Lighting The Candles Of Revolution

CHARACTERS

James— James is a “candleman”. He lights the candles of the museum in the morning before the museum opens, a job in his family since the beginning of the museum, 152 years ago, exactly. He feels like he is missing something in life, but he thinks that there is nothing he can do about that. At 55 years old, he has a wife but no children. Dressed in breeches with high knee socks and a vest over a dress shirt. On his feet are scuffed-up leather loafers with tarnished metal buckles.

Lizzie– Lizzie is a morning cleaning lady for the museum. Although she is quite skilled, like James she has no way to move up in the world. She is pretty ignorant about the world outside London, but she is knowledgeable about the city itself. She is 35 with a baby. Her husband recently left her because of a job offer in the colonies. She is dressed in a long cotton calico dress to just above her ankles with several petticoats under, but no hoop skirt. Over top is an apron, and she wears a mob cap on her head. All are slightly dirty and wet around the edges from cleaning. On her feet she wears the same scuffed black leather loafers as James, but her metal buckle has flecks of gold paint, the remnants of long-ago attempts to be fancier.

Margaret Adams— John Adams’ great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter, Margaret is thoughtful but opinionated. She’s a born American, so she is lucky to be let into England. She was allowed because she won a prize for excellent grades in school. She is well off in her homeland, but she has seen too much tragedy, so she is determined to get the colonies out of England’s clutches and rebuild a region that she thinks has so much potential. She thinks that Theodore is a fool, and voices this, but she has a hidden liking for him. She wears a calico dress like Lizzie, but, in an act of rebellion, it is hemmed to just below her knees and the sleeves are hemmed to her elbows. On her feet she wears pale blue silk slippers with a tiny wooden heal. She is not wearing a mob cap, but has her long hair in a braid down her neck with a customary red bow at the end. Even though her dress is not conventional, her face is determined and her eyes gleam with cunning.

Theodore Washington— Theo is the reckless descendent of George Washington, who was killed during the revolutionary war. The wound of losing such an important member of the family has never healed, and hatred towards the ‘mother country’ has been passed down. Theo is smart, though, and, like Margaret, he is determined to free the American colonies. He got to come to England by way of a raffle where a fellow rebellion agent chose his name purposely. He is a good leader with big ideas, but he is clumsy and his sheer anger towards England often blinds him towards what is rational. Although Theo is a brilliant battle strategist, he is overall a fool, though not quite as much a fool as Margaret thinks he is. He is dressed in a wrinkled dress shirt with dirty breeches and a greasy tricorner hat. He has the same shoes as James and Lizzie, but they are shiny and new.

Agent P— P is an agent for the rebellion in America, who operates in England. She is sarcastic and dismissive around fellow agents of the rebellion, but around people she thinks are enemies, she is very much like a posh English baroness, which is what she is to the queen. She is passionate about the rebellion because her parents, American citizens, were put into slavery because of their race. P is smart, and has a good heart, but is slightly sarcastic and hard to get to. She is wearing a dress similar to Lizzie’s, but hers is a much fancier flower pattern on silk. Her brown hair is piled up on her head in an elaborate mass of curls and flowers. It is powdered with white powder, as her face is, but so lightly that it merely makes her look a bit ghostly. She wears embroidered silk high heals. She has a painted wooden fan and a string of pearls. This is her costume for her cover as a duchess.

SCRIPT

(The stage is dark, except for a spotlight on a man, James, dressed in breeches and high knee socks with a vest over a dress shirt. He is in a large room in a museum in London, England in the year 2012 at about six forty-five in the morning. The design of the room is intricate, and beautiful. James walks around the wide room, humming to himself and lighting cream-colored candles that sit in gold candelabras that are attached to the golden walls. Once almost all of the lights are lit, we can see a plate on the far wall of the room that reads “The Great Inventions of the British Empire”. Under the sign, there is a picture of a queen with the subtitle, “God Save the Queen. God Save our Undefeated Empire—Forever May She Reign”. Whenever James passes the picture of the queen, he nods his head. Soon, though, all of the candles are lit, and a woman named Lizzie walks in. She is dressed in a long cotton calico dress to just above her ankles with several petticoats under, but no hoop skirt. Over top is an apron, and she wears a mob cap on her head. All are slightly dirty and wet around the edges from cleaning. On her feet she wears scuffed black leather loafers. Lizzie begins to clean. She turns to James, but both continue their job as they talk. When they do, we notice that James’ voice is low with a distinctive English accent. Lizzie’s voice is gay and high, with a slightly lighter accent.)

