Current Playwrights, Dude Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past

Feline Theatre (Florence Bell, Irene Woodbridge Clark, Frances Sankstone Mintz, Alan Rejón)

This post was prompted by a conversation with our friends over at Strange Company.

UPDATE/NEWS/EXCITING STUFF: This blog was recently featured in The Dramatist magazine (sorry, online edition only available to Dramatists Guild members – if I were in charge, I’d change this)

Beyond the musical Cats and beyond that Tennessee Williams play, — and beyond The Cat and the Canary lies a feline theatre ripe for exploration.

The Cat and the Fiddle

Our first example of said theatre is The Cat and the Fiddle – straight out of…..Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.43.34 AM

The book starts with some magnificent advice for adults regarding children’s plays, which is the following:

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.45.59 AM

If only the foul Mrs. Holbrook who directed our 3rd grade version of Stone Soup had such wisdom.

For those who don’t know, Hey Diddle Diddle/The Cat and the Fiddle is a well-known nursery rhyme in the English-speaking world. It goes like this:

 

It might date back as far as the 16th Century but the version most resembling what we know now was published in 1765.

This is a dramatization of that rhyme, published in 1922 when the author was 72 years of age.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.46.42 AM

From the start: CONFLICT!

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.48.05 AM

Let’s explore that in detail…

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.48.53 AM

I don’t blame the dog, given the nightmare fuel in this movie clip of a cat playing a fiddle:

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.51.38 AM

Well, dog – that’s some skill you got there…

face-with-rolling-eyes_1f644
Emojipedia time!!!

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.52.17 AM

Supposedly “over the moon” comes from the nursery rhyme – or not. Makes more sense if the moon is near the ground.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.54.13 AM

Lady Bell was kind enough to add sheet music:

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 10.54.53 AM

I can’t read sheet music, but I heard if the notes go up, the voice goes up.

The cat gets all mad:

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 11.00.40 AM

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 11.02.46 AM

“Impertinence” – such a cat word.

“day week” <<< is this a typo? Does anyone know???

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 11.09.47 AM

“You’re so vain”…of course you’ll get Carly Simon’s famous song, but in Canadian French and produced by the dude who married Celine Dion.

So the dog and cat make a bet. If cat loses, cat must leave…

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 11.37.06 AM

Oh snap!!! Bye bye kitty cat…

The author, Lady Florence Bell, had a somewhat interesting life. She was born to an well-known Irish physician in Paris. She married another well-known chap. Through this marriage she was stepmother to Gertrude Bell, who became an archaelogist and apparently a founder of modern Jordan and Iraq (?!) – seriously, look it up.

Wikipedia claims she was “one of the few representatives of His Majesty’s Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection”

Anyhow, her stepmom Florence (our playwright) wrote a bunch of plays and books and you can read some of them here.  The Cat and the Fiddle is right here.

Before we move on to the next “cat fancy” play, we must leave you with two videos…

Here is someone rapping Hey Diddle, Diddle…I bet little kids love him.

I wish my uncle were that cool. The video and rapper right there is one of the awesomest discoveries made while researching this blog.

Now, on to the next play – The Egyptian Cat

The Egyptian Cat

I think most the world knows Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats.

mummified-egyptian-cats
Revered cats, turned into fertilizer by the usual suspects.

Thus the setting for this 1916 opus is a land full of reverence for cats.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.33.31 PM

42 bucks!!! [This is pretty much more than my plays ever made] 

money-mouth-face_1f911
Pictured: If American theatre were an emoticon.

The play opens with some serious instructions for a a giant artificial cat to be built:

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.37.02 PM

“Spit fiercely.”

And it even comes with DIAGRAMS!!!!

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.38.26 PMScreen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.39.06 PM

A LOBSTER!!!!!!

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.40.09 PMScreen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.41.18 PMScreen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.41.57 PM

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.44.46 PM
The stuff dreams nightmares Satan’s nightmares are made of. 

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.46.10 PM

“not too frequent”

Oh, and this is a shadow play. I don’t think wayang puppetry has anything to worry about.

This is a love story about a maiden with three suitors, of whom she loves one.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.46.48 PM

Like all cats, even special ones require cream…

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.50.23 PM

Typical cat….

The Maiden asks the cat to help her get the one guy she loves…they need to escape. The cat has demands.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.54.34 PM

“GIVE ME THAT SPIDER”

The maiden does the cat’s bidding.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.55.42 PM

She explains what she needs.

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 12.56.23 PM

The cat takes care of business…

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 11.16.46 AM

Tough kitty – bye bye not-in-love suitors….

By the way, the word “vain” pops up here again. I know this is a different meaning of vain, but we get to hear a DIFFERENT version of Carly Simon’s song.

