My first job teaching was at a high school in Texas where you were qualified to teach drama if you’d been in a play. Since I’d been in four plays in high school and college, I was considered quite a find for directing the one act play for competition.
One year we advanced all the way to Regionals with the play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-the-Moon Marigolds. It was a heart-wrenching drama about a single, abusive mother with two teenaged daughters who lived with an elderly woman who never said a word. Greatest part in the world if you have trouble memorizing lines.
The script called for the youngest daughter in the play to have a pet rabbit, so one of the girls in the cast let us borrow her live rabbit for the show. Everything was fine until we got to Regionals. That was when we realized the rabbit was a girl because it became a mother a few days before competition.
Well, of course the baby bunnies couldn’t be separated from their mother that soon after being born, so we took all 15 of them in a cardboard box to Odessa. And of course we couldn’t leave a box of rabbits locked up in the van overnight. So we waited until the coast was clear and smuggled them upstairs to the girls’ hotel room.
On the day of the competition, one of the cast members woke up with over a hundred degrees of fever, so I was less concerned about the rabbits. Until I learned that the school doing You Can’t Take It With You thought it would be cool to use a live snake as one of their props. Now I also worried that we would be providing its dinner.
When it was our time to perform, the crew set the rabbit’s box in its usual place on stage. Funny how you don’t think of things at the time that seem so obvious later. Like putting something on top of that box.
And then it happened.
I didn’t see it at first because I was glued to Jennifer’s monologue. It was beautiful. One of the most poignant scenes in the whole play – the scene you live for as an actor. You know, like Clark Gable’s monologue at the end of Gone With the Wind or Henry Fonda’s monologue in The Grapes of Wrath. Jennifer never broke character, so it took me awhile to realize what was happening. I heard the sniggers first. And then I saw them.
One by one the baby rabbits started hopping out of the box.
By the end of Jennifer’s big scene they were decorating the entire stage. Leaving presents everywhere they went. Then finally the mother rabbit got out of the box and just sat there, silly rabbit.
We didn’t advance to State, but we found all the bunnies. The snake went home hungry. And I couldn’t have been more proud of my girls.