**This is the first scene from a full length stage play about Dorothea Lange, the photographer of the iconic Depression-era image Migrant Mother**
(1934. Studio in Oakland, California. DOROTHEA’s photography is on display. Evening. PAUL is sitting on a bench in front of one of the portraits. Dorothea walks over and sits beside him looking at the same photo: White Angel Breadline. A couple people walk over to congratulate Dorothea as they head out. The gallery is closing soon.)
PAUL: Why him?
PAUL: Why’d you photograph him?
DOROTHEA: Well, he’s hardly the only person I photographed that day.
PAUL: Oh, right.
DOROTHEA: But him? Mainly because, he was facing me.
PAUL: Well, that isn’t any more satisfying.
DOROTHEA: (Smiles) Sorry.
PAUL: So that’s it? All it takes to be a renowned street photographer is finding someone who will turn towards the camera?
DOROTHEA: I would certainly not call myself a ‘renowned street photographer’.
PAUL: And yet here you are with a show at Van Dyke’s.
DOROTHEA: Funny, isn’t it?
PAUL: Funny? This is a phenomenal shot – you know know that right?
DOROTHEA: Yes, it’s one of the better ones.
PAUL: Then what do you mean by funny?
DOROTHEA: Well, that a gallery would want to hang this collection at all. Breadlines and picketers – it’s what we see every day on the street, grimy, destitute and disillusioned ––
PAUL: –– and now it’s here, (referring to the man in the photo) he is here, in this clean, white space.
PAUL: And someone, perhaps me, is going to buy his picture.
DOROTHEA: Well that would be nice.
PAUL: But no less funny.
PAUL: It’s a weird world we’re in these days.
DOROTHEA: It’s a rather terrible world.
PAUL: But, unlike the rest of us, you don’t try to avoid it.
DOROTHEA: There’s no avoiding it. This mission house is just a couple blocks from my studio. Some days the breadline gets so the men are lined up past my window.
PAUL: But, you actually leave your studio. And go out. And photograph them.
DOROTHEA: Well, I can’t ignore them anymore, and I daresay it’s more interesting than running a portrait studio, which is what I used to do.
PAUL: Street photography can’t possibly pay as much.
DOROTHEA: No, not with money so tight at all the galleries. But I had this moment, a few years back, I guess you could call it an awakening. I realized I had to concentrate upon people, only people. People who paid me and people who didn’t.
PAUL: Fascinating. It was the men that made you realize this?
DOROTHEA: Not exactly, I was actually up in the mountains, near Low Pine. You know the area.
PAUL: Not well.
DOROTHEA: It’s usually pretty dry in the summer, but that day there was a massive storm. The rain was relentless against the roof. I stood outside listening to the thunder and realized I couldn’t stay sheltered in the studio any longer.
PAUL: Were you nervous to start photographing on the streets?
DOROTHEA: To be out on the streets? Not really. The Mission District isn’t the best area, but Martin, my brother, came with me. I was a little nervous to have my camera with me, though.
PAUL: Because someone might take it?
DOROTHEA: No, it’s just so big and I didn’t know how people would take to it. With a studio, people come to you because they want a picture, but out on the streets people just want to survive the day. I didn’t want to violate anyone’s privacy or cause a scene.
PAUL: And did you?
DOROTHEA: Not really. Honestly, most people don’t care. I would never try to steal a photo of someone, but even this man here, he only looked up once and barely took any notice.
PAUL: That’s surprising.
DOROTHEA: He just seemed so lost and haggard. Really, if I’m honest, I took his picture because there was… a moment, when standing there. I just… saw something. And I encompassed it, and I had it.
PAUL: Like you were standing in the rain again?
DOROTHEA: (Pause) I guess.
PAUL: So do you like the rain?
PAUL: You had this epiphany in the rain. Does that mean you like it? The rain?
PAUL: No? Why not?
DOROTHEA: It’s wet. And it’s cold. And it plasters your hair, your clothes, everything, against your skin
PAUL: The way you talked about the streets I wouldn’t have though that would bother you.
DOROTHEA: Well, it gets into my bones.
PAUL: You’re not that old.
DOROTHEA: I had polio, as a child.
PAUL: I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.
DOROTHEA: Well, you can’t tell I have a limp when we’re sitting here.
PAUL: True. Has that been hard?
DOROTHEA: (Laughs) That’s a bigger question than the rain. Hard? Yes. Impossible? No. It’s helped and humiliated me. I’ve never gotten over it, but I know the power it does and doesn’t have over me.
PAUL: I guess it helps you empathize with the suffering you photograph.
DOROTHEA: In some ways (pause) You’re not some romantic sap who loves the rain, are you?
PAUL: (Pauses, looks at Dorothea and then away) It reminds me of the bombs. And the trenches.
DOROTHEA: You were in France.
PAUL: Yes, I enlisted as a Marine – left with the first wave of men in ’17.
DOROTHEA: That was brave.
PAUL: Perhaps, but enlisting is hardly the hardest part. You must have heard of Belleau Wood, when the Marines lost more than 1000 men and 30 officers in a single day.
DOROTHEA: I remember. They reported on it in the papers for weeks after.
PAUL: I was there. Not with the first battalion though, thank God. My battalion came in to relieve them. But we didn’t last long either. Less than a week later the Germans gassed us, badly. Took me out of combat for the rest of the war.
DOROTHEA: I’d say you know know something of suffering yourself.
PAUL: Yes, but least I managed to escape with all my limbs.
DOROTHEA: No limp then?
DOROTHEA (Continued): So, what do you do now?
PAUL: I’m an economist. A professor, in Economics. (Extends his hand) Paul Schuster Taylor.
DOROTHEA: (They shake hands) Dorothea Lange.
PAUL: Sorry, I guess I should have started with that. It’s really a pleasure to meet you.
DOROTHEA: You too. So what brings an economics professor to a gallery show
PAUL: You ask as if my profession makes me unable to appreciate fine art. I happen to have a Guggenheim Fellowship.
DOROTHEA: For art?
PAUL: Well, no. Economics still. But it’s not as boring as you think.
PAUL: Really. Our work, it’s not so different. I work a lot on cultural and ethnographic matters, mainly with Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans. And I write books, with real chapters and things. Not just numbers.
(The lights change in gallery. DOROTHEA and PAUL look around)
DOROTHEA: They must be closing up. I suppose I should go see if they need anything from me.
PAUL: Very well.
DOROTHEA: It was lovely talking with you Mr. Taylor.
(DOROTHEA begins to walk away)
PAUL (Continued): Ms. Lange?
PAUL (Continued): I wonder if you might be free later this week, for a meal.
DOROTHEA: I have a husband Mr. Taylor.
PAUL: Oh, of course, I – I mean to talk about work.
PAUL: Yes, well, I actually need a photographer for a project I am working on.
DOROTHEA: I have a job Mr. Taylor.
PAUL: Well, yes, as a photographer ––
DOROTHEA: –– With the Farm Security Administration, documenting the migrant camps.
PAUL: Ah, well.
DOROTHEA: I’m free for dinner on Wednesday though. I am sure we will find something to talk about.
PAUL: I’m sure. I’ll see you Wednesday then.
(DOROTHEA begins to leave again)
DOROTHEA: You should have asked me if I like the morning after the rain.
PAUL: And do you?
DOROTHEA: (Pauses) Yes. Because the air is clean, and standing outside there’s nothing between you and the world.
PAUL: Careful, or people will think you are one of those romantics.
DOROTHEA: Well, I am an artist.
DOROTHEA EXITS. FADE TO BLACK. END SCENE.