Sonny's Cupcake Cafe

A Christmas Play

What can a small congregation do to meet the needs of children and families? Traditional age-stratified classes don’t work when there are only one or two children per grade level.

At New Hurley Reformed Church in Wallkill, New York, we have a unique take on Christian education. For the past three years, Susan Kobza, Brenda Heitmuller, and Liz Burdick have teamed up to teach a multi-age Sunday school class designed to incorporate some current teaching methodology. The lessons are inquiry based, with students encouraged to ask questions and engage in respectful discourse about the Bible stories read in class. Students also suggest topics, lead discussions, and brainstorm ideas for our annual Christmas play as well as the annual Children’s Day program.

Each week there’s an engaging discussion of the topic at hand. The pastor becomes a resource for questions that can’t be answered by the students or teachers. New ideas are presented to the congregation based on the discussions. The goal is to engage the students and show them that they are an important part of the congregation. (This is not hard to do, since our congregation is flexible and loves children. One example is the suggestion a student had for a church-wide “pajama day.” The idea was adopted and we now have a yearly “pajama day” at church.)

Last year’s Children’s Day celebration included a video of three parables we studied, written in small groups and directed by a high school senior who is now studying media in college. The students organized themselves and came together to make the video happen in three Sunday school class periods.

This year’s Christmas play began with an inquiry-based discussion question posed by the teachers, an outline of which follows. Notice the pauses. We try not to jump in too quickly. We want the students to take ownership of the process of wondering and asking questions as well as posing answers.

Q: Why do we celebrate Christmas?
The answer was agreed on quickly: “It’s Christ’s birthday.”

Q: Why is Christ important?
More agreement: “He forgives our sins.”

Q: What is sin?
Some discussion. Some teachers help with this. “Anything that separates us from God. Not just things we do that we know are wrong, but even things that are a result of sin in this world like fear, stresses, worries, problems, trying to please people rather than God.”

Q: Why do we need our sins forgiven?
Unanimous: “So we can go to heaven.”

Pause. Another answer: “So we know that no matter what we do, we’re forgiven and loved.”

Pause. Another answer: “So we can let go of our fear.”

Q (from a student): “Who are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”
(From a teacher) “God is the Father, Jesus is his Son, but they are one and the same.”

Q (from a student): “Is that true?” Student looks doubtful. He knows there’s only one God and this seems like polytheism to him.
(From a teacher) “That’s true. The Bible says ‘God became flesh.’”

Q (from a student): “Where is that in the Bible?”
We all go looking and find it in John 1:14.

Q (from a teacher): “It says ‘the Word’ became flesh. What does that mean?”
A (from another teacher): “The Word is another name for God.”

We come to the conclusion that God became human. This is why we celebrate Christmas. We went on to read all of John 1 for more ideas for the Christmas play this year.

The Sunday school kids spent time talking about their interests and what they have been doing over the course of the week as well. This information figured prominently into the Bible discussions and the Christmas play. Their brainstorming session for the play made us think about how we can best connect with our congregation through the play. The students said they wanted a play that was something like a Hallmark Channel movie with cupcakes and a zip line for the processional.

The zip line was out of the question, but the Hallmark Channel idea made us look closely into the basic structure of the Christmas programs on that channel. Usually someone loses the Christmas spirit and then somehow gets it back through magic, food, dogs, or meeting the love of her life.

Liz, one of the teachers, took notes during the discussion and went home to write the play that follows.

Characters

  • 3 Cupcake Cafe employees: Glynnis, Emily, Sera
  • Kay (cupcake baker)
  • Toby (homeless teen/Jesus)
  • Old Man Heitmuller
  • Dad
  • Lucas
  • Aidan
  • Emma
  • 2 of Emma’s college friends
  • Kimberly (towtruck driver for Barb’s Towing)
  • Barbara (spirit of Mom)

Costumes

  • Casual winter clothing for all characters
  • Winter coats, boots, scarves for all characters except Barbara
  • Before the play, use a red Sharpie marker to draw “nail holes” on the palms of the Toby/Jesus character
  • Winter gloves for Toby/Jesus character

