The Quit Claimed Ghost of the Old Viola Opera House
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The Quit Claimed Ghost of the Old Viola Opera House

Molly O’Hara and her friend, Janet Johnston, decide to open an antique store but find the old opera house they want to purchase is haunted.

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The Quit Claimed Ghost of the Old Viola Opera House

Molly O’Hara and her friend, Janet Johnston, decide to open an antique store but find the old opera house they want to purchase is haunted.

Author:    John O’Shea


     When Molly O’Hara and her friend, Janet Johnston, decide to open an antique store in the tiny town of Viola, Illinois, they are attracted to a building known as the old “Viola Opera House.” They are not dissuaded from buying the old vaudeville house even when Bill Cornelis, the seller’s realtor, advises them the place may be haunted.

The Quit Claimed Ghost of the Old Viola Opera House

The Quit Claimed Ghost of the 

Old Viola Opera House

 A   Spirited Lighted Comedy


John Donald O’Shea


The Quit Claimed Ghost of the Old Viola Opera House

 Copyright 2008  

by John Donald O’Shea

All Rights Reserved

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that THE QUIT CLAIMED GHOST OF THE OLD VIOLA OPERA HOUSE 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 THE QUIT CLAIMED GHOST OF THE OLD VIOLA OPERA HOUSE 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.

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    The Quit Claimed Ghost of the 

Old Viola Opera House


(5 women and 3 men)

Molly O’Hara A businesslike entrepreneur, with a dry sense of humor, intent on turning an old opera house into an antique shop.

Janet  Johnston Her business partner. Quick with the one liners.

Bill Cornelis A realtor. Ethical, not overly bright. A bit  nerdy.

Gloria DeGreve Proprietor of the shop next door which sells candies and flowers. A competent, nosy business woman.

Susan Harper Director of Local Historical Society. Also a bit nosy.

Kitty Sloan A vaudevillian. A girl who has grown into a strong woman.  A Ghost

Tom Scanlan An Irish vaudevillian. A tough guy, who has come to prefer singing and dancing to fighting.  Another Ghost.

 Jack Harris A vaudevillian. A man who believes women count for little or nothing. The Quit Claimed Ghost of the Viola Opera House.

 Props List

Act I, Scene 1

Two folding chairs note pad and pen [for Bill]

Act I, Scene 1 

Box with items [for Molly]

Box with items [for Janet]


Act I, Scene 3 

Library Table Phone

Three heavy volumes of bound newspapers 

Gun [for Jack]

Act II, Scene 1

Matching early twentieth century costumes for Molly and Kitty.

Trunk, Table, Small Chair, Pepsi and chips

Ghost light for stage

Barrel or chair [for Jack to sit on] 

Act II, Scene 2


second table



rocker box of cookies

pink shirt [for Bill]

Act 2, Scene 3

Broom [for Bill]

hat tree or scenery tree [for Janet] ACT I

Scene 1

(It is Friday morning. Molly, and  Janet, her business partner, and Bill, a realtor, are in an old opera house. Molly  and Janet are  considering buying the building.  The time is the present.

The opera house building  should be “imagined” as being rectangular.  For the limited purpose of “assisting the imagination,”  the following dimensions are given. In the real  opera house, the main floor is 30’  wide and 60’  long.  There are three windows  along each of the side walls. Additionally, there is a  stage behind a proscenium arch, which  is  30’  wide  and  25’  deep.   At the  other end, opposite from the stage, there is  an  area under  a balcony,  roughly  30’  wide by 20’ deep.  This area would be trisected, and  would  include the rest rooms down stage right, a hallway  down stage center leading to the front door, and the box office down stage left. .  In presenting this play, the dimensions set forth in this paragraph  should be down sized, and are set forth by the author, only to help the director visualize what the old opera house actually looks like.

For purposes of this play, the interior of the opera house is not unlike most gymnasiums one would find at  an older high school, or junior high.  There is the open flat area where the kids would play volleyball or basketball.  Up stage of that flat area, is a raised stage area.  In its day,  chairs were set up for the audience to sit in the open flat area to see whatever play was  presented on the opera house stage. 

