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Yuletide At Knoxshire

Take a trip back to Victorian England and help the Duke discover the true meaning of Chistmas and what gift he should bring the Christ child.

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Yuletide At Knoxshire

Take a trip back to Victorian England and help the Duke discover the true meaning of Christmas and what gift he should bring the Christ child.


Author:    Lori Lee Triplett

Synopsis:

Take a trip back to Victorian England and discover the beginning of many of our modern-day Christmas traditions. The Duke and Duchess are hosting the annual Christmas party at their estate and the audience is invited to experience the party first hand. The Duchess and her family are quite concerned about the Duke’s way of celebrating Christmas. And so they devise a scheme to help guide the Duke through the many joys of Christmas: gift-giving, eating with friends, Christmas Carols, and Christmas decorations. Help the family to show the Duke, the greatest joy of Christmas comes from the simple gift we can all give, worshiping the Christ child.

Yuletide At Knoxshire

YuleTide at Knoxshire

A Play in Two Acts

By

Lori Lee Triplett



Yuletide At Knoxshire

 Copyright 2003

by 

Lori Lee Triplett

All Rights Reserved

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that YULETIDE AT KNOXSHIRE is subject to a royalty.  It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, the British Commonwealth, including Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union.  All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, and the rights of translation into foreign language are strictly reserved. 

The amateur live stage performance rights to YULETIDE AT KNOXSHIRE are controlled exclusively by Drama Source and royalty arrangements and licenses must be secured well in advance of presentation.  PLEASE NOTE that amateur royalty fees are set upon application in accordance with your producing circumstances.  When applying for a royalty quotation and license please give us the number of performances intended and dates of production.  Royalties are payable one week before the opening performance of the play to Drama Source Co., 1588 E. 361 N., St. Anthony, Idaho 83445, unless other arrangements are made. 

Royalty of the required amount must be paid whether the play is presented for charity or gain, and whether or not admission is charged.  For all other rights than those stipulated above, apply to Drama Source Company, 1588 E. 361 N. St. Anthony, Idaho 83445.

Copying from this book in whole or in part is strictly forbidden by law, and the right of performance is not transferable.

Whenever the play is produced, the following notice must appear on all programs, printing and advertising for the play, “Produced by special arrangement with Drama Source Co.”

Due authorship credit must be given on all programs, printing and advertising for the play.

No one shall commit or authorize any act or omission by which the copyright or the rights to copyright of this play may be impaired.

No one shall make changes in this play for the purpose of production without written permission.

Publication of this play does not imply availability for performance.    Both amateurs and professionals considering a production are strongly advised in their own interests to apply to Drama Source Company for written permission before starting rehearsals, advertising, or booking a theatre.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means, now known or yet to be invented, including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, videotaping or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Yuletide at Knoxshire*




Cast of Characters

TOUR GUIDES: Five people, either sex or age

JETERS: The Duke’s overworked butler.

RICHARD: The Duke’s footman, at 94, the oldest retainer.

REV. JEFFERY COLEBROOKE: The vicar who serves the Duke’s  estate.

ELIZABETH (BESSIE): Companion serving the Duchess.

EDWARD LINLEY III: Duke of Knoxshire.*

GWENDOLYN LYNLEY: Earl of Presbyter, and married Louisa.

HENRY STANTON: Earl of Presbyter, and married to Louisa.

LOUISA STANTON: Countess of Presbyter, and married to Henry.

SOPHIA GRANGER: Sister of the Duchess, niece to Louisa.

EMILY LINLEY: Oldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess.

AMELIA THOMAS: Youngest daughter of the Duke and Duchess.

AMELIA THOMAS: Governess to the Duke and Duchess’ children.

KNOXSHIRE QUARTET: The Duke’s estate quartet.



