Theater: The Grazing Dead

This play was created for the January 2015 performance of Bolder Acts, a 24-hour theater project. The format for Bolder Acts is as follows:

  • At 7 a.m. Friday morning, writers are given the lyric from a song to include in a short play (approx !, 10 minutes) as well as the headshots and resumes of the actors they’ve been randomly assigned. 
  • Writers have until 9 p.m. on Friday to complete their scripts. 
  • At 10 a.m. Saturday, the actors and directors see these scripts for the first time and rehearse until 6 p.m.
  • The plays — usually 4-5 of them — are performed at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. 
  • One of the plays will be the finale and is a musical. The entire song from which the lyric was pulled must be used in this musical. 

NOTE: The script that follows was the musical for this performance.

* * * *

The Grazing Dead

Lyric: “You who are on the road, must have a code” from the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, “Teach Your Children.” (YouTube video link)

CAST:

Rick: Based on the character of Rick Grimes in the show “The Walking Dead.” He’s grimy and armed.

Carl: Rick’s son, also based on “The Walking Dead” character. Always wears his dad’s old sheriff’s hat. Also armed.

Aaron: Aaron is a modern hippie and farmer.

Pet: A zombie, cared for by Aaron, who is kept semi restrained on a leash.

 

* * * *

Enter Rick and Carl.

RICK:

Come on now, Carl. It can’t be that far to Terminus now.

CARL:

But Dad, it feels like we’ve been walking for years.

RICK:

I know it’s been rough, what with learning to survive after the zombie apocalypse, seeing people we love killed by walkers and reanimating, being wounded near death several times and then recovering, going to war with other human survivors, and constantly being on the run. But it hasn’t been several years, son. Only five seasons.

CARL:

They didn’t say Terminus was all the way up here, though. Where are we?

RICK:

Somewhere in Colorado. Hard to tell. These buildings and houses are all deserted. Other than the mountains, the landscape is so changed, so desolate, so bleak.

Aaron enters from the Pet side of the stage, cheerful and perhaps daydreaming.

AARON: Singing.

Oh what a beautiful morning, the start of a beautiful day…

They see one another. Aaron is pleasantly startled when he sees Rick and Carl, though the latter are immediately on guard, weapons drawn.

AARON:

Well, hello strangers. Welcome, welcome!

RICK:

Hold it there, mister. Who are you?

CARL:

Where are we?

AARON:

Chill out there, guys. I’m a friendly. You’ve arrived at Mary Jane’s Farm.

RICK:

A farm? You grow your own food?

AARON:

Well, yeah. Among other things.

CARL: Stage whispering to Rick.

Dad, this could be just what we’ve been looking for. Somewhere safe. A sustainable home.

RICK:

We can’t assume anywhere is safe, Carl.

AARON:

Dude, it’s safe here.

RICK:

We can’t assume anyone is safe, either.

AARON:

You must have been on the road on your own for a long time, you two. I grok that. Let’s start simple. My name is Aaron.

RICK:

I’m Rick. I’m a sheriff — or I was a sheriff — in Georgia. This is my son, Carl. We’ve come a long way seeking safety from the walkers, so forgive us for being… untrusting. Are you alone here?

AARON:

Yep, just me now. And the herd, of course. I’d sure be glad of some company.

RICK:

What about this Mary Jane the farm is named after?

AARON:

Oh, that’s not a person. (Begins to roll a joint.) It’s more of my main crop.

RICK:

Wait a goddamn minute here. You grow pot? I can’t have my son around—

AARON:

Hold up, sheriff man. It was legal here before the plague, remember? I’m breaking no laws. Social order and civilization are being upheld. That’s what I’m all about, man. Staying civilized. Staying kind. Looks like you’re in need of some kindness. (Offers him the joint. Rick refuses. Carl reaches for it. Rick bats away his hand.)

CARL:

Ask him the questions, Dad. You always say that the answers to your three questions tell you everything you need to know about a person.

