Other Better People

The play opens in a somewhat-messy dorm room. The room has an atmosphere of neglect: it’s not completely chaotic or incredibly neat, but belongings are thoughtlessly strewn over the floor and bed, and partly over EVAN, who is lying down on top if it. He is older than his roommate, better dressed, and slightly more filled out. He has a relaxed air about him, although he occasionally has outbursts of energy. His feet are bare and he is waiting anxiously for SAM to finish perusing the campus activity schedule so they can leave the building.

SAM: There’s a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Club?

SAM seems smaller, more volatile, more disheveled than his friend. The paper he holds is heavily crumpled, and his desk has textbooks and balled-up wads of paper scattered all over.

EVAN: Hm?

SAM: (scornfully) Why would anyone join a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Club?

EVAN: You know, some people who share the same interests like to get together and discuss them. It’s a community.

SAM: I don’t think I’ve ever seen that show.

EVAN: It’s about a pretty girl who kills undead monsters. Speaking of which, can you get dressed? We have to be there in 10.

SAM:I think Erica likes that show. Maybe I should join the club. Bee-Vee-Ess-Eff-Cee. Has a nice ring to it.

EVAN: You know, Erica’s going to be at the screening tonight. Sam? (Beat). The hint goes completely over SAM’s head.

SAM: How can they have a club already? Semester only started 2 weeks ago. He holds the paper up closer to his face. EVAN grudgingly takes off his shoes and throws them on the floor—he knows there is no chance of them walking out the door anytime soon.

A voice is heard, yelling something like “Come on, guys” or “Let’s go”

SAM: Remember when we toured around last year?

EVAN: Yeah?

SAM: Remember the guide? “Hi, I’m Pradesha, I’m the editor of the Indian Women’s magazine, and I’m also the leading soprano of the National (college) Women’s Singing Group, placed fifth in the country, and I’m also the team captain of Indian Women’s lacrosse, and I’m also the president of the Community Service Association of America, and…Hi, everybody!”

More knocking.

EVAN: Indian Women’s Lacrosse? And your point is?

SAM: I need to participate in more things.

EVAN: (laughing) Join a club.

SAM: I don’t know what club to join.

EVAN: Join the Latin club.

SAM: Nerds.

EVAN: Join the raw milk drinking club.

SAM: Hipsters.

EVAN: Join the Politics Club.

SAM: They’re so political.

EVAN: What about Fiction?

SAM: It’s full of people who write.

EVAN: Yes. Surprising.

SAM: Why would they need me?

EVAN: Why wouldn’t they need you?

SAM: Because they have better people already.

EVAN: Better how?

SAM: They belong to a club.

EVAN: How about the Jewish Culture Club?

SAM: Well, I would join, but they can’t figure out where to meet.

EVAN: Ha. Ha, ha. (does a rimshot on his desk) Do you think you’re too good for a club, or that
you aren’t good enough?

SAM: Why do I have to be limited to one position?

EVAN: Okay, I’ve got it. Join the Indian Women’s Lacrosse team.

SAM: They wouldn’t have me. I don’t know how to play lacrosse. Why are we going to this movie again?

EVAN: It’s not a movie; it’s the film club’s recruitment, propaganda movie thing, where they get new people to join. It’s like an exhibition of films they work on.

SAM: What’s that supposed to mean?

EVAN: I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but in layman’s terms, “film” refers to the projection
of images onto a very large screen. I believe such things are called “moving pictures”.

SAM: They just want an excuse to show everybody how cool they are.

EVAN: You know, people involve themselves in these activities because, believe it or not, they
actually enjoy being around people who share the same pastimes and hobbies they do.

SAM: I don’t think so. All the meetings, the T-Shirts, the bake-selling…it’s just to prove to
themselves that they have friends.

EVAN: Why is your trig lab homework in my folder?

SAM: Um…That should be a proof in geometry, come to think of it. “Prove you have friends.”

EVAN: I’ve told you not to put your stuff in my folder. Do you not have a folder of your own?

SAM: I do, but yours is far roomier.

EVAN: I think the roots of your problem may extend deeper than I had originally suspected.

SAM: Seriously though, dude, why are we going to this movie?

EVAN: Why do anything?

SAM: Exactly.

EVAN: Okay, you’re getting philosophical, and not in the interesting way. Let’s go.

SAM: Who else is going, do you know?

EVAN: Why?

SAM: No reason.

EVAN: Erica’s going.

SAM: You didn’t tell me that.

EVAN: Yes, I did.

SAM: You did?

EVAN: Yes!

SAM: Oh. That’s nice.

