by Katy Huth Jones
Cast of Characters:
Students at Ogden Nash High School:
American Idyll Judges:
Mrs. Gordon (as herself)
Scene 1: English class, last day before Easter Break. MRS. GORDON is standing before her distracted English class which includes TROY, GABRIELLA, VANESSA, HANNAH, LONDON, SHAUN, NAPOLEON, PATRICK, ELIZABETH, BOBBY, and INDIANA. Students are whispering among themselves.
MRS. GORDON: Your Easter Break begins in just a few minutes. (Students cheer as she holds up a hand for attention.) Please give me your attention for an important announcement.
(Students give her their full attention.)
MRS. GORDON: When we return after Easter Break, we'll begin a special unit on poetry. (Students groan.) Now, now, hear me out. (Students get quiet.) Before radio and television were invented, people used to gather and listen to others recite poetry. Sometimes the poet would recite his or her own poetry, and sometimes others would memorize well-known poems and recite them.
VANESSA: Mrs. Gordon, that sounds really boring.
LONDON: It sure does.
INDIANA: I'd rather visit the Reptile House at the zoo than listen to poetry.
(Students talk among themselves.)
MRS. GORDON: (Holding up her hand for silence.) Since our school is named for Ogden Nash, a famous American poet, I've decided that our class will have a formal poetry recital. Each of you is required to recite two poems by memory. (More groans are heard.) You will recite one original poem and one by another poet.
GABRIELLA: Is there a minimum word count, Mrs. Gordon? I read ahead in the book and some of Ogden Nash's poems are only two lines long.
TROY: Haikus have only three lines. I might be able to memorize one of those.
HANNAH: Sweet niblets! If only we were singing, I could do that all day! (Students sound enthusiastic.) Who wants to have a singing recital?
PATRICK: I do!
ALL: Yes, music!
MRS. GORDON: You've already had a music recital this year. We're going to do something different. After all, many song lyrics can stand alone as poems. Perhaps you can think of this recital as singing without music.
ELIZABETH: Actually, I quite like this idea. The only song I know is "It's a Pirate's Life for Me," and I'm tone deaf anyway, so I'd rather recite the words.
MRS. GORDON: You don't need to stress yourselves. I just wanted to give you plenty of time to plan ahead. We'll begin writing poetry next week and then decide a date for our recital. I'd like for you to invite your families.
NAPOLEON: My family would never come. They're just too weird.
SHAUN: Reciting poetry is not as exciting as snowboarding, so I'm not sure mine would come, either.
BOBBY: I think my Mama would come.
MRS. GORDON: Have a good Easter Break and we'll make our plans when you get back.
(Bell rings. Students gather up books, backpacks, etc. and begin to leave.)
HANNAH: I sure wish we could sing instead.
GABRIELLA: So do I. But a poetry recital might not be so bad.
TROY: You're kidding, right?
GABRIELLA: No, I mean it.
LONDON: I think it sounds dumb.
NAPOLEON: More than dumb.
BOBBY: Maybe a little dumb.
VANESSA (to the girls): Did you hear that Sarah Palin is coming to Kerrville for a book signing in May?
HANNAH, GABRIELLA: Really?
SHAUN: What day in May?
VANESSA: The Saturday before Mother's Day. Why?
SHAUN: Well, that's the same weekend Tony Romo will be visiting my uncle.
BOBBY: Tony Romo? Are you kidding me?
SHAUN: No, it's true. Romo and my uncle were roommates in college.
LONDON: Who cares about Tony Romo. I want to know more about Sarah Palin.
SHAUN: Who cares about Sarah Palin?
GIRLS: We do!
ELIZABETH: That's a busy weekend. Simon Cowell will also be in Kerrville.
PATRICK: Who's that?
LONDON: What do you mean, "Who's that?" Don't you watch "American Idol"?
PATRICK: I don't have TV.
LONDON: No TV? How do you live?
INDIANA: American idol. Is that the one made of gold in a secret cave in South America?
SHAUN: You're kidding, right?
