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Of Mice and Men

Music and Libretto
by Carlisle Floyd

Based on the novel
by John Steinbeck

First performed
January 22, 1970
Seattle, Washington

Act I

Scene 1
A clearing in a dark wood, late in the evening.

[Production Shot from Of Mice and Men]

George Milton and his traveling companion, Lennie Small are once again fleeing from the police and arrive in the clearing to hide. This situation provokes the almost daily explosion of anger from George, followed eventually by yet another reconciliation. Lennie has a mouse with him that he has inadvertently killed by petting it too roughly. George discovers the dead mouse and makes Lennie throw it away. Lennie objects telling George that he loves soft things that he can stroke and pet.

To appease Lennie, George describes their dream of a farm of their own, as they settle down for the night.

Scene 2
The ranch bunkhouse; the next day

Curley, the ranch boss, waits impatiently in the bunkhouse with Candy, an old crippled ranch-hand, for George and Lennie to arrive. Curley's wife, a cheaply attractive young woman, comes into the bunkhouse and complains of Curley's neglect. Quarreling, the couple leaves.

[Production Shot from Of Mice and Men]

George and Lennie enter reporting for work, as the remaining ranch-hands return from the fields. Slim, the most respected of the ranch-hands, offers his dog’s new litter of puppies to the men.

As the ranch-hands begin their nightly activities, Curley's wife re-enters the bunkhouse and openly flirts with the men.

After she has gone, a furor erupts over Candy's old smelly dog, with Carlson and the ranch-hands demanding the dog be shot rather than remain in the bunkhouse. Candy protests, but is eventually overwhelmed by the shouts of the men, and Carlson takes the dog outside and shoots him.

Lennie pleads with George for one of Slim's puppies.

Act II

The ranch bunkhouse; several days later

As the ranch hands are outside tossing horseshoes, George is looking through the newspaper and finds an ad for a small farm. Slim tries to discourage him, but George says he and Lennie will find their dream, declaring that his and Lennie's lives will not be the lonely lives of isolation of typical ranch-hands.

As George reads the want ad to Lennie, he is overheard by Candy who offers his savings, but only if he is included in their plans. With some quick calculations, George believes they can buy the property within one month. George, Lennie and Candy celebrate.

They are interrupted shortly by Curley's wife who, despite their pleas, willfully insists on staying in the bunkhouse. She is discovered there by Curley, who enters with Slim and Carlson. Lennie chuckles at Curley’s anger, so Curley begins beating Lennie with his riding crop. George tells Lennie to defend himself, so Lennie seizes Curley’s hand and bends it back until Curley cannot take anymore. George and Candy are fearful for their jobs, however Slim says if Curley does not fire them, they will not tell how he got hurt. But Curley’s wife says she’s glad he’s been hurt, to which Curley begins beating her. The men pull Curley away and his wife runs from the room.

Candy asks George to read aloud about their farm again.

[Production Shot from Of Mice and Men]

Act III

Scene 1
The hay barn; the following afternoon

Lennie is hiding in the barn, holding his dead puppy which he inadvertently killed. Curley’s wife enters with her suitcase. She tells Lennie that she’s leaving Curley and heading for Hollywood to be a movie star. Lennie tells her about his dream of owning a farm and while she talks of expensive clothes and a glamorous career, Lennie is excited about pigs and ducks.

Lennie tells her of his love of stroking soft things and she invites him to stroke her hair. Fascinated, Lennie is unable to stop when Curley's wife begins to protest. Alarmed she screams for help. Lennie, afraid of being discovered with her, covers her mouth with his hand and in the struggle accidentally breaks her neck. Dimly perceiving what he has done, he tries to cover her body with the hay and then leaves the barn.

Candy shortly appears and discovers the body. George and Slim are summoned by Candy, and Slim urges George to get Carlson’s pistol from the bunk house and "get it over with as soon as you can." Broken, George exits with Slim while Candy curses the dead body of Curley's wife for robbing them of their dreams.

Scene 2
A clearing in the woods

Lennie rushes in, cold and frightened with George soon following him. Lennie offers to leave by himself, but George tells him to stay. Lennie becomes alarmed when he hears the ranch hands in the distance, so George begins telling him about their little farm. He urges Lennie to look across the river and imagine their farm. Lennie says that he does see their farm and drops to his knees. George comes behind him, pulls out the pistol and shoots Lennie in the head. George pulls the folded newspaper ad from his wallet and places it in Lennie’s hand. The ranch hands rush in and stand around a slumped George. In the distance, the song of the balladeer is heard.

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