Harold, the King’s nephew, is making quite a fuss with his version of the news that he reports. The Town Crier, who faithfully confirms his facts, is very upset–especially since the King prefers the way Harold reports the news. The Jester is no help . . . until, of course, Harold reports several news items about him. Working with Princess Abigail, Jester and Town Crier try to discover who Harold’s informant is so they can shut down his shoddy news and return the kingdom to honest, objective journalism. “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Cast Size: 2 Male, 2 Female, 2 M/F, Extras
HAROLD (M) Likes to twist the truth much like a contortionist likes to twist her lumbar.
JESTER (M/F) Professional fool and sometime color commentator.
TOWN CRIER (M/F) His market share is down since he likes to verify his facts & sources.
KING (M) Loves sensational news. Would love reality television, if they had televisions.
QUEEN (F) Her tastes are more highbrow. She’d be carrying a PBS tote bag today.
PRINCESS ABIGAIL (F) Her true love is the object of a smear campaign. She will fight back.
COURTIERS (M/F) Members of the nobility who sit at the Royal Table
PAGES & SERVANTS (M/F) servants of the court (no lines)
The Royal Court discuss which version of the news they prefer.
QUEEN: I much prefer the news according to the Town Crier.
KING: The Town Crier is so . . . so . . .
KING: No, he’s . . . what am I trying to say, Jester?
KING: Just the word.
QUEEN: Oh, really. And since I prefer the Town Crier’s news, what would that make me? Dull?
KING: Of course not, my dear. No, you’re . . . what am I trying to say, Jester?
KING: Just the word.
ABIGAIL: Call the Town Crier. I wish to know what happened at the tournament today from a reliable source.
JESTER: As you wish.
KING: And bring Harold as well. I hear he’s writing up the tournament in his newsparchment.
JESTER: Yes, sire. (Bows and exits.)
ABIGAIL: Father, how much longer will Harold be disgracing us with his presence?
KING: Don’t talk that way about your cousin.
ABIGAIL: I wish Harold were my cousin. Once removed.
JESTER: (Re-enters with TOWN CRIER and HAROLD. They bow.) Milord, I bring the bearers of news. (TOWN CRIER glares at HAROLD.)
KING: Nephew, please relay the events of today’s tournament. What happened to Dukey Howser, the Duke of Ellington?
HAROLD: (Hold up paper.) I just wrote about it. (Reads.) Today, the so-called Duke of Ellington not only despicably shoved the noble Earl Gray off of his horse when he wasn’t looking, but also thrust a needle into the prone and helpless Earl, thus adding insult to injury.
KING: Ha! I always thought that do-gooder Howser had a dark side.
TOWN CRIER: But that’s not true at all! I was there.
QUEEN: (To HAROLD.) May I? (HAROLD hands her the parchment and she reads.) “So-called Duke of Ellington?”
TOWN CRIER: But he is the Duke of Ellington.
HAROLD: Right. That’s why he’s “so called.”
QUEEN: “Shoved the noble Earl Gray off of his horse?”
TOWN CRIER: It was a joust, for goodness sake. He unhorsed the Earl.
HAROLD: Shoved him with a lance, he did.
QUEEN: While he wasn’t looking?
TOWN CRIER: Earl Gray was so scared he had his eyes closed.
HAROLD: It’s hard to look with your eyes closed.
QUEEN: “Adding insult to injury”?
TOWN CRIER: The Earl is a diabetic – he was going into shock. Dukey Howser added insulin to injury.
HAROLD: A simple mistake. The letters are right next to each other.
KING: How would you report it, Town Crier?
TOWN CRIER: Hear ye, hear ye. The box scores for the King’s Jousting Tournament are as follows: Dukey Howser 1, Earl Gray 0.
KING: Go on.
TOWN CRIER: Making Dukey Howser the winner.
KING: Go on.
TOWN CRIER: The end.
KING: (Beat.) That’s it?
TOWN CRIER: Well, I’m still working on the color commentary.
KING: I much prefer your news, Harold.
HAROLD: Thanks, Uncle.
TOWN CRIER: (Correcting.) Your Majesty.
HAROLD: No need to be so formal. Just Harold will do.
TOWN CRIER: Why, you little—
KING: In light of your reporting, Harold, it is obvious that Earl Gray is the right choice for my future son-in-law.
ABIGAIL: But, father, I love Dukey Howser.
KING: My dear, are you still looking for a marriage based on love?
QUEEN: (Glares.) And what’s wrong with that, my King?
KING: Uh . . . just because it worked for us . . . well, it doesn’t mean that . . .
KING: It’s just that in royal marriages, you need more . . . You need more . . . Jester, what am I trying to say?
KING: Just the word. Earl Gray has a whole lotta land.
QUEEN: And did you marry me for my land?
