"The Electoral College and Other Civic Mysteries" Musical Play by Bad Wolf Press
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    • 45-minute musical play for grades 5-8+
    • Includes the script, teacher's guide, and audio recording (which contains a vocal and instrumental version of each song)
    • Simple to do - no music or drama experience needed!

    Parts of the Constitution got you baffled? Well step inside the Tent of Civic Mysteries, where wise carnival characters along with the Founding Fathers illuminate the reasons behind such peculiarities as the electoral college, state representation in Congress, the Three-Fifths Clause, and many more.

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

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    Key Concepts

    Ready for a varsity-level play tackling the history behind the U.S. Constitution and some of its stranger elements? The Electoral College and Other Civic Mysteries is your show! This play complements nuanced study of the late 1700s and explores the influences on and intentions of the Founding Fathers, the compromises made to ensure the Constitution would be ratified, and the civic ramifications of these decisions and the development of political parties. (For a more general study of the Constitution, take a look at our play U.S. Constitution: The Reality Show.)

    The Electoral College and Other Civic Mysteries reinforces students' familiarity with the following events and concepts:

    • The intended functions of the three branches of government
    • Compromises to ensure ratification of the Constitution
      • Limitations of the Articles of Confederation and need for a national constitution
      • Differences in state representation between the two Houses of Congress
      • The Three-Fifths Clause (slavery)
    • The Founding Fathers' avoidance of direct democracy
      • Influence of the Roman Republic, especially Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger
      • The electoral college
    • The emergence of the two-party system and its role in profoundly altering how the Founding Fathers expected government to function
    • The Constitution as a living document
      • Amendments, particularly Amendment 12
      • The Bill of Rights
    • Click the "Song & Script Samples" tab (above) for the full character list.

    The Electoral College and Other Civic Mysteries is a great complement to your curriculum resources in social studies. And, like all of our plays, this show can be used to improve reading, vocabulary, reading comprehension, performance and music 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

    Author: John Heath (Book and Lyrics) and Mike Fishell (Composer)
    ISBN: 978-1-886588-74-5
    © 2020 Bad Wolf Press, LLC

    Song Samples


    Casting

    Flexible casting from 11-40 students. Use as many Partiers, Journalists, etc. as desired. One student can easily play several roles if needed. Note that all roles can be played by either boys or girls.

    Character List

    Carnival Barkers (3)
    Alexander Hamilton
    Abraham Lincoln
    James Wilson and Follower
    Luther Martin and Follower
    Legislative Branch
    Executive Branch
    Judicial Branch
    George Washington
    Thomas Jefferson
    Partiers
    Marcus Portius Cato the Younger
    Aaron Burr
    Assistants (3) to the Great Matilda
    The Great Matilda
    Professor
    Benjamin Franklin
    Gouverneur Morris
    James Madison
    Journalists (3)
    Antifederalists (3)

    and a CHORUS composed of all students who are not playing roles on stage at the time.

    Script

    This is the first one-third of the script:

    (The set looks like a carnival or travelling circus. THREE BARKERS stand on a soapbox in front of a tent, inviting people into what is labeled on the backdrop as the "Tent of Civic Mysteries." The rest of the performers are standing, looking at and listening to the BARKERS.)

      Song 1 - Listen to a clip now!

    BARKER #1: Step right up! Hurry, hurry, hurry!

    (CLASS spins around and faces audience. If desired, individual students, or groups of students, can sing separate verses.)

    BARKERS and CLASS:

    Folks, step on up
    Please come on in
    Oooh your skin will crawl and heads will spin.

    You won't believe
    The stuff one sees
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.

    Folks, step on up
    Now don't be shy
    Give a civics lesson one more try.

    There are no tests
    No calories
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.

    The Constitution -- gotta love it
    But there're mysteries galore:
    Why two Houses?
    Why amendments?
    What's the electoral college for?

    BARKER #2 (spoken): Who knows?

    CLASS (shouts): It's a mystery!

    CLASS:

    It's just five bucks
    From each of you
    'Cause the Bill of Rights is overdue.

