Guest Artist (2018) - full transcript

The only reason
I'm here is because I

have contractual obligations.

You called me, Joseph.

You picked
up the phone and you said,

"Save me. This time I mean it."

And what did I say to you.

"I dare you."

So what stopped you?

Well, the
drinking's going well, I see.

I'm cutting back.

Yeah, so am I. Uh, boy!

You have a contract
that pays actual money.

You are going
to God knows where.


Wherever that is.

You will be
adored, you'll be feted.

Who knows, you may even
fall in love with some farm

boy and spend the rest of your

life writing
children's books, hmm?

I hate children.

Well, it's not a prerequisite.

By the way, have you seen what's

passing for
television these days?

I don't believe in television.

Who said you
have to believe in it?

You don't want
to do TV, fix screenplays.



Movies are bupkis.

I don't even
know what that means.

I'm a playwright,
Helen. I'm a playwright.

You're a dinosaur.

And looked
what happened to them.

Little faster next time.

I'm afraid to ask, was there a

particular reason why
you didn't send me your play?

It's not readable.


It's not.

and tell me there's a play,

because I've
already spent the commission.

There's a play.

Because the
last time you told me what you

had wasn't readable-

There's a play.

You know, someday, I'm
gonna look down at my phone and

it's going to say,
"Joseph Harris is dead."

And I'm gonna cry,
probably a lot. Not for what

you were, for
what you could have been.

I have a deathly fear of flying.


Come on, let's go.


Uh hi, hello.

Uh, I'm Kenneth Waters, I'm the
guy who's supposed to be here to

pick you up 45 minutes ago.

Uh sir, if I may, it's because
of you that I've decided to live

my... uh, commit to...
commit my life to the theatre.

Oh, sorry!

Oh God!

I wrote a couple of short plays

before, but they're only
like 10 or 15 minutes long.

I got 1st place in like
my high school's play jam.

Uh, there were only
two entries, but I still won.

Don't talk.
Don't talk, don't talk.

Oh no, if you open your mouth,
you'll be stupid, just shut up.

Just let him talk,
let him... just I'll take him...

take him to
the hotel and it'll be fine.

You'll ride in the
car with Joseph Harris.

Oh! Oh there!
There's the station.

And here we go.

Here we go! Here we go!

What happened to the 565?

Lower your voice.

What happened to the 565?


What happened to the 565?

Come and gone.


Was it on time?


Huh, I'm a dead man.

Nice knowin' ya.

Uh, did
anyone get off? An older man?

Very distinguished looking?

Wait, wait,
wait, I have a picture.

First drop off
we've had in months.

The 565 never stops,

nor does the 283 or the 112.

The only train that stops is
the 419, every mornin' at 5:45.


That's him.

Did he say where he was going?

To sleep.

Where? The hotel?

Hi, my name is Kenneth Waters.

I'm with the
Lima Theater Company.

I'm here to
take you to your hotel.

It's very nice.

It's right downtown, within
walking distance of the theatre.

This feels like one of those

places you
go only if you have to.

Does it feel
that way to you, Walter?

Uh, Kenneth. No, not
at all. In fact, I grew up here.


As soon
as we get you to your hotel,

I'll make
a run for it, I promise.

Where's the person who
was supposed to pick me up?

He was here.

Uh well, I just said "he".

I... I... I... I... I meant "me".

You were here.

Actually, technically...

Actually, technically, oh okay...

you weren't, because when I got
off the train, I stood on the

platform with my suitcase,

waiting for someone to...

waiting for someone to pick me
up, at the very least pick up my

s... s-suitcase.

And after waiting
for what seemed like a very long

time, no one actually
technically came, at which point

I actually technically
made my way in here,

dragging my now

very heavy suitcase, sat down,

collapsing in this very spot and

yet still, no one, no one

from the Lima Bean Repertory...

Just Lima.

...Company came forward to
collect me or my suitcase at

which point I fell asleep on

this sad excuse for a seating

device, thoroughly
wrenching my back.

Here, let me get that for you.


I'm sorry, I was just...

Don't apologize!


You know any good jokes?


I need a laugh.

You're not serious.

I'm a playwright,
I'm eternally serious.

I'm also important.
Which is even worse.

Uh no, no, I don't.

Besides even
if I did, I'm afraid I'm not

very good at telling them.

Hardly something to
fear, go ask the masses.

The who?

The ones who don't go to the
theatre anymore, because they're

too busy binge
watching the Kardashians.

O'Neill was so lucky
to have written when he did.

Look at him in there, huh.

Trapped inside his little box.

Of your own making, I might add!

Yeah, it's okay.
It's okay, we're leaving.

Well, not until I hear a joke!

I'm a... I'm a very good laugher.

Producers count me
into their Opening Nights and

seat me
right behind the critics.

