A Miracle Play

Being the Life and Times of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra

by Craig Bertolet

This modern miracle play is a fresh retelling in a contemporary setting of two of St. Nicholas best-known legends. It uses the broad humor convention of traditional miracle plays.

Nicholas caricature in blue
Image: vintage Austrian postcard
St Nicholas Center Collection

Dramatis Personae

Nicholas, Bishop of Myra
Adam, his servant
Miss Rebecca, his niece
Ron, Don, & Geoffrey, undergraduates
Felix, an unfortunate investor
Randi, Sandy, & Mandy, his daughters
Oswald Puppy-Kicker, a broker
The Devil, a caterer

Enter NICHOLAS from the lower nave door in a tunic, loud shorts and appalling socks. He holds a tea cup.

NICK: Adam! Adam!! I expected you ten minutes ago with my pants! Where are you? Adam! [ADAM rushes in from the sacristy door, carrying a pair of pants] Oh, there you are, boy. What took you so long?

ADAM: Sorry, your grace. I had a pressing engagement.

NICK: I hope that pressing engagement was with my pants.

ADAM: Not entirely, Bishop Nicholas. Your niece, Miss Rebecca, asked me to get some baskets down from the attic. Then, she needed some help in the kitchen, and— [ADAM looks down in horror at NICK's socks as he hands him the pants.]

NICK: And what? What's the matter? [Looks about him.]

ADAM: Your grace, you aren't going to be wearing those socks, are you?

NICK: Of course, I am. What's wrong with them? [He puts on his pants.]

ADAM: Well, they're two different colors for a start.

NICK: Adam, if your feet are warm, you are halfway to happiness.

ADAM: I don't know about that, your grace. I do know if Miss Rebecca sees you in those socks, you be halfway to headbutt.

NICK: Right! She hates these socks! [Sounds of REBECCA coming from the lower door in the nave.] She's coming! I'll put on my chasuble! You find me my boots. [He runs out the sacristy door.]

REBECCA: [enters lower door carrying a covered basket with food and a pair of boots.] Adam, where is my uncle? I thought I heard him. He wanted me to put together a basket of food.

ADAM: Yes, Miss Rebecca, he was here. You just missed him.

REBECCA: Well, he can't go far. I have his boots.

ADAM: Ah. Miss Rebecca, if you give me the boots, I'll help him put them on.

REBECCA: No, Adam. That's fine. I'll give them to him. I want to see him off. He's going out to feed the hungry. [She faces congregation with ADAM standing behind her.] You know that my uncle has special regard for university students. They always seem to be hungry. I thought he'd like to distribute some food to them.

ADAM: That's a great idea. Do you have any cookies or pizza in there? I'd be happy to look after the basket while you look for the bishop. [NICK, now wearing a chasuble enters from the door of the sacristy. He stops when he sees REBECCA. He motions to ADAM to bring the boots. ADAM points to them in REBECCA's hands. REBECCA is oblivious to this scene.]

REBECCA: No, I've only put healthy stuff in here. [Digs through the basket] I have a jar of artichoke hearts, a can of tofu in the shape of characters from Homer's Odyssey, and some Spam.

ADAM: That's very nice, Miss Rebecca, but Spam isn't food.

REBECCA: You might be right. But how about these crackers? They have zero fat. Of course, they taste like air. At least, they'll be a light snack. Where is my uncle?

ADAM: If you'll give me those boots, I'll go find him.

REBECCA: No, I'll do it. Is he in the sacristy? [She turns to see NICK standing at the altar gesturing to ADAM. He sees her, looks shocked, smiles weakly, and waves to her.] Oh, hello, uncle, I've got your boots here. [She sees the socks.] Uncle Nick! Didn't I tell you, if I found those socks again, I would put them in the trash?

NICK: You did, my dear, but these are very comfortable. Besides, they'll be in my boots. No one will see them.

ADAM: And Miss Rebecca, when he wears them, his grace is halfway to happiness.

REBECCA: Adam, I've just thought of another place to put a sock! [ADAM clamps his hands over his mouth.] Help him on with his boots. [ADAM helps NICK get the boots on.] I just hope none of my friends find out that I sent my uncle the bishop out on an errand of charity wearing what looks like a vegetable salad on his feet.

NICK: [once his boots are on] Adam, fetch my crosier and miter. [Exit /ADAM]

REBECCA: Uncle, I packed a basket of healthy food for hungry college students. Look! Here's some jelly made from eggplants and some cabbage-flavored ice cream.

NICK: [looking into the basket, frowning] My dear, I don't know what to say—that's nice.

ADAM: [entering with crosier and miter] She also packed Spam.

NICK: Spam isn't food. Look, Rebecca, this is a bit of a bulky basket. I'll just bring some money along. Oh, but I'll have the bananas. [pulls out bananas] Now, I'll be back by dark [He takes the crosier as ADAM puts the miter on /NICK's head.]

