By John McNeil
An Easter story for all year round.
This is a sequel to "The Garden" (also available at the Dramatix web site), and has the same characters. However, it can also stand on its own. It could also be combined with "The Garden" to make a longer play tracing the story of salvation from creation to Easter.
Animals (if possible, there should be at least one of each, but numbers and types can be modified to suit):
NOTE: In the play as written, all the dialogue is carried by the two Narrators, and the other characters mime/act as directed in the script. However, where appropriate, depending on the age/ability of those playing the animals, some dialogue could be spoken by them.
N1: Once upon a time...
N2: ... ooh goodie, it's story time again...
N1: ...there was a garden.
N2: Haven't I heard this before?
N1: Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not.
N2: What sort of answer is that?
N2: A quiver ... what's-it-called? What does that mean?
N1: It means, we don't want anyone to feel left behind.
N1: As I was saying, there was once a garden.
N2: A big garden?
N1: Yes - very big.
N2: And there were lots of animals who lived in it?
N1: That's right.
N2: And the animals were very happy together at first...
N1: ...until the Monkey and the Lion began eating the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden...
N2: ...which the Gardener had told them not to eat...
N1: ...and then they began fighting each other...
N2: ...and they forgot about the Gardener...
N1: ...and the Garden withered and died ...
N2: ...until the Gardener sent his Child ...
N1: ...to bring peace to the garden again...
N2: ...and to tell them all about the Gardener...
N1: ...and how much he loved them all. So you know the story?
N2: Nah, never heard it before!
N1: (humorously cynical) Really!
N2: So they all lived happily ever after?
N1: You be the judge.
N2: (dons lawyer's wig) Gladly.
(As the dialogue unfolds, the Child and the animals begin to enter at appropriate points.)
N1: The Lion and the Hyeena were walking through the Garden one day ...
N2: Like this? (Struts around)
N1: No, more like that! (Points to the two animals) And they were not happy.
N2: Why not?
N1: Before the Child had come along, they had been the bosses in the garden. Now, things were starting to slip away from them. As the Child began telling the animals about the Gardener and his love, some of the animals started asking awkward questions.
N2: Like what?
N1: Like, if the Gardener had made the Garden in the first place, shouldn't they be doing what he said, instead of what the Lion and Hyeena said?
N2: That makes sense. But there's one small problem. Well, actually quite a big one.
N1: What's that?
N2: None of the animals had ever seen the Gardener. Come to think of it (peers around, then gets out telescope), he hasn't put in much of an appearance lately. (Allows one of the animals to take telescope. It can't work out how to use it, starts trying to chew it, gives up.)
N1: True! But the Child was going around telling the animals that the Gardener was its own father. Not only that, but the Gardener had sent the Child specially to lead them back to Him.
N2: Leave them alone, and they will come home, dragging their tails behind them. (Jigs around the animals, wagging tail. They ignore him.)
N1: Unfortunately, the Gardener had waited a long time, and they hadn't come home. They had forgotten where home was or what it looked like. That's why he sent the Child.
N2: That was a good thing, surely?
N1: A lot of the animals were starting to listen, and crowds were starting to follow the Child wherever it went.
(An animal starts limping badly, and cries out. N2, not sure how to help, points it out to N1. The Child leaves the other animals and goes to the wounded one. Cuddles it, strokes the wounded limb, and heals it. The animal begans running around excitedly. It rushes over to the Lion and the Hyeena and shows the healed limb, mimes what happened, and points out the Child. The Lion and Hyeena are not happy, but don't know what to do, because the other animals are joining in the excitement.)
N2: I see what you mean.
N1: But there's more to come.
(As the Child walks around, the animals follow. The Child stops, and signals them to sit down. The Child moves among them, touching some in healing, miming teaching, perhaps pointing to the sky, perhaps appearing to ask questions. Some of the animals begin to look hungry. The Child goes to a couple of animals (not the Monkey), and points out the problem. The animals shrug, but the Child is insistent that they do something about food. Reluctantly, the animals go round the others to find what there is to eat, and bring it back to the Child. The Child blesses it, then begins handing out food to them, who in turn distribute it to the remainder. The Hyeena wants to eat too, but the Lion in anger prevents him. The animals are so excited about events, they hoist the Child on the back of the Horse/Donkey, and circle the stage, cheering. Some pick up branches and wave them. The Child and all the animals except the Lion and Hyeena begin to exit. However, the Monkey turns back to the pair, who are arguing furiously.)
N2: Hello, what's going on now?
N1: I think we have a recipe for trouble.
N2: Don't tell me that Monkey has gone back to his old ways, stealing fruit!? That's how the whole mess began in the first place.
N1: Almost as bad. Unbeknown to anyone else, he's been keeping food for himself - storing it up - even when others have been going hungry. He wants to get control of it all, so he can become the most powerful animal in the Garden.
