Gabrielle Poisson ’17 Wins National Playwrights Contest

Blank Theatre Gabrielle Poisson“Doesn’t That Sound Lovely?” a play written by Gabrielle Poisson ’17 during Newark Academy’s 2016 24-hour Play Writing Festival, won the Blank Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival and was professionally produced in the Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles in June 2016. The play was one of 12 selected from over 200 submissions. Gabi spent two weeks in L.A. where she worked with renowned director Barbara Bain (one of the stars of the original 1960’s TV series, “Mission Impossible”) as well as a dramaturg and professional actors. Newark Academy’s IB Theatre/Advanced Acting teacher, Scott M. Jacoby, was in attendance and declared Gabrielle’s play the best among all the winners. Mr. Jacoby’s 24-hour play writing event is a biennial part of the IB Theatre/Advanced Acting course. Gabrielle Poisson previously won the NJ Young Playwrights Competition for her play, “Worn Thin.” You can read more about Gabi’s work in the North Jersey News.

DOESN’T THAT SOUND LOVELY
By Gabrielle Poisson

ADRIANNA, 27. Wife of MARCO. Mother of WENDY. She loves her family deeply, but she is desperate to fly.

MARCO, 27. Husband of ADRIANNA. Father of WENDY. He believes in a happily ever after.

WENDY, 8. Daughter of ADRIANNA and MARCO. An explorer. Impressionable.

(A single spotlight strikes the stage and shows us WENDY and ADRIANNA in a “tower”. WENDY wears a blue nightgown and coonskin cap on her head. She wears a little backpack. She is overflowing with a sense of adventure. Holding her hand, smiling and waving with elegance is ADRIANNA, who wears an elaborate kimono over what will later turn out to be a night shift. She wears a princess crown on her head. MARCO runs in from offstage wearing his boxers and socks pulled up high. He wears a plain white t-shirt with a billowing prince shirt over it. There is a crown on his head. Maybe he holds a sword. Maybe he is on a stick horse. We hear gallivanting music softly overhead. He is here to save the day and WENDY loves it. Whenever ADRIANNA and MARCO speak in “dream character” everything is melodramatic: a kid’s hero fantasy)

WENDY
Help us please! Someone! Heeeeeeellpppp!!
(Beat, whispering to ADRIANNA)
Call for help, Mommy.

ADRIANNA
Oh… sorry.
(Princess)
Please! We’re stuck in this tower!

WENDY
Look, your Royal Highness, it’s Prince Marco!
(MARCO glances around as if looking for the “tower”)
Psst, Daddy, up here!

MARCO
(Prince)
Princess Adrianna! And Wendy the Grand Adventurer! You’ve been captured, but I’m here to save you! But how will I get you down?

WENDY
I’ve got a rope!
(WENDY tosses the “rope” out the “window.” Maybe there is a fairytale sound effect as it falls. We are in a dream)

MARCO
(Prince)
Princess Adrianna, if you would, help the great explorer Wendy climb down that rope, for her legs are far too little for this grand height.
(WENDY lifts her arms up at ADRIANNA who stares forwards, still smiling and waving like a princess, ignoring WENDY. Back to MARCO voice)
Adrianna! If you could?

WENDY
Mommy, this is the part when you help me down.

ADRIANNA
I’m so sorry.

MARCO
What do you mean?

(The stage lights slowly start to turn to red as the characters begin to talk over each other more and more and WENDY grows more frantic)

ADRIANNA
(Normal voice)
Darling, I have to go now.
(Princess voice)
I’ll be there in a moment, my prince!

WENDY
Mommy?

MARCO
Adrianna, you have to help her down first.

ADRIANNA
You can’t ask me to do that.

MARCO
//Adrianna!

WENDY
Mommy?

MARCO
You’re so selfish!

ADRIANNA
Yes, I know. I’m selfish. But you are too// You want things from me I never said I could give.

MARCO
//Yes everything happened a little earlier than expected, but it’s good. It’s the way it should be!

WENDY
Mommy, I think the rope’s disappearing. Mommy, quick! Daddy! Daddy save me!
(WENDY screams and walks backwards as the lights fade out, but snap back on quickly as she wakes up, clutching her teddy bear and shaking. Transition to parents’ master bedroom. There is a bed center stage with a door slightly to one side facing the bed. ADRIANNA and MARCO are in their room, in an argument. They are dressed the same as before but without the fairytale extras. WENDY stands on the other side of the door, knocking softly. They do not notice her)

ADRIANNA
Yes, I know. I’m selfish! But you are too! You want things from me I never said I could give.

MARCO
If you could just for once be even slightly more open-minded. You never give our family a chance!

ADRIANNA
I never wanted this. I still don’t want this.
(WENDY opens the door very slowly, creeping into the room. She goes unnoticed)

MARCO
Well it’s too late now.

