Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England

Available in Library

Dean Wreen is not having a good week. Her college is in dire financial straits and a plan to close its tiny, all-but-forgotten natural history museum is sending unexpected shock waves across campus and out into the local community. At home, her ex-lover, Greer, is staying with her—sending shock waves of a different sort through her relationship with her current (and much younger) girlfriend, Andromeda. Town-gown relations are in tatters! The local newspaper is erupting in violent protest! Even the awful, historically inaccurate dioramas in the museum have started mouthing off. A screwball sex comedy about the perils of monogamy, certainty, and academic administration.

Jon Hoche and Lauren Culpepper, Two River Theater Company, Red Bank NJ, 2011.
Deirdre Madigan, Mercedes Herrero, and Flor de Liz Perez, Two River Theater Company, Red Bank, NJ, 2011.
Meighan Gerachis, Kristen Magee, and Laura T. Fisher, Theater Wit, Chicago, 2014.
Susaan Jamshidi and Casey Searles, Theater Wit, Chicago, 2014.
Susaan Jamshidi, Casey Searles, Laura T. Fisher, Kristen Magee, and Meighan Gerachis, Theater Wit, Chicago, 2014.

Read Sample

Lights up on the kitchen. DEAN WREEN is on the phone, pacing, mid-conversation. She lifts the long cord as she paces to avoid GREER, who sits watching her, with tea.

DEAN WREEN
(on the phone, giving an interview. Laying on the charm)
Yes, they are. But just because they are “real” doesn’t--. (listens) I don’t mean to denigrate them, obviously as it turns out many people in the community are as fond of these mammoths as they are of the family dog, but they are in fact sort of a dime a dozen. There was a time there at the end of the 19th Century when the tundra was just burping up mammoths all over Siberia, and our guy just happened to be there with a shovel and a team of--. (listens) I don’t know exactly but very very old. Several thousands of years old. Yes, but not everything that’s old is valuable. (listens) Yes but as I’ve been trying to explain, authenticity and age are not the only indices of value, rarity is a key third variable here, and in this case these mammoths, fondly though we may feel about them, are about as rare as rats in Times Square. That’s right. And the College is no longer prepared to sponsor the care and feeding of seven of them.
(pause)
By all means, quote me. Wreen, W-R-E-E-N. Cynthia. Dean of the College. No, thank you for your time.
(she hangs up)
Halfwit.

GREER
Who was that, the New York Times?

DEAN WREEN
Not yet, thank God, the Globe. We’re still contained at state.

GREER
Not for long. This is the kind of bourgie human interest thing that makes the last item of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

DEAN WREEN
Stop it, don’t say it, you’ll make it happen.

GREER
I think you’d look adorable on TV.

DEAN WREEN
I’ll resign before it comes to that.

GREER
Like hell you will, you’re loving this.

DEAN WREEN
Are you kidding me, are you kidding me? I’d rather have a dean’s-list kid dead of alcohol poisoning, this is the PR nightmare of my career.

GREER
Big talk.

DEAN WREEN
No look at me, reduced to telling insipid lies to a hypocritical public in defense of a so-called cherished institution which is in fact a small, bizarre, poorly lit, haphazardly organized forgotten corner of campus that reeks of ammonia and is open four hours a week, no one ever goes there, I got the statistics, it has not had a single off-campus visitor in over a year, but now that it might be taken away suddenly it’s the jewel of the school, a treasure trove of priceless artifacts, an important research institution!

GREER
I always thought it was sort of nice in there.

DEAN WREEN
Nice fine, cute fine, but important? Its very existence is an accident, do you even know how it came into being?

GREER
No, but--

DEAN WREEN
(barreling into it)
Eighteen sixty-eight, a Victorian gentleman farmer called Isaac Pratt spends the first twenty-six years of his life puttering around the valley vaguely raising vegetables and scrabbling in the topsoil looking for arrowheads in his considerable leisure time. Meanwhile his more industrious father has invented a kind of garden hoe that makes weeding around the base of an apple tree easier than ever. Pratt pater patents the hoe, gets rich, dies, leaves Isaac an enormous hoe-fund which he blows on a single luxury trip to Siberia--no expenses spared, first-class accommodations all the way--so he can jerk his perverse woolly mammoth jones that no one can explain, you know no one can justify to me why the only skeletons in there are of woolly mammoths? It’s inexplicable--it’s curatorially indefensible. Apparently Isaac just liked them.

GREER
His right.

