TJ’s Elephant

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21 Characters. Approximately 30 minutes running time. Cast size and gender breakdown are flexible. In this original play, the elephant in the room is grief. A perfect way for high schoolers to explore a difficult topic with creativity and heart.

In the aftermath of losing a close friend, high school senior TJ finds themself trapped in an elephant museum. It’s a strange place. TJ travels from exhibit to exhibit, trying to come to terms with what has happened and find a way forward in life. TJ’s Elephant is a serious – but not always serious – play for youth actors that explores the nature of grief.

Jim Lapan (he/him) is a teaching artist, actor, playwright, and director. He’s currently Theatre Arts Director at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, WA. In addition to TJ’s Elephant, Jim has written several other works, including 25,000 Posts, a solo play he produced and performed in 2014. He’s a graduate of Bates College and the University of Washington Professional Actor Training Program.


*Cast size and gender breakdown are flexible

TJ – A teenager who has lost a friend

Let’s Make a Deal Team
LMAD 1 (leader)

Tea Kettle Team
TK1 (leader)

Nothing To See Here Team

Hollow team
H1 (leader)

I’m Okay You’re Okay Team

Elephant Advisory Board

Scene 1
TJ Monologue #1

TJ: (To audience) My name is TJ. Those are actually my initials, but everyone calls me that. Or Teej. I’m a senior in high school. One thing you should know about me is that I have a really good imagination. People tell me that but they don’t have to. I know. I always have. I daydream a lot, or at least I used to. Now I mostly try to visualize things. Like what I want to do when I get home tonight, or what my dorm room will be like in college, or how much ice cream will I be able to buy each week when I’m living on my own. I can picture all these things while making breakfast. It’s almost like I can be in two places at one time. Of course, my imagination sometimes gets me in trouble, like when I get really really interested in an idea or a dream or something I heard on the radio on the way to school. I can get a little obsessive. It’s not always good stuff I picture either, but when I get stuck on something bad I can usually imagine my way out of it. Historically. That’s historically usually true of me. Usually.



The Bad Thing
(Each actor enters before their first line. As they speak, they take their place in the vigil tableau.)

TJ: So this…this bad thing…happened.

LMAD1: Bad.

LMAD 2: Like really bad.

LMAD3: Really, really bad.

LMAD4: Like so bad you couldn’t even imagine it.

TK1: You don’t want to imagine it.

TK2: Imagine the worst thing happening.

TK3: Now imagine something worse.

H1: It might actually be worse than anything you can imagine.

H2: But it happened.

H3: It happened.

ALL: It happened.

IOYO1: And it wasn’t her fault.

IOYO2: It wasn’t her fault.

ALL: It wasn’t her –

TJ: (overlapping) It wasn’t my fault. (she joins the tableau) At least, I don’t think it was.

IOYO3: Almost right away it appeared.

(Company slowly turns to see the elephant, which is always directly over the audience)

IOYO4: Out of nowhere it appeared.

NTSH1: It was big and –

NTSH2: Scary, and –

NTSH3: and mysterious.

NTSH4: And obvious. The elephant.

HALF THE PEOPLE: The elephant.

ALL: The elephant.

(ensemble moves to the Elephant Center Viewing Area formation)

TJ: This bad thing happened. It wasn’t my fault. At least I don’t think it was. And then the elephant appeared.

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