A Living Newspaper by Arthur Arent
ACT ONE SCENE ONE
VOICE OF LIVING NEWSPAPER STAGE MANAGER
At theatre switchboard
GIRLS, working at power machines
OLD MAN AT RADIO
OLD WOMAN Listening to radio
POLICE RADIO OPERATOR at a microphone
THREE NURSES Around an operating table
FIRST POLICEMAN SECOND POLICEMAN OLD MAN THEATRE MANAGER IRISH MOTHER BAKERY PROPRIETOR AIRPORT RADIO OPERATOR RESTAURANT PROPRIETOR TRAFFIC ACCIDENT VICTIM DRIVER OF CAR
VARIOUS MEN AND WOMEN
Following the overture, projection appears on the front curtain-"The Living Newspaper presents POWER." The word "Power" grows larger, the other words fade out.
The curtain rises quickly. The lights come up on two
ELECTRICIANS and a STAGE MANAGER at a portable switchboard. The ELECTRICIANS have hands on switches and their eyes on the STAGE MANAGER.
LOUDSPEAKER: This is the switchboard of the Ritz Theatre. Through this board flows the electric power that amplifies my voice, the power that ventilates the theatre, and the power that lights this show.
STAGE MANAGER (picking up a fat cable): It all comes through here.
LOUDSPEAKER: Give us a demonstration of Power!
STAGE MANAGER: Sure, Charlie, take your X-Rays down to the mark and come up slowly on number three spot. (The ELECTRICIANS throw their switches, lights dim down on them, and come up on GIRLS working over electric sewing machines in a clothing factory.)
LOUDSPEAKER: There are 4,000 clothing factories in the metropolitan area employing 115,000 persons.*
(The machines hum with increasing volume and the GIRLS work with increasing speed. The hum turns to waltz music from LOUDSPEAKER as the lights dim down and come up on an OLD MAN and an OLD WOMAN sitting at a radio. Over the radio is heard "The Blue Danube Waltz.")
LOUDSPEAKER: . . . Power! World communication! The
world in your own home. . . . What would you do without your radio, Pop?
OLD MAN (he hasn't heard): Uh?
LOUDSPEAKER: Never mind. . . . Don't bother!
(The lights dim down on the OLD MAN and WOMAN.
Music over radio stops, as lights pick up POLICE RADIO
*Labor Research Association, 1935 Census of Clothing Manufacturers.
POLICE RADIO OPERATOR: Calling cars forty-two and eight.
Calling cars forty-two and eight. Proceed at once to 331 Belmont Avenue, 331 Belmont Avenue. . . . Holdup! (Continues ad libbing on "calling cars," etc., until his voice is drowned out by off-stage sound of sirens, and lights dim out.)
LOUDSPEAKER: Call police headquarters and one of these radio patrol cars will be at your home in three minutes.* (Lights come up on hospital group, nurses and doctors standing over form on operating table. One NURSE is sterilizing instruments.)
LOUDSPEAKER: Oh, Doctor, I believe those electrically sterilized instruments are ready. (They continue to get ready for the operation.)
LOUDSPEAKER: Electric power has revolutionized modern surgery. The number of lives saved in recent years through the invention and development of electrical equipment is incalculable.
(Huge overhead drop-light lights up over the operation scene, as other lights in that area dim out. Suddenly a shrill police whistle is heard, the overhead light goes out on the hospital scene, and a red traffic light comes on. Again the shrill whistle is heard, and the light changes to green.)
LOUDSPEAKER: Eighty-six hundred of these sentinels in New York City keep us from crashing our autos together, night and day The traffic light flashes red and green rapidly, each change accompanied by a blast of the whistle) ... you flick lights on in your home with Power.... You heat your iron with Power. You clean with Power. . . . (Lights come up on the various groups
previously lit-the POLICE RADIO OPERATOR, hospital, factory and OLD COUPLE listening to the radio. LOUD
*New York City Police Radio Department.
t Chief Engineer's Office, New York Police Department.
(SPEAKER continues) ... You curl your hair, you cook, you even shave, all with Power! (A loud detonation is heard off stage.)
