Sandra de Helen
© Sandra de Helen
ROSE MARIE 23-year-old woman from Boston, with upper class Bostonian accent; think Kennedy family
ROSE ISABEL 28-year-old woman from St. Louis, Missouri, but with a genteel Southern US accent, from Atlanta, Georgia.
DADDY No lines. Strong physicality.
TEE Young African-American woman, working as a nurses’ aide.
FLORA Young white woman from the poor working class, a member of the cleaning staff.
FREEMAN/ 35-year-old white neurosurgeon who popularized the lobotomy
NUN in the United States in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Also plays Catholic nun. (Or nun can be played by another actor if desired.)
RICHIE A young man.
TIME AND PLACE:
- All action except first scene takes place in an asylum in Fulton, Missouri. The first scene takes place in a convent, which is very similar, and can simply double. Hospital staff should wear white. The nun wears a habit. The Roses should be costumed appropriate to their upper middle class status, and in dresses.
– 3 –
(A convent in Missouri. ROSE MARIE is sleeping on a single bed, with a cover pulled over her head. 10pm, summer. Upstage is a closed door. NUN in full habit opens the door and peers in. She is fully lit from behind. Still no lights onstage except moonlight.)
(On the other side of the stage, or wherever can be seen simultaneously, ROSE ISABEL places a pitcher of ice outside her “door” and goes to bed.)
NUN Rose Marie? (pause) Are you sleeping?
(Steps in, uncovers Rose Marie’s sleeping face. Exits.)
(ROSE MARIE springs out of bed, fully clothed in early 1940s dancing attire. Fishes her handbag from under her pillow, goes to the window, applies lipstick. Stares into darkness, eyes twinkling, searching.)
ROSE MARIE Richie? You out there? (Pause) Too quiet out there.
(She paces back and forth in front of the window, touching her breasts, smoothing her dress over her sides and hips, rubbing her legs together to hear the sound of her stockings rustling. She touches her hair, her face, her cheeks, throws her head back and strokes her throat. In between these actions, she looks out the window, looking for Richie.)
Rosie? Where are ya, honey? I can’t see a thing out here.
– 4 –
ROSE MARIE Up here, ya big lug. Second floor on the right side above the main door. Here, I’ll lean closer to the window …
(ROSE MARIE goes up to the window, takes a penlight* from her purse and shines it on her bared breast for an instant, then onto her laughing face.)
See me now?
*A penlight is a flashlight shaped light a pen, in the 1940s would have been steel, with a glass lens, battery-operated, used by medical staff.
RITCHIE (Offstage, but closer) I see ya. Loud and clear! How ya gonna get down?
ROSE MARIE Wait right there. I’ll come around the back.
(ROSE MARIE stuffs her pillows under the covers, then tiptoes to the door, eases it open, slips out, and quietly shuts it behind her.) (Meanwhile, DADDY appears at ROSE ISABEL’S door, accidentally kicks over the pitcher of ice, swears and enters ROSE ISABEL’S BEDROOM.)
NUN (Offstage) Aha! Where might you be going, Miss Rose Marie?
(ROSE MARIE and NUN enter. NUN has ROSE MARIE’S arm twisted behind her back and is marching her back into her room. NUN forces ROSE MARIE onto the bed, after throwing back the covers and putting the pillow at the head of the bed.) Well? What have you to say for yourself?
ROSE ISABEL Daddy, no! I don’t wanna be your little rose.
(ROSE ISABEL and DADDY struggle, he pins her to the bed, and gets under the cover with her, lies on top of her.) (SOUND continues throughout the scene: muffled whimpers periodically come from ROSE ISABEL)
ROSE MARIE I don’t have anything to say to you, Sister.
NUN Very well. We’ll see what your parents have to say to the Reverend Mother then.
– 5 –
ROSE MARIE Oh, come on, Sister.
NUN Come on, indeed. Rose Marie, do you realize how many times it is that you’ve been caught sneaking out of the convent after hours? And dressed like a tart I might add.
ROSE MARIE I’m 23 years old, Sister! I shouldn’t be cooped up in this convent anyway. I’m a grown woman, with grown desires and needs. I should be out in the world with the rest of my family, not shut up in here with a bunch of nuns.
NUN Your parents know what’s best for you, Rose Marie.
ROSE MARIE Oh pish.
NUN Rose Marie!
ROSE MARIE What? That’s not a swear word.
NUN Well, it’s slang, and it’s very close to swearing. You’d better remember to confess it.
ROSE MARIE My parents be damned. Yes, I know … that’s a swear word. And I’m breaking a commandment as well. I don’t honor them! Not for this! What did I ever do to deserve to be locked up in this convent? I’m not a child! I have needs … I’m getting out of here, and you cannot stop me. (Suddenly fierce) Now back off.
(ROSE ISABEL fights her way free of DADDY, and the scene disappears as she exits.) (ROSE MARIE rises and takes a menacing stance against the NUN, who capitulates. ROSE MARIE straightens her hair, dress, and stockings, grabs her handbag again, and this time she sashays out the door without a backward glance. The NUN makes the bed, picks up any props that pertain to the convent and exits the room, leaving the door open. She turns one direction, TEE and ROSE ISABEL enter from the other.)
ROSE ISABEL Don’t you just adore that Dr. Freeman? He is so handsome. I would allow him to bite my nipples or put his fingers in my pussy any time he so desired. Wouldn’t you do the same, Nurse Tee?
– 6 –
TEE Now Miss Rose Isabel, you mustn’t talk like that. Remember? The nurses get very upset with you when you start talking that sex talk.
ROSE ISABEL (SHE takes a breath, is suddenly imperious) Why, I don’t know what you mean. Whatever can you be discussing? What sex talk? And anyway, aren’t you a nurse? You’re dressed all in white.
TEE Yes, ma’am. I’m dressed in white, but I don’t have a hat. See? I’m what they call a nurse’s aide. You remember, don’t you? We have orderlies, and cleaning staff, and aides, and nurses, and then there’s Dr. Freeman. And sometimes Dr. Watts.
ROSE ISABEL I don’t like Dr. Watts.
TEE Really? I’m sure Dr. Watts is just fine.
ROSE ISABEL How would you know? You’re just an ignorant fool. Now go fetch me my tea things.
TEE Miss Rose Isabel, why don’t you have a seat over by the window? We’re going to get a new patient this afternoon, and maybe the two of you will have something in common.
ROSE ISABEL (Herself again) I’m hungry. I want a pie. And not a raisin pie, either. A real pie.
TEE I’ll have to see what the menu is for today. Shall I go do that?
ROSE ISABEL Tell my mother I need some new underwear. My panties are all sticky.
TEE Now Rose, don’t start …
ROSE ISABEL Don’t call me Rose! Don’t call me Rose! (SHE practically froths at the mouth every time someone calls her Rose. Being called Rose is a trigger for her PTSD, and so far nothing has calmed this trigger.)
TEE I’m sorry! Please, just calm down … I forgot. I mean Rose Isabel … Okay?
– 7 –
ROSE ISABEL (Pouty now) Don’t ever call me that.
TEE I’m going to go now, Miss Rose Isabel. You just look at a magazine or something while I go get the new patient and bring her in. Okay?
ROSE ISABEL Bring her in. Okay?
TEE I’m going to.
ROSE ISABEL I’m going too.
TEE No, Rose Isabel, you’re not going. Now go back and sit down.
