Final draft 12-19-02

FOUR DAYS AFTER TITANIC

(one act play)

by Paul Stewart

The play takes place during the senate subcommittee hearings investigating the sinking. Titanic foundered on a Monday morning, the rescue ship arrived in New York that Thursday evening to a crowd of 40,000. A colorful trust-busting senator (and former street performer) was given all the power and resources to launch an immediate investigation. He even boarded the rescue ship and served subpoenas to keep key people from slipping away.

The very next morning Friday April 19, 1912, survivors testified. (The senate inquiry lasted 17 days. The final report was issued May 28.) The disaster hearings began in New Yorkís Waldorf-Astoria conference room. A lot of the dialogue is from the actual transcripts. There were also reports of lots of the witnesses gossiping and talking to reporters in the corridors. Some of the action takes place in flashback scenes during the night to remember.

This draft calls for a cast of 11. Roles for five male adults, four woman adults, and two kids: one male, one female. All characters can play multiple, non-speaking roles except for Senator Smith.

 

CAST: (With costume notes)

SENATOR SMITH Ė 53 Narrator, chairman of investigation, American

from Michigan, dresses like a Senator/railroad owner, with derby

CHARLES LIGHTOLLER Ė 38, 2nd officer, highest ranking survivor

(refined British accent) regular suit pants, officerís hat and blazer.

BRUCE ISMAY Ė 49, managing director of White Star lines (upper

crust pompous British accent) A fine suit, as PHOTOGRAPHER and generic lifeboat passenger he takes off a thin villain looking moustache and switches coats.

HAROLD LOWE - 29, fifth officer, on the one lifeboat that went back

(Refined Walsh accent, ladies liked him) Has officerís coat and hat similar to Lightoller. Also plays American con artist WANE.

FREDERICK FLEET Ė 25, lookout who spotted the iceberg (very

thick cockney accent,) beat up clothes and watch cap.

MRS. WHITE- Middle age, First Class (British very aristocratic

old money accent, but likeable, not too snobbish.)

MRS. SHELLEY- (30s) Second class passenger, chronic complainer

(American, from Montana middle class want-a-be)

Fictional or composite characters who donít testify:

WANE Ė20s American, First class steward/con artist in love (Same

actor as LOWE) puts on a Clark Gable moustache and a middle class coat and newsboy type cloth cap.

KATE OíBRAIN Ė 3rd class, Irish suffragette, loves Wane. Wears

middle class dress. Can have a different skirt and life vest for sinking scene. Wears a big immigrantís shawl for lifeboat scene.

MARGO LANE Ė Reporter and Suffragette. American, wears a middle

class business skirt suit. Can also wear a big shawl to play a third class passenger for sinking and lifeboat scene.

Also parts for NEWSBOY and BOY and GIRL PASSENGER. Sometimes everyone whoís not acting in the foreground sings in the darkened background. The CHORUS is anyone who can sing.

ADDITIONAL COSTUME NOTES:

To help the audience accept actors quickly switching roles, luckily we have a wide difference in costume, class and accents of the characters. Everyone wore hats and some of the facial hair then was huge. In photos most of the suits were dark and relatively standard to any old fashion looking suits. Itís the collars, scarves, watch chains and headwear that really show the period. They also may have gloves, fancy canes and umbrellas when theyíre coming or going. It was rainy in New York when the hearings began. All the males who play multiple roles keep the same generic dark pants and shoes on.

Unfortunately the hearings were a very male dominated affair. Only two woman survivors actually testified, another four wrote vividly detailed affidavits the SENATOR read out loud during the hearings.

The good news is there were woman present as spectators inside the hearing room and in the photos they have giant hats they didnít have to take off like the men did. Although the suffragette passenger story is fictional, the womanís rights movement was very present. There were lots of stories and debates from suffragettes in the press about equal rights abolishing the tradition of "woman (and children) first."

SET:

The Senate inquiry was a rushed together affair. Most of the furniture was removed from the hotel conference room, leaving a large table and chairs. (The hearings moved to Washington the next week, but the format remained similar.) It is not a trial but an inquiry with people sitting in rows around the table, although at times it seems like a trail. A lot of people had stacks of notes and papers in front of them.

We can perhaps do without the table (or make it small and in the back) and stick to just chairs. A platform in the middle of the stage may act as an informal witness stand. However too many characters have to speak one after another. Sort of a stream of thought montage. Usually getting up and moving before and after testify will be awkward. Perhaps they can be lined up in a panel. Except for maybe moving a few chairs this area doesnít have a set change.

SENATOR is usually the only one standing during the "hearings" scenes. When he addresses the audience he walks towards them and the hearings area goes dark. Since we assume the hearings are always going on with people coming in and out the actors in that area do not have to freeze, (no pun intended.) They just sit still during "hallway" and "flash back" scenes. Often they will enter those other scenes. Sometimes they may need to change character, other times not.

Any area in front can pass as a "hallway" or behind-the-scenes area. Example: In the middle of SENATORíS introductory speech to the audience, ISMAY comes up and asks if he can go back to England now. (Although no one but SENATOR breaks the forth wall.)

However most of the time the hallway area is up front at stage left. Two benches could be enough furniture. The "flashback" area can be up front to stage right. The only flashbacks are during the night of the sinking. A spotlight is not that important on scenes where SENATOR addresses the audience. However, to achieve the dream-like effect during the flash back scenes a spotlight will help hide that thereís no multi-million dollar boat set.

The play will make extensive use of prerecorded sound and music. All the singing is live. Often the play should have a dream-like quality; the lighting should reflect this. But thereís also bursts of realism.

