On Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a young girl named Maya journeys into the Underworld to find and rescue the spirit of her dead mother. Through a series of vignettes, guided by the Aztec spirit Yellow Dog, Maya encounters lost souls and experiences their stories before confronting the god of death… who wants to keep Maya for his own.
Maya, a young Latina girl who lives with her single father, prays a novena on Day of the Dead, hoping to bring back the spirit of her dead mother, Corazón. When she spontaneously begins her first period, the event sparks true magic, summoning the death saint Santa Muerte. Santa Muerte informs Maya that her prayers have actually cursed Corazón, and that the god of the Underworld, Mitch, now keeps her as a “pet” in a cage. Determined to save her mother, Maya trades the heart locket her mother gave her to Santa Muerte in order to gain entry to the Underworld.
Maya falls through the veil between the living and the dead into an Underworld river, where she meets a hyperactive and hypersexual guide named Yellow Dog. He at first refuses to help Maya since his job is to guide the dead and she is still alive, but she promises to give him her heart in exchange. Yellow Dog then warns her that they will run into the souls of dead people on their journey and that talking to them only encourages them to tell their stories. Curious, Maya immediately strikes up a conversation with a friendly man on a raft, Chris. Chris tells Maya about how after his wife died, she was reincarnated as a monarch butterfly (“Butterfly Kiss.").
Maya and Yellow Dog come to the second level of the Underworld, which taps into Maya’s new apprehension about sex and her changing body. Maya is embarrassed by mountains that look like human breasts, and Yellow Dog offers to “hold on to” her eyes until they’ve passed through. He magically pops out Maya’s eyes and puts them around his neck. As Maya passes blindly through the mountains, a character named Jen tells her about the time her own dead body was found in a river and how her tragedy paralleled that of the Mexican ghost la Llorona (“Desert Aria").
Yellow Dog then takes Maya’s nose so they can travel through a mountain of shit, where Maya meets a wealthy woman so consumed with maintaining her lifestyle and staying young that she murdered her own daughter (“Buttercup"). The daughter in the story gives Maya a stone that she says used to be her own heart until her mother stabbed it. She warns Maya not to give Yellow Dog her real heart, to use the stone instead. When Yellow Dog asks what the teen girl gave Maya, Maya lies and says nothing.
Maya and Yellow Dog then pass through a war zone with bullets flying. Yellow Dog yanks off Maya’s ear, and she faints. Yellow Dog moves to attack her, but a Soldier catches him and orders him to take Maya to Mitch. The Soldier then recounts his story of being killed during a war and then wandering as a skeleton into the home of two party girls who had no idea their world was ending outside (“Boneheads").
Yellow Dog carries an unconscious Maya to a ceremonial table, where she’s visited by her own ancestors. They bring her food to eat and recount the story of her family coming to the U.S. from Mexico on foot. But when they ask her to eat human meat, Maya is so horrified that Yellow Dog takes her tongue, rendering her mute. She eats the meat in order to gain access to the next level of the Underworld, but that’s when Yellow Dog demands his payment… her heart. He attacks her, and she distracts him by giving him the little stone, then stabs him. In a trance, she cuts out his heart and eats it, thus completing the sacrificial ceremony. As Maya goes on alone to the final level, a woman named Annie tells the story of being blinded and abandoned after discovering her lover was a supernatural being (“Annie in the Moonlight").
Maya comes to Mitch’s lair, where he puts on a torturous “magic act” that is just him hacking Corazón into pieces every night. While Corazón sews herself together, Maya appears, and the mother and daughter reunite. Corazón admonishes Maya for allowing Yellow Dog to take away parts of her body, and she pieces Maya back together while explaining what it means to be a woman. Maya tells Corazón she got her first period, and Corazón embraces her, saying Maya is always in her heart. Mitch interrupts them, tossing Corazón aside and making Maya take her place in the “act,” which will kill Maya. But Maya tricks Mitch into getting into a coffin, threatening to chop off his head unless he frees Corazón. He does, but Maya cuts off his head anyway, and a laughing Mitch says he’ll see her again someday.