LOUDSPEAKER (excitedly-in the dark): Flash: December 28th,
1936: Newark, New Jersey, and its suburbs were thrown into total darkness tonight when fire in a power plant cut off all electric current. Nearly a million people were affected. *
DOCTOR'S VOICE (comes out o f the darkness): Flashlights, quick.
(NURSE comes running with two flashes. One is passed to another NURSE, and they both flash lights over the DOCTOR'S shoulder as he goes on with the operation. His assistant lights up with a third flash. They hold for a second, and all three flashlights go out. All characters in remainder of this scene light their own faces for the duration of their speeches, either with telephones having small flashlights in the mouthpieces, or with pocket flashes.)
ELECTRICIAN (into telephone flashlight): Operator, operator,
get me Public Service. The power's off.
FIRST POLICEMAN (at transmitter): Calling all cars . .
calling all cars . . . calling all cars.
SECOND POLICEMAN (running on): Callahan, the lights are
out. The entire city's dark.
FIRST POLICEMAN (into telephone flashlight): Hello, Brady!
Notify all radio cars you can find to proceed to Public Service on the Kearny Meadows. All radio patrols phone in every two minutes. All leaves rescinded. I want every man on the job. (Sound of police siren is heard over
* New York World-Telegram, December 28, 1936.
OLD MAN (into telephone flashlight): Operator, operator, operator. . .
BAKERY PROPRIETOR (greatly agitated): Operator, operator,
my electric conveyor is stopped with four thousand dollars' worth of rolls in the oven! They're burning up! Four thousand dollars' worth!
IRISH MOTHER (Irish accent): Operator, operator, the heater's off. My baby's got the flu.
THEATRE MANAGER (Jewish dialect): Operator, operator! By
me the theatre is dark. Somebody blowed the fuse-the fuse. Two thousand people want the money back.(Groans.)
AIRPORT RADIO OPERATOR: This is the traffic control tower.
Light your ground flares and smoke bombs. Call Floyd Bennett Field. Tell them to keep on their floodlights for emergency landings. There's a plane waiting to land and two more due in five minutes.
RESTAURANT PROPRIETOR (Italian dialect, face lit by the fire
of a match which he holds): I wanta de lights-I wanta de lights.. . . Get the superintendent, I gotta no lights.... (A police whistle is heard, then grinding o f brakes followed by a crash. A woman screams. Slight pause, then:)
VOICE-DRIVER OF CAR: My God, I didn't see her, I tell you,
it was dark. . . . I didn't see her.
(The following characters speak from different levels on the stage. Their faces are lit up by flashes which they put out immediately after speaking. This gives a zigzag lighting effect. Front traveler curtain starts to close.)
MAN: Operator, operator, light... .
WOMAN: Operator, operator, light... .
MAN: Lights, lights. . . .
*Newark Ledger, December 29, 1936.
t Newark Ledger, December 29, 1936.
Based on A.P. dispatch, N. Y. World-Telegram, December 29, 1936.
WOMAN: Lights, lights....
MAN: Operator, operator... . MAN: Operator, operator.... WOMAN: Lights.... WOMAN: Lights... . MAN: Operator. . . . MAN: Lights... . MAN: Lights... . WOMAN: Lights... . WOMAN: Lights. . . .
MAN (German dialect): Operator, operator, lights... . MAN: Lights, lights... .
WOMAN: Lights, lights... . MAN: Operator, operator. . . . MAN: Operator. . . . WOMAN: Lights... . WOMAN: Lights... . MAN: Operator. . . . MAN: Lights... . MAN: Lights... . WOMAN: Lights... . WOMAN: Lights... . MAN: Lights... . MAN: Lights... . WOMAN: Lights... . MAN: Lights... . WOMAN: Lights. .. .
ALL (ad libbing): Lights, lights, lights... .
Front traveler curtain closes
WILLIAM GILBERT (in 1600) MICHAEL FARADAY (in 1821) GEORG SIMON OHM (in 1826) ZENOBE T. GRAMME (in 1873) THOMAS A. EDISON (in 1879) FIRST BUSINESS MAN SECOND BUSINESS MAN THIRD BUSINESS MAN FOURTH BUSINESS MAN FIFTH BUSINESS MAN SIXTH BUSINESS MAN LOUDSPEAKER
LOUDSPEAKER: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Power! (Music interlude) All right, Jack; take it!
