Script and mp3 for 'The Plot to Overthrow Christmas.'
The play, a fantasy told entirely in rhyme, begins with a narrative introduction. It proceeds without further narration, but a character named Sotto voce occasionally interrupts with parenthetical footnotes for the audience. Sound effects depict a descent to Hell: a gong, followed by two crashes of thunder; then an electronic hum, first descending, then ascending in pitch; which dissolves into a sustained violin note, which finally turns into a classical cadenza.
The violin is being played by the Roman emperor Nero, whose playing is interrupted by a courier summoning him to an urgent meeting called by the Devil, Mephistopheles. Mephisto explains to an assembly including Nero, Ivan the Terrible, the Biblical Haman, the Roman emperor Caligula, the Borgias, and Simon Legree, that he is concerned about the thwarting of his efforts to corrupt humanity, by the peace and good will generated by the Christmas holiday. He solicits proposals to deal with the matter. First, Caligula suggests poisoning Christmas foods and candies. Next, Nero suggests corrupting sacred Christmas music by converting it to jazz style, as has been done to classical music. Then Legree suggests bribing the US Congress to outlaw Christmas, but Mephisto points out the uncertainty of depending on corrupt politicians, who could just as easily be turned the other way. Finally, Lucrezia Borgia suggests assassinating Santa Claus, a deed she is anxious to do herself. Mephisto puts the proposals to a vote, and Borgia's plan wins. Nero is then chosen by lottery as the assassin.
After a bit of fuss about how to get to Earth and to find Santa, Nero ascends to Earth with a gun in Act II and makes the arduous trek to Santa's domicile in the North Pole. Santa invites him in, well aware of Nero's sinister purpose. Santa tells Nero that the Devil cares nothing about Nero, and is only using him to acquire as large an earthly empire as possible. Nero briefly succumbs to this logic, but then takes Santa's argument as a battle of wits, and boasts of his intellectual superiority and cultural (musical) sensitivity. Santa counters Nero's boasting by expounding on the sentimental joys and wonders of Christmas, of which Nero knows nothing. This touches Nero's heart and causes him to repent of his evil purpose and ask how he can help Santa. Santa then showers Nero with hospitality, and runs to get a present for him: a Stradivarius violin. Santa also gives him a piece of sheet music, and the play closes with Nero playing The First Noel on the Stradivarius.
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