The Wayward, Wanton, and Wasteful Daughter

Characters: Younger Daughter, Elder Daughter, Mother, Bartender/Diner, Neighbors, Interrupter

Props: Textbooks, apron, bottles and glass, table settings, food scraps, bar stool, desk, knapsack, suitcase

Note: In week one, use the script as printed below. In week three, add the two shaded portions of script included at the end of the drama and indicated in the script.

[Mother and two daughters go to center platform, one on each side, mother's arms on their shoulders.]

Narrator: There once was a woman who had two daughters. When the elder daughter turned eighteen, she went away to college, worked very hard, and did well in her studies. [Older daughter breaks away and sits down at a school desk.]

Narrator: But when the younger daughter turned eighteen, she said to her mother, [Younger daughter breaks away, confronts her mother.]

Younger Daughter: I don't want to go to college. I want to live on my own for awhile away from this place. Let me have the money you would have spent on my education, and I'll leave. If you were to die right now, that money would come to me, and I could do whatever I want with it. Why can't I do what I want with it now?

Insert shaded portion (1) for week three version

Narrator: Her mother gave her the money, and the younger daughter moved to a faraway city. [Mother hands over a wad of bills, and daughter walks away.]

Narrator: In that distant city, the younger daughter lived it up and had a wild time. She caroused and threw money away like it was water. [Daughter goes to end of table, leans on it like a bar. Bartender walks up and pours her a drink. She throws a couple of bills at him.]

Narrator: But after a time, the city was struck by a deep recession. Her money ran out. The younger daughter was forced to look for work, but the only job she could find was waiting tables in a little greasy-spoon restaurant. Things got so bad that she longed to eat the scraps of food that the diners left on their plates.

[Daughter messes up hair, takes apron from the bartender, goes to other end of table, which has place settings on it with dirty plates. She begins to clear the table, picking up a bread crust and looking at it longingly.]

Narrator: Finally, one day, she came to her senses. [Daughter wearily sets down plates, brushes back hair, and heaves a sigh.]

Younger Daughter: Even the waitresses back in my hometown have it ten times better than I do here. Just think of how good I had it when I was at home. I know what I'll do. I'll go home and say, "Mother, I know I've offended you and disappointed you. I don't deserve to live with you as your daughter. Please let me come home. I'll get a job. I'll pay for my room and board, and you can treat me just as you would any other boarder."

[She takes off the apron and walks off the stage, then back on.]

Narrator: So she set off and went back to her hometown. She didn't have any money for a cab, so she had to walk from the bus station. [Daughter walks towards platform holding a single suitcase.]

Narrator: The mother was sitting on the front porch. She looked up and saw her daughter walking at a distance. The mother jumped off the porch, ran down the street, and flung her arms around her daughter. [Mother, seated on a chair, stands and looks, then runs across platform to daughter and hugs her.]

Insert shaded portion (2) for week three version

Narrator: The daughter tried to push her away.

Younger Daughter: Mother, I've been so wrong. I don't deserve to be one of your daughters. [Daughter pushes mother, but mother clings. When mother lets go, she turns to the congregation to invite them to the party.]

Narrator: But the mother held on, and when she finally let go, she yelled to the curious neighbors who had come out on their front porches to see what the commotion was.

Mother: Quick. Come over to our house tonight. Bring whatever you have in the house. We need to have a welcome home party. My daughter's come home. [Mother and daughter head for table area.]

Narrator: About an hour later, when the older daughter was coming home from school, she saw all the lights on in her house. She heard the noise and laughter of a party.

[Older daughter comes toward platform, carrying books. Stops as if listening with puzzled look on face.]

Narrator: She called to one of the neighbors,

[Older daughter turns to congregation and asks:]

Older Daughter: What's going on?

Neighbor: Your sister's come home and your mom's throwing a party to welcome her. [Daughter throws books on the ground.]

Narrator: Infuriated, the older daughter refused to go in the house. Finally her mother came out and pleaded with her to come inside. [Mother comes outside and tries to put arm around older daughter. Daughter confronts mother.] In her anger, the older daughter said to her mother,

Older Daughter: Look, for all these years, I've done everything you've asked of me. I've never given you trouble. I've always done what you thought was best. And yet you've never seen fit to throw any kind of celebration for even a few of my friends. Your other daughter is back after spending all your hard-earned money on drink and sex and carousing, and you throw a party for her and invite the whole world to come to it.

