Jack and the Wild Beanstalk
by Barrie Teague Alguire
(Patterns for the puppets and props are linked below and notes on staging are provided at the end of this play.)
- Giant’s wife (voice only)
- Narrator (librarian or other person introducing the show)
NARRATOR: Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack. He was little bit lazy, and a little bit naughty, but otherwise a good person – just like a lot of children today. But, Jack and his mother had fallen on hard times. Well, I’ll let them tell you the story.
MOM: [entering] Jack? Jack! Where are you? That boy. He’s never around when I need him.
JACK: [Jack enters] Yes, mother?
MOM: Oh, Jack. There’s not a grain of rice or a crust of bread in the house and not a penny in my pocket either. You’ll have to take some firewood to town and sell it. Try to get a good price. Buy what food you can.
JACK: All the way to town? That’s a long walk on a hot day.
MOM: I know, but it’s that or nothing to eat for supper. [Mom exits]
JACK: All right, Mother. Fiddlesticks! I would much rather be taking a nice cool swim in the river. I do like to eat, though.
[Jack exits. Then, Jack, carrying a bundle of firewood, crosses the stage several times to indicate the length of his walk, each time appearing to be more tired. Jack enters the stage again just as the peddler enters from the other side.]
PEDDLER: Ho, there, young man. Where are you headed this fine warm day?
JACK: Warm? I’m burning up! I have to go to town to sell this firewood, but, oooh, my back is killing me. I’ve been walking and walking and now my feet hurt and my throat is parched and the sun is scorching my hair. I wish I were having a nice swim in the river.
PEDDLER: Yes, yes. The town is still quite a ways from here. I’ll tell you what: I’ll take that wood off your hands right now. You’ll get home a lot sooner and might even have time for a swim on the way.
JACK: That would be nice, but I can’t. Mother told me to buy some food. We don’t have a scrap in the house.
PEDDLER: That’s not a problem. I’ll trade you these beans in exchange for your firewood. [holds up the bag of beans]
JACK: Beans? That’s not a very good trade.
PEDDLER: Ah, better than you think. Soon this firewood will be all burned up but if you plant some of the beans, they will grow more beans. Eat some, plant some. You’ll always have something to eat.
JACK: That’s true. I hadn’t thought of that. Okay, it’s a deal. Here’s the wood. I’ll take the beans. Thank you, sir. Oh, boy! Swimming hole, here I come!
[Jack exits with beans. Peddler exits with firewood. Jack runs across stage several times to indicate his trip home. In the midst of this, make a splashing sound and maybe even squirt a little water out onto the audience, with Jack off-stage shouting gleefully: Whoopee! Ah, that’s feels soooo good!]
JACK: [entering] Mother! Mother! I’m back!
MOM: [entering] Jack! You’re back so soon? Did you sell the firewood? What did you buy with the money?
JACK: I didn’t have to go all the way to town. I traded the wood to a man for this big bag of beans. [Jack shows the beans]
MOM: Beans? That’s all you have? Just beans?
JACK: Yes. We can eat some and plant some.
MOM: Jack! Beans take a long time to grow. We’ll have beans for supper tonight but what we’ll have tomorrow, I don’t know. Foolish boy! [Mom exits]
JACK: But I ... but he said … I’m sorry, Mother. I’ll plant some right now while you cook the rest. It will be okay. You’ll see. [mutters to himself] I hope.
[Jack exits with the beans. Brief pause, with music, before the beanstalk begins to grow. A rooster crows. Jack enters.]
JACK: Okay, this morning I’m going to water those beans so they can start growing right away. [sees beanstalk] What’s this? Oh, my goodness. It’s a beanstalk, so tall I can’t even see the top! It grew overnight. One of those beans must have been magic! Well, if it’s magic at the bottom, it’s probably magic at the top, too. I’m going to climb up and see what’s up there.
[Jack climbs the beanstalk until he is out of sight. There is a musical interlude, then Jack appears climbing from the bottom again.]
JACK: Whew! I’ve been climbing for so long I’m up in the clouds. What’s that over there? It looks like a house. A very big house. I wonder who lives there?
GIANT: Fee fie foe fum! I want breakfast! Give me some!
JACK: Oh my gosh. A giant! A giant lives there. I’d better be careful. I’ll sneak in the back. [Jack exits]
GIANT: [Giant enters] Wife! I said Fee fie foe fum! I want breakfast! Give me some!
GIANT’S WIFE: [off-stage] Fee fie foe fate. It’s not ready. You’ll have to wait.
[Jack peeks around the edge of the stage and watches.]
GIANT: Very well, then. I’ll just play with my hen in the meantime. Hen!
HEN: [entering] Cluck cluck.
GIANT: Lay, hen, lay!
HEN: Bawk bawk bawk bawk!
JACK: [expressing surprise] I don’t believe my eyes! That hen laid an egg of pure gold! How wonderful if I could give my mother such a hen.
GIANT: Fee fie foe fet! Wife, is my breakfast ready yet?