It never helps, but long as
there's food, what do I care?

Well, you know who
knows a lot of jokes?





Simon John. Artistic
Director of the Lima...

Oh, oh, oh, yes, yes!

Yes! Mr. John
and I spoke over the phone.

I'm not sure you're
aware, but the man was born

without a sense
of humor which I didn't...

I didn't think was
genetically possible until he

spent an hour and a
half telling me about himself.

He can be very funny.

He's a bore. Why
did the chicken cross the road?


No, why.

I say, "Why
did the chicken cross the road?"

You say...

To get to the other side.

That's the punch line.

I know.

Well, you said
you didn't know any jokes.

Everybody knows that one.

Ah, ah, you prove my point!

Granted, you cut
directly to the pay off, but

then, that's what's wrong
with your generation, isn't it?

It's all about the
now, the being there,

not the getting there.

You have
no use for the journey.

I have a joke.

Praise Jesus.

It's a theatre joke.

Are you implying
that the theatre is a joke?

No, of course not. That's
the last thing I would do.

Well, it is. Trust me,
I've spent my life in it.

I don't
believe that for a second.

Well, the sooner
you do, the easier it'll be to

read your own reviews.

Is it funny?

This joke about the theatre?

Because if it's not, I'm going
to personally see to it that you

never work
in this business again.

That was a joke.


Tell me your joke.

Right, okay.

Yes. There was this actor, uh an
old character actor and he was

playing the doctor
in The Miracle Worker.

You know, the
famous play about Helen Keller?

Define famous.


What is fame?

It's well known,
something well known.

I did not know that.

this actor was also a drunk and

his career
had not been going well.

And in the
first scene of the play,

he's to come on stage and
inform Mr. and Mrs. Keller that

their daughter is,
you know, the way she is.

So before the
curtain goes up, this actor sits

in front of his
dressing room mirror,

drinking, staring at himself.

The curtain goes up,

this actor steps on stage and he
says, "Mr. and Mrs. Keller, I'm

sorry to tell you, but
your daughter is dead."

And he turns
and walks off, out of the

theatre, never to
set foot on the stage again.





That's the joke.

What if I told you that the

actor's name
was Kensington Malloy.

And the theatre
was the Morosco in 1973.

And that I not
only saw that production,

I was in the audience the very
night that Mr. Malloy walked

onto a Broadway stage and ended
both the play and his career?

I'm sorry.

Don't apologize!
An artist never apologizes!

I'm sorry.

Not sorry!

Not sorry!

Not sorry!

Not sorry!

For the record, that was
not a joke, but an anecdote.

Hardly comedic.

Tragic, to be
sure, in the classical sense.

You're aware of the Greeks?

Yes, of course.

Name three.


Name three Greek
playwrights whose influence on

the world of
drama is still felt today.

Sophocles, and Aristophanes.

Who said, "Anything
awful makes me laugh"?


Charles Lamb. You
know who Charles Lamb is?

Was he Greek?

Oh God.

An obscure English author who

once misbehaved at a funeral,

laughing during
the eulogy or something.

He wrote a letter in the form of

an apology to the appropriately

appalled widow, stated
with great importance,

"Anything awful makes me laugh."

Actually technically, you
know what I would really like?

Yeah, anything. You name it.

Oh, you're over here now.

A drink.

No. I mean, I can't.

Have I mentioned
I have won the Pulitzer?

For Up a Lonely River.

It's my favorite
play in the whole world.

I cannot even begin to tell you
how much that play means to me.

As much as a
drink would mean to me?

Mr. Harris, Simon
made it very clear, under no

circumstances was I
to get you liquor of any kind.

My reputation
arrived before I did.

Yeah, I'm sorry.


Not sorry.

What's your name again?

Kenneth Waters.

Do you drink, Mr. Waters?


Would you like to start?

I'm sure
the hotel has a mini-bar.

Yes, I'm sure it does.

Who told you
about my uh, little problem?

I can't tell you that.

The Pulitzer.

Your agent. She told Simon to

"treat him
like the alcoholic he is".

Former agent.

Oh, I didn't know.

Neither does she. Tell
me something, did she use the

line about how I "can't possibly

write from
the bottom of a bottle"?

I don't know what she said.


Yeah, word for word.

Can we go now?

She stole that line
from me, I'll have you know.

This from a wench who can drink
me under any table in New York.

I'll pull the car up.

Oh God, how much?

How much what?

Over and above whatever it
is, you can round up of course.


Preferably, gin, though at this
point I'll take anything this

side of mouthwash.

I told you. I...

20 bucks, 20
bucks for one little drink.

I'm sure once
we get to the hotel...

Get me a goddamn drink!



You may go.

Go where?

Wherever someone like you goes.

