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Wendy Wasserstein: Reading
A girl of around nine is alone in a dance studio. She is dressed in traditional leotards and tights. She begins singing to herself, "Nothing Could Be Finer Than to Be in Carolina." She maps out a dance routine, including parts for the chorus. She builds to a finale. A man, PAUL, around thirty-five, walks in. He has a sweet, though distant, demeanor. As he walks in, LISA notices him and stops.
PAUL: You dont have to stop, sweetheart.
LISA: Thats okay.
PAUL: Looked very good.
PAUL: Dont I get a kiss hello?
PAUL: [Embraces her.] Hi, Tiger.
LISA: Hi, Dad.
PAUL: Im sorry Im late.
LISA: Thats okay.
PAUL: Howd it go?
PAUL: Just good?
LISA: Pretty good.
PAUL: "Pretty good." You mean you got a lot of applause or "pretty good" you could have done better.
LISA: Well, Courtney Palumbos mother thought I was pretty good. But you know the part in the middle when everybodys supposed to freeze and the big girl comes out. Well, I think I moved a little bit.
PAUL: I thought what you were doing looked very good.
LISA: Daddy, thats not what I was doing. That was tap-dancing. I made that up.
PAUL: Oh. Well it looked good. Kind of sexy.
PAUL: What do you mean "yuch"?
LISA: Just yuch!
PAUL: You dont want to be sexy?
LISA: I dont care.
PAUL: Lets go, Tiger. I promised your mother Id get you home in time for dinner.
LISA: I cant find my leg warmers.
PAUL: You cant find your what?
LISA: Leg warmers. I cant go home till I find my leg warmers.
PAUL: I dont see you looking for them.
LISA: I was waiting for you.
PAUL: Where do you think you left them?
LISA: Somewhere around here. I cant remember.
PAUL: Well, try to remember, Lisa. We dont have all night.
LISA: I told you. I think somewhere around here.
PAUL: I dont see them. Lets go home now. Youll call the dancing school tomorrow.
LISA: Daddy, I cant go home till I find them. Miss Judy says its not professional to leave things.
PAUL: Whos Miss Judy?
LISA: Shes my ballet teacher. She once danced the lead in Swan Lake, and she was a June Taylor dancer.
PAUL: Well, then, Im sure shell understand about the leg warmers.
LISA: Daddy, Miss Judy wanted to know why you were late today.
LISA: Why were you late?
PAUL: I was in a meeting. Business. Im sorry.
LISA: Why did you tell Mommy youd come instead of her if you knew you had business?
PAUL: Honey, something just came up. I thought Id be able to be here. I was looking forward to it.
LISA: I wish you wouldnt make appointments to see me.
LISA: You shouldnt make appointments to see me unless you know youre going to come.
PAUL: Of course Im going to come.
LISA: No, youre not. Talia Robbins told me shes much happier living without her father in the house. Her father used to come home late and go to sleep early.
PAUL: Lisa, stop it. Lets go.
LISA: I cant find my leg warmers.
PAUL: Forget your leg warmers.
PAUL: What is it?
LISA: I saw this show on television, I think it was WPIX Channel 11. Well, the father was crying about his daughter.
PAUL: Why was he crying? Was he sick?
LISA: No. She was at school. And he was at business. And he just missed her, so he started to cry.
PAUL: What was the name of this show?
LISA: I dont know. I came in in the middle.
PAUL: Well, Lisa, I certainly would cry if you were sick or far away, but I know that youre well and youre home. So no reason to get maudlin.
LISA: Whats maudlin?
PAUL: Sentimental, soppy. Frequently used by children who make things up to get attention.
LISA: I am sick! I am sick! I have Hodgkins disease and a bad itch on my leg.
PAUL: What do you mean you have Hodgkins disease? Dont say things like that.
LISA: Swoosie Kurtz, she had Hodgkins disease on a TV movie last year, but she got better and now shes on Love Sidney.
PAUL: Who is Swoosie Kurtz?