REBECCA: Fine. But bundle up. It's cold out there.

NICK: Don't worry, my dear. I'm fortified with gospels and the power of tea. Still, leave the kettle on until I come home. [Exit]

REBECCA: [Waving] My uncle is really a kind fellow. But I don't see what power tea is going to have for him.

ADAM: Your uncle will know in about forty-five minutes. That's usually how long it takes for me.

REBECCA: [glaring] You're such a drip, Adam. Your mother didn't really have any children, did she? [Exeunt through lower nave door.]

[Enter RON, DON, & GEOFFREY from sacristy into the chancel. Enter NICK from lower nave door.]

RON: Wow! The temperature's so low I don't think it will ever cheer up.

DON: I'm so hungry I could eat a Volvo.

GEOFFREY: My sister has a Volvo. Would you eat that?

DON: I don't know. What color is it?

RON: Who cares? We don't need a Volvo. What we need is money.

DON: If we had your sister's Volvo, we could sell it.

GEOFFREY: I know who would buy it.

DON: Who?

GEOFFREY: My sister. She'll need a car.

RON: Listen! I don't care about your sister's Volvo.

GEOFFREY: Neither does she. She hasn't changed the oil in months.

DON: You really should change the oil every 3000 miles.

RON: I'd like to change the subject. Since we lost our jobs, we haven't gotten any money. We're about to graduate and our fiancées won't marry us if we have nothing.

DON: We would still have our jobs if Geoffrey hadn't lost them for us.

GEOFFREY: Don, I didn't lose them. They're still where we left them.

RON: Yes, but other people are in them now. Geoffrey, have you ever considered a night job in javelin catching?

GEOFFREY: Why do you say that?

RON: I don't know. It's just a wild stab in the dark.

NICK: [Coming forward] Sorry to bother you, boys. I was moved by your story. In fact, I moved right across the street. When was the last time you had any food?

RON: I think we had some Spam last Wednesday, right?

NICK: Spam isn't food. Here, have a banana.

BOYS: Food! [They grab at the bananas, messily devouring them.]

NICK: [hands coins] Here, boys, go have a nice dinner and then a fine cup of tea. Never underestimate the power of tea.

DON: Thanks, oddly dressed fellow.

NICK: I'm Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.

RON: Oh, tell Myra we said "Hello."

DON: What's a bishop?

GEOFFREY: Don't be a dope, Don. That means he can capture by sides.

NICK: You're thinking of chess not church. I'm the head of the church in Myra and I share the gospel with all people. You look like college students. Why aren't you in class?

GEOFFREY: We're about to graduate. But we lost our jobs.

NICK: Your jobs can't have gotten far. Here, I'll help you look for them.

DON: We got fired. We have no money. That means we can't marry our fiancées, Randi, Sandy, and Mandy.

RON: We also just heard that the bank is going to foreclose on her father's house.

DON: His investments in that company specializing in lime-flavored gum must have gone sour.

GEOFFREY: Yeah, I guess the bubble burst.

NICK: Boys, there's no time to lose with puns, no matter how clever they are. You get something to eat. I'll take care of your fiancées. I have a special affinity for young ladies.

RON: Great! Let's get Chinese.

DON: No, I want a pizza.

GEOFFREY: I'd rather have a burger.

[Exeunt through lower nave door; Enter FELIX, RANDI, SANDY, MANDY from sacristy to sit in the chancel]

FELIX: Now, girls, I wanted to have this little family meeting because there's something very important that you need to hear. Daytrading hasn't, as you know, been very successful recently with the recent economic downturn, the instability in the Middle East, and my inability to add. The truth is: we're completely wiped out. I've lost everything I own in unproductive investments. I have no money for your dowries, so you won't be able to marry. The bank is going to foreclose on us. In fact, my broker, Mr. Oswald Puppy-Kicker, will be here any moment. Try to be charming.

RANDI: I can't believe that a company that made paper skillets didn't pan out. We're all heart-broken that we can't marry our boyfriends: Ron, Don, and Geoffrey. But I don't understand why your broker wants to see us.

MANDY: I don't understand how you could have thought that a firm that builds adobe aircraft would ever take off.

SANDY: Dad, when you explained that you lost your money and couldn't repay him, what did he say?

FELIX: When I broke the news that I'm broke to the broker, he broke out in laughter.

SANDY: I think I'll break out in a rash if I see him.

FELIX: Well, you'd better put on some lotion because he'll be here shortly. [Knocking]

RANDI: Speak of the devil. [FELIX opens the door and OSWALD enters from sacristy.]

FELIX: Good evening, Mr. Puppy-kicker. Welcome to my poor home. Would you like something to drink? I'm just melting some snow.

