Pageant Play – Matthew Wilkas and Mark Setlock

crown or tiara isolated on a white background

World pre­miere dur­ing the Berk­shire The­atre Fes­ti­val in Stock­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts, on July 5, 2008.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

Marge/Pinky’s Mother                                 Daiva Deupree
Pinky                                                              Jenn Har­ris
Bobby/Buddy                                                Mark Set­lock
Bob/Gunnar                                                  Matthew Wilkas

Pinky:  30s, mother of Chevro­let
Marge (Bobbi-Jo):
  30s, mother of Pud­dle
Bobby:  30s, pageant coach
Bob:  30s, pageant coach
Gun­nar: 30s, hus­band of Pinky
Buddy:  30s, hus­band of Marge (Bobbi-Jo)
Pinky’s Mother:  30s (in flash­back), drunk

Direc­tor:  Martha Banta
Set Design:  Luke Hegel-Cantarella
Cos­tume Design:  Jes­sica Riesser-Milne
Light­ing Design:  Thom Weaver
Sound Design:  Bart Fass­ben­der
Dance Con­sul­tant:  Isadora Wolfe
Stage Man­ager:  Rafi Levavy

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Wilkas, Matthew and Mark Set­lock. Pageant Play.  Drama­tists Play Ser­vice, 2010.  Drama Library PS3623. I5453 P34 2010.

 Set­ting:  The Amer­i­can South

Lan­guage:  Con­tem­po­rary and every­one speaks with a Texas accent


If you lose one more time, lit­tle dar­ling of mine, I’m going to go and buy that lit­tle doggy any­way, and I’m gonna let you play with her for a day or two. And then I’m going to have your cousin Leon shoot her and make her into a hat. (Mother pats Pinky on the head, downs her drink and just before she exits shouts:)  This flash­back is over!

Genre/Style:  Com­edy

Plot:   Pinky, a wealthy Texas socialite and pageant vet­eran, will do any­thing to ful­fill her unful­filled pageant dreams through her daugh­ter, Chevro­let.  Marge, a new­comer on the scene, just wants to win enough money to bail her hus­band out of jail.  Unfor­tu­nately, she does that by kid­nap­ping a lit­tle girl and enter­ing her in pageants.  And Bobby and Bob, two pageant coaches, are swept up in the two women’s plots and ambi­tions.  Although child pageants are easy to par­ody, the play still man­ages to fas­ci­nate when it explores the truly bizarre and sur­real lengths par­ents will go to in order to win.  Marge’s story is refresh­ing in its depar­ture from the nor­mal rea­sons why moth­ers push their daugh­ters into the cubic zir­co­nia world of child pageants, but the flash­backs explain­ing Pinky’s moti­va­tions feel unnecessary—alhough they’re both humor­ous and grotesque—because her moti­va­tions are exactly what we imag­ine them to be.  The deci­sion to por­tray the chil­dren as empty ball gowns empha­sizes their posi­tion as objects and keeps the focus on the par­ents as the source of drama in the play.


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p.15:  Marge tries to bond with Pud­dle by sug­gest­ing they move to Maine after the pageants are over. 


Hey, I was just think­ing, Pud, about how maybe afgter we win all the money we need, how would you like to go and live with me in some­place like Maine?  [Lines cut] And we can play princesses too. I love princesses. (Beat.) But take your time, Pud. You’ll come around. I know you will.

p.27–28:  Marge (Bobbi-Jo) explains to her hus­band, Buddy, how she kid­napped Pud­dle to enter her in pageants in order to raise money to bail him out of jail.  Long monologue.


[Exactly.] So, I walked up and I over­heard one of the Bar­bie girls talk­ing to a lit­tle girl and her mother about the pageant. And I pre­tended I was read­ing a flyer, but I was really lis­ten­ing, see? And the Bar­bie girl was say­ing, “You can win thou­sands of dol­lars!”  [Lines cut] And I don’t know what came over me, but I… I went to her. And I picked her up. And I walked her out the door. And into the park­ing lot. And I put her in the car. And I drove away with her.


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes: 

p. 7–9:  Pinky and Marge meet after Pud­dle wins the Gin­ger­bread Regional Pageant’s Top Crown and Pinky gives Marge some unwanted advice.  Starts with



and ends with


What time is it?  (Pinky looks at her watch, and then takes Marge’s hand.) OK, you know what? You’re com­ing with me. Pinky’s gonna show you how it works.

p. 20–22:  Marge ques­tions Bobby and Bob’s idea to cut Puddle’s hair like Tom Cruise’ in Top Gun for the pageant. Bob finally admits Pinky paid them to sab­o­tage Pud­dle in the upcom­ing Texas Twin­kle pageant.  Starts with


Are you guys in some sort of a cult?

and ends with


What I’m say­ing is, what if we did some­thing to stop her? (Beat.) Quick! Pass me that swim cap and that tub of latex make-up. If Bobby wants her to have Tom Cruise hair, she’s gonna have Tom Cruise hair.

p. 30–32:  Bob decides to leave Bobby and their busi­ness and strike out on his own after he helps Marge and Pud­dle win the Texas Twin­kle pageant.  Starts with


Well, I man­aged to smooth that over. Com­plete dis­as­ter averted, thank you very much.

and ends with


You’re fat!


Select Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Reviews and Crit­i­cism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Berson, M. (2010, 21 July). Review: ‘pageant play’ is a hoot—full of lone star beauty-contest lunacy. [open access] Seat­tle Times.

Mac­Don­ald, S. (2008, 6 July). Reviews:  Pageant play. [open access] The­ater­Ma­nia.

Mur­ray, L. (2008, 6 July). Pageant play debuts at berk­shire the­atre fes­ti­val:  Witty com­edy is refresh­ing and breezy sum­mer treat.  [open access] Berk­shire Fine Arts.

Rizzo, F. (2008, 7 July). Pageant play. [open access] Vari­ety.

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