"A Midnight Dreary"
by Fred Passmore
This script is written in the Sheep Laughs Records unique "Play/Act" format. This means you perform to the pre-recorded CD soundtrack, with no lines to memorize! One that all ages can be a part of: children, teens, adults and even seniors. You'll have an easier time recruiting cast members when they hear there are no lines to learn.
Synposis: A highly entertaining 18-minute two-man play that is easy to do... with no dialog to learn! All the action is performed to a fully-produced CD with the narration, music and sound effects. Perfect for Fall Festivals or Halloween Alternative events, but can be done any time. A man is spending a stormy night at home by himself. When he thinks that an escaped convict is lurking outside, he forgets the Bible lesson on fear he was studying, and panics. A comedy of terrors results, as circumstances conspire to bring him to the brink of a nervous breakdown. After turning back to the scriptures for comfort, he discovers that our imagined fears and reality are often two very different things.
Characters: Derek Crane, The Stranger. You may also have a "mystery person" to carry the radio on the stage at the beginning and off at the end.
Setting: Living room. Needed items: easy chair or small sofa. End table with lamp and telephone. TV (optional.) A door is needed somewhere in the back or off to the side either already there or constructed as part of the set. Important action happens centered around the door.
Props: Umbrella, a bag of cheese puffs, a few other kinds of snacks, a can of soda, TV remote, Bible, phone, sheet, a tire iron, a tabletop radio, and if possible an old-fashioned radio that the audience is supposed to be hearing all this on..
Costumes: Raincoat for the Stranger. Optional for mystery person, a hooded cloak or robe. Or they may be dressed as an angel is desired.
Performance notes: Although most of the actions you will perform go along with the narration, there are some segments where the scenes are carried by the actions performed with the music and sound effects. The actor must learn what is to be done to the music by reading the action directions and doing it during the playing sounds. If the direction says "Actions during the next part of the narrative," you do them while the narration is heard. But when it simply says "Actions:" you do them to the music and effects that are playing at that point up until the next section of narration.
Soundtrack: This script is written specifically to be performed to the recorded soundtrack. Every single line that you read in the script below (except for the stage directions, of course) is on the soundtrack, mixed with professionally-recorded background music and sound effects. All you will need to do is act along with the CD.
The music and sound effects for this script are on the Soundtrack CD #13 CD, along with the BONUS TRACKS for "The Jokers of Jerico," another "Play/Act" format script.
Click here to listen to a 5 and-a-half minute Windows Media preview of the entire soundtrack CD, with short clips from each track!
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copyright 2008 Fred Passmore
(Actions: The lights are put out, and an old-fashioned radio is carried out by a mystery person and placed on a stand, lit by a spotlight.
Soundtrack: Begin Cut #2 on the CD.
The person tunes through some channels, then finds the one the story is on. He (or she) leaves and the spotlight stays on the radio, which the audience is listening to as the show begins. After the introduction, the lights come up on the other side of the stage and we see the living room set.)
The Unseen Storyteller: Welcome to Mind's Eye Theater... where you... help bring the story... to life. I'm your host, the Unseen Storyteller.
Fear... it grows like a fungus on the rotting logs of doubt and uncertainty in the forest of our mind. Fear... taking it's nourishment from the decay of personal faith and trust. Only in the darkness of spiritual blindness can it thrive and spread. And spread it does... until it covers the heart and blights the mind with a paralysing toxin.
Sometimes the seeds of the fungus of fear are spread by the enemy of our souls... and other times, it merely grows on it's own as we allow the light of the Word to fade from our lives. This... is one such story. Sit back and picture the events in your mind as I paint the picture... you might even begin to see it happening in your mind's eye. Tonight's tale is titled "A Midnight Dreary."
It was on a rainy autumn evening in the quiet little community of Tarrytown, New York, as our main character unlocked the door to his home after a quick trip to the store. But the threatening thunderstorm outside was only an echo of the gathering storm in his life... which was about to break out in a torrential downpour.. of terror.
