NEVAEH’S MORNING BAMBOO
Characters: HOPEFUL, the panda, age 17
KYLE, the panda, Hopeful’s mate, age 19
Setting: San Francisco Zoo in an enclosure dug like a hole in the ground with a fence surrounding the pit so that people will not get in. A synthetic forest. A lot of greenery, an abundance of bamboo coming fresh out of the ground. There’s a gate that goes underground. It feels like a claustrophobic place. You hear chimps chasing each other around, the lions across the walk way, and humans making animal noises, mocking all the animals. You smell the llamas and the zebras in the next enclosure, feces and rain coming.
Time: 11:30am, mid-summer.
At rise: HOPEFUL is sitting in the enclosure, watching KYLE as he sleeps on a pile of leaves.
I know life’s not fair but they never said it would be so… confining. People come to our homes
and stare at us as if we are the most dangerous creatures you could have ever met. I feel so alone
here with this cub in my belly, the only company I get is the constant kicks and bumping
(Suddenly the baby in HOPEFUL’s belly kicks restlessly. HOPEFUL touches her belly.)
I know exactly how you feel, Nevaeh. I want to get out too. You probably want to see whats
going on out here huh? There’s not much to see. Now the forest, that’s what I want you to see.
These trees are so generic here. You could never climb these trees. Skinny, lifeless, bare trees
they are. You wouldn’t like them. The trees in the forest are so tall. The sequoia, and pine, and
oak, so green it is as if they have a life of their own. We never were meant to be locked up like
this. We were meant to be able to run for miles if we wanted to. In this zoo we are the only ones
of our kind, but in the forest pandas are all around. We should be somewhere we belong. But this
is all pointless in telling you, we will never go there. I’ve tried to get out, I’ve tried to get away
but they catch me everytime. When they catch me they put me in the cage. This is why I have
given up on my dream for you to see those tall green trees. After you’re born, if I keep trying to
get away they will do just that, lock me in the cage. Then where would you be? You will not be a
motherless cub. They took my forest away from me, but I will not let them take you away from
What are you doing up so early? And why are you talking to yourself?
We need to talk.
Hopeful, it really is to early for this can’t it at least wait until I’ve had my morning bamboo stick?
No, Kyle, I’ve waited long enough.
Okay Hopeful, what is it?
Remember how I used to always have a plot to get away, back to the forest I came from? Well,
no more. I just can’t run anymore. When we found out I would be having a cub things changed
Baby what’s going on with you?
(Pause 5 seconds in thought. Exasperated)
Everything’s changing for me so fast! I never thought I would love anything as much as I love
this cub growing and living inside of me. And since… —
(Cutting HOPEFUL off) In a few mins. The zoo keepers are going to get here to study me.
What’s really on your mind Hopeful? You’re saying a lot. Get to the point already, stop stringing
me along will you?
I just really wanted to tell you that I’ve decided to give up on the forest. I’ve decided to do
what’s best for our cub and stop this nonsense on trying to break out because if I keep doing it
(Pause for 3 seconds while KYLE contemplats the idea nodding and mhm-ing)
So… what do you think about being together just here in the zoo?
I think… that…even though our cub isn’t here yet you are such a good… good mother and I only
wish I could live up to that.
I know you thought it would take a little longer for me to get pregnant. And I know… I know
you aren’t ready to be a papa panda. I’m sorry you got pushed into this…
Pandas just always have that whole natural mating experience Hopeful… Being with you meant
that I would never have the chance to do that.
(Exasperated) You will never have a chance at that? Neither will I!
I always imagined I’d get to choose the panda I wanted.
I thought I was the panda you wanted…
You think I don’t know what it means to sacrifice but Hopeful I do.
Wow. If anyone in this entire zoo knows how much you’ve sacrificed it’s me Kyle!
I feel so incomplete. But I settled for you.
If this is about settling you can miss the bamboo shoot with that one! Why mate with me then
Look where we are Hopeful. It was you or never get the chance to mate.
I can not believe you said that.
I love you and I’m glad I’m with you and apart of your life but don’t downplay what I had to
If you truly loved me it wouldn’t be settling Kyle it’d be just that, LOVE!
So in all you’re right.
What are you saying?
I’m not ready.
What are you not ready for? Our cub, or being with me? Do you really love me? Or do you say it
out of obligation?
Maybe both. I’m not ready for a cub or loving you right now. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want
to be with you. You have my heart Hopeful, believe that. I just don’t know how to love you back
the way you want me to.
So you’re saying you’re not ready to love me. But I have your heart? Either it is or it isn’t Kyle
what is it?
When a male panda isn’t ready to be totally commited, it never works hopeful.
Well you know what Kyle, I’m not staying here for you. If I weren’t having Nevaeh trust me
when I say I would have been cut out on you to get back to my forest.
Well you know what Hopeful, today you will get your wish. They are releasing us back
(Surprised) What are you talking about Kyle?
That’s what all those “studies” (on me) have been for. To make sure I was ready to take care of
you and Nevaeh in the wild. And Hopeful I failed. Everytime they tried to teach me something I
just couldn’t get it. I could never take care of you and Nevaeh in the forest.
HOPEFUL (tears in her voice)
You discust me! Why would you prance around here smiling when you’ve been lying to my
face? You’ve been watching me trying to break out of here, get locked in a cage, and repeatedly
possibly get my daughter taken from me knowing all along that it was for nothing because we
were getting released anyway. Are you serious? Why didn’t you tell me?
Because I’m afraid! I never had a feather and now not only am I going to be released back to a
forest I never learned how to live in, but I have to take care of a cub when I can’t even take care
Just because you didn’t have a father doesn’t mean that Neveah doesn’t deserve one.
My father was a coward.
You not being a father to her makes you just like him.
And staying and being a bad father is the solution? No, it’s not hopeful. I don’t want Nevaeh to
feel what I fetl growing up. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I’d rather you be alone and raise
that cub on your own. At least you could find the food, the cave, and the bedding when you
needed it. Hopeful. I don’t know the first thing about gathering bamboo. I don’t even know
where to find it.
I could teach you, Kyle. I could tell you where to find the food. I could help you find the cave.
And as for the bedding I can handle that.
No, Hopeful it doesn’t work like that. I need you to need me. I want to do all those things myself.
So when they take us back today what are you going to do? Are you going to leave me?
I cant be the papa panda I need to be. I want to be depended upon. I want to be needed and be
able to give. When we get to the forest give me some time. Maybe what the zoo keepers say is
true and it does come natural. To hunt, to make the bedding, to find an appropriate cave to raise
our cub. But if it doesn’t, Hopeful I can’t stay with you.
(Time passes. Night falls. 7:30pm. The zoo-keepers come to the gate. They beckon for
HOPEFUL and KYLE to come. It is time to go.)
Everything I have ever wanted is about to happen.
(The gate opens. HOPEFUL starts to walk forward but notices KYLE is not walking beside her. She turns around and notices he is not coming at all. She stops in her tracks.)
Kyle, I can’t raise this baby on my own. I need you. Nevaeh needs you.
(HOPEFUL turns around in her tracks to sit beside KYLE. She is not going away.)
I’d rather be in this zoo with you then out in that forest by myself. I love you Kyle. If this is
where you need to be in order to help me raise Nevaeh I’m going to stay.
(The Zookeepers are trying to encourage HOPEFUL and KYLE to go to the open gate
that leads to an underground tunnel which leads to the forest but they’re not going.)
END OF PLAY