The author contemplates that this play will be performed in a gym type setting. In this play, the primary action takes place on a portion of the main floor area immediately in front of the stage.  That area ideally would be about 24’ by 24.’   The audience will therefore be seated around three sides of the stage. The up stage side of the stage on the gym floor will be the gym’s actual stage.   The actual stage will also be used, only  in Scenes  3, 4 and 6.  A second set design, however,  is provided should the director choose to stage the play on a traditional proscenium stage. 

At curtain, on the main floor  there are a few pieces of  furniture. Half way up, stage right is a chair. [prop] Two thirds way up center is another chair. [prop] Other items of junk can be placed about the stage to suggest a building in disuse and disrepair. ) 

Molly. (Molly is up stage of the chair which sits half way up stage right)  Well, Jan, what do you think?

Janet. I think, Molly darling, that  if you ever want to see your cat again, you better keep her out of here. At least until you have shoveled up the dust.

Bill.  (A realtor. Bill is up stage center right, above both women)   The dust comes with the building. There’s no extra charge.  

(There is a pause as both women look at him in a way that suggests they see no humor in his last remark)   

Janet. He gives new meaning to the phrase “buyer beware.”

Bill. That was supposed to be a joke. A little real estate sales humor. (Another pause as the women glare more intensely)    Okay, make an offer, and I’ll vacuum the joint myself!

Molly. (Molly crosses down stage right a couple steps looking for electrical outlets) How’s the electrical wiring? 

Bill.  It was perfectly adequate in 1900.

Janet. In 1900 they used candles.

Bill. (Addressing Janet)  Let’s just say, the lights all work, but the wiring is old. (Addressing Molly)  If I were buying the place, I think I would plan on having it rewired  — for safety sake . Then too, old buildings never have enough outlets. 

Molly. Just how many outlets are there? 

Bill. So far, I counted two.   

Janet. You can’t count to three?   

Bill. Math was never my best subject.

Molly. Obviously. 

Bill. Let’s put it this way: I think you’re going to want more.  And if I were you, I’d modernize the plumbing. 

Janet. Why, is there something wrong with the out house?

Bill. Actually, there is indoor plumbing. The sink and the toilet work fine.  It’s just that some people prefer hot water. 

Molly. I really like it. But how much is it? If we’re going to have to put in  new electrical and plumbing systems,  and a new furnace and air conditioner, the seller will have to reflect that in his price.

Bill. Don’t worry, Ms. O’Hara, the place is priced to sell. When I tell you, you will be amazed.

Molly. Okay, amaze me.

Bill. (He scribbles something on a note pad with his pen [prop] and crosses to left of Molly, and  hands the note to Molly.  Janet also crosses down between them to look at the note over Molly’s shoulder )  That’s the asking price.

Molly.  I am amazed. (She shows it to Janet) And rather unpleasantly. 

Janet.  How long has that been the asking price?

Bill. As long as I can remember.

Molly. (Molly rises, and crosses down stage right a few steps, thinking)  Bill, are you suggesting that if we make a lower offer, the owner might take it?

Bill. (He crosses away)  I suggest no such thing. (To her) Of course, it can never hurt to try. 

Janet. To your knowledge, has anyone offered over $75,000?

Bill. No. 

Molly.  You’re telling me the asking price is $100,000, and it’s been on the market for a number of years at that price. (Molly turns to address Bill)  And that to the best of your knowledge, no one has been willing to offer even 75?

Bill. I shouldn’t be telling you that, but I am. 

Janet. (To Bill, grabbing his shoulder to get his undivided attention)  Look at me. Was someone murdered here?

Bill. I can’t say for certain. I suppose that’s a possibility.

Molly. Is there a problem with this place you haven’t told us about?

Bill.  (He escapes, by crossing a couple steps down left center) I wouldn’t really call it a problem.

Janet. (Janet sits on the chair stage right )  Is there a “non-problem” with this place you haven’t told us about?

Bill. (To Janet)  Define “non-problem.”

Janet.  Something that might inspire us to break your legs, if we later happen to find out about it ourselves.

Bill. Now I understand.   I’m afraid so. 

Molly. Out with it, Buster. 

Bill. (To Molly)  Three former tenants have told me it’s haunted.

Janet. Whatever made them do that?

Bill. (To Janet)  I’m not really sure. Possibly, the presence of a ghost? 

Janet. Three people just walked up to you and said the joint is haunted?