Setting

Act I

Scene 1: Church or School Main Entrance

Scene 2: Knoxshire’s* Foyer

Knoxhire’s Conservatory (Garden Room)

Scene 3: Knoxshire’s* Music Room

Knoxshire’s* Ballroom (Can be just a extra wide hallway decorated)

Act II

Scene 1: The Duke’s Family Chapel (Sanctuary or school auditorium)

Time

The first scene takes place in the present, but the remainder of the scenes during the Victorian era at the end of the 19th century.

Production Notes

Please see the end of the play to see suggestions on the following: characterizations, ad libs, costumes, promo, and music.

*Substitute your own church or school name.



Act I,  Scene I

{We are in the entryway of church or school presenting the production, which leads to the “time hallway”.  As participants arrive and hang their coats, traditional English Christmas music is playing, by a bell choir and recorder. Attendants will take tickets, issue name-cards, and 8 two pence to every participant. Participants will be organized into groups of 5-10, and will be assigned to a tour guide.}

Tour Guide:  {Still in the main entrance} Before we depart will everyone in my group please check to be sure they have an appropriate name-card and their tuppence; because once we enter the hallway their is no going back to this time, the 21st century, or to this place, Knox Church*. Please stay together in the hallway and listen very carefully to the instructions I will give you. Is everyone ready? {Pause for answers} Okay, lets go! {The tour guide will then escort the group down a pitch black hallway led only by a flashlight, pointed at the floor. The guide should stop at various points to lecture.}

You are about to enter England in the Victorian time period, at the end of the 19th century. The period is so named for the ruling monarch at the time Queen Victoria, who was said to rule over the greatest two nations that ever existed, the rich and poor of England. It was time marked by extreme class differences, which saw a society of innovation and change in the following areas: education for all, democracy, feminism, unionization of workers, and many other modem movements took form. In science and technology, the Victorians originated the modern idea of invention and the notion of creating solutions to problems. In religion, the King James Version was the accepted translation of the Bible, and the church faced a great age of doubt, questioning the institutional view of Christianity. {The guide should continue on to a second location in the hallway.}

Christmas in England previous to the Victorian era included little festivities; with attending church on Christmas day even being banned for a short time. The Queen Victoria’s Consort, Prince Albert from Germany was responsible for bringing many of the Christmas customs from his native country, which turned the British Christmas into a large event full of traditions. The best known example was of course the Christmas Tree, first erected in Windsor Castle in 1841.

Another example of what was new at the time, but is now considered traditional was the Christmas greeting card, first marketed in 1846. The singing of Christmas carols was considered an old fashion tradition better left to the Medieval Period. But in 1852, Rev. John Mason Neale who loved to sing the old Christmas Carols, translated and published two volumes of the old songs, many which you will hear this evening.  {The guide should continue to a third location in the hallway.}

As was traditional during this time the Duke and his family have left the London town scene to celebrate the Christmas season at one of his country estates, Knoxshire*. For many of the titled the Christmas season was the one time a year to recognize their social responsibility to the peasants, servants and laborers on their estates. The Duke holds his annual Christmas party prior to Christmas to allow his retainers the opportunity to “earn” money to enable them to have a merrier Christmas. On the Duke’s Estate, this event replaces “Boxing Day” the traditional day for begging, which falls on December 26 after Christmas. Naturally the Duke supplies his guests with any funds to be given to the retainers, hence the tuppence you carry.  {The guide should continue to a fourth location in the hallway. The guide should stop just prior to opening the doors to the Knoxshire* Estate Park.)

Before you enter a few rules on deportment or conduct in Victorian Society, because decorum is of the utmost importance. Please place your name-card on the silver tray just inside the door. Then, wait for the butler to announce your arrival. As he announces you, please bow and curtsey to the park at large, then feel free to move about the estate grounds as you wish, enjoying the food and entertainment. However, don’t be surprised if none of the “peasants or merchants” speak to you, unless you ask them a direct question; as that would be deemed inappropriate and the retainers could be permanently thrown off the estate. 

[Director’s note: this allows members of the congregation or volunteers to serve food and drink without having to learn a British accent.]

