It’s a Job (a ten minute play)

October 16th, 2014

Characters: Chimpanzees. (The audience may not realize at first that they are chimps and not humans. Note: I visualize them in almost identical close fitting exercise pants and long sleeve knit shirts, all of a neutral color.)

Horace, played by young man. Has a macho attitude in spite of being ordered around by Vera.

Vera,  played by a young woman. She has rather uppity airs.

Stanley  played by a 6 to 12 year old. He has an attitude from the fact that he has only been living with humans and doesn’t realize there is any difference.

Uncle Humphrey is imposing as an elder who was once living in the wilds, was captured and has been transferred from research facilities to live out his life in a zoo. He is philosophical and serves as an oral historian.

Time: Late morning.Setting: The set pieces needed for this play are a long log and some simple exercise rings or a parallel bar hung from the ceiling. At Rise:  Vera, and Horace sit on a log and take turns grooming each other. They are aware of the audience and now and then acknowledge their presence. Perhaps a little clowning but subtle. They don’t get carried away as they are more involved in their own interactions.

VERA: Nice.


 VERA: Little higher.


VERA: Little lower.


VERA: Ah-h – ah-h


VERA: Oh yes! Yes!


VERA: Turn.

He turns.

She grooms his back.


VERA: There?


VERA: And here?


 VERA (She looks around)  Do you like this place?

HORACE: Umm – – – – -umm. Umm.

VERA: I mean this place. How long have you been here?


VERA: Wake up, Horace.


VERA: I heard you’ve been here at least a year. I know you were in San Diego for a while. Uncle Humphrey said he met you there just after one of his research assignments.

HORACE: Uncle Humphrey talks too much.

VERA: And what about the kid?

HORACE: I don’t mind being a family. Yeah, it’s okay.

VERA: I don’t want a kid.– (she nuzzles his neck.) Unless it’s my kid.

HORACE: Umm – – – – umm. (He nuzzles her neck).

VERA: Umm. 
       (For a few seconds some exploring and nuzzling goes on).
Not now, you big hunk.

 She gives him a big shove and he falls right off the log.

Horace picks himself up and slinks to far end of the log.

Vera watches him go then makes faces at the audience.

Stanley runs onto the stage followed by Uncle Humphrey.

Vera turns her back to him.

Horace stands up and carefully examines Stanley.

HORACE: Well, young fellow.

UNCLE HUMPHREY: Here, kid. Help me.

Stanley looks from one to the other.

Then he goes to Uncle Humphrey and helps him pull a large basket from off stage.

Uncle Humphrey reaches in and takes out an orange.

He tosses it to Stanley, who tosses it in the air.

STANLEY: They told me this is:
 (he very carefully says the word as the humans taught him to say it) 

 He tosses the orange back to Uncle Humphrey.

UNCLE HUMPHREY (tosses the orange to Horace as he says his name.)  Horace.

STANLEY (repeats)  Horace.

 Horace tosses it to Stanley.

Stanley tosses the orange back to Horace.

Uncle Humphrey takes a banana out of the basket.

UNCLE HUMPHREY: Did they teach you the word for this?

STANLEY (Carefully pronounces the name).  “Banana.”

Uncle Humphrey goes to Vera and gives her the banana.

UNCLE HUMPHREY (saying to Stanley as he indicates Vera).  Vera.


Vera turns away.

Uncle Humphrey holds up a mango.

STANLEY:  “Mango.”

Uncle Humphrey tosses the mango to Stanley.

Stanley puts it in the basket and takes out a hat.

STANLE: “Hat.” (Putting it on himself.)

 Stanley struts around the stage.

He stops in front of Horace as if wanting his approval.

HORACE (Points to himself)   Papa.

STANLEY (Points to himself)  Stanley.

HORACE (Going to Stanley and pointing to himself again).  Papa.

STANLEY (Looks at Horace). Papa?

HORACE: We can do some things together.

Horace takes Stanley’s hand and leads him to the rings.

He shows him how to do some tricks.

Uncle Humphrey sits next to Vera with his back to the audience. They watch Horace and Stanley.

