Ancient River Valley Civilizations Play
    • 45-minute play (NON-musical) for grades 5-9+
    • Includes the script and teacher's guide
    • Simple to do - no drama experience needed!

    The similarities and differences between the four great ancient river valley civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China.

    Please scroll down to read the script, read reviews, and get all the details about the play (curriculum/content, educational standards, and vocabulary).

    Item # Description Availability Qty Break Price Quantity
    PLAY - For individual teachers or directors
    Order 1 copy of play for each teacher/director who will be using it. Includes permission to print/photocopy for all participating actors. Mix and match 2 or more non-musicals to get them for $30 each.
    Downloadable Version of Play
    - You will receive a PDF
    Download 1
    Printed Version of Play
    - You will receive a Spiral-Bound Book
    In Stock 1
    Duo Version - Download AND Printed Book
    - You will receive a PDF and a Spiral-Bound Book
    In Stock 1
    SITE LICENSE VERSION OF PLAY - For whole schools or grade levels
    Order 1 site license per school/site. Includes permission to print/photocopy for all participating students AND teachers. Why a site license? Because it's cheaper than ordering 3+ individual copies of the play.
    Downloadable Version of Site License
    - You will receive a PDF
    Download 1 $70.00
    Printed Version of Site License
    - You will receive 3 copies of the Spiral-Bound Book
    In Stock 1 $70.00



    Who knew that an "all-inclusive" river cruise might include time travel? These lucky tourists will learn all about river valley civilizations from the peoples of those ancient cultures...and some helpful (and hungry) tour guides!

    Key Concepts

    • Commonalities between the ancient river valley civilizations, how they formed, and why they thrived
    • Details about each civilization, including geography, writing systems, religious beliefs, agriculture, technological developments, governance, social structure, and material remains

    Specific content/characters emphasized in the play:


    • Pyramids at Giza
    • Pharoahs (Khufu, Tutankhamun, Hatshepsut)

    Indus Valley (Harappa)

    • Advanced sanitation system


    • Fertile Crescent
    • Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian civilizations
    • Hammurabi and his Code
    • Mythology and epic (Gilgamesh)


    • Taoism (Lao Tzu)
    • Dynasties (Wu of Zhou)
    • Mandate of Heaven

    Other Important Terms

    hydraulic empire agrarian urbanization social stratification hieroglyphs
    papyrus Rosetta Stone sarcophagus grave goods aridification
    ziggurat cuneiform Silk Road oracle bones monotheism
    polytheism loess      

    Ancient River Valley Civilizations is a great complement to your curriculum resources in world history and social studies. And, like all of our plays, this show can be used to improve reading, vocabulary, reading comprehension, performance skills, class camaraderie and teamwork, and numerous social skills (read about it!) -- all while enabling students to be part of a truly fun and creative experience they will never forget!

    Publication Information

    Written by John Heath and Lisa Adams
    ISBN: 978-1-886588-71-4
    © 2018 Bad Wolf Press, LLC


    Tourists (4)
    Umpires (2)
    King Khufu
    Scribes (2)
    King Tut
    (Egyptian) Woman
    Plumbers (3)
    Clerks (2)
    Wu Wang
    Benjamin Franklin
    (Chinese) Wife

    Flexible casting: There are 29 parts, but the play can work with anywhere from 11-35 actors. For a smaller cast, each actor can play several roles and/or individual scenes can be cut. For a larger cast, larger roles (such as Maya, Bart, and the Tourists) can be split amongst multiple actors. Note that all roles can be played by either boys or girls.


    Scene One

    (MAYA and BART lead four TOURISTS onto the stage)

    MAYA: Hello, everyone. My name is Maya, and I will be your tour guide today. This is Bart, my assistant.

    BART (officially, holding a clipboard): Howdy! Before we embark, I want to cover our three basic safety rules. First, no souvenirs. We're going into the past, and if you touch even one tiny thing, you could warp the entire space-time continuum.

    TOURIST #1: What's that?

    BART: I have no idea. I just read what's on the clipboard. (tapping clipboard)

    TOURIST #2 (raising hand): If someone warps the space-time continuum, do we get a refund?

    MAYA: I'm afraid not. It's all in the fine print.

    BART: Rule number two: do not feed the animals.

    TOURIST #3 (holding up cookie): Not even a cookie?

    BART: Absolutely not. On our last tour, someone gave the Sphinx a cookie and it followed us to China and refused to go home. The Egyptians were furious.

    (TOURIST #3 crams cookie in own mouth)

    BART: Last rule: keep your hands inside the boat at all times. Otherwise they could be eaten by a crocodile or a dragon, and that would violate rules 1 and 2. Any questions?

    TOURIST #1: There's a boat?

    TOURIST #4: Well yes, of course there's a boat! We're going on a tour of ancient river civilizations.

    TOURIST #1: Oh! I thought this was one of those darling rides with dancing animatronic cavemen.

    MAYA: Oh no. This is a first-class tour. We will be visiting the ancient civilizations that developed in Egypt, China, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley.

    TOURIST #2 (to #1): That's why it costs so much.

    MAYA: And we will not be seeing any cavemen, animatronic or otherwise! We're only going back 5000 years or so.

    TOURIST #3: How's this time-travel thing work?

    BART: Good question, I'm glad you asked. (pause) I have no idea.

    TOURIST #4 (rising): If I may? I'm sort of a time travel buff, and according to the latest ideas by theoretical physicists...

    MAYA (interrupting): Oh my, look at the time! It's time to hit the water. Everyone on the boat!

