“Boogie Shoes” is a modern telling of a Japanese folk tale that speaks to the value of hard work and a good attitude. The story centers on two neighbors who take very different approaches to life. One works hard for a living and the other pretends to be poor and begs on the streets. They are both searching for happiness, and they learn valuable lessons from a group of spirits in the woods.
This script includes discussion questions and director’s notes on casting and set design.
Debra A. Cole is a celebrated humanities teacher, youth theatre director, and children’s playwright with degrees in journalism, art history, and elementary education. She understands the needs of young performers and their directors and creates pieces that encourage engaging discussion, creative thought, and quirky playfulness. Her goal is that young performers discover the power and delight that theatre brings to actors and audiences alike.
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Excerpt from the play:
AKI — (M/F) hardworking villager but often sad
NEKOMATA — (M/F) cat spirit
MUJINA — (M/F) badger spirit
NOZUCHI — (M/F) snake spirit
ONIKUMA — (M/F) bear spirit
KISUNE — (M/F) fox spirit
HIRO — (M/F) greedy neighbor who wants what Aki has
(The action takes place any time period in a village hut and in the woods.)
(Lights come up on a simple hut with simple furnishings. Aki and Hiro enter stage left. Aki clearly does not want Hiro in his space.)
Must be nice to have house, Aki.
I work very hard for this humble house, Hiro. You could do the same.
Work? Me? I don’t think so. Work and I just don’t get along.
Work is noble. You should try it.
Work hasn’t made you happy. I see you moping around on the weekends. You don’t look happy at all.
Sometimes I am sad. This is true, Hiro, but I work hard, live an honest life, and give to others. There is nothing else I need.
Work? You’re a fool.
A fool I may very well be, but I am not lazy like you. I don’t wish for what others have without putting in the work myself.
Sure. Do your thing. I’m off to see if I can borrow some food from the house across the street. I like to pretend to be a beggar who is down on my luck. Villagers fall for it every time.
Begging? Borrowing food? How can you do it? It is not okay to pretend to be someone else to gain things for yourself, Hiro.
(Hiro exits stage left.)
(Aki sits down at his humble kitchen table.)
He’s right. I’m not happy. Clearly, I don’t know how to find happiness after a hard-earned day. Perhaps I should head to the forest. I always seem to find clarity there.
(Lights come up on a wooded area complete with trees and an open clearing. Aki enters stage left and sits upon a large stone.)
This forest is perfect. Here I will find my happiness and lose my sadness.
(Aki hears music and voices heading toward the clearing.)
Not good. The forest is said to have musical spirits and prey on travelers. I must hide and keep safe.
(Aki heads to hide behind a tree.)
(Entering stage right, Nekomata, Mujina, Nozuchi, Onikuma, and Kisune reach the clearing playing various instruments. This can be a noisy mess or a prerecorded song.)
What a glorious day for music, fellow spirits.
But our sweet song is missing something.
Agreed. We snake spirits love to move to music, but without arms and hands, we really don’t have the skills.
Bear spirits like me are wonderful musicians, but horrible dancers.
Sly I may be, but a dancer I am not.
If only we had someone who would dance for us as we play.
We would give a true dancer anything he or she desired, but sadly, no one comes into the forest much anymore – not since Nozuchi here scared them off.
Snakes scare everyone, but snake spirits TRULY sends terror into the hearts of travelers.
(Hearing the group of spirits making an offering, Aki comes out from behind the tree.)
Did you mean what you said that any traveler who could dance would be given anything he or she wants?
Well, look at this brave traveler. My bear-ness didn’t scare you, huh?
I work hard all day, and I am brave. Spirits don’t scare me. Sadness does.
Sadness? You have sadness, friend?
No one who works hard and is honest should have sadness.
What makes you so sad, friend?
I don’t know exactly, but I would do anything to lose this feeling. My neighbor, Hiro, wants things without work, but I am quite different. I work. Tell me what to do, and it will be done.
Then we have a deal. We will play our music, and you shall dance to amuse us.