Friday, February 15, 2008

The Newton We Never Knew

[This a the student-modified, then Elliot-remodified version of a script I did for Hong Wen's senior high drama contest, to be filmed for judging in March. It lacks elements of my first version, which I will include at the bottom as an appendix, and which I would like to incorporate into a larger 'real' version which I would ultimately like to offer to high schools and/or performance groups for, like, money.]

Hong Wen Senior High 2008 Drama Contest

The Newton We Never Knew

by Elliot Bougis

MARVIN, garbage man & time traveler
HECTOR, garbage truck driver
MILDRED, Newton's niece/maid

Isaac Newton was born on January 4, 1643 [OS: December 25, 1642] at Woolsthorpe Manor in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, a hamlet in the county of Lincolnshire. At the time of Newton's birth, England had not adopted the latest papal calendar and therefore his date of birth was recorded as Christmas Day, December 25, 1642. Newton was born three months after the death of his father. Born prematurely, he was a small child…. As Newton became engrossed in his studies, his romance cooled with Miss Storer and she married someone else. It is said he kept a warm memory of this love, but Newton had no other recorded "sweet-hearts" and never married. … In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. … In 1665, he discovered the generalized binomial theorem and began to develop a mathematical theory that would later become calculus. … The Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (now known as the Principia) was published on 5 July 1687 with encouragement and financial help from Edmond Halley. In this work Newton stated the three universal laws of motion that were not to be improved upon for more than two hundred years.


The curtain is closed and the lights are dim as the NARRATOR speaks.

NARRATOR: Sir Isaac Newton is one of the most famous scientists of all time. He invented calculus and modern physics. He was a genius. But how did he become so smart? What was his secret to success? Keep watching and you will finally know the truth behind Isaac Newton's genius. You will know the truth about the Newton we never knew.



An ALIEN WORKER is standing on the wing of a spaceship, repairing something. He pulls a large cone-shaped tool out of his tool bag. He obviously does not know how to use it, so he keeps pressing buttons and turning knobs and shaking the machine without results. He makes noises, the machine makes noises. Suddenly, the ALIEN freezes and the machine is hoisted away quickly. The curtain falls.


The curtain opens. A large heap of garbage bags is at stage center. Suddenly, the tool from the alien worker falls into the pile of garbage.

MARVIN, a garbage man, enters from stage right. He is carrying a Styrofoam cutout of a small garbage truck. Another man, HECTOR, is visible in the driver seat (on the other side of the truck). He is in a baggy, dirty jumpsuit. The truck stops at the pile of garbage and he begins tossing bags "into" the truck (behind it to the back of the stage).

MARVIN: Hector, how did I end up as a garbage man? Is this why I left school?

HECTOR: Marvin, just quit complaining and let's get the garbage in the truck.

MARVIN: I just wish I could travel. See new places. Maybe Europe. England would be great!

HECTOR: Well, Marvin, maybe you can go back in time and live your life again. Garbage is your life now, buddy! Move it!

MARVIN: Very funny, Hector.

HECTOR leans back to sleep. After a few more bags, MARVIN finds the alien tool. He picks it up and begins looking at it. He starts doing the same motions and making the same sounds with it as the ALIEN did. The machine starts making noises as it did before.

HECTOR leans out the window and yells at MARVIN. MARVIN holds up the tool to show HECTOR his problem.

HECTOR: Marvin, let's go, faster! We can't stop time! Everyday I––

MARVIN and HECTOR freeze. The tool flies away stage right. MARVIN floats behind it off stage right. The curtain drops.


Scene 1

The curtain opens. At stage right is an apple tree. Unseen behind the tree is a ladder; MARVIN is waiting on the ladder behind the tree.

Sitting under the tree is ISAAC NEWTON. He is using a pen on a large writing tablet. His face looks very serious and frustrated.

NEWTON: What am I missing, what am I missing? There must be some secret I have missed. Gravity is too difficult to understand!

He scratches out his notes and rips the page off to throw it behind him.

Suddenly, the alien tool falls down onto the tree and it knocks an apple loose. The apple hits NEWTON's head. NEWTON does not see the tool (it is on the other side of the tree where he "can't" see it).

NEWTON: Ouch! I don't want any apples thank you, Mr. Tree!

NEWTON rubs his head and puts the apple in his pocket.