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: Derek comes through the door, arms loaded with bags and holding an umbrella over his head, which he lowers and closes as he enters.. As he is closing it, he almost drops the bags and has to scramble to keep the contents from spilling everywhere. He is a somewhat clumsy and nervous character. He sets the umbrella beside the door, then takes the bags to the table.)
Narrator: Derek Crane was a young 4th grade schoolteacher at Tarrytown Elementary School, as well as a Sunday School teacher at his church. Yes, Derek was a believer in Jesus, and had a good influence on both the children he taught and the people around him. His imagination was an asset to him as he used it to help the children learn both the school lessons and bible stories. But sometime his imagination was a liability, as it often ran away with him.
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: Turning on the lamps in the room, Derek then removes his coat, hanging it on the coat rack. He goes back to the table to take the contents out and put them on the table. He smiles as he surveys the spread of junk food and soda he now has spread out before him, and rubs his hands together as though antucipating digging into it soon. He picks up the TV guide from the table and sits down on the sofa to look through it.)
Now, you should know that our man Derek Crane was descended from a long line of schoolteachers named Crane, the most famous of which was Ichabod Crane, whose story was told by Washington Irving. Proud of his heritage and family name, Derek in fact often used the story to introduce his students to the joys of classic literature, as well as local history. As Derek unpacked the bag of goodies, he was prepared for a nice relaxing Saturday evening of reading, snacking and TV while his wife was away visiting her ailing mother. From here on out we'll let Derek himself tell you what happened on... "A Midnight Dreary."
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: Derek responds to the phone when it rings and picks it up to answer after the second ring. He sits back as he talks, crossing his legs and jogging his foot up and down. He picks up the TV Guide and glances through it a few seconds as he listens to her, puts it back down, and various motion as he talks.)
Just as I was about to dig into the smorgasboard of junk food and TV shows, the phone rang.
On the line was my wife, Iris. "Hi, honey! How was your trip?" I asked. She told me it was fine, and that her mother was doing better, but would need her a few more days. I told her about going to the store, but then reassured her I was eating healthy while she was away. I told her about the big storm that was coming to the area, and how I planned on spending the evening preparing for my Sunday school lesson. After I told her how I missed her, and that I'd would be praying for her mother to get well soon, we closed the conversation by telling each other how much we loved one another.
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: Derek hangs up, then picks up a bag of cheese puffs, holding it to his face and talking to it as if holding a baby. He then sets it on his lap, and gathers a few more bags on his knee as if talked to a group of small children. As he finishes his self-amusing talk, he puts them back on the table.)
Narrator: Not one to be a slave to strict literal interpretations of the English language, or even definitions of normality, I expressed my affection to the snack foods even as I internally defended my choice of words to the wife.
(As if talking to a baby or young child.) "You're not junk food, are you? No, you're not! No! Look at your ingredients, why... you have corn meal, and you have potatoe flakes, and, oh, my, look at this... peanut oil. Yes, you look healthy to me. You're probably healthier than I am, after all, I'm the one talking to inanimate objects. I'll get back to you later, I've got to study my lesson awhile."
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: Derek reaches over to an end table and retrieves his Bible, which he reads as he leans back on the couch. After a few moments, his eyes droop and the book drops down. He rallies himself away, and returns to reading, but is overcome by sleepiness again. Finally he lays down on the couch and reads it, but this makes it even more difficult to stay awake. This time the book drops down on his chest and stays as his face turns to the side and he begins to snore.
Narrator: Knowing that I really did need to study to prepare his lesson for the kids tomorrow, I set aside the snacks that were calling to me, and the TV guide that promised entertainment. I picked up my Bible, and planned on devoting the next hour or so to disciplined study. I was wanting to teach the kids about the prophet Elijah, and how he had been afraid of Jezebel, as well as other scriptures about dealing with fear. But a soft sofa isn't the best place to study when you're tired, and before I knew it, my battle with the sandman ended in defeat. As I snoozed soundly over the next few hours, the predicted storm front moved in and the winds began to howl outside. It was nearly midnight when my sleep was finally interrupted by what to me sounded like the crack of doom.
