The Crossroads

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6-21 characters, flexible casting, approximately 30 minutes. 11 vignettes set at a crossroads in the woods, woven together with wit, wonder, and wisdom. Written by Jennifer Reif. (5 credits)

What happens when you find yourself at a crossroads in the forest… or in life? Which path should you choose? What is the right decision? Crossroads is a series of 11 vignette scenes all with teenage characters: funny, curious, and melancholy. Each scene stands alone but when woven together they make for a thoughtful and refreshingly good-natured play. A perfect choice for competitions, one-act festivals, or classroom scene study.

This play is a nice companion piece to The Clearing. When performed together, there are roles for up to 40 actors. This script also contains a character development worksheet.

Jennifer Reif has been teaching, directing, and performing around the Pacific Northwest for decades. Her shelves are lined with children’s books and her happy place is in the woods. She loves devising creative theatre projects with kids and sharing ideas with teachers. Jennifer holds her BA in Theatre from Morningside College and also studied at Oxford University in England.

Excerpt from the play:

Donner Party

3 friends are lost in the woods. They find themselves at a crossroads, uncertain about which path to take.

A. I think we are officially lost.

B. What does that even mean? Officially lost.

A. It means we’re gonna die in the woods.

C. That might be a bit dramatic.

A. Well, we absolutely, positively, don’t know where we are!

C. We’re in the forest. On a trail. At a crossroads.

A. Great! That helps a lot.

B. I wonder which path we should take.

C. Let’s just stop and think for a minute.

A. I can’t think!

C. There’s no need to freak out. We just have to stay calm.

A. It’s hard to stay calm when the sun is going down.

C. There is plenty of daylight. Let’s just look around and get our bearings.

(They look around, breathing deeply, examining their surroundings.)

B. I’ve been hiking here lots of times with my family. It just so looks different when there’s no grown-up leading the way.

C. I guess we’ve got to figure it out on our own.

B. I wonder where this path leads. (Looking down a path.)

A. Probably in a circle.

C. Circles are nice. You always end up where you started.

A. But I want to end up at home in my bed, not sleeping under a bunch of leaves in the forest.

C. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

B. Do you think we should make an emergency plan? Just in case?

A. Oh great! We are gonna die in the woods.

C. Good idea. Let’s make a plan.

A. Oh my gosh! Do you remember learning about the Donner Party at school?

B. You mean the group of people who were lost and had to eat each other to survive?

A. Exactly! That’s gonna be us!

C. News flash! That was in the 1800s. They were pioneers… in a covered wagon… in the snow. We’re just three kids on a day hike.

A. Just promise you won’t eat me.

B. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

A. Really? You’d eat your friends?

B. If it was the only way to survive?

A. Now I’ve really gotta get out of here.

C. Well let’s see, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so if we look at the sun we can probably figure out what direction we’re facing. (Looking towards the sun. They all move around trying to figure it out.)

B. If that’s west… then that’s east. (pointing)

C. And that makes this north and this south. (pointing)

B. Okay. When we started on the trail we were on the north side of town, right? So this trail will take us back there. (choosing a path)

A. Are you sure?

B. (pondering then decisive) Yes. This is the path we need to take.

A. But what if we keep getting lost?

C. I have an idea. Let’s make a cairn.

B. A cairn?

C. Yeah. You know, a marker. You stack up rocks to show the route. It points which direction you’re going.

B. Good idea.

C. Fun fact! Cairns also mark burial sites.

A. Why do you do this to me?

(They gather rocks and create a cairn. At least one rock should be reddish in color for the Big Dreams scene. The cairn will remain onstage but should not be ‘in the path’ or pull too much focus.)

C. Now, if we end up back here, we’ll know that we already took this path.

B. Or if someone has to rescue us, they’ll know we went this way.

A. And if we die, there is already a tombstone!

B. No matter what, we’ll learn a lesson.

C. Let’s take a picture of this spot. (Takes out a phone.)

A. What? You had that this whole time?

C. Yeah. I guess I did. And look, my navigation app is working.

A. I thought we were going to be the next Donner Party, and this whole time you had a phone… and it worked?

C. Funny huh? (B and C find this funny. A does not.)

A. No. Definitely not.

B. Well, which way do we go?

C. (Looking at navigation app on phone) Uh… this way.

B. You sure?

C. Yep. Come on, let’s go.

A. I can’t believe you.

B. I’m getting hungry. What are we gonna have for dinner?

(Beat. B and C look at each other, then look at A…remembering The Donner Party.)

A. No!

(B and C chase A off stage. All in good fun.)

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