ADRIANNA
That’s not true. I can’t do it.

MARCO
You can’t be serious!

ADRIANNA
Look around you Marco! None of this is right! None of this is what we wanted.

MARCO
It’s how it’s supposed to be.

ADRIANNA
I won’t do this again—
(WENDY shuts the door behind her, and MARCO and ADRIANNA notice her for the first time)
Wendy. Why are you up?

WENDY
It went red again.

MARCO
(Worried look with ADRIANNA)
Come here, honey. Tell me how it started.

WENDY
I was locked in a tower high the sky with a beautiful princess. She looked just like you, mommy. And I was Wendy the Great. And there was a prince too! He was supposed to save us… but he couldn’t.

MARCO
What happened next?

WENDY
Well then… it came.

MARCO
What came? A monster? Was it that sea monster again?

WENDY
No!

ADRIANNA
Marco, they were in a castle in the sky, why would there be a sea monster?

WENDY
Yeah, Dad, that’s silly.

ADRIANNA
If there was gonna be a monster it’d be some sort of flying dragon or something. There could be a dinosaur… those are pretty scary.

WENDY
(Frightened)
Do those exist?

ADRIANNA
They used to. Then the Earth got hit with a meteor, which is a huge ball of fire, but now there are no more dinosaurs.

WENDY
Could that happen again?

ADRIANNA
I guess so—

MARCO
Adrianna. Wendy, Mommy’s just being silly. Tell us what else happened. Why did it go bad?

WENDY
I’m not sure. It just… went red. Can I sleep here tonight?

MARCO
Climb right in, kiddo.

WENDY
Mommy, can I?

ADRIANNA
Of course, Wendy.

WENDY
Good. I brought some things.
(WENDY decorates the room with objects from her backpack)

ADRIANNA
Is everything ready now?

WENDY
Almost! Gotta check for monsters.
(WENDY uses her flashlight to check under the bed and around the room. She then climbs into bed and shines the light under the covers)
All clear!

ADRIANNA
Now, Wendy. What do we do if our dreams turn red?

WENDY
Well I scream and scream until I wake up.

MARCO
No, darling. You count to three, and take a deep breath. You say “this isn’t real” and you wake up.

WENDY
But it is real—

ADRIANNA
They’re just nightmares.

WENDY
How do I tell?

ADRIANNA
You just ask. I’ll always tell you the truth, even when you’re dreaming. And besides, you can’t have nightmares when you’re here with Mommy and Daddy.

WENDY
Oh, Mommy.

ADRIANNA
What, Wendy?

WENDY
Your dreams can go red too, you know.

ADRIANNA
No they can’t.

WENDY
Yes they can—

ADRIANNA
No! Adults aren’t supposed to have silly dreams.
(A look at MARCO)
Adults have to stay with their feet firm on the ground.

WENDY
Is that true, Daddy? You don’t dream?

MARCO
Of course I do, sweetheart. Mommy’s being silly again. I dreamed everyday of my life that someday I’d marry a beautiful princess and we’d have lots of tiny little princes and explorers and we’d all live happily ever after.

ADRIANNA
And all his dreams came true.

WENDY
No! He said there’d be lots of tiny little princes and explorers. You’ve only got one.

MARCO
That’s true. But you’re enough happily for a good long ever after.

ADRIANNA
God, you’re corny.

WENDY
Mommy, what’s your dream?

ADRIANNA
I told you. I don’t dream—

WENDY
Please, Mommy!

MARCO
Please, Mommy!

WENDY and MARCO
Pleeeeease—

ADRIANNA
Okay, okay, okay. I’ll tell you my dream, if you close your eyes and try to go to sleep. Deal?

WENDY
(Sticking out her hands to shake to her parents)
Deal!
(She cuddles down with her parents. Every line she says becomes progressively more tired)

ADRIANNA
Well, my dream, ever since I was a little girl, was to fly.

WENDY
Isn’t that impossible?

MARCO
Nothing’s impossible, Wendy.

ADRIANNA
No. It could be. I don’t know, it’s just a dream I’ve always had. Doesn’t have to come true.

WENDY
Yes it does. Everyone’s dreams come true. I promise.

ADRIANNA
Well, in this dream, the girl who wanted to fly knew she had to find wings, which she didn’t have. Every day she would see the birds fly in the sky—

WENDY
What color?

ADRIANNA
Umm… they were made of diamonds with eyes like emeralds.

MARCO
Diamond birds?

ADRIANNA
With eyes like emeralds. Anyways, she would the see the birds and she would cry out, “Hello birds! I’m coming for you!”

WENDY
Wouldn’t she miss her family?