The stage is dark. Slowly we began to hear singing, it gets louder but stays somewhat soft and ominous. Perhaps it should be sung slower than normal to not sound too upbeat. This is a popular camp song dating back to at least the Ď20s with many versions.

CHORUS

IT WAS ON ITS MAIDEN TRIP WHEN AN ICEBERG HIT THE SHIP. IT WAS SAD, IT WAS SAD, IT WAS SAD WHEN THE GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN (TO THE BOTTOM OF THEÖ) HUSBANDíS AND WIVES, LITTLE CHILDREN LOST THEIR LIVES. IT WAS SAD WHEN THE GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN.

Spotlight on NEWSBOY who enters from stage left. He has to yell to be heard over the chorus. He speaks out to the audience.

CHORUS (overlapping softly)

OH, THEY BUILT THE SHIP TITANIC TO SAIL THE OCEAN BLUE, FOR THEY THOUGHT IT WAS A SHIP THAT WATER WOULD NEVER GO THROUGH. THE RICH DIDNíT LIKE THE POOR, SO THEY PUT THE POOR BELOW, WHERE THEY WERE THE FIRST TO GO. IT WAS SAD WHEN THE GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN.

NEWSBOY

Extra, extra read all about it! Titanic survivors arrive here in New York today! Senate investigation begins tomorrow morning! Over a thousand people are presumed dead! Get your paper, get your paper here!

Exit NEWSBOY. The second the last lyric is sung, the lights come up revealing the makeshift senate hearing room. It consists of nothing but a table, chairs and a raised platform. Most of the cast is on stage and had been acting as chorus. SENATOR SMITH is the only one whoís not sitting. Smith almost always has a folder of papers in his hand.

SENATOR (pacing)

Kindly tell the committee your name and circumstance.

The following is a montage of witness testimony. At first these lines are spoke with no pause as a run-on sentence.

ISMAY

J. Bruce Ismay, first class passenger and managing director of White Star Shipping Line.

FLEET

Fredrick Fleet, able seaman and lookoutÖAt just about seven bells I reported an ice berg right ahead, a black mass.

LIGHTOLLER

There was no moon, no wind, the sea was flat calm, smooth as glass so there was no waves to spot breaking around the berg.

ISMAY

ÖI awoke to a slight grinding noiseÖ

MRS. WHITE

It was as though we went over a thousand marblesÖ

MRS. SHELLEY

Then the engines stoppedÖNo one knocked on our door. There was no alarm. When we walked outside people commenced to appear in life preserversÖ

We start to hear voices of a calm crowd and the band begins to play.

MRS. WHITE

Then the band moved right outside on the deckÖ

For a moment the dialogue of the witnesses overlaps, and the pace speeds up, although they continue to talk as if theyíre not competing with others. (Just a short line each, then can make up something.)

People have began to leave the hearings area and put on life vests and enter to the flash back area to stage right which will serve as Titanicís deck under a spotlight. The mood is calm now, but growing more tense. Everyone is talking (adlibbing) among themselves. The following dialogue should be heard over others adlibbing.

Although the characters may be named in this scene, theyíre not necessary being the same character, only similar. Example: the audience doesnít know ISMAY yet, so heís really just being a generic first class passenger. (But he can change his moustache and hat.) And of course the lighting will be dim.

LIGHTOLLER is the first to lead people over a bit further. He has simply put on his uniform hat and wears no life vest.

LIGHTOLLER

Címon, into the lifeboats. Nothing to worry about folks, simply a safety precaution. Youíll row back aboard by morning.

IMMGRANT/MARGO

The water is so far down, Iím frightened.

WANE

Oh, she canít sink, sheís just banged up.

KATE (to Margo)

Do you think this vest makes me look fat?

WANE

You look lovelyÖLet me tie these up for you.

WANE ties up the straps on KATEíS vest, there is instant chemistry.

KATE

Arenít you the perfect gentleman. Weíre not used to getting waited on in steerage.

CREWMAN/FLEET

Iíve just heard from the wireless room, no less than three ships will be here soon.

LIGHTOLLER

You heard me, woman and children first!

MRS. WHITE

Over on the starboard side theyíre letting men leave with the women.

FLEET runs off stage.

LIGHTOLLER

Does anyone here have boating experience!?

ISMAY

Sheís starting to list quite badly.

WANE

How bad could it be, the band is still playing.

PASSENGER/ISMAY

The lifeboats are gone. Letís finish our card game. Drinks are on the house.

PASSENGER/WANE

If we die, we die as gentleman.

IMMIGRANT/MRS SHELLEY

My baby, whereís my baby!

Then we begin to hear hull-twisting noises of the shipís nose going down. We hear a few distant gunshots. The actors begin to lean and jerk, (but not too much as to make it corny.) Some people panic while others, stay calm though terrified. Plenty of room for ad-libbing here. FLEET reappears and comes back with a ministerís collar on.

LIGHTOLLER

EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!

FATHER BYLES

PREPARE TO MEET GOD!

Some people huddle around FATHER BYES and say the Lordís prayer. The band gets louder, people begin to sing "nearer thy God to me" over the sounds of the boilers exploding and sinking noise.

CHORUS

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Eíen though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone.
Yet in my dreams Iíd be nearer, my God to Thee.

The sounds and music stops. Lights come up on SENATOR. Everyone freezes, stage picture for a moment while

he talks. Then they disappear into the shadows.

SENATOR (to audience)

Hello, welcome to 1912. Iím Senator William Alden Smith chairman of the disaster hearings.

