Fantastic Find: Great Links to Help You Find the Perfect School Play

I’m currently in the process of deciding what school play to do with my Drama Club students this year.

In previous years I’ve used Term 4 (when it’s a little quieter at school because Year 10 and Year 12 have left) or school holidays to read and prepare a play for the students to perform the following year.

Over the years however I’ve become more and more reluctant to do that because I tend to find the number of students involved in Drama Club fluctuates dramatically from year to year as well as within the school year.

Drama is not overly popular at my school and I’m still working at making it so, however aside from my core group of “dramatists” the “fringe” numbers can really make a difference between a large cast play or a small.

A number of times I was finding myself incredibly stressed at either having a play that didn’t have enough parts or had too many. I played the ruthless director well, cutting scenes drastically and adding in characters where necessary. I tended to find I was cutting more than keeping and I didn’t like it. I always like to stay as true to the playwright’s story as possible so I felt like what I was doing was sacrilege.

In the end, all the productions have worked out nicely but I have to admit the uncertainty of not knowing your cast numbers can make it difficult to prepare and I hate being disorganised. You can’t be disorganised with these type of things. Drama productions are too huge and too time consuming to waste time dealing with unnecessary edits that could have been avoided if you’d planned adequately enough beforehand.

In aid of my stress levels, this year I have also decided to hand a lot more control over to the student group in terms of the running of the Club. I’ve created some committee “roles and responsibilities” and am getting the kids to allocate themselves, one or two members, to a role. It gives them a sense of ownership and they can make the club how they choose.

The enthusiasm has been fabulous and there’s a very excited feel to the group. I feel like there is so much possibility with what I can do with the kids this year because they’re so keen and willing. They’ve also really taken to the Edmodo group I set up and are excitedly chatting about all the upcoming projects we have planned.

After initial expressions of interest from the kids as to who wanted to perform and who didn’t, the students voted this week for which play they would like to do this year. The choices were:

  • The Secret Garden, adapted from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett;
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, adapted from the novel by Roald Dahl;
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (this one was suggested by one of the students);
  • The Miracle Worker by William Gibson;
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, adapted from the novel by Anne Frank.

It all came down to how I sold it too the kids. I felt like I was delivering a movie pitch to executives or something.

I was keen on The Secret Garden just in terms of  cast numbers and the ages of the students. However the students liked the idea of the “romantic comedy”, “comedy of errors” type scenario of Earnest and voted for that. I’m apprehensive about it but think it could be fun.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at with the production process but I also thought I’d share with you a couple of websites that have a great database of plays available for school groups to perform.

As much as I love musicals, I try to steer away from them because the rights can become incredibly expensive. These sites are great because they are mainly play based.

  • Plays for Performance – part of the Creative Drama and Resource Site, Theatre Education, it has an excellent at a glance table of titles, suitable performance age, number of male and female parts, indication of setting and a brief synopsis.
  • Dollee.com – very extensive database of titles. You can search either via playwright’s name, play title, characters and other specific headings. I’d recommend a search function on the site rather than having to go through various pages until you get to the play or playwright you’re after but the selection is still very good.
  • Dramatic Publishing – has a great section on preparing to put on a drama production.
  • Teacher’s Directory of Playscripts for Secondary Drama – An official resource from the Department of Education and Training NSW, it has a great list of plays with a brief synopsis of each as well as details on male and female parts and setting.
  • Stageplays.com – A really good youth theatre section with a lot of sub categories depending on your needs. This website also has an online store. You can choose to purchase either in $US or £UK.
  • Dramatists Play Service Inc. – A small list of children’s plays and musicals with an interesting “new acquisitions” page. It also has an online store to purchase manuscripts ($US).

What’s your experience been like preparing for a school production? Got any plays you just have to recommend? Share below in our comments.

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Image Credits:

“Dishelved”, by Kevin Grocki, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

4 Comments

  1. Karla

    Lots of thoughts here.

    Musicals are great to engage the whole school (not just the Drama club) as well as tighten links between Drama and music (a better fit than English – trust me). By opening up the audition process to all, you engage the whole school community, more students will choose Drama for an elective in Year 9 and you can use resources such as make-up from the whole school funding of the performance to support the very limited curriculum budget.

    For staight plays, Stoppard, The Bard (especially the Scottish play) in fact many of the classics still being taught on the Yr7-12 curriculum of English. Using these also engages other students to come and attend.

    • I like your thoughts Dave. I agree with musicals being a great draw card for student’s to choose drama. However, I’m still working on getting staff behind me to do this one. It’s a long battle. I think we’re on the right track but it may take more time. Great play suggestions also. I will keep these in the memory bank and add them to a post later on. Thanks for sharing.

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