An Acting Guide – The Text for Study

Photo Credit: Ryan Abel via cc
We are delighted to republish Prof. John Palmer’s ‘Theatre Briefs’ series, Actor Hub hope you find them as useful as we have.
This series of short essays about acting is reprinted with the kind permission of Professor John P Palmer of London, Ontario, Canada. He wrote these ‘Theatre Briefs’ for use by students and fellow actors during classes and rehearsals. Where he has relied on material from others, they are cited.
An Introductory note from Norman Schwartz:
FYI, I am including a workshop adaptation of the entire scene from MIDNIGHT COWBOY as it appears in the screenplay. Please note that it breaks down into 14 speeches for each actor. We will be examining these lines and their actions in essays to come.
Study scene from MIDNIGHT COWBOY by Waldo Salt
Interior Flat – Day
RATSO huddled in the overstuffed chair——wearing the stolen sheepskin coat–wrapped in blankets, his teeth chattering in spite of the sweat on his forehead. JOE enters, stops abruptly, his mood shattered by RATSO’S alarming condition. They simply stare at each other for a moment, then JOE turns away to see soup heating on the Sterno stove. JOE tosses one of his paper bags onto RATSO’S lap.
1Joe:See what you think of that crap. I’ll pour your soup. Got some of that junk you like to swill, too. Mentholatum. Aspirin. All that shee-it!
RATSO opens the paper bag, trying to control his shivering, pulling out the socks and a suit of long underwear. He sees JOE watching him for a reaction. The best RATSO can do is a slight shake of his head.
1aJoe:They wrong?
2Ratso:They’re okay. Only why buy them? That’s dumb While you got the aspirin, I coulda lifted six pairs of socks.
He hands RATSO the soup. RATSO seems momentarily steadied by the warmth in his hands. He grins curiously at JOE.
3Ratso:It was okay? I mean, it went okay?
3Joe:She went crazy, that’s the truth, like a goddam alley cat.
Ratso: laughs with Joe:, almost spilling the soup. Joe: reaches to steady it.
Ratso: speaks hesitantly.
4Ratso:By the way, thanks for all the crap. . . Hey, Joe:, don’t get sore about this or anything. You promise?
5Ratso:Well, I don’t think I can walk. I mean, I been falling down a lot and, uh
5Joe:And what?
6Ratso:I’m scared.
6Joe:What of?
7Ratso:What’ll happen. What they do to——I mean, I don’t know——what they do with someone that can’t—— shit, you know what I mean
8Ratso:The cops, the medicares, who knows? I gotta lie down.
Ratso: is trembling so violently that the soup slops over. Joe: takes it, lifts Ratso: and carries him to the bed. Scowling, alarmed, Joe: places the medicines on the bed beside Ratso: and picks up his hat.
8Joe:That should hold you till I get back.
9Ratso:Where you going?
9Joe:Gotta get a doctor.
10Ratso:Don’t be so dumb. No doctors. No cops. You ain’t gonna send me to Bellevue. Once they get their hooks in you you’re dead. Don’t be so goddam dumb.
10Joe:You’re sick! What in hell you gonna do?
11Ratso:Florida. I just get to Florida I’ll be fine.
11Joe:I can’t go to Florida now!
12Ratso:Just get me on the bus.
12Joe:Shee-it, you got the fevers. How you think you gonna get to Florida?
13Ratso:I’ll get there. You just get me on the bus. I’ll be okay.
13Joe:Just when everything’s going my way, you gotta pull a stunt like this.
13Ratso:I don’t need you. Just get me on the bus. I don’t want nothing more from you. I got other plans for my life than dragging around some dumb cowboy who thinks he’s God’s gift to women. One twenty-buck trick and he’s already the biggest stud in New York City. It’s laughable.
Joe: sets his Stetson on his head.
14Joe:When I put you on that bus down to Florida tonight, that’ll be the happiest day of my life!
Joe: exits
End Scene
Based on work by Norman B Schwartz
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