The Changeling Princess / by Marsali Taylor

Cast:

LORD HIGH CHAMBERLAIN
KING VICTOR
QUEEN REGINA
YOUNG PRINCE VICTOR
YOUNG PRINCESS VANIT
Y PRINCE VICTOR
PRINCESS VANITY
ROSALBA - the Changeling Princess

COURTIERS:
RUFUS
JUSTIN
CEDRIC
CONNOR
AMABEL
EUDOIA
DAGMAR
CHLOE

GODMOTHERS:
FAY MONDIA
WILLOW
TAMAR
MALVIANCE

MISS PRITCH - Rosalba's Governess
MRS BUNDLE - the cook
MISS MALKONET - -the butler
FRED - the scullion
LORD SID OF BATTERSEA - envoy from the King of Chavallia
PRINCE HOWEL OF MINIMISCULA

BRIGANDS:
CLEMENTO
ANTONIO
FALCO
JOSÉ
RENATO
GUISEPPE
PAOLO
ROBERTO

TWO BABY DRAGONS
TWO ROYAL PAGES

+ VILLAGERS, ANIMALS, and THE DRAGON [as many as desired to make up these extras.]

Can be a cast of thousands! but could perhaps be done with as few as 20-25 using doubling. An ideal lower school play.

Full length. Approx one and a half to one and three-quarter hours long, excluding interval.

Sample Pages from the script

Extract 1

KING
Your - your witchiness... this is a most unexpected - er - pleasure ...

MALVIANCE
Oh, a pleasure, is it? I'm certainly unexpected, seeing as how you didn't bother to send me an invitation. I suppose you were too busy keeping m with the young - [Looks at Fay.] - your age is beginning to show, ducks... and fashionable - [Looks at Mondia.] - to remember about me. Or was it on purpose? Don't think I haven't heard all that's been said in this castle these last months. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if you all wanted the poor mite to be struck down by a nasty curse before she got too old and too expensive. You hope I'll prick her finger with a spindle or turn her into a toad ... hah! Changeling princess indeed! [Tickles baby's tummy.] Well, what gifts have you given her so far?

FAY
I have gifted her a voice like a singing bird.

MALVIANCE
Uh-huh.

MONDIA
I have dowered her with style and fashion.

MALVIANCE
Spared her from dress-sense like yours, you mean?

WILLOW
I have summoned the ancient mystical harmony between all creatures to be revived in her.

MALVIANCE
So everywhere she goes she'll have a zoo following her. Great. Very helpful.

TAMAR
You can't tell me green fingers aren't a useful gift.

MALVIANCE
It'll be very handy when she's reduced to growing her own food.

TAMAR
And what are you going to give her that's so special?

MALVIANCE
I'll give her something that you don't have an ounce of between you. Princess Rosalba, I hereby endow you ... [Waves her wand; magical effect.] ... with common sense.

JUSTIN
Common sense?

AMABEL
For a princess?

ALL
Well, what use is that?

Lights fade. Scene changes to castle garden. The Lord High Chamberlain steps into spot.

LORD HIGH CHAMBERLAIN
And so Rosalba grew up. [Enter Rosalba.] She would have had a voice that charmed everyone who listened to it, except ...

Enter Miss Pritch, the Governess, cross.

MISS PRITCH
Well, Rosalba, that's where you've got to.

ROSALBA
I was just ...

MISS PRITCH
Didn't you hear me calling?

ROSALBA
Y-y-yes, I...

MISS PRITCH
Well, don't just stand there, girl - if I ever saw such a moonling. Have you got those dates off by heart yet?

ROSALBA
N-n-not yet, Miss Pritch.

MISS PRITCH
And why not, when I distinctly told you to learn them?

ROSALBA
I-I

MISS PRITCH
Really, child, you are hopeless. Why, your sister could recite those dates when she was only six. What are we going to do with you? Now, take that book and try once more.

She gives Rosalba a book and bustles out. The Lord High Chamberlain steps forward.

