This a 10-minute play written in 48 hours for Unknown Theater's "White Elephant" Christmas Show. (Well, okay, 12 hours. But there was a lot of shopping to do that weekend.)

A Yucatan Christmas

by Jeff Goode

copyright © 2005

(A humble VILLAGE WOMAN sits on a small stool, kneading a bowlful of meal into a paste.)

(An AMERICAN TOURIST enters. She takes out a camera and snaps the Villager’s picture.)

TOURIST. Hi! Do you mind if I take your picture?

(She takes another picture. Villager stares blankly at her while she does it. Finally, the Tourist introduces herself:)

TOURIST. Hi, I’m from America.

VILLAGER. You are from America? That’s where I am from, too!

TOURIST. No, I mean the United States of America.

VILLAGER. Oh. I am not from those. (She goes back to kneading her paste.)

(Tourist looks around.)

TOURIST. It’s so beautiful here. Unspoiled. It’s incredible.

VILLAGER. (shrugs) It’s like that every day.

TOURIST. Oh, but that’s the thing. You can’t let yourself become jaded. Everything is just so wonderful when you think about it.

(Villager kneads her dough again.)

TOURIST. Oh, look at you! That’s adorable. (She takes out her camera again.) I just love native crafts.

(She snaps a few more pictures.)

TOURIST. What’s that you’re making?


TOURIST. Oh. (Snaps another picture.) That’s interesting, too.

(She watches her knead.)

VILLAGER. Do you want some?

TOURIST. Oh, uh, I wasn’t–

VILLAGER. I will make some for you. It is no trouble.

TOURIST. Well, all right! (She sits down on another stool.)

VILLAGER. You don’t mind leftovers?

TOURIST. Oh, no, it’s all exotic to me. I love the way you knead it together. Fascinating.

VILLAGER. You are easily fascinated. After lunch, I will show you my hut. (storytelling:) It is a place where we live. Inside, you will find a bed made of palm fronds and banana leaves. Each night, when the moon crosses the sky we lie in it to sleep, and wake smelling of fruit and coconut.

TOURIST. That sounds incredible.

(Villager rolls her eyes.)

TOURIST. So what are you making?

VILLAGER. (shrugs) I don’t know. Something to eat.

TOURIST. Well, what’s in it?

VILLAGER. Mostly wood. And some spices.


VILLAGER. Bark from the butter pear tree. You will like it.

TOURIST. Sounds exotic.

VILLAGER. Not really. We have it everyday. (She scoops up some dirt and mixes it in with the rest.)

TOURIST. Did you just put dirt in there?!

VILLAGER. No. I spilled some grain here yesterday at dinner. (off her look:) I told you they were leftovers.

TOURIST. Yes, but–

VILLAGER. It’s all right, it is good clean earth here.

TOURIST. Oh, I know, everything is just gorgeous.

VILLAGER. I don’t know about that. I just know the dirt is clean. (Scoops some paste into another bowl, and hands it to her:) There you go. Good appetite!

TOURIST. (apprehensive:) Good appetite.

(Villager starts eating. Tourist just watches.)

TOURIST. Your English is very good.

VILLAGER. I was raised by missionaries. From Oklahoma.

TOURIST. Ah, I see.

VILLAGER. They taught me English, so that when I died and went to heaven, I would understand what Jesus was saying.


VILLAGER. They taught me sarcasm, too. Would you like to hear some?

TOURIST. Sarcasm?

VILLAGER. That dress makes you look fat!

(Silence. Tourist just stares at her.)

VILLAGER. (shrugs) It’s hard to learn sarcasm from missionaries.

TOURIST. I suppose it is.

(She eats a little.)

VILLAGER. So, what do you think?

TOURIST. Wow! This is amazing.

VILLAGER. (puzzled) Really?

TOURIST. It tastes just like chicken!

VILLAGER. Ah. Chickens probably got in it again.

(Tourist tastes something not-so-chickeny.)

TOURIST. Ew… There’s a bug in mine.

(Villager looks at the bug, furrows her brow, rummages around in her own bowl.)

TOURIST. Ohh, and there’s another one. There’s two.

VILLAGER. (disappointed) Aw. You got all the bug. That’s good luck.

TOURIST. You knew they were in there?

VILLAGER. For vitamins.

TOURIST. That’s disgusting.

VILLAGER. If you’re not going to eat it, do you mind?

TOURIST. Help yourself.

(Villager hungrily digs into the bowl of bug paste.)

TOURIST. I guess that’s one difference between your country and mine.

VILLAGER. What’s that?

TOURIST. We don’t eat things that shouldn’t be eaten.

