“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” -Douglas Adams
Question #53738 posted on 10/01/2009 3:01 a.m.

Dear 1OO Hour Board,

What would be a good play for say an age range of about 11 to 16 year olds to preform? Peter Pan? Cinderella? I have been brain-storming and i need some more ideas!

-The writer....

A: Dear The writer....,

My advice would be to not lowball their abilities. If you pick something too common and too simple, I'd imagine that your group will become unenthusiastic. Challenge them. They can do it.

When I was in the fourth and fifth grades, I was involved in adaptations of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and Much Ado About Nothing, complete with Shakespearean-era language. No one in the cast or crew was over the age of 11 except for a couple of adult directors, but we had the time of our lives. The trick was to make sure that every member of the cast and crew really understood the story. After that, it was cake. Kids are creative and they'll embrace the role you give them. Other plays that program commonly does are The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, and Comedy of Errors. In middle school, I was involved in very successful adaptations of The Velveteen Rabbit; A Midsummer Night's Dream (this play really is accessible, and in middle school we pulled out the real Shakespeare); The Wizard of Oz; You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown; and The Diary of Anne Frank. I can tell you that with such productions as The Velveteen Rabbit and The Wizard of Oz we felt a little patronized and didn't really perform as well. It was still good fun, though. The rights to some of those shows are expensive, but hey, your pseudonym says that you're a writer, so get creative.

Some of the best theatre experiences I had growing up were what my creative teachers put together. Once we did a four-part play that featured Little Red Riding Hood as a Greek tragedy, a melodrama, a sitcom, and a Broadway musical (I was Little Red in this version, and it featured "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Ease on Down the Road," "Friendship," and a couple others). We once did a play showing off December traditions all around the world. One of my teachers put together a show telling all the stories of all the villains in Disney fairy tales (yours truly had her story of Gaston featured, which is still my proudest accomplishment as a writer). The one I remember most fondly was a (pre-Night at the Museum) play one of my teachers wrote about kids getting stuck in an art museum overnight and the works of art kept coming to life ("American Gothic" came alive to sing the theme song of Green Acres and this painting came alive to sing "Revolution" by the Beatles). Make references the kids understand, or teach them the references. They will embrace them and have a great time. We threw together each of those plays in about a month on low budgets, and all of these plays were performed by nine- to eleven-year-olds.

My advice would be to take a famous work (I'm all about Shakespeare, personally) and adapt it to fit your needs, or write up something new. Challenge your kids and give them something they can really sink their teeth into. That will ensure that they have a great experience they remember for the rest of their lives. I'm 21 and I still look back on each of those productions fondly. They changed my life.

- The Black Sheep