Props

  • Three round tables with four chairs each
  • Long table for bakery counter
  • Whiteboard
  • Whiteboard marker in an easily readable color
  • Coat tree
  • Countertop sign that says “Closed” on one side and “Open” on the other
  • Towel for wiping counter
  • Cupcakes (real), one dozen on a tray
  • A few tabletop Christmas decorations (tiny tree, etc.)
  • Newspaper for Old Man Heitmuller
  • Coffee machine with coffee pot
  • Coffee cups and saucers, a dozen or so of each
  • Car keys for Dad
  • Birthday candles, one dozen
  • Lighter

Setting

A snowy Christmas Eve at “Sonny’s Cupcake Cafe” in a college town. Three tables with chairs downstage. Upstage is a counter with a whiteboard sign that will list the flavors of cupcakes the cafe sells. There is a coat tree or coat rack upstage left. A few small Christmas decorations are on the counter.

As the curtain rises: Music plays (suggestion: Chris Rice’s version of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”). Employees enter, pretending to shake snow off their jackets. They stamp their boots, hang up coats, and get to work. Everyone else who enters should enter from stage right and show signs of being out in the snow as well.

The Play

Kay enters. Takes off coat. Goes behind counter. Puts cupcakes on a tray.

Glynnis, Emily, and Sera enter. Take off coats. Shake off snow.

Glynnis wipes down counter and turns the “Closed” sign to “Open.” Emily picks up whiteboard and writes the cupcake varieties on it, consulting with Kay in pantomime. Emily hangs up the whiteboard. Sera makes coffee and puts out coffee cups and a stack of plates. They all end up behind the counter with elbows on the counter and heads in hands.

Glynnis: Gonna be some storm . . .

Emily: 6-12 inches.

Sera: At least!

Toby (as homeless teen) enters.

Toby: Any leftovers yet?

Kay: Come to the back door and I’ll have day-olds wrapped for you in a few minutes.

Toby: Thanks.

Glynnis: Do you think we’ll get any paying customers?

Emily: No idea. I don’t think any of the other stores on the block are going to open today.

Glynnis: That’s a shame. We need the Christmas Eve business.

Sera: CUSTOMER ALERT!

Emily: It’s just old man Heitmuller.

Old Man Heitmuller enters. He’s grumpy. He sits at a small table and opens up his newspaper.

Glynnis (comes over): Welcome to Sonny’s Cupcake Cafe. What can I do you for, Mr. Heitmuller?

Old Man Heitmuller: Coffee.

Emily (from the counter): How about a cupcake? We’ve got (reads off list from whiteboard.)

Old Man Heitmuller: Just coffee.

Sera (from the coffee machine): Cappuccino? Latte?

Old Man Heitmuller: Coffee.

Sera: Little steamed milk in that?

Old Man Heitmuller: Black.

Glynnis: You got it. Gimme one dark night, no light, no sweet.

Sera pours coffee. Gives it to Glynnis. Glynnis gives it to Old Man Heitmuller.

Dad, Lucas, and Aidan enter. Aidan refuses to sit down. Dad and Lucas sit down at a round table facing away from each other. Lucas is looking things up on his phone. Aiden looks out the window.

Glynnis (comes over to them): Welcome to Sonny’s Cupcake Cafe. What can I get for you guys?

Dad: Coffee.

Emily (from the counter): How about a cupcake? We’ve got (reads off list from whiteboard.)

Dad: Just coffee.

Sera (from the coffee machine): Cappuccino? Latte?

Dad: Coffee.

Sera: Little steamed milk in that?

Dad: Black.

Glynnis: You got it. Gimme one dark night, no light, no sweet.

Glynnis (to Lucas): And you?

Lucas: Nothing.

Glynnis: How about your friend? Is he planning on blocking the door all day or is he gonna sit down and have a cupcake?

Aidan gives her an angry stare.

Glynnis: Never mind. Give me one dark night, no light, no sweet.

Sera hands Glynnis coffee. She brings it to Dad.

Dad (to Aidan): Aidan, would you please just sit down? I think we’re going to be here for a while. You might as well be comfortable.

Aidan (angry): I’m FINE.

Dad: Anything yet, Lucas?

Lucas (holds up finger as he holds phone to ear): Hi. Our car went off the road on route 96B about a half mile from the college, and we need . . . what? How long until the next tow truck? Forget it, I’ll call someone else.

Aidan: I knew we shouldn’t have come. Mom would never have let us come.

