Evening

MRS.M.: They don’t know about us, do they?

BROTHER JOHN: Katie…

MRS.M.: “Why Brother John, who was that lady I saw you with?”

BROTHER JOHN: It’s been forty years.

MRS.M.: “That was no lady, father…”

BROTHER JOHN: You mean we’re still legal?

MRS.M.: I don’t see why not.

BROTHER JOHN: What about that fellow over in England. I read in the papers…

MRS.M.: So I was a bigamist for twenty minutes. It meant a lot to him, Johnny. I wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t dying.

BROTHER JOHN: You want an annulment, is that why you came? It’ll take a lot of paper work…

MRS.M.: That’s not what I want.

BROTHER JOHN: Then what?

MRS.M.: I want you.

(Silence.)

BROTHER JOHN: You’re a little late, aren’t you?

MRS.M.: You’re a priest?

BROTHER JOHN: Doesn’t matter. I’ve taken vows.

MRS.M.: (teasing) Without telling your wife?

BROTHER JOHN: Katie, it’s over with us. There never was much to begin with except a little roll under the tree…

MRS.M.: We can always take up where we left off.

BROTHER JOHN: Can’t you see?! Things have changed! Open your eyes, for Chrissake!

MRS.M.: Do you know what I’ve been doing these last forty years? Lots of little rolls under the tree. Prime Minister Marshall, Saddam Hussein, three-quarters of the Gang of Four. I even spent a weekend with Leonid Brezhnev, for god’s sake. I think he was already dead.

BROTHER JOHN: Katie…

MRS.M.: You know why? Two reasons. One – none of them ever listened to their wives, and their advisors were as crazy as they were. I figure I’ve saved about two million lives by sleeping with those bastards and talking them out of doing some of the stupid things they were dreaming about doing. Hell, you think that assassin was aiming at Sadat? He was aiming at me, I just ducked behind that poor son-of-a-bitch and he happened to be in the line of fire!

BROTHER JOHN: What’s your second reason?

MRS.M.: I did it for love, Johnny. Holding a man in my arms was the closest I could ever come to you.

THE STORY:

An elderly woman, world-famous and –infamous, returns to her alma mater to give a commencement address. But she has an ulterior motive – she wishes to visit her husband, the true love of her life whom she hasn’t seen for decades, and who now resides in a cloistered monastery.

THE BACKSTORY: When I was working and living in Louisville (a second home for me for many years) I met Patricia Neal, the Oscar-winning actress from rural Kentucky. She had by then recovered miraculously from her series of strokes, and was looking for a play to perform. I wrote Evening with her in mind – a play that did not demand a great deal of memorization, and whose climactic moments take place in a speech delivered by the main character, a speech that can be read. I had also met the musician/ musicologist John Jacob Niles, and became very close friends with his niece, Nancy Niles Sexton. (She directed me in the production of Courage that I performed.) Niles had had a passionate affair with photographer Doris Ullman when he was a young man. He had in later years become a good friend of Thomas Merton. So I combined all these tales into one adventure – the story of a young girl and boy of the Kentucky hollers who fall in love and marry – but then who go their separate ways, he to a monastery, she to international scandal and fame. She returns to her home as an older woman, to be honored by her Alma Mater (the school that rejected her cruelly when she was a student) and she uses this trip as an excuse to hook up with her husband once again.

Ms. Neal never performed the play, and I never finished it. For some reason I can no longer remember, I agreed to a production at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, one which I never attended. Later there was a pirated production in Albany, New York. But the play is merely a first draft, one that some day, perhaps (with a little encouragement) I will finish. I include it here because of those two productions, and because I think there are parts of it that I rather like.