N2: The mean creature!
N1: There's worse yet. Monkey thinks the Child is the only thing that stops him finally getting his own way. But he knows where the Child sleeps at night, and he's telling the Lion and Hyeena, so they can sneak up in the dark and capture it.
(The Child enters.)
N2: And look! Here comes the Child on its own. And, oh dear, the Monkey is leading Lion and Hyeena to it. Help! You other animals - come quick! The Child is in trouble!
N1: They can't hear you, I'm afraid. They're all too tired after their exhausting day.
(The Lion and Hyeena attack the Child, overpower it, and drag it off. Monkey sneaks away sniggering.)
N2: (To N1) You can stand there like a dummy, if you like. But someone's got to do something. (Starts to leave, but is forced back on stage by a throng of animals, led by Lion and Hyeena holding the Child between them. The Child is bleeding from cuts on the head.)
N1: Too late. Things have been started now which can't be turned back.
N2: But what are they going to do to the Child?
N1: See - the Lion and Hyeena are accusing the Child of being an imposter. They say he's not the Child of the Gardener at all, and he just wants to become the boss of the whole garden. And they say the Gardener is angry that the animals have started following the Child, instead of listening to the real leaders - who, of course, are themselves.
N2: But that's ridiculous! Surely the animals don't believe that! They must remember all the good things the Child has done for them.
N1: Yes, some do. But notice. The Lion and the Hyeena have bribed some of the animals to bully anyone who might not agree.
N2: The Child doesn't have to let them get away with this. Why doesn't he defend himself, or call out to his father for help?
N1: He's chosen not to.
N2: But this is crazy! We've got to do something! It's getting nasty there.
N1: No! Hard as it is, our job is to watch and tell the story.
N2: I don't believe this!
N1: Trust me.
N2: But they're doing even worse things to the Child now. They're tying him to a tree and ... no ... please .... stop it ... in their rage they are tearing at him with their claws. How can they do this?!? Why doesn't the Gardener come and stop them?
(The animals pull away from the tree, leaving the Child still tied, but now dead. N2 breaks down in tears. N1 is crying too, but not as hard. The animals, suddenly sobered by what they have done, slink away in shame.)
(There is a brief pause, then a couple of the smallest animals creep in, wary not to be seen by the others, and gnaw through the ropes holding the Child. They signal to the Horse/Donkey to come on. With great difficulty they get the Child onto the beast's back, and do a slow circuit round the stage, in weeping procession. They gently lay the Child in the centre, cover it with leaves and depart. The two Narrators go to the body, drop to one knee and bow their heads, then rise and leave.)
(From off stage - or over the sound system - a murmur begins, growing to loud cries and wailing; cries such as "What is happening?" "The Garden ... it's changing." "It's a punishment on us." "We should never have done it." "The Garden is dying." "The Gardener is angry with us." "Help us!" "Save us!" "The world is falling apart." etc. This becomes mingled with flashes of lightning and loud thunder crashes. Suddenly the tumult ceases, and there is darkness. When the lights come up, the body of the Child has gone. The two Narrators re-enter.)
N2: I still don't understand! Why did he do it like this?
N1: Hush! Someone's coming. Wait and see.
(The smallest animals - those who buried the Child - enter, check to see if the Lion or Hyeena are around, and then beckon to several others waiting offstage. They are terrified, but they come anyway. They approach the spot where the Child had lain, but are in consternation when they cannot find the body.)
(Narrator 1 addresses the animals - it is the first time they have been able to hear what the Narrator says.)
N1: Little ones, what are you looking for?
(The animals are frightened when they hear the Narrator, and huddle together.)
N1: If you are looking for the Child, he is no longer here. See, there is the place where you laid him.
(The animals scurry round in panic and confusion. They do not notice the Child enter, until it speaks.)
Child: My children! (They stop in amazement, not able to believe what they see.) My dear children! (The Child half kneels, holds out its hand.) Come and see. Come and touch me. It really is me!
(The animals hang back at first, but with coaxing from the Child come to it, at first timidly, but then touching, sniffing, testing with growing confidence, until they all roll around the floor in a merry heap.)
N2: What is going on?
N1: Look around - what do you see?
N2: Apart from ... that ... you mean? (Looks round) The garden - it's changing! I see patches of green where there was desert; blossom beginning where there has been no fruit for years.
N1: It's all part of the plan. When the animals first began to disobey the Gardener's instructions, they brought punishment on themselves and the Garden. The only way this could be reversed was if someone who had never been disobedient took the punishment.
N2: And that was the Child!?
N1: Yes. Oh, it will take many years for the land to be fully healed, and many years for the relationships to be fully restored. But it has begun. It has begun. (Turns) Come, my friend, I think the Gardener has another story he wants us to tell. (They exit.)
© John McNeil 1998
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand.