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New play ideas for rebuilding a program next year

  • 1.  New play ideas for rebuilding a program next year

    Posted 06-07-2021 18:26
    Hi everyone!

    I'm reaching out to see if anyone has any ideas for new plays that will excite students and help me to rebuild our program next year. I started the theater program at my school 4 years ago and we went from 10-65 students between our first and second season. Like many of you, those numbers dwindled as we went virtual and nearly all of my students are graduating this year. The first play that we did was 12 Angry Jurors which was a dream for the first year and then did Clue: On Stage the year after that. We were preparing for Naomi Iizuka's Anon(ymous) right before shutting down for Covid.

    This year I'll be primarily recruiting 9th and 10th graders and am looking for a contemporary ensemble show to get them excited about the program and also to bring in an audience. We lost most of our budget preparing for the show that shut down before covid and I don't have any budget from the school so will also be looking to keep spending to a minimum.

    Our student population is very diverse and I am very interested in moving away from eurocentric performances.  I am also interested in generally reenvisioning what theater can look like and brainstorming new ways to bring theater to life for students who will be doing theater for the first time.

    Some additional things I'm looking for in a show:

    • Not written by a white man 
    • Ensemble cast (ideally 10-20)
    • Minimal set OR possibilities for staging in unique places (outside/other school rooms etc) 
    • Comedy or comedic elements 
    • Racial and gender diversity 
    • Possibly something that touches on social issues or something more escapist and fantastical 
    • Nothing that is too didactic or on the nose about "teenage life" 

    Thank you all!


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    Ellie McIvor-Baker
    Theater Teacher and Director
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  • 2.  RE: New play ideas for rebuilding a program next year

    Posted 06-08-2021 09:41
    Hey!
    Have you considered She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen?
    It's not necessarily scary but if falls into several of the other categories you're looking for.

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    Anthony Spiridigliozzi
    Conway High School
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  • 3.  RE: New play ideas for rebuilding a program next year

    Posted 06-08-2021 10:57
    You might try looking at Silent Laughter by Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore.  This show is basically a silent film for the stage. There are no speaking lines, the actors basically perform pantomime to music for almost two hours. And it has all the comedy and antics of the old Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton style movies.  This was one of the most fun shows I have ever directed. My kids and the audience had a blast. There is flexibility for cast size and it allows for a lot of creative thinking and inventing on how to implement the stage directions. We were able to play into the actors individual physical strengths. My students and I basically workshopped a lot during rehearsals. Of course, I had a vision of what I wanted but I also let the students come up with a lot of their own physical "antics" if you will. It gave the students a chance to really dive into their characters, get creative, think outside the box and greatly enhanced their overall physical acting abilities.

    Treasure Island by Ken Ludwig was another actor and fan favorite for us. Flexible casting, of course it is heavily male but I cast a number of female students in some of the male roles and they loved playing pirates. This show allows for a lot of stage combat sword fighting if you have someone who knows how to do that. My students were super excited about that. I choreographed about four different sword fights for our production, including one that had 12 actors all fighting on stage at the same time. The actors loved learning stage combat and the audience was thoroughly entertained.

    Best of luck with your season!

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    Jillian Lietzau
    Lutheran High School
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  • 4.  RE: New play ideas for rebuilding a program next year

    Posted 06-09-2021 05:00
      |   view attached
    Have you thought about plays by Chuck Mee.  I'd suggest either BIG LOVE or PERFECT WEDDING.  He's fabulously fun.  I know he is a white male writer but his plays always offer a cornucopia of different people, sexualities, ethnicities, and cultures.  If I had the numbers to support it I would do it myself.

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    Jason Peck
    Theatre Director
    The Benjamin School
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  • 5.  RE: New play ideas for rebuilding a program next year

    Posted 06-10-2021 07:14
    Hey there!

    I would recommend checking out Pioneer Drama.  I've used this company multiple times when I was looking for a large cast play that was inexpensive.  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.  They also have plays that hit on most of the topics you have listed, you just have to search for them.

    Hope this helps.

