Written by Joe Janes
175 of 365
(Lights up on the small teachers lounge of an arts school. There is rag tag furniture about, including a worn out, well napped upon couch. A small refrigerator and a filthy coffee maker. There is a small table with mismatched chairs. Ed is sitting at a table smoking a cigarette. He looks pensive. Nick walks in. He sees Ed. Ed gives him a nod and flicks an ash into a can of Diet Coke. Nick looks at his watch.)
NICKWhat’s wrong with this picture?
EDI’ll put it out, if you want.
NICKI don’t care. It’s the city that cares. That’s why they designated that corner on the third floor of the parking garage as a place for you and your ilk. You can’t miss it. It’s well marked by an ever-increasing pile of stubbed butts. Got another?
(Ed hands Nick a cigarette and gives him a light.)
EDYou have a class?
NICKTech rehearsal. Later. I’m early. I was already downtown and no place to go. You, however, have a class. You have a class every night of the week. This is practically a fulltime job for you.
EDIt is a fulltime job for me. For me.
NICKSo, who’s in there watching the kids?
EDProbably nobody. It’s only ten after. Assuming the class is all there, they’ll either leave because of the mythical “ten minute rule” or start playing games on their own. Or, at least, the suck-ups will stick around and do that.
NICKThe office know you’re in here?
EDNot unless one of the kids got a clue and told them.
NICKThey might get smart and pop their head in the teachers lounge to look for a teacher.
(Ed gets up and walks to the door. He closes it and deadbolts it. He sits back down.)
NICKDo you want to take a photo of me holding today’s newspaper? Or would you rather I cut letters out of it for the ransom note?
EDYou can leave any time you want, Nick. I’m the one who’s stuck here.
NICKClever. I’m on to you.
NICKUsing tobacco to cover the smell of the scotch on your breath.
EDI wish I had that to blame.
NICKYou’re still on the wagon?
EDWell, clinging to the side, at least. It’s just me in here, Nick. Sober.
NICKThen you need to take some time off. Get away from this shithole.
EDGreat idea. Except I only get paid when I work. Per class. A vacation means money going out and none coming in. A vacation for me would involve staying at home and not doing anything that involves the monetary system.
NICKEd, you’re a great teacher.
EDNo. I’m not.
NICKYes. You are. I had you as a teacher. Even when you were a drunk, you were a great teacher.
EDWell, I’m not one anymore. A drunk or a great teacher.
NICKJesus, Ed. I’ve never seen you like this. I mean, I’ve seen you all crotchety and bitter, before. But this is… big.
EDI’m sick of it. I’m sick of waiting for students to show up on time. I’m sick of fucking cell phones going off and fucking text messaging. I’m sick of looks of resentment when I ask people to get up and do some work. They fucking paid to be here and they act like I’m fucking kicking them in the kidney. They don’t give a fuck. I don’t give a fuck.
NICKWhat the fuck is that? These classes are expensive. I couldn’t even afford to be a student here.
EDMaybe that’s the problem. The students who would appreciate it the most can’t afford to be here.
EDOr they only want to listen to you until they figure out you’re not their passport to fame and fortune.
NICKYou’re the dude who drilled into me the importance of craft.
EDNobody fucking cares about craft anymore.
NICKI have a student who’s also taking classes at three other places. They’re a terror in class because their brain is collapsing around all the conflicting information.
EDWhat’s the fucking hurry?
NICKExactly. It’s an art form. You study it. Not implant it.
EDFucking kids want the end result without doing the work. Without going through the process.
NICK“Whoa - I know Kung Fu.”
EDGuess I’m a relic. I don’t belong here.
NICKI know that’s not true.
NICKBecause you’re still here.
EDIs that some Buddhist bullshit?
NICKNo. I mean, for a guy who wants to blow off a class, you’re maintaining an unusually close vicinity.
EDSomewhere, somewhere I stopped following my dreams. MY dreams. I shifted from having teaching supplement my income to becoming my income. I don’t do plays anymore because I can’t afford to take the time off from teaching. When the hell did that happen?