(Front spot picks up ANNOUNCER, left, in front of curtain.)
ANNOUNCER: Well, now that you've got some idea of what power is, and how much we depend on it, let's go into the question of who started it. Did it just happen all at once, or is it the result of somebody starting something, discovering something, inventing something, to which somebody else added something, and somebody else perfected it a little more, and so on down the line until we came to power as it is known today? (Spot on ANNOUNCER goes out. Curtain opens. The stage is set with three cut-out desks, one upstage right, one downstage center, and the other upstage left.)
LOUDSPEAKER: 16oo. William Gilbert publishes the first work on electric and magnetic phenomena, and the philosophy of experimentation.* (Lights come up on desk, right. GILBERT enters with a book in his hand, crosses to desk where FARADAY stands. On desk is a dynamo. Behind them is projected a representation of an early electrical experiment.)
GILBERT: Nothing is true, nothing lives, until it has been proved. We must make sure before we give it to humanity. (Hands book to FARADAY, who places it on dynamo. The projection dissolves into that of a dynamo.)
LOUDSPEAKER: 1821. Michael Faraday invents the first instrument to generate electricity-the dynamo.t (Light comes up desk, center, and goes out desk, right. FARADAY picks up dynamo and book and crosses to desk, center, where OHM stands.)
FARADAY: If it will help humanity, it is good.
(The projection dissolves into that of another early electrical experiment.)
LOUDSPEAKER: 1826. Georg Simon Ohm determines the law governing the flow of current.+
(OHM takes dynamo from FARADAY.)
OHM: Now we can control this force to the great gain of the world.
(Lights go up desk, left, and out desk, center.)
LOUDSPEAKER: 1873. Zenobe T. Gramme attaches the dynamo to a motor and it works.§ (OHM crosses to desk left where GRAMME stands. The projection dissolves into a picture of an early type of motor.)
GRAMME: Now we can make it the slave of humanity.
* Hart, Ivor B., Makers of Science. tBuilding America, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 8. $ Hart, Ivor B., Makers of Science, p. 240.
§ Building America, Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 9.
(EDISON enters, left, holding an electric bulb [oldfashioned type] in his hand.)
LOUDSPEAKER: 1879. Thomas A. Edison invents the first electric light.*
(EDISON attaches bulb to socket. Crosses down left. Rear curtains close and the projection fades out. Lights come up, down left, as they dim out, up left.)
EDISON: The happiness of man! I know of no greater service to render during the short time we live! t
(Enter SIX BUSINESS MEN excitedly, left and right. They surround EDISON. Their speeches are excited, almost incoherent, but out of the jumble and ad libbing are heard:)
FIRST MAN: How much does it cost to run?
SECOND MAN: Let me put you into business!
THIRD MAN: Sell me the rights for New York!
FOURTH MAN: Sell me the rights for New Jersey!
FIRST MAN: Sell me the rights for Brooklyn!
FIFTH MAN: Sell me the rights for Harlem!
SIXTH MAN: Sell me the rights for Delaware! (Out of the welter of ad libbing are heard the words "money!" "profits," "investment," "corporations," "thousands, millions, billions!" as they try to wrest the bulb from his hands. EDISON stands dazed.)
LOUDSPEAKER: Just a moment, gentlemen! Aren't you being a bit foolish? This invention is just a drop in the bucket. How much can you make on a little bulb? But the power to make it work! That's different. (The six who have frozen suddenly come to life. They rush upstage to the desks. Lights come up on all three desks. Each places a small sign on his desk, reading from left to right, "United States Electric Company," "American Electric Company," "National Lighting Corporation," "The International Electric & Fuel Corporation," and last, the "Hoboken Electric Company." Each picks up a telephone from under the desk. During the above:)
* Edison at Menlo Park, published by General Electric Co. t Miller, F. T., Thomas Edison, 1931.
