Howdy all and Happy Valentine’s Day!
We here at Unknown Playwrights have found a wee Valentine’s Day play from 1916 from a writer who seemed to have led a much more interesting life outside writing children’s plays. More on that later. But now, the play’s the thing.
I can see this story has been influenced by the folklore of another commercial holiday.
This play comes from a book of children’s plays.
The play finds elves hard at work making Valentine’s Day cards.
BTW, a Valentine’s Day card from 1916 looked like this:
What’s really cool is that the elves have a
drinking working song.
Then a lost child shows up and everyone gets into a tizzy.
Old Man Valentine explains where “valentines” come from. Hint: not storks.
Ahhh. Child labor! A labor of love. And when the child doesn’t understand?
Unknown Playwrights: Second Elf, you’re a dick. I’m gonna fry you in my wok and serve you on toast.
Then the bad guys show up.
It turns out there’s a Sir Valentine who lives nearby and is responsible for cruel tricks on Valentine’s Day. Like that time in junior high when I got a rose from someone who didn’t put their name on the card and all the kids made fun of me and said I ordered it myself. And my name was misspelled. That’s Sir Valentine’s fault.
I don’t like this Sir Valentine chap at all.
The elves ask the child to make a Valentine’s Day card for her mom which is sweet and touching and reminds me how confused I was as a kid when I learned kids got Valentine’s Day gifts for their moms. It kinda makes sense, considering where I grew up.
That’s kinda sweet.
Mom’s gonna love that massive valentine!
The author, Frances Gillespy Wickes, had an interesting career that went beyond children’s plays. Here are some basics:
- She was born in Lansingburgh, New York in 1875
- She attended Columbia University
- She married a dude named Thomas Wickes and divorced him in 1910.
- Her only child Eliphalet Wickes died at the age of 20.
- She became a psychologist, specializing in artists and children.
- She wrote a book that is still assigned now, The Inner World of Childhood
- She had shloads of friends with Wikipedia pages: Muriel Rukeyser, Henry Murray, Eudora Welty, Mary Louise Peebles, Martha Graham, Lewis Mumford, Thomas Mann, May Sarton, Robert Edmond Jones and Carl Jung.
- The average lifespan of these friends was 83.8 years. The average lifespan of an American born in 2020 is estimated to be 78.93 years. Interesting, huh? If we factor in Wickes’ age with her friends’, it’s 84.45 years. Why did Wickes’ friends from over 100 years ago lived longer than an American born now? Obviously it’s because they were friends with a children’s playwright. Discuss.
- Her papers are in the Library of Congress.
- She left a 2 million dollar estate.
- Sometimes bullet points are better than paragraphs.
That almost wraps up this week’s post.
If you are member of the Dramatists Guild and want to see the writer of this blog elected to the Guild Council, you can totally vote for him here.
In honor of Valentine’s Day and all the trauma it inflicts, let’s listen to a sad country song.