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Up The Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, The Dramatic Publishing Company (At rise of curtain, light comes up with

empahsis on the classroom part of stage. Sylvia Barrett, an attractive and sensitive young teacher is about to teach her first class. She enters carrying a load of material, but it seems light as she is so happy to be here. She crosses to the desk and puts down her load and looks about, a bit uncertain, but also eager and optimistic. During that, Dr. Maxwell Clarke, the principal of Calvin Coolridge High School, picks up a microphone to make a PA announcement. Sylvia pays only casual attention to the principal's speech as she arranges things on her desk.) Dr. Clarke: Attention please. This is your principal, Dr. Maxwell Clarke. I wish to take this opportunity on the first morning of the first day of school to extend a warm welcome to all faculty and staff, and the sincere hope that you have returned from a healthful and fruitful summer vacaction with renewed energy and enthusiasm and ready to tackle the many important and vital tasks that lie ahead. Thank you for your help and cooperation in the past and in the future. (As he is talking, Beatrice Schachter, another attractive, but older and more experienced teacher, comes in) Bea: He says the exact same thing every August. Hi, I'm Bea Schachter (points off) I teach in room 508. Sylvia: (nods toward sound of principal's voice) First time for me. Bea: Our Dr. Clarke always gives us his pearls of wisdom in pairs - aims and goals, guide and inspire, help and encourage. . . Sylvia: I'm inspired. I'm about to teach my first class. Bea: First ever? (Sylvia nods) You're prepared? Sylvia: I thought I'd begin with first impressions: importance of appearance, manners, speech on which I'll build a case for good diction, correct usage, fluent self-expression. Then, from there, it's just a step. . . Bea: You sure you've come to the right school? Sylvia: (puzzled) Calvin Coolidge, room 304. Bea: Uh, when I said prepared. . .

Sylvia: (quickly) I majored in middle English literature, took two courses in philosophy of education, and my master's thesis was on Chaucer. Bea: Well, good luck, Sylvia. If you need help, just holler. I'm over there (points and starts to exit). Sylvia: Thanks, but . . . Bea: (pauses before leaving to say) Better if you'd majored in karate. (Sylvia looks after her a bit concerned before deciding it was a joke. She smiles and shakes her head and crosses to the chalkboard. She picks up a piece of chalk and takes a deep breath. This is a lovely moment in her life and in a bold hand she writes on the board Miss Barrett. As she finishes, students pour into the the classroom. The students are noisy, exuberant,- lots of ad-libbing as they enter and sit down and a feeling of testing the new teacher arises.) Lou Martin: Hiya, teach. Lennie Neumark: Look at her! She's a teacher? Carole Blanca: Is this room 304? Are you Mr. Barringer? Sylvia: No, I'm Miss Barrett. Vivian Paine: You the teacher? You so young. Lennie: You are one hot teach. Sylvia: Please don't block the doorway, come in and find a seat. Carole: Good morning, Miss Barnet. Syliva: It's Miss Barrett. My name is on the chalkboard. Good morning. Rusty O'Brien: Oh, no. A chick for homeroom? Lou Martin: You want I should slug him, teach? Linda Rosen: Is this home room period? Sylvia: Yes. Sit down, please.

Linda: I'm not sure I belong here. (Jose Rodriguez comes in shyly and edges over to the far corner) Carrie Blaine: We gonna have you all term? Are you a regular or a sub? Harry Kagan: There's an insufficeniency of chairs! Sylvia: Take any seat at all. Jill Norris: Is this room 309? Lou: Someone swiped the pass. Can I have a pass? I've gotta get a drink of water! Rachel Gordon: What's your name? Sylvia: My name is on the board. Rachel: I can't read your writing. Lou: Teach! I'm dying!!! Lennie: Don't believe him, teach. He ain't dying. Harry: Stop your inconsideration of the teacher, you bums. Rusty: Can we sit on the radiator? That's what we did last term. Lennie: Pipe down, you morons. The teacher's trying to say something. Sylvia: Please, sit down. I'd like to. . . Elizabeth Ellis: Will you be teaching avant-garde creative writing? (A bell rings). Sylvia: That bell is your signal to come to order. Will you please. . . Lennie: When do we go home? Carrie: The first day of school, and he wants to go home already. Linda: Maybe this is the wrong room. What room is this?

Sylvia: This is room 304. My name is on the board, Miss Barrett. I'll have you for home room all term, and I hope to meet some of you in my English classes as well. Now, someone said that first impressions. . . Jill: Ugh, English? No wonder! Rachel: Who needs it? Linda: You give homework? Sylvia: First impressions, they say, are lasting. What do we base our first. . .(She stops as she sees a girl, Francine Gardner, who approaches her with a slip of paper. Francine is bored, looking about indifferently, chewing gum furiously). Yes? Francine: Mr. McHabe wants Ferone right away. Sylvia: Whom does he want? Francine: Joe Ferone. Sylvia: (to the class) Is there a Joe Ferone here? Lennie: Him? At school? That's a laugh! Rusty: He'll show up when he feels like it. (Francine exits) Sylvia: I see. Now. We all know that first impressions. . . .(Hellen Arbuzzi is standing in the doorway) Yes? Helen: Is this 304? Sylvia: Yes. You're late. Helen: I'm not late, I'm absent. I was absent all last term. Sylvia: Please, come in and sit down. (notes the lack of chairs) I mean. . .stand up. (points to back of the room) Helen: I'm dropping out. You're supposed to sign my book clearance form from last term. Sylvia: Do you owe any books?

Helen: (hands her the paper impatiently) I'm not on the blacklist. That's a yellow slip. This is a green slip. (Sylvia signs the paper and Helen exits) Lou: Isn't the pass back yet?

Sylvia: Where are you moving? Jose: I don't know where. Sylvia: Where do you live?

Lennie: Don't you ever give up? Jose: (getting angry with embarrassment) I don't live no place. Sylvia: I'm afraid we don't have time for the discussion on first impressions. I'm passing out. . Lou: (in mock alarm) Hey, she's passing out! Give her air! Sylvia: (handing out cards) I'm passing out attendance cards. Print in ink your last name first, your parents' names, your date of birth, my name -- it's on the board -Then, I'll make out the seating plan. Any questions? (the following questions all happen almost simultaneously) Rachel: In ink or pencil? Rusty: I got no ink. Can I use a pencil? Who's got a pencil to loan me? Lou: I don't remember when I was born. Lennie: Don't mind him - he's a comic. Lennie: (Jumping up) Me! I'll go. It's Mr. Grayson. He's in the basement. Jill: Print or write? Carrie: When do we go to lunch? Lou: I need to sharpen my pencil. Lennie: Teach said pen, not pencil. Carole: What do you need my address for? Rusty: Somebody stole my pen! Sylvia: Fill out this attendance card, please. Jose: (shyly) I don't know my address. Carole: For parents' names, can I use my aunt? Sylvia: You don't? Sylvia: Put down your mother's name. Jose: (With difficulty) We're moving. Carole: I've got no mother. Sylvia: Tell him it's urgent. (Lennie goes out, and Charles Arrons hurries in) Who are you? Charles: Sorry I'm late. I was in detention. Sylvia: In what? Charles: The late room. Where they make you sit to make up your lateness. .. when you come in late. Sylvia: Any place. Jill: (raises hand) Teach, there's chewing gum on my seat! Rachel: First name last or last name first? Lou: I gotta have a pass to the men's room. I know my rights. This is a democracy, ain't it? Sylvia: Isn't. (to Vivian in the back with her hand up) What's your trouble? Vivian: There's broken glass back here from the window. Sylvia: Don't touch the broken window. It should be reported to the custodian. Does anyone. . .

Sylvia: Do the best you can. (Francine comes in) What is it this time?

Lou: Hey, he threw the eraser out the window!

