CAGED: A PLAY
SCENE: An urban zoo, with an outdoor cage and a door leading to the indoor cage.
(Ambient zoo sounds throughout. Zookeeper enters. Unlocks cage door and sweeps, whistles, does a short "broom dance." Visitor enters. Watches.)
Visitor: You look real happy in there.
Zookeeper: Well I'm used to it. This is my 3rd year in the big house. And I'll be leaving soon.
Visitor: That's a funny thing to say. The big house. It sounds like a prison.
Zookeeper: It is for them.
Visitor: Don't give me that. They got a roof over their heads, good food, medical benefits. So what if they can't go for a bus ride. They don't get mugged.
Zookeeper: How would you like to be on public display eight hours a day? Everyone gaping at you. Yelling, cursing, spitting, throwing things, treating you like an animal. . . .
Visitor: They are animals. You've got a real identity problem for a guard.
Zookeeper: I'm not a guard! Except to protect them from people just like you.
Zookeeper: Yeah. Don't you talk to them? Give them peanuts? Taunt them? Dare them to come out and go a few rounds with you?
Visitor: I don't do anything like that!
Zookeeper: Well something else then? Do you have fantasies about walking a wild beast on a leash and attracting beautiful women?
Visitor: You're a weirdo. I don't think about things like that! Besides, what business is it of yours what I think?
Zookeeper: You started this conversation, not me.
Visitor: That wasn't an invitation to analyze me. And I'm not like that at all.
Zookeeper: Then why are you here? It's probably for something cruel or perverse. That's why people come here. That's why the animals are in cages. So everyone can tease them and gloat about how superior they are.
Visitor: We are superior! We're people. That's why we're out here and they're in there.
Zookeeper: If we were superior, we wouldn't torture these poor brutes with life imprisonment just for our entertainment. Especially when almost two million Americans are in prison for real crimes. We don't make a sideshow out of them.
Visitor: What are you talking about? We're not barbarians. That's why everyone's against capital punishment. That proves we're more civilized then the animals.
Zookeeper: If we were civilized, we'd put these poor beasts out of their misery and show movies or television, instead of letting people gape through the bars. But no, people have to see what they really look like, live and miserable.
Visitor: But zoos are building natural habitats, so the animals can live well. They'll be happy and our children can learn about them.
Zookeeper: Why don't you step into this habitat for a minute and see what it feels like.
Visitor: No, thanks. I don't want to get my clothes dirty, and I've got an appointment soon.
Zookeeper: Didn't you ever wonder what it would be like, looking out at all those people? Hoping you could get your claws on them. Losing hope as the years go by. Fading away. Coughing. Getting sick.
Visitor: That wouldn't happen to me! I'd exercise regularly and eat the right way.
Zookeeper: It's not like that for them. They can't ask to speak to the warden, or request library privileges.
Visitor: You're blowing it out of proportion. They're protected at least. What do you think would happen to them in Africa or Asia? Someone would be making them into rugs or coats.
Zookeeper: It might be better than this. Try it. (He beckons to the visitor.)
Visitor: What are you, nuts? (Encouraged by the zookeeper, he hesitantly enters and starts inspection.) It may not be the Waldorf, but they got a roof over their heads and they get lots of attention.
Zookeeper: Why don't you jump up on that perch and see what it feels like?
Visitor: That's crazy! (He starts to exit.)
Zookeeper: You're here already and nobody's watching. You'll never get another chance like this.
Visitor: I feel stupid.
Zookeeper: Try to imagine what you would feel like if you were a tiger, curled up there, watching, waiting, twitching your tail. Springing down on the weak, helpless men. (The visitor slowly mounts the perch, assuming a cat pose.) Sinking your teeth into them, tearing off a piece of meat. Padding off to a quiet, concealed place, to eat without anyone watching. (The zookeeper slowly goes to the cage door and slips out.)
Visitor: What're you doing? (He starts to get up.) I don't want to stay in here.
Zookeeper: Neither does the tiger.
Visitor: He's just an animal!
Zookeeper: I know. (He locks cage.)
Visitor: This isn't funny!
Zookeeper: I know.
Visitor: Let me out! (The zookeeper starts to exit. The lights slowly fade.) Come back here! Help! Somebody get me out of here. Help! Where are you going?
Zookeeper: Inside. To see if the tiger wants to visit you.