Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

St. Valentine’s House by Frances Gillespy Wickes

Howdy all and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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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.

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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.

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YASSSS! 

The play finds elves hard at work making Valentine’s Day cards.

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BTW, a Valentine’s Day card from 1916 looked like this:

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Man, them elves put in a lot of work.
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You can buy this one on Etsy.
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If only managers at Cracker Barrel were this easy to please. 

What’s really cool is that the elves have a drinking working song.

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Then a lost child shows up and everyone gets into a tizzy.

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Old Man Valentine explains where “valentines” come from. Hint: not storks.

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Ahhh. Child labor! A labor of love. And when the child doesn’t understand?

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Unknown Playwrights: Second Elf, you’re a dick. I’m gonna fry you in my wok and serve you on toast.

Prblem solved.

The play was illustrated by that illustrious illustrator Marie Abrams Lawson who married the Caldecott and Newberry Award-winning Robert Lawson.

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“I bring women with giant butterfly wings on their backs and some sort of weird plant on their heads.”

Then the bad guys show up.

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The blown comb sounds scary. 
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They’re edgy. 
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I hate Sally, too. 

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.

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That’s kinda sweet.

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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:

That almost wraps up this week’s post.

Don’t forget to check out other Unknown Playwrights, Monologue Mondays, Theatre Horror Stories or last year’s Valentine’s Day play.

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.

 

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:

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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.

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From the start: CONFLICT!

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Let’s explore that in detail…

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

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

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Emojipedia time!!!

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

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Lady Bell was kind enough to add sheet music:

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

The cat gets all mad:

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“Impertinence” – such a cat word.

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

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“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…

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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.

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Revered cats, turned into fertilizer by the usual suspects.

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

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

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Pictured: If American theatre were an emoticon.

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

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“Spit fiercely.”

And it even comes with DIAGRAMS!!!!

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A LOBSTER!!!!!!

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The stuff dreams nightmares Satan’s nightmares are made of. 

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“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.

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Like all cats, even special ones require cream…

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Typical cat….

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

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“GIVE ME THAT SPIDER”

The maiden does the cat’s bidding.

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She explains what she needs.

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The cat takes care of business…

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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.

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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.

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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

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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:

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Talk about exposition.

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

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

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The cat is more “controlling stalker” than friend.

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

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

 

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I’d eat mice for her any day, but not for that false god Doraemon.
Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Geographical Plays by Jane Andrews

[Full disclosure: I had a 4,000 word post ready about a living playwright but at the last minute said living playwright had second thoughts. Thus, I am up at 2 a.m. writing about a dead playwright and feeling like one, too]

Geography!!! I have a long history with the topic. So imagine my pure joy and horror when I discovered this gem from 1896:

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Much like a Talking Heads song, it could be really terrible and amazing at the same time.

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The only likeness I could find of her.

It seems earlier editions were printed in the 1880s.

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Boston, 1896.

Let’s take a gander. Here a stranger enquires about how to travel from Boston to San Francsico. Boston is home to several of our playwrights, including Greg Hovanesian, Martha Patterson and the late, great Angelina Weld Grimké.

 

The kids answer:

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That’s pretty cool. And it shows exactly the route the train would’ve taken. Hint: I was born in one of these towns (not the suspension bridge).

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Train and engineer at Niagara Suspension Bridge before 1886.

But then it comes to Europe boasting about their colonies:

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Go F yourself, Holland. There’s a reason why Indonesia changed the town’s name from Batavia to Jakarta (because Batavia is just another word for Holland).

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Entrance to the zoo in Batavia, 1896.

In the play entitled “World Commerce” Cuba mentions how fun it is to be a Spanish colony with Chinese laborers:

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“Strangely enough.” Sigh.

Manila must boast as well and then Java gets its turn:

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Now for grade school kids, this is actually a decent description of Dutch economic policy in the Dutch East Indies. The play forgot to mention the forced labor aspect of it, but selling cash crops to the Dutch overlords at a fixed price, which the Dutch government then exported overseas for a profit. They then supposedly gave a surplus back to the native Indonesians. Somehow I don’t think it worked as prettily as described, but it is neat that the play goes into so much detail regarding the economics on Java in the 1890s.