VILLAGER. You must be very healthy.

(Silence. Villager finishes her meal.)

VILLAGER. You’ve come a long way to get here.

TOURIST. Yes, from America.

VILLAGER. I mean a long way from the village. My hut is very far off the main road.

TOURIST. Oh, that’s because I was looking for you.


TOURIST. You are the village doll maker?

VILLAGER. (apprehensive) …Yes.

TOURIST. Well, I’m here for the dolls.

VILLAGER. (panicking) You are from Mr. Tikal? He sent you??!


VILLAGER. I am sorry, forgive me. I will not be late again! I am almost finished! Do not beat me! It will not happen again!

TOURIST. Stop! Calm down! I don’t know what you’re talking about.

VILLAGER. Please–What? (stops panicking) You are not here to beat me?

TOURIST. No, I’m here about the dolls. I heard you make them by hand. And since I’m a fan of native crafts — and I won’t have time to do much Christmas shopping when I get home…

VILLAGER. You want a doll?

TOURIST. Yes, as a gift.

VILLAGER. You want me to give you a doll.

TOURIST. No, I’ll buy it, I’ll pay for it. I mean as a Christmas gift for someone else.

VILLAGER. Ah! For your grand children?

TOURIST. Oh no. Ha ha. Oh God no. Not for a long time.

VILLAGER. Oh, I’m sorry. Your womb is barren?

TOURIST. No, I’m not-- My womb is fine. I have a child. One child.

VILLAGER. Oh, well, do not lose hope. I have a friend who could not bear children for many years. Completely barren. And then when she turned 16 — POOM! — children, children, children. So there is always hope.

TOURIST. Yes, thanks for that.

VILLAGER. If you wish to have a doll, I will be happy to make you one tomorrow.

TOURIST. Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be around that long.

VILLAGER. You are dying? I will make it today, then.

TOURIST. No, I’m going back home soon.

VILLAGER. Then I’ll make it tomorrow.

TOURIST. But you just said you could do it today.

VILLAGER. That was when you were dying. My heart went out. But if you will live, then it is just work, and I must make it for you tomorrow. Because today I am working for Mr. Tikal.

TOURIST. The man who beats you?

VILLAGER. No, no, he does not beat me. I never said that. He treats me very well and pays me handsomely.

TOURIST. Wait a minute, are you talking about Tikal Industries? The big warehouse by the airport. I saw the billboard when we flew in.

VILLAGER. Yes, yes. You know it? He is an exporter. I make the toys for Christmas, and he sends them to foreign shopping carts. He is a very wealthy man.

TOURIST. And you make the dolls.

VILLAGER. Not just any dolls. I am a specialist.

TOURIST. Oh? What kind of dolls do you make?

VILLAGER. American Torture dolls.

TOURIST. (horrified:) Torture dolls? Oh my God!

VILLAGER. No, it is not what you think. They are for children.

TOURIST. (more horrified:) For children? Oh my GOD!

VILLAGER. I am not explaining it right. It is an old custom — a tradition. When a child cries at night and cannot sleep, we give them a torture doll to comfort them. The children may whisper to him all their troubles. And he takes their torments upon him. And they sleep peacefully again.

TOURIST. Oh, well that’s nice. I guess.

VILLAGER. Then when you squeeze him, he screams and screams in pain.

TOURIST. Waitaminute. He screams?

VILLAGER. Horrible screams. That’s how you know it’s working. Screams of starvation. Screams of poverty. Screams of Papa won’t buy me a pony. Whatever may trouble a child. But then you put him under a pillow, and you cannot hear the screams so much.

TOURIST. Wow. That’s… intense.

VILLAGER. No, it’s very soothing. It is an ancient tradition. Would you like to see one?

TOURIST. The torture dolls, sure. You have one here?

VILLAGER. Yes, I am almost finished with this one for today. Let me bring him.

(Villager goes into her hut and reverently returns with an ELMO DOLL. She lays it gently on the stool, like a sacrificial child on an altar.)

TOURIST. You’re kidding.

VILLAGER. No. I told you, I am not good with the sarcasm. And you are fat.

TOURIST. Do you know what this is?

VILLAGER. American Torture doll.

TOURIST. No, it’s Elmo.

VILLAGER. What? No. Ssh!

TOURIST. It’s Elmo from Sesame Street.

VILLAGER. Ssh! You must not say his name. Or where he lives.


VILLAGER. I don’t know. But Mr. Tikal swore he would beat me if I ever spoke the name of the Torture Doll in front of an American.

TOURIST. You didn’t say his name, I recognize him. I’ve seen the show. These are all over the place. Everybody knows what they are.

