A Contemporary Christmas Carol by Mark McQuown

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent

ACT ONE

(A few minutes prior to curtain, a wide screen television set comes on
in the fast paced Entertainment Agency, Scroge/Mayfield, in downtown Beverly
Hills. The female announcer is doing a normal news show program from behind a
news desk.)

FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR (V.O.)
This last segment on 'global warming' has been produced for us by
the same team which covered that horrible hurricane 'Gustav' as it slammed into
New Orleans earlier this year in September. We're going to take a short break now to
acknowledge more of the wonderful folks who support this program. One quick note just
before we leave. The local weather service is now announcing that a major cold front is
coming into southern California which might bring the possibility of snow in Los Angeles.
Are we ready for a white Christmas, wouldn't that be a miracle?

(The CAMERA dollies back to reveal a Male News Anchor sitting next to
his co-anchor at the same desk.)

(The Theatre lights fade to black.)

MALE NEWS ANCHOR (V.O.)
Don't touch that dial. Stay tuned with us for more fascinating news
and history on super agent Elgin Scroge as our weekly program, "Entertainment
Icons", continues. We'll be back in ninety seconds.

(They both restack the papers sitting in front of them. A voice from
off camera says 'all clear'. The female anchor turns to her co anchor and says,)

FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR
Whose Elgin Scroge?

(The lights come up on the interior of the agency which is in dire
need of renovations and extra help as Bob Cricket answers the telephone. There is
Christmas music playing from a small machine on Bob's desk but its barely audible.)

BOB
Scroge/Mayfield. I'm sorry; Mr. Scroge is out of the office at the
moment, could I . . . hello, hello?

(He puts the phone back on the receiver and walks over to the heater
thermostat and tries to adjust the heat.)

E.S. (O.S.)
Cricket, don't touch that thermostat.

(Bob hurries back to the front desk.)

E.S. (O.S.)
its fixed now so you can only change the temperature from this
office.

BOB
But Mr. Scroge, its freezing in here.

(Elgin Scroge emerges from his back office, dressed in a suit made
forty years ago. Bob quickly shuts off the music. Elgin walks to the window facing
the street and listens to the sound of traffic race by.)

E.S.
Its invigorating. It keeps your brain awake. Look at this Bob, look
at all these people in their cars or rushing by on the sidewalk all running to
spend money.

BOB
Yes sir it's the Christmas spirit.

E.S.
Hah!! Christmas spirit. It's a hoax, all a hoax foisted upon us by
some unseen capitalist who found out a long time ago what motivates man to part
with his money.

(He turns back into the office where he circles the photographs and
signed head shots of famous actors which line the walls.)


E.S.
Here, hanging on these walls, is the true spirit of money. Actors are
like little money robots they go out and act and then someone magically sends
me a check. Walla! Man parts with his money to me. Thank you, thank
you, and thank you.

(The telephone rings.)

BOB
Scroge/Mayfield. I'm sorry but Mr. Scroge is. . .

(He is interrupted by Elgin who picks up a side telephone.)

E.S.
This is Elgin Scroge. Scroge, S C R O G E, just like its hello,
hello?

BOB
We're getting a lot of those today. And, speaking of today, sir,
since this is Christmas Eve, I thought that

E.S.
I know Bob! You thought that you might leave early and close down the
phones at Scroge/Mayfield one of the best named Entertainment Agencies in
. . .

(The telephone rings.)

BOB
Scroge/Mayfield. Yes, may I say who is

(E.S. shakes his head and hands to say 'no' and he disappears back
into his office.)

BOB
I'm so sorry but evidently Mr. Scroge just left. Can I take a
hello, hello?

E.S. (O.S.)
All right Bob, but don't expect me to pay you for time you don't
spend in the office. I'll take care of the rest of the day just like
every other year at this time.

(Bob hurries and gathers his coat and some shopping bags. He rushes
to the front door but the door opens and in walks Fred.)

FRED
Merry Christmas Uncle and you to Bob and your family. How is
your daughter Tina doing?

BOB
We're trying to get her a new operation suppose to be the new
and upcoming thing in surgery she may get to skate again.

FRED
That would be incredible. She was such a shining star on the ice.
Merry Christmas Bob.

BOB
And to you Fred and yours. Thank you.

(Bob goes out as E.S. emerges from his back office.)

E.S.
Fred as I live and breathe. What brings you to Beverly Hills at this
time of day; rush hour traffic and all.

FRED
Yes, I know and I tried to escape it but when I called, you were out.

E.S.
Oh, not really, just keeping up the appearance of being busy you
know the scene.

