running time: forty-five minutes
setting: The Forgotten Realms/The Internet
Tiamat, a five-headed dragon played by five actors
The Dungeon Master/Venger/God, the force of Good/Evil/Everything
Uni, a baby unicorn
The Young Ones, six American teenagers all played by one performer
The Stage Directions, which can be a character if so desired
In a faraway, unnamed fantasy kingdom, an omniscient being known as the Dungeon Master introduces us to six teenagers from our own world who have been transported to his. There they befriend a baby unicorn and piss off a five-headed dragon. Each of her heads is a different color (Red, Black, Green, White, Blue) and each breathes a different breath weapon (Fire, Acid, Gas, Frost, Lightning), but as they try to figure out what to do to The Young Ones they discover it’s hard to act as a “we” when everyone is a “you.” Eventually, the force of Evil, Venger, arrives to stir the pot, and though everybody comes together for a brief moment to sing “America” by Simon and Garfunkel, the moment ends in pandemonium as Tiamat, assuming the kids have attacked her, launches her own attack against the kids. Uni the Unicorn shares her philosophy of generosity but God shows up to tell us there’s probably no hope, and all of humanity is in a stand-off with itself, so the only comfort one can hold onto is knowing we’re not alone.
This is easily the most conceptual play I have ever written, as the allegory drives the story far more than any of the characters do. It happened because we lost our original Tiamat writer from the 2017 San Francisco Olympians Festival, and I decided it was easier for me to step in and write a one-act than it would be to find a new writer so close to the festival. Over the course of six hours, sitting in a cafe in Montreal eating cronuts and drinking espressos, I wrote the first draft and unloaded, through the ripped off premise of a 1980s cartoon I had adored as a child, all my fears about the world we lived in and how I could see it falling to pieces- especially every time I logged onto the Internet. I handed the finished version to my director a few weeks later and the piece went up on stage at the festival and was a hit, but I don’t know that it can really ever be performed again, seeing as I stole so much from other writers. Certainly I would never feel comfortable charging royalties for it. Still, I think it’s actually a surprisingly beautiful play. People laughed a lot, and there were some tears too. We live in dark times and stories that show us we can be more are valuable, but sometimes we need a story that also shows us just where we’re at and what’s wrong with that. This play may be the only time I’ve outright spoken a plea to the audience to do whatever it can do to be better, while we still have the chance. Here’s hoping I was heard.
No Nude Men Productions, October 12, 2017, part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival at the EXIT Stage Left, San Francisco, California. Directed by Genevieve Perdue; Artwork by Emily C. Martin. Cast: Also Bruno (The Young Ones), Matt Gunnison (Dungeon Master/Venger/God), Sunil Patel (Green), Fred Pitts (Blue), Kelly Rinehart (Red), Janice Rumschlag (Uni), Karl Schackne (Black), Marissa Skudlarek (Stage Directions), Vicki Victoria (White)
Actors’ Ensemble of Berkeley, July 23, 2020 on Zoom. Directed by Vicki Victoria. Cast: Janelle Aguirre (Red), Crystal Brown (Blue), Patrick Glenn (Black), Jaq Wolfe (Green), Vicki Victoria (White), Bruce Kaplan (The Young Ones), Beth Swanson (Uni), Jeffrey Trescott (Dungeon Master/Venger/God), Nathan Bogner (Stage Directions)