This riotous laugh-out-loud comedy proves growing old doesn’t mean growing feeble. It’s the 4th of July, and the women of Happy Meadows Nursing Home have independence in mind! They’re fed up with the rules, the regulations, and especially the food. When senior resident Holly receives a cry for help from her grandson, she rallies her comrades-in-arms and the women plot a break out. Will Holly and her friends succeed? Perhaps with some fireworks, a large can of creamed corn, and extensive lengths of rope, they might just have what it takes to outsmart the thoroughly vexed retirement home director.
Winner of the 2016 SETC/Stage Rights Ready to Publish Award.
Scene 1: It’s another day and another meal in the common room at Happy Meadows Nursing Home. Mary, Betty, and Shirley are facing with disgust the familiar food on their plates, but Holly remains aloof, engrossed in reading a letter. When the women inquire about the letter, Holly tosses it into the trashcan and returns to her meal. Nosy Mary retrieves the letter and reveals that it is from Holly’s grandson Jimmy, who is informing his grandmother that the family farm is up for sale. Holly opens up to her friends about how much the farm means to her, and the women reminisce about their own upbringings. As nostalgia gets the better of them, the women hatch a plan to escape the nursing home so that Holly can say a final goodbye to her home.
Scene 2: In the main office of Happy Meadows Nursing Home, Nurse Nancy is busying on the telephone. Her first call is from State Inspector Monroe, who informs her that he is coming by for an immediate inspection of the facility. This call sends Nancy into a panic because she knows the facility and the food are far from inspection-worthy. She calls her delivery man (and paramour) Gus to tell him to bring top-of-the-line supplies. She then announces over the intercom that the nursing home will be hosting an Independence Day picnic.
Scene 3 : Back in the common room, the women are excited to learn of the picnic. Here is the perfect cover for their escape. With everyone distracted by the picnic, no one will notice if they are gone. Their escape plan moves into high gear. Holly assigns each of the women a role. Mary is the scrounger, in charge of supplies. Betty is the lookout, the eyes on the ground. Shirley is the decoy, ready to create a distraction at a moment’s notice, unless, of course, she forgets (that happens sometimes to Shirley). Holly, as the mastermind, volunteers to handle Nurse Nasty, oops, Nancy. As the women continue to plan, Nancy enters, full of suspicion and distrust. The women evade Nancy’s accusations, and she soon leaves, telling them she has to meet Gus, the delivery man. With news of an upcoming delivery, the women realize the last piece of the escape puzzle has fallen into their laps— the getaway vehicle!
Scene 4: Back in the main office, Nancy is rummaging through her closet looking for picnic supplies. Holly enters with the aim of getting Nancy out of the home and down to the picnic grounds, so the women can more easily escape. Nancy is suspicious of Holly’s motives, and as the two women begin to argue, Shirley enters in her wheelchair carrying fireworks. Nancy grills Shirley about the fireworks. Shirley panics and pushes Nancy into a closet, locking the door from the outside. Holly and Shirley run off with the fireworks.
Scene 5: Back in the common room, Mary and Betty are now dressed in all black with panty-hose over their heads, pacing nervously as they await the delivery man. Shirley and Holly enter and tell them that Nancy has been taken care of. Shirley heads out again to work on her distraction, and Holly asks Mary for a status report. Mary goes through her large bag of supplies, which includes a glass jar of “tonic” (which Betty discovers is really pure grain alcohol) and a large can of creamed corn. The delivery truck is heard pulling up to the home. Betty sounds the signal for Shirley to create a distraction, but Shirley is nowhere to be found. Holly and Betty tell Mary she has to handle Gus the delivery man while they hide. When Gus enters, Mary inadvertently flirts with him, making coquettish comments that border on the obscene. Gus is confused but eventually figures out that Mary is up to something. Mary calls Holly and Betty for help. The women ask Gus if they can borrow his truck, but he laughs and mocks them, so Betty knocks him unconscious with the large can of creamed corn.
