Idea Man

By David Wagner


Stephen has the task of writing the script for a Christmas play, but is suffering severe writer's block, while not seeing the opportunities around him.


Melanie (his wife)
Bill (a down-and-out)
Sad Girl
Checkout clerk
Stephen's mother


Scene 1.

(Writer Stephen sits at his desk, keyboard in front of him, also with a notebook, and a few pens/pencils. One of these pencils he is tapping on his desk.)

Stephen: Hmmm. What to write, what to write. OK, let's think about this. It has to be a Christmas play. A Sunday school Christmas play. What should it be about? I mean, what can I write that everybody hasn't already seen a thousand times? The nativity? Great story, obviously, but it's been done! Something simple, yet profound. Something meaningful, and current, and exciting. Something kids could memorize. I need a Christmas theme! Grrr…

[Enter wife, Melanie, behind him, holding a cordless phone]

Melanie: Uh…Stephen, honey? [Stephen is oblivious, mumbling, to self, tapping pencil] Dear?

Stephen: [Rises, speaks to self] I know! A musical interpretation of the manger scene, with singing animals! No…no, that wouldn't work.

Melanie: Stephen!

Stephen: What!? I'm trying to write here! I have to finish writing this script by next week, and I don't even have a theme yet.

Melanie: Sorry to interrupt! Your mother's on the phone…she needs to know your holiday schedule so she can book her flight out here. She needs to make the reservations by today.

Stephen: [Barely paying attention] Tell her I'll call her later. [Goes back to mumbling, tapping pencil]

Melanie: [Sighs, talks into phone as she exits] He says he'll call you later. Yes, I know you need to make them today. I know…well, you know Stephen…

Stephen: I've got it! An updated treatment of the nativity, set in jolly old England, during the reign of Henry the Fifth! We could have castles and beheadings and…no, that won't work.

[Enter son and daughter, talking while heading toward their father, who is back to mumbling and tapping]

Son: I know dad will agree with me…he teaches Sunday school, so he knows these things.

Daughter: Come on! You really think he'll agree that Christmas is all about getting as many presents as you can?

Son: Yep. "He that getteth the most, winneth." That's in the Bible somewhere.

Daughter: Oh, is it? Look, any dope knows that Christmas is all about pretending to be as nice as possible around all kinds of weird relatives that you only see once a year. If you convince them all that you're good, mom and dad are happy, and you get the rest of the year to goof off! That's the meaning of Christmas.

Son: What if we're both wrong? What if neither of us understand the true meaning of Christmas?

Daughter: [puts arm around brother's shoulder, as they turn to face and address the audience, in a kind of over-dramatic way] Let's ask dad! He will tell us what Christmas is all about.

[Stephen still mumbles, kids approach]

Son/Daughter: Dad? We have a question for you.

[Stephen waves them off without turning around]

Son: Dad, we're a little confused about this whole Christmas spirit thing. What's it all about?

Stephen: [Runs fingers through hair, frustrated] Look, kids, can you please leave me alone for a while? I have to come up with a Christmas play, demonstrating the meaning of Christmas. I can't be bothered right now! I'll talk to you later. Now, go, please.

Son: But…

Stephen: [Waving them off again] Go!

[Son and Daughter turn to leave]

Son: It's about getting gifts.

Daughter: Nope. It's about acting.

Son: [Sing-song] Gi-ifts.

Daughter: [Sing-song] Pretending.

[Son and Daughter exit]

Stephen: I know! The main characters dies, and while in heaven, two angels take him back through time to before the first Christmas, then he comes back to life, and writes a best-selling novel about the experience! No, no…that won't work. Too theological. Too commercial.

[Enter Melanie]

Melanie: Honey, I hate to interrupt you, but we need a few things from the market. Will you walk down and get them please?

Stephen: [reluctantly] Well, why not? I'm having no luck here. Maybe some fresh air would inspire me.

[Stands and begins to head off stage, grabbing jacket]

Melanie: Uh…dear? Dear?

Stephen: [Turns while putting on jacket] Hmm?

Melanie: Would it help if you knew what I'd like you to get? [Waves a list]

Stephen: Oh…thanks. Sorry. [Turns again, heads out]

Melanie: [Shakes her head] Lord, are you sure this is the right man for the job?

(Lights fade on stage, spot light follows Stephen as he heads down off stage to floor in front of stage, as he slowly "walks to the store," talking to himself. Meanwhile, in the relative darkness, Scene three is being set up on stage.)


