It Could Always Be Worse

Seven songs by Arkadi Serper, in klezmer style. A half hour piece suitable for grammar school age. A poor Russian family feels jammed into their tiny home, and consults with the Rabbi for a solution. He advises bringing in the family’s animals, and when they are removed, the family feels that their home is quite spacious.

ISAK RABINOVICH A farmer in Goronstopol, a stetl in Russia
REBECKA, DVORA, AVRAM, NOCHIM Children of Berta and Isak
BUBBE Isak’s mother
ZAYDE Isak’s father



The set of IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE can be as simple as a table and three or four chairs. If the group has access to a cradle, a pot belly stove, or any other accoutrements of an old fashioned rural home, these will help young actors understand the situation. The props, including the pail, pitchfork, knitting, do not have to be real; a cardboard pitchfork and knife might be just the thing for a group of grammar school children.

This play takes 25-30 minutes to perform.

[On the stage can be seen the one-room home of the Rabinovich family.  Family members are all inside except for Isak.  Their actions are described by their song.]
DVORAH: I’m knitting a sweater,
Purple and green,
But the end of the yarn is nowhere to be seen.

[Follows yarn around room.]

AVROM: I’m mending a milk pail,
clanging and hard.
It’s too cold outside to work in the yard.
NOCHIM: I’m whittling a pitch fork,
Pokey and long,
But with you in my way I might cut it wrong.
BERTA: I’m kneading a hallah,
Floury and sweet,
But some of your whittles we don’t want to eat.

[Picking wood bits out of the dough.]

BUBBE: I’m rocking the baby,
Cranky and cross,
But she can’t fall asleep if you all don’t turn off.
REBEKAH: I’m scaling a schuka
Slippery and finny.
It’s a wonder the scales don’t get lost in this din.
ZAYDE: I’m reading the Torah,
Prophetic and true,
But with all of this noise, the words don’t come through.

[Rocks and reads aloud.]

ALL: Your elbow is in my tea;
I just bumped into your knee;
Don’t blow your nose
When I’m trying to doze.
Please move away from me.
ISAK:  [entering with black book]  What’s going on?

[People all sing their parts at the same time.]

Wait!  Wait!  One at a time.

[Trying to sit at table with account book]

BUBBE: It’s so crowded in here.
BERTA:  A little more room;  it wouldn’t hurt.
BUBBE: A little room!  We could build a little room!
ISAK:   A little more money to build a little more room, we don’t have.
BERTA: Also a little time to build it, we don’t have.
REBEKAH: Also a little land  on which to build it, we don’t have.
ISAK:  Other than that, for building there is no problem.
BERTA: For falling all over each other, there is a problem.
ISAK:   Okay, so a problem we have.  An answer we don’t have.

This script was commissioned by the Kairos Youth Choir. Arkadi Serper, their accompanist, was an experienced playwright Russia, and Laura Kakis, the Kairos Director, wanted to perform something of his. I suggested the Russian folk tale for the plot. The Choir has subsequently performed it many times. The children seem to have a lot of fun with it, and it has parts suitable for a range of ages, including kindergarden chickens.

I myself love this little piece. I had tons of fun with the language; Arkadi’s music is lovely, and singable; and I think the message of the old tale is wonderful.