DEUS EX MACHINA By Forrest Musselman

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DEUS EX MACHINA By Forrest Musselman Copyright 2010 Forrest Musselman, All rights reserved. ISBN: CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that this Work is subject to a royalty.
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DEUS EX MACHINA By Forrest Musselman Copyright 2010 Forrest Musselman, All rights reserved. ISBN: CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that this Work is subject to a royalty. This Work is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations, whether through bilateral or multilateral treaties or otherwise, and including, but not limited to, all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention and the Berne Convention. RIGHTS RESERVED: All rights to this Work are strictly reserved, including professional and amateur stage performance rights. Also reserved are: motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound recording, all forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as CD-ROM, CD-I, DVD, information and storage retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into non-english languages. PERFORMANCE RIGHTS AND ROYALTY PAYMENTS: All amateur and stock performance rights to this Work are controlled exclusively by Brooklyn Publishers, LLC. No amateur or stock production groups or individuals may perform this play without securing license and royalty arrangements in advance from Brooklyn Publishers, LLC. Questions concerning other rights should be addressed to Brooklyn Publishers, LLC. Royalty fees are subject to change without notice. Professional and stock fees will be set upon application in accordance with your producing circumstances. Any licensing requests and inquiries relating to amateur and stock (professional) performance rights should be addressed to Brooklyn Publishers, LLC. Royalty of the required amount must be paid, whether the play is presented for charity or profit and whether or not admission is charged. AUTHOR CREDIT: All groups or individuals receiving permission to produce this play must give the author(s) credit in any and all advertisement and publicity relating to the production of this play. The author s billing must appear directly below the title on a separate line where no other written matter appears. The name of the author(s) must be at least 50% as large as the title of the play. No person or entity may receive larger or more prominent credit than that which is given to the author(s). PUBLISHER CREDIT: Whenever this play is produced, all programs, advertisements, flyers or other printed material must include the following notice: Produced by special arrangement with Brooklyn Publishers, LLC COPYING: Any unauthorized copying of this Work or excerpts from this Work is strictly forbidden by law. No part of this Work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means now known or yet to be invented, including photocopying or scanning, without prior permission from Brooklyn Publishers, LLC. CAST OF CHARACTERS (Minimum casting= 3 M, 8 F; Maximum casting=9 M, 15 F, 17 E) DIRECTOR SHE/ HE desperately needs a show. MRS. BLUNT PLAYER ONE PLAYER TWO PLAYER THREE PLAYER FOUR PLAYER FIVE PLAYER SIX PLAYER SEVEN PLAYER EIGHT PLAYER NINE / DAVE SHE is a veteran, grizzled teacher. SHE just wants to do well. SHE is a senior, so do what she says. SHE is the brown-noser of the group. SHE is always a bit behind the others. HE / SHE is a trouble maker in class. HE / SHE is a dedicated actor. SHE is quiet. SHE loves to act and to be seen. HE is confused and never knows where to be. (Note: The nine players then play the following roles. You can certainly add more players to play the following roles. Only six of the players have lines as students.) ROMEO (M) JOCASATA (F) MESSENGER (E) COP TWO (E) SUPERHERO (M) STRANGE TWO (E) GOOD WITCH (F) LUCKY (E) BEDELIA (F) JULIET (F) ISMENE (F) CHARLIE CHAPLIN (E) DORKY (F) SISTER 2 (F) BROTHER (M) MR. SMITH (M) POZZO (E) NUMBERS PRIME (M) OEDIPUS (M) ANTIGONE (F) COP ONE (E) STRANGE ONE (E) PITA (M) SISTER 1 (F) MRS. SMITH (F) SPAM (M) EDWARD (M) CHORUS (E) MACHINE ARMS (E) (Note: Mikaela is played by multiple female actors. Chorus is played by multiple actors.) The Present TIME A School Theater Microwave Mini-Fridge Frozen Dinner Package Bag of Chips Pop Bottle Water Bottle Greek Tragedy Masks PLACE PROPS LIST Bag of Candy Ruby Slippers Magic Wand Newspaper A Very Long Rope Coffee Container An Extension Cord PRODUCTION NOTES Costumes for the original production were private school uniforms for the kids and formal attire for the teachers. Various costume pieces, mostly hats and coats, were worn to represent various characters in the parody scenes. In the original production, I used actual name brand products for the running product placement jokes. This, however, requires getting permission from each company to do so, which can be a lengthy process, especially if the company says no. (And believe me, they do!) You can certainly