North Paws is an epic style play. Ambivelene is a modest workaday village in which left-handed people are regarded with suspicion. In the course of several decades, however, left-handedness goes from being a tool of rebellion, to a hallmark of cultural elitism, and finally, to an instrument of oppression. Eventually, a group of downtrodden “North Paws” resolve to take matters into their own hands and confront their new oppressors. This comedy 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, Mum’s the Word, 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.
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
Player 1 — the leader of the north paws
Player 2 — a north paw
Player 3 — another
Player 4 — a privileged young man
Player 5 — the schoolmaster / the city boy
Player 6 — the tavernkeeper
Player 7 — the heroic boy / the gypsy boy
Player 8 — the poet / a lackey
Player 9 — the painter / the little girl
Player 10 — the musician / a lackey
(The action takes place in the simple, workaday village of Ambivelene.)
If you’re left-handed, raise your left hand.
If you’re right-handed, take note of your left-handed neighbors. Thank you. That’s all.
Our story takes place in the simple, workaday village of Ambivelene.
Though it was generally congenial and welcoming, it was not without its traces of suspicions and age-old superstitions.
(On the street, two villagers gossip about Player 7, a stranger.)
Who is that character?
Just rolled into town—that one. A bit sinister looking, if you ask me.
We’d best keep an eye on the left-handed stranger. He’s already known for making left-handed deals.
(Chairs for a schoolroom. A little girl writes with her left hand.)
From his students, the village schoolmaster demanded uniformity. (Nicely.) “Mary, which hand have I told you to write with?”
My… right hand?
Correct. Now, be a good girl and hold out your left hand for me, that I might strike it violently with my ruler.
(Smacking sound; a girl whimpers softly. Back on the street.)
One day, right in the village square, an incident occurred.
A little girl was skipping across the street.
Not a care in the world.
Unaware that a cart was rolling backward.
Look out! / Oh, no. / Be careful!
A nimble-footed little boy pushed her out of the way…
Saving the little girl’s life.
And pulverizing the bones in his right hand.
The villagers instantly recognized his act of heroism.
They asked him to say a few words.
And they were certainly a bit taken back by the words he chose. (Taking the podium.) “When I was younger, the schoolmaster used to beat me for using me left hand.”
(Everyone else glares at the schoolmaster.)
“I don’t hold a grudge, but now… (Looking at it.) it’s the only hand I got. I guess I’m grateful I still got it.”
(The Players face upstage, unaware of the action behind them.)
From that day forward, the left hand became symbol of subtle rebellion amongst the young people of the village.
Secret left-handed handshakes became prevalent.
(Player 1 and Player 2 demonstrate and elaborate handshake.)
Eventually, even the fussy old schoolmaster gave up trying to keep left-handed students from using their left hands.
(Player 8, Player 9, and Player 10 appear in tableau on an elevated plane.)
Over the next decade, the village produced three of its favorite daughters. They were left handed, and they paid no mind to the opinions of others.
And the musician.
Of the painter, the musician once said…
(Player 9 paints at an easel.)
Her left hand contains more dexterity and virtuosity than the average person processes in her whole lifetime.
Of the musician’s unique talents, the poet took note.
(Player 10 plays an instrument, perhaps the piano.)
In the absence of musical compositions that employ the left hand to its highest potential, what does she do? Why, she composes her own pieces, of course. Such fortitude!
Finally, in one of her most acclaimed works, the painter paid high tribute to the poet.
(Player 8 scribbles away with her left hand.)
This is how the world will remember her—sweeping her hair from her brow with her right hand, scribbling furiously away with her left. In defiance of convention, she fills her journal backwards, starting at the last page. That way, she is sure to never smudge her own words.
Eventually, all of them bade a tearful goodbye to their beloved Ambivelene and attained fame and fortune in the city.
(Exit Player 8, Player 9, and Player 10.)
Gone, but far from forgotten.
“The luck of the lefties,” was an endearing…
…Expression in the village.
(Again, the Players turn upstage except to be part of the action.)
Now, it was certainly no disgrace to be right handed.
But when no one else was looking…
What right-handed person didn’t attempt to write with his left hand?