GIANT’S WIFE: [off-stage] Fee fie foe fow. Not yet. Don’t have a cow!
GIANT: Very well, then. I’ll just admire my bags of gold. [bags of gold appear]
JACK: Look at that! He has bags and bags of gold! If only I had just one of those. [Jack inches farther into view]
GIANT: [sniffing] Fee fie foe fum! [sniff sniff] I smell the blood of an Englishman! [sniff sniff] Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!
JACK: Yikes! [Jack jumps back out of sight]
GIANT’S WIFE: [off-stage] Fee fie foe facon! All you smell is frying bacon!
GIANT: [not so sure] Very well, then. I’ll listen to my singing harp. Maybe that will drown out my growling stomach. Harp!
GIANT: Play, harp, play!
[Harp begins to play a soothing melody.]
JACK: [peeking out again] Unbelievable! A harp that sings, and so beautifully. How my mother would enjoy that!
GIANT: Fee fie fo fap! I think I’ll take a little nap. [giant begins to snore]
JACK: He’s fallen asleep. Now’s my chance. I’ll just stuff the hen, the harp, and one bag of gold in this sack and climb back down the beanstalk to home. [Jack takes the hen, the harp, and a bag of gold and starts to exit]
GIANT’S WIFE: [off-stage] Fee fie foe fot. Here’s your food all nice and hot! Wait! What’s that? A boy! A boy! Husband, wake up. I spy a boy!
JACK: Fee fie foe phooey! I’m getting out of here! [Jack exits quickly.]
GIANT: [waking] Eh? What’s that? A BOY???? Fee fie foe fed! I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!
[Jack appears at the beanstalk and starts climbing down it.]
JACK: Oh, he’s after me. Must go faster, must go faster. [Jack disappears down the beanstalk]
GIANT: [off-stage] Fee fie foe fide. I see you, boy. Don’t try to hide!
[Jack reappears at the top of the beanstalk, still going down. Giant can be heard off-stage thrashing around and grunting as he chases Jack.]
JACK: Mother! Mother! Quick! Get the axe!
MOM: [entering with axe] Jack! What? Here’s the axe, but why? Ohh! A giant! A giant is after my boy! Here’s the axe, son. Quickly! Quickly!
[Jack reaches the ground, grabs the axe and chops at the beanstalk. Chopping sounds. Beanstalk falls. Giant yells. A loud thud is heard.]
JACK: Mother! I have brought you three presents: a bag of gold, a hen that lays golden eggs for when the bag is empty, and a harp to sing you to sleep.
MOM: Oh, Jack. You are not a foolish boy. You are a very clever boy. You have brought us riches and saved us from an evil giant. But, Jack?
JACK: Yes, mother?
MOM: Please don’t plant any more of those beans!
JACK: [laughs] Don’t worry, Mother. I won’t!
Suggestions for Staging
If you have a regular puppet stage with a top and sides, rig the beanstalk to “grow” up one side of the stage. Have it coiled on the floor in front of the stage with the top tied to a piece of monofilament fishing line. During the “growing” sequence, slowly pull on the line so that the beanstalk rises from the floor until it reaches the top of the puppet stage. Wrap the line around a hook so that it will stay in place until you want it to fall at the end of the play.
Another way to create the same effect is to have the beanstalk already secured to the side of the stage but covered by a cloth that blends into the décor of the puppet stage. The cloth extends over the top of the puppet stage and hangs down the back so that someone can gently pull on it at the appropriate time. To make the beanstalk grow, the cloth is slowly pulled from backstage so that is gradually reveals the beanstalk and falls behind the stage. With this method, you will need to secure the beanstalk in such a way that you can release it at the end of the play, if you want to show it falling.
You can make backdrops for the three scenes, if desired: the exterior of Jack’s house, the woods for the meeting with the peddler, and the interior of the Giant’s castle. However, none of this is necessary and a plain backdrop leaves the scenery to the audience’s imagination.
Patterns for puppets and props are provided at the top of this page but you can also use purchased puppets. Make the Giant’s head considerably larger than the others. However, don’t make the other heads too small or the audience won’t see them well. One possibility, if you have a standard puppet stage with top and sides, is to show the giant’s middle rather than his head—just his chest and tummy and part of an arm. If you don’t have a top to your puppet stage, another approach would be to dress a live person in costume to play the giant. To maintain the “puppet” illusion, the actor could wear a mask and wig.
Attach the props (hen, harp, etc.) to thin sticks or rods that can be held along with the puppet to make it seem as if they are being carried. It is not necessary to use props, however, so don’t worry if you don’t have them. In a puppet play, the audience focuses on the characters and the story. They visualize the items mentioned even if there is no physical object.
Sound effects and music are not necessary but enrich the play. You might enlist someone to stay backstage to handle the various sound effects and musical enhancements. The ideal situation is to burn a CD with all the sounds desired in the proper order. However, it is possible to do things the “old fashioned way” and have someone making sounds and cueing up tapes at the proper time. Be sure to pay attention to copyright!