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Auditioning a Ghost Summary & Menu
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The Daughter as Lead, and the Mother as Lead are the same story with the lines and characters adjusted to say the same batch of lines.
Daughter as Lead: There is no mother. The mother has died and the daughter got her inheritance with which they bought the castle. Therefore, the daughter has a lot of lines.
Mother as Lead: There is a mother and a daughter. In the Tea Party scene the two mothers of the two children come also. So this version has 3 more women than the Daughter version.
Wife as lead with no daughter? I could easily edit one if anyone asked for it.
Therefore, the excerpts are of the Mother as Lead, with a daughter, because it is basically the same as the Daughter as Lead. You get both scripts to decide between when you see who comes to audition.
CAST & their SCENES: AUDITIONING A GHOST
(Mother as lead version)
-- Delete the Mother Gwendolyn and give her lines to Natalie, delete Rosemary & Lily, to get the Daughter version.
Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, “Selecting a Ghost”.
Story revised, expanded and adapted for theater by Jeannette Jaquish. © Jeannette Jaquish 2000, 2003, 2006 updated 2/2011
This script may only be performed by prior arrangement with Jeannette Jaquish.
www.theaterfunscripts.com - email@example.com - (260) 484-5946
Length: About 60 minutes.
CAST: 14 to 22 Actors (13 Actors = do multiple roles) (Scene Numbers in parenthesis):
Scared Poet (1), only in opening poem, can also play Ghost (7, 9)
Montague Hobbes (1-7, 9) Father, American
Gwendolyn Hobbes, (1, 4-7, 9) Wife & Mother, English but recently lived in America
Natalie Hobbes (1, 2, 4-7, 9) , Daughter, 8-15, trying to act English, awkward with her inherited wealth
Watkins (1, 2, 5-7, 9) Butler, can also play Dark Invisible Voice (7)
Cook, Sally McDivot (2) female. Can play Tarantella (7, 8)
Gardener, Mr. Gatehill (2) male or female, Can play a Ghost (7, 8)
Jackie or Jack Brockett (3), Talent Scout, male or female, can also play Detective (7) or Ghost (7,8)
Lily Stewart (6) lady friend of Gwendolyn and mother of Chelsea, Can play a Ghost (7, 8)
Rosemary Finster (6) lady friend of Gwendolyn and mother of Jamie, Can play a Ghost (7, 8)
Jamie (6) boy or girl, about Natalie’s age. Can play Terrible Twin (7, 8)
Chelsea (6) girl, about Natalie’s age. Can play Terrible Twin (7, 8)
Tarantella (7, 8), Gypsy
--Dark Invisible (just a voice)
--Terrible Twin A
--Terrible Twin B
-- Ghastly Child
-- Weeping Woman
Constable (7) can also play Dark Invisible Voice (7)
Scene 1: Chance of a Ghost, evening of the 1st day, Parlor
Scene 2: Kitchen Plots and Plans, morning of the 2nd day, Kitchen-- (optional)
Scene 3: Talent Agency, later that morning, closed curtain
Scene 4: The Evening Wait, that evening, closed curtain
Scene 5: While You Were Out, later that evening, closed curtain -- (optional)
Scene 6: Tea Party, morning of the 3rd day, Parlor -- (optional)
Scene 7: Ghost Whose Coming to Dinner, late that evening, Parlor
Scene 8: Dark and Stormy Night, same night, outside, closed curtain
Scene 9: Finality a few days later
SET: The parlor, in Olde English aristocratic style: a love seat or couch, a side table for setting tea tray, a fireplace with a mantle and a coat of arms over it, 1-3 chairs.
The kitchen can be at the side, or at the parlor set, with a kitchen table and chairs and a change of wall hangings. Portable scenery could be set behind the table and chairs to cover the Parlor set.
SCARED POET: As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. Oh, how I wish he’d go away. (by Hughes Mearns - please give credit in your program)
(Fade to black. EXIT.)
SCENE 1: CHANCE OF A GHOST (evening)
GWENDOLYN: Oh, Monty, don’t scold. Watkins knows when I’m teasing.
HOBBES: Of course our butler knows you’re teasing, Gwen. He’d be out the door in an instant if he thought you were serious. The poor man has enough stiff-upper-lipping to do without having to politely fend off the Mistress of the House asking if he wouldn’t mind committing a fiendish murder, followed by a remorse stricken suicide, just so you could have a few ghosts to haunt the place.
GWENDOLYN: (pouty) A real castle should have a ghost. And ghosts become ghosts from having died unnaturally, and tragically.
HOBBES: Well the tragedy is, that all you’ve accomplished so far, is to insure that we’ll be haunted by a living, sulky butler.
HOBBES: (amusing himself) Maybe Watkins would conduct his duties draped in a sheet and dragging a chain. And moaning painfully... but he already does that. Still, if he asks for an increase in wages for the extra services, it’s coming out of your entertainment allowance.
GWENDOLYN: ( jealously) Might as well. I’m ashamed to host even a tea party with no story to tell. You should hear how Cornelia Jorrocks deprecates their ghost! Cornelia deplores her nocturnal wailing and shimmering down corridors, the translucent blood trail that follows her.
NATALIE: Daddy! The manor next door.
HOBBES: Oh, yes, Jorrocks. I’ve met the husband -- a coarse fellow. Nearly accused me of knocking the stones off the wall between our properties. It seems the upper crust, at least in this area of England, includes a lot of crumbs.
GWENDOLYN: It certainly does! Things are taking a pretty turn, when such a respectable specter annuls every social distinction by taking refuge in such an ill-fitting abode.
HOBBES: That mischievous ghost does seem to be skewing the normal criteria for social distinction. Explains a lot actually.
NATALIE: Explains what, Daddy?
