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Program Idea

That Handful of Women

A Skit about the Beginnings of United Methodist Women

Editor's Note:  This skit was first introduced at the National Gathering of Teen and College Women, December 2000 in St. Charles, Ill.  It's an interactive melodrama that involves the audience and teaches them of the history of women organized for mission.

THAT HANDFUL OF WOMEN is a Melodrama of the Organizing of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1869. This play is meant to be extremely melodramatic and over- emphasized, especially in actions. It will resemble a silent movie in some respects with the audience providing the sound effects while the cast of six pantomime the actions. The pace is very slow with some uncomfortable pauses between the speaking parts and the audience reaction. Those speaking should actually talk to the audience in anticipation of their response.

CAST:

  • Annoucer to give instructions
  • Narrator
  • Six women dressed in period clothing, 1869.
  • Mrs. Edwin Parker
  • Mrs. William Butler

PROPS:

  • Powerpoint slides or instruction cards for the whole audience to read.
  • Props that help re-create the 1869 setting.

SCENE:

The cast of six women, dressed in period clothing, with overcoats, hats, and umbrellas, stand frozen in position, ready for action when the first light appears on stage.

Announce
R:
This morning, we will be re-creating the very first meeting of women organized for mission. Actors on the stage will portray a handful of women who are the founders of our present-day organization of United Methodist Women. You, as the audience, will also have a part to play. You will be the sound effects for our melodrama. Your parts will appear on the screens, and you should respond immediately with the action, words or sounds as indicated. This half of the audience will be the left side, and this half will be the right side. Please take your parts very seriously and respond with energy and enthusiasm when it is your turn.

The actions displayed on the screen are for the audience to perform. Using a split screen, instructions are given for the left side (L) and the right side (R) of the auditorium. Each slide should be displayed for 10 seconds as follows:

SLIDE 1:

L: RUB YOUR HANDS TOGETHER.
R: SIT QUIETLY.

SLIDE 2:

L: SNAP YOUR FINGERS.
R: RUB YOUR HANDS TOGETHER.

SLIDE 3:

L: PAT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR THIGHS.
R: SNAP YOUR FINGERS.

SLIDE 4:

L: CLAP YOUR HANDS.
R: PAT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR THIGHS.

SLIDE 5:

L: STOMP YOUR FEET.
R: CLAP YOUR HANDS.

SLIDE 6:

L: SIT QUIETLY.
R: STOMP YOUR FEET.

SLIDE 7:

STOP.

Narrator Voice over.

It was a dark and stormy night in Boston on March 23, 1869.

Audio of eerie organ music. The lights come up 114 center stage as the cast of six begin to remove their coats, shake out their umbrellas, remove their hats, dry off with handkerchiefs, and take their seats in the meeting room. They do not talk but pantomime talking to one another, greeting one another, and making conversation. They help themselves to the tea on the coffee table, sipping, with pinky fingers extended and showing the utmost dignity and proper etiquette. They do not cross their legs when they sit, but can cross their ankles, and sit rather side-ways in their chairs, their backs not touching the back of the chair, with absolute correct posture.

SLIDE 8:

L: CLAP YOUR HANDS.
R: STOMP YOUR FEET.

As the lights come up,, two women enter from the doors of the auditorium and walking down the center aisle. Both are carrying opened umbrellas, dressed in period clothing, and struggling against the imagined wind and rain as they make their way to the stage.

SLIDE 9:

L: SNAP YOUR FINGERS.
R: MAKE THE SOUND OF WIND.

Narrator Voice over.

Mrs. William Butler and Mrs. Edwin Parker, wives of missionary husbands to India, arrive at Tremont Street Methodist Episcopal Church. Six other women have already gathered to hear them speak.

As Mrs. Butler and Mrs. Parker reach the stage, the lights come up full. Both women remove their rain gear, dry off with handkerchiefs, and begin to greet the women, shaking hands every so daintily, each woman rising to return the greeting, tea cup in hand, and curtsies. Mrs. Butler and Mrs. Parker help themselves to tea and then take their seats. They take the tea cups in hand and sip, then place their cups on the side table. Fade organ music.

Mrs. Butler (Clearing her throat.) Ladies, thank you for coming.

SLIDE 10:

L:APPLAUSE.
R: CHEER.

Mrs. Parker

We know how treacherous the weather is tonight.

SLIDE 11:

L: CLAP YOUR HANDS.
R: STOMP YOUR FEET.

Mrs. Butler

We hope this will not cause you ill health.

Each of the six women either coughs gently into her handkerchief or sneezes delicately in a high pitch into her handkerchief.

SLIDE 12:

"God bless you."

Mrs. Parker

Ladies, we have some very important news to tell you ...

Mrs. Butler

About the plight of women and girls in India.

Musical chords. Each of the six women covers her mouth in horror, a few say "oh, my.'

SLIDE 13:

L: GASP.

Mrs. Parker

Please, ladies, hear us out.

SLIDE 14:

R: SHHH.

Mrs. Butler

The girls are not being educated.

SLIDE 15:

"Oh no!"

Mrs. Parker

There are only male doctors, and they will not treat women.

SLIDE 16:

"This can't be!"

Mrs. Butler

Please, ladies, we must do something.

