Dan Duling


[full length play, reading or radio performance with intermission]

“A radio play for the stage.” The story of Nikola Tesla’s life as an inventor and futurist during the late-19th and first half of the 20th century is recounted in a series of rapid-fire scenes intended to be performed as a radio play with multiple voices and Foley sound effects before a live audience. Tesla’s volatile relationship with Thomas Edison, his allegiance with George Westinghouse and his eventual confrontation with the power brokers of American business are recounted from the perspective of Tesla’s death during World War II and the possible implications to national security of his personal papers and effects. The epic scale of his inventions and experiments is suggested with only sound and the voices of those involved, leaving their mystery and potential to the imagination, where much of Tesla’s inscrutable legacy endures to this day.

[multicast ensemble 8-10 m, 1 w]

Every day the search continues for new power sources, when there’s an unlimited supply staring us right in the face...The sun! I can see a time coming soon when we’ll be able to use the power of the sun itself to run our machines and do our work.

TIPSY WALL STREET ENTREPRENEUR: The question is, Mister Tesla, do you see a time coming soon when you, as New York's most eligible bachelor, will succumb to the bonds of matrimony?

[scattered laughter]

TESLA: I’m already married...to my work...Marriage may be all right for men who need a woman's love to inspire their labors. But to an inventor, his work must be both his wife and mistress. If I were to try to juggle both my work and a wife, both would be jealous, and both would suffer. It just wouldn’t work...How many great inventions can you name that have been made by married men?

ENTREPRENEUR: Tom Edison’s married!

TESLA: And a good thing. Otherwise he’d still be wearing last month’s shirt!

EDISON: You may not want to believe this, Tesla, but we’re a lot alike, you and me. We’re both competitors, and we’re both dreamers. And it used to be that competition just drove us to work that much harder. But not anymore. The Morgans of this world don’t give a tinker’s damn about what we come up with unless it’s got a dollar sign attached to it, and unless they can own it lock, stock and barrel...And let me tell you, if you have something that Morgan wants, he's going to do whatever it takes to buy it out from under you just like that!

[he snaps his fingers]

He'll take what he wants, and as soon as he's got it, he'll dump you without so much as a penny for cab fare.

TESLA: I still don't see why you're telling me this.

EDISON: Because, damn it, I thought I was smart enough to beat the Morgans of this world at their own game. And they rolled right over me. I’ve still got the scars…And for all our differences, I’d still hate like hell to see them do to you what they did to me. You see, it’s not our world anymore, Tesla. It’s theirs. And all I’m saying is...be careful. Be very, very careful...

TESLA: Thank you...All my life I have been a dreamer. I dreamt of a world delivered from hunger, toil and war, of a world where we might control weather, and where there might be a bountiful supply of light and energy available to all men; a world where instantaneous global communication might make us all neighbors. And so I, the dreamer, set out to become a discoverer...Today, the spark of an induction coil, the glow of an incandescent lamp, the mysterious forces of currents and magnets are no longer beyond our grasp. Instinctively, we know that the truth behind nature’s other mysteries cannot remain hidden much longer. Slowly, understanding is dawning upon us. And we are helpless no longer...


Even so, many of my discoveries have met with resistance. They have been thought to be too expensive, too impractical. But who knows? Perhaps it's for the better. Perhaps the world isn't yet ready. And so revolutionary ideas, instead of being helped along, are hampered and ill-treated in their adolescence—by want of means, by selfish interests, pedantry, stupidity, and ignorance. So all that was great in the past was once ridiculed, condemned and suppressed—only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle…And so, let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is yours. The future...for which I still work...is mine...

Looking ahead in 2012.

All screenplays are registered with the WGA–West and are fully protected property of the author.

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A little extra...

Duling’s plays have been produced throughout the United States. Most recently, “Monstrosity” received staged readings at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles as part of the Inkubator reading series by the Katselas Theatre Company. Before that, “Monstrosity” also received a staged reading at Innovation Theatre Works in Bend, Oregon. The search for theatres interested in producing “Monstrosity” continues in earnest in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.