Good high school plays?
August 4, 2007 6:26 PM   Subscribe

What plays did you love performing when you were in your high school drama club?

I'm a high school drama teacher in Chicago, feverishly looking for good material and suffering from "reader's block." We put up Moliere's Tartuffe last year, which was a great experience for the kids. This year, though, we'd love to do something more modern. We'd ideally like to do a play with a cast of approximately 12, and a length of somewhere between 1 and 2 hours. No musicals.

And yes, I've looked at this thread:

posted by HeroZero to Education (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I liked "The Importance of Being Earnest", but it is not modern.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 6:30 PM on August 4, 2007

Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It is hillarious, smart, and SHORT! It runs about an hour. Lights and set are easy, easy and if you send Steve Martin a letter saying that you are producing it, he's been known to come!
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:32 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was my favorite. Without counting the cast members, 12 seems about right. Of course, there's only one female role (I think), so we made some of the male patients female because it's high school.
posted by Airhen at 6:32 PM on August 4, 2007

Well, OUR TOWN is probably the most obvious choice but still a good 'un, especially because it raises so many questions about theater itself. I loved being in it as a kid.

Also, I thoroughly enjoyed playing in ANDROCLES AND THE LION.
posted by unSane at 6:38 PM on August 4, 2007

"What The Butler Saw" by Joe Orton is hilarious and fun.

Although, perhaps it may be too mature...
posted by Pleadthefifth at 6:58 PM on August 4, 2007

What about a selection from All in the Timing?

I recently enjoyed performing in Lend Me a Tenor and The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, but depending on your school neither may be terribly well received. Tenor has some (implied) sex in it, and Musical Comedy Murders has cross-dressing and a sex gag.

I mean, a gag involving sex.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:00 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

in high school we had fun putting on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead a semester after we studied Hamlet in English Lit. It was all about the meta-nerdiness for us.
posted by bl1nk at 7:07 PM on August 4, 2007

Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It is hillarious, smart, and SHORT! It runs about an hour. Lights and set are easy, easy and if you send Steve Martin a letter saying that you are producing it, he's been known to come!

Agreed. I was in a production of WASP in high school, another Steve Martin play from the same collection, and the rest of the cast and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Along similar lines to WASP was a one-act called Psychoneurotic Phantasies by Gilbert David Feke which I directed. I think we had a cast of 13, and it was definitely smart and fun.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:24 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

And as bl1nk has reminded me, Tom Stoppard's 15-minute Hamlet is another one that's a lot of fun for high school.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:25 PM on August 4, 2007

When I was a high school drama geek, we did really well with one-acts. Three or so per show. Lots of fun ones to do. "Cannibalism in the Cars," the short story by Mark Twain, adapted hilariously to stage. Ohhh, Dorothy Parker's "The Waltz" works nicely as a few-minute monologue. Very funny.
posted by houseofdanie at 7:33 PM on August 4, 2007

Go Ask Alice. Much fun.
posted by jeanmari at 7:43 PM on August 4, 2007

Not modern, but with a very contemporary feel is Thornton Wilder's The Skin Of Our Teeth. Plus it's funny, it's chock-full of symbolic references pleasing to high school drama students inclined to ferret such things out, and it can be staged minimalistically without looking cheap.

And its themes of man doomed to repeat mistakes and the cyclical myths of history, war, and apocalypse are...well...kinda current.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:46 PM on August 4, 2007

We did MCM40 as well and had a good time with it. Also recommended: The Foreigner and The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:49 PM on August 4, 2007

We did "You Can't Take It With You" and had a ball. Also A Dickens Christmas Carol: A Traveling Travesty in Two Tumultuous Acts, which the Samuel French listing is showing far fewer characters for than I recall it having. And we did a great one act called "Thanks," which is about a dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving. I can't google it up because everyone on the internet says "Thanks," unfortunately.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:58 PM on August 4, 2007

For good monologue fodder, or a simple, beautiful one-act (with a very small cast though), The Actor, by Horton Foote, is great for high school students considering going into the theatre as a profession. It's well worth reading.

Seconding unSane's Our Town recommendation; it's as relevant now as ever, and loads of fun to put on. Not modern though.

Laramie Project has about that size cast, although depending on your community the politics may kill you. It was incredibly moving to work on when I was in HS.

Can't go wrong (especially with juniors and seniors) with absurdest/existentialist plays, although most tend to have pretty small casts for obvious reasons. I worked on a production of Rhinoceros in high school that worked out well. Something along those lines might be worth considering.

Rushdie's Haroun And the Sea of Stories (there's a play version in addition to the novel) might make another good choice.

I'm not convinced that it could work in a high school (but I'd love to be proved wrong), but since you did Tartuffe, boy would Marat/Sade be fun!

