The Expository Curse in Agnes the Barbarian (by Jason Harding)

The Thunderbird Theatre Company has been producing wacky original comedies in San Francisco for 13 years, many with meta elements. For example in The Gloved Fist of Satan, a character starts the show by treating the audience as house guests, serving them cookies and forcing them to watch a slideshow. In Los 7 Magnificos, the character El Bandito, dressed like Pancho Villa, sits in the audience and heckles the performers: “Thees ees sooo stupid!” (I played a bad ass reverend in that play, head of the evil Quakers.) In Las Vega-nauts, Stan Schuster not only narrated but drunkenly engaged the audience. (I was a member of the Swiss Mafia.) Pride and Succubus also had a Jane Austin character, who not only narrated but then intervened with the plot ultimately to become the villain.

In their most recent production of Agnes the Barbarian, the title character (played by Jaime Lee Currier), reluctantly takes over the role of adventurer from her aging father, Conan the Barbarian (the author, Jason Harding).  In the scene below, Agnes, traveling with Miss Bastard, a dotty old woman (Mary Bishop), becomes aware of the narrator Shitake (Tavis Kammet), who has been afflicted with a metafictional curse. I won’t tell you what it is, however, since that is the narrator’s job.

SHITAKE

How stupid could Agnes’s companion be to not realize that there is only one Agnes the Barbarian! Such stupidity is undreamed of even by gods whose job it is to dream of very stupid people!

Agnes stops suddenly and cocks an ear to the air.

AGNES

Sssh. Did you hear something?

MISSUS BASTARD

I heard lots of things, dear.

AGNES

I could have sworn I heard a voice

SHITAKE

(still to the audience) Said the mighty Agnes to her trusted companion!

MISSUS BASTARD

I heard a voice that time! It seems to be coming from the direction of that pile of dirty diapers!

AGNES

What do we do?

MISSUS BASTARD

Lets approach with caution.

The duo begin to make a stealthy approach towards SHITAKE who seems oblivious to their advancement…at least physically.

SHITAKE

Slowly the deadly she-warriors approach. What could it be? Friend? Foe? Agnes gathers all of her strength and raises her arm-

As she approaches Agnes raises an arm

SHITAKE

To deliver a tremendous blow

Agnes brings her arm down and taps SHITAKE on his shoulder.

AGNES

Excuse me.

SHITAKE

Said Agnes to the dirty old man.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oi! Agnes the Barbarian asked you a question!

SHITAKE

Demanded her crone like companion.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh, well. Crone like? Thank you.

AGNES

What’s wrong with him? Is he crazy?

SHITAKE

Said Agnes, with concern.

MISSUS BASTARD

Could be. Hey old man. Do you live here in the Mangle-woods and if you do, do you know the way to the dread sorceress Ral Partha?

SHITAKE

Though he yearned to answer her questions the old man continued to babble away in an expository way, providing little help to the heroic duo. If he was to help them it would need to be soon for the sun was setting and no man has ever survived an evening in the Mangle-wood.

AGNES

Why does he keep doing that?

SHITAKE

Asked the Barbarian Princess.

AGNES

Stop that.

MISSUS BASTARD

I think I know what’s wrong with him. He’s enchanted.

SHITAKE

The duo were in the presence of the great SHITAKE! Former wizard and Chronicler of Conan the Barbarian!

AGNES

SHITAKE! I thought he looked familiar! I remember you! You used to tell the tales of my fathers exploits! You were also the court magician until Gygax became Grand Vizier! Then you just disappeared!

MISSUS BASTARD

Wait. You’re father’s name is Conan too?

SHITAKE

Said the impossibly stupid Missus Bastard!

AGNES

How did you know her name?

SHITAKE

Though SHITAKE wished to answer her question he could not due to the curse placed upon him.

AGNES

What curse SHITAKE?

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh I got it! He’s been hit with the exposition curse!

AGNES

The what?

