The Real Work

The four youngsters stare at me with their eyes wide open, white luminous holes in beautiful dark faces. I’m trying to teach them to be funny without laughing about it, an essential skill for anybody who wants to (or has to!) step on stage and make an audience laugh. “And don’t look at me!” I instruct them, “You’re talking to a giant, so you’re looking up at the ceiling. Imagine you’re talking to this huge guy who’s looking down at you from up in the sky, really put yourself in that situation!” They have learned their lines by heart, but they recite the words without any expression, like at puritan Sunday school, or maybe worse!

Of course, they have been told for years to be quiet, don’t goof off, don’t shout in class, this you’re not allowed and that you should never do. Now all of a sudden here comes this strange pinkish colored guy and he wants them to act all crazy! The teacher is an amazing lady with a mind open enough to scare the #$%#^&&@(&* out of any progressive bespectacled nerd back in the overdeveloped world. She has given us full leeway with the kids here in this supposed bastion of conservatism. It’s the last week of rehearsals and a full two hours of every six-hour school day are ours. I can hear Beatriz next-door practice the tricky Contradanza from her native Colombia with the little ones. It’s a simple dance, but the choreography is designed in a way so that the kids have to collaborate to make it work. They start out in pairs, doing a sequence of three different steps. Then they form circles of four and go through the same routine, spinning the circle around in one direction, then in the other. Next the circles grow to six and finally all the kids are in one big circle. The shoving and pulling was wild the first couple times we did the dance, but slowly the kids acquired a discipline and by now it starts to look pretty harmonious. Unless one of them decides to goof off, that is!

It will all come together in a musical style play I wrote for them, based very loosely on a local legend the kids told me in the beginning of our classes here. It talks of a giant who walked the coconut forest on one of the islets of the atoll. He is said to be a might warrior of times past and whoever happens to cross his path nowadays is knocked over and beaten to smithereens by his quarreling stick. The legend resolves this problem with yet another act of violence, when a young brave guy musters up enough courage to face the beast and succeeds in cutting the mighty warrior to pieces. That’s not exactly the kind of heroes we need today with this generation that grows up with their tender brains literally pumped up with a never-ending string of random acts of brutal violence portrayed vividly on the flickerscreen in their living rooms. So I decided to give the story a slightly different spin. I’ll copy below for your enjoyment the complete script of the piece. The little people, kindergarten to fourth grades, are doing the chicken, and the giant’s oversized boots, while grades four to six do the acting of the four Js. Everybody does the dances. The piece will be presented on Friday for the closing ceremony of the school term.

Those of you who have been with us for some time already know that most of the time when I start describing our cultural work, I end up doing some whining, weeping and beggin’. The two months of honestly quite intense work here on the atoll have been without any monetary compensation for us. The school is in such a precarious state, that nothing of that sort could be asked from them. It is you in the devil-oped world, who might be able and willing to support our work by using the donation button over to the right side of this page to make a generous contribution to our cruising coffers. This will allow us to continue doing what we do best wherever the wind happens to blow us to. I would like to thank from the bottom of our hearts all those of you who have done just that in the past. You’re help has been an important part of the precarious economy under who’s terms we have learned to operate since we have left the lands of monetary abundance. I hope we have used your investment wisely and to your liking!

Lights! Curtain! Action!!!!

The Last Warrior

A one-act play written by Beat Rettenmund

For the Tetautua School, Penrhyn,  Cook Islands

 

Narrator:            Come with me my friends! I want to invite you to a very special place. It is a motu called Tokerau, on the beautiful atoll of Tongareva in midst of the ocean blue. This is the island that sailed away from the South, you know. Can you see the thousand and one coconut trees growing out of the azure sea and up and up into the dark blue sky? Can you feel them tickling the bright white puffy clouds with their fickle fronds? Can you hear the cries of the million birds circling and spiraling above and around? But there are also some other feathered friends on Tokerau! They’re telling us that some other two-legged creatures are not far away.

A flock of chickens chatters across the stage, roosters call out from afar, black birds fly shrieking overhead.

Chickens:            We are the chickens of Tokerau!

Buc buc buc buc booc booc, buc buc buc buc booc.

I’m a chicken, I’m a chicken, I’m a chicken, I’m a chicken.

Buc buc buc buc booc booc, buc buc buc buc booc.

We pick a little grain. We pick a little worm.

Pick a pick a poo poo, pick a pick a poo.

A grain, a worm, a fly, a hair.

Pick a pick a poo poo, pick a pick a poo.

We are the chickens of Tokerau!

Buc buc buc buc booc booc, buc buc buc buc booc.

I’m a chicken, I’m a chicken, I’m a chicken, I’m a chicken.

Buc buc buc buc booc booc, buc buc buc buc booc.

We are the chickens of Tokerau!

As steps are heard approaching, the chickens disperse. Joe, Jeff, John, and Jack are walking home from school.

Joe:            Gosh it is hot today; I think I’ll take my shirt off!

John:            No, don’t! You never know when the mighty warrior will come your way!

Jeff:            O come on!

Jack:            What is this story of the mighty warrior about?

Jeff:            I don’t believe any of it!

John:            He was the greatest warrior of all times.

Joe:            He still lives on this island.

Jeff:            That’s what they say.

John:            He is dangerous.

Jeff:            That’s what they say.

John:            He kills anybody in his path.

Jeff:            That’s what they say.

Steps are heard, so heavy the earth trembles.

Joe:            Quick, we have to hide.

Joe and John hide behind coconut trees.

Joe and John:            Jeff, Jack! Fast, you have to hide!

The two boots of the Warrior step on stage, again the earth trembles.

Voice of the warrior: Who goes there and dares to stand in my way? Nobody stands in the great warrior’s way! Nobody! You will have to pay for this! With your lives!

Jeff and Jack:            We didn’t know!

Joe and John:            It’s true, we didn’t know!

Voice of the warrior:            Everybody knows who I am! Everybody knows that I am the great warrior. I am the greatest and mightiest warrior of all times! Now the wars are over. But I still have to kill. It’s all I am able to do. It’s all I have learned. I can do nothing else. I have to kill. It is my job.

Jeff and Jack:            But we’re only children!

Joe and John:            Look we’re just kids, please!

Voice of the warrior:            Why should I not kill you? Tell me why! Give me one good reason, you little rascals!

Jeff:            Let me see… Violence is not the solution; it’s the problem!

Jack:            We’re innocent, we didn’t know the whole story, you can’t just kill innocent people, can you!

Joe:            How about this… You will end up in hell, mighty warrior, if you kill innocent children! No?

John:            I got it! Hey, mighty warrior, greatest warrior of all! How about if we dance for you? Would you let us go?

Jack:            We know dances from all over the world!

John:            Any place, you name it!

Voice of the warrior:            Okay, how about… The South Pole!

Jack:            The South Pole? We don’t know any dance from there!

Jeff:            There are no people there! That means there can be no dances from the South Pole.

Voice of the warrior:            Good point. All right then: Mexico!

Joe:            Mexico? No problema! Let’s go, kids, this is a dance called “La Raspa”!

Dance:                        La Raspa

Voice of the warrior:            Hm, pretty good! I have to admit. But that’s only one dance. From one place. You said you do dances from anywhere in the world. How about: Afghanistan!

The children look at each other, scratching their heads, not knowing what to do.

Jack:            Sure, Afghanistan, piece of cake!

Voice of the warrior:            No! Not Afghanistan, that’s too easy! I want to see a dance from Colombia! Yep, that’s right! Do a dance from Colombia!

John:            That’s easy! I mean easy! This one is called “Contradanza”. It’s an ancient dance, much fun, but it’s also quite a difficult exercise. It’s an exercise in collaboration!

Dance:                        Contradanza

Voice of the warrior:            This is pretty impressive. I’m starting to think I will have to spare you, ‘cause you’re going to be famous if you continue like this. But we’re not quite there yet! How about something a little closer to home? It’s easy to do these dances from far away. Our own dances are much harder. They show you how to really get your body moving, if you know what I mean. Let’s do one from… from Samoa, no! From… From Tahiti!

Jeff:            Here we have for you, especially from the beautiful island of Tahiti, French for pearl, uh, sorry, no, the pearl of French Polynesia! Te Manu Puca Rua!

Dance:                        Te Manu Puca Rua

Voice of the warrior:            Wow, you kids are really something! I have never seen anything just like it! I mean look at you! You’re sweating, out of breath, but still happy and ready to give more. I’m sure it must have been a lot of work to learn all those dances. You are awesome!

Joe:            So will you spare us? Will you let us go?

Jack:            Please, can we go?

Voice of the warrior:            I have never let anybody cross my path unpunished. Never! This is the first time I’m feeling this doubt. The first time! Maybe it is time to stop the killing and I must change. I must change! I must learn something new and let go of the old. Maybe… Hey, maybe I should also learn to dance!

John:            That’s right! We’ll teach you!

Jeff:            It’s easy!

Joe:            Why don’t we show you our most favorite dance!

All the kids:            Ice Cream, Ice Cream, Ice Cream…

Joe, John, Jeff & Jack:            Are you ready for this?

Dance:                        Ice Cream

The audience is invited to join the kids on stage for a second round of Ice Cream.

 

The End

 

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