Theater Words offers royalty free plays and scenes, plays for women, plays for Black actors, African American plays, plays with gay themes, ten minutes plays, scenes, plays for children, plays for small theater groups, created by the Performing Arts Department of The Shipley School.
(He takes quill in hand. The feather should be as long and supple as possible.)
Jacquinette: Now, first the way to start the day
While I upon my bed do stay.
You will set the kitchen right...
Jacquinot: But I object with all my might!
Mother:(hits him with a pot)
And you will see the dawn shine bright!
Jacquinette: And when the baby cries at night,
You're the one who'll set things right.
Dry his bed and change his swaddle,
Walk him as he starts to toddle .
Jacquinot: Oh sorry lot, Oh, woe is me!
Jacquinette: Yes, write them down, now let me see...(She ponders.)
Mother: Write them or I'll beat your head
with this hardest pot of lead!
(Mother brandishes an iron skillet.)
(Jacquinot begins to write. The feather should flutter.)
Jacquinette: You will cook and you will bake
Mill the flour and butter make.
Mother: Write it down, or feel the pot!
Jacquinot: Oh, truly sorry is my lot!
Jacquinette: Scrub each pot and wash each dish.
Carve the fat and scale the fish.
Jacquinette: Now write it!
Mother: Write it!
Both: Write it down!
Jacquinette: Now sign it
Mother: Sign it!
Both Mother and Jacquinette: There, 'tis done!
Jacquinot: (under his breath) 'Tis Lucifer who's had his fun.
Mother: Now all is done. I take my leave.
But shall return anon this eve.
Jacquinette:Now, before you do another thing,
Help me here this sheet to ring.
Jacquinot:That's not upon my contract writ
I don't think I'll help a bit.
Jacquinette:Not upon your scroll you see?
But now you will, with help from me!
(Wife beats him with the wet cloth.)
Jacquinette: (hits him again) Ho-lah!
Jacquinot: (fending the blow) Hey!
(the same repeats)
I see it clear!
Don't beat me please!
Jacquinette: Then take your end and turn and squeeze!
(Jacquinette positions herself on one side of the tub; Jacquinot on the other. The hold the cloth suspended above the water between them. They freeze in a comic tableau as...
ENTER the DEVIL from behind the tub. He whispers in Jacquinot's ear.)
Devil: Now listen well friend Jacquinot,
We'll show her where she can go.
Drown her with a little shove.
Plunge her in the soapy tub.
Jacquinot: What wicked words are these I hear?
What clever mischief in my ear!
Devil: Just a tiny little shove.
And she'll tumble in the tub.
Jacquinot: There's no injustice here I see.
And I will then the master be.
Devil: Just a tiny little shove.
And she'll tumble in the tub.
Jacquinette: Now Jacquinot, do as I say.
Why do you dally, why this delay?
Jacquinot: 'Twas "pull" you say.
Jacquinette: Yes, pull!
Jacquinot :So pull I will and you will fall
Into the tub with soap and all.
(Jacquinot pulls on the sheet.)
Jacquinette: (she tumbles into the tub)
Heaven save me 'ere I drown!
I've tumbled in upon my crown.
Angels come from heaven high.
Draw me out, Oh! Hear my cry!
Devil: Now sing and shout and dance with glee,
For she is drown and you are free!
Jacquinette: Save me, save me, from this sea,
Of soapy water a' drowning me!
Jacquinot: Stop your ranting and your screaming.
Taste what comes of nasty scheming.
Jacquinette: Save me, save me, for I die.
Angels come from heaven high!
Jacquinot: Such grace and beauty now she seems.
(Jacquinette is now upside down. Her posterior is on display.)
The very woman of my dreams.
Her mouth is muffed within the tub.
And in her trick her nose is rubbed.
Jacquinette: Save me, save me, this I pray.
My heart is breaking plunged this way.
(She wiggles her posterior.)
