The dinner party: A screen treatment

By Erica Schoenberger and Melissa Webb Wright

Premise: What social life would be like if people behaved like dogs.

Opening scene: A living room. Some of the guests have already arrived and are racing around the room, variously hugging, colliding, dancing around each other, patting one another vigorously on the shoulders and jumping up and down.

Another guest arrives at the door and rings the bell. Everyone runs over to the door, evidently excited beyond belief, and stands or jumps around, jostling each other while staring at the door and yelling, “WHO’S THERE?!?! WHO’S THERE!?!?!”

The guest on the other side of the door yells back, “WHO’S THERE?!?!? WHO’S THERE!?!?”

Somehow, the new arrival enters and the party resumes as before.

The camera follows several of the guests around, including:

A muscular male dressed all in black who carries a Frisbee everywhere, clutched tightly to his chest. If anyone touches the Frisbee, he whirls abruptly around and stalks off, glaring over his shoulder.

Another man, dressed in plaid, rather jolly, who has a drooling problem. Every so often he shakes his head and drool flies onto adjacent guests, who don’t even notice.

A depressed-looking woman who spends the entire evening methodically ripping a large, stuffed chair to shreds.

A small group huddled together in a corner. They are all talking loudly and at the same time about completely unrelated subjects.

A huge guy, with jeans jacket and tattoo, who goes up to various people, drapes his arm over their shoulders and gives them a giant squeeze. Whoever it is immediately hands their hors d’oeuvre to the guy, who eats it.

A very small old lady with frizzy hair who leaps out from behind the furniture at passersby and speaks sharply to them. Even the huge guy is daunted.

The party Lothario who sidles up to anyone, male or female, and tries to smooch, but often misses the other person’s face. Nobody seems to mind.

Various bits of action occur: Someone emerges from the bathroom, and everyone rushes over and crowds in to see what’s happened.

A guest, looking out the window, suddenly gets very excited and yells, “A CAT!!! A CAT!!! A CAT!!!” Everyone rushes to the window and joins in, yelling “A CAT!!! A CAT!!! A CAT!!!”

Two people–one big, one little–grab an appetizer at the same time. They stand stock still, each holding on to it and staring out the corner of their eyes at each other. Suddenly, the big one whirls around and tries to walk off with it. The little person, however, doesn’t let go and is flung around in the first one’s wake.

In the kitchen, several guests have knocked over the garbage and are going through it.

In the backyard, several people with little spades are digging holes.

A fight breaks out in the living room between two guests, but it’s over in three seconds and the opponents hug each other joyfully.

Several guests can be seen hiding bits of food around the living room. They carefully scan for a likely spot, put the food down, then pick it up again and start looking for a better place.

One guest, with his hands full of food, simply holds onto it and snarls at anyone who approaches him. He keeps trying to add more food to his pile, spilling as much as he acquires.

Dinner is served: Everyone races over to the table and there’s a big to-do while the seating arrangement is worked out.

Then all the guests eat as fast as they possibly can. Every so often, one guest simply grabs something off the plate of the person next to him/her. Sometimes that person grabs it back.

When everyone’s finished, they jump up and change places to inspect each other’s plates.

After dinner, everyone takes a nap. They are sprawled around the room, some in little groups huddled together, some on their backs on couches with their feet up on the arms and their hands flung over the back, some curled up awkwardly in overstuffed chairs with their chins propped up on the arms. Occasionally, we see limbs twitching and hear little contented noises.

Party games:

Tug of war

How many tennis balls can you hold.

A relay race in the back yard where the baton is never passed off. Each member of the team simply grabs hold when his or her turn arrives and everyone runs together.

Tug of war

Singing together around the piano, but everyone sings a different song.

Tag

Grab the tail of the donkey.

Musical chairs, where shoving is allowed and you can sit on more than one chair. The big guy in the jeans jacket always wins.

Good-byes: A real dog party, of course, would never stop. So we have to introduce another group of humans who gradually arrive to pick up the guests. This is no easy task, as the target guest runs off when called. There’s a lot of milling around and loud confusion as the caretaker humans go after the guests, sometimes grabbing them by the collar or the arm and hauling them away while the guest looks back at the crowd, waving joyfully.

Outside, on the sidewalk, a passerby is knocked down by a group of departing guests.

Everyone looks very happy, and the good-byes are loud and enthusiastic.

THE END

“The Dinner Party” by Erica Schoenberger and Melissa Webb Wright, in Howl: A Collection of the Best Contemporary Dog Wit; essay © 2007 by Erica Schoenberger and Melissa Webb Wright. Used with permission.