FRED
I do Uncle and wonder sometimes how I would have survived without
being represented by Scroge/Mayfield Entertainment Partners. And to that
end, we are having a Christmas dinner tonight and would love to have you
join us at our house in Hollywood. We'll come and get you of course.

E.S.
Fred, that's very kind of you but I've already accepted an
invitation from some actors who've been with us since Marley Mayfield joined the
company.

FRED
God rest his soul.

E.S
As well he should.

FRED
Well, I know everyone will be disappointed. We'll miss you Uncle
Scroge so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year if we don't see you before.

E.S.
Fred, I know you'll understand this, being a professional actor.
Christmas sucks! In the language of that perennially done play-slash-movie-slash-TV
Show-slash-movie on TV humbug!!! Drive safe kid. Click it or ticket.


(They both laugh as Fred turns and goes out the front door. E.S.
walks to the door and locks it. He turns the sign in the window to closed. He turns
around and looks at the outer office.)

E.S.
Huh. After all these years I just never understood this insanity
for Christmas. People, rich or poor, out in the streets, in the stores, in the
restaurants , buying, buying, buying so when a certain morning arrives, they can all
get out of bed and tear open boxes and ribbons and stuffing to see what someone
else gave them. I guess its that gift part that really galls me. No one
gets anything for free! There's always some reason some payoff and that is
what all of this craziness around Christmas is all about.

(There is a knocking at the front door. Elgin turns and unlocks the
door. A man enters with an attractive young lady carrying a black, zippered case.)

CHARITY MAN
Scroge/Mayfield Entertainment, is that correct? Are you Mr. Scroge or
Mr. Mayfield?

(Elgin walks away from them back to Bob's phone desk and sits.)

E.S.
Marley Mayfield died seven years ago seven years ago on this every
night.

(Elgin looks up at the clock and then checks the watch on his arm.)

CHARITY MAN
I'm sorry to hear that.

CHARITY WOMAN
We're very sorry to hear that.

E.S.
If you two think you're an act you better do something better than
this miserable routine or go back out the door and try somewhere else.

(The charity couple look at each other in apprehension.)

CHARITY WOMAN
Oh no sir, you misunderstand. We represent a non-profit organization
called "Save The Children', where for a small, monthly donation, you can support
a child in a third world country for

E.S.
Why?!

CHARITY MAN
Why sir?

E.S.
Yes, why would I support a child in a third world country when I'm
finding it progressively more difficult to support myself in this country. Have
you seen the price of gas lately. We're an agency we drive actors and
celebrities all over the place. You see where I'm going with this?

CHARITY WOMAN
Please forgive us. We thought that

CHARITY MAN
since you donated in the past

CHARITY WOMAN
through Mr. Mayfield and since this is

CHARITY MAN
almost Christmas, we thought

E.S.
Well, you thought wrong. If you want to support all the children who
need it, make more money available in their own country with their own
relatives and if not let's go back to the poorhouses in England in the mid
nineteenth century, that worked fairly well if my sense of history is correct. Probably
decreased the surplus population.

CHARITY WOMAN
You can't be serious.

E.S.
I'm as serious as a heart attack. Now please leave my place of
business since I have no money to spare and please remove us from the list of your
non-profit company whatever the hell non-profit means, anyway. Good day.

(They turn and leave in a fright. E.S. locks the door again and makes
sure the sign says closed. He carefully walks across to a book cabinet and presses
a secret button. The book cabinet slides to one side revealing a small,
studio style kitchen. E.S. puts on an apron and a chic, chief's hat and begins preparing
a meal.)

E.S.
I'll tell you what Christmas is in reality. Less business, more
Christmas commercials and toy commercials but we represent real actors; not commercial
trash. This is a proud agency with a long standing name in the business and a heritage
of film stars. Christmas is not movie season its the season where you show a Christmas movie
if you have one.

(He sits at Bob's desk and drinks hot tea.)

E.S.
It's the season to be taken everywhere you look is the glitter
of hope and the glitz of a new beginning but not for us. I used to live in a
ten thousand dollar a month apartment in Beverly Hills, just around the corner
now I live here in my agency where I was once

(He walks to the large glass window facing the street and peers out.)

E.S.
My God, what is going on? It's freezing outside. Its - snowing in
Beverly Hills.

(The sound of a group of 'carolers' on the sidewalk makes Elgin
close the leveler blinds. He walks back to his kitchen and pulls a carton of
noodles out of the microwave and sits down. He unconsciously looks through a
stack of headshots while he eats.)

E.S.
More heat, more electricity, more bills less food. I'm a rich
man eating hot Ramon and tea for dinner. All for Christmas. All for naught.
Because money is so tight and people don't want to spend ten bucks to see a new
movie. You can lose the power of your name in Hollywood over night. No name,
no game.

