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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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. 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.
[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:
Much like a Talking Heads song, it could be really terrible and amazing at the same time.
It seems earlier editions were printed in the 1880s.
In the play entitled “World Commerce” Cuba mentions how fun it is to be a Spanish colony with Chinese laborers:
“Strangely enough.” Sigh.
Manila must boast as well and then Java gets its turn:
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]
The book of plays begins with….
“Perhaps we are not so old nor so wise as some other countries…”
Understatement of the year right there.
Massachusetts is right about the cities on the Merrimac: textiles, textiles, textiles.
The common theme among the American states is that they’re a bunch of whiny braggarts:
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…
Oh, more colony-measuring here…
Holland owns half of St. Martin. Don’t you forget it.
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.
The last play involves commerce. It’s quite funny:
Vera Cruz and Naples, know thyselves.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
This play starts off…well…
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?
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.
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.
Each human gives their response and everyone sings a song about it. Here is dear old GRANDPA…
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The play neglects to mention that the real Squanto spoke English because he’d been kidnapped to England years before.