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Large cast comedies?

  • 1.  Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-08-2021 20:01
    Hi all! Hope you are all taking - or getting ready to take - some much needed time off.
    As we start hurtling into next year, I'm thinking about our fall play and it feels our kids and community are excited for something a little less heavy. I'm looking for large cast comedies (minimum cast of 14). there are so many pieces that would be great tonally (Clue, Noises Off, Rumors) but I think I need a larger cast - after a year away it will be really tough on some of my main kids to not be able to cast them.

    Give me a reading list?

    Thanks everyone!

    Nick Hoffa
    Drama Director
    South Pasadena High School

  • 2.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-09-2021 07:22
    Large cast comedies (that are good!) are so hard to find!  I've done You Can't Take It With You twice and set it in modern day and it was a blast to do.  I'm looking to do Kate Hamill's Sense and Sensibility this year and there are opportunities to expand that cast (very hip version of the novel).  I've also done Tina Howe's Museum and had a very large cast even with doubling.  Of course Shakespearean comedies always have larger casts if you want to take that on.  I've had great success there too.

    Break a leg!

    Laura Russo
    Teacher/Director of Theatre Arts
    Chatham High School

  • 3.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-09-2021 09:29
    Thanks, Laura. Great suggestions. I just ordered Museum which is a play I don't really know. 

    "Miss Heller, what is your method of acting?"
    "Well, I have a bash at it, and if it doesn't go, I have another bash at it."

  • 4.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-11-2021 12:40
      |   view attached
    Nick, I have directed Tina Howe's Museum three times over the past 25 years, and the students and audiences always thoroughly enjoyed it.

    The language is too extreme for any high school I taught in, but Miss Howe gave her permission for us to delete (not change!) certain words, primarily the F word.  The key is to be very specific in asking.  Don't just ask to soften the language.  Write something more along the lines of "Because our community (or school) standards will not permit the use of [specific words] in a live performance, we will need permission to delete only these specific words before we commit to producing this play."

    When I last directed Museum in 2017, I asked permission to update the dates and dollar amounts.  That might seem an extreme ask, but it aligns when the playwright notes Miss Howe included in the script.  Again, I defended the request, but in this case did not make the production contingent upon approval.  Here is part of the letter I sent to Samuel French.

    "I am thrilled that my advanced Theatre students have voted to produce Museum as our spring production.  I've directed the play twice before with high school students, and I look forward to guiding their exploration of this work.

    "As we read through the play prior to holding auditions, I was struck by how little impact the sums of money mentioned in the play have today.  For instance, the incredible $10 future price for tickets to the Metropolitan Museum of Art sounds better than a Groupon deal, now that the Met's current suggested price for adults is $25.
    "We have talked about setting the play somewhere from 1976 to 1979, but that seems to go against the Author's Notes in the front of the script, which suggest updating the dates of the paintings to coordinate with the year Museum is actually produced.
    "We can produce the play in the Present by updating the following dollar amounts (derived by finding a round number in the equivalency between 1976 and 1979 to 2017): $10 to $40, $25 to $100, $50 to $200, $100 to $400, $150 to $600, and $200,000 to $800,000 or $825,000.  And we would add 38 to the years mentioned in the play: birth dates, exhibit dates, etc.
    "If we can have your permission to make these changes, we will design the costumes to be contemporary.  If not, we will use costumes from the late 1970s.  We await your decision."

    I sent an attachment of the request, on school letterhead, to Samuel French to forward to Miss Howe.  I heard nothing back.  I sent it again.  Nothing.  I called and spoke to a representative.  Nothing.  I finally had to call and tell a representative that we were nearing the time to start rehearsals, but that I was considering another show since I had not heard from Miss Howe.  Within a day I received a response quoting Miss Howe as "absolutely thrilled" that our theatre program wanted to update her play to the present day.

    The moral of this story is to be very specific in asking for reasonable deletions or changes, and be persistent in continuing to ask for those accommodations until you get an answer.  I have found almost all of the playwrights I have contacted to be very generous in accommodating minimal, very specific requests for theatre in an educational setting, but getting the office personnel at the publishing companies to forward the requests can be truly frustrating.