pursue this option to help with the authenticity of the product jokes. But, whenever a product is mentioned in the script, I ve intentionally left it blank. This allows the cast to come up with their own fake products and slogans, which might be more fun. You can also mispronounce the character names throughout for added humor. Living in the upper midwest, we say pop. You may say soda. Others may say drinky-poo. Feel free to change the word usage to fit your area. The pop machine is the most crucial piece on the set. The original production made a wooden frame with a fiberglass front, complete with fake buttons, etc. The front must have a door that swings open, and the back should be open or have a black curtain to allow actors to enter from backstage. The sides of the machine were made of black fabric with slits in the middle to allow actors to put their arms through the fabric for the last scene. The following plays, characters and movies are parodied. It may be a good idea to watch clips or read sections of the original scripts to get some of the humor. They are as follows: 2001, A Space Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, Oedipus, Charlie Chaplin, The Wizard of Oz, Superman, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Bald Soprano, Waiting for Godot, Transformers and Twilight. The world premiere of this play occurred on January 16th, 2010, at the Three Rivers One-Act Competition in Wabasha-Kellogg, Minnesota. The cast and crew are as follows: Alex Courrier, Alex Kopperud, Freddy Scaife, Amy Bessler, Cara Lantz, Stephanie Wick, Hannah Kopperud, Elizabeth Wick, Kate Thelen, Elisa Vergani, Kate Mackenzie, Rebecca Munson, Jaci Adcock and Zach Nietzke. The play took 1st place. SPECIAL THANKS Special thanks to the students of R-P Schools for taking on this project with great enthusiasm and creativity. Also, to Mr. Ehler for the inspiration : ) and, as always, my family. Deus Ex Machina Page 4 DEUS EX MACHINA by Forrest Musselman (The curtain is closed. We hear scary, classical music and as the music builds in intensity, the curtain slowly opens to reveal a pop machine in the center of the stage. There are several tables downstage of the pop machine, with chairs. There is also a cabinet with a microwave and a mini-fridge. Various piles of papers, napkins, and pop cans liter the tables. ALL the ACTORS enter, wearing school uniforms and acting as gorillas, notice the pop machine and squeal excitedly around it. ONE dares to touch it and eventually works its way up to a button. The button is touched and a pop comes out. THEY panic and scurry away. Music ends. Now new classical music begins, which is more inspirational and uplifting. THEY pick up the pop and look at it. ONE manages to open it. The gorilla tastes it and presents the pop to the audience with a cheesy, commercial grin. The next gorilla repeats the process and presents the pop with the swell of the music. Another gorilla repeats the process. THEY ALL taste it, getting more excited. After a few more drinks, THEY ALL go into a standing position and stumble to center, ALL reaching high for the pop bottle, which is held high by the TALLEST ACTOR. As the music reaches the final few seconds, the DIRECTOR enters from stage left, waving her hands. The music stops and the ACTORS break character.) DIRECTOR: Stop! Stop! Everyone stop for a second. PLAYER ONE: What's wrong? DIRECTOR: This isn't going anywhere. How is anyone going to take this seriously? PLAYER TWO: We're doing the best we can. We don't even have a script. DIRECTOR: That's not what I'm talking about. No one is going to get it. PLAYER THREE: We get it. The discovery of pop causes the primates to walk upright. Therefore suggesting that this is the moment in history that humans came into existence. (ALL agree.) The symbolism is quite powerful. DIRECTOR: Look, save the analytical hoop-la for the classroom. This is stupid. Who would have invented the pop in the first place? PLAYER THREE: Aliens? (Pause. ALL agree.) Deus Ex Machina Page 5 DIRECTOR: No, we've got to start over again. (ALL groan.) DIRECTOR: Hey, if we want a great show, we're going to have to do better. PLAYER TWO: It would be a lot better if we didn't have this stupid pop machine in the middle of the stage. DIRECTOR: You know there's nothing we can do about that. Our school is small. We've run out of room. The teachers need a faculty lounge. This is the only room left that isn't being used on a regular basis. PLAYER TWO: But it's a theater. DIRECTOR: Not only that, but the school's budget is tight this year. A play costs money. That's why we're going to do some product placement. PLAYER FOUR: (Eating a bag of chips with the name blatantly showing.) What's product placement? DIRECTOR: Put the (Insert product name here) away. We are in middle of a rehearsal. PLAYER FOUR: But they taste so good. (Looks at audience for a moment and smiles.) DIRECTOR: Put it away please. I figure, why not make lemonade out of the lemons we've been given? I made a few calls and (Insert