Open Forum

Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

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

    Posted 21 days ago
    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?

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    Josh Kauffman
    Teacher
    Winfield AL
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  • 2.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 21 days ago
    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!

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    Christopher Hamilton
    Drama Teacher
    Kennewick WA
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  • 3.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 20 days ago
    Have you ever consider Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest? It checks your boxes!

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    Garry Tiller
    Theatre Arts Teaching Artist
    Sidwell Friends
    Washington, DC
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  • 4.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 21 days ago
    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.

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    Joel King
    Atlanta GA
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  • 5.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 20 days ago
    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!

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    Caroline Clayton
    Teacher
    New Palestine IN
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  • 6.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 20 days ago
    Josh,

    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

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    Justin Indovina
    Director/Dept. Chair
    Brooklyn NY
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  • 7.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 16 days ago
    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.

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    C. J. Breland
    Asheville High School
    Asheville NC
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  • 8.  RE: Literature Based Comedy? Or...?

    Posted 16 days ago

    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! 



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    John Monteverde
    Drama Teacher
    Pittsfield High School
    Pittsfield, MA
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