[it is now 9:41 a.m. I did sleep a little bit  (30 mins?) and had a dream my friend lost an insane amount of weight and my other friend’s wife kept trying to talk to me alone. It was kinda weird]

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Calle Palacio in Manila in the 1910s.

The book of plays begins with….

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“Perhaps we are not so old nor so wise as some other countries…”

Understatement of the year right there.

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Massachusetts is right about the cities on the Merrimac: textiles, textiles, textiles.

And Lawrence would later have a very famous, very violent strike. But for now…

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Whoa!!! Hold on there, southern states

Massachusetts is all like “Let’s not have another war, please.”

Then the “western” states get in on the action.

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I just hope New York doesn’t think Philadelphia is a western city.

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Not another city-measuring contest. Sigh.

A couple of things here.

  1. The playwright goofed. California delivers this line over a hundred pages before Washington Territory ever shows up. And that’s in the Commerce of the World play.

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BTW, Maulmain is now Mawlamyine in Myanmar.

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Mawlamyine has a neat pagoda. This photo is from 1895. I doubt Seattle had a better one.

 

But PiL never made a song about Mawlamyine:

Maybe that’s a good thing?

The common theme among the American states is that they’re a bunch of whiny braggarts:

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Insecure Texas, always trying to show off. I think it’s fun the Alaskan gold rush hadn’t happened yet. The Wikipedia page claims the “legacy” of this is North to Alaska, but I don’t know if they mean the song or the movie. If you watch the movie, you can see John Wayne’s wig fall off. It’s pretty funny.

As entertaining as an insecure, yet severely dysfunctional family like the United States can be, it’s time for us to move on to Europe, that one place in the 1890s where everything was going fine…

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Yours for only 75 clams.

Oh, more colony-measuring here…

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Holland owns half of St. Martin. Don’t you forget it.

And Denmark calls St. Croix by its Spanish name.

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“Venice of Northern Europe” Broooo.

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Amsterdam in 1899.. I guess they’re doing Dutch stuff.

If anyone is up for alcohol, there’s this:

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Meanwhile, poor Spain gets nostalgic for its empire…might wanna lock up the sherry.

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Ah yes, Spanish Guinea, where I set my thriller play that’s never been produced (English here, Spanish here).

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Spanish Guinea in 1890.

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Someone calls out Austria on its BS regarding Poland, only to get mansplained by Prussia and their king (who doubled as German Emperor). We all know how that turned out.

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Did you know you can wear an emoji?

Love that burn on Russia…because Russia totally had a thing for Turkey.

As we prepare to leave Europe, we have a positive message from Kazan:

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Let’s see where the plays are going to next:

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I bet they’re going to Asia. I like the descriptions of how one would’ve traveled back then.

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“To Bagdad, did you say?”

“And Bassora, too.”

Japan seems pretty happy about its relationship with America.

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Do you know what’s worse than Commodore Perry‘s gunboat diplomacy?

It led to another John Wayne movie.

Japan seems very eager to learn from its friends. The epitome of this knowledge-quest seems to be when someone discovered Tom Tom Club‘s Wordy Rappinghood.

This was the result:

And we learn about Japanese dental customs.

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I guess facelifts were in their infancy, so would could be the cause of the “surprised look”?

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Ouch. Except this was banned in 1870.

Now it gets a case of the weirds. The next play is South America and Africa, because of course it is.

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“My vanilla is bigger than your India rubber tree!”

“Yeah? I can touch the Mediterranean.”

They’re portrayed like children, similar to the US states.

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“I am here by the right of colonization.” You do you, Cape Town.

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Cape Town, 1896.

Africa is so proud of its European towns. Sadly proud.

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BURN!!!

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I LOVE Liberia calling the US out over slavery.

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To be fair, Ashmun Street looked like a long lawn back in 1890 Monrovia, Liberia.

 

Liberia, the West African country colonized by the US, with a really interesting history.

Check out that flag:

It also makes for an interesting play.

The next play is about islands and Australia. Because I’m kinda close to near-collapse, I just found the most pathetic island. Pathetic because it’s so lonely.

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The last play involves commerce. It’s quite funny:

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Vera Cruz and Naples, know thyselves.

