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On the Stage

The reporter/essayist/novelist/playwright/screenwriter/director/producer as daughter.

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In 1961, playwrights Phoebe and Henry Ephron wrote a two-act comedy starring a spunky, whip-smart co-ed who was plainly based on their firstborn child, Nora. In this excerpt from the play, Mollie (Nora’s alter ego) negotiates the dueling affections (and New Year’s Eve plans) of her father, Frank, and a college crush named Donn.

(MOLLIE hurries to take the phone, and anne continues on upstairs for her wrap.)

MOLLIE: (Into phone.) Hello?—Yes, this is she—(Her voice is suddenly warm and vibrant.) Donn?—(Sits on sofa.) Donn! How wonderful!—Are you having a great vacation?—Oh?—(FRANK crosses to bar, his back to audience. World-weary.) Yes, isn’t it the truth—Just about the same here—Oh, nothing very much, except something awfully funny just happened. You’ll panic when I tell you about it. Absolute riot—You don’t know it, Donn, but you’re involved with a femme fatale—Mmmmmmmm—Mmmmmmmm. (She giggles.) Er— er—(Before she can look at FRANK, he realizes he is eavesdropping and goes into hall.) Well, of course, I miss you too, darling. (FRANK crosses hall and exits.) Terribly—Oh, they’re wonderful, but I don’t even feel as if I belong here any more. I just didn’t realize how provincial—It’s really sort of sad— Oh?—Sounds marvelous—(Slowly.) I don’t know what my folks’ll say—I’ll ask. They might— Well, I’ll let you know in plenty of time— Look, this is costing you a fortune. ­Good-bye, darling—Of course I do—Good-bye— (Hangs up.)

(After a moment, FRANK returns.)

FRANK: (Tentatively.) How’s—how’s Donn?

MOLLIE: Oh, he’s wonderful.

FRANK: So I gather. (There is a pause.)

MOLLIE: (Also tentative.) Daddy— (Rises.)

FRANK: Yes?

MOLLIE: Donn invited me to spend New Year’s Eve in New York, and it would only mean leaving two or three days earlier—Would you and Mother mind? (Looks at frank.)

FRANK: (Crosses to sofa. Sits. After a ­moment.) I was under the impression you just got here.

MOLLIE: (Sits.) I’ve been here seven days already!

FRANK: (Another moment to take it in.) Seven whole days.

MOLLIE: Well I wouldn’t be leaving till next week. And it’s New Year’s Eve in New York, and who is there for me to go out with here?

FRANK: Yes. That’s very important.

MOLLIE: Oh! (She looks upset. Turns away from him.)

FRANK: I’m not being flip, Mollie. It’s very depressing to stay home New Year’s Eve. Almost as depressing as going out.

MOLLIE: Well then?

FRANK: (Gives up.) Why don’t you take it up with your mother? (Turns away.) I don’t feel entirely qualified. She’s the one who gives permissions. Whatever you two decide. (There is an awkward pause.)

MOLLIE: What’s the matter?

FRANK: Nothing. Nothing’s the matter.

MOLLIE: (Looks at FRANK.) Oh, I can read you like a book. I could when I was four, and I still can. (Looks front. A ­moment.) You’re terribly disappointed in me, aren’t you? You expect me to be ­Eleanor Roosevelt or Madame Curie—and I’m not.

FRANK: (Turns to MOLLIE.) I don’t want Madame Curie. I just want you to be the best you can.

MOLLIE: Has it occurred to you that this might be the best I can? And if that’s so, what’s wrong with it? Is it wrong to want to be liked and accepted?

FRANK: I’m not talking about conformity and nonconformity. I’m talking about you. And to see you settle for this— yes, when I see what’s important to you, I am disappointed.

MOLLIE: Daddy, I’m a perfectly ordinary girl. Why don’t you face it?

FRANK: (Very gently.) Mollie, I’ve known you a long time. I know your potential. I know your capabilities. It’s so much more than this. You know that, don’t you?

MOLLIE: (Shakes her head. Rises.) Yes.

FRANK: Couldn’t you give it another try?

MOLLIE: (She softens, affected by the seriousness of his tone.) I don’t know what star you want me to reach for.

FRANK: Neither do I. But I know you have it in you to be something wonderful. You just have to work at it.

MOLLIE: (After a moment.) I’ll try. (FRANK gets up and comes to her.) And I’ll begin spending New Year’s Eve in California.

FRANK: That’s my girl. (MOLLIE throws her arms around her father’s neck. He holds her.)

MOLLIE: Oh, Daddy! I’m never going to love anybody as much as you love me. It must hurt like hell!


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