Gray Metal Faces – January 23

by William Shakespeare


Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
DANIEL JACOBS, coach of the Bark Bay High School fencing team
Claudius, King of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle
JOHN “DOUBLE-J” JOHNSON, senior saber fencer
The Ghost of the late king, Hamlet’s father
REX ANKIEL, junior epee fencer
Gertrude, the Queen, Hamlet’s mother
SANDRA “THE BIRD” WERNICK, freshman foil fencer
Laertes, son of Polonius, councilor to the King
ANNIE HUTCHINSON, sophomore foil fencer and fencing team captain
Horatio, friend and confidant of Hamlet
HUGH “RUNE” BARNES, sophomore foil fencer
Osric, a Courtier
BENJAMIN “BUTCH” GOODMAN, sophomore foil fencer


Enter RUNE, holding THE BIRD

RUNE Hey — I think we made it!

THE BIRD The floor — is that —

RUNE The cafeteria!

THE BIRD The school? Bark Bay?

RUNE Those are the black and white floor tiles we use
To make our fencing strips during practice!

THE BIRD [points up and left] The clock! With those giant hands! It’s ticking!

RUNE That smell. Stale spaghetti sauce! Home sweet home.

THE BIRD Where’s everybody else? Did they —

RUNE [points to the right] — Shhh! Hide!

RUNE and THE BIRD run behind a table. Enter HAMLET and HORATIO.

HAMLET So much for this, sir. Now shall you see the other.
You do remember all the circumstance?

HORATIO Remember it, my lord!

THE BIRD [whispers] What the hell! How’d they get here? This is nuts!

RUNE [whispers] Guess this play ain’t over. Just have to wait.

THE BIRD Wait, what did — [counts with her fingers] two, four — no way, this can’t be!

HAMLET Rough-hew them how we will —

HORATIO That is most certain.

THE BIRD You hearing this?

RUNE What?

THE BIRD Our lines! The rhythm!

RUNE [eyes widening] Iambic pentameter. Holy shit!

Enter COACH DAN, dressed as OSRIC

OSRIC Your Lordship is right welcome back to Denmark!

THE BIRD No way! Don’t tell me he’s in the play too!

RUNE Well, at least Coach Dan’s a named character.

THE BIRD And one who doesn’t get killed at the end.

HAMLET What’s his weapon?

OSRIC Rapier and dagger.

RUNE Double-J’s crazy, thinking he’ll fight these guys!

HAMLET Let the foils be brought, the gentleman willing —

THE BIRD I simply can’t believe Mr. Jacobs —

RUNE You know he likes to be called Coach Dan, right?

THE BIRD I know. It’s just — it doesn’t sound right to me.

RUNE But you’re on the Bark Bay fencing team, right?

THE BIRD I just practice with you. I’m not on the team.

RUNE [laughs] What’s wrong with being on the team? You scared?

THE BIRD Nothing personal. I’m just a — lone wolf.

RUNE [slaps her on the shoulder] Cool! Wolves do their best hunting in packs, y’know?

Enter KING, QUEEN, LAERTES, a LORD, and BUTCH, dressed as an ATTENDANT, with foils and daggers.

THE BIRD That Teddy Jasper creep — he’s still the King.
And mother’s still in her Save-Anna garb.

RUNE [points at BUTCH] There he is! PSST! [BUTCH turns in his direction] Over here! Come on!

KING Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.

BUTCH [aside to RUNE and THE BIRD] Hey guys! Where have you been? What’s going on?

THE BIRD What — haven’t you noticed, we’re in the middle
Of the performance we had been watching?

BUTCH Oh! Yeah, Coach Dan said it was the best way
For us to meet up with everyone.
So, what roles are the two of you playing?

RUNE We’re not playing anything! We’re trying
To get back to the world where we belong!

BUTCH Oh! So why are you behind this table?

THE BIRD We’re hiding! Waiting for everyone else
To show up, so we can leave, together.

HAMLET How I am punished with a sore distraction!

QUEEN [leaves KING’s side, speaks aside to THE BIRD] I thought I told you and your friends to leave!

THE BIRD Mother, believe me, we don’t want to stay!

QUEEN So why are you here? How did you get here
In the first place? Why’d you leave the audience?

RUNE [eyes widening] It’s you two. You’re the connection between
Our world, and the world of this performance.

LAERTES I am satisfied in nature —

RUNE And we’re here, because The Bird’s our teammate.

KING Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet —

A door to the left slams open. Enter DOUBLE-J, brandishing a rapier.

DOUBLE-J Forebearance! Or whatever you’re supposed
To say when you want everyone’s attention.

RUNE [aside] There he is! As obnoxious as ever.