INDIANA: We don't have TV either. Dad only lets me have books.
TROY: Don't even try to explain American Idol to them. It would take too long.
VANESSA: You know what? I just had a really crazy idea.
VANESSA: How often do three famous people come to Kerrville in one weekend?
HANNAH: During the Folklife Festival?
LONDON: She means really famous people. Like Simon Cowell!
BOBBY: Like Tony Romo!
GABRIELLA: Like Sarah Palin!
NAPOLEON: What's your crazy idea, Vanessa?
VANESSA: What if we had our poetry recital and asked them to judge it?
LONDON: No way!
PATRICK: Yes way!
HANNAH: You mean they judge our poems instead of songs and stuff?
VANESSA: Sure, why not?
ELIZABETH: I think it would be rather exciting!
BOBBY: What if I got stage fright and forgot my poems?
SHAUN: There'd be nothing to fear at a poetry recital.
INDIANA: That's what scares me.
GABRIELLA: But would they agree to judge us? How could we pay them?
LONDON: With money?
TROY: Whose money? I'm sure they'd charge a lot.
GABRIELLA: We could have a bake sale.
PATRICK: Why don't we just ask them?
VANESSA: Good idea, Patrick. I'll ask Sarah Palin.
SHAUN: And I'll ask Tony Romo.
ELIZABETH: And I'll ask Simon.
NAPOLEON: So we just need to see what Simon says.
PATRICK: Simon says, "Have a good Easter Break!"
ALL: Good-bye, Patrick!
Scene 2: Mrs. Gordon's class, sometime after Easter Break. The students are talking before the bell rings.
GABRIELLA (to Vanessa): So, what did you find out?
TROY: Yeah, the suspense is killing me.
VANESSA: Sarah Palin finally got back with me, and she said she would be honored to judge our poetry recital after her book signing on that Saturday! I asked her how much she charged, and she said she would do it for free.
SHAUN: When my uncle called Tony Romo, I got to talk to him too, and he said Saturday night was his only free time.
BOBBY: How much? A million bucks, I bet.
SHAUN: No, he said he would do it for free, since I'm like family.
INDIANA: And how about this idol guy?
ELIZABETH: He said he might be able to do it.
VANESSA: Not definitely?
ELIZABETH: No. But he is supposed to let me know by the first of May.
GABRIELLA: Well, even if he can't do it, we still have two famous people.
TROY: Shouldn't we have three on the judge's panel, though?
HANNAH: Three is much better than two.
PATRICK: Especially when it comes to meals.
(Bell rings. Students take their seats.)
MRS. GORDON: I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about the poetry recital. (Vanessa raises her hand.) Yes, Vanessa?
VANESSA: Mrs. Gordon, we have an idea.
BOBBY: A really good idea.
PATRICK: A really, really good idea!
MRS. GORDON: Well, what is it?
VANESSA: We'd like for the poetry recital to be judged.
MRS. GORDON: Judged? By whom?
LONDON: Sarah Palin and—
SHAUN: Tony Romo and—
ELIZABETH: Simon Cowell, if he can make it.
MRS. GORDON: You're kidding, right?
ALL: Oh, no!
GABRIELLA: Sarah Palin and Tony Romo can judge for sure the Saturday night before Mother's Day.
TROY: But Simon Cowell won't know for sure until May 1st.
MRS. GORDON: It sounds like you want to follow the format from American Idol.
HANNAH: Oh, yes! We'd like to recite our poetry dramatically, or in costume, or whatever.
NAPOLEON: (Striking a pose) "I like my tots. Lots and lots." Is that dramatic enough?
INDIANA: Dramatic? No. Dumb? Yes.
HANNAH: Ya think?
MRS. GORDON: With such notable celebrities as judges, do you want to open this to the public?
(The students look at one another with their mouths open.)
GIRLS: Yes! }
BOYS: No! }
TROY: We should keep this at the school, Mrs. Gordon. If word got out, it could turn into a circus.
VANESSA: But couldn't this give our school great publicity?
