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Research & Thoughts

Deadline: The Play


SETTING: The afterlife realm. A bare stage for
all scenes, with various props that
will be used throughout, and five desks with desk chairs.

Signs over two exits:

UR - exit into next life after deadline. DL - entrance into afterlife stage.

Looking into the audience is observing real-time events on earth.

AT RISE: Curtain is closed. Background
music is low, light and airy. JFK
wanders from DL in front of curtain, confused, unsure of how he got here or where he is.

So I'm dead?

(Peers into the audience, and is shocked. He rubs the back of his neck.)

Damnit. I'm dead.
(Frustrated, looks up into
lights, yelling at God.)
I've got things to do! I want to pass Civil Rights and make affirmative action a thing! I have a dinner date with Castro!
(suddenly sad)
Removing Diem was not my idea.

(Behind him the curtain opens.
The set is as described.

MAN 1 and WOMAN 1 are on stage and walk toward each other from opposite ends, stare at each other, and then walk off again, DR and UL.)

(JFK watches them, puts up a
finger to talk, stops.)

At least I'm not alone. Maybe I can still work on the world's problems here.

(He walks to a small gray bare

Starting from scratch, I guess. But heck, what else do I have to do? Where's the rocking chair?

(Feels his back, stretches)

Hey, the pain is gone.

(Looks out into audience)

Was I a threat? To who? Anyone know? Where is this? Why am I here?

(MAN 2 runs on stage from UL,
trying to hide his head from
being chopped by WOMAN 2 who
pursues him with a fake axe.)

Excuse me! Can you tell me where I am?

(MAN 2 turns to look at him,
while WOMAN 2 puts the ax
head down and leans on it,
waiting. She doesn't look at

MAN 2:
You're a victim. Of a society you tried to fix, or control.

Considering how I died, I guess that's true. But I didn't try to control, I don't think. I just wanted better things for all of us. Is that why I'm here? Why are you here?

MAN 2:
You have a different reason than me. I died normal. If you call having a piano fall on you normal. But someone found you a threat. That means you have to prepare. You get a desk. And a deadline. If you don't …
(he shrugs)


(MAN 2 covers his head again as WOMAN 2 screeches that word over and over. She chases him off stage DR.)

I have to prepare. Right. For what? Who's ever prepared for what happens to them? I'm no different. I just want … more. Different. Change.
(Stares at a desk)
I think this is the afterlife. Or heaven. But where are the trumpets? I thought I was supposed to be greeted by loved ones, not victims and … angry women.

(Looks at audience and
reacts as though slapped)

Whoa. Looks like I'll get to meet my murderer, too.

(Picks up a piece of paper
and reads aloud.)

"Human events as they are, it seems we must not only act, but listen. Not only do, but refuse to do. See things as they are, not as we want them to be. And know change can come within an eternity." A. Lincoln.
(Drops the paper)
Abraham Lincoln is here, too?

(MAN 4 as victim walks on
stage DL, pulling MAN 3,
priest, who looks frightened.)

Oh, thank God. Excuse me, Father, I need some advice. Can you tell me why I'm here? I think there's been a mistake.

MAN 3:

That man they shot. He didn't kill me, did he.

MAN 3:
You might not ever know. And you won't meet him here. Wrong level.

MAN 4:
You are in denial. It will pass. But don't worry, you'll learn.
(smiles evilly at Man 3)
We all learn here, no matter what level we're on.

(They walk to UL, after a
complete circular walk, Man 3 is shoved into exit. Man 4
keeps walking, then skips off
UR. He ignores JFK putting up
a hand for one last question.)

Be prepared to learn. Okay, I can do that. Wait, this isn't hell, is it? Purgatory maybe. I wasn't that bad. But do we ever really know? I tried … I tried to heal … all wounds. Didn't I?

(walks to another desk and
picks up a paper. Reads
quote slowly, nods until the
last line.)

The things which will destroy a nation...Politics without principle; Pleasure without conscience; Wealth without work; Knowledge without character; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Business without morality; beauty without intelligence. Oh, that's just ridiculous. You can be pretty without needing a degree. How does that destroy a nation?
(Looks at paper again)
Wow, Gandhi's here, too?

(MAN 3 as priest runs on stage DR, hands covering his collar, as MAN 5 chases him with a scissors. Props are big but fake. They run around once and then off again UL.

JFK watches them run, and
then, arms out, gets a
distressed look on his face.)

Wait! Help me! You're destroying my faith in my religion!

(His hands go up to his own
throat, in a sort of
imitation of when he was

I'm feeling … really … funny….