Gentlemen, you should never be seen in the presence of ladies without a jacket on. Ladies, please allow only your face, and in limited circumstances, your hands to be seen or uncovered by your clothing. When you hear the sound of the chimes, this signals the arrival of the Duke’s party. You should stop whatever you are doing and bow/curtsy to acknowledge his authority. Also remember, never speak to the Duke or Duchess until they acknowledge you and when addressing the Duke or Duchess, always refer to them as “Your Grace.” Good Luck and please enjoy your evening.

[Director’s Note: we moved to different locations so that multiple groups could be in the time travel hallway at the same time. The tour guides need to circle around and take another group through the “time hallway” until all guests are in the Estate Park.]

End of Scene I

Act I,  Scene 2

{The audience is entering the Duke’s Estate Park. As the butler announces each guest, he will select certain people [twelve ladies for dancing, eleven lords a leaping, ten drummers, and nine ladies in waiting] to participate in the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Jeters has the appropriate number of colored cards for each position which he hands to the participant; once he is out of cards he knows the song is filled. Richard the footman is posted at the entrance to the Duke’s mansion, and does not allow entry to any of the guests until after the “Twelve Days of Christmas” is sung. The vicar is circulating, meeting his “flock.” Three beverage carts and two food carts are distributed around the park, manned by peasants/merchants. The audience may “purchase” food and drink with the tuppence they were previously given. A gazebo is in the center of the Estate Park, with park benches or chairs distributed about the room. One tree is decorated in the German tradition, with multiple trees and shrubs around the area. Polyester fiberfill is draped around the bottom of the trees to simulate snow. Bessie, the companion enters occasionally to check on the preparations and the quality of the food; as well as check the number of guests arriving. These activities allow time for all of the audience to arrive through the “time hallway”. Bessie then returns to the mansion to report to the Duchess, about the guests’ arrival. After the audience has arrived, the footman rings the chimes announcing the arrival of the Duke’s Party and the butler moves over to the mansion to announce the family. All of the peasants/merchants should stop and curtsy/bow until the entire Duke’s entire party is announced. The Duke will signal when activity may resume.

Jeters:  The Duke and Duchess of Knoxshire, Edward Richard Christopher Linley Ill, and Gwendolyn Anne Granger Linley.

{Presented as a couple, she curtsies.}

Jeters:  The Earl and Countess of Presbyter, Henry James Phillip Stanton, and Louisa Elizabeth Deringer Stanton.

{Presented as a couple, she curtseys and he bows.}

Lady Sophia Marie Granger.

{She enters and curtseys. The two children, followed by the Governess, enter. Then Bessie enters carrying a fur blanket and a small bell. The footman follows with a chair and a small table.}

Emily:  Papa, for fun, will you please ask Jeters to announce us?

Amelia:   {shocked} Emily, that is totally inappropriate.  You have not yet been presented to society.

Beatrice: Yes Papa, for fun.

Gwendolyn:  Do not bother your father, my dear. He is busy preparing to meet his guests.

Emily:  Oh please, Papa! It could be one of my Christmas presents.

Edward:  Perhaps another time, when you are older.

Louisa:  Why not let them have a little fun?  It is not as if we are in the city during the height of the season.

Edward:  Oh yes, by all means Louisa, corrupt yet another child by teaching her to flaunt the rules of society.

Sophia:  Oh dear, Gwendolyn, do you suppose your esteemed husband is referring to you or to me, since Aunt Louisa raised us both?

Edward:  I am sure that before this evening is over there will be no doubt which corrupt child I am referring to, Sophia. My wife is always the perfect example of decorum.

Sophia:  And I, of course, am not.

Henry:  {Clears his throat} I say Edward, perhaps that was a bit strong, nothing wrong with allowing the children to have a little fun just within the family.

Amelia:  I am terribly sorry, Your Grace, it is all my fault. We were working on the rules of society during lessons today and I allowed the girls to make their own name-cards.  Please forgive me.  I will tender my resignation immediately if you wish.