Jacquinot: (Takes out the scroll)
First, I must consult my list.
To see if such is part of it.
To bake, to clean, to mend and sew,
To hoe the field and cabbage grow,
To shine and polish, wash and scrub...
But not to pull you from a tub!
Tis not on my list, nor do I find
That such is mentioned in this bind.
(MUSIC - JACQUINOT AND THE DEVIL DANCE)
Mother: Daughter darling, I'm back from town....
(She sees the tub.)
What have you done you nasty clown?
Jacquinette:Mother, mother I am drown.
Mother: Jacquinot, what have you done?
This is no jest. This is not fun.
Jacquinot :What I must do is written here.
For other things I have no ear.
Mother: Save her, save her. 'ere she die!
Jacquinot: I care no more than for a fly!
Unless she'll be a goodly spouse,
And let me rule in my own house.
(The rhythm of the text stops abruptly.)
Jacquinette: Let you be master in your own house?
(Jacquinette hesitates and then woefully says)
THIS I AGREE.
Mother: You little mouse!
Jacquinot: (He lifts her from the tub.)
Then up you go and you must be
Subject in all things to me.
Jacquinette: Agreed, agreed, so shall it be,
No more gossip's philosophy.
And you will now as master speak,
And I a wife's good house will keep.
(They form a tableau.)
Devil: Here now ends this moral farce,
Of woman's wiles and husband's arts.
For this is how 'twas meant to live.
Eve was made from Adam's rib.
And surely 'tis a thing perverse,
When things are set in the reverse.
NOTE: It is essential when staging this work to observe fundamentals of voice and timing.
The actors must be able to maintain a clear "head voice" projected from the diaphragm through the head. The rhythm of the farce is essential. The neighbors conversation should move so quickly as though to seem the voice of a single person in a continual flow. Slap stick must not be forgotten - literally! If you cannot find a real vaudeville slapstick you can make one with two thin strips of wood bound together at the handle. Be sure to pad the "hit" side. Jacquinot should be able to withstand a number of blows.
The "TUB". Cut the tub from a piece of 1/4 ply and paint it to look like a wash tub. Set the tub over a draped table. Jacquinette can fall "into" the tub by kneeling on the floor with her head and hands just at the top edge. Leave a bucket of water by her knees which she can use to splash around. The sheet should also be VERY wet. Let the water fly not only on the players but on the audience for a full medieval flavor.
The Washtub Farce is adapted from the medieval La Farce du cuvier. While appropriate for all groups, the play was created to accommodate the skills of younger actors. The roles in this farce may be played by either males or females, and indeed, role reversal may add to its humor. This adaptation also adds the neighbors roles. Their presence accommodates academic settings which generally require more roles for girls than for boys. The neighbors lines are written in such a way that they may either be consolidated for smaller groups or distributed among several other players.
The production should be as simple as possible. The stage may be set with a stool in the center. On the stool a plywood or cardboard cut-out of a washtub painted to create a sense of dimension.
On the side a small table which holds an over-size scroll and quill. Also on the table are cut outs of a shoe, a stool, a broom, and a skillet. On the stage center stool, behind the tub, a cloth that had been sufficiently wet to splash water when Jacquinette beats Jacquinot.
Costumes may suit the period or may be simple suggestions of medieval clothing. Make-up should be clown like without being excessive. Two large red circles on Jacquinot's cheeks and white circles on the wife and the mother should be sufficient. The Devil should have red make-up.
Music should be of the period. CD recordings of medieval tunes are available at most libraries. Schools with recorder groups would do well to have live music.
Particular attention must be given to the language of this farce. Movement, other than the indicated slapstick, should be kept to a minimum. The rhyming couplet arrangement will aid students in memorization and the text's word choice should help with diction and projection. Once the text is established and the student's are "off book", they may concentrate on the farcical characterizations of their parts by creating comical voices. Once again, it is the language that creates - not uncontrolled movement.