MISSUS BASTARD

The exposition curse! Only very powerful magicians can cast that curse.

SHITAKE

For time in memorial any who are struck with the exposition curse are doomed to only speak as a third party narrator. They can see events and be privy to information they normally should not know but they are cursed to only explaining events that go on around them but not participating in them.

AGNES

That’s terrible!

MISSUS BASTARD

And annoying. They can’t answer direct questions.

SHITAKE

Said Missus Bastard.

AGNES

Hmmm. Can’t answer direct questions…Can only speak in narrative…

MISSUS BASTARD

What are you doing Agnes?

AGNES

I’m thinking.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh no you don’t! You are a barbarian young miss and rule number one for barbarism is that thinking is straight out! If you can’t kill it, eat it or screw it then it’s not worth thinking about!

SHITAKE

What Missus Bastard did not realize was that SHITAKE fit the last category to a tee!

AGNES

If he’s a narrator then we just have to sway our conversation in the direction that we wish him to go in! Here. Follow my lead. Ahem. Well, it appears that there is nothing we can do for poor SHITAKE. Come Missus Bastard, we must Find Ral Partha and depart the Mangle-wood before sunset.

MISSUS BASTARD

-Uh, yeah! Too bad. Well good bye Mr. SHITAKE! Good luck in the Mangle-woods!

SHITAKE

Little did the heroes realize that the secret entrance to Ral Partha’s lair was in the opposite direction in a small stand of trees.

AGNES

See? Thinking works! Thanks SHITAKE! Um. Do you want to come with us? Maybe we can find a way to remove your curse!

MISSUS BASTARD

Are you sure Agnes? He’s old and cursed, he’ll just slow us down.

SHITAKE

Said the cruel Missus Bastard not knowing that SHITAKE the cursed will follow them in hopes of a cure.

AGNES

Father always spoke so highly of SHITAKE. I can’t just leave him like this. Come on. The sun is lower in the sky.

They begin to exit. SHITAKE addresses the audience.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh. You sounded like a barbarian just then, you know that?

AGNES

I did?

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh yes. Saying the sun is lower in the sky rather than just saying sunset. Tres Barbarian.

They Exit

SHITAKE

And so the duo becomes a trio and despite his obvious physical frailty and his accursed status, SHITAKE Wizard of the ten dragons, two monkeys and a handful of beetles clan, joins the heroes to meet dangers untold in the Mangle-wood!

AGNES

(off-stage) SHITAKE, shut up and get a move on!

SHITAKE backs off stage.

SHITAKE

What perils await them in the lair of Ral Partha and will Shitake ever be free of this curse of exposition!?

MISSUS BASTARD

Shut your yapper and get over here!

SHITAKE

(From off stage) Only the fates know for certain!

Lights fade down.

[Later on . . . ]

RAL PARTHA

I’ll get the sword and I’ll look up the counter curse for your wizard friend SHITAKE.

SHITAKE

Mmmmmph!

RAL PARTHA

You don’t remember me SHITAKE? 65 years ago…A damnation pit in Kusan…You…me…a five day magic battle…1000 dead reptile god worshippers?

SHITAKE

Mmmmmph!

AGNES

You know each other?

RAL PARTHA

Sweetie, I’m 5000 years old, there’s very few people I don’t know. Be right back!

The lights fade as SHITAKE reaches up and removes his gag.

SHITAKE

And so our hero gains the mystical sword Pointronus and takes one step closer to fulfilling her quest but what is happening back in Tarantia? Is Conan still under the sway of  the evil agents within his castle?

The lights spring up, Agnes grabs SHITAKE by the shoulders.

AGNES

Evil? What evil? Is my dad in trouble?

SHITAKE

What terrible fate awaits Agnes’s unsuspecting parents as the vipers in their midst wrap their vile coils about them? Little does Agnes realize that the person responsible for so much evil in Aquilonia is none other than-

Ral Re-enters holding a sword and twiddling her fingers she chants-

RAL PARTHA

Alla peenaught buddar tsanwichesss!