    There're hanging chads
    And absentees
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.

    The Constitution -- gotta love it
    Still it really caused a flap:
    Who got checked and
    Who got balanced?
    Who knew Hamilton could rap?

    ALEXANDER HAMILTON (steps to front, rapping):

    I was schooled in a duel with a hooligan
    It's my time I can rhyme and I'm cool again.

    CLASS:

    Folks, step on up
    Please come on in
    Oooh your skin will crawl and heads will spin.

    You won't believe
    The stuff one sees
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.
    In the Tent of Civic Mysteries.

    (CLASS exits or sits down. BARKERS remain.)

    BARKER #3 (to audience): We've got it all here, folks. Mysteries galore!

    BARKER #2 (to other BARKERS): Can we show them the Electoral College?

    BARKER #1: No, not now. It could scare them away. Let's start with something gentle.

    BARKER #3: How about the two houses of Congress?

    ABRAHAM LINCOLN (entering quickly): Did someone say house?
    (with rhetorical flourish)
    A house divided against itself cannot stand!
    (HE looks proud.)

    BARKER #2 (to the others): What's Abraham Lincoln doing here?

    BARKER #3 (to LINCOLN): No, Abe. We're talking about the Constitutional Convention in 1787. You haven't been born yet.

    LINCOLN: Oh. Sorry. Wrong house. I must have gotten lost.
    (holds out piece of paper)
    I'm looking for this address.

    BARKER #1: Let me see.
    (takes paper, looks at it)
    Oh. That's in Pennsylvania.
    (points)
    That way.

    LINCOLN: Excellent. Much obliged.
    (tips his top hat, exits)

    BARKER #2: Where is he going?

    BARKER #1: Some place in Gettysburg.

    BARKER #3: So you mean...

    BARKER #1: That's right:

    ALL THREE: It was the Gettysburg address.

    BARKER #1: That one never gets old.

    BARKER #3: Now back to our first mystery: Why do we have two houses of Congress?

    BARKER #2: Maybe they use one as a vacation rental.

    BARKER #3: No, I mean why a Senate and a House of Representatives?

    BARKER #1: Let's go into the tent and find out. I can hear delegates James Wilson of Pennsylvania and Luther Martin of Maryland arguing about it from here.

    (THEY exit. WILSON and MARTIN enter, each with a FOLLOWER.)

    MARTIN: Now look here, Mr. Wilson. We have already decided on a House of Representatives. The number of representatives from each state will be proportional to the population.

    WILSON: As it should be, Mr. Martin! The more people, the more representatives.

    WILSON FOLLOWER: Absolutely right!

    MARTIN: But if the number of senators is determined the same way, those of us in the smaller states will always be outvoted in BOTH houses.

    MARTIN FOLLOWER: A travesty!

    WILSON: It's only fair. Pennsylvania has six times the population of your tiny little Delaware.

    MARTIN: Don't you call us tiny.

    (MARTIN FOLLOWER is outraged, and "puts up dukes" in parody of old-fashioned fighting. As the exchange goes on, WILSON FOLLOWER similarly takes boxing stand -- neither ever comes close to throwing an actual punch.)

    WILSON: How about...puny?

    MARTIN: You stop that.

    WILSON: Picayune?

    MARTIN: I'm warning you!

    WILSON: Teensy-weensy?

    MARTIN: You are testing my patience, Mr. Wilson. You will never get this Constitution approved by the delegates, much less nine of the thirteen states, if we less sizeable states do not get equal representation in at least one house of Congress.

    WILSON: Then what do you propose?

    MARTIN: I propose that, in the Senate, each state have the SAME number of representatives. Maybe two from every state.

    WILSON: That's absurd!

      Song 2 - Listen to a clip now!

    WILSON and FOLLOWER:

    Little state, little state, you're so cute
    Thinking you're equal to us
    You can't make legislation
    Where there's no population
    Sit down and stop making a fuss.