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Vera Cruz around 1890.

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And really, opium is definitely the best companion drug for ginger.

In summation, theatre would be an excellent method to teach geography – but it would need to be cleansed of this “pro colonization” mumbo jumbo. And it should mention Utah. And Idaho.

[Note: this post was about 90% done before I collapsed from exhaustion around 530 pm. I had a dream about kids from high school. Kids I didn’t even like. It was like a foretaste of Hell. I woke up around 1030 and now will post the blog. Sorry for the delay.]

The author

Jane Andrews was born in 1833 and died in 1887, meaning this copy of the plays was published well after her death. She was the daughter of a minister and grew up in Massachsuetts. As a teenager, she taught night classes to the cotton mill workers where she lived. Her reference to these cotton towns is a bit more poignant.

She was the very first student at Antioch College when it opened, but had to withdraw due to a “spinal affliction.” She was an invalid for six years.

She opened a primary school where one of her future students was future feminist Alice Stone Blackwell. Poor health forced her to close the school after 25 years.

Her children’s books were very popular, being translated even into Japanese and Chinese. They were still used 50 years after her death.

For our other paywrights, please check here.

Some of her works can be found here, including our plays.

A sketch of her life by her sister.

A memorial sketch by someone who knew her.

Her Wikipedia page is here.

Her sister describes her school.

Join us Monday for more hot, hot monologues and next week for another dead playwright!

 

 

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Thanksgiving plays: Madalene Barnum and Carolyn Wells

Just when you thought Halloween had a lock on goofy plays, Thanksgiving pops up with its own brand of bizarre. And we have TWO Thanksgiving plays. We have much to be thankful for.

For those readers who didn’t grow up in the US, Thanksgiving is a holiday that (according to pop culture) involves eating turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie, rolls and a bunch of other stuff. Actual Thanksgiving meals can involve other foods such as collard greens, black eyed peas, sweet potato pie. potato salad with paprika and even lasagna. Heck, I’ve even had Korean food at a Thanksgiving meal. And some people even deep fry a turkey, resulting in sadly hilarious Youtube videos.

Thanksgiving isn’t just celebrated in the US and Canada, but also in the West African nation of Liberia.

It really isn’t all that different from other harvest-oriented festivals around the world.

Thanksgiving activities stereotypically involve interacting with long-hated family members, watching American football, eating as much as possible and passing out in front of the TV.

Some Americans pretend to care about homeless people around this time. And they make popular Youtube videos about it.

All this is in commemoration of some colonizers who didn’t die right away, so they had a feast.

Sometimes American schools have/had a Thanksgiving pageant. I don’t remember a pageant, but I had to make that stupid little Pilgrim hat with the buckle.

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LAME.
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Much better. Buy yours today!

This is where the Thanksgiving plays come in. They would’ve been acted out by school kids across our great land.

The first play, from 1922, focuses on the harvest aspect of the holiday.

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I got it for free, and so can you.

This play starts off…well…

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The Goddess of Grain finally has her story told, after being a supporting player.
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Really digging the costume choices here.

Ceres and all the other immortals are just hanging out, complaining about how mortals aren’t really thankful. What’s the best way to fix that?

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Makes sense.

I particularly like that PEACE doesn’t know what a family is….because there is no peace on Thanksgiving bwahahah. PEACE seems like a leftover from the end of WWI.

Everything is in verse in this play. And there’s a bunch of songs set to tunes people actually knew back then. More of those later.

So PEACE and PLENTY run off and catch humans.

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Why can’t the son be a “degenerate, out of style blob”???

And Lord knows what the “best type of modern girlhood” entails.

The immortals interrogate the mortals about Thanksgiving. Here is a typical exchange between MOTHER EARTH and the MOTHER on Earth.

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Each human gives their response and everyone sings a song about it. Here is dear old GRANDPA…

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And the Thanksgiving Trio sing a song based on a song most Americans know as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” but is actually named “America” and using the melody from “God Save the Queen” and about 1,000 other songs.

One can only imagine how much better the play would’ve been with Franklin’s stirring voice.