ROSE ISABEL Sit down and stick your finger up my butt.
TEE I’m going to have to report this sex talk to the nurses if you don’t stop.
ROSE ISABEL Stop what? I’m not doing anything.
TEE Okay. Just sit there. Right there. I’ll be right back.
ROSE ISABEL (picks up a magazine and begins flipping through the pages. When she comes to recipes with pictures, she lingers, caresses the food, then licks the pages.)
(A breath, imperious) Needs more sugar.
(idly smoothes her dress over her breasts, then reaches into the neck of her dress down into her bra and begins to pull out tissue paper, but just from one side, leaving her misshapen.)
– 8 –
ROSE ISABEL CONTINUED Look at this tissue. Why, it’s of the poorest quality. Mother would have a conniption fit if she saw how I was being treated here. A lady like me should have fine handkerchiefs made of the finest linens to stuff her bra, or at the very least a decent facial tissue. This won’t do. I must find Dr. Freeman and lodge a complaint.
(TEE enters with ROSE MARIE, just as ROSE ISABEL reaches the door. They nearly collide.)
ROSE ISABEL Nurse Tee! Thank heavens you’ve come!
TEE What is it, Miss Rose Isabel?
ROSE ISABEL I need to see Dr. Freeman right away.
TEE Of course you do. But first, why don’t you let me introduce you to someone? This is Miss Rose Marie. She’s just joining us. She’s going to be Dr. Freeman’s patient as well. You two get acquainted. I’ll be back in a jiffy to take Miss Rose Marie to her room.
ROSE MARIE (To Tee) Wait! You can’t just leave me here! Who is this? Is she … I mean, will I be safe with her?
TEE What an imagination. She’s as docile as a lamb. Unlike you. Now just calm down and make nice. (Raising voice and speaking to Rose Isabel) You be good to our new patient now, you hear, Rose Isabel?
ROSE MARIE You can call me Rose. I don’t like my middle name. Just Rose is just fine. How about you? Can I call you Rosie?
ROSE ISABEL (Frothing) No! Never call me Rose! Never! Never Rose!
ROSE MARIE (Stepping away)Very well. I’ll walk over here, very carefully, never turning my back on Never Rose, never more quoth the raven, nevermore! (She looks at the furnishings, etc, never really turning her back on Rose Isabel.) Perhaps there is a potential weapon here?
– 9 –
ROSE ISABEL (Breath, imperious) And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming. And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—nevermore!
ROSE MARIE (Still keeping her distance) Look at us! We both know Poe. And we’re both named alike but … well, I shall call you Georgia, because that’s where you’re from, isn’t it?
ROSE ISABEL Why I never! In all my life … No. Of course I’m not from Georgia. And even if I were, who would want to be called by the proper name of a state? You may call me Rose Isabel.
ROSE MARIE No, you know what? In my family we all have nicknames. And when we like somebody, and well, you’re just so likeable, well we give them nicknames. I’m going to give you one. One that I’ll bet no one has thought of yet. It suits you, it’s related to your given name, and it’s proper too, just the way you like it. I shall call you Miss Thorn.
ROSE ISABEL I’ve never had a nickname before. Mother says they’re common.
(Beat.) But I think I would rather enjoy being called Miss Thorn. Yes, I shall let you call me Miss Thorn… but I cannot call you what you asked me to. I’ll call you Rose Marie.
ROSE MARIE Very well. So, Miss Thorn, why are you locked up here?
ROSE ISABEL The security is for my protection. I thought you knew.
ROSE MARIE Knew what?
– 10 –
ROSE ISABEL Nurse Tee! Take this subject away. This interview is tiresome. Bring me my afternoon snack.
ROSE MARIE Why are you so hard to talk with? What happened to you? Were you born this way, or what?
ROSE ISABEL I’m perfectly easy to speak with, so long as you remember your place. You are my subject and I am your queen. And yes, I was born that way. What about you?
ROSE MARIE What do you mean?
ROSE ISABEL Why do you talk so funny?
ROSE MARIE You mean my Boston accent?
ROSE ISABEL Is that what it is? I thought you were putting on for some reason.
ROSE MARIE No, I’m from Boston. Born and bred, as they say.
ROSE ISABEL You’ve been bred? Why that’s shocking!
ROSE MARIE Of course not, it’s a saying.
ROSE ISABEL We don’t have sayings like that in St Louis.
ROSE MARIE If you’re from St. Louis, why do you sound as if you’re from Atlanta?
ROSE ISABEL Aren’t you a clever girl? My mother is from Atlanta, and we lived with her parents when I was a child, and that’s where I acquired my way of speaking.
ROSE MARIE Why are you here? Do you know? Did your parents put you here?
– 11 –
ROSE ISABEL (Back to herself) If you talk sex talk, the nurses take away your privileges.
ROSE MARIE What about if you speak in non-sequiters?
ROSE ISABEL (Breath, imperious) No one cares. Most people aren’t that literate.
ROSE MARIE Wait a second, are you … are you lucid right now?
ROSE ISABEL I know what you’re talking about, if that’s what you mean.
ROSE MARIE So are you faking? Or what?
ROSE ISABEL It’s wearying. Sometimes I know where I am and what people are talking about, and sometimes I seem to be in a different world altogether, do you understand?
ROSE MARIE How long will you stay lucid?
ROSE ISABEL I have no idea.
ROSE MARIE Do you know what happened to you? How you got here?
ROSE ISABEL My mother brought me, I think. And I was here for a while, seeing Dr. Freeman, but I guess I was violent, and so they gave me a special treatment to make me calm. And to stop me from embarrassing my family.
ROSE MARIE Oh, you mean the sex talk?
ROSE ISABEL What? The nurses told you about that? Oh my word.
ROSE MARIE I’m sorry if that … no, Miss Thorn, you told me yourself.
– 12 –
ROSE ISABEL Miss Thorn? Who’s that?
ROSE MARIE Oh, it’s just a little nickname I made up for you. You didn’t want me to call you Rose…
ROSE ISABEL (Frothing) Don’t call me Rose! Don’t call me Rose! Not Rose! Not Rose!
ROSE MARIE Oh God, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call you that, it’s just that you were asking me about the nickname, and I…
ROSE ISABEL (Frothing) No Rose, no thorn, no touching…
ROSE MARIE God help us, what did they do to you?
ROSE ISABEL (Herself) I like to put my fingers in my pussy, and I wish Dr. Freeman would put his in there, he has long ones, big around too … ROSE MARIE I’m beginning to understand the nurses’ position on that rather crude version of “sex talk.” Let’s change the subject, what do you say? How do you get out of here, um, sweetie?
ROSE ISABEL (Breath, imperious) My brother comes and takes me on outings. When it’s safe.
ROSE MARIE I see. Is he nice looking, your brother?
ROSE ISABEL Tom won’t be interested in you, Rose Marie. He’s queer. Nancy Boy, our father always called him. Nancy, prancy, queer as a three-dollar bill. No hope there, I’m afraid. You’ll have to get your own brother …
ROSE MARIE I have brothers aplenty. It’s just that they’re all under the iron thumb of our father. We all are.
ROSE ISABEL Did you bring my afternoon snack?
– 13 –
ROSE MARIE Sorry, no.
ROSE ISABEL A cigarette?
ROSE MARIE Don’t smoke.
ROSE ISABEL You are a useless subject.
(Herself) Unless you want to bite my nipples?
