Dr. Jacob Marley
Graduate Student Bob Cratchett
Bob Cratchett’s wife
The Spirit of Christmas Past, a Developmental Biologist
The Spirit of Christmas Present, a Biochemist
The Spirit of Christmas Future, an Evolutionary Biologist
Faculty member #1
Faculty member #2
(14 characters if singly cast. Several parts could be double cast. Scrooge can be either male or female. The Spirits and Faculty Members can also be either gender).
Scene 1. “Scrooge’s Office”
Scrooge and Cratchett are sitting working at their desks. Cratchett is in the process of putting on his coat to leave.
SCROOGE: Cratchett, Cratchett you ingrate, come in here at once.
BOB CRATCHETT: Yes Dr. Scrooge?
SCROOGE: Cratchett, you’re not leaving are you?
BOB CRATCHETT: Well it is 10pm Dr. Scrooge.
SCROOGE: Have you finished those assays I asked you to do?
BOB CRATCHETT: Well, Dr. Scrooge, I started looking at—
SCROOGE: Cratchett you idiot, I told you we need those assays done immediately. What part of “immediately” don’t you understand?
BOB CRATCHETT: But, Dr. Scrooge, these are complicated assays.
SCROOGE: I know they’re complicated Cratchett, I developed them myself, don’t you think I know they’re complicated?
BOB CRATCHETT: I thought you and your old partner, Dr. Marley, developed them together?
SCROOGE: Don’t mention that man’s name to me Cratchett! You know that the mere mention of his name gives me a rash (he starts scratching himself as he talks). Yes, Jacob Marley and I did develop these assays together, I haven’t forgotten about him. But ever since he dropped out of science to become an Air Force Drill Instructor, I’ve had a hard time giving him any credit (he scratches some more and then suddenly stops). But you’re changing the subject Cratchett – what about those assays?
BOB CRATCHETT: I’m sorry Dr. Scrooge, but I haven’t quite finished them.
SCROOGE: Haven’t quite finished them? Haven’t quite finished them? Well, then you’ll just have to quite finish them tomorrow won’t you?
BOB CRATCHETT: Tomorrow? But tomorrow’s Christmas sir! And I was hoping to leave a little early today…
SCROOGE: CHRISTMAS???? CHRISTMAS???? Are you not a scientist Cratchett? I didn’t get to be chairman of this department by taking time off for the least little ridiculous reasons.
BOB CRATCHETT: Yes, yes, of course Dr. Scrooge. I’ll be here tomorrow. (He leaves)
SCROOGE: (to himself) These students, where do they get off thinking they can just take off for any little event in their lives that pops up?
(Two faculty members enter)
FACULTY MEMBER #1: Chairman Scrooge?
SCROOGE: Yes, what is it?
FACULTY MEMBER #1: Sorry to bother you on Christmas Eve and all, sir, but several of us on the faculty were discussing….um…..
FACULTY MEMBER #2: (picking up where F1 trails off) We were discussing the problem of low graduate student stipends —
SCROOGE: (cutting them off) LOW STIPENDS! LOW STIPENDS??!! How many times do I have to hear about these low stipends?
FACULTY MEMBER #1: Well, sir, some of the students don’t have enough to buy proper food.
FACULTY MEMBER #2: They eat generic pet food out of cans.
FACULTY MEMBER #1: And they live in cardboard boxes inside the labs.
SCROOGE: And, the problem is?
(Pause, F1 and F2 look at each other)
FACULTY MEMBER #2: Well, sir, we just thought we might be able to help them out a little.
FACULTY MEMBER #1: Perhaps with a little bit of a pay bonus, seeing as it’s Christmastime and all…
SCROOGE: Gentlemen, your concern for our dedicated young work force is touching, but as you know, as I know, and as they know: graduate school is only one step up from being in prison, without many of the disadvantages of actually being in prison, except in some labs—and (he points at them) I think you know which labs I mean. As such, however, the wretched little cretins should be content with what they have, and happy in the knowledge that they can bend over to pick up a pipette tip without fear.
