With Halloween over, it’s time to look at the next holiday on deck…Thanksgiving. Now, when you think of holiday shows, Thanksgiving themed ones don’t usually come to mind. I know there are mentions of Thanksgiving in some Broadway shows such as the Thanksgiving revue performed within South Pacific. But there are some others as well. Some are full productions. Some are short plays or skits meant to be performed by elementary schools. We’ll take a look at a few here.
The 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Play by Stephen Karam, The Humans revolves around the Blake family gathering at Thanksgiving at the run-down Manhattan apartment in Chinatown of Brigid Blake and her boyfriend Richard. Brigid’s parents, Erik Blake and Deirdre Blake, arrive from their home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to have dinner with Brigid, Richard and Aimee, their other adult daughter. Brigid is a musician and Aimee is a lawyer, living in Philadelphia. Aimee has recently broken up with her girlfriend and has developed an intestinal ailment. Also present is Erik’s mother Fiona “Momo”, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. The parents are unhappy that their daughters have left home and have abandoned their religion. The family members must deal with “aging, illness, and a changing economy”. (A CurtainUp Review, March 2, 2016)
John takes place in a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania bed and breakfast the week after Thanksgiving. It follows a cheerful innkeeper, a young couple struggling to stay together and the thousands of inanimate objects watching. Annie Baker’s new play is all dolled up for a ghost story. A young couple arrives at a bed & breakfast in Gettysburg, Penn., run by an eccentric old dear with a creepy doll collection. Her spooky house could be haunted by Civil War dead and the dolls might be possessed by spirits — or not. In any event, it’s a great setting for the scary story that the Pulitzer-winning writer promises to tell and we long to hear. But as one would-be storyteller sheepishly admits, “I can only do build-up to scary, not scary itself.” Sadly, that’s the problem here. (Variety Magazine, Aug 2015)
This is a short 15 minute play written by Robert Reed typically performed by children in second and third grade. The play begins with the journey of the Pilgrims to the New World in their cramped vessel: The Mayflower. When the Pilgrims arrive in America they establish the Plymouth Colony. By the spring, the survivors are shown by friendly local Wamponoag Indians how best to plant crops. When the harvest is gathered, the grateful Pilgrims decide to give thanks for their bounty and invite King Massasoit, who arrives with vension as a gift and 90 of his tribe. The feast lasts for 3 days and the celebrations include: displays of musketry and archery, dancing and games. However, who has to do all the cooking? Moreover, who’s going to do the washing-up?
Terri and the Turkey
Written by Wade Bradford, the play is set on Thanksgiving Day. The play presents Thanksgiving from Tom´s standpoint. Tom is the family´s turkey. Nobody really wants to kill him when it comes to it. The responsibility to chop the turkey´s head off passes from Grandpa to Dad, from Dad to Son and from Son to Daughter. When, finally, the son´s sister decides to do it. Tom, stressed because of his impending death, faints and need medical service. In the end, they agree on sparing his life and they go for pork chops, which scares the family´s pig….
The Turkeys Go on Strike
Bad Wolf Press with Ron Fink and John Heath bring you this short play meant to be performed by 2nd to 6th graders as a compliment to any school’s Thanksgiving celebrations. Thanksgiving is in danger of being cancelled because of some extremely dissatisfied poultry. While negotiations go on around the clock—an event covered by TV reporters and influenced by ambitious members of the Squash family—students learn about the historical origins and the real meaning of the holiday.
Here’s a bonus for entertainment purposes only since this is a movie from 2013 and not a stage production. But, it has to do with Thanksgiving, so I thought it tied in nicely to the theme here. Free Birds is an animated film where a lucky turkey named Reggie gets pardoned by the President to live a carefree lifestyle, until fellow fowl Jake recruits him for a history-changing mission. Jake and Reggie travel back in time to the year 1621, just before the first Thanksgiving. The plan: Prevent all turkeys from ever becoming holiday dinners. Unfortunately, the two birds encounter colonist Myles Standish, out to capture feathered friends for all the hungry Pilgrims. Maybe it could be turned into a stage production. Maybe.
There are many more short plays and skits for kids and a number of more religious themed skits about life for adults. This was just a sample of a few current Broadway productions and popular children plays/skits.