The Swansong Sample

(The actors mingle with audience members as their characters until it is time to begin. After a signal, Julia, Selene, Malcolm, and Denise all exit. Brendan sits with the audience. Christine lingers off to one side. Jeff comes to the front.)

JEFF: Ladies and gentlemen! Thank you all for joining us tonight. Welcome to the opening night gala of the Jeffrey Ballet Company. I, of course, am Jeff Jeffrey, founder and owner of the company. I want to thank you all for your patronage, your membership to our Facebook group, and, of course, the generous donations I’m sure you’ll all be making to our company at the end of the evening. Remember, we take Visa, Discover, gold bricks, PayPal, Mastercard, and pirate booty. (beat) There is nothing like an opening night gala, is there? Look at you, all dressed up in your finest. The gentlemen in their tops and tails. The ladies in your elegant ball gowns with your diamonds…and pearls…and rubies…emeralds, sapphires… (beat) Oh look at me, I’m salivating. Anyway, welcome to our gala. We have an exciting season ahead for you. Of course, Sleeping Beauty will be our next production. And after that, a brand new, world premiere by Brendan Bows called The Ice Princess. (beat) And I believe Brendan is with us here tonight. Brendan, why don’t you stand up and take a bow?

(Brendan stands up and takes a bow. Jeff solicits applause.)

JEFF: The Ice Princess will be opening at the end of the season. Make sure you tell all of your friends to see it. Remember, a funded ballet company is a happy ballet company. But that is the future. Tonight, we are pleased to present to you our season opener, Swan Lake. It’s a classic tale of…swans, I suppose, composed by the brilliant Stephen Sondheim.

CHRISTINE: Tchaikovsky.

JEFF: Gazunteight.

CHRISTINE: Swan Lake is by Tchaikovsky.

JEFF: That’s what I said.

CHRISTINE: You said Stephen Sondheim. Stephen Sondheim doesn’t write ballets.

JEFF: Are you sure?

CHRISTINE: Does anyone here actually believe that Stephen Sondheim wrote Swan Lake? (pause for audience response) I didn’t think so.

JEFF: Well, there’s no need for you to embarrass me in front of our wealthiest and richest patrons, Christine.

CHRISTINE: You can embarrass yourself just fine without me.

JEFF: Go get me my laptop. I want to look up this Tchaikovsky person on Wikipedia. I’ve never heard of her.

CHRISTINE: Him.

JEFF: Are you sure?

CHRISTINE: Yes.

JEFF: Well, get my laptop anyway.

CHRISTINE: For the millionth time, I’m not your assistant, I’m a dancer.

JEFF: You’re not a dancer, you’re just an understudent.

CHRISTINE: Understudy.

JEFF: Whatever.

CHRISTINE: And I’d be prima ballerina, if Princess Julia would just drop dead.

JEFF: Well, that’s not going to happen now, is it?

CHRISTINE: Miracles happen.

JEFF: What’s a prima ballerina, anyway?

CHRISTINE: How did you ever open a ballet company?

JEFF: Christine. Laptop.

(Christine exits, grumbling.)

JEFF: Christine Underfoot, ladies and gentlemen. Our understudent…understudy, for all the lead roles. Tonight, you will have a special treat. As you’re enjoying your meal, you’ll be afforded the opportunity to mingle with some members of our company, like Christine. I do hope you’ll remember this honor when time roles around for donations, of course. We also take checks.

(Julia walks in, followed by Malcolm. Pause.)

JULIA: Jeff, you dolt. Introduce me!

JEFF: Oh, I’m sorry. Ladies and gentlemen, our lead ballerina, Julia Swansong.

(Pause.)

JULIA: You call that an introduction?

JEFF: What more would you want, my dear?

JULIA: The pomp befitting of my status. Where’s the fog machine? Where’s the shower of flower petals? Where’s my entrance music? No one suffers like I!

JEFF: The band is on break.

JULIA: You can’t do anything right!

(Julia storms out, followed by Malcolm.)

JEFF: Oh dear, ladies and gentlemen, would you help me out here, please? (pause for audience response) Thank you. (calling off) Julia! I was mistaken. I found our drummer! (to audience) Everyone, please, give us a drum roll. (pause for audience response) Ladies and gentlemen, our lead ballerina, the one, the only, Miss Julia Swansong!

(Julia and Malcolm enter again. Jeff solicits massive amounts of applause.)

JULIA: Not fantastic, but I suppose it will just have to do. What else could I expect from such a pathetic little company?

JEFF: Now, Julia…

JULIA: I must suffer for my art.

JEFF: (to Malcolm) And you are?

JULIA: My bodyguard. You need not address it in this company.

MALCOLM: Malcolm Blunt.

JULIA: It speaks after all. How quaint.

JEFF: Julia, I was just telling our donors…I mean patrons –

JULIA: Where is Brendan Bows?

