Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bonds of Liberty - Engagement



Mostly because I'm happy with how this turned out and felt like sharing =]
(And every minute I spend posting this is a minute I'm not 

This was written for an undergraduate research seminar. Originally, I was going to use the class to do historically research for Love Letters, then I realized I'd rather write something totally new instead

Except me being me, it kinda turned out like Love Letters a bit :/

This is the third part (and kinda the best haha)



Engagement

            THE PICNIC1

                                   Mid September, 1920

                                   Mt. Tamalpais.

                                   WILLIAM, MARIANNA, BERT, and ALAN
                                   all sit on a picnic blanket. WILLIAM,
                                   32, and MARIANNA, 454, seem to be in
                                   their own world. WILLIAM is tall and
                                   slim, with blue eyes and reddish hair.

                                   MARIANNA stands up and walks towards
                                   the hillside.

                                   MARIANNA
            Oh, this view is lovely!

                                   WILLIAM
            Lovely.

                                   MARIANNA
            I feel like I could tell you anything.

                                   ALAN
            Bill seems pretty sweet on Miss Monkhouse.

                                   BERT
            I have fantastic taste in friends.

                                   WILLIAM
            You are right, love, let us have nothing, not even the
            smallest particle of doubt, unknown to each other. I feel,
            and always have felt, that to the woman I love I shall give
            my every thot.5

                                   BERT
            And I'm not afraid to take credit for this young love. I have
            the sharpest eyes for these sorts of things.

                                   WILLIAM
            A love that is not deep enough or sincere enough to
            understand, no matter how painful it may be, is not my idea
                                   WILLIAM (cont’d)
            of true love. And two people, professing to love each other,
            who hold back and dissimulate in their thots and actions are
            not worthy of love.

                                   BERT
            From the start, I could tell. He's so thoughtful and serious
            and she's so... mature.

                                   ALAN
            Mature is one way to put it.

                                   BERT
            And yet sprightly, for her age.

                                   WILLIAM
            I have always felt that if I could not be loved for what I am
            I could well afford to lose that love.

            And, dearest, I am happy to know and feel that you have given
            me a true love and I know that I love you dearly.

                                   BERT
            I firmly believe that all the men and women in Berkeley
            should just leave their pairings up to my capable hands!

                                   WILLIAM
            I have always told you without reserve what my nature and
            faults are, and I know you love me in spite of my
            shortcomings.

                                   BERT
            People just are not wise enough to make these sorts of
            decisions for themselves of who should fall for whom, and--

                                   WILLIAM
            I feel more like normal now and all the world is as of yore -
            with one exception - there is a Marianna now who steals these
            my every thought, awakening bitter sweet memories of the
            times we spent together.6

                                   ALAN
            Aren't they being a bit rash though?

                                   BERT
            Rash?
                                   ALAN
            It's only been a month and a half.7

                                   BERT
            I never said meant to imply I set them up for anything
            serious. Why...

                                   WILLIAM gets down on one knee. BERT
                                   stares.

                                   ALAN
            Bert, are you--

                                   WILLIAM
            Marianna Monkhouse, will you marry me?

                                   MARIANNA
            Yes! Yes, yes yes!

                                   ALAN
            Say hello to the ball and chain!

                                   WILLIAM
            Lady and gentlemen, the future Mrs. William H. Staniels!

                                   BERT
            Congratulations.

                                   WILLIAM
            Bert, you certainly are a dear, for you know, you are
            responsible for bringing us together which has led to such
            supreme happiness.8

                                   BERT
            My pleasure.


            LOVE LETTERS9

                                   WILLIAM, BERT and MARIANNA. All asides.

                                   WILLIAM
            My lover girl:-

                                   BERT
            Dear Bill-

                                   MARIANNA
            My darling Billy Boy-

                                   WILLIAM
            I told my mother how to cook squash today and she got
            somewhat peeved.10

                                   BERT
            I remember one time during the war you wrote to me.

                                   MARIANNA
            Sewed with the girls today. Sewing with the girls is alright
            but there is something lacking.11

                                   WILLIAM
            "Think I don't know how to cook squash." But I think the
            cheese part was new and she is going to try it out.

                                   BERT
            Well, actually, I'm thinking of a letter you wrote Alan, but
            I like to think we are of equal friendship in your mind.

