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The Playwrights Forum > The Art & Craft of Writing > Critique my Play > RUNT TO REVOLUTIONARY, REVOLUTIONARY TO RUNT

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RUNT TO REVOLUTIONARY, REVOLUTIONARY TO RUNT  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Sat Aug 15th, 2015 04:57 am
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jmb975
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RUNT TO REVOLUTIONARY, REVOLUTIONARY TO RUNT

Characters

*Dog, a rugged, adventurer-type dog with an eccentric personality who wants nothing more than to save the pets of the world.
*Cat, an old irritable cat who can’t understand nor put up with Dog.
*Old Dog, a wise and passionate mentor-type dog who Dog remembers protecting him in his shelter days.
*Runt, a younger version of Dog.
*Puppy Ensemble, a group of four puppies who lived at the shelter and bullied Dog.
*Owner, an angry and depressed human who owns Dog and Cat.
*Each character may be either gender.
Setting: The living room of Owner, represented by a center-stage chimney and fireplace. There is a door on the fireplace—open. Behind this chimney is a cell door which can swing out in order to portray a shelter during Dog’s flashback.

(Lights are a dim maroon, pulsing in the pattern of a heartbeat. The sound of a HEART BEATING matches the lights—loud, slow, steady. DOG stands facing the fireplace, head held high, standing heroically. He’s tying a belt around his waist. He sticks his head in the chimney and takes a peak upward, and then walks out from under it. Now facing downstage, Dog walks to the down-most point. He’s holding a grappling hook in his hand, twirling it casually by his side as he steps. The heartbeat begins to quiet and the lights turn to a bright red, focused down stage, leaving the chimney in the dark.)

DOG

(Comically over-dramatic.)
I am one of many. Kept where I do not belong, sent away from where I do… sent away to here. My kind is separated from those to whom we are the same… just to live and die under our so called masters. Destined to crawl about and beg for attention—beg for food… water… punished for living the way I was born to live. Punished both inside and outside of this godforsaken house of human. Where ever I go, whenever I am, however I do I am ridiculed… but… alas… no longer.

(Dog turns around, facing upstage. Walks toward chimney and twirls grappling hook by his side.)

(Lights brighten. No longer red. Heartbeat stops. CAT is seen sitting, licking self, upstage left. Cat watches intently, head cocked, eyebrow raised.)

DOG

You see, Cat… Today’s the day. The day I liberate everyone. Dogs, cats, lizards, rabbits—no pet will ever need suffer the embrace of a human. Never again. Hear me, Cat. Today… today is the day…

 

CAT

(Sarcastic.)
Is that so?

DOG

Bite me.

(Dog throws grappling hook up the chimney, through the fireplace, and it crashes back down to the ground. Cat laughs. OWNER crosses stage left to stage right. Dog throws grappling hook in chimney to hide it, putting his back to the fireplace. Dog acts ‘too casual’. He keeps an eye on Owner, but Owner doesn’t give either pet a single glance. Cat laughs once again when Owner is gone.)

CAT

(Still laughing.)
Alright, dog… listen to me… and listen well, as I’m only going to say this once…
(Beat)
Stay here. Stop trying to run out on our owner. You’re appreciated here… appreciated as a pet, but appreciated, nonetheless.

DOG

But that doesn’t mean I should stay here, cat… appreciation doesn’t help anyone.

CAT

What other reason is there to live if one is not appreciated by one’s peers?

DOG

Imagine you’re… I don’t know… say you lived in Russia—1930s. Say they put you to work in a labor camp… a labor camp at a mine. Yes, a mine. You would spend your whole day mining for coal, and the directors of the labor camp would appreciate you greatly, but you still live in exhaustion and terror. What do you do? You get outta there.

CAT

If you think about it, Dog, there would be no point in trying to escape this mine. It would only be counterproductive. One would be caught, and then put under greater security. One would be happier by being obedient to those controlling the prisoners. Obedience is the key to happiness. Trust me.
 

DOG

(Disgusted.)
The key to happiness? Obedience? Let me tell you a little something about obedience…

(Jail cell appears on center stage right. OLD DOG comes out from behind the chimney and sits down behind the cell. PUPPY ENSEMBLE and RUNT run in from stage right and sit in front of the cell.)

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

(Yelling.)
He’s awake!
He’s awake!