FACULTY MEMBER #2: But, Dr. Scrooge…
SCROOGE: Thank you for stopping by gentlemen. The door is right there behind you (he points, and then goes back to work, ignoring them. They leave).
(After a moment, Scrooge closes his book, puts on his coat and starts to leave. Just before he leaves, he stops and laughs heartily, as if he had just heard an extremely funny joke)
SCROOGE: (after he stops laughing and catches his breath) Imagine, raising graduate student stipends, that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. (He exits)
Scene 2. Scrooge at home.
(Scrooge is at a desk in his house, working)
SCROOGE: Ah, this is one of my favorite tasks, deciding the yearly pay raises…(he consults the papers in front of him), let’s see now. Smith (he thinks a moment) plus 25% (he shouts/barks out each percentage, then he writes each “raise” down after he says it). Hmm….Jones….zero – and he’s lucky it’s that high, if I find one more dead fruit fly in my coffee I’m taking away some of his space. Okay..Roberts….minus three percent – and it will stay minus three percent until shaves that mangy beard off. Okay now….LiCata….zero – no wait, I forgot about that horrible Christmas play he wrote about me… minus 5 percent. Okay now…Stephens…oh great God, how I hate her guts—
JACOB MARLEY: (entering and cutting him off as he muses about Stephens’ pay raise) Dr. Scrooge!
SCROOGE: (sees Marley and immediately stands up) Oh my God, Dr. Marley! Jacob, what are you doing here? I thought you became an Air Force Drill Sargeant?
JACOB MARLEY (talks and acts “other worldly”): I did, Dr. Scrooge…I’ve come back to warn you Dr. Scrooge.
SCROOGE: Warn me? What in blazes are you yapping about Marley? Is this because I stole all your data when you left science?
JACOB MARLEY: Dr. Scrooge, I am warning you, you must change your ways, or you will be destroyed!
SCROOGE: Destroyed? It ain’t me that’s gonna be destroyed, Marley, it’s the department. That’s what Chairmen do. Do your best to destroy the department and then move on. You taught me that.
JACOB MARLEY: Dr. Scrooge…I am here to warn you that you will be visited this evening by three spirits. The spirits of Biology Past, Present, and Future. These spirits will show you the errors of your ways, Scrooge.
SCROOGE: They can’t come tonight, I’ve got to do pay raises. Let me check my schedule and I’ll let you know when I can fit them in.
JACOB MARLEY: (As he is leaving) Change your ways, Scrooge…before it is too late…..
SCROOGE: (has been looking down, checking his schedule) How about a week from Tuesday? (he looks around, but Marley is gone) Oh well, they’ll just have to make their appointments themselves. Now back to the fun. (He sits down to work again) Now, where was I, oh yes…Stephens…hmm….I wonder if I can get away with taking away her entire salary?
Scene 3. Scrooge’s Home, several hours later.
(Scrooge is asleep with his head on the desk).
Spirit of Christmas Past, a Developmental Biologist (Abbreviated “PAST”): Excuse me! Hello? (Scrooge remains asleep. PAST goes over and pounds on the desk near Scrooge’s head).
SCROOGE: (startled) What? What? Hey, who are you? What the hell are you doing in my house?
PAST: I am the Spirit of Christmas Past.
SCROOGE: Do I know you?
PAST: I have taken the form of a Developmental Biologist, so as not to frighten you. I have come to show you your Past, Dr. Scrooge. (Explaining) You know, to show you your “Development”. Get it?
SCROOGE: Get out of my house before I call the police.
PAST: You have no power over me Scrooge. (He waves his arm dramatically over Scrooge).
SCROOGE: (His arms hang limp at his sides) Hey, I can’t move my arms. What have you done to me? Hey, I can’t move at all. (PAST moves his hand over Scrooge’s mouth, Scrooge can no longer talk. He still tries to make some sounds but soon stops).
PAST: Come with me Dr. Scrooge, we have work to do. (He moves to an area to the side, Scrooge obligingly follows.)
(A child is sitting on the ground playing with a pipetteman, pipette tips, and a rack of microfuge tubes. The Spirit and Scrooge come up behind the child.)