(Actions: Derek is startled awake and jumps up into a half-sitting position, the Bible sliding off onto the floor. He wipes a hand across his face to clear the cobwebs from his mind, and looks around. He checks his watch and reacts to the time. Sitting up, he yawns, stretches and reaches for the bag of cheese puffs.)
Narrator: Before I knew it, the entire evening had gotten away from me. And now that I was awake, there was little chance of actually going to bed any time soon. As I dug into the snacks, I rationalized to myself, "Too late to study now. I think I've got a pretty good handle on the topic of fighting fear, anyway." And since snack foods are made more for light entertainment than serious study, the only thing I could do was scan the TV for something good to watch.
(Actions: He stuffs some cheese puffs in his mouth and crunches them loudly, savoring them. He picks up the TV remote, and checks his watch. He then points the remote at an imaginary TV in front of him, which he clicks on and "watches" by looking intently toward the audience. As the channels change on the soundtrack, he, finally he settles on one as the soundtrack plays.
Opening the sheet on the back of the sofa, he throws it over his legs. Derek leans back and opens the can of soda. He has the cheese puffs in one hand the soda in the other, smiling with satisfaction as he watches TV. The soundtrack continues with scary music and dialog. As the TV sound gets to him, Derek's expression registers fear.)
Movie voice #1: They're coming to get you, Barbara! Look! There comes one of them now!
Movie Voice #2: "It has been established that persons who have recently died are returning to life, and committing acts of violence."
Movie Voice #3: "Are they slow moving, Chief?"
Movie Voice #4: "Yeah, they're dead... they're all messed up."
(Actions: Derek's face twitches and one eye widens. He continues to eat as he watches but less rapidly. As the screams and effects reach a crescendo on the TV, Derek grabs the remote and switches it off. )
Narrator: Well, alone in the house at a few minutes to twelve on a stormy night, the last thing I needed was a movie that would put my nerves on edge. And there was no way I could sleep after that.
(Actions during the next part of the naarative: He walks over to the radio, turns it on and tunes it to a station that he likes. He sits back down on the sofa and leans back, his head thrown back and eyes closed as he listens to the song that is playing.)
So, hoping for a little relaxing music, I turned on the radio and leaned back to enjoy the soothing sounds of instrumental music on my favorite station.
Radio Announcer: In the weather forecast for the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, there is a severe thunderstorm warning in effect until 2 AM. This may be accompanied by dangerous lightning and high winds, so please be prepared for temporary power outages, and you are advised to stay indoors.
(Actions: He lifts the soda can to his lips to take a drink.)
Radio Announcer: In other news, the Sherrif's Department has informed us of the escape earlier tonight of the notorious mass murderer Horace "The Breather" Morris.
(Actions: Derek spews out the mouthful of soda as he hears this!)
Radio Announcer: Morris earned the nickname "The Breather" because of an asthma condition and heavy breathing, which enabled a surviving strangulation victim to identify him. Morris is characterized as psychotic and extremely dangerous.
(Actions: Derek, wiping his mouth, is now sitting on the edge of the sofa listening with apprehension.)
Radio Announcer: You're advised to lock your doors and windows, and do not venture outside for any reason.
(Actions: Leaping up, Derek begins to hurry around the room, looking the doors. He pantomimes looking out of windows facing the audience, peeking through the curtains with his eyes darting comically back and forth, and then locking them.)
Radio Announcer: Report any sightings or suspicious sounds immediately to the Sherrif's Department. This is Wally Wigwhacker, WWWW news. (pause) Have a good night! (The news program musical close plays.)
(Actions: Derek does a double-take at the incongruity of the well-wishes and rolls his eyes.
Narrator: Yeah, like that's gonna happen now!
He sits down on the sofa wearily, then puts his head in his hands. The radio on the soundtrack is still playing and segues into a new program.)
Radio: (Sfx of electricla lab equipment, spooky voice.) Good evening, and welcome to "Sounds of Terror In The Night."
