THANKSGIVING – THE MOVIE
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula
November 18th, 2007
Rev. Greg Ward and Jolinda Stephens
Where Do We Come From?(1st part only – twice)
Anthem – I Hear America Singing – Andre J. Thomas
PRODUCER: (ear to cell phone):
Yeah, JT? Bob. Yea… Producing the Thanksgiving Movie. Listen, I'm stuck
in Denver.. Hey, why didn’t you send me direct? Yea, I know we’re
supposed to save money. ( listen)
I know… there aren’t too many direct flights into Plymouth. But it’s all
going to be worth it. Filming in Plymouth is one of the reasons we’re
getting all this great publicity. NPR… Bill Moyers… And it’s about time!
There’s been so much depressing stuff coming out of Hollywood right now
showing America in a bad light. But this is going to be different. (
Yea, the previews looked great! “Thanksgiving – the Movie” shot on
location with the real descendents of pilgrims and Indians. … I told you,
that’s why I got this gig. Because I’m related to the early settlers.
Most of them are still local to the area.
(Jillian walks through).
Yea, well… one or two might still be flying through Denver. Yea… I
thought we were gonna save money on the screen play too. But they got that
Native American documentary writer who won the Emmy. Yea… it doesn’t make
sense… the story writes itself. Yea… basically, It’s what we learned in
third grade. The Indians have feathers and the pilgrims where the dark
wool coats and funny hats. Two different cultures coming together to help
each other through the tough winter. It’s perfect! As American as apple
pie. It’s… what? No apples in Plymouth? Okay, Pumpkin pie then!
Whatever. (Producer exits.)
I’m telling you, honey, this movie is going to change everything for
us. Thanksgiving - The Movie – as told by an actual native American
screenwriter! This is going to clear up all those backward ideas about
Plymouth where the Indians and the pilgrims (mockingly) ‘loved each
other and lived happily ever after.’ (Sticks
his finger in his mouth) Puleeeeez!!
This movie is the reason I've stayed in this business for so long. I’ve
been determined for years to set the record straight on this one. This
country is ready to hear the other side of the story – not what they heard
in Mrs. Armstrong’s third grade class. What? If they’re not ready?
Well, they’re gonna hear it anyway! (listen)
Yeah, we’re down here for a couple of months of rehearsal. Then we’re
shooting live in one day – on Thanksgiving Day! We’re going to do a
re-enactment. But this time, it’s going to be the way it really
happened. The pilgrims came in and had no idea how to survive. The
Indians came in and helped – and what did they get for helping? I’ll tell
you what they got! They got wiped out from disease. And those that
didn’t die naturally were killed - or chased off.
Yea… and then there’s the big cover up – Pilgrim descendents writing it up
so that they look like heroes. It’s just these kind of stories that make
us think we can march onto other countries and ‘liberate’ them. Yea… I’ll
give ‘em some ‘liberation.’…
Huh? Yea… I’m taking my blood pressure medication. Yesssss. I know… I
will…. (writer exits)
We're gonna sit at the welcome table. We're gonna sit at the welcome table
one... (Cut off by Assistant Director as he
CUT! CUT, CUT!!!. (MaryClare turns around and
rolls her eyes so the congregation sees here. When it gets quiet AD says
to the choir)
We're not ready for this yet! Oh my God! We got a producer who
wants a chorus line of dancing indians and a writer who wants a pilgrim
firing squad. We aren’t nearly ready for this.. And on top of that, I’ve
got an idiot for a boss. He doesn’t know the first thing about making
movies and he’s clueless when it comes to Thanksgiving!
(MaryClare listens with her hands on her hips,
shrugs and sits down in the choir. She picks up a cell phone and just
holds it to her ear and rolls her eyes more.)
C’mon, you have no idea what it’s like here, Tee. I mean, I know that the
pilgrims who came over were fighting amongst themselves and the Indians
had a few squabbles, but I thought Thanksgiving was basically about living
in harmony. These guys have been at each other’s throats since the very
beginning. How about a truce? Or a treaty or something. Maybe we can
call legal and get a restraining order.