A few people begin to quietly sing: "Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives, it was sad when the great ship went down."

SENATOR

May I please talk now! (Singing stops, back to audience) This is a play about life, as it deals with death and responsibility. I can assure you that Iíve been dead since 1932. Iím sort of a ghost brought back through transcripts, notes to bring truth to the legend.

OK, youíve all seen the moving picture shows leading up to and ending right after the whole thing with the big iceberg. But I can not begin to tell you what a worldwide frenzy of shock and finger pointing went on in the days and months following the sinking.

You see rich socialites filled up the headlines in the days before movie and sports superstars. Now with several of them frozen solid bobbing up and down off the coast of New Foundland, along with 1,500 other souls, the world wanted answers. This before the world wars numbed us to death tolls.

I, along with others asked the good Lord how He could let 54 children thrash in the freezing water while scores of men sat in tuxedos in half-full lifeboats ignoring their screams.

While the 705 survivors were still steaming home on the rescue ship, Carpathia, I asked President Taft to allow me to head a Senate subcommittee to immediately begin investigating. When the rescue ship landed in New York, I boarded it with my team, we served subpoenas and began these hearings the very next day. I gave the press full access.

During the 17 days of hearings, a lot happened off the record in back rooms and these very corridors. I canít give you all the answers only glimpses at the truth behind everyoneís personal agenda. Even my own. God gave me all the resources to find the truth but didnít answer me. Perhaps itís because I -

Enter ISMAY, unaware of the audience.

ISMAY

Excuse me Senator SmithÖ

SENATOR

Ismay, I told you I am not letting you go back to England.

ISMAY

Iíve contacted a number of marine architects, company personnel, these experts would be far more valuable than me. I Ė

SENATOR

You are the chairman and manager of White Star lines!

ISMAY

J.P. Morgan now owns the company that-

SENATOR

You are the president of his trust!

ISMAY

I was still only a passenger, the ship may have been owned by Americans but it was registered in Briton and most of the crew was British.

How much longer can you keep me here?

SENATOR

Most of the passengers were Americans. And do I need to tell you most of the passengers are dead?! We intercepted your wireless reports, we know you were planning to try to sneak back.

ISMAY (trying to be intimating)

You donít seem to understand-

SENATOR

(stands toe to toe with Ismay)

You know Iím a rich man too, Iíve owned railroads. But I didnít grow up rich and spoiled like you. As a kid I supported my family performing on street corners. Iím a very resourceful man, Mr. Ismay.

Exit SENATOR. LIGHTOLLER walks up to ISMAY shaking his head.

ISMAY

The nerve of that cowboy.

LIGHTOLLER

Iím told heís a railroad lawyer with no experience in nautical affairs.

ISMAY

He and the press are turning me into a scapegoat!

LIGHTOLLER

Sir, they need somebody. The Captain, first officer, and architect chose to go down with the ship.

ISMAY

Maybe they had things to feel guilty about. You Mr. Lightoller, are the highest ranking surviving officer!

LIGHTOLLER

I climbed aboard an over-turned lifeboat AFTER your ship was halfway to the bottom of the Atlantic. You jumped aboard a dry lifeboat.

ISMAY

Iíve done nothing wrong! May I remind you that if you donít support me, your desire to ever be a captain at White Star will sink to the bottom as well.

Exit ISMAY stage right, LIGHTOLLER walks to stage left where lights come up. FLEET is sitting on a bench reading the newspaper, LIGHTOLLER is pacing about, he stares at his pocket watch. On the other side of the bench is KATE reading a book.

FLEET

Lights, ya atta read some of these bloody lies.

LIGHTOLLER

Reporters are trying to find answers like everyone else. What they donít find they invent.

FLEET

Says I claimed the berg was so big, I saw a polar bear on it! A bloominí bloody po-

LIGHTOLLER

Donít talk like that with a woman present.

FLEET

She donít mind, she told people in the lifeboat she wishes she was a man. Came to America for it.

KATE

I beg your pardon.

FLEET

Ya want rights just like a man, donít ya? A suffer-somethiní I seen her type in marches down the street.

KATE

Iím a suffragette. Iím already an American citizen. I was just visiting family back in Ireland. (gets in his face)

Fighting for equal rights and for the vote does not make me wish I was a man.

FLEET (gives her a dirty look)

Molly Brown and her hens took charge of me lifeboat, and I didnít like it.

KATE

Although if I were I would use my fist to make your nose even more crooked.

LIGHTOLLER

(ushering Fleet away) You canít be serious. His nose couldnít be any worse.

Enter WANE. To appear different than British LOWE, American WANE never takes off his derby and in his scenes he has a thin moustache. He also as his arm in a sling.

FLEET and LIGHTOLLER move several feet away, both parties can have private conversations but still hear each other. WANE and KATE greet and kiss, you can tell new love is in the air.

WANE(tipping hat)

Iím back darling.

KATE

Donít you look handsome in that new hat.

LIGHTOLLER

They subponaed that Yankee first class Steward?

WANE

Iím just here to be with my future wife.

FLEET

Known each other all four days have you?

KATE

Weíre not officially engaged.

LIGHTOLLER

Oh, yes, those two became lovebirds on the boat deck.

KATE

Sir, I was third class, he made sure I had a seat. Never once thought of himself.

LIGHTOLLER

Worst sea disaster in history, and they begin a courtship.

FLEET

Well, we all had a lot of free time the last few days aboard the Carpathia, didnít we?