Sophia:  Make name-cards? Oh, what a clever idea. Let me see. Why Beatrice and Emily, you did an excellent job! Gwendolyn, do you not think the appearance of these cards, are quite excellent?

Gwendolyn:  Oh yes, I am so proud of you both.  {She looks to her husband.} Edward, perhaps we could make an exception this once.

Edward:  Oh very well. Jeters, announce them, quietly.

Jeters:  Lady Emily Victoria Linley.  {She curtseys.}   Lady Beatrice Laurel Linley. {She curtseys. Jeters then returns to introducing the guests, if there are any late arrivals.}

Edward:  As for you Mistress Thomas— 

Gwendolyn: You are an excellent governess, from whom we would not accept your resignation. Edward, perhaps you should welcome your guests.

Edward:  Oh quite right, how remiss of me.  {Edward heads for the gazebo.}

Sophia:  Why yes, Edward, I am sure if you were not the Duke, you would be roundly reprimanded for the behavior of neglecting your guests.

Gwendolyn:  Sophia, stop teasing Edward! He had a very strict and proper upbringing. Edward was not raised as we were and does not understand your humor.

Sopiha:  You mean he has no sense of humor.

Gwendolyn:  Sophia!

Sophia:  Oh very well, but it is such fun, Gwendolyn.

{Edward and the company should greet the guests and mingle with the audience while Edward walks towards the gazebo. Once Edward reaches the gazebo, he selects a spot for his wife’s chair. The footman rushes with a limp to place the chair with a table in the spot selected. Gwendolyn sits down. The companion rushes to place the bell on the table and cover her mistress with the blanket. The footman then returns to stand at attention at the door of the mansion.}

Edward:   Good evening lords and ladies! Thank you so much for attending my annual Yuletide Celebration at Knoxshire*!

{The Duke gestures to the retainers and they begin serving again. Bessie begins serving all the immediate members of the Duke’s party.}

By now you should have all received my Christmas card, a new little tradition my wife enjoys greatly. Also, I understand that some of the guests this evening are visiting from the colonies. We will just ignore that little incident about a century ago, called a revolution, and in the spirit of friendship give you a temporary title and welcome you tonight.

Louisa:  Goodness from the colonies! Is that where some of these people with the strange accents I heard are from?

Henry:  Yes, I believe His Grace has investments in a shipping company now. The guests are probably somehow related to that.

Gwendolyn:  Shh!

Edward:  For those whom are first time visitors to the celebration, I might explain a bit. We will have several initial presentations here. Then you are free to wander about the estate grounds.  In the mansion, you will find a musical recital in the music room, the courtyard and the conservatory decorated for your viewing pleasure, as well as the entrance hallway which has some of our special collections on display.  Is the estate vicar around here somewhere?

Vicar:  Here, Your Grace!

Edward:  I received a missive that you would like to address the guests this evening.

Vicar:  Yes, Your Grace, with your permission. It is the Christmas celebration and seemed only appropriate that as Vicar I attend to the religious needs of the—

Edward:  Very well, be quick.

Vicar:  Good evening to the Duke and Duchess of Knoxshire*, the Earl and Countess of Presbyter, Lady Sophia Marie Granger, and to all the other Lords, Ladies and honored guests. This evening I would like to sermonize on “The True Meaning of Christmas Contrasted with the Heathen Rituals of Winter Solstice.”  {At this point the Vicar opens his Bible revealing a numerous number of parchments, and clears his throat in preparation.)

Gwendolyn:  Oh dear, if the title is that long? How long is the sermon?  The vicar does tend to give lengthy sermons once he gets started.

Edward:  Well, not tonight! He will quite ruin my party.

Vicar:  Examining the Heathen Rituals of the Winter Solstice we find a number of horrific examples of some of the worst— 

Edward:  Vicar, a word with you!

Vicar:  Your Grace, I spent many hours in contemplation and reflection preparing for tonight.  I was just beginning—

Edward:  Yes, I noticed.  Perhaps you could give this “Meaning of Christmas” some other time, like next Sunday at the usual time.

