In this online exclusive from the November/December 2019 issue of Writer's Digest, read the full script of the 88th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition grand prize winner: Lies by Jerry Slaff.
Our November/December 2019 issue of Writer's Digest announces the winners of the 88th Annual Writing Competition. We are pleased to present the Grand Prize winner, the script Lies by Jerry Slaff. You can read the first few pages below and you can download the full play (because you'll want to see how it ends!) at the end. Please congratulate Jerry on his well-deserved win!
LORELEI BEATRICE BECKMANN, also known as Beebee, a striking woman in her 40s, a federal prisoner up for parole. Born in Cleveland, she spent World War II as a civilian in Berlin. She does not have a heavy German accent, but an odd combination of Midwestern American and Germany.
BENNY KLEINFELD, 25, a young inexperienced Jewish lawyer fresh out of Brooklyn Law School. A hot shot at the beginning of the play.
An interrogation room in a minimum security federal prison in New Jersey.
The summer of 1950, five years after the end of World War II.
A young inexperienced Jewish lawyer for the New York public defender's office is asked to represent a female German-American WWII radio propagandist, imprisoned for treason, for her parole hearing. Except she doesn't want to leave prison. It's the closest I could get to putting the White House on trial without putting them actually on stage.
This play is performed without an intermission.
The author is represented by the Susan F. Schulman Literary Agency, New York, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
(A sterile interview room in a minimum security federal prison in New Jersey. Gray cinder block walls perhaps with drab olive green paint toward the bottom.
(It's the summer of 1950, brutally hot outside and equally warm inside.
(LORELEI is sitting at a plain metal table, her hands in plain sight, in a women's prison uniform of the time. The table is bare--nothing is on it except a paper cup of coffee she sips delicately from. SHE is a striking woman in her early 40s.
(To one side of the spare room is a smaller table with a coffee maker, some paper cups, plastic stirrers, and creams and sugars, with an industrial type metal trash can nearby.
(Above the coffee setup, on a wall clearly visible to the audience, is a small, picture-sized mirror on a hook.
(Everything in the room--the tables, the chairs, the trash can, etc.--has seen better days.
(SHE waits and sips from her coffee, and we hold for a relatively long 20 seconds. SHE fidgets, looks around, but otherwise doesn't move. SHE is somewhat agitated, wanting to get this over with, but also bored. SHE's been through this before, and thinks she knows the outcome.
(BENNY finally appears. HE's late, harried and apologetic, the opposite to her stillness. HE creates quite a commotion when he enters. HE's wearing a cheap and ill-fitting suit, and carries a briefcase. HE wipes the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief that's seen a fair bit of use.)
Apologies for my lateness. The Holland Tunnel was murder. You wouldn't expect all that traffic on a summer afternoon in the middle of the week. I guess everyone wants to come to New Jersey.
(Pause. SHE doesn't respond. Perhaps SHE sips from her coffee. HE looks her way and flashes a quick, insincere smile.)
Or maybe not.
Usually my clients come to me, you know. Or I see them in the Kings County lockup. Atlantic and Court Street. Two blocks from my office. Easy walk for me. I like walking. Sometimes I sneak out of the office and walk to Ebbets Field to see the Dodgers. It's a long walk. Maybe an hour. But it goes quickly when it's not too hot or humid. Don't get out much to Jersey. Why would I?
Now, let's see... Where's your file...?
(HE rifles through the files in his briefcase.)
Claude Hendricks, breaking and entering, strong arm robbery. Nope. Sally Morrison, loitering with intent to solicit?
(HE looks up at her.)
(HE finds another file.)
Bertha Steinmetz. Sliced off her lover's privates with a kitchen knife. I've got a good defense ready for her, but it might require her to perjure herself. Only slightly though. I'm not crazy about that strategy, mind you. I'm not in love with it. It's not my absolute favorite. But it's not like, I don't know, someone from, say, the government not telling the truth. Even though, technically, I'm part of the government. Or the president out-and-out lying. Or saying something not one hundred percent true. Truman's a straight shooter. In the pursuit of justice, truth must never take a back seat. I mean, if you can't trust the president to always tell the truth, who can you trust?
So that makes you...ah, yes.
(HE finds her file, which is surprisingly thin. HE waves it around, astonished it's so small.)
Beckmann. The notorious Beatrice Lorelei Beckmann, to be precise. You're all everyone's talking about in my office, you know. It says here you go by your middle name. Also known as Beebee. That's a nice name. Beebee. I had a girlfriend named Beebee in high school. Beebee Weintraub. Erasmus Hall. I wonder what's happened to her. Married with a kid or two, I'd think. House on Long Island. South Shore. Maybe a dog. Nice life. You probably don't know her, do you?
(HE looks up at her, but SHE gives no reaction.)
Didn't think you would.
This doesn't list your last address. Before you were...here. Can I , er, get that for my notes.
(BENNY takes out a legal pad and gets a large and relatively expensive pen from his pocket.)
Nice, isn't it? A gift from my uncle Nathan. He came to this country from Poland. He made hats. Good business, hats. Never go out of style. If there's one thing a man always needs, it's a good hat. I didn't wear one because it's windy outside today. But I usually do. Wear one. Hats.
So, umm, your last address?
(Pause, as SHE considers his question.)
Just perfunctory. I'm not going to come around and bother you when you get out.
I'm not getting out.
Don't be a pessimist. I'm good at what I do, they tell me. Last address? For my notes.
(Quietly and reluctantly, with a sigh.)
Thirty-seven Pottsdammer Strasse.
(BENNY dutifully writes this down, as if taking dictation, not truly hearing or thinking about it, looking only at his legal pad intently.)
(repeats as HE writes)
"Thirty-seven Pottsdammer Strasse."
(Pause. HE looks up, surprised.)
Thirty-seven Pottsdammer Strasse?
"Berlin." Berlin where?
Where do you think?
Oh. That Berlin?
Yes, That Berlin.
Oh. I see. Berlin Berlin. Well. And, let's see what were you doing in Berlin?
(HE looks through her file, but there isn't much to look through.)
Oh. Were you...
Was I what?