Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival asked a few playwrights to write short plays with a Shakespeare theme for their Iambic Parameters festival. I’m a huge fan of theirs and was happy to take on the challenge. My short play is called “Poor Laura”. It’s based on the great scene in Hamlet when he and his best friend come upon a couple of gravediggers who are manhandling a scull while making room for a new dead body. The scull, Hamlet learns, belonged to Yorick, a man that he was quite fond of. I moved the whole scene into a sandbox and gave all the characters kid counterparts (to be played by adults). It might help if you are familiar with the “Poor Yorick” scene, but even if you aren’t, it’s always good comedy and drama to watch kids on the playground.
DANIEL- 4th grader
CARR- 4th grader
BILLY- 2nd grader
ISABELLE- Billy’s babysitter
DANIEL and CARR, both fourth graders, are sitting in the sandbox at the neighborhood playground. They’ve got shovels and buckets and string and things. It’s late summer.
DANIEL: Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig!
CARR: I’m digging Danny, but I can only dig so fast!
DANIEL: Deeper, faster –you are a digging disaster!
CARR: What are you, my Master?
DANIEL: Come on, Carr! They’re gonna be here soon! We’ve gotta be ready!
CARR: I was ready before you were born!
DANIEL: Were not!
DANIEL: I was born first!
CARR: Yes, and I was ready!
DANIEL: Before I was born? You were still… in that place!
CARR: Haaaaaa! Arghhhh! Gross!!!!! Disgusting!!!!!!!
DANIEL: That place!!!!!!!!!!!!!
CARR: That dark and mysterious place!!!!!!!
DANIEL: Dig!!!!!!!! I’m still older. I was older when you were born and I am older now.
CARR: Yes, but I was cooked. I was ready. My mom said.
DANIEL: Who here’s birthday is in January? Is your birthday in January? I don’t think so. No, your birthday is not in January. Your birthday is in March. January, February, March. March is two months past January. Oh, right MY birthday is in January. So I am older than you.
CARR: And when you are one hundred, I’ll be ninety-nine!!!!! Hahahahah! When you are dead, I will still be here!
DANIEL: You will still be here digging.
CARR: Oh. Good. Got it.
DANIEL: Hit it?
CARR: Pretty sure, pretty sure.
DANIEL: Is it hard and plastic?
CARR: Seems to be.
DANIEL: Moving parts?
DANIEL: Well, come on then! Let me see!
CARR: Chill yourself. Don’t take a pee. Here.
DANIEL: It’s gnarly! It’s got gum stuck to it. It’s all sandy and dirty like it’s been under there for a hundred years. Cool!
CARR: It’s a zombie now!!!
DANIEL: A flying zombie! Catch it!
CARR: It’s back from the dead and will follow us home and.
DANIEL: Just put it over there. Tie it up so it doesn’t go anywhere. We have work to do.
CARR: I’m choking it!
DANIEL: S’already dead, dummie! Out with the old, in with the new! Out with the old, in with the new!
Enter BILLY, who is a second grader, and Billy’s babysitter ISABELLE, a teenager. Billy is holding a stuffed animal.
BILLY: Look at them.
ISABELLE: They are playing in the sand box.
BILLY: Look at what they are doing.
ISABELLE: I see they are playing in the sand box. Do you want to play in the sand box?
BILLY: They are playing with that action figure. They are hanging it by the neck.
ISABELLE: They’re just playing. It’s not alive, you know. It’s a toy.
BILLY: I need to get closer. I need to see. Wait.
He runs over for a closer look. The big boys are singing.
CARR: It’s a lovely day in Bikini Bottom! A lovely day in Bikini Bottom!
DANIEL: A dreary day in your mother’s bottom!!!
CARR: Look, Daniel, he’s swinging!
DANIEL: A lovely day in Bikini Bottom!
CARR: Swinging to the music!
DANIEL: A dreary day when your mother’s rotten!!
Billy runs back to Isabelle.
BILLY: They are animals! Do you see that? They are animals in that sand box!!!
ISABELLE: Well, humans are a kind of animal.
Carr and Daniel start growling and meowing at each other.
BILLY: Cats in a litter box! They are worse than cats in a litter box! At least cats have a purpose! Cats go there to be good and do the right thing. Those second graders are there to be bad and do the wrong thing!
ISABELLE: You know those kids?
BILLY: I know that action figure. I know that first addition, one of a kind, rare and unusual, collectible action figure. I know that… Look at them! They play with it like it’s nobody’s trash! Like it’s a common fly on a horse’s ass!
BILLY: My mother said I could use that word. In context. You are my babysitter, and that is that.
ISABELLE: Well, anyway, it’s just an old lost toy that nobody plays with anymore. The sand box is probably filled with those things.
BILLY: It’s a treasure.
ISABELLE: Why don’t you just go say hello? Maybe you could play with them.
BILLY: I will say something.
Billy approaches Daniel and Carr.
BILLY: Ahoy there, pirates!!
DANIEL and CARR: Arrrrrrrrrrgh!!!
BILLY: I see you are digging.
DANIEL: I see you are not blind.
CARR: What we are doing is what we are doing, but whether it’s digging is a question of mind.
BILLY: It looks like you are digging.
CARR: The digging is done, now we’re on to more fun.
DANIEL: You can watch but you can’t touch, like our friend here.
BILLY: Your friend is tied up.
CARR: Doesn’t help, won’t help. Zombie.
BILLY: Can I see?
DANIEL: Just another Zombie.
Daniel throws the action figure to Billy. Billy takes it to show Isabelle.
BILLY: Now see? This isn’t any old junk, it’s a rare vintage model, I think.
ISABELLE: Just an old toy, Billy, just an old toy.
BILLY: Ahoy!!! This rare, first edition, one of a kind action figure, do you know whose it is?
CARR: Of course! Check the bottom of its feet.
DANIEL: Marked there, plain and sweet.
CARR: Here, on the bottoms, in nail polish, initials!
BILLY: So I see!!! L.V.
DANIEL: It belonged to Laura Valentine.
CARR: Now it belongs to the worms.
BILLY: Laura Valentine?
DANIEL: Her family moved to Arizona.
CARR: They said they were going for the summer, but they didn’t come back.
BILLY: Oh, poor Laura!! I knew her, Isabelle! A girlie of lots of silly, of most awesome awesome-ness. She gave me rides on her bike up and down the street a thousand times. Ring ring the bell! I can hear it now and it hurts my ears! She’d call me out. I’d sit behind her, with my arms round her waist, her first edition, one of a kind, action figure clipped to the back. How she loved that action figure! Carried it with her wherever she went! One time she put it on her head and rode up and down that way. It did not fall off! But now she’s gone and it’s gone and she’s in Arizona and her little friend is here.
ISABELLE: Well, it happens. Let’s go over to the swings. I’ll push you.
BILLY: Will this happen with my Binky? Dropped and never returned? Lost and not found? Left to rot on the ground?
ISABELLE: Someday you might grow tired of your Binky. Someday you might not need Binky anymore.
BILLY: Never!! Never!!! Never!!!!
Billy clenches his fists and begins to shake.
CARR: Hey, what’s he doing?
DANIEL: He’s freaking out!
BILLY: Never!!! Ever!!! Ever!!!
ISABELLE: He’s upset.
CARR: He’s not shaking is he? Looks like he’s shaking.
DANIEL: Looks like he’s quaking! Quivering and baking!
ISABELLE: He gets upset. Now leave him alone.
BILLY: Never! Ever! Never! Ever!!!
ISABELLE: Come on, Billy, let’s go home.
CARR: Wait. Is that-? Billy, did you say?
DANIEL: Billy, we’ve heard about you, Billy? You’re Billy Shakes!!!
BILLY: Is that what they call me?
DANIEL: Ya, you’re like famous! And I can see why.
BILLY: Billy Shaker is my name. You’ve heard of me? I’m famous?
CARR: We’ve heard of your wacky ways.
BILLY: So what are you doing all that for? All that digging. Waking the dead?
DANIEL: Getting rid of the old, making room for the new.
BILLY: You’re burying someone else there?
CARR: Sponge Bob Square Pants, with actual cotton underpants.
BILLY: That’s a find!!
DANIEL: It is a find, and I found it. Right in Jessie Miller’s backpack. Was going to return it, but…
CARR: He’s moving.
BILLY: Jessie Miller is moving?
During the following, Billy becomes more and more unraveled.
CARRIE: Yes, his dad’s in the army or something.
DANIEL: In Arizona!!! Ha ha ha!
BILLY: Does every one have to move?!! Does everyone have to lose their favorite toy? Is there no stopping the growing? The leaving and the going? Of every girl and boy?
Jessie Miller loved that toy! And I loved Jessie Miller!!! Jessie Miller played the drums! Jessie Miller could run! Did you know Jessie Miller?
CARR: Jessie Miller was alright.
BILLY: I was going to marry Jessie Miller! We got engaged at Happy Days Pre-School!
Aren’t any of you upset? Aren’t any of you Angry??? Will you cry? Will you fight? Will you refuse to eat your dinners? Will you give yourself a boo-boo? Will you drink poison? Eat a crocodile? I WILL!!!!
Is this going to happen to the President of the United States? Are his children going to move out of the White House and lose their favorite toys?
ISABELLE: Come on Billy. You’re getting all worked up now. I don’t want you to hurt yourself and I don’t want you to hurt Binky. Your mom will be back from work soon. Let’s go home.
ISABELLE takes Billy by the hand and they leave the playground.
DANIEL: Billy Shakes!!! Billy Shakes!!!!
CARR: Billy Quakes and Breaks and Shakes!!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!
DANIEL: Pile on the sand now.
CARR: Here comes the moving truck. There goes Jessie Miller.
DANIEL: There. Good and buried.
END OF PLAY.
You are welcome to perform this play, but please do give me credit- and then tell me how it goes!