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Ig Nobel Libretto: “Chicken versus Egg”

The 2010 Ig Nobel Prizes will be awarded this Thursday, September 30th, at Harvard University's Sanders Theater. Tickets are sold out, but the ceremonies will be streamed live for your entertainment beginning at 7:30 Eastern time.

Meanwhile, here is a mini-opera that was performed at the 2007 ceremonies. The theme for the awards that year was "Chicken", but the opera was edged out in the post-publicity for the awards due to winner Dan Meyer's demonstration of his research on sword-swallowing.


Chicken versus Egg

A mini-opera in three acts
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Words by Marc Abrahams

Original Cast


Hen: Gail Kilkelly
Egg: Maggie McNeil
Other eggs: Nobel Laureates Roy Glauber, Dudley Herschbach, William Lipscomb, Craig Mello and Robert Laughlin
Pianist: Scott Nicholas
Opera Director: Margot Button

ACT 1


NARRATOR: Tonight’s opera is called “Chicken versus Egg.” It’s about a chicken sitting on an egg, and you can probably guess where it goes from there. The chicken is played by Gail Kilkelly. We will meet her in Act 2. The egg is played by Maggie McNeil. The two singers are, like the characters they play, mother and daughter.

Here’s some background. The hen has been sitting on the egg for quite a while now. The egg is getting awfully bored. Let’s join her now as she complains to her mother.

[MUSIC: “Voi Che Sapete” from “The Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart.]

[The EGG sings this. Her manner is that of a petulant, bored teenager. As the EGG sings, she sometimes looks upward, in the direction of the sitting hen.]

EGG:
Mother! Oh, Mother! Please stop sitting on my head.
Did you he-ar,
Mother de-ar?
Did you hear what I just sa-ai-aid?

You’re overprotective. It’s total envelop-ment.
Don’t keep me tucked away—
Teach me to play
Well with others.
Your love smothers
Your child’s develop-ment.

Then there’s my posture and my growth.
Also my deportment.
A small bustline!
A twi-isted spine!
It looks like I’ll have both.

But your most nasty cut,
Mother, you brute,
Is that your keeping me beneath your butt
Might smoosh my suit!

Mother dear,
Here is what I fear:
Mother, Mother!
You will smother
My modeling career!

I have... the most perfect suit
One could possess.
It’s really cu-u-u-ute.
Y es! Yes! Yes!

Look! The color is a perfect shade of eggshell!
And the shape’s a perfect ovoid! It looks swell!
But when you sit on me, my clothes will go to hell.
All this you know... perfectly well!

Mother! Oh, Mother! Please stop sitting on my head.
Oh, what a crying shame!
Don’t play this game!
Mental slaughter
Of your daughter!
I’ll never be the same!

Mental slaughter
Of your daughter!
I’ll never be the same!

ACT 2


NARRATOR: Since our first visit with the chicken and the egg, not a whole lot has happened. The egg has continued to be an egg, and the chicken has continued to sit on it. Here in Act 2, the chicken has grown weary of her egg’s incessant whining. Let’s join the mother hen now as she tells her daughter some facts of life.

[MUSIC: “Queen of the Night” from “The Magic Flute” by Mozart.]

[The HEN holds an egg in her hand, and sings this song to it. She is fed up with the egg’s attitude.]


HEN:

You little egg, you listen to your mother!
Listen to Mother!
Sit still, and cock an ear. Now then, my dear...
I’ve heard enough!
Enough about your feeling and your passions.
Enough about your shape-revealing fashions.
My ovoid nitwit,
Put a lid on it!

Your foolish rot
Has really made me hot!
Ho-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-t!
Baking, frying, roasting in foil!
Ho-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-t!
You watch it, kid—an egg is easy to boil.

Your simpering seems human,
But you—you’re just albumin. [pronounced “al-BYOO-min”]
You act like I’m a doormat.
I will not stand for that.

But I know
That you know
I can’t stop you.
Okay! Stand up, and go!
Oh, ho, ho-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!

Your demands are quite a joke.
Settle down. Have lunch. Relax, and eat your yolk.
Ha! Ha! Ha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!
I’m your mother.
There... I’m glad we spoke.

ACT 3


NARRATOR: It’s time for the thrilling conclusion to our opera. After nine months—er, um, nine weeks—uh, uh... or however long it takes an egg to hatch—the magic moment is about to arrive. The hen and her favorite egg are reallllllllllly excited.

