With every year comes a slate of school productions staged for the public to enjoy. As students flex their theatrical muscles on an artistic journey, modern favorites are revived, classic are re-imagined, and brand new pieces premiere.
Given this year’s pandemic, the thrill of a school production is harder to pull off. Not all is lost, though.
Playbill has uncovered some plays and musicals perfect for staging online in a digital production—we generally recommend virtually staging plays that have a small cast or that are designed so that it is easy for an ensemble to play multiple roles. Check out a list of titles to put on a show this year while studying remotely.
THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
For the uninitiated, the public domain contains thousands of written works not protected by copyright, and therefore they are available to read and perform for free. This rule currently applies to pieces written before 1924, with some exceptions. For more information, visit Stanford University’s explanation here.
Greek classics like Oedipus King of Thebes or Antigone by Sophocles work well for an introduction to the birth of theatre. The entire catalog of Shakespeare is available to be performed, as well. More modern classics like Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House are also worth mounting.
In addition to using plays already written, students can get creative and create their own adaptations of works in the public domain. That means you could make a modern-day Othello, or a new version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. An important caveat: you can’t stage other people’s contemporary takes on these works—it must an adaptation or take on the original author's material.
SMALL CAST MUSICALS
While a musical with a small cast doesn’t come around very often, they’re perfect for a virtual production. Thankfully, two major licensing companies have created special live stream presentation options that allow performers to create a streaming theatre experience.
Music Theatre International is offering the rights to Jason Robert Brown’s 1995 Off-Broadway staging of Songs for a New World, which requires four performers. Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald’s two-hander John & Jen is also available. For a full list of works available at MTI, click here.
Another licensing giant, Concord Theatricals has [title of show] available, and a special adaptation of its follow-up, Now. Hear. This., especially designed for online performance. These musicals from Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell feature four main characters. For a full list of musicals available at Concord, click here.
PLAYS FOR A NEW GENERATION
In addition to musicals, Concord offers access to a number of plays from the 20th century. Among them are the 1943 Pulitzer Prize winner The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder and The Fox by Allan Miller, based on the short play by D.H. Lawrence.
Theatre students looking for a more modern piece reminiscent of yesteryear can license Alex Webb’s Amelia, a two-hander set during the Civil War.
For a full list of plays, click here.