Bill. (Bill crosses a step or so to Janet)  Not quite. When I first got the listing, the lady next door in the flower shop told me  that there was a rumor about town that the place was haunted.

Molly. What did the owner say? 

Bill.  (Bill crosses a step or so down stage center to Molly)   She denied it, but I told her that when three tenants all told the same story, I felt I had an ethical obligation to make a disclosure. 

Janet. It beats dying a painful death. 

Bill. (To Janet)  I explained to her that when people shop for a building, they expect to buy a building; not a ghost. I told her it was a bit unfair for her to  stick anybody with a ghost, who quite possibly could be obnoxious, unless they really wanted one.  

Janet. I’m impressed by your sense of ethics. (Janet rises and crosses up stage center) Then again, I’m surprised she didn’t fire you. 

Bill.  (To Janet)  She didn’t want to fire her son.  (To Molly)  Incidentally, she is prepared to give you a warranty deed, covering the land and building, but only a quit claim deed for the ghost. 

Janet. What’s the difference.

Bill. (To Janet)  Under a warranty deed, the owner warrants she has good title.  Under a quit claim deed  there are no warranties. (To Molly)  A quit claim deed conveys only whatever interest she has in the premises, …  or in the ghost.   No more. 

Molly. I think I understand. You should have been a lawyer.

Bill. I thought so, too. The law school thought otherwise. 

Janet. Don’t feel bad. Everybody hates lawyers. 

Molly. Is that why the place hasn’t sold before?

Bill. That would be my bet. There’s an old saying in this business.  A buyer  wants  a quiet title. Buyers don’t want to buy a law suit — or  a noisy poltergeist. 

Janet. Just what sort of ghost are we purchasing?  I don’t think I would enjoy owning a ghost who tosses the furniture about – especially the antiques. 

Bill. (Bill crosses up stage to left of Janet) I think you’re safe. They tell me this one sings.

Molly. Well?

Bill. (To Molly)  The other tenants didn’t think so. But perhaps they preferred “country and western.” 

Molly.  (Molly crosses back to desk)  Just our luck!   With a voice like Britney Spears, we could have made a fortune. (Molly sits on edge of desk) 

Janet. (Janet rises, and crosses half way to Molly)  Look at the bright side. It’s rather like having a juke box around the house, set on free play.

Bill. Not quite. With a juke box, you  get your choice of songs. They tell me, this ghost  seems to know only one song. At least, he only sings  one song.

Molly. Terrific!   Dare I ask,  which song?

Bill. “Pretty Baby”

Molly. “Pretty Baby?”

Bill.  You know …  (He sings, with his best  George Burns  impression)  “Everybody loves a baby, that’s why I’m in love with you.  Pretty Baby.  Pretty Baby…”

Janet. I’ve always rather liked that song.

Bill. (To Janet) The last three tenants did, too. But not at three o’clock in the morning.

Molly. (Molly rises in place)  Let me get this straight.  Our ghost  only sings only one song? That song is “Pretty Baby?”   And he sings it only at  three o’clock in the morning?

Bill. (Bill crosses down stage center throwing up his arms)  Precisely. He’s very reliable. (Back to women)  You won’t need a clock. 

Janet. (To Molly)  Well, it could be worse. He could play the violin.

Bill. I can honestly say, that I’ve had no reports that he plays the violin. That would really really be terrible!

Janet.  (Underwhelmed)  It sure would.  (Slight pause. Janet then crosses two steps to Bill)  How about the trumpet?

Bill. Oh, by the way …. did I mention he plays the trumpet?

Molly and Janet. No!

Bill. Perhaps I should have ….

Molly.  (Molly “circle” crosses two steps to Bill)  You’re supposed to be an ethical real estate salesman! How on earth could you forget to mention a thing like that?

Bill. I wasn’t sure it was a trumpet.  It might be  a saxophone.

Molly. Terrific!

Janet. When?

Bill. (Bill crosses a couple steps down stage left, thinking)  It’s rather hard to say. But generally sometime between one and six in the morning.  (He turns to women) But only on Sundays. 

Janet. (Janet takes a step to Bill)  Why on Sundays?

Bill.  I don’t know for sure. Maybe because he sings and dances the other six nights. 

Molly. (Molly takes a step to Bill)  We’ll offer you $10, 000. 

