This short play about listening to our elders is based on a Cherokee Nation story. In this tale, Mother Nature promises she will make more land for the woodland creatures if one of them will retrieve some mud from the bottom of the pond. Grandmother Newt offers to do it, but the woodland creatures dismiss her. One by one, they try to complete the task without success. Finally, they allow Grandmother Newt to try. When she succeeds, she wins their respect.
This script includes discussion questions and director’s notes on casting and set design.
Debra A. Cole is a celebrated humanities teacher, youth theatre director, and children’s playwright with degrees in journalism, art history, and elementary education. She understands the needs of young performers and their directors and creates pieces that encourage engaging discussion, creative thought, and quirky playfulness. Her goal is that young performers discover the power and delight that theatre brings to actors and audiences alike.
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Excerpt from the play:
MOTHER NATURE — (F) powerful and proud
GRANDMOTHER NEWT — (F) wise, calm and peaceful
BEAVER— (M/F) always busy
TURTLE— (M/F) slow
OTTER — (M/F) playful
OTHER WOODLAND CREATURES AS NEEDED
(The action takes place any time frame, outdoors by a body of water.)
(Lights come up on a group of woodland animals, crowded and uncomfortable, bunched together near a pond. Animals include a turtle, otter, beaver, and an elderly newt. Additional animals could be in the bunched group for effect. Lounging comfortably near the pond is Mother Nature.)
(to the audience) I’m Mother Nature. I’ve created all of this beauty you see. (motioning around) In fact, THAT little patch of dirt under my creatures THERE (pointing)…was MY doing. And this gorgeous pond? (motioning) Mine too.
(Cautiously and politely interrupting) Excuse me, Mother Nature…while we ARE very grateful for this bountiful patch of land and abundant pond, is it possible to have a bit more earth to share and roam?
Yes, it’s getting very crowded.
More land, you say? What an interesting thought. I’ll tell you what I WILL do. If one of you will dive down to the bottom of this beautiful pond and bring back a dollop of mud, I will take that mud and create more land for you to enjoy.
That is most generous. As the eldest animal here, I volunteer for the task.
(All the other animals giggle.)
(Beaver pulls himself/herself together to speak) Grandmother Newt, you are old and not able to help in this situation. As a beaver, I am strong and able to build great barriers. I will swim to the bottom and retrieve the mud.
Beaver, I may be old, but I am quite able.
No, this is my task. Out of my way!
(Beaver pushes Grandmother Newt aside and readies himself/herself for the task.)
(Mother Nature begins to speak as Beaver follows the actions she describes.)
(to the audience) So, the beaver jumped into the water and started to swim. The current was swift…I just love a swift current! When I made beavers, I made sure they were workers. In fact, most beavers work constantly. So, as the beaver fought the current, he/she suddenly felt the fatigue of all that past. Each time the beaver tried to dive deeper in the water, he/she found himself/herself out of breath and without the skills to reach the bottom.
(Beaver returns to the group – exhausted and barely able to speak.)
I… failed… I am a disgrace. My fellow builders will be so disappointed in me. Now we’ll never have more land.
Not to worry Beaver, I can do this!
Turtle, let me try. I know I can do it.
Grandmother Newt, I think it’s adorable that you want to “try,” but you are old. Let us youthful animals take care of this.
(Turtle pushes Grandmother Newt aside and readies himself/herself for the task.)
(Once again, Mother Nature begins to speak as Turtle follows the actions she describes.)
(to the audience) So, the turtle jumped into the water. Now, most of you already know this, but those who don’t, let me explain. Turtles are VERY SLOW creatures. I did this so they would stop and smell the roses once in awhile, instead of racing around like some other animals. That said, the turtle’s strokes were slow… I mean R-E-A-L-L-Y S-L-O-W. In fact, days passed and still the turtle had not reached the bottom to gather the desired mud.
(The group of animals on the shore start to fall asleep. The turtle makes his way, slow motion but moving, back to the group.)
(Everyone keeps sleeping.)
I SAID… I’m BACK.
(Everyone finally wakes up.)
Did you bring back the mud?
(dejected) No. I never made it. I failed. I’m just too slow.
Well, not to worry! I am here to save the day!