"Step on a Crack"

A One-Act Play by Suzan Zeder

Step on a crack - Break your mother's back?. Louise LeGresley

Ellie’s mother died when she was just four years old and after that it was just Ellie and her father, Max - an unstoppable, TV-dinner-eating, joke-telling, bowling extraordinaire team. Then Max remarries. Ellie’s life now includes: vegetables, cleaning her room, and a stepmother. Lucille, Max and Ellie are all experiencing a rough period of adjustment.

This story is familiar to many blended families.

Ellie and Lucille have a discussion at one point about how “real” mothers have to love their daughters and how stepmothers and daughters must choose to love each other. Ellie is terrified that Lucille will replace her in Max’s heart. The battle over Ellie’s room can be seen as a territory dispute between Ellie and Lucille.

Max has never felt the need to discipline Ellie and is now cast in the role of mediator between these two important women in his life. He makes some poor choices and is frustrated by both Ellie’s and Lucille’s reactions. Step on a Crack does not end with a solution or admission of feelings from any member of the fledgling family. It ends with a hint of hope and a crack in Ellie’s defenses that might just allow Lucille in one day.

Zeder uses imaginative play as a method for her young characters to work through psychological issues. (See also - Jeff, a character from Zeder’s play Doors.) Ellie has two imaginary friends – Lana and Frizbee - who wind in and out of her fantasies playing any character that she needs.

Lana often takes the role of mother or cheerleader or partner in crime. Frizbee is the goofball who can’t do much right and often needs saving. He is ready to fall at Ellie’s feet whenever he can.

A character called simply the Voice represents a third aspect of Ellie. Voice is a clear manifestation of all of Ellie’s negative and self-deprecating thoughts.

Voice lances any headway Lucille makes in Ellie’s thoughts and mocks any momentary images of beauty she may have. (Voice speaks with a realism any woman will remember from her teenage years.) This voice, if left unchecked, will choke the creativity and play out of Ellie in her coming adolescence.

Step on a Crack is also available as a musical. Information on it can be found here.

Setting: Ellie’s House, Bowling Alley, and the Streets

Time: The present

Cast Size: This play can accommodate 6 actors.

Male Characters: 2

Female Characters: 4

Characters that could be played by males or females: 0


Ellie Murphy is a girl on the verge of being a teenager. She still has the brazen confidence of a free-thinking kid, but thoughts of needing to be beautiful and pretty and “good enough” are beginning to sneak in to her imaginative play. She is terrified about losing her place in her father’s heart and although she desperately wants a mother, she is having trouble accepting the one that is right in front of her.

Max Murphy is Ellie’s father. He has always been Ellie’s friend and companion and is not sure how to discipline her or even if he wants to discipline her. He is having trouble finding the balance between being her father and being her friend.

Lucille Murphy is trying - she is trying to discover her place within her new family. She is trying to be what Max needs and what Ellie needs while simultaneously remaining true to her own standards. She cares for both of them enough that she will step away if that’s what it takes to leave their father/daughter relationship intact.

Lana is Ellie’s imaginary friend. She is there to serve the girl’s need to escape and work through problems.

Frizbee is another imaginary friend. He takes the brunt of Ellie’s need to be saved. At one point he must be dynamited out of a cave in of junk.

The Voice is Ellie’s alter ego. She expresses in words Ellie’s depression and frustration. She keeps Ellie’s anger alive and keeps distant the reality of what Max and Lucille could be.

Content Issues: Negligible

Step on a Crack is available to purchase for production through Dramatic Publishing.

It is also part of the collection in the book Wish in One Hand Spit in the Other: A Collection of Plays by Suzan Zeder.