LOUDSPEAKER: The New York Stock Exchange is in a panic. Gas stocks drop and keep on dropping. Shares in the Edison Electric Company skyrocket from one to five hundred dollars! *
(Rear curtains open and a panic stock exchange scene is projected.)
FIRST MAN (into telephone): Get me the mayor's office, quick. (Punctuating this, the other men speak into telephones: "the mayor's office, get me the mayor," etc., etc.)
LOUDSPEAKER: A record is reached when three shares are sold for six thousand dollars, resold in a few minutes for ten thousand dollars, and resold again the same day, for fifteen thousand dollars.
FIRST MAN (into telephone): Hello, Mr. Mayor? I can supply electricity to light your streets at the rate of seventy cents per light per night! t
SECOND MAN (into telephone): I can light every lamp in
New York for fifty-eight cents a night.*
THIRD MAN: Fifty cents a night.
FOURTH MAN (into telephone): Forty-two and one-half cents
per night! §
FIFTH MAN: Thirty cents a night! ~~
SIXTH MAN: Twenty cents! Twenty cents, I said! ¶ TOGETHER: Seventy cents! Fifty-eight cents! Forty-two and
one-half cents! Thirty, thirty, twenty, d'you hear!
(Enter FINANCIER, who comes up center.)
FINANCIER: Come, come, gentlemen, why all this bickering?
Competition in this business is ruinous-to you and to the consumer. By sharing the same territory you're duplicating costs and cutting consumption. In your industry, the more electricity sold, the less the cost-to you and to the consumer- Now why don't you let me consolidate your holdings? Let me consolidate them into one big corporation, The Universal Electric Lighting and Fuel Corporation of Hoboken, New Jersey! * (All business men surround him downstage, center, and hold positions until:
* Edison at Menlo Park, published by General Electric Co. I-New York Times, May 16, 1887.
FIRST GROCERY CLERK SECOND GROCERY CLERK FIRST BUTCHER SECOND BUTCHER
MANAGER OF AN ELECTRIC COMPANY
LOUDSPEAKER: Nineteen hundred: Dividends rise, stockholders are happy and electric consumption increases. But where is the man who uses it? Where is this consumer? Let's have a look at him!
(Arc is played all over stage, searching for CONSUMER. It finally picks him out, upstage, right.)
LOUDSPEAKER: Ah, there he is!
* Note: All names of lighting companies in the foregoing scene,
except that of the Edison Electric Company, are fictional and so intended.
(The CONSUMER is a meek-looking little man dressed in the period. He sits on a chair. The arc should grow larger until it takes in a good part of the stage, and there, tucked away in one little corner, is the CONSUMER. When he is finally discovered he gets up and comes downstage, center, and there is projected "C is for Consumer." Front spotlight follows him all through scene.)
LOUDSPEAKER: What do you pay for electricity, Mister?
CONSUMER: Too much. Seventeen cents a kilowatt hour.*
LOUDSPEAKER: What's a kilowatt hour?
CONSUMER: I don't know. That's what it says on the bill. (Reads it) Thirty-nine kilowatt hours at seventeen cents per hour, total six sixty-three.
LOUDSPEAKER: You're paying for it, but you don't know what a kilowatt hour is. How many ounces in a pound?
LOUDSPEAKER: How many quarts in a gallon? CONSUMER: Four.
LOUDSPEAKER: How many inches in a yard? CONSUMER: Thirty-six.
LOUDSPEAKER: But you don't know what a kilowatt hour is! CONSUMER: No, I don't, what is it?
LOUDSPEAKER: Well-a kilowatt hour is-a kilowatt is a-eh
CONSUMER: Go on. I'm listening.
LOUDSPEAKER (desperately): Isn't there anyone who knows
what a kilowatt hour is?
(Second front spotlight picks up ELECTRICIAN, up left, and follows him.)
ELECTRICIAN: I do.
CONSUMER: He's the electrician.
ELECTRICIAN: Yeah, I was up there in the prologue, pullin'
them switches. Remember? (Comes down to CONSUMER,
a Edison Electric Institute Bulletin No. 3, June 3, 1936, p. 6.
LOUDSPEAKER: Well-what is a kilowatt hour?
ELECTRICIAN (calling, off): Hey, Mike! Drop that work light.