DOUBLE-J [pointing his rapier at the KING] Your Majesty — or Highness, what the hell —
I hereby challenge you, and your court. Before
Your nephew and bodyguard go at it,
I want to fence both of them. Five touches,
That’s all — nothing lethal. I promise to leave
Them intact, so you can finish this play.


ANNIE Double-J, I don’t know what you’re trying
To prove, but it’s not helping us at all.
Let’s get out of here, now that we’re all here.

DOUBLE-J Let me have my fun first, then we’re outta here.
[Points his rapier at HAMLET] Since my friends are so anxious to get home,
Let’s just do one bout — me and you, prince boy!

HAMLET I’ll play this bout first.

HAMLET and DOUBLE-J step apart from the crowd, face each other a few feet apart, and salute with their weapons. OSRIC takes the judges’ position between them.

QUEEN [aside to THE BIRD] This is absurd! Hamlet’s supposed to fence
Against Laertes! Why don’t you stop him!

HAMLET and DOUBLE-J advance towards each other, and their weapons dance between them.


DOUBLE-J Bullshit!

HAMLET Judgment?

OSRIC A hit, a very palpable hit.

DOUBLE-J and HAMLET resume their bout. THE BIRD rises from her hiding position, walks behind ANNIE.


ANNIE Hey! I was hoping you’d be here too.

OSRIC makes a hand gesture, indicating that HAMLET has scored another touch on DOUBLE-J

ANNIE Now all we need is for Rex to get here,
And then we can get out of this nonsense.

THE BIRD Sounds good to me, but there’s a big problem.
Rex says he doesn’t want to go back home.

QUEEN That’s crazy! This isn’t where he belongs!
He’s a real person, not a character!

DOUBLE-J groans, as OSRIC indicates another touch for HAMLET.

HAMLET I pray you, pass with your best violence!

DOUBLE-J Yeah? Well, lemme pray you to shut the fuck up!

KING Part them; they are incensed.

HAMLET Nay, come again!

RUNE Rex is part of Fortinbras’ army now.
They don’t arrive until the play is done —
That’s when we return to the audience.

TEDDY JASPER [enters from right] Ah, but not all of us want to leave here!

THE BIRD [points to TEDDY JASPER] What? You can see us? You know who we are?

TEDDY JASPER [grinning] Why, yes, little bird — like your dear mother,
I’ve taken command of this performance.

THE BIRD You’re nuts. This play, it’s just about to end —

TEDDY JASPER Only if we let it end, my dear bird!
Your mother and I have a different plan.
[Extends his right arm towards QUEEN] Janet, are you ready?


QUEEN [takes TEDDY JASPER’s hand] Yes, my dear.

THE BIRD You can’t take her away! She’s my mother!

QUEEN Sandra, dear — please calm down. It’s for the best.

TEDDY JASPER Your mother and I are business partners.
I have plans to take her to places that
She’s only dreamed about, far from Bark Bay!

QUEEN This is the start of something wonderful!

THE BIRD But here, now — you’re Gertrude. You just can’t leave
This performance, you must stay here until
It ends, so me and my friends can go back!

TEDDY JASPER You’re mistaken. I don’t think you’re mother
Will be Gertrude, now or ever again.

SAVE-ANNA All Coca-Cola and Pepsi products
Are two-for-one, this Saturday only,
At Shop and Save! Limit two per order.

TEDDY JASPER A star in the making, I’m telling you!

RUNE And how, exactly, is her star gonna shine,
If she doesn’t complete her role, help end
This play, and get us back into our world?

TEDDY JASPER How weak is your imagination, boy!
Haven’t you heard that the world is a stage?

RUNE Now you’re quoting a different play, pal.

BUTCH Hey! What’s going on? Why are they saying?

THE BIRD Teddy and my mother think that if they
Leave before the play ends, they can somehow
Keep living in the world of the theater.

BUTCH Oh! Does that mean we have to stay here too?

RUNE That makes as much sense as anything else
That’s happened since we suddenly showed up.
And I dunno ’bout you, but I sorta
Kinda wanna get back to our own world.
The sixteenth century — it’s been a nice
Place to visit, but I don’t want to stay.
I mean, they don’t even have TV here.

THE BIRD And that’s a bad thing?

RUNE Uh — yeah. I mean, how
Else are you gonna keep from getting bored?

DOUBLE-J Goddammit! Can I get a real ref here?

BUTCH What do we do?

RUNE Dunno.

ANNIE Nobody does.

THE BIRD No — I know. I think I do, anyway.

BUTCH What’s your idea?

ANNIE What can we do to help?

THE BIRD I — don’t think you can, unfortunately.
Ever since we came into this world, jumped
In from our seats in the audience, the
Action of the play’s revolved around me.
I think I have to be the one who makes
This play reach its end, so we can go back.