LORD HIGH CHAMBERLAIN
She would have had a voice that charmed everyone who listened - except that nobody ever listened to Rosalba. And, what was worse, she was so bullied and browbeaten by everyone that instead of a voice like a singing bird's, she developed - a stammer.

Extract 2

Bustle outside. Vanity and Victor look expectant. Enter Villagers, determined and alarmed.

VILLAGER 6
Your Royal Highness, we must speak with you.

VICTOR
Naturally. While my father is absent on his tour of the Carparthian border, I am in charge.

VANITY
Ahem!

VICTOR
With my dear sister, of course. Provided it doesn't take too long - my sister is expecting a guest. Now what can I do for you?

VILLAGER 7
It's the dragon, sire.

VILLAGER 8
It's taking over.

VILLAGER 9
It's eaten six of my best cows.

VILLAGER 10
And fifteen of my best sheep.

VILLAGER 6
It's burnt the roof from over my head.

VILLAGER 7
Scorched the earth in all my fields.

VILLAGER 8
Carbonized the trees.

VILLAGER 9 Drunk the river dry.

VILLAGER 10
The region's a wasteland.

ALL
You've got to do something!

VICTOR
Yes, well. Thank you, my good people, for bringing this news to me; I ...

VANITY
Ahem!

VICTOR
... We will consider it and let you know our decision forthwith.

VILLAGER 6
Couldn't you go and fight it, Your Highness?

VICTOR
I could, of course - but, rather unsporting, what, - a known warrior like me against an untrained lizard - What about you, Rufus?

RUFUS
Sire, I would be honoured, but I am unfortunately - er - allergic to lizards. [Sneezes.] Even the thought of them ... [Sneezes.]

VICTOR
Justin? Cedric?

JUSTIN
Sire, we would be absolutely enchanted by the prospect were it not that we do essential work here.

CEDRIC
Who would choose his majesty's socks if we went?

VICTOR
There is that. Connor? Connor!

CONNOR
Yeth, your Majethty?

VICTOR
No, I suppose not. Very well, I will consider the matter further.

VILLAGERS
Your majesty -

VICTOR
No, no more now. We're busy. Off you go.

Exit Villagers, muttering. Fanfare.

VICTOR
Ah, that will be your prince now, dear sister.

VANITY
Quick, my looking glass. [After a last prinking, she returns it]

VANITY
You may show him in now, Lord High Chamberlain.

LORD HIGH CHAMBERLAIN
His royal highness, Prince Howel of Minimiscula.

Enter Prince. All - deep bow. Victor rises.

VICTOR
We are pleased to welcome you to the kingdom, Prince Howel.

HOWEL
You are very kind. [Bowing to Vanity.] Madam, you are even more beautiful than your portrait. [Vanity simpers.] ! am honoured that you should even consider my suit.

VICTOR
My sister is as yet undecided which of her many offers of marriage she should accept.

ROWEL
If there is any task I can perform for you, you have only to name it.

VICTOR
Of course! The very thing! Will you excuse me, Prince, while I advise my sister?

The Prince bows. Victor leads Vanity forward. The Prince chats to the ladies whilst the male courtiers crane forwards.

VICTOR
Must you refuse him right now, dear sister?

VANITY
You're not suggesting I waste myself on a tiny kingdom like his?

VICTOR
Of course not! But why don't we send him off to tackle the dragon? If it kills him, it's no skin off our nose and if he kills it, you can refuse him then. We can't lose!

VANITY
Sounds good to me! They return to the throne.

VANITY
Prince, now I come to think of it, there is one small favour you could do for me, which might lead me to pick you out from my other suitors.

HEWEL
Name it!

VANITY
A little matter of a dragon which lives out in the marshes. I fancy a dragon skin rug and I'm told this one is rather pretty colours.

ROWEL
Madam, it is done! [He bows and exits.]

VICTOR
Good, that's the problem sorted.

VANITY
And if he fails to come back, there's always our second option.

VICTOR
Second option?

VANITY
It was quite often done in the old days, I believe. You placated the dragon by feeding it a princess.

