Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past

A Thanksgiving Dream by Effa Estelle Preston

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Hello everyone and welcome back to Unknown Playwrights. Someone just beat up NaNoWriMo, so I can write a little bit about our favorite theatrical genre: really bad children’s plays based on American holidays. And we’re throwing in some Thanksgiving postcards, too.

We covered a lot of the origins of Thanksgiving in last year’s post. Basically, it’s an excuse to eat as much turkey as humanly possible and write internet articles about getting into a knife fight with relatives over you-know-who:

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Meanwhile, if you’re the president, you just go ahead and make stuff up.

Horrible Thanksgiving plays are a safer alternative to either one of these options. A Thanksgiving Dream may as well be a nightmare with all the madness going on here. The play was written by Effa Estelle Preston:

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Just like it says.

Let’s check out the characters:

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If we had Thanksgiving goblins when I was a kid, I may have actually liked the holiday.

Our hero Jack has just eaten “a dandy meal.”

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And like any normal kid from 1922, his dream is full of Pilgrim Maids.

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The maids have established that the Native Americans were their friends. But Fourth Pilgrim Maiden is a little psychopath:

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“I shot him as he ran away. They found him just outside.”

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The love that dare not speak its name. And the moon watching…

The play also neglects to tell us how Native Americans in the area obtained firearms prior ro the arrival of said Pilgrims.

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Fifth Pilgrim Maid is simply a watered-down version of the Fourth. Scaring people with “Jack-Lanterns.”

Massoit was totally a real person.

One advantage the Pilgrims had when they landed, was that they were greeted by a Native American who already spoke English, thus setting up their descendants to be too lazy to learn any foreign language forever.

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Probably Jack…the Ripper.

Some turkeys show up.

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They do have a point.

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OMG. The turkeys are gonna eat plump Jack!

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Again, they have a point.

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That’s a butterknife…

And then the goblins show up:

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Sorry, Jack. The damage has been done.

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Told you it was a nightmare.

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The goblins pinched him to death…

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A word to the wise: Don’t devour your friends!

This video has the original song (sorta) for Old Black Joe. For a song about a slave’s dying last words, it seems awfully happy:

 

And there you have A Thanksgiving Nightmare Dream.

But seriously, the absolute best part of the play is the list of available monologues on the back cover:

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As thrilling as Susan Gets Ready for Church sounds, as Hallmark Channel-ly I’m Engaged might be, as fun as Gladys Reviews the Dance obviously is, my money is on Ask Ouija when it comes to sheer wholesome entertainment.

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Effa Estelle Preston wrote a lot of plays. Normally, I’d list every single play, but she had at least 91 published playlets. Some of the highlights follow:

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From 1939.
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1930’s A Christmas Strike

 

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From 1937. Probably better than when my high school did Seinfeld sketches.
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The Fall Guy must be jealous. 1945
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Some light bondage at the North Pole.
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Random trivia: this exact building now houses one of my favorite newspapers.
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Not only was it popular,it was 454 pages long.

You can find several of Preston’s plays on archive.org and Gutenberg.org.

I couldn’t find out much about Ms. Preston, except she was born in 1884 in New Jersey and also died there at age 91 in 1975. She seems to have spent her working life as a public school teacher. On various census records, she’s listed as living with her mother, up to at least age 45. At one point she and her mother took in other female teachers as boarders. She doesn’t seem to have ever married. She did take a trip to France in 1929. I’d love to know more about her life.

In case you thought Thanksgiving plays were a thing of the past, we now give you this from like a week ago:

 

The antidote to the deluge of Thanksgiving plays might be The Thanksgiving Play by Lakota playwright Larissa FastHorse. Here is Ms. FastHorse talking about her wonderful play:

 

 

 

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