KING: (Laughs uneasily.) For love! Love, my dear. I love your, uh . . .
KING: (To JESTER.) That wasn’t the word I was looking for.
QUEEN: Abigail loves Dukey Houser for his character, not his land.
KING: Character? This is politics, my dear; it’s best to leave character out of it. You wouldn’t understand.
Later, the news is starting to get out of control:
JESTER: (Enters quickly, carrying the latest Harold News.) Ah, the latest edition of—(TOWN CRIER & ABIGAIL are crying.) What’s this? Two Town Criers?
ABIGAIL/TOWN CRIER: You heard the King! I’m doomed!
JESTER: (Rubs his head.) One at a time, please?
TOWN CRIER: I think he means to get rid of me! (Starts sobbing.) I feel horrible.
JESTER: It looks like you’re having a bawl. (Beat.) Sorry, couldn’t resist. (Comforts TOWN CRIER.) There, there. I’m sure he won’t fire you, Town Crier. Someone in your family has held your position for generations! You just need some help making your news more . . . colorful.
TOWN CRIER: But I don’t know how to do that. I just report the facts.
JESTER: I’ll help you, Town Crier. (Looks at parchment.) Let me find a good example for you. Oh, here’s one about Duchess Wigglesworth.
ABIGAIL: By a weird coincidence, she is here tonight. (Points out into audience.)
JESTER: (Looks to where ABIGAIL pointed.) She has a lot of nerve. I’m surprised she’s showing her face in public with this news.
ABIGAIL: What news?
JESTER: (Reads headline.) “Duchess Wigglesworth Robbing the Cradle: Younger Man Found in Her Arms.”
TOWN CRIER: She was babysitting. A baby! She was burping him.
JESTER: Oh, that explains the next line. “Their embrace was a real gas.” Well how about this. “Lord Frumpywig –
ABIGAIL: By an even weirder coincidence, Lord Frumpywig is also a guest here tonight. (Points out into audience.)
JESTER: (Looks to where ABIGAIL pointed.) What are the odds? And again, I’m surprised he’s showing his face in public with this news.
TOWN CRIER: What news?
JESTER: (Reads headline.) “Lord Frumpywig Found Raving in a Homicidal Rage.”
TOWN CRIER: He was watching ______________________. (Insert name of sports team. Beat.) Okay, that one is right.
JESTER: Or, how about this one: “Jester –
ABIGAIL: And by the weirdest coincidence yet, the Jester is also here tonight. (Points.)
JESTER: (Beat.) Uh, may continue? (Back to parchment.) Let’s see, where was I? Ah, yes. “Jester’s Tights are His Best Joke Material.” Wait just a minute! Why, that gossipy little brat!
TOWN CRIER: (Takes parchment from JESTER and reads.) “Jester’s Joke so Lame it had to be Put Down.” (Laughs.) I suppose the King didn’t like your joke about the weasel and the trebuchet.
JESTER: Of course he did! (Beat.) Didn’t he? You thought it was funny, didn’t you, Town Crier?
TOWN CRIER: Not me, but Lord Hottintot found it quite funny, according to “Who’s Who of People Easily-Amused.” (Smiles weakly.)
ABIGAIL: (Takes parchment from TOWN CRIER and reads.) “Jester’s Breath so Bad it Set Castle Tapestry on Fire.”
JESTER: I was breathing fire! Harold jostled me. It wasn’t even a new tapestry. It was one of those really old things.
TOWN CRIER: (Takes parchment from ABIGAIL and reads.) “Jester Gives Rings to Three Different Women”?
JESTER: I was juggling! Haven’t you ever heard of audience participation?
TOWN CRIER: Well, Jester, you’re right. The way that Harold tells it makes the news much more interesting.
JESTER: But he’s making things up. This is all a bunch of lies!
TOWN CRIER: What happened to “colorful details”?
JESTER: (Thinking aloud.) Oh no! What if the King believes these . . . these . . . colorful details about me?
TOWN CRIER: Don’t worry, Jester. The King would never fire you. Someone in your family has held your position for generations.
JESTER: (Beat.) No, I replaced the last Jester . . . who met an early demise. He told the joke about the weasel and the catapult. Completely different joke.
TOWN CRIER: Oh. Sorry. Just trying to make you feel better.
JESTER: Something must be done about Harold.
TOWN CRIER: I agree. If things keep going this way, he’ll ruin my career!
ABIGAIL: He’ll ruin my life!
JESTER: He’ll ruin my chances for being on the cover of JQ. (ABIGAIL and TOWN CRIER look at JESTER.) Jesterman’s Quarterly. My tights are a fashion statement.
ABIGAIL: All right. We need to beat Harold at his own game.
TOWN CRIER: And how should we do that?
JESTER: Beat him. With blunt instruments. Lots of blunt instruments.
TOWN CRIER: I think we need to be more figurative here.