This English version comes from Surabaya-born Indonesian singer Ervinna ….

And like many stories, there is a happy ending.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 6.45.03 AMScreen Shot 2019-05-01 at 6.46.29 AM

That’s one content cat. Except they stroke her the wrong way…

The only thing I could find about the author is that she apparently lived in North Carolina, USA.

The Wolf and the Cat

This pièce de résistance appears in the 1915 tome Story-Hour Plays by Frances Sankstone Mintz.

It is taken from a fable collected by Ivan Krylov. The play is really, really short. Like short  enough for the whole play to be included right here.

But you should totally check Krylov out because according to the Wiki Gods :

“A multitude of half-legendary stories were told about his laziness, his gluttony and the squalor in which he lived,”

In this play, a big bad wolf meets Vaska, the cat.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.24.09 PMScreen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.24.48 PMScreen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.26.42 PM

Did y’all get that moral? Don’t be mean to people because they won’t help you later. Burning bridges.

The Hen and the Cat

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 12.56.03 PM
An illustration is worth 1,000 words.

This fun piece of theatre is supposedly based on an African fable, but I have yet to find it.

This first scene is awesomely short:

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 12.58.50 PM

 

Talk about exposition.

And so it goes. The cat, being a passive-aggressive weirdo, sends its child to the Hen.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.03.51 PM

And the Hen sends her kid to talk to the cat.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.05.13 PM

The cat is more “controlling stalker” than friend.

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.07.36 PM

They finally get going and the plot takes a twist as aberrant as the cat’s mind:

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.08.23 PM

The cat seizes her kids???? Really???

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.16.58 PMScreen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.09.00 PMScreen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.17.35 PM

Yes, you just read the real-life true story of why cats and hens aren’t friends.

In real-life, I’ve seen chickens puff themselves up to scare cats. I should write a play about it.

The play ends with a question for the kiddos:

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.17.50 PM

Good question. And I have found the answer. It must’ve been a VERY slow news day in Toronto. Probably ran out of poutine-interest stories.

The author, Frances Sankstone Mintz, appears to have been a night school/immigrant English class teacher in the American state of New Jersey.

All her other books are about turning foreigners into good Americans.

Have a gander.

Here is the book of plays she wrote, containing The Wolf and the Cat and The Hen and the Cat. Time for a sequel: The Wolf and the Cat and the Hen and the Mercedes Benz. Any takers?

And now for a real treat, there is an author out there who is continuing the tradition of cat plays and I don’t mean plays that have the cat’s head explode and get nominated for a Tony.

El Gato y el Ratón/The Cat and the Mouse

Alan Rejón has written some very interesting short plays, all in Spanish and they are on a website with plays written by others.

The plays are short enough to include here. This one has a very unique twist.

I’ve included the original Spanish, followed by a translation. And look for the twist!

Historia: Un pequeño ratón se da cuenta que está a punto de ser cazado por un gato, intentando salvarse nuestro pequeño amigo comienza una pequeña charla.

(El ratón está de espaldas cuando de repente el gato comienza a correr hacia él.)

Ratón: ¡Espera!, ¡Espera!

Gato: ¿Qué quieres?

Ratón: ¿Por qué haces esto?

Gato: ¿Qué cosa?

Ratón: Cazarme.

Gato: Pues, porque tengo hambre.

Ratón: Bueno, ¿Te gusta mi sabor y la textura de mi piel?

Gato: Humm, de hecho no, odio cuando la cola pasa por mi garganta y todavía después de unas semanas sigo escupiendo bolas de pelo blancas.

Ratón: Entonces ¿Por qué cazas ratones? No tiene sentido.

Gato: Tal vez, pero en la iglesia de Doraemon el gato que vino del futuro, nos enseñaron que para estar cerca de él debemos comer ratones pues ustedes no lo aceptan a él como el único viajero del tiempo y salvador de la comunidad gatuna.

Ratón: No puedo creer que esa sea la razón.

Gato: Hagamos un trato, te dejare libre si aceptas a Doraemon como único viajero del tiempo y salvador de la comunidad gatuna.

Ratón: Claro que no lo aceptaré, para empezar por que no existe y segundo, si lo hiciera, entonces no me convendría creer en él ya que solo quiere salvar a los felinos.

Gato: No te atrevas a decir que no existe, rata blasfema, porque está en todos lados y puede desatar su furia, además en mi iglesia tenemos una comunidad de ratones creyentes a los cuales dejamos en paz.

Ratón: Doraemon sólo era la caricatura de un gato azul, ¿Cuántos gatos azules conoces?