MARVIN makes painful, confused noises behind the tree.

NEWTON: Uhmm, excuse me, did you just say something, Mr. Tree.

MARVIN groans again and the tree shakes.

NEWTON: Okay, okay, thank you for the apple. I will eat an apple everyday!

MARVIN slowly puts his head through a hole in the tree (a piece of green fabric hanging on the tree).

MARVIN: Uhm, hello? Can you help me, please?

NEWTON: What! Who are you? You are not Mr. Tree!

MARVIN: Mr. Tree? No, no, I am Marvin. Marvin Highstreet. I am from America.

NEWTON: From where? America? Is that in India?

MARVIN: Uh, no, you're joking right? I am from the United States of America.

NEWTON: Well, it must be a very small place. I have never heard of it. That must be why your accent is so strange.

MARVIN: The USA was founded in 1776! Everyone has heard of the USA!

NEWTON: Excuse me, sir, but I think you have been in that tree too long. Did you say "in 1776"?

MARVIN: Yes, of course, 1776 is America's birthday.

NEWTON: Very funny, sir. But since this is only 1672, I know you are making a joke. I don't know anything about America but I do know what year it is!

MARVIN: Wait a minute. Now I know you are joking. We live in 2008, not 1672. Sorry to surprise you.

NEWTON: Sir, this is enough joking now. Tell me who you really are and then please go back home. I have to keep studying.

MARVIN: I told you, my name is Marvin Highstreet. I am a garbage man from Fort Mary, New York. I was born in 1976. Two hundred years after America broke away from England.

NEWTON: Broke away from England? … Well, Mr. Highstreet, my name is Isaac Newton. I am a scientist from western England and I was born in 1642. Now may I please get back to my work?

MARVIN: Right. You are Isaac Newton. I must be Albert Einstein.

NEWTON: Albert who? Is he a German author?

MARVIN: Wait a minute. You're not joking. You really are Isaac Newton. THE Isaac Newton!

NEWTON: Well, I am the only Isaac Newton that I know.

MARVIN: No wonder you're wearing those funny old clothes.

NEWTON: Old clothes? I beg your pardon, but I have worn this suit for only a few months. You really must be on your way. I must keep working.

MARVIN: I'm in England, aren't I? This is not a bad dream.

NEWTON: A dream? Of course not! This is England. Where else would we be?

MARVIN: And there are no airports here, right?

NEWTON: What is an airport?

MARVIN: Never mind. Ohhhh…

MARVIN begins walking back and forth, rubbing his head, making upset noises, talking to himself. NEWTON puts his writing pad under his arm and watches MARVIN. He walks to the other side of the tree and sees the alien tool on the ground.

MARVIN: It's this thing!

NEWTON: What thing? Are you all right? I think you need to come out of the sun.

MARVIN: I found this machine in the garbage.

NEWTON: Well if it is garbage why did you pick it up?

MARVIN: I thought it was an expensive computer––

NEWTON: A computer?

MARVIN: Uhhm, a machine. I thought I could sell it, make some money. But I didn't know how to use it. The last thing I remember is Hector yelling at me… and then I was in that tree.

NEWTON: Who is Hector? Oh, never mind that. You mean you did not climb into Mr. Tree, uh, I mean, into the tree? You say you fell into it?

MARVIN: I don't know. I just…woke up in the tree.

NEWTON pulls the apple from his jacket pocket.

NEWTON: And then this apple hit me. And then I heard you up there.

MARVIN: I think it will be harder than you thought for me to go home, Mr. Newton.

NEWTON: Well, you seem very upset. I think you should come back to my house for the night. You need rest. And you must explain your story to me from the beginning.

MARVIN and NEWTON exit stage right.

Scene 2

MARVIN and NEWTON are sitting in large chairs in a small library in NEWTON's house. A fireplace is at stage center. They are drinking tea. The alien tool is on a table between them. A clock behind MARVIN's chair shows it is almost midnight.

NEWTON: I still don't understand how this thing could possibly bring you all the way back to my time. And how did it move you all the way from… "America" to England?

MARVIN: Mr. Newton––

NEWTON: I told you, call me Isaac.

MARVIN: Well, uh, Isaac, you are much smarter than me. I am just a garbage man from…my own… home. If you don't understand this problem, how can I understand it?

