In this classic fairy tale, a Piper rids a town of rats, and when the Mayor refuses to pay him, the Piper lures away the children too! This short-play adaptation has plenty of opportunity for movement, tableau work, and potentially including music.
The play can be used as part of a ‘An Evening of Fairy Tales’ type of show, or as a part of a short performance at the end of a series of acting workshops.
- A study guide
- Discussion questions
- A written version of the story
- Extension activities
- Production notes
Excerpt from the play:
Council Member Two
Optional Opening Scene: Have the entire cast perform the excerpt from the Robert Browning poem below. Actors may sing it or recite it with movement.
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladle’s,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women’s chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.
SCENE: A village, long ago. The stage is empty and quiet. A little boy enters and pretends to play the flute. He dances strangely as he whistles and plays his imaginary flute. He makes his way very slowly from one side of the stage to the other.
Then the townspeople enter and stand in horrified poses as the rats haunch in menacing poses beneath them. The scene stays frozen as the narrator begins.
Narrator One: Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a village called “Hamelin” that had become overrun with rats.
Narrator Two: They were everywhere.
As the following lines are spoken, the players come to life to say their lines, then go back to being frozen.
Townsperson One: They’re in my store room!
Townsperson Two: They’re in my cupboards!
Townsperson Three: They’re in my beer barrel!
Townsperson Four: What can we do?
Townsperson Five: We’ve tried everything!
Townsperson Six: Cats, poisons, terriers, traps, rat catchers!
All of the Townspeople: NOTHING works!
The rats suddenly come to life, scurrying, hissing and squeaking under the townspeople, who run off-stage. The rats stay upstage, scattered about in frozen menacing poses.
The Mayor and the Council Members enter from the other side of the stage.
Mayor: Does anyone have a new idea? There must be something we can do.
The Council Members mutter and mumble and scratch their heads. The Pied Piper enters.
Council Member One: Who’s that?
Pied Piper: I am called the Pied Piper. What will you pay me if I get rid of every single rat in Hamlin?
Mayor and Council Members: (ad-libbing) Impossible. Can’t be done. You’re crazy.
Mayor: Twenty gold coins!
Pied Piper: Preposterous! One hundred gold coins!
Narrator One: That was a lot of money back then. And as much as the townspeople hated the rats, they still loved money.
Narrator Two: Finally, they agreed upon a sum.
Mayor and Pied Piper: (shaking hands) Fifty gold coins!
Narrator One: The Pied Piper immediately stepped out of the hall and lifted a golden pipe to his lips. He began to play a haunting and sickly tune, and a strange thing began to happen.
One by one, the rats upstage come to life and start to follow the Pied Piper.