The Abbess – a strong, mature middle-aged woman who runs the Inn.
Tinker – a man of unknown age (older than mid-20’s) who roams the ice wasteland looking for items of value to trade
Simeon – a older Jewish man who lives at the Inn, hoping for the coming of the Messiah.
Rachel – Simeon’s eldest daughter – a whore
Sarah – Simeon’s younger daughter – a whore
Fen, the Matchstick Girl – the Abbess’ ‘daughter’.
Anno – The Abess’ husband
Woman – a traveler who comes upon the Inn in labor
Man – a traveler, the Woman’s companion
(LIGHTS UP on SIMEON and ESTHER playing chess; ABBESS is holding the child in her arms, cooing and rocking her. RACHEL looks at the child over ABBESS’ shoulder. FEN sits at the table, playing with the nativity figures.)
RACHEL: Can I hold her now?
ABBESS: You’ll have plenty of time for holding this baby when Anno gets you to the city.
RACHEL: You’re sure you won’t come?
ABBESS: We’ve been through this too many times already. Just let it be Rachel.
ESTHER: Well, it is kind of you and Anno to help us to get there.
ABBESS: It’s not too much trouble. Most of your luggage went with your fiancés (she raises her eyebrows suggestively at this word) so taking what you have left with the dogs isn’t too much work. Besides, a blind man could find his way to the new city with the trail all those people left behind.
SIMEON: You’ve been practicing! You were never this good when I was teaching you. Who have you been playing against? (He looks accusingly at RACHEL who shrugs her shoulders. FEN giggles and sort of hides in her Christmas book. SIMEON pulls down the cover.) I should’ve known! A conspiracy! (He stands up and walks over to ABBESS and the child.) Aren’t you beautiful. You are the hope of all the people who have gone onto the city. You are the one they are talking about—the first new child of the City of God!
ABBESS: But she wasn’t born in the New City. She was born here, in my inn.
SIMEON: That’s true, but who wants to believe the first child born after the plague was born in an inn?
FEN: Just like baby Jesus.
FEN: Jesus--the baby in the story. He wasn’t even born in an inn, just a shelter, where the animals were kept. And he was the Messiah.
SIMEON: I’ve told you already Fen, that story is not from the Torah—
FEN: I think it’s true all the same.
SIMEON: The Messiah is a king, not the son of a peasant girl.
FEN: Moses was really the son of a slave—and he rescued the people from being slaves.
SIMEON: Yes but that’s different.
SIMEON: Because it’s different. I don’t know how.
ABBESS: Well, someone once told me that sometimes life isn’t what we see, it’s what we believe. Well, sometimes life is just what we see. And today I saw hope born here in this Inn. Not in your magical City. And isn’t that what the Messiah was to bring? Hope? Light in the darkness?
SIMEON: “From the lips of children—you have ordained praise.” Let me not be too set in my ways oh Lord. (He looks at FEN.) You are right Fen. All these years you have listened to me, and in the end saw what I could not. And what is good enough for Messiah is good enough for this little one.
RACHEL: She needs a name.
RACHEL: Not the name I’d have expected coming from you Abbess.
ABBESS: Well I’m full of surprises today.
(ANNO enters with several packs and lugs them toward the stairs.)
SIMEON: Where are you off to?
(ANNO looks at SIMEON, confused. Then he looks to ABBESS for an explanation.)
ABBESS: I hadn’t told them yet.
RACHEL: Told us what?
ANNO: We’re going to the City with you.
(ESTHER and RACHEL give excited squeals and hug ABBESS. SIMEON smiles.)
ESTHER: So you were lying!
ABBESS: Not entirely—Anno is holding me to going, like I asked him. But I still have one foot stuck in the door here.
RACHEL: What made you change your mind?
RACHEL: Abbess, I told you I’d take good care…
ABBESS: Not the baby. I started hoping for…something else, anything else, more than just surviving.
ANNO: And if you all knew how difficult it was for her to say that…
ABBESS: Get on with your packing! We’ve got a fair bit more to load on the sled.
ANNO: Come give me a hand, Fen?
(ANNO heads up the stairs while FEN gets up from the table and heads for the landing. ANNO opens the door to the outside from offstage, and a bright light shines down on FEN. She screams.)
ABBESS: Fen! Are you all right?
FEN: (shielding her eyes) What is it?
ABBESS: I don’t know. Anno! Anno!
ANNO: (offstage) I’m all right! (Footsteps on the stairs, Anno reenters onto the landing) You’ll never believe it…the clouds have broken.
ABBESS: My God…
FEN: What does that mean mama?
ABBESS: It means that light…it’s the sun. (She looks down at the baby cradled in her arms.) You really did make it to see the dawn.
ANNO: It’s sitting in the sky over top of the line of tracks the people left going to the City. You can see them all, but it’s so bright…the snow, it’s all so bright. It’s like the whole world’s turned pure white.
SIMEON: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
FEN: The sun is in the direction of the city?
ANNO: Yes, to the West.
FEN: Bethlehem. We’re going to Bethlehem.