Bird Brain

A Play for Young Audiences

Based on the story by Albert Wendt.


Bird Brain was commissioned by Carousel Players, St. Catherines, Ontario (Kim Selody, Artistic Director) with funding assistance from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. It was developed at Carousel Theatre, the Citadel Theatre, the Banff PlayRites Colony 2006, and Theatre Wrede, Germany (Winfried Wrede, Artistic Director.) It has since had over a dozen productions worldwide. Thanks to Sharon Richardson, Holly Hoover, Michelle Hermary, the Citadel Theatre, Tracy Carroll, Maureen Labonte, Brian Dooley, Ian Lueng and Val Pearson.

Bird Brain premiered at the Citadel Theatre in March 2007 in the Rice Theatre with the following company:

BIRD BRAIN: Chris Bullough


QUEEN: Caroline Livingstone

Director: Kim Selody

Stage Manager: Michelle Chan

Set and Costumes: Marissa Kochanski

Lighting: Narda McCarroll

Sound/Composition Technician: Winfried Wrede

Artistic Director: Bob Baker

Managing Director: Penny Ritco

Director of Production: Dave Horner


STORY TELLER 1: plays The Man (later Bird Brain.)

STORY TELLER 2: plays The Birds and the Queen

STORY TELLER 3: plays The Birds, the Under Secretary, and Fools at the festival.

For Michelle

with love

from your uncle

Bird Brain

The hustle and bustle of Hat Street:






Frost - cracks the branch of a lonely tree.

S’TELLER: 2: Deep….

S’TELLER 3: Deep…?

S’TELLER 2: Deep in a winter wood….

S’TELLER 3: A winter wood…?

S’TELLER 2: A winter wood, yes. There is a man….

S’TELLER 2: A Man!

S’TELLER 3: A Man…

The Man - plods through snow, a bundle of wood on his back.

The Man – sets down the wood, and sits on it.

The Man - catches the breath steaming from his mouth.

S’TELLER 3: And high above…

S’TELLER 2: In a tree?

S’TELLER 3: In a tree, yes.

S’TELLER 2: A nest of birds.

S’TELLER 3: A nest of BABY birds.

S’TELLER 2: A nest of baby birds, yes. Cold.

S’TELLER 3: And hungry

S’TELLER 2: And alone.


BIRDS: (Help us!)

THE MAN: Shut up!

BIRDS: (Heelp uus!)

THE MAN: I said shut up!

BIRDS: (Heeeeeelp uuuuuus!)

THE MAN: Look: no one can help you! Born at the wrong time: ya freeze, ya die.

That’s life.

BIRDS: (Not “born”- Hatched!)

THE MAN: Born. Hatched. Whatever. I have to go.

BIRDS: (No! Stay!)

THE MAN: I have to get to Hat Street ‘fore noon. Sell this wood I cut.

The Man – slings the bundle back on his shoulder.

BIRDS: (Staaaaaaay!)

THE MAN: I’ve got a wife to support!

BIRDS: (But you’re a human. You’re strong. Stronger than the winter.)

THE MAN: I’m human, but I’m just a working man. Got a job to do.

The Man - makes his way.

BIRDS: (But we’ll DIE if you don’t help us!)

THE MAN: I don’t care, ya understand? I don’t care what happened to your mother, I don’t care where your father is, I don’t care if you die or not, I don’t care! It’s not my problem!

BIRDS: (Please! Take us under your large warm hat!)

The Man - stops, turns.

THE MAN: My hat?

BIRDS: (Yes.)

THE MAN: Under my hat?

BIRDS: (That way we’ll stay warm.)

THE MAN: Ha. Ha. If I put you under my hat, then I won’t be able to take it off. And you know as well as me, little birds, it’s the LAW in this land to take your hat off whenever you meet some one. Especially…. on Hat Street.

Sound/Lights: Hat Street.

Ah! Hat Street! Where the Royal Under Secretary lives.

The Under Secretary - appears. The Under Secretary waves. The Man tips his hat. The Under Secretary waves again. The Man tips his hat again. Waving and tipping while:

And when I take off my hat on Hat Street, the Under Secretary smiles at me. He smiles - At me! And he pays me for my wood. And if I bow very deep with my hat, and if the wood I’ve cut is good and dry, he gives me more – he gives me….Chocolate Cigars!

The Under Secretary - chocolate cigars stuffed in his mouth.

The Under Secretary – vanishes.

BIRDS: (Is that all – chocolate cigars?)

THE MAN: What could a working man want more than chocolate cigars?

BIRDS: (If you put us under your hat, we’ll give you a LOT more.)

THE MAN: Oh yeah? Like what. What can you give me?

Music – The Birds begin to sing, softly, quietly.

BIRDS: (A clear mind.)

They sing - lively yet peaceful.

THE MAN: A clear mind, eh? A clear mind….

