Short Story Outline for "Assignment: Comfort And Joy!"
written by Fred Passmore
copyight 2011 Sheep Laughs Publications
Story outline for "Assignment: Comfort And Joy!" by Fred Passmore. Copyright 2011 Sheep Laughs Records.
Note: This is an short outline of what happens in the play, so that you can see if you like it before reading it all. If you want to read the actual script, read and print it out here.
This is like "The Christmas Family" and "Redemption In The Wings," in that a CD supplies all the narration, music and sound effects. It is in effect two plays; one main framework, and a shorter one that is seen in sections presented at intervals. The framework play is about an hour, and the embedded skit 18 minutes, so the time of the entire production is similar to "Redemption In The Wings," about 75 minutes. Overall it is a fast-moving play, and won't seem like that long at all.
Characters: framework play: Main Characters: Angel: Afriel. The DJ: Steven Carter. Suicidal Woman: Diane Warren. Junk Man: Andy Freeman. Schoolteacher: Mrs. Agnes Jolly. Other DJ: Rusty Shanker. (Smaller parts: Program Director: Theresa Page; Diane's friend; the hungry man who visits the Junk Man; the son, wife and two kids visiting with Mrs. Jolly; Daniel, his wife Fran and a group of kids from the local orphanage who come in to sing live on the radio, and The Lord.)
Embedded Skit parts: CEO (male adult), Head of Product Development (female adult), Inventor #1 (male), Inventor #2 (female), Inventor #3 (male), and the Cleaning Lady, Jane. Smaller parts; a couple of Security Guards, and several employees.
Outline of Main Framework:
We open with a scene of the DJ visiting a snowy cemetery as the sun is setting, and talking to his deceased wife, taking a Christmas wreath and placing it on the marker and talking to her. We see the Lord come and join him invisibly and put a hand on his shoulder. The DJ prays and asks the Lord to relay a message to his wife, and leaves to go to work.
After the DJ departs, we see an angel join the Lord, and is revealed as the narrator. They walk slowly together, and he gives the angel his mission. The angel is young at heart, and after hearing his plan, he is enthusiastic about his mission. After parting, he is rejoicing in the Lord.
BONUS SNEAK PREVIEW: Click here to listen to the entire prolog scene described above from the soundtrack!
This transitions to the radio station set. We hear the angel's voice relating what is being said.
The DJ is working the evening shift at a small town gospel AM radio station on Christmas Eve. He offered to work in order to let the usually employee for that shift be home with their family. He is alone, so he doesn't mind as much. The station program director, a lady, is getting ready to leave after her shift. Before she leaves, they exchange gifts. She gives him a little something, and he gives her a manuscript of his collected Christmas stories. This is something she has wanted for awhile, in order to share them with her child. She tells him he should do something with them, but he lacks the confidence. She mentions reading one or several of them on the air that evening, since it is Christmas Eve, she thought the listeners might enjoy them as something different. Since she is the program director, she gives him permission to do so, maybe one per hour over the course of the music segments that evening. Since they are short, nothing over 10 minutes, she feels it would make a nice addition to the carols they usually play. He remarks that there will probably be no-one listening, since they will all be with family and friends. He tells her that a year ago he had thrown out a whole book manuscript he had written, after becoming discouraged about his talent. The PD encourages him and tells him that we never know who is helped by what we do, and that talents used for the Lord are never wasted when put to use for Him.
There is a sister station in the same building, and also working is the board operator for the talk radio format on the FM side, Donald Shanker. He is an agnostic and antagonistic toward anyone on the Gospel side. He pops in to needle the DJ a bit about his faith and the holiday. He can't get the best of him and leaves mad. The DJ is still down, though, and isn't sure anyone is listening to him this evening. . But then he decides that if anyone is listening, they might be as lonely as he is, and hopes that they will enjoy hearing some of the stories along with the evening's Christmas music. The story he has selected is a light-hearted tale to lift the spirit.
As the DJ plays a song to start the shift, the angel comes back on to introduce the first listener and tell their back story.
Note: As the listener hears the story that is told by the DJ, they are helped and encouraged. The angel is the one that prompts each person to turn on the radio and listen, and as each one does, the narrator's voice gives way to the DJ's as they read the story. We only hear the DJ over the radio, and as we do, the story is brought to life in the listener's imagination on the stage, acted out in the middle of the stage. (This is the embedded story that can be done by itself if people want a shorter play.)
