THE BUNNY BRIGADE

A children’s play in one act, by Matthew Walden
(APPROPRIATE FOR AGES 4-9)

The Bunny Brigade

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

 AMATA, The bold spirit leader of The Constituents

THE CONSTITUENTS, Assorted rabbitry numbering in the dozens. They follow their spirit leader Amata unquestioningly

MARCY, A rabbit popular among The Constituents for her cheerful disposition

HAROLD, An obstinate rabbit stuck in his ways {secretly in love with Marcy}

JULIAN, A classically aloof rabbit, missing for 3 weeks, now feared dead

SAMMY & JENNIFER, Two vicious hyenas constantly on the prowl

SETTING

An old-growth forest thick with decaying woody debris, a wide diversity of fungi, and a multi-layered canopy preventing light from shining upon The Constituents.

SCENE 1. THE FOREST AT NIGHT.

The curtains open. Enter HAROLD and MARCY, followed by six gaunt rabbits gnawing on sticks. Two stagehands dressed in black tights hold cutouts above their heads: three dim stars & a fingernail-shaped moon sliver. The laughter of hyenas can be heard off-stage as the cast makes its entrance.

HAROLD: [incredulous, but amused] Just our luck, huh? Another empty patch of forest with minimum disturbance and sufficient age to qualify as old-growth, and yet, still no sustenance to be found.

MARCY: [emphatically] Oh come now, Harold. Hush yourself ‘fore you get these fine rabbits in a tizzy.

CONSTITUENT 1: [with the sickly civility of a starving creature] I’ve found this twig here, which has a taste of chocolate near the middle. You’re welcome to share it with me. [goes back to gnawing twig]

MARCY: [quietly and significantly] Oh dear. I do appreciate it, but I insist you enjoy that twig for yourself. We’re going to find something better for all of us soon. We must keep our faith that all-seeing Amata will light our path to food.

CONSTITUENT 2: Tis true. Tis very true.

THE CONSTITUENTS: [in unison] All hail Amata. Her path is wise and righteous. Such is the grace bestowed upon rabbit kind by Amata.
The ConstituentsHAROLD: Yeah, yeah. [pettishly] It’s always hail Amata this and worship Amata that. I can’t remember the last time that ghoulish specter rustled up anything better for us to eat than slimy mushrooms well past their prime.

MARCY: Someone’s a hot-tempered Harry this evening. [rubbing her paws together with a slight twitch of her nose] I, for one, loved those ripe mushrooms Amata in her steadfast love had led us to. Stop your doom and gloom, hush! There’s always room for mush.

MARCY hops downstage left and places her paws on her face in anguish, accentuated by a row of footlights and a tracking follow spot.

MARCY: [spoken to the audience, solemnly] Damn you, Harold. It’s hard enough to keep their faith during trying times like these. Lord even knows what’s happened to Julian. Especially with Sammy and Jennifer on the prowl. I can almost feel the heat of their hyena breath along my sumptuous rabbit neck.

SAMMY & JENNIFER howl offstage. The stagehands slowly lower the star and moon cutouts as the lights dim.

HAROLD: Amata, if you’re listening, I bear you no ill will. I only ask for your patience during my moments of doubt.


SCENE 2.
THE HYENA’S DEN

At the rise of lights, the audience is greeted by the sight of SAMMY & JENNIFER snacking on the bloody bones of JULIAN, the missing rabbit. His entrails are strewn across the floor of their small hovel.

A Ravishing Beast
SAMMY: [licking his lips] Oy! I thought this Julian fella would never shut up.

JENNIFER: He was a daft nelly of a rabbit wasn’t he? I’m glad we finally decided to eat him.

SAMMY: Hey, Jen-love?

JENNIFER: ‘Es, deary?

SAMMY: Why is it, whene’er the two o’us gets together we wind up with a dead rabbit on our hands?

JENNIFER: It’s cause we’re a pair of ravishing beasts innit?

SAMMY: True enuff. I ain’t seen everyfink in this crazy world, but I ‘ave seen a nun pull a rat out of a habit, and I taken a gander at nearly every hyena that’s crossed my path, and I can truly say you are the most charming of all, deary.

JENNIFER: Thank ya, petal. Could you pass me that rabbit’s metatarsus if you’re finished with it? Sucking the marrow out’s my favorite part.

SAMMY: [presenting her with the bone as if it were an expensive necklace] You know it would only be my pleasure.

SAMMY & JENNIFER howl together, and then burst into raucous laughter as the lights dim.
A Rat Out of a Habit

SCENE 3. AMATA’S SANCTUARY

MARCY kneels in front of an altar covered with a raw umber cloth, an earthenware container filled with water, and thin dried stalks of herbal militaris. Satin curtains line the walls of the sanctuary, while two stagehands dressed in black hold cutouts of orange flames that dance along the tips of cream-colored tallow candles.

