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But the Giraffe!


ISSUE:  Fall 2006

 
Hans Krása’s opera for children, Brundibár, premiered in 1942 at the Prague Vinohrady Jewish Boys’ Orphanage and was subsequently given fifty-five performances by the children prisoners of the Terezin concentration camp. The score was smuggled into the camp by an inmate, the opera’s conductor Rudolph Freudenfeld, son of the director of the Vinohrady Orphanage. Brundibár is a small masterpiece, magical, political, and musically glorious. It’s also only twenty-five minutes long. Maurice Sendak and I recently presented the opera at the New Victory Theater in New York, directed by Tony Taccone with Maurice’s designs and my version of the libretto. I wrote a curtain raiser to make an hour-long evening. But the Girafffe! is an imaginary account of how Rudolph Freudenfeld came to smuggle Brundibár into Terezin.

*  *  *  

(A little girl sits on her bed in her bedroom. On the bed beside her is a big leather suitcase, closed shut.
The little girl sits quietly, waiting.
Her mother enters the room, singing as she enters from Giovanni Paisiello’s
La Bella Molinara:)

MOTHER
Nel cor piú non mi sento
Brillar la gioventú . . .

(She opens the suitcase, looks in, displeased by what she sees. She takes out a stuffed animal—a giraffe affixed to a heavy square wooden base. The mother puts the giraffe on the floor next to the bed. The little girl grabs the giraffe and holds it, caressing it.)

MOTHER
You’re being selfish, don’t be selfish.

LITTLE GIRL
We can’t leave the giraffe!

MOTHER
Once upon a time, I remember this story, there was a good little girl who played quietly in the sunbeams on the carpet all morning long, and when the blackbirds in the trees went bicky-bicky-bicky in the spring and disturbed Mama as she nursed baby, the little girl would thoughtfully go into the garden and throw small stones into the branches and frighten the blackbirds away, bicky-bicky-bicky they would scream as they flew off into the deep foggy forests where blackbirds belong, bicky-bicky-bicky through the fog, bicky-bicky on the lonely black branches. Then she would go back to play on the carpet in the sunbeams. What a thoughtful little girl she was.

LITTLE GIRL
If it was foggy there wouldn’t be sunbeams.

MOTHER
I’m not talking to you, giraffe-packer, mess-maker, and it was foggy in the forest, not by the house which was on the beach. By the sea.

LITTLE GIRL
There’s fog by the ocean.

MOTHER
There’s fog in the forest as well and this was not that kind of an ocean. It was a tranquil sea with sparkly dancing waves and the good little girl behaved.
(She goes to the little girl. Kindly:)
There’s no room in the suitcase. We’re allowed one suitcase and there’s no room for the giraffe. It’s cumbersome. It’s a cumbersome object. Yes?
This isn’t a good time.
 Done-dee-done-done.

(She leaves. The little girl opens the suitcase and puts the giraffe inside.)

LITTLE GIRL (to the giraffe:)
You’re selfish! You never think of others. But you can’t help that, you’re a dumb animal. Lucky for you there’s room.

(She closes the suitcase.
Her uncle Rudy comes in, carrying under his arm a large unbound manuscript.

He smiles at her, he bows.
Rudy opens the suitcase. He takes out the giraffe and puts it on the floor. Then he takes out all the folded clothing. Carefully he places the manuscript on the bottom of the suitcase, then replaces all the clothing, then the giraffe. He tries to close the suitcase, but it’s now too full, so he takes out the giraffe.)

RUDY
Both won’t fit.

(He puts the giraffe on the ground, closes the suitcase, snaps the latches shut.
He sings, from Gluck’s
Orfeo ed Euridice:)

RUDY
Che farò senza Euridice?
(As he walks away, singing to himself:)
Dove andrò senza il mio ben?
Che farò? Dove andrò . . . (Et cetera, exiting.)

LITTLE GIRL
But the giraffe!

(She goes to the suitcase.)

LITTLE GIRL (imitating her mother:)
Open the suitcase you selfish thing!

(She opens the suitcase.)

LITTLE GIRL (imitating her mother:)
Take out the clothes, mess-maker!

(She does this.)

LITTLE GIRL (imitating her mother:)
Take out Rudy’s book.

(She takes it out, puts it on the bed next to the suitcase.)

LITTLE GIRL (imitating her mother:)
Now put the clothes back in like a good little girl!

