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Stage Directing Theory
Directing Theory: pre-text, text and super-text

from Preface to Drama: An Introduction to Dramatic Literature and Theater Art by Charles W. Cooper; Ronald Press, 1955
SCENES: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (excerpts)

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TOM speaks from the fire-escape landing.

TOM. After the fiasco at Rubicam's Business College, the idea of getting a gentleman caller for Laura began to play a more and more important part in Mother's calculations.

It became an obsession. Like some archetype of the universal unconscious, the image of the gentleman caller haunted our small apartment. . . .


An evening at home rarely passed without some allusion to this image, this spectre, this hope. . . .

Even when he wasn't mentioned, his presence hung in Mother's preoccupied look and in my sister's frightened, apologetic manner--hung like a sentence passed upon the Wingfields!

Mother was a woman of action as well as words.

She began to take logical steps in the planned direction. Late that winter and in the early spring--realizing that extra money would be needed to properly feather the nest and plume the bird--she conducted a vigorous campaign on the telephone, roping in subscribers to one of those magazines for matrons called The Home-maker's Companion, the type of journal that features the serialized sublimations of ladies of letters who think in terms of delicate cup-like breasts, slim, tapering waists, rich, creamy thighs, eyes like wood-smoke in autumn, fingers that soothe and caress like strains of music, bodies as powerful as Etruscan sculpture.


[ AMANDA enters with phone on long extension cord. She is spotted in the dim stage.]

AMANDA. Ida Scott? This is Amanda Wingfield!

We missed you at the D.A.R. last Monday!

I said to myself: She's probably suffering with that sinus condition! How is that sinus condition?

Horrors! Heaven have mercy!--You're a Christian martyr, yes, that's what you are, a Christian martyr!

Well, I just now happened to notice that your subscription to the Companion's about to expire! Yes, it expires with the next issue, honey!-just when that wonderful new serial by Bessie Mae Hopper is getting off to such an exciting start. Oh, honey, it's something that you can't miss!

You remember how Gone With the Wind took everybody by storm? You simply couldn't go out if you hadn't read it. All everybody talked was Scarlett O'Hara. Well, this is a book that critics already compare to Gone With the Wind. It's the Gone With the Wind of the postWorld War generation!--What?--Burning?--Oh, honey, don't let them burn, go take a look in the oven and I'll hold the wire! Heavens--I think she's hung up!


[Before the stage is lighted, the violent voices of TOMand AMANDA are heard. They are quarreling behind the portieres. In front of them stands LAURAwith clenched hands and panicky expression. A clear pool of light on her figure throughout this scene.]

TOM. What in Christ's name am I--

AMANDA [shrilly]. Don't you use that--

TOM. Supposed to do!

AMANDA. Expression! Not in my--

TOM. Ohhh!

AMANDA. Presence! Have you gone out of your senses?

TOM. I have, that's true, driven out!

AMANDA. What is the matter with you, you--big--big--IDIOT!

TOM. Look!--I've got no thing, no single thing--

AMANDA. Lower your voice!

TOM. In my life here that I can call my own! Everything is--

AMANDA. Stop that shouting!

TOM. Yesterday you confiscated my books! You had the nerve to--

AMANDA. I took that horrible novel back to the library--yes! That hideous book by that insane Mr. Lawrence.

[ TOM laughs wildly.]

I cannot control the output of diseased minds or people who cater to them--

[ TOM laughs still more wildly.]


TOM. House, house! Who pays rent on it, who makes a slave of himself to--

AMANDA [fairly screeching]. Don't you DARE to--

TOM. No, no, I mustn't say things! I've got to just--

AMANDA. Let me tell you--

Tom. I don't want to hear any more!

[He tears the portieres open. The upstage area is lit with a turgid smoky red glow.

[ AMANDA's hair is in metal curlers and she wears a very old bathrobe, much too large for her slight figure, a relic of the faithless Mr. Wingfield.

