Looking out for Number 1

By Erina Caradus


A drama in 4 scenes, which follows the life choices and their consequences for two university students: Si, the hedonist and Ellen, the striver. Both are living for themselves and are ultimate success stories, achieving all their dreams. Well thatís what weíd all like to think isnít it?


Young Ellen Ė extroverted, a compulsive workaholic, who wants to succeed at any cost. 
Young Si Ė laid back, a compulsive spender and pleasure seeker. Better if he is not tall. (In the first 2 scenes both are around 19 or 20. In Scene 3 they are around 27 and in the final scene are in their 80ís.)
Old Ellen
Old Si
Minor Characters
Susy Ė friendly, intelligent but trusting.
Mr Rogers Ė condescending, kindly manner, someone who is impressed by image
Phil & Scott  - students, Scott is conscientious, Phil more impressionable and needs to be tall and bronzed!
Jenny Ė a sub-ordinate who exists to make Ellen look good and stroke her ego.
Sam Neill Ė the charming man himself!
Nurse Ė matter of fact, used to handling difficult people

Staging: This was written to be performed in scenes with other parts of the service happening between scenes. It works to run some scenes together.


Scene 1          Big dreams Big schemes
OHP: 2001
(Ellen is 2nd year at Otago University. After a yearís OE, Si is only 1st year. They were at secondary school together but were not friends. Lights up on a queue for ID during Orientation. There are 2 people behind a desk and several people in a queue, holding forms with Ellen & Si at the rear. Ellen has her back to Si. As she glances back, he recognises her.)

Si: Heh, arenít you Ellen? (trying to remember her name) Ellen Dawkins.

Ellen: (icily) Ellen Dawson, actually.

Si: Yeah, thatís right. But at school we used to call you Ė Smellin Dawkins (Ellen turns her back on him. Realising he has offended her, he swings her back round) Whoa, sorry, didnít mean to be rude.

Ellen: Look, I donít think I even know you.

Si: (surprised) Know me? Si Ė Si Robson. School. Remember?

Ellen: (remembering) Simon Robson. Oh, yes, I do know you now. I just didnít recognise you, with the hair and all. I donít remember seeing you round Varsity last year though. What course were you doing?

Si: O.E.
Ellen: Huh?

Si: You know. The big O.EÖ.surfed for a bit in Oz, picked up some work here and there, then cruised off to Europe.

Ellen: Europe? Amazing! You must have seen some wonderful things.  Did you make it to Rome?

Si: (thinking) Rome. (sounding doubtful) Yeah.

Ellen: So, did you see round the Vatican Museums? The Colosseum?

Si: (who has been looking puzzled at these names) Well Öthere were some pretty cool cafes there and the chicks are something else. Picked up this really awesome chick one night and we hung around together for a couple of weeks.
Yeah, Rome was awesome.

Ellen: But didnít you see anything interesting? Anything historical?

Si: (thinking) Oh, yeah, sure. Munich ruled. I met up with some mates and we did the Oktoberfest. Iíve never been so wasted in my life. It was awesome.

Ellen: But didnít you run out of money?

Si: Yeah, sure but if you meet the right people you can make a buck or two, under the table of course. You arenít meant to work on a tourist visa but as long as you donít get caughtÖ

Ellen: So, youíre starting Varsity this year?

Si: Yeah. I did a stint in Central, fruit picking. I was broke when I got back. But now Iím on the student loan. No interest, cool, huh? We can stack it up as much as we like now!

Ellen: Donít forget you have to pay it back when you finish.

Si: No fear, babe. Iíll be off to Oz when Iím done. Big money, good life, great chicks. Anyway, how about you? What did you do last year?

Ellen: First year BCom.

Si: Scholarship in Bursary, right?

Ellen: (agreeing, reasonable smugly) Actually, I did do pretty well.

Si: Yeah, you always were bright. Even at Primary School you used to be a try hard.

Ellen: (pointedly) Well, there's no point wasting your life. Most students I know just muck around. But if you really want to go somewhere, you need to put the work in, impress the right people.

Si: Phew! Ellen Clark number 2.

Ellen: (coolly) Thatís always a possibility.

Si: Well, good luck, Ellen. (pointing to the desk which the last student is just leaving) Move on up to the Number 1 slot. Iíll leave all the succeeding to you. For me Ö heh, babeÖIím just here for a good time. Isnít that the student life?

Lights out

Scene 2 :a few months laterÖ    image is everything
OHP: 2001
(Ellen is working late in the library, on a Marketing assignment with her classmate, Susy. They are seated at a table with 2 chairs. Ellen is determined to succeed at any cost and is out to impress the right people. Susy is friendly, helpful and intelligent but not competitive. Ellen has completed the assignment but is having problems with the final question.)