MARCY: Our holy Amata, I come to you seeking guidance. Worms prepare me. Earth enclose me. Let me rot into mold so that I become the perfect sacrifice for your love.

A slight glow from a soft spotlight appears above the altar and we hear a dull hum.

MARCY: [pausing to genuflect beneath the glow before continuing in a more personable tone] I know it’s been less than a month since I came to you last, but we find ourselves in a spot of trouble again. We’re all so hungry. We’re honored that you count us among your Constituents, but this dreadful pain of famish has weakened our resolve. My lovely, lovely Julian… He’s been missing for the past few weeks, ever since we rounded Cobbler’s Bend, and I fear the worst. I hear the cackling of the hyenas in my sleep, although if they were to catch us in this state, I doubt we’d make much of a meal.

HAROLD, who has slowly crept into the scene while MARCY prays, accidentally trips and knocks over the earthenware container on the altar, spilling water all over MARCY’s fur.

HAROLD: For heaven’s sake, I’m such a prat. Terribly sorry.

MARCY: [already resolved to smooth over the offense] Oh, it’s no biggie. And to think I just washed my hare earlier this morning!

HAROLD hands MARCY the raw umber cloth to dab the moisture from her fur.

MARCY: So how much of my prayer did you hear?

HAROLD: Enough to hear you wailing about Julian.

MARCY: Oh come off it will you? Aren’t you worried about him too?

HAROLD: [awkwardly] It’s not that I’m not. It’s just, well … you always seemed to favor Julian with your attentions.

MARCY: And what of it? Whom else should I favor?

HAROLD, suddenly enraged, smashes the bowl on the ground with his thumping foot.

HAROLD: Did you ever sleep with Julian? Answer me.

MARCY: [almost losing her cool] No. But what if I wanted to? What then? What difference does it make with whom I choose to share my burrow?

AMATA: Cease your bickering.

MARCY and HAROLD gasp as AMATA materializes on stage in human form. She appears as a young woman, wearing a white dress embroidered with arcane symbols, along with braided waist-length hair that flows gently in the dull æther that surrounds her. A shimmering necklace made of hyena bones rests on her chest (these can easily be faked by the costuming crew with cat or dog bones if hyena bones prove difficult to obtain).

AMATA holds aloft a thick walking stick with a glowing human skull affixed to the end.

The Bold Spirit Leader
AMATA: You found it suitable to defile my sanctuary with your gripes of jealousy?

HAROLD: [expressing genuine remorse] Sincere apologies, She Who Must Be Obeyed.

AMATA: And how fare my Constituents?

MARCY: We’ve survived thus far, thanks in large part to your generosity in leading us toward sustenance.

HAROLD: We’re all starving. Marcy’s too delicate to say it, but I’m not. It’s grim out there.

AMATA: I understand. And I value your patience. Tomorrow, much will be revealed. Meet me at the Telepaths’ Crossing when the sun’s taken its rest –it’s the third path on the eastern hillside after you pass Cobbler’s Bend. Take care, my little ones.

AMATA dematerializes and her glow fades shortly after.

HAROLD: And just like that she’s gone. [to the audience] I’m afraid our story won’t have a hoppy ending.

The stagehands throw black drapes over the candle flame cutouts, essentially “snuffing” them out.

SCENE 4.  THE CROSSING OF THE TELEPATHS.

AMATA enters leading HAROLD, MARCY, and all 27 of THE CONSTITUENTS on stage. They arrive at a splendidly arranged feast set out along a stone table containing platters piled high with celery, lettuce, apples, carrots, and turnips. The sight of each of these arouses excitement and gratitude in the eyes of the rabbits. A banner hangs above the table declaring THE GRAND RE-OPENING OF THE ARCHIVES. A lone file cabinet rests next to the table.

CONSTITUENT 2: I can’t believe it. I’ve never seen Amata with my own eyes. I always had faith in her existence, but to have that faith confirmed with empirical evidence puts my soul at ease.

CONSTITUENT 1:[conspiratorially] Look! You can see through her transparent dress. She’s totally got fireworks in her boob crystals.

CONSTITUENT 2: Shut up. She can probably hear you. Those aren’t boob crystals; that’s a necklace made from hyena teeth.

MARCY: [remaining close to AMATA] What is this place?

AMATA: It’s the mystic archives. It contains every thought you’ve ever had, recorded for all time.

HAROLD: And who are all these children, gathered here to watch us?

AMATA: [waving her hand at the audience] Why, these are the Telepaths, of course.  We had to wait for their arrival before we could reopen. They are the ones with the ability to read your thoughts.

cabinetsFINALAt this point AMATA descends from the stage and wanders through the audience, acknowledging the children in attendance for the play with direct smiles. She should bite her thumb and smear a tiny cross made of blood on each of their foreheads.