DEAN WREEN
Fine, but seven woolly mammoths do not an institution make. So add to that circa 1910 the personal geode collection of a Mrs. McCloud, second wife of Professor Frank McCloud, then chair of the geology department, lovingly preserved in the McCloud family attic because Mrs. McCloud believed sleeping with them under her pillow had cured her of the migraine. Twenty years later, some WPA-era models of local riverbed topography, tempera-painted in primary colors. Three stuffed hawks someone shot in the bird sanctuary with their eyes sewed shut, a couple of dried sticks of Queen Anne’s Lace from the side of Route 9, and finally, in the last days of the Johnson administration, a series of highly questionable dioramas of australopithicenes going about their daily business dressed like extras from Stayin’ Alive.

GREER
I think they’re supposed to be Native Americans.

DEAN WREEN
Who can say? Who can say if they’re supposed to be Iroquois from the Connecticut River Valley or cave men from Olduvai Gorge? Do you realize what fraction of the total College budget goes into painstakingly specific diversity initiatives every year, and yet this is the beloved institution of science and scholarship that committees are even now being formed in local living rooms to protect? I can’t abide it. I’m not wasting one more breath of PR doublespeak to discuss it. This is not a museum, it’s the curio cabinet of a deranged giant, and I will gladly tell Jim Lehrer I think so.

GREER
I told you, you’ll look adorable on TV.

ANDROMEDA bursts in, flushed and breathless, drops a pair of Whole Foods shopping bags to the floor.

DEAN WREEN
(delighted)
You’re home.

ANDROMEDA
(extremely upset)
Did you hear they’re closing the Pratt Museum?

GREER swivels to face ANDROMEDA.

GREER
They are?

ANDROMEDA
I just ran into Jenn Lepore, (to DEAN WREEN) remember Jenn Lepore from our class?

DEAN WREEN
(performing wracking her brain--no chance she’ll remember)
Jenn Lepore, Jenn Lepore...

ANDROMEDA
The really really smart one? Jenn Lepore? The one who wrote her paper on the phallic riding crop in The Well of Loneliness?

DEAN WREEN
I read so many papers about phallic riding crops...

ANDROMEDA
Jenn Lepore? The super super friendly one? With the curly brown hair?

ANDROMEDA sighs.

ANDROMEDA (cont’d)
(gesturing to her face)
The one with the facial warts?

Bingo.

DEAN WREEN
Jenn Lepore.

ANDROMEDA
Yeah so I ran into Jenn Lepore at Whole Foods just now and she was like Did you hear they’re closing the Pratt Museum? And I was like Not seriously, that place is an institution, it’s like the single most magical place on campus and she was like I know, they’re putting a dorm in it.
(she pauses to let the disgusting news sink in)
They’re like throwing out all the ancient fossils and bones and putting a dorm in it. For first-years! I was like No way, there is no way they would do that and as a matter of fact Dean Wreen is my lover and I’m going home right now to ask her what’s up with that.

DEAN WREEN
You told the girl with the facial warts about us?

ANDROMEDA
Yeah. It’s not a secret. (beat) Is it?

GREER swivels to face DEAN WREEN.

GREER
Is it?

DEAN WREEN
No. No.

ANDROMEDA
I didn’t think it was a secret.

DEAN WREEN
It’s not. It’s not.

ANDROMEDA
Um I don’t actually lie about my relationships? So I really hope it’s not a secret, ’cause--

DEAN WREEN
(overlapping)
No no baby, it’s not a secret.

ANDROMEDA
Good because I have not been lying about us to everyone.

DEAN WREEN
(weakly)
Everyone?

ANDROMEDA
(shrill)
Is this a problem that I was out about us to Jenn Lepore?

DEAN WREEN
No no no it’s not a problem, I want you to be out about us. I’m so glad you were out about us to Jenn Lepore.

ANDROMEDA
Good and she’s wrong about the museum, right? It’s just a crazy rumor, they wouldn’t actually close the Pratt Museum.

DEAN WREEN
Well, actually, unfortunately, in fact...

ANDROMEDA
(a keening wail)
They’re CLOSING the PRATT MUSEUM?

DEAN WREEN
Well it’s not, it’s not totally finalized yet, they’re still working out whether they can possibly maybe--

GREER
(overlapping; to DEAN WREEN)
Don’t. (she shakes her head) Don’t. (to ANDROMEDA) They’re closing the Pratt Museum.

ANDROMEDA
How COULD they?
(she wheels around to face DEAN WREEN)
How COULD you?

DEAN WREEN
Me? It’s not me, this is not my idea. I love that museum, it’s a priceless...it’s a...cherished...

She just can’t.

GREER swivels to face DEAN WREEN.

GREER
(with relish)
Yes?

DEAN WREEN
I have nothing to do with this decision, I have wanted nothing but to be rid of this whole disastrous business since the moment it began.

ANDROMEDA
You know how important that museum is to me.