Lucas: Emma could have gotten a bus home or a train or something. Mom would never have let us drive in a storm.

Dad: I had no idea there was going to be a storm. Barbara . . . your mom, was the one who was obsessed with the Weather Channel. I thought it would be nice to come and get your sister.

Aidan: Nice . . . right.

Lucas (phone to ear): Hi, our car went off the road on route 96B and . . . what? No, I already called them and they won’t have any tow trucks for hours. We’ve got to get out of here sooner than that.

Dad: What did they say?

Lucas: No tow trucks at all tonight. Just two towing companies and neither one has a tow truck available.

Aidan: Great. We’re stuck here.

Emma and her friends enter. The friends sit at the third table. Aidan addresses Emma.

Aidan: Emma! What are you doing here?

Emma (goes to sit with her friends): I go to school here, remember? Hi, Dad. Hi, Lucas. What are you doing here?

Dad: We’re picking you up. You’re coming home for Christmas.

Emma: Did you NOT get my text? I’m going home with my friend Rachel for Christmas this year.

Dad: Like hell you are, young lady!

Old Man Heitmuller: Hey! Watch your language. This is a family play.

Emma: Oh yeah? And who says so? Mom?

Aidan: Shut up, Emma.

Emma: Make me, Aidan.

Lucas: Have some respect, Emma. It’s been less than a year!

Emma: Move on, guys. I have. You and dad and Aidan sitting around that house with all those . . . memories. Get a life.

Aidan: Stop it! (very upset, turns face to wall)

Dad: You can’t mean that, sweetheart. Just come home with us for Christmas. We can talk about it. I’ll get you anything you want.

Emma: What I WANT is to be left alone. So if you don’t mind . . . (goes to sit down).

Old Man Heitmuller: Spoiled brat. Oops—did I just say that out loud?

Glynnis (comes over to them): What can I do you for, girls?

Emma and her friends: Coffee.

Emily (from the counter): How about a cupcake? We’ve got (reads off list from whiteboard.)

Emma and her friends: Just coffee.

Kay: Aww, come on, guys! SOMEBODY buy a cupcake!

Sera (from the coffee machine): Cappuccino? Latte?

Emma and her friends: Coffee.

Sera: Little steamed milk in that?

Emma and her friends: Black.

Glynnis: You got it. Gimme three dark nights, no light, no sweet.

Sera pours them coffee. Gives to Glynnis. Glynnis gives it to girls.

Toby enters.

Toby: So, like, the back door was locked and it’s cold out there and snowing pretty hard. Are the day-olds ready yet?

Kay: Sorry. I’ll have them in a minute. Just make yourself comfy.

Dad: So you’re just gonna sit there with your friends and ignore your family?

Emma: That was the plan.

Dad: We came all this way to pick you up for Christmas, and this is how you thank us? If Barbara . . . if Mom was here, would you come home?

Emma: She isn’t here, so it’s kind of a moot point, don’t you think?

Lucas: You don’t even care that the car went off the road and we’re stranded?

Aidan: Forget it. Forget her. Forget everything!

Toby sits at the table with Dad and Lucas.

Lucas: We have GOT to get out of here!

Old Man Heitmuller: Hush up. I’m tryin’ to read.

Lucas: Why are there no tow trucks in this God-forsaken place?

Toby: Whoa. Watch how you talk about my father. I happen to know that he’s got a memory like an elephant. He hasn’t forsaken you or this place. If I know my dad, he’ll have you home in time for Christmas.

Kimberly enters.

Lucas (to Toby): Does your dad have a tow truck? We’re stuck on 96B.

Toby: You try Swanson’s Towing?

Lucas: Yep, and the other one—I think it was called Warren’s Towing. THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING! WE NEED A TOW!!

Kimberly: You the ones stuck on 96B?

Dad, Aidan, Lucas: Yeah.

Kimberly: I saw your car on the side of the road. I work for Barb’s Towing. Give me your keys and I’ll get you out.

Dad starts to hand her the keys. Aidan stops him.

Aidan (to Kimberly): How do we know we can trust you?

Kimberly: You don’t. But Barb’s Towing is currently your only hope.

Dad: Take the keys.

Dad hands her the keys.

Kimberly: Doesn’t look too bad. I’ll have it out in no time.

Kimberly exits stage right.

Lucas: I thought there were only two towing companies in this town.