Vicar:  But Your Grace, this is the perfect opportunity, with everyone gathered here; a far larger number than is usually in attendance at the chapel, Your Grace included. You did hire me to see to the needs of all the people of the Knoxshire* estate. I am simply performing the tasks for which you pay.  {He attempts to begin again.} The True Meaning of Christmas Contrasted with the Heathen Rituals of the Winter Solstice. {He clears his throat and attempts to begin again. Gwen should begin speaking immediately.}

Gwendolyn:  Please dear! Promise the vicar anything to get him to stop. His sermons are really quite extensive.

Emily:  Please, Papa.

Beatrice:  Yes Papa, please.

Vicar:  As I previously said…examining the Heathen Rituals of Winter Solstice we find a number of horrific examples of some of the worst—

Edward:  Reverend…what is your name?

Vicar:  Reverend Jeffery Colebrooke, at your service, Your Grace!

Edward:  Reverend Colebrooke, we are having a party this evening.  I simply do not have time for this nonsense.  What would persuade you to end this discourse?

Vicar:  Your attendance, this Sunday at church.

Edward:  Me, at church?

Vicar:  Yes, Your Grace, in the family pew for the entire service.

Edward:  The entire service?  {He looks questioningly at his family, which all nod.}

Vicar:  All three hours, Your Grace!

Edward:  {With dismay.}All three hours! Very well… agreed.

{Gwendolyn and Sophia exchange a look of joy because their plan is working.}

Vicar:  And your attendance at tonight’s village concert?

Edward:  AND! Just a minute I draw the line there. If you value your employment, you will not require my presence twice.

Vicar:  Very well then, agreed.  {He steps down from the gazebo, and speaks to the Duke.}  I will be sure the heated bricks are placed by your pew, in preparation for your visit on Sunday.

Gwendolyn:  {Quietly}  Thank you Reverend.

{The vicar nods to her and Sophia.}

Edward:  A moment vicar, may I see your Bible and your notes?

Vicar:  {Worried.} Your Grace?

Edward:  Your Bible.  {The Vicar hands the Bible and notes to the Duke.}  These pages seem to be blank. Where is your lengthy sermon, in which you spent hours in contemplation and reflection?

Vicar:  {The Vicar exchanges a look of panic with the Duchess, unsure of what to say.}  It is true there is no sermon.  However, I did spend hours preparing for tonight.  Before tonight I had barely spoken to Your Grace, let alone ministered to you, an issue of great concern.

Edward:  Your actions this evening have placed your employment in serious jeopardy.

Gwendolyn:  {She stands to defend the Vicar.}  Edward—

Edward:  {He holds up his hand for silence.} However, since it appears that my family was involved in this scenario, you shall remain.

Vicar:  Thank you, Your Grace. I hope, Your Grace, will still attend services on Sunday.

Edward:  I am a man of my word.  Therefore, I will be there.

Vicar:  Until Sunday, Your Grace.

Edward:  Now, finally to the festivities.  {He returns to the Gazebo.} In honor of our Great Queen Victoria—

All:  God Save the Queen!

Edward:  —This year we will be following one of the traditions started at the Royal Osborne estate. Please observe on the top of the Christmas tree, there is a splendid doll, which in accordance with the custom will be awarded to the best-behaved child. Now who shall be the judge of the children? Gwendolyn, perhaps as the lady of the highest rank you should decide?

Gwendolyn:  Oh no dear, the Queen never decides herself, although she awards the prize. Isn’t that correct Sophia?

Sophia: Yes, Gwendolyn is quite right, I believe the Head-mistress of all the schools get together and decide.

Amelia:  You mean even the laborers’ children are included in the custom?

Sophia:  Yes, exactly right.

Emily:  That’s not fair!  It should just be between Beatrice and myself.

Beatrice: Papa, I want the doll.

Amelia: Actually it seems much more fair and just to include every child.

Gwendolyn:  Yes, I agree every child should have the opportunity to win the prize.