    One more thing about Museum.  This show is perfect for that large mixed-level class that includes some students who are more interested in design.  There are 40 characters, plus VOs, and doubling, even tripling, is possible.  (I am attaching a character map I used for casting.  It is also helpful for class rehearsals when someone is absent.)  The show is terrific for dramaturgical research projects by your theatre students.  Creating the artwork for display is fabulous fun for students who are not in rehearsal on any given day, or for students whose passion is designing props.  Costume design for this show is another project students can take on.  And this show is a great chance for collaboration with your visual art program.  For one production, our Art History teacher gave our class a wonderful presentation on the artists mentioned in the play.  The last time I directed it, we had no visual arts students in the theatre class, but an advanced studio art student created the heads for the clothesline art and received credit for the project in her studio art class.


    CJ Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator


    Museum Character Map.xls   268 KB 1 version

  • 5.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-11-2021 22:49
    Thank you CJ and everyone. So many useful suggestions.

    "Miss Heller, what is your method of acting?"
    "Well, I have a bash at it, and if it doesn't go, I have another bash at it."

  • 6.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-09-2021 08:26
    I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a cast of 19+ depending on how many Oompa Loompas you want to throw into the mix. (pun intended) Perfect for bringing in nearby elementary school classes but with the tight language of Dahl.

    Erin Philyaw

  • 7.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-09-2021 09:30
    Thanks Erin. It's a great suggestion, though it turns out many of these juniors and seniors did it for their 5th grade show. But thank you.
    "Miss Heller, what is your method of acting?"
    "Well, I have a bash at it, and if it doesn't go, I have another bash at it."

  • 8.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-10-2021 15:07
    Try The 39 Steps, written for 4 but I had 18 or Walter Kerr's version of The Birds, Peter Ustinov's Romanoff and Juliet or Christopher Sergel's The Mouse that Roared (I had 25 in that one!)

  • 9.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-09-2021 12:12
    If you're looking for light and large cast, we had a lot of fun with Don Zolidis's Space Princess Wars which is a Star Wars and Princess Bride mashup.  Expandable cast and if you are remotely a fan of the Star Wars spoof Spaceballs, this one is right up your alley.  We had considered this or his Game of Tiaras.  Good luck in your search!

    Melissa Gibson
    Drama teacher
    Oak Harbor High School

  • 10.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-10-2021 07:11
    Hi Nick,

    I recommend anything by Don Zolidis.  His plays are great in getting large cast members involved.  He just wrote a new one called, Power Line.  I would also recommend any play from Pioneer Drama.  I've used this company multiple times when I was looking for a large cast play.  Plays that my students have loved from there are A Night at the Wax Museum (just like Night at the Museum), Haphazardly Ever After, Princess With No Name, Once Upon a High School, and we recently just performed A Super Groovy Nights Dream.  Hope this helps.

    Kristen Bishoff
    Dircecter & ITS Troupe Advisor
    Chesapeake High School & Chesapeake Bay Middle School
    Pasadena, MD

  • 11.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-10-2021 11:03
    You might consider double-casting one of the shows you mentioned .I double casted CLUE, ON STAGE and was able to include all my actors.

    Sonja Brown, Theatre Teacher
    Thespian Troupe 839
    Galt High School

  • 12.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-10-2021 15:55
    I would recommend Grimm Brother Spectaculathon or Greek Olympicganza by Don Zolidis.  Questionable by Alan Haehnel is also really fun.

    Marie Miguel
    Chespeake, VA

  • 13.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-10-2021 16:56
    Take a look at Jonathan Rand's new comedy, THE ACTS OF LIFE, The cast size can be as small as 6 and as large as around 80. The Acts of Life is a multi-generational story about love and life. Presented in a series of metaphors, we watch as members of a family are born and grow; each experiencing the familiar moments in life that seem to be universal. 

    [Jim] [Hoare]
    [Executive Vice President]
    [New York] [NY]

  • 14.  RE: Large cast comedies?

    Posted 06-12-2021 02:45
    Edited by Paula Gor 06-16-2021 04:48
    Hi Nick
    Gogol's general inspector is a large cast comedy. We performed it last year and did flexible casting on both numbers and genders. Students and audiences really loved it.
    Also, check out Game of Tiaras by Don Zolidis, which is a King Lear parody, and is a lot of fun.

    Paula Gor