ADRIANNA
Her family was in the sky, with those birds, going to places she didn’t even know existed. She was dying to fly away. She knew she could fly away.

WENDY
Why didn’t she?

ADRIANNA
She found something else instead.

MARCO
Something better.

ADRIANNA
She found something… someone she loved.
(Beat)
She laid an egg.

WENDY
An egg!?

ADRIANNA
A golden egg.

WENDY
I like that. Did she lay just the one?

ADRIANNA
Just the one.
(Long, long silence. WENDY struggles not to fall asleep)
Go to sleep, love.

WENDY
Was that the end?

ADRIANNA
I don’t know how it ends. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

WENDY
You don’t have to. I already know. The girl lays a thousand golden eggs and then she finally goes flying with her new family. Is that good?

MARCO
(Before ADRIANNA can speak)
That’s perfect, Wendy.

WENDY
Do you like it, Mommy?

ADRIANNA
(MARCO is watching her)
Yes, honey.

WENDY
Mama, can you sing me to sleep?

MARCO
Ade?

ADRIANNA
(She sings softly and sweetly)
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.

And when that mockingbird won’t sing,
Mama’s gonna give you her diamond ring.

And when that diamond ring turns to brass
Mama’s gonna show you her looking glass.

And when that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna give you her big blue boat.

And if that big blue boat won’t pull,
Just you remember that you’re beautiful.
(WENDY softly closes her eyes, her head in ADRIANNA’s lap. ADRIANNA hums softly. All the following dialogue is in a stage whisper or soft voice. That is to say, the parents are consciously trying not to wake up WENDY)

MARCO
Where do you think she went?

ADRIANNA
The moon, maybe.

MARCO
Look, she’s blowing bubbles. Maybe she’s under the sea.
(Long pause)
She has such an imagination.

ADRIANNA
I used to tell stories just like hers, you know? I was gonna to be the first one to discover the Lost City of Amesiko.

MARCO
Never heard of that one.

ADRIANNA
Yeah, I made it up. Made it a lot easier to make sure no one else would find it first.

MARCO
You never told me about that one.

ADRIANNA
It’s not the type the thing that really comes up in everyday conversation.

MARCO
Yeah, but you used to tell me about all your stories.

ADRIANNA
Did I?

MARCO
Oh, yes. You used to tell me bedtime stories back in college. Always the maternal one.

ADRIANNA
I wouldn’t go that far.
(They giggle for a little while)

MARCO
Ade… When can I tell my parents about the baby?

ADRIANNA
Marco, not now.

MARCO
They’re gonna find out eventually. They deserve to know. They’re family—

ADRIANNA
I still don’t know what I’m gonna do—

MARCO
Excuse me?

ADRIANNA
We’ve been over this. I have lots to do. I have plans and ideas, and I don’t have time for—

MARCO
Adrianna, I honestly don’t care what you have time for!

ADRIANNA
(Gesturing to a sleeping WENDY)
Marco. Wendy.

MARCO
(Exaggerated stage whisper)
Adrianna, I will quit my job. I will stay home.

ADRIANNA
You say that now… What happens if you change your mind? I lose every time.

MARCO
Don’t be dramatic. You’re creating a problem out of nothing. There shouldn’t even be a question—

ADRIANNA
There isn’t.

MARCO
Good.

ADRIANNA
Marco, I know what I need to do.

MARCO
Good—

ADRIANNA
Marco I’m afraid of what you’ll do when I say it out loud.

MARCO
Adrianna—

ADRIANNA
Marco I want to—

MARCO
Adrianna, no! Don’t say it. Please. Don’t say it. Think it over. We have time. I don’t need to tell anyone.

ADRIANNA
I can’t keep living like this.

MARCO
Tell me about Amesiko. Tell me something.

ADRIANNA
Marco we need to—

MARCO
Once upon a time there was a lost city named Amesiko, and it was at the bottom of the ocean and—

ADRIANNA
Well, it was in the clouds—

MARCO
Of course, the clouds.

ADRIANNA
What does that mean?

MARCO
You love the sky. In college you never stopped talking about how you wanted to go skydiving. Remember that?

ADRIANNA
Yes, I remember—

MARCO
I had this plan. I was going to take you skydiving, and I was going to propose to you in midair. So we’d be flying or something.

ADRIANNA
That’s stupid. You’re afraid of heights. You would’ve dropped the ring.

MARCO
I was gonna practice first. I had it all planned. I had the ring for months, just waiting for the right moment. And then Wendy… I just… you do know I—

ADRIANNA
I do.
(WENDY stirs in her sleep)
Look at her. She’s got the best of you.

MARCO
She’s yours too.

ADRIANNA
No.
(Beat)
I mean, yes, technically. But she’s not my daughter.

MARCO
What are you talking about?