LISA: Shes an actress named after an airplane. I saw her on Live at Five.
PAUL: You watch too much television; you should do your homework. Now, put your coat on.
LISA: Daddy, I really do have a bad itch on my leg. Would you scratch it?
PAUL: Lisa, youre procrastinating.
LISA: Why do you use words that I dont understand? I hate it. Youre like Daria Feldmans mother. She always talks in Yiddish to her husband so Daria wont understand.
PAUL: Procrastinating is not Yiddish.
LISA: Well, I dont know what it is.
PAUL: Procrastinating means you dont want to go about your business.
LISA: I dont go to business. I go to school.
PAUL: What I mean is you want to hang around here until you and I are late for dinner and your mothers angry and its too late for you to do your homework.
LISA: I do not.
PAUL: Well, it sure looks that way. Now put your coat on and lets go.
PAUL: Honey, Im tired. Really, later.
LISA: Why dont you want to talk to me?
PAUL: I do want to talk to you. I promise when we get home well have a nice talk.
LISA: No, we wont. Youll read the paper and fall asleep in front of the news.
PAUL: Honey, well talk on the weekend, I promise. Arent I taking you to the theater this weekend? Let me look. [He takes out appointment book.] Yes. Sunday. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Raincoat with Lisa. Okay, Tiger?
LISA: Sure. Its Dreamcoat.
LISA: Nothing. I think I see my leg warmers. [She goes to pick them up, and an odd-looking trophy.]
PAUL: Whats that?
LISA: Its stupid. I was second best at the dance recital, so they gave me this thing. Its stupid.
PAUL: What did you want to talk about?
PAUL: Was it about my missing your recital? Im really sorry, Tiger, I would have liked to have been here.
LISA: Thats okay.
LISA: Daddy, youre procrastinating.
PAUL: Im procrastinating. Sit down. Lets talk. So. Hows school?
PAUL: You like it?
PAUL: You looking forward to camp this summer?
PAUL: Is Daria Feldman going back?
PAUL: Why not?
LISA: I dont know. We can go home now. Honest, my foot doesnt itch anymore.
PAUL: Lisa, you know what you do in business when it seems like theres nothing left to say? Thats when you really start talking. Put a bid on the table.
LISA: Whats a bid?
PAUL: You tell me what you want and Ill tell you what Ive got to offer. Like Monopoly. You want Boardwalk, but Im only willing to give you the Railroads. Now, because you are my daughter Id throw in Water Works and Electricity. Understand, Tiger?
LISA: No. I dont like board games. You know, Daddy, we could get Space Invaders for our home for thirty-five dollars. In fact, we could get an Osborne System for two thousand. Daria Feldmans parents
PAUL: Daria Feldmans parents refuse to talk to Daria, so they bought a computer to keep Daria busy so they wont have to speak in Yiddish. Daria will probably grow up to be a homicidal maniac lesbian prostitute.
LISA: I know what the word prostitute means.
PAUL: Good. [Pause.] You still havent told me about school. Do you still like your teacher?
LISA: Shes okay.
PAUL: Lisa, if were talking try to answer me.
LISA: I am answering you. Can we go home now, please?
PAUL: Damn it, Lisa, if you want to talk to me
Talk to me!
LISA: I cant wait till Im old enough so I can make my own money and never have to see you again. Maybe Ill become a prostitute.
PAUL: Young lady, thats enough.
LISA: I hate you, Daddy! I hate you! [She throws her trophy into the trash bin.]
PAUL: Whatd you do that for?
LISA: Its stupid.
PAUL: Maybe I wanted it.
LISA: What for?
PAUL: Maybe I wanted to put it where I keep your dinosaur and the picture you made of Mrs. Kimbel with the chicken pox.
LISA: You got mad at me when I made that picture. You told me I had to respect Mrs. Kimbel because she was my teacher.
PAUL: Thats true. But she wasnt my teacher. I liked her better with the chicken pox. [Pause.] Lisa, Im sorry. I was very wrong to miss your recital, and you dont have to become a prostitute. Thats not the type of profession Miss Judy has in mind for you.