Rosalba looks alarmed, shakes her head and sneaks unobtrusively - to Victor and Vanity - out.

VICTOR
A princess? Dear sister, never would I ask you to make such a sacrifice.

VANITY
Not me, stupid! There is another princess here - in name at least.

VICTOR
Another princess?

EUDOIA
That changeling.

JUSTIN
The - er - princess Rosalba, your royal highness.

VICTOR
Of course! Rosalba! Where is the girl?

LADIES
She was just here -

VICTOR shouting
Rosalba!

Blackout Removal of throne room. Re-enter Rosalba dressed in boy's garb, a knapsack on her back. She pauses centre stage, not sure where to go. Enter Fred.

FRED
Hey! What's going on?

ROSALBA
I'm off. There's a rather nasty tradition that, to shut a dragon up, you feed it a princess - and guess who's been volunteered!

FRED
They wouldn't dare.

ROSALBA
Oh wouldn't they? I'm getting out while I'm still in one piece. [Pause. Thoughtfully.] It's a funny thing about dragons, ough. You'd have thought ...

FRED interrupring
And dressed like that!

ROSALBA
I nicked an outfit from Victor's page's room.

FRED
And your hair?

ROSALBA
Cut it off. I think it looks far better short anyway.

FRED
You'll never fool anyone. Your voice is too high.

ROSALBA lower
I'll remember to speak lower.

FRED
But you can't just go.

ROSALBA
I can't just stay either. Somewhere - somewhere, there must be a place for me.

MRS BUNDLE off
Fred! Where is that dratted boy?

FRED
Have you got something to eat? Here - [Gives her a handful of biscuits from his pocket]

MISS MALKONET off
Fred! You come 'ere this h'instant!

ROSALBA
You'll have to go. Enter Howel.

HOWEL
Hey, boy! Yes, you!

Both Fred and Rosalba turn. He is talking to Rosalba.

ROSALBA
Yes, sir?

HOWEL
One of Prince Victor's pages, are you?

ROSALBA
Yes, sir. Well I was, sir .... Looking for new employment now, sir.

HOWEL
Do you know the marsh where this dragon lives?

ROSALBA
It's a bit of a journey, sir.

Sample Pages from Production Notes

INTRODUCTION: THEMES, THE PLAY’S INTENTIONS

Set in the fairy-tale world of princes, princesses, fairy godmothers and dragons, ‘The Changeling Princess’ is a different take on a number of old themes. There is a modern feel, primarily through the informality of the language, which gives a refreshing comically light atmosphere to the play.

The wicked sisters of tradition have become a revolting elder brother who is a bully and an equally bullying elder sister who is aptly called Vanity. Their characters give rise to the main theme of the play, which is that of bullying and the results of it, which is the main character, Rosalba’s, lack of self-confidence.

Another theme is ‘not to judge on appearances.’ Thus, Vanity’s beauty for a time blinds Howel to her evil. Malviance, who seems to be the archetypal bad fairy of so many fairy-tales - thunderclaps, not being invited to the christening, black cauldron, etc. - is the only one of the godmothers who is truly helpful to Rosalba. And dragons are not what they’re cracked up to be; the brigands use the dragon’s reputation to cover all their criminal activities.

CHARACTERS

LORD HIGH CHAMBERLAIN, often the storyteller, sets the lightly satirical tone of the piece. Speaks directly to the audience and needs a strong warm voice to make a sympathetic link with them.

KING EDMUND stereo-typical harrassed father - complaining about expensive daughters and so on, with the added extra of being a king to make him even more harrassed - worrying about the cares of a kingdom. Warlike and argumentative on all levels, hence his interest in war and his need to go often to war with his neighbours.

He needs a strutting, tense way of moving, betraying his irritable nature. He is rather apoplectic, given to bursts of temper. A voice that is hectoring and over-loud, close to a shout much of the time, would help. A tendency to interrupt, clipping the end of the Queen’s speeches, for instance, also helps give a sense of the character’s impatience and bad-temper.

