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PAST     9'?m9f Worry, judging, living in the past

(all characters except Stranger wear white hats, crowns or 
scarfs, Stranger wears a black hat, all except Queen, Preacher 
and Stranger enter in twos and threes grumbling and complaining)

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) The Queen is coming. The 
Queen is coming. Make way for the Queen.

QUEEN -- (enters, nodding to all who bow before her, sits on 
barstool or elevated throne, to Aide) Bring forth the tax 
collector.

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) The tax collector will 
step forward.

COLLECTOR -- (bows before queen with treasure chest in hand) 
Your majesty. 

QUEEN -- Have you collected the taxes for the year?

COLLECTOR -- (turns, faces audience) Yes, Your Majesty.

QUEEN -- And how much have you collected?

COLLECTOR -- I'm sorry to report, Your Majesty, that this year's 
tax collections were very small compared to last year.

QUEEN -- What is the meaning of this?! Are my people holding 
back? Are they cheating me out of what is rightly mine?!

COLLECTOR -- No, your majesty. It's just that people are not 
producing as much as they did last year. And so there are fewer 
taxes to collect.

QUEEN -- This is ridiculous! We haven't had any fires or floods 
or famines or plagues to keep our production down. Why are we 
producing less?

COLLECTOR -- I... I... I don't know, Your....

QUEEN -- ...Tax collector, are you holding out on me?

COLLECTOR -- Certainly not, Your Majesty! I would sooner die 
than take any money belonging to my queen! I believe our kingdom 
is still suffering from the ravages of the black knight. 

QUEEN -- That's impossible. The black knight left here over six 
months ago. How could he be still causing problems?

(all look at each other silently)

QUEEN -- Well, how could a man who is not here keep us from our 
work?

(all look at each other silently)

QUEEN -- Surely, someone can tell me how a man who is not here 
can keep us from doing our work.

(all speak at once improvising how the black knight had stolen 
from them, broke their windows, beat them up, didn't pay for 
goods and services he bought and called them bad names)

QUEEN -- Quiet!

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) Silence before the 
Queen.

(all stop talking)

QUEEN -- I will get to the bottom of this. (to Aide) Bring forth 
the store keeper.

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) The store keeper will 
step forward.

STOREKEEPER -- (steps before throne, bows) Your Majesty.

QUEEN -- Storekeeper, are you not selling as much merchandise as 
last year?

STOREKEEPER -- (turns to audience) That's right, Your Majesty, 
we are selling far less merchandise than last year.

QUEEN -- Do you know why?

STOREKEEPER -- Yes, Your Majesty, the people are afraid that the 
black knight will come back a steal their merchandise as before. 

QUEEN -- This is terrible. We can't live our lives in fear of 
something that may never happen again. (to Aide) Bring forth the 
farmer.

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) The farmer will step 
forward.

FARMER -- (steps before throne, bows) Your Majesty. 

QUEEN -- Farmer, I can understand why the storekeeper is selling 
less merchandise because of the black knight. But I don't 
understand how a farmer would grow fewer crops because of the 
him.

FARMER -- (turns to audience) Your Majesty, the black knight not 
only stole my grain, but he also beat me. So, this year, fearing 
that he might return, I planted seeds only in the land around my 
house, so I could hide when I see him coming.

(all nod and improvise loud agreement with Farmer)

QUEEN -- Quiet!

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) Silence before the 
Queen.

(all stop talking)

QUEEN -- This is terrible! We are all living as if the black 
knight were still living in our kingdom. He is long gone! (to 
Aide) We need the wisdom from the old preacher. 

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) The page will step 
forward.

PAGE -- (steps before throne, bows) Your majesty, I am at your 
service.

AIDE -- Bring the old preacher before the queen.

PAGE -- (bows) Swiftly I shall leave your presence and swiftly I 
shall return with the old preacher, your majesty. (exits)

MILKMAID -- May I have permission to speak, Your Majesty?

QUEEN -- (turns to Aide, nods)

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) The milkmaid will 
step forward.

MILKMAID -- (steps before throne, bows) Your Majesty. (turns to 
audience) I'm afraid I have some bad news, your majesty.

QUEEN -- More bad news?