ROSE MARIE Nipples, plural? Looks to me like you’re a bit lopsided.
ROSE ISABEL (Looks down at her chest, gasps)
(Breath, imperious) Who is responsible for this? Someone has stolen my tissue! Call Dr. Freeman! This robbery must be reported immediately. Theft from a royal is punishable by death!
ROSE MARIE And I thought the convent was bad. At least there everyone was lucid. All the time.
(Goes to window.)
Help! Somebody get me out of here!
ROSE ISABEL (Herself) You’re never leaving here you know.
ROSE MARIE What do you mean?
ROSE ISABEL People go on outings. People die. People stay in their beds sometimes. But no one ever just leaves.
(THEY both sigh, and become silent.)
– 14 –
FLORA Well, if you two don’t look like two of the bluest Roses I’ve ever seen.
ROSE ISABEL (Frothing) Don’t call me Rose!
ROSE MARIE Oh, for God’s sake, can you please take me to my room or something, Nurse?
FLORA I’m just a member of the housekeeping staff, Miss Rose. My name is Flora.
ROSE MARIE Fine, Flora. Please, please, just get me out of here. I can’t stand what they’ve done to her.
FLORA Let’s go. I’ll take you to your room. Dr. Freeman will be wanting to see you soon anyway, and you’ll need to get ready.
ROSE MARIE What do you mean, get ready?
FLORA Dr. Freeman likes his patients to wear hospital attire to their appointments. Keeps them in their place.
ROSE MARIE But, I //don’t have any hospital attire to put on …
FLORA Don’t worry, we’ll get you all fixed up. Come along. (THEY exit)
TEE Upon my soul, child, why are you still here all by yourself?
ROSE ISABEL My subjects are in the fields, going about their chores.
– 15 –
TEE Right. Come along, then. I’ll take you to the recreation room. You can have a snack.
ROSE ISABEL A snack! Bless your little heart. I’m so famished, I was getting quite light-headed. I thought I was going to have to call the doctor, or at least my maid for some smelling salts.
TEE No need for all that, we’re going to get you fed. Now come along.
(FLORA enters with mop and bucket.)
FLORA Crud, forgot the broom.
(Kicks the dirt around with her foot)
There. That’ll do.
(Begins to sling the mop around)
Hey, Tee! I sure am glad to see you … wait, you ain’t got no charge with you, have you?
TEE No, I’m all by myself. For a few minutes. Thank the Lord!
FLORA No shit! Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have a job, a good state job like this one, at that, but …
TEE I’m with ya. They can get a girl down.
FLORA Yeah, and I got enough …
TEE Don’t we all? How is that man of yours anyway?
– 16 –
FLORA Who? Jack?
TEE You got somebody else?
TEE Oh no, you didn’t!
FLORA We ain’t done nothin’ …
TEE Girl! Jack would kill your ass.
FLORA Yeah, I know.
TEE You better leave one fool ‘fore you get another one.
FLORA I thought he was going in the Army, but this last time they called him down there, they said he’s 4F now.
TEE What’s wrong with him?
FLORA You know he had the temporary job on the railroad? We’s so excited about it too, cause you know how good them railroad jobs is. And then he got hurt. Well, I guess it was some kind of permanent damage to his foot so’s he can’t march good enough for the army and they won’t take him. Even if we go to war. Ain’t that embarrassing?
TEE Ain’t that the railroad’s fault?
FLORA Oh, it was his own stupid fault. Goofin around with the other idiots. So on top of the kids to think of now I got him prolly forever.
– 17 –
TEE Honey, we all got kids, but we’re only kids our damned selves.
FLORA Hell, my mom was a grandmaw when she was 25.
TEE Ain’t talking ‘bout years, talking ‘bout feelings. Don’t you still feel like a kid? I do.
FLORA I guess.
TEE Who’s this other man got your panties in a wad?
FLORA You don’t know him.
TEE He work here?
FLORA All right, you know him.
TEE Not George out at the garage?
FLORA Yes, but like I said, we ain’t done nothin’!
TEE Jack will tear his head off and wring your neck. Girl, George ain’t worth it! Don’t you know he screws everything in skirts?
FLORA He thinks I’m pretty.
TEE Flora Sue, don’t fall for that!
FLORA You sayin’ I ain’t pretty?
TEE I’m sayin’ the man wants in your pants.
– 18 –
FLORA You never flirted with nobody but your husband?
TEE I feel real lucky to have a husband period. Especially one as good as Leonard.
FLORA How do you mean?
TEE He’s the minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church down in Jeff City. Even if we do go to war, he won’t have to go.
FLORA I didn’t know you was a minister’s wife. Here I been swearing in front of you and all. Oh my lord. Oh no, there I go again. I’m sorry.
TEE Now see? That’s why I didn’t tell you. Why I don’t tell people I work with. Just please be yourself with me. I ain’t no different to you, Flora. We’re the same in God’s sight. Right?
FLORA (Nods, embarrassed.) I got a floor to mop.
TEE See you later then. Just watch yourself, missy. You’re better lookin’ without no black eye.
(FLORA mops viciously, until DR. FREEMAN enters)
DR FREEMAN Excuse me miss, have you seen a young woman, a new patient? She should be in my office right now, but she seems to have gone astray.
FLORA Nobody in here but me and this here mop.
DR FREEMAN And no one’s come through here?
FLORA I ain’t seen no stray patients.
– 19 –
DR FREEMAN Well, er, well, if you do see// Miss, uh, the missing patient …
FLORA I’ll be sure to tell her you’re looking for her, Dr. Freeman.
DR FREEMAN It would be much better if you could bring her to me.
FLORA I’m just a housekeeper, Doctor. Don’t you want me to call for an orderly instead?
DR FREEMAN You seem like a capable young woman, and there’s no need to frighten the patient by calling for an orderly. She needs to come in for her consultation.
FLORA What makes you think I look capable?
DR FREEMAN I’m an excellent judge of character. I’m sure you’ll do fine.
FLORA Well, gee thanks, doc, but you don’t know me from Simon Legree. You know who he was doncha?
DR FREEMAN Do you mean the fictional character from Uncle Tom’s Cabin?
FLORA Yeah, that’s the one.
DR FREEMAN Why would you compare yourself to him?
FLORA I mean to say you don’t know nothing about me, that’s all.
DR FREEMAN Here’s what I know about you: you have a state job at a renowned institution. That means you had to undergo a background check, have references, you had to pass a physical, and in order to keep the job, you’ve had to be a hard worker.
FLORA I reckon all that’s true, right enough.
– 20 –
DR FREEMAN You also get along with your co-workers, please your superiors, and don’t mistreat the inmates, or you’d have been fired by now.
FLORA I guess you’re pretty capable yourself!
DR FREEMAN I like to think so.
FLORA Oh shoot, I didn’t mean//no harm, I’s just kiddin…
DR FREEMAN Quite all right, my dear. I like a good joke. Even when it’s on me. Now then, can I count on you?
FLORA To do what?
DR FREEMAN To bring me my patient when you see her. The missing one?
FLORA Oh. Oh yeah. Sure. You bet.
(DR. FREEMAN exits)
(She resumes mopping)
(TEE and ROSE MARIE appear outside the window. TEE has ROSE MARIE firmly in her grasp, although ROSE MARIE continues to struggle.)
ROSE MARIE Come on, Nurse Tee, let me go. You can see I’m not insane. If you let me go, I promise I will go so far away that no one will ever hear from me again. You won’t get in trouble. I swear!