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    Kristen Bishoff
    Dircecter & ITS Troupe Advisor
    Chesapeake High School & Chesapeake Bay Middle School
    Pasadena, MD
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  • 6.  RE: New play ideas for rebuilding a program next year

    Posted 06-10-2021 11:07
    Thank you for this post -- your wish list is my wish list. I too am interested in developing new approaches to theater programming at our school and would love to talk more about this. I also completely understand that after working on "Anon(ymous)" (I directed it in 2018), it's a challenge to find another script that offers these elements. Looking forward to checking out other people's recommendations, but here's what I've come up with:

    Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play by Masi Asare
    https://www.concordtheatricals.com/s/65716/mirror-of-most-value-a-ms-marvel-play-marvel-spotlight
    Kamala attempts to boost Ms. Marvel's fledgling super hero profile by writing her own fan fiction. But when building a fandom becomes an obsession, Kamala's schoolwork and relationships begin to suffer. To become the Jersey City hero of her dreams, Kamala must learn to accept herself just as she is – imperfections and all.

    Space Girl by Mona V. Harris
    https://www.playscripts.com/play/3211#searchterm=space%20girl
    Arugula Suarez just wants to fit in. But it's not easy when you're a sixteen-year-old alien from the planet Zlagdor. Stuck in a world where the only things that make sense are roller derby and salad, Arugula and her father, Nancy, must find out what it means to be human before time runs out for Planet Earth. (The script does not necessarily call for much racial diversity; the main issue is really between the humans and the aliens, but gender and sexuality are both addressed as well. Both moving and funny, and would work well outdoors, I think.)

    Mary Zimmerman has some plays which draw from non-western source material: "Arabian Nights," "The White Snake," and "Journey to the West." All with flexible/ensemble casts and the opportunity for creative/fluid staging. I've directed "Arabian Nights" -- it was a challenge, but also one of our biggest audience draws ever. "Monkey!" by Colin Teevan is a more student friendly adaptation of the same essential story of "Journey to the West" -- he's a white man, though, but then again Mary Zimmerman is a white woman.

    These would probably be better with an older, more experienced group. Some cursing. More on the social issues side than the comedy or escapist fantasy side:
    All American Boys, from the novel by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, adapted by Jody Drezner Alperin and Vicky Finney Crouch
    https://www.playscripts.com/play/3407
    Rashad is absent today. The graffiti tag begins to appear everywhere after a white cop at the corner store viciously beats a black teenager for a theft he didn't commit. But for Rashad himself, the question is: What about tomorrow? Before his broken ribs have even healed, Rashad faces not only rising tension among his family over who's to blame and what he should do, but also the discovery that a protest movement is growing in his name. He wants to move on--but how can he, when this could happen to someone else? Meanwhile, Quinn, a white classmate who barely knows Rashad, wrestles with a secret: He witnessed the attack, but the officer is a close friend to his family. He's not sure he can stay silent, but what will it cost to speak up? Rashad and Quinn's perspectives alternate throughout this galvanizing adaptation of the acclaimed novel, as the two young men work through a complex web of family loyalties and community ties to find a way to take action.

    This is Modern Art by Idris Goodwin & Kevin Coval
    (Original cast of 6 but room to expand without doubling)
    https://www.playscripts.com/play/2944#searchterm=this%20is%20modern%20ar
    Graffiti crews are willing to risk anything for their art. Though people call them vandals, criminals, and even creative terrorists, they're determined to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world. So when a young graffiti artist named Seven comes up with an big, audacious idea to shake up the Chicago art scene, his crew is all in. But the biggest graffiti bomb of the LOH Crew's careers may also have serious consequences, for some of them more than others. This is Modern Art takes you racing over the rooftops, through the history of graffiti art, and face-to-face with a question of the moment: Where does art belong?

    Blood at the Root by Dominique Morriseau
    (Original cast of 6 but room to expand without doubling)
    https://www.concordtheatricals.com/p/60202/blood-at-the-root
    A striking new ensemble drama based on the Jena Six; six Black students who were initially charged with attempted murder for a school fight after being provoked with nooses hanging from a tree on campus. This bold new play by Dominique Morisseau (Sunset BabyDetroit '67Skeleton Crew) examines the miscarriage of justice, racial double standards, and the crises in relations between men and women of all classes and, as a result, the shattering state of Black family life.

    Good luck to you with your choices, and to us all.

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    Cora Turlish
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