NEWTON: I understand your worry. I simply can't imagine how you have moved through both space and time. It's like space and time are one thing.

MARVIN: Actually, I read in a magazine once that Einstein––

NEWTON: Einstein. That German writer, yes?

MARVIN: Uh, well, never mind his name. I'm just trying to say you have the right idea if you study about time and space together.

NEWTON (calls to his niece): Mildred! Mildred! … It's much too late to keep talking about this. You need sleep.

MARVIN: I don't need sleep. I need to go home!

NEWTON: Well, a hot bath and a good night of sleep will be all you can get now. Patience, Marvin. If God brought you here, I am sure He can bring you back home.

MILDRED enters from stage left.

MILDRED: Yes, Uncle, you called me?

NEWTON: Mildred, yes, please get a hot bath ready for Mr. Highstreet.

MARVIN: Hello, miss. My name is Marvin. Marvin Highstreet.

MILDRED: Very nice to meet you, sir.

MILDRED and MARVIN smile at each other for a moment longer but then look away shyly.

NEWTON: Mr. Highstreet has… traveled… a great distance and is very tired. Once you have the bath ready, show him his room for the night.

MILDRED: Yes, Uncle. Will Mr. Highstreet be staying with you for only one night?

MARVIN: Please, call me Marvin. Or Mr. Highstreet. I don't know. Whatever you want.

MARVIN and MILDRED smile at each other again and look away even more shyly.

NEWTON: Ah, well, that is a very good question, Mildred. Mr. Highstreet's travel plans are… complicated, and very hard to explain––so we should plan for him staying with us for some time longer.

MARVIN: It's very nice to meet you… Mildred.

MILDRED: It's also very nice to meet you, Mr. Highstreet. Marvin. Mr. Highstreet.

NEWTON: What is wrong with both of you? You just introduced yourselves a minute earlier.

MILDRED (changing the subject): Uh, I don't recognize your accent, Mr. Highstreet. Are you from Ireland?

MARVIN: Oh, uh, no, I am from a country much farther away than Ireland. But much younger than Ireland.

NEWTON: Mildred, please do not ask Mr. Highstreet too many questions. He is very tired and is here for… strange reasons.

MILDRED: Of course, Uncle. I'll go get his bath ready.

MILDRED exits stage left.

MARVIN: Has Mildred always been your maid?

NEWTON: No. She is not even a maid, really. She became very ill living in London, so she moved here to the countryside. I don't ask much of her, bu she helps me very much in this big house. I spend all my time studying.

MARVIN: Um, may I ask––have you invented calculus yet?

NEWTON: Have I invented what?

MARVIN: Oh, oops! Nothing. Forget it. I just wondered what you are studying now.

NEWTON: Oh heavens, it's all very complicated. I am trying to improve how we use mathematics to study nature. If we can understand nature better, we can know the mind of God better!

MARVIN: Sounds good to me. I was never very good in school. That's why I became a garbage man.

MILDRED enters stage left.

MILDRED: The bath is ready for Mr. Highstreet and I've already cleaned his room for the night.

MARVIN: Oh, great. Okay, well, good night, Mr. Newton.

NEWTON: Please, call me Isaac. Good night, Mr. Highstreet.

MARVIN: Uh, you can call me Marvin. Isaac.

MARVIN exits stage left and NEWTON sits back in his chair, thinking deeply.

Scene 3

MARVIN walks across stage (from stage left to right, then backstage to stage left, etc.) several times as music plays, and MILDRED does the same from stage right. Each time they cross paths, they exchange happy looks, glasses of tea, bows, etc.

Meanwhile at stage center, NEWTON continues working feverishly at his desk, or walking around writing notes. He keeps examining the alien tool, showing expressions of surprise, confusion, joy, insight, etc. As each day comes and goes, MARVIN and MIDLRED pass behind him. We see time passing because NEWTON's hair is already gray and MARVIN's is gray by the end of his walks across the stage.

The music stops playing. MARVIN stays on stage right.

NEWTON: It's just amazing! I do not understand much of the technology in this machine, but what I have learned in the past twelve years has taught me so much about calculus and physics. I am finally ready to finish my book.

MARVIN: Well, Isaac, that is good news. I knew you were going to write your book someday.

NEWTON: Ah, yes, of course you did. Future Man!

