in the western hemisphere its first opportunity to see the play.

HOWARD FAST

April 1953

CHARACTERS IN ORDER

OF THEIR APPEARANCE

Jane Graham

Mildred Andrews

Hilda Smith

Lorry Graham

David Graham

Fuller

Grace Langly

Austin Carmichael

Frederick Selwin

The action takes place in the Spring of 1948, in Washington, D.C.

ACT I

Scene One

The scene is the living-room of the Graham home, in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Just from this interior, you would know the house, white clapboard outside, like a thousand others in this rather intermediate, middle-income bracket, an indeterminate colonial style in a well-kept small lawn. The room is furnished in the colonial style of the house, also indeterminate, with some taste but enough timidity to make it a blood brother of a thousand other such living-rooms that represent six, or seven or eight thousand dollars of income per year.

On stage left, the archway to the entrance; on stage right, the archway to the dining-room. The staircase to above backs the room, and under it there is a bay window with a recessed window seat. Which is not to say this isn't a cheerful room with a chintz-covered couch, Lawson style, two big easy chairs, and a rather nice selection of occasional pieces in pine. There is a baby-grand piano, stage right rear, and a tray bar. Several hooked rugs, and Audubon, and Currier and Ives on the walls. It is too right, too even. A toy tractor on the floor is the only note of indifference.

When the curtain rises
,
JANE GRAHAM
and
MILDRED ANDREWS
are in the room.
JANE GRAHAM
is a slim, rather pretty woman of twenty-nine. Dark-haired and blue-eyed, she is a fairly familiar type south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and her voice reveals just a trace of that accent. What makes her unusual is a certain measured sincerity and an almost compulsive determination.

MILDRED ANDREWS
is a few years older, harder, better dressed, more made up and more skilfully made up. When the curtain rises
,
MILDRED
sprawls on the couch.
JANE
is attempting to pin the pieces of a slip cover on to the upholstered chair. She goes on with her work through this scene, pins in her mouth sometimes, always intent on what she is doing.

MILDRED
It's none of my business. Darling, if I hewed a line to what is my business I'd be biting the edges of those fine carpets that Jim Andrews hasn't quite paid for yet.

JANE
But, Mildred, you don't know—do you?

M
ILDRED
Was I in the room with them? Honey, I haven't even got a photograph.

JANE
It would hurt a little more if they said it about you. Or Jim.

MILDRED
Why? The truth doesn't hurt—well— What have you heard about my fine Jim?

JANE
Nothing.

MILDRED
He hasn't—? (
She swallows and stares at Jane.
) If that son-of-a-bitch made a pass at you, I'll— Did he, Jane? I want the truth. The whole truth. I'll hate your guts if you don't tell me.

JANE
(
unconcernedly going on with her work
) No one ever makes a pass at me.

MILDRED
Where have I heard that before?

JANE
I wouldn't know.

MILDRED
Not even Leonard Agronsky?

(
She says this casually, but transparently so.
JANE
pauses in her work long enough for it to be noticeable.
)

JANE
No.

MILDRED
(
smiling tolerantly
) Well, I wouldn't know either, would I? I suppose you require some special kind of ego to live in a no-pass world. I'd be scared to say it, if it were true.

JANE
What makes you thinks——

MILDRED
Yes, my sweet?

JANE
Oh—nothing.

MILDRED
Simple projection, as a matter of fact. Andrews doesn't like Agronsky. I like Agronsky. If he looked at me the way I've seen him look at you, I would undoubtedly be in bed with him, being a sort of slut myself.

JANE
(
still unconcernedly
) You really have Agronsky on your mind, haven't you?

MILDRED
No—men in general maybe. Not your David, honey.

(
Now
JANE
turns and looks at her half-angrily, half-uncertainly
.)

Well, I'm sorry. Forgive me.

JANE
Why do you hate him so?

MILDRED
I did it, didn't I? Look, honey—I don't hate him. I've got no feelings about your guy at all——

JANE
(
actually upset now
) Like hell you haven't!

MILDRED
All right—I don't like him. Do we stop being friends?

JANE
Don't be an idiot. I never thought you made the mistake of liking David.

MILDRED
And now you're mad.

JANE
Do you want me to turn handsprings? Why don't you like him? He's just a poor, frightened guy—who never quite grew up.

MILDRED
Maybe I'm tired of men who never quite grew up. It's a disease of our males—at least of those who infest Washington. Except——

JANE
Except what?

MILDRED
Except Agronsky. He never leaves me alone, does he? I wonder if he leaves you alone? Why in hell didn't you marry him, Jane?

JANE
Why didn't you marry Harry Truman and learn to pour tea? For God's sake——

MILDRED
Make it Abe Lincoln. I'll bring my birth certificate next time. The sweet ones always have the claws. Yes, my darling, I can think of two reasons why you didn't marry Agronsky, and David doesn't figure in either of them.

JANE
You're an evil person with an evil mind.

MILDRED
I am that. Did you ever know a woman in this city who wasn't? The men are little lice, but we become female Walter Winchells. That's inevitable.

JANE
Don't talk to me about Agronsky any more, please, Mildred. I don't know what he means to you. To me, he's a friend—that's all.

MILDRED
To me, he's a man, do you see, my dear? He's a hero, the only male hero in my lexicon. And not only because Jim Andrews, whom I happen to be married to, thinks he's a Red. Agronsky is real. That's all. Everything else around here is a nightmare, a horror, a particular cesspool created by the God-fearing folk of this nation so that they might be governed——

JANE
Stop it, Mildred. You're manufacturing this beautiful and particular horror out of your own needs. There are as many honest men and women here as anywhere.

MILDRED
Are there? Then sweet dreams to you. Let's not fight.

JANE
We won't fight, honey.

MILDRED
(
looking at her watch
) This is overtime.

(
She rises.
)

I've got to run, darling. This is a long subject, and some other time, on a long rainy afternoon, maybe, we'll go into it.

(
She starts to the door and then stops.
)

BOOK: Thirty Pieces of Silver: A Play in Three Acts
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Ideas and the Novel by Mary McCarthy
Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff
All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer
Medusa by Timothy C. Phillips
June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Claiming His Mate by Stuart, Savannah
Open Grave: A Mystery by Kjell Eriksson
Schizo by Nic Sheff
Frostbite by David Wellington
B01EU62FUC (R) by Kirsten Osbourne