UNCLE HUMPHREY: So it seems that the little fellow has escaped from research. Now he can learn who he is. We can help him be a chimp.

VERA: But he isn’t my kid. I want my own.

UNCLE HUMPHREY: Vera, (He reaches out to console her.) Family is more than having just your own little one. I learned the long history of Chimps. I was in too many research places to have my own family. Just when I made friends they whisked them away to another project. Or maybe it was me who was moved.

Uncle Humphrey stands up faces the audience, thumps his chest, lets out a roar and then he moons the audience.

VERA (Very annoyed)  That’s naughty.

UNCLE HUMPHREY: They expect it. It’s our job to amuse them. They feed us and want us to make them laugh.

VER: Oh. Are you sure?

UNCLE HUMPHREY: I learned a lot of things when they were testing me for this and that. They tested me but I learned from them. History has always been my passion. A long time ago some of our ancestors separated from the rest of us and developed into humans. (He sighs). I do believe it was a big mistake.

VERA: Are you sure?

UNCLE HUMPHREY: Oh yes. That’s what happened. I heard it from scientists. They know a lot. Oh yes, it’s a fact.

Horace is teaching Stanley a clapping game.

Vera leaves.

Horace looks at her as she goes and then he follows.

Stanley goes down front and balances on the log.

UNCLE HUMPHREY (He holds out his hand.)  Welcome to our family.

STANLEY: Oh, I have a family somewhere else but they – – – (starts to sob) – they didn’t say goodbye. I think they will come. We lived in a big house. We were in the garden when yesterday’s sun was dancing on the flowers. We were playing. My sister liked to hug me. I liked to hug her. She would squeal and then she would hug me. It was such a roly-poly feeling when I put my legs all tight around her and nuzzled her neck. Then our mother came out and screamed and pulled her away and I tried to run after them. (He tries to stop sobbing). A big man came in with a big cage. He brought me here.

UNCLE HUMPHREY (hugging Stanley)   That’s hard. I also had a family once in a long ago time in a wonderful place with tall trees. So many trees. We used to swing from branch to branch, chasing each other. (He sighs). But I was taken away. Not even a chance to nuzzle my mama. Well, little fellow, that’s just the way life is.

STANLEY: I don’t know where I am.  (He starts to sob.) Maybe they will take me back to my family.

UNCLE HUMPHREY: We’ll teach you the ways of our family. You are a chimp like us and we have a job here. You can do your part. Balance again on the log. That can be your trick.

Stanley walks on the log, wobbling to make it look difficult.

UNCLE HUMPHREY: Now make some faces at the people.

Stanley makes some faces.

Uncle Humphrey watches, then turns and moons.

Vera comes rushing in.

VERA: You dirty old chimp. What are you teaching this little one.  (She shoves Uncle Humphrey knocking him off the log.)  What are you doing? He’s my family now.

VERA: (Vera reaches to embrace Stanley.  And I’m your mama.

 Horace hurries in.

HORACE: Don’t leave me out.

Horace joins the hug.

Sitting down they all moon the audience.


©May, 2014





TWILIGHT (a ten minute play)

October 16th, 2014


GRANDMA ALICE: A woman in her 60’s. She wears a long dark dress well covered by a print apron.

GRANDPA VAN: A man in his 60’s, tan and lean but rugged from outdoor  living and heavy work. He wears overalls, flannel shirt, heavy socks and cowboy boots.

PATTY: A thin nervous child who is 8 to 10 years old. She wears a print cotton    knee length dress, bobby socks and leather oxford shoes.
TIME:  Early 30’s, spring, dusk.


PLACE: The porch of a farm house in rural Arizona.

SETTING: A simple porch is indicated with three steps leading to a screen door. There is a bench and a stool. The newspaper, envelopes, a writing pad and pencil are on the bench. Boots and an unlighted oil lamp are near the steps.

 LIGHTS UP: GRANDMA is writing names on some envelopes (3or 4). Then she tears a page out of her notebook and tucks it inside and seals it.