VILLAGER. Please, you must speak softer.

TOURIST. Jesus, is this one of those Walmart slave labor factories?

VILLAGER. (kneels before Elmo:) Oh, Mr. Torture doll, I am terribly afraid that Mr. Tikal will find out that the fat tourist has spoken your name, and believe it is my doing, and I will be fired from my job and I will not be able to feed my children. And they will starve. And some of them will die. And I will be alone and childless, except for the ones that survive, that I cannot feed. (She squeezes Elmo — he giggles loudly — she strokes his fur to sooth his pain.) I’m sorry. I know it hurts. I’m sorry. (Eventually Elmo stops giggling. She feels relieved.) Whew! You see? The Torture Doll takes my worries upon him, so I can forget the beatings and go back to work.



TOURIST. It just hit me how completely different our cultures are.

VILLAGER. Why? Don’t you have the Jesus whose Christmas is coming that you can pray to and he will take your troubles away?

TOURIST. That’s totally different.


TOURIST. He doesn’t scream when he’s doing it.

VILLAGER. Not even when you put the nails through his hands?

TOURIST. Okay, that doesn’t count.


(Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream offstage: Aaigh!!)

TOURIST. Jesus shit! What the hell was that?!

VILLAGER. Oh, look! You are in for a lucky treat!

TOURIST. What is it?

VILLAGER. It is the wandering dancer. He must have heard you were here. He travels from village to village dancing the ancient native dances and singing the songs of our culture. He is very popular with the tourists.

(Enter the TRADITONAL NATIVE DANCER. He performs a Traditional Native Dance with chanting and drumming.)

(At first he chants Mayan lyrics — a hymn to the Sun Gods, "Ahau-Kin / Ah Kinchil" Eventually we hear phrases of English creeping in, "You deserve a break today", etc.)

DANCER. Ahau-Kin — biki lech?
Toh enwoul — biki lech?
Ha ha-ass ganeah zui
Top ke aha nal
Ban ti ux — tojo kre
Bar xi ka kwe

Chac ah-hoya ahau chaak
Toh enwoul — biki lech?
Top than aha ti hatz ka
Top kas abeje — men ta iuk

You deserve a break today. Break today. Break today.
So get up and get away. Break today. Break today.

Mc-Nug-gets!! Mc-Nug-gets!!
Golden brown! Food of gods!
Choose your favorite dipping sauce!
O'hen quan - Bel en ka… (etc.)

(He does a "big finish". Jazz hands.)

HA-CHA! You like a Coke with that?

TOURIST. Oh…my…God.

(He takes that as a "yes", launches into another dance:)

DANCER. I like to buy the world a Coke–

TOURIST. No, stop it! Stop! What are you doing?

VILLAGER. What’s wrong?

DANCER. (angrily) Min ka ti! Bix a k’aaba?!

VILLAGER. He says: You don’t like the dance? He dance very hard for you.

TOURIST. This is insane! This is a travesty!

DANCER. Ki’ool ti orah hill ubel abus semal?

(Villager tries to calm him down.)

VILLAGER. She doesn’t mean it. She is American.

DANCER. Ah! Oh! American! Hi! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

TOURIST. Yes, Merry Christmas.

DANCER. Merry Christmas, I have good English for you. Um… (He has to think about it for a moment. Then, in perfect "radio voice":) Proceeds benefit the Ronald McDonald House. HA-CHA!

(He holds out his hands for a donation, again.)

TOURIST. Get out of here!

(She chases the Native Dancer away.)

VILLAGER. Why are you so angry?

TOURIST. Because I came here to this idyllic paradise to relax and get away from all the relentless commercial bullshit that infests everything in our society - and now it’s spread all the way up here to this remote mountain village.

VILLAGER. And that’s good?

TOURIST. No, it’s bad! Don’t you see that that’s wrong? What they’ve done to the world. What they’ve done to Christmas. And now they’re doing it to you. A way of life, and a culture that’s survived for thousands of years is being inundated and destroyed by junk food and commercials, and you’re being turned into corporate slave labor, while your boss is getting rich and you don’t make a dime off the junk toys you build.

VILLAGER. I am not a slave. I told you, I am rewarded handsomely for my work. Look at this:

(She digs in her pockets and pulls out a handful of beads and trinkets, then digs through them, until she finally finds what she’s looking for: She holds it up — a shiny new dime!)

TOURIST. That’s a dime.

VILLAGER. He gives me one of these for every doll I make.

TOURIST. That’s nothing!

VILLAGER. It is enough to feed my family for a day.

TOURIST. One day! Oh my God. And then what?