Dad (sort of smiling): I guess there are three. Barb’s Towing. . . .

Aidan: Some Christmas THIS is gonna be.

Old Man Heitmuller: That’s gratitude for ya. Not even a thank you!

Lucas: What’s the point of even celebrating Christmas now that mom is gone? She was the one who cared about it.

Dad: I sure didn’t.

Aidan: She’d do it all.

Lucas: She decorated the tree.

Dad: And she’d make us go to church.

Aidan and Lucas: We hated that.

Dad: She was constantly praying. Praying and watching the Weather Channel.

Aidan, Lucas, and Emma shake heads and chuckle a little.

Lucas: Like I said. No point celebrating anything anymore. She died of cancer eight months ago.

Emma: Would you guys just shut up about it already? Just SHUT UP! (Puts head down on table. Friends comfort her.)

Toby: I’m really sorry. No wonder you guys don’t have any Christmas spirit.

Old Man Heitmuller (to Toby): How’s about you tell them about the light shining in the darkness?

Music: The following actions are designed to be accompanied by Chris Rice’s “Go Light Your World” (© 2004 Universal Music—Brentwood Benson Publ., admin. CapitolCMGPublishing.com. All rights reserved. Used by permission.) which can be purchased at chrisrice.com. An SATB arrangement is available at www.jwpepper.com and a piano/vocal score at www.musicnotes.com. To help you connect the action with the song we have provided some textual cues. It is not recommended for the entire congregation to sing—they should watch the play.

Music: “There is a candle in every soul...”

Toby gets a cupcake, a birthday candle, and a lighter.

Music: “There is a spirit, who brings a fire”

Toby puts the candle in the cupcake, lights it, and puts it on a plate. Meanwhile, girls put candles into the other cupcakes.

Music: “Carry your candle...”

Toby gets Aidan’s attention and pushes the cupcake with the lit candle toward him.

Aidan picks up the cupcake with candle.

Music: “Frustrated brother...”

Lucas gets up and picks a cupcake with candle from the counter. Lights it on Aidan’s candle. Smiles.

Music: “See now your sister...”

Emma gets up, picks up a cupcake with a candle, and lights it on Lucas’s candle.

Music: “So carry your candle...”

Dad gets up, picks up a cupcake with a candle, and lights it on Emma’s.

They give lighted cupcakes to the people in the bakery: Emma to Old Man Heitmuller. Kimberly throws keys to Dad and Dad gives cupcake to Kimberly. Lucas to one college girl. Aidan to the other college girl. Old Man Heitmuller, Kimberly, and college girls exit stage right and blow out candles; stay in the wings to wait for curtain call.

Music: “‘Cause we are a family...”

Dad, Lucas, Aidan, Emma, and Toby put their cupcakes on a table, join hands in a circle, and bow their heads. Toby joins Emma’s hand to her father and walks off stage left to Barb who is waiting stage left. The family continues praying. Toby goes to left door. Family looks up at each other, laugh, slap backs, hug, ruffle hair, etc. and walk out stage right. The employees of Sonny’s Cupcake Cafe follow.

Music: “Take your candle...” (4x)

Emma runs back in, gets a cupcake. Barb enters from stage left, followed by Toby.

Emma holds the cupcake up.

Emma: Thank you, Mom.

As Emma puts the cupcake on the center table, Barb reaches toward it. For a moment they are both holding the cupcake. Emma releases the cupcake and walks off stage left as Barb holds up cupcake.

Toby, now Jesus, lights the candle in the cupcake.

Barb (smiling): Thank you.

Toby takes off a glove and holds out his hand, revealing a mark on his palm (the hole where his hand was nailed to the cross.) Barb takes his hand with one hand, while holding the cupcake in the other. Toby leads her off stage left. She looks behind her, smiling.

Suggested music for curtain call: Chris Rice’s “Smelling Coffee.”

Curtain call in one straight line. Hold hands. Three bows. Walk off left.

A video providing an overview of the drama can be found at tinyurl.com/SonnysCafe.

 

Liz Burdick is a member of the New Hurley Reformed Church creative team that heads up the church’s multi-generational one-room Sunday school program.

Brenda Heitmuller is a member of the New Hurley Reformed Church creative team that heads up the church’s multi-generational one-room Sunday school program.