PAST: Here you are as a young child, Scrooge. You were happy then, and interested in science and the world around you. Ah, here comes your mother.
(Scrooge’s Mom enters)
MOM: (to young Scrooge) Hi honey, how’s it going?
YOUNG SCROOGE: Hi Mom! Guess what?
MOM: What, honey?
YOUNG SCROOGE: I’ve just discovered a new protein!
MOM: Another one? That’s wonderful dear. That’s the fifth one this month. Those nice people at the Journal of Biological Chemistry will be so happy! I think you’ve been in every issue this year.
YOUNG SCROOGE: (stands) Not every issue, Mom. Remember I missed submitting once to spend time with you and Dad on Christmas vacation. (hugs Mom) It was worth it though, Mom. I love you guys.
PAST: If only you could have somehow kept hold on that youthful innocence and exuberance. Come, Scrooge, let’s move a little into the future. (He and Scrooge walk around in a small circle as the child is replaced by an older, teenaged Scrooge). Here you are a few years later.
MOM: Hi honey, how’s it going?
TEEN SCROOGE: (Pipetting furiously) Go away Mom!
MOM: Ah, honey, I just wanted to know if you wanted to eat dinner with me and Dad.
TEEN SCROOGE: You don’t get into Science or Nature by eating dinner with your Mom and Dad every night, now do you?
MOM: But I don’t ask every night, honey, just once in a while would be nice.
TEEN SCROOGE: Either go away or pick up a pipetteman, Mom.
PAST: You soon became blinded to all else, Scrooge, focused only on your beloved Science, alienating everyone and everything else in your life. Am I making myself clear?
(Scrooge nods his head yes, but in a frustrated “could you be more obvious” sort of way).
PAST: Let us return, Scrooge, our work here is done.
(The spirit and Scrooge return to Scrooge’s room. Scrooge sits down at his desk again. The Spirit waves his hand over Scrooge and Scrooge passes out on the desk. The Spirit leaves. After a moment Scrooge awakens.)
SCROOGE: That was the strangest dream I ever had. (He massages his jaw). That’s odd, it feels like my jaw was wired shut or something.
PRESENT: (Entering the room) Yeah, well there’s some people that would pay good money to see that.
SCROOGE: Who are you? What are you doing here? What are you doing in my house?
PRESENT: Kind of a slow learner, aren’t you? I am the Spirit of Christmas Present, I’ve come in the form of a Biochemist, so as not to frighten you. Starting to see a pattern here?
SCROOGE: So I’m not dreaming?
PRESENT: Well, that’s sort of a matter of artistic interpretation, and it’s sort of beside the point, so it doesn’t technically matter if you’re actually dreaming, or if you’re experiencing this in some sort of hypnotic trancelike state, or whatever. You know what I mean?
SCROOGE: It’s uncanny. You talk just like some biochemists I know.
PRESENT: Yeah, well, the spirit world is full of unexplained mysteries. So, ready to go?
SCROOGE: Where are you taking me?
PRESENT: Oops, I haven’t the faintest idea. (He starts searching through his pockets). They gave me the schedule and I didn’t even look at it. (He finds the schedule folded up in his pocket). Ah, here it is. Let’s see, second spirit, that’s me…looks like we’re going to Bob Cratchett’s house. That’s your student, right? (Scrooge nods in agreement). Oops, says here I’m supposed to magically lock your jaw shut.
SCROOGE: Please don— (PRESENT waves his hand and locks Scrooge’s jaw shut. Scrooge makes some closed mouth sounds, then becomes quiet again.)
(PRESENT motions for Scrooge to follow him and they walk around in a circle, arriving at Bob Cratchett’s house. Bob and his wife are at the table making Christmas decorations and/or dinner. Nearby, Tiny Tina is on the floor trying to pipette, similar to what young Scrooge was doing in the previous scene. Tiny Tina is concentrating very hard throughout the scene, but obviously is having trouble pipetting correctly.)
BOB CRATCHETT: He said I only had to work a half day tomorrow.