[An upright typewriter and a wild disarray of manuscripts is on the drop-leaf table. The quarrel was probably precipitated by AMANDA's interruption of his creative labor. A chair lying overthrown on the floor. Their gesticulating shadows are cast on the ceiling by the fiery glow.]

AMANDA. You will hear more, you--

TOM. No, I won't hear more, I'm going out!

AMANDA. You come right back in--

TOM. Out, out, out! Because I'm--

AMANDA. Come back here, Tom Wingfield! I'm not through talking to you!

TOM. Oh, go--

LAURA [desperately]. --Tom!

AMANDA. You're going to listen, and no more insolence from you! I'm at the end of my patience!

[He comes back toward her.]

TOM. What do you think I'm at? Aren't I supposed to have any patience to reach the end of, Mother? I know, I know. It seems unimportant to you, what I'm doing--what I want to do--having a little difference between them! You don't think that--

AMANDA. I think you've been doing things that you're ashamed of. That's why you act like this. I don't believe that you go every night to the movies. Nobody goes to the movies night after night. Nobody in their right minds goes to the movies as often as you pretend to. People don't go to the movies at nearly midnight, and movies don't let out at two A.M. Come in stumbling. Muttering to yourself like a maniac! You get three hours' sleep and then go to work. Oh, I can picture the way you're doing down there. Moping, doping, because you're in no condition.

TOM [wildly]. No, I'm in no condition!

AMANDA. What right have you got to jeopardize your job? Jeopardize the security of us all? How do you think we'd manage if you were--

TOM. Listen! You think I'm crazy about the warehouse?

[He bends fiercely toward her slight figure.]

You think I'm in love with the Continental Shoemakers? You think I want to spend fifty-five years down there in that--celotex interior! with fluorescent--tubes! Look! I'd rather somebody picked up a crowbar and battered out my brains--than go back mornings! I go! Every time you come in yelling that God damn "Rise and Shine!" "Rise and Shinel" I say to myself, "How lucky dead people are!" But I get up. I go! For sixty-five dollars a month I give up all that I dream of doing and being ever! And you say self--self's all I ever think of. Why, listen, if self is what I thought of, Mother, I'd be where he is--GONE! [Pointing to father's picture] As far as the system of transportation reaches!

[He starts past her. She grabs his arm.]

Don't grab at me, Mother!

AMANDA. Where are you going?

Tom. I'm going to the movies!

AMANDA. I don't believe that lie!

TOM [crouching toward her, overtowering her tiny figure. She backs away, gasping.]. I'm going to opium dens! Yes, opium dens, dens of vice and criminals' hang-outs, Mother. I've joined the Hogan gang, I'm a hired assassin, I carry a tommy-gun in a violin case! I run a string of cat-houses in the Valley! They call me Killer, Killer Wingfield, I'm leading a double-life, a simple, honest warehouse worker by day, by night, a dynamic czar of the underworld, Mother. I go to gambling casinos, I spin away fortunes on the roulette table! I wear a patch over one eye and a false mustache, sometimes I put on green whiskers. On those occasions they call me--El Diablo! Oh, I could tell you things to make you sleepless! My enemies plan to dynamite this place. They're going to blow us all sky-high some night! I'll be glad, very happy, and so will you! You'll go up, up on a broomstick, over Blue Mountain with seventeen gentlemen callers! You ugly--babbling old--witch. . . .

[He goes through a series of violent, clumsy movements, seizing his overcoat, lunging to the door, pulling it fiercely open. The women watch him, aghast. His arm catches in the sleeve of the coat as he struggles to pull it on. For a moment he is pinioned by the bulky garment. With an outraged groan he tears the coat off again, splitting the shoulder of it, and hurls it across the room. It strikes against the shelf of LAURA's glass collection, there is a tinkle of shattering glass. LAURAcries out as if wounded.


LAURA [shrilly]. My glass!--menagerie. . . . [She covers her face and turns away.]

[ ... ]

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