The play begins with Wilson as an old man on a train telling his story to a stranger. Then the play goes into flashback mode as we see him as a young man and we learn how it all began in the late 1800’s. This would be a costume piece and it should reflect that time period and perhaps British accents as much as possible. There are many scene changes, so if you have a large stage area, you may want to keep the train scene permanent and perhaps even the living room set. A very large cast, but many actors can play multiple parts as a large majority of the characters are only in one scene. The play runs close to 90 minutes or longer, but scenes can be cut to make it shorter, and this could also reduce the cast.
28 characters plus extras. (at least 12 male roles, at least 6 female roles) Many parts could be either gender. About 90-95 mins as written.
This play is available for free to any member of The Church Army. If you are in The Church Army and wish to produce this play for your organization or to promote the work, then contact The Church Army headquarters for your free copy.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
WILSON: Speaks 6907 words. Lead character, starts out as a young man. Very large part.
OLD WILSON: Speaks 4114 words. The other large part, Wilson as an old man… acting as a sort of narrator.
FLORA: Speaks 2881 words. Wilson’s wife, starts as young woman.
STRANGER: Speaks 1025 words. Man on the train with Old Wilson, turns out to be a reporter.
MARIE CARLILE: 799 words. Wilson’s sister & C. A. Member.
EDWARD CARLILE: 743 words. Wilson’s father.
THE AUNT: 626 words. Wilson’s preachy and overbearing aunt.
MISS CHESHIRE: 572 words. Church Army member
CHALLERCOMBE: 425 words. Church Army member
SECRETARY: 327 words. Works at the Evangelization Society.
MISS ELMSLIE: 290 words. Wilson’s assistant.
OLD NEIGHBOR: 211 words. Meets Wilson on a bus.
VICAR: 148 words. Wilson’s pastor at one time.
REV. WEBSTER: 131 words. A Church Army leader.
YOUNG FRIEND: 131 words. Wilson’s male or female friend.
ARMY MEMBER: 120 words.
CROWD MEMBER: 116 words.
CAPTAIN SHINGLER: 105 words. A Church Army leader.
MACLAGAN: 93 words. The Bishop of Lichfield.
YOUNG HECKLER: 82 words.
MAN IN THE CROWD: 82 words.
BISHOP FRASER: 79 words. A Church Army leader.
PASSERBY: 61 words.
LAD’S FATHER: 43 words.
OTHER CROWD MEMBER: 37 words.
SKELETONS: 22 words. A local gang.
LAD: 5 words. A boy, perhaps young teen.
Your stage needs to be set up with two distinct areas. The setting of the train is permanent as it comes back to that so often. The other sets are usually Wilson’s living room or a stage where some type of service is happening. If you can split your stage three ways, you can leave the living room setting up as well. Often, you can utilize the audience as a congregation at a meeting, and plant actors in the audience or aisle to make comments. The costumes, set and dialect should reflect the late 1800’s in England. The scene on the train takes place in 1926.
ACT ONE SCENE ONE:
As the scene opens we see elderly Wilson Carlile sitting in a seat on a train. A stranger comes up to him.
STRANGER Is this seat taken?
OLD WILSON Be my guest, please. The man (or woman) sits down and can’t help but take quick looks at Wilson.
OLD WILSON …as long as you don’t mind some stimulating conversation as we travel upon our long train journey.
STRANGER Oh, not at all.
OLD WILSON That’s good, because I imagine that we will discuss topics of great importance and most specifically, what you believe about God and where you will be spending all of eternity.
STRANGER Well, I would not be opposed to that topic at all… (Looking at Wilson) Yes! I thought so! I know you. I’ve seen your picture before. You’re Wilson Carlile of the Church Army!
OLD WILSON Well, well. What publications have you been reading?
STRANGER I’m a member of the Church of England and I’ve read many accounts of your work. What a thrill it is to meet you and get to have a chance to speak with you.
OLD WILSON I take it you are a believer in our Lord?
STRANGER Absolutely. Oh, I guess that means you won’t get to have that discussion you were wanting. I’d rather like to be listening in on that one.
OLD WILSON These appointments are all ordained by God, so whatever it is He wants us to talk about…I’m sure it will be beneficial.
