s y n o p s i s a n d p r o d u c t i o n R E Q U I R E M E N T S
On December 1, 1969, five fraternity brothers gather together to listen to the U.S. Army's draft lottery, which uses birth dates to determine the order in which they will be called to serve in Vietnam. Broadcast on national television and radio, the brothers anxiously listen as dates are drawn, one-by-one, over an excruciating 90-minute period. When the last date is drawn, the brothers react to the realization that their lives have been changed forever. They also begin to turn on each other.
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The Birthday Lottery is a one-act play comprised of four scenes:
The brothers struggle to understand what is happening as the military casually announces who will be called first.
Division forms as the brothers challenge the meaning of patriotism, question the war’s morality, and take calls from anxious parents.
The brothers explore deferment and exemption strategies, including Canada, conscientious objection, and self-mutilation.
Those with low draft numbers express anger and frustration towards the “lucky ones” that manage to fall outside the Army’s reach. But, there are no winners in Nixon’s lottery.
Decades later, the brothers look back at how the Vietnam war impacted their lives.
CAST of CHARACTERS
MIKE HARRIS, age 21, a college senior at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn); president of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity (aka, Beta); a natural leader; respected, admired and loved by his fraternity brothers.
LINDA HARRIS, age 23, Mike’s sister and a graduate student in Literature at Penn. Strong, independent and maternal, naturally protective of her younger brother.
CHAD DUMONT, age 21, a star running back with the Penn Quakers and Mike’s roommate. Uses his bravado to mask his true feelings, which he has a tough time sorting out.
RORY McALLISTER, age 20, a college senior and member of Beta Theta Pi. Naturally curious, good student; a bit of a loner; one of Chad’s closest friends.
DAVID ROTHWELL, age 21, a pre-law, college senior; strikingly handsome, very much a “Big Man on Campus.” Beta’s Chaplain and Historian; comes from a life of privilege and wealth.
TIM WANG, age 21, member of Beta Theta Pi; a good student and a talented, very competitive athlete, but lacks Chad’s star status. Seeks aggressive ways to avoid the draft.
ROGER MUDD, age 35, reporter at CBS News.
COL DANIEL OMAR, age 54, distinguished military adviser to the Nixon administration.
TIME and PLACE
The evening of December 1st 1969; Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, University of Pennsylvania.
Single set: All scenes occur in the library of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Downstage, an analog clock and a bulletin board, which is used to pin up sheets of paper containing the birth dates and names of the fraternity brothers. One side of the stage is a hallway that leads to the kitchen, which is where the wall phone could be located. The other side of the stage is a door leading to a hallway, which leads to the home’s front door. Click here for sample design.
Sound and Effects. Rock ‘n Roll music from the 1960s might be played as people enter the theatre. The ring of an old-fashioned telephone is heard in Scenes One and Three. A doorbell in Scene 1. CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas and the Papas begins during the epilogue.
Table and 5-6 chairs
Analog clock; a bulletin board
Steno pad, two pens, a large three-ring binder
Jug of Gallo wine; 2-3 wine glasses
Two additional wine bottles; at least two six-packs beer
Plates, knives and forks.
Wrapped birthday gift; containing a vinyl LP album
Walking cane, a crutch, a bloody bandage, a white bandage.
Cake, five smaller plates, a coffee pot, a knife