Francine: (hands her a piece of paper) Mr. McHabe said you're to read this to your Sylvia: Class, will you please. . . (Edward Willams enters. He is angry, sullen, and class. suspicious and not without cause). Sylvia: Class, may I have your attention please. There's been a change in today's assembly schedule. Listen carefully. (Getting confused herself as she reads) "Please ignore previous instructions in circular 3, paragraphs 5 and 6, and follow the following: this morning there will be a long home room extending into the first half of the second period. All X2 sections are to report to assembly the second half of the second period. First period classes will begin the fourth period. Second period classes will begin the fifth period. Third period classes will begin the sixth, and so on, subject classes being shortened to twenty three minutes, except for lunch, which will be normal." Lou: I didn't hear. What did you say? Rachel: What's today's date? Edward: I never got no card. Harry: This is a long home room. Paul & Sylvia: Any card. Sylvia: Please. I'm not finished. (Reading) "Tomorrow, all Y2 sections will follow today's program for X2 sections, while all X2 sections will follow today's program for Sylvia: (she looks up at Paul startled) Umm, you are? Y2 sections." (Francine takes the paper announcement and hurries out as another girl, Katherine Wozow, comes in. Her manner is impatient.) Paul: Your fellow teacher, Paul Barringer. I teach English in 309. Sorry to interrupt, but could I borrow your board eraser? Carrie: (whispering) Where do we go? Sylvia: Yes. . .(remembers) no. I'm afraid it's gone. Vivian: What period is this? (Lou and Charles are throwing the chalkboard eraser back and forth) Alice: (rising, the beginning of a crush on Mr. Barringer) I could go and get one for you, Mr. Barringer. Sylvia: The two boys in the back - stop throwing the board eraser. Please come to order. Paul: (exiting) Never mind. (smiles at Sylvia) Anyway, we've got something in common. Katherine: Excuse me, Miss Friedenberg, the counselor, she wants Joe Ferone right away. Sylvia; (confused) What's that? Sylvia: He isn't here. (Katherine exits) Will you all please pass your completed attendance cards to the front of the classroom while I. . . Vivian: I didn't even start mine yet. I'm waiting for a pen. Rachel: (to Sylvia) Teach, how do you spell your name? Paul: No erasers. (he leaves) Sylvia: (to Alice) Please sit down. (To class) I must take attendance. If I mispronounce your name, please correct me. (reads from roll book) Arbuzzi, Helen. Harry: She dropped out. (Lennie hurries back in) Edward: (crosses to Sylvia with papers) Here's my admit. He says I was loitering. Sylvia: He who? Edward: McHabe. Sylvia: Mr. McHabe. Edward: Whatever. (leans against wall) Sylvia: Class, please finish your cards while I call the roll. (Paul Barringer, a tall and good-looking teacher enters)

Sylvia: Oh. Yes. Lennie: The custodian says there's no one down there. Sylvia: (This is getting ridiculous) How can he say that when he's down there? Lennie: That's what he says. Any answer? Sylvia: (deep breath) No. No answer. Sit down. Blake, Alice?

Lennie: So I fell. Big deal. Sylvia: Are you hurt? Lennie: I'm tough. (he's rubbing his head) Katherine: You better make out an accident report, three copies, and send him to the nurse. Lennie: I don't need no nurse.

Alice: I'm present, Miss Barrett. Harry: He could sue you, teach. He could sue the school or even sue. . . Sylvia: Blanca, Carmelita? Carole: Carole. I changed my name. Sylvia: Blanca, Carole? Carole: Here. (Katherine is back at the door) Sylvia: Borden. . .(Sees Katherine) Yes? Katherine: Miss Friedenberg wants the service credit cards from last term. Sylvia: I'm in the middle of. . . Katherine: She needs them right away. Sylvia: But, I wasn't here last term. Sylvia: I see. Katherine: (continuing on with a list) Second the office wants to know if the transportation cards ready. (hands Sylvia a paper) Third, you have to fill this out immediately. Sylvia: The what cards? Katherine: Transportation. Bus and subway. Sylvia: But I haven't even taken attendance yet. (anxiously to Lennie at the back who is crowding onto a seat with another boy) Please don't tilt that chair, boy in the back, I'm talking to you. (Lennie falls over, then scrambles up as Sylvia gaps) Oh, are you alright? Francine: (hand her paper) And this is urgent from Mr. McHabe. Sylvia: (reading paper) "To all teachers, a blue Pontiac parked in front of the school has been over turned. If the following license is yours. . ." (hands note back to Francine) Tell Mr. McHabe I don't drive to work. Now, class. . .(Lennie comes back in) Lennie: The nurse says she's all out of accident reports, but she wants the missing dentals. Sylvia: Missing dentals? We'll get to that later. (with renewed determination) I'm going to finish the attendance, and then. . .(loud bell and students are jumping up Katherine: (hands her another paper) You're supposed to read this to your class. It's from the liberry. Sylvia: Library. (Katherine exits) Class, attention please. (reads) " The school library is your library. All students are encouraged to use it at all times. However, the library will be closed to students until further notice to enable teachers to use it as a workroom for their PRC entries." (puts paper down). Let's get back to attendance. (Francine enters) Okay, not back to attendance. . .What is it? Francine: (bored) New change in assembly program. Your class goes to different rows. X2 schedule rows. Sylvia: You'd better go to the nurse. (Lennie grumbles and exits) Oh, and ask her for the accident report blanks. (to Katherine who is waiting impatiently) Is there something else?

gathering stuff to exit) Rusty: Hurray! Lou: Saved by the bell! Sylvia: Just a minute. The bell's much too early. It may be a mistake. We have so much to. . . students, please sit down. . . Lennie: That's the bell. You heard it. Sylvia: (speaking firmly but in a low voice) That's no way to hand it to me. Harry: All the other teachers are letting kids out. Joe: So? My aim is bad. Sylvia: But we haven't even finished the. . . Rachel: When the bell rings, we're supposed to go! Linda: Where do we go? Assembly? (Kids are exiting) Joe: Why? Sylvia: Please sit down. I'd like to. . .We haven't. . .(to Alice and Francine) It looks like we're the only ones left. You're Alice? Sylvia: What's your name? Alice: Alice Blake. I want you to know how much I enjoyed your lesson. Sylvia: Thank you, but it wasn't really . . .(To Francine) There's more? Francine: (bored, nods) Just one - you're supposed to announce this to your class right away. Sylvia: (takes paper and reads aloud) " Please disregard the bell. Students are to remain in their homerooms until the next bell." (she hands it back to Francine) Thanks. Francine: Maybe I should have given that one to you first. (she shrugs and exits) Joe: Ferone. You gonna send a letter home? Lecture me? Spank me? Sylvia: Maybe you should have. (She is now alone with a bemused smile on her face. She is amused at her earlier naivete. She mocks herself) And I thought I might begin with the importance of first impressions. (Shakes her head, goes to her desk and sits. She shakes her head again and begins to go through papers on her desk of different colors and sizes) Program cards, requisition slips, transportation cards, service credit cards. . .(picks up one confused and reads it) "In the two columns labeled male and female indicate the number of students in your homeroom section born between the following dates. . ." Sylvia: All I asked. . . Joe: (Starting back to the door) Yeah, whatever. All you asked. Sylvia: I don't allow anyone to talk to me like that. (Bell rings) Joe: (as he exits) Lucky you then. Joe: What? You gonna report me? Sylvia: What's your name? Joe: You gonna give me a zero? Gonna fail me? Sylvia: I've had just about. . .(stands up and demands) What is your name? Joe: Joe. Sylvia: Joe what? Sylvia: (voice rises some in spite of herself) There's no need for insolence. Please take that toothpick our of your mouth when you talk to me and take your hands out of your pockets. (Joe Ferone, a hostile, tough, young man ambles in and stands almost menacingly over her desk staring at Sylvia) Joe: Hey. You Barrett? Sylvia: (looks up as Joe tosses a slip on her desk) What's this? Joe: (insolently) Late pass.

Sylvia: Mr. McHabe again. Sylvia: (left alone, bitterly) So, I'm lucky? (She picks up a paper with a phone list and calls Bea) Hello? Bea Schachter? You said if I need help just holler. Help! Bea: Assistant Principal. He's very strict. I don't know. . .maybe he has to be, but try (smiles and hangs up, Bea enters room) to avoid him. He's in charge of discipline, and supplies. He can't bear to part with a rubber band. Ask him for a pencil and he turns white. (McHabe is seen) Bea: Having fun? McHabe: (spotlight on him and microphone PA) To all faculty: diligence, accuracy, Sylvia: I'm having problems. I don't think I even understand the language. A student and promptness are essential in carrying out all instructions. Teachers with extra time called me "Hi, teach!" are to report to the office to assist with activities which demand attention, regarding the requistion of supplies, please anticipate your needs. Do not make excessive Bea: Maybe he liked you. Why not answer, "Hey, pupe!" demands. Any teachers wishing decorative posters, we have a few left, slightly torn but still usable. (McHabe exits, Frances Egan, nurse, pops her head in classroom) Sylvia: I don't think I could ever bring off "Hey, pupe." And the paperwork! I'm buried beneath an avalanche! Frances: Students deliquent in obtaining athletic suits are to be alphabetized and reported. Girls who wish to be excused from guym are to report to me with all the Bea: That I can clarify. "Let it be a challenge to you" means you're stuck with it, so pertinent data. deal. "Kepp on file in numerical order" means throw in wastebasket. "Interpersonal relationships" is a fight between kids. "Ancillary civic agencies for supportive Bea: (to Sylvia) Frances Egan, the school nurse. Frances, Sylvia Barrett. dicipline" means call the cops. "Literature based on the child's readin level and experiential back ground" means that's all they've got in the bookroom. "Non Frances: Discourage excessive dieting in your home room. (She exits, Charlotte academic-minded" is a delinquent, and "it has come to my attention" means you're in Wolf pops her head in classroom) trouble. Charlotte: No books are to be removed from the library until the card catalog is Sylvia: (not knowing whether to laugh or cry) That'd I'd believe. brought up to date. (exits) Bea: Did you get anything done in homeroom? Sylvia: I took attendance. . .as far as B. A boy fell off a chair. Sylvia: The librarian? (to Bea) Bea: Charlotte Wolf. (nods, Samuel Bester appears)