GRANDPA is sitting on the steps cleaning the oil lamp.

PATTY is inside. We  hear noises like pans banging. She enters carrying a pan of peas. She sits on the steps next to Grandpa and begins to shell the peas.

SOUND: Bellowing of a newborn calf comes from the direction of the barn.

The three all react to the plaintive cry then continue their work.

SOUND: Again the bellowing is heard.

 Grandpa quickly picks up the oil lamp and turns to go inside.

Patty picks up the stool and carries it downstage right where there is a bird’s nest in a nearby tree. She jumps up on the stool to look at the nest.


PATTY: That mother bird has been gone a long time.

GRANDPA (He turns as he is goes in the door) She needs to find food, Patty

PATTY: It’s about time for the egg to hatch.

She jumps off the stool, sits on it and looks around.

PATTY: It’s getting dark.

GRANDMA: This is twilight. Soon it will be night. Twilight is in between.

PATTY: Between?

GRANDMA: Between day and night.

PATTY: Like cheese between slices of bread.

GRANDMA: What an idea.

PATTY: How big is between?

GRANDMA: It depends on the weather. On a clear day like today, twilight lingers. A little while ago the sun was shining and we were busy with the day. Now it’s twilight. A pause to consider the day, to prepare ourselves for night. Soon the light will be gone and the stars will shine. Look for the stars. Make a wish.

Patty starts to look for a star.

Grandpa comes out and begins to put on his boots.

Grandma picks up her letters and puts them in her pocket.

PATTY: Does Mr. Roosevelt read your letters, Grandma?

GRANDMA: Sometime, he might. The Congressmen read them especially when lots of people have signed them.

Grandma picks up the paper then lays it down.

Grandpa picks it up, looks at it and throws it down.

GRANDPA: That rascal in the White House is going to drive us all to the poor house with his big spending plans.

GRANDMA: Now, Van, you know and Mr. Roosevelt knows that people need work. Not a day passes without some fellow walking down the road and stopping at the gate to ask for some work to do for a meal.

GRANDPA: You’ll do what you want to do, Alice. You’ll do what you want.

GRANDPA: No letter yet from Winnie. That damn Yankee, dragging her off to Phoenix.

GRANDMA: Jack had hopes of a job. He was promised a job in Phoenix.

GRANDPA: There’s a good hospital in Prescott and it’s closer.

Grandma touches Grandpa to alert him to the fact that Patty has become interested in their conversation.

GRANDPA  (To Patty)  I expect we’ll hear from her soon.

GRANDMA (To Patty as well as Grandpa)  Everything will be OK.
          She announces as she goes to the kitchen.       Babies are born every day.

Grandma goes inside.

Patty jumps up and stands on the stool to look at the bird’s nest.

PATTY: That egg is sure pretty.

Grandpa has come over to look at the egg.

GRANDPA: Yes it is.

PATTY: When the baby starts to peck out, I can very gently help the shell to crack.

GRANDPA: No, Patty. The baby bird has to do it all itself in order to be strong.

Patty moves the stool and sits down. She is very quiet as she looks out into the landscape.

PATTY (Resigned.)  Oh well, we’ll just have to wait.

Grandma comes out and hands Grandpa a baby bottle.

GRANDMA: Take this for Bessie’s calf.

He pushes the bottle aside.

GRANDPA: No, Alice, not yet.
          (He pushes the bottle again.)  Don’t want it yet. I’m going to try one more day. Bessie has never before refused to accept her own calf.

She continues to insist he take the bottle.

He continues to push the bottle aside.

GRANDMA: Take it along. The poor thing needs some strength.

He takes the bottle and goes off grumbling and mumbling.

GRANDPA: You never quit, Alice. You never quit.

PATTY: What did Grandpa mean, “Damn Yankee?”

GRANDMA: Oh, Patty, think nothing of it. Your Grandpa is from Texas and your Daddy is from Boston. They never have seen eye to eye.

PATTY: I know Boston is somewhere over near the ‘lantic ocean. Grandpa has shown me Texas on the map.  But I still don’t know what a damn – – –

GRANDMA: He wasn’t happy that your mother married a Northerner.

