Copyright © 2011 Vern Thiessen


A ten-minute version of this play was commissioned and first produced by the InspiraTO Festival, Dominik Loncar, Artistic Director. It was developed in association with Pat The Dog Playwright Centre, Lisa O’Connell, Artistic Director. Other versions of this piece were developed with funding from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Many thanks to Susie Moloney, Patrick Lane, Rory Runnels, Hamilton Clancy, and of course, my understanding family.


Bungalow was first presented at the Rory Runnels Studio, Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 2010. It was produced by Death and Taxes Theatre in association with The Manitoba Association of Playwrights. Direction, videography, sound, and visual design by Warren Sulatycky. The SON was played by Vern Thiessen.


SON In his 40’s.


Outside the theatre – a sign:

“ComFree - OPEN HOUSE.”


As people enter:

The Son serves cookies and coffee/juice.

Projected slides and/or film from time to time.

SON Thank you so for coming to the Open House.

A few things before we begin.

He hands out the sheets.

The house was built in 1961.

A prime example of a North Kildonan bungalow.

Single level.

1177 square feet.

Finished basement with three bedrooms up, a living room, kitchen and dining room.

Double car garage built in 1972.


The current owners moved in 1968.

Purchase price was $19,000. 10% interest. Times have changed.

The front yard has a lovely spruce and linden tree.

The backyard has a crab apple tree planted in 1969.

There’s a lovely garden, tended carefully right up until…


My parents are selling their house.

Actually, my dad is….

Actually, I’m…

The house is for sale.

And you’re here to see it.

So let’s take a look, shall we?



Here we are in the kitchen.

Oh. I forgot.

Location. Location, location, location.

Very safe North Kildonan

Very safe Edison Ave.

Believe me, nothing ever happens here.

You got a Sobey’s and a Super Store just a short drive away.

You’ve got a Petro Can right on the corner of Rothesay and Edison.

And you’ve got the Mennonite Bake Oven just up the street.

Who needs Tuxedo with a Mennonite Bake Oven!

Of course, no cookie you buy is as good as your mom’s.

No Croekel Platz or Paska is going to beat your mom’s.

No one, but no-one is going to make Zweebak like your mom.

And believe me, my mom baked a lot of Zweebak in this kitchen.

As you can see, she got new cabinets some time ago, new stove, fridge, microwave.

No dishwasher, though.

Refused to get one.

She liked washing dishes.

If you can imagine.


She’s washing dishes

Staring out the window

Her garden a dream

The crab tree a memory

Of growing up in Russia

Where apricots and apples

Pears and peaches

Raspberries and Rhubarb and

Watermelon wait to be canned

For the winter.

She’s watching her 5 year old son

Trying to walk the fence

With the other boys

But when he stumbles

Knocks out a

Loose tooth


Not because it hurts

But because it’s broken

Like a toy he can’t play with anymore

She takes the tooth in one hand

And his hand in the other

And teaches him

To walk the fence

Balancing his scrawny weight

On two feet of wood

Between her garden and the neighbors’ bushes

High in the air.

I can’t do it.

Du hast es. Du hast es Junge.

I’m gonna fall.

You are my good boy

My very good boy…


So. No dishwasher.


You’ve got Springfield Heights Elementary

Chief Peguis Junior High and

River East Collegiate

All within a 15 minute walk.

Important in the winter.

Your kids can come home for lunch.

In fact, there’s a crosswalk just up Edison.

You can cut from Edison Ave right to Springfield Heights.

I took that walk every day.


Where do you think you’re going, kid?

Home for lunch, Mark Dumanski.

No you’re not.

Whadya mean?

Not till you lick the fence.

Uh uh!

Lick it. Or you aint getting thru.

But it’s my only way home.

Too bad.

But it’s winter, if I lick the fence, my tongue’ll stick.

Too bad.

My dad’ll be mad.

Your dad’s nothing.

Is too! He’s a welder.

Got that funny accent.

Does not!

Know what my dad is? He’s an ENGINEER. Now lick the fence.


Lick it! Now!

He sticks out his tongue. It sticks to the fence.

Ah. AH! (his tongue stuck:) I hate you Mark Dumanski!


So it’s a very safe neighborhood for your children.

He picks up a lunch pail and thermos.

It’s also a very working class immigrant neighborhood

Always has been.

A lot of Mennonites moved here in the 60’s like my parents - a step up from Elmwood.

Real hard working, blue collar people, ya know.

And after a long day at work, it was a nice house to come home to.


He comes home from work


His mouth

Snatching the last bits of late afternoon sun.

And after dinner

Sits here, at the kitchen table

His hands: Black.

From the steel.