This is all fine and good until the nameless, yet “efficient, sensible and pretty” GIRL teaches everyone the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

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So the brightest and kindest-hearted character is the GIRL. This is definitely a saving grace. And that is the play’s strongest aspect. We definitely need to learn how to give more than receive. I’d say a modern variation on that theme might make a suitable Thanksgiving play.

However, let’s go on a tangent about the air “My Maryland.”

TANGENT BEGINNING

This was the only video I could find without a Confederate flag. Why? This was a Confederate song that referred to Lincoln as a despot, called Northerners “scum” and had the phrase “Sic semper tyrannis” – the same phrase that actor from Maryland used right after he shot Lincoln. You can read all about it on the Wikihole.

So what did the brave lawmakers in Maryland do when they woke up in 2018 and realized they had the song of a bunch of traitors who got their asses beat 153 years before? Only the most limpdicked thing possible.

And “O Tannenbaum” is forever ruined by this.

TANGENT OVER

The play basically ends with everyone saying “What an awesome girl!”

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Thanksgiving Pageant from 1914. Note lack of Pilgrims and abundance of child-sized veggies. From here.

The play’s author, Carolyn Wells, was indeed quite popular for the time, writing more than 170 books, specializing in mysteries. She also married the heir to the Houghton-Mifflin publishing firm.

*Note to self: Marry heir to Samuel French publishing firm. Write 170 plays.

Please don’t judge her on the silliness of this Thanksgiving play. Instead, feel free to judge this accomplished woman based off of her vast, vast work.

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She even serialized her work in the famed Argosy magazine. My new goal is to re-add “fascination” to the mystery suspense genre.

Links to work by and about her will appear at the end.

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Judge her for her hat. Via here.

 

Now for the second part of our play-a-thon.

The First Thanksgiving Day from 1907, written by Madalene Barnum, is hilarious. It appears in A Book of Plays for Little Actors

The plot is pretty simple. It’s 1621 and the one-year anniversary of the Pilgrims totally not dying is coming up. The Pilgrims invite the local Native Americans over for a party. They use a Native American, Squanto, as interpreter.

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The play neglects to mention that the real Squanto spoke English because he’d been kidnapped to England years before.

Americans to this day continue the tradition of just showing up someplace and not bothering with the language.

The Pilgrims properly prepare for their party –

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Clams for Thanksgiving! YESSS!
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Myles Standish, badass.

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As usual, women get the drudgery work.

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The women don’t get to shoot stuff, but also they don’t have the humiliation of simply saying “Bang! Bang!” in the woods.

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Mary, Priscilla, Mrs. White – to the ovens!! Mrs. White is impressed by Standish’s huge…turkeys.

And the Native Americans show up, ostensibly speaking a real language.

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Well, Elder, there’s no football on the tube…

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Should’ve thought of that before everyone said “Yes, yes!”. Sigh.

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PLEASE, GOD, NO!

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White men are good at war stuff. Got it.

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Don’t listen to them, Squanto! Poor Squanto cannot distinguish between a cannon and thunder.

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Good-by really strange play from 1907!

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Thanksgiving pageant, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1904. Probably not much different than our play.

Madalene Barnum didn’t quite have the career Wells did. She was born in 1874, but I haven’t found a death date for her. I doubt she’s 144 years old.

Her career included educational books and plays.

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She co-authored this sexy tome in 1911.
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You can buy this.

At the time she wrote this, she was an English teacher at the Brooklyn Training School for Teachers.

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Holy crap, she got a play with Samue French!

It’s obvious these writers were going for what was popular and acceptable by the dominant society at the time. And they appear to have succeeded.

What should be in a modern Thanksgiving play??

For a list of all our playwrights, please check here.

Before we leave you, I’d like to add a video which is kinda related to today’s topic, but it is an important one. And she’s funny.

 

And here is the link dump:

The plays

The Meaning of Thanksgiving Day.

The First Thanksgiving Day, right here

The authors

Madalene Barnum at archive.org

And more!

Carolyn Wells at Wikipedia,

Wells at Britannica. And Poetry Foundation.

Works at Gutenberg.org

Works at archive.org

Wikisource

Review and bio on a blog

Fantastic Fiction.

Another overview

Another book review on a blog. The comments are vicious.