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The Charity Painting

SETTING: a den in a home in L.A.

Dilene is a junior Senior. She has a rather wild version of personal style.

Set contains two quality chairs and a table on a patterned conventional rug. A recognizable painting, or print is displayed or hung.

Natalie Macmaster’s Catharsis is the recommended music.

Twit is an offstage Chihuahua.


God, I’m bored. Stupid security system. Locks itself up on a whim. I’d like to read the manual for it, but the door is locked. It’s there, and I’m here. Would You do something? I’m going to be depressed here, if something doesn’t give. Soon.

(Dials phone.)

Where the hell is my agent? Bloody answering machine. Again. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We’ll? Who is Harvey Strontom trying to kid, anyway? At the rate he’s been finding gigs for me, he can barely afford himself. If he doesn’t come up with something by tonight, he and I are parting company. Did You hear that? I’m gonna sack good ‘ole Harvey. So, are You going to let me do that? Or, do You have an answering machine too, and it’s on the fritz at this present moment?

(Phone rings. DILENE races across the room to it.)

Hello? Wrong number? Harvey, you bugger, do you think you can fool me with that fake French accent? I’m dialing you to see if your line is busy. Oh, great! Call waiting. Hello. Speaking. No, thank you. I am not interested in buying ten pounds of tellapia. I have no idea what they eat. Nothing that a fish would normally eat, I’m willing to bet. Good-bye. I wonder if he killed them, or they just died.

(Dials phone.)

Now, it’s busy. Well, I’ll just fix that. Now, it’ll let me know the minute, he’s off that phone. I want to talk to him!

(Phone rings.)

Hello….Just what are you saying to me?…A real emergency has come up somewhere else and your father will be here to unlock me as soon as it’s fixed?…(Yelling.)What’s so real about it? What’s the emergency, anyway?… That young upstart’s storage room door is more important than my entire security system?….Why are you crying? Kids! She hung up! Well, that’s nice! Before he installed the blessed thing, he said ‘Nothing will go wrong. And even if it did, it would just take a minute to fix it.’ I’ve been stuck in this room for two hours now, and still no Mr. Lockit. Some minute! How long am I supposed to be locked in here? I knew I shouldn’t have gotten that computerized security system. ‘Oh you don’t need to know how it works. All you have to do is set a button. We’ll set it all up for you. It’s the very latest. And then of course there are three free calls. It’s all set up for somebody, alright. Mr. Lockit, himself, most likely. This really ticks me off. I used to get service when I called for anything. I must be losing my edge. I haven’t had a performance now for over a month. Am I washed up? Did I retire, or something? I was hoping for a formal retirement when I got around to retiring. Who wants to just fizzle out, after all?

(Flops into chair. Picks up magazine. Looks at it and holds it up in disgust before pitching it.)

I seem suddenly, to have lots of time to read the Architectural Home. Where do they get these ideas anyway? I buy a magazine that I hope has a little class and what have they got in it this month? Your Own Painting. Hmmph! I’d never live it down if I hung my own painting on my wall. Way back in Kindergarten in North Bay, Miss Willets laughed until she had the hiccups when she came across my painting. I don’t know what became of that painting. The next day it was gone. Jeepers, I never even took it home. I couldn’t find it to take home. Mom said that I was crazy. And conceited. According to Mom, there was just no way that Miss Willets would pinch my painting. Somebody did, though. I’m sure of it. Anyway, nobody was laughing at my paintings when I was a kid. Just to be sure, I always spilled the paint on it when I finished, or she was sneaking around near my table. No siree, nobody is going to laugh at my paintings. Not then, and definitely not now! My jokes, now that’s another matter. A stand-up comic needs people to laugh at her jokes. I could do with a lot more of that. But my paintings, no way, Jose. There was that time the fire alarm went off in Kindergarten, and I hadn’t spilled the paint yet. Miss Willets went back in to close a window and my painting was gone when they let us kids back into the classroom. She was the only one that had been in there. She pulled the drapes before we left in the fire drill, too. I’ll bet she set off the alarm, as well. Why would she want to steal my painting? Father sent me to my room for saying that, but I still think Miss Willets did it. It wasn’t nice of her to laugh at my other painting, either. I cried so hard. Prue had to leave Grade Six to come and get me. And take me home. Miss Willets kept trying to talk to me, but I didn’t want to hear her. I wonder where the old girl is now. Your Own Painting! I don’t think so! There’s a lot of things I do, but painting isn’t one of them. You couldn’t pay me to paint.

(Pacing. Checks door.)

This security system being down is driving me nuts. Prue was coming over to see my new smock. She’ll be ticked if she can’t get in when she gets here. This’ll knock her out for sure. Even I haven’t seen anything like this smock since the Sixties. I can just hear her now. “What ever possessed you to waste your money…Just like Mom. She even puckers up her forehead like Mom used to.