(He suddenly stands up holding a head shot in terror. He screams and
throws the photograph to the ground and steps away from it.)

E.S.
That face moved. It can't be. He's never had a head shot.
He was an agent! And he's dead Marley is dead, I went to the funeral myself.
Cost a fortune. He died.

(Elgin gets down on his hands and knees and collects the head shot.
He places it on the table near the noodles. He looks down at it in fright as he
hears the SOUND of chains being drawn across his floor.)

E.S.
What, in the name of all that is Holy, is going on here?

(The head shot speaks to him from the table top.)

MARLEY
Elgin. Elgin Scroge. It's me, Marley Mayfield.

E.S.
What what are you doing here?

MARLEY
Elgin, turn on the flat screen.

(E.S. turns to a large flat screen mounted on the wall of the
reception area. He points a remote at the screen and it turns on revealing Marley Mayfield,
wrapped in a chain with tiny gold chests welded to the links.)

MARLEY
I never left Elgin. I'm forced to stay here where I forged this
chain around my neck with these chests of hope. Each one a failed actor's life that
we used up and then tossed back into the great sea of the unemployed.

E.S
But Marley, that is what agencies do. We're a grist mill for actors
who make us money.

(A huge theatrical explosion of SOUND comes out of the
theatre-surround speakers in the agency. Elgin drops on the floor and covers his head.)

E.S.
Don't hurt me, please don't hurt me.

(The flat screen is alive with Marley's face.)

MARLEY
I'm not here to hurt you E.S. I'm here to help you to warn
you that I cannot go to heaven or any place until all the generations of all who
we have hurt in this business have passed. Look at me Elgin. And
take off that ridiculous outfit.

(Elgin crawls up from the floor on his knees and removes his cooking
hat and apron. He looks carefully at the screen.)

MARLEY
This chain of crushed hopes and dreams was forged in my life time but
the chain which waits for you was twice this long the year I died.
Elgin, don't be a fool. Don't follow your partner's horror into a
world filled with pain and hopeless desire. Help me, please. Help yourself.

(Lightning flashes outside and the lights blink inside. The screen
goes off as Elgin looks for someplace to hide.)

E.S.
Where are you? It's a trick isn't it? Some kind of new FX
trick. To scare me. Where are you all? Show yourselves! You better have something better
than this because

(A mist seeps slowly through the keyhole on the door to the street.)

E.S.
Fog juice being blown into my key hole. Very clever. Old but
clever.

(Marley's voice comes from the photograph on the table. Elgin drags
himself to the table and stares in horror at the talking picture.)

MARLEY
Listen to me Elgin; I only have a few more moments.

E.S.
I don't know how they do this photograph that's good.
Very good. I'll just throw it away and then see what they

MARLEY
You will be visited by three spirits the spirits of Christmas
past, present and future. They are older actors, who we used and then used up. The first will
come tonight, right after Leno. The next will arrive the next night also just after Leno.

E.S.
Two nights of Leno, Marley, I don't k now how I could stand that!

MARLEY
Elgin, this is serious as it could possibly be. You are being offered
a chance
E.S.
a chance to move back to Brentwood? Say its so!!

MARLEY
The third will come the following night at the strike of midnight on
your snooze-alarm.

E.S.
Marley, won't they take a meeting. Can't we discuss the
possibility of seeing them all during FOX Nightly News, please? I have a business to

(Marley's voice explodes again over the arena speakers. Elgin falls
back on the floor.)

MARLEY
Scroge, don't fail me in this or my own spirit will wonder through
the empty halls of this cold, ugly agency that should have been remodeled twenty
years ago. And Elgin get some new clothes for God sakes.

E.S.
Remodeled? Don't you remember what we're paying a square foot
here.

(The mist is slowly sucked back out the key hole.)

MARLEY
Elgin. Listen to these Spirits, your immortal soul and our name
depends on the outcome.

(The screen goes blank.. Elgin tries to turn the screen back on but
it doesn't work. He looks behind the screen but sees nothing. He crosses back to the
window and looks out through the blinds. He looks at the lock where the mist
came through and finally he returns to the desk and the head shot. Without
looking, he picks up all the head shots and tosses them in a waste paper basket.)

E.S.
Can't be. It just couldn't be. Who do they think I am? Remodel
the agency, Marley would never have said that. Some kind of
stupid Christmas joke and and I am not going to fall for it.)

(He looks under the table for any sign of anything. He crosses back
to the wall and slides the kitchen wall back to the book case. He steps to the other side
of Bob's desk and slides a wall panel to one side exposing a Murphy Bed which he pulls down
and sits on. He claps his hands and the lights dim down.)

[end of extract]

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