Scene 2: Walking to store.

Stephen: OK, so…We could do a take on Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol. Nah, too predictable. We could have the kids dress up as angels and sing. Nah, it's been done. It's all been done! Are there any original Christmas ideas left?! [Mumbles some more]

[Enter "down and out" man, Bill]

Bill: [Shuffles toward Stephen] Excuse me sir. Could you spare a little…

Stephen: [Lost in thought, to Bill] OK, how about this one…A California Christmas, with the three wise surfer dudes! They could travel up and down the boardwalk at Venice Beach, seeking the newborn Messiah!

Bill: Uh…I uh…

Stephen: We could have palm trees and beach volleyball! No, no…the sets would be too elaborate.

Bill: I'm really flat broke, could you spare a little change? It's so close to Christmas…

Stephen: Don't I know it! I have this play to write but I can't think of a good Christmasy idea. [Starts to pass]

Bill: [Holding out hand] But, please…if you could just…spare a little…

Stephen: [Spins back around] How about this…a political thriller! The President gets deathly ill from eating a Christmas ham, the Vice President sees these visions of sugar-plums…no, no…most of the kids aren't even old enough to vote. [Turns back around and heads on, mumbling, exit Bill, dejected, cold]

[Stephen continues across floor in front of stage, heads up wheelchair ramp to stage again. Half way up, Sad Girl waits, obviously visibly upset]

Sad Girl: Excuse me, sir? Sir? I'm looking for…

Stephen: [lost in thought, to Sad Girl] This is so hard! Ok, how about this: picture a golf course…a man that looks strangely like St. Nicholas gets a hole-in-one on a par 4 dog-leg left…

Sad Girl: I'm looking for my dog….have you seen a brown dog around here, medium sized, his name is…

Stephen: We could call it "Twas the Night Be - FORE! Christmas." [Mimics a golf swing] Then we could have him sink a 35 foot eagle putt on 18 to win the Christmas Day Celebrity Pro-Am! What do you think?

Sad Girl: His name is Freddy. Have you seen him?

Stephen: What?

Sad Girl: Freddy. Have you seen him?

Stephen: [Turning to leave] Freddy? What kind of response is that? Freddy? Strange kid.


Scene 3: The store

(Stephen enters stage, which is now the "store." There's a clerk behind the counter, and a short line of customers. Stephen consults list, and begins grabbing a few imaginary items off of the imaginary shelves, putting them in an imaginary cart that he's pushing, while mumbling.)

Stephen: OK, Christmas. It's a Sunday school play, so it should be Biblical. It's cast with kids, so it should be simple to learn. It could be set in a junior high school cafeteria…the principal could be John the Baptist, and the shepherds could be P.E. teachers…A very pregnant Mary could be the school guidance counselor…but there's no room in the gym! No, no, no.

[Enter another shopper, coming down the same "aisle," stopping next to Stephen, who is still mumbling]

Shopper: Uh, excuse me sir…could you reach that box up there on the top shelf for me? I can't quite get it.

[Stephen, lost in thought, doesn't hear]

Shopper: Please? Hello? Sir, could you reach that box up there for me please?

[Stephen, still lost in thought, grabs an item off the "shelf" at waist level and hands it to the Shopper, without saying a word, still mumbling to self]

Shopper: [Taking item] Uh, no…I mean that one up there…that one…

Stephen: [To Shopper] Ok, how about this one: picture a US aircraft carrier, in the South Pacific, during World War 2…A brave, young flight commander named Joseph volunteers for a dangerous reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines on Christmas Eve…

Shopper: Forget it. [Puts item back and continues down aisle, while Stephen continues to no one in particular]

Stephen: All at once, a spotter sees two enemy submarines! The warning is sounded…No, no…the baptismal isn't big enough to do the scenes justice…

[Suddenly remembers why he is at store, consults list quickly, then heads to counter, where there is a woman in front of him, the clerk is ringing up her goods]

Clerk: Your total is twenty-two dollars and sixteen cents, please.

[Woman counts out her money, realizes she doesn't quite have enough]

Woman: Oh, dear! I thought for sure I had enough…oh, and I left my checkbook at home. I'm only about four dollars short…[Looks around, then at Stephen, who stands there mumbling]…uh…

[Clerk joins woman in looking at Stephen, there's a pregnant pause, Stephen is oblivious]

Woman: Oh…well…I suppose I should put a couple things back…

Clerk: Sorry, ma'am. What can I say?