EVAN: Listen, if we don’t leave right now we’ll definitely be late, the potential presence of
people you might or might not care about notwithstanding.

SAM: I have absolutely no reason to leave this dormitory. No one’s knocking on our door or anything. The show will go on without us.

Knock on door.

Hallmate: What could you two possibly be doing in there that would take you both so long?

EVAN: See?

Evan and Sam look at each other. They hurriedly put on their evening clothes and leave.

Scene 2

Lights up. Sam and Evan are loitering at the theater hall after the presentation.

EVAN: So, what did you think of the presentation?

SAM: (sarcastically) Thank you, all of you, for coming to our presentation. I appreciate that so many people had absolutely nothing to do tonight. We’d like to give a big Film Club Thank You!, to all long list of lackeys, who all managed to drag themselves out of bed each morning in the futile hope that working as a meaningless cog in this vast production would give them some purpose for their sorry existence. I also apologize for how drunk our editors were, due to the arbitrary and unprofessional cutaways to random cute girls during the movie. We’ll try not to make that mistake next year – unless you want us to!

EVAN: So what did you really think?

SAM: The food was good.

EVAN: (exasperated) So you’re starting your descent into hedonism as evidenced by your abandonment of culture. Inevitable, really.

ERICA enters.

ERICA: Hey! Hi, Evan.

EVAN waves cheerfully. SAM puts his hand up in a sulky half-wave.

ERICA: What did you think of the presentation? Did you see the in the bedroom scene? I worked on that.

SAM: Yeah – it kind of reminded me of Truffaut’s New Wave emptiness.

ERICA: Oh – I love Truffaut. Do you, Sam?

SAM: He’s okay, I guess.

There is an awkward pause.

EVAN: (filling the awkward silence) Yeah, no, it was totally Truffaut. That part was really great, the cross-fading. I think that Oliver’s entrance in the giant praying mantis costume might have been a little too much.

ERICA: (laughing flirtatiously) I know, but John told us praying mantises were ideal for demonstrating the movie’s ultra-feminist theme due to the violent and aggressive manner in which
the mantis female devours the male immediately after copulation.

SAM: Is that what happened to John? If so, you should watch out, Evan.

ERICA: (laughs again) No, no, I just wanted your guys’ help with something.

SAM: Something other than sexual cannibalism?

EVAN: (moving forward) What is it?

ERICA: A movie project. It’s kind of a conceptual piece. I’m trying to submit it to the club heads – there’s an annual contest for this sort of stuff, you know.

EVAN: Okay, sounds great! Let me know when you need me.

SAM: Yeah, let me know, if I’m not doing something more important.

There is another painful beat of awkward silence.

ERICA: Okay! I’ll see you guys around.

SAM grunts faintly. Erica walks away, waving over her shoulder as she leaves.

EVAN: Did you hear that?

SAM: Hear what?

EVAN: She asked you to help her with her movie! That’s an open invitation right there.

SAM: She didn’t ask me, she asked us, and she only asked that because it’s her job. I’m sure she has to get assistants somewhere. We were just closer to her than the orphanage.

EVAN: Well, there are plenty of kids on campus she could have asked instead! But she asked you, didn’t she?

SAM: She did ask me. Instead of those other kids.

EVAN: Right. Instead of those other kids

SAM: Who could have easily been suckered into a job I’m sure is so blindingly easy the school mascot could do it.

EVAN: You were so close.

SAM: What am I, like a pity case or something?

EVAN: (sighs) Yeah, that’s it, she pities you. As do I.

SAM: Well, I’m not going to the library. They’ll think it’s weird that I’m showing up. I’m not a part of the club.

EVAN: That’s fine, totally, I totally understand.

SAM: You do?

EVAN: Yes, of course! Instead, why don’t you meet me in the library tomorrow at around two o’clock, because I need your help with my philosophy paper.

SAM: You’re not trying to trick me, are you?

EVAN: That would be pretty philosophical, wouldn’t it? Where am I? Why am I here? What is this “library” I am in? I’m just trying to pit you between two opposing forces, bro.

SAM: How maliciously Hegelian of you.

Scene 3

Lights up. EVAN and SAM are sitting in the campus library’s lounge. EVAN glances around while SAM slouches in his seat.

SAM: So should we get started on your paper? What’s your research question?

EVAN: It’s pretty general.

SAM: What is it, specifically?

EVAN: Well, I wanted to conduct a thorough examination of some of the more simple questions that everyday students of philosophy are faced with.

SAM: Such as?

EVAN: Why? Oh, and also, How?

SAM: (sarcastically) Why not Where?