Mrs. Parker

Yes, our help is greatly needed.

SLIDE 17:

"What can we do?"

Mrs. Butler

Oh, thank you for asking.

SLIDE 18:

"You're welcome."

Mrs. Parker

We think we have a plan.

Mrs. Butler

But it will require our being a bit unruly.

SLIDE 19:

HISS.

Mrs. Parker

Now, now, it's not all that bad.

Mrs. Butler

After all, we are proper Christian women.

SLIDE 20:

Amen.

Mrs. Parker

We would not want to do anything to upset the men.

Mrs. Butler

Oh, goodness, no.

SLIDE 21:

"Why not?"

Mrs. Parker Looking to Mrs. Butler for reassurance.

Well then, here is our plan.

Mrs. Butler

We are going to raise the money

Mrs. Parker

To send a woman educator

Mrs. Butler

And a woman doctor

Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Butler In unison.

To India.

SLIDE 22:

LAUGH.

Mrs. Parker

Oh dear, Mrs. Butler, I was afraid of this.

Mrs. Butler

Now, Mrs. Parker, do not fret. This is not the time to lose courage.

SLIDE 23:

SNIFFLE.

Mrs. Parker

Ladies, please, we must work together.

Mrs. Butler

Yes, Mrs. Parker, that's right, we must.

Mrs. Parker

If we women don't band together for our sisters in India

Mrs. Butler

Who will?

Mrs. Parker

The girls will be left uneducated,

Mrs. Butler

And the women without medical care.

Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Butler In unison.

They shall surely perish!

Eerie music for a few chords.

Mrs. Butler

In God's name, we must do something.

SLIDE 24:

"But how can we help?"

Mrs. Parker

Oh, I'm so glad you asked.

SLIDE 25:

"You're welcome."

Mrs. Butler

We can raise the money

Mrs. Parker

By wearing cheap calico robes,

Mrs. Butler

Instead of buying these expensive fashions.

SLIDE 26:

SCREAM.

Mrs. Parker

Now, ladies, there's no need to over-react.

Mrs. Butler

Please, do maintain your composure.

SLIDE 27:

CLEAR YOUR THROAT.

Mrs. Parker

Ladies, consider the sacrifices our Lord Jesus has made for us.

Mrs. Butler

It is the least we can do in gratitude and service to Him.

Mrs. Parker

Are we not as much His disciples as the men?

Mrs. Butler

Called to care for the poor, the widows, the orphans in every land.

SLIDE 28:

"Absolutely."

Mrs. Parker

We could raise the money in no time

Mrs. Butler

If we just deny ourselves some frills.

SLIDE 29:

"But calico?"

Mrs. Parker

Yes, well, it is a bit coarse,

Mrs. Butler

But it is very durable,

Mrs. Parker

And easy to care for.

Mrs. Butler

Who knows, we might even make a fashion statement.

SLIDE 30:

"Calico! Calico!"

Mrs. Parker

Now, that's the spirit.

Mrs. Butler

Praise God, we are united.

SLIDE 31: "Hallelujah!"

Mrs. Parker

I know a woman educator named Isabella Thoburn.

Mrs. Butler

And I know a woman doctor named Clara Swain.

Mrs. Parker

They have agreed to go to India

Mrs. Butler

As our first female missionaries.

SLIDE 32: APPLAUSE.

Mrs. Parker

We will build a school to educate girls.

Mrs. Butler

And we will build a hospital to provide medical care for women.

SLIDE 33:

"Justice! Justice!"

Mrs. Parker

This is going to be the start of something big

Mrs. Butler

Really big.

Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Butler In unison.

And it all begins right here.

SLIDE 34: CHEERS.

Mrs. Parker

Sisters, let us commend our plans to God's care,

Mrs. Butler

Trusting that God will bring this to pass.

SLIDE 35:

"Let us pray."

Lights begin to fade as the narrator speaks. The women bow their heads and fold their hands in prayer.

START eerie organ music.

Narrator Voice over.

So it was, on that stormy night in Boston on March 23, 1869, that the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized. It was the first of eight women's missionary societies founded by our predecessor organizations. Today, we continue the legacy of women organized for mission as United Methodist Women.

SLIDE 36:

L: RUB YOUR HANDS TOGETHER. R. SIT QUIETLY.

SLIDE 37:

L: SNAP YOUR FINGERS.
R: RUB YOUR HANDS TOGETHER.

SLIDE 38:

L: PAT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR THIGHS.
R: SNAP YOUR FINGERS.

SLIDE 39:

L: CLAP YOUR HANDS.
R: PAT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR THIGHS.

SLIDE 40:

L: STOMP YOUR FEET.
R: CLAP YOUR HANDS.

SLIDE 41:

L: SIT QUIETLY.
R: STOMP YOUR FEET.

SLIDE 42: STOP.

Additional sound effects - sound of thunder, flash of lightning, sound of rain failing.

A few begin to stand and embrace one another in congratulations. Some put their raincoats and hats on. All prepare to stand center stage, holding hands, on cue.

Lights come up full as the cast forms one line, joins hands, and takes their bows.

SLIDE 43: THE END.

Lights fade to black. The actors exit and the stage is cleared.

Last Updated: 04/17/2014
 
 

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