QUEEN REGINA at first she seems kind, but once Rosalba has been born she shows her true colours and becomes as nasty as the rest of the family towards her youngest child. In the first scene, her soft voice should reveal her weakness. Her dreadful elder children run rings around her and she has no control. Any attempts to curb their nastiness are swamped. Disappointment at Rosalba’s less than princessly charms prevent her from being any kind of mother to her. Moreover, her time is too taken up by the demands of the dreadful Victor and Vanity.

She needs to contrast with the King, by having a rather wet ‘oh-dear-ish’ kind of voice. Rather tentative helpess hand movements and way of walking would help convey her essential weakness.

PRINCE VICTOR [both young and older] A revolting bully, horribly spoilt. He is mean, boastful and, in his own way, as vain as his sister. His voice needs to clearly identify him as a baddie from the beginning. Both voice and actions can be broad and stereo-typical.

PRINCESS VANITY [both young and older] As her brother, she is a baddie and must be throughout. She too is horribly spoilt. She is cruel and should take obvious delight in her cruel plans. A false sickly-sweet tone of voice is often called for. She is used to getting her own way in this manner - by a sweet voice and fluttering eye-lashes, sickly simpering smiles - consciously ‘look-at-me-aren’t-I-pretty’ gestures and facial expressions. When foiled, her face and voice need to change in a flash to reveal the real nastiness underneath.

ROSALBA. She is the heroine. She is a no-nonsense type of girl, who has had to win through despite a hard upbringing. The first part, where she stammers [only when with her family and the court] is the hardest part to act. Make sure that the stammer doesn’t become so extreme that it masks what she is saying - which is often important and sensible. Keep the stammer slow - words which are slowed down and a struggle to say in this manner will be listened to. Otherwise, especially when she is with her friend Fred and acting as a boy, she should have a more confident way of moving - a swagger when pretending to be a boy, though even as a girl, she should be as normal as possible - not prettily-feminine in the way she behaves. However, her voice should be pleasant when not stammering [one of the gifts she’s been given.]

The COURTIERS and court ladies are all self-seeking and not very pleasant characters. Their loyalty to the Royal Family is all basically insincere: they are only after what they can get in the way of position and honours.They are differentiated briefly as follows:

RUFUS the one who’s most on-the-ball. Self-seeking. Voice should be impatient when with the other courtiers.

JUSTIN Rufus’ side-kick. Rather wetter than Rufus. Voice could be light, verging on the camp - but not over done like Cedric.

CONNOR a lisp, highly exaggerated. Obsessed with birds and nature, which should make him endearing, but only succeeds in making him comically vague and dithery.

CEDRIC perhaps a little camp in mannerisms and voice. A coward with a dislike of any violence.

AMABEL silly, vain, and snobby. She likes to make a lot of her relationship with the Royal Family. Should exaggerate a posh accent.

EUDOIA rather the boss of the ladies. Sets the tone for each section, such as trying to preserve one-upmanship aganist the men or criticising the Queen bitchily, and so on.

DAGMAR After Connor, Man crazy. A bossy tone of voice.

CHLOE not very bright and constantly the butt of the others in consequence. Should show visually on stage, that she cottons onto jokes a few lines further on than anyone else - always out of rhythm - this will give an extra comic touch.

The FAIRY GODMOTHERS owe more to Walt Disney comedy than to traditional fairytales. They are modern, each with a particular comic slant.

FAY - the most traditional amd the oldest of them. She is written as having a strong country accent as well. Strong no-nonsense moves.

MONDIA - dressed in up-to-the-minute fashions. Her voice should be sharp and pointedly fashionable and walk and movements should be self-conscious, fashion modelly, posey.

WILLOW - vague and New-Age-y. Wafty movements and a fluttery other-wordly voice.

TAMAR - a good solid farm-girl with a voice to match and a stumping way of walking. Tendency to plant her hands on hips, etc.

MALVIANCE - not a baddie, despite the name. Her movements should be strong and entrance dramatic, so that others react to her as if she is the baddie. Her voice should likewise be strong and loud - as if she is cursing - but the audience should quickly realise she is not a bad character.