The Man - listens.

They sing - funny yet sad.

THE MAN: (tempted:) But if I put you under my hat, little birds, I might not….I

couldn’t…I wouldn’t ….

The Birds sing.

S’TELLER 2: The Man climbs the tree.

S’TELLER 3: He sees the birds shivering in the cold.

S’TELLER 2: He takes the birds and puts them under his hat.

S’TELLER 3: And then…

S’TELLER 2: And then…?

S’TELLER: 3: And then…

The Birds – sing a symphony

The Man’s face transforms – slowly, magically.

S’TELLER 2: The man’s mouth melts.

THE MAN: Ahhh….

S’TELLER 3: His eyes thaw.

THE MAN: Ahhh…

S’TELLER 2: His face shines.

THE MAN: (a discovery:) Ahhhh…

My birds.

My little friends. I see now.

I see.

BIRDS: (Can we stay?)

THE MAN: Oh yes.

Oh yes, you can stay. You must stay.

From now on, you’ll never be cold.

From now on, my hat will be your home.

From now on, you’ll be safe.

I promise.

The Man - picks up his bundle of wood and slings sit over his shoulder with ease.

S’TELLER 3: The man heads to Hat Street.

S’TELLER 2: Gliding over the snow.

S’TELLER 3: His step now light.

S’TELLER 2: And warm.

S’TELLER: 3: And warm, yes. As warm as what’s in his mind.


S’TELLER 2: But near the deep wood is a city.

S’TELLER 3: A city?

S’TELLER 2: A city, yes. And in that city is…

S’TELLER 3: A Palace!

S’TELLER 2: A Palace, yes! And in that Palace is…

S’TELLER 3: The Queen!

S’TELLER 2: The Queen, yes.

The Queen – her eyes red and swollen as plums.

S’TELLER 3: Crying.

The Queen -sniffles.


The Queen -dabs her eyes.


The Queen -cries.

QUEEN: (truly sad:) Because the King, my husband, has died…..

S’TELLER 3: Then, the Queen hears something.

The Queen – hears something.


S’TELLER 3: She listens.

The Queen - listens.


S’TELLER 3: She smiles.

The Queen – smiles through her tears.

QUEEN Really?



The Queen – delighted!


Sound – The hustle and bustle of Hat Street

S’TELLER 3: Hat Street!

S’TELLER 2: Hat Street?

S’TELLER 3: Hat Street, yes!

THE MAN: Ah! Hat Street!

UNDER: There you are! I’ve been waiting.

THE MAN: Sorry I’m late, Mr. Under Secretary, but you won’t believe what just happened to me on my way--

UNDER: Yes, yes yes, do you have my wood?

THE MAN: Right here.

UNDER: (inspecting it:) Good quality…


UNDER: Strong and hard….


UNDER: Nice and dry….

THE MAN: Just the way you like it, sir.

UNDER: Very good. Now, here is your pay…

Takes coins from his pocket, but doesn’t give them.

THE MAN: Oh thank you, sir….

Under Secretary stares at him.

UNDER: Aren’t you… forgetting something?

THE MAN: What’s that?

UNDER: You know….

THE MAN: Oh! My hat!

UNDER: Yes, ha ha! What, did you chop too hard out there in the forest? Ha ha…

THE MAN: No, no, it’s just…I wonder if you wouldn’t mind if I…If I didn’t tip my hat today, sir.

UNDER: What, what do you mean.

THE MAN: You won’t believe what just happened to me today, Mr. Under Secretary….

The Birds – singing

The Man – his memory of the first scene.

So you see, I can’t tip my hat, because if I do, I won’t have a clear mind, and worse, my little birds will freeze to death. And I can’t let that happen. I made a promise.

UNDER: Birds.


UNDER: Singing.


UNDER: Under your hat.



THE MAN: I’m sorry?


THE MAN: I, I don’t-


THE MAN: No, I –

UNDER: Do you know who I am?

THE MAN: Of course--

UNDER: Do you know where you are? This is Hat Street. See? (he points at a sign:) H-A-T STREET. You know why they call it Hat Street?

THE MAN: Yes, it’s because-

UNDER: It’s the law of this place to TIP YOUR HAT, and you aren’t doing it. You are BREAKING THE LAW!

He takes out a Book of Rules.

“Law Five Hundred and Twenty Three, Section Four, Article Seven: Every person conducting business in Hat Street must tip their Hat.”

He slams the book shut.

And you know what happens when you break the law?


UNDER: You have to pay a fine!

THE MAN: A fine?

UNDER: And do you know what the fine is for breaking Law Five Hundred and Twenty Three, Section Four, Article Seven?

THE MAN: No, actually I—

UNDER: One Hundred Thousand Duckets!

THE MAN: One Hundred--?!

UNDER: --Thousand Duckets!

