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Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

  • 1.  Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 09-14-2021 20:24
    It's that time of year again.  I am proud to say my high school program is bigger and better than ever.  We are looking for a play similar to what we have done in the past: a comedy or comedy/drama that has some literary merit.  Our past few shows are as follows:

    Almost, Maine
    Dearly Departed
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
    Quaran-Teens (virtual play)
    She Kills Monsters (delayed from 2020, we pulled it off in May 2021!)

    I am of course perusing old threads, but I am always looking for fresh suggestions.  We try to avoid comedies penned primarily for high schools and instead look for shows that are funny but also start conversations--just like the ones above.

    Like many of you, I have many more female performers than young men.  But I do have a handful of the latter that are of great quality as well, including one standout who killed it as Chuck in SKM.

    Thanks for your help!

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    K Lang
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  • 2.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 09-15-2021 07:24
    We loved doing Kate Hamill's adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. With the chorus of gossips, I got my cast up to 20. You also might like something like Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, which has really cool opportunities for creative staging. I recently read Babette's Feast, and that's definitely on my to-do list for the future. Not a pure comedy, but funny and heartwarming.

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    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
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  • 3.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 09-15-2021 08:28
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is fun and for the most part I did not cast based on gender, both my Player and Rosencrantz were female. Not only is there the obvious tie to Hamlet, but the metaphysical conversations can be great.

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    Erin Philyaw
    IL
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  • 4.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 09-15-2021 11:34
    I produced two Mary Zimmerman plays with teens - Metamorphosis and Arabian Nights.  Both were very successful.  Her scripts are beautifully written and accessible.  They are both ensemble pieces with lots of featured roles and opportunities for double casting if necessary.  And we had many more girls than boys.  I wouldn't classify them as comedy, but both have lighter moments, especially Arabian Nights.  They are challenging and are very theatrical and have great design potential, but can also be simple.  I insisted that if we do Metamorphosis that we have a pool.  We got permission from the school powers that be and it added so much to the production.   It was really beautiful. We staged it so that every actor had some interaction with the water so it was fair and all inclusive.  We also added a video component for the underworld, an opportunity to incorporate more participants/departments.  We commissioned an original score for Arabian Nights and that too really added to the overall effect and the period. Using existing period music would also work. Metamorphosis has one suggestive scene that might be problematic (incest), but we staged it as a dance in the pool and it worked.

    I licensed the Zimmerman pieces through her literary agent, but they were easy and accessible to work with.

    I also considered The Locker Next 2 Mine by Joanathan Dorf.  I really liked the script and envisioned a video component to that production too.  We never got around to doing it, but worth taking a look at and very relevant.

    Here is a link to production pics on our Facebook page should they help in your decision.

    ARABIAN NIGHTS:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=Laconi.Robert&set=a.10154070332958974

    METAMORPHOSIS:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=Laconi.Robert&set=a.10153079126843974

    While a lot more traditional and classic, by students have also enjoyed doing Kauffman & Hart's Man Who Came to Dinner and Royal Family.

    If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
    Robert Laconi
    Robert.Laconi@gmail.com







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    Robert Laconi
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  • 5.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 11 days ago
    I know I'm late to the party, but there is always Shakespeare.
    • R&J,
    • Midsummer.
    Classics
    • You Can't Take It with You,
    • My Sister Eileen,
    • Crucible.
    Ensemble
    • Peter and the Starcatcher


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    James Van Leishout
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  • 6.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 7 days ago
    I love Don Zolidis' The Birds and The Frogs. Both are faithful adaptations of the Aristophanes original.
    https://www.playscripts.com/play/1158

    https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/frogs-a-modern-adaptation

    FYI, we were the first school to produce The Frogs. My kids loved it!

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    John Perry
    Retired Theatre Teacher
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  • 7.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 29 days ago
    I am intrigued by Metamorphoses.  Robert and Cassy: how did you handle the pool of water?

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    K Lang
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  • 8.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 28 days ago
    We produced a play a few years back called "Lesson One, Macbeth".  It is Macbeth...  however, there is a narrator moderating a "show" of Macbeth, where there is a modern cast "translating" the play for the audience.   It was originally written for a small cast with doubling, but I gave each person their own role.  It is very well written with lots of humor at the top of the show.  However, by the end, the contemporary cast can't handle the content and have a  break-down.  The tradition cast finished the story true to form.  The playwright (Scott A. Eckert) is a friend of mine, and I will happily put you in touch with him if you are interested in a perusal script. The kids had a blast and learned Macbeth inside and out!

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    Terri Ferguson
    Performing Arts Chair
    Ursuline Academy
    TX
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  • 9.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 27 days ago
    I think I sent you a private reply with pictures. Did it come through?

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    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
    Shenandoah Valley Governor's School
    VA
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  • 10.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 27 days ago
    Yes, thanks!

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    K Lang
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  • 11.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 12 days ago

    I really appreciate the suggestions here.  I'm not sure the Zimmerman shows are the right direction for us right now.  This is more an indictment of our audience than the quality of her shows.  

    I find myself super frustrated by most of the large cast options out there.  The scripts are either silly and corny, poorly written, or inappropriate for high school (and I am proud of the way we have pushed the envelope with shows like Cuckoo's Nest, Almost, and SKM).  

    As an example, I bought a perusal of a new show called June, July, August as Dramatists featured it on their high school page, it seemed like an interesting story with merit, and it fit our cast sized perfectly.  I didn't get past page two.  The content was so unbelievably explicit.

    The search continues for that sweet spot of quality writing, a sizable cast, humor, and literary merit, along with something that is right for our audience.

    Sorry for the rant, but I am at a real loss right now.  I will definitely look into the additional suggestions mentioned here.  When I've read the scripts for our past few productions, I just kind of had that feeling, you know?  The search continues.

    Thank you for the input and keep the suggestions coming.



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    K Lang
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  • 12.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 11 days ago
     I've had success with Peter Ustinov's Romanoff and Juliet, and with The Mouse that Roared, Walter Kerr's version of The Birds, and Almost Maine. Some of these are available at local libraries. 





  • 13.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 8 days ago
    I totally feel your pain! I go through this every year when I'm trying to pick a straight play for my students. Usually we have to do two straight shows in rep so that everyone can have a quality role. My dream is to someday write a play that hits this sweet spot we all seem to be seeking. Other pieces with decent cast sizes that I've had success with are: Still Life with Iris by Steven Dietz, Triangle by Laurie Brooks, Arabian Nights by Dominic Cooke, and The Good Fight (about British suffragettes) by Anne Bertram. You may also want to look at pieces by Liz Shipe (I enjoyed reading her Bonny Anne Bonny and Seven Athenian Women). You could also look at some offerings from Nick Hern Books like Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale. They also have a project designed to promote large cast shows for young, predominately female casts like This Changes Everything, The Light Burns Blue, and The Glove Thief. They have a play called Mermaid that's a really interesting re-telling of "The Little Mermaid" and is on my short list for next year. I also want to read The Sweet Science of Bruising, but I can't find my copy. :-(

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    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
    Shenandoah Valley Governor's School
    VA
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  • 14.  RE: Need a Large Ensemble Comedy or Comedy/Drama with some literary merit

    Posted 10 days ago

    I understand your frustration with the large-cast comedies.

    Check out The Witch's Princess, brand-new, available to read online entirely for free here:

    https://www.yourstagepartners.com/collections/newest-releases/products/the-witchs-princess



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    Don Zolidis
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