LISA: [Mumbles.] No.
PAUL: No. [Pause.] So Talia Robbins is really happy her father moved out?
LISA: Talia Robbins picks open eighth-grade lockers during gym period. But she did that before her father moved out.
PAUL: You cant always judge someone by what they do or what they dont do. Sometimes you come home from dancing school and run upstairs and shut the door, and when I finally get to talk to you, everything is "okay" or "fine." Yup or nope?
PAUL: Sometimes, a lot of times, I come home and fall asleep in front of the television. So you and I spend a lot of time being a little scared of each other. Maybe?
PAUL: Tell you what. Ill make you a tender offer.
PAUL: Ill make you a tender offer. Thats when a company publishes in the newspaper that they want to buy another company. And the company that publishes is called the Black Knight because they want to gobble up the poor little company. So the poor little company needs to be rescued. And then a White Knight comes along and makes a bigger and better offer so the shareholders wont have to tender shares to the Big Black Knight. You with me?
LISA: Sort of.
PAUL: Ill make you a tender offer like the White Knight. But I dont want to own you. I just want to make a much better offer. Okay?
LISA: [Sort of understanding.] Okay. [Pause. They sit for a moment.] Sort of, Daddy, what do you think about? I mean, like when youre quiet what do you think about?
PAUL: Oh, business usually. If I think I made a mistake or if I think Im doing okay. Sometimes I think about what Ill be doing five years from now and if its what I hoped it would be five years ago. Sometimes I think about what your life will be like, if Mount Saint Helens will erupt again. What youll become if youll study penmanship or word processing. If youll speak kindly of me to your psychiatrist when you are in graduate school. And how the hell Ill pay for your graduate school. And sometimes I try and think what it was I thought about when I was your age.
LISA: Do you ever look out your window at the clouds and try to see which kinds of shapes they are? Like one time, honest, I saw the head of Walter Cronkite in a flower vase. Really! Like look dont those kinda look like if you turn it upside down, two big elbows or two elephants trunks dancing?
PAUL: Actually still looks like Walter Cronkite in a flower vase to me. But look up a little. See the one thats still moving? That sorta looks like a whale on a thimble.
PAUL: Look up. To your right.
LISA: I dont see it. Where?
PAUL: The other way.
LISA: Oh, yeah! Theres the head and theres the stomach. Yeah! [LISA picks up her trophy.] Hey, Daddy.
PAUL: Hey, Lisa.
LISA: You can have this thing if you want it. But you have to put it like this, because if you put it like that it is gross.
PAUL: You know what Id like? So I can tell people who come into my office why I have this gross stupid thing on my shelf, Id like it if you could show me your dance recital.
PAUL: Weve got time. Mother said she wont be home till late.
LISA: Well, Daddy, during a lot of it I freeze and the big girl in front dances.
PAUL: Well, how bout the number you were doing when I walked in?
LISA: Well, see, I have parts for a lot of people in that one, too.
PAUL: Ill dance the other parts.
LISA: You cant dance.
PAUL: Young lady, I played Yvette Mimieux in a Hasty Pudding Show.
LISA: Whos Yvette Mimieux?
PAUL: Watch more television. Youll find out. [PAUL stands up.] So Im ready. [He begins singing.] "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina."
LISA: Now I go. In the morning. And now you go. Dum-da.
PAUL: [Obviously not a tap dancer.] Da-da-dum.
LISA: [Whines.] Daddy!
PAUL: [Mimics her.] Lisa! Nothing could be finer
LISA: That looks dumb.
PAUL: Oh, yeah? You think they do this better in The Amazing Minkcoat? No way! Now you goda da da dum.
LISA: Da da da dum.
PAUL: If I had Aladdins lamp for only a day, Id make a wish
LISA: Daddy, thats maudlin!
PAUL: I know its maudlin. And heres what Id say:
LISA AND PAUL: Id say that "nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the moooooooooooornin."