Ellen: (looking over Susyís shoulder) Gee, old Rogers gives out dull assignments. What do you think about this last question? Itís a bit hard, isnít it?

Susy: Yeah. I struggled with that one for ages but I  reckon Iíve got it sussed.  It was really hard though, wasnít it?

Ellen: I reckonÖ So, what did you think?

Susy: (speaks quite quickly and Ellen scribbles down what she says) Well, what I think theyíre looking for are some innovative ways you could increase the companyís sales. I came up with a few ideas. See? (shows Ellen) (Pointing) This is the one I really like: bring out a 2-litre bottle and get rid of the 1.5 litre. That way you increase consumption without increasing costs. I read it in a top marketing magazine.

Ellen: (condescendingly) Thanks, Susy. It sounds like youíve made an OK start.

Susy: Youíre welcome, Ellen. (Pause) How about number 2? I wasnít sure about that one.

Ellen: (putting another book over the top of her work) Oh, I havenít finished it. (Pause) But itís definitely got something to do with diminishing returns.

Susy: (frowning, doubtful) Diminishing Returns? I didnít think soÖ.But if youíre sureÖ

Ellen: Yes Ė I am. Make sure you mention that if you want a decent mark.

Susy: Thanks, Ellen. (Looking at watch) Well, Iíd better pack it in. Itís half ten. See you in Marketing tomorrow. (She packs up and leaves)

(As Ellen works she notices her lecturer enter and straightens her hair.)

Ellen: (standing up) Oh, hello, Mr Rogers. Iíve just been working on your fascinating Marketing assignment.

Mr R: ErrÖhelloÖEllen, isnít it? Iím glad youíre enjoying it. I must say Iím impressed to see you working here at this time of night when itís not due in a for another fortnight.

Ellen: Itís important to me to get ahead. (Pause)  Iím finding marketing great.

Mr R: Well, Iíve certainly seen some outstanding work from you and also from that friend of yours Ė Susan Adamson.

Ellen: Susy? Well, I wouldnít exactly call her a friend. Just someone I help out. She finds marketing pretty demanding, so Iíve put quite a bit of time in helping her understand the more difficult concepts.

Mr R: Thatís very kind of you, Ellen. I like to see a caring attitude Ė some students can be so competitive, especially in the business courses.  SoÖ (Looking over her shoulder) How are you getting on? GoodÖGoodÖ  Ah! Iím glad you realised number 2 had nothing at all to do with diminishing returns. (Pause) Now, how about that last question? Thatís the real test. I want to find out who has the real marketing talent in this class.

Ellen: Iím just writing it up now. (Awkward pause. Ellen does some fast thinking) Actually, that was the bit that Susy was really stuck on. I was happy to give her a few of my ideas. The one I really like is something I found in a top Marketing magazine.

Mr R: Really? And what was that?  (Beginning hesitantly but sounding more and more confident, Ellen repeats what Susy had said) Well, I must say Iím very impressed. Youíre obviously going to go a long way, young lady.

Lights out

(Lights up on Si walking along dressed for the beach, dangling car keys in his hand. Phil and Scott are walking in the opposite direction and they meet centre stage.)

Si: Heh, Phil!

Phil: Heh, Si! Youíre going the wrong way, mate. Itís 2:55. Comp 101 starts in 5.

Si: Does it? Oh, yeah, I guess it does. But look at the day! Itís too hot for a crowded lecture theatre. The surf is callingÖHeh! Why donít you guys come too? Iím stopping off at a café and then cruising on out to St Clair.

Phil: Well (hesitating) Iím not in the habit of missing lectures.

Si: Arenít you?  I am. Relax, man. Come and do the student thing. Look, Iíve got a spare board and wet suit in the back of the car Ė thereís nothing stopping you.

Phil: (impressed) Youíve got a car?

Si: Yeah, sure. Red hot. Come for a spinÖ

Scott: Iíll be going Phil. I donít want to miss the start. You coming?

Phil: No you go on, Scott. I think Iíll just go along with me mate, Si, here. (Scott leaves)

Si: Good choice, Phil. Heh, Iíll shout you a few soon, mate but I just want to stop by Strawberry Sound first.

Phil: Is that a café?

Si: (laughing) A café? No. Good sound gear. Iím after a pair of subs. Iíve just got a thousand bucks off on my loan Ė said it was for living expenses, but heh Ė you got to get your priorities right. Money means happiness. Iíll pick it up on the way to the waves. Got a (relevant pop group) CD here. Weíll turn it up loud so we can hear it on the surf.