There is a clap of thunder and a flash of light as SHITAKE grasps his throat. Agnes shakes SHITAKE

AGNES

Who? Who has their vile coils around my parents, SHITAKE! Who!

SHITAKE

I am cured! Oh wonderous Sorceress! Thank you!

RAL PARTHA

Eh, It was nothing.

AGNES

Yeah, that’s great, whatever. Who were the evil agents that were plotting against my dad?

SHITAKE

I-I-I…I Don’t know! The power of the exposition curse is gone!

AGNES

Nooooooo!

[Thanks, Jason, for letting me put this up on my blog.]

SHITAKE

How stupid could Agnes’s companion be to not realize that there is only one Agnes the Barbarian! Such stupidity is undreamed of even by gods whose job it is to dream of very stupid people!

Agnes stops suddenly and cocks an ear to the air.

AGNES

Sssh. Did you hear something?

MISSUS BASTARD

I heard lots of things, dear.

AGNES

I could have sworn I heard a voice

SHITAKE

(still to the audience) Said the mighty Agnes to her trusted companion!

MISSUS BASTARD

I heard a voice that time! It seems to be coming from the direction of that pile of dirty diapers!

AGNES

What do we do?

MISSUS BASTARD

Lets approach with caution.

The duo begin to make a stealthy approach towards SHITAKE who seems oblivious to their advancement…at least physically.

SHITAKE

Slowly the deadly she-warriors approach. What could it be? Friend? Foe? Agnes gathers all of her strength and raises her arm-

As she approaches Agnes raises an arm

SHITAKE

To deliver a tremendous blow

Agnes brings her arm down and taps SHITAKE on his shoulder.

AGNES

Excuse me.

SHITAKE

Said Agnes to the dirty old man.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oi! Agnes the Barbarian asked you a question!

SHITAKE

Demanded her crone like companion.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh, well. Crone like? Thank you.

AGNES

What’s wrong with him? Is he crazy?

SHITAKE

Said Agnes, with concern.

MISSUS BASTARD

Could be. Hey old man. Do you live here in the Mangle-woods and if you do, do you know the way to the dread sorceress Ral Partha?

SHITAKE

Though he yearned to answer her questions the old man continued to babble away in an expository way, providing little help to the heroic duo. If he was to help them it would need to be soon for the sun was setting and no man has ever survived an evening in the Mangle-wood.

AGNES

Why does he keep doing that?

SHITAKE

Asked the Barbarian Princess.

AGNES

Stop that.

MISSUS BASTARD

I think I know what’s wrong with him. He’s enchanted.

SHITAKE

The duo were in the presence of the great SHITAKE! Former wizard and Chronicler of Conan the Barbarian!

AGNES

SHITAKE! I thought he looked familiar! I remember you! You used to tell the tales of my fathers exploits! You were also the court magician until Gygax became Grand Vizier! Then you just disappeared!

MISSUS BASTARD

Wait. You’re father’s name is Conan too?

SHITAKE

Said the impossibly stupid Missus Bastard!

AGNES

How did you know her name?

SHITAKE

Though SHITAKE wished to answer her question he could not due to the curse placed upon him.

AGNES

What curse SHITAKE?

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh I got it! He’s been hit with the exposition curse!

AGNES

The what?

MISSUS BASTARD

The exposition curse! Only very powerful magicians can cast that curse.

SHITAKE

For time in memorial any who are struck with the exposition curse are doomed to only speak as a third party narrator. They can see events and be privy to information they normally should not know but they are cursed to only explaining events that go on around them but not participating in them.

AGNES

That’s terrible!

MISSUS BASTARD

And annoying. They can’t answer direct questions.

SHITAKE

Said Missus Bastard.

AGNES

Hmmm. Can’t answer direct questions…Can only speak in narrative…

MISSUS BASTARD

What are you doing Agnes?