AARON:

Shoot. Ask me anything.

RICK:

How many walkers have you killed?

AARON:

Walkers? Is that what you call them?

RICK:

Walkers, infected, zombies. Whatever name you have.

CARL: (To Aaron)

What do you call them?

AARON:

Grazers.

Pet enters from offstage into his enclosure/on his leash. He shambles like a zombie, but with a goofy grin on his face. He can be mumbling if you want. Words like “brains,” “gar” or “hungry.”

AARON:

Speaking of, here’s Pet. He’s one of my grazers.

RICK:

Holy crap! Carl, get behind me. He’s not fully restrained.

AARON:

Hey, hey, now. No worries. He’s as restrained as he needs to be.

RICK:

Walkers need to be killed on sight.

AARON: (Offended, shocked)

No, they don’t, if properly managed. And to answer your oh-so-important question, I’ve killed none of them. Not a single one, and I’m damned proud of it.

RICK:

I don’t buy that.

AARON:

It is what it is, man.

CARL:

Ask him the others. The next question.

RICK:

How many people have you killed?

AARON:

Oh, gods! None! I just said that.

RICK:

No, you said you killed no zombies.

AARON:

Are zombies not people, if in a different form?

Rick is speechless in horror.

CARL:

What about the last question? The last question is: why? Why haven’t you killed any walkers?

AARON:

Because I’m a good and decent person with a big heart and a clean conscience, and because I don’t believe that just because the mechanics of civilization have collapsed around us, we shouldn’t stop being compassionate, civilized human beings. (Aaron moves to Pet, as if to pat him on the head.)

CARL:

No! Don’t!

RICK:

If the man wants to commit suicide, Carl, that’s none of our concern.

AARON: (Interacting with Pet like you would a dog.)

Are you kidding? Pet is harmless. He may not be fully human like us anymore, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve respect. That’s why on this farm, the grazers are allowed to live as cage-free as possible. Free-range, organic, antibiotic-free zombies.

RICK:

And why is he not eating your face off right now?

PET:

Tries to bite Aaron’s hand. Aaron wags a finger and gives him a toy to chew on instead.

AARON:

Honestly? Because he’s hella stoned. All our grazers are.

RICK:

Um…

AARON:

They’re not too fast as it is, right? Well, baking a little — OK, a lot — into their food makes them move really, really slow, and they become incredibly lethargic and non-violent.

PET:

Begins giggling uncontrollably.

AARON:

Plus, they’re easily distracted. Totally harmless and totally happy.

CARL:

But… don’t they get the munchies?

RICK:

Carl! How do you know stuff like that?

CARL:

I did watch TV before the apocalypse, Dad.

PET: Mumbling

Chee-tos…

AARON:

Good question, Carl. The munchies do make them hungry, but for anything. Their fixation on brains and human flesh is less all consuming. As long as you feed them something, (tosses Pet a treat from his pocket) they seem content to ramble about the fields all day, hurting no one, just being present in the universe.

RICK:

Decomposing in the universe.

AARON:

Not such a bad way to live out your days. Happy and free. (Aaron gives Pet his joint. Pet sniffs it, tries to eat it. Aaron takes it back.)

RICK: Whispering.

And high.

AARON:

We should all be so lucky. I think we’ve really found the right way to live in these confusing times.

CARL:

Dad, is he high? (Pointing to Aaron)

RICK:

Oh, as a kite, son. As a kite.

PET:

Grunts at something he finds interesting. A tree, a flower, the sky. Aaron comes over to see.

AARON:

Oh, yeah, man. That’s trippy.

RICK: (Calling Aaron back to the conversation.)

Keeping them alive is not moral. The right thing to do is to shoot this walker dead right now.

CARL:

That’s right. That’s one of the rules that keep us alive, like how me and Dad promise to kill one another if we start to turn.

RICK:

Neither of us want to end up like… that. (Gestures to Pet, who is doing something silly.)

