'The Kettle': A Holiday Radio Play

News & Notes offers a special holiday play that looks inside a corporate office, where competition threatens to undermine the spirit of giving.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

TONY COX, host:

I'm Tony Cox and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Charity may well be the buzzword for 2005. People gave in droves to tsunami and Katrina victims. As this holiday season comes to a close, we wanted to salute those who gave so generously this year. We decided to do it with a bit of audio animation, our very own short radio play. We call it "The Kettle."

(Soundbite of "The Kettle")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOSEPH C. PHILLIPS (Actor): (As Jay Finch[ph]) Good morning, Rosemary. Hello, Bud.

Ms. REN WOODS (Actress): (As Rosemary) Good morning, Jay.

Mr. MESHACH TAYLOR (Actor): (As Bud) You're four minutes late, Finch.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Hey, what's going on?

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Mr. Bigley(ph) called an impromptu meeting for a very important announcement.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) About what?

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Shh, shh, there he is now. Yea, Mr. Bigley! Whoo-hoo!

Mr. CHARLES ALLEN (Actor): (As Mr. Bigley) Thank you, Bud.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Let's give it up for Mr. Bigley!

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) OK, Bud.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Mr. Big!

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Bud!

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Sorry, sir.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) In my position as the eastern division executive vice president, it's customary this time of year at the W.W. Wicket Company that I announce the kickoff of our annual company-wide seasonal charity bell-ringing drive. Of course, every year, despite our best efforts, we in the eastern division finish well behind efforts of the western division.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Except me, Mr. Bigley.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Except Bud, who has managed to raise the most money during his turn at the kettle than anyone in the company. We need more people in this division like Bud.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) I wholeheartedly agree, J.B.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) In fact, I think everyone here could benefit from being more like Bud.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Don't think we have enough rear ends to go around.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) What's that, Finch?

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) I said, `I don't think we have enough dear friends like Bud.'

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Yes, indeed. As an incentive for this year's drive, I'll give serious consideration for the promotion to the vacant district office manager position to the most charitable participant.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Ooh, well, wow.

(Soundbite of assenting voices)

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Yes, Bud?

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Would gold-leaf lettering on my new office door be too gaudy? Just kidding, J.B.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) See my secretary, Rosemary, to sign up for your time slot at the kettle, and remember why we're doing this charity drive, everyone.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) To help those less fortunate.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) No! To kick the western division in the seat of their britches!

(Soundbite of closing door)

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Well, no need to sign anyone up, Rosemary. I've raised the most money during this seasonal drive seven years running. That promotion is as good as mine.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Don't be too sure.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Oh, really? Who could possibly compete with me?

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Jay could.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Me?

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Him? He's never even cracked the top 10. Oh, OK. OK, fine. Let's make it interesting. Whoever doesn't become office manager has to wear one of your dresses for a day.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) I don't think...

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Make it a week.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) But I...

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Done! I hope you have accessories to go with that dress you'll be wearing, Finch.

(Soundbite of closing door)

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Don't worry, Jay. I know you'll win. What are you thinking about?

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Do you have a pair of earrings that I can borrow to match the dress?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Please give to the Wicket charity drive.

(Soundbite of coins dropping into kettle)

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Thank you, sir. Your donation can make a difference.

(Soundbite of coins dropping into kettle)

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Thank you. Please give...

(Soundbite of coins dropping into kettle)

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Rosemary?

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Hey, Jay, how ya making out?

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Oh, well you don't have to worry about me squeezing into your little black dress. Look in the kettle.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) (Gasps in amazement) How did you collect that much?

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Elementary, my dear Rosemary. I signed up for kettle duty right after lunch because people are usually full, happy and have change left over from their lunch purchase. I'm already shattering Bud's all-time charity drive mark.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) I can't wait to get back to the office and rub Bud's nose in it! I'll see you later.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) OK, bye.

Please give to the Wicket...

Ms. WOODS: (As Kim) Here you go, mister.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Oh, thank you, little girl. Where's your coat, honey? It's freezing out here?

Ms. WOODS: (As Linda) Kim! What did you just do? I told you to hold onto that money.

(As Kim) I gave it to the man.

(As Linda) I had just had enough money for us to have a meal and you gave it away? I had to beg to get that little we had!

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) It's for charity, ma'am.

Ms. WOODS: (As Linda) Charity, mister? Does it look like we can afford to give money away? Do you think we'd be panhandling for a meal or staying at a shelter or she'd be without a coat at this time of year? I never seen any of that money y'all collect, anyway. Nobody cares about us. We got to take care of ourselves!

