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Authors: Robert Anderson

Tea and Sympathy

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Tea and Sympathy
----------------
A PLAY BY
ROBERT ANDERSON
"Restores our theatre to an art again . . . A
poignant drama about the helplessness of
the individual in opposition to the mass . . .
An uncommonly discerning study of character,
stamped with the originality of a talented writer
. . . Mr. Anderson has written a troubled idyll
with a light touch and a wealth of understanding."
BROOKS ATKINSON, New York Times
"Tea and Sympathy rates with the best in our
theatre . . . A tender, luminous and illuminating
drama of youth."
JOHN CHAPMAN, New York Daily News
"A triumph . . . The last few minutes, delicate
and difficult to act, held the audience in
the longest breathless silence I ever recall
seeing in a theatre."
WILLIAM HAWKINS, New York World-Telegram & Sun
"A moving and effective drama, with a sensitive
feeling for character. Mr. Anderson and his play
are valuable additions to the season."
RICHARD WATTS, New York Post
Jacket illustration by Clifford Strohl Associates
Random House, New York
Tea and Sympathy
by Robert Anderson
COPYRIGHTED AS AN UNPUBLISHED WORK, 1953,
BY ROBERT WOODRUFF ANDERSON
COPYRIGHT, 1953, BY ROBERT ANDERSON
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright
Conventions. Published in New York by Random House, Inc., and
simultaneously in Toronto, Canada, by Random House of Canada,
Limited.
Second Printing
CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that TEA AND
SYMPATHY, being fully protected under the copyright laws of the United
States, the British Empire including the Dominion of Canada, and all
other countries of the Copyright Union, is subject to royalty. All rights
including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing,
public reading, radio and television broadcasting, and the rights of
translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Particular
emphasis is laid on the question of readings, permission for which must
be obtained in writing from the Author's representative. All inquiries
should be addressed to the Author's representative, Liebling-Wood,
551 Fifth Avenue, New York 17.
Photographs by Slim Aarons
MANUFACTURED IN THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
This is for
PHYLLIS
whose spirit is everywhere
in this play and in my life.
AUTHOR'S NOTE
I would like to record here my tremendous debt of gratitude to those
persons who helped bring Tea and Sympathy so glowingly alive on stage.
It is perhaps not a good selling point for a published volume of a play
to say that a playwright writes a play for the theater, for the actors,
the director, the designer. But he does. And when he is as brilliantly
served by these artists as I have been, he feels a miracle has been
brought to pass.
It is not often, I think, that a playwright can say of his produced play,
this is the way I wanted it. This is the way I dreamed it would be. I can
say it. And I can say it because of the devotion to this play of so many
creative and wonderful people.
R.A.
TEA AND SYMPATHY was first presented by the Playwrights'
Company, in association with Mary K. Frank, at the Ethel
Barrymore Theatre, New York City, on September 30, 1953,
with the following cast:
(IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE)
LAURA REYNOLDS Deborah Kerr
LILLY SEARS Florida Friebus
TOM LEE John Kerr
DAVID HARRIS Richard Midgley
RALPH Alan Sues
AL Dick York
STEVE Arthur Steuer
BILL REYNOLDS Leif Erickson
PHIL Richard Franchot
HERBERT LEE John McGovern
PAUL Yale Wexler
Directed by Elia Kazan
Setting and lighting by Jo Mielziner
Clothes designed by Anna Hill Johnstone

 

 

 

 

SCENES

 

 

Act One

 

 

A dormitory in a boys' school in New England.

 

Late afternoon of a day early in June.

 

 

Act Two

 

 

Scene I. Two days later.

 

Scene II. Eight-thirty Saturday night.

 

 

Act Three

 

 

The next afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE

 

 

The scene is a small old Colonial house which is now being used as a
dormitory in a boys' school in New England.

 

 

On the ground floor at stage right we see the housemaster's study.
To stage left is a hall and stairway which leads up to the boys' rooms.
At a half-level on stage left is one of the boys' rooms.

 

 

The housemaster's study is a warm and friendly room, rather on the
dark side, but when the lamps are lighted, there are cheerful pools of
light. There is a fireplace in the back wall, bookcases, and upstage
right double doors leading to another part of the house. Since there is
no common room for the eight boys in this house, there is considerable
leniency in letting the boys use the study whenever the door is left ajar.

