Playwriting: Pulpits

April 14, 2024


Centrifuge 2024

Theme: “Loyalty”

Infinity Box Theatre Project

Performed at Theatre Off Jackson, April 12-13, 2023

Science Writer: Michelle Martin

Playwright: Catherine Blake Smith

Director: Tom Fraser

Summary: A barista attempts to lure in a fungus gnat with a mysterious mushroom aroma at Pulpits, a pretentious coffee shop.


Jax – An anxious new barista at Pulpits. The male version of Jack in the Pulpit plant.

Jayle – A seasoned manager at Pulpits. The female version of Jack in the Pulpit plant.

Finlay – A social media influencer. And a bird.

River – A sweet fungus gnat, just looking for some yummy mushrooms. 

Scene: Pulpits, a pretentious coffee shop. Maybe there’s an abstraction of a jack in the pulpit plant, like a mural or physical sign. Lofi music is always playing softly.

The Science: Deadly plant kills its pollinators but nurses their young 

“Jack-in-the-pulpit flowers – famed for trapping and killing their pollinators – might also serve as a nursery for the insects’ eggs. … When Kenji Suetsugu and his team at Kobe University in Japan incubated 62 flowers of the Asian jack-in-the-pulpit species Arisaema thunbergii, they noticed … [t]he helplessly trapped gnats laid their eggs in the flowers’ crowns. When the flowers began dying, these larvae fed on their shrivelling and decaying flesh and then popped out as adults a few weeks later. The fact that the traps could serve a dual function – as a site of pollination and as a nursery for the next generation of pollinators – is “indeed surprising”, says Suetsugu.”

Script Preview:

Lights up on JAX, who is opening at the coffee shop Pulpits. They’re nervous as they set up the till for the first time (it’s an iPad), warm up the espresso machine (it’s automatic), and rearrange the tables and chairs (already set perfectly the night before). They take out a huge spray bottle labeled with a toxic symbol and mushroom from behind the counter and spritz. They listen to a voice memo from their manager. 

JAYLE (Voiceover)

Good morning Jax. Welcome to your second opening shift at Pulpits. I hope you’re ready to foster our loving and loyal community. Our customers love to come to Pulpits because they know they’ll get everything they need. That’s why they never want to leave. Now take a deep breath in–

JAX does. 

And hold it… now blow it all out. Release release release. Good job. Just remember the three rules to any successful day at Pulpits: be fruitful, spread the word, and inspire loyalty. 

JAX smiles, feeling more ready to take on the day.

Now don’t forget the sticky stuff!!!

JAX rushes behind the counter and pulls out a big yellow can. They start to paint every surface, especially the table and chairs. As they are painting, FINLAY walks in. JAX rushes to put the can and brush away behind the counter.


Hi, I’m Jax. How can I help you today?


On their phone. You’re new.


Yes! Yes, I am new. I’m new to Pulpits. Welcome to Pulpits. Welcome back to Pulpits.

FINLAY continues to scroll.


What can I get for ya? 


Tom B Sammie. 


Excuse me? Looks at the menu behind them. Checks the iPad. Oh, oh right. The tomato berry sandwich. Yes, right away! Reaching for something. Would you like to join our loyalty… oh.

FINLAY taps their phone on the iPad and it beeps. They walk away to scroll. JAX frantically looks underneath the counter for a tomato sandwich when RIVER wanders in, enamored by the wafting aromas. JAX quickly finds a pre-wrapped sandwich and sets it on the counter as RIVER approaches the counter. 


Setting the sandwich on the counter. 

One Tom B Sandwich, err, sammie on the bar. 

FINLAY does not respond.

Order up!

Nothing. After a beat, JAX makes a “DING” sound like a cellphone. FINLAY looks up and takes their sandwich and exits.


Smiling. Hi. 


Tentatively smiling.

Hi. How are you? I mean, welcome to Pulpits–


What’s that smell?


Excuse me?


That smell. What’s that smell? Sniffs. Is it… Looking at the menu… no, it can’t be. 


Catching on. They were prepared for this. 

Ah, yes. What you’re smelling is our house made specialty blend of dual extract adaptogens, which are packed full of polysaccharides, beta-glucans, and triterpenes



Wow. So… mushrooms?



We love mushrooms here at Pulpits.


Contact me to read a complete version of the script.

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