Edward:  Well, that is settled. Now who should decide the winner?

Sophia:  What about a committee of selected individuals?  They can vote on which child was the best, and the child with the majority vote will win.

Edward:  Oh blast, Henry has Sophia been reading your political treatise’s again?

Henry:  I would say in all probability, it was highly likely.

Edward:  Well, it would be best if you put a stop to such activity.

Sophia:  It is perfectly acceptable for me to read a few articles. I did not violate any of your precious rules of decorum.

Edward:  Perhaps not, but I would recommend leaving the topic out of your conversation. Else you will never find a husband, and poor Uncle Henry and Aunt Louisa will never be rid of you.

Sophia:  That is hardly a concern of yours.

Louisa:  Mayhap we do not wish to be rid of Sophia.

Sophia:  {Regally} Thank you.

Gwendolyn:  Edward, our guests are waiting, perhaps a committee would be a good idea.

Edward:  What?  Oh yes, quite right. Well, I suppose.

Gwendolyn:  Perhaps, Bessie should serve on the committee since she will be posted in the showcase room. It is an area very tempting to children to misbehave.

Edward:  A capital idea.

Sophia:  In keeping with the Queen’s custom, Mistress Thomas as governess should be included.

Louisa:  I think a Lady of a more mature stature should also be included. Mayhap, I should serve on the committee.

Emily and Beatrice:  Oh yes, Countess Louisa!

GWENDOLYN:  I think not Aunt Louisa, you could be accused of favoritism. Perhaps Lady Evanston, would be kind enough to serve.

{A pre-selected member of the audience should step forward and nod her agreement to serve on the committee.}

Edward:  Splendid, it is decided. A committee will select the best-behaved child, by the end of the evening. Now I would like my oldest retainer to come forward. As you are aware my friend the Duke of Rutland always awards a special present to the servant that has faithfully served his family the longest. Jeters, bring the package please, and call the servant.

Jeters:  Would the oldest and longest serving retainer for the Duke of Knoxshire*, please step forward. 

{No one steps forward.}

Edward:  Jeters, the servant is whom?

Jeters:  Your Grace, I believe that Richard is your longest retainer. However, he is a little hard of hearing.

Edward:  Well, he is certainly the oldest. Jeters once again, louder this time.

Jeters:  {Louder} Would the oldest and longest serving retainer for the Duke of Knoxshire*, please step forward. {Screaming} Psst, Richard, present yourself before the Duke.

Richard:  {He appears to be asleep at the door. Jeters standing at the Duke’s side, is unable to leave, so Bessie wakes him, and pushes him forward. He walks toward the Duke with a slight limp.} Your Grace?

Edward:  {Speaking loudly} How old are you Richard?

Richard:  Well, your Grace, do not know. Your father, bless his soul, rescued me out of the street when I was just a lad.  He gave me a name.  I do wish the Old Duke had named me after someone other than the Evil Richard III.  However, we both had a gimp.

Edward:  Yes well, it was an unfortunate choice of names.  Now, how long have you been at Knoxshire*?

Richard:  I have faithfully served your family for over ninety years, so I must be ninety-four some odd years old. Give or take a year or so, Your Grace.

Edward:  For your excellent service to the family of the Duke of Knoxshire*, I wish to personally award you a special present.  {The Duke gestures, and Jeters hands the present to Richard.} Thank you for your service.

Richard:  Thank you, your Grace. {He attempts to bow, but almost falls, he then continues to stand in front of the Duke.}

Edward:  That will be all. Jeters, you will see to the distribution of the presents to the other household servants.

Jeters:  Certainly, Your Grace. Richard, return to your post.  {Richard continues to stand there. So, Jeters yells.} Richard, your post!

Richard:  What? Oh, right.

Edward:  {Aside to Jeters.} Jeters, is everything ready for the special present for her Grace?

Jeters:  Yes, Your Grace, exactly as requested on your list.

Edward:  Very well, then. Gwendolyn, I have a special present for you this evening

Yuletide At Knoxshire

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