(Actions: Derek slowly lifts his head from his hands and looks up with a funny expression as the program plays. )
Radio: I'm your host, Dr. Terror. Tonight's breath-taking tale is called "Attack of the Giant Chicken Lungs." (Scary music begins.) From out of the night they came... breathing in and out with a hideous sound... (sfx: heavy breathing.) Inhaling unsuspecting victims! (sfx: woman screams.)
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: As the program plays, with more screaming and sounds of horror, Derek lunges for the radio, knocking it off the table and scrabbling for the "off" switch. Derek then stands by the radio, which he has set upright again, and is trying to calm down.)
Narrator: Well, this was becoming just too much for me. The genes of my ancestor Ichabod were manifested strongly in his descendant, and right now they were in an uproar. Hastily knocking the radio off the station and searching for the "off" switch, I felt a little better... until...
(Actions: Once more he hears breathing sounds. He listens carefully, and looks at the radio again. He makes sure it's off, and listens again. The breathing continues. Confused, he reaches down and yanks the plug out of the wall and stands for a moment, smiling and satisfied. BUT THE BREATHING STARTS BACK! This alarms him and his eyes bulge.)
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: Derek begins to walk from one side of the stage to another, cocking his head in different directions and trying to tell where the sounds are coming from.)
Narrator: Realising that the sounds aren't coming from the radio, I tried to track down the source of the sounds. Not from the bedroom... not from the kitchen... it's stronger over by the front door. "Maybe it's just the wind," I thought.
(Actions: He stands, He cautiously moves to the door and listens, his eyes wide. The breathing continues. He angles his head close to the wood of the door to listen.. He jumps backward as there suddenly comes a loud knocking at the door! He begins biting his nails as he dithers about, in panic!)
Narrator: I'll admit, I was panicking as I realised that the sounds were on my doorstep. "What do I do," I screamed in my mind. "What do I do?" Then it occured to me to do what the radio alert had told me... "Call the police! YES!"
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: He runs to the phone and picks it up, dialing rapidly. Then covers his mouth to muffle what he is saying, so that the lurker won't hear it. His back is to the door and his hand covering his mouth and the phone receiver.)
Narrator: I quickly dialed the emergency number and told the operator, "Hello, 911? This is an emergency! The Breather is outside my window! (Pauses.) I am calm! (Pauses.) My name is Derek Crane. (Pauses.) Yes, I'm sure it's him! He sounded like this!
(Actions: He holds the phone out and makes a loud breathing noise into the reciever with an exaggerated sound, his lips protruding out comically like a monkey's. He then puts the phone back to his ear and covers the mouthpiece as he talks.)
Narrator: "Send the police quick! I'm at six thirty-eight... (He stops.) Hello? Are you there? Hello?
(Actions: He looks at it.)
Narrator: My blood chilled a few degrees as I realised the phone had went dead. "Like I'm gonna be!" I thought.
(The knocking echoes through the house again.)
Narrator: Before I realized what I was saying, I called out "Go away! There's nobody here!"
(Action: Derek slaps his hand over his mouth and his eyes express his dismay at his act. He takes his hand away and makes a fist, hitting himself in the forehead.)
Narrator: I chastised myself for my stupidity: "Oh, you idiot!" I thought. "Not only does he know you're here now, he also knows you're stupid!"
(Action: Derek raises his head back up and regards the door with dread.)
"Well," I muttered, "there's nothing left to do but answer it." So cautiously to the door I crept, as the knocking echoed insistantly through the house again.
(Actions: Derek tiptoes with silent steps to the door. Slowly he nears the knob, hand trembling with apprehension. When he finally touches it, he suddenly turns it and wrenches the door open wide, jumping back out of the way.
Narrator: Throwing open the door and jumping back, I peered out into the darkness and rain... and saw... nothing? "That's weird," I thought. "There's nobody out here!"
(Actions: Derek straightens, puzzled. He gingerly walks to stand in the door, looking outside into the dark. He turns back toward the inside, one hand on his hip and scratching the back of his head with the other.)
Narrator: And I was right.. there was no body out there.. but suddenly, there was somebody.
