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Otters, Beavers, Rats and More!
A Play About the Mammals on my Island
by Bob Arnebeck
The play takes place in and around a pond formed from an interior swamp in one of the large islands in the St. Lawrence River.
Well, that would be hard to put on stage! So lets pretend that the audience is looking up stream facing a not very high beaver dam. They can see the top of a beaver lodge coming out of the bank to the right where the beaver family lives. To the audience's right there is a rise and up on it is a large tree where a porcupine spends a great deal of time. To the audience's left there is gentler slope where some deer graze. But first lets have the actors introduce themselves and the character they play. I'll use the names of the kids who were in the first performances of the play on Wellesley Island back in 1996. And here they are - with me in the middle.
Oh yes, time is always important in a play. This play begins in late August, at sunset of a very hot day. and compresses a year in the swamp into an hour.
Deer One: Hi, I'm Brianna. I'm a deer ( She carries a clump of grass to center stage, puts it down and acts like she's eating some.)
Deer Two: Hi, I'm Kevin. I'm a deer. (repeat what Deer One did.)
Deer Three: Hi, I'm Kate. I'm a deer. (repeat action above.)
Coyote: (Come out to right edge of stage) Hi, I'm Vanessa. I'm a coyote. (howl) and I'm going to eat you deer!
When the coyote howls, the deer bolt upright, then leap with tail up and race across the stage with the coyote in pursuit. Deer go to stage right. Coyote stays at center stage back - licking her chops.
Fox: Hi, I'm Justin, I'm a fox. (He prances across stage, finds a little animal and makes like he eats it and then goes up with the coyote who yawns at his exploits.)
Porcupine: Hi, I'm Alyssa. I'm a porcupine. (she walks very slowly across stage.)
Fisher: Hi, I'm Jonah. I'm a fisher. (He starts moving after porcupine who is still waddling along. Then she hurries to her tree.)
Fisher: Before this play is over I hope to eat that porcupine.
Coyote: Good luck. Every mouthful will have a dozen toothpicks. As for me, I'm tired of eating berries. Soon, I'll thrill you all by tearing one of those deer from limb to limb.
Fox: Ain't coyotes swell? And I, my good friends, will chew on the bones-oh, as the song goes.
Fisher: Do us a favor, fox, and don't sing it.
Deer One: We should flee. Too many predators around here.
Deer Two: It's going to rain hard tonight. I'm hungry. I'm eating now.
Deer Three: It's only when we are weak that they can catch us.
Deer One: That's right. We're safe as long as we are strong.
Deer Three: And we are strong as long as we can eat.
Deer Two: Unless we get stuck in the snow.
The other deer: Snow! It's August!
Beaver one: Hi, I'm Teal, I'm a beaver.
Beaver two: Hi, I'm Merritt. I'm a beaver.
Both beavers race up and down the length of the dam, go behind it and dive below it.
Muskrat one: Hi, I'm Julia. I'm a muskrat.
Muskrat two: Hi, I'm Claire. I'm a muskrat.
Both muskrats go to the center of the dam, jump over it and go behind it.
Otter two: Hi, I'm Jordan. I'm an otter.
Otter one: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! I'm Ottoleo. I'm an otter.
Both otters go stage right, then behind the dam, do a cart wheel and begin.
Otter one: I just love these frogs. I like fish too. I probably eat more fish. But I just love these juicy frogs.
Otter two: I bet I can catch more frogs than you can.
Otter one flips back into the water
Otter one: No way!
As the otters splash around the pond, an angry muskrat pops up with a screech and then shouts.
Muskrat one: Now look what you dumb otters have done. The frogs are going crazy, the pond's all muddy.
Muskrat two: I was just eating the most tender roots I have ever had in my life, and now I can't see them. I hate otters.
Porcupine: What they do is climb up on my rock and poop all over it. And their poop stinks. You know that poorly digested seafood can smell up a place awfully awfully bad.
The two otters trying to shout with their mouths full. All the animals start yelling at them to shut up. Finally the porcupine screams, getting everyone's attention.
Porcupine: What are you arguing about now?
Otters (both at the same time): I got the most frogs!
Porcupine: Why don't you just count the poor stupid frogs? And to the winner I give a one way ticket to Antarctica.
Otter one: I've always wanted to go to Antarctica and race the penguins.
Porcupine: And to the runner up, a one way ticket to Baffin Island.
Otter two: I've always wanted to go to Baffin Island and rough up some puffins!
Porcupine: Just count the stupid frogs and leave!
The otters consolidate their piles of well chewed frogs on top of the dam. They keep swatting the ones with a little life back into their piles. All the animals look down with quiet anticipation waiting for the otters to count their frogs.
Everybody else: Well!
Both otters: We don't know how to count.
All the animals groan.
Otter one: But we know how to smell and my pile smells the most.
Otter two: No it doesn't.
Otter one: Does!
Otter two: Doesn't!
The fox quickly hops down to the front dam. The deer quickly run in front of him and up to where the porcupine is. The muskrats swim quickly to the back of the pond.
Muskrats: Now look what they've done! Dumb otters! They made all that noise.
Porcupine: And all that smell!
Muskrats: And now the fox is here!
Fox: Excuse me kids but I have the best nose around. Let me smell, it'll be swell.
The Otters seemed disposed to fall for that trick. The three animals eye each other warily.
Otter one: You wouldn't be thinking of trying to eat us, would you?
Fox: You ate those frogs. Isn't it only fair that somebody eats you?
Otter two: Would it be fair if we bite your legs and drown you in the pond?
Fox: Not as fair as me nipping your neck and watching you bleed to death.
Otter one: We could bite your nose off and then see how well you can smell.
Suddenly a beaver pops up from behind the dam.
Beaver one: Excuse me. It's going to rain tonight, a very heavy rain, most likely. (She quickly inspects the dam, sees frogs and reacts.) This is not a good place for food storage. Could you please eat your frogs or move them. Most likely we will have to work on this dam tonight.
Coyote: The beaver worries about everything. What a pain.
Muskrat one: We owe everything to the beaver. This pond, these frogs. Everything.
Muskrat two: And you predators, what would you do without this pond to spy on.
Coyote: You wouldn't be so waterlogged when we eat you.
Beaver one: (to the fox and otters) If you are going to fight, go somewhere else. I'm almost certain we will have to do a lot of work on this dam.
Otter one: I'm hungry. (He gobbles all his frogs.)
Fox: If you had eaten them one by one we could have counted them, dummy.
Otter one burps in his face. The fox prances across the front of the stage talking to the audience.
Fox: Oh the sun's going down. The mice are scurrying around. I'll catch one catch one, or I'll dig a hole and catch a vole! (and he digs) vole! vole! vole!
Otter two: I'm tired.
Otter one: Me too. Let's go up on the rock and sleep.
Porcupine: and poop. (She comes down and tries to push dirt over the otter's mess.) Oh, why me! The industrious beaver is our benefactor and sets such an example. Then look at the otter. They muddy the waters and foul the rocks.
Fisher ( prancing around and stopping at every tree): The industrious beaver! ha! Look at all these half cut trees, half chewed logs. This valley is a mess thanks to the beaver. The beaver cut this tree and it fell on this tree and rotted away. That tree rotted away leaning on that tree. This tree fell and he cut off one log and left the rest to rot. I get dizzy just trying to walk up and over and along these rotting logs. But not too busy to eat!
The fisher reaches the porcupine tree and attacks. The porcupine screams and climbs back into her tree.
Fisher: Climb as high as you want, I'll get you.
Porcupine: You'll die from my quills!
Fisher: I'll grab your face in my jaw. You have no quills on your face. And eat my way to your heart.
Porcupine: I'll kill you with my tail.
Deer one: It's raining
Beaver one: And not time to talk about killing. I suggest everyone find a nice dry place. Most likely this will be a heavy rain.
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