Cutting-the-strings

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6 characters, flexible gender. Approximately 10 minutes running time. Play adaptation of a Burmese folk tale. Students play life-sized puppets!

In this short play by Debra A. Cole, a young man is eager to leave the village and set off on his own. His father gifts him with three puppets who teach the son valuable lessons along the way.

Students will delight in playing life-sized puppets who leap from the young man’s pack. This offers an excellent opportunity for kids to get creative with costuming and staging.

This play also includes discussion questions and director’s notes on characterization and staging.

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.

Visit her website:
www.debraacole-playwright.com

Excerpt from the play:

CHARACTERS

CHO — (M) young man who wishes to seek his fortune out in the world
THUZA — (F) young woman who searches the forest for treasures to harvest
FATHER — (M) puppet-maker who hopes his gifts will lead his son on his journey
WISDOM— (M/F) the red puppet that values using your eyes to learn
WEALTH — (M/F) the green puppet that only wants wealth at all costs
KINDNESS— (M/F) the blue puppet that understands that kindness is the most important virtue

(The action takes place in any time period in a small workshop and in the forest. Lights come up on a small workshop of a village puppet-maker in the country of Burma. Father is sitting at his workbench, carving the final details of a blue puppet. Other puppets hang from his bench. Cho, the son, is standing before his father with a knapsack tied to a stick on his shoulders. He is anxious and clearly ready to leave.)

SCENE 1

CHO
(anxious and impatient) Father, I must leave. The sun is setting, and there is not much daylight left to begin my journey.

FATHER
(slow and deliberate) Easy, Cho. You have waited your whole life to leave me and this tiny village. Starting your life can wait a few more seconds. The strings that bind us will be cut soon enough.

CHO
Father, where I am going, there will be no need for your silly puppets. I am young, hungry for success, and well educated. There is a big world out there that is ready for me to explore.

FATHER
That was not kind, son. I wish you knew the value of wisdom and kindness, but clearly my work here is done, and you must experience the world on your own. But, before you go, please allow me to send you with these gifts.

(Father grabs the blue puppet he has been finishing, as well as a red and green puppet. Each are connected to strings.)

My wish is that you carry these puppets with you along your journey.

CHO
Why would I need puppets? These are for the village children? They have no real use in the real world. Besides, you have been poor all your life, and what have making these silly puppets done for you?

FATHER
You don’t understand. That is fine, but do me this one favor, son. Consider these a parting gift from your father.

(Father holds the puppets out as a gift to Cho.)

CHO
(drops his head – knowing that he will not win this battle) Fine, father, I will take them with me.

(Father ties the three puppets on the stick along with the knapsack.)

FATHER
Good luck, son. I hope you find all that you want in life.

CHO
(over confidently) I know I will, for no one is more ready than me!

(Cho turns and leaves the workshop.)

(lights out)

SCENE 2:
(Lights come up to find Cho in the forest of Burma. The sun is going down, and Cho is starting to become nervous, and the veil of confidence in disappearing.)

CHO
I can do this. I can do this. This jungle has nothing that can harm me.

(As Cho places his knapsack against a tree, a distant tiger’s roar can be heard. Cho screams.)

AAAHHHHHHH!

I must stop this. I told my father I am ready, and I cannot go back to the village as a coward. Think… where is the best place to find safe sleep for the night?

(LIGHTS FLASH – As the lights come back up, the red puppet on the knapsack has disappeared, and now a full-sized red puppet is standing next to Cho.)

WISDOM
BOO!

(Cho hides behind the tree in terror.)

CHO
Who are you?

WISDOM
(calmly and casually) I am wisdom.

CHO
(coming out from behind the tree) This is crazy. You are one of my father’s silly puppets.

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