(She does.)

LITTLE GIRL (imitating her mother:)
Now the giraffe! Hooray for the giraffe!

(She puts the giraffe in the suitcase.)

LITTLE GIRL (imitating her mother:)
Close it.

(She closes it.
She opens the manuscript to see what’s inside.
A melody from
Brundibár plays. It’s the start of the little swing interlude before the end of act one.
She closes the manuscript and the music stops.)

LITTLE GIRL
It’s just music.

(Her grandmother comes in.)

LITTLE GIRL
I hate practicing the piano!

GRANDMOTHER
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a zoologist.

(The grandmother turns to leave.
The little girl’s grandfather comes in.
The grandmother stops and wrings her hands.)

GRANDMOTHER
 Oy.

GRANDFATHER
Your hands.

GRANDMOTHER
 What?

GRANDFATHER
Don’t. (He imitates the hand wringing—accurately, not caricatured.)

GRANDMOTHER
Oh dear oh dear.

GRANDFATHER
Not. Please. Don’t. Hush. Shah. She’s (Incomprehensible gestures). Okay?

GRANDMOTHER
 But.

GRANDFATHER
You’re upsetting the house. It’s all horse apples, isn’t it?!

GRANDMOTHER
Yes but yes but oh dear oy vey yes okay all right you’re right.

(The grandmother and grandfather whisper, intensely.)

LITTLE GIRL (loud:)
What are you talking about?

GRANDFATHER (to Grandmother:)
You see?! She’s upset!

LITTLE GIRL
You’re upset.

GRANDFATHER (to the little girl:)
I’m bereft. But. It’s all horse apples, right?

(He leaves.)

LITTLE GIRL
We mustn’t leave the giraffe!

GRANDMOTHER
Giraffes are the tallest of all who dwell upon the earth. They can be found only in Africa.

LITTLE GIRL
That’s where I found the one in the suitcase.

GRANDMOTHER
A male or a female?

LITTLE GIRL
His name is Uncle All-Neck.

GRANDMOTHER
Giraffes are unique beings, utterly unlike all the other animals. They form a tribe unto themselves.

(The little girl’s father comes in.)

LITTLE GIRL
Are we going to go back to Africa?

FATHER
We’ve never been to Africa.

LITTLE GIRL
Giraffes can only be found in Africa.

FATHER
Where’s Mama?
(To the grandmother:)
She—
How?
I just don’t—

(The grandmother leaves, wringing her hands.)

GRANDMOTHER (leaving:)
Oh dearohdearohdeardearohdearohdeardearohdearohdear …

LITTLE GIRL
What’s wrong?

FATHER
Nothing’s wrong.

LITTLE GIRL
It’s where I found the one in the suitcase.

FATHER
What are you talking about?

LITTLE GIRL
In Africa.

FATHER
You’ve never been. We never went anywhere much except here in Prague and the house in the country and once briefly you were in ilina in Slovakia and once in Topol’cany, a three hours’ drive from here. Remember?

LITTLE GIRL
But the giraffe!

FATHER
What about him?

LITTLE GIRL
He’s not tall. Why?

FATHER
Did you take your woolies down from the clothesline?

LITTLE GIRL
The adult male is eighteen to twenty feet tall.

FATHER
He’ll grow, then. Your giraffe. I would imagine like most things giraffes start small. Don’t you think? Of course if he was twenty feet tall he couldn’t live in the house.

(They look at one another.)

FATHER
What?
(Little pause)
We aren’t going to Africa.

LITTLE GIRL
Then where will we go?

FATHER
Where they tell us.

LITTLE GIRL
Where’s that?

FATHER
Someplace nice.

LITTLE GIRL
I would prefer Africa, I think.

FATHER
That’d be nice, too. Though there are lions.

LITTLE GIRL
I love Rudy most of all. I love him more than you.

FATHER
He’s more handsome than me, but you don’t.

LITTLE GIRL
I do.

FATHER
You’re cross with me is all.

LITTLE GIRL
We’re going to be married.

FATHER
He’s your uncle. You can’t marry Rudy.

LITTLE GIRL
Then I want to go to Africa.

FATHER
He doesn’t want to marry you, you’re his niece, it isn’t proper, and also you already have a giraffe, a nice one, so you don’t need to go to Africa.
Bim Boom.

(He leaves.
Uncle Rudy enters.
He sees the manuscript on the floor.)