Mother: Daughter, you'll always be mine, and everything I have is yours. But we had to throw a party because this sister of yours was as good as dead, and now she's come back to life.

[Youngest daughter comes out and stands at arm's length. Mother grasps each by the shoulder. Trio stands there for moment oldest daughter looking down, mother looking from one to the other, youngest looking at mother.]

Shaded Portion

[Mother goes to get cash and, just as she reaches for it, is interrupted by someone from outside the drama who takes her aside.]

Interrupter: Hey, hey, hold everything. Mom, let me have a word with you a minute. I couldn't help overhearing what your daughter just said to you, and I have to say that it was the most ungrateful-little-wretch-like thing I've ever heard someone say to their mother. It's like she wishes you were dead! Now I'm not going to tell you what to do, but think about it. She's just going to blow it all. If you're going to give her anything, at least give her a guilt trip so she won't enjoy spending it, and she'll be properly sorry when she comes crawling back. Think about it!

[Mother goes back to youngest daughter, and the drama picks up again.]

Younger Daughter: I don't want to go to college. I want to live on my own for awhile away from this place. Let me have the money you would have spent on my education and I'll leave. If you were to die right now, that money would come to me, and I could do whatever I want to with it. Why can't I do what I want to with it now?

Interrupter: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute. Sorry to spoil this Kodak moment and all, but, Mom, I need a word with you. You didn't listen to me last time, and that was your choice, but hear me out this time. Your daughter's come back, having blown it big time and feeling like dirt. That's okay. It's good for her. Children almost never say they're sorry, so enjoy it. Let her grovel a bit. Lay down some conditions for her return. Let her know she's on a short leash, and that if it ever happens again, there'll be no next time. But whatever you do, don't get too excited and don't do something rash like throwing a party for her.

[Interrupter leaves stage, mother returns to chair, and daughter once again approaches home.]

Narrator: The mother was sitting on the front porch. She looked up and saw her daughter walking at a distance. The mother jumped off the porch and ran down the street and flung her arms around her daughter. [Mother seated 011 a chair stands and looks, then runs across platform to daughter and hugs her.]

[Mother and two daughters go to center platfonn, one on each side, mothers arms on their shoulders.]


In 1993, Henri Nouwen, Dutch Catholic priest, scholar, and author, gave the Bowen Lecture at the Kanuga Conference Center in Western North Carolina. Tom Ehrich, one of the church leaders who attended, describes his memories of those speeches:

Henri Nouwen talked with his hands. He told stones, mostly about himself. Most of aU, I remember a story told and a story lived.

Henry told about being invited to visit The Hermitage in Russia to see Rembrandt's "Return of the Prodigal." Other viewers filed by at a rapid clip, but he was allowed to sit in a chair for two hours and just look. He looked at the figures in the background, the father and the broken son.

The father had both hands on the boy's shoulders. One hand was the gnarled hand of a working man. The other, Nouwen said with a dramatic pause, was the delicate, tapered hand—"of a wotnan"! God suddenly became larger for this Catholic priest.

It was a stunning moment. Over four hundred people—power people, mostly—looked through Nouwen's eyes and saw the feminine nature of God. People wept.

Later, as Nouwen told about the L'Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, where he served, he told about his friend Bill, a mentally handicapped man who was in the scholar's care.

Bill was on the stage with Henry, as was a nun from Daybreak. When Henri invited Bill to come to the microphones and speak, I remember thinking that people had come a long way to hear the Dutch scholar, not Bill.

To give Bill support, Nouwen stood next to him at the microphone. Bill was overcome by the prospect of speaking. He simply laid his head on Nouwen's shoulder and wept.

A room filled with church leaders suddenly glimpsed the incarnate nature of true ministiy. Our work isn 't about liturgies that we fight over, buildings that we fight over, books of worship that we fight over, hymnals that we fight over, small bits of institutional power that we fight over, or doctrines that we are willing to kill over. Our work is to stand next to one another and provide a shoulder for weeping.

-Used by permission of Religious News Service.


Rolf Bouma ( is a pastor at Campus Chapel Ministries, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Reformed Worship 43 © March 1997 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.

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