TEE I ain’t stupid. I let you escape, and it’s my ass that gets it, not yours.
– 21 –
ROSE MARIE Please, please, please … I’m begging you … I can’t spend the rest of my life here, I just can’t. Look at me! I’m young, like you. I have feelings, and longings, and dreams, just like you … If you let me go, I can run away somewhere, I can get a job, I can still have a life.
TEE I don’t know what you did to make your filthy rich parents put you in here, and how do I know you ain’t insane? Just ‘cause you don’t talk all crazy like some of ‘em, that don’t mean nothin’. Why we have women in here don’t say nothin’ at all. They might be as sane as Eleanor Roosevelt for all I know.
ROSE MARIE No! Look at me, look in my face, look in my eyes, please Nurse Tee, you can’t mean it, you can’t take me back. Surely you must know what they do here?
TEE This is the state asylum. Of course I know that. It’s a good one too. We got the best doctors in the country, or so they say.
ROSE MARIE Best? Or most famous?
TEE All I know is, people come from all over to be treated here, just like you came from Boston and Miss Rose Isabel came from St. Louis. We got people come clear from California. .
I won’t. You have to let me go!
TEE Come on, you’re going back in there, you’re going to your appointment with the doctor, and that’s all there is to it.
ROSE MARIE (New idea) I’ll pay you.
TEE How much?
ROSE MARIE Ten thousand dollars.
– 22 –
Oh all right. Now we know you’s crazy.
ROSE MARIE Oh, of course I don’t have it here. I’d have to get hold of my bonds and cash them in …
ROSE MARIE But I would! I could! And I would, I promise. I’d go back to Boston, I’d get those bonds, I’d cash them all, and I’d send you ten thousand dollars directly to your bank.
TEE (Bursts out laughing) Girl, you’re gettin’ delirious. I ain’t got no bank, and you ain’t got no bonds in Boston. Give it up.
ROSE MARIE But I do! My father’s rich. Surely you’ve heard of the Boston Kennedys? My grandfather was rich. My mother is rich for God’s sake! They each and every one of them put away bonds for my education, which I didn’t get to have … so there sit my bonds, just waiting for me to come rescue them.
TEE Sorry, sister, but somebody else is goin’ to have to spring you loose. Unless you got the cash in hand, I can’t risk this good state job on the off chance that one: you ain’t crazy, two: you got ten thousand dollars in bonds, and three: you’re goin’ give ‘em to me! Hah!
(TEE begins to march ROSE MARIE back inside the asylum. ROSE MARIE throws herself to the ground and refuses to budge. TEE is forced to drag her offstage.)
(Meanwhile, onstage, FLORA transforms the space she’s in to ROSE MARIE’s room, perhaps by adding a coat rack with hospital gown, or rolling in a bed, or whatever works. As she exits, TEE enters with ROSE MARIE in tow.
TEE Now, come on, Miss ROSE MARIE, we got to get you changed for your appointment with Dr. Freeman, and there ain’t no two ways about it.
(ROSE MARIE changes into hospital gown)
ROSE MARIE Don’t think that because I’m going along now means that I have given up. I will escape this institution with or without your help.
– 23 –
TEE Whatever you say, Miss ROSE MARIE, just move it. Dr. Freeman is waiting, and he’s a busy man.
(ROSE MARIE stands outside DR FREEMAN’S office. She hesitates. DR FREEMAN is alone in his office speaking into a dictating machine.)
DR FREEMAN Regarding patient number five, we are now approximately one-year post treatment. She does no work. She experiences delusions of grandeur, expressed as the belief that she is the Queen of England. She continues to talk about sexual behaviors in a crude manner. We had hoped to alleviate this behavior, along with the violence she had previously exhibited. We may have to consider another surgery, although her mother is not capable of funding it, her brother refuses to do so, and the State –at this point – is willing to fund only one per patient. There is the option of pro bono…
(ROSE MARIE knocks)
Rose Marie? Is that you? Come in, come in. Have a seat.
ROSE MARIE Thank you.
DR FREEMAN How are you feeling?
ROSE MARIE Fine thank you.
DR FREEMAN Really, Rose Marie? Because when your parents brought you here, they seemed to think you were disturbed. Quite disturbed, in fact.
ROSE MARIE They were the ones who were disturbed.
DR FREEMAN I see.
ROSE MARIE Do you, Doctor?
DR FREEMAN Yes, of course.
– 24 –
ROSE MARIE In that case, you can release me.
DR FREEMAN I’m afraid not.
ROSE MARIE But you said// that you saw…
DR FREEMAN Your parents have committed you, Miss. Permanently. What I see is that you are projecting your disturbed mind onto your poor parents who have had to put up with your inappropriate anti-social behaviors for several years now. It’s time to correct that.
ROSE MARIE What do you mean, correct?
DR FREEMAN Treat, of course. We offer treatment here. Only the best, the latest, most up-to-date treatment, my dear.
ROSE MARIE I’m not your dear.
DR FREEMAN I’d like to get to know you, Rose Marie, to see whether we can treat you conservatively. Perhaps make some behavioral changes so that you can be released in a year or two and go back to live with your family.
ROSE MARIE A year or two?
DR FREEMAN Let’s try not to focus on the amount of time.
ROSE MARIE But…
DR FREEMAN You’re a very young woman. You’ll still be in your mid-twenties.
ROSE MARIE It’s just that there’s nothing wrong with me now! Who knows what state I might be in after I spend a year or two in this place?
– 25 –
DR FREEMAN It’s good to see you have a sense of humor. That’s a definite sign in your favor.
ROSE MARIE Okay, okay, I have a sense of humor, I’ll be good. I’ll talk if that’s what you want. I just need to get out of here.
DR FREEMAN Is there a young man in your life?
ROSE MARIE Not in here.
DR FREEMAN Let’s dispense with the sarcasm, please. Let’s level with each other, shall we? Now, seriously, did you leave a young man behind when your parents brought you in?
ROSE MARIE Just Richie. He was fun, but I don’t know if he was serious. We never had a chance to really get to know one another.
DR FREEMAN Were you intimate?
ROSE MARIE Gosh, you don’t beat around the bush, do you?
DR FREEMAN As I said…
ROSE MARIE We fooled around. I never went all the way with him.
DR FREEMAN So you’re a virgin, then?
ROSE MARIE Um, I never said that exactly.
DR FREEMAN To whom did you give up your virginity?
ROSE MARIE Now wait a minute…
– 26 –
DR FREEMAN We said we were going to be forthright with each other, Rose Marie.
ROSE MARIE You first.
DR FREEMAN There’s that sense of humor again. Very well, Rose Marie. I’m happy to tell you that both my wife and I were virgins on our wedding night.
ROSE MARIE You’re kidding.
DR FREEMAN Not at all. I’m completely on the up and up.
ROSE MARIE Up a tree.
DR FREEMAN How about you, Rose Marie? Are you up a tree? You said you are not exactly a virgin. What did you mean by that?
ROSE MARIE That’s not what I said! Oh, what’s the use? (beat) I don’t want to talk anymore.
DR FREEMAN Very well. We’ll talk again soon. You get settled in, get to know the other patients, make yourself at home here.
ROSE MARIE I get it. I’ll talk more next time. I’ll be prepared, okay?
DR FREEMAN One more thing, Rose Marie. I’m told you tried to escape earlier.
