lundi 23 février 2009

An afternoon of Words & Theatre 11: François de Peaudecerf

by François de Peaudecerf
Staging by David Lemasson (playing Jack, the student)
and Charly Hamy (playing Professor Jones)

Prof. JONES: 55, well-cut short beard, little glasses
JACK: twenty something student, looks “cool”

[ Prof. Jones sits behind his desk, an armchair stands in front of the desk. Prof. Jones is wearing white coveralls, looks serious. Some horribly complicated posters hang on the wall. He seems to be taking notes from an article, then stops, looks at a pen and puts it parallel to the edge of his desk. He smiles, satisfied, and continues writing. Somebody knocks on the door. ]

Prof. JONES: Yes, come in!

[Jack comes in, smiling]

JACK: Hi, Professor Jones! How are you? Is your research going well? [looking at the posters.] Woah! Terrific! Those posters are terrific! Look at this picture: amazing!

Prof. JONES: [looks first amazed then tries to recover] What you are looking at, young man, is the most advanced simulation of a 4-D lattice of quark dynamics in the fundamental state of...

JACK: [interrupting] Oh, no need to go on, you see, I won't get a whisp of it and anyway I don't care. Just as I was saying, this picture's amazing, it looks like Science-Fiction. [He turns to the armchair and sits, tests the quality of it.] You're quite comfortable here, aren't you? [He spins in the armchair] Nice!

Prof. JONES: [tense but polite] Please, stop it! If you are not interested in my research, may I ask you why you came here, young man? Besides, what is your name?

JACK: Jack, I'm Jack Oliver. Well, I need a letter of recommendation – you see, I want to go to the United States, but they're so picky... You're quite famous, so I thought that with your name, I could get through. What do you think about it? You're in?

Prof. JONES: Well, you’re a bit quick when it comes to business. But, first, I’d need to know a little more about you and your plans, for example, what really interests you about Physics, which subject ...

JACK: Oh, no problem, I don't care what you write, there’s no need to know what I'll do. I just want to go to the States. The subject I’ll study doesn't matter, I won't work a lot, anyway. You must’ve been there, no? How was it? Big campuses, lots of money, the American way of life? Did you enjoy it? I can't wait! Did you...?

Prof. JONES: [interrupting] Well, yes, I mean, it was great, but... let's get back to you. You understand that before I write anything for you, I need to know your results, as in your grades, I also need to know about your motives, what gets you through, why you see your stay in the US as an opportunity...

JACK: But Prof,, aren’t you getting a clear picture, here? It’s the States!!! That's enough of a motivation: going to the United States, where everything is possible! Burgers, skyscrapers, American girls, all mine! You just have to sign a damn paper and then they're mine. You can't refuse me that! Prof? What do you think?
[During Jack's speech, the Prof has put his head in his hands, thinking and looking angry. When he looks back up, he seems changed and determined]

Prof. JONES: Okay, boy, let's get it straight. You want your trip to the States: how much are you ready to pay me for that letter?

JACK: Wh...What? I...I beg your pardon?

Prof. JONES: How much are you ready to pay?

JACK: To... pay? What...? Money?

Prof. JONES: Pay money, dough, dosh, call it what you want! You understand what I mean?

JACK: But.. why, I mean... you don't pay for a letter of recommendation, you... the professors do them for free...

Prof. JONES: Oh, yeah, and why should they? They have a Phd, right, so they're not so stupid? Why should they write them for free?

JACK: Why...? But... I... for their students, for the sake of science, I...

Prof. JONES: Oh God, what did you say, the sake of Science? You're a such a kid! Science! I'd not be sitting here if there had only been Science!

JACK: What...?

Prof. JONES: What did you think? One day you’d find a revolutionary idea and: “Poof!” you're a big shot, recognised and respected all over the world? Poor baby, open your eyes! It's all about money: get credit, and then use it to get your work recognised--or more often the work of someone else recognised as yours!

JACK: stole your articles?

Prof. JONES: No, I paid for them. And pretty well indeed! But now, you see, I'm the playmaker: you think I'd not make the most of it? But then how could I spend my holidays in Tahiti? Moreover, I still need high-ranking articles, and they are quite expensive nowadays...

JACK: But...I can't believe it! I... you're supposed to represent Science, its virtues, its freedom from every other human activity! You, a for his research!

Prof. JONES: Oh yeah, and maybe I should also stay up late in my lab, then go home to a tiny flat where, after a frugal dinner of sardines and stale bread, I should read some highly boring intellectual book and finally fall into sleep alone in my simple bed. And of course, I should sign recommendation letters for free! Sorry to disappoint you boy! [He opens a drawer and throws some fashion magazines on the table] Are these Nature and Science? [He points to a half-naked girl on the cover of one.] Is she the latest Nobel laureate? Not really. You're wrong about the magazines I read, just as you're wrong about my life. Now, you'd better make your decision about that letter quickly! I have to go for my golf lesson, after which I'll dine in a restaurant with a nice Russian chick who wants to study in our venerable institution, and who'll prove to me, I hope, that she's got enough “assets” to succeed. So, you see, I am quite busy. Therefore, I will ask only one last time: how much?

JACK: I...I can't believe it!!! ... I...I am ashamed of you, you dishonour Science, the work of thousands of invaluable men and women... and being so mean! I can't believe it! I...I...I’m leaving!

[Jack leaves the office, slamming the door]

Prof. JONES: [smiles, now alone, relaxed, and laughs a little.] Aaah, it always works. [He looks at the magazines, smiles again, and puts them back in the drawer] So, back to work! [He again looks concentrated, he places the pencil that has moved back parallel to the edge of his desk and returns to his notes. After a moment he looks at his watch] Oh my God, I'm late! [He takes off his lab coveralls: he’s wearing fancy golf outfit underneath. As he stands up, we see he has got golf shoes, too. From behind his desk, he picks up a golf bag which was hidden. He smiles.] Ivana Petruchka. Sounds great!

[He leaves his office]


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