MISS PRITCH, Rosalba’s Governess. Like everyone else, she bullies Rosalba. She cuts off the end of her sentences, doesn’t listen and uses a sharp severe way of speaking, Movements too, should be angular and sharply impatient.

MRS BUNDLE the cook - preferably large, flour-up-to-the-elbows type traditional cook character. Needs an accent - perhaps East-end too. She is fond of boxing ears and making blows count for more than words.

MISS MALKONET, the butler. She has given herself airs and covered up her original accent with an exaggerated posh one, pronouncing ‘h’s where there are none, and so on. A slow, precise way of speaking, a supercilious expression, looking down the nose and a dignified but comic way of walking - as if with poker up backside.

FRED, the scullion. Rosalba’s only friend and therefore a goodie. Should be as normal and sympathetic as possible. He is positive and helpful to her, acting rather like a kind elder brother might.

LORD SID OF BATTERSEA - the greasy professional conman type. His voice is East London, his mannerisms are Uriah Heep/ car salesman. He speaks the language of estate agents - sounds good, but covers a multitude of traps.

PRINCE HOWEL OF MINIMSCULA The other goodie. Pleasantly humble [not smarmily so] and at the same time down-to-earth. Speaks in a matter-of -fact way. Should sound normal compared with other characters. Stands straight and moves in a forthright, definite manner.

All BRIGANDS are uniformly stupid, bullying, brawling individuals. There is not a lot to choose between them. However, CLEMENTO is the leader of the brigands and GUISEPPE is the only one with a tiny bit of sense. Try to differentiate the others through different sizes [Jose small for instance] and different levels of voice - matching a large sized brigand with a high voice, for instance.

SETTING

This play has a multitude of settings and many of the scenes are very short. Aim for rapid movement from scene to scene by keeping settings simple.

Here is a list of the different settings asked for:
Act 1, Scene 1 - the castle garden.
Act 1, Scene 2 - starts out the same, but changes part way in to the throne room.
Act 1, Scene 3 - the castle garden
Act 1, Scene 4 - the throne room.
Act 1, Scene 5 - the castle kitchen
Act 1, Scene 6 - the castle garden
Act 1, Scene 7 - the throne room
Act 1, Scene 8 - the palace courtyard

Act 2, Scene 1 - wasteland
Act 2, Scene 2 - Malviance’s cottage
Act 2, Scene 3 - In the forest
Act 2, Scene 4 - On the way to the mountain - then inside the dragon’s cave
Act 2, Scene 5 - The brigand’s hideout in the forest
Act 2, Scene 6 - Another place in the forest
Act 2, Scene 7 - the throne room
Act 2, Scene 8 - somewhere outside the castle

Many of the changes can be achieved by lighting and movement. Look at the page by page break-down later on for full suggestions.

There are a variety of ways, of course, to design the setting - from complex to simple.

Idea no 1: small platform made up from scaffolding on each side of the stage, on wheels with brake stops, so that they can be revolved. [similar to lighting tower in design.] For Act 1, this could have clematis - a profusion of flowers etc, wound around two sides of it, against a trellis-style attachment. The other sides would show castle interior - brick walls with tapestry hanging down, or with coat of arms, etc.

In the interval, these would change to the foliage and trunk of a large tree on one side of the stage and on the other, made to look like the rugged side of a mountain.

The back of the stage is raised, with steps down the middle. The thrones would be set on the raised area, brought on by members of the cast. A couple of urns of flowers each side of the steps would establish the garden.

Idea no 2: If the idea of scaffolding is impractical for you, keep everything very simple. Have a high raised area at the back, the front part of it to be covered in, the whole length or just the middle part, by black or grey cloth. This platform leads into the wings on one side of the stage but stops short of the other side - leaving enough room to place a set of steps there. In front of the centre, for Act 1 only, there is also another set of steps. Establish the gardens and the throne room by props alone: large pots of plants for the garden, removed by the cast as the thrones are brought on, and vice versa.