(The work light comes down) Now light it up. Now when
this thousand-watt bulb burns for an hour that's a kilo
LOUDSPEAKER (after a pause): Is that all?
ELECTRICIAN: That's all. The word comes from the Greek, chilioi, meaning thousand, and "watt" meaning
wattchilioi-watt or kilowatt. Anything else?
LOUDSPEAKER (weakly): No, thank you.
ELECTRICIAN: O.K., Mike, kill it.
(Work light goes up. ELECTRICIAN exits, whistling. The
projection becomes "K is for Kilowatt.")
CONSUMER: Now that I know what it is, I still think I'm
paying too much.
LOUDSPEAKER: The company that services you is only mak
ing a fair profit.
CONSUMER: What's a fair profit? LOUDSPEAKER: Six to nine per cent. CONSUMER: Who said so? LOUDSPEAKER: The Courts.
CONSUMER: And the bank only gives me three! * What do
they do with all that money?
LOUDSPEAKER: It goes back to the stockholders in dividends.
(Pause. The CONSUMER picks up his shopping bag and
starts off) Where are you going?
CONSUMER: I've got to do some shopping and I'm going to
stop in at the company. I'll tell those people something!
Seventeen cents a kilowatt hour!
(Exits left, and immediately re-enters left. Overhead spot
picks out two GROCERY CLERKS. They stand beside each
other, facing out. They are dressed alike, in aprons. If possible they should look alike. Their actions are stylized.
* Wm. B. Dana && Co., Annual Financial Review, igoi; also Public Utility Rate Fixing, C. E. Grunsky, 1918.
CONSUMER Crosses to FIRST CLERK.)
CONSUMER: How much are your potatoes?
FIRST CLERK: Fifteen pounds for a quarter.*
CONSUMER: Too high. I'll go some place else. (Crosses to
SECOND CLERK) How much are your potatoes?
SECOND CLERK: Twenty pounds for a quarter. (t)
CONSUMER: Fine, I'll take 'em.
(Light picks up two BUTCHERS. He crosses to first one.)
CONSUMER: How much are pork chops?
FIRST BUTCHER: Twenty cents a pound.
CONSUMER: Too high. I'll go some place else. (Crosses to SECOND BUTCHER) How much are pork chops?
SECOND BUTCHER: Fifteen cents a pound.1
CONSUMER: I'll take 'em.
(Light comes up on MANAGER of electric company seated at cut-out desk.)
CONSUMER: How much you charging me for electricity?
MANAGER: Seventeen cents a kilowatt hour.§
CONSUMER: Too high. I'll go some place else. (He crosses
and looks around, sees no one) Where's the other fellow? MANAGER: There is no other fellow.
(Projection changes to "M is for Monopoly.") CONSUMER: You the only one selling electricity in this city? ~~ MANAGER: That's right.
CONSUMER: And if I don't get it from you I have to do without it?
MANAGER: That's right. Would you like us to discontinue service?
CONSUMER (apologetically): Er-no-never mind! (Runs off.)
* U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
§ Edison Electric Institute Bulletin No. 3, June 3, 1936, p. 3.
ii Electrical World & Engineer, Vol. 35, No. 7, p. 242. Feb. 17, 1900.
T. COMMERFORD MARTIN
LOUDSPEAKER: New York, June 6, 1905. T. Commerford Martin, Chairman of the Progress Committee of the National Electric Light Association, reports to the convention.*
(Front spotlight comes up on MARTIN, center, standing behind lectern. Behind him is projected a cartoon of a convention banquet.)
MARTIN: And, gentlemen, enough is not being done to cultivate and create the small consumer. The figures of the New York Edison Company show, roughly, thirtyfive thousand customers. Now, that is a good number, but do you believe for one moment that such a figure is the limit of possibilities on Manhattan Island? Electric light and power are falling far short of the ideal in reaching only one-sixth of the population of any given territory. It is to be feared that the public and too many utility companies still regard electric light as a luxury, and the electric motor as costly, and electric heat quite out of reach. This was true once, gentlemen, but is true no longert
• NELA Convention Proceedings, 1905, Vol. 1, p. 17.