The tilting point for us came at the end of a particularly long song, where somebody was obviously just hunched behind the stage drinking coffee while they flapped their other hand - inside a puppet - in time with one of the (subjectively) longest songs ever recorded. When it was done, we quietly ducked out the back door, never to return.
On our way to the sponsors' brunch this morning we passed the pawpet room, and the whole memory came flooding back to me like it had happened yesterday. I had promised myself that I was going to write something before the con was over, and suddenly I had a germ of an idea. I have no experience at writing scripts, but it was my thinking that even if my script sucks, it's still a far cry better than lip-synching to old songs. Without further ado, I am please to present...
Props: (at stage right, just far enough in to allow a pawpet on both sides) a turntable. Ideally this should be an intentionally cheesy prop; a box with the word “Turntable” clearly written in the front in a large font. On the side facing the stage should be a large, black knob easily accessible to the pawpets.
Cast: Bob the Parrot (BtP)
Generic weasel pawpet (GwP)
Second generic weasel pawpet (GwP2)
BtP: [Enter stage left.] Bob in a merry pawpet way across to the turntable. Bob circles the turntable, examining it from three sides before moving to the side on stage left and activating the knob with his wings (or with his beak if he is wingless).
Tbl: [Begin playing an old 50s recording on how to teach your parrot to speak.] This recording will adhere to tested scientific voice modulation to teach your parrot how to speak…
BtP: [Make a show of listening and nodding in understanding.] After about thirty seconds into the preface (or at a pre-set bit of speech) , BtP waves a wing at the turntable as if to say, “get on with it!” After another ten seconds or so of dry narrative, BtP bumps the turntable.
Tbl: [Sound of needle scratching across a record.] Now let us get on with the training. [Pause] Hello, baby!
BtP: [Listen intently through the first couple of repetitions, then begin mouthing along with the record.]
Tbl: Hello, baby! [Clear “POP” of a needle skipping.] Hello, baby! [ad nauseam]
GwP: [Pop up from stage bottom, to stage left of BtP. On his entrance, cue cheesy sitcom applause, as if he is one of those zany characters who everyone apparently knows and loves. Wait a couple of beats for the applause to fade.] Yo, B. What’s happening?
BtP: [Turn to address GwP, mouthing in time to the skipping record.] Hello, baby!
GwP: [Look between BtP and audience as BtP does two more repetitions. Saunter over to the turntable and switch it off in mid “Hello”.] Dude, you’re creeping me out. What are you doing here anyway?
BtP: I’m learning to talk. Check it out; “Hello, baby!”
GwP: [Look at BtP, turn to audience, wait a beat, turn back to BtP, saying nothing.]
BtP: What, is my inflection wrong?
GwP: There’s more wrong about this than just your inflection. For one thing, you can already talk. I think that I can say this on pretty good authority.
BtP: I know that, but there’s always room for learning. Just talking isn’t enough, I need an edge, a gimmick, a hook. I’ve finally decided what I want to do with my life; I want to be a pawpet.
GwP: [Look at audience, wait a beat, then face BtP again.] Setting your sights a little low, aren’t you?
BtP: [Dismiss the comment with a disparaging wave of a wing.] Nonsense! Everyone loves a pawpet. Once I master elocution, I’ll develop a shtick. [Sweeping gesture with wing.] “Bob the Parrot does every play of Shakespeare in thirty seconds.” They’ll love it!
GwP: Dude, they won’t. You have a lot to learn if you want to be a pawpet. There’s more to a pawpet than just a talking head.
BtP: [Look to audience, then back at GwP. Look him up and down. Look back at audience, wait a beat, then turn back to GwP] Uh…
GwP: [Interrupting him] Don’t even go there. [Move around behind BtP, heading toward the turntable while speaking.] If you start trying to do Shakespeare then you’d better work on your diaphragm because you’re going to need the volume in your voice to drown out the snores. The people don’t want culture, they want variety, and music. Lip synching is where it’s at, boy.
BtP: [Scratch head with wing.] Ha! Shakespeare; The Musical!
GwP: [Positioned by turntable now.] Ix-nay on the ulture-cay my winged friend.
BtP: With dancing weasels!
GwP: Yes! Wait, no! Dude, know your audience. I’ll show you what they want. If you will address your beady little bird eyes to your left… [Turns knob on turntable.]
Tbl: [Eagles] Desperado…
GwP2: [As the song plays, another GwP slowly rises from the stage, lip-synching with the music.]
BtP: No! [Push past GwP to get to the turntable. Turn the knob on the turntable to the sound of a stylus scratching across a record.] Absolutely not! We’ll have none of that! [To GwP2] You, be gone. [Use both wings to push the other pawpet back down below the stage.]
Tbl: [Cuts out on its own.]
BtP: [Addressed directly to audience.] Can it be? Is culture truly dead in entertainment? Have our brains become so atrophied from years of being spoon-fed mind-numbing diversion that we have lost our last vestiges of critical thinking? Entertainment should speak with us, not at us. A man who has lost his ability to think is no longer a man!
GwP: Well, to be fair, you’re a parrot and I’m a ferret…
BtP: Aaaaaah! [Throws wings in the air and disappears down behind the stage.]
GwP: [Looks down at where the BtP disappeared. Looks up at audience, then down again. Turn switch on Turntable again.]
Tbl: Hello, baby! POP. Hello, baby!
GwP: [Mouth along with it a couple of times, then make beat-box noises through three more repititions.] Hey, you know, that’s actually kind of catchy.
[Fade to black.]