When I decide to do a play, deciding on the script is one of the hardest parts. Especially when you are teaching drama to kids. Children are so impressionable and a play will create long-lasting memories, you want to make sure those memories are good ones. When you are looking for play scripts for kids here are a few things to keep in mind.
Is this play in my budget?
So you’ve found a play, but is it within your budget? Buying play scripts and the right to perform can get very expensive. You have to plan accordingly. Fortunately, there are many people these days who know how hard it is to fund a play and they try to help by keeping the price reasonable. If you do plays with free admission, as I do, it is a good idea when buying the rights, see if they have a discounted price. Cheap plays are nice, but play writers also need to make a living. Since I’ve written a play myself and know how much effort goes into it I don’t feel nearly as bad paying more for all their hard work.
Does the play fit your cast?
As a director you have to be able to see the play in your mind, and believe you and your kids can do it. At some point of practicing the play you will feel discouraged and the cast will loose in interest. As the director you must keep the dream and hope alive. If you can’t imagine the play in your mind it’s better to move on and find something that resonates with your heart.
There are many plays that I just couldn’t want to do, there was nothing wrong with the script. I just couldn’t see the end result and therefor couldn’t put my heart in it. I’ve seen others do those same plays and they turned out great. Different plays resonate differently with different people.
What do you want the kids to learn?
Quite often when looking for a script I look at how many characters, the songs, the music. What I should be asking myself is what do I want to teach these children? The memories from a play last forever so the lessons learned will last a long time too. There are many plays that incorporate learning into the script and songs, www.badwolfpress.com is a very good example. Certainly you don’t want to have the children singing songs you don’t feel appropriate or acting in ways you wouldn’t want them to act in real life.
I heard once of a drama teacher that did a play on bullying, because that particular school had troubles with bullying. She let the students choose their own parts. Yes, they all choose the parts they most identified with, the bullies choose the bully parts and the bullied got the bullied parts. It ended up being a way for the bullies to “bully legally” so to speak. As a director you just need to keep what you’re teaching and what is actually being learned in mind.
Do the lines feel “learnable” for your cast?
This is an easy one. If you have kindergartners, don’t give them lines they can’t pronounce, let alone memorize. Long lines are very hard for children to memorize. Often they will memorize the line but then they just rush through it without any feeling because they are just trying to get it over with.By then the others on stage are board and so will your audience be. One thing I do if I get lines that are just too long, and I still want to do the play is shorten the lines, or cut them in half and give another character part of the lines. Breaking it up helps wonders.
Who is your audience?
My mom always said that in a play everyone is important. As a director you don’t want to forget that the audience is the reason for doing the play. Without a good audience you have no play at all. I always try to ask myself, “What does the audience who is most likely to watch my play want to see?” If your audience likes and understands comedy then you may not want to do a drama, they will end up laughing when they are supposed to cry.
I live in a tight-knit community and I know who is going to be my audience, (because they are also the parents.) It’s a little like politics, but for the good of the play I try to not do anything that will offend people, (at least not to bad anyway, I’ve always been one to “stretch the envelope”). I try to keep to keep the music and content along the lines of what I know the audience will like. As a christian based community for instance I would never allow a line in my play to take the Lord’s name in vain.
To Buy or not to Buy
There is a lot that goes into buying a script for your next drama production. No one wants to put that much time, effort and money into something they don’t believe will work. So, do your homework, and if you find a play that you really love and it fits your cast, it will be worth the money.