Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula

November 18th, 2007

Rev. Greg Ward and Jolinda Stephens

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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

:  (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.    ( listen)
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.  (listen)
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 arrives)
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.  (listens)
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 nervous. 
I have no idea how we're going to be ready to broadcast this live on Thanksgiving.    (listens)
How big of a table?      (listens)
267 seats?!?! You’ve got to be kidding!?!?.   (listens)
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 on that.
(Dramatically rolls eyes and leaves)
‘Where do we Come From?’ (2nd part twice – then 1st and 2nd)

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 Wars. 
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!    (listens)
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?   (Writer exits)
We're gonna sit at the welcome table. We're gonna sit at the welcome table one of...  (Cut off by Assistant Director when he enters)
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR  (to the choir):
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 heard...     (listens)
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. exits)
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 food. 
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.
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 with.
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.   (listen)
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.  (listens)
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.)
CHOIR   (rather half-hearted, keep looking at the Assistant Director waiting to be interrupted.)   
We're gonna sit at the welcome table. We're gonna sit at the welcome table one...
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR   (to the choir):
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.  (Exits)
We Give Thanks
  “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 sure.    (listens)
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 of. 
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. (listens)   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 sleeve.  (Exits)
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.
(Writer exits)
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 swinging poultry. 
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 down. 
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 enough. 
The cameras are rolling.  The world is watching.  What side will you show them?  
We directors always say the same thing: show them your best side.
Tisquantum (Tee) Smith
Your director
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”