Friday, June 23, 2006

Aaron Sorkin, Eat Your Heart Out

I had an idea for a play in 2 acts, but I got stuck after writing two lines of dialogue. It’s kind of a mess, but anyway:

Setting: Brighton, Colorado

Owned & Operated by the United States Military Command

Background: In 2017, the Secretary of Defense initiated a secret project code named “Project Eureka.” A very small town was built at fantastic expense in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. It was populated with actors, arranged into “Families”. Each “family” was given one baby. And each baby was a genetic clone of a 20th century genius. The children were all home- schooled and analyzed at all times by psychiatrists. These mental health guardians watched 24/7 feeds of all the children, both to ensure all the clones remained happy and well adjusted, and to custom tailor a broad, deep education for each child, with a mild focus on their previous fields of genius. However each child was allowed to learn anything they chose; an interesting character trait of Al’s is that he is very good at math, this time around. Today is the first day of high school, and all 30 clones are arriving at Brighton Public High School. There are roughly 100 other students (actors) playing the sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and other actors play the roles of teachers and assistance staff. This is the first time any clone has met another clone. They’ve had friends and school, but until now there has been nothing real or genuine in their lives.

The Pentagon’s motivations, as well as their ultimate ambitions, are intentionally left vague so that the actors may apply their own creations.

General outline – the government underestimates the clones, believing that 14 years of conditioning should force them to believe their lives. They have a specially trained agent, Ms. Macintosh, acting as the home room teacher. The truth is that by now, almost every clone has noticed their parents saying things oddly or falsely, recognized that something very strange was going on, and decided to play along until they understand what’s happening. A few of them have even realized that nothing in their life is real. This is what makes Mary (a clone of Marie Curie) so antagonistic towards all of her classmates throughout the play. She believes them to be “just a better lie”, designed to placate her – even as the other clones begin to decipher their surroundings, she refuses to be sucked in. Tom, who is a clone of Thomas Edison, hasn’t figured anything out yet. And Albert (Einstein’s clone) figured everything out at age 3 and decided to love his family and live his life anyway. Albert’s parents have grown distant lately; he is pondering this as he meets Tom.

The first scene is just Tom and Al, in the classroom, meeting early in the morning and getting to know each other.

Scene 2 is two months later. Al, Tom, and Marie are taking atomic chemistry together with Ms. Macintosh. Al and Tom discuss how the freshman class is different from all the other people in their lives – Al gently guides Tom towards the truth. Marie makes sarcastic commentary under her breath – “just “figuring” that out now, eh? You two should have your pay grade cut down to E-1.”

Act 2 has 3 scenes –

1 – Ms. Macintosh reports to her superiors that she suspects the clones are wise.

2 – Marie realizes the truth about Albert and Tom, and has a breakdown.

3 – I Do Not Have An Ending

(half an hour before class begins.)

As the scene opens, Tom is clearly snoozing on his desk. Another boy, Albert enters after 10 seconds. The door awakens Tom, who glances up at Albert.

Albert : "Hi, I'm Al."

This is how I imagined this stage direction:

Tom stares blankly, and Al, confused, sits down in the next row.

Then I thought, "What if I let the actors decide what happens here?" and wrote this:

Albert sits down.

Then I wondered if I was being a pussy about writing that much detail into stage notes (as if I were a director) and got confused. I’m also not sure if I should start this without an ending in mind. I’ve tried to design the characters first and the scenes second, but I don’t know these people well enough yet to know how this is going to end. I am toying with the idea of changing scene II-1 so that the ending can be Ms. Macintosh loving them in spite of herself and revealing all. If I don't reveal it to the audience that might do. But I don't want to add a 5th character. I want 2 guys and 2 girls. What do you think?

P.S. Obviously this was inspired by clone high. Is it too much of a ripoff? Or can I definitely claim this is original work? The idea for the play is mainly a character-driven black comedy. I feel like clone high is more of a satire.

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