You ordered WHAT? A table? A TABLE? For everyone to sit around and
eat?!? I don't think you understand the magnitude of the problem here.
These two guys are going nuclear the next time they get together. And the
writer is getting the Indians all fired up – which is making the pilgrims
I have no idea how we're going to be ready to broadcast this live on
How big of a table? (listens)
267 seats?!?! You’ve got to be kidding!?!?.
How are we going to…?!?! (listens)
Uh… right. I’ll check to see if we can get one of those nice decorative
gourds. (pause) Audrey Fontaine? Who’s
Audrey Fontaine. (pause) She makes gourds? Right. You bet. I’ll get right
(Dramatically rolls eyes and leaves)
WE GATHER TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY OF MEMORY AND
TO CELEBRATE LIFE AND ITS INFINITE POSSIBILITIES FOR LOVE.
WE LIGHT THIS CHALICE AS A SYMBOL OF THE LIGHT WITHIN
EVERY HUMAN HEART.
MAY OUR INDIVIDUAL SPARKS MEET AND MERGE, BRINGING BOTH LIGHT AND WARMTH
TO THE WORLD.
‘Where do we Come From?’ (2nd part twice – then 1st
SCENE 2 (Anthem introduces scene)
PRODUCER ( On phone again)
Okay… listen… The ship pulls into the dock. Yea… the dock. No
dock?!? Are you sure? Whatever… A hundred pilgrims in those hats with
the buckles on them – walking off the ship - carrying the Christian flag
and the American flag, singing ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ as they step off
a full sized replica of the Mayflower onto the shores of the New World.
Can you see it? (listens)
Realism! That’s what sells. Picture it: The ship… the
costumes… the eating together… a couple of gourds, a couple of turkeys,
bada bing, bada bang, bada boom, you got a hit!! Throw in a scene where
they plant corn and smile at each other and it’ll become clear why we’re
the greatest nation on earth, baby! Hard work, religious freedom, apple
pie… huh? Yea, pumpkin… whatever. This is going to be bigger than Star
Yea… maybe we CAN throw in a couple of love scenes… Now, you’re talking.
I’ll see what I can do… (Producer exits)
WRITER (On the phone):
You'll never guess what happened today. (pause) No, worse! I came
on the set to find this hokey ship - with ‘Mayflower,’ written in
decorator lighting on the front. Right… And all these… disco pilgrims…
or something… in sequined costumes – SEQUINS! Yea… Can you picture it -
they just crossed the entire ocean, half of them dying on the journey, and
the ones who get off the ship are dancing down the gangplank.
I tried to tell him that about half of the pilgrims were religious
purists…. Right… like fundamentalists today. And about a third were
indentured servants – many of them criminals who agreed to work exchange
for their ticket and food. But most of them skipped out on that bargain!
Yes, I know… I am trying to watch my blood pressure. It’s just so
unbelievable. This guy is ruining everything. Did you know he wanted to
take out the part where the pilgrims first landed 200 miles north of
Plymouth at a Nauset Indian burial site… and they tried to steal all the
food the Indians left on the graves for their ancestors. Yea… the Indians
chased them back to the ship where they had to sail 200 miles south before
it was safe to land? That’s how they found Plymouth!
And it’s bad enough that he refuses to tell the real story. But what
gives him the right to try and make it a musical?
We're gonna sit at the welcome table. We're gonna sit at the welcome table
one of... (Cut off by Assistant Director when
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (to the
CUT! CUT, CUT!!! I told you!! We’re not ready for that!!
(MaryClare rolls her eyes in the direction of
the congregation… Assistant Director continues to talk to choir, covering
the cell phone. MaryClare listens on her cell.)
