Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

Liliane Grace, creative writing, author, keynote speaker, The Mastery Club 

The WashHouse Blues

CHARACTERS (in order of appearance):

 

Customers of the dry cleaning / laundromat business (three, including:

Mr Andrews, a local businessman).

Mr Fizz, owner/manager of laundry, a plump, self-important, comical character,.

Chorus I & Chorus II (at least three to five people in each chorus; ‘expandable’ to absorb greater numbers).

Miss Takes, new employee who has a tendency to make mistakes….

Mrs Able, chief employee, a competent, maternal type.

Laundrette, Mr Fizz’s daughter; a trendy and creative teenager.

Mrs Biddle, a bustling bossy woman.

Sophie Biddle, her shrinking, nervous daughter.

Mr Andrews’ Secretary.

Tattooed Man.

Mother and young children.

Three rush-hour customers: I, II and III.

 

SET: A Laundromat/Dry Cleaners and the street in front of the shop.

 

Set props:

Three washing machines (can be made by the children out of large boxes).

Counter with stool, phone, cash register and message pad/tickets.

Rack behind counter with dry cleaned clothes hanging in plastic bags awaiting pick-up.

An automatic soap dispenser on the wall (can be made by children).

A magazine rack for the customers.

Front door (can be mimed).

A sign: “Fizz’s Wash House”.

 

 

SCENE 1:

Mr Fizz is standing outside his laundry with thumbs hooked through his braces, beaming. Customers hurry in and out of his laundry with baskets of washing or outfits on hangers wrapped in plastic.

His opening speech may be reminiscent of Curly’s opening song in Oklahoma – “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…”

Mr Fizz:

It’s a loverley day today,
Lots of customers coming to pay,
With the money I earn,
I’ll have money to burn,
And I’ll be in a very good way!

Three customers enter and make their speeches in rapid succession:

Female Customer (holding up shirt with stain):

Oh Mr Fizz! Mr Fizz – can you possibly help me? I’ve got a terrible stain on my favourite shirt.

Female Customer (holding up a pink blouse):

Mr Fizz! Oh, Mr Fizz. My husband washed my pure white blouse with his red boxer shorts. Is there anything you can do?

Mr Andrews (holding up a suit):

I’m in a terrible hurry, Mr Fizz. I’ve a plane to catch at 6 pm and I need this suit ready to take with me. Can you do it?

Mr Fizz (beaming):

Right this way, of course we can, just leave it here with Mrs Able, my trusty helper. (As he is speaking he ushers them into the Laundromat and closes door behind them, then faces the audience again) Besides, we’ve got a new worker arriving today, a Miss… (Looks at letter in pocket) Takes. (Beams widely and goes off singing “It’s a loverly day today…”.)

Chorus I:

Thank heavens for Mrs Able,
Whose skills should be writ in a fable,
If you need something done,
In a spirit of fun,
You can count on capable Able.

 

SCENE 2:

Miss Takes arrives on the scene, looking for the Laundromat. She carries a piece of paper and is counting street numbers.

Forty-eight, fifty, fifty-two… Now what was it again? Sixty-nine. Oh, that will be on the other side of the road. (Crosses over, tripping on curb. Must calm herself down) Oh gosh. I’m so nervous. There it is. (Reads sign “Fizz’s Wash House”. Takes a big breath.) Well, here goes. (Knocks and enters.)

Chorus II:

As for the lovely Miss Takes
A muddle she constantly makes,
Her intentions are good,
There’s no doubt that she would,
Be a champ, if she made less mistakes.

 

SCENE 3

Mr Fizz emerges with his arm around Miss Takes’ shoulders, beaming, and followed by Mrs Able, who is carrying a cup of tea.

Mr Fizz:

Very good then, then, it’s settled. Mrs Able here will give you your instructions. If you work hard and well, you’ll be very happy here. Now I’m off to the City on Important Business. I’m counting on you girls to keep the place running. (Puts jacket on and departs.)

Mrs Able (calling after him virtuously):

You can count on me, Mr Fizz.

Miss Takes:

Me too…

Mrs Able (settling herself on step or seat outside the shop):

First job, is it, love?

Miss Takes (uncomfortably):

Not exactly…

Mrs Able:

You’ve worked in a washhouse before, then?

Miss Takes:

Not in a washhouse – well, just the one at home. But I’ve tried my hand at this and that. Now, what would you like me to do?

Mrs Able:

Keen, aren’t you? That’s good. But let’s just stop here a bit for a chat. It’s morning teatime for me. Would you like a cuppa?

