Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Endangered: A Play in One Act (Part I)


A play in one act (in three parts for the Fringe Journal)

first published in 1996 by Susan Smith Nash in catfishes and jackals (Potes and Poets Press), all rights reserved

Please register all performances in advance by contacting Susan Smith Nash at Also, please inquire about scholarships, grants, and prizes available for those who perform this play and provide information about the performance (reviews, photographs, copy of the program, etc.) Special incentives / prizes available to repertory groups using high school and undergraduate students. Please note that this play and others are collected in catfishes & jackals, published by potes & poets press, and available through Small Press Distribution.

The Players:

Dante: cheetah who has certain moth-eaten characteristics, either from friction or from nervous, incessant gnawing

Boethius: edgy, nervous cheetah with an even worse fur coat, lots of bald spots and mange

Merck: woman in her late 20s

Mandolin: woman in her early 20s

Ulfie: man in his early 30s, wears t-shirt with the following words stenciled on it:



The Setting:

A cheetah cage at a zoo, one of the new "enviro-style" cage. A large sign hangs over the bars of the cheetah pen:

Zoos Without "Cages"



**** NEW ****


Then, across from that, another sign:


The cheetah pen consists of bars, two big rocks -- one on stage right, the other on stage left, a big tree trunk, and a big bucket with water. A painting of an African plain adorns the back wall of their pen. There are tall bars on the cage. On the outside of the cage is a bench and a sign: DO NOT PLACE BODY PARTS THROUGH THE RESTRAINTS.

Dante is crouched behind one rock; Boethius is crouched behind the other. Each is suffused in shadows. The audience can see them, but only vaguely. They are not visible to zoo patrons.

Ulfie walks by with tranquilizer gun in one hand, a rope in the other.

ULFIE: I’d better not have any trouble today, you hear? We’re not putting up with any more of this. You’re bad for business.

(Walks up to cheetah cage. Holds up tranquilizer gun.)

I don’t want to have to tranq you.


BOETHIUS: Hey, Dante. Don't look at me -- I'm not coming out! -- it's your day! We already worked out the schedule.

ULFIE: Hey! Just keep it up, and you’re gonna get tranqed.


BOETHIUS: You agreed. Just because the zoo didn't have many visitors yesterday doesn't change anything. It rained. What do you expect.

DANTE: I hate rain.

ULFIE: You two are bad for business.

BOETHIUS: Oh gag, it's despicable isn't it. Rain mats my fur.

DANTE: Honey, look at you. Nothing could make your fur any worse. Will you stop gnawing on it?

(Ulfie walks away. Looks back at cheetah cage and lets out a disgusted sound.)

ULFIE: I don’t know why we even bother. Everyone loves the dolphins and the monkeys. But you two -- you’re more trouble than you’re worth, if you ask me.

BOETHIUS: Thanks to my mange, I'm not some woman’s coat. Hah. A “leopard” coat.

DANTE: Yeah, they even get the name wrong. LEOPARD. What idiots. We're cheetahs.

BOETHIUS: Don't talk about this. This conversation is making me itch all over. (scratches self, gnaws on shoulder.) Honor is not the true good, nor is it the way to true happiness.

DANTE: Stop that! You'll only make it worse. (pauses.) And why are you quoting from The Consolation of Philosophy again?

BOETHIUS: Hey. Back off. It itches. And I want to. Okay?

(Boethius scrambles out from from his rock and pounces toward Dante. Dante jumps out in response. They tussle. Yowling ensues.)

DANTE & BOETHIUS (back and forth): Hey! It’s your turn, I tell you! It’s YOUR turn! I’m NOT going out. I’m not doing it! I’m tell you, you really bug me!

BOETHIUS (shouting): Why do the Good have to suffer?!?

DANTE: (half-yowling) Love. Love lost. Love searching. Love promising transformation—

(Sound of gates clanging offstage. Boethius and Dante stop their skirmish and run back to their rocks where they hide.)

DANTE: Look. They're coming in already. (Lifts up head and looks over the rock. Sees people, ducks down quickly.)

BOETHIUS: I told you, I'm NOT covering for you!

DANTE: Why don't we both refuse to go out? Both of us?

BOETHIUS: Won't work.

DANTE: Why not?

BOETHIUS: Don't you remember? We tried that already.

DANTE: Oh yeah.

BOETHIUS: Yeah, they tied our food up and hung it from the ceiling.

DANTE: And they thought they were so clever. That little strategy was sadistic is you ask me. My left front paw was messed up for a month after I took a dive jumping for it.

BOETHIUS: Yeah. And the stupid Zoops loved every minute.

DANTE: (titters hilariously) Zoops -- I love it when you call them that. Stupid Zoops.

BOETHIUS: Zoops. It's their own name for themselves. "Zoo Patrons" -- ZOOPS.

DANTE: (still tittering) Remember the time they left the gate open? hee-hee (titters) and when we'd push it open like we were going to escape --

BOETHIUS: Like we'd really want to -- like we really wanted the zoo-stapo to gun us down in cold blood.

DANTE: hee-hee -- that one hag wearing the leopard-skin coat (titters) she just about lost it when I pushed the gate open with my nose and looked her straight in her bloodsucking eyes.

BOETHIUS: haha -- yeah, she really snagged her pantyhose trying to get away. ooff -- that coat. aaargh. I'm itching again. (gnaws on other shoulder)

DANTE: (Hopefully) Did they leave the gate open?


DANTE: (in hick accent) Then I aint-a goin' out there - no place, no way, no how. I ain't no gawl-dang clown.

BOETHIUS: Now you sound like a Zoop. aahh -- here comes one now.

(Merck enters. She looks despondent. Carries a large purse and a bright-colored scarf. She's wearing a large floppy hat, torn fishnet hose, flowing dress -- very Bohemian)

MERCK: I wonder if I'll see him here. He said he sometimes comes here -- likes to "commune with his unspoiled, primitive nature."

(walks toward the cheetah pen. puts down bag)

That's better. This is too heavy -- I should have known better than to bring it with me...

(reads sign.)

Fabulous Felines. Oh how nice. I love cats. Especially leopards like these.

DANTE: Leopards!

BOETHIUS: What do you expect? Another stupid Zoop.

MERCK: I miss him. I don't want to talk to him. I just want to see him -- that would be enough.

DANTE: Yeah a Zoop. With bad taste. Look at that hat. That scarf.

BOETHIUS: (prissily) That is truly appalling. Is she a gypsy or is she simply trying to wear her entire closet at once?

DANTE: Now don't be tacky. (peaks up over the rock) Is that a fur hat??? I'm going to be sick.

(Merck, who has seen Dante peaking over the rock, looks closely.)

MERCK: Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!

BOETHIUS: That makes me sick.

DANTE: (Lifts up from behind rock and shouts in a high-pitched voice at Merck) Here, bitchy, bitchy, bitchy!!!

MERCK: Oh, she's meowing. She must be hungry. Are you hungry, kitty?

BOETHIUS: How’d she know you were female?

DANTE: I don’t know. She really can’t see you, you know.

BOETHIUS: Well, I like it here. Hiding behind the rock.

DANTE: She can’t understand you either.

BOETHIUS: Well, we had already established that.

DANTE: (lifts up again) Hey you -- you cat-killer. Why don’t you beg us to come out? Yeah. Beg me! I want to see you beg for it.

BOETHIUS: Where’d you learn that line? From your last boyfriend?

DANTE: Beg for it baby! Start acting like you want it!

BOETHIUS: (addresses audience -- points to Dante) This is one thing I hate about being locked up with her—

DANTE: (getting a little too carried away) Beg, I mean B E G, I mean BEEEHHGGG --

BOETHIUS: This cage a prison cell.

DANTE: (jumping up on rock, yowling and twisting around) Aren’t you just GLAD you’re alive! Rrrrroowwwrr!!

BOETHIUS: Will you stop? You’re making me sick. (jumps up onto other rock) All right! I’ll perform for the stupid Zoop. I just can’t stand to see you degrade yourself like this!

MERCK: (In baby-talk) Ahhh -- aren’t you an adorable kitty. What a strong, tough leopard you are!

BOETHIUS: (shouting) Are you Lady Philosophy? Are you here to lead me out of my misery? Have you come to me in my jail cell?

MERCK: My. What a loud roar.

DANTE: Calm down, Boethius -- they’re gonna tranq you if you’re not careful.

MERCK: You’re friend is so cute, too. Hi kitty.

BOETHIUS: I’m ugly -- rrrowwrr!!!

BOETHIUS: I have been imprisoned because I’m different. And I’m endangered. I’m an animal who thinks.


They say my ideas are dangerous -- I’m an artist -- it shows in my coat. I’m not worth skinning. Look at me!

My art is in need of a flea bath.

Bald spots! I deserve it.

MERCK: Your eyes look so sad. (takes out camera)

BOETHIUS: Please don’t do that. Don’t take my picture.

MERCK: Oh. You have mange, don’t you.

BOETHIUS: Please. It’s embarrassing.

MERCK: Someone ought to report this zoo. (focuses, then snaps picture)

BOETHIUS: Nooooooo! (weeping, hysterical) Please, no. Why did you?

MERCK: Now I have a photograph!

BOETHIUS: Dante -- Dante -- where are you?

(Begins running in circles, yowling all the while.)

DANTE: (dejected) Where’s breakfast?

(end of Part I)