In a Pickle at the Pie Palooza is an old-fashioned western melodrama which tells the story of the three Pie Sisters and their town’s annual pie contest, the Pie Palooza. Besta Pie has been mysteriously winning first prize for over sixty years and no one but her sisters, Lotta Pie and Honey Pie, seem to know the real secret to her success. This year, the town villains (Mincemeat, Crusty, and Creamy) are intent on stealing Besta’s winning pie recipe and claiming the prize “dough” for themselves.
Finding themselves in the middle of the conflict are the Pie Palooza’s Head Judge (Sheriff Rolland Dough) and six all-knowing Pie Angels (Strawberry-Rhubarb, Peach, Blueberry, Cherry, Apple, and Cheese). Guided along by the clever Narrator, more than one character gets into a pickle during the play, but in the end, Besta’s winning secret is revealed and the sweet taste of justice prevails.
An ordinary small town in the wild, wild west
14 performers, but flexible (see Production Notes)
8 Females, 2 Male, and 4 Female or Male
Approximately 30 minutes without an intermission
Production Notes (included with the playscript)
The characters of In a Pickle at the Pie Palooza all have the potential to get a laugh from the audience, so encourage your cast members to really ham it up. And it’s always a good idea to consider personalities when fitting actors and actresses to their parts. For instance, the character of Besta Pie really needs a performer who is sassy, confident, and can pour on the attitude. And in the opposite instance, the character of Honey Pie works nicely with a performer who is more mild-mannered and maybe even a little shy. With adolescent performers in particular, they’re bound to feel more confident in a role that “fits” as opposed to one that’s a big stretch.
The Narrator needs to be played by someone who is comfortable facing the audience and talking to them directly for all of their lines. Their role is key to the overall tone of the play—they should be relaxed, silly, and a friendly guide for the audience.
Have the Pie Sisters act like true senior citizens. They should be moving slow, crouched over, and speak in scratchy (but understandable) granny voices.
The actor playing Sheriff Rolland Dough really needs to behave like a fellow in love, so encourage the actor in this role to really go for it. He should be acting head-over-heels for Honey Pie, and any moony-eyed expressions and dreamy gazes he can come up with will get a big laugh.
Mincemeat, Crusty, and Creamy are fun parts for three rascals. Mincemeat is the head honcho who is usually frustrated with his hapless sidekicks. Crusty is a very willing villain but totally inept, while Creamy is the nice one hanging out with the wrong crowd. When these three are together on stage, it’s a hoot.
The Pie Angel Society characters are ones to have some fun with, too. Strawberry-Rhubarb, as head Pie Angel, should always sound a bit bossy, and Peach is oftentimes trying to challenge her in some way. Cherry is friendly and honest, Blueberry is more wistful and dreamy, and Apple is always cheerful. Cheese is a very small part, but has a great one-liner.
The script is written for a cast of 14, but there are several options for adding or deleting characters if necessary. If you find yourself with several extra cast members, consider adding a Pie Angel or two (Lemon, Pumpkin, or Pecan would all be fun name options) and adding a few lines for them in the script. You could also add a villain (I always thought a “Crumbly” would go well with Crusty and Creamy) and give them a line or two. If you are really ambitious, you could even add a Pie Sister (Pisa Pie would be an excellent choice, I think) and have her be just as ornery as Besta and Lotta. If you still find yourself with extra bodies, then consider having several people devoted to just holding the melodrama signs up, helping backstage, or coordinating the costumes. With a little extra assistance behind the scenes, the Pie Palooza play will run that much more smoothly.
If you have fewer cast members than what the play calls for, you can always take out a Pie Angel or a sidekick villain and maybe even add a line or two to the script that makes an excuse as to why they’re not there. Creamy could be sick. Apple and Blueberry might be on a road trip together. You get the idea.
Having wrote and directed the Pie Palooza plays for an extremely small and very rural school, I kept the background and stage set-up very simple. An elevated stage area, a Wild West town backdrop made of cardboard, a simple wooden bench, bedsheets strung up on clothesline, and we were in business. If you are lucky enough to have a real stage with curtains, then you are three-quarters of the way there. I purposely kept the setting sparse considering the short length of the play and the tight budget we had as a school. But this “less is more” approach never seemed to detract from the shows, since the characters are really where the audience is focusing their attention.
The stage background can be a set of Wild West storefronts. They could include a town jail, saloon, general store, library, etc. One of the buildings needs to be sturdy enough for the Sheriff to be able to tack a poster to it without knocking it down. If they’re made from cardboard and stand separately, they’re something you can easily lift, stack, and store away for any of the three Pie Palooza productions.
You also have the option to go with a plain curtain backdrop. This play is all about the characters, so the stage can simply be whatever you’re inspired to create!