HOBBES: How a knucklehead like Jorrocks rates his own stool at the Thirsty Dragon. What if... What if Jorrock's wife is making it up?
GWENDOLYN: Well, since you don’t believe in ghosts, you’d have to say that.
HOBBES: Just because I don’t believe in ghosts, doesn’t mean the woman isn’t making it up, all the same.
NATALIE: Gotcha there, Mum.
GWENDOLYN: Well I’ve tried to imagine. I’ve listened for weeping and voices in the wind or in the scraping of tree branches against the windows. I’ve looked deeply into dark corners to make out forlorn wispy figures. But no cold gust of wind seems unnatural. Every scrape, rustle and creak, I know instantly was made by a mouse or owl or a servant sneaking rum. When I was little, I feared the dark and cried for a lantern next to my bed. Now the dark is peaceful and comforting.
Oh, Monty, I’m so miserable! (sits on floor next to his chair, laying head on his knees.)
HOBBES: (chuckling, comforting her ) Oh, Gwendolyn.
GWENDOLYN: I want a ghost. Like the other castles.
NATALIE: It is all that Goresthorpe Grange wants for, you know, Daddy.
HOBBES: I must agree with you there, Natalie. The advertisement describing this as a feudal mansion was straight on. It is soothing to know that if needed, there are slits in the staircase through which to discharge arrows, and a complicated apparatus by means of which to pour molten lead upon the head of the casual visitor or encyclopedia salesman.
NATALIE: I love the portcullis, the dungeon and the keep. And I love saying them. Portcullis. Portcullis. But the moat stinks.
HOBBES: (more to himself, as he figures out a solution) But you do believe in ghosts. With all your heart. And this castle has sufficient creaks, groans and chilly gusts.....
NATALIE: Poppsy, why don’t you call Mummy’s cousin to get us a ghost?
HOBBES: Who?... Jacky Brockett?
NATALIE: He is a talent and services scout with ledgers full of resources.
HOBBES: And I see you have memorized his brochure.
NATALIE: He is open 9 to 5:30, excepting Sundays and holidays. Appointments are recommended.
GWENDOLYN: Natalie, cousin Jackie deals with living, breathing clients. Ghosts are not for hire.
HOBBES: No, Natalie has a good idea. Cousin Jackie might be just the ticket. He has gypsy seancers and mystics as clients, along with his retinue of banjo players, tapestry appraisers and folks who retrieve ferrets from drainpipes. Think of all the (selecting the right words; he is making this up as he goes) unnatural, tragic deaths history holds. Certainly, some of those... tortured wandering souls could be ...umm.... invited to live here, by a ... gifted communicator with the dead.
GWENDOLYN (getting excited): And he did locate all our ancestral portraits that were scattered about the country! That took some digging! Oh, Monty, could he? Would you? Please pen him a letter this evening!
HOBBES: Thank you, Watkins. You’ll be pleased to know that Mrs. Hobbes will be acquiring her ghost ... from an outside source.
WATKINS: Oh! Very good, sir. (Puts down cinnamon, hands each their cup and again picks up “cinnamon”) (GWENDOLYN will start to sip, NATALIE blows on hers.) Then I won’t be needing to sprinkle this umm... “cinnamon” into your chocolates, and I won’t need to fling myself off the tower afterwards. (GWENDOLYN freezes (or sprays her cocoa out), already sipping, HOBBES & NATALIE freeze about to sip.)
================================ LINES REMOVED ================================SCENE 2: KITCHEN PLOTS AND PLANS -- (the next morning)
HOBBES: Why thank you, Watkins, but that’s not why I’m seeing a talent scout. I want him to scout me up an actor to put on a mock séance.
WATKINS: (taken aback) Séance?
HOBBES: Yes. For Gwendolyn’s ghost. I told you about it last night.
WATKINS (unnerved): Pardon me, sir. You did.
HOBBES: She will only be happy when she thinks our castle is haunted just like her lady friends’. And now Natalie has her heart set on it also. So, I’ll ask Gwen’s cousin Brocket to scout us up a medium to light some candles, do the hand-waving thing, and whisper some incantations. That should do it. Oh, the things I do. Spoiling a wife and daughter is a full time job. Good day, Watkins.
WATKINS: (stunned): Good day, Sir.
COOK: … Well, they chased her out of the linen closet and closed all the drawers so do you know where that feisty cat finally did have her kittens?
GARDENER: Hmmm… Where?
COOK: Right on top of the mending pile, where Joan had just laid the daughter’s wedding dress to sew on the same button the cat had chewed off!
GARDENER (laughing): No!! Ha ha ha!
COOK: Nothin’. Joan wouldn’t let ‘em. Put her foot down, she did. Wish I’d been there to see that. (chuckle) Joan said she couldn’t put a lid on every bed and cushion or petticoat the children dropped on the floor so’s the cat couldn’t birth kittens on it. Said it wasn’t even her cat and if they docked her even a shilling she’d quit.
GARDENER: Good for her! (reaches for brandy bottle on hot cocoa tray. Will unscrew lid and sniff it appreciatively.)
COOK: And that’s why she’s worried she won’t be there long. She said they don’t like servants who talk back, an’ now she’s checkin’ the dailies to see if they’re advertising to replace her.
GARDENER: But.. how?
WATKINS (choosing his words carefully): I believe he is… hiring… an actor to play the part of a fortune teller or medium. This actor will pretend to perform a séance and, theoretically, the mother will then believe we have a ghost. He is visiting a talent scout this morning. As house staff, we must approach this delicately –
COOK (leaves mop in bucket): Bloody grand, this is! Oh, the things we can get away with! By blamin’ it on the ghost!
GARDENER: Eh? But what’s the point?
COOK: So’s ya can nick stuff. See?
GARDENER (getting it): Huh.
