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Nationwide Writes A Super Bowl Commercial: A one-act play

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Nationwide Insurance startled, upset, and even traumatized some viewers with its Super Bowl ad, in which a plot twist reveals the death of a child. Never trust an insurance company to feel anything.

An ADVERTISING AGENT finds himself in Nationwide Insurance headquarters with three company executives: BRADLEY, HENDERSON and MITCHELL.

ADVERTISING AGENT. Before we get started, I just want to say that we would be delighted to work with Nationwide. We've represented a number of insurance companies over the years, and we believe that this opportunity is right in our--

BRADLEY. We want a commercial where a child dies.

AGENT. I'm ... sorry?

BRADLEY. Or maybe not dies, but is dead already? Can you do that? How do children work?

AGENT. I will be frank with you. That idea's a bad egg. Even if you argue that your intent is to shock people into giving attention to safety issues ... this is not how you ought to do that.

HENDERSON. Well, what if we set it up to be a really nice, heartwarming ad, and then we suddenly make the kid dead in the end?

AGENT. Oh God, no! That's even worse. That's far, far worse. It's cheap, it's beyond tasteless. It's overwhelmingly self-important. It will make people feel rotten. It could trigger painful responses from certain people. That is the worst idea I have ever heard.

I believe it may be in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this juncture. I do appreciate your time. You gentlemen have a nice day.

[AGENT packs his presentation materials and leaves.]

BRADLEY. Wellllp. I guess we're on our own.

MITCHELL. Really blew that one. He was a human, too. Can we develop an ad without an actual flesh-and-blood human?

HENDERSON. I've studied humans really closely, I bet I can simulate one well enough.

MITCHELL. OK then, let's spitball. The human didn't like the dead child idea. Should we go in a direction that isn't sad?

BRADLEY. I know nothing that isn't sad.

HENDERSON. [nods, grimaces, points to Wharton School of Business degree on wall]

MITCHELL. OK. OK, I've got something.

We're in a tiny apartment. A woman walks in. It's her birthday, but she just moved to this city, so she doesn't have any friends, right? She's very lonely. She moves slowly, as though each creak of a joint is a spiritual struggle, and sits in the middle of her tattered sofa. She sits there a while, just staring at the wall, thinking.

BRADLEY. Walls! I love it. Love some damn walls.

MITCHELL. So after a few minutes, she decides, "I'm not going to let all this get me down." She sorts through her pantry and realizes she has the stuff to bake a cake, right? So she gets a cake started. She's about halfway through. Then her power shuts off. She couldn't pay her electric bill.

So she pulls the cake out of the oven. It's all goopy, you know, it's barely set at all. She sits on the floor by the window. A far-off street light illuminates an otherwise-pitch-black apartment. She tries to put candles in her cake, but they keep tilting over and falling into the goop. She begins to cry. Meteorite destroys the whole city, she's dead.

Nationwide.

HENDERSON. I dig it.

BRADLEY. Got one. This one's a little simpler. Just roll with me.

We're in a grade-school cafeteria. A class of third-graders is at a big long table. They've all got lunch boxes with their favorite cartoons on 'em. They're talking, laughing, seeing what their parents packed them, you know, typical kid stuff. One kid's like, "I got cookies! Trade you for some string cheese!" They're all happy.

In the middle of the table sits this one kid, right? He opens a little paper sack and finds a can of beans. He gently sets it on the table in front of him. There's no can opener. He can't get it open. It's just a can of beans. None of the other kids are paying any attention to him. Just sittin' there by himself with a can of beans he can't eat. No expression on his face, really.

A couple minutes pass, he sets it on its side. Just kind of rolls it back and forth on the table in front of him. And then, like, it turns out that his lunch is so terrible that God tells him he has to live in Hell. The kid kind of nods silently, you know? He knows he deserves that, because his lunch is so crappy. So his seat kind of slowly retracts into the Earth. And he lives in Hell forever with the Devil.

Nationwide.

HENDERSON. Child Hell! Holy smokes. Do you think children ever go to Hell?

BRADLEY. Well, that matter is a little complicated for me. See, on one hand, I don't believe in Hell. On the other hand, I absolutely, firmly believe that all children go to Hell.

HENDERSON. Mm, right.

MITCHELL. My turn.

There are these two sisters, right? They've been near and dear to one another their entire lives. They've supported each other through marriages, hardship, the good times, the bad times, everything. They're getting late in their lives, and as they do, it dawns on them that all they really have is one another.

So they move into a modest little home in the town where they grew up. It's a quaint little town, which matches their pace perfectly. You know what they really love to do? Take walks together. This is some town in Connecticut, so the trees in the fall cast all these gorgeous shades from their leaves. They walk through the park every day, then wind up at the produce market, filling up their little baskets with fruits and vegetables, deciding what they will cook in the evening.

They do this for years and years, and we could forgive them for feeling as though this just might last forever.

It's winter now. A week from now, one of the sisters will break her hip in a fall, and will no longer be able to take these walks. The other sister will bundle up and get groceries on her own. It will feel foreign, unfamiliar, as though something has been irretrievably lost.

But today? There's a heavy snowfall. We, the audience, we're about fifty feet behind them on the sidewalk. All we can really make out are two silhouettes. Two shadows of these old ladies, arm-in-arm as they step across a puddle. It is the last time they will walk together. They are inseparable. This is the last day that will be so.

HENDERSON. Ooh.

MITCHELL. Nationwide.

HENDERSON. Oh, that's a winner.

[pause]

BRADLEY. We done? Any other ideas?

HENDERSON. Hmm.

[long pause]

HENDERSON. You get up to piss one morning, worms fall out of your dick hole, Nationwide.

BRADLEY. We're done. Dead kid?

MITCHELL. Dead kid.