THE MAN: But, but I did my job, I brought you the wood….

UNDER: Oh, oh, and I suppose you want a CHOCOLATE CIGAR AS WELL! THE MAN: I can live without the chocolate cigars, but I can’t live without the money,

I have a wife at home, and she—

UNDER: Alright, alright, I’ll pay you.

THE MAN: Thank you.

UNDER: But only if I can put the money in your hat.

Now: Take it off.

The Man - steps to the side.

THE MAN: Look birdies. I’m in trouble.

UNDER: What are you doing?

THE MAN: I love you guys, and I’ve made a promise.

UNDER: Who are you talking to?

THE MAN: But I’ve gotta eat. What can I do?



At the Under Secretary?

But won’t that make him mad?

You’re right, he does need cheering up.

UNDER: Are you talking to your “birds”? Your “voices”?

THE MAN: (laughing:)You’re right, he does look kind of silly.

UNDER: Hellooooo….

THE MAN: (Laughing:)You’re right, he does look kinda stupid.

UNDER: Excuse me, I’m--

The Man - bursts out laughing.

UNDER: Are you laughing at ME?

The Man and the Birds laugh

Me? the Royal Under Secretary?

The Man and the birds laugh harder and harder.

You, you thankless, idiotic….BIRD BRAIN. That’s what you are. A Bird Brain! A FOOL. And you know what we do with FOOLS in this country, don’t you?


The Under Secretary starts writing out a fine and hands it to him.

UNDER: I am fining you! I am fining you! One Hundred Thousand Duckets! Now don’t come back to Hat Street until you can pay this fine.

The Man and the Birds stop laughing.

THE MAN: But. But what will I tell my wife? How will I live? How--?


The man picks up his wood and starts off.

(Calling after, laughing:) Bird Brain! Bird Brain!!


S’TELLER 2: Bird Brain leaves Hat Street.

S’TELLER 3: He makes his way.

S’TELLER 2: Back through the forest.

S’TELLER 3: To his hut.

S’TELLER 2: His hut?

S’TELLER 3: His hut, yes. Where his wife—

S’TELLER 2: His Wife?

S’ TELLER 3: His Wife, yes. Is waiting.

WIFE: There you are! I’ve been waiting.

B. BRAIN: Sorry I’m late, my little dove, but you won’t believe what just happened to me on my way--

WIFE: Yes, yes yes, do you have the money?

B.BRAIN: As a matter of fact--

WIFE: Don’t just stand there. Sit down, take off your hat, and eat some soup.

B.BRAIN: I’d like some soup, my little chickadee. I’ve been working hard, and I’m hungry, but I think I’ll keep my hat on today.

WIFE: What? Not take off your hat to eat?

B. BRAIN: Yes.

Music – The birds are heard singing.

You see, my little robin, it’s just…I can’t take off my hat, because if I do, I won’t have clear mind. These little birds singing under my hat give me a clear mind.

WIFE: Birds.

B. BRAIN: Little ones.

WIFE: Singing.

B. BRAIN: Beautiful and funny.

WIFE: Under your hat.

B. BRAIN: They give me a clear head.


B. BRAIN: What?


B. BRAIN: Not you too-


B. BRAIN: My little hen-!

WIFE: If you have birds under your hat, then let’s have them.

B. BRAIN: Really? You mean—

WIFE: We’ll throw them in the fire and have them with the soup.

B. BRAIN: We can’t do that!

WIFE: Why not? You haven’t earned a penny today.

B. BRAIN: I know.

WIFE: And we have to eat.

B. BRAIN: I know, but—

WIFE: Do you want us to starve?

B. BRAIN: Of course not!

WIFE: Either take off your hat, and show me those birds, or none of my soup for you.

Bird Brain – considers.

B. BRAIN: Let’s not argue, my little turkey. I’m not so hungry after all. But I’m tired, so let’s turn in for the night.

WIFE: Oh no you don’t. You’re not sleeping in our bed with your hat on, especially if there’s a bunch of dirty birds under it.

B. BRAIN: Please, please--.

WIFE: Either take off your hat, or sleep outside!

Bird Brain – steps to the side.

B. BRAIN: Oh birdies…look what you’ve done!

WIFE: What are you doing?

B. BRAIN: I know she’s not very nice, but…

WIFE: Who are you talking to?

B. BRAIN: What should I do, my friends?

B. BRAIN: To dance? But I’ve - we’ve - never danced in our life. WIFE: Are you talking to your “birds”? Your “voices”?

B. BRAIN: A waltz, eh…

WIFE: Helloooooo!

B. BRAIN: Really? She’ll melt in my arms….?

A romantic waltz.

Bird Brain – for the first time in his life, dances a few steps with grace and beauty.

The Wife – stares on with horror.

Bird Brain – bows deeply to his wife

May I have this dance, my little partridge?

