Art is Useless When You’re Being Mauled by a Bear is the story of a woman coping and finding strength during a fantastical journey through grief, guilt, loss, and a descent into madness.
A series of encounters with beings both real and imagined, some straight out of a Grimms’ fairy tale, pushes her toward an ultimate and unavoidable truth.
And yes, there is a bear.
This is a story about loss and the effect it has on the loved ones left behind. The focus is on two sisters, Finn and Kyt, who have been estranged for some time. Kyt is dying of cancer, and Finn comes back into her life in order to help her with her transition and to perhaps resolve the conflict between the two of them along the way. In the first scene, Kyt smells gasoline and smoke. Finn says only that there was a little backyard fire. Kyt says it smells like a lot more than a little backyard fire.
The thing is, the two sisters are not alone. Nid is also there, serving as the ever-present, unwelcomed voice of conflict, dysfunction, and sometimes reason. Nid represents Finn’s younger self and consequently becomes her strongest supporter— and her harshest critic. The minutiae involved with the day-to-day care for a loved one is getting to Finn and literally driving her mad. Kyt too is struggling with “chemo brain,” putting her affairs in order, and the business of dying. Their relationship is equal parts love and frustration.
In order to cope with the complex situation, the sisters mostly communicate in remembered and imagined time, as they tell the history of their childhood through a reimagining of the Grimms’ fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red.”
The relationship is mirrored through dance, beginning as a pas de deux that starts playfully, but grows increasingly reckless. Over the first act, Finn and Kyt write the fairy tale together as a way of communicating around the difficult reality, which Finn avoids. As the sisters write the story, the various characters such as a bear, an old crone, and Snow White and Rose Red, act the story out through movement and dialogue. Finn and Kyt often start and stop the writing of the story, which only frustrates the characters.
Finn has another coping skill up her sleeve, which is to join a grief support group where she avoids talking about her sister’s decay. Instead she talks about the decay of her own “container,” which she believes to have been triggered by a traumatic event.
As the fairy tale progresses, Rose Red is born, steals Snow White’s toys, and wants to play with children of her own age. Kyt attempts to interrupt the story to get Finn to tell her how she feels about Kyt’s illness. Kyt reveals that they had a fight and that Finn dropped that and everything to come be with her. Finn continues to avoid her feelings. Kyt suggests that their fairy tale story lacks conflict. Kyt asks again about the backyard fire.
The story continues: Snow White is often mean to Rose Red, but Rose Red grows, and is also part-bear. One day she raises up on her hind legs and roars at Snow White. A shift has occurred. Finn then calls to cancel Kyt’s phone service and to forward the final bill to an address in Los Angeles. Nid enters to tell Finn that she’s going to create confusion if people start checking dates. Finn responds that she has all the proper letters and forms— everything very efficient and organized. Nid encourages Finn to eat and shower, but Finn says that she’s going for a record in self-neglect.
Finn returns to her support group, which results in her finally mentioning cancer— that it’s like a swimming shark, destroying everything in its path and the hopes and dreams of everyone around it. Nid attempts, awkwardly, to comfort her.
Kyt again asks Finn what she was burning in the backyard. Finn admits that there was a good ole fashioned book burning. They weren’t actual books, per se. Finn says they poured gasoline on the fire, while passing a bottle of Irish whisky, and that she wished Kyt was there— it was kind of fun. Kyt says, “Who is we, where was I?”
Nid hands Finn a phone, and she has a conversation with her parents about arranging to have Kyt’s car stolen, because she couldn’t get rid of it any other way. Kyt enters, mentioning she’s had her car stolen in every town she ever lived in. Kyt apologizes for leaving Finn alone with their parents. Finn avoids the subject. Kyt pushes, saying that it’s not their fault for being the way they are. She apologizes for hurting Finn.
Finn returns to the support group with a new hypothesis about cancer. Nid tells her that’s depressing, Finn demands to know why Nid is there, now; Nid says because they need each other, and Nid can’t go anywhere, and that she’s a constant reminder. Finn avoids her, picking up a stuffed bear from a box. Nid tells Finn that sisters not speaking for years is so mainstream— that they were supposed to be extraordinary, and they blew it by being ordinary. Kyt enters and jumps the story ahead to when Rose Red tells Snow White that she’s been to the medicine people and is sick in the worst way to be sick. Finn tries to stop Kyt from jumping ahead. They’re not ready!
In Act II all hell breaks loose! The characters have taken over Finn’s apartment and life, and are now controlling things. Finn addresses the audience, stating that something happened when she attempted, after suggestion, to write about her feelings. That’s when they moved in. All the fairy tale characters emerged into her environment in chaos and clutter, all darker, more real than in Act I. Finn speaks about how they not only invaded her life, but also how attempts to go out in public were met with chaos, as others could see and hear them and it became dangerous. (This is all being simultaneously performed through dance, chaotic movement, dialogue by the ensemble.)
