“Talk Like a Pirate… Or Else”

A Readers’ Theater by Mr. Weimann


Introductions:

NARRATOR — Hi, my name is _____(name of reader), and I’m the narrator of this play. While the other characters are reading dialogue, my job is to fill you in on the “behind the scenes” information. Because we aren’t “acting” this out, and do not have a set with decorations and all, you will have to picture some of what I tell you in your heads. This is called “visualizing.” 

MARY — Hi, my name is _____(name of reader), and I’m a Polite Pirate, named Mary, in this play. I’m a Polite Pirate in real life, too. Polite pirates look like regular pirates, but we don’t steal anything. Also, we have extremely good manners. 

ZEUS — Hi, my name is _____(name of reader), and I’m a Polite Pirate in the play, as well. In the play my name is Zeus. The problem is that I think people will not like me if I act like my normal polite self. Wait until you see the silly stuff that I do, to try and look tough!

CAPTAIN — Hi, my name is _____(name of reader), and I’m the Captain of the Polite Pirates in this play. I am very wise.

EVERYONE: So wise!

SAILOR1 — Hi, my name is _____(name of reader), and I play a sailor in this play. I think that Zeus is funny.

SAILOR2 — Hi, my name is _____(name of reader), and I’m also a sailor in the play. I’m sad to say that my sailor friend and I end up making fun of Zeus a little. Find out what happens as you listen to…

EVERYONE: “Talk Like a Pirate… Or Else!”


NARRATOR:  There was once an island that rescued several sailors who had survived a massive storm.  

ZEUS:  Where are we?

CAPTAIN:  We are safe.

ZEUS:  I asked, where we were; not how we were.

MARY:  Are you questioning the captain?

ZEUS:  No, that was a statement.  I do declare, my statement was referring to our whereabouts, rather than our condition.

CAPTAIN:  The storm has taken a toll on us.  We have lost many crew members; We are weary and hungry; We have no shelter; This is a strange and foreign land; But, for the moment, we are safe.

ZEUS:  You are right, Captain.  I apologize for my ungrateful attitude.  

CAPTAIN:  Apology accepted.  Now, lets make a fire and collect some food.

NARRATOR:  These three polite pirates were not the only sailors surviving on the island.  There were people from several different ships marooned on the same piece of land.  And, yes, I did say “Polite” pirates… For this small remaining band of pirates was none other than Captain Iron Knee’s crew of Polite Pirates!

MARY:  Zeus, I have collected this dry wood for a toasty fire.  

ZEUS:  Excellent!  The captain will have to instruct us on how to begin the flame.  He is so wise.

MARY:  So wise.

NARRATOR:  Captain Iron Knee was considered rather wise:)

ZEUS:  Now, let’s gather some food.

NARRATOR:  The fire was started and food was gathered.  As the polite pirates ate, they looked around.  They saw other surviving sailors who did not have a toasty warm fire.  Not too far away were two sailors shivering on a log.

CAPTAIN:  We should share some fire and food with those unfortunate souls.

ZEUS & Mary:  Yes, mmm, definitely.

NARRATOR:  As you can see, these pirates did not behave in the typical piraty way.  However, they did look like other pirates, complete with eye patches, pirate hats, and even an iron knee.  It doesn’t get much more piraty than an iron knee!

CAPTAIN:  Why don’t one of you two go over there and offer some food and fire to our neighbors?

ZEUS:  I will go.

NARRATOR:  Zeus hesitated, though.  He wondered what the neighboring survivors would think if they knew just how polite he and his friends were… Or, was it the fact that they looked like pirates but did not act or talk like pirates.  Either way, rather than going over to the two shivering sailors and saying…

MARY: “Hello, I happened to notice that you have been struggling to begin a fire over here.”

NARRATOR: …He actually said… er, growled…

ZEUS:  Ahoy!!  Shiver me timbers!  Dis be a fancy mess o’ sticks!  Avast: me fire be yours if ye belay that shiverin’, get yerselves off the yardarm and fetch some (far less piraty voice) really really small sticks.  I suggest the fine twigs of spruce trees.  Those work quite well.  (recomposing himself) SHOW A LEG!  Let’s go!  