WIFE: (shrieks:)AHHHHHHH!!!

The Wife – tries to flee

Bird Brain - chasing the Wife playfully around the hut, trying to get her to dance.

Finally - they stop.

WIFE: Stop! Leave this hut! I’m divorcing you! You’ve gone crazy! You’ve become a FOOL. And you know what they do with fools in this country!

B. BRAIN: My little ostrich--!

WIFE: Go. And never come back. You…you Bird Brain!

Bird Brain – filled with sorrow, picks up the bundle of wood, then stops. He leaves it for her.

B. BRAIN: Stay warm, my little…ex-wife.

S’TELLER 3: Then, Bird Brain moves through the forest. Looking for a new home.


Fanfare – Weird but regal.

QUEEN: Mr. Under Secretary.

UNDER: Your Highness.

He tips his hat and bows.

QUEEN: I have a job for you.

UNDER: My pleasure, your Highness.

He tips his hat and bows.

QUEEN: Winter is coming to an end.

UNDER: It is, your Highness.

He tips his hat and bows.

QUEEN: It’s time we organized a Festival for Fools.

He tips his hat. He stops.

UNDER: But your Highness. Your husband, who recently died - God Rest His Soul, the Great King that he was – he had all fools locked up in the Institution to cleanse them of their ridiculous behavior.

QUEEN: And you, Mr. Under Secretary, you, as I recall, were a teacher at the Institute, weren’t you?

UNDER: Manager, your Highness.

He tips his hat and bows.

QUEEN: “Manager”, yes. Mr. Under Secretary…

UNDER: Yes, your highness.

He tips his hat and bows.

QUEEN: My late husband…

UNDER: …yes, your Highness…

He tips his hat.

QUEEN: …the Great King…

UNDER: …yes, your Highness…

He tips his hat.

QUEEN: …though I loved him dearly….

UNDER: …yes, your high—

He starts tipping his hat.

QUEEN: --was wrong.

He stops.

And the Fools in the land have suffered a great deal. And so, in order to make things up to them, I hereby declare:

Sound: weird fanfare.

That from now on, every year, the Palace will hold a Festival for Fools.

Sound: weird fanfare.

The Under Secretary takes out his Book.

UNDER: But your Highness, according to Decree Three Hundred and Twenty One Point Nine Five, only a King can change a law!

QUEEN: Well that’s stupid. And in any case, I’m not changing a law, I am merely creating a Festival.

UNDER But, but—

QUEEN: Prepare a guest list right away. And make sure you invite that Man who refuses to tip his hat.

He doesn’t know whether to tip his hat or not.

UNDER: Your, your Highness…? QUEEN: Surely you’ve heard of him. UNDER: I, I can’t say I have your--

QUEEN: You know: the Man in the Woods. The Bird Brain. Who doesn’t take off his hat, be it to eat at the table, or to go to bed. Some NINCOMPOOP banished him from Hat Street and then his wife left him, and only because he did not take off his hat. Can you imagine? Ha ha!

UNDER: Ha ha, I wouldn’t know, your Highness….

He bows and tips his hat.

QUEEN: I hear the Man is living in a tree house in the Woods. I want him at the Festival. No matter what. And I want you to personally invite him.

UNDER: But your Highness…

QUEEN: Find him. Greet him with your best bowing and tipping of your hat.

UNDER: But what if I can’t find him, your Highness…?

QUEEN: Hmmm…..My husband had his own personal Hangman, yes?

UNDER: Yes, your Highness.

QUEEN: Is he still employed by me?

UNDER: Yes, your Highness.

QUEEN: Good. If you don’t find the Man in the Woods, you will…

The Queen vaguely touches her throat. The Under Secretary swallows hard.

QUEEN: …you will spoil the Festival .Do you understand, Mr. Under Secretary?

UNDER: Yes, your Highness…

QUEEN: Excellent. Now go.

UNDER: Yes, your Highness.

He takes off his hat and bows.

And like a crafty hen going backwards, leaves.

S’TELLER 3: The Queen is alone.

The Queen – alone.


The Queen – listens.


Ha ha.

Ha ha ha.




S'TELLER 3: Deep.

S'TELLER 2: Deep?

S'TELLER 3: Deep in the forest.

S’TELLER 2: High up in his tree house.

S’TELLER 3: Bird Brain sits. Singing.

S’TELLER 2: Singing?

S’TELLER 3: Singing, yes!

S’TELLER 2: To the birds!

S’TELLER: 3: To the birds, yes!

THE MAN: (sings out of tune:)

Ice cold toes

Freezing drippy nose

No hot cocoa in my tummy

But up here I’m warm ‘n yummy.


BIRDS: (No! Please! Stop!)

B. BRAIN: Under my hat

It’s just fun and laughter

Under my hat

I have no fear

Under my hat

There’s a secret treasure

Under my hat

It’s all so clear

Under my hat, my hat, my hat, my--

BIRDS: (Shut up, shut up, shut uuuuup!)