The oil.

The work.

Junge? Kom mal her.

Yeah Dad?

You see dese hands?

You nevers want hands like zis, when you grow up.




Zer ist eine sliver.

From the steel.

Uh huh.

Hier ist eine needle, okay?


You take the needle.

You get out the sliver.

I have big hands. Bad eyes.

You have small hands. Good eyes.

Won’t I hurt you?

You go slow.






Dat’s okay.



I got it!

Sehr gut, Junge, very good.

You are a good boy.

My very good boy.




This is the Dining Room.

Enough space for a table and chairs

A cabinet for silverware and such.

Small chandelier my father installed

On a dimmer.

Now that was fancy for those days.

It’s a great for entertaining family and guests.


And it’s connected to The Living Room.

Place for a couch, coffee table,

And… Wow.

Check this out.

The stereo from the 1950’s.

Look at this. This is amazing.

He puts on an album: perhaps 22 Explosive Hits. He sings along. He holds up the album.

K-Tel! Great Winnipeg company!

He plays a few more excerpts.

And this. I found this yesterday. It’s a 45.

Of Little Red Riding Hood.

In German.

He plays a version of Little Red Riding Hood in German that is completely frightening. He picks up a kids’ book and shows it.

My parents had all these German kids’ books like this one:


It’s got all these stories about….

Children getting their thumbs cut off if they suck them.

Or drowned if they daydream

Or here’s my favourtie:

Here’s a girl who gets burned to death because she’s been playing with matches.

Those Germans, eh? Always trying to SCARE YOU!


The record continues to its scariest moment.


Ja, Mutti?

Komm mal her.

She sits on the couch

Before bed

And reads

To her son

Little Red Riding Hood.

He imitates the terrifying part of the record.

And when he finally gets to sleep

Dreams of wolves

Flying through his window

Wolves bursting through his closet

Wolves climbing from under his mattress

All of them

Speaking German



Mutti! Dad?!

But you don’t hear your son, no

Because you are busy in the dining room table

Entertaining your guests

Playing games

The smell of Jiffy-Pop and coffee

The clink of Russian vodka

Poured into shot glasses collected

From summer vacations:

Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, Kenora.

You are playing cards and crokanole and that

Most Mennonite passion of all:


Slamming the black and white slates down

Like dares

Shouting low-german saws that sound like

The Wolf.



Ach du lieba Zeit!



Doppel Zas!




Zohn Mist!

Forteg ist de Sach!

So your son gets out of bed

In his pajamas

Takes out a crayon

Writes in seven year old scrawl

On a scrap piece of paper

And takes it to you.

Nah Junge, was ist jetzt?

And he hands you the paper, and you read:

I am running away from home.

If you want me, I will be in my room.

HA HA HA!! Oh Junge.

And your son cries

Not because he’s angry

But because he’s tired.

And you put him to bed

And sing him this lullaby.


(singing) Hi jee bin beitchee, Schlaff lange

Es ist ja dein Mutter ausgange

Sie ist ja ausgange

Und kommt nicht mehr Heim

Und lest Ihr klein buebe

Alien in da Heim.

Which means:

“Sleep well

Your mother has gone away

She has gone away

And she’s never coming back.”



We’ll move on to my parents’ bedroom.


We’ll save that for later.


This is the T.V. room.

Actually, its just a small bedroom

We only CALL it the TV room



It has a TV in it.

He lifts a sheet to reveal an old T.V.

Still here.

Still works.

Black and white. No cable.

A pair of rabbit ears and good weather gets you everything you need: Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman; The Razzle Dazzle Hour, The Monkies, Hockey Night in Canada and Bugs Bunnny. What more do you want?

And what you can’t see on TV, you can watch Friday nights at the North Kildonan Community Club. Cuz sorry, you’re too young to take a bus downtown at night to see a movie. So you and Rod Warkentin and Ray Walker go to the Club and you get a bowl of popcorn and you sit down with fifty other 10 year old boys and watch as many movies as you can: Godzilla v. The Smog Monster, The Abominable Doctor Phibes and all 5 of the Planet of the Apes Movies. And afterwards you and Ray and Rod run down the dark streets of North Kildonan, ringing doorbells like apes and then running away like apes, and ringing doors like apes, and running away like apes, until all of North Kildonan knows:

“We are Apes. And we will Rule the World!”


He checks his watch.

You can take the TV if you want. I’ll throw it in with the house. One less thing for the movers. Who will be here soon. We better get going.



Upstairs bathroom, nothing special really.


Wait a second.

You can see the garage from here.

Out the window.

You can see all the way into the garage.

There’s an old baby carriage out there.