Phil: Sounds cool.

Si: Look; me and my flat mates are having a rave tonight. Few crates, few chicks Ė bit of fun. Want to head back there after the beach? Weíll pick up a couple of pizzas.

Phil: (doubtfully, he would like to say, yes) Well, I was meant to be studying for a test tomorrow.

Si: Heh, man. Letís have a riot. Burn a few couches; chat up a few lookers.  You donít need to worry about the test. Youíre a student, man. Live it up! Come on Ė letís go get the subs. Iím ready for some serious surfing.

(They leave as the lights go out)

Scene 3 :     Upwardly mobile
OHP: 2008
(7 years later, in Queenstown. Ellen is at the front of the stage, dressed in a business suit and has an assistant, Jenny, running after her. Si is at the back of the stage with his climbing mate, Phil, sorting out climbing gear. Lights up on Ellen talking with the mayor.)

Sam: (shaking her hand) Delighted to meet you, Ms Dawson. I must say we feel honoured here in Queenstown to have the new Head of Tourism come all this way to meet with us.

Ellen: Well, Mayor Neill....

Sam: Oh, please call me Sam. All my friends do.

Ellen: As I was saying, Queenstown is one of our number one tourist attractions, and in my new job I wanted to see our countryís assets for myself.

Sam: Well, if youíll just follow me into the lodge.  (As he turns, Ellen speaks to Jenny)

Ellen: I donít believe it. (Pointing to Si and Phil) I went to school with that guy over there.

Jenny: Do you mean the tall bronzed one?

Ellen: No, the short grubby looking one. Si Robson. What a complete loser.

Jenny (glancing admiringly at Ellen) Well, youíd never know you went to the same school. Youíve come a long way in a short time, Ellen.

Ellen: Well, itís like this, Jenny. Iíve always known what I wanted and Iíve just worked until I got it.
 (They move off and Si and Phil come to the front of the stage)

Si: Youíre not going to believe it, Phil, but I went to school with that smart looking chick back there. I havenít seen her since I got back from Oz but Iíd know her anywhere Ė Smellin Dawkins.

Phil: For real? You mean Ellen Dawson? Donít you know who she is? The new head of Tourism.

Si: No way! Really? She always was a mover. Not much fun about her. Not my kind of girl Ė if you know what I mean. You know Ė I bet we get just as much cash as her when we work for these movie fellas and Ė heh, itís hard slog for 3 months but the rest of the yearís cruisy. Did I tell you, Iím off to the Alps after we finish up here? Put in some serious climbing. This is the life Ė all fun, no responsibilities.

(Lights out)

Scene 4 :  All the way to the topÖ.
OHP: 2050

(In an old peopleís home. Ellen is in an armchair stage left. Si is in another chair stage right. Lights up (spot) on Ellen. Enter Nurse with tea trolley.)

Nurse: Here you are, Miss Dawson, lovey. Hereís a nice cuppa tea.

Ellen: (in a demanding voice) Do you know who I am? Do you? Minister of Tourism, thatís who I am.

Nurse: Yes, of course you are dear. Now, donít fuss and drink up this nice cup of tea. (moves on with her trolley)

Ellen: (waving her stick after the nurse) Iím someone important, you know. Iíve made it to the top. Iím not like this common riff raff here. Iím a success, do you hear me?

(Lights down as Ellen slurps her tea. Spot up stage right on Si, seated and Nurse with tea trolley.)

Nurse: Cup of tea, Mr Robson?

Si: Thanks, but just call me Si, will ya? Heh, heh, youíre a cute chick. (grabs her round the waist) and I should know. Iíve had a few in my time. (winks broadly)

Nurse: (unruffled) There now, Mr Robson, just you sit still or youíll spill your tea on that nice jersey.

Si: Did I tell you about my trip to the Alps? Iíve climbed some of the hardest lines in the world. Heh, Iíve had some experiences in my time. (Pointing at audience) Not like these boring old fogies. My life is really exciting. (coughing fit) Can I have a beer, nurse? This teaís disgusting.

Nurse: Iím sorry. The doctor said no stimulants. (she walks off with the tea trolley)

Si: (sagging head, slopping his tea) My lifeís really exciting, do you hearÖ? Do you hearÖ?

(Lights fade out as Si nods over his tea.)


© Erina Caradus (Dunedin City Baptist) April 2001
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. Our drama group can be contacted at the following address: Caradii@xtra.co.nz