Woman: [Looks back again quickly at Stephen] Take this off and…I suppose…this, too. Is that good?

Clerk: [Deducting totals] Yes, that will do it….here you are.

[Woman grabs her stuff and leaves, Stephen moves forward to the counter]

Stephen: [To clerk] How about this: two sisters fall asleep wondering how the wise men knew what gifts to bring Jesus…then, in a dream sequence, they inadvertently help the wise men decide the proper gifts…but they wake up before they get to see the new king!

Clerk: You did that last year.

Stephen: Oh, that's right. I thought that sounded familiar.

Clerk: You gonna buy those groceries or just let them sit in your cart all day?

Stephen: Oh! [Puts "groceries" on counter, Clerk rings them up]

Clerk: Having trouble coming up with a Christmas play, eh?

Stephen: Yeah, well, I'm starting to doubt that there are any original, clever ideas left. Hasn't every possible angle been hit by now?

Clerk: I'm sure it will come to you. Thirty one fifty, please. [Stephen counts off the "cash"] On a completely unrelated note, do you think it's possible to be so wrapped in the pursuit of a question that you can't see the answer that's right in front of your face?

Stephen: [Dismissive, grabbing "bags"] Yeah, yeah…hey, how about this: Christmas in the Amazon jungle! We could have primates, and tropical flowers and army ants…thousands of them! There could be missionaries fleeing for their lives from the native cannibals…

Clerk: Have a good day, sir.

[Stephen exits the way he entered, still muttering, slowly retracing his route, but stops midway, on the floor in front of the stage, spotlight on him]

Stephen: This is nuts! I need help! [something dawn on him] Hey…I suppose I could pray about it…Lord. This is your story…could you please help me come up with an idea? Something, you know, kind of unique…That would be awesome. Amen.

[Continues "home" as lights fade. Meanwhile (hopefully) the store set has been struck and scene 1 has been reset, with the table and keyboard, etc.]


Scene 4: Well past midnight

(Stephen sits at his desk, his head is on his desk, he's asleep. He startles a little, as though a voice had woken him up from sleep.)

Stephen: [Sleepily] What? Huh? [Glances at wrist watch, rubs fingers through hair] Oh, man…3 a.m. Must have fallen asleep. [Starts to get up, glances at typewriter, where something has been written] Hey, I must have written something…what's this? "And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." I don't remember typing this! What does this mean, Lord?

[Enter son and daughter]

Son: Dad, we're a little confused about this whole Christmas spirit thing. What's it all about?

[Turn and exit before Stephen can respond, and as Bill is entering]

Bill: I'm really flat broke, could you spare a little change? It's so close to Christmas…

[Turns and exits as Sad Girl enters]

Sad Girl: I'm looking for my dog. His name is Freddy. Have you seen him?

[Turns and exits as Shopper enters]

Shopper: Uh, excuse me sir…could you reach that box up there on the top shelf for me? I can't quite get it.

[Turns and exits as Woman from store enters]

Woman: I thought for sure I had enough money… I'm only about four dollars short.

[Turns and exits as Clerk strolls up]

Clerk: Do you think it's possible to be so wrapped up in the pursuit of a question that you can't see the answer that's right in front of your face?

[Turns and exits, leaving Stephen alone]

Stephen: My goodness! Lord, what a fool I've been! I've been so consumed with how I should be presenting your Spirit that I've completely missed out opportunities to actually live it! In the process I've all but completely ignored you! I'm sorry, Lord. Help me to change, Lord. Help me to never miss another opportunity to show your love to others, starting right here in this house. Starting with my own family. My own family? [Rises quickly] Oh, no!

[Enter old woman, Stephen's mom]

Mom: [Scolding voice] Son?

Stephen: Mom! I forgot to call you back!

Mom: I hope you enjoy your Christmas without me…but, don't worry about me…I'll just have a nice, quiet Christmas…alone…in my dark, little apartment, no one to visit with…alone…perhaps you might call to say Merry Christmas, but don't feel obligated or anything…

[Mom turns to leave]

Stephen: [To audience] Oops! [Shouts after Mom, after she's gone] Don't worry Mom, I'll make sure you come out here for Christmas! Hey, wait a minute…this is good…[Sits down and starts typing] This is really good…

(Lights fade, the end.)


Copyright David Wagner, all rights reserved.
This script may be performed without royalty payment, provided no charge is made for entrance to the performance. In return the author would like to be told of any performance. He may be contacted at