In fact, this part may not actually even happen. We’re about
as far away from the welcome table as you can imagine. We’ve got the
producer and writer who’re at each other’s throats and a director who
nobody’s ever seen. Tee Smith! You know what the T stands for? T’aint
here!!! Maybe it’s better that way - all the ridiculous ideas I’ve
Yeah, Tee? I'm still here. That writer, the one you insisted we
hire, ordered the ACTORS who were playing the Indians to attack!!! So
they hid behind trees and shot arrows at the actors hired to play the
Pilgrims. And some of them are good shots. If I hadn’t ordered the rubber
tipped arrows, there’d be a lot of dead pilgrims around here.
Listen, I don’t understand how this is going to work. This is a disaster.
We’re never going to be ready to go live on Thanksgiving Day. (listen)
Yes, I got the 200 boxes of StoveTop you ordered. Do you really think they
used Stove Top at the first Thanksgiving? (listens)
And, by the way, the table arrived. It's way too big. (A.D.
GUEST AT YOUR TABLE
Greg: Most of us sit down at a table – most nights of the year –
that’s big enough to seat at least one more person. And most of us are
blessed to have enough food for at least one more person. And the world
has many people who can’t find a place at the world table. Or enough
We’ve found ways to help. How many have heard of “Guest at Your Table?”
This is where we place a box at our dinner table. And each time we sit
down, we remember to place enough money in the box to feed one more
person. We talk about the places in the world where people don’t have a
table, or enough to eat. What it would be like to have them join us. The
money is collected in our box and – at our Christmas Eve Services – the
boxes are collected and brought together.
The money raised is sent to our UU Service Committee which will help
purchase healthy regular meals, medicine and clean water for families.
JOYS AND CONCERNS
Kathleen: We are going to invite the children who would like a candle
lit for them to come forward and ask that they take and distribute some of
these boxes to families in the congregation. And while they are doing
that, if someone has a BRIEF joy or sorrow they wish to share, please
stand and speak loudly.
SINGING “Where Do We Come From” (3rd part twice – then
1st, 2nd and 3rd part)
SCENE 3 (anthem plays. Producer
returns to the Director's Chair and sits, talking on the phone)
I know, yes, ‘the budget is very important.’ I did promise you this
movie was going to MAKE money. But you’ve gotta understand how crazy it is
here. The director hired this writer who is simply impossible to work
Yesterday, he flew into a rage and started ripping all the sequins off the
pilgrim costumes. Then, he through them all in the mud! He said the
pilgrims were dirty people. But now none of the pilgrim descendents will
wear the outfits. When they began to protest, he started swinging a seven
pound turkey over his head calling them thieves and religious fanatics. I
thought someone was going to die by poultry.
And we still haven’t even seen the director yet, which is weird. But he
keeps ordering all this stuff – a gigantic table, 267 settings. I have no
idea what his plan is. The only person who can call him is the Assistant.
I’m hoping that today will go a little better. We’re supposed to rehearse
the scenes with Squanto. Yeah, he was the Native American who went into
the pilgrim village, learned English and taught them how to plant crops.
I figure since the writer is Native American he should at least be happy
with this part. (Producer exits still on the
phone. The Writer, on his phone, returns even angrier than before.)
(Anthem plays slowly)
You're going to love this…I set fire to all the teepees… Yeah… the
producer was using teepees. I told him that the Wampanoag didn’t live in
teepees. They actually lived in birch bark houses called ‘wetu.’ It was
the Plains Indians that lived in teepees. But what made it even worse is
he ordered the teepees from K-mart so they all had smiley faces on them.
No, I didn't burn down whole set. But it did put the kibosh on the whole
Squanto scene. (listen). Well, sure he helped the pilgrims. But the
part of the story that never gets told is how Squanto – whose real name
was Tisquantum, by the way – had been helping settlers for 40 years before
the pilgrims came. (listens)
No – the pilgrims were far from the first people to land there.
Squanto helped the earlier traders set up camps - plant and harvest food,
build warm homes, trade. In the process, he learned English.
Squanto even made a trip to England and returned – twice - before the
pilgrims came to America.