Bea: And remember - there is no such thing as a permament pass to the water Bester: Miss Barrett, do not encourage students to purchase paperback editions of fountain. Shakespeare and other authors. Because of outside pressures, we cannot expect students to purchase books. (exits) Sylvia: (holding up a paper from the desk) What do I do about the P-P-P's? Sylvia: (looks confusedly at Bea) Bea: Almost sings, doesn't it? That's the Pupil Personality Profile, invented by Ella Friedenberg, guidance counselor. (Ella pops her head in the classroom) She bases Bea: Samuel Bester, Chairman of the English Department. A brillant teacher, so her P-P-P's on such Freudian questions as "Why do you hate your parents?" naturally, he's promoted right out of the classroom. (man enters) Ella: If I don't ask, how do I find out? Latent maladjustments may exhibit Man: Hello there, teachers! Looking forward to the new school year? Easy Term themselves in soically unacceptable behavior in the classroom. Please send all new Confidential Loan Company can solve your problems. pupils to me for in-depth coverage. However, send the disruptive elements to Mr. McHabe. (she exits) Bea: Not interested. (He exits and Sadie Finch enters)

Sadie: Miss Barrett, teachers should function according to the rules set out in the Sylvia: But he wasn't hurt. Mr. McHabe, my real concern. . . teacher handbook. This means to turn in all forms on time! McHabe: (interrupts) Before leaving the building today, be sure to fill out form B22 Bea: (at Sylvia's questioning look) Sadie Finch, school clerk. (exits, McHabe is in in triplicate. spotlight on microphone again) Sylvia: Yes, sir. McHabe: Send legitimate latenesses to the Lateness Coordinator. If the excuse is invalid or suspicious, send offenders to me. Please read to your students the list of McHabe: Thank you. (calls off to a student) You, there! Just a minute! (he exits infractions and penalties with due seriousness to instill in them a sense of civic off) responsibility. Post the punishments in a prominent place in your homeroom for easy reference. (he exits) (Sylvia re-enters her room and crosses to her name on the chalkboard, as she considers it, Paul Barringer enters) Bea: Have to leave you now. I'm trying to salvage a potential dropout. Paul: (brings out a hand that was behind his back, with a gift) For the teacher who Sylvia: (Follows after Bea) The very first girl I called on today was dropping. . .(but has everything. Bea has started talking with someone else and moves on, . . .) Arbuzzi, Helen. (Sylvia sees Helen in the hallway) Helen! (she stops and approaches Sylvia) Can Sylvia: (accepts the board eraser pleased). Perfect. Thank you. we talk a moment about your dropping out? Paul: McHabe wasn't around so I took two. Helen: I've got to drop out. I've got to work. I'm of age and my income is needed at home. Sylvia: Nice. Sylvia: Perhaps we can find some way to solve. . . Helen: (in a hurry to move on) Why do you care? You don't even know me. Sylvia: If you'd give me a chance to . . . Helen: No thanks. Sylvia: Maybe I'll join you . . .(stops herself, speaks more casually) . . .if I can get through the locker assignments, that is. Paul: (grins as he exits) Then, maybe I'll see you. (McHabe enters room holding Joe Ferone firmly by the arm) Paul: I have an off period. . .I mean conference period. I'm going to have some coffee in the Teacher's Lounge.

Sylvia: But before you take this step that's going to affect your whole life. . we should at least. . . McHabe: A moment of your time, Miss Barrett. Was Joe Ferone in your home room this morning? (Sylvia looks at Joe, Joe glares definantly at her) Did he stay until the Helen: Save your breath. (she exits) I'm outta here. (McHabe enters) bell? McHabe: Miss Barrett. Sylvia: (startled) Yes? McHabe: You're certain? It is important. (Sylvia compresses her lips unwilling to McHabe: It has come to my attention that you have neglected to fill out form B22 answer a second time. McHabe realizes he has to explain) A valuable wallet was Accident Report of a fall from a chair incurred by a student in your class. Such stolen from a locker during home room, and I understand Ferone was seen loitering in negligence may result in serious consequences. that vicinity just before the bell. Sylvia: (makes a decision and looks at Joe then at McHabe) He was a little late, but he stayed until the bell.

Sylvia: Then it couldn't have been Joe. He was in homeroom. McHabe: (almost disappointed) I see. Was he in any trouble? Sylvia: Trouble?

Ellen: Sounds gloomy. Sylvia: I've only been teaching for two months, and already I'm in a battle I'll probably lose.

Ellen: Over the boy you mentioned last time we talked? McHabe: (exasperated) Disruptive? Rude? Any trouble? (Sylvia glances at Joe who is watching her very closely) Sylvia: Yes, Joe Ferone. He's insolent, contemptuous, but very bright and flunking every subject. Sylvia: (again makes a decision) No. No trouble. Ellen: So why fight for that one? McHabe: If you think it helps to cover for them, then you're very much mistaken. Sylvia: I don't know. (pause) Maybe because I sense something in his Sylvia: Anything else, Mr. McHabe? (Taken aback, he shakes his head, and exits. rebelliousness that's like mine. Or maybe it's just because he's been so damaged. Sylvia goes to her desk) Ellen: You're not there to fight for them. You're a teacher. Just teach. Joe: (under his breath) Better luck next time, McHabe. (he exits, lights go out) Sylvia: I keep thinking of Mattie who was in college with us. Right now she's at Sadie: (pops head in classroom). Miss Barrett, do not accept lateness due to fire on Willowdale Academy holding seminars on James Joyce under the philosphic maples. the subway. This was checked by Mr. McHabe with the Transit Authority. There was no fire on the subway. (she exits and Katherine enters with a paper for Sylvia, she Ellen: So, what keeps you from taking a teaching position at Willowdale Academy delivers it to her desk) instead? That cute teacher. . . Paul something? Sylvia: (reading note) "Mr. McHabe to Miss Barrett. Please note that Joe Ferone Sylvia: Barringer? has been placed on probation. Truant Officer reports no such address as the one given. Subject teachers claim he's been cutting classes." (Lights out) Ellen: Oooh, yes. Tell me more about him. (Lights up on couch at Sylvia's house) Sylvia: All I really know. . .he's clever, attractive. . .but there's something about him that. . .eludes.

Sylvia: (handing Ellen a drink) This teaching job is a far cry from Graduate School and Professor Winter's lectures on the 'Psychology of the Adolescent.' Ellen: And you and the girl students find him very intriguing. Ellen: How's that? Sylvia: Definitely. There's a girl in my class, Alice Blake, who's love-sick over the man. (Lights fade out and then come back up on Sylvia and Alice talking in her Sylvia: Oh, I have met the adolescent face to face. Obviously Professor Winters has classroom) not. Alice: The thing I really like about him, Miss Barrett. . . Ellen: It can't be that bad. Sylvia: Please, Alice. . . Sylvia: While you're strolling through the grocery store with your baby in the cart or sharing lunch with a group of girlfriends, I'm erasing the latest graffiti from the Alice: And have you noticed, one eyebrow of his is slightly higher than the other? blackboard. Even the building seems hostile -- cracked plaster, broken windows, carved up desks, . . . Sylvia: Alice. . .the subject is Homer's The Odyssey.

Sylvia: Starting a novel about something he knows absolultely nothing about. Alice: I know. But have you ever noticed how Mr. Barringer. . . Ellen: Maybe he knows something about it? Sylvia: I'm looking forward to your paper. Sylvia: Only if he reached Calvin Coolidge High School via the Trans-Siberian Alice: (giving up) Yes, Miss Barrett. I'll head to the library now to work on it. (as railroad. she exits, Paul is entering and Alice stares longingly at him, then leaves) Ellen: Ouch. So, how about you? You reaching the students? Paul: What's the matter with Alice? Sylvia: No. . .but there was a beautiful moment yesterday. For the first time I was Sylvia: There's nothing the matter with Alice. able to excite my class with an idea. I put on the board Browning's "A man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?" And then we were involved -- a Paul: Why did you insist on going home right after dinner last night? I thought we spirited discussion -- aspiration versus reality. (lights fade to classroom) Is it wise, were having a pretty nice time. class, to aim higher than one's capacity? Sylvia: (regretfully) Papers to grade. Students: Yes! No!

Paul: No one can take it that seriously. You were put off by my bad mood. It was Sylvia: Does it doom one to failure? the latest rejection slip. The tone is not only polite, but patronizing. "Why don't I write of something familiar?" Students: Of course! Don't be stupid! How ya gonna make progress? What about ambition? So what? So all ya do, you get frustrated. Sylvia: Well? Sylvia: And hope? What about hope? Paul: (with disdain) What do they want me to write about? Calvin Coolidge High School? Students: You've got to be practical. I say you got to have a dream. Hitch your wagon to a star. What about . . .? Miss Barrett call on me! My turn! Call on my! Sylvia: At least they couldn't say you're not familiar with. . . Oh, let me talk! Paul: (irritated) through halls. . . Kids sprawling in classrooms, yawning in assembly, pushing McHabe: (stepping into the classroom, angry) Miss Barrett! Sylvia: Yes? Sylvia: That's the surface, Paul. If you'd get closer. . . McHabe: Then what's the meaning of this? Paul: Let it go. (changes subject) So, Sylvia, I've started on a new novel. This one's going to make it. Let's have a cup of coffee later, and I'll tell you all about it. Sylvia: Meaning of what? Sylvia: Sure, Paul. McHabe: (she must be an idiot) All this noise.

Paul: A big subject. (exiting) A nuclear physicist is marooned on a peninsula in Sylvia: (defensive) The noise, Mr. McHabe? That's the sound of thinking! (They Kamchatka. (Lights out, light back up on Sylvia's couch with Ellen) stare at each other for a moment) Ellen: So, how's the hunky English teacher? McHabe: (turns to address class) There will be a series of three bells rung three times indicating a Fire Drill. (back to Sylvia) Loud discussions do not encourage the

orderly evacuation of the class. (lights fade out and back up on to the classroom) Sylvia: Class, can you tell me what you've gotten out of English class so far?

Carole: Myths help us gain tolerance for others, even if they don't deserve it. Lennie: My opinion is that I hated The Odyssey. Homer is lousy writer. (Lights fade out, students leave, lights come up on Sylvia and Joe in the classroom)

Harry: During my many years of frequenting school, I'm well satisfied with my instruction, and I hope to achieve further progress in my chosen program of study Joe: Why do you ask these questioins? What are you trying to prove? No one in this with. . school gives a damn about us . . . Lou: (tosses paper at Harry's head) Shut up, Harry. Sylvia: Joe. . . Linda: What I got out of it is literature and books. Joe: You probably don't care for my language, so give me a zero in vocabulary. Carrie: Having boys in class distracts me. Sylvia: Joe. . . Sylvia: Edward? Joe: Doesn't matter. I'm quitting end of this semester - joining the dogs eating dogs Edward: (correcting her) Edward Willimas Esquire. (She nods agreement) All the in the lousy world you're educating us for. teachers smile at me to my face then flunk me because they hate me. Sylvia: Joe. . . Rusty: What I've learned in English is to doodle. It's such a boring subject, I spend a lot of time doodling. Joe: Don't worry. You'll still find plenty willing to play your game of baah baah little lambs, trot in step and get their nice clean diplomas - served on dirt. Lou: Essays - a lot of gossip. Ivanhoe is for losers. George Eliot stinks, even though he's a lady. Sylvia: You express yourself vividly, Joe. And your metaphors from dogs to lambs, are apt. I'd give you higher marks than you'd give yourself. Joe, before you decide to Elizabeth: A kaleidoscope. A crazy quilt. An ever-shifting pattern. Shapes that quit, we should talk. Can you see me after school today? There's so much. . .I wish I come and go, leaving no echo behind. Such is my remembrance of lost and vanished could convey what I . . . hours of English from whence I arise, all creativity stifled, yet a Phoenix with hope reborn. Joe: (mocking) Teach, I don't understand dem big words, and I'm busy after school. (she tries to interrupt) Every day. You'll have to prove yourself on your own time, Sylvia: Let me ask a specific question. Why do we study myths like The Odyssey? teach. Rachel: Because we want to talk like cultured people. At a party, how would you (Lights fade out, lights up and bell rings as Joe enters the classroom) like it if someone mentioned a Greek god and you didn't know him? You'd be embarrassed. Sylvia: Wow, Joe, first time you've ever been early. Edward: Cause you make us. Jill: If it wasn't for myths, where would Shakespeare be today? Alice: We study myths because they're about love. Rusty: Everyone has to read them, and it's our turn. Joe: I missed the class before this, because of McHabe. Sylvia: Mr. McHabe. Joe: (tosses paper on her desk) He said to give you this. Sylvia: (reading it) Please admit bearer to class. He was detained by me for going up the down staircase and subsequent insolence. Mr. McHabe.

Lou: What homework? Joe: (sarcastically) Imagine that! Lennie: I hate to tell you this, a terrible tragedy. My dog went on my homework. Sylvia: Sit down, please. Did you bring your homework? (He shakes his head) Why not? Sylvia: (laughing as she passes out the test) All right, all right, that makes it unanimous. (Alice slips her some papers) Okay, not quite unanimous. Thank you, Joe: (glares at her) I didn't do it. Alice. Sylvia: Why? Joe: I just didn't. Carole: Why so many tests, teach? Sylvia: I learned your name, Carole, couldn't you learn mine?

Sylvia: Someday you'll have to prove yourself, Joe. You have so much you're not Carole: We see you every day. Why do we hafta be formal? using. You could. . . (students begin to enter room and sit) Harry: Because it's protocol -- dum dums. Right, Miss Barrett? Joe: I'm supposed to accelerate at my own speed. I'm supposed to compete with myself. Well, maybe I'm not so hot. Charles: You're a teach. Why not call you Teach? Sylvia: I happen to know your IQ.. . .and it's pretty hot. (turns to address class) We Sylvia: Don't open the test booklet until I tell you to, please. have a a test today, so hurry along, please, and turn in your homework. Lennie: I don't care if I never open it. Rusty: Homework? Someone stole my homework! Lou: Anything you say teach. (he leans back in chair) Harry: It's like this. I fell asleep on the subway because I stayed up all night doing my homework. So when it stopped at my station, I ran through the door not to be Sylvia: (puts a paper face down on Alice's desk) This doesn't seem to be part of your late, and left my homework on the subway. homework, Alice. (Alice turns the paper over, sees what it is and is very embarrassed) Carole: As I was taking down the assignment, my pen stopped working. Alice: (to Sylvia quietly) You didn't read it? Rachel: My brother took my homeowrk instead of his homework. Linda: (snatching paper) Read what? Vivian: The page was missing from my book. Carrie: (snatching it from Linda) Let me see. Edward: If a teacher wants to know something, why doesn't she look it up herself instead of making the students do it? Charles: (looking over Carrie's shoulder) A big heart with Paul! Jose: There's no room, because my uncle moved in and I have to sleep in the hall and Carrie: (reading) Memorized all poetry Barringer reads. can't use the kitchen table. Carole: (defending Alice) Hey, leave her alone. . . Carrie: The baby spilled milk all over it. Linda: (snatching paper back) I had it first. (reads over dramatically) His voice, Linda: In those hours when I have to do homework, I can watch TV. the way his eyebrow goes up, . . .(Sylvia takes the paper from her)

Sylvia: That's enough. If you want your own privacy respected, respect it in others. Linda: (giggling) Honest, teach. . . Sylvia: Miss Barrett. (Hands paper back to Alice) Put this away. (crosses to her desk) You are not to open your test booklets until I say start. (Picks up paper from desk) Before we start, please pay attention to this announcement. (As she reads, the lights dim except for a spot on Alice who still stares at the paper Sylvia gave back to her.) "Students are to place on the floor all books, notebooks and personal possessions. Cell phones must be turned off. Students may not leave their seats for any reason whatsoever. The proctor is to approach them at their seats to answer questions. No questions are to be answered by the proctor. If a student desires to go to the restroom, the proctor will escort the student to the door and summon the hall proctor who will then escort the student to the restroom. (all lights are dim and just the spot is up on Alice) Alice: (talking to herself) His voice, the way his eyebrow goes up, how to describe the emotion, . .. (as if talking to him directly) If I could die for you, Paul, like the Lady of Shalott you read to us about, floating dead on the river under his window, and Lancelot never knowing, saying only, "She has a lovely face, the Lady of Shalott." In my bed at night, I pray to the ceiling, please make him love me or notice me in the class where I sit. Make him take me in his bold embrace! When I look at the cracks in my ceiling and how ugly everything is, I think it's unreal, my house. . .my parents. (general lights begin to fade up) Real life is somewhere else...on moonlit terraces. . .in tropic gardens. . .foreign cities. . .darkling woods. . .(lights are now all up). Sylvia: All right, class. (Looks at clock) Ready, and . . .start. (They open their test booklets, register the first questions, then, almost simultaneously, they all groan) Get on with it. (With big sighs, whining, and indignation, they start the test. Sylvia gives a little sigh herself and sits at her desk. She notices Alice daydreaming and gestures for her to start the test.) You too, Alice. (Alice jolts, then nods, and starts the test. Joe Ferone raises his hand) Joe: Hey, Barrett! Sylvia: Yes, Joe? Joe: I have to be excused. Sylvia: We're in the middle of a test, Joe. Please continue. Rusty: What's the answer to question four?

