“Garden Party”: A Play in One Day

Margaret French wrote her first story when she was two years old, and she has been working on this play for the past two years. This is her last semester at Clark, where she has enjoyed studying playwriting and working in the library. “Garden Party” was born out of a project for Gino DiIorio and Stephen DiRado’s “The Image & The Word” seminar, and has grown through several major revisions. Though she would like to let the work speak for itself, she will say that this is a story about three people who are very lost in completely different ways, and the joy of the process has been helping them in their searches. Read the first scene of “Garden Party” below…


GARDEN PARTY

A play in one day.

MARGARET FRENCH

CHARACTERS

BEN: A could-have-been writer in his late twenties.
SARA: Ben’s wife – nervous and tired.
ALISON: 19. Lives in the town Ben and Sara are staying in.

SCENES

  1. Morning
  2. Midday
  3. Evening
  4. Night
  5. Early Morning

SETTING

A medium-sized town in New England
The middle of July

1. Morning

Early. SARA sits in a rocking chair on the front porch. Her pajamas are too light for the chill. She rocks gently, in her own world.

BEN enters from inside the house. He carries a patchwork quilt and drapes it around SARA’S shoulders.

He sits in the other chair.

BEN
Did I wake you last night?

SARA
No.

BEN
You’re up early.

SARA
Couldn’t get back to sleep.

BEN
I saw you didn’t run the dishwasher.

SARA
I was busy.

BEN
It’s alright.

SARA
I was thinking.

BEN
I could take care of it.

SARA
Don’t worry about it.

She adjusts the blanket.

Bex and Ellen sure know how to fix up a house, huh?

BEN
I guess.

SARA
They’ve got a Keurig machine, bay windows, channels I haven’t even heard of and have no intention of watching, and a yard the size of the moon. Space to live…

BEN
Mhm…

SARA
Space to live.

BEN
They’re rich.

SARA
Class isn’t something money can buy.

She adjusts the blanket, rearranges her position. Yawns.

BEN
Have you been trying to meditate like I suggested?

SARA
You and Bex with your new age bullshit.

BEN
It relaxes your mind.

SARA
Who told you that?

BEN
It helps. Especially in the morning if you’re trying to have quiet time. Space to live in my own mind.

SARA
It sounds too much like prayer.

BEN
God knows you already do enough of that.

SARA
Careful there.
I’m going to make breakfast. Come in when you’re ready.

SARA gets up and offers the blanket to BEN. He shakes his head, so she folds the blanket to bring inside. She quietly bends to kiss BEN on the cheek and then enters the house.

We follow SARA into the kitchen. She gets out ingredients and begins to make pancakes. She measures out ingredients, adds eggs and milk. She begins to heat the griddle.

BEN enters carrying a large pile of mail. Newspapers, letters, bills, flyers. He sifts through it. SARA stops her prep to approach him.

SARA
You checked their mail?

BEN
I didn’t want anything to happen to it.

SARA
Isn’t that a bit rude though?

BEN
It’s my sister and her wife, I really don’t think they care.

SARA
Well don’t go through it.

BEN
I’m not going to open anything.

SARA
I’m surprised they didn’t hold their mail with the post office – you’re not even really supposed to leave it. Liability or something.

BEN
Oh. Well. They didn’t do that.

SARA
Yeah.

SARA returns to making the pancakes; she puts them onto the pan. As they cook –

I forgot to buy juice.

BEN
You went to the store? Sara, they said we could eat their food.

SARA
That feels weird.

BEN
Are you kidding?

SARA
Do you want water? Or coffee? I could see what kind of tea they have – or I think there’s a bit of milk left but it’s probably spoiled…

BEN
Water is fine.

SARA
Are you sure?

BEN
Yes. Don’t burn the pancakes.

BEN returns to sorting through the mail. SARA returns to cooking; she plates the food and gets two glasses of water, then brings the plates to the table and sits down. They begin to eat.

SARA
You didn’t come to the funeral.

BEN
No. I didn’t.

SARA
It was beautiful.

BEN
I’m sure it was.

SARA
You could have come.

BEN
I don’t do well with funerals.

SARA
I mean, no one loves them. But you could have come.

BEN
Well, sorry about that.

SARA
I wish you’d change your mind about church – it’s really beautiful, it’s such a safe space. And the church here is gorgeous, much prettier than ours at home. Richer parishioners I guess.

BEN
It isn’t about the church, Sara. It’s a bit weird.

SARA
What is?

BEN
That you went to the funeral.

SARA
There was nothing wrong with me going to that funeral. I told you. They advertised it in the church bulletin. They wouldn’t have done that if it wasn’t okay.

BEN
It’s creepy.

SARA
It was more a celebration of life.

BEN
It’s creepy that you went to celebrate the life of a twelve year old girl that you never even met – hadn’t even heard of before you saw the obituary and the funeral announcement.

SARA
It wasn’t. She was a beautiful girl –

BEN
You didn’t know her, Sara.

SARA
They talked about her. They shared the most beautiful stories.

BEN
Everyone’s beautiful after they die.

SARA
You would understand if you’d gone – you should have.

BEN
Stop it.

SARA
They talked about how she helped her mother in the garden, how smart she was, how she loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries. She did well in school and she danced –

BEN
Sara.

SARA
They had pictures of her everywhere. Her hair was so curly and wild, and her eyes sparkled.

BEN
I’m sure she was a great kid.

SARA
She’s dead now.

BEN
I know.

SARA
Underground.

BEN
This is a bit morbid for breakfast. Your food is getting cold.

SARA
It’s not fair.

BEN
No, it isn’t fair.

SARA
She doesn’t even have a headstone yet. She’s just there, under the ground, all by herself.

BEN
I’m sure she’s just in agony over that.

SARA
Don’t make fun. That family loved her so much. Can you even imagine losing your daughter?

BEN
We don’t have a daughter.

SARA
No, but can you imagine?

BEN
It sounds horrible.

SARA
She’ll never eat breakfast with them again or go for a walk with them or have game night or play in the yard or help in the garden.

BEN
And she’ll never get drunk underage or fight with her parents or sneak out of the house or drop out of school, either. What a perfect life she is missing.

SARA
You don’t know what would have happened if she grew up.

BEN
Neither do you.

SARA
That’s not the point.

BEN finishes his pancakes.

BEN
Are you going to finish your food?

SARA
Yes.

BEN brings his dishes to the sink. He refills SARA’s water.

BEN
Did you run the dishwasher?

SARA
No. I will after I’m done.

BEN
Okay.

He starts to exit.

SARA
Are you coming to church today?

BEN
Do I ever?

SARA
Well, no, but I thought it’d be nice –

BEN
I’m not going.

SARA
Okay. Fine. That’s great.

BEN
Are you glad you went?

SARA
To the funeral? Yeah. I am.

BEN
Well then that’s good.

SARA
I suppose.

BEN
You suppose?

SARA
I’m glad I went, but I’m very sad.

BEN
Funerals will do that to you. If you need me I’ll be upstairs napping.

BEN exits. SARA sits and pushes her pancakes around on the plate.


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