ROSE MARIE No I didn’t.
- FREEMAN I have it on very good authority that you did indeed try to run away. Isn’t that why you were late for your appointment? Now tell the truth.
ROSE MARIE I … I … Okay, I did. But I wasn’t able to, and I see now that I’m just going to have to make the best of it and be a good girl. I won’t try it again. Honestly.
– 27 –
DR FREEMAN Meanwhile, I’m going to prescribe a mild sedative for you, and a sleeping pill for the nights. That should help you make the adjustment.
(Meanwhile, TEE and FLORA are on break outside the window.)
TEE I’m so glad you could come outside for a break.
FLORA You know me, I’m already ready for a break. Waxing those floors was killing me this morning. I thought sure I was getting my bloods, but I didn’t.
TEE I just got done changing Miss Katherine like she was a baby. They did some kind of treatment on her yesterday, and today she ain’t nothing but a mess.
FLORA Is she another one like them ones we got locked up there in the diaper ward?
TEE Yes. Can’t talk, just stares ahead.
FLORA Some of them get a little better though.
TEE I guess.
FLORA Don’t get all down. Think about something nice.
Nice. I’ll tell you something not so nice. But you got to promise not to tell nobody.
FLORA Oh who am I gonna tell? Jack?
TEE Nobody. That’s who.
FLORA Of course not, Tee. You’re my best friend. So, tell me already.
– 28 –
TEE What do you mean I’m your best friend?
FLORA Simple. You’re the best friend I got. Ain’t I your best friend?
TEE At work.
FLORA Well, your my best friend period. So. (beat of uncomfortable silence)
TEE I guess I just have a lot of friends. And some have been my friends since first grade. And I’ve got a lot of cousins.
FLORA It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.
TEE No. I want to tell you. Okay? (beat) So, I got home from work, and Leonard was waiting for me, all hot and breathing heavy, wanting me to hurry up and get finished with supper and everything so we could go at it.
FLORA Sounds exciting. What didja do?
TEE I told him no. Not unless he wore a rubber anyway. And he said no way was he wearing a rubber because that was like taking a bath with his socks on.
FLORA So then what happened?
TEE I told him to forget about it. If he didn’t want to wear no rubber, he could just go jack off behind the shed, because I’m ovulatin’ and I ain’t about to end up with another kid before I turn 21.
FLORA You told your minister husband to go jack off behind the shed. I can’t believe it. I can’t even imagine our preacher jacking off. Not that I want to imagine that. Ew. Did he though?
– 29 –
FLORA Go behind the shed?
TEE Girl, you’re nasty.
FLORA You’re the one said it.
TEE Naw, he didn’t.
FLORA He do it in the house???
TEE Naw, he thought of somethin’ else we could do instead.
TEE See how nasty you are? I’m talkin’ about we played cards.
FLORA You did not.
TEE Well, we coulda’
FLORA So what did you do then? Dry hump?
TEE No, he let his tongue do the work.
FLORA I wish I could get Jack to do that…
TEE What’s the matter with him? Too good?
FLORA Too much of a hick. His buddies all tell him that real men don’t go down there.
– 30 –
TEE I’m sorry.
FLORA Yeah. Guess I’ll never know what that’s like. Maybe if I told him reverend Leonard didn’t think HE was too good to do it, he’d consider it.
TEE You mean to say Jack was your only one?
FLORA Yeah. I got pregnant the first time too. Stupid ain’t it.
TEE Tragic, is what it is.
FLORA Yeah, pregnant and married at 14.
TEE I was 16. But the next babies at my house gonna be grandbabies and that’s no joke.
FLORA I know we’re old married ladies, working our lives away at the insane asylum, but we’re not even 21 yet. We should be out dancing and shit.
TEE Flora, you better get that nonsense outa your head. You’re a wife and a mom and a state worker. Get your head on straight. You don’t want to end up in some mess you cain’t handle.
FLORA I’m just talkin. Don’t worry about me. I just let life get me down sometimes is all.
TEE Could be worse.
FLORA What do you mean?
TEE We could be like them gals we look after in here. We coulda been born rich.
(THEY break up laughing and exit)
– 31 –
(ROSE MARIE’S room, midday. ROSE MARIE sleeps. ROSE ISABEL enters.).
ROSE ISABEL Rose Marie? Hey, Rose Marie! Why aren’t you up? Are you sick or something?
ROSE MARIE (Groggily) What? What do you mean?
ROSE ISABEL I mean, it’s the middle of the day and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of you all day. Breakfast is over, lunch is over, and you missed out on pie. It was raisin pie, but at least it was sweet.
ROSE MARIE You came looking for me?
ROSE ISABEL Well of course I did! I was that worried about you!
ROSE MARIE Oh my God. You’re lucid again, aren’t you?
ROSE ISABEL What’s that word “lucid?”
ROSE MARIE It means, um…
ROSE ISABEL It means in my right mind, right? I’m just messing with you.
ROSE MARIE Well that and wide-awake.
ROSE ISABEL Yes! That’s it exactly! When I feel like this, it’s as if I’ve awakened from a long dream … everything is very bright and loud, and people are so real.
ROSE MARIE But the problem is we never know how long you’ll be “awake” and I’m never sure when it’s happening.
ROSE ISABEL I could tell you, I guess.
– 32 –
ROSE MARIE You might not always want other people to know.
ROSE ISABEL What do you mean?
ROSE MARIE I’m not sure. I can’t really think straight myself. They gave me a sedative, and sleeping pills on top of that. And I think they came in and woke me up to give me another sedative. I’m so groggy.
ROSE ISABEL Oh darling, you have to learn to cheek those pills and take them when you want to, not when they want you to. Here, I’ll show you.
(She shows her how to cheek a pill)
ROSE MARIE Thanks. I’ll never make it if I’m stumbling around in a daze all the time. So, how about a code sign?
ROSE ISABEL For what?
ROSE MARIE To let each other know when we’re lucid. How about this?
(She holds her thumb and forefinger in the shape of an “L”)
ROSE ISABEL Like this?
(She makes the code sign)
ROSE MARIE Great! Now there’s one more thing.
ROSE ISABEL What?
ROSE MARIE Believe me, I hate to bring it up. But I have to call you something, and I don’t know what that is … so far, nothing I’ve come up with works…
ROSE ISABEL Everyone here calls me Rose Isabel.
– 33 –
ROSE MARIE That seems so formal, and so close to my own name … and my family always calls the people we’re close to by a nickname.
ROSE ISABEL My mother…
ROSE MARIE Yes, I know, she thinks nicknames are common.
ROSE ISABEL I don’t know how to help you.
ROSE MARIE You remind me a lot of my little sister.
ROSE ISABEL Oh! You have a sister?
ROSE MARIE I have four sisters and four brothers. The one I’m closest to is my little sister, Patty.
ROSE ISABEL I always wanted a sister, but I got brothers instead. Two of them.
ROSE MARIE We could pretend to be sisters to each other while we’re here.
ROSE ISABEL I always thought if I had a sister, I’d call her Margaret.
ROSE MARIE Why?
ROSE ISABEL You know, like Queen Elizabeth’s sister.
ROSE MARIE Oh oh. (Pause) … So, before you go, can I call you Patty?
ROSE ISABEL Like your real sister?
ROSE MARIE Just like my real sister.
– 34 –
ROSE ISABEL And you’ll be my Margaret?
ROSE MARIE Will you call me Peggy?