LIZZIE:

Hello again, James. It’s been an awful long time since I seen you. How’s the wife and kids?

JAMES:

(awkwardly and regretfully ) I ain’t got no kids. (Lizzie quickly murmurs something unintelligible about being sorry) (BEAT. Sighs and continues on.) My wife Henrietta’s, doing okay, though. She got a good job at a factory making boots for rich people. We’re getting along. And you, Lizzie, how’ve you been?

LIZZIE:

I’m surviving. I’ve was off from work a few months ago because I had my baby. Her name is Gwyneth. She’s beautiful, but a handful at three months. My mum’s looking after her at home.

JAMES:

What of your husband?

LIZZIE:

(glumly) Nigel’s gone. I was the only one working, and I couldn’t support him, mum, and the baby an’ myself. So Nigel said he’d go get work in the American colonies because nobody would take him here in London. He says he’ll send money, and come back…someday, but it’s easier to get to America than it is to get out of it. Besides, even with all this modern technology, he still hasta take a sailboat to get there because steamboats are so very. But when you go by sailboat it’s six weeks each way! Even if he were to come back right away, it’d still be weeks ‘fore I saw him again! (sobs out, then composes herself) Anyway, there ain’t nothing I can do about it. I just have to go on. For my little one.

JAMES:

What’s it like to have a baby?

LIZZIE:

Oh, it’s hard, but real fine in the end. I love my baby Gwyneth.

JAMES:

My wife had a baby once, but it came out stillborn. Then we gave up. Just thought it would be another mouth to feed. I always wonder though…

LIZZIE:

Aww, James, don’t trouble yourself. You’re in your fifties. In twenty years you can retire.

JAMES:

(genuinely, in awe) What a fine country this is you can retire so early.

LIZZIE:

Yes. ‘Tis a shame, though, that not all the world can be like England. England is a truly strong, wonderful country. It’s the English that have kept this warring world together.

JAMES:

True. Once I peeked in on a philosophy lecture that students from the Upper Class were listening to. It talked about an incident in the late 1700’s. The American colonies rose up and tried to fight England, their mother country. They wanted to create something called a…I think it was a de-cra-mo-cy…with no king! People ruling! Only people! Imagine that!

LIZZIE:

(scoffs) Thank God that didn’t work!

JAMES:

Aa–men. Anyway, we crushed them, and with the deaths of some of their leaders, the American colonies became meek once again. And they still are.

LIZZIE:

Fas’n’ating. ‘Magine if they had won! How much worse the world would be!

JAMES:

It’s like they say on the tele-screens that fancy stores have. England truly is the savior of our world. With so many colonies, how could it not be? (Lizzie nods in agreement, and then there is an awkward silence.)

LIZZIE:

(quietly, almost mournfully) But sometimes I wonder what life would be like if we were rich. If we din’t have to worry ’bout money so much. Some people don’t.

JAMES:

Hey. Most don’t live so good, like us. Besides. There’s nothing we can do to change it. It’s not like it would be any different if the American colonies had become free.

LIZZIE:

But how will we ever know?

JAMES:

(softly) We won’t.

(Suddenly, the melodious ring of the intercom is heard, and Lizzie and James jump in fright. An automated intercom voice is heard:)

INTERCOM:

Welcome-to…an-other wonderful day at the Mu-se-um of the British Empire. Prep-aration staff, please leave the building. Repeat, prep-aration staff, please leave the building. Visitors, enjoy your day! Buy tick-ets at the main entrance and be sure to check out our new buf-fet! Over and-off!