Bill. (Bill crosses one step to Molly)  Put it in writing!

Janet.  (Janet crosses to Molly)  Are you crazy?

Molly. No. Why?

Janet.  What are you going to do if the place really is haunted? How are you going to get any sleep?

Molly.  If he’s a reasonable ghost, I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out.

Janet. What if he isn’t.

Molly.   I play the bagpipes.

(lights down) 

Scene 2

(The following Tuesday, about nine in the morning. Molly and Janet are moving a few things into the Opera House.  There is a table [prop] up stage right. Molly is removing items from a box [prop] on floor down stage of table about half way down right. Below the box, down stage right is a rocker [prop]. Up stage left is a trunk [prop].  Below the trunk, about half way down stage left, Janet is removing items from a second box, [prop].  Down stage left is a table [prop] with a stool [prop] just below it. 

Janet. (Removing a phone [prop] from box stage left, and looking around for a jack) Here’s the phone. Is there a jack?

Molly.  Good luck!  Did they have phones here in 1845?

Janet. Thank heaven for cell phones.

Molly. (Indicating, down stage center)  Look in the room to the left of the door. That was the old box office. Maybe there’s one in there. 

Janet. I think you’re being overly optimistic.  When this joint was in its heyday, everyone used the Pony Express. 

(Gloria DeGreve enters through front door)

Gloria. (From off stage, down stage center) Yoo-hoo?  Yoo-hoo? Is anybody home. 

Molly. Who do you suppose that is?

Janet. (To Molly)  Probably our ghost!

Molly.  Highly unlikely. I don’t hear a saxophone.  (Returning the greeting)  Come in! Come in, whoever you are!

Gloria. Hello? (Gloria enters tentatively, and Gloria then sees Molly) Oh, there you are. 

Janet. (Referring to Gloria)  She doesn’t look like a ghost.

Gloria. I’m your neighbor, Gloria DeGreve.  I own the flower shop next door. (Indicating off stage, down stage left)  I also sell chocolates.

Janet.  (Rises in Place )  Got any samples? For a two pound box, I’m your friend for life. 

Molly. (Rising in place)  How nice of you to stop by!   (Molly crosses to Gloria, and shakes Gloria’s hand)  I’m Molly O’Hara, and this panhandler is my business partner, Janet Johnston.

Janet. (Remains in place arranging things , but acknowledges Gloria)  I’m delighted to meet you. I was afraid you might be our resident ghost.

Gloria.  (Gloria takes two steps toward Janet) Oh, I was wondering if you knew. 

Molly. Oh, yes. Bill Cornelis told us. 

Gloria. That being the case, I’m surprised you went ahead with the deal. (To Molly) Once the other prospective buyers found out, they ran. 

Molly. Has Bill told all the prospective buyers?

Gloria. Yes. Bill’s very ethical. (To Janet) A bit stupid, but very ethical. In any case, (To Molly) I’m glad you weren’t scared away. (To Janet and Molly) I’m delighted to meet both of you. It will be wonderful to have neighbors. (To Janet) This building has been empty so long. 

Molly. (Molly crosses away down stage right to resume what she was doing when Gloria entered) Why do you say Bill’s a bit stupid?

Gloria. (To Molly) Because by being so ethical, he’s scared all the buyers away, and, I’m sure, he’s driven the price down, as well. (To Janet, as if to justify her position) 

Molly. What would you have had him do?

Gloria. Well, since there’s no scientific proof the place is haunted, I think he should have keep his mouth shut. Let the buyer find out after the sale. Caveat emptor! 

Janet. (Looking at Gloria, over her work) Were you, perchance, a used car salesman in an earlier existence?

Molly. It’s conceivable he was afraid of being sued.

Gloria. I don’t understand why. (She crosses up stage center, as if going before the bench in a court of law)  Imagine going in front of the court, and telling the jury that you want to rescind the purchase because the building you just bought is haunted. (To both women) They’d think you’re nuts!

Janet. Unless, of course, we could induce the ghost to testify. 

Gloria. I doubt any self respecting ghost would accept service of a subpoena. 

Molly. Probably not. (Molly looks at Gloria, over her work) Have you ever met our ghost?

Gloria. No, but I’ve been dying to. (She pauses) Perhaps, I put that a bit too strongly?