Miss Takes:

Oh no thanks. I’ve got a banana in my bag. (Takes it out, peels and eats throughout next few speeches.)

Mrs Able:

So what have you done before? Your little bit of this and that?

Miss Takes:

Oh not much. I helped out in a greengrocer’s once. (She winces at the memory) And I like children so I worked in a childcare centre for a little while.

Mrs Able:

Oh yes? How long were you at the greengrocer’s?

Miss Takes:

Two weeks.

Mrs Able:

And the child care centre?

Miss Takes:

One week.

Mrs Able (looking at her more attentively):

And what else did you do?

Miss Takes:

A short burst at a restaurant.

Mrs Able:

How short?

Miss Takes:

Just a day.


Mr Fizz’s daughter Laundrette appears, buffing her nails as she crosses the stage.

Laundrette:

Oh hello there, Mrs A.

Mrs Able:

Hello dear. Finished your studies?

Laundrette:

Stay inside studying on a beautiful day like today? You must be joking. (She exits)

Mrs Able (to Miss Takes):

That’s Mr Fizz’s daughter Laundrette. Lazy little thing. She’s been brought up in those rooms above the wash house and she’s seen her mother and father both sweating over this shop – her mother worked her fingers to the bone – she got sick and died a few years ago now, bless her soul. But young Miss Laundrette can’t be bothered to lend anyone a helping hand. (Looks at Miss Takes) Why she’d be your age, I reckon. Any rate, I can see you’re the helpful sort. Come inside and I’ll show you around….

They enter shop.

Chorus I:

Laundrette! Laundrette!
She can’t stand to get her hands wet!
She’s not into books
Much keener on looks
Is Laundrette – but she doesn’t fret.

 

SCENE 4

Miss Takes is sweeping in front of shop. Mrs Biddle, a customer, arrives with outfit in brown suit bag and her daughter, Sophie, in tow, and rushes into the shop.

Mrs Biddle:

Good morning – you are a life saver, Mrs Able. There we are, getting ready for the big event and suddenly it occurs to Sophie that we should check the dress and what do we find but this ugly yellow stain right down the front! Are you sure it’ll be ready by tonight?

Mrs Able:

I’ll do it right now. Regular customer like you ought to get a bit of special service.

Mrs Biddle:

Oh thank you! Say thank you, Sophie.

Sophie:

Thank you, Mrs Able.

Mrs Biddle:

We are awfully grateful. Well, we’re off to the hairdresser now. Be back at four did you say?

Mrs Able:

Four will be fine.

Mrs Biddle:

Very well, see you then. (Rushes out, colliding in the doorway with Miss Takes who is coming in with a broom.)

Miss Takes:

Oh I’m so sorry.(She tries to brush Mrs Biddle down. Mrs Able is looking at Miss Takes thoughtfully. Miss Takes puts the broom away and begins to fold a pile of washing, half-reading a women’s mag. from the pile as she does.)

Mr Andrews’ Secretary enters the shop with an empty black suit-bag.

Mrs Able:

Good morning.

Secretary:

Morning. My boss left a suit here earlier under the name of Andrews – not ready, is it?

Mrs Able:

Not yet. I told him four o’clock.

Secretary:

That’s all right. He’s just asked me to drop in this suit-bag while I’m on my lunch hour - he’ll collect it himself at four, on his way to the airport.

Mrs Able:

Good-oh. (Puts suit bag on counter. Secretary leaves. Mrs Able unzips the other bag and withdraws the stained dress. To Miss Takes:) Leave those for now and you mind the shop while I take a look at this dress. (Goes out back.)

Miss Takes (nervously):

All right then. (Sits at cash register nervously. Nothing happens. Suddenly phone rings. She jumps. Answers it.) Er… Fizz’s Wash House… I’ll just check (goes to back.) Mrs Able, there’s a lady on the phone wondering if her jacket is ready.

Mrs Able (off):

What’s her item number?

Miss Takes:

I don’t know. I’ll ask. (into phone) What’s your item number please? … (to Mrs Able) She doesn’t know. She can't find the ticket.

Mrs Able (off):

What sort of jacket is it?

Miss Takes:

(into phone) What sort of jacket is it? … (to Mrs Able) Navy blue with a white stripe.

Mrs Able (off):

Oh yes, that’s done.

Miss Takes:

(into phone) It’s ready… You’re welcome.

Tattooed man enters washhouse wearing singlet with tattoos on his arms and carrying a big armful of washing including stinky socks. He goes to a machine and stuffs clothes in.