That’s where…

(a secret) It’s where I hide my mags, eh?

Penthouse, Playboy, eh?

I don’t want to get caught in the house

So I hide them, see, in the baby carriage

And smuggle them in the house

Cuz it’s like illegal for me to have them

Cuz I’m only 14.

They’re hard to get

Harder than smokes.

I can’t buy them at the Mac’s see

So I get them used from

Darrin McLeod

He lives in those crummy apartments on Rothesay and Sutton where single moms live and poor families whose dads are alkies.

I think Darrin’s a fag

That’s why he sells his dad’s mags to people like me

Cuz if he wasn’t a fag

He’d keep them for himself, right?


Won’t your dad care?

You kiddin? He’s got boxes goin’ back to the 1950’s.


Thinks they’ll be worth something someday. To WHO?

Has he, has he got, like, March 1964, cuz that’s my birthday.

I can check

That’d be cool

Cost ya extra


Special order

Come on


Whatdya got now?

For Men Only

How much

Buck fifty


Three bucks at Macs and they won’t let you buy them.

Will so.

Will not. You’re 12.

I’m 14!

Well you look 12. You want it or not?

For Men Only. Okay….

See ya next week.

Wait. You got a smoke?

You’re too young

I just bought a magazine from you!

Smoked before?



Du Muarier.




Am not!

Well I don’t have Du Maurier.

Whatdya got?




Wow. Can I bum one?

You can BUY one.

How much

A quarter.

A quarter!

That’s the price.

I aint got a quarter

Give me your cat’s eye


Give me your cat’s eye and I’ll give you a smoke.


I wait till after supper

And then

I go out to the Garage

To smoke my Vantage

And look at my Men’s Only:

It’s got like girls dressed in

Soccer and Volleyball and Nurses outfits

Except their boobs are showing

And I’m taking a big puff

When I hear my Dad comes into the garage

And I gotta ditch it fast

into the snow

And hide my mag under my coat.

Help me with the tires, yeah?

But I ignore him

And I sneak my mag inside

Past my mom in the kitchen

To the bathroom.

And I lock the door

And then I, I

Flip through the pictures and

I, I…

Knock knock!

Was tust du bloss?

Nothing Mom!

Was, nah-sink, go help your father!

I’ll be out in a minute

Mach schnell

Okay, okay. I’m out!

Ah ah!


What do you have?


What do you have?


Lass mir sehen!

He does.

Vas is zis?

It’s Darrin’s!

I told your father and I tell you now:

I von’t have these in the house.




Now go help your vater.

And I head BACK into the garage

WITHOUT my mag

Which I just spent a buck fifty on

And WITHOUT my 25 cent smoke I had to throw into the snow

And it’s the middle of winter

And he’s changing the tires

Why does he always DO this?

Change the snow tires on the COLDEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR.

Gibt mir die crow bar da.

And I stand out there

And it’s freezing

And it smells like


From the car

And from his job

And I say

I’m going inside!



And he reaches into his pocket

And he hands me a

A hockey card

Of Winnipeg Jets goalie

Joe Daley

I love Joe Daley.

He grew up here, you know dat?

Here in North Kildonan.

And it’s signed

To me.

Joe Daley has signed it

To me.

I know a guy. At vork. He knows Joe. He helped me get it.

But I’m mad, right.

I’m mad that he makes me come out here

To the garage

In the middle of January

I’m mad because he makes me help change the snow tires

Even though I don’t DO anything

I’m mad because everybody on the North Kidonan Cobras

Makes fun of me

Cuz I have old skates

That bend at my ankles

And I beg him over and over

To buy me a pair of CCM Tacs

Instead of these cheap PIECE OF SHIT SECOND HAND BOWER’S, and now he hands me a card of Joe Daley with my name on it like everything’s okay but its not cuz I’ll never be a good hockey player with those skates, I’ll never be like Joe Daley, even if he is from North Kildonan and now I don’t have my secret magazines anymore or my smokes and I’m so MAD, I’m so FRIGGIN MAD that I, I…

He rips the card in two.

And I go into the house

And I’m crying

Not because I’m a suck

Not because I’m tired

But because I don’t want to live in THIS HOUSE.

I don’t want to live in a house where I gotta cut the lawn every Saturday afternoon with an electric lawn mower even though I BEG HIM to buy a gas one.

I don’t want to live in a house where I lose at chess EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I don’t want to live in a house where I never get the Christmas present I want. I don’t want a new outfit for church, I want an electric guitar! I want an electric guitar not a new outfit.

I don’t want to live in a house where I, where my mom puts out stupid ceramic doves I made in Grade Six.