In either of these examples, the kitchen is established by a table with the necessary props on it and lighting which reduces the area to cut out the scaffolding, if used.

The courtyard at the end of the act is just the forestage alone, or once again a reduced area stage.

To continue Idea 2: Act 2 would see the steps removed from the centre of the back raised area. The steps at the side are concealed by a rugged structure [chicken wire with wet bandage covering, or paper mache] looking like the side of a rock. The characters will actually be ‘struggling’ up the steps, but looking as though they are climbing a steep rockface.

The baby dragons could have their nest under the raised area, whose curtain would be drawn aside or upwards in the interval. The nest needs to look rocky and quite elaborate, perhaps with a section that pushes out from under the dais slightly onto the stage proper. This is what is faintly lit during the first scenes in the act, when the two are journeying towards the dragon lair. Here, too, near the front of the underneath of the platform, could be the blinking lights of the jewels, made with fairy lights perhaps. These need to be used when we’re actually in the lair. The babies, once the action starts, would emerge from their nest - I am not suggesting any real action happens under the platform.

At one side of the stage there needs to be the trunk of a tree, forking partway up and allowing one large branch to protrude out into the stage, high up. Behind this a sturdy stepladder, completely concealed by the tree. The fork in the trunk should be where the pair would be able to peer through, when hiding ‘up’ the tree.

For either Idea 1 or 2, you could have a free standing door with part of a wall and window shown for Malviance’s cottage. But simpler is to indicate interior through lighting alone, and mime banging on the door.

All other changes are achieved by lighting.

To achieve the throneroom at the end of Act 2, set the place in the forest of the previous scene on the forestage, or the apron if you have one, and remove the rockface infront of the steps under cover of darkness. Replace the central steps at the same time and drop the cloth cover at the front of the raised area to cover the dragon’s nest..

The important thing with it all, is to go for speedy solutions. Scenes are too short in many cases to want to keep an audience waiting while extensive scene changes are made.

All I have suggested are the basic requirements. Of course, you can make things far more elaborate and decorative if you want - with backdrops and flats and goodness knows what else, but I personally wouldn’t advise it. Simpler is to use the idea of a white cyclorama at the back and coloured lights to give different backgrounds.

Note that the page by page notes use idea 2 of the above settings.

LIGHTING

Though lighting is going to be important to define areas and to facilitate quick changes from scene to scene, that doesn’t mean it requires a huge amount of lanterns or circuits. All depends on the size of your stage, of course, but it can all be done quite simply. Special effects can be achieved without too much trouble - or you can go to town
if you want. Once again, I’ll try to show the most straight-forward options.

These are the main areas to light - the simplest way:
1. The whole stage including back raised area for castle garden: warm sunny light. Cyc coloured: green fading up to lemony yellow. Or blue sky, if preferred.
2. The whole stage including back raised area for throne room. Starker interior light. Cyc coloured a strong wash - perhaps red.
3. Reduced area, forestage only, excluding sides of stage and raised back [which means that thrones or garden planters, or whatever would not need to be moved.] Used for Kitchen, castle courtyard, outside the castle and Malviance’s cottage.
4. The whole stage, including back raised area for forest. Patchy dappled effect with plenty of greens, using gobos for dappled effect. Green leaf effect on cyc too.
5. Inside the dragon’s cave. Mainly reds on forestage, with fairy lights and red glow in under dais area. Red standing light in wings, same side as dragon entry.
6. Followspot or if not, spotlight trained on area towards the back of the auditorium in an aisleway, or alternatively if you have a thrust or apron, train the spot towards the front centre of that.
7. The opening to the dragon’s nest needs to be faintly lit at times - looking like a cavern mouth. This is placed ‘under’ the raised platform, front centre of it.
8. UV light if you have it. Can be done without.
9. Whole stafe dimly lit - forestage and raised area need to be separable, i.e. forestage lights come up before raised area. This is for the approach to the dragon’s lair.
10. Single spotlight front centre for Rosalba at end.

Optional narration spot to front side of stage, for Lord Chamberlain.