Carole: Teach, I don't think we covered part of this. Sylvia: No talking. Please, just do your best. Joe: (stands up abruptly) Barrett! Sylvia: Finish your test, Joe. Joe: I want to go to the restroom. Sylvia: (crosses to him) Couldn't you wait until after. . . Joe: No. Sylvia: (lowering voice) You'll have to be escorted. Joe: So get an escort. Sylvia: (to class) Keep your eyes on your work. (crosses to door and looks in hallway) I don't see. . .Hall Proctor? Hall Proctor! Joe: I'm not waiting. I'll be back. (pushes past Sylvia, she grabs his arm) Sylvia: Wait, there's no escort. Joe: (glares at her) So what are you gonna do? (a pause then Sylvia lets go of his arm) Sylvia: (makes a choice, speaks softly and seriously) I'm going to trust you. Do I have your word you won't get help or look up answers? Joe: (sarcastically) Sure, teach. Sylvia: (still softly, but curious) Does showing disrespect make you feel better, Joe? More important? A bigger man? (He glares at her, but has no answer. He turns and leaves, Sylvia starts back to her desk) Lennie: These questions are crazy! Sylvia: (sharply) No talking. (Sees Charles daydreaming) Get to work, Charles. Charles: Whatever you say, teach. (Frances comes in)

Frances: Miss Barrett, you can take a quick break now. Sylvia: Oh, thank you. I won't be long.

students, he and Sylvia speak in hushed voices) McHabe: How dare you?

(lights fade to half and class pantomimes test taking. Syliva grabs a stack of papers Sylvia: How dare I what? and goes to the teacher's lounge for coffee, Bea is there) McHabe: Let him out of the room unescorted? Sylvia: I hate these standardized tests. All the rules. (Sits with coffee, sighs) I let Joe go to the restroom without a proctor. I shouldn't have. Sylvia: He had to go. Bea: Probably not. McHabe: Unescorted?

Sylvia: I can't take the system so seriously. (holds up papers) Did you get these Sylvia: There was no hall proctor. absurdities? "Lateness due to Absence," "High under-achiever," "Polio consent slips?" McHabe: Then you should have waited. Bea: I can match yours any day. (Pulls from her stack of papers) "Please disregard Sylvia: The situation did not warrant waiting. the following." McHabe: His exam paper will have to be invalidated. Sadie: (pops head into the lounge) At the end of home room period, send those students who have failed to report for check out because they've left the building to Sylvia: Why? Mr. McHabe. (leaves) McHabe: He could have been looking up answers. Sylvia: How do we send students who've left the building? Sylvia: He told me he wouldn't. Bea: It'll be a challenge. Break's over for me. (leaves) McHabe: He told you? Charlotte: (enters lounge) Miss Barrett, I'm forced to cancel your library lessons on mythology. Your students create havoc. They have no respect for the printed page. Sylvia: Yes. Two of them took out books indiscriminately. McHabe: (incredulous) And you believed him? Sylvia: What better way to show respect than by. . . Syliva: I believed him. Charlotte: Not only that, they misplaced The Golden Age of Greece, and they put Bullfinch on the Zoology shelf! McHabe: Go back to your seat, young man. (Lights fade and classroom light fades back up with Sylvia at her desk as McHabe Sylvia: I believe him. enters holding Joe firmly and angrily by the arm and stands in the doorway) McHabe: (gestures) Girl in the fourth seat, eyes on your paper! (to Sylvia) Will McHabe: Miss Barrett, will you come here, please? you come here, please. (He steps into the hallway) Sylvia: (recognizing trouble, she crosses to him) Concentrate on your test, class. Sylvia: Yes, Mr. McHabe. What is it, Mr. McHabe? (McHabe is outraged but because of the covertly watching

McHabe: This isn't the time or the place to explain to you the gravity of your Elizabeth: You had us very well prepared, thank you. position. You had explicit instructions. You disobeyed them. When Ferone finishes, put his paper aside. Lennie: (wanting to please her) Maybe Homer isn't such a lousy writer. If you say so, I'll give him another try. Sylvia: He did not cheat. Sylvia: It's optional, Lennie. McHabe: (in hushed explosion) They don't need your coddling; they need discipline. We have to punish them. Punish them for every infraction, because if we Lennie: In that case, I'll. . .I'll see. (Sylvia smiles after the departing Lennie. As he don't, they'll get it later from a cop or a judge. (takes a breath) There's a strong goes, she's left alone with Joe who still sits at his desk and who is staring at her. Her possibility your end of year rating will be an unsatisfactory. (points to the class) Go smile fades. Joe gets up, brings his paper to her desk and tosses it down.) do your job and monitor what they're doing. (He leaves and Sylvia is crushed and returns to the classroom and goes to her desk to compose herself. She glances at the Joe: (bitterly) You may fool them, but you don't fool me. You're even phonier than students, none smile or do anything but simply go back to taking the test) the others because you put on this act -- being a dame you know how -- pretending you give a damn. (his voice rises in anger and frustration and a feeling of betrayal) Sylvia: (quietly and in defeat) When the bell sounds, please bring your examination Just who do you think you're kidding? (He glares at her, then turns abruptly to exit, papers to my desk. as he gets near the door, he slows down and then just stops with his hand on the doorknob) Charles: (rising with a tone of respect) I finished early, Miss Barrett. (He hands the paper to her) Sylvia: (quietly) Anything else, Joe? Sylvia: Thank you, Charles. (Lou comes with his test) Lou: (in his best manners) Hope I did okay, Miss Barrett. Sylvia: I'm beginning to think I'm not communciating with anyone here. Sylvia: I'm sure you did, Lou. (Alice comes with her test) Ellen: Then you'd better communicate with Willowdale about their January vacancy. Alice: (whispers) Thank you for sticking up for me. (The bell rings and all others, Have you checked them out? except Joe who is quickly taking the test, get up and turn in their papers. Sylvia is noticing a change in their manner) Sylvia: It's a small, private school. Pleasant. Cozy. Trees. Clean and orderly classrooms. I haven't checked them out any more than that, except. . . Linda: (respectfully) It was a hard test, Miss Barrett, but that's not your fault. Dr. Clarke: (entering classroom) Miss Barrett. Carole: Here's mine, Miss Barrett. Sylvia: Hold on. (Puts aside phone guiltily, then quickly rises) Yes, Dr. Clarke? Rachel: Now you have to grade them. Such a long day for you, teach. Dr. Clarke: It has come to my attention that due to laxness on your part, one of your Carole: (pokes Rachel) Talk nice. students is under suspicion of cheating. This can have a demoralizing and corrupting effect, and I find your actions upsetting and disturbing. Rachel: Miss Barrett. Sylvia: (subdued) Yes, Dr. Clarke. (He nods briskly and exits, Sylvia hears picks up Jill: Everything is gonna be fine. phone) Sorry, Ellen. Harry: If it was up to me, I'd say you're very satisfactory. Ellen: Except. . .? (Alice is coming down hallway, very nervous) Joe: (without turning, just angry and unhappy) Nothing else. Nothing. Too bad I can't believe you, that's all. (he exits, Sylvia gets out phone to call Ellen)

Sylvia: Except that I chose to teach here. I want to make a difference. No one forced me. It was my choice, and in spite of everything, I've got to keep trying. I Alice: (feels a stir of hope, maybe he feels the same way) Really? You do? can't give up. Paul: (gestures for her to come by the door) I'd like to see you privately. Ellen: You feel your reach should exceed your grasp? Alice: (sure that he's feeling for her what she does for him now) See me? Privately? Alice: (from doorway) Miss Barrett? Paul: (to Sylvia) Excuse us, please. (Sylvia nods, goes to her desk and sits) Sylvia: (sees Alice; back to Ellen) I've got to go. I'll call you later. (Hangs up phone) Come in Alice. Alice: Yes, P. . .Mr. Barringer? Alice: (tentatively comes in a bit) Miss Barrett -- I need help. Sylvia: What's the matter? Alice: I did something so stupid! I could die! Paul: I'd like to make a few corrections to your letter. Alice: (bewildered) Corrections?

Paul: (nods and continues professionally) You use a series of dots instead of punctuation. Let's see now. (He takes out a red pen and corrects it as he reads Sylvia: What is it? quickly and without expression) Dear Mr. Barringer, Last Sunday I took the subway to your stop -- insert comma -- having looked it up on your time card -- dot dot dot. I Alice: (painfully) The letter. hope you don't mind the presumption (he looks up) That's misspelled. (Alice swallows with difficulty. This isn't what she expected. He continues reading rapidly Sylvia: What letter? and without expression) I walked back and forth across the street from your house -insert comma -- back and forth -- insert comma -- and my heart was throbbing with Alice: To Mr. Barringer. this love I bear for you -- dot dot dot. (he looks up) Trobbing is a cliche. (Alice is too disturbed to speak, he continues) I think of you all the time -- dot dot dot. I pray to Sylvia: (leads her to a chair) Alice, sit down. (trying to figure this out) You sent a be worthy of you (Alice is stunned and mute) And if ever you need me to die for you, letter to Mr. Barringer? I will gladly do so - dot dot dot. (Alice starts slowly to back away, he doesn't notice) I feel so deeply the truth and beauty -- cliches, no need to capitalize. But I have to Alice: I'm afraid. What if he's there now? What if he's read it? How could I face speak out this love I feel -- dot dot dot dot dot dot -- (he looks up and sees her him? backing away) There are some repetitions here and a change of tense, along with. . . (Alice is gone, he waits a moment, then shrugs and goes over to Sylvia's desk, as he Sylvia: (puzzled by the extent of her fear and upset) What did you write in the letter? gets near, Sylvia stands deeply concerned) Alice: It was a terrible mistake. Sylvia: Then get it back. Just go. Alice: (great misery) I can't! (At that moment, Paul enters carrying a letter) Sylvia: How? Paul: (sees Alice) There you are. (Clears his throat) I received your letter. . . Paul: As a composition. Alice: Yes? Sylvia: Oh, no. Paul: I want to talk to you about it. Sylvia: What did you do? Paul: I handled her letter the only possible way.

