A Simpler Time is a series of comic plays interconnected by a frame story. Each of the nine plays in the collection is by a different playwright, and Jonathan Dorf wrote the connecting dialogues. The frame story has three (21st Century) characters traveling in a time machine in search of a “simpler time.” They perform a Prologue, Epilogue, and Interludes after and before each piece. As they visit different time periods, starting in the Middle Ages and moving forward into the (possible) future, the travelers serve as witnesses to events.

The 9 plays can be presented in any combination, as long as you carefully monitor licensing and credits. The minimum royalty for the anthology is $100. You can license most of the plays separately; but the $35 minimum royalty per play is only less expensive than the entire anthology if you limit your performances to two of the pieces.



LICENSING ENTITY: Playscripts, Inc.

PLAYING TIME: 110-130 minutes (altogether)


The script states that the total number of actors can be as few as 8 Females, 8 Males, and 14 actors of Any Gender OR as great as 55. I counted a maximum of 21 Females, 17 Males (3 are offstage voices), and 15 Any Gender. But there are A LOT of possible combinations here. Flexibility in casting is one of the strengths of a play anthology; if you have a lot more females than males audition, (I know, that never happens in educational theatre!) you can have some males play more than one part.

COSTUMES: Period costumes & some contemporary – Since it’s comedy, the costumes can be more suggestive of the time period rather than historically accurate.

SET REQUIREMENTS: The same rule applies to scenery  – you don’t need a Georgian settee for the Washingtons’ bedroom – keep the pieces suggestive of the setting. Nothing but the TIME MACHINE needs to be onstage for more than 15 minutes.

I’m setting up the Overview for A Simpler Time a bit differently than my others; I’ll cover “The Basics” and provide some commentary for each play, and then present “Considerations” for all nine.



AUTHOR: Jonathan Dorf

SUMMARY: CHRIS, upset with current events, is in a state of existential panic. MARLEY builds a time machine, and takes TAYLOR and CHRIS on a ride through several periods of history on a quest to find A SIMPLER TIME…


COSTUMES: Contemporary

SET REQUIREMENTS: An “unimpressive” Time machine “it can be as simple as a cardboard box or some chairs covered in aluminum foil”

PROPS: Minimal

STAGING CHALLENGES: A “time jump” convention needs to be established

COMMENTARY: The interludes before and after each play show through-lines for characters, and help situate the audience as to the time period and the themes of the pieces.

Medieval Medicine by Claire Epstein

TITLE: Medieval Medicine

AUTHOR: Claire Epstein

SUMMARY: FENDREL and WINIFRED have a marital crisis on their hands: their daughter ADELAIDE won’t marry Lord Cartwright, and FENDREL suspects it might be because she’s a witch. DR. CORNWALLIS suggests the usual remedies: leeches, blood-letting, mercury, trephining…but then ADELAIDE manages to cure herself!  


COSTUMES: Medieval-ish

SET REQUIREMENTS: Medieval England, the sitting room in a small manor house

PROPS: Medical bag

STAGING CHALLENGES: Comic timing; breaking the fourth wall 

COMMENTARY: The piece is funny with unexpected connections to our own time!


Safe Salem by Jonathan Dorf


TITLE: Safe Salem

AUTHOR: Jonathan Dorf

SUMMARY: When EMILY and her cronies accuse ABIGAIL of witchcraft, the supposed witch stages a magic trick herself.

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN: 4F, 1M, flexible number of PUPPETS (1M, 1F puppet + additional)

COSTUMES: Puritan simplicity; black dresses, white aprons and bonnets; Judge robe

SETTING: Puritan New England, late 17th century.  

PROPS: Puppets – only one sock puppet though! (Dorf says they can “look cheap.”), broom, knitting needles, knitting work, book


COMMENTARY: Safe Salem is a bit meta, and the actors get to use puppets! It’s one of the funniest pieces in the anthology.

Founding Fathers (Mothers) by Don Zoldis

TITLE: Founding Fathers (Mothers)

AUTHOR: Don Zoldis

SUMMARY: It’s the night before the Constitution is due. TOM, JAMES and ALEX are “working,” possibly, while MARTHA, DOLLY,and ELIZA are WORKING IT.


COSTUMES: Late 18th Century

SETTING: The newly-formed United States, 1787

SET REQUIREMENTS: Table and chairs

PROPS:, “parchment” paper, quill pens, a dictionary

STAGING CHALLENGES: Contrasts between the work sessions of the 3 men and the 3 women

COMMENTARY: It’s group project time! There are Hamilton references! It’s funny, especially if you’re familiar with the Founding Fathers’ personalities.

Lady Washington by Tyler Dwiggins

TITLE: Lady Washington

AUTHOR: Tyler Dwiggins

SUMMARY: On the eve of the very first inauguration, MARTHA says she’s not showing up for GEORGE, and they thumb-wrestle over it? .

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN: 2F, 2M, 5 any gender

COSTUMES: Late 18th Century

SETTING: The newly-formed United States, 1789; GEORGE and MARTHA’s bedroom; the First Inaugural Ball

SET REQUIREMENTS: Bedroom furnishings,

PROPS: Extra coats (GEORGE)

STAGING CHALLENGES: Thumb wrestling – how to make sure the audience can see it?

COMMENTARY: I’m not sure why there are two plays in this collection set within 2 years of each other? This one gets funniest once ELIZA HAMILTON comes in.

Selfie Portrait by Carrie McCrossen

TITLE: Selfie Portrait

AUTHOR: Carrie McCrossen

SUMMARY: The Dutch portraitist, VAN DER CRISP, paints LADY WINTHROP. She is a tad fussy about her appearance.

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN: 2F, 1M, 2 any gender

COSTUMES: Early 19th Century costume -1821 – Empire waistlines are starting to drop lower!

SETTING: A country estate, 1821


PROPS: Canvas, easel, (“there’s no reason we ever need to see the finished artwork, unless you have a particularly eager props department”), paint palette, paintbrushes, a stool

STAGING CHALLENGES: There are lighting cues mid-scene; accents possible; be careful with the passage of time

COMMENTARY: McCrossen’s satirical modern-day references emphasize society’s social media silliness! 

Weekend Warriors  by Kathryn Funkhouser

TITLE: Weekend Warriors

AUTHOR: Kathryn Funkhouser

SUMMARY: In an unregulated factory, HELEN, RUBY, and DORA work 16 hours a day. DORA suggests that their boss, MR. GORDON, take a page out of Henry Ford’s management book. When he refuses, the workers get creative.


COSTUMES: Early-20th Century “working” attire; aprons

SETTING: The Knickerbocker Shoelace Factory, 1918

SET REQUIREMENTS: Table, cardboard boxes…maybe a sign?

PROPS: Shoelaces; signs

STAGING CHALLENGES: The factory workers perform an interpretive dance; comic timing is vital

COMMENTARY: The workers’ attempts to get MR. GORDON to agree to the weekend will provide some great comic moments for actors to play!

Switcheroo by Mora V. Harris

TITLE: Switcheroo

AUTHOR: Mora V. Harris

SUMMARY: Switchboard operators become entranced with a caller’s voice, and end up with a surprise. 

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN: 2F, 3M (offstage voices)

COSTUMES: 1940s dresses

SETTING: 1940, a telephone switchboard at the Princess Hotel


PROPS: Headsets

STAGING CHALLENGES: Switchboard business combined with overlapping and offstage dialogue;

TECH CHALLENGES: Offstage voices, sound cues

COMMENTARY: It’s a bit trite, but cute. Your actors will probably need to watch some films of real-life or Hollywood switchboard action in order to get the “switching” right.

A Forest Was This  by Patrick Greene

TITLE: A Forest Was This

AUTHOR: Patrick Greene

SUMMARY: A nuclear family enjoys a nice camping trip sometime in the future?  


COSTUMES: Pastel camping clothes  

SETTING: A “forest-ish” sometime in the future

SET REQUIREMENTS: None; but “if you want to bring in real trees and grass, go for it”

PROPS: A campfire, coin, tablet

STAGING CHALLENGES: The weirdness of the culture is going to necessitate some world-building on the cast’s part. Actors will have to make some strong choices.

COMMENTARY: This was much creepier than the other plays in the collection. It’s funny, but I’m not sure how many audience members will “get” it.

Kids Today! by Ian McWethy

TITLE: Kids Today!

AUTHOR: Ian McWethy

SUMMARY: A PARENT tries to get a CHILD to go on a hike…CHILD is not interested. They argue. A PARENT tries to get a CHILD to go on a hike…CHILD is not interested. They argue. A PARENT tries to get a CHILD to go on a hike…CHILD is not interested. They argue. And then…

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN: 2 any gender, or 5 any gender (McWethy has a rotation mapped out)

COSTUMES: There are scripted costume changes for each time period – 1955, 1985, 2015, and 2035

SETTING: There are 4 time periods in Kids Today! – 1955, 1985, 2015, and 2035

SET REQUIREMENTS: Minimal – maybe a chair

PROPS: Cell phone, NES Controller, 1950s Movie Magazine, Backpacks (1 “2015”, 1 “1985”, 1 “1955”, 1 “2035”), sunblock containers, snack bars

STAGING CHALLENGES: In-scene costume changes, character switches, and rapid-fire dialogue will all challenge your actors. Also, for a short piece, there are a lot of props to track – you’ll need a props person (could be an actor doubling).

COMMENTARY: Kids Today! is meta and philosophical! Cast this one with your more skilled and experienced performers.


I’ve assembled a VERY SHORT list of “Considerations” for A Simpler Time. This is to help teacher-directors decide if they’d like to get a hold of a perusal copy of a piece for potential performance, or purchase a script for their classroom/department library. The nine pieces in A Simpler Time should pass all but the most strigent approval processes.

The Considerations are aspects of A Simpler Time  that, in an ideal universe, wouldn’t cause a problem for a teacher-director. But based on my experience and knowledge of past challenges to educational theatre pieces, these are things that an administrator, parent, member of the public, or a student could potentially object to OR request to change in the script.

DON’T change the script without permission! See this Dramatists Guild initiative for more information.

The following are present in the plays of A Simpler Time:

  • Talk of blood and bloodletting
  • Talk of beheadings
  • Mass hysteria
  • The aforementioned hysteria is accusations of witchcraft; there is no “actual” fictional(!) witchcraft
  • Implied mob violence
  • There’s a labor strike
  • Pyromania
  • Corporations insulted; (Google by name)
  • A “reeducation” program
  • Kids “talking back” to parents


There are many reasons why you might choose to do an evening of short plays instead of a single play. Here are a few that may apply to your situation:


I mentioned earlier that the number of roles in A Simpler Time will provide of lot of possible combinations for casting in gender and in number. If you have a lot of students auditioning, and you want to give as more of them an onstage opportunity, a series of 10-minute plays can meet that need. A Simpler Time has a variety of roles, some of which have only a few lines or are easier to play. You can give less-experienced students stage time that will improve their skills.

Plus, even though you’ll have a large cast, you won’t be rehearsing with all of them onstage simultaneously. If someone has to drop out of the show, there will almost certainly be an actor willing to take on another role. 

More cast members also results in more ticket sales for the performances, and more people spreading the word about your show.


If scheduling rehearsals is difficult because of conflicts with other extracurriculars or student responsibilities, casting the ten-minute plays based on availability is possible. For example, if you have four pieces rehearse on Mondays and Wednesdays, and another four on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the students who have MANDATORY Select Choir rehearsals on Thursdays can go into the cast for one of the Monday/Wednesday plays. The options are vast!


If you have upperclassmen who want to try directing, a 10-minute play serves as an excellent training ground. Each of the pieces in A Simpler Time have small casts, providing an easier “block” for a beginning director. You’ll also be able to supervise/advise them by circulating through the pieces, thus giving the directors some breathing room. 

Also, if the student director isn’t quite up to the task, it’s one-tenth of the evening’s performance. It will be easier for you to step in with a guiding hand.