Finally AMATA selects an audience member to join her on stage, leading him or her by hand, while simultaneously holding her skull stick aloft. (Your actress should use her judgment depending on the particulars of your gathered audience. Some insightful cold reading to select a willing participant might be required).

HAROLD: [to the child who has joined them on stage] You’ve been watching us this whole time? While we suffered? You’re sadistic. You only listened because you find our lives funny.

AMATA: Do not rush to judge these children. They have the power to both exonerate and damn you.

MARCY: She’s right, Harold. Be nice.

AMATA opens a drawer in the file cabinet and withdraws a set of index cards.

AMATA: Let’s see … yes Marcy, rabbit, Constituent, popular for her social graces, this is her. [Handing an index card to the CHILD] Read Marcy’s thoughts aloud please. Speak loudly and clearly, love. It says “I just want someone—”

CHILD: [reading] I just want someone to hug me and tell me that I’ve done a good job. That I’ve been a decent rabbit. That I haven’t wasted my time. But it seems like the act of asking for that validation would itself invalidate any good I’ve achieved.

THE CONSTITUENTS sigh contemplatively with reassuring glances toward MARCY.

AMATA flips through her cards and produces another one for the CHILD to read.

AMATA: And here we have a glimpse into some of Harold’s recent thoughts. There ya go, plum. Please read it.

CHILD: [reading] I hope none of the other rabbits discover the truth about Julian’s death. They’ll hate me more than they already do.

THE CONSTITUENTS gasp audibly at the revelation.

HAROLD crosses his paws with a huff.

AMATA: [interrupting the commotion from the tittering rabbits] Please wait. There’s more. [handing a third index card to CHILD] Please read this final card with more of Harold’s private musings.

CHILD: [reading HAROLD’s card] I’m so grateful to Julian for saving me from those vile hyenas. But now he gets to be the hero instead of me, when I’m the one who was on lookout, and I’m the one who spotted them first. [beat] Oh, how awful am I? To harbor these ugly feelings for my friend who sacrificed his own blood for mine. I deserved to die. Not him.

THE CONSTITUENTS gasp audibly at the second revelation.

MARCY: Oh, Harold, you poor bitter fool. You think we would have held that against you? We love you too much for that. You should have just told us what really happened.

HAROLD: You’ll never get it, will you? I couldn’t tell you the truth—because of your feelings for Julian. And also … because of my feelings … for you.

THE CONSTITUENTS gasp audibly at the evening’s third revelation.

AMATA holds her skull stick aloft and the eye sockets emit piercing blue lasers.

AMATA: My bunnies, you must be quiet this instance. You’ve alerted the hyenas to our presence!

SAMMY & JENNIFER bound onto the stage, their mouths contorted in a bloody snarl. THE CONSTITUENTS scatter from the stage and disperse through the audience, cowering among the children.

SAMMY: Oy! Jenn-love?

JENNIFER: ‘es, deary?

SAMMY: Why is it, whene’er we get hungry, there’s always such a feast of rabbits ready for us to devour?

JENNIFER: It’s cause we’re a pair of fortune-blessed beasts innit?

SAMMY: True enuff. May the meal do you well.

SAMMY & JENNIFER pounce into the air, leaping out toward the audience with claws extended. AMATA immediately flashes her skull stick at them, freezing the hyenas momentarily in the air with her blue eyesocket lasers (this can be accomplished with a harness). 

AMATA: [addressing the audience] You’ve seen today what can happen when rabbits lose faith in one another, when they rush to judge what they do not understand, and how reliance on gossip can reveal their positions to predators. I now ask you to decide the fate of my Constituents. Should I allow the two hyenas to feast upon these rabbits cowering amongst you? Or should I intervene and explode the hyenas with my skull lasers? Show of hands. Who wants the hyenas to win?

Because all children are inherently cruel, they will invariably vote for the hyenas to eat the rabbits. AMATA should pretend to count hands anyway as a gesture of good faith.

AMATA: Very well. The Telepaths have decided. Sammy & Jennifer. You may commence with your dinner.

While SAMMY & JENNIFER devour HAROLD, MARCY, and all of THE CONSTITUENTS, AMATA covers the face of the CHILD on stage with her dress to obscure the gruesome horror. The audience does not fare as well, however, as blood squibs planted around the collars of the bunny costumes explode, showering the children and THE GRAND RE-OPENING banner with splatters of non-staining stage blood.

When SAMMY & JENNIFER have feasted to their fill, they return to the stage and curl into each other’s arms for a nap.

AMATA: [addressing the audience] You have chosen according to the desires I created within you. These woods are older than you can fathom. I am what existed before thought and what will remain after the dissolution of spirit. Death will taste you long before you understand me.

As the stage lights dim for the final time, AMATA releases the CHILD and holds her skull stick aloft to light our path further into the dark forest.

 

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