Gato: Yo creo que para demostrar su divinidad Doraemon eligió el color azul para que ninguna raza sea discriminada y la televisión fue la manera de extender su mensaje en nosotros.

Ratón: Bueno, explícame esto, Doraemon era un robot, ¿Por qué tendría que comer ratones si ni estomago tiene? Yo creo que tu iglesia ha inventado todo sólo para poder controlarlos.

Gato: Pues, pues… (El Gato se come al ratón) Tanta plática me abrió el apetito.

2616399-doraemon_pic
Doraemon, a hint of terror to come.

Setting: A small mouse realizes that he is about to be hunted by a cat, trying to save himself,  our little friend begins some small talk.

(The mouse is on its back when suddenly the cat starts running towards him.)

Mouse: Wait! Wait!

Cat: What do you want?

Mouse: Why are you doing this?

Cat: Doing what?

Mouse: Hunting me.

Cat: Well, because I’m hungry.

Mouse: Well, do you like my taste and the texture of my skin?

Cat: Humm, in fact no, I hate when the tail goes through my throat and even after a few weeks I keep spitting white balls of hair.

Mouse: So why are you hunting mice? It makes no sense.

Cat: Maybe, but in the church of Doraemon the cat that came from the future, we were taught that to be close to him we must eat mice because you do not accept him as the only time traveler and savior of the cat community.

Mouse: I can not believe that’s the reason.

Cat: Let’s make a deal, I’ll let you go if you accept Doraemon as the only time traveler and savior of the feline community.

Mouse: Of course I won’t accept it. To begin with because it doesn’t exist and secondly, if I did, then it would not make sense for me to believe in it since it only wants to save the felines.

Gato: Don’t you dare to say that it doesn’t exist, blasphemous rat, because it is everywhere and can unleash its fury, in addition in my church we have a community of believing mice whom we leave in peace.

Mouse: Doraemon was just the caricature of a blue cat, how many blue cats do you know?

Cat: I think that to demonstrate his divinity Doraemon chose the color blue so that no race is discriminated against and television was the way to spread his message in us.

Mouse: Well, explain this to me, Doraemon was a robot, why would he have to eat mice if he doesn’t even have a stomach? I believe that your church has invented everything just to control them.

Cat: Well, well … (The cat eats the mouse) So much talk opened my appetite.

Say what??? A play that began as a typical Tom & Jerry thing escalates into an anti-organized religion polemnic featuring its own Molloch anime character demanding dead mice.

Fortunately for us, there are several Youtube videos of this play, including one college production from UPN Morelos. And one we should term “paper bag theatre” –

Escenografía: Un callejón, con algunos botes de basura.

Personajes:
Perro Dóberman (Voz fuerte y babeando)
Perro Akita (Orgulloso y callado)
Perro Chihuahua (Trembling, talks in a singsong manner)
Perro Vagabundo (Perro/gato)
Introducción: Un día como cualquier otro 3 perros amigos paseaban por el callejón buscando algo para comer, mientras se acercaban a los botes de basura vieron a lo lejos a otro de sus amigos, un perro algo raro (flaco y con poco cabello, el perro vagabundo) al que llevaban meses sin ver… Bueno, excepto por el Chihuahua quien tendría un chimes que contarles.
Chihuahua: Oigan, oigan, adivinen qué me contaron del vagabundo.
Dóberman: No sé, dinos.
Chihuhua: ¡El pobre enloqueció y se cree un gato!
Akita: ¿Estás seguro? Yo creo que sólo son habladurías de la gente.
Chihuahua: Pues seguro, seguro, no pero…
Dóberman: (interrumpiendo) Pues vamos a ver, llamémosle.
Akita: Si es cierto no hay que burlarse de él, hay que ayudarle.
Chihuahua: Claro, claro.
Dóberman: ¡Hey vagabundo, ven!
(Vagabundo los mira y corre hacia ellos.)
Vagabundo: ¡Amigos, tiempo sin verlos!
Akita: Sí, mucho tiempo, para ser sinceros te hablamos para saber si es cierto algo que han estado diciendo de ti.
Vagabundo: ¿Qué cosa?
Akita: Pues…
Dóberman: (interrumpiendo) Que te crees un gato…
Vagabundo: Jajaja, claro que no me creo un gato…
Akita: Eso creí…
Vagabundo: ¡Soy un gato! Miren como hago Miau.
Chihuahua: No lo puedo creer.
Dóberman: Claro que no eres un gato.
Vagabundo: Sí lo soy mira como digo Miau.
Akita: Amigo no eres un gato y te lo podemos demostrar.
Vagabundo: ¿Cómo?
Akita: Bueno, para empezar si fueras un gato nosotros te perseguiríamos y no lo hacemos.
Vagabundo: Eso es porque soy un gato rudo, mira como hago Miau (con voz ruda)
Chihuahua: Eso no demuestra nada, si fueras un gato te gustaría el pescado y no te gusta.
Vagabundo: Bueno, lo que pasa es que soy un gato vegetariano, mira como hago Miau (con voz elegante y chupándose los dedos)
Dóberman: No, no, no, si fueras un gato podrías trepar a los árboles y estoy seguro que no puedes.
Vagabundo: Claro que no puedo y eso es porque soy un gato pesado, sólo mira como hago Miau (voz pesada)
Akita: Si fueras un gato serias flexible y podrías lavarte a ti mismo con la lengua.
Vagabundo: Claro que puedo, miren. (Improvisa movimientos gatunos)
Chihuahua: ¡Santos caninos!
Dóberman: Esto es muy perturbador.
Akita: Ok, ok eres un gato pero deja de hacer eso.
Vagabundo: ¿Ven? Soy un gato y digo Miau.
Dóberman: ¿Cómo aprendiste a hacer eso?
Vagabundo: Yoga.

