November Writing Challenge #2

What the heck?




Five children, gender doesn’t matter, about age ten. They are in a line on the empty stage, facing the audience.

Child One is holding a toy horse.

Child Two has a toy screwdriver

Child Three has an easel in front of him/her and is painting

Child Four is holding a doll

Child Five is sitting at a desk, writing in an old fashioned black & white composition book, and continuing to write throughout the play. This child will have some dialogue, though it may be read from the notebook.

Five adults. Gender may be the same as that of the children. Director’s discretion. They enter one by one.

Adult One is dressed in barn boots and outdoor work clothes.

Adult Two is dressed like a professional engineer—

Adult Three’s is Dressed for Success—a very neat suit, etc.

Adult Four’s clothes don’t matter, but are kempt.

Adult Five, ditto. She has a paperback book behind her back, which is concealed.



Adult One:  enters, stands behind Child One. The child turns and gives him/her the toy horse, and the child exits.  When I was a kid, I loved horses. My parents couldn’t afford riding lessons, but when I was old enough, they called up a woman who owned a riding school and talked with her about what I could do to earn lessons. She was great—she let me muck out stalls, and later taught me how to rub down the horses. In exchange, she taught me how to ride. I was, she said, a natural. Eventually I got a scholarship to college, and then was old enough to get into vet school. Now I work with horses all day, and I have two of my own. I’m really lucky.  Exits

Adult Two:  enters, stands behind Child Two, who gives her/him the screwdriver and exits.

When I was a child, I was always fooling around with things, mostly taking them apart to see how they worked. I got scolded a lot, especially because I took apart things like clocks and radios and once a telephone. But then there was a teacher who told my Mom that curiousity about how things work is a good thing, and he/she suggested that Mom give me stuff of my own to take apart, and she did. Mom went to second-hand stores and bought me old stuff. The only rule was that if it was electrical, I couldn’t plug it in, but I did once, and blew a circuit breaker. Well, now I’m a mechanical engineer. Now I figure out how to put stuff together. In my spare time, I like to fix clocks. Pretty good, I think.  Exits.

Adult Three: enters, walks over to the painting child and watches for awhile, growing contemptuous. He/she then suddenly kicks the easel over, and exits. The child follows, imploring, waving the paint brush like a wand.

Adult Four:  enters, smiles at the child, who smiles back and gives him/her the doll before exiting.

I always wanted to be a homemaker. It wasn’t a popular calling back when I was a child. But way back then, and to this very day, I believe that making order where people live is an important calling—a vocation—like medicine or philosophy or art. I was lucky enough to find a spouse who honors that. He/she earns enough to support us, and I keep the house nice and grow most of our vegetables and make nice meals. We’ve adopted four great kids who are mostly doing well, though we have our ups and downs. A bunch of neighborhood kids come here after school so their parents don’t have to worry about what they’re up to. Now that our children are all in school, I’m on the library board in town, and I volunteer at a nursing home, too. We take the kids camping for a couple of weeks every summer. My life—you know—it goes on. And I like it. A lot.

Child Five: setting down the pencil, reads from the notebook:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy/girl who lived in a house in the forest with her/his parents. One day, his/her parents were eaten by a bear. The girl/boy knew where to find nuts and berries in the forest, but winter was coming, and she/he didn’t know what to do, and she/he was scared. As the last sentence is read, Adult Five enters and walks over to the desk. The child goes back to writing, while the adult talks.

Adult Five:  I told stories as soon as I could talk, and my mother wrote them down. But when I was older and the stories grew sadder, my mother did not want me to write.  And when I was twelve, and my life was as ragged as Cinderella’s, my mother’s friend Ellen sent me a package for my birthday. Ellen was my mother’s best friend. She lived far away; I’d only met her once, but every year at my birthday she sent me a wonderful book, and she often wrote me letters, and I wrote back. And on this birthday, this most difficult of birthdays, Ellen sent me a package. I wasn’t allowed to open it until after I’d blown out the candles on my cake. In the package was a metal box, a green file box. On the lid, Ellen had taped a note:  “Every writer needs one.” In the box was a red notebook. On the first page, Ellen had written:  “Every writer needs one.” And there was a book, too, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. On the flyleaf, Ellen had written:  “Every writer should have one, and use it.” Taking the book from behind her back and holding it up. And I still do.  So you see, there is such a thing as a fairy godmother.  She and the child smile at one another, and take hands, and they exit, the child with the notebook under her arm.

November Writing Challenge: #1

The challenge is to write a play every day, “Good.  Bad.  Whatever.” So here goes. (Bad, but what can one expect at 6 in the morning, what with EST returning, and all?)



The stage is empty, except for a tombstone carved with “Gladys Barnes” and dates that indicate she was ninety-two and died recently.

Cast:    Young Woman— in her mid-teens, doing a project for school

two old women—One and Two, carrying baskets

the ghost of Gladys (who is concealed at the beginning, behind the tombstone)

Enter Young Woman, carrying a notebook. She examines the stone, writing in her notebook, turns to the audience.

YW:  Ninety-two. Really, really old. No other stones around her, so I wonder if she was single, or had kids, or whatever. No flowers or flags or tacky stuff. No epitaph, but the modern ones don’t seem to have them. Just an old lady who died. I bet she had a pre-paid deal and bought her own stone. I wonder if she had it all figured out. She sure as hell had time to. Okay, on to the older graves. I need epitaphs and urns.  Exits.

Enter the two old women. They stop before the stone and stand quietly for a few seconds.

OW1 (touching the stone):  Dear Gladys. I miss her. Nothing is the same. It will never be the same again.

OW2:  Of course not. No one ever promised us that anything would ever be the same, whatever that means. But we’re not hear to moan around. We have work to do.

OW1:  I know. Yes. She reaches into her basket and removes a trowel. Slowly, paintfully, she bends over and starts digging in front of the grave, her back to the audience.

OW2: This had better work. Rosemary doesn’t take well to transplanting. She takes a small plant from her basket and hands it to OW1.

OW1:  Taking the plant and putting it in the ground.  If Gladys was right—if Gladys is right, it should work fine. She knew—knows— far more than we do about this sort of thing. And now she knows the truth.  She stands up, brushing off her hands.

OW2 takes a small lamp from her basket and lights it and sets it on the grave. She then takes a bell from her basket and rings it vigorously.  Both women chant, several times:

OW:  Return, return, we summon thee!

By bell and flame and rosemary tree.

Gladys Barnes, arise!

Gladys arises, looks at the others somewhat sternly.

Gladys: What took you so long? It’s been four—no, five—days.

OW1: We couldn’t find the bell.

G:  I left it right where I said I would.

OW2:  But it wasn’t there. It was under the sofa. It must have rolled there when they carried you out.

Gladys:  I don’t remember that. But I had other things to think about, so I’m not surprised.

OW1: And the important thing is, you’re out.

Gladys: Yes. At least for now. So shall we get on with it?

They join hands and circle the stone.  

Enter the Young Woman, unseen by the others.

YW:  Wow! Two old ladies kind of dancing on the grave. Really, really weird. I’m out of here.  She exits, and the others continue to dance.  Fade out.