UNTITLED PLAY. (A typical small town drugstore . . .). From a letter To Tevis Clyde Smith, week of February 20, 1928.

The opening of the play goes like this:

Scene 1.
(A typical small town drugstore. A boy polishing the fountain. At one of the small tables at the front a young man is sitting. He is a lanky, slouchily built young man with a sullen, moody expression on his sallow face. He is not reading nor does he appear to be thinking. He is simply sitting there. A man enters; a large massively built man who walks with a slight limp. He has a strong rugged face and his hands are calloused.)

Summary and cast:

The untitled play provides a deeply poignant look into the life of two struggling authors in a small town, dealing with their internal struggles, financial difficulties, and societal pressures. The story is set in a small-town drugstore and boarding house and unfolds their strained relationships and emotional burdens. Mike, the more seasoned writer, appears to be stuck in a cycle of constant cynicism, while Lars, the novice, wrestles with the fear of failure. Additionally, there is an undercurrent of romance and regret featuring Mike and a promiscuous girl who lives in the boarding house.

Main Characters:

Mike: A seasoned but bitter writer who is grappling with his struggles of being a writer in a society that he believes does not appreciate the true value of literature. He is highly critical of popular writing and believes that most writing today panders to the lowest common denominator. Despite his cynicism, he is shown to be a capable and complex character who is willing to help others in their time of need.

Lars: A newer writer who is trying to get his first book published. He is portrayed as financially strained and somewhat naive about the writing industry. He admires Mike but is also frustrated by his cynicism and lack of empathy.

The Girl: A resident of the same boarding house where Mike lives. She is shown to be a woman of questionable morals, but is also a victim of her circumstances. Her romantic entanglements add a layer of complexity to the plot, revealing the societal underpinnings that govern their lives.

The Manager: He runs the local drugstore and serves as a sounding board for Mike’s frustrations. He is less cultured and has different literary tastes compared to Mike, causing their frequent clashes. However, he shows compassion and concern for the Girl when she is in trouble.

Other men in the town: These characters provide a view into the town’s collective perspective on writing and represent the common man who struggles to understand the intricacies of literature. Their encounters with Mike bring out his bitterness and resentment toward society.

The play showcases the inner workings of writers and their struggle with artistic fulfillment versus commercial success. It examines the often-underappreciated burdens of creative professions and explores the emotional impacts of societal expectations and norms.

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