RUDY
How did the score get out of the suitcase?

LITTLE GIRL
Mama has to carry the baby and a suitcase and I have to carry Mrs. Moolala Wallabee Queen of the Republic of Pik and the cloth bag for the baby and Papa carries the other suitcase and Grandma carries her heavy wooden box and the small suitcase and Grampa has the orphanage papers to carry and maybe the other small suitcase and you carry the viola.

RUDY
And this big suitcase.

LITTLE GIRL
But the giraffe!

RUDY
But the score.

LITTLE GIRL
What is a score?

RUDY
It’s music. Sheets of music. You may have to leave the giraffe.

LITTLE GIRL
Oh no that’s impossible. Who’d feed him?

RUDY
Then leave Mrs. Moolala Wallabee Queen of the Republic of Pik.

LITTLE GIRL
You’re being silly.

RUDY
Then the giraffe.

LITTLE GIRL
Uncle All-Neck.

RUDY
Leave him a houseplant to eat. We have to leave all the houseplants.

LITTLE GIRL
Giraffes hate houseplants. They only eat the tender leaves that grow high up on the uppermost branches of the camel-thorn tree.

RUDY
I’d like you to take the giraffe from the suitcase and put the score back in where you found it because both won’t fit. You can carry Mrs. Moolala Wallabee Queen of the Republic of Pik and the giraffe.

LITTLE GIRL
They dislike each other and Mama says I can carry one or the other but not both, Mama says, each person carries only one thing and a suitcase and that’s all we’re allowed, and she very much prefers Mrs. Moolala Wallabee. No more than one hundred pounds each except Grandma and Grampa can’t carry nearly that much because they are decrepit, and I can’t carry that much either and I put the whole Sock Family and Mrs. Moolala Wallabee’s page boy Anton Moomek and two big books in the suitcases already and this is the last suitcase and now I find that what I want most is Uncle All-Neck the giraffe.

RUDY
To leave him is unbearable?

LITTLE GIRL
 Impossible!

RUDY
I’ll carry him.

LITTLE GIRL
Sometimes he doesn’t like you.

RUDY
 Really?

LITTLE GIRL
He’s afraid of you, so he says, because of how you wave your baton when you conduct, when you look like you aren’t thinking of people and you look most like Grampa. Also I think Uncle All-Neck is envious because I like you more than I like him.

RUDY
You do?

LITTLE GIRL
Obviously, much much more, he’s only a giraffe. A dumb animal. Though giraffes are unique, they’re not like the other animals, they’re a tribe unto themselves.

RUDY
I will carry him. If your mother says yes.
If not we’ll leave him and he’ll fend for himself.

(Rudy unpacks all the clothes, then he puts the score in the suitcase.)

RUDY
It’s an opera for children. Called Brundibár. I want to take it with us. To where we’re going. We only got to hear it twice, you never got to hear it once. It could be that where we’re going we can do the opera. For the children. With the children.

LITTLE GIRL
I’d rather take the giraffe.

RUDY
It’s a very good opera.

LITTLE GIRL
 Still.

RUDY
I would like you to decide that as much as you like the giraffe, Uncle All-Neck, you will have Mrs. Moolala Wallabee and Anton Moomek and the Sock Family with you where we’re going and so you’ll be fine, but there are lots of children going where we’re going and the opera score will make lots of children happy, and not just the children where we’re going but if there’s luck, and there might be luck, you never know, there can be good luck even when there’s bad luck, maybe children years upon years from now, forever, all sorts of children may eventually enjoy this opera score, whereas the giraffe really only makes you happy, and you don’t even like sharing him. So I would like you to decide to let us bring the score in the suitcase and not the giraffe.

LITTLE GIRL
 No.

RUDY
See if we leave the score behind it might get thrown out or burned and it’s really a very beautiful opera that a nice man, you met him, Mr. Krása, worked on for two years and it would be too terrible if it was thrown away or burned. Yes? So we must save it.

LITTLE GIRL
No.

RUDY
But then I’ll be disappointed in you.

LITTLE GIRL
But the giraffe!

(Rudy puts the score next to the giraffe and, giving his niece a look, leaves.
She opens the score. She looks at the notes. Music plays—
Brundibár again, the Goose Song melody. She shuts the score.
She goes to the suitcase, opens it.
Rudy returns.)