Paul: Yes. (shrugs anxious to move on) What does a neurotic adolescent know Francine: The office wants you to fill out this Emergency Form. about love? Sylvia: (sharply) I don't know anything about an emergency. Sylvia: (with quiet anger) Probably much more than you know about a nuclear physicist marooned on Kamchatka. (Paul starts to reply, but he can't. He turns Francine: (putting form in front of her) All you do, check one. Parent or Guardian. abruptly and walks out. Suddenly the anger leaves Sylvia and she just feels defeated, Reached or Not Reached. By telephone. By e-mail. Opposite parent or guardian of she sits down at her desk and picks up a pen and paper, makes a decision and then fill in Alice Blake. Then, after we regret to inform you, fill in. . . writes:) I understand there may be a vacancy at Willowdale Academy in January, and it is in interest that I am writing to you. (a bell starts ringing in short bursts, Sylvia Sylvia: Fill in what? What happened? looks up then goes back to her letter (computer) when the bell stops.) I hold a license in English in New York. . . (Bea enters) Francine: (surprised) Don't you know? (siren is getting louder) Bea: Sylvia, do you know what the commotion is about outside? Sylvia: What commotion? Bea: Something's going on. (she exits down hallway, Katherine enters quickly) Katherine: Miss Barrett, have you seen Mr. Barringer? He's wanted right away. Sylvia: He left my room just a moment ago. Katherine: Where to? Sylvia: No idea. Katherine: (exiting) If he comes back, tell him to call the office, immediately! Sylvia: Is that the police or. . . Francine: Probably the ambulance. To take Alice to the hospital. She cut her wrists in the bathroom. (Sylvia gasps, lights start to fade, Fran continues to business) Please check one. Parent or guardian. Reached. Not reached. By telephone. By email. To parent or guardian, please fill in . . . (blackout and siren reaches climax then just stops) ACT II (A bell rings and lights come up. One change to set is a box with "Suggestion Box" on it The chalkboard has a recent lesson on it including a diagramed sentence, a note encourageing students to pick up supplementary reading list from the desk, and a message that reads, "Miss B, I'm here so don't count me absent. I'm in the office. Carole." Students are seated at their desks writing while Dr. Clarke is on a platform addressing "all teachers.")

Sylvia: (calling after her) I don't expect to. . .(Katherine is gone. Sylvia turns back to her letter determined to finish) I hold a license in New York City Secondary Dr. Clarke: All teachers, I have noted and observed in assembly that a number of our Schools and at the present, I am teaching at Calvin. . .(Frances Egan appears) students seem uncertain of the words of our alma mater song, "the Purple and Gold." Teachers are advised to go over the wording with their students. Singing our alma Frances: Please send down the Health card for Alice Blake - urgent. Do you have mater with the right and proper feeling should foster and encourage a more any blank accident reports? I'm all out - urgent! appropriate school spirit and public image. (He exits, students read their suggestion at their desk then get up to put it in the box and then exit) Sylvia: (confused) No, I don't. Has there been an accident? What's. . .(she's gone. McHabe on PA) Linda: Not enough boys and too many girls. But that's not your fault. Also some schools they have dancing in the cafeteria. Signed, Linda Rosen. McHabe: All teachers and students will remain in their rooms disregarding the bells until further notice. Lessons are to proceed as usual with no reference to this incident. Edward: Abolish Miss Freidenberg's interviews! They make me sick, like when she Teachers are to discourage morbid curiosity. (He's gone. Sirens are faintly heard. asked if I was ashamed about where I live. Signed, Edward Willilams, Esquire. Francine hurries into Sylvia's room) Carrie: I don't like the way you dress - too prim and proper, and you're a low marker.

Signed, Your enemy. Paul: A parody of Ezra Pound in many cantos -- which I plan to lay at the feet of our Lennie: Teachers are ruining America! This is the last time I'm writing. Signed, The dedicated colleague, Sylvia. (concerned) Is she back at school today? Hawk. (Carole enters and sits and writes her suggestion) Bea: Yes. Vivian: You seem to be a very understandable person. By that I mean you understand us not being so old yourself. Too bad you're a teacher and pretty like my Paul: Where'd she go yesterday? sister. I wish you were a plain person. Then we could be close. Signed, Vivian Paine. Bea: I haven't spoken to her. Rusty: The way you read is too emoting, and you have pets - like Joe Ferone. He Paul: I'm the villain. (bothered) How would you handle a love letter from a must be your pet because he gives you so much trouble and you protect him anyway. student? Signed, Neglected. Bea: I have no idea. (Charlotte enters) Jill: You're a good teacher except for the rotten books you have to teach like The Odyssey. I wouldn't give it to a dog to read. Signed, Disgusted. Charlotte: Is Sylvia back? I have a problem about Alice Blake. She's still listed in Sylvia's official class, and . . . Carole: Is it okay if I start collecting money from homeroom kids to send flowers to Alice in the hospital? Signed, Carole. Paul: (on edge) What's the problem? Lou: Why do you make us read out loud? What do you think we are, orators? Charlotte: An overdue book. She owes the library forty-nine cents. Signed Mark Anthony. Paul: (sarcastic) You could always send a posse to the hospital. (Sylvia enters Harry: It is my considered opinion that you are very well qualified. No matter how lounge) (ingratiatingly to Sylvia) I have another parody for you. Gray's "Elegy," "the boring the lesson, you always make it interesting. I suggest you continue the good school bell tolls the knell of the starting day. Ah, do not aks for whom it tolls! I see work. Signed, Harry A Kagan. the students stairwards push their screaming way, I know, alas, it tolls for thee and me." Lou: (comes back in with another note) Have no fear, Miss Barrett. We're behind you sixty-five percent! Sylvia: (quietly) That's very clever. Rachel: Please tell Lou Martin to quiet showing off. He thinks he's so comic. I Paul: I have some others here, also very clever. When I didn't see you yesterday, I don't. Signed, a serious student. was afraid you'd left us. Glad you're back. (he exits) Elizabeth: Thank you for showing me that there is nothing more important than Bea: I think he's a lot more upset than he shows. communication, but with so many other students, I feel we are both wasted. Signed, Elizabeth Ellis. Sylvia: Perhaps. (concerned) I couldn't even talk to Alice. She's not having visitors. Jose: I'm not a good writer, but I must tell someone-- I mean, I'd like someone to Bea: That's what I hear. (Sadie enters) know. I'm putting this in the suggestion box for the record. Today, . . .is my birthday. Signed, Me. (As Jose exits, Paul Barringer is in the lounge going over something Sadie: Miss Barrett, why have you neglected to send in the attendance sheet for he's written and counting the meter. Bea goes to him) today? Bea: You've written something brillant again? Sylvia: Because Carrie wore a low cut pink sweater and fuchsia stretch pants to

school. She was seen by Mr. McHabe, who had her cool her heels in the office. She Sylvia: (surprised) To me? (pause) Maybe I should stay away. was also seen by the boys in my home room, who migrated en masse to her vicinity. I'll take attendance later; unless they follow her like lemmings into the sea and are all Bea: Where were you? drowned. Sylvia: I have a feeling my teacher evaluation rating is going to be a big, fat "U." Sadie: (insulted, exiting) I'll inform Mr. McHabe. (McHabe enters) Sylvia: (to Bea) She had only one comment about Alice's accident (mocking) "Hand Bea: No one is rated unsatisfactory unless certified looney. in before three, locker number and book receipts for Blake, Alice." McHabe tells us to keep our public image intact and our students in their seats. Dr. Clarke urges us to McHabe: That's not entirely true, Mrs. Schachter. (turns to Sylvia) be aware of our responsibility in a democracy. McHabe: A frivolous attitude and levity of tone toward attendance taking are Bea: What else can they say? unsuitable to the high seriousness of our profession. Sylvia: I don't know. Some indication they care about the girl. Are we supposed to Sylvia: I'll try to cut down on the levity, Mr. McHabe. Hve you had a chance yet to be uninvolved? (Frances enters) go over Joe Ferone's examination paper? Frances: There was nothing any of us could have done for Alice. She was having a McHabe: Of course. So did Mr. Bester. very rough time outside. Sylvia: I've been waiting to hear how he did. I daresay Joe has, too. Sylvia: How do you know? McHabe: His grade was an 86. Frances: As the nurse, I'm privy to certain important information. Sylvia: Any evidence of cheating? Sylvia: Why wasn't I informed? McHabe: You'd have heard. Frances: It's private. On a need to know basis. (she leaves) Sylvia: So, no evidence of cheating? Sylvia: (turns to Bea) Need to know? If I had known, maybe. . . McHabe: That's right. Bea: (gently) None of us is God. Nothing is our fault. . .except, perhaps, poor teaching. Sylvia: Shouldn't something be said, if not to me, at least to Joe? Sylvia: Are we teaching? Is anything getting through? Or are we just talking to McHabe: Why? ourselves? Sylvia: I'm hoping he'll stay in school. Bea: You were missed yesterday. I had to go down and rescue your substitute. Your kids were turning her into a nervous wreck. McHabe: He should not have been let out unescorted. He knew it and you knew it. The fact that he didn't cheat. . . Sylvia: Why would they do that? Sylvia: (cutting in) Should be noted. Bea: Misguided loyalty. McHabe: And you think you can handle the Joe Ferones? You try running the

school for one day, and you'll have a riot in every room.