    Scene Two

    (MAYA, BART, and TOURISTS are on the "boat")

    MAYA: Our first stop will be the Nile River in ancient Egypt. But before we arrive and meet our local guides, I've invited some specialists to explain why these great civilizations all developed in river valleys. Bart, would you bring them in?

    BART: I got 'em right here.

    (BART goes to edge of stage, leads on two figures dressed as baseball umpires.)

    MAYA (puzzled): Bart! Who are they? I asked you to find experts on hydraulic empires!

    BART: Oh. These guys are hydraulic UMpires. They were a lot cheaper.

    TOURIST #2 (to #1): Look how they cut costs and still charge us a premium! Hydraulic umpires, indeed!

    UMPIRE #1: Hey, don't let that be a strike against us. We also know all about hydraulic empires.

    UMPIRE #2: They were civilizations that grew up along rivers -- that's the "hydraulic" part -- and developed into powerful empires. They were a big hit!

    UMPIRE #1: Rivers supplied water for drinking and cooking, transportation, crops, and fishing, and they also attracted wild game. Basically they were a home run.

    MAYA: You're not going to use baseball metaphors for everything, are you?

    UMPIRE #2: Of course not. Now see, at first there were just small communities along the river -- minor league stuff. But folks needed to control the water -- manage the flooding or develop irrigation.

    UMPIRE #1: And that took coordination and centralized planning, am I right? Before you knew it, some folks were in charge of others, and they were the bosses calling the shots. Sometimes they were priests, sometimes they were kings, sometimes both. Man oh man, it was a whole new ballgame.

    MAYA: Please, I'm begging you...

    UMPIRE #2: Then, as agriculture flourished, there came a surplus of goods. And that threw a curveball into the simple agrarian life.

    UMPIRE #1: You said it. What you had in these growing cities was basic urbanization. Some folks became merchants or traders, so right off the bat some people started to accumulate more stuff than others. So then you got social stratification, where people had different amounts of resources and power.

    UMPIRE #2: Now hold on, you're a little off base there. In some places you got that, like in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. But it's not so clear in the Indus River civilizations.

    UMPIRE #1: Good call. Well, I think we've pretty much covered all the bases on these hydraulic empires, but we're happy to field some questions.

    TOURIST #1 (raises hand): I get the hydraulic part, but what exactly is an "empire"?

    TOURIST #4 (rising): If I may? An empire is basically a big collection of states or countries all under the control of one authority.

    UMPIRE #1 (to TOURIST #4): Batting a thousand, my man! (to ALL) An empire starts when cities grow and trade with each other. You get some competition, some good healthy competition.

    UMPIRE #2: But sooner or later, one of them starts to play hardball. You get a fight, one conquers the other. If things keep going on like that...eventually you've got an empire.

    TOURIST #4: Actually, I would say it's all a bit more complicated than that --

    UMPIRE #1: Sure, but our sketch is in the ballpark. We'd be happy to stay for a few days and hash it all out.

    MAYA: NO! I mean, no thank you, you've done an excellent job.

    Bart, can you escort them back to wherever you found them?

    Scene Three

    TOURIST #1 (pointing): Hey, isn't that a pyramid?

    TOURIST #3: How exciting! But it's only half a pyramid!

    TOURIST #2: Do we get a discount?

    MAYA: We've made it back to Egypt nearly 5000 years ago. This time period is called the Old Kingdom. They are in the process of building the first great pyramid at Giza.

    TOURIST #1: So this is one of those ancient river civilizations?

    MAYA: Absolutely! This is the Nile River valley. The Nile is over 4000 miles long, and nearly a quarter of that flows through Egypt. That pyramid you see there will eventually be 500 feet tall, and there will be two others next to it!

    KHUFU (entering with two SCRIBES): Isn't it beautiful? It's going to be my tomb.

    TOURIST #3: Hey look, it's King Tut!

    KHUFU: Not this again! Why oh why do all these people think every pharaoh they meet is King Tut?

    SCRIBE #1: This is King Khufu, the great pharaoh of the fourth dynasty of the Old Kingdom, in the 26th century BCE.

    SCRIBE #2: And we are his Scribes.

    TOURIST #1: What's BCE? A band? A nutritional supplement?

    TOURIST #4: BCE means Before Common Era. The time before the year 1.

    TOURIST #3: Well are you related to King Tut?

    KHUFU (puffing out chest, with pride): No! I lived a thousand years before that guy! I am King of Upper and Lower Egypt, mediator between all Egyptians and the gods. And when I die, I will become a god. (to SCRIBE) Why aren't you writing this down? You're a scribe, for Pete's sake!

    SCRIBE #2 (jumps to it): Oops. Sorry! (starts jotting things down furiously)

    TOURIST #4: Actually, it's scientifically impossible for you to become a god when you die --

    MAYA: Shh. We're here to learn, not argue.

    SCRIBE #1: We Egyptians believe that the king controls everything in this life, and with the proper burial he will join the gods.

    SCRIBE #2: Take the Nile. It flows for hundreds of miles from the south towards the delta and out into the Mediterranean Sea. Every year it swells with the rains from central Africa and overflows its banks, leaving a rich deposit of soil. We call this soil the "black land."

    SCRIBE #1: Without that annual flood, we'd have nothing but desert, or the "red land." Our Western desert, which you call the Sahara, is the largest in the world.

    This concludes the first one-third of the script.

    Common Core and Other National Standards

    History/Social Studies

    Language Arts

    National Core Arts Standards

    Number of questions: 0

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