EVAN: Oh, no! My professor said that Where? didn’t give enough room for speculation and I guess I agree.

SAM: For a philosophy professor she seems pretty exacting.

EVAN: Yeah.

SAM: I don’t think “Why?” is an acceptable topic for a philosophy paper.

EVAN: Why not?

SAM: Do you really need to do this now?

EVAN: Yes.

SAM: I hate being deliberately unhelpful.

EVAN: You’re not.

ERICA: Hey guys!

ERICA, toting a large black bag, is walking towards the pair. SAM whips his head around. EVAN stands up, pleased to see her, obviously having expected her arrival. SAM sinks down in his seat.

EVAN: Hi! Fancy meeting you here.

ERICA: I’m really glad you came. The deadline for this thing is pretty soon.

EVAN: What exactly are you applying for?

ERICA: It’s…I’m not supposed to tell really, but the council members of the Film Club like all potential applicants to make a short film and submit it. It’s a screening process.

EVAN: Council members? That sounds…

SAM: Bureaucratic at best, autocratic at worst.

EVAN: …I was gonna say maybe a little formal.

ERICA: No, no, they’re great people. They’ve been heads for a long time.

As SAM opens his mouth to speak, EVAN claps his hand to his mouth.

EVAN: Oh my god! He turns to SAM, clamping his hands on his friend’s shoulders. I totally forgot that my track meet is today! I thought it was Tuesday!

SAM: Today is Tuesday.

EVAN: Exactly! I’m sorry Erica, I’ve gotta go. Sam’s a genius with this kind of thing, he can do whatever I would have.

SAM: Wait, I –

EVAN: Cool, bye! He and JOSH leave, EVAN quickly pulling off his shoes and donning sneakers as they awkwardly exit the library.

SAM jams his hands in his pockets. ERICA holds her clipboard uneasily.

ERICA/SAM: So, I…

SAM: I’m sorry. Um…where are all of the other club members?

ERICA: Oh…(she laughs nervously). I think…Julia has class…Ben has to practice for cross-country…The other club heads are working on proposals for their term papers. I couldn’t really round up a lot of people for this – you know how it is, everyone’s working on personal projects or hanging out with friends.

Sam looks suspicious.

SAM: What’s your movie about?

ERICA: The club heads gave us a list of cinematic elements they want us to choose from – love, loss, existential angst, French, suicide…

SAM: It sounds like something at the back of the Foreign Films rack at a Blockbuster outlet.

From her bag, Erica removes a tripod.

ERICA: Excuse me?

SAM: That sounds like the recipe for every foreign film I’ve ever seen.

ERICA: What are you talking about?

SAM: Well…why would you pick elements from their master list? Do you like whispered, unintelligible declarations of eternal love mixed in with gratuitous close-ups? I’m just guessing, but if I were to go through a quick summary of your movie, I’d say it goes — Paris, the Louvre, crying in the rain, taking drugs in the rain, tons of unintelligible subtitles, rain, and then they jump off the Eiffel Tower together – in the rain, of course?

ERICA: You don’t understand how important this is to me. I’ve wanted an opportunity like this for a very long time.

SAM: I’ll help. I just…

ERICA: You’re disappointed? How do you think I should feel? I’m trite, I’m predictable…

SAM: I’m sorry. Where do you want the tripod?

ERICA sighs and rummages in her bag. She produces a manilla envelope with a sheaf of papers inside and offers it to SAM.

ERICA: Here. Listen to this — and don’t laugh.

ERICA reads: (slowly at first, but becoming intrigued) “Fire in the Library. Interior: Day. Jameson Memorial Library. Students reading, absorbed in their studies. A girl absentmindedly looks out the window, sees a wisp of smoke trailing through the air. Cut to another girl, buried in her notebook. She suddenly looks up–sniffs the air–something’s burning. The students begin to notice, at first slowly, but then with increasing panic, that a massive conflagration is spreading from shelf to shelf, engulfing the books, the aisles, the computers. Slam cut to flaming books falling from the shelves, chairs being upturned, kids running and screaming, the library in total disarray as fire is shooting throughout the building… To be continued.” (She looks up.) It’s just a little something on the side. I’m not going to submit it to the Club Heads. Too messy.

SAM: Well…I really like it.

ERICA: Really?

There is an awkward pause.

SAM: (tripping over himself) Here, let’s start…Um, you said you were doing a wide angle shot for the first one, so just tell me where you want

ERICA: What are you planning on majoring in?

SAM: (surprised) Oh…I’m not sure. Maybe English. Or Foreign Languages.