MARVIN: Your book will be a success, Isaac––but what about me going home? Have you figured out how to use the machine to send me home?

MILDRED enters stage left.

NEWTON: Well, Marvin, as I said, this machine is very complicated. I don't think it was made my humans. Maybe it is a gift from the angels. I have some ideas, but what if I use it wrong and hurt you?

MILDRED: Oh, Marvin, you must be careful! Don't go back too fast! You should wait until Uncle Isaac really understands the machine.

NEWTON: But, Mildred, it could take me many more years to really understand this machine.

MILDRED (clapping, hopping, very happy): Many more years? Great! … (She looks at MARVIN.) Oh, no, Marvin, I know you should go home, I just mean….

MARVIN: Well, I––I miss my home so much. … But I enjoy living here. The… people are so nice. You are so nice, Mildred.

NEWTON looks at both of them, a little confused, as MARVIN and MILDRED look at each other with smiles.

NEWTON: Why are you two acting so strangely––again?

MARVIN and MILDRED look at NEWTON and shrug innocently.

NEWTON: In any case, Marvin, I do have some good news about getting you back.

MARVIN: Yes? What?

MILDRED (sadly): Oh. Good news.

NEWTON: I understand some of how this machine sends people into the future. I just can't understand how it sends people back in time.

MARVIN: Well, that's fine with me. I have gone back in time enough already.

NEWTON: It is only a guess. It might now work. Do you want to try now?

MARVIN glances at the machine on NEWTON's desk, and then at MILDRED. She nods a little and then looks down. MARVIN wipes his forehead with both hands and sighs.

MARVIN: Okay, Isaac, yes, I am ready to try. But let me say goodbye.

He turns to MILDRED.

MARVIN: I am happy we know each other. I will… miss you. I will always miss you, Mildred!

MILDRED: I know, Marvin! Me, too!

MILDRED steps back as NEWTON approaches MARVIN. NEWTON adjust some things on the alien tool and then hands it to MARVIN.

NEWTON: I have made it ready for you. Only you can touch it so that only you travel home. Just press this button and turn this dial.

MARVIN: That's it? May the angels bring me back safely!

NEWTON steps away as MARVIN works on the alien tool. The tool makes noises and begins to shake. MILDRED cries MARVIN's name and NEWTON puts his thumb up.

MILDRED: Let me come with you, Marvin!

Everyone freezes. Curtain closes.


Scene 1

The alien tool falls into a pile of garbage bags. MARVIN wakes up and stands out of the pile of bags.

MARVIN: Amazing! Isaac did it! I made it home!

His garbage truck rolls in from stage left, driven by HECTOR. HECTOR parks and "comes out" of the truck. He sees MARVIN and jumps out of the truck.

HECTOR: Well, well, well, look who it is. Did you have a nice vacation, Mr. Lazy?

MARVIN: Vacation? It's been years. I was in––uh, I…

HECTOR: I'm sure a week off felt like years away from all this garbage. But you only got a week off. We tried to call you, bu you never answered your phone. Were you sick? And why is your hair all gray? And how did you grow a bread in one week?

MARVIN: No, I––uh, it's hard to explain.

HECTOR: Plus, your accent sounds funny. Did you take a trip to England? Oh, just forget it. We don't have any time to waste with stories. Let's get to work!

MARVIN looks at the garbage, runs over, and picks up the alien tool.

HECTOR: What is that? A stereo?

MARVIN: I need to use a phone, Hector. Now. I need to call the FBI!

HECTOR: You can use my cellphone, just don't talk too long. Why are you calling the FBI? Do you want to pick up the President's garbage?

MARVIN: It's very important. This machine is very powerful. It is the reason I was gone all these years––

HECTOR: Years? You only took a week off!

MARVIN: A week? Well, uh, it, uh, it felt like years. Look, Hector, I need to give this machine to the government.

HECTOR: Like, the FBI?

MARVIN: Yes! If Newton could understand it, they can probably understand it better.

HECTOR: Newton? Isaac Newton? Marvin, did you eat some garbage? You sound crazy.

HECTOR takes the alien tool away from MARVIN and looks at it skeptically.

HECTOR: Are you saying this little… radio… is powerful? It looks like an old cell phone.**

MARVIN: Hector, be careful with that! Be careful!

