Public Domain Plays for High School Performances

High school theatre programs and drama classrooms are an excellent way for students to showcase their talents, build confidence, and develop communication skills. However, securing performance rights for contemporary plays can be costly and time-consuming, making it challenging for schools with limited resources to put on a production. Fortunately, there are many great public domain plays that high schools can choose from, providing an opportunity to put on a quality show without breaking the bank. From classic Greek tragedies to modern children’s plays, there is a vast array of scripts available for young performers. Here are some of the notable plays:

1. The Donkey, the Elephant, and the Goat at a Public Meeting

“The Donkey, the Elephant, and the Goat at a Public Meeting” written by Jack Preston is a political satire in which three animals, a donkey, an elephant, and a goat, represent different classes of people at a public meeting.

The goat is the main speaker and represents the working class. The donkey and the elephant, who are usually depicted as symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties in American politics, engage in a debate with the goat about the issues facing the country. The goat argues that the current system favours the wealthy and that the working class has been neglected for too long. The play highlights the need for political reform and social justice.

Access the script here.

2. The Dolls on Dress Parade

“The Dolls on Dress Parade,” written by Effa E. Preston and copyrighted in 1922 by L. M. Paine. The play is about a little girl who visits a doll shop and witnesses a parade of dolls dressed in their finest clothes. The play features a range of characters, including a shop woman, guests, a soldier doll, rag dolls, a French doll, and more. While it could be interpreted as a comedy, the show is more of a parade of characters, giving performers the opportunity to test out different voices and body movements to cover multiple roles.

Access the script here.

3. The Frogs

“The Frogs” is a comedic play written by Aristophanes, a Greek playwright from the 5th century BC, and is one of the few surviving complete works from this era. The play was written as a lament for the decline of Greek tragedy, which Aristophanes believed was due to the influence of the recently deceased Euripides.

The play follows the god Dionysus, who travels to the underworld to bring back the recently deceased playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides to restore the quality of Athenian drama. Along the way, Dionysus encounters various characters and engages in witty and satirical dialogue.

Access the script here.

4. Little Dramas for Primary Grades

“Little Dramas for Primary Grades” is a book written by Ada Maria Skinner and published in 1922. The book is a collection of short plays or sketches designed for children in primary grades (grades 1-3).

The plays are simple, easy-to-perform, and suitable for young children. Each play has a small number of characters and a short duration of about 10-15 minutes. The dialogues are written in a way that is easy for children to understand and memorize.

Access the script here.

5. The Rescue of the Princess Winsome: A Fairy Play for Old and Young

“The Rescue of the Princess Winsome: A Fairy Play for Old and Young” is a play written by Annie F. Johnston, an American author known for her children’s books. The play was first published in 1908 and is a fairy tale set in a magical kingdom.

The play revolves around the story of Princess Winsome, who has been captured by the evil witch, Zulena. The fairy queen summons a group of magical creatures, including a fairy prince, a brownie, a gnome, and a pixie, to help rescue the princess. Together, they embark on a dangerous journey to rescue the princess and defeat the witch.

Access the script here.

6. Robert E. Lee: A Story and a Play

“Robert E. Lee: A Story and a Play” is a book written by Ruth Hill, an American author, and educator. The book was first published in 1951 and is a historical fiction story that also includes a play about the life of the famous Confederate General, Robert E. Lee.

The first part of the book is a historical fiction story that covers the life of Robert E. Lee from his childhood through his military career in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. The story is written for young adults and provides an insight into the life of one of America’s most famous military leaders.

The second part of the book includes a play based on the life of Robert E. Lee. The play is designed to be performed by young adults and covers various aspects of Lee’s life, including his military career and his personal beliefs.

Access the script here.

7. In a Toy Shop: A Christmas Play for Small Children

“In a Toy Shop: A Christmas Play for Small Children” is a play written by Effa E. Preston, an American author, and playwright. The play was first published in 1915 and is designed to be performed by young people during the Christmas season.

The play is set in a toy shop and revolves around the story of a group of toys that come to life on Christmas Eve. The toys include a doll, a teddy bear, a clown, and a soldier. The toys are excited about the arrival of Santa Claus and the opportunity to be given as Christmas gifts to children.

Access the script here.

Public domain plays provide a valuable resource for high school theatre programs and drama classes looking to put on quality performances without the financial burden of obtaining performance rights. With a wide range of genres and styles available, schools can choose plays that suit their students’ talents and interests.

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