(As Kim) I was only trying to help the needy. Did I do wrong, Mommy?

(As Linda) No, baby. It's all right.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) I'm sorry. I didn't know, Miss, uh...

Ms. WOODS: (As Linda) Linda, Linda. Look, it's OK. I'm sorry. It's just things are rough for us right now, you know? Keep the money. Maybe there's someone in worse shape than us. We'll just go up the street and ask for change so we won't bother you. Happy holidays. Come on, Kim.

(As Kim) Happy holidays, mister.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Happy holidays.

Hey, Linda! Wait up!

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Are you sure about this, Bud?

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Quite certain, Mr. Bigley. In fact, Rosemary can testify to it!

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Mr. Bigley, Mr. Finch is here as you requested.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Come in, Finch. You stay, too, Rosemary.

Mr. Finch, it's come to my attention...

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) I'll take it from here, J.B. OK, you lying, low-life, thieving son of a gun, what did you do with the loot? Come on, spill it before...

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Bud, if you don't mind. Finch, I'll cut right to the chase. Bud believes that you took money from the charity drive.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Are you accusing Jay of stealing?

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) You should know, Rosemary. You told me he took in quite a bit of money, and yet he turns in the smallest amount. Wait a minute. Watch out, J.B., she might be his moll. I bet they're in it together. You two won't get away with this!

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Bud!

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Sorry, sir.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Well, how about it, Finch?

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Bud's right. I took the money, sir.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Aha! I knew it! First, he's four minutes late, then it's only a matter of time before he's stealing.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) If I may explain, Mr. Bigley? There was a homeless little girl named Kim who--and despite her mother's objections--put money they panhandled into the kettle. I was so moved by their plight and the little girl's selflessness that I took the kettle, and using the donations collected I bought them a meal, purchased a coat for Kim, took them shopping for toiletries and necessities for their return to the shelter, and gave them money.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Didn't you realize your actions constituted theft?

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) I guess, sir. But the way I see it, the money is for charity and to help those less fortunate. You told us to remember why we're doing this charity drive, sir, and it dawned on me that we shouldn't be doing it for a promotion or winning a contest against the western division. We should be doing it for charity, to help the needy. All I did was eliminate the middleman. But I'm prepared to face the consequences of my actions.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) I see. I'll have to ask you to tender your resignation immediately, Mr. Finch.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Yes, sir.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Do you need me to call security to escort him out, sir?

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) No. Call human resources because I'm offering the position of the new district office manager to Jay.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) (Gasps in surprise)

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Right away, sir. I'd be--what?

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) I don't understand, Mr. Bigley.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) You see, Finch, I was once down on my luck, and it was the charitable assistance that I received from the founder of the company, Wilbur Woodson Wicket(ph), that allowed me to become the man that I am today. In your actions, you demonstrated the same qualities that Mr. Wicket did. I want a district office manager with a charitable heart who can see past the bottom line and connect with the human condition. That's a quality that shouldn't just be exemplified during this time of the year, but the whole year round.

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) I don't know what to say.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Say you'll accept!

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) I accept, Mr. Bigley!

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) And call me J.B., will you?

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) But, Mr. Bigley, I collected the most money. You said that...

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) I said that the most charitable participant will be given serious consideration for the promotion.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Sir! I can't believe you'd reward a thief.

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Careful, Bud. That's no way to talk about your new boss.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Boss?

Mr. ALLEN: (As Mr. Bigley) Congratulations, Finch. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for a meeting.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) Congratulations, Jay!

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay Finch) Thanks. Hey, maybe you and I can go out after work and celebrate.

Ms. WOODS: (As Rosemary) I would love to, but I don't have anything to wear since Bud will be wearing it all next week.

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Well, as long as we're on the subject, nothing in stripes. Stripes make me look fat. And could throw in, you know, a smart handbag and some pearls and maybe--well, I don't know, maybe...

Mr. PHILLIPS: (As Jay) Bud!

Mr. TAYLOR: (As Bud) Sorry, sir.

COX: "The Kettle" was written for NEWS & NOTES by Craig J. Harris. Our producers are Roy Hurst and Toyia Baker. And let's not forget our players.

Mr. ALLEN: Mr. Bigley played by Charles Allen.

Mr. TAYLOR: Bud played by Meshach Taylor.

Mr. PHILLIPS: Jay played by Joseph C. Phillips.

Ms. WOODS: And Ren Woods as Rosemary, Linda and Kim.

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