ERICA: Oh yeah? What languages do you know?

SAM: Well…As of now, I can say “I don’t know how to speak French” in French, “I can’t speak Spanish” in Spanish, and “I’m not going to attempt Russian” in Russian.

ERICA: (laughing) Oh, I see, an international man of mystery . Which countries have you been to?

SAM: I can’t tell you exactly, but I have some history with Carmen Santiago.

ERICA: Listen…I’m going in to the club headquarters Friday to hand this in and make a presentation. Do you want to come with me?

SAM: (drawn out) Why?

ERICA: (taken aback) Well, we’re required to have an “assistant” on record to present with us, or else the proposal won’t be accepted. Th

SAM: All right. I guess.

Scene 4

Lights up. SAM and EVAN are in their dorm room.

EVAN: Hey, how was the shoot with Erica?

SAM: Fine.

EVAN: What did you film?

SAM: Stuff.

EVAN: I hope you aren’t this taciturn while helping me write my essay

SAM: It went well.

EVAN: And.

SAM: Erica’s movie is really great.

EVAN: Did anything, like, happen?

SAM: Don’t you need to work on your paper?

EVAN: I just need to make a few edits to the section on free will and then I’ll be done.

SAM: What’s it about?

EVAN: (holding his paper up and reading aloud) “The horror in waves of seasick dissonance is unsettling, but the resemblance is uncanny. Such is the case in all modern fields of philosophy, from the archaic to the divine.”

SAM: Oh, boy.

EVAN: What’s wrong?

SAM: I’m going to go work on my earthworm breeding lab.

EVAN: Hey, aren’t you going to help me?

SAM: Oh – I thought you were joking.

EVAN: No, I’d actually like to have your input on this.

SAM: (puzzled) Huh. Okay, well, you’re going to want to start by just pressing the delete button a bunch of times, depending on how many words you have so far.

EVAN: Har har. No, look, the central theme we’re writing about is impact. Like…how to make an imprint. And if we even should. I asked my teacher if I could just throw a watermelon onto her car and see what kind of imprint it left, but apparently that topic wasn’t “deep” enough.

SAM: (bemusedly) That’s odd. Watermelons tend to leave fairly deep dents. It’s a wonderful experience to watch one gently flutter down from a third-story window and smash into a million pieces on the hood of some frat boy’s Bentley.

EVAN: Speaking of hearts aflutter, I heard you were going to present Erica’s movie with her. That’s great! She’s been working on it for a really long time.

SAM: You knew about the movie beforehand?

EVAN: (distractedly) Oh, yeah, She told me at one of the frat parties last week. You were there, right?

SAM: I’m sure I was there; I haven’t missed one yet. There’s nothing I enjoy more than the scintillating experience of hanging around at two in the morning amidst piles of bile-soaked undershirts and crushed cans of Corona while watching drunkards vomit, teeter, and bellow obscenities to each other.

EVAN: Yeah, I guess I just went by myself.

SAM: I’m surprised you don’t still smell like a brewery.

EVAN: You know, they’re actually fun.

SAM: How is shifting your weight awkwardly from one side to another for several hours fun? Parties are just chaotic spheres of noise and barely concealed social panic.

EVAN: Hey, pardon my keg-soaked ignorance, but — how do you spell “misanthrope?”

SAM: M-I-S-A-N-T-H-R-O-P-E.

EVAN: You know what they say – takes one to spell one. How’s this thesis? (He holds the paper up to his face and reads aloud with gravitas). Throughout human history, man has been helplessly driven by the impulse to metaphysically write his name in the snow. However…

SAM: However what?

EVAN: I haven’t gotten to that part yet.

SAM: Just don’t submit the essay. You won’t receive a grade – the teacher’s almighty reject stamp won’t come down on your file, reducing all possible forms of “impact.” It’s a brilliant idea that perfectly counterbalances your thesis.

EVAN: But then I’d fail the class.

SAM: That’s the point. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Two opposing intellectual forces of equal magnitude. What do you do? What can you do?

EVAN: (smiling) How maliciously Hegelian of you. So, is Erica finally done with her movie?

SAM: I think so.

EVAN: All right then – good luck. And maybe you’d want to come to the next frat party with me?

SAM: Maybe I’ll skirt in and out. Just in case I want to transfer my major to Anthropology and get a glimpse of the possible missing link.

EVAN: It’s certainly an impactful event.

SAM: See you tomorrow.

Scene 5

Lights up on EVAN and ERICA, sitting together outside the Film Club’s headquarters. ERICA shows EVAN something.

EVAN: Don’t worry, it’ll be all right.