(caution: The phrase "black hat" will sound like "black CAT" if 
spoken without enunciating)

MILKMAID -- Yes. While I was driving my milk cows to the barn 
for milking this morning, I saw man wearing a black hat on the 
road on his way to this castle.

QUEEN -- Has the black knight returned to the kingdom?

MILKMAID -- I'm quite sure he was not the black knight, but he 
was wearing the same black hat.

(all turn to one another, loudly speaking improvisations fearing 
the stranger, and wondering if this stranger will be as 
terrifying as the black knight)

STRANGER -- (enters, speaks quietly to the nearest person) Can 
you tell me where the church is?

(all gasp, silent, draw back, try to hide behind the throne)

STRANGER -- (pauses, looks around, puzzled) I'm looking for the 
church.

QUEEN -- (terrified, points)

STRANGER -- (exits as directed, puzzled)

(when Stranger is out of sight, all turn to one another, loudly 
speaking improvisations fearing his return, and wondering if 
this stranger will be as terrifying as the black knight.

PREACHER -- (enters, toddling with cane behind Page, bows) Your 
majesty.

QUEEN -- Quiet!

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) Silence before the 
Queen.

(all stop talking)

QUEEN -- Old preacher, what shall we do about the new stranger 
in the black hat?

PREACHER -- (holds up finger, about to speak, is interrupted) 

STOREKEEPER -- I think we should give him a lot of money so he 
won't hurt us.

FARMER -- I think we should all go hide ourselves until he 
leaves the kingdom.

MILKMAID - I think we should kill him, so he won't kill us.

(all turn to one another, loudly speaking improvisations fearing 
the return, and arguing about what to do about the stranger)

QUEEN -- Quiet!

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) Silence before the 
Queen.

(all stop talking)

QUEEN -- Old preacher, what does the Bible say about our 
situation?

PREACHER -- (turns to audience) Isaiah the prophet said "Forget 
the former things; do not dwell on the past."

QUEEN -- How does that apply to our situation?

PREACHER -- The black knight is gone and he cannot hurt us 
anymore unless we let him live within our minds.

MILKMAID -- But there is a new stranger in town with the same 
black hat.

STOREKEEPER -- Yes, and I say we should give him a lot of money 
so he won't hurt us.

FARMER -- I think we should all go and hide until he leaves our 
kingdom.

MILKMAID -- I say we should kill him. He can't hurt us when he's 
dead.

(all turn to one another, loudly speaking improvisations fearing 
the return, and arguing about what to do about the stranger)

QUEEN -- Quiet!

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) Silence before the 
Queen.

(all stop talking)

QUEEN -- Old preacher, what do you say about this new stranger 
with the black hat?

PREACHER -- Has the new stranger harmed anyone since he came 
into the kingdom?

STOREKEEPER -- No, but he has the same black hat as the black 
knight.

FARMER -- He probably went over to the church to beat the old 
preacher just like he beat me.

STOREKEEPER -- More likely, he went over to the church to rob 
the collection plate.

MILKMAID -- I wouldn't be surprised if he went to the church to 
kill the preacher. I say we kill the stranger before he kills us.

(all turn to one another, loudly speaking improvisations fearing 
the return, and arguing about what to do about the stranger, end 
up all shaking fists in the air, ready to kill)

STRANGER -- (enters, speaks to the nearest person) Where is the 
old preacher?

(all gasp, stop talking, withdraw, try to hide behind throne)

QUEEN -- (terrified) What do want from us, stranger?

STRANGER -- The old preacher was about to retire. They sent me 
to replace him.

QUEEN -- You're a preacher?!

STRANGER -- Yes, of course.

(all turn to one another, loudly speaking improvisations arguing 
about what they had almost done to the preacher, blaming one 
another)

QUEEN -- Quiet!

AIDE -- (pounds walking stick on floor) Silence before the 
Queen.

(all stop talking)

QUEEN -- It is clear that living in the past has cost this 
kingdom more than just lost taxes, merchandise or crops. Living 
in the past very nearly cost an innocent man his life. I decree 
that we all go over to the church and confess to the Lord that 
we have been living in the past. (steps down from the throne) We 
must also thank God for all the blessings we enjoy here and now. 
(exits)

(all bow as Queen passes by, then follow humbly)


2013 Bob Snook. Conditions for use:
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