HECTOR: You need to calm down. Our job is to throw out the garbage, not collect it and make up crazy stories.

HECTOR throws the alien tool behind him. It hits the ground and makes noises. Just then a woman yells. MILDRED enters stage right.

MARVIN: Mildred! The machine brought you here.

HECTOR is completely amazed. As MILDRED runs to hug MARVIN, HECTOR walks back slowly to find the alien tool.

MILDRED: I told Uncle Isaac about you and he finally understood we want to be together. In any time and any place. So he learned how to send me to.

MARVIN sees HECTOR pick up the alien tool.

MARVIN: Hector, this is Mildred. She just came from England.

MILDRED bows and smile at HECTOR.

MARVIN: Do you believe me now, Hector?

HECTOR: Incredible! Forget the FBI! Now it's mine!

HECTOR holds the alien tool over his head like a champion. Then he starts trying to use it. MARVIN approaches him to take away the tool, but HECTOR backs away. The alien tool starts making noises. MARVIN yells, MILDRED covers her mouth, HECTOR looks at them with a confused face, and then everyone freezes.

The curtain rises for a moment. When it drops, HECTOR is gone and MILDRED and MARVIN are awake.

MARVIN: He's gone.

MILDRED: I do hope he is all right.

MARVIN: Well, he always said he wanted to travel. Now he gets his chance!

MILDRED: Marvin, my dear, let's go home. I don't want to lose any more time.

Both exit stage left.




Scene 1

The alien tool falls into a pile of garbage bags. MARVIN wakes up and stands out of the pile of bags.

MARVIN: Amazing! Isaac did it! I made it home!

His garbage truck rolls in from stage left, driven by HECTOR. HECTOR parks and "comes out" of the truck. He sees MARVIN and jumps out of the truck.

HECTOR: Well, well, well, look who it is. Did you have a nice vacation, Mr. Lazy?

MARVIN: Vacation? It's been years. I was in––uh, I…

HECTOR: I'm sure a week off felt like years away from all this garbage. But you only got a week off. We tried to call you, bu you never answered your phone. Were you sick? And why is your hair all gray? And how did you grow a bread in one week?

MARVIN: No, I––uh, it's hard to explain.

HECTOR: Well, you must be eating some weird food, but we don't have any time to waste with stories. Let's get to work.

MARVIN looks at the garbage, runs over, and picks up the alien tool.

HECTOR: What is that? A stereo?

MARVIN: I need to use a phone, Hector. Now. I need to call the FBI!

HECTOR: You can use my cellphone, just don't talk too long. What, do you want to pick up the President's garbage now?

MARVIN and HECTOR walk offstage right as MARVIN dials the FBI.

Scene 2

At stage center MARVIN is sitting in a large chair next to the PRESIDENT OF THE USA. At stage right a NEWS CAMERMAN is filming them talk.

PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. Highstreet, it is my pleasure to give you this award today. You are an American hero!

MARVIN: Oh, no, Mr. President. I was just a garbageman who found something from…well, something very special.

PRESIDENT: Very, VERY special, Mr. Highstreet. Our scientists have explained this tool does not come from Earth, but from outer space. What you have found might improve American science––and weapons, heheh––by decades. If aliens ever do attack, we may be safe.

MARVIN: Well, I wouldn't know anything about it if my good friend, Isaac, did not teach me.

PRESIDENT: Now I want to give you a Medal of Honor, Mr. Highstreet.

MARVIN stands so the PRESIDENT can give him a medal. MARVIN looks at the camera.

MARVIN: I just want to say this: Mildred, if you are out there. I will always love you.

The PRESIDENT puts the medal on MARVIN and then suddenly the alien tool begins to make noises. The PRESIDENT runs behind his desk as guards run to protect him. The CAMERAMAN brings the camera very close to MARVIN. MARVIN tries to control the tool, but then everyone freezes. The curtain falls.

Scene 3

A GORILLA MAN is crawling on the ground, looking for apples. The alien tool falls down into a tree and an apple hits the GORILLA MAN on the head. The GORILLA MAN is angry and hurt but then picks up the tool. He shakes it and makes noises. Nothing happens. It looks a few times at the tool in its hand, at the apple on the ground, and then at the trees above. It yells and jumps and then starts using the alien tool to known down apples for food.

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