Plays Regardless of Money

Photo Courtesy of Charlottesville High School Theatre Department


The main goal in building this selection of "money-blind" plays is to filter out plays that require elaborate sets, costumes, or props that would put a strain on high schools with limited financial resources. While very few plays or musicals absolutely require multiple sets or costumes from the 18th century, it can still be a challenge to find plays that are absolutely free. Though an initial fee must be paid for rights to the play, the plays listed here could each be performed at an extremely low cost without sacrificing quality or compromising the play's original intent.

By removing the constraint of affordability, Act Out hopes to show students that money should never be a reason to stop pursuing success. While shows with high production value can certainly be a pleasure to watch, the goal of Act Out is to involve students of any socioeconomic background in theater and show them what they can accomplish. 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.

15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play

By Alan Haehnel
Short, 30-60 minutes
14 females, 14 males, 12 either
(15-67 actors possible: 5-65 females, 2-62 males)
$45.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

This is a play about not being in a play, ironically expressed through a hilarious series of monologues, duets, and ensemble scenes. From early traumas involving a glory-seeking elementary school teacher to possible disturbances in the global climate, 15 Reasons Not To Be in a Play keeps the audience guessing just what scenario will be next.

After Math

By Jonathan Dorf
Genre: Dramedy
Time: Short, 30-35 minutes
Cast: 3 females, 2 males, 6 either (8-40 actors possible: 2-38 females, 2-38 males)
Set: A classroom
Script: $6.95
Royalty: $40/performance
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When a man and woman in suits take Emmett away in the middle of math class, his classmates come up with their own explanations for his mysterious disappearance. He's off to his own private rock concert. He was kidnapped by aliens. He was an alien himself. He created a mural that offended the school. A victim of bullies, he engineered his own disappearance…and a multitude of other guesses. Slowly we begin to realize that no one really knew him. Who is Emmett, and why is it that no one paid any attention to him until he was gone?


By Vern Harden
Cast: 3M, 7F
Set: Simple interior set
Time: About 80 minutes
Script: $5.75
Royalty: $50 First performance/$40 Each additional performance

Welcome to the Home Sweet Home Boardinghouse, where life is anything but normal. Miss Harriet runs a clean, cozy home with the help of the none-too-bright and perpetually terrified Tweenie, and accompanied by as zany a cast of boarders as you are likely to meet. There's Mr. Richards, the poet who practices dying to spark his inspiration. Gladys Klotz is a taxidermist who has a direct line to the spirit world and prefers her men stuffed, while Martha Willis has every imaginable illness, from leprosy to pneumonia to heart palpitations … and loves every minute of it. Poor Hortense tries her best to keep up with Ivy, a free spirited "artist" who enjoys painting people's faces, whether they want to be painted or not. Finally, the suave and mysterious Dirk Shadow and his sister Veronica have just arrived on the scene to hunt for Captain Schnook's pirate treasure buried in the basement… or is it really just something left over from dinner? Leave it to the clever and ever-vigilent Dr. Sni-fell to unravel the mystery that will have audiences laughing from beginning to end.

Booby Trap

Formerly Booby in the Trap
by Ed Monk
Short, 30-35 minutes
6 females, 5 males, 6 either
(11-17 actors possible: 5-12 females, 5-12 males)
$45.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

In the near future, an American soldier sits in a combat zone, trapped by a land mine. As he waits to see what will happen to him, scenes from his past, present, and future unfold around him.

Chicken Bones for the Teenage Soup

By Alan Haehnel
Short, 40-60 minutes
29 females, 24 males, 5 either
(10-60 actors possible: 5-45 females, 5-45 males)
$40.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

Unlike the megapopular book series it parodies, Chicken Bones for the Teenage Soup is a comic ode to pessimism. In a series of short scenes, diverse characters illustrate various sentimental moments from everyday life, only to be repeatedly crushed by sardonic twists of cruel fate.