BOBBY: I'm not reciting poetry in front of the whole city!
HANNAH: But what if Simon really likes you?
LONDON: Yay, me!
MRS. GORDON: I'll just step in and make a decision to keep this within our school.
GIRLS: Awwww. }
MRS. GORDON: And since you will be judged, you only have to recite your original poem.
GABRIELLA: What should we call our recital?
ELIZABETH: "Poetry Recital" does sound rather lame.
VANESSA: Can't we call it "American Idol"?
SHAUN: No, silly. It won't be exactly like it.
PATRICK: How about "Ogden Nash Idol?"
BOBBY: Naw, that's dumb.
TROY: What about "idyll" spelled I-D-Y-L-L?
LONDON: What does that mean?
INDIANA: If that means what I think it means, it would be perfect.
GABRIELLA: Let's check the dictionary. (Opens book) "Idyll. A short poem depicting a peaceful, idealized country scene. A long poem that tells a story about heroic deeds or extraordinary events set in the distant past. For example, Idylls of the King, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, is about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table." (Looks at Troy) How did you know it had something to do with poetry?
TROY: (Shrugs) Just a lucky guess, I guess.
HANNAH: That sounds like the perfect name for our recital! American Idyll!
Scene 3: The Saturday before Mother's Day. An empty stage with three desks lined in a row to one side and a sign that reads "American Idyll." VANESSA is pacing nervously. HANNAH stands nearby.
VANESSA: What if the judges don't show up? What if they get lost?
HANNAH: Don't worry, Vanessa. It'll all work out!
LONDON: They're coming! They're all coming!
(Enter SARAH PALIN, TONY ROMO, and SIMON COWELL, followed by all the others.)
VANESSA: (Hugging SARAH) I'm Vanessa. Thank you so much for coming, Mrs. Palin!
SARAH: You betcha! And please, call me Sarah.
VANESSA: Thanks, Sarah!
HANNAH: (To Tony Romo) Thank you for coming, Mr. Romo.
TONY: (Shakes Hannah's hand) My pleasure. I'm a football guy 24/7 but I'll give poetry my best shot.
ELIZABETH: Everyone, this is Simon Cowell.
ALL: Hi, Simon!
SIMON: Thank you for inviting me. I am looking forward to this. I really am.
MRS. GORDON: Well, if you will take your seats, the parents are coming in now and we'll get started. (Waits while everyone is seated.) Good evening, and welcome to American Idyll. I'd like to welcome and introduce our three distinguished judges. First is Sarah Palin. (SARAH stands and waves while everyone claps.) Next is Tony Romo. (TONY stands and nods while everyone claps.) And last, but certainly not least is Simon Cowell. (SIMON stands and smiles while everyone claps.) The students will be reciting their own original poetry. Our first contestant is London Tipton.
(As each student recites, he or she moves to center front. After Simon's "pronouncement" he or she moves back with appropriate facial response.)
LONDON: Ice cream, bananas and caramel topping,
Strawberry, chocolate—oh, I am not stopping!
Candy bits, sprinkles and three kinds of nuts,
Whipped cream and cherries—I'll have happy guts!
SARAH: Nice imagery.
TONY: Your rhymes are technically correct.
SIMON: The last word—it was like watching a horror movie. Next, please.
MRS. GORDON: Next we have Bobby Boucher.
BOBBY: The caiman is a wee black 'gator
With a cuter face than most.
See him now, or see him later
But don't get close or you are toast.
SARAH: That was just a bit—weird.
TONY: I'd have to give you a technical foul on that one.
SIMON: You're like a little hamster trying to be a tiger. Or a 'gator' in this case. Next!
MRS. GORDON: Next is Elizabeth Swann.
ELIZABETH: The Black Avenger is my name,
I plunder ships of the Spanish Main.
My two mates are with me here,
and our names inspire fear:
Mad Dog Jack and One-Eyed Joe.
Ladies faint where’er we go.
We’ll keep sailing together forever—
At least, that is, ‘til suppertime.
SARAH: I think I understand what you were trying to do with this mask poem, but it falls flat.
