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)
The Cat and the Fiddle
Our first example of said theatre is The Cat and the Fiddle – straight out of…..
The book starts with some magnificent advice for adults regarding children’s plays, which is the following:
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.
From the start: CONFLICT!
Let’s explore that in detail…
I don’t blame the dog, given the nightmare fuel in this movie clip of a cat playing a fiddle:
Well, dog – that’s some skill you got there…
Supposedly “over the moon” comes from the nursery rhyme – or not. Makes more sense if the moon is near the ground.
Lady Bell was kind enough to add sheet music:
I can’t read sheet music, but I heard if the notes go up, the voice goes up.
The cat gets all mad:
“Impertinence” – such a cat word.
“day week” <<< is this a typo? Does anyone know???
“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…
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”
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.
Thus the setting for this 1916 opus is a land full of reverence for cats.
42 bucks!!! [This is pretty much more than my plays ever made]
The play opens with some serious instructions for a a giant artificial cat to be built:
And it even comes with DIAGRAMS!!!!
“not too frequent”
This is a love story about a maiden with three suitors, of whom she loves one.
Like all cats, even special ones require cream…
The Maiden asks the cat to help her get the one guy she loves…they need to escape. The cat has demands.
“GIVE ME THAT SPIDER”
The maiden does the cat’s bidding.
She explains what she needs.
The cat takes care of business…
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.
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.
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
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:
Talk about exposition.
And so it goes. The cat, being a passive-aggressive weirdo, sends its child to the Hen.
And the Hen sends her kid to talk to the cat.
The cat is more “controlling stalker” than friend.
They finally get going and the plot takes a twist as aberrant as the cat’s mind:
The cat seizes her kids???? Really???
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
Setting: An alley, with some garbage cans.
Doberman (loud voice and drooling)
Akita dog (Proud and silent)
Chihuahua dog (Tembloroso, cantadito speaks)
Vagabond Dog (Dog / cat)
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.
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?
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.
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….