B. BRAIN: But my friends, my friends. I have to give something back.

BIRDS: (No, really, you don’t.)

B. BRAIN: Oh but I do. Because you make me so happy!

BIRDS: (Be happy quieter then!)

B. BRAIN: But if I am happy more quietly, no one will hear me. And if no one hears me, no one will know how clear my mind is!

(sings again, louder, worse:)

My throat is sore

No smooching any more

BIRDS: (Ahhhhhh!)

The birds - stuffing their ears with twigs.

B. BRAIN: (sings) No lemon and or hot tea But that’s okay cuz I can see…. (modulation:) I can seeee…..!

The Under Secretary – sweating and out of breath.

He is wearing a HUGE fur coat - torn by branches still clinging to him.

UNDER: Ah! Thank goodness I found you. Please, climb down from that tree.

B. BRAIN: Welcome, sir. But I’m quite happy up here. Now: to what do I owe the honour of this visit?

UNDER: I’m only delivering a message. That’s all.

B. BRAIN: A message?

UNDER: (handing him paper:) You are to report to the Palace immediately.

B. BRAIN: The Palace? What for?

UNDER: According to the newly empowered Queen, Decree Number…One states:

Weird fanfare. He holds up a scroll of paper:

That from now on, every year, the palace will hold a Festival for Fools.

Weird fanfare.

B. BRAIN: A Festival!?

UNDER: Yes. (He produces more paper) And as you have now been officially registered as a Category One Fool, the Queen has asked that you come to the Festival.

B. BRAIN: Me! At the Palace of the Queen! If my ex-wife could see me now!

UNDER: So come on. Hurry up. Get yourself down from there.

B. BRAIN: Just a second, just a—

Bird Brain - consults.

Well, my friends? What do you think? I know. I don’t trust him either.

UNDER: Well?

B. BRAIN: Hmmm. I’ll think about it.

UNDER: Think about it?

B. BRAIN: Come back tomorrow for an answer?

UNDER: Tommor--??! No!

B. BRAIN: Oh well, then perhaps I won’t come after all.

UNDER: Fine then. Have it your way.

The Under Secretary – about to leave. He stops.

The Under Secretary – an image of the Queen, vaguely touching her throat.

The Under Secretary – turning back to Bird Brain.

Bird Brain. Mister Bird Brain. Won’t you please come. The Queen has invited you especially.

B. BRAIN: ….maybe…

UNDER: Please. Please.

The Under Secretary – suddenly on his knees


The Under Secretary – tipping his hat and bowing endlessly.

B. BRAIN: Yes, maybe he is serious.

Oh, you want to come? Can I bring….guests?

UNDER: …Yes.

B. BRAIN: And do I have to tip my hat?

UNDER: (it pains him to say it) …No. But that only applies at the Festival!

He bows and tips his hat.

B. BRAIN: Mr. Under Secretary. Put your hat on. It’s cold outside, and you’re sweating.

Bird Brain - climbs down.

B. BRAIN I will come.

UNDER: Oh thank you, thank you! You’ve…you’ve saved my neck, Mr. Bird Brain.

They start walking.

B. BRAIN: You know, Mr. Under Secretary, just now, when you were tipping your hat to me, it made me feel very…uncomfortable. You know the feeling I’m talking about…?


S’TELLER 2 : The Festival for Fools!

S’TELLER 3: The Festival for Fools, yes!

S’TELLER 2: Seven thousand chocolate cupcakes! Three thousand party hats!

S’TELLER 3: A huge kettle of soup! Ten kinds of fresh bread!

S’TELLER 2: The sound of a hundred musicians playing!

S’TELLER 2 AND 3: Now this is a festival!

Perhaps the audience members are given party hats.

Bird Brain – taking it all in, delighted.

The Beautiful Fool approaches him, wearing a mask.

The Beautiful Fool - pulls Bird Brain into the middle of the floor.

They dance a fun, crazy dance.

The dance ends. They collapse, happy and exhausted.



B. FOOL: Who are you.

B. BRAIN: My name’s….They call me Bird Brain.

B. FOOL: Bird Brain. I’ve heard of you!

B. BRAIN: I’ve never been to the Palace before!

B. FOOL: Well then, Welcome to the Festival for Fools!

Fools – perform general foolishness.

Do you want something to eat?

B. BRAIN: Oh yes, please, I’m very hungry.

B. FOOL: Come with me, Bird Brain, I’ll fill your plate.

The Beautiful Fool – takes him by the hand.

Bird Brain – filling his plate with huge butter sandwiches, when:

Fred – swings on.

FRED: Whooooooooaaaaaaa.

B. FOOL: Look Out!

The Beautiful Fool and Bird Brain – duck.