VILLAGER. (shrugs) Then the next day, I make another one.

TOURIST. Do you know how much these things go for in the states?

VILLAGER. Is it enough to feed a family for a day?


TOURIST. That’s beside the point!

VILLAGER. Then I don’t understand.

TOURIST. You must know you’re being ripping off. Don’t you see that? Why do you let them do it?

VILLAGER. I know that making a doll for 10 cents seems like not much to you. But do you know what making this doll is to me?

(Tourist shakes her head.)

VILLAGER. I make something with my own hand. I make it well. And for a silver dime, I give it to Mr. Tikal. And he packs it on a ship that travels across a sea to a land that I will never see. And my doll is placed in a shop window where many people will see it. And perhaps a lowly worker will buy it. Perhaps, a woman like me, who works hard scrubbing the floors of a great palace. And she will wrap it up lovingly in blue and silver papers and bring it as a Christmas gift to the young prince who’s palace she cleans. And he will open his gift and see my beautiful doll, with its friendly eyes. And hold it in his arms. And for one moment, that great prince will think of me. …And the prince will smile. And his smile will be like Christmas. And all through the castle and all through the land, there will be laughter and joy in the kingdom. Because of what I have made with my poor hands so far away. And dreaming of that Prince’s smile is worth more than gold to me.

TOURIST. (nods) …But it’s not going to a prince. It’s going to some ordinary kid who whined and cried and begged his parents for 4 weeks until they finally broke down and went to the mall and got him one. And when he finally stops sniveling and opens his presents on Christmas Day, he’s not going to think about you at all. He’s going to think about some stupid television show that has nothing to do with you, or this place, or your hands.

VILLAGER. (shattered) No… It can’t be true… The television show… It’s stupid?

TOURIST. Well, no, actually, it’s a very good show. But that’s not the point.

VILLAGER. I am so relieved!

TOURIST. The point is, it’s not going to a Prince in a palace. And you’re going to spend all day making it, and all you’ll have to show for it is one thin dime.

VILLAGER. And then the day after tomorrow, I will make another doll. And maybe that one will cause a prince smile. Or the day after that. Or the day after that. …But not tomorrow! Because tomorrow, I make one for you. …And this one, will be the best doll I have ever made. He will be exactly perfect.

TOURIST. So he’ll be just like all the other Elmo dolls in the world.

VILLAGER. (very proud) It will be impossible to tell him apart.

TOURIST. Well, I appreciate the offer, but I don’t need it.

VILLAGER. But you came all this way for a doll.

TOURIST. Yeah, but I’ve got one. I bought it for my daughter last Christmas.

VILLAGER. She already has one? One of my dolls?

TOURIST. Well, one of somebody’s dolls.

VILLAGER. You did not tell me your children were princes?

TOURIST. They’re not. There’s just one. My daughter. And she’s not a princess, she’s just an ordinary girl like any other.

VILLAGER. Oh, she sounds beautiful. Is she beautiful?

TOURIST. Well, yes, she’s– She’s very beautiful.

VILLAGER. I knew it!

TOURIST. But she’s not a princess.

VILLAGER. Don’t worry about that, she is a beautiful little girl. Someday a prince will find her and then she will be a princess. There is hope for everything.

TOURIST. Yeah. I can dream.

VILLAGER. Do it! Dream. And in the meantime, tell me about this castle, where she lives.

TOURIST. We don’t live in a castle. It’s a house. A split level ranch.

VILLAGER. A...ranch! Oh! It sounds magnificent. And how is it split?

TOURIST. (Finally catching on, storytelling:) Well, when you come in the front door, there’s one set of stairs that goes up and another one that goes down.

VILLAGER. To the dungeon! Ohhhh…

TOURIST. And there’s a garage attached where we park our cars.

VILLAGER. Oh! More than one car!

TOURIST. And it has a door that automatically opens at the touch of a button. Like magic!

VILLAGER. And this is the place where your young princess lives who has one of my dolls?

TOURIST. (smiles) Yeah. It’s a nice place. You’d like it.

VILLAGER. And tell me this, when you gave the doll to your daughter…and she held it in her arms…


VILLAGER. Did she smile?

TOURIST. She smiled.

VILLAGER. She smiled!

TOURIST. She smiled like Christmas.

(Moment. Tourist gets up to leave.)

VILLAGER. Tourist, wait, before you go, one other thing.


(As they walk out together, and the lights slowly fade:)

VILLAGER. These McNuggets. They are golden brown?

TOURIST. Like chunks of sunlight.

VILLAGER. Oh, wonderful. And the taste?

TOURIST. Just like chicken.