When he was in England, he was hired to be in a side show – no one in
England had ever seen an Indian before. But that made him feel degraded
and homesick. So, he worked his way back to America. But just as he
made it back, he was double crossed by one of the English sea captains.
He was kidnapped with 20 other Indians and taken to Spain and sold into
slavery. It took years for him to re-gain his freedom and return home,
desperate to find his family and tribe.
But when he finally got back, he learned his entire tribe had died of
disease brought over by the settlers.
That’s the real story we should be telling. And the producer just wanted
to gloss over it again. So I burned his teepees.
No, Honey! I will not apologize!…. I’m not the least BIT sorry.
(Writer goes off still talking on the phone.
Assistant Director comes in. Choir starts singing half-heartedly.)
half-hearted, keep looking at the Assistant Director waiting to be
We're gonna sit at the welcome table. We're gonna sit at the
welcome table one...
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (to the
CUT CUT, CUT!!! I thought I told you to get rid of this part?
(MaryClare stops, and looks a little
frustrated. AD continues to talk to congregation, covering the cell phone.
MaryClare listens on her cell.)
I'm back. No, really. Trust me. I've seen lots of these
on-location fights. THIS one is especially nasty. If we don’t get a
couple of straight jackets, these two mad-hatters are going to hurt each
other – and it’s becoming contagious with all the pilgrims and Indians
joining in. I really don't see what 267 chairs is going to do to help. (listens)
Thanksgiving night millions of Americans are going to sit down after
eating themselves silly, turn on their TVs and see two grown men wrestling
in the dirt on the shores of historic Plymouth. Maybe that’s a more
appropriate version considering these two. And the thanksgiving most of
us actually go to. (listens)
But Tee, I have to tell you that all the things you keep ordering make it
even harder. The fire trucks couldn't get through because the way was
blocked by the cases of canned cranberries and boxes of stuffing mix.
And what’s with the 200 live turkeys? Ten of ‘em got loose. The firemen
finally got both sides to help round ‘em up, but now we’re no closer to
rehearsing and we have one week to go.
OFFERTORY RESPONSE We Give Thanks
SINGING: “Where Do We Come From” (4th part twice – then 1st,
2nd, 3rd, and 4th part)
SCENE 4 (Producer returns, still on his
phone. Anthem plays)
I know, JT, we are way over budget. (listens)
Yes, I know I promised you a musical spectacular. But I gotta say,
yesterday - as I was chasing after turkeys with the Indians, some of what
we’ve been talking about has started to sink in. I found out that what
the writer is saying is accurate. (listens)
Yea.. I know. It just all seems different knowing that. I guess I
never really knew about Squanto being kidnapped before. Or the disease
that wiped out the tribes. Or pushing the Indians from their land. If
this is what happened, I guess it just doesn’t fit my idea of what America
is all about. It’s not the story I learned in the third grade, that’s for
Yeah, I know… it’s just the way of the world. Wars happen all over
the world and the people who win the wars keep the land and write the
history. I was just hoping we were better than that.
But what really got me was hearing the stories of the Indians who we hired
for the show – about how they lost not only their land, but their religion
and their entire culture. That’s not the America I thought I was proud
I still think the writer is a little over the top. But I wouldn’t mind
seeing a few of his ideas become known by more people.
No, I still haven’t met the director – this ‘T Smith.’ But
considering what a mess this is, I sure hope she has a miracle up her
Still angry? No… I mean, Yes… I mean… Honey, I don’t know what I mean
anymore. It’s not that the Producer and I are ever going on family
vacations together. But he’s not the doofus I was thinking either. Take
today, for instance.
I saw him talking to the Indians and I figured he was up to another one of
his crazy stunts, right? So I went out there. He was listening to the
Indians telling their real life stories of how their tribes lost their
land and their rights and their culture. And he just listened. You
should have seen the expression on his face. (listens)
I still don’t know how this movie’s going to turn out. But, even
though I never thought it was possible, maybe we can teach people without
hitting them over the head with poultry. But if that’s going to happen,
it’s gotta happen in a hurry. We shoot this thing in the morning.
