Little Wars
eBook - ePub

Little Wars

Steven Carl McCasland

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  1. 88 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Little Wars

Steven Carl McCasland

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About This Book

A dinner party during the Second World War unites celebrated writers Agatha Christie, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas – with a mysterious guest.

With copious booze flowing, acid-tongued barbs flying, and the threat of global conflict looming, the guests – and the world around them – are close to boiling point. Everyone has a confession. Someone has a secret.

Set in the French Alps in 1940, Steven Carl McCasland's Little Wars is an enthralling, entertaining and ultimately moving portrait of seven exceptional women – and a thrilling fiction based on truth.

It was workshopped Off-Off-Broadway, first performed in 2015, and received an acclaimed digital premiere in 2020, featuring Linda Bassett, Sarah Solemani, Juliet Stevenson and Sophie Thompson. It provides glorious opportunities for an all-female cast to play some of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century.

'A high concept play with a lightness of touch... the discussions about collective responsibility, individual action or inaction in the face of moral wrongdoing, and the question of whether to stay silent or speak out, are deeply resonant' Guardian

'The script is smart and witty... admirably bold and asks big questions' The Stage

'Extraordinary and vibrant... a pertinent play about refuge, safety, hiding, women, survival and love'

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Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ country home in the French Alps. 22 June 1940. France will fall to Germany in less than twenty-four hours. A piano sits in one corner of the stage, paintings and easels in every other. Some canvases are complete, some are barely touched. A sofa and coffee table down left, an armchair not far away. There are candles burning in some places; a lamp glowing on a tabletop next to the armchair. A half-drunk glass of Scotch sits on the table, too. But more than anything, there are books. Fiction, poetry, plays, essays, biographies, notebooks, sketchbooks. More than you can imagine. At curtain, BERNADETTE, a maidservant of twenty-two, cleans nearby. After a moment, she speaks to us in a hushed and urgent whisper.
BERNADETTE. ‘I’ll tell you when I’m dead,’ I said. She tilted her head. Stupefied. That’s what Gertie would’ve called her. ‘I’ll tell you when I’m dead and buried.’ ‘But if it’s a story worth telling – ’, she said, ‘ – then tell it!’
GERTRUDE (off). There is a ghost in this book.
BERNADETTE. ‘Yes,’ I told the student. ‘But for every story worth telling, there’s a dozen secrets worth keeping.’
GERTRUDE (entering). I repeat: there is a ghost in this book.
ALICE (off). There is no ghost in the book.
GERTRUDE. I open it and I hear Him.
ALICE enters with a drink and stands in the stage-left doorway. She is a petite woman, plainly dressed, and diminutive in every way to GERTRUDE.
ALICE. It’s a Him?
GERTRUDE. Oh, yes.
ALICE. If there were a ghost in your book, how would you know it’s a Him?
GERTRUDE. He has a very deep voice.
ALICE. Perhaps it’s Marlene Dietrich.
GERTRUDE. Don’t be absurd. It’s Yeats.
ALICE. Of William Butler?
ALICE. Because that isn’t absurd?
GERTRUDE. There is a ghost in this book, Alice, in this book, there is a ghost and when I open it, I can hear Him.
ALICE. Yeats?
They listen for a moment. Silence. Beat.
ALICE. Agatha will be here any minute.
ALICE. Agatha! You invited her.
ALICE. Yes. You’d read her essay –
GERTRUDE. I, Gertrude?
ALICE. Of Stein, yes. And you wrote her.
GERTRUDE. I don’t remember.
