Read an Excerpt
Evanston, Illinois, in the New World.
CHORUS When audiences ’round the globe appear,
Desiring stories of a woman’s fate,
Our playwright answereth the calling clear,
Preparing ample banquet for your plate.
This tale of lasses takes us unto school
With many shrewish girls and boyish asses,
Wherein they make mistakes and play the fool,
And learn hard lessons far beyond their classes.
To this fey story make I introduction—
Which shows us Cady Heron’s youthful age—
Her narrative unfolds in our production
In these few hours upon our simple stage.
I, prologue-like, your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.
At the Heron residence and North Shore High School.
Enter Cady Heron and her parents, Lady Heron and Sir Heron.
SIR H. Proceed, young Cady, to procure thy lunch,
And by the bite of it end woes and all.
There ne’er was situation so enflam’d
That by a meal was not made easier.
Within this bag shalt thou a dollar find,
With which thou mayst buy milk an thou dost wish.
Ask thou the bigger children where ’tis done
And, by my troth, they’ll gladly give thee aid.
LADY H. Remember’st thou the number of thy home?
Take this along; I writ it for thy sake.
I prithee, place it in thy pocket safe—
If thou dost love me, thou wilt lose it not.
[ Aside:] I’ll seem the fool I am not; Cady, strong,
Will be herself. [ To Cady:] Art thou prepar’d for school?
CADY E’en were I passing wise, like Seneca,
I’d not have readiness as on me falls.
SIR H. A picture ere thou leavest home I’ll take,
That we, one day, recall this moment rare.
[They take a photograph together. Exeunt Lady and Sir Heron as Cady walks to school.
CADY ’Tis natural, methinks, that parents cry
Upon the day their child first goeth schoolward.
Perforce this is the case most typical
When children are a meagre five years old.
I am sixteen and was, until today,
School’d by my parents in our fam’ly home.
Good gentles, like a waiting, open book,
The content of your minds is plain to read:
“A homeschool’d child is th’utmost rarity,
An ’twere a freak one would in circus find.”
Your minds, belike, imagine instances
When children taught at home are strange, indeed.
Enter child 1 above, on balcony.
CHILD 1 The spelling of the short word xylocarp—
A fruit that hath a husky, woody shell—
Is plain: X-Y-L-O-C-A-R-P.
[Exit Child 1.
CADY Or, mayhap, ye assume we hold a faith
Bizarre and dangerous in the extreme.
Enter child 2 above, on balcony.
CHILD 2 Upon the third day of creation, God
Hath made the Remington bolt-action rifle.
For “Lo,” God said, “my people must have aught
With which to fight the mighty dinosaurs
And—ages hence—the homosexuals.”
Amen say I, and all my family.
[Exit Child 2.
CADY Think not with prejudice upon my state,
For, truly, normal is my family.
Though, in this case, ’tis normal temper’d by
The occupation of my parents two:
They both are researching zoologists,
Who spent the last twelve years on Afric plains.
My parents did know more of snakes than sneakers,
More knowledge of the zebras than of Zen,
More happy near the lions than Detroit,
More calm upon safari than in Chrome.
My life was wonderful beyond compare,
As I did grow among the pleasant beasts
And ev’ry day enjoy’d the open air.
It was a joyful, satisfying life,
Until my mother earn’d a teaching post
At old Northwestern University,
Complete with tenure—forcing our return.
Farewell said I to Afric and its plains,
And bid hello to high school and its pains.
[She is nearly struck bya passing bus as she crosses a street.
Alas! I must be careful, by my troth—
Ne’er was a day in Africa so fraught.
Enter many students, including Janis Ian, Damian, and Kristen Hadley.
Behold, such varied students on display,
Array’d in current fashion, in such clothes
As I have never own’d in sixteen years.
Shall I attain the grace and confidence
With which my striking peers comport themselves?
The crowd is quick and unpredictable—
Balls fly from yonder, faster than a cheetah,
Then soar like eagle thither on their way.
The students roughly bump and jostle like
A herd of antelope at water’s edge.
Nearby some boyish scoundrels light a pyre,
As if some ritual they did enact.
So new and so mysterious—O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in it! Now, to class.
[Exeunt most students as Cady walks into herclassroom. Janis, Damian, and other students sitat desks. Cady mistakes Kristen for her teacher.
Here is the teacher—tall and self-assur’d:
I’ll speak to her and introduce myself.
[To Kristen: ] Holla, I know not if you heard of me.
My path hath newly brought me to this school,
Where I shall be your student: Cady Heron.
KRISTEN An thou dost ever speak again to me,
A painful kick unto thine ass I’ll grant.
[Cady begins to sit.
JANIS Sit not upon that seat, or thou shalt be
In trouble with one Kristen Hadley—she
Whom thou didst think was teacher unto us—
For her small boyfriend shall assume that seat.
Enter Kristen Hadley’s Boyfriend,
sitting next to her and kissing her.
KRISTEN Hello, diminutive red-headed love.
[They kiss. Cady looks for another seat.
JANIS Did not I speak the words and prove them true?
