Premiered December 1, 2003
Perceptions is a stage play by Dan S. Ward, a comedy in two acts with a cast of six women and five men. The play is set in a university office/laboratory and revolves around one young reluctant professor's research into ESP. Simplicity of scientific design, however, becomes complexity as the professor is soon plagued by a wide assortment of weirdly talented subjects, university and governmental bureaucrats with a vengeance, and a particularly inept spy of unknown origin. Funny dialogue is combined with riotous action, as eleven characters contribute to all manner of bedlam and humorous conflict.
The major action of the play takes place in the laboratory/office of Associate Professor Scott Connor at West Eastern State Institute of Technology (WESIT). His office looks something like this:
Memorize the design. It will help later.
Act I, Scene 1 -- A Bequeathed Project
Act I, Scene 2 -- Psychics Anonymous
Act I, Scene 3 -- Results!
Act II, Scene 1 -- Real Talent
Act II, Scene 2 -- Misdirections
Act II, Scenes 3 and 4 -- Extrasensory Resolutions
Copyright 1984, 1989, 2003 by Dan Sewell Ward
THE CAST (in order of appearance)
SCOTT Conner is an Associate Professor of Physics at WESIT, young (early thirties), moderately handsome, and has a casual and tolerant attitude. Unexpectedly emotional and illogical (for a Physics Ph.D.) and with tenure under his belt, he is quite laid back and no longer willing to take anything too seriously. For plot purposes, he's a bachelor.
ANN Jennings is the WESIT's Physics Department Secretary. She is moderately attractive, but somewhat frustrated in her search for a temporary or permanent mate. She is decidedly flirtatious, but lacks “magnetism”. This makes her rather aggressive, but she nevertheless dresses simply as is appropriate for a departmental secretary (and one who is actively looking for a man).
SHELA Staman is the WESIT Physics Department Chairperson. In her late forties, she represents the older woman professional who has given up on most everything but her career. She is competent, and prefers diplomacy to logic in motivating others. She is also aggressive, ambitious, and convinced that everyone finds her wit and persuasion irresistible. She specializes in being sophisticated and a know-it-all. [The character of Shela can easily be changed to that of a male, with only minor script changes.]
Kelly Gregg is a Senior Research Assistant at WESIT. She is a very attractive woman in her early thirties (having, in fact, just turned thirty). Her manner, however, is very business like and rather abrupt in an attempt to ward off suitors. She dresses in the current style of the woman professional, and does not seem interested in romantic entanglements. She carries a briefcase, but almost never a purse.
Dick Watson is a Junior Research Assistant at WESIT. A professional student in his mid twenties, he is casual and very laid back. At the same time, he is a fair student of human psychology.
Geraldine Murphy is the Federal Funding Agency's Representative. She is a federal bureaucrat in her forties, not particularly attractive, and diligently tries to overcome her lack of feminine charms with overwhelming competence at her job. Her sense of humor is almost nil, and she carries herself with a bit too much pomp.
Awfael Lee N. Eppt is a spy of questionable or unknown origin. Slightly emaciated looking with dark complexion and beady little eyes, he is nevertheless attempting to look like Humphrey Bogart. At this he fails utterly. In effect, he is in severe need of career counseling. He is still in his thirties, but is rather panicked at the approaching age of forty.
Esther Banks is a test subject for the ESP Project and an attractive woman of thirty. She is very self confident -- she's friggin' psychic! -- and nonchalantly uses her sex as a means of getting anything she wants. She dresses very nicely, uses makeup well, and is apparently used to living well. Her smile is particularly sexy.
Fred Preston is another test subject for the ESP Project. He is a talented genius, who while in college was given a massive dose of an experimental drug such that he no longer operates within the human realm. His dress and appearance reflect the fact that he is only slightly aware of the need for either. Physically, he is thin and stark (he often forgets to eat) and usually is smiling. He does go through most of the other emotions of life, only with considerably more drama than others. He is basically freaked out, but with occasional flashes of sheer brilliance.
Shari Cetera is the third test subject for the ESP Project. An attractive girl, with just a hint of independence and self assurance, she is relatively young, mid twenties, dresses nicely but without fanfare, and has particularly enticing eyes. SHARI also has the disconcerting habit of anticipating most everything anyone else says.
Richard Surety is the fourth test subject for the ESP Project. He is a man in his thirties, extremely neat and clean shaven, and typically dressed in a three piece suit. He looks very professional and upper-level bureaucratic. His physical appearance is lean and hard, which he covers with an outward, pseudo-sophisticated, fraternity-style manner. His extroversion appears designed to cover an important secret.
THE SETTING FOR THE PLAY
The office is arranged as shown above, and consists of three doors and one window. The stage right door exits to a storeroom, the stage center door (the main office door) exits to a hall, and the stage left door exits to a closet. All three doors and the window will serve as entrances and exits during the course of the play.
Stage dressing includes a table, desk, swivel chair, four or five straight chairs, a filing cabinet with a combination lock, a built-in counter near the window, upper and lower cabinets, a wastebasket, an old but comfortable couch, various scientific posters and magazines, and several pieces of scientific equipment. The desk also includes a small typing platform (or separate typing table) with a manual typewriter. Details on the scientific equipment are included under “Description of Props”. Posters include astronomical and/or physics, including such items as a Periodic Table of the Elements, etc. Other props and set dressing include physics demonstration apparatus typically found in any high school or college physics classroom. Finally a banner with the school’s letters (W.E.S.I.T.) can be haphazardly tacked to the wall as an indicator of a flagging school spirit. The colors for the banner should be two distinct colors and in obviously poor taste. The general decor of the office is one of casual indifference.
