The Deadline

place: New York City

time: 1940s

CHARACTERS:

DOROTHY DOT

SHIRLEY MCWHIRL

FRED

HARRY HAPPENING

VOICE

RUSTY

This play is inspired by classic films about newspaper people.


Dorothy Dot approaches Harry Happening at a table.

DOROTHY

Dorothy Dot. Are you my source?

HARRY

A lady reporter. All right, I’ll go with it.

DOROTHY

I need your information right now, I’m on deadline. You said on the phone that the Mayor is doing terrible things to conserve power. What are they?

HARRY

And you promise I’ll be protected?

DOROTHY

Of course.

HARRY

Okay. The mayor...has set up an illegal club.

DOROTHY

What?

HARRY

He’s set up a speakeasy, with dancing girls, fringe, and bathtub gin. He makes it himself. And drinks it down every single night.

DOROTHY

Is this the truth?

HARRY

Absolutely.

DOROTHY

It’ll go to print tonight. Thank you.

HARRY

Of course. And what do I get for helping you, and on such short notice?

DOROTHY

A front page story that takes down your enemy and a hearty thank you from the Midtown Times.

Blackout. Lights up. They’re in the office. Dorothy hands the story to Fred.

DOROTHY

I got it, Fred.

FRED

Fantastic. I’ll put it in right after lunch. Is it good?

DOROTHY

One of my best yet.

Suddenly, Shirley McWhirl appears.

SHIRLEY

Really.

DOROTHY

Why if it isn’t Shirley McWhirl, my esteemed colleague. How are the Irish funnies?

SHIRLEY

A lot of important people die.

DOROTHY

No one who’s important enough to get bumped up above page 12.

SHIRLEY

I think it’s funny that you’re so happy about your new story.

DOROTHY

It’s a great story. See, I actually had to do something to get it, because, you know, I’m a real reporter.

SHIRLEY

Are you? Because I’m pretty sure a real reporter would know when her source is lying to her.

DOROTHY

What are you talking about?

SHIRLEY

Isn’t the man you were supposed to meet a redhead?

DOROTHY

No, I don’t think-

SHIRLEY

And isn’t he supposed to be quite tall? With a very deep voice?

DOROTHY

My source was a short brown-headed man. What are you talking about?

SHIRLEY

Hmm. It sounds to me like your source wasn’t even your source. Like it was a fake, an impostor, someone pretending to be your source while another reporter got the real scoop.

DOROTHY

You didn’t.

SHIRLEY

What, set up a fake meeting with a fake man so you would file a bad story and embarrass yourself and get fired? Of course I did.

DOROTHY

Where is he?

SHIRLEY

He’s off somewhere, waiting for me. I’m gonna get that scoop if it’s the last thing I do.

DOROTHY

If you get that scoop it will be the last thing you do.

Fred reenters.

FRED

Hey, guys, I’m gonna take an hour for lunch. I’ll put the story in after that.

Shirley pushes down Dorothy and runs away.

SHIRLEY

You’ll never find him!

Dorothy runs to her desk and finds information. She picks up the telephone and dials.

DOROTHY

Hello? Is this the wife of the man I was supposed to speak with today? I don’t know his name, just this number.

VOICE You mean Rusty? Yes, he told me he had an important meeting today. Something about the Mayor.

DOROTHY

Yes! That’s him. Where is he now?

VOICE On his way to a meeting.

DOROTHY

Where is he going?

VOICE I’m not sure.

DOROTHY

Can you think of anything? I need to see him immediately.

VOICE Let me look around, I might have it written down somewhere.

Dorothy is close to panicking, looking around and motioning for her to hurry up.

VOICE (CONT'D)

Found it. He’s at the 4th Street diner, 11 am.

Dorothy runs out without hanging up the phone.

VOICE (CONT'D)

Hello? Hello?

In a scene change, Dorothy rushes into the restaurant and sees Rusty sitting at a table with a cup of coffee. She runs up to him but is bumped by Shirley.

RUSTY

Dorothy?

DOROTHY AND SHIRLEY

That’s me.

RUSTY

You’re both Dorothy?

DOROTHY

No, just me.

SHIRLEY

Stop lying, I’m Dorothy.

DOROTHY

Shirley McWhirl, you have sunk to impossibly new lows.

RUSTY

Who’s Shirley?

DOROTHY

AND SHIRLEY Her.

RUSTY

I’m sorry, I’m supposed to speak with Dorothy Dot. How am I to know who is whom?

SHIRLEY

You know I’m Dorothy, because I can tell you that I was born in Kansas and moved here as a young newspaper woman.

DOROTHY

You know I’m Dorothy because I can tell you that none of that is correct. And if I had a cell phone I could prove it.

SHIRLEY

A what?

DOROTHY

Nothing.

SHIRLEY

I’m the newspaper’s best reporter and have been working on this story for months. You’re the last piece of the puzzle.

DOROTHY

My goodness, you will stop at nothing to get this scoop. Well let me ask you one thing, Mr.- Would Shirley know my signature song?

She starts singing.

DOROTHY (CONT’D)

I’m Dorothy Dot, I’ve got a regular spot, above our paper’s fold, ‘cuz my writing is gold, and I’ve got a Pulitzer and awards galore, I’ve covered the streets, I’ve covered the war, and I work in the top floor and can see the skyline, if you don’t believe me just check my byline!

RUSTY

I can’t take this anymore! The mayor pays off the police chief so he’ll arrest all his political rivals.

Dorothy and Shirley stop.

RUSTY (CONT’D)

That’s it, and until he’s exposed, he’ll keep doing it. Too many good men have been put away just so he won’t have to face a threat to his power.

Dorothy and Shirley look at each other and go to run out, but bump into each other. They fight, with Dorothy knocking Shirley down. She runs out, leaving Dorothy behind, on the floor. Blackout. Lights up. Dorothy is holding an envelope and is speaking with Fred in hushed tones when Shirley bursts in, out of breath and looking beat up. Shirley laughs maniacally.

SHIRLEY

Got you- I’ve got you.

FRED

What’s she talking about?

SHIRLEY

Check her story, Fred. Oh wait, you can’t, it’s off to the presses already. Tonight, everyone will find out what you’ve done, Miss Dot, and you’ll be out of this business forever.

Shirley walks over to Dorothy and rips the envelope from her hands.

SHIRLEY (CONT’D)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is proof that she doesn’t deserve the front page. She doesn’t even deserve the funnies.

Shirley takes the story out of the envelope and starts to read.

SHIRLEY (CONT’D)

Breaking news. The mayor is running a speakeasy with girls, wiseguys, and gin...Wait a minute. This is-

DOROTHY

The old story? The one that was wrong because you set me up?

SHIRLEY

You switched them. You already switched them?

DOROTHY

That’s right, Lady McWhirl. My story, with the delicious scoop that is the take down of Mayor McCloud is running in tonight’s paper, and it’s gonna win me another award and loads of readers to boot.

FRED

I’m sorry, Shirley, but if this is how you’re going to act around here, I just don’t see you staying at this paper.

SHIRLEY

What? You can’t be saying-

FRED

You’re fired. Maybe next time you’ll learn from your fellow reporters instead of trying to ruin them.

Fred leaves.

SHIRLEY

This isn’t the last you’ve heard of me, Dorothy Dot.

DOROTHY

But it is the last I’ll read of you. Now if you’ll excuse me, dear, I’ve got another story to write.

Dorothy leaves in triumph, Shirley slumps down. Blackout. End of play.