(His fists clench as he grows
angry. SCREAMING with rage,
he looks around, runs to a
chair, picks it up and
prepares to throw it.)



AT RISE: (GANDHI stands by his desk DL, making
final notes in a notebook. He reads
to himself, looks very satisfied. He
puts the notebook down and walks to
center stage, takes one last look
at the audience.)

(JFK enters UL with a golf
club, swinging it wildly. His
teeth are clenched.

He almost hits Gandhi, but
Gandhi shows no fear.)

Stay out of my way, Gandhi! You write that crap on that table?

(Points at the quote he read

(To Audience)
The end is always beginning.

Oh, you think you're so smart.

No one thinks they are. Just the opposite. But with a project to take to the next life, we have less to fear. I no longer know what landed me here. But that's as it should be. Was I too nice to people? Can death emerge from nicety? I don't know why, but that's my next life's goal.

(Starts to walk UR.)

Hey, where are you going? I'm not done with you yet.

(He pounds the golf club on the ground as though beating
someone up. This should be
plastic or rubber.)

(A large GONG sounds. Both look up.)

Deadline. I made it. I'm expected to save trees this time. People have no gratitude for nature or that without which they would die. Air. Water. Life. Human life wastes too much. While saving trees I … (his mouth moves but we no longer hear him.)

(GHANDI exits UR. Lights
flash and loud APPLAUSE is

(MAN 4 and WOMAN 2 enter DL in different costumes. She is holding a hanging rope over him. He is slinking along on his back using his knees. MAN 4 wears a Hitler mustache and gives the audience a horrified look as one arm shoots forward in a Nazi salute.)

(following them)
How long I gotta stay here? I got stuff to do. Castro was only going fishing! Hey, they look familiar.

(They ignore him and continue
out UL.

JFK drops the club and
sinks to his knees.)

Jackie lost the baby! Where is Patrick!? Is he here?

(WOMAN 3 comes out and stands
staring at him, arms crossed
against her chest. She walks
up to him as he gets on his
hands and knees.)

I had a cocker spaniel with better manners than you. VICTIM!

(She knees him in the ribs
and walks on. JFK falls

She looks over her shoulder
and runs off UL. JFK sits up
and looks at audience.)

More soldiers? You can't win that war! Pull out, pull out! Lyndon, did you have me killed? Did Castro? Did … dammit, I didn't deserve to die that way! Damn, Bobby was right about you, Lyndon. I never should have picked you. I didn't need Texas. I didn't need anyone!

(picks up golf club, takes a
golf stance, and starts
swinging violently again.)

If we hesitate, if we question, it will be too late. We must be prepared to back up the command even to the point of war. Oh, I wanted to see John John and Carolyn grow up.
(Yells at audience, shaking
his club at them.)
Go after them, Bobby, don't let them get away. Whoever them is.
Ignore the problem and it WILL go away! Damn that Jackie - why didn't she tell me she was so smart?

(MAN 5 comes out DR, eating a
bag of plain M&Ms.)

MAN 5:
There's nothing wrong with fat if it's managed well. We all gotta die sometime.

(WOMAN 5 runs on stage from DL with a rolling pin, ready to bash MAN 5 over the head. She chases him around the stage. She catches up, passes him, but keeps running as though she's still behind him.

In the meantime, 3 other PEOPLE (kids if possible, extras with no lines) walk on stage and around in a circle, in a daze, like zombies (but they can dress normal). Woman 5 and Man 5 run in and out and around them.)

(JFK whoops and hollers and chases after them, swinging the golf club. All mass chaos. Dialog below during above action.)


MAN 5:

One life to live!


MAN 5:
War monger!

Yellow Fever!

Civil Rights!

(JFK stops and glares at the
audience as everyone freezes.)

Write your congressman for more information.

(The 3 zombie people exit UL.
WOMAN 5 chases MAN 5 out UR.

JFK follows zombies but can't
Exit. He tries and WOMAN 4
who is larger than him comes
out pushing him backward. His
hands are in the air, as
though a gun is at his chest.)

I'm going to kill you.

Oh yeah?
(She slaps her hands together
sharply. JFK clutches his
neck and falls to his knees.
More sounds of GUNFIRE (OR A
SERIES OF SLAPS) offstage, as
if a battle is raging.

On the ending shot WOMAN 4 falls to the ground and lies motionless.)

(WOMAN 2 and MAN 2 dressed in white come out UL singing (HELP! or director's choice) and drag her off DR.

WOMAN 3 and MAN 3 come out DR as JFK stares off after the dead woman. JFK makes a choking motion as they start talking.)


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