Tattooed Man:

Damn. (looks at Miss Takes who is watching him while still sitting nervously by cash register.) You got any soap powder there, Miss?

Miss Takes:

I don’t know. I’m new. (Goes to back.) Is there any soap powder for the machines?

Mrs Able (off):

Automatic dispenser. $1.00 in the slot.

Miss Takes (looks around and sees it):

Yes, over there.

Tattooed Man (Looks. Goes through track pockets full of junk looking for coins. Finds only a ten dollar note):

Can you change this?

Miss Takes:

Certainly… I think. (looks at cash register. Goes to back.) Mrs Able, how do you open the cash register to change money?

Mrs Able (appears):

I’ll do that for you.

She changes the money and gives the change to the man who starts his machine, which begins to make some machine noise. [The children can make this noise.] Mrs Able returns to back. The man sits and reads a women’s magazine.

Wash House door opens and a Mother enters to do washing with her little kids. Now there are two machines going plus kids. Everyone looks a bit tired or hassled. They continue miming their activity throughout the following Chorus speech.


SCENE 5

Chorus I:

There’s no doubt in my mind
Of the work that you’ll find

Chorus II:

Piling up every day
There is no time to play.

I & II:

This business is not very kind.

Chorus II:

Sort, mend, wash, iron, fold
Is the rhythm we’re told,

Chorus I:

If a wash house you choose,
The tune’s sure to be Blues,

I & II:

Unless you’re the brave or the bold.

 

SCENE 6


Mr Fizz
(enters):

I’m back, Mrs Able. How’s it going, Miss Takes?

Miss Takes (sits up straighter):

Oh, fine, thank you Mr Fizz.

Mr Fizz:

I’ll be doing the books in the office if you need me, Mrs Able.

Mrs Able (coming out with bundles in her arms):

All right then, Mr Fizz. (to Miss Takes) There we are, love. I’ve managed to get the stain out of the young girl’s dress, and here’s the suit for the gentleman who’s picking it up on his way to the airport. Just pop them into their bags, will you love?

The door opens and Customer #1 comes in, speaking as Mrs Able finishes the following (i.e. their voices overlap):

Mrs Able (still to Miss Takes):

They’re both sitting on the counter.

Customer #1:

I’m after Item No. 14 – is it ready?

Mrs Able (To customer):

Item No. 14? Certainly, sir. (turns to back of shop. As she does, two more customers enter and Miss Takes places the dress and suit on counter and proceeds to put them in the wrong bags.)

Customer #2:

Do you do quilts? (dumps a big one on the counter)

Customer #3:

I need an alteration to these pants.

Mrs Able (to Customer #1):

Here’s your jacket, sir. That’ll be $30, thank you. (While #1 gets the money out, she says to #2): Certainly. Name please?

Customer #2:

Brogan.

Mrs Able:

Good-oh. (She writes name on ticket.) That’ll be ready for pick-up Wednesday. (Then to #1) Thank you. Here’s your change. (To #3) What sort of alteration were you after?

Customer #3:

Well, they need taking in here… and here…

Mrs Able:

Oh, a tricky one. I’ll be right with you. (Gives quilt to Miss Takes) Just pop that out back for me, will you love. (Goes out back with Customer #3 to finish taking details re alterations.)

 

SCENE 7

Chorus I:

There’s no doubt in my mind
Of the work that you’ll find

Chorus II:

Piling up every day
There is no time to play.

I & II:

This business is not very kind.

Chorus II:

Sort, mend, wash, iron, fold
Is the rhythm we’re told,

Chorus I:

If a wash house you choose,
The tune’s sure to be Blues,

I & II:

Unless you’re the brave or the bold.


(Meanwhile Customers #1 & 2 leave. #3 is still ‘out the back’ talking to Mrs Able about the pants.)

 

SCENE 8

Door opens and Mr Andrews arrives.

Mr Andrews (to Miss Takes):

Good afternoon. I believe you have a suit for me. Item no. 45 – oh there it is, in my bag. Excellent. Just charge it to my account. (Takes his bag and rushes out.)

Miss Takes looks from him to Mrs Able at back of shop nervously – obviously hoping that’s okay.

Door opens and Sophie arrives for dress. Also sees it on counter and grabs her bag.

Sophie:

It’s done? Thanks. Mum’ll pay later. She’s a regular. (She leaves with bag.)