CHOIR: (very halfheartedly…)
“We’re gonna sit… (Almost as soon as they
start, the The Assistant Director rushes in with his hands on his hips and
stops them with a look. Very short Assistant Director takes his hands
off his hips and talks into his cell phone)
Tee, I’m dying here. It’s twelve hours before we shoot and we’ve been
so busy stopping fights and putting out fires, we haven’t had any time to
rehearse at all. (listens)
I haven’t seen the writer and producer in the last couple days… but last
time I saw them they were standing toe to toe, pointing fingers and
Honestly, at this point, I don’t know how to pull this thing off. And
meanwhile, all your stuff keeps showing up. Tables, chairs, silverware,
food, centerpieces. I don’t get it!! WE'VE ONLY GOT A FEW HOURS LEFT!!
How is any of this going to work!?!
All I can say is you better have one heck of a plan for pulling this off
because I’m out of ideas. And if you can’t pull it off you better have
one heck of a lawyer. (A.D. exits)
SINGING: “Where do we Come From”
(Anthem plays in the background)
Late that night the Producer and Writer – and all 267 members of the cast
– got a phone call from the mysterious director. And to each of them, the
message was the same. Be at the studio at (9:30 or 11:00). And there –
there, they were promised to see what Thanksgiving was really all about.
When that time came, they all began to show up – still carrying the
struggle of the last few months of their lives. They all carried some
frustration. And some doubt. And some distrust. But as more people
gathered outside the studio they could hear music coming from inside and
some of their hesitation passed.
(Music begins to fade during this part…)
When the assistant director unlocked the doors, they stepped in
to the large room. And it was like they were seeing
(MUSIC STOPS) – for the first time - a
long banquet table set for 267 – decorated and waiting for them to sit
The music they could hear from outside had stopped. There was no one at
the piano next to the table, . But the melody was still in the air. And
there was a note on the keyboard. It read:
Dear People of Thanksgiving,
We are here to make a movie that tells the truth. And the truth is that
everyone wants to tell a story they can be proud of. The people who write
history – that is, those who ended up owning everything - always change
history to reflect what they are proud of – even if it didn’t happen
exactly that way.
The coming together of the Pilgrims and the Indians 400 years ago was no
easier than the two sides of your families coming together today. And no
easier than you coming together to make this movie. People from different
places, with different perspectives carrying different hurts and hopes
sitting down. When it works out well, we pull each other through. When
it doesn’t, we pull each other down.
I descended from people on both sides of the Thanksgiving story. My
mother was native American - from the lineage of Tisquantum. That is why
I’m called ‘T.’ My father was English - his ancestry goes back to John
Smith. I have had to work hard to reconcile these two parts of my past.
Just like you and your country have. What pulled me through were the
moments – however infrequent – when the two sides sat down together at
the same table and talked. It wasn’t a matter of what we wore, or what we
ate, or who sat where. It wasn’t about right and wrong, good and bad,
black and white. In the end, it was about listening and understanding.
Acceptance and forgiveness.
That is why I haven’t cared about your script. Or your costumes. Or your
tirades. I felt it was more important that you just sit down together.
The cameras will start shooting as soon as that happens here. Then, if
there is any truth to Thanksgiving, you will find it in what you share
with the people around you.
Real Thanksgiving isn’t about discovering who
was the oppressor and who was the oppressed. It’s about the humanness of
one side of the table discovering the humanness on the other side
Those two sides are more important than right and wrong, good and bad,
black and white. Those are two sides the world hasn't heard from nearly
The cameras are rolling. The world is watching. What side will you show
We directors always say the same thing: show them your best side.
Tisquantum (Tee) Smith
They sat there for a minute. Thinking. What do you think they did?
What would you do? What WILL you do? This table may not look that big,
but it is ready to seat 267 – if you open your mind – your heart – your
lives – to make room for Thanksgiving. Let’s make room for one another at
the welcome table.
SINGING – “We’re Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table”