AGNES

I’m thinking.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh no you don’t! You are a barbarian young miss and rule number one for barbarism is that thinking is straight out! If you can’t kill it, eat it or screw it then it’s not worth thinking about!

SHITAKE

What Missus Bastard did not realize was that SHITAKE fit the last category to a tee!

AGNES

If he’s a narrator then we just have to sway our conversation in the direction that we wish him to go in! Here. Follow my lead. Ahem. Well, it appears that there is nothing we can do for poor SHITAKE. Come Missus Bastard, we must Find Ral Partha and depart the Mangle-wood before sunset.

MISSUS BASTARD

-Uh, yeah! Too bad. Well good bye Mr. SHITAKE! Good luck in the Mangle-woods!

SHITAKE

Little did the heroes realize that the secret entrance to Ral Partha’s lair was in the opposite direction in a small stand of trees.

AGNES

See? Thinking works! Thanks SHITAKE! Um. Do you want to come with us? Maybe we can find a way to remove your curse!

MISSUS BASTARD

Are you sure Agnes? He’s old and cursed, he’ll just slow us down.

SHITAKE

Said the cruel Missus Bastard not knowing that SHITAKE the cursed will follow them in hopes of a cure.

AGNES

Father always spoke so highly of SHITAKE. I can’t just leave him like this. Come on. The sun is lower in the sky.

They begin to exit. SHITAKE addresses the audience.

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh. You sounded like a barbarian just then, you know that?

AGNES

I did?

MISSUS BASTARD

Oh yes. Saying the sun is lower in the sky rather than just saying sunset. Tres Barbarian.

They Exit

SHITAKE

And so the duo becomes a trio and despite his obvious physical frailty and his accursed status, SHITAKE Wizard of the ten dragons, two monkeys and a handful of beetles clan, joins the heroes to meet dangers untold in the Mangle-wood!

AGNES

(off-stage) SHITAKE, shut up and get a move on!

SHITAKE backs off stage.

SHITAKE

What perils await them in the lair of Ral Partha and will Shitake ever be free of this curse of exposition!?

MISSUS BASTARD

Shut your yapper and get over here!

SHITAKE

(From off stage) Only the fates know for certain!

Lights fade down.

And here’s the rest

RAL PARTHA

I’ll get the sword and I’ll look up the counter curse for your wizard friend SHITAKE.

SHITAKE

Mmmmmph!

RAL PARTHA

You don’t remember me SHITAKE? 65 years ago…A damnation pit in Kusan…You…me…a five day magic battle…1000 dead reptile god worshippers?

SHITAKE

Mmmmmph!

AGNES

You know each other?

RAL PARTHA

Sweetie, I’m 5000 years old, there’s very few people I don’t know. Be right back!

The lights fade as SHITAKE reaches up and removes his gag.

SHITAKE

And so our hero gains the mystical sword Pointronus and takes one step closer to fulfilling her quest but what is happening back in Tarantia? Is Conan still under the sway of  the evil agents within his castle?

The lights spring up, Agnes grabs SHITAKE by the shoulders.

AGNES

Evil? What evil? Is my dad in trouble?

SHITAKE

What terrible fate awaits Agnes’s unsuspecting parents as the vipers in their midst wrap their vile coils about them? Little does Agnes realize that the person responsible for so much evil in Aquilonia is none other than-

Ral Re-enters holding a sword and twiddling her fingers she chants-

RAL PARTHA

Alla peenaught buddar tsanwichesss!

There is a clap of thunder and a flash of light as SHITAKE grasps his throat. Agnes shakes SHITAKE

AGNES

Who? Who has their vile coils around my parents, SHITAKE! Who!

SHITAKE

I am cured! Oh wonderous Sorceress! Thank you!

RAL PARTHA

Eh, It was nothing.

AGNES

Yeah, that’s great, whatever. Who were the evil agents that were plotting against my dad?

SHITAKE

I-I-I…I Don’t know! The power of the exposition curse is gone!

AGNES

Nooooooo!

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