I must confess that most of this play about James and John trying to secure high positions with Jesus in his kingdom is devoted to the execution of a single joke that probably doesn’t really exist in the original text.
The joke was suggested to me by a difference between the version of this story in Matthew and the one in Mark. In Mark, James and John approach Jesus directly to make their request, while in Matthew, it’s their mother. That gave me the idea to create a scenario in which the disciples don’t know at first that it was really the mother, and so heap blame on James — who is embarrassed over what his mother did and takes great pains to prevent that aspect of the story from being revealed. Which it is eventually — by Matthew, of course.
I don’t think the shame of having your mother do something like that for you is in the text, though, and it probably wasn’t there in the time. However, it was just too tempting to take that modern American ball and run with it!
In many ways, then, the real play doesn’t begin until the final scene. Mary and Thomas, the outcasts in some ways within this group of outcasts, are becoming go-to characters for me whenever I want to inject real emotion into a play. All I need to do is sit them down and maybe add another character or two and get them talking, and they begin speaking from the heart.