B. BRAIN: What - who - are you?!

B. FOOL: This is Fred, The Swinger. Fred, this is Bird Brain

FRED: Hello.

B. BRAIN: Hi. (fascinated:) So, you, you…swing, is that it?

FRED: Me, I’ve had enough of walking, crawling, and shuffling along.


Fred – swinging.

The Beautiful Fool and Bird Brain – duck.

The rush in my ears, the butterflies in my stomach. My feet never ache and I never feel sad. I just LOVE TO SWING! Whoa, Whooooooaa.

Fred – swings.

The Beautiful Fool and Bird Brain – duck.

This is my life. Everything else is a waste of time. See ya! Whoa….whooooa.

Fred – swings off.

B. BRAIN: Wow! Is everyone here a Fool?

B. FOOL: Everyone. Everyone has their own special condition.

B. BRAIN: What’s yours?

B. FOOL: Well, my condition is –

FORTUNE TELLER: Not much of a future in your face!

B. BRAIN: Who are you?

B. FOOL: Bird Brain, my I introduce you to the Fortune Teller. Fortune Teller, this is-

F. TELLER: Don’t tell me! Don’t tell me! Bird Brain, yes?

B. BRAIN: How did you know?!

F. TELLER: A lifetime of practice!

The Fortune Teller - comes very close, looks him straight in the eyes.

Most of your face is liquid. This is good. When I see a face that’s solid it’s only a disguise. People care about their horses, their huts, how clean their underwear is. But they forget to take care of their faces.

B. BRAIN: What can I do with my face?

F. TELLER: Make a joyous face.

Bird Brain – makes an exaggerated, but truthful happy face.

Yes, you can be that. Now, make an angry face.

Bird Brain – tries to make an angry face, but it looks pretty silly.

No. You aren’t useful for that. What about an Evil King.

Bird Brain – tries making a face.

You can’t do that either. Salesman?

Bird Brain – tries making a face.


Bird Brain – tries making a face.


Bird Brain – tries making a face.

No. Your face is somewhere else. Come back in 10 years. I want to know what happens to you.

The Fortune Teller - leaves, staring at others.

B. FOOL: You see?

B. BRAIN: I think so.

B. FOOL: The Fortune Teller can tell you have a kind face.

B. BRAIN: And you? What kind of face can you make? What will you become?

B. FOOL: Well, actually, I….

WORDSMITH: Did you hear that? Did you?

B. FOOL: Hear what?

WORD: The way he said that. “Face.” “Face.”

B. FOOL: Bird Brain, this is the Wordsmith. Wordsmith, this is –

WORD: Bird. Brain. Bird. Brain. Birdbrain. Biiiiirdddbraaaain. What a beautiful force in those two words combined. Bird Brain. But the most powerful words are the ones we use only once a lifetime.

B. BRAIN: Like what? Please, say a powerful word for us.

WORD: What power should the word have?

B. BRAIN: One that lifts your spirit.

B. FOOL: One that binds, that ties together.

B. BRAIN: One that touches you gently.

B. FOOL: One that is a better word for “love” or “married”.

WORD: Hmmm. I will have to consult my dictionaries.

The Wordsmith - consults.

The Beautiful Fool - smiles at Bird Brain.








I have it!

B. BRAIN: What is it?

WORD: “Believe.”

B. BRAIN: “Believe?”

B. FOOL: “Believe.” I like that. “Believe” Thank you, Wordsmith!

The Wordsmith exits.

B. BRAIN/B.FOOL “Believe…”

B. BRAIN: Hey…You’ve told me about all the other guests, but haven’t said anything about yourself. What crazy condition do you have?

B. FOOL: Oh, my dear Bird Brain. I have a very special condition.

Beautiful Fool - removes her mask.

I am the Queen.

Bird Brain- is stunned.


Fanfare - Regal.

The Queen - approaches the throne

UNDER: Ladies and Gentlemen, Her Majesty, the Queen.

The Under Secretary – bows and tips his hat.

The Queen - reclines. She watches Bird Brain carefully

QUEEN: Welcome, Bird Brain, to the Palace.

B. BRAIN: Thank you, my dearest Queen.

UNDER: (clearing his throat:) em, em.

QUEEN: How do you like it?

B. BRAIN: It is like you, my dear Queen: very beautiful.

UNDER: (clearing his throat, louder:) Em, Em!

QUEEN: You will have to visit the gardens, Bird Brain: there are plenty of birds to keep your friends company.

B. BRAIN: (excited:) Really?


QUEEN: What IS it, Mr. Under Secretary.

UNDER: (whispers in her ear.)

QUEEN: What?

UNDER: (whispers in her ear.)

QUEEN: What? I can’t hear you! Speak up!

UNDER: It is the law of the land, your Majesty, that all subjects who come before the Queen, must remove their hat!

