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HELEN OF TROY

by Tess Collins

SETTING

Troy, Tennessee, a small unincorporated community in eastern Tennessee

CHARACTERS

Helen Ramsey - wholesomely attractive woman in her late 30s.
Rudy Ramsey - Helen's husband, a good ole boy in his late 30s. Together they run the Troy Hardware.
Garland Cookson - reflective man in his early 40s, runs the grocery store.
Cassandra Dimsdale - Garland's sister, town busy-body, prone to making predictions based on her own morals.
Maude Robinson - Helen's foster mother, dying of leukemia.
Rachel Kinkaid - Helen & Maude's friend, mid-20s, vampish and trampish.
Joan Johnson - librarian, early 30s. Pretty but bookish.

Townspeople (some of these roles can be shared with costume change):

Speaking roles:

Cody Williams
Milton Leggins
Titus Warner
Jimmy Lee Novack
Owen Thelkel
Agnes Wilson
Old Man Selcutty
Nancy
Miss Reaves
Mary Margaret
Sheriff Moody
Arnold Dimsdale - Cassandra's Husband
Woman Tourist
Man Tourist

Non-speaking roles:

Workmen
Reverend Hansard

Kids (roles can be shared):

Tansey - Rachel's young daughter, approx. age 10
Comanche Joe - young boy (can be played by Tansey/actress)
Tennessee Tom - young boy (can be played by Tiger/actor)
Tiger - Cassandra's young son

TIME

The present.

RUNNING TIME

Approx. 2 hours

ABOUT THE STORY

Helen of Troy, the play, is based on my novel by the same name. It is basically the Helen of Troy story set in a small town in Tennessee. I don't have a publisher for the novel yet, but keep checking back 'cause I hope to have one some day.

SAMPLE: ACT I, SCENE I

THE STAGE

Fade up on the main street of the small unincorporated town of Troy, Tennessee, present day. Troy Hardware and Troy Grocery are on opposite sides of the street. We can see inside both stores and the apartments above them.

Above the hardware store is a bedroom with oversize TV set. Off the side is a porch and yard where grows a tree with a dilapidated treehouse. On the front a dusty marquee is marked with bird droppings. A flower box is built along the sidewalk.

Inside the grocery store is a small gathering area with chairs circling a potbelly stove. Above the grocery store is a kitchen, dining table and a bathroom with a window that looks down on the hardware store's yard. On a third level of the grocery a greenhouse is being built.

AT RISE

WORKMEN put the finishing touches on the greenhouse. Townsfolk go in and out of stores, apartments, chat, then go on their way. One straightens a sign advertising the Thanksgiving Sidewalk Sale.

GARLAND COOKSON, 40ish, tall, friendly-looking and handsome, unpacks boxes in the apartment above the grocery. He pulls out a wooden box, opens it, looks at a photo then stores the box in a bottom drawer in his kitchen.

Across the street RUDY RAMSEY, 38, shorter than Garland and beginning to bald, leans out his bedroom window adjusting a TV antenna. His attention is drawn to two children dressed as COMANCHE JOE and TENNESSEE TOM facing off in the street below him. He watches as they point toy weapons at each other.

HELEN RAMSEY, Rudy's wife, 38, wholesomely attractive, moves about the hardware store, cleaning and moving merchandise. Tired. She pauses to watch the kids, staring pensively at them.

COMANCHE JOE

Mister, hand over your jewels or I'll shoot you down.

TENNESSEE TOM

My jewels are more precious to me than my momma's memory.

(Comanche Joe shakes his toy pistol.)

COMANCHE JOE

You saying you'd rather face the wrath of Comanche Joe than give me a few old rocks?

TENNESSEE TOM

That's what I'm a'saying.

COMANCHE JOE

Then get ready to shake hands with your Maker.

(The two dance around each other, aiming their toy guns. They fire. Comanche Joe grabs his chest and falls.)

TENNESSEE TOM

Never mess with Tennessee Tom.

(Rudy chuckles as the two children rise and run to play another game.)