(Puts smock that was draped over the other chair on and parades around.)

I might as well admit it, I’ve never bought anything so stupid in my entire life. What possible use could I have for this? Maybe a chartreuse wig would be nice with it, since I’m being frivolous and outlandish. No, now, Dilene, my dear, you’ve already blown more money than you probably have, just to get the stupid smock. You’ll just have to make do with your mauve wig. So there! Here I am parading around here, in this getup. With this security system screwed up, I can’t get out. And nobody is trying to come in. Where is everybody? I’m suddenly a pariah. Heh, there, I’m getting depressed, You know. I’d sort of like to visit the powder room, too. Powder my nose, maybe. Yeah, and I’d like to read the manual for this damned, excuse me, please, security system, but it’s out there in the dining room and the door is secured. I’ll just move this chair so the sun isn’t shining on me. Hey, the stupid chair is stuck! I never heard of a chair being stuck before. How can a chair be stuck on a floor? I don’t believe this. You’ve got some sense of humor, I’ll grant You that.

(Finds nail file on table.)

Hmmph! Just what I need. A nail file. I’m checking this stuck chair thing out.

(Runs file under the right front chair leg from all angles.)

There’s something under there. Right in the middle of the foot.

(Appears to try to lift right front of chair.)

So I can’t lift it. Is it me? Or is it the chair?

(Tries table. It moves. Tries chair again. Then checks left front with nail file.)

There’s something in there, too. This is crazy! The chair is fastened down.

(Sits in chair and pounds her fists. A loud click is heard.)

What is that?

(Checks off stage USL.)

The green light is on again on the security system. I’d better call Mr. Lockit before he gets over here and uses up one of my free calls. There’s his cell number. Hello…..Oh yes, I remember, now. The chair. Yes, yes, I seem to have called 911, too. Yes. Yes. I’ll watch the video. Is anything else besides the chair booby trapped? OK. Then. Thanks. Right.

(Puts phone down and goes to doorway USR.)

Officer, I’m terribly sorry. I just got home last night. I just had a new security system installed. It’s not like the one I had in Toronto. This thing is booby trapped. And I trapped myself. Thanks for coming. You were really prompt. Great service. Thank you. Now, I’ve got to go! Hmmmph! I guess not…..Maybe…

(Does some exercises SC. Shrugs. Sits in the other chair.)

Well, I’ve got to hand it to You, You surely got me over being bored. Now, if we could just work on my career and my finances. OK. Maybe that is a bit greedy. I’ll settle for the career. I’m counting on You, You know.

(Picks up magazine.)

Tacky! Tacky! Tacky! Your own painting. I paid good American dollars for this thing and it’s telling me to snazz my place up with my own painting. What sort of statement is that supposed to make? What would Claude Monet say? Or Mary Pratt? Or David Milne? Or Telford Fenton? Or Toller Cranston? I’m willing to bet Michael Dumas wouldn’t be thrilled either. Dilene Phillips. A Dilene hanging in your hallway? No way! Not in this lifetime. I don’t expect to be hanging on my walls or anyone else’s walls, either. Come on, phone, ring!

(Twit gives high sharp bark off USR. Checks mail. Returns with a letter.)

Good girl, Twit. At least there is mail. A letter from the Alzheimer Society. From M.L. Willets, President. Is that her? But this is from here, in California. Nah, it can’t be her. Her name was Mary Lou. The Grade Eight teacher used to be stuck on her. I heard him call her Mary Lou. Well, I’ll be damned. Excuse me. I’ll be blessed. It’s her. I guess the Grade Eight teacher didn’t make much headway. She’s still a Willets. She’s hoping that I will have enough time to help the Alzheimers Society make a breakthrough and rescue the many countless people who are afflicted and their suffering families. Well, Gee, Miss Willets, what can I do? There is always somebody wanting something! Last week somebody wanted a night gown I’d worn for an auction. What a kinky idea! Could You please have the phone ring? I want to talk to Harvey.

(Phone rings.)

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

(Picks up.)

Hello, Harvey? Cameron? What’s up? Why do you want to come over? It’s complicated? Look, Cameron, am I solvent, or am I not? Yes, or no?.. What is so complicated about it? I am, and I’m not? Cameron, this is accounting. This is not quantum physics. We are discussing my monetary state here, not Schroedinger’s dippy cat. Am I solvent, or am I not?.. It’s complicated. Why didn’t you just come over? Why get me all in a tizzy, if you can’t make up your mind about a simple thing like yes or no. Positive or negative… I am not being difficult… I’m unnerving? You’ve put me at the bottom of the pile twice now? I’m sorry, Cameron. I haven’t worked for well over a month and if Harvey has anything lined up for me, he isn’t telling me… He’s afraid to tell me? In case I bite his head off? Tasty morsel! Has he got something for me, do you think? I’m going crazy, here. Yes, I’ll take anything. I’m starving for applause. It might not pay anything but publicity? A charity thing? The First Lady, you say? The Alzheimer’s Society? Where is this shindig to be? At the Coliseum? Holy shit! That’s the second time in ten minutes that I’ve been invited to this Do in the Coliseum. I don’t know if somebody is trying to tell me something, or not. Am I broke, Cameron? No, but things are complicated? Why can’t you just say no? I’ll see you this evening, then.