Nothing fancy here. The Narrator really needs nothing more than a plaid shirt and a floppy hat. For the Pie Sister characters, old flowered dresses, bonnets or caps, and knitting needles with balls of yarn are easy to find. The villains look great in black hats and black shirts, and for extra fun, a curly-cue moustache drawn on with a black make-up stick. For the sheriff, a leather vest, cowboy hat, and pin-on deputy star are perfect. And with the Pie Angels, there are a number of possibilities. With the help of some enthusiastic and creative seamstresses in the community, we were able to have our Pie Angels in dresses of various fruit-patterned fabrics with hula hoops stitched into the bottom hem at about knee-height. On their heads, they wore hats made out of white batting that tied under their chins with ribbon to resemble a dollop of whip cream. The overall effect was that they looked like their own pie in a pan. If you are short on costume designers and don’t want to attempt this version, you can always dress them in bright, solid-colored sweatshirts, t-shirts, or dresses. Instead of whip cream hats, they could wear pipe cleaner halos. You could pin a paper version of their respective fruit to their clothing or create papier mache fruit hats. Fake fruit twined in a wreath sitting on top of their head would be another fun idea. There are endless possibilities, really. You can also get fairly creative with the character of Cheese. You could have them wear a large sign-board of a giant wedge of cheese or simply dress them in bright yellow clothing.
I suspect that with one trip to your local thrift store, you’ll cover most of your costume needs, and the bill won’t break the bank. I’ll also emphasize that any investment you make in the costumes will pay off if you plan to perform more than one Pie Palooza play in the trilogy. The characters stay relatively the same, so costume pieces can be recycled again and again. So, track down a large plastic tub to use for costume and prop storage. You will be very happy you did when it comes time to organize another performance!
Um, pie. Obviously. And it’s totally taken care of if you hold a pie contest as described in my “Ingredients for Your Own Pie Palooza” section of the Fundraiser Play Ideas page. After the judges are done sampling, the rest can be served up to the crowd! But if you decide to forego the pie contest, then feel free to run with simply the idea of pie: mini-pies made in muffin pans, hand pies out of puff pastry, a pie-inspired cookie…so many possibilities!
This play is written in the spirit of an old-fashioned Western melodrama which calls for audience participation. The crowd is prompted to cheer, groan, sigh, etc., with the use of large signs held up at key moments throughout the play. You’ll discover that this ends up being an awful lot of fun for the audience. Make the signs large enough to be read easily from the back row of the audience, and if made from sturdy stuff, you can recycle them year after year since all three Pie Palooza plays require the same set of signs. The signs you’ll need for this play are:
There are a number of ways you can incorporate the signs into the performance. You could assign the Pie Angel characters the job of flashing the signs to the audience at the appropriate time. Every Pie Angel can be responsible for a few of the signs. If the Pie Angels are onstage and it’s time for a sign prompt, one of them can simply hold up their sign from wherever they are positioned, wait for the audience to respond, and put it behind their back. If they’re not on stage at the time, they can enter into the scene for a moment, hold up their sign, wait for the audience to react, and then exit off. However, if this seems too complicated or awkward for your Pie Angel characters, a second option would be to recruit the narrator for this job—they just have to be extremely organized. And still a third option could be to designate another person altogether to be the “sign holder” for your production--a teacher, a student, a parent volunteer, a younger child, a willing friend, your mother-in-law, etc.
In rehearsal, have your sign-holders practice smoothly entering and exiting the stage on cue. I’ve found that a cheat sheet taped somewhere discreetly noting the scene and line on which they enter can be really helpful. I would also suggest if you are using your Pie Angels as your sign holders that you note on the Costumes and Props Grid that I’ve provided on the last page who is responsible for which sign. I spent too much time as a director asking, “Who’s got the ‘Groan’ sign?” before I just decided to keep track for myself.
You can also save some material expense and make the signs two-sided. APPLAUSE and LAUGH can be paired together, BOO and HISS can be on the same sign, and so on.
Regardless of what option you choose, it’s always fun to have a practice session with the audience just before the Pie Palooza play begins. Line up your actors and actresses on stage and have them all hold up a sign, one at a time, prompting the audience to do what the sign says. Believe me, with a little heads up, the audience will thoroughly enjoy their own role in the melodrama.
This is a short play, so it’s very easy to rehearse and pull together. No one will be intimidated by the amount of lines they have to memorize, and so they’ll be quick to get into character and start having some fun. This play can certainly stand on its own as great entertainment, but I highly encourage you to check out my suggestions as to how to make it a highly successful fundraiser. See my “Ingredients for Your Own Pie Palooza” section of the Fundraiser Play Ideas page for more information.
Each playscript comes as a downloadable PDF document, and includes an extensive Production Notes section to help with all aspects of the production, as well as an invaluable Organizational Grid with each character’s costume suggestion and any props needed.
With purchase, you are granted the right to copy this script as needed for amateur performances for a period of one year from the date of purchase. More information on the Copyright page.