                                   MARIANNA
            And I am getting tired of listening to their stories and them
            talk and I want to talk to you, dear Billy Boy. We always talk of
            the good and beautiful things of life when we are together.

                                   WILLIAM
            I certainly like the things you cook, dear. The supper you
            cooked for me at Thousand Oaks of dear memory was certainly
            enjoyable and just what I like.

                                   BERT
            You were talking about England and its picturesque story book
            homes.

                                   MARIANNA
            Your outlook on life is so refreshing. It certainly always
            refreshed me, or how could I have stood two o'clock in the
            morning steadily for two weeks?

                                   BERT
            You said they reminded you of Toyland with their narrow
            crooked streets, their quaint names, the huge churches and
            decrepit graveyards.12

                                   WILLIAM
            Salads and plenty of vegetables and tea. Do you bake pies
            dear? My aunt makes the best pies I ever ate but she sure
            does use the butter!

                                   BERT
            All these things, you said, spoke of a life that has
            crystallized and narrowed into conventional channels that
            would transcend and curtail one possessing the American
            spirit of restlessness.

                                   MARIANNA
            What would I not give for another chance to compel you to
            accidentally miss the last train home from Thousand Oaks.

                                   WILLIAM
            What a subject for a man, who is in love, to talk about. He
            is supposed to exist on moonbeams and dreams according to the
            story books.

                                   BERT
            You were always so restless. I was so restless. Life lay
            beyond the Novelty Electric Company.

                                   MARIANNA
            What a wonderful courtship but, dearest, it did not last long
            enough.

                                   BERT
            And England - You were so uncomfortable in that story book
            world!

                                   WILLIAM
            But I guess we are not storybook lovers are we dearest? They
            are silly and we are real human beings with human thots and
            actions and human frailties too.

                                   MARIANNA
            I would like to show some people that married life can be
            sincere and happy, the scoffers.

                                   BERT
            You will not be happy with Marianna. This kind of foolish
            "love"? You used to bemoan the fact that you had never, and
            thot you could never, get into this condition.13

                                   WILLIAM
            I am not right, little girl.

                                   BERT
            That wasn't right! You could be! You just had to search
            closer, search near home! Search ... to me.

                                   MARIANNA
            And won't we work hard to make it so my dear.

                                   BERT
            But it was so hard to make you see what was in front of your
            eyes. That was your frailty.

                                   WILLIAM
            Human frailties, which we will discover, and our love will be
            so big that we can love them too, in an understanding manner.
            How dreary life would be, dear, if we were all perfect.

                                   BERT
            And yet to me, you are perfect.

                                   MARIANNA
            Do you think that our married life will be as thrilling and
            as wonderful?

                                   WILLIAM
            How wonderful our own life will be together, dear little
            girl...

                                   BERT
            Think how wonderful Bill.

                                   WILLIAM
            ...knowing that we are not perfect but always striving for
            the highest...

                                   BERT
            I see all your faults...

                                   WILLIAM
            ...seeing our faults and overcoming them thru love.

                                   BERT
            But I don't care!

                                   WILLIAM
            Each supplying what the other lacks with love always the
            ultimate test of our actions. That is my idea of life.

                                   BERT
            That's what I see for our life.

                                   WILLIAM
            Not the sickly sentimental story book ending of "they lived
            happily ever after."

                                   BERT
            We could be happily ever after.

                                   WILLIAM
            How I feel that we need each other!

                                   BERT
            Can't you see I need you?

                                   WILLIAM
            I have not seen Bert since we told her of our engagement but
            she will be on the hike on Sunday Oct 17 when I think several
            of the girls in her office will be along. Will tell you all
            about it. 
                          (BERT tears up her letter)
            So you do not remember the dress you wore at Hinkle Park.
            It was the one with the white sash white collar etc. You
            looked so sweet in it. I wish you were wearing it now and we
            were walking thru Hinkle Park to-night.  
                          (BERT throws it to the ground)
            If I could only turn back the hand of time a few months and
            have my Marianna again near me.