COOK: Just small things a ghost could carry. A coin, a piece of jewelry, a tool. Or maybe move it a few times first, so’s they can’t find it and then they do find it, then they can’t find it and then they do, a few times before you take it away completely, so’s they think it’s still in the house somewhere.
(WATKINS finishes tea and EXITS.)
COOK: And they never even meant to set it up. Betsy had to suddenly take care of her sister’s 4-year-old when the sister went to hospital, but Betsy knew the master wouldn’t let her, so’s she was keeping the kid hidden in back rooms. But the Master’s teenage son heard the kid’s footsteps and him singing and plinking on the piano.
COOK: And when the teenager opened the door the little scamp hid quick, the teenager got spooked, and --Voila! -- the house was haunted.
GARDENER: Ha Ha!
COOK: And it really comes in handy when you accidentally breaks stuff. Just say you heard the sound from the other room and found it like that and look real spooked--
(WATKINS ENTERS carrying Cook’s and Gardener’s coats, suitcases and an envelope each.)
WATKINS: I am sorry but your employment is no longer needed. Here are your possessions and paychecks up through the weekend. I wish you well. You must leave now.
COOK: What! You can’t fire us! You don’t have the authority!
GARDENER: What did I do? I was just sittin’ here!
COOK: You’re just the bloody butler!
COOK: And let you tell false stories to him when I’m not here to tell me own story?!? And then spread dirt about me to all the other houses in the town? No, I’ll wait here and maybe tell him a few stories about you, Watkins. Do you think I can’t spin a convincing yarn?
WATKINS: I’m sure you can. I’m sure you can tell quite a tale.
COOK: Well, la-dee-da!
GARDENER: (trying to calm things) Now Watkins, see things from my point of view. I try to mind my own business and get along with the other workers. You don’t want us squabbling, do ye?
WATKINS: (feeling sorry for the Gardener): Mr. Gatehill, I recognize, I do, that you did not bring up the subject and I don’t believe that you would steal. (takes out his wallet, takes out paper money)
Here is two weeks severance pay and I will give you a good recommendation.
GARDENER: I don’t need your charity. (pause, snatches money) But I’ll take your money because you are a snoop and a stooge for that American git and his spoiled wife and daughter.
(EXITS with his stuff)
(COOK pauses, glancing at WATKINS’ wallet, just in case he offers her severance pay. She puts on a contrite face until WATKINS puts away his wallet and then she sours again.)
COOK: (as she leisurely picks up her things, hanging straps on shoulder, pocketing gloves, etc.)
You just remember me, Watkins, because no one else will. I make it a habit to be quite invisible. Like a good servant, you know. But you, you be the one to remember me. And I’ll remember you. I suspect whatever your new ghost takes will be blamed on you now, dearie. (sniffs) Oh, goodness. I’ve burned the bread. Dear, dear, I’m afraid you’ll have to make more
SCENE 3: THE TALENT AGENCY –(later that morning)
BROCKET: A ghost! Oh, that sounds like cousin Gwendolyn. She did love the romantic adventure. She used to make up the best bedtime stories when she babysat for us. Couldn’t sleep for hours after.
HOBBES: Yes, Gwendolyn’s ghost. She just won’t be content at Goresthorpe Grange until she believes it is haunted. So, I want you to find her a convincing seancer, or mystic, who can put on a little show, glowing crystal ball, talking in a trance, that sort of stuff, and convince her they are contacting the dead. Invite some wandering spook to come and live with us. I think her imagination will carry the haunting from there.
BROCKET: Cousin! I am insulted. You assume that I cannot find a bona fide ghost conjurer for you!
SCENE 4: THE EVENING WAIT (CLOSED CURTAIN, still)
GWENDOLYN: Monty! You gave me such a fright. I was expecting you from the east.
HOBBES: I drove around the pond way to check the south fence. I am so sorry.
GWENDOLYN: No, Darling, don’t be sorry. You must think me such a scaredy cat. See I’m much better. (takes a big breath) How was your day in town?
HOBBES: Just fine. Settled the bank account, saw your cousin about acquiring a ghost for you…
GWENDOLYN: (unsure) Oh, yes. A ghost.
HOBBES: Have you changed your mind, sweet-ums? I can call it off. Maybe this isn’t a good idea...
GWEN: Tomorrow! A mystic is bringing spirits to our home tomorrow! What will I wear? (EXITS)
HOBBES: Don’t worry, darling. They’ll be coming dressed as they are... (EXIT)
SCENE 5: WHILE YOU WERE OUT
(CURTAIN OPENS: Parlor.
WATKINS, wearing an apron, is ironing.)
GWENDOLYN: Watkins? Did Mrs. McDivot wash and iron my lavender dress with the white collar? (Note: she should describe the dress she wears in the séance scene.)
WATKINS: No, I did. It is hanging in your closet.
GWENDOLYN: Oh! Good! (EXITS quickly.)
(HOBBES ENTERS. )
HOBBES: Watkins, there you are. Sorry to pop this on you at the last minute but…
I say, are you wearing an apron?? Looks sort of Monty Python, doesn’t it? Not to insult the English -- Milton Berle put on a few frills and he… wasn’t he knighted?
HOBBES: Uh… yeah. I’ll unpack my barbecuing apron. (Begins to EXIT.)
WATKINS: There was an incident this morning.
HOBBES: (not listening, chuckling) Gwendolyn is so excited. Did you see her scurry through here?
WATKINS: I did sir. This morning --
HOBBES: Oh! The reason I came in here: to tell you. We’ll be having a guest tomorrow night, that mystic-for-hire I told you I was getting, at 10 pm
WATKINS: Sir, Mrs. McDivot is no longer here. I had to fire her and Mr. Gatehill this morning.
WATKINS: I overheard them discussing theft. I fired them on the spot and insisted they leave immediately.
HOBBES: But I wasn’t even here! You fired them without my say so!