CRATCHETT’S WIFE: The old sot! No one else in the department has to work Christmas day, why should you?
BOB CRATCHETT: It’s a good lab, honey. I’m being trained by a world-class scientist.
CRATCHETT’S WIFE: A world-class sociopath you mean. Scrooge doesn’t care one iota about you or anyone else in his lab, or the department. He doesn’t even pay you enough to have a decent life. Look at poor Tiny Tina there, trying to learn to pipette. If Scrooge didn’t keep you in lab all hours of the day and night, I’m sure you could teach her to do it right. We barely get to see you, dear, and when we do you’re so exhausted, and it’s all because of that beast Scrooge.
(At that moment Tiny Tina gets particularly frustrated and throws a tube down on the floor.)
TINY TINA: Oh, I hate it? I hate it! Why can’t I get this right?
(Bob gets up and goes over to her).
BOB CRATCHETT: Oh, honey.
TINY TINA: Hi Daddy.
BOB CRATCHETT: Don’t be so disappointed, honey, these things take a while to learn.
TINY TINA: Can’t you teach me to pipette daddy?
BOB CRATCHETT: (He sighs) I’ll try to find some time real soon, honey, I will. I’m just so busy at work and all. But I’ll find some time, somehow, and we’ll get you pipetting like a pro. I promise.
PRESENT: (To Scrooge) You know Tiny Tina won’t get into a good college unless she can pipette accurately and reproducibly. (Scrooge looks kind of guilty, but not too much.) Come, let us go to our next appointment…(he looks for the schedule again) which is…okay, looks like we’re going to a Christmas Party at a faculty member’s house.
(They walk around in a circle again. Bob Cratchett’s family is replaced by two faculty members holding drinks and talking.)
PRESENT: (Looking around the room) Hmm…nice party. Everyone in the department is here but you. Let’s listen in on this conversation (they go over to the two faculty members).
FACULTY MEMBER #1: No…he never comes to any of the parties. Too beneath him.
FACULTY MEMBER #2: Yeah, he wouldn’t want to rub elbows with the hired help, now would he?
FACULTY MEMBER #1: I’m sure that’s how he thinks of us, too…as hired help.
FACULTY MEMBER #2: Let’s just hope he doesn’t destroy the department before his contract runs out.
FACULTY MEMBER #1: I’ll drink to that. (They toast).
FACULTY MEMBER #2: Perhaps he’ll knock over an electrophoresis tank and electrocute himself.
FACULTY MEMBER #1: I’ll drink to that. (They toast, then continue to talk silently as the Spirit and Scrooge talk).
(Scrooge gets the Spirits attention and in mime asks if the faculty members are talking about him.)
PRESENT: You want to know if they are talking about you? You’re a quick study, figure it out yourself. It’s time for us to leave now.
(The spirit and Scrooge return to Scrooge’s room and desk. Scrooge remains awake and somewhat somber as the Spirit releases his jaw lock. Scrooge rubs his jaw.)
SCROOGE: (Quietly) Is that all then? Are we done?
PRESENT: There is one other who will visit you. Goodnight, Dr. Scrooge.
SCROOGE: (After PRESENT leaves:) I suppose this last Spirit will be from the scariest Biology division of them all: Evolution.
(Just after he says this, the Spirit quietly enters.)
SCROOGE: You are the Spirit who most frightens me. I suppose you are here to show me things that are to come?
(The spirit extends his hand and leads Scrooge around in a circle again. They arrive back at Bob Cratchett’s house. Bob and his wife are sitting at the table alone.)
SCROOGE: This is my student’s house. Why have you brought me back here Spirit?
(The spirit points to Bob and his wife, and Scrooge and the Spirit listen to their conversation.)
BOB CRATCHETT: I don’t know if we will get paid this semester, dear. He’s destroyed the entire department in his wake. No one can agree with anyone else. All the best people have left or are leaving. The departmental budget is completely overspent. It’s a shambles. Total devastation.
CRATCHETT’S WIFE: I’m sorry dear. I would say I told you so, but what good would it do?