JEFF: He’s sitting right over here.

(Julia goes to Brendan. Malcolm hovers near her.)

JULIA: Brendan Bows. I’ve been waiting to meet you.

BRENDAN: Hello, Miss Swansong.

JULIA: So formal! Julia will do. I’m so excited to be working on your piece.

BRENDAN: You are?

JULIA: Very, very excited.

BRENDAN: I get that. I meant, you’re working on my piece?

JULIA: But of course.

BRENDAN: We haven’t even held the auditions yet.

JULIA: (laughing) You silly man.

BRENDAN: What?

JULIA: You’re so funny!

BRENDAN: What did I say?

JULIA: Auditions.

BRENDAN: How is that a joke?

JULIA: I have no need to audition. I shall be playing the title role in The Ice Princess.

BRENDAN: With all due respect, Miss Swansong, I’m not sure you’re right for the part.

JULIA: Nonsense. I was born to play an ice princess.

BRENDAN: I’m not denying that. But I don’t think you’re right for the role.

JULIA: And now I’m getting upset because I don’t think you’re joking.

BRENDAN: I’m sorry, Miss Swansong. You’re a wonderful dancer, truly. But the role of the ice princess is going to require –

JULIA: Jeff. Jeff make him stop, now.

BRENDAN: You’re just not the right –

JULIA: Jeff!

JEFF: Of course Julia will be playing the title role.

(Jeff solicits applause from the audience.)

BRENDAN: Mr. Jeffrey, you promised me when we wrote my contract that I could protect the artistic integrity of my work!

JEFF: And you will, of course you will. And honestly, who is more artistic than Julia?

(Jeff solicits applause again.)

BRENDAN: She’s not right for the part. She’s too –

JULIA: Too what?

BRENDAN: Mature.

JULIA: Nonsense. I don’t look a day over twenty.

BRENDAN: No, but you do look about a day over ninety three.

JULIA: Malcolm, kill him!

MALCOLM: That’s not in my contract, ma’am.

JULIA: Ma’am! Is everyone against me?

JEFF: Of course not, Julia, of course not. I’m sure we can work out this little snafu.

JULIA: It’s a conspiracy against me!

JEFF: Certainly not. Brendan, Julia will dance the title role in your piece. That’s all there is to it.

BRENDAN: All there is to it?

JEFF: Julia Swansong is a big name.

JULIA: Fourteen whole letters.

JEFF: And when those letters are on a marquis, do you know what happens?

BRENDAN: What?

JEFF: Patrons. And do you know what patrons mean?

BRENDAN: What?

JEFF: Money.

BRENDAN: But it’s not supposed to be about the money, Mr. Jeffrey. I’ve spent the last six years of my life working on The Ice Princess. It’s my masterpiece, my opus. A piece of artistic beauty and magnitude that transcends money. That’s a reward in and of itself.

JEFF: Does that mean I won’t have to pay you?

JULIA: On the subject of salaries…

(Selene breezes in, wearing a fur coat.)

SELENE: So sorry to be late!

BRENDAN: We’ll deal with this later.

(Brendan returns to his seat.)

JULIA: Selene, there you are.

JEFF: And who is this lovely lady?

JULIA: My sister, Selene Swansong.

JEFF: How do you do?

(Jeff takes her hand as if to kiss it. He is distracted, however, by an enormous diamond ring.)

JEFF: Oh, you beautiful little thing, you.

SELENE: It’s only a hand.

JULIA: That’s my ring!

JEFF: What a jewel.

SELENE: Julia’s jewel. (beat) Oh, don’t be angry with me, Julia. It just went so well with the dress.

(Selene takes off her coat. She is wearing a stunning dress, glittering with jewels, including a prominent diamond broach.)

JULIA: That’s my dress!

SELENE: Yes, I know. It just went so well with the jewels. Look at me? See how I glitter? I’m like a disco ball!

JEFF: You’ve given me Saturday night fever.

JULIA: You never asked my permission to borrow my things, Selene.

SELENE: My dear Julia, we’re sisters. We’re above such things.

JULIA: Not my things.

SELENE: Don’t be absurd.

JULIA: Malcolm, kill her.

MALCOLM: I’m not an assassin, ma’am.

JULIA: Well, what good are you?

SELENE: Julia, you really need to learn to share.

JULIA: Why should I?

SELENE: It’s what mother and father would want. You remember them.

JULIA: Yes.

SELENE: They raised us. Cared for us. Treated us like we were their own children.

JULIA: Yes.

SELENE: And now they’re dead. Oh, that tragic, tragic vacuuming accident.

JULIA: I remember, I paid for the funeral. Without any help from you.

SELENE: It’s what mother and father would have wanted.

JULIA: Well…

SELENE: They’re watching over us now. Don’t make their spirits sad, Julia. Don’t make our dead mother and father cry.

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