(The harmonic ring is heard again and Lizzie and James sit in stunned silence. Lizzie then jumps up.)

LIZZIE:

Preparation staff! That’s us! We’ve got to go! If visitors see us, they could tell and we could loose our jobs!

JAMES:

Wait!

(He lights the last three candles, and then places his big box of matches and his candle snuffer into his large brown canvas bag, which he slings over his shoulder. Meanwhile, Lizzie loads her cleaning supplies into a rolling cart. The two are about to race out of the room when they hear voices from the other room. They realize that visitors are about to walk in on them.)

LIZZIE:

(murmuring) Crap.

JAMES:

(whispering) In here!

(James pulls Lizzie over to a utility closet to their left. He frantically takes out a large ring of keys, and tries many in the keyhole. We hear voices and footsteps echoing on the marble floor: the visitors are coming.)(From offstage):

MARGARET:

I have never been to England before.

THEODORE:

Neither have I. (bitterly) The English don’t exactly trust us Americans.

(Meanwhile, James fits the correct key in and turns. The door opens briefly to reveal a dingy, dirty room with cleaning supplies and a few candles. As fast as he can, James lights a candle, and then closes the door. Both he and Lizzie disappear from our sight. Margaret Adams and Theodore Washington step into the room as soon as the door shuts, and they are talking. Both have American accents, but with a British tinge. )

MARGARET:

Oh! You come from the American colonies?

THEODORE:

Yep. I’m, ummm, just a tourist. I got in here by way of raffle. What about you? It’s hard to ever get permission to get to come to England from the colonies because they think you’re a… (uncomfortably) spy.

MARGARET:

Not me! Heh-heh. Anyway, I won this trip as a prize at my high school.

THEODORE:

Hmm.

MARGARET:

(lightheartedly) hmm! (trying to break the awkwardness) So, what colony are you from?

THEODORE:

Virginia.

MARGARET:

Oh. I’m from Massachusetts. (sighs when he doesn’t answer, and then composes herself, and tries to break yet another awkward silence) I’m seeing as much as I can here in London before I have to go home! Have you been to the Museum of the Colonies? Isn’t it wonderful there? (smiles fakely, but not sarcastically; she is not showing her true opinion)

THEODORE:

(flatly, with an angry undertone) Yes, I have been there. I hated it.

MARGARET:

(losing steam; disappointed with his blunt answer) Oh.

THEODORE:

(roughly) The exhibitions all said that England was the ruler of the world/ (angrily) It isn’t! It’s England’s fault that now, in the twenty-first century, the world has BARELY progressed since the American rebellion failed!

MARGARET:

(playing the innocent; murmured quickly) Isn’t it?/ (shocked, but inwardly delighted to find someone who shares her views) (softly, but firmly)) Look, pal, I agree, but did it ever occur to you that we’re in England? Surrounded by the very people who would arrest you for voicing those views?

THEODORE:

(calms down and smiles guiltily) Sorry. I, umm, hope you’re not one of them…?

MARGARET:

Of course not. I’m born and bred American. Besides. I know what you mean.

THEODORE:

You do?

MARGARET:

The fact that England has held the development of our world back is my strongest belief.

THEODORE:

Wait a moment: Code 776? Do you know the answer?

MARGARET:

Code 776: Purple banana.

THEODORE:

(excitedly) Correct! You’re part of the rebellion cause!

MARGARET:

(nervously; checks to see if anyone else is around) It’s true, but you don’t need to scream about it.

THEODORE:

I’m being rude. I haven’t introduced myself. (proudly) I’m Theodore Washington, descendent of General George Washington himself, and head of the Virginia Rebellion Base.

MARGARET:

What a coincidence!

THEODORE:

What?

MARGARET:

I am a granddaughter of John Adams./ My name is Margaret Adams, head of the Massachusetts Rebellion Centre. Pleased to meet you.

THEODORE:

Oh!/ And you. (takes off his hat and bows in the colonial fashion. Margaret curtsies in return. Both have mocking looks on their faces as they carry out this old-fashioned, yet still used, kind of greeting.) I suppose you are here to meet Agent P, then?