OLD DOG

(Smiling. Speaking slowly).
Look at all you, growing up… you get bigger and bigger each day… all of you. Even you—
(Old Dog, looks at Runt.)
—The runt.

DOG

(Whisper in the dark.)
That’s me!

CAT

(Whisper in the dark.)
Shut up!

OLD DOG

(Beat.)
You know, back in my day, the runt didn’t even have a chance… but… look at you… I’m so proud…

(Puppy Ensemble looks at Runt, jealous, and then looks back at Old Dog.)

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

Hey! Tell us a story!
Yeah! A story!
Tell us about the outside!
Yeah! Yeah! Tell us!

OLD DOG

Alright… Alright… the outside… …the outside… what have I already told you about the outside?

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

That it’s beautiful…
That it’s terrible!
That it’s dark…
That it’s bright, too!

RUNT

I… I haven’t heard about it…

(Puppy Ensemble swings their heads toward Runt.)

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

Oh… yeah… you’re the runt that just got out of medical care…
How embarrassing.
Who even invited you?
Wow! Awkward!
Good job making things awkward, runt…

OLD DOG

Alright… alright… that’s more than enough… more than enough… I’m going to say something… something I haven’t had the heart to tell anyone for awhile...

(Puppy Ensemble becomes silent.)

OLD DOG

(Suddenly angry.)
When you get outta this place, you’ll all be in your own little versions of Hell. It’s true. You’ll all live under the house of a human, and you will learn to hate this human.

(Puppy Ensemble murmurs.)

OLD DOG

But, you will be obedient to your humans, as you will have not another choice. You will die being obedient to your humans, and you will hate it.

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

Hate it?
I’ll hate it?
Why will I hate it?

OLD DOG

Why will you hate it? Because humans haven’t earned your obedience.

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

What do you mean?
Yeah… what do you mean?

OLD DOG

It’s quite simple. You obey me because I earned your respect… For example, when I tell you how important that “runt” is, how vital he is to pets everywhere, you will listen, and you will know I am being truthful.

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

Because you earned our respect?

OLD DOG

Precisely. When I tell you to nurture this runt—protect him from dangers and send as much kindness your little hearts can muster his way—you will do so. Now… humans… they have not earned your respect, therefore they have not earned your obedience. Humans are not meant to be obeyed, as they have never earned your respect.

PUPPY ENSEMBLE

That’s terrible!
Is there a way to stop it?
Yeah! How can I get my human to earn my respect?
How?

OLD DOG

Obey me when I ask you to help me raise this runt… help me make him a real dog, and he will change all of that… I see something in his eye… there’s a spark… a spark bright enough to start a revolution. Let this dog grow, and you won’t have to put up with humans and their… their… their insolence. But! This runt! This runt will change everything. Put him above yourself, and you will be part of the revolution... put him above yourself and, one day, you’ll be able to tell stories to your own puppies… stories of how you’re the reason they get to live without humans constantly looking down upon them… looking down upon them as if they are nothing…
(Beat. Solemn)
Put him above yourself. We all have to make sacrifices.

(Puppy Ensemble and Runt exits stage right, solemn. Old Dog goes back behind the chimney and the cell folds back in.)

CAT

(Annoyed.)
Well?

DOG

Well what?

CAT

Did the older dog ever tell you what was on the outside?

DOG

(Back to continuously throwing the grappling hook up the chimney and watching it crash in the fireplace. Does so as he speaks.)
You mean… the real outside? Not under the constant watch of a human? He never gave me a clear answer. But he did live on the outside—two or three years. I kept asking him what it’s like… he never gave me an answer…

CAT

What do you think is on the outside?

DOG

(Energetic once more.)
I’m gonna find out, I can tell you that. And I can guarantee you—it’s better than here… or else our owner wouldn’t be hiding it from us. I promise you. I’m done trying to break off of that leash… …nearly choked myself to death too many times. If I’m gonna get out of here, it’s gonna be up. Nothing can stop me now.

(Owner WHISTLES to call Dog. Heartbeat starts up again. Faster. Loud.)

CAT

(Horrified. Yelling.)
Go! Go to him! Go to him now!

DOG

No. Not again… I’m not doing this again.

(Dog becomes rapid with the attempts in grappling the inside of the top of the chimney.)