AARON:

Wow. Thinking so negatively, what must that be like for you guys? Killing everything and everyone that moves?

RICK:

Everyone, as in people? These things are not human. Not anymore.

AARON:

That’s not what I believe.

CARL:

You don’t know how it is out there. When you’re on the road, you must have a code. Kill walkers. Trust no one.

AARON: (To Rick)

This? This is how you want to raise your son? To be that kind of unfeeling, violent human being?

RICK:

How I raise my son is none of your concern, you… stoner. Burn out.

AARON:

He is the next generation of humanity. Your son is one of the few young people left and therefore among those who will help rebuild our world. I think it is a little bit of my concern.

CARL:

Confused. Looks back and forth between the men.

RICK:

You’ll be dead soon enough with your lax attitude and your pets, so why should I care what you think?

AARON:

Because you’re ruining your son and your last days on this planet when you could be living in peace and harmony. If I die, at least I’ll be happy.

RICK:

And morally bankrupt!

AARON:

Me? You’re morally bankrupt!

CARL:

Hold up, guys. There’s only one way to settle this.

AARON:

How’s that?

RICK:

Thanks, Carl. Sigh. You’re right. We’ll settle this the way all macho, gun-toting Southern sheriffs do. Through song.

Cue music, an instrumental version of “Teach Your Children” though with the following substituted lyrics

RICK: (Singing)

We, who are on the road

Must have a code

That we’ll survive by.

CARL: (Singing)

There’s first: Watch for yourself

Try to save someone else

And it’s a goodbye.

RICK: (Singing)

Teach your kids to shoot well

And wield an axe to fell

Lest there’s no ammo by

And feed them on canned beans

No time for dreams

Or extinction’s near by.

Don’t you ever close your eyes

Relax your guard and you will die.

RICK and CARL:

You have to look at them and battle cry

And know they’ll kill you.

AARON: (While the bridge plays.)

OK, if that’s how it’s done, I’ll do my best.

AARON: (Singing)

Hey you, these are dark years

I know the fears

That you let multiply

But please: Remember who you are

Man has come so far

Though we’re now in short supply.

(To Carl) Teach your parents well

There’s still good in hell

On that we should rely.

And show, that all’s not lost

Your humanity’s not a cost

That you can justify.

Don’t ever forget your soul

They’re still humans, if not whole.

You have to look at them and sigh

And know they’re like you.

PET:

Mumbles along with the last line.

For the last 30 seconds of the song, the four all dance together. Then they all stare at one another, as if they’ve reached an impasse and don’t know what to do.

AARON:

Well?

RICK:

Well…

PET: Mumbling.

Chee-tos?

AARON:

Oh, darn. We’re out of Cheetos. (To Rick and Carl) I don’t suppose you have any snacks in your packs?

CARL:

I wish! Sorry.

RICK:

I’m afraid we don’t have enough to share.

PET: Mumbling.

Chee-tos?

AARON:

Sorry, dude. Not today. Tomorrow I can go out searching at some of the abandoned homes nearby that conveniently always have canned food and non-perishables. Good thing everyone went to the store before the apocalypse.

PET: Mumbling.

No Chee-tos. Brains?

RICK:

Carl, step back now.

PET: Louder.

Brains.

Pet grabs for Aaron. The two tumble to the ground.

AARON:

No, Pet! Hey. No. That tickles! OK, now that hurt. Pet, no! Ahhhh! Aggggghh!

Rick and Carl shake their heads, return to center stage and sing the last lines of their verse again, maybe dancing.

RICK and CARL: (Singing)

Don’t you ever close your eyes

Relax your guard and you will die.

You have to look at them and battle cry

And know they’ll kill you.

Rick and Carl shoot Pet and Aaron, then exit. A moment later, Carl comes back on stage and tries to steal Aaron’s joint or some other pot prop. Rick comes back and catches him.

RICK:

I don’t think so. Now come on, let’s go. (To himself:) And he called me a bad parent. (Shakes head.)