16 characters. Flexible casting; 15 pages in length. Approximately 15-20 minutes running time. A Native American folktale (with classroom materials) adapted by August Mergelman. (3 Credits)
Spider Besider is based on a Native American Story. Tricky Tommy is a spider who has met with great success in catching flies, but he is reluctant to share the spoils of his success with his neighbors—namely, the bats, the fish, and the frogs. When the “Tuffet Monster” arrives with a gourd full of fresh fly bait (clumpy curdled stuff) that she seems reluctant to share, Tricky Tommy must dive deep into his soul to discover an impulse that is mostly foreign to him—generosity. A wonderful play for children with a valuable lesson! This 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: 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, 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 Playwriting Competition.
Excerpt from the play:
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Tricky Tommy — a greedy, clever spider
Grasshopper — a longwinded neighbor
First Fish — a curious visitor, but a picky eater
Second Fish — the pessimistic companion of the First Fish
First Bat — a creepy visitor
Second Bat — the creepy spouse of the First Bat
First Frog — an easygoing but determined visitor
Second Frog — another
Snail — a slow-moving neighbor
Tuffet Monster — a bald mammal in brightly colored leaves
First Storyteller — one of the keepers of the story
Second Storyteller — another
Third Storyteller — another
Fourth Storyteller — another
Fifth Storyteller — another
Sixth Storyteller — another
(The action takes place on the shore of a pond.)
(Enter the First Storyteller, reading a piece of paper. The next storyteller reads the same words, perhaps by taking the paper; alternatively, the words may be displayed prominently.)
“Stories bring people together.” (Thinks for a moment.) Well, duh. Look at the audience, ready to hear one.
“Stories bring people together.” I think it means something else. Some stories teach us how to get along with one another; the story we’re about to hear, in fact, reminds us how not to behave if we want to be part of the community. It was inspired by Iktomi, the legendary spider trickster from Native American folktales.
(To the audience.) Now let’s use our fingers to remind ourselves what spiders look like. If we tuck our thumbs in and put our hands together, we can see all eight of those spider legs working together… Good…
Long, long ago…
How long ago?
So long ago that dreams had yet to become real life…
That was a long time ago.
You ain’t kiddin’, and in that time, there lived a spider known as Tricky Tommy.
I was a legend in my own day.
He wasn’t really what you’d call a cheat, but then, no one ever accused him of being honest to a fault. Oh—and he was always hungry.
Now, he always caught his share of flies, along with a bit of everyone else’s, but his appetite was… hearty. One day, his never-ending search for flies brought him to the shore of an unfamiliar pond—an oasis, bustling with activity. Chirping, buzzing…
(To the audience.) Pretend there’s a pesky fly buzzing around your head… Now it lands on the back of your hand. How slowly do you have to use your other hand to smash it?… Did you get it?…
I think I just found me some flies, but what’s this curdled clumpy stuff? (Taking a whiff.) Whew. Been in the sun a day or two. I might have to find me another pond.
But then it occurred to him…
I bet this stinkin’ stuff draws flies by the dozen. I better stay put a while.
And he did, and he was right. The flies came by the droves.
(Scary music plays. Grasshopper sneaks up behind Tricky Tommy, who is startled, but then disappointed. Tricky Tommy pays little to his visitor.)
Oh. Hi, Grasshopper.
(To the audience.) Grasshoppers have hind legs that stick way out behind them. We can use our elbows to remind us what that looks like… Feel that tension, ready to jump… How about those antennae?…
So, Tricky Tommy, have you noticed all the clumpy curdled stuff on the ground?
It’s kind of hard not to notice.
I could tell you how it got there.
I’ll just bet you could.
Grasshopper was known for telling tales—tales as tall as they were long-winded. Now, Tricky Tommy was certainly curious about the clumpy curdled stuff, but he pretended not to be interested.
You see, a few days ago, there was this giant, bald mammal, but with long fur on its head, wrapped in brightly-colored leaves, and it whistled, kind of like a Bird. In one paw, it carried half of a hollowed-out gourd, filled with the lumpy stuff. In its other paw, it carried a giant mushroom. When it found a shady place, it said… (In a British accent.) “Oh, isn’t this a lovely place for me to place my tuffet?”
What the heck is a tuffet?
I just told you, Dude—the giant mushroom. That’s what it sat on. So, after it sat down and got settled in, I jumped up on its knee, to say “Hi.”
How fearless of you.
Well, actually, I was kind of nervous.
Did you throw up on its knee?
Just a little, and—Dude, it freaked out. I think it thought that I bit it or something and that it was bleeding.
Awkward first encounter.
You’re telling me! It screamed like a coyote with its tail smashed by a rock. Then it threw the gourd full of clumpy curdled stuff into the air and ran away as fast as it could.
And all ‘cause you threw up a little.
Some folks are just unfriendly. What can I say?
Hm. Cool story, but I guess your Tuffet Monster is gone for now.
Oh, it’ll be back. (Trying to scare Tricky Tommy.) Ahhh-ny day now.
Hm. So are you and this Tuffet Monster going to be my only neighbors here?
Well, us, and the fish, and the bats, and the frogs, and the snail… Oh, and those stupid ants! I can’t stand those ants. (Mocking.) “Winter’s coming! Winter’s coming! You’re gonna freeze your antennas off, Grasshopper. You need to plan for the future! Blah, blah, blah!” Whatever—I just ignore them.
Ah, ha! That’s how you get rid of Grasshopper. Just say that four-letter word—work!
Well… I’m afraid I’m not much company myself today unless you wanna help me clear away the twigs and pebbles and set some fly traps.
Oh, Dude, I totally would, only I’m… busy doing something else today.
Oh? Busy doing what?
Busy not doing whatever you just said. Later. (Exit Grasshopper.)
So with Grasshopper out of the way, Tricky Tommy set about catching flies, and he met with considerable success. After a long afternoon’s work, he took a nap. He closed his eyes and then opened them right back up.
(The sound of splashing signals the arrival of the fish.)
Visitors. Grasshopper had been right about the fish.
(To the audience.) What do fish look like when they swim through the water?… Suppose they see something floating above them… A school of fish moves in perfect unison. Can we do that? Let’s focus on one spot and see…
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