By Ed Monk
Short, 30-40 minutes
5 females, 6 males, 3 either
(10-14 actors possible: 0-14 females, 0-14 males)
$45.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

A group of actors rehearses a play within a play within a play. As the plot complications multiply, the actors begin to forget who is playing whom and who is the real director — as opposed to the actor who is playing the director, or vice versa. Then they can't seem to remember who they really are, as opposed to the people they are playing in any of the various scripts. Then things start to get confusing…

Drugs Are Bad

By Jonathan Rand
Short, 10-15 minutes
1 female, 2 males
$40.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

Brad comes home from school one day to find his parents waiting for him, deeply concerned. They have found a secret that Brad stashed away in his underwear drawer: an algebra book. That's right — Brad has been studying behind their backs, instead of following his parents' strict insistence on sex, drugs, and rock & roll. What unfolds is a parody of all those insufferable after-school specials that made us who we are today.

If These Walls Could Talk

By Robert Swift

Cast: 6M, 15F, optional extras
Set: Simple area set
Time: About 75 minutes
Script: $5.75
Royalty: $50 First performance/$40 Each additional performance

This insightful play confronts the problems of today's youth with honesty and forcefulness. Elaine returns to high school to receive an award, and memories intrude. We meet a fascinating gallery of recognizable young characters. Some will make you cry, and some will make you laugh. Some are in rebellion, some are already embracing conformity. Others wonder what it all means. Gloria believes a smile will always shield her from problems. Timid Marion harbors an alarming secret self. Ann is losing her hearing. Tom refuses to wear shoes. Stanley fears being a nobody. Jack's cool exterior is only a facade for inner-torment. The strong issues of today's high school students are met head on. The mood, however, is upbeat and positive. The total effect is a rich tapestry of lively monologues, poignant moments and genuine theatrical impact.

Property Rites

By Alan Haehnel
Short, 40-55 minutes
4 females, 4 males, 13 either
(12-30 actors possible: 2-30 females, 2-30 males)
$40.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

Kyle Macmanus has invested millions in a high-tech work of art — fifteen human-figure sculptures programmed to perform thousands of movements, monologues, dialogues, and more. But just when Kyle is about to sell the sculpture, it malfunctions; the figures are alive. As each one struggles to achieve autonomy, they begin a fatal race against their desperate owner's destructive plan.

The Auditioners by Doug Rand

Short, 35-45 minutes
11 females, 3 males (3-14 actors possible: 0-14 females, 0-14 males)
$40.00 per performance; $6.95 per book

This audition was supposed to be simple: prepare one classical monologue and one contemporary monologue. But when this challenge is taken up by a beauty queen, a stand-up comic, a slam poet, an Esperanto-speaking mime, and a parade of other crazies — most of whom insist on doing the same Lady Macbeth piece very badly — what's a director to do?

The Dastardly Doctor Devereaux

Book and lyrics by Billy St. John
Music by Debbie Wilson
Cast: Flexible cast of 16 (about 4M, 6F plus 6 that can be either), chorus, extras
Set: Simple interior set
Time: About 90 minutes
Script: $6.00
Royalty: $90 First performance/$80 Each additional performance

Lotta Cash, a wealthy widow, must be on the lookout. The evil Dogsbreath Devereaux, M.D. plans to marry Lotta so he can inherit her fortune and her late husband's clinic. Helping him is the nasty nurse, Hilda Hatchet, whom he promises to wed after he gets rid of Lotta. Wild? Well, talk about medical mania when the insanely jealous Hilda catches Dogsbreath flirting with our heroine, Wendy March. We can only hope that Dr. Phil Good, our hero, can save Wendy and the unsuspecting Lotta from certain death. With an abundance of zany patients, wild tunes ("How Do You Bandage a Broken Heart?," "Emergency," "Do the Bop," etc.) and a hilarious plot, this musical will certainly have your audience in stitches all the way! As they say, Nurses! Foiled again!

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