Scene 1: Holly, Mary, and Betty are tying up Gus when Shirley enters dressed in red, white, and blue crepe paper and wearing a Statue of Liberty headpiece. Holly is angry with Shirley because she didn’t distract Gus and they had to knock him out instead. Holly threatens to leave Shirley behind, but Shirley apologizes and tells Holly how important escaping with the others is to her. Holly agrees that Shirley can come. She tells the others to stash Gus somewhere while she goes outside to start the delivery truck.
After Holly leaves, Mary, Betty, and Shirley try to hide Gus, eventually placing a table over him. Outside the sound of the truck engine revving and then dying is heard. Holly reenters to tell them the truck is out of gas. The women consider giving up, but Holly says that she just needs more time to think. Shirley boldly declares she will provide them with more time by at last providing the required distraction. Shirley exits with a flourish as the others watch her nervously. Holly, Betty, and Mary worry that they can’t count of Shirley, but soon the sounds of exploding fireworks and Shirley yelling, “Give me liberty or give me death,” are heard. Shirley has created a glorious distraction but has also succeeded in filling the nursing home with smoke. As Nancy and Gus set chase after Shirley, Holly realizes this is their chance to make a break for it if they can only get the truck started. Betty suggests using Mary’s “tonic” as a gas substitute. As Holly gets ready to race to the truck, Shirley is heard calling for help because she has been captured by Nancy and Gus. Holly, Betty, and Mary are faced with the decision of whether to continue their escape plan or help Shirley. Betty and Mary opt to rescue Shirley, but Holly chooses to take her chances with the truck and escape to her family farm. Betty tosses Holly the “tonic,” and Mary tells her to be careful before they hurry off to find Shirley. Holly watches them as they leave and then heads for the truck.
Scene 2: In Nancy’s office, Nancy and Gus are busy interrogating Shirley. As Nancy becomes more intense, Gus becomes more reluctant. He is beginning to develop a fondness for Shirley and her cronies (even if they did knock him out with creamed corn). Gus reveals that he and Nancy have been skimming profits from the nursing home and that’s why the food has been so bad. Shirley chastises him, causing him to feel even guiltier. Gus tells Nancy he doesn’t want to be part of her schemes anymore, but she threatens to blackmail him. Gus and Nancy then leave to find the other women, locking Shirley in the office. Shirley uses the intercom to call for help. Betty and Mary arrive at the window to rescue Shirley. As they explain to Shirley that Holly has left, Holly appears at the window, exclaiming, “One for all and all for one.” The women then try to figure out how to get Shirley and her wheelchair out of Nancy’s office so that they can all head to Holly’s farm together. They hatch the idea of tipping Shirley backwards out of the window and hoping that the bushes will break her fall. As they tip Shirley’s wheelchair, Gus and Nancy return demanding answers. As Nancy becomes more aggressive toward the women, Gus finds the strength to stand up to her, claiming today as his Independence Day. Gus locks Nancy in the closet and tells the women to make their escape. He bids them each a fond farewell and then telephones Inspector Monroe to report the conditions at Happy Meadows Nursing Home (as Nancy howls from the closet).
Scene 3: On the front porch of Holly’s farmhouse, Holly, Mary, Betty, and Shirley eat fresh apple pie and watch the fireworks as Jimmy plays down by the barn. They all agree that this is an Independence Day they will never forget.
It’s like an episode of “The Golden Girls.” Hilarious… a lot of laughs.
Shirley – Excitable, nervous, older woman.
Betty – Sarcastic, no-nonsense, older woman.
Mary – Sweet, Southern, older woman.
Holly – Determined, intelligent, older woman.
Nancy – Self-serving, controlling, middle-aged woman.
Gus – Gruff, blue-collar, middle-aged man.
Settings: The common room and administration office of Happy Meadows Nursing Home; Holly's farmhouse.
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An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement. Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date, unless other arrangements have been made in advance with your Stage Rights Licensing Representative.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for Independence Day at Happy Meadows consists of:
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