free solo stage play script monologue


A SOLITARY WITNESS


by D. M. Larson


INT. BEDROOM. DAY. 1826.

This year is 1826. Adult Patsy Jefferson enters a bedroom. The bed and furniture is covered and dusty. We hear Young Patsy's voice.

PATSY (OFF)

"He kept his room for three weeks and I was never a moment from his side.  He walked almost incessantly every night and day only lying down occasionally... when at last he left his room he rode out and from that time he was incessantly on horseback rambling about the mountain... in those melancholy rambles I was his constant companion, a solitary witness to many a violent burst of grief."

Adult Patsy sits on a bed sadly and looks at an end table next to the bed.  She opens the drawer.  Inside she finds a piece of paper and a lock of hair.  She reads the paper silently and tries not to cry.  Then she reads aloud.

ADULT PATSY

"Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen.  The days and hours are flying over our heads like clouds of windy day never to return - "

Adult Patsy pauses and struggles to avoid crying.

Lights fade to black.

INT. BEDROOM. DAY. APRIL 1782

The year is 1782. It is the same room but many years earlier.  The bed and furniture are uncovered.  Martha Jefferson is at the window watching something.

MARTHA

Patsy come here.

Young Patsy runs to the window.

PATSY

What is it mother?

MARTHA

Look at your father showing off.

PATSY

Look how the deer eat right of his hand.

MARTHA

If only he could get the House of Delegates in Richmond to do the same.

PATSY

Is Papa going to Richmond soon?

MARTHA

I... I don't know...

Martha gets up and is very pregnant. She struggles. Patsy helps her to the bed.

PATSY

Are you not feeling well?

MARTHA

I'm worried about the baby.

PATSY

You should rest.  Would you like me to bring you some more flowers?

MARTHA

That would be lovely, Patsy.  You are such a good daughter.

PATSY

The baby will be fine, Mama.  Don't worry.

Thomas Jefferson enters.  Patsy hugs him.

PATSY

Papa!

THOMAS

You act like I've been gone forever.

MARTHA

You've not gone at all.

THOMAS

I can't, Martha.  The baby...

PATSY

You BOTH need to stop worrying.

MARTHA

Who was that outside with you?

THOMAS

That was a messenger from Richmond.

MARTHA

I thought as much.

THOMAS

The House of Delegates wishes their Governor to return.

MARTHA

Perhaps the Governor should do so.

THOMAS

But the Governor... nor the baby, wish it to be so.

PATSY

Nor his daughter.

MARTHA

Nor his wife.

THOMAS

I believe the House of Delegates is over-ruled.

Martha is looking in pain. Thomas strokes her hair.

PATSY

I will go get the flowers... and some raspberries... you love raspberries.

MARTHA

I do crave them yes.  Thank you, Patsy.

Patsy goes to the exit and pauses to look.  Martha shows even more pain and Thomas holds her.

MARTHA (CONT.)

It hurts so badly, Thomas. Worse than all the other children.

THOMAS

Shhh... rest now, Martha.  I will stay here with you.

Lights fade to black as Patsy slowly turns to go.

INT. BEDROOM. DAY. MAY 1782

In darkness, a baby crying is heard. 

AUNT CARR (VOICE)

It's a girl.

Lights come up on Martha in bed with Thomas at her side.  Martha is very ill and Thomas looks like he hasn't slept or bathed.  Aunt Carr is near.

AUNT CARR

Thomas.  You need to rest.  I can watch Martha and the baby.

THOMAS

Go tend to the baby. I will stay with Martha.

Patsy enters with her little sister Polly.

POLLY

Why can't mama play?!

PATSY

She's sick, Polly. Quiet.

POLLY

I wanna play now!

PATSY

Go to your room!

Polly runs off crying. Aunt Carr goes to Patsy.

AUNT CARR

I'll talk to her.

Aunt Carr exits.

PATSY

Papa?

THOMAS

Shhh... she is asleep.

PATSY

I can sit with her papa.

THOMAS

I can't... I can't leave her...

He buries his face in his hands.  Patsy hugs him.

INT. BEDROOM. DAY. JULY 1782.

Martha is awake but still in bed. Thomas is giving her liquid.  Patsy enters with a booklet.

PATSY

Good morning, Papa.  Good morning, Mama.  Happy 4th of July.

Aunt Carr enters with baby and Polly.

THOMAS

Is it the 4th?

PATSY

Yes.  Shall we read the Declaration of Independence over morning tea?

THOMAS

I don't know...

PATSY

But we always do, Papa.  I can recite it I think... "When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary..."

THOMAS

Not this year, Patsy.

MARTHA

Psalms instead?

THOMAS

Yes...

Patsy is much more subdued.

PATSY

I will get the Bible.

She gets the Bible for Thomas.  He opens it and pages through until he finds the right Psalm (15).

THOMAS

"...who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart..."

Polly is at the window.

POLLY

Someone is here.

Aunt Carr and Patsy go to the window.

AUNT CARR

It's the messenger from Richmond.

Thomas closes the Bible in frustration and goes.  Patsy goes to Martha.

PATSY

What do they want mama?

MARTHA

I don't know.

THOMAS (OFF)

No! No, you may not enter.

Messenger bursts in to the room.  He stops when the family is startled.  Martha has a coughing fit.  Baby starts crying.

THOMAS (CONT.)

Leave at once.

MESSENGER

I'm sorry, Governor, but I was told to find proof of the story of your wife's illness... or arrest you.

THOMAS

What?

MESSENGER

Richmond is in chaos without you, Governor Jefferson.  The delegates are divided on everything.  Even your loyal followers are doubting you.  They are calling for your arrest.  They want to force you to serve.

In a quiet rage, Thomas grabs the messenger.

THOMAS

I will not leave my wife's side while she is so ill.

Messenger looks at Martha and softens.

MESSENGER

Yes, Governor.  I know.

Thomas lets go but his fists clench ready for a fight.  Messenger leaves.  Martha coughs.  Thomas rushes to her.

THOMAS

Her medicine... hurry.

Patsy rushes from the room as the lights fade to black.

INT. BEDROOM. DAY. AUGUST 1782

Martha weakly copies on to a piece of paper while Thomas holds a book.  Patsy enters but stops and watches.

MARTHA

"Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen.  The days and hours are flying over our heads like clouds of windy day never to return - more everything presses on -"

Martha drops the pen and coughs.  Thomas gets her medicine.  She drinks some water and calms.

MARTHA (CONT.)

Finish for me.

Thomas takes the paper and book and copies.

THOMAS

"...and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which follows it, are preludes to that eternal separation which we are shortly to make."

MARTHA

I want you to keep that, Thomas. With a lock of my hair... to remember me.

THOMAS

I will never forget, Martha. 

Martha's eyes close.

THOMAS (CONT.)

I promise you, I will never forget... and I will never marry again.

Thomas starts to cry.  He falls to his knees at the bedside and falls in to a ball Patsy goes to him and holds him. Adult Patsy enters watching as lights slowly fade to black during the following.

ADULT PATSY

"He kept his room for three weeks and I was never a moment from his side... I was his constant companion, a solitary witness to many a violent burst of grief."

END







SOURCES:

"Patsy Jefferson's Diary" by Miriam Anne Bourne

"Founding Mothers" by Cokie Roberts

"Thomas Jefferson" PBS HOME VIDEO

"Liberty! The American Revolution" PBS DVD VIDEO




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