Brilliant professors can be rank amateurs in the field of self-knowledge.
LENGTH: 1 hour 50 minutes (plus intermission)
CAST: 6M, 3F (11 characters)
Bucolic Humbert College in the Finger Lakes District of upstate New York provides the setting for a tale of ambition, professional jealousy, thwarted love, unrealized goals—and the meaning of one man’s life. Ned Jenkins, a peripatetic junior philosophy professor hoping finally to settle into a tenured position, arrives at Humbert intrigued and amused by the colorful characters populating the faculty. Soon enough, he winds up in romantic entanglements and professional quagmires, including a bitter tenure struggle that divides the whole campus. Through it all, he discovers that he may be an expert in philosophy and aesthetics, but he’s a rank amateur when it comes to self-knowledge.
SEMI-FINALIST, Playwrights First Award, the National Arts Club, New York, NY, 2015.
PUBLICATION & LICENSING
ALL IN THE FACULTY is available for purchase or licensing through Dramatists Play Service.
Or purchase a copy at
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250 West 40th Street, New York City
A monologue from ALL IN THE FACULTY by William Fowkes is included in THE BEST WOMEN'S STAGE MONOLOGUES AND SCENES 2011, edited by Lawrence Harbison, Smith and Kraus Publishers, 2012.
“…the concept is intriguing and witty…”
- Commonweal Theatre Company, Lanesboro, MN
“[The] thesis of life being a movie and the way that influences the structure of [the] play is very inventive.”
- Writers’ Theatre, Glencoe, IL
Ned Jenkins arrives at bucolic Humbert College in upstate New York hoping to achieve his life ambition to become a tenured college professor. Quickly embraced by faculty and students alike, this “golden boy” can’t help making romantic and political missteps that complicate his life, threaten to sidetrack him from his goal, and divide the whole campus in the process. Through it all, he discovers that he may be an expert in philosophy and aesthetics, but he’s a rank amateur when it comes to self-knowledge.
It’s all in the faculty….We’re a close-knit family here.
– Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee
Humbert College, a small liberal arts college overlooking Seneca Lake in Olmstead, NY.
The late 1990s
Actor # 1 (male)
Professor Ned Jenkins. Age: 30s. Articulate and likeable. Son of Norbert Jenkins, distinguished professor of Comp Lit at Yale. Doctoral thesis (Wisconsin): “Hegel’s Aesthetics and the End of Art.” Taught philosophy at several colleges before coming to Humbert. If he fails to get tenure, his academic career will be over.
Actor # 2 (female)
Professor Marlene Bernstein. Age: 30s. Funny, yet sensitive. Always dressed in black, with a rose pendant pinned over her heart. Tenured member of the French Department. Doctoral thesis (Tufts): “Passion in the Plays of Jean Giraudoux.” Never misses a new faculty reception—for good reason.
Actor # 3 (male)
Professor William (“The Duke”) Duke. Age: 60s. Clever, opinionated, and intimidating. Chair of the English Department. Doctoral thesis (Chicago): “The Bloom of Youth: Erotic Motifs in the World of Oscar Wilde.” Although a firebrand when riled up, he has been keeping a low profile since the death of his lover of many years, Coach Chad Palmieri. Likes to drink. Likes you to drink.
Actor # 4 (male)
Professor Jock Richardson. Age: 30s. Imperious, preppy, and sarcastic. Ned’s rival. His full name is Charles Standish Richardson. “Jock” is an ironic nickname inherited from his form mates at Hotchkiss. A young George Sanders could play this role.
Actor # 5 (male)
Professor Alfred Giulliano. Age: 50s. Jocular and expressive. Everyone loves him—a teddy bear of a man, but a lion when roused. Doctoral thesis (Pittsburgh): “Cartesian Rationalism and the Rise of Doubt.” Twice married. Works overtime to keep his second wife happy.
Actor # 6 (female)
Sarah Carter Giulliano. Age: 30s. Cool and sexy. An experimental painter. Alfred’s second wife. They met in Greece one summer and were married by Labor Day. Always looking for something—or someone—to keep her occupied in Olmstead.
Actor # 7 (male)
Professor Randall (“Street”) Streeter. Age: 60s. Pompous, but gallant and well meaning. Thesis (Princeton): “Spinoza and the Quest for Substance.” Last paper published: 18 years ago. Last day sober: before Ned Jenkins was born.