ROSE ISABEL Oh, Peggy and Patty! That’s cute.
ROSE MARIE Want to brush my hair?
ROSE ISABEL It certainly needs it … Peggy.
DR FREEMAN (Speaking into his dictaphone) Report from Doctor Walter Freeman, July 3, 1940. Performed mandatory surgery this afternoon on five patients, assisted by Dr. Watts. Patients were Rose Marie Kennedy, Kathleen Foster, Georgina Breuer, Mildred Gulley, and Bernice Wilson. We performed midline abdominal bilateral tubal occlusions on each one without complications. Georgina had a few extra stitches on account of her being so tall. Otherwise they were all unremarkable. They were all sent to post-op recovery to wake up before being returned to their respective wards.
ENTER TEE TEE Excuse me, Dr. Freeman.
DR FREEMAN What is it?
TEE One of the patients is missing, doctor.
DR FREEMAN How is that my problem?
TEE It’s Rose Marie, sir. She’s barely out of anesthesia, and she disappeared…
– 35 –
DR FREEMAN Well, damn it, girl don’t just stand there! Find her!
(THEY are both shocked at his use of “damn” but SHE hurries away to search for Rose Marie. HE returns to his desk. Picks up the telephone, dials.) Marjorie, sweetheart? I’m going to be late. We have a situation here, and I have to stay until it’s resolved. No, nothing dangerous, don’t worry. Tell the boys I’ll look in on them later. Marge, wait until I get home before you have that first cocktail, won’t you? Bye bye then.
(HE opens the bottom drawer of his desk and pours himself a drink.)
(TEE and FLORA are outdoors searching everywhere, with flashlights.)
(ROSE MARIE is hiding under a bed, in the dark. SHE is lying in the fetal position, clutching a blanket.)
(TEE and FLORA enter with flashlights, searching.)
FLORA There, under the bed.
TEE Rose? Rose, come on out now.
(ROSE MARIE whimpers, but does not move)
Come on, Rose, don’t make me have to drag you out from under that bed. I don’t want to hurt you.
FLORA I’ll get her out.
ROSE MARIE No! No! I’ll come out, I’ll come out…
(She gingerly scoots out from under the bed, then has to be helped by both FLORA and TEE to her feet, where she sways, nearly fainting.)
– 36 –
ROSE MARIE CONTINUED Oooh, I … My stomach! Ow! It hurts, it hurts!
TEE You’ll be okay in a few days, you just need to rest, that’s all.
ROSE MARIE But what is it? What did they do to me?
TEE A little surgery, that’s all.
ROSE MARIE Surgery? What’s wrong with me?
FLORA You going to tell her?
ROSE MARIE Tell me! Nurse Tee, tell me!
TEE It’s no big thing. All the girls get it after they’re here for 30 days.
ROSE MARIE Get what? All the girls get what? Ow! Oh my God! My stomach, what have they done to me?
TEE They tied your tubes is all.
ROSE MARIE You mean they sterilized me?
FLORA No more babies for you, Miss Rose.
ROSE MARIE No more? No more? I’ve never had babies. I’m not even married! I’m not even engaged! And they sterilized me? Who? That bastard Freeman? I’ll kill him! I’ll sue him! He can’t do that! He has no right! No one has the right to sterilize me, don’t they know who I am? My father will see he never practices medicine again. I swear to God …
– 37 –
TEE Now, now, Miss Rose, don’t get yourself all excited, like I said, they do it to all the girls … it’s to keep you safe.
ROSE MARIE Safe? Safe from whom? Oh my God! I’ve got to get out of here! I have to call Daddy…
(SHE begins to struggle, but is weak, and FLORA easily holds her down, while TEE administers an injection. THEY wait for its sedative effect, which doesn’t take long.)
TEE There, she’s out. We can go.
FLORA I don’t see why they care so much. I wouldn’t mind having my tubes tied.
TEE I guess she still wants children someday.
FLORA Ever seen one of ‘em get out of here? She ain’t never gonna get out of here.
TEE She don’t know that.
FLORA Yeah. Well, like you said, she’ll be all right in a few days.
TEE Maybe she’ll calm down after this.
FLORA You ever watch them doctors operate on those girls, tie their tubes and stuff?
TEE No. I’m not a nurse, I’m just an aide. Why?
FLORA I thought maybe you could do me.
TEE Have you lost your mind?
– 38 –
FLORA Well, I’d do you if I knew how and you wanted me to. And not just because you’re my best friend either. I’d do any gal who wanted it done if I knew how. I think it’s a boon. These gals in here don’t know how good they got it.
TEE You have lost your mind.
FLORA It’s easy for you to say. Your man is willing to do stuff or wear a rubber or let you get your diaphragm in. Jack don’t care how many kids we have.
TEE I’m sorry, Flora. I don’t know what to say. Maybe you can talk to Dr. Freeman, ask him if he’ll operate on you. He sure does like to operate, maybe he will.
FLORA I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m scared to ask him. But I get jealous of these rich women sometimes. They seem to have everything. They come in here and we wait on ’em hand and foot. They get candy and gifts and whatnot. Then they get their tubes tied so they don’t never have no kids to worry about. Hell, they don’t even have to get married. It don’t seem fair.
TEE On the other hand, they’re either crazy or their families think they’re crazy, so either way they end up in here.
(ROSE MARIE sleeps in her bed. ROSE ISABEL enters the room, a basket on her arm.)
ROSE ISABEL Wakey, wakey! Rise and shine you sleepy head. Time for your ablutions!
ROSE MARIE What? Oh, Patty. What are you doing here?
ROSE ISABEL Patty? Where? No, there’s no one else here, my dear, just you and your Queen. Now try to sit up, and let me wash your face.
(She begins to pull a washcloth from her basket, perhaps a hairbrush, etc.)
We want you to look nice, even though you might not feel so nice right now.
– 39 –
ROSE MARIE You’re right about that. I feel horrid.
ROSE ISABEL Quite right! And your breath is dreadful! Don’t you have a toothbrush? I’m sure all my subjects were issued toothbrushes … teethbrush? teethbrushes? How strange. Those words don’t sound correct at all.
(She wanders over to the window)
ROSE MARIE I’m sorry, Queen, but I really don’t feel up to visitors right now. I need to rest. I had surgery yesterday, or perhaps it was the day before…
ROSE ISABEL Yes, yes, I know all about it. All my subjects are given surgery. I insist upon it, you know.
ROSE MARIE You insist on it?
ROSE ISABEL Oh yes, I can’t have babies running around here. It would be most unsettling.
ROSE MARIE Yes! God forbid we have anything normal in here! Anyone crying or screaming or shitting their pants! They wouldn’t even let me telephone my parents.
ROSE ISABEL There, there, dear. Lie back and let me wash your face. Remember, it was your parents who put you here in the first place.
ROSE MARIE I know. You’re right. (beat) I’m in pain, I need a shot. Where’s my bell? Nurse! Nurse!
ROSE ISABEL They can’t hear you. They’re all quite busy right now.
ROSE MARIE What? What do you mean?
ROSE ISABEL It’s Wednesday, Rose Marie. Everyone is busy on Wednesday.
ROSE MARIE I’ve noticed that, actually. But what are they doing? Why aren’t they here?
– 40 –
ROSE ISABEL Ours is not to reason why, dear.
ROSE MARIE Oh, Patty, can’t you come back for just a few minutes? I need you Patty.