 

SCENE 9

Chorus I:

The odd error occurs
That’s life – (to others in Chorus) – You concur? (all nod sagely)
We all do them;
We rue them;
But they just.  will.  recur.

 

Chorus II:

Yet never despair
Don’t pull out your hair
If you make a mistake
Don’t jump in a lake
There is always a way if you care.

 

SCENE 10

Mrs Able (as #3 leaves):

Oo, that was a bit of a rush. It was good to have an extra pair of hands. (notices bags gone from counter.) I see the suit and the dress were collected.

Miss Takes (nods):

They both said they’ll pay later.

Mrs Able:

That’s fine. Now, let me see… (writing) the suit in the black bag for the gentleman was a $27 job, and the dress in the brown bag for young Sophie was an $18 job….

Miss Takes (pales):

The suit was meant to be in the black bag?

Mrs Able (stops writing, slowly, nodding):

And the dress in the …

On either side of stage lights come on Mr Andrews at one end, and Mrs Biddle and her daughter at the other, as they unzip their bags and shake out the wrong item. Horrified expressions as he holds up a white frilly dress, and she holds up a business suit. Freeze for a moment then black-out as they exit.


SCENE 11

Chorus I & II:

No, never despair
Don’t pull out your hair…
If you make a mistake
Don’t jump in a lake…
There is always a way if you care.

 

 

SCENE 12


Miss Takes:

I’ll leave. It’s all my fault. Oh, I’m so sorry. (Bursts into tears.)

Mrs Able:

Now, don’t fret. I’m sure we’ll sort it out. (calling) Mr Fizz! We have a little problem. (As Mr Fizz appears) Do you think you could run after that Mr Andrews – you know the one – he’s picked up the wrong item and he’s on his way to the airport with it. I notice he always takes the bus.

Mr Fizz:

Oh dear (rushes out).

Mrs Able:

Don’t cry, love, accidents do happen.

Mrs Biddle (rushing in with Sophie):

Oh, I’m so glad we caught you before you closed shop. We’ve got the wrong thing. (Displays suit. Miss Takes bursts into tears again.)

Mrs Able:

Yes, we just….

Laundrette (enters jauntily. Notices Miss Takes in tears):

What’s up?

Mrs Able (ignoring Laundrette):

Now I’m sure we’ll be able to sort something out. Let’s all stay calm. Mr Fizz is trying to track the gentleman who’s been given your outfit by mistake.

Sophie Biddle:

Oh what will we do? I’ve got nothing to wear tonight!

Miss Takes cries afresh.

Laundrette:

Nothing to wear?
Just ask me.
That’s my spec-i-al-it-y.

Mrs Able (to Laundrette):

Now don’t go interfering, love. Just get on with your homework like a good girl. (to Mrs Biddle) Of course there’ll be no charge… once we relocate your outfit…

Mr Fizz (returns):

No. It’s hopeless. He’s gone.

Miss Takes and Sophie both burst into tears again.

Mrs Biddle:

Whatever will we do?

Mrs Able:

Perhaps the Wash House could pay for a new dress for Miss Sophie to wear tonight?

Mr Fizz (horrified):

A new dress! But brand new, those things cost squillions.

Mrs Biddle (shaking her head):

There just isn’t time to go looking.

Laundrette:

If you would all give me just one iota of attention and perhaps two iotas of trust, I might possibly just be able to help. (All stop talking and crying, and look at her.)  I’m actually pretty creative with clothes, if you don’t mind my saying so. And I bet… (looking at Sophie critically), I could whip something up that would suit her. She’s not that different in size to me.

Mrs Able:

Well…

Mrs Biddle:

It’s our only hope…

Laundrette leads Sophie off stage left. Mrs Able leads Mrs Biddle off stage right. Mr Fizz looks at Miss Takes who bursts into tears again.


SCENE 13

Chorus I is negative and miserable:

Poor Mr Fizz, saving up for a cruise,
Is about, all his clients, to lose.
It’s really too bad.
It’s dastardly sad.
It’s the tune of the old Wash House Blues.


Chorus II
is bright and positive:

Come, come, don’t despair
Cease pulling your hair.
If you make a mistake
Don’t jump in a lake
There is always a way if you care.


SCENE 14

Laundrette (appears, looking quite pleased with herself. Calls all others):

Mrs Able! Mrs Biddle! Dad! Miss – Takes? (noticing the name and struck by it. To Miss Takes as the others enter.) What’s your first name?

Miss Takes:

Hope.

