Open Forum

Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

  • 1.  Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 11-27-2018 11:40
    Hello, colleagues,

    I'm in a mind-twist trying to select a show for this year. I'm a transplanted Yankee teaching in a very conservative area of the deep South, and my program is still young enough to have my administration hesitate to take on anything edgy. We can't swear or kiss, and we can't address hot-button social issues.

    Within that context, I'm looking at options, and hoping for something with literary value (so we can justify excusing the student body to see it) and comedy (as we have done more serious fare for the last three shows).

    So far, I have four options, and concerns with all of them:
    • Our Town (length, and definitely not a comedy)
    • 1984 (possibly too edgy a story)
    • Emma! A Pop Musical (we've never done a musical)
    • The Westing Game (my student body doesn't fit the casting demographic unless I get permission for changes)

    Anyone have any recommendations for shows that have worked for you, or care to make a case for one of these?

    Josh Kauffman
    Winfield AL

  • 2.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 11-27-2018 12:34
    I'm in a pretty conservative area (don't let the state I'm in fool you), but we did 1984 a couple years ago with absolutely no issues. We actually opened a week after the 2016 elections, so that was...interesting. Is the book official curriculum in English classes in your district? If so, that can go a long way to getting things approved. The kids really loved the play too, oddly it became one of the most quotable shows for them. I say go for it!

    Christopher Hamilton
    Drama Teacher
    Kennewick WA

  • 3.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 11-28-2018 13:36
    Have you ever consider Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest? It checks your boxes!

    Garry Tiller
    Theatre Arts Teaching Artist
    Sidwell Friends
    Washington, DC

  • 4.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 01-03-2019 15:31

    That's my favorite play in the known universe. We've done it in the past ten years, so I need to wait a bit before taking it on again - and for a school show (at least in my "involve as many people as possible" environment), the cast size may be a bit small. But thanks for the suggestion and the fond memories it conjures!

    Josh Kauffman
    Winfield AL

  • 5.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 11-27-2018 12:52
    I recently did Animal Farm is was worried about the same issue because of some of the same stuff but my principal told me as long as I didn't make any clear and direct visual or design references to our current administration he would back it 100%.  I didn't ask for permission but I asked for his support.  That could be something you do to keep open communication.  Talk to your admin about the literary value of the work if you really want to do it.  Orwell is usually on reading lists and sometime even AP.

    Joel King
    Atlanta GA

  • 6.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 11-28-2018 12:11
    Hi Josh. A few years ago we produced "Who Am I This Time" (Arron Posner) based on three short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. I highly recommend this play! Sweet and funny and full of literary allusions. The downside may be some alcohol use....  Good luck!

    Caroline Clayton
    New Palestine IN

  • 7.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 11-29-2018 03:56

    I just closed a production of Our Town with my high school students in November.  Our production only lasted an hour and 40 minutes.  We took one 12ish minute intermission between acts 1 and 2, and just a brief pause for a small set change between 2 and 3 (the house lights didn't even come up).  So the length isn't too much of an issue (compared to the other shows you mentioned).

    While it isn't a comedy, there are definite light moments and my students played those in such a way it made the more tender, intimate, and downright sad parts so much more impactful.  In my 17 years teaching, I have never directed Our Town until now, and honestly it was one of the best experiences working on a play with my students.  We all agreed that the play reads very long and boring, but put it on the stage and work through Wilder's words and do the pantomime and the story becomes alive.

    Good Luck!!

    Justin Indovina
    Director/Dept. Chair
    Brooklyn NY

  • 8.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 12-02-2018 22:27
    We did Our Town last month, and we had a great time with it.  We took only one intermission--during Act II between the drugstore and the wedding.  The show, including the one 15-minute intermission, was 1 hour and 45 minutes.

    I'd like to see you consider Shakespeare.  A Midsummer Night's Dream is always fun, but Much Ado might also be a good choice in a conservative school.  I'd be willing to bet many of your students have at least a passing acquaintance with the King James version of the Bible, which makes Shakespeare much more accessible to them.

    C. J. Breland
    Asheville High School
    Asheville NC

  • 9.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 01-03-2019 15:28

    Thanks for the suggestions. We just did Midsummer two years ago, and I think we are planning a Shakespeare in the fall (Much Ado and Shrew top the list, with Macbeth a close third). I'll keep Our Town on the short list for next year.

    Josh Kauffman
    Winfield AL

  • 10.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 12-03-2018 07:53

    Dramatic Publishing has a wonderful new adaptation of Tom Jones. I thought it was delightful. Dramatists has a great adaptation of The Great Gatsby and Samuel French has a hilarious new take on Pride and Prejudice. There are a lot of great literary adaptations out there! 

    John Monteverde
    Drama Teacher
    Pittsfield High School
    Pittsfield, MA

  • 11.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 01-03-2019 15:26

    Thanks. We recently did Pride and Prejudice, and I'm saving Gatsby for later, but I have been thinking about Tom Jones. Which adaptation are you referring to? I've read the Rogers and liked it, but there are several others at Dramatic.

    Josh Kauffman
    Winfield AL

  • 12.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 01-04-2019 04:28
    I highly recommend The Matchmaker and Harvey.  Earnest is also one of my favorites.  


    Heathe Stecklein
    Director and Educator of Theatre Arts
    10th Grade Literacy 
    Performing Arts Department Chair
    Vista PEAK Preparatory 
    (303) 340 0121 x 26246

    Little Women Oct 25, 26, & 27 @ 7pm

    Original One Act Festival
    Nov 30 @ 7pm

    Aida Spring Musical 
    Feb. 28, March 1-2 @ 7pm, and 1pm on March 2

    Spring Play TBD May 2 & 3 @ 7pm

    "I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." -Oscar Wilde

  • 13.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 12-20-2018 08:17
    You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a great starting musical.

    Godspell is another great one to start. The music is hard but each lead has one song, except Jesus, he has most! In the Bible Belt, you’d have to have a male Jesus & John the Baptist/Judas but all others could be female. Very little dialogue for everyone except Jesus who has most of it.

    I Love “Li’l Abner”, (Dogpatch USA), which it sounds like that is where you might be teaching. They probably agree that “Progress is the root of all evil”.

    Annie Get Your Gun is probably ok is south, music is hard but they probably will let you have guns & Indians.

    They Mystery of Edwin Drood (Charles Dickons), fun, maybe they won’t mind the Opium Den

    Oz is a Pioneer Version of the classic, easier music

    The Secret Garden (Pioneer Version) music easy

    Meet Me in St. Louis (Pioneer Version), no set changes, easy music

    Emma, Pop Musical, used to be my list but my program is too big now, I need more characters

    Maria Stadtmueller
    St. Augustine School
    Kendall Park, NJ

    Sent from my iPhone
    What Popcorn Really Does To Your Memory

  • 14.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 01-04-2019 07:51
    Just do Cabaret :P

    Joseph Gels
    Theatre Teacher
    Boston Latin School
    Boston MA