    MARTIN and FOLLOWER:

    Bigger state, bigger state, hear our voice
    Cutting through all of that bloat
    We will not join the nation
    Without representation
    That gives equal force to our vote.

    WILSON, MARTIN, and FOLLOWERS:

    What will we do?
    What will we try?
    There's no doubt
    Just one way out!

    Compromise
    Compromise
    A little something that we both despise.

    WILSON: You can complain

    MARTIN: And you can still grouse

    WILSON: But I get the Senate

    MARTIN: And I get the House!

    ALL FOUR:

    I guess we're acting wise
    The Great Compromise.

    Fellow state, fellow state, you're okay
    We found a plan that might work
    When we get in a jam we'll just
    Find something bicameral
    And hope you stop being a jerk.

    What will we do?
    What will we try?
    There's no doubt
    Just one way out!

    ALL and CHORUS:

    Compromise
    Compromise
    A little something that we both despise.

    WILSON: You can complain

    MARTIN: And you can still grouse

    WILSON: But I get the Senate

    MARTIN: And I get the House!

    ALL and CHORUS:

    I guess we're acting wise
    I hope this unifies
    Until I can revise
    The Great Compromise.

    (THEY exit. BARKER #2 enters.)

    BARKER #2 (looking around to make sure no one else is there; points to an audience member): Psst. Hey you. Buddy. Yeah, you.
    (secretively)
    You wanna buy a branch of government? Look, I can get you a deal. I got a special on the Judicial Branch today. Half off -- and I'll throw in a Supreme Court justice. One of the juicy ones. Whaddya say?

    (BARKERS #1 and #3 enter)

    BARKER #1 (outraged, to BARKER #2): What are you doing?
    (looks at audience member, then back)
    Are you trying to sell a branch of the government again?

    BARKER #2: What, me? No way. No sirree. I would never!

    BARKER #3: Are you sure?

    BARKER #2: Well, maybe just one of them.

    BARKER #1: How many times do we have to tell you? We need all three!

    BARKER #2: Why?

    BARKER #3: Here, they can tell you themselves.

    (LEGISLATIVE, EXECUTIVE, and JUDICIAL BRANCHES enter)

    LEGISLATIVE BRANCH (to the OTHERS): Stop touching me!

    EXECUTIVE BRANCH: You touched me first! Get out of my way.

    JUDICIAL BRANCH (shouts): I'm feeling some punitive damages here!

    BARKER #1: What's going on with you?

    LEGISTLATIVE: Same old thing. As the Legislative Branch, I'm supposed to make the laws.

    EXECUTIVE: And I'm the Executive Branch -- I carry out the laws.

    JUDICIAL: And the Judiciary -- that's me -- gets to interpret the laws. But these guys are always trying to encroach on my habeas corpus, if you know what I mean.

    LEGISLATIVE: They don't, Judge. You're the only one who speaks Latin.

    JUDICIAL: My point is that the Framers of the Constitution wanted to make sure the government could control itself.

    LEGISLATIVE: Yes. They came up with a system of a balance of powers, or shared powers, to limit each branch's actions. We call them "checks and balances."

    EXECUTIVE: As if they couldn't trust me with absolute power! It's so insulting.

    JUDICIAL: It's not insulting -- it's common sense. The Founding Fathers escaped a monarchy. The last thing they wanted was some de facto king.

    EXECUTIVE: Who are you calling "de facto"?

    JUDICIAL (taunting): De facto! De facto! Quid pro quo! E pluribus unum!

    BARKER #2: Are you sure we can't sell some of them?

    BARKER #1 (to #2): No! We need all three. Believe it or not, there's supposed to be some tension between them.

      Song 3 - Listen to a clip now!

    EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATIVE, and JUDICIAL BRANCHES:

    One, two, three
    One, two, three branches of government
    Each wants to keep both the others in line
    One, two, three
    One, two, three need checks and balances
    At least both of them do
    (EACH points to the other two)
    Though I am just fine.

    LEGISLATIVE: We pass the laws and then hope you'll respect 'em all.

    EXECUTIVE: I've got the veto so I can reject 'em all.