ALICE. You invited her, Gertrude. And she’ll be here any minute.
GERTRUDE. ‘An intellectual hatred is the worst.’
ALICE. Do not quote Yeats, please.
GERTRUDE. He is speaking through me and I am speaking through Him.
ALICE. You’re drunk on Scotch.
GERTRUDE. ‘Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
ALICE. You must stop grieving, Gertrude.
GERTRUDE. One cannot grieve words.
ALICE. Then you must stop sulking.
GERTRUDE. I am not sulking, I’m reading!
ALICE. Agatha will be here very soon. And she is bringing guests.
ALICE. Yes, so, please put away the Yeats and the Scotch and the grief.
GERTRUDE. Grief and reflection are two very different things. What guests is Lady Conan Doyle bringing?
ALICE. Don’t call her that.
GERTRUDE. How about Aggie?
ALICE. Just stick to Agatha.
GERTRUDE. I shall not ‘stick’ to anything. When have you known me to ‘stick’, Alice?
ALICE. Not now, Gert.
GERTRUDE. I, Gertrude Stein, invited Agatha Christie to dinner, and by dinner I mean alcohol, and Agatha Christie has decided to return the favour by bringing guests?
ALICE. Two Americans.
GERTRUDE (with sudden interest). She is bringing Americans?
GERTRUDE. There are Americans in Europe besides us?
ALICE. I asked the same!
ALICE. It’s a surprise.
GERTRUDE. Tell me who, Alice!
ALICE. Oh, I’d better not…
ALICE. Oh, dear.
GERTRUDE. Not Lily Ann Fucking Hellman.
ALICE. It’s just for a few hours! We’ll have a few drinks and –
GERTRUDE. Lily Ann is a contemptible bore.
ALICE. She and Yeats have that in common.
GERTRUDE. Must you speak ill of the dead?
ALICE. Oh, really, Gertrude! You hated William when he was alive.
GERTRUDE. And now that he’s dead, I can appreciate him.
ALICE. Then just picture Lillian dead, too.
GERTRUDE. I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.
ALICE. Then try harder. They’ll be here any minute.
GERTRUDE. Who is the third?
ALICE. Dorothy Parker.
ALICE. A writer.
GERTRUDE. Everyone is a writer.
ALICE. You will like her.
GERTRUDE. Or perhaps I will hate her and she will hate me or perhaps she will like me and I will like her and why are they coming?
ALICE. You invited them!
GERTRUDE. I most certainly did not invite Lily Ann Hellman.
ALICE. She hates it when you separate the syllables like that.
GERTRUDE (proudly). I know.
ALICE. Please don’t pick a fight tonight, Gert –
GERTRUDE. Lily Ann is the fighter and I am the debater. There is a difference. This is a salon and in salons we debate about fighting instead of fighting about debating.
ALICE. But Lillian –
GERTRUDE. – is a bitch.
The doorbell rings.
ALICE. That’s them.
BERNADETTE enters from offstage and makes her way to the door.
GERTRUDE. Thank you, Bernadette.
BERNADETTE. Of course.
GERTRUDE. That is a lovely dress, Bernadette.
ALICE. Don’t flirt.
GERTRUDE. Gertrude Stein does not flirt.
ALICE. She flirted with me.
GERTRUDE. I merely wrote a poem.
ALICE. Has Miss Stein written you any poems, Bernadette?
BERNADETTE. Not lately, Miss Toklas.
GERTRUDE. Do I detect jealousy?
ALICE. You detect boredom. I’d like another poem.
GERTRUDE. Then another poem you shall have.
I love my love with a v
Because it is like that
I love my love with a b
Because I am beside that
A king.
ALICE. And I think Bernadette wants one too…
She presses her forehead against GERTRUDE’s as BERNADETTE opens the door.
MARY. Hello, I – I’m looking for a Miss Toklas.
GERTRUDE. Miss Toklas is preoccupied with poetry.
ALICE. Nonsense. Don’t listen to her. She is a bored old woman.
MARY. I’m very early, I’m afraid –
GERTRUDE. I am not old for I am young.
ALICE. Let her in, Bernadette!
BERNADETTE lets the woman in. She is an American in her thirties. Beautiful and petite. The women stare at each other for a moment.
MARY. Mary? (Beat.) I’m Mary –
ALICE. Oh, dear, we weren’t expecting you until tomorrow!
MARY. Th...

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