MARGARET:

Yes! I have a list here (pulls out a long scroll with many scrawled notes from her purple silk sack)/ of all my ideas and negotiations to discuss with Queen Elizabeth the Second.

THEODORE:

(muttering in awe) Whoa./ What are you saying exactly to her?

MARGARET:

Well, I’m going to start out polite. (warning to the side)You’d better be too, or this won’t work! (practically) And I’m going to inform her of the terrible conditions in the colonies./ (slightly agitated)I know, but it’ll work best if we act like she’s innocent.

THEODORE:

But she knows already./ Okay. What do you have on the list?

MARGARET:

Oh, terrible things. Things that the queen ought to be ashamed of. For instance, once two teenage boys had a fight in a little square in Boston over a girl. Both were angry, but neither had the worst of intentions…but then, a Lobsterback shot them both.

THEODORE:

(quietly) I can top that.

MARGARET:

What?

THEODORE:

Last year, British soldiers stole from our food stores that we keep for the homeless and for emergencies. I got there too late to defend them, but those who were there in time to stand in the way of the redcoats were sent to the electric chair for “treason”. So many died. So many. (with a soft, dangerous, angry tone) And then the soldiers ended up using the food for a wild party. Most ended up drunk in the street by the end of the night.

MARGARET:

(angered by this, but not surprised) (scribbles down story onto the scroll) Hmm. What other topics do I have? Mistreatment, low pay, volume of homeless people, indentured servants and slaves—

THEODORE:

What number do you have for that?

MARGARET:

Oh, approximately 60% from information that I’ve gathered.

THEODORE:

Stunning. I mean, nothing that I didn’t expect.

MARGARET:

Things are getting worse now, though. There was an act of rebellion in New York harbor a month ago. The Brits set a tax of 75% of the original tax on any imported goods. It drove Americans mad. They organized a day when they climbed aboard the ships of British merchants and stole all the new radios that were about to be sold for an absurd price, and they distributed them equally among the townspeople. But British merchants had lost a profit, and that’s what mattered to the Redcoats. Those who were suspected of this act of rebellion were shot, and now nobody can leave the colonies, but people can go in.

LIZZIE:

(gasps) (crying out quietly from the closet) Oh Nigel! My Nigel!

MARGARET:

(glances around nervously before she continues on)

I left, and I suppose you did too, right before they cracked down.

THEODORE:

Amazing. How could I not have known about this?

MARGARET:

Mail travels slowly because of the Redcoats’ Rebellion Checks.

THEODORE:

I suppose. (sighs)

(Silence.)

MARGARET:

(glances at her watch) Look, P will be here in 3 minutes. I’m going to look around the exhibit, okay?

THEODORE:

(quietly, slightly disappointed) Okay.

(Margaret and Theodore look around the room. The door to the closet that James and Lizzie sit in swings open silently, and we hear James and Lizzie speak. Margaret and Theodore remain oblivious to their whispered conversation.)

LIZZIE:

Did you hear that?

JAMES:

I did.

LIZZIE:

Can I trust you, James?

JAMES:

(nonchalantly) Of course.

LIZZIE:

(quietly; almost astonished) James, their talk moved me more than anything has ever moved me in my life. I-I… (trails off. Looking scared about the big decision that she is about to make)

JAMES:

I know.

LIZZIE:

You do?

JAMES:

(Turns to face her. His formerly expressionless face is now filled with passion, hope, and determination.)

I’ve already made the decision.

LIZZIE:

(pleading) Oh, please don’t turn them in! Don’t turn me in because of my treasonous thoughts either, for that matter.

JAMES:

What are you saying? It is I that should be begging you!

LIZZIE:

(relieved, but confused) I don’t understand.

JAMES:

I will join them.

LIZZIE:

You will? Go to a place you don’t know, fight for people you have no relation to?