WANE

Kate, Iíve got some wonderful newsÖ

FLEET

Look at you twos. An army of charities greets us last night. Giviní the pilgrims food, clothes, homes to stay in. (to Lights) You gets a new uniform and pocket watch, I get a crummy bunk and broken down shoes. You find a wife in your lifeboat.

WANE

No, I helped man boat eightÖ

FLEET

Ha, busted his wrist climbiní in, he did.

WANE

Officer Murdoch called out for any men with sailing experience, by the time he asked me to jump in, the boat was ten feet down. Winged, I manned the tiller.

FLEET

Youíre no seaman. Look at his hands. Smooth as a babyís bottom. Countess of Rothes never took her hands off the tiller in boat eight.

WANE

You werenít in my boat!

FLEET (smirking to Lights)

Read it in the times this morning, I did.

KATE

You mean Mr. Lightoller had to read it to you?

FLEET (mad)

You claiminí I canít read?

KATE

Oh, no. Iím claiming you canít see past your nose!

LIGHTOLLER

(pulling Fleet away)

Fleet, stay back. We see a lot of con artists work first class. He could be a dangerous sharper.

Enter an aggressive PHOTOGRAPHER (same actor as Ismay) and reporter MARGO. While the cameraman tries unsuccessfully to set his camera up to get a good shot, MARGO jots in at note pad. WANE and KATE are off to the side.

MARGO

Mr. Lightoller, can you answer a few questions?

FLEET

Who let them in!? Look a bloominí female newsman!

KATE and MARGO wave like they know each other well.

FLEET

Oh, sheís one of them free modern woman, is she.

MARGO (talking rabidly)

Mr. Lightoller, why were there no life boat drills? Was an American Ship registered in Briton because their safety rules are more relaxed?

FLEET

You donít care about all them families broken up. You just wanna sell papers.

MARGO

Our readers want the truth! Your company sent us press releases raving about new luxuries and safety features.

LIGHTOLLER

Yes, but no one from White Star ever claimed the ship unsinkable, you reporters invented that. It was no secret that modern liners had too few lifeboats. It was our own arrogance, perhaps criminal negligence, but there is no big secret the Senator is dancing around looking for.

MARGO

Do you think Senator Smithís grandstanding has anything to do with the rumor he plans to run for president in 1916?

LIGHTOLLER

Perhaps. OK, thatís enough for now, good day.

KATE

I would be the first to vote for Senator Smith.

LIGHTOLLER gently forces them off stage. As he turns thinking they are gone the PHOTGRAPHER burst back in and takes a flash photo of FLEET and LIGHTOLLER and exits. (Old flashes made a "poof" noise.)

FLEET (rubbing eyes)

All these flashesÖIíll go blind.

WANE (polite as can be)

Donít you think itís a little too late for that?

Infuriated FLEET makes a lunge at WANE whoís several feet away. LIGHTOLLER pulls him away and has to practically carry him offstage.

LIGHTOLLER

Easy, mate, the hearings are about ready to start up again.

As he exits FLEET still wants a piece of WANE.

WANE

If it werenít for my broken handÖ

KATE

What is the exciting news?

WANE

Early this morning, I sold my story to The Post. Itís enough money for us to get married.

She hugs him. Lights go up on SENATOR reacting to young lovers.

SENATOR

The thing that is "blind" is love. There were two marriages by survivors who meet aboard the rescue ship. You see-

MRS. SHELLEY (begins testifying)

There was so many hoards of people on deck I

couldnít see past.

SENATOR

Youíll have to excuse me.

He rushes over to join the hearings.

MRS. WHITE

There was practically no excitement as we thought the Titanic was one big lifeboat. I had to be pushed into a lifeboat.

MRS. SHELLEY

As we were being lowered I saw portholes disappearing. When we hit the water I saw where the danger lay. Too perfect a night. We had only starlight, no breeze, the flat sea looked like oil.

MRS. WHITE

Then when it came time to row, one manís oar was all over the place. I said "why donít you put it in an oarlock." "You mean that little hole?" he said.

SENATOR

Didnít they assign two seaman to your boat?

MRS. WHITE

Dinning room stewards who escaped with the pretense of being oarsman.

MRS. SHELLEY

Oh, some of the crew were gentleman. Others took out cigarettes and began smoking, joking about not having to work for a while.

MRS. WHITE

A marvel of mechanism couldnít avoid a chunk of ice. Who would allow something so unbearable to happen?

The woman can be seated next to each other while ISMAY is seated further away on the panel. SENATOR can make transitions in whom heís questioning by pausing, finding a note in his file, then pacing over to the different witness.

SENATOR

Mr. Ismay, I understand your father was the founder of White Star Lines?

ISMAY

Yes, he was.

SENATOR

Is it true that when you commissioned the building of Titanic you made no limitations as to her cost?

ISMAY

None whatsoever. We wanted the biggest, most luxurious, yet safest ship, regardless of cost.

SENATOR

Yes, weíve learned about chandeliers and one way trips costing four thousand dollars, and even for 35 dollars your steerage accommodations were the best afloat. We know about double hulls, water tight compartments that failed. But-

ISMAY

It was inconceivable. An iceberg had never taken down a big ship.

SENATOR

They were a known hazard! So why so few lifeboats?

ISMAY

We had over the number required by the British Board and Trade.

SENATOR (referring to file)

All we hear is how you complied with The British Board and Tradeís hopelessly outdated regulations that defy common sense.

ISMAY

The regulations were developed at a time when you could reasonably calculate passenger capacity based on the tonnage of the vessel.

SENATOR

Then in just a few years ships began to be built much biggerÖBut can you explain to me why the lifeboats you did have were only half-filled?

ISMAY

That was a tragedy. Something you need to take up with the crew.

