(Lights up on a room with chairs set up in a circle, like an intervention. There is an empty seat next to CLAIRE for HARRY. JILL, CLAIRE, and PAUL all sit in the circle. HARRY enters, confused).
HARRY: What’s this? (pause) Dad, why are you here?
JILL: (sternly) You should sit down.
HARRY: I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?
(PAUL angrily kicks at a chair leg)
PAUL: Just sit down!
HARRY: Not until I know what’s going on.
CLAIRE: (eyes moist) You should’ve told me! I could’ve helped…
PAUL: (almost yelling) Do you have any idea how upset your Mother is? She’s at home, crying. She’s been crying ever since we found out.
HARRY: How did you find out?
JILL: I told them. I know it breaks protocol, but we’re all concerned. The dean knows as well. She will be speaking to you after this.
HARRY: (quietly) I never wanted this to happen…I tried so hard to stop, but…I just didn’t want anyone to find out.
PAUL: How were you planning to do that? Huh? Lie to us whenever we talked to you on the phone, when you came home for Thanksgiving? Were you planning to lie to us at Christmas?
HARRY: I…it’s been going on for years.
HARRY: At first it was only for fun, but then…then it became something I needed everyday. I don’t think I can live without it.
(CLAIRE walks up to HARRY and gently takes his arm).
CLAIRE: (gently) This will all be better soon. We all care about you and we’re gonna support you through this.
HARRY: I don’t need your help.
PAUL: No. We’re going to fix this.
JILL: The dean is being very supportive, Harry. She says to take all the time you need.
CLAIRE: Don’t you know you’re not supposed to try these things?
HARRY: I tried to stop at first. I tried so hard. But you don’t understand how much it hurts if I go even one day without it.
PAUL: You’re gonna start––
HARRY: And I don’t want to stop…it makes me feel so good.
CLAIRE: You have to stop. For all of us.
JILL: If you want to graduate, you have to make a change.
HARRY: But I need it!
JILL: You can’t continue doing this. Not if you want to stay at this university.
(HARRY looks at JILL and glares)
HARRY: This is my decision! It’s my life!
(PAUL kicks the leg of a chair again. CLAIRE tries to pull HARRY towards the circle).
CLAIRE: Please sit down.
(HARRY reluctantly lets CLAIRE lead him to the empty seat next to her).
JILL: (placatingly) This isn’t going to be easy––
HARRY: No! I don’t want to do this. Leave me alone!
(PAUL stands up with a stomp and strides over to HARRY, pointing his finger at HARRY’s face).
PAUL: You need to explain yourself right now!
HARRY: (quiet, but determined) I want to be a poet.
(CLAIRE visibly gasps in horror. PAUL stumbles back into his chair and puts his head in his hands).
HARRY: (his voice getting stronger) I want to write sonnets. (CLAIRE gasps) And love poems. (CLAIRE muffles a scream) And haikus. (CLAIRE doubles over in her chair as if in pain)
(CLAIRE stands up in horror)
CLAIRE: What happened? Are you being blackmailed into doing this? Whoever is making you do this…we’ll…we’ll go to the police and––
HARRY: (trying to justify) Whenever I start writing, I just can’t stop. The words run around in my head, and it’s all I can think about. The first time I wrote a poem it was like I found this inner voice inside myself…and I felt fulfilled.
PAUL: (to himself, anguished) Oh what did I do wrong? Is this because I never gave you the puppy you wanted?
HARRY: Have you ever heard a sonnet? The iambic pentameter sounds like a beating heart and as you listen to it the blood pumps in your veins faster and faster faster and you feel like flying!
PAUL: (angry, waving his fist in the air) I did not save for 18 years so you could write poetry.
CLAIRE: (wailing in agony) What’s wrong with you?! No one in their right mind would want to be a poet.
PAUL: You’ll study poetry over my dead body!
HARRY: (nervously) I also want to study moral philosophy.
(CLAIRE moans in despair and anguish).
JILL: Now just to be clear, Harry, yesterday you refused to declare a major and demanded that you be allowed to study…these things.
(HARRY nods bodly).
PAUL: You refused to declare?! I didn’t realize you actually refused!! What kind of deadbeat––
CLAIRE: You can’t STUDY that! What happened to being an engineer??
(CLAIRE leans over to feel HARRY’s forehead).
CLAIRE: You don’t feel warm…I always thought you were joking about wanting to be a poet. All those times I caught you writing, I thought you were just trying to impress me.
HARRY: I need it. If I stop writing…my hands get shaky and my head hurts and I feel like throwing up.
PAUL: (sputtering) I will not tolerate this immature, whimsical, irresponsible––
CLAIRE: (almost hysterical) You need to see a doctor! Normal people don’t do this.
JILL: We’re all very concerned. (pause) You can’t just create your own major. Poetry is not an academic option at this school.
PAUL: If you think I’m gonna let you ruin your life––
HARRY: It wouldn’t ruin my life––
PAUL: You’re gonna be some burnout on the streets…no house, no savings….ruined!
