Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thanksgiving Theatrics - Family Fun Galore!

The kids don't know it yet, but they're going to superstar in a post-dinner Thanksgiving play at grandma's this year. Considering their love of theatrics, I'm confident they'll gobble up this opportunity right along with savory sweet potatoes served on the rapidly approaching family day of thankful feasting.

A Cast of Cousins

Age level consideration is the most challenging part of writing a play that includes everyone. My eight active participants (infants #9 and #10 will be sitting this one out!) range from seven and nine year old Pilgrims confidently spouting terms like "religious freedom" and "Wampanoag Indians," to a trio of four year old Native Americans requiring prompting on lines as simple as "Here! Have some turkey!" Our remaining cast members (two year old boys) will find themselves described on the playbill as "Turkey 1" and "Turkey 2" and "Ear of Corn 1" and "Ear of Corn 2!" A goofy string of gobbling or total vegetable silence is all I'll require of that lively pair!

Props and Costumes

My majestic Mayflower, lightweight and two-dimensional, glides on stage in Act 1, Scene 2 propelled by a boarded trio of Pilgrims. It's six feet wide, cut from a decorated cardboard box. Paper sails with flag glued to a wood stick mast complete an impressive six foot height.

Headbands identify male Pilgrims, three Indian squaws, and a pair of toddler turkeys. Our female Pilgrim sports a paper hat constructed from simple instructions found multiple places on Pinterest. "Ears of Corn" that appear in Act 2, scene 2 are light cardboard/tissue paper cut outs on a stick.

The Script

Ready to go? We are!

This three act play is for young children. It captures the general idea of the first Thanksgiving. Add or adjust historic details depending on ages/size of your cast. I purposely included points that will become answers to the Thanksgiving Trivia game that follows the play. This time, kids will be asking questions to determine if their parents were paying attention! Every correct answer earns a sticker token; winner holds most of them at game's conclusion! See suggested questions after the play script.

ACT 1 - Scene 1   November 1620

Three Indian squaws sit together at stage side....

Indian #1 - (gestures outwardly) "We have lots of corn this year!"
Indian #2 - "We are really good at growing things."
Indian #3 - "We know how to make delicious food and save it for winter so we won't be hungry when it's cold."

ACT 1 - Scene 2 

The Mayflower arrives carrying three Pilgrims.

Indian #1 - (looking surprised at the arrival) "LOOK! LOOK! What is that over there?"
Indian #2 - "It is a really big boat! There are people on it!"
Indian #3 - "Who are those people? They have tall black hats. They don't look like us!"

ACT 2 - Scene 1

Indians approach the boat.

Pilgrim #1 - "Hello people! We have sailed from England and have been on this ship, the Mayflower, for 66 days."
Pilgrim #2 - "We are seeking a better life in a place where we can find religious freedom."
Pilgrim #3 - "I am so glad to see land. We have traveled 3,000 miles with men, women, and children and some animals, too."
Pilgrim #1 - "It was a difficult trip. We began with 102 people and one sailor died. The good news is that a baby boy was born during our journey."
Pilgrim #2 - "We have had sickness and death on our long time at sea. There were some fierce storms, too. We have only a limited amount of food left, mostly dried meat and beans."
Pilgrim #3 - "These people look kind and friendly and well fed. Maybe they can help us get settled in this new land."

ACT 2 - Scene 2

Pilgrims exit the boat.

Indian #1 - "You people look hungry and tired."
Indian #2 - "We have lots of good food and nice wigwams to live in."
Indian #3 - "We take care of the land and use only what we need. If you are going to live here, we will help you do the same"

All Pilgrims - "THANK YOU!"

Pilgrim #1 - "We would like your help. This land is new to us and we will need many things to survive."
Pilgrim #2 - "Besides food, we will need houses. I am glad there are many trees here for us to cut down and use."
Pilgrim #3 - "It will be up to the women to cook while the men are building. What kind of food do you have here?"

Indian #1 - "We have cranberries! Lots of them!"
Indian #2 - "We have corn!"
                   ("Ears of Corn #1 and #2" come out and stand on stage.)
Indian #3 - "We have turkeys!"
                   ("Turkeys #1 and #2 come on stage, run around, and say "gobble, gobble!")

Act 3 - Scene 1

Pilgrims line up to narrate.

Pilgrim #1 - "After a first very hard and cold winter, thanks to the Wampanoag Indians, many Pilgrims survived."
Pilgrim #2 - "The Indians taught us to grow squash, cranberries, and corn, and hunt for deer and turkeys."
Pilgrim #3 - "We learned how to make canoes from trees and fish like the Indians do."

Act 3 - Scene 2

Indians approach Pilgrims.

Indian #1 - "You Pilgrims look happy now."
Indian #2 - "You have food and strong houses and medicine."
Indian #3 - "We are very happy to share with you."

Pilgrim #1 - "We are thankful for our new home here."
Pilgrim #2 - "We are thankful for the corn you taught us to grow and prepare."
                     ("Ears of Corn #1 and #2" come out and stand on stage.)
Pilgrim #3 - "We are thankful for turkeys!"
                     ("Turkeys #1 and #2" come on stage, run around, and say "gobble, gobble!")

