The people have spoken... The December People's Choice Award goes to Maury Zeff for his short play, North by North Pole, presented as a staged reading at Monday Night PlayGround on December 21 at Berkeley Rep. Congratulations, Maury!
Courtesy of Mr. Zeff, we're pleased to share the first two pages from the award-winning script. Enjoy!
NORTH BY NORTH POLE
by Maury Zeff
Cast in Order of Appearance:
NILES GOODFELLOW – 20s to 40s – Male – Any race – The Cary Grant of elves. An advertising executive who has quit the rat race of Madison Avenue for the quiet, but fulfilling life of working for Santa. All he wants is to make a difference. But the only way he knows how is to make toys for children that reflect his midcentury-three-martini-lunch lifestyle. He has dedicated himself to creating toy humidors, smoking jackets, and cigarette cases for good boys and girls. Speaks with a clipped, upper class accent of the actor’s choosing, in the vernacular of a 1950s advertising executive. Wearing a spiffy suit (with matching tie and kerchief), elf hat, and furry elf shoes.
NUTMEG PIFFENPUFF – Adult elf – Female – Comes from a good elf family. Wants to make lovely toys for good boys and girls. And wouldn’t say no if Niles asked her out for a cup of mull. Will enforce the Elf Bylaws at all costs. Looks, acts, dresses, and sounds like the elf that she is.
PAPA ELF – Adult elf, on the older side – Male – Any race – Master toymaker, master conspirator. An elf of many talents. Looks, acts, dresses, and sounds like the wise, old elf that he is.
MACGUFFIN – Male – Adult(ish) – Any race – The most adorable doll you’ve ever seen. Also known as “the doomsday toy.” Wants to fulfill the holiday wishes of every good little boy and girl. Also wants to fulfill the holiday wishes of every naughty boy and girl, but that’s a little more complicated. Small, cute, and speaks in a lovably high doll voice, especially when offering instructions to sleeper assassins. Has the physicality of a doll. Has to be “held” by another character with his arms and head hanging down, as if filled with stuffing. Otherwise, he falls to the stage. Wears “cute” clothing and a perpetual, creepy smile.
MRS. CLAUS – Female – Adult – Any race – Platinum blonde. She’s kind of over the whole “making hot chocolate for the elves while Santa travels the world delivering toys” thing. Also, may or may not be seeking world domination for the forces of evil.
RUDOPLH THE REDNOSED REINDEER – Male (though negotiable) – Sleigh-guiding-aged – Any race (of reindeer) – Doesn’t want to join in any reindeer games. Definitely doesn’t want to guide the sleigh tonight. Wants a new life, but might agree to one more adventure if it was his ticket out of the whole Kringle racket. Prances like a reindeer.
(The scene opens on Santa’s Workshop. Sleigh bells and the song “Sleigh Ride”
[the Leroy Anderson version or some other classic rendition] can be heard.
NILES GOODFELLOW is hard at work putting the finishing touches on a toy
martini shaker. NUTMEG PIFFENPUFF approaches. Music and bells fade.)
Hey, Niles. What are you working on?
(NILES looks up. NUTMEG joins him and they begin to work on their toys side by
side, him on the martini shaker and her on a toy truck.)
Oh, hello, Nutmeg. I’m just trying to perfect this toy martini shaker. I’m sure Santa has lots of good boys and girls with taste who would love to find it in their stockings.
Why don’t you make Legos or Barbies, like the rest of us?
Because I make what children really want. When I was a Madison Avenue advertising executive, I was in the business of telling people what they should desire. I didn’t let a man choose the brand of cigarettes he wanted to smoke for himself. I told him what he should smoke. And I was good at my job. Damn good.
And you’re darn good at toy-making too, Niles.
Thanks, sweetheart. Then last year, I received a copy of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil at the office Secret Santa party. I’d had my eyes on a set of cufflinks, but that scoundrel Cummings in Accounting grabbed them first. Anyway, one slow day at the club, I gave Nietzsche’s little book a read and damn it if it didn’t have an impact on me.
I felt the same way after reading The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
I realized that there had to be more to life than manipulating people’s wants and desires for economic gain. I decided to live a less selfish life. So I packed it all in and came up here to Santa’s workshop to make toy cravats for good little boys and toy pillbox hats for good little girls.
But children don’t want those things.
That’s where you’re wrong, doll. I cater to the rare child with taste. To make a really nice cigarette case for a discerning boy or girl who has been well-behaved all year…I couldn’t think of a better way to make a difference in this world.
You’re a fine man, Niles Goodfellow.
[laughing] You forget, Nutmeg. I’m an elf now. I had the surgery last month. And I just got done with the last of the sugar and spice treatments.
Well, then we should celebrate. When are you going to take me out for a cup of cocoa?
[pats her cheek]
Oh, Nutmeg. You’re far too special for me to look at you that way. You’re my Elf Friday.
[BEAT] And anyway, you know my heart is taken.
Oh, poor, sweet Niles. Still holding a candle for Mrs. Claus? You know you can never have her.
(NUTMEG and NILES are both dejected. The two of them continue with their toymaking silently. PAPA ELF runs on, agitated, with MACGUFFIN “under his arm.”)
Niles, there you are. I must speak with you.
(PAPA ELF beckons NILES to step away from his workbench. PAPA ELF faces the audience.)
Papa Elf, what is the matter?
You know some important humans, don’t you?
Well, I can usually get the maitre d’ at 21 on the telephone and Mother is highly connected in the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Join us for the next Monday Night PlayGround on Monday, February 15, at Berkeley Rep and choose your own favorite. Click here for more info.