Finn decides to stop going out. She stops writing in an attempt to make the characters go away, but it makes them more angry— most of all, the Bear. We see a giant shadow of a menacing Bear, growling, stomping, raising up and down. Finn threatens to delete the fairy tale from her computer, thus erasing the entire ensemble. Nid holds up the apple, saying, “There’s an alternative to this.” Finn frantically hits delete, yet the shadow of the Bear makes a chuffing sound and the Ensemble moves in on Finn, pushing her and spinning her around the stage, picking her up and moving her.
Nid demands to know why Finn continued writing the story. “The Decay of Snow White and Rose Red,” she calls it. Finn breaks through the crowd, spouting nonsense, and Nid says she’s got to end this. Nid says Finn has two options: oblivion or pain. Go on in a dreamless sleep, or walk on shattered glass and suck it up. Knocking is heard. Kyt enters, looking very ill, and repeats dialogue from the top, asking about the smoke and gasoline. Nid tells Finn to just tell her. Finn says they had a bonfire, that they burned everything Kyt wanted burned, all the self-help books, juicing guides, pamphlets, false hope, misguided intentions, failed experiments. Kyt and Finn speak of her death, and how nothing happened the way it was supposed to, that Finn has been guessing about much of it, and that some of her choices would piss off Kyt. It wasn’t the ending they would have written. Kyt says she would, but not for her. After a few more words, Kyt exits, leaving Finn alone to address the visit, and her attempts to conjure Kyt by continuing to write the story so that it might have a more bearable ending. The growling increases, and the shadow of the Bear looms— Finn can smell it. Finn begs the Bear to take her with it. The screen comes up to reveal the bear, the mask pulled back— the Bear is Kyt, who embraces Finn.
In the final scene, Finn returns to the support group. She talks about Time and Art and how both can turn on you. She introduces herself as Finn, from the “other, other” group. Snow White and Rose Red enter, doing a final pas de deux that conveys love and their final goodbye.
Imaginative in the extreme and highly entertaining!
–Paul Myrvold’s Theatre Notes
Finn – Female, 30s to 40s. Serious, yet sardonic, she explores the journey of grief over the course of the play with a decent into a type of madness over the loss of her sister Kyt.
Kyt – Female, 20s-30s. Has a wry wit, though is not well physically -- her memory and mood is somewhat influenced by her condition. Has a complicated yet very close relationship with her sister Finn.
Nid – Female. Has an ever-present smirky grin. She loves a good party, makes questionable decisions when it comes to men, likes to “dumb down” to get her way. She loves Finn, despite what Finn thinks.
The Bear – Male, 20s-30s.
Handsome Young Man, Dwarf – Male, 20s-30s.
Dwarf 2, Pretty Young Woman, Shop Keeper – Male, 20s-30
Snow White, Store Patron 1 – Female, 20s.
Rose Red – Female, 20s.
Crone, Young Mother – Female, 20s.
3 additional ensemble members – To make up Store Patron 2, varying elements (trees, litter trapping Dwarf 2, the Bear’s family members, etc.)
Act I: Kyt’s Apartment. The Fairy World.
Act II: Finn’s Apartment. The Fairy World. The outside world of shop. Starbucks.
Performance Royalties for AMATEUR and EDUCATIONAL Groups begin at $90.00 per performance for theaters under 150 seats, and rise depending on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
Performance Royalties for PROFESSIONAL Theaters will be quoted as a box office percentage, with a minimum guarantee based on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement (see Materials).
Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement.
“Imaginative in the extreme and highly entertaining.” –Paul Myrvold’s Theatre Notes
“Dance and movement that is energetic, athletic, and beautiful.” –Paul Myrvold’s Theatre Notes
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement. Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date, unless other arrangements have been made in advance with your Stage Rights Licensing Representative.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for ART IS USELESS WHEN YOU’RE BEING MAULED BY A BEAR consists of:
20 Production Scripts / $230 (shipping included)
Production Scripts for Plays are professionally printed and bound with a full-color cover.
You will have the option to purchase additional Production Scripts at a discounted rate when you complete your Licensing Agreement.
Official Logo Pack Now Included! To help you promote your show, Stage Rights now includes a logo pack with your license. The logo pack includes high resolution versions (both color and black and white) of our show logo. The logo is the portion of the artwork with the title of the show. The surrounding artwork is also available for an additional fee.
Stage Manager’s Script – Printed on standard 8.5” x 11” 3-hole-punched paper, with the same page numbers and text as the Printed Production Scripts, but with more space on the page for notes and cues.