RUDY
Don’t tell your grampa my papa—

LITTLE GIRL
The boss.

RUDY
 Yes.

LITTLE GIRL
That’s what the orphans in his orphanage call him.

RUDY
Yes. He doesn’t think I should bring a score. He doesn’t want us to bring any unessential papers. Don’t tell him about the score. Papers we don’t have to have may cause problems for us, he thinks. Maybe he’s right. But the score. So don’t tell him. Do you think he’s scary?

LITTLE GIRL
 Yes!

RUDY
Me too. Don’t tell him about the score.

(Rudy leaves.
She unfolds a garment from the suitcase, one of her father’s shirts. She puts it on. It’s huge on her.
Her mother comes in.)

MOTHER
Take that off, fold it, put Rudy’s score back where you found it, don’t tell Grampa, don’t upset everyone, put the folded clothes on top of the score, NEATLY.

(The little girl takes the giraffe out of the suitcase and sits with it on the floor, cradling it. Her mother comes to her.)

MOTHER (gently:)
It’s a huge floppy thing with a heavy wooden base and we simply cannot take it, surely you see that?

LITTLE GIRL
Without the base he’d fall over.

MOTHER
If it was a real giraffe it wouldn’t need a base. You see?

LITTLE GIRL
That’s silly.

MOTHER
If we take off the base, maybe then we can bring it.

(Her mother reaches for the giraffe. The little girl pulls him away!)

LITTLE GIRL
No! He can’t stand up then! He’ll die. Rudy will carry him.

MOTHER (VERY angry!)
No, absolutely not, he can’t, that’s preposterous, a giraffe, people will think we’re peddlers with packs, Östjuden refugees, homeless crazy people carrying bedpans and teapots and dolls! No. Please! My shoulders!

LITTLE GIRL
What’s wrong?!!

MOTHER
Nothing! Papa’s shirt!

LITTLE GIRL
Both the giraffe and the score will fit if we leave the clothes.

MOTHER
And run around naked?

LITTLE GIRL
But the giraffe!

MOTHER
Do as you’re told!

(The mother leaves.
The little girl takes the score and places it in the suitcase. She carefully places all the folded clothes on top of the score. She starts to place the giraffe on top of the folded clothes, then, remembering, she takes off her father’s shirt, angrily bunches it up into a wad, stuffs the shirt in the suitcase, then the giraffe, then she tries to close the suitcase. It can’t be closed. She flings herself on it, hoping her entire weight will crush it closed. It can’t be closed. She climbs on top of it, trying to bounce/force the lid down, but there’s too much in the suitcase now and it will not close. She sits on top of the suitcase, frustrated.
The grandmother and the grandfather come in, the grandmother carrying a cup and a slice of cake on a plate.)

GRANDMOTHER
A cup of hot milk and the last slice of almond cake.

GRANDFATHER
Hello, Second Trombone.

LITTLE GIRL
Hello, boss.

GRANDFATHER
Do you think I’m scary?

LITTLE GIRL
 No.

GRANDFATHER
Are you lying?

GRANDMOTHER
Of course she is. Sip the milk before it cools.

LITTLE GIRL
Is there skin on the milk?

GRANDMOTHER
 Yes.

LITTLE GIRL
Take it off, please?

(Grandma sticks her finger into the cup of milk.)

GRANDMOTHER
Ouch. I burned my finger.

(She removes her finger with the milk skin dangling from it. She holds out her finger, and the grandfather puts her finger in his mouth and sucks the finger clean.)

LITTLE GIRL
 Eeuuuw!

(The grandmother hands the cup to the little girl.)

GRANDMOTHER
Here. No skin on the milk now.

(The little girl takes the cup and drinks it. She stops and starts to ask a question.)

GRANDMOTHER (meaning: Keep drinking!)
 Oopsy.

(The little girl finishes the cup of milk.)

GRANDMOTHER
 Cake.

(The little girl hands the cup to her grandmother and takes the plate of cake, which she eats with her fingers.)

GRANDMOTHER
There was no sugar for icing, and just cloudy honey, a drop, for the cake.

GRANDFATHER
Do the orphans at the orphanage think I’m scary, do you think?

(The little girl shrugs, eating the cake.)

GRANDFATHER
That’s why everyone calls me “boss”?

GRANDMOTHER
 Yes.

GRANDFATHER
Horse apples!! I’m not asking you, I am asking my granddaughter, Second Trombone.