HOBBES: Ah,.. I… Well, I guess not.
WATKINS: Perhaps I should submit a notice to the dailies, to fill their jobs? Would you like to approve the wording?
HOBBES: So, I’m back in charge, I see. (Begins to exit.)
WATKINS: You might be interested in details of their discussion, Sir... Mrs. McDivot was proposing committing thefts in such a way that they would be blamed on the ghost.
HOBBES: (gasp of ridicule) See, that would never have worked! I would have seen right through that because I don’t believe in ghosts. You didn’t need to fire them. (begins to exit and almost makes it.)
HOBBES: Spit it out, Watkins!
WATKINS: I don’t believe that giving Mrs. Hobbes a séance and a ghost is a good idea.
HOBBES: (Gasp! Speaks to audience.)
Six months this man has worked for me and now I find out he’s a superstitious loon!
“ ‘Twas the conducting of the dead.”
A grown man believing in ghosts! Well, from what Gwendolyn tells of the locals, it goes with the territory.
But is he right that I shouldn’t go through with this?
Is it dangerous to encourage such dark fantasy?
Am I indulging Gwendolyn and Natalie in the worst way?
Life is easier since the inheritance came, but I’m still poor as a churchmouse in knowing how to handle a wife and raise a daughter. Ever since Gwendolyn’s mother died…
(sudden unnerving realization: Is Gwendolyn trying to communicate with her dead mother?)
….and now they want a ghost….
start changing set)
(WATKINS ENTERS and crosses the stage apron carrying a basket of laundry, EXITS.
ENTERS from same side and crosses carrying a plunger and a bucket, EXITS.
ENTERS carrying the tray with hot cocoas, pauses, speaks to audience.)
WATKINS: Dropping something in their cocoa is sounding better and better. (EXITS.)
SCENE 6: THE TEA PARTY –(the next morning) (in front of Closed Curtain)
(LILY & CHELSEA ENTER from side and call back from where they came from.
WATKINS ENTERS from other side.)
CHELSEA: I see you didn’t go to Mrs. Sedgewick’s soiree, either?
JAMIE: Of course not. Francesca and her mother are stuck-up twerps.
ROSEMARY: Jamie! We don’t talk about people behind their backs.
JAMIE: Do you mean to other people?
ROSEMARY (chuckle): Something like that.
JAMIE: Yes, most amusing. The way she hides her Yankee accent.
CHELSEA: That is funny. And the way she holds her teacup with her little finger sticking out, and then holds her fork in her fist.
ROSEMARY: My husband calls them catalogue aristocrats.
ROSEMARY: Yes, we should. I don’t want them to imagine we are gossiping.
JAMIE: It would be more fun if she had ponies.
CHELSEA: Tell her. She’ll make her daddy pop for some.
(NATALIE FOLLOWS wearing a princess-like dress.)
NATALIE: They’re outside talking? What are they talking about?
WATKINS: I don’t know Miss Natalie. I’m sure they will be in very soon.
GWENDOLYN: Should I go out to meet them? No, I should wait here so you can announce them.
WATKINS (with a pained look): Yes, so I can announce them.
(Kids and adults cluster separately.)
CHELSEA: Cool Halloween costume, Natalie.
NATALIE: (humiliated, tries to hide it with a smile): Thank you.
JAMIE (recognizing NATALIE’s embarrassment):
It’s not a costume, Chelsea. It’s a period dress. Is that Renaissance?
NATALIE: Um, I think so.
CHELSEA: It’s a nice day. Let’s go outside.
JAMIE: Yes. Let’s do. Do you have stables?
NATALIE: With horses? No… But daddy says he might get me some.
(CHELSEA and JAMIE chuckle at this.)
My birthday is coming up.
JAMIE: I think white horses with gray spots look the most elegant.
CHELSEA: (scolding)Jamie! (idea!) Oh! I have an idea. Let’s go pick a good spot for your Daddy to put the stables.
LILY: Oh, I love that game! This will be fun. First Question: Is it organic?
GWENDOLYN: (blank look) Um…
(WATKINS ENTERS with tea tray.)
WATKINS: Tea is served. (sets down tray and tinkles little bell, feeling ridiculous)
GWENDOLYN: Thank you, Watkins. (whispers to WATKINS)
You don’t have to do the bell thing anymore.
GWENDOLYN: Are you leaning toward warm or cool colors?
LILY: I like light green. Is that warm?
ROSEMARY: (stifling a yawn)
GWENDOLYN: There are psychological studies that show that pink walls in prisons calm down the inmates.
LILY: What are you implying?
(GWEN gives WATKINS "the look" and he EXITS.)
GWENDOLYN: Oh, nothing. (suddenly intense) So, have you …. heard any spooky footsteps lately?
LILY: What? Where?
GWENDOLYN: In your house. From your ghost.
LILY: Oh. (bewildered) No, not lately.
GWENDOLYN: Rosemary? Have you.
ROSEMARY (with mouth full): No… Not lately.
GWENDOLYN: Oh, tell that one again.
LILY: You want to tell ghost stories? Now?
ROSEMARY: It’s 11:00 in the morning.
LILY: I rather need to be in the mood.
GWENDOLYN: Oh, of course.
JAMIE (running over): I know one! The Dalton’s son, Norman, he’s 10, was late for junior symphony rehearsal. He said their ghost had moved his violin again and his parents had to rent one until it turned up.
NATALIE: Where did they find it?
JAMIE: I don’t know. That was the day it disappeared.
CHELSEA: I don’t believe it. Norman hates to practice. I bet he hid it.
JAMIE: Have you heard him play? He’s terrible. I bet his teacher broke in and took it.
(they laugh) Probably buried it. In a shallow grave!
HOBBES: A party! And I wasn’t invited!