HELEN

Rudy Ramsey! We'll never be ready if you don't get down here and clean the marquee.

(Rudy is engrossed in a televised football game, but can't get good reception.)

RUDY

Fixing the cable. I'll do it next summer.

(Helen throws down a dust rag and rolls her eyes.)

HELEN

(to herself)

Bootlegging the cable is not fixing it.

(She goes to the back of the store where a storage room shares space with a kitchen, takes a kettle and pours a cup of tea, then settles into a rocking chair on the porch. Off this room is a door on which hangs a sign: Rudy's Rumpus Room.)

(She watches as Garland continues to move in.)

RUDY

(yells out the window)

Helen! Make me a burnt baloney sandwich.

HELEN

(just getting comfortable)

Damn.

(She pushes out of the rocker, gets bread and baloney from the refrigerator, turns on the burner and leans back.)

HELEN

Pilot light's out. Come fix it.

(Rudy stomps down the stairs. He wears an orange University of Tennessee sweatshirt and boxer shorts, and holds a stuffed mascot of the Tennessee Volunteers, "Ol' Smokey," a bloodhound.)

RUDY

I swear to God... Can't figure why you don't learn to do this yourself.

HELEN

You know fire spooks me.

RUDY

It's silly that a grown woman won't hold a match to her own pilot light.

(He strikes a match against the side of the stove and holds it to the burner.)

(It lights and he smirks like it's the easiest thing in the world. Taking a beer from the refrigerator, he heads back to the football game.)

(Helen places a frying pan on the burner. The flame whizzes out.)

HELEN

It went out again.

(Rudy comes around the corner and kicks the stove. Then kicks it again.)

HELEN

That's not gonna make it light.

RUDY

I hate it when the damn thing does that. I lit it three times yesterday. Damn thing should stay lit when I light it.

(He gets the burner going again, turns with Ol' Smokey as if catching a pass, and downs the piece of baloney like a champion quarterback.)

HELEN

Why did you do that?

RUDY

I was scoring the winning touchdown for me and my pal, Ol' Smokey, the greatest receiver in the Southeast Conference.

HELEN

You ate the last piece of baloney.

RUDY

Damn it, Helen, why didn't you say something?

HELEN

(sarcastic)

Well, I figured I could place a bet on that touchdown and win enough money to buy an electric stove.

(Rudy studies her for a few seconds, somehow knowing he's been insulted.)

RUDY

Well, run across the street and get some more.

HELEN

You run across the street. I been working and scrubbing all day while your lazy backside's been watching football.

RUDY

Don't smart-mouth me, woman.

HELEN

Or you'll what?

(Rudy knows he's been backed down.)

HELEN

Come on Mr. Tough-Guy, you'll what?

RUDY

All I wanted was a baloney sandwich.

HELEN

No, all you wanted was a burnt baloney sandwich.

RUDY

What's wrong with you?

HELEN

With me?

(A dangerous expression.)

I'll tell you. Six o'clock this morning the alarm went off. Seven to ten I stickered sales prices on the summer inventory. Twelve to two I pulled those kiddie swimming pools that I told you not to order from the store room, and stacked them up real pretty out front. Two to six I re-stocked the bags and packing, did a bank deposit, and in between all this waited on fifteen customers. I haven't eaten, sat down or pissed all day, and I reckon you could say I've just about had it.

(Rudy crosses his arms over his chest and cocks his head to one side.)

RUDY

You know what you need, Helen? You need a baby.

(Helen stares, half thinking she's heard wrong.)

RUDY

A baby would keep you occupied. It'd delight and entertain you. You wouldn't be so upset all the time. Besides that, it's about time I got me a namesake.

HELEN

You want something named after you, honey, take that hounddog right there over to the courthouse, and change its name to Rudy Ramsey, Jr. 'cause that's as close to a namesake as you're gonna get in this house!

(She storms out.)

RUDY

(perplexed)

What'd I do?

LIGHTS DOWN.

Other Plays by Tess Collins:

All content © 2003-17 by Tess Collins

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