The first listener, a suicidal woman, is an executive at a graphic design firm in NY who is home for the holidays in the country. She is staying at a hotel in town. Her recent divorce from a husband who was a philanderer and has been arrested for tax evasion, has demoralised her, and she is feeling the effects of a life devoted to getting ahead, but neglecting the spiritual. Her small-town roots are pulling her back to a place and time when life seemed to have a meaning. She is depressed, and we see her meet with an old school friend, who is happily married with several children, does nothing to cheer her up. The DJ is mentioned as an old friend at this time, and where he works. The contrast between her life and what the other woman, who stayed in the small town, has made things look worse. After the friend leaves, she become more despondent, and brings out some pills, and begins to wrote a note. This is un-noticed by the angel, as he is reacting to the threat of a strange man lurking outside her door, sent by her ex-husband to intimidate her into not testifying against him. He finally does notice her actions and influences her to stop, then gets her to turn on the radio. The story that she listens to, "The Ultimate Christmas Gift," part 1, (which we hear and see acted out) is one that speaks to her, as life is out of her control and is like a storm, and she realises that she needs to turn it over to the Lord, and look to Him for happiness. She accepts the greatest gift of salvation and then decides she has to do something.... which we find out later what that is. The angel scares off the lurker after Diane gets saved.
The scene goes back to the radio station then, and the DJ is pranked by the other guy. He gets a call from what seems to be a listener with a long prayer request, and he prays for the dramatic situation, only to be laughed at by the other guy and told that all those people were on a soap opera. Thinks he has made a fool of the DJ and laughs. After he leaves, the DJ prays for him, which the other man hears as he stands at the door.
The scene shifts to the next listener with a need; a poor man, known as the Junk Man, living in a shed at the junkyard. All his furniture is cast-off junk that he has retrieved from the dump, and he has only a small electric heater to keep him warm. He makes a little money during the summer, selling some of the things he has repaired, but in winter it gets tough. All he has that night is a small tin of sardines, a can of vienna sausage and a pack of stale crackers for his Christmas dinner. He desires for someone that has more than he does to come along and bless him with more food and some encouragement. The angel gets him to listen to the radio, and he hears Part Two of "The Ultimate Christmas Gift," which we see acted out on stage again. He is encouraged by it, after that, a truly homeless man stumbles in, almost starving and on the verge of collapse, and he gives him his food, and helps him have a merry Christmas. He realises that there is always something to give to meet the needs of others, and it is more blessed to give than receive.
The scene goes back to the radio station, and we see the DJ as he plays more music and does the weather. At this point the carolers from the orphange come in, and they sing a live song on the air (giving the children in the play the chance to actually sing a Christmas song).
The scene changes to the third listener, an older retired school teacher. She is with her son and daughter-in-law, and several grandkids. They are telling her that they are having to leave, before the Christmas Dinner she is fixing is done. The wife's mother is insisting that they spend Christmas Eve with her, and she is fixing dinner. They leave, amidst her protests. She ends up alone, (she is a widow) and a dinner with no-one to share with. She is also worried because there is no-one to help her with chores, etc. After some tension on the angel's part when he finds out she has no radio, she finds one among the gifts left by her son, to the relief of the angel. She tunes into the radio station, hears music and leaves it there. The last part of the story begins, and we see it acted out on the stage. After hearing it, she calls and apologizes to her daughter-in-law for the things she said.
The scene changes back to the radio station. The story is over, and the other board guy is taking a final jab, that no-one cares about his silly stories. Just then the doorbell light flashes, and the other guy says it must be his girlfriend. To the DJ's surprise, he comes back with the first listener, Diane. She wants to thank the DJ and tell him what an incredible difference he made in her life, he saved it. This blows the other guy away. She tells the DJ that he has a wonderful talent, and that she has contacts at a publisher, to help him submit his book for publication.
She always thought he was a loser because of his faith, while she pursued the fast life. Now she sees that she has nothing, while he has happiness and meaning in his life. The old spark they once had is starting to be rekindled. The DJ and the woman are re-connecting and we can tell they have something going on.
Then the next person shows up, the Junk Man, but when he tries to come in, the other board guy thinks he is there looking for a handout, and tries to make him leave. The junk man is rescued by our DJ, and the hobo makes a sharp comment about judging by appearances. He is bringing him a gift of a typewritten manuscript that he found in the trash, that means a lot to him. It turns out to be the one that Steven threw away and had wished he had back. The Junk Man is weak now from lack of food.