NATALIE (runs to hug him): You can play with us! We want horsey rides!
HOBBES: Oh, no, I think my back wouldn’t survive that.
NATALIE: Then you’d better get us a stable full of horses!
(THE GUESTS stifle a laugh)
We already picked out a spot!
LILY: What are you waiting for? A drum roll?
GWENDOLYN & NATALIE: We’re getting a ghost!
GWENDOLYN: We’re getting a ghost. Monty is hiring a… um… a woman who is a direct link to the spirit world to put on a seance . And invite a ghost into our home.
LILY: A real -
ROSEMARY: - ghost?
NATALIE: What other kind is there?
(GUESTS glance at each other. They know their ghosts are imaginary.)
LILY (bursting into laughter): You can’t just buy a ghost, Gwendolyn.
GWENDOLYN (humiliated but brave): I’m not buying a ghost, Lily.
(recalling Monty’s words)
Think of all the unnatural, tragic deaths.. um that history holds. We’re just hiring a medium, a gifted communicator with the dead, to invite one of them to live here, instead of wandering around…. tortured.
ROSEMARY: Get them off the streets. Very socially responsible.
NATALIE: We announced that we are getting a ghost, Poppa.
HOBBES: Oh, did you? I was just wondering, darlings. You aren’t hoping Grandma will come back as a ghost, are you?
GWENDOLYN (incredulous): Grandma’s not a ghost! She died in a car accident. You don’t become a ghost from a car accident! You become a ghost from being murdered, and the murderer still walks free, and he’s going to marry your daughter. Or from dying of a broken heart when your true love abandons you.
NATALIE: Or from committing suicide because you accidentally drowned your kitten in the washing machine.
GWENDOLYN: Exactly! Monty, I love Mummy and miss her excruciatingly but for you to think that I would try to conjure my mother as a ghost is just bizarre.
SCENE 7: GHOST WHO’S COMING TO DINNER – (late that night)
HOBBES: (voice offstage)
I've shown you the banquet hall, the bedrooms, the dining room, the dungeon, the kitchen, and the laundry room!
(ENTERING exasperated) This is the parlor, it is the last room in the house. If this one doesn’t meet your requirements....
TARANTELLA: (striding past him) Possibilities. I see po$$ibilities.
HOBBES: (deadpan) Oh, joy.
TARANTELLA: (setting her large but nearly empty soft bag on table)
Have a seat if you are tired. I can focus my energies better if you are silent.
HOBBES: (who was about to sit, stands up angry, mouth closed tight) Grunt/snort!
(TARANTELLA boldly inspects the room, surreptitiously appraising the valuables.
She will stride around with no regard for him, he will step out of her way.
TARANTELLA’s tactic is to gain respect by treating others disdainfully; she is never nice or comforting, just commanding and impatient.
HOBBES never believes any of this mystic stuff and rolls his eyes when no one is looking, for he does want Gwendolyn to believe and be happy with her imaginary ghost.)
TARANTELLA (a bit slowly, telling the story as she “senses” it, takes her time with it, touching objects to get the "reading", and determine their value): Many lives, many stirrings of the soul still whisper in this room, over many, many years.
I sense an incident of great violence and long regret by the hearth…. (she pauses as if seeing the event) So terrible. ……
And, this window, upon another time, a child looked from this window, night after night, waiting. But whatever, or whoever, the waiting was for never came.
And another time, something lost, searched for, something cold and small… maybe a coin or a ring,…… no, a key. I feel the urgency, the seeker was desperate. It, it ….. was found. But… too late.
The moments have faded, overlapped, but each still has stirrings.
Yes. This room. This room is the best for conducting spirits from the other side.
The architecture forms a natural pathway and the residual spirit relics have kept the gateway open.
HOBBES (rolling eyes): Oh, brother.
(GWENDOLYN ENTERS with NATALIE who wears a nightgown and robe and carries goblets.)
NATALIE: Here are the glasses. When will the ghosts come?
(TARANTELLA waves for NATALIE to put glasses on table. NATALIE does and then runs to stand clinging to her father and mother. TARANTELLA looks at her disapprovingly.)
TARANTELLA: The child is going to bed?
HOBBES: Yes, we’re just letting her see the beginning to satisfy her curiosity.
TARANTELLA: The spirits are unpredictable. Although intangible and without physical form they are often disturbing to look upon, and listen to. The child could be traumatized.
HOBBES: I said she is about to go to bed.
NATALIE: Poppa, I’m too scared to go to bed.
HOBBES: Natalie .... Listen honey, you’ll be safe in your bedroom. The ghosts are staying in this room (to Tarantella), right?
TARANTELLA (deadpan): Of course. The spectral theater is confined to the area I will proscribe within the ritual.
(NATALIE stares open eyed.)
TARENTELLA (kneeling before the child in an artificially sweet voice):
I will make a circle on the floor and the ghosts have to stay inside, Sweetie.
(stands and turns away from them with a look of disgust)
HOBBES: Maybe getting a ghost is a bad idea.
NATALIE & GWENDOLYN: No!!
HOBBES: OK! Ok. Please Madam Tarantella, just give us a short introduction so Natalie can get along to bed.
TARANTELLA: Very well. (deep breath) The portal I will open is deep and wide and without restrictions. I do not pick and choose the spirits that enter. I just open the door. But you, as the mortal residents, have authority to choose which one stays, and the spirits understand that. Having not died here, the spirits know that they have no natural claim to haunt this home.
But choose well, for once chosen, a spirit is not easily dislodged.
GWENDOLYN: (more and more terrified) I see. Choose well.
HOBBES (in a jolly voice): Now off to beddy-bye, Natalie!
NATALIE: Come with me, Poppa!
GWENDOLYN: Stay here, Monty!
HOBBES: Natalie, dearest. Why don’t you ask Mr. Watkins to read you a nice bedtime story like “The Forgetful Pony”?
