Elephant In The Room

category: children’s play
genre: fairy tale
running time: thirty minutes
setting: a fairy tale kingdom
period: Renaissance

Humphrey, the Emperor
Oceania, his intended bride
Arctica, her sister
Pacifica, her sister
India, her sister
Atlantica, her sister
Jane, an honest designer of ladies’ gowns
Narcissus, a con-artist
Echo, his wife and accomplice
Valentino, advisor to the Emperor
Reynaldo, master of the Emperor’s wardrobe
Lady Cecilia, a lady of the court
Lady Sabrina, another lady of the court
Manders, a footman attending the Emperor
Various Citizens of the Kingdom

In an unknown kingdom, Emperor Humphrey prepares to marry the vain Oceania, and hires the seamstress Jane to design her gown. Not wanting to be outdone at his own wedding, Humphrey finds and commissions a pair of weavers, Narcissus and Echo, who claim to be able to turn jewels into a magical cloth which can not be seen by liars or idiots. Despite the misgivings of his advisor, Valentino, and the gossip of his kingdom and court, Humphrey goes through with a wedding parade in which he models his new “clothes”, which do not, of course, exist, but only Jane has the courage to point this out. Confronted with the truth, which he had already realized but was too proud to act on, Humphrey rewards Jane and finishes the parade with her on his arm, Oceania having left him for someone a little less dumb, and a little more honest with himself.

author’s comments:
Bay Area director Linda-Ruth Cardozo asked me to write a new children’s play based on the fairy tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” and here is what I came up with: a fable that more or less follows the original, but with a little more twist and intrigue, both courtly and romantic, and a little more social satire, particularly in the rhythmic dialogues of the citizens of the kingdom, and the philosophical dialogues of Narcissus and Echo. The original draft I sent Linda was too long and so we cut it down to be more feasible for children, but the sharpness and wit of the play remain, I think, and could actually be pretty fun for an adult audience, particularly if performed by actors with an arch sense of humor, led by directors who get the pacing and double entendre that make the piece stylistically more than a straight-up retelling. A nice companion piece to my “Jason and the Argonauts” adaptation, if perhaps the more subtle and sophisticated of the two, it’s the kind of thing I’d want to watch if I had kids, and centers on a lesson I think it’s never too early to impart.

Staged Readings:

San Francisco Theater Pub, January 21, 2013, Cafe Royale in San Francisco, California. Directed by Sang S. Kim. Cast: Carl Lucania (Humphrey), Ashley Cowan (Jane), Will Leschber (Valentino), Jan Marsh (Oceania), Nicholas Trengove (Reynaldo), Karen Offereins (Echo), Dan Kurtz (Narcissus), Sunil Patel (Citizens/Sisters), Marissa Skudlarek (Cecilia), Jaime Lee Currier (Sabrina), Jeremy Cole (Manders)

Zoom Production:

No Nude Men Productions, April 29, 2020, on Facebook. Directed by Stuart Bousel, Produced by Genevieve Perdue. Cast: Domonic Tracy (Humphrey), Helen J Kim (Jane),  Jake Gleason (Narcissus),  Adrian Deane (Echo), Brian Martin (Valentino), Genevieve Perdue (Oceania), Andrew Calabrese (Reynaldo), Jan Gilbert (Sabrina), Sarah Hadassah Negrón (Cecile), Melissa Clason (Arcitca), Ellen Dunphy (Atlanta), Kim Saunders (India), Megan Briggs (Pacifica), Ron Talbot (Manders) 

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