Pilgrim #1 - "Would you Indians like to come and feast with us?"
Pilgrim #2 - "The five women left in our colony would be happy to prepare a delicious meal for all of us to share."
Pilgrim #3 - "We would like to celebrate your kindness and our thankfulness. We will serve meat, pumpkin, corn, squash, and other delicious food.

Indian #1 - "We would love to come to your dinner."
Indian #2 - "We will all bring food, too."
Indian #3 - "We can all be thankful together!"

Act 3 - Scene 3

Entire cast is sitting on a blanket, passing plates and gesturing eating.

Indian #1 - "Here! Have some turkey!"
Indian #2 - "And some delicious corn!"
Indian #3 - "We are happy to share with you!"

Pilgrim #1 - "This is a time to be thankful for your kindness to us."
Pilgrim #2 - "This is a time to be thankful for our new land and your friendship."
Pilgrim #3 - "This first Thanksgiving is an event to celebrate every year with family and friends to thank God for what we have been given!"

Performance concludes with a lineup of cast who take gracious bows after individual introductions amid wild applause! GREAT JOB, Director Grandma! You take a bow, too!

Follow Up Fun!

Are you like us? We're just getting started after a production like this! Our audience always wants more, more, MORE!!!!! And so we give it to them! Here are a few ideas:

COMEDY SHOW - Every family has its own perfect candidates who'd be naturals at regaling the crowd with cute Thanksgiving jokes. You'll find 20 of them here, at Lisa's Grandma's Briefs blog. If you get there quickly enough, you won't be stumped when you're asked, "What always comes at the end of Thanksgiving, Grandma?"....(trot right over to find the answer!)

SPELLING GOBBLE (same as a "spelling bee" but, well..."Thanksgiving!" - and besides, it's November! Bees have long left Plymouth, Massachusetts for the winter!) It's not hard to come up with a list of words that keep kids as young as six in the competition. But if you detect anxious glances at televised football from daddies and grandpa, just toss in words like "Wampanoag" and "Massachusetts" to knock 'em out early and send 'em (thankfully!) on their way!

THANKSGIVING TRIVIA - My three oldest grandchildren read well and will ask the following questions. Were parents paying attention to the play, where some answers were hidden? Hmmm.....this is how we find out!

1. How many days did the first Thanksgiving last? (3)
2. Which president declared Thanksgiving a national holiday? (Abe Lincoln)
3. What landmark shows where the Pilgrims landed? (Plymouth Rock)
4. True or False - All turkeys, male and female, gobble. (False - only males gobble; females cackle)
5. What is the busiest day of the year for plumbers? (day after Thanksgiving)
6. What other country besides the United States celebrates Thanksgiving? (Canada)
7. When is Canada's Thanksgiving Day? (second Monday in October)
8. What famous American wanted the turkey to be the national symbol? (Benjamin Franklin)
9. In the 1600s when the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, which utensil was not yet invented? (fork)
10. How many Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower for the journey to the new world? (102)
11. How many survived to be present at the first Thanksgiving? (50)
12. How many of that number were women? (5)
13. Who did all the cooking for the first Thanksgiving? (5 women)
14. Which Indian tribe helped the Pilgrims survive? (Wampanoag)
15. What type of houses did the Wampanoag tribe build for themselves? (wigwams)


  1. Oh my Joyce! I love this! It's a good amount of work you have put into it too. I had thought that I would do plays with my g-babies too but it surely hasn't worked out that way. But here is a play already written and planned in case I can pull it off ;) Can't wait to see your pics after Thanksgiving!

  2. This is fabulous!! I love that you've created a Thanksgiving art activity that's the art of ACTING! So clever and cute. Like Connie, I can't wait to see the post-performance pics of your adorable grandkids. ♥

  3. Oh that is such fun - love the script - and the characters. If I was in a play I'd want to be the corn - so I wouldn't have to speak. You made a wonderful ship - and all the ideas are wonderful. I always wait anxiously for your holiday events. We have planned our menu - must get busy on other things too. Have a grand week my friend.

  4. I am speechless, and that is something. I always think you can't possibly top the last extravaganza, but then you do. This is truly amazing and in a big way. Putting on a Thanksgiving dinner is a huge accomplishment in my book, but you literally sail the kids in and present really good theatre. Applause, lady, because the rest of us are in awe of your creative talents. :-) WOW!

  5. Ha! My family used to get together with another large family every Thanksgiving and we kids always did a post-dinner performance. We never had an amazing prop like that Mayflower, though! Thanks for sharing with Party in Your PJs!

  6. I do wish I could be in your audience to watch this production! I wish Amara had tons of cousins to play with, too. You are a very lucky Grandma!

  7. love your ideas so much fun to be had
    come see us at

  8. WOW! Your Mayflower ship is amazing! This looks like such a great activity to do with grandkids! (I personally covet the part of Ear of Corn #2!)

  9. I love this idea. My grands (all 2 of them) would love this - though they don't have cousins to share it with yet... But this could work for neighborhood kids or scout group, too! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Always so many fun idea! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  11. I love your creativity. This is a great family activity. I'm sure the kids will love it. Thanks for sharing on Sunday's Best.

  12. I sent the script to Sylvia to see if we can do it as a readers theater with the 2nd grade reading groups! They've been learning about Thanksgiving and I think they would love it! Hugs!