product name that will go on the pop machine) is more than happy to give us a little money to display their product. And, I've contacted a few other companies, so we'll be using their brands as well. (Pause) PLAYER FIVE: Doesn't that make us sell-outs? DIRECTOR: Okay, we're sell-outs. Who cares? Just show the product and smile. Now let's focus on the major obstacle. How can we incorporate this machine into our show? Think, people! (ALL assume thinking positions. MRS. BLUNT enters from stage right.) DIRECTOR: Oh, good afternoon, Mrs. Blunt. MRS. BLUNT: What's good about it? (Pause) Why are there children in here? DIRECTOR: We're in rehearsal. MRS. BLUNT: Isn't it lunch? Did I forget what time it was again? DIRECTOR: No, no, no, you're fine. We're just a little behind schedule, so the kids volunteered to meet during their lunch hour to work on the show. MRS. BLUNT: Apparently you didn't get the memo at the beginning of year. The memo states that this is now a faculty lounge, which is where I eat my lunch. Deus Ex Machina Page 6 DIRECTOR: I'm quite aware of the memo, Mrs. Blunt. You can certainly eat in here, but you'll have to bear with us as we rehearse. MRS. BLUNT: The point of a faculty lounge is to get away from the children for a few minutes, especially you, Mr. Sanderson. PLAYER FIVE: Sorry, Mrs. Blunt. MRS. BLUNT: Shouldn't you be working on your homework anyway? PLAYER FIVE: Yes, Mrs. Blunt. DIRECTOR: Look, I understand your need for a few moments of composure, but we are desperately behind schedule. MRS. BLUNT: That's not my problem, Miss Artsy-Fartsy, or whatever your name is. DIRECTOR: It's Miss Artafarb. Farb. As I said, you can eat your lunch; just ignore us. MRS. BLUNT: You new teachers are all same. Coming in here with your idealistic attitudes, thinking you can change the world, things are set the way they are for a reason. DIRECTOR: Yes, whatever you say. (MRS. BLUNT walks upstage to the fridge and pulls out her lunch bag.) Okay, kids, let's get back to work. Since the first scene isn't going to work, let's move on. Let's try the Shakespeare adaptation. (ALL groan.) Yes, yes, yes. Shakespeare, groan, groan, groan. Places, please. (ALL scramble quickly into their places. ONE STUDENT runs around confusedly and finally exits. JULIET climbs on top of the pop machine. ROMEO takes his place a few feet away from the machine.) Music. (A bit of Shakespearian music is played.) Aaaaaand, begin. (JULIET raises her head and steps forward on top of the pop machine. At this time, MRS. BLUNT has finished unwrapping her frozen, boxed dinner and has put it in the microwave. SHE enters in the time and starts the microwave. The machine begins to hum as the light comes on, so we can see the boxed dinner warming up.) Not Copy ROMEO: But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? (Distracted by the microwave, and decides to adlib.) It is the microwave... DIRECTOR: No! ROMEO: I mean, it is the east, and Juliet is the sun... on top of the pop machine. Do Deus Ex Machina Page 7 JULIET: Ay me! ROMEO: She speaks: O, speak again, bright angel! JULIET: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art though Romeo? Deny thy (Insert product name) and refuse thy name; Or, thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer drink (Insert product name.) ROMEO: Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this? JULIET: What's a pop? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. What's in a name? Romeo, doff thy pop, and for that pop which is no part of thee take all myself. ROMEO: I take thee at thy word: I never will drink (Insert product name) again. (Attempts to climb up to her.) JULIET: The machine walls are high and hard to climb. OFFSTAGE VOICE: Juliet! JULIET: Anon, good nurse! If that thy bent of love be honorable, send me word tomorrow, by one that I'll procure to come to thee. OFFSTAGE VOICE: Juliet! JULIET: I come, anon! ROMEO: (HE frantically pushes on button of the machine.) So thrive my soul! JULIET: A thousand times good night! Parting is such sweet soda. (A pop can comes out of slot.) ROMEO: A thousand times the worse, to want thy light. (Drinks pop.) MRS. BLUNT: Wow. (Begins to laugh.) That really sucked. DIRECTOR: Please, Mrs. Blunt. MRS. BLUNT: Yes, I know. You're rehearsing. Forgive me, I'll just go back to eating my (Insert product name.) (On the cue of the product name, ALL ACTORS appear out of nowhere, stop, and give a cheesy smile to the audience.) DIRECTOR: Forget it. (ALL break the smile and groan.) Our time is almost up anyway. I'll see everyone later. (EVERYONE shrugs and leaves dejectedly. The DIRECTOR goes to the fridge and grabs a sandwich. SHE sits at table next to MRS. BLUNT.) MRS. BLUNT: You're trying too hard, Mrs. Artafake. Just pick a traditional play everyone knows and do it the best you can. I've always been fond of Death of a Salesman. DIRECTOR: Let's just sit in silence, shall we? (Short pause.) Do Not Copy Deus Ex Machina Page 8 MRS. BLUNT: Eating in gloomy silence, shoulders slumped from the weight of