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Topic: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female) 

1.  Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-12-2017 10:14
I am a theater director at a small high school. I usually have about 20 girls that show up to auditions, but only between 2-5 males. I am looking for a full-length play for this spring that I could do with a mostly female cast. I am having a lot of trouble finding something that doesn't have many male roles but can accommodate a lot of female roles. I appreciate any suggestions you may have!!

Anne Elisa Brown
Director of the MHS Drama Department
Madison Central School District
Madison SD

2.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-12-2017 13:06
Murder with grace has 5 female and 5 male.

Leon Kaye
Playwright for the Ages

3.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 06:37
This is me every year. Some years I am lucky enough to have about 5 boys but never more than that. I generally look for shows that have a flexible cast or if they have more males than I have, I look for flexible characters or read the scripts to see if it would make sense for the males to be female characters (plus I've even had girls play the part of boys). All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum has a large, very flexible cast and you can do as few or as many of the vignettes as you like and you can do it as a musical or not. Last spring we did Aladdin (non-musical version) and the guards as well as the street beggar were played by girls. The School Spirit has a heavy girl cast (I think I did it with three boys). Anne of Green Gables is girl heavy as is Little Women. In fact I believe one year I had no males and I found a script of Little Women that was all females. A very fun play with a lot of girls (or characters that can be girls) is Under the Big Top by Martin Follose- I think I had the clowns played by girls even though it says male, and a couple of other characters were played by girls such as the magician and the lion tamer.

Rachel Cunningham
Elwood IN

4.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-14-2017 10:46
I did Peace of my Heart with a large cast instead of the 6 women it calls for. . .and enough men/extra women that anyone who died was carried off rather than walked off.  Women in War also has a large cast of women.  Both of these are excellent history pieces as well.  Shakespeare comedies can be done with more women than men.  Plays like Story Theatre, Peter Pan, Conference of the Birds can also be done with mostly women.  The female version of Odd Couple is fun, but it only has 6  women if I remember correctly.  And then there is always The Women and Twelve Angry Jurors!

Marilynn Zeljeznjak
Blacksburg VA

5.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 06:54
Try The Miracle Worker.i did it with only two males by changing the gender of a few characters.

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6.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 09:43
Did you have to ask for special permission to change the gender of the roles? I am starting a show next week and we didn't have enough boys, so I would like to change the gender of two of the roles but am waiting to hear back from the publishing company.

Anne Elisa Brown
Director of the MHS Drama Department
Madison Central School District
Madison SD

7.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 09:56
If the option for flexible casting is not clearly stated in the script then you really do have to secure permission.  The copyright statements usually indicate in some way that you cannot change anything without permission.

The current play we are working on specifically says  - "Do NOT alter the text of the Play, change a character's gender, delete any dialogue, cut any music or alter objectionable language, unless explicitly authorized by Playscripts"

Amy Learn
Ballwin MO

8.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 08:36
Honestly, whenever I have a predominantly-female high school group, I tend to reach for the classics. It might be a cop-out -- but it gives them a good opportunity to stretch their skills, and the audience doesn't expect them to be as grounded in reality as contemporary works.

Most of the Greeks, the French classics (Corneille, Molière, Racine), some of the Restoration comedies, most Shakespeare (an all- or mostly-female Coriolanus would give me life) . . . Even Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle or Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead . . . If the language is heightened or the playwright dabbles in absurdity, audiences tend not to care if the casting is gender-ambiguous or gender-bent.

Victoria Chatfield
Executive Director
National Theatre for Student Artists

9.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 10:12
​This is my dilemma every year. Again, I'll suggest The Good Fight, or Triangle, which have a lot of women and only a few men. Or storytelling-type shows that allow for flexible casting, such as Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses or Dominic Cooke's Arabian Nights. There are also several women-heavy scripts published by Nick Hern Books which I just discovered and plan to read for next year.

Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
Theatre Department Coordinator
Fishersville VA

10.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 12:10

I think this is a perennial condition for most theatre teachers.

These Shining Lives, Radium Girls, Triangle are great for drama. Classics are a god bet as well - Greek comedies can be very flexible (I've adapted both the Birds and the Frogs with large female casts)

I've also written a lot of full-length, large-cast female shows. Game of Tiaras (think Game of Thrones but with Disney Princesses as the leaders of the houses), and Empowered (basically Glengarry Glen Ross with girl scouts) are very popular.