(Puts phone down.)

I wonder what these Alzheimers people want anyway. It doesn’t seem like I’m going to get rich at it. I hope it doesn’t cost me anything. I don’t like it when Cameron says that things are complicated. Maybe I’ll give Miss Mary Lou Willets a ring. Here’s her number.

(Phone rings.)

Bless that phone. There it goes again. Oh it’s Harvey.

(Picks up.)

Hi, Harvey. It’s really nice to talk to you. I’m so glad you called. I started to think the whole world had forgotten me. Imagine! Forgetting me? You have some news, or you just called to cheer me up?.. You hope it’ll cheer me up? Me, too. Out with it! I can’t wait. The Alzheimers Society wants me to do a benefit? At the Coliseum? The President asked for me?..Oh, the president of the Alzheimers Society? And the First Lady will be there and that other Canadian Kook? Among others? Do I get onto the marquee? I’ll get lot’s of publicity? Do I get on the damned marquee, Harvey? You think so? I want to know, so. Are they paying? An honorarium. Great! They always expect you’ll donate those back to them. Well, without the honorarium they might not get a donation. My financial situation is complicated, according to Cameron. You want half my honorarium? Half? Harvey, you have more nerve! I’m not exactly a hot property any more? Well, now, I wonder why that might be? For some reason somebody doesn’t seem to be getting me too much work, of late. Why do I have to be so difficult? Ms. Willets will be in touch with me? I can keep the honorarium and iron it out myself?.. You’re sick of all the harping? He hung up. Boy, do I know how to be popular. Some body hangs on my every word. If I don’t get this turned around, I’m washed up…You’ve got Your work cut out for You getting me back on track… If I’m not on the marquee, I’m just not going and that is final. That would be admitting that I’d reached the end of my rope. And been hung out to dry. What do You think? Do I get on the marquee? I just want to be on it to help me get another job. Honest.. . Just to prove that is true, I’ll do whatever You ask. Now, I’m scared. Who knows what You’ll ask.

(Phone rings.)

Hello. So nice to talk to you Miss Willets. Of course, I’m fine. And you? Well, I’m glad to hear that. Being busy can be a good thing. Of course, I’d like to help you. It’s great to have a Canadian President of the Society. You’re retired now, I guess. Well, what did you have in mind? A fifteen minute segment? No problem at all. My usual schtik about aging? Great. I’ve been working on some new material. And of course, I’ll be on the marquee? If you can count on me for a small favor? I need to do a favor to get on the… What did you have in mind? Decorate a donation box? And paint a picture for the celebrity raffle? But Miss Willets! I don’t paint! No. I don’t! You laughed at my painting. You even got the hiccups from laughing at my painting. I never painted again. You know why I spilled all that paint? You schnurfed that painting I did the day the fire alarm went off, didn’t you? You did put the fire alarm off, so I wouldn’t get to spill paint on it. How did you know what it looked like? You hung up a mirror, so you’d be able to see what I was doing. You’re sneaky, Miss Willets. I knew you took that painting, but my father sent me to my room for daring to say that about you. I can’t tell him now. It’s too late for that, I’m afraid. Yes, I miss them, a lot sometimes. Just tell me, why did you laugh? You were feeling depressed and the colors were so great and that cute little dog was jumping and there was a funny bee in a big red flower? I’d forgotten the bee. How come, you remember it? You have it framed in your dining room? Really? Honest to God? Framed and hanging up in your dining room? My painting! I know you tried to talk to me. I guess I did plug my ears. Every time you looked at me and talked, I plugged my ears. No, Miss Willets, I don’t put my fingers in them any more, but some people would say I’m still plugging my ears. Yes, I’ll do a painting for the Society’s Celebrity raffle. And I’ll be listed on the marquee? Right! Someone will bring me the paints and canvas and a frame? There’s probably some of that stuff here in the guest house. No need to do that. Oh, I see. It’s a tradition? Very well. I get the paints today and the committee will send someone to pick the painting and stuff up the day after tomorrow? You folks don’t procrastinate, do you? Nice talking to you, Miss Willets. Bye, now.


