The Party Planner
Clarissa Vaughan is a wealthy and successful book editor in late 1990s New York who is preparing a party for her friend, a famous poet who has just received a prestigious award. Like the other characters in The Hours, her story in encapsulated by one single sunny day in June. Explore the party-planning antics as Clarissa gets ready for the big event, then plan a celebratory party for your best friend.
Drama, Choral Music, Instrumental Music, AVID
- paper and pencil
STEP 1. REFLECT
The story of Clarissa Vaughan’s day begins with a walk to a flower store. “What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, almost scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run.” Clarissa is planning a party for Richard, her best friend, who is in the late stages of AIDS. As she walks the streets of New York, she remembers the days of her early relationship with Richard, and the effects the virus has had on his physical and mental health. Clarissa is not ready to let Richard die, though she knows it will be soon. To distract herself from the encroaching sorrow of Richard’s death, she decides to throw a fancy party complete with buckets of fresh flowers, a caterer, and Richard’s favorite crab dish. Every detail has been thought of and planned out by Clarissa. Now, she must only convince Richard that attending it will be good for him.
What began as a brief romance, when Clarissa and Richard were in their early twenties, turned into a 40-year best friendship—a relationship that has been central to each of their lives. Now, as Richard’s life is ending, Clarissa is clinging to anything that might keep him alive for longer. The party she plans to throw is therefore both a celebration and a diversion. Read the quotes below from both the book and the screenplay and reflect on the following questions:
- How does Richard feel about the party?
- What is most important to Clarissa about the party?
- Do Clarissa and Richard have the same expectations for the event
- What does it mean to “cover the silence” with a party?
- What purpose does a party serve within a community of friends or family?
And Clarissa, Richard’s oldest friend, his first reader—Clarissa who sees him every day, when even some of his more recent friends have come to imagine he’s already died—is throwing him a party. Clarissa is filling her home with flowers and candles. Why shouldn’t she want him to come?
Richard says, “I’m not really needed there, am I? The party can go on just with the idea of me. The party has already happened, really, with or without me.”
Oh, Mrs. Dalloway. Always giving parties to cover the silence.
RICHARD: Who is this party for?
CLARISSA: What are you asking, what are you trying to say?
RICHARD: I’m not trying to say anything. I think I’m staying alive just to satisfy you.
CLARISSA: That is what people do—they stay alive for each other.
STEP 2. PLAN YOUR OWN PARTY!
Now that you’ve read a bit about the event Clarissa is planning for Richard, it is time to plan your own festive event. Brainstorm a celebratory event that you might like to throw for a friend or loved one. Use the “Party Planning” template to fill in the details of your party. Share out the details of your party with members of your class.