ANNIE Wait — we can’t let you do this by yourself.
I don’t know how we got into this world,
But I know we all came in together.
Me and the team are going to help you,
Whatever it is you’re about to do.

THE BIRD I’m sorry, it’s really not that simple.

ANNIE We don’t care whether it’s simple or hard.
We’ll do whatever you need — we’re teammates.

THE BIRD That’s what’s wrong. I’m not on the fencing team.

ANNIE Of course you’re on the team! Don’t be silly.

Enter SERVANTS, with flagons of wine

KING Stay, give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine.
Here’s to thy health. Give him the cup.

RUNE [aside to BUTCH] That’s poison. Both Hamlet and his mother
Will drink from that cup of wine, and die.


QUEEN [lifts cup] The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

HAMLET Good madam.

KING Gertrude, do not drink.

SAVE-ANNA [turns to TEDDY JASPER] Why, that’s the smartest thing anyone’s said
To me all day! [puts cup down on a table] Time for us to leave, yes?

TEDDY JASPER Yes, I do believe our work here is done. [takes SAVE-ANNA’s hand, and begins walking offstage with her]

RUNE Mrs. Wernick, please — don’t leave. If this play
Doesn’t end, my friends and I are stuck here.

SAVE-ANNA Dear boy, I really don’t think you need me.
You students are smart — you can figure out
Some other way to get back to your homes.

THE BIRD Your right, mother. [steps forward, holding cup of wine] There is another way.

ANNIE No! Put that down!

KING It is the poisoned cup!

DOUBLE-J Jesus Christ!

RUNE Drop it — drop it now. Stop this.

ANNIE You don’t have to do this, we’ll come up with
Some other solution to get us home.

BUTCH Yeah, how is drinking poison going to help?

COACH DAN Sandy, please — what do you think you’re doing?

THE BIRD [smiles] I’ve really enjoyed being on the team. [drinks]

JANET WERNICK [rushes to THE BIRD’s side] Somebody, please, stop her!

KING It is too late!

ANNIE [holds THE BIRD] Lie down. [lowers THE BIRD to the floor] We need to empty her stomach.

RUNE How? This is the seventeenth century,
We’re limited to the medical tools
And knowledge of this time. We can’t help her.

THE BIRD Mother —


THE BIRD I’m ready — to go back.


THE BIRD No. [points in the direction of stage center] The audience. To watch — the end. [swoons]

ANNIE [slaps THE BIRD’s cheeks] Don’t you dare die, stay with us!
You want to quit, do it some other time!
[pulls THE BIRD’s eyelids open] She’s responsive [waves to RUNE] — help me get her over,
Onto her stomach, we can still do this!

JANET WERNICK [rises] Yes — I understand. [picks up cup] Still some left — that’s good.

TEDDY JASPER Janet, what are you doing? Don’t drink that!

QUEEN I will, my lord — I pray you pardon me. [She drinks]

TEDDY JASPER [grabs cup from QUEEN] Dammit, Janet! Why don’t you ever learn?
We’re not going anywhere if you just
Keep making the same mistakes, every time!

JANET WERNICK [falls to floor, next to THE BIRD] No Teddy — this time, it’s not a mistake.
[turns to THE BIRD] Sandy, I’m here.

THE BIRD Yes. Mother, I’m sorry.

JANET WERNICK No. You only did — what had to be done.
I see that now. I’m the one who should be
Apologizing. I wish I’d — trusted you.

THE BIRD Mother, I believe it’s showtime.

JANET WERNICK I know. [falls]

HAMLET How does the Queen?

KING She swoons to see them bleed!

QUEEN No, no, the drink, the drink! O my dear Hamlet!
The drink! The drink! I am poisoned!

THE BIRD Well done.

HAMLET O villainy! Let the door be locked!

RUNE You did it! The play can continue now.

THE BIRD And come to its end. [extends her hand to JANET WERNICK] Mother, whatever
Happens next — please promise to stay with me.

JANET WERNICK [takes THE BIRD’s hand] Yes. Nothing’s going to come between us,
Ever again. I promise.

THE BIRD [smiles, closes her eyes] Yes. Me too.

LAERTES Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me.

HAMLET Heaven make thee free of it. [LAERTES dies.]

Hamlet gently lowered his body to the stage floor, the lights above dimming; The Bird remembered a loud argument between the stage manager and the actor playing Hamlet over this decision, and was dismayed to see that the actor’s input had been ignored.

One thought on “Gray Metal Faces – January 23

  1. This Hamlet piece is quite revealing. Have you ever thought of this being performed as a stage production. I struggle to understand the (whole) picture of what you are writing…..maybe need more time…..but very interesting and clever your take on this Shakespeare story. I love the Hamlet story!

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