NARRATOR:  You can well imagine that the shivering sailors were as confused as they were cold after that display.  

SAILOR 1:  What on earth was that?  

SAILOR 2:  I do not know.  (Thinks for a moment; then in a gruff, piraty voice)  Yarr, I be not knowin’ what that be ‘bout! 

(Both Sailors giggle.)

NARRATOR:  Zeus did not walk upright, the way he usually did on his return to Captain Iron Knee and Mary.  He was hunched over, dragged one leg, and swung his arms ferociously.  

CAPTAIN:  Zeus, did you offer those sailors some of our food and fire, as I asked you to?

ZEUS:  I did tell them that they could have some of our fire.

MARY:  How exactly did you communicate that idea?

ZEUS:  (Hems and haws; then mumbles) I talked like a pirate.

CAPTAIN:  That is what I thought.  

ZEUS:  (Making excuses) But, what if they don’t like us?  What if they think we are weak or not scary?  

MARY:  What does being scary have to do with anything?

(Pause and look at sailors who are acting out piraty behavior)

SAILOR 1: Hoist the colors, hearties!  

SAILOR 2: The Jolly Roger be missin’, cap’n!

SAILOR 1: Blimey, land lubbers be scrapin’ off with me hook if-wernt-‘tached-me-arm!

SAILOR 2:  And ye may lay to that!

(Back to the polite pirates)

CAPTAIN:  Now look at what you have done!

MARY:  Were you trying to sound scary, the way pirates typically do?

ZEUS:  (embarrassed) Maybe.

CAPTAIN:  Why would you do that?  That is not a way to make friends.  If we are going to survive on this island peaceably it is important to make friends.  We will need to cooperate.

MARY:  (In an understanding, kind tone) Captain Iron Knee is correct.  We may be pirates, but we are shipwrecked just like every other person on this island.  

NARRATOR:  Zeus thought about this, and felt badly. He walked back over to the sailors still giggling and trying to talk like pirates, themselves.  Only, this time Zeus walked the way he normally would, tall, proud, with shoulders back, straight, and chin up; not swinging his arms, but carrying them like instruments for helping others.

ZEUS:  (To the sailors who have been mocking him and pretending to be pirates)  Excuse me, but earlier I came over here and behaved badly.  I was afraid that you would not like me if I talked to you normally, so I tried talking like a pirate.  The thing is… I am a pirate, but a rather polite one.  I belong to an unusually mannerly group of pirates who share politeness with others.  Actually, that is why I was sent over here, originally.  We have food and fire that we would like to share with you if you are interested.  

NARRATOR:  This left the two sailors rather speechless.  

SAILOR 1: Yarr! (Sailor2 nudges the first)  …Uh, yes, yes, we would greatly appreciate some help with fire and food.  

SAILOR 2: Thank you for coming back over here and explaining your behavior.  We weren’t sure if you were a silly person, weird pirate, or shipwrecked savage.  

ZEUS:  My name is Zeus, and I am the chef on Captain Iron Knee’s ship.

(They get close enough for Mary to hear this.)

MARY:  You were chef of the ship.  Hello, I am Mary.

(Sailors shake hands all around.)

CAPTAIN:  Pleased to make your acquaintance.  

SAILOR 1:  We would be grateful for your help. 

SAILOR 2:  We are freezing over here.

ZEUS:  Rather than give you fire, why don’t the two of you join us.  

MARY:  Yes, we have enough food for all of us.

SAILOR 1:  You really are polite pirates!

SAILOR 2:  How do you become a polite pirate?

NARRATOR:  And with that, the polite pirate crew grew once more.

Once a Polite Pirate, always a Polite Pirate. Here’s a photo of our plays from 2015.