ROSE ISABEL You shouldn’t talk to people who aren’t here, dear. That could be seen as treasonous. The only reason I’m letting you off this time is that you’ve just had surgery and you have a little fever. Not to mention really bad breath.
ROSE MARIE I have to think. Give me that hairbrush.
(ROSE ISABEL gives her the brush. ROSE MARIE brushes her hair.)
So … everybody’s busy… When you say everybody’s busy, do you mean everybody is off the ward?
ROSE ISABEL It’s Wednesday, are you stupid or something?
ROSE MARIE Are there more surgeries taking place today?
ROSE ISABEL (Laughing) Don’t be silly. Everyone has already had surgery.
ROSE MARIE I don’t get it… Hand me my toothbrush and some tooth powder and that basin over there, would you? And some water?
(ROSE ISABEL does so. ROSE MARIE brushes her teeth, and speaks during.)
No surgery, nurses off ward …
Are all the patients free to run around loose like you?
ROSE ISABEL I’m not a patient! I’m the Queen! You’re the patient!
ROSE MARIE Yes, of course… are ANY of the patients running around loose?
– 41 –
ROSE ISABEL No, silly. They’re having their treatments.
ROSE MARIE But I’m not, because?
ROSE ISABEL You just had surgery. You must be mildly retarded, dear.
ROSE MARIE And you’re not having treatment, because?
ROSE ISABEL I’m the Queen! Enough! Enough! You’re giving me a headache.
ROSE MARIE Can’t you tell me about the treatments?
ROSE ISABEL Mornings are really the best time of day.
ROSE MARIE I guess I was lucky to get this much out of you.
ROSE ISABEL If you don’t want people coming into your room at night, you should do what I do.
ROSE MARIE What do you do?
ROSE ISABEL I put a pitcher of ice water outside my door.
ROSE MARIE Why on earth would you put ice water outside your door?
ROSE ISABEL I take it back about the mild retardation; I think your case is a bit more severe. Well, don’t worry, the doctors will take care of you.
ROSE MARIE Why can’t you be Patty now? I really need my sister.
ROSE ISABEL My sister is Margaret.
– 42 –
ROSE MARIE You mean Peggy?
ROSE ISABEL Peggy?
ROSE MARIE Peggy.
ROSE ISABEL Peggy.
(She makes the “L” sign)
ROSE MARIE Oh Thank God, Patty! You’re back! Patty, I’m so happy to see you, you don’t know.
ROSE ISABEL What is it, Peggy?
ROSE MARIE Apparently, I’ve been sterilized.
ROSE ISABEL Yes, they sterilize all of us. For our own good, they say. They did me right away when I first got here.
ROSE MARIE What’s next? Do you know what they do next?
ROSE ISABEL Some treatment. Something that makes you lose most of your memory. And changes your behavior. Your bad behavior.
ROSE MARIE It must be shock treatments. I’ve heard of those. Do they hurt?
ROSE ISABEL I don’t know….
(Shifts back to Queen)
I have to go now, dear.
– 43 –
(TEE and FLORA, exhausted, lounge outside the sanitarium, talking.)
FLORA Do you have to rush off home?
TEE You mean after our shift tonight?
FLORA Yeah. I just wondered…
TEE You wanna go get a cuppa coffee or something?
FLORA I got a problem.
TEE I told you Jack was gonna beat you…
FLORA It ain’t Jack, at least not yet.
TEE What is it then? The kids? You need a babysitter?
FLORA Will you let me just say?
TEE Well spit it out then girl, we ain’t got all day out here.
FLORA I’m late.
TEE Oh my lord God.
FLORA It ain’t what you think!
TEE You’re saying, you’re NOT expecting?
– 44 –
I’m saying, you think it’s George’s, and it ain’t.
TEE Then no problem, right?
FLORA No! I mean, yes. Yes, there is a problem. I don’t want another baby. Not Jack’s not George’s, not if it was the Second Coming. I don’t want another baby.
TEE You shoulda thought of that before// you let…
FLORA Don’t even finish that sentence. You know how Jack is. And I put my diaphragm in every time he goes out drinking just in case. But he didn’t use a rubber, and it had been a few hours since I put in the diaphragm, and anyway, goddamn it, I’m late.
TEE I was afraid it was gonna come to this. Did you talk to Dr. Freeman?
FLORA I thought about it, I did, but before I even got a chance, I came up late.
TEE Well, I didn’t get to watch any of the surgeries, but I did do something after our talk. I was worried you were gonna turn up pregnant, and ask for my help.
FLORA You watched! I know you did.
TEE I told you I didn’t. But. There’s a woman in our neighborhood who helps women when they get in trouble. I visited her and offered to help her last week with a girl from our congregation. So, I’ve helped in exactly one occasion. That’s all.
FLORA So you’ll do me? That’s why you helped her isn’t it? So you could do me?
TEE If I messed up, you could get infected and die.
FLORA You won’t mess up. And if I have another baby, I don’t care if I die.
TEE Oh hell, Flora, you don’t mean that.
– 45 –
FLORA I swear on my mother’s grave.
TEE Your mother ain’t dead.
TEE I wouldn’t even know where to do it.
FLORA Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tee, I knew you’d come through for me.
TEE But … but…
FLORA Tee, you know if it was the other way around, I’d help you. I would do anything for you. Now, I’ve got the place and everything all figured out. Meet me at the lockers after work….
(It is nighttime on the ward, after lights out. ROSE ISABEL returns from an outing, wearing hat and gloves, carrying a handbag and a box of candy She sneaks into ROSE MARIE’S room, and stands over her, watching her sleep for a couple of beats. Then she turns on the light.)
ROSE ISABEL Rose Marie, Rose Marie, Rose Marie, Rose Marie, Rose Marie…
ROSE MARIE What? What are you doing? Why are you standing there calling my name?
ROSE ISABEL Nurse Tee and Flora are doing sex.
ROSE MARIE They are not.
ROSE ISABEL I command you to get up and make them stop!
– 46 –
ROSE MARIE Why do you have a hat on? And gloves?
ROSE ISABEL I’m the Queen, I’m the Queen, how many times do I have to tell you, I’m the bloody Queen!
ROSE MARIE I’ve never seen you in a hat and gloves before, that’s all.
ROSE ISABEL Make them stop … please make them stop…
ROSE MARIE Seriously, have you been on an outing or something?
ROSE ISABEL If you don’t make them stop, I don’t know what I’ll do. It’s making my head hurt!
ROSE MARIE Okay, okay. Come on. Hand me my robe. Where are they?
ROSE ISABEL Come on, I’ll show you.
(ROSE ISABEL hands ROSE MARIE a robe. She puts it on, and they make their way to where TEE is performing FLORA’S abortion. [Note to director: this should be done with Tee’s back to audience, so that we see Flora’s splayed knees, and Tee’s performing the abortion.] ROSE MARIE holds ROSE ISABEL back and motions her to keep quiet. They observe.)
I don’t know what you are doing here, but stay back. I don’t need your germs anywhere near Flora. And be quiet, she’s still out. (TEE performs a dilation and curettage type of abortion, which requires using several instruments, one at a time, which should be bloody when withdrawn, should be stainless steel, and placed in a stainless steel bowl or pan when withdrawn. All “sponges” should be white gauze that get bloody and are then tossed into the stainless steel bowl. ROSE ISABEL and ROSE MARIE may gasp or cry out at times. When the abortion is complete, TEE pulls off her rubber gloves, helps FLORA to her feet.)