I'm not going without you.

Yes, you are.

You're gonna walk
out that door, you're gonna get

in your car, drive away.

Before you do, however, you are
going to book me on the next

train back to New York.

Mr. Harris, you can't do that.

I can and I will.

You have rehearsal.

No, no, no,
no, you have rehearsal.

I am going back to New York.

Sir, I'm just
doing what I'm told.

Not yet, you're not.

If I don't deliver you
to rehearsal first thing

tomorrow morning then...

Oh, oh, now I'm a package, am I?

No, no, no...

I'm just,
I'm something to be delivered?

No, no, no, no, no...

Just shipped overnight...


Because I absolutely,
positively have to be there?

I'm sure you'll feel differently
once you've talked to Simon.

He can't wait to meet you.

Apparently, he can.

Because otherwise,
he wouldn't have sent you.

Sir, I'm just an apprentice.

Apprentice to what?

Hmm, I'm sorry?

Stop apologizing!

I'm sorry.


Not sorry!

Don't tell me
you're studying to be an actor.

I don't have the talent.

You don't need talent.

All you need is a deep-seated
belief that the whole world's

as excited about you as you are.

I wanna be a playwright.


Not yet, not now.

I have so much to
learn, but that's why I'm here,

that's why I wanted to
be the one to pick you up.

I had to meet you.

To just... just I don't know, to
just be around you, I guess to

experience your essence.

I have an essence?

No, not... not essence.

No, no, no, I like...
like having an essence.

I told Simon,
"I don't care what time he gets

in, I want to be the one who
gets to pick up the greatest

playwright in the history
of the American Theatre.

the history of theatre, period."

Better than O'Neill, better than
Miller, better than William...



have so many questions for you,

I don't know where to start.

are what make art, art.

Writers on
Writing, published in 1986.

Very good.

I've read everything you've ever

written or
said, for that matter.

The full lengths, the
one acts, the essays, the

monologues, even your Op-Ed
pieces in the New York Times.

One of my favorites was The

State of the American
Theatre, October, 1998.

You were so
eloquent about the need for a

collective voice to speak from
our stage and your prediction

that Broadway would succumb to

uh, how did you put it?

Oh, oh, hang on.

Joseph Harris, 1998.

"In our
quest to find new voices,

the American Stage will turn its

back on its very own, only to
drop the bar and welcome with

open arms
anything with an accent,

preferably ones
spewing Irish blarney,

pomposity or Cockney slang.

Mark my
words..." I love this part,

"To spend one's life writing for
the American Theatre is to aim

for a place somewhere between
airport paperbacks and the

graffiti located
above a dive bar urinal."


I was drunk.

Well, I found it prophetic.

I had just opened a play

that included a 10-minute
sequence where one of the

fattest actors you've ever seen
dropped his pants and farted

into the face of the audience.

Needless to say, the
critics were not kind.

So I wrote to the Times,
explaining it was a metaphor for

the slow,
poisonous disintegration of

Creative America.

I think they
published it out of pity.

Another American playwright
screaming from the ledge.

Yeah, but you were right.


Though I must say, if
the actor had farted in an

English accent, the
play would still be running.

No one writes for the
theatre anymore, Mr. Waters.

No, no, no, that's... that's...

No, it's true.

It's all
screenplays, and cable deals,

and getting a
seat at the table with

a dozen other ex-playwrights.

But you can't really
blame them, can you?

I mean the...
the theatre won't support you,

you have to follow
the herd out to California,

get paid a king's ransom,
because you can spell your name.

Yeah, but... but you didn't.

Much to my accountant's dismay.

Active duty military discounts.

All active duty military are
entitled to discounts up to 50%.

When others turned their backs,

you nobly clung to your
principles, hanging on to

what it means
to be a true artist.

Call Expedition today.

As a relaxing alternative to

today's airport
body scan, the latest bomb scans

Stowing away
is against the law.

Any activity around
the train that is illegal

please contact
Expedition employees.

Thank you and have a good day.

Hardly noble.

To me, you are. To me,
you are the American Theatre.

Strong words, I know.

No, no...

But there is no one and I mean
no one with your uncompromising

commitment to your art.

It is because of you that I have

decided to
commit my life to the theatre.

It is your art, your
craft, your brilliance that has

opened up the creativity...
That lies within my very soul.

Here, just
shut up! Just shut up.

Just take that.

What? What's this?

It's the advance.

Much as I love
being paid to write,

I hate
being paid not to even more.

I don't understand.

There is no play.


I haven't written a word.

I'd apologize,
but I'm in the arts, so...

Is this some kind of joke?

This is not a joke.

This is not a joke.

I think we've
established this is not a joke.

But we have to have a play.

Well, if I don't have one,

there's no way
you're going to have one.

we... we... we commissioned you.