STRANGER I would love to hear how this whole thing began! Did you always know that you wanted to do this work for the Lord?
OLD WILSON Truthfully, that is not the case! My life was going in a complete different direction. My goals were to become a very successful businessman like my father, Edward. But I doubt you want to hear all about all of that.
STRANGER Oh, but I would! I would love to hear the whole story! Please share it with me.
OLD WILSON Well…I suppose we do have a lot of time. Let me see how much I can remember…I guess I should begin by giving a bit of my background. You see, I was born in 1847 at Brixton. My parents were Scottish. I was the eldest of twelve children. Both my father and grandfather were leading citizens and businessmen who instilled in me sound business training and organizational skills that have been invaluable in my life’s work.
STRANGER I should say so! So you were greatly influenced by your father to succeed.
OLD WILSON Yes, and it was my mother, Maria Louisa, who was sympathetic to those in poverty and distress. I picked that up from her. She was also a student of foreign languages, so I was encouraged to study languages. I have preached the gospel in 3 languages and pleaded the cause of the poor in 4.
STRANGER That’s impressive. Also, unusual for a woman…
OLD WILSON Oh…she was quite a woman. I thought she was the center of the universe and was much disillusioned to learn that she was a sinner just like everyone else. You see, I spent a lot of time at home with my mother because of a weak spine. I could not play sports with the other children as a child. I was determined that this was not going to slow me down, so I started running, boxing and watching my diet and doing other exercises to keep me in shape. I’ve had to keep that up for my entire life.
STRANGER It takes a very disciplined person to keep at a diet and exercise regiment throughout their life. But I imagine you were very disciplined. You’re a musician, too, aren’t you?
OLD WILSON Oh yes…after a fashion. I think the one thing that stands out the most in my childhood is my love for music. I was finding notes on the piano at age 3 and pounding on a toy drum at four or five.
STRANGER Did you take music lessons?
OLD WILSON Mostly self taught. I’m afraid that some of my friends today, persecuted by the trombone, wish my early musical talent had received an even sharper lesson. But I learned to play the piano well enough to entertain my father on Sunday afternoons with hymn tunes. My poor health kept me from moving ahead in my studies, and I would have these violent headaches from time to time. It was then that I would turn to music for consolation and I would practice the piano for hours at a time. I’m grateful for that because music has played a prominent place in my ministry.
STRANGER I’m sure it has. It sounds like you grew up in a very loving, Christian environment.
OLD WILSON Yes, but as you well know, just because you were brought up in a Christian home, it doesn’t make you a Christian.
STRANGER Of course.
OLD WILSON My parents were Noncomformists. My father was a deacon at Stockwell Congregational Church. My knowledge of spiritual things was quite limited and one day I was out walking with my friend, Archibald Brown. He came up and asked me if I knew where I was going. I answered him defiantly, “I’m going to play cricket.” But he replied to that with, “You’re going to hell.” I didn’t quite like his remark, (Somewhat laughing at the memory of it) so I lifted my bat and gave poor Brown a whack to teach him manners.
STRANGER Did you hurt him?
OLD WILSON I guess not. Happily, we’ve been good friends ever since. I’m ashamed now that I did such a thing, but that was before I was reborn. It would have been well for me had I heeded his well-meant warning. But my only focus back then was taking over my grandfather’s business. It was understood that he was to leave his business to me. But he took ill and I ended up going to work for him at age 13 so as to learn the business before he died. I had to quit school, but all I could think about was earning my fortune. As soon as I knew how to do figures, I decided that I would earn 20,000 pounds by the time I was 25.
STRANGER And did you?
OLD WILSON Oh, yes…and then some. But my grandfather had a different plan than I had imagined. He wanted me to start at the bottom and learn all aspects of the business, so I was cleaning up the pins and string on the floor. I hated that and Grandfather decided I was not ready for more responsibility and so it was decided that I should spend a year at school in France.
STRANGER How did that make you feel?
OLD WILSON Oh, I was quite satisfied with that decision. I quickly learned to be proficient in French and took a prize over 30 French boys. Not sure they liked that much. Some of the bigger boys took me swimming one day and put me in a tub and floated me around till one of them upset the boat and I ended up splashing in the water and screaming for help. Needless to say, I learned how to swim.