Bea: Ask yourself. (Bell rings. She stands) I have to get back to class. (exits. Lights out. Lights up on Sylvia in her classroom. She goes to the chalkboard and Sylvia: All I"m asking...some strong things were said. Now we know he did well, erases the board, then goes to desk to grade papers. As she grades, lights fade as and since it was entirely on his own. . . students enter the classroom, they stop one by one by the suggestion box to drop in a note and be in the spotlight, then exit off stage) McHabe: This time. Lou: Don't worry, Miss Barrett. We're behind you eighty-three percent. Signed, Lou. Sylvia: I'd like there to be a next time. Linda: My mother has been living with me for sixteen years, but she still insists on McHabe: (impatient) We'll always have more than we can handle. (starts to exit) cross-examining. Please talk to her. Signed, Linda. We have to be realistic. (Stops and pauses) You weren't here yesterday. Rusty: I know school is supposed to help me with life, but so far it hasn't. Rusty. Sylvia: (defensive) I spent the day at Willowdale Academy being interviewed for a possible January job. Vivian: Tell us more about your own life. It makes you seem human. I'm only miserable at home and never in English. That's why I have this ambition to be an McHabe: (suddenly subdued) I see. English teacher. Your friend, Vivian. Sylvia: I was being realistic. McHabe: Yes. Of course. (He leaves) Bea: (looking after him surprised) You upset him. Sylvia: McHabe? Bea: Yep. He's upset. Sylvia: Not McHabe. Never. You're mistaken. Elizabeth: Thank you for showing me that writing clearly means thinking clearly. Signed, Elizabeth. Edward: When you call on me to answer, don't call on me when I don't know the answer. It makes me look dumb. Signed, Edward Williams, Esquire. Carole: You have one of the best sense of humors I ever met. You make the lessons laughable. Signed, Carole. Rachel: Teachers give tests for spite and to get even. You said we should sign our name. Signed, Anonymous.

Bea: Sylvia, I don't find him inspirational either, but remember - his student load is Lennie: Will you marry me? This is positively the last time I'm writing to you. three thousand. Signed, The Hawk. Sylvia: It's such a different world at Willowdale. Bea: You mean nobody shouts out, "Hiya, teach!" Charles: I enjoy the way your tone of voice makes poetry sound, like happiness or sadness, depending on the poem. I went to the school library to look for more Robert Frost, but it was closed. Signed, Charles, Esquire.

Sylvia: I mean, I'd only have three classes a day, I'd be teaching gifted and talented Jill: You never call on me, and if you do it's very seldom. Jill. students, I'd have a clean classroom with all the supplies I need. . . Harry: I wish to commend you for taking an interest in mine and the class as a Bea: Why do you think your students picked on the substitute yesterday? whole's grammar. Sincerely, Harry A. Kagan. Sylvia: Ask McHabe. Carrie: Cafeteria lunches are lousy. Your enemy.

Jose: I'm nobody special, so nobody knows me. But maybe if I drop out and get a Sylvia: Paul invited me to an end of the term party but I just couldn't go. job, I'll at least be somebody with a job. Signed. . .Me. Ellen: Why not? Joe: (agressively, as lights fade up) Give me one good reason why I should stay in school. Sylvia: How could I celebrate with a man who corrects a love letter? Sylvia: (looks up from desk) I can give you many good reasons. Joe: To keep taking what McHabe dishes out? Sylvia: (honestly) It's time we talk this out. Stay after school, and. . . Joe: What's in it for you? Sylvia: I'm beginning to wonder. For the time being, let's just say it's my job. Ellen: (humorously sarcastic) Such as have a little talk with the Ferone boy and turn him into a model student? Ellen: You're leaving for Willowdale anyway, so what's the difference? Sylvia: The semester ends this week. (bothered) There was so much more I wanted to do.

Sylvia: It's not a question of a model student. I wouldn't expect him or want him to be that. There is just so much more to Joe Ferone, but I can't seem to make any Joe: (half angry, exiting) If I didn't know better, you'd even convince me. Save it for difference to him. (she considers) That's why I want to teach; that's probably the one the sheep. and only compensation: to make a permanent difference in the life of a child. Sylvia: (after him) Joe, please, let's talk. . .(he's gone, and Paul Barringer enters) Paul: (meekly) Miss Barrett. Sylvia: (surprised) Paul. Ellen: But what if you can't? (lights fade, Sylvia is in classroom and Bester enters) Bester: Miss Barrett, I'd like to speak to you. Sylvia: Yes, Mr. Bester? (As they talk, students enter the class, take their seats and begin working on an assignment)

Paul: There's a rumor you're leaving at the end of the term. (bothered) Why on earth. . . Bester: I have some comments on your teaching - notes that will appear on my formal Observation Report. Sylvia: Let's just say I couldn't find the proper response to "Hiya, teach!" Sylvia: (nervous) I see. Paul: I wish you'd reconsider. Bester: The lesson I observed was an interesting one. Was there a particular reason Sylvia: Why? for choosing Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken?" Paul: (half joking) Because. . .if you leave, where else would I get such ghastly Sylvia: I waned to lead them into a discussion of blazing a trail versus conformity honest literary criticism? and to the regret inherent in any decision. Sylvia: (smiling) Are you sure you want criticism? Paul: No, but just the same. . .you're needed here. (clears throat) (Lights fade out to Ellen and Sylvia on her couch ) Bester: Certainly apropos. Sylvia: (uncertain as to his meaning) Mr. Bester? Bester: My comments follow. Ask your questions first, then call the student by name-- thus you engage the whole class in thinking. Avoid vague or loaded questions

- "How do you feel about this poem?" Vague. "Do we regret what we haven't done?" Sylvia: Let's start at the beginning. The teacher obviously expects a yes. Harry: Right. Okay, the way I see it. . . Sylvia: I see. Sylvia: Charles. Bester: I like the way you handled the hostile boy who came late, the one with the toothpick in his mouth. You made him feel the class had missed his contribution. Charles: So, in this book the author depicts this murder. Bester: And don't let a few students monopolize the discussion. Call on the non- Sylvia: We were discussing the theme, not the plot. What's the difference? Linda? volunteers. I'm not sure you're putting your energy where it's most needed. Linda: The plot is what they do. The theme is how? Sylvia: (not understanding) Sir? Sylvia: Not exactly. Vivian? Bester: The cream will probably rise to the top anyway. Where our help is most needed, Miss Barrett, is with the skim milk. Vivian: The theme is what's behind it. Sylvia: I appreciate your criticism, Mr. Bester. Sylvia: Behind what?

Bester: (concerned) The lesson I observed was a fruitful discussion of choices. Vivian: The plot. What really concerns me is your choice. (students begin entering class) But I see you have a class. (exiting) My formal report will follow. (Class is seated, Elizabeth Rusty: Mrs. Macbeth noodges him. raises her hand) Sylvia: Nudges? Sylvia: Yes, Elizabeth? Rusty: Noodges. Being a female, she spurns him on. Elizabeth: (rises holding a piece of paper) Before we get to Macbeth, I have a piece of creative writing. (she reads dramatically) "I saw him scuttling like a crook, Sylvia: Edward? making his fearful way, stealthy, among the dirty dishes crusted with grease, bearing food to his secret sons behind the drainboard. How fearful were his eyes. Shall I kill Edward: Edward Williams Equire. him?" (then asks matter of factly) Miss Barrett, is it clear I'm writing about a cockroach? Sylvia: Esquire. Sylvia: Crystal. But the subject is Macbeth. I want to hear from some others. Do Edward: The theme is he kills him for his own good. you have your homework on Macbeth? (Jill waves her hand, and Sylvia is delighted) Jill, good! I've been waiting all term for you to raise your hand. What's your Sylvia: (shakes head) Jose. question? Jose: Me? Jill: Do you wear contact lenses? Sylvia: Yes. You. What do you think, Jose? Sylvia: (reproachfully) Only when I read Macbeth. Have you read the scene for today? Jose: (embarrassed) I didn't have my hand up. Jill: Not all the way. I mean, you already know who did it. Sylvia: But I'm calling on you.