(CLAIRE sinks from her chair to her knees and reaches her arms above her head, like cursing to a God).
CLAIRE: Why would you want to study poetry? And philosophy?
HARRY (defensively): Where would the world be without Shakespeare? Without Socrates or Aristotle? What about John Locke, huh? You’re all in favor of democracy, aren’t you? Who do you think inspired our founding fathers?
PAUL: Shakespeare was a raving lunatic. And he had absolutely no influence on my life other than turning my son into a deadbeat!
HARRY: (to Claire) Don’t you like the poems I write you?
CLAIRE: Yes, of course, but…you can’t do that for a living!
HARRY: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” That’s Shakespeare. What about the sonnet Romeo and Juliet speak together when they first meet? How else would you depict true love?
(CLAIRE collapses on the floor and moans loudly in despair. HARRY gets up and helps her get back to her chair. HARRY sits down and crosses his arms).
HARRY: (angrily) Thou art more lovely but less temperate. (beat) Think of the news! Where would we be without journalism or publications or books or––
JILL: In terms of career options, Harry, yours will be very limited––
PAUL: (to himself) More like nonexistent.
JILL: And you will regret making this decision. Previous humanities majors had a very hard time finding employment. Some of them had to go to community college and get a two-year degree in something practical before anyone hired them.
HARRY: (quietly, determined) I can get a job.
(HARRY stands up and walks out of the circle). HARRY: (vowing, full of confidence) I will get a job! The world needs philosophers and poets.
JILL: Not anymore.
PAUL: This is ridiculous. Harry, you’re becoming an engineer. That’s what you always planned to do. Now, I’m not leaving until you get some sense into your head.
HARRY: (very upset) Before math and science, and even law and order, there was writing. Look on ancient cave walls and see the pictures that were intended to convey meaning. There was writing before physical writing! For thousands of years, we have told each other stories to explain the world and express our humanity. How can you say that’s all worthless? Don’t stand there and tell me there is no beauty or use in poetry. We’d be lost without it!
PAUL: (greater force than HARRY) Stop being so damn dramatic!
(Everyone pauses. Eventually, CLAIRE composes herself and looks at HARRY accusingly).
CLAIRE: (stiffly) Anthony is a computer science major.
HARRY: (surprised) Who’s Anthony?
CLAIRE: I like him. He has his life together.
(CLAIRE stands and stomps over to HARRY. She is very close).
CLAIRE: And until this morning, I thought you had your life together too!
HARRY: I do have my life together. I know exactly who I am and what I want to do.
CLAIRE: (Like this is the worst thing in the world) You’ll be a joke.
(CLAIRE takes HARRY’s hands in hers. She goes down on her knees and looks up at him pleadingly).
CLAIRE: Please don’t do this. For me.
HARRY: (Like a man going off to war) I have to. Someone has to. If no one went into writing, our society would be lost.
(CLAIRE flings his hands away and collapses on the ground. Her eyes are teary).
CLAIRE: You told me you were gonna be an engineer.
HARRY: I LIED!
(CLAIRE puts her forehead to the floor and moans loudly, like she is grieving at the foot of someone’s grave).
CLAIRE: You said you had everything planned out. Don’t you remember how hard we worked to make sure we went to the same college? And all this time…
HARRY: Nothing’s changed.
(CLAIRE gets up and turns away. She can’t bear to look at HARRY. It is too painful).
CLAIRE: Everything’s changed. (sadly) All this time you were planning to do something like this and you never told me.
HARRY: I did. You just didn’t take me seriously.
(CLAIRE stomps towards HARRY suddenly and puts her face close to his menacingly).
CLAIRE: I took you as seriously as anyone would! No one in their right mind would do what you’re doing. And you won’t change, not even for me.
HARRY: (cowering) I’m sorry…
(CLAIRE holds onto HARRY’S shoulders for dear life).
CLAIRE: No, you’re not.
(JILL stands and has to physically tear CLAIRE away from HARRY. CLAIRE resists and there is a struggle until CLAIRE is ripped away and thrown into the middle of the circle. JILL stands between CLAIRE and HARRY and puts her arms out like a wall between them).
JILL: Now is not the time for––
(CLAIRE runs towards HARRY and shoves JILL out of her way and tries to cling to HARRY again. JILL restrains her with difficulty. PAUL can’t bear to look and turns his head away in shame).
CLAIRE: (wailing, screaming) I won’t give up! (to HARRY). Can’t you try? For all of us?
HARRY: I have to do this.
CLAIRE: You’re so selfish!
HARRY: Think about what a world without writing would look like!
CLAIRE: Don’t talk to me! (Beat). I can’t…I just…can’t.
(CLAIRE walks towards the door and says without turning around, mostly to herself).
CLAIRE: You’ve ruined everything!
(CLAIRE turns her head to the ceiling like wailing to a vengeful God).
CLAIRE: (emotional, wailing) Everything!
(CLAIRE exits. HARRY stands shocked. End Excerpt).