(Actions: Suddenly from one side of the outside of the door a figure steps into view. The audience sees it first since Derek's back is turned toward it. Derek spins, and sees the Stranger standing there with wet hair, his yellow raincoat wet with rain. He is holding a tire iron on one hand, raised menacingly. He has a wild look in his eyes, and is breathing in and out loudly. Derek screams, and the Stranger takes a step forward. But Derek grabs his wrists, struggling with him. He manages to shove the Stranger back out of the open door, then jumps back in, slamming the door and locking it. With panic in his his eyes, he leans back against it, looking for something to reinforce it with. He runs to the easy chair and pulls it over to put up against it.)
Narrator: Panic gripping my heart, I desperately began to pile up items to reinforce the door, all the while fearful thoughts whirling in my mind like debris picked up by a tornado. "Gotta find something else! Oh, Lord, I'm gonna die! Jesus, you said You'd be a "very present help in time of trouble! Where's your help when I need it? "
Narrator: At that moment my gaze fell on the Bible where I had abandoned it earlier.
(Actions: He considers it for a few seconds, then bends over to retreive it.)
Narrator: "I guess it's right where I left it. Pushed aside for junk food."
(Actions: Derek opens it.)
Narrator: "Mom always told me when I was afraid, to read your Word out loud. I'd say this is a good time! "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee."
(Actions: Derek sits down as he flips to another page.)
Narrator: "My mind wasn't exactly stayed on You tonight, Lord. 'There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear has torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.'"
(Actions: He flips to another page.)
Narrator: Torment is right, I could see how far short I'd been falling. "And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds thru Christ Jesus. Finally brethern, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of a good report, if there be any virture, think on these things
(Actions: Derek slowly lowers the Bible and closes his eyes. He stays that way for several long seconds. Then he wipes his eyes and looks up toward the ceiling.)
Narrator: Lord, Im sorry I forgot the things Youve said. I guess I was too busy filling my mind-and my heart-with junk food too. And I started to be filled with fear because of that. But Im not afraid anymore. Thank you for your peace and love, and for showing me that I was trying to teach others a lesson I hadn't learned yet. And from now on lll have pity on those who are afraid!
(Actions: Derek walks over to the easy chair and pulls it back to its former place beside the lamp and the end table. Then he goes to the door, unlocks it and looks out.)
Narrator: I can't believe I was such a big chicken.
(Actions: He picks up the sheet from where he had dropped it.)
Narrator: And what was I afraid of? A guy with bad lungs? A ghost? Yeah, a ghost!
(Actions: Derek throws the sheet over his head like a ghost, and begins to wave his arms under it and moan comically.)
Narrator: Wooooo! Boy, this is really scary, huh? Wooooo!
(Actions: He dances around comically, then heads off-stage.)
Narrator: Lets go haunt the house, Casper!
(Actions: Derek merrily runs off the stage, Wooing and waving his arms. Seconds later the front door opens halfway and the Stranger sticks his head in, peering around.)
Narrator: While I mocked myself by running around in the sheet, unbeknownst to to me at the time, a drenched figure had opened the now-unlocked door. Gingerly he looks around, and calls out "Hello? Can I come in?"
(Actions: Not receiving an answer, the Stranger comes all the way in, closing the door behind him. He holds the Ttire iron in his hand as if for protection.)
Narrator: "Im sorry if I startled you before, but Ive had a blowout and my spare is flat. Can I use your phone?"
(Actions: The Stranger freezes as he hears a Woooo come from offstage. Just then Derek comes back in the room, oblivious to the Stranger . Derek is still "playing ghost and is swaying and moaning. The Stranger stares for a second in shock, then silently, but clearly mouths the words: "A ghost!" The Stranger drops the tire iron and keels over in a faint. Derek, hearing him fall, quickly pulls the sheet off of his head and gapes at him in surprise.)
(Actions during the next part of the narrative: Derek cautiously kneels beside the Stranger to get a better look. He backs away, then spots the tire iron on the floor and picks it up. He holds it up and turns back toward the Stranger .)