(The following day. The phone is ringing. Lights up. DILENE picks it up. She is wearing a leotard and the crazy smock and a wild clown wig. She has a paint spray can in one hand and a huge paint brush in her mouth. Various containers of paint and several partly painted canvases are scattered about. She tries to talk but does not succeed and finally gets organized just in time for them to hang up.)
That’s Prue. Oh, she’s going to call again, I bet. Maybe I can beat her. What are you doing on my phone? I just picked it up to dial you.. It’s possible, but I doubt it in this case. Well, because I’m just calling you because you called me… No, I don’t think that qualifies either of us for a Great Mind Award. Why were you calling me? You wanted to talk? When this is over I’ll want to talk too, but right now I’m in the middle of a cathartic experience. Something from half a century ago. No, I can’t talk now. If you must know it’s about Miss Willets….You thought I was over that by now? I’ll bet you did, Prue. It wasn’t your painting she laughed at. This is dissipating my energy. Let’s do brunch. Later. Okay, I’ll call in a bit and see if you’re still in the mood, then. Look, I have to take care of a chemical reaction here…. No. I am not building a bomb! At least, I hope I’m not, because if these all bomb, we’re gone. Outta here! Now, bye-bye.

(Hangs up. Goes back to painting. Frenzied pace.)

That should get her. Curiosity killed the cat. She’s Mother, all over again, when it comes to finding out what Dilene is doing, now. I probably should not have said that bit about the chemical reaction to her. But I want to talk to her. She’s likely just bored. Things didn’t work out in her Solitaire game. I’m sure I did better than this in Kindergarten, but this is fun. Now here’s one that would benefit from having some paint spilled on it. Maybe I’ll just glaze it. Become more subtle, with age. Nah! Splat! There we are. That felt goood! There. That covers it up. I’ll just give it a swipe.

(Hits it with a towel.)

Neat! Take that.

(Hits it again from another angle.)

Heh, I like that! Now, let’s give this one a whop. Looking good. A little spritz here. A little spritz there. Heh, a hole in one.

(Paints a hole in the middle of a painting.)

Better put a shadow in that hole. Whee! Heh, I like these! I wonder which one the Alzheimers group will take. I’ve got a gallery right here. Let’s just try the frame they sent. No. Let’s try another. Maybe that one. No. This one. Over here. There. I like it on this one. I need some labels and prices here. Right? One hundred dollars. One hundred dollars. One hundred dollars. One hundred dollars. One hundred dollars. There shucks I’ve only got one postit left. Five thousand. Four thousand Nine hundred for the frame. One hundred for the painting. Brunch, here I come. I hope that stupid tour is over when I get back. I’ll just put this donation box Miss Willets asked me to decorate up here so the Alzheimers group won’t forget it when they pick up the painting. I did a nice job of that for them. I’d better be on the marquee. Right? Now, to brunch.

(Picks up phone.)

(Lights fade to one quarter. Music for props change and costume change. Cue. Paintings are leaning against wall or neatly lined up across LS. Lights out. Painting with frame remains. DILENE is wearing smart top that matches her leotard and a tam on her head when the lights come on again later the same morning.)

Just like Prue…She’s too busy to come in and see my paintings. Had to rush off to play bridge. Rushed through brunch….yah, yah, yah. Where is everything? I had ten paintings here. Now there is only one. Well, thank You for keeping one for me. Where are they all? Did You take a snooze, perchance? What’s the good of having a security system if everything gets stolen? Here’s a note. Well, if that isn’t brazen of them. Rip me off and then have the nerve to leave a note. Kilroy, no doubt. It’s from the Tour Guide. Dear Dilene, Everyone loved your paintings. This was their favorite stop. We hope you don’t mind our tourists taking advantage of your sale of all your wonderful paintings. Someone wanted the other one but he thought it was over priced for his budget. Naturally, they put their money and checks in your lovely donation box. One of the ladies in the tour is a clerk and she filled out all the particulars, if it should be that you need any follow up on the checks. I made sure they paid the tax. I hope we didn’t do anything wrong. I couldn’t reach you and they loved your work so much. They had a plane to catch. So they couldn’t wait. Please forgive. Love Dot….P.S.This is a great feature. Will you be doing this regularly? It would certainly give my tour company an edge if I could count on you for this. Well, Dotty, my dear. How wonderful! Was this a flash in the pan, or do I have a new career?

(Empties donation box.)

I must tell my accountant. Maybe now, poor Cameron can stop tearing his hair…I love it! I love I! I love It! Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Just when I was carrying on about that business of saying You couldn’t pay me to paint, here I’ve been paid to paint. At least it’s not so embarrassing to donate a painting for a raffle when I know that people will actually pay one hundred dollars for them, American dollars, too, and them not even framed. And people will steal them, too. I was right about that when I was a kid. So there, Mom, I am not conceited. I guess I wasn’t greedy, either. Both my career and my finances. I’m not fussy about which career. I’ve got to hand it to You, after all. Right on there, I say!