ALUMNI CALL

CHARACTERS

Markman, middle-aged

Brian, a college student

SETTING

On one side, Brian sits at a small desk with a computer. He wears the headpiece for a business telephone. On the other side, Markman takes a seat by his phone.

MARKMAN

(answering)

Hello.

BRIAN

Hello. Mr. Markman?

MARKMAN

(immediately suspicious)

Yes . . . I don’t answer the phone at dinnertime, but my machine is broken. What are you selling?

BRIAN

Nothing, sir.

            (Reading from a script)

“This is Brian. I’m a student at Hudson University.”

MARKMAN

Hudson, huh? Usually they only call—

BRIAN

(overlapping)

“How are you today?”

MARKMAN

(overlapping)

They only call—

BRIAN

“I’d like to offer you the opportunity—“

MARKMAN                                                               BRIAN

—when they want money.            —“ to join your class in contributing

to the Alumni Fund.”

MARKMAN

That’s what I figured.

BRIAN

“A large percentage of the members of your class have already—”

MARKMAN

Let me save your time.—Do you work on commission?

BRIAN

Sir?

MARKMAN

Or do they pay you by the hour?

BRIAN

“I would like to offer you the opportunity—”

MARKMAN

By the hour?

BRIAN

Yes.

MARKMAN

Even so, you’ll do better calling someone else.

BRIAN

“A large percentage of the members of your class—”

MARKMAN

You know something about the members of my class? With the exception of yours truly, they generally have excellent jobs and make real money.

BRIAN

“Even a small gift will add to the percentage your class can report for its participation in this year’s Alumni Fund.”

MARKMAN

How small is a “small gift”?

BRIAN

“Gifts typically range from $100 to $500 up to $10,000. Larger gifts—”

MARKMAN

It’s nice they spell it out for us. Are you reading from a script?

BRIAN

Sir?

            (Pause. He has to be honest.)

Yes.

MARKMAN

And they give you training for this?

BRIAN

Six hours.

MARKMAN

For which you weren’t paid?

BRIAN

No.

MARKMAN

What’s your major at Hudson?

BRIAN

Business Administration with a minor in Communications.

MARKMAN

Well, you communicate very nicely, Brian.

BRIAN

Thank you, sir. Now, “If you would consider a gift for the Alumni Fund, you can join the other members—”

MARKMAN

But they’re all doctors and lawyers and Wall Street brokers—and communications

professionals! I suppose that means TV news and public relations?

BRIAN

There’s also corporate communications.

MARKMAN

Of course there is. Brian, let me tell you a story about ancient times.—You’re all right with this? Sure, you’re paid by the hour . . . Ancient times. That’s when I sat in class for four years hearing about the noble life of the mind. I read all the texts about doing good for humanity. We were supposed to love pure learning and then go out to wage peace and reverence for life.

Plato would tell us how to think about society, not J. P. Morgan. Aristotle would show us how to organize our lives, not Donald Trump. We’d learn how to appreciate the human soul from Shakespeare, not how to manipulate it from Madison Avenue! Walt Whitman and Henry Adams would tell us what we needed to know about America—not William Buckley. We’d learn about the dark side of the human spirit from Dostoevsky—not Karl Rove!

BRIAN

I thought Karl Rove was later than that.

MARKMAN

I was putting it in terms you’d understand.—We looked down our proud noses at the grubbing pre-meds and business majors.—Sorry.— I actually listened to the professors, who in those days earned only enough for a new tweed suit every 10 years, when they talked about the need to study, research, and ameliorate. Do you know what I’m saying?

BRIAN

“Ameliorate” means like making things better?

MARKMAN

My jobs were the following: I worked as a youth counselor in a housing project, until the program was cut. Then I organized for a union, until the manufacturers moved the jobs out of the country. Then I was a consultant in the field of social action, which means

I wasn’t able to find a job for 5 years. My wife left me, my girlfriends gave me ultimata and then left. They said I was neurotically incapable of a mature relationship to employment. My annual income has been so low, the IRS wanted to give me an award for the Most-Audited. “Come on, Markman,” they say, “do you expect us to believe you could earn so little?”

Brian, why don’t you ask my classmates who paid no attention to the philosophy professors and bleeding-heart graduate assistants and now earn big bucks—or did so until recently, and for all I know still do?

BRIAN

Sure, we’re asking them. “And we’d like to give you the opportunity to join—”

MARKMAN

And it wasn’t just war and civil rights that stirred us up. We held a sit-in in the dean’s office—we thought the name of the university should be changed, since Henry Hudson’s voyages led to exploitation of the native population.

BRIAN

Hey, I didn’t know that.

MARKMAN

(slapping himself on the forehead)

What do they teach you besides spreadsheets and iPods?!

BRIAN

(laughing—what a crazy idea)

We don’t study iPods!

MARKMAN

A fancy meal for me is at a diner where if you order black coffee and don’t finish it, they pour it back into the urn. I’ve stayed in hotel rooms so small, the mice were hunchbacked.

BRIAN

Oh, that’s a Henny Youngman joke.

MARKMAN

How do you know who Henny Youngman was?

BRIAN

I took 20th Century Popular Culture.

MARKMAN

Well, they’re teaching something . . . I suppose they gave you a checklist for the responses you get?

BRIAN

Yes.

MARKMAN

What have you checked for me?

BRIAN

So far, “Nostalgic about years at Hudson.”

MARKMAN

What about the result of the call?

BRIAN

We’re still talking.

MARKMAN

And you can’t tell what the outcome will be?

BRIAN

We were trained to be positive. “Perhaps you’d be interested in designating your contribution for the Alumni Scholarship Fund, to help worthy students benefit from a Hudson education.”

MARKMAN

Can it be designated for a minority?

BRIAN

I’ll have to check, but that may be discrimination.

MARKMAN

Against whom???—All right, check about it. Put me down for $20.

BRIAN

Thank you, sir. “Your fellow classmates will appreciate your participation.” “Would you like as a premium a Hudson sports calendar, an Alumni window decal, or a CD of the Hudson Glee Club’s Greatest Hits?”—In fact, I could send you all three if you like.

MARKMAN

No thanks. No premium.

BRIAN

Thanks to you, sir. Have a good evening.

MARKMAN

You’re welcome, Brian.

            (Pause.)

Have a good life.

(Dimout.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: