Will the plays in Acting Out: Six One-Act Plays! Six Newbery Stars! meet the needs of your theatre class? I’ve compiled a list of the production details for each of the plays to help you decide.
“The Bad Room” by Patricia MacLachlan
Summary: A motley group of students discover ballroom dancing when they’re assigned to in-school suspension (aka “The Bad Room”). The script plays with stereotypes in an effective and humorous way.
Character Breakdown: 3F, 5M, 1 Dog; One male and one female role are adults; the other two girls and four boys are middle school students.
Costumes: “Dog”; typical school clothes for young adolescents, typical “principal” clothes; quirky teacher outfit; students later change to “fancy ballroom clothes”
Set Requirements: “Outside the Principal’s Office” – A door to the(wall optional); two benches; “The Bad Room” – Two folding flats for walls; desks, a blackboard
Props: Laptop/ipad, clipboard, speakers, party decorations
Staging Challenge: The students learn ballroom dance – the waltz is specified in the script, and others could be incorporated.
“The Raven” by Sharon Creech
Summary: A young Edgar Allan Poe tries to negotiate a deal in a slightly absurdist version of the contemporary publishing world.
Character Breakdown: 2F, 3M; One 12-year-old boy (Poe), two “adult” female publishing company employees, one male “adult” managing director, and one delivery boy (the delivery boy’s name is Justin, which is one of the six “favorite” words appearing in each play of the collection)
Costumes: “Poe” needs to resemble Poe; office clothes for the publishing company employees; the delivery boy needs a “delivery company” t-shirt or vest
Set/Prop Requirements: “Publishing Office” – Desk,chairs,bookcases, books, manuscripts, telephone; on a wall, there are two red and two green lights which flash on cue, and “dozens” of Post-it notes.
Technical Challenges: The green and red lights need to flash, sometimes one at a time, sometimes two at once; telephone rings on cue.
“The Billionaire and the Bird” by Katherine Paterson
Summary: In a modern revision of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale,” a wealthy recluse learns of a rare bird on his estate. He tries to control it, then replace it with technology. A young lady helps him realize the power of nature.
Character Breakdown: 1F, 2M, 2 Birds; The human roles are adults; Paterson recommends puppets for the live bird and the mechanical bird – there is a scene where both birds are active, one “inside” and one on a windowsill – so two puppeteers would be best.
Costumes: Pajamas, slippers, and robe; “Butler” uniform; apron for Sylva the “kitchen girl”
Set Requirements: “Opulent Bedroom” – Bed, pillows, table; a least two walls, one with a door, the other needs to have a practical window with curtains (it opens so a bird can land on the sill).
Props: Buzzer (maybe bell on the wall?), Silver tray, china, food
Sound Effects: The birds, buzzer
Technical Challenges: Construction and operation of the bird puppets; the mechanical one is jewel-encrusted.
“The Dollop” by Susan Cooper
Summary: A group of friends worries that the construction of a new housing development will destroy their special place. When they discover a new type of being in the area, they have to decide whether to help it.
Character Breakdown: 5F, 5M, 1+N; (2 sets of parents), and 10-20 N for “The Dollop”
Costumes: Regular “kid” and “parent” clothes; construction vest, hard hat, tool belt for construction worker; The Dollop
Set Requirements: Tree; Foliage; Camouflage for Dollop; chairs, newspapers or books
Props: Cell phone, bullhorn,
Sound Effects: Construction equipment working; cell phone ringing; equipment being smashed by the Dollop
Technical and Staging Challenge: The Dollop needs to be camouflaged into the set initially, then be able to move around (tips in script)
“Effigy in the Outhouse” by Richard Peck
Summary: In a turn-of-the-20th Century one-room schoolhouse, a group of mischievous students try to “run off” a new teacher with their hijinks. They do not succeed.
Character Breakdown: 11 characters
KIDS: 4M, one younger than the others; 4F, two younger than the others;
ADULTS: 3F; 2 teachers, 1 mom
Costumes: Late 19th/Early 20th century attire; Miss Dollop’s costume calls for human hair jewelry; short pants and collarless button-down shirts for boys, prairie dresses for girls; the 3 women need long straight skirts and high-necked blouses.
For School: Wooden benches, wooden teacher’s desk with drawers, blackboard;
For Cemetery: Gravestones
Props: Pointer, Dummy stuffed with straw, melon “head” with spooky face, apple, switches
Sound Effects: School bell ringing; frogs
Staging Challenge: The students need to help the audience visualize the “frogs” that get released from the teacher’s desk; the roles of Mrs. Dollop and Edna are for scenery-chewing actors.
“Not Seeing is Believing” by Avi
Summary: A troll causes trouble for a brother and sister.
Character Breakdown: 2F, 2M, 1N – A mother, father, son, daughter, and a troll (whose dialogue leans male but could be played by a girl)
Costumes: Pajamas, Robes
Set Requirements: Children’s Bedroom – 3 walls required – 1 has window with curtains, 1 has closet door; 1 has door to hallway and light switch, there are pictures on a wall; 2 beds, chair, blankets, bureau.
Props: Bed linens, pillows
Technical Challenges: The kids “disappear,” a chair levitates, pictures fall, drawer falls out of bureau, doors rattle