I don’t want to live in a house where my parents put these stupid puzzles on the wall, and which my father refuses to let me take them down because he believes, yes, he believes they add resale value to the Bungalow! I HATE THIS HOUSE!!!


My father, he…

He can’t

He’d not.

He needs a lot of care.



Yeah Dad?

Komm mal her.

What are you doing?


When will I shave

When you’re older.

How will I know what to do?

I show you.

Mix the cream in the cup.

Like so.

Spread it on.

Like so.

Dip the blade in hot water and slide it. Like so.


Won’t I cut you?

You go slow. Gently.

The son reaches for the razor.

Dips it in the water

Draws down the blade

And sees


that he hasn’t cut his father at all.

Good, Junge.


When you are older:

You will be a good man.


He checks his watch.

We’re almost finished. The movers….


This is my bedroom.

My mom never really changed the room after I left.

That’s why there’s still posters:

The Phantom

Bobby Hull. Avco Cup champs!

Mini Mack Heron of your Grey Cup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Lynda Carter

Jessica Harper

Farrah (God rest her soul)


He finds his old glasses. Puts them on.


So there’s this girl, eh.

I’m like 15 and she’s 14

And I meet her in on the C.B.

I gotta C.B.

My dad and I hooked up the antenna on the roof

Okay my dad did I just watched but still

And I’m on channel 19 and my handle is

Get this

Brain Surgeon.

Isn’t that great?

Rod Warkentin came up with it.

So I’m like

Breaker 1-9, breaker 1-9 this is the Brain Surgeon over

And I got lots friends on the C.B.

The Lonesome Cowboy – That’s Allan Carrier

And The Black Knight – that’s Allan Doresom

But there’s not a lot of girls on

Least not who are 15

But then

I hear her voice

Howdy Brain Surgeon

And her voice is

It’s chocolate pudding, eh?

It’s like the Strawberry Jam my mom puts up in the winter

I’m Phoenix

And I’m like WHOA

Cuz that is the name of Jessica Harper’s character in


The greatest movie OF ALL TIME!

Turns out she’s from Lockport

Which kinda sucks cuz it’s so far

Too far to take the bus

But it’s kinda neat too

Cuz my dad takes me fishing there

For catfish and pickerel

And then we go for a dog at the Half Moon later

And so I feel

I feel

I KNOW her, ya know

And we agree to meet.

And at the end she says


Which means

Hugs and Kisses.

And so the big day comes

And her dad drops her off at the A & W

On Henderson and Springfield.

It’s Saturday afternoon

And we have an hour.

So we walk to Bergen’s Cut Off

And stand beneath the Black Bridge

The Red River all

I don’t know


And she leans over and


Which is not such a big deal

Cuz lots of girls have kissed me

Even though I didn’t want them to

Like in Grade 6 Lois Puntun kissed me

Behind Springfield Heights Elementary

And then Sandy Pauls kissed me

Behind Chief Peguis Junior High

And asked me to feel her tit

But I didn’t even though I wanted to

But this

Was different

Because I WANTED her to kiss me

And what was even better



And that was


I had never

That was

You know


And so right then and there

Right then and there

I ask her


That’s her name

Her CB handle is Phoenix

But her real name’s


Vanessa, I say

Would you...

Would you go to Grade 9 Grad with me?

And she says

Yes. If I can get a ride.

And I’m like WHOA

I have a DATE

I have a real DATE for grad!

And out there

Out the window of this bedroom

My mom’s garden

Is where I put on her


My mom gets me a


Cuz that’s what you’re supposed to do at Grad.

And I put it on her

And my mom takes a picture of

Me and Vanessa

And I swear

I know then

I know there and then

What it’s like to be married.


Music. The opening to the Phantom of the Paradise Soundtrack.

A shift or not. Are we following the teen or the adult, we’re not sure. It’s now all blending in. Perhaps he finds an old velour coat to wear with a faded boutoniere and his teen glasses. Perhaps he finds an old vodka bottle or a case of stubby beers or a “bar with old drink bottles.”


Music plays.

It’s grad night.

And we go on

The River Rouge

Cuz that’s what you do in Grade 9.

When you graduate High School you get to go on the Paddlewheel Queen

But in Grade 9 you just get the River Rouge.

And we go on the River Rouge

Up the river

And we pass Bergen’s Cutoff

Where Vanessa and I kissed

And there’s some food and dancing

But then


Everyone comes back to my place

To my Rec Room.

Cuz my parents


They GO OUT to their friends’ place

And leave me alone till eleven o’clock

Which is amazing

Cuz this is the first party I’ve ever had


Rod Warkentin and Ray Walker and the Cote Twins and Ruth Redke and Allan Doresom and Allen Carrier and Dean Gunnerson and Karen Dudeck, Linda Whitfield and Charlotte Chick who we call the Leotard Gang, cuz they wear these super tight jeans.