NATALIE: He’s already gone to bed.
HOBBES (shoving her out the doorway): Wake him up!
GWENDOLYN: (running after him and grabbing his arm)
No, Monty! Stay with me!
HOBBES: (patting her hand) Of course, Gwendolyn. I’d be glad to.
(prying his hand from her grip)
Darling... I have to go switch off the lights.
(HOBBES steps off side stage,
Lights go off as
TARANTELLA plugs in the lava lamp or lights a candle in the center of what will be the ghost spotlight in front of the two chairs.
GWENDOLYN waits, and grabs HOBBES’s arm when he returns. She will become more and more terrified
but HOBBES, amused by TARENTELLA’s performance, doesn’t notice.
HOBBES and GWENDOLYN sit in the two chairs)
TARANTELLA: (walking around the candle/lava lamp at the center of the imaginary circle which will be the ghost spotlight)
The spirits will present themselves to you one at a time. They come out of desire to stay with you. Purgatory is a dreary place. Still they cannot deny or disguise their true nature. You will see them as they are.
Move and speak not, or you will break the spell, except to say, “I accept,” to any spirit of your choosing.
These lost and lonely souls may be fragile, tragic, insane, pitiful, even amusing.
Listen to all they have to say, and choose well. Choose well, I say, choose well.
(TARENTELLA pours from her vial into the two goblets, carries them to the front of GWENDOLYN and HOBBES and hands them to them.)
TARANTELLA: Drink this.
(GWENDOLYN lifts her goblet but HOBBES puts a warning hand on her arm to stop her.)
HOBBES: What is it?
TARANTELLA: Essence of Lucoptolycus. It will relax your eyes and mind, releasing the veil that hides the world of spirits.
HOBBES: I don’t like to drink something I have no knowledge of.
TARANTELLA: The spirits are coming. Do you want them visible or invisible?
HOBBES (insulted): Fears! I’m not afraid. But I suppose you wouldn’t be in business, dosing out poison. I’ll drink it.
(Sniffs it, drinks.) (GWENDOLYN drinks.
They glance at each other in sudden realization at the effect, then both slump, heads back, glassy-eyed. Their hand with glass drops. We wonder if they are dead.
FX: FOG ROLLS IN.)
TARANTELLA: (twirling slowly around the lava lamp or candle) Spirits of the dark and cold, Deeds of horror, times of old; Breach the gates of purgatory, Find the path, sing your story; Favor thee this humble dwelling? CLAIM it specter, with thy telling!!!!...
DARK INVISIBLE VOICE: I am the Invisible Presence. I am here, there, and nowhere. I shiver across your flesh and enter with your breath
OLD CRONE (ENTER): Hee hee hee! I am the fiendish old woman who lived miserably. And lived too long. They thought I would never die, so old I was. My fingernails scrape down windows.
(she scrapes the air -- FX scraping sound)
My clothes are filthy; rags that flutter around me. See how they reveal my shriveled body.
Look! Look at me. I was once young and beautiful like you, but now, now I am old, old forever! I curse your youth, for mine is gone! Let me live again through you. Let me stay?
THE TERRIBLE TWINS
(ENTER, smiling evilly. Their clothes are scorched, their hair blackened and blasted up. They speak to the audience):
A & B: "We are the Terrible Twins.
A: Why "Terrible", you ask?
B: Because of the naughty tricks we played?,
A: The lurid accusations we made?,
A: -- That’s my favorite!
B: Autopsy, spider web, toilet plunger face-lift
A: And Pounce! (jump off stage into audience)
A & B: We go through a lot of pets.
B: And little brothers.
A: We like to experiment with ropes
B: and electricity
A: and hardware.
B (to A): I wish we had read the warning on that can of flammable liquid.
(They both scream and flail, falling back onto stage, acting out their burning deaths. )
(glare at each other, then at HOBBES:)
You decide! Which one of us is prettier?
(or "Which one of us should be leader?")
Which one of us is prettier?
Which one of us is prettier?
((HOBBES is overwhelmed and with a spasm flops to face away as if dead.)
TWINS glare at each other.)
A: Not again! You killed him!
B: Did not! YOU killed him with your ugly face!
A: YOU killed him with your bad breath! (shoves B in the face.)
B: I’ll kill you! (chasing A offstage)
A: You can’t! I’m already dead!
HOBBES' head flops back up.)
CAVALIER: (ENTER) I am the cavalier, valiant and brave. The wound in my heart bleeds unstopping, pulsing, pumping, but I must fight on. I cannot pause!
The blood is deep and warm, washing over your bed. You feel you will drown in it. You will overuse sleeping medicine.
I don’t work Sundays. Shall I remain, mortal?
GWENDOLYN: (struggling to speak) Monty, make them leave.
HOBBES: (struggling to speak) I’m trying.
CAVALIER: Hark! The battle! I must return! (Swings sword over their heads and EXITS)
FURIOUS CHILD : (ENTERS sullenly carrying ratty doll or stuffed toy) My death took a long, long time. I thought someone would come’n help me, but nobody came. Nobody cared. They forgot me.
But I don’t forget.
I throw tantrums like you never saw
I need a nap bad, but I WON'T TAKE ONE. (stands still, staring, speaks with long pauses)
I watch you, for hours, with eyes, that are empty, holes, through my head.
(sweetly) Could your love touch my little heart? Will you take me in? Pretty please?
GWENDOLYN: I.. I... I...
FURIOUS CHILD: With sugar?
FURIOUS CHILD: (screams, rips head off doll) I hate you I hate you I hate you! (EXITS stomping)
ROTTING CORPSE: (dragging leg, stumbles across) Why can I not die?
( Clutches chest and falls flat at their feet. Moment of stillness, then grabs one of their knees to stand up.)