SENATOR

You dined with the Captain, did you see him receive ice warnings Sunday night?

ISMAY

I did sir. He didnít seem too concerned.

SENATOR

Did you urge him to light up more boilers, increase the speed to get out of the ice floes?

ISMAY

No. I was a passenger first. The captain is in complete control and responsible for whatever happens on his ship. Regardless of a company representative. Is that not true?

SENATOR

Yes. Yet a Captain can later be demoted for not following the wishes of the owners.

ISMAY

Captain Smith was retiring!

SENATOR

You claimed to have helped load the boats. Witnesses say you barked orders.

ISMAY

I was present when Mr. Andrews, the shipís architect told the captain Titanic was only hours away from sinking. A sense of urgency was necessary.

SENATOR

Why did you get into a lifeboat when the call was for woman and children only?

ISMAY

It was what I believed to be the last boat. I looked around, seeing no woman or children on the deck, I then stepped into the boat after it was already being lowered down.

SENATOR

When itís convenient, youíre a representative of the company, the president. But later when itís convenient to be just a passenger, you become one and donít look back!Ö(glances at watch) Letís take a recess.

SENATOR pauses and takes a break. Maybe he sits down for a moment. The lights come up in stage left, KATE is sitting on a bench holding hands with WANE. At first WANE is reading the paper not paying much attention to what the others are saying.

The lights stay up in the hearings area, for a few minutes action will happen in both places, to create a sort of split-screen effect. While there is action in the hallway area, SENATOR and others can slowly move and talk silently among themselves as if their scene is still going on. The audience will be directed toward the hallway and vice-versa.

MARGO enters hallway area looking like she has just walked in from a womanís rights march. She has on a colorful banner under her arm and around her shoulder and carries a protest sign. She eventually sets it down, removes banner and takes out her note pad.

KATE

Margo, how did it go?

MRS. WHITE leaves the hearing area and strolls over, using a cane.

MRS. WHITE

Margo Lane? You used to write the society column for the New York World?

MARGO

Iím a news reporter now.

MRS. WHITE

Good heaven, and they let you march on your lunch hour?

MARGO (nods)

We went all the way up to Wall Street this time. My feet hurt!

KATE

I wished Iíd been able to march with you. I donít think they ever going to call me as a witness.

MARGO

Thatís a shame Kate, a story about you could have helped our cause of suffrage.

KATE

How? When they find out I lobby for female emancipation, theyíd ask if I questioned the life saving policy. Without thinking twice I climbed right on to a boat of all female passengers, just three male crewmembers.

MRS. WHITE

Oh, my dear, we all have selfish survival instincts, even subconsciously. And these stories of bravery among men? They didnít think sheíd go down, they made jokes of us needing a pass to get back on in the morning.

MARGO

After she was gone, I donít hear many stories of men wanting to row back and save anyone.

KATE

Men or women.

MRS. WHITE

Equal rights doesnít have to mean equal risk.

MARGO

I would have chosen to meet my fate along side my husband as a few first class women did.

KATE

Better death than dishonor? What if you had young children?

MRS. WHITE

Titanic was conceived, built and destroyed by manís hands. Let them die first until woman are treated equally.

MRS. WHITE goes back to hearings area.

MARGO

I wish Iíd been given a press pass today.

WANE

The truth isnít in there. All week Iíve been at the port listening to crewman gabbing to other seaman.

MARGO

But each one seems to have a different version of the same story.

WANE goes back to glancing at his paper. The lights stay up in the hallway area. Action resumes in hearings area. Unlike most witnesses FLEET is nervous and uncomfortable, clutching his cap.

SENATOR

Fredrick Fleet, how far off was this "black mass" when you saw it?

FLEET

Donít know.

SENATOR

I understand youíre not good at estimating distances.

FLEET

Not good with numbers, but I see plenty good.

SENATOR

Why were there no binoculars in the crowís nest?

FLEET

Donít know, they were there, then after we left South Hampton they wasnít there.

SENATOR

Whatís missing was a chain of communication.

LIGHTOLLER

Glasses are not always used. They can narrow the view. Itís a matter of opinion.

SENATOR (holding up paper)

Admiral Peary was just interviewed. The very discoverer of the North Pole says on a clear night, such as the night the Titanic foundered, binoculars would have been very valuable at seeing the berg earlier.

SENATOR (to Fleet)

And when you rung up the bridge by phone in the crowís nest and after you told the officer about the berg what did he say?

FLEET

He said "thank you."

The spectators moan at such a travesty. ["Thank you" became a headline in many of that dayís stories.]

While WANE makes a comment those in the hearings area do not freeze and the lights stay up. They just talk softly or look at paper work while the action is directed back to the hallway area.

WANE

They wonít tell you how First Officer Murdoch must have panicked. He tried to turn a ship big as a city sharply to miss the berg. That left the vulnerable side of the ship open. He ended up shooting himself in the head, you know.

SENATOR

What we see is a ship rushed into its maiden voyage. No general alarm given. No chain of command, no organized routine of evacuationÖ

Mr. Lightoller, you put people aboard the lifeboats regardless of class, nationality or pedigree?

LIGHTOLLER

Yes.

SENATOR

Do you know of gates being locked to prevent steerage passengers from going up top?

LIGHTOLLER

From the beginning I saw some second and third cabin passengers entering lifeboats. Language was a barrier. And no one was there to give proper instructions of which boat deck to go to.

WANE

I heard several gates were locked after the collision.

KATE

A group of us were escorted up without a problem.