The book:

Law Six Hundred and Thirty Two, Section Nine, Article Five.

QUEEN: Such a silly law.

UNDER: But the law nonetheless, your Majesty.

QUEEN: Then we shall change it.

UNDER: You can’t, your Majesty. Only a King can change a law. People must show you their respect. And if they don’t show the Queen respect, there is only one punishment.

B. BRAIN: A Hundred Thousand Ducket fine?

UNDER: No. Worse.

B. BRAIN: Two Hundred Thousand Duckets?

UNDER: Worse!

QUEEN: What is it?

UNDER: (touches his throat vaguely.)

QUEEN: Oh dear.

UNDER: Yes: the Hangman.This isn’t Hat Street, Bird Brain, it’s not the Woods, and it’s not the Festival for Fools. This is the Palace! Now show your respect.

QUEEN: (concerned:) Please Bird Brain. Either take off your hat and bow to me.

Or….you must, you must…Do you understand?

Bird Brain – considers.

The Under Secretary – chomping at his bit.

The Queen – knots in her stomach.

Music – the Birds singing, softly, beautifully.

B. BRAIN: Your Majesty. Beautiful Queen. I mean no disrespect to you.

Music – the Birds singing grow louder.

Bird Brain – smiles.

But… the only thing I have, the only thing that is worth anything to me, is the clear mind I get from these birds. I made a promise to them. And I won’t break it.

QUEEN: (moved:)You…you believe in your birds that much?

B. BRAIN: I do.

QUEEN: (sad:) I like you more and more Bird Brain….

UNDER: The law is the law! Shall I call the Hangman, your Majesty?

QUEEN: (finally, to Bird Brain:) I’m sorry, Bird Brain…

UNDER: (with relish) Come with me.

The Under Secretary – leads the way.

Bird Brain – smiles at the Queen, then leaves.

S’TELLER 3: The Queen is, once again, alone.

The Queen – alone.

She listens.

The Queen – listens.

S’TELLER 3: But this time…

The Queen – hears nothing.

QUEEN: Oh no….

(to self:) “Believe…” “ “Believe….”


Sound – A death drum.

Something like a scaffold.

Bird Brain stands - smiling..

The Under Secretary – raises his arms to quite the crowd.

UNDER: (solemn:) This man here, known as Bird Brain, doesn’t want to be like the rest of us. Goodness knows, we’ve tried many ways to bring him to reason. But they’ve all failed. Therefore, according to Law Six Hundred and Thirty Two, Section Nine, Article Five, we must exact the punishment. And we all know what THAT is.

Sound - drum roll.

The Under Secretary puts something like a noose around his neck.

The Air – filled with tension.

QUEEN: Wait a minute, wait a minute! Not so fast!

UNDER: Your Majesty!

QUEEN: Get out of my way.

UNDER: But your Majesty—

QUEEN: Leave us alone!

The Under Secretary - leaves. The Queen takes Bird Brain’s hand and they sit.

How are you?

B. BRAIN: Better than a few seconds ago.

QUEEN: I have an idea.

B. BRAIN: What is it, your Majesty.

QUEEN: If you were King, you wouldn’t have to take off your hat for anyone.

B. BRAIN: But how could I become King? I’m a simple wood cutter.

QUEEN: Marry me.

B. BRAIN: What?

QUEEN: If you agree to marry me, then you will be King.

B. BRAIN: I, I’d love to marry you, my dear Queen. But being King, that’s a hard job. You can’t just sit on a throne, and collect money and throw parties for your friends. You have to make sure that people have jobs, and that the forest isn’t polluted, and that children are safe. I, I just don’t think I can handle all that.

QUEEN: But I know how to do all those things, and I will be doing them with you.

And besides, your birds will help you too.

BIRDS: (she’s right, she’s right!)

B. BRAIN: But what will I do with my birds, if I have to wear a crown?

QUEEN: Oh dear…


Music – from the Queen’s crown.

Oh! You’re back!

Bird Brain… I too have birds in my crown. They were the first to tell me about you.

Bird Brain – laughs with delight.

Well, what do you say, Bird Brain? Will you be my husband? Will you be the King? Will you believe?

B. BRAIN: Beautiful Queen…I’ll do it. Because I like you a lot. And I DO believe in you. And I don’t want to keep the Undersecretary waiting. He may give me a fine!

The Queen – laughs. And takes out a crown.

The Under Secretary enters.

QUEEN: Mr. Under Secretary.

UNDER Yes, your Majesty? Shall we proceed with Bird Brain’s death?

QUEEN: No. Please announce to everyone in the land…that Bird Brain and I are getting married.


QUEEN: And because he has agreed to be my husband, he is now officially the King!

UNDER: …But…but…but…

A Fanfare - weird but triumphant.


S’TELLER 2: The wedding takes place!

S’TELLER 1: The people rejoice!