TONY: Like a football with a hole in it.
SIMON: It was actually a bit cheap. I actually think you're better than that as an artist. Next, please.
MRS. GORDON: Next is Shaun White.
SHAUN: If a pig's evading capture
While he's slogging through the muck,
Would you call his movements pig-zag?
Or just call it dumb pig luck?
SARAH: Great action words! I like the visual you've got here.
TONY: Yeah, it reminds me of some rainy day football games.
SIMON: You're like an enthusiastic dog, aren’t you? Next!
MRS. GORDON: Next we have Vanessa Doofenschmirtz.
SIMON: Seriously? (To Vanessa) Your name should get you at least partial credit.
VANESSA: Betty likes spaghetti,
Norman likes it, too.
But don't give any to Baby Benny
Or he'll throw it back at you.
SARAH: Cute rhymes, cute poem.
TONY: A little too cute, in my playbook.
SIMON: It was rather like eating ice for lunch. It leaves you with nothing to remember afterwards. Next!
MRS. GORDON: Next is Indiana Jones.
INDIANA: I am a warrior, bold and brave.
I fight the ogres who live in the cave.
I guard the king when he travels the land
And serve him true with head, heart and hand.
I'm good at chess, but I like archeology better.
SARAH: If you just cut that last line, it was a lyrical mask poem.
TONY: I really wanted you to win badly. But that one fumbled.
SIMON: Until the last line, you were brilliant. But then it actually sounded stupid. Next.
MRS. GORDON: Next is Troy Bolton.
TROY: The bumpy, lumpy wart hog
Will never be a beauty.
But if you tease her hoglets,
Those tusks will shake your booty!
SARAH: Just a tad bit forced. I like the bumpy, lumpy part, though.
TONY: I'm not sure that booty really rhymes with beauty. Another ref might have a different opinion.
SIMON: There's something about this poem….but I'm not sure what it is. Next!
MRS. GORDON: Next we have Gabriella Montez.
GABRIELLA: My dog has got a bone
But likes to use my phone.
Don't be shocked
But he's unlocked
The keypad on his own.
SARAH: That was great! Unexpectedly delightful!
TONY: You just may have scored a field goal with that one.
SIMON: I'm going to make this brief. Brilliant. Next.
MRS. GORDON: Next is Patrick Starfish.
PATRICK: Rainbow fish, rainbow sky,
Rainbow birds, rainbow pie.
I really wish I could catch a fish.
Let's go eat cake beside the lake.
SARAH: Nice try, but I think you need to keep working on that one.
TONY: Fumble. Reeeeeeally bad fumble.
SIMON: I really wish you had forgotten the words, because it was such a pointless performance. Next!
MRS. GORDON: Next we have Napoleon Dynamite.
NAPOLEON: The liger, the liger
Is only half tiger
The other half is lion
And I'm not lyin'.
SARAH: Uh, what can I say?
TONY: You're gonna have ups and downs in this game.
SIMON: That poem actually gave me a headache. Next, please.
MRS. GORDON: Our last poet is Hannah Montana.
SIMON: Even her name is a poem.
HANNAH: (Spoken with a strong beat so that the audience starts clapping in time.)
Miss Mandy Mouse cleans her wee little house
on this bloomin' fine spring day.
She sweeps each room with her pine needle broom
and her tail chases dust away.
When the tables and chairs and the beds and the stairs
are as tidy as they can be,
Miss Mandy will sit and drink a little bit
of her dandelion tea.
(Everyone applauds, even the judges.)
SARAH: What a perfect little poem! You are quite the performer!
TONY: I like your passion for this poem.
SIMON: You're the best tonight by a clear mile. (Everyone cheers.)
MRS. GORDON: Well, that ends our American Idyll. We want to thank everyone for coming, especially our distinguished judges. (Everyone claps.) And to each of my students I'd like to say that you are a poet, and I'll bet you didn't know it, even though your feet show it, because they're Longfellows.
ALL: (Groaning) Aw, Mrs. Gordon!