Narrator: Stunned to see the body on the floor, I hurriedly knelt to check it out. My first thought was that it's The Breather. He looked dead... but I had seen too many movies, and knew you couldn't be sure with these psycho mass murderers. So, picking up the tire iron, I considered making sure.
(Actions: Derek lifts the tire iron up over the Stranger's head as if to club him with it, but he hesitates.)
Narrator: I... I just cant do it!
(Actions: Derek tosses the tire iron aside and kneels beside the Stranger again.)
Narrator: After all, Jesus said we were to love our enemies.
(Actions: Derek puts his head down to the Stranger's chest.)
Narrator: (As he listens) Hey, hes breathing! (He lifts his head.) Of course hes breathing, hes the Breather. But the news said he breathes real loud. I can hardly hear this guy!
(Actions: Derek gingerly reaches out and shakes the Stranger to see if he can wake him.)
Narrator:: Going against my instincts and fear, and acting on faith, I reached forth my hand and tried to wake him. "Can you hear me?" I asked. "Are you alright?"
(Actions: The Stranger begins to come around, moaning.)
Narrator: Dont try any thing, now.
(Actions: The Stranger rubs
his forehead and sits up with some help from Derek. He tries to
get his vision cleared and squints at Derek.)
Stranger: Sitting up carefully, the stranger squinted at me and asked me who I was. I told him my name, and that I lived here. "I live here," I said. "Who are you? And why are you here, lying on my floor?"
(Actions: The Stranger remembers and looks around fearfully.)
Narrator: Shakily, he answered, "A ghost! I... I saw a ghost!" That was no ghost, I explained, it was just me in a sheet. Sorry I scared you.
(Actions: Derek gives the Stranger a hand up. The Stranger stands uncertainly and Derek steadies him.)
Narrator: As I helped him to his feet rather unsteadily, he retorted "You? Do you always run around in a sheet scaring innocent people?" I shot back defensively with "Do you always attack people in the door with a tire iron?" Hey, I had a flat tire and I ran thru the rain what seemed like a mile, then when you answer the door you grab me and shove me off the porch! All I wanted was to use your phone to call a tow truck! I tried the next house but no-one was home, so I had no choice but to come back and try again. First you almost beat me up then you try to scare me to death! What are you, some kind of macho man with something to prove?"
Well, at that I started to smile. If only he knew how wrong he was! "So," he asked, "you're going to make fun of me now? It's no fun being scared!" "No, I told him. "Im laughing at myself. Listen, its a long story. Lets get you into some dry clothes, and Ill tell you all about it over a cup of hot chocolate." That perked him up and I got a smile out of him as he said he could really go for that about now, because he was cold and his nerves were shot.
(Actions: DEREK grins and sticks out his hand.)
Narrator: As I stuck out my hand to shake, I told him my name was Derek. His, he told me, was Ernie, and he was concerned about his car. I told him it was too late to call anyone, so I invited him to stay the night and take care of it in the morning. He didn't want to impose, but I let him know it was the least I could do after what he had been through. The truth is, with my wife out of town, I would welcome the company. He gladly accepted, and as I showed him toward the guest room, he indicated my Bible from where I had left it open. Wondering if I was a Christian, I happily told him that I was. It turns out he was a believer too, he had been saved only a few months ago.
I don't really have any Christian friends to talk to, though, he said. I clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Well, hey... you do now!"
(Actions: They continue to talk and fellowship as they leave the stage side by side.)
The Unseen Storyteller: And so, Derek Crane learned that that our imagined fears and reality are often two very different things. And that when circumstances seem frightening, the best solution is to turn to God's Word for comfort and encouragement. Faith and fear are mutually exclusive, and which you choose to believe and act on determine your reactions to situations out of your control. Remember 2 Cor:10:5: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
That's our program this week. I'm your host, the Unseen Storyteller, inviting you to tune in again next time to Mind's Eye Theater. Where you... help bring the story... to life!
(If so desired, the same "mystery person" who brought in the radio now comes onto the stage and solemnly carries the radio away.)
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