Who the Hell is Wanda June?

Wanda June, title character of the 1970 Vonnegut play, Happy Birthday, Wanda June is listed in the dramatis personae as "10, a ghost".

When the play begins, Harold Ryan, a 55 year old manly-man adventurer, has been missing in the Amazon for eight years. His wife, Penelope, has given him up for dead long ago, and begun dating. His son, 12 year old Paul, still believes him to be alive. Penelope's two suitors arrive at the apartment one night to take her out. The night happens to be Harold's birthday, and Paul, disgusted at the desecration of his father's memory, runs off.

One suitor follows, but Paul loses him by running into the nighttime Central Park, a scary place. The suitor, Herb Shuttle, sees an open bake shop, and buys a birthday cake that hasn't been picked up. He figures that they can remove the name with a butter knife, and have birthday cake to honor Harold when Paul eventually returns.

Penelope and Shuttle go back out to hunt for Paul. Penelope is deathly afraid of the park at night, but Shuttle is not. Penelope's other suitor, Dr. Norbert Woodly, stays behind to wait for Paul. He falls asleep, and while he snoozes Harold Ryan returns home. Woodly must leave, and the scene ends with Harold alone in his home, from which he has been missing for eight years. He finds the cake. "What's this? A cake?" he exclaims, "'Happy Birthday, Wanda June'? Who the hell is Wanda June?"

The next scene begins with Wanda June standing center stage, light by a spolight. She is descibed as, "a lisping eight-year-old in a starched party dress. She is as cute as Shirley Temple."

Hello. I am Wanda June. Today was going to be my birthday, but I was hit by an ice-cream truck before I could have my party. I am dead now. I am in Heaven. That is why my parents did not pick up the cake at the bakery. I am not mad at the ice-cream truck driver, even though he was drunk when he hit me. It didn't hurt much. It wasn't even as bad as the sting of a bumblebee. I am really happy here! It's so much fun. I am glad the driver was drunk. If he hadn't been, I might not have got to Heaven for years and years and years. I would have had to go to high school first, and then beauty college. I would have had to get married and have babies and everything. Now I can just play and play and play. Any time I want any pink cotton candy I can have some. Everybody up here is happy - the animals and the dead soldiers and people who went to the electric chair and everything. They're all glad for whatever sent them here. Nobody is mad. We're all to busy playing shuffleboard. So if you think of killing somebody, don't worry about it. Just go ahead and do it. Whoever you do it to should kiss you for doing it. The soldiers up here just love the shrapnel and the tanks and the bayonets and the dum dums that let them play shuffleboard all the time - and drink beer.

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