GRANDMOTHER
Why do you call her that?

GRANDFATHER
Why does she call me “boss”?!

LITTLE GIRL
Because actually you’re scary.

GRANDFATHER
But I don’t intend to be. You mean when I do this?

(He scowls and growls ferociously and shakes his head violently side to side, making his lips and jowls flap. The little girl shrieks!)

GRANDFATHER
I am bereft. And you are upset. The world can be scary, but I’m not! Or.
If I am scary it’s only ever been to protect the orphans, who have neither mamas nor papas. I made a vow like a Knight of the Holy Grail, even though I’m a Jew, like a Maccabee or a High Priest in Jerusalem, like a groom to a bride I vowed I will establish my own orphanage in Prague, and I did it, and maintained it through many successions of orphans, fearsome as I’ve been required to be but never fearful and not, I hoped, frightening! And yet everyone calls me “boss.” At first I said, “Don’t call me that!” But they didn’t stop, they liked it, so I pretended to think it was funny, and so now everyone calls me “boss” and I DON’T LIKE IT!!

(He’s shouting. He pats his granddaughter reassuringly on the head.)

GRANDFATHER
A child ought never to see the jagged edges of the world. I love my orphans as fiercely as you love your . . . what is it? A hippopotamus?

(The little girl gets off the suitcase, opens it, takes out the giraffe, cradles it.)

GRANDMOTHER
Giraffes constitute a tribe unique in all the world. But giraffe necks still have only seven vertebrae—neck bones. And all animals on earth, including you, me and Grampa, we are animals, all animal necks have seven vertebrae.

LITTLE GIRL
Neck bones.

GRANDMOTHER
So giraffes’ necks seem remarkable but in one sense they’re perfectly ordinary.

LITTLE GIRL
They have horns.

GRANDMOTHER
Two little knobs covered with dark coarse fuzz. And giraffes are very fussy eaters.
The giraffe’s tongue is so marvelously prehensile—that means it’s a tongue that can hook things, the way a finger does—

(She waggles the finger she’d dipped into the milk.)

LITTLE GIRL
Is it burnt?

GRANDMOTHER
No, Grampa kissed it and his kisses anaesthetize.

LITTLE GIRL
What’s “anaesthetize”?

GRANDMOTHER
He stops it from hurting.

(Her grandfather bows, just like Rudy’s bow.)

LITTLE GIRL
“Prehensile.” “Anaesthetize.”

GRANDMOTHER
With his fingerlike clever tongue the giraffe deftly snaps off the tenderest leaves atop the acacia tree, or camel-thorn. If a giraffe must graze grass, he nibbles only the tips of the spears of grass much as we eat asparagus, for the rest of the grass spear, the tough bit, is forbidden him by some inviolable law of camelopardine digestion.
Giraffes remember everything, forever.

GRANDFATHER
People too. Once we see we don’t forget, that’s how people are, you see. Retentive means highly likely to remember. What’s “prehensile”?

LITTLE GIRL
Hooky like a finger.

GRANDMOTHER
 “Anaesthetize”?

LITTLE GIRL
Stops pain.

GRANDFATHER
So you are a retentive little girl.

GRANDMOTHER
Forgetting is an anaesthetic.

GRANDFATHER
Don’t confuse her.

GRANDMOTHER
Well it’s true. Forgetting stops pain.

LITTLE GIRL
What’s “camelopardine”?

GRANDFATHER
Ask Grandma.

GRANDMOTHER
“Camelopardine” means “belonging to giraffes.”

GRANDFATHER (upset!)
I didn’t interpose! We stand at the jagged edge!

GRANDMOTHER
Shah! Shah!

GRANDFATHER
I stepped in, growl, scowl and jowl, but the children!!!

LITTLE GIRL
What’s wrong?!

GRANDFATHER
NOTHING’S WRONG!

GRANDMOTHER
And now you’ll put Uncle All-Neck in the suitcase and then we’ll have to go.

LITTLE GIRL
But Uncle Rudy’s score!

GRANDFATHER (suddenly suspicious:)
What score?!

LITTLE GIRL
Nothing! (To her grandmother:) Tell me a thousand more things about giraffes.