OSWALD: No, thank you. I had some snow on the way. So, are these your beautiful daughters?

FELIX: Yes. This is Randi, Mandy, and Sandy.

OSWALD: [eyeing them hungrily; DAUGHTERS recoil] Handy! Congratulations, girls. I'm here to offer you a job in the exciting and rewarding career of prostitution.


OSWALD: Your father, through hilariously bad investing, has lost all his savings to me to the tune of three hundred drachmae; or, in current exchange, three bags of gold. He can't pay and you, it seems, were the collateral.


FELIX: Sorry, girls. How did I know that Consolidated Waistlines would go belly-up?

[Enter NICK at the chancel rail holding three bags of gold]

NICK: Hmmmm. I thought I saw nasty Oswald Puppy-Kicker go into this house. He's such a disagreeable chap; he'd curdle milk still inside a cow. He'll be up to no good, so I'll be up to this window.

OSWALD: Stop your complaining! There's nothing you can do about it. The likelihood that three bags of gold would just come out of the sky to save you is as small as pigs flying. [NICK throws in the first of the three bags in the window. Each lands at OSWALD's feet.] What's that? Is your roof leaking? [Second bag enters] Now, that's just silly. [Third bag enters] All right, knock it off already! [Each DAUGHTER picks up a bag and hands it to OSWALD.] Hey, who's out here throwing these sacks and ruining a perfectly evil plan?

RANDI: It's a miracle.

OSWALD: [looking out the window] Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! [NICK throws in a banana] Now, cut that out!

RANDI: Here, Mr. Puppy-kicker. Find yourself some other girls.

MANDY: Yeah, here is enough money to pay off our father's debts.

SANDY: Even though the firm that sold screen doors for aquariums tanked, we're no longer in debt to you!

OSWALD: You can't give me the sack. The debt is overdue. You're all coming with me!

NICK: [grabs OSWALD through the window] Listen, you tiresome stage-villain, Felix Culpa owed you three bags of gold, you've been paid three bags of gold, now get out of here and don't bother these people ever again.

FELIX: Wow! He really does capture by sides.

OSWALD: Bishop Nicholas! You and your clever banter and your inexhaustible supply of bananas! You're always defeating us evil types.

NICK: That's right. Now, get lost! And as for you Felix, pay more attention to your family and less to your need to get rich quick. You've saved your daughters. Do something more useful with your life. Come to church. Start a garden. Have a cup of tea.

FELIX: Yes, thank you, your grace. That's great advice.

NICK: I was just reading the bumper stickers on a car parked outside here. It looks like a Volvo. [Exit NICK. Oink heard off-stage]

SANDY: Hey, a pig just flew past the window.

FELIX: Girls, do you know what this means? My shares in Ham Propulsion will skyrocket! [Exeunt through nave door; Enter RON, DON, and GEOFFREY from lower nave door.]

RON: Okay, we've been around these blocks for an hour. Will you guys decide what we're going to eat?

DON: I said a pizza.

GEOFFREY: Well, I still want a burger.

RON: I want Chinese. There's just not going to be a single place with all of that.

DON: How about this place? "Ye Olde Eville Pizza Shoppe and Burger House. We do Chinese too."

GEOFFREY: Isn't there only one "L" in "evil"?

[They enter into the chancel and look around. Enter DEVIL from the sacristy.]

DEVIL: Howdy, boys. What can I do for you?

DON: Could we get a burger?

GEOFFREY: And a pizza?

DEVIL: Sure. We've got a meat lover's pizza. It's got eight kinds of meats on it. I think it weighs twenty pounds.

RON: What kinds of meat?

DEVIL: Ground beef, ham, sausage, pepperoni, bacon, chicken, veal, moose, and Spam.

RON: Spam isn't food. I want Chinese.

DEVIL: The pizza maker is from Shanghai.

GEOFFREY: Maybe we could have a beer?

DEVIL: You want beer? I've got something better. [Produces bottle and a couple mugs] This is Pardoner's Punch. You'll like it; it's one of the Canterbury ales. [He hands them each a mug.]

RON: Why does it smell like fish?

DON: Yeah, there is something fishy about this smell.

DEVIL: I'm sorry that's the glass. You might notice that it tastes like raspberries.

BOYS: [Drink] MMMMMMmmm!

DEVIL: And has a kick like an angry mule. [BOYS groan] How is it?

RON: Hey, this stuff is great. [hiccups]

DON: I'll take another. [hiccups]

GEOFFREY: Yeah, how about road more for the one!

[He pours them each another draft. They drink and sway drunkenly.]

DEVIL: Perhaps you boys would like to step into this Jacuzzi here and relax?

RON: Sounds great. Why is Jack oozy? [They climb into the pulpit.]

DEVIL: Let me just turn up the heat a bit.

DON: Hey, something smells like it's burning.

GEOFFREY: I think it's us. [BOYS shout and fall down, presumably dead.]

DEVIL: Right, now I've got nine meats to offer on that pizza.

NICK: [Enters from lower nave] Hello?

DEVIL: That will be dessert. Howdy! Oh, Bishop Nicholas. What brings you here?

NICK: My feet. Do you know you misspelled "evil" on your sign?

DEVIL: It's artistic license.

NICK: Well, I ought to revoke your license. Say, I'm looking for three fellows.

DEVIL: Isn't that a coincidence? I'm looking for a recipe for apple dumplings. Well, I'd like to stand here and talk but I've got cookies to catch and a plane in the oven. Good-bye!

NICK: Not so fast. I'd like a cup of tea, please. It's been a long day.

DEVIL: We don't serve tea here.

NICK: [Horrified] What?!

DEVIL: It's just wet leaves. I can't stand the stuff.

NICK: How can anyone hate tea? Wait a minute! What's that I smell?

DEVIL: Stew. [NICK pokes around and DEVIL hinders him.] So, you're name's Nick, is it? Is that a family name or a shaving accident?

NICK: What kind of stew this?

DEVIL: It's Russian. You've heard of the Russian city of Undergrad?


DEVIL: It's near Highschoolgrad and not as far as Postgrad. Anyway, this is Undergrad Stu-dent. [NICK peers into the pulpit.] Hey, get away from there! Listen, I've got a glass-eating, alcoholic goat in the back. Maybe you want to exorcise it or something?

NICK: A couple laps around the block is all the exercise I need. Hey! Just as I thought. You put those boys in there! Wait a minute! The faulty spelling, the rude behavior, the impolitely boiling of innocent people, and the unnatural antipathy toward tea: I know who you are! You're Satan! [Holds up his crosier]

DEVIL: Hey, don't point that thing at me! It might go off.

NICK: Oh, it won't go off, but you will, you nasty, infernal, bad-spelling butcher.

DEVIL: Okay, I am Satan. Put that thing away. It doesn't matter anyway. They're dead. You can't do anything about it. Besides, I'm catering a 500-seat banquet tomorrow, and I'm all out of Spam.

NICK: Spam isn't food.

DEVIL: Shut up. So, you meddling bishop, unless you can give me a good recipe for multiple helpings of bread filling, I'm afraid I'm going to have to tell you to scram.

NICK: These boys are not a serving suggestion, no matter what the box says! [NICK interposes himself between DEVIL and the pulpit.]

DEVIL: Hey, get away from there!

NICK: In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I say arise!

DEVIL: Hey, stop it! C'mon! [BOYS stand up.]

NICK: Boys, come out of there! [BOYS exit pulpit and stand beside NICK.]

DEVIL: Wow! How did you do that?

NICK: I didn't do anything; grace did.

DEVIL: Tell Grace, she's just amazing. Could she serve a sit-down meal for 40 vegetarians who are allergic to cheese?

NICK: No, you evil butcher. I'm closing your place down for good! I'd bring the board of health down on you if it hadn't fallen from the wall already.

DEVIL: You can't close me down! I've got a calendar booked until mid-January!

NICK: Back to Hell with you! [NICK kicks the DEVIL into the nave.]

DEVIL: Hey, you'll be hearing from my lawyer! He's down here somewhere.

NICK: Come on, boys. Let's go back to the church. I think my niece has the kettle on.

BOYS: Thanks, Bishop Nicholas! [Exeunt through sacristy; Enter RANDI, MANDI, SANDY, ADAM, and REBECCA through nave door. REBECCA is carrying a basket. ADAM is carrying a tea cup.]

REBECCA: Thanks for coming by. I know my uncle will appreciate you visiting.

RANDI: We just wanted to thank him for saving us from a terrible career.

SANDY: Now, we can marry our boyfriends.

MANDY: Our dad is also reformed. He's taken up garden. It's something about managing the funds for hedges, I think.

[Enter NICK, RON, DON, and GEOFFREY from the nave door.]



MANDY: Geoffrey!

RON: Randi! [Embraces RANDI]

DON: Sandy! [Embraces SANDY]

GEOFFREY: Mandy! [Embraces MANDY]

ADAM: [Looking in REBECCA's basket] Candy!

NICK: [Taking the tea cup from ADAM] Dandy!

REBECCA: It's good to be inside where it's warm and among friends!

NICK: Yes, it is nice and warm here.

ADAM: So, that means you're halfway to happiness?

NICK: Nope. [puts arms around REBECCA and ADAM] I'm all the way there! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

ALL: Thanks be to God!

>By Craig Bertolet, for St. Dunstan's, the Episcopal Church at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama. Used by permission.

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