OWNER

(Clapping his hands.)
Come on boy!
(Whistles again. Now mad.)
I said come!

(Heartbeat quickens. Louder.)

DOG

No… no, no, no!

OWNER

(Furious.)
I know you’re not deaf, boy! I said come!

DOG

No, no, no! I will not! I refuse!

CAT

Go! Go to him!

DOG

No, Cat, I’m not doing this for me. Get that through your feline brain. I’m not doing any of this for me… I… I…

OWNER

You damn dog…
(Owner enters stage right, walking furiously.)

DOG

I have to make sacrifices…

(Light go black. Thuds and yelps. Heartbeat stops.)

(Beat.)

(Lights on. Dog sitting next to the chimney with leash tied to fireplace door. Pays no attention to Cat. Heartbeat slow and quiet.)

CAT

(Sarcastic.)
Anything still hurt?
(Beat. Cruel.)
I’m just curious… you know… I’ve never been beat before…
(Beat. Sarcastic.)
I’m sorry… I hope I’m not invading your privacy…
(Beat. Cruelly. Intention to hurt.)
How’d you sleep last night? You know… on that cold, hard, ground…
(Beat. Sarcastic.)
Oh… jeez… I should have never asked. That’s so rude of me! Especially because each and every night I have the privilege of sleeping on our owner’s bed…
(Beat. Sarcastic.)
Wait… I didn’t mean to remind you how well our owner treats me compared to you…
(Beat. Sarcastic.)
Oh! Dear me! Everything just keeps coming out wrong! I hope you understand…

DOG

I understand…

CAT

(Eyes brighten. Has an idea. Becomes overly kind.)
You’re… you’re a good dog, right?

(Dog glares at Cat and then back to the ground.)

CAT

I mean… you have good morals, I’ve observed.

(Dog nods his head.)

CAT

Our owner… when he picked you up from the shelter… he was… he was in a bad place…

(Dog looks at Cat.)

CAT

He picked you up as a ‘pick-me-up’ for himself… you helped him out a lot when you were a puppy.

(Dog nods.)

CAT

Then… you started to try to run away… and that’s just… it’s just terribly rude…

DOG

(Defeated. Apathetic.)
But… but… I need to save everyone… all of the pets… I need to get out of here…

CAT

But… our owner doesn’t want that. When you try to run away, our owner gets sad… do you want to make him sad?

DOG

No… I do not… I…

CAT

Then… how about we give up that fantasy of yours. How about we stay here… stop trying to escape…
(Beat.)
Pets aren’t prisoners, Dog… we’re not prisoners. We want to be here. How about we show our owner that. Show him some respect. Make him happy. If you give up this ridiculous dream, we’ll both be happier. I would be less annoyed… you would have less to worry about… doesn’t it just make sense to just stop trying to escape?

DOG

I guess… I mean, if it’ll stop making our owner sad…
(Heartbeat stops. Dog lies down)

(Cat smiles. Lights dim. End.)

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 Posted: Sat Aug 15th, 2015 05:56 pm
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in media res
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CAT
He picked you up as a ‘pick-me-up’ for himself… you helped him out a lot when you were a puppy.

Sadly, this is when a lot of people get an animal.

Anyway, on to the play: I found this intruiging. I got into it right away. Read it straight through. I mean a play about two of the most popular iconic pets in the world!

I did like how the cat is more wise and cunning. Iconic.

And the dog is stuck trying to do the same thing over and over again and nothing ever comes of it while pursuing his goal.

Is there a change or reversal in their characters? Doesn't have to be, just a question.

The Dialogue is a little formal, like debate...And they seem to speak in the same rhythm. I would suggest adding a little more personality to both characters.

Is there a word missing from this description? Can this be made clearer? Should "bullied" be present tense? "bully" or "who bully" or is it "who bullied"?

"Puppy Ensemble, a group of four puppies who lived at the shelter and bullied Dog."

I've never seen the term "Puppy Ensemble." Fantastic!

Nice, unique work, jmb.

Welcome to The Forum.

Is this a completed piece or are you working on it?

I can't believe I read this before I read the NY Times today!

Best,

IMR

P.S. I think the best two character names ever in all of cinema are from "Lady and the Tramp."

"Jim Darling" and "Yes Dear"

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