Then the teacher comes in, bringing her turkey and sides. The Junk Man is especially happy to see that, as she has brought enough plates of turkey dinner for everyone.
The next door board operator apologizes to the DJ for messing with him. It's obvious now that all these people have been affected by the lone DJ's efforts, and he asks if he can join them, which they gladly allow. He admits he's been given a lot to think about, and he is seeing Christmas, and Christians, differently for the first time. Mrs. Jolly has some encouragement for Steven, and approves of his and Diane's reunion, then they begin to set the table. As they are getting ready to eat, the angel shows up, still invisible to them, but not the audience. When they pray, and thank the Lord for his miraculous blessing, and wish him Happy Birthday, the Lord himself comes in and joins them invisibly. Again, we see the Lord put his hand on the DJ's shoulder. As they all celebrate, the angel comes down to the front and center, really rejoicing as he leaves.
The idea portrayed here is that each of the people had something that one of the others needed. God could provide what we need directly, but he delights in using us to provide the needs of each other, to share in his joy and the blessing.
Here is the story outline for "The Ultimate Christmas Gift," which is told and acted out in three parts during the framework play. It could be done by itself for a shorter production if desired.
Outline: A group of people come into the room and take seats around a table. Several of them carry briefcases. They talk amongst themselves as the narration tells where they are, who they are, and why they are there. The company is an electronics entertainment company. One of them, the CEO speaks, telling about the lower-than-expected sales for this December, and that they have to hurry to have some newer, more appealing products in time for the next year's holiday shopping season. They do not have much time, as it is already the 22nd of December, and it will take working around the clock to have it ready by the next fall. The company slogan is "Empowering You To Change Your World" and each invention is intended to give one control over some aspect of life. This is seen as a way to tap into the need to have some control, as life seems to be spiralling out of control and people are afraid. The president introduces the head of the R&D department, a female executive, who has commisioned some inventors to build prototypes of their inventions. They are here to demonstrate the results of the money that the company has invested in their inventions.
The first one is called into the room, and brings in a device and puts it on the table. Someone is needed to demonstrate it on, and the CEO appoints one of his lackey officers, who is only too happy to help. As the inventor is explaining the device, and why it is needed by the consumers, a cleaning lady, wearing headphones and a player, bebops into the room and begins mopping, not noticing the people seated at the table. She is singing a Christmas song to herself. The people all stare at her, and finally someone goes over and gets her attention, which scares her into using judo on the person! She is a spry old granny. One of the lackeys thinks she might be an industrial spy in disguise, and when he tries to take away her camera phone, she chops him also. Security is called, and she prepares for a battle with her mop, spinning it and holding it as a weapon and motioning with her hand for them to "come on." The woman executive, recognizing her as an employee, calls them off, and apologizes for the scene. The inventor demands that she be taken out of the room, but the CEO asks her to stay and observe, they would like her unbiased opinion as a consumer. She agrees, and takes a seat.
The first story speaks to the suicidal Diane, and shows the need for the Peace-Speaker which can calm the storm.
The inventor begins again, and activates the Personal Atmospheric Controller, which allows the holder to decide the weather conditions in their immediate area. It is needed, as the company slogan says, for "Empowering You To Change Your World," and this is the first time that technology will give one the ability to change the weather, but on very small scale. For those that have the need for control in their lives, this device will give them that power. The execs are impressed, and the demonstration begins. The first setting is for nice weather... but there seems to be no effect. That, he explains, is because they already are in a comfort zone and there is nothing to change for the better. He changes the setting to cooler weather, and everyone gets cold. He makes it hotter, then controls the humidity, and makes it thunder, and then brings on a wind. But suddenly the controls short out, and the weather gets severe. There is tornado-force wind, freezing temperatures, rain, a thunderstorm, lightning, etc, and people are being blown all around, trying to cover their heads, etc. (Use the storm music from the William Tell overture classic music CD for this.) Finally the cleaning lady unplugs the machine, stopping the chaos. Everyone is soaked and cold, and before adjourning to get dried off, they ask the cleaning lady for her immediate impression. She says that we can't control everything in our life, and that God is in control. She tells the story of the storm on the lake and how the Lord calmed it with a word. If we want peace, we have to know and trust the Peace-Speaker. Otherwise we will be buffetted by the storms of life, and our efforts to control things outside our control will only show how helpless and clueless we are. She says that this product would wreak havoc wherever it was used. The CEO agrees with the verdict, if not the philosophy, and sends away the inventor. They will meet again a little later after taking a break.
End of first section.
Start of the second one, which impacts the Junk Man, who wishes he could turn off his shame and regret.
The group of people come back into the room for the second meeting. The head of R&D introduces the next inventor, and they call him in. He pitches the product prototype, which is a device he calls the Emote Control. The machine is for controlling emotions, either of yourself or those around you, through the use of ultra-low audio frequencies that can affect emotions.By varying the frequencies, he can induce and manipulate different emotions in the target. It is demonstrated, but the Emote-Control gets out of control, putting the room through an emotional meltdown. The first setting is for "joy"... and everyone feels happy. A sense of goodwill and well-being goes around the table, and people are smiling, joking, and then high-fiving. They think it's wonderful. Then he dials it to a higher intensity, "hilarity" and they begin laughing and can't stop. They beg him to stop, because it's like laughing gas. He demonstrates the "sadness" setting and they all look depressed, and begin crying. He changes it to "fear" and they are all afraid of each other, and run around hiding. Lastly he puts it on "Anger" and they all start getting angry, and fighting each other. The cleaning lady shuts off the machine before they kill each other. They all take their seats, and they reject the invention on the grounds that it could be both addictive to one's self and dangerous if used to manipulate others. The cleaning lady talks about the secret to controling emotions, which is living by faith and letting go of guilt and shame. Knowing that you can trust the Lord takes away fear and doubt... lasting joy comes from knowing the source of joy, which is Jesus... God is love, and he helps us to love others in a real way, and not just based on feelings, which can be deceptive. Sadness is defeated, anger soothed, all the negative emotions brought under control by having God;s word in your life. The meeting is adjourned while the participants settle down and get their feelings under control.
Start of the third and final skit part. This speaks to the teacher who holds ill will in her heart because of other's actions, and wishes she could control them.
The meeting opens with the last inventor, who explains that his invention will revolutionize the world. It takes the video game concept of movement recognition a step further. This machine, instead of being controlled by the movement of the person, actually controls the movement of the person! It is the reverse application of the motion-controlled video game.. here, the game controls your motions. It allows the user to control the movements of another person, or a user to live out the actions seen onscreen in a videogame. . He demonstrates on an employee, whom he makes walk around. Then he starts the first game and we see the person start to dance like John Travolta and mimics their moves, to hilarious effect. That is a good application and wins approval around the table. Next it is hooked up to a Bruce Lee game and he becomes a martial arts expert, and defeats several imaginary attackers. He hooks it up to a Frankenstein mgame and he stalks around like the monster. Amusing at first, the "monster" then turns on the CEO, under the control of the inventor. He is angry at the boss because he wasn't hired full-time in the past. The cleaning lady grabs the joystick and turns it on the inventor, who switches off the machine. Security is called and he is taken away. The cleaning lady tells them to look to the Bible for the ultimate solution to life's troubles, not gadgets or philosophies. Control in this life is an illusion, and none of us is wise enough to be in control, only the Lord. Everything he invents concerns controlling or influencing conditions or others. But the best way to influence others is by personal character and helping. Change yourself, not the world around you... then the world around you will see the change and want it for themselves. Let God control your life... accept his gift and his Kingship. Then, share it with your loved ones; being the best gift they could have. Then you will truly be empowered to change your world.
She talks about the Christmas story, but they think they know it, and each person around the table volunteers what they think it is; Ralphie gets a BB gun; Scrooge gets happy; Rudolph leads Santa's team, etc; but they've never actually listened to the real one.She reads a portion of it once it becomes obvious that no-one there really knows much about it, and explains it some. The CEO thinks it's all well and good, but does nothing to sell product, which is why they are there. The woman in charge of R&D sees her family at the door, waiting for her to come with them and go Christmas shopping or leaving to go home for the holidays. The CEO demands that she stay to come up with some plan or product, but she leaves anyway, with the cleaning lady. She invites her to come with them and spend Christmas in their home, and share the things she knows about the meaning of it all. She accepts, and they all leave.
If you like the story outline, read the script and print it out here.
Story outline for "Assignment: Comfort And Joy!" by Fred Passmore. Copyright 2011 Sheep Laughs Records.