I had a couple ideas, a
couple things I thought might

have legs enough to sail past
page 20, flourish into something

grand, an... an...
an epic drama, perhaps.

A comedy! I'd have settled for a
comedy, but in the end, nothing.

Uh, wait.

Though, I did have one idea
about a girl and her dog, and

then the dog died and the girl

turned into a
transvestite and I thought,

Well, that's hardly original.

Mr. Harris!

Make the dog the transvestite.

You sent us a first draft.

Of what?

Simon told the
staff it was brilliant.

The only thing of any brilliance

were Simon's efforts
to cover his artistic ass.

I called and told him that
what I had wasn't readable.

Little advice, when a playwright
calls to say that his play isn't

readable, it's 'cause
there's nothing to read.

I'm calling Simon.

Do 'Up a Lonely River'.

We just did it two months ago!

Do it again.

We can't do it again!

Oh, sure you can.
Tell 'em it's a rerun.

You don't understand,
we've announced it to the world!

Oh, good Lord, I hope
you have enough seats.

Mr. Harris, this is
a very big deal for us.

For the first
time in our history,

Variety is
sending their Chicago critic.

Sir, could you please
tell me the estimated time of

departure for
the next train to New York?


Where do I transfer?

Local stops to Toledo. Transfer
to the Express from there.

I'll take it.

No, he doesn't want it!

- Round trip?
- No!

- God, no.
- Window or aisle?


Mr. Harris, please don't
do this, I'm begging you.

Will you just relax.

Welcome to the
exciting world of train travel.

Not everything
in life is your fault.

By purchasing
a round trip ticket...

Yes, yes, yes, okay.

No, not this shit, trust me.

Seniors, if you
are young at heart...

Okay, somehow...

I'll take it.

get 5% off the regular fare.

Phew, oh my
God, Simon's gonna kill me.

Students, take advantage of...

Do I look like a student to you?

Please, hey, hey!

price of an unrestricted ticket.

Mr. Harris, whatever I
did or didn't do, I'm sorry.


I'm whatever I have to be
to keep you from doing this!

My stay here is over. Finished.

All military persons...

Listen, just
talk to Simon, okay?

-continental United States.


Fare may be higher during...

- What's the damage?
- 152 bucks.

Give me 152 bucks.

Do I look rich to you?


You want the ticket or not?

He's not going anywhere!

I thought you said you
was takin' him somewhere.

I... I am. Okay, we are
in the process of leaving, okay?

We just haven't left yet.

And you've been
holding out on me? Huh?

I got $3!

And what pray tell is this?


- Give it to me.
- Is this a play?

- Give it back.
- You really are a playwright.

I am not a playwright!

I am not a playwright.

Cancel his ticket. I am
here to pick you up, that's it.

I will be in the car.

You want me to read it?

Yeah. Yeah, right.

You would read my play?

It's why you
brought it, isn't it?

You're serious.

Going once.

Yes, yes! Yes, of course!

While I wait for my train.

Mr. Harris, please.

Have you ever
seen a Pulitzer Prize?

As trophies go,
it's very tasteful.

even distinguished.

Mr. Harris, if you get
on that train, I'll be fired.

I'm proud to say that I have

been banned for life

the Cornelia Street Playhouse.

In Philadelphia.

You've been to Philadelphia?

No, but...

As soon as you
arrive, you realize you're the

smartest person in town.

We were doing
The Man Who Died A...

The Man Who Died Again.

Oh, you know this story?

- No, only that...
- Well then, shut up.

I'm waxing poetic about myself.

Much like
with the visiting muse,

it doesn't happen that often,

so you're
aware of writing via the muse.

Yes, of course.

Do you have one?

Doesn't everybody?

Where is it?

Where's what?

Your muse, I'd like to meet him.

Or her.

Maybe it's
her... it. Maybe it's an "it".

I don't...

Not having one myself,

I'm curious as
to what one looks like.

A little bird sits on
your shoulder, chirping its way

through your story like
some know-it-all tour guide.

What about the inner voice?

You're hearing voices?

Simon said every
artist has an inner voice.

If Simon is hearing voices,

he should be
locked in a padded room.

I wrote every one of my
plays without the assistance of

anyone, thank you very much.

Including artistic directors who

were too
important to meet my train.

What are you doing?

I'm calling Simon.

Oh, no, no, no, no!

Oh my God!

Oh my God, stop!

Stop! Oh!

Now give me your credit card.

You broke my phone!

Your credit card!

I don't have a credit card!

Of course, you do!

Every young person in today's
theatre has a credit card, a toy

phone, and a Lamborghini!

Bought and paid for by
well-funded parents who can't

stand the idea of their son

going into such
a vagrant profession!

Let me guess?

