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