Honesty is an Attitude

Is it always classy to tell the truth? Is keeping the truth from someone the same thing as lying? Can you honestly omit vital information? The word integrity comes to mind, but sometimes there is more to the story than the black- and white-ness of true versus false. There is nuance. To think that one must say the 100% truth at all times is simple-minded. Don’t think that I am advocating for deception; by no means. I’m suggesting that a classy person looks for the best possible outcome; What will help others the most?

We have all heard or read the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” A ruler is duped into parading around town with nothing on because he is too proud to admit that someone could possibly lie to him. The court cowards at the thought of telling him the ugly truth. Finally, an innocent child bursts the bubble, and the crowd spills the beans.

The May/June 2020 issue of Storyworks Junior presents this age old story by Hans Christian Anderson, retold by Spencer Kayden in the form of a play. I assigned this reading, along with the questions that Storyworks Junior provided, recently. As I was looking over my students fabulous answers and leaving comments, a revolution of thought hit me.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 6.48.32 AMIn this version there is a character named “Royal Aide” who, unlike the other members of court, wants the emperor to be successful. He fears the emperor’s exuberant love of looks, but he keeps this to himself… at least at first.

Through out the play this character shares the honest truth, but is rejected. In this super short, kid-friendly-version (the emperor still has his underwear on) of the age-old story the Emperor rewards the Royal Aide for having been the only person to tell him the truth.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 6.57.20 AMOne of the questions that Storyworks Junior posed for engaging students when reading this play was, “What message is the author trying to communicate?” Some students simply quoted the text, and told me “It is better to be hated and honest than loved through lies.”

More than being annoyed that my students would copy the text for their answers, it bothered me how simple this seemed. Is lying always wrong? As an educator I am constantly telling students that I am pleased with their “hard work,” even though I am certain that they didn’t work “all that hard” on an assignment. Am I telling a fib? I certainly am! I justify this by telling myself that I am projecting. I’m trying to get them to want to do “hard work.” Does that make my false praise okay?

There are many lessons to be learned from this story, though. Here is one that places honesty on its head: Do not believe everyone is completely honest with you. The Emperor was annoyed when the Royal Aide shared his distrust of the crafty tailors. The Aide was honest with himself before being truthful with the Emperor. He accurately assessed the trickery the tailors were up to.

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This is when I realized, “Wait, there are many lessons, here!”

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 6.30.21 AMThere is a place early on in the play when the Royal Aide was honest with the emperor, but it didn’t pan out well. The palace guard told the aide that two tailors were here to show the emperor clothing that only intelligent people could see. What does the Royal Aide do with this nonsensical information? He shares it with his boss, who he knows to be weak in the area of resisting luxurious fashion!

It was his honesty that got his boss into all of the trouble in the first place. Your with someone who cannot resist candy. They know it isn’t good for them, but they have no self-control. It has gotten to the point where this person actually asked you to help him to avoid candy, so that he will not be tempted. A salesman knocks on the door, selling candy. Do you say, “Hold on,” while you go get your friend who cannot resist buying every item the candyman is selling? Do you send the salesperson away, but tell your friend about the incident? Or, do you keep the interaction to yourself; Perhaps you even lie to your friend, in order to shield him from the pain of his cravings?

In other words, honesty was a horrible choice for the Royal Aide to display in this drama! Even if he didn’t foresee the outcome of his actions, he ought to have protected the Emperor from himself.

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This is the crux of this blog: It’s all about ATTITUDE or motives.

In conclusion, the classiest action is hard to find. One must look deeply into a situation, explore all of the various potential outcomes, and choose what would be best. Also, one must decide “Best for whom?” Are you just looking out for Numero Uno;. yourself; or are you helping others first. On the flip side, will you hurt others in the long run if you are not available to help them due to allowing yourself to fall into disarray? Perhaps it is best to take care of yourself, then others. At what point do you flip the switch, though? It’s tricky.

deep-well-with-green-vinesThe well of understanding is deep. Drink its classy waters. Honestly assess the best outcome for all involved. Good luck!

How do you decide when to switch over from taking care of yourself to helping others?