Don Zolidis
Cedar Park TX

11.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-13-2017 14:43
​When I cast women in male roles, I have them do it as a "pants" role rather changing the actual gender of the character. You should not need permission from the publisher, since you aren't altering anything about the text or the character. Think Shakespearean casting, but backwards. :-) It's always worked just fine. The girls who have done it totally rose to the challenge, and I always makes sure (on the audition form) that they're ok with playing the opposite gender. I also make sure that convention works with the style of the play. We did it very effectively in Drood, Arabian Nights, and Kiss Me, Kate. I probably would NOT try it with something like The Diviners or The Miracle Worker.

Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
Theatre Department Coordinator
Fishersville VA

12.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-14-2017 06:54
I'm going to suggest Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl- it can be done with only 3 guys and as many girls as you want by expanding the Stones into a large Greek Chorus. Likewise, Clay McLeod Chapman's Volume of Smoke is a script you can get for free online and Chapman typically allows high schools to do it for free. It really is a beautiful show with flexible casting.  I've done it with as few as 3 guys.
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13.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-14-2017 15:55
Girls of the Garden Club.  I cast two males and 25 women.

Rob Albrecht
Aurora OH

14.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-14-2017 17:42
My students and I had a ball with Ferber and Kaufman's Stage Door - 21 females, 11 males.  Before you flinch at the number of males, only one of those roles is a true lead; the others are all so small and so spread out in appearance that I doubled and even tripled boys in those parts, so I used far fewer than 11 boys.  The guys loved the challenge of differentiating their various characters, and it gave each of them about as much stage time as the girls had.  Even the cameo parts are colorful, and just about every character has a real story arc to follow, so that no one is just "living scenery."  Rights are from Dramatists Play Service.

I'll also put in yet another word here for Stephen Gregg's science-fiction romantic comedy Crush - 10-12 females, 4-5 males, 2-10 of either gender.  I cast almost all of the "either gender" roles with girls.  My students really bought into this one and enjoyed it.  It can also be a teaching play, as one of its plotlines revolves around a high-school production of Our Town, giving you a chance to familiarize kids with a classic if they don't know it already.  And it's cheap to stage, because it models its presentation on Our Town, too - nothing but tables, chairs, ladders, etc. for scenery, with the audience imagining the rest!  Rights are from Dramatic Publishing.

Jeff Grove
Theatre Teacher, Aesthetics Department Chair
Stanton College Preparatory School
Jacksonville FL

15.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-16-2017 12:20
I concur with Stage Door. We did it two years ago and the girls loved it. We are an all-girls high school, so have similar issues. I cast the boys we had at auditions and then used some of the girls to play boy characters, which went well.

Best of luck!

Sarah Aanderud Wahlen
Director of Theatre & Film
Holy Names Academy
Seattle, WA

16.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-17-2017 07:56

​You could do almost any fairy tale/kids show situation and make animal/fantastical parts girls. Fabulous Fable Factory?  I adore Law and Order - Fairy Tale Unit.

I have also had this problem and have even gone searching for boys in my English classes!

My favorite show, which I have done more that once, is Up the Down Staircase.  You could make all of the teachers girls, including the principal.  You would need one male teacher (Paul) and a Joe Ferrone - although I suppose Joe could also be female... now that I think about it!  It's a large cast and has a great message. 

Amber Hugus
Harmony PA

17.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 10-17-2017 15:43
I've had experience with some mid-sized casts featuring mostly female roles -- not sure you could get away with 20 females but these are still great shows a number of local all-female high schools have done lately with some success:

Radium Girls
Scenes and Revelations
A Piece of My Heart (as someone else already suggested)
The Odd Couple Female Version

Hope that helps!


Laura Berkemeier
Thomas More College
Erlanger KY

18.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 11-18-2017 18:06
A new version of Treasure island, where ALL the pirates are women. Available from YouthPLAYS.

Arthur M. Jolly
Houston TX

19.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 11-21-2017 11:01
Hello Everyone,

What I need is a one act for Middle School. I have two boys and 20 girls. Our school district is very conservative.

Any ideas? Thank you!

Kathleen Tate
Theatre Director
Grapevine Colleyville ISD
Grapevine TX

20.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 11-22-2017 11:20
I have enjoyed the following shows and they are very flexible, gender wise.
1. The Actor Games
2. The American Revolution in 40 minutes or Less
3. Hoodie
4. Totally Red
5. Wiley and the Hairy Man
6. James and the Giant Peach (play not musical)
7. Dorothy meets Alice, the Wizard of Wonderland

I hope this helps!

Natalie Pass

Cumming GA

21.  RE: Large Ensemble Plays (Mostly Female)

Posted 11-22-2017 14:14
Pride and Prejudice or Jane Erye come to mind. You could also look at a classical piece and adjust it; just make sure it's one in public domain

Shira Schwartz
Chandler Unified School District
Chandler AZ