In August, the theater my daughter is in made the tough decision to go fully virtual for the rest of the year. While we understood, we were hugely bummed. She’s been in their holiday show the past two years, and it has become a part of our lives already. We knew a virtual show was possible—Vivvi participated in one over the summer where she got a monologue about a girl in quarantine who decides enough is enough and it’s time to cut her hair. In fact, she was so convincing at it that the whole thing shut down in the middle of her performance. Her character said things like, “I’m going to cut my hair,” and “Don’t try to stop me!” And “I’m going to do it!” Youtube’s algorithms triggered for self-harm and the whole thing came down. We like to say she broke the Internet.

Facing the idea of another Zoom play, I thought of the limitations of characters in boxes. No set construction! No full costumes! No staging! All of the things that help a play move forward and build drama are unavailable to the actors. But I also thought of what a Zoom call does look like. Every time I’m on a Zoom call, I feel like we are all getting ready to launch a rocket. And what launches around the holidays? T-minus 7 days to my play being written about elves in a control room, preparing for Santa’s launch.

I started writing it for fun. Aside from writing 8 bazillion skits with my sister and friends throughout childhood, I’d never put a play together before. But I love everything Christmas, and Santa (picture me Elf-style, yelling, “SANTA, I KNOW HIM!”). I wondered if I could put a story together with some really character-y elves that would be a fun show for Vivvi’s theater. I wondered if I could make something worth showing anyone. And I wondered if her theater would want to attempt to put on what I wrote. I wrote elf names and descriptions. Then I imagined them doing what they might do in there on the biggest and most important night of the year.


I wrote the first scene, and as a test, read it with my daughter. In it, Spark, an elf who has the chance to become Chief elf next year, talks to Papa Elf, who has been the Chief for the past 108 years. We learn what’s at stake. We learn about an ominous red button that could cancel Christmas. I make some poop jokes. My daughter read it with me and loved it. “What happens next?” She asked. I looked at her and said, “I don’t know!”

The next day I got to work on scene 2. I knew the audience would need some entry into how things usually go for launch. So what better characters to write in than 3 new trainees, Winky, Blinky, and Bob. (My kids find the name “Bob” to be so so funny. And when all the other elves have super elf-y names like Handy, Apple, and Itsy, Bob becomes an extra funny addition.) In the play, Spark could explain the typical launch day and what was supposed to happen. Winky, Blinky, and Bob could respond in Winky, Blinky, and Bob-ish ways. I read that scene with my son and daughter, and when they started quoting the characters the next day, my writer dreams came true.

I kept at it, writing a scene a day and reading it with my kids after. I tried distributing parts and lines equally so any kid who got any part could feel they were significant. I added Christmas spirit—figgy pudding, songs, cookies, cocoa, and Santa. I added action in the form of a sabotage. I added lessons on kindness and teamwork. I added more poop jokes.

Then I was done. My family and some family friends did an official read through, so I could be sure it worked. A family friend who is in 7th grade played the main character, Spark, and she created a complete set in front of her computer, a phenomenal costume, and all the energy a person could pour into a role. She took it very seriously. She cared. She was amazing. She and all of my family gave me the other-worldly experience of having characters I created pop out of my brain and into the world in a more real form than I ever intended. (I will forever, from now on, call one of my friends Papa.) We read through in 30-40 minutes, and it was a true highlight of my writing career. And reading it was fun! For all of us! Even my brother-in-law, a corporate executive, who found out that morning he’d be playing a part and was like, “Wait, what are we doing again?”—even he, afterward, requested I write another so we could do it again.

That would have been enough for me, but then my daughter’s theater committed to doing the show. And then, the main and crazy event—a publisher I had sent the play to said they would publish it! It’s now live, available to download and perform. 

I’m excited for the idea of other theaters putting on my virtual holiday play, but I also think there could be something here for families or teachers. Let’s face it—Zoom gatherings are awkward unless you’ve got a plan. If you are forced to go remote for your holiday party, why not do a Zoom play reading? I suggest this because we had super fun doing our read-through, and we were ages 4 and up. I could see groups of grandkids reading and recording for grandparents or great grandparents who can’t be together in person. Or I could see it being a fun alternative school holiday party or activity for teachers who are remote to do with their classes—keep it simple and just do a read through for fun in class, or go all out and cast the play (or split and double cast parts), offer crew activities (like art to show to announce scenes, directing and assistant directing, costume and set planning), and put on a show for parents.

If you want, send the link out to your teacher friends or families who might want to do something different to celebrate this holiday on Zoom.

So I guess I am now a playwright. Who knew?

My eyes teared up a little when I got to write a dedication. I wrote, “To Vivvi, my Spark, and WallyBen, my Bob. And to Santa, for all the joy and magic.” Because it really was for them, and heavily inspired by their sense of humor. And I really do love Santa and all the joy that he provides every year. I thought of adding Husband Wally in, but there was no graceful way to do it. He played the elf Hugo when we did the read through, and to be honest, Hugo is a tough guy and kind of sucks. (He played it so gloriously.) And if I said, “And to husband Wally, my Santa”… honestly, why does that get weird? So he knows in his heart it is also for him. (He made the cute-y cute-y show graphics for me also, PS.)

When I showed WallyBen the dedication, his jaw dropped. When I showed Vivvi, she said, “I’ve always wanted something to be dedicated to me!” When I told my extended family, they were thrilled. Their comments had me blushing, and I said, “You’d think I was on the level of the bard, and not throwing out poop jokes left and right.” (Then my cousin pointed out that Shakespeare, in fact, also loved a good “breaking wind” joke.)

Gah! You guys! If you need me, I’ll be sitting over here, still in disbelief that I’ve published a play.

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