WANE

Unless you were a first class woman or child, surviving the Titanic was the luck of the draw. Standing in the right place at the right time.

SENATOR

Did you see families separated?

LIGHTOLLER

I did.

SENATOR

25 percent of steerage survived. 42 percent of second class and 60 percent of first class! More men from first class survived then children from steerage!

LIGHTOLLER

I was in charge of the port side. Only later did I learn First Officer Murdoch was starboard letting couples on and often single men.

SENATOR

Why, do you think he would do that?

LIGHTOLLER

Scores of woman looked down and didnít want to go down ropes into a cold black sea. It seemed safer on the ship. We were led to believe the lifeboats were only a precaution. Captain Smith didnít want a panic.

SENATOR

So when no one else near seemed willing to go, you simply lowered a half-full boat? One boat only had 12 passengers!

LIGHTOLLER

It was a confusing night sir.

WANE

Look at the consistent facts on how unorganized things were. Itís no rumor Captain Smith lost his mind. But the big shots will look harsh if they attack the dead. He was the most popular captain of any steam line.

SENATOR

Then when the ship was listing and people began to crowd the boats you still didnít fill them to capacityÖYes, yes, no one thought sheíd founder. We hear of so many passengers being asked to help man boats. Yet you say it took only two crewmen to man a boat. Out of 20 boats that would be 40 saved. Why were 214 members of the crew saved and put before children!

LIGHTOLLER shrugs and says nothing.

FLEET

I was ordered onto boat six!

KATE

Could it be true survival often simply meant which side of the boat deck you chose to walk up?

MARGO (looking at the paper)

A single man in third class got aboard one crowded boat while a famous millionaire with a pregnant wife was refused a seat in another boat lowered with plenty of room.

[The pregnant bride and soon to be widow of Col. John Jacob Astor, ended up covering a crying 21 year old Irish immigrant with her shawl to keep him from being pulled out.]

End of the two scenes going back and forth. The lights go down on stage left as WANE, MARGO and KATE exit.

SENATOR

Mrs. Shelley, youíve written an affidavid that states Mr. Ismay showed you the Marconigram warning of ice. And rather than slowing down he said "weíll put on more boilers to speed out of it"?

MRS. SHELLEY

No, I said thatís what Mrs. Ryerson told me.

SENATOR (reading)

Yet, in her sworn affidavit she makes no mention of it. Only of how the band kept playing and how the ship broke in half.

MRS. WHITE

I say the ship went down intact, because the funnel toppled over some say she broke in two.

SENATOR is frustrated at how casually they change subjects, he is about to interrupt, but lets them talk as this is an informal inquiry, not a trial.

MRS. SHELLEY

She broke in two as if cut like a knife, I swear. And the band did keep playing. "Nearer my God to thee."

 

LIGHTOLLER (a bit upset)

I disagree. Wireless officer Harold Bride was in the water close by, heís a trained listener. He claims they were playing "Autumn."

MRS. WHITE

No, it was a ragtime number.

MRS. SHELLEY

Ragtime, at a time like that.

SENATOR

I call Fifth Officer Harold Lowe.

LOWE enters and takes his seat on the panel.

SENATOR

I understand you were the skipper of the only lifeboat to go back and look for surviving swimmers?

LOWE

Yes, I transferred the passengers from my boat into other boats to make room for up to 60. But we waited too long. Only saved three.

SENATOR

Prior to that you were lowering lifeboats on the starboard side. Did Mr. Ismay assist you?

LOWE

I did not know who he was at the time. When it comes to doing the right thing I answer only to God. Unlike some other members of the crew, I will not twist the truth to protect the company.

SENATOR

You finally demanded Mr. Ismay stand back?

LOWE

Yes, though he was trying to help, I found him overanxious, waving his hands sayingÖ"lower away! lower away! Lower away!"

LOWEíS imitation of pompous ISMAY is superb, the ladies who are already smitten with Lowe giggle.

SENATOR

Did you fire shots from your revolver while your boat was being lowered?

LOWE

Yes, as we passed the lower deck a mob of people began swarming the boat, it would have pitched us all over into the sea.

SENATOR

Witnesses say you fired into a crowd of immigrants.

LOWE

No, only to either side of the ship.

SENATOR

Do you believe reports that First Officer Murdoch shot himself dead after killing a passenger?

LOWE

Yes. And he realized heíd be blamed for letting too many men aboard the lifeboats.

SENATOR

Why didnít you load the boats to capacity?

LOWE

At first few wanted to leave the ship. Then we were of the understanding that too many people would cause the lifeboats to buckle in the middle.

SENATOR (waving file)

Those boats were designed to hold up to 65 men. They were lowered from davits in Belfast with 65 burley Irishman. Why was there never a boat drill as scheduled?

LOWE

It was another failure in the chain of command and information. The morning of the drill was at the same time Captain Smith liked to conduct Sunday mass.

SENATOR

You who only answer to God could have made it your business to learn more. Men were resting on their oars while there was room for 500 more people on those boats!

MRS. WHITE (an outburst)

The officers should have left the ship last.

LIGHTOLLER

I didnít leave the ship, the ship left me. I was washed off the plunging bow. I eventually swam until I found a collapsible lifeboat floating upside down.

SENATOR

OK, back to you Mr. Lightoller, did any other swimmers try to climb on board?

LIGHTOLLER

Yes. Once the crewmembers recognized me, they pulled me up. Wireless officer Bride was the last man invited on board.

SENATOR

One more man after that and youíd have capsized?

LIGHTOLLER

I didnít see anyone whack any swimmers with an oar like Iíve heard. So many people were in the water.