S’ TELLER 2: Bird Brain becomes King!

S’TELLER 1: And sits on a throne next to the Queen.

S’TELLER 2: The Birds move into their new-

S’TELLER 1: Bigger--!

S’TELLER 2: Better--!

S’TELLER 1: Marvelous--!

S’TELLER 2: Fantastic--!

S’TELLER 1: HOME! In Bird Brain’s shiny crown!

S’TELLER 2: Everyone is happy!

S’TELLER 3: So happy, you might think it’s the end of the story.

S’TELLER 2: What?

S’TELLER 3: I said: so happy, you might think it’s the end of the story.

S’TELLER 2: What do you mean, it’s not the end of the--!?

S’TELLER 3: No siree.

S’TELLER 2: But I thought—

S’TELLER 3: For in Hat Street--

S’TELLER 2: Now wait a minute—!

S’TELLER 3: For in Hat Street--!

S’TELLER 2: ….Hat Street?

S’TELLER 3: Hat Street, yes. For deep…

S’TELLER 2: Deep…?

S’TELLER 3: Deep in the darkest alley off Hat Street, the Upper Under Secretary….

S’TELLER 2: Stews…

UNDER: Rules. Laws. Must have them. Must have them!

S’TELLER 2: And schemes.

The Upper Under Secretary – trying out various weapons:

Perhaps a fancy feather pen, to stab:

Perhaps a fancy stapler to…staple.

UNDER: Ah ha! Yes!


S’TELLER 2: And plans.

Finally, perhaps some ridiculous kind of club: made with pen, stapler and…something else that’s equally ridiculous. Perhaps, he will use his book of laws to bash Bird Brain with!!

UNDER: Ah ha!

S’TELLER 2: How to get rid of Bird Brain. Once and for all.

He practices with the ridiculous weapon.




Ha ha.

Ha ha ha!!!!


Bird Brain and the Queen on their thrones.

QUEEN: My handsome King….Maybe we could go for a walk in the Woods.

B’BRAIN: That sounds like a lovely idea.


Behind the King, the Upper Under Secretary creeps out of his hiding place, raises his weapon, and is about to strike the King on the head, killing both him and his birds!!

Music/Sound – The Birds singing.

S’TELLER 2: But then…

S’TELLER 1: But then…

S’TELLER 2: But then…

The Birds – sing a symphony

The Upper Under Secretary’s face transforms – slowly, magically.

His mouth melts.

UNDER: Ahhh….

S’TELLER 1: His eyes thaw.

UNDER: Ahhh….

S’TELLER 2: His face shines.

UNDER: (a discovery:) Ahhhh… My birds….

My little friends….

I see now…

I see….

The Upper Under Secretary – starts to cry.

B. BRAIN: Nuuuuuuuu, Nu Nu Nu Nu, shhhhh, it’s okay.

UNDER: I am so bad… I am sooo bad….!

QUEEN: Don’t let it get to you….Shhhh.

UNDER: I nearly killed you. And the birds. And then I, I heard them. For the first time, I actually truly heard them. And I, I couldn’t do it, I…

B. BRAIN: None of us are angels.

UNDER: May I… may I pet them?

B. BRAIN: Only with your small finger .

Bird Brain – takes off his crown/hat for the first time.

Bird Brain and the Queen – watch the Upper Under Secretary pet the Birds.

UNDER: I am sorry, your Majesty. I’m sorry I didn’t believe your story about the birds. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.

B. BRAIN: That’s alright.

UNDER: And now I must receive my punishment.

QUEEN: Punishment?

UNDER: Attempted Bird Murder is a very serious offence under Law Eight Hundred and Fifty Six, Section 2, Article Seventeen.

Bird Brain – rises.

B. BRAIN: I, Bird Brain, the King, have in front of me, the Under Secretary.

UNDER: That’s me.

B. BRAIN: I hereby sentence you to….


To be promoted. As of today, you are now to be….

Bird Secretary of All the Land!

A fanfare - rejoicing.

UNDER: Bird Secretary! Oh yes! I can do that! As long as you have birds in your crown, you will be the safest King in the world. Oh thank you! Thank you!

QUEEN: Very good Bird Brain. Very good my love!

He starts bowing and tipping hit hat, out of habit.

KING: And while I’m at it, that law about tipping your hat? Gone! And that law about the Queen not making laws? Gone! In fact…

He grabs the Upper Under Secretary’s Book of Rules and rips it up. Everyone cheers.

QUEEN: For these acts, my husband, these kisses.

The Queen – kisses Bird Brain.

Music – The Birds sing.

All three hear it.

They all take a deep breath

Their faces melting into a smile.


End of Play.

Based on the story by Albert Wendt
Copyright April 07 by Vern Thiessen Representation
Kensington Literary Agency: kensingtonlit@rogers.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.