We’re almost halfway through our Fall Sale, and we thought it was high time we shared a few of our favorite things about our top bestselling Christmas script, Rejected: The Inside Story. So without further ado, here are our picks for the five best features of our most popular play.
5. 1950s Setting
The 50s are just plain fun, am I right? Finding era-appropriate costumes isn’t too hard, and wearing them is a blast. I mean, poodle skirts, leather jackets, the works. What’s not to like?
Plus, 1950s slang is an amusing creature—especially when featured in excess. In Rejected, the delightfully ridiculous Mickey O’Clery, cool cat extraordinaire, gives us a good taste of 50s slang throughout the play, causing not a little confusion even for his fellow characters:
Breckenridge: Mr. O’Clery, I would like to know where you were yesterday evening.
Mickey: I was hanging with my tight at Sweeney’s. They’re boss, man; we had a blast. ‘Course, I’m so radioactive, everything’s like wow with me.
Breckenridge: Ah, I see. [looks at Harrison] What did he just say?
And so it continues.
4. Casting Flexibility
The setup and characters of Rejected make casting super versatile. Nearly all the fourteen characters (or, with doubling, thirteen) are gender-neutral, meaning that you can have almost any proportion of male to female players in your group and still make this script work. In a few cases, if you’re changing a character’s original gender, you might need to make a minor line change or two (if you turn a housemaid into a butler, or a grandson into a granddaughter), but nothing more than wording edits. Otherwise, all you have to do is change the character’s name—and we even give you suggestions for such name changes in the Production Notes! Piece of cake. Flexibility is the name of the game with the cast of Rejected.
Speaking of the cast, this drama’s characters have to be on our Top 5 list, particularly the (in?)famous Detective Walter Breckenridge. Breckenridge may be a police detective, but he’s not a typical one. He faints at any reference to blood, screams like a girl and jumps on a chair when a mouse is mentioned, and can be distracted from just about anything by comic books or, better yet, donuts. And whenever he’s unconscious or preoccupied “balancing his blood sugar,” his assistant Georgia Harrison must do the real work of investigating. Nonetheless, he glories in his position and gladly takes all credit when crimes are solved.
You get the picture. He’s pompous. He’s hilarious. He’s annoying and somehow likable anyway. When anyone asks for our favorite characters from our dramas, Breckenridge is inevitably on the list.
That said, though, really every character in Rejected has their “shtick,” so to speak—their own interesting personality. Harrison, who does all the detective’s work without any praise. Loud-voiced, hard-of-hearing Francis, prickly at the best of times. Twins Derrick and Garrick, whom no one can keep straight. Unreliable Judge Quincy, obsessed with re-election. Korver, the confident but utterly gullible defense attorney. Combine all of these (and more) in one drama, and you get a startling, comic, visionary riot of a story.
Which brings me to the story itself. Not only are the characters engaging, but the plot works from an unexpected premise and raises the stakes higher than you might predict.
The story finds its inspiration from John 1:11: He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. (How is this Christmas-themed? More on that shortly.) With one exception, the drama presents an allegory for the incarnation and (spoilers!) rejection of Christ by His creation. (The exception? The Christ-figure isn’t very Christlike. She finds herself in a situation that mirrors Christ’s on earth, but her response is frustration instead of grace.)
So how does this work? In a dream, an author enters her own storyworld as a character, encounters her other characters, and finds them behaving strangely, quite unlike how she’d written them. They are, in fact, very poor imitations of the characters she envisioned, ignorant of their circumstances, unable to cope with the story they’re in, and incredulous when she tries to explain that they are characters and she is their author. They’re so blind and willful that they soon lead themselves to believe she’s actually a criminal, and they put her on trial.
Ah, you begin to see, yes? We won’t ruin the ending. But let’s just say that the unfolded plot reveals Christ’s experience and our treatment of him in a new way, both to the confused, frustrated author and to the audience.
1. An Uncommon Christmas Story
Originally, Rejected‘s working title was this very phrase: An Uncommon Christmas Story. Whereas most Biblical Christmas dramas draw their inspiration from the early chapters of Matthew or Luke, Rejected explores John 1. Not exactly an obvious source. Really, the play is so distanced from the traditional Christmas narrative (in a sense), that it can be performed at anytime of the year, simply by omitting one or two references to Christmas in the script.
But, thematically, its roots are embedded in the very essence of Christmas—that Christ chose to come live among us, as one of us, despite knowing that we would reject Him. And when you perform the drama at Christmastime, as a Christmas play, inside-the-box thinking is prohibited. The audience cannot walk away from a December presentation of Rejected with cozy feelings about hot cocoa around the fireplace during the most wonderful time of the year.* Yes, the play is lively, entertaining, family-friendly. It’s also shattering. It’s raw, unforeseen, and hard to forget.
If you’re interested in performing Rejected: The Inside Story this Christmas, find more information here: a full character list with descriptions and line counts, production notes with details about props, costumes, and more, and a script excerpt from Scene One. You can read a review of Rejected by award-winning filmmaker, educator, writer, and composer Craig Lindvahl here on our Reviews page.
*Not that there’s no place for warm, cozy Christmas stories. They absolutely have their own merit, and even “feel-good” plays can carry a powerful message.