My flesh rots, yet clings to my bones.
My bones break, yet carry me on.
My stench envelops me and pours out when you open a cupboard and find me.
I curl up, crystal frosted, sparkling, in your ice box. (leans back, arms out, as if floating)
(leans head on GWENDOLYN'S knees.)
I like it here.
GWENDOLYN (spasms): Nooo..
ROTTING CORPSE (whiny): Ooooohhhh... (crawls away, turns back just before exiting;) -Kay. (EXIT)
FORLORN LADY (ENTERS gracefully): I was beautiful and ill-used, deceived, forsaken and betrayed.
I died of a broken heart, false accusations and a slippery staircase.
I sing haunting melodies and I am rarely off key.
I need draperies with dappled lighting to be effective. I am so sad. Will you not choose me?
GWENDOLYN (ripping herself from the chair, points):
She is the one
( HOBBES, still on his knees, grabs her flailing arms to still her and gets whacked in the face. WATKINS gets to his feet and stands nervously behind them unsure of how to respectfully help them.)
HOBBES: Gwendolyn! Gwendolyn! What is wrong? Who are you talking to?
GWENDOLYN: Leave us......(opens eyes) They’re gone. Oh, thanks be, they’re gone!
(However, she clings to HOBBES and stares around believing the ghosts to reappear.
HOBBES: Who’s gone.... and .... why are we in the parlor? Did we fall asleep?
(Tries to stand, sways, WATKINS helps the groggy and confused HOBBES and GWENDOLYN stand.)
GWENDOLYN (still looking around far-off, but gripping him tighter): The ghosts! You saw them! They were bloody and vicious. One wants to sleep in our cupboards. One chokes animals.
( GWENDOLYN is wide-eyed and traumatized, vividly remembering ghosts, but HOBBES doesn’t notice. She does not look at her husband but stares off, deranged, standing in one spot, swaying.)
HOBBES: Ow, Gwendolyn! Let go, darling. (peels her grip off him) Ghosts!? I saw no ghosts. But why was I asleep???
(wanders a few steps, trying to think clearly)..... That woman!
GWENDOLYN: The spirit I chose?
HOBBES (confused): The spirit you chose???
GWENDOLYN: The sad one. I was afraid of what the next one might be.
HOBBES: Swirling around with her nose in the air. (imitating Tarantella) “Many stirrings of the soul still whisper in this room.” Worst acting I ever saw.
GWENDOLYN: Breathing on us… I couldn’t move….and the rotting one put his head on my knee….
HOBBES: Something… What?…something she wanted to give us? It came out of her bag….
WATKINS Let’s sit down, Mrs. Hobbes. Move your feet, dear. (He will give up and drag the chair to right behind her.)
GWENDOLYN: Let me stay, she said…all the ghosts said let me stay, and then they stared…
HOBBES (becoming more clear headed, paces): Now it all makes sense! That potion knocked us out and caused hallucinations.
(Passes Gwendolyn, still oblivious to her emotional state.)
You saw ghosts my dear, because you expected to see ghosts. I, on the other hand, did not expect ghosts, so I slept soundly.
GWENDOLYN (coming to reality with a fury, standing suddenly): You didn’t see the ghosts????!!!!!
HOBBES: (distractedly) No, darling. And make that real aspirin, Watkins …
WATKINS: Sir, please!
GWENDOLYN: You didn’t see any of them???? (drops to her knees, rocks, breathing faster, going insane)
WATKINS (taking HOBBES firmly by the shoulders, as if talking to a child):
Sir, we have been robbed!
(hand sweep to show empty room )
And circumstances point to Miss Tarentella as the thief.
(points to rope ladder hanging out window)
HOBBES: Robbed?! (looks around, really seeing things for the first time)
You are right. The statuettes and candelabras, gone! Ah! The solid gold family crest coat of arms! Oh, not the portraits!
(runs to look down exit)
Gone! All of them! (he is about to cry)……
While we slept!
(looks out window)
While we slept drugged and helpless!! By that blasted upsnoot of a snake oil seancer!
(striding across room past GWENDOLYN. Ad lib until GWENDOLYN grabs him.)
I’ll wring her neck!
GWENDOLYN: (grabs him as he passes, her hands pulling/ climbing up his clothes to his collar forcing him to bend over, she shrieks in his face)
The crying woman? The decaying corpse? The furious child??? You didn’t see them?? ..... (melts to the floor)
She was so mad, she stomped her feet and screamed that she hated us. Poor pitiful, little thing....
(starts to sob uncontrollably)
I should have picked her, she needed a home….
(NATALIE ENTERS running in her nightgown.)
NATALIE: Mommy what’s wrong? Did you pick the wrong ghost?
(NATALIE throws her arms around GWEN giving her the comfort she needed.)
HOBBES: (concerned, kneels, reaches around NATALIE, pushes Gwen’s hair out of her face) Gwendolyn, dearest, you’ve had a terrible nightmare. You were drugged. None of it happened.
GWENDOLYN: None of it happened???
WATKINS: (deadpan) I’ll start coffee. And call the constabulary. (as he EXITS, to himself)
And I presume I’ve heard the last of (whining), “We don’t have a ghost.”
A FEW SECONDS LATER: LIGHTS UP)
(POLICE DETECTIVE in foreground, FAMILY in background. WATKINS serves coffee.. An hour has passed.
NATALIE sleepily leans against her father. )
DETECTIVE: Yes, your Chartreuse Tarantella certainly fits the description of Molly McDivot.
(WATKINS eyes widen, jaw drops – he recognizes the name.)-
WATKINS: McDivot. Sally McDivot.
DETECTIVE (continuing): Infamous con artist. She must have overheard your cousin in the cafe and concocted that yarn on the spot about contacting the spirit world.