JAMES:

(almost bursting with feeling) Lizzie, for my whole life I’ve felt England’s iron hand push me further towards poverty, towards devastation, away from creativity and intelligence. I’ve not been able to rise about candleman, as much as I try, because it’s the job that my family has always done. Raises aren’t possible, and neither are promotions. Hearing that people are the same, and worse, overseas, makes me want to do something about it! Staying here would mean an endless-seeming set of boring years with my wife Henrietta, until I die. Is it not right to wish for more from this world? To yearn for excitement, to want to make something out of my life? Is that so wrong? (He looks at Lizzie as he says this, but he is addressing it to his own anger, not to her.)

LIZZIE:

(slightly stunned by James’ outburst) I have always felt the same way, but I never knew that there was something I could do about it. (dreamily) My mind is filled with strange, dark, blurry memories of my mother, who ruined every one of my dreams. Once I pretended to be a farmer. I scaled an apple tree, but ruined my dress. The apple was taken and my back became scarred with the strap. My mother made me repeat the words, my life belongs with those of mine old, not of dreams mine. I didn’t know what it meant until I became older. Then the message, pressed hard and firm by that strap, became my motto. My depressing, dream-killing idea that there was nothing I could do about changing my future. (Looks at James) James, I want Gwyneth to be able to realize her dreams. And… I want her to know her father, who is trapped in the colonies.

JAMES:

(thoughtful about what Lizzie has just said, but thinking about something else) How will I ever tell my wife about my decision?

LIZZIE:

(shrieks as something in the dark flickers by) Aaaahhh! A rat!

(Margaret and Theodore look up, stunned and scared. Theodore almost runs away, but he sees Margaret following the origin of the voice, and he follows her. Both tiptoe, and are about to sneak up on Lizzie and James when they step out, looking guilty, but also trying to look friendly. Meanwhile, Margaret and Theodore look terrified.)

LIZZIE:

(lifts up her skirts slightly as if searching for a rat, then turns her eyes to Margaret and Theodore) Umm, hello. Sorry about that. (smiles enthusiastically, but frowns for a moment like she doesn’t know what to say)

MARGARET:

(strained) Did you hear the whole thing?

LIZZIE:

Sure did. (keeps on smiling: she doesn’t quite understand the danger that this means to Margaret and Theodore)

(Margaret and Theodore begin to walk away slowly)

MARGARET:

You know what? We really have to go.

THEODORE:

Yup. We have somewhere to be.

(Margaret and Theodore are about to leave, but they stop when James cries out.)

JAMES:

Stop! We want to help.

MARGARET:

(stops but doesn’t step any closer to James)

(suspiciously) Beg pardon?

JAMES:

I told you: we want to join your cause.

(BEAT)

MARGARET:

(considers for a moment, then murmurs, distrusting, under her breath)

You’ve got to be joking. (Turns to Theodore) Let’s go, Theo, before it’s too late.

THEODORE:

Margaret, can’t we give them a chance to talk?

MARGARET:

No. Don’t be ridiculous, Theodore, they just want to turn us in, not to have a chat.

THEODORE:

But why would they give us away?

MARGARET:

Aren’t those two reasons what drive mankind to do most things? All they want is honor and money. By turning us in they will receive mountains of those things. What else could they possibly wish for?

JAMES:

(softly) Maybe what we want is to fight for what is right.

(Margaret looks at him strangely; now she is confused as to these people’s real incentive. Angered by her own confusion, she shakes her head and turns away.)

MARGARET:

I have-ta go.

(Theodore grabs her arm to stop her)

THEODORE

What? What about Agent P?

MARGARET:

(In a disappointed, sing-song voice) I’m-sure you can deal with P just fine, Theodore. You don’t need me here.

THEODORE:

But-

MARGARET:

(angrily) I’m not going to risk my life or my cause just to let some idiot maintenance people pretend to help and then just bring us down!

(Lizzie bursts into tears and James glares at Margaret for hurting Lizzie’s feelings. Theodore looks hurt.)

