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February 2009



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Title: “A Report by Susan Grotsky”
Format: Musical Monologue
Word Count: 960
Notes: Creative Oral Presentation for my Modern Drama class. It was a total hit—especially with the Theatre Arts majors—and got a better reaction than expected. The musical portions are split sections of the song “Epiphany” from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, but most of the lyrics are my own (save for a few lines that were best left alone).

Of course, the full effect of this piece relies heavily on execution and whatever acting choices are made. I chose not to include my personal acting choices as stage directions since I believe Susan can be portrayed in several different ways. For my particular performance, I drew out words and stumbled over others (e.g. “discrimination”), I played the glockenspiel terribly, and I threw paper balls at the designated “Janie.”

If you read carefully, you'll find a couple of nods to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which served as a source of inspiration.

Susan, a precocious fourth-grader, is about to give an oral presentation for her music class. From an outsider's perspective, this situation is hardly unusual; but to Susan, it is the end of the world as she knows it. Forced to present after Janie, the teacher's pet and top student of the class—toward whom Susan has a bitter grudge—she must battle through mind-blanking nerves and make up information about the obscure and uninteresting topic assigned to her as she goes along. It doesn't help matters that her teacher already holds her in low regard and that Janie is intent on making a fool of her during the presentation. As a result, Susan believes the entire world is against her. It is only when this young girl's tumultuous thoughts and feelings are made manifest that an otherwise petty, childish scenario takes a melodramatic turn.

SUSAN: Okay, so, um—my report. (Pause) Um. Um.

Oh God!
The words are sticking in my throat
Oh God, oh God!
My mind is blank and I've forgotten
All I wrote and read
In my head
Why did I procrastinate
Now it's too late
I failed to make the date
Now my life is at an end

Mr. Johnson, I think I just had an out-of-body experience. Oh right, my report! Of course, that's—why I'm up here. Well, my name is Susan Gro—wait—my name is Susan Grotsky and—oh, I don't have to introduce myself? (To herself) Stupid! Stupid! (Pause) The instrument I was assigned for Musical Instrument Appreciation Day is…the glockenspiel! I wanted to do the flute but everyone knows Janie got to do the flute and that's okay 'cause it turns out I like the glockenspiel a lot better so I'm really really happy that I get to do my report on the glockenspiel—and not just this one, of course, but every glockenspiel. Everywhere. In the known…world.

They all stare and they stare and they stare some more
It's no secret what they keep on staring for
They can only guess what I got in store
Well, not for long

'Cause I am going to die
Tell you why, Mr. Johnson, tell you why
It's 'cause Janie over there is the teacher's pet
She could fail and still get off scot-free
Thanks to her, lousy grades are all I'll ever get
Such a shame she comes sooner in the alphabet
Look at me, Mr. Johnson, look at me

The glockenspiel, such as the one you see here, is a percussion instrument that was invented a long, long, long time ago, prolly like fifty or sixty years ago, give or take? It's got these two stick things and—onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineteneleven—eleven keys! The name glockenspiel is derived from the German word glocken. Class, repeat after me: Glocken. Congratulations, you can now speak German! Translated into English, the word means, um, “to hit things with sticks really hard.” Then there's the spiel part, which means “a lengthy or extravagant speech or argument usually intended to persuade.” (Hitting random keys on the glockenspiel) This means in olden days the Germans would hit their glockenspiels, like so, and give long and fancy speeches at each other all the time. The Germans back then were very strange.

Yes, I am going to die
I can see it in Mr. Johnson's eyes
He knows that I'm making up as I go
I think that a bug just bit my toe
Yes, I am going to die
And I'll never go to college
No, I'll never be a CEO

Contrary to popular belief, the glockenspiel is a very important instrument, even more important than instruments like, oh, the flute for example. Why, you ask? Well, I'll—I'll tell you why! The glockenspiel was studied and played by many of the world's greatest musicians, including Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Bach…and Liberace! It's been in operas and musicals and ballets and hoedowns and rock concerts and…musicals, and…other things, all very, very important things, and, and…and now, for my performance segment, I will be playing "Chopsticks," a famous classical piece composed by…Chopin.

Alright, Janie, that's how you wanna play?
Go ahead and laugh, I dare you, come on!
Just wait, Janie, you'll regret this day.

I will have vengeance
I will have salvation

(She plays her rendition of “Chopsticks.”)

There now, not bad.
Messed it up a bit, that's okay, I got through!
Still, they're staring, what are they thinking?
Please—anybody—give me some kind of sign
That I'm smart and not a failure
Who is destined for the mental institution

And I will get her back even as she gloats
With her self-righteous smirk and her passing of notes
Mr. Johnson, he is frowning
And he's writing in his grading book

But it's not over yet!

So, as you can see, the glockenspiel is a very…very…it's a very stupid instrument. That's right! When you think about it, all it is is a xylophone. It looks like a xylophone and sounds like a xylophone, so why can't it just be called a xylophone? A xylophone's a xylophone, a violin's a violin, a flute's a flute. If you ask me, all the Germans did was copy the xylophone and rename it something German so they could parade it around and say, “Look, look at us Germans with our stupid German instrument!” and so teachers could assign it to their least favorite student on Musical Instrument Appreciation Day even though he knew she wanted the flute, and that is discrimination, and he should be ashamed, because his least favorite student will grow up to be the president someday, and Janie should be ashamed 'cause she can't even play any instruments, and, and she's a really bad speller too! (Pause) In conclusion…

That's the glockenspiel
And I'm still alive

Any questions?


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