Best of luck to you, and thank you for keeping drama alive in the schools!
posted by zachlipton at 8:08 PM on August 4, 2007

Why not have the students submit short plays they've written themselves?
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:19 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I really liked doing The Crucible in High School.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:19 PM on August 4, 2007

A Midsummer Night's Dream had incredible appeal for us. Lush, magical, sexy, about hooking up, and yet with the sophisticated sheen of Shakespeare -- we used to run scenes for fun at summer arts school.

Much Ado About Nothing was also good.

Anything Goes was a fun show to put on - lots of witty double entredre, great easy-to-belt standards.
posted by Miko at 8:28 PM on August 4, 2007

The works of Eugene Ionesco are absurdist and hilarious. I enjoyed performing The Bald Soprano.

I would have loved to have done The Marx Brothers Movie Animal Crackers, which was originally a play by George Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind.
posted by sourwookie at 8:31 PM on August 4, 2007

Go for:
  1. Student submitted
  2. Picasso at the Lapin Agile
  3. (thank you, Steve Martin!)
  4. Lend Me A Tenor
  5. Rushmore.
All kick ass!
posted by cior at 8:45 PM on August 4, 2007

Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's George Washington Slept Here is a fun show, that's still regularly produced by high school drama departments. I had a ball playing Uncle Stanley back in 1967.
posted by paulsc at 9:04 PM on August 4, 2007

My favorites from high school: Stephen Gregg's "This Is A Test" and "S.P.A.R."

Also "The Fantasticks," although it requires good singers. And anything by Marisa Wegrzyn.
posted by limeonaire at 9:09 PM on August 4, 2007

The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet.
posted by mdonley at 9:23 PM on August 4, 2007

You Can't Take It With You was great and had a lot of female roles.
posted by k8t at 10:25 PM on August 4, 2007

Nthing Picasso, definitely seconding Crucible and An Inspector Calls and adding Woody Allen's God. Nothing like absurd metatheater blending ancient Greece and New York to keep 'em rolling in the aisles.
posted by Bromius at 10:44 PM on August 4, 2007

Is this for competition? Back when I was in 1-act play Neil Simon ALWAYS won.

Chapter 2 works well.
posted by Bonzai at 12:03 AM on August 5, 2007

Seconding Ionesco. We also got a huge kick out of Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and The Real Inspector Hound.
posted by scody at 12:43 AM on August 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Damn you scody! I was hoping no one mentioned Real Inspector Hound! It's my favorite by far! Lots of Clue-esque rolls.

Also, 12 Angry Men (Women) (Jurors).
posted by santojulieta at 1:50 AM on August 5, 2007

Death Trap and Ordinary People were both big hits
posted by np312 at 3:09 AM on August 5, 2007

Thirding You Can't Take it with You.
posted by mzurer at 6:42 AM on August 5, 2007

I'll absolutely second Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:05 AM on August 5, 2007

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
posted by smich at 7:29 AM on August 5, 2007

John Patrick Shanley has a series of playlets called "Welcome to the Moon". I think there's about 6 of them, ranging from two handers to the final piece with the same title which has 5 people. They're really lovely.
posted by stray at 7:37 AM on August 5, 2007

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:57 AM on August 5, 2007

On actually reading the full question, I realize it stipulated 12 actors. Complete works is typically done with three actors, but there are ways to add more.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:59 AM on August 5, 2007

My high school did "Ah, Wilderness!" and that was pretty cute.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:31 AM on August 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend suggests Up the Down Staircase. It's got a good anti-authoritarian bent while still being appropriate for school and lots of roles.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:04 AM on August 5, 2007

Here are the non-musical ones my High School did while I was there. I was in some, but not all.

Steel Magnolias
The Importance of Being Earnest
Our Town
Arsenic and Old Lace
12 Angry Women
Born Yesterday
The Nerd
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged
The Glass Menagerie
Charlotte's Web
The Corn is Green
The Boys Next Door
A Piece of My Heart
School for Scandal
Shakin' the Mess Out of Misery
Odd Couple
Auntie Mame

The theatre website is here. Click on Past Seasons to see all the shows that have been done from 1992-2003. That should give you lots of ideas!
posted by cp7 at 10:30 AM on August 5, 2007

No Brecht? Mother Courage and Her Children, e.g.
modern (late 19th c/ early 20th) german drama is so great for high school / college... Wedekind's Spring Awakening was definitely one of my favorites. Or Buchner's Danton's Death.
Pinter, Ionesco, Stoppard, Mamet, Chekhov, Beckett, and Sartre also come to mind. And then there's the Greeks...
posted by mdn at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2007

When I was in high school I worked on a production of The Diviners (by Jim Leonard Jr.), and it was a great experience. I did it with a community theater group (not my high school), but I bet it could work with high school kids. It's an awesome play. Really moving.

11 roles. 6 men, 5 women.
posted by Quidam at 9:09 PM on August 5, 2007

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