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Dramatic Response to the Gospel October 24, 2010

Breaking Through: A Dramatic Response

to the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

The following drama, written by Pat Karpen of Holy Cross, was presented in lieu of a sermon. It was followed by congregational discussion. 


Cummings – an older angel                            Marge Burke

Esmeralda – a younger angel                         Pat Karpen

Sarah – a young woman of about 17              Sonia Sculer

Colin – a young man of about 17                    Ben Harrington

The two guardian angels are poised on step ladders at either side of the stage area. We see Esmeralda (E) desperately trying to scratch her shoulder blades.

Cummings (C):  What’s the matter, Esmeralda?

E:  These wings trying to come out. The itching is making me crazy. It’s like cutting teeth.

C:  Patience, Esmeralda. Soon the itching will abate and you’ll have your first set of beautiful angel wings – a full-fledged guardian angel, ready for action.

E:  Thank God.

C:  Exactly, Esmeralda. Exactly.

E:  Sorry.

C:  We want you to go on a visit. 

E:  Me? My first guardian angel visit! God thinks I’m ready?!

C:  Yes. Now listen carefully. The young woman you’ve been assigned to needs some help. She can’t hear you because of all the noise in her life. That’s the biggest problem we have in being guar-dian angels. People these days are so full of themselves and their problems they never stop to listen to God. You’re not getting through. Take a look.

Sarah (S) is screaming into her cell phone. 

S:  Mother, be quiet and just listen. (Pause.) No, I will not come home. (Pause.) Will you just shut up and listen! I hate math! I hate school! I don’t care if I fail! I’m not interested and I don’t need it! (Pause.) Shut up!! I don’t need it in my life. I don’t want it in my life. I will not go to summer school! I will not have a tutor! It’s stupid! It’s boring! It sucks . . . good-bye! She disconnects and immediately redials.

Colin, it’s Sarah. You still wanna hook up? Meet me at the field.

E:  Oh, crap — oops, sorry! Cummings, I’m on it. I’ll do you proud.

As E twirls to earth, S and Colin move more center. E “freezes” Colin and speaks to S.

E:  Hey.

S:  Who are you?

E:  Your guardian angel. 

S:  Yeah, right. You don’t look like an angel.

E:  Yeah, well. Maybe I wasn’t always an angel. The transition takes a while. I’m workin’ on it. (She scratches her itchy feather patches.)

S:  So, angel…what do you want? I’m busy.

E:  Takes a big breath. I want to save you from the clutter of ego, self loathing, fear and a graceless existence. I want to lead you to the embrace of mercy and wisdom. Oh, man! That sounded like a heaping load of . . .

From on high.

C:  ESMERALDA!!!!!!!

E:  Sorry. Sorry. Here’s what I mean. I don’t think your problem is math or mother. I think your problem is you.

S:  How did you know about math? Who are you? Really?

E:  Leap of faith time, Sarah. I really am your guardian angel. I’ve been trying to get through to you. A lot of us have been ,but you just couldn’t hear because of all the clutter. So we decided maybe a visit was in order. So . . . It’s over, Sarah. You can’t con me. You can’t con any of us. Level with me. Level with yourself.

S:  Oh, give me a break. Pause. E does not speak. Just looks at her. What? Pause. What!?  Pause. What?!  What do you want? Did my freaking mother hire you are something?! Pause as E just looks at her.  What!? What do you want me to say? That you’re freaking right! That I’m freaking terrified! Do you think I like being stupid! There she said it. Do you think I don’t know that I’m stupid! Pause as she softens just a tad. Do you know what it’s like to sit in that classroom and watch everyone except me get it. Even the really dumb freaking ones. Do you know what it’s like to start out by thinking that you’re normal. That you’ll open the book just like everyone else. That your pencil will fly across the pages as you come up with the answers. That the teacher will smile at you and your work. That she’ll have quiet talks with you about your talent and your future. That you’ll know the answers. That you won’t have to hide. Disappear. Talk trash. Start fights. Act bored. Act up just to hide the freaking fact that you’re useless. Stupid . . . just stupid.  Nothing. A  . . . nothing. Do you know what it’s like to go from hope to knowing that you don’t stand a freaking chance. There. Is that what you wanted to hear? Feel good, angel?

E:  Pause. I don’t like to see people in pain. No. But . . . if the pain comes not from cruelty but from looking at things that are hard to look at . . . things that have to change before we can move on . . . then maybe some temporary pain now . . . to stop what will end up being a huge and permanent pain  . . . might be worth it.

S:  What?

E:  If you keep changing who you are; if you harden your heart if it was meant to be gentle; if you make yourself brittle if you were meant to be soft; if you fill yourself with anger and let it grow and consume you; surely you will lose yourself. Do your best. Your talents will emerge. Don’t measure yourself against others. Don’t masquerade out of fear. Forgive yourself your failures and shortcomings – after all, God forgives you. Present your true spirit, regardless of how fragile and vulnerable it might be to the world.  Love yourself and others because of the eternal love given to you.

S:  Are you serious?

E:  Damn if I’m not.  C starts to scream at her from above but stays himself.

S:  You really are. Pause. How about if I promise to really think about it? How about if I promise to listen more for your voice? I mean it. I’ll . . . I’ll just try.

E:  I’ll take that. She freezes Sarah and goes to Colin and unfreezes him. She is a bit angry with Colin.

E:  Hey you.

Colin:  Yeah. Who are you?

E:  Her best friend. Listen to me. Were you gonna hit on her because you wanted to, because you thought you could, or because you thought you should? Do you fell good knowing that you’re taking advantage of a fragile spirit? Does it make you feel like a man, like a tough guy to work a con like that?

Colin:  What are you talking about? We’ve been friends forever. We tell each other everything. I wouldn’t do that to her. I wouldn’t do that to anyone. Who are you anyway? Who do you think you are accusing me of all that trash?

E:  Pause. She starts to babble a bit. Oh, sorry, sorry. I got carried away. I’m kinda new at this. Actually this if my first visit. I wasn’t even supposed to make contact with you. I just got carried away.

Cummings, who has been watching from above as E digs herself a hole, speaks to her gently with a smile.

Cummings:  Ask him about the books, Esmeralda.

E:  What are those books you have?

Colin:  Oh. Some used math books I found in a store. I’ve been trying to think of ways to help Sarah.  She’s not stupid, you know. She’s just beaten herself up so badly she kinda doesn’t know which way is up.  What did you mean when you said this was your first visit? 

E:  Nothing. Nothing. I’m uh . . . from the South. You really are a good person, you know.

Colin:  Nothing special. I just . . . you know . . . I want to help.

E:  Yeah, I know. Be prepared for itchy shoulders.

Colin:  What?

E:  Nothing. Nothing. Listen. Really nice meeting you. Take care. Keep on the path. She freezes Colin and twirls back to Cummings.

E:  Hey, Cummings.

Cummings:  Hello Esmeralda. What did you learn? How did you do? 

E:  I learned that there’s only so much we guardian angels can do. They’re responsible for so much themselves, human beings. It’s scary. All we can do is point and suggest and . . . I guess . . . pray. I did feel a shifting in Sarah, Cummings. I really did.

C:  You have a good voice, Esmeralda. By the way, how’s the itching?

E:  OMG!! Sorry, sorry. The itching has stopped! It’s gone.

C:  Yes, Esmeralda. You’ve got a fine set of baby wings. You did a good job down there. Thank you.  God is pleased.