Ghost Light (ghost_light) wrote,
Ghost Light

Play of the Day

Since I spent my Permanent Fund Dividend on plays in 2005, I have been trying to read 3 plays a week. Most of these are childrens plays, given where I work, some are one acts, some are re-reading scripts I haven't seen since college. I've been doing pretty well at holding myself to this goal and today I decided to share some of the fruits of this project with you.

Please remember not all fruits arrive in the store still fresh and succulent.

The Arkansaw Bear by Aurand Harris

This is a childrens play that "...directly confronts the subject of death."


The forward mentions that, when it was written in 1980, the subject was deemed too controversial for young audiences. If they are trying to explain why not many people wanted to perform it, I think they might have to face the fact that it is Not a Very Good Script.

In a nutshell, the play is about a little girl named Tish. When Tish is told that her Grandfather is dying, she runs away and makes a wish on the first star of the night that her Grandfather could live forever. When that wish is rejected, she tries to wish that no one will ever die. Thwarted again, Tish finally, successfully, wishes that she could understand why Grandpa has to die.

What she gets is a play with The World's Greatest Dancing Bear, a Little Bear, and a Mime.

The Mime is probably the first indication that this is Not Going To Be A Very Good Script.

The second might be the admonishment from the playwright (in stage direction) that The World's Greatest Dancing Bear is to be "...loveable, like a teddy bear. He does NOT (emphasis his) wear an animal mask, nor is the actor's face to be painted, frightening, or grotesque with animal makeup." There are also stage directions that "Never is the stage dark, eerie or frightening." This is a play about death, after all.

The Bear is running from the Ringmaster, who is death. The Bear is very frightened of dying and, with Tish's help, convinces the Ringmaster to give him until the last hour of this, his last day. Then Tish gets the Bear to wish on a star for someone to teach all of dances so he will always be remembered. Thus enters Little Bear, in overalls, a straw hat and carrying a fishing pole (this is Arkansas, after all.)

Little Bear begins learning all of the Bear's dances, but not before he explains that his Grandpa Bear and Papa Bear both died but he learned that the secret is to tell them goodbye and give your most to the living. When the Ringmaster comes back, the trio panics and Tish wishes death to be imprisoned in a tree. (does this just keep getting better and better or what?) This time the star remembers to tell everyone that all wishes go away at dawn which, thankfully, only gives the Bear 10 more minutes to teach Little Bear the Russian Dance, the Polka, the tarantella and how to bow.

At last, with The World's Most Famous Dancing Bear dying, the bears explain to Tish that ""Life is like a bright balloon." Hold it tight. Hold it tight. Because...once you let it floats away forever." and they ask her to whistle "O Susannah" as the Bear goes into the great center ring because you can't whistle and cry at the same time.

At the end of the night, Tish returns home to explain to her grieving family that now Grandpa has died, you have to let go of the balloon, that he's left a chip off the old block, that she has a right to go in there to give him flowers and she'll whistle while doing it because you can't cry and whistle at the same time.
Tags: scripts

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