Plays Regardless of Gender

Photo Courtesy of Charlottesville High School Theatre Department

My main goal in building this selection of "gender-blind" plays is to filter out plays that feature roles with set genders, for lead roles in particular. It can often be discouraging as an actor or actress when one's school selects a play with "leads" for only one gender. While plays with an even ratio of male and female leads would also be a form of "gender-blindness," I have focused specifically on finding plays that have lead roles without specified genders.

Though productions are often very clear about the specific genders they're looking for, Act Out hopes to show students that they do not necessarily have to play towards "societal gender norms" in order to be seen or respected. Act Out challenges students to question the ways they perform gender every day. Regardless of the show being put on, the community that surrounds them, or the people that are watching, theater encourages students to explore new ways of viewing or identifying themselves.

!Artistic Inspiration

By Don Zolidis
Short, 35-40 minutes
5 either (5-26 actors possible: 0-26 females, 0-26 males)
$35.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

Two basement-dwelling hack writers concoct a scheme to create the most-produceable play in America, which quickly degenerates into a contest to see who can write the worst play imaginable. The hilariously disastrous results range from a "message" play about the dangers of huffing to a Seussian global warming drama about Eskimos. And it gets worse from there.

A Simple Task

By Alan Haehnel
Short, 30-45 minutes
17 either (7-17 actors possible: 0-17 females, 0-17 males)
$40.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

Empie has a simple first assignment at her new job: Retrieve a box of merchandise for the Boss. But what do you do when the box is blocked by a parade of confusing characters, your Boss keeps changing identities, and your whole career starts to feel absurd?

Homework Eats Dog and Other Woeful Tales

By Alan Haehnel
Short, 35-45 minutes
7 females, 7 males, 21 either
(20-51 actors possible: 0-51 females, 0-51 males)
$35.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

For science teacher Douglas Kobekeaneski, there's nothing greater than "The Hour of Desperation," that magical hour before his immensely important, grade-devastating assignment is due. Each year, his students frantically scramble to come up with their method of escape — and this year is no exception, as they trot out a litany of outrageous excuses, including the greatest of them all: My homework ate my dog.

Law & Order: Fairy Tale Unit

Jonathan Rand
Short, 35-45 minutes
13 females, 8 males, 27 either
(12-60 actors possible: 0-60 females, 0-60 males)
$45.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

In the fairy tale criminal justice system, the characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes are represented by two separate yet equally ridiculous groups: the fairy tale police who investigate fairy tale crime, and the fairy tale district attorneys who prosecute the fairy tale offenders. These are their stories.

Murder in the Knife Room

By Jonathan Rand
Murder mystery parody
Full-length, 80-90 minutes
58 either (22-58 actors possible: 0-58 females, 0-58 males)
$75.00 per performance; $7.95 per book

One murder, twenty suspects. Who killed Mysterious Host? Could it be Respected General? What about Wealthy Dowager? Or maybe it was Santa Claus. The mystery unfolds as Inexplicably Omniscient Inspector takes on the most thrilling and baffling murder case in the history of thrilling and baffling murder cases.

Seven Supermans

By Rinne Groff
Full-length, 85-95 minutes
30 either (27-46 actors possible: 0-46 females, 0-46 males)
$75.00 per performance; $7.95 per book

In a mythical land called New Hampshire, the Farmers are in trouble. Evil Bandits loot their land, take their food, and generally wreck their lives. Fed up with bowing meekly in the face of this oppression, the Farmers go to the Big City in search of Supermans, a dying breed of men and women in blue tights and red capes who really know how to save the day. The Farmers find the Seven Supermans they need to ward off the Bandits, but they get a lot more than mere bodyguards. A 23rd-century story of courage, and service, and finding the Superman within.

Tea With Mrs Pankhurst

Author Ruth Urquhart & James Douglas
Roles Minimum Male roles = 0. Minimum Female roles = 2. Minimum total with doubling = 4. Minimum total without doubling = 19. No chorus. The minimum with doubling omits two non-speaking waitresses and has two actors playing the female principals and two playing the rest (both male and female roles).
Run time Around 80 minutes. [Caution! This is very dependent on your production.]
Music None.
Style Full-length play, designed to be played without a formal set.
Synopsis The stories of Emmeline Pankhurst and Selina Cooper are compared in an attempt to judge who gave most to the cause of votes for women. The story is told in flashback, with minimal sets and audience interaction, mostly in the cake-eating sense. An educational journey through the history of British Women's Suffrage.

The Bible In 30 Minutes … Or Less!

By Anton Bucher
Short, 25-35 minutes
15 either (7-50 actors possible: 0-25 females, 0-25 males)
$40.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

The entire Bible in thirty minutes or less — just like the title promises. Led by an ambitious narrator, this energetic and hilarious play opens with the Book of Genesis and runs right through the Book of Revelation. Meet over 100 Biblical characters, famous and obscure, all at breakneck speed. Can this feat be completed in its allotted time? Grab your watch and find out!

The Idiot's Guide to High School

By Alan Haehnel
Full-length, 75-90 minutes
1 female, 1 male, 20 either
(15-38 actors possible: 1-37 females, 1-37 males)
$75.00 per performance; $7.95 per book

Earl is an idiot. Everybody says so, including his own mother. Undeterred, Earl decides that this title uniquely qualifies him to host an informative guide to high school with the assistance of his friend Shirley (another well-known idiot). Earl and Shirley lead us through hilarious interactive chapters on everything from the true purpose of high school to crafting the perfect excuse, illustrating the topics with the help of fellow students. But with trouble brewing between Earl and Shirley, will they be able to make it to the end without the entire presentation (and Earl's definition of an idiot) falling apart?

The Rules of Comedy

By Peter Bloedel
Short, 35-55 minutes
6 females, 6 males, 10 either
(10-48 actors possible: 0-24 females, 0-24 males)
$40.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

The audience is given a side-splitting lesson in what's funny and what's not funny. In order to prove that the Rules of Comedy work, they are hilariously inserted into one of the most popular tragedies of all time: William Shakespeare's Hamlet. The Rules of Comedy is a physical comedy "blow-out" with an interesting twist that showcases the cast's ability to handle tragic drama, as well. Playing by the rules has never been so much fun.

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