At far right down stage is a pay telephone booth, with its entrance facing off stage right. The telephone booth is not part of the office and is used only during “Interscenes” and when the lights on the main stage are down. [The telephone booth may be on castors and moved on and off stage for each of the five Interscenes—see Interscene 6/7.] Sufficient space between the telephone booth and off stage right should be allowed in order to permit some action immediately outside the door to the telephone booth. Furthermore the telephone booth should be capable of falling on its side in the direction toward off stage right. The telephone booth does not have to be part of the main stage proper, but may be located off to either side of the proscenium, consistent with the restrictions imposed by Interscenes 4/5 and 6/7.
The TIME of the play is the present.
THE PROPS FOR THE PLAY
Miscellaneous office equipment and/or furniture for a university associate professor, including various pieces of physics demonstration apparatus (to be detailed below), as well as papers, journals, and magazines scattered about. Specifically, a manual typewriter (reasonably up to date, but not new), typing paper and a large, round wastebasket
A ring of keys for ANN
Computer print out (from a large scale computer and NOT a personal computer), about three to six inches thick (or more).
Simple, modern briefcase for KELLY
Background security check form (small print, several pages thick)
Van De Graff electric charge generator (usually available in any high school or college physics department -- the latter which is also a good source of other items as well)
“Computer Calendar” -- Calendar consist of a nude woman sitting prettily on a stool with a small calendar beneath. The entire calendar is typed on computer paper and uses only typing symbols to effect the “drawing”
Various pieces of physics/electronic equipment in a poor state of repair. Most can be discarded junk (old TV innards, etc). Everything should be obviously broken.
One large and one small wastebasket for storeroom junk.
Plastic or heavy wood hangers—easily seem by audience
Filing cabinet with combination lock
An exotic piece of physics electronics (not easily recognizable and with an elaborate name) -- to be identified in the script.
SPY’s janitor equipment: 1) large, canvas trash bag on wheels, 2) miscellaneous cleaning attachments and rags, 3) four foot wide dust mop, and 4) upright vacuum cleaner with flexible cloth dirt bag.
SPY’s camera with lens cap -- possibly an old 35mm, perhaps with strap
Desk or wall clock
“The Windmill”—an apparently free spinning contraption, mounted on a small base, with a concealed, small electric motor. Switch to the motor, should be located off stage. The audience must be able to easily see the windmill when it spins, as well as when it is stationary (and be able to tell the difference)
Electrician’s tape for SPY’s camera
Scissors on SCOTT’s desk
Goose neck lamp (old, metal) -- the lamp should have no plug, but capable of being turned on. This is done by connecting the open wires to a spring clam;.A switch is located offstage in order to allow the lamp to be turned on, and then during the course of the action, to remove electrical power at the point of the spring clamp. The cord is held firmly (downstream of the spring clamp) by a mechanical clamp, which can quickly be released just before SPY yanks at the cord for a second time.
Telephone with spliced wire (a mass of electrician’s tape)
Reel-to-Reel tape recorder, with a poster of a very well endowed lady (e.g. Dolly Parton) taped to the front in an attempt to conceal it. The woman’s breasts should coincide with the two revolving reels
Funnel with attached hose (like an old time calling tube)
Flash camera, triggered by opening a cabinet
Other miscellaneous, suspicious looking (but probably harmless) equipment, which could be mistaken for surveillance equipment (old Brownie Reflex, etc)
Old radio microphone with long cord (to be suspended from ceiling) -- should be large enough to be seen by audience, without attention being called to it
Carpenter’s (locksmith’s) tool kit for SPY (with at least a screwdriver)
Small pocket notebook for SHELA
Belt and safety line for SPY
Table with movable magnets. The table should have a skirt several inches deep in order to conceal the mechanism which consists of a track on which rides a good magnet. The track slides on runners and can be removed by a small knob on the upstage side of the table (hidden from audience). When the knob is turned, the rack should move the magnet, and cause the iron object on top of the table to move as well. (Obviously the table itself, cannot be metal.)
Fake bottom to table, which can be easily removed and set aside
Large bone for the dog named “Ferocious”
Cards with numbers printed on one side and large enough to be seen and read by the audience.
Pepperoni pizza (delivered in a box—must be edible)
Ordinary wallet for DICK, with a $5 bill
Five file folders with inserted pages of test results and removable name tags
Package containing results and ready for mailing, for GERALDINE
Mail bag and copy of one newspaper for SPY
Numerous flash lights (which work!)
Tattered umbrella (as if a dog had been held at bay with it)
Large portable spot light, with long heavy extension cord (bright and awkward)
Sunglasses for SPY
Foreign wine pouch for SPY
Identification cards and wallets for RICHARD, GERALDINE and SHELA
Whistle for SHELA
Large (357 Magnum?) gun for SPY (plus other policeman’s props)
Identification card for ANN
Photos of ANN (in her appropriate costume from the play) for SPY
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]