Judging by the footprints at the bottom of the ladder and the size of the stolen objects, she had an accomplice as well.
Well, we’ll do our best, but to be frank, the lady is already wanted for a slew of creative crimes, and we have no clues to her whereabouts, or even what scam she’ll pull next.
( goes to window, opens it,
SOUND FX OF RAIN)
And this bloody rain obliterates all tracks. Damn. I’ve never been this close to catching Miss Molly before. But she always slips away.
CONSTABLE (ENTERING carrying missing candelabra): Detective! I just found this. Hidden under butler there’s bed.
SCENE 8: DARK AND STORMY NIGHT -- (outside, that night)
(Rain sound FX continues.
GHOST LIGHTS UP IN FRONT OF CLOSED or HALF-CLOSED CURTAIN. TARENTELLA ENTERS with bag of loot over shoulder, or perform in audience.)
TARENTELLA: Blasted rain! Where is Sally? Where is my automobile? I can’t see a meter in front of me…. Are those trees? Where is the road? Bloody blithering weather! How did I get all turned around? (stumbles) Curse this mud, can hardly take a step. Which way did I come from?
CAVALIER: From here.
TARENTELLA: What?! You’re not real.
FURIOUS CHILD: Now we are. Wanna play?
ROTTING CORPSE: They refused us. Sent us away.
INVISIBLE PRESENCE: But you brought us. Invited us in.
OLD CRONE: So you can’t send us away. It wouldn’t be polite. Not respectful!
TERRIBLE TWINS (unison): So let the party begin.
(One TWIN grabs her bag from her, then both TWINS tussle over it, then FURIOUS CHILD jerks it away and drops it onstage.)
TARENTELLA: I didn’t bring you. I made up those words - they were meaningless!
SCENE 9: POLICE REPORT
(Original parlor room without valuables. HOBBES sits in chair holding an open book. NATALIE holds dolls. In same places as Scene 1. GWENDOLYN faces out the window. ALL stare off, still shell-shocked. Their whole reality has been upset. HOBBES can no longer trust his own judgement and Watkins has been proved smarter. GWENDOLYN experienced something that she still cannot accept was a hallucination. NATALIE’s parents are humiliated and traumatized and she feels lost.)
It is 2 to 5 days later.)
GWENDOLYN (without emotion): The sunset is lovely.
HOBBES: Is it?
HOBBES: (without emotion) Natalie.
NATALIE (without emotion) Yes?
HOBBES Did you finish your book?
HOBBES How was it?
NATALIE I don’t know.
WATKINS (ENTERING, very perky and smug. He is now obviously in charge): Your bedtime chocolates!
(sets them down; no one rises to get them)
And they are delicious! I had three cupfuls myself.
Margaret, the new cook has an excellent recipe and you saw the magic she worked on dinner.
And Trevor the new gardener shored up the entire trellis and gapped all the vehicles’ sparkplugs and showed me Gatehill’s whisky stash hidden in the toolshed.
The new downstairs maids are setting up to wash, iron and re-hang all the curtains tomorrow and the upstairs staff are going to strip and lacquer the woodwork.
Doubling the household’s wages has proved to be an excellent stimulant to productivity.
And I have more ideas I can’t wait to try.
Oh, silly goose, I am. This report was just hand delivered from Scotland Yard.
(The FAMILY all turn suddenly to look at him.)
WATKINS: Shall I read it?
HOBBES: If you please.
WATKINS: Let’s see... chemical analysis... “The sample submitted contained a strong solution of chloral-hydrate. The quantity which Mr. and Mrs. Hobbes are reported to have swallowed must have been at least 80 grains of the pure hydrate. This would have reduced an adult to a partial state of insensibility, gradually progressing to near coma
WATKINS: Oh, what's this? A 2nd letter. Perhaps you’d like to read this Master Hobbes?
(Hands him the letter but not near enough that he can reach it from his seat, so Hobbes is forced to stand up, and read it standing up, as Watkins smiles proudly.)
HOBBES: “Scotland Yard expresses its heartfelt apologies to Mr. Cuthbert Ashton Watkins the Third for his presumptive arrest.
Indeed, it was his relating of the firing earlier in the week from your home of a house servant, Sallie McDivot, that clinched the case. His description of her vehicle and coat matched that of the vehicle mired in mud and a trampled coat found in the neighboring property belonging to Reginald Jorrocks, that confirmed our suspicions that she was the accomplice of her sister Molly McDivot, alias Chartreuse Tarentella.
GWENDOLYN: Our cook Sallie was Tarentella's sister?
HOBBES: (continuing) Neither person has been found but our canine location patrol will be searching the area on the morrow.
FORLORN LADY: It is rude - - -
(SHE flings her arm angrily in the direction of HOBBES who is across the room, knocking him violently flung off his feet. Possibly wall photos and other objects fall.)
FORLORN LADY (continuing): . . . to interrupt a lady telling a poignant, sensitive tale of woe.
(resumes her dreamy travels)
I was so sad... I wept and wept for days, my tears falling and no one to comfort me. All alone, in my shame.... the moonlight glistening on my wet cheeks, my delicate, thinly veiled, pale, damp bosom heaving with each sob...
(sobbing, EXITS walking directly at WATKINS who clambers to his feet and runs out terrified, ahead of her.)
(ALL stay in place, NATALIE and GWENDOLYN in shocked delight, HOBBES in shocked horror.
A distant yelling male voice is heard but cannot be understood.)
DISTANT MALE VOICE: (unintelligible)-%^#$@&%$
HOBBES: What now?
NATALIE: It’s from outside.
(she runs to look out an imaginary window -- she faces the audience)
It’s Mr. Jorrocks from the next manor.
Good evening, Mr. Jorrocks!
(Listens. . . .)
Papa! He says there’s a ghost carrying a bag on HIS moor and it is OUR fault.