 

 

The boy's bedroom is small, containing a bed, a chair and a bureau.
It was meant to be Spartan, but the present occupant has given it a few
touches to make it a little more homelike: an Indian print on the bed,
India print curtains for the dormer window. There is a phonograph on
the ledge of the window. The door to the room is presumed to lead to the
sitting room which the roommates share. There is a door from the sitting
room which leads to the stair landing. Thus, to get to the bedroom from
the stairs, a person must go through the sitting room.

 

 

As the curtain rises, it is late afternoon of a day early in June.
No lamps have been lighted yet so the study is in a sort of twilight.

 

 

Upstairs in his room, TOM LEE is sitting on his bed playing the guitar
and singing softly and casually, the plaintive song, "The Joys of Love"
. . . TOM is going on eighteen.

 

 

He is young and a little gangling, but intense. He is wearing faded
khaki trousers, a white shirt open at the neck and white tennis sneakers.

 

 

Seated in the study listening to the singing are LAURA REYNOLDS and
LILLY SEARS. LAURA is a lovely, sensitive woman in her mid to late
twenties. Her essence is gentleness. She is compassionate and tender.
She is wearing a cashmere sweater and a wool skirt. As she listens to
TOM'S singing, she is sewing on what is obviously a period costume.

 

 

LILLY is in her late thirties, and in contrast to the simple effectiveness
of LAURA'S clothes, she is dressed a little too flashily for her
surroundings. . . . It would be in good taste on East 57th Street, but
not in a small New England town. . . . A smart suit and hat and a fur
piece. As she listens to TOM singing, she plays with the martini glass
in her hand.

 

 

 

 

TOM
(Singing)

 

 

The joys of love
Are but a moment long . . .
The pains of love
Endure forever . . .

 

 

(When he has finished, he strums on over the same
melody very casually, and hums to it intermittently.)

 

 

 

 

LILLY
(While TOM is singing)

 

 

Tom Lee?

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

Yes.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

Doesn't he have an afternoon class?

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

No. He's the only one in the house that doesn't.

 

 

 

 

LILLY
(When TOM has finished the song)

 

 

Do you know what he's thinking of?

 

 

 

 

LAURA
(Bites off a thread and looks up)

 

 

What do you mean?

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

What all the boys in this school are thinking about. Not
only now in the spring, but all the time . . . Sex!

 

 

(She wags her head a little wisely, and smiles.)

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

Lilly, you just like to shock people.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

Four hundred boys from the ages of thirteen to nineteen.
That's the age, Laura.
(Restless, getting up)
Doesn't it give
you the willies sometimes, having all these boys around?

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

Of course not. I never think of it that way.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

Harry tells me they put saltpeter in their food to quiet them down.
But the way they look at you, I can't believe it.

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

At me?

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

At any woman worth looking at. When I first came here ten years ago,
I didn't think I could stand it. Now I love it. I love watching them
look and suffer.

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

Lilly.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

This is your first spring here, Laura. You wait.

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

They're just boys.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

The authorities say the ages from thirteen to nineteen . . .

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

Lilly, honestly!

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

You sound as though you were in the grave. How old are you?

 

 

 

 

LAURA
(Smiling)

 

 

Over twenty-one.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

They come here ignorant as all get out about women, and then spend
the next four years exchanging misinformation. They're so cute, and so
damned intense.

 

 

(She shudders again.)

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

Most of them seem very casual to me.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

That's just an air they put on. This is the age Romeo should be played.
You'd believe him! So intense! These kids would die for love, or almost
anything else. Harry says all their themes end in death.

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

That's boys.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

Failure; death! Dishonor; death! Lose their girls; death! It's gruesome.

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

But rather touching too, don't you think?

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

You won't tell your husband the way I was talking?

 

 

 

 

LAURA

 

 

Of course not.

 

 

 

 

LILLY

 

 

Though I don't know why I should care. All the boys talk about me. They
have me in and out of bed with every single master in the school --
and some married ones, too.
BOOK: Tea and Sympathy
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