PATTY: Can we write a letter to Mama tonight?

GRANDMA: After your homework.

PATTY: She jumps up and dances up and down the steps as she talks. There’s only sums to do. I’m good at sums. 12 plus 12 equals 24 plus 12 equals 36.  9 plus 9 equals 18. Now we’re doing columns with carry-overs.

GRANDMA: Sit a minute. You’re taking my breath away.

PATTY: (Although she sits down her body still seems to be in motion.) Can I help make the pancakes tomorrow, Grandma?

GRANDMA: We’ll see, Patty.

PATTY: I love pancakes.

GRANDMA: So does Grandpa.

PATTY: He likes honey. Mama says he eats too much honey.

GRANDMA: Now, Patty, don’t eat too many of those peas.

PATTY: Do they have to be cooked? I like them this way.

GRANDMA: Put them in the kitchen, Patty.

Patty scoots inside and back out again.

Grandma looks out toward the horizon, lost in thought.

PATTY: Grandma, I want to make a wish for you. Tell me a wish?

GRANDMA: Wish that we have a little rain. The garden needs to get a good start.

PATTY: Is it alright to wish for that man, the one who picked the peas for you this morning? He kept saying how he liked your coffee. Could I wish for him, Grandma. He needed some better shoes. Could I wish for some shoes?

GRANDMA: Yes, Child.

PATTY: I’ll wish for the rain with the first star. Then I’ll wish for the shoes. Are wishes good on the second star?

GRANDMA:  (Her thoughts seem far away.)  I think so, Child. I think so.

PATTY: I’ll make a whole lot of wishes. What shall I wish for Grandpa?

Grandma shakes off her mood and laughs as she swishes her apron at Patty.

GRANDMA: Wish that he gets that scrawny calf to take its mother’s milk.

PATTY: Grandpa says that Bessie doesn’t want her baby calf.

GRANDMA: He’ll get them together.

PATTY: Do mothers sometimes not want their children?

GRANDMA: What an idea.

PATTY: If Mama has a new baby —

 Grandma wraps the child in her arms.

GRANDMA: Stop your worry, Child. Your folks had to go so your Daddy could get a job. They have some worries right now and they want you to stay here for school.  As soon as they’re settled they’ll be here to get you.

She wipes a tear from Patty’s eyes with her apron.

Grandpa comes in and hands Grandma the empty bottle.

GRANDPA: I’ll need more milk the calf is very weak.

Grandma takes the bottle and goes inside.

Grandpa follows.

Patty is searching the sky for a star. She focuses on one.

PATTY: Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.
First I want to make a wish for Grandpa, and Bessie’s little newborn calf. She needs her mother. Grandpa is far out worried.

She looks around for another star then comes back to the first star.

This wish is for Grandma. She needs some rain to keep her garden growing.

 She looks around again for another star.

My third wish is for a man who needs some shoes. He is a good worker and very polite.

 Patty looks around at more stars then focuses on the first star.

I hope that Mr. Roosevelt has a wishing star to help him get shoes for all the men walking on the roads to find work and for all the other troubles that Grandma has been writing to him about.  She says Mr. Roosevelt is finding lots of jobs for people and maybe — it’s like this — I’m thinking you could find a job for Daddy. If you found him a job it would take a big load off of Mr. Roosevelt.

Then my folks would come and get me. Tell Mama that I want to help with her new baby. I promise I won’t be in the way. I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish; I mean the wishes, that I wish tonight.

LIGHT very soft, on Grandma at the door.  She looks out and calls to Patty.

GRANDMA: Come in the house now, Child. It’s time to light the lamp.

PATTY: Just a minute, Grandma. I want to count the stars. I’m starting with the Milky Way and then going around in a circle from there. It won’t take long.     (Patty begins to count.)      One, two, three stars plus three over there equals six stars plus three more there equals nine, plus another nine equals eighteen, plus four equals twenty two, etc.


PATTY:  There’s enough stars for all the wishes in the world.

© 2005, 2007