                                   MARIANNA
            If I could only turn back the hand of time a few months and
            have my Billy Boy again near me 
                                   BERT exits

                                   WILLIAM
            Will write again Monday evening. A hug & kiss from your
            Billy Boy

                                  Lights dim. End



SCRIPTNOTES
ENGAGEMENT

Scene: THE PICNIC            P.1

1 - This part is purely a work of fiction. However, I can explain the choice to create this relationship in light of my research:

In the letters, William describes a woman named Therene. Upon my first reading, I thought that the letters imply that William and Therene shared an intimate relationship - and that Therene introduced him to Marianna, who he would become engaged to a month and a half later.

Upon a closer reading, I realized that the letters indicate otherwise. In his October 9th letter, William states, "You can tell Therene that I am beginning to find out what love is. I'll bet a cookie (recognize this) that she will tell you how I used to bemoan the fact that I had never, and thot [sic] I could never, get into this condition." (Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated October 9, 1920). It seems strange that a man would say such a thing to a woman with whom he was involved. On the contrary, this statement implies a very close friendship.

I believe that my erroneous interpretation came from statements like this: "And too I am glad to hear you say that you like to talk about life, its conduct & meaning. That is one of the things that I liked about Therene, she thot about life." (Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated October 7, 1920). By citing a similar trait between Marianna and Therene that causes him to "like" them, he implies a similar relationship. Furthermore, the "was" implies a sense of past. But this insinuation pales in comparison to other passages that imply a purely platonic relationship.

Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, I had decided for literary purposes, I preferred my original interpretation. And as technically this is a work of fiction - and that there was some basis for this interpretation - I decided to allow myself this slight deviation.

So we have Therene: the scorned former lover, forced to watch the love of her life carry on with the friend she, in fact, introduced to him. I began to see some similarities between William's relationship with Therene and that with Bert. Therene was clearly a close friend; the October 9th letter reveals a clear level of confidence between the two of them. William's constant references to Bert in his letters insinuates a similar closeness. Thus, I decided to fuse Therene with Bert to create a relationship slightly different from both of the actual ones: here is the friend secretly in love, who is replaced by the new introduction. 

This serves several literary purposes. For one, it limits the number of characters in the play, keeping the action tight and manageable. Furthermore, by transferring this relationship to Bert, it heightens the effect of the sudden engagement. He has such a close established relationship with her, it makes the entire situation all the more tragic (from her perspective)

The details in this scene are based on various letters Staniels sent to Marianna in 1920. I have cited them where I could.


2 – “Mid September, 1920”: The first of Staniels' love letters to Marianna is dated September 19, 1920. She has just returned to Long Beach, and they became engaged shortly before her leaving. One can glean they became engaged midway through the month.

“Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated September 19, 1920.


3 – “Mt. Tamalpais”: The letters constantly refer to William’s obsession with hiking – or “hicking,” as his mother spells it. I chose Mt. Tamalpais because he specifically references it on December 4, 1920. 

“Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 3. Letter dated December 4, 1920.

4 – Ages: Both ages come from this database, which I researched using Los Angeles Public Library's system. I had started searching for a hard copy of birth records in the area, but could not find one for the East Bay in this era. I asked the librarian for help, and she directed me to ancestry.com, which included births, deaths, and social security information. It even had Staniels' draft card - by far the most exciting discovery.

Ancestry.com, California Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.


5 - Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Oct 7, 1920.


6 – “I feel more like normal”: This is from the first love letter he sent home

Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Sept 19, 1920.


7 – “A month and a half”: In a letter to Marianna’s mother, Williams assures her, “Altho it may seem to you that we have known each other for such a comparatively short time to have become engaged, nevertheless we feel that we see in each other the qualities which we have been long seeking for.” That “comparatively short time,” he reveals, is a month and a half.

Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Sept 20, 1920.


8 – “You certainly are a dear”: This is how he refers to Therene.

Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated October 5, 1920.


9 - William's lines come from various love letters (as cited). Marianna's is adapted from one of William's. Bert's letter is completely from my imagination

10 - Staniels, William H. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Oct 9, 1920.


11 - Staniels, William H. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 2, folder 3. Letter dated Oct 5, 1920.


12 –“It reminded you of Toyland”: This letter was actually to Douglas. I really liked the aesthetic he described,, and felt it fit the tone well.

 Staniels, William H. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 6, folder 9. Letter dated May 29, 1918.


13 - Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 2. Letter dated October 9, 1920.