Daddy and mommy wanted their son

who's not a
playwright to be a doctor?


A lawyer? How about a lawyer?

How about President
of the United States?

They've lowered
the entry requirements,

I don't know if you've heard!

Wing nuts!
My family's into wing nuts!

It's the small nut

with the little metal
wings on it, so you can screw...

I know what a...

We're the largest wing nut
manufacturer in the Midwest.

Where would the
world be without the wing nut?

Yeah, that's what my
father says every Thanksgiving.

And I nod, answering a question
he never asks, assuring him that

yes, some day I will come
crawling back, begging him to

please let me spend the
rest of my life in wing nuts.

All because you looked down from
your end of the table and said,

"I want to be in the Arts."

I might as well have said I was
running off to join the circus.

You are.

He said "The-a-tre is
no place for a real man.

It's nothing but
lowlifes, misfits, and..."

Does this Simon person, with no
play to direct, have any talent?

Very much so. Yes.

Last season he
won the Lima Award for his

production of Our Town.

He won a what?

A Lima.

It's our local
in-house theatre award.

We have the
ceremony at the end of the year.

Everybody comes. It's nice.

It's not a Tony or a Pulitzer,
but then we're not New York.

You're not even Philadelphia.

Has he read the play?

Oh God, no.

And why not?

Well, he was going to.

He really was, and then for
whatever reason, he didn't get

to it, which is completely
understandable. He's very busy.

Winning Limas.

My Mother read it.

Did she love it?

Not really. When I asked her

what she
liked about it, she said,

"The pages were in order."


I thought
that was a little harsh.

Do you have a title?

A title.

For this brilliant
play I'm about to read.

Oh, I'd rather not say.

Oh, I'd Rather
Not Say by Kenneth Waters.

Very funny.

Let's imagine
that up on a marquee, shall we?

That's the first thing I
do whenever I finish a play.

I take a cab up to the Belasco,
still best theatre in New York,

bar none, and I stand on the
opposite side of the street and

I try to picture
my title up in lights.

And if I can envision it...

The Great American Play.

It hasn't been written yet.

Never will be, for that matter.

In art, there can never
be a greatest anything.

Play, novel,
painting, symphony, burger, try

as we might, it will never be
because as soon as one of us

gets close, it will be missed.

Or, more than likely, dismissed.

We are no longer qualified
to recognize greatness.

We have no
idea what it looks like.

To recognize true greatness, one
must be willing to be troubled.



And no one wants to
be any of those things.

That's the title.

Of what?

My play.

The title of your play
is The Great American Play?


Out of all the possible titles.

I know.

Is it?

It's just the title.

So it's not
the Great American Play.

Far from it.

And yet, your title
would lead me to believe...

Tentative title.

Well, don't change it
now. It might be perfect.

It's just a play.

There is no such thing

as "just a play".

This is your art. Say it.

Say what?

This is my art.

This is my art.


This is my art.

This is my art!

This is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an
artist and this is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an
artist and this is my art!

I am an
artist and this is my art!

I am an
artist and this is my art!

I am an
artist and this is my art!

I am an
artist and this is my art!

I am an artist, Mr.
Harris! Mr. Harris, Mr. Harris!

Keep off my pew!
This is my pew!

I am
an artist and this is my art!

I am an artist and this is art.

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist and this is my...

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist...

Get outta here!

I am an art...
I am an artist. I am an artist.

I am an artist.

Mr. Harris?

I am an artist.

Mr. Harris,
there's a train! Mr. Harris!

Mr. Harris!

Mr. Harris, where are
you... where are you going?

Mr.... Mr. Harris!

I didn't call the cops.

I appreciate it.

Just keep
him the hell off my pews.

I will, I will.

Them come straight
outta the Methodist Church.

Jesus Himself sat in 'em.

Yeah, okay.

Mr. Harris!

Mr. Harris! Mr.
Harris, are you okay?

Mr. Harris!

Do you remember 9/11?


Do you remember 9/11?

Yes, of course.

What did you think?

What did I think?

What did you... tell
me what you thought.

I thought it was a tragedy.
It changed the whole world.

I thought it was Shakespearean.

Did you think
it was Shakespearean?

I thought it w...

Yeah, definitely.

I'd like to think if the Bard
had written it, he might've

toned down on some
of the gruesomeness.

Even he
couldn't have written that day.

Look, Mr. Harris,
just talk this out, okay?

We'll get in my car.


I have a MasterCard.

I have a MasterCard!

You're right!

And I will use that MasterCard

to pay for your
ticket after you read my play.


After. I'm going to lose
everything, Mr. Harris. My

apprenticeship, my
affiliation with the theatre,

and there's a very good chance
I may wind up back in wing nuts!

So when you say you're gonna
read my play, I need to know

you're really
going to read my play.