GRANDMOTHER
Only three things left to tell:
One: Giraffes are curious, intelligent and humorous.
Two: Their eyes fascinate people who are attracted by a mild and gentle expression of soul.
Three: They smell of honey, because of all the camel-thorn leaves they eat.
It’s said they face death quietly.
Although it’s also true that the giraffe is not destitute of aggressive capabilities. That means they can kick when they have to. They don’t like to, but when they have to they can kick.

GRANDFATHER
Giraffes are just like every other animal, seven vertebrae in the neck, they seem so different but they like to kick as well. Every animal likes to kick.

GRANDMOTHER
Giraffes are frequently mistaken for trees, preferring not to be seen.

GRANDFATHER
Everyone wants to be seen, and admired, that too; at least seen by other giraffes, and maybe by:

(He points up. All three look up.)

GRANDMOTHER
And one last thing: Giraffes have very tough, very thick skins, effectively resistant, it’s said, even to the hardened steel bullets of the white man.
Now.
Now close the suitcase we have to go.

(Her grandparents leave.
The little girl takes the score out of the suitcase. She looks at the score, cradling the giraffe, trying to decide.
There’s a loud insistent banging on a door.
The air grows wild with the sounds of lions roaring, parrots screeching, jungle insects ratcheting. The knocking is continuous underneath.
And somewhere in the near distance a voice on a tinny loudspeaker gibbering orders in an incomprehensible language.
She sits on the ground with the score and the giraffe. She looks at the score, then the giraffe, not knowing what to do.
Her father comes. He’s in a hurry.)

FATHER
Come come, your coat your hat your scarf your mittens your snowboots it’s cold, come come, it’s time to go, we have to leave, they want us to leave, Bim Boom.

(He leaves.
She looks at the giraffe, then at the score—WHAT TO DO? She opens the score. Music plays—from Brundibár, the manic cartoony chase music that precedes the opera’s famous lullaby.
Suddenly, as the music plays, her mother, father, grandparents and Uncle Rudy run back and forth across the stage in their coats and hats. They enter and exit, from stage right to stage left and vice versa, crisscrossing the stage, all of them with the same prancing gait in time to the music. Each time each one enters, he or she carries a different precious object held with both arms high above his or her head—a teapot, a scarf, a suitcase, a framed painting, carving knives, a french horn, a shofar, a huge book—a frantic final attempt to dispose of cherished belongings before leaving.
The little girl sits and watches, astonished.
They’ve gone and a large man stands there, wearing a silly-looking soldier’s uniform from some previous century.
The little girl closes the score, the music stops. She has never relinquished the giraffe.)

LITTLE GIRL
Who are you?

THE SOLDIER
I’m surprised you don’t know me, because I am the famous Anton Moomek, page boy of Mrs. Moolala Wallabee Queen of the Republic of Pik.

LITTLE GIRL
Should I take the giraffe, or the score?

THE SOLDIER
The Queen commands me to tell you that as her most loyal subject of the Republic of Pik you are not under any circumstance to leave Uncle All-Neck her only giraffe, the only giraffe in all of Czechoslovakia, and if you listen to the voice outside you will hear that that’s precisely what is being announced on the loudspeakers outside now, in the tongue of our visitors!

(The soldier gestures imperiously and the incomprehensibly gibbering voice on the loudspeaker is heard again, VERY LOUD. The soldier, shouting over the voice, now seems to be translating what it’s saying:)

THE SOLDIER
Bim Boom!
Put the giraffe safe in the suitcase and toss the boring old score that hasn’t even a single picture to look at in it out into the street with its flyspeck pages dotted with leopard spots, and yes yes Uncle Rudy will be sad and look at you sadly and he is more handsome than Papa and more fun than Grampa and cleverer than Mama and almost as smart as Grandma no smarter and we love him Oh! So much! But the giraffe! But the giraffe!

(The soldier gestures, bows and leaves. The tinny voice grows slightly more distant, but it’s still there.
Uncle Rudy comes in.)

RUDY
I see.
I see.

LITTLE GIRL
I’m sitting on the score, and I’m holding the giraffe.

RUDY
You’re undecided.

(Her mother enters, raises her face and arms to heaven.)

MOTHER
King of the Universe WHY? Please at least my daughter could cooperate and obey me and behave!
And thank You for making the baby a fat baby, but he’s heavy! My shoulders!

(She leaves.)

LITTLE GIRL
Okay, I decided.