world, dreading the ringing of the bell... now you're on your way to becoming a grizzled teaching veteran, Mrs. Artichoke. (Pulls out a flask) Want a shot of a little enthusiasm before heading back to class? (The DIRECTOR stares at MRS. BLUNT in disbelief. Lights fade out. Transitional music plays. Lights fade back in. The CAST is ALL milling about the stage. The DIRECTOR is pacing back and forth.) DIRECTOR: Okay, guys. We had a really good rehearsal yesterday after school. PLAYER TWO: We were here for seven hours. DIRECTOR: Yes, but it was productive. We made up a lot of ground. PLAYER TWO: Then why are we rehearsing during lunch again? DIRECTOR: I didn't say we were caught up. Now, look, we came up with a lot of good ideas last night, so I just want you to run through all of them again. PLAYER THREE: I think this is an excellent idea. By doing them all in succession, you'll be able to decide which one to develop further. DIRECTOR: Very good. It's nice to have at least one brown-noser here. Are we ready? ALL: No. DIRECTOR: Great. Let's get started. Places, please. (EVERYONE scrambles around quickly. The SAME STUDENT as before runs around confused and finally exits.) All right, aaaaaand... begin. (ENTIRE CAST enters wearing Greek masks. Acting as the chorus, THEY create a deep, low musical hum to set the mood.) MESSENGER: Oh, great King, I come from Corinth with a message. (Insert a product name as a question.) (MESSENGER shows the product with a cheesy smile. ENTIRE CAST has removed their masks for a cheesy smile. THEY place the masks back on in unison and resume as if nothing has happened.) OEDIPUS: Speak, messenger from Corinth. (HE is holding hands with JOCASTA.) MESSENGER: I come to tell you that the King Polybus of Corinth has passed away of natural causes. OEDIPUS: Yes! I mean, wow, that's unfortunate. But this proves that the prophesy did not come true. I will NOT kill my father and marry my mother. MESSENGER: But King Oedipus, Polybus was not your father. Deus Ex Machina Page 9 OEDIPUS: What? MESSENGER: Many years before I got the messenger gig, I was a shepherd in the hills about Thebes. One day I found an infant lying on the ground with an iron rod pinning its ankles together. OEDIPUS: Who was this child? (Says this line as HE limps toward the MESSENGER.) MESSENGER: The child was you. (CHORUS hums dramatically. JOCASTA turns in alarm. Claps hands over mouth.) OEDIPUS: I don't understand. MESSENGER: That's pretty obvious. Not wanting you to die, I brought you to Corinth where Polybus adopted you as his own. OEDIPUS: Well, if Polybus wasn't my dad, then who is? JOCASTA: Noooo!!!!!! (Runs off stage.) OEDIPUS: What's her deal? MESSENGER: Oh mighty, thick-headed king. Don't you see? The old man you killed many years ago was your father. OEDIPUS: I don't understand. MESSENGER: The woman you married was your mother. OEDIPUS: I'm still not getting it. MESSENGER: The prophesy came true, you moron! CHORUS: Duh! (Hold the uh part for a few seconds.) OEDIPUS: (Thinking a moment.) Excuse me for a moment. (Exits. We hear him scream from off stage.) Noooooooo! CHORUS: (Lines can be divided up among the ACTORS. For fun, find words to say together.) And so Oedipus learns the horrible truth: that the prophesy did indeed come true. Wounded by this truth, Oedipus went to find Jocasta, but it was too late. Jocasta had committed suicide. Could things get any worse? Probably, because all men are destined to live miserable lives. But the story doesn't end here. Oedipus, not wanting to see any more pain in his life, found an object. An object so terrible that it blinded him for the rest of his life. Deus Ex Machina Page 10 (The pop machine door opens. Blinding light streams from the machine. OEDIPUS slowly walks out, holding a pop can. His two daughters, ANTIGONE and ISMENE, are behind him.) OEDIPUS: Nooooooooo! (OEDIPUS opens can and splashes pop into his eyes.) I am blind! I am blind! (The CHORUS screams in unison, leading OEDIPUS offstage. The MESSENGER stays behind with the TWO CHILDREN.) ANTIGONE: What happened to Daddy? ISMENE: I'm not sure, Antigone. MESSENGER: You guys are so screwed. (Music from the silent film era begins to play. Some sort of silly, Keystone Cops sort of stuff. CHARLIE CHAPLIN enters, on the run, and runs completely across the stage and exits. TWO COPS are following and follow offstage. CHARLIE enters again, runs past pop machine, does a quick stop and hides behind the machine. TWO COPS enter, run past machine, stop and then slowly go behind it. CHARLIE creeps around opposite end and hides at the front. Then CHARLIE goes around the back as the COPS circle around to the front. The COPS shrug, point in opposite directions, bump into one another and eventually run offstage in opposite directions. CHARLIE comes around the pop machine and wipes his brow in relief. HE takes a water bottle out and takes a drink, but it is empty. HE tries to get the last few drops out with his finger, but gets it stuck in the
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