The Secret Of Success A Historical Reference (2015)


Isabella Recine and Madison DiPalo in Erica Sheludenko’s play, “The Secret of Success A Historical Reference.” Photo by Tom Kochie.


The Secret of Success A Historical Reference by Erica Sheludenko (2015)

Click here to watch “The Secret of Success A Historical Reference” on YouTube

(Scene opens on an empty classroom aside from our two main characters. MS. FRANTA is sitting across from ABIGAIL, MS. FRANTA is sitting on stage left and ABIGAIL is on stage right, both sitting at student desks. ABIGAIL is running her fingers along her desk and tapping her left foot. Behind them a chalkboard clearly reads ‘History Extra Help Today! @2:00.’ A clock to the right of the chalkboard reads 2 o’clock.)

MS. FRANTA: (in a happy tone) Okay, Abigail … Nothing is going to get done if we sit here in silence, now is it?

ABIGAIL: (gloomy) No, Ms. Franta. It is not.

MS. FRANTA: Then let us start with some questions.

ABIGAIL: (in a snappy tone) I thought this was extra help, not a CSI murder investigation.

MS. FRANTA: (rolls eyes) I always figured you would be the class clown. We’ll start with a harder question because you seem to be smart enough to know what year the United States gained freedom from England, so how was John Adams affiliated with the Case of the Boston Massacre?

(Lights dim and turn blue for 5 seconds, then the blue fades and the lights turn back to a regular color and brightness.)

ABIGAIL: (shakes body as if being possessed, and stops abruptly) Ow! My head hurts, I must’ve gotten a sickness from one of those African slaves!

MS. FRANTA: What are you talking about, Abigail? Answer my question.

ABIGAIL: I am Abigail. Abigail Adams, John Adam’s daughter. Why do you seem so appalled?

MS. FRANTA: Stop playing with me, Abigail! You are Abigail Smith, 7th grader at George Washington Middle School. You’re at History extra help. Now answer my question about John Adams.

ABIGAIL: I still don’t understand what you are talking about ma’am, but I can answer your question on John Adams, as if it’s a hard one. He is my father, gosh darn it. (acts as if you just remembered something so important it’s scary) Oh my. (pause to put your head in your hands) I need to tell you this ma’am. And then you must go about telling everyone you know. This cannot be left unsaid. I just remembered… (rant on)

MS. FRANTA: (interrupts Abigail) As long as it includes an answer to my question…Go on.

ABIGAIL: Do you swear to tell everyone you meet? Do you swear on King George’s life, ma’am?

MS. FRANTA: (hesitantly) I swear?

ABIGAIL: (factually) Good. Now, I love my father, don’t misinterpret me. But, when he does something incorrectly, I feel an urge, more so the need to correct him. Although he necessarily didn’t do this incorrectly…more so explained as…unjustly. Being the age of five at the time did present some setbacks but, my cranium was developed almost to the of a thirty year-old. You heard it here. My father, John Adams, cheated. No, he didn’t cut the line at the wheat grinder or at the blacksmiths. He cheated in the Case of the Boston Massacre, with the help of a rather unusual character at the time…Merlin. So infact, my father did cheat, using magic.

MS. FRANTA: Oddly, enough I (stuttering) believe you? But, how am I supposed to tell other people? Or in a persuasive way so that they do believe me. I’m not everyone’s favorite person, you know. You were, the crown jewel of Boston. Abigail “Nabby” Adams. That nickname given to you by your mother.

ABIGAIL: Yes, that is true. But, the moment I got transported here…(looking around the room and herself in a questioning way) I sensed something. You don’t have any self-esteem. And the funny thing is, you have the potential to be someone great and you decide to sit around here. Teaching other people how to be great.

MS. FRANTA: I guess you’re right, Abigail. But, then I wouldn’t be able to hear this, now would I?

ABIGAIL: I suppose not. Say, I didn’t catch your name?

MS. FRANTA: Cheryl Franta, crushing student’s dreams of having fun since 2009.

ABIGAIL: Oh. (giggles) Pleasure to be of acquaintance. Wait, 2009? No wonder I feel so colorful, out of place and comfortable without a corset.

MS. FRANTA: (laughs) So, continue with your story, Ms. Adams.

ABIGAIL: Very well, ma’am. As you know, my father was perceived to have help creating his introductory and conclusive statements for his case from my mother.