Actor # 8 (female)
Professor Mary Margaret Dougherty. Age: 60s. Hard-working and sincere. A self-described spinster. Sports a bun and glasses. History Department. Doctoral thesis (Notre Dame): “Courtship and the Roman Catholic Church in Medieval Europe.” One of the most accomplished scholars at Humbert College. The milk of human kindness flows through her veins.
Actor # 9 (male)
Professor Ralph Bukowski. Age: 40s. Analytical, judgmental, and blunt. Thesis (Michigan): “Performative Utterances in Ordinary Language.” The first person in his family to go to college. Dislikes “fuzzy thinkers”—that is, anyone who disagrees with him.
Grad student. Age: 40s. A devoted student of Ned’s father.
President Ravenal (“Ravy”) Porter. Age: 40s. Distracted, but sympathetic. Enjoys his veto power. Has a wandering eye for women.
PROLOGUE: When the play begins, Ned Jenkins stands at center stage looking out into the audience as if watching a movie being projected in the distance.
(pointing up and out into the audience)
I always love this part! … Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are being chased down Mount Rushmore by James Mason and the other bad guys.
(excitedly while pantomiming the movement)
Then she starts to slip, so he reaches down to grab her arm and tries to hold onto the rocks above him with his other arm, but then one of the bad guys steps on his hand and it looks like he’ll never be able to hold on. But then there’s a shot and the bad guy falls and then—here—right here! He starts to pull her up and suddenly we cut to a train, and now he’s pulling her up into his bunk, about to—
(more calmly, almost demurely)
Well, you know the rest, I’m sure. … I’ve seen this movie a dozen times, maybe more. You see, I’ve got this idea—well, it’s more than an idea. It’s going to be a book—a book that’s going to get me tenure on the faculty of a philosophy department at a college or university. … I mean, it HAS to… Because…well, because my life’s ambition is to be a professor. And that means I have to get tenure—SOMEWHERE!
(slightly embarrassed to have exposed himself)
Anyway, the idea—my THESIS—is that watching a movie the second or third time around is necessarily a more profound experience—an aesthetically richer experience—than seeing it the first time. And I can prove this using the tools of phenomenology, structuralism, and semiotics.
(speaking more confidentially)
The thing is—sometimes I can’t help thinking about my own life in the same way. If I could just sit back and watch it over and over again, maybe it would finally make sense. I don’t mean things would happen any differently—I’m not like that woman from Atlanta who kept watching Gone With the Wind over and over hoping the South would eventually win the Civil War. … No, my life is what it is. But what is it?! First, the basics. Name: Edward Jenkins—but please call me Ned. Birthplace: New Haven, Connecticut. The only child of Norbert and Ruth Jenkins. You may have heard of Norbert—the distinguished professor of Comparative Literature at Yale—if you’re a member of the academy, that is. I have a few credentials of my own—graduated magna cum laude from Wesleyan, a PhD in philosophy from Wisconsin. Taught at several colleges all over the Midwest. Then—well, I’m getting ahead of myself. This story isn’t just about me, anyway. It’s also about Humbert College in Olmstead, New York. You’ve heard of it, right? … No, I didn’t think so. It’s got a good lacrosse team. A beautiful campus overlooking Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes. And a faculty that’s—well, let’s just say they’re colorful.
Professor Mary Margaret Dougherty, Professor Charles “Jock” Richardson, Professor Alfred Giulliano, Professor Ralph Bukowski, Professor William “The Duke” Duke, Professor Randall “Street” Streeter, and Sarah Giulliano step out on stage.
Some of them are quite distinguished in their field.
Mary nods demurely.
Some are a little pompous.
Some are larger than life.
Some are small-minded.
Some drink a little too much—
The Duke reacts.
—or a lot!
And some have inside connections.
Sarah poses suggestively.
But the main thing is—they went out of their way to make me feel at home.
Welcome to Humbert College, Ned!
MARY MARGARET DOUGHERTY
Humbert needs more fine young scholars like you.
RANDALL “STREET” STREETER
You’ve got everything, young man!
Welcome to the snake pit!
I’m always happy to meet another clear-eyed thinker.
You ARE a clear-eyed thinker, aren’t you?
WILLIAM “THE DUKE” DUKE
Can I get you another drink?
SARAH CARTER GIULLIANO
I’d like to get to know you much better.
Okay, ready? … Roll film! … Oh, wait—the scene is the new faculty reception. I’ve just arrived at Humbert, and—well, you’ll see...
END OF EXCERPT