DEAN WREEN
I know.

ANDROMEDA
(explaining to GREER)
I did my workstudy there, all four years, me and Jenn Lepore had workstudy there together. So many important milestones in my life happened in that museum.

GREER
Like the time you saw your first igneous rock?

ANDROMEDA
Like the time I lost my virginity.

GREER and DEAN WREEN
What?

DEAN WREEN
Really?

GREER
You lost your virginity in the Pratt Museum?

ANDROMEDA
Yes.

DEAN WREEN
With who?

GREER
Where?

ANDROMEDA
Behind the petrified tree stump.

DEAN WREEN
Behind the--in the lobby?

ANDROMEDA
Yes.

DEAN WREEN
That’s so, that’s so--

GREER
That doesn’t seem safe.

DEAN WREEN
(overlapping)
No it’s so, it’s so--

ANDROMEDA
It was perfectly safe. It was beautiful.

DEAN WREEN
It’s so public.

ANDROMEDA
It’s not that public.

DEAN WREEN
The lobby of a museum?

ANDROMEDA
Hardly anybody goes there.

DEAN WREEN
(to GREER)
See?

GREER
But isn’t there some gnomic caretaker guy puttering around there all the time? There used to be, the last time I went. (beat. To DEAN WREEN) Twenty years ago.

ANDROMEDA
Yeah he’s still there, he’s super super nice, he makes his circuit every couple of hours but he never really talks to anyone and he mostly stays in his office. You get to know his routine, you can totally work around him.

DEAN WREEN
So wait, this is something you did more than once?

ANDROMEDA
Sure. It’s actually one of the most private places to go on campus. And totally the most magical. It's a lot of people's secret place. Did you know they have seven different species of woolly mammoth on display? They’re the only authentic woolly mammoth skeletons on display in the entire region.

GREER
It sounds like an important research institution.

DEAN WREEN shoots GREER a look.

ANDROMEDA
There’s going to be a protest tomorrow night on campus, Jenn Lepore was flyering about it at Whole Foods.

DEAN WREEN
(her heart sinking)
A protest?

ANDROMEDA
Yeah, protest slash candlelight vigil. I’m going, I told Jenn I’d help pass out candles. Jenn and her partner Noah Weinmeyer are going to be dressing up as homeless mammoths, they’re doing like a whole Bread and Puppet thing, they’re super amazing with papier mache. (to DEAN WREEN) You remember Noah Weinmeyer? The body puppet guy? (Nope.) The whole first semester of the war he came to class dressed as a bleeding barrel of oil?

Ah, yes.

DEAN WREEN
I remember the extensive press coverage he attracted.

ANDROMEDA
I know, it was awesome, he raised a ton of awareness. There’s going to be TV at the vigil tomorrow, too, Jenn said she already got confirmation from Channel 11 and Channel 22.

DEAN WREEN
Oh for Christ's sake.

GREER
I told you, you'll look adorable on--

DEAN WREEN
(shutting GREER down)
I'm begging you, please.
(to Andromeda)
Look baby, I can see that you're all fired up about this right now and that's sweet but I can't in good conscience let you go out there tomorrow night and get on TV to defend this preposterous institution.

ANDROMEDA
What do you mean, "preposterous"?

DEAN WREEN
I mean--

ANDROMEDA
What do you mean "let" me?

DEAN WREEN
I don't--

ANDROMEDA
(cutting her off, losing patience)
This museum is extremely important, and I don't need your permission to stand up for its right to survive.

DEAN WREEN
No, see, this, this is the problem. The Pratt Museum is not in fact important. Despite what Jenn Lepore or Walter Burns in the Paper or the eighteen outraged senior citizens with too much time on their hands whose strongly worded letter is on my desk even now might insist, the Pratt Museum is not important. Not archaeologically, not geologically, not historically--it's not even a tiny little bit important.

ANDROMEDA
I meant it's important to me.

DEAN WREEN
Oh baby, I'm sorry, I--

ANDROMEDA
I guess you weren’t listening when I said that just now.

ANDROMEDA exits.

GREER
(stage wince)
Ouch.

DEAN WREEN wheels on her sharply.

DEAN WREEN
You shut up.

Lights.

Cast Requirements

3 women
1 man
2 women or men

Production and Development History

Produced: Two River Theater Company, Red Bank, New Jersey (2011), Theater Wit, Chicago (2014).

Developed: Two River Theater Company, Red Bank, New Jersey (2011); Playwrights Horizons (2010); Clubbed Thumb/Playwrights Horizons SuperLab (2010): Lark Playwrights Workshop (2010).

Originally begun in the 2009 'Pataphysics Silent Retreat for Playwrights, led by Erik Ehn.