Readers Theater Script: The House of Sixty Fathers

Readers Theater script ideas for The House of Sixty Fathers, by Meindert DeJong. This is the story of Tien Pao and his family and their escape from Japanese invaders during World War II.
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The House of Sixty Fathers
Meindert DeJong

This suggested script is taken from chapter 1, "Rain on the Sampan," in which Tien Pao first meets the American airman.

The narrator stands at a lectern. Tien Pao sits on a low stool. His mother and father and the neighbor lady all sit on chairs.

We shall present a scene from Meindert DeJong's The House of Sixty Fathers. The characters are Tien Pao, a young Chinese boy, read by ________; his mother, read by ________; his father, read by ________; and a neighbor lady, read by ________. I, ________, am the narrator.

By rowing upriver in an abandoned sampan, Tien Pao and his family have barely escaped the burning of their village by Japanese invaders during World War II. It has been days since they have eaten, and Tien Pao's parents go to work for the Americans, making a field for the American airplanes. They leave Tien Pao in charge of his piglet and three ducklings. When an American airman appears on the shore and chooses Tien Pao's sampan as a ferry to the other side, Tien Pao takes the strange-looking man for the river god and offers up his family's greatest possession, the piglet. As the airman laughs, Tien Pao asks the woman in the neighboring sampan for help.


    1. Begin the scene with Tien Pao's telling the neighbor lady that he doesn't know what the man wants.

    2. Throughout the script include instructions to tell the readers what voice or facial expres sions to use, such as angrily, frightened, horrified.

    3. After the neighbor lady says that Tien Pao's parents need the money, have the narrator say that Tien Pao takes the boat out and the airman pays him handsomely. Tien Pao promises to wait for the airman s return trip, but it is very late when they return, and Tien Pao knows that his parents will be worried.

    4. Resume the dialogue with Tien Pao's mother calling him, but have her call only once before he answers.

    5. Have Tien Pao pause briefly when his mother does not reply to his explanation.

    6. When Tien Pao's mother tells him to sit down with the baby, have her say, "the baby," rather than "her."

    7. After Tien Pao's mother tells him to hold his sister, have him say that he was so anxious about her and Father that he almost started back alone.

    8. After Tien Pao's mother says that things will seem much better when his father sees the money, have her say that she will be only a moment and have her pause briefly. Leave out Tien Pao's talking to his baby sister before continuing the dialogue as written.

    9. End the scene with Tien Pao's mother telling him that all will be well if he promises his father he will never take the sampan again.

The next day, Tien Pao is again left on the sampan when his parents go to work, but heavy rains have weakened the boat's moorings. As Tien Pao naps, the sampan breaks loose, drifting downriver past his old village. After he awakens and steers himself to shore, Tien Pao witnesses a battle between the Japanese and an American airman; his airman! When the plane is shot down, Tien Pao sees the airman escape and is able to prevent his capture, but in doing so he places himself in great danger.

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