MS. FRANTA: (knowingly) Also named Abigail Adams.

ABIGAIL: Correct. (suddenly serious) But, no one perceived him receiving help from Merlin instead. My mothers side of the family dates back to Arthurian times when we used to live in Wales. My fathers side of the family dating back only to a time just before that. Many people in the 1770s didn’t even know a myth called Merlin existed. But, the people that did know about the myth, knew enough not to say that it was no myth at all.

MS. FRANTA: But, that defies all of my stories from previous encounters.

ABIGAIL: (confused) Previous encounters? You’ve talked to more people like me? From days gone past?

MS. FRANTA: As a matter of fact, yes. This is how I obtain all of my secret knowledge about history. Students. Spirits of famous heroes disguised as students come to me and tell me the secrets of their lives that is not believed to usually be true. Albert Chance transformed to Albert Einstein. And Claudius Rox was really Claudius Ptolemy.

ABIGAIL: Wow. That’s amazing. But, I can assure you, Ms. Franta. My story is correct. Your other historical figures told you that Merlin seemed to disappear mysteriously. Correct?

MS. FRANTA: Yes, but King Arthur said that he saw Merlin die. With his own eyes!

ABIGAIL: He’s a wizard for my sake, Ms. Franta! He didn’t die. And as I was saying before, there were people that thought it would just be easier to say that he was a myth rather than actually telling the truth. Merlin then “disappeared” to help people that really needed it, throughout history.

MS. FRANTA: So, he helped you father because his position was obviously a bad one.

ABIGAIL: Right. He visited my mother and father a night before the trial, probably thinking that I was asleep. Little did they know that I was having trouble falling asleep that night. I overheard everything, even the wager and my mother and father still don’t know it.

MS. FRANTA: Wait a second, what wager?

ABIGAIL: Oh, my bad. I must’ve glossed over that one a bit. Merlin only works for the betterment of one person in place for another. So, naturally that night a deal was set in place. My father received magical help in winning his case for the price of a life. After stating that, Merlin left without another word. My father didn’t even have time to say thank you. About 7 year later, my sister Elizabeth Adams was stillborn.

MS. FRANTA: I’m so sorry, Abigail.

ABIGAIL: It’s not your fault and I don’t really even feel a loss at all because I didn’t even know her. Anyways, now that you know the truth, I best be on my way.

MS. FRANTA: Thank you, Ms. Adams. It has been a pleasure.

ABIGAIL: And remember Ms. Franta, find that self-confidence because I can see it, even though you might not. (smiles)

(ABIGAIL shakes vigorously again while the lights dim and turn blue for 5 seconds, then the blue fades and the lights turn back to a regular color and brightness. MS. FRANTA is holding her hands to her head as if she just suffered from a bad headache.)

ABIGAIL: Ms. Franta? Ms. Franta, are you alright?

MS. FRANTA: Yes, yes. I’m fine, thank you for your worry, Abigail.

ABIGAIL: So did I get the answer right?

MS. FRANTA: (confused) Answer? (as if suddenly remembered) Ah, yes! That is correct.

ABIGAIL: Okay, cool.

MS. FRANTA: (sarcastically) Yes, very cool. (factually) Alright, Abigail. Extra help is over. I want to see you get that hundred tomorrow.

ABIGAIL: You’ll see it, Ms. Franta. Have a good night!

(ABIGAIL leaves. After ABAGAIL has left…)

MS. FRANTA: (thoughtfully) A good night to you as well, Ms. Adams.

(Lights go dark. Scene stays the same but the two desks are removed. Lights turn back on. MS. FRANTA is standing center stage and is slowly making his way down stage while he begins to talk.)

MS. FRANTA: After my encounter with Abigail, I thought about what she said. More than I usually do and for some reason I took what she said to heart. Soon after, I decided not to tell her story despite of what she told me to say. But, I did decide to think of myself in a different way. I started to feel more confident in myself, but was sure not to seem arrogant. I obtained many more friends, once I started to believe in myself. I was also interviewed to become a news anchor. I got the job. I quit my work at George Washington Middle School, and even though I no longer receive visitors, my passion still is history and now, I try and inspire others. I want others to do better than I did. So remember, believing in yourself is the first secret to success.

(Lights go dark and music plays out)


The cast and writer of “The Secret of Success A Historical Reference.” Photo by Tom Kochie.

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