You may notice some other eggs here on the stage, played by the Nobel Laureates and the other scientists. These other eggs, too, are eager to hatch—but they’re not going anywhere right now. Their stories will have to be told some other time.

Now let’s join the mother hen as her favorite egg breaks out of its shell, and becomes a chick.

[Sung by HEN and EGG. At the beginning, the HEN is giving encouragement and instruction to the EGG, who is tentative and a bit frightened. In the middle, after EGG has hatched, both HEN and EGG grow progressively more excited and happy. The HEN is evermore proud and relieved and happy—but the EGG grows progressively more dismayed once she realizes she has become just like her mother. By the very end of the song, the hen is radiantly joyful, but the egg is in near-panicked despair.]

[The scientists all play the part of OTHER EGGS. They hold whatever we are using as simple egg costumes—perhaps a few pieces of paper taped together, and they say “peck, peck, peck, peck, peck” when the singers are singing the “peck, peck...” part, and at such other times as the mother HEN may direct them to.]

[Music: “Pa-pa-gena! ... Pa-pa-geno!” from “The Magic Flute” by Mozart.]
EGG: Peck! Peck, peck!
HEN: Peck! Peck, peck!

EGG: Peck, peck! Peck, peck!
HEN: Peck, peck! Peck, peck!

EGG: Peck, peck, peck, peck! Peck, peck, peck, peck!
HEN: Peck, peck, peck, peck! Peck, peck, peck, peck!

HEN: Peck, peck, peck! Peck, peck!
EGG: Peck, peck, peck! Peck, peck!

HEN: Peck! Peck! Peck! Peck! Peck!
EGG: Peck! Peck! Peck! Peck! Peck! Yayyyyyy!!!

[The EGG’s shell breaks, and she becomes a chicken.]

HEN: That was a tightly-fitting dress!
EGG: Oh, such a tightly-fitting dress!
HEN: I can imagine your distress!
EGG: You can imagine my distress!
BOTH: Oh, what distress! Oh, what distress!

HEN: You felt peckish? You felt squeezed?
EGG: I felt peckish. I felt squeezed!
HEN: Bottle-neckish, almost tweezed?
EGG: Bottle-neckish, almost tweezed!

BOTH:
Well, at first I [you] tried to make do.
Then at last I [you] had a breakthrough.
I [you] got rid of that thing quick.
I’m [You’re] a chick!
I’m [You’re] a chick!!
I’m [You’re] a chick!!!
Yes, I am [you are] quite a stylish chick!
Yes, I am [you are] quite a stylish chick!!

HEN: Now! Now at last! You are a chicken!
EGG: Now! Now at last! I am a chicken!
HEN: Now! Now at last! You are a chicken!
EGG: Now! Now at last! I am a chicken!
HEN: You’re a chicken!
EGG: I’m a chicken!
HEN: You’re a chicken!
EGG: I’m a chicken!

BOTH:
I’m [You’re] a chicken!
I’m [You’re] a chicken!

EGG: Do you know what I want to do?
HEN: Yes, I know what you want to do!
EGG: To lay an egggggggggggg!
HEN: You’ll lay an egg and be a mother!

BOTH:
Lay an egg and be a mother!
Lay an egg and be a mother!
lay an egg and be a mother, mother, mother, mother, mother!

To lay an egg!
To lay an egg!
HEN: Yes, that IS just what I would do!
EGG: Oh, no! That’s just what YOU would do!
HEN: I’d lay an egggggggggggg!
EGG: I’ve become just like my mother!
I’ve become just like my mother!
I’ve become just like my mother, mother, mother, mother, mother!

BOTH:
I’m [You’re] just like her [me]!
I’m [You’re] just like her [me]!
Like my [your] mother!
Like my [your] mother!
Like my [your] mother, mother, mother, mother, mother!
Well, well, well! Well, well, well, well!
Like my [your] mother!
Like my [your] mother!
Like my [your] mother, mother, mother, mother, mother!
Put me back into my [You have come out of your] shell!
Put me back into my [You have come out of your] shell!!
Put me back into my [You have come out of your] shell!!!
EGG: I’ve become just like my mother!!!!
HEN: You’ve become just like your mother!!!!

BOTH:
Mother, mother, mother, mother!
Mother, mother, mother, mother!
Mother, mother, mother, mother!

_____________________

The article above is from the November-December 2007 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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