10 characters. 1F; 3M; 6 Either; Flexible casting; 13 pages in length. Approximately 10-15 minutes running time. An English folk comedy (with classroom materials) written by August Mergelman. (3 Credits)
Mum’s the Word is an English Folk Theatre comedy. Pyramus and Thisbe are crazy about each other, but the vile Wall separates them. When they resolve to run away together, they cross paths with the valiant Sir George, who is being mercilessly hunted by the villainous Slasher and the not-so-ferocious Dragon. The Cap’n and the Quack occasionally pop in to help move the colliding plots along, while the saucy Goblin and the smart-alecky Gremlin prefer to mock the whole affair from the sidelines. Swords are crossed, spells are cast, dances are danced, and collections are collected! This hilarious play also includes added materials including improvisation and acting exercises, a project for students and questions for discussion and research. You can find these other fantastic plays by August Mergelman in our Script Library: Spider Besider, Fancy Nancy & the Ants, Persephone, The Magpies, By Jove, A Merry Interlude at Camelot, The Vixen, Couth, Pantalone’s New Pantalones, The Honest Impostor, The Weaver Girl & the Cowherd, The Dragon & the Pearl, Polly Peachum & the Pirates, Lady Scottish Play, Penny from Heaven, The Cat Noir, Trade Trade Secrets, Jackie & the Beans Talk, North Paws.
As a playwright, August Mergelman has one simple goal: to bring classical works to the modern audience. It seems that so many of the world’s great dramas are obscured by their own magnitude. August does not believe that any of history’s great playwrights would truly want their works to be intimidating or bewildering. First and foremost, they were showman; they crafted their works to be engaging, challenging, and most importantly, entertaining. As a fourth-generation Colorado native, August is proud of his western heritage, which is manifest in several of his western settings. His works have been featured in the Playwrights’ Showcase of the Western Region and the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association’s Playwrighting Competition.
Excerpt from the play:
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Goblin — a saucy member of the company
Gremlin — another
Cap’n — an actor/manager
Quack — an assistant to the Cap’n; only communicates by whispering.
Pyramus — a tragicomic hero
Thisbe — a tragicomic heroine
Wall — a talking wall
Sir George — a benevolent knight
Slasher — a malevolent knight
Dragon — a not-so-ferocious mercenary; follows Slasher
(Goblin and Gremlin enter left and address the audience.)
Make room for us, good people of the house! We bring to you a play ten seconds long.
But by ten seconds, it is still too long. It is both tedious and brief at once, for in it there is not a single word, nor any gesture by an actor made, that’s fit for human ears or mortal eyes.
It will not make you laugh, nor will you weep. Unless, of course, our sheer ineptitude should make you laugh so hard that tears are shed.
But just to prove that we are kindly souls, we’ll pass this hat of ours throughout the crowd.
And should you fill it to the brim with coin, we’ll leave and never bother you again.
(Cap’n and Quack enter right.)
These jokers are just kidding you, of course.
Oh, no, we’re not! We do as we’ve been told!
(Quack whispers something to Goblin and Gremlin. They can hardly believe what they are being told.)
It seems that we have made a slight mistake, my gentle friends. We take our leave of you, but when the play concludes, we shall return…
And take from you the bribes of which we spoke.
(Goblin and Gremlin step aside to watch the action.)
(To audience.) The Cap’n of this mummers troupe am I. To justify our presence, I shall try. (Bumbles through his poorly-written monologue.) If we offend, it is with our good will. That you should think, we come not to offend, but with good will. To show our simple skill, that is the true beginning of our end. Perhaps you wonder what our play’s about. If so, we shall remove all trace of doubt. The actors are at hand, and by their show, you will know all that you could want to know.
(One at a time, each character enters, speaks an introductory couplet, and joins the tableau.)
(Enters right.) That I am Pyramus, you can be sure. My love for Thisbe proves that I am he.
(Enters left.) As my extraordinary beauty proves that I am Thisbe, truly, I am she.
(Enters left.) With stone and mortar, I present a wall, the obstacle that stands between the pair.
At Ninny’s tomb, the lovers planned to meet, unknowing that a noble knight was there.
(Enters right.) From distant lands come I, and on my shield, it’s clear to see Sir George’s cross of red.
(Slasher and Dragon enter left.)
He is no match against the Slasher’s blade, which comes here in pursuit of George’s head!
(Slasher nudges Dragon to speak, but the timid Dragon, whimpering like a puppy, takes cover behind its master.)
Beside me stands a mercenary beast that slays my enemies at my command.
(Quack clears his throat.)
But let us not forget our able Quack. My dear companion serves as my right hand. When others are in want of medicine, our knowledgeable Quack restores their health.
(Cap’n claps, prompting all, except Goblin and Gremlin, to exit back the way they came.)
You’ve just endured the prologue of our play, which we are now to execute with stealth.
(Cap’n and Quack exit right.)
You wonder if the dragon is to speak?
Why shouldn’t he? So many jackals do.
(Enters left and stands center.) So still stand I, you’d think I had no soul, but in my jagged stones… (Makes a hole with his fingers and peers through it.) …there is a hole, through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, did whisper, often very secretly… (Positions the hole in its proper place.) …and here that chink is, right and sinister, through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.
A wiser wall I’ll bet you’ve never met.
Well, not today, but it is early yet.
(Enters right.) O darkest night! O night with hue so black! O night, which always is when day is not. O night, O night! (Faces right.) Alack. (Faces center.) Alack. (Faces left.) Alack. I fear my Thisbe’s promise is forgot! And you, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall, that stands between her father’s ground and mine! O wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall, show me your chink, to blink through with my eye!
(Wall uses his fingers to present the hole.)
I thank you, wall, most heartily for this! (Peers through the opening.) But what see I? No Thisbe do I see. O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss! (Kicks Wall.) Cursed be your stones for so deceiving me!
(To Wall.) You oughtn’t be a weak and passive wall.
You ought to curse him back. He has such gall!
(Breaks character, explains.) Oh, no. You meddling monsters, it should not! The phrase “deceiving me” is Thisbe’s cue. She is to enter now, and we’re to greet each other through the wall. Just wait and see. It will occur exactly as I’ve said.
(Mocking Pyramus, Goblin and Gremlin make faces at each other. Pyramus resumes character.)
(Enters left.) O, wall, so often have you heard my moans, for separating Pyramus and me! My cherry lips have often kissed your stones. So little comfort have you been to me.
I see a voice. (Looks through the hole.) Now, go I to the chink. Once there, perhaps I’ll hear my Thisbe’s face. Thisbe!
My love, are you? (Looks through Wall.) My love, I think.
O, kiss me through the hole of this vile wall!
(They try but fail to kiss.)
I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.
Will you… (Leaps to attempt to see over Wall.) …at Ninny’s tomb… (Leaps.) …meet me… (Leaps.) …tonight?
Of life… (Leaps.) …of death… (Leaps.) …I come… (Leaps.) …to you… (Leaps.) …in spite.
(Pyramus and Thisbe exit the same way they came.)
And now it’s time for me, the wall, to go, but you will see me later in the show. (Exits left.)
(Cap’n enters right with Quack, who is holding a large moon cutout or is costumed as the moon.)
The moon appears and fills the sky with light.
The moon’s a character in this? How trite.
From high above, the moon sees everything.
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