    LEGISLATIVE and EXECUTIVE: These checks on our lawmaking are institutional

    JUDICIAL: And any law we can judge unconstitutional.

    LEGISLATIVE (spoken): Yeah, yeah, that's true.

    EXECUTIVE (spoken): That really bums me out.

    EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATIVE, and JUDICIAL BRANCHES:

    One, two, three
    One, two, three branches of government
    Each wants to keep both the others in line
    One, two, three
    One, two, three need checks and balances
    At least both of them do
    (EACH points to the other two)
    Though I am just fine.

    EXECUTIVE: I can make treaties

    LEGISLATIVE: But we must approve 'em all

    JUDICIAL: A judge has life tenure

    LEGISLATIVE: But we can remove 'em all.

    EXECUTIVE: Commander in chief and I'm nearly unreachable

    LEGISLATIVE: But we declare war...and you're not unimpeachable!

    JUDICIAL (spoken): Yeah, that's true.

    EXECUTIVE (spoken): Don't remind me.

    EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIAL, and CHORUS:

    One, two, three
    One, two, three branches of government
    Each wants to keep both the others in line
    One, two, three
    One, two, three need checks and balances
    At least both of them do
    Though I am just fine.

    (ALL exit except EXECUTIVE BRANCH, who looks to other side of stage just before exiting.)

    EXECUTIVE (to audience): Ah, here come two of my favorite presidents, Washington and Jefferson.
    (to audience)
    Between you and me, with studs like this, what do we need those other two branches for?

    JUDICIAL and LEGISLATIVE (from off stage): We heard that!

    EXECUTIVE: Oops! Gotta run before they start flinging more Latin at me.

    (EXECUTIVE exits. WASHINGTON and JEFFERSON enter.)

    WASHINGTON: It's a complete mystery to me, Tom. Why don't they listen to me?

    JEFFERSON (pretending he didn't hear): What?

    WASHINGTON: I said --

    JEFFERSON: I'm just messing with you, George.

    WASHINGTON: I mean, they loved me, didn't they? They named the country's capital after me. I got a state named after me. Schools, streets. I got fifteen MOUNTAINS named after me. My face is on the one-dollar bill!

    JEFFERSON: I'm on a bill, too.

    WASHINGTON: It's the two-dollar bill, Tom. Nobody uses the two-dollar bill.

    JEFFERSON (resentful): I should have been on the ten, but Hamilton squeezed me out. Then they put me on the crummy old nickel.

    WASHINGTON: I'm on the quarter and they STILL pay no attention. Didn't I warn them? Didn't I tell them? Right there in my farewell speech in 1796, I told them to avoid political parties, because, and I quote myself:
    (WASHINGTON pulls out parchment and reads)
    "...the spirit of party serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection."
    (finishes reading)
    But now we have two opposing factions who don't agree on anything. And I blame you, Tom. You and James Madison.

    JEFFERSON: Hold on, George. Political parties were inevitable.

    WASHINGTON (upset): I didn't belong to a party! And we kept them out of the Constitution. Not a single mention. And for good reason: political parties nearly destroyed England! Then you and Madison had to start the Democratic-Republican party.

    JEFFERSON: It was Hamilton's fault!

    WASHINGTON: Why are you always blaming Alexander?

    JEFFERSON: Because I disagreed with his Federalist ideas about a national bank and a powerful national government! When you stepped down as President and I was running against John Adams -- YOUR vice-president, I might add -- it just sort of developed that he was supported by Federalists and I was supported by Madison, so...James and I established the Democratic-Republican party.

    WASHINGTON: You lost that election.

    JEFFERSON: But I won four years later!

    WASHINGTON: After 36 ballots in the House -- and with Hamilton's help!

    JEFFERSON: Why are you such a hater, George?

    WASHINGTON: It's nothing personal, Tom. I just hate political parties. But I guess that ship has sailed.

    JEFFERSON: Yes. You're just going to have to accept that it's...PARTY TIME!

    This concludes the first 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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