Plays For Children

I started my playwriting career working with the children in my daughter’s third grade class. I had almost no background in theater; I majored in English, so the only real training I had was to read some plays, and to be in a few in high school. In college, I couldn’t afford to attend any, and my part-time job didn’t permit belonging to the drama club. But by the time Rebecca was in the third grade, I had written one play, and I had had a sort of revelation that “playwright” was what I was meant to be, and I had enough money to be able to control my schedule a little. Helping in my daughter’s class gave me a workshop to develop my craft and the teacher an hour off.

This fun and engrossing avocation, teaching drama to kids, ending up lasting twenty-five years and found me in six or seven different schools. In the course of these experiences, I developed some principles of writing drama for kids:

Have a part for every kid. This means about 15 parts, since you’ll want to double cast everything.

Avoid like the plague giving one or two kids all the stage time. A collaborative situation is definitely what you want.

Use humor all the time. A little humor only the adults understand is a good thing. (I mean sophisticated, not raunchy.)

Build in a moral. That’s what adults are supposed to do for kids; teach them the right way to live. You’re also helping the beleaguered parents inculcate civilization into their progeny. (By the way, kids’ versions of adult plays tend to miss out on this opportunity.)

Keep the production aspects of the play simple. The ideal is something children can replicate at home.

As for the direction/production side, actually working with kids, I discuss some of that in my workbook, CALIFORNIA HISTORY PLAYS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN.