In King Richard’s absence, Prince John has taken over the kingdom and is taxing everyone to death. However, Robin the Hood is not much better. He robs from the rich, but after that, he’s pretty much all talk. The Friar, with the help of some Nunjas, fight to right all wrongs. And to top it all off, Maid Marian is missing. All comes together at Prince John’s annual tournament (and it’s not archery this time). This highly-interactive madrigal script is another one of our twisted versions of a familiar tale.
Cast size: 5 Male, 5 Female, 2 M/F, Extras
MINSTREL (M/F) a hard-working, if not whiney, musician; must be willing to sing solos
FRIAR TUCK (M) an honest friar who’s not afraid to use force when necessary
PRINCE JOHN (M) pretender to the throne who will do whatever he can to make a profit
MAID MARIAN/ NUNJA 3 (F) a lady of the court who has grown disillusioned with the current state of affairs / an expert in martial arts and table tennis
SHERIFF (M) Prince John’s right-hand man and expert table tennis player
ROBIN THE HOOD (M) robs from the rich and is pretty much all talk after that
ALANA DALE (F) member of Robin Hood’s gang
LITTLE JOHN (M) a member of Robin Hood’s gang, a half-beat off. Actor should be very tall.
COOKIE (F) a member of Robin Hood’s gang, a bit more level-headed than the others
NUNJA 1 (F) an expert in martial arts and water polo
NUNJA 2 (F) an expert in martial arts and bobsled
PAGE (M/F) announcer for the tournament
2-3 HENCHMEN (M/F) lackeys who work for Prince John
COURT (M/F) nobility for the Royal Table, if desired
SERVANTS (M/F) servants in the castle
MARIAN: Ah! Welcome, good and honored guests to Nottingham Castle. (Looks around.) I see that you have traveled from many parts of the realm to be here. I am relieved that none of you were robbed along the way. (She looks side-stage, as if she wants to say something. Then she begins.) I will not lie to you that I am deeply worried about the kingdom. You see, our king has been gone for many years now, and there is a struggle for who controls this land. (Enter MINSTREL.) I do wonder if–
MINSTREL: Excuse me, Maid Marian, but it is my job to tell the audience what’s been going on. I am the Minstrel here.
MARIAN: I thought I was supposed to welcome the guests.
MINSTREL: It sounded to me as if you were slipping into the prologue, which is my job.
MARIAN: But I was just—
MINSTREL: (Wagging his finger.) Ah, ah, ah! Come with me. (Goes to an audience member and borrows a program. To audience member.) May I? (Looks at program.) Indeed. The prologue: given by yours truly, in which I give the audience some background information. (Hands program back to audience member.) Much obliged.
MARIAN: (Grabs it back from the audience member.) Let me see that. (Looks at program.) Hey, your name is added in.
MINSTREL: There are always some last minute changes.
MARIAN: And it’s in purple crayon.
MINSTREL: (Thinking quickly.) Purple is the king’s color.
MARIAN: And you misspelled “Minstrel.”
MINSTREL: (Takes the program and looks at it.) That’s beside the point. (Hands it back to audience member and returns to stage.)
MARIAN: (Follows MINSTREL to stage.) Oh, I don’t think so.
MINSTREL: Besides, you don’t want my job.
MARIAN: And why is that?
MINSTREL: Because, in my job, I have to spend much of my time with Prince John.
MARIAN: The pretender to the throne? The man is a lout.
MINSTREL: Well, unfortunately, until King Richard returns, he is our sovereign. So, if you want my job, you may have it. (Begins to exit.) But that will mean, of course, that you will be spending a lot more time with the Prince.
MARIAN: (Thinking.) Wait! Uh, when you put it that way, I can see that you are much more qualified for the job.
MINSTREL: Are you sure? Because I’m happy to step out.
MARIAN: No, that’s quite all right. Besides, the banquet is about to begin. (Exits hurriedly.)
MINSTREL: Fare thee well. (Smiles to the AUDIENCE.) There now. Where were we? Ah, yes. The prologue. (Clears his throat and gets set with his guitar. He begins singing these lyrics to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.”)
Well, I am a minstrel, and I am a ham;
I’ll tell you a story from old Nottingham.
The king was off fighting, thought ne’er to return;
His brother took over–of him you will learn.
But first there is Robin, who lives in Sherwood.
He does what is wrong, but he says it is good.
He claims excess taxes now give him the right
To love his rich neighbors and rob them by night.
Now, I am not judging his lack of the law.
The regent in office has no love at all.
The weakness with Robin is he thinks he’s smart;
The new ruler’s weakness is a lack of a heart.
Prince John, the Pretender, is this ruler’s name.
He raised the poor’s taxes, says they are to blame;
Extended the law to its legal extreme,
Insisting his hoard is supporting the king.
(MINSTREL hesitates a moment, looks around, then resumes.)
Now in my opinion, Prince John is a rake;
The people despise him; his throne is a fake.
But worst of all—
(Stops playing and goes off on a rant.)
He doesn’t pay his minstrel union wages, which is 5 guineas a week, as stated in the UMW contract! Of course, his smarmy lawyers interpreted that to mean 5 guinea hens. A chihuahua couldn’t live on 5 guinea hens a week. And, frankly, I’d just die for a good bit of mutton right now! (Meanwhile, SHERIFF enters side stage and stands behind MINSTREL with his arms folded.) It’s so bad that I’ve had to give harp lessons to the nobles’ brats. And worst of all, I’ve also had to do wedding receptions. Have you ever heard the Macarena on the harp? It’s enough to make you use your harp like a giant cheese cutter and start slicing away.
SHERIFF: (Clears his throat.)
MINSTREL: (Realizing who’s behind him, he smiles sheepishly and quickly starts playing again.)
So, as I was saying, Prince John he is grand.
No ruler’s been brighter since King Solomon.
He’s noble and nifty and groovy and great–
SHERIFF: And this song of yours is making me very irate.
MINSTREL: No, no. You see, you’ve sacrificed the meter for the rhyme.
SHERIFF: I might sacrifice my minstrel for the peace of mind. (MINSTREL starts to reply, but SHERIFF holds up his hand to silence him.) Where is everyone? We are ready to begin the feast.
MINSTREL: (Points to the back of the hall.) I believe they are all here, my lord.
SHERIFF: (Looks to back of hall.) Very good. And you had better clean up your act or you’ll be singing the blues. (Exits.)
Later, we meet Robin the Hood and his Merries . . .
MINSTREL: (Singing to “Sweet Betsy from Pike.”)
Meanwhile at the forest we know as Sherwood,
It’s time for a scene change; we know that is good . . .
(Stops singing and looks around.)
Ahem! It’s a scene change! We need trees and . . . some trees! You know, forest stuff. (ALANA & COOKIE are talking silently to each other and don’t move.) Hello? Merries? (They focus on MINSTREL.) Trees?
ALANA: Righto! Trees and bushes coming right up!
(ALANA & COOKIE go into the audience and each gathers a “volunteer”; ALANA also grabs a SERVANT. They bring them up to the stage and hand them tree props. SEE PRODUCTION NOTES.)
MINSTREL: I see the trees, but where are the bushes?
ALANA: Oh, they’ve retired in Texas.
MINSTREL: Right then. (Looks at the volunteers.) What are their qualifications for the job?
ALANA: This one’s been pining for an acting job for a long time.
COOKIE: Oh yeah? Well, this one’s the most poplar guest here tonight.
ALANA: Oh yeah? Well, yours is looking pretty board.
(ALL pause as they wait for response from COOKIE. She is concentrating hard for one more pun.)
COOKIE: I’m sorry. I can’t think of another tree pun. . . . I’m stumped.
MINSTREL: (Pause.) I can tell by the timbre of your voice that it’s time to move on. You, trees! Stand over there and do something tree-ish. (Waits.) Well? Come on, be the tree!
COOKIE: (To TREES.) Look, when you hear the word wind, you sway.
ALANA: And whenever you hear the word autumn, fall. (Laughs at her own joke.)
MINSTREL: Just sway when you hear any word wind-related, like breeze, gust, waft, draft, or gale. Now, where was I?
(Begins singing again.)
A great wind was blowing—
(Pauses. ALL look to trees. He speaks and coaches them a bit.)
A great wind was blowing . . . . That’s better.
(Resumes singing.) A great wind was blowing this dark, chilly night.
I’m singing out here ‘cause I have to moonlight.
I’m also employed by this happy thieves den,
That you know as Robin and his merry men.
(ROBIN enters through the audience and picks out an audience member at a table near the front.)
ROBIN: Good evening, sir. I was wondering if you could donate to the Sherwood Forest Improvement Fund. (Improvs with response.) Sir, I can tell by your rich taste in clothing that donating such a small pittance should be a breeze. (Look to TREES to sway.)
ALANA: (Moves toward the table.) In fact, if you were more compassionate, you’d be giving us money hand over fist. The fact that you’re not is a real blow to our estimation of you. (Look to TREES to sway.)
COOKIE: (Moves toward the table.) But since you aren’t, I guess we’ll have to draft you. (Look to TREES to sway.)
ROBIN: (Goes to stage as ALANA & COOKIE roll up their sleeves.) Now, some judgmental citizens might say that we are, in fact, robbing you.
ALANA: (Puts hand on audience member’s shoulder.) But that isn’t the case at all.
ROBIN: We are merely redirecting your resources where they are more greatly needed.
ALANA: Of course, we’ll need to keep some of the money for administrative costs.
ROBIN: Now, some moralistic hypocrites might call me a thief or a lawbreaker, but if they only knew about my childhood. (To audience member.) You see, I never had enough money for bows, arrows, or hamsters like the other boys. Sure, they had jobs after school while I ran free in the woods with my best friend Gus. (Look to TREES to sway.) But I did not want to sacrifice my ideals for mere capitalist gain. So I started a program of forced redistribution of wealth.
ALANA: It’s all about perspective. Listen to our side of the story.
(MINSTREL begins strumming the tune of “Home on the Range.” ALANA & COOKIE return to stage.)
MINSTREL, ROBIN, ALANA, COOKIE:
Oh, give me a home
Where the rich people roam
And the pickins’ are easy all day.
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word:
When they’re gagged they have nothing to say.
REFRAIN: Home, home in Sherwood
Where the livin’ is breezy (Look to TREES to sway.) all day
We can do anything
Since we’re missing a king
We have found that crime really does pay.
Now you just might see
This as grand larceny,
That it’s wrong to be stealing this treasure.
But some goes to the poor—
And to us, a little more
‘Cause money zips from us like a zephyr. (MINSTREL, COOKIE, & ALANA look to TREES to sway.)
(And, yes, the meter is purposefully bad.)
ROBIN: Why are you looking at them?
MINSTREL: A zephyr is a kind of wind.
ROBIN: Oh. (Looks to TREES to sway.)
ALANA: They sure don’t rustle much.
ROBIN: Sshh, shh! I thought I heard something!
COOKIE: Oh, it’s just the wind. (ALL look to TREES.)
MINSTREL: I think we’ve pretty much run the tree joke into the ground.
ROBIN: I agree. Let’s get those trees back to their seats.
ALANA: And even though their acting was a little wooden, let’s hear it for the trees! (Leads the audience in applause. When applause dies, continue.)