The Vixen is a Renaissance comedy. The tricks in her playbook are as old as they come: first, she leads them to believe she’s filthy rich and in desperate need of an heir to enjoy her grand legacy; then, she leads them to believe that she has one paw in the grave; to wrap it all up, she bleeds them dry as stones. With help from her ever-faithful servant, the Fly, she concocts a climactic scheme that is sure to lay all others to rest. Laid to rest, incidentally, is exactly what she pretends to be. 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, Mum’s the Word, 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
Lady Vixen — a cunning fox
Mosca — her servant; a fly
Sir Wouldpecker — a traveler
Lady Parrot — his squawking companion
Inigo — a traveler and an aspiring architect
Master Raven — a hard-of-hearing miser
Benario — his son, an aspiring playwright
Lady Crow — a materialistic matron
Celia — Lady Crow’s enchanting “possession”
Master Vulture — a gullible lawyer
Scoto — a door-to-door peddler, a buzzard
(Enter Scoto, who delivers the prologue, perhaps in front of a curtain.)
(Terms marked with an asterisk* may need further investigation.)
It shouldn’t come as any shock to you that foxes only do as foxes do. On every continent, in every century, they are but plucky and adventury. The female of the species is a vixen—mischief well within her jurisdiction.
(Admiring a treasured item, Vixen crosses the stage, unaware of the Scoto.)
There’s our lady now. I think you’ll find her mischief of a most distinguished kind, but first, we peer into the house next door, where neighbors gossip. That’s what they are for.
(The curtain opens, or the lights come up, to reveal two interior settings. The first is the vacation home of Sir Wouldpecker and Lady Parrot; the second is the den of Lady Vixen. At rise, Wouldpecker ushers Inigo into the drawing room.)
…Think nothing of it, young Inigo. You are always welcome in our home, wherever that may be, for the three of us are fellow strangers in a strange land—Birds of a feather, as it were. Incidentally, we certainly hope you won’t be departing soon.
Actually, I may well have to leave soon, Sir Wouldpecker, I’ve already toured the city’s great architectural landmarks and made many fine* sketches. What is there left to do?
Why, gossip about the neighbors, of course. ‘Tis all the fashion here—you know—to have the affairs of others bruited* liberally about the city.
Oh! (Caught off guard.) Well… Even if I knew aught* of my neighbors, I’m not sure that I’d feel at ease discussing…
No matter. We have enough gossip about our neighbors to fill a proper evening.
Take the address behind our own, for instance. The mistress of the house is a fox, and hark* you—she is the heiress to a considerable fortune, which, unfortunately, is no remedy to her declining health.
(Wouldpecker, Parrot, and Inigo freeze. On the other side of the stage, the lights come up to reveal the entrance of Vixen, followed by Mosca. This exchange of focus, emphasized through lighting changes and freezes, continues throughout the first scene.)
Baubles, charms, trinkets—each one brings me such mirth*. I don’t know whether I should jump for joy or dance with delight. Such sport* it all is!
And her servant is a giant fly who thinks of nothing but the contentment of his mistress.
(Aside.) I think nothing of the contentment of my mistress. After all, what is there to think? Shiny objects please her—end of story. In fact, I think it’s high time I started to think about my own contentment, for a change.
I would also have you know that the vixen is bombarded by visitors daily. One such visitor is Vulture, this fair city’s shrewdest lawyer.
Is that envious* simpleton of a lawyer going to honor his appointment or not? I have business to do, and it depends entirely upon the gullibility of his addled* mind.
He is paid handsomely for his services, no doubt.
(Vulture has suddenly appeared in Vixen’s den. She pretends to be very ill.)
Lady Vixen, I wouldn’t dream of demanding a fee for my services. I wish you’d stop insisting that I do.
You’re too kind, Sir Vulture. Did you draw up the will exactly as I requested?
To the letter, I warrant* thee, but it puzzles me that you want only a blank space in place of a specifically-named benefactor, as well as a specifically-named beneficiary. I could, for instance, just as easily compose a document that read, “I, Lady Vixen, being of sound mind and body, do hereby bequeath my entire estate to…” Let’s just say for instance, “to Vulture.” I’m inserting my own name entirely as a hypothetical example, of course.
Of course, Darling, and you know that I hold your professional opinion in such high esteem, but I beseech* you—allow me some time to think upon your suggestion, which I don’t find outlandish in the least, by the way.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we are expected another caller soon—a dreadful bore of a caller, to be perfectly frank, but we all have our obligations. I’m sure you understand.
Another frequent visitor to the house, I would have you know, is Raven—a bit long in the beak, but still sharp as a whip.
Sharp as a whip, though a bit hard of hearing, well I wot*.
(Vulture has disappeared. Raven appears at the door. Vixen plays possum.)
Sir Raven, what a pleasant surprise.
The pheasants better not uprise! Pheasants need to know their place*!
Such compassion, such devotion. When the lady finally passes, he will surely find himself in an inconsolable humour*.
Inconsolable. He will be cast into a bottomless pit of despair.
She dead yet?
We should be so haply* favored. No. She is but sleeping. I’ll rouse her and let her know you’re here. She’s so fond of your presence.
She better not pawn my presents. I pay a lot of money for that rubbish!
I’m not one to cast aspersions, but this Raven may, perchance*, be a fortune hunter, in search of an inheritance.
Ghastly! Parrish the ill* thought! She has no intent* of leaving him a thing.
Sir Raven, I have every intent of leaving you everything, everything I have, for there comes a time that each of us must pass… (Fading out.) pass.
Only when I eat too much asparagus.
(Hoping to evoke great pathos, Vixen draws a deep breath, reclining and closing her eyes as she expels it.)
Oops. I think I killed her.
No, no. She’s merely troubled with a heavy* heart. Mark* you this…
(Mosca pulls him aside.)
She wants to leave her entire fortune to you, but she also wants to know that you, for her, would do the very same.
What’s “hairy shame”?
She wants you to leave her everything in your will!
Oh!… But that would mean disinherited Benario, my sole issue*.
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