ERICA: I’m not worrying. I know they’ll give me another chance.

EVAN: You’re not just saying that, are you?

ERICA: I am, a little bit.

EVAN: So they absolutely won’t accept your application without…?

ERICA: No. Thank god you’re here.

EVAN: I’ll help you out. And I’ll kick the crap out of him when I get back to the dorm. Okay?

ERICA: If you say so.

EVAN puts his arm around ERICA. It’s more of a friendly gesture than a romantic one. They walk off.

SAM enters. It’s clear he’s been watching, has seen EVAN comforting her. He runs offstage, looking agitated.

Scene 6

Lights up. The sound of knocking is heard. Back at the dorm, SAM is working very intently on a homework assignment. He looks disheveled. His room is in a state of acute disarray.

SAM: Who is it?

EVAN: (stops knocking for long enough to shout) You know who! (resumes)

SAM: Your trickery won’t help you. I’m not opening the door. Go to your girlfriend or your fraternity bros.

EVAN: Who?

SAM: You heard me. Erica.

EVAN: I’m not dating Erica.

SAM thinks about this for a second, then goes over to the door and unlocks it. EVAN walks in the room, standing to the right of Sam’s desk.

SAM: What do you mean, you’re not dating Erica?

EVAN: I mean exactly that.

SAM: But – I just saw you two together.

EVAN: Interesting point you just brought up, which goes back to the reason I banged on your door. I was there – last minute– supporting her – because she couldn’t do her presentation! Because you were absent! Because you were at home doing – (he picks up Sam’s crumpled piece of paper) this! I mean, what is this?

SAM: I came. I was just late, and I saw you two together, and I thought you were together.

EVAN: Geographically, that’s true.

SAM folds his arms triumphantly. See!

EVAN: Figuratively, it’s not, because I hadn’t worked on the movie with her, so I wouldn’t know what to present. She was waiting for you. I was, too.

SAM: I’m sorry.

EVAN: (sighs) I’m sorry too.

SAM: Is she still there?

EVAN: Is who still there? Erica? Yeah, they just kicked her out. She’s on the stoop of the FILM CLUB headquarters with her film piled around her like flowers around a jilted bride.

SAM: I gotta go.

Lights down.

Scene 7

SAM enters and faces the audience. The shadowy and portentious members of the Film Club are the audience members, or at least, they are not physically seen, nor have dialogue.

SAM: Hello? (beat) Hi. I assume you can hear me. You had a scheduled appointment earlier today, right? Erica Mason? She was missing part of her presentation? I’m the missing part. Hi.

He coughs nervously and wavers for a couple seconds before continuing

SAM: And by the way, it’s cliché to meet in an abandoned old theater. I guess it’s to be expected from people who only like foreign films where everyone speaks in Czechoslovakian for two hours and then kills themselves in a vat of Nutella. (waits for a laugh–none comes) Anyway, I don’t know how much of the movie she showed you or if she showed you it at all, but I want to tell you about the other one. I don’t think anyone else has read it it yet but me. It’s set in a quiet library, somewhere with very lenient librarians who don’t mind adventurous and pyromaniacal film crews in their stacks. Everything is peaceful and serene…the opening shot is of a girl reading a book. She turns towards the camera – she has the eyes of someone who knows a great joke that she’s keeping to herself alone, but that you could soon know too. And – well, that’s where everything catches on fire, so I won’t go into that bit, but I assure you, please, just to look at it. Give her another chance.

Lights down.

Scene 8

ERICA and SAM.

ERICA: Thanks.

SAM: It’s okay, Evan told me what happened. I’m sorry. I just freaked out.

ERICA: Yeah, I didn’t mean him to be so hard on you. He’s just been worried.

SAM: About me?

ERICA: Yeah – he said you’d been holed up in your room in misery for days on end.

SAM: Oh. I don’t suppose he also told you he’s a pathological liar.

ERICA (smiling) No, he didn’t.

Scene 9

Lights up on EVAN and SAM in their dorm room.

EVAN: Sam! SAM! I finished my paper!

SAM: Oh, what did you decide on for your thesis?

EVAN: Listen to this: “Throughout human history, mankind has been irresistibly driven by the urge to metaphysically write his name in the snow – however, man must ultimately choose between self-actualization and contribution to a common good.”

SAM: Hmm.

EVAN: What do you think?

SAM: I think you ought to start a Philosophy club.

EVAN: Would you join?

Curtain.

Mack Muldofsky, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Gold Key

This entry was written by NYC Scholastic Awards and published on September 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm. It’s filed under Dramatic Script, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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