Sylvia: (glowing with pleasure) That's right. That's exactly right, Jose. Jose: Why me? Jose: I'm right? Sylvia: Did you read it, Jose? Sylvia: Yes, you are. Jose: Yes, but. . . Jose: I figured out the theme? Sylvia: What would you say is the theme? Sylvia: Yes. I'll have to call on you more often. Jose: I didn't volunteer. My hand wasn't raised. Jose: Sure. Why not? (burst of simultaneous voices in class except for Joe) Sylvia: I'd really like to hear your opinion. Harry: (waving his hand) If you ask me. . . Sylvia: Not this time, Harry. Jill: If you want the theme, well, in my opinion. . . Rachel: Anytime I have something to say, the bell rings. Sylvia: I've asked Jose. (smiles at him) Jose, what are your thoughts? Vivian: Because it's a short class. Jose: (takes a deep breath) The author tries to say. . . Carole: Jose the brain. Sylvia: Tries? Doesn't he succeed? Jose: Don't knock it. Anytime you want to know about themes. . . Jose: He shows you mustn't be ambitious. Rusty: The real villian, Mrs. Macbeth . . . Sylvia: Does he say ambition is bad? Lou: I say he was led on by the witches. Right at the top, they egg him on. Carole: Yes. Very bad. Lennie: Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. . . Sylvia: Jose. Isn't it good to be ambitious? Edward: What they know about toil and trouble? Jose: Yes. . .um, but not too. Sylvia: Not too what? Jose: Too ambitious is not so good. Sylvia: You mean, excessive ambition. . . Jose: (with sudden decision) Can lead to big trouble. That's the theme. Rusty: Remember when she hollers, "Out, out, damn spot?" If she'd kept her mouth shut. . .(all students are now gone except for Joe) Sylvia: The bell, Joe. School's out. Joe: I heard. Sylvia: Is there something? Students: My turn! Call on me! Hey, teach!!! My opinion about Macbeth. . . .The main thing in Macbeth. . .Miss Barrett.....Excessive and ruthless ambition. . . .Teach!!! Sylvia: (bell rings) Saved by the bell. (groan of frustration) Out with you. (they exit)

Joe: You've kept asking me to stay for a talk. Okay, I've stayed. Here I am. How about that? Joe: You won't be here. I see. Well, thanks anyway. Sylvia: (realizing this is the showdown) I see. Joe: (challenging) What do you wanta say? Let's go. Let's have it. Sylvia: Joe, that doesn't mean. . .

Joe: (cuts in, bitter with disappointment) We've finished our talk, Miss Barrett. (pauses at door, all his life's bitterness in his voice) What makes you think you're so Sylvia: Alright. I've been going over your entire school record, Joe. I'm struck by the special? (He leaves. Sylvia is crushed. A moment passes and Bea enters the discrepancy between your capacity and your achievement. classroom) Joe: Would you mind putting that in . . . Sylvia: (cuts in) English? How about "I don't understand dem big words, teach?" Sylvia: This is important, Joe. Joe: My discrepencies? Sylvia: Your capacity. Joe: (defensive) What's it to you? Why do you even care? Sylvia: (not sure how to answer) I just do. Joe: (considers it, maybe he can trust her) That's what you told me before. . . Bea: Sylvia, are you alright? Sylvia: (still in shock) I remember the first time I was able to excite my students about an idea. My lesson on Browning's "A man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?" (wryly) It made me feel special. Bea: Are you reaching for something? Sylvia: I'm falling flat on my face. Bea: What's happened? Sylvia: For the first time, I'm seeing myself through the eyes of others. Bea: Whose eyes?

Sylvia: (getting hopeful) Come back for next semester. Don't drop out. Joe, Sylvia: For one, Joe Ferone. listen. . . Bea: Get past the words, Sylvia, get to what he's really saying. Get to what they're Joe: (meaningfully) Are you listening? all really saying. (she exits, lights go out and students go to seats, light come up 1/3 and spot comes up on each student individually as they look up, when done speaking, Sylvia: I'm trying to. heads back down to work on paper) Joe: (he's heard she may leave) You gonna be here? Sylvia: Joe. . . Joe: (as she hesitates) That's a straight question. Sylvia: (unhappy, she doesn't want to say) Then, . . .I have to say. . .no. Joe: (tightly) No, what? Sylvia: No, I won't be here next semester. Lou: When I turn seventeen, my father says why should he feed an extra mouth? Ha ha, that's me. What I'm saying, Miss Barrett, is I hope I can come back. Carole: You helped me by giving me a liking for school which I previously lacked. If Alice was back in front of me, she'd agree. Jose: English would be better off with more teachers like you that take an interest Carrie: I don't know if you've noticed, Miss Barrett, but I decided to dress more conservatively. Also, since coming to you, I only wear eye-liner on dates.

instead of just teaching due to circumstances. I'll never forget you as long as I live. You made me feel real. Sylvia: We have to be patient. Now, if you'll. . . Joe: Miss Barrett! What makes you think you're so special? Are you listening? . . Charlotte: (pops her head in class) No students allowed into the library until further .what I said. . .what I am saying. . . I'm saying. . .You're so special. You're my teacher. notice. (exits) So teach me. Help me. Hey, teach - which way do I go? I'm tired of going up the down staircase. (All lights go out, school bell rings, Dr. Clarke is on stage with spot Sylvia: Please take one of these cards and pass the rest. on him) Elizabeth: I hope I have you for creative writing this semester. Dr. Clarke: Attention please, this is your principal, Dr. Maxwell Clarke, and I wish to take this opportunity on the first morning of the first day of the spring semester to Ella: (pops head in class) Personality Profiles in depth, please! extend a warm welcome to all the faculty and students with the sincere and earnest hope we can go forward and upward together. (Spot out, spot up on chalkboard Carole: I'm glad you're back, teach. . .I mean, Miss Barrett. where it says "Miss Barrett." Classroom lights fade up as students enter the classroom and sit) Sylvia: Thank you. Now, please. . .(Francine enters) Lennie: Hey, she's back! Hurray, we got Barrett! Francine: I have a message from Mr. McHabe.

Edward: The only thing good about coming back is seeing her. (Bell rings. Sylvia Sylvia: Not until I've taken attendance. enters classroom) Francine: McHabe says. . . Jose: Couldn't do without us, eh? Sylvia: Mr. McHabe. Sylvia: That's right. Please take your seats. Francine: Says right away. (exits) Rachel: What's the month? Sylvia: (taking papers with quiet authority) After I take attendance. (Rusty rushes Harry: January, moron. (turns to teacher) Happy to help, Miss Barrett. in ) Good morning, Rusty. Why are you so late? Jill: I'm not late. The bell's early. Sylvia: You'll have to fill out the new attendance cards. Vivian: Who's got a pen? Linda: I hope we get a lot of new kids this semester. Lennie: There's not enough seats. Rusty: I'm not late. I had my schedule changed. I wanted you again. Sylvia: I'm glad. Well, find a place to sit. (Katherine enters) Katherine: Miss Barrett, Mr. McHabe says. . . Sylvia: I'm about to take attendance. Katherine: He says it's important.

Sadie: (pops her head in class) Disregard the previous notice about disregarding the Sylvia: Later, Katherine. Attention class. If I mispronounce any new names, please bells, please. (exits) correct me. (reads list) Arbuzzi, Helen. (remembers) No, that's wrong. She dropped out the start of last semester. Vivian: Hey, the window's still broke!

Helen: (from back of class) No, it's right. I got a job. . . after school. I decided to Sylvia: Here what? give school another try. Joe: (shrugs) It's a book report. Sylvia: Me, too. Next. . . Sylvia: (deciding to play this the way he is) Well, that's no way to hand it to me. McHabe: (thunders from the doorway) Miss Barrett! Joe: (as walks to his desk) My aim is bad. Sylvia: (crosses to door) Sir? Sylvia: We'll have to work on it. McHabe: All I wanted to ask, . . .could you use some of these posters? Joe: On what? Sylvia: (considers an instant then decides) Yes, I'd love to use those posters, Mr. McHabe. Sylvia: (meaningfully) Your aim. (Lou rushes in) McHabe: (delighted) Well. Here you are. Very good. Please. . .continue with your Lou: I made it! I'm back! Lou Martin is behind you ninety-five point seven percent. attendance. (He sits down dramatically) Hiya, teach! Sylvia: Axelrod, Leon. Jill: Him? He's always absent! Rusty: Be glad he's not here! Edward: Boy, will he give you trouble! (Alice enters shyly) Carole: Alice! Here, I saved you a seat! Sylvia: Alice, it is so good to see you. Alice: Thanks, Miss Barrett. (she sits) Sylvia: Arrons, Charles. (he raises his hand) Charles: Present and accounted for, Miss Barrett. (Joe enters the classroom and stands by door) Joe: (he yells to grab her attention) Miss Barrett! (she looks over at him) Mark me present. Sylvia: (this means a great deal to her, but she keeps her manner casual) Ferone, Joe. Present. Joe: (walks to her desk and tosses a paper on it) Here. Sylvia: (smiles back at him) Hiya, pupe! (Lights fade as Sylvia contines to call roll and students say "here.") Acevedo, Fiore? Amdur, Janet? Belgado, Ramos?