Sit not there, either, for the boy in front
Is flatulent beyond all remedy.
GASSY STD. [aside: ] O shame, to have a reputation thus!
I am for gas renown’d, but hath a soul
That longeth for a song compos’d of words—
Say I: hail, poetry! Thou heav’n-born maid,
Indeed, thou gildest e’en the farter’s trade.
CADY Shall I no seat within this classroom find?
Enter Madam Norbury, knocking into Cady and spilling coffee on herself.
NORBURY Hello, all—O, alack!
NORBURY Nay, set thy heart at rest. ’Tis not thy fault.
My fortune doth run low in muck and mud—
My life’s quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable.
[She begins to remove her jumperon which she spilled the coffee.
Enter Sir Duvall.
DUVALL Good Madam Norbury, is’t well with thee?
NORBURY [to Cady: ] My undergarment clingeth to my jumper
And presently my navel’s on display—
NORBURY —Start to a perfect day.
DUVALL This is a scene most inexplicable.
Is ev’rything all right within thy class?
NORBURY ’Tis well, or soon shall be.
DUVALL —How was thy summer?
NORBURY I was divorcèd from my husband past.
DUVALL My carpal tunnel syndrome hath return’d.
NORBURY Were we comparing woes, it seems I win.
DUVALL Thou winn’st, forsooth—my sorrow goes with thee.
[To students: ] I hither came to bring ye this report:
A newfound student is within your midst,
Who did arrive from Afric recently.
[Madam Norbury spies a black student.
NORBURY Thou welcome art!
BLACK STD. —I come from Michigan!
Pray, lay not your assumptions at my feet.
NORBURY O, Michigan, a wondrous state indeed!
DUVALL Her name is Caddy, like the shack of old.
Is there a Caddy Heron present here?
CADY ’Tis I, whose name alike to Katie sounds.
DUVALL Beg pardon for the mispronunciation.
Thy case is like my nephew, Anfernee,
Who doth despise the errant sound of it
When I misspeak and call him Anthony.
[Aside: ] His anger, though, is nothing next to mine,
When I bethink upon my sister’s choice
To give him such a name as Anfernee!
NORBURY Thou fresh-fac’d Cady, thou most welcome art,
And thank you, Sir Duvall, for thy report.
DUVALL It is my pleasure, Madam Norbury.
If thou hast need of any little thing,
Or if thou’dst speak about thy situation . . .
NORBURY My thanks. Perhaps another time when I
Am not array’d in tunic most transparent.
DUVALL Indeed. [Aside: ] She is not wrong, I see it well—
How pleasant and how shapely is her form.
[To students: ] Good day unto ye all. Learn well, learn true.
[Exit Sir Duvall. Exit Madam Norbury severally. Janis, Damian, and other students change classrooms as Cady speaks.
CADY My first day in the school pass’d in a blur—
A most confusing and distressing blur,
Wherein I was in trouble for such things
As I had ne’er imagin’d I would be.
Enter chemistry teacher.
CHEM. Where art thou bound?
CADY —Unto the restroom, sir.
CHEM. Thou dost the lavatory pass require,
If ’tis thy plan to thither boldly go.
CADY I see. Can you deliver such to me?
CHEM. Thy truancy is plain. Sit thou once more.
[Exit chemistry teacher.
CADY Ne’er had I liv’d within so foul a world
Where no adult would trust me or my words,
And where they spent the livelong day in yelling.
[Enter English teacher, history teacher, music teacher, and German teacher above, on balcony.
ENGLISH Read not beyond the page that is assign’d
For if thou dost, the words may rot thy brain!
HISTORY The color of thy pen may not be green,
For history is mark’d by shades of gray!
MUSIC There shall be none of foodstuffs in my class,
For such behavior strikes discordant notes.
GERMAN Nein, bleiben ihren vorgenannten Platz,
Für Deutschland wächst auf ihre Unterstützung.
CADY My puzzlement did not abate by lunchtime,
As I no welcome found at any seat:
One group did make their keen abhorrence known
By placing their effects where I would sit.
Another talks of things impolitic—
Aloud they talk’d of women’s nipplous parts.
E’en when I spake the greeting “Jambo!” to
A group I did assume were African,
They were perplex’d and did not return the greeting.
While I had friends when I in Afric dwelt,
Thus far I had not one in Evanston.
[Exeunt all but Cady.
Inside the restroom I did sit and eat
To hide bewilderment and loneliness.
O Fates, who spin our threads, I pray you, speak,
For still ’tis beating in my mind, your reason
For raising this sea storm against my boat.
Belike I shall not know the reason why,
For ne’er did Fate respond to mortal cries.
Enter Lady Heron and Sir Heron.
SIR H. Thy first day done! How didst thou find the school?
[Exit Cady, upset.
LADY H. This silence doth bespeak a brutal day
O, have we hurt our daughter by our move?
We had a wondrous life in Africa—
Full often hath she gossip’d by my side,
And sat with me on Neptune’s yellow sands,
Marking the embark’d traders on the flood,
When we have laugh’d to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind.
Now is she silent and will nothing tell—
Would that our daughter suddenly were well!