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Shakespeare are Nellie are sitting on the couch, reading a book together. NELLIE. Are you don’t with this page? SHAKESPEARE. I am. Thank you for asking. (She turns the page, and they continue to read.) NELLIE. I like this story. SHAKESPEARE. Your daddy used to read it to you, didn’t he? NELLIE. Yes. He taught me how to read it. I wish he didn’t move away. SHAKESPEARE. Sometimes mommies and daddies move away from each other, Nellie. Sometimes it’s best for their families if they do. NELLIE. I miss him. He doesn’t visit much anymore. SHAKESPEARE. You have me. And your mommy, and Granny, and Goldie. We’ll all take care of each other. NELLIE. You’re right. Are you done with this page? SHAKESPEARE. Almost. (There is a knock on the door.) Were we expecting anyone? NELLIE. I don’t think so. Should I answer it? (Matilda yells from the other room.) MATILDA. Honey! Would you please get the door and let Mr. Silver in? NELLIE. Mr. Silver? What’s Mr. Silver doing here? SHAKESPEARE. Your teacher, right? NELLIE. Yes. I’ve only had him for a month but… (Another knock. Matilda enters.) MATILDA. Nellie, didn’t you hear me? NELLIE. What’s Mr. Silver doing here? MATILDA. He came to talk to me. NELLIE. What? MATILDA. You don’t need to worry. NELLIE. About me. MATILDA. Yes. And Shakespeare.
NELLIE. What about Shakespeare? (A third knock.) Mommy… MATILDA. Nellie, why don’t you go take Shakespeare to your room and play with him there? NELLIE. What’s going on? MATILDA. Please. NELLIE. Ok. (They leave. Matilda opens the door.) MATILDA. Mr. Silver. I’m so sorry that took so long. Won’t you come in? MR. SILVER. Yes. Thank you. MATILDA. It’s very nice to meet you. Nellie likes you very much. Can I offer you a drink? MR. SILVER. Yes… I’ll take a beer if you have one. MATILDA. We don’t keep alcohol in the house. Except for rubbing alcohol. But water? Pop? Tea? MR. SILVER. No, thank you, I’m fine. MATILDA. Please have a seat. (He does, and looks around, uncomfortably.) MR. SILVER. Now, Mrs. Rhodes… MATILDA. Actually, it’s Ms. Asher now. My husband and I have recently separated. The divorce becomes final next week. MR. SILVER. I’m sorry to hear that. MATILDA. You know what, you can call me Matilda. MR. SILVER. Yes. Well, I suppose you’re wondering why I called you. MATILDA. I actually believe that I know. MR. SILVER. You do? MATILDA. Yes. I’d like to see if I’m right. MR. SILVER. It’s about Nellie’s little… friend. MATILDA. Shakespeare. MR. SILVER. So you know about him. MATILDA. Oh yes. Shakespeare and I go back a very long time. MR. SILVER. Matilda, Nellie is a very bright girl. She’s only bee in first grade for a month now and she’s already reading at a fourth grade level when half of the other seven-
year-olds in her class are still struggling with picture books. She writes beautifully, and she has mastered her math skills… MATILDA. So, you called me to commend me on raising a bright child? MR. SILVER. Not exactly. MATILDA. Then why are you here? MR. SILVER. Ma’am… its her social skilled I’m concerned about. This Shakespeare fellow has caused problems with the other children. MATILDA. Really? How so? MR. SILVER. First, he must always have a chair at the lunch table. She refuses to sit next to the other girls. At recess, she is often sitting under a tree by herself. Mrs. Collins, the recess aide asked her what she was doing, and she said she was just talking with Shakespeare. She thought Nellie was going insane. She thought she was referring to the 16th century playwright, not an imaginary friend. MATILDA. Surely other children her age have imaginary friends. MR. SILVER. They do, Ms. Asher, I assure you. But Nellie’s “relationship” with Shakespeare seems to be bordering a very complex and harmful delusion. I’m afraid she is showing signs of… well, I hate to say… MATILDA. What? MR. SILVER. Un-diagnosed autism. MATILDA. You think my child is autistic? MR. SILVER. She has been showing signs. She cares more about her friend then anything real in the world. She plays pretend constantly. MATILDA. You just said that she was very bright. MR. SILVER. But her social behavior… MATILDA. May I ask what you think gives you the right to speak about my child this way? Who are you to judge? MR. SILVER. Well, I do have a doctorate in early childhood development. MATILDA. Oh… I guess those are good credentials. MR. SILVER. Look, Ms. Asher, perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I didn’t come here to suggest anything regarding displacing your daughter or even that she should see a specialist. I’m merely here to talk about her. She’s obviously using this Shakespeare fellow as a replacement for her father. She’s told me that he hasn’t come to visit in a while.
MATILDA. It’s been a few weeks. He’s been busy at work. MR. SILVER. I would just hate to see Nellie become too reliant on Shakespeare. It can prove to make her life very lonely. And she really is very bright. But down the road, it could prove to be a problem. MATILDA. Mr. Silver… MR. SILVER. Oh, please, call me Jon. MATILDA. Alright. Jon. What do you think I should do? MR. SILVER. I recommend discouraging Nellie’s interactions with Shakespeare. MATILDA. I don’t think I can do that. MR. SILVER. Set up play dates. Take her out with your husband, if possible. Bring the whole family. Assert that Shakespeare is merely a figment on her imagination. (Shakespeare reenters.) MATILDA. I don’t wish to crush her imagination, Jon. MR. SILVER. I know. But for now, it may be best. (There is a moment of silence.) MATILDA. Nellie? Could you come in here please? (Nellie reenters.) NELLIE. Yes, mommy? MATILDA. Say hello to Mr. Silver. NELLIE. Hello, Mr. Silver. MR. SILVER. Hello, Nellie. How are you doing? NELLIE. Fine. What’s he doing here, mommy? SHAKESPEARE. Nellie… you should listen to what Mr. Silver has to say. And don’t be afraid or upset. NELLIE. Shakespeare… what’s going on? MR. SILVER. Nellie, Shakespeare’s not here right now. NELLIE. No, he’s right here. MR. SILVER. No, he’s not. Nellie, he’s not real. NELLIE. I don’t understand. I see him.
MR. SILVER. No you don’t.
NELLIE. Yes I do! MATILDA. Nellie, Mr. Silver thinks that it would be best if you didn’t play with Shakespeare for a little bit. And played with other children your age. NELLIE. Why are you trying to take him away from me? MATILDA. Because he’s not real, sweetheart. NELLIE. But he is! MATILDA. Nellie, settle down. NELLIE. He is real! HE is! You know he is! He was your friend too! He told me! MATILDA. Nellie, please calm yourself. NELLIE. NO! HE’S REAL! HE’S REAL! MR. SILVER. Nellie, please. NELLIE. I don’t want to listen to you, you evil, ugly…ugly PIRATE! You’re a PIRATE! MR. SILVER. Nellie… NELLIE. Shakespeare will fight you and you’ll lose! He’s mine, and he won’t go away! He won’t! I won’t let him! MATILDA. Nellie! NELLIE. I love him! (Silence from the others.) I love him, mommy. MATILDA. Nellie, we need to talk about this… MR. SILVER. Perhaps I should go. MATILDA. I think it’s wise. Thank you, Mr. Silver. MR. SILVER. I’ll be in touch. (He goes out.) NELLIE. Why did you let him say those things? MATILDA. Nellie… please… NELLIE. I know he was yours. Why did you… MATILDA. Because I worry about you. I don’t want you to be lonely, Nellie. I don’t. If your father were here… (She sits on the couch and starts to cry. Nellie is unsure what to do, so she looks to Shakespeare. He motions for her to hug her mother. She does. Matilda holds Nellie back.)
NELLIE. Don’t cry, mommy. It’ll be ok. Please don’t cry. (Without another word, still crying, she goes out. Nellie sits confused.) SHAKESPEARE. Your mommy just needs to cry out her emotions, Nellie. She’ll be fine. This has been hard on everyone. NELLIE. I don’t understand. Shakespeare… are you not real? SHAKESPEARE. No. I’m imaginary. NELLIE. Then how come I can see you? SHAKESPEARE. Well, Nellie… I’m not imaginary to you. (Nellie looks off to where her mother went off, as :) LIGHTS FADE
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