Shiver and Shake by Lainie Vansant

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


Night: The king’s winter castle, plagued by spirit

(Lights up on the parlor of a haunted castle. It was once cozy, filled with armchairs, a coffee table, a fireplace, and torches, but spiderwebs and dust have begun to reclaim it

From offstage, we hear ADELINA’s voice

Don’t be such a worrywart, Jack. No one will even know you’re here until morning, and by then you will have won and no one will care.

(They enter. They are both young, dashing people. ADELINA is wearing an expensive gown covered by a slightly less expensive looking - but no less expensive - cloak. She has a bag under her arm. JACK is wearing plain pants and a tunic.)

You’re sure this isn’t cheating? This feels kind of like cheating.

The decree says that anyone who can spend a whole night in the castle and get the ghosts out can marry me. It doesn’t say anything about asking the King first. Besides, princesses don’t cheat, Jack. We rewrite the rules.

But... I’m not a princess. What happens if I get caught cheating?

Are you afraid of what might happen?

(Glumly) No.

Still as fearless as always, huh?

JACK(Even gloomier)


(ADELINA crosses to him, takes his hand, and forces him to look her in the eyes)

Bravery is nothing to be ashamed of, Jack. It’s a good thing.

It’s not that I’m brave though. You have to be afraid before you can be brave.

Well then, I’m brave enough for the both of us, because right now, this place is giving me the creeps. Let’s get the torches lit.

(She lights them as JACK goes to work on the fireplace. Soon there is cheery light illuminating the cobwebs.)

Hey Adelina, do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?

I don’t know, Jack. Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?

No. They eat fingers and popcorn separately!

Is this really the time, Jack?

(JACK is confused)

If I’m ever going to become a really great court jester, I have to practice! How about this one: What would you get if you crossed a cocker spaniel, a French poodle, and a ghost?

I don’t know, Jack. What would you get?

A cocker-poodle-boo!



Oh, Jack.


Good try, my love.

(She looks around)

We used to come to this castle all the time before Mother died. It was her favorite. We would sit in this very room and she would tell me stories. Father couldn’t bear to come back for years after we lost her, then when he finally did, the ghosts had moved in.

(A scream echoes through the castle. ADELINA yelps and rushes to JACK’s arms, trembling.)

W-- W-- What was that?

I dunno. Probably the spooky thing that’s supposed to scare me out of this castle.

And what are you supposed to do when I’m scared?

(Stroking her hair)

There there. Shhh.

You have to win, Jack.

And why is that?

Because I love you. I choose you.

How can you love me, Adelina? I don’t understand how you feel most of the time. Like now, you’re shivering and shaking - I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even know what it means. I don’t--



(The clock strikes 11:00, accompanied by more spooky sounds)

I’d better go. Here, I brought you some things to help get you through the night.

You are gracious and kind, and definitely too good for me.

(Giving him a look)

Nope, none of that, now. Here. And a kiss for good luck.

(She kisses him on the cheek and turns to leave.)


(She turns back)

I love you too.

I know.

I’ll try to learn how to shiver and shake.

(She shakes her head and exits. JACK sits glumly. More screams and chains rattling in the background. He is unfazed. Finally, he gets up and looks through the bag that ADELINA brought him.)

What did you bring me, my dear?

(He pulls out crayons and paper)

Oh, colors. These are beautiful. Hmm.

(Next, a box of cookies)

Ooh, delicious. Chocolate chip, my favorite. What is a monster’s favorite kind of cookie?

(Looking around, obviously, there is no answer).

Ghoul scout cookies!

(He laughs at his own joke as he pulls out a pillow, golden and ornately embroidered)

So soft... this may be the most comfortable night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks.

(He yawns and stretches, puts the pillow on the ground, and lies down on it)

Better get some rest while I can eh? Before the ghoul scouts come out to teach me how to shiver and shake.

(He falls asleep. We hear WILLA THE WHITE LADY crying from far away. Eventually, she enters and looms over JACK’s sleeping form. Her dress billows in a wind that didn’t exist before. Time passes. WILLA waits for JACK to wake up but he doesn’t, so she wanders around the room, bored, in fast-forward. The clock strikes four and WILLA resorts to extreme measures, finding something to poke JACK with, blowing in his ear. JACK shivers from sudden cold. He rolls over and opens his eyes, staring directly at WILLA)

Oh! Hello. So sorry, I was asleep and I must not have heard you come in. Please pardon my rudeness. My name is Jack. And you are?

(WILLA gives an unearthly wail, the wind blows harder)

Oh, goodness. That wind really is something. Are you chilly? I’m chilly.

(Again, WILLA wails at him again. Louder and more shrill this time. He does not take the hint)

Are you alright? I’m afraid I’m not very good at reading people’s emotions. Is there something caught in your throat? I’m afraid I can’t offer you a glass of water or anything, but perhaps you would like to sit down?

(WILLA is not interested. She tries a wail one more time, but her dignity is slipping.)

No? Well, all right. It’s there if you want it.

(WILLA pulls out all the stops. She moans and groans, maybe finds some chains to rattle on the wall, makes a big production out of the whole thing.)

Wow. Um... are you trying to say something? I’m sorry, I’m just awful at charades. I’m getting... maybe... a duck?

(She stamps her foot twice)

Two ducks?

(She throws her hands in the air)

Oh! I know this story. So, a duck walks into a store and says: “You got any grapes?” and // the store owner says --

(//WILLA grabs him by the shoulders, trying to shake him and moaning with all of her might.)

... is that a yes?

(Giving up, WILLA slumps down in the chair, all ghostly grace gone. She begins to cry.)

Oh dear. Umm... (Trying to stroke her hair) Shh... There th---

(She turns and hisses in his face, accompanied by a gust of wind. He jumps backward. She looks up hopefully, thinking that maybe she has scared him, but he’s just standing awkwardly.)


Umm... I really am an idiot when it comes to crying women. Crying anyone, actually. I apologize. I’m kind of a dunce in general, if you must know, and honestly, I don’t even know why you’re crying so I don’t know how to fix it and... uh... I suppose I ought to just shut my mouth right now. Babbling and all.

(He purses his lips, trying to hold the words in, but he fails)

Umm... excuse me, Ma’am but why are you crying? Are you sad?

(All of WILLA’s “lines” are pantomimed)

You are supposed to be shaking with fear. What gives?

You’re upset... because you couldn’t make me shiver and shake? That doesn’t make sense.

Yeah, genius. That’s my job.

Oh! Don’t be upset about that, Ma’am. That’s all me. I can’t. That is, I never learned. Is it something you learn? I don’t know. Anyway, I can’t do it. Shiver and shake. Not your fault at all. It’s pretty embarrassing, actually. Adelina, the princess, she says you don’t learn, you just do it, but I don’t just do it, you see. I’m weird. An odd duck, if you will.

Say! Is that what you were trying to pantomime earlier? An odd duck?

(WILLA stares at him, dumbfounded, slowly shakes her head)

Oh. Well. Like I said, I’m no good at charades anyway. I don’t know how to do a lot of things. That’s why I’m here. I need to learn because Adelina, well, I love her, but she deserves someone who understands... feelings, you know? And I think that learning how to shiver and shake would be a good start.

[End of Extract]

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