BOB CRATCHETT: I should have listened to you from the start dear, and done my graduate work at Texas A &M. We’d have food on the table now. We’d be happy now….
SCROOGE: Have I caused this Spirit? (The spirit does not make any motion) Why do you not answer me, spirit? (Scrooge looks around) And what about Tiny Tina? What has become of her?
(The spirit motions for Scrooge to follow him again. They move around in a circle once more and come to Tiny Tina standing behind a counter. She is handing a McDonald’s bag to someone on the other side of the counter.)
TINY TINA: Did you want fries with that?
SCROOGE: No, spirit, tell me it is not so! It is not I who have caused this, is it? Tell me spirit, are the things we are seeing things that will be, or things that only might be? Please tell me Spirit!
(The Spirit leads Scrooge away and they go back to Scrooge’s office. On Scrooge’s desk there is a large, obvious tombstone shaped sign facing away from the audience)
SCROOGE: This is my office Spirit. Why are we here?
(The spirit points at the sign on Scrooge’s desk)
SCROOGE: (Going over to it) What is this? A portent of what will be? Or what could be? I am afraid to look at it Spirit. Please don’t make me look.
(The spirit points again at the sign on Scrooge’s desk)
SCROOGE: (Turns the sign around. It says in large letter: “Vice Provost Scrooge”) Vice Provost? No (Scrooge falls to his knees in front of the Spirit) No, I’ll never be able to do science again. Please say it isn’t so, Spirit! Please say the future does not have to be this way! (Scrooge bends over crying, the spirit waves his hand over Scrooge, and Scrooge slowly falls asleep. The spirit takes the sign and quietly leaves.)
(After a moment, Scrooge wakes up. He looks around for the spirit and the sign).
SCROOGE: The sign is gone! It looks like morning! I wonder what day it is? (He goes to the window/front of the stage and looks out) You there, boy! What day is this?
BOY: Why Christmas day, sir!
SCROOGE: Christmas day! Christmas day! I haven’t missed it! The spirit scientists did their work all in one evening! Unusually efficient for our department, but thank goodness! (Looking out the window again) Boy!
BOY: Yes sir?
SCROOGE: (Throwing down some money). Here’s some money, boy. Go buy some pipette tips and take them over to married student housing, apartment 22G.
BOY: What size tips sir?
SCROOGE: All sizes, P200’s, P1000’s, P10’s, everything money can buy! And keep the change for yourself boy! (He rushes back to his desk). It’s Christmas day! It’s not too late! (He looks around on his desk a moment) Ah, pay raises! (He picks up some papers and tears them up). Everyone gets an across the board 10% raise! Except the graduate students….I’m going to raise their salaries by 100% (He thinks a moment) But where will I get the money? Oh yes! Those photographs I have of the Dean with that undergrad! I knew one day they would come in handy!
(He organizes a few things, and puts on his coat) I’ll go over and surprise Bob Cratchett and his family with the good news. Food! I need to take some food with me. (He gets a dish of food and rushes over to Bob Cratchett’s house).
BOB CRATCHETT: Thank you for the (whatever Scrooge brought over) Dr. Scrooge, it’s wonderful. (To his wife:) and isn’t wonderful about the stipend increases dear?
CRATCHETT’S WIFE: (She is genuinely happy) Why it’s wonderful, Bob. It’s wonderful Dr. Scrooge.
SCROOGE: Yes, it’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful Christmas. Why it’s the best Christmas ever! And right after dinner, with your permission of course, I’d like to give Tiny Tina some personal pipetting lessons.
TINY TINA: (getting very excited) Oh, mom! Yes! Say yes! Dr. Scrooge is the best pipetter in the whole world! I’ll get into any college I choose, if he teaches me how to pipette!
CRATCHETT’S WIFE: Of course dear! (To Scrooge) We’d be honored, Dr. Scrooge. I must admit, I really underestimated you, Dr. Scrooge, but you’ve made us very happy. Merry Christmas Dr. Scrooge.
SCROOGE: Oh, group hug! Group hug! (He gathers them all up into a group hug) Merry Christmas to one and all!
ALL: Here, here! Merry Chistmas!