TEE Steady. Take your time. You okay?
– 47 –
ROSE MARIE Why in the world would you choose to do an abortion here?
TEE No! It’s not what you think!
FLORA Tee, Tee…
ROSE ISABEL You two were doing sex. I’m going to tell Dr. Freeman.
TEE, FLORA, ROSE MARIE Oh, for God’s sake!
ROSE MARIE I’m sorry Rose Isabel, but they truly were not doing anything sexual. Flora had something wrong, and Nurse Tee was fixing her. Isn’t that right, Nurse Tee?
TEE Yes, yes, that’s right.
ROSE ISABEL Why didn’t you go to the doctor then?
FLORA I didn’t have the money, Miss.
ROSE ISABEL You got that bed dirty.
TEE Don’t worry, I’ll get it all fixed up like new just in a minute, soon as I get Flora out of here.
ROSE MARIE Is that candy you have there, Queen? There in that box?
ROSE ISABEL It is! I plumb forgot about it. My favorite!
(She opens the box and begins sampling the chocolates. Completely taken away by the candy.)
ROSE MARIE Now then, Nurse Tee. Before you and Flora go out that door, we need to talk.
– 48 –
TEE I suppose you’re going to report me?
ROSE MARIE No, no of course not. I can’t do that. And I think Rose Isabel is taken care of.
TEE Then why we need to talk?
ROSE MARIE I’m concerned about Flora, is she going to be okay?
TEE I hope so. I never exactly done this before.
FLORA I’m gonna be okay. You sure you ain’t gonna tell nobody?
ROSE MARIE No. That’s your business, not mine. I have my own problems.
TEE Look, we can’t bust you out of here. We’d lose our jobs for sure.
ROSE MARIE I’m not trying to blackmail you into helping me.
TEE I’m just saying.
FLORA Well I do wish you could get out. We wish all the girls could get out, don’t we, Tee? We don’t like what we see going on here.
TEE You like your paycheck though.
FLORA There’s other paychecks in the world.
TEE Big talk from somebody who’s too weak to walk right now.
FLORA I can walk.
– 49 –
TEE Let’s go then.
ROSE MARIE Be careful, and don’t get an infection, that’s important.
TEE How you know so much about it?
ROSE MARIE I’ve sat with a few friends who have been through the procedure.
TEE They make it okay?
ROSE MARIE Not all of them. Like I said, it’s important to watch out for infection.
FLORA I will, I’ll be real careful, all right? You should maybe mind your own beeswax.
TEE I got to get Flora back before Jack gets off of work. Then I got to get home before my own man gets home.
ROSE MARIE Go. I’ll clean up here. You’re right, Flora. It’s not my business. I just don’t want anything to happen to you, that’s all. Now go on, get home to your men.
FLORA Yeah, thanks. I guess you’re okay for a rich gal.
– 50 –
(DR FREEMAN’S office. HE is on the phone)
DR FREEMAN I’m not saying she would, Marjorie, but I’m sure Rose Isabel’s parents never thought she would grow up that way either, or this new girl, Rose Marie … you should see her, Marjorie, bright as a button, but she’s incorrigible! … No, I’m not saying Lorne is going to be incorrigible, for goodness sake darling, she’s only a baby … No, not the boys either Trey and Frankie are already showing signs of being good strong boys … Yes, and a handful … but you have the whole household well under control, darling, you’re a marvel. … Yes, dear, I will, straight away after I finish up here … you know I have to do what I can, there are so many suffering here … You know how I am. I feel so impatient with others in my field. When it’s clear to me that so much behavior is caused by something physical in the brain that we could fix, why it is downright unresponsible of us to not do what we can to repair it. Imagine the world where we have diagnosed and repaired schizophrenic boys at the age of twelve, for example! No more juvenile delinquents causing sorrow to their poor parents. And no more young girls getting pregnant in their teenage years wreaking havoc on all concerned, no more unwed mothers, or shotgun marriages. Why the world will be a utopia. Also, we will likely find the cause of invert sexuality and perversion, and … oh, I’m sorry Marjorie, I’ve completely forgotten myself! I didn’t mean to shock you.
(TEE has been listening throughout, now knocks)
Yes, come in … I’ll speak with you later, dear. I have someone in the office. (Hangs up the phone).
(TEE enters, stands there)
What is it, Aide?
TEE Excuse me for interrupting, doctor.
DR FREEMAN That’s all right. I don’t have a patient. What’s on your mind?
TEE It’s about one of the patients, doctor.
DR FREEMAN Is she waiting outside the door?
TEE Oh no sir. I just wanted to talk to you about her for a minute.
Blue Roses is a stage play set in 1940 in Fulton, Missouri in the state insane asylum. This was a real place, and real lobotomies were performed there. When I first heard about Tennessee Williams’s sister Rose having had a lobotomy, I read the biography of Dr. Walter Freeman by Jack El-Hai called The Lobotomist. Freeman believed he could cure mental illness with his crude ice pick method of lobotomy. He was also a showman, and had his procedures photographically documented.
Then I read about President John F. Kennedy’s sister, whom we all thought was born developmentally delayed, and found that she too had been lobotomized.
Both women had been sent to mental institutions as a method of dealing with the women’s unwanted sexual acting out. I had been sexually active at a young age myself, but I was raised poor. My mother’s method of dealing with me was to marry me off. She tried and failed when I was only fourteen, but when I became pregnant at fifteen, she and the boy’s mother forced us to marry.
I lived for six years with an alcoholic young man who beat me. I couldn’t escape until I was twenty-one and old enough to get a divorce without my mother’s permission.
Who was luckier? Me, who was a teenage mother and beaten within an inch of my life? Or these wealthy young women whose parents sent them to mental institutions where they were lobotomized. Clearly, I was.
When I grew up, there was a huge divide between my working class family and the families of even the middle class families. I was biased against wealthy people, and it wasn’t until I grew up and made friends from other classes that I could see we had a lot of things in common. All women were oppressed in one way or another. We all dealt with sexism, regardless of class.
When I decided to write about the two Roses, it was imperative for me to include working class young women, in order to show both differences and the things they have in common. Thus, it is up to Flora and Tee to save the Roses as well as themselves.
In my own life, it has been the sisterhood of women that has saved me, empowered me, and gave me strength to continue to resist the patriarchy.
Blue Roses is set in another time and place, but the underlying problems of the characters are those we still face today: class, race, sexism, and mental health. My play gives audiences the opportunity to see characters face and overcome (or not) these obstacles. And a chance to laugh as well as to be horrified.
Sandra de Helen’s dramas and comedies have been performed all over the United States as well as Internationally. Audiences in NYC, Chicago, Ireland, London, and the Philippines have been entertained and challenged by Sandra’s provocative writing. In 2017, her work was staged at Athena Cats Theatre of Santa Monica, Women’s Theatre Festival of NC, Samuel French in LA, and read by Scripteasers in San Diego. In the past five years, her work has been staged in NYC, LA, Portland, and Canada. Her writings are archived in the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Collection at Ohio State University. Sandra studied with Maria Irene Fornes, and with Matt Zrebski. With Kate Kasten, she co-founded Actors’ Sorority in Kansas City, Missouri. Later Sandra founded the Portland Women’s Theatre Company as well as Penplay. Today, she is a member of Scripteasers of San Diego, International Centre for Women Playwrights, and the Dramatists Guild.