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The Pot Boiler

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The scenes of the Play-play change with each act. For Act I the set is a drawing-room in a wealthy old New York home, entrances Right-center and Left. Both front and rear scenes are lighted by many small lights, which can be turned off a few at a time, so that one scene or the other fades slowly. When the Real-play is in full light, the Play-play is dark and invisible. When the front scene is entirely dark, we see the Play-play, slightly veiled at the sides. In case of some rude interruption, the dream is gone in a flash, and the reality of the garret surrounds us. The text calls for numerous quick changes of three of the characters from the Real-play to the Play-play and back. Dialogue and business have been provided at these places to permit the changes.

AT RISE.—The Real-play, showing PEGGY putting BILL to bed; she is young and pretty, he is a bright but frail child.

Bill. Say, Peggy!

Peggy. Well, Bill?

Bill. Can you guess.

Peggy. How many guesses?

Bill. Three.

Peggy. All right. I guess my little son doesn't want to go to bed!

Bill. Say! You guessed it!

Peggy. Oh, mother's great at guessing!

Bill. But honest, it's still light.

Peggy. I know—but that's because it's summertime. Don't you remember the little song? (sings)

    In winter I get up at night    And dress by yellow candle-light;    In summer, quite the other way,    I have to go to bed by day!

Bill. Say, Peggy—when's Will coming in?

Peggy. I don't know, dear. Your father's working.

Bill. Ain't he goin' to have any dinner?

Peggy. I don't know—he didn't tell me.

Bill. Is he writin'?

Peggy. Yes—or else thinking about things to write.

Bill. Say! He's great on writin', ain't he?

Peggy. You bet!

Bill. Do you think it's good stuff?

Peggy. Indeed I do, Bill!

Bill. You don't often tell him so.

Peggy. Don't I?

Bill. No—generally you rip him up the back.

PEGGY (laughs). Well, mother has to keep him trying, you know.

Bill. Say, Peggy, do you suppose I'll be an author when I grow up?

Peggy. Can't tell, dear—it depends.

Bill. Maybe I'll have to get some payin' job, hey?

Peggy. Where did you pick up that idea?

Bill. Ain't you talkin' about it all the time to him?

Peggy. Am I? Well, I declare! Now, come, Mr. Bill—it's after bed-time.

Bill. Can't I wait till Will comes?

Peggy. No, dear.

Bill. Well, will you tell him to wake me up?

Peggy. No, dear. I'll tell him not to.

Bill. But Peggy, will you have him kiss me in my sleep?

Peggy. Yes, I'll do that. Now, there you are. A big fat kiss for mother! Now, to sleep!

Bill. Say, Peggy!

Peggy. What?

Bill. The people next door ain't runnin' the gramophone tonight!

Peggy. No, dear. Now go to sleep.

Bill. And the people in hack ain't singin' any coon-songs!

Peggy. Now go to sleep for mother. Don't speak any more.

Bill. Say, Peggy!

Peggy. Well?

Bill. I won't. Good night.

Peggy. Good-night!

(She goes Left humming to herself; sits at table, and prepares to work.)

Will (Enters Left softly; a young poet, delicate and sensitive. He watches PEGGY, then closes door, tiptoes up and leans over her shoulder). Well?

Peggy (starts). Oh, Will, how you frightened me! Where in the world have you been?

Will. Oh, it's a long tale.

Peggy. Have you had dinner?

Will. No, I don't want to eat.

Peggy. What's the matter? A new idea?

Will. I'll tell you, Peggy. Wait a bit.

Peggy (as he takes mail from pocket). Some mail?

Will. Yes—all rejection slips. Nothing but rejection slips! (throws pile of returned manuscripts on the table). How I wish some magazine would get a new kind of rejection slip! (Sits dejectedly.)

Peggy. Did you get any money for the rent?

Will. Not yet, Peggy (suddenly). The truth is, I didn't try. Peggy, I've got to write that play!

Peggy (Horrified). Will!

Will. I tell you I've got to!...