NICKWas for me. I don’t do “starving artist.” I do “eating, paying rent, needs to lose a few pounds artist.” Fifteen years out of college and I was still borrowing money from my parents. Done with that shit.
EDDo you regret it?
NICKSometimes. I wonder what would have happened if I went to LA after college instead of coming here.
EDI had friends who went out there when I went here.
NICKAnyone make it big?
EDNo name you’d recognize. Nothing I bother to watch. It breaks my heart I can’t make a living in theater. You know JB?
NICKThe Smiley Window Guy?
EDYeah. The Smiley Window Guy. Great actor, too. The Smiley Window Guy gig pays his bills for him and his wife and baby. The last time I saw him on stage was in an Arthur Miller play four years ago. They had to mop the floor after every show because people cried so much. All the reviewers loved it. Loved him. He did that show for eight weeks. Four shows a week. How many of those shows do you think sold out?
ED (continues)Opening night and closing night. How much money do you think he made?
NICKDick. He made dick.
EDTwenty-five dollars. Total. The producers split the profits among the cast and crew. Assuming they didn’t cancel any shows, that means he rehearsed for free and then got a pay bump up to $1.28 a show. This town sucks.
NICKGreat place to learn, bad place to make a living.
EDHe starts teaching here next term.
EDYeah. Can’t afford to be an actor anymore.
NICKLook. I have my complaints, but this ain’t such a bad gig. I made a choice to be here. I see a kid do well or do better in my class, because of my class, it makes me feel good. I find myself rooting for them.
(Nick makes a pot of coffee. He reuses a filter full of coffee he fishes from the trash.)
EDChrist, with what they charge for classes, you think they could afford to keep us jacked up on coffee.
NICKWhat, and eat into the profit margin? That’s crazy talk.
EDWhat the hell have I done? I feel like I’m waking up from a binge. Instead of booze, it’s been my life. My career. This is all I have. My savings are shit. No 401k. No insurance. If I don’t go in that classroom and go on autopilot, I may as well check in at the Hotel D’Transient with a bag full of dog biscuits.
NICKThen you should go in there.
(Ed gets up and walks to the door. Nick pours a cup of coffee from a still dripping coffee maker. He holds out a cup to Ed.)
EDI can’t. I’ve got nothing.
NICKHave a cup of courage.
EDI didn’t know courage smelled like ass.
(Ed takes the cup and unloads several sugar packets into it.)
NICKA great teacher once told me, wisely, that it’s not about me.
EDA great teacher?
NICKOkay, some drunk. The point is, I don’t do it for me. I do it for the students. If you do it for the paycheck, you’re doing it for you and you’re not doing anyone, except for the bill collectors, any favors. That’s what keeps me teaching. Because, believe me, I forget it from time to time. I cry over a career that’s not where it’s “supposed” to be. Boo-hoo. So, what. The planet’s still spinning. If the best I have to aim for is making a difference with someone else, then, fuck it, that’s what I’ll aim for.
EDYeah, yeah, yeah.
NICKYeah, yeah, yeah, what?
EDYou’re right. You’re absolutely right. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. Hell, I wouldn’t even make it to the bed at night. Having to be somewhere helps. It helps a lot.
(There’s the sound of the door handle being turned and then a knock at the door.)
EDYou’re a good teacher, Nick.
NICKWell, I had a good teacher who passed it on to me.
(There’s another knock at the door.)
EDHold your fucking horses!
(Ed turns and looks at Nick.)
NICKLook. I could pick up the class for you. I could use the $100. You can stay in here and smoke your life away.
EDTempting offer. But I think you’re right.
NICKI’m right about something?
(Ed turns and faces the door.)
EDThe answer’s not in here. It’s not in me. It’s out there. And I seriously have to get away from this coffee. How can you drink this shit?
NICKI drink for the effect, not the taste.
EDRight. I should have left on that “it’s out there” line. That would have been better.
NICKSee. You’ve still got it. Pop in on my tech rehearsal, if you want. Shouldn’t take more than two hours.
EDMaybe I will, Ed. Maybe I will. Lights fade.
(Lights fade. Knocking continues.)