We rehearse Act Two of my play Flesh, Flash and Frank Harris this afternoon, for a free staged reading at the Lawrence Public Library at 7 PM on Thursday, December 3rd.
After having been the toast of London society in the 1890s, Frank Harris at age 76 is penniless and finds himself living austerely in Nice, France, where he reminisces about his life and loves with two happier representations of his younger self. His reveries are interrupted at one point when he is visited by George Bernard Shaw. In the scene that follows, the two old writers argue heatedly about the way women are depicted in their respective works.
SHAW: You give your women no minds or souls, not even arms legs, just breasts and vaginas and assorted orifices!
OLD FRANK: What about your women? They all lack divinity and grace, mystery and charm, allure. Their bodies are as dry and hard as their minds, and even where they run after their men, the pursuit has about as much sex appeal as a timetable!
MIDDLE FRANK: Where are the Noras and the Heddas in your plays?
OLD FRANK: Yours are the sexless dolls which Ibsen threw out of the doll’s house!
SHAW: Why not also blame me for the current femininity in men and virility in women?
OLD FRANK: Any attempt to destroy the womanly woman can only succeed in equally destroying the manly man.
SHAW: Frank, why must the human race consist entirely of Frank Harrises and women of the sort you idealize? Don’t you realize that there is only one Frank Harris in the world, and that the sort of woman you idealize never completely existed except in your imagination?
OLD FRANK: I tried, in my autobiography, to show women as creatures with sexual passions, just like men!
SHAW: The fleshly school of art, my dear Frank, is the consolation of the impotent.
OLD FRANK: Oh? Then why are masturbating schoolboys its greatest patrons?
SHAW: I know nothing of masturbating schoolboys. They do not soil my books the way they do yours.
YOUNG FRANK: What a pity.
OLD FRANK: The whole world would be far happier today had less blood and more semen been spilled between 1914 and 1918!
SHAW (laughing): Why are we bickering? I come to praise Harris, not to bury him.
At the staged reading at 7 PM on Thursday December 3rd at the Lawrence Public Library, Young Frank Harris is played by Benjamin Good, Middle Frank is Will Averill, Old Frank is Dean Bevan, and George Bernard Shaw is John Younger. Other actors include Jeremy Auman, Jeanne Averill, James Carothers, Amy Devitt, Margaret Kramar, Stephen Moles, Karl Ramberg, and Kitty Steffens.