Laundrette:

Hope. (she grins) Everyone! Come and look at this. (Goes to door and calls Sophie in. Sophie enters looking very striking in new outfit that Laundrette has patched together from her own clothes and bits and pieces of fabric. She is glowing. It is much more contemporary and stylish than the original frilly dress.)

Mrs Biddle:

Oh my!

Mrs Able:

Well!

Mr Fizz:

Did you do that, Drettie?

Miss Takes:

Wow. It’s better than the other one. (Claps her hand over her mouth.) Oops. Sorry.

Sophie:

She’s right. It’s much nicer than the other one. That other dress belonged to my cousin Desdemona and I hated it. This is… (she twirls) just lovely.

Mrs Biddle:

We’ll take it! Sophie, if we hurry, you’ll still be there on time.

Mr Fizz (stepping up boldly with arm around his daughter’s shoulders. Says importantly): Yes, we’re expanding the business. I’ve been developing ideas for some time, but it’s all just now come clear. (Shows sign with hand) “Fizz and Daughter: We Design and Care For Your Clothes.” (Beaming at Laundrette who is very pleased with her new status and recognition. She smiles back.)

Mrs Able (shows Mrs Biddle and Sophie to the door then says to Miss Takes):

There you are. All’s well that ends well.

Miss Takes (nervously):

There’s still that other gentleman… Mr Andrews?

Mrs Able:

Oh yes…

Mr Fizz (hopefully):

But perhaps that will work out all right too.

Phone on counter rings. Mr Fizz answers.

Mr Fizz:

Fizz … and Daughter. (He and Laundrette beam at each other.) Oh yes, Mr Andrews! (the others look alarmed) We were all most – (listens) … Indeed? (the others listen anxiously)  Oh! … (the others wince)  Well…  (the others hover)  How splendid! (the others look surprised) Wonderful!  (the others look relieved)  Well, it’s our very great pleasure to have been of service (the others look confused/amazed) … You are most welcome. Good bye!  (He hangs up and beams at the others who are bursting to know. He announces slowly and importantly):

It seems that when Mr Andrews discovered the error whilst sorting through his luggage at the airport, he was at first horrified, as there was no possibility of his attending the conference without that particular suit, but as he pondered what to do it occurred to him that he was extremely fatigued and that, indeed, he deserved a holiday, so… he changed his flight and is now on his way to sunny Queensland where he expects he will soon be sipping iced orange juice at a beach resort!

Mrs Able sits down suddenly.

Laundrette (pointedly; looking at Mrs Able):

I can think of someone else who could do with a holiday.

Miss Takes (brightly):

You know, if I stay and get really well trained, Mrs Able could have a well-earned break.

Mr Fizz (sharply):

You’re bolder by the minute, girl… (beaming) but that’s how I like it! (slaps her on the back.)


SCENE 15

Chorus I:

So if making mistakes
Gives you the shakes


Chorus II:

Do not fear,
Listen here,


Chorus I:

For lessons life constantly makes.

Chorus I:

The rocket that travels aloft to the moon
Doesn’t arrive there terribly soon.
It’s left-correct, right-correct,
Left-correct, right-correct,
All the darn way to the moon.


Chorus II:

Take a look at your feet
As you walk down the street.
It’s right foot, left foot,
Not right foot, wrong foot –
Isn’t that sweet?

Whole Company:

It should now be quite clear
There is nothing to fear
If a boo-boo you do,
Relax; breathe; – yes, YOU! (all point to someone in audience)
A solution is probably near.

(ALL BOW)

The End

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Comments   

+1 # Stephanie Stacy 2011-07-27 03:14
Dear Liliane,
Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! I read it, I love it...it's simple, sweet, to the point and makes a point!

The Wash-House-Blue s is the cake, the icing and the decorations on the icing for my Leadership "Mastery" Club. There are so many possibilities for the twenty-five fourth and fifth grade students to take charge and be leaders; they will be able to help incorporate the Kindergarten-Th ird grade students as each of the "upper classmen" works with their "little buddy".

The plays premise also beautifully supports the six character building pillars which are emphasized in the "Y" after-school-pr ogram: Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Citizenship, Caring and Trustworthiness.

I will keep a documentation (pictures-diary -video) of our progress - and share that with you once we're up and running.
Have a gloriously dream-filled day.
Lovelove stephanie
Reply
0 # Liliane Grace 2011-07-27 22:35
Thank you! I'm so glad. I had such fun writing this play, and I'm tickled pink that it's about to have an overseas premiere! I am so looking forward to the updates: rehearsals, performance, pictures! Keep me in the loop... :lol:
Reply

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