Even if it kills me.

Look, on one condition.

you have to tell me the truth.


I also have a condition.

Yeah, anything. You name it.


Okay, alcohol. Okay.

No, no!

Hey, liquor run!

Liquor run!

It's 2:45, we're closed!

Come on, man!

I have never been more closed.

Come on!

I'm more closed than my options
after I failed high school.

I'm desperate.

I'm more closed than the casket
was on my father's funeral.

I'm more closed than the

chance to
reconcile with my girlfriend.

I'm so closed, I
can feel my biological processes

shutting down!

I got it!

Gas station, there is.
Bar's closed, bar's closed now.

Oh, Hope! Hope!


Hope! Hope!

Hope! Hope!
Hope, Hope! Hope, Hope, hi!

Step away from the door. 1...

No, no, no, no, wait!


No, it's me! Kenneth Waters!

We dated in high school and
after the Sadie Hawkins Dance,

I told you I loved you
and how I wanted to marry you

Wing nut?

What have you been doing with
yourself other than drinking?

I'm in the theatre.


No. The legit theatre,

I'm an apprentice
at the Lima Playhouse.

What happened
to making wing nuts?

Yeah, it wasn't for me.

Are you an actor?

Uh, no, I'm... I write.

Write what?


You mean like pretend?

Yeah, no.
No, they're real. The plays

are real. Only they're
not. It's hard to explain.

should've gone into wing nuts.

Vicki told me
I should reconsider.

I said reconsider
what, we're sophomores in high

school, there's plenty of
fish in the sea, you know?

Junior Class alone was loaded.

Yeah, well, we were
kids, what did we know.

I'm not seeing any gin.

All I got is beer and wine.

Yeah, okay.

You would not
believe the night I'm having.

Do you know
who Joseph Harris is?

Was he in our class?

No, he's a playwright
and he's here right now in Lima,

at the train station,

reading my play.

Are you dating anybody?

I got Mondays off.

You could take me to the

playhouse and I can
watch you write somethin'.

Well, it's not that exciting.

Is it more exciting than selling
beer at 3:15 in the morning?

Trapped inside a little box.

Of your own making, I might add.

I know.

You know?

You don't think I do, but I do.

And what is it you know?

I know who said,
the "first sign of

is the wish to die".





How's it goin'?


Like Grand
Central in here tonight.

He's from New York.

What's he doin' here?




The wife dragged me to
one of those once. After five

minutes they'd stop doing what

they were
doin' and start singin'.

I said that's
not normal behavior.

She said is it supposed to be?

I said then
what the hell am I watchin'?

It's not just a play, it's art.

And when it works when the

writing, and the
acting, and the directing...

And the writing, and the acting,
and the directing, and the set

design, and the props, and
the writing, when it all comes

it's better than movies.

It's better than TV.

Can I get it on my phone?


Okay, okay. Oh!

Here we go.


Yes. Do you have a...?

Yeah, yes.

Take your time.



Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

He didn't say anything, did he?

Not about your play.

He's reading my play.

It got singin' in it?

No. Does he look bored to you?

Don't worry about me, I can
take it. I'm used to criticism.

We criticize each other
in the theatre all the time.

That's how we grow.

See ya tomorrow.

See ya tomorrow.

Would you like some coffee?

Something to eat?

I can run out and get
you something real quick,

if you'd like?

I know what
you can do, pay for my ticket.

After we discuss my play.

Play? What play?

I read so many,
it's hard to keep track.

Well, just so you know,
I've never done this before.

That's not to say you can't
be brutally honest with me.

Don't worry about me,
I'm my own worst critic,

so anything you could say I've

already said it to myself.

So that being said,
say anything that comes to mind.

Also, this is my first play.

You probably could tell though,

but still, in case you couldn't.

You couldn't, could you?

Or could you?

No, don't answer that.

Also, I
know I have a lot to learn.

And even though
I've never had my

work analyzed by anyone,

certainly by anyone
of your stature, though

I did do a
small reading with some friends

of mine and after we were
finished, they really didn't

have anything constructive to
say except for this one actress

who thought her character should

have more lines,
but other than that.


Oh, also if you
could start by telling me

something you liked about it.

It can be a line, a
character, a plot twist.

Anything at all.

And then feel
free to tear it to shreds.

Or not. Or whatever.
I'm talking too much.

I'd much rather hear
what you have to say.

Whenever you're ready.

Have you
ever eaten in a restaurant?


Have you ever eaten in...

Yes, of course
I've eaten in a restaurant.

Oh good.

Well... oh... well, eating in
this restaurant, have you ever

experienced someone spending the

entire meal sampling
the food off your plate?


Don't you hate that?

My agent is the worst.