MRS. SHELLEY

You couldnít hear anything but the boat break-up, then all those people in the water crying for help.

MRS. WHITE

It sounded like the roar in a stadium. The mass of screams were dreadful.

Lights go down in hearings and hallway areas. CHORUS softly sings or hums "near, my God to Thee" while SENATOR addresses the audience.

SENATOR (slowly showing fatigue)

No one claims to have done anything wrong! For days now all we hear is a dozen minor things that led to major deaths. What facts we do know is Captain E.J. Smith allowed extra boilers to be fired up that day and drove his monstrous ship full speed ahead, with no extra lookouts with no binoculars when there had been repeated ice warnings! It stands to reason the other things the Captain did after the collusion would make no sense.

He was told the ship wouldnít make it till morning, so to not cause a panic he told his officers "casually load a few life boats here and there as a safety precaution." Yet Iíve been advised not to criticize the Captain publicly!

While SENATOR talks all other ten or so actors move to two rows on benches under a spotlight. A couple oars and a lantern should help. Not all passengers had life vests and some were in pajamas and blankets. We hear faint sounds those still on board and sounds of the ship breaking up.

PASSENGER

Sheís gone under! Pointed right up in the air!

Several lifeboat passengers begin to sob in terror. Those in the boats say they didnít hear loud screams of those left behind until they were swimming. So the mass of screams start now.

PASSENGER

Our husbands!

PASSENGER

If all those men standing near the boat had been better dressed, youíd have let them on too.

PASSENGER

Listen to them. Letís row back, weíve plenty room to save a dozen lives or more.

PASSENGER

Weíll all die! No one touch those oars!

LOWE

Itís suicide to go back now, we will wait.

PASSENGER

I canít stand the sound.

LOWE

We will sing.

PASSENGER

Are you mad!?

LOWE

Were going to sing to block out the screams.

Everybody, itís an order.

Lowe begins to sing, though in obvious sorrow, but with a sense of duty. Slowly some of the others join him as the screams of swimmers get louder.

LOWE THEN CHORUS

Pull for the shore, sailor, and pull for the shore!

Heed not the rolling waves, but bend to the oar;

Safe in the lifeboat, sailor, cling to self no more!

Leave the poor stranded wreck, and pull for the shore.

[NOTE: Survivors really did sing this song in boat 13. The song Lowe actually had them sing was "Throw out the life-line"] Screams stop, lights come back up on SENATOR as he talks to the audience.

SENATOR

Yes, several boats really sang to do anything to block the bone chilling screams. There are reports crewman made threats to anyone who wanted to row near the crowd. But it was mostly the woman majority in boats that collectively voted not to go back. Woman soon to be widows. What you see in the stories are gallantry while the ship was sinking. Such personal sacrifice. "Sit right here, take my blanket. Let me row."

God was there during the final hours till Titanic vanished. Then when it comes to these half full boats at least trying to pick up swimmers, only one boat went back! But the screams are gone in an hour or so. Then God and gallantry is back. "Here take my jacket, oh, no, you board the rescue ship first. Oh, no hot soup for me until everyone else has some."

Slowly the sound of hushed screams begin again while he talks, they get louder, like voices in his head. So he talks louder.

Where was God during that hour!? When he was needed most! The boats could have let a few of the nearest swimmers on and rowed off before being swamped. But I wasnít there.

In the end I believe some men willingly gave their lives, I believe plenty of people wanted to go back. But the numbers and the reality are one boat out of 20 went back and saved three!

ISMAY calmly enters, unaware of the loud screams. The SENATOR is looking overworked and weary.

ISMAY

Excuse me Senator?!

ISMAY says this loud enough for SENATOR to hear when heís still several feet away. The minute he speaks, the screams stop instantly. SENATOR turns to talk to him.

ISMAY

The hearings are all but over now. No oneís been able to prove any of the charges against me. May I go home?

SENATOR

No. (rubbing eyes)

Action quickly moves to stage left. KATE is with WANE.

KATE

I told you I have a rally to go to on Wednesday.

WANE

Darling, by Wednesday Iíd hoped we could take the train to Niagara Falls and get married.

KATE

Itís so soon.

WANE

I just want to get away from all this.

Enter FLEET with a MARGO.

FLEET

Hold it right there, Mr. baby bottom hands, I asked around at the port about you. Then I talked to this newsman woman.

MARGO

I found out you didnít make any money for a story in The Post.

KATE

Whereíd you get all that money you have?

FLEET

Heís a gambler. Tell her your real name?

MARGO

We know youíre wanted by the New York police. But we wonít say a word if youíll give me an exclusive story about being a con artist on board luxury liners.

KATE

He knew Iím not rich. How could he-

FLEET

Even a man who cheats at poker can still fall in love. What could be a better wife for a traveling card sharp then a pretty girl whoís always off busy protesting?

KATE

You cheat at cards?

WANE

No, Iím just a very good player. Thatís in the past. Almost dying made me change.

KATE

Almost? I could kill you right now.

How could you lie to me!?

WANE

But I love you.

KATE

Iím chokiní up itís so romantic.

WANEíS hand comes out of the sling. He grabs Fleet by the collar and practically lifts him up. Heís about ready to punch him. MARGO tries to pull WANE off.

WANE

I will show you choked!

FLEET

Your hand was never hurt!

WANE

How did you know the police want me?

FLEET breaks away, WANE steps toward the exit.

FLEET

I didnít. Just guessed after I heard you cleaned out several sailors last night.

KATE (to Wane)

Oh, Iím a modern independent woman, I always end up calling off my weddings anyway!