ADRIANNA
We’re different. We don’t understand each other.

MARCO
Diamond birds with emerald eyes? What was that about?

ADRIANNA
That’s one thing. You take care of her. I watch. I say what I’m supposed to… sometimes. “Wendy, what do we do when our dreams get red? We take a deep breath and count to three. This isn’t real.” What does that even mean?

MARCO
Who does she ask to read to her every night?

ADRIANNA
I’m good at fairytale voices. Mother of the year. Somebody get me a medal.

MARCO
You both love to write. You both love to sing. Your favorite book is Peter Pan—

ADRIANNA
That’s exactly it. She loves Peter Pan because Wendy brought the lost boys home with her. I love it because Peter Pan gets to stay in Neverland.
(Long silence)
God, I just want to start again.

MARCO
I do too, Adrianna.

ADRIANNA
No. You want to add to this mess. Multiply it. I just want to subtract, erase, delete.
(They sit in tense silence, both fussing softly over WENDY. After a while, WENDY gasps in her sleep, both parents tense up immediately, ready to protect, but WENDY goes on sleeping)

MARCO
Just look at her. We did that. How could you not…

ADRIANNA
I do. I’m not heartless. She’s beautiful.

MARCO
But we could do things differently this time. She wouldn’t have to be alone. We could buy a big house, get a puppy. We could be that perfect—perfect family. You can’t run away from me now. Don’t you dare turn back on us now.

ADRIANNA
I… I can’t—
(Suddenly, ADRIANNA leaps out of the bed, picking up WENDY’s backpack and stuffing articles of clothing in it)
Where are my shoes?

MARCO
Adrianna, what are you doing?

ADRIANNA
I need to get out of this room. I need to be alone! I’m never alone!

MARCO
(Softly still even though ADRIANNA has given up on quiet)
Ade, come back to bed.
(ADRIANNA ignores MARCO and digs through her drawers pulling out random articles of clothing. She pulls a sweater over her head, pulls some trainers on her feet, stuffs some things into WENDY’s backpack, which is lying on the floor. She lunges towards the door, but is stopped by MARCO’s harsh yell)
Adrianna!
(WENDY wakes with a start. ADRIANNA is frozen by the door)

WENDY
Mommy, what’s going on?

ADRIANNA
Wendy—

WENDY
Is this another dream?

MARCO
Yes, Wendy, go back to bed.

WENDY
It’s not real?

MARCO
No, Wendy.

WENDY
It’s not red.

ADRIANNA
Wendy, I love you. That’s real.

WENDY
Mommy, are you going somewhere?

ADRIANNA
Just for a little while.

MARCO
Adrianna you look ridiculous. Come back to bed.

WENDY
Is she going away, Dad?

MARCO
Adrianna please!

WENDY
Can I come with you?

ADRIANNA
(Not as a complaint, but more as an explanation)
No, sweetheart. Mommy needs to fly! I need—

WENDY
Then fly, Mama!

ADRIANNA

You want me to fly away?

WENDY
Not away. Just fly. To never never land.

ADRIANNA
Peter never came back.

WENDY
Yes, but Wendy did. And the// lost boys.

ADRIANNA
And the lost boys.

WENDY
(She giggles. This breaks ADRIANNA’s heart)
Daddy’s Mrs. Darling.
(ADRIANNA drops the back on the floor. She walks back to the bed, she unties her shoes, and places them neatly on the floor. She gets in bed and holds WENDY in silence for a long while)

ADRIANNA
I have a surprise for you, Wendy. Mommy and Daddy are gonna give you a present. Do you know what it is?
(MARCO’s face brightens up, but ADRIANNA just doesn’t seem as happy)

WENDY
What is it!

ADRIANNA
(Throughout this speech, WENDY nestles down into sleep again. She is smiling broadly. MARCO looks overjoyed. ADRIANNA smiles, but her eyes are dead. The lights slowly turn to red)
Well, you’re gonna be a big sister. And you’re gonna move into a big house with a big back yard maybe there’ll even be a puppy to run around in it. And you’ll plant flowers in that garden. Lots of them. You’ll dig deep, and plant lots of flowers. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
(Music plays softly. The lights fade to black. A spotlight snaps up on the tower in the corner of the stage. Very faint lights rise as WENDY climbs out of bed. She hears ADRIANNA singing from the top of the tower)

WENDY
Mama? Mama I’m coming! Mama let down your hair!
(The singing gets louder and louder)
Mama let’s look for the flowers! We need to plant them!
(The singing gets even louder)
Mama?
(WENDY walks backwards away from the towers as the lights begin to turn deep red. All lights snap up. MARCO is asleep in the bed. ADRIANNA is gone. Her suitcase is missing. The door is open. Blackout)

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