Setting: An alley, with some garbage cans.

Characters:
Doberman (loud voice and drooling)
Akita dog (Proud and silent)
Chihuahua dog (Tembloroso, cantadito speaks)
Vagabond Dog (Dog / cat)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pics from here, here and here.

Introduction: A day like any other 3 friendly dogs walk through the alley looking for something to eat, as they approach the trash cans saw in the distance another of their friends, a somewhat weird dog (skinny and with little hair, the vagabond) who has not seen them for months … Well, except for the Chihuahua who is telling them.

Chihuahua: Hey, listen, guess what they told me about the tramp.
Doberman: I don’t know, tell us.
Chihuhua: The poor guy went crazy and thinks he’s a cat!
Akita: Are you sure? I think they are just gossiping about people.
Chihuahua: Sure, sure, no, but …
Doberman: (interrupting) Well let’s see, let’s call him.
Akita: If it’s true, don’t make fun of him, you have to help him.
Chihuahua: Sure, sure.
Doberman: Hey vagabond, come!

(Vagabond looks at them and runs towards them.)

Vagabond: Friends, long time, no see!
Akita: Yes, a long time, to be honest we’re talking to you to know if what they have been saying about you is true.
Vagabond: What did they say?
Akita: Well …
Doberman: (interrupting) That you think you’re a cat …
Vagabond: Hahaha, of course I don’t think I’m a cat …
Akita: I thought so …
Vagabond: I am a cat! Look how I meow.
Chihuahua: I can’t believe it.
Doberman: Of course you’re not a cat.
Vagabond: Yes I am, look like I say “meow”.
Akita: Friend, you’re not a cat and we can prove it to you.
Vagabond: How?
Akita: Well, to begin with if you were a cat we would chase you and we do not.
Vagabond: That’s because I’m a rough cat, look at me meow (with a rough voice)
Chihuahua: That doesn’t prove anything, if you were a cat you would like fish and you don’t.
Vagabond: Well, what happens is that I am a vegetarian cat, look at me meow (with an elegant voice and sucking fingers)
Doberman: No, no, no, if you were a cat you could climb trees and I’m sure you can not.
Vagabond: Of course I can’t and that’s because I’m a heavy cat, watch me meow (heavy voice)
Akita: If you were a cat you would be flexible and you could wash yourself with your tongue.
Vagabond: Of course I can, look. (Improvises cat movements)
Chihuahua: Holy dogs!
Doberman: This is very disturbing.
Akita: Ok, ok you’re a cat but stop doing that.
Vagabond: See? I am a cat and I say “meow.”
Doberman: How did you learn to do that?
Vagabond: Yoga.

Another twisted tail tale. So here we have another reference to the fact dogs can’t climb trees.

And fortunately for us, we have some Youtube videos of this play in action:

That last one comes with bloopers!!!

 

I don’t know much about the author. I’m assuming he’s Mexican because all the productions appear to be Mexican.

The plays are available on the website and they have a Youtube page with some videos.

And along with the Spanish theme + cats, here is a Spanish-language cover of The Cure’s The Love Cats, which against all odds and Mother Nature, manages to be weirder than the original….

 

And as a final, final special treat, here’s Catwoman herself (and Yzma) – Eartha Kitt – singing about being a different kind of cat….I dunno…she still jumps on furniture.

 

earthakittascatwomanbatmanabctv1966-68
I’d eat mice for her any day, but not for that false god Doraemon.

2 thoughts on “Feline Theatre (Florence Bell, Irene Woodbridge Clark, Frances Sankstone Mintz, Alan Rejón)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s