Public Domain Inspired Ghost Play…and other thoughts…

So, a few days ago, Barry posted a link to this blog. I was drawn to this entry. But mostly, to this picture:

So I wrote a play about it. It took me about twenty five minutes to churn out a six page script (featured below). I got to thinking about how public domain materials can inspire us to create theatre. Not just plays, but the literature and photography, and the stories. The story of William Hope intrigued me. A professional ghost photographer? It is now my fall back profession.

But this all got me cooking and I’m going to try to develop a project or a habit or some kind of salon made up of public domain fans. More on that as it develops.

So here’s the play! Unedited and completely inspired by William Hope’s photography! And, hey! If you wanna talk about this play, leave a comment or send us an email at Opensourcetheatreproject@gmail.com!

The Spirit Photography of William Hope
By Eileen Tull

DOROTHY MARGARET onstage.

DOROTHY MARGARET

My name is Dorothy Margaret, and I am looking for my daughter. I cannot find her anywhere. She was here one day, and then she was gone. Everyone told me to move ahead with my life. To let her go. That she was dead. Just because she died doesn’t mean she’s dead! It does not mean that she is gone! It is 1914 and so I go to William Hope. He is all I have. Hope. He can bring her back. He photographs the dead. And recaptures the souls lost. An acquaintance of a friend refers me, and I pick my husband out of his sitting chair, and we clop down the road to Mr. Hope’s studio.

Enter WILLIAM HOPE and REGINALD.

WILLIAM

Please be at ease.

REGINALD

Will we be long?

DOROTHY MARGARET

Reginald, please.

WILLIAM

It will not take long. I can feel a presence following you.

DOROTHY MARGARET

Is it Henrietta?

WILLIAM

We will soon see.

REGINALD
(grumbling)

Balderdash.

DOROTHY MARGARET

It most certainly is not, sir. (to William) Did you receive the photograph I sent of my daughter?

WILLIAM

Indeed, madam. She was a true beauty.

DOROTHY MARGARET

She is. She still is.

WILLIAM

Of course. Please allow me one moment to prepare my equipment.

He retires to the back room.

REGINALD

My dear, must we continue this? It is inane, not to mention expensive.

DOROTHY MARGARET

None of that matters, of course. If we do not have a daughter, what could we ever spend money on?

REGINALD

This will not bring her back to you.

DOROTHY MARGARET

Yes it will.

REGINALD
(to audience)

My dear wife has had…troubles. Our beautiful daughter passed on to God at the age of fifteen mere weeks ago. A sickness. Now my wife is sick with grief. The kind of grief that will swallow you whole. She just wants our daughter back. As do I. But God wants what He wants.

DOROTHY MARGARET
(to audience)

My husband tells me that God always has a plan. But I disagree. Sometimes God does things because he sees that people are too happy, too content. Not bowing down to him all the day. So he takes. Like Job. He takes. He giveth a little, and he taketh away everything.

REGINALD
(to audience)

But I love my wife. And so I am here with her.

William enters, with equipment.

WILLIAM

You can make yourselves comfortable. Please sit very, very still.

He lights a candle.

WILLIAM

Henrietta. Henrietta. Allow yourself to be seen.

Whispers are heard.

DOROTHY MARGARET

Oh my goodness!

WILLIAM

Sit very still. Keep your eyes here.

He indicates the side of the camera.

REGINALD

It will be all right, dear.

WILLIAM

Keep your eyes on me.

His eyes widen.

WILLIAM

(whispering)

Do not look behind you. But she is here. Hello, Henrietta. Hello, child. She seems shy.

DOROTHY MARGARET

She is very outgoing.

WILLIAM

Ah yes, now I see. She’s laughing. She is happy.

DOROTHY MARGARET

Happy to be a ghost?

WILLIAM

A spirit. And yes, she is happy. She is free, like the wind. Her body is no longer sick.

DOROTHY MARGARET

I must see her!

REGINALD

No!

Dorothy Margaret turns around.

DOROTHY MARGARET

She’s gone!

WILLIAM

She evaporated. As I told you, you must keep still.

REGINALD

My dear, let us do what he says and be done with this.

WILLIAM

Sit very, very still and perhaps she will return.

They sit. Very still.

WILLIAM

Hello again, Henrietta. Are we all ready?

DOROTHY MARGARET

(trying not to cry)

Yes.

Click. He takes the picture.

WILLIAM

Thank you. Thank you, Henrietta.

A moment.

REGINALD

What shall we do now?

WILLIAM

Wait. One moment. Wait. Yes. She is gone.

DOROTHY MARGARET

What? Gone?

WILLIAM

(confused)

Yes. She has gone. She was in between.

DOROTHY MARGARET

No! This was supposed to bring her back! To capture her back!

REGINALD

Dorothy…

DOROTHY MARGARET

No! You said! He said he would help us capture her! To bring her back! I wrote in my letter!

WILLIAM

My dear woman, spirits cannot be captured with a net. I capture them on film. I hand you a memory. I am not in the Lazarus business.

DOROTHY MARGARET

You said!

WILLIAM

Madam, you will be mailed your photograph in a week’s time. You will not be disappointed.

Dorothy Margaret runs out of the room. Reginald goes to follow.

WILLIAM

Sir. I apologize for upsetting your wife. The female countenance is like to break in time of grief.

REGINALD

Thank you.

WILLIAM

May I detain you for a moment? Lest you leave without paying?

REGINALD

Of course.

He produces his billfold and counts out the payment.

REGINALD

Thank you again. For your services. I hope…I hope this puts my wife’s nerves to rest.

WILLIAM

Of course.

Reginald exits.

WILLIAM

What a hen and a pecked husband.

He counts the money.

WILLIAM

(calling offstage)

Arthur?

ARTHUR enters.

ARTHUR

Yes, sir?

WILLIAM

Very good. Very feminine whispering.

ARTHUR

Thank you sir.

WILLIAM

Your first solo assignment. Here is the photograph of the daughter. Overlay it onto the photograph of the parents, just as I showed you. Can you do this without me breathing down your neck? I have a meeting with the Archbishop.

ARTHUR

Yes, sir. It will be done. Thank you. Thank you, sir.

WILLIAM

Calm down. It’s only fraud.

ARTHUR

Yes, of course sir. Of course.

William exits.

Arthur approaches the camera and takes the cartridge out. Suddenly, whispers. He looks around fearfully, and runs to the back room.

End of Play

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One response to “Public Domain Inspired Ghost Play…and other thoughts…

  1. I love this! Thank you for posting it! I will use this photo on my blog today, and link to your play. How interesting that the photo inspired such writing. Ghot writing, perhaps?

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