INTRODUCTION TO THE PLAY: THE STORY OF THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
As you sit down for your turkey on Thanksgiving Day, it is inevitable that you will cast your thoughts back to the very first Thanksgiving on November 21, 1621. Soon after arriving on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, the conservative Christian Pilgrims decided to celebrate their religious freedom and newfound home with a thanksgiving to the Lord. You are no doubt shocked by the image of the black-clothed Pilgrims sitting down to eat with the red-skinned savages of undeveloped America. Think of it, before the Pilgrims arrived the simple Indians wandered aimlessly unable to even develop such simple ideas as property and money. The Indian religion was nothing but a rogue's gallery of animal faced hobgoblins.
After a bountiful harvest, the Pilgrims took pity on the Indians and invited them to eat some real food instead of the maize (corn), bark and raw venison that was traditional with their people. The Pilgrims had killed a turkey, a Native American bird that the Indians had never thought to eat, and roasted it for everyone's enjoyment.
"If you like this food," the head Pilgrim John Smith said, "You can thank Jesus our God for it."
Even though the food was far less flavorful, this was long before Emeril, the Indians tasted it and enjoyed it more than their bark. Who wouldn't? They enjoyed it so much that they asked to see this "Jesus" that had provided such delicious repast.
When presented with his image they said, "Ugh, that can't be a God! He has a face like a human."
Oh, how the Pilgrims laughed.
After the Indians tried the pumpkin pie, they were ready to stop worshiping their pets and start worshiping a God that can provide scrumptious, custard-based desserts like that.
If only the Indians had followed through on it! Instead, they went back to their bark and maize salads, while they spread disease and attacked the settlers just for being white. Imagine! If they had simply accepted the Pilgrims way of life immediately, so many wars and deaths could have been prevented.
I have written this copyright free play that you can perform in your school. Remember, it is copyright free for educational purposes only! It dramatizes the first Thanksgiving in a way that is appropriate for any age group. Most schools don't have any American Indian children to play the Indians in the play, but, there are the other kind of Indians from India in many schools now. In a pinch a Latino (From Mexico?) child could fill in as an Indian as there are plenty of them around, that's for sure.
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING!
JOHN WOODLEAF and his wife ELLA MAY WOODLEAF are gathered around a table thick with food. There should be a large turkey on the table and a lots of places set.
JOHN: Oh, Ella May, I do declare this to be a feast of unforgiving proportions and untold deliciousness.
ELLA: I do hope that our savage and ignorant neighbors find it to be so.
JOHN: Despite their lack of civility, culture and manners, I am sure that they will be unable to resist the charms of your meal. Hark, what is that sound. Indians approacheth.
A group of Indians approach holding great bowls. One of maize (corn), another of bark and another of raw venison. The one with the largest headdress is CHIEF RUNNING DOG.
DOG: How! I have brought you great bowls of maize (which you call corn), bark and venison. Thank you for inviting us to your... what is the word? City? I'm afraid we have to concept of cities, we live in houses made of sticks and cloth called a teepee.
JOHN: T.P.? In our culture T.P. stands for something else! Toilet paper. (Pause for laugh) We welcome you to our home. Please take a seat at the table.
Everyone sits down and they are joined by a group of a few more Pilgrims. The Indians reach for the food and start eating. In our production, this bit was given an extra comic boost when the Indians imnprovised some particularly loud eating noises. One especially funny fellow let loose with a belch!
JOHN: Whoa! We cannot eat quite yet, for we must give thanks to Jesus for the bounty he has laid before us.
The Indians murmur to one another.
DOG: Who is this Jesus? He must be a powerful and great hunter to have provided food such as this...
The pilgrims laugh heartily.
JOHN: No, I'm afraid Jesus is the living reborn earthly aspect of the one true God.
At this point, Jesus in a white robe enters stage left and poses in a holy way off to the side.
JOHN (continuing): God is the redeemer and the creator. He created everything from you Indians, the animals and human beings like us. Why, he even created Corn (which you call Maize.)
DOG: I'm afraid you are mistaken. The creator of the world is Coyote the Trickster god.
At this point, Coyote enters stage right. This is a swarthy boy in a loincloth wearing a dog mask of some kind. The actual mask isn't really that important. We successfully used a Clifford the big red dog mask in our production. Comic barking will enthuse the audience!
DOG: To spite the other gods, he cast magic stone to the earth. Those stone became people and then Coyote brought fire.
The Pilgrims all laugh really hard. Jesus laugh and shrugs.
ELLA: Oh my, what a silly lie of a story. It sounds like something a child might make up.
JOHN: Jesus is a far greater God that that.
DOG: I do not think so. (Motions to Coyote) Coyote, sick 'em! Sick 'em! Shall we place a wager on the outcome?
JOHN: There shall be no gambling here! Oh Lord Jesus, we pray to you to smite your enemy.
Coyote and Jesus move toward one another circling like wrestlers. The Indians and Pilgrims gather around and cheer them on. After a few basic wrestling grappling holds, it looks like Coyote is biting Jesus, but Jesus doesn't react. Then, Jesus should roll up a newspaper and hit Coyote on the nose. Coyote should run offstage with his tail between his legs.
JOHN: God be praised.
DOG: Surely this cannot be.
ELLA: Well, now that that shenanigans is over with, who would like to try some of my cranberry sauce?
JOHN: You see, despite your belief in fairy tales we are willing to sit down with you and break bread.
DOG: Yours surely is the better way.
JOHN: Wait until you taste the pie!
ELLA: Oh John!
JOHN: I do declare this day to be Thanksgiving day! Henceforth to be celebrated on the American Continent on the fourth Thursday in November.
All join hands and bow.
Copyright 2003 Pastor Gregory Hilunk and Helpful Reasearch
Copyright 2006 David Wahl