Janet. (Without looking up) If that’s what it takes, I can wait. 

Molly. What do you know about our putative poltergeist?

Gloria. (Gloria takes one step to Janet) I know only what I have been told. I’ve visited with the prior tenants. 

Janet. Gossip’s a wonderful American tradition. What have you been told?

Gloria. That he’s a better tap dancer than a singer. 

Molly. He? (Molly looks directly at Gloria) So, you’ve heard our ghost is a male, too?

Gloria. An Irish tenor, who sounds like George Burns. 

Molly. (Still puttering) George Burns wasn’t Irish, and he sure a heck wasn’t a tenor!

Janet. (To Molly)  Molly, darling, you may have made a serious miscalculation. If our ghost is Irish, he just might be sufficiently unhinged to enjoy bag pipe music. 

Molly. Don’t be ridiculous. No sane Irishman can bear the sound of bagpipes. 

Janet. Then why do they play them?

Molly. To drive the snakes and English off the “old sod,” (a pause) and to make sure they stay off! 

Janet. (Amazed) That’s the first rational explanation I’ve ever heard for bagpipes. 

Molly. Assuming that we have a ghost in residence, the real question is, what’s he doing here?

Janet. Probably haunting the joint. 

Gloria. (Gloria takes one step to Janet) My bet is that he’s an old vaudeville ham, content to play anywhere?

Molly. I’ve always heard, that a ghost haunts the place where he met a violent or tragic end in life. 

Janet. (To Gloria) Have you heard any stories about anyone being killed in this theater? Was there ever a fire here?

Gloria. No. Not that I can recall. 

Janet. Perhaps somebody at the Sheriff’s office would remember?

Gloria. Not our sheriff. He can’t remember where he last parked his squad car. 

Molly. Is there a local historical society?

Gloria. Yes. (Gloria takes one more step to Molly) The Mercer County Historical Society. Why?

Molly. Often times, they have old newspapers. If someone was murdered here, I’ll bet we’ll find a bunch of stories about it. 

Janet. I wonder if they’re open?

Gloria. What day is today?

Molly. Tuesday.

Gloria. I have a friend, Susan Harper, who works there as a volunteer. She works every Tuesday and Thursday from ten in the morning, until four thirty p. m.

Molly. (Rising in place, and addressing Janet) Are you game for some research?

Janet. (Quickly rising in place) Let’s go. If someone was murdered here, that should help sell antiques. 

Molly. (To Gloria) Gloria, would you like to come along?

Gloria. No thanks.(Indicating) I better get back to my shop. I’m supposed to open at ten. (She starts to exit down stage center) 

Molly. (Molly crosses to Gloria) Gloria, come back again. We’ll buy you tea.

Janet. And bring chocolates! Five pounds!

Gloria. (Ignoring Janet) Make it orange spice and you’re on. Let me know what you turn up. (She exits) 

Molly. (Calling after her) Orange spice it is. (To Janet) Everybody out so I can lock up. 

Janet. (Referring to Gloria, indicating, and half following Gloria out) I don’t think she heard me.

Molly. She was probably felt too much chocolate would ruin your figure.

Janet. It’s a chance I’m willing to take. 

(All exit) 

Scene 3

(Later that morning, after ten o’clock. The main floor stage is as it was for the last scene, except the up stage left corner of the stage has now been cleared on “antiques and boxes.” It is now the Mercer County Historical Society Office. The set consists of a library table [prop] , and three or four chairs about the table. The table is situated on a diagonal , running with the up end up left center, and the lower end , down lower left. Another small table with a phone [prop] sits further up stage left. Molly and Janet, are about to enter through one door of the Historical Society, which is down stage left. Both are down stage left, but Molly is nearer to center.)

Janet. (Molly leads Janet in through a door which is imagined to be down stage left) I just remembered. I forgot something. 

Molly. What’s that?

Janet. I don’t believe in ghosts! 

Molly. Very sensible. I’m not sure I do, either. 

Janet. Then what are we doing here? 

Molly. (Also just outside door, but closer to center than Janet) In a sense, we’re ghost hunting.

Janet. Then we’re in the wrong place. Our ghost is supposed to be back at the theater.

Molly. We’re looking for parapsychological evidence.

The Quit Claimed Ghost of the Old Viola Opera House

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