And Vanessa is there

And it’s all SO COOL.

And Mike Salmon has his own DJ system called S.O.S. Music and he’s brought his cool lights, so it’s almost like a dance at the Chief Peguis gym. And we’re all having fun and dancing.

But then, Mark Dumanski shows up. And I hate Mark cuz when I was a kid, he made me lick the fence. He’s goin with one of the Cote twins and she’s invited him over. I’m tryin to be cool so I don’t kick him out.

But then he goes behind my parents’ bar. And I say what are you doing ? And he says There’s booze back here. And I say You’re not suppose to be back there. And he says So? And he takes out the cherry brandy and the vodka my dad got special from Russia and the beer and he starts mixing it all together and calls it Swamp Water.

And he says Have Some. And I say No. And he says What, You Chicken? And I don’t want to be uncool, and so I drink some.

Which means its okay for EVERYONE to have some, and before you know it, people are getting drunk and Vanessa says

I think I should call my dad

And I’m like NO

And she says

I don’t think I should be here

And I start to panic.

And Mark Dumanski keeps going, giving everyone the Swamp Water until…

Lynn Redke pukes on the sofa

And Karen Dudeck starts making out with Ray Walker

And Allan Doresom gets mad because he’s sweet on Karen

And Ray starts kicking the door to the downstairs bedroom til there's a hole in it.

And then Mark Dumanski starts making fun of me

Hey Vanessa, did you know this guy’s a FAG?


Did you know this guy is a fag and that he can’t skate and that his parents are poor and they don’t even have a colour TV and they talk funny and they put stupid puzzles on the wall of this stupid old house, did you know that? DID YOU?

And just then Vanessa’s dad shows up and What’s Goin On Here and they leave and I hear him say to Vanessa You’re never seein this boy again. And she says I’m Sorry and they leave and I turn to everyone else and I say, I say:

He shouts out, to the past and the present, we’re not sure which:









In this room

Is where they slept.

Side by side

For fifty years.

In this room.

Her breath like dough

Her eyes milk

Her skin flour

She looked at him

A last time

And was gone.


In this room

Last month

His eyes swollen

As big as his heart

His old hands

In a new suit



Yeah, Dad?

Help me with zis tie, ja?

The son ties the necktie round his neck.



When we take her out of the…


Ja. When we take her out, she’s going to be very heavy.

The Son listens.


The body.

It wants to go into the ground

She will want to go in ze earth.


He adjusts the tie.

You look good, Dad

Know what my father said?

What’s that.

The boy who knows how to tie a tie? That boy?

Is now a man

He reveals: the box

And then

He hands me a box.

From your Mutti.


I don’t know if I want live here without her.

Inside the box:

Three things:

He takes them out.

My broken tooth. Wrapped in cotton.

The Joe Daley Hockey Card. Taped back together.

A photo of Grade 9 Grad. Vanessa and me. In her garden.


I’ve been trying to keep it up.

Her garden.

But I’m not very good at it.

You won’t mind if I…?

I’d think I’d like to bury this stuff

In the backyard

Before the movers come.


Years from now

A child

Maybe yours

will find them

call out:




A memory!

(he sings) Hi jee bin beitchee, Schlaff lange

Es ist ja dein mutter ausgange

She gone out

And won’t be coming home

And has left her boy all alone at home.)



That’s the bungalow.

You can leave your email and your offer on your way out.

I haven’t set a price.

You tell me:

What you think its worth?



For information about production rights to this play, please visit www.verthiessen.com

About the Author

Vern Thiessen

Vern Thiessen is considered one of the most diverse and successful playwrights his native Canada has produced. He has had two productions at the acclaimed Stratford Festival of Canada, and three plays premiere off-Broadway in New York City, where he lives and works. Well known works include: Shakespeare's Will, Apple, Vimy, Einstein's Gift, Lenin's Embalmers, and A More Perfect Union. His plays have been translated into several languages including French, German, Polish and Hebrew. Thiessen’s many awards include the Governor General's Literary Award for Einstein’s Gift, Canada's highest honor for playwriting and the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. Lenin's Embalmers was a finalist for the same award in 2011. He has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in Theatre and the Herman Voaden Competition. Other accolades include several Elizabeth Sterling Haynes awards, The Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition, and the Carol Bolt Award. Born in Winnipeg, he currently lives in New York City.

More information on Thiessen can be found at vernthiessen.com, suite101.com, and canadiantheatre.com.