(She walks up to Rudy and hands him the giraffe. She waits to see what he will do.
He looks sad, then he smiles at her, takes the giraffe and kisses her atop her head. She watches him solemnly as he puts the giraffe in the suitcase and closes the lid. He lifts the suitcase, looks at her, looks at the score lying on the ground, looks back at her, shrugs and leaves.
She watches him leave. She turns to the score, lying on the ground.
She opens the score. The tinny voice outside fades as music plays—the melody of “Soaring high overhead from Brundibár.” The little girl leaves. The music keeps playing. The stage is empty.
The little girl returns, dragging the suitcase.
She opens the suitcase and takes out the giraffe. She closes the score, but the music keeps playing. She puts the score in the suitcase, burying it under the clothes. She closes the suitcase.
She looks around the room and finds a good place to put Uncle All-Neck, on the other side of the stage.
Her father runs in wearing a hat and coat. On his coat there’s a big yellow star with “JUDE” printed on it.)

FATHER
Okay okay bim boom shake a leg, coat scarf hat mittens now now—
(seeing the suitcase:)
Tisk.
I thought Rudy was going to get this.

(Her grandmother runs in. She, too, is wearing her hat and coat. On her coat too there’s a yellow star. She carries her wooden box and her suitcase.)

GRANDMOTHER
Here here I wrapped some rugelach the last ones the last of them oy vey oy vey that’s all there is there is no more so stuff these in your pockets.

(Her grandmother hurries off. As she goes she says:)

GRANDMOTHER
Forgetting is an anaesthetic. Forgetting stops pain.

(Her grandfather runs in, hat on his head and on his coat a yellow star; he’s carrying his HUGE folio of essential documentation, massive brown accordion files with papers sticking out of it at all angles. He enters and exits, talking the whole time.)

GRANDFATHER
You build a building brick by brick you build it up solid as a brick it’s a big brick building you built you think will never topple but in the end in a big fat hurry it’s horse apples horse apples horse apples.

(Her mother runs in, hat and coat with star, carrying the baby, who’s crying, and also the mother is carrying a heavy suitcase, and under her arm, a fancy lady doll, crowned with a cardboard and tinfoil crown.)

MOTHER
Here here here’s Mrs. Moolala Wallabee Queen of the Republic of Pik.

(Her mother hands the little girl the fancy lady doll, then kisses the little girl atop her head, then picks up the suitcase and leaves, saying:)

MOTHER
Watch over her please Mrs. Moolala Wallabee Queen of the Republic of Pik, watch watch don’t forget her don’t forget her don’t leave.

(The terrible jungle and gibbering noises again.
Uncle Rudy runs in, hat and coat with yellow star, viola case.)

RUDY
No wait, no wait, but the score, but the beautiful score!

(He looks all about the room for the score, not seeing it. Then he sees the giraffe, standing off alone on one side of the room. He looks at his niece.)

RUDY
Where? Is it?

(She looks at the suitcase. He looks at the suitcase. They look up at one another.
He bows a little to her, she bows a little to him. He picks up the suitcase. The little girl takes his hand.
The terrible noises grow louder. There’s a cheerful yet military and weirdly discordant march of some sort playing on a tinny speaker in the near distance as the incomprehensible voice gibbers.

The whole family gathers and stands in a circle. Then, in time to the music outside, with a strange high-stepping gait, they run slowly in a ring, holding their suitcases with both arms high above their heads, and then in single-file line, all run off, still in time to the music, the little girl first, Rudy last.
The noise and the marching music and the gibbering voice fade away.
The stage is unpopulated for a moment.
The little girl comes back, a beret on her head, wearing a coat with a yellow star, scarf, boots and mittens. She’s breathing hard as if she’s just run upstairs.
She looks all around the stage as if trying to remember what she came back for.)

LITTLE GIRL
I’m leaving something.
I feel as though I’m leaving something behind.
I can’t remember.

(Off in the near distance, a voice, her mother’s calling: “EVA! EVICHKA! EVA!”)

LITTLE GIRL
What am I leaving? I’m leaving something. What?
(She looks right at the giraffe.)
I’ve forgotten. Whatever it was.
I can’t remember.
I forget.

(She turns and leaves. The giraffe is left on stage.)

THE END

 
This play is for my aunt, Eva Kushner, and in memory of my uncle Donn Kushner.


Copyright © 2006 Tony Kushner. No performance or reading of this work may be given without express permission of the author.

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