Tres Filiae (“Three Daughters”)
A Miracle Play of St. Nicholas
by Kathryn Mitchell Lucchese
Works well performed at parties or in chapel, by students alone, students and teachers, or (for a special treat) by teachers alone.
Narrator (and Rooster)
Nobilis Pauper, a formerly wealthy nobleman
Prima, filia pauperi (“daughter of the Pauper”)
Secunda, filia pauperi (yup, the second daughter …)
Tertullia, filia pauperi (you got it: the third)
Sanctus Nicholas, episcopus Myrae (“bishop of Myra”)
Venalicia Foeda (“Horrible Female Slave dealer” change to Venalicius Foedus for a male)
* Ianua, the door
* Fenestra, the window
* Primus Saccus Aurei (“First Sack of Gold”)
* Secundus Saccus Aurei (“Second Sack of Gold”)
* Tertius Saccus Aurei (“Third Sack of Gold”)
(* added in 2007 to make enough roles for twelve students; may be removed as desired.)
[There is a simple stage-set: upstage, a human window frame, a human door, and downstage a kneeling rail or row of chairs, representing a fireplace, plus a wide pallet with an old quilt mid-stage, a chair near the window, to the left and upstage of the fire, and a bench directly to the right of the fire.
[For costuming, simply put over regular clothes: a dressing gown, nightcap and slippers for N.P., flannel nighties for the Filiae, a bishop’s mitre for S.N., a flashy cape for V.F., a cardboard window frame for Fenestra, a cardboard door for Ianua, and a broad gold ribbon for the neck of each Saccus (or a simple label: “Sack of Gold #1” etc). Each daughter needs a large knit stocking (or a pair) to hang on the “fireplace.” If you don’t use human sacks, three foil balls of pennies, sprayed gold, should be easy to slip into and out of the stockings.
[NOBILIS PAUPER sits a little apart on the chair by the window, smoking a long pipe or stroking his sneaky old chin. The FILIAE sit on the bench to the other side of the FIREPLACE and pretend to be darning their stockings with imaginary needle-and-thread.]
This is a story of Nicholas the great
who raised three girls out of their lowly state
and saved them from a life of shame
and brought upon himself undying fame.
We open in a wretched hovel, chill and bare,
on a narrow street in Myra Town the Fair.
Here is a door has seen good fortune come and go,
and window shutterless and open to the snow,
And fire itself so starved of food for heat
it scarcely keeps the chilblains off their feet.
NOBILIS PAUPER: [to the audience]
Pity me, Nobilis Pauper, once a man of means,
Now fallen on hard times, and hatching endless schemes
To keep myself well fed, and my daughters shod,
And them demanding dowries, for the love of God!
PRIMA: [a little haughty]
I, Prima, the eldest, wedded first should be,
But linger on in spinster poverty!
SECUNDA: [a little whiney]
And I, though Secunda, still deserve some hope,
But what is there to do but sit, and mend, and mope?
And I, Tertullia, though fairest, am abandoned, too.
I ask you, Sisters: what are we to do?
In Myra, it is not allowed
to marry maidens unendowed!
Bishop Nicholas has said that, if we pray,
Then better luck will surely come our way.
Good Bishop Nicholas has served the church since he was eight!
What in the world would he know of our state?
Nicholas is a kind and sensible man
Who will help us, I know, if anyone can!
*FENESTRA: [to the audience]
And here is Bishop Nicholas, in his silks and furs!
Will he mark the plight of his parishioners?
SAINT NICHOLAS [Looking in at the FENESTRA, speaks to himself]
I think I heard my name, spoke out quite clear!
I fancy I should stop awhile to hear:
If it be slander, then it were well to know,
But if be praise, then quickly will I go.
Daughters, up now, off you go to bed!
Your father must think up some way to earn our bread.
We will, as soon as evening prayers are said,
Hang up our stockings here to dry, and then lay down each weary head.
DAUGHTERS: [Together, kneeling]
Dear Lord, please bless the poor, for so are we,
And send us husbands wealthy as can be,
For Father will not work a single stitch,
And acts for all the world as if he still were rich.
Please send us dowries so that we may leave this place!
[Crossing themselves fervently]
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of Grace.
[They go to sleep on the pallet, close together]
SAINT NICHOLAS: [To FENESTRAI]
What I have heard has given pause to think;
‘Til I learn more, I shall not sleep a wink!
[FENESTRA nods wisely. S. N. peeks in]
NOBILIS PAUPER: [Toward his sleeping daughters]
If you would leave this place, indeed you will,
But sold as slaves, my pockets for to fill!
And here is my partner, Foeda Venalicia,
for buying slaves, there’s no-one sneakier!
VENALICIA FOEDA: [Pops in at the door, gloating]
We have a plan, as neat as it can be:
He’ll tell them they are to travel on the sea,
But really, I shall take them to a house of shame!
They shouldn’t have been born girls!
I am not to blame!
[The slave dealer rubs her hands in glee, and leaves]
What evil have I let in? Oh, keep her out!
I wish my panels once again were stout
And iron-bound, as once they were, I think,
Until this miser had the metal sold for drink!
SAINT NICHOLAS: [To the audience, through the window]
So that is the old sinner’s plan?
Hunger has made him a desperate man!
I will see what my family fortune can do
To make these maidens’ dreams come true.
[Leaves. NOBILIS falls asleep. SAINT NICHOLAS returns, and the IANUA silently lets him into the house with three BAGS OF GOLD, which he slips next to the (imaginary) stockings or (if small enough), into them.]
* Primus Saccus Aurei:
Clang, clink! I’ll bring happiness, I think!
* Secundus Saccus Aurei:
Pling, plong! Food, good fires and song!
* Tertius Saccus Aurei:
Ting, ding! Wealth is a comfortable thing!
Thus will the girls their true lovers wed!
(Now I am off to home and into bed!)
[A ROOSTER crows. The DAUGHTERS wake and go to the fireplace.
But as they take down their stockings … surprise!]
Why, what is it that fills my stocking so?
They were empty when we to bed did go!
TERTULLIA: [Emptying out gold.]
Praise Heaven, Sisters, let us call our sweethearts here!
With all this gold we will be merry many a year!
DAUGHTERS: [Shaking their father awake.]
Father, Look! We can all marry and be gone!
You’ll have to feed three fewer from now on!
A miracle! We’re saved! My work is done!
I’ll visit at your houses one by one:
Your husbands will take care of me, I know …
[Looking around, and at the gold.]
But who has done this deed? Where did he go?
[They all look around, then ‘freeze,” theatrically speaking]
SAINT NICHOLAS: [Peeking through the window, to the audience]
It is a joy of mine my people to deliver;
My motto is: “God loves a secret giver.”
So do not ever think that I’ll be found
When Christmas morning present time comes ‘round,
Or any other time my work is done … .
Our play is finished. Thank you, everyone!
[All rise and take a bow!]
(* indicates optional parts)
From Folk Like Me: The Read-Aloud Book of Saints, by K. M. Lucchese, copyright © 2008 by Kathryn M. Lucchese. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing an imprint of Church Publishing Inc.
A collection of short saint stories told with humor and frankness—yet not frightening—to be read aloud in classrooms, chapel services, or homes. Weekly stories provided for two school years, along with maps and some other supplemental material. All ages.
Illustrations from St. Nicholas Center.