WANE is truly heartbroken, he begins to leave.

MARGO

Canít you give me just a few quotes?

WANE

Howís this, drowned me right now!

WANE exits.

KATE

Good bye whatever your real name is!

MARGO

See you at the rally on Wednesday.

Exit MARGO.

KATE

Thank you Mr. Fleet.

FLEET

Least I did somethiní good, maybe the old man upstairs will give me some repentance.

KATE

Donít worry, God loves you, wherever she may be.

Lights go down as KATE and FLEET exit. Lights come back up on SENATOR and ISMAY.

SENATOR

(shakes his head)

By the way, women were given the vote in 1920.

ISMAY

Why tell me that? Are you tired?

SENATOR

Iíve worked nonstop. Mr. Ismay, Iím a man used to finding answers!

ISMAY

Iím used to having anything I want! Now Iím ruined. But Iím numb. I donít have the nightmares or hear the screams like everyone else. Why canít the dead and the era of building too big too fast be to blame? Did you have to put on a show?!

SENATOR

To make it easier to get new safety legislation!

Enter LIGHTOLLER.

LIGHTOLLER

That would have taken care of its self. Just this week the crew of the Olympic refused to go back out to sea until White Star provided lifeboats for everyone on board. Senator, you and your wife crossed on the Titanicís sister ship just last year. Captain Smith gave you a tour. Did you scream and shout when you saw they didnít have a full compliment of lifeboats?

SENATOR

The fact that weíre all guilty of complacency will be in my final report!

ISMAY

Assume Iím greedy with no soul. I proved I want to live! I am worth 40 millions dollars in 1912! Why would I cut corners on a ship with an unlimited budget, a ship I was going to be a regular passenger on!ÖThe three men who were directly responsible for the safety of the ship that night perished without answering your questions. Then since God isnít returning your phone calls, you turn me into the devil!

SENATOR

Watch your mouth!

ISMAY

Senator, perhaps there is a God. But have you considered that maybe I donít think thereís such things as ghosts?

ISMAY motions LIGHTOLLER to follow him, he does like a loyal dog. They exit as LOWE enters.

LOWE

You know I hate Ismay. But he is innocent of every major crime heís charged with. If heíd died or if the top brass had lived, his name wouldnít be ruined.

SENATOR

After the wireless operator, you seem to be the only hero.

LOWE

No, thereís no legends of self-sacrifice among the living. I believe my entering a lifeboat saved lives. The shots I fired may have accidentally killed someone. I was aware when boat drills were ignored. I too was complacent, wanted to be promoted. We all have to find peace with GodÖ Titanic was simply too big. Youíre methods of finding answers were too big. When we donít have all the answers we ask "where was God?"

SENATOR

And then more and more these days we expect the government to solve our problems.

LOWE

The Lord would never leave us. Perhaps God canít be everywhere at once, but the love for our fellow man can be.

Exit Lowe. Suddenly ISMAY pops his head back in.

ISMAY

Senator, may I Ė

SENATOR

YES, YOU CAN GO HOME! (pause)

SENATOR (to audience)

Ismay never returned to the U.S. No criminal charges were ever filed against the company or any individual. As for Titanicís passengers, in the end very little insurance money was ever paid out. The carefree spirit of the times was blamed. We learned modern technology canít always conquer Mother Nature.

Naturally there was sweeping marine legislation to avoid future sea catastrophes. A year after Titanic, major investigations began in working and living conditions of the poor. Then just two years later income tax and World War One brought an end to the super rich ruling supreme.

ISMAY, LIGHTOLLER, LOWE and FLEET have lined up single file behind SENATOR.

SENATOR

As soon as I let J. Bruce Ismay go back to England he was called to testify at the British Titanic inquiry. He was raked through the coals there and in the press. Though for the second time he was cleared of wrong doing, he was forced out of White Star lines and retired from public life forever the scapegoat.

ISMAY

At least I outlived you by five years.

ISMAY exits with nose in the air, LIGHTOLLER was behind him.

SENATOR

Charles Lightoller served in World War One and returned to White Star but never was promoted to captain because heíd chosen to support Ismay. He died in 1952.

LIGHTOLLER

Tell them.

SENATOR (sighs)

During World War Two while almost 70 years old

he took his familyís yacht to Dunkirk and rescued 130 men. The overcrowded boat was bombed and machine-gunned along the way, but because of his skill as a seaman no hands were lost. (Exit LIGHTOLLER, Lowe was behind him.)

Harold Lowe, after becoming a commander in World War Two he returned home to Wales and worked in local politics. He died in 1944, rarely talking of the Titanic but always recognized for his selfless duty.

(whispers to audience while LOWE exits)

He had the best funeral of any of usÖ

Frederick Fleet stayed at sea for 24 more years, but was never forgiven for revealing that the binoculars were missing. Shortly after his wifeís death in 1965 he hung himself from the clothesline in his back yard.

FLEET

Do you have to tell everyone that! (exit Fleet)

SENATOR

As for me. My liberal stunts wore thin, I didnít run for president but stayed effective in the senate for seven more years then went back to being a businessman. I slowly lost my spark and grew isolated. Now Iím a tiny footnote, but in my day I was a tiger.

And did God ever answer me? In some ways the world woke up and changed for the better, lives were saved with improved safety standards only a catastrophe like the Titanic could have brought. And how could God have not been at a place where in the face of death the band played on?

Slowly everyone comes back out and sings, "nearer thy God to thee." When they start bowing it becomes a liveler "It was sad when the great ship went down." SENATOR is encouraged to sing, he finally joins in.

THE END