Post Mortem – Monologue (Betsy)

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A monologue from the play by A. R. Gurney

BETSY (early twenties)

Betsy is a college student and head of the Lecture Committee. She is introducing a pair of scholars who have reconstructed a lost and highly controversial play by a completely forgotten playwright of many years ago named “A.R. Gurney”.

However, she goes off on a tangent after she starts her “cell-phone speech.”

(To audience.) Hi! . . . Welcome to the Marvin and Mona Spellberg Memorial Auditorium. My name is Betsy Baker, and I’m this year’s chairperson of our new Student Lecture Committee . . . (Glances offstage.)

Oh, and I’m so excited! Tonight, right here, on this stage, I’ll be interviewing two of the most important people in the world! And what’s so amazing, they actually met here, not so long ago!

One was a lecturer on drama, and one was her student, and now they’re married, and famous, and they’ve come back to home base to share their experiences with all of us! (Indicating her cards.)

Naturally there has been so much interest in their visit that we’ve asked people to submit their questions ahead of time. And we’ve tried to select the most appropriate ones. And here they are.

(Puts cards carefully on the table.) OK, but before I introduce our guests, I have to make the usual speech about cell phones. Namely, turn them off, please, people.

You might think you already have, but we are all so used to them now that sometimes we forget, and consequently a cell phone can go off at just the wrong time, and ruin the whole moment . . .

And now it’s my great pleasure to — (Stops, then impulsively leaves her position by the table.) Except I want to say this. I hate having to make the cell-phone speech. It gets everything off on the wrong foot.

It makes me the cop, and you the culprits, and we should all be on the same footing, especially tonight. Maybe one of these days I’ll no longer have to make that speech. Maybe some day, we’ll turn them off automatically.

Or not even bring them. Maybe we’ll learn not to bring them to class, either. I hear that Professor Klein in Chemistry docks your grade if your cell phones goes off during his lectures.

You should also know that the Athletic Department has a new rule about them. No cell phones if you are participating in an athletic event. Apparently some girl on the cross country team stopped to answer her cell in the middle of a race!

And last week a cell phone went off during a Quaker meeting in our interdenominational chapel. Now in Quaker meetings you’re supposed to be quiet unless the Holy Spirit moves you.

Well, it sure wasn’t the Holy Spirit on that cell. It was a Quaker’s room-mate looking for the remote to their TV! (Looks up and off.) I know, I know. They’re waiting. But I’m the head of the lecture committee, and I’m on a roll here.

(To audience.) Because I don’t think cell phones should be allowed at meals. And I’m not just talking about the college cafeteria either. I mean restaurants, too. And in your own home.

A meal is a sacred thing. Professor Kibel in Literature says that when we break bread together we remind ourselves of our common nature. He read us that part in The Iliad when Priam,

the doomed old King of Troy, comes to beg Achilles for the body of his son Hector, whom Achilles has killed and dragged around the city walls. So Priam begs for the body, and Achilles gives it up, and then what happens?

They sit down together and share a leg of lamb! The father and the murderer of his son! It’s extremely moving. (She gets teary.) It says that life must go on, even after a situation like that!

So when people start chattering on their cell phones while they eat, they’re saying that something more important than the meal is going on somewhere else, which is wrong, because eating together is the heart of the matter. So no phones at meals, please.

We should make that a rule. (A slight pause only.) And I don’t think we should use cell phones when we’re walking down the street, either. Why? Because when we’re walking places,

we should be noticing our surroundings, and greeting people we know, and how can we do that if we’re jabbering away on our cells. That means we’re out of it, we’re elsewhere, and so we bump into people.

Or ignore them, which is worse. One time I was walking through the Student Union plaza, and everyone there was either talking on cell phones or listening to their iPods. No one was noticing anyone else.

It was like being in a zombie movie like The Dawn of the Dead. I wanted to shout out, “Hey, look! I’m here, I’m alive, I’m a human being!” I was so upset when I got to philosophy class that I mentioned this to my teacher, and you know what she said?

She said that cell phones are undermining our sense of what the Greeks called the polis, which is the basic building block of democracy. She said we need to remind ourselves constantly of our common interconnectedness.

That’s why we have the agora, or the piazza, or the village square, or Main Street, or right here, in this theater, and if we lose all that, democracy goes right out the window. So we’ve got to make rules here.

We’ve got to restrict cell phones. As we did with spitting. Or cigarettes. Because we’re really talking about civility here. That’s what we’re really talking about. O K? O K. (Returns to stand by her table.)

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce a man and a woman who began their journey to worldwide acclaim right here at this very university, and who need no introduction beyond that.

May we welcome, please . . . well, they’ve asked that we call them simply Alice and Dexter!

Read the play here

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