I... I'll be sitting there,
minding my own business, next

thing I know she's poking her
way through my pasta like she's

heading some archaeological dig.

What does...

"Just a taste.
Just a little taste."

Swear to God, there are people,
you put 'em in front of food,

they turn into cattle.

Grazing their
way around the table.

Mr. Harris.

A restaurant is not a pasture.

God, how I hate that.

Don't you hate that?

Tell me you hate that.

I hate that.


'Cause as much as
I hate that, it's not nearly as

much as I hated your play.

Yes, hate. I tried to find
something more palatable.

Loathe, despise,

abhor, condemn.

I condemn your play.

But no, in the
end "hate" will have to do.

This, of course,
would be where, in an effort to

extricate us both from a...
an awkward situation, I say,

"Perhaps, I'm being too harsh."

But I don't.

Instead, I turn to you and say,

"Pay for my ticket."

Oh, when you um, hmm... yeah,

well, when...
when you say "hate"...

Oh God, he wants... wants more.

Write this down.

I think I'll remember this.

I can't hear you.

I said, I
think I'll remember this.

In your play.
I cannot hear you in your play.

Oh, I thought you were...

For whom are you writing?

What do you mean?

For whom are you writing?

The audience?

To hell with the audience.

You put your
little fingers on your

little keyboard and
you start typing what you

think, what you
feel, what you want,

what you love, what you hate,

what you cannot stand,

what you refuse to allow,

what you must change,

because if you do that,

you will write who you are.

That said, you are
the last thing I care about.

You care about the story.

Not the story.

The theme?

Stop being so academic.

When the curtain goes up,

I care about one
thing and one thing only. Me.

When I'm not
talking about myself,

I'm thinking about myself.

Therefore, it would
stand to reason that the only

person I would want
to know more about would be...


Through you.

Through your play.

In order to do that,
I have to hear you.

If as I'm reading your
words, I can hear your voice,

I will in turn hear mine.

And when I hear mine,
in concert with yours, you will

take me to a place that's deep,
some place I may not want to go,

some place I
may not want to leave.

And if we're both very,
very lucky, you will have taken

me some place,

the only
place worth writing about.

A place called "human".

When you write
that, then and only then,

will you have a play.

And for God's
sakes, change the title,

critics will have a field day.

I'd like
to pay for my ticket.

Don't be so hard on
yourself, it's your first play.

Worse, it's the first
draft of your first play.

You're not
even out of the womb yet.

Cash or charge?

Mr. Waters?

Your presence is requested.

Mr. Waters,
I need your credit card.

I am an artist
and this is my art.

I am an
artist and this is my art.

Oh, for God's sake.

I am an artist
and this is my art.

I'm not in the mood for this.

I am an artist
and this is my art!

Mr. Waters,
we have an agreement.

I am an artist
and this is my art!


I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I... I...

I am an artist
and this is my art!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

Waters, I need your credit card.

I am an artist
and this is my art!

Get off my pew!

I am an artist
and this is my art!

Get the hell off
my pews or I'm callin' the cops!

Get off!

Yeah, okay, okay.

I gave you a
beer, so unless you want me to

call the train people and tell
them you drink on the job...

I got a couple questions!

Do you?



All sorts of things.

Where do I start?

Well, you could start by telling

me why you're not
honoring our agreement.

Oh, I'm going to honor it!

I may not be able to write,

but honorable? That I can do!

I read your play, didn't I?

Yes, you did!

And we discussed it.

Yes, we did!

So what is it I haven't done?

Why haven't you written
anything in almost 20 years?

Pay for my ticket.

Is it because you're a drunk?

"Look! Look, I'm Joseph Harris!

I think I'll sit down
and not write a play!

Do you care to
join me, Mr. Waters? Yes? No?

All the more for me.

I love being me.
You should be so lucky."

Do you know what's worse than
meeting your inspiration? Huh?

Coming face to face with
your muse. That's right, Harris.

I have a muse,
right here in my bag.

You! You are my muse!

Not some little bird
who sits on my shoulder!

You! I know I'm
supposed to have my own voice,

and truth,
and soul, but I don't.

I'm not a playwright
and I never will be.

Tell me the truth!

Tell me I'm not a playwright!

Do you want me to fix it?

What, you're just gonna sit here

and work some
kind of a miracle, is that it?

Something like that.

Pay for my
ticket, I'll fix your play.

Fix my play and
I'll pay for your ticket.

Do you have a pen?

I think a lot of what's wrong

with it is in the Second Act.

Not that
the First Act is so great, but I

ran into problems with the
subplot about the brother.

I just don't know if he's that

interesting of
a character, to be honest.

I like the sister, though.

She's modeled after my own
sister who's this certifiable

maniac which is why anytime
she opens her mouth, she...


You can't do that.

Great American
Play by Joseph Harris.