THEODORE:

Margaret, please, I understand, but can’t we just be optim-

MARGARET:

(harshly) No, Theo, we can’t. (quietly, remorsefully) Because that was how my mother died. She trusted one too many people. That was why I grew up with a drunk father, all alone.

LIZZIE:

(mournfully; with passion and sorrow) Oh, child. (walks over to Margaret and places her hand on Margaret’s shoulder to comfort her) How could you think we would do that to you? Betray you when your heart is in the right place. That’s just wrong!

(Margaret begins to cry, and soon Lizzie and Margaret are crying together. Suddenly, Margaret pulls Lizzie into a hug. Lizzie looks surprised for a moment, but then embraces Margaret. Theodore and James look on awkwardly. After a few moments, Theodore glances at his watch and then walks up to Margaret and taps her on the shoulder.)

THEODORE:

Umm, Margaret? P should be here any moment.

MARGARET:

(pulls away from Lizzie and composes herself) Okay, okay. (She takes out her scroll of notes and begins to review it.)

(Suddenly, a horn sounds and a high, distinctly English voice calls out:)

VOICE:

Her ladyship, the honorable Duchess Penelope P. Pennington.

(P walks in, dressed in an elaborate silk dress. She looks haughtily at the four. She speaks in a heavy yet prissy English accents that, when she isn’t concentrating, drops into an American accent.)

P:

Are we among friends?

THEODORE:

What?

(P sighs as if she thinks he’s a fool)

P:

My young…acquaintance…, I asked if we are among friends. Since answering that small question is clearly beyond your brain capacity, I will ask one question that every four-year-old should know the answer to….What color are bananas?

THEODORE:

They’re yell–

MARGARET:

Bananas are purple. Very distinctly so too.

P:

(raises her eyebrows approvingly) I see. And are we among friends, my comrade?

MARGARET:

(glances hesitantly and James and Lizzie before nodding affirmatively at P) Yes, we are. Definitely.

P:

Is there any person who thinks that bananas are yellow in the vicinity?

MARGARET:

(Does a quick spot-check of the room) All safe, my lady Penelope P. Pennington.

P :

(winces at her name) (Dropping into an American accent) No need for formalities, child. P will do well enough. Now let us have a chat about the circumstances. (goes to sit down on a bench in the far corner of the room. Margaret follows, as does Theodore. Lizzie and James drift hesitantly behind. All wait respectfully for P to speak.)

So. I was here to meet a Miss Margaret Adams and a Mr. Theodore Washington. (These two look as if they are about to say something, but P cuts them off.) (playfully) No. I want to guess who they are. (To Margaret) You. And…(to James) you.

THEODORE:

(insulted) Actually, I am the Theodore Washington you speak of.

P:

(smirking) Really. I had heard that Mister Washington was a brilliant battle strategist…I didn’t expect him to be one who does not even know the color of bananas.

THEODORE:

(agitated) Humph.

P:

(Ignoring Theodore) Then who are the others I see before me?

MARGARET:

Very…very new recruits. This is…(trails off, realizing she doesn’t know their names)

LIZZIE:

Lizzie Brown, ma’am, at your service. (curtsies)

JAMES:

I’m James Willoughby, my lady.

P:

(dismissively) Good, good. Now we need to talk about our approach to our meeting with the Queen. Try to be submissive… (glares at Theodore pointedly) and I expect you all to look over my list and the one Margaret was supposed to make (both pull out their scrolls) and if all goes well, we will leave the meeting a free country. (all except P smile eagerly at this)…But it probably won’t work. If it doesn’t, we have been training an army for ten years now and will declare war on the British. We have some good battle plans—some even designed by this idiot—(looks at Theodore pointedly but slightly affectionately; she has decided that she likes him more. Theodore blushes.)and we have calculated that we may really win this time.

MARGARET:

(with tears in her eyes) Really? Truly?

P:

Yes. This time we will win. We will fight the fight our ancestors fought—but harder, smarter. This time we will succeed, and we will create a country of freedom, opportunity, and hope.

(BLACKOUT)

Anna Hampton, Age 12, Grade 7, Hunter College High School, Silver Key

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