Maya is transported back to the world of the living, where she finds her father looking for her at a cemetery celebrating Day of the Dead. He tells Maya he found her “heart,” the locket she gave to Santa Muerte. She asks him to fasten it back on her, and then they hug, as Day of the Dead dancers celebrate around them.
A mood of phantasmagoria.
Characters (with suggested double casting, though the director may combine the roles to his or her discretion; they can also be played individually for larger casts):
Maya – Female. 20s to pass for teens. Hispanic. Maya is a brave but foolish girl who ventures into the Underworld.
Yellow Dog – Male. Any age. A high-energy, anthropomorphic dog who guides souls through the levels of the Underworld.
Corazon – Female. 30+. Hispanic. Corazon is Maya's soulful dead mother and the favorite plaything of the god of the Underworld. Has dancing ability.
Dad/Abuelo/Soldier – Male. 30+. Hispanic. Dad is Maya's loving, overwhelmed father. Abuelo is Maya’s warm grandfather. Soldier is a frightened American soldier with a skull for a face.
Santa Muerte/Skelly/Jen – Female. Teens. Both are skeletons. Santa Muerte is a death saint worshipped in violent cities; she resembles the Virgin Mary with a skull face. Skelly is an elegant but ruthless skeleton who represents Time. Jen is an anguished teenager with long dark hair who resembles la Llorona.
Christopher/Man – Male. 20+. Christopher is a sad, gentle man who misses his dead wife. Man is a sexy and mysterious nighttime visitor with wings.
Carlos/Alex/Ancestor – Male. 30+. Carlos is a migrant worker with a violent streak but who is also very loving to his niece and nephew. Alex is a funny, callous, but ultimately kind friend of Christopher. Ancestor is a stoic Aztec eagle warrior.
Buttercup/Mary – Female. 40+. Buttercup is a beautiful, self-absorbed rich bitch. Mary is Christopher's loving friend.
Buttercup Jr./Billie – Female. Late teens to 20+. Buttercup Jr. is Buttercup's rebellious, gothy clone. Billie is a vapid college student dressed as a sexy witch for Halloween.
Bridie/Hayley – Female. 20+. Bridie is Billie's smarter but equally party-girl friend. She is dressed as a sexy nurse for Halloween. Hayley is a heartfelt young woman with light hair looking for her lost friend; must have singing ability.
Annie/Josefina – Female. 20+. Annie is a wistful, insecure woman in love with a man she doesn't really know. Josefina is Maya's mysterious great-grandmother.
Mitch/Jeffy/Ignacio – Male. 30+. Mitch is the god of the Underworld. He is a maniacal, psychotic skeleton with dancing ability. Jeffy is Buttercup’s slick, corrupt lawyer who tries to seduce her clone. Ignacio is a sweet migrant worker who is in love with Hayley; plays the harmonica.
Note: Two of the plays have a Chorus that can be as small as three or as large as six actors. Dancing ability preferred.
Setting: Present day. Day of the Dead. The settings are various, but we always return to Los Angeles and the Underworld.
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.
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“A touching, smart, and also bitingly funny series of stories about death and the world beyond… It weaves together a series of self-contained vignettes— some tearfully touching, others macabrely hilarious— about death, loss and acceptance… A tremendous production that includes puppetry and masks, dance, multimedia projections, intricate soundscapes, and strong, solid performances by its cast.” –Neon Tommy
“Delondra [Mesa] wrote a hysterical, poignant and highly intelligent play… an original tour de force that should be a staple for the month of October. Williams’ play is naturally haunting, smart, funny and taboo…” –Entertainment Today
“Spooky!… Chilling!… Flashes of humor in the dialogue blend well with the play’s more ominous and violent sequences.” –LA Weekly
“A harrowing yet sumptuous hell… A frightening vision.” –Tolucan Times
“It’s magic!” –LA Theater Review
“A unique experience for the audience with its weird imagery and its tragic storytelling.” –The American River Current
“Filled with symbolism both eerie and enchanting… a fascinating celebration of love, death and the next world.” –American River Message
“True to the festivities that inspired it, Skeleton Stories has captured a quintessential balance of horror, humor and sense of life.” –Daily Bruin
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 Skeleton Stories consists of:
20 Production Scripts / $230.00 (shipping included)
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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.