Some judicious trimming,

I'm sure it
will be to Simon's liking.


You want to be a playwright?

You're a playwright.

Not like this.

Haven't you
heard of collaboration?

It's the new rage.

gonna wanna know where you are.

I'll be in New York.

He's going to
want to talk to you.

He's going to
want to discuss the play.

I'm nothing if not eccentric and
my latest eccentricity is that I

refuse to discuss my play
with anyone other than you.

Uh, he won't buy that.

I'll tell him we
have great chemistry.

He'll know it's not yours.

He hasn't read it, has he?


Ah, perfect. Signed a contract

for a new play, no one
said it had to be any good.

But it's not even
in your style, your voice.

Don't be afraid, Mr. Waters.

You're about to become the
luckiest apprentice in the

history of the American Theatre.

You still
didn't answer my question.

Yes. I'm a drunk.

Is that why you
want to kill yourself?

I am the way I am, because
it makes everything the same.

Exactly as it should be, exactly

as it was, and always will be
which is exactly how we like it.

Isn't it?

If you say so.

Oh, I know so.

Save us all from the
one thing that we don't want to

face which is what, Mr. Waters?

What is that thing inside you,
that thing your play lacks?

The truth?

Define truth.

Feeling more
than we want to?

Feeling all of it.
Every heartache,

every triumph,

right, wrong,

hope, and dream.

Love and loss.

All I know, all I don't,

all I am, and all I am not.

The 4:19 to Toledo
will be arriving shortly.

Please be
careful near the tracks.

Ah, mornin', Franz.

Mornin', Mary.

Merry Christmas.

How's your sister?

Uh, well, between you and me,
if she'd just get it over with.

I got coffee made.

Oh no, no. No
thanks, I'm fine.



You going to Toledo?


I'm gonna see my sister.

She's dying of cancer.

It's very sad.

I'm not sorry.

Neither am I.

You want the ticket or not?

One last question.

Can you still think?

Answer the question.

It's not important.

You've never said anything
unimportant in your life.

"There comes a time in
the life of every playwright

when you realize
you've written your great play.

I've written mine.

My fear is Up a Lonely River may
not only be the best play I have

ever written, but it
is quite possibly the best play

I will ever write.

Knowing this
is frightening enough, but one's

only hope of overcoming the
daunting prospect of never being

able to live up to yourself is

to sit down at
your desk every morning,

put your fingers on the keys,

and type what you think.

For it matters
not what I have done,

only what I still have to say

and there is always
something still to say, because

as long as I can still
think, I will still write."

Can you still think?

All this
time, it didn't make any sense.

Why would he come all this way
just to return a check for a

play he never wrote?

"Untitled New
Play By Joseph Harris."

Out of
all the possible titles.


No, it doesn't matter.

Oh, it matters, Mr. Waters.
It matters a great deal.

When you
got on the train to come here.

You said it yourself, "No one
comes to a place like this

unless they have to."

I ran into the street.

Everyone was pouring out
of the stores, their apartments.

What was going on?
No one knew a thing.

A queen on the fourth
floor of a walk up was hanging

out his window, calling down to

us about what he
was seeing on television.

A woman in high heels ran
past me, through me actually,

screaming into
her cell phone about having

to get to her daughter's school
all the way up in the East 90s.

I stepped... I stepped out onto

7th Avenue and looked south.

I could see the smoke.

And the fire.

And then came the second plane.

Over the water.

So low I could see that
brilliant September sun

reflecting off the fuselage.

I watched it rumble northward,

as if pulled by a string
until that guided suicidal roar

exploded into a giant orange

ball and then a cloud
of the blackest smoke and

I swear the ground
underneath me shuddered.

The queen was
shrieking now, 'We're...'"

HARRIS AND KEnNETH: "'We're under attack.
We're under attack.'"

And the streets were filled with

people, all
coming from everywhere

"Everywhere and nowhere.

Asking the same
question, over and over.

'Why?' 'Why?'


And I stood there thinking

may be the best thing that had

ever happened to this fat,
arrogant excuse for a country."

And I started crying,

not for those poor people in

those planes,
in those buildings.

I started crying, because
I knew I had to write it.

I knew I had
to turn this... this... this

horrible, horrible day into art.

But you can't produce a play

about 9/11 that
says we deserved it.

So I threw it in a drawer.

Is it any good?

It's the best
thing I ever wrote.

And I hate every word of it.


with all
due respect, Mr. Harris,

you're the last
thing I care about.

You sound
like a playwright.

I am.

They say as soon as a playwright
writes "The End", the play is...

"The play is no
longer his. It's theirs.

To do with what they will."

Theater Magazine, January, 1991.

I don't have a title.

You can borrow mine!

Get out,
get out, get outta here.